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Basketball philosophy

2014 NBA Draft Talent rankings – March update

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Here’s my first talent big board for the 2014 draft. For a review of my talent grading methodology, click here. A few more notes:

– Since my system ranks talent, players are not guaranteed to reach their talent level. However, I consider the NBA exceptional at developing players to reach their talent level, with a limited number of enigmas in the NBA by my system. By the time a player reaches say, 6,000-8,000 regular season NBA minutes, they should be showing the signs of their talent level. I estimate about 5% of the 300 or so out of 450 players who have played long enough to no longer be called prospects, are enigmatic/not reaching their talent.

– Therefore if the NBA does not draft one of these players, or takes them in the 2nd round but doesn’t believe in them, I am more in the dark about whether they reach their talent level. Years down the road I may be able to speak with more confidence about the chance of an undrafted player breaking in the NBA and reaching their talent. For now there’s a possibility an undrafted player has a much higher chance of never reaching their talent than players who are drafted and developed by NBA teams. That and these players may going undrafted in the first place because they are enigmas – such as seniors who are not dominant statistically.

– As talent rankings, factors like health, effort level on/off the court, buyout concerns for international players, etc. are not taken into the account in these rankings.

I tried to include as many prospects in ESPN and Draftexpress.com’s 1st round mocks I felt comfortable ranking, as well as other prospects if relevant. I have 36 of those players rated on this list. Last year by June my list of rated players was over 60 players long. If I am unsure about a player’s position, whatever position I rate their talent higher in, is what I choose

To recap in my 3 categories for the players positions Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent, Feel for the Game talent, here are the grade meanings:

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

When players have the same total grade, I order them for now according to the combined physical motion/impact and feel for the game grade. If those are tied, I give the edge to the higher feel for the game. This is because I see feel for the game as most static, followed by the physical impact, followed by the skill impact.

The rankings:

1. C Joel Embiid

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 7 / Very good

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 9 / Elite

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

No argument from me about the most talented prospect in the draft. In addition to the special fluidity and feel shows, when added to his lateral mobility and length, it makes his defensive potential aces. He shows signs of a post and perimeter shooting game. For a weakness he is not an explosive athlete. Embiid is a two way star at best and is the closest to a locked starter if he stays healthy. For the most part, there aren’t enough Cs in the league for Embiid to not start.

2. SG Nik Stauskas

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 6 / Decent

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 8 / Great

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

Perhaps the best offensive talent in the draft. In addition to his perimeter shooting skills (8 in the skill impact category could very well end up too conservative), Stauskas is such a good ball-handler for  a SG, it allows him to be a driving threat despite decent, not exemplary explosiveness. He also shows great fluidity and craftiness. Many are concerned about his defense and his lateral mobility indeed is unimpressive, but I see no reason why he can’t be an average defender, considering positional intelligence is as important as physical talent on that end. In the NBA plus defense is not a requirement to be a star player, if one provides enough offense.

3. PF Noah Vonleh

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 5 / Average

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 9 / Elite

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

4. PF Julius Randle

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 6 / Decent

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

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

5. SG Jordan Adams

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 6 / Decent

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good

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

Vonleh and Randle are the first two of a strong power forward class. Both with outstanding strength, Randle is the more athletic player, while Vonleh is longer. Both have a fluid feel and craftiness, Vonleh’s even better than Randle’s. The trick for both is adding the perimeter shot. They’ve both shown enough to me in both perimeter attempts and FT shooting, to make me believe they will be mid-range jumpshooters in the pros. When added to their strength, feel and touch at the rim, it should be enough to be starting 4s.

Adams is a very similar prospect to Stauskas. He can shoot, has an above average feel for the game and has the ballhandling and enough athleticism to drive. I see Stauskas as the better handler and more explosive off the dribble, but Adams to have better lateral mobility and strength.

6. PF Aaron Gordon

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 8 / Great

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 8 / Great

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

7. PG Marcus Smart

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, lateral quickness, size) 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)

8. PG Jahii Carson

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 8 / Great

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 7 / Very good

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

9. SF K.J. McDaniels

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade- 5 / Average

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 9 / Elite

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

10. SF Mario Hezonja

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) 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)

11. PF Adreian Payne

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) 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)

12. PF Jabari Parker

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 3 / Weak

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 9 / Elite

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

13. SF Rodney Hood

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 3 / Weak

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 9 / Elite

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

14. SG Bogdan Bogdanovic

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) 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)

Gordon, Smart and Carson are intriguing talents. Gordon and Carson are two of the best athletes in the draft. Smart is not as athletic as them, but has great height and strength for his position. When added to above average feel/fluidity for all 3, the only difference between them and star talents is skill. Gordon is an all-around mess in that area, a grade of 4 admittedly is giving him the benefit of the doubt the can improve to OK. Smart and Carson are unreliable outside shooters. Still, they’re talented enough to be good players even with below average skill games – and great players if they make great leaps in the area.

Parker, Hood and Bogdanovic are somewhat on the opposite end. They have great perimeter skill and feel for the game, but do not show an explosive ability to attack the basket or physically impact the game, in addition to likely defensive concerns. Still, there is typically a place in starting lineups and the “blue chip” core for outside shooting and feel at a terrific level.

Hezonja and Payne somewhat bridge the above two gaps. They have athleticism and perimeter skill, but neither at an elite level. (Notably, including Hezonja here is almost pointless – by most accounts, there is almost no way he declares for this draft). McDaniels combination of feel, size and lateral mobility make him an excellent defensive prospect, while offensively he has 3 point range, even if not a slasher.

15. PG Jordan Clarkson

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) 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)

16. SG Semaj Christon

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) 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)

17. PF Dario Saric

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 2 / Very poor

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 10 / Incredible

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

Like Marcus Smart, Clarkson has an impressive combination of size and feel. While not a great athlete his ballhandling skills helps him drive. His 3 point shooting is unreliable, but the tools are there to be a rock solid, two way PG in a game manager role. Semaj Christon can slash and has feel, but on the wing to really break out needs better outside shooting. Saric is unique in he’s the only player I have a perfect 10 grade given to in this draft, with an amazing feel for the game. He is however unexplosive and undersized for his likely position at PF, with signs of a perimeter jumpshot, though not enough to bank on. His potential as a post up threat looks legitimate.

18. PF Clint Capela

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 8 / Great

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 6 / Decent

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

19. PG Dante Exum

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 6 / Decent

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 7 / Very good

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

20. SF Andrew Wiggins

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 7 / Very good

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 6 / Decent

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

21. PG Deonte Burton

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) 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)

22. SF Kyle Anderson

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 3 / Weak

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 9 / Elite

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

23. SG Gary Harris

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 4 / Lacking

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 7 / Very good

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

24. SG P.J. Hairston

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade- 3 / Weak

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 7 / Very good

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

25. PF Doug McDermott

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) 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)

This is where the depth of the 2014 draft starts to shine, as I still consider these prospects to still be pretty good, potential starters. Of the group Capela and Burton have my highest physical impact score, both imposing their explosiveness on the competition in a terrific way. Anderson leads the way in feel for the game, garnering the nickname “slo-mo” for his smooth, crafty style. Harris and Hairston have “3 and D” potential for their outside shooting, feel and enough size, but may not attack the basket in the NBA offensively. McDermott is an absolutely elite outside shooter for a PF (a case can be made for deserving of the second 10 in the class, after Saric’s feel for the game) with a great feel for the game, but provides nothing in the physical impact category. And in the group is Wiggins and Exum, currently mocked as top 5 picks. I’ve made my reservations about Wiggins known multiple times, such as in this post. As for Dante Exum, when looking at the only footage I trust of him in the Nike Hoop Summit game (because of its filming on TV cameras), I did not see as explosive an athlete as his reputation. He is also a hard player to peg in the skill impact category. The word seemingly, is outside shooting is a weakness more than a strength. Overall for these prospects, their strengths are either not big enough strengths, or their weaknesses are too big of ones, to rate higher.

26. PF T.J. Warren

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade: – 2 / Very poor

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 8 / Great

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

The huge amount of 18 grade players, left only one in the 17 group. Warren will likely have to cut it as a stretch 4 in the NBA, where his outside shooting will likely be a strength instead of a weakness at SF. With his feel that may get him minutes, albeit physically he’ll be at a disadvantage, as neither explosive or big. His best chance to start is to become a great 3 point shooter.

27. SF Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) 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: 16 (Rotation player talent grade)

28. C Willie Cauley-Stein

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade: – 8 / Great

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 4 / Lacking

Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade)

29. SF Sam Dekker

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 3 / Weak

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade)

30. SG Wayne Selden, Jr.

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 4 / Lacking

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 7 / Very good

Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade)

31. PG Tyler Ennis

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 2 / Very poor

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 9 / Elite

Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade)

32. SF James Young

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 5 / Average

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 6 / Decent

Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade)

33. SG Zach Lavine

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 2 / Very poor

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade)

These are players for whom where they get drafted and to who, likely will determine whether they can stick as energy guys, shooters or game managers off the bench. At absolute best case scenario, largely in the skill development department, they could make a run at starting.

34. C Jusef Nurkic

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade – 6 / Decent

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 3 / Weak

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

35. SF Jerami Grant

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) 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)

36. PF Montrezl Harrell

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade: – 6 / Decent

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

Feel for the Game talent grade – 4 / Lacking

Total talent grade: 14 (Rotation player talent grade)

These players look like 2nd round caliber prospects. Nurkic is the latest international C to have a flawed, stiff feel for the game, which it would be hard to get past with his average athleticism. Grant is not really gifted either driving to the basket or shooting. Harrell is an athlete without much size, skill or feel or his position.

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Written by jr.

March 14, 2014 at 6:30 am

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