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Ask A Black Guy: Aaron Craft Is Not the Next Big Thing

1 Apr

April 1, 2013

That is not defense, that is the start of a flop.

Every year, there is an nonathletic White basketball player that gets undeserved hype from the sports media. Last year, it was Doug McDermott from Creighton. Luckily, he stayed in school and became a more well-rounded player over the course of this year. Before him, it was Jimmer Fredette from Brigham Young University. He left school early and is now sitting on the bench for an NBA team. And, Jimmer was more athletic than he was given credit for being because he was White. Before Fredette,  hype surrounded Adam Morrison, the high-scoring guard from Gonzaga University who reminded scouts of Larry Bird. Morrison has yet to see the court regularly in the NBA and has been traded multiple times. He could be out of the league soon. And now, Aaron Craft, who is not close to being the type of player that any of those other athletes are is getting an equal amount of praise. Commentators like Charles Barkley, Dick Vitale, and numerous others are calling him the best point guard in college and talking about his career in the National Basketball Association. Guys, Aaron Craft will not have a career in the NBA. He is not even a great college basketball player. Aaron Craft does not have the statistics, the athleticism, or the skills to make anyone believe that he might have an impact at the next level. Aaron Craft is not a great basketball player.

Each of the aforementioned players had at least one skill that translated to the next level and none of them have made a splash in the league (Hopefully, McDermott redeems himself this year when he takes the jump). McDermott is 6’9″ and highly skilled. He is able to pass out of double teams and is an efficient scorer in the post or on the wing. He could become a player like Matt Harpring at the next level, a tough guy who makes great plays for his team as a role player. McDermott has displayed some attributes that portend a good NBA career. Like McDermott, Fredette despite his shortcomings as a basketball player was a decent passer in college, a great scorer, and had impeccable range on a good jump shot. But, he has not been the player that he was projected to be by NBA scouts (who overvalued him). He could still turn out to be a serviceable bench player in the league, with time and practice. Fredette, though spectacular in college, has been mediocre in the pros. And, Adam Morrison showed the most potential of all the previously mentioned players. He was 6’9″ with a pure shot, a good motor, and great scoring ability. He showed every sign of being a 20 point per game scorer in the NBA. But, he has yet to find a role on a NBA team. All three of these players scored at least 22 points in a college season before they contemplated making the jump to the pros, and Jimmer and Morrison averaged almost 30 ppg. But Morrison, like Fredette and presumably McDermott (unless he really is the second coming of Harpring) can not compete with the bigger, stronger athletes at the next level. Aaron Craft, the man who sports authorities are no anointing as the best point guard in college has only had a mediocre college career. Craft had never averaged even 10 points per game at Ohio State University until this year, his junior season. His points per game averages are 6.9, 8.8, and 10.0 respectively. Commentators would argue that he is a facilitator and that he does not need to score to be effective. Well, he has never averaged over 4.8 assists per game even with former teammates Jared Sullinger and Daequan Cook, and his current teammate DeShaun Thomas (two NBA players and a future NBA guy). Fredette averaged 4.7 assists per game while averaging 22 points per game as a junior, and 4.3 apg. while scoring 29 ppg. in his last year in college. And, Fredette did not have the luxury of talented teammates at Brigham Young. His most gifted teammate was kicked off the team for admitting that he had sex with a woman at the school (Not forced sex mind you, but consensual sex with another adult; Brigham Young is a Mormon school and players sign an oath of celibacy). Craft does not match up statistically. He did shoot 50% from the field in his sophomore year with Sullinger, but his field goal percentage and his 3 point shooting are now below the levels that were when he was a freshman. Craft has actually regressed despite scoring more points. Great players shine when their teams ask more of them; Craft has played worse.

Aaron Craft is not physically gifted enough to be a great player. He does not have the size, the foot speed, or the strength to challenge NBA athletes and has been outplayed in college at times. The members of the sports media that say that he will be a good pro are deluded. At 6’2″ or 6’3″, Craft will be an undersized guard in the league, which would be plausible if he had the natural quickness with the basketball of Chris Paul or the strength of Chauncey Billups. But, he does not. Craft is an average college athlete. It will be impossible for him to excel in the NBA because he does not have the speed to penetrate past slower players or the power to post weaker ones in college. Craft is praised for his high basketball IQ, however that does not offset the need for natural ability at the highest level. Though he can get away with having mediocre physical gifts now, he will be overmatched against most guards in the league. The only players who are undersized at the next level are excellent athletes and highly skilled. Trey Burke, a guard for the University of Michigan Wolverines and a Player of the Year candidate, is expected to be a good NBA player despite being only 6’1. But, Burke shows explosiveness from the point guard slot on every play. He scores in bunches and he creates plays for his teammates with penetration and good leaping ability around the rim. Craft has only shown good lateral quickness on the defensive end and has not shown the ability to take the ball from people consistently in man-to-man situations. He is disruptive at times on the college level, but at the next level he may not be able to compete. On offense, he has not shown the quickness to penetrate without a pick and another good scoring threat near. Therefore, has not been able to turn the corner on defenders and get into the paint when DeShaun Thomas was not on the floor this year. Craft’s offense efficiency is completely dependent on having a better scoring option playing across from him (i.e. shooting 50% from the floor with Jared Sullinger and 41% this year without him).

And, that does not bode well for his chances in the NBA. Craft has shown nothing athletically that deserves the media’s attention. Not only is he not the best player on his team, but he also relies his teammate, DeShaun Thomas (who strangely gets less press than him), to create opportunities for him. Aaron Craft’s dependence on the acumen of another player is at least partially caused by his lack of tangible basketball skills. He has plenty of intangibles like leadership, the ability to make a big play (though he is helped by the referees with questionable charging calls), and a high basketball IQ, but he is an average ball handler, has average college athleticism, and is a below average shooter with obvious mechanical deficiencies in his shot. Greatness in basketball is defined by skill level. The difference between an average basketball player like JaVale McGee and a Hall of Fame player like Wilt Chamberlain is the time that they put in to hone their skills. Both players were 7’1″ and extremely athletic, agile, and quick for a player of their size. However, Wilt Chamberlain worked on the proper footwork and positioning to be a force in the paint. He worked on his rebounding and shot-blocking. And because of his dedication, he became one of the most prolific and entertaining basketball players of all time. Craft has not worked on his one-on-one moves on the perimeter, so he has not found a way to get separation from athletic players for easy scores. Craft has not lost weight to add to his foot speed, learned the right footwork so that he moves more efficiently, or worked on gaining a few pounds of muscle so that he could power through defensive players and finish in the paint. And most importantly, Craft has not put in enough repetitions to make his jump shot serviceable. A good jump shot makes a player a step faster because defense have to move closer to defend against open shots. It also allows him to score without expending energy. Craft could have made himself a much better player in one summer by simply putting up enough jumpers to steady his aim, but he has spent 3 years at Ohio State and still has the same hitch in his shooting mechanics with which that he entered the school. Great players work to become fundamentally sound and highly skilled. But more so, great players get better because of the work that the put into their craft. Aaron has failed to do the work.

Aaron Craft is not a great basketball player; the media is wrong about him. Aaron Craft is just another player in a long line of over-hyped White guys who are above average basketball players but who are also not at all exceptional. If Aaron Craft were Black he would just be another kid who would not make the pros because of glaring deficiencies in his game. He does not have the natural talent, the skill set, or the statistics to prove that he deserves the attention that he is getting. Aaron Craft is not the next big thing.

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