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I hate when people say, “that player has tremendous upside." That one phrase leads to the downfall of many a franchise. Picking players in the draft because they could be good, rather than picking players based on their actual body of work is ludicrous to me. Look, obviously good college players don't always become great NBA players, but when in doubt I would always go for "proven" over "potential.”

Drafting on potential rarely pans out. For every Lebron there are five Kwame Brown's. Sure, some of these aren't that obvious, but some make you just scratch your head. It's one thing to draft for potential in the top 20 where you have to pay the big bucks and expect that player to be a franchise player. It's quite another to draft for potential in the second round where you really are just looking for role players anyway.

I will never wrap my head around the fact that the Celtics passed up on Mario Chalmers for the corpse of J.R Giddens. When I saw the J.R Giddens pick on draft night a couple years ago I thought it was a joke at first. You pass up a guy that hit the game tying shot and eventual game winner in the national title game for a guy who made some nice dunks and was kicked off his college team? It's like the Celtics were still drunk from their championship celebration. Giddens had D-League written all over him from the start.

If the Celtics had an earlier pick before Dejuan Blair last year I think there's a good bet they would have passed him up, just as many other teams did. He was a beast in college and despite his injury issues there really is nothing to lose by drafting him. Did anyone actually think 43 other players were better than him?

Now, it hasn't been all bad. Obviously the Rondo draft day trade was brilliant and getting Al Jefferson at #15 in 2004 was a great move. It's easy to judge after the fact that picks were good or bad, but I think it's legitimate to question picks that make no sense.

For such smart individuals, GM's can be really dense sometimes. Maybe it's just me, but if I'm trying to build a franchise I want to draft players that have actually proved their worth on the basketball court. I don't care about their 40 time or how high they can jump. Everyone can jump high in the NBA; it's the intangibles that make a player good. Here's hoping Danny and the Celtics front office start paying more attention to what players can do on the court than drafting potential.

Karl Dillinger 2/23/2010 12:44:00 PM Edit
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9 Responses so far.

  1. JR says:

    Yeah the Giddens pick was boneheaded. I wanted chalmers at the time, but thought if they really wanted to go for potential DeAndre Jordan made much more sense than Giddens. Giddens was a huge reach.

    Funny you bring up Rondo and Jefferson. We almost had neither b/c of Danny's man crush for Robert Swift. Ainge offered the Al pick and another first to move up and draft Swift and also in the Ray Allen trade the Sonics wanted Rondo over Delonte and Ainge said he'd do it if the Sonics included Swift.

  2. Ya I remember that. Is Swift even in the league anymore?

  3. JR says:

    Regarding potential vs. proven, I hear what you're saying and obviously agree on Chalmers over Giddens, but I think that often you need to take chances in the draft to get something great. Every draft Dick Vitale laments how potential guys like Dwight Howard get picked over proven players like Omeka Okafor. Well often the potential guys can turn your team into contenders, while the proven guys can only moderately boost your team.

  4. Karl says:

    I was talking more about later draft picks. But even so, for every Dwight Howard there are 5 busts in the top 10. Sometimes you should take chances but when in doubt go with the proven winner.Dwight Howard was a man child and you hedge your bets with that guy everytime.

  5. ThomasJ says:

    Good points, Karl.

    I assumed Chalmers was the pick and we could sure use Blair's rebounding this season.

    Agree on the potential vs. proven mistakes. Seems like potential can make sense with really young guys like JR mentioned with Howard or when people questioned the Wolves taking KG at #5.

    Then what the hell happened with Kwame? Did they not work him out with NBA level competition?

  6. JR says:

    MJ can't draft to save his life. The Bulls offered Elton Brand to the Wizards for that #1 pick and Jordan turned it down. You think when Jordan made his comeback with the Wizards, he would have preferred Brand as his power forward over Kwame (remember brand was really good back then)? I think that Wizards team could have made noise.

  7. Kwame was another black mark on the train wreck that is the Washington Wizards.

  8. Bohemian says:

    I liked this article a lot. Giddens was a waste of pick...

    Robert Swift is not playing ball at the moment, check this out:

    http://nba.fanhouse.com/2009/12/23/robert-swift-is-apparently-done-with-basketball/

  9. tb727 says:

    Interesting regarding the Howard-Okafor debate: Okafor was actually rookie of the year, but it took Howard an actual season to get acclimated. Now it's a no-brainer who the better player is.

    But I do agree with you Karl regarding late first round and the entire second round. Picking the proven college player seems to be a safer way to go. Unless your name's Shawn Respert lol.

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