There's certain phrases in the basketball intelligentsia that have become pseudo curse words, catch-all terms that are spoken in hushed tones to indicate that it's not something you want to strive for. These terms aren't inherently negative, and in some cases, they're very positive, but in the140-character era, they're like boogeymen, like a stamp on your report card saying you have to repeat the grade.
One of them, especially in the Sixers portion, is "win-now." Ostensibly, winning at basketball should be the goal, but the phrase "win-now" correlates to a team making reckless, stupid moves in a foolhardy quest to squeeze out more wins than they deserve. Even in the context of teams that should be making "win-now" moves, teams like the Thunder, or the Clippers, teams with championship dreams and a window that's propped open by a couple bobblehead dolls, "win-now" is derisive.
The one I want to focus on here though is the scariest phrase on draft night. "Four-year senior."
The NBA has gone through a stretch where drafting a four year senior with a lottery was akin to wrapping yourself in a leprosy blanket.
There's a lot of good reasons for that. After 1995, most of the best players don't stay in college for four years. As a result of that, guys who do have a natural advantage: they're playing against younger talent. Experience is an advantage, especially in a 30-game season. A 22-year old college senior is a more physically, mentally developed basketball player, and when comparing them to 19-year old college freshmen, they have to be graded on a curve.
What they don't have to be do is be thrown off a cliff. There's two seniors in this draft who have a very legitimate case to be lottery selections and both of them will be in action on Friday.
He's taken the nation by storm this year. He's been appointment viewing whenever Oklahoma is on national television, and it's often taken absurd amounts of defensive attention to take him out of games offensively.
Normally, Hield would be exactly the player I fear as a senior. His production has steadily increased throughout his four year career, which you would think would be consistent with some of the factors I mentioned earlier, a player getting better with age playing against younger talent.
Where Hield differs, to me, is the specific skills he improved in. The most notable, and the one that deservedly gets the most recogntion, is his shooting. Hield improved this season to be one of the top 3 point shooters in the nation, shooting 46.4% from distance on almost 9 attempts per game. He's greatly improved off the dribble, not just as a larger player beating defenders and getting to the rim, though he's been better at that as well.
Hield also has the body type to be a solid defender at the next level defending 2-guards. There's been times watching him this year where I haven't been wild about some of his form, but I'll take my chances on his physical profile.
I'm hoping for Oklahoma to make a deep run in this tournament to see more of Hield. Naturally, that means they'll be eliminated by Sunday.
A deep tourney run could cement Valentine as America's second-most popular Denzel. Valentine is another senior who has steadily improved over his four years into the player he is now, a threat for a triple-double every game, averaging 19.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.6 assists every game.
The questions with Valentine are eerily reminiscent of another former Spartan. What position does he play at the next level? Does he have the athleticism necessary to compete?
It's a dangerous game trying to find the next Draymond Green, but that's not going to stop us from playing it, because the Draymond Green of today is a player that every team desperately craves.
He probably isn't Draymond. Most guys aren't. What he can be is a valuable role player, an interesting matchup threat, a guy who can space and see the floor and knock down threes.
My biggest question with Valentine is whether he has the athleticism to guard threes at the next level, because that's what he's going to be asked to do on most nights. In the late lottery or the middle of the first round though? I'm willing to take that chance.