I've been working on preparing Ridiculous Upside's first NBA Mock Draft of the 2010 season (to be published Monday) by reading, watching and even listening to everything I can get a hold of on this year's NBA prospects.
So why is Babbitt getting all this attention? One theory is that some NBA teams are starting to move away from the upside pick, because the person making the selection may not have enough job security to wait around.
"The lifespan of GMs has changed; you don't get to hang around and just fire coaches," the Western Conference GM says. "You've got three to five years to prove something or you're gone. Five years ago Babbitt would be, at best, a pick in the late 20s. You take him this year and you show your owner you've got a guy you can put on the floor right now."
This feels a bit too extreme of an adjustment for me.
While Babbitt was pretty productive at Nevada (21.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 42% from beyond the arc), he's not exactly a can't miss prospect: Both DraftExpress and Chad Ford question who the 6-foot-9 forward will defend in the NBA as he's too slow to defend the 3 and not big enough to defend power forwards. For what it's worth, DX ranks Babbitt as the 40th overall player in the draft while Ford has him at 24.
I understand teams not wanting to draft the next Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Korleone Young, Ousmane Cisse, Ndudi Ebi, Ricky Sanchez, DerMarr Johnson, Darko Milicic, Robert Swift or whomever else one might use an example of a player that was drafted based on potential as opposed to on-court production, but I don't think drafting a player based exclusively on college production is the wisest choice, either.
Apparently some NBA scouts are advocating just that, however (per the same Russillo article):
Another factor in Babbitt's favor is that NBA coaches will want to take him over less productive college players.
"Babbitt will do really well in workouts, and this is where the coaches will get involved. What are you going to do, bring in Daniel Orton from Kentucky, who averaged three points per game, and have him work out with Babbitt, who has monster numbers, and then tell your coach you want to take Orton? What do you think he is going to say?"
Babbitt may not go in the top 10 on draft night, but a pick in the teens now seems more realistic than outside of the first round.
That's all fine and dandy, I guess, but if a coach is comparing the college stats from a kid that was a star on his WAC team with a player that was the backup freshman to a consensus top-5 pick, well, I'm not sure I really want that coach having a say in the war room.