Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Fortune Telling For Brian Cook

Great acts of kindness will befall you in the coming months. - A fortune cookie I opened.

You will be awarded some great honor. - Another cookie I opened three minutes later. They give me lots of cookies when I order takeout. Guess why.

Those two slices of fortune cookie wisdom are what I imagine life to be like for an NBA first round draft choice. Those lucky few must be just like the kids in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, thinking that they rule the world with that Golden Ticket in their sweaty little hands. Meanwhile, the rest of us Oompa Loompas (someone please correct me if I spelled this wrong. I want to be completely sensitive to the Oompa Loompa community) slave away for the MAN, never to get even a sniff of the sweet stuff.

I got into a lengthy discussion on a forum today about Brian Cook of Illinois, who became the first round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers. I mentioned how I found it interesting that the Lakers were one of the few teams who only drafted American college players. Someone responded that the Lakers were taking the safe route. So what I set out to prove was that taking an American college power forward with the 23rd pick, a big man who everyone got to see play, and everyone passed on, wasn't that safe at all.

I looked for comparable scenarios. I'm not saying comparable players, because that implies something about style of play, and that's harder to quantify.

Cook is listed on NBA.com as being 6-10, 240. I went looking for power forwards (as listed by espn.com) who were between 6-9 and 6-11, between 225 and 255 pounds, and were drafted between 20 and 26. I chose those limits because I think once you move beyond those, you get into a different kind of scenario, but I undestand that others might prefer them in different spots.


Anyway, the only player I found was Al Harrington, but he's not really comparable because he came out of high school. So I extended it one more pick in either direction and found two players at 19 who fit, Pat Garritty and Walter McCarty.

There are a couple of other things that make this more interesting. First, both Garrity and McCarty went to major universities just like Cook, Notre Dame and Kentucky, respectively. Also, Garrity and McCarty had very similar professional starts:

Garrity 39 g 13.8 min 5.6 pts/2.0 reb/0.5 ast
McCarty 35 g 5.5 min 1.8pts/0.6 reb/ 0.4 ast

Obviously, neither set the world on fire. But there's more. Both players were dealt from the teams that drafted them after their rookie season.

Suddenly, this does not appear to be the pick that gets Laker fans a ride through the Chocolate Factory. And certainly, none of this bodes well for Mr. Cook. Keep in mind that these are the top end comparisons. There are many other Golden Ticket holders who have long since joined the Oompa Loompa assembly line.

Of course, Cook does have some control over his own destiny, and could go out and win Rookie of the Year. His own journey is unique. But is drafting a power forward from a major university with a pick in the early twenties a SAFE bet to get a team over the hump to a title? Doesn't look that way.

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