If there’s one consistent critique in my 2020 NBA Draft scouting reports (coming to this website soon), it’s that the kid needs time to develop. Whether it be their jump shot, their muscle mass, their basketball IQ or something else, these prospects are outside of about the top five, not ready to contribute at a winning level.
Sure, lots of them can step in and score meaningless points or come off the bench as part of the rotation but in terms of their potential long term role, very few are close.
So, what will the teams do to get them there?
For the bad teams they’ll throw them into the deep end like Darius Garland in Cleveland and hope they can swim. If the team is lucky enough to be good, they’ll under use them like Michael Porter Jr in Denver.
Either way, this can’t be the best way to develop the stars of tomorrow, today.
Here’s the thing, it isn’t! Somehow though, only a few teams have managed to figure this out.
What do Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell have in common other than an NBA championship ring? They were allowed to play, and dominate, in the G-League. When it was clear Siakam wasn’t ready for the major minutes he’s playing in 2020 back in 2017, the Raptors allowed him to flourish for their affiliate.
After a finals MVP performance that saw Siakam build his confidence and skillset in a more advanced role, he came back to the big club a different player and the rest is history. I’m not saying everyone can be Pascal Siakam, his work ethic and attention to detail is clearly something special.
What I am saying, is that why don’t we give them the opportunity to find out if they can?
Back in the olden days when top prospects came out after two, three or even four years in college, they had a better overall understanding of how to play high level basketball. The problem with the one and dones or none and dones, is they lack experience playing high level players.
All their life they’ve probably been far and away the most talented and most athletic player on the floor in 99% of their games and practices. Then they go to the NBA and immediately aren’t.
Imagine you’re the best athlete in your state, you go to college and still barely anyone can compete with your speed and explosiveness. How do you develop a jumper or the ability to beat a man with a move since they now are on your level athletically?
Some can, like the Anthony Davis’ of the world while the rest have to learn on the fly. If you’re learning in the moment, it makes things so much easier if it’s at a lower level.
For those of us who encourage guys to stay in college, this is why.
Take Tyrese Haliburton in this year’s class. Last year his traits were obvious, but his skills lagged behind. An offseason followed by a year of dominance, trying new moves and workshopping ideas against lower level players took him from a second-round pick to a lottery pick.
What people often fail to realize about this sport is how confidence dependent it is. One false feel on a jumper at the wrong time and that kid may never be the same again.
Look at Markelle Fultz, the talent to go number one overall but once his confidence was lost, he became an unrecognizable player to those of us who fell in love with him at Washington.
This game is so mental it’s hard for fans to understand and with millions injected into these investments, it seems obvious to try and help them ease into a more difficult life. Imagine if you were hired out of college and instead of getting an entry level job where you could make mistakes, you were third in command behind the CEO.
Some kids could handle it, and some couldn’t but again, with so many of these kids with signs pointing towards the negative, why risk it?
Basketball teams try to run like Football teams with no development network and a produce now mentality. Sure, this could’ve worked back when kids came out with three years out of high school under their belt like football however that’s not the reality for today’s hoopers.
Most of these dudes are projects who need a chance to learn and grow. Look at hockey and baseball for example. The elite of the elite make the jump quickly while the rest are allowed to take their time and find their professional games in the minor leagues.
In a sport that’s culture is predicated on players and their happiness, shouldn’t we treat each of them as individual cases?
My favourite example this season is what the Celtics are doing with Romeo Langford. For those who don’t know, after an incredible high school career, Langford underwhelmed at Indiana last year before declaring for the draft.
It was pretty obvious he needed some more seasoning before he could contribute at the NBA level in a way that matched his potential.
What Boston has done with him though is ludicrous. Sure, he spent nine games in the G League, that’s progress. When up with the Celtics though, how is playing under 10 minutes a game going to help him?
This kid is 20 years old and yet he’s already being forced into an NBA rotation and when he’s out there you can tell. There’s no way it helps his confidence forcing him to stand in the corner and telling him to not mess up or else he’ll be benched.
That’s not conducive to growth, that’s conducive to regression.
You risk cutting the creativity from a kid by getting them to overthink the game. Let him go dominate the G League and make some mistakes in games that aren’t on TNT. The G-League is on Twitch for a reason, prospects are allowed to hide so let’s let them.
See how he looks next training camp, these prospects, especially outside the top ten should be treated as long term investments. He literally has three years left on his contract after this one, that’s an incredible amount of time.
We tell these kids their entire lives they are the special ones who matter most then the second they’re in the NBA they become irrelevant 12th men. One can’t work while the other exists.
Allow these kids to become the men they’re meant to be and not the men you want them to be. Until teams get the difference, the failures of the NBA Draft will continue to be as inevitable as G League alumni Seth Curry nailing an open three.