Can you teach aggressiveness? Can you learn it the way you would learn a jump shot? Or how to properly box out? If the Suns believe they can, with a sprinkle of luck, maybe they get the steal of the draft.
The last couple of days, US Airways Center was the hub for college basketball’s elite.
Wednesday it was Ben McLemore, Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, Alex Len, Shabazz Muhammad and Rudy Gobert. Thursday it was Trey Burke, Michael Carter-Williams and CJ McCollum. Maybe it ends up being Bennett or Porter, but I have to think the player the Suns will take at #5 is somewhere in that group.
McLemore’s name pops off the page. In a draft filled with anything but sure-things, I’m not going to try to convince you that the Kansas shooting guard is any different. But unlike most of the other players, whose concerns seem to be focused on the physical, with McLemore it’s about the mental. It’s about whether he is aggressive enough — alpha dog enough — to thrive in the NBA.
In a mock draft write up from a couple of weeks ago, ESPN’s Chad Ford had this to say about McLemore:
“Concerns arose among NBA teams during his interviews. Although everyone attests to McLemore’s humility and thinks he’s a great young man, his lack of aggressiveness shined through even in the interviews. “The key question is: Do you love to win, or do you hate to lose?” one GM said. “The good ones love to win. The great ones hate to lose. McLemore’s a love-to-win type of prospect. Oladipo’s a hate-to-lose type.”
That was a mock draft two weeks ago. In his latest mock, Ford has McLemore dropping one spot. To the Suns.
The concerns over his aggressiveness surfaced during the season when it was widely known that Bill Self was encouraging him to be more aggressive and stop deferring to the seniors. It was enough to prompt McLemore to address them on Wednesday.
“I could’ve done those things at Kansas but that’s just how the Kansas system is. I was just playing Kansas basketball. Now, I have an opportunity to play free and play my own game.
“I know deep down inside I can take over games. I know I have that dog in me to take over games.”
Is it possible those concerns allow McLemore to slip to the Suns? I sure hope so. Ryan McDonough said Wednesday he was a “beautiful shooter.” Some have compared him to Ray Allen.
At first, I was doubtful a player could be taught something as innate as aggressiveness. But then I remembered on many of Mike D’Antoni’s teams some of the players new to the system had to be
taught encouraged to be aggressive. Mike would get angry when they didn’t shoot the shot they were supposed to. It took time, but eventually many of players played his style with no fear of retribution.
People do change. All the time.
Chances are the Suns won’t get the opportunity. It’s difficult to see a player with such upside making it to five, but should it happen, the Suns shouldn’t hesitate.