A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Final 2012 NBA Draft Big Board (June 26th, 2012)

with 3 comments

This is my final big board for prospects in the 2012 NBA Draft.

The reason my lists may look surprisingly different from the ESPN, etc. lists is the following reason: I believe there is an inefficiency in the draft process related to physical tools being vastly over-weighted compared to skill and what is commonly called “feel for the game”, which is what players have when they have a natural feel for the position and the spatial awareness to be in control of where they are in relation to the other 9 players on the court. In other sports like hockey, the word “vision” also refers to this. It seems to me like the draft process orders players’ talent and upside by roughly 65-70% physical tools, 20-25% skill, and 5-10% feel for the game. My hypothesis based on observing draft results of prospects is that that giving a one third or 33% weighting to each category is a more accurate weighting. I looked closely at each player’s talent in the categories (even numerically writing them down at one point) to best as I can rank the best combinations. Thus the order I came up with may seem extremely divergent to the other big boards you will see, but I am going to trust my method here.

Another thing to remember about my order, is that this is a list with tremendous depth and not a lot of top-heavy talent in terms of star talents from 2 and down. It may seem shocking to see Thomas Robinson ranked as low as 21st, but if I had to predict a PER for him, it’d be about 15 – which is still enough for a long time contributing career. In last year’s draft he may very well have ranked top 7-10. There is value in drafting what I expect him to be, an ideal 3rd big man who rebounds and provides some athletic energy to a game. It’s just I see many relevant NBA players out of this draft.

With each player I have included stylistic similarity (simply measuring who the prospect will resemble aesthetically), statistical similarity (strictly showing what numbers I expect him to put up),and projection of whether the player will be a superstar, all-star, borderline all-star, starter, borderline starter, or bench player.

My rankings:

1. PF Anthony Davis – The value of getting a potential defensive player of the year candidate is immense. He not only has elite shotblocking length and mobility, but a supreme sense of the court and closing off angles against the opposition defensively. He may even have top 3 offensive upside in the draft – He has great hands, timing, an elite first steps and an early base of a shooting and post game. I see him landing somewhere between perennial all-star and superstar.

Stylistic similarity: Chris Bosh meets Tim Duncan

Statistical similarity: Dwight Howard

Projection: Superstar

2. SG Jeremy Lamb – Lamb is arguably the most gifted scorer in the draft, effortlessly draining points through ballhandling and shooting. His feel for the game is one of the best in the draft, making everything look easy and natural. His explosiveness and length combined with this skill should make him an impossible cover.

Stylistic similarity: Kevin Martin meets SG Kevin Durant

Statistical similarity: Reggie Miller

Projection: Borderline All-star

3. C Meyers Leonard – Leonard has a chance to be one of the most rare types of assets, a 7 foot center who can skillfully score in the post on one end and block shots on the other. He is also a very nice passer for a big man. He may be a little too soft to carry a huge volume of offensive responsible, but doesn’t have to be to be a tremendous asset in building a team.

Stylistic similarity: Lamarcus Aldridge meets Marc Gasol

Statistical similarity: Marc Gasol

Projection: Borderline All-Star

4. PG Scott Machado – Machado perhaps is the prospect in this draft who represents the weighting I talked about by draft teams. By an evaluation greatly favoring physical tools and raw scoring numbers in college he doesn’t pass the test of a lotto talent. However his spatial awareness and feel for the game is perhaps the best in the class. He simply sees angles that very few PGs in the league can, like a smaller version of Ricky Rubio’s feel of the court. He’s an A+ in the most important category for a PG, passing, ability to run a team and vision of the court. Machado can hit open shots and has a fairly quick first step, which will allow him to get into the paint off a screen. It would not surprise me if Machado puts up near league leading assist per game numbers in the NBA.

Stylistic similarity: Rajon Rondo meets Ricky Rubio

Statistical similarity: Rajon Rondo

Projection: Borderline All-star

5. PF Andrew Nicholson – Nicholson is almost inarguably the most skilled big man in his class, leading the way in the post and a shooter. His feel for the court and smoothness to his game is tremendous and plays great positional defense. His physical tools are certainly average for a PF. This guy has one of my favorite “player comparisons” in the draft and that’s David West, Nicholson seems like a match in underwhelming physical tools but tremendous skill, feel and character that makes him look like a long term starting PF to me.

Stylistic similiarity: David West meets Kevin Love

Statistical similarity: David West

Projection: Borderline All-star

6. SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – Kidd-Gilchrist has terrific physical tools for a SF, between his size and explosiveness, both in the open court and from a first step perspective in the halfcourt. He plays a very cerebral game, which helps him finish so well in transition and with his physical tools make him a great defensive talent. It’s just his skill that’s lacking, he lacks shot creating ability and needs to improve his jumpshot. The best bet for “MKG” to make a long term impact is as a scorer in the low teens who dominates defensively, on the glass and in transition.

Stylistic similarity: Gerald Wallace meets Richard Jefferson

Statistical similarity: Luol Deng

Projection: Starter

7. SG Bradley Beal – Beal is the definition of a prospect who looks good in most categories, but falls something short of spectacular in any particular place. He is a well sized SG who can hit the outside shot and finish at the rim, while rebounding very well and playing solid defense. This should help him score something north of 16 points a game, but I have my doubts about the star upside of scoring guards who fit best hitting open shots off the ball.

Stylistic similarity: Jason Richardson meets Eric Gordon

Statistical similarity: Jason Richardson

Projection: Starter

8. PG Kendall Marshall – I’ve gone back and forth on Machado and Marshall for top PG in the class, both saw the floor as well as any prospect in the draft and the effectiveness of their speed in a league where it’s impossible to stay in front of any quick PG man to man, is likely be underrated. Marshall is a bigger, younger player but also a step slower than Machado and lacks his shooting. Machado also seemed to have more flair and difficulty to his passes. I expect both to be starters who make their teams better, not only with their passing, but also by helping their teammates follow their lead by making the extra pass and playing for each other.

Stylistic similarity: Andre Miller meets Ricky Rubio

Statistical similarity: Jose Calderon

Projection: Starter

9. PF Arnett Moultrie – Moultrie has a very nice blend of athletic tools and skill for a big man, with a bouncy 6’11 frame being mixed with solid skills and feel for scoring around the rim, ballhandling and shooting, which should make him an option as a pick and roll and pick and pop player. He rebounded well in college, but needs to work on his positional game defensively. Moultrie doesn’t have spectacular upside, but has the tools to be a long term upside.

Stylistic similarity: David Lee meets Mareese Speights

Statistical similarity: David Lee

Projection: Starter

10. PF Jared Sullinger – Sullinger is a player falling on draft boards because his back has been medically red flagged. Without the concern I’d have him top 6 on this list, this is as far as I’d feel comfortable letting him fall. Sullinger has a tremendous skill level and feel for the court for a big man, helping him finish shots from almost any angle around the rim and play very smart positional defense. He needs to improve his shooting game to likely transition to a more face-up game in the NBA. Physically he lacks explosiveness, but has strength, which especially helps him on the board. Sullinger won’t a star, but I expect a starter and averages north of 17 points and 9 rebounds a game due to his skill, feel and strength.

Stylistic similarity: Zach Randolph meets Carl Landry

Statistical similarity: David West

Projection: Starter

11. PF Perry Jones III – Jones III has been one of the biggest fallers in this draft due to his passivity and lack of a true position (He apparently thinks he’s a SF). At PF where I think he eventually lands, he’ll still have one of the best first steps in the league and solid guard like skills and feel for the court. He won’t have much power or defense to his game, but his combination of athleticism, skill and fluidity makes it very likely he finds his place in the league on talent alone.

Stylistic similarity: Chris Bosh meets Charlie Villaneuva

Statistical similarity: Andrea Bargnani

Projection: Starter

12. C Andre Drummond – If I’m taking Drummond I’m expecting him to do just a few things – block shots, rebound and finish lob passes, which would give him a role for a big man. I don’t see him turning around his offensive game when he is at this point so far behind every other standout offensive player in skill and feel. Drummond is likely going to prove just how far physical tools alone take a player, as he is arguably one of the 10 or 15 most physically gifted NBA prospects ever.

Stylistic similarity: Deandre Jordan meets Daryll Dawkins

Statistical similarity: Deandre Jordan

Projection: Starter/Borderline Starter

13. PF John Henson – Henson can provide a rare asset to have for a team, high end shotblocking. There is some concerns whether his energetic style leaving position to block shots lessens the impact of them and his skill level and feel for the game is lacking. He’s a player that it’s hard to justify ranking this high ranking so low in those skill and feel for the game categories, but I would be willing to take a risk at this point because of how much more valuable and rare a shotblocker  at PFis than many of the types of players available here.

Stylistic similarity: Chris “The Birdman” Anderson meets Marcus Camby

Statistical similarity: Deandre Jordan

Projection: Starter/Borderline starter

14. SF Harrison Barnes – Barnes has ideal size and athleticism for a SF, though most of his game is based in finesse skill that doesn’t use his power. He’s a skilled jumpshot creator who lacks penetration ability. His smoothness and feel to his game when playing is solid, though he seems to play on an island from teammates at times. He’s a bit too in love with fadeaway or other off balance long 2 pointers. Because he is a player who will likely create a lot of shots, even if low percentage jumpshots, he’ll likely put up the raw scoring volume to start in the NBA.

Stylistic similarity: Nick Young meets John Salmons

Statistical similarity: John Salmons

Projection: Starter/Borderline starter

15. PF Royce White – White has terrific feel for the game and court vision for a PF making him a point forward on his college team – and can score around the rim. His biggest problem is he is very undersized for a PF and not skilled or quick enough to play SF. His shooting also seriously needs work. He is at risk at falling to the pitfalls of most PFs, but I am intrigued enough by his court vision for a big man being enough to find his role in the NBA.

Stylistic comparison: Boris Diaw meets Lamar Odom

Statistical comparison: Boris Diaw

Projection: Borderline starter

16. SG/SF Evan Fournier – Fournier to me seems like a player with more upside than anyone else left here. His feel for the game is terrific and has some Manu Ginobili/Brandon Roy in his shiftiness driving the ball, plus he has nice size for his position. He needs to polish his shooting game but I could see him having an impact career.

Stylistic similarity: Manu Ginobili meets Brandon roy

Statistical similarity: Rodney Stuckey

Projection: Borderline starter

17. SG Dion Waiters – Waiters has a great sense of the court which helped him rack up assists and steals, the problem is the rest of his game is a concern. He will likely struggle finishing at the rim with his size and has a middling shot. Nonetheless his ability to dribble drive and pass should make him a unique option at SG.

Stylistic similarity: James Harden meets Jason Terry

Statistical similarity: Rodney Stuckey

Projection: Borderline starter

18. PG/SG Damian Lillard – Lillard has great speed and shooting ability for a guard, but has shown little indication he has the court vision and passing to play PG instead of a SG. Most likely he will be an undersized energy SG who hits 3s in a combo guard role off the bench.

Stylistic similarity: Leandro Barbosa meets Lou Williams

Statistical similarity: Leandro Barbosa

Projection: Borderline starter

19. SG/SF Terrence Ross – Ross has terrific size and athleticism for a SG and can shoot the ball reasonably, but has a middling feel for the court and can often rush plays. With his physical tools, if he can hit 3s consistently, it is likely he has a relevant NBA career.

Stylistic similarity: Marcus Thornton meets Jason Richardson

Statistical similarity: Marcus Thornton

Projection: Borderline starter

20. SG Doron Lamb – Lamb is something of a guarantee in the NBA, between his elite 3pt shooting, ability to come off screens at midrange and overall smooth feel for the game and strong basketball IQ, he’s a great bet to spend a career hitting open shots off the ball.

Stylistic similiarity: JJ Redick meets Klay Thompson

Statistical similiarity: JJ Redick

Projection: Borderline starter

21. PF Thomas Robinson – Robinson may be the biggest beneficiary of what I believe is the over-weighting of physical tools and underweighting of skill/feel for the game in the draft. Robinson’s case is all based on his physical impact, between his strength, explosiveness and rebounding. This should help him produce in the NBA and find a long term role. His skill level is average for a PF, with a middling touch and inconsistent jumper after a few years in college. His feel for the game is very concerning as he plays like the game is moving extremely fast for, while players with great feel make it feel like it’s moving slow. I see his best role in the NBA as being a 3rd big man who’s a rebounding specialist – where he can still help teams eventually win a championship mind you.

Stylistic similarity: Kris Humphries meets Kenyon Martin

Statistical similarity: Charles Oakley

Projection: Borderline starter

22. PF/C Tyler Zeller – Zeller is a legit 7 footer with skill, the problem is he measured with a small standing reach and does not have much power in his frame. He will likely have to adjust to a more perimeter friendly game in the NBA. Nonetheless with his basketball IQ and polish he should find rotation minutes somewhere.

Stylistic comparison: Tyler Hansbrough meets Udonis Haslem

Statistical comparison: Tyler Hansbrough

Projection: Borderline Starter

23. SF Jae Crowder – Crowder is a few inches away from matching Kawhi Leonard’s skillset his rookie year in San Antonio. As a slightly undersized SF he could be at a defensive disadvantage at times, but overall is a swingman who will likely hit open shots, cut to the rim well, and use his strength to play bigger than his size on the glass and defensively as he did in college.

Stylistic similarity: Shane Battier meets Kawhi Leonard

Statistical similarity: Shane Battier

Projection: Borderline starter

24. SF Moe Harkless – Harkless has legitimate length and a solid feel for the game for a SF, but is not powerful or explosive and has a raw skill level. It will be difficult for him to start in the NBA without either a more polished skill level or a high end defensive game, both which seem unlikely with his present skills. But teams can always use long, hard working role players.

Stylistic comparison: Wilson Chandler meets Thaddeus Young

Statistical comparison: Wilson Chandler

Projection: Borderline starter

25. PF Draymond Green – Green will be one of the least physically talented players at PF in the NBA, but his good shooting and terrific basketball IQ/feel for the game should make him a niche stretch big man offensive option

Stylistic comparison: Jeff Green meets Tobias Harris

Statistical comparison: Jeff Green

Projection: Borderline starter

26. PF Terrence Jones – Jones is at risk to be yet another tweener who was not skilled enough for a SF or big enough for a PF. I believe he has the strength to play at PF in the NBA and can provide some mismatch offensive minutes, but lacks the finesse skill or feel for the game to stand out as a starter.

Stylistic comparison: Marvin Williams meets Michael Beasley

Statistical comparison Michael Beasley

Projection: Borderline starter

27. SF/PF Quincy Miller – Miller was projected as a SF coming out of high school, but I don’t see him having the speed or skill for the position. I expect his best role will be as a 4 who hits open 3s.

Stylistic comparison: Charlie Villaneuva meets Channing Frye

Statistical comparison: Michael Beasley

Projection:  Bench player/Borderline starter

28. SG/SF Will Barton – Barton is a classic example of an athletic wing with not a ton of offense (He does have a solid midrange shot) – Thus it’s likely he finds a place in the NBA, but off the bench providing spot minutes somewhere.

Stylistic comparison: Thabo Sefolosha meets Rip Hamilton

Statistical comparison: Thabo Sefolosha

Projection: Bench player/Borderline starter

29. Jeff Taylor

Physical impact: 3 – Taylor is neither big nor explosive enough to get a step on NBA defenders at SF, but is a smart player who can hit an open shot.

Stylistic comparison: Mikael Pietrus meets Sonny Weems

Statistical comparison: Mikael Pietrus

Projection: Bench player/Borderline starter

30. PG/SG Marcus Denmon – Denmon is one of the best shooters in the class and plays with a high IQ. These two things should help him find a long term role in the NBA hitting open 3s.

Stylistic comparison: Daniel Gibson meets Eddie House

Statistical comparison: Daniel Gibson

Projection: Bench player/Borderline starter

Just missing the cut: PG Marquis Teague, SG John Jenkins, PG/SG Tony Wroten, Jr., SG Austin Rivers, PG/SG Tyshawn Taylor, C Fab Melo, C Festuz Ezeli

Written by jr.

June 26, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Posted in NBA Draft

Tagged with , ,

3 Responses

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  1. I know it’s still premature to judge a lot of these players, but one year into their careers, I was wondering how you felt about your rankings of this class. I know you’ve talked about a couple of them in other posts.
    Where were you the most overly optimistic, pessimistic? I know you’ve got to be bummed about Machado getting waived. Any thoughts on where he ends up?
    When I compare this write-up with this seasons, it’s clear you’re trying to make things more clear in regards to what a player needs to improve to achieve their grade. It’s really a very nice adjustment you’ve made.
    Also do you think Dion Waiters is a good comp for Michael Carter Williams? What do you think of Philly’s decision to run him out there as their starting PG?

    Mike S

    August 20, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    • Yes this particular big board post came very very soon after I came up with my system and didn’t even include grades. The one I usually look back to judge, is a ranking the following October right before preseason http://www.google.ca/url?q=https://asubstituteforwar.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/33pt-thursday-final-predictions-for-2012-2013-rookies/&sa=U&ei=BS0UUr3zHJDtiQKV7IHgDA&ved=0CBoQFjAA&sig2=fgfAzia5QKUjH3CJDfRTSA&usg=AFQjCNFJvCYIuDq5PU0RTvBnXcxFGCiC3Q

      The player I feel I was most off on, was Drummond. I did a poor job rating his skill level (average, because he has good hands to finish at the rim) and feel for the game (above average). When looking back at his UConn footage I am able to see the fluidity that I now see essential to judging feel for the game for young players. As for the skill level, in general for centers I eventually realized that the ability to finish along was worth a middling, not poor grade

      I do feel I understated Barnes’ ability to attack the basket, however his shooting may be worse than I predicted, so he may not outdo my prediction after all. In the big board you posted Kendall Marshall looks a lot higher than I’d have him now. Not sure exactly how he got so high, but guessing I valued his size a lot more than I would now, when he’s just not very explosive attacking the basket. Also on that big board Damian Lillard rated too low, I blame that on poor Weber State footage, although my October rating also doesn’t read that well (even though he’s a blue chipper in it)

      Machado certainly played worringly poor in the D League and even worse in Summer League. My projection of him was based on expecting him to be average at attacking the basket off the dribble and average shooting. So far he has performed poorly in both areas. I feel he is both athletic and strong so the slashing should be there, if I’m wrong about him in that area it may be because his ballhandling is worse than I thought. As for his shooting he was a 40% 3pt/80% FT guy his senior season so I’d predict the talent to turn average in that area again. Machado might not make it if he doesn’t learn how to slash or shoot in time, or he may find himself shining in a Euro league and never come back. Overall I like his talent less than I did then based on new ways of grading players – he’d rate around 15th-20th on my 2013 list – which should still be enough to have a career and challenge starting, but it may not happen for him if the minutes aren’t there soon.

      Nicholson and Sullinger are two players who I am less high on now than I was then. I gave them an elite rating in skill impact talent, when as midrange shooters they’re more good than great in that area for PFs by how I rate players now.

      Overall I feel the 2012 big board isn’t as good as I’d like it to be, but it can be a success if it’s more accurate than the real draft order in a few years. While some players on my list have struggled as rookies – so have players like MKG, Waiters, Robinson, Ross, Rivers picked highly, so I wouldn’t say my list looks worse than the conventional wisdom one, just not outright better like I thought it would, or like I expect 2013+ lists to


      August 20, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    • Dion is a nice comparison for MCW. Both players are decent (not great) at attacking the basket and have an above average (but not elite) feel for the game, IMO. I would say both need to be above average shooters to be blue chippers and true starters. Guessing average to poor shooting is more likely than good/great, but we’ll see.

      MCW is likely going to shoot a poor % as the Sixers starting PG, but their plan is to lose a lot this year, so that may work out for him. I don’t think it’ll hurt his development to get a ton of minutes early.


      August 20, 2013 at 8:16 pm

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