Where Draymond Green ranks in a vacuum is divisive to some. Sports Illustrated rated him 16th in the league. Some argue Golden State is perfect for his strengths and hides his weaknesses. He anchors their defense, passes the ball and shoots open 3s and isn’t relied upon to create his own shot. What happens on a team where his 3s aren’t open and he is asked to create more offense?
But is this unique to his style of play? Consider how Kevin Love’s value shifted going from Minnesota to Cleveland. On a team with Lebron James and Kyrie Irving he didn’t have enough shots to take advantage of his volume scoring ability. His defensive weaknesses proved a bigger problem than in Minnesota.
If anything I’d have thought defense and floor spacing should be more stable team to team than scoring. For scoring the availability of field goals will change team to team. On different teams efficiency may be affected by less open looks. In Dallas Brandan Wright had .762 TS% but in Boston and Phoenix .571 TS% and .600 TS%. Dallas specialized in creating space for his and Tyson Chandler’s dunks.
Floor stretching shouldn’t be affected by team. The player’s range and respect the defense gives them shouldn’t change much by teammates. Defensive results may change because of burning energy to take a greater offensive role. The system may also help defensive results. But on the whole defensive tools, intelligence and effort reign supreme.
The argument against Draymond isn’t his spacing and defense declining. It’s his offensive production going from average to unacceptable on the wrong team. His average shooting percentage may become poor if guarded too strong. But would his points per game go up? Would his already impressive 3.7 assists per game go up? Is a Draymond who scores 15 points per game and 5 assists with poor efficiency, less of an asset when added to his defense and spacing?
Furthermore not every bad team needs a scorer. Many have scorers but not the spacing and defense Green provides. Here’s a list of leading scorers on the 14 lottery teams. In brackets are players who led in total points but not points per game:
Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Martin: 20.0ppg (Andrew Wiggins: 16.9ppg)
New York Knicks: Carmelo Anthony: 24.2ppg
Philadelphia 76ers: Tony Wroten: 16.9ppg (Robert Covington: 13.5ppg)
Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant: 22.3ppg (Jordan Hill: 12.0ppg)
Orlando Magic: Nikola Vucevic: 19.3ppg,
Sacramento Kings: DeMarcus Cousins: 24.1ppg (Rudy Gay: 21.1ppg)
Denver Nuggets: Ty Lawson: 15.2ppg
Detroit Pistons: Reggie Jackson: 17.6ppg (Andre Drummond: 13.8ppg)
Charlotte Hornets: Kemba Walker: 17.3ppg (Al Jefferson: 16.6ppg)
Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade: 21.5ppg
Indiana Pacers: George Hill: 16.1ppg (C.J. Miles: 13.5ppg)
Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward: 19.3ppg
Phoenix Suns: Eric Bledsoe: 17.0ppg.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook: 28.1ppg
In several situations he wouldn’t be more than a 3rd or 4th option including playing with DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris or Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. They need a Draymond Green’s defense and spacing more than volume scoring.
Minnesota ranked last in defense and had minimal floor spacing. Green fills these ailments while keeping the ball in Ricky Rubio and Andrew Wiggins’ hands. Green is the Andre Drummond compliment Greg Monroe never was in Detroit. In Charlotte his strengths help cancel out Al Jefferson’s spacing, defending weaknesses. With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist he pushes the Hornets from top 10 defense to likely elite.
Philadelphia is a “if Draymond had to do too much” team. While true his spacing is needed and the defensive pairing with Nerlens Noel has elite upside. Indiana without Paul George, Los Angeles without Kobe Bryant and New York without Carmelo Anthony also may find him forced out of his element. Like Charlotte he could have made Indiana elite defensively again beside Hibbert and New York and Los Angeles needed his defense.
Draymond may not be as valuable to last year’s Philadelphia, Indiana, New York or Los Angeles as he is a Sacramento or Miami. That’s ok because it’s the same for offense-first stars like Kevin Love. Love provides great value to a Philadelphia or Indiana but on Sacramento or Miami his volume scoring is more redundant than Green’s defense. To be fair to Love his floor spacing should provide value to any team including Cleveland’s.
If Green’s value isn’t the same on every team it’s likely a matter of being better at one end than the other. Teams set with offensive talent but not defense need a Green more than a Kevin Love. Teams set with defensive talent but not offense need a Love more than Green.
A story of the 2015 offseason is the rocketing salaries for wings who play defense and shoot 3s. A decade ago DeMarre Carroll’s free agency is an afterthought. Now he is a marquee signing by Toronto at 4 years, 60 million. Danny Green’s 4 years, 45 million is considered by many as undervalued. Wesley Matthews hybrid value of 3s and defense while scoring over 15 points per game, earned him 4 years 70 million from Dallas even after an Achilles tear.
Teams not fully adopting 3 point shots are quickly being left behind. Floor spacing alone is becoming essential to offenses functioning before including efficiency advantage of 3s. But winning a championship with any defensive weak link in the lineup remains difficult. Having 3 point shooters who also play championship caliber defense is crucial as the Golden State Warriors title run showed.
Wings like Carroll, Green and Matthews however are scarce enough teams can’t guarantee getting them even with maximum capspace. Three of the best ones just signed long term deals and other desirable options such as Harrison Barnes are protected by restricted free agency. A quality wing like Nicolas Batum may only be out there but because of caveats. Batum is an unrestricted free agent after one season what will be a bloodbath of free agency competition for the Hornets to keep him. His numbers last season were also hampered by health problems.
How smart teams may find these wings is drafting and developing their own or finding unproven gems in the league. Take Boston’s 5 year, 35 million contract to Jae Crowder. Crowder for his impressive, potentially one day elite defense alone could prove to be palatable at 7 million a year which will soon be no more than a league average salary. The deal has significant upside if his shooting takes a leap. With Dallas Crowder shot 32.8% from 3 as a rookie, 33.1% as a sophomore and 34.2% in 25 games his 3rd year before the trade to Boston. In Boston his 3P% dropped to 28.2% but his volume doubled from 1.5 to 3.0 attempts per game. At Marquette Crowder averaged 35.0% from 3 on over 4 attempts a game but only 68% from the FT line. His FT% has improved to 73.5% for his career in the NBA. He’s no guarantee to get there but Crowder has shown respectable enough results to have the upside to develop like Carroll as a shooter. If he does, using Carroll’s contract as a guide Crowder’s market value would double. At 7 million a year this would make him an incredible bargain with the rising salary cap. Crowder’s is an upside contract similar to Toronto extending DeMar Derozan or Atlanta matching Jeff Teague’s offer sheet in hopes their production in traditional areas like scoring or assists would leap to all-star levels, which they did. Except now the upside signing doesn’t just include points, assists and rebounds stat stuffers, but 3 point shooting and defending wings as well.
Consider the case of Terrence Ross. Ross is eligible for an extension coming off a disappointing 3rd season regression. Ross continues to frustrate as despite elite athleticism, due to ball handling struggles he remains one of the most woeful wings in the league at driving to the basket. Averaging 0.7 free throw attempts a game in over 25 minutes is reflective of his inability to penetrate.
As enigmatic is his defense. Despite his fast, athletic feet, poor positional awareness, a skinny frame and an underwhelming wingspan for his heights contribute to disappointing results on this end for Ross. The Raptors were 6.3 points per 100 possessions worse defensively with Ross on the court last year. But unlike his driving to the basket where he has shown no signs of life, Ross has shown some flashes of positive activity defensively when engaged. One can expect his positional awareness to improve in time. When combined with his athleticism there is still time to develop an above average defender.
What keeps Ross intriguing is the shooting. For his career Ross has shot 37.3% from 3 on 4.2 attempts for his career, including a sophomore season high mark of 39.5% from 3 on 5.0 attempts per game, before dipping to a still quality 37.2% on 4.8 attempts per game last year. For Ross his shooting is holding up his game like Crowder’s defense does. His defense is more potential than production as is the case with Crowder’s shooting. Which of the two fixes their weak area enough to end up the more complete package of shooting and defending may be a toss-up.
But Masai Ujiri extending Ross is not as easy as giving him a Crowder-like 7 or 8 million a year. If choosing to play out this season Ross could break out and double his yearly value to make Carroll or Matthews money, with the all time free agency bidding war promised next offseason. Giving up this financial upside for a safe extension, may take several more million per year than Crowder accepted. Utah extended Alec Burks for 4 years, 42 million a year ago when the cap increase in 2016 had been less official. If Ross asks for a Burks deal or more to extend early the Raptors have a difficult decision. As they are rumored to be finalizing a 4 year, 60 million extension for Jonas Valanciuas and DeMar Derozan is set for a huge raise next offseason they may be wary of committing another big contract.
The opportunity cost of extending Ross also includes trades. If Ujiri doesn’t believe Ross is the next Danny Green or DeMarre Carroll, another team may be a believer. The Raptors biggest team need is a starting PF because the projected starters Patrick Patterson and Jonas Valanciunas have struggled defensively when paired together. Ideally Patterson would remain the backup PF where he excelled offensively last year and could stagger his minutes with Valanciuns. Ross could be an appealing trade chip to make a run at a starting power forward to complete their lineup. Whether Toronto chooses to extend Ross, trade him or let his next season play out, should be an important decision affecting their path to contention.
The Portland Trail Blazers had what looked to be a devastating offseason. They lost 4 of 5 starters in Lamarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and Robin Lopez, along with Arron Afflalo. A 50 win core has been stripped down to Damian Lillard and spare parts.
What they lost in these players is an effective combination of creating space and capitalizing on it. Lamarcus Aldridge has always been a unique player in how despite our instincts that scoring a lot of points on a mediocre efficiency is not as valuable as past generations thought, his real offensive value is in the defensive attention he creates. The valuable efficiency of Matthews, Batum and Lopez relied on finding open shots from 3 and at the basket. Forcing them into a greater intensity of defensive attention would take away open shots and push them into taking more concerned tested, lower efficiency field goals. Aldridge drawing extra attention helped draw defenders off the 3 point line and his shooting range out to long 2 or some 3s, drew a big man out of the paint defensively to help his teammates finish inside. This is not to take away from the skill level of Matthews, Batum and Lopez to finish those shots inside or outside while contributing on the defensive end.
Whether the Blazers will find secondary scoring options to replace Aldridge is their biggest question mark. The Blazers can succeed this year if Ed Davis and Mason Plumlee continue to be open to finish at the rim and Meyers Leonard gets quality looks from 3. All three have proven they can be efficient scorers but at a low volume of shots. Forcing them into taking a higher volume of shots than they’re comfortable with could hurt their shooting percentage. Noah Vonleh is a wild card in the frontcourt as a recent lottery pick but is unlikely to use a high volume of shots this year either.
Al-Farouq Aminu isn’t known for his shooting or ball handling skills, thus the key is C.J. McCollum and Gerald Henderson. McCollum had the 4th highest usage % last year on the Blazers behind Aldridge, Lillard, and Chris Kaman. Both his play last year and his college career at LeHigh shows he has the skill to create offense himself off the dribble while his 3 point range allows him to maintain respectability in efficiency. Driving to the basket more could help increase his volume and efficiency this year. Although widely considered defensive role player Henderson had a higher usage % last year than either Matthews or Batum and his usage would have rated 5th on the Blazers last year behind Aldridge, Lillard, Kaman and McCollum. He has had multiple 15 point per game seasons in the NBA. Last year on shots from 16-23 feet, Henderson shot 41.0% on .122 shots per minute and Aldridge’s 40.9% on .214 shots per minute. Aldridge’s higher volume showed a higher level of difficulty to get to that percentage, although Henderson also played on a more offensively inept Hornets team. Henderson’s 33.1% from 3 also has a chance to improve in Terry Stotts system. Overall it wouldn’t be surprising if either Henderson and McCollum find themselves capable of averaging 15 points in a game. This is before considering the Blazers already have one high volume scorer in Damian Lillard who can drive and create shots from 3. This isn’t as big a vacuum as the Utah Jazz faced the season after Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson where players like Gordon Hayward struggled with the defensive pressure of being #1. Lillard alone will help those high efficiency scorers like Davis, Plumlee and Leonard find space to play their games.
Another concern for the Blazers this year is floor spacing. For their efficiency the concern with Davis and Plumlee is they need to score at the rim, while Aldridge’s long 2 and 3 point range stretched out defenders. This is added to how one of the best 3 point shooters in the NBA in Matthews is replaced by a mediocre shooter in Henderson and a capable, well respected 3 point shooter in Batum has been replaced by a non-shooter in Aminu. However a strong season by Meyers Leonard could help counteract this. Leonard proved he has strong 3 point range last year and has turned the corner in his career. Playing the Mehmet Okur role his ability to hit spot up 3s could open the floor in the lineups with Henderson, Aminu, Davis and Plumlee. Noah Vonleh also showed some shooting range in college and if brought that skill to the Blazers rotation it could be valued. Allen Crabbe could also end up a valued wing player for the Blazes if he can continue to establish himself as a spot up 3 point shooter. On the defensive end the Blazers bigs are expected to struggle and Lillard has never excelled on that end, thus the defense of Henderson and Aminu will be relied upon to help carry the team.
What the Blazers have is a lot of role players who do something. Henderson and Aminu can defend, McCollum and Henderson can create shots, Plumlee, Davis and Leonard can score efficiency, Leonard, McCollum and Crabbe have the 3 point range to space the floor. None of them have to be spectacular, but if they can all contribute at their 1 or 2 jobs it can add to a sum greater than its parts. Last year the Milwaukee Bucks succeeded in part because of depth of average, competent pros. With an expected 10 man roster to start the year of Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders, Jared Dudley, O.J. Mayo, Jerryd Bayless and Zaza Pachulia, they had a full team of solid. Players like Mayo, Ilyasova and Pachulia may not be spectacular contributors or gotten the type of press of “star role player” that Middleton was last year. But they give you something. Mayo and Ilyasova space the floor with their 3 point shooting and take those valuable open shots and Pachulia can be a tough inside presence. When some of the worst teams in the league where giving the same minutes to true unproductive players like Shane Larkin, Anthony Bennett or JaKarr Sampson, having legitimate pros like Mayo and Ilyasova made a difference to the Bucks.
Likewise what I see with the Blazers is a lot of solid defenders, spacers or scorers that help this team surprise next year.
The Utah Jazz are building a powerhouse. The Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert frontcourt is drool worthy with a scoring wing player and a frontcourt who plays great defense and finishes efficiently.
The development of the backcourt will determine Utah’s upside. Utah has no guarantees at PG or SG, but they have many scratch tickets to increase their odds of hitting on Hayward, Favors or Gobert future all-star caliber piece.
At shooting guard Alec Burks provides size and athleticism and an improving perimeter game. Rodney Hood is a smooth perimeter scorer. Point guard is the position to watch however. With a #5 pick in 2014 in Dante Exum and #9 pick in 2013 in Trey Burke invested in the position the Jazz are hoping one of them solidifies the spot.
To say many more are on the Exum bandwagon as the Jazz’s future at PG than Burke’s is an understatement. At this point Trey Burke island is down to me and Wilson the volleyball.
Exum is nearly 2 and a half years younger than Burke. He is also far bigger and is more athletic than Burke. However size and athleticsm are not the only determiners of upside. Of arguably the 3 best point guards in the NBA last season in Stephen Curry, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, one in Westbrook did it with superior size and athleticism. Curry and Paul used elite shooting, dribbling or passing skills in place of dynamic physical tools. Even in Westbrook’s case it should not be ignored he is one of the best ball handlers in the NBA. John Wall is one of the next best PGs in the NBA, but his peers for that spot include Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard for whom the heart of their games is dribbling and shooting. Trey Burke’s game is an uncertain fraction of Chris Paul’s game just as Exum’s is an uncertain fraction of a player like Westbrook. The question isn’t whether shooting and dribbling can make a PG an all-star in light of the average athleticism and size Burke has. It’s asking whether Burke has enough of that skill talent and upside.
At Michigan he used his ball handling skills to drive to the basket, keep turnovers low and create jumpers off the dribble. In the NBA for his efforts getting to the basket Burke has struggled to finish or draw fouls at the basket. Despite Exum’s athleticism it doesn’t mean he has more slashing potential than Burke. Some of the best slashers in the NBA due it with ball handling at the heart of that skill such as the before mentioned Paul, Tony Parker, James Harden and so forth. Some of the least successfully slashing wing players such as Terrence Ross or Gerald Green have elite athleticism. Using ball handling to drive past the initial defender does as much for you as using an explosive first step to do it. Exum averaged a very low 0.6 FTA per 36 minutes as a rookie. Trey Burke’s 2.3 FTA per 36 minutes is not much better for the amount of perimeter jumpers he took, but nonetheless unlike defense where on/off indicates a chasm in favor of Exum’s ability last year, the numbers so far are not behind Exum as the greater slashing talent yet. Such a low free throw rate for a great athlete could root from raw ball handling skills. Exum could blow up driving to the basket this year or he could go down the same route as Terrence Ross. It’s hard to say.
The biggest part of Burke’s game that’s fallen off from college is his 3pt shooting. A career mark of 32.4% from 3 isn’t good enough for a player who shot over 38% from 3 and over 80% from the FT line as a sophomore at Michigan. Dante Exum as a rookie shot nearly the same percentage as from 3 last year as Burke despite shooting being rated his biggest weaknesses coming into the draft. Burke’s 3pt shooting and FT% were more mediocre as a freshman at Michigan than a sophomore which is concerning as his improvement his 2nd year was over a small sample size. Could his freshman number have been the true shooting mark for Burke? On the whole however Burke still has the track record and time to develop into a quality outside shooter.
There’s little doubt Exum will have the better defensive career than Burke between his tools and the chasm in on/off results we already saw last year. Where I’m betting Burke’s career could beat him is on offense. He could use his more natural ball handling skills to slash to the basket more successful than Exum and improve his percentages finishing at the rim and shooting from 3. For his finishing at the rim concerns Burke’s size is no less than average for an NBA PG. He measured 6’1.25 in shoes, 187 pounds and with a 6’5.5 wingspan and 8’1.5 standing reach which are average numbers for a PG. By the numbers Trey Burke is no more undersized than Paul who measured 6’1 in shoes, 178 pounds, 6’4.25 wingspan and 7’9 standing reach, or Mike Conley, Jr. who measured 6’0.75 in shoes, 175 pounds, 6’5.75 wingspan and 7’10.5 standing reach. All of Paul, Conley and Burke have significant measurements advantages over a real undersized PG like Isaiah Thomas who measured at 5’10.25 in shoes, 186 pounds, 6’1.75 wingspan and 7’7.5 standing reach. Burke’s finishing ability so far in his career has been mediocre, but it’s not because of size alone judging from the success of some other points his size. Like this 3 point shooting it’s a skill he needs to improve.
If truly panning out Burke could use his dribbling to drive to the basket, with the threat of the outside shot or midrange shot off the dribble to keep defenses honest. Add in ability to keep turnovers low and passing skills and this could stand out at PG. His play his first two seasons is disheartening for his age, but the time is still there to turn it around. I cannot guarantee Burke will end up the better PG than Exum as his poor production his first 2 seasons are hard to ignore. There’s a scenario where both flame out, a scenario where both become starters or better and a scenario where Exum learns to drive to match his defense, while Trey Burke embarks down a defense-less chucker path like the PG Evan Turner who had an even better college performance. But based on his talent and track record I would narrowly place my chips on Burke of the two right now to figure it out starting next year.
The upside of a perimeter like Boston’s Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder in the modern NBA
After trading Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green Danny Ainge built a treasure chest full of mid to late 1st round picks. The strategy behind the picks is as much having the firepower to make a Kevin Garnett or James Harden like trade as to draft an all-star with those picks.
Despite making the playoffs last year dissatisfaction with the Celtics plan is starting to grow. Drafting Terry Rozier 16th overall did not help matters. In the words of many such as Bill Simmons the Celtics have a roster full of quality depth players rather than all-star caliber starters.
The Celtics frontcourt is undeniably imperfect. Kelly Olynyk’s perimeter skills have value in the modern game but will likely always struggle defensively and on the glass. Jared Sullinger has the ability to create shots in the post but has below average scoring efficiency and defense. Tyler Zeller is an efficient scorer and competent defender at C but doesn’t space the floor. Amir Johnson is a quality two way pick-up but declined last year in Toronto and is on a short contract. These players may all be better served as backup big men on an elite team.
I am higher on the upside of their perimeter. What the Celtics perimeter helps show is the paradigm shift in upside in the modern NBA. In a summer where DeMarre Carroll made 14 million a year, Danny Green’s 11 million a year was a steal and Wesley Matthews made 17.5 million a year, Jae Crowder’s 7 million a year contract by the Celtics represents a new type of high upside signing. Crowder only shot 28.2% with the Celtics last year, but in his last full season with Dallas shot 33.1% from 3, followed by 34.2% with the Mavericks for 25 games this season. His increase to 3 attempts a game in Boston may have hurt his numbers. Crowder is also a strong defensive player and has the potential to develop into a Carroll or Danny Green if his 3pt shooting shoots upward. At SG the Celtics have an elite defender in Avery Bradley who shot 35.2% from 3 on 4.6 attempts a game this year, but the season before hit 39.5% from 3 on 3.3 attempts a game. Despite neither projecting as a high upside shot creator this combination has strong upside in another way. If both reached their highest potential as outside shooters the Celtics ability to defend and space the floor from those positions would provide dynamic value in today’s NBA.
That’s not to say their weaknesses can just be ignored. There’s value in shot creating in the NBA by helping create those open 3s. The Golden State Warriors have a fantastic ability to defend and hit open 3s with players like Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson, but Thompson and Stephen Curry’s ability to draw defensive attention and multiple defenders is critical to allowing players like Iguodala to be open.
Jared Sullinger’s volume scoring helps, but the key for the Celtics going forward in this area is point guard. Their 6th man Isaiah Thomas is precisely that type of high volume scorer and he showed it by averaging a whopping 26.4 points per 36 minutes last year for the Celtics, with 18.8 FGA and 9 FTA per 36 minutes. A key is Marcus Smart’s development into more than just a defender and shooter. He has the athleticism to drive and collapse the defense which could help him be the facilitator the Celtics starting lineup needs.
If the Celtics perimeter reaches their upside they could be potent. Bradley and Crowder could provide elite floor spacing and defense at SG and SF, while Marcus Smart plays defense, hits 3s and drive to create open shots for them. The combination of Smart, Bradley and Crowder from a shooting 3s and playing defense perspective could be deadly. Isaiah Thomas could come up the bench and provided needed shot creation and efficient and help the Celtics take even more 3s.
They’re not a guarantee to get there. Bradley and Crowder could stall as mediocre outside shooters and Smart could struggle to penetrate to the basket long term. Without better 3pt shooting teams may not respect their range enough for the Celtics to get full floor-spacing value from these shots. Isaiah Thomas could end up a journeyman like Kevin Martin and Lou Williams, a professional scorer who’s defensive weaknesses prevent him from sticking in any winning situation for too long.
But this uncertainty doesn’t separate them from the other rebuilding teams in the league. Franchises like Philadelphia, Orlando and Minnesota also have a high upside scenario if their players pan out and will need a plan B if they don’t. The Celtics are not fortunate enough to have guaranteed success but because of the value of players who defend and shoot 3s the upside on the perimeter is there to contend. If it doesn’t pan out extra draft picks from teams like Brooklyn and Dallas and free agency plans in 2016 and 2017 along with the potential to one day make a blockbuster trade will give them a backup plan.
The Cavs are in the process of putting the band back together by resigning Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith and Matthew Dellavedova. But with an all time luxury tax bill it’s unclear if they’re willing to sign both Smith and Dellavedova. With the escalating luxury tax penalties it’s estimated the Cavaliers would be paying the equivalent of a maximum salary in real money to keep Delly. This could be too much for even Dan Gilbert to take especially with Mo Williams signed to replace one of them if they choose.
I believe the Cavaliers losing Dellavedova could be a significant mistake. The cash savings can’t be blamed for it alone, when the combined luxury tax payment for Mo Williams and J.R. Smith would have been far higher than the price to pay Dellavedova. If they let him go it will be because they chose Dellavedova as 3rd most valued of those guards.
The arguments against Delly comes down to statistics and tools. Dellavedova has a career PER of 9.6 and for his career has only scored 8.9 points per 36 minutes. The lack of speed that made him undrafted coming out of St. Mary’s has continued to hurt his offense. He only recorded 23 shots “At Rim” the entire regular season last year playing 20.6 minutes per game in 67 games and only shot 39.1% on those shots. He also only averaged 0.6 free throws a game. When the low volume and inefficient finishing at the rim is added to a mediocre midrange jumper Dellavedova only shot 30.7% from 2 last year.
Delly showed more promise in other areas. He shot 40.7% from 3 on 2.5 attempts a game. He also had a strong assist to turnover rate at 5.3 assists to 1.6 turnovers per 36 minutes. Coming out of St. Mary’s his strengths were his shooting reflected by 38.2% from 3 and 85.2% from the free throw line and passing skills shown by 6.4 assists per game to 2.8 turnovers. Compared to the first two years of Norris Cole’s career in Miami Delly’s 3 point shooting and low turnovers has differentiated him offensively. Despite career TS% of .513 his career ORTG of 110 taking into account assists and turnovers is above league average. As a comparison Cole’s ORTG his first two seasons were 88 and 93.
The real revelation for Delly has been on the defensive end. For an unimpressive athlete his ability to move laterally has impressed.. He’s complimented this with excellent strength for a PG, high IQ, toughness and effort on the defensive end. Like Cole I suspect one of the reasons Delly has succeeded defensively is playing beside Lebron he’s able to “specialize” his effort level on that end without having to do as many normal PG duties offensively. Cole went on to put up the best offensive numbers of his career in New Orleans once removed from his defense first Miami role build from years of playing beside Lebron and Wade.
Dellavedova won’t be a high volume scorer but in the modern NBA his ability to defend, hit 3s and not turn the ball over already adds value to the Cavaliers. Mo Williams has a greater ability to create his own shots than Dellavedova. But on a team with Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith, Lebron James and Kevin Love, is Mo Williams advantages over Delly as important as the defense the latter brings? Dellavedova bothered Stephen Curry last year. In the Finals how glad would Curry be to see Mo Williams guarding him? Or likewise for an opponent like Chris Paul or Tony Parker.
A natural for Dellavedova is Patrick Beverley, who’s turned into an excellent PG beloved by advanced statistics like RAPM by defending and hitting outside shots. Giving up a future Beverley would be a hard blow for the Cavaliers. But on the offensive end Delly may have an even bigger upside than that.
Every year there’s players who prove that the adage that average athleticism equals low upside and freak athleticism equals high upside is not necessarily true. As an example two of the most improved players in the NBA last year were Draymond Green and Jimmy Butler. The story for both the first two years has similarities to Matthew Dellavedova. Neither were picked top 20 in the draft as players who were rated as scouts by older, low upside players. They showed themselves as draft steals early on by playing tough nosed defense and playing smart. But up until a year ago, many still expected them to still top out of quality role players in the NBA. In the 3rd seen both became max contract caliber stars. The early success they showed on the defensive end from IQ, strength and toughness ended up translating to more offensive success last year. Both Butler and Green had succeeded offensively in college which helped predict their development on that end in college. Dellavedova may have been more impressive offensively in college than either.
To be fair, people were higher on Butler and Green a year ago than they are now on Delly. A year ago Jimmy Butler was asking for 12 million a year from the Bulls showing the value he already had in the league. He’d shown signs of elite efficiency in his first two years. Dellavedova’s case is closer to Draymond Green, a player branded as a non-offense role player who also helped show his value in the playoffs when David Lee or Andrew Bogut injuries pushed the Warriors to play and succeed more with him. Likewise the Cavs kept winning with Delly starting in place of Kyrie Irving with a defending, floor spacing role player.
Jimmy Butler and Draymond Green are both stars. It’s a lot to ask Dellavedova is a good bet to not get there. But it’s an example of what can happen when you value a young player of his type who’s defended, improved his shooting, made high IQ decisions and showed he belongs in high intensity playoff series. The Cavaliers are a perfect fit for him because his weaknesses can be masked by Lebron’s playmaking at small forward and all the Cavs offensive talent to make up for his lack of volume scoring. There isn’t a team where Dellavedova is a more perfect fit. In the modern “spacing and defense” league the smart teams will be the ones who value what Dellavedova did for the Cavs last year and sees that players who shoot and play defense at a young level have a high upside, not just the players who show shot-creating skills. When compared to a career as erratic as J.R. Smith’s and a 32 year old with defensive problems like Mo Williams, I believe the youngest and best defending guard in Delly should have been prioritized the most of those 3 and he may be the one the Cavs lose.
Here are my ratings for the 2015 draft. Note, the start of this post is going to be a whole lot of writing and explaining. If you just want to see the big board, scroll down until you find them.
Before starting I wanted to reiterate my goal with these ratings. I am trying to create a system that rates NBA draft prospects better than any other method. Over the years I have had people call me crazy when my rankings do not match conventional draft ratings. Well if you’re so certain the scouts know better than me, then the results should prove this right over time. I am doing this to test if I am correct. I cannot predict every prospect correctly. The goal is just to do better than anyone else can, just like the goal for a Vegas sharp is to hit on 57 or 58% of bets compared to 50% or less for the public.
I created the first version of system over 3 years ago when I hypothesized that the NBA does not evaluate skill and basketball IQ or “feel for the game” as ingrained talents enough. You will see every year how the players with athleticism or length for their position are called high upside prospects. The mentality was that physical tools cannot be taught but skills and IQ can. In reality many of the players who show special skills or IQ in college compared to their peers continue to have that advantage in the NBA. Every player can improve their skill level in the pros, but if a mediocre skill player in the NCAA has a chance to become slightly above average, a player already standing out in skill in the NCAA can improve just as much to become special in the NBA. As an example when looking at the top 2 in MVP voting this year in Stephen Curry and James Harden they seem solid examples of skills and feel for the game talent that can’t be taught anymore than the athleticism of a star like Russell Westbrook.
The sport that drafts the best of the major sports, the NHL, is also the one that understands this the best as they draft players rating skill and “hockey sense” as talents. As an example in the same year James Harden and Stephen Curry were drafted 3rd and 7th and were labelled as not having superstar upside, the NHL drafted John Tavares 1st over Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene despite Tavares having average speed and size and Hedman and Duchene having elite size/speed for a defenseman and elite speed for a forward respectively. Scouts at the time rated Tavares as having special skill and hockey sense talent to make up for lacking in size or speed compared to the others, and he has gone on to be a star by finishing top 3 in MVP voting for his second time this year.
Thus in my system I created a system grading talent as one third physical tools, one third skills and one third basketball IQ. However the results were mixed the first few years. One thing I learned is that athletic players who couldn’t dribble the ball had difficulty driving to the basket and using their physical tools. Thus I theorized that if ball-handling helps a player drive and create a greater impact of “motion” it should be grouped in the same category of athleticism, which also helps a player’s impact of motion-level. I realized that evaluating a player’s basketball IQ in college is hard because sometimes young players have the instincts to be smart NBA players but don’t show it in college. I found that evaluating them by their slippery craftiness and fluidity is a better way of showing their feel and instincts level, rather than their results. Finally over time it became clear to me that not every player reaches their talent and that if for example if a player is a senior and not dominating competition, or drawing major red flags by analytics regressions of players, it’s a sign they may not have what it takes to reach their talent at the NBA level.
Here is my method for how I rank every player. I use 5 models as I am unclear which one will be more successful. The first model is the talent grading method straight up, the 2nd uses conventional draft ratings as a weight, the 3rd uses PER for a player’s age as a weight and the 4th uses analytics. The 5th model is the first 4 models averaged to create one net ranking.
Model 1 – Rank their talent level using my system I have developed the last several years (“Traditional” talent grading model)
I split the player’s talent level into 3 categories:
Physical impact/motion talent level
I start with their athleticism or ballhandling skills and how much motion they affect the game with. It is hard to explain exactly the consistent visual clues I use for this, but they are consistent.
To give you an example in the case of D’Angelo Russell I give him a “6” in his combination of athleticism and ballhandling. I see slightly above average ability to drive to the basket, but not elite penetrating ability.
I then adjust his score by his length, strength level and lateral mobility. Russell is 6’5 but I care about length rather than the height of his head and he has a 6’9.75 wingspan. Average wingspan for a PG is around 6’5 and average wingspan for a SG is around 6’8, so if Russell plays PG where I project his game to fit best, he’ll have excellent length for a guard. His weight at 193 pounds is above rough average of 180 pounds for a PG. However Russell’s lateral mobility is a concern if he plays PG. Overall because of his length I am upgrading Russell’s grade in this category from 6 to 7. If he had better lateral mobility for a PG I may have given him an 8.
Skill impact talent level
The best way to describe what I am looking for is plays that can be described as “finesse”. All jumpshots fit into this category, whether spot up or off the dribble. Passing fits here. If post play is finesse-driven, this also fits here.
Russell’s case as a shooter is very good. He shot 41.1% from 3 as a freshman on 6.6 3pt attempts a game. Although his 3P% is nice, the volume is part of what makes that number impressive. His FT% however is only 75.6 FT% whereas I prefer elite shooting prospects to be over 80%. Russell isn’t just a shooter but one who can “create jumpers of the dribble” which makes me more encouraged about his talent scoring from the perimeter.
Russell also is a superb passer, perhaps the best in this class bar none. He has some skills scoring in the post.
If rating Russell just for his outside jumper I would rate him a 6. However other skills such as the ability to create jumpers off the dribble, passing skills and post skills makes me bump him up two grades to an 8.
Feel for the Game talent level
Rating players in this category is almost entirely visual techniques-driven based on their fluidity in plays like driving and post. Thus explaining to people how my ratings in this category are as consistent player to player as the other categories, has been the most difficult thing for people to accept. Over time I’ve become more conservative rating players too high or too low in this category and rate most between 6 and 8, thus the impact of this category can be more limited than in the other two where the difference between the highest scoring and lowest scoring can be wider. In this case my grade for Russell is an 8 as he more than passes the test for a strong feel for the game talent.
D’Angelo Russell’s combined grade is 23, which is tied for the highest grade I gave this year.
When ranking players in this model I use a few tiebreakers when they have the same grade. Because of the presumption skill can be improved more easier than physical tools or feel for the game, if having the same total grade, the higher ranked player is the one with the highest combined grade in the physical impact and feel for the game categories. If they have both the same total grade and the same combined physical impact and feel for the game, the player with the higher feel for the game ranks highest as there is still ways to improve in the physical impact category, such as improving ballhandling, or becoming stronger, or in the rare case growing longer arms. If players are tied in every way, they are given the same ranking.
Model 2 – In this model I take the above talent grades and I weight it by conventional draft scouting.
My method for this is simple. I take the player’s rank in my first model, then average it with where the player is ranked on Chad Ford’s top 100 big board on ESPN.com. The top 100 I used was as of June 18th. D’Angelo Russell ranked 2nd on the ESPN big board and tied for 1st in my talent model, therefore by averaging the two numbers his rating in this model is 1.5, which ranks 1st in this model.
Model 3 – PER for age weighted system
First, I rate a player’s production by college PER (via Draftexpress.com) using these benchmarks
Freshman – The player’s PER minus 22
Sophomore – The player’s PER minus 24
Junior – The player’s PER minus 26
Senior – The player’s PER minus 28
This is intended to reflect how player’s production is supposed to increase as they get older. As an example Karl Anthony-Towns PER of 31.6 is +9.6 over 22 but Frank Kaminsky’s PER of 34.9 is only +6.9 compared to the senior mark of 28, so even though Kaminsky had a higher PER because of the age benchmark Towns number is rated as more impressive. D’Angelo Russell had a PER of 26.8 which as a freshman made him a +4.8, compared to the freshman benchmark of 22.
I take this PER difference and add it to the player’s talent grade. So Russell’s since Russell is +4.8, after adding it to his talent rating of 23, his rating in this category is 27.8, which ranks 3rd for this class in this model.
For international players I give them a neutral grade. For example since Kristaps Porzingis talent grade is 19, this rating in the PER weighted model is 19. For the record there were 20 NCAA prospects with a positive PER above the following benchmarks for their age, so for international prospects it’s as if their PER was the equivalent of the 21st best performing NCAA prospects.
Model 4 – Analytics weighted model
There have been some successful attempts to use analytics to rate draft prospects in recent years that use a regression to determine factors like steal rate, block rate, rebounding, age, conference, are important to predicting draft success. The system that has garnered the most attention is the “EWP” model by Layne Vashro or VJL on some forums. I asked him last year whether I could use his EWP in one of my models and he agreed, therefore my system is this:
I start with his EWP ratings top 70 posted here http://apbr.org/metrics/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=8904&start=45 and I add the player’s EWP to the player’s talent rating.
D’Angelo Russell has a class leading rating of 11.7 EWP, which when added to his talent rating of 23 is 34.7, which ranks 1st in this model.
On the EWP post, international players are not ranked. For international prospects I went to Kevin Pelton’s who’s translations are considered the best out there. I compared Pelton’s WARP in this post http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/draft2015/insider/story/_/id/12921781/kevin-pelton-statistical-big-board-20-nba-2015-draft
… to EWP by averaging the 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th and 30th players on each board. From this I decided to multiply an international player’s WARP by 2.5 to get a fair equivalent of the ranking on EWP. For example Kristaps Porzingis’s 3.3 WARP in Pelton’s system multiplied by 2.5 translates to 8.25 EWP, which would have ranked 5th on that list.
Model 5 – Mixed Model
Finally, to rank players in an overall big board, I add all these models together by adding together the ratings on all their models. This is the format that dictates my big board in this post.
D’Angelo Russell ranked tied for 1st in the traditional talent grading model, 1st on the ESPN weighted model, 3rd in the PER weighted model and 1st in the analytics/APBR weighted model. His average ranking is 1.5, his highest ranking is 1 and his lowest ranking is 3rd.
If players are tied in the average for mixed model, I broke the tie according to who rated higher in the talent model (Model 1).
When reading these rankings remember that they are all weighted by my talent grading method which is supposed to the thing making these rankings unique from the others. For example A player can have a top 10 rating on the EWP model and still rank out of the top 20 in the APBR model if his talent grading started low enough. The rankings in my models are not reflective of where they rank via ESPN’s big board, PER for their age or APBR as all the models are dictated by talent.
I have 64 prospects on my list. Their ranking by the mixed model:
1. PG D’Angelo Russell
Traditional model (T-1), ESPN weighted model (1) PER weighted model (3), APBR weighted model (1). Average: 1.75. Highest: 1, Lowest: 4
2. C Jahlil Okafor
Traditional model (4), ESPN weighted model (T-2), PER weighted model (2), APBR weighted model (3). Average: 2.75. Highest: 2, Lowest: 4
3. C Karl-Anthony Towns
Traditional model (T-6), ESPN weighted model (T-2), PER weighted model (1), APBR weighted model (2). Average: 2.75. Highest: 1, Lowest: 6
The story for these players is surprisingly similar. All 3 have an excellent feel for the game and not elite athletes. Russell has enough speed and ballhandling to drive into the paint at a decent level. Okafor and Towns are grounded players but I see more mobility from Okafor with some quickness driving past bigs, running in transition and lifting for alley oops. All 3 prospects are blessed with excellent length and strength for their position.
Russell had an excellent combination of 3P% and 3pt shooting for a young guard. His FT% is only in the 70s which draws a little doubt about whether he will be elite as a shooter. More elite is his passing which is one of the best in the draft. Okafor is a very skilled post player and finisher however his low FT% and lack of outside jumpers this year could make him a near the rim player only. In the modern spacing-centric NBA this is a large weakness. Towns has a better chance at shooting from the outside at least from midrange if not from 3 both by having a FT% over 80% and a history of perimeter shooting in high school.
Despite Okafor having enough more lenght and size than Towns, Towns clearly had the better defensive season. The question is whether this is due to NCAA contextual reasons or reasons that will continue to the NBA. Towns played on a deeper team where he could play aggressively on defense while Okafor had to conserve fouls to stay on the floor for offensive reasons. Once in the NBA will Okafor’s defensive effort improve to match his great tools on that end?
What seals the deal for these 3 prospects is how complete their resumes are. All 3 are rated as top 5 prospects by conventional scouts, have excellent PER for their age and are rated as elite players by analytics. When added to their talent level everything is pointing towards them being sure things to be at least good players in the NBA with star potential.
Subjectively even though he does not rank 1st by my system I may still take Towns of this 3 if given the choice. My system relies on using college numbers and conventional draft rating to help determine whether a player will rate their talent. By these numbers Okafor and Russell rate as well as Towns. However by the eye test it felt like Towns was a more physical player than the other 2. He relished in putting his body into the opponent making their knees buckle on defense and playing hard defense. Okafor and Russell’s games were more finesse driven and Okafor’s body was not in as strong as shape. To me it feels like Towns may be the most likely to reach his talent for reasons that don’t show up in these numbers, especially when compared to Okafor.
For player comparisons I like healthy Deron Williams for D’Angelo Russell as a big, smooth guard who can pass and shoot. Karl-Anthony Towns is like Al Horford in Derrick Favors body which could be an elite player. If you squint hard enough you can see Tim Duncan in Okafor if he improves defensively but perhaps a bigger Zach Randolph is a more reasonable comparison.
4. PG Delon Wright
Traditional model (3), ESPN weighted model (8), PER weighted model (9), APBR weighted model (4). Average: 6.0. Highest: 3, Lowest: 9
Wright is the only prospect after Russell, Okafor and Towns who ranks top 10 in all my models. He rates for me as one of the most talented prospects in the draft. Although not an elite athlete he has enough to drive to the basket, strong length for his position, a great feel, the ability to shoot from the outside and strong passing ability. His all around play could give him all-star potential in the NBA like how a player such as Mike Conley, Jr. or Kyle Lowry has impressed across the board.
The knock on Wright is he is 23 years old already. But his statistical production was so good in college that he managed to rate as a top 10 prospect on analytics boards which dock a player heavily for age and also rated positively in my personal PER by age system which also makes it harder to look good as a player gets older. Although Wright’s age can’t be ignored there have been all-star successes drafted old in recent years. Both his game and stats point towards a breakout candidate like this in Wright.
5. PG Emmanuel Mudiay
Traditional model (T-11), ESPN weighted model (4), PER weighted model (T-14), APBR weighted model (7). Average: 9.0. Highest: 4, Lowest: 14
6. PG Cameron Payne
Traditional model (T-9), ESPN weighted model (5), PER weighted model (5), APBR weighted model (19). Average: 9.5. Highest: 5, Lowest: 19
7. PF Frank Kaminsky
Traditional model (T-19), ESPN weighted model (T-12), PER weighted model (4), APBR weighted model (5). Average: 10. Highest: 4, Lowest: 19
8. SF Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Traditional model (7), ESPN weighted model (9), PER weighted model (18), APBR weighted model (9). Average: 10.75. Highest: 7, Lowest: 18
These players all perform excellently on some models and not as impressively on others. Emmanuel Mudiay has an impressive combination of size, speed and passing ability for a point guard that should make him a good bet to start in the NBA. Conventional scouts are high on him as well, rating him as a top 5 caliber pick. Although he played in China and it his hard to judge his numbers, Kevin Pelton’s method for NBA to China translation rated Mudiay as having performed strongly for his age.
Mudiay’s weakness is his shooting ability and although a good athlete, he is not as elite of one as players like John Wall and Russell Westbrook. Eric Bledsoe’s penetration-driven game in the NBA is one Mudiay can aspire to.
Frank Kaminsky rated the lowest of these players in my talent grading, as despite his high skill level and feel his tools on the defensive end will hurt him. He is a good ball-handler but with his average athleticism should still be a perimeter oriented player. He is a good shooter but not an elite one for a big man, although his passing skills for a PF or C are special. He is rated as a mid-lotto prospect and not a potential star by conventional scouts. However the numbers play in his favor. He put up an elite PER for his age and analytics support him as a top 7 or 8 prospect in the draft. Kaminsky is not perfect but has the offensive skills to be a starting PF or C.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is a great defensive talent. Of him, Justise Winslow and Stanley Johnson, Hollis-Jefferson is the one with the major length with a 7’2 wingspan. He has strong lateral quickness and a quality feel. Hollis-Jefferson has the ability to drive to the basket and although he has been scouted as a poor shooter, by hitting over 70% from the FT line it helps show his shot mechanics aren’t broken. Kawhi Leonard dropping in the draft because of a supposed broken jumpshot is a sign not to pick Hollis-Jefferson too low. For a sophomore Hollis-Jefferson did not have an impressive PER because of his scoring in the NCAA, however because of rebounding and steals he was rated as a lottery caliber prospect by APBR.
Cameron Payne is a quality all around PG prospect. His great feel and playmaking skills should make him a good game manager in the NBA. He has decent but not exemplary athleticism but his length helps give him appealing physical tools in the NBA. He shot a good 3 pt% on a high volume and shot FTs in the high 70s, which isn’t an elite college shooting season but is enough to translate to the NBA. Cameron Payne isn’t a “wow” talent in any area but has a complete combination of size, speed, shooting and passing that can make him a starter. Payne played in a mid-major conference which helps and hurts him in the models. The lower level of competition allowed him to put up a stronger performance in PER for his age but his poorer rating in the analytics models is in large part due to docking him for playing in a lesser conference.
9. C Guillermo Hernangomez
Traditional model (T-9), ESPN weighted model (T-18), PER weighted model (12), APBR weighted model (12). Average: 12.75. Highest: 9, Lowest: 18
10. SF Mario Hezonja
Traditional model (T-16), ESPN weighted model (7), PER weighted model (15), APBR weighted model (15). Average: 13.25. Highest: 7, Lowest: 16
11. C Willie Cauley-Stein
Traditional model (13), ESPN/DX weighted model (6), PER weighted model (26), APBR weighted model (10). Average: 14.0. Highest: 6, Lowest: 26
Guillermo Hernangomez rates as one of the most underrated prospects in the draft. Hernangomez plays on the same team as Kristaps Porzingis and is as productive albeit at an older age. He has impressive strength level for a center and quality length. He has a smooth, fluid feel that allows him to play in the post. Although not a high flying athlete I believe his mobility is underrated as he can drive to the rim off pick and rolls. I can even see some Marc Gasol in Hernangomez’s game because his physical dimensions and natural feel. Herangomez rates as a 1st round prospect on Pelton’s WARP list. His ranking in conventional wisdom is his weakness, as he is currently projected as a fringe 1st rounder. Other than that he looks like a starting caliber talent in the NBA.
Hezonja has quality size and speed driving to the basket and a good, but not great outside jumpshooting career so far. He has a quality feel and craftiness. Although having the talent to be a starting player Hezonja’s production was not elite, still playing as a role player on his European team and rating out of Kevin Pelton’s top 20 in his European translation. Conventional scouts are high on him and he should get the opportunity to succeed in the NBA. Hezonja has a chance to be a Danillo Gallinari type asset in the NBA.
Willie Cauley-Stein’s size, athleticism and elite lateral mobility should make him a good bet to start in the NBA. With the need for defensive centers a team will find a place for him. His PER for his age was unimpressive in part because of his scoring and partly because his rebounding was good but not elite for his physical tools. His average strength for a big man could hurt him on the boards. Analytics rate him as a lottery caliber prospect. Although he rates low on one of my models, I still have a hard time seeing Cauley-Stein having a worse career than Samuel Dalembert had.
12. PG Joseph Young
Traditional model (1), ESPN weighted model (T-10), PER weighted model (25), APBR weighted model (20). Average: 14.0. Highest: 1, Lowest: 25
Believe it or not Joseph Young rated as tied for 1st bar in my talent model. He rated as one of the best shooters in the draft, with a great feel for the game, the speed/ballhandling to drive to the basket and his length/strength was no worse than average for his position. If a young player this would be the recipe for a star.
Ok, but things have changed compared to the first few years of my model. I now take into account numbers more and Young’s case begins to fall apart there. He is a senior with non-elite PER for his age for such a high talent and his analytics rating lists him as barely draftable. Conventional scouts also see him as a borderline 1st round prospect. So when those are taking the together the odds are unlikely Young becomes a star. Still he may be worth the longshot puncher’s bet to beat the odds. Not to mention even if he doesn’t become a star he still may leverage his shooting, feel and speed into becoming a quality contributor in the NBA like a Leandro Barbosa or Lou Williams scorer.
13. SF Sam Dekker
Traditional model (14), ESPN weighted model (10), PER weighted model (16), APBR weighted model (19). Average: 14.75. Highest: 10, Lowest: 19
14. PF Bobby Portis
Traditional (T-19), ESPN weighted (T-14), PER weighted (T-6), APBR weighted (28). Average: 16.75. Highest: 6, Lowest; 28.
15. PF Kristaps Porzingis
Traditional (30), ESPN weighted (12), PER weighted (T-19), APBR weighted (6). Average: 16.75. Highest: 6, Lowest: 30
Dekker has a quality combination of speed and size for a wing that could make him a two way player. He 3s in college at an average rate and barely broke 70% from the FT line so his jumpshot is a question mark but is not broken. Dekker also has an excellent feel and craftiness. The success of a player like DeMarre Carroll is something Dekker can aspire too. Dekker’s production by PER and APBR rating, are average for his age, but worth enough to back up his place as a top 20 caliber prospect.
Portis has underwhelming athleticism for a power forward, but has a skilled perimeter game for a 4 and a great feel. How to judge his numbers is difficult. On one hand by PER he had a superb NCAA season, but for a reason I don’t fully understand, his APBR rating was quite poor and outside of the top 30 in the EWP model. He is considered a player who plays with an elite motor and work ethic which should help him contribute in the NBA and has a possible chance of breaking out like David West.
Porzingis has impressive length, lateral ability and athleticism for a 7 footer however his body strength is concerning and could lead him to struggle in the post and on the boards. He is a skilled but not elite outside shooter. Porzingis feel for the game did not impress me as often he looked mechanical instead of fluid and crafty. Another concern I have about Porzingis is that the more perimeter oriented a big man is, the more like a perimeter player ball-handling skills are required to drive into the paint and take advantage of their speed. This need for ballhandling from a perimeter player has kept some big men draft picks in the past like Derrick Williams, Anthony Bennett and Andrea Bargnani to the perimeter.
Pelton rates Porzingis as an elite prospect, as a productive 19 year old at a high level in Europe. His production in Europe should at least guarantee a stable NBA career even in worst case scenario instead of a “full Yi Jianlian/Jan Vesely”. If Porzingis disappoints as a top 4 I could still see him putting up solid advanced numbers like Jonas Valanciunas has in a slightly underwhelming career so far.
16. C Robert Upshaw
Traditional (T-11), ESPN weighted (T-27), PER weighted (T-6), APBR weighted (27). Average: 17.75. Highest: 6, Lowest: 27
17. PF Myles Turner
Traditional (T-28), ESPN weighted (17), PER weighted (10), APBR weighted (16). Average: 17.75. Highest: 10, Lowest: 28
Upshaw is a hard prospect to rate for multiple reasons. His size, above the rim athleticism, feel and college production would normally make him a lotto caliber prospect however substance abuse red flags makes him a risk to take, much like Royce White’s mental health red flags in his career. Upshaw’s red flags are reflected in how he rated lower in conventional scouting than he would normally would and also I believe the minimal games he played this year hurt him in EWP analytics rating where he rated as a non 1st round prospect. Overall it’s hard to tell where to take Upshaw without having more information about his personal life but if he gets his head on track he could be a top 10 player in the draft and longtime starter as a rebounding, shotblocking and at the rim finisher at center. Upshaw’s red flags makes him risky, but his game would otherwise be less risky than a lot of prospects since it’s hard for a center with his likely defensive skills to not be a starter. So some of his riskiness is cancelled out.
I struggle with Turner’s limited athleticism and body, although he has a good midrange jumpshot, feel and length for his position though doesn’t appear to be as strong in either of those areas as Bobby Portis. Both his PER for his age and analytics play favorably for him. Conventional scouts like him but are concerned about him reaching his talent level instead of being an enigma. Turner is an interesting prospect as he has defensive potential and could hit an outside jumper.
18. PF Christian Wood
Traditional (T-19), ESPN weighted (T-27), PER weighted (12), APBR weighted (14). Average: 15.5. Highest: 12, Lowest: 19
Wood is not an elite athlete but has what would be great length at a stretch power forward and would be elite length for a small forward. Although he is thin with the way the game is going I suspect a skilled 3 pt shooting power forward is his future. He is a solid not great 3pt shooter, but for the PF position that is still quality skills for the NCAA. Wood reminds me of a Rashard Lewis-like, skinny, skilled, long power forward and could be a draft steal based on talent. Wood rates as a lotto caliber prospect by analytics and had impressive PER for his age. Something about him is driving conventional scouts away from him as he is now projected to fall to the 2nd round, so perhaps he is considered an enigma by those who look closer. In general he looks like he could be a steal if he falls that far with both talent and production playing his way.
19. PG Corey Hawkins
Traditional (5), ESPN weighted (41), PER weighted (8), APBR weighted (26). Average: 20.0. Highest: 5, Lowest: 41
20. PG Jerian Grant
Traditional (T-16), ESPN weighted (T-16), PER weighted (29), APBR weighted (21). Average: 20.5. Highest: 16, Lowest: 29
21. SF Stanley Johnson
Traditional (T-34), ESPN weighted (T-19), PER weighted (22), APBR weighted (11). Average: 21.5. Highest: 11, Lowest: 34
Like Joe Young, Corey Hawkins is an unheralded guard who rated very high in my talent grading with great perimeter shooting ability, size for a point guard, feel for the game and a decent ability to drive. However for an old player in a poor conference, while his production by PER was solid, it wasn’t so dominant as a player like Damian Lillard. This is part of the reason why he rates so poorly by conventional scouts and by analytics which knock players for conference and age. At the same time with his skill and physical tools he could break out to a solid career.
Jerian Grant is the definition of a “solid, but unspectacular prospect”. He has decent size, athleticism and skills for a point guard, however his production gets less impressive when taking into account his older age compared to competition. Conventional scouts also appear to be taking a “he’s fine, but nothing spectacular” position with him.
Stanley Johnson has impressive size for a small forward however I am concerned about the combination of his speed and ballhandling keeping him to the perimeter in the NBA. His shooting is average for a wing prospect and he has a quality but not elite feel for the game. His length and lateral mobility is good for a wing but not elite as elite as a prospect like Hollis-Jefferson. Overall one has to be concerned about him having the shooting and ballhandling skills to start in the NBA if his defense isn’t special Johnson. is rated as a top 10 prospect by conventional scouts and rated top 5 on the analytics rating EWP which helps his case to reach whatever talent he has and become an NBA rotation player.
22. PG Andrew Harrison
Traditional (8), ESPN weighted (T-19), PER weighted (T-44), APBR weighted (T-22). Average: 23.25. Highest: 8, Lowest: 44
23. PG Tyus Jones
Traditional (T-28), ESPN weighted (T-24), PER weighted (T-29), APBR weighted (13). Average: 23.5. Highest: 13, Lowest: 29
Harrison and Jones are to an extent inverses of each other. Harrison’s production in NCAA was undeniably brutal however the talent level is still there. He is a big guard with the speed to the drive, some craftiness and fluidity and had a quite solid combination of 3pt shooting and FT% in college. He is worth the pick as a longshot chance of reaching his talent as a star or finding a way off the bench.
Jones case is more about numbers than talent. Doesn’t have impressive size or ability to drive to the basket, but has quality shooting and feel for the game. By PER his season was only solid for his age, but rates as a top 10 prospect on analytics boards. He is a player long raved about his work ethic and leadership so he may be a good bet to reach whatever talent he has in the NBA, even if just as as solid backup.
24. PF Richaun Holmes
Traditional (T-24), ESPN weighted (T-33), PER weighted (11), APBR weighted (T-32). Average: 25.0. Highest: 13, Lowest: 29
25. SF Justise Winslow
Traditional (T-41), ESPN weighted (T-21), PER weighted (T-31), APBR weighted (8). Average: 25.25. Highest: 8, Lowest: 29
Winslow ranking this low may may be one of the bigger head turners on this list. In his favor analytics love him and rank him as a top 3 or 4 prospect in the draft. Conventional scouts rate him as a top 7 or 8 prospect. The word about Winslow’s work ethic is incredible and he improved over the course of the season. If taking the second half of the season he may have made him perform better on the PER and APBR models to rate higher on this list. Winslow is a great bet to reach whichever talent level he has.
My issues is with talent level. First of all, his 64% FT and poor midrange shooting numbers makes me discount his over 40% 3pt shooting as meaningful as the FT shooting is more reflective of mechanics that could hurt him in the NBA. As a defensive prospect while he has great strength his wingspan is average for a small forward which makes him less special on that end. I am also not blown away by his athleticism. Although a smooth player I didn’t see great explosiveness driving past opponents to the rim and his speed on defense looked good but not special. My concern with Winslow is offensively he will struggle without the ballhandling ability to drive well or perimeter shooting and defensively he will be fine but not enough of an elite talent to make up for it. Still, if he develops a good outside shot he has a chance to be a quality two way player. Winslow rating this low does mean he can’t become a lottery caliber prospect in this draft just that I rate his chances as a lower than players in front of him. Considering unlike some of the other prospects ahead of him he ranks as high as 8th on one of my models this also helps his case.
Richaun Holmes is a very productive player for his age by PER however he did it in a weak enough conference to make his analytics rating worse. and has a solid perimeter skill level and feel for a likely NBA PF. For a power forward he shows decent potential as a midrange shooter and solid feel, though I didn’t see great separation athletically.
26. PF Trey Lyles
Traditional (T-24), ESPN weighted (T-14), PER weighted (T-34), APBR weighted (T-32). Average: 26.0. Highest: 14, Lowest: 34
27. SF Kelly Oubre
Traditional (T-34), ESPN weighted (T-21), PER weighted (32), APBR weighted (21). Average: 27.0. Highest: 21, Lowest: 32
28. PF Montrezl Harrell
Traditional (T-22), ESPN weighted (T-22), PER weighted (T-34), APBR weighted (35). Average: 28.0. Highest: 22, Lowest: 35
29. SF Justin Anderson
Traditional (27), ESPN weighted (26), PER weighted (T-37), APBR weighted (T-23). Average: 28.25. Highest: 23, Lowest: 37
30. PG Oliver Hanlan
Traditional (T-16), ESPN weighted (T-24), PER weighted (41), APBR weighted (34). Average: 28.75. Highest: 16, Lowest: 41
Trey Lyles is mocked top 10 in the draft by conventional drafts however I have some problems with his talent level. Although a fluid and smart player, I don’t see a lot of athletic separation or ballhandling ability for a perimeter player and his outside jumper needs a lot of work. He feels like he could be stuck between positions and not skilled enough to play a small forward and a softer small 4 who’s not a true perimeter shooter. His numbers for a freshman at Kentucky were underwhelming as well.
Kelly Oubre has impressive length and fluidity for a small forward, however I don’t see a lot of speed or ballhandling. His outside shooting and feel is fine, but not elite. He is rated as a project by conventional scouts and has average numbers by PER for a freshman but was liked by analytics. Harrell is an old prospect without impressive numbers either by traditional or analytics metrics although he has some athleticism and some signs of a perimeter jumper. I was not the most impressed by Justin Anderson’s feel or his ballhandling skills to drive, though he has a chance to be an athletic shooter.
Hanlan rated as the top talent of this group for me with the ability to penetrate, shoot from the outside and solid feel. However his mediocre production for his age and his rating by conventional scouts make him less less likely to success.
31. PF Kevon Looney
Traditional (T-44), ESPN weighted (T-29), PER weighted (33), APBR weighted (17). Average:. 30.75 Highest: 17 , Lowest: 44
32. SG Aaron Harrison
Traditional (15), ESPN weighted (42), PER weighted (T-49), APBR weighted (T-21). Average:. 31.75, Highest: 15 Lowest: 49
Looney rates as a top 20 prospect in the APBR weighted model because he rated top 10 in the EWP rating, which makes him an interesting prospect although I am not as impressed by his combination of shooting or ballhandling skills and athleticism.
Like his twin Aaron Harrison had very poor production and is rated as a fringe draftable prospect, but I like his talent as an athletic, big guard who projects to shoot in the NBA.
33. C Chris McCullough
Traditional (T-34), ESPN weighted (T-29), PER weighted (48), APBR weighted (T-29). Average: 35.0. Highest: 29, Lowest: 48
34. PG Tyler Harvey
Traditional (31), ESPN weighted (45), PER weighted (23), APBR weighted (42). Average: 35.25. Highest: 23, Lowest: 45
35. C Dakari Johnson
Traditional (T-32), ESPN weighted (T-31), PER weighted (42), APBR weighted (37). Average: 35.5, Highest: 31, Lowest: 42
36. PF Arturas Gudaitis
Traditional (T-34), ESPN weighted (50), PER weighted (27), APBR weighted (36). Average: 36.75, Highest: 27, Lowest: 50
37. PF Aaron White
Traditional (40), ESPN weighted (51), PER weighted (17), APBR weighted (39). Average: 36.75, Highest: 17, Lowest: 51
38. C Cliff Alexander
Traditional (43), ESPN weighted (T-43), PER weighted (24), APBR weighted (46). Average: 39.0 Highest: 24.0, Lowest: 46
39. SG Michael Frazier II
Traditional (T-24), ESPN weighted (37), PER weighted (T-60), APBR weighted (T-37). Average: 39.5. Highest: 24, Lowest: 60
40. PF Rakeem Christmas
Traditional (T-32), ESPN weighted (T-33), PER weighted (40), APBR weighted (T-53). Average: 39.5, Highest: 32, Lowest: 53
A player that intrigues me in this group is Tyler Harvey as I believe he is the best shooter in the draft bar none. Not only are his 3P%, 3PA and FT% numbers the best when taken together, but visually he is taking shots off the dribble in the tightest of space in a “Steph Curry” like way. He has no defensive position and is not a great penetrator, but on shooting alone is worth paying attention to. Michael Frazier II also could rate as a great shooter as Pelton did a regression ranking him as the best shooter ahead of Harvey, although his system used multiple college seasons.
Chris McCullough has intriguing feels and skills, although in a skill body. Aaron White is an impressive athlete with outside shooting and passing, though poor size for a PF. Dakari Johnson and Cliff Alexander have a chance to make it based on being a big, warm body alone. Arturas Gudaitis is an athlete with some skill, though could use more strength and length. Production and analytics don’t help these prospects but they do have intriguing talent level and are worth a puncher’s chance.
41. SG Norman Powell
Traditional (23), ESPN weighted (38), PER weighted (63), APBR weighted (41). Average:. 41.25, Highest: 23, Lowest: 63
42. SF R.J. Hunter
Traditional (T-49), ESPN weighted (T-35), PER weighted (38), APBR weighted (47). Average:. 42.25, Highest: 35, Lowest: 49
43. PG Terry Rozier
Traditional (T-44), ESPN weighted (T-35), PER weighted (47), APBR weighted (52). Average:. 44.5, Highest: 35, Lowest: 52
44. SG Devin Booker
Traditional (52), ESPN weighted (T-31), PER weighted (55), APBR weighted (T-42). Average:. 45.0, Highest: 31, Lowest: 55
Booker and Hunter are two players rated high in the draft who rank out of the top 40 here based on poor rating in my talent system. Both are good shooters but not elite enough to carry them to a high ranking alone. Nothing else looks impressive to me about them, with weak defensive tools and ability to drive and their numbers don’t back up their case. They have a chance to make it based on opportunity and shooting, but if they are merely decent shooters isn’t of great, they could also flame out.
The rest of my rated prospects:
45. SG Cedi Osman
Traditional (53), ESPN weighted (46), PER weighted (44), APBR weighted (41). Average:. 46.0, Highest: 41, Lowest: 53
46. SG Tyler Haws
Traditional (T-38), ESPN weighted (60), PER weighted (28), APBR weighted (60). Average:. 46.5, Highest: 28, Lowest: 60
47. PF Jarell Martin
Traditional (48), ESPN weighted (T-39), PER weighted (T-52), APBR weighted (T-50). Average:. 47.25, Highest: 39, Lowest: 52
48. PF Jordan Mickey
Traditional (T-44), ESPN weighted (T-48), PER weighted (51), APBR weighted (T-53). Average:. 49.0, Highest: 51, Lowest: 53
49. SG J.P. Tokoto
Traditional (T-41), ESPN weighted (47), PER weighted (68), APBR weighted (42). Average:. 49.5, Highest: 41, Lowest: 68
50. PF Jonathan Holmes
Traditional (T-38), ESPN weighted (T-48), PER weighted (64), APBR weighted (T-49). Average:. 49.75, Highest: 38, Lowest: 64
51. PF Vince Hunter
Traditional (59), ESPN weighted (53), PER weighted (T-34), APBR weighted (T-53). Average:. 49.75, Highest: 34, Lowest: 59
52. SG Rashad Vaughn
Traditional (58), ESPN weighted (T-39), PER weighted (T-49), APBR weighted (58). Average:. 51.0, Highest: 39, Lowest: 58
53. PG T.J. McConnell
Traditional (T-44), ESPN weighted (58), PER weighted (59), APBR weighted (T-48). Average:. 52.25, Highest: 44, Lowest: 59
54. PG Guo Ailun
Traditional (T-54), ESPN weighted (63), PER weighted (T-44), APBR weighted (T-53). Average:. 53.5, Highest: 44 , Lowest: 63
55. SF Pat Connaughton
Traditional (T-49), ESPN weighted (T-51), PER weighted (67), APBR weighted (T-48). Average:. 53.75, Highest: 48, Lowest: 67
56. SF Anthony Brown
Traditional (51), ESPN weighted (T-43), PER weighted (66), APBR weighted (T-59). Average:. 54.75, Highest: 43, Lowest: 66
57. C Mouhammadou Jaiteh
Traditional (60), ESPN weighted (54), PER weighted (53), APBR weighted (T-62). Average:. 57.25. Highest: 53, Lowest: 62
58. C Alan Williams
Traditional (T-61), ESPN weighted (59), PER weighted (T-42), APBR weighted (67). Average:. 57.25, Highest: 42, Lowest: 67
59. SG Michael Qualls
Traditional (T-54), ESPN weighted (57), PER weighted (T-60), APBR weighted (T-62). Average:. 58.25, Highest: 54, Lowest: 62
60. C Nikola Milutoniv
Traditional (T-61), ESPN weighted (55), PER weighted (53), APBR weighted (68). Average:. 59.25, Highest: 53, Lowest: 68
61. SG D.J. Newbill
Traditional (56), ESPN weighted (62), PER weighted (T-60), APBR weighted (65). Average:. 60.75, Highest: 56, Lowest: 65
62. SF Terran Petteway
Traditional (57), ESPN weighted (56), PER weighted (65), APBR weighted (66). Average:. 61.0 Highest: 57, Lowest: 66
63. SG Daniel Diez
Traditional (64), ESPN weighted (61), PER weighted (57), APBR weighted (T-62). Average:. 61.0, Highest: 57, Lowest: 64
64. SF Shawn Dawson
Traditional (63), ESPN weighted (64), PER weighted (57), APBR weighted (T-62). Average:. 61.5, Highest: 57, Lowest: 64
If a player is not listed here, I didn’t feel comfortable rating him – rather than rating him and deeming him not worthy of top 64. I tried to rate all the relevant prospects I could.