As you've likely surmised by now, we're running a bit behind on our attempt to preview all Jayhawks hoping to be drafted on Thursday. However, we made a promise to at the very least do a feature on those expecting a first round selection and if nothing else, we are true to our word. Today your featured Jayhawk is none other than Mario "The Shot" Chalmers.
Before we get to Chalmers, though, congratulations are in order for one Sasha Kaun who recently penned a contract in his native Russia that will pay him $1,047,042 each of the next three years. However, he can still be drafted Thursday and just as with other international players, the team that drafts him will hold his rights to eventually bring him over. From the sounds of things, it seems like he did hurt his draft chances by signing this contract, but it's hard to blame him as there aren't many professions paying you a mil per year for at least three years and the NBA will always be there.
The other hopefuls, Darnell Jackson and Russell Robinson have signed no such contracts. Projections still seem to list Jackson as late second round selection and Robinson on the outside looking in. I'd be surprised if he didn't get a few tryouts for a free agent contract, however, I think he is better suited to head overseas for a bit.
Now, without further commotion, the NBA Draft Profile on the one and only, Mario Chalmers…
I, for one, have always thought that Chalmers had all of the tools to be a very solid NBA contributor. Apparently the general public did not subscribe to that same school of thought until he made a three pointer. A three pointer that was well guarded and tied the national championship game with 2 seconds left in regulation and sent an entire fan base into euphoria, but a three pointer all the same. Up until this moment, Chalmers was considered an early to mid second round pick, well behind Arthur and Rush and often behind Collins as well. Between that shot and a few weeks of workouts, he has now been projected as high as #12 to Sacramento, ahead of all other Jayhawks. Granted that is only one projection and in nearly every other he is behind both Arthur and Rush, but still…crazy how perception can change.
Despite most of Chalmers' publicity coming from that one shot, I don't think this attention is unwarranted. This rings especially true to me after watching Rajon Rondo be an integral part of the recently crowned NBA champion, Boston Celtics. Remember, it wasn't long ago that Rondo and his Kentucky teammates were humiliated in Allen Fieldhouse by the freshman led team of Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers and Julian Wright. This particular day was Brandon's, but the point still resonates. When you consider the things that Rondo was drafted for and what he has done well, the primary considerations are defense and his enormous hand size. As far as I know, Mario doesn't have freakish hands, but he sure does have some long arms and uses them to play some pretty spectacular defense. Given that they're both listed at roughly 6'1" and 170 lbs., let's go ahead and call the size factor a wash. If you want to debate defensive merits, I'd probably say Rondo is better on ball, while Mario is better off the ball. I'd say both have their own level of value and again call this a wash.
But as we all know, as overall players they really aren't all that similar. Most of what Rondo does offensively is geared around running the offense by getting into the lane with either the intent to finish or distribute. The kindest thing to say about his outside shot is that it's not his strong suit. Chalmers, on the other hand, has been playing off the ball and has scored a great deal of his points from the three point arc. However, at the pro level, his size will likely move him back to the point, a position he played in high school but moved away from in college, due to sharing the backcourt with Russell Robinson and Sherron Collins. But with that three guard rotation, it's not exactly like he hasn't handled the ball since high school. In fact, he actually led the team (and nearly the league) in assist:turnover ratio last year at 2.25. For comparison, Ty Lawson was slightly ahead of him at 2.32, while the lottery-projected DJ Augustin and Derrick Rose were behind him at 2.1 and 1.8, respectively. This certainly isn't the only indicator of point guard success but it certainly sheds some light on the question; can Chalmers really run the point?
Because if he can, with his scoring ability and defensive prowess he becomes a no-brainer. He can dribble with either hand, he can get into the lane, he's an extremely gifted passer and along with all of those things, he has a shot defenders will have to respect. He probably won't be Chris Paul or Deron Williams, but as I alluded to above, there's no reason to think he can't immediately be as good as or better than Rondo. I doubt he's ever a franchise PG or maybe even an all-star, but with adequate minutes, I can see him posting a pretty consistent line of 10(p)-6(a)-4(r)-2(s). And that last sequence really comes to the crux of Mario; he does a little bit of everything. Aside from individual games, his stats are rarely going to jump off the page at you, but he has an innate ability to contribute in nearly every way, especially in the big moments (as you may have heard about lately). His knack for baiting players and even officials, combined with his overall drive and skill set make Mario an ideal player to have on any team. He may not have the physical presence that will allow him to carry a team, but he has every ability to be either an incredible bench player or a solid starter for years to come.
One thing we know for sure, there will never be another Mario Chalmers.
** Post-edit **
It seems hard to believe and personally I don't see it happening (though it's tough to argue with any other than Mario at #12), but the Bill Simmons/Chad Ford mock draft that took place today had Arthur, Chalmers and Rush going 10 (Nets), 12 (Kings), & 13 (Blazers), respectively. I'm not sure if it will pan out exactly like that, but it's certainly going to end up a whole lote more accurate than what The Big Lead is working on... And let's just say that I'm a little embarrased to even be dignifying Ian Thomsen's latest by mentioning it here...