Every June, thirty fanbases gear up for the NBA Draft, one of the most sacred days on the NBA calendar. Everybody puts their general manager hat on and believes they know best who their team should pull the trigger on and draft to become the next great player for the franchise. But here's the thing.
Scouting basketball players is not an easy process. The best in the scouting business look at tape for hours every single day for months or even years in order to form a solid base opinion of a player. There is much more to see and analyze under the surface than meets the untrained eye.
2015 NBA Draft
2015 NBA Draft
For casual NBA fans who don't watch much college basketball, the process of becoming familiar with a player their favorite team just drafted mostly consists of watching highlight videos or clipped film of strengths and weaknesses. From that cursory analysis, opinions are formed and player comparisons are quick to surface.
The Memphis Grizzlies' newest first round draft selection, Jarell Martin, is subject to these comparisons just like all those who came before him. Throughout the draft process, the two primary player comparisons that were tossed around were Jeff Green and Tobias Harris.
The intended use of player comparisons is clear. They are supposed to make a player relatable by creating a simple measuring stick to help those who don't necessarily understand how or have the desire to dissect hours of film.
My problem with player comparisons is not that all of them are bad (although many are). It's that they place young players in a box that's hard for them to ever break out of from that point forward. Even draft experts are guilty of making lazy, haphazard comparisons from time to time that don't do prospects any favors.
For example, Martin is unlikely to ever be able to slash to the rim as ferociously as Green, and he probably won't ever be the all-around scorer that Harris has become since entering the league. Martin might end up being better in certain areas or evolve to play a completely different role than one or both player(s), but that could easily be overlooked because folks will simply want to confirm the comparisons they made when they might not have had all the information at the start of Martin's professional career. After all, people love proclaiming that they are right, especially in the age of social media.
2015 Free Agency
2015 Free Agency
A larger percentage of the newest draft class will flame out than will stick around for the long haul. That's the sobering reality. Aside from the fact that the odds are against Martin ever becoming as useful an NBA player as either Green or Harris, comparing him to established, productive players can be misleading, unfair, and frustrating.
If (and likely when, statistically speaking) Martin never materializes into a player quite as good as Green or Harris, the disappointment and talk of unrealized potential will be widespread. People will wonder aloud what went wrong, and say that Martin didn't live up to expectations, but perhaps that's unfair. After all, many of those expectations will have been created by those who are willing to compare a player to two guys his game didn't fully resemble and who he was unlikely to ever become from the start. Would that really be Martin's fault?
No matter if Martin turns out to be a bust or to make an impact in the Association for years to come, appreciate him for his own abilities and not for the ability to copy the game of someone who came before him. Let Jarell Martin be Jarell Martin and nobody else.