NBA draft: Teams playing name game

Published: Friday, Oct. 9 2015 3:17 a.m. MDT

Could Roy Hibbert be the next Zydrunas Ilgauskas? (Deseret News archives) Could Roy Hibbert be the next Zydrunas Ilgauskas? (Deseret News archives)
It's called The Comparison Game, aka The Name Game, and it's played by virtually everyone around the league from Internet draft prognosticators to scouts and front-office executives to prospects themselves.
Even Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor admits as much.
"I think you do that. You really do," said O'Connor, whose club selects 23rd overall in the first round of Thursday night's NBA Draft. "You say, 'Who does he remind you of?'
"If he doesn't remind you of anybody, maybe you're in trouble ... He's got to remind you of somebody," O'Connor said. "Now, you can argue about who that guy is."
For Jazz player personnel vice president Walt Perrin, the game is as money as Monopoly — and sure beats the heck out of Sudoku.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, right, with Cleveland teammate LeBron James. (Associated Press) Zydrunas Ilgauskas, right, with Cleveland teammate LeBron James. (Associated Press)
"When we look at players," he said, "we always say, 'Who is he compared to, or who does he play like that's been in the league?'
"It gives you a frame of reference, in terms of, 'OK, what can he be at best-case scenario and what can he be at worst-case scenario?"'
Take 7-foot-2 Georgetown center Roy Hibbert, a possible pick for the Jazz at 23.
According to DraftExpress.com, a Web site devoted largely to the NBA Draft, Hibbert is compared in the best case to Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Though plagued by foot and back injuries, the Cleveland Cavaliers center has been a two-time NBA All-Star.
That's a good thing.
In the worst case, he's compared to Boniface N'Dong, he of 23 NBA games with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Not so good.
Hibbert has heard the Ilgauskas comparison, and likes it.
And he willingly admits to playing the game himself, though he prefers not to get pinned down.
"I've always wanted to be a mix of Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe (Mutombo), Patrick (Ewing)," Hibbert said with reference to three longtime big men who preceded him at Georgetown. "But I'll be my own player."
Some prospects shoot for the moon when playing, like Utah State shooting guard Jaycee Carroll, a second-round hopeful who dropped the name of Steve Kerr, the current Phoenix Suns basketball boss whose reserve-role NBA career lasted 15 seasons.
Others seem to know their limitations, including BYU big man Trent Plaisted, a likely second-round selection who worked out Tuesday for the Jazz.
"I've never proclaimed myself to be a jump shooting Dirk Nowitzki type of player," he said.
Plaisted, incidentally, gets compared to Portland's Channing Frye in a best-case scenario and to former Colorado State big man Jason Smith of Philadelphia in a worst-case scenario by DraftExpress.com, while NBADraft.net, another draft-centric Web site, goes with ex-Jazz center Greg Foster.
"Some of that Internet stuff (originates) from people in the league ... because they (Web site writers) talk to a lot of people," Perrin said. "Some of it that I look at ... on the Internet is absolutely ludicrous."
NBADraft.net's comparison for Hibbert? Portland center Joel Przybilla.
"I'd say that's ridiculous," Perrin said. "They're two different-type players. I think Joel is more of a defensive player, and Roy is a better offensive player."
Hibbert laughs when presented with the Przybilla comparison — and promptly takes another turn in the game.
"If they want to say that, that's fine," he said. "But I've always tried to model my game like Tim Duncan's. Obviously I want to be that type of player: fundamental big guy. He's not flashy. He's not gonna wow you doing a lot of stuff. He's not really athletic or anything, but he gets the job done."
That's not to suggest Hibbert's game ever will be as good as Duncan's. But it's something for which to strive.
Ditto for the "best-case" Internet assessments.
And the higher a prospect is regarded, the loftier the comparisons.
Take University of Memphis point Derrick Rose, who'll go either No. 1 to Chicago or No. 2 to Miami on Thursday.
According to ESPN.com, "The best pure point guard in the draft draws some comparisons to both (the Jazz's) Deron Williams and Chris Paul (of New Orleans). He has the strength and defensive presence of Williams and the speed and quickness of Paul."
NBADraft.net, meanwhile, goes with a combined Dwyane Wade/Jason Kidd comparison for Rose.
That's four members of USA Basketball's current Olympic team — and, either way, quite a combination.
Kansas State power forward Michael Beasley, seemingly bound to go No. 2 if Rose is No. 1, draws a best-case scenario comparison of "Amare Stoudemire meets Antawn Jamison," and a worst-case Derrick Coleman, from DraftExpress.com, while NBADraft.net suggests Carmelo Anthony.
That's all over the board.
On occasion, the comparisons turn out to be more dead-on than far-off.
Jazz backup center Paul Millsap was called a poor-man's Karl Malone coming out of Louisiana Tech — and while "poor man's" anybody sometimes signals trouble, in this example it had a degree of accuracy.
Besides, as Perrin said, "it's better than no-man's."
Sometimes, though, the comparisons are downright comical.
An unsourced rumor run Tuesday on DraftExpress.com, for instance, said the Jazz "apparently fancy Goran Dragic as a potential backup for Williams a few years down the road, and could take him with the No. 44 pick in the second round. Dragic has two more years remaining on his contract with Tau Vitoria (in Spain), but has a buyout in his contract for one million Euros."
Look up the Slovenian's comparison on the same site, and in the best-case scenario it's Jason Hart — the Jazz's current No. 3 point who last season lost his backup job behind Williams to undrafted Ronnie Price.

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

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