I’d like to think former San Diego High School standout/Maccabi Haifa flame out Jeremy Tyler’s unexpected rise up the draft charts is really the product of NBA front offices trying to trick each other into drafting the next Kwame Brown. Like everyone is saying how talented he is and how mature he seems just to trick some poor team into drafting him and wasting the pick.
I’d like to think that. But this is the NBA we’re talking about.
We’ve been writing on and off about Tyler pretty much since he opted to skip his senior year of high school to play professionally in Israel. Tyler’s stint with Maccabi Haifa was a complete disaster for a variety of reasons, though his second professional season in Tokyo, Japan (with the anachronistically-named Tokyo Apache) went a bit better. Tyler averaged 10 points and six rebounds before the league’s season was cut short because of the earthquake/tsunami that hit Japan earlier this year.
We also focused much of our ire not on Tyler, but on former shoe salesman/basketball vampire Sonny Vaccaro, who played the key role in getting the young big man to skip his senior year back in 2009. Vaccaro is a leach who has spent a lifetime harming young people under the guise of trying to “help them” by convincing them to play professionally. Sebastian Telfair, Tyler and a host of others know what I mean.
Sure Vaccaro got them some money for shoe endorsements and professional contracts, but every failure left one more young man with no backup plan because a leach played a large role in convincing him he didn’t need anything but basketball to be successful. Worse, the only reason Vaccaro even wanted to talk to those kids at all is because he saw the chance to sell a few more shoes to the general public and make more money for himself. I’m now done talking about that scumbag.
Anyway, Jeremy Tyler is back in the United States and working out for different NBA teams in the hopes of getting drafted next week.
Yet the weird thing is that no one is raving about his workouts or how skilled he is. Instead, the consensus seems to be that he is a great interview, and that’s why he’s rocketing up the mock draft boards:
“Jeremy Tyler was the best interview I had in Chicago the last two years,” one personnel boss beamed. “It wasn’t just the interviews. It was how he carried himself. It was the way he approached it. I thought, ‘Spoiled, pampered AAU guy. Bad background.’ But he was articulate. He was polished. He came across really well.”
Said another: “He was much more charming in his interview than I ever would have imagined.”
My guess is everyone’s expectations for Tyler were so low that any performance above wetting his pants, drooling on himself and talking like Karl Childers would get rave reviews.
This isn’t the WWE. An NBA player’s skills at the microphone are important, but probably less so than his workouts, which by all reports are solid, if unspectacular. Keep in mind that Yi Jianlian and Darko Milicic had reportedly amazing workouts and also didn’t play in the crucible of college basketball. We all know how they’ve turned out.
If my career (my real one, not as a blogger) is any indication, a person can be pretty lazy and still give a great interview. Remember that Tyler has been schooled on what to say in these interviews for two years. I mention this only because the same article I linked to above about Tyler’s interview prowess also shows that he had the second-highest body fat percentage among all the prospects at the Chicago pre-draft camp. Combine that with his history of being immature, making poor decisions and being a bad teammate and you’ve got to wonder just how awesome his interviews must have been.
Chris Rock’s rant about white people and Colin Powell seems appropriate here (NSFW).
Calling Jeremy Tyler “articulate” and saying that he “came across really well” probably isn’t as casually racist as people being surprised by Colin Powell’s diction, but it’s close. I also understand that there are tons of idiots who come across an NBA GM’s and scout’s radar year in and year out. But those comments are at once naive and condescending.
Which speaks to my point: The NBA is a disaster in terms of scouting and overpaying players. The league is by far the worst of the four major sports at talent evaluation and smart use of the funds teams have at hand.
The NBA is very close to a lockout that could kill most or all of next season for that exact reason. The league lost money this year, and as Bill Simmons correctly pointed out these salaries are a great example of why.
So let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that NBA front offices are trying to trick each other into drafting Jeremy Tyler, like guys at a fantasy football draft who suckered their one unprepared friend into wasting a high pick on Matt Forte in 2010.
When Tyler is a mid-first round pick next week, it will be because an NBA front office, whose sole job is to evaluate and develop talent, decided to ignore every possible warning sign there is (character, commitment, physical condition) for a talented player, and drafted Jeremy Tyler on the off chance that those above issues won’t manifest themselves very quickly.
I’ve said from the beginning that I think Tyler can be successful in basketball. He’s supremely talented, much moreso than Kwame Brown ever was. But he got to this point by taking nearly every wrong direction a potential pick can take, from leaving high school early for no reason (if you think the competition sucks in Southern California, go to Oak Hill then!) to showing up fat for workouts.
That’s a lot to risk a first-round pick on. Maybe a second-rounder for a contender so that they can work him out without having to play him and get him some playing time in the D-League. I’m sure Tyler can take Hasheem Thabeet even if he is fat. The rumors that San Antonio is interested in him are encouraging for this exact reason.
But a first-round pick? This is why the NBA can’t have nice things.