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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.
Note that while the top 20 includes the top international prospects in this year’s draft class, this list excludes the second tier internationals.
21. Theo Pinson (ESPN: 44, DX: 31 in ’17)
The #15 RSCI recruit in 2014, Pinson is the 3rd highest rated returning sophomore behind Justin Jackson and Isaiah Whitehead. He had limited opportunity to showcase himself as a freshman coming off the bench behind Jackson and JP Tokoto, and then a foot injury sidelined him for the majority of the 2nd half. He is skinny but otherwise he has ideal tools to defend either wing position, and he used his athleticism to fill up every non shooting/scoring stat category in his freshman sample with exceptional passing for a wing. With Tokoto gone, Pinson figures to play big minutes next year and has strong breakout potential.
22. Troy Williams (ESPN: 41, DX: 20)
Williams has a good base of athleticism, quickness, ball handling, and passing ability for a wing. There are questions about his shooting ability, as he only attempted 0.6 3P per 40 minutes as a sophomore. But he was also playing PF/C for a small Indiana team, and he did shoot 74% FT. If he can develop 3 point range, he has nice upside with the tools to be a good defensive wing and the ball skills to play on the perimeter.
23. Malik Pope (ESPN: 6, DX: 30)
Pope had a decent season for a toolsy 18 year old freshman, and he has clear breakout potential as a sophomore. He missed significant time in high school with injuries, so he may have extra sneaky upside if he can finally stay healthy for an extended time frame. But he did not excel at anything as a freshman and is merely a good not great athlete, so Chad Ford should probably relax before ranking him ahead of Dragan Bender.
24. Wade Baldwin (ESPN NR, DX 39 in ’17)
In 2012, Baldwin measured 6’1.5″ without shoes and a 6’10” wingspan. His length explains how he amassed a 3.1% steal rate for a typically low steal coach, and it gives him the versatility to defend either guard position. Offensively he posted a solid assist rate with a 2.3 assist to turnover.
The main question for Baldwin is: can he score? He is a decent but not elite athlete and did not get to the rim with overwhelming frequency. While he shot 44% from 3 and 80% from FT, his shooting was considered a weakness as a recruit and he did not attempt a high volume of 3’s. It is too soon to anoint him as a legitimately good prospect, but he is one of the top returning players to monitor in 2015-16.
25. Damian Jones (ESPN: 15, DX: 16)
He is 7’0, strong, athletic, and young for his class as he only turned 20 at the end of last June. This is a great foundation for a prospect, but the rest of his profile is lackluster. He has a highly underwhelming rebound rate for a player with his tools, and his block rate is only OK. He hardly ever gets steals, and while he vastly improved his assist to TOV rate as a sophomore it was still a paltry 0.34. His 60% sophomore FT% is not bad for a 19 year old big, and he does have a semblance of a short to mid range scoring game. But without outlier athleticism and an average 7’2″ wingspan, he did not show the skill or BBIQ to be worth more than a late 1st based on his first 2 seasons at Vanderbilt.
26. Gary Payton II (ESPN: 61, DX: NR)
The Mitten is a fascinating prospect– on one hand he is undersized to play SG at 6’2.5″ with a 6’6.5″ wingspan and an underskilled PG with many offensive limitations as an athletic 22 year old. On the other hand, he had higher block and defensive rebound rates than Jahlil Okafor last season to complement the 2nd highest steal rate in the NCAA behind Corey Walden. His measurables understate his possible defensive impact, and he is roughly next draft’s version of Terry Rozier with bigger defensive upside.
27. Jalen Brunson (ESPN: 23, DX: 27 in ’17)
Brunson seems all sorts of awesome in terms of basketball playing skills, as he is a pure point who is a smooth slasher and finisher, can shoot, plays pesky defense, and has good basketball IQ. But he is 6’2″ with a lackluster 6’3″ wingspan and average athleticism, which makes it hard to succeed in a league loaded with talented and toolsy point guards. Brunson strikes me as the type who has a shot to overcome the odds after watching him dominate FIBA u19, but I would prefer to see a signficant sample of NCAA success before getting too giddy over the possibility.
28. Chinanu Onuaku (ESPN: 27, DX: 26)
He is a completely one way defensive prospect, as he is young, toolsy, and has shown the ability to rack up steals and blocks on defense. He is a zero offensively outside of O-Rebs, but he was one of the youngest players in NCAA last year, so there is room for him to grow into a useful garbage man. He is poised for a big sophomore leap and is a player to monitor next season. The only reason I am not higher on him is because his measurables of 6’10” with a 7’2.5″ wingspan are weak for a one way defensive center.
29. Stephen Zimmerman (ESPN: 31, DX: 8 in 2017)
Zimmerman looked good in the Hoop Summit. He is a reasonably athletic 7’0″ with a balanced array of strengths who has clear potential to contribute on both ends. He is a jack of all trades and master of none, and is one of the more appealing non-lotto freshmen.
30. Keita Bates-Diop (ESPN: NR, DX: NR)
Last year’s #29 RSCI recruit only played 10 mins/game as a freshman on a team driven by D’Angelo Russell and upperclassmen. But he has nice tools for an NBA SF as he is 6’7″, long, and athletic. He can rebound, block shots, make 3’s, and he posted more assists than turnovers as a freshman. He is skinny and doesn’t seem to offer much shot creation, but he has breakout potential and I am not sure why he is completely off the radar.
31. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (ESPN: 17, DX: 17)
Mykhailiuk struggled as an 17 year old freshman, posting a 7.2 PER in 291 minutes. Now as a sophomore he will still be one of the youngest players in the NCAA, so it would not be fair to hold his small freshman sample against him given his athleticism, basketball IQ, and shooting. But he is not a great shooter (31.3% 3P% in 288 career attempts according to DX) and his short arms prevent him from being much of a playmaker defensively. He has struggled badly inside the arc his whole career, as he is not comfortable finishing in traffic and tends to throw up wild shots in the paint. He has potential for significant improvement in this area, but DX and ESPN are taking a large progression for granted in ranking him as a mid-1st rounder.
32. Grayson Allen (ESPN: 18, DX: 32 in ’17)
He is small for a SG, but his athleticism gives him upside as a scorer as he has the skill to both slash and shoot. His championship game performance blew his ESPN hype a bit out of hand, but it’s feasible that he eventually lives up to it.
33. Chase Jeter (ESPN: 51, DX: 17 among freshmen)
Jeter could be the Bobby Portis of the class, as scouts are glazing over him due to not being a great athlete or having a standout skill in spite of his #14 RSCI rating. But between his youth, size, quickness, rebounding, basketball IQ, and budding offensive skill he has a number of small edges that could add up to a quality player.
34. Jake Layman (ESPN: 35, DX: 24)
I am not sure that he has the perimeter skills to be an NBA SF, but in round 2 it is worth gambling on the possibility that he does given his athleticism.
35. DeAndre Bembry (ESPN: 42, DX: 38)
Bembry stuffed the statsheet as a sophomore for an inexperienced St. Joseph’s team, racking up a healthy share of points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. His efficiency was mediocre and he is only a career 33.5% 3P 61.1% FT shooter. But he has solid size for an NBA SG (6’6″ tall 6’8″ long) as well as the athleticism, quickness, and ball handling skills to succeed at the position should his shooting and decision making improve.
36. Justin Jackson (ESPN: 22, DX: 23)
Last year’s #9 RSCI freshman is the top rated returning sophomore. Jackson is the anti-Moreyball player: he is lethal from mid-range, which makes up a big portion of his offense. He lacks the athleticism to create layups and FT’s, and has limited shooting range as he shot just 30.4% from 3 on low volume as a freshman. He is also limited defensively as he does not have the size to make a big impact. His redeeming qualities outside of mid-range dominance are that he has nice size for a SF and is a good passer with good feel as he posted an elite assist:TOV rate as a freshman.
He has an interesting blend of strengths, but the trouble is figuring how this amounts to a useful NBA player. Mid-range shooting is not that valuable for an off the ball wing, so to become a good NBA’er he needs to develop 3 point range as well as ball skills to justify regular touches.
37. Isaiah Whitehead (ESPN: 77, DX: NR)
Whitehead had a horribly inefficient season as an old freshman PG (he turned 20 in March), as he shot just 38% on 2P and posted nearly as many turnovers as assists. But in spite of limited athleticism and quicks he showed defensive potential and is a decent shooter– if he cleans up his decision making on offense he will emerge as a viable prospect.
38. Monte Morris (ESPN: NR, DX: 39)
Morris has fairly average tools for a PG, is not a volume scorer, and even his assist rate is not stellar. But the smooth operator has posted a stunning 4.7 to 1 assist to turnover rate in his 2 years at Iowa State while making 40% 3P, 80% FT, and posting great steal and block rates for a player of his physical profile. He is a unique prospect that seems to have an outlier intersection of coordination and feel for the game.
39. Michael Humphrey (ESPN: NR, DX: 71 among sophomores)
This is my shot in the dark super draft sleeper. There is limited information on him, as I cannot even find his birthday. What I do know is that he was the #60 RSCI freshman and is an athletic 6’9″ PF. He played a bit role for Stanford last season until he was inserted into the starting lineup near the end of Pac-12 play. In 6 games and 126 mins as a starter, he averaged 15.9 pts 13.0 rebs 2.5 blks per 40 shooting an awesome 67% inside the arc before spraining his ankle and missing the majority of the remaining season. He also posted nearly as many assists (13) as turnovers (15) over the full course of the season. He is a skinny PF who shot just 11/22 FT and 0/2 3P, so he could be perceived as a very undersized center. But between his assist rate and acceptable scoring on non-rim 2’s (15/33), he appears to have hope to develop an acceptable PF skill package. The main caveat is this is all a very thin slice, and more information is needed before any strong conclusions are drawn.
40. Isaiah Briscoe (ESPN: 19, DX: 18)
Briscoe is a big, strong guard who appears to be the second coming of Andrew Harrison. He is not athletic or quick, and is bad defensively even though he has the measurables to defend SG’s. He also is a mediocre shooter. His saving grace is that unlike Harrison he appears to be a legitimate point guard with floor vision and passing skills. Overall he is bleh to me, and I am not convinced that he will prove to be the 3rd best freshman prospect on Kentucky ahead of #50 RSCI Charles Matthews.
41. Ray Smith
42. James Webb III
43. Derryck Thornton
44. Daniel Ochefu
45. Buddy Hield
46. Denzel Valentine
47. Melo Trimble
48. Brice Johnson
49. Tim Quarterman
50. Fred Van Vleet
51. Deonte Burton
52. Devin Robinson
53. Kennedy Meeks
54. Thomas Bryant
55. Malcolm Hill
56. Allonzo Trier
57. Justin Simon
58. PJ Dozier
59. Mike Tobey
60. Gary Clark
1. Karl Towns
I have had Karl Towns as #1 all season long and now consensus is in full agreement. He has an elite combination of size, skill, and smarts and there is little to dislike about his profile. His biggest red flag is that his explosiveness and mobility are both average, so perhaps he never becomes an great NBA rim protector. But he has plenty of upside to be great on both sides of the ball, and high floor high ceiling two way centers are rarely regrettable choices at #1 overall.
2. D’Angelo Russell
Stat models love Russell, and Curry and Harden serve as two compelling upside examples. Russell is neither the level outlier shooter of Curry nor the level outlier slasher of Harden, but his overall skill package is outlier in its own rite and it is difficult to find a frightening negative comparison. Russell’s vision exceeds both of them and he was exceptional at making off the dribble 3’s for Ohio State. If his 3p% was heavily luck driven he could disappoint as a scorer, because he created and finished rim attempts for himself at an underwhelming rate. This is enough to rate him below Towns, but his studly skill package and statistical performance with decent enough physical tools offers plenty of upside to stomach the concern and take him 2nd.
3. Justise Winslow
I have written extensively about my affinity for Winslow. I moved him below Russell due to measuring 6’4.5″ without shoes and some reports of poor shooting in workouts, but his strong selling points all remain strong. He is much closer to #2 on my board than he is to #4.
4. Jahlil Okafor
Okafor offers the super power of studly low post scoring as the foundation of his game, and with his elite strength, length, coordination to go with monster hands he projects to translate this to the NBA level. The downside is that he offers little other than low post scoring, with question marks regarding his defense, passing, and shooting. While he should be a productive NBA scorer, it will be a challenge to surround him with the correct combination of players to accentuate his strengths and mask his flaws. He faces the same challenges that prevent Greg Monroe from being an in demand asset in spite of being a highly productive player statistically, and for this I rate him clearly below each of my top 3 prospects. But his ceiling does extend higher than that of Monroe, and without another compelling prospect he slots in nicely at #4.
5. Emmanuel Mudiay
I offered thoughts on Mudiay on my last big board. The short version is that great tools to go with legitimate PG skills offer enough upside to place him in the top 5, but a broken shot, questionable basketball IQ, and a lack of proven production against noteworthy competition cast enough doubt to place him below Okafor even though Mudiay’s theoretical upside is more attractive.
6. Willie Cauley-Stein
Cauley-Stein offers the defensive super power of elite quickness and mobility in the body of a giant. He also has great anticipation skills that enabled him to rack up steals and blocks in college. He is strictly a garbage man on offense, but has good enough feel to not force the issue with a good assist:TOV rate for a center. His upside is something along the lines of Tyson Chandler.
7. Stanley Johnson
8. Kelly Oubre
I already wrote about Oubre and Stanley Johnson. I have cooled a bit on Oubre since he likely does not have the shake to become a stud slasher nor the basketball IQ to become a guaranteed stud defensive player a la Hollis-Jefferson, but there is still plenty to like there and I believe he is underrated nevertheless. Conversely I still have concerns about Johnson’s leaks, but the more important point is that he is young and has a multitude of notable strengths, thus I am ranking him a slot above Oubre.
9. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Hollis-Jefferson is in contention with Winslow for the most underrated player in the draft. He has a unique defensive package, as his physical tools are great across the board and he complements this by also playing hard and smart defensively. He is a lock to become a good defensive player in the pros and could has upside to be the best defensive wing in the league. The downside is that he is a near zero as a scorer, as he was a non-threat from 3 (8/39 in two NCAA seasons) and has little slashing ability. But he showed good passing ability with more assists than turnovers, and his 70% FT shooting offers a glimmer of hope for his shooting ability. The risk is that he becomes an offensive drag a la Michael Kidd-Gilchrist by providing no spacing or creation, but if his offensive skill set develops better than expected he will be a big time steal given his smarts, tools, and defense.
10. Frank Kaminsky
Kaminsky is perceived as a low upside pick as a 4 year unathletic white college big, but he is so skilled for his size and mobile enough that he has sneaky upside to become a fringe all-star. Even though Porzingis has better tools and youth, I would rather gamble on Kaminsky’s skill and feel.
11. Mario Hezonja
12. Kristaps Porzingis
The Euros are getting aggressively hyped due to their combination of athleticism and shooting, which always piques the interest of scouts. I am skeptical of both, as they each have significant leaks in their game. Hezonja has a bizarrely high turnover rate for somebody who almost never scores inside the arc and Porzingis has a terrible assist:TOV rate, a poor rebounding rate, and is barely competent as a long range shooter. They both have upside as well because tools and shooting are important, and I don’t want to be too aggressively bearish without having much expertise in European basketball. But I really like the top 10 American players, and Hezonja and Porzingis have flags that are concerning enough for me to place them just outside of the top 10.
13. Kevon Looney
Stat models love Looney, but scouts are skeptical given his lack of athleticism and creation ability. He has potential to be a good complementary piece who fits into the PF slot in a wide range of lineups. He is not precisely the same, but I see his upside as a Paul Millsap type who does a wide range of things well enough to add up to a highly positive player.
14. Bobby Portis
Portis is in a similar mold to Looney. He is not as adored by stat models but he atones with a great motor and defensive IQ. He has the size to play as a small 5 and the mobility to play as a 4, and will fit in well with defenses that demand frequent switching. His versatility should make him a useful cog in any lineup he enters.
15. Trey Lyles
Trey Lyles projects to be more of a defensive liability than Looney or Portis, but he is the most skilled offensive player of the trio. He sometimes played SF for Kentucky’s roster of Monstars, and he was not in an ideal situation to accentuate his skill set having to share the paint with so many other bigs. He is a candidate to vastly outperform his NCAA stat projections as a pro, but I nevertheless favor Portis and Looney due to their defensive advantages.
16. Delon Wright
Between his age, athletic limitations, frail frame, and questionable 3 point shot there are plenty of reasons to doubt Delon Wright’s NBA upside. He quells these doubts with unique positive qualities– he has great height and length for a PG and his elite feel for the game enables him to post elite block, steal, and rebound rates. He also has enough shake to slither his way to the rim against set defenses, and his vision and basketball IQ has resulted in a great assist to turnover ratio. His 3p% is marred by his poor off the dribble shooting, but his 81.4% FT suggest that he can become an adequate spot up 3 point shooter in the NBA. If he does develop a 3 point shot to complement his PG skills and defense, he can become a highly useful NBA player. He is the type of funky, polarizing player that can surpass his perceived upside with subtle strengths that go underrated by traditional scouts. If he slides into the late 1st as projected he could be a big time steal.
17. Tyus Jones
Tyus Jones was a top 5 RSCI recruit, stat models love him, and he won NCAA tournament MOP as an 18 year old freshman, yet he is projected to go in the back end of round 1. His poor physical profile and limited slashing and defensive ability are the primary culprits for his lack of draft hype. In a league loaded with PG’s, it will be an uphill climb for Jones to become an above average starter. He doesn’t share Wright and Grant’s size to guard SG’s, and he will be leaning heavily on his vision, instincts, and shooting to develop into quality starter.
18. Justin Anderson
Justin Anderson has limited creation ability, but offers passing, defense, smarts, and decent enough shooting to be a solid 3 + D prospect. Similar to most prospects who have more value on the defensive side of the ball, Anderson is underrated.
19. Sam Dekker
Sam Dekker boasts a good combination of athleticism and especially size for a wing, which he used to convert a high % of his 2 point shots in Wisconsin’s well spaced offense, where he often created his own shot. His value as a pro largely hinges on his ability to translate his rim scoring to NBA defenses, as he is otherwise a non-descript prospect.
20. Myles Turner
Turner’s combination of size, shooting, and rim protection makes him inherently upsidey, but his upside is somewhat based on wishful thinking since his profile is otherwise laced with warts. He has a number of alarming craters in his stats between 2P%, assist rate, ORB%, and steal rate. It’s difficult to buy him as a stud defensive player since his awkward movement makes him a liability on pick and roll defense, and his offensive game hinges entirely on his ability to develop into a lethal shooter. If his shot becomes great and he can get off a high volume due to his reach while also being an adequate rim protector, he can be highly useful. But smooth movement and coordination is an important trait, and there are plenty of prospects in the draft that make for better gambles.
21. Jerian Grant
Grant offers PG skills in a body with great size for a PG and solid athleticism. He has an alarmingly low rebound rate and his age somewhat limits his upside, but he offers versatility as a rotation guard that can pair with a wide range of back court mates. Even though I rate him slightly below consensus entering the draft I am fond of Grant as a prospect, I only rate him this low because this draft is loaded with depth and there are not enough overrated players at the top for me to drop behind him.
22. Devin Booker
Booker is a 3 point specialist that could become anything on a scale of Anthony Morrow to Kyle Korver. He is young and showed great shooting touch for Kentucky, good basketball IQ, and has adequate tools to become a passable NBA defensive player. The concerns are that his rebound, steal, and block rates were all exceptionally weak, and this is a better indication of defensive mettle than the agility drills that he crushed at the combine. Further there is no guarantee he either learns to move without the ball or shoot as well as Korver. He is comfortably overdrafted if he goes in the lottery as projected, but he can nevertheless pay solid dividends for a back end lotto pick if he does hit upside.
23. Cameron Payne
Entering this season I had Payne in my back pocket as my super secret sleeper, and then I never got around to writing about him and now everybody rates him higher than me. His game is aesthetically pleasing to watch, mostly because he has a distinct way of floating the ball to his target whether it be scoring on floaters or floating passes to open shooters. This gives him a unique skill to overachieve his perceived upside, but he does not have great upside as either a slasher or defensive player given his lackluster explosiveness. Ultimately his limitations outweigh his floaty appeal, which is why I would not take him over any of Delon Wright, Jerian Grant, or Tyus Jones.
24. Christian Wood
He’s an exceptionally young sophomore who offers athleticism, shot blocking, rebounding, and fringey long distance shooting. If he can develop an NBA 3 point shot, he can highly over perform his draft slot as a shot blocking stretch 4. But the challenge of armchair draft analysis is that when Christian Wood’s stock freefalls due to interviews and workouts at the combine, I cannot assess whether teams are being overreactive or not. But he has been slightly underrated all the way through the draft process, and people are inherently overreactive to recent information. So I’m just going to stash him here at #24 and hope for the best.
25. RJ Hunter
Hunter is a perfectly decent 3 + D prospect, but nothing stands out about him to place him above the other top 25 guys in this loaded class.
26. Rashad Vaughn
27. Chris McCullough
28. Nikola Milutinov
29. Cliff Alexander
30. Josh Richardson
31. Robert Upshaw
32. Larry Nance Jr.
33. Norman Powell
34. Jarell Martin
35. Dakari Johnson
36. Montrezl Harrell
37. Richaun Holmes
38. Jordan Mickey
39. Olivier Hanlan
40. Michael Qualls
41. Anthony Brown
42. Vince Hunter
43. Michael Frazier
44. Pat Connaughton
45. JP Tokoto
46. Dez Wells
47. Branden Dawson
48. Cedi Osman
49. Mouhammadou Jaiteh
50. Terry Rozier
Outside Hezonja and Porzingis, Nikola Milutinov stands out as the most compelling international prospect. His profile offers at least a little bit of everything except shot blocking, and it nevertheless sounds like he can be a solid defensive big man. Everybody else strikes me as underwhelming at a cursory glance. It is just a cursory glance so it is possible that I am overlooking a future useful NBA’er, but Milutinov is the only one who piqued my interest.
Fun fact: Larry Nance Sr. has the second highest career win shares among players drafted outside of the top 16, narrowly behind Terry Porter. Larry Nance Jr. now has a chance to prove that getting underrated in the draft runs in the family– he is an explosive dunker that carried Wyoming’s defense. He spent this season coming off an ACL tear and his team punted offensive rebounds, so his senior statistics underrate him. He is a great second round gamble.
Louisville boasts two of the most overrated prospects in the draft. Montrezl Harrell is an explosive athlete who is a hard worker, but his game encompasses little other than dunks. Terry Rozier is PG sized but lacks PG vision, a good outside shot, and the ability to slash through a set defense. He can be a pest on defense, but really needs to develop his offensive skills to be useful as the smallest player on the court in the NBA.
The springy dunker in a PF body to invest in this class before Harrell is Cliff Alexander. It was ridiculous when he was touted as a possible top 3 pick pre-season, but his freshman year was perfectly decent and he’s a hyper athletic #2 RSCI recruit. He offers better shot blocking, rebounding, and free throw shooting than Harrell, and it is puzzling why he is rated so much lower.
Josh Richardson and Norman Powell are my underrated defensive minded athletes in round 2, with Powell having the bonus of being a good slasher. Dez Wells and Olivier Hanlan are my Jordan Clarkson slashing candidates.
1. Karl Towns
2. Justise Winslow
3. D’Angelo Russell
These prospects are all high floor high ceiling studs. I would grade all of them in the range of a high end #2 pick to an average #1 in an average draft. Towns gets #1 because he’s a two way big prospect, and then Winslow and Russell are exceptionally close for #2. I favor Winslow because of his late season destruction and awesome tools, but Russell’s skill package is exceptional and he could be quite the offensive weapon. Whoever drafts these guys in the #3-5 range are going to be winners in this draft.
Note: I rate all three players below Joel Embiid and above all other prospects in the 2014 class.
Unique Blend of Elite Skill and Appalling Warts
4. Jahlil Okafor
Okafor is the most skilled low post freshman NCAA scorer I have ever watched, and I believe it will translate to the NBA given his monster size, length, hands, as well as footwork and rim touch. But he has holes in his game that the other top guys do not, and his lack of rim protection and shooting makes it difficult to place him in a lineup that maximizes his awesome low post scoring. He fits comfortably into the #4 slot on my big board, as there is a wide chasm between the top 3 and the rest of the class.
Upsidey Guys Who Are Starting To Get a Bit Warty
5. Emmanuel Mudiay
Assessing Mudiay’s draft stock is an interesting topic. I am a big advocate of swinging for the fences, since upside is far more important than downside and passing up a future star for a decent player is far more harmful than passing up a decent player for a bust. But the mystery box factor actually puts a dent in a Mudiay’s upside, as passing the check point of NCAA competence makes a player more likely to achieve their theoretical upside.
If Mudiay had spent this past season in college, he may have been as disappointing as past prospects such as Andrew Harrison, Marquis Teague, Austin Rivers, etc. Based on descriptions that his game needs polish, it is highly unlikely that he would have outperformed his #2 RSCI pedigree and boosted his stock by any significant margin. The fact that he is being evaluated as if he played NCAA and lived up to the hype is insane, as he is avoiding the risk that he falls out of favor with scouts with his flaws under a microscope without any opportunity cost. Drafting him over Winslow or Russell would be an unequivocal mistake with so much more downside and little (if any) additional upside.
This point should be especially obvious with the rookie disappointment of Dante Exum, who I believe had a more compelling thin slice. Mudiay’s physical tools are slightly preferrable, as he is more explosive with a better frame but does not quite have Exum’s quickness and is an inch shorter. Both have a gaping wart in their shooting ability, with Mudiay’s being marginally more worrisome. The difference maker is that Exum was reputed as having a superior basketball IQ and feel for the game, which I agreed with based on the one game eye test. I do not believe Mudiay has a poor feel or basketball IQ like Andrew Harrison does, but his decision making has been called into question and nothing shines for him skill wise. Everything is sheer potential– he could be a great PG if he adds polish to his half-court skill. He could be a beast defensively, but I see little discussion of him actually showing noteworthy acumen or intensity on that end. Any discussion of his draft stock needs to come with the glaring red flag that he might be terrible at basketball.
There is a point in the top 10 where it is worth taking the risk that he is bad at basketball given his physical tools, which are comfortably above average across the board. With height, length, speed, quickness, strength, and athleticism, he offers the whole package. But he nevertheless does not have the freaky nuclear athleticism of John Wall, Derrick Rose, or Russell Westbrook, which makes playing Mudiay roulette a bit less enticing. I am not sure exactly where to place him, but 5th is the maximum reasonable peak and he could be argued to go a fair bit lower. I am keeping him 5th for now because I don’t have any strong conviction that any of my lower prospects ran above him, but he is much closer to 10th in my book than is to the top 3.
6. Willie Cauley-Stein
7. Kelly Oubre
8. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
9. Stanley Johnson
10. Mario Hezonja
11. Kristaps Porzingis
These players all have arguments ahead of Mudiay. WCS offers the super power of elite footspeed and quickness in player with legitimate center size, which gives him tantalizing defensive versatility. Offensively he is strictly a garbage man, but he does not force bad shots and his FT% is improving, so he should at least be efficient in his limited role.
I already shared in depth thoughts on Kelly Oubre and Stanley Johnson. I noted in my writeup that I gravitate toward Oubre being the 5th best prospect, but I really don’t have enough faith in him being actually good at basketball to boldly place him above WCS and Mudiay. For now I am playing it safe and keeping him 7th.
On the other hand, I do have loads of faith in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. He is the Marcus Smart of this draft who is a defensive stud and the type of player who will find ways to help his team win games. His lack of 3 point range or offensive creation skill places a damper on his stock. But he is not a complete zero offensively since he is a good passer, an electric finisher, and has a respectable FT%. With his awesome tools and defensive versatility, I believe it is wise to just take him in the lottery and gamble that offensive game fills out adequately one way or another.
Mario Hezonja is a mystery box that I have little grasp on. With his athleticism, I buy the narrative that he has upside so 10th feels like a good place to rank him.
‘Staps is also a mystery box, and with Layne Vashro repeatedly tweeting the Bargnani comparison I have a hard time getting excited for him. With rumors of questionable work ethic and Staps being soft on the glass, it feels like some form of disappointment is inevitable. But he’s young, tall, toolsy, he can shoot, and I have not scouted him so I can’t take a strong anti-Staps position with great fervor.
Quality Role Players
12. Kevon Looney
13. Jakob Poeltl Somehow Rhymes with Turtle
14. Frank Kaminsky
15. Tyus Jones
16. Myles Turner
17. Kris Dunn
18. Christian Wood
19. Delon Wright
20. Sam Dekker
Looney’s stats are nice and his tools seem decent enough. Same with Frank, although smoothness for his size is his calling card rather than physical tools.
I want to love Poeltl more, as he offers nice rebounding and defense. But to my eye his offensive game feels a bit choppy, and I am skeptical of his upside on that end. Still a solid guy to take in the back end of the lottery.
It’s worth worrying that Tyus Jones will struggle translating his NCAA production similar to Tyler Ennis and Trey Burke, as he is tiny and not exceptionally athletic. But he has awesome skill, razor sharp instincts, and a better first step than his fellow undertooled T’s, so mid-1st round seems like a good time to gamble.
Myles Turner offers a unique blend of size and shooting, but to my eye he appears to be a stiff. He doesn’t pass, doesn’t get offensive rebounds, and was oddly inefficient inside the arc given his size and shooting ability. And in spite of his stellar block rate, he is not explosive and does not have the monster size of less athletic rim protectors such as Roy Hibbert or Rudy Gobert. Unless he develops a good NBA 3 point shot that he can get off at a high volume with his reach, I do not see him amounting to much as a pro.
Kris Dun has solid tools + solid stats and his mid-1st round standing seem appropriate. But I haven’t scouted him much so my opinion currently lacks depth.
Christian Wood I have not scouted, but on the surface he is intriguing to me. He offers rebounding, shot blocking, and has potential to develop into a stretch 4. He dominated in UNLV’s surprise win vs. Arizona, and he was certainly not aided by playing for one of the absolute worst NCAA coaches in Dave Rice. I am not sure he is necessarily underrated, but he is a player I would give a long and hard look if I was an NBA team with a mid-late 1st round pick.
Sam Dekker has been receiving loads of hype for his NCAA tournament performance, but to me he is the most bland prospect in the draft. He does not have any gaping weaknesses nor does he shine at anything in particular. I believe he will be a decent rotation player in the NBA, but I don’t see all that much upside.
In contrast to Dekker, Delon Wright has all sorts of funky polarity. I suspect that his lack of strength, quickness, or explosiveness will prevent him from translating his stellar college production to the NBA. But with his awesome combination of height, length, skill, basketball IQ, and instincts, he is a unique prospect and it is difficult to place a hard cap on his upside with high confidence. Thus he trades over boring Dekker.
Boring Role Players
21. Jerian Grant
22. Devin Booker
23. Caris LeVert
24. Bobby Portis
25. Trey Lyles
26. RJ Hunter
27. Cameron Payne
28. Rashad Vaughn
29. Robert Upshaw
30. Josh Richardson
This tier is more boring Dekker-ish players. Jerian Grant has an intriguing blend of physical tools, shooting, passing, and shot creation. But he also is old and has an bizarrely low rebound rate which is a bit of a red flag. I like him but feel he is slightly overrated after Notre Dame’s tournament run.
Devin Booker is the youngest prospect in the draft and can shoot the lights out, but offers little else. His passing and BBIQ are both solid, but he is a t-rex who is not particularly athletic and has exceptionally low steal, block, and rebound rates. He does not figure to make an impact defensively or with shot creation. He is a bland floor spacer to me.
Caris LeVert does a little bit of everything and has decent tools. His value takes a small hit because he missed most of this past season with a foot injury, but he could become a nice role player for a late 1st round pick.
Bobby Portis had a highly productive sophomore year– he is skilled, smart, and he plays hard. He has potential to become a solid stretch 4 in the NBA. But his lack of athleticism prohibits him from making a big impact, although I do suspect that his pro defensive impact exceeds what you would expect given his physical tools.
Trey Lyles is similar to Portis, and has even better handles and creation ability. But Portis strikes me as the more intelligent player, so I’m giving him the slight edge.
RJ Hunter is a 3 + maybe D prospect. Josh Richardson is a maybe 3 + D prospect.
Cameron Payne is the funkiest and most unique prospect in this tier. While he has lackluster tools for an NBA PG, he atones with a strong skill set as he guided Murray State to the 14th best kenpom offense in the NCAA. He is somewhat intoxicating to watch, and I feel compelled to make an campaign that Cam Payne has sneaky upside. But I can’t place my finger on a strong logical reason behind this, and with such PG depth in the NBA I do not want to overrate an undertooled PG dominating weak college competition.
Rashad Vaughn was the #10 RSCI recruit. While he appears to be a chucker, he posted solid NCAA statistics for an 18 year old. Like Christian Wood I am intrigued to see what he can accomplish once freed from the shackles of his horrific coach.
Robert Upshaw has serious red flags in his intangibles since he has been kicked off two college teams, but he is such a monster rebounder and rim protector that I remain intrigued.
After fervently scouting summer league and trying to update my perceptions on players, I have to admit that I am completely overdosed on information. I don’t currently feel pressure to have awesome rankings, because I feel it’s an impossible task to correctly weigh this information during the first year that I have complete access to such in depth observations. So I’m going to do my best to rank players anyway, but I think it’s more important to categorize my predictions to track which pieces of information tend to carry the most weight. I suspect it’s going to take a few years of doing this before I am actually qualified to speak with the hyperbolic confidence that I naturally convey, so as usual I’m going to note that I’m probably wrong about lots.
My process has constantly evolved over the course of the season. I started off trying to blending stats, physical profiles, an intuitive understanding of the NBA, and whatever extra details I noticed by watching into efficient evaluations. But trying to do this for players that I have barely watched feels like complete guesswork on my end, and I don’t think it’s ultimately going to yield significant edge over what anybody else is doing. Compare Rudy Gay and Paul George: they play the same position, they have similar physical profiles, they had similar statistical ratings based on Layne Vashro’s EWP formula, and they were chosen at similar draft spots. On paper they were more or less the same level of prospect. But one developed into a top 5 NBA player within a few years of being drafted, whereas the other was consistently a black hole who underachieved on defense and sucked the life out of his team’s offense. I don’t accept that this is solely due to random variance and/or differences in the environments where they developed. There had to have been a signal in their respective play as 20 year olds that indicated that George was on a better developmental path than Gay.
My goal in Las Vegas was to watch players through the lens that style mattered more than stats, and to try to pinpoint the indicators that *might* suggest whether players are on a good or bad developmental path. I feel that I found some relevant stuff, but I shouldn’t invest much confidence in it until I have tested some of these hypotheses a bit more. So in spite of my hot fireballs of disdain for Jabari Parker’s summer league performance, I am not going to rank him hilariously low. He still can be a good fantasy player and he has as good of odds as anybody of winning ROY, and I doubt many people will be inclined to take me seriously if they see that I ranked the #2 pick who won ROY like 25th on my post-SL big board. On the other hand if I rank him 11th and he becomes the worst player in the history of bad players, I doubt anybody will accuse me of going too soft on him. So I’m going to scale my rankings back into more level headed territory for this iteration:
|39||Roy Devyn Marble|
Joel Embiid is the stud of the draft. His talent is in a completely different stratosphere from everybody else and the only thing that can slow him down (or stop him altogether) are injuries. I really hope he stays healthy, but who knows if he can.
Feel For The Game
This is where I think I can find edge that isn’t detected by stats or scouts. It’s the area that is slippery and difficult to pinpoint, so it largely goes ignored. But I think this is likely the area that can enable the trained observer to separate the Rudy Gays from the Paul Georges, so I’m really excited to see how these work out. I should note that “feel” is a vague generalization and some indicators of good/bad feel should carry different weight than others, so not all of these carry equal weight. The ones that stand out as particularly noteworthy to me:
Marcus Smart is my #2 prospect, which seems a bit wild and crazy for a PG that can’t shoot, can’t consistently get to the rim, and isn’t that athletic. On paper he appears to be on a crash course to become Tony Allen or slightly better, which is not somebody you take 2nd overall in a loaded draft. Also his feel for the game isn’t pristine, as on occasion it seems to pop into his head that it’s bucket o’clock and he’ll chuck up a bad contested shot. But other than that he fills me up with warm and fuzzy feelings. He sees the floor exceptionally well, especially on defense. He has lightning quick reactions that make him an awesome playmaker on that end. He doesn’t have super athleticism to be the best man to man lock down defender of all time, but I think his advanced defensive stats are going to be surprisingly good throughout his NBA career. In summer league his feel showed in his ability to see the floor, make smart passes, protect the ball, and err on the side of bricking 3’s instead of long 2’s. I’m not sure precisely how high his upside goes but I have a feeling he will be better than people anticipate.
TJ Warren is my #3 prospect, which might be overreactive to summer league since he was clearly at the peak of his game and it’s the only environment in which I scouted him. He had some bad games against tougher defenses in college, and maybe his flaws will become clearer against NBA defenses. Further he sounds like a completely blah prospect on paper, since he’s a wing who doesn’t pass, doesn’t make 3’s, and has questionable defensive acumen. But I’m completely and utterly captivated by his approach to scoring, as he displays both unique talent (touch within 15 feet, coordination, footwork) and feel for utilizing it (he has a knack for getting easy buckets from transition + putbacks as well as minimizing his turnovers in the half-court). So I’m gambling on this to mean that 1) his inside the arc scoring will translate much better than expected 2) his defense, passing, and shooting will develop better than expected. The latter is a bit shaky because who even knows if he’s interested in anything other than getting buckets, but I feel he has the ability to develop better than random.
Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis are the players who have good feel but have limited quickness to capitalize on this. Ennis never blew me away when I watched him, but I felt he had some really cool statistical splits that may be indicative of uniquely good feel. Stauskas had less attractive stats but a more attractive eye test, as his ability to handle is not captured by any statistical measure. These are the two prospects who are leaning hard on skill and feel to overcome physical deficiencies, Ennis is team stats and Stauskas is team eye test.
Doug McDermott has good feel but stands out neither statistically nor to my eyes. I remain bearish on him because his limitations are plentiful.
Andrew Wiggins went #1 since he is oozing with potential due to athleticism, but he screams “underachiever” to me. He seems either less interested or less good at developing his game than his peers, as evidenced by 1) his disappointing freshman production and 2) observing his progression from freshman year to summer league. His stepback jumper looked notably improved, and it’s clear that he was putting work into it leading up to the draft. But it also appeared that he’s more enamored with his ability to make stepback jumpers than he is his ability to create for others and be great defensively, which are the high leverage areas for him to become a winning player. He has the talent to leverage his athleticism to be good at all aspects of the game, but I didn’t see him moving in this direction either at Kansas or in Vegas.
The interesting caveat with Wiggins is that people commonly argue that underachievers just need good coaching and everything will be peachy. Wiggins seems to have landed in an awesome situation with LeBron and Blatt. If he doesn’t get traded, I am interested to see how much coaching and a good developmental environment can help overcome his past developmental deficiencies and move him down the correct path at an accelerated rate. I suspect that they won’t be a panacea, but if nothing else it gives him a much better shot of making me look silly for doubting him than he would by taking endless stepbacks for Flip Saunders in Minnesota.
Jabari Parker I believe takes a barbaric approach to offense, and I don’t think he has the quicks, athleticism, or shooting touch for this to end favorably for him. He doesn’t seem adaptable, he doesn’t seem aware of the relationship between his play and his team’s success, and I can’t fathom that his method of scoring translates to efficient play against NBA defenses. Maybe he has more talent than Evan Turner and Derrick Williams which will enable him to look like a fine pick in the early going, as well as a legit fantasy basketball commodity. But I believe his impact on his team’s bottom line will always be worse than the box score stats suggest. I don’t see him as player who makes plays that lead to wins. I do think he wants to win, so maybe he will leverage this desire into becoming solid defensively, creating for others, and scaling back the chucking.
Julius Randle seems more adaptable than Parker, but I don’t think he’s as talented. He’s strong, quick, and good at making difficult shots in the paint, but he has some serious deficiencies working against him. I believe mediocre PF height + length along with lackluster explosiveness and slow instincts make it nearly impossible for him to be a solid defensive player and also limit his offensive upside. If he proves me wrong and turns out better than expected, I am upgrading the importance of adaptability.
Noah Vonleh I can never bring myself to watch for more than a few minutes at a time, but he probably has bad feel based on his assist:TOV and the amount of bricks he chucks up near the rim. This is a low confidence read since it is supported by far less observation than the others.
Dante Exum and Aaron Gordon are the mystery boxes who have great physical tools and seem to have the smarts and feel to make winning plays. But Exum has limited repetitions against respectable competition and struggled in summer league, and Gordon’s offensive game is a major work in progress. I still believe they both have loads of upside and hope they become awesome, but they also both could fall well short of expectations.
Zach LaVine was a mystery box since nobody really knew whether he can handle the ball or not, and I tried to cheat and short him based on statistical indicators. This might have been a mistake, as his summer league play makes me feel less comfortable about the idea of heavily extrapolating based on statistics. He appears to be trying hard and taking his pro career rather seriously, which I imagine is how the players like DeRozan, Lance, and Bledsoe became much better than expected after a few years of development. He still has the issue of a rail thin frame and mediocre length that prevent his upside from being boundless, but I suspect that he might progress at a faster rate than his peers.
Bruno Caboclo could be anything, he could even be a completely broken floor spacer with his long arms. He could also be somebody who never develops the instincts to be a useful NBA player. His feel does not appear to be good now, but he is so young with such a unique combination of strengths that I want to believe he can become good.
Nurkic, Capela, Saric, Inglis, Bogdanovic, Jokic, and Micic are all players who I’m just straight up guessing on based on how good they sound on paper and where they were selected. I expect these rankings to be largely inefficient, but I’m at least going to try.
3 minus D types
I recently realized that James Young and Rodney Hood are exceptionally similar prospects. They both are good, lefty shooters who are willing passers and don’t try to force the issue inside the arc. They are also both bad defensively with similar steal and block totals, and they even make similar mistakes trying to defend the perimeter. Hood is better and more polished now, but Young is almost 3 years younger with better strength and length and clearly has more upside. I don’t know that Young quite has Hood’s offensive feel, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he develops it by the time he’s Hood’s age. His assist rate wasn’t bad for an 18 year old freshman, and he definitely did try to create for his teammates off the dribble. Hood translated to summer league a bit better than I expected due to not forcing the issue on offense, and I feel Young might have done likewise. He was always the player who managed to get buckets for Kentucky against long, athletic defenses, and it might be a sign that he has better feel than he’s given credit for. I think both players landed in good situations and I’m most interested to see if 1) their offense can become good enough to justify their defense or 2) their defense can improve enough to make it possible to get their offense on the floor.
I’m not sure Payton has the athleticism or shooting to become a superstar, but he has the talent to become above average on both ends which would make him a good player.
I have a good feeling about McGary. He’s a funky prospect who handles well for a big and gets more steals than most centers in spite of getting few blocks. I don’t think he has boundless upside since he’s already 22, but it probably gives him a bit more potential than you’d expect from a 22 year old #21 pick.
Kyle Anderson is incredibly smart, skilled, and long, and he gets to play for the best coach in the history of sports. But he’s also ridiculously slow and seems lazy. He didn’t look that good when I watched him in Vegas, but everybody else seems to think he looked great. Maybe I just caught him at the wrong times. At this point I’m more interested in observing than chipping in new predictions for him and his UCLA teammate Jordan Adams.
KJ I’m starting to lose a bit of faith in. I’m not sure what his offensive contribution is going to be in the NBA. He was able to do it all for a bad NCAA offense, but this doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be competent in the NBA. Also I think his defense will be good but may not fully translate without great size or quicks. He can be a good role player for sure, but I might have slightly overrated him pre-draft.
I just like Jarnell Stokes. He fills me up with fuzzy feelings inside. I could qualify this as good feel, but I’m not even sure that he has the best feel for the game. I think he’s a hard worker who is committed to being good and is already better than his 2nd round draft slot suggests.
I have given Gary Harris some flack for being bland and lacking in upside, but he makes 3’s, plays defense, and passes the ball. It’s not hard to see that adding up to a useful player. I still like Mario Chalmers as his upside (and I like Chalmers as a role player), but he’s so young maybe he can surpass that projection and be a rather attractive role player. His lack of size reflected in his summer league 2p%, but he did draw a surprising amount of FT’s.
Nick Johnson looks like a solid 3 + D PG who meshes well with James Harden.
Alec Brown intrigues me. Between him and Adreian Payne, his shooting release appears a bit quicker. He shot a slightly higher % from 3 over a slightly larger sample over the past 2 years, and while I imagine both of them will have their 3 point volume stretched in the pros I have an inkling that Brown has a bit more upside since he’s also 1 year and 5 months younger. Also Brown is taller and got more blocks in college. Payne is stronger, longer, better at rebounding, and better at finishing. I’m not sure Brown has the strength to finish at all in traffic vs. NBA bigs, but that’s probably for the best since he’s not much of a passer either. I assume that the Suns are going to try to groom him to become the Channing Frye replacement, and I can’t think of a reason why he can’t produce similar to Frye. That doesn’t mean that he necessarily can, but he’s a nice flier at 50th overall.
Tyler Johnson was probably the 2nd best player in Las Vegas after TJ Warren. I’m simply amazed by him. The fact that he was able to get as many assists, buckets in the paint, and FTA’s as he did while only turning it over 5 times in 10 games is truly amazing. He definitely goes in the good feel pile. His only good tool seems to be his athleticism, but he applied it relentlessly on the floor and really looks like he belongs in the NBA.
PJ Hairston appears to be a chucker who punches high school kids in the face, which is not the best combination of traits. I’m not completely giving up on him, but I don’t like all of his summer league 2 point bricks. Stick to your strength of 3 point bombing, Peej.
I have my final big board as my rough ranking of draft prospects, but I hate being evaluated purely numerically since some of my predictions are less confident than others. So I want to verbalize my most confident predictions since words tell a more specific story than my big board.
1. Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker will not both be above average starters, and neither will be the best player in the class.
I think both prospects are overrated with both a lower floor and lower ceiling than the wisdom of the crowd suggests. Most likely outcome strikes me as one being good but not great and the other as a big disappointment.
2. One of Joel Embiid, Dante Exum, Marcus Smart, or Aaron Gordon will wildly overachieve expectations. There is at least one future top 10 player in this quartet.
These players all have hurdles to overcome. Embiid has his injury concerns, Exum plays questionable defense and isn’t a fully known commodity, Marcus Smart isn’t great offensively, and Aaron Gordon’s shot appears to be broken. I don’t know who will have a better fate than the others, and in all likelihood at least one of these guys will appear wildly overrated on my big board when all is said and done. But the draft is all about upside, and these guys have it.
Embiid’s upside stands out by far the most, he is going to be a stud if he stays healthy. He can so easily become an all-time great if his body cooperates.
Exum is more of a mystery as a talent, and the lack of hustle and defense in his game is a bit disconcerting. But his combination of physical tools, smarts, and vision create a ridiculous offensive upside.
Smart and Gordon are great defensive prospects with some workable amount of skill offensively. They have the physical tools such that they can be good offensively if they develop their base skill well. They both have clear paths to 2 way playerdom.
3. Jarnell Stokes will become a better pro than Julius Randle
Stat models tend to rate the two exceptionally close with a slight edge often going to Stokes. They are both bruising SEC PF’s with similar measurements and less than a year in age difference.
My eye test says Stokes going to be better. Randle appears to lack an ability to quickly process his surroundings and make crisp decisions. I don’t know that this will completely submarine his NBA career but it might. He’s going to have a tough time keeping up defensively and operating in traffic vs. NBA defenses. I just don’t see how he becomes a good NBA player in spite of this, especially without long arms or explosive leaping ability. Best case he becomes an empty stats guy, but I could see him being real bad.
I don’t know how far Stokes will get. He may just be a 3rd big who brings energy + rebounding off the bench and is never that great. He isn’t in an ideal mold. But I don’t see a flaw as frightening as Randle’s slow decision making, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see Stokes become a solid starter.
So I’m going out on a major limb and saying that in spite of being picked 35th to Randle’s 7th, Stokes will become a better pro.
4. Zach LaVine will not be good at all
On one hand his great athleticism and the fact that he (along with scouts) feels that he has some unproven PG ability made me not want to fade him too much. But since the draft I have been feeling like I may have given him too much benefit of the doubt. The “LaVine can play PG” narrative is all such a reach I’m calling BS. I don’t see a single shred of evidence that he is a PG, and I have no idea why high school scouts think this is a possibility. He averaged 28.5 pts 2.5 assists 0.6 steals (that steal rate is truly pathetic and it is common for even wings to average more assists) as a HS senior. Then for UCLA he never got to the rim in the half-court and had lackluster steal and assist rates in spite of a zone defense and ball movement offense that boosts both.
Once we get past the fact that he’s like 2% to have PG skills, he doesn’t even have good tools for a SG. He isn’t tall or long and is horribly skinny. I don’t know how well he moves laterally but I doubt it matters because he has horrible instincts defensively and in spite of his athleticism he couldn’t even rack up steals in high school or UCLA’s zone. Leaping isn’t everything and doesn’t atone for his horrible body and poor feel for the game.
He went from #52 RSCI player to lotto pick without even doing anything good at UCLA. There just aren’t enough NBA prospects outside the top 25 for that to happen and the fact that it did is baffling. Nothing about his ascent makes sense and I don’t buy the idea that he has upside. I think the RSCI rankings had it right and then Chad Ford messed everything up by noticing he has the intersection of the two most overrated draft traits ever: shooting and athleticism. Unfortunately everything else appears to be a glaring weakness. If I am drafting for worst NBA player in 2014-2015, LaVine is my first pick.
5. At least 3 players drafted in the 30-45 range will peak higher than Gary Harris
I don’t doubt Gary Harris’s ability to be useful, but I do doubt his ability to have upside and man is this 30-45 range loaded with good prospects. KJ McDaniels, Jarnell Stokes, and Spencer Dinwiddie were 3 of my favorite role player prospects in the draft. Kyle Anderson going to San Antonio is just perfect in terms of both value and fit. Damien Inglis and Nikola Jokic seem underdrafted to me from afar. Nick Johnson, Jerami Grant, and Glenn Robinson are all athletes who did enough in college to possibly have solid pro careers. Dwight Powell could be something and Walter Tavares is an intriguing international flier.
Gary Harris could become a solid rotation player. But he’s so bland and the 30-45 range is so rife with underdrafted players that I think a few of them will inevitably turn out better than him.
6. None of Doug McDermott, Rodney Hood, or Shabazz Napier will become above average starters.
Maybe one of them becomes good enough to make their draft position look alright in retrospect, but the draft is all about upside and I don’t see it in these guys. They all have poor tools and aren’t world beaters offensively relative their age to truly have elite upside.
McDermott is probably the best prospect of the bunch. His shooting and scoring could amount to something, I could see him becoming the SF version of JJ Redick. But I don’t see him becoming better than that and he may become significantly worse. The Bulls were out of their minds trading 16 + 19 for him. This move might look decent in retrospect, but it’s far more likely to look horrible than it is to look great.
Napier had a good college steal rate to inspire some hope of defensive competence in the NBA, but he’s so small and unathletic it’s hard to get too optimistic. His tools are so lackluster and he’s so old and not great at passing, where does the upside come from? For a guy who plays the deepest position in the NBA, he’s not 1st round value. It’s great that LeBron likes him but he probably will be worse than Chalmers and LeBron might not be that excited to have him on the roster by the time summer league is over.
Rodney Hood would be a decent 3 + D prospect if he wasn’t one of the worst defensive prospects in the entire draft. His defensive instincts are just awful and his physical profile is not too great either. This is the prospect whose hype truly puzzles me. Guess everybody just wants a piece of Duke pedigree (which explains why Duke had a reputation for prospects busting until recently). I’d be surprised if he’s starting caliber at all.
7. Tyler Ennis will have an above median career for an 18th overall pick.
Median is difficult to define since a number of active 18th picks are due to move up the standings over the next few years, but right now Jason Collins is 11th out of the past 29 years with 20.1 win shares and he will be the approximate median once he gets passed by active picks. So let’s say that Ennis will have at least 20+ career win shares. I don’t see him falling flat on his face.
Interestingly the most career win shares for any #18 pick is Mark Jackson with 91.8. He shares all of Ennis’s deficiencies: not that athletic, not a great shooter, not a great scorer. But he was an assist to turnover hero in college and went on to have a long and successful NBA career. Ennis is 2 years and change younger as of their respective draft nights, and posted better college stats. So it’s within Ennis’s reach to have a better career than Jackson did and go down as the best 18th pick of all time. I think people slept on Ennis big time.
8. Neither CJ Wilcox nor Cleanthony Early will become starting caliber players
They probably won’t become useful at all, but I want to leave myself some margin for error here.
9. At least one of Jusuf Nurkic or Clint Capela will become a top 10 player in the draft class
This is a fairly conservative projection based on how good they seem to me, but I didn’t get to scout them to the extent I would have liked. Nevertheless, I don’t see how they can have the tools and stats they do and still not be top 10 prospects, so I’m sticking to my story that they were underdrafted.
10. There probably is not an all-star in the 46-60 range, but if there is it’s Vasilije Micic
Micic looms as the possible Dragic of the draft. It seems crazy that he slid to 52 and he probably won’t be all that good, but he definitely stands out to me as the upsidiest in the range.
11. Within 5 years I will be hating at least one of these predictions
I feel so good about all of my logic now, but how can I not have made any mistakes? This is the first year that I have gotten intimately familiar with all prospects, and I can’t exactly compare minute details with historical prospects. Watching the minutia play out will certainly enable more confident future projections from me.
My rules are that I’m OK with a guy I like becoming not much. GM’s get fired for drafting busts, but that’s backwards: they should really get fired for passing on stars. I’m OK with 1 or 2 of my top 4 becoming not all that much, I don’t think all 4 are going to become great and I can’t really fight the variance on this. But if any of them truly rock, I’ll be glad to have my nice words in their favor down on paper. Of course it is still possible that I overrated prospects that I like, and I will do my best to be mindful of situations when it was actually a bad idea to rank somebody high as opposed to a great idea that went horribly wrong.
What I’m most worried about is any of the guys I declared overrated drastically outperforming their upper bound in my mind. I’m betting against picks 1, 2, 7, 11, 13, 19, 23, 24, 28, 34 and one of them will in all likelihood hit a top 10% outcome. This is fine, since I can’t control for variance. But it’s also likely that I completely underrated the strengths of one of these prospects and they will exceed my mental boundary for their upside and force me to update my perception.
Between variance and imperfect reasoning I’m bound to feel silly about some of these. But by assigning precise words to my predictions, I am forced to be honest with myself 5 years down the road about where I was on the wrong track. So I’m just hoping to be on the right track with most of these and then I can use the feedback of being wrong to perfect my process down the road.
Now that I have seen how the draft actually played out and processed all of the twists and turns and surprises, I. And if the title doesn’t make it clear, I think Sam Hinkie absolutely crushed the draft and has furthered my suspicion that he is the future best GM of all time.
I loved that he was a stone cold baller and gambled on Joel Embiid at #3 overall, but what I was also anticipating how he would use the #10 overall pick. The players that I liked there were international bigs (Capela, Nurkic) which didn’t make a world of sense with Noel and Embiid there or PG’s (Ennis, Payton) who didn’t make much sense with MCW there. Then the next guys on my board were KJ McDaniels and Kyle Anderson who slid all the way to the 30’s, so there is no need to expend a valuable lottery pick on them as Sam Hinkie went ahead and snagged KJ at #32 overall. I felt that trading down was the obvious play, but finding a good deal can be hard. Hinkie ended up finding his own deal by reading Rob Hennigan’s soul.
Orlando surprised when they took Aaron Gordon 4th overall with Marcus Smart and Dante Exum on the board as logical choices for a team that badly needed a PG. Of course Hinkie perfectly deduced the implications of this: they were targeting Elfrid Payton 12th overall, as Payton had been dominating workouts and fits Hennigan’s affinity for toolsy, defensive minded prospect who cannot shoot. But it’s not easy to get much in a trade down from 10 to 12 when the teams at 10 and 11 are not likely to snipe Orlando, so Hinkie came up with the creative solution of becoming 100% likely to snipe Orlando by taking Payton himself. Instead of getting a nominal fee for trading down two slots, Hinkie picked up the 2017 1st rounder that Philly had sent Orlando in the Dwight Howard trade, and a 2015 2nd rounder that should be in the 30’s. That’s a significant vig for trading down from 10 to 12.
Note that I’m not certain that this is precisely how it played out, it’s merely how it sounds to me after piecing the available information together. I’m not sure how Hinkie may have roped Hennigan into paying that much to move up 2 slots without playing Jedi mind games.
Hinkie then took Dario Saric 12th overall who will be stashed in Europe for the next 2+ years, and should appreciate in value over that span. I imagine that Saric ends up getting dealt to another overmatched GM before he ever puts on a Philadelphia uniform, as he seems to have more value as a trade chip than an NBA player based on limited info. I may be wrong, but that’s my prediction.
For Sam Hinkie the draft is more than an opportunity to draft potential superstars like Joel Embiid. It’s also a chance to ravage lesser front offices in trades. We kept hearing over and over about Wiggins being Philly’s #1 target, and to me that reeked of misinformation since Joel Embiid was in the draft too. I don’t know if he was going to leverage that to trade up for #1 and surprise snipe Embiid from Cleveland, or if he was going to snag Wiggins #3 overall and then completely clean out a team who feels that Hinkie’s adoration for Wiggins confirms the hype. But after the draft we got this from Woj:
Adrian Wojnarowski @WojYahooNBA · As it turns out, Philadelphia never made a run at Cleveland’s No. 1 overall pick, league sources tell Yahoo.
The great thing about Woj is that he always has his facts straight in a world where Ric Bucher and Chris Broussard sometimes try to break news as well. If Hinkie didn’t try to trade up for #1 after Embiid’s injury red flags were heightened, that supports my hypothesis that Embiid was his target all along. Unfortunately we will never know exactly what Sam Hinkie’s master misinformation plan was, but I imagine it was awesome.
Hinkie also went ahead and drafted my #13 player at #32 overall and my #21 player at #52 overall. And since New Orleans had so much fun getting hustled by Hinkie last draft, they decided to sneak in a quick losing trade when they shipped D-League extraordinaire Pierre Jackson for the #47 pick. I didn’t love the Jerami Grant pick at #39, but I had it above slot value and I don’t have a hard time hopping on board with the pick if Hinkie likes him.
If you root for a team that isn’t going to be good anytime soon and is low on my prediction list for good drafting, it might be a while before you can root for a winner. I highly recommend adopting Philadelphia as a 2nd team to root for (or a new favorite team altogether). You can get in on the ground floor and while it will be a few of years before they are good, they are eventually going to be great. Hinkie is too sharp and too creative for their fate to be otherwise.
Here are my updated predictions for who had the best draft nights, with my pre-draft predictions in the far right column for comparison.
I still think Houston got the steal of the draft in Capela. For whatever reason, NBA teams are much quicker to sour on toolsy bigs with questionable skill/feel than toolsy wings with questionable skill/feel (evidence: Harrison Barnes was drafted before Andre Drummond), even though bigs have such an easier path to usefulness. It doesn’t make sense to me that Andrew Wiggins can show worrisome skill deficiencies and still get picked #1 overall in the same world where DeAndre Jordan slides to round 2. And the reasons for Capela sliding sound especially dubious (he was bad at all-star practices, let’s value that more than playing for an actual professional team in a real sample of games). Maybe Capela never becomes anything but at 25th overall there’s no way it’s anything other than a great gamble.
Note that I placed a premium on higher picks, which is why Minnesota and Chicago evaded the bottom 3 in spite of having the most obviously bad drafts.
I also decided to re-rank the players based on the actual draft outcome. I’m truncating the list at top 40, because I don’t see the value in going beyond that. I was pretty much picking names out of hats to fill out the bottom of my list, and does it really matter if I rank Cleanthony Early 50th or 73rd or 374th? I wouldn’t draft him and I doubt there are more than 40 players worth drafting in any given crop of prospects, so that’s the limit to which I will rank in the future:
|34||Glenn Robinson III|
I didn’t go too wild scooting Saric up my board since I’m not convinced Hinkie is keeping him. But I upticked him anyway based on the possibility of such and my lack of conviction that he is definitely overrated.
I mostly skewed up the good team picks that I was not high on. I’m still fairly skeptical of the Payne pick for Atlanta since Ferry isn’t the most proven GM. He has impressed me recently and seems to have genuinely improved from his Cleveland days, but he is no Hinkie and I think he overdrafted for fit and eschewed a fair bit of value in the process.
TJ Warren I have an easy time getting on board with. I didn’t have a strong reason to oppose him before, and he’s such a unique mold that he probably has his own brand of upside. Jeff Hornacek mentioned that his defensive versatility stood out in workouts (which is credible given Warren’s steal rate), and if Horny likes TJ’s defense then I do too.
I’m still somewhat skeptical of James Young, as I feel Ainge is overrating his odds of becoming a good defensive player. It doesn’t seem impossible for him to become above average, but he strikes me as a clear underdog. Ainge also pointed out that Young has always been a great shooter and believes he ran bad as a freshman, which is a hypothesis I had too. If Young shoots well as a rookie and/or sophomore, he can hike up his trade value to bad teams who are poor at assessing defensive potential. There is something about him that is highly attractive to casual fans (as far as I’m concerned bad GM’s are glorified casuals), and he may have been drafted higher if he didn’t miss workouts due to a car accident.
Huestis seems like a complete zero offensively and I think Presti erred on that one. But he’s toolsy and can play defense, so at least that’s something.
What About Bruno?
I didn’t bother trying to rank Bruno Caboclo because I have no idea, but you may note that I gave Toronto an above average ranking in my post draft prediction. That is in spite of pick #37 being a throwaway in DeAndre Daniels, which I docked the Raptors for. This is because I think Masai Ujiri is a good GM, and when he drafts an 18 year old 6’9″ guy with a 7’7″ wingspan who can apparently shoot at #20 overall, I am not going to tell him he is wrong.
It doesn’t seem possible that somebody with that physical profile who can shoot somehow entered the draft and was completely glossed over by everybody. This is especially true for an age where the Internet and social media spread information like wild fire. But it happened, and I don’t feel overwhelmingly compelled to knock the pick due to the ignorance of almost everybody.
To offer some perspective: Zach LaVine went 13th overall because he can shoot and he can jump through the roof. The only evidence that he can do anything else comes from people who watched him in high school, even though the people who watched him in high school also graded him as not a top 50 player in the class.
Bruno’s tools are straight up better. I don’t even know how athletic he is and I don’t care. Zach LaVine is a leaper in Nik Stauskas’s body minus 25 pounds. His athleticism will aid his rim finishing and transition play, but he’s likely poor defensive player anyway and his athleticism isn’t going to help him get off a huge volume of 3’s (he attempted just 5.7 per 40 at UCLA). The reason why Durant is so elite is because being 6’10” with a 7’5″ wingspan enables him to get off his elite shot from any spot on the court, and he’s roughly unstoppable once he catches the ball. This is similar to why Dirk is so dominant. The combination of a great reach and great shot has unique synergy to create a special player.
Of course Durant is great for reasons other than just length and shooting, but the good news is that Bruno can be vastly inferior to Durant at a number of things and still be great value at #20 overall. LaVine’s physical tools aren’t special at all but Bruno’s are. It’s rich to me that Chad Ford gave Toronto a D for taking Bruno 20th overall for being raw after a full season of slurping LaVine as a lottery pick and giving Minnesota a B+ for taking him 13th.
For all I know Caboclo is a complete scrub, but his based on the tiny bits of info we have and Ujiri’s history of making smart moves, there is no way I am ever criticizing this type of gamble at 20th overall. The draft is all about upside, and if Ujiri thinks Caboclo has it then I agree with him.
After months of agonizing over the most nuanced details of college aged basketball players, it’s time to present my final big board for draft night. This is the first season where I have delved this deeply into information, and I developed my process for evaluating prospects on the fly. Overall I feel good about the process that I developed, and I feel my analysis is likely on the right track for the majority of these players. That said I am sure that I overlooked or incorrectly valued plenty of information, and I imagine that in 5 years I will look back on this and be pained by my lack of foresight for at least a handful of players. I expect to be wrong due to variance, and I expect to be wrong due to the inefficiencies of my analysis. I estimate it will take about 5 years of similar analysis before I attain mastery in draft evaluation, and even then I will still have room to grow.
But the good news is that nobody is perfect at draft analysis, and my only goals this year were to outperform ESPN + DX rankings as well as the actual draft order. I feel like this big board puts me in a strong position to do so, and now all that remains is to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Tier 1: Possible superstars
1. Joel Embiid: 7’0″ C, Kansas, 20.3 years old. DX: 1, ESPN: 4
Embiid has all of the talent and none of the durability. He was in a tier by himself until he became a medical disaster, and now I’m not sure where to put him. I’m going to be optimistic and assume that modern medicine and nutrition is advanced enough to give him the possibility of a normal, healthy career. I understand that this puts me at big time risk of looking terrible down the road, but I never claimed to be able to predict health. I don’t have access to his medical report, and it’s possible that having access would alter my opinion. Consider this a shaky #1 ranking based on my strong belief in his talent. The draft is all about binking upside, not avoiding downside.
2. Dante Exum: 6’6″ PG, Australia, 19.0 yrs. DX: 4, ESPN: 3
The best able bodied talent in the draft, the thin slice of Exum is promising. His size, length, speed, and quicks give him uniquely good physical tools for a PG, and he supplements that with awesome court vision and basketball IQ. He still needs to learn to play defense and move off the ball, and there is the risk that the 9 game FIBA sample overstates his talent level. I like rolling the dice on him anyway, his great physical profile with a hint of CP3ish BBIQ gives him special offensive upside.
3. Marcus Smart: 6’3″ PG/SG, Oklahoma State, 20.3 yrs. DX: 5, ESPN: 6
The best intangibles and the best defensive player (with respect to position) in the draft. His offense is a work in progress, and he doesn’t quite share Exum’s upside on that end. Smart still has the potential to be quite good offensively and I was tempted to put him above Exum due to his superior defensive projection, but for guards it seems wise to err on the side of offensive upside and give the edge to Exum.
4. Aaron Gordon: 6’9″ SF, Arizona, 18.8 yrs. DX: 9, ESPN: 7
Gordon is young, toolsy, and good at everything except shooting. Unfortunately he is frighteningly bad at shooting, which is a difficult wart to weigh. Given that his shooting sometimes lends itself to outlier leaps, this feels like the right place to slot him.
Tier 2: Maybe All-Stars, Maybe Not Even Close to All-Stars
5. Jusuf Nurkic: 6’11” C, Bosnia, 19.9 yrs. DX: 6, ESPN: 17
6. Clint Capela: 6’11” C, Switzerland, 20.1 yrs. DX: 11, ESPN: 27
The frustrating part of evaluating this class is that all of my expertise lies in NCAA basketball, and it’s hard to find a place where I’m comfortable ranking all of the compelling internationals. It may be ill advised to place two underhyped internationals above the consensus top 2 picks, but if at least one of them becomes a better pro than both Parker and Wiggins I will consider this ranking a success. If this looks silly later, I will take overseas stats with a bigger grain of salt next time. But bigs with good stats and good tools are good picks, and the gambler in me is more attracted to these two than Parker and Wiggins.
7. Andrew Wiggins: 6’8″ SF, Kansas, 19.4 yrs. DX: 2, ESPN: 1
8. Jabari Parker: 6’8″ PF, Duke, 19.3 yrs. DX: 3, ESPN: 2
The top two contenders for #1 overall are also rife with flaws that sit unwell with me.
Andrew Wiggins’ draft rating is a battle between his uniquely good speed, quicks, and athleticism vs. his lackluster skill level. He was able to perform well in college by burning teams in transition, but draft models still don’t love him and he requires loads of development to become good enough offensively to justify a top 3 draft slot. He still has plenty of potential as a 3 + D role player, however.
Parker posted great scoring and rebounding numbers as a big man for Duke, but that was largely due to bullying undersized bigs. He struggled vs. teams with good interior defense, and had a horrible assist to turnover ratio which bodes ill for his ability to translate to NBA perimeter player. There are also questions about his defense. His stats are good and he has enough skill, but he needs to become less selfish to become an attractive NBA player and I’m not comfortable betting on players to overhaul their nature.
Part of me fears betting against Jabari since he’s such a fierce competitor, but between the two I have to give Wiggins the edge due to superior tools, defense, and a much clearer path to usefulness.
9. Tyler Ennis, 6’2″ PG, Syracuse, 19.9 yrs. DX: 14, ESPN: 16
His game isn’t sexy but it’s effective, and he was at his best vs. good defenses and in clutch situations. Ennis boasts a stellar assist to turnover ratio and great statistical splits, which dually suggest that he has excellent feel for the game. There are questions about his ability to play man to man defense, but he offers a unique form of offensive upside.
10. Noah Vonleh: 6’10” PF, Indiana, 18.9 yrs. DX: 10, ESPN: 5
Vonleh is tall and long and he can shoot and rebound. He’s also exceptionally young, so these qualities add up to a top 10 pick. His bad hands, poor passing, and mediocre rim finishing cause enough doubt for me to keep him in the back end of the top 10, however.
Tier 3: Good Starter Potential
11. Elfrid Payton: 6’4″ PG, Louisiana Lafayette, 20.4 yrs. DX: 15, ESPN: 12
Payton is tall, long, quick, and uses his tools to hawk the ball defensively. Offensively he crushed the Sun Belt competition in transition, but how will that translate? He has solid floor general skills and slick handles, but he’s a poor shooter and there are questions about his ability to finish in traffic since he’s not an elite athlete.
12. Damien Inglis: 6’8″ SF/PF, France, 19.1 yrs. DX: 26, ESPN: 30
He offers a similar appeal as Wiggins: average stats at a young age, good tools, and good defense. I get that super athleticism is sexier than having LeBron James’ body with longer arms, but I believe BronBod needs more love.
13. KJ McDaniels: 6’6″ SF, Clemson, 21.4 yrs. DX: 18, ESPN: 24
KJ was a one man wrecking crew on defense for Clemson, as he used his length and explosiveness to rack up an obscene block rate for a SF. He’s a bit small for the position and his offensive skill level isn’t great, but KJ has solid 3 + D potential nevertheless.
14. Nik Stauskas: 6’6″ SG/SF, Michigan, 20.7 yrs. DX: 12, ESPN: 11
Stauskas can dunk surprisingly well for a white shooter, but his tools still aren’t that good overall and he’s lock bad defensively. But it’s hard to not love his handle, passing, and shooting combination as well as his smarts and presumed work ethic given his improvements last offseason.
15. Kyle Anderson: 6’8″ SF/PF, UCLA, 20.8 yrs. DX: 21, ESPN: 19
The best NCAA passer this past season, his nickname of SloMo accurately describes his mobility, his leaping ability, and his shot release. But stat models love him and he has super long arms to equip him with at least one great physical tool, so I believe he’s a good gamble outside of the lottery.
16. Nikola Jokic: 6’11” C, Serbia, 19.4 yrs. DX: 42, ESPN: 31
His poor athleticism and speed make it fair to take his stats with a grain of salt, but based on his stats he appears to have a shot of becoming the best passing big man of all-time. That gives him a world of intrigue to me on its own.
17. Spencer Dinwiddie: 6’6″ SG, Colorado, 21.2 yrs. DX: 29, ESPN: 40
He’s coming off an ACL tear, but Dinwiddie is custom made to be a 3 + D SG in the NBA. As a bonus he seems to take an interest in analytics.
18. Jarnell Stokes: 6’8″ PF, Tennessee, 20.5 yrs. DX: 25, ESPN: 26
The physically strongest player in the draft, Stokes suffers from being an undersized PF without 3 point range. But he does enough things well for stat models to like him, and he’s essentially Julius Randle with better defense and less hype.
19. Jordan Adams: 6’5″ SG, UCLA, 20.0 yrs. DX: 27, ESPN: 28
Scouting reports hate him, stats love him. I feel scouting reports raise a number of valid points, but at a certain point it’s time to gamble on the stats, especially since he was out of shape when he accrued them.
20. PJ Hairston: 6’5″ SG, Texas Legends, 21.5 yrs. DX: 20, ESPN: 18
An endless supply of catch and shoot 3 pointers with the physical tools to not be a sieve defensively.
21. Vasilije Micic: 6’6 PG, Serbia, 20.5 yrs. DX: 36, ESPN: 41
An exceptionally creative passing PG with the height to guard SG’s seems worth comfortably more than an early 2nd rounder.
Tier 4: Everybody Else
22. Julius Randle: 6’9″ PF, Kentucky, 19.6 yrs. DX: 7, ESPN: 8
Randle brings skill, rebounding, strength, and quick feet to the table but shoots himself in the foot with poor length, mediocre athleticism, and poor feel for the game. This causes translation concerns and exceptionally slow defensive rotations.
23. Dario Saric: 6’10 SF/PF, Croatia, 20.2 yrs. DX: 13, ESPN: 9
The one first round international prospect that I’m not lower on than consensus. Waiting 2 years for his services isn’t a big deal, but having less than stellar translated stats with his lackluster physical tools is a big deal. His skill and height may enable him to be a good role player, but I don’t see the star potential.
24. Gary Harris: 6’4″ SG, Michigan State, 19.8 yrs. DX: 16, ESPN: 10
Vanilla 3 + D combo guard who can’t get to the rim and may be too small to guard SG’s. Stats like him enough to take him in round 1, but he has questionable upside.
25. Mitch McGary: 6’10 C, Michigan, 22.1 yrs. DX: 24, ESPN: 25
Back problems hurt his stock, but stat models tend to like him and his quick feet and high steal rate give him an non-traditional form of defensive appeal.
26. Javon McCrea: 6’8″ PF, Buffalo, 21.7 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: 52
The undersized PF measured to have surprisingly good size at his Clippers workout: 6’8″ height, 7’3″ length, 8’11” reach, 250 pounds. That is legit PF size, and stat models like him. McCrea has some Millsap-esque upside.
27. James Young: 6’7 SF, Kentucky, 18.9 yrs. DX: 30, ESPN: 15
He’s young and uses his 7’0″ wingspan to get shots off vs. tough defenses. He needs to improve his defense and develop his offense quite a bit to become an attractive NBA player.
28. TJ Warren: 6’8″ SF, NC State, 20.8 yrs. DX: 17, ESPN: 20
One of the weirdest prospects in the draft, TJ Warren thrives off of his elite floater. An great 2 point scoring wing that lacks athleticism is an exceptionally uncommon mold. It seems unlikely to amount to much, but the stats are good enough for a late 1st gamble.
29. Kendrick Perry: 6’0″ PG, Youngstown State, 21.5 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: NR
He needs help running the offense from his backcourt mate, but his stats are good and so are his length and athleticism. One of the more compelling sleepers in the draft, and my top prospect who appears on neither DX nor ESPN’s top 100.
30. Walter Tavares: 7’3″ C, Cape Verde, 22.3 yrs. DX: 33, ESPN: 37
He’s old, he started playing late, and he projects to be a complete zero offensively. But he’s 7’3″ with a 7’10” wingspan and offers quite a bit of rim protection intrigue.
31. Glenn Robinson: 6’7″ SF, Michigan, 20.5 yrs. DX: 35, ESPN: 33
His appeal is as an athletic 3 + D SF, except neither the 3 nor the D can be taken for granted. But he did finish a scintillating 83% of rim attempts as a sophomore.
32. Semaj Christon: 6’3″ PG, Xavier, 21.7 yrs. DX: 67, ESPN: 44
His offensive skill level leaves plenty to be desired for his age, but his physical tools and defensive potential make him worth a pick in the early 2nd.
33. Adreian Payne: 6’10” PF, Michigan State, 23.4 yrs. DX: 19, ESPN: 22
He offers appeal as a stretch 4 with solid tools, but his poor passing for his age and lack of rim protection may be his undoing.
34. Doug McDermott: 6’8″ SF, Creighton, 22.5 yrs. DX: 8, ESPN: 13
One dimensional scorer with poor physical tools. He’s an elite spot up shooter, but will struggle to fit in defensively and translate his interior scoring. The lottery hype is insane.
35. Zach LaVine: 6’6″ SG, UCLA, 19.3 yrs. DX: 31, ESPN: 14
He has the athleticism to make this ranking look silly down the line, but I’m 90% sure he doesn’t have the skill level to do so. You need to believe that Steve Alford severely held him back to take him in round 1.
36. Bogdan Bogdanovic: 6’6″ SF, Serbia, 21.9 yrs. DX: 34, ESPN: 45
His poor 2p% calls his shot selection into question and hurts his rating in stat models. But he has good tools, good defensive potential, and he impresses in workouts. Not a bad early round 2 flier.
37. Shabazz Napier: 6’1″ PG, UConn, 23.0 yrs. DX: 32, ESPN: 23
I believe The Real Shabazz has potential to be a perfectly decent role player. But he’s old, tiny, and unathletic at the deepest position in the NBA. Hard to buy the round 1 hype when he has such narrow odds of becoming an above average starter.
38. Jerami Grant: 6’8″ SF/PF, Syracuse, 20.3 yrs. DX: 22, ESPN: 34
I don’t see how he has the skill level to thrive in the NBA, but I’ll pay enough respect to his good physical tools and OK enough stats to rate him as an early 2nd.
39. Artem Klimenko: 7’1″ C, Russia, 20.5 yrs. DX: 37, ESPN: 39
Is not proven against anything remotely resembling serious competition, but he’s tall, long, mobile, and he can make free throws at 74%. That’s worth a flier once the known talent starts to thin.
40. Russ Smith: 6’0″ PG, Louisville, 23.2 yrs. DX: 28, ESPN: 58
He’s tiny and old but he’s also exceptionally quick with both his feet and his hands. He has also developed his game impressively over the past 2 seasons, and I like him in round 2.
41. Dwight Powell: 6’10” PF, Stanford, 23.0 yrs. DX: 48, ESPN: 64
Powell would really benefit from improving his 3 point shooting, as a stretch 4 with good mobility, athleticism, and passing is a neat piece to pick up in round 2.
42. Nick Johnson: 6’3″ PG/SG, Arizona, 21.5 yrs. DX: 54, ESPN: 60
He’s an underskilled SG in a PG body, but he also is explosively athletic and has good 3 + D potential if you pair him with a bigger PG.
43. Chris Udofia: 6’6″ SF, Denver, 22.0 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: NR
Posted good stats that may have been somewhat inflated by Denver’s system as an undersized center, but his length and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect to convert to SF.
44. Isaiah Sykes: 6’5″ SG/SF, Central Florida, 22.6 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: NR
Brings length, athleticism, rebounding, passing, and ability to get to the rim. Needs to clean up his shot selection and improve his shooting, but he’s my favorite sleeper who is completely off the radar.
45. Scottie Wilbekin: 6’3″ PG, Florida, 21.2 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: 75
A young senior who played a key role in Florida’s #1 ranking and Final 4 run. He is a jack of all trades, master of none.
46. Sim Bhullar: 7’5″ C, New Mexico State, 21.6 yrs. DX: 73, ESPN: NR
Can the giant find a niche in the NBA if he continues to trim down? Probably not, but in the back end of round 2 it’s worth a gamble that he might.
47. Khem Birch: 6’9″ PF, UNLV, 21.8 yrs. DX: 55, ESPN: 42
Posted good stats for a center in college, only trouble is that he’s an undersized and underskilled PF in the NBA.
48. Okaro White: 6’8″ SF, Florida State, 21.8 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: NR
His physical tools and shooting ability make him an intriguing 3 + D prospect. It’s uncertain if he has the skill level to translate from NCAA PF to NBA SF, but I like him as a completely under the radar flier.
49. Bryce Cotton: 6’1″ PG, Providence, 21.9 yrs. DX: 71, ESPN: 49
He can shoot, he can penetrate, and as a senior he showed he can pass too when he was given the PG reins as a senior. He’s tiny and will struggle to fit in defensively, but his offensive package is not bad.
50. Daniel Miller: 6’11” C, Georgia Tech, 23.0 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: 98
He’s old and he can’t score in the post, but his stats and physical profile suggest that he can become a solid role playing center.
51. Roy Devyn Marble: 6’6″ SG, Iowa, 21.8 yrs. DX: 50, ESPN: 53
He posted solid stats in college, but was the beneficiary of ample steal and transition opportunities at Iowa. He could translate as a role playing SG nevertheless.
52. Jordan Clarkson: 6’5″ SG/PG, Missouri, 22.1 yrs. DX: 47, ESPN: 23
He has decent tools and he can get to the hoop, but overall his stats aren’t too good. He needs to improve his shooting and finishing if he wants to be any better than Austin Rivers.
53. Patric Young: 6’9″ PF, Florida, 22.4 yrs. DX: 40, ESPN: 36
He’s a center in a power forward body, but he’s strong and plays hard and could find a niche off the bench in the NBA.
54. Lamar Patterson: 6’5″ SG, Pittsburgh, 22.9 yrs. DX: 58, ESPN: 50
He’ll have a tough time hanging with NBA SG’s defensively, but he has good skill level and is fairly crafty.
55. Fuquan Edwin: 6’6″ SG, Seton Hall, 22.8 yrs. DX: 69, ESPN: 90
He racked up loads of steals for Seton Hall and showed good defensive potential. He is limited offensively and his 3 point shot is a work in progress, but it has enough hope to offer 3 + D potential.
56. Kendall Williams: 6’4″ PG, New Mexico, 23.0 yrs. DX: 84, ESPN: NR
Good size and acceptable stats for a PG, but was heavily reliant on transition scoring. He may not be able to penetrate through NBA defenses.
57. Rodney Hood: 6’8 SF, Duke, 21.7 yrs. DX: 23, ESPN: 21
One of the absolute worst defensive players in the draft. He can be a solid role player offensively, as he’s a good shooter and passer and makes limited mistakes, but can his offensive goodness outweigh his defensive badness? I doubt it.
58. Ioannis Papapetrou: 6’8″ SF, Greece, 20.3 yrs. DX: 53, ESPN: 89
May not have the physical tools to be able to defend SF’s, but his skill level makes him draftable.
59. Alec Brown: 7’1″ PF/C, Green Bay, 21.9 yrs. DX: 78, ESPN: 88
He’s tall and he can shoot and that’s about it. But that’s such a good tandem of traits that it may be enough to merit a draft selection.
60. Markel Brown: 6’3″ SG, Oklahoma State, 22.4 yrs. DX: 51, ESPN: 61
He can pass, shoot, and jump through the roof. But he’s also undersized and didn’t post the best stats for his age.
61. Thanasis Antetokounmpo: 6’6″ SF, Delaware 87ers, 22.0 yrs. DX: 65, ESPN: 48
His D-League stats don’t inspire a world of confidence for his offensive upside, but his tools and defensive potential create enough intrigue to make him draftable.
62. Cristiano Felicio: 6’9″ PF, Brazil, 22.0 yrs. DX: 43, ESPN: 51
I know nothing about him, but DX and ESPN think he’s toolsy and draftable and frankly I’m running out of better ideas at this point.
63. James Michael McAdoo: 6’9″ PF, North Carolina, 21.5 yrs. DX: 74, ESPN: 63
McAdoo has really fallen off from his lottery hype as a freshman, but his tools are still there and his stats could be worse.
64. Deonte Burton: 6’1″ PG, Nevada, 23.0 yrs. DX: 45, ESPN: 62
He’s old, and based on his stats it may too late for him to capitalize on his great physical tools.
65. TJ Bray: 6’6″ PG/SG, Princeton, 22.0 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: NR
He’s likely too unathletic to translate to the NBA, but his size and stats make him a compelling undrafted free agent.
66. Troy Huff: 6’5″ SG, North Dakota, 22.4 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: NR
His stats grade fairly well, although they are aided by his lofty steal rate from North Dakota’s gambling defense. But he can also rebound and get buckets, and if he improves his shot he could make it in the NBA.
67. Davion Berry: 6’4″ SG, Weber State, 22.7 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: NR
Berry’s quicks and skill level are solid, but his size is limiting.
68. Alessandro Gentile: 6’6″ SG, Italy, 21.6 yrs. DX: 57, ESPN: 57
Gentile has the offensive skill to be draftable, but his lack of athleticism casts doubt on his ability to succeed.
69. Casey Prather: 6’5″ SF, Florida, 23.1 yrs. DX: 83, ESPN: 96
Prather is old and likely can’t shoot well enough to play the perimeter in the NBA, but his tools aren’t bad and he was arguably the best player in the SEC this past season.
70. DeAndre Daniels: 6’8″ SF, UConn, 22.2 yrs. DX: 64, ESPN: 59
He doesn’t have a clear niche defensively, and his non-existent passing may be his undoing. But he’s long and can space and score, and I’m running out of possibly useful players.
71. Aaron Craft: 6’2″ PG, Ohio State, 23.4 yrs. DX: 99, ESPN: 69
His ability to apply pressure defensively is something, but his lack of tools and offensive skill for such an old prospect cast doubt on his ability to cut it in the NBA.
72. Langston Galloway: 6’2″ PG/SG, Saint Joseph’s, 22.6 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: 94
He’s another SG in a PG body, but he can space the floor if you pair him with a big PG. Kevin Pelton’s WARP model is a fan.
73. Cleanthony Early: 6’8″ SF, Wichita State, 23.2 yrs. DX: 39, ESPN: 32
Can’t pass, can’t get to the rim, not great defensively, too small to play PF, old. He can jump and he can shoot, but that’s not enough to justify his fringe 1st round hype.
74. CJ Wilcox: 6’5″ SG, Washington, 23.5 yrs. DX: 38, ESPN: 35
Like Early, he’s an old, one dimensional shooter who can jump a little bit. I suppose scouts like these types more than I do.
75. Juvonte Reddic: 6’9″ PF, VCU, 22.1 yrs. DX: 100, ESPN: 93
Not sure what caused him to fall off a cliff as a senior, but his good junior year stats are enough to keep him on draft radar.
76. Taylor Braun: 6’7″ SF, North Dakota State, 23.1 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: 92
Stat models say he’s not that bad, but he did little to inspire confidence in his ability to translate with two disappointing performances in the NCAA tournament.
77. Trevor Releford: 6’0″ PG, Alabama, 22.5 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: NR
He’s a 3 + D PG with OK enough stats. Super exciting stuff, right?
78. Cory Jefferson: 6’9″ PF, Baylor, 23.5 yrs. DX: 66, ESPN: 67
Center in a PF body. Likely can’t pass well enough to fit in at PF, but he did show signs of a budding 3 point shot as a senior.
79. Jerrelle Benimon: 6’8″ PF, Towson, 23.1 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: NR
When he showed up, Towson went from a dumpster fire to a respectable mid-major program. He can rebound, pass, and almost shoot, but his lack of size and athleticism inhibit his draftability.
80. Xavier Thames: 6’3″ PG, San Diego State, 23.4 yrs. DX: 85, ESPN: 77
He was 3rd in the NCAA in win shares behind McDermott and Napier while playing fewer minutes than both. He had a big breakout as a 23 year old senior and offers appeal as a 3 + D PG.
#’s 81-100: Johnny O’Bryant, Billy Baron, Jake Odum, Halil Kanacevic, Jabari Brown, Jahii Carson, De’Mon Brooks, Andre Dawkins, Cameron Bairstow, Joe Harris, Jordan McRae, Melvin Ejim, Josh Huestis, Nemanja Dangubic, Eric Moreland, Richard Solomon, Austin Hollins, James Bell, Dwayne Evans, Sean Kilpatrick
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.
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.