Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What's Next for my Team? Everything NBA Draft

The NBA combine was last week, and the lottery was just about an hour ago.  While personal workouts for teams still will help determine where guys will ultimately be going, having a compiled list of players, rankings, and draft position may help the fan in you figure out who your team should acquire.  For all combine results go to Draft Express for results from drills.  If you’d like a game-by-game breakdown of their collegiate career, visit Sports Reference.

Lottery Draft Position:
1) Cleveland Cavaliers
2) Orlando Magic
3) Washington Wizards
4) Charlotte Bobcats
5) Phoenix Suns
6) New Orleans Pelicans
7) Sacramento Kings
8) Detroit Pistons
9) Minnesota T'wolves
10) Portland Trailblazers
11) Philadelphia 76ers
12) Oklahoma City Thunder
13) Dallas Mavericks
14) Utah Jazz

*=Denotes Foreign player who did not play college basketball in United States

Top Ranked Players
Cody Zeller (PF/C)
Mason Plumlee (C)
Victor Oladipo (SG)
Ben McLemore (SG)
Alex Len (C)
Trey Burke (PG)
Shabazz Muhammed (SF)
Otto Porter Jr. (SF)
Nerlens Noel (C)
Anthony Nennett (PF)
*Dario Saric (Forward)

ACC Players
Reggie Bullock (UNC)
Mason Plumlee (DU)
Seth Curry (DU)
Erik Green (VT)
CJ Leslie (NCSU)
Lorenzo Brown (NCSU)
Richard Howell (NCSU)
Kenny Kadji (UM)

Point Guards
Michael Carter-Williams (SYR)
Shane Larkin (UM)
Lorenzo Brown (NCSU)
Trey Burke (MICH)
Pierre Jackson (BAY)
*Dennis Schroeder (GER)
Peyton Siva (LOU)
Erick Green (VT)

This is an incredibly point guard rich draft.  It’s the deepest position in the league and it only looks like it will get deeper.  The top tier talent in this draft that has been universally classified as weak, but several teams could find a starter or rotation contributor in this pool of players.  Looking at the Final four teams in the NBA Draft, the point guard position is clearly a valued one.  Having someone to run your offense and be an extension of the head coach is vital when the possessions drop and points are more difficult to come by. 

Here, there are a variety of players and styles to choose from.  Michael Carter-Williams is arguably the player with the most upside out of the group, he left Syracuse as a sophomore and has the length (6’ 5”) to pressure and bother opposing guards.  In the game vs Michigan in the NCAA tournament his opposing guard (National Player of the Year Trey Burke) to 1/8 shooting on what was clearly his worst game of the tournament. Shane Larkin (who tested out as the best athlete at the position at the combine) is a combination of explosiveness and guile.  He’s a deadeye shooter from the perimeter (40% from three) and has experience running a talented team.  Larkin kept a talented UM team happy, perhaps he could do the same with a litany of stars.  As a projected late 1st round pick, would fit in perfectly with the LA Lakers.  He could learn under Steve Nash while playing heavy minutes to spell the vet over the course of the season.  Add to that his shooting ability to help space the floor for a couple of bigs, and Larkin would be a perfect fit for the team.

An intriguing prospect is combo guard Erick Green.  While he led the nation in points per game, he was also the leader in assists on the team.  Moreover, the Hokies were bottom-dwellers in the ACC and every defense keyed on him.  The fact that he was able to be successful with minimal talent surrounding him while being the focus of every opposition’s defense, speaks volumes about his ability.  Some scouts may be concerned that he isn’t a “traditional” point guard, but Green has insisted he scored simply because he was often the best option on an anemic offense.

My sleeper at this position is Lorenzo Brown. The point guard out of NC State is an intriguing prospect.  He has only played the position for two years, and is still learning.  But at 6’5” and superior court vision (Brown had 9 games of double digits assists), Brown can grow into the position.  Brown has shown a propensity for hard-nosed defense and, despite his average foot speed, could be a good perimeter defender immediately in the league with his size.

Shooting Guards
Ben McLemore (KU)
CJ McCullough (Lehigh)
Glen Rice Jr. (NBDL/GT)
Tim Hardaway Jr (Michigan)
Victor Oladipo (IU)

In the age of combo guards (Steph Curry, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook) CJ McCollum is arguably the best of the draft.  Before his foot injury sidelined him for the last half of the season, he was averaging nearly 24 points as the lead guard for Lehigh.  His personal workouts will be key, to see how healthy he is, and to see how he does against top competition.  Even with the success of Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard and Curry, teams may be hesitant to draft a guard from a smaller school that played lesser competition.

Glen Rice Jr. is an interesting case, specifically for his path to the draft.  After he finished at Georgia Tech, Rice went directly to the NBDL.  Because he is not yet 22, and had not gone through the draft process, Rice was eligible to be drafted.  Despite not getting much playing time early, Rice averaged 25 points per game in the finals of the Developmental League.  In a draft full of assets with question marks, Rice may be the closest thing to a sure bet.  He is already a professional, and the developmental league is considered a higher level of competition than college.  Rice is extremely athletic, and has shown the potential to be able to knock down his jump shot consistently.

The highest ceiling of this position belongs to either Ben McLemore or Victor Oladipo.  Freshman sensation McLemore had brilliant games this season at KU, going for 30+ points three times.  He’s an athletic 6’4” guard who finishes extremely well around the basket and can knock down the outside shot.  McLemore struggled on the road, and had some memorably bad games in the NCAA tournament when the level of competition ratcheted up.  But as a freshman, a lack of consistency won’t dampen his draft position much.  He has been projected as high as a number 2 pick going to the Bobcats.  Another rumored player the Bobcats could be targeting is Oladipo.  When he first came to IU he was a raw player from basketball factory Dematha high school.  Since then he has developed a competent offensive game and even a solid jumpshot to accompany his smothering defense.  His high ceiling is due more to his intense work ethic, than natural ability.  He has been compared to Dwyane Wade because of his size 6’ 4” and explosive leaping ability, as well as his defense and shot blocking prowess.  Wade’s handle was better, but the fact that the junior has worked so hard to improve over his tenure at IU is a comforting thought to general managers moving forward.

My sleeper for this position (indeed, this draft) is Tim Hardaway Jr.  At 6’6” he has good size and no gaping holes in his game.  Despite his poor postseason play, Hardaway has shown the ability to shoot, defend, and finish at the cup.  He impressed in workouts with his ability to create his own shot, as well.  Moreover, being the son of an accomplished NBA, Hardaway is keenly aware of the work ethic necessary to be a pro.  Previously picked to be as late as a second round pick, Hardaway’s combine scores impressed NBA decision-makers and could have him moving up draft boards.  It will be interesting how attractive this “safe” pick will be as we near the draft in June.

Nerlens Noel (UK)
Kelly Olynyck (GU)
Alex Len (UMD)
Gorgui Dieng (UL)
Cody Zeller (IU)
Mason Plumlee (DU)

Despite what pundits have been claiming as the death of the big man, three of the final four teams competing for an NBA championship have an All-Star caliber Center roaming their lanes.  The position hasn’t stopped being important, it’s just less glamorous than it used to be.  Perhaps that’s why Zeller has tried to repackage himself as a stretch four, and Plumlee was classified as a forward by ESPN despite playing exclusively at the center position during his career at Duke.

Dieng (who was recovering from a foot injury and did not participate in any physical drills at the combine) and Noel are considered the best defensive prospects at the position because of their length and ability to get to opponents’ shots.  Dieng has showed the ability to set the pick and knock down the free throw line jumper.  Noel is a defensive stalwart, but is still fairly raw offensively.

[Sidenote: Noel is in a VERY interesting position in terms of this draft.  With his ACL tear, he won’t be ready to play until around Christmas.  With the robust talent that will reportedly be available in the 2014 draft, there have been rumors that some teams would select Noel knowing that he would not contribute much next year, allowing the team to get back into the lottery.  Essentially, the line of thinking is that by selecting him (perhaps with the first pick in the draft) a team would be able to get two lottery picks in the upcoming drafts and really make a difference for a struggling team.]

You’ll hear the words “upside” and “potential” about a million times before the draft is done.  Alex Len could be the personification of those ideals.  A talented big from UMD, he has shown a penchant for scoring in the post.  Physically, he still needs to grow into his body and will probably struggle/see limited minutes in his first season.  But he made some headlines when he proclaimed that in a decade he’d be the best player that came from this draft.

On the opposite end of the “potential” conversation is Olynyck.  He stayed all four years at Gonzaga, and developed his body and game.  While he is no fantastic athlete, he is extremely skilled.  Moreover, with the success of Marc Gasol, he could become a quality defender despite never averaging more than a block a game.  He may be the safest pick further down in the draft.

Otto Porter Jr. (GU)
*Dario Saric (Croatia)
Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA)
*Giannis Antelokuonmpo (G
Anthony Bennett (UNLV)
Cj Leslie (NCSU)
*Rudy Gobert (France)

The forward position is the most talent shallow of all the positions.  As with so many things NBA draft, the impact that these prospects will have depends on fit.  Otto Porter Jr. was the best out of the crop, and was far and away Georgetown’s best option.  He was a Naismith Player of the Year candidate most of the year.  The most striking part about his game wasn't his ability to score, but his passing ability.  None of his numbers will jump out as jaw dropping (16 points per game, 7.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists) because of GU’s style of play.  But if he were put in a position to work off ball (perhaps with the Cleveland Cavaliers and their two ball-dominant guards), he could aid a team immediately, while covering up his own deficiencies in creating his own shot and getting to the rim.

Shabazz Muhammad came into his freshman year as one of the top picks in this year’s drafts.  One of the most heralded HS players in the last decade came into his sole college season out of shape (due to injury) and didn’t impress early.  While he finished the season well (with averages of 17 points per game and 5 rebounds) he never displayed his former dominance that some scouts had predicted when he was first going to UCLA.  Adding to the detractors' ammunition was his addition to his age. It turned out that Muhammad was older than scouts previously thought and will be 21 once the NBA season starts despite only playing one year of collegiate basketball.

Anthony Bennett shows a lot of promise at the Power Forward position.  He is capable of putting the ball on the floor and driving to the basket.  He also played at the center position at times, and has the ability to score with his back to the basket.

Keep an eye on Kenny Kadji out of Miami.  He is older (25) but shot well from the position and looks to be NBA ready.  He isn't a great athlete, but shoots well outside for a big and played in an NBA-style offense with heavy pick and rolls.  Kadji is a projected late 1st/2nd round pick.  Given the right situation for a contender, he could thrive because of his ability to stretch the defense and allow his teammates to cut and drive to the basket. 

CJ Leslie has been the most mercurial talent in the country this year.  Leslie could be described as “Jack of all trades, master of none.”  He has a solid jumpshot, can create off the dribble, and (despite his wiry frame) has a good array of post moves. As multi-talented as he is, there were games where he seemed disinterested and completely withdrawn.  He reminds me a lot of Jeff Green when he came out of Georgetown; he, too, was prone to bouts of indecision and ineffectiveness early in his career. 


Here is a complete list of all of the participants of the NBA Combine. For a point of reference, 29 of the 30 top picks in last year’s NBA draft participated in the combine.

·         Trevor Mbakwe (F-Minnesota)
·         Seth Curry (G-Duke)
·         Isaiah Canaan (G-Murray St.)
·         Jeff Withey (C-Kansas)
·         Kenny Kadji (F-Miami)
·         Mason Plumlee (F-Duke)
·         Ryan Kelly (F-Duke)
·         Glen Rice Jr (G-Georgia Tech)
·         Erick Green (G-Va. Tech)
·         Brandon Paul (G-Illinois)
·         Peyton Siva (G-Louisville)
·         Solomon Hill (F-Arizona)
·         Mike Muscala (F-Bucknell)
·         Erik Murphy (F-Florida)
·         Nate Wolters (G-S. Dakota St)
·         Kelly Olynyk (F-Gonzaga)
·         Carrick Felix (G-Ariz. St)
·         Allen Crabbe (G-California)
·         Andre Roberson (F-Colorado)
·         Ray McCallum (G-Detroit)
·         Victor Oladipo (G-Indiana)
·         Tim Hardaway Jr (G-Michigan)
·         Phil Pressey (G-Missouri)
·         Tony Snell (G-New Mexico)
·         Deshaun Thomas (F-Ohio St.)
·         Gorgui Dieng (C-Louisville)
·         Shane Larkin (G-Miami)
·         B.J. Young (G-Arkansas)
·         Pierre Jackson (G-Baylor)
·         Otto Porter (F-Georgetown)
·         Cody Zeller (F-Indiana)
·         Ben McLemore (G-Kansas)
·         James Ennis (G-Long Beach)
·         Alex Len (C-Maryland)
·         Adonis Thomas (F-Memphis)
·         Trey Burke (G-Michigan)
·         Myck Kabongo (G-Texas)
·         Steven Adams (C-Pittsburgh)
·         Ricky Ledo (G-Providence)
·         Nerlens Noel (F-Kentucky)
·         Archie Goodwin (G-Kentucky)
·         Grant Jerrett (F-Arizona)
Shabazz Muhammad (G-UCLA)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Jarrett Jack Crunches the Numbers

Jarrett Jack and Harrison Barnes carried the Warriors when they needed it most

Analyzing a team is a combination of art and science.  Despite my love of statistical analysis, I use them to support my thesis.  Metrics should mostly be used to research an existing idea that is ascertained from watching the game, not as the genesis for an idea for what ails a team.  No one embodies that idea more than Jarrett Jack.

The Warriors evened the series yesterday at 2 apiece as the Warriors vs Spurs series went into overtime for the second time on Sunday.  With Steph Curry ailing on a weak ankle and Klay Thompson struggling, the Warriors needed more perimeter offensive help early.  Along with Harrison Barnes’ contribution, Jack kept the Warriors in the game in the first half.  Despite being down by 10 points at the half, without his contribution the Warriors may have given the Spurs a lead that was insurmountable heading into the back stretch of the game.

While Curry had a patented Curry 3rd quarter (10 points on ¾ shooting) the Spurs still clung to a 62 to 60 lead heading into the 4th.  Late in the game the Spurs were up 10 with roughly five minutes remaining, and then Jack happened.  Six straight points on two nearly identical high pick and rolls and a pick and roll that Jack dragged through the lane, all leading to a barrage of midrange jumpers from the backup point guard.  They were points when the Warriors had to have buckets.  It helped spark the 25-7 run that the Warriors closed the show with on Mother’s Day.

It was Mother's Day, and Steph Curry was playing. Reason enough.

Jack has been vilified for his poor court vision and propensity to shoot early in the shot clock, or not facilitate ball movement in a classic point guard fashion.  I must admit, there are possessions that make me wonder why he overdrives into a clogged lane when moving the ball seems like the obvious decision, or why he may choose to take an early shot despite a teammate having a hot hand. Moreover, his +/- point differential per 100 possessions (a statistic used to measure the team’s point production in relation to its opponent) is a mediocre +1.2.

Jack’s contribution can’t be boiled down to statistical analysis.  Jack provides an invaluable service for the team, allowing Curry to move off the ball while simultaneously being a legitimate scoring threat from the point guard position.  And in the late afternoon of a contested Game 4, he showed his mettle (and value) to the Golden State team.  He’s their spark, a mixture of toughness and bullheadedness.  He has largely been the overlooked contributor on most teams, even dating back to his college days at Georgia Tech.  He has vacillated between point guard and shooting guard, almost as often as he has changed from reserve to starter on the five teams for which he has played.

His vast experience is an anomaly on a team where several of the star contributors are under the age of 25 with a dearth of big-time NBA minutes.  According to reports, he will opt out of his contract at the end of the year; a contract that is due to pay him 5.4 million.  With a relatively weak draft class, and several teams with ample cap room, the likelihood of inflated contract offers to free agents is virtually a certainty. I’m hoping the Warriors find a way to re-sign him, but with a player option of over 11 million dollars due to Richard Jefferson it could be extremely costly to do so.  So make hay while the sun shines Golden State, because the numbers look like they won’t be in Jack’s favor once again.