Earlier I published part one of my last second scouting binge, and now I am on to part 2.
McDaniels was the first prospect I wrote about as underrated when he was barely even on draft radar. He is now a consensus first rounder who is neck and neck with Rodney Hood on DX and ESPN (DX has KJ 2 slots higher, ESPN 2 slots lower).
KJ thrives on defense, and it shows in his stats, his team’s performance, and his effort vs. Hood. Clemson had the 20th best defense in the country (per kenpom.com) as they thrived off shot prevention with the 5th best defensive eFG% and the 5th best defensive FT rate. McDaniels contributed heavily to both categories, as he led the team in blocks accumulating 100 of the team’s 221 total rejections in spite of being a 6’6″ wing. To make it even more impressive, he committed fewer fouls than blocks as 2.6 fouls per 40 tied him for 3rd lowest foul rate on the team. The only player with a substantially lower foul rate was Rod Hall who succeeded at avoiding fouls by also avoiding steals, blocks, and rebounds. Clemson played a non-gambling defense, ranking just 283rd out of 351 in steal%, but KJ was 2nd among the team’s 10 rotation players in steal rate at 2.3%, only ranking behind foul prone guard Adonis Filer (3.0%). He also had a solid D-Reb% at 15.9%, narrowing trailing Clemson’s bigs. KJ was essentially a one man wrecking crew defensively as he excelled in all regards and it showed in his team’s success.
McDaniels is clearly a strong defensive prospect, although he may not quite be as strong as his college resume suggests. He doesn’t have great size for a SF (6’6″ 196 lbs) and he isn’t exceptionally quick. He atones for this with length (6’11.25″), explosiveness, and incredible timing on his blocks. While his block rate will likely fall of a cliff in the NBA, he clearly has enough working in his favor to become a good defensive wing in the NBA.
Offense is the side of the ball where McDaniels is a bit shaky. He only made 30.4% of his 3PA and his 0.69 assist:turnover ratio leaves much to be desired for a 21 year old wing. But he also played in a woefully bad offense, and 114.4 O-Rtg on 29.1 usage (per sports-reference.com) is nothing to scoff at given how little help he had. His efficiency was largely boosted by making 154/183 FT’s (84.2%). While he won’t get to the line as frequently as a pro his FT% does offer hope that he is a better shooter than his 3P% would suggest. Even though he isn’t quite meant to carry an offense (especially not while carrying the defense and playing 34 mpg), he performed well in the role and nearly backpacked Clemson to the NCAA tournament.
KJ doesn’t quite have the upside to merit a top 10 pick, but if he can develop into a capable floor spacer he has potential to become a quality 3 + D role player who is neutral offensively and good defensively. In my earlier writeup I noted that KJ may elevate his stock to lottery caliber with strong conference play, and he certainly obliged. I now have him as a late lottery value on my board, and I expect him to get selected in the top 20 on draft night.
Stauskas is another prospect I was high on early in the season, and now it seems everybody is on the wagon. His appeal is rather straightforward: he has an awesome combination of slick handles, vision, and elite shooting. His ability to shoot off the dribble as well as spot up gives him interesting upside as a pick and roll ball handler. He also adds a layer of intrigue with his offseason transformation, as he made stellar progress developing his body and PG skills. If this is any indication of future growth potential, he may vastly succeed expectations.
That said I’m not completely certain that he is deserving of a lottery selection, and I’m a bit surprised that I haven’t come across more Stauskas skeptics given his poor tools and late 1st round grade according to most statistical models. While he has surprisingly solid athleticism, he is lacking in speed, quickness, length, and strength and is a virtual lock to be below average defensively. This is supported by his poor steal rate and his team’s mediocre defensive effort where he was likely their worst perimeter defender. And it’s unclear how much his physical deficiencies will limit him offensively, as he didn’t carry a particularly high usage at Michigan. His handles stand out as possibly the best in the draft, but how much will they be undermined by his lack of quicks and strength when he tries to navigate through NBA defenses?
I still believe that stat models undervalue him, because his statistics do not fully convey the goodness of his passing and ball handling. Further, when models price in the prior year’s stats (as they should) it may be a bit misleading as I believe Stauskas’s leap was completely genuine without the help of positive variance. In my eyes it’s a bonus that he was able to improve both his body and game by such a drastic margin.
Overall I am still enamored with Stauskas’s strengths and ability to develop himself enough to keep him as a late lottery value. I only have an inkling of doubt that his bad tools and defense are getting underplayed, but he’s really not the type of player that I am in a rush to bet against.
Anderson is likely the weirdest prospect in the draft. Every time I try to think really hard about what he’ll become in the NBA, I come up completely blank. He’s pretty much LeBron James if LeBron was doughy and required to move in slow motion at all times.
I respect the work Layne Vashro does modeling prospects, and it’s hard to ignore that he has Anderson as the #2 prospect in the draft. Even though that should be de-valued for Anderson’s poor speed and athleticism (as well as UCLA’s gambling zone inflating his steal rate), he does at least have one excellent tool in his length at 7’2.75″. He measured with solid length for a PF (8’11.5″) and while he needs to add strength to play the position full time it is a possible way to somewhat mitigate his slow motion ways defensively.
My big hang up is that Kyle played PG full-time at UCLA and in spite of his size and skill, was only able to get to the rim a frighteningly low % of the time in the half-court. If he can’t get to the rim vs. NBA defenses, can he be permitted to handle the ball often enough to reap full benefits from his stellar passing ability? I would assume not. This isn’t a death knell for his ability to be useful, as he could succeed in a role similar to what Boris Diaw played for the Spurs. I feel like the Spurs’ offense is the wave of the future, so investing a player who can thrive as a stretch 4 in a ball movement offense is a pretty good idea in my book. When is the right juncture of the draft to invest in such a player is the difficult question, which hinges largely on Anderson’s slippery upside. The fact of the matter is that he doesn’t have a historical upside comparison, if he becomes a good starter he will become the token comparison for unathletic tweeners with great passing ability.
If there was any doubt that Dinwiddie is the most intellectually curious player in the draft, he eradicated that when he tweeted an inquiry regarding his WARP rating at Kevin Pelton:
I’m not sure whether it’s right to significantly upgrade his stock based on this, but it adds a layer of shine to Dinwiddie as a prospect. And fortunately there is enough to like about him without appreciating his nerdy, intellectual side. He is a prototypical role playing SG, as he is a good shooter and a solid ball handler and passer. Further he has the size and quickness to be solid defensively, which is supported by a good steal rate. He also has excellent shot selection, as he limits his mid-range attempts and draws a ton of FT’s of which he converted 85.7% as a junior. If anything he shot too infrequently last season, but that is of little concern since he doesn’t have a high usage skill set for the NBA anyhow.
His big weakness is that he doesn’t have the athleticism or burst to be a big time scorer, and he is also coming off an ACL tear that prematurely ended his junior season. I dropped him a few slots for the ACL tear, but players make strong recoveries often enough such that it doesn’t make him much less attractive.
Dinwiddie is a straightforward prospect. He likely will never become an all-star, but he has all of the necessary traits to become a good role player at a position that is sorely lacking in depth right now. He’s a good prospect to target anywhere in the second half of round 1. I believe he’s sorely underrated as a 2nd round pick and expect him to rise into the 1st round on draft night.
Adams is another weird UCLA prospect. If you are in the business of modeling the draft, good luck coming up with a model that doesn’t love him. He is a young sophomore who stuffed the stat sheet in every category other than blocks, and on paper he appears to be the next James Harden.
The trouble is that his statistical goodness cannot be taken at face value because he simply does not meet scouting expectations for high NBA upside. While he has good SG length (6’10”), he has mediocre height (6’4.75″) and lackluster speed, quicks, and athleticism. And he somehow managed to accrue his great stats without being much of a ball handler or 3 point shooter.
Defensively he used his length, quick hands, and good instincts to rack up a Marcus Smart level 5.0% steal rate. Unfortunately he doesn’t yield the same level of effectiveness in shot prevention as Marcus Smart, as he doesn’t excel at containing penetration and UCLA’s gambling zone ceded a poor defensive eFG%. His steal rate is indicative of some good qualities, but it is not reflective of his defensive potential and it was a bit bolstered by UCLA’s zone. As a freshman he posted a steal rate of 4.2% playing man defense with greater frequency. That rate is still excellent, but Adams is an example of how steals can be a bit misleading in spite of their predictive power.
Offensively he is more or less an elite garbageman, as he thrived in transition and off of cuts. He also was a solid offensive rebounder and could post up smaller match-ups. Even though he only made 33.1% of his career college 3’s, his 83.9% FT% suggest that he may be able to develop into a better long distance shooter than his college sample suggests. He also had a good assist to turnover ratio (3.1 vs 2.0 as a sophomore) as he is a capable passer. He certainly benefited from ample transition opportunities as well as playing in a ball movement offense alongside the best passer in the NCAA in Kyle Anderson. His offense has major translation risk. He’s a bit of a bully and while he has good touch around the rim, his lack of explosiveness will make it difficult to replicate this his rim efficiency at the next level.
The crazy thing about Adams is that he lost weight as the season progressed and then dropped a further 15 pounds leading up to the draft. Even though he is loaded with translation risks, it’s somewhat amazing that he accomplished as much as he did while being that out of shape. If he commits to staying in shape going forward (not a given as he picked an awfully opportunistic time to trim down), it adds a degree of intrigue.
Jordan Adams may be a player who is cut out to thrive in college and fall on his face as a pro. But his statistical excellence and improved condition cannot be entirely ignored, and they are compelling enough to roll the dice in the back end of round 1 once the sure bets are off the board. This is especially true for a team that incorporates heavy doses of ball movement in the offense, as this provides the optimal environment for Adams to succeed.
Stokes’ mold of undersized PF who doesn’t make 3’s is limiting, but other than that I like everything about him. He is the strongest player in the draft and he plays like it, as he activated beast mode near the end of the NCAA season and Tennessee started buzzsawing opponents. Much like Julius Randle, Stokes isn’t an explosive athlete but neverthless moves well. Stokes and Randle share a number of parallels– they have similar physical profiles, similar skill sets, similar stats, and they played in the same conference. The key differences between the two of them are that 1) Randle had more recruiting hype and played for a more reputed school and 2) Stokes has superior awareness and instincts and is the better prospect.
Stat models rate Stokes a hair higher (8.0 vs 7.7 EWP, 1.9 vs 1.6 WARP), but what really sets Stokes apart is that he projects to be less of a liability defensively. Randle has an awful sense of awareness, and not that Stokes’ awareness is top notch but he did post superior steal + block rates and perform better as a team defender. Stokes started at center for the 19th best defensive team in the country, and his fellow big man Jeronne Maymon more closely resembled a bowling ball than a rim protector. Not that Stokes’ deserves a world of credit for Tennessee’s success, as Josh Richardson and Jordan McRae both contributed quality perimeter defense and Armani Moore and Darius Thompson were able to make plays defensively off the bench. But Stokes played the most important position on the floor and it worked in spite of him not being much of a rim protector, as he contributed with his rebounding and ability to defend without fouling.
Offensively Stokes is still a work in progress, but he’s a beast on the offensive glass, a good passer for a big, and his shot isn’t entirely hopeless as he elevated his FT% to 69.6% after making just 57% as a freshman and sophomore. He also shot a respectable 37.7% on non-rim 2 pointers (for reference Julius Randle converted 34.5% and Jabari Parker 39.2% on similar volume). And even though Stokes is two classes above Randle, he’s less than a year older because he’s young for his grade.
Stokes’s strength and rebounding are the foundation of his appeal, and he has enough skill offensively and invests enough effort defensively to possibly become a good role player. As a bonus, he seems to carry a sincere determination to prove to the world that he is every bit as good as players who are beneficiaries of greater hype such as Julius Randle. Also he got into a car crash and allegedly wanted to attend his workout anyway in spite of being concussed and covered in blood. He strikes me as the type of personality who has an above average chance of exceeding expectations. I won’t weigh this heavily into my final ranking, but he is the one non-lotto guy who I randomly feel compelled to root for.
Anyway that’s all for both part 2 of NCAA parsing. Part 3 will venture into the prospects in the class with deeper flaws.