A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

2015 NBA Draft rankings!

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Here are my ratings for the 2015 draft. Note, the start of this post is going to be a whole lot of writing and explaining. If you just want to see the big board, scroll down until you find them.

Before starting I wanted to reiterate my goal with these ratings. I am trying to create a system that rates NBA draft prospects better than any other method. Over the years I have had people call me crazy when my rankings do not match conventional draft ratings. Well if you’re so certain the scouts know better than me, then the results should prove this right over time. I am doing this to test if I am correct. I cannot predict every prospect correctly. The goal is just to do better than anyone else can, just like the goal for a Vegas sharp is to hit on 57 or 58% of bets compared to 50% or less for the public.

I created the first version of system over 3 years ago when I hypothesized that the NBA does not evaluate skill and basketball IQ or “feel for the game” as ingrained talents enough. You will see every year how the players with athleticism or length for their position are called high upside prospects. The mentality was that physical tools cannot be taught but skills and IQ can. In reality many of the players who show special skills or IQ in college compared to their peers continue to have that advantage in the NBA. Every player can improve their skill level in the pros, but if a mediocre skill player in the NCAA has a chance to become slightly above average, a player already standing out in skill in the NCAA can improve just as much to become special in the NBA. As an example when looking at the top 2 in MVP voting this year in Stephen Curry and James Harden they seem solid examples of skills and feel for the game talent that can’t be taught anymore than the athleticism of a star like Russell Westbrook.

The sport that drafts the best of the major sports, the NHL, is also the one that understands this the best as they draft players rating skill and “hockey sense” as talents. As an example in the same year James Harden and Stephen Curry were drafted 3rd and 7th and were labelled as not having superstar upside, the NHL drafted John Tavares 1st over Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene despite Tavares having average speed and size and Hedman and Duchene having elite size/speed for a defenseman and elite speed for a forward respectively. Scouts at the time rated Tavares as having special skill and hockey sense talent to make up for lacking in size or speed compared to the others, and he has gone on to be a star by finishing top 3 in MVP voting for his second time this year.

Thus in my system I created a system grading talent as one third physical tools, one third skills and one third basketball IQ. However the results were mixed the first few years. One thing I learned is that athletic players who couldn’t dribble the ball had difficulty driving to the basket and using their physical tools. Thus I theorized that if ball-handling helps a player drive and create a greater impact of “motion” it should be grouped in the same category of athleticism, which also helps a player’s impact of motion-level. I realized that evaluating a player’s basketball IQ in college is hard because sometimes young players have the instincts to be smart NBA players but don’t show it in college. I found that evaluating them by their slippery craftiness and fluidity is a better way of showing their feel and instincts level, rather than their results. Finally over time it became clear to me that not every player reaches their talent and that if for example if a player is a senior and not dominating competition, or drawing major red flags by analytics regressions of players, it’s a sign they may not have what it takes to reach their talent at the NBA level.

Here is my method for how I rank every player. I use 5 models as I am unclear which one will be more successful. The first model is the talent grading method straight up, the 2nd uses conventional draft ratings as a weight, the 3rd uses PER for a player’s age as a weight and the 4th uses analytics. The 5th model is the first 4 models averaged to create one net ranking.

Model 1 – Rank their talent level using my system I have developed the last several years (“Traditional” talent grading model)

I split the player’s talent level into 3 categories:

Physical impact/motion talent level

I start with their athleticism or ballhandling skills and how much motion they affect the game with. It is hard to explain exactly the consistent visual clues I use for this, but they are consistent.

To give you an example in the case of D’Angelo Russell I give him a “6” in his combination of athleticism and ballhandling. I see slightly above average ability to drive to the basket, but not elite penetrating ability.

I then adjust his score by his length, strength level and lateral mobility. Russell is 6’5 but I care about length rather than the height of his head and he has a 6’9.75 wingspan. Average wingspan for a PG is around 6’5 and average wingspan for a SG is around 6’8, so if Russell plays PG where I project his game to fit best, he’ll have excellent length for a guard. His weight at 193 pounds is above rough average of 180 pounds for a PG. However Russell’s lateral mobility is a concern if he plays PG. Overall because of his length I am upgrading Russell’s grade in this category from 6 to 7. If he had better lateral mobility for a PG I may have given him an 8.

Skill impact talent level

The best way to describe what I am looking for is plays that can be described as “finesse”. All jumpshots fit into this category, whether spot up or off the dribble. Passing fits here. If post play is finesse-driven, this also fits here.

Russell’s case as a shooter is very good. He shot 41.1% from 3 as a freshman on 6.6 3pt attempts a game. Although his 3P% is nice, the volume is part of what makes that number impressive. His FT% however is only 75.6 FT% whereas I prefer elite shooting prospects to be over 80%. Russell isn’t just a shooter but one who can “create jumpers of the dribble” which makes me more encouraged about his talent scoring from the perimeter.

Russell also is a superb passer, perhaps the best in this class bar none. He has some skills scoring in the post.

If rating Russell just for his outside jumper I would rate him a 6. However other skills such as the ability to create jumpers off the dribble, passing skills and post skills makes me bump him up two grades to an 8.

Feel for the Game talent level

Rating players in this category is almost entirely visual techniques-driven based on their fluidity in plays like driving and post. Thus explaining to people how my ratings in this category are as consistent player to player as the other categories, has been the most difficult thing for people to accept. Over time I’ve become more conservative rating players too high or too low in this category and rate most between 6 and 8, thus the impact of this category can be more limited than in the other two where the difference between the highest scoring and lowest scoring can be wider. In this case my grade for Russell is an 8 as he more than passes the test for a strong feel for the game talent.

D’Angelo Russell’s combined grade is 23, which is tied for the highest grade I gave this year.

When ranking players in this model I use a few tiebreakers when they have the same grade. Because of the presumption skill can be improved more easier than physical tools or feel for the game, if having the same total grade, the higher ranked player is the one with the highest combined grade in the physical impact and feel for the game categories. If they have both the same total grade and the same combined physical impact and feel for the game, the player with the higher feel for the game ranks highest as there is still ways to improve in the physical impact category, such as improving ballhandling, or becoming stronger, or in the rare case growing longer arms. If players are tied in every way, they are given the same ranking.

Model 2 – In this model I take the above talent grades and I weight it by conventional draft scouting.

My method for this is simple. I take the player’s rank in my first model, then average it with where the player is ranked on Chad Ford’s top 100 big board on ESPN.com. The top 100 I used was as of June 18th. D’Angelo Russell ranked 2nd on the ESPN big board and tied for 1st in my talent model, therefore by averaging the two numbers his rating in this model is 1.5, which ranks 1st in this model.

Model 3 – PER for age weighted system

First, I rate a player’s production by college PER (via Draftexpress.com) using these benchmarks

Freshman – The player’s PER minus 22

Sophomore – The player’s PER minus 24

Junior – The player’s PER minus 26

Senior – The player’s PER minus 28

This is intended to reflect how player’s production is supposed to increase as they get older. As an example Karl Anthony-Towns PER of 31.6 is +9.6 over 22 but Frank Kaminsky’s PER of 34.9 is only +6.9 compared to the senior mark of 28, so even though Kaminsky had a higher PER because of the age benchmark Towns number is rated as more impressive. D’Angelo Russell had a PER of 26.8 which as a freshman made him a +4.8, compared to the freshman benchmark of 22.

I take this PER difference and add it to the player’s talent grade. So Russell’s since Russell is +4.8, after adding it to his talent rating of 23, his rating in this category is 27.8, which ranks 3rd for this class in this model.

For international players I give them a neutral grade. For example since Kristaps Porzingis talent grade is 19, this rating in the PER weighted model is 19. For the record there were 20 NCAA prospects with a positive PER above the following benchmarks for their age, so for international prospects it’s as if their PER was the equivalent of the 21st best performing NCAA prospects.

Model 4 – Analytics weighted model

There have been some successful attempts to use analytics to rate draft prospects in recent years that use a regression to determine factors like steal rate, block rate, rebounding, age, conference, are important to predicting draft success. The system that has garnered the most attention is the “EWP” model by Layne Vashro or VJL on some forums. I asked him last year whether I could use his EWP in one of my models and he agreed, therefore my system is this:

I start with his EWP ratings top 70 posted here http://apbr.org/metrics/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=8904&start=45  and I add the player’s EWP to the player’s talent rating.

D’Angelo Russell has a class leading rating of 11.7 EWP, which when added to his talent rating of 23 is 34.7, which ranks 1st in this model.

On the EWP post, international players are not ranked. For international prospects I went to Kevin Pelton’s who’s translations are considered the best out there. I compared Pelton’s WARP in this post http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/draft2015/insider/story/_/id/12921781/kevin-pelton-statistical-big-board-20-nba-2015-draft

… to EWP by averaging the 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th and 30th players on each board. From this I decided to multiply an international player’s WARP by 2.5 to get a fair equivalent of the ranking on EWP. For example Kristaps Porzingis’s 3.3 WARP in Pelton’s system multiplied by 2.5 translates to 8.25 EWP, which would have ranked 5th on that list.

Model 5 – Mixed Model

Finally, to rank players in an overall big board, I add all these models together by adding together the ratings on all their models. This is the format that dictates my big board in this post.

D’Angelo Russell ranked tied for 1st in the traditional talent grading model, 1st on the ESPN weighted model, 3rd in the PER weighted model and 1st in the analytics/APBR weighted model. His average ranking is 1.5, his highest ranking is 1 and his lowest ranking is 3rd.

If players are tied in the average for mixed model, I broke the tie according to who rated higher in the talent model (Model 1).

When reading these rankings remember that they are all weighted by my talent grading method which is supposed to the thing making these rankings unique from the others. For example A player can have a top 10 rating on the EWP model and still rank out of the top 20 in the APBR model if his talent grading started low enough. The rankings in my models are not reflective of where they rank via ESPN’s big board, PER for their age or APBR as all the models are dictated by talent.

I have 64 prospects on my list. Their ranking by the mixed model:

1. PG D’Angelo Russell

Traditional model (T-1), ESPN weighted model (1) PER weighted model (3), APBR weighted model (1). Average: 1.75. Highest: 1, Lowest: 4

2. C Jahlil Okafor

Traditional model (4), ESPN weighted model (T-2), PER weighted model  (2), APBR weighted model  (3). Average: 2.75. Highest: 2, Lowest: 4

3. C Karl-Anthony Towns

Traditional model  (T-6), ESPN weighted model  (T-2), PER weighted  model (1), APBR weighted model  (2). Average: 2.75. Highest: 1, Lowest: 6

The story for these players is surprisingly similar. All 3 have an excellent feel for the game and not elite athletes. Russell has enough speed and ballhandling to drive into the paint at a decent level. Okafor and Towns are grounded players but I see more mobility from Okafor with some quickness driving past bigs, running in transition and lifting for alley oops. All 3 prospects are blessed with excellent length and strength for their position.

Russell had an excellent combination of 3P% and 3pt shooting for a young guard. His FT% is only in the 70s which draws a little doubt about whether he will be elite as a shooter. More elite is his passing which is one of the best in the draft. Okafor is a very skilled post player and finisher however his low FT% and lack of outside jumpers this year could make him a near the rim player only. In the modern spacing-centric NBA this is a large weakness. Towns has a better chance at shooting from the outside at least from midrange if not from 3 both by having a FT% over 80% and a history of perimeter shooting in high school.

Despite Okafor having enough more lenght and size than Towns, Towns clearly had the better defensive season. The question is whether this is due to NCAA contextual reasons or reasons that will continue to the NBA. Towns played on a deeper team where he could play aggressively on defense while Okafor had to conserve fouls to stay on the floor for offensive reasons. Once in the NBA will Okafor’s defensive effort improve to match his great tools on that end?

What seals the deal for these 3 prospects is how complete their resumes are. All 3 are rated as top 5 prospects by conventional scouts, have excellent PER for their age and are rated as elite players by analytics. When added to their talent level everything is pointing towards them being sure things to be at least good players in the NBA with star potential.

Subjectively even though he does not rank 1st by my system I may still take Towns of this 3 if given the choice. My system relies on using college numbers and conventional draft rating to help determine whether a player will rate their talent. By these numbers Okafor and Russell rate as well as Towns. However by the eye test it felt like Towns was a more physical player than the other 2. He relished in putting his body into the opponent making their knees buckle on defense and playing hard defense. Okafor and Russell’s games were more finesse driven and Okafor’s body was not in as strong as shape. To me it feels like Towns may be the most likely to reach his talent for reasons that don’t show up in these numbers, especially when compared to Okafor.

For player comparisons I like healthy Deron Williams for D’Angelo Russell as a big, smooth guard who can pass and shoot. Karl-Anthony Towns is like Al Horford in Derrick Favors body which could be an elite player. If you squint hard enough you can see Tim Duncan in Okafor if he improves defensively but perhaps a bigger Zach Randolph is a more reasonable comparison.

4. PG Delon Wright

Traditional model (3), ESPN weighted  model (8), PER weighted model  (9), APBR weighted  model (4). Average: 6.0. Highest: 3, Lowest: 9

Wright is the only prospect after Russell, Okafor and Towns who ranks top 10 in all my models. He rates for me as one of the most talented prospects in the draft. Although not an elite athlete he has enough to drive to the basket, strong length for his position, a great feel, the ability to shoot from the outside and strong passing ability. His all around play could give him all-star potential in the NBA like how a player such as Mike Conley, Jr. or Kyle Lowry has impressed across the board.

The knock on Wright is he is 23 years old already. But his statistical production was so good in college that he managed to rate as a top 10 prospect on analytics boards which dock a player heavily for age and also rated positively in my personal PER by age system which also makes it harder to look good as a player gets older. Although Wright’s age can’t be ignored there have been all-star successes drafted old in recent years. Both his game and stats point towards a breakout candidate like this in Wright.

 5. PG Emmanuel Mudiay

Traditional model (T-11), ESPN weighted model  (4), PER weighted model  (T-14), APBR weighted model  (7). Average: 9.0. Highest: 4, Lowest: 14

6. PG Cameron Payne

Traditional model (T-9), ESPN weighted model (5), PER weighted model  (5), APBR weighted model  (19). Average: 9.5. Highest: 5, Lowest: 19

7. PF Frank Kaminsky

Traditional model  (T-19), ESPN weighted model  (T-12), PER weighted model  (4), APBR weighted model  (5). Average: 10. Highest: 4, Lowest: 19

8. SF Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Traditional model  (7), ESPN weighted model  (9), PER weighted model  (18), APBR weighted model  (9). Average: 10.75. Highest: 7, Lowest: 18

These players all perform excellently on some models and not as impressively on others. Emmanuel Mudiay has an impressive combination of size, speed and passing ability for a point guard that should make him a good bet to start in the NBA. Conventional scouts are high on him as well, rating him as a top 5 caliber pick. Although he played in China and it his hard to judge his numbers, Kevin Pelton’s method for NBA to China translation rated Mudiay as having performed strongly for his age.

Mudiay’s weakness is his shooting ability and although a good athlete, he is not as elite of one as players like John Wall and Russell Westbrook. Eric Bledsoe’s penetration-driven game in the NBA is one Mudiay can aspire to.

Frank Kaminsky rated the lowest of these players in my talent grading, as despite his high skill level and feel his tools on the defensive end will hurt him. He is a good ball-handler but with his average athleticism should still be a perimeter oriented player. He is a good shooter but not an elite one for a big man, although his passing skills for a PF or C are special. He is rated as a mid-lotto prospect and not a potential star by conventional scouts. However the numbers play in his favor. He put up an elite PER for his age and analytics support him as a top 7 or 8 prospect in the draft. Kaminsky is not perfect but has the offensive skills to be a starting PF or C.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is a great defensive talent. Of him, Justise Winslow and Stanley Johnson, Hollis-Jefferson is the one with the major length with a 7’2 wingspan. He has strong lateral quickness and a quality feel. Hollis-Jefferson has the ability to drive to the basket and although he has been scouted as a poor shooter, by hitting over 70% from the FT line it helps show his shot mechanics aren’t broken. Kawhi Leonard dropping in the draft because of a supposed broken jumpshot is a sign not to pick Hollis-Jefferson too low. For a sophomore Hollis-Jefferson did not have an impressive PER because of his scoring in the NCAA, however because of rebounding and steals he was rated as a lottery caliber prospect by APBR.

Cameron Payne is a quality all around PG prospect. His great feel and playmaking skills should make him a good game manager in the NBA. He has decent but not exemplary athleticism but his length helps give him appealing physical tools in the NBA. He shot a good 3 pt% on a high volume and shot FTs in the high 70s, which isn’t an elite college shooting season but is enough to translate to the NBA. Cameron Payne isn’t a “wow” talent in any area but has a complete combination of size, speed, shooting and passing that can make him a starter. Payne played in a mid-major conference which helps and hurts him in the models. The lower level of competition allowed him to put up a stronger performance in PER for his age but his poorer rating in the analytics models is in large part due to docking him for playing in a lesser conference.

9. C Guillermo Hernangomez

Traditional model  (T-9), ESPN weighted model  (T-18), PER weighted model  (12), APBR weighted model  (12). Average: 12.75. Highest: 9, Lowest: 18

10. SF Mario Hezonja

Traditional model (T-16), ESPN weighted model (7), PER weighted model  (15), APBR weighted model  (15). Average: 13.25. Highest: 7, Lowest: 16

11. C Willie Cauley-Stein

Traditional model (13), ESPN/DX weighted model  (6), PER weighted model  (26), APBR weighted model  (10). Average: 14.0. Highest: 6, Lowest: 26

Guillermo Hernangomez rates as one of the most underrated prospects in the draft. Hernangomez plays on the same team as Kristaps Porzingis and is as productive albeit at an older age. He has impressive strength level for a center and quality length. He has a smooth, fluid feel that allows him to play in the post. Although not a high flying athlete I believe his mobility is underrated as he can drive to the rim off pick and rolls. I can even see some Marc Gasol in Hernangomez’s game because his physical dimensions and natural feel. Herangomez rates as a 1st round prospect on Pelton’s WARP list. His ranking in conventional wisdom is his weakness, as he is currently projected as a fringe 1st rounder. Other than that he looks like a starting caliber talent in the NBA.

Hezonja has quality size and speed driving to the basket and a good, but not great outside jumpshooting career so far. He has a quality feel and craftiness. Although having the talent to be a starting player Hezonja’s production was not elite, still playing as a role player on his European team and rating out of Kevin Pelton’s top 20 in his European translation. Conventional scouts are high on him and he should get the opportunity to succeed in the NBA. Hezonja has a chance to be a Danillo Gallinari type asset in the NBA.

Willie Cauley-Stein’s size, athleticism and elite lateral mobility should make him a good bet to start in the NBA. With the need for defensive centers a team will find a place for him. His PER for his age was unimpressive in part because of his scoring and partly because his rebounding was good but not elite for his physical tools. His average strength for a big man could hurt him on the boards. Analytics rate him as a lottery caliber prospect. Although he rates low on one of my models, I still have a hard time seeing Cauley-Stein having a worse career than Samuel Dalembert had.

12. PG Joseph Young

Traditional model (1), ESPN weighted model (T-10), PER weighted model (25), APBR weighted model (20). Average: 14.0. Highest: 1, Lowest: 25

Believe it or not Joseph Young rated as tied for 1st bar in my talent model. He rated as one of the best shooters in the draft, with a great feel for the game, the speed/ballhandling to drive to the basket and his length/strength was no worse than average for his position. If a young player this would be the recipe for a star.

Ok, but things have changed compared to the first few years of my model. I now take into account numbers more and Young’s case begins to fall apart there. He is a senior with non-elite PER for his age for such a high talent and his analytics rating lists him as barely draftable. Conventional scouts also see him as a borderline 1st round prospect. So when those are taking the together the odds are unlikely Young becomes a star. Still he may be worth the longshot puncher’s bet to beat the odds. Not to mention even if he doesn’t become a star he still may leverage his shooting, feel and speed into becoming a quality contributor in the NBA like a Leandro Barbosa or Lou Williams scorer.

13. SF Sam Dekker

Traditional model (14), ESPN weighted model (10), PER weighted model (16), APBR weighted model (19). Average: 14.75. Highest: 10, Lowest: 19

14. PF Bobby Portis

Traditional (T-19), ESPN weighted (T-14), PER weighted (T-6), APBR weighted (28). Average: 16.75. Highest: 6, Lowest; 28.

15. PF Kristaps Porzingis

Traditional (30), ESPN weighted (12), PER weighted (T-19), APBR weighted (6). Average: 16.75. Highest: 6, Lowest: 30

Dekker has a quality combination of speed and size for a wing that could make him a two way player. He 3s in college at an average rate and barely broke 70% from the FT line so his jumpshot is a question mark but is not broken. Dekker also has an excellent feel and craftiness. The success of a player like DeMarre Carroll is something Dekker can aspire too. Dekker’s production by PER and APBR rating, are average for his age, but worth enough to back up his place as a top 20 caliber prospect.

Portis has underwhelming athleticism for a power forward, but has a skilled perimeter game for a 4 and a great feel. How to judge his numbers is difficult. On one hand by PER he had a superb NCAA season, but for a reason I don’t fully understand, his APBR rating was quite poor and outside of the top 30 in the EWP model. He is considered a player who plays with an elite motor and work ethic which should help him contribute in the NBA and has a possible chance of breaking out like David West.

Porzingis has impressive length, lateral ability and athleticism for a 7 footer however his body strength is concerning and could lead him to struggle in the post and on the boards. He is a skilled but not elite outside shooter. Porzingis feel for the game did not impress me as often he looked mechanical instead of fluid and crafty. Another concern I have about Porzingis is that the more perimeter oriented a big man is, the more like a perimeter player ball-handling skills are required to drive into the paint and take advantage of their speed. This need for ballhandling from a perimeter player has kept some big men draft picks in the past like Derrick Williams, Anthony Bennett and Andrea Bargnani to the perimeter.

Pelton rates Porzingis as an elite prospect, as a productive 19 year old at a high level in Europe. His production in Europe should at least guarantee a stable NBA career even in worst case scenario instead of a “full Yi Jianlian/Jan Vesely”. If Porzingis disappoints as a top 4 I could still see him putting up solid advanced numbers like Jonas Valanciunas has in a slightly underwhelming career so far.

16. C Robert Upshaw

Traditional (T-11), ESPN weighted (T-27), PER weighted (T-6), APBR weighted (27). Average: 17.75. Highest: 6, Lowest: 27

17. PF Myles Turner

Traditional (T-28), ESPN weighted (17), PER weighted (10), APBR weighted (16). Average: 17.75. Highest: 10, Lowest: 28

Upshaw is a hard prospect to rate for multiple reasons. His size, above the rim athleticism, feel and college production would normally make him a lotto caliber prospect however substance abuse red flags makes him a risk to take, much like Royce White’s mental health red flags in his career. Upshaw’s red flags are reflected in how he rated lower in conventional scouting than he would normally would and also I believe the minimal games he played this year hurt him in EWP analytics rating where he rated as a non 1st round prospect. Overall it’s hard to tell where to take Upshaw without having more information about his personal life but if he gets his head on track he could be a top 10 player in the draft and longtime starter as a rebounding, shotblocking and at the rim finisher at center. Upshaw’s red flags makes him risky, but his game would otherwise be less risky than a lot of prospects since it’s hard for a center with his likely defensive skills to not be a starter. So some of his riskiness is cancelled out.

I struggle with Turner’s limited athleticism and body, although he has a good midrange jumpshot, feel and length for his position though doesn’t appear to be as strong in either of those areas as Bobby Portis. Both his PER for his age and analytics play favorably for him. Conventional scouts like him but are concerned about him reaching his talent level instead of being an enigma. Turner is an interesting prospect as he has defensive potential and could hit an outside jumper.

18. PF Christian Wood

Traditional (T-19), ESPN weighted (T-27), PER weighted (12), APBR weighted (14). Average: 15.5. Highest: 12, Lowest: 19

Wood is not an elite athlete but has what would be great length at a stretch power forward and would be elite length for a small forward. Although he is thin with the way the game is going I suspect a skilled 3 pt shooting power forward is his future. He is a solid not great 3pt shooter, but for the PF position that is still quality skills for the NCAA. Wood reminds me of a Rashard Lewis-like, skinny, skilled, long power forward and could be a draft steal based on talent. Wood rates as a lotto caliber prospect by analytics and had impressive PER for his age. Something about him is driving conventional scouts away from him as he is now projected to fall to the 2nd round, so perhaps he is considered an enigma by those who look closer. In general he looks like he could be a steal if he falls that far with both talent and production playing his way.

19. PG Corey Hawkins

Traditional (5), ESPN weighted (41), PER weighted (8), APBR weighted (26). Average: 20.0. Highest: 5, Lowest: 41

20. PG Jerian Grant

Traditional (T-16), ESPN weighted (T-16), PER weighted (29), APBR weighted (21). Average: 20.5. Highest: 16, Lowest: 29

21. SF Stanley Johnson

Traditional (T-34), ESPN weighted (T-19), PER weighted (22), APBR weighted (11). Average: 21.5. Highest: 11, Lowest: 34

Like Joe Young, Corey Hawkins is an unheralded guard who rated very high in my talent grading with great perimeter shooting ability, size for a point guard, feel for the game and a decent ability to drive. However for an old player in a poor conference, while his production by PER was solid, it wasn’t so dominant as a player like Damian Lillard. This is part of the reason why he rates so poorly by conventional scouts and by analytics which knock players for conference and age. At the same time with his skill and physical tools he could break out to a solid career.

Jerian Grant is the definition of a “solid, but unspectacular prospect”. He has decent size, athleticism and skills for a point guard, however his production gets less impressive when taking into account his older age compared to competition. Conventional scouts also appear to be taking a “he’s fine, but nothing spectacular” position with him.

Stanley Johnson has impressive size for a small forward however I am concerned about the combination of his speed and ballhandling keeping him to the perimeter in the NBA. His shooting is average for a wing prospect and he has a quality but not elite feel for the game. His length and lateral mobility is good for a wing but not elite as elite as a prospect like Hollis-Jefferson. Overall one has to be concerned about him having the shooting and ballhandling skills to start in the NBA if his defense isn’t special Johnson. is rated as a top 10 prospect by conventional scouts and rated top 5 on the analytics rating EWP which helps his case to reach whatever talent he has and become an NBA rotation player.

22. PG Andrew Harrison

Traditional (8), ESPN weighted (T-19), PER weighted (T-44), APBR weighted (T-22). Average: 23.25. Highest: 8, Lowest: 44

23. PG Tyus Jones

Traditional (T-28), ESPN weighted (T-24), PER weighted (T-29), APBR weighted (13). Average: 23.5. Highest: 13, Lowest: 29

Harrison and Jones are to an extent inverses of each other. Harrison’s production in NCAA was undeniably brutal however the talent level is still there. He is a big guard with the speed to the drive, some craftiness and fluidity and had a quite solid combination of 3pt shooting and FT% in college. He is worth the pick as a longshot chance of reaching his talent as a star or finding a way off the bench.

Jones case is more about numbers than talent. Doesn’t have impressive size or ability to drive to the basket, but has quality shooting and feel for the game. By PER his season was only solid for his age, but rates as a top 10 prospect on analytics boards. He is a player long raved about his work ethic and leadership so he may be a good bet to reach whatever talent he has in the NBA, even if just as as solid backup.

24. PF Richaun Holmes

Traditional (T-24), ESPN weighted (T-33), PER weighted (11), APBR weighted (T-32). Average: 25.0. Highest: 13, Lowest: 29

25. SF Justise Winslow

Traditional (T-41), ESPN weighted (T-21), PER weighted (T-31), APBR weighted (8). Average: 25.25. Highest: 8, Lowest: 29

Winslow ranking this low may may be one of the bigger head turners on this list. In his favor analytics love him and rank him as a top 3 or 4 prospect in the draft. Conventional scouts rate him as a top 7 or 8 prospect. The word about Winslow’s work ethic is incredible and he improved over the course of the season. If taking the second half of the season he may have made him perform better on the PER and APBR models to rate higher on this list. Winslow is a great bet to reach whichever talent level he has.

My issues is with talent level. First of all, his 64% FT and poor midrange shooting numbers makes me discount his over 40% 3pt shooting as meaningful as the FT shooting is more reflective of mechanics that could hurt him in the NBA. As a defensive prospect while he has great strength his wingspan is average for a small forward which makes him less special on that end. I am also not blown away by his athleticism. Although a smooth player I didn’t see great explosiveness driving past opponents to the rim and his speed on defense looked good but not special. My concern with Winslow is offensively he will struggle without the ballhandling ability to drive well or perimeter shooting and defensively he will be fine but not enough of an elite talent to make up for it. Still, if he develops a good outside shot he has a chance to be a quality two way player. Winslow rating this low does mean he can’t become a lottery caliber prospect in this draft just that I rate his chances as a lower than players in front of him. Considering unlike some of the other prospects ahead of him he ranks as high as 8th on one of my models this also helps his case.

Richaun Holmes is a very productive player for his age by PER however he did it in a weak enough conference to make his analytics rating worse.  and has a solid perimeter skill level and feel for a likely NBA PF. For a power forward he shows decent potential as a midrange shooter and solid feel, though I didn’t see great separation athletically.

26. PF Trey Lyles

Traditional (T-24), ESPN weighted (T-14), PER weighted (T-34), APBR weighted (T-32). Average: 26.0. Highest: 14, Lowest: 34

27. SF Kelly Oubre

Traditional (T-34), ESPN weighted (T-21), PER weighted (32), APBR weighted (21). Average: 27.0. Highest: 21, Lowest: 32

28. PF Montrezl Harrell

Traditional (T-22), ESPN weighted (T-22), PER weighted (T-34), APBR weighted (35). Average: 28.0. Highest: 22, Lowest: 35

29. SF Justin Anderson

Traditional (27), ESPN weighted (26), PER weighted (T-37), APBR weighted (T-23). Average: 28.25. Highest: 23, Lowest: 37

30. PG Oliver Hanlan

Traditional (T-16), ESPN weighted (T-24), PER weighted (41), APBR weighted (34). Average: 28.75. Highest: 16, Lowest: 41

Trey Lyles is mocked top 10 in the draft by conventional drafts however I have some problems with his talent level. Although a fluid and smart player, I don’t see a lot of athletic separation or ballhandling ability for a perimeter player and his outside jumper needs a lot of work. He feels like he could be stuck between positions and not skilled enough to play a small forward and a softer small 4 who’s not a true perimeter shooter. His numbers for a freshman at Kentucky were underwhelming as well.

Kelly Oubre has impressive length and fluidity for a small forward, however I don’t see a lot of speed or ballhandling. His outside shooting and feel is fine, but not elite. He is rated as a project by conventional scouts and has average numbers by PER for a freshman but was liked by analytics. Harrell is an old prospect without impressive numbers either by traditional or analytics metrics although he has some athleticism and some signs of a perimeter jumper. I was not the most impressed by Justin Anderson’s feel or his ballhandling skills to drive, though he has a chance to be an athletic shooter.

Hanlan rated as the top talent of this group for me with the ability to penetrate, shoot from the outside and solid feel. However his mediocre production for his age and his rating by conventional scouts make him less less likely to success.

31. PF Kevon Looney

Traditional (T-44), ESPN weighted (T-29), PER weighted (33), APBR weighted (17). Average:. 30.75 Highest: 17 , Lowest: 44

32. SG Aaron Harrison

Traditional (15), ESPN weighted (42), PER weighted (T-49), APBR weighted (T-21). Average:. 31.75, Highest: 15 Lowest: 49

Looney rates as a top 20 prospect in the APBR weighted model because he rated top 10 in the EWP rating, which makes him an interesting prospect although I am not as impressed by his combination of shooting or ballhandling skills and athleticism.

Like his twin Aaron Harrison had very poor production and is rated as a fringe draftable prospect, but I like his talent as an athletic, big guard who projects to shoot in the NBA.

33. C Chris McCullough

Traditional (T-34), ESPN weighted (T-29), PER weighted (48), APBR weighted (T-29). Average: 35.0. Highest: 29, Lowest: 48

34. PG Tyler Harvey

Traditional (31), ESPN weighted (45), PER weighted (23), APBR weighted (42). Average: 35.25. Highest: 23, Lowest: 45

35. C Dakari Johnson

Traditional (T-32), ESPN weighted (T-31), PER weighted (42), APBR weighted (37). Average: 35.5, Highest: 31, Lowest: 42

36. PF Arturas Gudaitis

Traditional (T-34), ESPN weighted (50), PER weighted (27), APBR weighted (36). Average: 36.75, Highest: 27, Lowest: 50

37. PF Aaron White

Traditional (40), ESPN weighted (51), PER weighted (17), APBR weighted (39). Average: 36.75, Highest: 17, Lowest: 51

38. C Cliff Alexander

Traditional (43), ESPN weighted (T-43), PER weighted (24), APBR weighted (46). Average: 39.0 Highest: 24.0, Lowest: 46

39. SG Michael Frazier II

Traditional (T-24), ESPN weighted (37), PER weighted (T-60), APBR weighted (T-37). Average: 39.5. Highest: 24, Lowest: 60

40. PF Rakeem Christmas

Traditional (T-32), ESPN weighted (T-33), PER weighted (40), APBR weighted (T-53). Average: 39.5, Highest: 32, Lowest: 53

A player that intrigues me in this group is Tyler Harvey as I believe he is the best shooter in the draft bar none. Not only are his 3P%, 3PA and FT% numbers the best when taken together, but visually he is taking shots off the dribble in the tightest of space in a “Steph Curry” like way. He has no defensive position and is not a great penetrator, but on shooting alone is worth paying attention to. Michael Frazier II also could rate as a great shooter as Pelton did a regression ranking him as the best shooter ahead of Harvey, although his system used multiple college seasons.

Chris McCullough has intriguing feels and skills, although in a skill body. Aaron White is an impressive athlete with outside shooting and passing, though poor size for a PF. Dakari Johnson and Cliff Alexander have a chance to make it based on being a big, warm body alone. Arturas Gudaitis is an athlete with some skill, though could use more strength and length. Production and analytics don’t help these prospects but they do have intriguing talent level and are worth a puncher’s chance.

41. SG Norman Powell

Traditional (23), ESPN weighted (38), PER weighted (63), APBR weighted (41). Average:. 41.25, Highest: 23, Lowest: 63

42. SF R.J. Hunter

Traditional (T-49), ESPN weighted (T-35), PER weighted (38), APBR weighted (47). Average:. 42.25, Highest: 35, Lowest: 49

43. PG Terry Rozier

Traditional (T-44), ESPN weighted (T-35), PER weighted (47), APBR weighted (52). Average:. 44.5, Highest: 35, Lowest: 52

44. SG Devin Booker

Traditional (52), ESPN weighted (T-31), PER weighted (55), APBR weighted (T-42). Average:. 45.0, Highest: 31, Lowest: 55

Booker and Hunter are two players rated high in the draft who rank out of the top 40 here based on poor rating in my talent system. Both are good shooters but not elite enough to carry them to a high ranking alone. Nothing else looks impressive to me about them, with weak defensive tools and ability to drive and their numbers don’t back up their case. They have a chance to make it based on opportunity and shooting, but if they are merely decent shooters isn’t of great, they could also flame out.

The rest of my rated prospects:

45. SG Cedi Osman

Traditional (53), ESPN weighted (46), PER weighted (44), APBR weighted (41). Average:. 46.0, Highest: 41, Lowest: 53

46. SG Tyler Haws

Traditional (T-38), ESPN weighted (60), PER weighted (28), APBR weighted (60). Average:. 46.5, Highest: 28, Lowest: 60

47. PF Jarell Martin

Traditional (48), ESPN weighted (T-39), PER weighted (T-52), APBR weighted (T-50). Average:. 47.25, Highest: 39, Lowest: 52

48. PF Jordan Mickey

Traditional (T-44), ESPN weighted (T-48), PER weighted (51), APBR weighted (T-53). Average:. 49.0, Highest: 51, Lowest: 53

49. SG J.P. Tokoto

Traditional (T-41), ESPN weighted (47), PER weighted (68), APBR weighted (42). Average:. 49.5, Highest: 41, Lowest: 68

50. PF Jonathan Holmes

Traditional (T-38), ESPN weighted (T-48), PER weighted (64), APBR weighted (T-49). Average:. 49.75, Highest: 38, Lowest: 64

51. PF Vince Hunter

Traditional (59), ESPN weighted (53), PER weighted (T-34), APBR weighted (T-53). Average:. 49.75, Highest: 34, Lowest: 59

52. SG Rashad Vaughn

Traditional (58), ESPN weighted (T-39), PER weighted (T-49), APBR weighted (58). Average:. 51.0, Highest: 39, Lowest: 58

53. PG T.J. McConnell

Traditional (T-44), ESPN weighted (58), PER weighted (59), APBR weighted (T-48). Average:. 52.25, Highest: 44, Lowest: 59

54. PG Guo Ailun

Traditional (T-54), ESPN weighted (63), PER weighted (T-44), APBR weighted (T-53). Average:. 53.5, Highest: 44 , Lowest: 63

55. SF Pat Connaughton

Traditional (T-49), ESPN weighted (T-51), PER weighted (67), APBR weighted (T-48). Average:. 53.75, Highest: 48, Lowest: 67

56. SF Anthony Brown

Traditional (51), ESPN weighted (T-43), PER weighted (66), APBR weighted (T-59). Average:. 54.75, Highest: 43, Lowest: 66

57. C Mouhammadou Jaiteh

Traditional (60), ESPN weighted (54), PER weighted (53), APBR weighted (T-62). Average:. 57.25. Highest: 53, Lowest: 62

58. C Alan Williams

Traditional (T-61), ESPN weighted (59), PER weighted (T-42), APBR weighted (67). Average:. 57.25, Highest: 42, Lowest: 67

59. SG Michael Qualls

Traditional (T-54), ESPN weighted (57), PER weighted (T-60), APBR weighted (T-62). Average:. 58.25, Highest: 54, Lowest: 62

60. C Nikola Milutoniv

Traditional (T-61), ESPN weighted (55), PER weighted (53), APBR weighted (68). Average:. 59.25, Highest: 53, Lowest: 68

61. SG D.J. Newbill

Traditional (56), ESPN weighted (62), PER weighted (T-60), APBR weighted (65). Average:. 60.75, Highest: 56, Lowest: 65

62. SF Terran Petteway

Traditional (57), ESPN weighted (56), PER weighted (65), APBR weighted (66). Average:. 61.0 Highest: 57, Lowest: 66

63. SG Daniel Diez

Traditional (64), ESPN weighted (61), PER weighted (57), APBR weighted (T-62). Average:. 61.0, Highest: 57, Lowest: 64

64. SF Shawn Dawson

Traditional (63), ESPN weighted (64), PER weighted (57), APBR weighted (T-62). Average:. 61.5, Highest: 57, Lowest: 64

If a player is not listed here, I didn’t feel comfortable rating him – rather than rating him and deeming him not worthy of top 64. I tried to rate all the relevant prospects I could.


Written by jr.

June 21, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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