DraftExpress Mailbag (#6)

DraftExpress Mailbag (#6)
Apr 15, 2006, 04:14 pm
This is the sixth edition of our Mailbag feature. Every so often we will try to answer the best questions we are asked either by email or other methods. Questions about specific prospects, requests for features on the site, the policies, methods and principles we try to incorporate into the site, complaints, praise or anything else is fair game. If you would like to write an observation about a prospect, team or trend we are seeing lately anywhere in the world, feel free to as well. If you would like to participate, please get in touch using the “contact us” form or send me an email .

This time around we talk about the agent selection process, one player who might be a sleeper, Randolph Morris, Monta Ellis and discuss what upside means and why it’s important.



I’m a player at XXX University, about to graduate and am in the process of finding an agent to sign with and begin my professional career.

I was wondering what are some tips you might have for people like me who have never done this before? How do we know who to believe and what to look for in the agents that are recruiting us?




This is actually a case where the NCAA comes in quite handy and has done a very good job of laing out the various issues you need to think about and look at.

This LINK here is one you want to study and consider when making this decision.

They start out there talking about how your school can help you out. Some schools like Memphis and Duke have committees in place to help you with this exact decision. Your coach can be a valuable resource here, but he's not the only one.

Numerous agents this year have actually reached out to us to talk about the problems that arise sometimes with dealing with certain NCAA coaches, considering that the coaches usually have agents too. They wonder whether there is a conflict of interest that people should be talking about when an NCAA coach consistently sends players to sign with his specific agent. Talk of kickbacks, whether true or simply out of jealousy for a lost client, is something we hear about all the time, particularly with players from the smaller schools. We have a hard time believing this actually happens, but really nothing would surprise us these days really. I would surmise that 98% of the coaches out there really do look out for their player's best interests, but there are always going to be some bad apples that give everyone a bad name.

One player we’ve been in touch with this year told us that his coach absolutely refused to deliver him ANY mail from any agent except for the one he works for. As you might know, agents often send their prospectuses and brochures to the coaches in hopes of being able to run the process transparently through them. Some coaches are reportedly very good about this and like to take a hands on approach to helping their player take the next step in becoming a pro, and some who are in the minority, as we’ve unfortunately personally seen on our own skin numerous times, just absolutely don’t care whether their player plays in the NBA or sweeps floors after he finishes playing for them, often not being willing to lift a finger for them, particularly if the player didn’t live up to his own personal “expectations” of what he should have accomplished under them. It’s really a mixed bag we find in the NCAA, varying widely from school to school and coach to coach. Most are very good about this, but again, all it takes is a few bad ones to leave a bad general impression. In any case, I do think the best thing to do is talk with your coach about all of this and get his feedback. If you feel like he’s either not working in your best interest or just doesn’t really seem to care, you might have to look elsewhere for help. For the most part, though, this is usually the best way to go. If you are an underclassmen, NCAA rules force you to conduct this process with your coach rather than through an “advisor,” so be 110% sure you know all the rules, which we'll talk about on Monday.

Here is some more stuff from what the NCAA says about the agent selection process:

You should consider the following criteria when selecting an agent:

a. Determine what services you will need from an agent and the reasonable cost for each service.
b. Consider an agent's educational background, training and work experience. Verify the credentials of any agent.
c. Determine the agent's reputation. Check with the players associations, other players, clients and former clients.
d. Look for an agent who will devote time to your interests.
e. Involve your family in the decision-making process, and make sure you feel comfortable and can trust the agent.
f. Determine if the agent is informed. An agent must be familiar with the constitution and bylaws of the particular professional league they are dealing with, as well as the standard players' contract.

They also have a list of questions to ask agents.

It’s a pretty comprehensive list. Some notable ones that we’ve learned to be most important in dealing with both players and agents in the past few years we’ve been doing this are quoted below.

You would be absolutely shocked how few people actually ask these type of questions, and how little you actually know about the agents you are being recruited by. This is possibly the most important decision you’ll make in your basketball career up until this point, especially if you aren’t a lock for the top 20 or so, so treat it as one and do the research you need to make an informed decision.

3. What is your agent professional background?
4. Have you ever been disbarred, suspended, reprimanded, censured, or otherwise disciplined or disqualified as an attorney as a member of any other profession?
5. Are there currently any complaints or charges pending against you regarding your conduct as an attorney or as a member of any profession?
6. Have you ever been investigated or found guilty for any violations of NCAA or Professional league rules? If so, when and what were the charges?
7. Are you certified by the National Basketball Players Association?
11. Can you provide me with a list of current clients?
12. How many clients have you lost and what were the reasons for leaving? Can you provide me with their phone numbers?
13. Have you ever had a dispute with a client and if so, how was it resolved?
14. Who do you consider to be your top clients?
27. Do you have any connections with the NBA, CBA, developmental league, or international professional basketball teams?

One that I would personally add is: How many players are you currently recruiting right now, and what positions do they play? How many clients do you and your firm usually sign in an average year?


Do you think Ricky Soliver of Iona will get drafted?


I think Soliver is a really nice player and definitely has NBA potential. Whether he'll get drafted is hard to say. Right now I would say he's on the outside looking in. From watching Iona play this year, though, there was never any doubt in my mind that he was the most important player on that team, and a huge factor in them reaching the NCAA tournament. He was the primary ball-handler and playmaker for them, despite the fact that he was essentially played at the 3 in a small lineup because of Iona’s two shorter guards that played next to him. He was certainly their best perimeter defender as well. We’re talking about a guy that just does everything on the floor, and is very athletic to boot. I was shocked to see him not being invited to Portsmouth, especially since guys like Tony Skinn and Tim Smith who clearly are nowhere near as good as him were. He has definite NBA potential in my mind and should get his fair share of workouts if NBA teams are doing their workouts. It wouldn’t shock me to see him being invited to Orlando even. He reminds a lot of Delonte West, just probably more aggressive on both ends of the floor. Plus he has one of the best haircuts in college basketball, and that has to count for something…


Any word as to what Randolph Morris' plans are now? I know he can be a free agent, but if he were in the draft this year, where do you think he would be taken? And if he does become a free agent, what kind of contract might he be able to get? He seems to me to be greatly improved from last year. A team willing to spend the money might be getting the equivalent of an extra lottery pick by signing him.



I haven't heard anything one way or another, but I wasn't searching too hard either. I think Morris would be a definite first round candidate in this year's draft, but I also felt that way last year. Yeah the guy has some motivation problems, but you can't deny his size, athleticism or talent. I am still shocked he went completely undrafted. There has to be a lot more than meets the eye there with what happened with him. I hope he’s happy because he shook up the draft process forever as you’ll read on our site tomorrow.

I actually wouldn't be surprised at all if some team came along and offered him a multi-year guaranteed contract for the minimum or slightly above. I don't think he can warrant much more than that at this point and it would take a guaranteed contract to get him to leave Kentucky I bet. Problem is, if he even talks about it with someone, he could be declared ineligible on the spot according to NCAA rules. It’s a weird loophole he exploited, and one that they definitely have to close. Anyway, its going to be interesting to see what happens with him because as of right now, Kentucky looks to have some talent issues again going into next year. Guys are leaving left and right it seems.

Thanks for writing.


This is the best NBA draft website I've seen by far. But of course I have a gripe.

Monta Ellis is an unselfish stud who could be the same type of second round steal that Gilbert Arenas was. He's got so much game and he's unselfish to a fault. He's got ice water running through his veins and you can see that he doesn't completely turn it on offensively because he doesn't want to step on anyone’s toes. Defensively he's an absolute stud. I read the summer reviews about his game and they were very objective and I was impressed. The writer (I forget his name) didn't seem to be high on Monta (because of what he heard) but by the end of the week he praised him for his scrappy play. I also read in a separate article that his athletic ability wasn't up to par in Chicago. I just can't picture it. He's as quick as any player in the league and he can jump through the roof.

Once again this is THE BEST NBA draft website I have ever seen and that's why I just can't have you guys overlook this promising star in the making. Years from now we'll all look back and say, 'how in the hell did that guy fall to the second round.'


Interesting comments. I wanted to actually get a good hard look at Monta in the NBA before I answered this, and after watching the two games that were broadcasted on ESPN this past week (Dallas and I believe Phoenix), I can now say that I did. He had two of his best games of the season so they were definitely good ones to watch.

After watching those two games, I felt really good about the strengths part of the scouting report I wrote. Let’s take a look at some highlights:

Physically, Ellis has excellent size for the PG position at 6-3 and a good frame to put on more weight. His main draw is the fact that he’s an outstanding athlete, being extremely quick and smooth in the open floor with a dynamite first step. He gets into the lane at the high school level whenever he pleases, elevating off one foot in the lane and hanging to finish fearlessly and creatively at the basket. He is very quick off his feet.

Ellis is a tough player who doesn't mind taking contact at the basket and still usually finishes strong, sometimes just rising over the top of his opponent and throwing down a strong dunk. He might struggle initially a bit in his first year because he is fairly skinny, but this shouldn't be too much of a concern once his frame fills out a bit.

Offensively, Ellis is an excellent one on one player. He excels in the in the triple threat position and can get his shot off in many ways, even in tough situations (for good and for bad). His first step is excellent, but so is his 2nd and 3rd. His handle is just average for an NBA point guard at this point, but it’s still very advanced for a player his age and will get better as long as he continues to work on it. His crossover is strong, and he’s good at changing directions, being able to step back quickly and elevate for a pull up jumper. He gets to the line an awful lot as he has no problem putting the ball on the floor and going all the way to the rim, but he also combines that with excellent shooting skills to make him a very tough guard.

Ellis is a dead-eye shooter (or at least as much as you can be as a high school player) who can score from anywhere on the floor. He has great elevation on his jump shot, and hits the 3 ball at a very good clip, especially in rhythm or off the dribble, but not so much on the catch and shoot (think Stevie Francis in this aspect). His stroke is smooth and effortless, and his mechanics look good.

So looking at the strengths section of the report, and after evaluating him again as a pro, I think that so far this section at least has aged pretty well. The guy is a phenomenal talent, no one can take that away from him. But as you probably know, there is a lot more to making and succeeding in the NBA than just that. The one part I would disagree with is his ball-handling ability, but that was written with heavy caveats about his age and implicitly through reading the entire report, the level of competition he went up against. Working out with a trainer like Joe Abunassar at IMG and going up against Baron Davis and Derek Fisher everyday in practice will usually do that for you. He has room to continue to improve here from what I saw, though. More emphasis on his natural basketball instincts and savvy is something I’m also missing from this report, although this was easy to miss from watching him go 1 on 5 every possession in AAU ball.

Let’s look at some snippets from the weaknesses section…

Loves to dribble and dribble and dribble and then dribble some more… He's a 6-3 SG with absolutely no PG skills whatsoever. That will limit his potential to contribute minutes initially unless he ends up on a horrible team. In the long term, though, he might not have the instincts or mentality to even become sufficient in this area. When he does try, his passing skills are average to below average. He forces the issue constantly, freezing out his teammates and showing absolutely no interest in getting anyone else involved. Although he is very young, his basketball IQ appears to be limited at this point, running into brick walls time after time while his teammates wave their hands and shake their heads in disgust. He does not appear to be interested in making an assist unless it’s of the Sportscenter top 10 variety. He will often bring the ball up the court and immediately jack up a shot, before even looking in the direction of his teammates. The concept of running set plays is completely foreign to him, not being capable of doing anything in a half-court offense at this point except create his own shot off the dribble or drive and dish after drawing a crowd…

Although most scouts I’ve talked to about high school basketball prospects don’t really seem to care about this, his defense is horrendous. Ellis puts absolutely no effort into playing on this side of the ball, and just doesn't seem to understand the importance of stopping his man. He gambles on steals (he can be very quick to get out in the passing lanes), gets lost on rotations, gives up on plays completely once he gets beat, gets torched on the perimeter in man to man defense and refuses to rotate or play any type of off the ball defense. He did show some glimpses of potential in the all-star games when his back was against the ball and he had to perform well to have any shot at being able to declare for the draft, but nothing when he had the choice. He’s got all the tools to be an excellent defender if he puts his mind to it, but he has to put his mind to it first…

His intangibles are also somewhat questionable. Ellis has consistently shown a poor attitude and immaturity, pouting when things don't go his way or when the ball isn't in his hands for more than 5 seconds.

Looking through the report now (I didn’t even quote the worst parts of it), I think we were definitely being extensively harsh on him, and if you never saw him play in high school or AAU, you might wonder about some of the things we said there. If I could do it over again, I probably would have toned it down quite a bit. What you need to keep in mind, though--and this relates to all of our scouting reports, not just this one--is the climate at the time the report was written. Ellis was being hyped by ESPN and other draft sites who have been around for much longer than us as a definite first round pick and even a potential lottery pick. As is always the case with people covering the draft, there was never a discussion about his very glaring weaknesses, only about his strengths. This has a lot to do with why he even decided to declare for the draft and lose his eligibility somewhere along the way…I would know because we were in touch with him throughout the entire draft process. The fact that he ended up going in the mid-2nd round should tell you that we definitely were not completely off target with our initial assessments and concerns.

I personally feel that the slap in the face he received on draft night might have been the best thing to ever happen to him in his basketball career up until that point. He realized that if he wants to end up making a living in the only thing he’s been doing his entire life—-playing basketball-—he needs to get his act together quickly to ensure that he can. So far, he’s done that, playing for a horrible team albeit (quite ironic considering the wording on the scouting report), but looking very very good for a rookie coming out of high school. I can genuinely say that I’m very happy for him, since from talking to him I never got the sense that he was a bad kid, just very naïve, not all that mature, extensively pampered as most AAU stars are, and not fully in control of his destiny because of some questionable decisions he or people around him made, which was unfortunate.

Regarding what he’s actually showing on the court at this point, I wouldn’t jump off a cliff just yet, even though it’s very easy to get excited about the strengths rookies show in their first year in the NBA, and even easier to write off their mistakes and weaknesses as solely due to inexperience-—something they’ll “work on”. The first would be his point guard skills. This year more than ever we’ve learned that being a combo guard in the NBA isn’t as bad a thing as we once thought, but Ellis has a long ways to go before he can be considered a combo guard. The difference between the way his team looks with him running the offense in half-court sets and Derek Fisher is like night and day. One sees the entire floor and gets everyone involved unselfishly, and one just doesn't. Ellis still appears to have that tunnel vision we saw from him in high school, and still doesn’t have the ability to make anyone around him better. He’ll get the occasional assist here and there by making a simple or sometimes even a spectacular pass, but he still misses open teammates on a regular basis and looks very far from being able to run an NBA team, at least one that hopes to keep its players happy with the amount of touches they get.

Defensively, Ellis has a long ways to go as well. As mentioned in the report he has all the tools in the world and then some to become a terrific defender, but he is severely lacking the basic fundamentals needed to stop perimeter players. He’s got great hands and is superbly quick, which leads me to believe that he’ll be a player who always averages plenty of steals and gets his hands on lots of ball, but he has a long ways to go in terms of using that quickness to move laterally and stay in front of people. His instincts here look very poor, as you can tell that he wants to try and play good defense, but he just isn’t capable of doing it right now.

So while I am sure that Warrior fans are ecstatic at the moment from what they are seeing from their young guns (how bout Ike Diogu by the way?), and they have every right to be considering how much raw talent they have on the roster, I would hold off for now on organizing a parade for next June. The true test for Ellis will be how he responds after he entrenches himself firmly in the league and gets that inevitable fat contract that is going to come sooner rather than later considering how talented and athletic he is. If he can maintain that same sort of hunger that came from slipping into the 2nd round he has a chance of turning into something very special. And we’ll be the first ones to admit we were wrong.

Regarding your question about why Ellis tested out so poorly as an athlete at the Chicago pre-draft Combine, it has a lot more to do with the way he showed up that morning rather than because of the type of athlete he is. A source who I know for a fact was very close to him that entire summer said he reportedly decided to have his first taste of alcohol the night before the combine while partying with some of the other players. He apparently had a hangover and just could not function, which I believe led him to end up being rated as the worst athlete in the draft for guards. Watching him explode into the lane off the dribble, soar through the air and throw down monster dunks at 6-3 is a better indication of the type of athlete he really is.

Hopefully that covers things. I actually really enjoy looking back at our old scouting reports and then watching how players actually perform in the NBA. We were right about a lot of things, and were also wrong about quite a few. To me it’s all about finding out what our mistakes were, figuring out where and why we went wrong, and trying to learn from that for the future.

Observation of the week:


First of all, I read your website all the time and I really enjoy it.

I'm a writer for a weekly newspaper in Florida and I aspire to eventually work my way up to doing some sports writing, preferably pertaining to the NBA and the draft.

Anyway, down to business:

Now I'm not a GM, but I follow the NCAA, the NBA and the draft very closely. Something that is constantly bothering me is the use of the word "upside" and the emphasis put on it. I think it has been so blown out of proportion that it gives GMs and fans a false sense of security in some cases.

For example, Marvin Williams didn't start a single game in college, I know it was a special circumstance, and was drafted mostly on his upside and potential at 2 overall. Obviously he has struggled in his transition from college to the pros. I understand that he could certainly still develop into a great player, and as a UNC fan I hope he does, but Billy Knight has to regret making that pick, especially with CP3 (Chris Paul) tearing it up for the Hornets.

Now the Bobcats seem to be taking a different approach and building with proven college winners, ala Okafor, Felton and May, and though it may take a while, I think this strategy should prove beneficial to the growth and maturity of a young team.

Another thing I have always wanted to vent about is the 2001 draft, where we saw quite a few “upside” picks. I won’t even mention Kwame Brown. In the case of the Bulls, they decided that upside and potential outweighed basketball intelligence and work ethic. They essentially traded Elton Brand for Tyson Chandler. That baffled me then and obviously still does now. Also, I always thought they would have been better suited taking a guy like Shane Battier at 4 than Eddy Curry (another upside guy).

I’m rambling and I could go on all day.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that with so many upside picks going awry, do you think that GMs are beginning to hold less of an emphasis on a player’s upside than in previous years, or do you think GMs are still very willing to take risks on guys like Tyrus Thomas of LSU? (I won’t even go into International players, that’s a whole different ballgame)

PS – What’s the deal will Billy Knight’s apparent obsession with SFs? Is he trying to build an all SF team and revolutionize the game? I have a sneaking suspicion that it wouldn’t work out well. If he finds a way to draft Rudy Gay in June I will scream, and I’m not even a Hawks fan.

Thanks a lot.


I totally understand where you are coming from, but to answer your question, no I don’t think the NBA is going away from drafting on upside any time soon. What they do appear to be doing is getting a little closer to my own personal definition of what upside is, and that’s a combination of production at a young age as well as showing sparks of bigger and better things down the road. The perfect example of that would be Tyler Hansbrough, who according to some “has no upside” because he’s already averaging 20 points a game as a freshman. What they are doing there is essentially penalizing him for being good right now, and saying that they would really prefer that he averaged 8 points and 4 rebounds right now, like for example Josh McRoberts. The very confusing message being sent here is that you don’t want to play too well at a young age, since I suppose that limits how good you can be when it’s time to start cashing in on your pension plan at age 21. That's obviously ridiculous.

Now about Tyrus Thomas, this guy is the definition of upside. As we saw in the NCAA tournament, he can already completely change a game as a college freshman even though he’s only been playing organized basketball for a few years. He produces, but also shows great flashes of what he might be able to become more proficient at in the future, like for example his ball-handling, mid-range shooting and footwork in the post. It makes it a lot easier to project a guy being able to do those things in the future when you see sparks of him doing it already right now against strong competition.

The thing I regret the most about Marvin Williams is that we never even really talked that much about the fact that he wasn’t playing his NBA position in college. Its one thing to be playing the 5 and needing to move down to the 4, but it’s a completely different story when you are a PF trying to move out onto the wing, defend SFs and create your own shot out on the perimeter. If he was in this draft rather than last year, we probably would have done a better job evaluating him. But don’t give up hope on him yet, the guy has a massive upside!


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