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NBA PM: The Draft’s Mystery Man
Posted By Alex Kennedy On May 28, 2013 @ 5:12 pm In NBA | No Comments
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The 2013 NBA Draft’s Mystery Man
Entering the NBA draft combine in Chicago, everyone was talking about Ricky Ledo out of Providence. Executives wanted to meet with him, scouts wanted to evaluate him, reporters wanted to interview him and opposing players wanted to size him up.
The 20-year-old’s draft stock has been on the rise recently, and he’s one of the most intriguing – and mysterious – players in the class.
Ledo has never played a second of college basketball. He practiced with Providence last year, his freshman season, but he wasn’t able to play in any games because he was ruled ineligible by the NCAA.
Even though he’s unproven, he has the game and frame to play in the NBA, and teams lined up to interview and schedule workouts with him while in Chicago. At the combine, he interviewed with nearly half of the league, and he’ll meet with even more teams over the next month. He has already had individual workouts out for the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls, and has many others on his calendar.
Every now and then, a player will get drafted based solely off of potential, despite having a very limited body of work. Back when prospects could enter the draft out of high school, this happened all the time. In recent years, Enes Kanter and Bismack Biyombo are the best examples of this. Kanter was picked third overall by the Utah Jazz in 2011 even though he was ineligible for his lone season of college basketball at Kentucky and his game film was hard to come by. In that same draft, Biyombo was selected seventh overall by the Charlotte Bobcats due to his size, length and athleticism, even though he was incredibly raw and his résumé consisted of a strong showing at the Nike Hoops Summit and that’s about it.
Teams are always tempted to pick a player who has seemingly unlimited potential because they’re hoping the risk pays off and they land an eventual star, even if the individual will be a project when he first enters the league.
This year, that high-upside draftee who has a meteoric rise may be Ledo.
Teams were able to watch him practice with Providence and some league personnel saw him back when he was a high school star, since he was rated the No. 2 shooting guard and No. 6 overall prospect in the high school class of 2012, according to Rivals.com. He was a five-star recruit and ranked ahead of familiar names such as Anthony Bennett, Marcus Smart and Archie Goodwin. He has a few highlight reels on YouTube, including the time he had a shootout with Washington Wizards point guard John Wall.
Ledo certainly looks the part of an NBA player at 6’6 and nearly 200 lbs. Not only does he pass the eye test with flying colors, he has also interviewed very well. Several executives raved about Ledo after meeting with him, describing him as intelligent and impressive. Rather than trying to avoid topics like his ineligibility at Providence or habit of switching high schools (he attended four different schools), Ledo answered every question that teams asked. He’s trying to be as transparent and honest as possible.
“I just wanted them to get to know me, the real me, and not what everybody thinks and what everybody says,” Ledo said of his interviews. “Just getting my point across was very important.”
If Ledo had been eligible for his freshman season, the young shooting guard believes he would’ve solidified himself as a top pick in this draft.
“Definitely, if I played this year I think I would be considered one of the top guards in this draft and my stock wouldn’t be questioned,” Ledo said. “But I didn’t, I went a different route. Everyone goes a different route to the NBA, and this is mine.”
“I think I’m one of the best shooting guards in this draft,” Ledo added. “I don’t think many can shoot like me or dribble like me or play the one and the two – some people here just have one position. I’m also one of the biggest two-guards here at 6’6. … I think I’m being overlooked, but if you’re in the GM’s position and you haven’t seen much and you’ve seen all of these other guys, that’s what you have to go off of. But the general managers who have seen what I can do and are willing to take a chance, are taking a good chance.”
After talking with teams, Ledo believes he’ll go somewhere between No. 20 and No. 40. He’s hoping to further improve his draft stock by working out against some of the other top-rated shooting guards in this draft class such as Ben McLemore, Victor Oladipo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jamaal Franklin, Tim Hardaway Jr., Allen Crabbe, Archie Goodwin and Glen Rice Jr. among others. Because he wasn’t able to match-up against these players during the college basketball season, he wants to make up for that by going to head-to-head with them in the pre-draft workouts.
“I’m open to playing against anyone in individual workouts,” Ledo said. “I’m not running from anyone. I’m open to playing against anyone.”
Because teams have seen so little of him, he understands that he has to perform well and sell himself during the pre-draft process. For some teams, the combine was the first time that they had seen him play. Unlike his peers, who all have plenty of game film to their name, Ledo is surrounded by question marks and he must prove himself in the weeks leading up to June 27.
“I definitely think it’s more important for me, because they got to see the other guys during the year,” Ledo said. “They didn’t get to see me, only practice, so this is what they have to go off of. I definitely think it’s more important for me. … It’s just a new thing, being in front of all the NBA staffs. This is where I want to be. I’m just coming to show my talents and show people that I’m one of the best guards in this draft, that I belong. Just because I didn’t play doesn’t mean I’m less significant in this draft. I feel that whoever is getting me is getting a strong scorer, a leader and a competitor.”
Ledo said that he has modeled his game after Jamal Crawford as well as “old school” Penny Hardaway. He believes his biggest strengths on the court are scoring, playmaking and spacing the floor. Because he’s such a talented scorer, he thinks his passing ability gets overlooked.
“I would say that I’m an underrated passer,” Ledo said. “I see the floor very well and I’m a playmaker. I get others involved and make others better also.”
While some questioned Ledo’s decision to leave school without ever playing a game for the Friars, he felt it was in his best interest to enter this draft class. It was probably a wise choice, considering the 2014 draft class is expected to be loaded with talent so playing his sophomore season at Providence wouldn’t have guaranteed that he’d be selected any higher than he will be this year.
“It was a perfect time to come out,” Ledo said. “I’ve been working hard. I’m always getting better. It seemed like with where I was being projected and what people – scouts and my coaches – were telling me, I would be drafted. Every day isn’t promised so if I can get there and make sure I stay there, this will be my route.”
It’s almost guaranteed that he’ll hear his name on June 27. The only question is who will be calling his name? Will it be Commissioner David Stern, who announces the first-round picks, or will it be Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, who announces the second-round selections? Ledo has first-round talent, but he needs a team to fall in love with him and overlook his lack of experience and off-court issues.
Ledo certainly has more upside than most players available in his projected range and he could end up being the steal of the draft if he pans out. He’s the type of player who can be as good as he wants to be, and it seems like he’s determined to realize his full potential and make the most of his NBA opportunity.
Chris Andersen: Miami’s X-Factor
The Miami HEAT will go as far as LeBron James takes them this postseason, but they have been receiving huge contributions from a number of other players over the last few months. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have obviously been significant contributors, but bench players such as Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Norris Cole deserve a lot of credit for the team’s success as well.
However, the reserve who has arguably contributed the most to the HEAT is a player who wasn’t even on the team’s roster for opening night. Chris “Birdman” Andersen has emerged as Miami’s X-Factor and he wasn’t on an NBA team until late January. Because of off-court issues and the fact that he’s 34 years old, Andersen was an unrestricted free agent for much of the season. The HEAT signed him to consecutive 10-day contracts – a low-risk, high-reward move – and Andersen has exceeded all expectations. Miami’s record is 50-6 since signing Andersen, and it’d likely be even better if the HEAT didn’t rest some of their stars at the end of the year.
“I think he was a pleasant surprise,” Wade said of Andersen. “Obviously we knew what he brought in Denver, but we didn’t know how he would fit with our team. We knew he was going to bring some energy. We knew he was going to bring his effort every night, but we didn’t know how he was going to fit. He came right in and he fit in with this team like he’s been here the whole time, the whole three years. He’s been big for our success. I mean, as you guys know, since he’s been here, his record is impeccable. His record is unbelievable. He hasn’t lost many games. He just comes in whether it’s 12 minutes, 6 minutes or 18 minutes, he’s going to make an impact on the ballgame. That’s what we need out of that position.”
“[He provides] energy,” Battier said. “That’s been Birdman his entire career. For as talented as we are, we wouldn’t say we’re the highest energy team. [We’re] a little more laid back. We’re intense, but we’re not high energy. Birdman, when he came in here, he changed the whole dynamic with his fervor for life and his energy, specifically against the Pacers. He’s just flying all around. Against a team that wants to slow you down and flatten you out and make you lethargic, he’s the best man to do it. The Birdman is larger than life. What you see on the court is how he is in real life. Probably not as flamboyant and dynamic, but he’s one of a kind. He’s one of a kind. I never had a teammate like him. But he’s a great teammate, and he’s meant a lot to this team.”
During the playoffs, he has averaged 7.9 points while shooting 85.4 percent from the field, along with 4.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. He has also added an element of toughness to the HEAT and emerged as the interior defender they had been looking for since assembling the Big Three.
“He’s big‑time for our team,” James added. “His athleticism, his motor, he comes out and he gives it all. No matter if it’s eight minutes or 38 minutes, he gives it his all. He fits right in. We have a great team. Guys on and off the floor love being around each other. He fits right in.”
“Bird, he’s doing a very good job of passing and finishing,” Bosh said. “Our guards are doing a fantastic job of finding him. It’s really all about the spacing. I think we’re going to have opportunities when we have lay‑ups and open shots against this team, because if we get past the first line of defense, we know that second is going to be there and that’s when we can really move to the open spot and find effective areas. We just have to finish.”
In the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers, Andersen has yet to miss a shot. He’s averaging 10.7 points (hitting 13-of-13 shots), 5.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. That’s right, Andersen is shooting 100 percent from the field. Not bad for a guy who is mainly a defensive player and whose offensive contributions are just a bonus. Andersen has fit in perfectly with the HEAT, getting plenty of easy baskets right at the rim when players like James, Wade and Bosh attract defenders.
“Chris Andersen is playing as well as any center in the league when he comes in,” Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said.
“I just have to go over and help,” Pacers center Roy Hibbert added. “Some guys line drive to the basket, and they dump it off to him and he’s able to score. I have to pick my poison. LeBron coming into the lane or Birdman in the short corner. He’s able to finish in the paint. The guys they had last year weren’t able to do that.”
When told about his outstanding stats, Andersen shrugs off of the praise.
“You know what, I really don’t follow the numbers. Is that what I’m shooting?” Andersen asked. “Okay, then. I don’t even think about that. I just basically take what the defense gives me. … I’m just trying to find the right space and the right position to be in to be able to get those easy baskets. … To be in this position right now, I’m happy, but I want more. … My main focus is the Indiana Pacers and trying to get to that championship.”
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