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Early 2016 NBA draft top 10

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I made a few changes to my draft system this year. After the last few years I wasn’t happy with the results.

My idea is a less is more approach. Draft analysis can be split into gathering information and deciding what to do with that information. Scouts make judgments in areas like a player’s ability to drive, shoot, defend, his basketball intelligence and so forth. But the second part is deciding what each of these areas mean. How do you value the athletes who can’t shoot against the shooter without athleticism?

In previous drafts of my system I tried to do both. I thought I had a read on inefficiencies in judging things like drivers, shooters and defenders.  I then put this into my grading system of how to value each part of a player’s talent.

My new philosophy is TTS: Trust The Scouts. What is the most agreed upon belief by scouts about areas like driving, shooting or defending I will include in my grades instead of scouting it myself. So how will my rankings by any different than theirs? Because I keep the system and framework of giving grades to physical impact, skill impact and feel for the game. I use the scouts for the information gathering stage but differ in how I organize the information into rankings. In addition to this I’ll use advanced stat comparisons to the list of recent successes at each position as freshman to grade players seasons in that area. I give a player’s advanced stats a letter grade and then use it to multiply the player’s talent grade by the scale A = 100%, B = 90%, C = 80%, D = 70%. Looking at previous drafts I believe the framework of my system along combined with advanced stats would create a sharper draft ranking.

Here is my ranking of the top 10 of 2016 so far, using a small sample size of scouting reports and advanced stats so far:

1. PF Ben Simmons

What the scouts say: Simmons has a superb explosiveness for a 6’10 240 player and is currently a force in transition. His feel for the game may be the best in the class. His ahead of his peers court vision draws comparisons to Lebron, Magic and Bird. Although skilled at the rim and passing Simmons weakness is a lack of any jumper use thus far.

Talent grade: 24 (Physical impact talent grade: 8, Skill impact talent grade: 6, Feel for the Game talent grade: 10)

Simmons has been averaging a dominant 2.7 steals, 1.8 blocks, 22.3 points, 17.5 rebounds, 6.7 assists, .59 TS% per 40 minutes. Using my list of recent successful PFs I would give a grade of B if a prospect they averaged 1.3 steals, 2.7 blocks, 18 points, 12.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists per 40 minutes on .63 TS%.  Simmons is above average in steals, points, rebounds and assists in dominant fashion in several of those categories. He is below average in blocks and TS%. Normally a player below average in a few categories wouldn’t get a true A, but Simmons is destroying categories like steals, rebounds and assists so much thus far that I decided to give it to him anyways.

Advanced stats grade: A

24 * A (100%) = 24.0

2. SG Furkan Korkmaz

What the scouts say: Korkmaz is an explosive wing athlete although his average ball handling may prevent his ability to drive some. He has solid length for SG but a skinny frame. His outside shooting, passing and feel for the game are excellent.

Talent grade: 22 (Physical impact: 6, Skill impact: 8, Feel for the Game: 8)

Advanced stats grade: Grading European players is a little more complicated than NCAA. If playing at a high level like Korkmaz who is in the Euroleague, I settled on giving them the same treatment as NCAA players but bumping up their grade one level to account to difficulty. In 2014-2015 as the equivalent of Korkmaz’s “freshman season” he averaged 2.2 steals, 0 blocks, 13.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists on .58 TS% per 40 minutes. Using my list of recent SGs if an NCAA player averaged 1.8 steals, 0.7 blocks, 16.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists per 40 on .57 TS% I would give them a B. Korkmaz is above average in steals, assists and TS% and below average in blocks, points and rebounds. I’m split whether to cancel out his strengths and weaknesses and give him a B, or to take categories like his 0 in blocks to matter as worse than any of his positives. So I will grade him a B/C. Since this is a Euroleague player I then bump him up one grade to A/B to account for difficulty.

Advanced stats grade: A/B

22 * A/B (95%) = 20.9

3. PF Ivan Rabb

The scouts take: Rabb is an explosive PF with impressive length. He has a skinny frame for his position. Rabb has shown signs of perimeter shooting skill along with touch inside. I cannot find many scouts comments about his feel for the game but none seem to have a problem with it either.

Talent grade: 21 (Physical impact: 8, Skill impact: 7, Feel for the Game: 6)

Rabb is averaging 0.7 steals, 3.2 blocks, 19.7 points, 14.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists on .67 TS% per 40 minutes. Using my list of recent PFs I’d give a grade to one who averaged 1.3 steals, 2.7 blocks, 18 points, 12.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, .63 TS% per 40 minutes. Rabb is above average in steals, points, rebounds and TS% and below average in steals. Steals is an important stat so I will hold off from giving him a true A and settle for a A/B with an otherwise excellent profile.

Advanced stats grade: A/B

21 * A/B (95%) = 19.95

4. SF Brandon Ingram

The scouts take: Ingram is a decent but not explosive athlete. Scouts are in love with his wingspan for a SF drawing Giannis and Durant comparisons. His frame is skinny for a SF. Ingram has shown flashes as an outside shooter and has a smooth feel for the game.

Talent grade: 22 (Physical impact: 7, Skill impact: 7, Feel for the Game: 8)

Ingram is averaging 1.8 steals, 1.6 blocks, 19.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists on .52 TS% per 40 minutes. For SFs by comparables I would give a B to a player who averages 1.8 steals, 1.2 blocks, 16.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists on .55 TS%. Ingram is above average in blocks, points, assists and below average in rebounds and TS. While not spectacular, with combined steals and blocks above average which is important, these numbers are worth no worse than a B.

Advanced stats grade: B

22 * B (90%) = 19.8

5. C Stephen Zimmerman

The scouts take: Zimmerman is a strong athlete for a 7 footer with quality length, but an average frame. Zimmerman had perimeter shooting skills and an above average feel for the game.

Talent grade: 21 (Physical impact: 7, Skill impact: 7, Feel for the Game: 7)

Zimmerman is averaging 0 steals, 3.4 blocks, 16.8 points, 17.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, .56 TS% per 40 minutes. Using my recent comparables I’d give a B to a C averaging 1.2 steals, 2.8 blocks, 17.3 points, 11.3 rebounds 1.8 assists, .55 TS% per 40 minutes. Zimmerman is above average in blocks, rebounds, assists and efficiency and below average with a worrying 0 in steals and below average in points. Although his steals are worrying his stats are otherwise excellent enough including blocks and rebounds that I will keep him at B.

Advanced stats grade: B

21 * B (90%) = 18.9

6. SF Jaylen Brown

The scouts take: Has a spectacular combination of explosiveness, length and strength for the small forward position. One of the most physically gifted players at his position in a while. His basketball intelligence is above average. His jumper is his biggest weakness.

Talent grade: 22 (Physical impact: 10, Skill impact: 5, Feel for the Game: 7)

Brown is averaging 0.9 steals, 0.2 blocks, 25.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, .52 TS% per 40 minutes. Using my comparables a SF averaging 1.8 steals, 1.2 blocks, 16.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, .55 TS% per 40 minutes would receive a B. Brown is above average in points and above average in rebounds, but below average in steals, blocks, assists and efficiency. His low steal and block rate is especially worrying if this continues as steals and blocks are key rates. I rate Brown as no better than a C grade, although it’s early in the season and with his athleticism could quickly boost his steal and block numbers and make a case for top 3 in this class.

Advanced stats grade: C

22 * C (80%) = 17.6

7. SG Denzel Valentine

The scouts take: Valentine has very unimpressive athleticism for a SG that could limit him to more than a small role in the NBA, but solid length and strength. His combination of perimeter shooting, passing skills and feel for the game is one of the best in the class.

Talent grade: 22 (Physical impact: 4, Skill impact: 9, Feel for the Game: 9)

As a freshman Valentine averaged 1.5 steals, 0.7 blocks, 9.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists on .52 TS% per 40 minutes. Using my comparables I would give a B to a SG who averaged 1.8 steals, 0.7 blocks, 16.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, .57 TS% per 40 minutes. Valentine rated above average in rebounds and assists and below average in steals, points and efficiency. Being above average in a few categories and close to average steals and blocks per 40, I won’t go lower than a middling C for Valentine.

Advanced stats grade: C

22 * C (80%) = 17.6

8. PF Skal Labissiere

The scouts take: Skal has an impressive combination of athleticism and length but a skinny frame. He has signs of perimeter shooting talent. Opinions of his feel for the game have been dropping with his start to this season.

Talent grade: 20 (Physical impact: 8, Skill impact: 7, Feel for the Game: 5)

Labissiere is averaging 0.7 steals, 3.8 blocks, 21.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists per 40 minutes on .64 TS%. Using my list of recent PFs I would give a grade of B to a player averaging 1.3 steals, 2.7 blocks, 18 points, 12.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists per 40 minutes on .63 TS%. Labissiere is above average in blocks, points and TS% is but below average in steals, rebounds, assists, with the rebounding especially drawing negative attention. Judging by how his worst categories are quite bad, I was split between giving him a B or downgrading to C so I chose B/C. At this rate Labissiere could go down as this year’s Andre Drummond, who’s UConn season was panned but with elite block numbers and solid rebounding and steals, had a season more up to par than given credit for in some categories.

Advanced stats grade: B/C

20 * B/C (85%) = 17.0

9. SF Dragan Bender

The scouts take: Bender is a nearly 7 foot wing with the standing reach of a center. He is a good not elite athlete and has a skinny frame. Bender has a great feel for the game and the passing skills of a point forward but his jumper is a work in progress.

Talent grade: 21 (Physical impact: 7, Skill impact: 6, Feel for the Game: 8)

In 10 minutes per game in the Euroleague Bender is averaging 1.3 steals, 1.3 blocks, 8.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, .35 TS% per 40 minutes. For NCAA SFs using comparables I’d give a B to a SF averaging 1.8 steals, 1.2 blocks, 16.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, .55 TS% per 40 minutes. Bender would rate narrowly above average in blocks and assists but below average in steals and far below average in points, rebounds and efficiency. I wouldn’t go above D for an NCAA prospect based on how poor his worst categories are, but with Euroleague competition I bump him up one grade to C. The good news for Bender is these numbers are on a small sample size and they could look completely different a month from now allowing him to quickly rise up this list.

Advanced stats grade: C

21 * C (80%) = 16.8

10 PG Isaiah Briscoe

The scouts take: Briscoe is only an average athlete for a PG but has an impressive combination of length, strength and lateral mobility for the position that could make him a defensive standout at the position. Briscoe’s weakness is shooting while is noted as a player with a impressive feel to his game.

Talent grade: (Physical impact talent grade: 6, Skill impact: 5, Feel for the game: 7): 18

Advanced stats grade: Briscoe is averaging 1.9 steals, 0.4 blocks, 17.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists per 40 minutes on .54 TS%. Using my list of recent PGs I would give a grade of B to a PG averaging 2.2 steals, 0.4 blocks, 5.4 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 15 pts, .55 TS% per 40 minutes. Briscoe is above average in points and rebounds and below average in steals, assists and TS%.  Since he is only a little below average in his worst categories but an elite rebounder, I kept him at a B.

Advanced stats grade: B (* 90%)

18 * B (90%) = 16.2

Next 10: PF Deyonta Davis, SG Dwayne Bacon, SF Malik Pope, C Jonathan Jeanne, C Henry Ellenson, SG Buddy Hield, C Amida Brimah, PG Gary Payton II, SG Timothe Luwawu

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Written by jr.

December 4, 2015 at 10:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Phoenix Suns and finding a balance between established and drafted talent

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The Phoenix Suns hired GM Ryan McDonough a week before Philadelphia hired Sam Hinkie in May 2013. Philadelphia quickly decided to trade Jrue Holiday and be bad for high draft picks. A case for Phoenix doing the same could have been made. In Win Shares the previous season the Suns top 5 had been Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley, Luis Scola, Marcin Gortat and P.J. Tucker. None were under 25 years old. The Suns were set to pick 5th in the 2013 draft, eventually Alex Len and had a Markieff Morris coming off a sophomore slump. In some eyes this looked the right situation to bottom out and rebuild around high picks.

However the Suns did not end up the Sixers the following season. Instead they surprised the league with a 48-34 near-playoff season. McDonough’s strategy differentiated from Hinkie’s in a few ways. The Sixers traded their starting PG Holiday while Phoenix kept theirs in Dragic. The Sixers traded Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner at the trade deadline to ensure their high pick while Phoenix kept Channing Frye, P.J. Tucker and Gerald Green. The biggest move is Phoenix trading for Eric Bledsoe from the Clippers. Bledsoe had already produced in the league and most thought he had all-star potential when not backing up Chris Paul. The combination of Dragic, Bledsoe and floor spacers in Jeff Hornacek’s system led to a competitive season.

The Suns went on to sign Isaiah Thomas the next summer. When their PGs didn’t gel, in a flurry of moves traded Thomas and Dragic and ended up with Brandon Knight. In the Thomas and Knight moves the logic is similar to the Bledsoe deal. Both were established starting PGs who’d put up numbers in the league. This allowed the Suns to avoid some risk that comes with top draft picks. In worst case scenario Bledsoe, Thomas and Knight were likely to be the above average guards they had been before Phoenix. In best case scenario as young athletic PGs with a track record, they would grow into all-star caliber guards as they are now. In the same deal Phoenix acquired Knight the 76ers ended up with a future Lakers 1st for Michael Carter-Williams, for all intents and purposes picking the Lakers 1st over Knight. The justification is if picking top 5 the Lakers pick could turn into a star. But the downside is making the wrong pick and ending up with minimal return on investment compared to Knight. The Suns choice of Knight had less spectacular upside but gave them more security of getting on base.

The Suns have also not ignored the draft. When trading Thomas and Dragic they targeted future picks and currently have mid-level prospects like T.J. Warren, Devin Booker, Alex Len, Archie Goodwin on the team. The Suns ending up with an all-star of this group would raise their ceiling, but if none pan out, their whole future doesn’t crash down. Once again it’s a strategy that allows for reward but without betting it all on red to get there.

There is a glass half empty to all these arguments naturally. Winning so early in McDonough’s tenure and forgoing top 5 picks could leave the Suns without true franchise players to contend. While the Sixers plan could still work out and give them 2 or 3 stars like Oklahoma City had with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Some other Suns moves can be criticized such as giving up a draft pick for half a season of Brandan Wright or signing Tyson Chandler to a large contract starting in season 15. But by targeting established but young talents like Bledsoe, Thomas and Knight at the cost of picking later in the draft, the Suns took a different talent acquisition strategy than the Sixers geared towards young but established talents instead of exclusively drafted ones. Due to when their GMs were hired they are a compelling counter-argument to the 76ers philosophy.

Written by jr.

December 3, 2015 at 9:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized