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Basketball philosophy

Paths of Glory: How 2013 NBA draftees can become stars

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Andy Katz interview Cody Zeller post-game

Andy Katz interview Cody Zeller post-game (Photo credit: Indiana Public Media)

The label for this NBA Draft is “Unlikely to find a superstar”. While normally I take labels before the draft like this with a grain of salt, in this case I agree that no player in this draft is a surefire star player. But a number are close to it. So much that it’s conceivable they get there, even if it’s likely they don’t.

Here’s my take on the prospects right now. I generally consider a talent grade of around 24-25 as when a player crosses into true stardom, which no player ranks as high as right now:

PF Anthony Bennett

Current talent grades: Physical impact – 7, Skill impact – 7, Feel for the Game – 8, Total: 22 (Blue Chip)

Bennett has the strength and explosiveness to attack the basket and stand out physically and a very strong feel for the game. But what makes him intriguing his skill level for a young PF. Aside from a great outside jumpshot, his combination of touch around the basket and a wide body/low center of gravity, give him considerable post potential. His skill game needs polishing, but Bennett’s path to stardom is if he became not just an impressive skill player for a power forward, but one of the best in the game – doing this by either becoming a demon in the low post in addition to his shooting game, or developing strong 3pt shooting range for a 4. If so I would bump up his skill grade to the point of making him a star.

HYPOTHETICAL STAR BENNETT: Physical impact – 8, Skill impact – 9, Feel for the Game – 8, Total: 25 (Star)

PF/C Cody Zeller

Current talent grades: Physical impact – 6, Skill impact – 7, Feel for the Game – 9, Total: 22 (Blue Chip)

At power forward which is I expect his long term position, Cody has an impressive combination of length and footspeed to attack the basket, if his strength still isn’t great. He reportedly has a better shooting game than he’s shown at Indiana and is a skilled post player, though it remains to be seen whether he’ll hold position well in the pros. But his strength is his tremendous feel for the game and IQ. He is a basketball surgeon in the NCAA on the block, feeling the space and air to pick players apart. His path to stardom is most likely in the skill category, where I’ve ranked him as good, but hypothetically he could become dominant if he bulks up enough to be a great post player and/or becomes a lockdown shooter. He could also be a more impactful player physically than I’ve given him credit for.

HYPOTHETICAL STAR ZELLER: Physical impact – 7, Skill impact – 9, Feel for the Game – 9, Total: 25 (Star)

SG Ben McLemore

Current talent grades: Physical impact – 6, Skill impact – 8, Feel for the Game – 8, Total: 22 (Blue Chip)

McLemore’s perimeter skill game and feel for the game looks to be top notch in the NBA. He’s a sure bet to be a top notch shooter and tremendously smooth. What he needs is slashing, to help him attack the basket off the dribble and physically impose himself, instead of settling for jumpshots. The reason this makes him intriguing is how great of an athlete he is. The speed and size is there to be a high end slashing, but the handling isn’t yet. If he tapped into his physical tools to attack the basket to make his physical impact high instead of decent, the shooting and feel he’d add to that, would grade him as a star.

HYPOTHETICAL STAR MCLEMORE: Physical impact: 8, Skill impact – 9, Feel for the Game – 8, Total: 25 (Star)

C Alex Len

Current talent grades: Physical impact – 7, Skill impact – 8, Feel for the Game – 7, Total: 22 (Blue Chip)

Len has a very promising skill game for a center, with shooting range and the ability to score in the post. True skilled offensive centers are so rare that this is enough for a high grade. He has the athleticism to attack the basket and the length to block shots, giving him physical impact potential and he has decent smoothness and feel. His pathway to stardom would entail either becoming a dominant skill player, perhaps by gaining weight enough to make him stronger in the post – or by becoming a deadlier physical impact player, say by being one of the league’s best shotblockers or attacking the basket more than he has in college.

HYPOTHETICAL STAR LEN: Physical impact – 8, Skill impact – 10, Feel for the Game – 7, Total: 25 (Star)

SF Le’Bryan Nash

Current talent grades: Physical impact – 8, Skill impact – 6, Feel for the Game – 8, Total: 22 (Blue Chip)

Nash has the speed, strength and ballhandling to slash and finish and a very impressive smoothness and feel for the game. What his game depends on in his skill level. His outside shooting has been inconsistent in college, but he has a promising post game thanks to his strength and touch and his shooting form is fine. If he breaks out as a shooter and skill player, the physical talents and feel is there to have serious star ability.

HYPOTHETICAL STAR NASH: Physical impact – 8, Skill impact – 8, Feel for the Game – 8, Total: 24 (Star)

PG Marcus Smart:

Current talent grades: Physical impact – 8, Skill impact – 5, Feel for the Game – 8, Total: 21 (Blue Chip)

SG Victor Oladipo:

Current talent grades: Physical impact – 8, Skill impact – 5, Feel for the Game – 8, Total: 21 (Blue Chip)

I grade Smart and Oladipo together because their outlook is similar. With a dynamic ability to slash and attack the basket, impact the game physically on the defensive end and very strong instincts/feel for the game on both ends, the only thing missing from making them the complete package, is a reliable skill and perimeter scoring game. Both can hit the outside shot, the question is whether they have the potential to be great in that area instead of passable. In the scenario where they became high end shooters for their position, when added to their slashing and feel, they’d be star prospects. Furthermore the grades I gave them in physical impact could end up undercutting them, depending on whether their ballhandling devleops to the point where they’re not just great but elite attacking the basket.

HYPOTHETICAL STAR SMART: Physical impact – 9, Skill impact – 8, Feel for the Game – 8, Total: 25 (Star)

HYPOTHETICAL STAR OLADIPO: Physical impact – 9, Skill impact – 8, Feel for the Game – 8, Total: 25 (Star)

PF CJ Leslie

Current talent grades: Physical impact – 7, Skill impact – 4, Feel for the Game – 9, Total: 21 (Blue Chip)

Leslie is another prospect with a tremendous combination of physical talents thanks to his first step, agility and explosiveness allowing him to attack the basket, plus an elite feel for the game as he picks apart defenses. His outside shooting numbers are weak and he lacks a post game. If he can add the perimeter shooting game to his athleticism and feel, his upside is to be the next Chris Bosh.

HYPOTHETICAL STAR LESLIE: Physical impact – 8, Skill impact – 7, Feel for the Game – 9, Total: 24 (Star)

PG/SG CJ McCollum

Current talent grades: Physical impact – 2, Skill impact – 10, Feel for the Game – 9, Total: 21 (Blue Chip)

Truthfully I nearly left McCollum off this list, because he’s the player I see having the least likely pathway to stardom. His skill and feel for the game is incredible, but he’s not explosive enough to be a dynamic slasher. But if he can become a respectable slasher to mix up his game, his Stephen Curry like mix of amazing and feel, could push him over the edge at PG. Perhaps if he takes his ballhandling to another level.

HYPOTHETICAL STAR MCCOLLUM: Physical impact: 5, Skill impact – 10, Feel for the Game – 9, Total: 24 (Star)

C Rudy Gobert

Current talent grades: Physical impact – 9, Skill impact – 5, Feel for the Game – 6, Total: 20 (Blue Chip)

Gobert has a fantastic combination of physical tools, with great shotblocking length and athleticism attacking the basket. He also has superb touch around the basket and a seemingly decent feel for the game. What he likely needs to be a true star, is his skill game to take a leap up from hyper efficient low volume player, to a guy who can either create in the post or has a perimeter shot.

HYPOTHETICAL STAR GOBERT: Physical impact – 10, Skill impact – 8, Feel for the Game – 6, Total: 24 (Star)

Analysis:

In the case of all these players, the key is development. For McLemore and McCollum that development is in regards to the ballhandling to increase their physical impact, while for Bennett, Zeller, Len, Nash, Smart, Oladipo, Leslie, Gobert, it’s in their skill games and impact, in areas such as shooting and post play, depending on their style.

So gun to my head, if I was asked to “draft” players based strictly on their liklehood of say, making 6 or more all-star teams, how would my order go? I’ll say this:

1. PF/C Cody Zeller
2. PF Anthony Bennett
3. SG Victor Oladipo
4. PG Marcus Smart
5. C Alex Len
6. SF Le’Bryan Nash
7. PF CJ Leslie
8. SG Ben McLemore
9. C Rudy Gobert
10. PG/SG CJ McCollum

That’s right. Cody MF’ing Zeller.

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Written by jr.

March 3, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Posted in Basketball, NBA Draft

Tagged with ,

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