To tell the truth, I didn’t watch a single second of last week’s NBA Draft. Despite ESPN’s “two unique, simultaneous telecasts” on two of their channels, this overhyped spectacle still wasn’t enough to pique my interest. It lost my attention too long ago to remember.
“Each [draft] has its own unique feel to it,” ESPN’s Jay Bilas last week told reporters, including the MSR, on a pre-draft media call as he worked his 16th draft last Thursday. “I didn’t know it was 16,” he admitted to a reporter who reminded him of it. “I know my first was ’03…the LeBron James draft.”
It was tiresome hearing so much draft talk, like some draftee ballyhooing that he should be number one, like he’s Kareem or Magic, but hasn’t yet played against grown men. When a reporter asked how many times “potential” and “stretches the floor” and similar nonsensical terms he might utter on draft night, Bilas predicted, “I would take the over on each one of these.”
We asked Bilas to briefly share what is the best approach to evaluate a prospect – watch them in games, at the draft combine, individual workouts, or a combination of all the above. “I think if you put it in order, most people would tell you that they learn more from watching a player play five-on-five,” he explained. “I think the last would be the workouts.
“Then in the combine there’s some value, but not everybody plays,” Bilas continued. “So you’re not able to look at the top prospects. You see guys go through testing and you go through the interview process where you get to spend time with them, and I think that’s very valuable.
“It’s always a combination of things,” the longtime analyst stressed. “But if you’re just going strictly off basketball ability, I don’t know anybody that wouldn’t rather see a player in five-on-five situations.”
Then what is a prototypical NBA prospect?
“[The player’s] physical profile is one thing,” Bilas said. “I think you have to look at the types of shots they make: Is it all catch and shoot, can they shoot off the dribble, where their shots come from, how many of their shots are challenged shots or are they open shots – the NBA three is a deeper shot. Do they shoot it with ease, and how far can they extend it out?
“I think the NBA has proven over the years you can take a guy who may not project as a great shooter in college and make him a much better shooter,” Bilas said. “I still don’t think you can make a bad shooter into a great shooter, but you can make an average shooter into a good one.”
It’s a crying shame that the NBA Draft still gets King Kong media coverage but the WNBA Draft before, during, and after gets only Invisible Man (or Woman) mention. A’Ja Wilson, the W’s top pick this spring by Las Vegas, has been playing her behind off with little fanfare save for us league followers.
The 6’-5” rookie is averaging nearly 21 points (fourth in the league) and eight boards (fifth in the league). Earlier this season, Wilson became only the second rookie in league history to score 35 points and grab 10 rebounds in a game.
“The best part is, she’s learning. She listens…and she’s soaking it all in,” Las Vegas Coach Bill Laimbeer said of Wilson.
“I just go with the flow of things, and go from there,” Wilson said.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.