Nelson and 23 year olds: 2 OLD 2 BE GR8?
Is this the suit that impressed the Dubs brass?
Ever since the moment the Warriors fell to the #6 pick most Warrior fans and analysts saw the Warriors adding a 20 year old C/PF who could pass with the best of them, make smart basketball decisions, and who had enough size and girth to give us the "beef" we've been looking for. Instead of drafting Greg Monroe, who was theirs for the taking, the Warriors disappointed many fans by selecting Ekpe Udoh despite being by all accounts everything the Warriors need: a big man with an NBA body who is defensive minded, can snag rebounds, defend the rim, and can space the floor on offense with his jump shot. So why did a chorus of boos fill Oracle at the draft party? Because of:
As in 23 years old. Which makes him older than our last 3 draft picks: Stephen Curry (21), Anthony Randolph (20), and Brandan Wright (22). Which means he was a man playing with boys in college. Which means his upside is not as high. Which means he can't be a potential superstar like Anthony Randolph. Which means Larry Riley, Don Nelson, Robert Rowell, Chris Cohan, and the Warriors will rue the day they passed on Greg Monroe.
On draft night The Nightmare lived up to his nickname and had Dub fans envisioning Monroe becoming an All*Star big man in Detroit while Udoh becomes Adonal Foyle 2.0. Who cares if 95% of us (myself included) never saw more than a couple games of Udoh or Monroe during their college careers. We were ready to trust Jay Bilas, Chad Ford, and Johnathan Givony that Monroe is the better player over Riley and Nelson who had ranked Curry #2 on their board last year while those guys had Curry behind players such as Jennings, Harden, and Thabeet.
So as a fan who was looking forward to Monroe wearing the blue and gold, I took a look back at previous rookies that were drafted under Nelson at the same age as Epps and the results were not was I was expecting.
All data taken from basketball-reference.com. In chronological order of draft year.
There are 19 rookies total who were drafted by Nelson (this excludes UDFA) and played their rookies seasons at 23 years of age. In average the rookies were worth 1.42 wins in their rookie year according to WS and for their careers were below average players according to WS48 (avg of .076 vs .100 for average player). However, looking at that number is not fair to Epps and Nelson/Riley because that includes 2nd rounders.
When one looks at the 23 year old lottery picks under Nelson (Benson, Richmond, Rogers, Alexander) those players average 2.25 wins in their rookie years and for their career were a bit better but still below average at 0.89 WS48. So it's fair to say that most 23 year old rookies under Nelson become below average players but the exceptions are the most intriguing.
That group is 1 Hall of Famer, 2/3rds of Run TMC, and a former NBA All*Star.
So roughly 20% of Nelson rookies drafted at that age have become All*Star level players. In regards to draft position Udoh falls between big man Kent Benson (#1 overall) and Carlos Rogers (#11) who were average players with .103 and .95 WS48 for their careers. The good news for Warriors fans is that the last 23 year old rookie drafted around #6 was Mitch Richmond taken at #5 and we know how that turned out. So I think it's safe to say that Udoh has the floor of an average NBA player and despite our concerns for his age Udoh can still be NBA All*Star!
Also regarding the lack of improvement about being such an old rookie: out of the 19 rookies the 18 who played more than 1 season (Bubba Wells was 1 and done) only 3 out of 18 had career WS48 worse or equal to their rookie year WS48. That means 15 out of those "old guys" improved over the course of their career. Now most may have improved to be not as sucky, but 5 out of 19 (English, Benson, Richmond, Hardaway, Howard) improved to be above average NBA players according to career WS48.
I was surprised by how many of Nelson's great players entered the league at such an advanced age but again we have to remember why Nelson has earned a reputation as being rough on rookies. Another reason why The Nightmare is becoming more appealing to me is that for the most part the critics like him as a player but the knock on him is that: (1) he is a reach because of his lack of potential and (2) we have similar players in Randolph and Wright. No one ever really knocks his game (Aminu - can't shoot), intensity (Monroe - disappears from games), or drive (Cousins - Crazy?) like the other draft prospects.
So if those are the only two knocks, I have to say Riley/Nelson might have found themselves quite a player. Nelson's history with 23 year old rookies shows that despite the perceived lack of potential due to entering the league at 23 there are players that have developed into All*Star caliber players. Also all the potential of Randolph and Wright has led to the Warriors directly back to the lottery. At some point all their potential will stop being a positive and instead be a negative.
I am also a big proponent of drafting for BPA and if the Dubs passed over Monroe, who can fill a need at C, and instead drafted someone similar to what they have on their roster that screams BPA to me. Just like when they drafted Curry over Jordan Hill with Monta still on the team. The critics may not agree that Udoh was BPA, but not many of those critics would have placed Curry #2 on their rankings last year and less would declare him as a future NBA point guard. So I'm willing to give Nelson/Riley the benefit of the doubt.
The only question I have is how much input did Nelson have in the drafting of Udoh? He admittedly came later than usual this off-season to Oakland and since Udoh has been a Warrior I can't find a Nellie quote about him. Even today at the Q&A sessions it was Riley, Udoh, and a bunch of school age cheerleaders. If I remember correctly Nelson was at the Curry post draft presser (correct if I'm wrong)? So why is he absent at Udoh's? This maybe a moot point since Nelson most likely won't be coach next season, but I do value his scouting acumen and would love to hear his thoughts.
After giving it sometime to settle and reading more about Udoh I can say I'm OK with the pick as opposed to hating the pick. I'm not saying he WILL be great, but after researching I realized there is a chance he can become an All*Star player despite his age which is more than the no chance I gave him yesterday. Hopefully reading this will convince you to give Udoh a chance as well.
Thanks for the REC!