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My 2013 NBA mock draft (June 2013)

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Here is my mock draft for fun:

1. Cleveland Cavaliers – PF Nerlens Noel: Ignore the Alex Len talk because Cleveland is an advanced metrics first drafting team, which likely rules Len out for his all time poor steal rate, whereas Noel and Porter are tops for nearly all stat-guys. I’m convinced the Cavaliers don’t take Len just like was convinced they’d pass on Harrison Barnes last year. This impassioned case for Noel is relevant because he ranked Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters 2nd in their draft years. With the Cavs having options at SF like Paul Pierce and Shawn Marion as well, I’ll lean narrowly towards them taking Noel in hopes of a long term star.

2. Orlando Magic – SG Victor Oladipo: I’m not sure what to make of the Eric Bledsoe rumors since I thought Rob Hennigan’s tell was feel for the game heavy players, which isn’t Bledsoe’s strength. Nevertheless Oladipo is a fit for the Magic whether my belief they specifically target smooth feel friendly players, is true or not. Oladipo gives them all-star upside and character at the 2 guard spot.

3. Washington Wizards – SF Otto Porter: Washington seems invested in making the playoffs next year. Porter fills a hole as starting SF immediately, in between Wall, Beal, Nene and Okafor. He provides a long term complimentary fit to their backcourt.

4. Charlotte Bobcats – PF Anthony Bennett: A fit for the Bobcats because of his high offensive upside, something desperately needed in Charlotte.

5. Phoenix Suns – PG Trey Burke: Although the Suns may need to move some pieces with Goran Dragic and Kendall Marshall on the team, Burke fits Ryan McDonaugh’s advanced stats history and gives them a new face of the franchise and offensive centerpoint, something they need.

6. New Orleans Pelicans – C Alex Len: Hard to see Len falling past here, giving Anthony Davis a long term center partner to help him out on both ends.

7. Sacramento Kings – SG Ben McLemore: I have no idea where the Kings are going, but McLemore is the type of off ball, complimentary scorer they’ve lacked lately. He’s the anti-Tyreke Evans.

8. Detroit Pistons – SF Sergey Karasev: Karasev fills a need for Detroit, giving them a shooter and creator on the wings for their big heavy lineup.

9. Minnesota Timberwolves – PG/SG C.J. McCollum: The Timberwolves are likely looking to fill a need for shooting. McCollum makes a nice fit beside Rubio at the 2, potentially switching defensive assignments.

10. Portland Trailblazers – PF/C Cody Zeller: Zeller gives the Blazers big man depth at PF/C, potential important if they’re looking at a Lamarcus Aldridge trade as a possibility soon

11. Philadelphia 76ers – C Steven Adams: Adams gives the 76ers either a starting C replacement for Andrew Bynum, or insurance for his health

12. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Toronto) – SF Giannis Antetokounmpo: I’ve had a feeling for a while Oklahoma City will go international stash to save salary and luxury tax. They can hope to bring Giannis over in a few years as a Toni Kukoc equivalent.

13. Dallas Mavericks – PG Dennis Schroeder: The Mavericks also appear to lean international stash for cap reasons. Schroeder fits that bill and is a high upside prospect at a needed position.

14. Utah Jazz – PF Kelly Olynyk: Olynyk’s spacing and feel, makes him a nice long term fit beside the bulking post players Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors

15. Milwaukee Bucks – PG Michael Carter-Williams: Carter-Williams has serious top 8 pick potential in this draft, so if he falls this far the Bucks may like adding him as a Brandon Jennings replacement at PG

16. Boston Celtics – SG/SF Jamaal Franklin: Franklin’s physical talents and instincts, gives the Celtics some upside as they look towards a new era

17. Atlanta Hawks – SF Shabazz Muhammad: The Hawks don’t have a lot going on at the wings right now, Shabazz gives them a scorer to fill minutes

18. Atlanta Hawks – C Gorgui Dieng: If they go wing with one pick, taking a center who can finally move Horford to PF, seems natural with the other one.

19. Cleveland Cavaliers – SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: Caldwell-Pope is another advanced metrics favorite, fitting Cleveland and giving them depth on the wings

20. Chicago Bulls – C Jeff Withey: This has felt the natural landing spot for Withey for some time, filling the Omer Asik role behind Joakim Noah

21. Utah Jazz – PG Erick Green: Green gives the Jazz a potential starting PG, with shooting skill and feel.

22. Brooklyn Nets – C Mason Plumlee: The Nets feel like a team looking for an older college player under the guise of “NBA ready”, Plumlee filling a role as energy rebounder for them

23. Indiana Pacers – SG/SF Tony Snell: A contending team like Indiana can always use another shooter and floor spacer with defensive potential

24. New York Knicks – PF/C Lucas Nogueira: Nogueira provides some needed athletic depth at a big man spot.

25. Los Angeles Clippers – SG/SF Reggie Bullock: Like the Pacers’ Snell pick, the Clippers make this pick to find shooting and spacing who can play

26. Minnesota Timberwolves – C Rudy Gobert: If drafting wing early, Gobert gives them a backup C which is another need

27. Denver Nuggets – PF C.J. Leslie: Leslie’s athleticism fits Denver’s typical high paced style of play, well.

28. San Antonio Spurs – C Mike Muscala: Muscala’s elite feel for the game fits the Spurs’ history well. A player whom nobody will be surprised if he’s a steal, but will somehow fall this far anyways, which is a typical draft night for the Spurs

29. Oklahoma City Thunder – C Bojan Dubjlevic: Another international stash for the Thunder, they could use Bojan’s floor spacing in a few years.

30. Phoenix Suns (from Miami Heat) – PF Tony Mitchell: After drafting wing early, the Suns look for a previously highly touted SF/PF with athleticism in Mitchell

31. Cleveland Cavaliers – C Colton Iverson: Cleveland hopes to get a rotation backup C out of the big, reliable Iverson

32. Oklahoma City Thunder – SG/SG Glen Rice, Jr.: Rice, Jr.’s experience in the D League and with the longer 3 point line, may give him a chance at playing this year for the Thunder

33. Cleveland Cavaliers – PG Lorenzo Brown: Trying to find PG depth behind Kyrie Irving who has been injury prone, is a respectable idea

34. Houston Rockets – PF/C Ryan Kelly: Houston is no stranger to 3 point shooting bigs, the spacing fitting their advanced metrics heavy system

35. Philadelphia 76ers – SG Allen Crabbe: Another team looking for a shooter to shore up their wings

36. Sacramento Kings – SG Tim Hardaway, Jr.: Hardaway is the type of reliable wing who doesn’t need a lot of shots, that the Kings have lacked lately

37. Detroit Pistons – PG Ray McCallum: Drafting a PG here is a fit for Detroit, grabbing a local prospect is perfect for them

38. Washington Wizards – PG Shane Larkin: Larkin is a nice speedy compliment behind John Wall

39. Portland Trailblazers – PF Jackie Carmichael: Carmichael adds another tough depth prospect to Portland’s frontcourt

40. Portland Trailblazers – PG Isaiah Canaan: Trying to get a backup PG behind Damian Lillard, why not?

41. Memphis Grizzlies – PF Andre Roberson: Roberson is an advanced stats favorite, fits the John Hollinger Grizzlies era

42. Philadelphia 76ers – SG Ricardo Ledo: Ledo has some buzz, though I expect he’d go higher if not for character concerns

43. Milwaukee Bucks – SF Solomon Hill: The Bucks are the greatest 2nd round drafting team by far, so I’ll give them a pick I’d call a steal at this range.

44. Dallas Mavericks – SG Archie Goodwin: Dallas tries an upside move, taking the hype athletic Goodwin PG Pierre Jackson

45. Portland Trailblazers – PF Kenny Kadji: After drafting guads with the last 2 seconds, a big pick seems fair

46. Utah Jazz – SG Alex Abrines: The Jazz have had a solid history with high IQ international players

47. Atlanta Hawks – PF Grant Jerrett: Jerrett has a solid chance of making it long term in the NBA if he can hit 3s, even if he does little else

48. Los Angeles Lakers – PG Myck Kabongo: The Lakers could use a young point guard with upside

49. Chicago Bulls – PF Erik Murphy The Bulls have had a need for a 3pt shooting PF for years

50. Atlanta Hawks – C Trevor Mbakwe: Mbakwe’s athleticism and energy makes him a solid bet to stick off the bench

51. Orlando Magic – PF Brandon Davies: Davies has one of the best feel for the games in the draft, making him an ideal Magic fit

52. Minnesota Timberwolves – SF James Ennis: Another shooter for the Timberwolves

53. Indiana Pacers – PG Nate Wolters: A young PG is a nice fit for the Pacers, Wolters great value this low

54. Washington Wizards – PF Livio Jean-Charles: I expect the Wizards to go Euro stash with this pick if they keep it

55. Memphis Grizzlies – PG Pierre Jackson: Drafting a PG with a solid chance at playing backup in the league for a long time, is a solid move

56. Detroit Pistons – SG B.J. Young: High value here, Young’s ability to get to the rim gives him a potential long career

57. Phoenix Suns – PG/SG: Nemanja Nedovic: A probably Euro stash, like Young, Nedovic’s athleticism gives him some potential in the NBA

58. San Antonio Spurs – PG Matthew Dellavedova: Dellavedova’s feel and skill fits the Spurs. Expect them to stash him in Europe for years first.

59. Minnesota Timberwolves – PF Richard Howell: Howell gives the Timberwolves from big man depth

60. Memphis Grizzlies –  PF Arsalan Kazemi: How about another advanced statistics favorite for the Grizzlies.

Written by jr.

June 26, 2013 at 10:07 am

Posted in Basketball

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NBA Finals Thoughts

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Miami Heat

Miami Heat (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

When predicting the Finals or previous rounds, I try to take a perspective of “How would you feel about this match-up if you’d heard about it before the playoffs?”, meaning not to fall prey to overreacting to previous rounds. Clearly most would have greatly favored Miami going into the playoffs over San Antonio or anyone else.

With that said, the Spurs defense has impressed me far more in the playoffs. The Spurs have not been able to win games “ugly” and with defense in the playoffs for years like they did against Memphis and Golden State and now they can. The development of Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter has brought the Spurs defense back to relevance. On the other hand the Heat’s switch to a smaller lineup phasing Joel Anthony out of the lineup, has prevented them from consistent elite defensive results. If the Heat were a shut-down defensive team the Pacers series would’ve been much shorter because like the Grizzlies, the Heat could’ve just exposed the Pacers flawed offense. Although at times the Heat defense stepped up such as in Game 7, overall I trust the Spurs defense more.

One of the reasons the Grizzlies went down so easily to the Spurs is predictability. The Grizzlies leaned far too much in 3 players in Mike Conley, Jr., Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol. The Popovich defensive game-planning were able to key on them. The spacing, passing and off ball play of the other Heat players aside from Lebron, will make it difficult to push the Heat into the flat offensive gameplan they want them to.

The Spurs players’ production has largely been expected compared to regular season play. However the Heat have had different production. Wade and Bosh have been worse, Chris Anderson has been better, and Battier hasn’t been playing. The Heat with Wade and Bosh playing back at regular season level can make a step up as a team compared to what we’ve seen. The biggest way they get worse is if Lebron’s play drops off. For the Spurs to step up their play it’d be by Manu upping his play, albeit he’s been off all year.

If the Heat role players match the Spurs’, the Heat likely win the series just because of Lebron. Lebron and equal help probably doesn’t lose. The way the Heat lose is either Lebron disappoints like in 2011 or he gets no help. The Spurs need to decide whether to shut down the Heat role players while letting Lebron do what he wants, or trying to stop Lebron.

Although it’s unfair, if Lebron loses the Finals twice in three years at his apex as the favorite and with home court advantage it will be hard to live down. Nevertheless making 3 straight Finals puts the Heat in a rare and proud class. I see the Heat losing next year. This Heat team reminds me of the 2010 Lakers where making the Finals 3 straight years was showing on them. Even if they grinded out a 2nd title, that run showed signs of how it’d end the following year. The reason the Heat losing the 2011 title hurts them so much is that their window would never run into infinity with their big 3 running into double digits for seasons played, which is usually when players decline. As superhuman as he is, even Lebron’s prime may end sooner than people believe. Lebron has played over 36,000 minutes in the regular season and playoffs combined and is set to tack on 3000-3800 a year from now on. Normally 40,000 thousand is a dangerous number for when players start to slip. Put it this way, if Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison retired right now, Lebron would pass them by the end of next season with minutes played similar to this season. He’d take about 2 seasons to catch Steve Nash and 3 seasons to catch Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce if they all retired now. Like recent Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, Lebron will likely be a fantastic player deep into his 30s, but the apex version of Lebron racking up MVPs, may only last 1 or 2 more years, with 3 seeming the absolute max.

Admittedly I don’t have a great feel for who wins this series. I don’t feel the matchup favors one team or the other. So I’ll predict this – The first two games in Miami are split. San Antonio wins 2 of 3 at home, which leads the Spurs to have a 3-2 lead going back to the 2 games in Miami. From there it’s probably a toss-up whether San Antonio closes out the series or if Miami wins back to back at home.

Prediction: Miami in 7 games

I pick Miami because of home court advantage favoring them in the 7th game if they get there and because of the greatness of where Lebron’s game is right now.

Written by jr.

June 6, 2013 at 1:08 pm

2013 NBA Draft Talent Grades: The Small Forwards

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2013 NBA Draft Talent Grades: The Shooting Guards

2013 NBA Draft Talent Grades: The Point Guards

Here are my talent grades for the Small Forwards in the 2013 NBA draft. The SFs I felt comfortable ranking or worth it were Otto Porter, Shabazz Muhammad, Giannis Antetokoumpo, Sergey Karasev, Reggie Bullock, Tony Snell, Solomon Hill, Adonis Thomas. (Dario Saric, James Southerland, C.J. Leslie, Tony Mitchell, Deshaun Thomas, D.J. Stephens are notable prospects who are rated as PFs)

My grades are from 1 to 11 in 3 categories: Physical impact talent, skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent and feel for the game talent. The grades go by this rubric:

11: Transcendent, 10: Incredible 9: Elite, 8: Great, 7: Very good, 6: Decent, 5: Average, 4: Lacking, 3: Weak, 2: Very poor, 1: Awful

What the overall grades mean:

25+: Perennial all-star talent, 23-24: Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent, 19-22: Blue Chip starter talent, 17-18: Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent, 14-16: Rotation player talent, 12-13: Deep bench to rotation player talent, 11 or lower: Deep bench player talent

Here are my grades in the 3 categories first, before getting to individual breakdowns:

Physical impact talent grades:

Solomon Hill: 8 / Great

Adonis Thomas: 7 / Very good

Giannis Antetokoumpo: 5 / Average

Tony Snell: 4 / Lacking

Sergey Karasev: 4 / Lacking

Otto Porter: 3 / Weak

Shabazz Muhammad: 3 / Weak

Reggie Bullock: 1 / Awful

Hill leads the way in physical impact talent with his explosive ability to get to the basket, with a strong frame to finish. Adonis Thomas is the best athlete of this group, though raw ballhandling hurting his ability to slash, prevents him from topping the group for physical impact. Snell is a good, long athlete, but doesn’t get to the rim as much as his athleticism, because of ballhandling problems. Giannis and Karasev are underwhelming athletes but can get to the rim based on ballhandling talent, Giannis also freakishly long.  Porter is freakishly long but lacks speed and ballhandling. Shabazz is also an unimpressive slasher due to explosiveness and ballhandling problems. Bullock is almost entirely a perimeter orientated player, without the speed or ballhandling to have a slashing game.

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grades:

Tony Snell: 8 / Great

Sergey Karasev: 8 / Great

Otto Porter: 7 / Very good

Solomon Hill: 6 / Decent

Shabazz Muhammad: 6 / Decent

Reggie Bullock: 6 / Decent

Giannis Antetokoumpo: 5 / Average

Adonis Thomas: 4 / Lacking

Snell and Karasev are the standout shooters of the group. Snell has more trustworthy spot up shooting ability, but Karasev is better off the bounce. Both are solid passers. Hill, Porter, Muhammad, Bullock shot the ball well from 3 in college, but FT%s in the 70s makes me believe their shooting can go either direction in the pros. Porter also has impressive post and passing skills. Giannis and Thomas are unproven shooters, but I give most players the benefit of the doubt that they can develop into average shooters. Giannis is also a strong passer and has post potential.

Feel for the Game talent grades:

Otto Porter: 10 / Incredible

Sergey Karasev: 8 / Great

Tony Snell: 8 / Great

Giannis Antetokoumpo: 8 / Great

Shabazz Muhammad: 8 / Great

Reggie Bullock: 8 / Great

Solomon Hill: 5 / Average

Adonis Thomas: 5 / Average

Porter is the standout in this group, truly elite in the area for his controlled, slow, smooth game. Karasev, Snell, Giannis, Shabazz, Bullock are also smooth, strong feel for the game players. Hill and Thomas are not particularly natural players.

Ranking it individually:

Blue Chip starter talent (Grades between 19-22)

Tony Snell

Physical impact talent grade: 4 / Lacking

Skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Snell is one of the better shooters in the draft, hitting 39.0% and 38.7% from 3pt in his junior and sophomore seasons respectively. Importantly, he backed this up with strong 84.3% and 83.1% FT clips those years. Snell excels at spot-up shots off the ball, but is not as impressive shooting off the dribble. He also shows flashes as a passer and has the length to develop a post game at SF. My skill impact (shoot, post, pass) grade for Snell is thus strong.

Tony also has an impressive feel for the game. He’s a smooth, fluid player and on the occasions he does drive, he makes it look easy. Snell moves well off the ball and sees teammates well when passing.

Snell’s physical impact talent is a mixed bag. Although he’s a good athlete, Snell’s lack of ballhandling makes him a near non-threat as a slasher, instead relying on perimeter shots. A skinny frame may also hurt his ability to finish. In his favor, Snell has a long wingspan which should help him have physical impact defensively. The physical impact package when taken as a whole is unimpressive to average.

Snell has an excellent chance at being a starting SF who’s a sharpshooter and floor spacer from 3, while on the defensive end standing out because of length, athleticism and feel. This combination is very coveted, especially for advanced metrics favoring teams. If he fails to reach this, it’s likely by his 3 point shot failing to translate despite his strong present splits. While if Snell can develop to attack the basket at an above average level, it may push him towards star potential.

Otto Porter

Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak

Skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7 / Very good

Feel for the Game talent grade: 10 / Incredible

Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Otto Porter is a feel for the game freak of nature. I came to close to giving an ultra rare perfect grade of 11 in the category, but settled for a conservative 10. Otto plays with a natural smoothness, control and “slow-mo” pace reminiscent of players like Paul Pierce and Andre Miller. The instincts also show themselves in his rebounding, passing and defensive anticipation.

Porter lacks tools as a slasher. Otto is a subpar athlete, which with middling ballhandling hurts his ability to drive to the rim. Lacking strength there also hurts his ability to finish. On the positive side, freakish length for a SF should help his physical impact talent defensively.

Otto’s career to me hinges on his 3pt shooting. Although shooting an elite 42.2% from 3 as a sophomore, his 22.6% freshman 3pt clip combined with average 77.7% and 70.2% free throw campaigns, give doubt about trusting Otto as an elite shooter. His length does him post skill potential and he’s shown flashes as a playmaker. I settled on a very good, but not great skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade.

If Porter can become a standout 3pt and midrange shooter for a SF, pushing his skill impact grade higher than I pegged, he’d be a blue chipper and in the mix for top 5 players in this draft class. However if his shot fell apart in the pros, when combined with slashing flaws, his offensive game would struggle to find any foothold. For this reason I consider Otto a pick with significant blue chip upside, but also risk of him falling to an average career.

Sergey Karasev

Physical impact talent grade: 4 / Lacking

Skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Karasev has an impressive combination of skill and feel for a SF. Plays with a high level of fluidity, control and recognizes teammates well. A crafty player with the ball in his hands. A clear case of high feel for the game.

Has turned himself into a great 3 point shooter, backed up by a FT% routinely over 80%. His excellent ballhandling helps him create shots off the bounce as well. Has shown signs of a playmaking game and has the height to have potential in the post. It’s not easy to find SFs with legitimate 3 point range and shot creating ability on the perimeter, Karasev deserves a high skill impact (shoot, post, pass) grade.

Physical impact talent is his question mark. While he has impressive ballhandling to drive to the basket, his first step and speed is not impressive. At the rim he’s relatively grounded with an average body, which may hurt his finishing. His offensive game is likely to rely on perimeter scoring more than slashing. His average lateral quickness makes him a defensive question mark as well.

Presuming his shooting comes through like my skill impact grade projects, I believe Karasev has an excellent chance of starting at SF. Spacing, IQ and shot creating at the position, is valued in a starting lineup. Karasev fits a stereotype of skilled, smart European wing players in a good way. Put it this way, he’s Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs-y.

Solomon Hill

Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent

Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average

Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Solomon Hill has a near elite first step, which when combined with good ballhandling and a strong frame, allows him to attack the basket and finish hard. Impressive length should also help his physical impact potential defensively. As a whole I rate him a great physical impact talent. Solomon’s understated physical impact talent reminds me of James Harden, where Harden not being a high flying type of athlete, hid how dynamic his speed and power attacking the rim was.

Hill has turned himself into a good NCAA 3pt shooter, hitting 39.0% and 38.9% his junior and sophomore seasons. However hitting 76.6% and 72.4% of his FTs is middling enough to make his shooting a question mark. His 3pt shooting in college is enough for me to give him a decent skill impact (shoot, post, pass) grade.

Solomon’s feel for the game appears to be average. He at times can look out of control when driving to the rim, instead of fluid and natural. Nevertheless he recognizes teammates fairly well.

As a whole Solomon is an impressive talent. His ability to attack the basket should make him a starter presuming he can hit open jumpshots. If he turns himself into a dynamic perimeter scorer to compliment his driving game, he could be a true blue chip and near star at SF. With a poor shooting game his role would likely be caught between starting and the bench.

Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent (Grades between 17-18)

Giannis Antetokoumpo

Physical impact talent grade: 5 / Average

Skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average

Feel for the Game talent: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Giannis is clearly hard to nail down without great competition or footage out there, but this is the best I can do:

His strengths start with his strong feel for the game. Giannis is a fluid, controlled player who’s instincts and ability to sense teammates has apparently helped him be used in a point forward role.

However the one who may one day be nicknamed Scrabble is an underwhelming athlete for a SF, meaning despite solid ballhandling for a 3, his ability to create offense slashing to the rim may be limited. A skinny frame may hurt his ability to finish at the basket. Tremendous length for a SF helps his physical impact talent on the defensive end.

Antetokoumpo’s future as a shooter is difficult to peg. His FT% in the low 70s and that he’s not known as a shooter, indicate giving him a high grade in the area may be unwarranted. His length indicates post potential is there and he’s a good passer. My skill impact (shoot, post, pass) grade for Giannis is average, however depending on the development of his shooting that grade could go higher or lower in the future. With my other talent grades, I project Giannis with a reliable 3 point shot and perimeter scoring game is a likely starter, if not blue chipper. With an average or poor shot, I suspect he’d be just average. As a whole Giannis is a poor man’s Otto Porter, with the high feel for the game, length, but underwhelming athleticism and a shooting game that could go either way.

Shabazz Muhammad

Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak

Skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent)

Muhammad is highlighted by an impressive feel for the game, with fluidity, craftiness and instincts. His feel helps him use his body against defenders well.

As a slasher Shabazz shows little tools. He has mediocre explosiveness and subpar ballhandling, the combination making it unlikely he blows by defenders to the rim. The strength advantages he’s had in high school and college should also disappear against NBA SFs, where his size doesn’t stand out. Shabazz does have a long wingspan which should help his physical impact defensively.

Muhammad shot 37.7% from 3 his freshman year at UCLA which is fine, but a mediocre 71.7% from the FT line is a worrying number that his outside shot could go in the wrong direction in the NBA. Shabazz does have strong touch around the basket and some post skills. Taken as a whole, my skill impact (shoot, post, pass) grade for Shabazz is a decent one, but not great or elite.

If Shabazz turns himself into an elite 3pt shooter for a SF, he has the feel and length to be a starter and blue chipper. However that comes with the equal risk that his shooting doesn’t translate, which without a great slashing game gives Bazz little to lean on offensively.

Rotation player talent (Grades between 14-16)

Adonis Thomas

Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking

Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average

Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade)

Adonis Thomas has a strong combination of athleticism, strength and length for a small forward that made him a top high school recruit once upon a time. He can get to the rim, albeit raw ballhandling prevents a more dynamic slashing game. He’ll likely physical impact the game defensively at a respectable level.

Thomas appears to have a middling feel for the game, neither standing out in a positive or negative way. He does particularly show fluidity when driving, but isn’t out of control either.

Adonis perimeter shooting game is raw right now with a 29.2% 3pt, though a free throw percentage of 75.2% gives hope his mechanics aren’t broken. My skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade for Adonis is a lacking 4, giving benefit of the doubt he can develop from poor to average in the area.

Thomas is likely to stick long term in the NBA regardless of his shot, because of his physical tools which will likely allow him to defend SGs and SFs. If he can develop a 3 point shooting game he can make a run at a consistent starting role. Thomas should look to a player like Quincy Pondexter as a model to follow, Quincy starting as an athletic defensive specialist before developing his perimeter skill enough to find a foothold in NBA rotations.

Reggie Bullock

Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

Bullock’s feel for the game is a strength. He plays a smooth, fluid, easy game. Known as a lockdown shooter after hitting 38.2% from 3 as a sophomore and 43.6% as a junior, however middling FT% of 72.7% and 76.7% gives doubt to those numbers and indicates Reggie is not a lock as a shooter. Bullock is also more of a spot up shooter than one who excels shooting off the bounce. My skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade for Bullock is decent, but not great.

His weakness is scoring attacking the basket. Bullock is a mediocre athlete and has nearly non-existent ballhandling skills. An average body also doesn’t help him finish or make a physical impact defensively. Bullock may end up one of the most perimeter orientated SFs in the league.

For Bullock to start in the NBA he needs his 3pt shooting to be among the best for his position. That’s conceivable, however with an average or poor jumpshot he may be nearly unplayable without a slashing game to lean on.

Factors outside of talent grades: Unless Karasev or Antetokoumpo have buyout issues I’m unaware of, I see no reason to differentiate by character or health for these players. One could make an argument Shabazz being groomed into a future NBA star his whole live could create a conceivable problem if he’s not ready to accept he’s more Wesley Matthews than Kobe Bryant as a talent. But I tend to shy away from judging players characters like that without further information about them. Karasev, Shabazz, Thomas, Bullock may be able to fill minutes at the SG spot. Hill and Porter, Antetokoumpo if they bulk up, may be able to challenge PF minutes.

If ranking by upside alone I’d rank the SFs 1. Tony Snell 2. Otto Porter 3. Sergey Karasev 4. Solomon Hill 5. Giannis Antetokoumpo 6. Shabazz Muhammad 7. Adonis Thomas 8. Reggie Bullock. If ranking by downside: 1. Tony Snell 2. Sergey Karasev 3. Otto Porter 4. Solomon Hill 5. Giannis Antetokoumpo 6. Shabazz Muhammad 7. Adonis Thomas 8. Reggie Bullock. The only difference is Porter’s upside if he can develop into an elite shooter, moves closer to elite than players like Karasev and Hill. Otherwise, all these players at their best are blue chip starters (with Snell and Porter stars at best) and at worst, between tweener starter/bench players and bench player.

Final SF rankings and where I’d consider taking them:

1. Tony Snell (top 10)
2. Otto Porter (top 10)
3. Sergey Karasev (top 10)
4. Solomon Hill (top 20)
5. Giannis Antetokoumpo (top 20)
6. Shabazz Muhammad (top 30)
7. Adonis Thomas (top 30)
8. Reggie Bullock (top 40)

Cumulative list (I’ve ranked PGs, SGs and SFs so far) and where I’d consider taking them:

1. SG Victor Oladipo (top 5)
2. SG Ben McLemore (top 10)
3. SF Tony Snell (top 10)
4. PG C.J. McCollum (top 10)
5. SF Otto Porter (top 10)
6. SF Sergey Karasev (top 10)
7. PG Trey Burke (top 10)
8. PG Lorenzo Brown (top 14)
9. PG Matthew Dellavedova (top 14)
10. SF Solomon Hill (top 14)
11. PG Myck Kabongo (top 20)
12. SG B.J. Young (top 20)
13. SG Jamaal Franklin (top 20)
14. SF Giannis Antetokoumpo (top 20)
15. SG Seth Curry (top 20)
16. PG Erick Green (top 20)
17. PG Shane Larkin (top 20)
18. PG Nate Wolters (top 20)
19. PG Isaiah Canaan (top 20)
20. PG Pierre Jackson (top 20)
21. SG Glen Rice, Jr. (top 30)
22. SG Tim Hardaway, Jr. (top 30)
23. SF Shabazz Muhammad (top 30)
24. SF Adonis Thomas (top 30)
25. SG Ricardo Ledo (top 30)
26. PG Michael Carter-Williams (top 40)
27. PG Dennis Schroeder (top 40)
28. SF Reggie Bullock (top 40)
29. SG Archie Goodwin (top 40)
30. SG Allen Crabbe (top 40)
31. SG Alex Abrines (top 40)
32. PG Phil Pressey (top 50)
33. PG Ray McCallum (top 50)
34. SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (top 60)
35. SG Brandon Paul (undrafted)

Draft Prospect Friday: Very early 2013 NBA Draft Big Board

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I’m going to be updating this list a handful of times this year, but here are my rankings with what I’ve seen so far, of the 2013 draft prospects. I have included my 33pt grades for each prospect though they are flexible to be changed as I learn more about the prospects:

Superstar talent grades

1. C Alex Len (Maryland) –  Physical impact grade: 9, Skill grade: 9, Feel for the Game grade: 9. Total: 27

Len has a shocking lead over the rest of the gap in my grades. I’m planning on a longer article on him later, but right now Len appears to be the full package. Physically he’s a legit 7-7’1 footer with a wide frame, plus athleticism to run the floor and play over the rim has been a dominant shot-blocker in college so far. But it’s his skill and feel for the game for a big guy that makes him special. He looks extremely comfortable in the post and has outside range that looks great, in both cases his height will help him release shots at a difficult to guard range. He is a tremendously smooth player offensively and has a high defensive IQ. Len’s combination of athleticism, skill and feel for the game for a wide bodied 7 footer reminds me of Pau Gasol and even a bit of Tim Duncan.

All-star talent grades

2. C Cody Zeller (Indiana) – Physical impact grade: 5, Skill grade: 7, Feel for the Game grade: 10. Total: 22

Cody has much of the same strengths as Len. He has a tremendous feel for the game/basketball IQ and has an inside/outside skill level. The big difference is Cody’s physical tools are lesser. Cody is skinnier and has a brutally short 6’8 wingspan for a 6’11+ player, which hurts his defensive potential at C and will make it more difficult for him to find space to release his shots.  Nevertheless, Cody is still a skilled post player with great touch and a developing outside game. He’s also a notably more explosive athlete than his brother Tyler, which should help him create a speed mismatch against opponents. I’d say there’s a good chance Zeller falls in mock drafts over the year and ends up a steal in the 6-10 range of the draft, similar to Greg Monroe and Brook Lopez, two other skilled Cs who weren’t physically imposing.

3. SF Le’Bryan Nash (Oklahoma State) – Physical impact grade: 8, Skill grade: 5, Feel for the Game grade: 8. Total: 21 – Le’Bryan Nash reminds me a lot of Rudy Gay. He’s both explosive and strong for a SF, has a smooth feel for the game and has a promising looking perimeter shooting game. This combination should make him a good bet to score 20 points a game in the NBA. With his improved production this year I expect him to shoot up draft boards. Nash may have top 2 upside in the draft if his skill/shooting game takes a leap forward to match his physical tools and feel for the game. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

November 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm