Friday, April 27, 2007

NBA Age Limit, Reconsidered

Dan Shanoff had a great post about Monta Ellis winning the Most Improved Player award and how dramatically that cuts against arguments in favor of age limits in the NBA. Of course, this comes on the heels of the Celtics cutting Sebastian Telfair, who stands on the opposite end of the spectrum.

So which is it? Is the age limit protecting the Telfairs of the world from the league and the league from the Telfairs? Or is it preventing guys like Monta Ellis from getting to the big time as soon as possible, where they can learn the pro game, and develop rapidly as players?

I decided to take a quick look at every draft this decade and then try to assess each prep-to-pro taken, with an attempt to conclude whether it was good for the player and good for the league that they went out of high school. And yes, I realize this ignores the cautionary tales of those handful of guys that go undrafted, but I've only got so much time.

2000 Draft
#3 Darius Miles - Considering he's such a head case, I have to say BAD for him, BAD for the league.
#23 DeShawn Stevenson - For a #23 pick, he's developed into a decent player. And considering his involvement in a recent dare-I-say-legendary shooting contest with Gilbert Arenas, I'm going GOOD for him, and GOOD for the league.

2001 Draft
#1 Kwame Brown - He has his moments, but the way MJ beat him down leaves me no choice but to conclude that it was BAD for him to go pro. As for the league, considering Brown runs an $8 mil annual tab, I have to say BAD as well.
#2 Tyson Chandler - The Baby Bulls were long the poster boys for anti prep-to-pro sentiment, but considering what a beast Chandler was this year, I have to say GOOD and GOOD.
#4 Eddy Curry - This is a tough one, but I have to believe Curry would be better with exposure to the pressures of winning in the NCAA Tournament, so I'll go BAD for him, and since his teams always lose, I'll go BAD for the league as well.
#8 DeSagana Diop - It took a change of scenery, but he's very valuable to these Mavs. And he's about to get paid. So GOOD and GOOD (hey, the more guys that are willing to rebound and play defense with no concern for points, the better).
#47 Ousmane Cisse - Anyone remember this guy? Me neither. That would be a BAD/BAD.

2002 Draft
#9 Amare Stoudemire - Um, that would be a GOOD/GOOD.

2003 Draft
#1 LeBron James - GOOD/GOOD. Next.
#23 Travis Outlaw - A summer league legend, he blew up for 36 and 10 in the final game of the season. Plus, #1 Blazers fan Josh Stump tells me he could be a legit contender for 6th Man of the Year next season thanks to his improved jumper. So GOOD/GOOD.
#26 Ndudi Ebi - Nice job by the Wolves. They finally get to make a draft choice after losing three straight first round picks (the Joe Smith fiasco) and they take a high school guy who never gets off the bench. Is he still in the league? BAD/BAD. (Even worse for the Wolves is the fact they took him immediately before Kendrick Perkins, Leandro Barbosa, and Josh Howard. Whoops.)
#27 Kendrick Perkins - He is kind of like Diop in that he's developed slowly, but for a #27 pick the C's have to be happy, and so should he. GOOD/GOOD.
#48 James Lang - Who? Exactly. BAD/BAD.

2004 Draft
#1 Dwight Howard - Another no-brainer, because this guy is an absolute beast. When you make Team USA, it is usually GOOD/GOOD for all parties.
#4 Shaun Livingston - I am going GOOD for him, since at least he got some cash before his horrific injury, but BAD for the league because he hasn't seemed to develop his terrific skill set and is now on the long road to recovery.
#12 Robert Swift - No choice but to go BAD/BAD here, although we are hitting the drafts where the verdict might still be out on some of these young players.
#13 Sebastian Telfair - Let's see ... atrocious shooting, shaky off the court, and cut from his second pro team. I'd say that is a BAD/BAD.
#15 Al Jefferson - He was a candidate for most improved player and had Elton Brand-like numbers after the All-Star break. He's GOOD/GOOD.
#17 Josh Smith - Yes, he had the swearing incident at the end of the season, but this fantasy monster is the best shot blocking wing on Planet Earth and a Slam Dunk champion. Easy GOOD/GOOD.
#18 J.R. Smith - Has been traded nearly as much as my man Dan Dickau (including a brief "transaction only" stint with Chicago), but was scoring almost 20 a game for a while. He's established that he has value, so this is GOOD for him, but his 10-game suspension makes him BAD for the league.
#19 Dorell Wright - Has shown flashes, but can't seem to get regular minutes for Pat Riley. No choice but to go BAD/BAD for now. It seems like he could have grown as a player in the college ranks, improved his stock, and been better situated with a team that can use him.

2005 Draft
#6 Martell Webster - Isn't great and is always brought up us the "bad" comparison to four-year collegian Brandon Roy, but that has more to do with talent than D1 experience. I'll go GOOD for Webster and GOOD for the league, considering he's penciled in as the starting small forward on the rising Blazers.
#10 Andrew Bynum - I'm guessing that one-on-one tutorial from Kareem is better than what you'd get in college. This guy is making huge strides and playing important minutes in the playoffs. GOOD/GOOD. (By the way, Bynum is going to be a mosnter this year and single-handedly turn L.A. into a title contender. I kid you not.)
#18 Gerald Green - He won the Slam Dunk contest, but is a pretty terrible player in, you know, actual games. I have to go BAD/BAD, which kills me because I once called him the next T-Mac. Whoops.
#34 C.J. Miles - He's given the Jazz depth during the regular season and shown improvement, which is more than most second round picks can say. And he would have been lapped by Durant at Texas, leaving him in Brandon Rush territory for subsequent drafts. GOOD/GOOD.
#35 Ricky Sanchez - Is he in the NBDL? Even for a second round pick, this is BAD/BAD.
#40 Monta Ellis - Formerly the poster boy for not going pro, now the poster boy for no age limit. Most improved, indeed. GOOD/GOOD.
#45 Louis Williams - He's an incredibly exciting player with a bright future (keep an eye on this guy), so I'll go GOOD for him, even though he certainly would have been drafted higher had he gone to school. I will also go with GOOD for the league, since he helped the Sixers not tank with strong late-season play. Again, for a second round draft pick, he's availing himself quite well.
#49 Andray Blatche - Was starting for a while in Washington and is proving to be both a versatile player, so I have to go GOOD/GOOD, even though he plummeted in that draft.
#56 Amir Johnson - A month ago I would have gone with bad here, but he looked absolutely sick in some late-season run. For a 56th pick? He might one day be considered the steal of that draft. GOOD/GOOD.

That is the list of all the guys I could find. My apologies if I missed someone. By my best guesses, there aren't many guys that have done well for themselves but hurt the league, or vice verse. They are:

Shaun Livingston (good for him that he got paid, bad for the league his talents weren't more honed)


J.R. Smith (good for him because his stock might never have been higher and he's had his moments, bad for the league because of the brawl in NY)

Then there are nine guys that have been bad for everyone involved (and that is being extra tough on guys like Kwame), and 20 players that have benefited from going pro and that have helped the league in the process. Now, reasonable minds could disagree on a few of these players, but it looks like no matter how you slice it, the high school kids are doing quite well. Certainly better than any other group you could examine, from freshman to seniors to foreigners. And that ignores the possibility that some of the guys on the "bad" list could ultimately figure things out. It also excludes all of the outstanding pre-2000 prep-to-pros like Kobe, T-Mac, and KG.

Big picture, it doesn't look like the age limit is helping anyone.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When you are evaluating prep to Pro you should look at the third year of their career. He reason being this. the first year is like their freshman year of college. they are learning new things spending money and partying. the second year is really their rookie year of the NBA. where none expects that much just some solid fundamentals and flash of why they were drafted and the third year is like their sophomore year of the NBA. where people expect to see the improvement and the "I GET IT" moments.

As a High school age coach I can tell you that it is also largely dependent on the situation. Kwame brown would have done better as the number one pick if anyone but Jordan had drafted him. High school kids are not equipped to handle the level of pressure that is put on by some one of Jordan's character. followed that with the immense pressure that Doug Collins was putting on him and you have a situation that would have broke down 26 out of 28 first round picks in that draft. the only 2 players I think that would have been able to handle the immense pressure would have been Shane Battier and Pau Gasol. both coming from situations where the pressure was always on them already.and both with an huge desire to be the best. n action and not just on paper.