This post probably isn't for those people who prefer ramming the same opinion ad nauseam down other people's throats, but since I don't get NBATV at home and do at the gym, I thought I'd watch the whole Kings/Wolves tilt while on the treadmill and jot down some observations about the team's late-first-round picks in the last two drafts.
The circumstances for Wayne Ellington and Lazar Hayward were and weren't ideal in this game, as they were each going to get a lot of minutes with Jonny Flynn and Wesley Johnson out but would also match up primarily against actual NBA players in Donte Greene and Omri Casspi (who played together multiple times). With that said, each were among the team's leaders in scoring in a close game that came down to a missed box-out (by Hayward on Donte Greene) and an unnecessarily complicated final play (just run Hayward or Ellington off of a couple of screens instead of trying to make 2 passes in less than 3 seconds).
First, the bad news: if these two are playing significant minutes together as the team's 2/3, the Wolves will hover around 15 wins again. This shouldn't come as a surprise; it's pretty clear that neither are a primary scoring option, and they should probably enjoy their time together on the floor in Vegas because it's not likely to happen during the year (particularly if a numbers game sends Hayward to the D-League). Ellington was sloppy with some of his passes and passed up a couple of opportunities to take a charge, and Hayward didn't box out Greene in the final minute, which led to an easy two. Both of them showed that their ability to score in the lane will require a little craftiness on their part and an ability to draw contact, which Ellington did well tonight.
The good news: They do the things they're supposed to be able to do and play smart, fundamentally-sound ball (with the exception of Ellington's errant passes). Both can hold their own 1v1 and aren't afraid to fight for rebounds inside. Their defensive strengths are more obvious off the ball, however, as both created turnovers through steals or poking the ball away while giving help to another guy. Both have good shooting strokes and were able to create some separation from their defender if they were guarded on the catch; Ellington was more likely to pass and cut backdoor or use a screen and Hayward was more likely to take a dribble in and then step back. Ellington did a good job of advancing the ball upcourt on fast breaks via the pass, and Hayward did a good job of getting back when Jeremy Pargo went into the paint.
The main thing that would help both is being stronger. Neither of them has prototypical height, and they'd benefit from the strength since neither rely heavily on their athleticism. Ellington has to be more careful with his passes, and both could work more at being pests defensively so they could be better role players.
Overall, though, each of them held their own against the real NBA guys that the Kings had. With that in mind, I have another thought about each player and where they were drafted: It seems like the end of the first round is exactly where a team should be taking these types of guys. Here's why. With a late first-round pick, upperclassmen provide a higher floor than underclassmen, and teams will know what they need to know about them early enough to make an informed decision about whether they should be kept. Also, guys like Wesley Matthews and Anthony Morrow show why it's better to draft a role player late in the first round than it is in the second or as a free agent. Matthews is gone after one season; Hayward and Ellington are with the Wolves for at least 3 or 4 more. If they pan out, the team has more years to keep them at lower pay than what guys like Matthews or Morrow are getting.
Thoughts on what you saw from the duo tonight?