Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Case Study in Draft Busting: The North Carolina Tarheels
With Florida's vaunted repeat champion teams entering the NBA this year, being picked at #3, 7, 9, 41, and 52, I got to thinking about the last individual college team with such rosy draft prospects and college success, the Carolina Tarheels of the 2005 NBA draft. Essentially, not one of them has proven themselves to be effective NBA players yet, which would seem like disturbing news to the Hawks, Timberwolves, Bulls, and Blazers. But let's break it down: how is this new crop of Florida boys similar to the 2005 NC team? How are they different? Will they ultimately bust the same way the 'heels did? As usual, I have no idea at the start of the post, so hopefully we'll find something more conclusive than in my point guard week starting post, which yielded disappointing results.
So let's get down to it.
An ultra-quick, pass-first true point guard who had quarterbacked his team to an NCAA championship, Felton could well have been considered the safest pick of the 3,4,5 combo of points in 2005, as he had more of a history of success than Chris Paul and, at 6-1, didn't have his height concerns, and had the athletic talents to save him from the "college body, college game" concerns surrounding Deron Williams. Paul had the best rookie point guard year in recent memory, and is generally considered to already be a member of the elite PG tribunal with Nash and Kidd, while Williams shook off a subpar rookie season and led his team to a Conference Championship birth. Meanwhile, Felton toiled for the lowly Bobcats, averaging a seemingly solid 13 points and 7 assists on with an abysmal 38.4% FG and 3 turnovers per game.
Why has Williams fared so much worse than Paul and Williams, and the average NBA point guard? First of all, Felton is a worse passer than those two, although that's a bit unfair because while Felton is certainly a very good passer, Williams and Paul are spectacular passers, averaging 10+ assists per 48 minutes with stellar turnover numbers.
The real problem with Felton is that he can't score. IT IS NOT THAT HE CAN'T SHOOT. Allow me to explain. Around draft time, teams tend to look at a few things from point guards: Passing ability, Speed, Outside Shooting, Size, Leadership, and Defense. Felton's only weakness in those categories is outside shooting; with a .423% mark on jumpers, he's in the bottom half of NBA guards. However, there are many extremely effective point guards in the NBA who shoot from outside just as badly, if not worse, than Felton. Williams only shoots .468%, and Paul only shoots .433%.
Raymond Felton's unforgivable sin is that he can't finish inside, and he isn't too good at drawing fouls. Felton has blinding speed, which allows him to take a full 1/3rd of his shots from "inside"; that's more than Paul and Williams, who are at 30% and 32%, and draws a comparable amount of fouls. However, while Paul and Williams can finish inside at clips of .544% and .552%, respectably, Felton's "inside" mark is all the way down at .458%. Devin Harris and Tony Parker don't hit effectively from outside either, but their "inside" marks are both well over .600%.
The error made in projecting Felton was that his low FG% was due to poor shooting, which is a forgivable weakness that can be fixed over time, either by improving the shot or building your game around going to the hole. However, when a quick guard can't finish inside, he will have serious, possibly unsolvable problems being effective at the next level. Teams need to be wary of the difference between "bad shooter" and "bad scorer" when drafting players like Felton.
Shaun May and Rashad McCants:
There's probably something in here about Rashad being a dreaded "tweener," a shooter who really isn't shooting guard size,(different from Dwayne Wade, whose athleticism makes him not really a tiny shooting guard but a freaking dynamo who is faster and stronger than any shooting guard he faces), and May being a guy who could dominate the paint in college but doesn't have the body to do so in the pros, but mainly they've both had major knee surgeries. That's not good.
We all know what happened with Marvin Williams; he never quite became a star, averaged 13 points per game last year on 43% shooting, and is probably the 4th-best forward on the Atlanta Hawks. Meanwhile, Deron Williams and Chris Paul, the players picked directly behind him, are on their way to becoming all-stars while the Hawks only now have a player that resembles a point guard.
Really, Marvin went ahead and combined all the ways a prospect can bust; like Felton, he's a poor finisher inside. (.507 eFG% on "inside" shots, which is abysmal for a forward.) Like McCants and May, he really hasn't found an NBA position that works for him; he's not enough of a physical player for the 4, and he lacks the skills to play the 3. Most importantly, Marvin never really developed "be-the-man-ittude"; instead of a player whose gifts were stifled by a college system and busted out in the pros, he was a talented 6th man in college, and seems content to play that role in the pros, despite the fact he's more gifted than 90% of the players he faces. It's honestly tough to predict which guys will bust out; just look at Andre Iguodala. On top of the standard hidden plagues that hinder his teammates, he's a huge Dunleavy head case, making him the biggest disappointment of all on a team full of them.