A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

NBA Draft Big Board – May update

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These come from my statistical retrodiction system, adjusting for talent with the philosophy of 1/3s physical tools and 2/3s skill and basketball IQ and accounting for any mental make-up flags if necessary:

1. SF/PF Ben Simmons
2. PG Kris Dunn
3. C Chinanu Onuaku
4. SF Brandon Ingram
5. PG Wade Baldwin IV

To avoid just posting the same thing over and over again, my post in April went into greater detail of these players stats and talent:

https://asubstituteforwar.wordpress.com/2016/04/17/top-10-prospects-april-update/

To recap some points:

– I am lower on Ingram’s talent than most due to using a statistical approach to shooting instead of scouts, who I rely on for other attributes. Ingram is rated a top notch shooter by scouts but because he hits 68% from the FT line only rates as a decent perimeter shooter for me. That added to average ball-handling and passing skill puts his overall skill level in question for me. If he had Kevin Durant level shooting I would rate him as an elite talent and in consideration for first or second. With that said he’s still plenty talented due to his length, agility, feel and decent shooting.

1443801138– Baldwin’s size is not just good but special. A 6’10 wingspan for a PG is like an Ingram-esque 7’2-7’3 wingspan for a SF. He adds that to a strong frame. If he sticks at PG, that’s one of the best bodies of any PG prospect this generation. In addition to his other talents like shooting.

– Onuaku’s talent comes the closest to being a weak link of this group. But while he isn’t a go-to scorer in the post or a shooter, with only a 58% FT, he has other valuable traits for a center. Especially in the modern game where teams prefer to run their offense through perimeter stars, protecting the basket, rebounding, finishing offensive plays and passing is a lot of what you could ask for from a starting level center. He has the athleticism, size and passing skill to do that.


6. PF/C Zhou Qi

I struggled with how to apply my per category system to international players, but in the end I decided just to look at players who excel for their league compared to their teammates and the rest of the league. A lot of recent international bigs like Kristaps Porzingis, Rudy Gobert, Clint Capela, Nikoa Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic can say they were productive per minute in their leagues, with PER as a solid stat to capture this.

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Zhou’s 22.1 PER ranks 18th in the CBA and 2nd on his team, he is easily the best shotblocker in the CBA at 3.7/40 and has the highest TS% at .672. He is 22nd in rebs/40 and 41st in pts/40, the latter in a league full of individual shot jackers. His stats are about as impressive for his league as Gobert’s were in French A. The question is how much to trust the CBA’s stats to European leagues. The consensus is most European leagues are far better competition than the CBA, but that’s because they put a greater emphasis on coaching, fundamentals and team play. The CBA is more like the D League full of stat-stuffing individuals.

But if Zhou plays in a league full of individual stat stuffers, does that mean being one of the 20 best players in the league statistically is any less impressive? It’s fair to suggest there’s nothing wrong with the CBA’s talent level as it’s is littered with former NBA castoffs who either have put up stats in mid level European leagues, or presumably would be. A quick look for players who’ve played in the CBA and European leagues suggests this is the case. While their per minute stats are inflated in the CBA, their rank in PER compared to the rest of the league isn’t necessarily inflated, since everyone else’s numbers in the CBA are inflated too.

Therefore while coming with some skepticism, I’m inclined to think Zhou’s numbers are a positive. He adds that to a compelling skillset. While having a painfully thin frame, he would be one of the longest bigs in the league and mobile on both ends. He shot 9 for 15 from 3 this year and 75% from the FT line. He has a chance to be a mobile, shotblocking big who shoots 3s, which is the type of commodity teams are dying for right now. The frame is a major weakness but like when a prospect is a few inches short, I don’t think it throws everything positive about his talent set out. Rebounding well despite his frame is also a positive sign.

7. SF Dedric Lawson

Outside of efficiency, Lawson has an excellent statistical profile for a freshman DX has listed as SF, with 1.5 stl/40, 2.1 blk/40, 11.6 reb/40, 3.2 ast/40, 19.6 pts/40 and .49 TS%.

As a talent he is not perfect as he is an average athlete. However he does have excellent size if he plays SF with a 7’1 wingspan and a big frame. He has a high feel for the game and passed the ball well this year. His high volume of scoring this year could indicate shot creating ability long term. The key swing stat is shooting where he put up 35% from 3 on 70.9% FT. This only OK and it would be nice to see the FT% higher especially. However with a 3 point shot he has an interesting combination of size, shooting and feel.

8. SG Ron Baker
9. SG Patrick McCaw

These are two SGs with relatively comparable statistical profiles:

Baker: 1.9 stl/40, 0.7 blk/40, 6.1 reb/40, 4.1 ast/40, in addition to 13.4 pts/40 on .59 TS% as a freshman, eventually 17.4 pts/40 on .55 TS% as a senior.

McCaw: 2.8 stl/40, 0.5 blk/40, 6.1 reb/40, 4.5 ast/40, in addition to 13.4 pts/40 on .59 TS% as a freshman, eventually 17.4 pts/40 on .55 TS% as a sophomore.

Baker is not an impressive athlete, but has good length, frame, ballhandling, passing and feel for the game for his position. McCaw is more agile, but has a skinny frame and worse ballhandling skills.

The body and track record is there for both to defend in the NBA, finding a place offensively could lean on their shooting. Baker shot 34.8% from 3 on 78.4% FT, with a higher 3pt in previous seasons. McCaw shot 35.2% 3pt on 76.9% FT. For both this is just good enough to have potential at the next level, but just average enough to not be a guarantee.

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For Lawson, Baker, McCaw, projecting as can defend and shoot a little feels role player-y, but it bears mentioning sometimes all-stars were the ones projected to just be role players at first, like Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green. High IQ, passing and having size can mean more than freak athleticism for all-star potential.

10. C Diamond Stone
11. C Jakob Poeltl

Of these two I prefer Poeltl’s skillset but Stone’s numbers come out higher. The margin isn’t huge in either case. Their profiles are:

Stone: 0.9 stl/40, 2.8 blk/40, 9.7 reb/40, 0.7 ast/40, 21.8 pts/40, .61 TS%
Poeltl: 0.8 stl/40, 2.0 blk/40, 12.0 reb/40, 2.5 ast/40, 15.7 pts/40, .63 TS% as a freshman, 22.6 pts/40, .66 TS% as a sophomore

Stone has a superb combination of scoring and shotblocking for a freshman big. He has a strong body that can be a bully down low, allowing him to back down and finish offensive plays. By hitting 75% this could indicate some shooting potential going forward. His basketball IQ is in question however.

Poeltl puts up better assist and rebound numbers than Stone, while having an appealing skillset. He has a quality combination of athleticism and frame, with post and passing skills and feel for the game. Hitting 69% of his FTs is solid and gives him a chance to improve his range. Post players who aren’t known for spacing the floor or protecting the rim is less in vogue these days, but if you can do it well, there’s still value there. And if a player does it as well as Pau Gasol did, they can still be superstar playing that way. Not to mention that Poeltl has some chance to either expand his range or become a good defender.

Overall while neither prospect seems spectacular to me, they are both solid, skilled big men.

12. SF Derrick Jones, Jr.

Jones is a superb wing statistically with 1.3 stl/40, 2.5 blk/40, 8.1 reb/40, 1.5 ast/40 and 20.4 pts/40 on .61 TS%. I’d take his statistical profile over more hyped up freshman wings like Ingram and Brown.

Despite being one of the best athletes in the draft, his skill game is too raw for me to love his talent level. It’s just hard to be a wing who can’t shoot or create off the dribble in the modern game. But he has a lot of defensive potential with his production and tools, and his youth and current scoring rate, would suggest not to totally write him off as an offensive player. A Jones who learns to shoot at an acceptable level would be an excellent prospect considering his athleticism and numbers. Jones is toolsy with upside and even on the downside, may make it for athleticism and defensive production anyways.

13. C Ante Zizic

Of all the international players in this draft, Zizic’s stats for his age impress me the most. At 19 he is 6th in PER (24.2) in the Adriatic league and 3rd (25.8) in the Croation league this year. In the Adriatic league he is 2nd in rebounds per 40 (12.3), 2nd in blocks (2.1), 9th in points (20.3), and 2nd in TS% (.673). This is the type of stat stuffing you want to see from a young international big and follows in the footsteps of the production of players like Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, Clint Capela, Rudy Gobert, Jonas Valanciunas.

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The knock is that as a talent he has some flaws. He is considered a decent athlete with good size but his skill game is restricted to scoring around the rim, although hitting a solid 70% FT gives him some hope to expand his range. His basketball IQ is considered average. His game to start his career will likely be to get rebounds and finish plays around the basket. But the size, athleticism, touch around the rim and numbers alone is enough to make me interested in his chance to be a starting center or more.

14. PF Deyonta Davis

Davis is an excellent shotblocker for a freshman big at 3.9 blks/40 and scored well at 16.1 pts/40 on .60 TS% and is a solid rebounder at 11.8 reb/40, although is average at some other stats like 1.6 ast/40 and 0.6 stl/40.

He has a solid combination of length and lateral mobility which should help him on the defensive end and although his skill game is raw, scoring at a solid rate may be a decent side. His frame is skinny and weakness.

I don’t love the upside of Davis to be more than a finisher at the basket at block shots, but that may do just fine.

15. PF Brice Johnson

Brice is one of the most complete statistical prospects in the draft with 1.5 stls/40, 2.1 blk/40, 15.0 reb/40, 2.1 ast/40, and 19.8 pts/40 on .50 TS% as a freshman, later 24.2 pts/40 on .65 TS% as a senior. As a talent he has great athleticism but questionable length and frame for a big man and his skill game is largely around the rim, although he improved his range a little this year and hit 78.3% of his FTs. Still, his skills and his size puts some caps on his talent.

His numbers and athleticism would be enough for him to be top 10, except I also have him flagged for mental make-up as he has the reputation as immature or a hothead. I don’t have a big enough sample size of hotheads to say with confidence what this measn for his career, but it’s enough to rate him below some prospects who were rating close to enough to him.

16-30:

16. SG James Blackmon
17. SF Taurean Prince
18. PG Demetrius Jackson
19. SF/PF Juancho Hernangomez
20. C Ivica Zubac
21. PF Petr Cornelie

22. SF Jaylen Brown

Brown’s stats are no worse than average, with a low rate of 1.2 stls/40 and 0.9 blks/40 for his position, but a solid 2.9 ast/40, 7.8 reb/40 and 21.2 pts/40 on .52 TS% against hard competition. The thing keeping him out of the top ten, is that my philosophy of 2/3s of talent being skill and IQ does not play well on Brown at all, as he is an average shooter at 29.4% 3 and 65.4% FT, is not a great ballhandler, and is known for average at best basketball IQ. It also bears mentioning that while his statistical profile comes out as OK, I don’t take into account one of his worst categories like TOVs, and his whole profile from the high volume inefficient scoring, high assists and high turnovers, screams someone who just used a lot of possessions regardless of whether it was the right move. Therefore Brown forcing his way into some of these stats is plausible and wouldn’t be a great sign.

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23. PF Dragan Bender

Bender rates as an impressive talent to me due to his athleticism, length, potential to shoot 3s and basketball IQ, I just don’t favor his season in Europe. In the Israeli league where he got most of his minutes he was about 9th on his team in PER, and being around his team’s 9th man reflects the rest of his season where the coach treated him as a fringe rotation player. In his limited minutes in the Euroleague he was the team’s least productive per minute player. There have been European prospects who weren’t trusted with a lot of minutes, but when they did, filled up the per minute stats compared to teammates. Bender is not one of them. While he blocked shots and scored at a decent TS% in a small sample size, but put up poor rebounding numbers, a low steal rate compared to the rest of his team and was an average scorer in volume and passer. His numbers suggest he got the minutes he deserved.

I see the team who drafts Bender as believing they can get a defensive anchor, shooter and playmaker from the 4 spot, a holy grail trinity of skillsets. It’s the Draymond Green package. But the problem is that there’s likely a reason why there’s only one Draymond Green in the league, and almost never another in NBA history: Because playing like him is really hard, and relies on stuff like Green’s incredible combination of basketball IQ, skills, strength and toughness. It’s sort of like how Shawn Marion used to be a popular prospect comparison in the draft because every year there’s a long armed, athletic wing who likes to score in transition. But with so many athletes at SF in the NBA and only one Marion, it’s clear there was a lot more to it than that. Bender could end up a great defensive anchor who shoots and is his team’s playmaker, or he could just be a long armed project.

24. PF Nigel Hayes
25. PG Melo Trimble
26. C Daniel Ochefu
27. PG/SG Jamal Murray

Murray is a talented player as one of the top 5 shooters in the draft, the rare strong ball-handling/shooting combination and a strong feel for the game, making up for mediocre size and athleticism for his position.

He just doesn’t come out well enough in my numbers. 1.1 stl/40 and 0.3 blk/40 is a low rate when most star perimeter players are over 2 stls and blks combined and 2.5 ast/40 is unimpressive. His 22.7 pts/40 on .59 TS% and 5.9 reb/40 are good numbers though.

28. PG/SG Alex Caruso
29. PF Henry Ellenson
30. SG Furkan Korkmaz

Notes on players out of the top 30:

Buddy Hield, Denzel Valentine, Malcolm Brogdon – From a talent perspective all of them rate highly as 3 of the best shooters in the draft, a high feel for the game, passing skill and size attributes. This is just all about the statistical indicators as old prospects with low numbers in categories like steals and blocks and who didn’t score at a high rate until they were older than the competition.

Domantas Sabonis – just missing the top 30, his profile outside of rebounding is somewhat average, especially in steals and blocks. More than that I struggled with his talent level as an athlete average with a below average wingspan at PF and not a great shooter.

Timothe Luwawu – Of the 1st round international prospects in this class, his numbers come off the worst to me. He is 21 next week and played in the Adriatic league and wasn’t all that impressive, shooting under 40% from the field and having about the 30th highest PER In the league. He was even less impressive if we went back a year ago when he couldn’t stand out in the French Pro B. Nemanja Nedovic in his draft year was a great athlete for his position, but old and putting up weak numbers in the Adriatic league. The concern for Luwawu is his profile points towards being the SG/SF version of that pick.

Gary Payton II – he is a high ranking on a lot of statistical boards right now. Rebounding is not rated as important in my system as it for others which hurts his performance a little and leaves his outstanding performing to largely the steals category. He also gets burned on the talent side of things as despite a great athlete, he is a non-shooting guard who struggles to handle and is considered to have an average feel.

Skal Labissiere – not saying anything surprising here, but yeah, his numbers are bad.

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Written by jr.

May 4, 2016 at 2:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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