What’s the first word that comes to mind when you see these guys?
You thought “bust”, didn’t you? Of course you did, these guys are personifications of disappointment. But let me ask you, what exactly constitutes a bust? Sure, you bounce the name Nikoloz Tskitishvili around and the whole world hollers “bust!”. But what happens with someone like Christian Laettner who, despite not turning into the star people expected, still managed to carve out a 13-year NBA career? What did you call the nomadic Billups during his first 5 – 6 years in the league? He turned out pretty good in the end, did he not? And how about Andrew Bogut, picked ahead of household names like Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Danny Granger?
Are they deserving of the appellation of “bust”?
The three aforementioned (former) players represent three of the most common misconceptions people make when dealing with the delicate “bust” label. I hope to make clear these confusions and hopefully arrive at a set of criterion that can be applied to any NBA player to determine their “bustability” (This should really be a word.)
Exhibit A (Christian Laettner) – Make no mistake, I don’t think Late’s career is by any means of the word, successful. But should we be putting him in the same category as Olowakandi and Brown? I think we should leave a little room between “bust” and “not a bust” – c’mon, this guy was an NBA All-Star at one point. It doesn’t necessarily have to be one or the other. Admittedly, I have never ever watched him play before, not even on YouTube. But his credentials, albeit underwhelming, just don’t scream “BUST!!!”.
Exhibit B (Chauncey Billups) – No one is going to call Mr. Big Shot, 5-time All-Star, 3-time All-NBA selection, Finals MVP and leader of a legitimate championship contender a bust now, but there was a time when sports journalists were writing him off as a disappointment, a wasted pick. How does this work? Are we allowed to straight away take back the label once a player breaks out? I know we HAVE to in this case, but should we be allowed to? I don’t think so. Casting this label should be the same as branding the player with red-hot, unforgiving iron. You can’t just take it back, it should be something that you use only when you’re absolutely certain of their “bustness” (This should be a word too.)
Exhibit C (Andrew Bogut) – Obviously you can fault the teams for over-looking Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Danny Granger but the Bucks knew what they were getting from Andrew Bogut and that was a solid offensively-skilled center who could start for them – and that’s exactly what they got. Is it fair to call him a bust? Because then by this logic (to a lesser extent), anybody picked before Manu Ginobili is also a “bust”. I’m not saying disregard this factor completely, as there is no bigger bust to me than big Sam Bowie. But it should not be the sole reason for calling someone a bust. It should also be noted about Bogut that up until this season, he was under-utilized in a disgustingly perimeter-orientated offense under Terry Stotts and often injured. Does that automatically make him a bust? Or should we have taken these things into account and consider him a “potential” bust?
Maybe someday this “bust” phenomenon will make the transition from the flawed label it is now to a sort of definitive spectrum. Please let me know what you think!