A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

NBA Draft top 30 prospects – 2017

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011717joshjackson

 

I am using a slightly modified system compared to last year. My 3 steps to evaluate players skills in different areas are:

  • Overall statistical rating: This favors players with all around stats, such as steals, blocks, assists, etc. The results are fairly typical compared to virtually every other draft analytics blogger. For international players I find PER to have had useful results in recent drafts.
  • What categories the player excelled in vs his college conference or international competition
  • Whether they have NBA caliber tools in that category

The rare perfect skill hits all 3. For example last year Ben Simmons was in my top 5 overall statistical performers, dominated assists and free throw attempts at a generational level for a PF prospect and had the athletic, height, ballhandling, etc. tools to back up his passing and free throw line drawing success at the college level. In the past the same would’ve been true of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson’s shooting.

Unfortunately the vast majority of skills do not reach that perfection, so it’s varying degrees of flawed from there. Hitting 2 of 3 at an “A” level and one at a “B” level makes them elite in the category, being A level in one but B level in the other two would be great in the category but not elite, and so forth. Using this I then look at the players overall skillset and make a determination of how they rank. I adjust for how offense is more valuable at smaller positions and defense at bigger positions, using ORPM and DRPM as a guide.

1. SF/PF Josh Jackson

Jackson rates as an elite defensive prospect at a big wing or smallball four position where defense can be quite valuable as seen by the last two DPOYs won by Kawhi Leonard. His athleticism, intensity and steal, rebound and block rates contribute to this. Offensively he is not perfect but is still a quality prospect. His passing numbers were strong for a wing and rates as one of the most high volume shot creators in the class for his age. He got to the line enough that combined with his explosiveness is a great slashing prospect. Jackson’s main problem is his 3pt shooting which with a 57% FT has potential to be terrible 3pt shooter in the NBA, even though he hit 38% 3pt. If Jackson is a poor enough shooter it could force him to he PF spot. Although Jackson is a good not great offensive prospect when added to a baseline of potentially elite defensive value it was enough for him to get the #1 spot for me. 

2. C Anzejs Pasecniks

I rate Pasecniks as being an over 20 PER rotation player in the ACB as more impressive than any production feat an NCAA prospect has right now. At a closer level to the pros, he’s already shown he can be a good player. Pasecniks follows in the footsteps in numbers-friendly European center prospects lately such as Jokic, Gobert, Nurkic, Capela, Porzingis, Valanciunas. His best skill rates as defense to me, as he is the 3rd best shotblocker per minute in the ACB, although he struggles a little with rebounding and physicality. He has a reported 7’6 wingspan and great lateral mobility. He is not quite a Gobert level defensive prospect, but considering position rates as the best defensive prospect in the draft for me. Offensively he doesn’t have an elite skill, but has quality driving ability shown by his free throw rate and athleticism, and has the potential to develop a perimeter shooting game. Passing is one of his biggest flaws.

3. PG Jawun Evans

Evans is a complete offensive prospect. His best category rates as passing for me, where he averaged Ball-like Ast/40 although with less height and taking more shots to do it. Evans projects as a strong 3pt shooter, got to the line at an above average rate, was one of the highest volume shot takers in the class (His Pts/40 is Fultz-like) and was a ball thief. While he is a good not great athlete I project him as an above average slasher. Two of his biggest questions are finishing at the rim and defense as is typical for undersized PGs, but in the modern game and success of players smaller than him like Isaiah Thomas and Kemba Walker, there’s no need to overreact anymore to small PGs not being able to play. He should be a great fit in the modern pick and roll game with his ability to pass, shoot and drive.

4. PF Lonzo Ball

Ball is somewhat complicated to rate. His passing and decision rates as the best skills in the draft to me. If you had to pick anyone to be historically good at something in this draft, it would be Ball at passing. He is a good rebounder, then the rest of his game is pretty meh. His FT% and weird jumpshot brings some concern about 3pt shooting at next level, he didn’t get to the line or create his own shot the best in college and his defense projects as solid but not above average. I’m also slightly concerned about putting up stats in a transition heavy system. Not because of inflation but because the NBA is a halfcourt game, you can’t build around Ball’s transition play. If he failed Ball would be kind of the NBA’s Manziel or Tebow who played non-pro college football systems, while his halfcourt weaknesses exposed in the NBA would be like theirs as pocket passers. That’s before mentioning his father.

But if he’s transcendent at the one thing he’s good at it, it could make him a better pick than players who are good to great at more things. So I guess he goes here.

5. PG Dennis Smith, Jr.

Smith has dynamic strengths. His ability to get to the line combined with being arguably the most explosive athlete in the draft makes him a high upside slasher. He has one of the best assist rates after Ball and Evans and projects to be an above average 3pt shooter. However there are concerns about his defensive effort, basketball IQ and overall intangibles. That has been dangerous warning signs in the past, but in this case the speed and skill is so great that one has to take the chance to get star potential.

6. PF/C Cameron Oliver

Oliver has the combination every team is looking for nowadays, he’s a big man with 3pt range who had one of the best block rates of all these prospects. In addition to his shooting and defense, his shot creation volume rated well for a sophomore. His ability to get to the line was worryingly poor, he wasn’t a great passer and there are concerns about his intangibles. Nonetheless an athletic big with his floor spacing and defensive potential is a valuable pick. Unlike a lot of other numbers sleepers who come with the caveat of being seniors, this guy is only 20. (Well, he turns 21 on July 11th)

7. PF/C Mathias Lessort

Like Pasecniks, Lessort following in the successful footsteps of highly productive European big prospect is a good sign. Specifically Rudy Gobert and Clint Capela. In their draft years in French Pro A, Gobert had 21.7 PER and Capela 23.9, while Lessort has 21.8. Compared to them Lessort isn’t as much as a shotblocking threat and has more of a Tristan Thompson like game and body. Offensive rebounding is his biggest strength, while he has the athleticism and track record getting to the line to project well attacking the basket. Defensively he has potential as a lateral mobility driven defender.

8. SG Donovan Mitchell

Mitchell is one of the best 3 and D prospects in the draft. He is one of the best wing defenders based on his college play and physical tools, while his 35% 3pt/80% FT makes him a good outside shooting prospect. He is not a great shot creating prospect, I question whether his qualty passing numbers can translate if he’s not dribbling in the NBA, and his basketball IQ is reportedly a concern, but the defensive and shooting combination is highly interesting in the modern game and gives him “role player star” upside.

9. PG/SG Markelle Fultz

The one area of the game Fultz rated as elite for me was shot creation volume for his age. Even when you take into account having no talent as teammates, the amount of shots he took for a freshman was pretty ungodly. His shooting is good not great when taking into account his FT%, likewise his passing is solid but not elite. Intensity is a question when it comes to defense and when it comes to getting to the line, without being an elite athlete I can’t rate him as elite there. Last year I thought Ingram was a player who didn’t do anything exceptional in college except shoot a high volume of shots. Fultz is a better prospect than him, but I have similar concern. I will say that if he does come in on the high end as a shooter or driver, that combined with his shot creation skills could give him a quality combination of offensive weapons. I still think Fultz can have a quality career, but I would bet on him becoming a Rudy Gay/Andrew Wiggins/Harrison Barnes of guards (20 point ability, well paid career, impact doesn’t come together) before I would a superstar.

10. SF Jayson Tatum

Tatum’s profile is somewhat similar to Fultz. His one elite skill is shot creation, while the rest of his projection is somewhat middling. He he is a good but not great passer, and is a decent enough at getting to the line but a non elite athlete when it comes to NBA slashing. He appears to be a decent decision maker and is an average defensive prospect. I’m going to give Tatum a little benefit of the doubt and rank him higher than I would have, for coming back from injury. If he played the whole season healthy his stats may have been higher.

11. PG De’Aaron Fox

Fox has great athleticism and got to the FT line at a great rate, showing his upside as a driver in the NBA. He is also a shot creator. Fox is a worrying non shooting PG in the modern game and was not a great passer. However I see upside because with his 73.6% FT there’s at least a chance he surprises as a shooter which would clear up the biggest problems in his game. With Fox’s athletic tools if he can improve as a skill player there is a lot of upside there so I didn’t want to rank him too low.

12. SF/PF OG Anunoby

Anunoby rates as a defense only prospect for me, but on that end he is one of the best in the draft. He had great steal and block rates and has the length and lateral mobility to be a great defensive PF in the modern game, which it helps is a high value defensive position. He was a decent passer for his role. His shooting is a major concern along with shot creation.

13. PF Jordan Bell

While Bell is somewhat stuck between positions defensively, his great block and steal rates combined with athleticism make him a quality prospect on that end. For a low volume scorer his passing rate was very good, while he has potential to attack the basket with his physical tools.

14. PF T.J. Leaf

Leaf’s offensive resume is strong. His shooting, passing, decision making and shot creation all rated fairly highly for me based on his UCLA numbers and he was a solid rebounder, while his ability to get to the line and defense as major concerns. Like Ball there’s some concern about whether his game fits a transition system more than halfcourt but his skill level has a likely place in the game.

15. SG Sindarious Thornwell

Thornwell isn’t an elite prospect in any area but his defense, shooting and decision making is all well above average, while his passing and ability to drive is decent. He is an average shot creation talent and isn’t quite guaranteed to do anything, but overall is a solid 3 and D potential at the next level.

16. C Thomas Bryant

Bryant has both the size and shotblocking to have defensive potential and 3pt shooting potential. However he is decent, not great in both areas and isn’t a guarantee. Still, the upside he can put both skills together is an appealing upside.

17. SF/PF Jonathan Isaac

Isaac is a great defensive wing going by his steal and block rates and physical tools, however his offense does not project as all that impressive for me. He is a non shot creation wing and his shooting, slashing and passing only rates as average. Still, the 3 and D upside is quite solid.

18. SG Jajuan Johnson

Johnson was a great 3pt shooter in college who has the length to be a good defender. He does not rate as a strong shot creator and while he passed at a high level (over 4 assists per 40) whether he has the ball enough to take advantage of it is unclear. He is also 23 and being older than seniors is unpredictable. Nevertheless with value is thin at this stage of the draft, his shooting, passing and defense makes him a plausible enough 3 and D threat at the next level.

19. PG Monte Morris

Morris projects as having a great basketball IQ and passing ability, along with above average shooting. He is a mediocre defensive prospect, below average shot creator and got to the line a worryingly little amount of time in college. Nevertheless his skill level and IQ could give him a spot.

20. PF Aleksander Vezenkov

Vezenkov is this year’s Juan Hernangomez, he is producing in the ACB and is a great 3pt shooting prospect which could give him value as a stretch shooter in the modern game. Although he’s pretty one dimensonal on offense and rates as a below average defender. At this stage being great at one thing means more than being 6 out of 10 at everything.

21. PF Tyler Lydon

Like Vezenkov, Lydon’s pro game is built around being a 3pt shooter and high IQ player. He is not as strong a 3pt shooter, but could be a decent defender. His ability to get to the line and shot creation is an issue.

22. PF/C Zach Collins

Collins rates as a quality offensive big with his ability to get to the FT line, shooting potential and decision making. He is a strong rebounder. His passing is worrying and his defense could be only ok due to physical tools, but the offense makes him worth it.

23. PF/C Ivan Rabb

Rabb was one of the best in the draft in one statistical category, his free throw rate compared to field goals attempted. That combined with a strong offensive rebound rate could show he’s a player who can attack the basket. The rest of his game is fairly vanilla as neither a dominant physical player or a perimeter shooter, but at this stage doing one thing at an elite level is enough to get my attention. Rabb could potentially be a decent defensive player as well with his lateral mobility and size.

24. SG Malik Monk

My model said to rank Monk out of the top 30, but I’ll put him this high out of fear of the “Devin Booker” effect. Booker at Kentucky didn’t get to use his full arsenel of dribble drive and passing skills, likewise it’s possible that playing as off ball SG beside Fox limited what Monk could show.

Otherwise his numbers are scary. He has poor defensive stats and tools and brutal rebounding, below average at getting to the line for his shot volume, and was not much of a passer. He had a great shooting season but there’s been countless great NCAA shooters over the years and only so many of them have good NBA careers for a reason, because predicting shooting to the pros like all skills is an indirect translation.

25. PF John Collins

Collins was an exceptional rebounder and got to the FT line at an elite rate, however neither his passing, defensive stats or shooting numbers were impressive and physically he appears to be stuck between PF and C a bit. Like Rabb the ability to get to the line and offensive glass may be a foundation of his game.

26. C Justin Patton

Patton has a quality combination of size, athleticism and blocked shots which should give him potential on the defensive end. Offensively he has a lot to improve skill wise but a young big with physical tools looks fine here.

27. SF/PF Deonte Burton

Burton has a great combination of power and athleticism. While he’s not that long, strong steal and block rates should give him defensive potential and he has 3pt range, which could make him a mismatch at PF. Being 23 hurts him, if not for the extra unpredictability factor of how few prospects have been older than 22 as prospects, he would’ve rated in my 15.

28. SG Wesley Iwundu

Iwundu is a long armed athlete who can shoot 3s and has solid passing ability. His steal and block rates and 3pt shooting are both good more than great, but he still projects as having 3 and D upside.

29. SG L.J. Peak

Peak’s biggest strength in college was getting to the FT line, while not a hugely explosive athlete he may be able to drive in the pros. He showed the ability to pass for a shooting guard prospect. His FT% being just under 80% shows some shooting potential as well. Peak has bigger strengths as an on ball than off ball player when it may be preferable to be an off ball player as a supporting player, but nevertheless he is a solid all around wing.

30. SF Justin Jackson

Projects as high IQ professional who can pass and have a chance (But isn’t a guarantee) to be a good 3pt shooter. Defense and shot creation is a concern. My #31 is Josh Hart, who more or less has the same projection.

Notable players not in top 30:

Jacob Wiley: The closest omission after Hart, Wiley dominated against mid major competition, he had great defensive stats but it’s unclear whether those will translate for physical tools reasons. One of his biggest assets is potential to shoot from a big man position.

Lauri Markkanen, Luke Kennard: Both players bomb the “overall statistical” rating part of my model due to poor defensive stats or passing combination so they got off on the wrong foot. Because of that they only rate as decent shooting prospects overall (as mentioned for Monk there’s a reason there are many more 40% 3pt shooters in college than NBA) and mediocre to awful at everything else.

Bam Adebayo, Ike Anigbogu: Both do one thing exceptionally well in college, Bam getting to the FT line and Anigbogu blocking shots. But like Markkanen and Kennard players who start with a poor overall statistical rating, even if they’re otherwise exceptional in a skill like shooting, blocks or getting to the line, end up projecting as only decent in the area for me and they lack the other versatility to rank as top 30 players.

Frank Ntilikina, Terrance Ferguson, Isaiah Hartenstein: For the same reason numbers driven reasons I’m high on prospects like Pasecniks or Lessort I’m low on these internationals. Ntilikina has an 11.9 PER on his French Pro A team which ranks 9th among his teammates, while he plays a different position this greatly trails the productivity of successful players like Gobert and Capela from that league recently. I just need to see more excellence at a lower level than that based on the recent internationals who’ve succeeded, even if Frank has quality size and shooting potential. Harteinstein is also 8th on his team in PER (17.5) in the LKL which a recent prospect in Valanciunas dominated and his style of big center who plays near the basket is going out of fashion nowadays and his game appears to be somewhat limited outside of size. Ferguson however is the king of 1st round projected internationals with bad stats. He has 5.4 PER in the Australian league and doesn’t appear to be good at anything.

Harry Giles: I understand Giles was recovering from injury, but with numbers being the starting point for my board, he just didn’t do much outside of rebounding and I’ve yet to see the great evidence for his supposed star talent.

Written by jr.

June 21, 2017 at 4:17 pm

The case against Markelle Fultz as the surefire #1 prospect

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hi-res-b2ffbd9c6381fb26abc8810c27081e1e_crop_northMarkelle Fultz appears to be a lock to go #1 pick. The Celtics will either take him 1st or trade the pick to someone who will.

Should he be?

First, to ask whether Fultz should go first, my first question is whether he’s a more productive college player than his peers.

Here is the top 10 prospects on Draftexpress in PER, WS/48 and BPM:

Markelle Fultz 27.9 PER, .172 WS/48, 9.1 BPM

Lonzo Ball 24.7 PER, .214 WS/48, 12.2 BPM

Josh Jackson 24.1 PER, .180 WS/48, 10.7 BPM

Jayson Tatum 22.0 PER, .169 WS/48, 7.5 BPM

De’Aaron Fox 22.6 PER, .192 WS/48, 8.7 BPM

Malik Monk 21.5 PER, .189 WS/48, 8.0 BPM

Jonathan Isaac 24.6 PER, .205 WS/48, 10.9 BPM

Dennis Smith 23.1 PER, .142 WS/48, 7.3 BPM

Lauri Markkanen 25.0 PER, .235 WS/48, 9.3 BPM

Zach Collins 30.9 PER, .298 WS/48, 11.5 BPM

Fultz is behind the projected #2 and #3 picks in Ball and Jackson in both WS/48 and BPM, perhaps the two best boxscore stats to measure impact. His WS/48 is 8th of those 10 players and his BPM is 6th. His best ranking stat is the volume scoring tilted PER which rates ahead of all but Collins who only played 17.3 minutes per game.

Fultz is a much higher volume scorer than Ball and Jackson, but he is a worse passer than Ball and defender than Jackson. Not only is valuing raw points per game over higher ranking stats like WS/48 and BPM a mistake in any context, but especially when it comes to predicting draft prospects. Stat guys have long said the opposite is true, that filling up stats like steals, blocks, assists, rebounds, efficiency predicts success better than points per game. Volume scoring is affected by various factors such as NCAA’s rules, spacing, coaching, age and skill level of opponents and teammates. Fultz is an elite shotblocking guard and good passer and rebounder so it’s not all bad. But outside of PPG Ball and Jackson’s profiles are overall superior.

So saying Fultz was just the best player this year compared to players like Ball and Jackson is not accurate. I assume the scouts however, rate him #1 for the eye test as much as any statistical reason.

Fultz is wowing scouts for his ability to “create his own shot”. He’s one of that guy with tons of moves, so to speak. He has great change of pace ability off the pick and roll and should be strong at making difficult shots. In scouts eyes Fultz is therefore being projected as a guaranteed 20 point per game scorer.

However the ability to create your own midrange shot off the dribble is quickly becoming phased out for guards. Valuing Fultz ability to create midrange shots off the dribble is like valuing college Jahlil Okafor’s post moves, it’s not that this doesn’t add value to his career, it’s that you can be good at that and still suck. If all Fultz can do is hit those difficult Kobe shots, it’s not going to still make him some 20 point per game guy, he would more likely be a bust swirling down the Okafor vortex of death.

Therefore it comes down to how well he can score from the efficient part on the floor, 3, rim and FT line. His feel for the game, change of pace, ballhandling, size, ability to recognize space will help him here too. However while he shot 41% from 3, like Brandon Ingram last year I would warn about calling a player who shot 64.9% FT as an elite shooting prospect. I see the best predicting of shooting as a combination as 3P%, 3pt attempt volume and FT% and Fultz on the whole rates as only ok when looking at the bigger picture. Fultz ranked 14th in 3P% in DX top 100 for players with over 1 attempt per 40 minutes, 24th in 3PA/40 and 67th in FT%. From the Celtics perspective this is also dangerous because if Fultz doesn’t have the ability to shoot 3s and play off the ball, his fit with Isaiah Thomas becomes more untenable.

Fultz is a good driving prospect judging by how he averaged 7.5 free throw attempts per 40 minutes, however since he had 19.7 FGA per 40 minutes some of it is volume driven. Fultz ranked 11th among DX top 100 prospects in FTA/40, while he ranked 36th in FTA/possession. There’s also a question of whether Fultz is an elite athlete. The worrying comparisons would be prospects like Evan Turner and D’Angelo Russell who after their college success, non elite athleticism caught up to them in the pros.

I would say Fultz is not a guaranteed 20 point guy because his neither 3pt and driving games are guaranteed. His FT% reflects danger for his shooting and his athleticism reflects danger for his penetration. Fultz has guaranteed ability to create his own shot in the pros considering his track record in college, but the ability to create your own shot and do nothing efficient with it doesn’t get you anywhere nowadays.

However in addition to his scoring Fultz has defensive and passing potential. He has great size for a PG and was an elite shotblocker (1.3 blk/40) for a guard and solid ball thief (1.8 stl/40) and rebounder (6.4 reb/40), although his actual impact on defense in college was average.  He averages 6.6 ast/40, although some of it is volume driven. He ranks 6th in the class for assists/40 among DX top 100, but 16th in assists per possession. There’s reason to believe he could have an all around game for a guard as a great pick and roll scorer who can defend, rebound, pass and shoot. However his status as overwhelming #1 and a lock all-star, seems like it’s reliant on focusing too much on PPG and the ability to create difficult shots to me, something that is both overrated in the pros and even more overrated when it comes to predicting draft prospects.

Written by jr.

May 19, 2017 at 10:26 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The Rockets don’t have a perfect offense, but the Cavaliers might

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920x1240The Rockets had a blistering offensive season at 114.7 ORTG, which rated 10th all time (The Warriors season rated 2nd). The Cavaliers ranked 3rd in the league at 113.6.

Just like ten years ago with the Suns, Mike D’Antoni had the Rockets playing offense of the future by prioritizing shots at the rim and from 3, spacing and pick and rolls at an ultra level. Most likely a decade from now the other teams will follow the Rockets precedent, like they did his Suns. It doesn’t matter that players like Ryan Anderson, Patrick Beverley, Trevor Ariza, Clint Capela lack the individual creation skills that all-stars at their position have because floor spacing and shot making ability is that powerful.

However while this may work in the regular season the Rockets are now playing the best defensive team in the league in the Spurs who have the ability to get out to those spot up shooters and finishing big men. Now the weaknesses in those Rockets role players is being exposed. If the Rockets role players could dribble better or post up they could figure out the Spurs tighter defense better.

Despite ranking below the Rockets the Cavaliers have a better offensive team than them. It just didn’t show until the playoffs. What makes the Cavaliers scary is they are nearly as new age as the Rockets but have more traditional talents too. The spacing of the Kevin Love and Channing Frye frontcourt presents as big a tactical problem as anything on the Rockets, not to mention more floor spacers like Kyle Korver to play with them. When added to the playmaking of Lebron and Irving the Cavs can go nuclear on you when it comes to floor spacing. However their individual skills creates a bigger problem than the Rockets. Kyrie Irving created huge problems for the Warriors in the Finals last year because he is a player only a PG can guard. Anyone SG sized or slower, has no answer for his arguably league best ballhandling skills. This is a perfect counter to switching heavy defense. Kevin Love’s ability to post up smaller 4s changes opponents gameplans. The Raptors played their best ball against the Bucks with one big man on the floor in Serge Ibaka or Jonas Valanciunas, with DeMarre Carroll or P.J. Tucker shifting to PF. Because of fearing Love’s ability to post, and Love and Tristan Thompson’s offensive rebounding, Toronto has played 2 big men in its Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas, Patrick Patterson combination virtually the whole series. This has limited their speed on defense they showed in the Bucks series. Of course then there’s Lebron who is the best of both worlds and so much more. He both has elite off the dribble ability to break any defense, but an outstanding post option if he chooses that route. Because of the individual skills of Kyrie, Lebron and Love and offensive rebounding on Thompson, teams can’t just throw out a 1 big man on the floor, every perimeter player switches lineup without suffering the consequences of those defensive mismatches and rebounding problems. The Cavs lineup forces you to defend them with old school lineups will they score on you with new age ones.

The future may look like Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets but in the playoffs, having individual skills such as the Cavs do remain critical. A 3 and D player is great, but a 3 and D player who can post up and dribble is better.

Written by jr.

May 6, 2017 at 8:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Redrafting the 2016 NBA draft class

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On the Dunc’d On podcast, RealGM’s Nate Duncan and Danny Leroux redrafted the top 10 of the 2016 draft. This inspired me to do my own list. Like them, I used a combination of the rookies play so far combined with my pre-draft analysis.

1. PF Ben Simmons (Original rank: 1)

While his lack of play so far and health makes him not a sure thing, he remains the most talented player in the class. The heart of Simmons upside to me is that he had a generational season in college for a freshman PF in two areas, assists and getting to the free throw line. As far as I’m concerned he has the upside to one day be the best player at his position at passing and getting to the line, and that alone makes him worth it.

2. C Ante Zizic (Original rank: 6)

Zizic rated top 6 on my original list for his statistical production in the Adriatic League, and he’s followed it up with an even more impressive season as he now plays 24 minutes per game for a Euroleague team and leads them in PER. His productivity at a competition level much closer to the NBA than the NCAA is makes him a safe bet as you can ask for to be a good future pro. While his strengths are as a rebounder and finisher right now, as an athletic 7 footer who just turned 20 a few months ago with apparent A level intangibles, his upside doesn’t necessarily need to be capped, and it’s not like anyone else makes a good case for 2nd anyways.

3. C Chinanu Onuaku (Original rank: 5)

Onuaku has played the entirety of this season in the D League for the Rockets, where he’s lived up to his college strengths by being one of the best rebounders in the league, an good passer for his role, a solid defender and has flashed midrange potential. He turned 20 last November. Onuaku won’t be a 20 point a game scorer in the NBA but his potential as a defender, rebounder, passer and finisher is perfect for the modern guard dominated game. Numbers cruncher Andrew Johnson rates him well:

4. PG Kris Dunn (Original rank: 2)

Despite having one of the most atrocious scoring seasons imaginable for a rookie, it’s worth noting the rest of his game outside of scoring has actually been excellent by rookie standards. For his class he ranks 1st in Stl%, 5th in Blk % despite being a guard, and 2nd in Ast %. The best defensive season for their position for 2016 draft rookies is probably either Dunn or Pascal Siakam, and Dunn appears to rate only behind Brogdon as a passer. For this reason his BPM is surprisingly OK, at 7th highest for above 500 minutes and 3rd for players above 1,000 minutes, that includes being above Jamal Murray, Ivica Zubac, Buddy Hield, Jaylen Brown, Dragan Bender, Brandon Ingram. It doesn’t mean his scoring and age isn’t a major red flag, but being behind the rest of the pack in scoring, but ahead of the pack as defender and passer isn’t the end of the world.

5. C Ivica Zubac (Original rank: 12)

Zubac has shown one of the best scoring skillsets in his class. While a big post center isn’t the best fit for the modern game anymore, there’s still a place for productive ones and Zubac isn’t a write-off yet on defense or as a floor spacer. His age is favorable, as he turns 20 in a few days. 

6. SF/PF Juan Hernangomez (Original rank: 16)

Hernangomez now has a track record of producing well for his league, first in the ACB and having one of the better rookie seasons through 600 minutes in the NBA. His game is heavily reliant on 3pt shooting right now which isn’t at a big sample size yet to say is for real, and I’m concerned whether he’ll have more dimensions to his game even if he is a great 3pt shooter, but it appears a fair bet he’ll be a good player.

7. PG/SG Malcolm Brogdon (Original rank: 50)

Brogdon has been a great passer and 3pt shooter for a rookie and is already a league average player, which by this draft’s standards would make him my rookie of the year pick. If he was 22 I’d be saying players like this can still end up turning into a star, but at 24 there isn’t a lot of data points to say whether he can still develop. The smart bet is probably his career value being around what Taj Gibson (a 24 year old rookie at the time) ended up giving the Bulls.

8. PG/SG Isaiah Whitehead (Original rank: 3)

Whitehead’s overall stats in categories like PER, WS/48, BPM are one of the worst in the league and it could be a mistake to predict anything but bust after seeing those. However he gets to the basket the most of rookie guards, is at 37% from 3 and 90% from the FT line in 2017 (33%/85% for the year) and has size for a guard, when added together that would seem the best case scenario is a guard who can drive, shoot and defend, and he probably would only need to do 2 to be good. His stats have improved in recent weeks while his assists have dropped, showing he may have been a SG miscast as a PG most of this year. I dropped him from my original ranking of 3, but I won’t put up off the map based on those signs.

9. SF Taurean Prince (Original rank: 9)

Prince’s overall stats for this season are pretty meh, but 34% from 3 with 87% from the FT line is encouraging for his future shooting potential and he has a solid steal rate. In college his volume scoring was underrated, so I won’t count him out as just a spot up shooter.

10. SG/SF Caris LeVert (Original rank: 47)

LeVert only trails Hernangomez in BPM for players with real minutes, he’s shown a solid ability to handle, pass and shooting potential for a wing. He is turning 23 this year but looks like he could grow into a highly versatile wing.

Honorable mention:

C Zhou Qi and PF Brice Johnson: Both in my original top 10  but Zhou Qi hasn’t taken a step forward in the CBA this year, Johnson’s back now makes him a health concern and is off to an OK start in a small sample size in the D League. Both just miss top 10.

PG/SG Jamal Murray and SG Buddy Hield: Both project to be excellent 3pt shooters, I haven’t seen enough in the rest of their game in either college or NBA to get them into the top 10.

SF Jaylen Brown: Has played well recently but skeptical he may be shooting over his head from 3 based on his college season and first half of his rookie season

C Jakob Poeltl and PF Pascal Siakam: Both have provided admirable hustle player minutes for the Raptors, but unclear if they’re skilled enough to have upside

PF Thon Maker, PF Skal Labissiere, PF Marquese Chriss: All have shown some things this year but were high risk coming into the year and I haven’t seen enough to be sure yet they still aren’t. PF Dragan Bender showed less than any of the 3, but looked like the best prospect of them coming into the year.

PG/SG Wade Baldwin: Ranked 4th in my original ratings but I am much lower on him now based on looking rawer than sushi and disappointing D League production that makes him look like a probable bust. He was never that great a player in college but his amazing length combined with frame and 3pt shooting for his position were quantifiable numbers that went into his rating, so this combination could have been misleading.

SF Brandon Ingram: He didn’t rank in my original top 10 so he’s certainly not going to after this rookie season. He’s very young and has impressive length and fluidity, but being an elite 3pt shooter like Durant was supposed to be the core of his game, which I predicted was much less of a guarantee than advertised because of a low FT% compared to his 3P% in college. He wasn’t a great slasher, defender or passer in college, so without the 3pt shooting being a lock anymore, the amount of things Ingram has shown he can do great vs his peers becomes a worrisomely small list.

Written by jr.

March 14, 2017 at 4:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Early 2017 NBA Draft top 10 prospects

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This is what my model is saying about the 2017 class right now. I mostly kept it to projected 1st rounders and others I thought might perform well in it, so I may have missed a numbers friendly sleeper or two that I’ll pick up later in the year.

  1. PG Markelle Fultz (model rating: 21.24)
  2. PG Lonzo Ball (21.65)
  3. SF Dedric Lawson (21.6)

Since it’s effectively a tie in my model I won’t stick to it to the letter. I rated Lawson 3rd because he has athletic concerns leading him to be nowhere to be seen on conventional scout draft boards. With that said he has the highest BPM of the three which is not something directly in my model, but a good sign. While Fultz and Ball is a toss-up, I side against Ball because he thrives in transition and has an unorthadox jumpshot both of which could have a more difficult time translating to the next level than Fultz’s NBA made game.

  1. PG Dennis Smith, Jr. (19.89)
  2. SF Jonathan Isaac (19.81)
  3. PF T.J. Leaf (19.4)

I don’t have a problem with someone calling Smith the best prospect in the class, my model only measures athleticism if it shows up in the numbers so it could be underestimating his advantage in that area. He also projects as the best shooter of him, Fultz and Ball which is a potent combination with his physical tools but for now his overall productivity still trails the other two. Isaac rates as a better prospect than Brandon Ingram was last year by projecting as a stronger defender and shooter and Leaf is a great offensive freshman with his scoring, passing, shooting.

  1. PG Jawun Evans (18.06)
  2. C Robert Williams (17.55)
  3. SF Jayson Tatum (16.93)
  4. C Anzejs Pasceniks (Intl.)

Evans would have rated top 5 on my board last year if he came as a great combination of athleticism, shooting and passing for a PG and players like Isaiah Thomas and Kemba Walker have shown you can be undersized and great on offense at the position. Williams is a great shotblocking big with a solid FT% and shooting potential. Tatum has physical tools and shooting potential and is having a solid rookie campaign deserving of a lotto pick. The last spot goes to my highest rated international in Anzejs Pasceniks who is a mobile 7 footer with some shooting potential who impressively leads his ACB team in PER.

Overrated candidates:

SG Malik Monk (15.84): Monk is a crazy scorer but his productivity is below average everywhere else and models like mine are built to be bearish on NCAA scoring as a predictor as bullish on doing everything else. With that said, when a player is scoring 30 points per 40 minutes on .63 TS% as an 18 year old and projects as the best shooter in the class, it’s not like he should be counted out either and he’s not that far off from top ten in the model.

SF Josh Jackson (13.0): He puts up some fantastic numbers like his steals, blocks, assists, rebounds but the thing that really hurts him is the shooting projection where is below the Mendoza line of sorts. It’s very difficult to be Elfrid Payton or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the NBA right now. With that said he probably still has star potential. But I can’t put him in my top 10 when my model has him not even close.

PF Harry Giles (9.5): While it’s early and he’s coming back from injury so far his numbers are as bust-like as it gets

PG Frank Ntilikina (Intl.): My M.O. with international prospects is numbers first. I generally look for players who are the most productive on their international teams. Frank has great physical tools but he ranks last on his French Pro A team in PER. I wouldn’t touch him in the 1st round.

Written by jr.

January 11, 2017 at 2:57 pm

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Greg Monroe and the new 6th man

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks-Media Day

After signing for 3 years, 50 million last summer Greg Monroe may soon find himself out of the Bucks plans. With bigs like Enes Kanter and Jahlil Okafor, Monroe is a face of a style of big rapidly falling out of style, as post scorers who don’t provide defense or spacing. Call it the reverse Draymond Green effect. It’s a bigger issue on a team hoping for Giannis Antetokounmpo to be the franchise player, where switchability, speed and spacing would be an asset. With Giannis and Khris Middleton the low usage energy of Miles Plumlee and John Henson fits the starting lineup more than Monroe.

He didn’t have a bad statistical season last year. His final season in Detroit he had 15.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists per game, .549 TS%, .153 WS/48, 1.9 BPM. In Milwaukee 15.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, .562 TS%, 21.8 PER, .155 WS/48, 1.5 BPM. He was 1st on the Bucks in WS/48 and 3rd in BPM. The quality BPM distinguishes him from bigs like Kanter and Okafor for example. The Bucks were even better with him on the court (+4.2).

Rather than dump his salary it could be worth considering if there’s a way to make him valuable. For 12 games in February and March he came off the bench. The new expensive contract the Bucks gave to Miles Plumlee could signify plans to start him. With the less talented players on the bench, a 6th man Monroe’s ability to put up points while not getting in the way of Giannis could be useful.

Oklahoma City already went this route with Kanter last year, although by playing PF and C Monroe could come closer to starter’s caliber minutes than that. This is also an option for the 76ers dilemma in their frontcourt, seeing Okafor as a scorer off the bench going forward rather than a starter.

Jamal Crawford becoming a full time 6th man in Atlanta and L.A. is arguably the best thing that happened to his career, winning him 3 Sixth Man awards in the process and rebranding him as a contributor on a winner, not a points per game on a lottery team guy. Jason Terry also embraced a 6th man role halfway through his career. He’s younger than they were but targeting a career as the PF/C version of Crawford or Terry as a route to contributing to playoff teams could be worth considering for Monroe, whether for the Bucks or someone else. It could restore his reputation and he he could find himself with Sixth Man of the Year hardware if it works out. With how long those players careers have lasted, in the long run this could pay off for Monroe.

Written by jr.

July 29, 2016 at 2:02 pm

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Picking the top 5 Raptors of all time

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The Raptors have completed 20 seasons and are in better shape than ever. I thought for fun I’d pick my top 5 players in their history:

1. SF Vince Carter

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Carter may end up relinquishing his spot as the franchise’s signature star sooner than later but for now it’s still his. He has the best individual season in franchise history in 2000-2001 where he had the highest ever Raptors mark in BPM, WS and tied for highest in PER and putting up 27.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, the most eye popping in raw stats. He rated 2nd in the league in BPM and PER and 8th in WS/48. He had a solid playoffs statistically compared to Lowry’s recent playoff run, including a 50 point game and helped the Raptors make the 2nd round with mediocre supporting talent. He also put up superstar numbers in 1999-2000 and 2001-2002 and all-star numbers his last few years in Toronto. He played 6 and a quarter seasons compared to 7 for Bosh and 4 for Lowry. Of the three Carter best combines an elite peak with longevity.

2. PG Kyle Lowry

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Lowry rated as an analytical superstar last year finishing 7th in BPM and 13th in WS/48 as he not only put up solid offensive stats at 21.2 points, 6.4 assists but being one of the best rebounding and defensive PGs in the league. However his stats 2 years ago in 2013-2014 are surprisingly almost as good at 7th in BPM again and 10th in WS/48. His 2014-2015 would have been as strong if not for injury in the second half of the season. Lowry is the leader of the most successful era in Raptors history including an Eastern Conference Finals and he is a greater leader than either Carter or Bosh were as he is the heart of the team’s hard work and intensity night to night. For his inconsistency in the playoffs he managed to have some huge games and shots along the way including one of the franchise’s most important performances in Game 7 against Miami. The main thing keeping him from number 1 is longevity.

3. PF Chris Bosh

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Bosh is the third of the three franchise players for the Raptors, with an excellent 7 year run. Bosh does not do as well in advanced stats as Carter and Lowry, as he never rated top 20 in BPM, peaking at 21st in BPM in 2007-2008 where he also rated 11th in WS/48. In 2009-2010 he did post an excellent 24 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Bosh helped the Raptors make the playoffs twice in an era for the franchise known for weaker defensive teams. Bosh’s elite first step and handles allowed him to get to the line and post efficient scoring seasons and his ability to hit the pick and pop helped the job of the PGs running it with him easy. He goes down as easily the most talented big man the franchise has had and its signature big man.

4. PF/C Amir Johnson

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Amir didn’t get the attention points per game players do, but he was analytical stud in Toronto, peaking at 20th in BPM and 39th in WS/48 in 2012-2013 and posting several other excellent seasons while becoming a +/- favorite. Along with Vince, Bosh, Lowry and the franchise’s earliest star Damon Stoudamire, Amir is one of the few who can boast he was a “best player” on the team. After Bosh left in 2010, the best player wasn’t the very flawed Bargnani, Derozan or Calderon at the time. It was Amir Johnson – who’s defense, rebounding and elite efficiency allowed him to make winning plays in all the ways those guys lacked it. This appears to be true in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, while in 2012-2013 Lowry joins the team but as Amir had his best statistical season and Lowry had his weakest with the Raptors, it’s at least a toss-up that year. In total Amir plays 6 seasons and his resume spans both the years as the best player on a bad team and one of the next best players after Lowry on two playoff teams in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, in addition to one of the next best players after Bosh on a 40 W 2009-2010 team.

5. SG DeMar Derozan

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The soon to be franchise record holder in a litany of records, Derozan has made two all-star teams after putting up 22.7 points per game in 2013-2014 and 23.5 points per game along with 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 2015-2016. Due to lack of shooting, average efficiency and other elements to his game he is not as loved by analytics, peaking at 66th in BPM last season, although a better 26th in WS/48. The rest of his seasons are nothing to write home about analytically to say the least. There’s something to be said for not totally abandoning traditional statistical measures leading to those all-star teams and his longevity is excellent at 7 seasons. He’s made the playoffs three times and for his nightmare shooting performances along the way also was there for the wins and the times he came through in the Eastern Conference Finals playoff run. If only by presence alone, he’s been too big a part of Raptors history to leave too far down the list. The alternatives such as Jose Calderon, Doug Christie, Damon Stoudamire, Antonio Davis, Jonas Valanciunas, Morris Peterson all have weaknesses one way or the other as well.

Written by jr.

July 17, 2016 at 12:09 am

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