Now that the draft order is set, there are many things being said by people who aren’t fully informed. So I figured I would debunk some of the more prevalent myths regarding lottery players.
MYTH: Dante Exum is not a point guard
I have heard numerous people paid by ESPN to discuss the draft make this statement, and it is 100% false. Because Exum has the size to play the wing, he has been labeled as a combo guard. Because he has been labeled as a combo guard, it seems to have confused people into assuming he is not a pure PG. This is wrong.
In Exum’s combine interview he stated himself that he is a point guard who plays with the objective of penetrating to draw the help defense and then find his open teammate. True to his word, this is how he played in his FIBA performance vs. Spain. In a game where he finished with 33 points and 4 assists, his ability to create for his teammates made the largest impression on me.
Tyler Ennis is often lauded for his stellar assist to turnover ratio at Syracuse (6.2 assists vs 1.9 turnovers per 40). But in the FIBA u19 games when he was asked to carry the offense for Canada, he finished with just 25 assists and 24 turnovers in 9 games. Exum tallied 34 assists and 21 turnovers in a similar role for Australia, in spite of playing 13 fewer total minutes than Ennis.
Dante Exum is a point guard through and through. Let’s not lose sight of that just because he has the size to defend NBA SFs.
MYTH: Aaron Gordon is a power forward in the mold of Blake Griffin
The Blake Griffin comp seems to be fading away, as it was the common comparison when all we knew about Gordon pertained to his hair color, complexion, and dunking ability. But Blake Griffin is an incredibly unique power forward who leverages his strength and athleticism better than anybody to be a dominant force in the low post. He posted incredible offensive numbers at Oklahoma, much better than those of Gordon. Like Gordon, his height, length, and reach are all on the lower end of PF measurements which limits him defensively in spite of his terrific athleticism. Part of the reason I was low on Gordon early in the year is because without Blake’s paint dominance, he’s not worth much.
But then I started watching more of Arizona and Gordon’s value became obvious: he has the potential to be an excellent wing defender. In the low post his size makes it difficult for him to become a top defensive PF, but on the perimeter he has the speed and quicks to hang with wings, and his size is now a significant positive. His poor shooting places a damper on his ability to play the wing, but given the increasing importance of PF shooting it is not the most important detail for his position. Statistical guru Layne Vashro:
@deanondraft @NateDuncanNBA Handles + court-vision is what separates 3s from tweeners. Gordon easily beats most tween failures in AST/TOV
Gordon’s ability to handle and pass is going to enable him to fit into NBA offenses, not his low post game. It also sets him apart from somebody like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who is a complete drag offensively. His value clearly seems to be as a wing in the mold of Kawhi Leonard or Shawn Marion.
This is not to say that he should not be used as a PF, as I do imagine he can succeed as a small ball PF. The NBA is trending toward an increased emphasis on spacing with big SF’s being used increasingly frequently as small PF’s, so there are plenty of scenarios where Gordon is best used as a 4. Just don’t expect him to rack up points in the low post like Blake Griffin does. That’s not his thing, and he’s also too small to be much of a rim protector.
MYTH: Jabari Parker is the highest floor player in the draft
While Parker’s ability to rack up points at such a young age is impressive, there is more to having a high floor than scoring ability. He could be poor defensively, he could remain a chucker as he had an astronomical usage and low assist rate at Duke, or his shot may not develop all that well. There are also some translation concerns as he was a bit of a bully at Duke, and his 2p% cratered against good defenses. Frankly I am not certain that he is superior to any of Exum, Smart, or Gordon.
Joel Embiid is superior to everybody and would have the highest floor, except his floor is marred by his increased injury risk. I suspect that Exum is a superior prospect in terms of both floor and ceiling, but there is not quite enough info on Exum for me to state that with extreme confidence. But even if we discard the killer E’s, I believe that Marcus Smart also has a higher floor than Parker. He is nearly guaranteed to be an above average defensive guard, whereas Jabari projects to be a defensive liability. This alone gives Smart a higher floor, as Jabari is not a lock to be superior offensively. Even if Smart has concerns about his shot, he has enough offensive skill to make his defense worth fitting into an NBA lineup. Jabari likely won’t wash out of the league, but if he is a chucker with shoddy defense he will flatout not be as useful as a player who provides good defense and passable offense at either guard position. Given that Smart also has elite intangibles (he has received rave reviews from every coach he played for) and no history of injuries, he stands out as the safest commodity in the draft.
MYTH: Bill Self is at fault for Andrew Wiggins’ lackluster statistical profile
People are willing to grasp at whatever straws are within reach to justify Wiggins’ #1 overall hype, but this is not an argument in his favor. Bill Self is not my favorite coach, but he does not depress the value of his prospects. For all intents and purposes he is the George Karl of the NCAA– he always makes the most of his talent in the regular season and often finds a way to fail in the postseason.
Self took over at Kansas in 2003-04, in his first two seasons he finished with the #16 and #13 teams in the country as per kenpom.com. Then in each of the following 8 seasons prior to Embiid and Wiggins, he finished with a top 10 team every single season. Yet of his 16 former players who have been drafted, his best pros have been Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, Markieff Morris, and Marcus Morris. He has generated a number of lottery disappointments including Thomas Robinson 5th overall, Ben McLemore 7th, Cole Aldrich 11th, Xavier Henry 12th, and Julian Wright 13th. If anything he seems to have a knack for keeping his prospects’ draft value falsely inflated.
This year Kansas did a good job of maximizing Wiggins’ sole offensive strength: transition scoring. They played an up tempo style enabling Wiggins to utilize his speed to beat defenders down the court and heavily pad his stats in transition. It is common to critique Kansas’s shaky guard play and mediocre spacing for Wiggins’ poor halfcourt scoring splits, but the real culprit was his limited offensive skill level. He was never going to post strong halfcourt stats in any situation, and getting ample opportunities to score in transition is what matters most.
Marcus Smart provides a stark contrast, as he is rarely on the receiving end of excuses to justify a high draft position. He is the lottery prospect who played for a truly dreadful coach, as Travis Ford is clueless across the board and is vastly inferior to Self as an NCAA coach. Smart gave Ford his two best teams ever, as well his two best defenses in 14 seasons of horrific coaching. In contrast, Bill Self had his worst defensive team and third weakest team overall in 11 seasons at Kansas with Wiggins as his second best player. Noah Vonleh also played for a much worse coach than Self, as Tom Crean offers little beyond his ability to attract talent to Indiana.
MYTH: There are 3 reasonable choices at #1 overall
There is only one: Joel Embiid. Taking Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker #1 overall would be among the most egregious draft blunders of all time. You don’t pass up somebody who is obviously the best player by a gaping margin because of injury risk. As a rule of thumb: upside >>> lack of downside
Another great read, Dean. The Wiggins-Self thing is infuriating for sure. Sixer fans made similar excuses for Evan Turner during the Doug Collins era despite all signs pointing to him being a dud. As though it matters who your coach is when the ball is in your hands…
Yup. One thing I have noticed is that once people are invested in an opinion they will do quite a bit of mental gymnastics to justify it. It’s hard to let go of hope for your #2 pick and accept the fact that he’s a dud. Similarly, we were promised so much with Wiggins there has been a ton of backward rationalization that the initial assessment still may be alright.
You could also explain the behavior you mentioned with the cognitive dissonance theory: people feel this dissonance when they are confronted with information that is not in line with their beliefs. Avoiding this feeling and trying to restore consonance can cause misperception or even rejection of obvious information, especially if they made their statement public
Patrick Laney said:
Agree with everything here except for your assessment of Crean. I have no affiliation to any schools he has coached, but I think he is good coach who actually is poor at coaching very talented players–which keeps him from being great. Helpful stuff here. Exum as a point guard times 1000.
Nice article, I’m even starting to see a bunch of “lefts draft Zach Lavine at (our pick lottery pick here)” comments. Also I’ve went and watched over 3/4 of two games Exum played (Spain & Serbia) that are available on the FIBA on demand site and in my opinion his overall defense was just terrible. His lateral quickness is there, but he was easily crossed at times. Off ball defense was just lazy, and he had a hard time getting around screens.
In your video you had more footage of the other games so I’m assuming you’ve watched more game. Was it always like this throughout the tournament?
I only watched the game vs. Spain and he wasn’t tested too much then. Think Australia tried to hide him to preserve him for his huge offensive role. I have no idea how his defense is going to be in the pros. Like you said he has the tools to be good, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he will be.
Thank you! The “Jabari has the highest floor” thing is annoying. Embiid is already better than him!
Mr. Judgmental (@ASFW_jrodger) said:
Nice article Dean but I disagree with the Exum point. He might be a SG who effectively a large point, channeling Wade, Harden and B-Roy. I don’t consider his lateral quickness to be that good for a PG so it’s conceivable his better defensive position is SG where his wingspan is still above average. I would consider likely dependent on team whether he is 2 or 1. Still, that Lavine is getting called a PG as much or more than Exum, is clearly insane.
Absolutely agree with the Jabari=highest floor points.. I like Jabari enough to be a top 15 starter at PF, but I’m shocked at how he’s being rated at SF. I see 90% of smart people salivating over how he’s going to post up 3s from 15-20 feet and shoot all these post fadeaways and stuff over him. Hello! It’s 2014 not 1984! Who runs offense around post up SFs anymore? Jabari taking midrange fadeaway will go in 35% of the time, putting SF 15 feet from the basket is bad for spacing and it’ll probably stop the ball. How come more people aren’t realize this is a seriously flawed strategy in 2014? Heck, the idea of “creating your own shot” from midrange is almost outdated in itself, because midrange shots are left open by the opposition. You don’t need to post guys up to get a midrange shots anymore, just face the basket and take a dribble and it’ll be open. Wiggins will have as many midrange shots available for him as Parker. If one wants a player to take a high volume of midrange shots for some reason, find a way to get Shabazz Napier and he’ll dribble into the paint for pull-ups as many times as you want.
However at PF he does provide an interesting skillset. His 3pt shooting will be plus spacing and rare and midrange shots from stretch 4s fit into an offense. He can face up and drive to the basket off the dribble against slower 4s. That works for me.
Dan Hughes said:
Lebron James, and Dwayne Wade post up and shoot mid range shots all the time, that is the reason they shoot a combined 55% from the floor for the season and in this years playoffs. (Durant, and Westbrook are at 43.5% in the current playoffs), Lebron James, and Dwayne Wade still remember how it was done before 2000.
Karl Malone, Kemp, or Webber would crush the present crop of weak unskilled power forwards playing today (Griffin has no clue on how to guard players inside). Great foot work and the ability to post up, works in any era.
Embiid’s size footwork, post up’s, mobility, a jump shot facing up out to 20 feet puts him far ahead of any center prospect in 22 years at least. not since Robinson, Shaq or Mourning.
I’m mostly excited to see how teams build around Embiid with an increased emphasis on 3 point shooters. He could take low post domination to a whole new level if he’s surrounded by 4 shooters.
Yeah, it’s possible that Exum’s best defensive position is SG but as I mentioned in a separate comment the problem is that people are doubting his ability to create for teammates because of this.
Totally agree that Jabari is a stretch 4 all the way. He measured with a v similar physical profile to Julius Randle and nobody is calling Randle a tweener. He’s definitely a good enough rebounder to play the 4 and it mitigates his questionable quicks while optimizing his offensive role as you noted. He can be played at the 3 on occasion but if I’m drafting him it’s with the intent of heavy minutes at PF.
We don’t need to be essentialists about position– you are whatever position you’re playing at the moment. If you’re the GM drafting Exum, don’t you think it makes sense to put him for the majority of his minutes at the weakest position in the league (SG) rather than the most loaded position in the league (PG)?
It makes sense for sure. Exum is great to pair with a George Hill, Mario Chalmers, or Avery Bradley type PG who can’t run the offense but is a solid player nevertheless. But the comments on Exum have been along the lines of “he doesn’t have point guard skills” rather than commentary on optimal lineup construction given positional scarcity.
Great article.I do wonder,how can you tell Exum is a pg from one game?If you watched only certain games from Monta Ellis for example where he displayed great court vision,you could also swear hes a pg.
Vision isn’t something easy to fake or get lucky on. Exum made about 10 great passes that game that are probably better than Andrew Harrison’s 10 best passes on the season for Kentucky. If he had meh vision he wouldn’t have been able to make all of those passes bc he wouldn’t have seen all of them.
Given that he only finished with 4 assists and averaged 3.8 for the tourney I don’t think it was an outlier game where he happened to be more unselfish than average bc he also scored 33 points.
Also I don’t think Monta would insist that he’s a PG with the primary objective of creating for teammates if you asked him. He’d prob say that he can get buckets but he can also create for others too.
So all of the data points line up enough to take Dante at his word. This is especially true when there isn’t really a counter argument to suggest he’s not a playmaker. It’s only uninformed people spewing uninformed words based on the combo guard label.
Nice answer!I was asking not having watched anything from him(just watched your spain video),id rather wait until at least summer league.
Do you think he has better vision than Marcus Smart?Whats your take on Marcus Smart as a pg?Personnally i think Smart tendencies to jack up horrible shots has people underrating his vision and ability to make people better.Now whether he improves that part of his game is up to him and coaching,since he already seems pretty confident (overly)in his jump shot regardless whos on him or where he is,confidence that will go higher as his jump shot improves.
I think Marcus Smart’s PG skills are decent enough. Agree that people knock him as a PG too much– it seems that ESPN has an axe to grind against him bc they never give him the benefit of the doubt as a prospect. He is still learning the position since he only started playing at Oklahoma State, so he still may have quite a bit of room to develop in terms of his passing.
The interesting bit is that steal rate correlates with offensive success in the NBA, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that enables him to become a better PG than expected. He legit sees *everything* on defense, so perhaps he can leverage that in his PG development to outperform expectations.
Do you see his offense being as bad as Randle’s defense might be?
I see him possibly being a black hole on offense outside of close-basket secondary plays (tip ins, alley oops, etc). Which are cool and all but really limiting.
And I dont see him being a solid shooter, and he’s small to play the 4-spot full-time. So either he’s gotta really bulk the F up OR become a historical outlier with his shooting.
That’s why I’m so ‘low’ on him (have him 12th on my big board). Is a potential all-defense NBA guy worth picking in the top-10 picks? Let’s look at him as the Tony Allen of forwards. Would that be worth Lakers taking him at 7 (where you have him on your big board)?
IMO, I don’t think so. Now, for a team like the Wolves at 13, that would be a great pickup. But for Lakers at 7, I think there are better prospects worth looking at.
No, I don’t see Gordon’s offense being that bad. If nothing else he can handle/pass/finish/OREB which is a decent baseline on that end. And the key aspect about Gordon is that he has a chance of figuring his shot out and becoming a positive offensive player whereas Randle is pretty much condemned to being a below average on D.
I think Gordon’s an underdog to be available at #7. He grades awesomely statistically bc he’s the youngest player in the draft and he does so many things well for a team that was elite defensively. And of course he played a large role in that defense, and I think he is a near guarantee to be an above average defensive wing.
If he was an average shooter he would be the 2nd best prospect in the draft, and shooting is the most improvable skill. If he can learn to make corner 3’s at say 38%+ (not a crazy proposition IMO) then he’s probably going to be real good. Of course there are other wrinkles that his shot creates (will he brick a bunch of long 2’s playing a bunch of SF? will he have a good TS% if his FT% settles into the 50-55 range?) But I’m not sure it’s necessarily broken since he’s so young, the form looks alright, and at least his SSS 3p% was OK.
If you can get him at #7 that’s a good outcome for the Lakers. He *could* become the best player in this draft. I’m not sure if Vonleh can top this class and I’m almost certain that Randle cannot. I’m actually contemplating the possibility that he’s better than Parker + Wiggins, because they have some warty warts of their own and I don’t think they share his upside. Even if his median outcome isn’t all that great it’s not a big deal. His top 25% outcomes are going to be good imo, and those are the ones that matter for draft EV
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Bill Self said:
Your hate of Wiggins is pathetic and it will be the thing that will hold you back from actually breaking out in the sports journalism field. You have no objective bone in your body when it comes to this kid. I’m not even a fan of his but your blatant hate for the kid has rubbed me the wrong way. I’ve read multiple articles you’ve written in the draft and I don’t recall you ever speaking a positive in terms of his play. You claim that your hate is all supported by “stats” and “facts” but they are usually stats to had pick for a smear campaign against the kid. I might have taken you seriously before I saw some of the hateful comments you have about the kid posted on twitter. I hope the kid turns out to be a stud. Hopefully that would crush any chance of your garbage to hit mainstream.
I have no idea what you’re talking about WRT hateful comments on twitter.
My goal isn’t to be taken seriously as a journalist. My goal is to make correct basketball predictions. I entered the season without bias fully prepared to embrace Wiggins, and ended up not loving him so much based on facts and whatnot.
As far as I’m concerned I have an objective perception of him and others are the ones suffering from bias based on hype/tools. There is an objective truth here and I’m not going to pretend it’s better than it is just because others think he’s great.
I say positive things about him all the time. I have mentioned that he has awesome tools, is great in transition, is good on defense. I just belabor the negatives because those are the unseen angles that others miss to cause him to be so overrated.
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