Lots of interesting talk lately. I had a few minutes with Steve and Scott and we went over Russell Westbrook at #4. I cannot truthfully say that I am thrilled by the pick but personally I have come up with my rationalization. It starts with a basic premise that I'll let you guys debate:
Russell Westbrook was a terrible pick that high UNLESS you project that either:
a) Westbrook will develop into a star
b) There were no likely stars available past 3 in this draft.
I tend to think that the answer was b.
If you assume that was the case I want to just put myself into Sam Presti's "build this thing piece by piece and don't skip steps" mentality and I come away with a thought process that I think makes sense.
When building a championship franchise it is a fair assumption that you need some combination of 4 players. Lets classify them as "Superstar", "Allstar", and "Franchise Building Block". The superstars are the perenial all-stars, hall of famers. Allstars are guys who will make 3-4 allstar games in their career, are always on the list of upper echelon players, but not in the leagues top 5 players. Building Block guys are what they are. They may make an allstar game or 2 but they fill roles supporting your top guys.
The traditional model is that you need three stars but only one truly needs to be a superstar. In San Antonio you have had Tim Duncan(SuperStar), Parker and Ginobili(Allstars). In Chicago you had Jordan and Pippen(Superstars) and an assortment of guys who were between allstars andn building blocks(Rodman, Harper, Kucok). In a very rare case you wind up with a situation like Detroit where you really don't have a single superstar but you have 4 allstars(Hamilton, Billups, Wallace, Wallace).
The absolute worst case scenario for franchises that find themselves with a superstar player is that they continue to shoot for a second superstar but overreach and fail to get the right guy. Instead they have a roster full of "potential" guys who do not even qualify as building blocks.
I think that last year, when we drafted Jeff Green there were guys out there with more "superstar" potential but all could have been busts as well. Very few had as high of a percentage chance of falling into the category of an allstar or a building block. Rather than take a 20% chance that Yi would become a superstar pick to pair with Durant they went with the 80% chance that Green will fill one of the other two categories. Same thing in this draft. If you don't see any player in 4-10 that has better than a 20% chance of becoming one of the core pieces then it seems like a reasonable decision to make sure that you take the guy who has the best chance of being a building block. Now you have, at worst 3 of your 4 pieces in place with 1 superstar and 2 building blocks, in position to be one allstar away from a dominant team. Had they by chance drafted 2 guys they hoped would be superstars they could concievably be sitting with Kevin Durant and 2 busts, 3 pieces away from contention.
If the team sucks again this year(and they will) then we sit in position next season to draft at worst another building block and be hoping that the combination of cap room and luck will net us an allstar. If one of the guys develops better than expected then we are ahead of schedule.
The team has so many needs that it is not even funny. They needed a center, they needed a PG, and they needed to improve perimeter defense. If there was not an elite center or PG then at least we got an elite perimeter defender. Honestly with Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook this team has the defensive core that it has been lacking for a decade. If we can just find a way to supplement that with a shotblocker in the middle we will have made the investment in becoming a defensive focused team. We all know how tough that is to do.
So I guess I can live with the pick because frankly I can't tell you the guy below Westbrook that I think was likely to become a star. Given that I think we filled an interesting need and continued along a path that at least makes some sense.