Post Draft, Pre-SL Prospect Re-Rank

I know there have been a handful of summer league games involving meaningful prospects, but I largely have not paid attention and this ranking does not price in any early games at all.

I rank all 60 drafted players plus top 2 UFA’s Gary Payton and Robert Carter. I am completely guessing on Michineau and Zhelin since I know next to nothing about them:

rank player draft
1 Brandon Ingram 2
2 Ben Simmons 1
3 Dragan Bender 4
4 Jamal Murray 7
5 Kris Dunn 5
6 Jaylen Brown 3
7 Marquese Chriss 8
8 Jakob Poeltl 9
9 Wade Baldwin 17
10 Chinanu Onuaku 37
11 Domantas Sabonis 11
12 Dejounte Murray 29
13 Caris LeVert 20
14 Juan Hernangomez 15
15 Furkan Korkmaz 26
16 Henry Ellenson 18
17 Taurean Prince 12
18 Buddy Hield 6
19 Timothe Luwawu 24
20 DeAndre Bembry 21
21 Patrick McCaw 38
22 Georgios Papagiannis 13
23 Skal Labissiere 28
24 Zhou Qi 43
25 Brice Johnson 25
26 Ivica Zubac 32
27 Malik Beasley 19
28 Thon Maker 10
29 Deyonta Davis 31
30 Ante Zizic 23
31 Denzel Valentine 14
32 Cheick Diallo 33
33 Guerschon Yabusele 16
34 Rade Zagorac 35
35 Paul Zipser 48
36 Demetrius Jackson 45
37 Pascal Siakam 27
38 Damian Jones 30
39 Isaia Cordinier 44
40 Gary Payton 61
41 Stephen Zimmerman 41
42 Malcolm Brogdon 36
43 Isaiah Whitehead 42
44 Malachi Richardson 22
45 Kay Felder 54
46 Robert Carter 62
47 Daniel Hamilton 56
48 Jake Layman 47
49 Petr Cornelie 53
50 AJ Hammons 46
51 Tyler Ulis 34
52 Diamond Stone 40
53 Joel Bolomboy 52
54 Isaiah Cousins 59
55 David Michineau 39
56 Marcus Paige 55
57 Tyrone Wallace 60
58 Michael Gbinije 49
59 Georges Niang 50
60 Ben Bentil 51
61 Abdel Nader 58
62 Wang Zhelin 57

Post Draft Perspective Update

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The challenge with the draft is that there are limitless perspectives on each prospect to balance to attempt to discern the truth. It is common for me to completely overhaul my perspective on a player once viewing them in a new light. In 2014 I went from perceiving Aaron Gordon as an overrated and worse shooting Josh Smith to an underrated stud near the top of my big board after watching him play regularly. It is rare to precisely analyze a prospect at first glance, which is why I am perpetually updating my perspectives.

Honestly I don’t think my analysis this draft was particularly good. It was a last minute attempt to piece everything together, and I feel like I missed a number of key perspectives in a hasty attempt to resemble a respectable big board.

Jamal Murray

I ranked Jamal Murray 12th on my final big board on the premise that he is a one dimensional shooter who will be a defensive liability. This is a popular narrative in the draft contrarian world, but I have underrated players as one dimensional shooters such as Devin Booker and Rodney Hood in the past.

 

The key factor that separates Murray from Buddy Hield (aside from his youth) is his court vision. He did not have the burst or shake to regularly beat opponents off the dribble, and deferred PG duties to Tyler Ulis and Isaiah Briscoe, but he clearly has some level of PG skills and decent vision as he posted a solid assist:TOV rate for a young high usage SG.

He also was able to get to the rim at a reasonable rate, and posted a better ORB% than Jaylen Brown. His athleticism is not great, but it is also not bad, and his youth gives him plenty of time to develop into a complete offensive player.

Further his catch all  NCAA statistics were strong as he beat Brandon Ingram in PER, WS, and BPM while only being 6 months older.

He likely will be a defensive liability who struggles to switch onto bigger and quicker opponents, but he is not necessarily going to be a disaster. And either way it is easy to envision how he has the upside to become an offensive star to outweigh his defensive shortcomings.

So after a full season of Murray skepticism, I will finally acknowledge that he was likely the best player available at #7, and may even be better than Jaylen Brown or Kris Dunn. It was a massive error for New Orleans to draft Hield ahead of him.

Deyonta Davis

The most surprising slider on draft night, Davis was expected to go lottery and ended up dropping all the way to the 2nd round. My speculation was that he may have injury flags, but on second thought it is more likely that he just is not that good.

He was largely a garbage man on offense for Michigan State, and was the beneficiary of many lobs from the best passer in NCAA basketball. He had a frighteningly low FT rate, which could flag any number of flaws from toughness, to creation, to basketball instincts.

Defensively he had a good block rate, but he did so anchoring Tom Izzo’s worst defense since 2004. His steal rate was a flag and he simply might not be much more than a Skal type who tries to sway everything on that end.

But unlike Skal he is not 7′ tall, he is only a good but not great athlete, and he does not have a 3 point shot. His tools are good but not good enough to amount to much without much in the way of feel for the game or basketball instincts. He is a better rebounder than Skal and may have less broken instincts, but between the two of them I would rather gamble on Labissiere and his more unique strengths.

I had Davis ranked as 6th on my final big board, but after perceiving him through a negative lense he seems to be have been picked where he deserved to go. I drop him big time on a re-rank. Skal I would drop from 14th, but I nevertheless believe was a solid gamble at 28th overall.

Timothe Luwawu

I had him ranked 8th on my final big board, and he slid to 24th. There are logical reasons- he is 21 and his Adriatic stats are underwhelming. I had likened him to a poor man’s Jaylen Brown, but his tools are clearly inferior and he is not more productive at 1.5 years older. There is still reason to find him as good value in the late 1st, but there is good reason to temper expectations.

Caris LeVert

I had LeVert ranked 31st on my final big because he had no hype on DX and ESPN, and I assumed his medical flags scared teams off. But when the Nets reached for him at 20th, I took it as an indication that his medical records cannot be bad. I definitely like him as a 1st rounder if health is not a big concern, so I am bumping him up my board.

Denzel Valentine

I had him ranked 25th and he ended up going 14th to Chicago. If I could re-rank, I’d slot him even lower as I missed the concerns about his knee injury. This pick reminisces of the Bulls taking Doug McDermott in the lottery as they were desperate for a shooter ready to contribute now and instead took a shooter ready to contribute never. Valentine is a more dynamic offensive threat than McDermott with elite passing, so I rate this pick as slightly better. But he shares the same concerns with no slashing game and major defensive vulnerability, so with the knee injury as a cherry I’d grade this is a big reach by the Bulls.

Dejounte Murray
Chinanu Onuaku
Zhou Qi

These were my 3 super value picks who I maintain are super value. Onuaku and Qi were expected to go late for bad reasons, and statistical wizard Daryl Morey recognized this and wisely snatched them up. Onuaku is especially good value as he less of a mystery box and just blatantly good– there is absolutely no excuse for him sliding out of round 1.

Dejounte Murray is a boom or bust pick that I felt warm toward, and the fact that the Spurs took him re-affirms that notion for me. I had him 13th on my final big board, and he did slide all the way to 29th so perhaps I slightly overrated him. But more likely he was great value for the Spurs like always.


I Have No Idea What These Guys Are

I rated all of these players as early 2nd rounders, and they all went in the top 16. I really have no definitive conclusions for any of them, but I do have guesses!

Thon Maker

Thon Maker looked like a disaster sharing the floor in the Nike Hoop Summit, as he was badly outshined by Skal Labissiere, Cheick Diallo, and Stephen Zimmerman. If you had told me he would be drafted 18 slots before any of them a year later, my face would have melted off. He is 7’1″ with a decent skill set, but is unathletic and uncoordinated and does not seem teeming with upside. I cannot fathom that he would have drastically outshined any of the aforementioned three as an NCAA freshman, the laws of statistics and probability suggest that he likely would have been just as bad or worse. Further there is the concern that he is much older than 19 years old.

But here we are with Maker going 10th. I strongly suspect that Maker is benefitting from lack of statistical proof of badness, and is getting a big benefit of the doubt from good intangibles and interviews and that this was a terrible pick. But with only one game of watching him more than a year ago I cannot state this with extreme confidence, and it is possible that his skills have developed well and the Bucks have good reason for gambling this high.

Georgios Papagiannis

Papagiannis is just a huge mystery box but he is super young and super large, and it sounds like his stock skyrocketed into the 1st round at the last minute. That said he was drafted by the most dysfunctional franchise, so the safest assumption is that he is a fair selection in the first round but likely belonged somewhere in the 2nd half with the Kings reaching. But that is pure guesswork.

Juan Hernangomez

Juan Hernangomez is one of the weirder prospects in the draft. He is a combo forward who seems to lack the ball skills to play offense on the perimeter, and the rim protection to play defense in the paint. My gut instinct is that he is a pick overrated on motor, intangibles, and teams valuing shooting too heavily over ball skills. But he has potential as a perimeter defender, and apparently his ACB coach is to blame for a number of his shortcomings. So this may be a perfectly decent pick after all, even if it feels meh to me from afar.

Guerschon Yabusele

Guerschon Yabusele seems like a dud due to his inability to defend anybody whatsoever. On one hand, Danny Ainge tends to highly value defense in the draft and it is possible that he is less of a disaster on this end than the scouting report suggests. On the other hand, the Celtics were constraining themselves to players willing to be stashed, which made this pick unlikely to be good value to begin with. I only feel inclined to bump him up marginally from his 44th overall rank.

Draft Instant Reactions

The draft is always a facemelt as surprising results surprise and new information comes to light. I will do a re-rank based on the results, but first, here are my reactions for winners and losers.

Winners
Houston: #37 Chinanu Onuaku, #43 Zhou Qi, UFA Gary Payton Jr.

The Rockets may have hauled the most upsidey pair of 2nd rounders in NBA history. Chinanu Onuaku and Zhou Qi were my two players who I had as massively underrated and projected to go in round 2 for very flawed reasons, and Daryl Morey pounced on them when they were available with his picks.

And if that wasn’t enough, Morey instantly signed consensus best UFA Gary Payton to a 3 year deal after the draft.

This was an A+++ perfect draft for Morey. It’s amazing that he got such a loaded haul with such limited picks entering the draft.

Phoenix: #4 Dragan Bender, #8 Marquese Chriss, #34 Tyler Ulis

 

Phoenix could have completely bricked the rest of the draft after #4 and still won the draft after taking Bender 4th. While Bender has no guarantee of NBA success, his massive upside gives him franchise changing potential that none of the other #3-8 picks sniffed. Nailing a pick like this can make a franchise’s future when it works out, so Suns fans should feel great about the pick.

I’m not Marquese Chriss’s biggest fan, but at #8 overall he is likely the highest upside option on the board and #13, 28, and Bogdanovic is a reasonable price when he was perceived to be consensus best player available. He is a nice lottery ticket to append the Bender haul.

I believe Tyler Ulis will never be more than a backup PG and for all intents and purposes is a waste of the #34 pick, but that’s of little consequence after having such a great lottery haul.

Philadelphia: #1 Ben Simmons, #24 Timothe Luwawu, #26 Furkan Korkmaz

I can split hairs over Simmons vs Ingram, but I really don’t know the answer to that debate and will not quibble with the selection of Simmons at #1 overall. More importantly they were saved from themselves when both the Celtics and Timberwolves declined their alleged offer of Nerlens Noel, Robert Covington, #24, and #26 for Kris Dunn and ended up nailing the picks with two players I ranked in my top 15. Maybe Colangelo won’t ruin Hinkie’s amazing set up after all.

Memphis: #17 Wade Baldwin, #31 Deyonta Davis, #35 Rade Zagorac

After getting statistical darling Wade Baldwin at 17th, the fighting Hollingers traded a not too valuable Clippers pick (top 14 protected in ’19 and ’20 before becoming 2022 2nd rounder) for Deyonta Davis and Rade Zagorac.

Davis at #31 is likely not the value he was presumed to be entering the draft, as the only reason for him slipping that far would be that he must have some sort of injury flag. But nevertheless it is unlikely he was a bad gamble, especially given the price tag of acquiring him and Zagorac. Awesome draft for the Grizz.

San Antonio: #29 Dejounte Murray

I had Dejounte Murray as the #13 player on my final big board, and when the Spurs took him at #29 overall it confirms that other teams were more likely to be silly for passing him up rather than him being not that good or having secret red flags.

Losers:
Boston: #3 Jaylen Brown, #16 Guerschon Yabusele, #23 Ante Zizic, #45 Demetrius Jackson, #51 Ben Bentil, #58 Abdel Nader

In fairness to Boston, the Celtics were in a tough position with 8 draft picks and a limited number of roster spots to accommodate them, but they handled the situation about as poorly as they possibly could have.

I am much higher on Jaylen Brown than most statistical models would suggest, and frankly if he was taken after Bender was off the board I’d rather like the pick. But taking him over Dragan Bender is a crucial error, and with a monster offer from Philly for Kris Dunn possibly on the table adds more sting to the choice. Then from there it only got worse.

It only made sense that the Celtics would stash some Euros with their picks, but in a draft rife with upsidey internationals, the Celtics managed to use their two other 1st round picks on players I rated as 2nd rounders. Then they traded 31 and 35 for a protected Clippers pick that is worth much less than the sum of those picks. 16/23/31/35 were the money shots in the draft and they collectively converted those picks to about 25% as much value as Morey did with 37/43/UFA.

Some picks were going to need to be sacrificed on stashes, but instead they are wasting their roster spots on Demetrius Jackson (who was decent value at #45, and could be a solid backup PG), and Ben Bentil at #51 (who had no business being drafted). Somehow they also drafted Abdel Nader at #58, and I can only assume it’s because he is willing to be stashed.

But there was so so so much potential for 16/23/31/35. They could have landed 16. Wade Baldwin, 23. Any of Luwawu/Korkmaz/Dejounte, 31. Onuaku, 35. McCaw/Qi/Zipser/Ragorac/etc and thrown their late picks along with James Young and Terry Rozier in the trash, but instead they trashed the valuable picks and are wasting roster spots on four guys who are collectively worth close to 0.

This draft was a massive failure on all fronts by the Celtics. You’d think with 8 picks there would be one trade or decision to be happy with as a fan, instead Danny Ainge delivered a series of compounding errors.

Milwaukee: #10 Thon Maker, #36 Malcolm Brogdon

I may be underrating Maker by placing him 40th on my big board, but man did he look bad at the Hoop Summit in comparison to players such as Cheick Diallo, Stephen Zimmerman, and Skal Labissiere who all were drafted substantially later because this high school class was bad. Perhaps unlike that big trio he would have exceeded expectations in NCAA, but would he have exceeded them so much to justify a lottery pick? It is extremely unlikely considering his lack of athleticism and coordination. Perhaps he was worth a 1st round selection, but I can’t fathom that this was not a massive reach.

Malcolm Brogdon was not a terrible pick in a vaccuum, but taken immediately ahead of 37. Onuaku, 38. McCaw, and 43. Zhou Qi it does not look so hot.

Sacramento: #13 Georgios Papagiannis, #22 Malachi Richardson, #28 Skal Labissiere, #59 Isaiah Cousins

The Kings got off to a good start fleecing the Hornets by trading Marco Bellineli for #22 and #8 for #13, 28, and Bogdan Bogdanovic, but then they proceeded to make the selections and things became less good.

First of all, their by far two most valuable pieces both play center, and they reached for another center who is much less good at #13. Then they the overrated Malachi Richardson at #22. And while Skal Labissiere may have been a decent gamble at #28 in a vacuum, it is not so much when they are already have four centers above him in the depth chart. The Kings stayed the Kings.

New Orleans: #6 Buddy Hield, #33 Cheick Diallo

New Orleans nabbed the biggest dud in the top 9 in Buddy Hield at #6. And while Cheick Diallo isn’t the worst pick at #33, 39 + 40 is a big price to pay to move up and there were more appealing options available. Looks like the Pels are going to waste Anthony Davis’s early prime.

Others
Denver: #7 Jamal Murray, #15 Juan Hernangomez, #19 Malik Beasley

I don’t want to expressly call the Nuggets losers, because none of these picks are especially bad in a vacuum. But they are meh, meh, and meh in my book. Murray can’t play D, Hernangomez has no ball skills, and Beasley is a SG in a PG body who is a bit overrated on intangibles. All of these guys could go on to have decent careers but I don’t see enough star potential to justify the slots.

Golden State: #30 Damian Jones, #38 Patrick McCaw, UFA Robert Carter

Damian Jones was an underwhelming selection at #30 when the Golden State fans already had a Festus Ezeli from Vanderbilt to frustrate them, but given his tools he is not an awful value for the shot. Then the Warriors went on to take McCaw who I LOVE for their purposes and Carter who is my #2 UFA after Payton Jr to totally redeem themselves. This was a solidly good night for the Warriors even if not quite a slam dunk.

Brooklyn: #20 Caris LeVert, #42 Isaiah Whitehead

Both of these picks were reaches compared to consensus draft boards, but they were reaches that I can get behind. LeVert seemed massively underrated projected to go in the 40’s, and going at #20 implies that his injuries are not big red flags. And Whitehead offers sneaky potential if he cleans up his shot selection and decision making as a combo guard. I don’t love this draft for Brooklyn but it is not bad.

 

Final Final 2016 Big Board

I made a few minor changes based on late feedback because why not:

Tier 1 : Possible Stars

1. Brandon Ingram (DX: 1, ESPN: 2)

Ingram’s main concern is that he may not be that good, which is somewhat understandable since he is excellent at nothing and is not an explosive athlete either. But I believe he’s better than implied by his stats.

Ingram has multiple outs to create offense, as his extremely long arms give him the ability to shoot over most defensive players, and his handle and long strides provide him an ability to create off the dribble in spite of non-elite burst. He complements this with solid vision and passing as well as good defense and versatility to switch onto a wide range of matchups.

The fear is that he never develops into a great shooter, and his lack of athleticism prevents him from being a stud creator or defender and he is merely a decent role player rather than somebody who justifies a top 2 overall selection. This is a plausible outcome, which is why I rate him as a below average #1 overall choice. But he is super young with reportedly elite intangibles, and if he works on his skills and body diligently he can become a star. It is unlikely he lives up to the Kevin Durant comparison, but I see him as a player who has a strong balance of strengths with no real weaknesses in the vein of Millsap. And there is clear potential to pass Millsap as he offers superior height, length, and shooting.

2. Ben Simmons (DX: 2, ESPN: 1)

Simmons is clearly more talented than Ingram, and if he had Ingram’s intangibles he would be an above average #1 pick. But between LSU’s dismal team performance and reports that his intangibles are sorely lacking, there is sufficient evidence to devalue him to an average or worse #1 pick. Frankly it is sheer guesswork to determine much he should be devalued without full information and thorough analysis. My guess is more bearish than consensus, but it could be wrong if Simmons locks in defensively in the pros. And if he develops an 3 point shot this ranking could look especially silly in retrospect. But LSU’s defense was just so bad without much of an offensive spike with an alleged stud PG playing center, that I err on the side of pessimism and rate him behind Ingram.

3. Dragan Bender (DX 3, ESPN: 6)

As much as I want to love Bender and put him #1 on my board, there is simply not enough available information to put him above Simmons and Ingram who would both have viable cases for top 2 picks in an average draft. But there is nevertheless much to love here.

–He can guard all 5 positions
–He is an elite passer
–He appears to have a strong chance of developing into an acceptable NBA 3P shooter

The only other player in the NBA who fits these qualifications is Draymond Green, and he nearly just won finals MVP. And while it is dangerous to read too heavily into his 16 year old 9 game FIBA sample, they don’t just imply that he fits in with the top 3– they imply he may be better than Ingram and Simmons combined.

Since he appears to be a real threat of falling out of the top 5, I am erring on the side of caution and ranking him #3. But it is a strong #3 ranking, and I believe it is an unequivocal error to draft any player other than Simmons and Ingram ahead of him.

Tier 2: Pretty Good Prospects That Should Not Be Top 5 in a Normal Draft

4. Kris Dunn (DX: 4, ESPN: 3)

Dunn provides a baseline of great defensive upside to defend either guard position and elite floor vision to make him the default choice at #4 overall. But there are some pink flags regarding his ability to score. He shot 37% from 3 as a senior on low volume, and he took a number of long 2’s a step inside the arc. It seems he is more comfortable inside the arc, and he may not have a reliable shot from NBA 3 point range.

Further, for such a toolsy and experienced point guard, he created a surprisingly middling volume of layups for himself in the half court. If he struggles to get to the rim vs. NBA defenses he may be relegated to a mid-range chucker who cannot score efficiently enough to capitalize on his vision.

If Dunn can create layups and make NBA 3’s, he should become a nice 2 way player. But if neither happens he is merely a defensive specialist, which is why he is such a weak option at #4 overall.

5. Jaylen Brown (DX: 5, ESPN: 7)

Statistical models are not particularly fond of Brown, neither are most writers in the draft nerd community. But there are a number of factors that mitigate his lackluster statistics:

–He shot much better than his 29% 3P% and 65% FT% at Cal, as DX has him at 39% from 3 and 70% FT in 1,144 pre-NCAA minutes
–He is a better defender than his steals and blocks suggest, as Cal had the #17 kenpom defense with an anemic team steal rate and no elite shot blockers
–He has elite physical tools and the versatility to defend all positions 1-4
–He can create his own shot at the rim, just not at an efficient clip

He still is just an average rebounder and passer, and an inefficient chucker on offense. He may never become good at NBA basketball. But if he becomes a solid 3P shooter, a good and versatile defensive player, and he cleans up his shot selection and decision making on offense, he has as much star potential as anybody outside the top 3.

There’s a good chance I regret ranking Brown this high, but with such meh other options why not gamble on the scarce upside.

 

6. Deyonta Davis (DX: 11, ESPN: 16) 

Deyonta Davis is tall, athletic, and defensively versatile, with efficient garbage man skills on offense. He has a good assist:TOV rate for a young big and an acceptable mid-range/FT shot, and has nice 1.5 way potential as a valuable piece for switching defense that is not a complete liability on offense.

7. Marquese Chriss (DX: 6, ESPN: 5)

Chriss is slippery, as his youth, size, athleticism, and shooting offer promising upside while his poor rebounding, vision, and defense counter with frightening downside.

I tend to be bearish on players who cannot pass, rebound, or defend. But Chriss was actually a better offensive rebounder than Ben Simmons or Henry Ellenson, and DRB% can be a bit funky to predict (see: Andre Drummond who has ~doubled his NCAA DRB% in the NBA). His lack of vision and defensive fundamentals loom as concerns, but he is too young for his limitations to condemn him at such a young age. He may never overcome them, but the behind the scenes feedback doesn’t seem to deter teams from wanting to gamble on him.

Overall I feel there is more risk than upside, but there’s enough to like such that he is a fine gamble as a boom or bust player in the mid-lotto.

8. Timothe Luwawu (DX: 12, ESPN: 26)

Luwawu strikes me as the French Jaylen Brown. He’s older and not quite as toolsy, but he offers a similar package of defensive versatility and offensive upside if his skills progress smoothly.

9. Wade Baldwin (DX: 14, ESPN: 17)

Nearly every draft nerd loves Wade Baldwin, and his monster 6’11.25″ wingspan gives him great defensive upside. He also has good floor vision and is a good shooter, and is a strong bet to become a useful NBA player. But he lacks the burst and handle to create his own shot at the rim, and his slow trigger resulted in a bizarrely low 3PA rate at Vanderbilt. While he is a strong bet to become a useful NBA player, he may not have the offensive upside to become a 2 way star. Also he may be struggling to gain lottery traction due to concerns about his leadership skills. But his PG skills, shooting, and switching upside provide enough to be valuable without scoring much, and I like gambling on him anyway.

 

10. Jakob Poeltl (DX: 9, ESPN: 12)

I have written about Poeltl as an undervalued piece, and I still like him. He has been likened to the 3rd Zeller brother, which is a reasonable comparison. It does make it hard to see his upside, but if he emerges with better defense, rebounding, and passing than your average Zeller those can add up to make a difference.

 

11. Chinanu Onuaku (DX: 38, ESPN: 37)

There are some pink flags chipping away at his prospect value– he’s slightly short, cannot shoot, is not an explosive athlete, and he has a minor heart condition. But collectively these do not add up to a ton in comparison to how awesomely good he is for such a young player. He still projects to slide to round 2 but I’m not hedging on this one– Onuaku is my clear favorite to be the steal of the draft.

12. Jamal Murray (DX: 7, ESPN: 4)

He’s a stud shooter, but his limited height, length, and quickness makes him project to be a significant liability as an NBA defensive player. The key question for him as a prospect is whether he can complement his shooting with his PG skills. He has a decent handle and good vision, but in college he struggled to get past quicker matchups and was relegated to a spot up shooter with Tyler Ulis running the offense.

There is wiggle room for him to justify his early lotto projection if he develops into a good shot creator and passable defensive player, but with just one proven dimension I believe he is slightly overrated.

Tier 3: Let’s Get Deep

13. Dejounte Murray (DX: 30, ESPN: 9)

Murray is a boom or bust candidate, as his profile is highlighted by his slithery slashing ability, good vision, and SG size. He also offers solid rebounding and defensive potential, and if his shooting, decision making, and strength improve he could be a home run selection.

 

14. Skal Labissiere (DX: 10, ESPN: 14)

Part of me feels compelled to call Skal a lock bust, but he allegedly has serious Channing Frye shooting potential as a hyper athletic 7’0″. How bearish can you be on a player like that? Whatever the answer is, mine is the maximum. He is an anemic rebounder, non-passer, has bad instincts, and is exceptionally foul prone because he tries to block everything on defense. In spite of his tools he could manage to match Frye’s shooting and still be a worse overall player. Conversely he could also manage to be a rich man’s Frye because of his tools, so I am tempering my desire to sell. My inkling is that he offers more boom than bust, but without many (or any?) prior prospects with his combination of burst, height, and shooting this cannot be stated with certitude. In spite of his woeful flaws his strengths make him a bit of a unicorn, and this gives him some special appeal.

15. Furkan Korkmaz (DX: 20, ESPN: 13)

Korkmaz offers a compelling combination of shooting, youth, passing, and solid wing height and athleticism. The concern is that he is a bit one dimensional as a shooter, and is too skinny to ever not be a liability on defense.

16. Zhou Qi (DX: 36, ESPN: 47)

We live in a world where Clint Capela was selected 25th, Rudy Gobert 27th, and Nikola Jokic 41st. It seems clear that NBA teams are scared by funky international big men, and Qi is as funky as it gets with monster height and length which is complemented with mobility and shooting ability rarely seen in giants. He is plagued by an outlier rail thin frame and lack of aggressiveness to scare off scouts and keep him out of round 1.

I have no idea if he can stick in the league or not– he could easily be a complete flop. But how many players have been failed with his combination of reach, mobility, and shooting? I assume the answer is none because I cannot think of any with his intersection of strengths. Once the lottery is done, why not gamble on the outlier prospect with an outlier upside over another vanilla 3 + D prospect? There is no reason that a player with an unprecedented intersection of strengths such as Qi should slide to round 2.

Much like Labissiere, Qi has unicorn strengths that give him extra upside over the more vanilla prospects.

17. Domantas Sabonis (DX: 18, ESPN: 10)

He’s young, he can rebound, he can score, and he has a good chance of having an NBA career. But he has such short arms, limited athleticism, and limited defensive versatility that I just don’t see the star potential to justify his rise to a possible top 10 pick.

 

 

18. Henry Ellenson (DX: 13, ESPN: 11)

Ellenson has been slowly sliding down draft boards, and it is hard to disagree. He offers a compelling offensive package for a 7’0″ player, but still is not yet particularly good at anything. He is average at passing and shooting and shot a hair under 50% from 2P%, so he still has a ways to go to put it together on this end. And even if he does he sounds like a strong bet to be a defensive liability. Ellenson’s upside scenario remains attractive but it requires such a parlay of good development that my optimism for his NBA prospects remains tempered.

19. DeAndre Bembry (DX: 27, ESPN: 20)

Bembry offers a little bit of everything between his athleticism, passing, rebounding, defense, shot creation. His shot is below average, but if it improves to average he should provide a nice return on any non-lotto pick.

20. Ivica Zubac (DX: 16, ESPN: 25)

Zubac is a funky prospect highlighted by his great size, hands, and touch which provides elite interior scoring upside. He’s only 19 and also has solid potential as a passer, shooter, and rebounder as well. Defense is his biggest concern, but if he becomes decent on this end he could provide a load of goodness without any gaping weaknesses.

21. Taurean Prince (DX: 19, ESPN: 34)

Prince is a prototypical 3 +D prospect, as he offers the versatility to guard either forward position, an acceptable 3 point shot and passing ability, and not much else. He won’t become a star but he could easily become a useful cog that fits in any NBA lineup.

 

22. Buddy Hield (DX: 8, ESPN: 8)

I have written about Hield as my clear choice for most overrated top 10 pick. He brings elite shooting volume and accuracy, but even if he replicates Klay Thompson’s shooting (which is close to his absolute upside since Klay converted most 3P of all time for any non-Curry in 15-16), he still lacks Klay’s size, court vision, defensive aptitude, and defensive versatility. This would be enough to make him a useful rotation piece. But unless his slashing game develops into a legitimate weapon, it is hard to see an upside tail that justifies his top 10 hype.

23. Patrick McCaw (DX: 29, ESPN: 32)

McCaw is a 3 +D prospect similar to Prince but smaller– he has versatility to defend either guard position and possibly SF’s once he adds bulk. He complements this with adequate passing and shooting but lacks the creation ability to become a star.

24. Brice Johnson (DX: 30, ESPN: 29)

Brice Johnson is Jeremy Evans Deluxe, as his profile is highlighted by his elite leaping and finishing ability. He is a bit bigger and was much more productive at North Carolina than Evans was at North Carolina. If Evans’ finishing translated to such respectable NBA production, Johnson’s analogous upside is tantalizing.

Of course there is a reason why Evans is not a regular rotation player, and Johnson has similar concerns. He is a prone to bullying from other PF’s but lacks the defensive fundamentals to adequately guard the perimeter, and also lacks perimeter skills offensively. This makes him an awkward fit into NBA lineups, and it may prevent his statistical production from translating into positive value for his team.

Johnson is another slippery prospect, but he is in the conversation for most athletic player and most productive NCAA player in the draft (kenpom’s algorithm rated him as player of the year) and is still just 21. Those are inarguably nice check marks for a late 1st gamble.

 

25. Denzel Valentine (DX: 25, ESPN: 22)

I want to love Denzel Valentine– it is rare that a player with his intersection of passing, shooting, and rebounding is available outside of the lottery ever. But at the same time he projects to be a major liability defensively and is inept at getting to the rim on offense.

26. Malik Beasley (DX: 23, ESPN: 21)

Beasley is an athletic shotmaker and slasher who offers surprising rebounding and competes enough on defense to amount to a useful NBA guard. His intangibles appear to have elevated his stock to the 12-20 range. But he is an undersized SG without much PG skills, so I do not see a tempting enough upside tail for him to be near the top of my list in that range.

27. Gary Payton Jr. (DX: 48, DX: 56)

The Mitten turns 24 in December, but his elite rebound, steal, and block rates cannot be ignored and he offers just enough offensively to have upside as a 1.5 way PG. His PG skills are not great, but he used his athleticism to get to the rim with regularity and complemented this with a good assist to turnover ratio. His biggest wart is his shot, as he shot 30% on limited 3PA volume and 65% FT, and he may be too old to improve this to an adequate rate. But if his shot experiences a mini-leap forward, he could be highway robbery in round 2 given his athleticism, ability to defend either guard position, and PG skills.

 

28. Cheick Diallo (DX: 24, ESPN: 24)

Diallo is an exceptionally smooth and coordinated big, and after dominating the high school all star circuit I was sky high on him entering NCAA season. Then he spent the year buried on Kansas’s bench, he still is too short to play center, and he lacks the passing and shooting to play on the perimeter. This makes him slippery to peg, but he could be a bigger and better Faried and he is an intriguing fringe 1st round gamble.

Tier 4: I Wish I Could Rank All Of These Guys Higher

29. Paul Zipser (DX: 26, ESPN: 57)

Zipser is the European Taurean Prince, as he offers defensive versatility as a combo forward and enough shooting and passing to fit in on the perimeter as a solid 3 + D type.

30. Rade Zagorac (DX: 33, ESPN: 45)

Zagorac provides an interesting offensive blend of creation, passing, and shooting for a 6’9″ athlete. There are questions about his defense given his weak frame and limited quickness, so I am not quite as high on him as other intelligent people. But it is easy to see how he strengths could sum into a nice NBA piece for a late 1st/early 2nd flier.

31. Caris LeVert (DX: 46, ESPN: 41)

LeVert is a consummate role player, as he does a little bit of everything among passing, shooting, defense, rebounding, and secondary creation. He lacks strength, athleticism, and durability as his past two seasons ended prematurely due to separate leg and foot injuries. But if he can stay healthy, his small strengths could stay into a surprisingly positive role player and he is consequently one of my favorite 2nd round sleepers.

32. Demetrius Jackson (DX: 17, ESPN: 31)

Jackson’s package is highlighted by athleticism, shooting, and PG skills. But he is almost 22, excellent at nothing, and too small to guard SG’s. He is good enough to justify a late 1st or early 2nd selection, but too bland to be an exciting choice.

33. Juan Hernangomez (DX: 15, ESPN: 18)

Hernangomez is a late riser based on his PF size, non-stop motor, great intangibles, and ability to space the floor. I am skeptical of this rise as I believe talent evaluators are expecting him to fit on the perimeter due to his shooting when his awful assist to turnover rate is the more important signal for swing forwards to translate to the next level. Further he is not a lock stud defensive player, as he is a non-rim protector and has mediocre reach for a PF. My inclination is that he lacks the ball skills for SF and size or burst to defend PF, but perhaps his quickness, shooting, and motor enable him to find an NBA niche nevertheless.

34. Ante Zizic (DX: 22, ESPN: 23)

Zizic is a 19 year old with decent center tools and tantalizing scoring, rebounding, and shot blocking stats in the Adriatic league. The downside is that his steal and assist:TOV rates suggest seriously flawed instincts. He appears to be a pure garbage man which limits his upside, but he is so good at his role it is easy to envision him finding a niche in the NBA.

35. Robert Carter (DX: 44, ESPN: 54)

One of the draft nerd darlings of the 2nd round, Carter does a little bit of everything. With his 7’3.25″ wingspan and balanced game, he has a tiny sliver of equity to be a Millsap level steal.

36. Isaia Cordinier (DX: 39, ESPN: 44)

Cordinier is a mystery box but his scouting report resembles one that may possibly contain a boat: athleticism, vision, shooting, competitive defense, intangibles. He is an intriguing early 2nd gamble.

37. Damian Jones (DX: 21, ESPN: 27)

Toolsy centers with good bodies and athleticism require little skill to succeed in the NBA. DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond offer examples of players who slid in the draft and then translated better than expected. But Jones does not match their levels of athleticism and offers nearly nothing in terms of skill and feel. In spite of his tools he has weak rebounding stats and shockingly low steal and block rates. If he could defend Vanderbilt’s defense would rank much better than #34 as he had the privilege of playing alongside Wade Baldwin and Luke Kornet.

His best skill is his scoring, but he is a poor FT shooter, lacks 3P range, and is a poor passer even if he has become a more willing one. He doesn’t turn 21 until shortly after the draft and is still salvageable, but I do not believe he’s enough of an athletic freak to become a quality starter in spite of his basketball playing limitations.

 

38. Georgios Papagiannis (DX: 50, ESPN: 46)

It is hard to keep up with all of these late emerging internationals, but Papagiannis is huge, 18, and not obviously super bad so let’s just stash him here on my board and be happy with it.

39. Stephen Zimmerman (DX: 40, ESPN: 40)

Zimmerman looked like he had decent potential in the 2015 Hoop Summit, but then he was a disappointment for UNLV. He battled through injuries and two bad coaches so perhaps he is still salvageable, but there’s not much to love about his freshman performance.

40. Thon Maker (DX: 40, ESPN: 19)

He is 7’1″ and has some semblance of a skill level, but in the 2015 Hoop Summit he looked nothing near an NBA prospect as it appeared he had hands for feet and feet for hands. Being uncoordinated and unathletic is a tough pair of weaknesses to overcome, and he was outshined by a number of players who struggled as NCAA freshman.

He apparently interviewed well and it may be easy to talk yourself into his upside without proof that he is bad, but there is even less proof that he is good. It is possible he’d be firmly in the undrafted ranks with a full NCAA season, so he likely belongs somewhere in round 2.

41. Kay Felder (DX: 56, ESPN: 49)
42. Fred VanVleet (DX: 83, ESPN: 61)
43. Tyler Ulis (DX: 28, ESPN: 23)

Ulis’s high stock seems to be an overcorrection to Isaiah Thomas’s success as the #60 overall pick, but this neglects that Isaiah Thomas is arguably the best player < 6′ in NBA history and he still commanded limited FA and trade value after early successes. Further, IT’s success is predicated on elite speed to get to the rim and crafty finishing as he carried a monster usage for good efficiency in Boston. Neither are part of Ulis’s repertoire, as he created a low volume of layups for himself at Kentucky.

Ulis is going to be a harmful player defensively, and it is hard to see how he atones without creating a high volume of offense on the other end. His great floor general skills and outside shooting create an ounce of intrigue, but he has such extreme limitations to overcome he does not deserve to get selected in round 1. Frankly he is not an exciting round 2 flier either– 43rd is a generous ranking which is convenient for the sake of comparison to fellow small PG’s.

Kay Felder is a diminutive PG with better odds of success as his superior athleticism and creation ability give him a clearer path to a big offensive impact.

Fred VanVleet is a few inches taller than Ulis or Felder at 6’1″, but he has the same wingspan and is the least athletic of the three. But he is likely a better prospect than Ulis as well, as he shares a similar assist to turnover ratio while projecting to be much better defensively with superior height, strength, and instincts. He is also a better rebounder and finds his way to the rim with greater frequency.

 

 

44. Guerschon Yabusele (DX: 32, ESPN: 30)

Yabusele has a good PF body, athleticism, and shooting. But he lacks the quickness to guard the perimeter and is neither a rim protector or generally regarded as good on defense, and there is too much disaster potential on this end to consider him in round 1. But if he can clean up his act and become respectable on this end he is an interesting flier.

45. Malachi Richardson (DX: 35, ESPN: 15)

My most disliked green room invite, I’m softening my anti-Malachi stance on the premise that he might be better than his on paper scouting report. If he has good intangibles it is not impossible to envision him sticking in the NBA. He can slash to the rim and possibly be a solid 3 point shooter and decent wing defender. His assist to turnover ratio wasn’t terrible, and if he can clean up his awful mid-range shot selection he may become a serviceable 3 +D wing after all.

I still don’t see how he merits a first round selection, but it is easy to argue that he is solidly draftable.

 

46. Malcolm Brogdon (DX: 42, ESPN: 38)

Brogdon is super old and unathletic, but he was one of the best players for one of the best NCAA teams. His length, BBIQ, and shooting give him some hope of sticking as a 3 +D player.

47. Isaiah Whitehead (DX: 57, ESPN: 52)

Whitehead is an incredibly erratic offensive player, as evidenced by his 39% 2P% and poor turnover rate. But he has some PG skills, 3P shooting, and defensive upside, and has sneaky potential if he can find a real coach and clean up his decision making on offense.

48. Prince Ibeh (DX: 51, ESPN: 88)

Ibeh is a complete zero offensively, but he is draftable based on his stunning tools and defensive potential alone.

Tier 5: Fliers
49. Derrick Jones Jr. (DX: 70, ESPN: 86)
50. Troy Williams (DX: 73, ESPN: 75)

I am not sure how these guys are rated so lowly. They are both super athletes with potential to be good defensive pieces. Williams does enough things on offense to possibly fit in on the perimeter, and Jones is young enough to have time to figure things out.

The behind the scenes information on these players must be ugly because on paper they are both easily worth a 2nd round flier. With good intangibles they are both 1st rounders to me.

51. Diamond Stone (DX: 31, ESPN: 33)

Stone grades decently well according to some statistical models, but I just don’t think his tools are good enough for him to fit in defensively in the NBA. At 6’10.25″ he is too short to play center and without much burst or quickness he does not figure to find a niche in modern NBA defenses.

52. Pascal Siakam (DX: 52, ESPN: 43)

Nothing jumps off the page about Siakam, but he does enough things well to merit a shot in round 2.

53. AJ Hammons (DX: 43, ESPN: 45)

A number of intelligent people seem bullish on Hammons based on his body and stats, but I believe he is too old, indifferent, and lacking in instincts to be much of a sleeper.

 

54. Alex Caruso (DX: 84, ESPN: NR)

One of the most underrated players in NCAA this past season, Caruso doesn’t have great length or athleticism but he has great PG height, vision, and defensive instincts. He has a chance of being a reliable NBA 3P shooter, and I believe he’s too good to not merit a late 2nd flier.

55. Petr Cornelie (DX: 37, ESPN: 50)

Cornelie seems bleh to me, but DX and ESPN think he is draftable so why not include him in my top 60.

56. Jake Layman (DX: 49, ESPN: 48)

He has good size, athleticism, shooting and not much else.

57. Jameel Warney (DX: 100, ESPN:78)

Warney strikes me as a Spurs-ian type who thrives on feel and skill to post monster stats for Stony Brook as an undersized PF. He is probably too short and slow to cut it in the NBA, but his measurables are identical to Millsap so his sliver of poor man’s Sapquity requires mentioning.

58. Daniel Ochefu (DX: NR, ESPN: NR)
59. Ron Baker (DX: 78, ESPN: 60)
60. Jared Uthoff (DX: 59, ESPN: 36)

Some more super productive seniors who I like more as NCAA players than NBA prospects

Just Missed the Cut: Josh Scott, Isaiah Cousins, Dorian Finney-Smith, James Webb, Elgin Cook, Anthony Barber, Joel Bolomboy, Josh Adams, Michael Gbinije, Tyrone Wallace, Thomas Walkup, Wayne Selden

75ish. Ben Bentil (DX: 45, ESPN: 36)

Bentil is the player consensus to be drafted that I like the least. He has meh athleticism, meh rebounding, meh passing, no defense, and just doesn’t offer a whole lot outside of medium efficiency volume scoring when he was consistently set up by Kris Dunn.

2016 Final Big Board With Writeups

I am fairly confident that the draft outcome is rife with inefficiencies. With pristine analysis of all available information, the resulting ranking of the true EV’s of each prospect should heavily vary from the actual draft order. I tend to reflect this in my historical big boards because being an extreme contrarian is fun, but I am now coming to grips with the facts that 1) I lack complete information and 2) my analysis is neither thorough nor pristine. Consequently I am left with extremely contrarian opinions based on limited confidence, and the overall efficiency of my final rankings suffer.

For my final board, my intent is to embrace my lack of knowledge and accept that the actual decision makers do not always differ from my opinion based on completely invalid information. I also am weighing in the perspectives of other draft writers that I respect. This will make my board less boldly anti-consensus but also should make it more efficient.

Tier 1 : Possible Stars

1. Brandon Ingram (DX: 1, ESPN: 2)

Ingram’s main concern is that he may not be that good, which is somewhat understandable since he is excellent at nothing and is not an explosive athlete either. But I believe he’s better than implied by his stats.

Ingram has multiple outs to create offense, as his extremely long arms give him the ability to shoot over most defensive players, and his handle and long strides provide him an ability to create off the dribble in spite of non-elite burst. He complements this with solid vision and passing as well as good defense and versatility to switch onto a wide range of matchups.

The fear is that he never develops into a great shooter, and his lack of athleticism prevents him from being a stud creator or defender and he is merely a decent role player rather than somebody who justifies a top 2 overall selection. This is a plausible outcome, which is why I rate him as a below average #1 overall choice. But he is super young with reportedly elite intangibles, and if he works on his skills and body diligently he can become a star. It is unlikely he lives up to the Kevin Durant comparison, but I see him as a player who has a strong balance of strengths with no real weaknesses in the vein of Millsap. And there is clear potential to pass Millsap as he offers superior height, length, and shooting.

2. Ben Simmons (DX: 2, ESPN: 1)

Simmons is clearly more talented than Ingram, and if he had Ingram’s intangibles he would be an above average #1 pick. But between LSU’s dismal team performance and reports that his intangibles are sorely lacking, there is sufficient evidence to devalue him to an average or worse #1 pick. Frankly it is sheer guesswork to determine much he should be devalued without full information and thorough analysis. My guess is more bearish than consensus, but it could be wrong if Simmons locks in defensively in the pros. And if he develops an 3 point shot this ranking could look especially silly in retrospect. But LSU’s defense was just so bad without much of an offensive spike with an alleged stud PG playing center, that I err on the side of pessimism and rate him behind Ingram.

3. Dragan Bender (DX 3, ESPN: 6)

As much as I want to love Bender and put him #1 on my board, there is simply not enough available information to put him above Simmons and Ingram who would both have viable cases for top 2 picks in an average draft. But there is nevertheless much to love here.

–He can guard all 5 positions
–He is an elite passer
–He appears to have a strong chance of developing into an acceptable NBA 3P shooter

The only other player in the NBA who fits these qualifications is Draymond Green, and he nearly just won finals MVP. And while it is dangerous to read too heavily into his 16 year old 9 game FIBA sample, they don’t just imply that he fits in with the top 3– they imply he may be better than Ingram and Simmons combined.

Since he appears to be a real threat of falling out of the top 5, I am erring on the side of caution and ranking him #3. But it is a strong #3 ranking, and I believe it is an unequivocal error to draft any player other than Simmons and Ingram ahead of him.

Tier 2: Pretty Good Prospects That Should Not Be Top 5 in a Normal Draft

4. Kris Dunn (DX: 4, ESPN: 3)

Dunn provides a baseline of great defensive upside to defend either guard position and elite floor vision to make him the default choice at #4 overall. But there are some pink flags regarding his ability to score. He shot 37% from 3 as a senior on low volume, and he took a number of long 2’s a step inside the arc. It seems he is more comfortable inside the arc, and he may not have a reliable shot from NBA 3 point range.

Further, for such a toolsy and experienced point guard, he created a surprisingly middling volume of layups for himself in the half court. If he struggles to get to the rim vs. NBA defenses he may be relegated to a mid-range chucker who cannot score efficiently enough to capitalize on his vision.

If Dunn can create layups and make NBA 3’s, he should become a nice 2 way player. But if neither happens he is merely a defensive specialist, which is why he is such a weak option at #4 overall.

5. Jaylen Brown (DX: 5, ESPN: 7)

Statistical models are not particularly fond of Brown, neither are most writers in the draft nerd community. But there are a number of factors that mitigate his lackluster statistics:

–He shot much better than his 29% 3P% and 65% FT% at Cal, as DX has him at 39% from 3 and 70% FT in 1,144 pre-NCAA minutes
–He is a better defender than his steals and blocks suggest, as Cal had the #17 kenpom defense with an anemic team steal rate and no elite shot blockers
–He has elite physical tools and the versatility to defend all positions 1-4
–He can create his own shot at the rim, just not at an efficient clip

He still is just an average rebounder and passer, and an inefficient chucker on offense. He may never become good at NBA basketball. But if he becomes a solid 3P shooter, a good and versatile defensive player, and he cleans up his shot selection and decision making on offense, he has as much star potential as anybody outside the top 3.

There’s a good chance I regret ranking Brown this high, but with such meh other options why not gamble on the scarce upside.

6. Wade Baldwin (DX: 14, ESPN: 17)

Nearly every draft nerd loves Wade Baldwin, and his monster 6’11.25″ wingspan gives him great defensive upside. He also has good floor vision and is a good shooter, and is a strong bet to become a useful NBA player. But he lacks the burst and handle to create his own shot at the rim, and his slow trigger resulted in a bizarrely low 3PA rate at Vanderbilt. While he is a strong bet to become a useful NBA player, he may not have the offensive upside to become a 2 way star. But his PG skills, shooting, and switching upside provide enough to be valuable without scoring much, and he is a flat out steal outside the top 10.

7. Deyonta Davis (DX: 11, ESPN: 16) 

Deyonta Davis is tall, athletic, and defensively versatile, with efficient garbage man skills on offense. He has a good assist:TOV rate for a young big and an acceptable mid-range/FT shot, and has nice 1.5 way potential as a valuable piece for switching defense that is not a complete liability on offense.

 

8. Marquese Chriss (DX: 6, ESPN: 5)

Chriss is slippery, as his youth, size, athleticism, and shooting offer promising upside while his poor rebounding, vision, and defense counter with frightening downside.

I tend to be bearish on players who cannot pass, rebound, or defend. But Chriss was actually a better offensive rebounder than Ben Simmons or Henry Ellenson, and DRB% can be a bit funky to predict (see: Andre Drummond who has ~doubled his NCAA DRB% in the NBA). His lack of vision and defensive fundamentals loom as concerns, but he is too young for his limitations to condemn him at such a young age. He may never overcome them, but the behind the scenes feedback doesn’t seem to deter teams from wanting to gamble on him.

Overall I feel there is more risk than upside, but there’s enough to like such that he is a fine gamble as a boom or bust player in the mid-lotto.

 

9. Jakob Poeltl (DX: 9, ESPN: 12)

I have written about Poeltl as an undervalued piece, and I still like him. He has been likened to the 3rd Zeller brother, which is a reasonable comparison. It does make it hard to see his upside, but if he emerges with better defense, rebounding, and passing than your average Zeller those can add up to make a difference.

 

 

10. Timothe Luwawu (DX: 12, ESPN: 26)

Luwawu strikes me as the French Jaylen Brown. He’s older and not quite as toolsy, but he offers a similar package of defensive versatility and offensive upside if his skills progress smoothly.

11. Chinanu Onuaku (DX: 38, ESPN: 37)

There are some pink flags chipping away at his prospect value– he’s slightly short, cannot shoot, is not an explosive athlete, and he has a minor heart condition. But collectively these do not add up to a ton in comparison to how awesomely good he is for such a young player. He still projects to slide to round 2 but I’m not hedging on this one– Onuaku is my clear favorite to be the steal of the draft.

12. Jamal Murray (DX: 7, ESPN: 4)

He’s a stud shooter, but his limited height, length, and quickness makes him project to be a significant liability as an NBA defensive player. The key question for him as a prospect is whether he can complement his shooting with his PG skills. He has a decent handle and good vision, but in college he struggled to get past quicker matchups and was relegated to a spot up shooter with Tyler Ulis running the offense.

There is wiggle room for him to justify his early lotto projection if he develops into a good shot creator and passable defensive player, but with just one proven dimension I believe he is slightly overrated.

Tier 3: Let’s Get Deep

13. Dejounte Murray (DX: 30, ESPN: 9)

Murray is a boom or bust candidate, as his profile is highlighted by his slithery slashing ability, good vision, and SG size. He also offers solid rebounding and defensive potential, and if his shooting, decision making, and strength improve he could be a home run selection.

14. Furkan Korkmaz (DX: 20, ESPN: 13)

Korkmaz offers a compelling combination of shooting, youth, passing, and solid wing height and athleticism. The concern is that he is a bit one dimensional as a shooter, and is too skinny to ever not be a liability on defense.

15. Zhou Qi (DX: 36, ESPN: 47)

We live in a world where Clint Capela was selected 25th, Rudy Gobert 27th, and Nikola Jokic 41st. It seems clear that NBA teams are scared by funky international big men, and Qi is as funky as it gets with monster height and length which is complemented with mobility and shooting ability rarely seen in giants. He is plagued by an outlier rail thin frame and lack of aggressiveness to scare off scouts and keep him out of round 1.

I have no idea if he can stick in the league or not– he could easily be a complete flop. But how many players have been failed with his combination of reach, mobility, and shooting? I assume the answer is none because I cannot think of any with his intersection of strengths. Once the lottery is done, why not gamble on the outlier prospect with an outlier upside over another vanilla 3 + D prospect? There is no reason that a player with an unprecedented intersection of strengths such as Qi should slide to round 2.

Frankly it seems conservative to rank him 15th, but without much information or hype I believe my point is made by placing him here.

16. Domantas Sabonis (DX: 18, ESPN: 10)

He’s young, he can rebound, he can score, and he has a good chance of having an NBA career. But he has such short arms, limited athleticism, and limited defensive versatility that I just don’t see the star potential to justify his rise to a possible top 10 pick.

 

17. DeAndre Bembry (DX: 27, ESPN: 20)

Bembry offers a little bit of everything between his athleticism, passing, rebounding, defense, shot creation. His shot is below average, but if it improves to average he should provide a nice return on any non-lotto pick.

18. Skal Labissiere (DX: 10, ESPN: 14)

Part of me feels compelled to call Skal a lock bust, but he allegedly has serious Channing Frye shooting potential as a hyper athletic 7’0″. How bearish can you be on a player like that? Whatever the answer is, mine is the maximum. He is an anemic rebounder, non-passer, has bad instincts, and is exceptionally foul prone because he tries to block everything on defense. In spite of his tools he could manage to match Frye’s shooting and still be a worse overall player. Conversely he could also manage to be a rich man’s Frye because of his tools, so I am tempering my desire to sell. My inkling is that he offers more boom than bust, but without many (or any?) prior prospects with his combination of burst, height, and shooting this cannot be stated with certitude.

19. Henry Ellenson (DX: 13, ESPN: 11)

Ellenson has been slowly sliding down draft boards, and it is hard to disagree. He offers a compelling offensive package for a 7’0″ player, but still is not yet particularly good at anything. He is average at passing and shooting and shot a hair under 50% from 2P%, so he still has a ways to go to put it together on this end. And even if he does he sounds like a strong bet to be a defensive liability. Ellenson’s upside scenario remains attractive but it requires such a parlay of good development that my optimism for his NBA prospects remains tempered.

20. Ivica Zubac (DX: 16, ESPN: 25)

Zubac is a funky prospect highlighted by his great size, hands, and touch which provides elite interior scoring upside. He’s only 19 and also has solid potential as a passer, shooter, and rebounder as well. Defense is his biggest concern, but if he becomes decent on this end he could provide a load of goodness without any gaping weaknesses.

21. Taurean Prince (DX: 19, ESPN: 34)

Prince is a prototypical 3 +D prospect, as he offers the versatility to guard either forward position, an acceptable 3 point shot and passing ability, and not much else. He won’t become a star but he could easily become a useful cog that fits in any NBA lineup.

22. Patrick McCaw (DX: 29, ESPN: 32)

McCaw is a 3 +D prospect similar to Prince but smaller– he has versatility to defend either guard position and possibly SF’s once he adds bulk. He complements this with adequate passing and shooting but lacks the creation ability to become a star.

 

23. Brice Johnson (DX: 30, ESPN: 29)

Brice Johnson is Jeremy Evans Deluxe, as his profile is highlighted by his elite leaping and finishing ability. He is a bit bigger and was much more productive at North Carolina than Evans was at North Carolina. If Evans’ finishing translated to such respectable NBA production, Johnson’s analogous upside is tantalizing.

Of course there is a reason why Evans is not a regular rotation player, and Johnson has similar concerns. He is a prone to bullying from other PF’s but lacks the defensive fundamentals to adequately guard the perimeter, and also lacks perimeter skills offensively. This makes him an awkward fit into NBA lineups, and it may prevent his statistical production from translating into positive value for his team.

Johnson is another slippery prospect, but he is in the conversation for most athletic player and most productive NCAA player in the draft (kenpom’s algorithm rated him as player of the year) and is still just 21. Those are inarguably nice check marks for a late 1st gamble.

24. Buddy Hield (DX: 8, ESPN: 8)

I have written about Hield as my clear choice for most overrated top 10 pick. He brings elite shooting volume and accuracy, but even if he replicates Klay Thompson’s shooting (which is close to his absolute upside since Klay converted most 3P of all time for any non-Curry in 15-16), he still lacks Klay’s size, court vision, defensive aptitude, and defensive versatility. This would be enough to make him a useful rotation piece. But unless his slashing game develops into a legitimate weapon, it is hard to see an upside tail that justifies his top 10 hype.

25. Denzel Valentine (DX: 25, ESPN: 22)

I want to love Denzel Valentine– it is rare that a player with his intersection of passing, shooting, and rebounding is available outside of the lottery ever. But at the same time he projects to be a major liability defensively and is inept at getting to the rim on offense.

26. Gary Payton Jr. (DX: 48, DX: 56)

The Mitten turns 24 in December, but his elite rebound, steal, and block rates cannot be ignored and he offers just enough offensively to have upside as a 1.5 way PG. His PG skills are not great, but he used his athleticism to get to the rim with regularity and complemented this with a good assist to turnover ratio. His biggest wart is his shot, as he shot 30% on limited 3PA volume and 65% FT, and he may be too old to improve this to an adequate rate. But if his shot experiences a mini-leap forward, he could be highway robbery in round 2 given his athleticism, ability to defend either guard position, and PG skills.

 

27. Malik Beasley (DX: 23, ESPN: 21)

Beasley is an athletic shotmaker and slasher who offers surprising rebounding and competes enough on defense to amount to a useful NBA guard. His intangibles appear to have elevated his stock to the 12-20 range. But he is an undersized SG without much PG skills, so I do not see a tempting enough upside tail for him to be near the top of my list in that range.

28. Cheick Diallo (DX: 24, ESPN: 24)

Diallo is an exceptionally smooth and coordinated big, and after dominating the high school all star circuit I was sky high on him entering NCAA season. Then he spent the year buried on Kansas’s bench, he still is too short to play center, and he lacks the passing and shooting to play on the perimeter. This makes him slippery to peg, but he could be a bigger and better Faried and he is an intriguing fringe 1st round gamble.

 

Tier 4: I Wish I Could Rank All Of These Guys Higher

 

29. Paul Zipser (DX: 26, ESPN: 57)

Zipser is the European Taurean Prince, as he offers defensive versatility as a combo forward and enough shooting and passing to fit in on the perimeter as a solid 3 + D type.

30. Rade Zagorac (DX: 33, ESPN: 45)

Zagorac provides an interesting offensive blend of creation, passing, and shooting for a 6’9″ athlete. There are questions about his defense given his weak frame and limited quickness, so I am not quite as high on him as other intelligent people. But it is easy to see how he strengths could sum into a nice NBA piece for a late 1st/early 2nd flier.

31. Caris LeVert (DX: 46, ESPN: 41)

LeVert is a consummate role player, as he does a little bit of everything among passing, shooting, defense, rebounding, and secondary creation. He lacks strength, athleticism, and durability as his past two seasons ended prematurely due to separate leg and foot injuries. But if he can stay healthy, his small strengths could stay into a surprisingly positive role player and he is consequently one of my favorite 2nd round sleepers.

32. Demetrius Jackson (DX: 17, ESPN: 31)

Jackson’s package is highlighted by athleticism, shooting, and PG skills. But he is almost 22, excellent at nothing, and too small to guard SG’s. He is good enough to justify a late 1st or early 2nd selection, but too bland to be an exciting choice.

33. Juan Hernangomez (DX: 15, ESPN: 18)

Hernangomez is a late riser based on his PF size, non-stop motor, great intangibles, and ability to space the floor. I am skeptical of this rise as I believe talent evaluators are expecting him to fit on the perimeter due to his shooting when his awful assist to turnover rate is the more important signal for swing forwards to translate to the next level. Further he is not a lock stud defensive player, as he is a non-rim protector and has mediocre reach for a PF. My inclination is that he lacks the ball skills for SF and size or burst to defend PF, but perhaps his quickness, shooting, and motor enable him to find an NBA niche nevertheless.

34. Ante Zizic (DX: 22, ESPN: 23)

Zizic is a 19 year old with decent center tools and tantalizing scoring, rebounding, and shot blocking stats in the Adriatic league. The downside is that his steal and assist:TOV rates suggest seriously flawed instincts. He appears to be a pure garbage man which limits his upside, but he is so good at his role it is easy to envision him finding a niche in the NBA.

35. Robert Carter (DX: 44, ESPN: 54)

One of the draft nerd darlings of the 2nd round, Carter does a little bit of everything. With his 7’3.25″ wingspan and balanced game, he has a tiny sliver of equity to be a Millsap level steal.

36. Isaia Cordinier (DX: 39, ESPN: 44)

Cordinier is a mystery box but his scouting report resembles one that may possibly contain a boat: athleticism, vision, shooting, competitive defense, intangibles. He is an intriguing early 2nd gamble.

37. Damian Jones (DX: 21, ESPN: 27)

Toolsy centers with good bodies and athleticism require little skill to succeed in the NBA. DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond offer examples of players who slid in the draft and then translated better than expected. But Jones does not match their levels of athleticism and offers nearly nothing in terms of skill and feel. In spite of his tools he has weak rebounding stats and shockingly low steal and block rates. If he could defend Vanderbilt’s defense would rank much better than #34 as he had the privilege of playing alongside Wade Baldwin and Luke Kornet.

His best skill is his scoring, but he is a poor FT shooter, lacks 3P range, and is a poor passer even if he has become a more willing one. He doesn’t turn 21 until shortly after the draft and is still salvageable, but I do not believe he’s enough of an athletic freak to become a quality starter in spite of his basketball playing limitations.

 

38. Thon Maker (DX: 40, ESPN: 19)

He is 7’1″ and has some semblance of a skill level, but in the 2015 Hoop Summit he looked nothing near an NBA prospect as it appeared he had hands for feet and feet for hands. Being uncoordinated and unathletic is a tough pair of weaknesses to overcome, and he was outshined by a number of players who struggled as NCAA freshman.

He apparently interviewed well and it may be easy to talk yourself into his upside without proof that he is bad, but there is even less proof that he is good. It is possible he’d be firmly in the undrafted ranks with a full NCAA season, so he likely belongs somewhere in round 2.

39. Stephen Zimmerman (DX: 40, ESPN: 40)

Zimmerman looked like he had decent potential in the 2015 Hoop Summit, but then he was a disappointment for UNLV. He battled through injuries and two bad coaches so perhaps he is still salvageable, but there’s not much to love about his freshman performance.

 

40 Kay Felder (DX: 56, ESPN: 49)
41. Tyler Ulis (DX: 28, ESPN: 23)

Ulis’s high stock seems to be an overcorrection to Isaiah Thomas’s success as the #60 overall pick, but this neglects that Isaiah Thomas is likely the best player < 6′ in NBA history and he still commanded limited FA and trade value after early successes. Further, IT’s success is predicated on elite speed to get to the rim and crafty finishing as he carried a monster usage for good efficiency in Boston. Neither are part of Ulis’s repertoire, as he created a low volume of layups for himself at Kentucky.

Ulis is going to be a harmful player defensively, and it is hard to see how he atones without creating a high volume of offense on the other end. His great floor general skills and outside shooting create an ounce of intrigue, but he has such extreme limitations to overcome I do not believe he deserves to get selected in round 1.

Kay Felder may be the diminutive PG with slightly better odds of success as his superior athleticism and creation ability give him a clearer path to a big offensive impact.

42. Isaiah Whitehead (DX: 57, ESPN: 52)

Whitehead is an incredibly erratic offensive player, as evidenced by his 39% 2P% and poor turnover rate. But he has some PG skills, 3P shooting, and defensive upside, and has sneaky potential if he can find a real coach and clean up his decision making on offense.

43. Diamond Stone (DX: 31, ESPN: 33)

Stone grades decently well according to some statistical models, but I just don’t think his tools are good enough for him to fit in defensively in the NBA. At 6’10.25″ he is too short to play center and without much burst or quickness he does not figure to find a niche in modern NBA defenses.

 

44. Guerschon Yabusele (DX: 32, ESPN: 30)

Yabusele has a good PF body, athleticism, and shooting. But he lacks the quickness to guard the perimeter and is neither a rim protector or generally regarded as good on defense, and there is too much disaster potential on this end to consider him in round 1.

 

45. Malachi Richardson (DX: 35, ESPN: 15)

My most disliked green room invite, I’m softening my anti-Malachi stance on the premise that he might be better than his on paper scouting report. If he has good intangibles it is not impossible to envision him sticking in the NBA. He can slash to the rim and possibly be a solid 3 point shooter and decent wing defender. His assist to turnover ratio wasn’t terrible, and if he can clean up his awful mid-range shot selection he may become a serviceable 3 +D wing after all.

I still don’t see how he merits a first round selection, but it is easy to argue that he is solidly draftable.

46. Georgios Papagiannis (DX: 50, ESPN: 46)

It is hard to keep up with all of these late emerging internationals, but Papagiannis is huge, 18, and not obviously super bad so let’s just stash him here on my board and be happy with it.

 

47. Malcolm Brogdon (DX: 42, ESPN: 38)

Brogdon is super old and unathletic, but he was one of the best players for one of the best NCAA teams. His length, BBIQ, and shooting give him some hope of sticking as a 3 +D player.

48. Prince Ibeh (DX: 51, ESPN: 88)

Ibeh is a complete zero offensively, but he is draftable based on his stunning tools and defensive potential alone.

Tier 5: Fliers
49. Derrick Jones Jr. (DX: 70, ESPN: 86)
50. Troy Williams (DX: 73, ESPN: 75)

I am not sure how these guys are rated so lowly. They are both super athletes with potential to be good defensive pieces. Williams does enough things on offense to possibly fit in on the perimeter, and Jones is young enough to have time to figure things out.

The behind the scenes information on these players must be ugly because on paper they are both easily worth a 2nd round flier. With good intangibles they are both 1st rounders to me.

51. Pascal Siakam (DX: 52, ESPN: 43)

Nothing jumps off the page about Siakam, but he does enough things well to merit a shot in round 2.

 

52. AJ Hammons (DX: 43, ESPN: 45)

A number of intelligent people seem bullish on Hammons based on his body and stats, but I believe he is too old, indifferent, and lacking in instincts to be much of a sleeper.

53. Jake Layman (DX: 49, ESPN: 48)

He has good size, athleticism, shooting and not much else.

54. Alex Caruso (DX: 84, ESPN: NR)

One of the most underrated players in NCAA this past season, Caruso doesn’t have great length or athleticism but he has great PG height, vision, and defensive instincts. He has a chance of being a reliable NBA 3P shooter, and I believe he’s too good to not merit a late 2nd flier.

55. Petr Cornelie (DX: 37, ESPN: 50)

Cornelie seems bleh to me, but DX and ESPN think he is draftable so why not include him in my top 60.

 

56. Jameel Warney (DX: 100, ESPN:78)

Warney strikes me as a Spurs-ian type who thrives on feel and skill to post monster stats for Stony Brook as an undersized PF. He is probably too short and slow to cut it in the NBA, but his measurables are identical to Millsap so his sliver of poor man’s Sapquity requires mentioning.

57. Daniel Ochefu (DX: NR, ESPN: NR)

Ochefu isn’t that athletic and projects to have struggles defending the PnR, but he was so so good as a college senior I believe he deserves late 2nd consideration.

58. Fred VanVleet (DX: 83, ESPN: 61)
59. Ron Baker (DX: 78, ESPN: 60)
60. Jared Uthoff (DX: 59, ESPN: 36)

Some more super productive seniors who I like more as NCAA players than NBA prospects

Just Missed the Cut: Josh Scott, Isaiah Cousins, Dorian Finney-Smith, James Webb, Elgin Cook, Anthony Barber, Joel Bolomboy, Josh Adams, Michael Gbinije, Tyrone Wallace, Thomas Walkup, Wayne Selden

75ish. Ben Bentil (DX: 45, ESPN: 36)

Bentil is the player consensus to be drafted that I like the least. He has meh athleticism, meh rebounding, meh passing, no defense, and just doesn’t offer a whole lot outside of medium efficiency volume scoring when he was consistently set up by Kris Dunn.

 

 

Defensive Versatility Rankings

Prospects tend to be evaluated based on whether they can guard their natural match up on the floor. But as the NBA progresses toward defensive systems that entail rampant switching, ability to guard multiple positions should be valued at a premium. I hypothesize that defensively versatile players will tend to be undervalued in the draft, and players constrained to one position will be overvalued as extreme switching will pit them against more extreme mismatches than normal.

Bearing this in mind, I will approximate the defensive versatility of the noteworthy players in the class to give an additional perspective to apply to my final rankings. These estimates are based on size, athleticism, and quickness and are more reflective of potential than current ability.

Able To Guard All 5 Positions:
Dragan Bender

While he is a bit thin at age 18 to guard bulkier NBA bigs, he is 7’1″ with elite lateral quickness. As he bulks up with age he should be able to guard NBA centers, and he should maintain the quickness to switch onto most other players on the floor. Pair this with his elite passing and possible 3 point shooting ability, and he could be the only other player in the league to match Draymond Green’s versatility.

4 Positions:
Ben Simmons

It’s rare to get a point guard who can guard big wings, and Simmons is the rare PG in a PF body. He could arguably hold his own against centers in a pinch, but the fear is whether he will play adequate defense at all. He was exceptionally lazy at PF/C as his LSU team was eviscerated inside. If he performs in line with his physical gifts in the NBA he can be a versatile beast on defense, but much like his game as a whole this is a big if. He could prove adequate at guarding 0 positions, which is why he is such an enigmatic prospect.

Jaylen Brown

At 6’7″ Brown is slightly short to play PF, but his 7’0″ wingspan and strong frame should enable him to fit in small lineups and he has the quickness and athleticism to hang with PG’s. His freshman defense was not perfect, but unlike Simmons his team defense saw a big jump from #80 kenpom to #17 with the arrival of himself and Ivan Rabb. Stat models do not love him, but his elite tools and potential for defensive versatility nevertheless keeps him on the radar for a top 5 pick.

 

3.5 Positions:
Brandon Ingram

Ingram doesn’t quite have the strength to guard centers or the quicks to defend guards, but because of his height, length, and defensive aptitude I am giving him half credit for each position outside of his natural SF and PF. As he gains experience and muscle, he could develop into a solidly versatile defender.

Timothe Luwawu

Luwawu is a bit light on the length and strength to regularly guard PF’s, but should be able to guard PG through SF. He also has potential to guard all guards and wings well, which makes him an intriguing sleeper outside of the top 10.

 

 

3 Positions
Marquese Chriss

Chriss is similar to Simmons in that he is a bit small to guard centers and his defensive fundamentals cast doubt as to whether he can guard anybody at a high level. But as a 6’10” player with elite athleticism and quickness he can be a versatile weapon on this end if his fundamentals progress well.

Taurean Prince

Prince is a natural SF/PF tweener who also has the quicks to switch onto some guards. Although he does not have the most versatile offensive game, the ability to make 3’s combined with his defensive versatility makes him the modern prototype for 3 + D play.

Deyonta Davis

He’s slightly small for center, but he can fit there as the NBA trends smaller. And his quickness and athleticism enables him to switch onto smaller players. This could become the new prototype for center– he can protect the rim in spite of being slightly small and should be extremely difficult to attack in the pick and roll.

Paul Zipser

DX’s scouting report on his Eurocamp play:

Defensively, he guarded multiple positions in his no-nonense fashion, mostly operating at the power forward position, using his strong frame, but showing nice versatility switching onto players big and small all over the floor.

Thin slice says he is a SF/PF tweener who can switch onto a wide range of players in a pinch. Given that his rebounding, shooting, and passing also look competent, he could be another player to add to the international sleeper pile as he is a European parallel to Prince.

2.5 Positions
Jakob Poeltl

There are questions about Poeltl’s defense, and he may be merely decent rather than good. But he nevertheless has center size at 7’1″ and the quickness to hold his own against perimeter players, and this should enable him to provide value to a wide range of lineups while the NBA trends small.

Chinanu Onuaku

Onuaku is a bit undersized for center, but shows good rim protection and the quickness to compete vs. perimeter players.

 

Wade Baldwin

Baldwin is suited to guard either guard position, and his strong frame and 6’11.25″ give him a shot to handle some SF’s as well. The ability to play PG on offense and sometimes guard SF’s on defense is a nice intersection that compounds the adoration he has received from draft nerds including myself.

Patrick McCaw

McCaw’s rail thin frame may prevent him from guarding SF’s with regularity, but his quick feet, quick hands, and length could enable him to be a terror vs both guard positions

2 Positions:
Kris Dunn
Dejounte Murray
DeAndre Bembry
Malachi Richardson

Not going into much detail here as this is a fairly neutral place to land. Although it is a slight positive for Dunn and Murray as PG skills in a SG body is generally a nice situation to have.

 

1.5 Positions
Brice Johnson

He has the quickness and burst to hold his own on the perimeter, but traditionally struggles switching onto perimeter players making it hard to get excited about him regularly switching. And he lacks the height, length, and strength to guard centers. I had rated Johnson as a sleeper, but without rapidly improving his perimeter defense he may not provide great 1st round value.

Malik Beasley

He likely has the athleticism to guard PG’s, but is a bit undersized for a SG.

1 Position
Demetrius Jackson

Jackson is a great athlete, but at 6’2″ with a 6.5.5″ wingspan he is strictly limited to guarding PG’s which makes it difficult to get excited for him without an elite offensive skill set.

Buddy Hield

Too slow to guard PG’s, too small to guard SF’s, and he may not even be that good at guarding SG’s. I already wrote about my skepticism for Hield in detail, and his lack of defensive versatility is a big nail in his coffin.

Jamal Murray

Murray has more offensive upside than Hield, but arguably bigger defensive concerns as his shorter wingspan could make him a liability against everybody.

Henry Ellenson

He arguably has the size to play center in a pinch, but he is not a rim protector and is generally bad defensively and might end up getting torched by everybody.

Domantas Sabonis

His poor length prohibits him from playing center. Sabonis can play but his funky mold prevents him from having great upside.

0.5 Position
Denzel Valentine

At 6’5.75″ Valentine is a bit short for SF while also being too slow to play SG. His 6’10.75″ length makes SF his best bet, but he could be a disaster on defense.

Tyler Ulis
Kay Felder

 At 5’10” these guys are too short to guard most PGs, and things should not become easier when switched onto larger players.

Diamond Stone

At 6’10.25″ he is short for a center and doesn’t have the athleticism or quickness to switch onto perimeter players. He fits the prototype for bruising big man who is unplayable in a wide range of situations in the modern NBA.

2016 Big Board

Now that I have gone on a binge of writing words, I will post an attempt at a big board with DX and ESPN rankings for comparison.

One note on this board is that it is extremely hard to have rankings that I feel good about while thin slicing these prospects. There is such a thin margin between being the #15 and #30 prospect in this draft, it is nearly impossible to correctly value the key nuances from afar. I can make a good effort with the available pieces and logical analysis, but the draft process entails loads of luck even with the thick slice. When thin slicing and filling in the blanks with guesswork, predicting NBA futures feels like a complete variance fest. But it is a fun variance fest, so here are my rankings:

rank player DX ESPN
1 Dragan Bender 3 5
2 Brandon Ingram 1 2
3 Ben Simmons 2 1
4 Kris Dunn 4 4
5 Wade Baldwin 15 16
6 Jakob Poeltl 8 12
7 Chinanu Onuaku 38 36
8 Deyonta Davis 10 15
9 Furkan Korkmaz 21 13
10 Timothy Luwawu 14 35
11 Jaylen Brown 5 8
12 Jamal Murray 6 3
13 Henry Ellenson 13 9
14 Marquese Chriss 11 6
15 Zhou Qi 28 71
16 Brice Johnson 30 34
17 Domantas Sabonis 17 17
18 Dejounte Murray 32 10
19 DeAndre Bembry 29 20
20 Denzel Valentine 12 22
21 Buddy Hield 7 7
22 Taurean Prince 18 37
23 Ivica Zubac 20 25
24 Patrick McCaw 31 27
25 Demetrius Jackson 16 26
26 Cheick Diallo 25 29
27 Caris LeVert 46 43
28 Malik Beasley 24 18
29 Ante Zizic 23 21
30 Tyler Ulis 19 23
31 Gary Payton 48 53
32 Isaia Cordinier 39 47
33 Damian Jones 22 24
34 Skal Labissiere 9 11
35 Guerschon Yabusele 34 30
36 Diamond Stone 33 32
37 Troy Williams 76 70
38 Thon Maker 40 19
39 Stephen Zimmerman 35 42
40 Rade Zagorac 36 51
41 Juan Hernangomez 26 31
42 Jameel Warney NR 74
43 Jake Layman 49 52
44 Isaiah Whitehead 57 39
45 Fred VanVleet 85 60
46 Robert Carter 44 45
47 Daniel Ochefu NR NR
48 Malcolm Brogdon 41 38
49 Kay Felder 56 44
50 Prince Ibeh 51 88
87 Malachi Richardson 37 14

The top 3 are all below average #1 picks but above average for #3. They can be reasonably ranked in any order. It is probably a horrible idea to rank Dragan Bender #1 based on a small sample of FIBA stats and highlights of touchdown outlet passes, but I like to live life on the edge. He could be a Darko level flop and make me feel bad about this ranking, or he could also be a generational star in a world where Brandon Ingram is Luol Deng-ish and Ben Simmons is an enigma, so let’s gamble. Ingram is the safest pick but the least sexy, and then Simmons is roughly taller Rajon Rondo which means he will land somewhere on the scale of incredibly frustrating to awesome.

Wade Baldwin is beloved by every draft nerd and should rise on ESPN and DX’s respective boards. I feel similarly toward Baldwin as I did toward Marcus Smart– he may not have the burst and ball skills to be a true superstar, but he has wiggle room for surprise upside and at least he is unlikely to provide a bad return for the drafting team.

I wrote about Jakob Poeltl and Chinanu Onuaku as two of my favorite bigs.

I have no Furkan idea where to rank Korkmaz, but he is 18, 6’7″, can shoot, pass, and jump which is a super nice intersection of traits. I do not understand why he does not have more draft hype in a world where the intersection of shooting and athleticism causes traditional scouts to drool all over themselves. You would think the rest of his game is awful, except youth, passing, and good wing height further bolster his profile to the point where he feels like he may merit consideration at #4 overall. His weaknesses are strength, defense, and ball handling, all of which seem readily improvable given his age. Yet here we are, with Chad Ford ranking him one slot ahead of Malachi Richardson and DX not even having him top 20. Shrug.

Timothy Luwawu is another international guy that seems like a better gamble from afar than these crappy young NCAA guys.

Jaylen Brown, Jamal Murray, Henry Ellenson, and Marquese Chriss make up my tier of baby NCAA players who I am not particularly fond of, but all have outs to become good NBA’ers so I am not relentlessly selling.

Zhou Qi is another international who just seems like he is a better shot in the dark than most NCAA guys. He has monster height and wingspan, skill, and basketball IQ, yet DX barely has him in round 1 Chad Ford has him ranked behind loads of 23 year old NCAA players who are locked into D-League careers. Especially after seeing foreign bigs like Jokic and Capela providing awesome draft value recently, why get so bearish on a guy with a unique collection of good traits?

Brice Johnson is my pet sleeper. He is young for a senior, and is in the conversation for both best NCAA player this past season as well as most explosive leaper in the draft. Any time both of those things are true, how bad can it be to draft him? He is Jeremy Evans deluxe– Evans always had solid stats, and I imagine if he was a bit bigger and more well rounded like Brice that he would be a useful pro.

Denzel Valentine is weird. On one hand, a guy who is great at passing, shooting, and rebounding seems like a great gamble in the mid-1st. On the other hand, how good can a guard be while being a statue on defense and unable to get to the rim on offense?

I have written about my doubts regarding Buddy Hield.

I like everybody in the #22-32 range. Most of them I wish I could move up, but I’m not sure to move down. This is a section where I wish I was more familiar with nuances, so I could have a more accurate ranking. Instead I may as well randomize it.

Damian Jones has a great body and athleticism and is a young junior, but suffers from being bad at basketball. As a regular Vanderbilt watcher, he was incredibly frustrating as the game of basketball simply does not come natural to him. He has a basic scoring repertoire and has become a willing passer. But his poor instincts are reflected in his lackluster rebounds, steals, and blocks, as well as the fact that Vandy only had the #34 defense in spite of Jones sharing the floor with more talented players such as Wade Baldwin and Luke Kornet.

Like Damian Jones, Skal Labissiere has great tools but little in the way of basketball playing ability. The only area where he stuffed the statsheet is blocks, and that is largely because he jumps at everything. His anemic rebound, assist, and steal rates indicate his awful feel for the game, and as an old freshman he seems nearly hopeless to me. His best skill is his decent mid-range/FT shot. It is hard to write off an explosive 7’0 player at age 20, but outside of height and athleticism there is approximately nothing to work with. He is just 9 months younger than Jones, skinnier, has a shorter wingspan, and more frightening statistical craters. His tools leave him some shot of having a successful NBA career, but color me pessimistic.

What happened to Troy Williams‘ stock? His 6’8.25″ wingspan is meh, but other than that he has the tools to be a wing stopper defensively. There are questions about his perimeter skills offensively, but if his handle and shot progress well he could be a steal. I had him as a 1st rounder pre-season and his junior year wasn’t bad, so I am not sure why he fell off the radar.

My familiarity with Thon Maker comes from the 2015 Hoop Summit, who looked like he had hands for feet and feet for hands. Maybe I am selling him short, but as far as I can tell his selling points are that he is 7’0″, young, and sometimes attempts to dribble and shoot. With such poor coordination and hands, it is hard to see him becoming good.

Juan Hernangomez is meh to me. He is a 3/4 tweener whose terrible assist to turnover ratio implies that he lacks the ball skill to succeed as an NBA perimeter player, in spite of him being an acceptable shooter. Without exceptional defense or athleticism to make up for this flaw, I remain unexcited.

Jameel Warney is the Paul Millsap flier of the draft. His NCAA statistics are not as strong as Millsap’s and he will likely not develop into a player who can make 3’s and defend the perimeter, but he has similar measurables and posted more assists than turnovers three seasons in a row as an efficient volume scorer for Stony Brook. He is a not bad under the radar sleeper in round 2.

Daniel Ochefu is the guy totally off the radar who I believe is most likely to carve out a rotation role in the NBA. He was among the best NCAA players in the country, and at age 22 is not insanely old for a senior. He has center size and does a little bit of everything. DraftExpress thinks his poor flexibility prevents him from switch onto smaller players. This may be a death knell for his NBA odds as heavy switching becomes increasingly popular, but there is enough to like to gamble on him in round 2 anyway.

Life hack: if you are Chad Ford, try swapping Malachi Richardson and Zhou Qi on your big board before the draft instead of 4 years after.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Poeltl

NCAA Basketball: Washington State at Utah

After Brandon Ingram and Ben Simmons go off the board, there are a myriad of possible choices at #3 overall. Dragan Bender is the good choice, and if the Celtics correctly select him, the 4th overall pick is a mess of players who should never be chosen in the top 5 of any draft. Kris Dunn is the only choice that is reasonable to both draft nerds and scouts, which is good argument for him being the best choice. ESPN and DX offer Jaylen Brown, Jamal Murray, Marquese Chriss, and Buddy Hield as alternate possibilities. Draft nerds (such as myself) may argue that Wade Baldwin or Chinanu Onuaku deserve consideration. I would like to make an argument for a player which neither crowd considers to belong in the top 5.

Jakob Poeltl is a 20 year old center from Austria. He is 7’1″ and mobile, he scores efficiently with elite rim touch, passes well, and rebounds decently. He does not attempt jump shots, but he did improve his FT% from 44% as a freshman to 69% as a sophomore.

He fails to arouse excitement in the lottery because he is not an explosive leaper, he does not make jumpers, and there are questions about his defense. His lack of bulk and toughness makes him prone to bullying, and he was most recently seen getting dominated by Domantas Sabonis in an NCAA tournament blowout loss. Further, his lackluster steal and block numbers prevent the statistically aware crowd from embracing him as a two way center. In world where big men are losing utility, it is natural to feel meh toward one who can neither shoot nor defend.

A Defense Of Poeltl’s Defense

He measured 7’1″ with a 7’2.75″ wingspan 239 pounds. This is similar to Willie Cauley-Stein who is 7’0.5″ with 7’3″ wing 242 pounds. Poeltl lacks the athleticism and quicks of Cauley-Stein, but he is not a slouch in these areas. WCS has elite tools and is an elite defensive prospect, and comparatively it is fair to say that Poeltl has good enough tools to be a good defensive prospect.

I do not read heavily into the Sabonis matchup because he can physically match up and it was just one game. There’s no reason to believe that Poeltl will be routinely dominated by Sabonis types. In the 2015 tournament against Jahlil Okafor DX says “Poeltl won the head-to-head battle in almost every aspect of the game.” And Okafor is theoretically Poeltl’s kryptonite since getting he was draft 3rd overall largely for his ability to bully weaker players in the post. The Gonzaga loss was likely just a bad game for Poeltl at the wrong time, especially since I had loads of moneys on the Utes.

 

The Okafor example proves that Poeltl can handle bullies no more than Sabonis proves that he is a sieve. But proneness to bullying is not the most debilitating weakness as post-up attempts are rapidly vanishing from the NBA. It is a blip in his profile, but not a death knell.

His low steal rate is another blip, and then his block rate suspiciously dropped from 8.6% as a freshman to 5.0% as a sophomore. There are two possible explanations for this :

  1. He lacks some level of burst/reach/instincts to protect the rim at an elite level
  2. He does not attempt to block as many shots as his giant peers

#1 is true to at least some extent and adds another blip, but let’s explore #2 for a moment

Non Block Party

Jumping at every shot in the paint to try to swat it into the 4th row is not optimal defense. It leaves the attempting blocker susceptible to pump fakes and fouls, and even when shots are blocked they are rebounded by the defense at a lower rate than normal. It is often preferrable to contest without blocking, which Poeltl seems to prefer.

Utah finished #131 of 351 in defensive block rate, but #32 in defensive 2P%. In Pac-12 play they were #9 in Blk%, #2 in 2P%. Utah also had the lowest defensive FT rate in the entire NCAA, with Poeltl’s impressively low 4.5 fouls per 100 possessions playing a factor. He is the anti-Skal Labissiere who posted double the block rate and committed 11.2 fouls per 100 in the process.

This aligns with DraftExpress’s scouting report which praises Poeltl’s fundamentals for his discipline, competitiveness, and ability to switch pick and rolls.

One concern may be that Utah’s defense slipped from #6 to #69 following the departure of Delon Wright and 7’0″ backup Dallin Bachynski. Of course any defense will miss Delon Wright, but much of the decline is attributable to variance. Utah’s defensive 3P% slipped from 31.2% to 37.1% and opponent FT% increased a few points as well. This has nothing to do with Poeltl, a little to do with Wright, and a lot to do with variance. If opponents missed shots against Utah like they did the prior year, the Utes could have easily had another top 25 defense. This is not amazing, but is solidly good for a roster that does not feature much size or athleticism outside of Poeltl.

This does not mean that his block rate should be entirely ignored. Even his freshman block rate was slightly less than most stud defensive big prospects post. But his freshman rate did not raise flags, and his low sophomore rate correlates with positive aspects of his defensive profile

In Summation

+Good physical tools
+Good fundamentals
+Anchored good team defense
+Solid defensive rebounder

 

-He lacks strength and is prone to bullying
-He is not an explosive playmaker with both steals
-Nothing about his defensive profile is amazing

 

His profile is founded on good intersection of macro indicators with a few blips that cut into his upside and create a downside tail. He may be good defensively, or he may be soft and mediocre. But nobody is as worried about the defense of Deyonta Davis who also had issues with steal rate, is 2.5 inches shorter, and has no indicator that he should be better outside of a being slightly more athletic. Poeltl should be treated similarly, as a good but not great defensive prospect.

But centers are a dying breed!

As the game drifts beyond the arc, centers are being used less frequently in favor of small lineups with superior shooting. This dents the value of bigs, especially ones that cannot make threes such as Poeltl. But this will not necessarily trend until centers are extinct– it is generally helpful to be extremely tall at the game of basketball, and it is possible the league will take measures to counteract the 3 point bombing fest that the game has become (i.e. move the 3 point arc back).

Further, while Poeltl is not a 3 point shooter, he does offer the other key small person traits of passing and ability to switch onto smaller matchups. I doubt that a mobile 7’1″ player with multiple skills will become totally obsolete, so it is not reasonable to condemn him based on recent anti-big trends.

Bottom Line

Scouts like Poeltl, stat models like him, and he is much better defensively than his stat sheet suggests. The intersection of these qualities tends to suggest that a prospect is good.

Poeltl has an awesome offensive package of rim touch, passing, hands, and improved FT%. He may never be able to make 3’s, but his FT% implies a fair chance of developing a mid-range game and he could be solidly good on both ends. He could also be soft on defense and limited offensively, or he could be a player who is productive but can only be played situationally as the NBA evolves. But everybody outside of the top 3 has serious bust risk and non-elite upside.

His NCAA statistics in many ways parallel to fellow Ute and former #1 overall pick Andrew Bogut, who also had a curiously low NCAA block rate and provided a rare case of a higher NBA block rate from age 25 onward. He also has shades of Al Horford and Marc Gasol who are above average at a wide range of things to sum to a solidly good player. Those are optimistic outcomes that require him to develop a jump shot and hit his upper bound defensively, but they are nice upside scenarios for a weak #4 slot.

I am not certain that he belongs at #4 overall. Kris Dunn and Wade Baldwin may be safer choices in a world where two way perimeter players who can guard multiple positions trade at a premium. But beyond them there are not many names who offer notably fewer flags or higher upside, so I have Poeltl locked into the #4-7 range in my big board.

 

I’m Not Your Friend, Buddy

buddy-hield
This past season Buddy Hield (DX: 7, ESPN: 6) captured the basketball world’s heart as the fast talking Bahamian delivered a break out season at Oklahoma. He thrived on his sharp shooting, as he led Oklahoma to the Final 4 while elevating his stock from 2nd round to a possible top 5 pick.

Why his stock is high

Hield’s two strongest selling points are his shooting accuracy and ability to get off a high volume of 3PA. He put on a Steph Curry-ish shooting display as a senior, averaging more 3P per game than any other NCAA player while converting a staggering 46%, backing this up with 88% FT. Many of these shots came off the dribble, as only 68% of his 3P were assisted. Combine this with adequate tools for an NBA SG, no debilitating weakness in his game, and the work ethic to continue to progress at an above average rate and it is easy to see why he is regarded as a strong candidate to be an ideal floor spacing SG.

Hield is often compared to a more athletic JJ Redick, and a possibly superior version of Redick is certainly an adequate upsisde for a mid-lottery pick in this draft.

Is Redick really a fair comparison?

I have skepticism regarding Hield’s ability to attain that Redick’s of goodness. Redick is a better shooter who has picture perfect form and shot 40% from 3 and 92%+ FT in each of his first 3 NCAA seasons. Hield shot a mere 35% from 3 and 80% FT over his first 3 seasons, which casts significant shade on his senior shooting numbers (although in fairness they were superior to Redick’s senior %’s). While there was clearly genuine progression in his senior season shooting ability, shooting percentages are heavily plagued by variance and it’s exceptionally unlikely that Hield’s senior percentages are indicative of his true shooting ability. He is nevertheless a very good shooter, but not likely to be an outlier shooter on par with Redick, Steph Curry, Kyle Korver, etc.

Other than his shooting, Buddy does not have many notable strengths in his profile. His tools are roughly average for an NBA SG, which can be viewed as a strength for a great shooter. He can score in transition and has enough handle and athleticism to create his own shot off the dribble. If there is a second feature to his game, it is that he created an excellent volume of his own shots at the rim this past season and increased his FT rate. With 55% 2P to complement his great 3P% and FT%, his offensive game appears to maximize the sweet spots of 3’s, layups, and FT’s similar to James Harden.

But as his scoring improved, he saw a spike in turnovers while his assists stagnated, resulting in an atrocious assist to turnover rate for a senior guard. Any team drafting him should be extremely worried that his lack of vision will prevent his slashing game from efficiently translating to the NBA, especially since he is not the shiftiest player. He should be able to attack closeouts and finish in transition, but I doubt he can efficiently penetrate NBA defenses with regularity given his poor vision.

Defensively he lacks the quickness to guard PG’s and the size to guard SF’s. And he is not good at guarding his only competent position of SG. It is conceivable that he could become average a guarding NBA SG’s, but a low floor, low upside, and limited versatility on this end makes it difficult to get excited over an old guard with a 1.5 dimensional offensive game.

Hield’s work ethic inspires some optimism to overcome his flaws, but he turns 23 in December and has limited time to improve before he reaches his peak. Perhaps his career will mirror that of Redick, who didn’t become a useful rotation player until his 4th season at age 25. But JJ Redick is an outlier example of a one dimensional shooting senior becoming a solid starter, and choosing him as a Hield comp undersells nuances to Redick’s skill, feel, basketball IQ, and pro development that enabled his success. Hield is more likely to be a compare to Doug McDermott or Jimmer Fredette than Redick.

Bottom Line

My favorite Hield comparison is Anthony Morrow. He can easily populate his game outside of shooting to be a rich man’s Morrow (most readily by not being awful on defense). Also he can make a greater shooting impact by getting off a higher volume of 3’s, even if he 3P% will likely be lower. A more complete Morrow is a useful rotation player, and if his work ethic leads to surprising leaps in his game, Hield will become a starting caliber SG.

Buddy is worth a 1st round selection, but his equity to be an above average starter is slim, and he isn’t going to become an all-star. It is possible that I am underrating the value of his massive 3PA rate, his slashing ability, and his odds of becoming competent defensively, but I simply do not see the upside to justify a lottery selection.

Fortunately, there are healthier alternatives for teams starved for wings:

Wade Baldwin (DX: 15, ESPN: 20)

baldwin

This is every draft nerd’s free space for SG to rate above Hield. Baldwin is a much better passer and defensive player than Hield while being 2.3 years younger. Given that he also has a better career 3P% with 80% FT and a similar physical profile, it is a layup that he is better than Hield.

Hield’s key edge is that he attempts more than twice as many 3’s as Baldwin, who struggles to shoot off the dribble and has a slower trigger. It seems that Baldwin should be able to increase his 3PA rate in the NBA as he plays more off the ball, but it is a noteworthy flaw in his profile. And while Baldwin doesn’t have the burst or handle to regularly penetrate to the rim, his youth and passing nevertheless place his slashing upside far above that of Hield.

It is arguable that Hield is a slightly better offensive prospect due to his edge in 3PA rate, but once you factor in defense it is no contest: Baldwin is clearly the superior overall prospect.

Baldwin should become something on a scale of Delonte West to George Hill a significant % of the time. He’s a solid 3 + D prospect with a hint of PG skills and versatility to defend either guard, and deserves to be picked in the top 10.

Dejounte Murray (DX: 32, ESPN: 12)

NCAA MENS BASKETBALL, STANFORD AT WASHINGTON

Murray is younger and has higher risk of busting completely, but he also has a sliver of star upside that Hield lacks.

Murray’s best selling point is his slashing potential, as he posted an excellent assist rate for a freshman wing and pairs this with a slithery ability to penetrate through defenses. If he adds strength and improves his skills at a good rate, he could become a weapon offensively as a James Harden lite. While Murray won’t be nearly as good, Harden exemplifies how vision and shake can sum to elite slashing without an explosive first step.

Murray’s biggest wart is his shooting (29% 3P, 66% FT), which makes him far more likely to resemble Monta Ellis, Michael Carter Williams, or 50 year old Kobe than Harden. But unlike Hield who will never have adequate PG skills, Murray could conceivably improve to an average 3 point shooter.

Murray’s defense is a mystery box. ESPN labels him as a good defender, DX labels him as indifferent albeit with upside. His steals, blocks, and rebounds indicate good potential on this end. He could be as poor as Harden or solidly good on this end.

Murray is a slippery prospect. There is a high upside, but it requires a long parlay of conditionals to be reached. He provides an example where behind the scenes evaluation would be particularly helpful. With personality green flags he’s a tantalizing sleeper that belongs in the lottery, without them he’s a long shot in the dark. I cannot say that he’s a definitively better prospect than Hield, but he has a much clearer path to stardom and a more attractive gamble from afar.

Caris LeVert (DX: 46, ESPN: 43)

635652287629113380-levert

LeVert’s stock has been harmed by having his past two seasons prematurely ended by injury, and he has fallen from possible mid-1st rounder all the way to round 2.

LeVert offers a balanced package as a role playing wing, as he is 8 months younger, 2 inches taller, better defensively, more defensively versatile, better at passing, and has a better career 3P% than Hield. That’s a whole lot of goodness that he brings to the table that Hield lacks.

Hield’s advantages are his 3PA rate and his lack of an injury history. He is also stronger and perhaps slightly more explosive, but it’s difficult to see his trigger and ability to shoot off the dribble as more valuable than LeVert’s more well rounded package. LeVert’s versatility offers a prototypical role player who fits in any lineup, and his summation of many small strengths can add up to more upside than meets the untrained eye.

Hield still may be the better overall prospect depending on your optimism (or lack thereof) regarding LeVert’s ability to stay healthy, but the two prospects are close. Why use a lottery pick on Hield when you can nab LeVert in the late 1st or early 2nd?

Malachi Richardson (DX: 37, ESPN: 14)

 

Just kidding! Somebody has to explain to me why he is even top 50. In spite of being a freshman, he is sophomore aged and his most notable statistic is 39% 2P. His big selling points are that he is an average shooter and has a 7’0″ wingspan. Other than that he’s an average athlete and unspectacular rebounder and passer. Nobody knows if he’s good on defense because he played in Syracuse’s zone, but he posted curiously low steals and blocks for a wing with 7’0″ length.

According to Chad Ford he interviewed well, but it is hard to see that mattering when the position he seeks is “NBA basketball player.” I would like a hit of whatever Ford is smoking to rate him as a lottery pick.

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