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2018 NBA Draft Top 20 prospects

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1. PG/SG Luka Doncic
– Saying the numbers add up for Doncic is an understatement. He averaged 24.7 pts, 7.5 reb, 6.6 ast, 1.7 stl per 40 in the Euroleague as a teenager. Even at lower levels like ACB, French Pro A and Adriatic, teenagers per minute stats end up translating to their future NBA careers well, as development makes up for the jump in competition. To not be an all-star (say Gordon Hayward level) Doncic’s stats would have to translate significantly worse than the virtually his peers from this age, despite playing at a higher competition than him. A player already at this high a level playing professional basketball and at a much higher level than the NCAA is about a guarantee to get an all-star as you’re going to get. And if you’re picking a guy to become one of the all time greats, being a once a lifetime European performer at his age seems like one of the best paths there. The precedent for being a star with his style of play is there with stars like Harden, Manu, Roy or even Magic. Even on the defensive end Doncic is appealing, as in the modern game 6’8-6’9 players who can switch onto both smaller perimeter players and bigs is what everyone is looking for.

2. PG/SG Elie Okobo – Okobo is not Doncic but I’ll take him over an imperfect NCAA pool. He averages 20.8 pts, 7.2 ast, 4.1 reb, 1.4 stl per 40 on .628 TS% in French Pro A and his shooting spot of 41.8% 3P on 7.4 3PA/40 and 83.5% from the FT line is superb. Like Doncic he’s doing this at a higher level than college basketball and already used to a professional lifestyle. With size at 6’3 to shoot over opponents his ability to score 3s off the dribble has a chance to be a powerful weapon in the league in the era of Curry, Harden, Lillard, Kyrie, etc. have dominated with it, and he has the wingspan (6’8) to defend. Projected as a fringe top 20 pick he’s not too far off the map for traditional scouts. The one downside is he is 21 in October, he would be an even better prospect if he was dominating as a teen like Doncic.

3. PG/SG Trae Young – Young is definitely volatile. He put up an astonishing 30.9 pts, 9.8 ast per 40 on .585 TS% and solid 1.9 stl/40, but also 5.9 TOV/40 which is a rare number, but possibly acceptable with how high his volume is. His shot fell apart in the 2nd half of the season but his 36% 3pt on 11.6 3PA/40 and 86.1% FT is nonetheless a superb combination of 3P%, volume and FT that projects him as an elite shooter. At 6’1 he lacks the size of players like Curry, Lillard and Kyrie. Nevertheless those players still set a precedent for how powerful Young’s shooting and handling skill can be if it translates, and one of those players in Curry is one of the best offensive players of all time. It’s a risk but drafting a franchise player like Curry is the real goal and I still think everything going right for Young gives him the best path there of NCAA players to be not just an all-star, but a true franchise changer. He is not Jimmer Fredette. Jimmer played 4 years in college and only dominated in his 3rd and 4th years when was  older than everyone (his freshman scoring of 15.1 pts/40 as a freshman and 19.7 as a sophomore is meek compared to freshman Young) and he never had half of Young’s passing numbers.

4. C Jaren Jackson, Jr. – Numbers are critical for big men’s success in NCAA and internationally  and Jackson has them. Any source that treats Ayton or Bagley as more productive than Jackson are looking too much at minutes and points – Jackson has the higher WS/48 and BPM. He averages 20 pts, 11.6 reb, 2.0 ast, 5.5 blk, 1.1 stl on .647 TS% and his 15.4 BPM is stellar for the class. He fits the modern game well as shooting 39.6% from 3 and 79.7% FT and is a great athlete defensively as much as offensively. I only have one catch – the superstar centres tend to be no brainers even at a greater level than Jackson. Davis, Embiid, Cousins (sanity aside), Oden (likely superstar if healthy) were like Jackson and Ayton combined in terms of having the tools and the production on both ends in college. Going back in history the same has been true of most of the all time greats like Shaq, Hakeem, Kareem, etc. Towns is one  of the most promising comparisons for Jackson as his lower minute college career has a lot of similarities, but Towns has a lot to prove in his career still outside of putting up points. Anything less than the total deluxe package in college creates skepticism if looking for a true, MVP caliber big man. But asking for an outcome that high is picking nits at this point if they could go onto be all-stars on the next level and he could break the mold.

5. C Wendell Carter, Jr. – On paper I slightly prefer Carter’s stats to Jackson’s. With a statline of 20.2 pts, 13.5 reb, 3.0 ast, 3.1 blk, 1.2 stl per 40 on .628 TS%, the biggest difference is he blocks less shots but passes more. I’d take the assists and what it says about basketball IQ, while in the past some fraud prospects have blocked shots in college by being longer than everyone else but nothing else. However from a talent perspective Carter passes the eye test less compared to Jackson’s elite athleticism and switchability. I agree with the Horford comparison most people seem to have for Carter with the ability to shoot, pass and defend. There’s some Jokic there as well. Like Jackson the reservation is there that anything less than perfect big men prospects in NCAA are a longshot to become a superstar.

6. SG/SF Josh Okogie – Long armed, versatile players have had success at the wings in this era such as Durant, Giannis, Kawhi, Butler, George, Iguodala, Deng, and now Tatum. Okogie has a 7 foot wingspan, is athletic, is known as having the it factor in terms of defensive hunger and intangibles and is only 19. Per 40 he averaged 20 pts, 6.9 reb, 2.7 ast, 1.9 stl, 1.1 blk, showing contrary to his reputation as a defense only role player he showed the ability to be a volume scorer and passer. He shot 38% from 3 and 82.1% from the FT line projecting him in another key skill on offense. The only thing preventing me from calling him the best NCAA prospect in the class is despite mistakes that are made every draft, it’s still only once a blue moon for NCAA prospects all-stars are taken out of the top 20, and never MVP caliber players. For that reason I give an edge to Young, Jackson and Carter for likelihood to be a star.

7. SG/SF Dzanen Musa – Musa is probably the best player on his Adriatic team. He averaged 21.1 pts, 5.6 reb, 2.7 ast, 1.8 stl per 40, leads them in PER and while his shooting of 31.5% 3pt is average, it’s on a quality volume of 6.2 3PA/40 and 82.2% FT which projects him as good NBA shooter. His shooting splits are overall very similar to Doncic. Musa is also even younger than Doncic, having just turned 19 in May. His standout performance on his European team, a much higher level than college basketball and among grown professionals is highly impressive and his size and skills is enough to give him upside. He is not known for defense but his solid steal rate and 6’8 size could give him switchable potential.

8. SG/SF Mikal Bridges – Like Okogie Bridges has a lot of the elements of successful wings. He’s long, is versatile (22.0 pts, 6.6 reb, 2.4 ast, 1.9 stl per 40) and has a superb shooting split of 43.5% 3P and 85.1% FT. He however started slower as a scorer than Okogie only scoring 12.5 and 13.1 pts per 40 as a scorer his freshman and sophomore years and turning 22 in August the history of older prospects who became stars is limited. Nevertheless a lot of the elements of great two way 3 and D players at his position is there.

9. SF/PF Miles Bridges – Bridges is almost one of the best prospects in the class. With underrated scoring numbers (21.8 pts per 40), solid rebounding and passing (8.9 reb and 3.4 ast) and 36.4% 3P on 85.3% FT, like Okogie he passes a lot of the checkmarks of the long armed versatile wing following in the Kawhi and Butler path. Unfortunately his defense looks to be overrated both by people who’ve watched him closest, and his defensive stats of only 0.8 stl/40 and 1.0 blk/40. Furthermore in modern game favouring smallball, it’s a good role to expect the SF/PF tweeners to play PF. It would be great if Bridges ended up a versatile 3/4 player who defends, passes and shoots 3s, the wing this draft is missing. But the more I looked at his stats the more it looks like he’ll be closer to the shoot-first SF/PF tweener like Jeff Green, Michael Beasley, Harrison Barnes. Nevertheless the upside if the former clicks in is still worth believing in, and the latter could lead to a long career anyways.

10. PG/SG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – SGA’s stats are solid (17.1 pts, 6.1 ast, 4.9 reb, 2.0 stl, 0.6 blk per 40) .578 TS%), shot 40.4% from 3 on a small sample size on 57 attempts and shot 81.7% FT and has strong size for a point guard which gives him a lot of defensive potential, an intriguing combination with his shooting, defense and passing. Turning 20 he is a year older than some peers in his class but young enough to have a lot of potential. There’s few clearcut holes in his profile, but most all-stars in the past have stood out in some way like shooting, athleticism or even better stats. Nevertheless being a complete prospect across the board is enough to be appealing and gives him starter to all-star potential.

11. SG Lonnie Walker – Walker is one of those eye test champion, stats are out (16.6 pts, 3.7 reb, 2.7 ast, 1.4 stl per 40, only .527 TS%) guys who have a high chance of being a low IQ bust. So what is he doing 11th on a list favoring numbers? He is explosive as hell slashing to the rim and from time to time great NBA guards ,more-so than big men go from raw projects to successful careers. Mainly, the shadow of Russell Westbrook hangs over things here for me. As long as an MVP guard only put up the stats Russ did in college, freak athlete prospects have to be accounted for. DeMar Derozan is also a successful all-star who started slowly, and recently Jaylen Brown’s college stats suggested bust is showing a lot of all-star signs.

12. SF/PF Michael Porter – Porter has a complete lack of statistical resume not to mention health concerns that could lead him to redshirt his first year. Out of all these guys he has the biggest risk of falling out of the league by the end of his rookie contract and scoring less than a few hundred points in his career, and it’s not close. Not only could health totally take out his career, but he could be 100% healthy and still be the biggest bust here just based on total lack of track record of proving he’s good. However he did have special fluidity and shooting for his height in high school, and high variance means high chance of busting, but also higher chance of being a bust than players who’s stats they’re not likely to be stars. Considering where I just rated Lonnie Walker, Porter’s boom/bust potential can’t be too far behind.

13. PF/C Marvin Bagley – Bagley was great in some ways in college (24.9 pts, 13.1 reb per 40) and disappointing in others (1.0 stl, 1.0 blk, 1.8 ast per 40). His defensive IQ appears to be mediocre to go along with his steal and block stats. Even if he puts up offensive stats, there’s concerns about where a big who scores at the rim and struggles on defense fits in the modern game. He is a tremendous athlete, appears to have great intangibles and is only 19. Athleticism has had some success at PF in players like Blake, Bosh, Davis although most had better college stat predictors than Bagley. I’m not sure I believe in his shooting as his 39.7% 3pt was only on 58 attempts and he shot 62.7% from the FT line. I have a lot of issues with Bagley that makes it so I wouldn’t be shocked if he busts, but at 13th and with his talent, age and effort level, there is potential for an all-star big.

14. C Mo Bamba – Bamba’s stats are pretty average outside of shotblocking (17.1 pts, 14.0 reb, 0.7 ast, 1.0 stalk, 4.9 blk, .593 TS%) and isn’t much of a shooter (27.5% 3pt, 68.1% FT) which is a problem since virtually all the great centers had more complete statlines in college. The model is Drummond and Deandre for Bamba who were athletic projects that went on to very nice, but ultimately not franchise changing careers. He also appears to pass the talent eye test in spades, has high intangibles and apparently is shooting well in workouts giving him 3 and D big man potential.

15. C Deandre Ayton – The #1 pick has a lot of red flags. The scoring and rebounding is tremendous (24.0 pts, 13.8 reb per 40, .65 TS%) but the defense (0.7 stl, 2.3 blk and all visual evidence) is not, and passing is ok (1.9 ast per 40). To put it in perspective Ayton put up 0.6 stl, 2.3 blk per 40, Meyers “softest big of this generation” Leonard had 0.7 stl and 2.4 blks per 40 in college. Being a statistically flawed center, especially on defense is not where you want to be with the two way track record of successful NBA centers in the NCAA. Projecting him at power forward is more promising where his block numbers are not as damning and he played beside a center in college, but it’s still not ideal. Ayton is also turning 20 in July and year older than players like Bagley. Ayton dominated as a scorer in volume and efficiency, but scoring because you’re bigger than everyone is one of the biggest things to look out for meaningless high school or college, and concerns about basketball IQ and motor are two of the next biggest ones. With all that said, combination of physical talent and skill is insane and at 34.3% 3pt (only 35 attempts) and 73.3% FT he has a chance to shoot. Even without the skill, he would have a potential to be one Drummond or Deandre on physical tools alone.

16. PF/C Bonzie Colson – Colson isn’t on much draft boards as he’s an old, severely undersized big man with a foot injury. However he reportedly has a 7 foot wingspan and he has outstanding stats – 24.4 pts, 12.5 reb, 2.8 blk, 2.1 stl, 1.1 ast per 40, .569 TS%. While he only shot 29.3% from 3, he shot 76.1% FT, which with his 44.3% 3pt mark as a junior suggest some outside potential. Furthermore steals like Draymond and Millsap suggest there’s a path for a short big if they have the productivity, strength and intangibles.

17. SG Grayson Allen – Allen can shoot (37.0% 3pt, 85% FT) and has solid passing numbers (5.2 ast per 40) and steals (1.9 per 40) both of which are good indicators. He actually scored more points per 40 as a freshman (19) than senior (17.4) which one hand is concerning that he couldn’t dominate as an older prospect, but it also shows Allen wasn’t just a player that dominated when he got older than everyone. His draft stock was higher in his early years than later. The biggest catch is Allen is 23 later this year which the track record is limited, but the shooting, passing and athleticism is appealing.

18. C Robert Williams – Williams case is a poor man’s version of Bamba’s except he’s older, slightly worse (16.2 pt, 14.4 reb 2.2 ast, 4.1 blk, 1.2 stl, .614 TS%) and his 47.1% FT suggests he’s almost certainly not going to shoot in the NBA. Nevertheless he has a model in Drummond and Deandre style all-stars, protect the basket, rebound and finish at the basket.

19. SG Zhaire Smith – Smith is an elite athlete with better stats than Walker (15.9 pts, 2.5 ast, 7.0 reb, 1.6 stl, 1.6 blk per 40, .618 TS%) and the Westbrook/Derozan rule applies to him. So why is he lower? He looks to have more trouble using that athleticism and at risk of being in the Ben McLemore, Terrence Ross camp of athletic swings who’s ball handling keeps them taking spot up shots on the outside. He shot 45.0% from 3 but on only 40 attempts and 71.7% from the FT line. Nevertheless youth, athleticism and shooting and the potential for young perimeter players to exceed their college stats puts him here.

20. PG Jevon Carter – Carter has impressive stats (20 pts, 7.7 ast, 5.4 reb, 3.5 stl, 0.4 blk),  is a good shooter at 39.3% 3pt and 85.8% FT and is known as a great intangibles, tough defensively prospect that is common for a 2nd round steal to make his way in the league. The precedent for old PGs becoming all-stars is small in the last decade and he is turning 23 later this year, so the target here is probably a Patrick Beverley type impact in the league.


Written by jr.

June 19, 2018 at 7:36 pm

NBA Draft top 30 prospects – 2017

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I am using a slightly modified system compared to last year. My 3 steps to evaluate players skills in different areas are:

  • Overall statistical rating: This favors players with all around stats, such as steals, blocks, assists, etc. The results are fairly typical compared to virtually every other draft analytics blogger. For international players I find PER to have had useful results in recent drafts.
  • What categories the player excelled in vs his college conference or international competition
  • Whether they have NBA caliber tools in that category

The rare perfect skill hits all 3. For example last year Ben Simmons was in my top 5 overall statistical performers, dominated assists and free throw attempts at a generational level for a PF prospect and had the athletic, height, ballhandling, etc. tools to back up his passing and free throw line drawing success at the college level. In the past the same would’ve been true of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson’s shooting.

Unfortunately the vast majority of skills do not reach that perfection, so it’s varying degrees of flawed from there. Hitting 2 of 3 at an “A” level and one at a “B” level makes them elite in the category, being A level in one but B level in the other two would be great in the category but not elite, and so forth. Using this I then look at the players overall skillset and make a determination of how they rank. I adjust for how offense is more valuable at smaller positions and defense at bigger positions, using ORPM and DRPM as a guide.

1. SF/PF Josh Jackson

Jackson rates as an elite defensive prospect at a big wing or smallball four position where defense can be quite valuable as seen by the last two DPOYs won by Kawhi Leonard. His athleticism, intensity and steal, rebound and block rates contribute to this. Offensively he is not perfect but is still a quality prospect. His passing numbers were strong for a wing and rates as one of the most high volume shot creators in the class for his age. He got to the line enough that combined with his explosiveness is a great slashing prospect. Jackson’s main problem is his 3pt shooting which with a 57% FT has potential to be terrible 3pt shooter in the NBA, even though he hit 38% 3pt. If Jackson is a poor enough shooter it could force him to he PF spot. Although Jackson is a good not great offensive prospect when added to a baseline of potentially elite defensive value it was enough for him to get the #1 spot for me. 

2. C Anzejs Pasecniks

I rate Pasecniks as being an over 20 PER rotation player in the ACB as more impressive than any production feat an NCAA prospect has right now. At a closer level to the pros, he’s already shown he can be a good player. Pasecniks follows in the footsteps in numbers-friendly European center prospects lately such as Jokic, Gobert, Nurkic, Capela, Porzingis, Valanciunas. His best skill rates as defense to me, as he is the 3rd best shotblocker per minute in the ACB, although he struggles a little with rebounding and physicality. He has a reported 7’6 wingspan and great lateral mobility. He is not quite a Gobert level defensive prospect, but considering position rates as the best defensive prospect in the draft for me. Offensively he doesn’t have an elite skill, but has quality driving ability shown by his free throw rate and athleticism, and has the potential to develop a perimeter shooting game. Passing is one of his biggest flaws.

3. PG Jawun Evans

Evans is a complete offensive prospect. His best category rates as passing for me, where he averaged Ball-like Ast/40 although with less height and taking more shots to do it. Evans projects as a strong 3pt shooter, got to the line at an above average rate, was one of the highest volume shot takers in the class (His Pts/40 is Fultz-like) and was a ball thief. While he is a good not great athlete I project him as an above average slasher. Two of his biggest questions are finishing at the rim and defense as is typical for undersized PGs, but in the modern game and success of players smaller than him like Isaiah Thomas and Kemba Walker, there’s no need to overreact anymore to small PGs not being able to play. He should be a great fit in the modern pick and roll game with his ability to pass, shoot and drive.

4. PF Lonzo Ball

Ball is somewhat complicated to rate. His passing and decision rates as the best skills in the draft to me. If you had to pick anyone to be historically good at something in this draft, it would be Ball at passing. He is a good rebounder, then the rest of his game is pretty meh. His FT% and weird jumpshot brings some concern about 3pt shooting at next level, he didn’t get to the line or create his own shot the best in college and his defense projects as solid but not above average. I’m also slightly concerned about putting up stats in a transition heavy system. Not because of inflation but because the NBA is a halfcourt game, you can’t build around Ball’s transition play. If he failed Ball would be kind of the NBA’s Manziel or Tebow who played non-pro college football systems, while his halfcourt weaknesses exposed in the NBA would be like theirs as pocket passers. That’s before mentioning his father.

But if he’s transcendent at the one thing he’s good at it, it could make him a better pick than players who are good to great at more things. So I guess he goes here.

5. PG Dennis Smith, Jr.

Smith has dynamic strengths. His ability to get to the line combined with being arguably the most explosive athlete in the draft makes him a high upside slasher. He has one of the best assist rates after Ball and Evans and projects to be an above average 3pt shooter. However there are concerns about his defensive effort, basketball IQ and overall intangibles. That has been dangerous warning signs in the past, but in this case the speed and skill is so great that one has to take the chance to get star potential.

6. PF/C Cameron Oliver

Oliver has the combination every team is looking for nowadays, he’s a big man with 3pt range who had one of the best block rates of all these prospects. In addition to his shooting and defense, his shot creation volume rated well for a sophomore. His ability to get to the line was worryingly poor, he wasn’t a great passer and there are concerns about his intangibles. Nonetheless an athletic big with his floor spacing and defensive potential is a valuable pick. Unlike a lot of other numbers sleepers who come with the caveat of being seniors, this guy is only 20. (Well, he turns 21 on July 11th)

7. PF/C Mathias Lessort

Like Pasecniks, Lessort following in the successful footsteps of highly productive European big prospect is a good sign. Specifically Rudy Gobert and Clint Capela. In their draft years in French Pro A, Gobert had 21.7 PER and Capela 23.9, while Lessort has 21.8. Compared to them Lessort isn’t as much as a shotblocking threat and has more of a Tristan Thompson like game and body. Offensive rebounding is his biggest strength, while he has the athleticism and track record getting to the line to project well attacking the basket. Defensively he has potential as a lateral mobility driven defender.

8. SG Donovan Mitchell

Mitchell is one of the best 3 and D prospects in the draft. He is one of the best wing defenders based on his college play and physical tools, while his 35% 3pt/80% FT makes him a good outside shooting prospect. He is not a great shot creating prospect, I question whether his qualty passing numbers can translate if he’s not dribbling in the NBA, and his basketball IQ is reportedly a concern, but the defensive and shooting combination is highly interesting in the modern game and gives him “role player star” upside.

9. PG/SG Markelle Fultz

The one area of the game Fultz rated as elite for me was shot creation volume for his age. Even when you take into account having no talent as teammates, the amount of shots he took for a freshman was pretty ungodly. His shooting is good not great when taking into account his FT%, likewise his passing is solid but not elite. Intensity is a question when it comes to defense and when it comes to getting to the line, without being an elite athlete I can’t rate him as elite there. Last year I thought Ingram was a player who didn’t do anything exceptional in college except shoot a high volume of shots. Fultz is a better prospect than him, but I have similar concern. I will say that if he does come in on the high end as a shooter or driver, that combined with his shot creation skills could give him a quality combination of offensive weapons. I still think Fultz can have a quality career, but I would bet on him becoming a Rudy Gay/Andrew Wiggins/Harrison Barnes of guards (20 point ability, well paid career, impact doesn’t come together) before I would a superstar.

10. SF Jayson Tatum

Tatum’s profile is somewhat similar to Fultz. His one elite skill is shot creation, while the rest of his projection is somewhat middling. He he is a good but not great passer, and is a decent enough at getting to the line but a non elite athlete when it comes to NBA slashing. He appears to be a decent decision maker and is an average defensive prospect. I’m going to give Tatum a little benefit of the doubt and rank him higher than I would have, for coming back from injury. If he played the whole season healthy his stats may have been higher.

11. PG De’Aaron Fox

Fox has great athleticism and got to the FT line at a great rate, showing his upside as a driver in the NBA. He is also a shot creator. Fox is a worrying non shooting PG in the modern game and was not a great passer. However I see upside because with his 73.6% FT there’s at least a chance he surprises as a shooter which would clear up the biggest problems in his game. With Fox’s athletic tools if he can improve as a skill player there is a lot of upside there so I didn’t want to rank him too low.

12. SF/PF OG Anunoby

Anunoby rates as a defense only prospect for me, but on that end he is one of the best in the draft. He had great steal and block rates and has the length and lateral mobility to be a great defensive PF in the modern game, which it helps is a high value defensive position. He was a decent passer for his role. His shooting is a major concern along with shot creation.

13. PF Jordan Bell

While Bell is somewhat stuck between positions defensively, his great block and steal rates combined with athleticism make him a quality prospect on that end. For a low volume scorer his passing rate was very good, while he has potential to attack the basket with his physical tools.

14. PF T.J. Leaf

Leaf’s offensive resume is strong. His shooting, passing, decision making and shot creation all rated fairly highly for me based on his UCLA numbers and he was a solid rebounder, while his ability to get to the line and defense as major concerns. Like Ball there’s some concern about whether his game fits a transition system more than halfcourt but his skill level has a likely place in the game.

15. SG Sindarious Thornwell

Thornwell isn’t an elite prospect in any area but his defense, shooting and decision making is all well above average, while his passing and ability to drive is decent. He is an average shot creation talent and isn’t quite guaranteed to do anything, but overall is a solid 3 and D potential at the next level.

16. C Thomas Bryant

Bryant has both the size and shotblocking to have defensive potential and 3pt shooting potential. However he is decent, not great in both areas and isn’t a guarantee. Still, the upside he can put both skills together is an appealing upside.

17. SF/PF Jonathan Isaac

Isaac is a great defensive wing going by his steal and block rates and physical tools, however his offense does not project as all that impressive for me. He is a non shot creation wing and his shooting, slashing and passing only rates as average. Still, the 3 and D upside is quite solid.

18. SG Jajuan Johnson

Johnson was a great 3pt shooter in college who has the length to be a good defender. He does not rate as a strong shot creator and while he passed at a high level (over 4 assists per 40) whether he has the ball enough to take advantage of it is unclear. He is also 23 and being older than seniors is unpredictable. Nevertheless with value is thin at this stage of the draft, his shooting, passing and defense makes him a plausible enough 3 and D threat at the next level.

19. PG Monte Morris

Morris projects as having a great basketball IQ and passing ability, along with above average shooting. He is a mediocre defensive prospect, below average shot creator and got to the line a worryingly little amount of time in college. Nevertheless his skill level and IQ could give him a spot.

20. PF Aleksander Vezenkov

Vezenkov is this year’s Juan Hernangomez, he is producing in the ACB and is a great 3pt shooting prospect which could give him value as a stretch shooter in the modern game. Although he’s pretty one dimensonal on offense and rates as a below average defender. At this stage being great at one thing means more than being 6 out of 10 at everything.

21. PF Tyler Lydon

Like Vezenkov, Lydon’s pro game is built around being a 3pt shooter and high IQ player. He is not as strong a 3pt shooter, but could be a decent defender. His ability to get to the line and shot creation is an issue.

22. PF/C Zach Collins

Collins rates as a quality offensive big with his ability to get to the FT line, shooting potential and decision making. He is a strong rebounder. His passing is worrying and his defense could be only ok due to physical tools, but the offense makes him worth it.

23. PF/C Ivan Rabb

Rabb was one of the best in the draft in one statistical category, his free throw rate compared to field goals attempted. That combined with a strong offensive rebound rate could show he’s a player who can attack the basket. The rest of his game is fairly vanilla as neither a dominant physical player or a perimeter shooter, but at this stage doing one thing at an elite level is enough to get my attention. Rabb could potentially be a decent defensive player as well with his lateral mobility and size.

24. SG Malik Monk

My model said to rank Monk out of the top 30, but I’ll put him this high out of fear of the “Devin Booker” effect. Booker at Kentucky didn’t get to use his full arsenel of dribble drive and passing skills, likewise it’s possible that playing as off ball SG beside Fox limited what Monk could show.

Otherwise his numbers are scary. He has poor defensive stats and tools and brutal rebounding, below average at getting to the line for his shot volume, and was not much of a passer. He had a great shooting season but there’s been countless great NCAA shooters over the years and only so many of them have good NBA careers for a reason, because predicting shooting to the pros like all skills is an indirect translation.

25. PF John Collins

Collins was an exceptional rebounder and got to the FT line at an elite rate, however neither his passing, defensive stats or shooting numbers were impressive and physically he appears to be stuck between PF and C a bit. Like Rabb the ability to get to the line and offensive glass may be a foundation of his game.

26. C Justin Patton

Patton has a quality combination of size, athleticism and blocked shots which should give him potential on the defensive end. Offensively he has a lot to improve skill wise but a young big with physical tools looks fine here.

27. SF/PF Deonte Burton

Burton has a great combination of power and athleticism. While he’s not that long, strong steal and block rates should give him defensive potential and he has 3pt range, which could make him a mismatch at PF. Being 23 hurts him, if not for the extra unpredictability factor of how few prospects have been older than 22 as prospects, he would’ve rated in my 15.

28. SG Wesley Iwundu

Iwundu is a long armed athlete who can shoot 3s and has solid passing ability. His steal and block rates and 3pt shooting are both good more than great, but he still projects as having 3 and D upside.

29. SG L.J. Peak

Peak’s biggest strength in college was getting to the FT line, while not a hugely explosive athlete he may be able to drive in the pros. He showed the ability to pass for a shooting guard prospect. His FT% being just under 80% shows some shooting potential as well. Peak has bigger strengths as an on ball than off ball player when it may be preferable to be an off ball player as a supporting player, but nevertheless he is a solid all around wing.

30. SF Justin Jackson

Projects as high IQ professional who can pass and have a chance (But isn’t a guarantee) to be a good 3pt shooter. Defense and shot creation is a concern. My #31 is Josh Hart, who more or less has the same projection.

Notable players not in top 30:

Jacob Wiley: The closest omission after Hart, Wiley dominated against mid major competition, he had great defensive stats but it’s unclear whether those will translate for physical tools reasons. One of his biggest assets is potential to shoot from a big man position.

Lauri Markkanen, Luke Kennard: Both players bomb the “overall statistical” rating part of my model due to poor defensive stats or passing combination so they got off on the wrong foot. Because of that they only rate as decent shooting prospects overall (as mentioned for Monk there’s a reason there are many more 40% 3pt shooters in college than NBA) and mediocre to awful at everything else.

Bam Adebayo, Ike Anigbogu: Both do one thing exceptionally well in college, Bam getting to the FT line and Anigbogu blocking shots. But like Markkanen and Kennard players who start with a poor overall statistical rating, even if they’re otherwise exceptional in a skill like shooting, blocks or getting to the line, end up projecting as only decent in the area for me and they lack the other versatility to rank as top 30 players.

Frank Ntilikina, Terrance Ferguson, Isaiah Hartenstein: For the same reason numbers driven reasons I’m high on prospects like Pasecniks or Lessort I’m low on these internationals. Ntilikina has an 11.9 PER on his French Pro A team which ranks 9th among his teammates, while he plays a different position this greatly trails the productivity of successful players like Gobert and Capela from that league recently. I just need to see more excellence at a lower level than that based on the recent internationals who’ve succeeded, even if Frank has quality size and shooting potential. Harteinstein is also 8th on his team in PER (17.5) in the LKL which a recent prospect in Valanciunas dominated and his style of big center who plays near the basket is going out of fashion nowadays and his game appears to be somewhat limited outside of size. Ferguson however is the king of 1st round projected internationals with bad stats. He has 5.4 PER in the Australian league and doesn’t appear to be good at anything.

Harry Giles: I understand Giles was recovering from injury, but with numbers being the starting point for my board, he just didn’t do much outside of rebounding and I’ve yet to see the great evidence for his supposed star talent.

Written by jr.

June 21, 2017 at 4:17 pm

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

Written by jr.

March 12, 2016 at 4:07 pm

Posted in Basketball, Uncategorized

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2014 Draft review – How well did each team pick talent?

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To “grade” teams in the 2014 NBA Draft, for fun here’s what I did. I take the talent grade I gave for a prospect in this post and then I compare it to the “expected value” for a pick.

To get this, for example say a team drafts a player with the 25th pick. In my talent grades post, the 25th ranked player had a talent grade of 19, therefore I use 19 as their “expected value”. This means if the team used the 25th pick on a player with a talent grade of 22, I give them a (+3) for the pick.

After doing this, I add up the grades of each player to get the team’s total grade.

In my post last week I acknowledged factors like production and analytics may be important beyond just drafting for talent, so this isn’t a perfect measure of how a team drafted.

Phoenix Suns

SG Bogdan Bogdanovic (27th overall pick) – Talent grade: 25, ranked 1st

SF T.J. Warren (14th overall pick) – Talent grade: 19, ranked 22nd

PG Tyler Ennis (18th overall pick) – Talent grade: 15, ranked 66th

C Alec Brown (50th overall pick) – Talent grade: 20, ranked 21st

Expected value:

27th overall pick: 19 (Bogdanovic: +6)

14th overall pick: 20 (Warren: -1)

18th overall pick: 20 (Ennis: -5 )

50th overall pick: 16 (Brown: +4)

Overall: +4

Odds were whoever took Bogdan Bogdanovic in the 20s would rate high on my list. The difference between how I see him and how conventional wisdom sees him is actually simple. Most notice Bogdanovic has shooting, passing, size and feel. But while they see a spot up jumpshooter (think Wes Matthews) I see a possibly great off the dribble slasher. I see a first step and ballhandling that helps him drive past defenders. Sometimes he drives all the way to the rim without a pick. For this reason I see Serbian Brandon Roy.

Phoenix also made one of my favorite 2nd round picks in Alec Brown. Brown has some weaknesses like strength and rebounding and questionable senior production, but a big with mobility, length and 3 point shooting ability should be a unique floor spacing match-up.

I’m mixed on the Warren and Ennis picks. I rate Warren as slightly overvalued at 14 but with strong ability to drive to the rim, a unique floater and feel, he should at least be a scorer and relevant rotation player. His production in college helps his case. The Ennis pick surprises me from an otherwise brilliant front office. He reminds me of the PG version of the Otto Porter pick last year, a guard who should struggle to drive or defend and with a shaky jumper. That looks like either a backup or non-NBA unless his jumpshot blows up.

The Suns have done an incredible job since hiring Ryan McDonough. Their roster build reminds me of the recent Spurs with a balanced mix of penetration, spacing and feel. They could be an NBA champion within 5 years.

Chicago Bulls

SF Doug McDermott (11th overall pick) – Talent grade: 21, ranked 12th

PF Cameron Bairstow (49th overall pick) – Talent grade: 20, ranked 15th
Expected value:

11th overall pick: 21 (McDermott: / )

49th overall pick: 16 (Bairstow: +4)

Total: +4

I’m a big fan of this draft for the Bulls. McDermott is the absolute best shooting prospect drafted in this class, with his sky high FT% backing up his strong 3pt splits. That alone should fill an offensive need for the Bulls at SF, but I also see underrated speed driving off close-outs, along with post skills.

Bairstow both rates a huge steal talent wise at 49 for me, along with fits the Bulls well. Both Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson could be another team next season if the Bulls need to clear the books for Carmelo. Guess who Bairstow kind of plays like? Boozer and Taj! His strength, athleticism driving to the rim, feel and midrange jumpshot give him starting PF potential.

Both McDermott and Bairstow were among the most productive players in college, which could make them early contributors in the NBA for the Bulls. Considering if all goes well they could contend for the Finals next year, this could be crucial.

Atlanta Hawks

PF Adreian Payne (15th overall pick) – Talent grade: 22, ranked 4th

C Walter Tavares (43rd overall pick) – Talent grade: 17, ranked 45th

SF Lamar Patterson (48th overall pick) – Talent grade: 18, ranked 35th

Expected value:

15th overall pick: 20 (Payne: +2)

43rd overall pick: 17 (Tavares: / )

48th overall pick: 16 (Patterson: +2)

Total: +4

The Hawks continued their intelligent team construction under Danny Ferry. Adreian Payne fits the NBA’s modern power forwards. He both is a floor spacer, has the length and mobility to contribute defensively and can drive to the rim off the dribble. This is a terrific package of skills as most stretch 4s leave defensive or penetrating on the table. Payne’s production in college wasn’t elite for a senior which may be related to a lung condition.

Atlanta’s 2nd round was rock solid. Patterson rates as a steal where they got him to me, he has size, shooting ability and feel which could make him a long term role player. Walter Tavares is big and has some mobility and touch. It’s easier for a player like Walter Tavares to stick in the NBA than guards with equivalent talent. When he becomes an NBA player at the least he should give Atlanta a warm body or lower level trade asset.

Atlanta is an interesting example as the anti-Philadelphia 76ers. Although tanking like the Sixers gives them more powerful draft picks, the argument in favor of Atlanta is they’re closer to being good. If a roster with 45 win talent needs 10-15 Ws of improvements to hit contention threshold and a roster with 15 win talent needs 40-45 Ws, is it easier for the former team to reach their goal? They take smaller steps but are far closer to the finish line. With quality picks like Payne and Schroeder last draft and plenty of capspace, why can’t the Hawks quickly improve enough to be a top 2 seed in the East?

Detroit Pistons

SG Spencer Dinwiddie (38th overall pick) – Talent grade: 22, ranked: 5th

Expected value:

38th overall pick: 18 (Dinwiddie: +4)

Total: +4

Stan Van Gundy didn’t have a lot of draft capital this year, but he nailed it with what he had. Dinwiddie’s ACL injury is comparatively low risk in modern day, while his upside at SG is great. He can shoot, drive a bit, has the tools to defend and has a great feel. This could be one of the 10-15 best SGs in the league. In addition a smart-instincts, floor spacing, professional SG is the direction to the Pistons need to go.

Sacramento Kings

SG Nik Stauskas (8th overall pick) – Talent grade: 24, ranked 3rd

Expected value:

8th overall pick: 21 (Stauskas: +3)

Total: +3

After writing off the Kings management recently as incompetent, they shocked me with a fantastic pick. Stauskas is not only an elite shooter, but I rate his penetration ability as one of the best in the draft as well, with both a strong first step and ballhandling. Pairing his perimeter skills with driving could make him devastating offensively, despite strength and lateral mobility concerns. This pick could be like when drafting Stephen Curry 7th changed the Warriors.

Miami Heat

PG Shabazz Napier (26th overall pick) – Talent grade: 22, ranked 26th

Expected value:

24th overall pick: 19 (Napier: +3)

Total: +3

Just the draft the Heat needed. Napier gives them shooting on and off the ball, penetration to the basket and his defensive issues can be covered. I feel the league missed this year on just how likely Napier is to be a starting PG in the NBA. With Napier and a free agent like Pau or Deng the Heat could win the title again next year. Their demise has been slightly exaggerated. They ran into a team playing incredibly in the Finals and playing in the East is such an advantage. Although they may be underdogs against whoever they face in the Finals, their odds of getting to the Finals are better than any individual West team, so in a way their championship odds may still be the overall best in the league.

Toronto Raptors

SF Bruno Caboclo (20th overall pick) – Talent grade: unranked

SF DeAndre Daniels (37th overall pick) – Talent grade: 21st, ranked 8th

Expected value:

37th overall pick: 18 (Daniels: +3)

Total: +3

As a Raptors fan, the Bruno picked shocked me – I hadn’t even heard his name in passing before! Yet after watching some videos, I went “oh, I get it”. His physical tools are probably better than Giannis Antetokounmpo’s, with a 7’7 wingspan and good athleticism, especially laterally. This could give him unlimited defensive potential for  wing. His jumpshot for his age doesn’t seem broken. He looks like a fluid player. A quick glance makes me believe he could be a top 15 talent in the draft.

Yet I didn’t even need to rank Bruno to rate the Raptors draft well. Deandre Daniels was a pick I’d have been happy with at 20. Although his college production has enigma signs, he’s athletic enough to drive, has length defensively, has 3pt potential and has feel for the game. This looks like the recipe of a starter SF talent.

What’s interesting about the Daniels and Bruno picks is they get to the heart of “risk” in the draft. Bruno’s low level competition and Daniels production in college, will get them called high risk, high upside picks. But are they actually more safe players than this? Players with Bruno and Daniels’ athleticism and length usually stick on that alone, even if their skill level remains raw. It’s possible even if these picks don’t work out, they’re still 8th or 9th men off the bench as defensive role players who hit the occasional 3. Which isn’t a poor downside compared to other options at #20 and #37. These picks could both have starter upside and the downside of still low level rotation players.

New Orleans Pelicans

PG Russ Smith (47th overall pick) – Talent grade: 19, ranked 24th

Expected value:

47th overall pick: 16 (Smith: +3)

Total: +3

The Pelicans are weird. Last draft they had an offseason I thought was terrible drafting 2 1sts for Jrue Holiday and using Greivis Vasquez and Robin Lopez to overpay Tyreke Evans. But they targeted one of the best 2nd round picks in Jeff Withey, along with picking another probable steal in D League superstar Pierre Jackson.

This year? They once again make a poor value decision in giving up next year’s 1st for Omer Asik (seriously, 4 lottery picks on Austin Rivers, Jrue Holiday and Omer Asik???)… and once again get one of the best 2nd round picks in Russ Smith. Smith’s ability to penetrate, defensive movement and shooting could make him a starting PG or 6th man. For #47 he’s great value.

Philadelphia 76ers

C Joel Embiid (3rd overall pick) – Talent grade: 24, ranked 2nd

PF Dario Saric (12th overall pick) – Talent grade: 21, ranked 9th

SF K.J. McDaniels (32nd overall pick) – Talent grade: 17, ranked 42nd
Expected value:

PF Jerami Grant (39th overall pick) – Talent grade: 18, ranked 32nd)

PG Vasilije Micic (52nd overall pick) – Talent grade: 16, ranked 47th)

SG Jordan McRae (58th overall pick) – Talent grade: 19, ranked 25th

Expected value:

3rd overall pick: 24 (Embiid: /)

12th overall pick: 21 (Saric: / )

32nd overall pick: 18 (McDaniels: -1)

39th overall pick: 18 (Grant: / )

52nd overall pick: 16 (Micic: / )

58th overall pick: 16 (McRae: +3)

Total: +2

Embiid and Saric rate as fine picks at #3 and #12.. in talent alone. Embiid has a great combination of length, athleticism, skill and feel to make him a two way star and his production in college near seals his stardom if healthy. Saric has rare penetrating ability and feel for a power forward.

But this is on paper. Other than Embiid’s health presenting major concerns, Saric has some risk as well. The TV broadcasters at the draft made a good point, how the team who takes him, has to recruit him for 2 years while he plays out his fresh European contract. Worst case scenario he signs a new contract in Europe and loses both his value to the Sixers and trade value to others. Note that Saric has already delayed his NBA debut multiple times. He’s been a projected NBA lottery pick so long, that if he really wanted to, he could have structured his contracts to join the NBA by the 2013 draft. Not only did he sign longer deals and pull his name out of 2013, but he signed a 2 year deal a week before the 2014 draft. Saric may want to play in the NBA, but if he doesn’t, the warning signs were there.

So can the Sixers recruit Saric? I’m of the mind Philadelphia will still be terrible 2 seasons from now in 2015-2016. Teams made entirely of young players lose and it’s hard to flip the switch immediately. I don’t know if a player as competitive as Saric will want to join that Sixers team. I can’t think of a team I’d be less confident of Saric joining than Philadelphia.

In the 2nd round the Sixers did solid. The steal of the group is Jordan McRae who I rated as a top 30 talent, with a solid combination of athleticism, feel and skills. I rated K.J. McDaniels as slightly worse than where the Sixers took him and Jerami Grant, Vasilije Micic slightly better, but all 3 could be rotation players and assets. If the Sixers get a starter and another bench player out of those 4 2nd round picks, they’ll be happy.

The Sixers had a solid draft, but considering the risk they took with Embiid and Saric, their grade isn’t as much a home run as it could’ve been. As for their overall strategy I can see the argument on both sides, but it probably depends half on how they use these assets after they collect them all.

Charlotte Hornets

PF Noah Vonleh (9th overall pick) – Talent grade: 21, ranked 11th

SG P.J. Hairston (26th overall pick) – Talent grade: 20, ranked 18th

Expected value:

9th overall pick: 21 (Vonleh: / )

26th overall pick: 19 (Hairston: +1 )

Total: +1

This was a quality draft for the Hornets. They may end up with two starters. Both players have size and skill level for their position, post and outside for Vonleh and 3pt shooting for Hairston. Although my grade is slightly positive, compared to the Kemba Walker/Bismack Biyombo drafts, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist draft and Cody Zeller draft, this Hornets draft looks like a huge improvement. Like Atlanta, Charlotte’s case in the East compared to tanking teams may look better than some think, just because they aren’t far away. If this draft gets them on the path to over 50 Ws, they could in the mix to make the Finals after the Heat slide an leave a power vacuum.

Brooklyn Nets

SG Markel Brown (44th overall pick) – Talent grade: 18, ranked 37th)

SG Xavier Thames (58th overall pick – Talent grade: 16, ranked 59th)

PF Cory Jefferson (60th overall pick – Talent grade: 16, ranked 57th)

Expected value:

44th overall pick: 17 (Brown: +1)

58th overall pick: 16 (Thames: / )

60th overall pick: 16 (Jefferson: / )

Total: +1

This draft is unspectacular but Billy King may have hit few solid singles with his bought picks. Brown has some shooting, length and feel. Thames can score from the perimeter. Jefferson is an athlete at PF. Getting 1 or 2 rotation players here is a win for the Nets and they did desperately need some young legs. It’s not just that youth helps their lineup, but the more important reason to find draft steals for the Nets, is to get more trade assets.

New York Knicks

SF Cleanthony Early (34th overall pick) – Talent grade: 19, ranked: 28th)

SF Thanasis Antetokounmpo (51st overall pick) – Talent grade: 16, ranked: 48th)

C Louis Labeyrie (57th overall pick) – Talent grade: unranked

Expected value:

34th overall pick: 18 (Early: +1)

51st overall pick: 16 (Antetokounmpo: / )

Total: +1

Solid if unspectacular first draft for the Knicks. Early fell into their laps and has rotation/starter potential for his shooting ability and penetration ability offensively, albeit he may struggle on D. Thanasis is an athlete and could play a defensive role at multiple positions in the NBA. I don’t know anything about Labeyrie. I liked this Tyson Chandler trade for the Knicks by giving them talent in Early, Larkin and Thanasis. As for the Knicks future? They need to avoid paying Carmelo a massive contract for an older player and tank in 2015 while they have their pick. Then re-evaluate their situation with more young assets and capspace a year from now. That’s just what they need to do. It makes by far the most sense. The toxins of the pre-Phil Jackson Knicks need time to wash out of their system.

Memphis Grizzlies

SG Jordan Adams (22nd overall pick) – Talent grade: 21, ranked 10th

PF Jarnell Stokes (35th overall pick) – Talent grade: 16, ranked 54th

Expected value:

22nd overall pick: 19 (Adams: +2)

35th overall pick: 18 (Stokes: -2 )

Total: /

Adams is an excellent pick for the Grizzlies. Along with his talent, college production and analytics back up he’s a likely above average starting SG in the NBA. He can shoot, drive to the rim and move surprisingly well on defense. This could be a powerful addition considering the Grizzlies other strengths.

I’m not a fan of Stokes talent. Although he a strong feel for the game Stokes skill level in the post or his jumpshot doesn’t impress me and his athleticism/standing reach is a concern. I need to see an improved jumpshot from him.

The Grizzlies are already near contention and Adams could be a crucial part of taking the next step.

San Antonio Spurs

PF Kyle Anderson (30th overall pick) – Talent grade: 19, ranked: 29th

SF Nemanja Dangubic (54th overall pick) – Talent grade: unranked

Expected value:

30th overall pick: 19 (Anderson: / )

The Spurs had a good draft but I wouldn’t call it a home run. Something to think about, although Anderson fits the Spurs model of feel, passing and spacing perfectly for a PF, does he just replicate what they already have enough? If the Spurs have a weakness it’s athleticism at PF and C, which is also Anderson’s weakness.

The argument against this is the Spurs may not be counting on Anderson’s contribution for years anyways. By the time Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili have retired and they’re rebuilding a roster around Kawhi Leonard. They could have a bigger need for his skills then.

I never found enough footage to comfortably rate Dangubic

L.A. Clippers

SG C.J. Wilcox (28th overall pick) – Talent grade: 19, ranked: 30th

Expected value:

28th overall pick: 19 (Wilcox: / )

I like Wilcox well enough, he’s a great shooter and has the athleticism to drive to the rim. But this is a confounding pick. I’d have liked to see the Clippers try and draft a young frontcourt player, instead of yet another spot up shooter. Nevertheless if he contributes he could help the Clippers by becoming a trade asset for one more veteran to help them compete for the title. They also may have eyed using free agency to fill their big man hole from the start, as seen by signing Spencer Hawes today.

Utah Jazz

PG/SG Dante Exum (5th overall pick) – Talent grade: 20, Ranking: 14th)

SF Rodney Hood (23rd overall pick) – Talent grade: 20, Ranking: 19th)

Expected value:

5th overall pick: 22 (Exum: -2)

23rd overall pick: 19 (Hood: +1)

Total: -1

The Jazz got two potential starters. Exum has size, feel and penetration ability, but his jumpshot has no floor. The risk with this pick is you end up with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of guards, a great combination of physical tools and feel who’s just crushed by his jumper. Even with an average jumper it may only make him a good but not elite PG. Nevertheless I can’t kill them for the pick.

Hood is solid value in the 20s. He can shoot and has feel, albeit his defensive tools are concerning.

The Jazz needed a star and I believe there were other options with more potential, but they may add two nice assets all the same.

Los Angeles Lakers

PF Julius Randle (7th overall pick) – Talent grade: 21, ranked 7th

PG Jordan Clarkson (46th overall pick) – Talent grade: 16, ranked 50th

Expected value:

7th overall pick: 21 (Randle: / )

46th overall pick: 17 (Clarkson: -1)

Total: -1

Randle is a great bet to succeed. He has strength, athleticism, feel and skill and his production in college backs up his case. I’d be very surprised if he didn’t end an above average starting PF.

Clarkson is an underwhelming pick, he has some feel and penetrating ability, but his jumper concerns me. There are a lot of intriguing PGs so he may end up bouncing around like the Lakers pick Darius Morris before him.

The Lakers did what they needed, which was bring in a talented future starter to help lead into the post-Kobe era.

Denver Nuggets

C Jusuf Nurkic (16th overall pick) – Talent grade: 19, ranked 26th

SG Gary Harris (19th overall pick) – Talent grade: 18, ranked 39th

C Nikola Jokic (41st overall pick) – Talent grade: 18, ranked 35th

Expected value:

16th overall pick: 20 (Nurkic: -1)

19th overall pick: 20 (Harris: -2)

41st overall pick: 17 (Jokic: +1)

Total: -2

Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris should be solid pros. Nurkic has size and some skill, Harris has some athleticism driving and 3pt shooting ability. I’m concerned about the feel for the game of both. Jokic is the best value of their picks as a skilled, feel-friendly C. The Nuggets took NBA caliber players but I don’t know if any move the needle in the way a roster full of good players but without stars needed.

Minnesota Timberwolves

SG Zach LaVine (13th overall pick) – Talent grade: 20, ranked 16th

SF Glenn Robinson III (40th overall pick) – Talent grade: 15, ranked 63rd

PG Alessandro Gentile (53rd overall pick) – Talent grade: unranked

Expected value:

13th overall pick: 20 (LaVine: / )

40th overall pick: 18 (Robinson III: -3)

Total: -3

The LaVine pick is fine from a talent perspective, but whatever college production is the “Mendoza line” equivalent where one should be worried about reaching talent, LaVine fell below it. Nevertheless his ability to penetrate to the basket could be one of the best in the class and his jumpshooting game could become solid. He could be a Monta Ellis type in the NBA.

Glenn Robinson III has long been one of the draft’s overrated to me. He has some feel but his driving or shooting is unimpressive. My guess is he doesn’t get drafted without his father’s name.

As for the rest of the Timberwolves offseason, I may have to tackle that in another post.

Houston Rockets

C Clint Capela (25th overall pick) – Talent grade: 18, ranked 34th

SG Nick Johnson (42nd overall pick) – Talent grade: 15, ranked 73rd

Expected value:

25th overall pick: 19 (Capela: -1)

42nd overall pick: 17 (Johnson: -2)

Total: -3

The Rockets made a reasonable pick by taking Capela who has exciting length and athleticism, albeit his skill and feel could keep him out of a starting lineup. Johnson is an underwhelming prospect to me, albeit in Houston he may find a role defending and hitting 3s at PG beside James Harden. This draft nevertheless serves a purpose for the Rockets as Capela will stay a valued trade asset while he remains productive in Europe.

Milwaukee Bucks

PF Jabari Parker (2nd overall pick) – Talent grade: 20, ranked 20th

SF/PF Damien Inglis (31st overall pick), Talent grade: 20, ranked 17th

PF Johnny O’Bryant (36th overall pick), Talent grade: 15, ranked 67th

Expected value:

2nd overall pick: 24 (Parker: -4)

33rd overall pick: 18 (Inglis: +2)

36th overall pick: 18 (O’Bryant: -3)

Total: -5

I’ve been fading Jabari Parker most of the year. My main argument is his skill level is overrated. He wasn’t a top 5 shooter on Duke, his passing was poor in college, in the halfcourt he wasn’t very comfortable isolating with the ball in his hands and his power game relied on strength and fluidity more than moves. Where is the supposedly elite skill level?

Still, if he moves to the PF his outside shooting even if average for a SF, should be well above average for the position. He can provide spacing, fluidity and strength at PF and be a starting caliber 4. But my feeling is he will disappoint on the whole. To me the reason Andrew Wiggins talent level is complicated, but I’m guessing with Jabari people will understand quickly into his career he had overlooked flaws.

Damien Inglis continued the Bucks trend of smart 2nd round picks. He has impressive strength, length and feel for a 4, the makings of a jumper and can pass the ball. He could be a starter in the NBA.

Johnny O’Bryant is a rugged energy guy, but I’m a fan of drafting for talent in the 2nd round and I don’t see enough in the way of physical tools or skill here to be impressed.

Oklahoma City Thunder

C Mitch McGary (21st overall pick) – Talent grade: 18, ranked: 32nd

SF Josh Huestis (29th overall pick) – Talent grade: 15, ranked 69th

SG Semaj Christon (55th overall pick) – Talent grade: 15, ranked 64th

Expected value:

21st overall pick: 20 (McGary: -2)

29th overall pick: 19 (Huestis: -4)

55th overall pick: 16 (Christon: -1)

Total: -7

A weird draft for the Thunder. McGary is a solid big man with strength and feel and he should fit with his athletic teammates well, but 21 in this draft was like a lottery pick in others and I feel higher upside options were there than him. His drug violation is an exception to the Thunder’s normally strict character policy. Finally, with two C prospects in Steven Adams and Tibor Pleiss in Europe, did they need to spend another crucial pick on one?

Josh Huestis has some length and ability to defend laterally, but offensively the ability to drive or shoot is both questionable. I feel more offense is needed for a SF in the modern day. Semaj Christon’s ballhandling and shooting skill don’t impress me the most and I figure it could hamper him.

The above grade is probably is too harsh on the Thunder since McGary can become a solid piece for them. But picking twice in the 1st round was such an opportunity for them, I wonder if they’ll regret this one.

Boston Celtics

PG/SG Marcus Smart (6th overall pick) – Talent grade: 19, ranked 23rd

SF James Young (17th overall pick) – Talent grade: 16, ranked 55th

Expected value:

6th overall pick: 22 (Smart: -3)

17th overall pick: 20 (Young: -4)

Total: -7

I didn’t like this draft for the Celtics. Smart has elite size and lateral quickness for a guard but his ballhandling and shooting are a weakness to me. Much of the position just comes down to driving to the rim and shooting and I’m not sure he has it. His feel also seems average. My comparison is Rodney Stuckey.

James Young was one of my least favorite top 20 rated picks. He has some feel and length, but I don’t athleticism driving to the basket, much lateral speed or shooting. In other words he may not find a role offensively or defensively.

As for the Celtics direction they could be in for a long rebuild if they strike out on Kevin Love and are forced to trade Rajon Rondo. Boston is doing the right thing collecting assets however.

Orlando Magic

PF Aaron Gordon (4th overall pick) – Talent grade: 20, ranked 13th

PG Elfrid Payton (10th overall pick) – Talent grade: 15, ranked 62nd

SG Roy Devyn Marble (56th overall pick) – Talent grade: 15, ranked 72nd

Expected value:

4th overall pick: 22 (Gordon: -2)

10th overall pick: 21 (Payton: -6)

56th overall pick: 16 (Marble: -1)

Total: -9

Yikes. The Magic continued to prove my theory that Rob Hennigan targets high feel for the game/fluidity players. But Payton and Gordon’s skill level for their position is a major weakness. Payton’s ballhandling may be a bigger weakness than some think because despite otherwise looking athletic, I thought he surprisingly struggled to drive past defenders in the halfcourt, often being funneled in front of them. His jumpshot could also be a terrible with a sub-60 FT% as a major concern. For the 10th pick he rates scarily low in talent.

Gordon should be a starting PF with athleticism, excellent lateral mobility, ballhandling and feel. He has some weaknesses like length in addition to his skill level and his college production wasn’t the best, but it’s not a killer pick at 4.

Roy Devyn Marble outside of feel for the game doesn’t look too talented to me, as an average athlete with shooting problems.

Orlando’s draft and trading Arron Afflalo was the beginning of an bewildering offseason so far. 8 million in Ben Gordon, Willie Green and Jameer Nelson’s buyout? Even if the Magic are tanking, they could have used that capspace to absorb contracts from other teams for draft picks/prospects. With that said I’m convinced Sam Hinkie in Philadelphia signed Byron Mullens as an “tank secret weapon” move, knowing just how terrible his impact was and counting on him adding to the L column. It’s possible Orlando is following their lead with Ben Gordon, a unique combination of inefficient ball stopping offense and dreadful defense. By likely starting Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon in a league where spacing is becoming crucial, the Magic could be horrendous next season.

Cleveland Cavaliers

SF Andrew Wiggins (1st overall pick) – Talent grade: 19, ranked 27th

SG Joe Harris (33rd overall pick) – Talent grade: 15, ranked 70th

PF Dwight Powell (45th overall pick) – Talent grade: 15, ranked 68th

Expected value:

1st overall pick: 25  (Wiggins: -6)

33rd overall pick: 18  (Harris: -3)

45th overall pick: 17 (Powell: -2)

Total: -11

This draft was as bad as it gets for me. I struggle to rate Andrew Wiggins as more than late lotto consideration. His ballhandling should subdue his ability to penetrate, his feel is average and his defensive tools aren’t as perfect as advertised. I feel he has more in common with Corey Brewer than Paul George. If he breaks through it’ll be by his jumpshot blowing up, as he showed just enough in the area for a high upside to be conceivable.

The Joe Harris pick was one of my least favorite in the 2nd round. Consider how he’s a 3pt shooting specialist draft pick who hit just 64% from the FT line, usually as important as 3P% to predict NBA 3pt shooting. Even with good 3pt shooting, slashing and defense could keep him out of a rotation.

Dwight Powell has some athleticism, but skill level and strength are concerns. I don’t see more than an end of the bench talent.

Now, I ordered all the picks in rating from their “expected value”. If players had the same difference, I rated the player taken with the higher pick ahead, as it’s probably harder to get extra value on top picks and there’s more value in it. This is something of a “best pick” list:

1. PHX 27th overall pick: 19 (Bogdan Bogdanovic: +6)

2. DET 38th overall pick: 18 (Spencer Dinwiddie: +4)

3. CHI 49th overall pick: 16 (Cameron Bairstow: +4)

4. PHX 50th overall pick: 16 (Alec Brown: +4)

5. SAC 8th overall pick: 21 (Nik Stauskas: +3)

6. MIA 24th overall pick: 19 (Shabazz Napier: +3)

7. TOR 37th overall pick: 18 (DeAndre Daniels: +3)

8. NOP 47th overall pick: 16 (Russ Smith: +3)

9. PHI 58th overall pick: 16 (Jordan McRae: +3)

10. ATL 15th overall pick: 20 (Adreian Payne: +2)

11. MEM 22nd overall pick: 19 (Jordan Adams: +2)

12. MIL 33rd overall pick: 18 (Damien Inglis: +2)

13. ATL 48th overall pick: 16 (Lamar Patterson: +2)

14. UTA 23rd overall pick: 19 (Rodney Hood: +1)

15. CHA 26th overall pick: 19 (P.J. Hairston: +1 )

16. NYK 34th overall pick: 18 (Cleanthony Early: +1)

17. DEN 41st overall pick: 17 (Nikola Jokic: +1)

18. BKN 44th overall pick: 17 (Markel Brown: +1)

19. PHI 3rd overall pick: 24 (Joel Embiid: /)

20. LAL 7th overall pick: 21 (Julius Randle: / )

21. CHA 9th overall pick: 21 (Noah Vonleh: / )

22. CHI 11th overall pick: 21 (Doug McDermott: / )

23. PHI 12th overall pick: 21 (Dario Saric: / )

24. MIN 13th overall pick: 20 (Zach LaVine: / )

25. LAC 28th overall pick: 19 (C.J. Wilcox: / )

26. SAS 30th overall pick: 19 (Kyle Anderson: / )

27. PHI 39th overall pick: 18 (Jerami Grant: / )

28. ATL 43rd overall pick: 17 (Walter Tavares: / )

29. NYK 51st overall pick: 16 (Thanasis Antetokounmpo: / )

30. PHI 52nd overall pick: 16 (Vasilije Micic: / )

31. BKN 58th overall pick: 16 (Xavier Thames: / )

32. BKN 60th overall pick: 16 (Cory Jefferson: / )

33. PHX 14th overall pick: 20 (T.J. Warren: -1)

34. DEN 16th overall pick: 20 (Jusuf Nurkic: -1)

35. HOU 25th overall pick: 19 (Clint Capela: -1)

36. PHI 32nd overall pick: 18 (K.J. McDaniels: -1)

37. LAL 46th overall pick: 17 (Jordan Clarkson: -1)

38. OKC 55th overall pick: 16 (Semaj Christon: -1)

39. ORL 56th overall pick: 16 (Roy Devyn Marble: -1)

40. ORL 4th overall pick: 22 (Aaron Gordon: -2)

41. UTA 5th overall pick: 22 (Dante Exum: -2)

42. DEN 19th overall pick: 20 (Gary Harris: -2)

43. OKC 21st overall pick: 20 (Mitch McGary: -2)

44. MEM 35th overall pick: 18 (Jarnell Stokes: -2 )

45. HOU 42nd overall pick: 15 (Nick Johnson: -2)

46. CLE 45th overall pick: 17 (Dwight Powell: -2)

47. BOS 6th overall pick: 22 (Marcus Smart: -3)

48. CLE 33rd overall pick: 18  (Joe Harris: -3)

49. MIL 36th overall pick: 18 (Johnny O’Bryant: -3)

50. MIN 40th overall pick: 18 (Glenn Robinson III: -3)

51. MIL 2nd overall pick: 24 (Jabari Parker: -4)

52. BOS 17th overall pick: 20 (James Young: -4)

53. OKC 29th overall pick: 19 (Josh Huestis: -4)

54. PHX 18th overall pick: 20 (Tyler Ennis: -5 )

55. CLE 1st overall pick: 25 (Andrew Wiggins: -6)

56. ORL 10th overall pick: 21 (Elfrid Payton: -6)

Interestingly despite how little ‘feel for the game’ is mentioned in draft scouting reports, the isn’t a clear correlation on the above list of teams underrating. There’s players rated at the bottom with high feel in addition to the top.

What really stands out as undervalued is skill level, both shooting the ball and ballhandling. Many of the players rated as steals are skilled floor spacers, while the players rated as reaches are often rawer players expected to learn how to shoot and dribble. This leads me to believe NBA teams are underrating how much skill level is innate and not learned, along with how important in general it is to be skilled.

Finally, here is the above list rearranged by team and the ranks of their picks, along with the average of their rankings. This may be the purest “drafting skill” rating:

1. DET – 2 (Average: 2)

2. SAC – 5 (Average: 5)

3. MIA – 6 (Average: 6)

4. TOR – 7 ( Average: 7)

5. NOP – 8 (Average: 8)

6. CHI – 3, 22 (Average: 12.5)

7. ATL – 10, 13, 28 (Average: 17)

8. CHA – 15, 21 (Average: 18)

9. NYK – 16, 29 (Average: 22.5)

10. PHX – 1, 4, 33, 54 (Average: 23.0)

11. PHI – 9, 19, 23, 27, 30, 36  (Average: 24.0)

12. LAC – 25 (Average: 25.0)

13. SAS – 26 (Average: 26.0)

14. BKN – 18, 31, 32 (Average: 27.0)

15. MEM – 11, 44 (Average: 27.5)

16. UTA – 14 + 41 (Average: 27.5)

17. LAL – 20, 37 (Average: 28.5)

18. DEN – 17, 34, 42 (Average: 31.0)

19. MIN – 24, 50 (Average: 37.0)

20. MIL – 12, 49, 51 (Average: 37.3)

21. HOU – 35, 45 (Average: 40.0)

22. OKC – 38, 43, 53 (Average: 44.7)

23. ORL – 39, 40, 56 (Average: 45.0)

24. BOS – 47, 52 (Average: 49.5)

25. CLE – 46, 48, 55 (Average: 49.7)

Written by jr.

July 5, 2014 at 2:24 pm

2014 NBA Draft Big Board – Late May/Early June update

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I have a much larger draft/talent grades big board coming up in a few weeks, including not only the players grades but a write-up for most prospects, NBA comparisons and star/starter/bench player/etc. “probability” grades for each one.

For now I will just post where my big board is at in minimalist form. As a reminder, grade 25 and up = Perennial all-star talent, 23-24 = Fringe Perennial all-star talent, 19-22 = Blue Chip starter talent, 17-18 = Fringe Blue Chip starter talent 14-16 = Rotation player talent, 13 and below = Fringe rotation player talent or worse. My current list is up to 72 prospects including virtually everyone I feel is relevant:

1. SG Bogdan Bogdanovic – 25
2. SG Nik Stauskas – 24
3. C Joel Embiid – 23

Because of Embiid’s health and Bogdanovic’s unclear buyout situation, I may call Stauskas most worth the 1st pick. Although Embiid’s two way talent at C is ultra-enticing, the value of a star perimeter talent should not be underestimated. It’s not about what position you play but how good you are at it. I rate Stauskas as the best offensive talent in the draft while Bogdanovic and Embiid have the size and lateral mobility to be more complete 2 way players.

4. PF Julius Randle – 22
5. PG Shabazz Napier – 22
6. SG Jordan Adams – 21
7. PF Adreian Payne – 21
8. SG Spencer Dinwiddie – 21

I’m fairly confident these are starting caliber players in the NBA, given health and enough minutes – and “once or twice” all-star appearances coming from this group would not surprise, if an all out star doesn’t emerge from it.

9. SG Dante Exum – 20
10. PF Jerami Grant – 20
11. SF Dario Saric – 20
12. PF Damien Inglis – 20
13. SG Zach LaVine – 20
14. C Isaiah Austin – 20
15. PF Jabari Parker – 20
16. PF Alec Brown – 20
17. SF Doug McDermott – 20

A lot of these prospects are showing more visible weaknesses such as skill level or physical tools limitations, nonetheless average or above average starter careers for them, are within reach. These prospects are not “out of danger” falling to a fringe starter type of career, nor is a more special career inconceivable.

18. PF Aaron Gordon – 19
19. PF Noah Vonleh – 19
20. SF Deandre Daniels – 19
21. PF T.J. Warren – 19
22. PG Russ Smith – 19
23. PF Kristaps Porzingis – 19
24. SF Cleanthony Early – 19
25. SG Markel Brown – 19
26. SG Rodney Hood – 19

The list of players I have rated as starting caliber talents is admittedly long, but in talented drafts like 2003 and 2008, the starter count went into the 20s.

27. SF K.J. McDaniels – 18
28. C Mitch McGary – 18
29. SF Andrew Wiggins – 18
30. PG Marcus Smart – 18
31. SG Roy Devyn Marble – 18
32. SG Jabari Brown – 18
33. PF Kyle Anderson – 18
34. SG Travis Bader – 18
35. SG Glenn Robinson III – 17
36. PF Clint Capela – 17
37. PG Jahii Carson – 17
38. PG Jordan Clarkson – 17
39. PG Deonte Burton – 17
40. C Jusuf Nurkic – 17
41. SG Semaj Christon – 17
42. SF Lamar Patterson – 17
43. SG Xavier Thames – 17
44. SG C.J. Wilcox – 17
45. SG P.J. Hairston – 17

Most of these players are interesting and can have unique physical, skill or mental talents, but the whole package does not blow me away. This is the part of the draft where who has the long career and rotation player, starts to depend more on opportunity and getting minutes to develop, as much as it does talent. It’s one thing to have the talent to be the 6th or 7th best player on a good team, but if it takes thousands of minutes of development to get to that level, some of these prospects may wash out in the process. A player like Nurkic is likely to have one of the 30 best careers in the draft because of the NBA’s sweet tooth for gigantic centers compared to some prospects like PGs Carson and Clarkson, for example. All of these prospects have a reasonable chance of breaking out to being true starters, because of the size of the group, surely a few will.

46. PF James Michael McAdoo – 16
47. PF Thanasis Antetokounmpo – 16
48. PG Vasilijie Micic – 16
49. PG Deandre Kane – 16
50. PG Tyler Ennis – 16
51. PF Patric Young – 16
52. PF Cory Jefferson -16
53. SF LaQuinton Ross – 16
54. SG Jordan McRae – 16
55. SG Gary Harris – 16
56. PG Bryce Cotton – 16
57. PG Elfrid Payton – 16
58. SF James Young – 16
59. PF Jarnell Stokes – 15
60. PF Johnny O’Bryant – 15
61. C Walter Tavares – 15
62. PG Scottie Wilbekin – 15

These guys aren’t total dregs, just mediocrity. The odds of these prospects becoming starters and blue chippers starts to get increasingly slim. There are some prospects in this group such as Ennis, Young, Harris for whom the lottery love affair with, I find relatively confusing.

63. SF Josh Huestis – 14
64. SF C.J. Fair – 14
65. PF Dwight Powell – 14
66. SG Joe Harris – 14
67. SG Nick Johnson – 14
68. C ALex Kirk – 14
69. SF Melvin Ejim – 13
70. PG Keith Appling – 13
71. PG Aaron Craft – 12
72. C Jordan Bachynski – 12

The end of the list starts to real real ugly, with most of these prospects unlikely to make a mark for talent and opportunity reasons.

Written by jr.

May 28, 2014 at 5:39 pm

Will the 76ers pass on Andrew Wiggins?

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Philadelphia may have fallen to the 3rd pick, but some Sixers fans are optimistic they can still draft Andrew Wiggins. Joel Embiid is the odds on favorite to be picked 1st by Cleveland, while Milwaukee has been linked to Jabari Parker and Dante Exum, leaving a strong possibility Wiggins is there at 3rd.

Wiggins to the Sixers has been a media favorite all season, due to his athleticism and fast break potential playing alongside Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and a league high pace.

However I see the possibility Wiggins falls to 3… and the Sixers pass on him. Why? It’s in the analytics. Sam Hinkie came from the Houston Rockets organization and has presumably been heavily adopting analytics running the team.

The question is whether he’ll use it to draft, since using stats-driven models, have an unproven track record so far. (I’d argue the Cavaliers out of nowhere picks of Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters were statistically driven, both rated very highly on John Hollinger’s draft rater and Hoopsanalyst.com, run by Ed Weiland who is a well known statistically driven draft blogger)

If they do, I believe Wiggins becomes a less likely pick. Analytics models often prioritize steals, blocks and rebounds as major indicators of success, where Wiggins production is only ok. To his credit, his age and Kansas’ level of competition, should play in his favor.

To help show the evidence for why the Sixers may be drafting with analytics, first, let’s look at the 2013 draft where they traded for Nerlens Noel when he fell to 6th pick and drafted Michael Carter-Williams 11th. First, here is the lottery picks in 2013 ordered by combined Blks+Stls per 40 minutes in their final college year, via Draftexpress.com:

Nerlens Noel – 8.1 (5.5 Blk, 2.6 Stl)
Steven Adams – 4.6
Michael Carter-Williams – 3.7 (0.5 Blk, 3.2 Stl)
Alex Len – 3.4
Otto Porter – 3.1
Cody Zeller – 3.1
Victor Oladipo – 3.0
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – 2.8
Anthony Bennett – 2.7
Kelly Olynyk – 2.7
Trey Burke – 2.4
Ben McLemore – 2.0
C.J. McCollum – 1.7
Shabazz Muhammad – 1.1

If Sixers were only drafting by steal and block rate for highly ranked players, a draft of Noel and Carter-Williams would make perfect sense. Steven Adams has the second highest total, which would have looked especially impressive as a younger player than Carter-Williams. But with the same position and style of play as Noel, he would have been a non-complimentary fit, thus the Sixers may have had Adams rated higher than Carter-Williams in a vacuum, but chose for fit. That’s not to say Adams was necessarily above Carter-Williams on their or others statistically driven teams’ big boards either, other categories like Carter-Williams’ high assist rate may have played out well.

Now, here’s the 2013 lottery picks sorted by combined Blks+Stls+Rebs+Asts per 40 minutes. Notably, this list will favor big men, as the trade-off of assists to rebounds from small players to big players, is unequal in the latter’s favor.

Nerlens Noel – 22.0 (5.5 Blk, 2.6 Stl, 11.9 Reb, 2.0 Ast)
Michael Carter-Williams 17.5 (0.5 Blk, 3.2 Stl, 5.5 Reb, 8.3 Ast)
Alex Len – 16.8
Steven Adams – 16.5
Kelly Olynyk – 16.2
Cody Zeller – 15.8
Anthony Bennett – 15.7
Otto Porter – 14.7
Trey Burke – 13.5
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – 13.2
Victor Oladipo – 11.4
Ben McLemore – 10.9
C.J. McCollum – 9.6
Shabazz Muhammad – 9.0

Noel and Carter-Williams blow past their big men and guard peers respectively by this measure.

To point out, this all may be a coincidence. Noel and Carter-Williams were mostly considered “Best Player Available” by at 6 and 11 conventional, non-statistical draft methods as well. However, considering Sam Hinkie’s Rockets analytics background, there stands at least a solid chance analytics affected their picks and going out of their way to trade for Noel. If so, let’s look at what it could predict for the Sixers 2014 draft. First, combined Blk+Stl per 40. I included the NCAA players rated in the top 14 on Draftexpress.com’s top 100, along with Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson who are known as analytics-favorites this year:

Joel Embiid – 6.0 (4.5 Blk, 1.5 Stl)
Marcus Smart – 4.2 (0.7 Blk, 3.5 Stl)
Jordan Adams – 3.7 (0.2 Blk, 3.5 Stl)
Noah Vonleh – 3.4 (2.1 Blk, 1.3 Stl)
Jabari Parker – 3.0 (1.6 Blk, 1.4 Stl)
Kyle Anderson – 3.0 (0.9 Blk, 2.1 Stl)
Gary Harris – 2.7
Andrew Wiggins – 2.6 (1.2 Blk, 1.4 Stl)
Tyler Ennis – 2.6
Aaron Gordon – 2.4 (1.3 Blk, 1.1 Stl)
Julius Randle – 1.6 (1.0 Blk, 0.6 Stl)
Nik Stauskas – 0.9
Doug McDermott – 0.5

Now, here is Blk+Stl+Reb+Ast per 40 for these players:

Joel Embiid – 22.3 (4.5 Blk, 1.5 Stl, 14.0 Reb, 2.3 Ast)
Kyle Anderson – 21.3 (0.9 Blk, 2.1 Stl, 10.5 Reb, 7.8 Ast)
Noah Vonleh – 17.9 (2.1 Blk, 1.3 Stl, 13.6 Reb, 0.9 Ast)
Marcus Smart – 17.2 (0.7 Blk, 3.5 Stl, 7.2 Reb, 5.8 Ast)
Julius Randle – 16.9 (1.0 Blk, 0.6 Stl, 13.5 Reb, 1.8 Ast)
Jabari Parker – 15.9 (1.6 Blk, 1.4 Stl, 11.4 Reb, 1.5 Ast)
Aaron Gordon – 15.1 (1.3 Blk, 1.1 Stl, 10.2 Reb, 2.5 Ast)
Jordan Adams – 13.9 (0.2 Blk, 3.5 Stl, 7.1 Reb, 3.1 Ast)
Tyler Ennis – 12.6
Andrew Wiggins – 11.6 (1.2 Blk, 1.4 Stl, 7.1 Reb, 1.9 Ast)
Gary Harris – 11.0
Doug McDermott – 10.7
Nik Stauskas – 7.9

Why Embiid, Smart, Adams and Anderson do well in analytics-driven draft raters is easy to see. Embiid, Smart and Adams have the highest Stl+Blk rate of this group, while although Anderson trails in that department his massive rebounding (10.5 per 40) and assist (7.8 per 40) combination make up for it. Considering his position compared to Noel and Embiid, his Blk+Stl+Reb+Ast is arguably the most prolific the last 2 drafts.

Overall, if the Sixers chose Noel and Carter-Williams because of analytics, there’s a great chance they have Wiggins outside of their top 3 since he performs mediocre at best on the above lists. So who would they pick ahead?

Marcus Smart – With the 3rd highest Blk+Stl rate of the last 2 drafts behind Noel and Adams, he also out-rebounds Wiggins (7.2 per 40 minutes to 7.1) despite playing PG, it would make sense if he was ahead on their board. Carter-Williams and Smart is a weird offensive fit as ball dominant PGs who struggle to shoot, which is a problem when analytics universally favors spacing as crucial. But positionally Smart could be envisioned as SG of the future and PHI could be in love with the defensive potential of Carter-Williams, Smart and Noel playing together, or see the rebounding ability of their backcourt as a fastbreak machine. They could also have confidence that shooting coaches to improve their range, like the Rockets helped prospects like Chandler Parsons and Kyle Lowry in the past who weren’t expected to be good shooters in college or early in their careers, but are now outstanding 3pt shooters for their position.

Jabari Parker – It’s unclear whether Parker would be available at 3, but he fits a statistically driven team’s profile more than Wiggins. His Blk+Stl of 3.0 is solid and he has a strong 11.4 rebounds per 40 minutes, while his youth helps his stats. Jabari would also fit their lineup needs precisely, giving the floor spacing PF Nerlens Noel needs to play with, PHI would also use Parker’s impressive transition ballhandling skills.

Noah Vonleh – Vonleh rates well on both the Blk+Stl and Blk+Stl+Reb+Ast charts, with his 13.6 rebs per 40 rating as one of the draft’s best. He has the ability to stretch the floor beside Noel and Carter-Williams while playing defenese, which could be a combo an analytics team covets. Like Parker and Wiggins youth would make his stats look especially impressive to the Sixers draft model.

Less likely picks:

Dante Exum – I doubt the Sixers would use his Australian or FIBA statistics to make this pick, but they may feel willing to take the shot on his raw tools and upside. But his long term role and fit would be similar enough to Smart, that I suspect they’d just take the numbers-favorite Smart of the two. Exum’s best chance may be if the Sixers aren’t so much using statistics to make the pick, but are using them to decide who not to pick – which could still knock Wiggins out of contention, but leave Exum in it.

Julius Randle – Randle’s Blk+Stl+Reb+Ast is pretty strong thanks to his rebounding (13.5 per 40), but his 0.6 stls per 40 which has made him somewhat of an analytics target this year would likely knock him out of contention.

Aaron Gordon – Although his athleticism and ballhandling would fit the Sixers pace, his Blk+Stl and Blk+Stl+Reb+Ast aren’t as impressive as some other prospects on the above list, so I suspect they like him but won’t have him 3rd.

As for Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson, if the Sixers take a player like Smart or Vonleh 3rd overall, it makes the most sense Adams or Anderson is where they go with the 10th pick.

There’s another scenario and that’s for the Sixers to trade from their pick, either up or down. If the Sixers are in love with Joel Embiid and an Embiid/Noel frontcourt they could make a strong offer to move up, even going as far to offer their 10th pick to do so. Or they could move back from #3, taking advantage of other teams rating Wiggins, Parker or Exum higher than they do. This could allow them to take 2 of Smart, Adams and Anderson while getting value back

Finally, you may be asking “Hasn’t it already been leaked months ago that the Sixers are in love with Wiggins and were tanking for him?” Although those rumors have been around of Philly’s Wiggins connection, information like that is also worth taking with a grain of salt as a potential smokescreen. In fact it makes sense how if the Sixers real guy was Joel Embiid, they’d have the motive to beef up Wiggins draft stock by leaking their interest, hoping a team takes Wiggins ahead of Embiid and drops him to them.

None of this may be true admittedly, as it’s based off a speculative connection between Sam Hinkie’s analytics reputation and the Noel and Carter-Williams picks. But because of their analytics lean, I’m inching towards the Sixers coming out of this draft with a combination like Marcus Smart and Kyle Anderson.

Written by jr.

May 25, 2014 at 4:44 pm

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

Is the NBA worse at evaluating prospects than results suggest?

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While the NBA can often miss on high lottery picks, the consensus opinion is the “grouping” of prospects is relatively well done. Meaning it’s very rare for a starter or rotation player to not be a 1st rounder. And almost all all-stars and especially superstars are picked in the top 10.

So on the surface, it would starter and all-star talents don’t slip past the collective wisdom of the group. This is contrast to sports like the NFL, NBA, MLB where stars fall outside of the 1st round more regularly.

However, here’s something to remember: Because the NBA allows prospects to return to school and choose to declare as a freshman, sophomores, juniors, seniors, talented prospects may not declare until they’re projected to be picked high enough in the draft to be worth it.

In other words, how high the NBA projects a player’s draft ranking, is a huge factor in whether he’s in the draft to be selected. So a major reason many starter and all-star talents don’t fall to the 2nd round or go undrafted, may be that they don’t stay in the draft if they’re projected lowly. These talented prospects then have the chance to stay in college enough for their talent to shine as juniors or seniors, allowing them to get picked high and deserving of their talent. If star talents don’t stay in the draft if they’re rated in the 2nd round, the NBA can’t miss on them in the 1st round. Many are either rated in the top 20 or hope for better luck the next season.

The NHL drafts everyone at high school graduation age (around 18) and then teams send them to the minor leagues until they’re physically ready. The MLB system is similar. If NBA teams did this, successful older prospects like Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry, Deron Williams, Brandon Roy, Victor Oladipo, Kenneth Faried, David West, among others, may not have been on the radar enough to even be 1st round picks, or in some cases even 2nd round picks. Although in the present system if the NBA extended the draft to 5 or 6 rounds it would lead to very few starting caliber talents, if they drafted everyone at 18 and had 5 or 6 rounds, it’d more likely to be full of steals like Lillard and Curry in later rounds.

There is a 2nd reason the NBA’s results may mask their drafting ability, which I’ve discussed recently. The players who get picked higher in the draft, also get believed in more. This increases their chance of getting thousands of minutes early in their career to mark out their place and gives them extra chances on 2nd or 3rd teams if they fail the first time. A prospect picked in the lottery may be given 5,000 minutes+ until the NBA knows they aren’t talented enough to be worth it. A prospect picked in the 2nd round may not get more than a few hundred minutes, or be forced to cut it in the D League. If the 2nd round prospect still has starter or all-star talent, he should still shine enough in these opportunities to make it, but where this weeding process may really have an effect is on bench players. There may have been tons of 2nd round and undrafted players over the years who were 5,000-10,000 minutes of development away from being a 7th or 8th man. But if this is all the talent teams saw in him, chances are they wouldn’t be too excited to spend all this resource (time) on a limited return on investment. Whereas an equally talented top 10 pick may only have 7th or 8th man talent, but the team who drafts him sees a starter or all-star in him. So they develop him for years under the impression they’ll get a big return on investment and even if they were wrong about this, the player still ends up getting the time to be a 7th or 8th man for the next decade. This is in addition to the fact that 1st round prospects get guaranteed contracts and are in the NBA 2 years at minimum, at least 3 in all but rare cases. If forced to pay them, teams may as well develop them to see what they have. All in all, it seems more likely 1st round and lottery prospects become rotation players than 2nd round/undrafted players of equal talent, due to just opportunity and being pushed into success by their teams.

Written by jr.

May 9, 2014 at 11:58 am

Posted in Basketball, NBA Draft

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Should Luke Babbitt scare teams about Doug McDermott?

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Creighton’s Doug McDermott is the likely player of the year winner in college, however despite his all-time great NCAA career, there are skeptics about whether he’ll make it in the NBA. Some see a starter, some see washout to a European league as his outcome.

One thing that’s scaring people, is McDermott’s similarities with Luke Babbitt. At about the same size and athleticism as McDermott, Babbitt’s perimeter shooting skills and high feel for the game were not enough to keep him in the league his first go around with Portland. He’s currently playing for the Pelicans after a stint overseas.

A first thing to consider is while Babbitt had a great shooting profile coming out of college, McDermott’s is a little better. While McDermott is no guarantee to be an even more deadly shooter than Babbitt in the NBA, at best he can be a Kyle Korver like savant hitting shots. At worst he could actually be worse than Babbitt at outside shooting.

Secondly, a crucial key with Babbitt is it’s not over for him. Babbitt has only played 1670 minutes in the NBA, 266 with the Pelicans. That would rank 5th in this year’s rookie class behind Victor Oladipo, Michael Carter-Williams, Trey Burke, Ben McLemore. He is still just 24. I tend to consider 6,000-8,000 minutes as a good benchmark for when a player starts entering “It’s time to start showing your talent” mode. Babbitt is not CLOSE to that point in minutes played. Inexperience made Babbitt a worse decision maker on offense and defense than he would be if a veteran with over 10,000 minutes played. Which pushed him from a player just good enough to contribute, to a player just bad enough to not contribute. Even if Babbitt got to 7,000 or 8,000 minutes and was struggling, it would be possible he’s an enigma not reaching his talent, due to mental flaws McDermott shouldn’t be expected to have.

Then consider how the Blazers were trying Babbitt as a small forward for the first 2 years of his career, accounting for about half his minutes so far. So his reps at power forward are especially small.

With that said, there is a reason why Babbitt played so little his first 3 seasons in Portland. When a player is struggling, how long a leash a player is given is likely connected to how much they believe in his upside, or the return on their investment. Nobody had any doubts that Babbitt had less than a star’s upside due to athletic limitations. If the Blazers developed him for 6,000+ minutes plus, they may have only had a player worth 5 or 6 million a year – easily replaceable in free agency. This still has value as a young, average player can become a trade chip (see Houston drafting Chase Budinger in the 2nd round and eventually trading him for a top 20 pick), but not every team may take this asset based approach.

Thus that is a major concern with Doug McDermott’s career. If his shooting goes the right direction (elite instead of good/great) he has the talent to be a very good bench lower level starter or standout 6th man. If his shooting is a little worse than elite and inexperience causes mistakes when he’s younger, he may fall out of a rotation and struggle to work his way back in, stuck on his team that doesn’t see the point in giving years of minutes to a player just to see him turn into a 6th or 7th man.. Most seem to feel McDermott has a limited upside. And although this fact tends to missed, as is the case with virtually all players who have a limited upside, that goes hand in hand with having a high bust potential as well for the team who takes him. Even if 27 year old McDermott is a good contributor, if he’s on his 3rd team by then, it didn’t work out for the team who took him. That would be partly on them for misevaluating his talent, but nevertheless. If McDermott has an OK upside and a high risk factor, it’s hard to justify taking him in the lottery.

Evaluating the Andrew Wiggins and Paul George comparison

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Although as I predicted going into the year Andrew Wiggins has not been as exemplary a prospect as expected, he is still in the mix for the 1st or 2nd pick.

One of the players Wiggins is compared to is Paul George, who has become one of the superstars in the NBA.

Is a Paul George and Andrew Wiggins comparison justified?

First, what both George and Wiggins share is excellent lateral mobility. This has helped George become one of the best wing defenders in the league, while Wiggins is expected to become a great defender in the NBA.

Like George, Wiggins is not as explosive attacking off the dribble as his side to side athleticism. Part of this is flawed ball-handling skills for both players, in George’s case an adequate first step more than elite. Wiggins may have a better first step, but I do not see Dwyane Wade in that area either.

So this combination of lateral athleticism, forward athleticism and ballhandling, draws George comparisons. However, there are other strengths I see in George I don’t see as strongly in Wiggins:

To start, George is a taller, longer player than Wiggins is and his strength level has filled out nicely. Wiggins remains skinny, albeit he has time to build his strength, or even grow taller like George did after his draft.

More importantly, George has become a terrific shooter for a small forward. He hits 37.1% of his 3s on 6.3 attempts a game this season, with an 87.0% FT. He has also excelled as a midrange jumpshooter this year.

How does college Wiggins compare to college George as a shooter? As a freshman George hit 44.7% from 3 on 4.1 attempts a game, but only 69.7% from the FT line. As a sophomore his 3P% dropped to 35.3%, but the other indicators greatly improved. His 3 point attempts per game jumped to 5.8 and his FT% 90.9%. George was known as a slick shooting prospect coming out of Fresno St.

Wiggins this season is 34.5% from 3 on 3.6 attempts a game and 76.5% from the FT line. These numbers are perfectly respectable, especially compared to freshman George. But one has to be careful assuming that just because X became a great shooter after his freshman season, it doesn’t mean Y will. What Wiggins 3P%, 3 point attempts volume and FT% all tell me is he has the chance to be a great shooter, but he also has the chance to not be much of a 3 point shooter at all.

But perhaps the biggest difference is Paul George is one of the most fluid players in the NBA, with a truly exceptional feel for the game. Everything George does is controlled, smooth and at an extra gear of craftiness offensively than his opponent. These instincts are also as big a reason as his physical tools for his defensive excellence. Feel for the Game is where I feel misrated Wiggins most coming into the season. I do not see the special fluidity or control a player like George shows.

Personally, the philosophy that has driven most of my draft analysis, is the theory that 2/3s of talent level isn’t physical tools. Paul George is a player who still looks impressive in the non physical 2/3s, due to his shooting skill and feel for the game. Without any physical advantages he may still be Mike Miller-like. When I look at Andrew Wiggins I am not as impressed in the non physical tools 2/3s of the game.

And in addition, in the 1/3 of physical tools, I wouldn’t call him a transcendent force either. I do not see him as his position’s equivalent to college Andre Drummond, John Wall, or Blake Griffin, for example. For a player who’s vertical leaping skills have been so lauded, he’s been surprisingly tame exploding around the rim. Nor has his speed off the dribble blown away the NCAA. At some point one has to ask whether his reputation as a few times a generation athletic force, is built on past reputation or present evidence. Furthermore what many of the most physically gifted prospects lately such as the before-mentioned Drummond or Wall had, is uniquely bulky body strength for their position for their explosiveness, which Wiggins is a less special physical force without. Note that I rate strength as no less important than height/wingspan, whereas the media is typically far more skeptical of prospects who lack the latter. Wiggins is a good physical talent, but good will not be enough if his skill level and feel for the game remain as underwhelming as it looks.

Written by jr.

March 10, 2014 at 10:18 pm