(Photo credit: Associated Press)
Ralph Sampson III declared for the NBA Draft and while it’s largely an innocuous move — he’s not hiring an agent, even if he did, he wouldn’t get drafted — let’s dream up how ESPN’s NBA draft coverage might react to his selection.
Jay Bilas would bring his unique blend of analysis that sounds more like he’s making lewd double entendres than analyzing basketball: “I love Sampson’s length; he’s got huge hands. He really has power forward on the bottom block ability.” ESPN.com’s Chad Ford would write that RS3’s quickness “stands out amongst all American-born seven-footers.” (In fact, Ford has already written that Sampson’s size “holds some intrigue,” as if NBA scouts have never seen a 6’11” guy who plays five inches shorter.) Over on TNT, Charles Barkley would be more direct: “Sampson’s kid is soft, Kenny. He’s soft like a baby’s ass. He’s turrrrribbble when faced up against stronger players. He’s like one of those guys from Europe.”
If RS3 does get drafted, I’m thinking this is what his TV draft card would look like (Note: Since I’m overseas and can’t edit this into the image of the ESPN screen overlay, we just have to use the text, but it’s still applicable.):
Ralph Sampson III • 6’11” - 241 lbs. • Class: Junior • Birthplace: Duluth, GA
• Named after his father, Ralph Sampson II, who was one of the best collegiate basketball players in NCAA history.
• Does not play much like his father, Ralph Sampson II.
• Ability to supernaturally channel talent of aforementioned father.
Again, although Sampson hasn’t signed with an agent, his AAU coach told the Star Tribune’s Myron P. Metcalf that Sampson is strongly considering a professional career. To that, KFAN’s Dan Barreiro responded: Where? In Turkey? (Insert rimshot.)
Jokes aside, Sampson III does have decent touch from around 15 feet — not from 25, although he still likes to launch 25 footers — and can play well out of the high post. (In 31 games in 2010-11, he attempted 25 three-pointers, but made only five.) He often throws a lob pass from the high post that either sails out of bounds, gets deflected or misses his teammate posting up; all three result in a turnover. At his best, Sampson is tough to defend around the basket and can take over periods of a game. He must improve his rebounding and defense on an NBA level, but he has shown flashes of potential; Sampson has definitely gotten stronger since his freshman year.
But on the 17-14 Gophers, there was clearly one player who looked like he had NBA talent and it wasn’t Sampson, it was Trevor Mbakwe, who decided against declaring for the NBA Draft. The 6’8” Mbakwe is at least three inches shorter than Sampson, but plays about a foot taller. While Sampson’s tentative play didn’t stick out as much when posted next to Colton Iverson — Iverson seemed more out of control than aggressive most of the time — the difference between Mbakwe and Sampson seemed like Charles Barkley playing next to Brad Lohaus. (When I performed a Google Image Search for Sampson, “Related Search: Devron Bostick” came up. For some reason, I think that’s noteworthy.)
All that said, looking on the bright side leaves one hoping that RS3 finds some constructive criticism about his game, which in turn leads to a marketed improvement moving into the 2011-12 Gopher Basketball season. Well, there’s also the hope that the Timberwolves brain trust doesn’t draft him.