renkno-award NBA - The Draft Review

...but who the hell is Ivan Renko?

Once upon a time back in 1993, a 6-foot-8, 230 pound power forward from Yugoslavia (Serbia) entered the recruiting world off the lips of Indiana’s head coach Bobby Knight. Knight brought media attention to the player claiming that he committed to play for Indiana.

Knight's story was that while attending a coach's clinic in Europe, he was made aware of the player. His account of Renko's living conditions in the war torn country created a high buzz. But what happened next is one of the greatest April Fools jokes of in all of sports. Various experts responded by ranking Renko and publishing scouting reports. One even proclaimed him to be a white Larry Johnson, which today is like saying he's the next Kevin Durant. Another expert claimed to spot the strapping power forward on Indiana’s campus. But how could this be when Knight made the whole thing up?

Renko is imaginary. He never existed. Knight concocted him to expose the so-called recruiting experts he doubted were providing real scouting information.

This is the backdrop to the Ivan Renko Awards. It's given to the players who seemingly appeared out of nowhere with tremendous hype and acclaim through various media outlets. But like every award, there are stipulations.
  • Player must be drafted.
  • Player must be a total surprise in Renko fashion.
The draft nerd (that's me) lists the following Renko Awards from 2000 onward:

2000: Kaniel Dickens – What do you get when you combine tremendous athleticism and show the ability to hit an occasional three point shot? The Answer is Dickens. What the Jazz wanted was Bryon Russell 2.0 what they got wasn't close Dickens played 19 games in the NBA.

2001: Kedrick Brown – Brown is the highest a juco player has gone and may be the reason along with Alek Radojevic why no other Juco players have been taken as high.

2002: Peter Fehse – The Seattle Supersonics admitted they didn’t even scout him. One would think an NBA draftee would have a productive career overseas, but Fehse has been anything but a star on any level, except the third division Germany league he was drafted from.

2003: Nedzad Sinanovic – The Portland Trailblazer's selection of Nedzad Sinanovic had many wide-eyed and open mouthed. After almost three years with the Bosnian Army, Sinanovic decided he was going to play basketball again. His agent had him signed and on his way to the Spanish club, Unicaja Malaga. Here, the raw prospect would workout, gain experience and training, but would never actually play for the team, giving him extremely low exposure to scouts and GMs. During this time Sinanovic developed tremendous potential, and because of his age, was automatically eligible for the draft. On purpose he was provided a non-English speaking agent and virtually no publicity, the prospect of going undrafted was all but certain. This fate, however, was what Sinanovic's agent was hoping for. Going undrafted equated to more dollars for the player. As a free agent, he would have bypassed the rookie pay scale and been able to sign a contract with any NBA team for an unrestricted amount. Needless to say, gone are the days of international surprises!

2004: David Young – It had been 21 years since the last time a player from North Carolina Central had it's name called on draft night. Young spent 3 years in the Atlantic-10 conference playing for Xavier College. Young transferred to North Carolina College and put together a fine season but was still under the draft radar. After some stellar workouts but teams like Seattle brought him back for a second workout. Sonics head coach Nat McMillian's brother randy was one of North Carolina Central's assistant coaches. Despite not having a write-up in the NBA's official draft guide Young proved his place among NBA prospects.

2005: Orien Greene - What do you do when you're not getting playing time for a great team in a tough conference? You apparently transfer to a lower division and create a niche for yourself. At 6-4, Greene’s specialty was his self-proclaimed point guard status. With the love of a few media outlets, the Boston Celtics bit. But it turns out they ordered up the wrong meal. A greasy hamburger of a player can't be transformed into a juicy steak.

2006: Ejike Ugboaja "Who in the world!" basically sums up my thoughts on draft night. I obtained his profile stats through some detective work. He has yet to play in the NBA and I doubt he ever will.

2007: Milovan Rakovic – I had the opportunity to see this guy play several times, and each time I came away with the thought that Rakovic is a career overseas player who will play in a decent league, but not with a premier overseas team. Who is his genius agent? He's definitely earned more than his standard commission. Give that man double.

2008: Patrick Ewing_Jr. – You wouldn’t think being the son of an NBA Hall of Fame player Patrick Ewing that Ewing Jr. would be on this list. Ewing worked hard through the predraft camps and slowly gained respect from scouts who had written him off. Despite this on draft night few had him pegged as a guaranteed draft pick. Ewing Jr. now works as the director of basketball operations at Georgetown.

2009: Taylor Griffin – No offense, but no one on draft night (except maybe his brother, Blake, and their parents) felt that both brothers would be drafted. It smells like an Agent favor, but thanks to his brother, Taylor had one of the best sports agencies backing him up.

2010: Ryan Reid – A valuable member of the Florida State basketball team Reid established himself as a tremendous post defender. With his limited upside and marginal offensive skills Reid’s selection was surprising.

2011: Chukwudiebere Maduabum & Tanguy Ngombo – A tie as both prospects were far from anybody’s draft list. Maduabum was essentially drafted out of the NBDL and never showed much of anything other than being tall. Ngombo was one of David Khan’s more mindboggling selections. Hilariously it later came out that Ngombo might have lied about his age that he was not 21 but 27 years old!

2012: Tomislav Zubcic – Another overseas player who was drafted like Peter Fehse after a face-up forward model of Dirk Nowitzki and Andrea Bargnani. Great shooter terrible rebounder and a marginal athlete I doubt he will ever reach the NBA.

2013: Arsalan Kazemi – Not that Kazemi was unknown by scouts but the general public knew very little of him. He wasn’t on anyone’s top 75 draft list other than the Wizards. Great hustle player with limited upside has yet to play a game in the NBA. He is the NBA's first Iranian draftee.

2014: Bruno Caboclo – No player has been such a surprise to go in the first round since Martin Muursepp in 1996. Extremely young with potential yet the comparison to being the Brazilian Kevin Durant seems like a huge stretch.

2015: Juan Pablo Vaulet – So much of a surprise was Vaulet that even his native country was shocked by his selection. Vaulet is a young prospect with developing skills but nothing exceptional. Could he be the next Argentina draft steal like Manu Ginobili or enter the realm of the forgotten like Federico Kammerichs.

2016: Adel Nader – Everyone knew about his college teammate Georges Niang but few fans knew of Nader. Apparently part of his selection had an agreement that Nader would be stashed in the D-League. This past year Nader was named the NBA D-League Rookie of the Year. Time remains to be seen if his selection was genius or a reach but it certainly was a surprise.

Congratulations to the Ivan Renko clones. So who's next? As if there won't be one every year! Someone is going to take a risk for no good reason. TDR will be here with draft day giggles to hand out the Award.
notebookheader NBA - The Draft Review

The 2011 NBA draft is over, but instead of talking about draft grades that you can find anywhere on the Internet, I want to focus on historical patterns and why this past draft was a train wreck in terms of execution and scouting ideology.

The first 6 picks rolled through with a mild surprise in Tristan Thompson who surged to number 4, and Brandon Knight who dropped out of the top 5 despite several NBA Draft prognosticators labeling him the number 3 pick. Utah wisely chooses Enes Kanter while Knight's fall lasted until Detroit scooped him with the 8th pick. What happened next not only left me scratching my head, but made me question if scouting had really been done.

Bismack Biyombo has been glorified as a Ben Wallace clone since dominating 2011 Hoop Summit with a triple double showing. He also has some unique circumstances that almost mirror rising NBA player and Congo native, Serge Ibaka. Charlotte committed hard and drafted Biymombo early at 7. After all, how could they not be getting something similar to Ibaka? The big picture though has become clouded and even though both players have alarming similarities, they quickly stop after the heritage and Junior Spain basketball upbringing.

Unlike Biyombo, Ibaka at 16 had a much more refined game with solid perimeter shooting, ball handling and is a much more explosive player. In basic basketball Jargon, at 16-years-old, Ibaka's fundamentals were light years away from 18-year-old Biyombo's. Even when you look at their work in the LEB (Spain's second division Basketball League), Ibaka trumps Biyombo in every category.

It amazes me that the NBA doesn't draft high schoolers because they claim that extra year of school is good for them (maybe two, depending on how this year's Collective Bargaining Agreement shapes up), but upon seeing Biyombo's triple double assault on USA's Junior National team, NBA GM's decided he has the goods. Never mind that the US had no true center. Heck, I could even argue they had no true power forward, as UNC bound James McAdoo is a combo forward and Kentucky Bound Anthony Davis is a mere 195 pound forward who is still getting his body together after his astronomical 8-inch growth spurt after his sophomore year. These guys are hardly NBA bangers but yet some acted shocked on how Biyombo dominated them physically. The point is, he isn't a sure thing and has more questions surrounding him than any player drafted in the top 10.

notebookheader NBA - The Draft Review

In a sport dominated by African Americans (82% during the 2008-2009 NBA season), white ball players are dealt an unfair hand each time an analyst limits them in comparison to a historical white player.

Comparing white to white only is a flawed method of evaluation.

Mathematically speaking, white players should find themselves compared more often to African American ballers. Old habits are hard to kill, but for the sake of basketball’s evolution this must change.

For example, take a white player like Gordon Hayward and you get the same old boring cookie cutter analysis: “Average athlete, great feel for the game, blah, blah, blah”. Race is the elephant in the room that many claim does not exist, but when I caught up on some 2010 draft info, I discovered the race card continues to be an ugly factor.

whitemanburden NBA - The Draft Review
From Left to Right: Hayward, Aldrich and Babbitt

Getting back to Hayward, I’ve seen ridiculous comparisons like Luke Jackson, Michael Dunleavy Jr., Troy Murphy and Pat Garrity. The general rule seems to be this: find any white perimeter player and assign the comparison to Hayward. This is a glaring example of how draft history can go beyond lines of nostalgia or entertainment and be utilized in a more purposeful manner - to identify historical players (regardless of race) that best suit the current player rather than drawing straws for players of the same race.

Sin #7: Politics and Pedigree
pedigree NBA - The Draft Review

Like most things in life the NBA draft does not come without politics, which can sometimes be the driving force behind draft selections that don't add up. And when it comes to a player's pedigree, politics almost always seems to be in the mix. Pedigree is generally defined as "a known line of descent". In the basketball world pedigree can translate into the college a player attended, his past accomplishments in high school, or who his parents are. Unfortunately, pedigree appears to boost certain players on draft night and contributes to quality players being selected lower on the board or left totally undrafted.


Sin #6: USA vs. The World
usaglode NBA - The Draft Review
Every draft usually has a solid core group of international players that are legit NBA prospects, but far too many times rationale gets thrown out the window, imprudence arises, and good U.S. prospects are overlooked in the name of foreign fanaticism. I'm not putting all foreign prospects into one basket to imply that they don't measure up, but it seems as if the common theory at some point in the draft is to sacrifice an American for an international player who is tall with moderate fundamentals.

Take into account Peter Fehse, who the Seattle Supersonics virtually took sight unseen in the 2002 NBA draft. Sure, the youngster has above average ball handling and shooting ability, but Dirk Nowitzki he’s not. Fehse played in Germany's third division, which is terrible.