So now that we officially have the draft class set, I can publish my first big board specific to 2014!
-Age is as of draft night
-This is not where I think players *will* get drafted, it’s where I think they *should* get drafted.
-I am aggressively thin slicing the international prospects and will modify my placement of them as I learn more about them.
Before people new to the site get upset over my bold stances, I have detailed explanations for my contrarian positions.
Top Players: Save for Jabari Parker, all are underrated at this juncture: Joel Embiid, Dante Exum, Marcus Smart, Jusuf Nurkic
Overrated players: Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Doug McDermott, Zach LaVine.
If you are wondering why some fringe first rounds such as Hood, Early, and Wilcox are buried so deep, I wrote about it in my post regarding the 2nd round lotto
-At age 19, Clint Capela was 2nd in French League PER narrowly behind 27 year old Ahmad Nivins. Good stats, good tools, and youth are the three important traits to seek in prospects on a macro level, and he checks all 3 boxes.
-Kristaps Porzingis is one of the youngest prospects in the draft. He is 7’0 and racks up steals and blocks and sometimes hits 3’s. He is fairly thin at 220 pounds and doesn’t rebound well, but his baseline package of height, defense, and shooting is rather compelling.
-Damien Inglis essentially shares LeBron James’s body with longer arms and merely decent athleticism. He doesn’t score much and his shot mechanics are questionable, but his small sample shooting stats are good and he gets good rebound, assist, and steal totals. He could become a stronger Nicolas Batum and appears to be vastly underrated.
-Nikola Jokic brings a high skill level and questionable tools. He is 6’11 253 with a 7’3 wingspan, but lacks speed and athleticism. He atones for this with good passing, shooting, and basketball IQ. His Adriatic League stats are strong in spite of struggling from 3 (15/68 = 22.1%). He has a similar skill set to Brad Miller.
–KJ McDaniels has been one of the most underrated prospects in the draft all season long and he is still underrated. He is a great defensive prospect with solid offensive potential as well
-DX and ESPN are finally catching onto Elfrid Payton’s goodness. He is a high upside PG with two way potential for the few teams that need a PG.
-Jordan Adams is such a weird prospect. He has great skill level and feel for the game but largely underwhelming tools. But his stats are so good for his age he is worth a gamble in the back end of round 1.
-Spencer Dinwiddie’s stock takes a slight hit due to him coming off an ACL tear, but he is an intelligent prospect who has the skills and tools to become a solid role playing SG that easily fits into any NBA lineup.
-Isaiah Austin is a rare top 5 recruit that is underrated at draft time. He has plenty of warts (poor finishing, mediocre rebounding, questionable feel) but he has an invaluable pairing of strengths: rim protection and 3 point shooting. I recently wrote that Julius Randle lacking these strengths submarines his stock in spite of his other goodness, and this theory applies in the opposite direction for Austin.
-I have a hard time getting excited for James Young. He requires significant offensive improvement to be worth anything, and even if he becomes a quality scorer his defense will still likely be a concern.
-Jerami Grant is somewhat difficult to peg. His value is largely based on defensive potential, which is difficult to assess as he played in the back of Syracuse’s zone. His other big question is: how does he fit into an NBA offense if he doesn’t develop surprising 3 point range?
-DeAndre Daniels’s stock has blown up following UConn’s title run. Color me skeptical. He is old for his class, rail thin, and never passes. His strengths are not strong enough to merit 1st round consideration. I prefer Okaro White who is slightly better in a similar mold, but projects to go undrafted.
-Sim Bhullar is 7’5 360 and is generally regarded as not draftable. I think he is worth a flier in the back end of round 2, as he has quite a bit of upside to improve his body and may be less stiff-like in the case that he successfully does so.
The thing that bothers me about Jerami Grant is a tweener and super raw. He also had an very affluent upbringing and a very basketball friendly family. And it’s not like he is a headcase. If he couldn’t pick up pro level skills already coming from this background, why should we expect him to do it any time in the future?
Also– and this is not my original opinion but I think it has merit– PJ Hairston: given how coddled NCAA stars are (especially at a place like UNC), you really have to be quite a knucklehead to get kicked out of the program. Doesn’t he seem like the type of guy who should only be drafted in round 2 or later, given the risks his personality presents?
WRT Grant, I don’t think having wealthy parents expedites your skill development. He just turned 20 and still has time to develop skills that enable him to fit on the court. I’m not sure that he will, but I don’t buy that kids with rich parents should get held to a higher standard of skill development.
Hairston got a trouble in bunch but it doesn’t sound like a huge deal. His former team still seemed incredibly upset that he got kicked off the team and only had pleasant things to say about him after it happened. It raises some questions that may place a slight damper on his stock, but being a knucklehead does not disqualify him from being a useful NBA player.
In general it’s much more efficient to evaluate prospects by observing them on the court instead of reading into their off court behavior/lifestyle.
I sort of agree, but even the better stat model projections still look pretty bad, what, like 30-40% of the time? That’s a lot of misses, in an absolute sense. And when I look at the list of guys VJL’s model whiffed on (not picking on him, just mentioning it because I like it a lot), an awful lot of those guys turned out to be headcases. I don’t see what theory can possibly justify ignoring what you know about a player’s personality. We can try to avoid wild speculation/narrative building about a player’s mental makeup, but I think the case of Hairston is pretty straightforward: guy is given a very cushy opportunity to succeed and still finds a way to screw it up. If you were interviewing him for a job, would you really ignore that and just focus 100% on his performance at his last gig? I can’t imagine the answer is yes.
As far as the affluence thing goes, it’s like with anything else in life: affluence doesn’t guarantee you success, but it generally does give you the best chance to succeed. Jerami has had every advantage in the world to be a great basketball player, and look how little he has to show for it beyond his athleticism and frame at this point. Frankly, it’s yet another reason to be skeptical of Wiggins as well.
I didn’t say that you should ignore his personality altogether. I noted that it was fair to slightly de-value Hairston.
I also happen to think that there are far worse personality flaws than getting in trouble with the law/NCAA. It doesn’t preclude him from succeeding as an NBA player and I think you are getting lost in details by overemphasizing that point.
From what I can tell PJ Hairston is a hard worker and a competitor, and by all accounts his teammates were fond of him. I think these things are more important than avoiding legal trouble.
What does “headcase” even mean anyway? That is an incredibly vague word that can apply to roughly anybody. Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson appear to be two of the biggest headcase in the league, and they are also two huge draft day steals. Kobe Bryant was friggin charged with rape, I think that qualifies him as a “headcase by your definition”
Try not to be so judgmental in your approach, there are plenty of people who do morally reprehensible things that are not predictive of future success at all. Chris Paul punched a guy in the balls in college, yet he turned out to be an all-time draft steal anyway.
I will agree that Wiggins’ personality is rife with red flags. I do not get the impression that he particularly cares about being great at basketball; otherwise his body + skills should be more developed than they are. Hard to hit your upside if you don’t care a ton. I think the only high leverage angle WRT deducing future development is how hard somebody seems inclined to work. And if somebody wants to work their ass off, they likely will regardless of family wealth.
I’m curious where you would slot Nerlens Noel if he was coming out this year. I was surprised to see Layne Vashro had him rated higher than all of this year’s prospects including Embiid using his Expected Wins Peak model.
I have no idea. I am a really big fan of Nerlens but I have no idea about his health. If we assume full health for Nerl + Embiid, I still take Embiid quite easily. But (again assuming health) there would be a case for Nerlens going #2. I’m pretty sure it was a joke that he slid all the way to 6th last year, unless he is like 90% to not recover from his ACL tear.
A lot has been made about how awesome Stauskas’ offense is, but don’t you think there’s an argument to be made that his defense might be absolutely sievish?
He’s got an awful steal rate (1.1% over two years), and according to Kevin Pelton dating back to 2003 only Jason Kapono and Joe Crawford among perimeter players had steal rates that low. His rebounding is also very shoddy. He also carried a defensive rating of 109.0 this year, per sport-reference: that’s an awful individual number, but also one of the worst among his team: only Zak Irvin and Cole McConnell were worse. His rookie year was no different: he was the WORST defender on his team (nope, Corey Person only played 24 minutes and doesn’t count).
I know the NBA values offense a ton out of its perimeter players and defense more out of its big men, but there’s a chance that Stauskas can lose back most of his value due to his (lack) of defense.
I have Stauskas as 28th in my big board for those reasons. Steal rate has been one of the biggest indicators of NBA success, and Stauskas seems to lack that.
I think all of your points are good, and they are all points I have considered. But I really like Stauskas’s offensive package. He’s smart, he can pass, he can handle, he is a pure shooter, and he has enough athleticism to finish at the rim on occasion. Steal rate predicts offense too, and I don’t buy that Stauskas’s low steals mean that he is going to be bad offensively due to his awesome smarts + skill level.
On the other hand, yes he will be bad defensively, and if he doesn’t become a stud on offense it will dilute his value quite a bit.
But my intuition says he’s worth gambling on anyway, I never thought JJ Redick would look like a good pick but here we are because he’s such a hard/smart worker (I know JJ had a few more steals, but Duke’s defense more gambly and Stauskas has more blocks). I was really impressed with Stauskas’s progression from freshman to sophomore season, as he significantly improved both his skills and his body. Watch this video if you want to get a feel for his work ethic:
I’m guessing his work ethic is priced into his rating as a lotto pick. You gotta wonder if he can continue to improve his body + athleticism to the point where he is a mediocre defensive player as opposed to outright bad. If nothing else he should at least be able to learn how to be in the right places at the right times, even if he’ll be a bit slow in getting there.
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I think you generally rank the internationals too high – like Exum at #2, Jusuf Nurkic as #5 and Clint Capela at #11. All are a bit of a mystery as they all have been dominant against only bad competition. I also heard from someone who’s seen both Nurkic and Saric in person, that Saric was far and away the better player.
I wouldn’t trust other people’s eye tests. Nurkic is in a mold that is more likely to be useful in the NBA and he has far better stats. Whoever it is that suggested that likely is not hard wired to perceive precise player values when watching basketball. Or maybe he just happened to catch Saric on a good night and Nurkic on a bad one.
I rank those internationals high because I think the top of this class happens to be good. 3 of the top 4 seem really good + underrated to me. Capela and Nurkic are at the very top of their leagues statistically playing professionally as 19 year olds against players in their prime. And who knows, maybe Saric isn’t as bad as he seems from afar. I am not intimately familiar with him. But internationals who bust often have shaky stats and none of these guys do so I’m feeling pretty good about them.
That said I am not quite as confident in my international assessments as my NCAA ones so I’ll re-visit my precise ranking of them before the draft.
kit teller said:
All full match games of ABA league, where both Šarić and Nurkić play, can be found here: http://www.abaliga.com/n72/ABA_Contents/League_Video (look bellow for full match video). In the end, Šarić is declared MVP of the whole league and also Final 4 MVP(fully deserved).
There is difference between roles of Šarić and Nurkić – Nurkić can allow high intensity 15 minutes game where he is fouled out, because his team is packed with strong players (Smith, Allan Ray, Tomislav Zubčić are maybe best known in USA). On the other hand, Šarić’s team is near bankruptcy, several players left during season, and he must stay at least 35 minutes on the floor.
Dario’s improvement in everything he was week at the beginning at the season (three point shooting, free throws, guarding smaller players) is tremendous. Beside, with barely 20 years he was true leader in winning ABA title. That makes his development very comparable with early development and achievents of Toni Kukoč, Dino Rađa and Dražen Petrović – even Dario made it all with weaker team.
I like both players – im Bosnian and Croatian, but Šarić’s season is really impressive, making me hard to believe, that Nurkić is such a better potential.
Evan Turner was also a consensus pick over DeMarcus Cousins and Saric/Nurkic parallel closely.
I’ll watch the game and see if Saric does anything for me. The big concern is that he’s not good enough to run an NBA offense, and doesn’t have the skill set to play off the ball. If he’s also a defensive liability as projected it is difficult for him to provide value. He needs a stellar offensive skill set to be worth a lotto pick.
Hey, I really enjoyed this article. It is nice to see a truly independent take on the draft, and I appreciate your thorough explanations and documentations. Keep it up
P.S. who do you think the Sixers should be looking to take? I think Embiid would work well with Noel getting most of his minutes at 4.
I’ll write more in detail about team specific needs after the draft order is set. But I think everybody should be looking to take Embiid #1 overall. You shouldn’t pass up that level of upside without already having a star center in place.
Hinkie appears to be an intelligent guy so I imagine he is targeting Embiid. This is especially true since Exum does not pair well with MCW offensively, and I imagine that like me Hinkie is not high on Wiggins.
That said, I don’t think the idea would be to play him with Nerlens as a 4/5 pairing (although it’s worth giving that a try to see how it works). The idea should be to play whoever becomes good and stays healthy at the 5, and then trade the inferior one if both meet this condition.
Ideally you’d want Embiid surrounded by shooting. Play Thad at PF, add a couple of shooters on the wings, and you can build an offense that is exceptionally difficult to defend. Noel and Embiid together would have a world of defensive upside, but would be far from optimal offensively due to the lack of shooting Philly would have if they want to play them with MCW and Thad. So it all depends on how you want to build your team. But since both players have their share of injury risk, you don’t need to worry about them co-existing for now.
Very interesting, thanks for taking the time. I look forward to reading your team-by-team analysis after the lottery drawing.
I’m a fan of the Sixers and I think the consensus among us is that Thad is going to get traded. He has one year left on his contract and a player option after that which he likely won’t pick up because of the rebuild. Basically, he probably isn’t going to be around when we plan to start competing.
We expect Hinkie will try to trade him during the draft or during the coming season.
Interesting. I wouldn’t be shocked if Thad is traded but I’m not expecting it. He turns 26 in June and has plenty of good years left, and I don’t think the Sixers are going to continue to lose on purpose next year.
I just don’t think they’ll get enough of a return on 1 year of Thad and for it to be worth shipping him out. If they re-sign him, Philly could easily return to the playoffs by 15-16. If I were in Hinkie’s shoes I wouldn’t be in a rush to move Thad.
Post another big board!!!
I’ll post a couple of updates before the draft in all likelihood. I’m still parsing through the prospects that I’m less familiar with and trying to decide where they belong.
Right now I’m working on player profiles for at least the lottery guys. For my next big board I want to have clickable links so my big board offers more depth than a numbered list.
Thanks for the quick reply. I really enjoy your insight. I play in a SIM league so I’m really interested in this stuff.
Thoughts on Walter Tavares?
I haven’t watched him play at all but based on his physical profile alone he’s worth a round 2 flier. That said I wouldn’t get too high on him, I suspect he started playing too late to ever make a big impact. He’s a complete zero on offense, although it’s slightly encouraging that he can at least make FT’s.
He could be anywhere on a scale of Fab Melo to Omer Asik. Safe assumption is that he’ll be closer to Melo, but maybe he surprises.
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