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Wing | 6’7 | 205 | Kansas
Projected: Late Lottery
Best Case: Richard Jefferson
Most Likely: Martell Webster
Worst Case: Wes Johnson
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Wing | 6’7 | 240 | Arizona
Projected: Mid-Late Lottery
Best Case: Joe Johnson
Most Likely: Wilson Chandler
Worst Case: Chris Singleton
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Wing | 6’7 | 220 | Duke
Projected: Mid-High Lottery
Best Case: Andre Iguodala
Most Likely: Trevor Ariza
Worst Case: Tony Snell
As I got stuck in to my research on these three, I couldn’t help but notice how much they had in common. All top 15 high school recruits (interestingly with Winslow behind the other two at that point) who are heading to the league after successful freshman seasons. All reputed for their defensive production and potential but critisized for finishing deficiencies and more general offensive inconsistencies. Each played against elite competition (Kansas #2 in strength of schedule, Duke #3 and Arizona top 40) with Johnson and Winslow also making deep runs in the NCAA tournament. In the NBA, all should play the vast majority of their minutes at small forward but are more the wing variety of swingman than the forward type. More than anything though, it was the statistical similarities that jumped off the page at me. Check this out:
I think you’d be hard pressed to find three prospects in any draft that produced at near identical rates in such similar contexts. Winslow is the best shooter, Oubre the higher volume distance shooter and Johnson the higher volume scorer. Both Winslow and Johnson outshine Oubre by a slim margin across the board but it’s really bloody close. All are solid scorers, elite wing rebounders and ball-hawks who can pass, draw fouls and block shots at a decent clip. Looking at the numbers, the only explanation for Johnson’s position above Oubre is that he played a more significant role (minutes and shots wise) on a more successful team and Winslow’s placement above both would be best explained by his three point accuracy and the national title he helped lead his team to. However, watching them play illustrates some more fundamental differences in what they’ll offer to an NBA franchise.
Oubre has the most length to offer defensively and the nicest form on his jumper among the three. He’s a strong transition scorer and will be useful in the NBA spotting up as a trailer on the break as well as in the half-court. While he was a strong defender in his season at Kansas, Oubre’s effort on that end can waiver, which is an indicator of a more pervasive inconsistency running through his game. He had several low output offensive nights after solidifying himself as a starter in Bill Self’s rotation, perhaps due to his inability to create for himself if the offense isn’t offering him quality looks. This often led to frustration and a flurry of forced threes and floaters which rarely found their mark, followed by a noticeable drop in defensive intensity. Maturity could prove the antidote for many of Oubre’s shortcomings but a team in the draft will have to bet on their environment and staff being able to help him make that transition. Late lottery, where teams might bet on him without having to be reliant on his production, is a good spot for Oubre.
Johnson might have the most interesting total package of the group. He balances offense and defense more than the other two, with the quickness to beat his man on one end and stay attached to his hip on the other. He has the handles to create in transition, out of the pick and roll and when isolated but is also is effective spotting up off the ball as well as on the block. If he can transition all these skills to the league, there is more than a little Iso Joe in his game. Johnson wasn’t relied upon to be Arizona’s lone wing stopper, with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson also in the fold, but he was nevertheless an elite college defender as a freshman. His lateral quickness and bulk allowed him to defend effectively both on the perimeter and inside, giving him a versatility on that end that could be valuable at the next level. While Winslow did a fair amount of banging against college power forwards too, I think Johnson is the only one of the three who could see consistent time as a small ball 4 in the NBA. This makes him a potential three position player, much like the guy I pegged as his closest comparison, Wilson Chandler. That is sure to be attractive to a team on the rise picking in the mid to late lottery.
Winslow is the pick of the three according to every mock draft I’ve seen. He’s slated to go as high as fourth to the Knicks and for good reason. Winslow brings everything to the table the Oubre does (including similar limitations) but adds to that a non-stop motor and court vision that make him a potentially excellent NBA player. While he shares issues creating offense for himself with Oubre, he doesn’t let that change his approach or defensive mindset. He can punish smaller defenders on the block like Johnson can and while he doesn’t share the talent for scoring off the bounce or in the pick and roll yet, but his ball-skills and patience give him the chance to develop in these areas. Winslow is also the most complete defensive wing in the draft – he might not have the versatility of Johnson or Hollis-Jefferson, the length of Oubre or the raw athleticism of Justin Anderson but he makes an impact in every area a defensive coach could ask of him. On the ball he’s tenacious, near unscreenable and able to rack up steals without gambling. Off the ball he plays the angles beautifully, is a terror in passing lanes and can handle switching onto bigs without conceding position or easy looks. Winslow has the potential to be one of the very best perimeter defenders in the NBA and is likely to be good enough on the other end to ply those skills in a big minute role for whichever team drafts him.
If I were the Blazers front office I could see the appeal in trading up for any of these guys. Oubre as the understudy to Batum that could take over if he walks after his contract is up, Johnson as a replacement that could add scoring punch to our small forward position or Winslow as a defensive centerpiece who could probably handle secondary ball-handling responsibilities after some seasoning. From a cost-benefit point of view, Johnson would likely be the best bet. He too could offer some secondary ball-handling and would add versatility to the Blazers offense without costing the world to attain. Moving up 10 or so spots to get Johnson would cost a penny (not having next years pick hurts us in that regard) but it’s nothing compared to what it would take for us to get near Winslow’s #4-#8 draft range. Whoever ends up drafting these three, I see at least two panning out as above average two-way wing players and would be surprised to see any bust out of the league altogether. Defense and shooting will always have value.