Back again to fill in a couple hot sports takes between favorite songs entries.

Bill Self Issues a Fatwa Against Mock Drafts

Last Saturday KU coach Bill Self, after responding to a question about how well Kelly Oubre had played against Utah, railed against the numerous mock NBA drafts that dot the Internet. He said they hurt more people than they help by building unrealistic expectations for young college players.

Which I think we all would kind of agree with, whether you like Self or not, or think his rant was reasonable or not. Mock drafts are silly. I don’t know that they actually hurt people, but we probably put way too much weight into them.

A couple college hoops writers, one of whom puts out his own mock draft, took Self to task for his comments.

Which I understand, too. Mock drafts weren’t causing Kelly Oubre to play awful basketball in the first 4–5 games of his KU career. And if the mock drafts did not exist, people would still be wondering why this top ten recruit was struggling so mightily to get on the court.

I found the defense of mock drafts equally silly, though. These are made up lists based on guesses and the heat of the moment. If a kid has a couple bad games, suddenly his draft stock is “plummeting.” Go get a couple double-doubles back-to-back and your stock is instantly rising.

I get what Self was doing. He had said for a couple weeks that Oubre was doing fine, he just needed to stop thinking so much and then the light would go on.[1] He was tired of hearing questions about why one young player wasn’t getting very many minutes when people were ignoring the fact that A) that kid hadn’t settled into the system yet and B) he was losing minutes to two other guys who are going to play in the NBA eventually. Self was just protecting his player.

I also think he was trying to nip a bigger story in the bud. KU had three players leave the program between their season-ending loss to Stanford last March and the first game of this season. If Oubre is buried behind Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Brannen Greene in January, you can bet the rumors would pick up about him wanting out of the program, too. And then come the articles wondering, “What is wrong with Kansas?!?!” I think Self wanted to crush that before it ever got started.

That said, I think he chose his words and tone poorly. He came across as whining, at least when you read his comments. But I guess you can get tired of saying, “Kelly will be fine,” and people insisting that maybe he isn’t.

I think this “controversy” gets to two bigger issues.

First, the expectations that players come into college with. We’ve read about them since they were in the ninth grade. We’ve watched them on ESPN playing against other elite players. Freshmen aren’t novelties anymore. They come with gaudy resumes and the expectation that if they’re as good as everyone says, they’ll spend a quick year in college before moving on to the next level.

Which ignores the reality that every player adjusts to the college game in different ways, and every year’s ratings are different. I think a lot of people expected Kelly Oubre to make an immediate impact the way Andrew Wiggins did last year. Oubre was a terrific high school player, and I think he’s going to be a very good college player before he’s done. But he’s not Wiggins. Same for Cliff Alexander, who I think some people expected to be a Julius Randle-type player. He may well be before the year is over, but he’s a different kid and will get there by a different path than Randle did at Kentucky last year.

Second, I think a lot of people confuse the hype and expectations that come with lofty recruiting rankings and high slots in mock drafts as a representation of current reality. Those mock drafts are based on looking out to the future three, four, five years. Who is going to be an NBA All-Star vs. who will be in Europe after a year? We forget how much development must take place for even the best of these players to get to that level.

Royals Free Agent Signings

I’m really struggling with what the Royals have done over the past week. They signed Kendrys Morales to a two-year, $17 million deal. Alex Rios to a one-year, $11 million deal. And Edinson Volquez to a two-year, $20 million deal. A lot of money for three players who are aging and have not been at their peak for several years.

I want to hate the moves. I want to shake my fist in the general direction of Dayton Moore and wonder what the hell he’s thinking.

But the thing is, I think he’s earned some leeway. He’s made some bad roster moves, but lately most of them seem to work out. Maybe not always with wild success, but enough to help the club.

Each of these players is a high risk signing. But maybe Morales is completely healthy and in shape again, and can be the everyday DH for the next two seasons. Maybe Rios is healthy and can take advantage of Kaufman Stadium’s deep gaps and start lining doubles again. And maybe Volquez has enough left to take advantage of the K’s spacious outfield and the Royals fine defense and can be a solid, back of the rotation guy for two years.

I wish they had signed Melky Cabrera instead of Rios. Jake Peavy instead of Volquez. Just about anyone instead of Morales. But I’m not ready to kill Moore for them. Yet.

I do also wonder if there’s another big move ahead. A payroll of $110+ million seems awfully high for the Glass family. I wonder if Greg Holland or Wade Davis will be traded for prospects to slice a chunk of that cash off before spring training.

But, hey, it’s nice to be talking about the Royals, the defending American League champions, in December!

  1. Which may be what has happened over the last two games.  ↩