From the first pick to the last, the 2013 NBA Draft was shocking and unpredictable to say the least. With a fairly even distribution of talent across all the picks, this draft was full of surprises and questionable decisions made by the management cavalry of some teams.
In an all-out serious attempt to evade my obvious homerism of OSU Men’s Basketball, one the biggest draft surprises was Deshaun Thomas falling as far as he did to pick #57 (side note: Jon Diebler was picked in his draft before Deshaun was in this year’s draft). How did the 3rd Team All American/1st Team All-Big 10 (and obvious snub for not even being talked about as Big 10 Player of the Year) fall so far? In all honesty it’s unclear to me but here are a few thoughts to why GM’s would most likely pass up on a guy like Deshaun:
- DT’s pre-draft combine workout was less than stellar to say the least. He didn’t help himself out with his agilities (or lack thereof) or his speed/strength measurement
- He created the most buzz for himself around the draft (and potentially earned himself a red flag) by not disclosing his cell phone number to the San Antonio Spurs
- He hasn’t shown interest in playing any defense in the past
- He’s a selfish player because he shoots too much
- He doesn’t give the best interview – Don’t believe me, check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntDDHYi39do
- Second round draft picks don’t earn guaranteed money so they are a long shot to make the roster if they don’t perform
Had enough of the criticism Deshaun?
Well I’ve poked enough holes into who Deshaun is as a player, so let’s focus on the positives.
My goal in writing this post is to give Deshaun the buzz and credit that he deserves. If the rumors that Deshaun will spend the next season in Europe are false (See Buckeye Dispatch Article here), and DT makes the Spurs roster for 2014, my bold prediction is that by the end of the 2014 NBA season, Deshaun will be a consensus top 15 rookie out of this year’s class and here’s why.
He gets buckets…
Don’t believe me? Look at the numbers. Deshaun got more buckets per game last year than anyone not named Isaiah Canaan in this year’s NBA draft. Deshaun was a top 20 NCAA D1 scorer last year and increased his ppg by nearly 5 points from his sophomore to junior season.
Now if I am a GM in this year’s draft, here’s my thought process if I am not drafting in the top five: “Is it realistic to draft for superstar potential this year? Definitely not. Is it realistic to draft someone who in five years from now I can pay $3-5 million per year who can be a productive role player for me? Yes”.
The next step would be to identify where the holes are on my team and what type of player can I take whom I know will fill those holes.
R.C. Buford (GM of the Spurs) must have been doing just that when evaluating the Spurs second round pick. He saw the youth on his near-championship team blossom this year in the postseason with Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. But anyone that watches the Spurs knows that after those two guys, it pretty much ends right there. With an aging Ginobili and lackluster consistency from the other swing players mentioned, the Spurs are in the market for a young scorer and rotational guy.
Deshaun does exactly that for them.
What separates me from an actual GM is simply just the title that they have earned. Second round talent rarely makes an all-star game. But what second round talent does provide, if drafted correctly, is in-expensive talent that can add tremendous value to your rotation. Drafting a player because he does one thing extremely well (like scoring) versus doing multiple things just above average makes more sense to me as a future GM and DT provides uncanny scoring to the Spurs.
He’s having a great summer league…
Deshaun is out of the gate to an incredibly fast start. He’s playing like he doesn’t want to play in Europe this year and he wants to prove to every GM who passed on him from the first pick of the second round why they made a mistake.
NBA.com has Thomas as #9 on the rookie ladder with his stock rapidly rising of all rookies in this draft. In just three summer league games, DT has averaged a humble 17ppg (ranking 11th amongst all summer league players).
For those who are quick to refute summer league success, consider this “Chad Ford-ism” that was learned from a Bill Simmons draft podcast two years ago: “summer league really tells us one thing about most young talent. Success in the summer league has not proven that it translates to NBA success. But unsuccessful summer league performances almost never lie about a player not making it in the NBA”.
Whether or not you subscribe to this theory is up to you, but Deshaun’s strong performance in summer league certain bodes well for predictors of his success as an NBA talent.
He’s matured rapidly throughout the years as a scorer and a leader…
During Deshaun’s early tenure at OSU as a Freshman I hated it when he would get in the game. Mainly because all he would do is shoot and not facilitate or be smart with the rock. He rarely even took a second to catch the ball and analyze whether he was in a position to take a good shot… he just shot it.
Believe it or not, Coach Matta angrily stopped practice one day in the preseason before Deshaun’s sophomore season after Deshaun successfully passed the ball after turning down a shot. When everyone stopped to wonder what Thad was mad about, he broke out into laughter with: “I can’t believe he passed it” sarcastic joke that he is known for. That was DT’s reputation to the team, to the University and to all of its fans. We believed that all he did take shoot bad shots.
Since Deshaun’s early days, he’s never been one to strike me as a leader capable of carrying the pressure of taking a team to success in a season. But over the course of these last three years, starting with his 2012 Final Four run, Deshaun’s consistency and scoring has helped the Buckeyes achieve the success that it did. When you compare how reliant the Buckeyes were on his success in clutch times versus those who were drafted ahead of him (let’s say Otto Porter and his Georgetown Hoyas lack of success despite high rankings), Deshaun has proven that he is as resilient as anyone and more than capable of handling the spotlight.
With the odds seemingly stacked against Deshaun coming into the league right away and being an impact player, it makes sense to bet on his success. Great organizations like the Spurs have proven time and time again that they are smart with their personnel and more importantly that they can groom talent that wants to be successful (just look at Danny Green).
If Deshaun truly wants to be successful, he should have the perfect opportunity in the Alamo city. I am personally rooting for him and banking that when it’s all said and done he will have a successful career as a rotation guy on a winning team for multiple years.
Good luck DT.
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