With the draft lottery around the corner, it's probably worth breaking down what all but 26 teams will be salivating over this week. Below is my round one "big board". This is not a mock draft, as I have not assigned players to teams yet, but... Yadda, yadda, you know the drill.
Some notes about my priorities:
Big men are more expensive than little men. All things being equal, talent-wise, they are going to be higher on the board.
I do not care whether players are smooth or have high basketball IQs.
Size mostly matters as it pertains to the ability to defend a certain position and to get off perimeter shots. Otherwise, I believe results over size.
I do not like shooting guards who cannot shoot. I don't care if a player's name is Lengthy McUpsides, and he played for the North Dukucky Jayhuskies and made three consecutive final fours.
I have no idea what to do with Euro players. They have like 13,086 leagues over there, and most of the players are either NBA rejects, 14 years old, or have one of those pituitary syndromes where they grow to ridiculous heights and its all so tragic because they all need new bone marrow, which is in short supply in the Ukraine.
That is all. Now is the time for rankings.
1. Anthony Davis
No need to elaborate. Davis’ numbers are ridiculous because his talent is ridiculous. Playing on such a loaded team probably limited his scoring and rebounding numbers a bit. Yikes.
2. Thomas Robinson
Not sure why he would drop below third. Robinson seems like a very good bet to be a star in the league, at least on the offensive end. Foul trouble could be the biggest problem, especially if he lands with a doghouse coach, but by my lights the only question is whether Kidd-Gilchrist’s upside is more alluring.
3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
His rebounding numbers were crazy for a wing, especially considering he played alongside other solid rebounders. His lack of outside shooting (which seems unlikely to improve) will mean he has to get to the line and blow by defenders, but he has demonstrated he can do that. If he can’t, or if he can’t guard the three, he could be a bust. But there is Dwyane Wade level upside here in terms of his athleticism and his performance.
4. Jared Sullinger
After a spectacular freshman year, Sullinger seems to have hit a plateau. However, I’m still high on him for a few reasons. First of all, he is developing an outside game he will need to exploit mismatches because of his size. Second, he’s only 20, and I’m not convinced good players can really plateau at this age. He is probably the last player in the draft with a good chance of being an all-star, and this is where I’d take him.
5. John Henson
Outside of Anthony Davis, there isn’t a better rebounder and defender in the bunch. His free throw shooting is a pretty solid indicator he’ll get most of his points off putbacks and pick and rolls. One additional cause for concern is the regression in rebounding his junior year, though this coincided with the emergence of Tyler Zeller, who is himself a strong rebounder.
6. Kendall Marshall
Assists can be among the more misleading indicators of actual skill. The key is to put them into context. In Marshall’s case, his stratospheric assist totals are accompanied by efficient shooting and relatively few turnovers. He’s not the “pass-first” point guard who racks up numbers because he’s desperate to give up the ball. He’s the rare breed who can run an offense. Taking a PG who doesn’t have a proven long-range game is risky this high in the draft, but it’s a risk worth taking with Marshall.
7. Tyler Zeller
While not an elite defender like John Henson, Zeller is a good rebounder with a very polished offensive game. His 62% TS is the best of any of the bigs aside from Anthony Davis, and it wasn’t for lack of touches. At 22, it’s unlikely he’ll develop into a star. On the other hand, he should be able to start for most lottery teams right away and produce.
8. Doron Lamb
Not a lot of upside here., perhaps. With Lamb, you get one bankable skill (shooting) and that’s it. That said, Lamb has the size and the hands to bring his efficiency (64% TS) to the NBA level without a hitch. He’s the 8th best draft prospect, I think, but he’s too vanilla for a lottery team to bite. Don’t see him slipping past the first round though.
9. Damian Lillard
Shooting and scoring don’t necessarily translate to the NBA, especially when they are achieved against weak competition. That said, the fundamental numbers, including free throw shooting, are very strong. He can finish with either hand, isn’t too short to play the point, and generally seems NBA ready. He could be a complete bust, but it’s going to be hard for teams to ignore those numbers as the other options become more and more lackluster.
10. Arnett Moultrie
A bit of an enigma, what with all the transferring. However, what we seem to have is a strong offensive rebounder who can also shoot. I like multi-tooled big men, and he’s still young enough, despite the shuffling around, that he could get better. We are firmly in the part of the draft board where there are major question marks, so why not take a stab on the guy whose college resume is somewhat incomplete.
11. Royce White
He’s like Greg Monroe if Greg Monroe were maybe also a head case. White’s passing (6.3 A/40) qua passing won’t really translate to the NBA, but I think it speaks to his enormous skill level. That said, he’s out of shape, and has real red flags. It might take a couple of years for him to get it together, and I can’t imagine that being a good idea for any of the ten worst teams in the NBA
12. Drew Gordon
He’s maybe a bit undervalued at this spot, because he seems almost certain to bring rebounding and defense. That said, he doesn’t have the explosiveness to make an offensive living on put-backs, and he will be a liability at that end of the court generally. Still, the chances he winds up being a bust are very slim.
13. Moe Harkless
Much of what has been said about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could be said about Harkless. His rebounding and defensive numbers speak to his athleticism, and he can get to the basket, but has no perimeter game to speak of. If you are going to draft for upside, go with the guy who has done upsidey things in college.
14. Kyle O’Quinn
Posted meaty TS%, rebounding and blocking numbers while at… Norfolk St. If I had absolute confidence the numbers were legit, he’d be several spots higher. Still, rebounding tends to translate to the NBA regardless of competition quality (see Faried, Kenneth) and this is the point in the draft where teams are looking for NBA ready talent.
15. Dion Waiters
A really athletic defender who can tackle both guard positions is a rarer commodity than teams tend to acknowledge. That’s what Waiters brings. Waiters also improved enormously between his freshman and sophomore seasons, which leaves hope he might yet become an offensive talent. He probably won’t start for any team, but will get serious minutes off the bench as he did in Syracuse.
16. Kevin Jones
Jones doesn’t sport gaudy numbers, per se, but his efficiency was remarkable whenever he wasn’t shooting three pointers. He posted decent rebounding number while hitting 59% of his 2-point field goals while turning the ball over and fouling very infrequently. I think the three point shooting business will resolve itself (he simply doesn’t have NBA range) and he looks like a Jason Maxiell clone to me.
17. Will Barton
Barton is a bit of a risk, but made a massive leap from his freshman to sophomore season. In particular, his jump from 50% to 59% TS and from 6.2 to 8.8 Reb/40 are substantial, showing he is capable of applying his substantial athleticism to basketball. If he takes another leap, he’s a potential star, and that’s worth a look at this stage in the draft.
18. Marcus Denmon
If hyper-efficiency is your bag (it sure is mine), Denmon is your guy. What makes him stand out is all the things he did not do, namely miss shots, turn the ball over, our foul. That didn’t keep him from scoring at a good clip, garnering steals, grabbing more rebounds than you’d expect for his size and grabbing a couple of dimes here and there. There is an open question as to whether he can guard the two, or else he’d be higher on this board, but he’s severely underrated on most.
19. Andre Drummond
Here’s what we know about Andre Drummond. He cannot shoot free throws (like, at all), and isn’t particularly good at rebounding. He can block shots, and he’s young and big and fast, so he’s worth taking a flier on, but he is coming off a season in which he wasn’t a scorer or rebounder at the NCAA level. The idea he is worth a top three pick is absurd.
20. Jae Crowder
In terms of statistical output, he’s a lottery candidate. However, there is an open question as to whether he can do some of the things necessary to play the three. He doesn’t have great range, and isn’t a great ball handler. However, he’s an excellent defender, is outstanding off the ball, and takes smart shots generally (hence 60% from two point range). He’s a perfect fit for a playoff team with a solid point guard.
21. Scott Machado
Machado took a huge leap his senior year, improving in every relevant category as a point guard. His 3 to 1 assist to turnover ratio is either impressive, given his teammates, or unimpressive, given his competition. That’s the only variable that will keep Machado out of the lottery (though it’s starting to look as though he’ll land in the first round). Can’t keep a guy who puts up 11.2 apg with a 61% TS out of the top any lower than this, regardless of the question marks.
22. Kim English
The question is, what do you believe? English was absolutely ridiculous his senior year, rocking a 66% TS. That is a whopping 16% improvement over his junior year. And yet, his free throw percentage remained steady, which seems to indicate it was shot selection, and not shot mechanics, that made the difference. So was it a fluke? The product of experience? Or is he just the best shooter in the draft? A smart team would roll the dice here.
23. Kevin Murphy
Like Damian Lillard, Murphy scored prolifically and efficiently for a non-powerhouse team. He’s actually the sort of player for whom workouts are actually somewhat indicative of future performance. So far, so good on that score, and a team looking to shore up the rotation right away could do a lot worse at this stage in the draft.
24. Evan Fournier
Pretty much the best European player available. Lousy range but seems pretty athletic, and people who know European players think he’s good. Let’s stick him here.
25. Draymond Green
He has too many skills not to find a way to be productive at the NBA level. He isn’t good enough at any one of them to be a star. Projects to be a Boris Diaw type of player. I think he’s first round material, especially if a contender is doing the drafting.
26. Orlando Johnson
Here’s another player who seems to be validating his big numbers against B-level competition with strong workouts. At 6’5, he’s big enough to get his shot off in the NBA against other twos. He’s 23, so there isn’t going to be much improvement, but he looks as though he’s rotation ready, and brings NBA three-point range to the table.
27. Quincy Miller
Good size and solid rebounding for a guy coming off an ACL tear. Ordinarily, I’d want to see better numbers for a first rounder, but I’m not sure he had time to show all he could do last season. There is a real chance he could improve immensely, and he does have the body to own the SF position.
28. Furkan Aldemir
Teams won’t draft him until the second round, and I don’t blame them, but he seems like a perfect draft and stash candidate. He’s already a great rebounder and a bruiser in the paint, and he’s young enough he should get better in that regard. Even if that’s all he brings, he could easily be a top 15 player in this draft.
29. Bradley Beal
You all know how I feel about shooting guards who cannot shoot. Beal has some athleticism (hence his 7.8 Reb/40), but the scouting report on him touts his smoothness and basketball IQ. Those are red flags. He has had enough games where he’s shown glimpses of NBA talent that I’m keeping him in the first round, but woe to the GM who drafts him in the lottery.
30. Terrence Jones
The definition of a tweener, in that his rebounding doesn’t project well to the four, but his shooting doesn’t project well to the three. Jones is a solid player, and there is a reasonable chance he wasn’t able to show everything he had on such a loaded squad. But I wouldn’t go higher than this for a guy who lives on getting to the line, but only hits 63% of his free throws.