You’re My Density

Benjamin Polk —  May 28, 2010 — 1 Comment

Photo by Quinn.anya

Check out Bethlehem Shoals at Fanhouse, with another critique of the NBA draft (the 2010 version, at least). This time, its in comparison with this year’s mythic free agent class. If you read the whole thing, you can catch Shoals calling Demarcus Cousins a “stenchful fraud.” Yowza:

“Instead, it’s been overshadowed by something at once more realistic and more fantastic. If the draft plays with the fantasy of franchise renewal, then Free Agency 2010 throws aside the dolls and chew toys and says LET’S DO THIS. This is not a drill; LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh are not decoys. By comparison, the draft is an afterthought — at least as any kind of exercise in idealism.”

Shoals is right to point out that the imaginative potential of this free agent class–the ability to envision some team making that one transformational move–dwarfs that of the draft. But, setting aside the fact that very few teams actually have a shot at these luminaries, that note of realism marks a key difference. Lebron and Wade and Bosh (and Dirk and Amare and more) are surely epochal players, but we’ve also seen them at their limits. Neither Lebron nor Wade could singlehandedly solve the Celtics defensive pressure. Despite Dirk’s most manful efforts, he couldn’t force his team to play grittier D or more coherent O against San Antonio. And even Bosh couldn’t save Toronto from devolving into a depressing spectacle. This free agent class is filled with sure things, but team-building remains a complex, esoteric business. And the draft is still the site of our most unabashed optimism.

Benjamin Polk

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One response to You’re My Density

  1. Eric in Madison May 28, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Having read that piece, I frankly admit that I’m not sure what, exactly, his point is.

    However, I will say this: It’s true that fans, as a group, overvalue draft picks. The reason for this is that since we have yet to see these players fail in the NBA, it’s easy to dream on them. The truth, of course, is that almost none of these guys, even near the top of the draft, will become transcendent superstars, but it’s fun to dream, and occasionally, it does happen. We’re like Charlie Brown kicking the football, except once in a great while, Lucy actually lets us kick it. Superstars do come into the league, and they aren’t all obvious, can’t miss guys like Shaq. Dwayne Wade was picked 5th. Dirk Nowitzki was, as I recall, traded on draft night for someone with the nickname of “Tractor.” So we dream that DeMarcus Cousins really is the next coming of Moses Malone, that Evan Turner will be some bizarre hybrid of Scottie Pippen and Brandon Roy, and that we’ll get to watch the flowering of a hall of fame career in the jersey of our beloved squad.

    Free agency, on the other hand, seems to breed cynicism and a different brand of unreasonableness among fans. Sure, fans of any of the teams with cap space want James or Wade. And throw Bosh in there too. But after that, I believe if you talked to them, you would hear quite a bit of negativity about most of the other top guys available. Disappointment if Joe Johnson is their team’s top signing. Or Amare Stoudemire, or Carlos Boozer, or, god forbid, Rudy Gay. And the reason is that we’ve seen these players’ weaknesses and failures, and no matter how few LeBron James’ there are, and how good these other available players might be, it won’t be enough, because all that matters is championships. (A mixed bag of current American fandom; yes, desiring the ultimate prize is a good thing, but an inability to take satisfaction from lesser accomplishments strikes me as a poor trade-off).

    In other words, our expectations are excessive. I suspect that if, somehow, Joe Johnson announced on July First that he really wants to take up ice fishing, and wants to sign with the Timberwolves, many, many, intelligent fans would balk, despite the fact that he would immediately become the team’s best player. They would balk because they would see it as foreclosing on the possibility that someday soon, the team will get a “real” superstar that can lead them to championships, no matter how unlikely it is that they are going to stumble on someone better than Johnson in the next 5 years, or 10, or pick your number. Hell, I know a lot of smart Wolves fans for whom a major worry is protecting the pick they owe the Clippers sometime in the next two years. Hey–maybe we can get Harrison Barnes!

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