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Archive for November 2013

Checking in on 2012 draft favorites Meyers Leonard and Scott Machado

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A few months ago ago a comment asked me how I felt about my 2012 draft grades, a year and change into the prospects careers.

Although one year is still short to judge players, there have been hits and misses so far. For example compared to the ‘consensus’ opinion, my grades came out much lower on Thomas Robinson and Austin Rivers, rating them as non-top 20 and top 30 prospects respectively and both have been awful. Other prospects like Andrew Nicholson and Jared Sullinger rated higher in my system and have done well. Both my system and consensus opinion loved Anthony Davis and were fans of Bradley Beal and both have been successful. Both my system and the consensus draft order rated Michael Kidd-Gilchrist highly, but he has struggled to produce.

Other ratings do not look as successful so far. I’ve acknowledged my grades for Andre Drummond and Harrison Barnes were poor, as I weighted their underwhelming college production more heavily then than I do now when rating their feel for the game. Damian Lillard was also misrated after a poor reading from the low quality, usually handheld camera-filmed Weber State footage. The 2012 draft was the first using my talent grading system and my methods have greatly evolved since then, hopefully correcting some of these mistakes in teh future.

Two prospects people may claim my list is missing on is Meyers Leonard and Scott Machado, who rated 3rd and 4th most of the year in 2012 behind Anthony Davis and Jeremy Lamb. Leonard is currently receiving DNP-CDs in Portland after an OK rookie season, while Machado after going undrafted was signed and cut by a few teams, played largely in the D League and is rumored to have signed overseas with B.C. Partizan.

What’s going on with Leonard and Machado and do I retract my opinions of them? On one hand, ranking as high as they did, is in part due to rating Drummond, Barnes and Lillard too low for the reasons I outlined. But I would still rate them as starting talents at C and PG.

Leonard’s offensive development his rookie season was nothing too much to be worried about. He showed a strong midrange jumper and touch at the rim, while struggled to hold position in the post at his age. Overall the combination of midrange shooting and athleticism to roll to the rim, is a rare enough combination for a center to make a career out of even if his post game doesn’t develop.

Where he’s lost minutes is on the defensive end, where he’s been poor to put it lightly. Joel Freeland who’s offensive numbers are worse than Leonard’s, is an older player and experienced defender. Because the Blazers have been much more successful offensively than defensively the last 2 years with the play of Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and Lamarcus Aldridge, a defensively reliable backup center who struggles offensively fills a hole more than an a greater offensive producer with defensive problems.

Being a player with offensive talent who needs to improve defensively, is not a bad spot to be for a young player. Many young players struggle defensively before improving with age. While I do not rate Leonard’s feel for the game as more than average which hurts his defensive potential, his physical tools can eventually make an impact on that end. As Meyers Leonard’s defensive experience improves he will likely be usable enough on that end to get minutes on offensive merit, whether it’s on Portland or another team.

My opinion of Leonard’s talent is largely identical to before the draft. There are concerns about his maturity and not every player reaches their talent level if something’s wrong upstairs, but he appears to play and work hard.

Scott Machado’s future is more concerning. On one hand I would rate his talent as lower than I did before the draft. As with Barnes and Drummond, Machado’s near 10 assist per game colored my grades more than it would now. I rated his feel for the game as transcendent at the time, while now I would call it great if close to elite.

I believe Machado has the talent to be average attacking the basket off the dribble and shooting for an NBA PG. Logically, if added to an above average feel for the game and passing skills, it should all add together to an above average PG talent.

So far in the D League and summer league, preseason/training camp tryouts, he’s struggled to both attack the basket and shoot. The shooting results haven’t been too worrying. At Iona over 4 years he averaged 34.2% from 3pt and 74.0% from the FT line, with 40.4% 3pt and 81.1% FT his senior season. In the D League between two teams, regular season and playoff combined, he averaged 35.3% from 3 and 78.4% from the FT line, including 45% from 3 in the playoffs. Considering many players struggle to adjust to the NCAA 3pt line to NBA immediately, these are respectable results. Unfortunately with an NBA job on the line in summer league and preseason, he struggled shooting again.

Driving to the rim has been a more worrying struggle. I see Machado’s combination of quickness and physical strength as similar to Kyle Lowry’s, however he’s been inconsistent trying to drive into the paint, in part because of major struggles finishing at the rim.

I may have understated talent-based reasons why he’d struggle driving. He could have more ballhandling problems than I rated and although Machado has two of the major talents I look for in finishing at the rim in feel for the game and strength, it’s possible he has a flaw in touch at the rim holding him back. It’s difficult to see whether his early struggles driving and finishing are talent-based flaws or ones that development will correct. Notably, Machado did not excel scoring driving to the rim at Iona, albeit his role was heavily tilted towards pass-first play.

The good news is Machado appears to be made of “the right stuff” in work ethic and competitiveness, that may push him to developing enough to make an NBA job next time he tries despite early setbacks. Whatever talent he has, his chances of reaching it appears fair.

If I had to compare Meyers Leonard and Scott Machado’s talent to two players, it would be Marcin Gortat and Kyle Lowry, both of whom have had very good careers. That doesn’t guarantee they’ll get there, as I could be wrong about their talent in certain areas, in Machado’s case he may never come back to the NBA even if he plays well overseas and in general, no player is a guarantee to reach their talent. I rate more players as playing to their talent than most systems, but in a 450 player league there are inevitable enigmas. Other than obvious cases like Michael Beasley, Andray Blatche, Demarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Jeff Green, other players who’s production vs talent confuses me includes Jrue Holiday, D.J. Augustin, Patrick Patterson, Eric Maynor, Josh Smith, J.R. Smith, Jamal Crawford. Some of these players appear to be bad apples/jerks off the court, while others appear to struggle with toughness with physical contract and consistent effort. That Leonard and Machado play and work hard makes me believe they won’t be enigmas, but it’s possible.

All in all, it’s only been 1 year and less than a quarter of a season. For both Leonard and Machado and other players like Kidd-Gilchrist, Waiters, Robinson, they could look completely different by year 4 or 5. Even 2010 draft picks like John Wall, Evan Turner, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Ed Davis, Eric Bledsoe are in a widely acknowledged “developmental” state, even in their 4th seasons. There is plenty of time.

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On why the Knicks should trade Carmelo Anthony & the Derrick Williams pick

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On http://www.morningpickup.com I wrote a few articles

The case for trading Carmelo Anthony

http://www.morningpickup.com/case-new-york-trading-carmelo-anthony/

Can Derrick Williams find his niche in Sacramento?

http://www.morningpickup.com/can-derrick-williams-find-niche/

Analyzing the talent level of Michael Carter-Williams

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Michael Carter-Williams is strongest out the gate for the 2013 draft class, putting up a 22 point, 12 assist, 9 steal game in his first game and 26 points, 10 assists, 3 steals in his 3rd. Against two great defenses in Miami and Chicago, no less.

But as recent rookies Brandon Jennings and Jeremy Lin have proved among others, a start this hot does not guarantee long term stardom.

Here was how I rated Michael Carter-Williams talent level in June in my three categories Physical Impact Talent, Skill Impact (shoot, post, pass) talent and Feel for the Game talent, using these grades:

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

Grades:

Physical impact 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)

For players with a grade of 17, due to variables like shooting development, I estimated these probabilities of having talent higher or lower than this:

< 1% Perennial all-star talent (grade of 25+)
< 1% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent (23+)
15% Blue Chip starter talent (19+)
65% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent (17+)
98.5% Rotation player talent (14+)
99.5%+ Deep bench to Rotation player talent (12+)

Carter-Williams’ appeal was based on a combination of physical talents and feel for the game. As a good, but not elite athlete with ballhandling skills, he has talent attacking the basket off the dribble. His length is an asset defensively, but a thin frame may hurt him finishing plays at the rim.

His biggest strength is his feel for the game. He is a crafty and smooth player, allowing him to find space in the defense and to see the court passing the ball. His steals so far is also arguably a product of anticipation and vision.

This clip shows how MCW’s speed and feel, has helped him attack the basket and find teammates:

Why Carter-Williams didn’t rate higher is his shooting. He shot 30.7% from 3 and 67.9% from the FT line over two years at Syracuse, including 29.4% from 3 and 69.4% from the FT line his sophomore season. The 3 point shooting numbers are poor for the NCAA line, but the FTs were even more worrying as typically good shooting prospects, are at least in the 70s.

That shooting is the biggest difference in his NBA career so far, hitting 47.1% from 3 in his first 3 games, going 8 for 17 from outside. Considering most prospects need time to translate to the longer NBA line, this has been impressive. Carter-Williams has only gone 66.7% from the FT line by hitting 10 for 15. Both of course, are at a risk of small sample size trickery. MCW hitting 5 for 17 from 3 instead of 8 for 17, would have made his 3P% 29.4%, identical to his final year at Syracuse. On the other hand, hitting 12 for 17 from the FT line would have made his number 80% from there, more representative of a great FT shooter. To give you an example of how Carter-Williams could fall apart from 3, after Jeremy Lin started 1-10 from 3 his first 3 “Linsanity” games, he went on to go 12 for 26 from 3 in his next 8 games (46.2%),  a larger sample size than MCW has had, before reverting. A more positive comparison for MCW is Chandler Parsons who had a 4 years college career where he averaged 33.7% from 3 and a weak 61.1% from the FT line, but has gone on to average over 36.6% from 3 on 4.1 attempts a game in the NBA, making him one of the better shooting options at the SF position. Shooting like MCW in college is not a death sentence, it just makes it less likely.

If Carter-Williams settled into an above average shooter at the position, deserving of a grade of 6 or higher in my skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent category – I would rate him as a “blue chip” talent, roughly enough to be an above average starter. It’s surprising that a player with his college shooting career would shoot at an above average NBA rate, but the unpredictably of shooting is largely the reason for giving out that estimate of 15% chance at a blue chip talent. The only way I can see Carter-Williams surpassing even that to  become a perennial all-star and franchise player, is if he becomes one of the best shooters in the NBA. Nothing is impossible, but after his Syracuse results I’d need a larger sample size than 17 shots to put that in play. The worst case scenario is that Carter-Williams’ shooting falls apart and more, where the inability to hit open shots leads defenders to play way off him, Rajon Rondo-style.

To me, early Jeremy Lin is the all-around best comparison. Like Lin, Carter-Williams has the athleticism to attack the basket, size for his position and a strong feel for the game. And like Lin, the rest of his career will depend on shooting. Lin’s regression as a shooter made him a poor fit with James Harden and cost him his starting spot to begin this year, though by hitting 4 from 10 to start this year from 3 he may be on the rebound. My guess is that MCW at best is an above average, but non all-star PG, but at worst is a 3rd guard and average contributor. To Michael Carter-Williams’ credit, he has started his career with confidence and has seized the opportunity given to him by lack of offensive options above him in Philadelphia. His start sets the table for the rest of his career. He’s booked his place at the table for the long term, but how close to the head of the table will he be?

Written by jr.

November 3, 2013 at 3:26 pm