Post-Draft re-rank

So now that the draft is complete, it is time to re-rank the prospects with new information that has come to light:

1 Karl Towns
2 D’Angelo Russell
3 Justise Winslow
4 Jahlil Okafor
5 Emmanuel Mudiay
6 Mario Hezonja
7 Kristaps Porzingis
8 Willie Cauley-Stein
9 Stanley Johnson
10 Frank Kaminsky
11 Kelly Oubre
12 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
13 Trey Lyles
14 Myles Turner
15 Delon Wright
16 Bobby Portis
17 Sam Dekker
18 Devin Booker
19 Kevon Looney
20 Cameron Payne
21 Tyus Jones
22 Justin Anderson
23 Jerian Grant
24 RJ Hunter
25 Terry Rozier
26 Nikola Milutinov
27 Rashad Vaughn
28 Chris McCullough
29 Larry Nance Jr
30 Josh Richardson
31 Jarell Martin
32 Richaun Holmes
33 Norman Powell
34 Montrezl Harrell
35 Jordan Mickey
36 Olivier Hanlan
37 Cedi Osman
38 Dakari Johnson
39 Arturas Gudaitis
40 Pat Connaughton

I imagine that most sharp NBA teams had 1. Towns and 2. Russell, and I agree with that.

I am all in on Justise Winslow. Even if his height was mildly disappointing and he shot poorly in workouts, there is still so so much to like about his profile. It was mostly bad GM’s that passed him up while one of my fave GM’s in Danny Ainge was trying to trade up for him every step of the way starting at #4. He has such clear two way upside with a high floor to boot, I cannot fathom that it was remotely correct for him to slide that far.

I softened my anti-Hezonja and Porzingis stance because they both do have great tools and I don’t feel strongly enough any of my 8-12 prospects to place them ahead of either. I still have my doubts about them, but there’s no reason they cannot be real good. I wish I could have stronger feelings on these two and Mudiay, but all I can do is stash the trio in between the big 4 NCAA studs and everybody else.

I dropped Kelly Oubre to 11. I believe he is underrated due to his combination of freshman stats and physical tools, but there is little that stands out about him other than his superficial appeal. He cannot create his own shot and he does not have good basketball IQ, so I have slightly tempered my expectations of him.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is the second biggest steal in the draft behind Winslow. His offensive limitations are a big concern, but his combination of physical tools and defensive acumen is so elite that they are worth stomaching. I am surprised at how many smart FO’s passed him up with non-lotto picks, but once upon a time Daryl Morey drafted Marcus Morris ahead of Kawhi Leonard so I’m sticking to my guns that RHJ slid way too far.

Myles Turner still feels bleh to me but I’m interested to see how well Frank Vogel can mitigate the limitations of his gait by playing him in the Hibbert role. I could see him having a successful career in Indiana.

It feels like no matter who I rank 22 or 23 it feels too low. I ended up placing Justin Anderson and Jerian Grant in those slots, and both are solid prospects to me. Truthfully you could rank my 13-23 tier in any order and it would seem fine to me.

RJ Hunter feels perfect at 24. I could jumble up my 5-12, 13-23, or 25-40 in any number of orders but RJ makes the perfect dividing line to bridge the gap between my top 23 and the rest.

I bumped up Terry Rozier a long way from 50 to 25. I remain unimpressed with his offensive skill set, but he does have the length and frame to guard SG’s. Further, it is possible that the Celtics can parlay his elite first step into a nice slashing game with better coaching, spacing, and skill development. I appreciate the athleticism + defense strength tandem in prospects so this pick may not be historically bad. That said, his current offensive package is highly worrisome for a 21 year old 6’2″ player, and I suspect the Celtics are being overly optimistic about his growth potential by taking him at #16. So it’s still a reach in my book.

Everything else is generally smoothened given NBA opinions. I figure this will look better than my average big board because I am not taking huge positions for no reason and am focusing on my more confident reads. So we’ll see how this works. Really don’t feel like I have much insight to offer this year other than it being comical that Winslow slid to #10 and RHJ being a possible big time steal late. All of the prospects are at least decent and I don’t think consensus is all that far off base.

2015 Draft Recap

One of the best parts of the draft is that no matter how advanced statistical predictions become, there will always be a slippery human element that cannot be perfectly priced. This is a downside to making at home evaluations as interviews and workouts are needed for full information, and three first round talents in Christian Wood, Cliff Alexander, and Robert Upshaw went undrafted. But it also makes for stunning surprises on draft night that are fun to assess in retrospect, and it is new information that can be used to re-assess pre-existing perceptions. Here is my recap of the draft:

1. Minnesota: Karl Towns

Timberwolves convert the layup and suddenly their future is not looking bad.

2. LA Lakers: D’Angelo Russell

The Lakers nail the most important decision of the draft. They could have bungled this pick by taking any of Okafor, Porzingis, or Mudiay, but they made the correct pick who was not obvious to everybody. These are the type of decisions that can alter a franchise’s future, so the Lakers are the big winners of the draft by getting this one right.

3. Philadelphia: Jahlil Okafor

The Lakers’ gain comes at the expense of the 76ers, who were set to draft D’Angelo Russell #3 overall. Instead they settle for Jahlil Okafor, who crowds their big man rotation and is an inferior prospect. Sam Hinkie is not building a team, he is assembling a portfolio of liquid assets and Okafor will maintain trade value if he scores efficiently as a rookie. I would have preferred to see Philly trade down for Winslow+, but it would have been difficult to execute for a substantial haul, and it is possible that Hinkie perceives Okafor as the superior prospect independent of trade value.

4. New York: Kristaps Porzingis
5. Orlando: Mario Hezonja

I don’t want to be too aggressively anti-Euros because I am not certain that neither of these guys are really good, but I feel like they are both big mistakes to take over Justise Winslow among a handful of other prospects. If I had to pick one to excel, it would be Hezonja. While Mario seems a bit overhyped to me, I cannot pinpoint anything that strongly caps his upside and it is fine to take him over any non-Winslow prospect. Porzingis has more disconcerting red flags, less upside, and more potential to look like a comically bad pick a few years down the road.

6. Sacramento: Willie Cauley-Stein

Even though I rated Cauley-Stein above Porzingis and Hezonja, this pick is arguably even worse. He is not a good pairing with DeMarcus Cousins, and if the pick was only made because Cousins is going to be traded that does not make the situation any rosier. Further it sounded like everybody was scared off by his ankle and he would have slid to the teens– if they are so locked in on him, why not trade down? Horrible pick by a horrible organization.

7. Denver: Emmanuel Mudiay
8. Detroit: Stanley Johnson

These picks were fine values in a vacuum, but it was nevertheless a mistake to pass on Winslow. Mudiay is the most defensible pick in the 4-9 range, it is possible my critique of this pick will look bad in the future. Stanley over Winslow is more clearly bad– Stanley is a better shooter but Winslow is better at everything else.

9. Charlotte: Frank Kaminsky

Michael Jordan allegedly turned down a massive haul of picks from Boston for this pick. It is amazing that after all of his awful draft picks that he hasn’t reduced his self-confidence in his talent evaluation skills. I wonder if it ever occurred to him that his draft picks consistently bust and that maybe this one is not all that special when he is getting offered way too much from a successful GM who wants somebody else. He should have taken Winslow before whatever Ainge offered, but doing neither and taking Kaminsky is laughable.

If the Pistons took Winslow, this pick would actually be pretty good. Since they instead took Stanley, the Frank pick was a big failure.

10. Miami: Justise Winslow

Miami wins the draft.

11. Indiana: Myles Turner

If Hibbert is on the way out, this is a great landing spot for Turner since Vogel has proven capable at maximizing the shot blocking ability of a center with mobility challenges. I still don’t love the pick, but I can see Turner succeeding in Indiana so I am now less bearish on him than I was pre-draft.

12. Utah: Trey Lyles

Lyles is a fine pick here. As a Jazz fan I would not be particularly excited nor disappointed.

13. Phoenix: Devin Booker

After making my favorite pick in the late lotto last year in TJ Warren, Ryan McDonough followed up with a pick that I don’t like as much. But even though I ranked him #22 on my big board I don’t hate the pick, I would have ranked Booker 6 slots higher before 2 slots lower. Just goes to show how much vastly reasonable minds can differ when the draft runs so deep and there are so many angles of information to examine.

14. Oklahoma City: Cameron Payne

Much like the Devin Booker pick, I have this as a reach by 9 slots according to my big board but I don’t necessarily hate it for OKC. I feel that it’s a slightly bad pick but Payne does have a uniquely appealing flavor to him, and I am more interested in seeing how he pans out than I am making confident projections of his future. I suspect he’s overvalued here but I am a fan and don’t want to root against him.

15. Washington (via ATL): Kelly Oubre

I had Oubre as the BPA and I do not believe he would have slid to 19, so I like the Wiz giving up two 2nds to move up for him. Good move, good pick.

16. Boston: Terry Rozier

Danny Ainge’s biggest draft strengths and weaknesses were on full display last night. When there is a slam dunk pick to be made, he makes it and he correctly tried to pay up to acquire Justise Winslow in a trade every pick from 4 to 9. But once Charlotte declined, Ainge showed his weakness of reaching for busts when no clear BPA exists (see: Marcus Banks, Fab Melo, JR Giddens, maybe James Young). I rated Rozier 50th on my big board, and in retrospect that is far too low given his athleticism and defense baseline to go along with a competent jump shot. He is 1″ shorter with 1″ longer wingspan than Avery Bradley, and it is well within reach for him to become a similar caliber player which is not a terrible outcome for the #16 overall pick.

Of course the point of the draft is not to avoid bad outcomes, it is to achieve great outcomes. The Celtics already have two young, undersized 3 + D SG’s and adding a third one who upgrades neither is of little value to a team that got swept in the first round. It’s clear that they are gambling on Brad Stevens being able to parlay Rozier’s great first step and work ethic into an effective NBA slasher. The value of Rozier as a prospect largely hinges on the value of his slashing upside, and there is a coherent argument to be made that he has enough to be an acceptable selection at #16 overall. I still believe it was a reach given how limited his PG skills and decision making are for a 21 year old, but a less egregious one than my initial big board would indicate.

17. Milwaukee: Rashad Vaughn

This pick is a bit of a reach and I do not particularly like it, but Vaughn is young and can score. I suppose the Bucks believe a likely inefficient chucker has more value on a team with great defense and horrible offense.

18. Houston: Sam Dekker

This pick is solid– Dekker was on the short list of best players available and he fits well as a smallish 4 next to Dwight.

19. New York (via ATL): Jerian Grant

It is hard to fathom how a FO that acquired 4/5 of a 60 win starting lineup with FA contracts all < $10M/year has blown consecutive mid-1st rounders so badly. After spewing the #15 pick on Adriean Payne last year, the Hawks one upped themselves this year by trading down to #19 and then shipping that for a player who is proven to be bad in Tim Hardaway Jr.

This is obviously nice for the Knicks since they clearly won the trade and then took a decent prospect in Grant. It slightly redeems the Porzingis pick.

20. Toronto: Delon Wright

One of the best FO’s in the draft takes one of my favorite sleepers in Delon to replace the recently dealt Greivis Vasquez. This is a nice pick, Masai Ujiri just vacuums free pennies and nickels with almost every move he makes.

21. Dallas: Justin Anderson

Nice pick by the Mavs as they scoop a solid 3 + D wing.

22. Chicago: Bobby Portis

Great pick by the Bulls, Fred Hoiberg can do damage building an offense around a Mirotic/Portis big man tandem that provides elite spacing.

23. Portland: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Portland eventually traded this pick to Brooklyn for #41 and Mason Plumlee, and Mason Plumlee is quite the vig to just move up from 41 to 23. But RHJ is also a great pick, so this might be the one time ever that Billy King overpaying to get what he wants works out favorably for him. Still I’m surprised that RHJ fell this low, perhaps I’m underrating how detrimental he will be on offense in the NBA but it’s great value regardless.

24. Minnesota: Tyus Jones

31 + 36 is not a cheap price for 24, but with so many promising young players on rookie deals the Wolves were in a position to overpay for a slider. I like the move and I like the pick.

I don’t like Cleveland’s side unless Cedi Osman is much better than I am giving him credit for. The Cavs likely wanted to save cap room to help keep their roster together, but Rakeem Christmas was never good until he was a 23 year old senior. Also Tyus Jones, Kevon Looney, and RJ Hunter were some nice options to pair with LeBron.

25. Memphis: Jarell Martin

After going analytics heavy last year with Jordan Adams and Jarnell Stokes, Memphis went with traditional scouting and physical tools with Jarell Martin this year. This is a bit of a reach.

26. San Antonio: Nikola Milutinov

The Spurs went international to preserve cap space for FA, and they took the player I singled out as best international available who was also in the mix for best not injured player available. I’m always happy to see the sharpest team agree with me.

27. LA Lakers: Larry Nance, Jr.

I like gambling on Nance this late. He is an explosive dunker who stuffs the statsheet and I have mentioned a couple of times that overachieving draft slot runs in the family with his dad having 2nd highest all time win shares among picks outside of the top 16.

28. Boston: RJ Hunter

The Celtics vaguely redeem the Rozier fiasco by taking the best healthy player available, but the night is still overall bad.

29. Brooklyn: Chris McCullough

Solid pick by one of the worst FO’s in the history of life.

30. Golden State: Kevon Looney

Looney’s stock plummeted due to news that he may need hip surgery, but there’s no way this is not awesome value for the Warriors. Great pick by the defending champs.

32. Houston: Montrezl Harrell

I find this pick surprising. Harrell cannot be paired with Dwight Howard, and he doesn’t make sense as a backup between his lack of size and Clint Capela’s presence. I also don’t think he was great value, but I suppose Daryl Morey disagrees and either thinks Harrell has a chance of learning to make 3’s or might have trade value down the road since he was the only projected 1st rounder available. It’s just a second rounder so I don’t want to criticize this pick too harshly, it mostly just stood out to me as unexpected.

40. Miami: Josh Richardson

Not only does Miami get the steal of the draft in Justise Winslow at 10, but they take my favorite 2nd round sleeper at #40 who I wrote about when he was in neither DX nor ESPN’s top 100.

46. Toronto: Norman Powell

Masai scoops another penny by picking my other favorite 2nd round sleepers as part of a haul for Greivis Vasquez that also included a lottery protected Clippers’ 1st rounder. Raptors had a strong night as they clearly won the Vasquez trade and got good value on both draft picks.

Overall

The draft really fell off a cliff in round 2 after Looney went off the board, there are such few players I feel inclined to comment on. But round 1 was loaded with talent, almost everybody drafted has a strong chance of becoming at least a useful rotation player. I had a tough time finding first round picks to aggressively doubt this year, so this could go down as one of the deepest first rounds of all time.

2015 Final Big Board

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Future Stars

1. Karl Towns

I have had Karl Towns as #1 all season long and now consensus is in full agreement. He has an elite combination of size, skill, and smarts and there is little to dislike about his profile. His biggest red flag is that his explosiveness and mobility are both average, so perhaps he never becomes an great NBA rim protector. But he has plenty of upside to be great on both sides of the ball, and high floor high ceiling two way centers are rarely regrettable choices at #1 overall.


2. D’Angelo Russell

Stat models love Russell, and Curry and Harden serve as two compelling upside examples. Russell is neither the level outlier shooter of Curry nor the level outlier slasher of Harden, but his overall skill package is outlier in its own rite and it is difficult to find a frightening negative comparison. Russell’s vision exceeds both of them and he was exceptional at making off the dribble 3’s for Ohio State. If his 3p% was heavily luck driven he could disappoint as a scorer, because he created and finished rim attempts for himself at an underwhelming rate. This is enough to rate him below Towns, but his studly skill package and statistical performance with decent enough physical tools offers plenty of upside to stomach the concern and take him 2nd.

3. Justise Winslow

I have written extensively about my affinity for Winslow. I moved him below Russell due to measuring 6’4.5″ without shoes and some reports of poor shooting in workouts, but his strong selling points all remain strong. He is much closer to #2 on my board than he is to #4.

Possible All-Stars

4. Jahlil Okafor

Okafor offers the super power of studly low post scoring as the foundation of his game, and with his elite strength, length, coordination to go with monster hands he projects to translate this to the NBA level. The downside is that he offers little other than low post scoring, with question marks regarding his defense, passing, and shooting. While he should be a productive NBA scorer, it will be a challenge to surround him with the correct combination of players to accentuate his strengths and mask his flaws. He faces the same challenges that prevent Greg Monroe from being an in demand asset in spite of being a highly productive player statistically, and for this I rate him clearly below each of my top 3 prospects. But his ceiling does extend higher than that of Monroe, and without another compelling prospect he slots in nicely at #4.

5. Emmanuel Mudiay

I offered thoughts on Mudiay on my last big board. The short version is that great tools to go with legitimate PG skills offer enough upside to place him in the top 5, but a broken shot, questionable basketball IQ, and a lack of proven production against noteworthy competition cast enough doubt to place him below Okafor even though Mudiay’s theoretical upside is more attractive.

6. Willie Cauley-Stein

Cauley-Stein offers the defensive super power of elite quickness and mobility in the body of a giant. He also has great anticipation skills that enabled him to rack up steals and blocks in college. He is strictly a garbage man on offense, but has good enough feel to not force the issue with a good assist:TOV rate for a center. His upside is something along the lines of Tyson Chandler.

7. Stanley Johnson
8. Kelly Oubre

I already wrote about Oubre and Stanley Johnson. I have cooled a bit on Oubre since he likely does not have the shake to become a stud slasher nor the basketball IQ to become a guaranteed stud defensive player a la Hollis-Jefferson, but there is still plenty to like there and I believe he is underrated nevertheless. Conversely I still have concerns about Johnson’s leaks, but the more important point is that he is young and has a multitude of notable strengths, thus I am ranking him a slot above Oubre.

9. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Hollis-Jefferson is in contention with Winslow for the most underrated player in the draft. He has a unique defensive package, as his physical tools are great across the board and he complements this by also playing hard and smart defensively. He is a lock to become a good defensive player in the pros and could has upside to be the best defensive wing in the league. The downside is that he is a near zero as a scorer, as he was a non-threat from 3 (8/39 in two NCAA seasons) and has little slashing ability. But he showed good passing ability with more assists than turnovers, and his 70% FT shooting offers a glimmer of hope for his shooting ability. The risk is that he becomes an offensive drag a la Michael Kidd-Gilchrist by providing no spacing or creation, but if his offensive skill set develops better than expected he will be a big time steal given his smarts, tools, and defense.

10. Frank Kaminsky

Kaminsky is perceived as a low upside pick as a 4 year unathletic white college big, but he is so skilled for his size and mobile enough that he has sneaky upside to become a fringe all-star. Even though Porzingis has better tools and youth, I would rather gamble on Kaminsky’s skill and feel.

11. Mario Hezonja
12. Kristaps Porzingis

The Euros are getting aggressively hyped due to their combination of athleticism and shooting, which always piques the interest of scouts. I am skeptical of both, as they each have significant leaks in their game. Hezonja has a bizarrely high turnover rate for somebody who almost never scores inside the arc and Porzingis has a terrible assist:TOV rate, a poor rebounding rate, and is barely competent as a long range shooter. They both have upside as well because tools and shooting are important, and I don’t want to be too aggressively bearish without having much expertise in European basketball. But I really like the top 10 American players, and Hezonja and Porzingis have flags that are concerning enough for me to place them just outside of the top 10.

Possible Starters

13. Kevon Looney

Stat models love Looney, but scouts are skeptical given his lack of athleticism and creation ability. He has potential to be a good complementary piece who fits into the PF slot in a wide range of lineups. He is not precisely the same, but I see his upside as a Paul Millsap type who does a wide range of things well enough to add up to a highly positive player.

14. Bobby Portis

Portis is in a similar mold to Looney. He is not as adored by stat models but he atones with a great motor and defensive IQ. He has the size to play as a small 5 and the mobility to play as a 4, and will fit in well with defenses that demand frequent switching. His versatility should make him a useful cog in any lineup he enters.

15. Trey Lyles

Trey Lyles projects to be more of a defensive liability than Looney or Portis, but he is the most skilled offensive player of the trio. He sometimes played SF for Kentucky’s roster of Monstars, and he was not in an ideal situation to accentuate his skill set having to share the paint with so many other bigs. He is a candidate to vastly outperform his NCAA stat projections as a pro, but I nevertheless favor Portis and Looney due to their defensive advantages.

16. Delon Wright

Between his age, athletic limitations, frail frame, and questionable 3 point shot there are plenty of reasons to doubt Delon Wright’s NBA upside. He quells these doubts with unique positive qualities– he has great height and length for a PG and his elite feel for the game enables him to post elite block, steal, and rebound rates. He also has enough shake to slither his way to the rim against set defenses, and his vision and basketball IQ has resulted in a great assist to turnover ratio. His 3p% is marred by his poor off the dribble shooting, but his 81.4% FT suggest that he can become an adequate spot up 3 point shooter in the NBA. If he does develop a 3 point shot to complement his PG skills and defense, he can become a highly useful NBA player. He is the type of funky, polarizing player that can surpass his perceived upside with subtle strengths that go underrated by traditional scouts. If he slides into the late 1st as projected he could be a big time steal.

17. Tyus Jones

Tyus Jones was a top 5 RSCI recruit, stat models love him, and he won NCAA tournament MOP as an 18 year old freshman, yet he is projected to go in the back end of round 1. His poor physical profile and limited slashing and defensive ability are the primary culprits for his lack of draft hype. In a league loaded with PG’s, it will be an uphill climb for Jones to become an above average starter. He doesn’t share Wright and Grant’s size to guard SG’s, and he will be leaning heavily on his vision, instincts, and shooting to develop into quality starter.

18. Justin Anderson

Justin Anderson has limited creation ability, but offers passing, defense, smarts, and decent enough shooting to be a solid 3 + D prospect. Similar to most prospects who have more value on the defensive side of the ball, Anderson is underrated.

19. Sam Dekker

Sam Dekker boasts a good combination of athleticism and especially size for a wing, which he used to convert a high % of his 2 point shots in Wisconsin’s well spaced offense, where he often created his own shot. His value as a pro largely hinges on his ability to translate his rim scoring to NBA defenses, as he is otherwise a non-descript prospect.

20. Myles Turner

Turner’s combination of size, shooting, and rim protection makes him inherently upsidey, but his upside is somewhat based on wishful thinking since his profile is otherwise laced with warts. He has a number of alarming craters in his stats between 2P%, assist rate, ORB%, and steal rate. It’s difficult to buy him as a stud defensive player since his awkward movement makes him a liability on pick and roll defense, and his offensive game hinges entirely on his ability to develop into a lethal shooter. If his shot becomes great and he can get off a high volume due to his reach while also being an adequate rim protector, he can be highly useful. But smooth movement and coordination is an important trait, and there are plenty of prospects in the draft that make for better gambles.

21. Jerian Grant

Grant offers PG skills in a body with great size for a PG and solid athleticism. He has an alarmingly low rebound rate and his age somewhat limits his upside, but he offers versatility as a rotation guard that can pair with a wide range of back court mates. Even though I rate him slightly below consensus entering the draft I am fond of Grant as a prospect, I only rate him this low because this draft is loaded with depth and there are not enough overrated players at the top for me to drop behind him.

22. Devin Booker

Booker is a 3 point specialist that could become anything on a scale of Anthony Morrow to Kyle Korver. He is young and showed great shooting touch for Kentucky, good basketball IQ, and has adequate tools to become a passable NBA defensive player. The concerns are that his rebound, steal, and block rates were all exceptionally weak, and this is a better indication of defensive mettle than the agility drills that he crushed at the combine. Further there is no guarantee he either learns to move without the ball or shoot as well as Korver. He is comfortably overdrafted if he goes in the lottery as projected, but he can nevertheless pay solid dividends for a back end lotto pick if he does hit upside.

23. Cameron Payne

Entering this season I had Payne in my back pocket as my super secret sleeper, and then I never got around to writing about him and now everybody rates him higher than me. His game is aesthetically pleasing to watch, mostly because he has a distinct way of floating the ball to his target whether it be scoring on floaters or floating passes to open shooters. This gives him a unique skill to overachieve his perceived upside, but he does not have great upside as either a slasher or defensive player given his lackluster explosiveness. Ultimately his limitations outweigh his floaty appeal, which is why I would not take him over any of Delon Wright, Jerian Grant, or Tyus Jones.

24. Christian Wood

He’s an exceptionally young sophomore who offers athleticism, shot blocking, rebounding, and fringey long distance shooting. If he can develop an NBA 3 point shot, he can highly over perform his draft slot as a shot blocking stretch 4.  But the challenge of armchair draft analysis is that when Christian Wood’s stock freefalls due to interviews and workouts at the combine, I cannot assess whether teams are being overreactive or not. But he has been slightly underrated all the way through the draft process, and people are inherently overreactive to recent information. So I’m just going to stash him here at #24 and hope for the best.

25. RJ Hunter

Hunter is a perfectly decent 3 + D prospect, but nothing stands out about him to place him above the other top 25 guys in this loaded class.

Everybody Else

26. Rashad Vaughn
27. Chris McCullough
28. Nikola Milutinov
29. Cliff Alexander
30. Josh Richardson
31. Robert Upshaw
32. Larry Nance Jr.
33. Norman Powell
34. Jarell Martin
35. Dakari Johnson
36. Montrezl Harrell
37. Richaun Holmes
38. Jordan Mickey
39. Olivier Hanlan
40. Michael Qualls
41. Anthony Brown
42. Vince Hunter
43. Michael Frazier
44. Pat Connaughton
45. JP Tokoto
46. Dez Wells
47. Branden Dawson
48. Cedi Osman
49. Mouhammadou Jaiteh
50. Terry Rozier

Outside Hezonja and Porzingis, Nikola Milutinov stands out as the most compelling international prospect. His profile offers at least a little bit of everything except shot blocking, and it nevertheless sounds like he can be a solid defensive big man. Everybody else strikes me as underwhelming at a cursory glance. It is just a cursory glance so it is possible that I am overlooking a future useful NBA’er, but Milutinov is the only one who piqued my interest.

Fun fact: Larry Nance Sr. has the second highest career win shares among players drafted outside of the top 16, narrowly behind Terry Porter. Larry Nance Jr. now has a chance to prove that getting underrated in the draft runs in the family– he is an explosive dunker that carried Wyoming’s defense. He spent this season coming off an ACL tear and his team punted offensive rebounds, so his senior statistics underrate him. He is a great second round gamble.

Louisville boasts two of the most overrated prospects in the draft. Montrezl Harrell is an explosive athlete who is a hard worker, but his game encompasses little other than dunks. Terry Rozier is PG sized but lacks PG vision, a good outside shot, and the ability to slash through a set defense. He can be a pest on defense, but really needs to develop his offensive skills to be useful as the smallest player on the court in the NBA.

The springy dunker in a PF body to invest in this class before Harrell is Cliff Alexander. It was ridiculous when he was touted as a possible top 3 pick pre-season, but his freshman year was perfectly decent and he’s a hyper athletic #2 RSCI recruit. He offers better shot blocking, rebounding, and free throw shooting than Harrell, and it is puzzling why he is rated so much lower.

Josh Richardson and Norman Powell are my underrated defensive minded athletes in round 2, with Powell having the bonus of being a good slasher. Dez Wells and Olivier Hanlan are my Jordan Clarkson slashing candidates.

Billy Donovan: NBA Coaching Prospect

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With recent news that the Thunder have focused their search on Florida coach Billy Donovan, it is worth reviewing his NCAA performance to assess his upside as an NBA coach.

Donovan peaked when his Gators won back to back championships in 2006 and 2007 with the elite core of Joakim Noah, Al Horford, and Corey Brewer. Of course any coach would excel with that trio staying until their junior seasons, so it is more interesting to assess how he fared following their departure:

Season final kenpom rank Recruiting class rank
2015 45 13
2014 3 6
2013 2 24
2012 11 24
2011 16 9
2010 48 20
2009 42 2
2008 44 3

It is fair to expect a bit of a down year following a max exodus of talent, but given the quality of talent he brought in with perennial top 25 recruiting classes four seasons outside of the top 40 is rather alarming.

His loaded 07-08 recruiting class included current NBA players Nick Calathes and Chandler Parsons and he also returned sophomore Marreese Speights. Succeeding with youth can be difficult, but it is not like he was working with a bunch of talentless duds. Meanwhile, Florida failed to reach the NCAA tournament with three future NBA players.

The following season Florida lost Speights to the NBA but returned Calathes and Parsons for their sophomore seasons (along with #53 RSCI player Alex Tyus from the same class) and with another loaded recruiting class still missed the tournament.

In 2009-10 Florida finally returned to the tournament as a 10 seed in spite of Calathes departing for Europe, but still could not crack the top 40. It was not until Parsons’s senior season that Florida finally returned to the top 25 making an Elite 8 run before losing to Brad Stevens’s Butler squad.

The whole Parsons era looks bad for Donovan’s record– in four full seasons with the player and plenty of access to other elite talent Florida only cracked the top 40 once and never made the top 15. While the #16 team that went Elite 8 may seem like it saves some face, that team was loaded with experienced talent. The starting lineup:

Player RSCI rank Season PER WS/40
Vernon Macklin 16 Senior 22.2 0.16
Erving Walker 79 Junior 20 0.177
Chandler Parsons 39 Senior 19.7 0.163
Alex Tyus 53 Senior 18.7 0.145
Kenny Boynton 9 Sophomore 17.5 0.155

This is the type of talent that a good coach should be able to convert into a top 5 contender. Forget that Parsons is the only NBA player on the roster– in spite of being a senior he completely blends in with the rest of the starters statistically. Not only did Donovan underwhelm with a collection of upperclass 4 and 5 star talent, but he also failed to maximize Parsons’s talent. His value as a second round steal was evident from his rookie season where he finished 9th in ROY voting and 5th in rookie win shares. It is not difficult to envision a superior coach making Parsons an obvious first round selection after four seasons.

The counterpoint this is that coaches improve, and the Gators certainly took a leap forward after Parsons’ departure. In 11-12, Florida replaced their three departing senior starters with freshman Bradley Beal, sophomore Patric Young, and junior Erik Murphy and finished 11th and once again lost in the Elite 8, this time to Louisville.

The appealing part of Donovan’s post-repeat resume comes in the 12-13 and 13-14 seasons, as Florida finished with back to back top 3 kenpom teams without a single NBA draft pick on the roster. He did it with defense: After ranking 123rd, 113th, 91st, 41st, and 90th in schedule adjusted defensive rating in the prior five seasons, Florida leapt forward to the 4th and 2nd defenses. They did this with a middling block rate as well, as the defense delivered a strong balance of forcing opponents into difficult mid-range shots, forcing turnovers, rebounding, and limiting free throw attempts.

The timing of the spike in defense is no coincidence either, as it coincided with Donovan becoming analytically enlightened and placing an increased emphasis on defense. That said, the article does not cite any example of Donovan using analytics to improve the defense. It only states that analytics were employed to bring Donovan to the obvious realization that defense is important, so there is little evidence to suggest that he developed into a defensive mastermind. If anything the writeup implies that Donovan takes an overwhelmingly simple minded approach to analytics, focusing on the result rather than the process.

The common link to the great defensive teams was the elite 2014 graduating class of Patric Young, Will Yeguette, Casey Prather, and Scottie Wilbekin. While none of them were noteworthy NBA prospects by the time they graduated (Young had lottery hype as a sophomore), they were all high quality NCAA players who made strong contributions on both ends of the floor.

Give Donovan credit for maximizing returns on the talent of his class of unheralded college stars, but he was unable to sustain any of their success once they left. This was not for lack of talent either. In 2014-15, Florida was ranked 7th in both the AP and coaches pre-season polls, projected to finish 7th by kenpom and team rankings projection models and 6th by Dan Hanner’s model. The team suffered their share of bad luck, especially with injuries. #31 RSCI freshman Brandone Francis missed the entire season due to academic ineligibility, rotation guard Eli Carter missed 5 games, and Florida’s two best players Michael Frazier and Dorian Finney-Smith missed 7 and 5 games respectively. But injuries were not all that went wrong: 5 star sophomores Chris Walker and Kasey Hill both had vastly disappointing seasons. Hill regressed statistically from his freshman season and Walker fell from a possible lottery pick to likely undrafted after finally getting consistent playing time. Further neither #20 RSCI freshman Devin Robinson, #49 freshman Chris Chiozza, or Duke transfer Alex Murphy were able to play well enough to atone for their deficiencies.

Donovan’s newfound defensive obsession enabled the Gators to maintain the #11 kenpom defense, but their offense plunged to #151 after ranking #12 and #18 in the prior two seasons. This supports the narrative that Donovan merely gives most of his attention to defense rather than having concocted a strong defensive scheme. There is no reason for the offense to be so woefully bad other than punting on that end to meet arbitrary defensive benchmarks that Donovan deems necessary to contend. A good coach should aim to balance both ends for the optimal bottom line, not go all in on one side of the ball no matter the cost to the other.

Florida had the depth and talent to sustain a bit of injury misfortune and still have a top 25 team, but they finished as the #45 kenpom team and missed the tournament with a below .500 record. It is as if the Parsons era was starting to repeat itself all over again– Donovan gets acclaim for thriving off an exceptional class and then fails to maximize his incoming talent and disappoints. This is why he is a middle of the road NCAA coach: when he has the right collection of players he can thrive, but he is also prone to big disappointment in other scenarios where it is easy to envision a great coach excelling.

It is somewhat baffling that any NBA team is interested in Donovan after his most recent season, let alone the team with the best collection of young talent in the league. Dipping into NCAA ranks for a coach with elite recruiting pedigree and average coaching acumen is a tried and true formula for NBA coaching failure, and there is no reason to expect Donovan to buck the trend. This is especially true with the recent influx of strong NBA coaches, as the bar for good NBA coaching gets higher every season. While there are some legitimately good NBA coaching prospects in the NCAA (namely Fred Holberg), Donovan does not even sniff the radar as a coach with upside. Perhaps he can learn to use analytics to a more useful degree and avoid being a colossal failure, especially with a lackluster predecessor in Scott Brooks. But there is no way that of all of the coaching candidates in the basketball world, he is the candidate most likely to succeed at one of the most desirable NBA coaching jobs.

Which 2015 Prospects Get To The Rim The Most

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After my 2014 iteration appears to have shown some level of predictive power at the tails, it is worth examining which guards and wings have created their own shot at the rim the best. Using hoop-math.com’s splits, I take unassisted rim FG in the half-court minus putbacks to approximate who had the most frequent success of slashing through a set defense and finishing. This could also include post-ups and the splits are at the whim of NCAA play by play keepers, so this should not be treated as gospel. But it is an interesting perspective that can illuminate why an otherwise weak prospect like Jordan Clarkson might have value to NBA teams. I am splitting up the sample into point guards and wings since I found last season that point guards tend to get to the rim more often since they have greater ball handling responsibility.

Point Guards:

Player UA Rim FG Minutes UARF/40
Olivier Hanlan 47 1204 1.56
Delon Wright 43 1165 1.48
Kris Dunn 39 1123 1.39
Yogi Ferrell 40 1186 1.35
Cam Payne Fresh 37 1111 1.33
Jerian Grant 45 1408 1.28
Tyrone Wallace 30 1152 1.04
D’Angelo Russell 25 1188 0.84
Briante Weber 11 529 0.83
Cam Payne Soph 23 1127 0.82
TJ McConnell 23 1158 0.79
Terry Rozier 22 1260 0.70
Tyus Jones 23 1322 0.70
Andrew Harrison 15 994 0.60
Shannon Scott 11 1068 0.41

Olivier Hanlan leads the pack, and this might be a hint that he is worth a mid-late 2nd round flier.

Delon Wright is the real winner of this analysis in my mind. Not that his grade is exceptional, but I perceived him as a player who would struggle to create against superior defenses since he is neither a high usage scorer nor is he a great athlete. But this suggests he has more slither than I had credited him for in my mind, and with his length, sharp instincts, and stellar NCAA production he may be the hidden gem of the draft.

Kris Dunn and Jerian Grant are right around where I expected them to be. If anything I am slightly disappointed that neither showed much more slashing potential than expected.

I showed Cameron Payne’s freshman and sophomore split to display how wonky a single season sample can be. Payne actually showed large upticks in his two point volume and efficiency from freshman to sophomore season, yet fell off a cliff with respect to this specific split. Perhaps the Murray State play by play keeper became much more stingier with the definition of a rim attempt, as Murray State went from 42% rim, 22.6% mid-range splits to 34.9% rim, 31.4% mid-range splits with almost entirely the same roster. Payne does throw up a bunch of short range floaters so it would stand to reason that he would have a number of FG’s on the border between rim and non-rim attempts. Either way this is a bit of a red flag, he is a sophomore playing in the Ohio Valley Conference and probably will not be a lock down defensive player in the pros. And even if he gets to the rim in the NBA, he may not have the size or athleticism to consistently finish. This is a friendly reminder to not get too carried away with the mid-major sweetheart as draft sleeper.

D’Angelo Russell’s split is a big disappointment, and the only major red flag in his draft profile. He is only a freshman, and he does appear to have the handle and shake to become a decent slasher in the NBA. But perhaps this is a sign that his lack of burst outweighs his shifty ways, and that he will struggle to create rim attempts the same way that James Harden does. Harden overcomes his lack of burst with an elite euro-step, and if Russell is only decent at stepping through the defense he may be a big disappointment. Perhaps this stat is a fluke, or maybe Russell overcomes it as he adds bulk and continues to polish his skill set. He still does have a stellar skill package and this is not necessarily reason to disregard that. But it explains his shaky splits vs. good competition and it prevents him from being a guaranteed stud like Karl Towns and Justise Winslow.

Tyus Jones also has a disappointing split. He is a freshman projected to go in the mid-late 1st round, so this is not quite cause to firesale his draft equity. But it is worth pondering what his edge will be over the other talented PG’s in the NBA as a small jump shooting PG.

Terry Rozier’s splits show why I do not perceive him to be much of a prospect. He is 6’2″, just turned 21, and is below average at slashing, passing, and shooting. At best he is a late 2nd round pick.

Andrew Harrison is not an NBA caliber basketball player. Not much new to see here. He would be a waste of a draft pick.

Wings:

Player UA Rim FG Minutes UARF/40
Norman Powell 55 1244 1.77
Dez Wells 31 853 1.45
Sam Dekker 44 1239 1.42
Rashad Vaughn 22 742 1.19
Tyler Harvey 33 1182 1.12
Wesley Saunders 28 1032 1.09
Justise Winslow 30 1135 1.06
Justin Anderson 17 724 0.94
Buddy Hield 22 1135 0.78
Michael Qualls 21 1086 0.77
Caris LeVert 12 645 0.74
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson 19 1090 0.70
Anthony Brown 23 1320 0.70
Josh Richardson 19 1162 0.65
RJ Hunter 21 1294 0.65
Jarell Martin 17 1159 0.59
Stanley Johnson 13 1081 0.48
Aaron Harrison 12 1004 0.48
Kelly Oubre 7 756 0.37
JP Tokoto 8 1106 0.29
Devin Booker 4 816 0.20

Norman Powell and Dez Wells stand out as possible round 2 sleepers as both are toolsy wings who may be solid roleplayers with some 3 point shooting upticks. Powell is especially intriguing as he is a great athlete who measured to have a monster 6’11” wingspan 5 years ago.

I called Sam Dekker a boring prospect, but this is one area where he stands out. He has the athleticism and handle to get to the rim, and the size to finish over anybody. I am warming up to him after seeing him beat Willie Cauley-Stein off the dribble and finish over him, which is something that happens approximately never.

Rashad Vaughn continues to strengthen my belief that he is an underrated one and done due to playing for arguably the worst NCAA coach in Dave Rice. He can probably get buckets at the NBA level, and it’s only a matter of gambling on his BBIQ and feel developing into a complete player. The latter is not likely to come to fruition, but in the late 1st it is worth a shot.

Justise Winslow grades out extremely well for a freshman SF who was alleged to lack creation skills. His explosiveness paired with a nice euro-step gives him sneaky upside as a slasher, especially if he continues to polish his handle and finishing ability. His draft profile is completely loaded with green flags, and he is at worst my #2 prospect in the draft behind Karl Towns.

Stanley Johnson does not assuage my creation concerns for him with his score, as some of his buckets could even be from post-ups. But Kelly Oubre ranks even worse, which throws cold water on my affinity for him as a sleeper, even though I knew that he does not have much shake in his game.

Devin Booker did not get much ball handling responsibility sharing the floor with the Harrisons and Tyler Ulis, but this is a red flag nevertheless. He has solid 2p% statistics but it is not because of his ability to create for himself. Without athleticism, length, defense, rebounding, or creation I simply do not see how he is worth a look in the lottery.

Updating My Prospect Perception

I posted my reactions to 2014 draft rookie seasons, and if there is one point to be gleaned: I underrated athleticism. The players that I overrated are all non-leapers and the players the I regret bashing the most (Wiggins and LaVine) are the top two athletes in the draft. Rodney Hood is not an exceptional athlete, but among the players that I graded as bad defensive prospects (McDermott, Napier, Hood, Stauskas) he comfortably has the best first step and delivered comfortably the best offensive performance as a rookie.

I had an inkling that athleticism was overrated since I am a habitual fader of hype, and athleticism seems to correlate with hype. But there are plenty of non-athlete prospects that were overhyped, and after witnessing my predictions in motion I believe athleticism might actually be underrated.

The other issue is that I was far too wary of statistical performances in my rankings. Sometimes NCAA statistics will call to attention relevant details that receive too little attention from scouts and GM’s, such as Adreian Payne’s age and poor feel for the game. But they often reflect success that does not directly translate to the NBA, and paying it too much regard led me down the wrong path a handful of times. While statistics are a helpful tabulation that should always price in, it is impossible to form efficient draft rankings without the aid of physical profiles and the eye test.

If I wanted to have more efficient rankings, I could have taken fewer risks and shaded my disagreements a bit moreso toward consensus. But I am a habitual upstream swimmer and it helped illuminate the flaws in my thought processes to really go out on limbs, so I gambled away. Ultimately it resulted in a messier final big board than necessary, but this was also an inevitable result of experimenting with a wide range of ideas that were not all good.

On the positive side of the equation, my idea to track who creates their own half-court buckets at the rim appears to be a possibly relevant one. The players who excelled all appear to be great draft values: Elfrid Payton, TJ Warren, and Jordan Clarkson. Austin Rivers is there as a friendly reminder that you need to do things other than slash to the rim to become a good NBA’er. Conversely the players who ranked horribly tend to be busts: Cleanthony Early, Shabazz Napier, CJ Wilcox, Kyle Anderson, and Gary Harris stand out. Zach LaVine is a player who might buck the trend due to his inexperience and lack of ball handling duties, and Marcus Smart may not be a bust but it certainly is not because of his slashing ability displayed as a rookie.

My first writeup was entitled “The Draft Starts With Defense” and it is not the worst motto. After parsing through my defensive cliff notes, there appears to be a correlation between defensive aptitude and value with respect to draft slot.

Because I am addicted to making lists, this is what my pre-draft rankings should have been strictly based on pre-draft information. There may be a hint of hindsight bias involved, but it’s not like this ranking counts for anything anyway. I am leaving out Bruno Caboclo because there is no way I could have accurately assessed him without knowing he existed:

1. Joel Embiid

2. Aaron Gordon
3. Andrew Wiggins
4. Marcus Smart
5. Dante Exum

6. TJ Warren
7. Elfrid Payton
8. Jabari Parker
9. Jusuf Nurkic
10. Clint Capela

11. Noah Vonleh
12. Mitch McGary
13. Damien Inglis
14. KJ McDaniels
15. Tyler Ennis
16. Spencer Dinwiddie
17. Dario Saric
18. James Young
19. Nikola Jokic
20. Jarnell Stokes
21. Julius Randle
22. Zach LaVine
23. Kyle Anderson
24. Nik Stauskas
25. Jordan Adams
26. Vasilije Micic
27. Bogdan Bogdanovic
28. Gary Harris
29. PJ Hairston
30. Jerami Grant
31. Walter Taveras
32. Adreian Payne
33. Rodney Hood
34. Doug McDermott
35. Jordan Clarkson
36. Glenn Robinson
37. Dwight Powell
38. Semaj Christon
39. Alec Brown
40. Nick Johnson

2014 Draft Class Rookie Year Review

Now that we have a full season of new information for the 2014 draft class, it is time to update my beliefs. It will still be a while before we have a clear image of who should have been picked where, but the new information is also not trivial so I can offer some tentative self assessments with draft slot, my final big board rank, and my post summer league rank.

Players I overrated:

Dante Exum: Drafted: #5, Final Big: #2, Post-SL: #4
Nik Stauskas: Drafted #8, Final Big: #14, Post-SL: #15
Tyler Ennis: Drafted: #18, Final Big: #9, Post-SL: #16
Kyle Anderson: Drafted: #30, Final Big: #15, Post-SL: #19

Interestingly I cannot find many players that I badly overrated. Part of this is that it remains to be seen whether my optimism for players such as KJ McDaniels, Jarnell Stokes, and the entire international class was warranted. So for now these prospects are the focal point.

By far the biggest surprise among players I liked was Dante Exum, and I was even prepared to be surprised for him. While he gets some slack for being young and having a steep rise in competition, it is difficult to envision him becoming a star after his rookie season. To some extent it is acceptable to say he was a worthwhile gamble that did not pay off as hoped and move on. But it is worth noting 2 key details that could have received more attention pre-draft

1) My motto is that upside is all that matters in the draft, and it is worth stomaching downside to get a healthy slice of it. But without the proven competence against NCAA competition, a mystery box like Exum loses a chunk of upside since he is less likely to hit his theoretical upper bound than the players who passed that check point.

2) Exum has awesome size and quickness, but his lack of burst did not receive much attention. It seemed that it would be outweighed by his good tools, but his disappointment suggests that explosiveness is particularly important for any high usage slasher.

Tyler Ennis can still go on to have a perfectly decent career, but I only rated him highly because his statistical splits piqued my interest. He never stood out when I watched him play, so this is a simple error of getting too intrigued by a statistical trend that I could not directly explain.

Kyle Anderson had great stats and skill, but moving in slow motion on top of having a questionable work ethic appears to be a problem for him. I do not feel I badly overrated him, but I should have docked him more for being historically unathletic.

Nik Stauskas I correctly pegged as having bad tools and being a guaranteed bad defensive player, but he had qualities I subtly liked enough to not drop him significantly below consensus. I should have ranked him slightly lower because his sophomore year was not offensively dominant enough to brush off his physical and defensive shortcomings.

Players I underrated:
Andrew Wiggins: Drafted: #1, Final Big: #7, Post-SL: #6
Zach LaVine: Drafted #13, Final Big: #35, Post-SL: #10
TJ Warren: Drafted #14, Final Big: #28, Post-SL: #3
Mitch McGary: Drafted #21, Final Big: #25, Post-SL: #9
Rodney Hood: Drafted #23, Final Big: #57, Post-SL: #36
Jordan Clarkson: Drafted: #46, Final Big: #52, Post-SL: NR

Andrew Wiggins has surprised me in a few regards: he fixed the rim finishing woes in a hurry, and he seems to have become less passive as he went from never dunking in the half-court to routinely trying to dunk on giant rim protectors such as Omer Asik and Rudy Gobert. There were a number of subtleties I disliked about him, but it appears that I underweighted his super athleticism. I am not convinced that he is a future star, and I still believe it was insane to take him ahead of Embiid but I should have been less bearish on him.

Zach LaVine is still a bit of a mystery box after finishing his rookie season with negative win shares, but he showed enough potential such that I should have rated him as a 1st rounder.

TJ Warren and Mitch McGary were simple cases of weirdos that I failed to scout and then immediately regretted it as soon as I watched them in summer league. They are going to put big dents in the quality of my final big board, but it merely goes to show that weirdos need to be scouted to be evaluated accurately.

Rodney Hood I am not sure why I dropped all the way to 57th, as I noted that he had potential to be solid offensively in spite of his woeful defense. His post-SL ranking of #36 seems much more reasonable. I could have given his good first step more attention as it has aided his translation to the NBA.

Jordan Clarkson makes a strong case for scoring at the rim unassisted in the half-court being a relevant split as it was his only unique feature.

Players I (hopefully) rated approximately correctly:
Aaron Gordon: Drafted: #4, Final Big: #4, Post-SL: #5
Marcus Smart: Drafted: #6, Final Big: #3, Post-SL: #3
Doug McDermott: Drafted: #11, Final Big: #34, Post-SL: #32
Adreian Payne: Drafted: #15, Final Big: #32, Post-SL: #33
Jusuf Nurkic: Drafted: #16, Final Big: #5, Post-SL: #8
Gary Harris: Drafted: #19, Final Big: #24, Post-SL: #23
Shabazz Napier: Drafted: #24, Final Big: #37, Post-SL: NR
Clint Capela: Drafted #25, Final Big: #6, Post-SL: #14

Aaron Gordon is so young and funky that it is hard to say exactly what he will become as a pro. But he showed enough promise as a rookie to make me feel good about altering my opinion from bearish to bullish.

Marcus Smart has been a disappointment as a slasher, but he has atoned by shooting better than expected from 3 with more spot ups and fewer off the dribble attempts and having sharp passing vision. And as I repeatedly mentioned, he is a stud on defense. He may never become much of a scorer, but he is going to be an awesome role player.

Doug McDermott is the first prospect I wrote about on this blog, and it was for good reason. He never belonged anywhere near the lottery, and after his rookie season I would say that I nailed my analysis of him.

Adreian Payne was a prospect that sounded sweet on paper but was loathed by every statistical model in the world. It was a surprise to see one of the better organizations draft him so early, but it appears that stat nerds have won this debate.

Jusuf Nurkic disappointed a big down the stretch of his rookie season, but overall showed enough promise to verify that he was a top 10 prospect in the draft.

I could have ranked Gary Harris a bit lower, as he seemed to have lots of downside and little upside. But I feel that this is one of my more perceptive positions, as this was a rare case where statistical models and scouts agreed but I did not.

Shabazz Napier was free money to fade. Poor Miami drafted him to impress LeBron and LeBron left them anyway.

There is no evidence to justify my bullishness for Clint Capela yet, but I am merely reinforcing my opinion. This seems like a case where the behind the scenes information caused him to slip, but the fact of the matter is that he was toolsy and productive and the behind the scenes info was likely noise clouding the signal. I look forward to seeing what he can accomplish in a real role next season.

Post-Hoop Summit Freshman Rankings

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After seeing the top 2015 NCAA recruits in their only real game prior to the NCAA season, we finally have a taste for what they have to offer. So it is time for me to publish a way too early 2016 NCAA freshman prospect ranking. Note that this list omits the top recruits that were not in the game such as Diamond Stone and Henry Ellenson, as well as returning upperclassmen and internationals.

#1 Overall Contenders
1. Ben Simmons
Before the game, I was skeptical of Simmons living up to his #1 RSCI hype because of his age and unconventional mold. But after seeing him in action, he won me over as the top prospect in the class. He has uniquely good ball handling and passing skills for a forward and with the size to defend PF’s and quicks to defend SF’s, he offers excellent defensive versatility. This is a trait that projects to become coveted in the near future as defenses that switch relentlessly gain popularity.

He displayed sharp instincts on both ends with his passing vision and anticipation to jump in passing lanes for steals. His only noteworthy warts are his length (6’11) (which is not much to fuss over since he is 6’10” with elite PG skills and quicks) and his lackluster outside shot. Since I am a habitual buyer of prospects who provide everything but shooting, I am happy to roll with Simmons as my early #1 prospect in the class. He reminds me of Lamar Odom with better intangibles.

2. Skal Labissiere
The other consensus contestant for #1 also lived up to the hype, as he displayed great shooting touch from mid-range for an athletic 7 footer and also blocked 6 shots. I rank him below Simmons because he is 4 months older and his underwhelming 7’1.5″ wingspan directly detracts from his strengths of rim protection and shot making. He nevertheless has the necessary height and athleticism to become a good 2 way NBA big man, and is a strong candidate for #1 overall as rim protection and shooting are always a coveted combination of traits.

3. Brandon Ingram
It remains to be seen whether Ingram is actually good at basketball, but he showed enough promise at the Hoop Summit to maintain my interest. Ingram displayed solid feel to avoid mistakes, as he scored 12 points on 5/6 FG’s with 1 assist and 0 TOV’s. He also made some disruptive plays with his length defensively, as he was credited with 1 steal and 1 block and arguably deserved credit for a 2nd steal that went to Isaiah Briscoe.

The tantalizing aspect of Ingram is that he is a rare prospect in the Kevin Durant mold of tall (6.9.5″), lengthy (7’3″), and elite at shooting (42% 3’s 79% FT’s as HS senior). Given that he doesn’t turn 18 until September and is 13.5 months younger than Simmons and 17.5 months younger than Labissiere, he still has time to catch up to Durant’s pre-draft measurements of 6’10.25″ and 7’4.75″. Of course there is more to Durant than being exceptionally lanky and good at shooting, but having go go gadget arms to get off efficient shot attempts at will as well as make plays on D offers unique upside that is missing from other prospects in this class. Ingram appears to have much better feel for the game than Bruno Caboclo, and he can easily prove to be the best prospect in the class after a full NCAA season.

I do not see any clear reason why Ingram is significantly behind Labissiere or Simmons other than him being a late bloomer due to his young age. I believe he has a similar amount of #1 overall equity as the two consensus favorites, and this is more or less a 3 horse race for the top slot.

4. Cheick Diallo
Diallo falls into the dreaded category of 6’9″ player with center skill, but I am nevertheless enamored with him. Between the Hoop Summit and McDonald’s game, Diallo has now posted 30 points, 16 rebounds, 4 blocks, 4 assists, and 1 turnover in 33 minutes. The McDonald’s game is not to be taken seriously as it is more of an all-star showcase than serious basketball, but the man appears to have a knack for stuffing the statsheet. His excellent motor, length (7’4″), and timing enable him to rack up blocks and rebounds, and he has been a putback monster in the two games.

Diallo’s most impressive superpower comes from his beautifully fluid footwork as he is able to race to the rim with impeccable coordination. This reminisces of the smoothness displayed by Joel Embiid, which is a scarce quality in big man prospects. Diallo lacks the height and skill that makes Embiid such a stellar prospect, and this places a damper on his home run upside. But his skill level is not necessarily bad– he appears to be a solid passer for a big man and with his fluidity perhaps he will outperform his projected skill level as a freshman. His oddball mold limits his #1 overall equity, but I envision him dominating NCAA basketball and having myself and statistical models consistently rate him above his perception among scouts.

5. Jaylen Brown
Brown has the physical tools to become a prototypical two way NBA wing, but his disappointing Hoop Summit made it clear that his basketball playing ability and feel are lagging behind his physical gifts. He still has a year to turn things around and prove that he belongs in the #1 conversation, but this could be an early warning sign that he is a bust. He has a wide range of possible rankings at the end his freshman season.

Lotto One and Dones
6. Zhou Qi
Even though he will not be an NCAA freshman, Qi is one of the more fascinating prospects in the game. Qi’s features are that he is 7’2″ with a 7’6.5″ wingspan and is a decent shooter. Reach and shooting are an awesome tool/skill pairing that creates a nice upside, but Qi still needs to improve his 3 point shot to truly capitalize. In the game he did little to stand out in his 12 minutes and somewhat resembled Myles Turner stretched 2 inches upward. But in fairness he did not get much of a chance to show off his offensive skill set, and based on his DX scouting report he has more offensive skill and polish than Turner. I buy that he has plenty of upside, but he will remain a mystery box come draft time with only a Chinese League sample.

7. Stephen Zimmerman
Zimmerman played like a solidly well rounded 7 foot prospect in the Hoop Summit. He has decent length (7’3″), mobility, and athleticism and used his tools to play well defensively. He was disruptive with 2 steals and 2 blocks and also played solid post defense. He also showed a bit of offensive skill as he hit a couple of mid-range jumpers and also beat Labissiere off the dribble and finished over him. Zimmerman does not have any overwhelming strength, but he also lacks glaring weaknesses and his strengths could add up to a strong player.

8. Malik Newman
I entered the Hoop Summit as a Newman bear, as any Monta Ellis shaped chucker is going to pique my short selling interest. But he only played 17 minutes and did little to either win me over or fuel my desire to smash the sell button. He scored 10 points on 4/8 FG and did not display an appalling level of shot selection. Even though he finished with 0 assists, he had an awesome floating pass to Ivan Rabb in transition that Rabb could not finish. Monta Ellis is not a good NBA player, but he has also not been bad playing for Rick Carlisle. If Newman is a more athletic and better shooting version, he can be pretty good. I will wait for a significant sample of NCAA play before I take a position on Newman.

9. Jamal Murray
While Murray is technically a member of the 2016 recruiting class, he is considering reclassifying to 2015 and after his MVP performance in the Hoop Summit I do not see why he would not. He was ranked #16 Rivals and #27 Scout due to largely pedestrian tools as he is 6’5″ with 6’7″ length and average athleticism. But he blew away expectations by flashing shades of D’Angelo Russell en route to his 30 point, 5 assist performance. Much of his production was accrued from jumpshots and transition, so it should come with a grain of salt. But it also cannot be dismissed as sheer variance. Murray showed excellent skill and feel as well as better than advertised athleticism, and his performance could be an early warning sign that he was criminally underrated entering the game.

10. Ivan Rabb
Rabb falls into the same PF/C category as Cheick Diallo, as he is a bit undersized for a center (6’9.75″ w/ 7’2″ wing 215 lbs) and has a questionable skill level for a PF. His powers are that he is smooth and explosive with nice touch around the rim. Unfortunately he only played 8 minutes in the Hoop Summit, and he was one of the players I most looked forward to watching. I remain cautiously optimistic for him for no real reason, his NCAA sample could shift him in either direction.

Late 1sts/Players Who Will Spend > 1 Season in College
11. Chase Jeter
Jeter is type of recruit who keeps Duke locked into the top 10 every year, as he does not have the flash or upside to draw significant interest as an elite pick but has strong potential as a useful role player. He was the youngest player on team USA, edging out Brandon Ingram by 2 weeks. He did not show much burst or skill, but he has good quickness for his size. He used his mobility to stay active on defense and tied for the team USA lead with 5 rebounds. Much like Diallo and Rabb, he is undersized for a center and his NBA stock hinges on the development of his skill level. But Jeter is also a bit less shiny, and Coach K has a knack for coercing late 1st rounders to stick around. It’s possible that he sneaks into the back end of the 2016 lottery, and it’s also possible that he spends 4 quality years at Duke.

12. Allonzo Trier
Trier is the type of recruit who has turned Arizona into a perennial powerhouse. He is a prototypical 2 way NCAA wing who offers athleticism, shooting, defense, and sharp instincts. At the end of the 1st quarter he made an exceptional play where he quickly corralled a long offensive rebound and whipped a pass to Caleb Swanigan for an easy layup a hair before time expired. Most prospects would have chucked a mid-ranger to beat the buzzer, and this is the type of heady play that cannot be learned. Trier negated this with some frustrating plays in transition, as he had a tendency to attack out of control and would barrel into the defensive player and get swatted or lose the ball. These are the type of plays that can be weeded out with further repetitions, but it is disappointing that an athletic wing does not have more shake in the open floor, especially considering his age as the oldest member of team USA. There is enough to like such that he has a strong shot of getting drafted in the round 1, but his age and short arms (6’6″) temper his upside.

13. Jalen Brunson
Brunson was quietly hyperefficient in the Hoop Summit, scoring 12 points on 2/4 FG 8/8 FT with 7 assists and 1 TOV. He is tiny and not exceptionally athletic, but he has some sneaky upside as he has awesome skill and plenty of shake to get to the rim. Also he is creative at getting off rim attempts over the trees in spite of his diminutive size.

14. Thon Maker
How bearish is it right to be on an allegedly skilled 7 footer who in spite of his pathetic offensive showing still corralled 10 rebounds in 14 minutes? I am not sure, but watching Thon Maker try to play basketball resembled a drunk baby trying to walk for the first time ever. He consistently fumbled loose balls, tossed passes that missed his teammate by a mile, left his feet without a clue of what to do with the ball, and attempted shots directly into the hands of the opposing defender. He was clumsy with horrific feel for the game. While the latter may be improved with repetitions against quality competition, the former figures to persist as a thorn in his upside. He looked like he will be lucky to become as good as Byron Mullens and I am really not sure how much his size and alleged skill can overcome his warts. And frankly I am befuddled by the narrative that he is highly skilled since he appears to operate with four hooves instead of two hands and two feet. It still is just one game so I will leave my mind open to it being fluke for some reason but at this point I could not be more bearish on Maker.

15. Isaiah Briscoe

While Briscoe had a good line of 9 points, 9 assists, 3 steals, and 2 turnovers, I cannot help but feel pessimistic for his NBA upside. For starters it is impossible to not compare him to Andrew Harrison as he is the prototypical under explosive bully who will struggle to translate to higher levels of competition. His big advantage over Harrison is superior vision which should help ease his transition to college. But he has no burst and little shake to get to the rim, and he seems like he will be attempting far more mid-range shots and floaters than layups against set defenses. Further he showed poor shot selection as in a crucial possession in the final 2 minutes he attempted an off the dribble mid-ranger following a spin move with 6’10” Ben Simmons blanketed over him, which is pretty much the worst possible shot imaginable. He was bailed out by a foul but then went on to miss both free throws including an airball. Also he is one of the older members of the class as he turned 19 several days after the game. His size and PG skills give Briscoe equity to amount to something, but I do not see anything special to give him enticing upside.

16. Luke Kennard
After a surprisingly fun and likable collection of one and dones made Duke’s 2015 championship run less loathsome to the casual fan, Luke Kennard should restore order to the program’s hatable nature as he has strong potential to be a prototypical Duke villain. His tools are only average for an NCAA wing, which means that he should stick around for a while and with his skill level and knack for scoring he could give JJ Redick’s school scoring record a run for its money. Kennard impressed in the Hoop Summit scoring 22 points on 9/18 FG’s with 0 turnovers, and it is hard to not compare him to Redick with similar physical profiles and styles of play. He could eventually become a first round pick.

Lock Bust
23423042. Caleb Swanigan
Swanigan only played 12 minutes in the Hoop Summit but that was enough to convince me to furiously smash the sell button. Not that he was considered much of a prospect anyway, but I am fairly confident that he never will be. He looked clueless on the floor as he stood and watched 6’10” Tai Wynard post up 6’3.5″ Isaiah Briscoe and easily convert a layup from two feet away without even thinking about offering help. Later he continued to make Briscoe’s life difficult as he neglected to call out a screen and watched Briscoe get blasted to the hardwood. Offensively he appears to subscribe to the Julius Randle school of blindly attacking double and triple teams and getting swatted or turning it over. At 6’7.75″ and 271 pounds he appears to be a bully who lacks the feel and IQ to translate his game to elite levels of competition. He does have exceptionally long arms at 7’3.5″ and is a beast on the glass, so perhaps Tom Izzo can find a way to make him a productive NCAA player. But the habitual conclusion jumper inside me says that it’s safe to declare that he’s not going to be a useful NBA player.

Serving Justice to Justise: Should Winslow Go #1?

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In spite of Justise Winslow having an insane tournament run where he has consistently been the best player on the floor while looking like a cyborg amongst boys, it has not been a common reaction to discuss him as the #1 pick. He has elevated himself from a mid-late lottery pick to #6 ESPN and #5 DX, but has yet to gain any traction as a possible top 2 pick. This is likely because he was only the #13 RSCI player, and the top two candidate for #1 have been performing as advertised all season. It feels overreactive to suddenly elevate Winslow above them based on a few strong tournament games. This is normally an acceptable line of thought to prevent draft assessments from going off the rails, but Justise is special and deserves special consideration.

First it must be addressed why he was only the #13 RSCI recruit. DraftExpress’s pre-season video lists his weaknesses as perimeter shooting, offensive creation, and limited upside. Perimeter shooting lingers as a question mark, as Winslow has only shot 96/149 (64.4%) on FT and 23/89 (25.8%) on non-rim 2PA. But this is mitigated by his 45/108 (41.7%) 3 point shooting. While it is not a given that he will be an adequate 3 point shooter in the NBA, his odds are strong enough such that this is not a glaring red flag.

Offensive creation is an area where Winslow has clearly exceeded expectations. His ball handling still needs polish, but this has not stopped him from creating his own shot at the rim in the half-court. He combines his great first step with surprisingly smooth footwork to be one of the most productive wings at creating his own shot at the rim in the half-court in the draft. Using hoop-math.com’s splits, he has 30 unassisted rim FG (not including putbacks). Looking at last year’s class, his per minute rate exceeds that of most NCAA prospects in the draft, including all of the top 6 picks. The players who graded exceptionally well such as Jordan Clarkson, TJ Warren, and Elfrid Payton all appear to be good draft values, so I believe this is a relevant split to examine. Winslow’s freshman rate is comfortably behind the three of them, but they were all upperclassmen and it would not be surprising to see Winslow get to the rim with extreme frequency if he were to return as a sophomore. He clearly has significant upside as a slasher, especially if he can continue to improve his handle at a brisk rate.

The limited upside criticism has always felt overplayed to me to see for a player as young, toolsy, and skilled as Winslow, but I will nevertheless entertain the logic. He does not have great height/length for a SF (measured 6’6″ with a 6’10” wingspan at the Hoop Summit) and he was advertised as a good but not elite athlete. With a limited offensive skill set, it is understandable why he may have been seen as a 1 way defensive player. That said it is safe to dismiss the limited upside criticism with the promise he has shown as a slasher as well as his athleticism being better than advertised. He grades well athletically by every statistical measure from rebounds, steals, and blocks to rim creation and rim finishing splits. His athleticism also stands out by watching him play, especially with his monster transition defense.

I suspect that another factor plaguing Winslow’s upside perception is that there simply isn’t a superstar small forward that we can comfortably compare him to other than Kawhi Leonard who is much longer and a special snowflake that is generally an ill advised comp to make. On the other end, Chad Ford has been pitching Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as a Winslow comparison which is an extremely pessimistic projection for two reasons.

1) MKG had good tools, but explosive athleticism was not one of them. Elite strength with average burst is a common mold for disappointing translation from NCAA to NBA.
2) MKG’s NCAA statistics imply some hope for capable NBA 3 point shooting, but he has only shot 3/18 beyond the arc in his first 3 seasons. If Winslow is a complete non-threat from 3 then yes he will be disappointing, but this is the rock bottom end of his range.

As a cherry on top, VJL’s EWP formula ranks Winslow (8.7) ahead of MKG (7.0) entering the final 4. Winslow should be a better NBA player than MKG the overwhelming majority of the time. There remains a lack of a suitable upside comparison as one does not exist, so instead of forcing one it is better to evaluate Winslow on his own merits:

-His overall NCAA statistics are excellent. As a freshman he is filling every predictive part of the stat sheet other than FT% and mid-range shooting.
-His second half splits are staggering as he battled minor injuries earlier in the season and also has clearly improved his game as the season has progressed.
-Most of his monster games have come against the meat of the ACC schedule and tough matchups in the NCAA tournament.
-His athleticism, strength, and quickness are all big +’s. Height and length are not great, but they are not weaknesses if he has grown a half an inch or more since the Hoop Summit.
-He offers an elite defensive IQ and versatility. This is supported by Duke having the #12 kenpom defense while featuring offensive minded players as his primary support in Quinn Cook, Jahlil Okafor, and Tyus Jones.
-His individual dominance has correlated with team success as Duke has been smashing its competition during his 2nd half hot streak.

In short, Winslow’s statistics put him within arm’s length of the #1 spot when taken at face value. Every possible reason to value his statistics differently suggests that stats underrate him when taken at face value– physical tools, defensive reputation, second half splits, splits vs. top competition, team success, and rim creation splits/skills all grade favorably for him. The only possible hole in his game is perimeter shooting, but he nevertheless has a sizable slice of equity to become an average or better NBA shooter. Winslow glows with awesomeness from every angle and his draft stock should be valued tremendously high. He is a prototypical high floor, high ceiling two way wing prospect who is deserves consideration for the #1 overall selection.

Justise does not necessarily belong ahead of Karl Towns, as high floor, high ceiling two way center prospects are good too, and it is genuinely close between the two. The more important point is that Winslow’s perception needs to be updated from a solid consolation prize in the 4-7 range to a legitimate stud who is one of the top top prizes in this year’s draft and a favorite to become an all-star at some point in his NBA career. He really is that good, and it is time to treat him as such.

2015 Big Board– How Do We Rate Mudiay?

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Elite Tier

1. Karl Towns
2. Justise Winslow
3. D’Angelo Russell

These prospects are all high floor high ceiling studs. I would grade all of them in the range of a high end #2 pick to an average #1 in an average draft. Towns gets #1 because he’s a two way big prospect, and then Winslow and Russell are exceptionally close for #2. I favor Winslow because of his late season destruction and awesome tools, but Russell’s skill package is exceptional and he could be quite the offensive weapon. Whoever drafts these guys in the #3-5 range are going to be winners in this draft.

Note: I rate all three players below Joel Embiid and above all other prospects in the 2014 class.

Unique Blend of Elite Skill and Appalling Warts
4. Jahlil Okafor

Okafor is the most skilled low post freshman NCAA scorer I have ever watched, and I believe it will translate to the NBA given his monster size, length, hands, as well as footwork and rim touch. But he has holes in his game that the other top guys do not, and his lack of rim protection and shooting makes it difficult to place him in a lineup that maximizes his awesome low post scoring. He fits comfortably into the #4 slot on my big board, as there is a wide chasm between the top 3 and the rest of the class.

Upsidey Guys Who Are Starting To Get a Bit Warty
5. Emmanuel Mudiay

Assessing Mudiay’s draft stock is an interesting topic. I am a big advocate of swinging for the fences, since upside is far more important than downside and passing up a future star for a decent player is far more harmful than passing up a decent player for a bust.  But the mystery box factor actually puts a dent in a Mudiay’s upside, as passing the check point of NCAA competence makes a player more likely to achieve their theoretical upside.

If Mudiay had spent this past season in college, he may have been as disappointing as past prospects such as Andrew Harrison, Marquis Teague, Austin Rivers, etc. Based on descriptions that his game needs polish, it is highly unlikely that he would have outperformed his #2 RSCI pedigree and boosted his stock by any significant margin. The fact that he is being evaluated as if he played NCAA and lived up to the hype is insane, as he is avoiding the risk that he falls out of favor with scouts with his flaws under a microscope without any opportunity cost. Drafting him over Winslow or Russell would be an unequivocal mistake with so much more downside and little (if any) additional upside.

This point should be especially obvious with the rookie disappointment of Dante Exum, who I believe had a more compelling thin slice. Mudiay’s physical tools are slightly preferrable, as he is more explosive with a better frame but does not quite have Exum’s quickness and is an inch shorter. Both have a gaping wart in their shooting ability, with Mudiay’s being marginally more worrisome. The difference maker is that Exum was reputed as having a superior basketball IQ and feel for the game, which I agreed with based on the one game eye test. I do not believe Mudiay has a poor feel or basketball IQ like Andrew Harrison does, but his decision making has been called into question and nothing shines for him skill wise. Everything is sheer potential– he could be a great PG if he adds polish to his half-court skill. He could be a beast defensively, but I see little discussion of him actually showing noteworthy acumen or intensity on that end. Any discussion of his draft stock needs to come with the glaring red flag that he might be terrible at basketball.

There is a point in the top 10 where it is worth taking the risk that he is bad at basketball given his physical tools, which are comfortably above average across the board. With height, length, speed, quickness, strength, and athleticism, he offers the whole package. But he nevertheless does not have the freaky nuclear athleticism of John Wall, Derrick Rose, or Russell Westbrook, which makes playing Mudiay roulette a bit less enticing. I am not sure exactly where to place him, but 5th is the maximum reasonable peak and he could be argued to go a fair bit lower. I am keeping him 5th for now because I don’t have any strong conviction that any of my lower prospects ran above him, but he is much closer to 10th in my book than is to the top 3.

6. Willie Cauley-Stein
7. Kelly Oubre
8. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
9. Stanley Johnson
10. Mario Hezonja
11. Kristaps Porzingis

These players all have arguments ahead of Mudiay. WCS offers the super power of elite footspeed and quickness in player with legitimate center size, which gives him tantalizing defensive versatility. Offensively he is strictly a garbage man, but he does not force bad shots and his FT% is improving, so he should at least be efficient in his limited role.

I already shared in depth thoughts on Kelly Oubre and Stanley Johnson. I noted in my writeup that I gravitate toward Oubre being the 5th best prospect, but I really don’t have enough faith in him being actually good at basketball to boldly place him above WCS and Mudiay. For now I am playing it safe and keeping him 7th.

On the other hand, I do have loads of faith in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. He is the Marcus Smart of this draft who is a defensive stud and the type of player who will find ways to help his team win games. His lack of 3 point range or offensive creation skill places a damper on his stock. But he is not a complete zero offensively since he is a good passer, an electric finisher, and has a respectable FT%. With his awesome tools and defensive versatility, I believe it is wise to just take him in the lottery and gamble that offensive game fills out adequately one way or another.

Mario Hezonja is a mystery box that I have little grasp on. With his athleticism, I buy the narrative that he has upside so 10th feels like a good place to rank him.

‘Staps is also a mystery box, and with Layne Vashro repeatedly tweeting the Bargnani comparison I have a hard time getting excited for him. With rumors of questionable work ethic and Staps being soft on the glass, it feels like some form of disappointment is inevitable. But he’s young, tall, toolsy, he can shoot, and I have not scouted him so I can’t take a strong anti-Staps position with great fervor.

Quality Role Players
12. Kevon Looney
13. Jakob Poeltl Somehow Rhymes with Turtle
14. Frank Kaminsky
15. Tyus Jones
16. Myles Turner
17. Kris Dunn
18. Christian Wood
19. Delon Wright
20. Sam Dekker

Looney’s stats are nice and his tools seem decent enough. Same with Frank, although smoothness for his size is his calling card rather than physical tools.

I want to love Poeltl more, as he offers nice rebounding and defense. But to my eye his offensive game feels a bit choppy, and I am skeptical of his upside on that end. Still a solid guy to take in the back end of the lottery.

It’s worth worrying that Tyus Jones will struggle translating his NCAA production similar to Tyler Ennis and Trey Burke, as he is tiny and not exceptionally athletic. But he has awesome skill, razor sharp instincts, and a better first step than his fellow undertooled T’s, so mid-1st round seems like a good time to gamble.

Myles Turner offers a unique blend of size and shooting, but to my eye he appears to be a stiff. He doesn’t pass, doesn’t get offensive rebounds, and was oddly inefficient inside the arc given his size and shooting ability. And in spite of his stellar block rate, he is not explosive and does not have the monster size of less athletic rim protectors such as Roy Hibbert or Rudy Gobert. Unless he develops a good NBA 3 point shot that he can get off at a high volume with his reach, I do not see him amounting to much as a pro.

Kris Dun has solid tools + solid stats and his mid-1st round standing seem appropriate. But I haven’t scouted him much so my opinion currently lacks depth.

Christian Wood I have not scouted, but on the surface he is intriguing to me. He offers rebounding, shot blocking, and has potential to develop into a stretch 4. He dominated in UNLV’s surprise win vs. Arizona, and he was certainly not aided by playing for one of the absolute worst NCAA coaches in Dave Rice. I am not sure he is necessarily underrated, but he is a player I would give a long and hard look if I was an NBA team with a mid-late 1st round pick.

Sam Dekker has been receiving loads of hype for his NCAA tournament performance, but to me he is the most bland prospect in the draft. He does not have any gaping weaknesses nor does he shine at anything in particular. I believe he will be a decent rotation player in the NBA, but I don’t see all that much upside.

In contrast to Dekker, Delon Wright has all sorts of funky polarity. I suspect that his lack of strength, quickness, or explosiveness will prevent him from translating his stellar college production to the NBA. But with his awesome combination of height, length, skill, basketball IQ, and instincts, he is a unique prospect and it is difficult to place a hard cap on his upside with high confidence. Thus he trades over boring Dekker.

Boring Role Players
21. Jerian Grant
22. Devin Booker
23. Caris LeVert
24. Bobby Portis
25. Trey Lyles
26. RJ Hunter
27. Cameron Payne
28. Rashad Vaughn
29. Robert Upshaw
30. Josh Richardson

This tier is more boring Dekker-ish players. Jerian Grant has an intriguing blend of physical tools, shooting, passing, and shot creation. But he also is old and has an bizarrely low rebound rate which is a bit of a red flag. I like him but feel he is slightly overrated after Notre Dame’s tournament run.

Devin Booker is the youngest prospect in the draft and can shoot the lights out, but offers little else. His passing and BBIQ are both solid, but he is a t-rex who is not particularly athletic and has exceptionally low steal, block, and rebound rates. He does not figure to make an impact defensively or with shot creation. He is a bland floor spacer to me.

Caris LeVert does a little bit of everything and has decent tools. His value takes a small hit because he missed most of this past season with a foot injury, but he could become a nice role player for a late 1st round pick.

Bobby Portis had a highly productive sophomore year– he is skilled, smart, and he plays hard. He has potential to become a solid stretch 4 in the NBA. But his lack of athleticism prohibits him from making a big impact, although I do suspect that his pro defensive impact exceeds what you would expect given his physical tools.

Trey Lyles is similar to Portis, and has even better handles and creation ability. But Portis strikes me as the more intelligent player, so I’m giving him the slight edge.

RJ Hunter is a 3 + maybe D prospect. Josh Richardson is a maybe 3 + D prospect.

Cameron Payne is the funkiest and most unique prospect in this tier. While he has lackluster tools for an NBA PG, he atones with a strong skill set as he guided Murray State to the 14th best kenpom offense in the NCAA. He is somewhat intoxicating to watch, and I feel compelled to make an campaign that Cam Payne has sneaky upside. But I can’t place my finger on a strong logical reason behind this, and with such PG depth in the NBA I do not want to overrate an undertooled PG dominating weak college competition.

Rashad Vaughn was the #10 RSCI recruit. While he appears to be a chucker, he posted solid NCAA statistics for an 18 year old. Like Christian Wood I am intrigued to see what he can accomplish once freed from the shackles of his horrific coach.

Robert Upshaw has serious red flags in his intangibles since he has been kicked off two college teams, but he is such a monster rebounder and rim protector that I remain intrigued.

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