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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Kevin Durant Skills Academy Notes

Last month, I was on hand for the first (and only) session at the Kevin Durant Skills Academy open to the media. Here are some of the players who stood out:

TJ Warren - The first thing I noticed about jumper was how slow his release was on his jumper and how little elevation he got while shooting it. Still, the North Carolina State forward used his body around the basket as well as anyone and has great touch in the lane.

Jabari Parker - Parker was arguably the best college prospect there, even though he has yet to even play his first game. He went head to head with Kevin Durant in drills and held his own and looked more fluid than advertised. He handles the ball well and is able to handle contact at the rim thanks to his solid frame.

Damyean Dotson - This was a tough setting for Dotson, who normally has the height advantage playing against shooting guards. In this event, Dotson was one of the smaller and weaker plays in attendance so he lost a lot of his advantages. He's a good but not great shooter, and is still working on getting strong enough to attack the basket.

Cleanthony Early - Early was one of the biggest surprises here. He was very aggressive and stout on defense and showed off a lot of versatility. On offense, he showed the ability to shoot long jumpers off the dribble - looking more fluid than expected. In terms of projecting him to the NBA, he will still be fighting an uphill battle trying to prove he is not a tweener.

Alex Poythress - Poythress was easily the most impressive prospect from a physical and athletic standpoint. He's a legit 6-9 with a chiseled frame and elevates at the rim with little effort. He can also shoot the ball well. Just like last year though, Poythress didn't standout in actual games the way he should.

Gary Harris - Harris is bigger and more explosive than expected. He was right at the top of the list when it came to skill level and he's able to hit his jumper from anywhere on the court. His play was very impressive.

Geron Johnson - Johnson measured out great at the camp - sporting a wingspan over 6-8 and a strong 203lb frame. He can shoot off the dribble or the catch, breakdown defenses, and finish strong at the rim. He likes to push the pace and has all the tools to be a great defender. The biggest question mark is his shot selection and whether or not he will be able to play the point in the NBA. Nice prospect.

Glenn Robinson III - Robinson III had one of the best strokes at the camp, but didn't assert himself as much as he could have. He won't be able to take a backseat at Michigan anymore and it will be interesting to see if he's able to step up.

Winston Shepard - Shepard had the height to see over defenses and was aggressive and creative enough to be a playmaker here. He has a bright future as a point forward, but will need to tighten up his handles to truly take advantage of his gifts. He was a little too upright with the ball in his hands and it led to turnovers.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

2013 NBA Draft Pick Analysis (Live)

Check back frequently as I update this throughout the draft.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers - FR Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV

Word is that the Cavaliers will keep the pick. There was plenty of trade talk surrounding the pick, but its a tough sell this year. There is a lot of pressure with the #1 pick in a draft with no clear cut choice. Not only is there pressure on the front office, but it also adds pressure on the draft choice.

Anthony Bennett is a player I have ranked 8th on my board. This pick is a big surprise, even among fans of Bennett. Bennett brings a nice skillset at the power forward spot and has the length/girth to make up for his height inside. The biggest question with him is his motor and defensive capabilities. Bennett often backed down from physical play this season, showed poor awareness defending, and underachieved in the halfcourt offense. He has the potential to be a great scorer, but last year he floated around a lot in the halfcourt and settled for jumpers. His impressive skills in transition and powerful dunks, however, turned a lot of heads.

2. Orlando Magic - Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana

Oladipo ranked 5th on my board and is one of the surest bets in this draft. He's a tireless worker with a good head on his shoulders, who has improved more than anyone since his high school days. The biggest question surrounding him is how much upside he has left? On one hand, he has one of the best work ethic in the draft. On the other end of the spectrum, he's already improved his game so much. It remains to be seen if he can become a scorer in the NBA, but he can turn into a Tony Allen type defender.

3. Washington Wizards - Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown

With Nerlens Noel still on the board, this pick got a little more interesting than it was before, but the Wizards went the safe route with Porter. Porter is an excellent fit for the Wizards and ranks as the second best player on my board. He is the safest pick in the draft and will contribute in all areas.

4. Charlotte Bobcats - Cody Zeller, PF, Indiana

It looks like Rich Cho got his guy, but I'm surprised that they passed on a superior talent in Nerlens Noel. Noel isn't slipping because of his injury it seems, teams simply just feel there are better players on the board. Zeller is a nice complimentary piece and will fit well in Charlotte, but its tough to pass on Noel at this stage.

5. Phoenix Suns - Alex Len, C, Maryland

Another team passes on Noel. This time for Alex Len. Len had a great game head to head against Noel to begin last year, but he failed to really build on that success. I have my concerns with Len and have him as the 14th best player in the draft. While he possesses intriguing potential, his lack of awareness, toughness, and mobility on defense concerns me. I went in-depth about my take here: http://nbaprospects.blogspot.com/2013/01/midseason-report-alex-len.html.

6. New Orleans Pelicans - Nerlens Noel, F/C, Kentucky

I bet the Pelicans had no idea they'd have the opportunity to pair Anthony Davis with Nerlens Noel. While they are often compared to each other, Davis is much further along on the development curve. Noel still has similar intrigue as Davis defensively and I am anxious to see how well they do playing next to each other. They could form a historic defensive duo from a shotblocking perspective if they pan out.

EDIT: Pick will be traded to the Sixers.

7. Sacramento Kings - Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas

For the second straight year, the Kings take a player from Kansas. This time, its from a completely new front office. McLemore has tons of potential, but its a question whether he has the right mental approach to ever achieve it. Even if he doesn't, he's one of the best shooters in this draft and should develop into a solid starter. McLemore ranked 4th on my draft board.

8. Detroit Pistons -Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia

Yet again, the Pistons have the perfect player for their team fall in their lap. They badly need a point guard and Burke is the best in this draft. Unfortunately, this time Dumars messed up by going against conventional wisdom. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a great shooter, but is lacking in basketball IQ. Playing for the Pistons, he won't have the benefit of playing in a fast paced offense or next to a great point guard. It will really test his ability to move without the ball and create for himself. In college, he didn't show he could do that.

9. Minnesota Timberwolves - Trey Burke, PG, Michigan

This pick will obviously be traded. Whoever moved up to get him deserves a big pat on the back for taking the initiative to make a move. He was easily the best player on my draft board.

EDIT: Utah will receive Trey Burke in a trade.

10. Portland Trailblazers - CJ McCollum, G, Lehigh

Portland will pair McCollum with Damian Lillard, who may deserve some of the credit for McCollum going so high. McCollum and Lillard actually are good friends that have developed a relationship because of their similar situations. McCollum isn't as dynamic as Lillard nor is he a true point, but he will provide an added scoring punch.

11. Phladelphia 76ers - Michael Carter-Williams, G, Syracuse

With Jrue Holiday apparently on his way to New Orleans and Nerlens Noel on board, the 76ers decided to add Michael Carter-Williams to the mix. No big surprise as Hinkie is a big stat guy and MCW rates highly due to his ability to get steals. However, playing outside of the Syracuse zone will be a different animal on defense and his offense is extremely raw. The Sixers will have a very ugly offense next year.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder - Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh

Adams has a ton of potential and at this spot, he's worth the gamble. The Thunder badly need a defensive center and thats one area where Adams is already proficient in. He'll likely spend a good amount of time in the D-League his first year. He has a quirky personality and will need to show more of a nastiness to become the defensive player he has the potential to be.

13. Dallas Mavericks (to Boston Celtics) - Kelly Olynyk, PF, Gonzaga

This pick will be traded to the Boston Celtics. There were a few teams throughout the top 20 that loved Kelly Olynyk and the Celtics were one of them. He's a guy you either love or you hate as a NBA pro. With the right offense around him, Olynyk can be effective as a pick and pop big. He is also versatile and should be able to score some in the post and off the pick and roll. He has great dexterity for a big man.

14. Utah Jazz (to Minnesota Timberwolves) - Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA

I thought it'd be a mistake if Shabazz Muhammad slipped out of the lottery and he just barely made it in. Minnesota traded back and pick up an extra first round pick, while getting a player who I believe is better than their original target (Caldwell-Pope). Muhammad will be great working off the ball next to Ricky Rubio and getting up and down in transition.

15. Milwaukee Bucks - Giannis Adetokunbo, SF, International

Adetokunbo will likely spend all of next year in the D-League, if not the next couple of seasons. I'm sure the Bucks expect that as well. However, he showed great potential recently playing for the Greek U19 team and teams were able to feel safer about picking this unknown forward.

16. Boston Celtics (to Atlanta Hawks via Dallas) - Lucas Noguiera, C, International

The Mavericks continue to avoid making a pick as the Hawks move up one spot. Nogueira may be just as far away as Giannis from contributing, but has shown ability at a much higher level up to this point. His problem is his weight and toughness. Unlike the Giannis pick, I don't feel Noguiera's upside is enough to justify a selection this high. He's seen his stock skyrocket the last month and I don't see a good reason for it.

17. Atlanta Hawks - Dennis Schroeder, PG, International

Schroeder was the second best player left on my draft board and could surpass Jeff Teague on the depth chart in a couple of years.He excels in the pick and roll and is extremely quick. He is also a nice catch and shoot player, although he isn't a dynamic shooter off the dribble. His length has drawn comparisons to Rajon Rondo and he wants to come over the the NBA right away. Best comparison for him is Darren Collison, although he has higher upside.

18. Dallas Mavericks (from Atlanta Hawks) - Shane Larkin, PG, Miami

Larkin is an interesting player. He tested as the best athlete in the draft and thrives in the pick and roll offense. His quickness and shiftiness with the ball in his hand forced defenses to stay off of him in college. In the NBA, it will be different. He will have to deal with more physical defenses and work on getting his shot over taller players. Not many players are out there with a wingspan as short as his. He's quickly gone from a mid-major recruit to a NBA first round draft pick.

19. Cleveland Cavaliers - Sergey Karasev, SF, International

I like this pick a lot better for the Cavs. They were trying to trade up for him earlier and were still able to get him at #19. I have him ranked as the 7th best player in this draft because of his elite shooting and feel for the game on the offensive end. He will be a great complementary floor spacer in Cleveland. The Cavs have assembled themselves a very nice offense for years to come. How well they will be able to defend remains to be seen.

20. Chicago Bulls - Tony Snell, SF, New Mexico

The Bulls had a number of options to choose from in terms of wing players and chose to go with one of the biggest question marks. Snell looks the part physically, though he will need to get stronger, and is a great shooter. He didn't always play with a high motor defensively at New Mexico which is a cause for concern. I liked Allen Crabbe better at this spot, but Snell is in good hands with Coach Thibs. Perhaps the Bulls were uncertain how Crabbe's personality would mesh with the Bulls coaching staff.

21. Utah Jazz (to Minnesota Timberwolves) - Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville

Timberwolves were in prime position to add a shooter to pair with Shabazz Muhammad on the wing, but went in another direction with Dieng. Dieng is good value here as he should be able to provide minutes soon as a backup center. With the pricetag backup centers are signed to in free agency, its never a bad move to take a reliable big men in the draft who is confined to the rookie scale. Dieng doesn't have a lot of potential, but is a smart player who can hit the 15 foot jump shot. He doesn't have any sort of post game, however, and will need to hold his ground on defense better.

22. Brooklyn Nets - Mason Plumlee, C, Duke

I've never been a fan of Mason Plumlee and only have him ranked 42nd in my rankings. He should be able to earn minutes in the NBA, but I don't see the upside of him ever becoming anything better than a 4th big man on a NBA team.

23. Indiana Pacers - Solomon Hill, SF, Arizona

After making a big reach for Miles Plumlee last year, the Pacers take another player who wasn't seen as a first rounder by many. Hill, however, is a much better prospect than Plumlee was. He is a hard worker who has a very good and versatile floor game at SF. I have questions about how much more room he has to improve and his athleticism on the perimeter, but its not as bad of a pick as it may seem.

24. New York Knicks - Tim Hardaway Jr, SG, Michigan

Thought this would be a nice spot for Tony Mitchell, but Hardaway Jr is a guy who won't be phased by the pressure in New York. He could develop into a solid role player who can knock down shots and acclimate to the NBA lifestyle quickly.

25. Los Angeles Clippers - Reggie Bullock, G/F, North Carolina

We are having a run on players with solid role playing potential and low upside. Bullock doesn't possess any ability to get his own shot, but he defends and rebounds very well. He also is a dead eye shooter and could become a 3/D guy. Good fit for the Clippers.

26. Oklahoma City Thunder - Andre Roberson, F, Colorado

Roberson was one of the best rebounders in the NBA and a pick that statheads will enjoy. He can provide energy for the Thunder and should be able to defend both the 3/4 positions. He tried to convert to a small forward this season at Colorado, but failed miserably on the offensive end. This pick is one of the biggest reaches yet, but I can see the fit for the Thunder.

27. Denver Nuggets (to Utah) - Rudy Gobert, C, International

Gobert was the second best player available according to my draft board. With Trey Burke running the point, Gobert could get himself some easy buckets coming off pick and rolls. Gobert is definitely a project, but has the length, mobility, and BBIQ to be a factor defensively. You can't teach the biggest wingspan in the NBA Draft.

28. San Antonio Spurs - Livio Jean-Charles, F, International

Spurs once again elect to go overseas for their pick, this time with a versatile forward. I didn't see them going with Jean-Charles because they already have Kawhi Leonard, but Jean-Charles is solid value. I had him as the 4th best remaining player on my board. He made a name for himself at the Nike Hoop Summit with his opportunistic play and nose for the ball. He's not overly skilled or polished, but fills up the statsheet. I thought Erick Green would be a perfect fit for the Spurs, but can't argue with this pick either.

29. Phoenix Suns (from Thunder via Warriors) - Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky

Ryan McDonough is one of the best at finding good players in bad situations and projecting their potential to the NBA. Archie Goodwin could be another success story for him. Goodwin is a risk, but has one of the highest upsides in the draft. He's an explosive slasher with an ugly jumpshot that may prevent him from contributing for a couple of years.

30. Golden State Warriors (from Phoenix Suns) - Nemanja Nedovic, G, International

Nedovic is a taller point guard with good handles who competed in a strong league this past season. I saw him more of a second round talent, but he's certainly not a name to forget about.

Second Round

31. Cleveland Cavaliers (to Portland) - Allen Crabbe, SG, California

Crabbe has been the best player on my board for a long while. I see him as a lottery talent although there are legitimate concerns about his motor, maturity, and mental toughness. At this point though, he is a huge steal.

32. Oklahoma City Thunder - Alex Abrines, SG, International

Abrines is a talented shooting guard who is dynamic with the ball in his hands. Looks like a draft and stash for them.

33. Cleveland Cavaliers - Carrick Felix, G/F, Arizona State

Felix is another 3/D guy. He has a great motor and played a similar role at Arizona State that he will in the NBA. His offensive game is very vanilla, but he is a great athlete and understands his role. While he is a solid player who has worked hard to improve, I don't see him having the potential to stick in the NBA. This pick is a stretch.

34. Houston Rockets - Isaiah Canaan, G, Murray State

Not a big fan of this pick based on the way Glen Rice Jr fell right into their laps. I think there are better point guards on the board as well. Canaan is one of the best shooters in this draft off the dribble or spotting up and has no problem hitting contested shots. He's small though and lacks PG skills. I like his grittiness, but its tough to make a living as an undersized shooter.

35. Philadelphia 76ers - Glen Rice Jr, SF, D-League

Glen Rice Jr is the third selection of the night for the Sixers and also happens to be the most ready to contribute offensively. Rice Jr proved in the D-League he can perform against NBA athletes and adjust to the 3-pt line. He was my best player on the board at this point. Great pick here.

EDIT: Pick traded to Washington. Wizards have had two great picks.

36. Sacramento Kings - Ray McCallum, PG, Detroit

 The early second round is the best place to get a point guard in this draft. You can't go wrong with McCallum, Pierre Jackson, Nate Wolters, and Erick Green. McCallum is a coach's son with NBA athleticism and feel for the game. He is a better shooter off the dribble than given credit for, but had to take a lot of tough shots at Detroit.

37. Detroit Pistons - Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas

Tony Mitchell replaced Glen Rice Jr as my best player available and then quickly followed him off the board. Mitchell has lottery talent but big time questions about his motor. Detroit was a team that badgered him about him not playing hard in interviews and it seems they still see him as talented enough to take a risk on him. At this point, there really isn't much risk involved. Much better pick than their selection at #9.

38. Washington Wizards (to 76ers) - Nate Wolters, PG, South Dakota State

This will be interesting with Michael Carter-Williams on board. MCW has the advantage with physical tools, but when it comes to the mental game, Wolters is on another level. Wolters could realistically push MCW for a spot in the rotation next year. He's a great pick here.

EDIT: Traded to Milwaukee. 

39. Portland Trailblazers - Jeff Withey, C, Kansas

Withey was a great shotblocker at Kansas, but I have questions about how it will translate to the pros. Apparently a lot of NBA teams do as well. He lacks toughness and intensity of a great defensive big man. Offensively, he has reached his peak and won't contribute much. He doesn't seem like a player with a great passion for the game. At this point, its a solid pick and the Trailblazers continue to look to add depth through the draft.

40. Portland Trailblazers - Grant Jarrett, PF, Arizona

Jarrett declared for the draft as just a freshman, despite only averaging 20 minutes per game for Arizona. He's a prototype stretch 4 with a big body who could develop into a solid player after spending a couple of years in the D-League. He needs to improve his conditioning and physicality.

41. Memphis Grizzlies - Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State

Even though Franklin doesn't have the lottery potential some dubbed him with, he's still an excellent pick at this stage. He's a hard worker and a tenacious defender who will need to accept his role at the next level. Franklin's biggest downfall is his shooting and decision making. There are also some character concerns.

42. New Orleans Pelicans (from Philly) - Pierre Jackson, PG, Baylor

With Jackson off the board, only Erick Green remains from that talented group of early second round PGs that I like. Jackson is one of those guys who will find his way into a rotation as a Bobby Jackson-esque spark plug. He slips in the draft because he doesn't have an allure to him, but he's just a solid basketball player. One of the surest things in the second round.

43. Milwaukee Bucks (to Atlanta) - Ricky Ledo, SG, Providence

Although I understand Ledo falling to the second round, he is still one of the most talented players in the draft. He's a natural with the ball in his hands, can shoot of the dribble, and has a good feel for the game. There are a lot of questions about how his style translates in an organized setting as well as character concerns.

44. Dallas Mavericks (to Atlanta) - Mike Muscala, PF, Bucknell

Muscala is more of a power forward than a center, preferring to play in the high post on offense. He can shoot, pass, and drive by you from 15 feet out on the court. He was also a great rebounder in college although I'm not sure that will translate as well as expected. He has a chance to stick in the league, but I'd lean towards him being forgotten about quickly.

45. Portland Trailblazers - Marko Todorovic, C, International

Draft and stash guy. Has some fans overseas. With a bunch of young players already, this is a good route to take.

46. Utah Jazz (to Denver) - Erick Green, PG, Virginia Tech

Green was the best player on the board at this point. He has some Devin Harris in him. He was a big time scorer in college, but is unselfish and smart enough to make the transition to point guard. He is a great transition player with a smooth mid-range game.

47. Atlanta Hawks - Raul Neto, PG, International

First player drafted who played in the Olympic games last year. He's a creative point guard who has spent time in the ACB each of the past two years. Maybe some Jose Calderon to his game. Draft and stash.

48. Los Angeles Lakers - Ryan Kelly, PF, Duke

I soured on Kelly a bit after the college season ended. I'm not sure he has the strength or the body to compete on the defensive end. However, he was a good defensive player at Duke because of his smart positioning. He's a stretch forward at the next level.

49. Chicago Bulls - Erik Murphy, PF, Florida

Back to back stretch forwards. I like Erick Murphy slightly better than Kelly. Murphy has a smoother offensive game and is the better athlete. He now also has the benefit of going into a better situation.

50. Atlanta Hawks - James Ennis, SF, Long Beach State

If I were to take a under the radar, athletic small forward from the west coast, I would have taken Ennis over Carrick Felix. Ennis is longer and more athletic. He has the potential to be a disruptive defensive player in the league and win a few dunk contests.

Edit: Traded to the Miami Heat.

51. Orlando Magic - Romero Osby, F, Oklahoma

I don't get this pick at all but there have been reports all week that the Magic really like Osby. He's an undersized forward who plays tough and can hit a jumper. Didn't see him as a draftable player.

52.  Minnesota Timberwolves - Lorenzo Brown, PG, North Carolina State

There is some intrigue around taller point guards and he's not a bad pick here. But next to the group of Wolters, Green, Jackson, and McCallum - he is clearly a lesser prospect. Slim pickings this late in the draft.

53. Indiana Pacers (to Boston) - Colton Iverson, C, Colorado State

There are some serious Greg Stiemsma vibes with this pick. Iverson is a tough, old school center who was helped out at the combine when he measured taller than expected. Could be a contributor.

54. Washington Wizards (to Philly) - Arsalan Kazemi, F, Oregon

Kazemi has an extremely high motor and plays tough inside. He also possesses a high basketball IQ. Offensively, he is nothing more than a hustle player. He's a nice pick to have in training camp at this point and could definitely make the 76ers roster. Again, Philly is really going with some poor offensive players.

55.  Memphis Grizzlies (to Denver) - Joffrey Lauvergne, PF, International

Draft and stash player.

56. Detroit Pistons - Peyton Siva, PG, Louisville

Dumars has used his second round picks lately to select high character, successful college players. Siva can pump up the intensity in practice with pesky defense.

57. Phoenix Suns - Alex Oriakhi, C, Missouri

The former UConn Huskie, Oriakhi has really flown under the draft radar the past couple of months. Once viewed as a potential late first rounder, Oriakhi brings size and defense to the next level. Reminds me of DeVon Hardin from Cal.

58. San Antonio Spurs - Deshaun Thomas, SF, Ohio State

Not a fan of Thomas, but if there is one place he can succeed, its the Spurs. Everyone made a big deal of him not giving his phone number to the Spurs during the NBA Combine.

59. Minnesota Timberwolves - Bojan Dubljevic, F/C, International

Draft and stash.

60. Memphis Grizzlies - Janis Timma, SF, International

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Finding a Second Round All-Star

I wanted to do a piece on potential second round picks in this draft that possess the most upside, but I decided it would be appropriate to look at previous second round steals from the past 15 years. These 5 players are the only American players to be selected in the second round who went on to play in an All-Star game at some point.

A few things you will notice about these player:

1) None of them are that elite type of athlete that one would generally associate with a high upside pick in the second round. Furthermore, none of them were freshman in college - although Rashard Lewis came out as a high schooler.

2) The majority of these guys earned their stripes as scorers. Part of this has to do with the all-star criteria. There are some other second round steals during this time period that didn't make an All-Star game primarily because scoring tends to be overvalued for such awards.

3) Everyone in this group became great shooters and most had questions about their shooting abilities entering the draft. However, none of them had bad shots coming out of college. Their jumpers were all repairable and most showed improvement during their time in college as well.

4) Pinpointing talent in the second round is only half of the battle. Second round picks become restricted free agents after two years and you can easily be placed in a tough situation of having to overpay your draft steal to retain them. The Cavs and Warriors lost their all-star caliber steals because they made their worth known to the rest of the league right away. Rashard Lewis and Michael Redd were able to stay with their teams for a longer time because they didn't play consistently their first two season.

If you have a second round steal on your hands, it may be smarter to hide them a bit until you are able to lock them up for at least a few years. These steals lose a lot of their value if you are forced to pay them 10+ million a year after they've only played two seasons. The Wizards jumped on Arenas, but never were able to take the next step with him as the centerpiece. There hasn't been a second round pick in the NBA that has proven he can be the best player on a championship worthy team, so its risky to invest a bunch of money in a  player two years after he wasn't even good enough to go in the first round.

5) Most of these guys wouldn't have been labeled as huge risk/reward picks when they entered the draft. The didn't necessarily succeed because they finally achieved their "unlimited" potential. These guys consist of combo guard tweeners, undersized power forwards, and a very typical looking shooting guard. The only guys who could have been associated with the word potential were Gilbert Arenas and Rashard Lewis.

6) Oddly enough, none of these guys were overlooked due to lack of exposure. They all went to big schools.  In fact, three of the four that went to college played in the NCAA Final Four! Only Mo Williams did not, but his team entered the NCAA tournament as a #2 seed.

7) International players are a different animal when it comes to the second round so I left them out. But when it comes to finding steals in the second round, taking a overseas player is as good of a bet as any.

Mo Williams

Draft Year: 2003
Drafted By: Utah Jazz
Pick Number : 47
Left After ___ Year: Sophomore
College: Alabama

Mo Williams left Alabama after two successful years at Alabama and was viewed as one of the best players on the board when the Utah Jazz selected him. However he lacked great athleticism or size to make up for his lack of PG skills and only shot around 30% from 3-pt range. The Jazz never reaped the benefits of their smart pick as they cut him after his rookie season. Williams then greatly improved his outside stroke and went to an all-star game primarily because he was a great spot up threat playing with LeBron James. There was reason to believe that Williams could become a good shooter as he shot above 80% from the line in college. With repetition, he expanded his range to fit the NBA game.

Carlos Boozer

Draft Year: 2002
Drafted By: Cleveland Cavaliers
Pick Number: 35
Left After ___ Year: Junior
College: Duke

Boozer left school after his junior season, with a National Championship under his belt from the prior year. He was a winner and produced, but many questioned his size and speed. He played out of position at Duke as well and struggled to finish against taller players. His jump shot had potential as he showed range out to 18 feet, but he didn't hit it consistently yet. But given the range he showed in college and his solid free throw shooting, it shouldn't have been a surprise that he became one of the best mid-range shooter power forwards in the game.

Boozer made an immediate impact for the Cavaliers and as a second round pick, was in line for a big pay day after playing just two seasons. He was a restricted free agent and bolted to the Utah Jazz. Ironically, Boozer went in the opposite direction as Mo Williams but both had some good years playing with LeBron.

Michael Redd

Draft Year: 2000
Drafted By: Milwaukee Bucks
Pick Number: 43
Left After ___ Year: Junior
College: Ohio State

Entering the draft after a final four run the prior year, Redd wasn't known as a shooter at all. The Ohio State star had the size and the physical profile of a prototype shooting guard, but never shot above 34% from deep in his college career. He was more known for defense and solid slashing ability. In his junior year, his FT shooting jumped from 61% his first two seasons to 77%. His improvement in shooting proved to be more than just an outlier as he went on to be one of the most prolific shooters in the NBA.

He didn't play much in his rookie season, but came on strong at the end of his second year for the Milwaukee Bucks. He didn't play consistently enough behind Ray Allen, however, for any team to trust him with a big offer as a restricted free agent so they Bucks were able to keep him on a bargain contract until the 2004-05 season. Thats when Redd cashed in with a huge contract - a contract that ended up being one of the worst contracts in the NBA as Redd battled injuries for the remainder of his NBA career.

Rashard Lewis

Draft Year: 1998
Drafted By: Seattle Supersonics
Pick Number: 32
Left After ___ Year: High School
College: N/A

Lewis was famously the last player remaining in the Green Room in 1998 and took it hard as only a high school kid. He wasn't thought of as a second round talent, but perhaps dropped because teams didn't view him as ready enough physically for the NBA. He already had signs of a great jumpshot from his high school days.

Like Michael Redd, Lewis didn't play much his rookie season and shared time as a sophomore player. Because of this, the Supersonics were able to retain Lewis for a relative bargain after he became a restricted free agent following his second season. Also like Redd, it was his third NBA contract that ended up killing a NBA team - as the Magic were stuck with his max contract for years.

Gilbert Arenas

Draft Year: 2001
Drafted By: Golden State Warriors
Pick Number: 30
Left After ___ Year: Sophomore

Arenas left Arizona his sophomore year with dreams of being picked in the first round, but instead went with the first pick and the second round. He had the talent of a first round pick, but had a lot of questions surrounding his game as well. He was in between positions, made lots of questionable decisions, and was only an average ball handler. Despite a very good first step, he didn't look like a point guard. His shooting at the time was only average as well - he shot just under 74% in his career at the FT line and 36% from behind the arc. However, his 3-pt shooting rose above 41% in his final year, although his FT% dipping to 71% sent a mixed message.

Arenas quickly became a volume scorer in the NBA, putting up big numbers on some poor Warrior teams. By his second year, Arenas was no longer a secret and drew a lot of attention as a restricted free agent. Warriors were unable to match the Wizards offer at 10 million dollars a season and lost their second round steal after just two seasons. Gilbert's third contract ended up doing in the Wizards when they signed him to a max deal and he was eventually involved in a trade for Rashard Lewis.

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This shows us that finding the guys with all-star potential isn't as easy as identifying the best athletes and the rawest players. Some guys simply get overlooked and written off. In this draft, the big time potential guys in the second round include Archie Goodwin, Ricky Ledo, BJ Young, Adonis Thomas, and Myck Kabongo. But maybe there are some guys with less tangible upside that could be overlooked. Here are two possibilities based on draft history:

Erick Green - Green fits the Mo Williams/Gilbert Arenas mold. All were great scorers in college, but didn't show much point guard skills because they were needed to score the ball. However, all had plenty of experience with the ball in their hands. Green has the jumpshot, quickness, and first step to be a scorer in the NBA. He produced big time in college, but is being overlooked in this deep point guard class.

Jackie Carmichael - Carmichael's scouting report reads very similarly to what was said about Carlos Boozer when he left Duke. Both had good post games, played smart and tough, rebounded, and showed some shooting ability. Like Boozer, Carmichael is far from a consistent shooter at this stage but has decent mechanics and range out to 18 feet.

Conclusion: If you swing for the fences, most of the time you will end up striking out. But if you just try to make solid contact, the ball will go over the fence once in awhile.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Scouting Report: Nerlens Noel

Nerlens Noel is the 4th youngest player in the draft class, having just turned 19 in April. He reclassified back to the class of 2012 in order to attend Kentucky a year early and become the next Calipari recruit in line for the number one pick. A torn ACL against Florida in February ended his collegiate career and it will at least delay his NBA career from starting for at least a couple of months into the 2013-14 NBA season.

For some teams, Noel missing most of the NBA season may be intriguing as the see it as an opportunity to score another high draft pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. While only one team will be able to draft Andrew Wiggins, the 2014 NBA Draft is expected to have potential stars located throughout the top 10.

Coming into Kentucky, Noel shouldn't have been expected to replicate Anthony Davis' 2012-13 season. Noel drew obvious comparisons to his predecessor due to his length, elite athleticism, and shot blocking process but he was much more raw on the offensive end. Calling Noel the favorite to be the number one overall pick was realistic, but expecting him to be the same kind of talent Davis was wasn't.

Based on my personal expectations of Noel, I'd say he lived up to his billing in his first and final year in Lexington. In high school, he didn't put up the biggest numbers and seemed preoccupied and disinterested at times. He preferred to play on the outside and handle the ball and didn't always play smart or with energy.

Noel was raw as expected on offense, but he appeared to be nothing but extremely coachable at Kentucky. There was no questioning his energy or his willingness to play inside. He worked on his post game, dove on the floor for loose balls, and became the defensive anchor that he was expected to be. Any questions from Noel's high school days can be attributed to the environment.

Calipari constantly praised his work ethic and character. On the court, he looked like the most mature freshman of the group. His energy was always there and he played his role better than anyone else - making good decisions for the most part. This college season helped erase any of those concerns about him (which may have never been justified in the first place) and for that alone, made the year in Kentucky worth it.

As for his offensive game, it is still extremely raw but you could see him getting better from a game to game basis. He doesn't have strength to hold off defenders in the post and because of this, he had a tendency to rush a lot of his shots. He could get pushed off the ball easily and lose balance in the post and learned quickly that he has to make quick decisions given his current level of strength.

His post game is pretty straight forward now. It consists of a short baby jump hook that he is able to hit with either hand. He almost always faked towards the middle of the court in the post and came back to the baseline to get off his hook shot. Its not very impressive looking, but it was an efficient move and nearly impossible to contest. His range on this shot is very limited however, and he needed to get within 8 to 10 feet of the rim for him to have a shot. That was obviously hard given his lack of strength.

Between his inability to establish post position and his poor free throw shooting, it was very hard for Kentucky to use him as a go-to option on the block - even though he did shoot 59% from the floor. He also came close to having a 1:1 A/TO ratio which is pretty good for a big man, especially a freshman who averaged over 10 points per game.

He's an unselfish player who sees the court well. He isn't able to be a facilitator in the post at the moment because he gets pushed off the blocks to quickly, but can pass the ball when facing the basket. His passing skills date back to his high school days where he would bring the ball up the court at times and gravitate to the perimeter. Those days are gone thankfully, but he's able to find cutters still when he has the ball outside of the paint. Of the draftable big men in this year's draft, Noel only trailed Gorgui Dieng in assists per possession.

Noel's best way to score early on in his career, besides transition and offensive glass points, may be his face up game. Right now, the biggest thing holding him back in that area is the lack of a jumpshot. However, he has an elite first step and is able to drive either way off the dribble. He isn't a great ball handler, but with his quickness and athleticism, he's good enough to put it on the floor once or twice and finish at the rim. He also has good body control at the rim, but his strength hurts him in this area as well. He also has only average touch at the rim and misses some easy bunnies when he isn't able to throw down with a dunk. He shot 71% at the rim, but could have been even better given his physical profile

Defensively is where he will make his biggest impact, as he projects to be a major game changer on that end of the court. Nobody in college basketball averaged a higher combination of blocks and steals per 40 minutes than Noel did. He covered more ground than anyone in college basketball and he was able to do it both vertically and horizontally. He did an excellent job at blocking shots from a secondary level and did so with either hand. He has great instincts when it comes to blocking shots, displayin great timing and anticipation. Noel is blessed with the ability to come over and block a shot at the last minute and doesn't have to cheat to post high block numbers.

Most of his blocks come from helpside defense, as he struggles to hold his position in man to man post defense. He only weighed 206 pounds at the combine in Chicago, although he says he lost weight during the injury. He was above 220lbs while playing at Kentucky and has already added more weight since Chicago just a few weeks ago. By the time he is ready to play next year, I don't think he will have a problem getting up to 230lbs. He still will struggle to hold position inside, but he will at least not be working against the odds as one of the lightest big men ever.

While Noel has great anticipation when it comes to getting blocks and steals, his overall defensive mechanics and awareness need work. He is solid in this area, but relies too much on his athleticism right now.

Noel has a ton of upside, but there is also some injury concerns and risk that come along with picking him. Teams will need to rely on their doctors recommendations, but ACL injuries have been easier to come back from in recent years. At the same time, Noel has very skinny legs and looks like an injury waiting to happen every time he flies into the air or dives onto the floor.

Having the number one pick puts the Cavaliers in a tough spot this year. They could choose to take Noel, but will do so knowing that he could turn into a walking injury and be ridiculed for their selection for years to come. At the same time, there really isn't anyone in the draft that has the same game changing potential that Noel possesses. Passing on him for someone that turns out to simply be just a good starter could create backlash as well.

Given the Cavs roster however, I think they would be smart to consider Otto Porter. The Cavaliers already have a player in build around in Irving and while another star would be great, Porter is the kind of complimentary second or third option that will be guaranteed to help a team win. He also fills a position of need and will make an immediate contribution. Plus the Cavs have recently used a top 5 pick on a power forward who can't shoot and Noel doesn't compliment someone like that much. Noel is more of a power forward currently, himself.

The debate between Porter and Noel is an interesting one and should be looked at with more seriousness. Noel is not the consensus first overall pick in the same way guys like Anthony Davis or even Kyrie Irving was a few years ago. The Cavs can go in another direction at #1 and they seem to be at least considering Porter. They were in love with Porter and would have taken him at #3 if they didn't luck into winning the lottery.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

2013 Shooting Guard Prospects By The Numbers + Rankings

% of Shots at the Rim

BJ Young - 46%
Archie Goodwin - 45%
Jamaal Franklin - 29%
Michael Snaer - 25%
Reggie Bullock - 23%
Tim Hardaway Jr - 21%
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - 21%
Allen Crabbe - 19%
Tony Snell - 18%
Brandon Paul - 18%

FG% at the Rim

Tim Hardaway Jr - 71%
Allen Crabbe - 71%
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - 70%
BJ Young - 69%
Reggie Bullock - 68%
Archie Goodwin - 65%
Brandon Paul - 64%
Michael Snaer - 62%
Jamaal Franklin - 61%
Tony Snell - 53%

% Assisted at the Rim

Reggie Bullock - 56%
Jamaal Franklin - 54%
Tim Hardaway Jr - 48%
Allen Crabbe - 45%
Tony Snell - 43%
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - 39%
BJ Young - 35%
Archie Goodwin - 29%
Michael Snaer - 28%
Brandon Paul - 24%

Analysis: These numbers are very disappointing for a guy like Tony Snell. Even though he will be asked to be a 3 and D guy at the next level, his strength and toughness is a concern. His play at the rim isn't encouraging in that regard. His biggest competition as a 3 and D guy, Reggie Bullock, posted respectable numbers here even though he may be the worse of the bunch in terms of driving all the way to the rim.

For the non-shooters of the group - Archie Goodwin and BJ Young - they both were unsurprisingly at the top of the first category. Their games right now revolve around getting to the rim and they have a great natural ability at doing it. They both create a lot of their shots at the rim and finish at a very solid rate when you factor in how much of these drives they are creating through traffic. Game film backs up their ability to get to the rim and I believe they might be the two best natural slashers in the draft. The rest of their game is what holds them back right now.

Michael Snaer's numbers look similar to Jamaal Franklin's, although Franklin has a lot more of his buckets at the rim assisted. Snaer's splits look more like a slasher than a shooter, even though he is a solid jump shooter. It shows how much of a role change Snaer was forced to play this season. He was asked to be a creator and slasher with the ball in his hands and that dropped his overall FG%. He continues to be one of the most underrated players in this draft and I don't believe there is a great gap between him and Franklin. As of now, it looks like Franklin will cost you a first round pick while Snaer may slip to the end of the second round.

For an athletic guy, Brandon Paul didn't get to the rim much nor did he end up on the receiving end of a lot of assists. He's a guy who needs to ball in his hands to be effective and likes to settle for jumpshots. For a streaky shooter who shot less than 33% from 3-pt range these last 2 years, thats not very good.

Hardaway Jr, Crabbe, and Caldwell-Pope all did fairly well in this area which holds true to the belief that they are currently the three most well rounded SGs in the group.

% of Shots 2-pt Jumpers

Allen Crabbe - 43%
Archie Goodwin - 37%
Tim Hardaway Jr - 36%
Jamaal Franklin - 35%
Tony Snell - 34%
Michael Snaer - 31%
Brandon Paul - 30%
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - 26%
BJ Young - 25%
Reggie Bullock - 20%

FG% on 2-pt Jumpers

Allen Crabbe - 45%
Tony Snell - 43%
Reggie Bullock - 38%
Brandon Paul - 38%
Jamaal Franklin - 37%
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - 36%
Tim Hardaway Jr - 35%
Michael Snaer - 31%
Archie Goodwin - 27%
BJ Young - 25%

% of Assisted 2-pt Jumpers

Tony Snell - 52%
Reggie Bullock - 46%
Allen Crabbe - 44%
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - 41%
Tim Hardaway Jr - 28%
Jamaal Franklin - 26%
Archie Goodwin - 20%
BJ Young - 20%
Michael Snaer - 6%
Brandon Paul - 6%

Once again, Archie Goodwin and BJ Young are on a different playing field than the rest. They are both just so raw as shooters and decision makers that even with all their talent, they will need a few years in the D-League before contributing. While they both have intriguing potential, its real hard to justify considering picking them in the first round. The second round, where there is no risk, is perfectly fair game to take them over other prospects however.

The biggest standout in this area is Allen Crabbe, who I believe is the best overall player in this bunch. Not only does he shoot the highest percentage of his shots from the mid-range area, he also makes the highest percentage. In the NBA, that will only be magnified more.

Brandon Paul and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are both guys that did OK in this category, but their mid-range game is comprised of a lot of long 2-pt pull up jumpshots. There isn't a whole lot of savvyness to their play inside the arc.

Hardaway Jr and Franklin both take a good amount of their shots in the mid-range area and they create a lot of them as well. These two guys play like veterans inside the arc and have a knack for throwing opponents off balance. Franklin scores by getting to the line, while Hardaway has more of a finesse game working to his advantage.

Snell and Bullock had the highest percentage of their jumpers assisted, which goes right along with the kind of players they are. Don't look for them to create many of their own shots, although Snell has more potential in this area.

Snaer's mid-range game has always been poor, which is surprising given his skills and feel for the game. The fact that a player who generally should be an off guard only had 6% of his mid-range shots assisted, though again speaks for how tough of a role he was put in this year.

% of Shots 3-pters

Reggie Bullock - 58%
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - 52%
Brandon Paul - 52%
Tony Snell - 48%
Michael Snaer - 45%
Tim Hardaway Jr - 43%
Allen Crabbe - 38%
Jamaal Franklin - 37%
BJ Young - 28%
Archie Goodwin - 18%

3-pt FG%

Reggie Bullock - 43%
Tony Snell - 39%
Tim Hardaway Jr - 38%
Michael Snaer - 38%
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - 37%
Allen Crabbe - 34%
Brandon Paul - 33%
Archie Goodwin - 27%
Jamaal Franklin - 26%
BJ Young - 24%

% of Assisted 3-pters

Reggie Bullock - 94%
Tim Hardaway Jr - 90%
Allen Crabbe - 88%
Tony Snell - 85%
BJ Young - 76%
Archie Goodwin - 71%
Michael Snaer - 67%
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - 61%
Jamaal Franklin - 57%
Brandon Paul - 57%

By now I dont think I need to point out the differences between Goodwin/Young and the rest of the group, but at least Goodwin kept his 3-pt shots to a minimum. Young, however, took way too many threes.

You can say the same thing for Franklin, who took about the same percentage of 3s are Allen Crabbe. Thats just a lot of bad shots by Franklin and its not like he was the only offensive option on his team. His team was able to create good looks when they got into their offense.

You especially don't want to see Franklin creating so many of those shots - his amount of assisted jumpers tied Paul for the lowest. One thing you can notice is that Paul, Franklin, and Snaer all shot worse from three this year than in previous seasons. That appears to be because they took a lot of low percentage shots. I think all three are better shooters than their numbers this year show.

Caldwell-Pope had to create a lot of his jumpers as well, but it was in a little different way. KCP came off screens a lot and took one or two dribbles which took away assists, but it still doesn't show that he is able to create his own 3-pt shot. For the difficulty level and the amount of shots he took however, he did shoot a very respectable percentage.

Bullock and Snell both did a lot of what they will be doing in the pros in college. They shot a lot from deep, hit a lot, and didn't create much. They are spot up shooters and seem to be pretty good in that role.

Its amazing how much better Hardaway Jr has gotten throughout his career as a spot up shooter. He's even gotten better throughout the season as he shot 40% in conference play (last year in Big Ten play he shot 26%).

Crabbe only ranks as a middle of the road scorer, but its impressive how much his game has involved. Last year 51% of his shots were from beyond the arc. This season its at a modest 38%. Im not worried about his shooting at all - he always been a shooter and seemed to just suffer from fatigue at the end of the year. Im actually more encouraged by his numbers because he showed the ability to adapt and has developed a complete offensive repertoire now.

SG Rankings

1. Ben McLemore (top 5)
2. Victor Oladipo (top 10)
3. Allen Crabbe (late lottery to mid first)
4. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (mid to late first)
5. Reggie Bullock (late first)
6. Jamaal Franklin (late first to early second)
7. Tim Hardaway (late first to early second)
8. Tony Snell (late first to early second)
9. Michael Snaer (early to mid second)
10. Brandon Paul (mid to late second)

The first 5 in my rankings are pretty firmly set in that order. Im not a huge fan of KCP, but he has too much potential to put him below the rest of the players who project as role players. Of the role guys, Bullock is my favorite and I believe he would be perfect on a playoff team picking towards the end of the first round.

The guys ranked 6-8 are all fairly equal in my book and I could flop opinions on them depending on the day. But they are all different kind of players and it really just depends on the system fit. 

I left out Archie Goodwin, BJ Young, and Ricky Ledo from my list for a reason. They are so far away from contributing, I'm not sure if any of them are worth a first round pick. They will all likely be at the end of their first contract before they actually start seeing some of their potential. Its also hard to rank these guys with the rest because they are kind of on a different playing field. If they first 5 guys are off the board and we are in the second round, I think they are all fair game to be picked above the guys 6-8 on the list. They are a big risk, but in the second round, there really isn't much downside. As for which of the three I would prefer to role the dice on - Archie Goodwin would be my target. Ledo may have the most potential, but he's a huge unknown.

Scouting Report: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope spent two years at Georgia, after electing to stay with his hometown school despite being named a McDonald's All-American. The decision has kept it from the spotlight, but it didn't make scouts forget about his natural ability to shoot the basketball. Caldwell-Pope earned SEC Player of the Years honors this season - his sophomore year - and scored in double digits every game of the season. In one of the most dysfunctional offenses in a Big 6 conference, KCP still found ways to score every single game.

Its hard to get a read on how good of a feel Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has for things on the offensive end. There weren't many talented players on Georgia's offense and the Bulldogs lacked any kind of rhythm on that end of the court. Their most effective offense play was to get their star player coming off of a screen near the arc in order to set up a long jumper off of either one or two dribbles. It was very ugly basketball, but with a shooter like KCP, he was able to bail them out quite a few times.

While KCP's shot selection has been questioned, it was more a product of the players around him. He did take some bad contested shots in transition, but it was because he knew that was the best look he'd get at the rim the entire possession. Georgia didn't ever create easy looks for themselves and Caldwell-Pope constantly had a man in his face in the halfcourt. The only play Georgia really had to get him open was the aforementioned screen play at the top of the arc and that was extremely predictable.

Smart defenders were able to give KCP a hard time on those plays because KCP generally took one or two horizontal dribbles to his left before shooting a long range jumper. There wasn't much creativeness in his game. Just a constant display of how talented KCP is in making extremely tough shots. Surely Georgia could have done a lot better job getting him open, but KCP could have also done a better job himself moving without the ball. He was forced to post up outside the 3-pt line a lot of the ball or catch the ball 5 feet beyond the arc to even get a touch. Watching Crabbe yesterday to do his scouting report, there is a stark contrast in their feel for the game and ability to move off the ball.

Again, part of this has to do with coaching and teammates. And its up to teams to figure out how much Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can improve with good coaching. But if you look at Caldwell-Pope on the defensive end, it doesn't seem like he has a great feel for the game on that end either. Thats not a positive indicator.

Caldwell-Pope is a faceguarder on defense and gets caught up on overplaying his man. He loses track of the ball very easily and doesn't understand help defense. While Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can be a tenacious defender and take a guy out of the game, he doesn't understand the team concept of defending. He doesn't have a huge wingspan to be a lockdown type in the NBA, so he's really going to have to improve his court awareness.

Compared to Crabbe, he gives a lot more effort but doesn't have the same awareness. Crabbe is kind of the opposite - he can get too caught up in ball watching and lose his man. Crabbe has a perfect frame as a defender, but doesn't have the mentality to be a big time defender. To me, their defense is kind of a wash. You aren't drafting either of these guys because of their defensive abilities.

In terms of offensive skills, Caldwell-Pope struggles to handle the ball. When teams aggressively trap when he's coming off of a screen, he often either makes a bad pass or is forced to pick up his dribble. If he doesn't get to his spot in two dribbles, he has a habit of just picking up the ball. He also doesn't feel comfortable attacking the pick and roll inside the arc, choosing instead to just pull up for jumper after jumper. His dribbles often doesn't get him anywhere vertical - they are more horizontal to the basket.

He does have a good first step and a nice jab step to set up his jumpshot. And he is very good shooting off of one or two dribbles, even when he doesn't get the greatest separation. He especially loves to shoot moving towards his left. KCP isn't a guy that will isolate and use a crossover to create separation however.

His jumpshot is extremely balanced and he gets it off very quickly. He is able to pull up in transition and has the range to pull up from beyond NBA territory. His balance is something you generally don't see from players of his age.

But his balance on his jumpers also has a downside. He doesn't seem to have the ability to shoot in a fluid motion coming off of a screen. He doesn't ever fade from the basket which is something all the great shooters are able to do to get off their shot. KCP is always straight up and down with his shot. With the screens Georgia had to use to get KCP open, its a wonder if a NBA team can/will be willing to put in that much of an effort to create a shot for him. Or if he will be able to improve his game to be able to do it for himself.

Creativity is certainly something he lacks and he appears to be very stiff in the hips. He plays the game very upright and combined with his short arms, it seems to limit his ball handling ability. Caldwell-Pope has good enough hands to get into the lanes - but a lot of that is because of his first step. He is a straight line driver with not much in between game besides his balanced pull up jumpers. Lots of his shots going towards the rim end up being low percentage shots because he doesn't do a good job of gathering himself and slowly plays down. He is, however, able to be an effective finisher in college because of his explosive athleticism.

Passing wise, he makes a lot of lazy passes and doesn't have great vision. He looks to be very one-dimensional as a playmaker. On transition opportunities, he seems just as content to pull up for a quick transition 3 ball versus trying to get all the way to the rim.

There is a lot of intrigue with Caldwell-Pope and in a draft like this, teams are desperate to find guys with enough talent to be taken in the lottery. KCP can be one of those guys that at least looks the part and has the shooting ability. He is athletic, a great shooter, can hit off the dribble, and has the ability to be a good finisher at the rim. He also gives good effort and there is a mystery to him about how much better he can get with improved coaching/teammates. He is viewed to have more potential than other shooting guards ranked below him because he has the best combination of shooting ability and athleticism.

Thats the basis of the hype around him. A more likely scenario for Caldwell-Pope is him turning into a guy like Nick Young. Someone who lacks a high basketball IQ and takes a lot of ill-advised jumpers. These kind of guys are very one dimensional and only add scoring, but don't even always do so in an efficient matter.

The more I look at these shooting guard prospects, the more I am convinced that Allen Crabbe is a better pick than Caldwell-Pope. Crabbe isn't as easy of a sell as a lottery pick, but he is the better overall player. And if you can get Crabbe 20th versus Caldwell-Pope in the lottery, you are getting a LOT better value.

To read my previous scouting report on Caldwell-Pope from last summer, click here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Examining The Power Forward Class (Sans Anthony Bennett and Cody Zeller)

In today's NBA, the power forward role has grown to be the most diverse position in the NBA. There are still some throwback post up guys, but there are plenty of more athletic combo forwards flying up and down in transition. You also have the energy guys, the big bodied rebounders, the stretch forwards, defensive specialist, and guys that contribute a little from each of the group. Because of the wide variety of power forwards, it can be hard to rank them. Different teams prefer different things based on style of play, need, and if they are ready to win right away.

In my opinion, ranking these players may not be the best way to do things. I feel it will be easier to divide them in groups and break them down that way and allowing the reader to decide which power forward would fit best for their teams needs.

At the top, there are two clear lottery talents that definitely lead the way in Anthony Bennett and Cody Zeller. I've covered both extensively already and feel that the gap between Bennett and Zeller is a lot smaller than what it is perceived by others. Kelly Olynyk is also in this group, although he isn't a lock for the lottery like Bennett and Zeller are. He could go there, but his floor certainly looks like the mid to late first round. Either way, Id like to use this platform to talk about the other power forwards in this draft who don't have much first round buzz.

*Names in italics represent a player having at least a 50/50 shot at getting drafted.*

The Bruisers

Richard Howell 
Trevor Mbakwe 
Jack Cooley
Reginald Buckner

These are the type of guys who use their physical strength to their advantage. They aren't the most skilled players, but they rebound the ball with great efficiency. There has been a history of these guys getting undervalued, but the league is steering away from the more with the evolution of the more perimeter oriented forwards. There are plenty of these guys spread throughout Europe and the D-League. Without much of an upside, it begs the question if they are even worth a second round pick given that you can pick up a more experienced one on the market somewhere. These are guys like Darnell Jackson, Josh Powell, Jeff Adrien, DJ White, Rick Jackson, and Richard Hendrix.

In my personal opinion, Richard Howell is the best of the bruisers this year. His biggest competition is Trevor Mbakwe, but Howell didn't disappear from games and his motor never stopped running. Thats what you look for in a bruiser. Howell is younger, more durable, more skilled, and doesn't have the character concerns Mbakwe has. Mbakwe though, is the bigger physical presence and has shown he can be a terror to stop at times.

The Stretch Fours

Erik Murphy
Ryan Kelly
Kenny Kadji
Grant Jerrett
Brock Motum
Christian Watford

The stretch four has came along as teams have looked to spread the court more. These guys are asked to knock down shots from behind the arc consistently, but help out in other areas enough so they are a liability. Certain teams use them more than others and good defensive systems help hide their weaknesses. They also generally need to play next to a rim protector and/or big time rebounder. Like with the bruisers, there are guys in the D-League and overseas that can perhaps do the job just as good if not better, while possessing more experience. These are guys like Maarty Leunen, Justin Harper, Rob Kurz, and Craig Brackins.

Of the guys on the list, I give Murphy the edge over Ryan Kelly because he's a better rebound and more of a fluid athlete. I also think you can make a very good argument that Murphy is the best shooter of the group as well. Along with those two, Grant Jerrett could be worth a draft pick although he is a couple of years away. Why waste a pick on a regular old stretch forward who can't contribute right away when you can sign a guy like Harper or Brackins for the minimum contract out of the D-League? Its a question to ponder when selecting in the second round.

*I covered Deshaun Thomas and Robert Covington with the small forward group, but both could also spend some time playing stretch forward in the league.

The Raw Athlete

CJ Leslie (Lacks BBIQ, strength, motor/consistency)
Tony Mitchell (Lacks motor, subpar production vs low-majors)
Amath M'Baye (Lacks skillset, position)
Norvel Pelle (Lacks skillset, experience, strength, BBIQ)
Deshawn Painter (Nondescript PF, lacks production for mid-major, strength, post game)

These are guys that possess the NBA level length and athleticism to make scouts drool, but for one reason or another, just aren't as good of players as their athleticism suggests. Whether it is energy, IQ, strength, offensive skills, or position - there is something missing that keeps these guys from being a lottery pick. Lots of teams draft these guys looking for a defensive stopper, but not all of them have that mentality to own that role. The intrigue of these guys comes from the perceived upside. Among the plethora of guys that fit this mold that are currently without a NBA contract are: Shawn James, Willie Reed, Stephane Lasme, and Chris Wright (Dayton).

Of these guys, Tony Mitchell has the best chance to make an impact in the NBA. He played in a bad situation that arguably effected his performance and could turn it on in the right situation in the NBA. He's a better gamble than CJ Leslie who has proved time and time again that he doesn't have the energy or IQ to be effective at the next level. Mitchell has more potential defensively than any other power forward in this draft.

The Skilled Big (Back to the Basket)

Brandon Davies
Jackie Carmichael

This is kind of your throw back power forward, the type that actually showed off a post game in college basketball. These aren't guys who are just bangers inside or undersized forwards, these guys have solid size and a legitimate post game to go to. In today's NBA, their games don't directly translate unless they are dominant with their back to the basket, but their skillset can be valuable on the right team. These guys usually come from college teams that featured them on offense and have a good feel for the game. Guys like Lawrence Roberts, Draymond Green, and Ryan Gomes all were this type of player in college.

For these guys to succeed at the next level, they have to be able to transform to bigger threats facing up. Guys like Gomes and Green have been able to translate their saavyness in the post to other parts of their games. Brandon Davies has already shown the same ability at Portsmouth and Carmichael also has shown the ability to pick and pop.

Undersized Energy Guys

Andre Roberson
Arsalan Kazemi
Ed Daniel
DJ Stephens
Taylor Smith
Elias Harris

There is some overlap with the bruisers in the sense that they earn their money through rebounding, energy, and defense. The difference is these guys are usually shorter and less bulky, while possessing more versatility on the defensive end. They can get up and down the court, move very well laterally on defense, and rebound the ball. These guys also generally lack much offensive skill at all, generating most of their offense off fastbreaks, cuts, and offensive rebounders. These are guys like Quincy Acy, Taylor Griffin, Demarre Carroll, and plenty more.

Andre Roberson and Arsalan Kazemi have the best chance at getting drafted as they have been two of the best rebounders in college basketball this season. They also both have experience playing the small forward spot. While neither have shown the offensive skills to play SF, they both have shown the versatility to make you believe they can cover both forward spots on defense.

Faceup PFs

Mike Muscala
Kelly Olynyk
Romero Osby
Laurence Bowers
Keith Clanton
Mouphtaou Yarou
Dante Taylor
Jared Berggren

This is a group with more diversity than others as you have some guys on the list that are closer to combo forwards while the top guys have legit big man size. Some of these guys are considered faceup fours because they don't have the range to be a stretch forward or any other noticeable attribute to fit any of the other categories. For most of these guys, they are pretty nondescript as players with the thought of playing in the NBA as a long shot. There are countless amounts of these types that have flirted with being drafted.

For guys like Muscala and Olynyk however, they are on this list because along with shooting from the outside, they can also take defenders off the dribble or work in the most. Unlike the other ones who aren't stretch forwards because they lack range, these two aren't stretch forwards because they can offer teams more than simply shooting from beyond the arc. And since the faceup PF is the most common among all the PFs in today's NBA, Muscala and Olynyk both already have their role carved out for them. Their transition to the NBA is a lot easier to see than a lot of guys in other groups, which is why both of them could potentially go in the first round.

Summary:

Overall, none of these guys look like potential stars and few will end up as starters. But there is value in each of the draftable players that a coach can make use of if he understands what they bring to the table. In today's game, a starting power forward is generally a guy that you can put in multiple categories from above. Whether it is a bruising power forward that plays with a relentless amount of energy (Faried, Millsap), a skilled big with a faceup game (David West), a bruising rebounder who can stretch the floor (Kevin Love), an athlete with tenacious energy (Kevin Garnett, Josh Smith), a skilled big with a bruising body (Al Jefferson), or an athletic forward with a faceup game (Thaddeous Young). Lots of these guys could be thrown into even more of the categories and that is what makes them special players.

In this draft (excluding Zeller and Bennett), maybe there are some players that are able to bring multiple things to the table and become starters. Muscala and Olynyk could both develop into even better shooters and become even more deadly with added NBA 3-pt range. Tony Mitchell could be a Josh Smith-type if he adds the necessary energy to his game. Richard Howell already is a bruiser with a relentless motor, but does he do anything else at a NBA level? Jackie Carmichael is certainly a skilled post player and could evolve to a nice do-it-all type of player ala David West? These are the guys that have the potential to break out be at least key rotational guys, if not good starters.