The Downside of the Upside

‘Upside’ is a dangerous term. It’s not as outwardly dangerous as say, ‘projectile vomit’ or ‘written by Jason Whitlock’ but to basketball general managers, nothing is scarier than upside. It makes people lose their jobs.

Never does the four-year college star get selected first. Teams would rather have the freshman who played half a season but might turn into something. Ironically enough, the “something” he might turn into is oftentimes worse than what that college star is already capable of.

Nevertheless, upside drives desire, which drives decisions. Take Jimmy Bender for instance. Coming out of high school, he had enough tools to fill a shed. After his one year of college, Jimmy decided he wanted to play professionally. The scouting reports came out and they loved him. The normal accolades were tossed around rather carelessly. Bender was long, real long. Nothing is better than length. The only thing that rivals length is athleticism and boy did Bender have that in spades. He was so athletic it made his length look pedestrian. Standing at 6’9” tall, Jimmy could jump out of a phone booth while making a call. He was long and athletic.

There was another side to the scouting reports but they didn’t really address Jimmy’s upside, so a lot of general managers ignored them. Bender had all the tools to be great. His length would bother shooters and protect the rim like no other. His athleticism would allow him to finish strong in transition and create mismatches against his opponents. What else did we need to know?

The rest of one scouting report reads like a review of the April 14th showing of “Our American Cousin.”

‘Jimmy Bender has tools, many of them beneficial to a man in his line of work. However, Jimmy Bender is lacking many more tools necessary for success in such a vocation. For one, he cannot shoot. Shooting seems to be a rather important part of this sport. Teams have trouble winning when they cannot shoot. Players have trouble getting work or getting paid when they cannot shoot. Jimmy cannot shoot. And this is not an exaggeration along the lines of insulting a guard who has little outside range. Jimmy literally cannot shoot a basketball. He can throw a basketball, usually in an arc, but that is often the end of the comparisons between someone shooting and what Jimmy is able to do with a basketball.
Sadly, this is far from Bender’s only shortcoming on the basketball floor. He seems to be a terrible passer. Now some players hate passing and are selfish with the ball. They would rather force up shots and accumulate points for themselves rather than aid in their team’s chances at winning. Jimmy is not one of these players. He is just incapable of completing a pass to a teammate in any kind of timely manner during play. There was one instance back in November where a teammate cut to the hoop and Bender’s defender chopped at the ball in his hand. The ball ricocheted directly to the cutting man for an easy bucket and the official scorer rewarded Bender with an assist. It was his only assist of the calendar year and the official scorer of that day’s game was fired soon after.

And, dear god, don’t get me started on Jimmy Bender’s dribbling. Calling it dribbling is an insult to the floor that is taking the pounding of the ball. 

But besides his complete lack of shooting, passing or dribbling acumen, Bender is in pretty good shape. I mean, he is an athletic freak and have you seen how long he is?!’

That is the end of Jimmy’s basketball scouting report. It is an unfortunate tale of how a man can be so completely summed up and taken down in just a few paragraphs.

Of course, it was not all bad for Bender. He went on to be drafted number one overall; that upside is irresistible.