Most of the prospects we’ve covered so far – Jimmer Fredette, Kenneth Faried, Klay Thompson – have one bona fide NBA-ready skill that should at a minimum keep them in the league after their rookie deals expire. In my last post, where I discussed Faried, I mentioned that the Knicks might be better off with one of these safer plays, since drafting a bust could have farther-reaching consequences than your typical late first round washout: it might keep the team from dealing for another superstar, or even, should other pieces come together sooner than expected, prevent this nucleus from contending for a title in 2012 or 2013. The Knicks have no first round pick next summer or in 2014; to contend with this nucleus or by trade, this pick needs to be a hit.
If the pick has to be a hit, Josh Selby would appear to be the home run threat. The 6’3” Baltimore native does appear to have an NBA skill – Chad Ford says his penetration skills “unmatched” in this draft – but after making a big name for himself out of high school, Selby’s lone season at Kansas was a steady downward spiral. He missed Kansas’ first nine games after being suspended for receiving improper benefits; after scoring 39 points in his first two games, Bill Self inserted him into the starting lineup and Selby’s production gradually fell, and when he missed three games in February with a foot injury, he returned to the team to find his starting spot taken. After the injury, Selby would not hit double figures in points in any of Kansas’ remaining 13 games, and recorded more than three assists just once.
I shouldn’t really be cherry-picking Selby’s assist numbers, though, because he was a poor distributor all season. In 20.4 MPG, he averaged 2.2 assists and 2.0 turnovers per game – terrible numbers for any guard, really, but for a guard playing with the Morris twins? Come on. (No other Kansas guard had a ratio even close to as bad as Selby’s.) More importantly as far as his NBA potential, though, is that at no point in watching Selby did I get the sense that he was running the Kansas’ offense; he played off the ball, ready to let fly from deep or get into the lane to score. It isn’t clear to me that Selby has any experience running an offense at all.
Which might not be so bad – after all, if he’s got the physical tools, a good coach should be able to mold him – but in interviews Selby embraces the title of “combo guard” (though he does say he’s learning to be a true point) and invokes the names of Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose as examples of point guards who can get into the paint and look for their own offense. Now, I’m not Chad Ford or Jonathan Givony or anything, but in my educated yet limited perspective on college hoops and the draft, I think someone needs to inform Josh Selby that he is not Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose.
As a shooter, Selby is a bit of a mixed bag. He did shoot 36% 3FG at Kansas, and Toney Douglas has shown that number can rise between college and the pros. He raised a red flag with me by telling the Daily News, “[Mike D’Antoni] wants his guards to able to knock down shots, and I can do that,” which to me sounds like a not-too-distant cousin of seemingly every prospective Knick guard’s belief that D’Antoni lets his guards just do whatever they want.
More troubling, however, is that Selby shot just 38.4% on two-point field goals. If he had a truly dynamic mid-range game and could finish at the rim to go along with his penetration ability, maybe we could talk – amongst the NBA’s biggest and baddest, I’m not sure I see that number going up.
Selby hasn’t seen many numbers go up lately – he’s been sinking like a stone on mock drafts since the beginning of the year, and he seems to be the player tagged with “star potential” who figures to go the latest. The Knicks have needed a home run in past years, and I can think of many summers where my friends and I talked ourselves into players like Selby. This year, for the first time in what feels like forever, the Knicks may be just a double away from contention – they should make sure they hit that double. I’d love to be wrong, but for me Selby is a pass.