(NOTE: In my head the Bucks decision is between Flynn and Jennings assuming they are around. I think Jordan Hill will be gone, but I realize he’s an okay pick if he is there. Personally, I think point guards are a lot more important than power forwards. If Hill, Flynn and Jennings are all somehow there when it’s the Bucks turn to draft, I’d still rather they drafted a point guard. But I get it if they don’t. I’m just not going to be thrilled initially if Jrue Holiday is the pick. I’ll talk myself into it after a while, but I’d rather have either one of these two than Holiday.)
The allure of what could be is always greater than the allure of what is. Its why men cheat on their wives. Its why billions of dollars are lost gambling every year at casinos. Its why the economy has gone into the tank. And its part of the reason this year’s NBA draft is driving me (and I’m assuming NBA GM’s) crazy.
The other part? Well, that’s all pride. (And a little bit of Sebastian Telfair, but we’ll get to that much later.) The recipe for draft failure is simple: lots of pride and lots of upside lust. But let’s start with this upside lust and the damage it could do.
Upside lust manifests itself in the Brandon Jennings’ of the world. Jennings is as much of an (American) enigma as we’ve seen since high school players were barred from the draft. Jennings decision to move to Europe to play has made him incredibly difficult to judge. His numbers were underwhelming. But does he get a break for playing a style of basketball that he’d never seen before? It has to be factored in that the European game is a ton more physical and a ton more team oriented.
If we’re discrediting him for his numbers, surely we can appreciate that he accepted a heavier focus on defense. Does the maturity boost an experience like this provides count for much? Or would it have been more helpful for him to dominate the college game and maintain a high level of confidence? Most important, has Europe made him a better player?
Questions without answers, at least temporarily; in four or five years we’ll know how the Brandon Jennings Europe experiment worked out. But he’ll likely already be on to his second or third NBA team at that point. The team that drafted him with all of their hopes so high will watch him thrive with another team or be glad to have ended this crazy endeavor. They will have drafted him purely for his upside.
Not many have the physical tools Jennings has. He’s the attractive girl sitting at the other end of the bar. She’s usually out of your league, but you’re getting your shot with her because she has some flaws. She’s Britney Spears. She’s still hot, but would she be able to get it together to make anything other than a fling worth it? But imagine the upside there, I mean, that is a superstar. A team like the Milwaukee Bucks doesn’t often dabble in superstars.
Who could have foreseen when Kareem decided Milwaukee was not big enough for a man like him that Milwaukee would spend the next 40 years searching for another superstar. Sure, Ray Allen got to star in a movie with Denzel and had some incredible years. And yes, Sidney Moncreif was terrific in the 80’s, but Milwaukee has yet to replace the big shoes Kareem left when he fled town. And, coincidence or not, they’ve yet to win another title.
So do they go for the allure of upside lust? Pride says yes.
Pride says he’ll be a superstar. He’ll come into Milwaukee and turn the league on its head. Milwaukee will once again matter in the NBA. The team won’t have to move and revenue will stream in like sewage into Lake Michigan. Pride makes front offices go for the guy with all the risks. They all say, “Once we get him in our system, we’re going to bring out the best in him. He’ll develop a jump shot, he’ll be a hard worker and he’ll commit on the defensive end. We’ll show everyone how great we are.” The GM will be praised as the guy outsmarting everyone else in the room. At least that is what the hope for.
It’s really no different from when we fantasy league GM’s take the wrong guy in the early rounds and refuse to admit to our friends that we screwed up. In the end usually said GM does not want to give up on “his guy” and tons of time and dollars are wasted on the Mohammad Sene’s of the world, the “his guy’s” still suck and GM’s lose their jobs. Rarely does upside turn into anything but downside. And that is how teams miss guys like Jonny Flynn.
If Brandon Jennings is Britney Spears sitting at the other end of the bar, then Flynn would have to be Mandy Moore sitting next to you wanting to chat. Moore broke out as a teen star and now has developed into a sane star with a real life and career. She may not have sold 85 million records, but she never married K-Fed either. She’s more or less a regular person with an awesome life. Flynn isn’t oozing superstar appeal and isn’t as fun to sell to the fans, but he’ll likely end up a much safer pick.
Flynn proved what he could do over the last two years in college. College point guards that stay for two years have a much higher success rate than those who . . . travel to Europe for a year after high school. I made that up. But college point guards who did well have generally been doing well in the past few NBA drafts. Mike Conley started to turn it around last year when he received consistent minutes, D.J. Augustin was a pleasant surprise as a rookie, Rodney Stuckey, Russell Westbrook, all of these guys showed signs in college that they could lead an NBA team. So why ignore that when it comes down to Jonny Flynn?
Because of Sebastian Telfair.
Not because Telfair turned into a great NBA point guard. Hell, he’s barely turned into a serviceable one. But that is beside the point, because Sebastian Telfair has proven to be quite an asset. Telfair’s name recognition and alleged potential have always kept him on the minds of scouts. He’s supposedly had tools ever since arriving in the league that he just needs to figure out how to put to use. So when his name is thrown out there in trade talks, it can tip the scales.
Collecting assets like Telfair is what made the Celtics who they are today. Telfair, Al Jefferson and Gerald Green were all potential stars the second they declared for the NBA draft. To be successful the Celtics never needed any of them to succeed. They just needed to have a lot of those guys to trade for Kevin Garnett.
So what do I think the Bucks should do with the number ten pick? I say play it safe. Go with Jonny Flynn and continue to build slow and steady. Home run hitters strike out a lot more than they hit home runs. I don’t think John Hammond is a home run hitter.
(But I’ll still be a little excited if he tries for one on Thursday.)