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Most absurdly unrealistic NBA draft prospect comparisons


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It’s draft season which means wild NBA Draft prospect comparisons are flying, and I’ve rounded up a few of the most irresponsible.

Prospect comparisons can be a useful shorthand for conveying broad, general information about a player but they often fall into a number of ridiculous fallacies — leaning too heavily on variables like height, race or college, focusing on absurdly optimistic outcomes for players in a familiar role or entirely missing what makes a player unique or special and separates them from their peers.

In the interest of being diplomatic, I won’t actually link to where I found all these NBA Draft prospect comparisons but I found them all with a simple google search which means there’s a good chance you’ve seen them too.

Jalen Suggs is not going to be Jason Kidd

I suppose this comparison is based on size, intensity and defensive upside but it misses on some of the most distinctive attributes of both players. Kidd was a ball-dominant creator, even at the collegiate level. He averaged 10.3 assists per 40 minutes in his final season at Cal, compared to 6.3 per 40 minutes for Suggs in his one year at Gonzaga. That’s just one data point but it’s reflective of the idea that Suggs will excel more as connective tissue on offense, leveraging his superior shooting (relative to Kidd) and off-ball awareness as opposed to being a singular engine with the ball in his hands. Also, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of Suggs being a manipulative, power-hungry control freak. So that’s a plus.

Moses Moody is not going to be Glen Rice

First of all, Glen Rice wasn’t just a good 3-point shooter. He was an exceptional one. He made 51.6 percent of his 3s during his final season at Michigan. When he retired at the end of the 2003-04 season, he was third on the all-time 3-point list, behind just Dale Ellis and Reggie Miller, and, along with Ellis, Ray Allen, Dell Curry and Allan Houston, one of just five players in league history to make at least 40 percent of at least 3000 career 3-point attempts. By all accounts, Moody should be a very good outside shooter at the NBA level but comparing him to a historic outlier in a specific skill does him a disservice, even if the point is that he’s likely to play a Rice-like role. (And even there, Moody appears to have much more to offer as a defender and more versatility to offer in an off-ball role than just as a stationary spot-up threat).

Jalen Green is not going to be Kobe Bryant

Stop.

This is likely a nod to Green’s athletic tools and competitive fire but what made Kobe an all-time great was about his dedication to precision, to footwork, his post-game, all the little things he could layer on top of his athletic advantages and continue leaning on as his athleticism declined. Maybe you can make an argument that Jalen Green is reminiscent of high school Kobe, but making the comparison now implies a developmental curve that feels like one-in-a-million.

Scottie Barnes is not going to be Magic Johnson

This is ridiculous for a variety of reasons — not every 6-foot-8 player who can handle the ball in the open court or plays some point guard is going to be Magic Johnson, and making comparisons to someone who played 40 years ago in a league with different rules isn’t really all that instructive. Comparisons made to outlier outcomes for an archetype are always dangerous and the Magic Johnson archetype (as he played in his prime) doesn’t even exist in the modern game. The Draymond Green comparison, which you’ll also probably hear a lot might be more reasonable from a role standpoint but, again, it’s pointing to an absurdly unlikely outcome at the far end of the spectrum of success. Let’s just say Barnes is big, defensively versatile, comfortable as an offensive initiator and with a lot to prove as a scorer and shooter.

Usman Garuba is not going to be P.J. Washington

I don’t even know what to do with this one. Washington was a combo forward with skills that seemed better suited to playing the 3 but quickness and footspeed that were a better fit against 4s, but without the bulk to make teams comfortable with him in that slot full time. He made 42.3 percent of his 3-pointers in his final season at Kentucky and nearly a quarter of his shots came from beyond the arc. He’s worked for the Hornets as a small-ball 4, become more of a floor-spacer and using his passing and touch as a pick-and-roll partner. Garuba has the traditional body of a 4 but the skills of a full-time 5 at the NBA level. Over two seasons as a full-time rotation piece for Real Madrid he’s made just 31.5 percent of his 3-pointers. He’s a rebounder, interior defender and pick-and-roll finisher. He’s just not P.J. Washington.

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