What to make of the star-crossed Shavlik
Randolph's decision to enter the NBA draft on Friday the 13th? It seems to
us that there are three possibilities:
1) he's doing exactly what
his father says he is doing, which is getting an idea of what he would need
to do to get ready for next year's draft, and that he'll be back at Duke;
2) he's doing what John DeLong of the Winston-Salem Journal and Adam
Gold of 850 the Buzz have suggested (DeLong more strongly, but Gold has solid
sources into the Triangle basketball scene), which is that since he doesn't
expect to start once Josh McRoberts shows up, he's looking for a graceful way to
leave Duke, or;
3) he truly thinks he's ready for the NBA.
If so, he's the only one who does. Having lost most of his first two
seasons to a hip injury, Shavlik then lost a lot of this season to mono.
He has had flashes of brilliance - a startling offensive move here, a shocking
dunk there, a number of brilliant blocked shots - but he has never shown a
consistent game at Duke.
People who have seen him practice have seen more evidence of
brilliance. The most public comment on this was Jamal Boykins, who said he
was "shocked" that Shavlik was as good as he is. Boykins was referring
to the Randolph people see in practice.
It's conceivable, if unlikely, that he could go to work out for various teams
and show them that side of his game, and hook on with someone. But it's a
huge gamble, and since he's struggled with his confidence at Duke, not to
mention his health, not a wise one.
If Shavlik does return to Duke, we wouldn't automatically expect McRoberts to
start. He's a tremendous talent, and we're very excited about him, but he
is still going to be a freshman, and he's thin for a big guy (remember how
Randolph was as a rookie), and his defense may or may not be up to Randolph's
standards, which, fouls aside, is very good. And defense will get you
minutes at Duke.
In our estimation, Shavlik has had a few serious issues to deal with. First
and foremost is his health, which is compounded by an unwillingness or inability
to quickly recognize a problem. We saw this first with his hip
injury. You may remember that he was designing his own orthotic inserts
out of tennis balls, a practice which likely aggravated his condition. We heard
a rumor when he was still in high school that he was hiding an injury or
congenital condition, and that one reason why he was considering the NBA was
because he wouldn't be able to hide it forever. Watch him, we were told,
he favors a leg. You'll see.
Well, it was true that he had problem, although the rest of it was
And this past year, when he was ill but didn't realize it, a number of people
noticed the dropoff in his game and e-mailed us to ask about it. We can't
find the link now, but we recall him saying that he felt off but didn't realize
he was sick right away.
Clearly, awareness of his body is not Shav's strength, and that's a serious
problem for a guy who hopes to make a living through his physical gifts.
After his health has been confidence. He has not played with the
swagger his talent would suggest. This is not likely to be cured in the
And one other problem he has, which is largely self-inflicted, is that as a
young player, he preferred drills and individual practice to playing pickup
ball. The skills are there, but you learn a lot playing pickup.
Shavlik didn't really do that much before college.
Of course, whatever he decides to do, we absolutely wish him the best.
He hasn't played up to expectations, but in many ways, he's exactly what anyone
would want on their team. He's respectful, deeply religious, deferential
to teammates, does his schoolwork, and is by all accounts a great kid.
We hope that he would return to school and embrace the challenge of playing
against Shelden Williams, Josh McRoberts, and Eric Boateng. Testing the
waters, as the modern phrase has it, is fine and useful, but nothing could be
more useful than being defended by Shelden Williams, and getting passes from
A lot of people have given up on Shavlik. We've never been in that
camp. The talent is there, even though Randolph has had some tough breaks
and has struggled with his confidence. We think if he works hard this
summer, and busts his butt this coming year, he can put himself in a position to
But if he decides to go a different path, then of course we hope for the best
for him, and that things turn out well. We have admired his willingness to
fight back as adversity has struck, and hope that he does not give up so near