A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

19 days until the NBA draft: My top 20 prospects/big board

with 2 comments

The NBA Draft is on June 23rd. Here is my ranking of the top 20 players available:

1. Kyrie Irving – Will deservingly go #1. Is perfectly built for the post handcheck NBA with speed/ability to change direction and shiftiness, shooting, and passing ability. What his biggest weakness would be 15 years ago is a lack of physicality but the new rules make that a non issue. He should make all-star teams.

2. Enes Kanter – Impact big men and having legitimate size in the middle matters. I care more about skill level in bigs than raw athleticism and Kanter has that in the post and with shooting range. He has all-star potential as well.

3. Alec Burks – In the NBA you want guards who are athletic and wizards dribbling the ball fluidly. That’s Burks. I believe he’s the biggest sure bet in the draft to score over 16 points a game and is a rookie of the year frontrunner. He has the skillset and NBA athleticism and body to drop 20 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds in his prime.

4. Donatas Montiejunas – This is a player I wasn’t high on for a long time due to concerns about his defense and rebounding effort but have came around on. In the draft you need to draft for talent first and intangibles second. Montiejunas is extremely talented as a legitimate 7 footer with great post fluidity, an outside game and able passing. He has the offensive gene. Most defensively enigmatic players still go off offensively. Even if he’s not a standout defensive player there is a good chance you get an 18-21 pt, and 7 rebounds with passing starter out of him, which combined with the possibility he puts it together mentally and becomes a Pau Gasol, is well worth a high pick.

5. Derrick Williams – Designated the consensus #2, I have him as slightly overrated. I see him as a less talented Michael Beasley as he lacks Beasley’s perimeter ballhandling and athleticism – But Williams has more toughness and basketball IQ which may close the gap. Williams should be another sure bet to score over 15 points a game and be in the race for rookie of the year, but like Beasley and Glenn Robinson before him I expect him to be a high volume jumpshooter with little other impact on the game.

6. Brandon Knight – This is where players start falling off in surefire offensive production for me and we start getting into the players without X factor offense, but who have enough to be a starter, have potential, and have great intangibles. That describes Brandon Knight. He is a PG who struggled a bit dribbling the ball and finishing this year, but is big and fast, already has a great outside shot, and has a reputation as a great kid and hard worker and two way player – the type of guy you build around. The key is he’s only 18, so you can bank on potential and growth more than you can players coming out after 2 or 3 years in college.

7. Bismack Biyombo – The risky pick in the top 10. Bismack has only played basketball a few years but has an ideal defensive center body and athleticism, at 6’9 but with a 7’7 wingspan, one of the longest in the league. I believe being a bit smaller but just as long can be a good thing since speed and having a low center of gravity can be more valuable than slower weight and height. Biyombo should be one of the league’s fastest Cs and ideal for rotating and guarding the pick and roll, to go along with blocking shots. The risk is he has little offensive game and the history of players who started playing basketball late from an instincts and basketball IQ perspective is not great. I don’t generally support taking players without much offense high in the draft, but having an impact defender at C is so valuable that it’s worth the risk here, I believe.

8. Jimmer Fredette – I believe he will translate to the NBA well in the new post handcheck rules. Jimmer does two things extremely well, shoot from the outside and shoot amidst traffic driving to the rim. Both should translate pretty well for him. He tested well athletically and showed sneaky quickness in college. If he moves well and can play as a true PG instead of a Ben Gordon like undersized SG, Jimmer has the most star offensive upside left on the board at this point.

9. Marshon Brooks – Brooks has a very good scoring skillset. He’s big at 6’5+ with a nice NBA body and athleticism and is very good creating his own shots from midrange and 3. He is an older player as a college senior, but dropped 25 points a game his last season at Providence. He should be a nice fit both as a guy with the potential to create his own points, or as someone you can play off the ball and ask to shoot 3s and defend.

10. Reggie Jackson – My sleeper in the draft. He is a big, fast PG who can play with the ball and hit 3s. A 7 foot wingspan may allow him to play SG full time as a Jason Terry type. He is projected to be picked in the 20s but I see a good, long career for him.

11. Marcus Morris – He’s a little undersized length-wise at PF, could be stronger, and is not an elite athlete – But I find the players who can flat out play usually find a way to make it in the league. He is skilled both in the post and as a shooter and shot creator out to the 3pt line. Just going by scoring skills, he matches anyone in the draft – But as a SF, PF tweener could be limited. He can be a starter though, which is what you hope for here.

12. Klay Thompson – Klay reminds me of Wes Johnson last year. He won’t be a star but he’s a near guarantee to be a guy who hits 3s at a great rate, make smart decisions, and defend SFs and SGs. That makes him an ideal role player on a good team. Picking a guy like this ahead of a possible star like a Demarcus Cousins is a bad idea, but at this point it starts to become an excellent one.

13. Jan Vesely – He is the SF version of Brandon Knight in a way. He is an amazing athlete and has great length at 6’11 and he is everything you want in terms of energy and effort and emotion on the court. He will do a good job cutting to the basket for lobs. However his skill level is lacking, showing weak hands and only 55% FT shooting which at 21 is a bad sign, it means he will likely never become a good shooter. Being 21 hurts his potential because at this point you’re essentially who you are offensively and in Vesely’s case it isn’t good. He may end up more of an energy PF than a long SF. At either position he is likely a defense, rebounding and putbacks first player. Which has value but you have to aim higher in the top 10, in my opinion.

14. Kawhi Leonard – He is very similar to Vesely as either a big SF or undersized PF who has limited offensive game but should be a good defense, rebounding, finishing role player. He is a few years younger than Vesely and shoots 75% from the FT line which indicates higher potential as a shooter and offensive player, but he is not as strong an athlete. He should project as a role player.

15. Tristan Thompson – Like the above two guys, expect Thompson to be a solid defensive and rebounding player at PF but will likely not go past 10 or 12 points a game at PF. His 7’2 wingspan makes up for being slightly undersized for the position at 6’9, but he still has a center’s game in a power forward’s body which is not ideal. He can start on the right team such as a Sacramento beside Demarcus Cousins, but in most situations will likely be an energy backup PF.

16. Markieff Morris – Markieff is an inch bigger than his brother Marcus but has less perimeter ability.  He should be able to hone his stretch PF game and find a consistent role in the league.

17. Jonas Valanciunas – He’s been projected as a top 7 pick most of the year, I’m not seeing the talent level here. Talent wise his only plus is height and length at 7 feet with a 7’6 wingspan. For me height is overrated when gauging big man talent. Valanciunas has mediocore athleticism, strength and offensive skill/fluidity and is foul prone defensively which is a poor sign of awareness. For me he is the latest in a line of raw big man prospects who’s talent was overrated because of height. Also, he has a Ricky Rubio buyout situation, making it very likely you’re waiting 2 years to get him in the NBA.

18. Kenneth Faried – Faried does one thing incredibly well, rebound. He was one of college basketball’s best rebounders ever. He can’t do anything else but should survive in the NBA as a specialist like Reggie Evans.

19. Chris Singleton – I see Singleton as a poor man’s version of the Vesely and Leonard picks. He has a standout reputation as a defender with his athleticism and size, but while the above two players are just solid offensive options, Singleton should be a bad one. He’ll stick around in the league if he keeps defending well but I wouldn’t spend too high a pick on him.

20. Malcolm Lee – I make this pick solely because of how Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holliday were big, athletic PGs who struggled in UCLA’s system, then blew up in the NBA. Lee is a big athletic PG who struggled at UCLA. He is worth the risk

You might be asking…

Where’s Kemba Walker? Kemba is not in my top 20 because I see him as a clear backup PG, as an undersized score first player at the position and I place very little value on 15-20mpg backup points as they are easy to find. Like many PGs in the post handcheck NBA he will be able to score a bit on his own when you let him pound the ball and drive, but this is not a rarity anymore. If you’re building a championship team you have to aim higher than Kemba Walker starting at PG – the position is too essential nowadays, every good team has a star there.

What are some good picks for contenders in the 20s? For the Oklahoma City Thunder (#24) I like Tobias Harris and Jon Leuer, both good fits to space their offense. Harris is more in the Jeff Green SF/PF mold, Leuer is a 3pt shooting PF/C. For the Boston Celtics (#25) I think everyone is expecting them to take Travis Leslie, an athletic long defensive SG – getting him to fill the Tony Allen hole. Leslie has even answered questions about being the next Tony Allen. For the Bulls (#28 and #30), I see them using one pick on a shooting guard and another on a stretch big. Good shooters at the 2 available are Charles Jenkins and Josh Selby, both would be asked to shoot and handle the ball a little beside Rose. I like Justin Harper or Jon Leuer for the stretch big fit for them. The Heat are picking #31, look for them to pick up PGs Nolan Smith or Josh Selby if they fall that far – Both are 6’2 SGs who hit 3s and have the bodies to defend, making them perfect fits at that PG spot long term.

Are there any other steals or players ranked too high or low? Darius Morris is a lowly ranked player who I like as a steal. He’s big and has great playmaking vision, but is docked for lack of athleticism. He reminds me of Andre Miller. Tyler Honeycutt is a long, versatile SF who should play a good two way game. Davis Bertrans and Kyle Singler are SFs who should be sharpshooters from 3 which is always valuable off the bench. Two players I would avoid are Jeremy Tyler and Lucas Nogueira, both athletic Cs who have absolutely no game – with Tyler being a Cousins like idiot off the court. When a big is that much a project, it rarely works out. Deandre Jordan did, but he was more talented than those 2 players, was a great rebounder already and had good hands before his draft.

Overall, this is not a good lottery draft, but it is deep with rotation players and long NBA careers.

2 Responses

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  1. I still don’t understand why dwill dropped to 5? I thought Cleveland was trying to obtain the second pick from Minnesota in order to draft dwill. So lets say he does fall behind Utah (where I can’t see that happening),Cleveland would definitely take him there. Also, I don’t believe Burks will have as much as an impact as people believe.

    P.S. I think the 2nd pick is spot on. I thought I was the only person who believed Kanter would be a top 2.


    June 5, 2011 at 1:28 pm

  2. This is a big board, not a mock draft. It is my opinion on whom the best prospects are in a vacuum, not a prediction of where players will be taken.

    In reality it looks like Derrick Williams is going #2 to the Timberwolves. And I think it’ll leave their lineup even more confused than ever. My prediction is they’re woe is me about not taking Alec Burks (an ideal fit in their lineup right now) in a few years


    June 5, 2011 at 3:10 pm

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