Mother lode or fool's gold?

Publish date:

Tamer and Trevor put the top three picks of the 2008 NBA draft to the test to see if they are living up to their pre-draft hype.

Tamer: Trevor, as we have learned over the years watching and covering NBA basketball, player hype is a big part of the Association. Media and fans alike are always looking for the next Michael Jordan or the next Bill Russell. The NBA hype machine is especially cranked up during the months leading up to the NBA draft. Profiles of potentially high draft picks focus as much on what superstar(s) the player reminds people of as the player's skills and production in college (or overseas). While these comparisons may be unfair at times, they do serve as a way to measure the drafted player's success throughout their NBA career and for the purposes of this article their impact on a fantasy team.

Well, Trevor, let's get the hype machine cranked up as well as the Delorean for that matter (for all you Back to the Future fans out there) because we are going back to the 2008 draft. That year Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, and O.J. Mayo were the top three picks in the draft and they were not spared comparisons to several current and former NBA stars. Have they lived up to these comparisons? If not, are they showing signs that they will at some point this season? These are the questions we need to answer, Trevor, to see if these players are or will deliver strong results for fantasy owners or just the hype that comes with being a top three NBA draft pick.

Trevor: Think McFly, think! It's not easy when young players get compared to current stars. I'll never forget Kwame Brown being compared to Kevin Garnett and Chris Webber when he was drafted, and we all know how that turned out. He just never lived up to the hype. But that's just the way things are. Fans want to think that their team just drafted the next big thing, and before you know it the expectations are through the roof. Fantasy owners have to weed through all the hype and figure out who will produce and who won't. It's an inexact science, as shown by all the owners currently regretting passing on Brandon Jennings. No matter how good we feel about predicting a player's production there are always a few surprises. So let's take a look at the top three guys from the '08 draft and see who is surprising us now. I've got my hover board, the flux capacitor is fluxing, and I'm about to hit 88 mph. Let's do this Tamer.

Through 19 games: 34.8 MIN, 15.9 PTS, 46.5 FG%, 14.3 3PT% 75.8 FT%, 5.6 AST, 3 REB, 0.9 STL

Coming out of Memphis as a one-and-done player, Rose drew comparisons to Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams because of his exceptional passing ability in college as well as his overall athleticism. After a strong rookie campaign that netted him Rookie of the Year honors, his numbers have regressed so far this season. Will he be able to improve this season and match or exceed what Kidd, Paul, and Williams were doing in their second season in the NBA?

Tamer: Rose sure hasn't built off his strong rookie campaign through the first quarter of the season. His numbers are down in all categories except steals. How is he stacking up to his comparison trio in their second seasons? Well with CP3 it isn't even close as Rose only beats him in field goal percentage (46.5 percent for Rose compared to 43.7 percent for Paul). Assists are the biggest disparity with Rose averaging only 5.9 assists per game compared to 8.9 assists per game for Paul. Williams has him in every category except for field goal percentage where Rose has a slight edge (46.5 percent to 45.6 percent). The assists are embarrassing again for Rose as Williams averaged 9.3 assists in his second season. Kidd was an atrocious shooter early in his NBA career so Rose easily beats him in field goal percentage (46.5 percent to 38.1 percent) and free throw percentage (75.8 percent to 69.2 percent). Kidd has a huge edge, however, in rebounds (6.8 to 3.0), assists (9.7 to 5.9), and steals (2.2 to 0.9).

Well, it is pretty clear that Rose is not matching up to these guys especially in the point guard necessary assist and steals categories. I also don't think that he'll come close to matching these three players' numbers this season. He is simply not as good a passer as people thought he was coming out of college and he is not nearly the defender either, which shows in his lackluster steal totals. In addition he's a sub-par shooter, so he will continue to hover around 15 points per game and won't attempt or make many threes (he has exactly one made three-pointer this season). I have to give Rose a Fool's Gold for not matching up with these three elite point guards when comparing sophomore campaigns', and I also think he'll continue to be Fool's Gold when compared to Kidd, Paul, and Williams throughout his career.

Trevor: Where should we start? Well with the number one overall pick of course! With the current hand checking rules in the NBA, little guys have become all the rage, and the thought was that Rose would mimic Chris Paul in his skill set, plus provide the solid leadership that he showed during his college career. So far Rose has been a very good player for Chicago, but has he really lived up to the enormous expectations that were placed on him? Unfortunately, the answer is no. As Tamer mentioned his numbers are actually down compared to last season, which is very disappointing. The loss of Ben Gordon has actually been a detriment to Rose's assists, and Chicago's ongoing issues with finding a low-post scorer haven't opened up the perimeter shots either. If the Bulls are able to land someone like Chris Bosh this summer then I suspect that we will see Rose finally bloom. Until then, Rose is Fool's Gold.

Through 20 games: 31.9 MIN, 15.4 PTS, 45.5 FG%, 23.1 3PT% 85.5 FT%, 6.8 REB, 1.1 AST, 0.9 STL, 0.6 BLK

Like Rose, Beasley played one year in college (Kansas State) before entering the 2008 draft. He drew comparisons to Derrick Coleman because both are left handed and they have a similar inside-outside style of play at power forward. Beasley has improved this year compared to his rookie season but is it enough to match up to Coleman's sophomore campaign?

Tamer: Beasley's game and style definitely compare to Coleman but unfortunately he has also proved to be a troublemaker like Coleman during his young career. Coleman ultimately proved to have a disappointing NBA career because he had issues that hindered him from realizing his immense potential. Hopefully this will not be the fate for Beasley as well. Coleman, however, did have a strong start to his NBA career. During his second season, Coleman averaged 19.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.5 blocks, and 0.8 steals per game. He shot 50.4 percent from the field, 76.3 percent for the free throw line and made 0.4 threes per game (Beasley is making 0.5 threes). As you can see, Coleman tops Beasley in five of the eight categories and is very close in steals and threes made, while all five of the categories that DC wins aren't close.

Beasley is simply not as good as a young Coleman was at this point and I don't think he will be by season's end. I don't necessarily blame Beasley's talent level either. The problem is Dwayne Wade. Beasley was the alpha dog at Kansas State and put up big numbers because of it. With the Heat he is playing with one of the top five players in the league and he is simply not comfortable being the second banana. As a matter of fact he is closer to being the third banana at this point than the alpha dog since Jermaine O'Neal is averaging 14.3 points per game and leads the team in rebounding as well (Beasley is third). As long as Beasley is on the Heat he will not approach Coleman or the expectations he had coming out of college which is why he gets a Fool's Gold from yours truly.

Trevor: According to some, Beasley was the most talented player in the '08 Draft. A versatile scorer, the biggest question marks were his defense and his maturity. As we saw this summer, the mental side of the equation goes far beyond just Beasley's maturity. If he can get his head on straight, the talent is there for him to live up to, if not surpass the expectations placed upon him. Unfortunately right now, Beasley still has the same issues he did coming out of college. To truly be a fantasy force he is going to have to improve his defense by grabbing rebounds and blocking shots. He doesn't have a defender's mentality right now, and I have to question whether or not he can ever develop one. For now Beasley owners will have to be content with his decent scoring and hope that someday he becomes more than just Fool's Gold.

Through 21 games: 37.6 MIN, 17.6 PTS, 46.5 FG%, 38 3PT%, 83.6 FT%, 3.8 REB, 2.9 AST, 1.1 STL

Going into the 2008 draft, Mayo drew comparisons to Ben Gordon and Richard Hamilton because of his sweet stroke and ability to get shots moving without the ball. How does he match up with a younger Gordon and Hamilton at this point in his career?

Tamer: O.J. Mayo compares very favorably to Hamilton and Gordon when you match up each player's second season totals. In 2000-01, Hamilton averaged 18.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, one steal, and 0.5 threes per game while shooting 43.8 percent from the field and 86.8 percent from the free throw line. Gordon averaged 16.9 points, 3.0 assists, 2.7 rebounds, 2.1 threes made, and 0.9 steals per game while shooting 42.2 percent from the field and 78.7 percent from the field in 2005-06. The biggest difference between Mayo, Hamilton, and Gordon is threes made. Gordon leads the pack at 2.1 with Mayo second at 1.4 and Hamilton a distant third at 0.5. Mayo is a better shooter from the field than both players and they are all similar from the free throw line when you consider that Gordon has never shot less than 80 percent from the line except for his second season.

A common theme with all three is their lack of production in non-shooting categories. Mayo definitely matches up favorably to these two players, but the fact that he was compared to Gordon and Hamilton also shows that the 2008 NBA draft only went two superstars deep. Rose was being compared to two of the top three point guards in the league (Nash being the third) and a Hall of Fame point guard in Kidd. Beasley was considered to be similar to Coleman who would have been a Hall of Famer if he had his head screwed on straight. Gordon and Hamilton are solid NBA players but they are certainly not in the class of Paul, Deron Williams, Kidd or Coleman. For the purposes of this article, however, Mayo is living up to the hype so he gets a Mother Lode from me.

Trevor: First of all, Mayo gets bonus points from me for having one of the best names in the league. Secondly, he's from Southern California and was such a huge Lakers fan growing up that rumors were spreading for some time that he would only play for the Lake Show, which gets him more bonus points from me. So he's already ahead of the game, but when you look at the numbers O.J. is putting up he becomes even more impressive. Memphis is a tough place to play, but Mayo is helping make things interesting for that young squad. He was never predicted to be a superstar, and I don't think that he ever will be one, but for a third pick, Memphis has to be excited with what Mayo is doing so far. As far as the fantasy world goes Mayo isn't a huge difference maker, but he can be a great "glue guy" along the lines of Rip Hamilton. Of course, part of the reason why Tamer and I are high on Mayo is because of the lower expectations for him as compared to the aforementioned Rose and Beasley, but I would certainly take him over Beasley right now. Of the three, Mayo is the only one deserving of the Mother Lode label when compared to his draft day expectations.

(All stats up to date as of 12/8/09)