The curious case of Frank Kaminsky
By Joseph Nardone
As the NBA Draft inches closer, more and more weird things will happen to prospects’ stock levels. Some will drop because of notions that the NBA game has changed; others will rise for that same reason; and many people will abandon all reason for the sake of making uneducated declarations in the hopes of sounding smarter than everyone else.
The latter seems to be the case involving former Wisconsin Badger Frank Kaminsky.
The big man had a really good senior year with the Badgers. His 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds helped to make him one of the more alluring big men prospects in all of the 2015 NBA Draft. That said, there seem to be a few divides concerning what type of player he will actually be.
All of that happens to center around the idea of his stock, though, and not his actual abilities as a player.
The first group of “experts” claim that if he applied his trade overseas, Frank Kaminsky would be viewed in a much more favorable light. The unknown of being a mysterious foreign-born player would make his stock rise, resulting in him being a projected top-five pick because he has a finesse game that people correlate with the supposedly softer European style of basketball.
That theory makes sense — sort of. Often, the lack of footage and scouts’ first-hand experience of seeing prospects play will create one kind of impression about prospects. However, gaudy box-scores or third-hand accounts will overshadow the eyeball test. Players under consideration in the draft who come from the non-college basketball realm will become darlings in the craniums of those who assemble mock drafts.
Then again, that theory doesn’t exactly fit Kaminsky. Many of the overseas prospects are praised as much for their potential as their actual abilities on the hardwood. Kaminsky is 22, not some fresh-faced 18-year-old boy who has averaged only 10 minutes a game in a Turkish league, but has shown enough flashes that scouts are drooling over the idea of him prospering in the NBA.
However, because people are finding a correlation between Kaminsky’s game and an overseas style of play, we have abandoned the fact that we do have four years of film on the prospect. He isn’t a mystery. He is a known commodity, one who is older than those other prospects people are trying to compare him to.
There are also the white-on-white (WoW) comparisons that have muddled every NBA draft since social media became available to bloggers in basements and those who call themselves experts. Generally speaking, at least for a long time, every white player who stood over 6’8″ has been compared to Larry Bird. Why? Because people can be dumb, lazy, and drift to the lowest or (in this case) highest common denominator, without exhibiting any appreciation for nuance or individuality in a player appraisal.
New WoW comparisons have emerged, however. A talented big, one who can hit from mid-range? For many, Frank Kaminsky is Kevin Love — naturally… or something. It’s all too reflexive and bereft of careful analysis.
That theory is worse than the overseas version. “WoW” theories, to put it bluntly, constitute a plague. They are nothing but a sewer filled with false notions, foresight and opinions formed out of some hope that a white player will become a super-duper-star. It is, simply, done out of racial motivations or really, really lazy thinking on the comparison spectrum.
Every year, it happens.
Jimmer Fredette, despite being a much smaller player who played a totally different position in a way different way, was compared to Bird,because white. Doug McDermott was compared to Larry Bird because ofwhite. Adam Morrison was compared to Larry Bird because, um … I forget. I think it was because of — oh yeah — white.
We never learn. Not a single one of those prospects, or the handful of others who were compared to one of the greatest players ever, even remotely resembled Larry Bird. Yet, it never stops each draft season.
Frank Kaminsky has been able to avoid the Bird “WoW” comparisons. However, that’s only because he fell into a different WoW deathtrap: either the European variety or the newer, fancier WoW comparison of the modern era, Kevin Love.
But wait, there’s more.
As people are declaring Karl-Anthony Townes as the obvious number one overall selection, they do so while taking potshots at Jahlil Okafor. Despite the former Duke stud being the more offensively polished player, some have questioned if the NBA game has changed so much that slower, less athletic bigs are now an outdated commodity. Yet, some of those very same people have quickly moved Kaminsky’s stock in the other direction.
It can’t be both.
You can’t knock the idea of Okafor’s prospects because he is relatively unathletic, but continue to shout the blind praises of Kaminsky. Moreover, Kaminsky is much closer to his peak than Okafor or other underclassmen coming out of the draft. How has Okafor’s stock fallen while Kaminsky’s has grown at the same time — at least if you use the same logic which should be applied to both — while we forget that Kaminsky, by our definitions of potential, is closer to being done “growing” as a player?
More so, some are talking about Kaminsky’s versatility as a player. They are saying that Kaminsky, who is as slow-footed as any big man projected to go this high in the draft over the last two decades, has writers praising his abilities as if he were a small forward with a good handle.
Excuse me? Cement Foot Frank (patent pending) will be able to come off the dribble and bang threes with regularity at the NBA level? If that’s the case, he should be considered the top prospect of the draft. We should be comparing him to Dirk instead of Love, and no one should question a single thing about his game. I mean, those are some sick abilities for a near seven-footer.
Nevertheless, if you think Frank Kaminsky is a great prospect, one worthy of a top-five selection, so be it. That’s fine, really. It makes no sense logically, but to each their own. However, instead of talking about his stock in extremes, lazy comparisons, or in ways which are otherwise unrealistic, let’s at least have this conversation honestly.
Many people “like” Kaminsky, so they want him to be good because there’s some sort of rooting interest here. Whether that reason is race-related or simply finding his nature charming, it is okay to root for someone and even slightly exaggerate his skill set because of it. Everyone does it.
When Thomas Robinson, a player who had a similar four-year college progression as Kaminsky, came to the draft from Kansas, everyone liked him as a person as well (for different reasons). Personal affection blinded folks into thinking that a player who sat behind two average NBA players — the Morris twins — was worthy of being a top-three selection in the draft. While Robinson has found a role in the NBA, he has by no measurements lived up to being anywhere near the type of player people pegged him to be.
That’s the final theory going around. It is mine, actually: Kaminsky is a fine prospect, a solid PF/C starter for a bad team, a good first big man off the bench for a good team. If put in a position to be any team’s ninth-best player, he’ll fit that role nicely. However, many abandon any type of negative or “average” thoughts on Kaminsky because, more than anything else, they like him.
When people only want to see draft prospects as stars-in-the-making and don’t want to acknowledge the possibility that they could be average players, they will engage in several kinds of reactions. Chief among them are the excuses they will use and the specific silos in which they will place their opinions on the modern NBA game, and everything else in between.
Don’t get cute. Stop trying to be fancy. Drop the “WoWs,” the overseas nonsense, and live with the weird “Mitch McGary NCAA Tournament run” trap you WANT to fall into.
Big men develop differently when compared to any other position in the NBA. We expect them to take time to develop. It is why many centers or guys 6’10” or larger get a free pass their first few years in the NBA. That said, Kaminsky isn’t an underclassman coming into the NBA. He’s a player who had to work very hard to emerge as an NBA prospect as a junior at Wisconsin, and one who became a possible lottery selection during his senior campaign.
No matter. Somehow, magically, after the season is over and no games were left to be played, Frank Kaminsky has found his draft stock rising for no logical reasons. No sane ones, at least. After all the games he’s played in four years at Wisconsin, many are moving Kaminsky up their mock drafts, something which happens because of an unwillingness (and perhaps a refusal) to criticize him in the same ways other prospects get picked apart.
We have reached, for better or worse, NBA draft season.
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