Thursday, June 26, 2008


Keegan: Don’t pass on Arthur


Ten years later, it's time to learn from the 1998 draft. As the saying goes, those who don't learn from history ... get fired.

Kansas University teammates Raef LaFrentz and Paul Pierce were considered neck and neck by most trying to project the draft. Then-KU coach Roy Williams didn't offer a guess as to which player would go first, but shared that he was assured both players would not slip past the eighth pick. He expressed confidence both would be taken in the top five.

R.C. Buford, then a scout and now general manager of the San Antonio Spurs, looks pretty smart 10 years later.

"I think he is the best player in the draft," Buford told the Journal-World's Gary Bedore of Pierce, the Boston Celtics forward who just won the NBA Finals MVP hardware, before the '98 draft.

To the delight of the Celtics, Pierce slipped all the way to 10th. Seven picks earlier, the Denver Nuggets chose LaFrentz.

Pierce slipping so far away from LaFrentz could only be described as paralysis by overanalysis. Evaluators, given too much time, tend to find a reason not to like a player. In the case of Pierce, it likely was his sloppy ballhandling.

Looking back on the '98 draft, here's how the top five picks should have gone: 1. Dirk Nowitzki; 2. Pierce; 3. Vince Carter; 4. Mike Bibby; 5. Antawn Jamsion.

Here's how the top 10 picks went down: 1. Michael Olowokandi; 2. Bibby; 3. LaFrentz; 4. Jamison; 5. Carter; 6. Robert Traylor; 7. Jason Williams (of Florida); 8. Larry Hughes; 9. Nowitzki; 10. Pierce.

Ten years later, there appears to be more paralysis by overanalysis going on in the case of Darrell Arthur, one of three members of Kansas University's national-title basketball team, projected to be taken in the first round.

Arthur appears to be slipping in the draft projections. A few weeks ago, he was talked about as a top 10 pick. Now, he has slipped to as low as 20th, depending on the mock draft. Meanwhile, Mario Chalmers, vastly underrated as a second-round pick by many weeks ago, has vaulted as high as 12th in one mock draft. Why? He does everything well. The search party for negatives came up on empty for the long-armed, explosive, hot-shooting guard. Brandon Rush's draft projection has stayed pretty stable in recent weeks, usually hovering around the 15th pick. His negative ballhandling long ago was identified. An explosive leaper, sharpshooter and quick-footed defender, Rush could be a star with the right team.

Here's what Arthur-doubters need to know about the fleet, explosive 6-foot-9 power forward gifted with freakish athleticism: Nobody he faced in a two-year college career had the talent to slow him when he was on his game. His performance always seemed influenced by whether he was having a good day, not by the quality of the opposition. As a freshman, he totaled 19 points and nine rebounds against Florida, which went on to win its second consecutive national title based largely on its talented frontcourt. As a sophomore, he had 20 points and 10 rebounds in the title game against Memphis. He won't turn 21 until next March 25. In time, he'll make one GM look smart and get a few others fired.


yates33333 14 years, 3 months ago

We will never know how injury played a major role in LaFrentz's career.

KU 14 years, 3 months ago

In the end, "you are what you are." It doesn't matter if you're supremely talented athletically or in any other aspect of life. If you don't have the mentality to "bring it" everyday, you won't shine. Over an 82 game grind of a schedule, you can't rely on the coach's pep talks to get you fired up. You have to have a fire within.

Jaminrawk 14 years, 3 months ago

Pierce was the most NBA-ready player I can remember sending to the NBA outside of Manning. Rush, to me more in that mold than Arthur.

Jonathan Allison 14 years, 3 months ago

I'm still shocked at Arthur's surprisingly poor showing when he was tested at the Orlando camp. We all know him as "freakishly athletic" but his numbers just didn't reflect it. Obviously having watched him for two years we know that he is fast and explosive on the court. Maybe he just wasn't fired up in Orlando... It was leading up to Orlando that his draft stock peaked, and afterwards has fallen. I only assume that the tests played a part in that.

wiltstilt 14 years, 3 months ago

I agree, plastic... if you're riding a "freakishly athletic" reputation and you put up the numbers he did, it's no mystery why his stock has slipped.Fortunately for Shady, he will play zero games in his career that'll be determined by a dude with a stopwatch timing how fast he zig-zags across the lane. If he produces like he has the potential to, someone may be getting a steal in the late lottery (or even later).

okjhok 14 years, 3 months ago

I'd like to agree with Keegan here, but I just can't. Sure, DA has all the tools to be an all-star-caliber PF in the NBA. The thing with Pierce, he was ballin' every night, and it's not like he didn't have a great players around him, too. So you can't use that as an excuse for DA. Pierce knew what he could do and he did it. DA didn't always bring that for whatever reason, and it used to drive me crazy. That said, pick #20 is just stupid. If he goes that low, there's something serious that somebody knows that I obviously don't.

KUFan90 14 years, 3 months ago

Arthur's draft is falling due to these leg and kidney injury concerns, not over analysis.

WilburNether 14 years, 3 months ago

Yes, Arthur had a great game as a freshman, and one as a sophomore. He also had a lot of poor-to-mediocre outings. Consistency -- the willingness and ability to show up each game, every game -- should be a consideration for NBA GMs. I'm not sure Arthur has it, and his poor showing at Orlando only seems to confirm that the question should be raised.

kltbadboyz 14 years, 3 months ago

I'd take Pierce first over Dirk any day if I had to redo the draft. Shady has all the skills to be a good player in the NBA. He just needs to learn how to rebound better, play smarter and bring it every night.

imnotpaulpierce 14 years, 3 months ago

Is Arthur athletic? Yes. Is Arthur very athletic? Yes.Is Arthur freakishly athletic? No.I never saw the 'freakish' athleticism from Arthur. He is a very good player, but not great at any one facet of the game. His draft status does not surprise me. I wish him the best and I think he will have a good NBA career... but he will never be a star in the NBA.

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