Draft Day 2014! The Andrew Wiggins draft is finally here, after it’s renaming to the Joel Embiid Draft died a swift and unfortunate death. This year we’re cutting out the dull, run-of-the-mill prospects and paring things down to Blaine’s College Studs (BCS), Norsk’s International Men of Mystery (NIMM) and Tim’s Toolsy Bunch of Physical Freaks (TTBPF).
Wing | 6’8 | 200 | Kansas
Best Case: Drexler
Worst Case: Deng
My favorite player in the draft, even above a healthy Embiid. Nobody since LeBron has had as much hype as Wiggins coming into college (yes, even Oden), and he handled it pretty well.
His biggest question mark is going to be his ability to be efficient on offense. Right now he possesses very nice mechanics but a fairly inaccurate shot (37% in catch-and-shoot and 30% in pull up jumpers, per Synergy/DraftExpress). It should be noted that he was a high-volume shooter from an off the dribble perspective, opting for that type of shot 25.9 percent of the time. His jumper is essentially unblockable, especially by NCAA players, because of his length and athleticism, so it should develop into a deadly weapon as he continues to work on it. Finally he’s extremely deadly in transition (1.3 PPP), and can get to the free throw line at a high rate despite the fact that he can really only dribble to his right.
Note on his shot chart (from shotanalytics.com) how much better he is on the right side of the floor:
What’s fascinating about Wiggins is that he came into Kansas which is usually not a great place for freshmen to put up big numbers, put up 21 points per 40 minutes, and yet he was far and away a more dominant defender than anything else. For as much as scouts like to get on Wiggins for not taking over games on offense, the guy is already a straight killer defensively. I would argue that he was one of the 5 best defenders in college basketball last year. In the only matchup between Duke and Kansas, he asked to guard Parker, and locked him down in the second half.
As I said above, the one thing that seemingly every analyst/scout likes to question with Wiggins is his “heart” or his “personality”. Kansas’ poor showing in the NCAA Tournament (bad loss to Stanford in the 2ndround), in which Wiggins went 1/6 in their final game, only served to amplify these critics. Yet I wholeheartedly disagree with these critics. I have no reservations about his willingness to take over games. Note his performance in a 6 point loss at West Virginia in March (the best performance by any of the Parker/Wiggins/Embiid trio): 41(!) points, 8 boards, 2 assists, 4(!!) blocks, 5(!!!) steals. That was a game in which Kansas had absolutely nothing going for them in the first half until Wiggins took over in the 2nd and made it close. Also note that he followed that game up with a 30 point/8 board/3 block game at Oklahoma State that cinched up the Big 12 for Kansas.
I think at worse with Wiggins you are getting Luol Deng: a high volume jump shooter who is an elite perimeter defender. At best? You are looking at T-Mac who has the defensive ability of Scottie Pippen.
Big | 7’1 | 250 | Kansas
Best Case: Hakeem
Worst Case: Greg
Joel Embiid is the best center prospect the league has had a sniff of since Greg Oden. The only thing holding his numbers back from reaching the pantheon level of bigs like Oden and Anthony Davis was a propensity for fouling and turning the ball over, both attributable to his lack of experience relative to his peers.
As you watched Embiid play last season, his rate and breadth of improvement couldn’t help but surprise. His instincts and feel for the game on both ends were evident and with it came obvious improvements (adding post moves, flashing a solid jumper) as well as more subtle progress in the nuances of the game (defensive positioning, running lanes, setting screens). With March Madness approaching, Embiid was fast becoming the consensus #1 pick in a draft that had been reserved for Wiggins and Parker long ago.
Then, he suffered a stress fracture in his back. This alone wasn’t enough to knock him off his perch. It was the broken navicular bone just last week that did that – sending him falling towards the mid lottery with names like Yao, Brook and Zydrunas ringing in his ears.
Now, for all the promise he showed in his lone year at Kansas, Embiid is being compared to Oden for all the wrong reasons. That cautionary tale may scare GMs and owners enough for him to drop in the draft but nevertheless, given good health following this rehab I believe Embiid will prove himself the best player from this class. Hakeem redux.
Point | 6’6 | 200 | AIS
Best Case: Penny
Worst Case: Tony Wroten
No one really knows how good Dante Exum is. A dominant display at a FIBA U-19 tournament and a show stealing cameo in the Nike Hoop Summit are all the evidence that exists of his talent in the past couple of years. Despite that, I feel confident that his game, complete with uncommon speed for his size, flow and craftiness, will translate to the NBA. I think that should he transition to play shooting guard, he can be the best in the league before his rookie deal is up.
Tweener | 6’8 | 240 | Duke
Best Case: Melo/Truth Hybrid
Worse Case: Jeff Green
JA-BA-RI! Probably the most talented offensive player I’ve seen in the NCAA since Durant. He can score any way you want him to — he can shoot (36% from 3, 56% eFG, 1.17 PPP on catch-and-shoots), he can draw fouls (.428 Free Throw Rate), he can post you up (17.9% of his possessions at Duke were post ups, with a fairly ridiculous 1.06 PPP for a 19 year old small forward per Synergy), and he will immediately be one of the best ball handlers over 6’8” in the pros.
For comparison’s sake, take a look at Parker’s shot chart on the left (again from shotanalytics.com) vs. Kevin Durant’s shot chart (from Grantland):
Pretty similar, right? They both are devastatingly effective when given the ball at the top of the key and allowed to work to their right and in.
He’s also an extremely smart player. While his passing numbers weren’t ideal (1.5 assists per 40, .51 A/TO ratio) at Duke, he seemed to always be aware of where his teammates were on the court, leading to some nice dimes to backdoor cutters and spot up shooters. He also used his intelligence and will to play passable defense (and, in some cases, make highlight reel plays) and grab 11.5 rebounds per 40.
He’s probably a little bulkier than would be ideal, but he uses his size well. He would simply overpower most of the smaller players that tried to guard him, and when ACC teams would try to guard him with bigger post players, he would run them off of screens, pick and pops, isolations, and cuts to wear them out.
The big questions with Parker long term are his athleticism and his defense. He’s certainly no Wiggins in either respect, but in the pros he will likely be asked to guard teams’ weakest perimeter player, and he should be smart/savvy enough to be able to do that passably (unlike, say, Carmelo).
I’ve said since the first game I saw him (against Kansas in November), with his body type and skill set, he reminds me of some sort of Paul Pierce/Carmelo hybrid, and I still feel like that’s pretty accurate. He will be a stellar player and a great character to build around for whoever lands him.
Big | 6’9 | 250 | Kentucky
Best Case: More Athletic ZBo
He’s gonna come into the NBA like a ….
Point | 6’3 | 230 | Oklahome State
Best Case: Dwyane Wade
Real Best Case: Baron Davis
Another one of my favorite players in this years’ draft. The top 4 of my “draft board” of only NCAA players would be Wiggins/Embiid/Parker/Smart.
I really think of him as a young, albeit slightly shorter, Dwyane Wade. Check out their respective stats at Oklahoma State and Marquette. Wade took less 3s (which helped his overall efficiency) but they both profile to be similar players on offense and defense.
When Smart is “on”, as he was against Memphis (39 points/4 boards/4 assists/ 5 steals/2 blocks) and Texas (24 points, 11 boards, 5 assists, 6 steals, 1 block) there simply were not any more impactful two-way players in the NCAA. He impacts the game in multiple ways on both offense and defense, using his size and brute strength to create scoring and free throw opportunities. He’s also tough as hell and supremely competitive (to a fault, in some cases).
With Smart it’s all about his shooting and decision making. Can he become an above average (or even passable) long range shooter in the NBA? Can he improve his decision making in terms of shot selection? Finally, can he improve his decision making off the court?
Tim thinks his ceiling is like Baron Davis, which isn’t bad. But his impact on both ends of the court makes him more like Wade to me, as I mentioned above. Or even if you combine the decision making (especially shot selection) with his overall skill set you could compare him to a point guard version of Josh Smith. Regardless, if the team who drafts him can rein him in with a good locker room and smart coaching, he is going to be a force.
Wing | 6’4 | 200 | Michigan State
Best Case: Mitch Richmond
Worst Case: Trajan Langdon
Gary Harris rhymes, Mitch Richmond kinda rhymes. Good enough. Bet you don’t know who Trajan Langdon is either. I still don’t really. Ask Blaine.
Point | 6’4 | 185 | Louisiana LaFayette
Best Case: Taller Rondo
Wing | 6’6 | 210 | Michigan
Best Case: Redick
Tweener | 6’9 | 220 | Arizona
Best Case: Shawn Marion
An übermensch of an athlete already. Crazy explosive, extremely quick for his size… There’s a reason he was compared to Blake Griffin in high school. But the only thing that his game and Blake’s have in common are their propensity for catching highlight reel alley oops. Otherwise, they are almost polar opposites. Where Blake excels offensively as a high volume/highly efficient pick and roll/isolation threat, Gordon prefers to do most of his work off the ball in cut/rebound situations. Further, where Blake is anything but a strong defensive player in the NBA, Gordon seems to relish the challenge of playing lockdown defense. He, along with Wiggins and Embiid, will likely be one of the three best defensive players in this draft. That, combined with his motor and his versatility, makes him a close approximation to a Shawn Marion-like talent and worthy of a high lottery pick.
Big | 6’9 | 250 | Indiana
Worst Case: Andrew Nicholson
Wing | 6’6 | 180 | UCLA
Comp: Gerald Green
He’s like EWill, except dumb. EWill crossed with Jeremy Lamb. So…. Gerald Green, pretty much.
Wing | 6’6 | 200 | Colorado
Best Case: Brandon Roy
That photo is your expression when you see who I put down as his best case. Shooting guard size with point guard handles and vision, the ability to put up uber-efficient point-per-shot lines, sneaky athleticism and a crafty sense of timing that throws opponents off. Sounding familiar?
Really, Dinwiddie is likely to be a nice, unselfish backup guard who can keep the ball moving and shoot when he’s open. I just also see a spark of something special in him that I hope translates to his NBA career. I’d really like him to be in a Blazers uniform just in case it does.
Point | 6’2 | 180 | Syracuse
Best Case: Mark Jackson
He reminds me of a young Eric Maynor at VCU. A true floor general (how is he not being called “Patton” or something?) who excels at getting his teammates involved. He won’t score like Smart, Payton, or Napier, but none of them can pass like Ennis. He’s otherwise a decent enough shooter, and he is able to use change of direction/change of pace moves to create offensive opportunities for himself when need be.
He’s not a great athlete, but like Parker he is smart enough and tries hard enough to warrant getting plenty of minutes. I don’t see superstardom from Ennis, but it’s not hard to see him having a solid Mark Jackson-esque career.
Hood: I really like his game on offense. He’s smooth as hell, a lights-out shooter (42% from 3, 43% on all pull up jumpers), is deadly handling the ball on pick and rolls (1.26 ppp, the best among draft eligible small forwards), and is a nice passer. HOWEVER, he lacks outstanding athleticism, which really hurts him when he tries to drive it to the hoop, he is extremely left-hand dominant, and he plays almost no defense. Great shooters are a dime a dozen now in the NBA, so he will need to show more effort on D in order to stick long-term.
Glenn Robinson III
Wing | 6’7 | 210 | Michigan
Best Case: Iggy
GRIII lost some of his lustre as a prospect after returning to Michigan for his sophmore season. Thrust into a more prominent role, his efficiency suffered and his stock dropped. To me though, in an NBA environment surrounded by players who can take the offensive load, Robinson is perfectly built to be a superb role player. His shooting and distribution will be key areas to watch for with regards to his ceiling, but even as a floor running, hard nosed defending energy guy, I can see GRIII having a productive career.
Point | 6’1 | 160 | Louisville
Comp: Patrick Beverly
Big | 6’11 | 280 | International
Worst Case: Darko
Nurkic is not a great athlete in terms of jumping or explosiveness (one scout attested him “vertical ineptness”), but very mobile for a center with such a large body. Good hands, able to finish with either one and through contact but not exactly “over” people so he has to become a crafty player. Already has developed a good back-to-the-basket skill set with some refined post moves, including spin moves and a hook shot. Passes well if he gets double-teamed. Not a liability at the foul line at ca. 70%. Very efficient (PER of 29.9, Kevin Pelton ranks him at #3 by WARP in the draft). He seems to have NBA-level lateral quickness, but with his lack of leaping ability might never be a “rim protector”. And he has a habit of lazily reaching in instead of moving his feet, causing an atrocious foul rate of about 7-9 per 40 min thereby limiting his playing time to about 16 mpg. On top of that he has a propensity to argue those fouls with officials and opponents. Also had some off-court social media hiccups.
Big | 6’11 | 220 | Chalon
Best Case: Ibaka
He played in the fairly mediocre French Pro A league, where some guys translate well to the NBA (cough Batum cough) while many others don’t. NBA washout Sean May recently put up nice big man stats in scoring and rebounding in that league, so I would not expect too much although Capela’s numbers give him the second best WARP in the draft according to Pelton. Scouts attribute him a lot of the infamous “upside” due to his efficient scoring and raw athleticism, and pre-draft/Hoop Summit measurements that compare to the likes of Chris Bosh and Tyson Chandler. However they also see a poor understanding of actual basketball plays and occasionally too little effort to e.g. get in a good position and grab rebounds, or a habit to commit lazy over-the-back fouls. His jump shot is a work in progress. His passing is good, he might become a solid playmaker for a big man. Likely a more skilled offensive player than other touted international athletic players such as Bismack Biyombo, but still has to learn a lot. His skill set seems more suitable for a center not having to create his own offense, so if he can play that position despite his pretty skinny frame it could help his NBA career a lot.
Tweener | 6’8 | 230 | UCLA
Point | 6’1 | 180 | Connecticut
Worst Case: Acie Law
Tweener | 6’10 | 220 | International
Best Case: Toni Kukoc meets Boris Diaw
Earlier this week news broke that Saric signed a 3 year deal with a team in Turkey. That’s not what a guy confident to immediately make an impact in the NBA as a projected starter would do. However he still is going to be in the draft since the deadline to withdraw had passed, but any team taking him can now expect to have to wait several years, so he becomes a classic “stash for later” pick for a contender or a team with a lot of picks this year. Observers that are in love with him tout his point-forward potential, his overall feel for the game, and his demonstrated successes (e.g. MVP of the Adriatic League, U19 world champ all-tournament team together with prospects Exum, Gordon, Okafor). Those who don’t rather think he’s a jump shooting 3/4 tweener who turns it over too much, and will be unable to play good defense against many forwards in the NBA.
Wing | 6’8 | 240 | International
Best Case: French Kawhi
The same reservations about the quality of the league he plays in apply as for Clint Cappella, and Inglis only played 15 minutes per game and his team was so bad that it got relegated to the second league for next year. So… yeah. GMs would mainly draft him based on his raw potential since he just turned 19. Scouts attribute him an NBA-level mix of good versatile skills, length and speed on both ends of the floor. Long arms give him a terrific wingspan of 7’3”, and a standing reach of 8’11” (measured at Hoop Summit). Remarkable ball handling and passing for a player of his size. Likes to go one on one which might help him in the NBA compared to Europe, but also might not work so easily there since he could no longer dominate physically. His shooting mechanics still need a lot of work, and some scouts attest him a lack of focus/effort/low motor.
Wing | 6’7 | 210 | International
Best Case: Bruce Bowen
The older and significantly shorter brother of last year’s Bucks draft pick Giannis “Po” “The Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo. Very good athlete, but likely not with the superior physical attributes of Giannis. Could become a quality defender and rebounder, hustles for plays drawing cross-positional comparisons from observers to players like Tony Allen and Patrick Beverley. Still underdeveloped understanding of the game and raw offensive skills which is a concern at his age, although he is displaying some shooting skills (e.g. hit 5 threes in a game against Tulsa).
Big | 7’3 | 270 | International
Worst Case: Peter John Ramos
Huge size and wingspan (reported at ca. 7’9”) and good mobility always make for an intriguing draft prospect, even though a lot of that is rather based on unlimited raw potential than on actual production. Solid shot blocker. But this season he is averaging just around 7 rebounds in 21 mpg despite his tremendous physical attributes, and a very low usage rate with under 6 possessions per game, so it is hard to gauge his offensive abilities. Was discovered by chance, then started playing for youth teams in Spain and is now coached by the same man who developed Marc Gasol and several other top Spanish big men! Still fairly light for his frame, so scouts are unsure if he’ll be able to fill out quickly (and if that would make him more prone to injuries).
Big | 6’11 | 250 | Serbia
Best Case: Brad Miller
Yet another center described in scouting reports as exceptionally skilled, but rather unathletic lacking any superior explosiveness or strength. His offensive efficiency numbers look good at first glance (e.g. 21 PER) and he averaged 25 mpg to give him a solid statistical basis, although for a pretty unknown team in the Adriatic league. Especially his 3.0 assist to turnover ratio is stellar and almost unheard of since the days of Marc Gasol (and he did it as an older player in Spain), and he has nice steal and block rates. Some scouts see him as a top 20 talent. But unlike especially Nurkic he projects as a sub-par defender with fairly poor mobility. And while he has a soft shooting touch, for some reason he thinks of himself as an outside shooting threat attempting 68 threes (a whopping 2.6 attempts per game, 4.2 per 40 min, or 28% of all his shots), and made just 22%. Ouch. So we are looking at a player who plays crafty and certainly has a lot of potential to improve, but right now likely can’t power inside against top NBA bigs thus having to rely on short and mid-range jumpers, can’t make the long ball, and can’t defend his position.
Big | 7’1 | 220 | Russia
Worst Case: Uwe Blab (!)
Has a solid NBA frame, although some reported weights would put him on the skinnier side. Scouts attest him good mobility, playing with high effort, the ability to become a quality defender and rebounder, and having a soft shooting touch. Also a very solid foul shooter. However like most other international bigs in this draft he seems not to be an explosive athlete, and is still pretty inexperienced making dumb plays. His stats are hard to translate since he e.g. recorded a number of double-doubles but plays in a league that doesn’t send a lot of young players straight to the NBA, and seemingly never played for Russian youth national teams in any U20 tournament. International man of mystery. Might benefit from a few more years in Europe, and his contract situation is unclear anyway.
Point | 6’5 | 190 | Serbia
Best Case: Calderon
A classic “pure point guard” but tall for the position, excellent court vision and timing in pick-and-roll situations finding slashers on cuts and bigs for alley-oops. Some scouts attribute him the potential to become one of the best passers in the NBA. Surprisingly good situational stats despite his mediocre-looking jumpshot. Decent footwork, but still slow compared to elite NBA point guards on both offense and defense. His size might allow teams to hide him on some SGs. Could still benefit from a few years in Europe if a team wants to stash him.
Wing | 6’7 | 200 | Italy
Comp: Carlos Delfino
Put up great numbers at the 2013 Eurobasket tournament against top competition, and outscored NBA players like Jonas Valanciunas in several junior tournaments.
He lacks elite NBA-level athleticism in several aspects, especially lateral quickness and explosiveness. His shot has a noticeable hitch/pause and a slow release, making it questionable if he can achieve the same results against the best players in the world. Intangibles: Son of one of the best Italian players ever, went through all stages of the famous youth school of Benetton Treviso (home of the annual adidas Eurocamp), has played with pros since he was 16 making him a seasoned player beyond his true age, aggressive/assertive style.
Big | 6’9 | 230 | North Carolina
He reallllllly should have come out two years ago, when he was projected to be a lottery pick as UNC’s sixth man. Had a ton of hype coming out of high school (DX compared him to Tim Duncan in his demeanor and skill set), but never lived up to it at the college level. He has the requisite size, athleticism and defensive ability to be a meaningful rotation player at the pros, but he is a truly terrible scorer. His shot isn’t terrible to look at ala Marcus Camby, but he simply cannot get buckets, except on offensive rebound and pick and roll/cut situations where he’s getting the ball right at the hoop. Any team who is facing him as the screener in the pick and roll will simply allow him to get the ball ~10 feet from the hoop and dare him to beat them. If he’s able to do it effectively and he puts in a high effort on defense + rebounding, then he’s going to be a nice player in the NBA. If not, oh boy.