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Basketball philosophy

Top 10 prospects – April update

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This rankings are based on my statistical system comparing players in steals, blocks, rebounds, assists, and points and TS% (adjusted for age and competition) to a list of recent future all-stars at their position. The statistical conclusions are then run through my talent adjustment system crediting players for physical tools, skill and basketball IQ.

1. PF Ben Simmons

Simmons is arguably the top statistical player in the draft. He has one of the best single categories in his 5.5 asts/40 compared to PFs. His 2.3 stls/40 is also elite for the position and has other strong numbers like 13.7 reb/40 and 22.6 pts/40 on .60 TS%. His weakest number in 0.9 blks/40 is partly explained by playing on the perimeter so much, thus a higher steal rate instead.

Scouts consider him a top 2 talent in the draft with Brandon Ingram. He has a great combination of athleticism and ballhandling that helped him get over 10 FTA/40. His passing and court vision is considered special. While his shooting is his weakness a 67% FT is not so bad for a big and could be encouraging for his mechanics going forward.

The mental make-up is the big concern. One of the most interesting things Gregg Popovich has said about the Spurs philosophy is they look for players who are “over themselves”. This is one of the best ways to describe that nagging feeling about Simmons you can’t put your finger on. He doesn’t look like he’s over himself.

In my attempts to retrodict previous drafts, a number of players flagged for mental make-up before the draft underperformed including Michael Beasley, Tyreke Evans, Rudy Gay, Terrence Williams, Derrick Williams, along with the Royce White disaster. This flags ranged to things as little as Gay’s motor getting questioned to Evans not playing with teammates well to Terrence Williams getting called immature. But this is a small sample size of players to take a trend from. And at the same time there’s successes like DeMarcus Cousins who went on to be a star and Andre Drummond who got called soft in college. Furthermore while it wasn’t picked up on in college, I consider a number of NBA stars to be at semi-enigmatic like Carmelo Anthony, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. If Simmons has the personality of Anthony or Irving, so long as he’s as good as them, picking him #1 will work out fine.

Nevertheless, is it something to worry about? Yes. But if not for that he would otherwise be a rare shoo-in to be an NBA all-star. There’s no Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns in this draft to rate over him, the next best alternatives have either talent or numbers deficiencies. So he will have to do.

2. PG Kris Dunn

Dunn’s numbers are also terrific. His combination of 3.0 stls/40, 0.6 blks/40, 6.5 reb/40 and 7.6 ast/40 is elite at PG. His scoring numbers are less impressive, starting as a 8.4 pts/40 .47 TS% freshman and eventually ending at 19.9 pts/40 on .54 TS% as a senior.

He fits the profile of an all-star guard. Having a great combination of athleticism, ballhandling and size for a PG could make him elite attacking the basket. While PG isn’t the most individual defense friendly position, he’s as good a defensive prospect as it gets there for what it’s worth.

Dunn’s shooting is also considered his weakness. Although he hit 37% from 3 it was on an average volume and he shot a mediocre 69% from the FT line. Still, this is better than the range of “broken” shooting prospects like Elfrid Payton and Tony Wroten. Dunn hitting 3s in the NBA regularly to complete his offensive game wouldn’t be that surprising.

Dunn is a skilled passer but his decision making is questioned. When added to his shooting, in worst case he could be throwing up a lot of bad jumpers. But overall he has the numbers and he has the physical potential to be an all-star.

3. C Chinanu Onuaku

This rating is statistically driven. As a 19 year old center he put up 3.3 blks/40, 1.3 stls/40, 13.8 reb/40, 2.7 ast/40, as impressive a combination as Simmons and Dunn. His scoring career wasn’t stellar with 6.7 pts/40 as a freshman and 16.1 pts/40 as as sophomore, albeit efficient at .60 TS% and .62 TS% respectively.

Onuaku doesn’t have the scouts blessing as he is projected 2nd round. Despite having athleticism, length and frame to his credit along with youth, he is considered a raw skill player in the post or shooting. Only hitting 58.9% FT helps back this up. To his credit he does appear to have passing skill.

But at center there’s a lot of value to defending the rim while finishing lobs on the other end and Onuaku has a good chance of being that player. Not to mention he can pass the ball and still has time to develop a little shooting game. While not as obvious an all-star talent as the top two prospects, his numbers and physical tools are too strong to ignore.

4. PG Wade Baldwin IV

Baldwin’s numbers are good but not as dominant as the above players. He has 6.9 ast/40, 5.3 reb/40, 1.6 stl/40 and 0.4 blk/40. He scored 12.8 pts/40 on .59 TS% as a freshman and 18.4 pts/40 on .57 TS% as a sopohomore.

But I otherwise love the skillset. He is a 40% 3pt shooter and 80% FT shooter with plus passing skill for his position who has excellent defensive measurables. His 6’10 wingspan is near SF-like and one of the longest for his position in the draft, along with a big frame and big hands. Getting shooters who can defend is now a high value play in the NBA.

For scouts his big weakness is average athleticism and ballhandling, leading to a lack of slashing game in the pros. One thing compelling about this is he’s one of the best at getting to the FT line in the class at 7.7 FTA/40 and at .61 has a higher FT/FGA than James Harden had in college. This doesn’t mean it’ll translate, as for example Adam Morrison averaged over 10 FTA/40 his last college year. But when Harden was in college despite his FT drawing success scouts predicted he would be a skilled but perimeter orientated pro, due to average athleticism. In the end Harden translated his slashing game to the pros and it completed his game and made him a star. If Baldwin learned to drive in the pros like he did in college, when added to his size, shooting and passing ability, it makes him a perfect guard.

5. SF Brandon Ingram

Ingram has good but not great numbers. His 1.6 blks/40 for a SF is a highlight and his 20 pts/40 on .55 TS% is very good for his age and conference. His 7.9 reb/40 and 1.3 stls/40 would be the lowest among recent all-star SFs which is a concern for his length. His 2.3 ast/40 is average but he wasn’t a ball dominant player.

There’s a lot to love as a talent. He has a center’s length in a wing’s body, great agility and a natural feel for the game. I’m a little lower on his shooting than conventional scouts. While he shot 41% from 3 on a high volume, he only hit 68.2% of FTs. He still has a chance to be a great shooter, but as a prospect I rate him as more like a 6 out of 10 as a shooter, not a 9 out of 10 like say college Kevin Durant. If I had him rated as an elite and not just decent shooting prospect, it probably would have been enough for me to rate him 2nd or 3rd in this class.

In the end Ingram has the talent and enough numbers to be an all-star, but I don’t consider him a home run prospect. This is partly from statistical reasons like his low steal and rebounds, and partly from a more lukewarm opinion of his shooting along with other weaknesses like a skinny frame and average ballhandling.

6. PF Dragan Bender

My statistical system is not built to rate international players, so this is about as high as a prospect can get on my list without having any numbers backing them up. With that said Bender barely getting onto the floor on a struggling team, also makes me give him less production benefit of the doubt than I would have for say Porzingis last year.

As a talent though he is one of the more interesting in the class. He has the length and mobility to be a defensive big, while shooting 3s and passing the ball. The team that drafts him may have eyes on “European Draymond Green”, or if Andrei Kirilenko came out now and played exclusively as a smallball PF. But he has to be actually good at that role for it to worth it, a player can have Draymond Green’s style of play but just Ersan Ilyasova’s level of effectiveness, or worse.

7. PG/SG Jamal Murray

Murray was a strong scorer for a freshman guard at 22.9 pts/40 on .59 TS%, against good competition. His 1.1 stls/40, 0.3 blks/40, 5.9 reb/40, 2.5 ast/40 is a mediocre remainder of his profile though. A scary comparison? This makes Murray’s year for SGs the equivalent of Anthony Bennett’s for PF at UNLV, who had a strong year in pts/40 and TS%, but was below average at everything else.

His talent is appealing though. While his 78% FT is good not great, his 41% from 3 on a massive 8.7 3PA/40 was enough to rate him as a top 5 shooter in the draft for me. His ability to both dribble and shoot at a high level is compelling. There aren’t that many in the NBA who succeed at both, compared to spot up shooters who don’t dribble or big slashing wings who don’t shoot. Many who succeed at both are great players like Steph Curry, James Harden, Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Jamal Crawford. Murray adds that to what appears to be a natural feel for the game. Also to his credit, his season may have been affected by playing beside Tyler Ulis. If given the car keys at PG for a team, he may have helped his statistical profile more by putting up assists. Playing PG would also make his size more acceptable.

Overall, Murray is a risk with between his stats and being a guard with mediocre size and athleticism. But his shooting, dribbling and feel for the game has a lot of appeal and his numbers are more like the median for draft prospects in this class, while a prospect like Nik Stauskas for example had bad, not mediocre in his year. I value Murray’s statistical information about as valuable as much as Bender having no stats, for both it is better than having bad stats. In the case of both, that combined with appealing talent sets looks good enough for these spots once outside the top 5.

8. PF Brice Johnson

Brice has some impressive numbers including 15.0 reb/40, 2.1 ast/40, 1.5 stl/40 and 2.1 blk/40. As a scorer he’s been a high volume player from the start at 19.8 pts/40 as a freshman building to 23.7 pts/40 as a senior, but with efficiency improving from .50 TS% as a freshman to .65 TS% as a senior.

Johnson is an impressive athlete although with poor length and frame for his position. He has improved his skill level and hit 78% from the FT line this year showing shooting potential, but is most known for points around the rim. Johnson’s most likely future may be a Kenneth Faried style energy big, but he has the chance to develop a skill game.

I would have rated him 2 or 3 spots higher than this but he is tagged with immaturity and hothead issues. I don’t have the sample size of how much this effects a career and at least one hothead recently became a star in DeMarcus Cousins, but with prospects close to as appealing as him, it’s worth watching out for enough to drop him a few spots.

9. C Jakob Poeltl

Poeltl isn’t amazing anywhere statistically but has no bad categories either, with 0.8 stls/40, 2.0 blks/40, 12.0 reb/40, 2.5 ast/40 and a good scoring career with 15.7 pts/40 on .63 TS% as a freshman and 22.6 pts/40 on .66 TS% as a sophomore. Likewise as a talent he is well rounded with solid athleticism, good size, post skill and IQ. This is enough for scouts to project him as a top 10 pick. There are prospects with better numbers and prospects who rate higher as talents to me, but Poeltl’s appeal is being at least decent at both.

10. SG Ron Baker

Baker has impressive all around numbers of 1.9 stls/40, 0.7 blks/40, 6.1 reb/40 and 4.1 ast/40 for a guard. His scoring career has been average with 13.4 pts/40 on .59 TS% as a freshman and 17.4 pts/40 on .55 TS% as a senior. Both competition and age are adjusted for in scoring categories for me, so Baker only scoring that well as an old senior for Wichita State is definitely concerning.

Baker is barely projected to be drafted, so scouts aren’t a believer in him. I’m higher on his talent. First off he has good defensive measurables for a SG at 6’9.5 wingspan and 210 pounds. Athletically he may not be stunning, but he can move laterally which helped him put up steals and blocks and he got to the line at a respectable rate. The numbers suggest an average instead of bad athlete and so does my eye test.

He is a good but not great shooter with his 3pt dipping to 35% this year with a solid 78% FT. He is also a ball-handler and passer giving him some pick and roll potential. He is known for a high feel and motor. I don’t think Baker is the most talented player in the class but having length, strength, lateral mobility, 3pt shooting ability and feel is talent. Baker may not have star potential and there’s a chance scouts are right and he doesn’t make it, but at the 10th pick in a below average draft, a prospect doesn’t have to be amazing at this range. It wouldn’t surprise me if he carved out a Courtney Lee to Wes Matthews level career.

Current rankings from 11 to 30:

11. PF Ivan Rabb
12. PF Deyonta Davis
13. PF Domantas Sabonis
14. C Daniel Ochefu
15. SF Jaylen Brown
16. SF Timothe Luwawu
17. PF Thon Maker
18. SG Furkan Korkmaz
19. PF Zhou Qi
20. SF Taurean Prince
21. SG Buddy Hield
22. SG/SF Denzel Valentine
23. PF Nigel Hayes
24. C Diamond Stone
25. PG Gary Payton II
26. PF Henry Ellenson
27. SG Patrick McCaw
28. PF Marquese Chriss
29. PG Melo Trimble
30. C A.J. Hammons

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Written by jr.

April 17, 2016 at 6:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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