Len is nowhere as developed as any of them.
Smith had a few good years in Golden State, where he lived up to his No. 1 pick status, then settled into a long and not-so-illustrious career as a journeyman who played third, fourth and 10th-fiddle to an array of NBA stars such as Kevin Garnett (in Minnesota), LeBron James (in Cleveland) and even Kobe Bryant (where Smith finished out his career in Los Angeles).
Wilcox has been strictly a journeyman after being a lottery pick by the Los Angeles Clippers. Williams, after being picked in the second round by the New Jersey Nets and traded to Atlanta before his rookie year ended, is out of the NBA the last I looked.
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The 7-1 Len is very athletic running up and down the court, but his mobility comes to a screeching halt when he gets close to the basket. He has very few low-post moves – when did they stop teaching the drop-step? – and has had his shot blocked a lot for a player that tall.
Former Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg told me before the ACC season started that Len could be a “difference maker” between the Terps being a middle-of-the-pack pretender and a contender. Right now, he is making a difference – but not necessarily in a good way.
Was Howard’s absence good for the Terps?
It’s interesting that Maryland’s offense executed better than it had in a long time, certainly better than it had for most of the ACC season, without Howard on the court. Howard, who according to Turgeon stayed behind in College Park because of the flu, has struggled mightily the past few weeks.
After Allen, who Turgeon said was also under the weather, gave way to Faust and Wells, the Terps offense ran effectively in the second half. There was not as much dribbling at the point, which Howard seems to do in excess.
It was apparent to anyone who has watched the Terps struggle to score that Howard’s absence contributed to the team scoring at least 65 points for the first time since they put up 94 in an ACC-season opening game win over Virginia Tech back on Jan. 5.
A large part of Maryland’s inability to close teams out is the fact that the Terps don’t get to the free throw line a lot late in games, and when they do, they miss with frightening frequency. It happened again against the Seminoles.
Since starting the ACC season by hitting 22 of 28 free throws against the Hokies, who were 17 of 24, Maryland has been to the line 100 times in the past seven games. The Terps have made 67. Their opponents have gone to the 131 times and converted 79 times.
Though that’s 10 percent worse than Maryland, the overall differential has cost the Terps, particularly in the losses to Florida State.
That’s the difference between being 5-3 in the ACC and in great shape going into the second half of the conference season after Saturday’s home game against Wake Forest, or 3-5 and scrapping to stay in any discussion about postseason bids.
Turgeon had better make sure his players can put this tough loss behind them before they take on Wake Forest (10-10, 3-5 in the ACC) Saturday at Comcast Center. The Deacons have not been a particularly good road team, but they have beaten North Carolina State at home and lost by only five Wednesday night at home to Duke.
The Terps didn’t respond that well the last time they lost a close game to Florida State, coming out flat offensively on the road at Miami. It will be interesting to see what kind of crowd they get in College Park given the way the season is going for Maryland (16-5, 3-5) and the team the Terps will be playing. They will need all the support they can get after their toughest loss of the season.