Why Everyone Whiffed On Jeremy Lin

Posted: February 28, 2012 in NBA
Tags: , , , , ,

So over the past week or so I’ve been reading all these stories – I read one on USA Today, on everyone asking “how did everyone whiff on Jeremy Lin of the Knicks?” I think it was easy to miss out on him because he’s not a transcendent talent! Come on Jeremy Lin fans, don’t go Tebow on me. Jeremy Lin, great kid and nice player, he blends in and his talent blends in…but he’s not Kobe at 15 or Randy Moss elite. A lot of this story – and let’s be honest about it, is that he fits into Mike D’Antoni’s system. Do I think scouts were anti-Asian? Well I mean he was under-recognized and under-appreciated; I think we’d all agree on that. There are also certain stereotypes that we all either benefit from or are burden with – but Jeremy is not a remarkable talent. He’s talented – thousands of people are talented though, but you have to remember, he wasn’t this type of player [skills & ability wise] back then. He’s thin now; he was 18 pounds lighter back then.

By the way, I’m hearing so much about this “oh Andrew, but he was a California high school player of the year” First of all, there are hundreds of regional player of the year awards, county player of the year awards, district player of the year awards, all-state player of the year awards, would all of them get Division 1 football and basketball scholarships? Like Ohio State passed up on Big Ben! So for these big schools like USC, Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Alabama – they are passing up on dozens of all-regional kids in their own states because it doesn’t matter how good you are in high school, it’s how you project at college and a lot of kids peak early.

Stanford for example gives out like 2 basketball scholarships a year maybe 3, and they had a guard who projected better at the next level. I mean holy smokes, if there was any school that was pro-Asian, Stanford would be one of them right? Wouldn’t you think? A large percentage of their student body – just like my undergraduate school Waterloo, is Asian.  Listen, I’m pro Jeremy Lin and this thing is going to last a while, but at the same time don’t kid yourself, a lot of this is the system. I mean, Golden State and Houston let him go – the guys that run those organizations, they’re not all dumb! “But Andrew, Jeremy Lin played in 3 Central Coast Division Title Teams” so what!! That’s not exactly a glamour league within California high school sports – it’s not a hotbed of NBA and NFL talent. California is an enormous state with 33 million people I believe, there’s 400 -700 leagues and some of those leagues – just like Central California; they don’t have giant population centers.  They’re going down to LA County and Orange County and around the Bay area to grab the basketball and football talent.

So this whole thing where people are asking “so how did you guys whiff on him?” listen, 95% of the working population in both Canada and the United States succeed because they’re part of a system, not because they are uniquely gifted. It’s much more ridiculous to me that Bryant was chosen 13th, you wanna fire a GM? Fire all 12 guys that didn’t draft Kobe Bryant! His dad even played in the NBA. At 15 years old in high school gyms in Philadelphia, he was working college and NBA players. I read in an article recently where Tim Legler, ESPN NBA Analyst, walked in on Kobe at 15 in one of the gyms in Philadelphia and asked everybody “who is that? Who is that college kid” and people said to him “no, he’s a high school sophomore”

Somebody drafted Todd Fuller two spots above Kobe, fire that GM! But Jeremy Lin on 20 NBA teams is not coming close to what he is doing now – in fact I’m going to let you read what Jeremy Lin said last week. I heard this while sstreaming the Michael K Show on 1050 ESPN New York.  Read on how he viewed himself. Michael asked him “do you every doubt yourself?” and Jeremy replies by saying “I always told myself that if I find the right situation, I definitely could see myself as a rotation player. But there have definitely been times where I doubted if I’d ever get that oppourtunity and even times where I wasn’t sure how I’d play in a particular game because I only had one in pre-season to show what I could do”

So did you read what he said? You think Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant or Allen Iverson ever thought “well, if I get into the right situation – A, then B, I could be a rotation player and C, I’m not even sure if I’d play that great in one game if you put that pressure on me.” So even Jeremy Lin saw himself like that. So, I love the story about this guy and I think it’s great and all, but when people are asking “why did everybody whiff on Jeremy Lin?”  Because talent evaluation is really really hard and I’ll give you an example. A lot of people peak early in life and a lot of people in life are late bloomers. Samuel L. Jackson peaked in his 40’s, Emilio Estevez peaked at 14! George Clooney banged around Hollywood for 9 years doing The Golden Girls and Hunter. Chris Rock was buried in Saturday Night Live for 2 years, you never saw him! Some kids develop later and some kids peak early.

I recalled this story and told my day last night while waiting for the Daytona 500 to resume – true story, little league baseball and I’m playing for my little local all-star team – shortstop, and we go to a little league all-star tournament somewhere north of my hometown. There was a player, can’t remember his name, but this kid had a moustache and he was 11, hairy chest – he looked like Harrison Ford and he was 11. He hit a ball – I swear to God he looked like he was Mickey Mantle and he hit this ball a mile long in little league, he had big muscles with a hairy chest and he’s 11 – I had never seen an athlete like this because he was so much bigger than all the other kids. So I saw him like 4 years ago when in my 2nd year of studies at Waterloo. I was visiting U of T, I’m 4 inches taller than him, he has a receding hairline and he’s balding. I grew 9 inches to a foot and he grew like 2 inches – I towered over him and I’ll never forget that. He went onto become a great college baseball player but he reached right up to my chin line in university.

Moral of the story? You can’t tell and you don’t know!! There was a recent survey which found that 33% of USA Today 5-star players – compiled from places like rivals.com, scouts.com…found that 33% of them are busts, another 1/3 underachieve, now a third of them end up being Matt Barkley or Adrian Peterson. But talent evaluation is really really tough!

  1. Mike Crack says:

    Yeah, I think people are too deep into hindsight bias. Like you said, Lin was not some can’t miss prospect like an LBJ. He’s definitely improved from where he was before. Also, high school accolades don’t necessarily correlate with pro ability. We see that in football with 5-star ratings like you said. BJ Raji was just a 2 star prospect coming out of high school, but ended up going 9th overall in the NFL Draft.

    People questioning how people missed on Lin remind me of people questioning how people passed on Tom Brady. They claim Belichick/Pioli were geniuses for finding Brady, but really, no one felt he was that good if he lasted till pick 199. He definitely improved from what he was in 2000. He was not a ready-made player, not was Lin.

    Interesting anecdote about that ballplayer. It shows that timing is everything.

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