Cohen: Being Real About Draft Prospects

By Josh Cohen
May 31, 2012


ORLANDO -- We tend to be excessively flowery and we habitually embroider athletes when they first enter a professional sports league.

Yet, once they fail to live up to an inflated expectation, we begin to criticize them.

Just like it is every year, for the next few weeks up until the June 28 NBA Draft, analysts and outside observers will hype up practically every prospect.

“Player A has great upside.” “Player B has a high basketball IQ.” Player C has NBA range from the perimeter.” “Player D is raw but is a freakish athlete.” “Player E can step in right away and help an NBA team.” Yada yada yada.

If a player gets drafted into the NBA, that means they were among the best at a lower level. As a result, it’s far easier to highlight all the positives in a player because, quite frankly, we haven’t really seen the negatives yet.

But, let’s be pragmatic for a moment. Most players that get drafted won’t exactly flourish in the NBA. In fact, many won’t last more than five seasons in this grueling and competitive league.

Let me spill out some names and you try and figure out the connection:

Adam Morrison, Tyrus Thomas, Shelden Williams, Patrick O’Bryant, Mouhamed Sene, Hilton Armstrong, Cedric Simmons, Rodney Carney, Shawne Williams, Quincy Douby, Marcus Williams, Josh Boone, Maurice Ager, Mardy Collins and Joel Freeland

Any clue?

Well, these are all players drafted in the First Round of the 2006 NBA Draft and are either already out of the league or barely hanging onto a roster spot. That’s HALF (50 percent) of the players selected in the FIRST ROUND of a draft from just six years ago.

Listen, every year it is different. In some cases, there will be far greater results than other years. The 2008 NBA Draft, for example, is looking real impressive when you consider the number of stars or legitimate role players that were chosen that year.

The bottom line is that a team and player have to get pretty lucky. The team has to hope the player they draft is committed to working tirelessly hard and makes the necessary adjustments to thrive in the pros, while the player has to hope they simply have too much talent to be dispirited or is put in a system that fits with their skills.

I know I may sound like the bad guy or in WWE terms, the “heel,” but rather than assiduously emphasize all the reasons why a prospect may evolve into a great pro, I think it’s far more appropriate to be unbiased when assessing prospects.

We should always cheer on every player and hope they succeed in the NBA. They obviously deserve to be drafted as they have made a strong enough impression through the years. But, at the same time, let's not make it seem like every player that gets picked in the draft will automatically be a solid pro. History suggests most won't, unfortunately.

There are three groups in which to properly judge prospects:

BLUE: This player is a lock to be a good player or even a great player at an appropriate draft spot. If he is projected to be a top five pick, he will certainly be an All-Star caliber player. If he is projected to be somewhere between six and 10, I am confident he will be a legitimate starter with the chance of being a difference maker. And if he is chosen after 10th, he will be a steal.

RED: This player will become a good pro, but may get drafted too high. If he is projected to be a top five pick, he will be a disappointment because he won’t be an All-Star player. If he is projected to be somewhere between six and 10, he will be viewed as someone too inconsistent. And if he is chosen after 10th, this will have been an acceptable choice because he provides just enough to last in the league a while.

GREEN: This player will likely be a bust. He just seems either undersized, not superior at any particular skill or just didn’t impress me enough in college. He may have potential, but he is not a player I see lasting in the league more than five years.


Here are some prospects that will likely be selected high in this year’s draft. Using the color-coded evaluation system above, vote on what you think of each player.






Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis
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Andre Drummond
Andre Drummond
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Austin Rivers
Austin Rivers
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Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes
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Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
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Jared Sullinger
Jared Sullinger
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Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal
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Jeremy Lamb
Jeremy Lamb
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