Likely the most slippery part of evaluating draft prospects is assessing the predictive implications of various personality traits. Most people are bad at predicting people, and personality narratives often err on the side of storyline bias and are entirely unpredictive. But I am a person who pays attention to the world I live in, and I’m not going to just ignore information because others are bad at processing it. So I have been making mental notes of each prospect’s personality, and while I’m not pricing them into my rankings this year I do want to get them on paper to see if my observations correlate with any trends in development. The caveat is that these are all somewhat thin sliced from a distance which makes me hesitant to over-invest, but I’m going to get these down time capsule style and see how it goes.
Creme de la creme
Smart’s intangibles are in a league of their own. He is a fierce competitor and it shows in his defense, as he plays aggressively and gets big time results on that end. Sometimes his competitive spirit borders on crazy, as it did when he was suspended 3 games for shoving a Texas Tech fan. But unlike most historically crazy players, he is also reputed as a great leader as every coach he has played for has nothing but great things to say about him. It should be no surprise that the best intangible package also posted the best steal rate in the draft, as I believe he is the prime example of high steals forecasting NBA success. Between his defensive excellence, offensive competence, and elite intangibles it’s hard to see him failing as a pro. He is the best candidate to completely blow away scouting expectations with his NBA outcome.
He has a chip on his shoulder and it seems like his military father distilled a strong work ethic in him. He has a good balance between pride and humility and seems to be determined to prove that he belongs in the NBA by outworking and out-hustling the competition. His upside is somewhat inhibited by his mold, as neither his physical package nor skill level are elite. But I’m interested to see how much he can make of what he’s got and I am rooting for him to succeed.
Stauskas carries himself with a cocky level of swagger, and may even be a bit too cocky for his own good. But he’s also smart and seems completely obsessed with becoming great at basketball. It’s simply not common for players to transform like he did from freshman to sophomore season. While his physical tools will always be limiting, it’s worth considering that he is uniquely good at developing his skill level. I could see him following JJ Redick’s career arc of struggling to fit in at first and eventually working his way into a starting caliber player.
He speaks English with a thick accent so it’s hard to get a feel for his personality through watching him speak, but in watching him play I am impressed. I think his ability to be so good so fast hints at possibly elite intangibles. He strikes me as perceptive, good at learning, and competitive. He also carries himself with a unique confidence, as if knowing how to be good at basketball is completely obvious to him. I think he has the capacity to develop himself at a unique rate. Of course none of this matters if his body doesn’t cooperate and he can’t stay healthy.
I would probably rank him a tier higher if I paid a bit more attention to his personality. He is smart, confident, competitive. Still wish he was smart enough to know he was bad at mid-range shots, but that’s a nitpick. He says that he is going to get his shot fixed with such conviction that I want to believe him even though it’s a scripted answer. Seems perceptive– he says that dribbling and passing were always a big deal to him because you do them every time you play. Stats say he’s not on the wrong track with that one.
Admittedly, I haven’t observed Ennis quite enough to have a strong read on him. But every time I give him a look-see, he checks off every good intangible. Carries himself with confidence and seems to embrace pressure. Seems to have good leadership capability. Like Gordon maybe I’d be more lukewarm on him if I paid closer attention, but then again maybe I’d be higher than the sky on him as well.
He brings intensity to the defensive side of the ball, and shows solid competitiveness with his ball hawking. That’s really all I’ve got but it’s something.
As is the common theme with Exum, it’s hard to make any statements with confidence due to lack of information. But the one thing that stands out to me is that he is definitely smart. He conveys intelligence with both his play and his interviews. The kid has poise. Also those around him insist that he’s a hard worker. If there was a question about his intangibles his lack of defense + off the ball movement could be perceived as an indictment on his competitiveness. I’m not investing heavily in that hypothesis, but it’s there
Much like his prospect profile, Kyle Anderson seems like a pretty unique guy. I don’t even know how to describe his personality…he’s just his own special snowflake and it seems good in some ways and bad in others. I don’t know what to expect but I’m rooting for him to succeed.
Don’t have a great read on his competitiveness, but he definitely has an intellectual curiosity and I’m eager to see how it manifests as a pro.
Jabari is probably the 2nd most competitive player in the class, as he plays with the spirit of a pit bull. The only problem is that his competitiveness is completely at odds with his selfishness or lack of feel or whatever it is that makes him hate passing so very much. He badly wants to win but he seems to think the ticket to winning is from him scoring every bucket and never passing in big moments. I love the aggression he shows by trying to dunk on everybody, hate the poor shot selection and feel as he often gets stuffed at the rim. Will his competitive spirit drive him to iron out his flaws and become a stud, or will they feed into them and cause him to chuck his way to cancerdom?
I think he’s competitive and wants to win and will work hard to develop his skills to become good. I just think from a mental standpoint he’s a tick too slow for it to matter all that much.
Overall I like his personality, but he does seem sort of lazy. He was out of shape for most of the season and needed the draft to inspire him to trim down. And while he has quicks hands + instincts on defense, he doesn’t seem all that committed to staying in front of his man. That said it’s amazing how good he was as a sophomore in spite of being unathletic, lazy, out of shape, and having a limited skill set. He might just have an insanely natural knack for playing basketball. He strikes me as the smart kid who coasted through high school and college and now it’s time to see if he’s ready to get serious. Losing weight for the draft is a step in the right direction at least.
His personality isn’t all bad. He seems to take a fair amount of pride in his defense and putting pressure on the ball. But other than that his personality is as bland as his prospect profile.
Honestly I haven’t observed Vonleh too closely but whenever I take a peak he completely comes across as meh to me. He doesn’t seem exceptionally smart or competitive or confident. Not that he’s necessarily lacking, but you gotta wonder how he was so poor at the rim considering his physical tools. I really want to start calling him Noah Vonmeh.
He doesn’t really merit a deep analysis as his lack of offensive skill is likely enough to prevent him from succeeding on its own. But he seem kind of lost and infantile in his demeanor. I doubt he has what it takes to overcome his flaws and succeed as a pro.
Honestly it’s hard to get too bearish on player personalities. Most of them did something right to generate lottery hype, and there are plenty of quiet, competitive types like Kevin Durant. But every time Wiggins offers a glimpse into his personality, I can’t help but be turned off. He isn’t as competitive as his peers, and he doesn’t play aggressively on either side of the ball. When Stanford took him out of his game in the tournament it didn’t seem to hurt his pride at all– no inspired hustle plays or defense to help offset his lack of offensive contribution. When he talks he doesn’t seem to believe that he’s special or on the path to becoming such. He even seems to have a hard time reading scripted answers that he thinks he deserves the #1 pick.
What is further disconcerting is how disappointing both the development of his body and skill level from high school to college were. When scouts anointed him the #1 overall pick it was with some anticipation that he would eventually develop the skills and fill out his frame to become an offensive star, but he didn’t. His physical tools are so good he was able to have a pretty good freshman season anyway, but if he continues to develop his skill level at a snail’s pace he’s simply not going to be a good NBA player.
Frankly I don’t think it’s the biggest priority in his life to become a great basketball player and I have not seen a single indication from him that makes me feel like I may be wrong. His physical tools are good enough that he may invest enough effort into becoming good role player. But I doubt he’s ever sniffing his purported upside and I would be downright shocked if he becomes a better pro than Marcus Smart without Smart having a horrible injury.