Danny Granger, Andre Iguodala and Joe Johnson are all very good basketball players. In fact, they’re All-Stars. But they’ve all been asked to be “the man” on their prospective teams, which hasn’t worked out too well, as they appear to lack that leadership gene.
And whether Derrick Williams deserves to be drafted No. 1 over point guard Kyrie Irving may depend on what kind of leadership skills he possesses.
Although point guards are all the rage in the NBA right now, the two teams in the Finals this season weren’t exactly stacked at the position. As Derrick Rose, Deron Williams and Chris Paul all watched on television, the Heat’s offense was “directed” by Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers, while Jason Kidd, who is at least 70 years old and averages less than 10 points per game, led the Mavericks’ offense to the title. Meanwhile, both teams had dominant forwards in Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James. Yes, James disappeared, but the Heat were there because of his play up until the Finals. And if you add Kevin Durant to the discussion, forwards are arguably more important to championship teams than point guards. Or at least they were this season.
Williams, a power forward, is obviously a gifted player, capable of power dunking from two feet at a standstill, or burying a 3-pointer. In fact, his ability to play both under the rim and outside the 3-point line gives him the chance to be a true superstar in the NBA (and fantasy stud down the line). The Cavaliers, who hold the No. 1 pick, already have Baron Davis and Ramon Sessions on their roster, so finding a point guard in the draft is not a top priority. And if it is, they could possibly get Brandon Knight at No. 4 if the Jazz pass on him at No. 3. J.J. Hickson, Antawn Jamison and Samardo Samuels are the power forwards that would stand in Williams’ way in Cleveland, but Hickson can play center (along with Anderson Varejao), while Jamison’s career is starting to wind down. I’m not sure the Cavs are even going to look at their roster before making their selection, as finding the guy with the right attitude and the leadership gene is going to be key, regardless of his position.
This reminds me a little bit of the 1998 NFL draft, when the Colts were desperately trying to figure out whether to draft Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf. And believe it or not, folks were pretty torn on which guy they should take. Both players possessed similar skills in college, but were completely different animals in the pros when it came to mental and physical skills. Obviously, the Colts made a great decision by taking Manning, who is one of the best leaders we’ve seen in professional sports.
Almost every mock draft you look at has the Cavaliers taking Irving over Williams, but I’m pretty sure that the Cavs have yet to make that decision. And then there’s this Twitter tidbit from Brian Windhorst, who is a Cavaliers expert: “Heard enough stories about Cavs in-depth research into Derrick Williams to convince me they’re considering him for No. 1 pick.” If Williams showed up for his Monday’s workout and said all the right things, he could easily be taken No. 1. After all, it’s one thing to get a dynamic player, like the ones I listed at the start of this post, but a completely different game when looking at guys with heart, who know how to lead/win, versus guys who simply pile up numbers and are quiet in the locker room.
If Williams has a strong interview and leads the Cavaliers to believe that he can be a better leader both on and off the floor than Irving, I think they’ll pull the trigger. And then the fun will begin, as the Timberwolves might be forced into taking Irving despite Ricky Rubio arriving in Minnesota on Monday. There have been conflicting reports on whether the Cavs are set to draft Irving with the No. 1 pick on Thursday, but if they don’t, Williams will be the guy.