Why isn’t there enough weight put on fit an opportunity when discussing the careers of young talent? We discuss the play on the court and the numbers that coincide with that but we often never discuss their situation.
Following the first few months after the NBA season begins, we start to critique the rookies and the new up-comers in the league. It comes with the territory. How do they look? Do they belong in the league? How is their game transitioning? Those are all valid questions that are often brought up and discussed.
Very rarely do we discuss the situation of players, mainly the ones we label busts! Some of those guys are true busts who couldn’t adjust to the level of play at the professional level but other guys may have just been in a situation where their game didn’t fit with the organization and style of play.
Think about a guy who’s played four years of zone defense and is now asked to play various man to man schemes for 48 minutes. Or a guy that was an all-around scorer throughout his collegiate career that had the green light to take whatever shot he pleased and is now restricted to a spot-up shooter. Often times some players are not granted the fortitude of seeing a lot of playing time and playing through mistakes. There are situations where you have to play behind a superstar or have a strict coach that pulls you after every mishap and those types of things can kill a player’s confidence and mental state.
Look at the career of Kawhi Leonard. He’s a guy who was blessed enough to join an organization with a great system that truly cherishes player development. Did his own practice and hard work have a lot to do with it? Of course, but being intertwined with those great minds of San Antonio and playing for a basketball savant in Coach Gregg Popovich really helped him to become the player he is today.
Another example is Draymond Green. Many people truly believe he’s a system guy and if you take him off the Warriors, he wouldn’t be the same player. That’s yet to be proven but what is proven is that he’s perfectly molded into the system that they have there. Green is able to the defensive safety while also playing quarterback on offense, being a playmaker and making all of the right reads. He fits in so well in that system and is a huge reason as to why they have three championships in the last four years.
Donovan Mitchell and Jason Tatum are two other guys that have benefited from their situation. These two young talented players were drafted high in the 2017 NBA draft and joined two teams where they got to benefit from learning and playing as they went. These two young studs got to see a lot of playing time and were able to develop and learn through making mistakes. They averaged 33.4 and 30.5 minutes per game respectively during their rookie seasons. They got to play in two systems behind two coaches that granted them that opportunity. As a result, the fans were able to see their true talent and capabilities flourish. They both assisted in taking their teams deep into the playoffs and are now coveted two of the best young stars we have on the rise in the game today.
Every situation for every player is completely different. It is on the player to make the most out of their situation. What makes professionals who they are is their ability to adjust to the next level and improve. So there is a lot of responsibility on the player in that aspect. However, we’d be remissed if we didn’t acknowledge the fit and opportunities of those who struggle. With the draft beginning tonight and a new group of young kids looking to make their dreams come true, let’s keep these things in mind before we begin to judge. The critiques and analysis are apart of the game. But before we call “such and such” a bust and begin to downplay their game, let’s truly analyze their situation first.