A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

2016 NBA Draft top 14 prospects – March update

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These rankings are a combination of stats and adjusting for talent. I did my best to use previous drafts as the guide for this. The quantifiable portions I used were steals, blocks, rebounds, assists, freshman scoring and efficiency to account for aging effects along with using 3PM/3P%/FT% to predict shooting and wingspan/weight for size. Thus a lot of these rankings come from pure numbers.

Some of it comes from qualitative traits. Instead of doing my own scouting I tried to use agreed upon traits by scouts in areas like a players athleticism and basketball IQ. By using scouts opinions instead of mine, when testing the system on previous drafts this allowed to look at prospects scouting reports at the time on sites like Draftexpress and do an acceptable job replicating how I would have rated them in if they were in this draft. That doesn’t remove all subsconscience bias of how a prospect turned out, but I tried to be as objective as possible.

Whatever this combination of numbers and qualitative rating gave me, I stuck with. I didn’t adjust the rankings by current mock drafts. Some of the rankings are very far off from these mock drafts, but we’ll see how they turn out in comparison in a few years.

1. PG Kris Dunn
2. PF Ben Simmons

Dunn per 40 minutes: 3.1 steals, 0.8 blocks, 6.5 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 8.4 freshman points, .47 freshman TS% (per 40 minutes)

Simmons per 40 minutes: 2.3 steals, 0.9 blocks, 13.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 22.2 freshman points, .61 freshman TS%

Dunn and Simmons rated as the two strongest players statistically in the class. Dunn posted an elite steal and block rate for a PG and strong rebounding and assists. Simmons has a special assist rate and strong steals, rebounds and scoring. Since I use freshman scoring numbers to account for the increase in the stat as a player gets older, Dunn’s numbers were hurt by this. Despite this, his other stats were strong enough for him to rate 1st in the class narrowly anyways.

Both players have weaknesses. With Dunn he is known as an average shooter. This is especially concerning because in previous drafts, a trend among some of the highest rating statistical performers in classes is perimeter players who did everything but have a jumpshot in college. But most of these cautionary cases such as Tyreke Evans, Tony Wroten, Michael Carter-Williams were under 30% 3pt shooters in college, while Dunn has been at 34-35% from 3 and around 68-69% the last two seasons. Not great, but it projects more average than bad. Past that, he has the athleticism, size, dribbling and passing to be a an all-star caliber dribble drive guard in the NBA.

Simmons also has a non-existent jumpshot, though the main reason I didn’t rate him first is personality concerns. He was blasted on twitter by Draftexpress.com’s Jonathan Givony twice in recent weeks for lackadaisical effort and leadership and others have noted he could had a better defensive season. With LSU’s poor season he will be put under the microscope. I don’t care much about his academic issues, but it bears mentioning.

It didn’t affect his production this year, which is important in effort driven stats like rebounding. Even if he becomes enigmatic, it could be in the same Carmelo Anthony and James Harden aren’t everything you want leadership and winning at all costs wise, but still ended up superstars. Nevertheless, there’s a chance that his current body language is a warning shot for a frustrating player the rest of his career. It’s perfectly defendable to take him #1 still as his talent and numbers are hard to turn down, but when picking between Simmons and Dunn, it made a difference to me.

3. PG Jawun Evans

Per 40 minutes: 1.6 steals, 0.3 blocks, 6.0 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 17.8 freshman points, .58 freshman TS%

Evans is out for the season with an injury and not mocked high, so the odds are strong he won’t be in this draft. But on the chance he comes out, I’ll leave him on the list.

My take on Evans is he would be a lottery pick if he was 2 inches taller. He’s a great athlete, was shooting 47% from 3 before his injury and had a strong passing season for a freshman PG. His numbers rated top 10 among the prospects on my list, with a very good combination of rebounding, assists, scoring volume and efficiency for a PG.

As for his length. He would be a better prospect if he was taller. But NBA teams have made the mistake of throwing an entire prospect out because of a few inches. He’s about Chris Paul size, which is a level above the Isaiah Thomas and Kemba Walker level. It’s probably less of a weakness than say Dunn and Simmons shooting. When the athleticism, skills, vision and numbers are there, it shouldn’t prevent him from having great upside.

4. PG Wade Baldwin IV

Per 40 minutes: 1.6 steals, 0.5 blocks, 5.3 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 12.8 freshman points, .59 freshman TS%

Baldwin has a very solid combination of blocks, rebounding and assists for a PG and thanks to his ability to draw fouls, has scored efficiently both of his seasons.

His athleticism and ballhandling is average, though it hasn’t stopped him from getting to the line in college. He has excellent size for a PG with a 6’10 wingspan and a big frame and hands. He is a great 3 point shooter and passer. While not the sexiest pick in this draft in my opinion, the size, 3 point shooting, passing and feel makes him a good bet to start.

5. SG Ron Baker

Per 40 minutes: 2.1 steals, 0.9 blocks, 6.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 13.7 freshman points, .59 freshman TS%

As an old white mid-major player, Baker isn’t much on the NBA radar. His numbers caught my eye. For a SG he’s putting up an excellent combination of steals, blocks and assists, scored efficiency as a freshman, along with solid rebounding.

The first retort may be to throw it the number because of conference. However to start, the MVC is not the same type of mid-major as say the Patriot League or Big Sky. Wichita State has played 11 games against top 100 opponents. As a comparison Ben Simmons’ LSU has played 14 and Brandon Ingram’s Duke has played 20. When Damian Lillard was at Weber St. he played 6 games against top 100 opponents. When C.J. McCollum was at Lehigh they played 5. By Strength of Schedule Wichita State ranks ahead of Henry Ellenson’s Marquette and just below Patrick McCaw and Stephen Zimmerman’s UNLV. The Missouri Valley Conference wasn’t any less strong than the Mountain West Conference this year. Furthermore, it’s not just competition on the other side that affects Baker’s numbers. Playing on a weaker team allows players to take a bigger share of their team’s stats. Wichita State is ranked top 50 in RPI so the talent level on his own team shouldn’t have inflated Baker’s stats much.

Furthermore when looking at former mid-major prospects like Paul George, Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Rodney Stuckey, Elfrid Payton, or Baker’s former teammate Cleanthony Early, I didn’t see evidence of inflation in rebounding, assists, steals or blocks per minute. Their scoring rates were arguably inflated, but that was not Baker’s strength to begin with, and playing on a top 50 team may have given less of a reason for him to put up a high points rate. As a whole, I’m inclined to treat Baker’s strong statistical performance as legitimate.

The next argument is talent. There are players rating high on my statistical list, I decided to drop farther down on my big board based on not believing in their NBA tools. I decided to not make Baker one of them. While no more than an average athlete, there is more talent attributes than that. He has plus size for a SG based on his wingspan and length. His steals, blocks and solid free throw rate are also a sign of decent athleticism. He is a very good 3 point shooter and a plus passer for his position and is known for his high IQ. So between the size, 3 point shooting and IQ, there’s a lot of NBA attributes there. It’s the same reason players like Wesley Matthews and Danny Green are talented.

6. SG Patrick McCaw

Per 40 minutes: 2.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, 6.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 13.1 freshman points, .54 freshman TS%

McCaw ranked high statistically on my list due to very impressive combination of steals, blocks, and assists for a SG along with solid rebounding. As a player he is a great fit for the 3 and D wing role. He is long armed and athletic, but struggles to drive to the rim because of ballhandling and a skinny frame. He projects as a good 3 point shooter in the NBA. His steals and assists are a good sign for his basketball IQ.

Nowadays, a strong 3 and D wing can have maximum contract value. Therefore a player like McCaw has a lot of upside.

7. SF Brandon Ingram

Per 40 minutes: 1.3 steals, 1.6 blocks, 8.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 19.7 freshman points, .55 freshman TS%

Ingram is one of the most talented players in the draft and very well could be the #1 pick. However his numbers only came out as OK for a SF to me. His two strengths are shotblocking and points as a long wing who creates his own shot. His rebounding and assists are disappointing for a SF and his efficiency has dropped to average after a recent slump. The numbers are not so bad that he can’t turn into a multiple time all-star, just that I’d trust the odds less than for a prospect that combined both talent and dominant numbers.

As for his talent level, everything is also not perfect. Having a center’s length in a wing’s body is great, however he also has a skinny frame for a SF. His athleticism and ballhandling are not decent but not amazing, leading to an average free throw drawing rate. If Ingram goes #1 it’ll be on the back of his 3 point shooting in comparison to Simmons. However while he has some good signs in 3 point scoring volume at 2.6 makes per 40 and 41.3% 3PM, he is also only shooting 68.8 FT%, making him about as good a FT shooter as Simmons and Dunn. Ideally elite shooting prospects are over 80%. Mid 70s is manageable. 60s is worrying. Based on his % and volume he’s still a good shooting prospect. But it may be closer to a 6/10 as a shooter than 9/10.

So as a whole, I like Ingram’s size, shooting and feel, but I’m not calling him one of the most talented prospects of the last ten years or anything. For example, Wade Baldwin has great size for his position, is a great 3 point shooter and has great feel. Are we sure Ingram’s combinations of talents for a SF is much different than that? As a whole, I am ok leaving Ingram here, still in range of being a top 3 prospect in the draft.

8. SF Dedric Lawson

Per 40 minutes: 1.5 steals, 2.2 blocks, 11.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 19.5 freshman points, .49 freshman TS%

Lawson rated 3rd on my list statistically behind Simmons and Dunn. For a SF which is where Draftexpress has him listed (I use them as the source for positional dispute) he averages a high steal and block, passes the ball well, rebounded and had scoring volume. Efficiency was one of his only weaknesses.

He’s not my favorite talent in the draft, thus dropping him this far. He is only an average athlete, if not below average. But he is fairly skilled as a near 36% 3pt shooter, has ballhandling and passing skill and looks to have a high feel for the game. His length and frame for a SF looks to be excellent. I’m still not convinced he plays here instead of as as stretch four, but nonetheless at the four he would also be a compelling combination of stretch shooting, passing and feel.

9. PF Dragan Bender
10. C Zhou Qi
11. SG Furkan Korkmaz

I decided I didn’t have a big enough sample size of international prospects at each position to use their stats like I do NCAA players, before other problems like if they didn’t play enough minutes or the competition level of different leagues. So as a result I gave them all a flat rate of the median statistical performance of the NCAA prospects on my list. After doing that, this is where these talented international players came out.

The team who drafts Bender will be hoping to get “European Draymond Green”. He has the athleticism and size to be a defender at PF, but can shoot 3s and pass the ball. In his small sample size of European numbers he is putting up a solid combination of steals, blocks and assists per minute, although struggling to rebound. I understand all the talent reasons he can be picked top 3, but I’m trusting the power of positive statistics over no statistics. Bender has a very appealilng style of play for the modern game, but I still feel it’s far more important for a player to be great at his style of play, than what his style is. Draymond is one of the top 20 players in the league, but the other 19 have a style of play that worked out for their teams too.

Unlike Bender, Zhou Qi is dominating in his league, but it’s the CBA. For the record his numbers would rate about as good as Emmanuel Mudiay’s per minute numbers did last year and Mudiay seems to be going on to good things in the NBA. Zhou would be one of the longest players in the league but also one of the thinnest bigs and can shoot the outside ball. There are mixed reports on his basketball IQ. As a whole I like that he is so productive, but I also like his talent less than Bender’s. There’s also a good chance Zhou is not in this draft as Chinese players tend to wait and he’s not mocked as high as once expected.

Korkmaz is a more traditional player for his position than Bender and Zhou, as a shooting guard of about average size who has the athleticism drive, good shooting and can pass. That will do just fine if it translates. Once again the numbers are not very useful for him.

12. PF Brice Johnson

Per 40 minutes: 1.7 steals, 1.9 blocks, 15.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 19.8 freshman scoring, .50 freshman TS%

Johnson ranks top 5 on my list statistically due to his excellent combination of steals and blocks, elite rebounding, and solid assists and freshman scoring. However I’m a little bit wary of his NBA skills. He is an elite athlete but doesn’t have much of a perimeter shooting game and he is undersized at PF. Most of his points are dunks or finishes at the basket. His game projects as a Kenneth Faried type player at the next level, who should have been picked around here in 2011.

There’s value in having that productive role player and I want to be careful in putting a player like this into a box in terms of his upside. For what I know he could end up working his ass off, developing a perimeter shooting game and put up all-star caliber offensive numbers.

13. SG Denzel Valentine

Per 40 minutes: 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks, 9.2 rebounds, 9.2 assists, 9.7 freshman points, .52 freshman TS%

How my system rates Valentine is almost the inverse of conventional opinion. On one hand, he rates no better than mediocre statistically. Part of this is that using freshman scoring volume and efficiency hits him badly compared to his his 24.6 points and .61 TS% as a senior. He has mediocre steal and block rate and his rebounding while above average, would be less impressive if he went on to play SF instead of SG. The category he is spectacular in is assists. A SG who averages 4 assists per 40 like Baker is a positive number, to average over 9 is wild. However my system appreciates consistency across categories where Valentine does not do as well.

But Valentine’s talent may be badly underrated. I said Baker was talented because he had size, shooting, passing and feel, Valentine is a super version of that. His 45% 3pt shooting and 84.9% FT rate make him one of the best shooters in the pass, he’s obviously an amazing passer, and he has one of the best feels for the game in the class. His 6’10 wingspan and frame would be strong for a SG. Outside of athleticism Valentine’s talent is as good as it gets.

In the end though, it comes down to the numbers and his profile is the worrying kind for draft prospects, with a heavily inflated scoring rate compared to his younger seasons and having some weak categories like steals and blocks.

14. PF Marquese Chriss

Per 40 minutes: 1.5 steals, 2.6 blocks, 8.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 21.4 freshman points, .58 freshman TS%

Chriss could improve his rebounding and assists for a bit, but has an excellent scoring volume and efficiency for his age and an above average steal and block rate.

He has a chance to provide a nice combination of athleticism at the rim and the ability to step out and shoot, as a 35% 3pt shooter this year. From a basketball IQ perspective he appears to be raw, but nonetheless could be a modern big.

Just missed: SG James Blackmon, PG Kay Felder, SG Grayson Allen, SG Buddy Hield, C Jonathan Jeanne, SG Isaia Cordinier, C Jakob Poeltl, C Chinanu Onuaku, SF Jaylen Brown, PG Gary Payton II

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Written by jr.

March 12, 2016 at 4:07 pm

Posted in Basketball, Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

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