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Posts Tagged ‘2014 draft

Hey Jabari, Sorry

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Jabari Parker is considered a surefire top 3 pick and possible #1 overall. Currently he rates outside of my top 10 talents in the draft. I wanted to dig deeper into my reservations with how he is getting rated by conventional wisdom

Consider this article on ESPN.com between Chad Ford and Kevin Pelton. Ford starts the article stating:

Jabari Parker is such an interesting player from a draft perspective. He clearly looks to be the most NBA-ready of the players on our Big Board. His offensive game seems like it will obviously translate. Everyone uses words such as “NBA-ready” and “low-risk” when describing Jabari.

Ford is giving a brief on why teams like Jabari. He is considered a lock to score well in the NBA and quickly, to the point where Ford uses the word “obvious” multiple times. The conventional wisdom viewpoint of Jabari is while players like Andrew Wiggins have a higher upside, with Parker you know what you are getting. A high volume, go-to scorer thanks to his size and polish on the perimeter.

There is of course, no meat in this analysis as to why he’s so NBA ready and low risk. I don’t mean to bag on Chad Ford because he deserves his paycheque. He is a talented writer and entertainer on a website motivated to drive traffic to draft articles. Criticizing him for not rating prospects right, is like judging a charismatic news anchor for not understanding the economy.

This article from mid-April from the Bucks sbnation blog BrewHoop, gives a clearer idea for the “why” in the Jabari is safe analysis:

Jabari Parker

What does he bring? Polish and skill. An NBA-ready body and style of play. A great locker room presence and coachability. All things Milwaukee could definitely use. Parker might be the player most capable of instantly improving the fortunes of the club that drafts him, which may or may not hold some allure to Milwaukee’s new owners. But the most enticing thing Parker brings to the table is his shot creation. He’s got the sort of “something from nothing” skill that separates the elite players from the rabble.

How bad do the Bucks need him? So so so much. Milwaukee put up some strong offensive numbers in the second half of last season, but it was painfully obvious that the Bucks need more guys who can initiate sets and create decent shots for teammates. Parker is a guy who can do that. He’d take a ton of pressure off Milwaukee’s primary ball handlers, allowing everybody to better fill the roles they can excel in. Brandon Knight could become more of a shooter. Giannis could become more of a playmaker. And Ilyasova could be more of a trade chip.

This makes the conventional wisdom picture on Parker clearer. Part of the reason why Parker is considered a surefire good NBA scorer, because he can “create his own shot”. Based on doing just this in college, Parker’s fans envision giving him the ball in the mid-post area, allowing him to back down opponents for a turnaround jumper, or facing up to create space off the dribble to have an open shot over defenders. This is the advantage of size and polished skill. Although Jabari may not be the most efficient scorer, it’s expected he’ll get his 20 a game by this ability to create offense himself. Like Carmelo.

In the ESPN article again Pelton’s initial response to Ford helps back this “creating offense” perspective statistically:

Right now, Parker’s most elite skill is his ability to create shots. He used 32.7 percent of Duke’s possessions this year, putting him in the top 25 nationally and far ahead of other top freshmen like Wiggins (26.3 percent), Embiid (23.4 percent) and Julius Randle (25.4 percent). In my database, just five freshmen who have entered the draft have had a higher translated usage rate: Michael Beasley, Kevin Durant, Tyreke Evans, Kris Humphries and O.J. Mayo.

In the context of that large role, Parker’s efficiency was decent. He’s not yet a great 3-point shooter (35.8 percent) and was only decent inside the arc (50.4 percent), but among the group of high-usage one-and-done players, only Beasley was notably more efficient in college. In time, I think Parker will grow into a high-usage, high-efficiency player, not unlike his most similar statistical comparison: Carmelo Anthony.

Of course, “creating your own shot” in the NBA has a different meaning than it did for teams 10-15 years ago and beyond. Getting your shot off in any form has become less valued, getting good shots at the rim, free throw line or from 3 has become more valued. Creating mid-range shots is less valued, because many teams now leave the mid-range area open, baiting teams to take them.

That’s not to say isolation mid-range scoring, lacks value. The ability for a player to create his own offense from mid-range, can be a back breaker for a defense if they’d otherwise defended the play well. When shots from 3 and at the rim aren’t available, the post-fueled mid-range creating players like Joe Johnson and Carmelo can provide, becomes a good bailout option. If they can create a shot going in 40% of the time, while the opponent in the same situation has to throw up a shot going in 25% of the time, it can be a game breaking advantage – especially in the tighter defended playoffs.

The question is whether this is enough to draft Jabari top 3. Part of the reason it’s arguably not is in the numbers. League average efficiency is around .54 true shooting % (TS), while even the great mid-range shooters, are typically around 40-45% (Carmelo: .447 eFG from 16-23 feet). True shooting % under .50 tends to get frowned upon as a sign the player should shoot less. Carmelo’s true shooting percentage is .56. Paul George, another high volume mid-range shooter, hits .55 TS despite .397 eFG from 16-23 feet. The reason they are still above average efficiency players, is they still take 3s, get to the rim and get to the free throw line enough to make up for it. Teams aren’t just giving them the ball to take mid-range shots. Their responsibility is primarily creating the shots at the rim, from free throw line and from 3, then that responsibility extends to taking mid-range shots when the team is out of options. Take away the driving and outside shooting and it’s not just that they become less efficient, but they wouldn’t remain high volume players either. Their teams would take the ball out of their hands and give it to better drivers and outside shooters. Taking way their driving and outside shooting doesn’t make them high volume inefficient players, it just makes them lower volume players.

Melo and George’s ability to create mid-range shots is valued, but it’s one piece of a larger puzzle. They wouldn’t be offensive stars without the tools to drive and shoot 3s first and foremost.

My larger point is this. For Jabari to be a “safe” NBA scorer, it’s not just about the tools to put up a lot of shots, particularly from mid-range. It depends on a combination of his 3 point jumpshot, his midrange scoring ability and his tools driving to the rim translating. The moment one takes away 3 point shooting or driving to the rim, he becomes a less “safe” prospect offensively, if not altogether risky. Without the driving and shooting tools in his repertoire, he wouldn’t get the trust from his team or touches to be one of the league’s high volume scorers. He would just get buried and become another guy.

The question after this is, how well will Jabari shoot and drive to the rim? His upside in the latter appears to be limited by lack of strong athleticism. Although Parker handles well in transition, when looking at his games/clips, I didn’t see separation on the perimeter off the dribble.

How about his outside shooting? Parker hit 35.8% from the shorter NCAA 3pt line, which is solid for a freshman. His 3 point volume of 3.0 3PA a game and his free throw percentage of 74.8% FT are both respectable. Jabari did enough to prove he could be a good shooter. But he didn’t separate himself from NCAA peers in shooting stroke like other prospects such as Nik Stauskas or Shabazz Napier did. Here’s something worrying for Jabari: In his first 3 games of the season, he went 11 for 16 from 3. As he went 38 for 106 from 3 for the season, it means his last 32 games of the year he shot 27 for 90 from 3, just 30% on 2.8 attempts a game. That so much of how we feel about a prospect’s shooting ability can be affected by 3 games, is a sign of why trusting 3P% alone can be scary and why I favor also looking at volume and FT%. Parker did not have a better 3 point shooting or free throw shooting season than Andrew Wiggins, who’s future as a perimeter scorer is considered a more risky proposition.

Carmelo Anthony is not just a great mid-range creator. He’s a great 3 point shooter and he has a dynamic first step to drive to the rim and draw fouls. The size and feel for the game that Jabari shares with Carmelo, may be less than half of what makes Carmelo such a talented player. If in the other half including areas like athleticism and outside shooting they are incomparable players, the comparison does not hold too valid.

The “disappointment to bust” version of Jabari would likely begin with in inability to drive to the rim or shoot 3s, which in combination with defensive inabilities, could be devastating for the team who takes him top 3. That’s not to say he’ll be a bust. The better a 3 point shooter he becomes, the closer to stardom he’ll get. But he also has a low floor. That should not be ignored.

Written by jr.

May 13, 2014 at 3:39 pm

On Kelly Olynyk’s summer league and upside, gauging athleticism

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Kelly Olynyk was the star of Orlando Summer league. His averages of 19.5 points, 8.0 rebounds. 2.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game in 26.5 minutes is dominant production per minute. More impressive to people was how he did it. Easily. Consistent. With a variety of skill moves. On a different level than his peers.

Naturally summer league statistics are close to meaningless. Just check out the history of players like Jerryd Bayless and Anthony Randolph during it. However, since he’s a hot product at the moment, I thought I’d dive into why I was so high on Olynyk before his draft – ranking him as my 2nd most talented prospect behind Anthony Bennett.

What’s obvious about Kelly is his feel for the game is one of the best in the class and potentially will be one of the best at his position in the NBA. Everything he does is smooth, under control and with layers of craftiness if he needs it. These instincts and superior sense of space were clear in summer league, as they were at Gonzaga.

His shooting skill may actually be a little overstated. Olynyk has been rated by some as a future Mehmet Okur, Ryan Anderson type 3 point shooting big, but he only hit 9 of 30 from the shorter NCAA 3 point line his entire senior season as Gonzaga and 25 for 75 his entire college career. Anthony Bennett took and hit more 3s as a freshman at UNLV than Olynyk did in his three seasons at Gonzaga. In summer league Olynyk went a fairly meek 3 for 13 from 3 point range. With that said, hitting 77.6% of his FTs his final year in college is impressive touch for a big man and it’s clear that Olynyk’s midrange shooting tough is great. Furthermore even hitting any 3s at this stage in summer league is fine, considering many prospects need time and struggle early extending their range from NCAA to NBA. For example, Trey Burke went 1 for 19 from 3, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope went 7 for 31, in both cases far below their shooting aptitude in college. With that said if I had to venture a guess, it’d be that Olynyk’s shooting career based on his numbers now is more likely to resemble Chris Bosh and Kevin Garnett’s. Both players had an exceptional midrange stroke but didn’t lean on their 3 point shot as a consistent weapon, albeit both did occasionally take them. Bosh attempted 1 3 pointer a game last year for the first time, his career high before that 0.6. Garnett attempted over a 3 a game on two occasions in Minnesota, peaking at 1.4 3PA – but 13 of his 18 seasons he had 0.5 3PA or less.

The most interesting area of debate for Olynyk is his athleticism and general physical talents. The reason Kelly slipped in the draft is that despite gaining obvious attention for his skill and feel, he had been labeled too underwhelming an athlete to be more than a 3rd big. Some said his footspeed was too poor to guard PFs, forcing him to be a stretch center who would potentially be abused in the post defensively.

First of all even in a vacuum, the idea that Olynyk is any sort of weak athlete, just seems false to me. This play alone dispels the myth of Olynyk being a plodding spot up shooting C who can’t move, such as what Ryan Kelly is:

That one play covers a lot of athletic skills. He shows elite transition speed for a 7 footer and even acceleration late. Then of course, he shows impressive leaping and finishing ability for the poster. While one play is one play, a Kelly-like slouch athletically can’t make that play, ever.

However what really impresses me is shown in this video

The whole video serves to show some of Olynyk’s athletic traits, such as his transition speed and leap finishing. However, the section that really stands out to me starts at 1:26, in “Off the Dribble”. On a few plays Olynyk creates plays by facing a defender off the dribble, then driving into the paint, going right by them to score. He does this with what appears to be a very good, long first step for a PF, which is the most important thing for just about any prospect. In the NBA not all athletic traits are created equal. One of the reasons that Kyrie Irving and James Harden were underrated coming out of college – they were labeled as not having perennial all-star upside – is that they were called average athletes despite their skills. One of the reasons for this is that you didn’t see Irving and Harden showcasing their vertical leap and putting down highlight reel dunks. However, both Irving and Harden do have an exceptional first step, allowing them to attack the basket off the dribble. In reality, this first step meant more than standout leaping ability. More leaping ability presumably helps finishing skills at the basket, however Irving and Harden have the size, enough vertical athleticism and skill to finish there not only passably, but an elite level for their position. In reality, their athletic strength of a first step has unlimited value to their games, while their weakness of lacking a high max vertical, doesn’t seem to affect their game at all. My lukewarm position on Andrew Wiggins is built on a similar idea. Where Wiggins is wowing people athletically is that he jumps higher off two feet than just about any NBA player we’ve seen has. However personally I see a decent, but not great first step and ability to attack the basket off the dribble. This has made me presume that Wiggins from an NBA/value perspective, is a good but overrated athlete. It may be true that he’s one of the most athletic HUMANS of his size that has played basketball, in a vacuum – but if it’s not the right combination of athleticism to translate to equally elite NBA value, it won’t matter. Wiggins is an excellent prospect and potential all-star for other reasons (I see Paul George’s feel and athleticism, but in a 6’7 body with a raw jumpshot) but I do not see a generational athlete, for the inverse reasons of why Irving and Harden’s athleticism is so valuable. The opposite of Wiggins is Julius Randle, who may have one of the most explosive first steps and ability to penetrate that the power forward position has seen. I would call Randle the most physically gifted player of his highly ranked 2014 peers and the most likely superstar, although he needs to prove himself on a skill level to cement that.

Like Harden and Irving, Olynyk’s outstanding ballhandling for a 7 footer, helps mask some of that athletic “weakness”, if he has it. That ballhandling is one of the reasons why he looks to have the potential to attack the basket off the dribble. From a slashing perspective, his good athleticism with elite ballhandling, may be as good for as having more clearly explosive athleticism, but average to subpar ballhandling. As for his finishing at the basket, Olynyk has both showed the ability to leap vertically, plus at 7 feet tall he may not need to leap once he gets there. I’m not positive that Olynyk’s ability to slash off the dribble will stand out, but it has the chance to. In addition to his skill and feel, it could make him a tremendous prospect.

Olynyk really has many similarities to Chris Bosh. Bosh has an elite feel for the game and is a strong midrange shooter. Bosh is also skinny like Olynyk and is one of the best ballhandlers for a PF, which along with his elite first step, allows him to attack the basket off the dribble to compliment his shooting game and feel. The main difference between them is I feel Bosh has the superior first step. Where Olynyk could actually make up that difference, is if his 3 point shot developed into a more consistent weapon than it has for Bosh. In that case Kelly could showcase similar talent. Either way, the comparison is favorable to Kelly and it wouldn’t surprise me if we see him in an all-star game, if not multiple ones.

Written by jr.

July 13, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Why Mario Hezonja is my #1 ranked prospect in the 2014 draft

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The 2014 draft class should be a doozy. The amount of prospects who are celebrities in high school is historic: Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison are among the players with national publicity.

Right now Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker top most boards, with the Wiggins’ hype as particularly enormous. They are great prospects but I have my reservations about both. As I posted here, I feel Wiggins’ athletically is overrated as he is not a dynamic blow-by player off the dribble. He also has a raw shooting and ball-handling game. Wiggins has an amazing feel for the game but I’m concerned whether he’ll have the first step and ballhandling to be an elite slasher, or whether he’ll shoot well enough from long distance. As for Jabari in a way he is the anti-Wiggins. He has an outstanding skill game, highlighted by his shooting and post ability for a high school player and is a crafty dribbler and creator. He has a tremendous feel and IQ. The concern with him is athleticism and whether he’s an explosive enough player to consistently slash and create offense getting to the rim, or whether he’ll be a player forced to settle for perimeter jumpers. Both to me should end up blue chip players for a franchise, but I have concerns about whether they have complete enough talent bases to take it to the next level and be an All-NBA, transcendent franchise player.

Mario Hezonja to me is the most complete small forward prospect of the 3. Hezonja is a terrific slasher due to his ball-handling and first step, with the size to finish at the rim. He’s also an outstanding perimeter shooter and shot creator. Like Wiggins and Parker he has a tremendous feel for the game and IQ and craftiness creating his offense. Hezonja thus is somewhat of a middle ground between Wiggins and Parker. Wiggins is a high end athlete who needs to improve his ball-skills, while Parker is a high end skill player who may not be explosive or athletic enough in the NBA. Hezonja is both explosive and a high end skill player. To me he looks like the complete package for a perimeter offensive prospect, with the ability to attack the basket off the dribble, to hit the outside shot at an elite rate and having the natural feel and IQ to make it all work. The more I see of him, the more complete and dynamic his game and talent looks. To quote Monta Ellis, Mario Hezonja have it all.

A few years ago on a message board, I heard a poster make an astute comment about European and International prospects. He said that because of the failed European picks in the top 10 years like Darko Milicic, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Yi Jianlian, Andrea Bargnani, etc., as well as the “International Man of Mystery” feel to these prospects instead of the familiar NCAA production – that there is a stigma and fear about ranking European prospects too high. And that because of this, eventually those failed European draft picks, will come back to bite teams when they underrate and are too fearful of the next international star whenever he comes. Eventually simply because of odds and time there will be a superstar talent who’s ranked in the top 10 of a draft – and in all likelihood, being international and the fear that comes with that will be what prevents him from going #1. Mario Hezonja may or may not be that guy, but looks like he has the best chance of any International player in years to make that prediction come to fruition. Even if Parker and Wiggins’ weaknesses are apparent after next college season, it seems obvious no team would have the balls to take Mario Hezonja 1st over them. We’ll see if that’s a mistake or not.

Written by jr.

February 11, 2013 at 4:22 pm