Why is Doug Gottlieb considered an ‘Expert’?

ESPN College Basketball analyst and ‘expert’ Doug Gottlieb introduced his NBA draft big board. He ranked his top 30 players available in this draft accompanied by brief descriptions for each player. Gottlieb offers his opinions in an effort to give tips to people making the drafting decisions. If I was a team drafting this year, I’d be hesitant to listen to this guy.

His top 30 players are as follows:

1. Blake Griffin

2. Ricky Rubio

3. Jrue Holiday

4. DeMar DeRozan

5. Brandon Jennings

6. Hasheem Thabeet

7. Jeff Teague

8. Jordan Hill

9. Jonny Flynn

10. James Harden

11. Patty Mills

12. BJ Mullens

13. Tyreke Evans

14. Earl Clark

15. Stephen Curry

16. James Johnson

17. Gerald Henderson

18. Toney Douglas

19. Damion James

20. Gani Lawal

21. Darren Collison

22. Derrick Brown

23. Omri Casspri

24. Terrence Williams

25. Sam Young

26. Eric Maynor

27. Wayne Ellington

28. Marcus Thornton

29. Ty Lawson

30. Austin Daye

So that is his list. Needless to say, I disagree with most of it. Some of his reasoning doesn’t make sense. I’m not quite sure what his guidelines or thought process was behind this list. It seems to be a checklist composed of two things: 1) Are you considered athletic? and 2) Do people think you have ‘upside’ or ‘potential’?That seems to be about it. That’s probably why Tyler Hansbrough and DeJuan Blair aren’t on the list while BJ Mullens is 12th.

There are many things I disagree with about this big board but I’m going to try to narrow it down to the biggest grudges I have. The first issue I have is at the top of the list where he has DeMar DeRozan 4th overall and James Harden 10th. Like I said before, I think his checklist is athleticism and potential. In ranking DeRozan ahead of Harden I’m assuming he believes DeRozan is superior in both areas. With a closer look I find it hard to agree that this is the case.

Here is what Gottlieb said about the two:

4. DeMar DeRozan, USC

What I like: Freaky athlete with massive upside. Began to “get it” at the end of the season. One of the few players in the draft who will not have to change position in the NBA — he is a much more natural 2 than Harden. Poster child for “upside” and may spend time in the D-League, but in a draft of uncertainties, he seems to have the measurables to eventually live up to his massive talent.

What I don’t like: Below-average 3-point shooter in college, very raw in terms of basketball acumen, and may need the right tutoring from a veteran coach/player, as he has some hangers-on he needs to part with.

Best case: David Thompson

10. James Harden, Arizona State

What I like: Good competitor and a player you want with the game on the line. Harden has a pretty diverse game on the offensive end. His body and game are mature, and he gives and takes contact well. Harden knows how to score.

What I don’t like: Rarely goes right, not really a guard, and he is an average athlete.

Best case: Manu Ginobili

So who is the more athletic of the two? The only objective way you can compare these two is by their predraft athletic measurements.

Height

DeRozan = 6’5.5″ Harden = 6’4″

Wingspan

DeRozan = 6’9″ Harden = 6’10.75″

Reach

DeRozan = 8’6.5″ Harden = 8’7.5″

Body Fat

DeRozan = 4.9% Harden = 10.1%

No Step Vert

DeRozan = 29 inches Harden = 31.5

Max Vert

DeRozan = 38.5 Harden = 37

Bench Press

DeRozan = 5 reps Harden = 17 reps

Agility

DeRozan = 11.88 seconds Harden = 11.10 seconds

Sprint

DeRozan = 3.30 seconds Harden = 3.13 seconds

What can we tell from these numbers? They definitely don’t say DeRozan is clearly the more athletic of the pair. DeRozan is taller, has a lower body fat percentage, and can jump higher while running. Harden is clearly much stronger with 17 reps on the bench press (DeJuan Blair had 18). Harden is much faster in a sprint and he his also more agile. He has longer arms than DeRozan and, despite being shorter, has a longer reach. Harden loses in running vert but still put up 37 inches, which is really good in its own right. To me Harden is the run away winner in an athletic comparison.  So DeMar DeRozan is a “freak” while Harden is just “average”? I don’t see it.

But what about potential? It annoys me when analysts talk about potential when dealing with draft prospects. What is it exactly? It seems to describe what a player could become, which means what they aren’t at the moment. For some reason this is cited as a positive reason to draft a player. They don’t have many skills right now but they look like they should. Why is that good? If a player should have such ability and such potential but isn’t even close yet to fufilling it, what does that say about their work ethic and desire to improve?

What is DeRozans potential? Well he can’t shoot, hitting on an absolutely dreadful 17% of his three point attempts this year. So developing a jumper would be good. Harden hit better than double that percentage. If he can’t shoot he should be able to get to the line, but Harden gets to the line twice as often. Harden triples him in assists, and gets double the steals. They rebound at about the same rate. In nearly every area statistically Harden dominates DeRozan again, and they’re both approximately the same age (both born in August of 1989). So why does DeRozan get ranked ahead of Harden because he could possibly one day (even though there’s no certainty that he will) become what Harden already is? That doesn’t seem to make sense to me.

So in conclusion Harden comes out ahead pretty easily in athletic testing and absolutely dominates DeRozan in production and ability on the court. I don’t see any reason why you would draft him ahead of James Harden.

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