Doug McDermott, Gary Harris, Glenn Robinson, James Young, Mitch McGary, PJ Hairston, Semaj Christon, Shabazz Napier, TJ Warren
Rim creation stats that help fuel my skepticism toward a handful of prospects in this post
Hairston is a bit of an enigma statistically, as Kevin Pelton’s WARP formula rates him as the #7 NCAA prospect where’s Layne Vashro’s EWP model rates him as a 2nd rounder. The fact of the matter is that he posted impressive box score stats as a sophomore at UNC, but the EWP model has doubts about his ability to translate based on his reliance on jump shooting. I think both sides of the equation have merit.
Hairston only made 34.9% of college 3’s (possibly due to poor variance as a freshman), so for a player who doesn’t offer much in the way of handling, athleticism, speed, or passing, it’s kind of frightening how jumper dependent he is. But he shot 80% on FT’s in college (87% in the D-League) and made 35.8% of 3’s in the D-League (41.8% on 1+ days’ rest- Hairston badly struggled with back to backs). Overall I feel signs point toward his shot being rather good if not elite. What gives him appeal is the volume of 3 pointers that he got off due to his quick trigger and deep range. Hairston attempted 11.3 3’s per 40 minutes, which is better than any recent 1st rounders outside of Steph Curry who attempted around 12 3PA per 40 as a sophomore and junior. Troy Daniels attempted 12.3 3PA/40 at VCU and he literally offers zero value other than shooting. Seeing that Morey liked Daniels enough to add him to the playoff roster and allow McHale to play him, I feel compelled to give some extra attention to outlier 3PA rates.
Outside of shooting, Hairston doesn’t have any stand out strengths, but he does do enough to add some balance to his game. He’s a good offensive rebounder, and he had a good assist:TOV ratio (1.18) as a UNC sophomore even though his assist rate cratered in the D-League. He has good size, length, and strength for a SG as well as passable quicks and athleticism. He also posted a good 3.0% steal rate, which implies that he has the instincts to be above average as a defensive wing. In watching him I’m not sure his focus and awareness are quite enough to make him a stopper, and he likely is an underdog to become above average. But the possibility is there nevertheless to give him appeal as a 3 + D prospect.
In short PJ Hairston is Troy Daniels with superior physical tools, rim finishing, passing, rebounding, and defensive potential. If Morey was enamored enough with Daniels to let him anywhere near the playoff rotation as a rookie, it’s worth wondering how he feels about Hairston who can get off a ton of 3’s without being complete deadweight otherwise. Not that Morey is the best drafter in the world, as he did take Marcus Morris over Kawhi Leonard 14th overall as recently as 3 years ago. But I nevertheless like Hairston anywhere in the 20’s.
Harris is an incredibly bland prospect, and I’m not sure why he’s still getting hyped as a lottery pick after his measurements. His 8’0″ standing reach is appalling, although in his defense Vashro has informed me that height and length in tandem are more predictive than reach. His 6’4.5″ height with a 6’6.75″ wingspan makes him seem a bit more hopeful, but without plus athleticism or quicks it’s hard to see him translating his good college defense into good defense of NBA SG’s. He has good strength but when all of his other tools are below average, it’s hard to see him thriving. Further he badly struggled to get to the rim in the half-court, and doesn’t nearly have the floor general skills to run an NBA offense.
So he’s basically a 3 + D combo guard with mediocre tools, and he obviously lacks the skill to run an offense. I could see him finding a niche as a Mario Chalmers type who plays with bigger wings who have the skill to run the offense, which is a perfectly useful player. It’s just not a level of upside that justifies a top 20 pick.
I want to like James Young. He was the one Kentucky player who could score against lengthy, athletic defenses and he somehow showed up to a playoff game with Rihanna. But I have a hard time getting too optimistic. He seems to care about offense quite a bit more than defense, as he posted disappointing steal and block rates given his physical tools (especially his 7’0″ wingspan). He didn’t do a great job of containing penetration either– he’s still young but his defense needs work.
Offensively his length enables him to hit tough, contested shots, as he scored 20+ points in all 3 matchups vs LSU as well as in the championship game vs. UConn. These teams offered the closest approximation of NBA length and athleticism on Kentucky’s schedule, and they gave the Harrisons and especially Randle big time issues offensively. I believe his 35% 3’s and 70% FT’s underrate his upside as a shooter since he’s exceptionally young and his form looks good. But he’s still not quite an elite shooter and what else is there to like? His assist:turnover ratio is solid. But he struggles defensively, is a mediocre rebounder, and doesn’t have the handles or burst to regularly get to the rim. Even if his shot develops exceptionally well, he still needs other skills to become a good NBA player and it’s not the most likely parlay that he overcomes enough weaknesses to become a good starter.
I still take him in round 1 since he’s so young, but I think he’s a bit overrated as a top 20 pick.
The Jusuf Nurkic of the NCAA. McGary doesn’t have great length or athleticism, but makes a defensive impact his own way with strength, quick feet, and good instincts to rack up steals. He’s a beast on the glass and a solid finisher as well. The downside is that he missed most of this past season with back issues, and he’s also old for a sophomore as he is already 22. For these reasons I rate him considerably lower than Nurkic, but I neverthless like him as a late 1st flier.
I don’t even know what to think here. He is an unathletic SF who thrives scoring inside the arc. Is that ever going to be useful in the NBA? I don’t know. He has a ridiculous floater, he moves well off the ball, and he had a good steal rate so maybe he makes it all work in his own funky way. But a wing who is neither an elite athlete, defensive prospect, passer, or shooter seems to have limited upside so he’s a fringe 1st rounder to me.
GR3 is another player who I tried to get into but perceive as a likely disappointment. He uses his leaping ability to be a scintillating rim finisher, converting 83% (!) of his rim attempts as a sophomore. His 3 point shot is a work in progress but it’s not hopeless, and he also has the tools to be a good defensive player which gives him the makings of a compelling flier. But whenever I watch him I get the sense that he lacks the feel for the game on to become a genuinely good player on either end of the floor. He also isn’t much of a rebounder considering that he played PF for Michigan. He’s a fringe 1st rounder.
Everybody loves Shabazz after he carried UConn to an unlikely title run as a 7 seed. He hit an endless stream of off the dribble 3’s to enable UConn’s ugly offense to work well enough to beat a number of touch matchups, and he deserves all the credit in the world for making Kevin Ollie a sought after NBA coach.
As an NBA prospect, my feelings toward him are mixed. He grades as a solid statistical prospect, and I quite like him as a 3 + D PG paired with a bigger PG to run the offense and defend the wing. But he’s also tiny, unathletic, old, and not an elite playmaker at the deepest position in the league. It seems unlikely that he ever becomes a top 15 PG in the NBA since he’s in a mold lacking upside. While he can become useful anyway, I have a hard time getting excited about the thought of taking him in round 1 with so many higher upside PG’s in the class.
Speaking of PG’s with more upside than Bazz, Semaj Christon is one of them. He is not loved by statistical models, but he is the one player where I heavily favor scouting over stats. Two problems with taking his stats at face value:
1) He was forced to share PG duties with Dee Davis depressing his assist rate
2) Xavier played a non-gambly defense. He posted a solid 2.3% steal rate to lead the team, but it doesn’t do service to his tools and defensive potential.
He’s old for a sophomore as he turns 22 right at the start of his rookie season, so I wouldn’t say he is loaded with upside. He still has plenty of shortcomings that inhibit him as a prospect such as his shooting, decision making, and overall skill level. But he also has sneaky upside that is undetected by statistical models, so I like him as a late 1st or early 2nd flier. I can see him becoming an Eric Bledsoe lite.
The subject of my first post on the blog, and my feelings still have not changed. I picked McDermott as my first topic to write about because he is so straightforward– he is a one dimensional scorer with awful tools, and limited handling and passing ability. He is a great shooter and moves well off the ball, but his interior scoring has translation risk and there’s not enough else to like to offer any compelling form of upside.
In McDermott’s defense I will note that he wasn’t quite as bad defensively in college as his steals and blocks suggested. Rodney Hood got blown by a fair bit more frequently, to offer an example of worse defense. McDermott was at least smart enough to know when he was facing off with a mismatch and give enough space to not get blown by. This is far less important than his poor physical tools and non-existent defensive playmaking ability, but it does give him a glimmer of hope for being a stomachable level of bad.
I stand by my conclusion that he’s not a 1st round talent. As far as I can tell the only reason why he’s in the discussion for a lottery pick is because he scored a boatload of points, even though the NCAA scoring leaderboard is littered with guys who amounted to absolutely nothing in the NBA. While he is a better shooter and may not be quite as tragic of a bust as Adam Morrison, he is a roughly similar prospect in that they are both one dimensional scorers with poor tools. It would amuse me to no end to see Jordan refuse to learn from his Morrison mistake and take McDermott 9th overall. Absolute best case for McDermott is something along the lines of a SF version of JJ Redick.