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March 31, 2004
The LeBron Factor
It is not easy to get a gauge on the possible flock of prep player entering the draft. These guys are extremely talented and full of promise, but it is very doubtful that any of them are ready to make an immediate impact on the NBA as LeBron James has done.
After all, out of the five prep players that were drafted last year only James is making an impact during his initial season.
If a NBA team is willing to be patient and develop one of these players over time and the player is ready to live the NBA lifestyle, then it would appear to be a good fit. But let's not fool ourselves into thinking any of the players playing in the McDonald's All-American Game are ready right now to log heavy minutes in the league.
Dwight Howard certainly has the athleticism of a great pro, but are his skills polished enough to score against other big bodies?
Josh Smith is another great athlete with phenomenal jumping ability, but is he strong enough, competitive enough, and skilled enough right now? Other than his two spectacular dunks and one outstanding blocked shot, all in transition, what impact did he have on the game tonight?
I know it is difficult to judge NBA potential in an all-star game. The NBA is a more pressure packed, physical, bump and grind affair played by men, which is ironically one of the fallacies of basing player evaluations off this game. Yet what else is there to judge it on? A wide open, loosely played AAU game? A high school game against inferior competition?
The fact is that every player in tonight's game was fully aware that all the scouts were watching.
Shaun Livingston has the skill, but does he have the body?
Sebastian Telfair has the skill, but are not his size, shooting ability, and ability to run a team question marks?
Robert Swift made an impact early, but could his slender frame get it done at the highest level?
The same question can obviously be asked about LaMarcus Aldridge's frame and his toughness as well.
Similar questions can be asked about all the players that are draft possibilities.
In fact, the ridiculous range and athleticism around the rim displayed by Earl Smith might have him as ready as any of these players to impact an NBA game. Yet can he defend an NBA player right now? Does he have a mid-range pass and score game?
Certainly a player does not have to be a complete player to make an impact on an NBA game. But does a young player have a better chance becoming a complete player developing in college or in the NBA?
In no way am I knocking these players. Again they are great talents, and many of them should develop into great professional athletes.
More than anything, I am knocking the unrealistic expectations that could possibly derail these prospects from achieving their professional basketball potential.
Remember the time it took most high school to pro players to develop. Don't let the LeBron factor fool you.