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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lincoln vs Patterson

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a ultra-competitive high school game at Towson University between Patterson High School (MD) and Lincoln High School (NY). The game ended up going into overtime and each team's stars came through with applaud-able efforts.

The last time I saw Patterson play was during last years State Championship game where they took on North Point. After watching Carr then, I wrote this report on him. Everything I wrote then still remains true, but after another experience watching this kid, I can say that he is the most exciting high school player I have seen to date for sure.

One concerning thing was how he was demanding the ball during crunch time. On a few possessions in OT he stood around the arc with a man shadowing him and didnt even attempt to work his way to the ball. Patterson could have won the game if Carr made more of an effort to get the ball because when he have the rock, he was unstoppable getting to the hoop.

During the state championship game last year, he settled for more threes than he should have as that isn't his strong point. In this game, he focused more on getting to the hoop and taking advantage of his outstanding speed, explosiveness, and body control. He made Sebastian Telfair's younger brother look silly on a number of occasions, culminating with this move here, 

On another note, Carr has only made 1 3-pt shot this year out of 22 attempts. He was money from the FT line against Lincoln (16-20), but his overall shot needs a lot of work. 

Telfair was one big name for Lincoln, but their best player was hands down sophomore Isaiah Whitehead. The 6'4 shooting guard had 11 less points than Carr (36 compared to 25), but showcased the complete game that has scouts calling him one of the best prospects in the 2014 class.

For a sophomore, I was very impressed with the tempo he played at. He picked his spots and was able to drive and dish when the lane collapsed on him. He found guys inside as well as kicking the ball back out. His passing ability and decision making are definitely advanced for his age. He had good handles, but his quick first step was usually all he needed to get past a defender. He got into the lane at will this game and I didn't see his mid-range jumper, but apparently that is another strong part of his game. He did hit a three, although he doesnt appear to be a sniper from behind the arc at this point in his career. Defensively, he showed signs of being a good asset. Athletically he is good, but not a freakish athlete. If I were to compare him to a current NCAA player, I'd go with Tim Hardaway Jr.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Merit of Bench Press Numbers

Ahhh, the bench press. A favorite among casual gym-goers. As a dedicated lifter, the most repetitive question I get is how much I bench. People could care less about more relevant lifts like deadlifting or squatting. I'm not a big guy or much of an athlete, but I can throw up that 185lb bar for more reps than anyone at the combine. It just stems from a lot of work and repetition. I was never a strong guy, but I put in the work. I wish it meant something for my basketball talents. I haven't played much since I started lifting, but I doubt I am any better of a player due to a stronger chest. But maybe...maybe I should start my basketball career up again!

Lets be realistic, though. Bench pressing is a movement that works mainly your chest and triceps. They are pushing muscles. Rarely in basketball does a player need to use all his upper body strength to shove a player. Thats normally a foul. John Chaney may find you useful as a goon on the end up the bench, but your minutes on the court will be short lived.

In the post, holding your position involved your upper body, but the base of your strength comes from your legs. Squatting would be a better indicator for the strength of big men, but I can't imagine agents letting players take part in that act. Too many injury factors are involved for guys who don't squat regularly and too many questions about what makes a proper squat. Do you go down parallel or touch your ass to the ground? Or simply load the bar with way more weight than you can handle and go down a quarter of the way, grunting each time to let everyone know you are the big man on campus.

If JaJuan Johnson or Justin Harper were forced to squat, there would be less people singing praising about their apparent strength right now. Harper and Johnson both put up good numbers on the bench - a combine leading 19 for Harper and 15 for JaJuan. These are two power forwards who have had their strength questioned to a point where they have considered working on their small forward skills. Surely these guys didn't all the sudden become Dwight Howard clones.

No, not at all. I wouldn't count on it. These guys are just two upper classmen who obviously have experience in a strength program. They are used to the motion of benching. Benching isn't exactly a natural measurement of strength. I can count the number of  times a NBA player was laying on his back during a game and had to lift a heavy object off of him on my dog's amputated foot. It s something you can easily improve with a little bit of practice, especially with world class trainers. Its not a end all be all to measuring strength. Olympic lifters don't even incorporate the lift into their routine most of the time. If the NBA wanted to truly test a players strength, we would see players deadlifting and squatting. Of course, that will never happen because of injuries. I'm sure the bench will start to fade out soon as well.

Since the bench numbers are at our disposal, what can we use them for? We can see the guys who stand out as regular weight lifters. Besides Harper and Johnson, it appears Norris Cole, Shelvin Mack, Derrick Williams, Kenneth Faried, Charles Jenkins, Jimmy Butler, Brandon Knight, and Jimmer Fredette all spend significant time in the gym. All hard workers and mostly older guys. It is a good sign that these guys have done everything in their control to help their stock, but it really doesn't mean much. I threw Knight on this list because it is apparent he has started the gym at an early age with 10 reps while being only 176 pounds.

Freshman most of the time struggle at this exercise, proving it is more practice than a natural strength measurement. Kevin Durant famously couldn't bench 185. This year Jereme Richmond followed in his path. Cory Joseph, Josh Selby, and Tristan Thompson all posted single digit numbers (apparently Texas isn't the best place to go if you want to work on your bench).

You also have the natural athletes who don't take weight training seriously. In an interview at the combine, Travis Leslie through me for a loop by saying he doesn't work out his legs. What an incredible statement. This guy is a top-notch athlete and he doesn't even work out his legs? It pains me to think about how much more he could improve athletically if he started a real workout routine. Leslie, even though he is more naturally gifted then all of these guys, only put up 10 reps on the bar. The same as the 30 pound lighter Brandon Knight who has only been in college one year. It doesn't say much for who is stronger - that is still Leslie, but it does show you who is working. While it is intriguing to think about what Leslie can be if he hits the gym, his seemingly content attitude to rely on his natural gifts is concerning.

Kawhi Leonard was another great athlete who only managed a few reps. Leonard churned out 3 measly repetitions at 185. The difference between Leonard and Leslie, though, is Leonard is believed to have a good work ethic. He just hasn't focused on the gym apparently. Once Leonard gets in the NBA and hits the weights, his body projects into something Ron Artest would be proud of. 

In short, benching doesn't translate at all into the NBA. You can see a correlation between hard workers and high bench numbers. You might be intrigued by some of the supposed hard workers with low numbers - might mean they have limited experience in a gym. You can be disappointed in natural athletes with low numbers, but it doesn't mean they are weaker than others with higher numbers. They just aren't used to applying their strength in a controlled environment. All in all, these combine numbers are just a bunch of fodder that can hurt you more than aide you if you actually take much stock into them. Basketball is basketball and there is plenty of tape out there if you want to see if they can play the sport (besides Enes Kanter that is). If you want to try to be some kind of expert, go ahead and break down these numbers and give them some significant meaning. I'll be impressed if it is more than a huge pile of mess....just save your time and pay attention to more meaningful things for prospects' futures.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reggie Jackson Has a Promise?

It was first speculated by TheKnicksBlog that the Celtics guaranteed Reggie Jackson on May 6th. That must have been a heck of a guess. Shortly there after, Reggie Jackson pulled himself out of both the New Jersey workout and the Chicago pre-draft camp.

A source close to Reggie Jackson's camp was quoted saying, “Danny’s already guaranteed him. He saw a ton of games at BC this year.”

Ainge was apparently at the North Carolina State game where Jackson had 28 points.

When I did my breakdown the Celtics team needs, I counted out them taking another defensive minded point guard since they already have Rondo and Bradley. But then again, Ainge just can't seem to get enough of that type of player.

In 2003, Ainge took another BC guard (Troy Bell) in the first round - only to be traded later that night.

He also has a history with guarantees. He promised Oriene Green in the second round only to have Amir Johnson slip to his draft spot. Even though he wanted Johnson, Ainge honored his word and picked Greene.

I don't blame Ainge for guaranteeing Jackson, whether he fills a need or not. Jackson's value should be a lot higher than #25 and Ainge tried to take advantage of the fact that many scouts didn't get out to see him this year. He would be a complete steal at #25.

Looking at it for Jackson's perspective, it would make sense that if he had a guarantee, it would be from the Celtics. It would keep him local, on a contending team, and surrounded by veteran leaders. There are few teams with the Celtics aura that would cause Jackson to want to place all his chips in one basket. Still, Jackson has a chance to raise his stock much higher if he changes his mind and participates in workouts. Either way, when scouts go back to look at tape, there is a good chance they will still take him above #25 based off game film alone.

Miami Heat Team Needs

Miami Heat


Draft Picks -
#31

Team Needs - PG, C, shooting

Draft History Under Pat Riley (picks that were kept)
2010 - Dexter Pittman (#32), Jarvis Varnado (#41), Da'Sean Butler (#42)
2009 - Patrick Beverley (#42), Robert Dozier (#60)
2008 - Michael Beasley (#2), Mario Chalmers (#34)
2007 - Daequan Cook (#21)
2006 - N/A
2005 - Wayne Simien (#29)
2004 - Dorell Wright (#19), Albert Miralles (#40), Matt Freije (#54)
2003 - Dwayne Wade (#5), Jerome Beasley (#33)

Current Projected 2011-12 Roster

PG -
SG - Dwayne Wade/Mike Miller
SF - LeBron James
PF - Chris Bosh/Udonis Haslem
C - Joel Anthony/Dexter Pittman

Whether the Heat bring in some more ring chasers or resign their own, their positions of need will remain the same. The Heat are obviously set at SG, SF, and PF. To complement them, a point guard who can shoot and a big man who can clean up trash are both welcomed. Defense and character also should be present. If they can't re-sign James Jones, they could also go for a wing shooter.

Pat Riley loves his college players. While many times the team with the first pick of the second round chooses an international player, Riley most likely will not. And with his current roster, it is hard to blame him. He needs to find a player who can contribute now and believe it or not, there are some players in the second round that could help the Heat.

The point guard position is strong around this part of the draft. Riley likes PGs with prototypical size who will get after it defensively.

Nolan Smith could be there. As a proven winner, Nolan Smith would be a great fit. He's not the most pure point guard, but in Miami he doesn't have to be. He will fill his role by hitting outside shots and playing defense. He's compared by some to Mario Chalmers.

Shelvin Mack and Ben Hansbrough can bring similar "winners" attitudes and quality shooting to the Heat. Hansbrough is an interesting fit and it wouldn't be the first time Pat Riley went with a Notre Dame point guard (Chris Quinn). Hansbrough is an excellent spot up shooter and would not be intimidated playing with the Big Three. His defense isn't great individually, but the Heat's excellent help defense will help cover for him. He, himself, knows how to play quality help defense.

Malcolm Lee is another option. He is not as polished offensively as Smith or Mack, but he can be a terrific defensive player. Some think of him more as a SG, but he would be perfect as a point next to Wade and LeBron. A consisent three point shot is in the works - if he gets that down, he is the perfect fit for Miami.

I think Iman Shumpert is a notch below these guys, but his stock is rising on some boards out there. It is scary to think of a defense led by three elite athletes like Shumpert, Wade, and LeBron but Shumpert has little offensive game to add. While Lee isnt an offensive player either, he manages to take care of the ball and make good decisions. The same can not be said for Shumpert.

Two other guys to mention are Charles Jenkins and Drew Goudelock. Jenkins is an incredibly efficient scorer who is in-between positions at 6'3. Playing besides LeBron and Wade would ease that transition for him. He is built sort of like Wade, thriving off getting to the hoop with his stocky frame. He also can keep teams honest with his shot and is an ideal teammate. As for Goudelock, he would be viewed as a boring choice for the Heat. He doesn't offer as much potential in terms of starting as any of the other guys, but he has one skill that stands out - his shooting.

With so many options out there at point guard, I truly believe the Heat will end up going that route. The centers available in this area aren't ready to contribute in the upcoming season. There also aren't any big time shooting wings projected early second round either - #31 might be too high for Jon Diebler.

Miami Heat Big Board
1. Ben Hansbrough
2. Malcolm Lee
3. Nolan Smith
4. Shelvin Mack
5. Charles Jenkins
6. Andrew Goudelock
7. Iman Shumpert

Oklahoma City Thunder Team Needs

Oklahoma City Thunder


Draft Picks
- #24

Team Needs - Offensive Big, Bench Scoring, Combo Forward

Draft History Under Presti (picks that were kept)
2010 - Cole Aldrich (#11), Tibor Pleiss (#31), Latavious Williams (#48), Ryan Reid (#57)
2009 - James Harden (#3), BJ Mullens (#24), Robert Vaden (#54)
2008 - Russell Westbrook (#4), Serge Ibaka (#24), DJ White (#29), Devon Hardin (#50)
2007 - Kevin Durant (#2)

Current Projected 2011-12 Roster

PG - Russell Westbrook/Eric Maynor/Nate Robinson
SG - James Harden/Thabo Sefolosha/Royal Ivery
SF - Kevin Durant
PF - Serge Ibaka/Nick Collison
C - Kendrick Perkins/Cole Aldrich/BJ Mullens

The Thunder have had a fair amount of success drafting, starting with grabbing their superstar in Kevin Durant. Their main goal since then has been to surround Durant with players that compliment his style. They have gone after high character players that dont mind doing the dirty work, while having the physical profiles to play great defense. Ibaka, Aldrich, Westbrook, and Sefolosha all fit that description. Harden was the perfect "do-it-all" wing to place alongside a superstar. The Thunder now feature a championship caliber roster, with a core that should be in place for years to come.

When looking for team needs, you can cross out a defensive-minded big. With Ibaka, Aldrich, Collison, and Perkins on the team, they are in no need there. However, they could look to find a big man to mix it up with a different kind of offensive game. A big who can space out the floor would be welcomed. Richmond's Justin Harper should draw interest.

They could also look for a combo forward type of big in the mold of Jeff Green. Jereme Richmond, Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler, Kyle Singler, Nikola Mirotic, and Chandler Parsons all fit that mold.

Richmond provides the most potential, it would be like their pick of BJ Mullens in the late first round a few years ago - all or nothing.

Singler and Butler are more of small forwards who can step in and backup Durant and play solid team basketball. Both have the kind of character the Thunder are built around.

Mirotic may be the most talented, but has contract issues. At #24 though, Mirotic is worth the risk whether he comes over or not. The Thunder have a strong history of taking Euros.

Chandler Parsons probably isn't the best fit of the group. He isnt a scorer, shooter, or defender. He is a facilitator type that the Thunder can do without.

There has been lots of Tobias Harris hype as of late that may carry him out of the Thunder's range. His high character and role playing ability make him an ideal Thunder player, but like Parsons, he isn't exactly what they need. He also has trouble shooting and defending. If he does slip, though, he will have to be considered.

By focusing on defense for so long, the Thunder's roster is a little dry in terms of scoring. With Harden likely moving with the first unit next season, they are going to need a scoring wing to spice up the second unit when playing with Maynor and Sefolosha. There is a chance that either Jordan Hamilton or Marshon Brooks falls to the 24th spot. Brooks has the ridiculous length the Thunder like and is also one of the best scorers in this draft. Hamilton has cleared up some character issues and would be instant offense off the bench.

Thunder Big Board
1. Jordan Hamilton
2. Tyler Honeycutt
3. Nikola Mirotic
4. Justin Harper
5. Marshon Brooks
6. Jereme Richmond
7. Jimmy Butler

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Chicago Bulls Team Needs

Chicago Bulls

Draft Picks - #28, #30, #43

Team Needs - Stretch PF, Scoring SG, Backup guard

Draft History Under Paxson (picks that were kept)2010 - N/A
2009 - James Johnson (#16), Taj Gibson (#26)
2008 - Derrick Rose (#1)
2007 - Joakim Noah (#9), JamesOn Curry (#51)
2006 - Tyrus Thomas (#4), Thabo Sefolosha (#13)
2005 - N/A
2004 - Ben Gordan (#3), Luol Deng (#7), Chris Duhon (#38)
2003 - Kirk Hinrich (#7), Mario Austin (#36), Tommy Smith (#53)

Current Projected 2011-12 RosterPG - Derrick Rose/CJ Watson
SG - Ronnie Brewer/Keith Bogans
SF - Luol Deng/Kyle Korver
PF - Carlos Boozer/Taj Gibson
C - Joakim Noah/Omer Asik

The Bulls have a pretty complete roster, which is why rumors of the Bulls trying to package their picks to move up makes sense. The #28 and #30 picks won't get them into the top 20, but it would give them a better chance to get the player they want/ For the Bulls, getting their main guy will probably be their top priority. Losing a first round pick isn't going to be a huge concern for a playoff team already tight on roster space.

Who could they target?

Based on history, the Bulls like winners. Noah, Tyrus Thomas, Hinrich, Duhon, Deng, Ben Gordan, and Derrick Rose all had final four experience. That is an incredible trend that is no coincidence. Players that the Bulls could look at this year that are proven winners are...

Nolan Smith
Shelvin Mack
Kyle Singler
JaJuan Johnson
E'Twaun Moore
David Lighty

They also seem to like combo guards. Guys with great instincts defensively have been targeted as of late too with Tom Thibodeau as the new coach. If a guy like Chris Singleton slips into the twenties, Im sure the Bulls would be actively trying to jump up to grab him. The same thing could be said about Klay Thompson or Jordan Hamilton.

Another player stands out because of a new dimension he could bring to the Bulls. Justin Harper would provide a great shooting option for the Bulls at power forward.

Id imagine their big board would look something like this...

1. Klay Thompson (trade up)
2. Chris Singleton (trade up)
3. Jordan Hamilton (trade up)
4. Marshon Brooks
5. JaJuan Johnson
6. Nolan Smith
7. Justin Harper
8. Shelvin Mack
9. Kyle Singler

Moore and Lighty would be options with the #43 pick along with any of the above that fall. I also hear that they could take Bojan Bogdanovic. One of their longtime scouts, Croatian Ivica Dukan, is the guy who brought Toni Kukoc over and could push for another fellow country man to be picked. This would be a good option to save a roster space and could also be an option at SG longterm.

Boston Celtics Team Needs

This is going to be a series and I'll try to break down every team with a first round pick. If you want to make sure I get to your team, email me at almosttournamenttime@gmail.com or message me on twitter at almostournytime.Boston Celtics

Draft Picks -
#25, #55

Position Needs - BPA besides small, defensive minded guards

Draft History Under Danny Ainge (picks that were kept)2010 - Avery Bradley (#19), Luke Harangody (#52)
2009 - Lester Hudson (#58)
2008 - JR Giddens (#30), Bill Walker (#47), Semih Erden (#60)
2007 - Gabe Pruitt (#32), Glen Davis (#35)
2006 - Leon Powe (#49)
2005 - Gerald Green (#18), Orien Greene (#53), Ryan Gomes (#50)
2004 - Al Jefferson (#15), Delonte West (#24), Tony Allen (#25), Justin Reed (#40)
2003 - Marcus Banks (#13), Kendrick Perkins (#27)

Current Projected 2011-12 Roster

PG -
Rajon Rondo/Avery Bradley
SG - Ray Allen
SF - Paul Pierce/Jeff Green
PF - Kevin Garnett
C - Jermaine O'Neal

The Celtics could look in a number of directions this draft. They most likely aren't going to solve any of their problems with the draft, so it is best they just add some young, athletic talent to their aging roster. The one thing they don't need is another small, defensive guard. Or a point guard who can't shoot. Ainge still has plenty of faith in Bradley so I doubt he goes that direction. That eliminates Darius Morris. He could use the pick to find a Tony Allen or Big Baby replacement, however. To fill Allen's shoes, they could look at Travis Leslie or Malcolm Lee. Leslie is often compared to Allen, but his shooting isn't a great fit next to Rondo. Lee's offensive skills are better, but he still isn't much different from Avery Bradley.

For a Big Baby replacement, they could look at Tobias Harris, Jordan Williams, Trey Thompkins, or Justin Harper in the first round. Jordan Williams played for former Celtics' coach John Carroll during his AAU days at John Carroll.

Examining Ainge's draft style, he doesn't discriminate with age. He has swung for the fences with high school players Perkins and Green, while taking other young players like Walker and Bradley. With Walker and Bradley, he grabbed two guys that were big time recruits in high school only to have their NBA draft stocks drop down. Ainge has no problem rolling the dice with talented guys, even with character problems. He took JR Giddens and Delonte West for example. He also took an ancient college player in Lester Hudson. In the second round, he has shown a liking to undersized power forwards - Harangody, Gomes, Powe, and Davis. All three high character guys...he seems to put higher stress on character with his second rounders.

Based on this info, he could gamble in the first on Jereme Richmond, Jeremy Tyler, Greg Smith, or Scotty Hopson. He could also hope the best Providence player since Ryan Gomes slips to him at #25 in Marshon Brooks. In the second, there is a chance one of the names mentioned above will still be available. Undersized power forwards aren't in great supply this year, but they could look at Rick Jackson or Jamie Skeen.

Of course, given Ainge's BYU background, the name Jimmer Fredette has to be brought up. In the unlikely case that he is there at #25, you would have to expect the Celtics to take him. Even though he is another undersized guard, his shooting provides something the Celtics haven't had since Eddie House left. He would be a nice complement to Rajon Rondo.

In the end, I see them going after one of the big men first. Nikola Vucevic, Jeremy Tyler, Jordan Williams, Trey Thompkins, Justin Harper, and Greg Smith are all options.

EDIT: There has been speculation that Reggie Jackson received a guarantee from a team and its rumored to be the Celtics. Ainge was at plenty of Boston College games this season and wanted to keep his stock under the radar. It is a good attempt and I expect the Celtics to take him if he's there (Ainge has made promises in the past - he took Oriene Greene over Amir Johnson only because he already had a promise in place with Greene), but I doubt he slips to #25.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Taking a Look at This Years Point Guards

The NBA has been invaded with great young point guard talent over the past few years, but that doesn't mean it has to slow down anytime soon. This draft will produce at least three more lottery point guards, with a few others having outside shots. While this may be a down draft, solid point guards will be found throughout the entire draft.

Teams like the Wizards, Bulls, Thunder, Celtics, Warriors, Bucks, Grizzlies, Nuggets, Pacers and the 76ers all have their point guards of the future. The Hornets and Nets hope their respective point guards are committed to the future. The rest of the league would all take a franchise point guard if they found one. Irving obviously tops the list, but there are a few more guys that could turn into starters in this league. Lots more can fill roles. Some bring scoring, others defense, and there are always stable backups to be found. Even a team that has a great point guard in place can take a look at some of these guys later in the draft. Coaches can never have enough options off the bench.

I've had the pleasure of evaluating these prospects throughout the year and I dedicated a couple hours a night the past two weeks to digest these players one more time. I was able to rank these players and develop a good feel for each of them.

It comes to no surprise that Kyrie Irving tops the list at number one. Its a no contest when it comes down to it. He is above average in everything he does and there is literally nothing that makes you worry about him. His toe is fine. He can shoot. He is athletic. Has all the intangibles. Can score and pass. Sounds simple enough, but trust me, there is no doubt that Irving will be a great pro. Stay tuned for Irving's real scouting report tomorrow. I won't oversimplify his game there.

The next grouping features Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker. I could go back and forth on this, but I'll put Knight at number two. Really no point in wasting energy trying to figure out which one is better, their games are much different.

For Knight (check out my more complete report of him here), he has a lot of good general skills scouts look for in a prospect. He was Gatorade National Player of the Year twice (only other guys to win in junior year are LeBron James and Greg Oden). He produced and won at Kentucky. He is a gym rat. He has great size. Doesn't crumble in big situations. He can shoot and possesses great athleticism. Smart and high character kid.

All that makes him seem like a slam dunk star. A guy with NBA size and speed who starred as a freshman at a national powerhouse. And will only get better because he has, by all accounts, a great work ethic. He seems like a great pick - great upside and little downside that he will fail, right?

Well, there are a few things that hurt him. He can't drive left. He doesn't do a great job of creating for teammates. He thinks score first.

His first step is only average. It can get better, but it is not exactly something that his great work ethic can completely fix. We saw his first step present problem for him this year. He disappeared in too many games when he could not make plays. What happens when he faces off against guys with greater athleticism? I heard Tom Penn say today that the NBA is where the "true athletes" shine. Is Knight truly a great athlete? There are some legitimate concerns that he might become more of a shooter. Not being able to attack the basket and not being the greatest creator, Knight could be destined as more of a combo guard and scorer off the bench. But then as you start to dwell on the negatives, you go back and look at this positives...it is a full circle with this guy. He is hard to rank much lower than top 10, but then again, I also find it hard to see him as a great NBA point guard. Ugh...I could go on. But if you are down on him after that paragraph, take a look at the past Gatorade NPOY winners.

And Kemba Walker? I like him. I was his biggest supporter during his sophomore season. I feel that he can be more of a true point guard than people expect. Last year he had to co-exist with Jerome Dyson and then this year he was forced to virtually play alone. He adapted his game admirably. He changes directions so well, very quick and shifty. He can almost get any mid-range shot he wants when you combine his ball-handling ability with his use of his shot fake. He can flat out score, best all-around scorer in college, but the biggest question I have about him is how efficient he will be getting to the basket. He has all the intangibles and such to run point, but does he have the size to be effective finishing in the lane. That is where the true focus should be on Kemba's game. Watch him last year, he can run a team. He's excellent in transition. He is third in my PG rankings - his upside isn't much more than a solid NBA player, but welcome to the 2011 NBA Draft.

This is where it gets exciting. While teams have to spend a top ten (likely top 5) pick to get Walker or Knight, they could grab some equally intriguing point guards later on in the first round. If I had a team, I would avoid drafting Knight or Walker that high because I don't think they are that much different from the next two players in my rankings.

Coming in at third on the list is Reggie Jackson. Jackson has plenty of upside, showcasing more athletic ability than either Knight or Walker. Plus he has ideal tools to be a lockdown defender. I already did a report on him which you can check out here if you actually want to good synopsis of his game. But in terms of his stock, it is underrated and his value at say #20 is way better than Kemba or Knight's at #3. He has just as high of a ceiling and its not like he is a complete project.

The final guy that I believe can turn into a good starter is Darius Morris. It took me awhile to warm up to him. Maybe it is the weak draft, but now I have no problem with him as a first rounder. I actually would have no problem with him going in the late teens. He offers potential as a good starter and thats more than you can say about most of these prospects.

Morris is an interesting player. He basically exploded onto the scene this year out of nowhere so that alone throws up some red flags. Did he really get that much better in one year? His confidence certainly had to have a big deal in it. It didn't hurt that he was surrounded by shooters that gave him room to do his thing. The shooters spaced the floor for Morris to go inside and do his thing. He could transform from their point guard to their center. Michigan's style was certainly unconventional and Morris has plenty of adjustments to make.

He was not shy about pushing his way to the rim using his great frame. He backed guys down, used spin moves, and bullied his way to the hoop. How does that translate to the NBA? Definitely not perfectly. He isn't going to be able to straight overpower every NBA point guard he encounters. He is going to have to adjust and work on that part of his game. His first step is never going to be great, but he already has some strong dribble moves he can go to. Crafty describes his style. He uses picks very well due to his craftiness. Still, he is unable to keep defenders honest with his shot. Nor can he drive left or deal with ball pressure straight on (uses his body to shield away defenders). You can't survive in the NBA with no left hand, especially when you first step isn't anything special either. Advanced NBA scouts will figure out his game quick during his rookie year. It may take him a few years to get his game completely up to par.

His passing ability is what is what intriguing about him. He has made some incredible passes - no look, one handed, you name it. He definitely has taken some pages out of Rajon Rondo's book. He trailed only Kendall Marshall in assists (per 40 minutes pace adjusted as always!) when it came to big school players and assists. He is a great passing point guard, but he isn't near Irving's level in that category. Morris dominated the ball for Michigan, lots of time making simple kickouts to one of the shooters.

In short, there is a lot to like about his potential. He is one of the few pass first point guards out there and is raved about as a teammate and worker. He has plenty of things to work on, but with his size and solid athleticism, he can turn into a good NBA starter. Think Andre Miller.

Ok, the exciting part is over. Wait, Jimmer Fredette is up next. The exciting part is just beginning!

The Jimmer. He's a BYU legend and he can now set his sights on becoming a decent NBA player. We know he can shoot it. He gets good elevation on his shot and can pull up from anywhere. Whether he is shooting in the playground or in the NBA finals, his shooting will translate. He also has a tight handle and a strong build to help him in the paint. But he isn't quick or a true point guard. He also can't play good defense. He might put more effort into it at the NBA level, but his physical abilities will still hold him back.

Looking at the complete picture, it appears Jimmer will most likely be a solid shooting option off the bench. I could see his career going the same path as JJ Redick's (note: I did not say they have similar styles, Im talking about the ascension of his role. Redick gives Jimmer's defense some hope, though). It is hard to see Jimmer as more than a sixth man at best, while I could easily see him busting. For that reason, I would not take him above any of the point guards listed above him on the list. His skillset is special, though, which is why he leads the best of backup/role playing point guards in these rankings.

Following Jimmer is Malcolm Lee, the sixth best point guard in the draft. He might not even be a point guard, but he managed to sneak into this list just like he has snuck by casual UCLA observers.

One thing is for sure, Malcolm Lee can defend point guards. That will be his NBA calling card. He has excellent size to guard either guard position and puts in great effort in that end. He has great athleticism and length, but also takes pride in his defense. I love the way he fights through screens. He is tougher than his injury history says. Some credit for Ben Howland for Lee's commitment defensively.

Howland may also have to take some blame for the way Lee played offensively. He never stood out on that side of the ball, but turned into a good ball mover. His unselfish play translates well into the NBA. It may even enable him to become a point guard. I think part of the reason Lee lost his point guard job at UCLA was because he was a better fit than Anderson playing off ball. He wasn't horrible and it is a positive sign that he accepted his role as a shooting guard so well. He was a highly touted prospect so things could have gone a lot worse.

Anyways, he does have decent offensive skills. He shot 77% from the free throw line and shows potential from outside the 3-pt arc. All prospects are apparently channeling their inner Ray Allens at workouts, Malcolm Lee included. It is tough to believe these reports, but his stroke does look like it has improved. Thats a good sign because his form definitely needed revision.

In terms of driving, the ability is there. He shows a good drive or two to the hoop each game, but doesn't do it enough. He can drive and dish, but when he decides to be aggressive, he has been able to display great finishing skills. He is fairly explosive with good size and can really hang in the air while protecting the ball. His driving ability is something that could come to fruitition in the NBA after he is released from Howland's clutches.

You can compare him to Collison, Holiday, or Westbrook but its more likely that he turns out closer to another UCLA guard - Aaron Afflalo. A strong defender, good attitude, and a good ball mover is welcomed by any team which is why Lee earns a spot right below Fredette.

Next up: Nolan Smith. Now we are getting into plain, old "solid backup territory". Nothing really special here. I wrote about Smith along with Jimmer in my senior rankings and nothing has changed. He can be a solid role player - hitting shots, backing up both guard positions, and providing a good lockerroom presence. He could be a good 8th man on a contending team. A team like the Bulls, for instance, who I can't see passing on him if they keep their late first rounders.

Nolan Smith had terrific college success, as did Shelvin Mack who is the next player on this list. He can hit shots from outside, run a team, and has the strength to be a factor inside the arc. He can be a backup point guard for a long time - think of a poor man's Chauncey Billups.

Keeping the run of solid, but unspectacular players going is Ben Hansbrough. Hansbrough has gone from one of the best shooters in the country, to a very good point guard as well. Don't forget he won Big East player of the year, not Kemba Walker. Hansbrough is a fierce competitor just like his brother and stepped up in Harangody's place to lead Notre Dame into a great season. He expects greatness from himself and his teammates, just like a Kobe Bryant would. With his kind of toughness and smarts, I find it hard to believe he can't backup some team's starter. Oh yea, one more time, he is a stud shooter too.

This is the point where you start slinging darts. I hit Cory Joseph. Why not? He is only 19 years old and a year removed from the All-American game. I've already sorted through the point guards I like, so might as well take a chance on potential.

Still, I have to use this space to say how Joseph should have stayed in school. He is nowhere near ready for the NBA. He might turn out solid down the road, he even has a better chance to start than the last 3-5 players in the rankings, but that time is not anytime soon. He might be on his fourth team by the time he is contributing. He is going to see a lot of the D-League for his first two years. Since he is so far off and likely a second round pick, some teams may not find it worth it to try to hold onto until he develops. He can turn out good, but like I said, it very well could be with a different team than the one he is drafted by. Have to consider that when looking back at the draft.

These next two players are completely different, so it depends what a team is looking for. Iman Shumpert brings an excellent physical profile to the table. Like Malcolm Lee, he can be a great defender and was held back by a coach. Unlike Lee, his offensive game doesn't translate as well and he doesn't seem as committed to the game of basketball.

He played on a terrible at Georgia Tech, led by a coach who is famous for not developing his talent, so there is more upside with Shumpert than the average junior. But you have to make the player accountable for his decision on the basketball court. Watching tape, he played extremely careless and lazy at times. Playing on a bad team shouldn't be an excuse. He was part of that bad team. His shot selection didn't make it better. Not only did he force things, but he forced a lot of jumpshots. Its mind boggling because Iman is such a terrible shooter, yet you see him pulling up in transition; taking contested jumpers early in the shot clock; taking wacky fadeaway shots; and pulling up from midrange whenever he got a chance. Iman may be an elite athlete, but he rarely got to the basket. He got fouled from forcing things and transition play, not from successfully driving to the hoop. Part of it is from poor handles (he cant create separation) and the other part is from playing reckless. He has so much work to do offensively - not just improving his skillset, but changing his mindset.

On the other hand, we have Drew Goudelock. He is the east coast's version of Jimmer Fredette. The guy can absolutely stroke it from anywhere on the court. He is faster than he looks, if he gets in better shape he can stick on a team. He needs to replace some of that body fat with muscle.

The next few guys I don't see making it. It includes Demetri McCamey, Isaiah Thomas, and Norris Cole.

Cole has the best shot given his work ethic and height. He has improved so much in college, but everything about him still is very average. His frame doesnt hold much weight and his halfcourt offense shows signs of being exposed at the next level. I don't see him doing anything well enough to consistently score. He can shoot, but he isn't on Goudelock's or Jimmer's level. He has a solid midrange game. Solid. He doesnt stand out. Next.

Isaiah Thomas looks the part of a spark plug. You can't run from the fact that he is 5'8'', though. Nate Robinson made it, but he has incredible athleticism. JJ Barea is so crafty offensively and a great shooter. Isaiah Thomas is an average shooter and not a top notch athlete. He struggles in the halfcourt. He actually was one of Washington's worst defenders. He was mainly a gunner until Gaddy went down. I just don't see much potential with him.

Demetri McCamey offers more potential than both of them. He just needs to get in shape. He's needed to get in shape for awhile now and still has failed to get it done. Even the Illinois fans recognize McCamey's deficiencies. He can't defend, lacks explosiveness, bad work ethic, average at best athlete, and he failed to lead his team and make his teammates better. This was a make or break year for McCamey and he went the wrong way. Honestly, with his size and shooting, he could find a spot in the league. But that requires hardwork. He hasn't shown it up to this point. He probably should be above Cole and Thomas, but he only has himself to blame.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cleveland Wins the Lottery

The city of Cleveland has needed some help. Even before the LeBron saga, Cleveland has had a long history of disappointments. Jordan over Ehlo. Byner's fumble. Modell moving the Browns to Baltimore. Things never seem to go Cleveland's way. Everything seemed to be sticking to script this year. The Cavaliers were the worst team in the NBA for the majority of the year, only to be "beaten out" by Minnesota at the end of the season. They were able to get two lottery tickets to the draft, acquiring the Clippers pick at the deadline, but all the college stars started heading back to school. A once promising lottery began to look like total crapshoot of role players.

But the ping pong balls bounced Cleveland's way. Or as David Kahn would say, David Stern picked the Cavaliers as this years story line. Rigged or not, this should be an exciting time for Cavalier fans. Their front office has both the #1 and #4 pick to work with. In no way does it make up for LeBron leaving, but there is now hope for the future.

Which players do the future hold in store for the Cavs? Lets take a look at the guys who will be making the decisions first...

Chris Grant (General Manager) - Grant spent nine years with the Atlanta Hawks, while serving as their assistant general manager from 2004-2010. Of course, that means he took part in the decision making process in 2005 when the Hawks took Marvin Williams over Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Could he do the same thing by taking another athletic combo forward (Derrick Williams) over Kyrie Irving?

Or what about two years later when the Hawks still needed a point guard. Grant and company once again chose perceived talent over need by taking Al Horford. The same guy who is often used as a comparison for Enes Kanter. Hmmm...

Ok, I'm just playing. I have little doubt the Cavs will take Irving with the first pick and absolutely no doubt that they will at least take a point guard in the top 5. Rumors have said all along that the Cavaliers WILL take a point guard with one of their lottery picks. Now that they could have either Knight or Irving, two guys they are very high on, it is a no-brainer.

Besides, assistant general manager David Griffin knows all about what a great point guard can do for a franchise after spending the last 17 seasons with the Suns. In March, I compared Steve Nash coming out of college to Brandon Knight' first college season. Maybe he is one of the members of the Cavs organization very high on Knight?

Then there is coach Byron Scott. Talk about understanding the importance of point guard play. He played with possibly the greatest ever in Magic Johnson and has coached Jason Kidd and Chris Paul! Chris Paul just so happens to be the player that Irving is most often compared to. So Scott would be one step ahead of the game knowing how to run the offense to best utilize Irving.

But will it be Irving picked first?

This is a unique situation in draft history. If the Cavs didn't have another pick in the lottery, this pick would be a slam dunk. There would be no thought needed for this pick. Take Irving and be happy with your franchise point guard until he leaves for South Beach.

But the Cavs also own the fourth pick. Should they read into this situation more and get a little creative in choosing their 1-2 combo? They could nab Derrick Williams first and still get a point guard they are very high on in Knight. It would fit the bill of what they are going for in Cleveland - hardworking, high character, young players.

If they elect to take Irving number one (which is definitely the likely scenario), they may be left to choose from a group of players they don't like as much as Knight.

Again, it comes down to their own evaluations. Personally, I would find it very hard to pass on the best player in the draft. Irving is the surest thing in this draft. The gap between him and Brandon Knight in my mind is greater than a few spots in rankings. Knight might not even be a starting point guard! It would be a very risky move on Cavs part, a move I'm not sure has ever been mirrored.

Assuming Irving is the pick, who do the Cavs look at with the number four pick?

Jonas Valanciunas - The Cavs could go with more of a project in Jonas. Down the road, he could form a deadly pick and roll combo with Irving. Irving runs the pick and roll well and Valanciunas makes a living off finishing rolls. His great hands and touch make him effective around the basket, at the free throw line, and rebounding the ball. And he has a terrific wingspan to play center and the body to put on weight.

The biggest problem is his contract. Teams are worried that he is going to stay overseas for a few more years. That might not be a terrible thing for Cleveland - they could guarantee themselves another lottery pick in a strong draft next year if he stays in Europe - but you don't want another Rubio situation. Cleveland would have to be realistic with this pick and do their research. Lets be honest, the city of Cleveland isn't an appealing destination and neither is their basketball team at this point. Buyer beware.

Enes Kanter - Kanter loses a few points since he hasn't been seen in a competitive environment in over a year. Cleveland doesn't strike me as a team willing to take a huge chance with this pick. That said, Kanter has apparently been looking impressive against the same chair the couldn't stop Yi Jianlian (credit goes to a Bill Simmons podcast for that line). His jumpshot looks very good, and as I said before, he has drawn comparisons to former Chris Grant draftee, Al Horford. Kanter has gotten into great shape as well, but he still doesn't have good explosiveness around the hoop - definitely not on Horford's level in that regard.

Jan Vesely - If they elect to go with a combo forward, it will be fun in the future to compare the careers of Irving/Vesely vs Knight/Williams. Vesely is a terrific athlete, a player who would definitely excel next to a great point guard. Unlike the players listed above, Vesely has both played competitive basketball recently and should have no problem leaving Europe for the NBA. He throws down ferocious dunks in transition like Blake Griffin and has the ability to impact the game defensively like Andrei Kirilenko. His offensive game is a work in progress, but it is definitely progressing. Vesely is a very solid option at #4 that should not be ignored.

Other names will get mention as well. There is Alec Burks, who is currently projected by Ryan Feldman of TheHoopsReport to go #4. If the Cavs shy away from a Euro, he could come into discussion. It is worth noting that neither the Hawks or Suns housed many Euros on their teams during Grant and David Griffin's respective tenures.

Another name that got mentioned was Kawhi Leonard by Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld. Apparently the Cavs were high on him as well, but that was before they found out they would be picking #1 and #4. Leonard is a stretch that high and that idea has already been shot down by respected draft experts.

Marcus Morris has the experience, work ethic, and production that could cause the Cavaliers to check him out. The fourth pick just seems a little too high for him.

Bismack Biyombo also warrants a mention. I think the Cavs will ultimately end up falling for a guy with more potential than the defensive-minded Biyombo, especially when they already have Varejao. Whether it be Valanciunas or Kanter, one will likely catch their attention more than the Congo native.

I dont think it will take long for the unofficial word to come out that the Cavs will take Kyrie Irving. It already seems like a done deal if you look at the mock drafts. What is not a done deal, though, is what will be done with the fourth pick overall. That pick holds a lot of weight in the Cavs future. Knowing the luck of Cleveland, there is plenty of bust potential there.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Scouting Report: Charles Jenkins


I took more of a "scout form" style of writing for this report on Charles Jenkins. Jenkins was one of the leading scorers in the country coming out of Hofstra. He is a 6'3 guard who is viewed as a late first to mid-second round pick.

"Great midrange game, always in control. Steady player. Solid ball handling ability. Shows a good crossover to help get open. Not great at dribbling through traffic, but uses size and strength well to protect the ball. More than just a straight line driver, he has shown impressive drives snaking through traffic. Unselfish and good decision maker. Most of his assists were to 3-pt shooters, Hofstra was the best 3-pt shooting team in CAA. Not a PG, but plays with a high IQ. Can play spot duty at PG due to BBIQ. Ran some point at Hofstra while getting experience playing off ball too. Good passer. Doesn’t always see the entire court due to his style of play. Likes to turn his back to defenders to prevent ball from getting stolen and overpower them. Not much of a post game, however he likes to back down defenders until he gets into the paint where he is nearly automatic. Strength and touch make him a good finisher at the college level. Not that explosive at the rim, though. Will have adjustments to make at the NBA level since he relies too much on strength in college. Strength helps hide an average first step at the moment. Quick release on shot with range back to NBA 3-pt line. Smooth shooter who can shoot from anywhere. Makes it look easy shooting off the dribble. Can get his own shot fairly easy, but passes up too many shots to get teammates involved. Excellent character and leadership. Very good kid who grew up from a tough background in NYC. Hardworker. Has improved his game each year, especially his ball handling. Has had his share of clutch moments during his career. Stayed positive during multiple coaching and style changes. Played 37 minutes per game showing great conditioning. Good actively defensively, especially considering his minutes and offensive role. Gets low and displays good lateral quickness. Seems to have good awareness on defense and plays great help defense. Knows when to double team. Effort wont be a problem defensively at the next level. His size will prevent him from being a great defender, but he’ll be ok. Played a lot of zone in college and didn’t mix it up to much on the glass. Solid wingspan, although he is definitely undersized at 6’3 for a 2 guard. Built like a NFL RB. Finding a role will be tough for him, he doesn’t have the 6th man scorer’s mentality of the bench, but if he develops his PG skills his versatility will be welcomed."

Bottom Line: Jenkins will have to adjust to a new style, where he won't be able to constantly use his strength to aide his scoring. In college, he used his strength to carve out space in order to get into the paint. It helped hide his average first step and ball handling, but it won't work the same way at the next level. The fact that his athleticism doesn't translate well in terms of getting to the rim at the NBA level is concerning, since his game in college was based upon getting into the painted area.

He will most likely never start, but he it would help him stick around if he improved his point guard play. He racked up assists in college, but it was mainly due to the amount of defensive attention he drew. As a very unselfish player, of course he was going to find open teammates for easy dimes. For a point guard prospect, he dribbles with his head down and back to the basket way to much. His bullish style is part of his game, but it doesnt help his future as a point guard.

As I said, he most likely will never start. Nor does he have to mindset of a scoring guard off the bench. He will need to find a niche, most likely as a do-it-all combo guard off the bench. His best shot is carving out a role as a poor man's James Harden, providing solid play off the bench without hurting the team on either side off the ball. Harden has better size and explosiveness, but they do play in a similar fashion.

Perhaps the player that reminds me of Jenkins the most, especially when looking for a great low/mid-major college scorer that actually isn't a chucker, is Trey Johnson. Johnson has been one of the best players in the D-League for years and has earned a few NBA cameos. The only thing preventing him from getting a contract now is age. Seeing that Charles Jenkins had a more successful college career (Johnson was a late-bloomer who didnt start playing until his sophomore year), he has a better shot of being drafted and ending up in a good situation. For these fringe players, all it takes is a good situation to change fates. Trey Johnson could have easily been an NBA player if scouts had caught onto him earlier.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Scouting Report: Reggie Jackson

Boston College's Reggie Jackson blossomed his junior year under new head coach Steve Donahue.

After two years in Al Skinner's poorly ran flex offense, Donahue implemented a more spread out, balanced attack that emphasized motion and off ball screens. In the process, he also slowed the pace down which has helped transform star guard Reggie Jackson into more of a complete basketball player.

Last year, Reggie Jackson could get buckets. Jackson has excellent athleticism and is tough to stop once he gets going. His jumper could find the bottom of the net and he had no problem forcing shots up. This year, with a more controlled offense, he has able to show more PG skills and signs of improvement.

The problem with Jackson last season was that he often played out of control. He relied on his athleticism to get by, which worked occasionally, but not against top ACC foes and certainly not against NBA athletes. He changed this year, showing the ability to change speeds and alternate from scorer to distributor.

Jackson fit much more into the team concept this year, helping his team to a surprising good season, just barely missing the NCAA tournament. He didn't have full PG duties, as Boston College needed his scoring more than anything, but he had the ball in his hands more than enough to get a sense of his playmaking abilities. In fact, Jackson tends to dribble the shot clock out too much, forcing himself into some tough shots. Overall, though, he does a good job keeping his head up while dribbling and his size allows him to see the court well. He has lots of promise as an NBA PG. He is far from a boll hog, and even tends to pass off a drive a little too much. For his athleticism, it is very disappointing that he only for 4.9 FTAs a game. Often times once he gets into the lane, he chooses not to go for the layup and instead kicks the ball back out. At the next level, he will need to get stronger in order to draw contact and finish more plays.

He also puts himself in bad positions with the ball in his hands - whether it be driving the basketball or just simply dribbling around the arc. Lots of his drives end up taking him away from the hoop - part of the reason he kicks the ball back out so often (not necessarily a bad thing, especially at BC where he was surrounded by shooters). Other times, he ends up off the ground before deciding what he is doing with the ball, resulting in bad passes and ugly shots. Besides these forced passes that usually end up at a teammates feet, Jackson is able to put a good amount a zip on the majority of his passes. He needs to get better at passing while on the run, but he shows good velocity on passes, even with his momentum carrying him in the opposite direction. His pure point guard skills can be improved upon by just getting more experience at the position.

As for his ugly shots, his shooting form is somewhat of a concern. He does a poor job of getting his body squared away, playing off-balanced and having to fadeaway at awkward angles in order to get some of his forced shots cleanly. He really changes his shooting technique throughout games, based on certain situations. His natural release needs to be shortened, but when he has time, that is his most effective shot. His ability to move without the ball from his time playing shooting guard, will speed up his effectiveness in the NBA, allowing him to get more open shots than most PGs. He is a much better spot up shooter than shooter in traffic at the moment. Inside the arc, he has shown a floater which will be vitale to his NBA career. He gets compared to Russell Westbrook by some, and if there is one thing he needs to take from his game, its the floater. Westbrook got to the line even less than Jackson did in college (to be fair, Westbrook was in a different situation), but the openness of the NBA game and the development of his floater has helped him become a great NBA player. With similar athletic abilities (I have to give Westbrook the edge, though), Jackson can thrive off the open-style of the NBA as well.

As noted earlier, he does a nice job of keeping his head up with the ball in his hands. He has solid handles, but his left hand could use some improvement. He seems to play more off trial and error now then actual feel for what the opponent is giving him. He throws flashy crossover moves at defenders until he can shake loose. His crossover gets the job done, but it needs to be shortened up a little in the NBA, otherwise it will get swiped right out of his hands. Besides his flashy crossover, he does a good job of turning the corner past defenders by using his speed. Once he gets by them, he is clever enough to use his frame and arm to shield off the defender, enabling him to fully turn the corner. Hesitation moves and changing speeds are still far from perfect, but they have improved from previous years, He has long strides that work getting by a defender, but he needs to also be able to chop of his steps more in order to be more effective inside the arc. Right now, his midrange game and inside game has failed to take flight, mainly due to footwork.

Jackson can make plays, and what is great is he makes them on both ends of the court. Boston College often used Reggie Jackson at the top of their 1-3-1 zone, using his excellent wingspan and solid lateral quickness to create havoc for the opposing teams PG. He gives great effort on that end and has all the tools to become a top tier NBA defender. There have been questions about his defensive positioning, but I believe he improved throughout the year. His basketball IQ on this end is certainly no worse than average. He also gathers his share of rebounds. At the college level, he did a great job on both PGs and wing players alike (he did a great job on Khris Middleton on the possessions they matched up), and his versatility defensively should carry even more weight at the NBA level.

Overall, Reggie Jackson is an underrated prospect who has been flying under the radar all year long. He is now officially in the draft and should start to see his stock rise after more workouts and studying of game film. He played well all year, but he wasn't highly scouted at first. Jackson may be viewed as a workout warrior once he rises into the top 20, but it should be noted that he had a solid season as well. He definitely has lottery potential in this draft.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sleeper Alert: Tyler Honeycutt

Tyler Honeycutt ranks 24th and 25th on ESPN's and Draftexpress's big board respectively. If you ask me, he should be in the lottery discussion.

Skill, size, and athleticism. Those are three major checkpoint when looking at a prospect. Honeycutt has them all.

Note: All stats are per 40 minutes pace adjusted.

Honeycutt has been praised for his all-around game, although he is knocked because he doesn't do one thing that stands out. Keep in mind that he is only a sophomore, though, and not having a key weakness is a big deal. His shot has a ton of potential. He has a smooth, compact stroke with great elevation. He is one of my favorite players in this draft to watch shoot. He went from only taking 1.6 threes a game as a freshman to taking 5.2 this season. This improvement seems to go unnoticed as his stock has failed to rise from the beginning of the year. His stroke is effortless and NBA range is already there. He shot 36.2% from three this year and should only get better.

His passing ability also shows good signs. He actively looks to get teammates involved, which is good since he will be a complementary scorer in the NBA, but in college, he was way to passive. His tentativeness saw him hesitate on open shots and resulted in him trying to force many bad passes. He has great vision, but he tries way too hard to get his teammates involved. If he had a scorer's attitude, he could have put up some impressive numbers this year.

You can't ignore his mindset, but I would expect it to get better with age. He improved his shot last year, and at 20 years old, he should continue to get better at knowing what to do with the ball. Its not like he has a bad feel for the game - as I said, he makes plenty of good passes too and shows excellent awareness on the defense end. He is just too passive right now. His game gets compared to Tayshaun Prince and I see similar things in their character too. Like Prince, his style should end up fitting in better with NBA guys. Repetitions and familiarity will also help.

The complexity of UCLA's offense sure doesn't help either. We saw it with Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday - playing off the ball on the wing in Howland's offense isn't ideal. Especially for great athletes like all of them were. What makes Honeycutt's situation even worse is point guard play. Westbrook and Holiday had the luxury of playing with Collison. UCLA had no point guard this year. Honeycutt ended up second to Lazeric Jones on the team for assists and Jones only had 3.6 per game.

Honeycutt shot only 40.6% from the field this year, but it doesn't speak for the kind of player he is. In the faster pace game of the NBA, he should be able to use his athleticism to get out for some easy transition buckets. Look at Honeycutt for what he has to offer. He is the complete package of athleticism and skills. How many other guys in this draft have that?

I don't think his athleticism is appreciated enough due to his passiveness and UCLA's style. Check him out on defense if you want a real representation. He's had some LeBron James-esque chase down blocks (or Tayshaun Prince circa 2004 ECF if you will). Last year, he showed off his ability to get steals to the tune of 2.2 a game and then decided to switch his interest to blocking shots this season (2.3 a game). If you need some proof of his leaping ability, you can check out this dunk too.

Ok, so we know he has the athleticism, size, and skill set for a small forward. His mindset isn't ideal, but there aren't red flags due to it either. He sounds like a lottery pick, right?

His turnovers are his biggest problem, but if you listen to John Hollinger, it can be viewed as a good thing. History shows that young wings with high turnovers can be a positive indicator. Last year, Honeycutt ranked 5th in turnovers per possession. Two spots below him was Darius Morris, arguably the most improved player in the country. Honeycutt also has a negative pure point ratio which is a bit of an anomaly for small forwards who rack up assists. His -3.35 PPR is one of the worst among guys with similar assists numbers, but there have been successful small forwards with similar numbers. Manny Harris (his was actually above -5), Hakim Warrick, Paul George, Sonny Weems, and Dominic McGuire all had worse. Caron Butler, Marquis Daniels, Evan Turner, Klay Thompson, Marquis Blakely, Corey Brewer,  Earl Clark, Courtney Lee, and Landry Fields were all worse than -2 as well. A poor pure point ratio doesn't seem to be a bad thing at all if you look at the rest of the list. The most successful players seem to have had trouble in that area.

Workouts are coming up and Honeycutt will have a great opportunity to make a leap ahead of the late lottery to mid-first round pack. Just remember that I called his leap before it happened.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Using History to Gauge Expectations for the Draft

Note: This article isn't meant as a way to help scout players. It is more meant to show what to expect from certain draft ranges. Don't take it as me saying that numbers don't fluctuate or history can't be rewritten.

The draft can almost be looked at as a science. There are years of data from previous drafts that can show teams what they can expect from picks from their slot, and unlike what many think, the lottery is not an automatic ticket for an all-star. In fact, using data from 1997-2007 (found here), only 25% of top ten picks reach all-star status.

That is not to say the draft is overrated. The draft can turn a franchise around if they land a gold medal superstar type player (defined as a top 5 player in the NBA). For small market teams, it is almost impossible to acquire a player of this caliber unless they are drafted. You saw what LeBron James did for Cleveland and what Kevin Durant is doing now in Oklahoma City. Both of these franchises struck gold through the draft. Unfortunately for Cleveland, they lost LeBron to a more appealing city, which makes the reason for small market teams drafting well that much more important. The Thunder on the other hand have managed to gather complementary players through the draft to help Durant. With their strategy of targeting athletic, long, and defensive-minded player with high character, the Thunder are now in the second round in the playoffs and have an extremely bright future.

The only problem is there are only so many franchise changing players. Not every draft has one. This draft is arguably one of the weakest all time, mainly for the reason that there is no huge superstar. Irving and Williams are nice, but could they turn around a franchise? A great deal of luck is required to end up in position to draft LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, Derrick Rose, and Kevin Durant. For other franchise level players like Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Tracy McGrady and Dirk Nowitzki it also takes some risks and good scouting.

The draft is a little different now that high school kids can't declare, but taking a chance on a high upside guy in the 5-15 range were the ways some teams got competitive. It may take a teams a few tries before finding their man, but once they hit a home run, they were set for a decade (see Mavs, Lakers, Wolves). In this year's draft, Perry Jones could have been that big lottery ticket that could be had after the the first few players were off the board. There is still some hope for a gold medal superstar in this draft, though, for teams outside the top 5. The hope is through the international players.

The international phase has slowed down since its peak about 6 years ago, but with a weak NCAA crop, there are quite a few internationals in the lottery discussions. Motiejunas, Valanciunas, Kanter, Vesely, and Biyombo all offer that sort of mysterious upside that NBA teams are intrigued by. Without high school players, international players are the great hope for "getting out of the hood" (aka the lottery). Dirk managed to do it, so for over a decade, everyone has been searching for the next Dirk. Maybe this draft has it, maybe not. But there will be plenty of teams willing to take a shot at one of these guys in the lottery.

Why?

Besides the fact that some of the NCAA guys have lower ceilings (no Gold Medal Superstar potential), but also because the lottery is a lot more of a hit and miss than what is perceived. When only 25% of the players in the top 10 become all-stars, why not swing for the best chance of turning your entire team around. Often times, teams find solid starters in the NBA by selecting sure things in the lottery (see Timberwolves by taking Wes Johnson over Cousins), but it does nothing to help them in the win column. Golden State may find an above average player like Curry, but all it does it take them farther away from their chance to strike gold in the following draft.

It is all very much a guessing game and weighing your options. Many scouts opinions on actual players aren't far off from one another, the main difference I see is the way they approach the draft. Do you want a high risk/high reward player or a player you know will end up being a solid starter, but nothing else?

Answering that question really all depends on the situation and how you feel about certain players. You don't take Perry Jones if you have a bad feeling about him just because of the notion that he has high upside. Talent evaluators should trust their instincts, but also be sure to look at the bigger picture. It also depends on your current roster. When the Thunder had another top 5 pick in 2008 after drafting Durant in 2007, they didn't need to find another superstar. They needed to find a player that could fit in with him. And they did by taking Russell Westbrook. To read more about finding players that fit your team, check out this article.

Anyway, to examine realistic expectations for this draft, I will use the chart posted at the beginning of this article as a basis and apply it to my current mock draft. Keep in mind that this draft is a little weaker than normal so it may be necessary to round down the numbers.

Current Top 5
1. Kyrie Irving
2. Derrick Williams
3. Bismack Biyombo
4. Jan Vesely
5. Brandon Knight

On average, one or two players from the top 5 turn out to be all stars (one and a half to be exact). Since players can't be split into two and this is a weak draft, I'll choose Derrick Williams as the only all-star. Another one or two players from this group should become starters (again, one and a half to be exact). I'll go ahead and choose two to bring us up to a total of three players. Kyrie Irving and Jan Vesely will be my choices, with Irving being closer to landing an all-star bid.

There is still hope for the other two guys. If you are picked in the top 5, it is almost a guarantee that you become a rotational player. Only 10% (one every other draft) have failed to contribute at least in that way. It would make sense for both Biyombo and Knight. Knight has the making of a solid 6th man off the bench while it isn't hard to see Biyombo not living up to the hype but still contributing on defense.

Part of the reason I like Biyombo so much is because of the realities of the draft. He offers that mystery and upside, but also should be a positive addition even if he doesn't develop because of his defense and character. He is the kind of guy the Thunder would have looked for in 2008 to help out Durant. It is hard to go wrong with a hard working, defensive-mind, player with great length and athleticism. Plus, centers are expensive. You can find cheap backups for any position except center. There are too many backup centers out there making the full mid-level exception. That is one of the reason centers are always drafted higher than their talent may suggest - they are cheaper than finding one in free agency.

Moving on to picks 6-10...

6. Kawhi Leonard
7. Enes Kanter
8. Kemba Walker
9. Jonas Valanciunas
10. Donatas Motiejunas

The international players hold a strong presence in this draft. If you are looking for the next big thing, go ahead and take one in this weak draft. A guy like Motiejunas has a high bust rate, but some scouts have likened him to the next Dirk. Think he will slip past the top 10? Doubt it.

Out of this block of players, one of them should make become an all-star. If I had to guess, it would be Enes Kanter. I love Kawhi Leonard more than most, but he doesn't offer that kind of upside. Neither does Walker. Motiejunas is more of a gamble, even though he has actually played competitive basketball recently. I don't see the intrigue in Valanciunas as much as others, at least not as an all-star.

At least one more guy figures to be a starter based on draft history. I have to stick to my guns here with Kawhi Leonard. He doesn't have the upside, but he has the makings of a very solid player, which is why I rank him so high despite of his ceiling.

The numbers get foggy from here between a rotational player and a bust, but there is usually at least one of each. With Kemba's scoring ability, he looks like a great bet for a role player. It would be tough for Valanciunas to not be a role player wither if he decides to come over. Motiejunas is the wildcard of this group. He defines high risk/high reward. He could end up being the best or worst of this array of players. Most teams would agree with that, but different teams would have different ideas of what it means his worth is.

This is where it can get depressing for teams with a lottery pick. Since the 1997 draft, there have been no all-stars draft in the 11-15 range (Kobe, Peja, and Steve Nash were all picked in this range in the 1996, however). Once every two years a team can find a player worthy of starting. Half end up having no real impact while the rest find spots in the rotation.

11. Terrence Jones
12. Alec Burks
13. Tristan Thompson
14. Jimmer Fredette
15. Marcus Morris

In this case, the above statistics really make a lot of sense to me. I see Jimmer as a likely bust. I haven't been a fan of Terrence Jones all year. Marcus Morris is an underwhelming pro prospect. Tristan Thompson has some upside, but isn't ready to contribute. Even my favorite player of the group, Alec Burks, is far from a sure thing. Rather than picking a player to end up being a successful starter from this group, I'd rather place my money on whoever the Houston Rockets pick. The later in the draft you go, the more important it is that the guy goes to a team with a good coaching staff and player development team. The Rockets always put their players in good situations to succeed (Landry, Patterson, Brooks, Lowry, Hayes to name a few).

Remember at the beginning of the article how I noted that this isn't a way to scout players. See the next draft range (16-20) as a reason why. This range has actually produced a few all-stars in the past ten years - Ron Artest, Jamaal Magloire, Zach Randolph, David West, Jameer Nelson, and Danny Granger. Its very weird indeed how the previous range was unable to produce all-stars, but you would be foolish to believe that picking in this range is somehow better. Talent evaluation is more important than draft position. In the end, you have to have trust your drafting abilities over a ten year snippet of history.

16. Kenneth Faried
17. Klay Thompson
18. Nikola Mirotic
19. Nolan Smith
20. Jordan Hamilton

One of these guys likely becomes a starter. Nolan Smith and Kenneth Faried are both viewed as solid backup types. Mirotic may not ever come over to the NBA. I'd say this would be between Hamilton and Thompson and I like Thompson better. At least one other should become a rotational player. This is tough because I see role playing abilities in all of these guys. As other people have said, this draft is weak up top, but around this area, there are some solid players to be had. If I had to choose one, it would be Nolan Smith I guess. The only reason I wouldn't take Mirotic, even though I like him more than any other player in this group, is become his interest in the NBA seems very low. He just signed a big contract with Real Madrid to enforce this belief.

21. Josh Selby
22. Markieff Morris
23. Tyler Honeycutt
24. Justin Harper
25. Travis Leslie
26. Tobias Harris
27. Chris Singleton
28. Jereme Richmond
29. Reggie Jackson
30. Iman Shumpert

By now, you get the point. We are grasping for straws here. A lot of these guys I believe can contribute in the NBA, but the situation they are placed in will play a big part in their career path. There have been some all-star caliber players, but not every year. In this group, Richmond and Honeycutt have the best chance of making that happen in my opinion. Selby offers some upside too, but as more of a 6th man scorer.

As you can see from the success rate of previous drafts, these players often just fade out of the league. Teams picking in this range are likely playoff teams, so they have to fight hard to get playing time. If I had a pick in this range, I'd prefer to swing for Honeycutt or Richmond in most situations (some reservations though with Richmond if the lockerroom isn't perfect. Cant have him being a distraction for a contending team...but there is always the D-League). For other contenders, they might be looking for something specific. Some teams might need a stretch four to play ten minutes a game. Justin Harper is your guy. Others need a lock down defender - consider Shumpert or Singleton. A big body? Markieff Morris. Scorer? Josh Selby. You get the point. Rankings can go out the window here unless there is a guy you really think is underrated. Here, it is all about putting your player in the best position to succeed.

In the second round, without guaranteed contracts, you just want to pick a guy that has a chance of sticking on your roster. International players or guys with passports are pluses because you can hold onto their rights while they play overseas. The second round has had some gems like Michael Redd, Gilbert Arenas, Carlos Boozer, Manu Ginobili, and Marc Gasol. There is hope, but be happy if you ever see the guy logging minutes for your team

Monday, April 25, 2011

For Comparisons Sake Part II (Jereme Richmond)

Due to the length of this article, I'll limit this to strictly one player. I feel strongly about this comparison so I have a lot to say.

The first time I saw Richmond play in an Illinois uniform, I thought of Devin Ebanks. As it turned out, they have a lot of similarities on and off the court.

The physical similarities stood out first. They both possess long and slender frames, while playing tougher than they appear. Their toughness benefits them on the offensive glass, where they each pulled down over 3 offensive boards per 40 minutes. Without great skill sets, both players make the most of the opportunities they get to crash the boards and get easy buckets.

As I said, their skill sets aren't great - neither can hit a three pointer and struggle driving all the way to the basket - but they still show good feel on offense. Even without great quickness and handles, they both surprise you with sneaky good passes and cuts around the basket. They both managed a positive assist to turnover ratio and in the process, averaged over 3 assists per 40 minutes (pace adjusted). That is rare to find for two guys with average ball handling abilities at best.

Offensively, their futures revolve around being a slasher. They both have good touch around the hoop and have shown signs of a mid-range game. Their jumpers inside the arc are way too inconsistent now, but both enjoy taking the shot and can learn to convert in the future. And even though I praised their feel for the game, their IQs on offense could use some work. Richmond didn't average 22 minutes a game because he had zero flaws and Ebanks made plenty of boneheaded plays at West Virginia (most notably his decision at the end of the Villanova game late in the year).

Note: Oddly enough, Ebanks and Richmond both averaged 13.9 points per 40 minutes (pace adjusted) their freshman seasons.

While their offense has a ways to go, both have all the physical tools to contribute immediately on defense at the next level. In college, they were forced to play the PF position more often than they would have liked, but they both showed they had the toughness to battle inside. They rebounded extremely well and floated around 1 steals and block per game. In the NBA, they will guard SFs for the most part, and despite great lateral quickness, they both have a shot at being successful in this venture.

If their on court style seems similar, dig further into their off the court track record. While being willing teammates on the court, both have reportedly been in altercations with teammates off the court (Ebanks got in a fight with Truck Bryant, Richmond fought Brandon Paul). Ebanks was also suspended at the beginning of his sophomore year for academic reasons (apparently).

Richmond was no stranger to fights back in high school either, which makes his character perhaps more suspect than Ebanks. Devin seems to be adjusting fine in the NBA. In high school, Richmond also got in a fight with a teammate and in a separate incident, he got kicked off the team after getting into an argument with his coach. His history sends up some major red flags.

Reaching for some more similarities, both of them were big time recruits in high school. Richmond was an All-American and Ebanks most likely would have been if not for his post-grad status.

The draft results may end up being similar as well. Richmond would be lucky to be drafted by a team with the Lakers, and since they have 4 second rounders, his odds aren't awful. Of course, going in the first round would be ideal, and I wouldn't count that out either. Nobody likes to give guaranteed contracts to players with major red flags though.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

For Comparisons Sake (Scotty Hopson, Iman Shumpert, Chandler Parsons)

This article is a bit hypocritical, but I enjoyed doing the research in order to find comparisons for this years draft class. So many comparisons get thrown around these days for fans looking for a simple answer, rather than taking the time to read a quality scouting report like those provided by draftexpress.com. There is much more to learn by taking time out to read in-depth reports, as no two players are exactly alike, but not everyone is a draftnik willing to spend their precious time reading delicate scouting reports.

That is where we get comparisons like the famous DeShawn Stevenson to Michael Jordan comparison by nbadraft.net. In their defense, comparisons can include a lot of things. You can compare one player to another because of how good they will be, their production level, college success, or their playing style. Rarely are you going to find two players with all those things in common.

For the sake of this article, I came up with some comparisons, but I will attempt to explain how they are alike as well as their difference. Most of these players are late first to early second round picks because I find that players with star potential are a lot more individually unique. LeBron James, Dirk, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Wade, etc are all their own player without anyone matching their style or production. Lesser players have more similarities because they are forced into their own role and style once they hit the NBA.

Note: My research was helped immensley by draftexpress.com's college stats search found here. If you want to search for all the years in their database at once, change the web address from what ever year you originally seached for and insert the word "all". Because I used their database, my comparisons are fairly recent, dating back only to 2001. I wouldn't be able to compare farther back anyway, though, due to my age.

Scotty Hopson
Hopson entered the college ranks as one of the best high school players in the country. He has improved each year at Tennessee, but has failed to become a star. He physically looks the part, but his college numbers are more similar to a role playing shooting type like Thomas Gardner. While Gardner was built for that role, Hopson has a higher ceiling and a different mindset. I find it hard to see him lasting in the league as strictly a shooter, unless his defense picks up.

The two guys I would relate him to over anyone else would be Rodney Carney and Rasual Butler. Carney had even better athleticism than Hopson, but wasn't able to put it to use either. With their average ball handling skills, they were both relegated to more of a jump shooting role, which takes away from their strengths. They both have solid form, but aren't what NBA guys would classify as shooting specialists. They need more from the defensive end. Despite their athletic tools, though, they both put up underwhelming numbers in college in terms of rebounds, steals, and blocks. They have the tools to defend, but haven't shown the consistent effort and awareness to be an above average defender.

With Rasual Butler, I think they played similarity offensive in college. Butler had a more consistent jumpshot, while Hopson is somewhere in between Carney and Butler in that area, although Hopson has also shown some promise with his shot. Statistically, they mirror each other with a bad assist to turnover ratio and the lack of free throw attempts. They both move well, but have proven to be more effective off the pass or one or two dribbles. They aren't the type of guys to make teammates better.

In terms of draft stock, I see Hopson going somewhere in between where Carney (#16) and Butler (#24 in round 2) went. He has above average athleticism, but not on Carney's level where he has a good shot at intriguing a team with a mid-first rounder. He's a late to early second round pick right now.

Iman Shumpert
Shumpert's strength is fairly obvious to even a casual viewer - his defense. Right now he is labeled as a late first to early second round pick which is right where Kyle Weaver's draft range was. Weaver was also a very versatile defender who could handle and distribute offensively, but lacked a jumper or anything to stand out on that end. He has bounced around from the D-League and the NBA, but I believe Shumpert has a lot better chance of making an impact.

While Weaver is a very good defender, he isn't as gifted athletically as Shumpert. When looking at college numbers, he rivals Dwyane Wade (a fellow Chicago guard - he also shutdown another guard out of Chicago, Evan Turner, in last year's tournament) and Rajon Rondo with his ability to rebound and rack of steals from the guard position. Shumpert, Wade, Mardy Collins, and Cedric Jackson are the only guys to have over 7 rebounds (per 40 min pace adjusted) and 3 steals ("") in a college season since 2001.

Not only does his athleticism give him more of a chance to be effective defensively than Weaver, but offensively too. He has a better chance of playing point guard and with Paul Hewitt coaching him his entire college career, I think some qualified NBA coaching could really help him. Shumpert was another top 25 recruit that failed to improve under Hewitt. Guys like Anthony Morrow, Derrick Favors, Will Bynum, Jarrett Jack, Chris Boh, and Thaddeus Young were all better off after leaving for the pros.

For a late first to early second rounder, Shumpert is a good guy to take a flier on. He can step in right away and be a great defender and there is plenty of untapped potential offensively too.

Chandler Parsons
Searching for comparisons for Parsons is a meticulous task, as Parsons is a rare kind of player. He won SEC player of the year despite not being a big time scorer or a great defender. Instead, he showcased a wide variety of skills and unselfishness that ultimately helped his team earn a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

The first player that stood out to me as similar was Luke Walton. Walton has probably close to 35 pounds on him which has made him more effective posting up in the triangle offense, but the rest of their games are similar.

Like Parsons, Walton has a great feel for the game which shows up in the win column. During Walton's two years at Arizona, his team reached the Sweet Sixteen twice - one time making it to the Elite Eight. For their high skill level and feel for the game, both surprisingly struggled to shoot the ball, although Walton has gotten better over times. As I've said previously, I think Parsons will become a better shooter too, as he already showed signs of finding his stroke by shooting over 40% from three in conference play this year.

The second, and most accurate comparisons for Parsons, would be Mike Dunleavy. The Dukie, was yet another point forward type that was part of a winning college tradition. His physical strength more closely represent Parsons' than Walton, while Walton and Parson are more similar in their lack of consistent shooting. They all have an outstanding feel for the game in common though.

Parsons may be slightly behind these two in terms of stock, but he did outshine both of them in rebounding despite playing with Macklin, Young, and Tyus. He is one of my sleepers and he would make a fine choice early in the second round. He would fit best with a team that pushes the ball, just like Dunleavy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

2011 NBA Draft Senior Rankings (#6-10)

A week ago, I started this series by ranking the top 5 seniors in the draft. A week later, this have changed for the better for this senior class. The top 5 guys all look like first round picks now that Barnes, Jeff Taylor, and others have announced that they are staying. This makes these senior rankings all that more important. In one of the weakest drafts ever, seniors offer a sense of security with a pick, and the second round could end up looking like one from 15 years ago when kids stayed in school. This senior crop isn't great, but many of these guys can get drafted and take advantage of the lack of underclassmen entering.

 Top 5 Seniors

6. Keith Benson - I wrote about Benson in March.

There is no doubt that Keith Benson will be taking his talents to the draft, as he has already turned in 4 productive years in college. He has put up great numbers and has all the measurables, but it may not be enough to get him in the first round. One may blame it on the small conference, but it is obvious from watching him play that he could for put up great scoring numbers anywhere in the country. He is that talented offensively. He can shoot it, put it on the floor, and moves wonderfully for a center. The problem, though, is his strength. At the age of 22, he still lacks the muscle to hang in the post at either end of the floor. That will surely effect both his gaudy rebounding and block shot statistics, and probably make him more of a liability on defense despite a great wingspan. It doesnt help that he doesnt have the best BBIQ. Offensively, his strength is going to make him mostly and jump shooter and driver.

His weakness makes him a strong candidate for the D-League where he will almost certainly spend his fair amount of time over the next year or two. In the right organization, he can eventually work his way into an NBA rotation, maybe even as a starter. More than likely, though, you will still find him as a fringe NBA player years down the road. He reminds me of Courtney Sims of the D-League, who puts up excellent numbers each year, but never gets more than a 10 day call-up. To avoid being like Sims, Benson needs to gain that strength and become more gritty. OKC would be an ideal fit for both parties. They have their own D-league team and do a good job of developing their own players, while the Thunder would benefit by having an athletic big with a face-up offensive game. The Thunder love athletic, super long centers so it could be the perfect match. Right now, he would be a stretch in the first round.


The first round is more of a possibility now, as there aren't many options at center, especially if you want a athlete like Keith Benson. Lucas Nogueira and Nikola Vucevic are his biggest competition for a team looking for a center late in the first round.

7. Chandler Parsons - I'm one of the biggest Chandler Parsons supporters around. I think a key reason that people are underrating him is the perception that he can't shoot. He looks like a stereotypical shooter, but that has been his weakness - up until conference play this year. He shot over 40% from three in conference play and his stroke is fine. With the rest of his game, he can be an excellent role player if his shooting keeps up. He has a great feel for the game, showing excellent passing instincts (and unselfishness), and solid ball handling. It is impressive the way he impacted the game in many ways, while Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton controlled the ball most of the time. He was clutch his juniors year, but Walker and Boynton stole his thunder this season. He needs to get stronger, but he would fare well in an up-tempo system. I honestly see some Mike Dunleavy in him (beyond skin color, people!) with point forward potential.

8. Jimmy Butler - Butler is a guy I've thought highly of for two years. He is yet another Marquette player to look appealing to NBA teams for their role playing abilities (Wes Matthews and Lazar Hayward). He plays very smart - filling up the stat sheet while making great decisions that put his team in better position to win. It is no surprise that his team won the Portsmouth Invitation Tournament with their teamwork and togetherness. Butler certainly had a big part in that and led by example. He is a bit of a tweener, but if you ask me, he is a basketball player. He can defend multiple positions (see the Xavier game where he helped shutdown Tu Holloway), pass the ball, make open shots, and crash the boards. He may not be a lockdown defender or a guy you can count on for buckets, but he will be a guy that will fill his role and do whatever it takes to win. He's looking like a lock to get drafted now.

9. Kyle Singler - In a Singler versus Parsons debate, I like Chandler but Singler could fit better into a halfcourt offense. His toughness is unrivaled and he sports great awareness and intelligence. Early on at Duke, he looked great playing at the power forward while capitalizing on mismatches, but he is definitely a small forward in the NBA. His time playing small forward his last two years exposed some of his weaknesses, but in the long run, it will help him. He struggled at SF, especially last year, until Coach K made it a point to run screens for him to get him open shots. That will not happen in the NBA and I don't see him creating many shots for himself. His footspeed is average as well and his athleticism doesn't help him finish inside. There are a lot of things going against Singler, but he is a winner who will lay his body on the line every game. Can that body survive an NBA season?

10. Andrew Goudelock - Goudelock helped his stock a lot at Portsmouth as I predicted. He's a fairly simple player to understand - a combo guard with deep range on his jumper who can run the point at times. I believe his jumper and fearless mentality on the court is strong enough that he can help a team. With Goudelock, its as simple as that - make shots. His shot making ability can get him into the league.