The Value And Potential Of Josh Selby
By itself, Josh Selby's co-MVP performance in the summer league (averaging 24 points a game on 56% shooting) doesn't necessarily mean anything. There have been many players who starred in Las Vegas and couldn't translate that success into the NBA. However, if you consider his pedigree, his performance this summer could be a sign that a once highly-touted phenom is back on track.
Selby was the No. 1 player in his class coming out of high school, but he never acclimated to college in his one season at Kansas, as suspensions, injuries and a bad fit with the rest of the Jayhawks roster kept him on the bench. After averaging eight points and two assists on 37% shooting as a freshman, he was drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies with the No. 49 overall pick in 2011 based solely on potential.
Players like Selby, AAU stars whose lack of size and/or college production caused them to slide into the second round, have become some of the best values in the second round over the last few years. Lou Williams, Monta Ellis and Daniel Gibson are examples of similar players who over-performed their draft selection in the NBA.
Selby, at 6'2 195 with a 6'5 wingspan, could use his athleticism and ballhandling to score at will at the high school level. He was supposed to be the missing piece on a Kansas team that featured the Morris Twins and Thomas Robinson upfront, but a suspension due to amateurism violations put him behind the eight ball in Lawrence.
In his first game back against USC, Selby exploded for 21 points in 27 minutes. However, his slashing ability wasn't a good fit for a Kansas team that wanted to space the floor around their three future lottery picks inside. When he went down with an ankle injury during conference play, he fell behind the Jayhawks veteran shooters (future second-round pick Tyshawn Taylor, Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar) in the rotation.
A 20-year-old rookie with only limited collegiate experience, Selby was never going to have much of a chance to earn playing time on a veteran team. But the lingering effects of the lockout, which shortened training camp, condensed the regular season and limited the number of practices, made that a certainty.
As a second-round pick with very little NBA experience, Selby didn't come into Las Vegas this year with much hype. If he had been played at an average to below-average level, he could have easily fallen off the NBA radar completely. There's a long list of guards waiting for a chance to play in the top basketball league in the world; the NBA careers of Jon Diebler and E'Twaun Moore, two shooting guards drafted soon after Selby, could already be over.
Instead, he was one of the biggest stars of the summer. The biggest improvement came from his perimeter jumper; Selby was a dead-eye shooter from beyond the arc. He played like Jason Terry: if he was given an open shot, he was going to knock it down.
That shooting ability opened up the floor for the rest of the Memphis guards and created driving lanes the smaller Selby will need against longer NBA defenders. It will be the key to him getting consistent minutes for the Grizzlies this year, since shooting is essential for a team that runs so much of its offense through the post.
He's not a true point guard, which given his size, is a concern. Taller shooting guards can shoot over the top of his head, and it's unlikely he'll be able to play many minutes with the similarly diminutive Mike Conley. However, he can be protected defensively by Memphis' big men and the passing ability of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph lessens the Grizzlies need for playmaking from their guards.
Down the road, he could form a really interesting backcourt tandem with Memphis first round pick Tony Wroten. Wroten, a mesmerizing but maddening talent at 6'6, 205, has the size to defend both backcourt positions and can run the point. His weaknesses -- a lack of a perimeter jumper or elite explosiveness -- are Selby's strengths, and the two were almost unstoppable together this summer.
Selby has established himself as an NBA talent, and he has the chance to carve out a career as a dynamic combo guard off the bench. However, that's all his play this summer has given him -- a chance. He'll need to continue improving his decision-making and perimeter defense as well as consistently knock down mid-range shots (either with a pull up or a floater) when teams chase him off the three-point line.
Even with O.J. Mayo and Gilbert Arenas gone, Selby will have to compete for minutes with Wroten and free-agent acquisition Jerryd Bayless in training camp. Bayless, a lottery selection in 2008, has a similarly illustrious high school pedigree, but he hasn’t been consistent enough to lock down a role in his first four seasons in the NBA.
For a Memphis team that struggled to create offense off the dribble against the Clippers in the playoffs, Selby's play offers hope for internal improvement. Most NBA front offices write off the back end of the second round, but the Grizzlies could end up benefiting immensely from the diligence of their scouts in 2011.