Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game recently wrote, “Sylven [Landesberg] is further away from NBA production than many other possible draft selections, and he shouldn’t be viewed as a legitimate prospect for two more years at least.”
This is why fans and members of the media were a bit shocked to see Landesberg skip out on his last two years of eligibility at the University of Virginia and declare for the 2010 NBA Draft—this all after being suspended from the Cavaliers squad for the remainder of the 2009-10 season for not attending art class.
Each year when the draft comes around, there is talk of a player’s maturity level. Despite a player’s athletic prowess and God given talents on the hardwood, what it comes down to for most GM’s is a simple question: Is the kid mature enough to play with the big boys day in and day out? Followed by: Am I willing to take a million dollar chance on the kid if I cannot honestly answer this question with a resounding yes?
As the NBA Draft gets underway on Thursday, June 24, and the guaranteed contracts get gobbled up by the likes of John Wall, Evan Turner, Derrick Favors, Wesley Johnson, and DeMarcus Cousins in picks 1-30, it may be a long wait and a long night for the former McDonald’s All-American 6’6” wing, which burst onto the scene in his college debut scoring 28 points, dropping eight assists, and snagging eight boards.
It isn’t that Landesberg doesn’t have the talent to be a key reserve coming off the pine in the League one day. It is more a question of readiness and upping one’s stock until the guys in the skybox with the money lining their pockets believe a prospect is physically and mentally prepared for the big stage.
When SLAM Magazine writer Franklyn Calle asked Landesberg when it was he decided he would enter the draft, it is Landesberg’s tell-tale answer that, now that hindsight is 20/20, should come as no surprise, “I had it in mind coming into the year. I [felt] like my numbers from my freshmen year were good enough to enter the draft last year but I felt like I needed to improve on some things.”
Scratch out the fact Landesberg says the year-end suspension for not attending art class did not play a role in him making the jump. Add to the equation his intention going into the year was to make the leap to the NBA regardless. His numbers from his freshman year were good enough, he says. At 16.6 ppg, 6 rpg, and 2.8 apg per 34.2 minutes of burn time in 2008-09 and ACC Rookie of the Year, who would argue against that?
However, by coming into the 2009-10 ACC season with the mindset that after 30 games, stick-a-fork-in-me-I’m-done-with-the-college-circuit, Landesberg failed in expanding other key aspects of his game besides his three-point percentage and overall field-goal percentage, such as leadership; and not just leadership on the court but off the court as well. By failing to hit the books and attend class, Landesberg showed a lack of maturity, failed to lead by example and failed his teammates; instead, he followed the likes of Jamil Tucker out the side door of the University of Virginia men’s basketball program.
One could easily say that the college game for a host of players is, at best, a stepping-stone to the NBA, a Saturday showcase for future pros. Does an NBA GM care that John Wall left after his freshman season at Kentucky or that Evan Turner had only one year before he graduated from Ohio State?
The difference for Wall and Turner as compared to Landesberg is that Landesberg is neither Wall nor Turner. He isn’t perceived as a sure thing. However, there is something to be said of Evan Turner who held off committing to the draft until he had one more year of the NCAA under his belt. It says that Turner, a basketball stud in last year’s NCAA, took one look at the previous year’s lottery and realized that another year would do him good and better prepare him for the next step in his basketball career.
Jarrod Gillis of the Charlotte Examiner notes that Landesberg has a similar skill set and size as current standouts in the League and one coming, notably Tyreke Evans (2009-10 Rookie of the Year), Spurs guard Manu Ginobli, Trailblazers franchise player Brandon Roy, and top five pick Evan Turner of Ohio State.
It could be said that the former, Tyreke Evans, and the latter, Evan Turner, are the most similar to Landesberg’s game. Drop the Brandon Roy comparisons now. Roy’s skill set is more finely tuned and with a 40”+ vertical and knack for the game, the Roys of the world are few and far between.
After all, Turner, like Landesberg, ended his sophomore season averaging 17.3 ppg and Evans finishing his freshman campaign at Memphis with 17.1 ppg. (Landesberg ended his first year with the Virginia Cavaliers at 16.8 ppg)
There the similarities start to trickle off.
Take the tried and true Tyreke Evans, one year removed from the college game. Evans, a PG with the Sacramento Kings, is an uncanny playmaker, a whirling dervish with the ball with a wingspan of almost 3” longer (at 6’11.25”) than Landesberg (not that 6’9” is shabby). Considering Landesberg’s lack of foot speed as compared to Evans, who once again gains an advantage over Landesberg at 3.17 ¾ court sprint (compared to 3.36), the additional 3” wing span is a pivotal physical difference that translates to the defensive side of the ball, not a strong suit for Landesberg to begin with.
When it comes to taking care of the pill, Landesberg, though not the main distributor for the Cavs (cue Sammy Zeglinski), he was a solid percentage point-and-a-half better than Turner, the National Player of the Year recipient. Nonetheless, without the ball in his hands to run the show, that is to be expected. Landesberg, it must be said, is a crafty player who can find his way to the hoop and, in turn, to the charity stripe; he is very much a consistent scorer who rarely has a horrible showing. In his first year at UVA, Landesberg was a double-digital scorer in all but five games, 12 of those games with at least 20 points or more, a UVA freshman record, and nine 20-point games as a second year player. He was a calm scorer who always managed to get in his points without anyone noticing—and sometimes silence can be golden.
Standing at 6’6”, Landesberg could be developed into a point guard to run the show like Evans of the Sacramento Kings, but would be better served as a wing player that thrives in a half court set such as the San Antonio Spurs who have the 49th pick of the 2010 Draft, should they not go with Matt Bouldin of Gonzaga.
Though I find it almost impossible at this stage in the game, Landesberg’s best chance at cracking the early-to-mid second round is with the New Jersey Nets, who will soon be headed to Brooklyn, not far from Landesberg’s backdoor in New York. In the event the 6’4” Dominique Jones’ stock drops suddenly and unexpectedly, the Nets could get a steal with Landesberg at #31. It is highly doubtful but possible.
Same for Detroit’s pick at #36 although why they would pick another guard is beyond me. I can only imagine what Ben Gordon’s thinking now having left Chicago.
Landesberg, to me, is a sleeper, a kid who could easily hang around the League for eight or nine years averaging 11 points and 4 rebounds per game.
The San Antonio Spurs would be a great fit, as would the Indiana Pacers.
The likelihood, however, of Landesberg not pacing his way up and down the court in the D-League for the next two years is very slim.
Two more years, as Mahoney states, would have better served Landesberg as a legitimate prospect in the NBA Draft. Otherwise, he will be what the workouts have shown of him: a project in the making—not one worth undertaking, just one in the making.