Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NBA Scout: Media Overhyped the Freshmen; Weighs in on Embiid, Wiggins, Randle, Parker, Harrisons
Together, the media (myself included) and NBA types hyped up this current group of freshmen — including those at Kentucky, Kansas, Duke and elsewhere — to the point where expectations were bound to outstrip reality.
So after Kentucky lost to Arkansas, 71-67 in overtime last night at Rupp Arena, it wasn’t that surprising that a veteran NBA scout texted me, “A media creation, and the media eats its young.”
Yes, reality has long settled in and it’s apparent that none of these Diaper Dandies are what we thought they might be — not Andrew Wiggins, not Julius Randle and certainly not the Harrison twins.
“Honest to God, people get so excited about Kentucky,” the NBA scout said by phone Friday morning. “And John [Calipari] does a terrific job getting those young kids, but at the end of the day, most of the time they’re going to let you down. And as good as they are, they need another year to learn how to win on the road and the whole thing.
“The truth be told, they all need another year. But Randle’s going to be a very high pick, so he’s gonna come out.”
Randle is expected to be a top-5 pick but the scout thinks he’s not as naturally talented on the offensive end as Wiggins or Duke’s Jabari Parker, who many think may be the most NBA-ready of the freshmen because of his offensive game.
“Randle’s a terrific player but he doesn’t read the game, see the game like Jabari Parker,” the scout said. “He doesn’t play off of the defense. That’s a weakness. Now he’s fabulous physically and he’ll compete and he’s strong and he’s tough and the whole thing. He’s so gifted, he’s going to be very good. But he doesn’t really understand. I saw that three years ago, I watched that kid for three years.
“Now Parker, as long as he takes care of his body and upgrades his body, he has great understanding of how to play basketball. He has a terrific skillset. He has to take care of his body, which he’s doing now. He does what Coach K tells him.
“And the reason I like [Wiggins] is in the NBA the rules reward elite athleticism if you have a skillset and if you play the right way. And I think Wiggins will do that. He has elite athleticism. My question on Wiggins is, does he have the necessary toughness? Is it there inside of him, like Kobe was a stone killer? Michael Jordan was a stone killer. LeBron labored with it and worked on it and it meant so much to him. He worked on his outside shooting because he wanted it so much. And now he’s figured the thing out, how to do it. And obviously physically, he’s an alien, he’s so superior.”
As for Kansas big man Joel Embiid, the presumed No. pick, the scout said,”I like him a lot. I think his upside is terrific. I think it’s always better to be big than to be small or to be medium-size. And he’s learning the game. Everything people say about him basically is right, but he’s still a kid. He’s learning how to play. His upside is terrific. You could take him 1, you could take him 2, you could take him 3, it’s a good pick.
“The top three guys in no particular order are Wiggins, Embiid and Parker.”
Everyone from Jim Boeheim to “The Logo” Jerry West has now chimed in on the freshmen.
Boeheim told SNY.tv earlier this year that none of the freshmen were “transcendent players” worth tanking for. None of them are Lebron or Tim Duncan.
West came out this week and called the 2014 draft class “poor” and argued that it takes “three years for them to get going.”
All of this supports the argument for a “two-and-through” rule to replace “one-and-done,” which may well come down the pike if it can be collectively bargained.
The veteran NBA scout agrees with West’s line of thinking.
“The number three, it takes three years for these kids to learn how to play basketball,” the scout said. “The hype on Wiggins, the hype on Parker, the hype on Randle, it’s terrific. When they come in, they’re going to bad teams and the expectation level is out of sight. I mean, when was the last time a guy came in and made a difference immediately? I mean, no one even talks about that.”
Last night the Harrisons certainly didn’t look like one-and-dones and most everyone agrees it would be a mistake for them to come out.
They combined to shoot 7-for-27 from the field for 22 points with 3 assists and 7 turnovers. (James Young had another 4 turnovers.)
“Our guards didn’t play well,” Calipari said. “I mean, you could say shooting. I could tell you dribbling. We had three guys that had 11 turnovers between them. So our guard play was horrendous today.”
As noted here before, the Harrisons currently aren’t on the DraftExpress Mock Draft for 2014 and currently sit at No. 25 (Aaron) and No. 29 (Andrew) in 2015.
“The Harrison boys will be better after two years than they’ll be after one year,” the scout said.
Could they boost their stock with a run to the Final Four in their home state of Texas?
Sure they could, but where will they be a year from now.
Marquis Teague came out after one year at Kentucky, but now he’s sitting on the end of the Brooklyn Nets’ bench.
“The twins [are] gonna come out financially, business-wise,” the scout said. “They’re going to come out. Our whole system is set up a year too son. It’s a rush to judgment. The whole thing happens too soon. But the NBA teams have to take them because someone else will get them.”
So the system is flawed, everybody seems to agree.
And what have we all learned from this year of overhyping the Diaper Dandies?
“What you learned about [the freshmen],” the scout said, “is they were overrated because of the hype.
“Adam Silver wants them to be 20 years old, to stay two years. Truth be told, they should stay three years, most of the guys. But two years is better than one.
“You gotta see that. You’re better off with a more mature person playing the game.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.