Darko Milicic. Kwame Brown. Sam Bowie. Michael Olawakandi. All can be considered draft “busts”, albeit to varying degrees. A bust is a hard thing to define, as the parameters are always shifting.
Milicic was a bust because of expectations and who was drafted after him. Brown was a bust because he was the #1 overall and Michael Jordan’s first pick as an executive, despite actually having a relatively productive NBA career. Bowie was drafted before Jordan, and Olowokandi was a #1 overall pick who was often injured and not very good when he played.
Needless to say, the term “bust” can be thrown about with reckless abandon. But the following will identify two likely top-five (or potentially, first overall) draft selection, and one likely late-lottery/mid-first round pick.
This draft really isn’t particularly conducive to busts as they are traditionally referred to, what with it’s overall tepidity but surprisingly solid yet mediocre depth. The mid and late first round talent is all very similar, and it seems as though teams are valuing the picks in that fashion with little pre-draft movement to this point.
The Big One: A Top-Five Bust
Alex Len is still being whispered about as a possibility for the Cleveland Cavaliers with the number one overall pick. Of course, that selection that would be a colossal mistake. Len had alarmingly low steal and rebound rates at Maryland, which are two predictably solid metrics in analyzing future performance for college big men. (Hat tip to the fantastic VJL100 and his informative Twitter feed for both the information and the chart.)
In addition, he’s a BMwFP (coined here, Big Man with Foot Problems). Stay away. Always stay far, far away from a BMwFP. Yes, he has some pretty post moves and a good jumper for a 7-footer. But there are simply too many red flags. Other than steal rate, my biggest issue is him finishing 91st in the country in rebounding rate last season. I mean, he’s 7′ 2″. Scary stuff, and Cavs fans should be terrified at the prospect of picking him #1.
Another Likely Top-Five Selection That Won’t Be Good
Anthony Bennett is exactly what he’s billed as: a stretch four. But that’s the thing…while stretch fours are indeed sexy and often useful in today’s NBA, Bennett isn’t likely to be a good stretch four. He’s basically Derrick Williams-lite, who is basically Michael Beasley-lite. And Michael Beasley was quite literally one of, if not the worst player in the NBA during the 2012-13 season (-1.5 win shares…yeesh).
The following are the trio’s stats in their final college seasons, which was Beasley and Bennett’s freshman years at Kansas State and UNLV, respectively, and Williams’ sophomore year at Arizona.
It’s incredible, really. Note that Bennett finished behind both Beasley and Williams in every single category except FG %, which Beasley “out-shot” Bennett by a whopping .1 %. And yes, I listed steals for a front court player. (See the chart that’s linked above in the Len section.) Of course, Bennett is a power forward and not a center so the correlation is probably slightly different, but it’s just one more thing to note about Bennett.
There are recent rumors that Bennett has gained weight since the college season ended. True or not, I wouldn’t touch Bennett with a ten-foot pole if I was drafting in the top ten on Thursday evening, but we all know that won’t be the case. Overall consensus/group-think will win out over common sense and careful research in the NBA Draft. We already know this. For a fact.
One That’s Already Sliding
Shabazz Muhammad was at one point the top prep player in the country, and as recently as the end of the NCAA regular season was being talked about as a top-five pick in the draft. His stock has been steadily slipping in the weeks leading up to the draft, and some of the rumors regarding him being picked by Detroit at #8 or Minnesota at #9 have proven to be unsubstantiated.
Muhammad actually has a startling lack of a case to be picked anywhere near the first half of the first round in this year’s draft. He’s not overwhelmingly athletic (max vertical is 37 inches). He’s relatively small (6′ 6″ with a 6′ 11″ wingspan). He isn’t a fantastic shooter (46.3% overall at UCLA, 37.7% from deep). He’s already 20 years old coming off of one year of school.
What he has is a high school resume/hype and not a whole lot else going for him. He’ll likely be selected in the #15-20 range, but I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see him slide even further than that.
Just to reiterate, there simply isn’t a lot int he way of expectations for the 2013 draft class, so that makes it a lot harder for busts to exist. Len and Bennett will each likely be functional NBA players, but there are plenty of other players in this draft that should be drafted ahead of them. That’s really what we’re getting at here — the conventional wisdom is going to be wrong, and in the case of the Cavs and other teams in the top-five of the draft, it could be quite costly.