April 15, 2019
Predicting the NBA Draft is not as easy as the PBA Draft. In the PBA Draft, just pick out the tallest college players with the highest point total, unless there’s a tall Fil-Foreigner with loads of potential we know nothing about.
Thankfully, the PBA scouts have improved on that end. Height and foreign lineage is no longer a guarantee, and the rule of having to play in the D-League really helps on that front.
Studs in college, duds in the pros
However, the rest of the formula holds. Successful college players in the UAAP/NCAA level are almost always sure bets in the PBA. This does not hold true in the NBA. We can make a list of super achievers in College that did not translate into a dream NBA career. The Dream Team’s Christian Laettner is one prime example.
Some recent memorable names in college had forgettable NBA careers: Adam Morrison, Jimmer Fredette (who made it big in China and is reportedly getting a second chance in the NBA), Derrick Williams. We’re not counting careers that fell short due to injury, like Greg Oden or Jay Williams. That’s just unfortunate, although it is a real risk for the teams that draft them.
A recent example is Jahlil Okafor who is having a resurgence with the New Orleans Pelicans. Okafor dominantly led Duke to a national title (which Zion Williamson failed to do). He was drafted third overall by the tanking Philadelphia 76ers, but there were critics who said that his low-post game is outdated.
The critics were right. He had a lackluster rookie season and was involved in every trade rumor imaginable. But the rumors were false—hardly any team was interested in Okafor. He was traded to the Brooklyn Nets for low value, and eventually wound up as a free agent.
PBA Draft busts
The PBA has its own versions of these players: Rabeh Al-Hussaini is finally trying to live up to his revered UAAP stature, but there is also his batchmates Noy Baclao (just a center from the bench) and Rey Guevarra (only relevant in dunk contests).
Top draft picks like Ronald Pascual and James Forrester can hardly make a roster these days. On the big man front, there are Omanzie Rodriguez and Samigue Eman and recently, Arnold Van Opstal. It was quite shocking that AVO is no longer in a PBA roster this early as he was given opportunities to shine in DLSU and even Gilas.
Why Zion is the real deal
The point is, despite the amount of time, personnel and money being spent on draft scouting, there are still a lot of embarrassing failures. So how can we be sure that Zion Williamson is the real deal?
Most draft experts and observers have placed Zion Williamson in a “can’t miss” category. There were only three players to win the John Wooden award as a freshman: Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis and Zion.
College awards are usually not the basis for projecting a draft prospect, but in this case, a majority of observers hopped on the bandwagon and named Williamson as the best prospect since Anthony Davis. They cite a few reasons:
1) Attitude—Williamson plays hard every college game, even when he knew it was just a stopover, even when some people were telling him to shut it down and just wait for the NBA Draft where he’s a sure no.1 pick. On his first game back from injury, he scored 29 points and went 13-13 from the floor against Syracuse.
2) Athleticism—Zion is freakishly athletic as he is strong, a trait missing from Okafor’s game, and a huge requirement in the NBA game today. Expect his out-of-this world figures when the measurements come out in the Draft combine, if he even attends.
3) Opportunities—Whichever team drafts him, Zion will not suffer from lack of playing time. He is not locked on a position—he can play forward to center and not lag behind a fast-paced team.
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