The winning question used to be paramount. That has changed in recent years as scouts and player-personnel people have been confronted with high-school players and inexperienced college players.
When I talk to people in the business, I hear less about winning and more about upside, less about basketball skill and more about potential. It is thinking along those lines that has helped the NBA get into the sorry state it finds itself where the game often looks more ponderous than beautiful.
If it is Horford, I have no complaints. His resume, as do the resumes of Florida teammates Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer, certainly has the required winning. Horford is a low-post player with a game that plays well out to the foul line. When he is on the court, with or without the ball, he makes winning decisions. When your team gets stuck for a few offensive possessions, he will be a reliable scorer. When the Gators got stuck, the ball almost always went to Horford.
I have not heard anybody mention Georgetown's Jeff Green for No. 3. Consider him mentioned. If I am holding No. 3, he is my pick.
Forget Green's statistics. You have to judge them in the context of the slow pace (few possessions) of his team. If you have just seen Green on television, you have not seen him. You need to be in the gym, preferably with a seat near the court, to understand Green's essence.
Everything Green does is subtle and very much old-school. Sometimes, old-school is a stereotype for nonathletic. In addition to a unique understanding of the game, Green is very definitely an NBA-caliber athlete.
When you see Green throw a 5-foot lob pass in traffic that leads to a layup for a player that nobody else even knew was open, you begin to get it. When you see him instantly recognize where the other nine players are in the middle of a fastbreak and then calculate what it means in between dribbles, think a 6-9 forward with the hoops sensibility of Steve Nash.
In an era where so many players only look at the scoreboard to see how many points they have, Green actually looks at the score. Then, he tries to figure out the best way to help his team have more points. I don't know what team will take Green. I do know this: The team that takes him will win and win big.
If it were Noah or Brewer at No. 3, I would not have a major problem with that. Noah does all the little things that coaches love and fans often overlook. He sets screens, is always in the right position on defense, rebounds and never stops giving total effort. No, he is not much of a shooter, but there are enough people in the league who will shoot. Some of them actually can.
Brewer was my favorite player on the championship teams. I love how he plays the next play, not the last play. When Oden caught his layup attempt on one possession in the championship game, he drilled a three on the next. Athletically, he is right there with anybody in this draft. He will have no acclimation time to the speed of the NBA game. He was really the key to the
Gators' perimeter defense and can be a really good NBA on-the-ball and passing-lane defender.
You are on your own with Yi Jianlian. I have seen some tapes, but I really need to see players in person to get a good feel.
I do not think any of the three point guards who are getting the most play are surefire NBA stars. Or even regulars. I would not take any of them at No. 3 or close to No. 3.
Ohio State's Mike Conley Jr. blew up at the end of the regular season and in the NCAA Tournament. He got into the lane at will and finished near the basket. I just don't see either of those things happening as easily in the NBA. There is that and the fact that he is not a good shooter. His form is suspect. He might find himself open a lot in the NBA. And when you are open a lot, there is a reason.
Acie Law (Texas A & M) was a wonderful college point guard. What made him so good was his will. At the NBA level, will matters. Skill matters more.
Javaris Crittenton (Georgia Tech) has become a hot commodity as the draft approaches. I have no idea why. He is one of those "upside" players without any apparent feel for the game. The Hawks will probably take him at No. 11 so he can shoot when all those forwards are open or pass it to them just as they head for the rebound they think is coming.
Which brings us back to the original question. If the answer is any of the Florida trifecta, I won't say the team made a
mistake. If it is Jeff Green, I will know that team really understands the game and the object of the game.
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