As for underrated players, Berri says, “Al-Farouq Aminu is a name that should get more attention.”
There are two players whose rankings near the top of the list will surprise NBA observers — Chris Andersen and Kris Humphries. Berri explains, “Humphries and Andersen are both above average with respect to rebounds. So they help their teams get and maintain possession of the ball. Andersen is also an efficient scorer. Of course, that is because Andersen tends to only take shots he can make. That is actually a very useful skill. It is important that players play within their limitations. When players take shots they are not likely to make — like Melo shooting when he is triple-teamed — that really doesn't help your team win.”
Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol, both former superstars in their mid-30s, are down in the rankings, but that isn’t surprising. Berri says that, unlike players in baseball, it is very rare that a player over the age of 35 can still play basketball at a high level. Tim Duncan is an exception, although he is not the force he once was. “Basketball is a game for young people,” says Berri.
Berri thinks the Utah Jazz could help themselves considerably in the free agent market. They are reportedly interested in Hayward, Trevor Ariza — a very productive player — and Marvin Williams — not a productive player.
“The Jazz look to be in trouble,” says Berri. “The team is awash in lottery picks who have not proven to be productive NBA players. To that mix, they are adding (Australian draft pick) Dante Exum, a kid who has little international experience — 25 games — and was not amazingly productive in that setting. The Jazz are caught in what I call the lottery treadmill.”
This occurs when teams draft lottery picks (one of the first 14 taken in the draft) and then feel obligated to play them for years even when they are unproductive, simply because they have invested so much money in them. The lack of productivity qualifies the team for another lottery pick the following year, and the cycle keeps repeating itself.
The Jazz have collected six players who were lottery picks in one of the last five drafts — Exum, Enes Kanter, Alex Burks, Hayward, Derrick Favors and Trey Burke.
“How long do you play lottery picks before you give up on them?” asks Berri. “Teams invest so much in them, so they just keep playing them and hope they get better, but in this league that rarely happens; you know early on if they can play. The Spurs didn’t build a team through the draft with lottery picks and neither did the Jazz when they were good after they got Stockton and Malone. The Spurs built their team with free agents, second-round picks and trades. The problem with the draft is that it’s the hardest to predict success.”
Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: email@example.com
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