(followed by a Riff on Media Responsibility)

UPDATE: The ‘None’ entries have been removed if you check the link to the article referenced, although without appending a correction notice. As well, Mr. Fraschilla got back to us via Twitter DM. He explained that there was an editing error that led to the ‘none’ entries on NBA prospects (no surprise, Fran’s track record is good — he knows the prospects). I’m still disappointed that the editor responsible made the initial errors, but Fran noted that he shared our frustrations here at CourtSide Diaries, and now the issue has been addressed with ESPN. 

Note: I hate to do this type of thing — reading a post, disagreeing with it, and responding directly to it. Usually, no one ever learns anything they didn’t already know, or changes their behavior. Fran isn’t going to read this, nor will the editor of the post, nor will anyone who makes decisions about hiring/firing at ESPN (for instance, hiring people with more commitment to spreading good information about non-NBA/NCAA basketball). But here I am, acting like I’m one of those jerks at Deadspin.

Fran Fraschilla wrote a post over at ESPN about the best leagues outside of the NBA, some players to watch in those leagues, and so on. I’m not going to argue about the league rankings (although Australia seems too high to me at first glance, the fact is that once you get to such a low level, you might as well make it a tie between China and other low-level competitions, no big deal).

But I do have some questions about the “NBA prospect to watch” sections – namely that a number of them say “NBA prospect to watch: None”. I’m not alone in questioning this strange situation. Let us turn to Twitter crowdsourcing for help:

The tweet from Komianos regarding Miloš Teodosić is perhaps the strongest point of them all – this past October, Miloš was named by a majority of NBA GMs (the GM survey is generally nonsense, but bear with me) as the best player not currently in the NBA. He plays in Euroleague and VTB League. He isn’t an NBA prospect? How he escaped mention, I don’t know.

Luka Dončić is (quite worthily) mentioned for Euroleague as well as ACB, and he’s great. But Sergio Llull is an excellent player whose rights are owned by the Houston Rockets – of course rumors constantly pop-up about him finally signing an NBA deal, so maybe Fran Fraschilla dismissed him as a no-go. But how many no-go’s can there be? There’s no need to mention the Celtics’ 2016 (16th overall) draft pick Guerschon Yabusele, playing in China for the Shanghai Sharks? Dubious.

Jānis Timma was only just barely a 2013 pick, that draft’s Mr. Irrelevant, I admit. But he’s lighting it up in VTB and Eurocup for Zenit St. Petersburg (why was Eurocup only a footnote in Fran’s post when the quality of play there is superior to most of the national leagues ranked on the list, by the way?), scoring 16.42 points per game across all leagues with a 65.6% TS%, and he’s still only 24. If Laprovittola could get a look from the San Antonio Spurs this season (he’s now with Baskonia of the ACB), and Joe Ingles has hung around the Utah Jazz for a few seasons now, is it so mad to mention Timma?

We haven’t even noted yet that former NBAer Nando De Colo is the defending MVP of Euroleague (also in VTB with Miloš on CSKA, for the uninitiated). The youngsters that the ABA always produces are noted in the embedded tweets above – has Nikola Jokić not taught the world that you can’t sleep on 2nd round draft picks out of Serbia?

Frank Ntilikina

The cover image of Draft Express’ scouting report video of Frank Ntilikina

Anyway, I think the point is made, although I could go on…and I will. One more glaring missed prospect: Frank Ntilikina of France’s Pro A league. According to people who know better than I do, he’s almost guaranteed to be a lottery pick in the upcoming draft. He should have been mentioned. Alright, now I’m done naming players.

To finish up I’ll say that, obviously, no one is going to ESPN for coverage of non-North American basketball (if someone is, God help them), but this was a glaringly weak article. Why bother wasting the time to publish the thing (at least in our brave new world of cyberspace, it didn’t mean a waste of ink and paper) if you aren’t going to give people good information? Maybe there was a deadline involved, or some editing errors took out information, who knows. Whoever is responsible, the product is bad.

I hate to sound like I’m trying to shoehorn in a topical reference, but the ‘Fake News’ epidemic isn’t as new as a number of people in the media are making it out to be, it isn’t due only to malicious propagandists, and it isn’t restricted to the world of politics. People have been producing and will continue to produce factually-challenged, mediocre (and worse) pieces of journalism, reporting, etc. Fortunately, almost everyone can help. Learn for yourself about topics that interest you (we’re talking basketball on this site, of course, but any will do), and when you are learning about them think critically. Check out sources, or demand that they be referenced if they aren’t. Think logically and hard, whenever possible. Challenge yourself as a consumer (and/or producer) in the media landscape. Challenge those media professionals who produce whatever it is you’re reading/watching – via Twitter, email, call an editor, whatever you have to do. We all have to keep each other honest. Hell, I might have made errors in this above post, and if so I want to hear about it.

That’s all for now, thanks readers.

One Response

  1. Pierre Marie Corbacho

    The timing of Fraschilla’s article was a bit odd. I do not dismiss his European analysis by any means, especially when it comes to prospects. As a coach and analyst, I think he does a great job in terms of giving basketball fans fair and well-based insight on European prospects who have a chance to be special in college or the NBA.

    However, I think the generalities he made about the leagues are a bit tough. I understand you have limited space, and Fraschilla is an analyst and coach and not necessarily a writer, but I thought some of the rankings were interesting. After all, he had the LNB ranked ahead of the ABA and Greek League. Maybe the league may have more parity, but I find it hard to believe a league with no Euroleague representation is better than leagues that have that (ABA with 1 and Greek League with 2). And I also though the NBL being ranked higher than the LKL was a bit head scratching as well. In terms of prospects and club prestige, the LKL IMO is way, way better than anything New Zealand has to offer.

    I will say, I think he should have just avoided the prospect talk or just included one from each league, irregardless of the strength of the league. I think he was probably torn between doing a prospect piece and club piece and tried to do both, but ended up just making a club piece by the end. I am guessing he really wanted to talk about Doncic, and perhaps legitimize what he’s doing by arguing that he’s performing this well as a 17-year-old in two of the best leagues in Europe. If that’s the case, why not just write on Doncic, and why do a half-hearted general synopsis of the state of European club basketball?

    Another issue I had is that he is a bit inconsistent in his identification of “prospects” in this piece. My initial guess was that he was limiting to under 20 players, but there are good under-20 players in each league, so why not give them a mention? Maybe he identified them as “not-yet-drafted” players, but why mention Korkmaz, whom the Sixers own the rights to? I thought it was a bit of a shame he didn’t omitted prospects from many of the leagues, especially considering we will see some drafted in this upcoming draft most likely.

    I don’t want to be too hard on Fraschilla, because the English-speaking European basketball community isn’t the biggest, and Fraschilla definitely is helping basketball fans be more informed of some of the best young players in the world. But, as stated before, I think “rankings” pieces like this need to be extremely comprehensive or just avoided, and I don’t think Fraschilla is the kind of writer who can properly do the former.


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