Bucks Diary

Friday, June 27, 2008

Things that worry me about the Alexander selection

I'll be frank with you. The Bucks selection of Joe Alexander worries -- and somewhat puzzles --me.

My first concern is where they intend to play him. When it became clear the Bucks were interested in drafting Alexander, I thought they were interested in him as a bruising small forward who could periodically fill in at power forward. However, given the simultaneous acquisition of SF Richard Jefferson and trade of PF Yi Jianlian, it seems clear the Bucks want Alexander to play power forward. I don't think that's his best professional spot.

For one thing, he lacks ideal power forward size. His standing reach is 8-10'' and his weight is 220 lbs. According to Draftexpress those measurements are above average for an NBA small forward (8-8''; 213lbs) but below average for an NBA power forward (8-10.5''; 235lbs). Sure, he's got incredible farmboy like strength and he can jump out of the gym, but ask Jason Smith how far that gets you when you're banging in the NBA paint (Smith came into the Association as a strong leaper with a record of collegiate production, but he had a shorter than average standing reach and he was lighter than the average NBA big man. His rebounding production in his rookie season was awful and he had nearly 20% of his inside shots rejected).

My second concern is his productive capacity. Alexander never produced average NBA power forward numbers at the collegiate level (when I did my "Win Contribution" analysis, I did it assuming Alexander would spend the majority of his time at small forward and some of his time at power forward. His numbers would have looked a lot worse if the combination of positions were reversed). Because of his college production, projecting him to be a successful NBA power forward is dicey at best.

Which leads me to this question. If the Bucks were after a bruising power forward who could produce big time numbers in the paint, there were TONS of proven players who fit that bill available in this draft. Why did the Bucks pass on everyone of them (some of them they passed on twice)? Either they don't understand what constitutes winning basketball, or they allowed Alexander's Superman-like workout performances to skew their evaluations of him. (That's the problem with workout testing in every sport... it should never be considered more important than proven gametime perfomance records, yet it often is.)

There is one ray of hope, however. Joe Alexander could follow the blueprint laid out by Philadelphia's 2007 first round selection, Thaddeus Young.

Like Alexander, Young came into the Association having mainly played small forward in college. Nevertheless, he spent 82% of his rookie season at the power forward spot. Just like Alexander, though, Young's measurements were below average for an NBA power forward (8-10'' / 210 lbs.). And just like Alexander, Young's college numbers were below average for the position (Young's were actually lower than Alexander's).

Nevertheless, Young succeeded as an offensive power forward by doing two simple things. One, he crashed the boards better than he did in college. In his rookie year he raised his rebounding rate from a collegiate 0.16 rebounds per minute to an NBA 0.22 rebounds per minute (that's still slightly below average for the 4 spot, but it was close enough). Second, he decided to take only shots he could make. In college he was perimeter oriented, with poor results. In the NBA, 58% of his shot attempts were taken "inside" . Because of his shorter than average reach, he got a Bogut-like 12% of those attempts blocked (actually Bogut only got 8% of his inside shots blocked -- it just seemed like more). But, importantly, he stayed with the interior game and ended up converting an impressive 63% of his shots in the paint.

If Alexander can copy Young's strategy he can really do some good for the Bucks. Remember, however, Young's productive metamorphisis is the exception, not the rule. Most players are unable to outproduce their college numbers. If Alexander is another one of them, the Bucks made a really stupid pick.


At June 30, 2008 at 10:51 AM, Anonymous gobbler said...

Well let's hope you're wrong. I, like most, have not seen enough of Alexander to really know. I am not going to worry about the 1/2" inch of length though. The 25 pounds is more meaningful so let's hope he puts on a bit of "good" weight.


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