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Making Me Nervous

We had some great comments in the Russell Westbrook thread over the weekend. Thank you all!  I think as names come forward and options become clearer we’ll run threads for most of the major contenders as well as the “Trade the Pick!” position.

Although I’m not much closer to being settled on who I’d like to see the Blazers get, after a bunch of consideration over the weekend I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two guys I don’t want to see us go after because, frankly, they scare me.  Fortunately both are forecast to go above our pick--in one case well above--so it probably won’t be an issue.  But I thought I’d share anyway.  Keep in mind that I’m admitting up front that these are more right-brained impressions than solid analysis.  Maybe you can convince me to change my outlook.

The first guy I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole at this point is Kevin Love.  Sorry, I know he’s local, but he’s the kind of guy who often disappears after making the jump to the NBA.  His biggest drawback is that he’s un-athletic compared to the guys he’ll be competing against.  I’m well aware that some guys come in to the league overweight and learn what it takes, becoming effective players.  Weight is one of the classic trouble signals but it can be overcome.  But this isn’t a case of an otherwise superb athlete hiding under a few too many Bloomin’ Onions ™.  If you look at Love compared to most prospective and current NBA forwards--the angle of his shoulders, the way he moves, his torso--it’s like he’s a garage sale couch in a

Rodeo Drive
showroom.  Yes, he’s got moves, but he’s going to be playing at forward against guys who are as big or bigger than he, much quicker, and way stronger.  You can make all the moves you want, but if you can’t throw yourself around and move people you’re going to have a hard time in an NBA frontcourt.  Plus I’m shuddering imagining his prospective defense.  We’ve also hearing rumblings about attitude and coachability for years.  All of that adds up to a big no-go for me.

The second guy I really worry about was brought up in a fanpost last week:  O.J. Mayo.  There’s no doubt this guy has talent.  But there’s plenty of smoke starting to congeal around that fire.  Again we have attitude questions.  We’re starting to get into legality issues as far as illegal payments and such.  When guys start generating those kinds of stories you really have to look hard.  You’d be naïve to believe they’re going to disappear once the money and stage both get bigger.  Plus a couple years ago this guy was shaping up to create one of those whirlwind drafts we talked about last week.  He was going to be the lock-down no-brainer pick, the once-in-a-generation talent at point.  It didn’t take very long for that storm to subside.  It’s not like he’s chump change now, but you really have to be careful about guys who were going to be all-universe but turn out to run with the pack.  There’s a reason (maybe there are multiple reasons) why that didn’t pan out.  It’s awfully easy to get caught up in potential and name value and gloss over those reasons.  You see a lot more of these fading stars continue to fade than you see turn it around and fulfill the greatness people once thought they had.

The NBA is a lot like marriage in this sense:  whatever problems or difficulties you bring in are going to get magnified.  Just becoming a professional doesn’t solve them.  It doesn’t even really open up avenues to get them solved.  Nobody’s going to hold your hand in the league.  Coaches and team administrators are going to demand you perform and are going to have relatively little sympathy if you don’t.  Fellow players are going to want the minutes you get and will be more than willing to take your spot should you stumble.  Most people you meet off the court are going to want a piece of you, either simply as a fan or for more nefarious purpo$e$.  That’s a lot of responsibility on your shoulders.  You have to be at a physical, mental, and emotional peak to handle it.  Some guys’ peaks are barely a speed bump and that almost always spells trouble.

I don’t know enough about Love or Mayo to say for sure whether they’re able to handle the league, but I do know it worries me.  It’ll be interesting to see where, and by whom, they are picked and how that turns out.

--Dave (