2011 NBA Draft: No Need To Draft A PG, Even With Stripped-Down Draft

With Terrence Jones becoming the latest player to pull out of the 2011 NBA Draft over the weekend, the thought of going extreme with the "best player available" philosophy has already begun.  By that, I mean doing what disgrunted suggested.

Why take a gamble on a player when you can take someone like Kemba Walker or Brandon Knight? Whiffing on this pick will set back the rebuild considerably. Picking a good point guard adds talent for Ernie to deal down the road. Plus, who knows - maybe a backcourt of Wall and Walker/Knight will click.    

First of all, I don't think Kemba should necessarily be excluded - he's a small scoring guard to me, and you can use him off the ball well enough and you won't get killed defensively because John Wall has decent size to guard shooting guards.  But here are two reasons why I can't endorse this strategy.

 

Point guards are like quarterbacks: Platooning point guards doesn't work well in this league, especially now that they are counted on to score and distribute.  The team needs to know who their on-court leader is, and whenever this is under question, the lack of on-court leadership shows.  Two recent examples: Houston and Memphis.  The Rockets struggled for the first half of the year as Kyle Lowry and Aaron Brooks split time at the position, then took off after Brooks was traded.  Lowry himself dramatically improved in the second half of the year once he didn't have to look over his shoulder and worry about Brooks and his contract situation.  

As for Memphis, two years ago, they had three point guards in the same spot -- Lowry, Mike Conley and Javaris Crittenton.  We know what happened to Crittenton, but they surprised people and dealt away Lowry to give Conley the job.  Two years later, Conley is outplaying Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook in the playoffs.  He slowly improved last year, then made a bigger jump this season.  The peace of mind he and his team received from removing a point guard controversy was one key reason the Grizzlies have been on the rise.

(And, of course, there's also Minnesota).

Point is: if you keep Wall and, say, Brandon Knight or Kyrie Irving, while Wall is the franchise, you aren't maximizing your roster spots and you're creating at least a whiff of doubt within the roster as to the true leader of the team.  It's not worth doing.  Which brings us to our second point...

The pick as an asset is at its highest value before it is made: There's a thought that the Wizards could pick Knight or Irving (if they get lucky) and then use him as a trade asset later.  But this sounds much better in theory than in reality.  We ultimately will run into the Jonny Flynn conundrum, where the asset loses value because of the lack of certainty in point 1 affecting the player's performance.  Any point guard on this team will not be given an opportunity to showcase his entire game as long as Wall is on the roster.  Therefore, he becomes more difficult for a team looking to acquire him to evaluate.  You end up wasting a high draft pick to get back something that is nowhere equivalent to the value of the high pick you used to acquire the asset.

This is why a draft pick has its most value as just a draft pick.  That way, it can a) be traded without salary implications, and b) be used by a team to select their guy, not the Wizards' guy.

I realize it's tempting to just say "Eff it" and draft a point guard in the name of "best player available."  But even with a stripped down draft, if you're Ernie Grunfeld, you have to think about how your high draft pick fits into the future of your team.  If that future is simply "I can trade him later," then it's not good enough to waste your high pick on him.

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