For the most part there are two ways scouts seem to scout players. First, there is their body of work. Whether they played college ball, high school ball, AAU ball or foreign ball, every player applying for entry into the NBA draft has a large body of preparatory work to look at. Aside from that organizations spend hours and hours pouring over data regarding players heights, length measurements, leaping abilities and bench press numbers among other things. I’m not attempting the undermine the exhausting efforts and number of hours scouts put in. And I’m aware they do more than just watch games and go to combines. I’m just trying to keep things simple.
Speaking of combines…my least favorite thing about combine work is measurements of players without shoes on. How many games a year do guys play without shoes? If someone is 6’7 without shoes on and 6’8 with them on, can’t we just say the guy is 6’8? That is by far my least favorite thing about the month before the draft. But I’m not here to rant about that. I’m here for a far different reason today.
I’m here to talk about Dejuan Blair, one of the drafts great mysteries.
There is no shortage of ways to look at Dejuan Blair. One could start by simply looking at the man. Standing 6’6 and a half inch (and yes that is with shoes on) he doesn’t have the prototypical size for an NBA power forward. In large part he makes up for that with his massive seven foot plus reach and thick garbage can base. Looking at him conjures up images of a tree trunk. It’s not difficult to envision him steam rolling larger men on a box out with his super low center of gravity and incredible hunger for rebounds. Rebounds are usually what define men built like Blair and judging from his production, he is no different.
Blair had eight games last season with over 17 rebounds and cracked ten offensive rebounds four times. On the year he averaged over twelve rebounds a game in arguably the most talented college basketball conference in the country. In what was likely the most memorable sight most of us have of him Blair ragdolled the 7’2 Hasheem Thabeet on a particularly brutal example of a man just being strong with the ball. Blair plays with ferocity and toughness not always seen of a man his size. Uh-oh. Those words worry me.
A man his size. I never like to say “a man his size” in the context I’m right now saying it in. That sentence poses a problem that is far greater than his vertical challenge.
His horizontal challenge.
I’m all for eating right and being healthy, but when I hear that a man has lost 40 pounds in three weeks, I’m finding that a little curious. From what I understand, it is possible to safely lose that amount of weight over a multiple week period. Michael Dansinger from NBC’s The Biggest Loser says, “In theory, one could drop as much as 20 pounds in a week following a very ambitious eating and exercise plan, devoting more than seven hours per week to rigorous exercise, and under a physician’s care like we do on the television program.” But on the television program they are dealing with, to be brutally honest, fat slobs who if not for the show would have relatively zero exercise.
They are not dealing with athletes who’ve been ardently working out for the better part of their life. So maybe Blair has cut out fried foods and sweets for the last month or so leading up to the draft. Maybe now he resembles a guy who is cut up and serious about keeping pounds off. What happens in January when the Bucks are ten games under .500, it’s negative five degrees out after a game and he’s looking for some food before he heads home after going out. Is he going to wait and eat the goodies he picked up from Whole Foods earlier in the day or stop at Pizza Shuttle to get his grub on? If Blair went through all of college at or near three hundred pounds while working out and playing basketball doesn’t it seem likely that his natural body weight is probably closer to that than it is to his current svelte 277?
I’m not saying Blair is doomed to eat his way out of the NBA. I love a lot about his game and think he could really be a great addition to a team. But I would wait before hoping he joins Big Baby Davis or Paul Millsap in the brotherhood of undersized power forwards. I’ve seen this Dejuan Blair movie before. And I know what you’re thinking, but I’m not talking about Tractor. I’m not going to rehash that old wound. I’m more recently reminded of Mike Sweetney.
Sweetney was a guy I was dying for the Bucks to take in the legendary 2003 draft had T.J. Ford not have been available. Sweetney seemed like the long-awaited answer to the Bucks power forward problems. With strong post-moves, rebounding ability and shot-blocking prowess, Sweetney seemed like a lock for a future NBA star despite his height deficiencies. But Sweetney would soon eat his way into his coaches dog houses. And one of those coaches? Scott Skiles. Sam Smith of the Chicago Tribune wrote about him in 2006.
“Sweetney just never gets in shape quite enough and Skiles makes it clear if you don’t perform, you don’t play. Sweetney kept running out of gas a few minutes into every game, so Skiles sat him down until at least Sweetney could give a better effort, which he has.”
So can Dejuan Blair be the guy the Bucks need next to Andrew Bogut? Is he a “Scott Skiles kind of guy?” I don’t have the answers to these questions. No one does. I just hope the Bucks feel very confident in Blair’s ability to control his weight if they decide to go with him. After all, we have enough fat people in Milwaukee.