Coming off his fourth season as a professional, in which he averaged 7.4 points on 47% shooting, and 3.6 rebounds per game, Anthony Randolph spent the early parts of his summer searching low and high for a new home. Minnesota, a team that reluctantly acquired Randolph in the three-team blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to New York, had decided not to extend him a qualifying offer, and just like that, basketball’s personification of a broken promise entered July as an unrestricted free agent.
Randolph met with several teams, including the Hawks and Mavericks, before announcing he’d prefer a return to Golden State. While it’s uncertain just how badly Randolph’s career was endangered as he hunted for an employer, it was widely assumed that if he did in fact land on another NBA team, it’d be for one year and as little money as possible. Guaranteeing anything longer than 82 games for a player who’s yet to show he can crack a regular rotation wouldn’t be the wisest decision; yet what we just saw was one of the league’s smarter general managers deciding to do the exact opposite. My question is a simple one: Why? Read more…
A few years ago I purchased a white t-shirt with a picture of Len Bias emblazoned across its front. The photo used is an iconic one; Bias on draft night in his loose Celtics baseball hat, slightly tilted to the side. The limitless potential seeps from his all knowing, boyish smile; there is no color on the shirt except for the bright green hat. On the back there’s nothing but a fine-print sentence tattooed up by the neck. In light green type, it reads: The saddest thing in life is wasted talent. For a countless number of reasons, I love this shirt. It’s devastating, mortal, a life lesson, and half-sentimental (I was born the year after Bias’ death) all rolled up in Medium sized 100 percent cotton.
(Before beginning, I’m not entirely sure how to seamlessly segue—if possible—from the catastrophic culture altering event that was Len Bias’ untimely death to Anthony Randolph being on the cusp of cracking the chains of “potential” and “undeveloped” that have been tightly wrapped around his ankles since entering the league, but here’s my starless shot in the dark.)
There’s a tragic quality in watching any person—whether it be by cocaine overdose, or the less serious disdain of elbow grease—fail to achieve what it seems they were put on Earth to do. This season Anthony Ranolph is averaging 19.3 points and 10 rebounds in three games as a starter. In the first two of those games (road battles in Dallas and Oklahoma City) Randolph scored 55 points and grabbed 22 rebounds. Admittedly, that sample size is way too small, so let’s look at his entire career. In 33 games as a starter since entering the league in 2008, Randolph’s averages look like this: 48% from the field, 11.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists. Nothing crazy but pretty decent numbers considering 30 of those games were amassed before he turned 21. At 6’11″ he has the type of body that frequently pops into the dreams of general managers, and was once described by DraftExpress as possessing “a pterodactyl wingspan and freakish athleticism.”
This from Hoopsworld:
“You have a tall, long, athletic and versatile player who fits in who fits into the system that we run here and playing in the spots on the floor that we want our bigs to play in,” says Timberwolves head coach Kurt Rambis, who started Randolph in place of the injured Kevin Love on Thursday. “I think it’s a natural fit for him. He’s still not real secure in what we do here on either end of the floor. He’s still learning, and there’s probably not enough time left in the season for him to ever get to that comfort level, but we see his ability to run the floor, his athleticism, his ability to shoot the basketball, and we envision him being a type of player who can guard certain players, maybe two, three or even four positions, not only on-ball, but also he’s a good weak-side help defender, as well.”
“I think he has a lot of upside and a lot of talent,” says Timberwolves swingman Wesley Johnson. “He can put the ball on the floor and really stretch the defense out. He’s really athletic, too, so he can really cause problems for our opponents. He can also block and alter shots, so he’s going to help us get up and down and be an up-tempo team.”
For Randolph, it’s just a chance to play…finally, to play.
I like watching players like Randolph grow, and seeing that progress stunted, to me, is as equally sad as a season ending knee injury (except in the case of Shaun Livingston, of course). To watch Randolph finally sniff the success so many saw in his future is a wonderful thing. As mentioned earlier, it’s only been two games so there’s nothing to get overly excited about, but when you tally a career high 31 points in your first start of the season, heads need spin. Yes, last night he scored just three points in 16 minutes, but there’s more to analyze in his positive performances than the loss against Boston; he was going up against an especially angry and motivated Kevin Garnett. Anthony Randolph has all the tools to succeed, and it’ll be interesting to see what he does now that they’ll likely be on full display for the rest of the regular season. Root for him. He deserves it.
During these last few months, life’s inevitable comings of death and taxes were replaced by ice storms and Carmelo Anthony trade rumors. Yesterday it was Andrew Bynum for the All-Star in a straight up swap (although that’s apparently never happening), and last month it was a Nets package centered around Derrick Favors and some draft picks. The latest and most realistic deal if one is ever to materialize involves New York, Denver, and third wheel Minnesota. The players involved are nowhere near Anthony’s talent level—no matter what the Nuggets do it’s nearly impossible they’ll receive equal value for a player who’s arguably the league’s most difficult to guard—but as I looked at the other pieces involved in the trade, a question arose in my head: When is it too early to give up on a player who’s under 25? Naturally this led to a follow up question: How do general managers know when a young player’s reached his absolute ceiling?
Two players rumored to be involved in the trade (Minnesota’s Corey Brewer and New York’s Anthony Randolph) fit perfectly into this conundrum. Brewer is a 24-year-old small forward who’s shooting 28 percent from beyond the arc and after starting in every game last season has done so just 17 times this year, while Randolph is a 21-year-old who annually seems to pop up on preseason “Players to Watch” and late summer “Disappointing Failure” lists. Both are still raw, very young (especially Randolph), and are now faced with the mental dilemma of having a management group give up on them.
Focusing on Randolph for a second, the tenure of his time in New York can’t have possible gone any worse. Since being traded from Golden State with Kelenna Azubuike, Ronny Turiaf, and a 2012 second round draft pick for David Lee, Randolph has yet to score more than eight points in a game. He’s played in 16 total contests with no starts and pretty much has no chance of joining the team’s regular rotation. But seriously, is Randolph this bad? Can a player with so much physical talent and athletic promise really spend an entire career as a depressed figure buried deep on a peripheral playoff team’s bench? And more importantly, if the Knicks and Warriors are both willing to pass on a 21-year-old who is blessed with a sensational basketball body and has clearly not reached any sort of measured potential, why is he still in the league? Why would anyone want someone who’s averaging under two points a game and shooting 29 percent from the field? Maybe it’s a simple case of one man’s trash as another man’s treasure. Or maybe Randolph has been secretly hurt all year. Or maybe he just hasn’t found the right situation to shine. But if the Knicks happen to move him in a deal which doesn’t involve a Carmelo Anthony acquisition, are they giving up on him too soon? Is Anthony Randolph destined to be a potential-oozing trade chip for the rest of his natural life? So many questions, so little time.
Going back to the subject of recent Golden State draft picks, in this past draft the Warriors selected Ekpe Udoh from Baylor. So far, the best performance of his career came in a late December loss to Houston when in 25 minutes he scored five points, grabbed seven rebounds, blocked three shots, and dished four assists. On one hand, the excuse for Udoh’s poor season is simple: He’s a rookie; raw, inexperienced, and not expected to contribute right away. But then you contrast that with the ever improving and contributing Greg Monroe, who Detroit happened to select immediately after Udoh, and it doesn’t look too good. The Pistons rookie has started 17 games, notched six double-doubles, and has scored in double figures 14 times—Udoh has yet to score more than seven points in a game and now his team is looking to fill an inside void he was drafted to fill.
One pretty good recent example of a player who was left for dead is Michael Beasley. Granted the Heat had grander plans than developing their newly selected No. 2 overall draft pick, but Beasley didn’t exactly burn the building down while playing the role of Dwyane Wade’s sidekick. He struggled heavily, on and off the court, in adjusting to a situation that presumably for the first time in his life didn’t involve him as a team’s number one scoring option. And so despite having all the talent in the world as a 21-year-old starter on a 47 win team, he was shipped to Minnesota for cash and two second round picks, aka a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some McDonald’s Monopoly pieces. But Beasley wasn’t completely shelved like Udoh or Randolph, he was second behind Wade in usage percentage both years. From the get-go he was more talented than Brewer and Randolph and right now the only thing holding Beasley back from blossoming into a premier scoring talent are a set of sprained ankles.
This article isn’t to say Brewer, Udoh, or Randolph are headed to the Hall of Fame, because right now none of them look anywhere near able to start and contribute for anybody, but the point here is to say these guys aren’t at a D.J. Mbenga level of useless just yet. At some point down the line, if the chips fall advantageously, each one of them could contribute to a winning program; they all have the talent to someday make an edgy GM think twice about dealing an undeveloped prospect for a quick fix solution.