Ever since Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball, basketball fans have always looked for the next up and coming player, whether it was the next Wilt, Kareem, Magic, Dr. J and of course Michael Jordan.
ESPN’s David Thorpe (H/T Spurs Nation) asked in a column earlier this week, “Who is the next Manu Ginobili?”
Obviously San Antonio Spurs’ Ginobili’s career isn’t over just yet, but he’s definitely in the final years of his career.
Ginobili is a very unique player. He came into the league as an unknown in 2002 and quickly made a name for himself for his hard work and hustle on both ends of the floor along with passion and heart that is unmatched.
Finding the next Manu isn’t an easy task considering what I previously mentioned along with a unique skill-set.
Years ago, many expected Dallas Mavericks guard Rudy Fernandez to fit that mold, but he has never quite measured up.
Thorpe thinks he has found the next Manu just north of Texas.
Indeed, Ginobili is uniquely talented, given how well he packages all of those “average” skills together. But that doesn’t mean he’s unique. There is another player who is reminiscent of Ginobili — the Thunder’s James Harden.
In many respects, Ginobili is basketball’s version of what a “Moneyball” player looks like. He’s too skinny; he isn’t explosively athletic enough to be a classic shooting guard; and he doesn’t look like a prolific scorer. He also falls down a lot and plays awkwardly when compared to a classic guard. Most old-school scouts seek exactly the opposite from their 2-guards, a major reason why Ginobili was not drafted until the 57th selection in 1999. And that was after already proving to be one of the best young players in Europe and winning a title in the top Italian league. But as evidenced by his titles and his production, Ginobili is an analyst’s dream because his sum is so much better than his individual parts.
When taking apart his game, we see that each individual piece can at least be termed “good enough.”
I’m not sure I agree with Thrope’s analysis of Ginobili. Since when was “too skinny” an issue for shooting guards. Ginobili was also plenty athletic when he came into the league and has only really lost a bit of that speed due to injuries the last few years, but ask Hilton Armstrong about his athleticism. Even if he wasn’t considered athletic, does it really matter when he can still get to the teeth of the defense with ease?
Ginobili was picked so late in 1999 because he was an unknown. He didn’t start improving and wasn’t considered one of Europe’s best players until a few years later when he was playing with Kinder Bologna.
Call me a homer if you will, but I’ve followed Ginobili’s career closely since before the Spurs signed him in 2002. I’m not going to sit here and say that he is elite at every part of his game, but I don’t agree that he is just “good enough.”
As for the Harden comparison, I don’t think we’ve seen enough of Harden for him to be mentioned in the same breath. He’s a talented young guard, but he’s got a way to go before he is on par with Ginobili’s defense, passing, passion, killer instinct and leadership among other things. That’s not to say that he can’t develop those qualities, but Manu is one-of-a-kind, and I’ll paraphrase him when he was asked once about being the Kobe Bryant of Europe.
Comparisons really aren’t fair to either party.
And in this case, apples and oranges will never look a like.