NBA Draft Preview: On the Ball

  • By John Antonik
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  • June 26, 2012 11:11 AM
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I will be the first to admit I know very little about the NBA, and I know even less about the NBA draft. In a couple of days my lack of knowledge will only be reaffirmed when the 30 NBA teams make their 60 selections during this year’s draft (ESPN, 7 p.m.) on Thursday night in Newark, N.J.

I was reminded of my ignorance a couple of years ago when neither Kevin Pittsnogle nor Mike Gansey were taken. I thought for sure at least one of them was good enough to get a shot with an NBA team.

I was mildly surprised when Joe Alexander was a top 10 pick in 2008 despite only enjoying one year of success at the collegiate level, and I was also somewhat caught off guard when both Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks were taken in the second round in 2010.

You see, drafts are as much about what people think players can do as to what they can actually do. That’s why Adam Morrison goes ahead of Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay and Rajon Rondo in the 2006 draft, or why Dennis Hopson is picked ahead of Scottie Pippen, Reggie Miller, Mark Jackson and Horace Grant in 1987, or why Michael Olowokandi is the No. 1 pick in 1998 ahead of guys like Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki.

Underclassmen and foreign players have also muddied the water. Every GM is looking for the next Nowitzki while trying to avoid getting the next Darko Milicic, taken No. 2 by the Detroit Pistons right after LeBron James and right before Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

The impression I get is that some GMs either like rolling the dice or are in perpetual pursuit to uncover the next Kobe Bryant, just to prove how smart they are.

If it were me doing the choosing, I would eschew the clairvoyance and stick to the things I know like how a guy did over the course of his career. I would guess vertical jumps, cone drills, broad jumps, wingspans, hand sizes and things of that nature matter, but do they matter as much as how a player did under extreme pressure over a four-year period?

Did George Gervin (40th overall pick in 1974) possess a great vertical jump? Did Manu Ginobli (57th pick in 1999) have great measurables? How about Karl Malone (13th in 1985) or Dennis Rodman (27th in 1986)?

I don’t have a clue.

What I do know is that West Virginia’s Kevin Jones has been one of the most productive players in school history, joining the Logo himself, Jerry West, as the only two players to score more than 1,800 career points and grab more than 1,000 rebounds. KJ is one of just three players in Big East history to lead the league in scoring and rebounding in the same season - and he did this in what is considered to be the best basketball conference in America.

Jones is not going to blow people away on the workout circuit. His jump shot is not picturesque and he doesn’t soar to the basket, but whenever the ball is in the air he seems to be the one who usually ends up with it in his hands. And that has great value to those who value winning.

I did some Googling yesterday to try and come up with some of the best and worst NBA draft picks of the last 20-25 years. The website Bleacher Report has a couple of them worth looking at, including this one … http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1199165-nba-draft-2012-10-biggest-draft-mistakes-in-nba-history#/articles/1199165-nba-draft-2012-10-biggest-draft-mistakes-in-nba-history.

You can argue endlessly about whether or not those players were busts, but what you can’t argue is who took the risks and made those picks. Plus, I didn’t happen to see Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics or New York Knicks next to any of those guys listed, by the way.

I have heard Kevin’s coach, Bob Huggins, say time and again that sports is about getting to the ball and the ones who can get to it more frequently than others are the ones who are the most successful.

Jones has consistently proven throughout his career that he can get to the ball.

Now we’ll see which team out there is on the ball and drafts him Thursday night. The guess here is that KJ will end up in an organization that values winning - that values teamwork and dedication, and, just as importantly, values guys who can get to the basketball.

I've got my fingers crossed.

West Virginia’s all-time NBA draft picks
2010, De’Sean Butler, 2nd Round, Miami Heat
2010, Devin Ebanks, 2nd Round, Los Angeles Lakers
2008, Joe Alexander, 1st Round, Milwaukee Bucks
1997, Gordon Malone, 2nd Round, Minnesota Timberwolves
1987, Eric Semisch, 7th Round, Philadelphia 76ers
1986, Dale Blaney, 4th Round, Los Angeles Lakers
1984, Tim Kearney, 3rd Round, Portland Trailblazers
1983, Greg Jones, 3rd Round, Indiana Pacers
1983, Russel Todd, 6th Round, Milwaukee Bucks
1982, Phil Collins, 7th Round, Boston Celtics
1981, Greg Nance, 7th Round, Detroit Pistons
1980, Lowes Moore, 3rd Round, New Jersey Nets
1978, Maurice Robinson, 9th Round, Atlanta Hawks
1977, Tony Robertson, 4th Round, Los Angeles Lakers
1976, Stan Boskovich, 8th Round, Golden State Warriors
1975, Jerome Anderson, 3rd Round, Boston Celtics
1974, Bob Hornstein, 7th Round, Milwaukee Bucks
1972, Wil Robinson, 4th Round, Houston Rockets
1968, Ron Williams, 1st Round, San Francisco Warriors
1967, Bob Benfield, 6th Round, New York Knicks
1964, Tom Lowry, 11th Round, Philadelphia 76ers
1963, Rod Thorn, 1st Round, Baltimore Bullets
1963, Jim McCormick, 6th Round, Cincinnati Royals
1961, Lee Patton, 6th Round, Detroit Pistons
1960, Jerry West, 1st Round, Minneapolis Lakers
1959, Bob Smith, 3rd Round, Minneapolis Lakers
1958, Lloyd Sharrar, 2nd Round, Philadelphia Warriors
1957, Hot Rod Hundley, 1st Round, Cincinnati Royals
1956, Willie Bergines, 11th Round, Syracuse Nationals
1953, Jim Sottile, 7th Round, Rochester Royals
1952, Mark Workman, 1st Round, Milwaukee Hawks
1950, Eddie Beach, 5th Round, Minneapolis Lakers

Check out Antonik's new book The Backyard Brawl: Stories from One of the Weirdest, Wildest, Longest Running, and Most Intense Rivalries in College Football History available in bookstores this fall. A portion of the sales benefit the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Also, be sure to "Like" the new Backyard Brawl Facebook page and tell us your personal WVU-Pitt story.


Kevin Jones, 2012 NBA Draft, West Virginia University Mountaineers, WVU

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