Analyzing the draft's most underrated and overrated
Posted: Tuesday June 27, 2006 11:26AM; Updated: Tuesday June 27, 2006 12:40PM
Rajon Rondo has preformed well in pre-draft workouts, but his poor performance (and attitude) at Kentucky has caused his stock to drop.
In the draft world, this is the year of the disclaimer. So much misinformation and uncertainty is clogging up the top of the lottery that every mock drafter must accompany his picks with an excuse -- something akin to, "Don't call me out if this stuff doesn't hold up on Wednesday." Such unpredictability affects not only those playing the Bargnani-Thomas-Aldridge-Morrison shuffle, but also those (like myself) who are charged with identifying the underrated and overrated prospects.
It's tough to slap either label on a player -- take Rajon Rondo, for example, who's No. 8 on one team's draft board and No. 27 on another. And therefore my disclaimer is not a plea of ignorance but rather an explanation for how I've judged each draftee: by taking an aggregate value of his stock in all of the available mock drafts, and using NBA scouts as a sounding board. Only then could I formulate the Underrated/Overrated List for 2006.
UNDERRATED: Quincy Douby, 6-foot-3, PG/SG, Rutgers, Jr. (Stock status: first round, 20-30)
Two years from now, Douby will come off the bench for some playoff team, unconsciously score 15 points in one quarter, and make many a casual fan ask, "Where did this guy come from?" Underexposure is Douby's main problem. Despite being one of the top talents in the Big East in '05-06, averaging 25.4 points, he played for Rutgers -- which meant limited TV time and zero trips to the NCAA tournament in three seasons. His other, lesser issue is his slender build: At 175 pounds Douby doesn't have the chiseled physique of a guy such as Michigan State's Shannon Brown, who is targeted for the mid-to-late first round. But that shouldn't matter. Douby happens to be the best pure scoring guard in the draft. Seriously. He may not be a better overall player than Brandon Roy or Randy Foye, but Douby put up 30 or more points five times in Big East play, always against an opponent's top defender, and frequently against double coverage because he had no supporting cast. The fact that Douby has been playing organized hoops for only five seasons -- he came to the U.S. from Haiti as a boy -- means there's room for even more improvement. NBA teams, draft guards such as Brown, Maurice Ager or Mardy Collins ahead of Douby at your own risk.
Rondo is the equivalent of an NFL prospect who runs a 4.2 in the 40 at the combine and sees his draft value skyrocket. His private workouts have been so stellar that NBA teams are overlooking the volumes of Kentucky tape that suggest he is not a first-round worthy point guard. Scouts say things like, Rondo was misused in a down-tempo offense. He's lightning quick and speed kills in the new NBA. Rondo has Spiderman arms and he'll be a stud defender. All of those things are true, to a degree. But so are these: A good point guard's most vital attribute is that he makes a team click on offense -- even a mediocre team like the Wildcats were in '05-06. And during Rondo's SEC games last season, UK frequently looked out of sync and out of sorts; he was even benched for a stretch in February. Additionally, he's a subpar shooter who hit only 57.1 percent from the free throw line and 27.3 percent from long distance in '05-06. One NBA source reminded me that "Jason Kidd couldn't shoot in college either." So I looked up Kidd's sophomore stats at Cal -- not great, but not in Rondo territory: 69.2 percent on free throws, 36.2 percent on threes. Those were building-block numbers. Rondo's are a sign of trouble.
UNDERRATED: Randy Foye, 6-3, combo guard, Villanova, Sr. (Stock status: first round, 8-12)
It's not as if Foye is buried on draft boards. But for a squad with a late lottery pick, landing a polished combo guard who's a deadlier shooter than likely top-five pick Roy would be a coup, especially in a draft with so few certain talents. Teams acknowledge that Foye isn't going to be an elite point guard -- Kyle Lowry did more of the serious ball handling at Villanova -- but he's a confident slasher and pull-up shooter who could be a solid scorer as a pro. The four-guard, small-ball offense 'Nova resorted to (out of necessity) in '05-06 was strange by NBA standards, but during Foye's junior season the Wildcats ran a pro-style scheme that relied heavily on the perimeter creativity of Foye and teammate Allan Ray. I recall, in gathering a scouting report on 'Nova for the '05 tournament, one opposing assistant telling me, "It's like an NBA offense. You can't really prepare for it, and the way Foye freelances, he's nearly unstoppable." If the T'wolves opt to take Foye at No. 6, they should be commended.
For two years everyone's been playing the Rudy Gay Game. UConn coaches. UConn fans. Hoops media. NBA scouts. Now a pro team with a top-five pick (the Charlotte Bobcats, at No. 3) is considering becoming its official sponsor. Here's how it works: Watch Gay effortlessly make a sick dunk, or block a three-pointer ... then watch him play passively for long stretches while players of lesser physical ability dominate the floor. Then remark, "Man, he has so much potential -- just wait until he fully unlocks it." Maybe I'm being too impatient. Gay's only 19. And another deferential UConn player, Charlie Villanueva, turned into a stud as an NBA rookie this season in Toronto. But on the flipside, maybe it's time to inject some reality into this and acknowledge that Gay is simply a phenomenal athlete who doesn't have superstardom in his future. He may have a fine career in the NBA -- but he should be evaluated more along the lines of a Rodney Carney type, in the late lottery, rather than a Roy, at No. 3.