Jeremy Tyler will probably most be remembered for forgoing his senior year of high school basketball to play professionally overseas.
Not because this is a landmark, game-changing moment in the amateur-professional athlete debate. Rather because Tyler isn’t really a top level talent. He’s bored in America because he is being triple-teamed in games and still averaged 28 points a game during his junior season…so? I personally watched Jason Fraser play through a quadruple-teaming in high school, and he was a college bust, forget pros. And let’s be real- 28 ppg in high school is not amazing.
ESPN has highlighted the decision by Tyler, first mentioning it weeks ago when he announced his intention to do so, and recently when he finally inked a deal with an Israeli professional team. It is easy to see why ESPN cares- it’s a story that will generate traffic because of its uniqueness, and also because ESPN has had a very long, successful relationship working with the NCAA. If Tyler’s jump to Europe became normal, ESPN would be in a heap of trouble, not to mention the NCAA.
But, here’s the harsh truth- Tyler will have no impact on other American prep stars. Why? Because Tyler is hardly a prep star. According to Scout, he is a two star (out of five) player, who had some big schools, like UConn, looking at him- most likely because he was a guaranteed four year player, not because he could be a centerpiece on a national contender.
The stranglehold the NCAA has on the top high school basketball talent in this country is tenuous because the European option is there. And for some players the immediate money that can be made in Europe will be too much to pass up, especially when compared with having to deal with demanding college coaches and the need to at least fake interest in college courses for a year or so.
But, the smartest players will continue to play in the NCAA money machine because of the future incentives it allows them. Playing in March Madness or in a big conference gives these players national exposure which can help with endorsement deals once they do turn professional- playing in the obscurity of Europe does no such thing.
Remember when Josh Childress went to play in Greece about a year ago? Hailed at the time as an innovative, pioneering move, Childress’s decision was supposedly going to rewrite how the NBA had to deal with restricted free agents. But, have you heard of Childress since then? Not once. Have other players followed Childress to greener pastures overseas? Nobody who wasn’t forced to do so.
Some will say that Tyler’s decision could change the college basketball recruiting dynamic forever. They’re wrong, if only because he is not a high profile enough player to cause lasting change.
The Portland Trail Blazers have committed themselves to the dreaded middle- a team neither good enough to win a title, nor bad enough to garner a game-changing lottery pick.
How? Re-upping Brandon Roy for number one guy money.
By all accounts, Brandon Roy is a good guy who seems to have overcome the knee problems that once ailed him. Good guys don’t win titles though, great players do. And Roy is not one.
By resigning Brandon Roy to such an expensive deal the Blazers have gone from being one of the more intriguing teams in the league to just another run of the mill franchise. The past two years the team has been one of the more well-liked in the league because of all their young talent, bolstered by the selection of the affable Greg Oden and the smooth draft day trade for LaMarcus Aldridge.
Here’s the rub- none of their young talents seems to scream superstar ability. Brandon Roy appears to be a number two guy on a legit title contender, and Aldridge looks like a third wheel at best. Rudy Fernandez, Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw? Role players, at best. Oden? The only way he will stay on the court long enough for us to adequately judge him is if the NBA changes the foul limit rule.
This is the major thing that drives me crazy about the NBA- good teams think they can stay pat and become great teams. This works in the NFL, but not in the NBA. There are literally no champions from the modern era (1991-now) of NBA basketball who built their teams nucleus exclusively through the draft- each champion either made a huge free agent signing or large-scale trade to bolster their fortunes, with the exception of the Spurs (who, to remind you, had the “misfortune” of losing David Robinson for a year and got to add Tim Duncan to an already legitimate title contender for free).
Besides the Spurs, let’s take a look- the Bulls couldn’t win until they shipped out Charles Oakley for Bill Cartwright, the Rockets needed Clyde the Glide to help Hakeem, and the Lakers only became serious after Pau Gasol fell into their laps. Those great Pistons teams that dominated the East for the better part of the decade? With the exception of Tayshaun Prince, they were all mercenaries, hired guns brought in from other teams.
So, why does this matter? Because the Blazers just spent their cap on Brandon Roy, and have doomed themselves to go the way of Drexler’s version of the Blazers- just good enough to lose.
It’s obvious that the NBA draft gains much more mainstream media attention than the NHL draft. With the exception of Ricky Rubio and Brandon Jennings, we’ve seen every other NBA prospect garnering lottery buzz playing college hoops.
No one watches Canadian Junior hockey, NCAA hockey outside of the Frozen four, or any of the professional leagues in Europe.
But in this 2009 draft season, one name sticks out above the rest. The hype has been there for this kid for years. And I’m not talking about Blake Griffin.
John Tavares has been on the map since 2007, when he broke Wayne Gretzkey’s record for a 16-year old in the Ontario Hockey League as a member of the Oshawa Generals.
Since then Tavares has been a household name in hockey circles, and has even hit the mainstream after being a part of ESPN the Magazine’s “Next” feature.
He’s been in the spotlight for so long that it’s impossible for scouts not to nitpick at this game. “Oh, he’s not a great skater,” or “he doesn’t have that killer instinct.”
But the Islanders need goal scoring, and more than that they need hope. The fans need to believe they have a player their team can be built around. If the Islanders don’t do something quickly, there’s a good chance they may end up in Kansas City in a few years (hopefully still as the Islanders, rivaling the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz as the strangest city-nickname combo in sports.)
We know Blake Griffin is going to be a Clipper tomorrow night.
But John Tavares needs to be an Islander, and the fate of the franchise depends on it.