Looking to the Future: Boom or Bust

Published: May 19, 2012

Time to take a closer look at the guys who will either make the GM’s who pick them geniuses or unemployed.

Last week we took a look at the safest prospects in the 2012 draft, so it is only natural to now focus our attention to the boom or bust guys. Before we start, however, we have to determine what it is exactly that we mean when we tag a guy ‘boom or bust.’ Obviously, I understand it in a literal way, but what is so specific about these guys that we find so polarizing? Why are we so sure that there is no middle ground?

Boom or bust guys usually come in three varieties:

  1. Truly elite physical attributes but little to no actual production
  2. Inconsistent from a production standpoint- huge “superstar” type games followed by games where they completely disappear.
  3. Good to great production that comes with some sort of baggage (drug problems, run-ins with law, history of injuries, lack of motor, problem with authority, etc.)

With any of these three types, you are hoping to harness all of the positive, while slowly ridding the player of their deficiencies. With boom or bust guy #1, you are gambling on the fact that there are only a handful of young men in the world with his height, length, and/or raw athleticism. Those things can not be taught, but a jump shot or a low post move can- or so the Wizards told themselves when they drafted Kwame Brown.

On B or B #2, you are enticed because you have actually tape on the guy looking like the franchise player you hope he can be. The problem is that you also have tape on the guy as a virtual no-show against Iowa State in the first round of the 2012 NCAA tournament. (Not like I am talking about anyone specifically here). This is harder to get away from then B or B guy #1 because coaches and GM’s are some of the most competitive people in the world, and they tell themselves that, “If that coach could get it out of him some of the time, then I’ll have no problem turning the switch on all of the time. And when this guy has the switch turned on…. look out!” Hubris is a bitch.

B or B guy #3, let’s call him CaMarcus Dousins, is the most unpredictable of them all. Teams only have their hands on these guys for a couple hours a day and lose touch with them in the off-season. Ask the Miami Dolphins or Denver Broncos how stressful it is to have a Brandon Marshall on your roster, despite his 100 catch seasons. Even when things are going well, you are just waiting on the other shoe to drop, but as Demps said on Rome last week, “Sometimes their production outweighs their issues.” Look no further than the 2004 Pistons. Rasheed Wallace was a headache that their staff had to deal with at times, but there is no way that team wins a title without him. Same goes for the late 90’s Bulls and Dennis Rodman. Memphis gambled on Zach Randolph and he rewarded them by finally getting his head straight and leading them to the Western Conference Finals.

The biggest issue with drafting a boom or bust guy, however, is that even if they do boom it usually takes a couple of years. People compare a certain UConn center to Andrew  Bynum when discussing his upside, but Bynum just blossomed into a consistent go to guy this year- his 7th in the league. Teams with stars can be patient with a guy like that because they can get to Finals and win titles without him, but those same kind of prospects flounder when they are put on young teams and are asked to do too much.

Going after B or B guys is a scary proposition for the Hornets, given the current state of the franchise. If they keep the guys they currently have under contract and use both of their lottery picks, they will have six guys with 2 years or less of NBA experience heading into next season. That means you are still actively developing half of your roster. Remember Monty’s end of season comment about how the beginning of the season was frustrating because he was doing more teaching than coaching? With that in mind, we take a look at the crop of boom or bust guys that the Hornets could target in this year’s NBA draft.

1. Andre Drummond, C, UConn (Type 1)

Why He Busts: In a little over three weeks, Andre Drummond is going to win the NBA scouting combine- if such a thing could be won. He should measure at close to 7 feet in shoes, with a massive wingspan and a higher vertical than most shooting guards. On that day, scouts and GM’s will be reminded of why he was the projected #1 pick coming into this college season. My advice to all GM’s- don’t even show up on that day. What’s the point? The LA Clippers have a freak of nature center in DeAndre Jordan and he is riding pine because an old, undersized power forward who can’t shoot, pass, or dribble is simply the better basketball player.

People want to love Drummond for the same reason they want to love Jordan or JaVale McGee; because a dominant center is quite possibly the rarest commodity in all of sports. It is so rare that GM’s look for any reason to take one, glossing over red flags that would preclude them from drafting the guy if he played any other position. “You can’t teach height” is the mantra that we hear this time of year, and that form of thinking got Shawn Bradley drafted over Penny Hardaway and Hasheem Thabeet taken over James Harden and Ricky Rubio.

But my question is- Which is harder to teach, height or basketball instincts? Trick question, because I say the answer is neither. John Wooden couldn’t have taught Hilton Armstrong how to play this game, in the same way that hanging on a swing set had no chance of making Bobby Brady taller. At this point, it is in you or it isn’t, and there weren’t many times at UConn that Andre Drummond showed any sort of basketball competency.

Inevitably, we will hear plenty about his 2 point, 3 rebound performance (26 minutes) against Iowa in the first round of the NCAA tournament, but sadly that is not even one of his three worst games of the season. In early February, UConn was coming off a big win against Seton Hall, trying to get momentum for a tournament run, when #23 Louisville came to town. The same Louisville that Anthony Davis carved up in the Final Four less than two months later. Andre Drummond missed all six of his shots, scored zero points and only grabbed four rebounds in a 21-point loss. He followed that up by getting thoroughly outplayed by Fab Melo, a fringe 1st rounder, going 5-13 and grabbing as many rebounds as he had fouls and turnovers combined (7).

He scored over 20 points just one time all season, against the all mighty Holy Cross, when he had 24 in a blowout win against a vastly inferior opponent. Meanwhile, the guy that Andre Drummond supporters point to as their comparison (Amare Stoudamire) had three 20+ games in ONE WEEK (1-14-03 through 1-20-03) his first year out of high school. And, oh yeah, he was playing in the NBA against men, not against Holy Cross.

But he will win the scouting combine and show all of the tools that can’t be taught, making him a top five pick in June’s draft. And there are all kinds of creative ways to make arguments that will justify the pick, but that is a matter of faith and there are very few arguments to make if you are simply a prisoner of data and science. Jack Shepard sums it up better here than I ever could.

How He Booms: Patience, patience, and more patience. Oh, and veterans. That is the answer, and perhaps the only one for this incredibly raw prospect. Whoever drafts him needs to put him in a situation in which little to nothing is expected of him the first year or two on the court, and you have to surround him with veterans that make him better every single day in practice. Call it the Jermaine O’Neal model. O’Neal averaged a little over 10 minutes per game in his first four years in Portland, but every day in practice he was going up against Brian Grant, Arvydas Sabonis, and Rasheed Wallace. Portland eventually traded O’Neal for Dale Davis, so they never fully reaped the rewards, but by the time O’Neal was 23, he was a 20/10 All-Star.

So, let’s say the Hornets take Drummond with their first selection (because really, do we care how he turns out if he goes to Detroit?), how do we duplicate that model? Easy, Dell goes to Turkey. That’s right, I am advocating that he goes into free agency and targets the Turkish twosome of Omer Asik and Ersan Illysova. Amnesty Okafor and give those two guys the 13+ million he would otherwise be eating up. Now you have Drummond as your fifth big behind those two, Ayon, and Jason Smith. What better way to develop post moves than to work on them every day against one of the five best defensive centers in the game?

Trade the tenth pick to upgrade the point guard or small forward position and now you are a playoff team with a potential superstar slowly developing on your bench who can eventually put you over the top or be traded for that special veteran piece, like Al Jefferson was traded for KG. Regardless, the franchise has to be 100% committed to developing Drummond and sticking with him through the tough stages. As we’ve seen in the past, it is much easier for a franchise to remain patient if they are winning, otherwise they are prone to making rash decisions. Coaches and GM’s get fired and new guys come in- guys who have no ties to Drummond- and they want to move forward with their own guys or make the player fit into their system, just as the player was starting to get comfortable.

It’s still more likely this guy busts than booms, but to give him his best chance, you have to have patience, a winning culture, and veterans.

2. Perry Jones, F, Baylor (Type 2)

Why He Busts: You can actually make the argument that Perry Jones is a B or B type 3 as well, and Jones himself has done that. In an interview, he was asked what he needs to work on and he said, “My motor.” Combine that with his maddening inconsistency and you have a guy with several red flags. After an up and down season, Jones appeared to be coming on in the Big XII tournament, as he led Baylor to the finals, averaging 22 and 10. Then the NCAA tournament came and he disappeared against mighty South Dakota State (2 points on 1-6 shooting) and Colorado (7 points, 4 boards on 3-8 shooting).

In addition to his up and down motor, the reason for Jones inconsistency is his lack of polish on the offensive end. In the post he has no go to move, and his mid range shot is average at best (36% on his jumpers). He actually is at his best facing up bigger, slower power forwards and centers and taking the ball to the rim. The problem is that the he just doesn’t have the basketball IQ at this point to know how to take advantage of his tremendous skill set on a consistent basis and use counter moves when defenders start taking away his right hand. If he busts, it will be because he just never works hard enough to add those much needed dimensions to his god given skills.

How He Booms: Pick a position and stick with it. Ironically, Jones’s height might actually be a curse for him because coaches who lack creativity might pigeon hole him into being a big man who belongs on the low block. If he were 6’8″ or 6’9″, it would be easy to see how uncomfortable he is down low, and it would be a no brainer to place him on the wing where he could use his extraordinary ball handling skills to break down defenders. If Jones is going to become a power forward in the league, he is going to have to put on weight and learn the intricacies of the low post. If the team that drafts him sees a small forward, the only thing they will really have to work on is his jump shot. The choice is clear to me.

For the Hornets to make it work with Jones, they will likely have to part ways with Aminu because they are too similar to work together and are both in need of plenty of individual attention as they go through their development. Jones has the higher upside of the two, comparing favorably to a guy like Paul George if he can find a coach that keeps his motor turned on all the time. Monty took a very similar prospect in Nicolas Batum and turned him into a guy who is coveted around the league by developing one aspect of his game at a time, and if Jones booms with the Hornets it will be because Monty places him at the 3 and follows a similar model.

3. Myers Leonard, C, Illinois (Type 2)

Why He Busts: I have written about the trials and tribulations of the White American-born centers already, and Leonard is in danger of becoming another bust in that ever expanding list. He is tall and has an above average raw skill set but where was the consistent production in a Big Ten conference that was not exactly overflowwing with big men? In the last six weeks of the year, as his team was fighting for a tournament birth, he had a 4 point game against Michigan State, 5 points against Michigan, 9 against Purdue and Nebraska, and 8 in a must win game against Wisconsin.

If there is a reoccuring theme in this piece, it is that these guys have questionable motors, and Leonard is no different. On top of that, he really has no go to move and lacks the bulk to battle against NBA big men. In almost every category he is an inferior prospect to Cole Aldrich, who was taken 11th two years ago and has proceeded to make absolutely no impact for the Thunder.

How He Booms: I could make something up here, but it just wouldn’t be genuine. I am sure he has some family members that will excuse his up and down (mostly down) play, giving all kinds of reasons to believe in his upside, but I can’t do it. No doubt in my mind that this one is a bust.

If Hornets Obtain Another Pick

Tony Wroten, Jr. PG, Washington (Type 2)

Help him understand that wins are more important than highlight reels and you can have a special player here. As Doc had to say to Rondo hundreds of times over the first few years, “Make the simple play.” If Wroten can get reigned in by a coach and vets he respects, he could be the top PG in this class.

Quincy Miller, F, Baylor (Type 1 and 3- injuries)

If he would have went back to Baylor, stayed injury free, and dominated with Acey and Jones gone, he would have been a top 5-10 pick next year. Invest in your training staff, keep him upright, and continue to develop the outside shot- which is already above average. Could easily be better than Perry Jones 2-3 years from now if he lands in the right spot.

Moe Harkless, F, St. Johns (Type 1)

Another guy who should have probably stayed in school and developed his perimeter game, Harkless is another Paul George/Trevor Ariza type. Make sure you have a couple of guys who can create offense for him, because he will never be able to create it for himself.

Looking to the Future is a weekly piece that you can find only on Hornets247.com. For past articles, click here.  


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