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Final NBA Draft Talent Grades and more! (June 2013)

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Part I: The Talent Grades

Here are my final talent grades for the 2013 draft. If you’d like to read my individual position breakdowns, here they are:

2013 NBA Draft Rankings: The Centers

2013 NBA Draft Rankings: The Power Forwards

2013 NBA Draft Rankings: The Small Forwards

2013 NBA Draft Rankings: The Shooting Guards

2013 NBA Draft Rankings: The Point Guards

Some of the grades have changed (just ignore what I wrote about Schroeder in the point guards post, my post at the end of the centers post explains my change on him) and I added a few new grades to the below list:

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

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

What the overall grades mean:

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

I also added an “Adjusted” grade based on this method: Because I see skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent the be the most likely to be volatile translating from the NCAA to the NBA, followed by physical impact talent, then feel for the game as the most static, I multiply their grades by these weights: 100% * Feel for the Game talent grade + 90% * Physical impact talent grade + 80% * skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade. I then add 10% * the Total Talent Grade to that adjusted score. For example here are my grades for Otto Porter:

SF Otto Porter (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent, Feel for the Game talent grade: 10 / Incredible, Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 19.4)

100% * Feel for the Game talent grade (10) = 10, 90% * Physical impact talent grade (3) = 2.7, 80% * Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4.8. That adds up to 17.5. Which added 1.9 which is 10% of his overall talent grade of 19, Porter’s adjusted talent grade is 19.4. This indicates Porter is a strong 19.

The adjusted grades both help me account for the unpredictability of skill development and to an extent physically impacting the game, plus it gives me a more clean order of prospects based solely on the grades. If two prospects have an identical adjusted grade, I order it by biggest position first, from C to PG.

Here are my grades:

1. PF Anthony Bennett (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 9 / Elite, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 25 (Perennial all-star talent grade) (Adj: 25.0)

My clear cut top ranking prospect. If his shooting translates, I see him as likely one of the league’s star talents, if not a franchise player. As important is his cushion between him and my threshold for starting talent. With a combined physical impact and feel for the game talent of 17, even if he had awful range and touch for a PF, he may challenge starting status. However as an NCAA 3pt shooter with touch, he’s not only a great bet to be at least decent as a finesse skill player, but average at worst. Bennett to me presuming health, both has an ultra-high star upside for his position, but also a high floor as a virtual lock to be a starter.

2. PF Kelly Olynyk (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 6 / Decent, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7 / Very good, Feel for the Game talent grade: 9 / Elite, Total talent grade: 22 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 22.2)

3. PF Kenny Kadji (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7 / Very good, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 22 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 22.1)

4. PG Dennis Schroeder (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 9 / Elite, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7 / Very good, Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent, Total talent grade: 22 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)  (Adj: 21.9)

Olynyk, Kadji and Schroeder have strong cases. If their shooting becomes elite for their position instead of the decent grade I gave them, they can challenge multiple all-star type of careers. Whereas with a combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 15 for all three, their skill games would have to be one of the worst at their position to be in danger of missing starting and blue chip status. Considering Olynyk and Kadji’s touch at the rim likely isn’t going away for a big, they should be shoo-ins. Schroeder may have the biggest danger of his shooting bottoming out, but perhaps with his youth the most likely elite upside in the area. Overall I see these three as having both a puncher’s chance at stardom and a high likelihood of starting, making them great prospects.

5. SG Victor Oladipo (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 21 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 21.3)

6. C Alex Len (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 21 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 21.2)

7. PG C.J. McCollum (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 5 / Average, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 21 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 21.0)

Oladipo, Len and McCollum are also strong prospects. Oladipo’s combined physical impact and feel for the game grade of 16 is the second highest in the class behind Bennett, indicating he’d have to be one of the worst perimeter shooters in the league to be in danger of less than blue chip and starting. Whereas if he can turn himself into elite in the area, he may have a huge upside. Len’s combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 15 is also high enough, that when considering his relatively guaranteed touch and hands, should help Len cruise to starting status especially considering the talent bar to start at C may be lower than at other positions. Len if he develops a go-to midrange shot and/or post play, could also have huge upside. McCollum’s combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 13 is weaker and indicates if his shooting fell apart, he’d have a bigger danger of falling to journeyman status – he needs at least decent shooting to be a starter. For McCollum to approach star status, he needs to become one of the league’s signature shooters, following in the footsteps of players like Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving. McCollum also has positional concerns between PG and SG. I consider McCollum to have a little more risk and a little less likely upside than the above players on this board, but his chance at blue chip status as a guard is still high. Overall for Oladipo, Len, McCollum I consider the most likely situation good starters, but not true all-stars.

8. C Jeff Withey (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 20.3)

9. C Gorgui Dieng (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 5 / Average, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7 / Very good, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 20.1) 

With a high combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 15 and Withey’s good touch at the rim ensuring at least a middling skill floor, his chance of starting looks excellent. However at his age and frame preventing post skills, it’s hard to envision the great to elite skill game needed for Withey to approach star status. Dieng has a lower combined physical impact and feel for the game talent of 13 which indicates he needs at least average to decent skill to lock down starting, but with his midrange shooting and passing, that looks likely enough. I see Withey and Dieng as likely reliable, but not stellar starters.

10. PF Jackie Carmichael (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 20.1) 

11. SF Solomon Hill (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great, Skill impact talent grade (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent, Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent, Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 20)

Carmichael and Hill are two of the draft’s most interesting prospects. If either of their decent skill levels as of now is pushed to elite for their position, they’d move up to star potential. At the same time with a good combined physical impact grade of 14 for both, they’d need average or barely lacking skill, to make it as starters. I’d say there’s reasonable risk of Carmichael and Hill becoming just middling players, but with a more likely than not chance at starting and a puncher’s chance at an all-star appearance.

12. SF Tony Snell (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 20)

13. SF Sergey Karasev (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 20)

14. PG Trey Burke (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 20)

Snell, Karasev and Burke have the same grade. With a combined physical impact and feel for the game talent of 12, they need at least decent shooting games to be starters, but that seems likely. It’s also more difficult to envision them as stars than some of the above prospects with an already assumed great skill level, unless they learned to physically impact the game more than I rated. Overall I see all three as likely starters, but not locks and unlikely stars. These are the type of prospects who end up the 15 or 16th best starter in the league, but not threatening the top 8 or 10. That’s still a valuable piece to have.

15. PF James Southerland (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 5 / Average, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 19.9)

16. SG Ben McLemore (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 6 / Decent, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent, Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 19.8)

Southerland and McLemore also rate similarly to Snell, Karasev and Burke. With combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grades of 12, they need to be decent shooters to be starters, while pushing their talent just by improving their already great shooting games, also seems hard. Southerland and McLemore are unique in that assessing their physical impact feels harder than for other prospects, as both are more athletic than their jumpshot dominated games in college suggested. Because of this I see Southerland and McLemore as having a higher upside than players like Snell, Karsaev and Burke, but also more of a risk of falling short of starting if both their skill games and physical impact goes in the wrong direction.

17. SF Otto Porter (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent, Feel for the Game talent grade: 10 / Incredible, Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 19.4)

18. SG Jamaal Franklin (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good, Skill impact  (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 19.4)

19. PG Lorenzo Brown (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 6 / Decent, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 19.3)

Franklin’s combined physical impact and feel for the game grade of 15 is huge for this stage of the rankings, only surpassed by Bennett and Oladipo. He’s a volatile prospect because of the unpredictability of his shooting game. It could conceivably be both awful in the pros which would make him a defensive specialist and unlikely starter, as well as it could be good to great, which with his other tools may make him one of the draft’s better prospects. Franklin also has some ‘crazy person’ in his style of play and energy which could be good or bad for his career. Either an all-star, starter or energy player off the bench wouldn’t shock me for Franklin. Porter also is at a stage with risk and upside. With a combined physical impact and feel for the game talent of 13, he needs average skill to start – in other words, the ability to hit an open 3. On the other hand, with a great to elite shooting game, also in play, he may have near star upside. Porter is another player where a standout SF in the league and a less than true starter, wouldn’t surprise me. Brown is also an intriguing prospect. With a combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 14, he needs an average shooting/passing/post game to be a starter and that’s no lock, it’s in play he’s poor at the position in those areas. However if he can turn himself into a great skill player, his has the chance to be an above average starter and blue chipper. With Franklin, Porter and Brown, both are at risk of falling short of starting, but with the upside of blue chip starting – the most likely situation is likely somewhere in the middle as usual, becoming good, but unspectacular starters.

20. C Mike Muscala (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 9 / Elite, Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 19.1)

21. PG Nate Wolters (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 19.0)

22. PG Erick Green (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Elite, Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 19.0)

Muscala, Wolters and Green have similar projections. With a combined physical impact and feel for the game grade of 11, they need well above average skill games to be starters. They seem to have a good chance at that, but it’s no guarantee. Likewise true all-star status may be out of reach unless they can both become elite skill players and impact the game more physically than I graded. These can be good players and are likely impact 1st bigs/1st guard off the bench scorers at worst.

23. SF Giannis Antetokounmpo (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average, Feel for the Game talent grade: 9 / Elite, Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 18.4)

24. PF C.J. Leslie (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 18.3)

25. PG Myck Kabongo (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 18.3)

26. PF Andre Roberson (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 18.2)

Antetokounmpo, Leslie, Kabongo and Roberson are all intriguing prospects. Both are in the range where with a great to elite skill impact game out of nowhere, they’d near star status. However with a combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 13 for Giannis and 14 for Leslie, Kabongo and Roberson, with a below average skill game, a huge possibility for all three, they’d be unlikely starters. The risk of irrelevance for these three may be too real to go *too* high for me, but at a certain point of the draft outside of the lottery, getting a player with a blue chipper and top 15 starter upside, is terrific value.

27. PG Matthew Dellavedova (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 9 / Elite, Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 18.1)

28. C Lucas Nogueira (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average, Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average, Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 18.0)

29. C Ryan Kelly (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9 / Elite, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.9)

30. PF Erik Murphy (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9 / Elite, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.9)

Dellavedova, Kelly and Murphy rate similarly. With a relatively low physical impact and feel for the game combined talent grade of 10 for Dellavedova and 9 for Kelly and Murphy, these players need at least great shooting and skill games to start. They have a fair chance at that, but if they slip a bit as shooters, they can likely find a role as scorers off the bench. Nogueira has a big combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 13 for this stage, indicating if he can develop a perimeter scoring game, he has blue chip upside. However if his skill is poor for a big, he have risk of irrelevance. Nogueira has some risk, but also blue chip upside, making him similar to Antetokounmpo, Leslie and Kabongo.

31. PF Trevor Mbakwe (Physical impact talent grade: 5 / Average, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.3)

32. PG Ray McCallum (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grades: 6 / Decent, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.3)

33. PG Michael Carter-Williams (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 6 / Decent, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.3)

34. SG B.J. Young (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.2)

Much like Leslie and Roberson, Mbakwe has the athleticism and feel that with a perimeter skill game, he can challenge starting status. However with a combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 12, an average or worse skill game makes him a backup. McCallum, Carter-Williams and Young have a high physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 13, meaning with an above average shooting and skill impact game they’d be blue chippers and starters. However their NCAA careers so far, makes a below average aptitude in that area seem more likely than not. I would say these three have the talent to have a puncher’s chance at starting, but are more likely standout bench contributers.

35. SG Glen Rice, Jr. (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.2)

36. C Bojan Dubjlevic (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.0)

37. PF Cody Zeller (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 5 / Average, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent, Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.0)

Rice and Zeller could be blue chippers and true starters, if the Rice becomes one of the best shooters at his position and Zeller one of the most skilled inside/outside bigs. With a combined physical impact and feel for the game grade of 11 however, a middling skill level or worse would make them unlikely starters. They have decent chance at starting, but it’s more likely they don’t. Dubjlevic’s low combined physical impact and skill grade of 9, means he’d need among the best skills as a stretch big at his position to start. With that said it seems likely he’s a positive value contributer off the bench, if he ever comes to the NBA.

38. PF Deshaun Thomas (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.0)

39. SG Seth Curry (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 17.0)

40. PF Grant Jerrett (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 16.9)

41. PG Pierre Jackson (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj: 16.9)

42. SG Michael Snaer (Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj. 16.9)

Thomas, Curry, Jerrett, Jackson, Snaer rate fairly similarly. With a low combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 9, they need elite shooting games to challenge a starting spot. If they fall a little short, their most likely role is specialist sparkplugs off the bench. These are good prospects to count on as at least having long term NBA careers presuming at least decent jumpshots for them.

43. C Steven Adams (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 3 / Weak, Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average, Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 16.2)

44. SF Adonis Thomas (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average, Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 16.1)

For this late, Adams and Thomas having combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grades of 13 and 12 is fairly impressive. It indicates that with good to great skill games, they could still be blue chippers and starters. However with nothing but poor skill shown so far, that’s somewhat unlikely. Furthermore, there’s a risk they have not only poor skill level, but among the worst at their position. This would make them replacement level players.

Overall, Adams and Thomas have some upside, but also more strikeout risk than above prospects. Their chances of long term rotation roles is still solid.

45. SF Shabazz Muhammad (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 16.1)

46. SG Tim Hardaway, Jr. (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 16.1)

47. C Nerlens Noel (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 9 / Elite, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 3 / Weak, Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 15.9)

48. PG Isaiah Canaan (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent, Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 15.8)

Shabazz and Hardaway, Jr. with a combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 10, need to be among their position’s best shooters to be starters. If downright poor as shooters, they’re in danger of struggling to maintain minutes in the NBA. The most likely situation is probably decent but not great shooters, making them rotation wings, but not starters. Noel’s combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 12, puts him in a similar camp as players like Leslie, Roberson and Mbakwe for me where they need an above average skill game to start, settling in as an energy big otherise. Canaan’s low physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 8, meaning even among the league’s best shooting, may not make him a surefire starter. With decent shooting he should lock down a backup PG spot. I wouldn’t say upside is that likely for Canaan, but he may have a better chance of sticking as a contributer than some other prospects around here.

49. PF Brandon Davies (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 9 / Elite, Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 15.5)

50. C Colton Iverson (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average, Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent, Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 15.1)

51. SG Nemanja Nedovic (Physical impact talent grade: 6 / Decent, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average, Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 15.1)

Davies, Iverson, Nedovic have a physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 11, 10 and 11 respectively, all fairly impressive for this stage of the overall rankings.  With a great skill game such as lockdown midrange range for Davies or Iverson or 3pt shooting for Nedovic, they could challenge starting status. That’ll be difficult for all three however considering their age. With average or worse skill games, they’d likely be backups.

52. SF James Ennis (Physical impact talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average, Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) (Adj. 15.0)

53. SF Reggie Bullock (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7 / Very good, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 15.0)

54. PG Shane Larkin (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7 / Very good, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 15.0)

55. C Rudy Gobert (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average, Feel for the Game talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 14.7)

56. SG Allen Crabbe (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great, Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average, Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 14.7)

With Bullock, Larkin and Crabbe having a physical impact and feel for the game grade of 9, 8, 8 and 7 respectively, barring absolutely elite skill and perimeter games, challenging a starting spot looks unlikely. However if they maintain decent range, they should be rotation players and backups. Gobert’s physical impact and feel for the game grade of 10 is a little better, but he’s at a bigger risk of poor skill level. He’ll need a great perimeter shooting game and some post ability, to be a blue chipper.

57. PF Richard Howell (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 14 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 14.3)

58. SG Ricky Ledo (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade:: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 14 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 14.3)

59. PF Livio Jean-Charles (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 14 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 14.2)

60. SG Alex Abrines (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 6 / Decent, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 14 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 14.1)

61. C Mason Plumlee (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 3 / Weak, Total talent grade: 14 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 13.9)

62. SG Archie Goodwin (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 9 / Elite, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 1 / Awful, Total talent grade: 14 (Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 13.7)

With a combined physical impact and feel for the game talent grade of 10, Howell, Plumlee, Goodwin have limited skill games right now, but need great skill games to challenge starting spots, which is unlikely. There’s also a risk of a below average skill game, which would cause them to struggle to hold onto their minutes long term.  These aren’t surefire rotation players and an upside beyond that is unlikely. Jean-Charles and Abrines are international players and Ledo is a college knock-out who it’s hard for me to peg down, it wouldn’t surprise me if they either become too limited to play long term, or if they’re signature role players.

63. PG Phil Pressey (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grades: 2 / Very poor, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 13 (Deep bench to Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 13.3)

64. C Jack Cooley (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average, Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good, Total talent grade: 13 (Deep bench to Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 13.1)

65. PG Peyton Siva (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 5 / Average, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Total talent grade: 13 (Deep bench to Rotation player grade) (Adj: 13.0)

66. SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7 / Very good, Feel for the Game talent grade: 3 / Weak, Total talent grade: 13 (Deep bench to Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 12.6)

These prospects largely need to show a better skill game than they have so far, to be positive contributors for teams in the league. If Pressey and Siva’s outside shot continues to struggle, they’ll likely struggle to find more than end of the bench reserve spots. Cooley needs to be a great skill player instead of just a garbage man and Caldwell-Pope needs to be an elite shooter instead of a decent one, in both cases to be an above average player, not a blue chipper. It wouldn’t surprise me if these players held onto journeyman careers in this draft, showing the depth of this draft. But Europe could also be a better fit.

67 PF D.J. Stephens (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 3 / Weak, Feel for the Game talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Total talent grade: 12 (Deep bench to Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 11.9)

68. PF Tony Mitchell (North Texas) (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grades: 5 / Average, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average, Feel for the Game talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Total talent grade: 12 (Deep bench to Rotation player talent grade) (Adj: 11.7)

To be rotation players in the NBA, I need to see Stephens and Mitchell have respectable and above average skill games respectively. If raw offensively, I don’t see it long term for NBA teams unless very deep depth.

69. SG Brandon Paul (Talent grades: Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Feel for the Game talent grade: 4 / Lacking, Total talent grade: 10 (Deep bench talent grade) (Adj: 10.0)

If Paul can be an elite shooter in the NBA, he has a shot at carving out a rotation spot. But for the most part, I see him as likely headed overseas.

Part II: Probability forecast

For fun, let’s say the probability of my grades for each player being accurate are:

Within 0 points of the above talent grades (rounded, as is for all these numbers) – 30%

Within +1 or -1 – 70% (+1: 20%, -1: 20%)

Within +2 or -2 – 90% (+2: 10%, -2: 10%)

Within +3 or -3 – 97% (+3: 3.5%, -3: 3.5%)

Within +4 or -4 – 99% (+4: 1%, -4: 1%)

Within +5 or -5 – 99.5%+ (+5: 0.5%, -5: 0.5%)

Now IF these numbers were correct, I forecast these probabilities for each player/grade:

Grade of 25 (Anthony Bennett)

65% Perennial all-star talent
95% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
99.5%+ Blue Chip starter talent

Because Bennett needs to either stay at his grade of 25 (the threshold for “Perennial all-star talent” based on the rubric at the top of this post), if he’s 0 “away” from my grade or anything in the positive direction, I forecast he’ll finish with a perennial all-star talent. That’s enough for a 65%, including both the 30% for 0 along with the 35% combined probability of finishing above what I graded. Likewise he’ll need to finish more than 2 points lower than my current grade to fall below the “Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent” threshold of 23, with only a 5% chance of -3 or worse, I forecast that gives him a 95% chance of finishing at least in that Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent category. Then with the threshold of Blue Chip starter being 19, 6 points lower than my grade, that’s enough for me to give him a virtual lock grade in the category. Overall I have Bennett in the came category as #1 prospects like Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis where starting is ensured and at least fringe stardom for his position seems extremely likely. While if he pans out, he could be an MVP contender and one of the faces of the league.

Here is the same exercise done with other prospects and grades:

Grade of 22 (Kelly Olynyk, Kenny Kadji, Dennis Schroeder)
5% Perennial all-star talent
35% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
98.5% Blue Chip starter talent
99.5%+ Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent

The chance of Olynyk, Kadji and Schroeder being true stars is a lot lower than Bennett. However the chance of one entering that fringe stardom category is excellent, according to these numbers, I forecast there’d be about a 73% chance that at least one of these players hits the  “Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent” category and a 14% chance one becomes a “Perennial all-star talent” and true star. Starting at their position is a near lock.

Grade of 21 (Victor Oladipo, Alex Len, C.J. McCollum)

1.5% Perennial all-star talent
15% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
95% Blue Chip starter talent
99.5% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
99.5%+ Rotation player talent

These players are superb bets to be good starters with a puncher’s chance at stardom at the next level. These probabilities forecast there’s about a 39% chance at least one of these players becomes a “Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent” category prospect, but a 14.3% chance one of them is a “Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent” instead of a true blue chipper.

Grade of 20 (Jeff Withey, Gorgui Dieng, Jackie Carmichael, Solomon Hill, Tony Snell, Sergey Karasev, Trey Burke, James Southerland, Ben McLemore)
0.5% Perennial all-star talent
5% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
85% Blue Chip starter talent
98.5% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
99.5%+ Rotation player talent

While on an individual basis these players are overwhelmingly likely to be good starters and no more or no less, but because of the size of this group, these numbers forecast there’s a 47% chance that one of these prospects becomes a “Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star” category talent and a 4% chance one becomes a “Perennial all-star talent”. The numbers also state that there is a 77% chance at least one falls short of “Blue Chip starter talent” and a 13% chance one falls short of “Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent”. Of this large group, one could very well break through to stardom and one could disappoint, but which ones?

Grade of 19 (Otto Porter, Jamaal Franklin, Lorenzo Brown, Mike Muscala, Nate Wolters, Erick Green)
< 1% Perennial all-star talent
1.5% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
65% Blue Chip starter talent
95% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
99.5%+ Rotation player talent

The numbers forecast there is only a 9% chance one of these prospects becomes “Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star”, a 93% chance at least one prospect falls short of “Blue Chip starter talent” and a 26% chance at least one falls short of “Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent”. The risk of falling short of starting or even borderline starting is real for these players, while the upside is realistically a long starting career instead of stardom.

Grade of 18 (Giannis Antetokounmpo, C.J. Leslie, Myck Kabongo, Andre Roberson, Matthew Dellavedova, Lucas Nogueira, Ryan Kelly, Erik Murphy)

< 1% Perennial all-star talent
0.5% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
35% Blue Chip starter talent
85% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
99.5% Rotation player talent
99.5%+ Deep bench to Rotation player talent

It’s more likely than not these guys fall short of true starting status, settling into fringe status. These numbers forecast a 4% chance of one of these players becoming a “Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent”, a serious longshot. There is a 97% chance at least one of these players is a “Blue Chip starter talent”, but a 27% chance one of these players falls below the “Rotation player to Blue Chip starter” talent category. I forecast there’s a 4% chance according to these numbers that a player in this group falls below “Rotation player talent”.

Grade of 17 (Trevor Mbakwe, Ray McCallum, Michael Carter-Williams, B.J. Young, Glen Rice, Jr., Bojan Dubjlevic, Cody Zeller, Deshaun Thomas, Seth Curry, Grant Jerrett, Pierre Jackson, Michael Snaer)
< 1% Perennial all-star talent
< 1% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
15% Blue Chip starter talent
65% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
98.5% Rotation player talent
99.5%+ Deep bench to Rotation player talent

Because of the size of this group, I forecast there’s an 86% chance according to these probabilities that at least one of these players is a “Blue Chip starter talent”, but also a 17% chance at least one is a “Deep Bench to Rotation player talent”. Some of these players will be starters and fringe starters, but as many will likely be undisputed bench players, if they stick in a rotation at all.

Grade of 16 (Steven Adams, Adonis Thomas, Shabazz Muhammad, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Nerlens Noel, Isaiah Canaan)
< 1% Perennial all-star talent
< 1% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
5% Blue Chip starter talent
35% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
95% Rotation player talent
99.5% Deep bench to Rotation player talent

According to these numbers, I forecast a 26% chance of one of these players turning into a “Blue Chip starter talent”. I forecast a 93% chance that at least one of these players is a “Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent”, but a 26% chance one of these players falls short of “Rotation player talent” and becomes a “Deep bench to Rotation player talent”. These players are not guaranteed rotation players or sticking in the NBA, but have a longshot puncher’s chance at starting as well. The most likely scenario is bench contributors, or borderline starting ability.

Grade of 15 (Brandon Davies, Colton Iverson, Nemanja Nedovic, James Ennis, Reggie Bullock, Shane Larkin, Rudy Gobert, Allen Crabbe)
< 1% Perennial all-star talent
< 1% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
1.5% Blue Chip starter talent
15% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
85% Rotation player talent
98.5% Deep bench to Rotation player talent

These numbers forecast an 11% chance of one of these players becoming a “Blue Chip starter talent” and a 73% chance of at least one player being a “Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent”, or borderline starter. This also forecasts that there’s a 73% chance of one of these players only being a “Deep bench to Rotation player talent”. The numbers also forecast there’s a 11% chance of one of these prospects not even making it to the “Deep Bench to Rotation player talent” threshold of a grade of 12. These players have a Russian roulette chamber caliber danger of not sticking in an NBA rotation or the league long term, but overall still have a more than good chance of being NBA caliber players, whether they’ll stick around long enough to prove it or not.

Grade of 14 (Richard Howell, Ricardo Ledo, Livio Jean-Charles, Alex Abrines, Mason Plumlee, Archie Goodwin)
<1% Perennial all-star talent
<1% Blue Chip starter to perennial all-star talent
0.5% Blue Chip starter talent
5% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
65% Rotation player talent
95% Deep bench to Rotation player talent

These numbers forecast a 3% chance of one of these players being a “Blue Chip starter talent” and a 93% chance at least one falls short of “Rotation player talent”, instead”Deep bench to Rotation player talent”. They also forecast a 26% chance that at least one of these players falls short of the “Deep Bench to Rotation player talent” threshold. These players may struggle to establish rotation player status, especially considering it may take them years to develop to reach their talent level, but if they’re not producing immediately, may not be given the leash to get there. They have a reasonable chance of sticking, but it wouldn’t surprise me if any of them fell out of the NBA whether for talent reasons or not.

Grade of 13 (Phil Pressey, Jack Cooley, Peyton Siva, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope)
<1% Perennial all-star talent
<1% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
<1% Blue Chip starter talent
1.5% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
35% Rotation player talent
85% Deep bench to Rotation player talent

These numbers forecast a 48% chance that at least one prospect falls short of “Deep bench to Rotation player talent”, with a scarce chance at getting past pure bench player and the “Rotation player talent” grade. These players could be out of a rotation spot early in their careers and struggle to get it back.

Grade of 12 (D.J. Stephens, Tony Mitchell)
<1% Perennial all-star talent
<1% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
<1% Blue Chip starter talent
0.5% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
15% Rotation player talent
65% Deep bench to Rotation player talent

Grade of 11 (nobody in this category)
<1% Perennial all-star talent
<1% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
<1% Blue Chip starter talent
<1% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
5% Rotation player talent
35% Deep bench to Rotation player talent

Grade of 10 – (Brandon Paul)
<1% Perennial all-star talent
<1% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent
<1% Blue Chip starter talent
<1% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent
1.5% Rotation player talent
15% Deep bench to Rotation player talent

These players are longshots to establish themselves as bench rotation players and are at risk of falling short of even fringe status for that. Overall it’s not that these players have no shot at an NBA career, but if they start slowly, it won’t look good.

Part III: Final Rankings

Ok, gun to my head, after taking into account my grades along with other factors like character, health, contract status, how confident I am in my grades about them or their ability to improve, position, etc. here’s how I would rank the 2013 prospects:

1. PF Anthony Bennett

2. PF Kenny Kadji

3. PF Kelly Olynyk

4. PG Dennis Schroeder

5. SG Victor Oladipo

6. PG C.J. McCollum

7. C Jeff Withey

8. C Gorgui Dieng

9. SF Sergey Karasev

10. SF Solomon Hill

11. SF Tony Snell

12. PF James Southerland

13. PG Trey Burke

14. SG Ben McLemore

15. PF Jackie Carmichael

16. C Alex Len

17. SF Otto Porter

18. PG Nate Wolters

19. SG Jamaal Franklin

20. PG Lorenzo Brown

21. C Mike Muscala

22. PG Erick Green

23. SF Giannis Antetokounmpo

24. PG Myck Kabongo

25. PF Andre Roberson

26. PF Lucas Nogueira

27. PG Matthew Dellavedova

28. PF Erik Murphy

29. C Ryan Kelly

30. PF Trevor Mbakwe

31. PF Cody Zeller

32. SG Glen Rice, Jr.

33. PF C.J. Leslie

34. PG Ray McCallum

35. PG Michael Carter-Williams

36. SG B.J. Young

37. SG Tim Hardaway, Jr.

38. C Bojan Dubjlevic

39. PF Grant Jerrett

40. PF Deshaun Thomas

41. SG Michael Snaer

42. SG Seth Curry

43. PG Pierre Jackson

44. C Steven Adams

45. SF Adonis Thomas

46. SF Shabazz Muhammad

47. C Colton Iverson

48. SF James Ennis

49. SF Reggie Bullock

50. PF Brandon Davies

51. C Rudy Gobert

52. SG Allen Crabbe

53. C Nerlens Noel

54. PG Isaiah Canaan

55. SG Nemanja Nedovic

56. PG Shane Larkin

57. SG Ricardo Ledo

58. PF Richard Howell

59. PF Livio Jean-Charles

60. SG Alex Abrines

61. C Mason Plumlee

62. C Jack Cooley

63. SG Archie Goodwin

64. PG Peyton Siva

65. SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

66. PG Phil Pressey

67. PF D.J. Stephens

68. PF Tony Mitchell

69. PG Brandon Paul

Part IV: Final thoughts

I haven’t ranked this many prospects or this closely in a draft before, so I’m not sure whether it’s just me or the year – but the depth of this draft looks freakish. Clearly it won’t really have 45-50 rotation players, it’d be too out of line with normal draft standards, on average  in the 20-25 range for rotation players. I’ll say the most likely situation is there’s a number of NBA talents who slip through the cracks. Because some players need thousands of minutes before reaching their talent level, many of these players with 8th or 9th man talent may not play like it immediately, eventually developing in an international league unsure to return to the NBA. Still, there should be a lot of NBA players from this draft and a lot of starters. In regards to stardom with one player I feel confident about in Bennett and the likelihood at least one of the players underneath breaks through to star status or fringe star status, I’d say it won’t lack for stars either in the end. Overall this seems like an excellent draft.

Compared to my draft ratings a year ago, the confidence I have in the methods I used this year is night and day, in particular knowing what to look for to make feel for the game ratings and skill impact (shoot, post, pass) ratings. This also helped me change my assumptions, for example realizing Cody Zeller’s feel for the game is more underwhelming than his reputation, is a nuance I wouldn’t have seen last year. . I expect next year my ratings are more consistent from the start of the year to the end based on the methods I have now. But for the most part the most important change was just more time, also allowing me to rate more prospects

Thanks for reading! Enjoy the draft, the best day of the year!

2013 NBA Draft Talent Grades: The Centers

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Gorgui Dieng, Louisville Cardinals, Herb Pope,...

Gorgui Dieng, Louisville Cardinals, Herb Pope, Seton Hall Pirates (Photo credit: MattBritt00)

2013 NBA Draft Rankings: The Power Forwards

2013 NBA Draft Rankings: The Small Forwards

2013 NBA Draft Rankings: The Shooting Guards

2013 NBA Draft Rankings: The Point Guards

Here are my grades for the centers in the 2013 NBA Draft. The players I felt comfortable with ranking or worth it, are Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, Jeff Withey, Gorgui Dieng, Steven Adams, Rudy Gobert, Ryan Kelly, Mike Muscala, Bojan Dubljevic, Lucas Nogueira, Mason Plumlee, Colton Iverson, Jack Cooley.

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

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

What the overall grades mean:

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

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

Physical impact talent grades:

Nerlens Noel: 9 / Elite

Rudy Gobert: 8 / Great

Lucas Nogueira: 8 / Great

Mason Plumlee: 8 / Great

Steven Adams: 7 / Very good

Jeff Withey: 7 / Very good

Alex Len: 6 / Decent

Gorgui Dieng: 5 / Average

Colton Iverson: 4 / Lacking

Ryan Kelly: 1 / Awful

Bojan Dubljevic: 1 / Awful

Mike Muscala: 1 / Awful

Jack Cooley: 1 / Awful

Noel is the top talent of this group, showing ultra-elite athleticism and shotblocking potential, albeit with a skinny frame. Gobert’s length also makes him a dynamic shotblocking threat. Nogueira and Withey are inferior versions of Noel physically, with athleticism and blocking potential, but skinny. Mason Plumlee has an impressive combination of explosiveness and strength for a 7 footer. Steven Adams has elite strength and length and decent athleticism. Len is very long, with decent athleticism but skinny weight. Dieng is an average athlete, but long. Colton Iverson has solid strength and length for a C. The rest of the Cs are very weak physical impact talents, with Kelly, Dubjlevic as stretch bigs and Muscala, Cooley as under the rim bigs.

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

Ryan Kelly: 9 / Elite

Bojan Dubljevic: 8 / Great

Mike Muscala: 8 / Great

Gorgui Dieng: 7 / Very good

Alex Len: 6 / Decent

Jack Cooley: 5 / Average

Jeff Withey: 5 / Average

Rudy Gobert: 5 / Average

Colton Iverson: 5 / Average

Lucas Nogueira: 5 / Average

Mason Plumlee: 4 / Lacking

Nerlens Noel: 3 / Weak

Steven Adams: 3 / Weak

Kelly is an elite outside shooter and a likely stretch big in the NBA. Dubljevic and Muscala are also good and potentially great shooters for a C. Dieng has a perimeter jumpshot, some post moves and is an excellent passer. Len has decent touch and potential for a post and shooting game. Cooley, Withey, Gobert, Iverson, Nogueira have touch at the rim and the potential to add range. Plumlee, Noel and Adams have average to weak touch and lack post and shooting skill.

Feel for the Game talent grades:

Mike Muscala: 9 / Elite

Alex Len: 8 / Great

Jeff Withey: 8 / Great

Bojan Dubjlevic: 8 / Great

Ryan Kelly: 8 / Great

Gorgui Dieng: 8 / Great

Jack Cooley: 7 / Very good

Colton Iverson: 6 / Decent

Steven Adams: 5 / Average

Lucas Nogueira: 5 / Average

Nerlens Noel: 3 / Weak

Mason Plumlee: 3 / Weak

Rudy Gobert: 2 / Very poor

Muscala has the closest to a special feel for the game for this group, as a permanently smooth, crafty player. Len, Withey, Dubljevic, Ryan Kelly, Gorgui Dieng also have excellently fluid positioning and instincts. Cooley and Iverson also seem to have an above average feel and fluidity. The rest are a mixed bag. Adams, Nogueira look to be average instead f poor. Noel, Plumlee, Gobert look like clear cut cases of below average feel and are robotic.

The individual breakdowns:

Blue Chip starter talent grades (Grades between 19-22)

Gorgui Dieng

Physical impact talent grade: 5 / Average

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

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

Gorgui Dieng has a great if not elite feel for the game, showing a smooth, watery offensive game and strong defensive anticipation and instincts. He also has a skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent game with a midrange jumpshot, strong passing for a center and some moves on the block, to go along with great touch around the basket.

Dieng however is just an average athlete, with some mobility to get to the basket but not explosiveness. His length does give him shotblocking potential to physically impact the game.

Dieng’s feel, length, touch, range and passing, make him a near surefire starter to me. He has star potential if his post and shooting skill game blows up. Deing reminds me a lot of the Gasol brothers.

Jeff Withey

Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

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

Withey’s biggest strength is his feel for the game, showing strong fluidity offensively and superb defensive timing and positioning. In physical impact talent he is an explosive athlete allowing him to attack the rim and play above the rim. Despite his amazing shotblocking career in college, because of average length I’m not convinced he’ll translate in this area – But any consistent blocking is another powerful way to physically impact the game. A skinny frame may hurt finishing at the rim and post defense.

Withey has great touch finishing at the basket, however is unproven as a skill player otherwise. His post game is raw and unlikely to develop with his frame, while he didn’t consistently lean on his midrange as a weapon, albeit he did take some this year. A 70%+ FT is encouraging for midrange shooting development potential.

I see Withey as a very likely starting C due to his feel, athleticism, shotblocking potential and touch at the basket. If he can develop a perimeter shooting range, all-star games are a possibility.

Alex Len

Physical impact talent grade: 6 / Decent

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

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

Alex Len has a smooth feel for the game, playing at an easy and controlled, fluid pace.

He has great length for a C which gives him upside making a physical impact blocking shots. In addition he is mobile enough to roll to the basket. Len right now is skinny, but has the frame to add weight, which may help his finishing and post defense. His physical impact potential is above average.

Finally, Len has decent touch at the basket, but is relatively raw as a post player. Adding strength to fill out his frame, gives him a big upside in the post. His midrange shot wasn’t a consistent weapon, albeit a solid FT% gives him a chance to develop shooting.

Len’s length and feel should give him enormous defensive potential. Offensively it’s unclear whether he’ll be a limited finisher or can develop into a go-to post player and midrange shooter. At best Len could be both a go-to inside/outside scorer and a defensive anchor, an enormous upside considering the rarity of those types of players. In the meantime he is likely to start due to his length and touch, health permitting.

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

Lucas Nogueira

Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average

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

Lucas Nogueira has similarities to Noel and Gobert. He has great explosiveness and mobility for a big man, which should give him upside attacking the rim and blocking shots. However he’s even skinnier than either which may hurt him defending the post and finishing.

Nogueira or “Bebe” is raw outside of his physical tools. He scores on garbage points around the rim without post ability or range. A FT% of 67% is solid and gives him some potential for range.

Nogueira has an average feel for the game, not looking stiff, but showing little above average craftiness either.

I see Nogueira is a high upside prospect, if he can develop a perimeter shooting game, he has the athletic tools and good enough feel to be a blue chipper. Nogueira may be the closest we’ve seen since to the version of Serge Ibaka Oklahoma City took when they found him, for whom developing a perimeter shooting game helped establish him as a starter.

Mike Muscala

Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 9 / Elite

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

Muscala’s feel for the game is the best of this group, with a supreme craftiness, fluidity and timing making his offensive moves so effective.

Muscala relied on his post game in college, however because of a lack of strength, I don’t expect it to translate to well. More likely is he leans on a midrage jumpshot, which he hit well in college and an 80%+ career FT rate in college is a great sign for his mechanics. In addition, if he builds strength he has potential in the post due to his touch.

Naturally, the problem is physical tools. He is the below the rim athlete lacking strength and length for a C. Virtually his entire game will need to come from skill and feel, not physically impacting the game with his tools. He may be a defensive liability in the pros because of his physical tools.

Despite his physical limitations, Muscala chance at starting at C or PF looks very solid to me, due to his feel and likely inside/outside skill game.

Ryan Kelly

Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9 / Elite

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

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

Ryan Kelly was one of the NCAA’s true stretch bigs, with two straight years over 40% from 3 and 80% from FT his chance of hitting NBA 3s is excellent, a rare skill worthy of a high skill impact (shoot, post pass) talent grade at C, or PF if he plays there.

He also has a high end feel for the game and a smooth, easy control to his game.

Kelly’s limitations are physically. It’s unlikely has the athleticism or strength to mix it up inside and score inside as a paint and his mobility may make him a defensive liability at the position.

One concern is his conditioning appears poor. Kelly has the talent to challenge a starting spot, but he needs to keep himself in shape.

Bojan Dubljevic

Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

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

Dubljevic is Europe’s answer to Muscala and Kelly in this draft. He shows an impressive skill game with range out to the 3pt line, which along with FT% over 80% shows his chance at hitting 3s in the NBA is solid. He played in the post in Europe, but may not have the size to translate that skill to the next level.

Dubljevic’s feel for the game is also excellent, showing natural adjusting, craftiness and fluidity in the post.

Dubljevic however is one of the least physically gifted players in the draft, as a short C with sluggish athleticism. He will likely be a perimeter orientated player, struggling to finish in the paint.

Dubjlevic’s physical tools may hurt his upside, but there is room in the NBA for 3 point or midrange shooters with a high feel for the game at PF/C in the NBA.

Rotation player talent grades (Grades between 14-16)

Steven Adams

Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 3 / Weak

Feel for the Game talent grade: 5 / Average

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

Adams is an impressive physical talent for a C. He has elite strength and frame for his position, great length and is relatively mobile, albeit not freakishly explosiveness. Adams has the tools to block shots, hold the post and do a decent job rolling to the basket physically.

The rest of his talent is a concern. Adams does not have an above average feel for the game, at times showing stiffness and awkwardness. I wouldn’t call Adams’ feel bad based on what I’ve seen, at times he shows some patience in the post – but average feels fair.

Adams is also a near blank slate as a skill player, lacking touch around the rim, post development or shooting range. Shooting a brutal 44.3% from the FT line as a freshman at Pittsburgh is also a poor sign that he has skill potential. I won’t go too low in the skill impact category based on both giving him the benefit of the doubt and because his strength presumably gives him some post potential, but it doesn’t look good.

Adams’ size and length for a C make him a clear NBA rotation player, however it’s unclear whether he’ll have the touch around the basket or feel to be anything more. Still, there is value in shotblockers in the NBA that may find him in a starting lineup on a good team at some point, even if raw.

Nerlens Noel

Physical impact talent grade: 9 / Elite

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 3 / Weak

Feel for the Game talent grade: 3 / Weak

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

As elite an athlete as it gets for a big man. Ultra explosive attacking the rim, finishing and blocking shots, with great mobility and agility. This led him to dominating the NCAA physically at a rare level. With the tools to lead the league in blocks which is a powerful physical impact tool for a center, he has huge physical impact potential at the next level. Strength issues present some issues finishing and guarding the post at C.

The rest of Nerlens’ talent is questionable. He has a subpar feel for the game by playing relatively stiff, robotic and needing to rush plays, instead of a natural and easy pace to his game. Furthermore Nerlens’ skill game is a problem with weak hands and touch, lacking any post game with his present skinny frame and lacking any shooting range. A 52.9% FT clip is a poor sign for his touch and shooting potential.

With the present skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent grade I gave him, Nerlens would project as a 3rd big providing energy and shotblocking as a change of pace. However his skill could be better or worse than the grade I gave him. It’d be a big help if he could develop Serge Ibaka-like range, which may also allow him to play PF. The downside is he ends up having no hands, touch or offensive skill game at all in the pros, which with his weak feel may push him down to near unplayable status. I consider Noel a major risk even before getting to his health concerns, albeit with the upside of a starter and blue chip player.

Rudy Gobert

Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 2 / Very poor

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

Rudy Gobert has an amazing 7’2 height with 7’9 wingspan, which with mobility gives him real shotblocking potential in the NBA. Gobert is a decent athlete who can roll to the rim and has agility for his size. A rail thin frame may hurt his finishing and post defense, but overall Gobert seems to deserve a great physical impact talent grade.

Gobert also has excellent hands and touch around the rim. This is enough for a respectable grade in skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent for me, though it’s unclear whether he’ll have any semblance of a post game or shooting range. Hitting 70%+ of his FTs is a sign he can develop a perimeter shot.

Rudy’s weakness is his feel for the game looks very poor compared to this class. He plays with unnatural stiffness and is robotic, to put it lightly. Gobert’s touch gives him an offensive role in the NBA even if at a low volume and if he can develop a midrange jumpshot, he may be very valuable offensively. Defense is likely to be a mixed bag between his shotblocking which is valuable, but then his lack of strength and likely lack of defensive awareness and feel, which could hurt his team. Either way, Gobert looks to be a likely long term NBA player and like Adams may find himself in a starting lineup due to the rarity of length and shotblocking, especially if his skill game comes through.

Mason Plumlee

Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 3 / Weak

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

Mason Plumlee is a strong athlete for a C, showing explosiveness attacking the basket and a solid strength level for a 7 footer.

He has a relatively limited skill game, scoring garbage points around the basket with just average hands and touch. He lacks post ability or shooting range, albeit a solid FT% his last year is somewhat encouraging he can develop range.

Mason also has a weak feel for the game, showing a stiff and robotic game, instead of natural fluidity and craftiness.

If Plumlee can rebound well at the next level he can carve out an NBA career, but it’s hard to imagine more than a 3rd big even if he develops perimeter range, while he’s at risk of washing out of the NBA if he can’t finish plays at the basket offensively or struggles to physically impose himself.

Colton Iverson

Physical impact talent grade: 4 / Lacking

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent

Total talent grade: 15 (Rotation player talent grade)

Colton Iverson is a legitimate 7 footer with a wide frame, which should give him a role as a poster defender at the next level. His athleticism and mobility is solid, but unspectacular.

Iverson’s offensive game is largely limited to finishing around the rim, with his touch and strength to hold position. Having touch around the rim is a useable offensive role for a center. A 58.5% FT is not a great sign for developing shooting range.

He also has a solid feel for the game, showing some craftiness at the rim at times, though not at a standout level.

Iverson is a perfectly average center prospect, proving some size, mobility, touch and feel, none in great amounts, but without large weaknesses either. At the center position if Colton can be a post defender who reliably makes help rotations, can finish at the rim and plays hard, he can challenge a starting spot as a role player. If he wants to approach blue chip status, the best chance is to develop a perimeter shooting game, which may make him very useful offensively.

Deep bench to Rotation player talent grades (Grades between 12-13)

Jack Cooley

Physical impact talent grade: 1 / Awful

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good

Total talent grade: 13 (Rotation player talent grade)

Jack Cooley has a good feel to his game, showing the ability to adjust, control and craftiness around the basket, which made his game very effective this year. His instincts also led to his excellent rebounding in college.

Cooley has strong touch around the basket but his offensive game is limited otherwise, without a perimeter shooting game, while as an undersized C it will be difficult for his post game to translate despite impressive strength. A solid 70.3% FT is somewhat encouraging he can develop a jumpshot.

Cooley is unimpressive physically, as a C with below average length who’s a below the rim athlete who may struggle defensively at the next level.

Cooley is the type of player who’d benefit if he had the mobility to play PF instead of C, where his strength may give him most post potential. If he sticks at C, his touch and rebounding numbers likely gives him a spot in the NBA long term, but more than a backup seems a stretch.

Factors outside of talent grades: Noel tore his ACL in college and had another season ending surgery on the same knee in high school. Kelly had surgery on his foot and reportedly has conditioning issues. Len had surgery after a stress fracture in his ankle. Dubljevic is signed for some time on his ACB team and could be years away from coming to the NBA. Nogueira’s buyout is also significant and could be difficult to bring over immediately. Nogueira reportedly has character concerns. Gobert’s buyout doesn’t appear to be scary, but still could be a problem.

If ranking the Cs by upside, I would rank it: 1. Alex Len 2. Gorgui Dieng 3. Jeff Withey 4. Lucas Nogueira 5. Mike Muscala 6. Ryan Kelly 7. Nerlens Noel 8. Steven Adams 9. Rudy Gobert 10. Bojan Dubljevic 11. Colton Iverson 12. Mason Plumlee 13. Jack Cooley. The rawer prospects like Nogueira, Noel, Adams, Gobert are favored in this, if they make a huge leap forward in skill. If ranking by downside (a high ranking is better), I’d rank it: 1. Gorgui Dieng 2. Jeff Withey 3. Alex Len 4. Mike Muscala 5. Ryan Kelly 6. Bojan Dubljevic 7. Colton Iverson 8. Mason Plumlee 9. Lucas Nogueira 10. Jack Cooley 11. Rudy Gobert 12. Steven Adams 13. Nerlens Noel Likewise, prospects like Gobert, Adams, Noel are in bigger danger of not providing any value if they lack any skill game.

My overall ranking of Cs and where I’d consider taking them:

1. Gorgui Dieng (top 5)
2. Jeff Withey (top 5)
3. Alex Len (top 5)
4. Lucas Nogueira (top 20)
5. Mike Muscala (top 20)
6. Ryan Kelly (top 30)
7. Colton Iverson (top 40)
8. Bojan Dubjlevic (top 40)
9. Steven Adams (top 40)
10. Rudy Gobert (top 40)
11. Nerlens Noel (top 40)
12. Mason Plumlee (top 50)
13. Jack Cooley (top 50)

My cumulative rankings now that I’ve ranked all positions: (*Note: If you’ve read my previous rankings, you’ll see my Dennis Schroeder ranking is very different than I originally pegged. This was just based on a stupid mistake I had made not seeing Schroeder’s stats in his German league before, where I learned how excellent shooting season he had with 40.2% from 3 on many attempts and 83.8% FT, I had assumed his reptuation as a jumpshot-less player was based on poor shooting numbers in Europe. This addition to new footage showing his feel for the game is more impressive than I thought, vastly changed my ranking of him. I also saw footage showing his athleticism and feel better, that slightly revised my rating of Giannis Antetokounmpo in a favorable light. Finally, one of Ricky Ledo’s coaches called him the worst human being he’s met in basketball, so that makes me wary about him!)

1. PF Anthony Bennett (top 3)
2. PG Dennis Schroeder (top 3)
3. SG Victor Oladipo (top 3)
4. PF Kelly Olynyk (top 3)
5. C Gorgui Dieng (top 3)
6. C Jeff Withey (top 3)
7. C Alex Len (top 3)
8. PF Kenny Kadji (top 7)
9. PG C.J. McCollum (top 7)
10. PF Jackie Carmichael (top 7)
11. SG Ben McLemore (top 7)
12. SF Tony Snell (top 10)
13. SF Otto Porter (top 10)
14. SF Sergey Karasev (top 10)
15. PG Trey Burke (top 10)
16. SF Giannis Antetokounmpo (top 10)
17. SG Jamaal Franklin (top 14)
18. PG Lorenzo Brown (top 14)
19. PF Cody Zeller (top 14)
20. PG Matthew Dellavedova (top 14)
21. SF Solomon Hill (top 14)
22. C Lucas Nogueira (top 20)
23. C Mike Muscala (top 20)
24. PG Myck Kabongo (top 20)
25. SG B.J. Young (top 20)
26. PF C.J. Leslie (top 20)
27. SG Seth Curry (top 20)
28. PG Erick Green (top 20)
29. PG Shane Larkin (top 20)
30. PG Nate Wolters (top 20)
31. PG Isaiah Canaan (top 20)
32. PG Pierre Jackson (top 20)
33. C Ryan Kelly (top 30)
34. PF James Southerland (top 30)
35. SG Glen Rice, Jr. (top 30)
36. SG Tim Hardaway, Jr. (top 30)
37. SF Shabazz Muhammad (top 30)
38. PF Grant Jerrett (top 30)
39. PF Deshaun Thomas (top 30)
40. PF Erik Murphy (top 30)
41. PF Dario Saric (top 30)
42. PF Brandon Davies (top 30)
43. SF Adonis Thomas (top 30)
44. PG Michael Carter-Williams (top 40)
45. SF Reggie Bullock (top 40)
46. C Colton Iverson (top 40)
47. C Bojan Dubjlevic (top 40)
48. C Steven Adams (top 40)
49. C Rudy Gobert (top 40)
50. C Nerlens Noel (top 40)
51. SG Archie Goodwin (top 40)
52. SG Allen Crabbe (top 40)
53. SG Alex Abrines (top 40)
54. PF Livio Jean-Charles (top 40)
55. PF Richard Howell (top 40)
56. C Mason Plumlee (top 40)
57. C Jack Cooley (top 50)
58. SG Ricardo Ledo (top 50)
59. PF Tony Mitchell (top 50)
60. PG Phil Pressey (top 50)
61. PG Ray McCallum (top 50)
62. SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (top 50)
63. PF D.J. Stephens (top 60)
64. SG Brandon Paul (undrafted)

This list it not a final ranking, I will look it over post a final list of my talent grades and overall rankings sometime before the draft.

An NBA Talent Evaluation Analogy: The Baseball Pitcher

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BASEBALL Pitcher of the Week - May 3-9, 2010

BASEBALL Pitcher of the Week – May 3-9, 2010 (Photo credit: Big West Conference)

For the last year and change I’ve been writing about how I split up NBA talent into 3 equally weighted categories: Physical impact talent, Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent and Feel for the Game talent.

If I had to the closest comparison to this split, it’d be a baseball pitcher. I am not a baseball expert, but think of the tools that define a pitcher’s upside and success:

1. Power is clearly an important trait. The greater velocity, the harder it will be to hit a pitcher. Pitchers with huge arms are seen as having a high upside, even if raw. For my system the obvious comparison is physical impact talent. Notably, for a power pitcher, while I assume literal athletic and strength tools are key to throwing at a dynamic velocity, the player’s technique is also a relevant part of their power. Likewise in my system not everything in “physical impact” talent is literally physical tools, like how a player’s ballhandling will usually help him attack the basket more fiercely, a way to physically impact the game.

2. However, arguably just as important is control and ball placement. The ability to throw a strike and put the ball where it’s wanted is essential, arguably as important as the velocity of the throw, if not moreso. The comparison in my system is Feel for the Game where the control, smoothness and timing of a player’s game increases his effectiveness.

3. The final key part of a pitcher’s success, is the skill to throw multiple types of pitches – change-up, slider, curveball, splitter, cutter, etc. Mastering these skills goes beyond the ability to hit the plate. This also has a clear connection to my Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent category. Instead of the skill to throw a pitch like a curve or change-up, there’s the skill of shooting and having 3 point range, passing or playing in the post.

Relevantly, for a pitcher any of these 3 categories isolated, will not lead to a successful player. It doesn’t matter if a pitcher throws 100 miles per hour if he has no ability to hit the plate and no pitches outside of a fastball. It doesn’t matter if a player has a wide array of skill pitches like the curve, change-up, slider and variants if he has no velocity on his pitch and he isn’t hitting the plate. And even if a player has the control to hit the plate extremely well, if his pitches have no gas and have no off-speed variants, he also won’t make it. What leads to success is combining the skills. It’s having both power velocity and the ability to hit the plate, or having both both great skill with off-ball pitches and the ability to hit the plate, or having both power and a variety of pitches. If one is a star in 2 of the categories, it’s very important even if he doesn’t excel in the 3rd, that he’s passable in it instead of bad. A pitcher doesn’t need to throw the most power if his control and pitches are at an elite level, but he can’t go out and throw 80 miles per hour either and hope to have a high ceiling. Likewise a pitcher with great power and a multitude of pitches even if he doesn’t have elite control, needs to at least respectably hit the plate, instead of being all over the place.

Likewise I believe a player in the NBA having all his eggs in one of my 3 categories, will make it difficult to success. You can’t just be a physical force without skill and feel on top of it, you can’t just be skilled if an athletic and mental liability and one can’t just be smart and controlled without some physical and skill tools. But the player who is physically dominant and with elite feel/control, has strong skill and feel, or who has strong physical and skill tools, starts to get somewhere. And like the pitcher, if the player only excels in 2 of the 3, it’s key that he’s passable instead of poor in the 3rd.

The mistake I believe that is made most often in the NBA Draft, is taking a prospect with elite physical tools, who’s skill and mental game is extremely raw. For example, Nerlens Noel is ranked 1st overall this year. I’ll reveal my (lower than you can imagine) ranking of Nerlens when I get to ranking Cs in this draft, but compare him to my baseball analogy. Nerlens is a player with amazing athleticism and ability to physically impact the game, who’s subpar with a risk at being awful as a skill and feel for the game player. This is like the pitcher who throws at a league high velocity, but has one pitch and can’t hit the plate. That won’t work! Nerlens has the chance to develop more pitches so to speak to improve his chance at success (such as developing Serge Ibaka-like range) but if he doesn’t, it could be a disaster. To me it’s not a more appealing situation than a player like Brandon Davies who has an elite feel for the game but is unimpressive athletically and with a limited skill game – his analogy being like the pitcher who’s elite at finding the plate, but throwing very weak velocity and limited skill mixing up his pitches, which makes him a guy who’s serving pitches over the plate like a waiter to hitters.

Now admittedly, I do not know enough about pitchers to say whether the distribution of power, variety of pitches and ball control is equally distributed. It seems like power and ball control may be more important than the number of pitches a player has. But I am simply using this as an example to illustrate why I believe my interpretation of NBA talent is a logical approach.

Written by jr.

June 7, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Why Otto Porter could be the #1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft

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The Cleveland Cavaliers just won their 2nd lottery in 3 years, following the 2011 win that netted them Kyrie Irving. Many are all but writing in Nerlens Noel as the pick, widely the favorite to go 1st all year and a defensive compliment for a team who’s been terrible on that end.

Not so fast.

First, it bears noting how it’s no secret Cleveland is leading the way among NBA teams who are relying on advanced metrics to pick players. The Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters 4th overall picks that came out of nowhere, appear to be have been on the back of what the stats said. Nerlens Noel and Otto Porter have been the advanced metrics community’s favorites all year. This is because most draft regression studies, favor players who fill the statsheet in non-scoring ways – such as rebounding, blocks, steals, assists. Noel averaged an exceptional 11.9 rebounds, 5.5 blocks, 2.6 steals, 2.0 assists per 40 minutes. His 27.7 PER for a freshman big and .58 TS% on 13.1 pts per 40, also could help his case. Porter averaged 8.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.1 steals, 1.0 blocks per 40 minutes, rare all-around numbers for a sophomore SF, in addition to 27.8 PER .59 TS% on 18.3 pts per 40 .

I’ve been using statician Ed Weiland’s site hoopsanalyst.com as a Cavaliers canary since last year. In 2011 he ranked Tristan Thompson as his 2nd best prospect after Kyrie Irving and in 2012 he ranked Dion Waiters 2nd after Anthony Davis. Considering Cleveland went on to surprise and take Thompson and Waiters top 5, he seems an excellent indicator of the statistical method they’re using. On Weiland’s last big board update, Noel and Porter ranked as his #1 and #2 respectively, followed by Trey Burke 3rd, out of the question for the Cavaliers. Another well respected statician draft site, shutupandjam.net, ranks Porter 1st and Noel 3rd (with Trey Burke 2nd).

In a vacuum, the evidence would still seem to point to Noel. Although Porter’s rebounding, passing, and blocks/steals for a SF are exceptional, Noel’s rebounding, block and steal rate is even more freakish and he rates 1st on Weiland’s site. However, other factors are playing towards Porter:

– Noel is recovering for a torn ACL. While ACL recoveries are reliable in this day and age, there’s still a risk that a loss of explosiveness will occur. A problem magnified by how much Noel relies on not just great, but transcendent athleticism for a big man. Furthermore, Noel had a fractured growth plate in the same leg that ended his sophomore year in high school. Multiple knee injuries this early in his career is a huge concern, especially with a frame as light as his.

– Porter is the superior fit positionally, sliding into the SF role beside Irving at PG, Waiters at SG, Thompson at PF and Varejao at C. Noel and Thompson is not a great fit. For one, Noel may be too light to play center, pushing him to long term starting PF status, leaving Thompson’s spot out to dry. Secondly even if they play together, it’s lacking in offense. A lack of floor spacing would hurt on a team with guards who want to drive into the paint

– The Cavaliers appear to be impatient to win. As they stated on the lottery telecast, they hope this to be their last lottery for a long long time. They’ve tanked 3 long years post Lebron and with Kyrie heading into his 3rd season, appeasing him by pushing towards winning is now important. Noel’s ACL recovery means he doesn’t help them win next year, while Porter would likely immediately start at SF for them.

When Noel’s health, positional fit and the desire to win soon is taken into account, the Cavaliers choosing Porter becomes a real possibility even if their statistical methods give the edge to Noel. If Noel is ahead, it depends by how much. I imagine any narrow gap is made up for health, fit and immediate production. If Noel has a large lead on Porter in their advanced metrics, they may feel the best move is taking him and dealing with the other consequences. Right now I’d call it a near toss-up, but I’m actually leaning towards Otto Porter grabbing this. Of course, the Cavaliers could also rectify this by trading down, perhaps to 3rd overall if the Wizards wanted Noel more than Porter. With Tobias Harris and Moe Harkless on the team, the Magic taking Porter at the 2nd overall spot is unlikely. Though because #1 picks are a source of pride, I’d bet against the Cavaliers moving down just for a small asset.

This has been the most up in the air year for the #1 pick since 2006 and lottery night didn’t change it. I see two major contenders if the Cavaliers keep the pick, but they could be deadly tight.

Written by jr.

May 21, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Nerlens Noel vs Doug McDermott & Ryan Kelly and what it says about how teams evaluate talent

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Nerlens Noel is the heavy favorite to be picked 1st overall in 2013. Doug McDermott and Ryan Kelly aren’t projected to be picked in the 1st round.

What makes them an interesting to me, is all 3 are unbalanced prospects. Nerlens’ Noel allure largely comes from physical tools. He has a Kevin Garnett-like combination of athleticism and length. However Nerlens’ offensive skill level barely shows a pulse, lacking a post or shooting game and having mediocre touch.

Doug McDermott and Ryan Kelly are unbalanced in the opposite way. With 3pt range and perimeter creating ability, both are tremendous skill talents for a PF if that’s the position they play in the NBA, though McDermott may play SF and Kelly as a C depending on the lineup. However both are bottom of the barrel in physical talents. McDermott is a small PF without great athleticism. Kelly is bigger, but also lacks the speed to attack the basket off the dribble in the NBA. McDermott and Kelly will likely struggle big to “physically impact” the game in the NBA. By taking perimeter jumpshots, their skill will impose itself on the game not their physical tools.

Yet look at the different way Noel and McDermott/Kelly’s strengths and weaknesses are interpreted. Noel’s physical talents are seen as enough for him to be a star, regardless of skill. McDermott and Kelly’s physical talents are seen as enough to wreck their upside, in spite of their skill.

Are we sure the opposite can’t be true? Is it conceivable McDermott and Kelly’s skill level is enough for them to be a star in spite of their physical tools, while Noel’s skill level is enough to wreck his upside, in spite of his physical tools?

Largely, what it comes down to is physical tools are weighted higher than skill in the draft by NBA teams. But I believe the NBA doesn’t bore this out. Stephen Curry’s skills have as dynamic an impact as Russell Westbrook’s athletic tools. Tony Allen’s lack of perimeter skills hurts him like JJ Redick’s lack of athleticism hurts him. Serge Ibaka’s elite athleticism is dynamic, but so is Kevin Love’s skill. Greg Monroe’s lack of elite athleticism hurts him, but so does Deandre Jordan’s lack of skill. There are plenty of examples of the ability to shoot, pass or post at a dynamic level for a position, or lacking those skills compared to a position, having just as powerful an impact as dynamic or lacking athleticism.

Here are my talent grades for Noel, McDermott and Kelly, all 3 projected at the PF position:

PF Nerlens Noel

Physical impact talent grade: 11

Skill impact talent grade: 2

Feel for the Game talent grade: 5

Total talent grade: 18 (Marginal starter to Blue Chip starter talent grade)

PF Doug McDermott

Physical impact talent grade: 1

Skill impact talent grade: 10

Feel for the Game talent grade: 10

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

PF Ryan Kelly

Physical impact talent grade: 2

Skill impact talent grade: 9

Feel for the Game talent grade: 7

Total talent grade: 18 (Marginal starter to Blue Chip starter talent grade)

McDermott separates himself because his feel for the game is as elite as his perimeter skill level. McDermott’s natural fluidity and instincts are as strong as anyone in the class. Nerlens is average feel for the game and can look raw at times. I would call Kelly’s feel and natural smoothness above average, but not on McDermott’s level.

Where Noel can prove me wrong is if I undervalued him as a skill talent. Noel with the average ability to make skill plays instead of subpar for a PF, would rate as a blue chip player and near all-star. I suspect the main reason I am lukewarm on Nerlens Noel compared to most, isn’t because of my talent grading system, but because I see a player who has subpar skill game for his age group, as most likely to remain that way.

Written by jr.

April 17, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Nerlens Noel, Cody Zeller and the “adjustment” theory in the NBA Draft

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Nerlens Noel

Nerlens Noel (Photo credit: SportsAngle.com)

Nerlens Noel is currently ranked as the #1 overall pick on ESPN.com. Cody Zeller is ranked 10th and his buzz appears to be fading fast.

Noel’s higher ranking has little to do with production. Cody was more productive as a freshman than Noel this year, then slightly improved his production as a sophomore.

Why Noel is ranked ahead is what I’ll call the “adjustment theory”. The criticism is Zeller won’t be able to get his game off in the NBA, because of middling athleticism and moreso, because he is a skinny big with a poor wingspan. Because his game lives in the post in college, Zeller’s critics argue he won’t get his game off against defenders bigger, longer and more athletic than him.

Noel in contrast, is an athletic freak with elite length, the full physical package resembling Kevin Garnett’s. As a result there is less concern over his game translating to the NBA, because he will be more athletic and longer than his peers instead of the opposite. His game is made to translate physically to an NBA level.

Is this adjustment theory reliable? I’d argue it’s not.

The first flaw of this argument, is that the move from NCAA to NBA physically, does not necessarily affect elite physical talents less than middling ones despite what initial instincts may suggest. Noel’s athleticism and length is miles and miles above his peers at the NCAA level, but at the more physically gifted NBA that advantage will shrink. Thus Noel is still facing a plausibly significant fall physically going from NCAA to NBA, it’d just be from transcendent in the NCAA to a lesser elite in the NBA, perhaps as big a difference in value as the transition Cody will face.

Furthermore, the jump from the NCAA to NBA is just as massive in skill and intelligence as it is physically. Which means the skill and instincts in college Noel showed this year in college, if compared to the superior NBA peers would have looked levels worse. Noel’s skill game may not “get off” in the NBA like it did in college, just as Cody’s may not. Like comparing their physical drop-offs, it comes down to judging where they start and where they fall to. Cody’s skill and IQ may fall from elite for his position in the NCAA to merely decent against NBA bigs. But Noel’s could fall just as far if from average for bigs in the NCAA, to poor in the NBA.

Compare this to Thomas Robinson last year. Robinson passes the adjustment theory with flying colors, as an elite athlete with great strength for a PF. Thus according to conventional wisdom getting his game off against opponents in the NBA should not have been as big a struggle as for say, Jared Sullinger – a post player who was expected to struggle getting his game off against the bigger, longer and more athletic opponents in the NBA. But in reality, Robinson took as big a hit from the physical upgrade from the NCAA to NBA as anyone. It’s just he went from dominant physically in the NCAA, to an elite athlete but not separating himself as much in the NBA – a significant fall-off. In addition to this his skill and IQ, enough to get by in college, now look like a weaknesses killing his productivity and making it hard to play him.

Every player is going to by definition, fall-off in physical talents, skill and intelligence compared to peers, when moving from the NCAA to NBA. The NBA’s improvements in those areas guarantees it. The question is which players take the biggest hits in those areas. I believe if one looks at it rationally, there isn’t a reason to believe Noel’s status as a physical tools-first prospect, makes him less likely to get gunned down by the NCAA to NBA transition than a player like Cody Zeller.

Written by jr.

April 13, 2013 at 4:04 pm