Monday, October 27, 2008
NBA Rookies: Teams and Fans NEED to Practice Patience
O.J. Mayo has star potential, Marc Gasol is considered a lottery talent and Darrell Arthur just led Kansas to a national title. That's a solid group of rookies the Memphis Grizzlies have assembled.
But the fact that coach Marc Iavaroni will depend heavily on at least two of them this season suggests Memphis is going to stink because multiple rookies in key roles does not usually translate into NBA success.
That's the weird thing about the NBA Draft. It's a glamour event live from New York City that excites everybody. Fans throw watch parties, drink heavily, cheer loudly and hope their general manager doesn't spend his first pick on Renaldo Balkman. If that happens, they boo.
But more times than not the diehards come away enthused and dreaming about the possibilities of this pick or that pick because their team is suddenly loaded with young talent.
And then the season begins. And then the losses come, one after another.
Take the Grizzlies, for example.
They are likely to start a trio of the very best players to exit college the past three seasons -- namely Rudy Gay, Mike Conley and Mayo. All three were arguably the top prospects at their positions the year they entered the draft. Meaning, if the Grizzlies were drafting strictly to fill needs at point guard, shooting guard and small forward it is reasonable to suggest they could not have done a better job the past three years.
And guess what? They'll be lucky to win 25 games because young guys -- regardless of their talent level and potential -- almost never accomplish much when they are on the court together, learning together, trying to lead each other when nobody is really comfortable leading.
"We are all around the same age, so it's tough when you are trying to balance the leadership between guys," Conley, the second-year point guard from Ohio State, said Friday after the Grizz recorded their first preseason win against Charlotte (though it's worth pointing out that Memphis played three starters at least 27 minutes to notch that win while the Bobcats had nobody play 27).
"Some guys who are the same age as you may not take it as well if you talk to them a certain way," Conley added. "We are all so young and in the same group."
Which is not a good group to be in.
And that's the larger point -- not that the Grizzlies are going to struggle (you knew that already) but that almost any franchise that finds itself relying heavily on rookies will lose.
For proof, consider that eight of the past 10 Rookies of the Year have played for teams that won less than 40 games. The only exceptions are Mike Miller in 2000-2001 (Orlando Magic) and Amare Stoudemire (Phoenix Suns) in 2002-2003, but it should be noted that Miller and Stoudemire were both surrounded by veterans and the third-leading scorers on their teams.
That's the way to do it: have a good rookie play a small part. The alternative is having a good rookie play a major role, like last season when Kevin Durant averaged more points (20.3) than his team tallied wins (20). There is a connection there, trust me. And that's what fans of teams should take away from this, that there's a better chance of your 401(k) bouncing back strong this year than there is of a first-year player drastically affecting the win column of your favorite team.
If the Bulls get way better, it'll be because of Ben Gordon and Luol Deng. Not Derrick Rose.
If the Heat get way better, it'll be because of Dwyane Wade and Shawn Marion. Not Michael Beasley.
Though those picks might well develop into stars and lead their franchises to greatness some season, rest assured it won't happen in this first season, if only because it rarely does.