A Note On Houston's "Need vs. Talent" Debate

In reading the latest Jonathan Feigen blog entry, I came across an interesting comment (and subsequent response from Mr. Feigen). Here's what we've got (emphasis mine):

Jonathan,

Do you really see the Rockets selecting another wing player as a possibility? I guess this comes back to the need vs. best player available debate, but we have so many wings. That said, I'd love to see Gordon Hayward succeed as a Rocket. What do you think of Hayward's chances in the NBA/as a Rocket?

We'll all know in about three weeks.....

(There is no reason to think they will even consider the question of need. Hayward has a chance. His skills and feel for the game are outstanding. He will face a huge adjustment, lacking the lateral quickness for some matchups as a small forward or the strength to defend at power forward. -- Jonathan)

Hmm. At first, I'm a bit hesitant to go along with this hypothesis, because it's clear that the Rockets need a big body, of which this year's draft crop has plenty. But, for now, I'll take Jonathan's word for it.

The more I think about it, the draft appears to be a "talent over need" exercise for 90% of the teams involved. Normally, the first few picks have pressing needs, such as a scoring wing, athletic big man, or franchise point guard. But even then, there are still questions regarding which player to take. Clearly, New Jersey needs a big man to pair with Brook Lopez or a scoring-minded wing player to jumpstart the offense. Yet, before the draft lottery, word out of New Jersey was that the Nets were going to take John Wall, even if they already had an All-Star point guard in Devin Harris. Perfect example of talent over need, even within the first five picks.

Remember last year's draft? Oklahoma City took James Harden thid overall, even though they lacked a good frontcourt presence. Doesn't matter: talent over need. Now, OKC has a stellar, youthful backcourt.

(skipping over Kahn, because I'm not going to place my credibility in jeopardy...)

The Warriors had a point guard in Monta Ellis, though he was more of a shooting-guard type. Stephen Curry was a tweener himself, and GS lacked a frontcourt presence as well. Doesn't matter: talent over need. Curry nearly won the Rookie of the Year award, and could be a franchise player for Don Nelson and folks.

Want a good example of how taking need over talent can come back to bite you in the ass? The New York Knicks selecting Jordan Hill over Brandon Jennings. Granted, Jennings' came on a bit quickly, and Hill has room to grow, but I'm sure LeBron James would much rather have played with a ROY candidate than a decent power forward prospect.

In any case, I still believe that the Rockets will look for a big man in this draft, but if we're talking about "needs," well, that's what free agency is for. That's when you have an established scouting report on a player who has already shown how good he is at the highest level. That's when you don't guess on talent, but rather on how a player will fit on a roster. As for the draft, that's when the talent is questioned, and that's when you see teams gamble on talent over taking the "need" player. Perhaps the Rockets will stick with a big body, but as I mentioned in the Al-Farouq Aminu analysis of my last post, there is a good chance Houston will add another wing, assuming that wing is the best player available.

Nobody is safe on a roster, save for a few players. There are always assets to be dealt, and there are always newer, better products to be shipped in.

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