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What's in a draft bust?

Jun 25, 2010, 1:20 PM EDT

0302_baylor.jpgAmong the 2010 draft class, there will be stars. There will be successful role players with long, fruitful careers. There will be early risers, late bloomers, movers, shakers, and minimum salary makers. And of course, there will be the busts.

The bust is perhaps the oddest of all draft day phenomena. It’s essentially a product of user error; every available prospect is laid out in front of a GM — or owner, or coach, or whoever calls the shots for any particular team — and it’s their responsibility to make the right pick. It’s a damn near impossible task in some instances, but such is the nature of the draft and the biz. That’s fine. No one should expect any decision-maker to live a mistake-free existence, particularly when there are countless subjective criteria built into the process. GMs are going to make mistakes, regardless of their knowledge, talent, and savvy.

Still, the key word is responsibility. If everything goes to hell, managers and coaches are often the ones to start falling on their swords. It’s simply the cost of the power that they wield in team-building, and because there are 30 franchises out there vying for the exact same prize, the body count is unsurprisingly high.

The oddity isn’t that managers are held accountable for who they select (or don’t), but that too often the players themselves are. Expectations are rather high for players selected early in the lottery, so much so that the typical response to their failures is anger and ridicule. That pretty much ignores the fundamental problem: even though some drafted players fail by their own devices, the rest are only put in a position to do so by the managers that chose them. It’s not Darko Milicic’s fault that the Pistons made him the No. 2 pick in the 2003 draft. It’s on Joe Dumars. Or maybe Chad Ford, I get a little fuzzy there.

Either way, there are clear instances in which a player was derailed due to their own destructive behavior or lack of technical improvement. Yet there are so many more where a GM simply failed to determine a player’s true talent or worth, and that has little to do with the player themselves. The 2010 Draft seems like it will be as good of an example as any, as some of the class’ decent complementary pieces were chosen way too early.

Wesley Johnson is a great place to start. He did well for himself at Syracuse, but is there anything in his repertoire that seriously suggests Johnson could be a game-changing force in the pros? He’s athletic, fairly efficient, and does more than score. I get that. Versatility is fun, and Johnson has a lot of the talents you’d love to see in a player. But that schtick doesn’t mean he’ll be able to thrive against NBA-caliber competition. There’s a lot to like about Johnson but not a lot to love, which doesn’t bode well for him as the No. 4 overall pick. Wesley is who he is and David Kahn blew it.

Ekpe Udoh’s selection by the Warriors at No. 6 is even worse. Udoh won a lot of people over in the NCAA tournament, but nationally televised success does not make one great. Neither does being a 23 year-old without particularly notable production, size, or athleticism. Ekpe would have made for a terrific mid or late first rounder, but instead he’ll be derided as a lottery guy who couldn’t cut it. It’s a shame for a player as endearing as Udoh, but he is who he is and Larry Riley blew it.

I’m sure that both Johnson and Udoh will go on to have moderately successful careers, but they’ll always bear the weight of this expectation. There will be a note on every player profile in every program, and on the back of every basketball card (they still make those, don’t they?), and it will have nothing to do with them. So thanks for that, Kahn, Riley. What could have been a celebration of two useful, talented players is instead a degradation of their worth and skills, all because of a few itchy trigger fingers.

  1. Journalism?? - Jun 25, 2010 at 3:08 PM

    One of the dumbest articles I’ve seen in awhile… I love how ever no name writer is somehow brighter than the GM’s they rip on. Most people say “don’t quit your day job.” Bad advice, quit!

  2. Really dude? - Jun 25, 2010 at 3:49 PM

    Idk why you are gettin mad about him rippin on GMs jus because he is a sports writer. First off he is a blog writer for the NBA so of course he is going to put his opinions out there. This isn’t reporting it is a column so you should expect him to throw his opinions out there. Second just because he is not a NBA GM does not mean he does not have the ability to asses whether or not a specific GM is good or bad at his job. I’m sure that nobody posting on this board works at a high level of any NBA team, but we can probably all agree that Isiah Thomas did a terrible job with the Knicks. Maybe you should go back to your day job instead of taking time out of your own day in order to try and trash a writer who wrote a well thought out article in which he gives an opinion and backs up why he believes it to be true. Well written and anybody who disagrees simply just does not understand what they are supposed to be reading right now.

  3. phil collins - Jun 25, 2010 at 3:55 PM

    am i the only one who thinks derrick favors has bust written all over him?

  4. morpheus - Jun 25, 2010 at 5:16 PM

    It’s funny how everyone rips on a player and calls them a bust before they play a season in the NBA. Warriors need defense, not another passer. BW and AR have been hurt, so they will need to compete for a spot hopefully next to a fresh Udoh. We need impact shot blockers. Beans is alright, Turiaf is good when he’s healthy, and Udoh will add that extra energy and hopefully block shots (Udoh had almost 4 blocks per game last season, along with 13.8 points and 9.8 rebounds). He also brings offense and the fast game run and gun game needed to play with the dubs. Do your homework before you talk about draft busts.

  5. Peter Gabriel - Jun 25, 2010 at 6:13 PM

    The problem I see with Udoh going to the warriors is that he won’t develop and he’ll learn bad habits from Nelly. He’ll be forever tainted and given an unfair rap for playing in a terrible system with a coach that doesn’t seem to care.

  6. morpheus - Jun 25, 2010 at 6:34 PM

    Well, Udoh actually seems the most mature and willing to work with the warriors. He said he wanted to come to Golden State… say what? Yeah, he said it. And he fits Nelson’s system well with the run and gun scheme. The warriors are on the brink of switching ownership for which I am praying for because the current ownership does not care about the team, it’s players, the system but only seems to care about money and values that are worth something to them. Not us fans or the players. Cohan and the rest of his team are the worst owners in the NBA. You never know what they will pull, and i’m hoping they themselves are pulled ASAP.

  7. Really Dude? - Jun 25, 2010 at 6:57 PM

    What are you this writers brother or something?? “a writer who wrote a well thought out article” You lost your argument with that one

  8. rufe - Jun 25, 2010 at 11:17 PM

    Does’nt matter who the Warriors pick. He’ll be a bust for the Warriors, go somewhere else and be a star.

  9. Kirk - Jun 25, 2010 at 11:19 PM

    Your article would be worth some merit if you’d say who you think would have been better than Johnson. You’re a real Republican, criticize without offering a better suggestion !

  10. rufe - Jun 25, 2010 at 11:22 PM

    Good one. Hahahaha.

  11. Anthony - Jun 26, 2010 at 3:34 AM

    I disagree fully that Wes Johnson will be a bust…only time will tell.

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