I’m biased. You’re biased. We’re all damn biased. Being biased in sports isn’t an inherently bad thing as long as you are self-aware and can subside your impulses. Everyone in sports has their preferences but as long as you take inventory of your viewpoints and self-diagnosis objectively than managing dogmatic convictions might seem plausible. If you leave your biased beliefs unchecked, well, that could lead to a cycle of groundhog day returns. Controlling your bias might seem like a waste of time and unpreventable but it doesn’t hurt identifying one-sided sentiments. Step one is acknowledging your biased, step two is self-reflecting and step three is monitoring your tendencies. This bode of action might not work for everyone and it might not work for me either but I want to at least try to mitigate as many errors as possible when doing my NBA draft big boards and overall scouting. I’ve written multiple scouting reports and have only done big boards for the 2018 and 2019 drafts. Checking these biases now could help me improve upon my love for talent evaluation:
- I really like/overrate role players
~ If you’re a reader of my website, this was obvious. For the most part I’d rather write articles about Maxi Kelber, Danuel House, Sterling Brown and Gary Clark over star players. Heck, the next article I was thinking of writing about was on Kenrich Williams, underrated role players and breakout role players. I also ranked prospects who I thought were projected to be good role players in the NBA higher than most mainstream outlets: Grant Williams at 11, Talen Horton-Tucker at 16, Chuma Okeke at 17, Tyler Herro at 18, DaQuan Jeffries at 23, Josh Reaves at 26 and Terence Davis at 27. I’m still regretting ranking Matisse Thybulle at 28 and Nickeil Alexander-Walker at 21 and their careers haven’t even started yet.
Probably one of the biggest reasons why I favor role players so much is the history of NBA champions personnel. Whether you’re talking about good role players like Danny Green, Trevor Ariza, James Posey or great role players like Andre Iguodala, Robert Horry and Shane Battier throughout history these players help facilitate champions. These are the players that make sacrifices to their box score stats, guaranteed money and have positive impacts on chemistry. These players are important towards building title contenders but their obviously not the most important piece. Drafting and signing superstar players is of course the best thing when it comes to winning titles. Compare a player like Cam Reddish who has the potential to become a star player and a player like Grant Williams who might not have the ceiling of a Reddish but more potential to have greater impact towards on-court success, who do you rank higher? Maybe that’s just a philosophical question on draft strategy but I at times do find myself ranking someone higher just because I don’t have enough potential role players ranked highly. This ties into my next bias.
- I overrate “potential”
~ How can I overrate role players AND “potential” at the same time? This just might be an issue of finding a delicate balance between the two biases moving forward. However I often fall for prospects who have “potential” just because there’s a perceived chance he might became a “star”. Players who are long, athletic, play at a scarce position or who have shown just enough of a skill set that indicates potential future success; Kevin Knox at 9, Marvin Bagley at 1, Lonnie Walker at 7, Zhaire Smith at 10, Darius Bazley at 5, Kevin Porter jr at 10, Romeo Langford at 12, Cam Reddish at 14 and Nassir Little at 15.
Now it’s only a year into the 2018 class and the 2019 class hasn’t even played yet so making definite determinations on these players is a little premature. That’s not the point though. I’m just identifying my potential blind spots to help bolster my ability to scout players. A lot of times players with high “potential” their careers can be decided by situation. How different is Jaylen Brown’s career if he gets drafted by Phoenix and not Boston? Would Kelly Oubre’s career be different if he got drafted by Miami or Indianapolis and not Washington? Same goes for role players. How different is Draymond Green’s career if he didn’t get drafted by Golden State? Would Danny Green be a good role player if Cleveland never cut him resulting in San Antonio snatching him up? Situation dictates success for most players outside of the truly elite. Doing team specific big boards or post-draft big boards make more sense.
I like doing big boards in a vacuum because you get to see where that person stands on trends, prospects, positions and skill sets. Moving forward I have to create some type of scale that will help sort out players with “potential” and role players. I have to raise the requisite level of skill I use as a baseline when it comes to grading players with “potential”. It doesn’t matter how long, athletic, mobile you are, if you can’t shoot over 40% on your two pointers, can’t make sound decisions on the move or have good processing speed on defense then I will have to readjust my outlook. And just because someone projects to be a role player at the next level doesn’t mean they will have a significant on-court impact regardless of box score stats. I have to do a better job classifying role players moving forward.
- I take player comparisons too personally
~ Some might call me a basketball fan. Others might say I need to get a life. One thing is for sure, I take basketball very personally. So when people in the mainstream, twitter or popular draft websites say that Tre Young is the next Steph Curry, well, I get heated. When I hear people say that Young can be just as good of a shooter as Curry, I lose my mind. I regard Curry as the greatest shooter of all time and arguably the second greatest point guard of all time. Not only does he have a diverse portfolio of shooting ability but he’s also crazy efficient simultaneously. He’s one of, if not the greatest off-ball player that I’ve ever seen. His ability to manipulate his off-ball movement to his teams advantage plus his ability to be crazy efficient while having a diverse shot portfolio is the main reason why I hold him in such high regard. And oh, he’s a pretty good playmaker too. So comparing anyone to Curry is going to set me off since I think he’s one of a kind.
I ended up ranking Tre Young twelfth on my 2018 NBA draft big board. Not really having anything to do about his talent but to push back the aggrandized opinion of Young that most people covering the draft were stating. One of the very first articles I have on this website is talking about my first impressions on Trae Young. The article really isn’t the greatest representation of my scouting ability since I was so new to the process and have evolved my talent evaluation approach. I keep up a lot of my old articles just to show the progress I’ve made over the years. In that article there was a brief excerpt detailing why people need to pump the brakes on Young Link. At the same time I wrote at the very end that Young has “Damian Lillard with better passing ability potential” and yet I ranked him twelfth on my big board. Something isn’t adding up. Why do I think a ball handler who can create unbelievably well and has a diverse shooting portfolio is the twelfth best prospect? A lot of it had to do with his defensive issues, handle concerns and overall efficiency but ultimately my love for Steph Curry fogged my thought process. I have to separate my fandom from methodology. Since I’m such a huge fan of someone doesn’t mean I should ignore proper talent evaluation. I also need to disregard the noise too. Whatever outside factors are saying should have no bearing on my big board. This ties in to my next bias.
- I rank players higher/lower than the consensus just to try to act smarter
~ Everyone wants to be the first to discover a prospect. If that player pops at the next level that means you have an incredible foresight. Everyone wants to project the next draft sleeper, steal and bust. If you can routinely find hidden gems during the draft process than clearly you know what you’re talking about. If you can outsmart mainstream voices than surely more people should be taking notice of your work. Everyone is trying to prove themselves, develop a resume and stand out above the fray. One way of doing that is making bold, risky picks; taking gambles on players you might not otherwise just for the sake of out-thinking the guy on TV.
This is primarily what happened when I ranked Marvin Bagley one and Luka Doncic two on my 2018 NBA draft big board. Don’t get me wrong, I still really like Bagley and would say I was higher on him compared to the consensus even if I had ranked Doncic at one instead. I still think Bagley can be a starting center on a championship team but he won’t be the driving force like Doncic can. Having Doncic at one seemed too inevitable for my first big board. I wanted to make a gutsy call on my number one prospect. Bagley was someone that had mixed reviews coming out of college due to his lack of defensive prowess and questionable long range jumper. What gave me enough reason to take a chance on him as a possible number one was his athleticism, size, scoring ability, quick second jump, potential switch ability on defense and capable pick-and-roll nightmare skill on offense.
I wanted to outthink people I respect just because it was a “quick” way to be noticed. Same thing can be said about me ranking Darius Bazley at five. I wanted to have a prospect ranked super high based off the fact he wasn’t graded favorably among the consensus. I still like these prospects regardless but have to control my urge to take unnecessary risks for the sake of being “smart”. I have to be reasonable with myself and not do anything outlandish just for the sake of looking shrewd. I have to be more calculated and cool headed when it comes to my love for the game and not make a spectacle out of the scouting process.
- There’s probably more I can’t see
~ There’s probably other biases that I just can’t see because I’m so conditioned scouting a certain way that I normalize my tendencies. Identifying my biases and working to pacify them will be an ongoing process. I want to improve my ability to evaluate talent. I thought doing more than just watching a bunch of game tape and analyzing the game of basketball can be an alternative way to address my technique.
- Grading Scale
~ I don’t even know if I’m going to do big boards moving forward. I’ve always wanted to scout players on a grading scale. I think if I just stick to objectively grading players on a scale that would remove most of my biases. Can the player dribble proficiently with both hands? How diverse is their finishing ability? Can they pass on the move? How fast can they process offensive actions? How advanced are their live-dribble moves? All these are yes or no questions on a varying scale. Looking back on my first two big boards they are riddled with flaws and biases. As of now, I’m leaning towards a grading system when scouting players. I was thinking about grading players on offense, defense, star potential, role potential and system dependence. Stuff like IQ would be all encompassing when grading offense (offensive feel) and defense (defensive IQ). Star potential would deal with mostly a players upside and physical profile while role potential deals with the likelihood that they achieve their NBA roles (lead initiator, floor spacer, 3-and-D wing, hustle big). And lastly system dependence would deal with figuring out if their game can adapt to all types of NBA offenses like motion, drive-and-kick, ball screen heavy, flow, spread, post heavy, etc. I’m obviously still figuring out the kinks but I’ll try to be more thorough when I post my first scouting report for the 2019-2020 season.