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Archive for May 2013

Make this trade? Al Horford for the 1st overall pick

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Al Horford, the 3rd pick

Al Horford, the 3rd pick (Photo credit: Wikipedia)I posted last week what I believe the Cavaliers will do if they keep the 1st overall pick. But what if they trade it? Rumors are about they’re interested in Demarcus Cousins or Kevin Love in return for the pick.

I posted last week what I believe the Cavaliers will do if they keep the 1st overall pick. But what if they trade it? Rumors are about they’re interested in Demarcus Cousins or Kevin Love in return for the pick.

The team I like as a trade partner for the pick is the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks are a team in transition with Josh Smith, Devin Harris, Zaza Pachulia and Kyle Korver all becoming unrestricted free agents this summer, potentially all gone. The core pieces remaining for the Hawks are Al Horford, Jeff Teague (who’s a restricted free agent), Louis Williams who is recovering from an ACL tear and their 1st last year in John Jenkins. They also have the 17th and 18th picks in the draft. The Hawks can choose to remake a lower seed playoff team around Horford, Teague, Williams and their picks. Or they can read the tea leaves as that after 6 straight playoff teams, but non-threatening ones, it’s time to change their tune. If they trade Horford for the 1st pick they would immediately become one of the most rebuilding centric teams in the league – in other words, they would be tanking. With the free agents on the way out and Williams likely missing the start of the season or being ineffective for some time after it, the Hawks very simply, would be awful. They go into a very highly regarded 2014 draft with a top 4-5 pick, in addition to whomever they pick at 1st this season (Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter, etc.) and the 17th and 18th picks this year, Jeff Teague, Lou Williams and John Jenkins. If they draft well the next two seasons, the next era for the Atlanta Hawks could be kickstarted quickly. This also wouldn’t hurt their hail mary attempt at luring both Chris Paul and Dwight Howard to Atlanta. While Paul and Howard may find playing with Al Horford interesting, if they had a #1 pick to join such as Noel, McLemore, Oladipo, Porter, along with other pieces like Teague and Williams, it’d also be an alluring situation long term. The Hawks cap opportunities in upcoming years would overall be unlimited. Rebuilding teams recently have used the cap to “buy” picks from other teams, by taking their unwanted long term contract, at the cost of a pick being included. If the Hawks chose to rebuild in a deal like this, it’d be an option.

As for the Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert has been up front about wanting to make the playoffs next year, Kyrie Irving’s 3rd. This is a perfect trade to accomplish that. The frontcourt of Al Horford, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson is excellent. Horford and Varejao are efficient offensively and intelligent defenders, a winning combination in the frontcourt. When added to a star in Kyrie Irving, a developing scorer in Dion Waiters and other acquisitions the Cavaliers have the assets and capspace to get, they’d presumably be headed for a top 6 seed in the East immediately and from there, they’d climb the ladder to contention. The Cavaliers have enough capspace that a trade like the 1st overall pick and Mareese Speights for Al Horford, easily fits under their cap, in addition to giving them more spending money to work with after. Another reason Al Horford is a great fit for the Cavaliers is he has 3 years left on his contract, not expiring until the summer of 2017. This makes him a very controllable asset, important for the Cleveland franchise. I can’t imagine Horford would be unhappy playing with a star in Kyrie Irving in Cleveland.

I see this trade as benefitting both sides. Atlanta rebuilds with the 1st pick in the draft and immediately heads to the bottom of the league to pick up another top pick next year. That’s a quick, microwave rebuild if done right. Cleveland starts winning in the Kyrie Irving and sets up their chess pieces for the next decade. The varying position of the Hawks and Cavs franchise make this trade a fit.

Written by jr.

May 30, 2013 at 8:40 pm

2013 NBA Draft Talent Grades: The Small Forwards

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2013 NBA Draft Talent Grades: The Shooting Guards

2013 NBA Draft Talent Grades: The Point Guards

Here are my talent grades for the Small Forwards in the 2013 NBA draft. The SFs I felt comfortable ranking or worth it were Otto Porter, Shabazz Muhammad, Giannis Antetokoumpo, Sergey Karasev, Reggie Bullock, Tony Snell, Solomon Hill, Adonis Thomas. (Dario Saric, James Southerland, C.J. Leslie, Tony Mitchell, Deshaun Thomas, D.J. Stephens are notable prospects who are rated as PFs)

My grades are from 1 to 11 in 3 categories: Physical impact talent, skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent and feel for the game talent. The grades go by this rubric:

11: Transcendent, 10: Incredible 9: Elite, 8: Great, 7: Very good, 6: Decent, 5: Average, 4: Lacking, 3: Weak, 2: Very poor, 1: Awful

What the overall grades mean:

25+: Perennial all-star talent, 23-24: Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent, 19-22: Blue Chip starter talent, 17-18: Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent, 14-16: Rotation player talent, 12-13: Deep bench to rotation player talent, 11 or lower: Deep bench player talent

Here are my grades in the 3 categories first, before getting to individual breakdowns:

Physical impact talent grades:

Solomon Hill: 8 / Great

Adonis Thomas: 7 / Very good

Giannis Antetokoumpo: 5 / Average

Tony Snell: 4 / Lacking

Sergey Karasev: 4 / Lacking

Otto Porter: 3 / Weak

Shabazz Muhammad: 3 / Weak

Reggie Bullock: 1 / Awful

Hill leads the way in physical impact talent with his explosive ability to get to the basket, with a strong frame to finish. Adonis Thomas is the best athlete of this group, though raw ballhandling hurting his ability to slash, prevents him from topping the group for physical impact. Snell is a good, long athlete, but doesn’t get to the rim as much as his athleticism, because of ballhandling problems. Giannis and Karasev are underwhelming athletes but can get to the rim based on ballhandling talent, Giannis also freakishly long.  Porter is freakishly long but lacks speed and ballhandling. Shabazz is also an unimpressive slasher due to explosiveness and ballhandling problems. Bullock is almost entirely a perimeter orientated player, without the speed or ballhandling to have a slashing game.

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grades:

Tony Snell: 8 / Great

Sergey Karasev: 8 / Great

Otto Porter: 7 / Very good

Solomon Hill: 6 / Decent

Shabazz Muhammad: 6 / Decent

Reggie Bullock: 6 / Decent

Giannis Antetokoumpo: 5 / Average

Adonis Thomas: 4 / Lacking

Snell and Karasev are the standout shooters of the group. Snell has more trustworthy spot up shooting ability, but Karasev is better off the bounce. Both are solid passers. Hill, Porter, Muhammad, Bullock shot the ball well from 3 in college, but FT%s in the 70s makes me believe their shooting can go either direction in the pros. Porter also has impressive post and passing skills. Giannis and Thomas are unproven shooters, but I give most players the benefit of the doubt that they can develop into average shooters. Giannis is also a strong passer and has post potential.

Feel for the Game talent grades:

Otto Porter: 10 / Incredible

Sergey Karasev: 8 / Great

Tony Snell: 8 / Great

Giannis Antetokoumpo: 8 / Great

Shabazz Muhammad: 8 / Great

Reggie Bullock: 8 / Great

Solomon Hill: 5 / Average

Adonis Thomas: 5 / Average

Porter is the standout in this group, truly elite in the area for his controlled, slow, smooth game. Karasev, Snell, Giannis, Shabazz, Bullock are also smooth, strong feel for the game players. Hill and Thomas are not particularly natural players.

Ranking it individually:

Blue Chip starter talent (Grades between 19-22)

Tony Snell

Physical impact talent grade: 4 / Lacking

Skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Snell is one of the better shooters in the draft, hitting 39.0% and 38.7% from 3pt in his junior and sophomore seasons respectively. Importantly, he backed this up with strong 84.3% and 83.1% FT clips those years. Snell excels at spot-up shots off the ball, but is not as impressive shooting off the dribble. He also shows flashes as a passer and has the length to develop a post game at SF. My skill impact (shoot, post, pass) grade for Snell is thus strong.

Tony also has an impressive feel for the game. He’s a smooth, fluid player and on the occasions he does drive, he makes it look easy. Snell moves well off the ball and sees teammates well when passing.

Snell’s physical impact talent is a mixed bag. Although he’s a good athlete, Snell’s lack of ballhandling makes him a near non-threat as a slasher, instead relying on perimeter shots. A skinny frame may also hurt his ability to finish. In his favor, Snell has a long wingspan which should help him have physical impact defensively. The physical impact package when taken as a whole is unimpressive to average.

Snell has an excellent chance at being a starting SF who’s a sharpshooter and floor spacer from 3, while on the defensive end standing out because of length, athleticism and feel. This combination is very coveted, especially for advanced metrics favoring teams. If he fails to reach this, it’s likely by his 3 point shot failing to translate despite his strong present splits. While if Snell can develop to attack the basket at an above average level, it may push him towards star potential.

Otto Porter

Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak

Skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7 / Very good

Feel for the Game talent grade: 10 / Incredible

Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Otto Porter is a feel for the game freak of nature. I came to close to giving an ultra rare perfect grade of 11 in the category, but settled for a conservative 10. Otto plays with a natural smoothness, control and “slow-mo” pace reminiscent of players like Paul Pierce and Andre Miller. The instincts also show themselves in his rebounding, passing and defensive anticipation.

Porter lacks tools as a slasher. Otto is a subpar athlete, which with middling ballhandling hurts his ability to drive to the rim. Lacking strength there also hurts his ability to finish. On the positive side, freakish length for a SF should help his physical impact talent defensively.

Otto’s career to me hinges on his 3pt shooting. Although shooting an elite 42.2% from 3 as a sophomore, his 22.6% freshman 3pt clip combined with average 77.7% and 70.2% free throw campaigns, give doubt about trusting Otto as an elite shooter. His length does him post skill potential and he’s shown flashes as a playmaker. I settled on a very good, but not great skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade.

If Porter can become a standout 3pt and midrange shooter for a SF, pushing his skill impact grade higher than I pegged, he’d be a blue chipper and in the mix for top 5 players in this draft class. However if his shot fell apart in the pros, when combined with slashing flaws, his offensive game would struggle to find any foothold. For this reason I consider Otto a pick with significant blue chip upside, but also risk of him falling to an average career.

Sergey Karasev

Physical impact talent grade: 4 / Lacking

Skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Karasev has an impressive combination of skill and feel for a SF. Plays with a high level of fluidity, control and recognizes teammates well. A crafty player with the ball in his hands. A clear case of high feel for the game.

Has turned himself into a great 3 point shooter, backed up by a FT% routinely over 80%. His excellent ballhandling helps him create shots off the bounce as well. Has shown signs of a playmaking game and has the height to have potential in the post. It’s not easy to find SFs with legitimate 3 point range and shot creating ability on the perimeter, Karasev deserves a high skill impact (shoot, post, pass) grade.

Physical impact talent is his question mark. While he has impressive ballhandling to drive to the basket, his first step and speed is not impressive. At the rim he’s relatively grounded with an average body, which may hurt his finishing. His offensive game is likely to rely on perimeter scoring more than slashing. His average lateral quickness makes him a defensive question mark as well.

Presuming his shooting comes through like my skill impact grade projects, I believe Karasev has an excellent chance of starting at SF. Spacing, IQ and shot creating at the position, is valued in a starting lineup. Karasev fits a stereotype of skilled, smart European wing players in a good way. Put it this way, he’s Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs-y.

Solomon Hill

Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent

Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average

Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Solomon Hill has a near elite first step, which when combined with good ballhandling and a strong frame, allows him to attack the basket and finish hard. Impressive length should also help his physical impact potential defensively. As a whole I rate him a great physical impact talent. Solomon’s understated physical impact talent reminds me of James Harden, where Harden not being a high flying type of athlete, hid how dynamic his speed and power attacking the rim was.

Hill has turned himself into a good NCAA 3pt shooter, hitting 39.0% and 38.9% his junior and sophomore seasons. However hitting 76.6% and 72.4% of his FTs is middling enough to make his shooting a question mark. His 3pt shooting in college is enough for me to give him a decent skill impact (shoot, post, pass) grade.

Solomon’s feel for the game appears to be average. He at times can look out of control when driving to the rim, instead of fluid and natural. Nevertheless he recognizes teammates fairly well.

As a whole Solomon is an impressive talent. His ability to attack the basket should make him a starter presuming he can hit open jumpshots. If he turns himself into a dynamic perimeter scorer to compliment his driving game, he could be a true blue chip and near star at SF. With a poor shooting game his role would likely be caught between starting and the bench.

Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent (Grades between 17-18)

Giannis Antetokoumpo

Physical impact talent grade: 5 / Average

Skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average

Feel for the Game talent: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Giannis is clearly hard to nail down without great competition or footage out there, but this is the best I can do:

His strengths start with his strong feel for the game. Giannis is a fluid, controlled player who’s instincts and ability to sense teammates has apparently helped him be used in a point forward role.

However the one who may one day be nicknamed Scrabble is an underwhelming athlete for a SF, meaning despite solid ballhandling for a 3, his ability to create offense slashing to the rim may be limited. A skinny frame may hurt his ability to finish at the basket. Tremendous length for a SF helps his physical impact talent on the defensive end.

Antetokoumpo’s future as a shooter is difficult to peg. His FT% in the low 70s and that he’s not known as a shooter, indicate giving him a high grade in the area may be unwarranted. His length indicates post potential is there and he’s a good passer. My skill impact (shoot, post, pass) grade for Giannis is average, however depending on the development of his shooting that grade could go higher or lower in the future. With my other talent grades, I project Giannis with a reliable 3 point shot and perimeter scoring game is a likely starter, if not blue chipper. With an average or poor shot, I suspect he’d be just average. As a whole Giannis is a poor man’s Otto Porter, with the high feel for the game, length, but underwhelming athleticism and a shooting game that could go either way.

Shabazz Muhammad

Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak

Skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent)

Muhammad is highlighted by an impressive feel for the game, with fluidity, craftiness and instincts. His feel helps him use his body against defenders well.

As a slasher Shabazz shows little tools. He has mediocre explosiveness and subpar ballhandling, the combination making it unlikely he blows by defenders to the rim. The strength advantages he’s had in high school and college should also disappear against NBA SFs, where his size doesn’t stand out. Shabazz does have a long wingspan which should help his physical impact defensively.

Muhammad shot 37.7% from 3 his freshman year at UCLA which is fine, but a mediocre 71.7% from the FT line is a worrying number that his outside shot could go in the wrong direction in the NBA. Shabazz does have strong touch around the basket and some post skills. Taken as a whole, my skill impact (shoot, post, pass) grade for Shabazz is a decent one, but not great or elite.

If Shabazz turns himself into an elite 3pt shooter for a SF, he has the feel and length to be a starter and blue chipper. However that comes with the equal risk that his shooting doesn’t translate, which without a great slashing game gives Bazz little to lean on offensively.

Rotation player talent (Grades between 14-16)

Adonis Thomas

Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking

Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average

Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade)

Adonis Thomas has a strong combination of athleticism, strength and length for a small forward that made him a top high school recruit once upon a time. He can get to the rim, albeit raw ballhandling prevents a more dynamic slashing game. He’ll likely physical impact the game defensively at a respectable level.

Thomas appears to have a middling feel for the game, neither standing out in a positive or negative way. He does particularly show fluidity when driving, but isn’t out of control either.

Adonis perimeter shooting game is raw right now with a 29.2% 3pt, though a free throw percentage of 75.2% gives hope his mechanics aren’t broken. My skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade for Adonis is a lacking 4, giving benefit of the doubt he can develop from poor to average in the area.

Thomas is likely to stick long term in the NBA regardless of his shot, because of his physical tools which will likely allow him to defend SGs and SFs. If he can develop a 3 point shooting game he can make a run at a consistent starting role. Thomas should look to a player like Quincy Pondexter as a model to follow, Quincy starting as an athletic defensive specialist before developing his perimeter skill enough to find a foothold in NBA rotations.

Reggie Bullock

Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

Bullock’s feel for the game is a strength. He plays a smooth, fluid, easy game. Known as a lockdown shooter after hitting 38.2% from 3 as a sophomore and 43.6% as a junior, however middling FT% of 72.7% and 76.7% gives doubt to those numbers and indicates Reggie is not a lock as a shooter. Bullock is also more of a spot up shooter than one who excels shooting off the bounce. My skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade for Bullock is decent, but not great.

His weakness is scoring attacking the basket. Bullock is a mediocre athlete and has nearly non-existent ballhandling skills. An average body also doesn’t help him finish or make a physical impact defensively. Bullock may end up one of the most perimeter orientated SFs in the league.

For Bullock to start in the NBA he needs his 3pt shooting to be among the best for his position. That’s conceivable, however with an average or poor jumpshot he may be nearly unplayable without a slashing game to lean on.

Factors outside of talent grades: Unless Karasev or Antetokoumpo have buyout issues I’m unaware of, I see no reason to differentiate by character or health for these players. One could make an argument Shabazz being groomed into a future NBA star his whole live could create a conceivable problem if he’s not ready to accept he’s more Wesley Matthews than Kobe Bryant as a talent. But I tend to shy away from judging players characters like that without further information about them. Karasev, Shabazz, Thomas, Bullock may be able to fill minutes at the SG spot. Hill and Porter, Antetokoumpo if they bulk up, may be able to challenge PF minutes.

If ranking by upside alone I’d rank the SFs 1. Tony Snell 2. Otto Porter 3. Sergey Karasev 4. Solomon Hill 5. Giannis Antetokoumpo 6. Shabazz Muhammad 7. Adonis Thomas 8. Reggie Bullock. If ranking by downside: 1. Tony Snell 2. Sergey Karasev 3. Otto Porter 4. Solomon Hill 5. Giannis Antetokoumpo 6. Shabazz Muhammad 7. Adonis Thomas 8. Reggie Bullock. The only difference is Porter’s upside if he can develop into an elite shooter, moves closer to elite than players like Karasev and Hill. Otherwise, all these players at their best are blue chip starters (with Snell and Porter stars at best) and at worst, between tweener starter/bench players and bench player.

Final SF rankings and where I’d consider taking them:

1. Tony Snell (top 10)
2. Otto Porter (top 10)
3. Sergey Karasev (top 10)
4. Solomon Hill (top 20)
5. Giannis Antetokoumpo (top 20)
6. Shabazz Muhammad (top 30)
7. Adonis Thomas (top 30)
8. Reggie Bullock (top 40)

Cumulative list (I’ve ranked PGs, SGs and SFs so far) and where I’d consider taking them:

1. SG Victor Oladipo (top 5)
2. SG Ben McLemore (top 10)
3. SF Tony Snell (top 10)
4. PG C.J. McCollum (top 10)
5. SF Otto Porter (top 10)
6. SF Sergey Karasev (top 10)
7. PG Trey Burke (top 10)
8. PG Lorenzo Brown (top 14)
9. PG Matthew Dellavedova (top 14)
10. SF Solomon Hill (top 14)
11. PG Myck Kabongo (top 20)
12. SG B.J. Young (top 20)
13. SG Jamaal Franklin (top 20)
14. SF Giannis Antetokoumpo (top 20)
15. SG Seth Curry (top 20)
16. PG Erick Green (top 20)
17. PG Shane Larkin (top 20)
18. PG Nate Wolters (top 20)
19. PG Isaiah Canaan (top 20)
20. PG Pierre Jackson (top 20)
21. SG Glen Rice, Jr. (top 30)
22. SG Tim Hardaway, Jr. (top 30)
23. SF Shabazz Muhammad (top 30)
24. SF Adonis Thomas (top 30)
25. SG Ricardo Ledo (top 30)
26. PG Michael Carter-Williams (top 40)
27. PG Dennis Schroeder (top 40)
28. SF Reggie Bullock (top 40)
29. SG Archie Goodwin (top 40)
30. SG Allen Crabbe (top 40)
31. SG Alex Abrines (top 40)
32. PG Phil Pressey (top 50)
33. PG Ray McCallum (top 50)
34. SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (top 60)
35. SG Brandon Paul (undrafted)

2013 NBA Draft Talent Grades: The Shooting Guards

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2013 NBA Draft Talent Grades: The Point Guards

Here are my talent grades for shooting guards in the 2013 draft. The shooting guards I felt comfortable ranking and worth it, are Victor Oladipo, Ben McLemore, Archie Goodwin, Jamaal Franklin, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, B.J. Young, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Glen Rice, Jr., Allen Crabbe, Alex Abrines, Seth Curry, Brandon Paul.

I give prospects grades from 1 to 11 in the categories of physical impact talent, skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent and feel for the game talent according to this rubric:

11: Transcendent, 10: Incredible 9: Elite, 8: Great, 7: Very good, 6: Decent, 5: Average, 4: Lacking, 3: Weak, 2: Very poor, 1: Awful

What the overall grades mean:

25+: Perennial all-star talent, 23-24: Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent, 19-22: Blue Chip starter talent, 17-18: Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent, 14-16: Rotation player talent, 12-13: Deep bench to rotation player talent, 11 or lower: Deep bench player talent

Here are my grades in the 3 categories:

Physical impact talent grade:

Archie Goodwin – 10 / Incredible

Victor Oladipo – 8 / Great

Ben McLemore – 7 / Very good

Jamaal Franklin – 7 / Very good

B.J. Young – 7 / Very good

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – 4 / Lacking

Tim Hardaway, Jr. – 3 / Weak

Glen Rice, Jr. – 3 / Weak

Allen Crabbe – 2 / Very poor

Alex Abrines – 2 / Very poor

Brandon Paul – 2 / Very poor

Seth Curry – 1 / Awful

Goodwin is the class of this group with breathtaking speed and penetration ability, in a strong body. Oladipo, McLemore, Franklin are strong athletes who can get to the basket well, in addition to defensive length. Caldwell-Pope, Hardaway, Rice are respectable athletes with size, but perimeter jumpshot orientated talents. Crabbe, Abrines, Paul, Curry are very jumpshot orientated players, unable to attack the basket at enough of a level to avoid a low physical impact grade.

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade:

Ben McLemore – 8 / Great

Seth Curry – 8 / Great

Allen Crabbe – 7 / Very good

Glen Rice, Jr. – 6 / Decent

Alex Abrines – 6 / Decent

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – 6 / Decent

Victor Oladipo – 6 / Decent

Tim Hardaway, Jr. – 5 / Average

Jamaal Franklin – 5 / Average

B.J. Young – 4 / Lacking

Archie Goodwin – 4 / Lacking

Brandon Paul – 4 / Lacking

McLemore and Curry lead the way in this category for their elite shooting strokes. Crabbe is right behind them for his perimeter skill game. Oladipo, Rice, Abrines, Caldwell-Pope have shot the ball respectably enough to be graded as decent talents in the area, but not guarantees for it to translate. Hardaway and Franklin are also works in progress, though not broken in the area. Young, Goodwin, Paul need work to be respectable shooters in the NBA.

Feel for the Game talent grade:

Seth Curry – 9 / Elite

Victor Oladipo – 8 / Great

Tim Hardaway, Jr. – 8 / Great

Glen Rice, Jr. – 8 / Great

Jamaal Franklin – 7 / Very good

B.J. Young – 7 / Very good

Alex Abrines – 7 / Very good

Ben McLemore – 6 / Decent

Allen Crabbe – 6 / Decent

Brandon Paul – 4 / Lacking

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – 2 / Very poor

Archie Goodwin – 1 / Awful

Seth Curry’s smooth feel and control reminiscent of Steph leads the way here. Oladipo, Rice, Hardaway, Abrines have impressive smoothness and feel. Franklin and Young despite being shot happy, have fluid control and feel. McLemore and Crabbe appear to have above average feel as well. Paul, Caldwell-Pope have stiffer, more erratic feel for the game. Goodwin trails with a feel as bad and unnatural as it gets.

Here are the player talents one by one:

Victor Oladipo

Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 22 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Oladipo’s combination of physical talents and feel for the game is impressive. With an explosive first step, respectable ballhandling and the strength and wingspan to finish, Oladipo attacked the basket at an elite level in the NCAA. The length should also help him make a physical impact defensively. Oladipo’s feel for the game is evidently strong, showing control and fluidity when driving to the basket, moving economically. His instincts also shined defensively.

The category that’s a question mark for me, is skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent. Although Oladipo made a large leap as a 3pt shooter his final year in college, shooting the ball shakily as a freshman and sophomore and average free throw shooting across the board, put his true shooting future into doubt. Oladipo may be a player who hits open 3s, but struggles to create his own jumpshot off the dribble. He shot well enough his last year, for me to give him a decent grade in skill impact. With his slashing and feel, this gives him a very likely chance of starting. Oladipo’s shooting falling apart in the pros, proving my skill impact grade too high, would push him farther towards role player and fringe starter status. On the other hand, if he could become a dynamic perimeter scorer and prove my skill impact grade too low, it may push him into true star territory. Oladipo is likely a valuable supporting player at worst and a star at best. That’s enough to make him a valuable pick near the top of the draft.

Ben McLemore

Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great

Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent

Total talent grade: 21 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

McLemore may be the best shooter in the class. More impressive than just shooting 42% from 3pt, is an 87% FT clip, freakishly high for a college freshman and showing elite mechanics. This is enough for a high skill impact (shoot, post, pass) grade, the only reason my grade isn’t higher is questioning whether he’s strictly an off ball shooter, or if he can shoot as well off the bounce. McLemore’s feel for the game is above average, showing respectable fluidity and natural smoothness to his game. He is slightly more out of control when driving to the rim, an important indicator that prevents a higher grade in feel for the game.

Grading McLemore in physical impact talent is tricky. McLemore is an elite athlete, however he didn’t slash at an elite level in college. Seemingly this is due to ballhandling issues, but Kansas’ system may have held back his abilities as well. Since attacking the basket is key to my physical impact grade, McLemore may not play to his athletic talents in the area. My grade for McLemore in physical impact talent is a good, not great score. It’s conceivable he ends up strictly a perimeter shooter instead of slasher, in which case the grade would prove too high by my rating. It’s also conceivable he improves his ballhandling learns to attack the basket at a level matching his athleticism, making my present grade too low. Because of his shooting and feel for the game, McLemore is a likely starter even if as a role player if it’s just the former. If the latter, he could be a star. If McLemore’s slashing and ballhandling game doesn’t develop, what he may turn into is an elite defender, due to have extra athletic energy to burn on defense that his skills prevents him from using offensively. This would allow him to still use his athletic tools to physically impact the game at a respectable level.

Jamaal Franklin

Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average

Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good

Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Franklin is a little lesser version of Oladipo. Like him, his athleticism, length and solid ballhandling, make him a very good physical impact talent by allowing him to attack the basket off the dribble and impose himself physically defensively. Franklin’s shooting is also a huge question mark, with poor percentages from 3 in college. More encouraging is a solid FT% hovering just under 80% for his NCAA career, perhaps showing mechanics that can be developed into a solid shooting stroke.

What makes Franklin unique – and tricky, is whether he has an above average feel for the game. Franklin had a poor shot selection in college, giving him the reputation of a “low IQ” player. However outside of his shot selection, Franklin otherwise seems a candidate for a good feel for the game. He has smooth fluidity and control on his drives, sees teammates well when passing and has strong defensive anticipation. The hope for Franklin thus is his shot selection isn’t related to talent, but contextual areas like immaturity or coaches not getting through to him, or trying to. These areas indicate Franklin’s game can be fixed if an NBA team can get through to him, if he doesn’t come into the league immediately embracing a supporting, low FGA volume game. Franklin’s shot selection is a concern, but I’ve seen enough to rate his talent as up to par. With the ability to attack the basket, great defensive tools, passing, instincts and a jumpshot that can be improved, Jamaal may end up a starting wing player. The relationship between Oladipo and Franklin reminds me of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Moe Harkless last draft. While MKG is the better prospect, the similarities were enough that Harkless at 15th better value as a pick than Kidd-Gilchrist at 2nd.

Seth Curry

Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great

Feel for the Game talent grade: 9 / Elite

Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Curry has my highest rated feel for the game of this SG group. His fluidity, control and craftiness is excellent for a perimeter player, only narrowly behind his brother Steph in the area if he is. Unsurprisingly with his family’s history, Curry is a great shooter, albeit he’s not his brother in the area. Curry’s good but not great FT% is a sign of less spectacular mechanics and he has less ability to create his own jumpshot off the bounce. As a result my skill impact (shoot, post, pass) grade for Seth is well above average, but not transcendent.

Seth is likely to struggle in the physical impact category. He is short for a SG and has weak explosiveness and ballhandling ability. At either PG or SG Curry is likely to create little of his offense attacking the basket off the dribble, instead pushed to a perimeter jumpshot dominated game. Defensively his physical tools may also make him a liability.

With his feel and jumpshot, I see Curry as likely finding a foothold as useful offensive player in the NBA, either as a role playing, shooting starter at PG or SG, or a sparkplug 6th man off the bench. Curry’s offensive ability shouldn’t be underestimated.

B.J. Young

Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking

Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good

Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Young might be the best ballhandler of this draft class. In addition to great quickness, he  excels at blowing by defenders and getting to the basket. Short size for a 2 guard doesn’t help him finish or defend, but a long wingspan makes up for it. Because of his slashing, I give Young an above average physical impact talent grade. Young’s feel for the game also appears decent, showing shiftiness, fluidity and craftiness.

Where his career goes will depend on his shooting. While he can create jumpshots off the bounce well, after average marks in 3pt and FT his freshman year, he collapsed in both categories as a sophomore. Giving Young the benefit of the doubt I’ve given him a ‘lacking’ grade in skill impact (shoot, post, pass) instead of poor – But if his shooting ended up poor instead of average in the NBA he’d likely fall from my solid overall grade, to a more irrelevant career. However likewise, if he develops a strong perimeter shooting game, when added to his ability to attack the basket and feel he may end up a starting 2 guard, or a blue chip 6th man. There’s a chance Young can play PG, albeit the shooting is as big a requirement at that position, along with running an offense.

With a valued skill in getting to the basket and creating offense, Young is a nice sleeper in this draft and it wouldn’t surprise me if he had one of its 10-15 best careers.

Glen Rice, Jr.

Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Tim Hardaway, Jr.

Physical impact talent grade – 3 / Weak

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade – 5 / Average

Feel for the Game talent grade – 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade)

The NBA player offsprings rate similarly for me. Both players have an impressive feel for the game with smooth, controlled games. I rate their physical impact talent as below average as despite strong size for the position, they don’t have great speed or ballhandling. This will likely make them perimeter orientated shooters, rather than great threats attacking the basket.

The big hinging point for Hardaway and Rice’s careers is their shooting and skill impact (shoot, post, pass) Hardaway’s shooting splits at Michigan are solid, but not great. Rice at Georgia Tech shot awfully, however has had strong numbers in the D League. Thus for both players it appears their shooting could go either way. I give more credit to Rice in the area for what he’s shown in the D League. With either player, a decent 3pt shot will likely make them valuable role player talent, due to the size and feel added to it. If their 3pt shot falls apart, it’d prove my skill impact grade too high and they’d struggle to get past journeyman irrelevance talent. However likewise if more dynamic perimeter skill players than I’ve given them credit for, they have a shot at pushing themselves up to true starter status. Hardaway and Rice can be rock solid players in the NBA, though there’s also a risk they disappoint if taken too high if the shooting doesn’t come through.

Alex Abrines

Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent

Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

Abrines most impresses in my feel for the game category. He is a fluid, crafty and controlled player. His weakness is physical impact. Abrines is a subaverage athlete for a 2 guard, which when added to less than impressive ballhandling, makes his game reliant on perimeter jumpshots. Therefore his physical impact talent grade rates lowly.

What makes Abrines’ skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent category hard to judge, is that his jumpshot is aesthetically beautiful, but his percentages has hardly impressed. This year he shot a combined 30.6% from 3pt in the Euroleague and ACB after struggling from 3 in previous years, albeit his 80.6% from the FT line this season is more impressive. I give Abrines an above average skill impact grade of 6. If his form turns into a deadly jumpshot, Abrines could be a valuable role player. However if his jumpshot falls off, he may find himself out of the NBA and back in Europe quickly since with his physical tools he is unlikely to attack the basket or defend well in the NBA. Becoming a reliable spot-up shooter is essential for Abrines to make it.

Allen Crabbe

Physical impact talent grade: 2

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7

Feel for the Game talent grade: 6

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

Crabbe has a nice shooting game. Although he only shot 34.8% from 3 this season, he shot 40.0% and 39.9% his freshman and sophomore season. Furthermore impressive is his FT% consistently high all 3 years at 80.4%, 84.3%, and 81.3% his 3 college seasons. Crabbe’s perimeter skill is enough for a handily above average skill impact (shoot, post pass) talent grade.

Crabbe’s weakness is he is a weak physical impact. He lacks either the athleticism or ballhandling to attack the basket anything more than poorly and a skinny frame hurts his ability to finish. He does have length which should help him defensively.

Crabbe is also a relatively smooth and feel for the game friendly player. Not exceptional in the area, but noticeably solid.

For Crabbe to stand out in the NBA, he likely needs to be one of the best perimeter shooters in the game, as every team can use a sharpshooter even if they don’t attack the basket. If average from the outside, he’s likely headed towards irrelevance and barely holding on to minutes.

Archie Goodwin

Physical impact talent grade: 10 / Incredible

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking

Feel for the Game talent grade: 1 / Awful

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

Goodwin is a physical specimen. He has explosiveness and first step that may come once every few years if that for his position, with a strong frame and wingspan. When added to his ballhandling, Goodwin is a near unstoppable force blowing by defenses and attacking the basket. Along with the strength and length to stand out defensively, Goodwin’s physical impact talent for his position is top of the line.

However, it’s all downhill from there for Goodwin. His feel for the game is as bad as it gets for a wing player, out of control, robotic and unable to make adjustments when driving. Goodwin has little sense of the court. Furthermore Goodwin’s jumpshot is near broken at this point. My skill impact grade isn’t lower, because I give young players the benefit of the doubt they can improve to average levels in the category. If Goodwin’s shooting remained broken it’d prove my present skill impact grade too high, enough to push him down to irrelevant bench status. However with a stronger shooting game and skill impact, despite his lack of feel for the game, when added to his slashing it may be enough to approach starting status. Because of his immense physical talents allowing him to attack the basket, play in transition and defend, Goodwin’s long term career in the NBA is likely ensured. However he is at risk of non-impact, journeyman status.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Physical impact talent grade: 4 / Lacking

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent

Feel for the Game talent grade: 2 / Very poor

Total talent grade: 12 (Deep bench to rotation player talent grade)

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is known for his 3 point shooting. Although shooting well his sophomore season at 37.3% from 3, he shot poorly from 3 his freshman season at 30.4%. In addition his FT shooting was poor his freshman season at 65.4% and average his sophomore season at 79.9%. He proved enough as a shooter to get a decent grade in skill impact from me, but I could see my present grade in the category proving too high if his shooting falls apart again, along with the possibility he proves a deadlier shooter than I’ve given him credit for.

I am unimpressed by the rest of Caldwell-Pope’s skillset. Although KCP is a strong athlete, due to ballhandling problems he struggled attacking the basket, instead relying on a jumpshooting game. His size, athleticism, length and rebounding, gives him some potential physically impacting the game defensively.

A bigger problem is a poor feel for the game. Caldwell-Pope has a stiff, unnatural game. If this holds in the NBA, it may lead to a shot selection problem.

Caldwell-Pope is the type of prospect teams should avoid in the top 20. He needs to be an excellent shooter to be a decent “3s and defense” role player. Whereas because of a lack of slashing and feel, he’s a poor to average shooting away from irrelevant status, if not falling out of the NBA. With the unpredictably of shooters with his history, I see him as a high risk, but low reward 2 guard.

Brandon Paul

Physical impact talent grade – 2 / Very poor

Skill impact talent grade- 4 / Lacking

Feel for the Game talent grade – 4 / Lacking

Total talent grade: 10 (Deep bench player talent grade)

Paul is a perimeter orientated player, relying on his jumpshot rather than having the speed and ballhandling tools to attack the basket well. With small size for a 2 guard, he should struggle to finish and defend in the NBA as well. My physical impact grade for Paul is well below average. Paul also has a lacking feel for the game, at times playing out of control and without a great sense of teammates. Paul shoots a lot, but with career shooting marks of 32.4% from 3 and 72.3% from the FT line that category over 4 years he’d not a great bet to stand out as an accurate one. Paul has a chance to get minutes in the NBA only if his shooting improves and otherwise I expect is more likely to land in Europe.

Factors outside of talent grades: Jamaal Franklin may be a loose cannon mentally. Seth Curry had surgery on his shin, which had been bothering him enough to sit out most practices this year. Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) generally less predictable than other categories.

If ranking pure upside, I would rank these shooting guards: 1. Victor Oladipo, 2. Ben McLemore, 3. Jamaal Franklin 4. B.J. Young 5. Seth Curry 6. Archie Goodwin 7. Tim Hardaway, Jr 8. Glen Rice, Jr. 9. Alex Abrines 10. Allen Crabbe 11. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 12. Brandon Paul. Franklin, Young are beneficiary of upsidse, if their shooting can come through at a respectable level. If ranking by floor (a high ranking is better): 1. Ben McLemore 2. Victor Oladipo 3. Glen Rice, Jr. 4. Tim Hardaway, Jr. 5. B.J. Young 6. Jamaal Franklin 6. Seth Curry 7. Archie Goodwin 8. Allen Crabbe 9. Alex Abrines 11. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 12. Brandon Paul. The weak shooters like Young, Franklin, Goodwin drop here, Franklin mentally flaming out being taken into account here as well. Curry’s shin problems also drop him. Most of these players will struggle if they don’t shoot as well as expected.

There is another prospect in the 1st round mix named Ricardo Ledo who was ruled ineligible this year by the NCAA. He appears to have solid length, questionable athleticism and a strong feel for the game. I haven’t seen enough trustworthy footage to give him a real talent grade, but would take a chance on him over a few of the above prospects on apparent talent alone.

Final SG rankings, with where I’d consider picking them:

1. SG Victor Oladipo (top 5)
2. SG Ben McLemore (top 10)
3. SG B.J. Young (top 20)
4. SG Jamaal Franklin (top 20)
5. SG Seth Curry (top 20)
6. SG Glen Rice, Jr. (top 30)
7. SG Tim Hardaway, Jr. (top 30)
8. SG Ricardo Ledo (top 30)
9. SG Archie Goodwin (top 40)
10. SG Allen Crabbe (top 40)
11. SG Alex Abrines (top 40)
12. SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (top 60)
13. SG Brandon Paul (undrafted)

Cumulative rankings (I have done PGs and SGs so far), with where I’d consider picking them:

1. SG Victor Oladipo (top 5)
2. SG Ben McLemore (top 10)
3. PG C.J. McCollum (top 10)
4. PG Trey Burke (top 10)
5. PG Lorenzo Brown (top 14)
6. PG Matthew Dellavedova (top 14)
7. PG Myck Kabongo (top 20)
8. SG B.J. Young (top 20)
9. SG Jamaal Franklin (top 20)
10. SG Seth Curry (top 20)
11. PG Erick Green (top 20)
12. PG Shane Larkin (top 20)
13. PG Nate Wolters (top 20)
14. PG Isaiah Canaan (top 20)
15. PG Pierre Jackson (top 20)
16. SG Glen Rice, Jr. (top 30)
17. SG Tim Hardaway, Jr. (top 30)
18. PG Dennis Schroeder (top 30)
19. SG Ricardo Ledo (top 30)
20. PG Michael Carter-Williams (top 30)
21. SG Archie Goodwin (top 40)
22. SG Allen Crabbe (top 40)
23. SG Alex Abrines (top 40)
24. PG Phil Pressey (top 40)
25. PG Ray McCallum (top 40)
26. SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (top 60)
27. SG Brandon Paul (undrafted)

Why Otto Porter could be the #1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft

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The Cleveland Cavaliers just won their 2nd lottery in 3 years, following the 2011 win that netted them Kyrie Irving. Many are all but writing in Nerlens Noel as the pick, widely the favorite to go 1st all year and a defensive compliment for a team who’s been terrible on that end.

Not so fast.

First, it bears noting how it’s no secret Cleveland is leading the way among NBA teams who are relying on advanced metrics to pick players. The Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters 4th overall picks that came out of nowhere, appear to be have been on the back of what the stats said. Nerlens Noel and Otto Porter have been the advanced metrics community’s favorites all year. This is because most draft regression studies, favor players who fill the statsheet in non-scoring ways – such as rebounding, blocks, steals, assists. Noel averaged an exceptional 11.9 rebounds, 5.5 blocks, 2.6 steals, 2.0 assists per 40 minutes. His 27.7 PER for a freshman big and .58 TS% on 13.1 pts per 40, also could help his case. Porter averaged 8.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.1 steals, 1.0 blocks per 40 minutes, rare all-around numbers for a sophomore SF, in addition to 27.8 PER .59 TS% on 18.3 pts per 40 .

I’ve been using statician Ed Weiland’s site hoopsanalyst.com as a Cavaliers canary since last year. In 2011 he ranked Tristan Thompson as his 2nd best prospect after Kyrie Irving and in 2012 he ranked Dion Waiters 2nd after Anthony Davis. Considering Cleveland went on to surprise and take Thompson and Waiters top 5, he seems an excellent indicator of the statistical method they’re using. On Weiland’s last big board update, Noel and Porter ranked as his #1 and #2 respectively, followed by Trey Burke 3rd, out of the question for the Cavaliers. Another well respected statician draft site, shutupandjam.net, ranks Porter 1st and Noel 3rd (with Trey Burke 2nd).

In a vacuum, the evidence would still seem to point to Noel. Although Porter’s rebounding, passing, and blocks/steals for a SF are exceptional, Noel’s rebounding, block and steal rate is even more freakish and he rates 1st on Weiland’s site. However, other factors are playing towards Porter:

– Noel is recovering for a torn ACL. While ACL recoveries are reliable in this day and age, there’s still a risk that a loss of explosiveness will occur. A problem magnified by how much Noel relies on not just great, but transcendent athleticism for a big man. Furthermore, Noel had a fractured growth plate in the same leg that ended his sophomore year in high school. Multiple knee injuries this early in his career is a huge concern, especially with a frame as light as his.

– Porter is the superior fit positionally, sliding into the SF role beside Irving at PG, Waiters at SG, Thompson at PF and Varejao at C. Noel and Thompson is not a great fit. For one, Noel may be too light to play center, pushing him to long term starting PF status, leaving Thompson’s spot out to dry. Secondly even if they play together, it’s lacking in offense. A lack of floor spacing would hurt on a team with guards who want to drive into the paint

– The Cavaliers appear to be impatient to win. As they stated on the lottery telecast, they hope this to be their last lottery for a long long time. They’ve tanked 3 long years post Lebron and with Kyrie heading into his 3rd season, appeasing him by pushing towards winning is now important. Noel’s ACL recovery means he doesn’t help them win next year, while Porter would likely immediately start at SF for them.

When Noel’s health, positional fit and the desire to win soon is taken into account, the Cavaliers choosing Porter becomes a real possibility even if their statistical methods give the edge to Noel. If Noel is ahead, it depends by how much. I imagine any narrow gap is made up for health, fit and immediate production. If Noel has a large lead on Porter in their advanced metrics, they may feel the best move is taking him and dealing with the other consequences. Right now I’d call it a near toss-up, but I’m actually leaning towards Otto Porter grabbing this. Of course, the Cavaliers could also rectify this by trading down, perhaps to 3rd overall if the Wizards wanted Noel more than Porter. With Tobias Harris and Moe Harkless on the team, the Magic taking Porter at the 2nd overall spot is unlikely. Though because #1 picks are a source of pride, I’d bet against the Cavaliers moving down just for a small asset.

This has been the most up in the air year for the #1 pick since 2006 and lottery night didn’t change it. I see two major contenders if the Cavaliers keep the pick, but they could be deadly tight.

Written by jr.

May 21, 2013 at 7:03 pm

What Memphis may regret about the Rudy Gay trade

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English: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City T...

English: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder during the second round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, game 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Memphis Grizzlies are playing like a true title contender. Right now, the advanced stats supporting side of the Rudy Gay trade looks more on point than those who claimed the Grizzlies would miss him.

I criticized the Grizzlies for the Gay trade when it happened, but my concern isn’t that they traded Gay, a likely wise move. It’s whether what they received in return is the best they could do.

It’s clear the Grizzlies believed they could improve and contend this year trading Gay and they’ve been proven right about that. For this reason, they took on Tayshaun Prince’s long term contract – when if solely building for the future, an expiring contract like Jose Calderon may have given them more flexibility.

However the Grizzlies also had an eye on the future by acquiring Ed Davis, a young, promising PF. In other words, the Gay trade was the Grizzlies trying to have their cake and eat it too. They’d improve now, while also acquiring a young player to transition to the future.

But this may be the regret the Grizzlies have that keeps them up at night, if they don’t win the title this year. Because while Ed improves their future, he is not in the rotation or making them better now. Instead of taking Ed Davis, the Grizzlies have the option to flip him to another team for a win-now veteran who’d be in their rotation and producing now. There may have also been offers for Gay on the table from teams other than Toronto, who were offering more solely win-now production than Prince and Davis are.

In other words, the Grizzlies didn’t go all-in on winning the title this season, by choosing Davis over more immediate production. But they could’ve.

Even if just flipping Ed Davis to Atlanta for Kyle Korver – a no-brainer deal and heist from Atlanta’s side considering Korver is 32 and a UFA this summer, that gives Memphis one more player in a 3pt shooting specialist role they desperately need. That one more player may be what separates Memphis from a title and a near miss in the end. At the trade deadline flipping Davis for Korver looks insane. But with what we know now? It may be worth it. This is the year the Thunder are a lame duck. The year other young franchises who may contend in the future like Golden State, Houston, Denver, the Clippers aren’t ready yet to make the Finals (seemingly for the Warriors). Zach Randolph is in his 12th season, he may not be the same player long after this year or the next. Memphis may not get a better chance than this and every inch will matter if they want to win the title.

Of course, the Grizzlies ownership may have expected the advanced stats friendly Davis to be a productive, important part of their title run. A disconnect between ownership and Lionel Hollins may the main reason Davis isn’t producing for Memphis right now, not that he lacks the ability to.

In addition, the other argument can be made as well. That if no trade could make the Grizzlies beat the Miami Heat this year, it may end up their chances of winning a title with this core by improving the future by acquiring Ed Davis, if their real chance is later, never destined to be this year.

Finally, maybe the perfect mix is what the Grizzlies have now, for reasons that go beyond talent to fit and chemistry. If the Grizzlies win the title this year, there will be no reasonable criticism of the Rudy Gay trade. But in the chance they don’t, “what if” may hang over them. Not necessarily the what-if of keeping Rudy Gay, but the what-if of not going all-in this season, of having a young asset on the bench in Ed Davis that had the trade value of one more win-now veteran.

Written by jr.

May 14, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Analyzing why James Harden, Stephen Curry and Ty Lawson’s star upside was missed in the 2009 draft

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Washington Wizards v/s Denver Nuggets January ...

Washington Wizards v/s Denver Nuggets January 25, 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 2009 draft has turned into one of the best of this generation. James Harden, Stephen Curry and Blake Griffin are blossoming as superstars and franchise players. Ty Lawson is leading the way in Denver not too far behind.

It’s easily forgotten that 2009 at the time had been called one of the worst drafts of this generation, with 1 star in Blake Griffin and little upside after him. Many saw Ricky Rubio as having the 2nd highest chance at a special career, while some supported Demar Derozan, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holiday, as potential surprise stars. Few saw such upside coming for Harden, Curry or Lawson.

The question is, why? What mistakes in evaluation led to not just missing on Harden, Curry and Lawson, but missing on evaluating their maximum potential?

Here’s my analysis of why:

James Harden

Harden had many clear strengths in college, such as size, shooting, passing and ballhandling for a 2 guard. His feel for the game, control and “old man” game stood out as well.

The main reason Harden’s upside got underplayed, is he was regarded as a less than an elite athlete. A few points about this. Although Harden may not be a freak athlete, he’s still a good one. He has a strong first step, especially for his size.

Furthermore, I’ve made the point that athleticism goes as far as it can be used. The usual value of a wing player’s athleticism, is “slashing” or having the explosiveness to attack the basket, scoring points in the paint and at the free throw line and collapsing the defense for others. When a wing player forces his will on the opponent by attacking the basket, I categorize it as physically impacting the game. A few months ago I wrote how Gerald Green despite great athleticism, had less than impressive ability to physically impact the game due to a lack of ballhandling. Because of lacking ballhandling skills, a player like Green could not use his athleticism to physically impact the game at a high level and without that his athleticism is not as valuable. Harden is the antithesis of Green. Although a good and not elite athlete, he adds to that elite ballhandling ability. The combination of good athleticism, elite size and elite ballhandling makes Harden a closer to great or elite talent physically impacting the game than merely judging his athleticism in a vacuum would suggest. Furthermore his college career showcased this. Harden used his first step, size and ballhandling to be a dynamic player attacking the basket in college. Largely a mistake was made assuming the tools allowing Harden to attacking the basket at an elite level in college, wouldn’t be there in the NBA too. Certainly Harden’s skills and IQ were so high that if he had been projected as a dynamic slasher at the next level, he’d have been known as a surefire star.

Stephen Curry

Coming out of college, Curry clearly was a special, special 3 point shooter. What people didn’t know is whether he’d do anything else. The reasons to doubt Curry were long. His athleticism and skinny frame was seen as a weakness limiting his upside. It was unclear whether he could play PG and run an offense at the next level, or whether he’d be stuck at SG. Many expected awful defense. Curry was also a 21 year old Junior coming out of Davidson, older age and small schools usually hurt draft prospects. With Curry the appeal was a guaranteed skill, 3 point shooting. However younger, more physically gifted peers in the draft were seen of players with a higher chance of flaming out, but a higher upside.

A main reason for the Harden miss, is similar for Curry. Curry may not be an elite athlete or very wide, however he is an exceptional ballhandler. When added to at least decent quickness, Curry’s ability to create attack the rim off the dribble is average, not bad. This difference between average and bad slashing, is key considering the rest of Curry’s game is flawless. Aside from all time great shooting and elite ability to create jumpshots off the dribble, Curry’s feel for the game and IQ is elite.

As for the rest of his concerns: In regards to playing PG, Curry became more of a playmaker his final year at Davidson averaging 5.6 assists per game. As a strong ballhandler with an elite feel for the game, while doubts about his position were not unfounded, PG was always his most likely position. Curry is still not a defensive standout, but many offensive stars aren’t and especially at PG, where man-to-man defense is almost dead. Point guards are almost entirely defended with help and team defense, allowing a team to survive Curry’s defensive inadequacies. Curry’s age and college are red herrings to me because talent is talent, regardless of when the player comes out. Furthermore age and college are usually red flags when a player who doesn’t produce early in his career, suddenly starts dominating them once they’re a few years older. Curry was elite as a freshman at Davidson statistically (27.8 PER) and one of the best in the NCAA in his sophomore season (34.7 PER and a dominant March Madness performance), before his junior year (36.4 PER).

Of the misses in this article, I consider Curry’s the most forgivable due to valid questions about whether he’d attack the basket and his position in the NBA.

Ty Lawson

With Lawson it’s quite simple, his height. At under 6 feet this submarined an otherwise perfect resume. Lawson had an elite combination of speed and strength for his height, an elite skill game with a dominant 3pt shooting season his final year at UNC with great ballhandling and passing, along with a silky smooth feel for the game and IQ. Furthermore Lawson was the standout, star player on the a national championship Tar Heel squad. But because of his height, he got labeled as a likely backup PG and sparkplug. The other thing that hurt him, is he was a Junior and set to turn 22 in November of his 2009 draft year.

Lawson’s height prevents him from being an even better player, but considering he aces the rest of the test, he has more than enough to make up for it. I wrote last week about why I consider height to be overrated. The gist is that length has to compete with athleticism and strength for what matters in physical talent alone, but then physical talent has to compete with skill, intelligence and motor as other factors influencing a player’s success. If physical talent is only a slice of a pie for a player’s success, if one sees height as only a slice of that slice, all of a sudden it becomes logical to see why a short player like Lawson can be so good. Lawson’s height is relevant, but when it’s added to his elite skill and strength which allows him to attack the basket and finish, even from a physical talent perspective he comes out well. When added to terrific perimeter skills and feel for the game, Lawson playing like this makes sense. Largely what it comes down to, is isolating any single factor as overwhelming an otherwise near perfect resume, is likely a mistake just because of the amount of factors that go into a player’s success. For example, Rajon Rondo is a star with shooting as a clear weakness. But like height, one can see shooting as only a portion of skill level, while skill level is then a portion of overall talent and success – like Lawson’s situation, Rajon’s weakness as a shooter then becomes a slice of a slice and thus overcome-able. Marc Gasol’s athleticism is likewise only a slice of a slice, with Gasol having other physical talents like strength and length, then that physical talent only being a portion of his success competing with skill and intelligence where he is elite for his position.

As for his production, like Curry, talent is talent. Furthermore Lawson played at a strong level his freshman (21.3 PER) and sophomore (24.8 PER) seasons before his junior (30.5 PER) year and was not a late bloomer, in particular emerging as a star by his sophomore season.

Lawson’s is clearly the most unforgivable evaluation of this group, considering how far he fell compared to the others, that he had the perfect college situation for the spotlight to be on him and especially considering an undersized PG with a poor skill level and feel for the game in Jonny Flynn went 6th overall!  I don’t know entirely how Lawson fell that far, sometimes you have to shrug your shoulders and just accept wild things happen.

As a wrapping note, as I’ve stated before, whenever you hear that this or another draft is terrible and hopeless – just remember Harden, Curry and Lawson and how they were missed. And check out this blog because I’ll be trying to sniff out who the next versions of them are!

Written by jr.

May 10, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Why height/length may be only 10% of what matters in an NBA’s player’s success

with 2 comments

If you follow the NBA Draft, you know how much a player’s height and wingspan is talked about. Who’s undersized, who’s arms aren’t long enough, who’s extra long for their position.

Length matters in the NBA. Clearly it is key to defending and it helps plays find space offensively.

But let’s do some math. First off if judging raw ability, let’s remove effort level and motor or other character concerns for now, we can assume a player’s “tools” are a combination of physical talents, skills and intelligence. Don’t confuse this with my personal grading system of physical impact and skill impact (shoot, post, pass), where I factor in how literal skills like ballhandling helps a player attack the basket and physically impact the game, or literal physical tools like strength help the effectiveness of a post game or skill impact. For now let’s just assume physical tools includes athleticism, strength, length, skills includes everything a player does with the ball in his hands. Their literal definitions.

So with these literal definitions of physical talents, skill talents and intelligence, the question is how much each one matters. Let’s give physical tools a favorable split of 40% of ability, with skill and intelligence combining for 60%. I may not agree with this number but it’s conceivable.

Now most agree athleticism is the most valuable physical talent. In particular the ability to either explode by player to get to the rim, or explode vertically to finish is key. Let’s give say athleticism is half of what matters with physical talent. Again I may consider it more valuable personally, but I’ll use that number for now.

From 40% of physical talent’s overall worth, 20% is athleticism, leaving another 20% for other physical talents – namely, body strength and length. Splitting it down the middle which may or may not be fair, leaves them both at 10%.

Now, I did this all with only 3 factors in physical tools, skills and intelligence, the literal definitions. In reality most consider effort level and heart, another important part of succeeding in the NBA. If factoring this in and then redoing the ratios, the number would be bumped below 10%. Another reason of course is that it’s very arguable that giving a 40% physical tools/60% skill and intelligence combined weighting, is too high. A 30%/70% split between physical talents and skill and intelligence is just as conceivable. Overall 10% looks generous to me.

These are all estimates, but the point is this. Length matters in the NBA, but it’s one of many factors. Skill is hugely important and there’s multiple aspects within skill that are important. Intelligence and instincts are key and there’s many facets to that as well. Within physical tools alone, which competes with skill, intelligence and effort for important, length then competes with athleticism and strength for importance. Consider it this way, even if length was 40% of what mattered to physical talents and physical talents were 40% of what mattered to the player, that still only adds up to 16% when multiplied together, hardly a domineering number. Even if length was 15-16% of what matters for a player, that’s far lower than how important the talent is considered in the draft process and then in the NBA. Do your own numbers for the importance of physical talents to a player’s success and then the importance of length to a player’s physical talents. When it’s accepted physical talents are a fraction of what it takes to succeed in the NBA, then length is a fraction of what’s important in physical talents, the number comes out low.

If the number is 10-15%, that still matters and is enough to care about in the NBA. If a student has an exam that’s worth 10-15% of his grade, he shouldn’t blow it off. However the NBA tends to act like a poor showing on that test is enough to make passing the course from there an uphill climb and huge task and I don’t believe logic bores this out.

Written by jr.

May 2, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Posted in Basketball, NBA Draft