In the first part of this winning formula, I unveiled the Ferrari to you. In the second part, I handed over the keys. Now, after you finish reading this last installment, you’ll be ready to get behind the wheel and start the engine. Because let’s face it, a Ferrari’s nice to look at and all, but it’s worthless to you until you get see how it handles the open road. It’s time to accelerate into the final two pools of players in the draft: the game breakers and the risk takers.
Remember, franchise guys are the ones who will keep you in contention for the league title. However, the game breakers are the guys who are going to end up winning you the title. This section of the draft is made up of your sixth through 12th picks – where you are looking for players who were born to be consummate role-players and professionals.
Now, you’re looking more at guys who will play a full 82-game schedule for you, guys who fill up the stat sheet in areas other than just points and guys who have a history of always performing at a steady level. If the first five players you draft are the kings that are going to be living in the castle, these game breakers are going to be the knights who guard the fortress to make sure it doesn’t crumble to pieces. Some proven game breakers are Richard Hamilton, Tony Parker, Mike Bibby and Andre Miller because they’re always consistent, sometimes stupendous and never dreadful.
Your final three picks of the draft fall under the risk takers category. This is the point in the draft where you ditch the play-it-safe routine and roll up your sleeves because you’re looking for a diamond in the rough. Matt Damon’s character said it best in “Rounders,” “You can’t lose what you don’t put in the middle, but you can’t win much either.”
It’s all right to play it safe, but the big payoff comes to those who aren’t afraid to take chances. There’s undoubtedly going to be a handful of guys who are still on the draft board for no other reason than the fact that they’re huge liabilities, either because of past lingering injuries, attitude problems or just pure mental insanity. Grant Hill, Kwame Brown, Darius Miles and any rookie with a prison record fall into this category. If they live up to their potential, you know you’re getting a steal. However, if they continue down their treacherous road, you’re going to get laughed out of next year’s draft room. For instance, my cousin selected Latrell Sprewell with his last pick two years ago. Now, there isn’t a draft that goes by where someone doesn’t rib him with the line, “You know, I think Latrell Sprewell’s still available, and he needs to feed his kids.”
Contrary to popular belief, after the draft is over, your number one goal should not be winning the league championship. You can’t control injuries, suspensions and uninspired play. Your number one goal after the draft is to be able to walk out of there feeling like you’ve drafted the best squad out of everyone in the room. The amount of time and effort that you put in after the draft toward maintaining a top-caliber team is completely up to you, but history is on the side of the diligent general manager who is always looking to make the necessary transactions to improve his team.
Oh, and most importantly, if you ever find yourself saying something along the lines of, “You know what, if Donyell Marshall can just play 80 games, and if he gets back into the shape he was in five years ago, and if he can make himself the number two scoring option behind LeBron, I could look like a genius with this pick,” just ignore that notion with every fiber of your being. Don’t ask me how I know.