Thursday, May 14, 2009

Too Cool For School

In my last post, I had alluded to a future post about the difference between JR Smith and Gerald Green. Well, that future is now, and I'll explain that difference...after the random picture...

But first, let's examine the similarities. They both are among the last of the preps-to-pro players before Draft Rule 19, and have played for or been a member of three teams in their brief careers (Smith was a Chicago Bull for about 38 minutes before he was dealt to the Nuggets). Green has yet to find steady footing, while Smith is a semi-combustible spark off Denver's bench. But Green and Smith possess the same tools in their respective games: Green was as good if not a better shooter than Smith out of high school; and we all know about both of their skyscraper-leaping hops. So why is Smith a demented, ceiling-touching version of Vinny "The Microwave" Johnson, while Green is Harold Minor 2k9? The answer is opportunity.

Even though both have the propensity to be knuckleheads, its Smith that was able to find solace with Denver and fellow castaways due to various knocks on character. Green has played for Doc Rivers, whomever replaced Flip in Minnesota, and Rick Carlisle—all three coaches that add a bit of disciplinarian to their coaching styles. I still maintain that all Green needs is consistent minutes, but I also believe that someone with Gerald's talent would easily start—or be the bench stalwart like Smith is--with a little practice work. It appears Smith is in a Manu-type role with the Nuggets, and merely comes off the bench so he can unleash his full fury without much deferring.

Not to sound so mainstream, but I think cases like Gerald Green are reasons why the NBA instituted the age rule, citing immaturity as Exhibit A. But if you look at it through their eyes, you'll see that aside from the financial reasons, you'll see what I feel is a major attibutor of their aspirations.

Basketball is a sport in which a hot prospect is condemned (through draft stock) by staying an amateur longer. Tyrus Thomas was a one-March Madness wonder, and was a lottery pick despite having limited skills. However, had he stayed in college and added some dimensions to his game, he'd be ppicked apart and lose millions, even though he'd be better. That's why the Travis Outlaws and CJ Miles' of the high school basketball world chose to enter the draft; and why Brandon Jennings and now Jeremy Tyler are pursuing the brief overseas option. It allows them to play against professionals, get paid, and still maintain a lofty prospect status. At its core, it's a win-win for them.

Aside from that, and to me more importantly, the better NBA players are all preps-to-pro or underclassmen. Three of the five first team all-NBAers never played in college; and before you say it's all about offense, four of the NBA's First Team all-Defense are also straight from high school. It makes sense for a player to leave early if he believes amateur status has nothing left to offer his game. Simply put, seniors, for the most part, aren't as good as underclassmen.

For example, if Tim Duncan is the best four-year college player in the NBA, who is second? In fact, name an NBA starting five of strictly four-year players. In another fact, I'll do it for you:

G: Andre Miller
G: Josh Howard
F: Danny Granger
F: David West
C: Tim Duncan

That's a respectable lineup with one lock Hall-of-Famer, two other all-stars, and a solid backcourt. However, let's look at the starting five for preps-to-pro players:

G: Kobe Bryant
G: Tracy McGrady
F: Lebron James
F: Kevin Garnett
C: Dwight Howard

The above five has a combined 37 all-star selections, with another 15 or so to be seen from Lebron and Howard; and Amar'e and Al Jefferson weren't even included. This is what Martell Webster, Gerald Green, JR Smith, and other prep players (and now one-and-done players) see when they take that early leap into professional Basketball. They've been groomed as next big things since middle school, and there's nothing that has happened to shake that confidence. Four-year players seem to have a ceiling placed on their abilities, while younger players are given more chances to recognize their potential (Kwame...). For Gerald Green's sake, I hope someone gives him a chance, or he forces someone to give him a chance.

Before I say, "Peace," I'm gonna give you the starting fives for the other draft classifications:


G: Derrick Rose
G: Jamal Crawford
F: Carmelo Anthony
F: Kevin Durant
C: Chris Bosh


G: Chris Paul
G: Allen Iverson
F: Andre Iguodala
F: Joe Johnson
C: Shaquille O'Neal

Three years:

G: Deron Williams
G: Dwayne Wade
F: Brandon Roy
F: Paul Pierce
C: Emeka Okafor


G: Tony Parker
G: Steve Nash
F: Andrei Kirilenko
F: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Yao Ming

If there are any debates or omissions on my part, feel free to leave them in the comments.


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