1. SF Otto Porter, Georgetown Hoyas
Comparisons: Kawhi Leonard, Gordon Hayward
2. SG, Victor Oladipo, Indiana Hoosiers
Comparisons: Andre Iguodala, Tony Allen
3. C Nerlens Noel, Kentucky Wildcats
Comparisons: Tyson Chandler, Larry Sanders
4. PF Cody Zeller, Indiana Hoosiers
Comparisons: LaMarcus Aldridge, David Lee
5. PF Anthony Bennett, UNLV Rebels
Comparisons: Derrick Williams, Ersan Ilyasova
6. SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia Bulldogs
Comparisons: Michael Redd, Kerry Kittles
7. PG Trey Burke – Michigan Wolverines
Comparisons: Mike Bibby, Jameer Nelson, DJ Augustin
8. SG Ben McLemore, Kansas Jayhawks
Comparisons: Jason Richardson, Vince Carter
9. G C.J. McCollum, Lehigh Hawks
Comparisons: Damian Lillard, Mo Williams,
10. PG Dennis Schroeder, Germany
Comparisons: Darren Collison, Devin Harris
11. C Lucas Noguiera, Brazil
Comparisons: Samuel Dalembert, Larry Sanders
12. C Steven Adams, Pittsburgh Panthers
Comparisons: Meyers Leonard
13. SG Sergey Karasev, Russia
Comparisons: Kyle Korver, Steve Novak
14. SG Reggie Bullock, North Carolina Heels
Comparisons: Danny Green, Jimmy Butler
For the record, I think large draft boards are a ridiculous activity. Why rank your top 100 players when maybe five of those will make a significant impact and five more will be good role players. The rest will be journeymen or roster filler. This happens every year. I feel uncomfortable even making a top 30 because on some level I think that gives the impression I think there are thirty players that are draftable (it just depends on your teams circumstances which players works best for you). I don’t think this. I think the majority of players drafted, not just this year but any year, won’t have a career worth writing about.
With that said I’m going to rank the players that I would be at least moderately happy (some level above indifference, at least) having on my team if I were an NBA GM. I’m not sure on a specific number, I’ll just go until I can’t find players I’d draft regardless of the circumstances.
1. Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke
Kyrie Irving is the best player in this draft. What are his NBA comparisons? A lot of people have suggested Chris Paul. I’m not entirely sold on this for a couple of reasons. First, Chris Paul is all-world amazing. When healthy, I think he is easily the best point guard in the NBA. Irving could end up being very good but being the best in the game is probably not going to happen. Another thing is that his college resume is short. He played most of his games before in-conference competition, which inflates his numbers a bit. Though, when he played he was no doubt outstanding.
What we know about Irving is that he has no major flaws and is an elite shooter. Elite shooters who have an assortment of other skills are much harder to find than draft guru’s lead you to believe.
Comparison: If his foot is healthy I think Irving could be more like a Detroit Pistons era Chauncey Billups. While not Chris Paul, is still damn good.
2. Enes Kanter, PF/C, Turkey
As short as Kyrie Irving’s body of work is, Kanter’s is even shorter. The NCAA ruled him ineligible last season, as such he was not allowed to compete with the Kentucky Wildcats. He also didn’t really have an opportunity to play anywhere, so he has been twiddling his thumbs for a while now.
He does have some things we can look at though. He played for Turkey in the FIBA U18 championships in 2009 and 2008, dominating the competition both times. He averaged over 18 points and 14 rebounds during both tournaments. Along with the U18 games, Kanter also took part in the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit against the best high school players in America, including Harrison Barnes, Terrence Jones, and Jared Sullinger. In that game he dominated, breaking Dirk Nowitzki’s points (33 points) record with 34 points (Video: HERE). So it’s not exactly conclusive but he has dominated when he has played.
Comparison: I’m comfortable saying he could end up being a Kevin Love type player (probably not as good, but similar styles).
3. Jonas Valanciunas, C, Latvia
Like Kanter, Valanciunas has performed very well in the FIBA U18 championships in 2009 and 2010. He has also played very well in the Euro league this past year. He is not as offensively skilled as Enes Kanter but is a very efficient finisher in the post. He is more known for his defense and rebounding, which has been compared to Joakim Noah. I like him because he is a legit center that produces in games. If he’s anything like Noah then he is worth selecting very high in this draft.
Comparison: Joakim Noah (possibly lesser version).
4. Derrick Williams, F, Arizona
I already made an entire post regarding my opinion on Derrick Williams, you can read it here.
Comparison: Rich man’s Antawn Jamison
5. Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State
Faried has an “elite” skill, that is his rebounding ability. In fact, Kenneth Faried ended his college career as the NCAA’s all time leading rebounder. I find it baffling to consider that he is by far the best in his class at an important basketball skill but he still is so underrated. Elite shooters like Klay Thompson, who has no other skills, are flying up draft boards. We need to consider other factors in the game other than scoring. When you consider how hard he plays, how good his character is, and how he projects to be at least good defender, you have to consider him as a very solid selection.
Comparison: A DeJuan Blair/Trevor Booker type but better. A defender/rebounder role player that all teams need.
There you have it, the five players I’m comfortable going out on a limb and writing paragraphs about how they should be good in the NBA. Here are five more players I’m intrigued by but am not yet comfortable completely backing them up yet. I still would be happy or at least content if they ended up on my Wizards…
6. Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego State (Comp: Poor man’s Gerald Wallace maybe?)
7. Alec Burks, SG, Colorado (Comp: Better version of John Salmons)
8. Tobias Harris, SF, Tennessee (Comp: Shane Battier)
9. Markieff Morris, PF, Kansas (Comp: Rasheed Wallace)
10. Jordan Williams, PF, Maryland (Comp: Sean May if he hadn’t gotten injured so much.)
There you have it, ten guys I am at least intrigued by in this draft. I really stretched it too, I don’t think I could have gone longer than ten. If I didn’t list someone above it doesn’t mean I think they will be bad, just that the pluses of a certain player may not outweigh the negatives. I’m also considering their projected draft positions as well. Jordan Williams in the top 5 doesn’t interest me as much as late first.
Here are five guys I would really stay away from, especially when considering their projected draft position. I would be upset if any of these players became a Washington Wizard, regardless of how they were acquired.
1. Jan Vesely (Joe Alexander/Andrei Kirilenko with no skills)
2. Klay Thompson (Marco Belinelli, shooter and nothing else. Plays much worse against good competition.)
3. Donatas Motiejunas (Poor man’s Andrea Bargnani…ouch. Not interested)
4. Jordan Hamilton (Poor man’s Stephen Jackson. Head case who takes terrible shot after terrible shot.)
5. There is not actually five, but I really don’t like the four above at all.
I’ve heard it several times during coverage of this years NBA draft that Derrick Williams is an elite rebounder. This really baffles me because it is something that is very easily verifiable. You look up his statistics under the category of rebounding and it’s right there in front of you. It is important to put his numbers in context by accounting for pace, minutes played, level of competition, etc. Derrick Williams just isn’t an elite rebounder, he’s just a good one.
Adjusting for pace and minutes played Derrick Williams averaged 10.9 rebounds per 40 minutes, good for eighth in this draft class. When we look at rebounding rate, which I think is a better measure, Williams ranks 123rd nationally in offensive rebound rate and 113th in defensive rebound rate. So Derrick Williams was an average, maybe slightly above average, rebounder at the college level.
It really doesn’t seem like a big deal that Williams is only an average rebounder at the college level when you consider his ability as a scorer. During his sophomore season Derrick Williams was insanely efficient – he was fourth in the nation in true shooting percentage (69%!). When you consider his high usage and high true shooting percentage I think it is fair to say that Williams was the most elite scorer in college basketball last season.
However, a few things bother me about Derrick Williams transition to the NBA. Derrick Williams thinks he will be a small forward at the NBA level, most scouts think he is best utilized at the power forward position. This worries me and ESPN’s Chad Ford. This is because transitioning from a college PF to an NBA SF doesn’t translate as easily as other positions. Other players who have made this same transition – Wesley Johnson, Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Marvin Williams, and Carmelo Anthony have seen their rebounding, as well as other non-scoring numbers, drop considerably from college to the NBA. I predict a similar thing happening to Derrick Williams if he tries to play on the wing in the NBA. He is already non exceptional as a defender and passer, if he becomes a lesser rebounder his production will be entirely tied to his scoring ability.
But this is still okay because Derrick Williams was the best, most efficient scorer in the college game, right? I’m a little wary. Statistically he was the nations best scorer. He made an insane 60% of his two point shots and an even more incredible 57% of his three pointers. He also got to the line over eleven times per 40 minutes. This production is due to come down just by the simple fact that NBA defenses are better. But this scoring production was so astronomical it has to be at least a minor fluke. I still think Williams will be a very, very good scorer in the NBA but I don’t think he’ll match his college production. And when his production rests almost entirely on that elite scoring, this worries me.
While I believe Derrick Williams will be a good NBA player and arguably worthy of the second overall selection, I am not as certain of his future stardom as others. I have my doubts about his abilities transitioning evenly from the college level to the pro’s. In my view Williams should become something like a more talented, efficient, and aggressive Antawn Jamison. In essence, a rich mans Antawn Jamison. That’s not too bad, Jamison made a few all-star teams.
This is the first NBA draft in a while where there is only one realistic scenario that would make me less optimistic and happy about being a Wizards fan than I was going into the draft. Literally every other rumored scenario makes me at least a little happy and enthused. Unfortunately for me, and for Wizards fans everywhere, this scenario seems to be the most likely outcome for the sixth pick on Thursday night. What I’m talking about is if the Washington Wizards select Partizan combo forward Jan Vesely.
I say this because the focus of his scouting report by almost every source is all that is wrong with player evaluation in the NBA. The reason is his scouting report relies entirely on his perceived level of elite athleticism. Athleticism is fine, but only when it gets you something. There have been plenty of ridiculously athletic players through the years who give you nearly nothing on the court (See: Nick Young). There have also been plenty of not exceptionally athletic players that give you everything on the court (See: Kevin Love). Athleticism can help a player produce on the court but they must have basketball skills to go with that athleticism. I’m pretty sure Kevin Durant rated as one of the worst athletes in his draft, but man does he have skills. The question that Ty Willihnganz asked over at his blog The Courtside Analyst still needs answering, “When will people learn that athleticism wins track meets, basketball skills win basketball games?”
The top three traits Chad Ford has under Jan Vesely’s draft profile on ESPN are “Leaping,” “Size,” and “Motor.” All of these things are physical measurable’s. When we look at his statistics you see that he is a poor rebounder, terrible shooter (especially from the free throw line), he isn’t a passer. I just don’t see any real on the court production by Vesely. All I hear is that he gets minutes playing at a high level in Europe and has elite athleticism. None of this necessarily means anything on the court. You don’t get extra point for fancy dunks and highlight reel plays. At 21, he is also two years older than other options in Enes Kanter, Jonas Valanciunas, Alec Burks, and Kawhi Leonard. Age should be taken into consideration, according to this study.
Who is my player comparison for Jan Vesely? Joe Alexander. That doesn’t excite me in any way. Joe’s an athletic freak, but he couldn’t actually play the game. His best case scenario is probably a Thad Young type.
P.S. I don’t always agree with John Hollinger but for whatever it’s worth his Player Rater agrees with me.
UPDATE: ESPN’s Chad Ford has reported that the Wizards may be trying to trade up with the Cavaliers (have also heard rumors about trading with the Jazz). If they manage to trade up and draft Enes Kanter I will be elated. It’ll be possibly my happiest Wizards fandom moment ever.
IndyStar.com’s Mike Wells has reported that the Denver Nuggets are trying to acquire a top 10 pick in the draft and are offering Ty Lawson in return. The Indiana Pacers hold the 10th selection and are said to be interested in Lawson. Also, according to Wells, the Pacers have reached out to the New Orleans Hornets about acquiring Darren Collison. The Pacers were an awful 32 – 50 last year, so changes are needed. Indiana has been a bad team for a while now, so it is clear they could use some help evaluating their options.
As you can see, Ty Lawson was the most productive player (per minute) of these four players. To add some context Darren Collison was a rookie and TJ Ford struggled to stay healthy, with either of these factors you can expect a player’s WP48 to be lower. However, Ty Lawson was also a rookie and struggled with injuries (missing 17 games). Despite this, overall Lawson was still more productive than the other three point guards (He was even better in the 8 games in which he was the starter). The difference in production is mainly attributable to Lawson being above average with respect to shooting efficiency and avoiding turnovers. Collison was above average in regards to shooting efficiency but struggled mightily in protecting the basketball. Watson and Ford were below average in both areas. It doesn’t take a genius to note that making the shots you take and avoiding turnovers are two of the most important aspects involved in winning on the court (Actually, one genius made such an observation – HERE).
It is clear that acquiring Ty Lawson is the path the Pacers should take but is he worth the 10th selection in the draft? John Hollinger rated Lawson as the best player, statistically, in the 2009 draft (insider access required). WoW had Lawson ranked 3rd behind DeJuan Blair and Blake Griffin.
Did this turn out to be the case? It did. According to wins produced Lawson was the second most productive rookie (per minute) of anyone who played at least one thousand minutes (Behind only DeJuan Blair, Blake Griffin didn’t play a game). His college numbers predicted Lawson would be worth a top ten pick in last years draft and he produced like one. The reason he slipped in the draft was that many teams felt he was injury prone and that his short stature and short arms would diminish his effectiveness at the NBA level. So far the injury prone label has turned out to be valid, he did miss 17 games as a rookie. The height and wingspan critiques are overblown but might have some validity as well. Lawson was average in regards to rebounding, as well as below average in generating steals and blocking shots, these three things can logically be linked to size and wingspan. So maybe those physical measures are not “optimal” for a point guard but he does other things well enough to make up for any “shortcomings.”
But what about this years draft? Coming out of North Carolina as a junior Ty Lawson sported a fantastic 15.6 PAWS40 (Position adjusted win score per 40 minutes). In PAWS40 terms he would be considered the best point guard available in the 2010 draft (Yes, that includes John Wall). His PAWS40 is essentially the same as DeMarcus Cousins who was the most productive player in college basketball last year. It is clear that Lawson was worthy of a top ten selection last year and the same is true this year. It also helps that we’ve actually seen Lawson be successful in the NBA. So if you are the Indiana Pacers and are in need of a quality point guard, trading the tenth pick to Denver for Ty Lawson should be the easiest decision you make this off-season. Now if someone could convince them to stop playing Danny Granger at power forward they could be looking up for next season.