A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Checking in on 2012 draft favorites Meyers Leonard and Scott Machado

with 2 comments

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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2 Responses

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  1. Have you had any misgivings on your Michael Carter Williams eval? I thought ,like you, that his shooting would be a problem. But thus far that doesn’t seem to be the case.

    Mike S

    December 1, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    • After the first 3 games MCW is actually < 30% 3pt, so I'm not writing him in as good shooter yet. I may have rated his physical talent and athleticism a little low but overall I'm not over the moon about him

      julienrodger

      December 2, 2013 at 6:51 pm


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