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Accentuating the positives in the NBA Draft

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Strengths and weaknesses should both be accounted for.

Providence v UNC-Chapel Hill Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

As we collectively cram for the big test that is the NBA Draft, it is easy to fall into certain pitfalls in our evaluation criteria. One of the easiest mistakes to make in this situation is to focus too much on a player’s weaknesses and not enough on his strengths.

Case in point: If there was one guy I was hoping that the Celtics would NOT draft 2 years ago, it was Marcus Smart. I knew he could play defense, but I couldn’t fathom the Celtics selecting a point guard that couldn’t shoot when we already had Rajon Rondo. Of course that was short sighted from the perspective that rosters change, but it was also wrongly focused solely on one aspect of his offense, which is only half the game to begin with.

I find myself taking the same attitude toward Kris Dunn because he has a reputation as a defensive point guard who has struggles shooting the ball. But there are also a lot of talent evaluators that consider him the third-best prospect in the draft, with a chance to be the best when all is said and done. Jeff Goodman notably thinks he’ll be better than Marcus Smart, though admittedly in different ways. His fit on this roster is questionable at the moment, but all that could change as early as this summer, and Dunn would be under team control for the next eight years (including likely contract extensions).

Another guy near the top of people’s draft boards is Jamal Murray. He’s got obvious shooting skills and can play a little point guard himself if need be. But one of the big knocks on him is that he’s very limited defensively. Do you take a chance that we have enough defenders to cover for him? It might be worth it in order to add someone to the roster that can actually make 3-pointers at a high rate. (I can actually picture Kevin O’Connor cringing at that comment)

Or how about Jaylen Brown? He’s got the body of an NBA veteran right now and some serious upside talent on both sides of the ball. But his jumper is unreliable, and he didn’t exactly have a great freshman season at Cal so it is hard to project how he’ll do at the next level. So do you cross him off the list because he can’t shoot? Or do you trust that he’ll be able to improve his jumper enough to make use of the rest of his game?

These are just three examples of the delicate balance that is talent evaluation. The point I’m making is that there are no perfect players in any draft, and there’s no obvious choice for the third spot in this year's draft. Each player has flaws that we could pick apart all day, but they also have positives that make them attractive to NBA teams.

Brad Stevens has had a lot of success by focusing more on what players do well and empowering them to use those strengths on the court. You have to account for a player’s limitations, but not at the expense of the things that can help your team win basketball games.