A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

The real big 3 of the 2014 draft

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By conventional wisdom along with seemingly NBA teams, there’s a “big 3” in this draft of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid.

In my draft rankings I have a big 3 of prospects I feel separate themselves as star talents, but only one of those players is in it. In addition to Embiid, I rate Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nik Stauskas as the other elite prospects.

What do I see in these 3 players? I’ll discuss each a bit

Bogdan Bogdanovic

Originally I toyed with the comparison of Joe Johnson or James Harden for Bogdanovic, before settling on the perfect one: Brandon Roy. Like him, Bogdanovic is a complete all around guard. He’s one of the most fluid players in the class, which I use to rate feel for the game. He has the first step and ballhandling to drive to the basket at a plus level for a guard. He has the wingspan and body of a small forward, but his lateral mobility is like a shooting guard or better. He hits 3s at a high volume and good % in Europe, which is more impressive than the NCAA because it’s closer to the NBA 3pt line. He has playmaking ability for a 2/3 and ran PG for a section of his team Partizan’s season, filling in for an injured teammate.

Bogdanovic would be a very good prospect just for his driving ability, fluidity and outside shooting, but what really puts him over the top is the complimentary gifts in length, strength, lateral mobility and passing. All of which individually make him a little better as a prospect, but by having all of them, make him significantly better. Bogdanovic is neither the fastest or best shooting prospect in this draft, but he doesn’t need to be if he’s good at both in a strong, long, fluid body who can pass.

If you’re wondering how it’s possible an international prospect expected to go in the 20s or 30s could potentially be the best in the draft, remember that Tony Parker went in the same range in his draft. At some point another international star will drop past teams and frankly, the Spurs are the heavy favorite to draft that star, in whatever draft it comes. In arguably the most talented international draft ever, the timing is logical for a star talent like this to be drafted outside of the top 20.

Nik Stauskas

If Bogdanovic is more like Roy, Stauskas is more like Manu Ginobili. Stauskas is the more skilled outside shooting prospect and he’s the more dynamic penetrator. In fact I rate Stauskas ability to penetrate as one of the best in the draft. He consistently drove into defenses that were well set and found his way behind the teeth of them, blowing by defenders and help defenders to finish. This is not only because of his strong ballhandling, but Stauskas is simply one of most underrated athletes in years, even showing explosive dunks, which although next to useless in evaluating a prospect, normally gets the attention of the media. Yes – I see explosive an athlete on offense as Ginobili was. If adding potentially standout penetrating to his likely elite outside shooting and standout passing skills for a SG, his offensive potential is enormous.

So why isn’t he rated 1st if he’s so offensively dynamic? He has a few weaknesses. His lateral mobility is below average for a 2 guard, while he has no better than average length or strength. Although he weighed slightly above average at the combine for a shooting guard prospect, he had surprising body fat %, so this could help explain that. All in all Stauskas is a below average defensive prospect and there’s a concern his strength could hurt him finishing at the basket. Finally, I consider Bogdanovic the more fluid and smooth player than Stauskas, who is still above average in the area but surpassed by a few.

A case can be made Stauskas is the most surefire NBA star of these 3 players. Embiid has the health concerns with his back and Bogdanovic has his European buyout as a minor issue, in addition to being drafted lower than the other players as a general disadvantage in regards to the developmental minutes and leash he’ll get in the league. With Stauskas his success to me seems practically in the bag.

Joel Embiid

My opinion of Embiid is largely similar to the masses. His defensive potential is extremely high because of his standout lateral mobility and length for his position, which should allow him to cover space on the ground and in the air defensively in a hurry. Offensively he has blow by athleticism against defenders and his footwork with his back to the basket can be exquisite. He’s one of the most fluid bigs in the class as well. The ability to anchor a defense, play in the post and drive to the basket could make him a huge impact player on both ends.

What is he missing? First, he weighs less than the average center despite being over 7 feet. There’s concerns he could struggle to hold position in the post or be scored on in the post defensively. Secondly his jumpshot range is still a work in progress. It can turn out to be great but it’s not a guarantee to. Embiid is probably a lock as a help defender, but as a man to man defender and as a scorer there’s a chance he’s good but not great. Still, the upside is enormous and if he stays healthy he has one of the highest floors, as he will produce at C.

What’s Embiid’s comparison? Many have been using Hakeem Olajuwon, but Hakeem is a smaller, more athletic body, in addition to more transcendent skill. Tim Duncan isn’t a great fit because he’s so much thicker. Personally I feel Brook Lopez and Pau Gasol are two of the closest in athleticism and strength level, while both are skilled players like Embiid. Embiid may end up more of a defensive presence than them, however. I feel the odds of him playing the 4 where he may be able to hold position in the post more, may be better than advertised. All in all, if the Cavaliers are going to pick one of him, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, they should clearly take Embiid if his health checks out.

As for the other two players, I would like to see Stauskas land in Charlotte, a team desperate for an offensive star and floor spacer and who have Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to cover Stauskas defensive flaws. And Bogdanovic? If he falls to the Spurs at #30 and they take him, the league is in all kinds of trouble because the potential of the Bogdanovic and Kawhi combination could be obscene – I suspect Bogdanovic would end up the SF of the future, leaving Green at the 2 – and Leonard moves to PF, where his defensive tools and outside shot make him the perfect modern day spacing/defense PF, a position I’d suspect he’d have been playing already if the Spurs team needs weren’t different. Bogdanovic would provide a needed on ball creator/penetrator playing between those 2 players, while also matching up in fluidity, outside shooting, length, defensive quickness and ability to move the ball.

Written by jr.

June 15, 2014 at 12:57 am

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