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The curious case of Kenny Kadji

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I didn’t find it a huge surprise when Kenny Kadji wasn’t drafted last night. Unlike Scott Machado last year, Kadji was not mocked often in the top 60.

So Julien, how can you justify putting an undrafted player 2nd on your big board?

Why Kadji didn’t get drafted is relatively straight forward. He’s 25 and last year he put up 12.9 points and 6.8 rebounds in 29.1 minutes per game, for a 21.8 PER, comparatively meek for college prospects. I assume most teams figured a 25 year old college player must be dominant at that age to warrant consideration.

The Kadji scenario is interesting because it gets to the heart of talent vs production in the NCAA. Kadji is nearly a man without weaknesses as a talent, even by more traditional methods than mine of evaluating it. Size and length is typically obsessed over by teams and the fans/media and Kadji checks out fine there, as a 6’10 PF with a long 7’3 wingspan, with a strong frame weighing at 242. Kadji is also a good athlete, showing burst attacking the rim off the dribble finishing strong above the rim with multiple highlight reel dunks. For physical tools, Kadji clearly looks the NBA part. His skill game is even better for a big. Taking 3.7 3pters a game at 35.1%, his range gives him a clear rare skill talent for a 6’10+ PF/C. His skill also didn’t end there, also showing ability creating in the post once establishing position with his body vs younger opponents. Along with that, he had ballhandling helping him get to the basket in the halfcourt and even running a few coast to coast fastbreaks as well. Finally, Kadji also has a good IQ, with smooth instincts and defensive rotations and seemingly a high character.

With physical tools up to the part, skill and IQ, the talent is quite clear for me. Other stretch bigs like Grant Jerrett, Ryan Kelly, Erik Murphy and Deshaun Thomas were drafted last night with subpar physical tools, just because of their shooting skill. So a PF who also had physical tools, should’ve looked pretty good. If removing the age and statistics, there’s little in terms of physical talents, skills or instincts to pick at with Kadji.

Compare Kadji to 4th overall pick Cody Zeller in tool by tool. Cody is two inches taller as a true 7 footer in shoes, but his 6’10 wingspan is a full 5 inches shorter than Kadji’s. Kadji’s body is also more physically developed. Kadji to me showed more athletic burst attacking the basket and playing above it. Zeller had an outstanding combine athletically, but most understand that is inferior to measuring in-game athleticism, where Zeller is just decent. Kadji has a more developed skill game than Zeller, with 3 point range to Zeller’s mostly just finishing around the rim. Kadji has no worse of instincts than Zeller. As a whole I can’t see much of an argument for more pure talent in Zeller than Kadji. I’d give the edge to Kadji as the wider, longer, more athletic and more skilled big.

What it really comes down to is production. Zeller came into the NCAA as a 19 year old freshman already breaking 30 PER, superstar production. Kadji is a worse player as a 25 year old than Zeller was at a 19 year old, so the logic is Kadji must be worse.

To me, college is a different game. Aside from rule changes like the longer shotclock and no 3 in the key, the systems and strategies are vastly different. Skillsets are used differently in college than the NBA. The distribution of who has a high usage is unrecognizable. It’s clear that translating production from the NCAA to the NBA is a haphazard game at best. The biggest reason why is the game is just too different and requires too different areas of aptitude.

I don’t know why Kadji didn’t dominate college as a 25 year old. But I’m not going to hold it against him, or judge him as a lesser talent for it. Consider this theory: Because he barely played his first two seasons and then sat out a year to transfer, before his last two breakout ones at Miami, Kadji has only played 2395 minutes in college total. How does that compare to other 1st round bigs? Zeller has 2087 in his 2 years at Indiana, Jeff Withey played 2319 over 4 years at Kansas, Kelly Olynyk played 1735 at Gonzaga, Gorgui Dieng played 2789 over 3 years at Louisville, Alex Len played 1470. Some older prospects like Brandon Davies and Richard Howell have played over 3000 minutes in college. I’d also assume that with the potential exception of Dieng, Kadji played less valuable developmental minutes before his college career than any of these players, considering he didn’t come to the US from Cameroon until 20. Kadji has also shown that his age doesn’t limit his development. He’s made great strides a shooter in his later years, both at the 3pt line and from FT. Is it possible that age is a red herring and what really matters for development is minutes and reps?

Perhaps the NBA will get this right. Maybe he won’t be the capable shooter I expect, or he won’t have the ability to attack the basket off the dribble, or make other physical-orientated plays, instead settling as a pure stretch big. Perhaps his instincts are more flawed than I believe. Maybe there’s something wrong Kadji’s motor or confidence that leads to his lack of production.

But for the most part, I believe in talent – and that a big, strong PF who can shoot from the rim, handle and play in the post, has the athleticism to drive and play above the rim – and who has good instincts and feel, has to the tools to not only stick in the NBA, but start and stand out. I believe success in the NBA is relatively simple, you need physical tools, skills and instincts in some combination. Usually it’s difficult for most to evaluate which strengths in those areas cover up weaknesses, but for a player where everything looks like a strength and nothing looks like a clear weakness, it’s not hard to see success. The Cavaliers picked up Kadji early this morning and combined with Anthony Bennett and Sergey Karasev, I believe they may have found 3 more important prospects than either Dion Waiters or Tristan Thompson going forward, presuming they don’t pull a Danny Green on Kadji by cutting him too early.

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Written by jr.

June 28, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Final NBA Draft Talent Grades and more! (June 2013)

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Part I: The Talent Grades

Here are my final talent grades for the 2013 draft. If you’d like to read my individual position breakdowns, here they are:

2013 NBA Draft Rankings: The Centers

2013 NBA Draft Rankings: The Power Forwards

2013 NBA Draft Rankings: The Small Forwards

2013 NBA Draft Rankings: The Shooting Guards

2013 NBA Draft Rankings: The Point Guards

Some of the grades have changed (just ignore what I wrote about Schroeder in the point guards post, my post at the end of the centers post explains my change on him) and I added a few new grades to the below list:

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

I also added an “Adjusted” grade based on this method: Because I see skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent the be the most likely to be volatile translating from the NCAA to the NBA, followed by physical impact talent, then feel for the game as the most static, I multiply their grades by these weights: 100% * Feel for the Game talent grade + 90% * Physical impact talent grade + 80% * skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade. I then add 10% * the Total Talent Grade to that adjusted score. For example here are my grades for Otto Porter:

SF Otto Porter (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent, Feel for the Game talent grade: 10 / Incredible, Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 19.4)

100% * Feel for the Game talent grade (10) = 10, 90% * Physical impact talent grade (3) = 2.7, 80% * Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4.8. That adds up to 17.5. Which added 1.9 which is 10% of his overall talent grade of 19, Porter’s adjusted talent grade is 19.4. This indicates Porter is a strong 19.

The adjusted grades both help me account for the unpredictability of skill development and to an extent physically impacting the game, plus it gives me a more clean order of prospects based solely on the grades. If two prospects have an identical adjusted grade, I order it by biggest position first, from C to PG.

Here are my grades:

1. PF Anthony Bennett (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 9 / Elite, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 25 (Perennial all-star talent grade) (Adj: 25.0)

My clear cut top ranking prospect. If his shooting translates, I see him as likely one of the league’s star talents, if not a franchise player. As important is his cushion between him and my threshold for starting talent. With a combined physical impact and feel for the game talent of 17, even if he had awful range and touch for a PF, he may challenge starting status. However as an NCAA 3pt shooter with touch, he’s not only a great bet to be at least decent as a finesse skill player, but average at worst. Bennett to me presuming health, both has an ultra-high star upside for his position, but also a high floor as a virtual lock to be a starter.

2. PF Kelly Olynyk (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 6 / Decent, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7 / Very good, Feel for the Game talent grade: 9 / Elite, Total talent grade: 22 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 22.2)

3. PF Kenny Kadji (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7 / Very good, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 22 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 22.1)

4. PG Dennis Schroeder (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 9 / Elite, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7 / Very good, Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent, Total talent grade: 22 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)  (Adj: 21.9)

Olynyk, Kadji and Schroeder have strong cases. If their shooting becomes elite for their position instead of the decent grade I gave them, they can challenge multiple all-star type of careers. Whereas with a combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 15 for all three, their skill games would have to be one of the worst at their position to be in danger of missing starting and blue chip status. Considering Olynyk and Kadji’s touch at the rim likely isn’t going away for a big, they should be shoo-ins. Schroeder may have the biggest danger of his shooting bottoming out, but perhaps with his youth the most likely elite upside in the area. Overall I see these three as having both a puncher’s chance at stardom and a high likelihood of starting, making them great prospects.

5. SG Victor Oladipo (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 21 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 21.3)

6. C Alex Len (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 21 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 21.2)

7. PG C.J. McCollum (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 5 / Average, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 21 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 21.0)

Oladipo, Len and McCollum are also strong prospects. Oladipo’s combined physical impact and feel for the game grade of 16 is the second highest in the class behind Bennett, indicating he’d have to be one of the worst perimeter shooters in the league to be in danger of less than blue chip and starting. Whereas if he can turn himself into elite in the area, he may have a huge upside. Len’s combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 15 is also high enough, that when considering his relatively guaranteed touch and hands, should help Len cruise to starting status especially considering the talent bar to start at C may be lower than at other positions. Len if he develops a go-to midrange shot and/or post play, could also have huge upside. McCollum’s combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 13 is weaker and indicates if his shooting fell apart, he’d have a bigger danger of falling to journeyman status – he needs at least decent shooting to be a starter. For McCollum to approach star status, he needs to become one of the league’s signature shooters, following in the footsteps of players like Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving. McCollum also has positional concerns between PG and SG. I consider McCollum to have a little more risk and a little less likely upside than the above players on this board, but his chance at blue chip status as a guard is still high. Overall for Oladipo, Len, McCollum I consider the most likely situation good starters, but not true all-stars.

8. C Jeff Withey (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 20.3)

9. C Gorgui Dieng (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 5 / Average, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7 / Very good, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 20.1) 

With a high combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 15 and Withey’s good touch at the rim ensuring at least a middling skill floor, his chance of starting looks excellent. However at his age and frame preventing post skills, it’s hard to envision the great to elite skill game needed for Withey to approach star status. Dieng has a lower combined physical impact and feel for the game talent of 13 which indicates he needs at least average to decent skill to lock down starting, but with his midrange shooting and passing, that looks likely enough. I see Withey and Dieng as likely reliable, but not stellar starters.

10. PF Jackie Carmichael (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 20.1) 

11. SF Solomon Hill (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great, Skill impact talent grade (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent, Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent, Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 20)

Carmichael and Hill are two of the draft’s most interesting prospects. If either of their decent skill levels as of now is pushed to elite for their position, they’d move up to star potential. At the same time with a good combined physical impact grade of 14 for both, they’d need average or barely lacking skill, to make it as starters. I’d say there’s reasonable risk of Carmichael and Hill becoming just middling players, but with a more likely than not chance at starting and a puncher’s chance at an all-star appearance.

12. SF Tony Snell (Talent grades: 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) (Adj: 20)

13. SF Sergey Karasev (Talent grades: 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) (Adj: 20)

14. PG Trey Burke (Talent grades: 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) (Adj: 20)

Snell, Karasev and Burke have the same grade. With a combined physical impact and feel for the game talent of 12, they need at least decent shooting games to be starters, but that seems likely. It’s also more difficult to envision them as stars than some of the above prospects with an already assumed great skill level, unless they learned to physically impact the game more than I rated. Overall I see all three as likely starters, but not locks and unlikely stars. These are the type of prospects who end up the 15 or 16th best starter in the league, but not threatening the top 8 or 10. That’s still a valuable piece to have.

15. PF James Southerland (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 5 / Average, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 19.9)

16. SG Ben McLemore (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 6 / Decent, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent, Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 19.8)

Southerland and McLemore also rate similarly to Snell, Karasev and Burke. With combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grades of 12, they need to be decent shooters to be starters, while pushing their talent just by improving their already great shooting games, also seems hard. Southerland and McLemore are unique in that assessing their physical impact feels harder than for other prospects, as both are more athletic than their jumpshot dominated games in college suggested. Because of this I see Southerland and McLemore as having a higher upside than players like Snell, Karsaev and Burke, but also more of a risk of falling short of starting if both their skill games and physical impact goes in the wrong direction.

17. SF Otto Porter (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent, Feel for the Game talent grade: 10 / Incredible, Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 19.4)

18. SG Jamaal Franklin (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good, Skill impact  (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 19.4)

19. PG Lorenzo Brown (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 6 / Decent, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 19.3)

Franklin’s combined physical impact and feel for the game grade of 15 is huge for this stage of the rankings, only surpassed by Bennett and Oladipo. He’s a volatile prospect because of the unpredictability of his shooting game. It could conceivably be both awful in the pros which would make him a defensive specialist and unlikely starter, as well as it could be good to great, which with his other tools may make him one of the draft’s better prospects. Franklin also has some ‘crazy person’ in his style of play and energy which could be good or bad for his career. Either an all-star, starter or energy player off the bench wouldn’t shock me for Franklin. Porter also is at a stage with risk and upside. With a combined physical impact and feel for the game talent of 13, he needs average skill to start – in other words, the ability to hit an open 3. On the other hand, with a great to elite shooting game, also in play, he may have near star upside. Porter is another player where a standout SF in the league and a less than true starter, wouldn’t surprise me. Brown is also an intriguing prospect. With a combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 14, he needs an average shooting/passing/post game to be a starter and that’s no lock, it’s in play he’s poor at the position in those areas. However if he can turn himself into a great skill player, his has the chance to be an above average starter and blue chipper. With Franklin, Porter and Brown, both are at risk of falling short of starting, but with the upside of blue chip starting – the most likely situation is likely somewhere in the middle as usual, becoming good, but unspectacular starters.

20. C Mike Muscala (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 9 / Elite, Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 19.1)

21. PG Nate Wolters (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 19.0)

22. PG Erick Green (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Elite, Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 19.0)

Muscala, Wolters and Green have similar projections. With a combined physical impact and feel for the game grade of 11, they need well above average skill games to be starters. They seem to have a good chance at that, but it’s no guarantee. Likewise true all-star status may be out of reach unless they can both become elite skill players and impact the game more physically than I graded. These can be good players and are likely impact 1st bigs/1st guard off the bench scorers at worst.

23. SF Giannis Antetokounmpo (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average, Feel for the Game talent grade: 9 / Elite, Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 18.4)

24. PF C.J. Leslie (Talent grades: 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) (Adj: 18.3)

25. PG Myck Kabongo (Talent grades: 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) (Adj: 18.3)

26. PF Andre Roberson (Talent grades: 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: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 18.2)

Antetokounmpo, Leslie, Kabongo and Roberson are all intriguing prospects. Both are in the range where with a great to elite skill impact game out of nowhere, they’d near star status. However with a combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 13 for Giannis and 14 for Leslie, Kabongo and Roberson, with a below average skill game, a huge possibility for all three, they’d be unlikely starters. The risk of irrelevance for these three may be too real to go *too* high for me, but at a certain point of the draft outside of the lottery, getting a player with a blue chipper and top 15 starter upside, is terrific value.

27. PG Matthew Dellavedova (Talent grades: 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) (Adj: 18.1)

28. C Lucas Nogueira (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average, Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average, Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 18.0)

29. C Ryan Kelly (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9 / Elite, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.9)

30. PF Erik Murphy (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9 / Elite, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.9)

Dellavedova, Kelly and Murphy rate similarly. With a relatively low physical impact and feel for the game combined talent grade of 10 for Dellavedova and 9 for Kelly and Murphy, these players need at least great shooting and skill games to start. They have a fair chance at that, but if they slip a bit as shooters, they can likely find a role as scorers off the bench. Nogueira has a big combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 13 for this stage, indicating if he can develop a perimeter scoring game, he has blue chip upside. However if his skill is poor for a big, he have risk of irrelevance. Nogueira has some risk, but also blue chip upside, making him similar to Antetokounmpo, Leslie and Kabongo.

31. PF Trevor Mbakwe (Physical impact talent grade: 5 / Average, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.3)

32. PG Ray McCallum (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grades: 6 / Decent, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.3)

33. PG Michael Carter-Williams (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 6 / Decent, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.3)

34. SG B.J. Young (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.2)

Much like Leslie and Roberson, Mbakwe has the athleticism and feel that with a perimeter skill game, he can challenge starting status. However with a combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 12, an average or worse skill game makes him a backup. McCallum, Carter-Williams and Young have a high physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 13, meaning with an above average shooting and skill impact game they’d be blue chippers and starters. However their NCAA careers so far, makes a below average aptitude in that area seem more likely than not. I would say these three have the talent to have a puncher’s chance at starting, but are more likely standout bench contributers.

35. SG Glen Rice, Jr. (Talent grades: 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) (Adj: 17.2)

36. C Bojan Dubjlevic (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.0)

37. PF Cody Zeller (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 5 / Average, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent, Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.0)

Rice and Zeller could be blue chippers and true starters, if the Rice becomes one of the best shooters at his position and Zeller one of the most skilled inside/outside bigs. With a combined physical impact and feel for the game grade of 11 however, a middling skill level or worse would make them unlikely starters. They have decent chance at starting, but it’s more likely they don’t. Dubjlevic’s low combined physical impact and skill grade of 9, means he’d need among the best skills as a stretch big at his position to start. With that said it seems likely he’s a positive value contributer off the bench, if he ever comes to the NBA.

38. PF Deshaun Thomas (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.0)

39. SG Seth Curry (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.0)

40. PF Grant Jerrett (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 16.9)

41. PG Pierre Jackson (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 16.9)

42. SG Michael Snaer (Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj. 16.9)

Thomas, Curry, Jerrett, Jackson, Snaer rate fairly similarly. With a low combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 9, they need elite shooting games to challenge a starting spot. If they fall a little short, their most likely role is specialist sparkplugs off the bench. These are good prospects to count on as at least having long term NBA careers presuming at least decent jumpshots for them.

43. C Steven Adams (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 3 / Weak, Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average, Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 16.2)

44. SF Adonis Thomas (Talent grades: 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) (Adj: 16.1)

For this late, Adams and Thomas having combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grades of 13 and 12 is fairly impressive. It indicates that with good to great skill games, they could still be blue chippers and starters. However with nothing but poor skill shown so far, that’s somewhat unlikely. Furthermore, there’s a risk they have not only poor skill level, but among the worst at their position. This would make them replacement level players.

Overall, Adams and Thomas have some upside, but also more strikeout risk than above prospects. Their chances of long term rotation roles is still solid.

45. SF Shabazz Muhammad (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 16.1)

46. SG Tim Hardaway, Jr. (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 16.1)

47. C Nerlens Noel (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 9 / Elite, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 3 / Weak, Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 15.9)

48. PG Isaiah Canaan (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent, Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 15.8)

Shabazz and Hardaway, Jr. with a combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 10, need to be among their position’s best shooters to be starters. If downright poor as shooters, they’re in danger of struggling to maintain minutes in the NBA. The most likely situation is probably decent but not great shooters, making them rotation wings, but not starters. Noel’s combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 12, puts him in a similar camp as players like Leslie, Roberson and Mbakwe for me where they need an above average skill game to start, settling in as an energy big otherise. Canaan’s low physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 8, meaning even among the league’s best shooting, may not make him a surefire starter. With decent shooting he should lock down a backup PG spot. I wouldn’t say upside is that likely for Canaan, but he may have a better chance of sticking as a contributer than some other prospects around here.

49. PF Brandon Davies (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 9 / Elite, Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 15.5)

50. C Colton Iverson (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average, Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent, Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 15.1)

51. SG Nemanja Nedovic (Physical impact talent grade: 6 / Decent, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average, Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 15.1)

Davies, Iverson, Nedovic have a physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 11, 10 and 11 respectively, all fairly impressive for this stage of the overall rankings.  With a great skill game such as lockdown midrange range for Davies or Iverson or 3pt shooting for Nedovic, they could challenge starting status. That’ll be difficult for all three however considering their age. With average or worse skill games, they’d likely be backups.

52. SF James Ennis (Physical impact talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj. 15.0)

53. SF Reggie Bullock (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7 / Very good, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 15.0)

54. PG Shane Larkin (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7 / Very good, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 15.0)

55. C Rudy Gobert (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average, Feel for the Game talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 14.7)

56. SG Allen Crabbe (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average, Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 14.7)

With Bullock, Larkin and Crabbe having a physical impact and feel for the game grade of 9, 8, 8 and 7 respectively, barring absolutely elite skill and perimeter games, challenging a starting spot looks unlikely. However if they maintain decent range, they should be rotation players and backups. Gobert’s physical impact and feel for the game grade of 10 is a little better, but he’s at a bigger risk of poor skill level. He’ll need a great perimeter shooting game and some post ability, to be a blue chipper.

57. PF Richard Howell (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 14 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 14.3)

58. SG Ricky Ledo (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade:: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 14 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 14.3)

59. PF Livio Jean-Charles (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 14 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 14.2)

60. SG Alex Abrines (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 14 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 14.1)

61. C Mason Plumlee (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 3 / Weak, Total talent grade: 14 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 13.9)

62. SG Archie Goodwin (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 9 / Elite, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 1 / Awful, Total talent grade: 14 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 13.7)

With a combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 10, Howell, Plumlee, Goodwin have limited skill games right now, but need great skill games to challenge starting spots, which is unlikely. There’s also a risk of a below average skill game, which would cause them to struggle to hold onto their minutes long term.  These aren’t surefire rotation players and an upside beyond that is unlikely. Jean-Charles and Abrines are international players and Ledo is a college knock-out who it’s hard for me to peg down, it wouldn’t surprise me if they either become too limited to play long term, or if they’re signature role players.

63. PG Phil Pressey (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grades: 2 / Very poor, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 13 (Deep bench to Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 13.3)

64. C Jack Cooley (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 13 (Deep bench to Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 13.1)

65. PG Peyton Siva (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 5 / Average, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Total talent grade: 13 (Deep bench to Rotation player grade) (Adj: 13.0)

66. SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7 / Very good, Feel for the Game talent grade: 3 / Weak, Total talent grade: 13 (Deep bench to Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 12.6)

These prospects largely need to show a better skill game than they have so far, to be positive contributors for teams in the league. If Pressey and Siva’s outside shot continues to struggle, they’ll likely struggle to find more than end of the bench reserve spots. Cooley needs to be a great skill player instead of just a garbage man and Caldwell-Pope needs to be an elite shooter instead of a decent one, in both cases to be an above average player, not a blue chipper. It wouldn’t surprise me if these players held onto journeyman careers in this draft, showing the depth of this draft. But Europe could also be a better fit.

67 PF D.J. Stephens (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 3 / Weak, Feel for the Game talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Total talent grade: 12 (Deep bench to Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 11.9)

68. PF Tony Mitchell (North Texas) (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grades: 5 / Average, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average, Feel for the Game talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Total talent grade: 12 (Deep bench to Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 11.7)

To be rotation players in the NBA, I need to see Stephens and Mitchell have respectable and above average skill games respectively. If raw offensively, I don’t see it long term for NBA teams unless very deep depth.

69. SG Brandon Paul (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Total talent grade: 10 (Deep bench talent grade) (Adj: 10.0)

If Paul can be an elite shooter in the NBA, he has a shot at carving out a rotation spot. But for the most part, I see him as likely headed overseas.

Part II: Probability forecast

For fun, let’s say the probability of my grades for each player being accurate are:

Within 0 points of the above talent grades (rounded, as is for all these numbers) – 30%

Within +1 or -1 – 70% (+1: 20%, -1: 20%)

Within +2 or -2 – 90% (+2: 10%, -2: 10%)

Within +3 or -3 – 97% (+3: 3.5%, -3: 3.5%)

Within +4 or -4 – 99% (+4: 1%, -4: 1%)

Within +5 or -5 – 99.5%+ (+5: 0.5%, -5: 0.5%)

Now IF these numbers were correct, I forecast these probabilities for each player/grade:

Grade of 25 (Anthony Bennett)

65% Perennial all-star talent
95% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
99.5%+ Blue Chip starter talent

Because Bennett needs to either stay at his grade of 25 (the threshold for “Perennial all-star talent” based on the rubric at the top of this post), if he’s 0 “away” from my grade or anything in the positive direction, I forecast he’ll finish with a perennial all-star talent. That’s enough for a 65%, including both the 30% for 0 along with the 35% combined probability of finishing above what I graded. Likewise he’ll need to finish more than 2 points lower than my current grade to fall below the “Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent” threshold of 23, with only a 5% chance of -3 or worse, I forecast that gives him a 95% chance of finishing at least in that Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent category. Then with the threshold of Blue Chip starter being 19, 6 points lower than my grade, that’s enough for me to give him a virtual lock grade in the category. Overall I have Bennett in the came category as #1 prospects like Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis where starting is ensured and at least fringe stardom for his position seems extremely likely. While if he pans out, he could be an MVP contender and one of the faces of the league.

Here is the same exercise done with other prospects and grades:

Grade of 22 (Kelly Olynyk, Kenny Kadji, Dennis Schroeder)
5% Perennial all-star talent
35% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
98.5% Blue Chip starter talent
99.5%+ Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent

The chance of Olynyk, Kadji and Schroeder being true stars is a lot lower than Bennett. However the chance of one entering that fringe stardom category is excellent, according to these numbers, I forecast there’d be about a 73% chance that at least one of these players hits the  “Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent” category and a 14% chance one becomes a “Perennial all-star talent” and true star. Starting at their position is a near lock.

Grade of 21 (Victor Oladipo, Alex Len, C.J. McCollum)

1.5% Perennial all-star talent
15% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
95% Blue Chip starter talent
99.5% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
99.5%+ Rotation player talent

These players are superb bets to be good starters with a puncher’s chance at stardom at the next level. These probabilities forecast there’s about a 39% chance at least one of these players becomes a “Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent” category prospect, but a 14.3% chance one of them is a “Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent” instead of a true blue chipper.

Grade of 20 (Jeff Withey, Gorgui Dieng, Jackie Carmichael, Solomon Hill, Tony Snell, Sergey Karasev, Trey Burke, James Southerland, Ben McLemore)
0.5% Perennial all-star talent
5% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
85% Blue Chip starter talent
98.5% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
99.5%+ Rotation player talent

While on an individual basis these players are overwhelmingly likely to be good starters and no more or no less, but because of the size of this group, these numbers forecast there’s a 47% chance that one of these prospects becomes a “Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star” category talent and a 4% chance one becomes a “Perennial all-star talent”. The numbers also state that there is a 77% chance at least one falls short of “Blue Chip starter talent” and a 13% chance one falls short of “Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent”. Of this large group, one could very well break through to stardom and one could disappoint, but which ones?

Grade of 19 (Otto Porter, Jamaal Franklin, Lorenzo Brown, Mike Muscala, Nate Wolters, Erick Green)
< 1% Perennial all-star talent
1.5% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
65% Blue Chip starter talent
95% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
99.5%+ Rotation player talent

The numbers forecast there is only a 9% chance one of these prospects becomes “Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star”, a 93% chance at least one prospect falls short of “Blue Chip starter talent” and a 26% chance at least one falls short of “Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent”. The risk of falling short of starting or even borderline starting is real for these players, while the upside is realistically a long starting career instead of stardom.

Grade of 18 (Giannis Antetokounmpo, C.J. Leslie, Myck Kabongo, Andre Roberson, Matthew Dellavedova, Lucas Nogueira, Ryan Kelly, Erik Murphy)

< 1% Perennial all-star talent
0.5% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
35% Blue Chip starter talent
85% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
99.5% Rotation player talent
99.5%+ Deep bench to Rotation player talent

It’s more likely than not these guys fall short of true starting status, settling into fringe status. These numbers forecast a 4% chance of one of these players becoming a “Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent”, a serious longshot. There is a 97% chance at least one of these players is a “Blue Chip starter talent”, but a 27% chance one of these players falls below the “Rotation player to Blue Chip starter” talent category. I forecast there’s a 4% chance according to these numbers that a player in this group falls below “Rotation player talent”.

Grade of 17 (Trevor Mbakwe, Ray McCallum, Michael Carter-Williams, B.J. Young, Glen Rice, Jr., Bojan Dubjlevic, Cody Zeller, Deshaun Thomas, Seth Curry, Grant Jerrett, Pierre Jackson, Michael Snaer)
< 1% Perennial all-star talent
< 1% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
15% Blue Chip starter talent
65% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
98.5% Rotation player talent
99.5%+ Deep bench to Rotation player talent

Because of the size of this group, I forecast there’s an 86% chance according to these probabilities that at least one of these players is a “Blue Chip starter talent”, but also a 17% chance at least one is a “Deep Bench to Rotation player talent”. Some of these players will be starters and fringe starters, but as many will likely be undisputed bench players, if they stick in a rotation at all.

Grade of 16 (Steven Adams, Adonis Thomas, Shabazz Muhammad, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Nerlens Noel, Isaiah Canaan)
< 1% Perennial all-star talent
< 1% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
5% Blue Chip starter talent
35% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
95% Rotation player talent
99.5% Deep bench to Rotation player talent

According to these numbers, I forecast a 26% chance of one of these players turning into a “Blue Chip starter talent”. I forecast a 93% chance that at least one of these players is a “Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent”, but a 26% chance one of these players falls short of “Rotation player talent” and becomes a “Deep bench to Rotation player talent”. These players are not guaranteed rotation players or sticking in the NBA, but have a longshot puncher’s chance at starting as well. The most likely scenario is bench contributors, or borderline starting ability.

Grade of 15 (Brandon Davies, Colton Iverson, Nemanja Nedovic, James Ennis, Reggie Bullock, Shane Larkin, Rudy Gobert, Allen Crabbe)
< 1% Perennial all-star talent
< 1% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
1.5% Blue Chip starter talent
15% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
85% Rotation player talent
98.5% Deep bench to Rotation player talent

These numbers forecast an 11% chance of one of these players becoming a “Blue Chip starter talent” and a 73% chance of at least one player being a “Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent”, or borderline starter. This also forecasts that there’s a 73% chance of one of these players only being a “Deep bench to Rotation player talent”. The numbers also forecast there’s a 11% chance of one of these prospects not even making it to the “Deep Bench to Rotation player talent” threshold of a grade of 12. These players have a Russian roulette chamber caliber danger of not sticking in an NBA rotation or the league long term, but overall still have a more than good chance of being NBA caliber players, whether they’ll stick around long enough to prove it or not.

Grade of 14 (Richard Howell, Ricardo Ledo, Livio Jean-Charles, Alex Abrines, Mason Plumlee, Archie Goodwin)
<1% Perennial all-star talent
<1% Blue Chip starter to perennial all-star talent
0.5% Blue Chip starter talent
5% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
65% Rotation player talent
95% Deep bench to Rotation player talent

These numbers forecast a 3% chance of one of these players being a “Blue Chip starter talent” and a 93% chance at least one falls short of “Rotation player talent”, instead”Deep bench to Rotation player talent”. They also forecast a 26% chance that at least one of these players falls short of the “Deep Bench to Rotation player talent” threshold. These players may struggle to establish rotation player status, especially considering it may take them years to develop to reach their talent level, but if they’re not producing immediately, may not be given the leash to get there. They have a reasonable chance of sticking, but it wouldn’t surprise me if any of them fell out of the NBA whether for talent reasons or not.

Grade of 13 (Phil Pressey, Jack Cooley, Peyton Siva, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope)
<1% Perennial all-star talent
<1% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
<1% Blue Chip starter talent
1.5% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
35% Rotation player talent
85% Deep bench to Rotation player talent

These numbers forecast a 48% chance that at least one prospect falls short of “Deep bench to Rotation player talent”, with a scarce chance at getting past pure bench player and the “Rotation player talent” grade. These players could be out of a rotation spot early in their careers and struggle to get it back.

Grade of 12 (D.J. Stephens, Tony Mitchell)
<1% Perennial all-star talent
<1% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
<1% Blue Chip starter talent
0.5% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
15% Rotation player talent
65% Deep bench to Rotation player talent

Grade of 11 (nobody in this category)
<1% Perennial all-star talent
<1% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
<1% Blue Chip starter talent
<1% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
5% Rotation player talent
35% Deep bench to Rotation player talent

Grade of 10 – (Brandon Paul)
<1% Perennial all-star talent
<1% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
<1% Blue Chip starter talent
<1% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
1.5% Rotation player talent
15% Deep bench to Rotation player talent

These players are longshots to establish themselves as bench rotation players and are at risk of falling short of even fringe status for that. Overall it’s not that these players have no shot at an NBA career, but if they start slowly, it won’t look good.

Part III: Final Rankings

Ok, gun to my head, after taking into account my grades along with other factors like character, health, contract status, how confident I am in my grades about them or their ability to improve, position, etc. here’s how I would rank the 2013 prospects:

1. PF Anthony Bennett

2. PF Kenny Kadji

3. PF Kelly Olynyk

4. PG Dennis Schroeder

5. SG Victor Oladipo

6. PG C.J. McCollum

7. C Jeff Withey

8. C Gorgui Dieng

9. SF Sergey Karasev

10. SF Solomon Hill

11. SF Tony Snell

12. PF James Southerland

13. PG Trey Burke

14. SG Ben McLemore

15. PF Jackie Carmichael

16. C Alex Len

17. SF Otto Porter

18. PG Nate Wolters

19. SG Jamaal Franklin

20. PG Lorenzo Brown

21. C Mike Muscala

22. PG Erick Green

23. SF Giannis Antetokounmpo

24. PG Myck Kabongo

25. PF Andre Roberson

26. PF Lucas Nogueira

27. PG Matthew Dellavedova

28. PF Erik Murphy

29. C Ryan Kelly

30. PF Trevor Mbakwe

31. PF Cody Zeller

32. SG Glen Rice, Jr.

33. PF C.J. Leslie

34. PG Ray McCallum

35. PG Michael Carter-Williams

36. SG B.J. Young

37. SG Tim Hardaway, Jr.

38. C Bojan Dubjlevic

39. PF Grant Jerrett

40. PF Deshaun Thomas

41. SG Michael Snaer

42. SG Seth Curry

43. PG Pierre Jackson

44. C Steven Adams

45. SF Adonis Thomas

46. SF Shabazz Muhammad

47. C Colton Iverson

48. SF James Ennis

49. SF Reggie Bullock

50. PF Brandon Davies

51. C Rudy Gobert

52. SG Allen Crabbe

53. C Nerlens Noel

54. PG Isaiah Canaan

55. SG Nemanja Nedovic

56. PG Shane Larkin

57. SG Ricardo Ledo

58. PF Richard Howell

59. PF Livio Jean-Charles

60. SG Alex Abrines

61. C Mason Plumlee

62. C Jack Cooley

63. SG Archie Goodwin

64. PG Peyton Siva

65. SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

66. PG Phil Pressey

67. PF D.J. Stephens

68. PF Tony Mitchell

69. PG Brandon Paul

Part IV: Final thoughts

I haven’t ranked this many prospects or this closely in a draft before, so I’m not sure whether it’s just me or the year – but the depth of this draft looks freakish. Clearly it won’t really have 45-50 rotation players, it’d be too out of line with normal draft standards, on average  in the 20-25 range for rotation players. I’ll say the most likely situation is there’s a number of NBA talents who slip through the cracks. Because some players need thousands of minutes before reaching their talent level, many of these players with 8th or 9th man talent may not play like it immediately, eventually developing in an international league unsure to return to the NBA. Still, there should be a lot of NBA players from this draft and a lot of starters. In regards to stardom with one player I feel confident about in Bennett and the likelihood at least one of the players underneath breaks through to star status or fringe star status, I’d say it won’t lack for stars either in the end. Overall this seems like an excellent draft.

Compared to my draft ratings a year ago, the confidence I have in the methods I used this year is night and day, in particular knowing what to look for to make feel for the game ratings and skill impact (shoot, post, pass) ratings. This also helped me change my assumptions, for example realizing Cody Zeller’s feel for the game is more underwhelming than his reputation, is a nuance I wouldn’t have seen last year. . I expect next year my ratings are more consistent from the start of the year to the end based on the methods I have now. But for the most part the most important change was just more time, also allowing me to rate more prospects

Thanks for reading! Enjoy the draft, the best day of the year!

My 2013 NBA mock draft (June 2013)

with one comment

Here is my mock draft for fun:

1. Cleveland Cavaliers – PF Nerlens Noel: Ignore the Alex Len talk because Cleveland is an advanced metrics first drafting team, which likely rules Len out for his all time poor steal rate, whereas Noel and Porter are tops for nearly all stat-guys. I’m convinced the Cavaliers don’t take Len just like was convinced they’d pass on Harrison Barnes last year. This impassioned case for Noel is relevant because he ranked Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters 2nd in their draft years. With the Cavs having options at SF like Paul Pierce and Shawn Marion as well, I’ll lean narrowly towards them taking Noel in hopes of a long term star.

2. Orlando Magic – SG Victor Oladipo: I’m not sure what to make of the Eric Bledsoe rumors since I thought Rob Hennigan’s tell was feel for the game heavy players, which isn’t Bledsoe’s strength. Nevertheless Oladipo is a fit for the Magic whether my belief they specifically target smooth feel friendly players, is true or not. Oladipo gives them all-star upside and character at the 2 guard spot.

3. Washington Wizards – SF Otto Porter: Washington seems invested in making the playoffs next year. Porter fills a hole as starting SF immediately, in between Wall, Beal, Nene and Okafor. He provides a long term complimentary fit to their backcourt.

4. Charlotte Bobcats – PF Anthony Bennett: A fit for the Bobcats because of his high offensive upside, something desperately needed in Charlotte.

5. Phoenix Suns – PG Trey Burke: Although the Suns may need to move some pieces with Goran Dragic and Kendall Marshall on the team, Burke fits Ryan McDonaugh’s advanced stats history and gives them a new face of the franchise and offensive centerpoint, something they need.

6. New Orleans Pelicans – C Alex Len: Hard to see Len falling past here, giving Anthony Davis a long term center partner to help him out on both ends.

7. Sacramento Kings – SG Ben McLemore: I have no idea where the Kings are going, but McLemore is the type of off ball, complimentary scorer they’ve lacked lately. He’s the anti-Tyreke Evans.

8. Detroit Pistons – SF Sergey Karasev: Karasev fills a need for Detroit, giving them a shooter and creator on the wings for their big heavy lineup.

9. Minnesota Timberwolves – PG/SG C.J. McCollum: The Timberwolves are likely looking to fill a need for shooting. McCollum makes a nice fit beside Rubio at the 2, potentially switching defensive assignments.

10. Portland Trailblazers – PF/C Cody Zeller: Zeller gives the Blazers big man depth at PF/C, potential important if they’re looking at a Lamarcus Aldridge trade as a possibility soon

11. Philadelphia 76ers – C Steven Adams: Adams gives the 76ers either a starting C replacement for Andrew Bynum, or insurance for his health

12. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Toronto) – SF Giannis Antetokounmpo: I’ve had a feeling for a while Oklahoma City will go international stash to save salary and luxury tax. They can hope to bring Giannis over in a few years as a Toni Kukoc equivalent.

13. Dallas Mavericks – PG Dennis Schroeder: The Mavericks also appear to lean international stash for cap reasons. Schroeder fits that bill and is a high upside prospect at a needed position.

14. Utah Jazz – PF Kelly Olynyk: Olynyk’s spacing and feel, makes him a nice long term fit beside the bulking post players Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors

15. Milwaukee Bucks – PG Michael Carter-Williams: Carter-Williams has serious top 8 pick potential in this draft, so if he falls this far the Bucks may like adding him as a Brandon Jennings replacement at PG

16. Boston Celtics – SG/SF Jamaal Franklin: Franklin’s physical talents and instincts, gives the Celtics some upside as they look towards a new era

17. Atlanta Hawks – SF Shabazz Muhammad: The Hawks don’t have a lot going on at the wings right now, Shabazz gives them a scorer to fill minutes

18. Atlanta Hawks – C Gorgui Dieng: If they go wing with one pick, taking a center who can finally move Horford to PF, seems natural with the other one.

19. Cleveland Cavaliers – SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: Caldwell-Pope is another advanced metrics favorite, fitting Cleveland and giving them depth on the wings

20. Chicago Bulls – C Jeff Withey: This has felt the natural landing spot for Withey for some time, filling the Omer Asik role behind Joakim Noah

21. Utah Jazz – PG Erick Green: Green gives the Jazz a potential starting PG, with shooting skill and feel.

22. Brooklyn Nets – C Mason Plumlee: The Nets feel like a team looking for an older college player under the guise of “NBA ready”, Plumlee filling a role as energy rebounder for them

23. Indiana Pacers – SG/SF Tony Snell: A contending team like Indiana can always use another shooter and floor spacer with defensive potential

24. New York Knicks – PF/C Lucas Nogueira: Nogueira provides some needed athletic depth at a big man spot.

25. Los Angeles Clippers – SG/SF Reggie Bullock: Like the Pacers’ Snell pick, the Clippers make this pick to find shooting and spacing who can play

26. Minnesota Timberwolves – C Rudy Gobert: If drafting wing early, Gobert gives them a backup C which is another need

27. Denver Nuggets – PF C.J. Leslie: Leslie’s athleticism fits Denver’s typical high paced style of play, well.

28. San Antonio Spurs – C Mike Muscala: Muscala’s elite feel for the game fits the Spurs’ history well. A player whom nobody will be surprised if he’s a steal, but will somehow fall this far anyways, which is a typical draft night for the Spurs

29. Oklahoma City Thunder – C Bojan Dubjlevic: Another international stash for the Thunder, they could use Bojan’s floor spacing in a few years.

30. Phoenix Suns (from Miami Heat) – PF Tony Mitchell: After drafting wing early, the Suns look for a previously highly touted SF/PF with athleticism in Mitchell

31. Cleveland Cavaliers – C Colton Iverson: Cleveland hopes to get a rotation backup C out of the big, reliable Iverson

32. Oklahoma City Thunder – SG/SG Glen Rice, Jr.: Rice, Jr.’s experience in the D League and with the longer 3 point line, may give him a chance at playing this year for the Thunder

33. Cleveland Cavaliers – PG Lorenzo Brown: Trying to find PG depth behind Kyrie Irving who has been injury prone, is a respectable idea

34. Houston Rockets – PF/C Ryan Kelly: Houston is no stranger to 3 point shooting bigs, the spacing fitting their advanced metrics heavy system

35. Philadelphia 76ers – SG Allen Crabbe: Another team looking for a shooter to shore up their wings

36. Sacramento Kings – SG Tim Hardaway, Jr.: Hardaway is the type of reliable wing who doesn’t need a lot of shots, that the Kings have lacked lately

37. Detroit Pistons – PG Ray McCallum: Drafting a PG here is a fit for Detroit, grabbing a local prospect is perfect for them

38. Washington Wizards – PG Shane Larkin: Larkin is a nice speedy compliment behind John Wall

39. Portland Trailblazers – PF Jackie Carmichael: Carmichael adds another tough depth prospect to Portland’s frontcourt

40. Portland Trailblazers – PG Isaiah Canaan: Trying to get a backup PG behind Damian Lillard, why not?

41. Memphis Grizzlies – PF Andre Roberson: Roberson is an advanced stats favorite, fits the John Hollinger Grizzlies era

42. Philadelphia 76ers – SG Ricardo Ledo: Ledo has some buzz, though I expect he’d go higher if not for character concerns

43. Milwaukee Bucks – SF Solomon Hill: The Bucks are the greatest 2nd round drafting team by far, so I’ll give them a pick I’d call a steal at this range.

44. Dallas Mavericks – SG Archie Goodwin: Dallas tries an upside move, taking the hype athletic Goodwin PG Pierre Jackson

45. Portland Trailblazers – PF Kenny Kadji: After drafting guads with the last 2 seconds, a big pick seems fair

46. Utah Jazz – SG Alex Abrines: The Jazz have had a solid history with high IQ international players

47. Atlanta Hawks – PF Grant Jerrett: Jerrett has a solid chance of making it long term in the NBA if he can hit 3s, even if he does little else

48. Los Angeles Lakers – PG Myck Kabongo: The Lakers could use a young point guard with upside

49. Chicago Bulls – PF Erik Murphy The Bulls have had a need for a 3pt shooting PF for years

50. Atlanta Hawks – C Trevor Mbakwe: Mbakwe’s athleticism and energy makes him a solid bet to stick off the bench

51. Orlando Magic – PF Brandon Davies: Davies has one of the best feel for the games in the draft, making him an ideal Magic fit

52. Minnesota Timberwolves – SF James Ennis: Another shooter for the Timberwolves

53. Indiana Pacers – PG Nate Wolters: A young PG is a nice fit for the Pacers, Wolters great value this low

54. Washington Wizards – PF Livio Jean-Charles: I expect the Wizards to go Euro stash with this pick if they keep it

55. Memphis Grizzlies – PG Pierre Jackson: Drafting a PG with a solid chance at playing backup in the league for a long time, is a solid move

56. Detroit Pistons – SG B.J. Young: High value here, Young’s ability to get to the rim gives him a potential long career

57. Phoenix Suns – PG/SG: Nemanja Nedovic: A probably Euro stash, like Young, Nedovic’s athleticism gives him some potential in the NBA

58. San Antonio Spurs – PG Matthew Dellavedova: Dellavedova’s feel and skill fits the Spurs. Expect them to stash him in Europe for years first.

59. Minnesota Timberwolves – PF Richard Howell: Howell gives the Timberwolves from big man depth

60. Memphis Grizzlies –  PF Arsalan Kazemi: How about another advanced statistics favorite for the Grizzlies.

Written by jr.

June 26, 2013 at 10:07 am

Posted in Basketball

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On the Spurs Game 6 collapse (or lack thereof)

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San Antonio Spurs approach bench during a timeout.

San Antonio Spurs approach bench during a timeout. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The finish to Game 6 of the Finals will go down in history, due to the likelihood of the Spurs winning when headed to the FT line up 4 with 28 seconds left. A extra FT or defensive rebound closes the game. The Spurs losing that game will haunt them and those players forever.

However, I wouldn’t call it a historic collapse for this reason. The Heat led by 3 points with 1:27 left in the game and after charging back from the 10 point deficit to storm the 4th, felt as if in control of the game, playing at home, having the momentum and with Lebron James playing perhaps the best quarter of his career to that point. From there Tony Parker hit a crazy 26 foot 3pter, followed by a Chalmers turnover turning into a Parker score, then Lebron turning it over on the next 2 possessions, both ending in Ginobili at the FT line, where he hit 3 of 4. In all, the Spurs scored 8 points in a row in less than a minute, turning a 3 point deficit at 1:27 to a 5 point lead at 0:28. For the Spurs to have this sudden surge took a combination of clutch play by their stars scoring or forcing turnovers, fortune and devastating decisions in succession by Miami. In other words, it’s the inverse of what Miami needed to erase their 5 point deficit in the last 28 seconds. For the crushing misfortune the Spurs suffered in the last 28 seconds, they had just as much good luck in the 1 minute before then to shockingly get to that point, if not more. The Spurs in fact outscore the Heat by 3 in the last 1:27. To me, heading into the last 28 seconds the Spurs were about to steal a game they hadn’t controlled all quarter. That’s why I wouldn’t call it a historic collapse.

For the Spurs, I would consider it as big a criticism that a lead that was 13 late in the 3rd and 10 heading into the 3rd, was lost midway through the 4th. The lack of Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan in the last half minute of the 3rd and the first 2-3 minutes of the 4th, may have allowed the Heat to get a grasp on the game. In particular I’m shocked Leonard came off for those 2-3 minutes considering his athleticism and endurance at his age, with Duncan off they really needed Kawhi’s help defense and activity.

Interestingly, in 2011 even though in retrospect it felt like Dallas’ Game 6 win was inevitable, Dallas led by 9 heading into the 4th and, but Miami scored 5 straight points to start the quarter to cut it to 4. This was followed by 8 straight points by Jason Terry and JJ Barea with Miami not scoring for 3 minutes, to push the lead back to 12. In the Spurs Game 6, it was the Spurs who didn’t score from 3 straight minutes as their 82-77 lead went to a 82-85 deficit. In many ways, this game was Lebron’s reprieve for Game 6 of 2011. In that game he couldn’t provide the energy to turn the game to Miami’s, while in this one he not only did he dominate the 4th, but he shut down Tony Parker and the Spurs offense at the same time.

Although it was relatively successful for the Spurs, I still think taking the Tim Duncan-Tiago Splitter pairing out of the series, was a fascinating decision by the Spurs. Splitter is a blue chip center and the combination of him, Leonard and Duncan together was a devastating combination of defensive size. The Spurs took away a potential advantage in the post and on the glass by eliminating their big lineup. It’s unclear whether this was a good thing or not. Although there’s reason to be concerned about bigs guarding Miami’s small lineup, Indiana proved they could compete with a traditional David West-Roy Hibbert lineup. Playing big puts their bigs in defensive problems, but it also throws Miami’s gameplan off. Although San Antonio almost won the series, on paper it seems a smallball series is the way Miami wanted to play. It’s hard to beat a team like Miami at their game.

When looking at Miami’s 2 titles, I really have to credit them for winning big games on the road. There have been a remarkable amount of series for the Heat the last two series where the opponent team ‘had’ homecourt advantage at some point during it. Meaning against the 2013 Spurs, 2013 Pacers, 2013 Bulls, 2012 Thunder, 2012 Celtics, 2012 Pacers, the other team were at a point where they just had to win all their remaining home games to close out the Heat. But in Game 4 against the Spurs, Game 3 against the 2013 Pacers, Game 3 against the Bulls, Game 2 against the Thunder and Game 3 against the 2012 Pacers, (with the exception of the lay-up Bulls series) the Heat avoided either elimination or a very perilous state by going into the other team’s building and beating them, usually in dominant fashion.

As for the Spurs this year will still be an important and memorable part of their history despite the loss. But they aren’t done either even if Tim Duncan dips sharply from here and Ginobili retires or makes Spurs fans wish he had. With a few more Tony Parker prime seasons expected to come and the Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter, along with potentially more draft additions by that scouting staff, they have the horses to contend next year, if not ones after that. Leonard may be following the progression of Rajon Rondo, who started off as the 4th wheel for the Celtics in 2008, before in a short period of time surpassing them all to be the star and face of the team by 2010. Leonard could be the guy on the Spurs as early as next year. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if San Antonio is the 2014 champions, following in the footsteps of the late 80s Pistons, probably the best comparable for an agonizing loss of the title in Game 6 and 7 in 1988 followed by winning in 1989 and 1990.

This series was one of the best I’ve ever seen. It was exceptional both on a game by game entertainment level with massive historical consequences. This was a Finals, Game 6/7 and playoff series that will stand out in the annuls of history and the NBA will be missed for the summer.

Written by jr.

June 21, 2013 at 1:43 pm

2013 NBA Draft Talent Grades: The Centers

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Gorgui Dieng, Louisville Cardinals, Herb Pope,...

Gorgui Dieng, Louisville Cardinals, Herb Pope, Seton Hall Pirates (Photo credit: MattBritt00)

2013 NBA Draft Rankings: The Power Forwards

2013 NBA Draft Rankings: The Small Forwards

2013 NBA Draft Rankings: The Shooting Guards

2013 NBA Draft Rankings: The Point Guards

Here are my grades for the centers in the 2013 NBA Draft. The players I felt comfortable with ranking or worth it, are Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, Jeff Withey, Gorgui Dieng, Steven Adams, Rudy Gobert, Ryan Kelly, Mike Muscala, Bojan Dubljevic, Lucas Nogueira, Mason Plumlee, Colton Iverson, Jack Cooley.

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:

Nerlens Noel: 9 / Elite

Rudy Gobert: 8 / Great

Lucas Nogueira: 8 / Great

Mason Plumlee: 8 / Great

Steven Adams: 7 / Very good

Jeff Withey: 7 / Very good

Alex Len: 6 / Decent

Gorgui Dieng: 5 / Average

Colton Iverson: 4 / Lacking

Ryan Kelly: 1 / Awful

Bojan Dubljevic: 1 / Awful

Mike Muscala: 1 / Awful

Jack Cooley: 1 / Awful

Noel is the top talent of this group, showing ultra-elite athleticism and shotblocking potential, albeit with a skinny frame. Gobert’s length also makes him a dynamic shotblocking threat. Nogueira and Withey are inferior versions of Noel physically, with athleticism and blocking potential, but skinny. Mason Plumlee has an impressive combination of explosiveness and strength for a 7 footer. Steven Adams has elite strength and length and decent athleticism. Len is very long, with decent athleticism but skinny weight. Dieng is an average athlete, but long. Colton Iverson has solid strength and length for a C. The rest of the Cs are very weak physical impact talents, with Kelly, Dubjlevic as stretch bigs and Muscala, Cooley as under the rim bigs.

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

Ryan Kelly: 9 / Elite

Bojan Dubljevic: 8 / Great

Mike Muscala: 8 / Great

Gorgui Dieng: 7 / Very good

Alex Len: 6 / Decent

Jack Cooley: 5 / Average

Jeff Withey: 5 / Average

Rudy Gobert: 5 / Average

Colton Iverson: 5 / Average

Lucas Nogueira: 5 / Average

Mason Plumlee: 4 / Lacking

Nerlens Noel: 3 / Weak

Steven Adams: 3 / Weak

Kelly is an elite outside shooter and a likely stretch big in the NBA. Dubljevic and Muscala are also good and potentially great shooters for a C. Dieng has a perimeter jumpshot, some post moves and is an excellent passer. Len has decent touch and potential for a post and shooting game. Cooley, Withey, Gobert, Iverson, Nogueira have touch at the rim and the potential to add range. Plumlee, Noel and Adams have average to weak touch and lack post and shooting skill.

Feel for the Game talent grades:

Mike Muscala: 9 / Elite

Alex Len: 8 / Great

Jeff Withey: 8 / Great

Bojan Dubjlevic: 8 / Great

Ryan Kelly: 8 / Great

Gorgui Dieng: 8 / Great

Jack Cooley: 7 / Very good

Colton Iverson: 6 / Decent

Steven Adams: 5 / Average

Lucas Nogueira: 5 / Average

Nerlens Noel: 3 / Weak

Mason Plumlee: 3 / Weak

Rudy Gobert: 2 / Very poor

Muscala has the closest to a special feel for the game for this group, as a permanently smooth, crafty player. Len, Withey, Dubljevic, Ryan Kelly, Gorgui Dieng also have excellently fluid positioning and instincts. Cooley and Iverson also seem to have an above average feel and fluidity. The rest are a mixed bag. Adams, Nogueira look to be average instead f poor. Noel, Plumlee, Gobert look like clear cut cases of below average feel and are robotic.

The individual breakdowns:

Blue Chip starter talent grades (Grades between 19-22)

Gorgui Dieng

Physical impact talent grade: 5 / Average

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

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

Gorgui Dieng has a great if not elite feel for the game, showing a smooth, watery offensive game and strong defensive anticipation and instincts. He also has a skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent game with a midrange jumpshot, strong passing for a center and some moves on the block, to go along with great touch around the basket.

Dieng however is just an average athlete, with some mobility to get to the basket but not explosiveness. His length does give him shotblocking potential to physically impact the game.

Dieng’s feel, length, touch, range and passing, make him a near surefire starter to me. He has star potential if his post and shooting skill game blows up. Deing reminds me a lot of the Gasol brothers.

Jeff Withey

Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

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

Withey’s biggest strength is his feel for the game, showing strong fluidity offensively and superb defensive timing and positioning. In physical impact talent he is an explosive athlete allowing him to attack the rim and play above the rim. Despite his amazing shotblocking career in college, because of average length I’m not convinced he’ll translate in this area – But any consistent blocking is another powerful way to physically impact the game. A skinny frame may hurt finishing at the rim and post defense.

Withey has great touch finishing at the basket, however is unproven as a skill player otherwise. His post game is raw and unlikely to develop with his frame, while he didn’t consistently lean on his midrange as a weapon, albeit he did take some this year. A 70%+ FT is encouraging for midrange shooting development potential.

I see Withey as a very likely starting C due to his feel, athleticism, shotblocking potential and touch at the basket. If he can develop a perimeter shooting range, all-star games are a possibility.

Alex Len

Physical impact talent grade: 6 / Decent

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

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

Alex Len has a smooth feel for the game, playing at an easy and controlled, fluid pace.

He has great length for a C which gives him upside making a physical impact blocking shots. In addition he is mobile enough to roll to the basket. Len right now is skinny, but has the frame to add weight, which may help his finishing and post defense. His physical impact potential is above average.

Finally, Len has decent touch at the basket, but is relatively raw as a post player. Adding strength to fill out his frame, gives him a big upside in the post. His midrange shot wasn’t a consistent weapon, albeit a solid FT% gives him a chance to develop shooting.

Len’s length and feel should give him enormous defensive potential. Offensively it’s unclear whether he’ll be a limited finisher or can develop into a go-to post player and midrange shooter. At best Len could be both a go-to inside/outside scorer and a defensive anchor, an enormous upside considering the rarity of those types of players. In the meantime he is likely to start due to his length and touch, health permitting.

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

Lucas Nogueira

Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average

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

Lucas Nogueira has similarities to Noel and Gobert. He has great explosiveness and mobility for a big man, which should give him upside attacking the rim and blocking shots. However he’s even skinnier than either which may hurt him defending the post and finishing.

Nogueira or “Bebe” is raw outside of his physical tools. He scores on garbage points around the rim without post ability or range. A FT% of 67% is solid and gives him some potential for range.

Nogueira has an average feel for the game, not looking stiff, but showing little above average craftiness either.

I see Nogueira is a high upside prospect, if he can develop a perimeter shooting game, he has the athletic tools and good enough feel to be a blue chipper. Nogueira may be the closest we’ve seen since to the version of Serge Ibaka Oklahoma City took when they found him, for whom developing a perimeter shooting game helped establish him as a starter.

Mike Muscala

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)

Muscala’s feel for the game is the best of this group, with a supreme craftiness, fluidity and timing making his offensive moves so effective.

Muscala relied on his post game in college, however because of a lack of strength, I don’t expect it to translate to well. More likely is he leans on a midrage jumpshot, which he hit well in college and an 80%+ career FT rate in college is a great sign for his mechanics. In addition, if he builds strength he has potential in the post due to his touch.

Naturally, the problem is physical tools. He is the below the rim athlete lacking strength and length for a C. Virtually his entire game will need to come from skill and feel, not physically impacting the game with his tools. He may be a defensive liability in the pros because of his physical tools.

Despite his physical limitations, Muscala chance at starting at C or PF looks very solid to me, due to his feel and likely inside/outside skill game.

Ryan Kelly

Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9 / Elite

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

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

Ryan Kelly was one of the NCAA’s true stretch bigs, with two straight years over 40% from 3 and 80% from FT his chance of hitting NBA 3s is excellent, a rare skill worthy of a high skill impact (shoot, post pass) talent grade at C, or PF if he plays there.

He also has a high end feel for the game and a smooth, easy control to his game.

Kelly’s limitations are physically. It’s unlikely has the athleticism or strength to mix it up inside and score inside as a paint and his mobility may make him a defensive liability at the position.

One concern is his conditioning appears poor. Kelly has the talent to challenge a starting spot, but he needs to keep himself in shape.

Bojan Dubljevic

Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

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

Dubljevic is Europe’s answer to Muscala and Kelly in this draft. He shows an impressive skill game with range out to the 3pt line, which along with FT% over 80% shows his chance at hitting 3s in the NBA is solid. He played in the post in Europe, but may not have the size to translate that skill to the next level.

Dubljevic’s feel for the game is also excellent, showing natural adjusting, craftiness and fluidity in the post.

Dubljevic however is one of the least physically gifted players in the draft, as a short C with sluggish athleticism. He will likely be a perimeter orientated player, struggling to finish in the paint.

Dubjlevic’s physical tools may hurt his upside, but there is room in the NBA for 3 point or midrange shooters with a high feel for the game at PF/C in the NBA.

Rotation player talent grades (Grades between 14-16)

Steven Adams

Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 3 / Weak

Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

Adams is an impressive physical talent for a C. He has elite strength and frame for his position, great length and is relatively mobile, albeit not freakishly explosiveness. Adams has the tools to block shots, hold the post and do a decent job rolling to the basket physically.

The rest of his talent is a concern. Adams does not have an above average feel for the game, at times showing stiffness and awkwardness. I wouldn’t call Adams’ feel bad based on what I’ve seen, at times he shows some patience in the post – but average feels fair.

Adams is also a near blank slate as a skill player, lacking touch around the rim, post development or shooting range. Shooting a brutal 44.3% from the FT line as a freshman at Pittsburgh is also a poor sign that he has skill potential. I won’t go too low in the skill impact category based on both giving him the benefit of the doubt and because his strength presumably gives him some post potential, but it doesn’t look good.

Adams’ size and length for a C make him a clear NBA rotation player, however it’s unclear whether he’ll have the touch around the basket or feel to be anything more. Still, there is value in shotblockers in the NBA that may find him in a starting lineup on a good team at some point, even if raw.

Nerlens Noel

Physical impact talent grade: 9 / Elite

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 3 / Weak

Feel for the Game talent grade: 3 / Weak

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

As elite an athlete as it gets for a big man. Ultra explosive attacking the rim, finishing and blocking shots, with great mobility and agility. This led him to dominating the NCAA physically at a rare level. With the tools to lead the league in blocks which is a powerful physical impact tool for a center, he has huge physical impact potential at the next level. Strength issues present some issues finishing and guarding the post at C.

The rest of Nerlens’ talent is questionable. He has a subpar feel for the game by playing relatively stiff, robotic and needing to rush plays, instead of a natural and easy pace to his game. Furthermore Nerlens’ skill game is a problem with weak hands and touch, lacking any post game with his present skinny frame and lacking any shooting range. A 52.9% FT clip is a poor sign for his touch and shooting potential.

With the present skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade I gave him, Nerlens would project as a 3rd big providing energy and shotblocking as a change of pace. However his skill could be better or worse than the grade I gave him. It’d be a big help if he could develop Serge Ibaka-like range, which may also allow him to play PF. The downside is he ends up having no hands, touch or offensive skill game at all in the pros, which with his weak feel may push him down to near unplayable status. I consider Noel a major risk even before getting to his health concerns, albeit with the upside of a starter and blue chip player.

Rudy Gobert

Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 2 / Very poor

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

Rudy Gobert has an amazing 7’2 height with 7’9 wingspan, which with mobility gives him real shotblocking potential in the NBA. Gobert is a decent athlete who can roll to the rim and has agility for his size. A rail thin frame may hurt his finishing and post defense, but overall Gobert seems to deserve a great physical impact talent grade.

Gobert also has excellent hands and touch around the rim. This is enough for a respectable grade in skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent for me, though it’s unclear whether he’ll have any semblance of a post game or shooting range. Hitting 70%+ of his FTs is a sign he can develop a perimeter shot.

Rudy’s weakness is his feel for the game looks very poor compared to this class. He plays with unnatural stiffness and is robotic, to put it lightly. Gobert’s touch gives him an offensive role in the NBA even if at a low volume and if he can develop a midrange jumpshot, he may be very valuable offensively. Defense is likely to be a mixed bag between his shotblocking which is valuable, but then his lack of strength and likely lack of defensive awareness and feel, which could hurt his team. Either way, Gobert looks to be a likely long term NBA player and like Adams may find himself in a starting lineup due to the rarity of length and shotblocking, especially if his skill game comes through.

Mason Plumlee

Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 3 / Weak

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

Mason Plumlee is a strong athlete for a C, showing explosiveness attacking the basket and a solid strength level for a 7 footer.

He has a relatively limited skill game, scoring garbage points around the basket with just average hands and touch. He lacks post ability or shooting range, albeit a solid FT% his last year is somewhat encouraging he can develop range.

Mason also has a weak feel for the game, showing a stiff and robotic game, instead of natural fluidity and craftiness.

If Plumlee can rebound well at the next level he can carve out an NBA career, but it’s hard to imagine more than a 3rd big even if he develops perimeter range, while he’s at risk of washing out of the NBA if he can’t finish plays at the basket offensively or struggles to physically impose himself.

Colton Iverson

Physical impact talent grade: 4 / Lacking

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

Colton Iverson is a legitimate 7 footer with a wide frame, which should give him a role as a poster defender at the next level. His athleticism and mobility is solid, but unspectacular.

Iverson’s offensive game is largely limited to finishing around the rim, with his touch and strength to hold position. Having touch around the rim is a useable offensive role for a center. A 58.5% FT is not a great sign for developing shooting range.

He also has a solid feel for the game, showing some craftiness at the rim at times, though not at a standout level.

Iverson is a perfectly average center prospect, proving some size, mobility, touch and feel, none in great amounts, but without large weaknesses either. At the center position if Colton can be a post defender who reliably makes help rotations, can finish at the rim and plays hard, he can challenge a starting spot as a role player. If he wants to approach blue chip status, the best chance is to develop a perimeter shooting game, which may make him very useful offensively.

Deep bench to Rotation player talent grades (Grades between 12-13)

Jack Cooley

Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good

Total talent grade: 13 (Rotation player talent grade)

Jack Cooley has a good feel to his game, showing the ability to adjust, control and craftiness around the basket, which made his game very effective this year. His instincts also led to his excellent rebounding in college.

Cooley has strong touch around the basket but his offensive game is limited otherwise, without a perimeter shooting game, while as an undersized C it will be difficult for his post game to translate despite impressive strength. A solid 70.3% FT is somewhat encouraging he can develop a jumpshot.

Cooley is unimpressive physically, as a C with below average length who’s a below the rim athlete who may struggle defensively at the next level.

Cooley is the type of player who’d benefit if he had the mobility to play PF instead of C, where his strength may give him most post potential. If he sticks at C, his touch and rebounding numbers likely gives him a spot in the NBA long term, but more than a backup seems a stretch.

Factors outside of talent grades: Noel tore his ACL in college and had another season ending surgery on the same knee in high school. Kelly had surgery on his foot and reportedly has conditioning issues. Len had surgery after a stress fracture in his ankle. Dubljevic is signed for some time on his ACB team and could be years away from coming to the NBA. Nogueira’s buyout is also significant and could be difficult to bring over immediately. Nogueira reportedly has character concerns. Gobert’s buyout doesn’t appear to be scary, but still could be a problem.

If ranking the Cs by upside, I would rank it: 1. Alex Len 2. Gorgui Dieng 3. Jeff Withey 4. Lucas Nogueira 5. Mike Muscala 6. Ryan Kelly 7. Nerlens Noel 8. Steven Adams 9. Rudy Gobert 10. Bojan Dubljevic 11. Colton Iverson 12. Mason Plumlee 13. Jack Cooley. The rawer prospects like Nogueira, Noel, Adams, Gobert are favored in this, if they make a huge leap forward in skill. If ranking by downside (a high ranking is better), I’d rank it: 1. Gorgui Dieng 2. Jeff Withey 3. Alex Len 4. Mike Muscala 5. Ryan Kelly 6. Bojan Dubljevic 7. Colton Iverson 8. Mason Plumlee 9. Lucas Nogueira 10. Jack Cooley 11. Rudy Gobert 12. Steven Adams 13. Nerlens Noel Likewise, prospects like Gobert, Adams, Noel are in bigger danger of not providing any value if they lack any skill game.

My overall ranking of Cs and where I’d consider taking them:

1. Gorgui Dieng (top 5)
2. Jeff Withey (top 5)
3. Alex Len (top 5)
4. Lucas Nogueira (top 20)
5. Mike Muscala (top 20)
6. Ryan Kelly (top 30)
7. Colton Iverson (top 40)
8. Bojan Dubjlevic (top 40)
9. Steven Adams (top 40)
10. Rudy Gobert (top 40)
11. Nerlens Noel (top 40)
12. Mason Plumlee (top 50)
13. Jack Cooley (top 50)

My cumulative rankings now that I’ve ranked all positions: (*Note: If you’ve read my previous rankings, you’ll see my Dennis Schroeder ranking is very different than I originally pegged. This was just based on a stupid mistake I had made not seeing Schroeder’s stats in his German league before, where I learned how excellent shooting season he had with 40.2% from 3 on many attempts and 83.8% FT, I had assumed his reptuation as a jumpshot-less player was based on poor shooting numbers in Europe. This addition to new footage showing his feel for the game is more impressive than I thought, vastly changed my ranking of him. I also saw footage showing his athleticism and feel better, that slightly revised my rating of Giannis Antetokounmpo in a favorable light. Finally, one of Ricky Ledo’s coaches called him the worst human being he’s met in basketball, so that makes me wary about him!)

1. PF Anthony Bennett (top 3)
2. PG Dennis Schroeder (top 3)
3. SG Victor Oladipo (top 3)
4. PF Kelly Olynyk (top 3)
5. C Gorgui Dieng (top 3)
6. C Jeff Withey (top 3)
7. C Alex Len (top 3)
8. PF Kenny Kadji (top 7)
9. PG C.J. McCollum (top 7)
10. PF Jackie Carmichael (top 7)
11. SG Ben McLemore (top 7)
12. SF Tony Snell (top 10)
13. SF Otto Porter (top 10)
14. SF Sergey Karasev (top 10)
15. PG Trey Burke (top 10)
16. SF Giannis Antetokounmpo (top 10)
17. SG Jamaal Franklin (top 14)
18. PG Lorenzo Brown (top 14)
19. PF Cody Zeller (top 14)
20. PG Matthew Dellavedova (top 14)
21. SF Solomon Hill (top 14)
22. C Lucas Nogueira (top 20)
23. C Mike Muscala (top 20)
24. PG Myck Kabongo (top 20)
25. SG B.J. Young (top 20)
26. PF C.J. Leslie (top 20)
27. SG Seth Curry (top 20)
28. PG Erick Green (top 20)
29. PG Shane Larkin (top 20)
30. PG Nate Wolters (top 20)
31. PG Isaiah Canaan (top 20)
32. PG Pierre Jackson (top 20)
33. C Ryan Kelly (top 30)
34. PF James Southerland (top 30)
35. SG Glen Rice, Jr. (top 30)
36. SG Tim Hardaway, Jr. (top 30)
37. SF Shabazz Muhammad (top 30)
38. PF Grant Jerrett (top 30)
39. PF Deshaun Thomas (top 30)
40. PF Erik Murphy (top 30)
41. PF Dario Saric (top 30)
42. PF Brandon Davies (top 30)
43. SF Adonis Thomas (top 30)
44. PG Michael Carter-Williams (top 40)
45. SF Reggie Bullock (top 40)
46. C Colton Iverson (top 40)
47. C Bojan Dubjlevic (top 40)
48. C Steven Adams (top 40)
49. C Rudy Gobert (top 40)
50. C Nerlens Noel (top 40)
51. SG Archie Goodwin (top 40)
52. SG Allen Crabbe (top 40)
53. SG Alex Abrines (top 40)
54. PF Livio Jean-Charles (top 40)
55. PF Richard Howell (top 40)
56. C Mason Plumlee (top 40)
57. C Jack Cooley (top 50)
58. SG Ricardo Ledo (top 50)
59. PF Tony Mitchell (top 50)
60. PG Phil Pressey (top 50)
61. PG Ray McCallum (top 50)
62. SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (top 50)
63. PF D.J. Stephens (top 60)
64. SG Brandon Paul (undrafted)

This list it not a final ranking, I will look it over post a final list of my talent grades and overall rankings sometime before the draft.

The Spurs secret sauce in Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter and searching for the next versions of them

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Kawhi Leonard | San Antonio Spurs

Kawhi Leonard | San Antonio Spurs (Photo credit: Basketball Schedule)

The Spurs are 2 wins from the 2013 NBA championhip, which amazes all of us because it looked like age closed their window when defeated by the Lakers in 5 in 2008 – which was oh, FIVE YEARS AGO! How did the Spurs get back to this point? While Tony Parker and Tim Duncan are still stars, the real story is that they found three blue chippers to start at SG, SF and C in Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter. A case can be made all three are top 10 starters at their position.

The league is predicated on the idea that getting stars and starters takes lottery picks, which teams routinely leading the league like the Spurs, don’t have. The Spurs found a loophole to this by drafting Splitter 28th in 2007, Leonard 15th in 2011 and signing Green in free agency, the Cavaliers waiving him a season after drafting him in the 2nd round at 46th overall.

What did the rest of the league miss in these three for the Spurs to pick them up? Here’s my take:

First, what all three have in common is an great, if not elite feel for the game – which is nothing surprising considering the Spurs history. All three are smooth, crafty, natural offensive players. Furthermore they show excellent instincts, positioning and timing defensively. I would argue Green has the most impressive feel for the three, followed by Leonard and Splitter trailing, but all three are above average for their position hands down.

Danny Green in addition to this, has turned himself into one of the best shooters in the NBA. This year he hit 42.9% from 3 on 5.2 attempts a game (6.8 attempts per 36 minutes), an exceptional combination of volume and accuracy. Green’s weakness is he’s not a slasher, due to average athleticism and ballhandling. His offensive game is predicated on spot up shooting. Green is big for a 2 at 6’6 with a 6’10 wingspan, which helps him on the defensive end and finishing at the basket. His size also gives him some post potential in the future at the 2.

Here are my talent grades for Green:

Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak

Skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9 / Elite

Feel for the Game talent grade: 9 / Elite

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

With a score about 19 as my threshold for a blue chipper and surefire starter, Green cleanly breaks the mark. Green’s shooting and feel is so good, that in combination with the ability to play SG and SF, it’d be enough for him to start – albeit his size and defense also helps him. How foreseeable was Green’s success? Green becoming an elite shooter is not a big surprise. His 41.8% and 37.3% 3pt marks as a junior and sophomore at UNC are fine, but the really impressive numbers are his FT%. He hit 85.2% as a senior, 87.3% as  junior and 84.8% as a sophomore from FT. FT shooting in the mid 80s or higher in college is typically reserved for elite shooting talents. One of the likely reasons Cleveland waived Green is he only hit 27.3% from 3 as a rookie on 22 total attempts. Since the NBA 3pt line is longer than the NCAA, an adjustment period even for an elite shooting talent is unsurprising. Among recent examples Kevin Durant hit 28.8% from 3 as a rookie and Kevin Martin 20.0%. Based on his 3pt shooting role at UNC and his FT%, I’d likely have Green at least an 8 / Great in skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent . I may have gone a point lower in physical impact talent grade, based on how much of a spot up shooter he was at the time. Even with those downgrades, Green projects as a blue chipper.

Is there anyone similar to Green in this draft? Two players I see as similar are New Mexico’s Tony Snell and the Russian Sergey Karasev. Both players like Green have a great if not elite feel for the game, as smooth and instinctive players. Snell is a great spot-up shooting talent, not so much because of his 39.0% and 38.7% 3pt seasons his junior and sophomore years, but hitting 84.3% and 83.1% from FT those seasons. He does not have the ballhandling to be known as a slasher, but is a good athlete and has a 6’11 wingspan, with the likely ability to defend SFs or SGs. The athleticism and length combined with his feel, likely give him huge defensive potential. When added to his sharpshooting, his “3s and defense” starting potential and similarity to Green at UNC is clear. Karasev is also an elite shooter, hitting a cumulative 36.5% 3pt/85.6% FT this year, again the FT especially impressive. At 6’7 with a 6’9 wingspan he likely has the size to play the 2 or 3, albeit is an underwhelming athlete which could hurt his ability to get to the basket despite impressive ballhandling. I see Karasev as a higher upside offensive player than Snell, because his ballhandling may be able to help him create his own shot more on the perimeter, plus may help him have a slashing game despite athleticism problems. However for athletic reasons, his defense may be less reliable. Either way, if he can shoot at a great, elite level, with his feel, it should be enough to carve out a starting role on the wing. The player people might think of Danny Green most when seeing, is fellow UNC player Reggie Bullock. Bullock is a spot-up shooter with a good feel for the game at 6’7 with a 6’9 wingspan, in a similar role as Green’s. The only pause I have is that despite his 42.9% 3pt, his 76.7% FT is more worrying than Green, Snell or Karasev’s. If everything goes right with his shooting translating, I can see Bullock being a comparable player to Green. But I see it as a bigger risk his range doesn’t translate and he struggles to find his place in the league, than I do for Snell and Karasev.

Kawhi Leonard aside from his great feel, has a lot to like about him physically. He has the explosiveness to attack the basket despite average ballhandling, while he’s 6’7 but with a huge 7’3 wingspan and elite strength, making him an imposing physical figure at SF. Leonard’s physical talents and instincts have allowed him to be a standout defender and rebounder for a young player.

The biggest reason Kawhi was underplayed going into his draft year, is his shooting. He shot only 29.1% 3pt/75.9% FT as a sophomore, not being known as a perimeter threat. In the NBA the Spurs have fixed his shot, Kawhi since putting up 37.6% 3pt/77.3% FT as a rookie and 37.4% 3pt/82.5% FT as a sophomore. His ability to hit open 3s and space the floor at SF when combined with his defensive presence, gives him huge value as a role player.

Here is my talent grades for Kawhi:

Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 23 (Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent grade)

This is a superb score. I would be very surprised if Kawhi didn’t make an all-star game in his career.

Going back to his San Diego State University days, his shooting was hard to predict. When a perimeter player isn’t a 3pt shooter in college, I typically don’t get below a grade of 4 / Lacking, in order to give them the benefit of the doubt they can develop. Since Leonard hitting 76% of his FTs is respectable and SFs hit 3s less than PGs or SGs, I’d likely have given him a grade of 5 / Average for his shooting career, based on my methods now. I may have given him a 7 / Very good in physical impact talent grade due to questions about his ballhandling. Despite this, even taking 2-3 points off, leaves Leonard as a blue chip talent. Leonard coming out of college looks a case of a somewhat risky pick, but one with value. If Leonard’s jumpshot had gone in the other direction and been broken in the pros, he may have still challenged a starting spot in a Gerald Wallace-like role providing size, athleticism, rebounding and slashing at SF. However it’s clear that if his shooting became good/great, it would lead to this star upside. Using my baseball pitcher analogy from last week, Kawhi coming out of college would be the pitcher who already proved he had a great combination of velocity and the ability to find the plate, but needed to widen his repertoire of pitches. That’s the right type of player to take.

Is there anyone in the 2013 draft like Leonard? A player who stands out is fittingly, fellow San Diego State prospect Jamaal Franklin. Franklin like Leonard has both great to elite feel and a strong combination of athleticism, strength and length at his position, which looks to be more SG than SF. This gives him a lot of potential defensively and on the glass and attacking the basket offensively. Franklin’s weakness is shooting, only hitting 27.9% from 3pt and 32.5% his junior and sophomore year. But encouraging is 79.0% and 80.0% his junior and sophomore years from the FT line. If Franklin’s outside shooting can turn around to Kawhi’s level, he may end up playing like him. If his shot is broken, it’s likely he’s more of a defense/rebounding role player. A few concerns with Franklin is his shot selection in college was more wild than Kawhi’s despite his feel and seems like someone who has some crazy in him. Playing 3 years to Kawhi’s 2 also makes his 3pt shooting woes look worse. Nevertheless Franklin’s upside if he can follow a similar improvement as a shooter, is significant.

Tiago Splitter is a true 7 footer in shoes with a 7’2 wingspan and 9’1 standing reach, fine for a 7 footer albeit not long enough to be more than a decent shotblocker. He also has wide shoulders and strength and a good lower body. Splitter is also a good athlete, having the mobility to roll to the basket on the pick and roll. Splitter is not dominant in length, strength or athleticism, but it’s having a decent amount of all three that’s rare and allows him to physically impact the game offensively and defensively. His length and strength combined with his high feel for the game, is an impact combination defensively.

Splitter does not have shooting range and isn’t a true go-to post player, but he does have excellent hands and touch finishing at the basket. At C I consider strong hands/touch and the ability to finish, enough for an average skill level compared to others at the position. The ability to finish plays when they catch it, is a valued skill at the position.

Here is my talent grades for Splitter:

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)

Splitter doesn’t grade out as exciting a talent as Kawhi or Green, but finding any blue chip C is difficult and valuable.

I can’t say with authority how Splitter looked in 2007 when he was drafted, since I wasn’t paying attention to him then. However by most accounts I’ve read, his feel and positioning were considered excellent at the time, as did his touch, which 58-62% FG seasons back it up. He likely was less physically developed at the time, but showing mobility, length and a wide frame. Overall it seems fair to suggest a true 7 footer C with a wide frame, strong feel for the game and great hands finishing at the basket would project as a blue chipper or very near it by this method at the time. In the case of Splitter as an established 7 footer in the ACB and Euroleague by 2007, it seems like the Spurs grabbing him so late isn’t because teams missed his talent, but by having more patience to wait for years for him to get out of his contract in Europe, eventually bringing him over for the 2010-2011 season.

Are there players in this draft like Splitter? Alex Len has some similarities. Len is a true 7 footer with a high feel for the game, who’s post and shooting game is raw, but seems to have good hands and touch. Len may never have a more versatile offensive game than Splitter, but if he can finish plays at the basket, when combined with his feel it could give him an offensive role. Len physically also has good mobility, with a body that needs to add strength but has the frame to – this seem similar to a young Splitter. He is longer than Splitter which gives him more shotblocking potential. Jeff Withey could also be similar, with excellent feel and positioning like Splitter and an offensive game similarity predicated on touch, instead of high volume post and shooting skills. Withey is mobile and athletic, arguably more explosive than Splitter – But also skinnier and unlikely to bulk up at his age. I see Len and Withey as likely starters due to their feel, length and touch at the basket. I suppose they have more star upside than Splitter if they can add a perimeter shooting game.

With Green, Leonard and Splitter at SG, SF and C for the foreseeable future and a number of great years left in the tank for Tony Parker, the Spurs level of success isn’t going anywhere. Chances are that as the Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili era winds down, the Spurs will make a seamless transition into what the Indiana Pacers are now, a team with less true starpower but filled with quality two way starters. Chances are the Spurs are going to be on the prowl for years for players with an great to elite feel for the game, in combination with other more widely adknowledged tools like Green’s shooting, Leonard’s size/athleticism and Splitter’s size/touch.

Written by jr.

June 13, 2013 at 12:04 pm

An NBA Talent Evaluation Analogy: The Baseball Pitcher

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BASEBALL Pitcher of the Week - May 3-9, 2010

BASEBALL Pitcher of the Week – May 3-9, 2010 (Photo credit: Big West Conference)

For the last year and change I’ve been writing about how I split up NBA talent into 3 equally weighted categories: Physical impact talent, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent and Feel for the Game talent.

If I had to the closest comparison to this split, it’d be a baseball pitcher. I am not a baseball expert, but think of the tools that define a pitcher’s upside and success:

1. Power is clearly an important trait. The greater velocity, the harder it will be to hit a pitcher. Pitchers with huge arms are seen as having a high upside, even if raw. For my system the obvious comparison is physical impact talent. Notably, for a power pitcher, while I assume literal athletic and strength tools are key to throwing at a dynamic velocity, the player’s technique is also a relevant part of their power. Likewise in my system not everything in “physical impact” talent is literally physical tools, like how a player’s ballhandling will usually help him attack the basket more fiercely, a way to physically impact the game.

2. However, arguably just as important is control and ball placement. The ability to throw a strike and put the ball where it’s wanted is essential, arguably as important as the velocity of the throw, if not moreso. The comparison in my system is Feel for the Game where the control, smoothness and timing of a player’s game increases his effectiveness.

3. The final key part of a pitcher’s success, is the skill to throw multiple types of pitches – change-up, slider, curveball, splitter, cutter, etc. Mastering these skills goes beyond the ability to hit the plate. This also has a clear connection to my Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent category. Instead of the skill to throw a pitch like a curve or change-up, there’s the skill of shooting and having 3 point range, passing or playing in the post.

Relevantly, for a pitcher any of these 3 categories isolated, will not lead to a successful player. It doesn’t matter if a pitcher throws 100 miles per hour if he has no ability to hit the plate and no pitches outside of a fastball. It doesn’t matter if a player has a wide array of skill pitches like the curve, change-up, slider and variants if he has no velocity on his pitch and he isn’t hitting the plate. And even if a player has the control to hit the plate extremely well, if his pitches have no gas and have no off-speed variants, he also won’t make it. What leads to success is combining the skills. It’s having both power velocity and the ability to hit the plate, or having both both great skill with off-ball pitches and the ability to hit the plate, or having both power and a variety of pitches. If one is a star in 2 of the categories, it’s very important even if he doesn’t excel in the 3rd, that he’s passable in it instead of bad. A pitcher doesn’t need to throw the most power if his control and pitches are at an elite level, but he can’t go out and throw 80 miles per hour either and hope to have a high ceiling. Likewise a pitcher with great power and a multitude of pitches even if he doesn’t have elite control, needs to at least respectably hit the plate, instead of being all over the place.

Likewise I believe a player in the NBA having all his eggs in one of my 3 categories, will make it difficult to success. You can’t just be a physical force without skill and feel on top of it, you can’t just be skilled if an athletic and mental liability and one can’t just be smart and controlled without some physical and skill tools. But the player who is physically dominant and with elite feel/control, has strong skill and feel, or who has strong physical and skill tools, starts to get somewhere. And like the pitcher, if the player only excels in 2 of the 3, it’s key that he’s passable instead of poor in the 3rd.

The mistake I believe that is made most often in the NBA Draft, is taking a prospect with elite physical tools, who’s skill and mental game is extremely raw. For example, Nerlens Noel is ranked 1st overall this year. I’ll reveal my (lower than you can imagine) ranking of Nerlens when I get to ranking Cs in this draft, but compare him to my baseball analogy. Nerlens is a player with amazing athleticism and ability to physically impact the game, who’s subpar with a risk at being awful as a skill and feel for the game player. This is like the pitcher who throws at a league high velocity, but has one pitch and can’t hit the plate. That won’t work! Nerlens has the chance to develop more pitches so to speak to improve his chance at success (such as developing Serge Ibaka-like range) but if he doesn’t, it could be a disaster. To me it’s not a more appealing situation than a player like Brandon Davies who has an elite feel for the game but is unimpressive athletically and with a limited skill game – his analogy being like the pitcher who’s elite at finding the plate, but throwing very weak velocity and limited skill mixing up his pitches, which makes him a guy who’s serving pitches over the plate like a waiter to hitters.

Now admittedly, I do not know enough about pitchers to say whether the distribution of power, variety of pitches and ball control is equally distributed. It seems like power and ball control may be more important than the number of pitches a player has. But I am simply using this as an example to illustrate why I believe my interpretation of NBA talent is a logical approach.

Written by jr.

June 7, 2013 at 1:54 pm