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BlogJune, 2008
SAT scores, NBA Draft

School’s out, but education seized the headlines when Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain bickered like little boys over the so-called 21st Century GI Bill, which passed the Senate 75-22 on May 22.

Meanwhile, another education story flew under the radar. Smith College and Wake Forest University no longer require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores.

I applaud the move. For one thing, the exams aren’t free. The nonprofit College Board charges $43 for the SAT Reasoning Test and $20 for SAT Subject Tests. No, those costs aren’t prohibitive and, yes, waivers are available. But the principle of asking students to pay for these all-but-mandatory exams has always nauseated me.

Here’s the deeper question: Why are Smith and Wake Forest alone? In 2001, Malcolm Gladwell reported in The New Yorker that the University of California system was reducing its reliance on standardized exams. Seven years later, the Cal schools still require two SAT Subject Tests. The University of Texas grants admission to all students ranking in the top 10 percent of their high school class, but even those kids must take the SAT Reasoning Test.

And who pays for these obligatory exams? Students and their parents do. It’s disgusting. We all know standardized tests favor the affluent, who can afford Kaplan or The Princeton Review or one-on-one tutoring. Don’t get me wrong – study diligently, and you can ace them without high-priced guidance, just like you can become fit without a personal trainer. But which is easier? And why, in 2008, must colleges require exams that are costly and coachable? There’s nothing admissions officers can ascertain from these tests that they can’t glean from four-year track records.

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The NBA has its own equivalent of standardized testing. It’s the Pre-Draft Camp in Orlando, where prospects get sized and drilled in preparation for the June 26 Draft. Typically, NBA scouts proclaim that on-court feats trump Pre-Draft measurements. Yet every year, seven-foot stiffs like Patrick O’Bryant, Saer Sene, and Oleksiy Pecherov get picked ahead of shorter, skilled players like Craig Smith, Paul Millsap, and Leon Powe.

It will happen again. Brook Lopez, the seven-foot center from Stanford, may be listed at 260 pounds, but he’s a movable body. I recall a nationally televised game March 8 in which he got pushed around by Southern Cal’s puny forwards. Moreover, it’s nauseating when a player of Lopez’s stature shoots under .500 two straight seasons. Yet Lopez will likely get drafted before shorter (but better) players like Kevin Love from UCLA, Darrell Arthur from Kansas, and Joey Dorsey from Memphis. And this will happen because NBA general managers fall in love with height. Lopez and his brother Robin will be lucky if they’re better than their Stanford predecessors, Jason and Jarron Collins.

The Lopez brothers aren’t the only paper tigers in this draft. The other is DeAndre Jordan, the center from Texas A&M. If you’re 7-0 tall, weigh 250 pounds, and you can jump to the moon, then you should dominate as a freshman. Yet Jordan averaged only 7.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. He’ll dazzle in his Pre-Draft workouts, but his offensive arsenal is nonexistent. If his skills were even halfway decent, he’d be a top-five pick, hands down. I might not like Brook Lopez as a prospect, but at least he averaged 19.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks in the Pacific 10. I would select Lopez – or even Georgetown’s skilled but clumsy center, Roy Hibbert – a thousand times before drafting a raw commodity like Jordan.

My top 20 NBA prospects are ranked below, followed by an explanation of omissions not named Lopez, Jordan, or Hibbert:  

1. Derrick Rose, PG, 6-4, Memphis
He’s already better than one-third of the NBA’s starting point guards.

2. Kevin Love, PF/C, 6-9, UCLA
He can score from anywhere and his outlet passing is nonpareil.

3. O.J. Mayo, SG, 6-4, USC
He could average 20.0 in the NBA tomorrow, but does he have the win-at-all-costs savvy of Caron Butler, Richard Hamilton, or Manu Ginobili? Few do. It’s no disgrace to compare Mayo with Joe Johnson, a multi-faceted talent who may finally – after eight seasons – be figuring out how to win, as opposed to simply how to score.

4. Michael Beasley, PF, 6-9, Kansas State
Beasley only weighs 235 pounds, too light for the NBA paint. Then there are his 3.0 turnovers per game. I view him as a perimeter-oriented scorer like David West, a borderline all-star rather than an elite fixture.

5. Brandon Rush, G/F, 6-7, Kansas
He’s the rare player who could’ve gone pro after high school, but now has three years of polish at a big-time program.

6. Chris Douglas-Roberts, G/F, 6-5, Memphis
He’s a terrific percentage shooter -- .541 this past season, .543 as a sophomore, .531 as a freshman. As a third option, he’ll flourish.

7. Danilo Gallinari, F, 6-9, Italy
He can shoot and run and he’s tall for a wing, a combination that’s worked for Hedo Turkoglu, Peja Stojakovic, and Vladimir Radmanovic.

8. Eric Gordon, G, 6-3, Indiana
He’s a superb shooter with a blinding first step. But he is not a “bigger, better version of Ben Gordon,” as his ESPN page primly proclaims. Unlike Ben Gordon, Eric Gordon has no point guard skills, and he’ll need them to reach his potential at 6-3.

9. Kosta Koufos, C, 7-0, Ohio State
He’s got legitimate center size and can hit outside shots. What’s not to like?

10. Anthony Randolph, F, 6-10, LSU
He dominates the glass with “plus” hops, but his thin frame and .464 shooting disturb me.

11. Donte Greene, F, 6-10, Syracuse
12. Darrell Arthur, PF, 6-10, Kansas
13. Joey Dorsey, PF, 6-9, Memphis
14. Jerryd Bayless, G, 6-2, Arizona
15. J.J. Hickson, F, 6-9, N. C. State
16. D.J. White, F, 6-9, Indiana
17. Marreese Speights, F, 6-10, Florida
18. D.J. Augustin, PG, 5-11, Texas
19. Chase Budinger, F, 6-7, Arizona
20. Russell Westbrook, G, 6-3, UCLA


Joe Alexander, SF, 6-8, West Virginia
His three-point shooting is mediocre and his lateral quickness is pedestrian. At the college level, where he was a de facto power forward, he could get away with these weaknesses.

Bill Walker, SF, 6-6, Kansas State
A great athlete, but where are the perimeter skills? I smell a 12th man.

JaVale McGee, C, 7-0, Nevada
He could become a Mikki Moore type in five years, but is that worth a top-20 pick?

Nicolas Batum, F, 6-8, France
Most compare him to Mickael Pietrus, but what's so great about that?

Ilan Mochari is a novelist and journalist living in the Boston area. His fiction has been honored by
Glimmer Train. He is a former staff writer for Inc magazine, and he has also written for Fortune Small Business and CFO magazine. He has a B.A. in English from Yale University.

    © 2008 Ilan Mochari  
Ilan Mochari