Howland and Jonathan talked the upcoming NBA Draft of Sunday and here's the transcript.
HOWLAND: It looks like it has been another great year for DX. What has transpired over the last 365?
Jonathan Givony (JG): This year we have sent a lot of time upgrading our database. We have added a lot more stats this year and our traffic numbers continue to rise. The search engines are liking us more and more, and we’re at or near the top of the first page when you Google almost any prospect in this draft. We have a great partnership going with NBA.com which I feel adds some credibility to what we do.
The key to our year was the work we put into the site in November through February. As you can read in the New York Times article on this topic, the mock draft is fun to speculate about and the rumors as well, but the core of what we do is the database and the scouting reports. You can click on any first and second round guy and even some undrafted guys and find a wealth of information, be it scouting reports, measurements or stats.
Some of these guys we’ve been following since high school, even from their junior year. This is what sets us apart from any of the other outlets in my opinion. Everything we write about every prospect is right there, so in that regard we are very accountable, which I’m not sure is always the case with everyone else. We have almost 6000 profiles on the site, but of course not all of them are filled. Some of them are ex-NBA players from years ago. Pretty much every NBA player has something and that was one of our goals this year was beefing up the database with the Kobe Bryant's and the Derek Fisher's and everyone else. We also spent the year updating profiles as well. For example, Brandon Roy has exceeded our expectations and we needed to update.
Our staff has improved a lot as well. They are outstanding and just a huge part of what we do, starting with our programmer Doug Thonus and continuing with the guys that help write scouting reports and articles—Matt Kamalsky, Joey Whelan, Kyle Nelson, Joseph Treutlein, Rick Ditto, Scott Nadler and many others throughout the years.
That’s what really excites me about what we’re doing—I could see us becoming sort of an IMDB of basketball in a few years. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep the site free in the process. There is a tremendous wealth of knowledge there that a lot of people helped contribute to.
HOWLAND: Let's get right into the draft talk – this crop of prospects has been described as a weaker draft class than most years. What are your feelings on the 2009 draft class?
JG: I don't think there is any question that a lot of guys passed up entering the draft this year. Unlike last year where everyone you thought would be in and 10 more guys declared, this year it is everyone you though would declare except 10 or so guys. This really takes away a lot of depth, in particular at the top where the Raptors are picking. Look who is in the mix at 9 for the Raps. If would have been very different if guys like Al-Farouq Aminu, Cole Aldrich, Evan Turner, John Henson, and Donatas Montiejunas were in. Those guys would have been in the picture at 9, and at worst they would have pushed other players down.
I would say the Raptors pick this year at 9 is more like a 15-16 pick in a regular draft year. There is no way to ignore that and for this reason it has been challenging for us to cover. It feels like this year there just are not that many interesting guys to evaluate and then you start to debate whether you are over-analyzing them. I was happy to go out to Colorado Springs last week and just get started on next year. Maybe it is because we have been focusing on this draft for the last 10 months and all the speculation and drama starts to wear on you eventually, but I am ready to move on to 2010.
HOWLAND: One of the most interesting characteristics about this draft is that outside of Griffin there doesn't seem to be a consensus regarding the next best prospect. How would you break this draft class down into tiers?
JG: Well I would definitely but Rubio in a separate tier right after Blake. I would then put Harden, Curry and Jennings into the next tier, all for different reasons. After that you get Hill, Thabeet, Flynn, Evans. That's how I break it down, but there are a lot of differing opinions out there.
HOWLAND: Although you believe Rubio is the second best player in the draft there is some debate as to where he will end up. What are your thoughts on him and do you think he will produce right away or will he need time to develop?
JG: I think he will need some time to adjust because the style of play in the NBA is so radically different than where he has been playing the last few years. He's the youngest prospect in this draft, but that being said, he is the most experienced, which makes for a very unique combination. I like him a lot as a prospect in this draft. He has All-Star potential as a point guard. There are some things that he can do that very few point guards in the NBA can do. He has tremendous vision and anticipation as well as great ability to see the court and make great decisions. These are the characteristics that set him apart. He will have to get stronger and adapt his game, but he is smart enough, talented enough and young enough that this won't be a major issue. He is clearly the most talented point guard in this draft, just ahead of Brandon Jennings in my view.
HOWLAND: One of the things we talked about last year was work-ethic. Which prospects have really blown you away during the pre-draft process with their work ethic?
JG: Blake Griffin is one. You don’t go from being a borderline McDonald's All-American to a number one pick unless you have tremendous work ethic. The other guy is Stephen Curry. This guy was completely off the map in high-school and no-one had heard of him at all. Not only did he become an unbelievable scorer at the college level, but then he re-defined himself as a point guard as well which is very rare. A lot of that is his perseverance and his character as well as how smart he is and how hard he works. Those two guys really stand out this year.
HOWLAND: Speaking of Stephen Curry, it strikes me that he is going to have to succeed as a PG at the next level because there is a long track record of guys his size who failed playing the two. Do you feel that curry can succeed as a NBA PG?
JG: I think he is totally a point guard. I don't think there is any doubt that he can play the point in today's NBA. This year think of the guys they had playing with him and you will see that he didn't really have anyone to pass to and he still averaged over 6 assists a game. Outside of him there was really only one other division 1 player on the Davidson roster. I have seen him make enough smart passes to not have a problem projecting him as a point guard. He is a very unselfish player, he is very smart. At 6'3" he has above average size for an NBA point guard.
HOWLAND: What have you been hearing about the Raps and who they are targeting?
JG: I don't think there is any question that if DeRozan is on the board that they will take him, unless someone that no-one anticipated falling is available. I don't see this happening though. It's DeRozan.
HOWLAND: Speaking of Derozan, John Hollinger and his statistical break-down have him as one of the most over-rated prospects in the draft. What is your take on Derozan?
JG: Hollinger was very open to admitting that his break-down didn't do a great job of projecting one and done guys. A lot of statistical system last year were not high on Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon and O.J. Mayo but those guys turned out just fine. On the other hand people thought was Michael Beasley had numbers unlike anyone else in a long time. Beasley is a good player but both the stats and DX though he was going to be better. The stats are just a tool, one of many that NBA teams should look at. NBA teams should definitely use them and factor them into their decisions, though. I think Hollinger is clearly the best basketball mind that is out there in the journalism realm. His work speaks for itself. I respect what he says on that front and we’ve said many of the same things, but with DeRozan you have to dig a little deeper than just that. We were really critical about Derozan through the year. He started off awful and didn't look like an NBA player at all until about February. He got a lot better over the last month or two of the year. If you ran his numbers over the past few months he would have looked better, albeit with a smaller sample size.
With that said, Raptor fans need to understand that Derozan is a project. He is not going to significantly change anything for them this upcoming year in the win/loss column. He will be a rotation guy, but it is all about developing him for the future.
HOWLAND: Do you think Derozan is overrated?
JG: Derozan being considered a top ten guy obviously has something to do with how shallow this year’s class is. There just any many better prospects available. He is a guy who fits the mold of having NBA size and athleticism on the wing. He was a highly ranked high-school player and this is where his draft standing is coming from, not necessarily from what he has done on the court thus far. It's all about what he might develop into, and obviously that's a risky proposition. It could go either way. I don't think anyone has enough data on him to make a judgment on whether he will definitively be a stud in the NBA or not. He may or may not be helping himself by refusing to conduct individual workouts.
HOWLAND: Who would you consider the most over-rated player in this year’s draft based on their talent and where they are projected to be picked?
JG: In terms of overrated we have been very skeptical about Thabeet over the past three years. There is no question he has improved, but I have a hard time seeing him as a number two pick, which seems to be where we are headed. I guess we will have to wait and see how he turns out, but if you read what we have written about him throughout the years you'll see we are not 100% sold and have been very open about that.
HOWLAND: And under-rated?
JG: From an underrated perspective, Brandon Jennings. Most NBA teams just haven’t seen how talented he is because they weren’t allowed to watch him in high-school and he didn't play much in Europe. In the work-outs people are starting to see the talent, but he has even more than that if you put him in a 5 on 5 setting. From the scrimmages I attended in Rome, the Synergy footage I’ve watched and the game I was at, I was pretty floored. He has a chance to be pretty awesome.
In terms of the comments he made about Rubio…It was obviously stupid to say some of those things, and this was obviously a concern we had early on. The first article I wrote on him was in late 07 or early 08 after we watched him in a high-school tournament. The first impression I had was that he was cocky, arrogant and way too flashy. He was not very mature, but on the other hand, a lot of 19 year olds aren’t. I can tell you that I said and did some really stupid stuff at his age, but thankfully no one had a microphone or video camera to record them.
From being around him a little bit it seems like he actually is a really good guy with a great family around him. I think he might just be getting too caught up in trying be someone he isn't. He has so much desire to show people how good he is that sometimes maybe that comes off the right way. At heart I think he is a good dude, but he needs to be with people that are not afraid to tell him to put a sock in it. One thing people can't question however, is his talent.
HOWLAND: A favorite of the HQ is Terrence Williams. Since the beginning of last season he has moved around a lot on mock draft boards and now there are rumors of him to GS at 7 (DX has him at 11). What is the consensus, or is there a consensus on him as a player?
JG: There is no consensus on him as a player. If you want to take a guy like him and have him succeed you need to have the right kind of players around him which I am not sure the Raps have. Williams is a limited guy offensively. You need a point guard who can penetrate, another wing who can create and a big who requires a double-team and I am not sure the Raps have all those ingredients. If you draft the guy you are getting an all around role player but with the current make-up of the Raps roster, I am just not sure he is a great fit there. They need someone who can do a little bit more offensively I suspect.
HOWLAND: To me it seems like DeRozan is a boom/bust player and Williams is a safer pick. My preference would be to take a guy like Williams and allow him to complement the team's style. Do you think that is the wrong approach?
JG: You can find parts like Terrence Williams, but it is harder to find a superstar. Derozan's upside may lead you to believe that he will be a star and it is tough to pass on that. I am a little skeptical that he can become that All-Star, but I am sure the Raptors have more information on him than I do.
HOWLAND: What about Toronto as a destination for prospects? We spoke with Jerel McNeal recently and asked if there was a stigma about playing north of the border. Even though this is one of the biggest media markets in North America, do you hear any such rumblings from prospective picks?
JG: I think initially it is a pain for them to go and get their passports, but once they get past that, I don't think it is an issue. Once you get to Toronto, walk around and see how incredibly beautiful and diverse it is, how could you not want to go there? I would rank Toronto in the top 10 in terms of NBA cities I would want to live in without a doubt. Initially I think prospects might say "No, I don't want to go there" but first of all they don't have a choice and secondly once they get there they figure out pretty quick that Toronto is an awesome city. I don't think it is an issue that Raptors fans have to worry about. Maybe I am wrong but my initial impression is it is not an issue, except for maybe the tax situation which I’m not all that familiar with.
HOWLAND: How about Andrea Bargnani? Since we spoke last year he has really blossomed as a player, why do you think that is?
JG: I think the jury is still out on him. I think he had a really good year which is encouraging. but I think he still has a long way to go before becoming a player that should have been a top 3 or top 5 pick and that can really carry you into the playoffs. I don't think he is ever going to be the type of player you can build a team around, but maybe I’m wrong.
My personal philosophy is that the way he produces is not necessarily conducive to winning games. His rebounding is atrocious for a big man. Inch for inch, he may be the worst rebounder in the NBA. He is not particularly efficient, his 2 point percentages are low, and even though he is a great three-point shooter, that's not enough, because you need someone to create those looks for him. I am not sure he’s a guy that can create high-percentage shots for himself.
Although he made strides defensively, I would still consider him to be below average there. In terms of toughness and doing the little things it takes to win games, I’m not sure he is a good fit at all alongside Chris Bosh. There is a lot of duplication there. I’m not sure what to think about what people say about his intangibles, about his feel and passion for the game. Maybe if the team had a different style of big man, like a Paul Millsap-type, it would be more beneficial to him, but with the way the Raptors are currently built, it’s tough to get too excited about Bargnani. I could be wrong though. He improved a lot this year. Let’s see what he does next season and revisit.
Note** A big thanks to Jonathan for taking the time to discuss the 2009 NBA Draft. Our annual interview with him is definitely one of the best interviews we do all year.