As a Detroit native, I'm all shits and giggles since about 6pm last night. And hang in there non-mlb fans, I'm getting to the NBA-ramifications soon. But, damn son! Perhaps the trade of the young century (certainly could make the case for baseball.) And its all thanks to owner Mike Ilitch and the GM, the big double D. When Ilitch hired Dombrowski, they made two priorities:
1) Overpay a free agent to begin to build a nucleus for other players to want to come to the Tigers (Pudge signing.)
2) Invest boatloads in the farm system.
#2 is why this trade happened. Not only have the Tigers scouted the bait to make this big deal, they developed that bait. And that's the beauty of this trade. It surpasses the satisfaction of throwing the equivalent of Canada's GDP at a free agent. The Tigers made this deal not because they had the most money, but because they had drafted and developed prospects. Gets me giddy just typing that sentence!
So, NBA? It gots me thinking. The focus on developing young talent is an obsession with baseball fans. Because of the minor league structure, teams are expected to change their fortunes by developing young talent. Cases in point: Oakland, Minnie, Marlins...but also the biggies like Bostone and the Yanks.
But for all the talk of potential and upside, there's relatively little breakdown on the national level of NBA teams' abilities to raise their young. When rookie rankings are written, they focus on the players' abilities. Not on teams' successful handling of their young'uns.
Development analysis remains at the local level. That is, we all have a thoughtful opinion on how our local teams develop their young players, but don't have such a clear sense for other teams. And no matter how many games you catch on the Pass, you only get a sip of that local flava: the reportage on the draftees in the D-League, the young'uns in the weight room, the Slovenian coach shipped in to teach post-moves...
So for me, I have a pretty developed opinion of my birthteam Pistons and of the clubs residing in the cities I've lived in over the last few years. But the Bucks? I could bullshit something quite passable, but really have no clue the prevailing local opinion in Waukee. What's more, it's a complicated amalgamation of factors: head/asst/specialty coaching, gm'ing, scouting, drafting, investment in d-league affiliates, the right mix of vet leadership, owners' patience, curfews, minute management...endless.
Key question, should we credit Jerry West as the master of the draft-day-sleeper or as the master at building an organization that develops those players?
I'm hoping to get some analyses from readers, maybe even
compile a list of assessments of how well NBA teams do at developing
talent. Here's a lay-down of my own. Look to follow this with an update later on the Baby Bulls:
Detroit Pistons: The national discussion of Pistons' development usually b-lines to the Darko Debacle. No doubt one of the worst draftees in NBA history, but as evidence gathers, the Darko question may be more about character (read: insatiable rage) than talent. [An issue that much of the national media has continued to ignore.] And clearly an issue the scouts should have discovered before pumping millions into the "Serbian Ganster".
More importantly, the Darko Debacle has overshadowed the Pistons' premier record of developing their young players. The maturations of Tayshaun and Rip into legit all-star caliber players speak for themselves. The emergence of the Maxiell Experience is even more remarkable. Usually, Joe D gets cred for drafting well in the late rounds. But from a local perspective, it has been clear that Maxiell has been handled ideally: surrounded by vets (esp the under-appreciated Coach Sheed), given practice time to hone his skills, never rushed onto the floor, convinced to lose 25 lbs over the summer, worked on his midrange game, and now, in his third year, only after earning his minutes, is he getting significant play. Credit to Jason for his hard-work/no-nonsense 'tude. Credit to Joe D for identifying a talented/lunchbox player AND for patiently investing in Maxiell's skeels. Most importantly, for not pushing Max to prove himself in his first two years.
Now, the same process seems on course for Amir Johnson. Here's the last high school player ever selected in the draft who is getting the play that Jason got a year ago (read: not much.) Despite D-fans' obsessive calls for more play for Amir, Joe D and Flip continue to be patient. And, according to their track record, that patience should pay off next year.
Of course, it was a luxury for the Pistons to not need Jason or Amir on the floor in the last two seasons. But the counterargument is just as salient: the difficulty for a Power Team like the Pistons to satiate young players when those draftees don't get any play. It's a tricky balance. The rise of TayTay, Rip, and now the Max put the Pistons at a premier development level.