A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

2018 NBA Draft Top 20 prospects

leave a comment »

usa_today_10779543-0
1. PG/SG Luka Doncic
– Saying the numbers add up for Doncic is an understatement. He averaged 24.7 pts, 7.5 reb, 6.6 ast, 1.7 stl per 40 in the Euroleague as a teenager. Even at lower levels like ACB, French Pro A and Adriatic, teenagers per minute stats end up translating to their future NBA careers well, as development makes up for the jump in competition. To not be an all-star (say Gordon Hayward level) Doncic’s stats would have to translate significantly worse than the virtually his peers from this age, despite playing at a higher competition than him. A player already at this high a level playing professional basketball and at a much higher level than the NCAA is about a guarantee to get an all-star as you’re going to get. And if you’re picking a guy to become one of the all time greats, being a once a lifetime European performer at his age seems like one of the best paths there. The precedent for being a star with his style of play is there with stars like Harden, Manu, Roy or even Magic. Even on the defensive end Doncic is appealing, as in the modern game 6’8-6’9 players who can switch onto both smaller perimeter players and bigs is what everyone is looking for.

2. PG/SG Elie Okobo – Okobo is not Doncic but I’ll take him over an imperfect NCAA pool. He averages 20.8 pts, 7.2 ast, 4.1 reb, 1.4 stl per 40 on .628 TS% in French Pro A and his shooting spot of 41.8% 3P on 7.4 3PA/40 and 83.5% from the FT line is superb. Like Doncic he’s doing this at a higher level than college basketball and already used to a professional lifestyle. With size at 6’3 to shoot over opponents his ability to score 3s off the dribble has a chance to be a powerful weapon in the league in the era of Curry, Harden, Lillard, Kyrie, etc. have dominated with it, and he has the wingspan (6’8) to defend. Projected as a fringe top 20 pick he’s not too far off the map for traditional scouts. The one downside is he is 21 in October, he would be an even better prospect if he was dominating as a teen like Doncic.

3. PG/SG Trae Young – Young is definitely volatile. He put up an astonishing 30.9 pts, 9.8 ast per 40 on .585 TS% and solid 1.9 stl/40, but also 5.9 TOV/40 which is a rare number, but possibly acceptable with how high his volume is. His shot fell apart in the 2nd half of the season but his 36% 3pt on 11.6 3PA/40 and 86.1% FT is nonetheless a superb combination of 3P%, volume and FT that projects him as an elite shooter. At 6’1 he lacks the size of players like Curry, Lillard and Kyrie. Nevertheless those players still set a precedent for how powerful Young’s shooting and handling skill can be if it translates, and one of those players in Curry is one of the best offensive players of all time. It’s a risk but drafting a franchise player like Curry is the real goal and I still think everything going right for Young gives him the best path there of NCAA players to be not just an all-star, but a true franchise changer. He is not Jimmer Fredette. Jimmer played 4 years in college and only dominated in his 3rd and 4th years when was  older than everyone (his freshman scoring of 15.1 pts/40 as a freshman and 19.7 as a sophomore is meek compared to freshman Young) and he never had half of Young’s passing numbers.

4. C Jaren Jackson, Jr. – Numbers are critical for big men’s success in NCAA and internationally  and Jackson has them. Any source that treats Ayton or Bagley as more productive than Jackson are looking too much at minutes and points – Jackson has the higher WS/48 and BPM. He averages 20 pts, 11.6 reb, 2.0 ast, 5.5 blk, 1.1 stl on .647 TS% and his 15.4 BPM is stellar for the class. He fits the modern game well as shooting 39.6% from 3 and 79.7% FT and is a great athlete defensively as much as offensively. I only have one catch – the superstar centres tend to be no brainers even at a greater level than Jackson. Davis, Embiid, Cousins (sanity aside), Oden (likely superstar if healthy) were like Jackson and Ayton combined in terms of having the tools and the production on both ends in college. Going back in history the same has been true of most of the all time greats like Shaq, Hakeem, Kareem, etc. Towns is one  of the most promising comparisons for Jackson as his lower minute college career has a lot of similarities, but Towns has a lot to prove in his career still outside of putting up points. Anything less than the total deluxe package in college creates skepticism if looking for a true, MVP caliber big man. But asking for an outcome that high is picking nits at this point if they could go onto be all-stars on the next level and he could break the mold.

5. C Wendell Carter, Jr. – On paper I slightly prefer Carter’s stats to Jackson’s. With a statline of 20.2 pts, 13.5 reb, 3.0 ast, 3.1 blk, 1.2 stl per 40 on .628 TS%, the biggest difference is he blocks less shots but passes more. I’d take the assists and what it says about basketball IQ, while in the past some fraud prospects have blocked shots in college by being longer than everyone else but nothing else. However from a talent perspective Carter passes the eye test less compared to Jackson’s elite athleticism and switchability. I agree with the Horford comparison most people seem to have for Carter with the ability to shoot, pass and defend. There’s some Jokic there as well. Like Jackson the reservation is there that anything less than perfect big men prospects in NCAA are a longshot to become a superstar.

6. SG/SF Josh Okogie – Long armed, versatile players have had success at the wings in this era such as Durant, Giannis, Kawhi, Butler, George, Iguodala, Deng, and now Tatum. Okogie has a 7 foot wingspan, is athletic, is known as having the it factor in terms of defensive hunger and intangibles and is only 19. Per 40 he averaged 20 pts, 6.9 reb, 2.7 ast, 1.9 stl, 1.1 blk, showing contrary to his reputation as a defense only role player he showed the ability to be a volume scorer and passer. He shot 38% from 3 and 82.1% from the FT line projecting him in another key skill on offense. The only thing preventing me from calling him the best NCAA prospect in the class is despite mistakes that are made every draft, it’s still only once a blue moon for NCAA prospects all-stars are taken out of the top 20, and never MVP caliber players. For that reason I give an edge to Young, Jackson and Carter for likelihood to be a star.

7. SG/SF Dzanen Musa – Musa is probably the best player on his Adriatic team. He averaged 21.1 pts, 5.6 reb, 2.7 ast, 1.8 stl per 40, leads them in PER and while his shooting of 31.5% 3pt is average, it’s on a quality volume of 6.2 3PA/40 and 82.2% FT which projects him as good NBA shooter. His shooting splits are overall very similar to Doncic. Musa is also even younger than Doncic, having just turned 19 in May. His standout performance on his European team, a much higher level than college basketball and among grown professionals is highly impressive and his size and skills is enough to give him upside. He is not known for defense but his solid steal rate and 6’8 size could give him switchable potential.

8. SG/SF Mikal Bridges – Like Okogie Bridges has a lot of the elements of successful wings. He’s long, is versatile (22.0 pts, 6.6 reb, 2.4 ast, 1.9 stl per 40) and has a superb shooting split of 43.5% 3P and 85.1% FT. He however started slower as a scorer than Okogie only scoring 12.5 and 13.1 pts per 40 as a scorer his freshman and sophomore years and turning 22 in August the history of older prospects who became stars is limited. Nevertheless a lot of the elements of great two way 3 and D players at his position is there.

9. SF/PF Miles Bridges – Bridges is almost one of the best prospects in the class. With underrated scoring numbers (21.8 pts per 40), solid rebounding and passing (8.9 reb and 3.4 ast) and 36.4% 3P on 85.3% FT, like Okogie he passes a lot of the checkmarks of the long armed versatile wing following in the Kawhi and Butler path. Unfortunately his defense looks to be overrated both by people who’ve watched him closest, and his defensive stats of only 0.8 stl/40 and 1.0 blk/40. Furthermore in modern game favouring smallball, it’s a good role to expect the SF/PF tweeners to play PF. It would be great if Bridges ended up a versatile 3/4 player who defends, passes and shoots 3s, the wing this draft is missing. But the more I looked at his stats the more it looks like he’ll be closer to the shoot-first SF/PF tweener like Jeff Green, Michael Beasley, Harrison Barnes. Nevertheless the upside if the former clicks in is still worth believing in, and the latter could lead to a long career anyways.

10. PG/SG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – SGA’s stats are solid (17.1 pts, 6.1 ast, 4.9 reb, 2.0 stl, 0.6 blk per 40) .578 TS%), shot 40.4% from 3 on a small sample size on 57 attempts and shot 81.7% FT and has strong size for a point guard which gives him a lot of defensive potential, an intriguing combination with his shooting, defense and passing. Turning 20 he is a year older than some peers in his class but young enough to have a lot of potential. There’s few clearcut holes in his profile, but most all-stars in the past have stood out in some way like shooting, athleticism or even better stats. Nevertheless being a complete prospect across the board is enough to be appealing and gives him starter to all-star potential.

11. SG Lonnie Walker – Walker is one of those eye test champion, stats are out (16.6 pts, 3.7 reb, 2.7 ast, 1.4 stl per 40, only .527 TS%) guys who have a high chance of being a low IQ bust. So what is he doing 11th on a list favoring numbers? He is explosive as hell slashing to the rim and from time to time great NBA guards ,more-so than big men go from raw projects to successful careers. Mainly, the shadow of Russell Westbrook hangs over things here for me. As long as an MVP guard only put up the stats Russ did in college, freak athlete prospects have to be accounted for. DeMar Derozan is also a successful all-star who started slowly, and recently Jaylen Brown’s college stats suggested bust is showing a lot of all-star signs.

12. SF/PF Michael Porter – Porter has a complete lack of statistical resume not to mention health concerns that could lead him to redshirt his first year. Out of all these guys he has the biggest risk of falling out of the league by the end of his rookie contract and scoring less than a few hundred points in his career, and it’s not close. Not only could health totally take out his career, but he could be 100% healthy and still be the biggest bust here just based on total lack of track record of proving he’s good. However he did have special fluidity and shooting for his height in high school, and high variance means high chance of busting, but also higher chance of being a bust than players who’s stats they’re not likely to be stars. Considering where I just rated Lonnie Walker, Porter’s boom/bust potential can’t be too far behind.

13. PF/C Marvin Bagley – Bagley was great in some ways in college (24.9 pts, 13.1 reb per 40) and disappointing in others (1.0 stl, 1.0 blk, 1.8 ast per 40). His defensive IQ appears to be mediocre to go along with his steal and block stats. Even if he puts up offensive stats, there’s concerns about where a big who scores at the rim and struggles on defense fits in the modern game. He is a tremendous athlete, appears to have great intangibles and is only 19. Athleticism has had some success at PF in players like Blake, Bosh, Davis although most had better college stat predictors than Bagley. I’m not sure I believe in his shooting as his 39.7% 3pt was only on 58 attempts and he shot 62.7% from the FT line. I have a lot of issues with Bagley that makes it so I wouldn’t be shocked if he busts, but at 13th and with his talent, age and effort level, there is potential for an all-star big.

14. C Mo Bamba – Bamba’s stats are pretty average outside of shotblocking (17.1 pts, 14.0 reb, 0.7 ast, 1.0 stalk, 4.9 blk, .593 TS%) and isn’t much of a shooter (27.5% 3pt, 68.1% FT) which is a problem since virtually all the great centers had more complete statlines in college. The model is Drummond and Deandre for Bamba who were athletic projects that went on to very nice, but ultimately not franchise changing careers. He also appears to pass the talent eye test in spades, has high intangibles and apparently is shooting well in workouts giving him 3 and D big man potential.

15. C Deandre Ayton – The #1 pick has a lot of red flags. The scoring and rebounding is tremendous (24.0 pts, 13.8 reb per 40, .65 TS%) but the defense (0.7 stl, 2.3 blk and all visual evidence) is not, and passing is ok (1.9 ast per 40). To put it in perspective Ayton put up 0.6 stl, 2.3 blk per 40, Meyers “softest big of this generation” Leonard had 0.7 stl and 2.4 blks per 40 in college. Being a statistically flawed center, especially on defense is not where you want to be with the two way track record of successful NBA centers in the NCAA. Projecting him at power forward is more promising where his block numbers are not as damning and he played beside a center in college, but it’s still not ideal. Ayton is also turning 20 in July and year older than players like Bagley. Ayton dominated as a scorer in volume and efficiency, but scoring because you’re bigger than everyone is one of the biggest things to look out for meaningless high school or college, and concerns about basketball IQ and motor are two of the next biggest ones. With all that said, combination of physical talent and skill is insane and at 34.3% 3pt (only 35 attempts) and 73.3% FT he has a chance to shoot. Even without the skill, he would have a potential to be one Drummond or Deandre on physical tools alone.

16. PF/C Bonzie Colson – Colson isn’t on much draft boards as he’s an old, severely undersized big man with a foot injury. However he reportedly has a 7 foot wingspan and he has outstanding stats – 24.4 pts, 12.5 reb, 2.8 blk, 2.1 stl, 1.1 ast per 40, .569 TS%. While he only shot 29.3% from 3, he shot 76.1% FT, which with his 44.3% 3pt mark as a junior suggest some outside potential. Furthermore steals like Draymond and Millsap suggest there’s a path for a short big if they have the productivity, strength and intangibles.

17. SG Grayson Allen – Allen can shoot (37.0% 3pt, 85% FT) and has solid passing numbers (5.2 ast per 40) and steals (1.9 per 40) both of which are good indicators. He actually scored more points per 40 as a freshman (19) than senior (17.4) which one hand is concerning that he couldn’t dominate as an older prospect, but it also shows Allen wasn’t just a player that dominated when he got older than everyone. His draft stock was higher in his early years than later. The biggest catch is Allen is 23 later this year which the track record is limited, but the shooting, passing and athleticism is appealing.

18. C Robert Williams – Williams case is a poor man’s version of Bamba’s except he’s older, slightly worse (16.2 pt, 14.4 reb 2.2 ast, 4.1 blk, 1.2 stl, .614 TS%) and his 47.1% FT suggests he’s almost certainly not going to shoot in the NBA. Nevertheless he has a model in Drummond and Deandre style all-stars, protect the basket, rebound and finish at the basket.

19. SG Zhaire Smith – Smith is an elite athlete with better stats than Walker (15.9 pts, 2.5 ast, 7.0 reb, 1.6 stl, 1.6 blk per 40, .618 TS%) and the Westbrook/Derozan rule applies to him. So why is he lower? He looks to have more trouble using that athleticism and at risk of being in the Ben McLemore, Terrence Ross camp of athletic swings who’s ball handling keeps them taking spot up shots on the outside. He shot 45.0% from 3 but on only 40 attempts and 71.7% from the FT line. Nevertheless youth, athleticism and shooting and the potential for young perimeter players to exceed their college stats puts him here.

20. PG Jevon Carter – Carter has impressive stats (20 pts, 7.7 ast, 5.4 reb, 3.5 stl, 0.4 blk),  is a good shooter at 39.3% 3pt and 85.8% FT and is known as a great intangibles, tough defensively prospect that is common for a 2nd round steal to make his way in the league. The precedent for old PGs becoming all-stars is small in the last decade and he is turning 23 later this year, so the target here is probably a Patrick Beverley type impact in the league.

Advertisements

Written by jr.

June 19, 2018 at 7:36 pm

Could the Lakers get both Lebron James and Kevin Love?

leave a comment »

usa_today_10479418-0

The Lakers have been long been rumoured as a Lebron destination. I’ve always taken it with a grain of salt. Remember when Kevin Love was supposed to be obsessed with playing with the Lakers, then laughed it off and resigned with the Cavs? How about DeMar Derozan returning home? The Lakers have a lot of fans, so writing about them conquering all in free agency is a good way to get page views. 

giphy

The biggest obstacle is getting enough talent. Sure Paul George wants to play there, but is that and kids enough to beat the Warriors? They could use a 3rd all-star. What if he’s on the Cavs, available for a trade in the case of Lebron leaving, and happens to be an L.A. native?

Let’s say the Lakers signed George and got both Lebron and Kevin Love, either in a large S&T or in separate deals. Their starting lineup could be Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Paul George, Lebron and Love. Not bad. It’s taking the Lebron and Love combination which was enough to win the East this year without a lot of help and greatly improves their perimeter in a matchup with GSW. Unlike the Cavs perimeter, the combination of Ball, Ingram and George is perfect to defend the Warriors by switching everything to cover their shooters much like the Rockets did in the conference finals. Ingram and George are two of the longest wings in the league and Ball is a 6’6 PG who shined on the defensive end this year. Unlike the last two finals where the Cavs had no answer for Durant 1 on 1, George is one of the best fits in the league physically to defend him.

Offensively the combination of Lebron and Love’s floor spacing and post play remains lethal. The Lakers could even resign old friend Channing Frye to play the same spacing role he did in Cleveland. George gives them a 20 point creator on the perimeter and Ingram is on his way to being one. Much of their fortunes could lie in the hands of Ball’s development as his shooting could make him hard to play if he continues to struggle. Nevertheless they could look for a veteran PG as a ring chaser or shop him at the trade deadline if Ball doesn’t work out.

More than just Love improving the Cavs talent level with a 3rd all-star and offensive creator beside Lebron and George, it’s about experience and trust level. Love faced GSW in the finals three times, he’s seen Game 7s. He was one of the guys Ty Lue started in Game 7 against the Pacers with Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson beside Lebron because he wanted players who’d been there on the championship team. With a player like Julius Randle or Kyle Kuzma in Love’s place there’s always the chance they’re the next Rodney Hood and fall apart consistency wise in the playoffs.

How does LA get Love while retaining the capspace to sign Lebron and George? A requirement may be dumping Deng’s contract to Cleveland. Last rebuild without Lebron the Cavaliers used capspace to get assets and young players knowing they weren’t going to be a free agent destination, so they could do the same by taking Deng for compensation. With assets like Kuzma, Randle (sign and trade), Josh Hart, Cavs 2018 1st, Lakers 2019 1st, there’s a lot of pieces that could make it worth it for the Cavs without trading Ball or Ingram. A deal like Kuzma, Randle sign and trade and a 1st would be a nice rebuilding package for them to swap Deng for Love. With the Cavs at about 102 million without Lebron and Deng making 6.1 million less than Love next year, there should be enough wriggle room for the Cavs to take on Deng, Kuzma and Randle (if they want him) while staying under the tax and apron.

Overall the Lakers with just Lebron, George and kids like Ball and Ingram may not be quite enough, but with another all-star at center in Love it could be enough to put them as a believable contender in Lebron’s eyes. It takes the Cavs two all-stars, but makes their perimeter far more Golden State match-up friendly by giving them a 20 point scoring, Durant defender in George and two other long high potential starters in Ball and Ingram. This is a clear upgrade.

Written by jr.

June 11, 2018 at 11:48 pm

Is Miles Bridges the prospect people think he is?

leave a comment »

miles_bridges

Miles Bridges is projected as a mid to late lottery pick. Many are impressed by his potential to be a switchable, 3 and D role player but don’t see a volume scoring all-star. Is this accurate? A closer look shows his stats don’t quite match his reputation.

A better scorer, but worse defender than expected

A sample of Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Luol Deng, Andre Iguodala, Carmelo Anthony and Gordon Hayward averaged 10.3 reb, 2.55 ast, 1.75 stl, 0.95 blk per 40 minutes in their draft year, and 16.4 pts per 40 on .57 TS% as freshman (I favor freshman numbers over draft year for scoring as aging makes a significant difference in this category). If you’re ready to call Jayson Tatum a future all-star, his split of 20.2 pts, 8.8 reb, 2.6 ast, 1.6 stl, 1.4 blk, .566 TS% and his physical build fits into that group very neatly. Compared to them Bridges rates surprisingly well as a scorer. He averaged 21.1 pts per .58 TS% as a freshman and 21.8 pts .572 TS% as a sophomore. The only freshman who scored at a higher rate were Durant (28.8 pts, .59 TS%) and Carmelo (24.4 pts, .54 TS%). Even including the other prospects sophomore and junior seasons, none scored at a higher rate than either of Bridges’ seasons. Another category Bridges rates well is assists at 3.4 per 40. This only rates behind Iguodala and George (playing at a mid major) in their draft years. On the down side his free throw rate of 4.1 FTA per 40 is pedestrian for his scoring volume.

Bridges steal rate is disappointing at 0.8 stl per 40, in fact this is incredibly worrying as none of those players were even below Gordon Hayward’s 1.4 per 40 and everyone else was 1.7 or higher. Bridges was a slightly above average shotblocker compared to the above players at 1.0 per 40 as a sophomore, and did 1.9 per 40 as a freshman. His rebounding at 8.9 is also below average and only higher than George on the above players and tied with Deng. Compounding his disappointing steal and rebound numbers is Bridges only has a 6.9’.5 wingspan, below average for a SF let alone for a PF where he is expected to either play full time or play on switches.

Underrated shooter

Bridges is a good not great shooter for the NCAA at 36.4% as as sophomore and 37.5% for his college career, however it’s his 85.3% from the line and strong volume of 7.3 attempts per 40 minutes, that really makes him one not just decent but of the best shooting prospects in the class. His ability as a ball handler could also be underrated for someone not expected to create his own shot at the next level, which would make sense with his positive assist numbers.

Overall

The oddity of this draft is the soup de jour is Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown type long SF/PF wings, as teams move towards the NBA’s switching defenses taken to an extreme level in the Houston/Golden State series. Despite that the top 5 NCAA prospects taken could be bigs in Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Jaren Jackson, Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter. Nevertheless, the idea of Bridges may fit this desire more than the real one. In reality his poor wingspan and steal numbers could suggest stuck between positions in a bad way as easily as a good one on defense. On the other hand his offensive resume is fairly strong with volume scoring, passing resume in college, and combination of elite athleticism, great shooting and solid ball handling skills.

Written by jr.

June 3, 2018 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

How the Phoenix Suns could sign Lebron James. Yes, you heard that right.

leave a comment »

hi-res-c71e666a7980c4985b17632699fe712e_crop_northNobody will be surprised if Lebron decides he’s sick of carrying this older tired Cavaliers team on his back and packs his bags like he did with the 2014 Heat, but none of the destinations are perfect. The Sixers are an not an ideal fit with the non shooting, young Lebron-esque Ben Simmons running PG, the Rockets would likely need the Cavaliers help in a sign and trade, the Lakers would struggle to put enough firepower around him. None of these are deal breaker flaws enough to be ruled out, but none are perfect either.

The sleeper nobody is talking about? The Phoenix Suns.

Despite their decade long ineptitude and misery, if you look close enough you can see a team in a nearly identical situation as the 2014 Cavs. Devin Booker is at the same point of his career as Kyrie Irving was in 2014. One of the most gifted young scoring prospects in the game, but it hasn’t translated to wins as the man. Like the Cavs, the Suns won the #1 pick in the lottery. Aside from having the opportunity to draft Deandre Ayton or Luka Doncic, it also gives them the primo trade asset on the market. In 2014 there was a star who was on the way out of his team in Kevin Love, in 2018 deteriorating the Kawhi Leonard relationship with the Spurs makes him a potential target to be traded and the Suns #1 pick puts them at the front of the line if the Spurs decide to rebuild. 

If at Lebron’s beckoning the Suns traded the #1 pick for Kawhi, a big 3 of Booker, Kawhi and Lebron is immediately competitive with anyone’s in the league if Kawhi returns to borderline MVP form. The 21 year old Booker is just tapping into his potential and would be in the right situation to take his game to the next level on both ends benefitting from the attention Lebron and Kawhi receive. Unlike the Sixers, the fit is flawless with Booker’s off ball shooting, Kawhi’s defense, creating and shooting and Lebron’s playmaking.

The Suns would still need to complete the lineup with a PG and C, but they have the assets to do it. They have other draft picks to dangle such as the #16 pick this year from Miami, Milwaukee’s 2019 1st and Miami’s 2021 pick, along with interesting prospects like Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss. One option I would consider is expanding the Kawhi trade to get the Spurs to include Patty Mills. Mills would be a great fit at PG beside Lebron and should be expendable in San Antonio in a post Kawhi world with DeJounte Murray as their future at PG. With the Suns having the expirings contracts of of Tyson Chandler (possibly a player the they would want to keep as a veteran starting C), Jared Dudley, Troy Daniels, Alan Williams’ unguaranteed deal and the potential to stretch Brandon Knight, along with T.J. Warren’s 12 million per year extension and Bender and Chriss’ rookie contracts, I believe they have the flexibility to trade for a bigger package like Kawhi and Mills and still have the cap room to sign Lebron.

With a starting lineup such as Mills, Booker, Kawhi, Lebron, Chandler, the Suns would be ready to go. Kawhi and Booker is legitimate firepower beside Lebron and the team has quality spacing and fit. Off the bench the Suns would retain the high upside piece of Josh Jackson as 6th man and Bender and/or Chriss if they stay on the team. Bender could be the guy who emerges at the Suns C spot with his ability to spread the floor and defend pick and rolls. Veteran ring chasers could join the team and the Suns could shop its extra draft picks if not a prospect like Chriss, much like how Cleveland used extra 1sts and Dion Waiters to trade for Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov during Lebron’s first season back.

From a lifestyle standpoint Phoenix is also a warm weather city for Lebron to play his last act in, much like the retirees who go there. Free agents have often treated it as an enticing option, Tyson Chandler signed there, Eric Gordon tried to push his way there, they went to the wire with the Spurs for LaMarcus Aldridge. In the past they’ve signed players like Steve Nash or Penny Hardaway. The Suns also have a strong basketball history dating back to the 60s and are one of the most successful teams to never win a ring, allowing Lebron to leave an important legacy in another city if he goes all the way. If the talent is there such as having Kawhi and Booker there’s no reason why Phoenix the city and franchise couldn’t land the biggest fish in the pond in Lebron.

Perhaps the biggest downside is Phoenix plays in the West. Lebron would be forced to go head to head with powerhouses such as Golden State and Houston. In the East he has a greater opportunity to make a record amount of Finals appearances, and signing with Philadelphia would give him one less team he has to beat. Nonetheless it’s going all the way that matters and a Western finalist like Golden State or Houston will still wait for him in the Finals even if he signs in the East. In addition getting through the Celtics revamped roster with Irving and Gordon Hayward back and the development of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown is only going to get more difficult. Putting himself in the best situation possible could matter more than which conference he plays in. The other concern is whether Kawhi’s health is a guarantee if the Suns are risking trading a #1 pick for him. The Suns do have a longtime excellent reputation for conditioning and players recovering from injury, helping both Kawhi and Lebron to maintain his body going forward. 

Overall if they traded for Kawhi, Phoenix has many of the elements that caused Lebron to go to Cleveland in 2014. He would be rebooting with a younger pair of stars without the playoff miles on them Wade and Bosh had in 2014 or Love has now. If the pieces come together it could be a great spot for him.

Written by jr.

May 24, 2018 at 5:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Who should go 1st: Deandre Ayton vs Luka Doncic

with 2 comments

636585582598847525-lukaThe Phoenix Suns have the top pick and most mock drafts have Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic leading the way. 

The case for/against Deandre Ayton

Ayton is one of the most physically gifted center prospects in decades and resembles David Robinson. He is an athletic, chiseled 7’1 with the mobility to defend perimeter switches as is required in the modern game. He is almost a generational center prospect. With his physical tools, offensive skills and numbers, if he had the defensive production of college Joel Embiid or Anthony Davis to match his size and athleticism he would be perfect. Could you make the case that *if* his defensive stats are situationally and coaching driven, he could have that generational big in him? What would his defensive stats look like if he chose Kentucky?

Unfortunately though, we can only go on what he did and his defensive stats are a major red flag. A list of star centers the last 10 years includes Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, Deandre Jordan, Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez. Of that group, Ayton has the lowest blocks per 40 in his college draft year. He only has a higher stl/40 than Jordan, a player hardly known for his college production. The low steals indicate you can’t just blame his blocks on being used in a perimeter defending, steals-friendly way. Ben Simmons for example had a very low block rate but elite steal rate for a big in college indicating his style of play on defense was responsible.

How bad is it? Drummond fell to 9th because teams were terrified of his lackadaisical intensity and he still managed 1.2 steals and 3.8 blks per 40, blowing away Ayton’s 0.7 steals and 2.3 blocks. In his draft year Meyers Leonard averaged 0.6 steals and 2.4 blks per 40.

Blocks and steals aren’t the most reliable way to measure defense, but those who’ve looked closer have suggested Ayton was indeed a poor defender in college and struggled with maintaining intensity.

Ultimately, being good at defense at a lower level is one of the best predictors of being good at defense later, provided the tools are there. The same instincts, toughness and commitment intangibles are as critical there. Andrew Wiggins is an example of a player who had the physical tools but not the production or intangibles on defense in college and it ended up predicting similar frustrations in the NBA.

On offense alone there is a lot to like about Ayton with the potential to have a long range shot in the NBA, although his passing numbers are also below average for the above all-star centers. However defensive stats can also be predictor of offensive success as they can be a sign of on court intelligence, motor and toughness all of which are needed on offense.

For overall production how high Ayton’s season ranks depends on which stats you favor. His scoring of 24 pts per 36 on .65 TS% is tremendous. He is tied with Jaren Jackson for highest WS/48 (.259 WS/48) of the top 10 NCAA prospects on Jonathan Givony’s post lottery mock. His 10.9 BPM however ranks 6th of those prospects behind Jaren Jackson, Jr. (15.4), Wendell Carter, Jr. (13.5), Mikal Bridges (13.2), Trae Young (11.7), Mohamed Bamba (11.2). The more you include the non-scoring stats rebounding, assists, steals and blocks the worse Ayton compares. His BPM therefore trails some of the most elite center prospects of this generation in Anthony Davis (18.7), Karl-Anthony Towns (17.3), Joel Embiid (14.9). Ayton had a good season, he did not have a dominant season.

The case for/against Luka Doncic

Doncic’s physical tools are not as impressive as Ayton’s. He does not appear to have elite explosiveness to blow by defenders and his game can resemble Joe Ingles visually as much as a future MVP winner. Another problem with Doncic is the total lack of European star guards since Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker decades ago. With minimal predecessors it’s difficult to make a statistical projection or to know how important the athleticism jump will be for him.

The best we can do though, looks very promising. I see two routes to compare him statistically. The first is to compare him to non all-star European guards. Three examples are Ricky Rubio, Nicolas Batum and Goran Dragic. Here is their per 40 stats in the Euroleague their draft year and the age they turned that year:

09 Rubio (19 years old) – 7.2 pts, 8.4 ast, 7.2 reb, 5.4 stls, .444 TS% 10.6 PER

Rubio played very few minutes that season, so a better comparison may be his 2010 stats when he’s a year older:

10 Rubio (20 years old) – 12.9 pts, 7.8 ast, 5.6 reb, 2.7 stl, .562 TS%, 17.7 PER (7th on the roster for qualified players)

08 Batum (20 years old) – 12.8 pts, 5.2 reb, 4.1 ast, 2.2 stl, .526 TS%, 12.8 PER (6th on the roster for qualified players)

08 Dragic (22 years old) – 14.3 pts, 4.5 ast, 4.2 reb, .544 TS%, 13.2 PER (3rd on the roster for qualified players)

Now here is Doncic:

18 Doncic (19 years old ) – 24.8 pts, 7.6 reb, 6.7 ast, 1.7 stl, .612 TS%, 22.9 PER (1st on the roster in PER)

Needless to say Doncic is on another planet here statistically and the other three guards went on to be very good. It’s hard not to look at that and be high on Doncic’s floor.

Another sign for Doncic is the performance of prospects at other positions. Here are some per 40 performances by recent breakout European bigs at lower levels in Kristaps Porzingis, Nikola Jokic, Clint Capela and Rudy Gobert (I have never been able to get a hold of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s numbers):

15 Kristaps Porzingis (20 years old, ACB) 19.8 pts, 8.9 reb, 1.8 blk, 1.6 stl, .555 TS%, 19.2 PER (2nd on roster)

14 Nikola Jokic (19 years old, Adriatic league) – 18.3 pts, 10.3 reb, 3.3 ast, .569 TS%, 21.2 PER (2nd on roster)

14 Clint Capela (20 years old, French Pro A) – 14.1 pts, 12.6 reb, 2.3 ast, 2.8 blk, 1.5 stl, .636 TS%, 23.8 PER (1st on roster)

13 Rudy Gobert (21 years old, French Pro A) – 14.9 pts, 9.5 reb, 3.1 blk, 1.2 stl, .734 TS%, 21.0 PER (1st on roster)

Once again it’s easy to see that Doncic is the most impressive here. The Euroleague is miles ahead of the Adriatic and French Pro A for competition level and his stats for his age are equally good if not better. The Euroleague is both better than the ACB and Doncic’s stats are hands down better than Porzingis. 

Furthermore all these players seem to relatively resemble their 19-20 year old selves statistically, with the development in their games making up for the jump in competition to the NBA. If they don’t it’s because they’re even better than their European stats like Porzingis. With that in mind Doncic sitting on a 25, 8, 7 and 2 statline at a higher level than any of them is highly promising. He would have to fall a lot farther than any of the above players from his European stats to not be an all-star.

The NBA in recent years has made the mistake of ignoring numbers for European prospects in favor of taking the tools-iest players. Some of the highest picks have been projects without impressive stats such as Mario Hezonja, Frank Ntilikina and Dragan Bender. The results of players like Jokic, Capela and Gobert in comparison would suggest it’s of the utmost importance to look for players who are leading the way on their teams in Europe and not their team’s 9th or 10th men. For the same reason it would be a mistake to not treat Doncic’s numbers as critical to predicting his success. European leagues are closer to the NBA in competition level, physical maturity, rules and the lifestyle of living professionally instead of in college. It is logical to think it predicts better than hit or miss NCAA stats.

The modern star

Part of Ayton’s appeal is “unicorn” status with the potential to be all of a shotblocker, pick and roll defender and to shoot 3s. However Doncic’s game is also at the heart of the current game. His size, shooting and playmaking makes the MVP favorite James Harden one of his closest overall comparisons. Champions in recent years have been built around Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving, two high volume 3pt shooting, pick and roll ballhandling guards. Ultimately there is a path for both styles of play to join the modern revolution.

At this stage while I understand the appeal of Ayton, the numbers with Doncic appear to be too strong to ignore in my opinion. Ayton has tremendous upside if he does have a David Robinson in him, but there’s also a chance what Doncic is doing to the Euroleague statistically for an 18/19 year old is a sign he’s a phenom and the next great thing, a freakish accomplishment like the basketball version of a young Wayne Gretzky torching the record books. This phenom route may have the highest upside of all.

Written by jr.

May 18, 2018 at 4:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

NBA Draft top 30 prospects – 2017

leave a comment »

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

leave a comment »

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