Monday, May 5, 2008

NBA Draft Prospects - Who's Going to be a Bust and Who's Not?

This years NBA Draft is very deep and there will be a lot of guys that would normally be top 10 picks or lottery picks falling to the late teens and early 20's. This year's consensus top two (Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose) probably doesn't have as high of a ceiling as last year's (Greg Oden and Kevin Durant), but there are plenty of players that are potential all-stars if they work hard and continue to develop as well as plenty of guys that will be better than average role players for years to come.

This year, it seems like there are an unusual number of guys with out-of-this-world potential, but lacking any semblance of skill at this point - the kind of guys that will make an NBA GM look like a genius or lose his job. Who will develop into good NBA players and who will the next Kwame Brown, Sam Bowie, or Michael Olowokandi? For full analysis of this year's crop of prospects, click here.

Top 5 Players Most Likely to be a Waste of a 1st Round Pick
1. JaVale McGee, Nevada - He has the physical tools to leave scouts drooling over his potential. He's 7 feet tall. He has a wingspan of 7'6". He has a vertical of 33". He can run the floor and finishes extremely well, either by way of a dunk or a soft turn around jumper or jump hook. He can block shots and has good timing coming from the weak side. But there is a reason that he plays at Nevada - the kid plays with no heart. He gambles for steals, doesn't hustle, plays no defense (Draft Express has a statistic that says that he gets scored 66% of the time the man he is guarding touches to ball in the post. And that's in the WAC), doesn't have good footwork, and by all accounts has no work ethic.

So why is he projected at the end of the lottery? Because he could end up being one of the best centers in the league. He could also be gone after his rookie contract.

2. DeAndre Jordan, Texas A&M - Jordan has pretty much the exact same tools as McGee, only he is left-handed. Both are athletic 7-footers that are mobile, but are still raw offensively and weak defensively. Like McGee, Jordan has a long way to go before he is ready to play consistent minutes in the NBA, and it will take a lot of hard work (and one of the knocks on Jordan is that he does not have much of a work ethic). But there is a difference. Jordan has a bit of a mean streak in him, it's just a matter of whether or not it will come out. He seemed to be a bit passive this season and had trouble maintaining focus (although that was something that plagued the A&M team as a whole this year) throughout a game. But he could go on runs of three or four possessions where you really saw what this kid could be (take a look at this clip if you don't believe).

For Jordan, like McGee, it is all going to come down to how hard he is going to work and how good he wants to be in the league. Although he is not as polished offensively, Jordan hustles more and works harder on defense (he is still too weak to battle with NBA centers, but that will develop with time), which is what puts him behind McGee.

3. Donte Greene, Syracuse - I actually like Greene's game. He is a very good, if streaky, shooter that doesn't have a conscience. He ball-handling ability doesn't go much farther than a two dribble drive to the basket, and he's a bit inconsistent if he has to shoot on the move (i.e. not spotting-up). He would be a nice as a second round pick to fill a role if he was 6'5". But he's 6'10", So scouts are going to see that length and athleticism and think that he can play the role of combo forward, when in fact he isn't anything more than a three point gunner. He is going to draw comparisons to guys like Rashard Lewis and Mike Dunleavy, when in fact he isn't much more than a poor man's Al Harrington.

He may not end up being a bust, depending on how he does in the pre-draft camp and his work outs (if he struggles and drops to the end of the first round/start of the second round, he's not a bad risk) and where he ends up being taken. But he is way too risky with too low of an upside to garner a lottery pick, especially in this year's draft.

4. Kevin Love, UCLA - More than anyone this side of Tyler Hansbrough, Kevin Love's game may by the most suited to college ball. He is a very smart player, a great rebounder, big and strong, and a phenomenal passer for his size. He has a great touch around the rim and on the perimeter, but he is very slow. He also does not possess great athleticism or explosiveness. He has had back and knee problems through out his career, and still could probably drop 20-25 pounds (which is worrisome given it has been an issue since his high school days). Even is he does, there is still a question of who he could guard at the net level - he's too slow for perimeter players, but may be too short for centers.

Love is all over the board right now - some have him as a lottery lock (even top 10), others are saying he could drop to the late teen's. Regardless, Kevin Love is talented and a smart player, it just depends on whether or not he will be able to physically go up against the likes of Amare Stoudamire or Chris Bosh.

5. Kosta Koufus, Ohio State - Koufus is an especially interesting case because of the rumors that he may end up playing in Greece with center BJ Mullins going to Ohio State next year. Koufus is projected as a mid-first round pick this year, which is probably where he should be given his skill set. He is 6'11" with some nice post moves and NBA three-point range. He defense was hidden by OSU's 2-3 zone, but he has a strong base and blocks some shots. The problem is that he has dual Greek citizenship, and although he grew up here, he still has strong ties in Greece (including playing on the national team). If he doesn't like where he is picked or who he is picked by (assuming he stays in the draft), there is the possibility that he doesn't even suit up for that team and goes to play in Europe.

More likely than not, Koufus will stay in the draft and play in the NBA next year, but if your a GM do you really want to take the chance that he won't, especially in a draft as talented as this one is?

Top 5 Players Most Likely to Fulfill Their Potential
1. Anthony Randolph, LSU - Randolph is another one of those guys loaded with potential. He is 6'11" with long arms, mobility, athleticism, but a fairly skinny frame. But he is still only 18 years old. The difference between him and a guy like JaVale McGee is that Randolph already has a lot of offensive skills, and he is much more of a perimeter oriented player. While he is still raw physically, he already has fantastic instincts - he is just able to put the ball in the basket. His jump shot is a little awkward looking, but he can hit it to about 15 feet. He is also able to take a rebound and go coast to coast and finish on the other end with a dunk or hit a teammate for an open shot or lay-up.

I only saw him play twice this year, but both times I came away very impressed. He still has a ways to go before his body is NBA ready, but if he continues to develop his game he could be scary good.

2. Brook Lopez, Stanford - One of the things you look for when scouting prospects in any sport is work ethic and intensity. Lopez has both of those. He proved during the off-season he has the dedication to turn his body into NBA form by adding 25 pounds of muscle. He still could use some added strength, but not too much as it will cut into his mobility and athleticism. Another reason that he is likely to live up to expectations is that, despite being projected as a top 5 pick, he really does have a sky-high ceiling. He doesn't have the physical tools of a DeAndre Jordan, but he is much better-than-average about just about all facets of the game. If you expect the second coming of Brendan Haywood, and you end up with Chris Kaman, you're happy. If you expect Dwight Howard and get Chris Kaman, you're probably not.

3. Eric Gordon, Indiana - Gordon's lofty expectations, and his draft stock, fell as he sleep-walked his way through the final third of Indiana's season, but it doesn't diminish what this guy can do. He is a great athlete - explosive, quick, and strong - and great scorer. He can hit just about any shot he wants, and has range well beyond the NBA three-point line. He is a bit short for a two-guard, however, and the biggest question with him will be whether or not he can switch over and play the point at all. If he can, he could end up being a guy used like Ben Gordon.

It does not look good for a player when he gives up on his teammates because of a bad situation, but that is exactly what Gordon did. Does he really have the heart to play for a team that is going to be near the bottom of the league? Who knows, but if that is the biggest problem with his character in this day and age, that isn't really all that bad (see Derrick Caracter or Robert Dozier).

4. DJ Augustin, Texas - Skill-wise, Augustin can do anything you ask from a point guard. He has a great handle, great vision (especially in the open floor), he has NBA range, he can finish in the paint with floaters or off the glass, and he is unselfish. He needs to get stronger to be able to defend NBA point guards, but the quickness is there. The biggest thing is that this year Augustin proved that he was a potent scorer, averaging almost 20 ppg.

Because of his relatively small stature and his average athleticism, Augustin has fallen a bit on draft boards. He is receiving a lot of the same knocks that Jameer Nelson got when he came out, but Nelson has turned out to be a very solid NBA point guard.

5. Derrick Rose, Memphis - Part of the reason that Derrick Rose is so low on this list is that he is so highly rated. After some dominating performances in the NCAA tournament, this kid looks like a sure thing (I would even take him over Michael Beasley at this point). The problem is that everyone believes that. In reading about him, I've seen people compare him to everyone from Dwayne Wade to Deron Williams to a bigger Chris Paul to mini-Lebron James. Those are four pretty good basketball players, and that's a high ceiling for a guy that really seemed to figure it out for only about the last seven or eight games of his freshman season.

As much as I like the mini-LBJ comparison because of the similar physical tools - athleticism, strength, quickness - the best comparison is probably Deron Williams, which still will make Rose a top 5 point guard. Still, it's tough to live up to expectations when there are people saying that your worst-case scenario will be Deron Williams.

Top 5 Value Picks
1. Marreese Speights, Florida - Speights still needs to greatly improve the effort his gives on the defensive end, but offensively this guy is as good as they come. He played behind three NBA players his freshman year (Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Chris Richard) but this season averaged 25 points and 14 rebounds per 40 minutes. Fundamentally, he is still not quite there, but he is a terrific athlete with long arms who has a nose for the ball. Think somewhere between Al Jefferson and Brandon Bass, which is pretty good for a guy who will probably drop to twenties.

2. Russell Westbrook, UCLA - Westbrook brings a lot of things to the table. He is a tremendous athlete with explosive quickness and leaping ability, he is an unbelievable defender (both on the ball and playing the passing lanes), and he is a good passer and very unselfish (4 assists per game). He still needs to develop his offensive game a bit, but he is a late bloomer that still needs to grow into his body. Right now he is looking at the end of the lottery or the middle of the first round, but he could end up being a role-player/sixth-man in the Leandro Barbosa mold.

3. Danny Green, UNC - Green is a defensive stopper. He is 6'6", 215lb, which gives him the size to match-up with NBA wings. He is a tough kid that loves contact and isn't afraid to get up in someone's face defensively. He also has a nice offensive game, averaging 11.5 ppg in just over 22 minutes, and can hit open three's out to NBA range. Depending on how much his offense comes around, he will end up being in the Raja Bell, Bruce Bowen mold. What NBA team wouldn't want to use a second round pick (that's where Green is being projected) on a guy like that.

4. Robin Lopez, Stanford - Robin Lopez is much less-developed, especially offensively, than his brother is, but is still a good NBA prospect because of his size, athleticism, and determination. He is a mobile 7-footer with long arms that loves playing defense, hustles his tail off, and is a very emotional player. He is projected as a late first-round to early second-round pick, but looks to be another Anderson Varejao/Joakim Noah, with the long hair to boot.

5. Richard Hendrix, Alabama - Hendrix is 6'8", 250lb of solid muscle, and is not afraid to use it. He is a very good rebounder because he takes up a ton of space and is impossible to move, but also has a nice array or post move to go to. Defensively, he's not going to block any shots but he is going to make life miserable for any one trying to establish position against him. He is projected all over the board, from late first-round to a second round pick, but he looks like another Paul Millsap, who dropped to 47th last year but is having a very productive season.

1 comment:

Andy McKenzie said...

Oh my god have you put time into this shit. And I like Robin Lopez, and the Westbrook pick.

And you're not allowed to compared Eric Gordon with Ben Gordon. People with the same last names should not be compared on principle.