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NBA Draft top 30 prospects – 2017

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011717joshjackson

 

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

The Pacers offense and old school thinking vs new school

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The Indiana Pacers season is seen with a pessimistic viewpoint due to the loss of Paul George and Lance Stephenson to injury and free agency. Those wings have been effectively replaced by new additions Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles, along with expected increase in minutes for Chris Copeland. Many predictions for the Pacers now have them falling into the 30s in wins, a steep fall from last season’s 56-26.

When it comes to their results as a whole, I’m not sure how well their defense will hold up without Paul George. It’s not just that George is one of the best defensive perimeter players in the league, but making up for losing him may cause Frank Vogel to integrate a more offensive style of play, or the Pacers to expend more energy on offense. This could hurt their defensive results. Although the Pacers still have an elite defensive front court with Roy Hibbert and David West backed up by options like Ian Mahimni and Lavoy Allen.

However offensively, I believe the Pacers drop-off is not as severe as some believe.

Old school thinking

10 or 15 years ago when fans and the league were more obsessed with points per game and “creating their own shot”, the Pacers losing their two leading scorers in George (21.7ppg) and Stephenson (13.8ppg) would be seen as a disaster in the making. The Pacers are surely a disaster without any perimeter players who can create their own shot, right?

Yet how offense is played and viewed is clearly different in 2014. Like RBIs in baseball, it’s not about how many points per game you get, but how it occurs in relation to the team. A player who scores points per game but does so inefficiently and who stops the ball from moving to other more efficient shots, may not be valuable. In addition, floor spacing is now one of the best places to start when evaluating how successful an offense will work as a unit. That doesn’t invalidate the concerns about losing George and Stephenson as both were above average in league efficiency and losing them may cause defenses to key on other players, but it suggests at least looking closer before writing the new Pacers offense off as automatically worse than last year’s sub-average one, finishing 23rd in ORTG and plummeting to league worst levels after the all-star break.

How the Pacers would succeed offensively

The key to the Pacers surviving at SG and SF without Stephenson and George is in spacing and ball movement, both more paramount to offensive success than “creating your own shot”.

The last 2 years C.J. Miles in Cleveland hit 39.3% and 38.4% from 3 on 4.1 and 5.0 3pt attempts a game, in only 19.3 and 21.0 minutes per game. This equates to a sky high 7.7 and 8.7 3pt attempts per 36 minutes. Between his % and volume, it seems fair to suggest Miles could produce a strong 3pt shooting season for the Pacers. Chris Copeland shot 41.8% from 3 for the Pacers last year on 1.9 attempts a game, however by playing 6.5 minutes per game in 41 games, this was on a low volume. However for the Knicks his rookie year he shot 42.1% from 3 on 2.5 attempts a game in 15.4 minutes per game. Overall, it would also seem Copeland is a reliable 3pt shooting option. The Pacers also have a Croatian rookie wing Damjan Rudez who shot 44.1% from 3 on 4.5 attempts a game from 3 last year in the ACB. The wing who is a problem as as shooter is Rodney Stuckey, who has a career 3p% of .286 and shot 27.3% from 3 last year in Detroit. However Stuckey provides a different important skill set to the Pacers, which isg eating to the FT line. Stuckey has averaged 4.3 FTA per game for his career, or a per 36 rate of 5.3 a game. Last year George averaged 5.8 free throw attempts a game on a high volume of shots, while Stephenson only averaged 2.5 a game. Stuckey isn’t the type of offensive player I favor, but he does provide an element of driving to the basket and free throw line hat may be lacking in players like Miles, Copeland, Rudez or Pacers veterans like George Hill.

The Pacers are PG, PF and C are similar offensively to last year. George Hill is not a spectacular PG but he’s a reliable 3 point shooter and passing “game manager”, hitting 36.5% from 3 on 3.4 attempts last year and averaging 3.5 assists to 1.2 turnovers. C.J. Watson is an average but respectable backup point offensively. David West remains a solid option in the post and pick and pop. While for his dreadful offensive numbers at times, I still feel like Roy Hibbert has offensive skill on the block that if used more heavily, could draw defensive attention. Luis Scola had a poor season last year but could refind his skill game this year.

Ideally the Pacers would find themselves with floor spacing provided by players like Miles, Copeland and Rudez and having SGs and SFs who play off the ball, would help the team have ball movement. With players like Hill, West and Hibbert, the roster is still very high IQ, which could help them pass the ball to post players and then if doubles are drawn, out to open shooters. For all of Paul George and Lance Stephenson’s talent, they also dominated the ball and contributed the Pacers finding themselves stagnant enough to settle for midrange jumpshots. The new Pacers may not be able to “create their own shot” like George and Hill, but if there’s more ball movement and spacing, this could in its own way create more open shots from 3 or at the rim than they struggled to get last year.

Barring a defensive collapse I see a lot of reasons why the Pacers would outdo expectations this year. They are a team full of veteran professionals who tend to win compared to younger, mistake-making teams and who has been well coached defensively by Frank Vogel. They won’t wow anyone with talent, but the key is intelligence and effort level. This would play out not only with continued defensive success, but finding open shooters with precision on the offensive end. A season around 44 or 45 wins and being the same type of success story the Bulls have been the last 2 seasons without Derrick Rose, would not surprise me.

Written by jr.

October 26, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Predicting the Kevin Love trade

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Here is my prediction for the Kevin Love trade. I believe the following deal is legal:

Minnesota trades:

Kevin Love – 15.7 million
J.J. Barea – 4.5 million

(19.9 million outgoing)

Minnesota gets:

Andrew Wiggins – 5.5 million
Thaddeus Young – 9.4 million
Highest of CLE 2015 1st, MEM 2015 1st, MIA 2015 1st

(14.9 million incoming)

Cleveland trades:

Andrew Wiggins – 5.5 million
Anthony Bennett – 5.6 million
Highest of CLE 2015 1st, MEM 2015 1st, MIA 2015 1st

(11.1 million outgoing)

Cleveland gets:



Kevin Love – 15.7 million

(15.7 million incoming)

Philadelphia trades:

Thaddeus Young – 9.4 million

(9.4 million outgoing)

Philadelphia gets:

Anthony Bennett – 5.6 million
J.J Barea – 4.5 million

(10.1 million incoming)

WHY for Minnesota:

The vibe I’ve been getting from Minnesota this whole time, is Flip’s dream is to come out and win 45 Gs next year. That’s why they were coming so hard after the Klay Thompson and David Lee package over one like Boston was offering.

Now Andrew Wiggins may be their “offer they can’t refuse” when it comes to accepting youth/prospect power instead of win now vets. But by flipping Young for Bennett, they still move in the direction of their original plan of a winning record next year. Minnesota could envision Wiggins and Young as a productive two way SF and PF combination immediately next year. The lineup of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and Nik Pekovic is a balanced starting lineup, with some shooting off the bench in Mo Williams and Chase Budinger, some athletes like Zach LaVine and Corey Brewer and some defense in Luc Mbah a Moute and Gorgui Dieng’s promise as the 3rd big. I’m not saying this is necessarily the right plan from my point of view, just that it could be what Flip would be happy with.

WHY for Cleveland:

It appears they are already offering Wiggins and Bennett so not much is needed to delve into here. The move is a no brainer from the Cavs end to put the best possible team around Lebron right now. Trying to plan for a window years in the future is dicey because Lebron could decline or Wiggins and Bennett’s development could disappoint or someone could get injured. This way contention is guaranteed, now. And if Love signs long term eventually, they’re still a longevity-friendly core.

A very important part of this deal for Cleveland is they keep the John Lucas III/Erik Murphy/Malcolm Thomas unguaranteed contracts they got from Utah, which allows them trading power to find supporting role players around their stars.

WHY for Philadelphia:

It was reported after the 2013 draft Philly would’ve done the Holiday trade if any of Noel, Oladipo or Bennett were available at #6. While it’s hard to take Philly of all teams at their word about draft targets, after the draft was over they’re less likely to have been smokescreening.

Either way, there’s a solid chance Philly likes Bennett who had a productive and analytics-friendly UNLV season and who’s rookie year was marred by injury. He would both be a decent fit with Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid long term because of his perimeter spacing, or just puts up enough statistics to be good trade bait. For an expiring Thaddeus Young who they appear to have no chance or interest in resigning, picking up Bennett’s talent and upside is probably as favorable a return as they can ask for. Barea is just an expiring contract who they may buy out if they’re too worried about him winning games next year.

Written by jr.

July 29, 2014 at 7:10 pm

How the Lakers can have a smart offseason

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Since Dr. Jerry Buss died, the Lakers have embodied the worst traits of the James Dolan era Knicks. They’ve gone after big names and big contracts and have dealt away picks instead of keeping them. They spend assets instead of collecting them.

If they continued down this route, their offseason will involve major spending or big name trading. Think signing Carmelo Anthony to a maximum contract when they don’t have the roster to win before he declines, or trading their draft pick for Rajon Rondo in hopes that’ll be enough to sign Kevin Love next summer. Dealing for aging stars or ones on short contracts, is a dangerous game that could set them back years.

Here’s the type of summer I’d recommend for the Lakers. It’s not as sexy, but it’s a smart move that fits the modern NBA landscape.

Say the Houston Rockets get their mitts on a major free agent like Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh. But to do it they need to clear capspace, by moving Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik’s contracts.

The Lakers are far under the cap and in a great position to take advantage of this. They also have the deepest pockets in the league, allowing them to barely blink at paying 30 million in real money for 16.8 million cap hit between Asik and Lin. The Rockets trade the Lakers Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas and their 1st round pick next year, for a Lakers conditional 2nd round pick. This clears the Rockets enough capspace to sign Carmelo while keeping the rest of their starting lineup in Patrick Beverly, James Harden, Chandler Parsons and Dwight Howard. Carmelo presumably have to take a discount on his first year salary compared to what the Knicks could offer, but would still be inked to a huge salary.

This puts the Lakers in a very nice position. Not only do they get talented young bigs in Terrence Jones who could break out on a new team, Donatas Motiejunas and a pick, but Lin and Asik are even good for their roster, filling a need at PG and C. If not extended, both Lin and Asik expire next summer, allowing the salary obligation to be as short lived as Utah taking Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson’s deals for a year.

Using their capspace to build their asset base like this, is the type of move the Lakers need to look at in the modern CBA model. The days of outspending everyone are gone and the other 29 teams are getting too smart. The Lakers can’t run from how small market teams succeed, they need to embrace it, then add their money advantages on top of this. They need to become basketball’s Boston Red Sox, who realized if they invested in prospects and analytics like small markets have no choice but to do, but then have more money and free agent allure than the rest of the league at the same time, they could be unstoppable. Likewise if the Lakers started hording young players and draft picks like the Thunder, when added to their historically massive star and free agent appeal, they combination could cream the league for decades to come again.

Written by jr.

May 28, 2014 at 11:07 pm

Is Nik Stauskas a better NBA prospect than Andrew Wiggins?

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Andrew Wiggins has had a fine freshman season at Kansas, however Michigan’s Nik Stauskas has been the more dominant Canadian wing.

Yet this does not differ many from calling Wiggins the best long term prospect. Of course, there has been a long list of dominant college players who couldn’t repeat it in the pros. While on the other end, more enigmatic college players who went on to be stars. The lessons learned of Thomas Robinson getting picked ahead of Andre Drummond won’t be forgotten soon. My position is talent is the great determiner of who translates to the NBA.

But I am not convinced Wiggins is more talented than Stauskas. In fact I more strongly feel the opposite is true.

I have discussed numerous times on this blog the overlap between ballhandling and athleticism on the offensive end. Athleticism helps a player gain freedom of movement on the court. Usually most importantly, driving past defenders into the paint to gain efficient shots, draw fouls and collapse the defense. Ballhandling also helps this freedom of movement and driving game. There are other values to athleticism like finishing in the paint or defending and other values to ballhandling like taking care of the ball, however the connection is strong enough for me to place athleticism and ballhandling in the same category in my talent grading system. When a player such as Harrison Barnes or Ben McLemore struggles to handle the ball, on the offensive end they take the features of less athletic players. That is, becoming jumpshot orientated instead of driving to the basket. The flipside is players like James Harden and Kyrie Irving having elite talent driving to the basket that exceeds their very good athleticism. Their ballhandling helps them play like they are elite athletes for their position.

Because of this, I am not convinced Wiggins is a better NBA slasher than Stauskas. Wiggins is an elite athlete, but appears to be a flawed ballhandler which can cause him to struggle to get by opponents in the halfcourt. Stauskas is a good if unspectacular athlete, showing the first step and speed to get to the basket. However he adds to this very strong ballhandling skills. Because of this he succeeds driving to the basket. This is why despite Andrew Wiggins greater athleticism, Wiggins’ average of 7.7 free throw attempts per 40 minutes is marginally ahead of Stauskas’ 7.2.

Wiggins’ physical gifts however do make him a higher upside defender. Wiggins has the lateral mobility, length and feel for the game to be one of the best wing defenders in the league. Stauskas is not known for his play on that end, but many young players struggle defensively for reasons beyond lacking the tools for it. He has years to learn to be respectable or even above average defensively.

Both Wiggins and Stauskas are among the more fluid and natural wing players in the NCAA. Both play under control and smoothly. I personally rate Stauskas feel for the game as slightly higher, having an advanced sense of craftiness and ability to change pace and adjust off the dribble.

Stauskas is the more reliable shooting prospect of the two. Hitting 46.2% from 3 on an excellent 6.7 3 point attempts per 40 minutes, he is one of the NCAA’s signature shooters. He shows ability to shoot off the dribble in addition to spotting up. Stauskas also has a free throw percentage of 80.0% after 84.3% last year, which I consider as strong an indicator as NCAA 3 point shooting for perimeter mechanics translating to the pros. Finally with 4.4 assists per 40 minutes Stauskas has strong passing skills for a 2/3.

Wiggins is not a slouch as a shooter. At 36.6% from 3 on 4.5 3pt attempts per 40 minutes and 77.9% from the FT line, it is enough to have a high upside as a shooter. However, there is a sense of unpredictability with a shooter with Wiggins’ numbers. He could turn into a great shooter or he could turn into a mediocre one. The odds of Wiggins turning into a great shooter could be the same as Stauskas turning into an elite shooter. In addition to the passing I see reason to rate Stauskas talent as higher in this category, but Wiggins has shown enough to be promising from the outside.

Therefore here are my talent grades for Andrew Wiggins and Nik Stauskas with these grades

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

What the overall grades mean:

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

Andrew Wiggins

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade – 7 / Very good

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

Feel for the Game (Fluidity, change of pace, adjustment) talent grade – 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 21 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Nik Stauskas

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade – 7 / Very good

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade – 8 / Great

Feel for the Game (Fluidity, change of pace, adjustment) talent grade – 9 / Elite

Total talent grade: 24 (Blue Chip starter to perennial all-star talent grade)

Andrew Wiggins is a very good wing prospect. I expect him to be a great defender in the pros, but I am not positive about his offensive game. The way players like Luol Deng and Andre Iguodala has helped teams win is what I would predict for Wiggins unless he becomes a dominant outside shooter.

Stauskas rates higher in my system. His ability to drive when added to perimeter shooting and feel, could make him a deadly all around force on the wing. I believe Stauskas can be the next James Harden or Manu Ginobili and I am leaning towards rating him 1st overall on my draft board.

Written by jr.

January 31, 2014 at 12:35 pm

On why the Knicks should trade Carmelo Anthony & the Derrick Williams pick

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On http://www.morningpickup.com I wrote a few articles

The case for trading Carmelo Anthony

http://www.morningpickup.com/case-new-york-trading-carmelo-anthony/

Can Derrick Williams find his niche in Sacramento?

http://www.morningpickup.com/can-derrick-williams-find-niche/

Decline watch: Tony Parker and Tyson Chandler are hearing footsteps

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עברית: טוני פארקר, שזכה בפרס בשנת 2007. Hrvats...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tyson Chandler and Tony Parker both had incredible seasons last year. Chandler helped lead an elite Knicks offense by setting the all time individual ORTG mark with 133 and anchoring the team’s defense and rebounding. Tony Parker was the Spurs clear-cut star for the 2nd straight season, leading the team in scoring, assists per game and having his most efficient season. They were two of the league’s true stars.

They’re also 1 and 2 on my “decline watch” list for this season. Why? Consider that they’re from the 2001 draft, thus are entering their 13th season in the league. A 13th season is late as it gets for an NBA player’s primes – only rare cases like 1998 Karl Malone, 2011 Dirk Nowitzki, 2009 Kobe Bryant have neared statistical peak that late. For players who are less than MVP talents, it’s even more rare.

Furthermore, let’s look at other players from the 2001 draft. Here are the top 10 players in career WS from the draft, who aren’t Parker or Chandler: Pau Gasol, Shane Battier, Richard Jefferson, Joe Johnson, Jason Richardson, Zach Randolph, Gerald Wallace, Mehmet Okur, Gilbert Arenas, Troy Murphy. The group varies from recently past their prime, to totally washed up, but none were in their prime like Chandler and Parker. Even more jarring, here’s the top 10 in career WS from the 2002 draft: Amar’e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, Yao Ming, Tayshaun Prince, Nene, Caron Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Jr., Drew Gooden, Luis Scola, John Salmons. Not only were 2012-2013 Parker and Chandler big enough exceptions to outlast their own draft class, but nobody’s in their prime in the next draft class either, despite a year less of experience.

In Chandler’s case, averaging 28.5 minutes per game and missing the equivalent of multiple seasons to injury, helps explain his longevity. Parker’s is incredibly impressive considering he’s played 173 playoff games in addition to his regular season miles. For both it’s a testament to their basketball IQ and work ethic they maintain this effective. But it’s more likely that their time will finally come this year, rather than be an exception one more year compared to their peers.

And of course the impact of this would be significant for the league. Parker led the team that came within a shot or rebound of the title this year, if a step less effective, they’d need a huge leap forward by Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter to make up for it. The Knicks are unlikely to complete with the Heat, Nets, Pacers and Bulls is Chandler isn’t at his best. The franchise is simply in a dangerous position. Their 2 stars Carmelo Anthony and Chandler are headed into their 11th and 13th seasons, making both threats to pass their prime at any moment. Anthony is a free agent after this offseason. Whether it’s even a good idea to pay him a huge contract after playing 11 seasons is as big a question, as whether he’ll want to stay if he sees Chandler’s time as a star is limited. They owe multiple future 1sts and have little young infrastructure other than Iman Shumpert. Sorry Spike and Woody, but things aren’t looking good.

 

Written by jr.

October 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm