It’s been some time since I contributed anything useful to this blog. Which makes me like most of the other members of G:TB. We all have our excuses, and they’re all crap. We’re busy and we’re lazy and by the time most of sit down at night we’d rather pour ourselves a drink than type up a blog post. I wish this wasn’t the case for me, but it is. Now that I don’t work in front of a computer screen, my ability to (semi) consistently churn out mediocre content is significantly hindered. But, its summer so there’s next to nothing on TV and not a single sport I want to invest 2+ hours of my time in. So, maybe I’ll write some more stuff that you guys won’t read. Or maybe I won’t. I’m not here to make promises, or talk about the past, or even fully read Summer Dave’s long winded posts. Yet, despite my obvious attitude problem, I wasn’t willing to let the NBA Draft pass without putting something together.
The NBA Draft is great. Easily my favorite non-sporting sports event of the year. It’s got the Jay Bilas drinking game, Stephen A. Smith eating Cheez Doodles , guys coming out of the stands to hug David Stern and, when we’re lucky, ridiculous outfits from guys like Samaki Walker. For all of these reasons, and plenty more, the NBA Draft also happens to consistently be one of the better nights of the G:TB year. Plenty of boozy participation, tons of comments, some of which are mildly humorous.
And, as always, in anticpation of this event, I’m going to give my opinions on some of this year’s potential draftees.
Quick aside before I get started: You’ve surely heard pundits refer to this year’s draft as the worst draft in 20 years. That’s pure crap. It will be a long, long time before we see a draft worse than the 2000 Draft. Just look at this. I forgot half those guys even existed.
Victor Oladipo: The Dwayne Wade comparisons are obviously a bit much. He’ll never be the type of impact offensive player that Wade was in his prime. He can, and will (IMO), become the same level of impact defender off the ball. On top of that, I believe Oladipo will be a much better on ball defender than Wade ever was. Some have compared him to Tony Allen defensively. Allen’s only the best defensive guard in the NBA. I think that’s a fair comparison defensively. However, I think Oladipo will be a much better offensive player in 3-4 years than Allen ever will be. Oladipo didn’t even average double figures during his senior year at DeMatha, and he became a 14+ ppg scorer (and 40% 3 PT shooter) for one of the better college teams in the country this past season. He has plenty of room to grow offensively, is said to be an insanely hard working, competitive guy and despite being a junior just turned 21 last month. Will Oladipo ever be the second best guy on a NBA title team? No. A top four player who’s an offensively efficient double digit scorer and First Team All-Defense while also being the type of high character individual organizations build around? I think that’s definitely possible. (Side note: This may be the Magic’s pick at #2 if GM Rob Hennigan is building the franchise using the San Antonio/Oklahoma City model as it appears he is. It’s either Oladipo or Ben McLemore in my opinion.)
Nerlens Noel: We’ve all heard everything that’s wrong with Noel. Skinny with a frame that doesn’t look like it will support significant weight gain. He’s coming off an ACL tear and he’s possibly surrounded by some shady characters. And all of this is at least partially true. Should that give GMs pause? Sure. Is he still one of the best prospects in the draft? Without a doubt. Noel is a force defensively. Jay Bilas has gone so far as to call him a “defensive savant”. He averaged over four blocks and two steals a game last year. Four blocks is obviously impressive but the two steals per game stand out just as much. That’s an absurdly high number for a Center and evidence of the tremendous motor Noel has. Energy and enthusiasm are a skill in basketball. A skill that many big men lack. Furthermore, Noel is a better shot blocker than last year’s #1 pick, Anthony Davis, and history has shown that shot blocking almost always translates from college to the NBA. Finally, I don’t see Noel’s frame as being as big a deal as others. The NBA is changing. The Heat just won a championship playing Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen at Center. Not exactly the Natural Disasters. Noel’s athleticism, motor and mobility actually should be an advantage in the new pick and roll heavy, drive and kick NBA. He may get beaten up by a few centers but not enough true centers exist to scare me off from taking him due to concerns over his weight. And his ability to move laterally will be a major advantage in defending high screen and rolls. He’s going to be very, very good defensively early on in his career and having one great skill is often what matters most early in a player’s NBA career.
CJ McCollum: I don’t buy the Damian Lillard comparisons. They’re lazy and based largely on both guys being small school guards who shoot the ball well. McCollum isn’t a pure PG like Lillard. He’s a combo guard who can play some point. On a really good team he’d be the third guard who provided instant offense off the bench and could team with either the starting PG or SG depending on the matchups. He’s somewhere between a better creating Ben Gordon and a better shooting Rodney Stuckey in my mind. One thing we know about McCollum is his one defining NBA skill, he can shoot extremely well. That and his creativity off the dribble should make him a contributor in the league for a long time. (I heard a comp that I like for McCollum today. George Hill. Personally I think he can be better than Hill, but its not far off.)
Otto Porter: I love Otto. But enough about our favorite prophylactic eschewing Twitter personality. I love Otto Porter too. He’s your prototypical small forward in that he’s good at everything without being great at anything. This is in no way a criticism though. He possesses an extremely well rounded, cerebral game and should be able to contribute immediately to an NBA team as a result of this. Also, the basketball nerd in me loves that his family is largely responsible for turning the high school in his small Missouri hometown into a dynasty of historic proportions. I doubt Otto Porter will ever be an All-Star but I’d bet my house on him playing a decade in the NBA (barring injury) and being a major contributor to a title contender at some point in his career.
Gorgui Deng: He’s probably not a starting center on a good team but he’s a great rotation guy off their bench. He’s a fantastic shot blocker and a really underrated shooter from 15-17 feet. He’s dramatically improved as a passer in the past few years as well. If you can grab Deng in the early 20s, I think he’s a steal.
Dennis Schroeder: I’ve only seen him play once, during the Nike Hoop Summit, but he was very impressive in that game. Schroeder is 19 and a really good athlete who showed natural PG instincts and shot the ball well in the game and, reportedly, the practices for the Hoop Summit. On top of all that, he’s this year’s captain of the Troy O’Leary All-Stars. (Pic)
Steven Adams: Big men always rise around draft time. And there are always some very regrettable decisions made on these late rising big men. Adams is my pick for this year’s biggest bust. He has all the physical tools GMs look for in big men. Here’s the problem: He averaged 7.2 ppg and 6.3 rpg as a freshman at Pitt. I don’t care how bad his guards were or what his cultural adjustment was like…I have no interest in a 7-footer with great physical tools who can’t average double figures in college. His apologists will tell you he’s extremely raw and has a huge upside as he’s new to basketball having grown up in New Zealand and (presumably) spent most of his childhood watching Flight of the Conchords. I don’t’ care. I want nothing to do with him. Speaking of Flight of the Conchords, remember when TR’s name around here was Rhymenocerous? What a tool bag.
Kelly Olynyk: I said it during the NCAA Tournament and I’ll say it again here. He’s soft. I’m less concerned with his slight frame than I am with his unwillingness to mix it up inside.
Shabazz Muhammad: This hurts because I’m always in favor of guys named Shabazz. But there are just too many red flags with Shabazz. His Dad is a crazy sports Dad who lied about his son’s age and when that came out, among other things. When the news of Muhammad's real age came out, he didn’t really own it and essentially blamed his Dad. Weak, you know how old you are. If you’re caught lying about your age, just admit it. So despite being older than most of the top prospects, he’s not any more mature. Did I mention his Dad (Ron Holmes) gave him his name because he thought it was really marketable? Well, yeah, that too. It doesn't really matter but it's fucking weird. He's supposed to have a great work ethic but he spent much of last year out of shape and, from what I can tell, has no right hand (not literally). All that is bad. Do you know what’s worse? He had 27 assists last season. As in, the entire season of his freshman year. Oh yeah, he doesn’t seem like a super awesome teammate either.
Cody Zeller: After falling down draft boards, Zeller’s stock has recovered over the past couple months. Thanks in large part to his really impressive athletic testing results. He measured nearly 7 feet tall and has a 37” vertical, which is really impressive. My problem with this is I never felt like he was that kind of athlete at Indiana. It didn’t show up on the court. Remember him getting rejected at the rim multiple times during Indiana’s NCAA tournament loss to Syracuse? In every sport, there are guys who aren’t able to effectively translate their athleticism to game situations. Zeller feels like one of those guys to me. If he develops a reliable jumper he could become a nice high post power forward but I can’t see him scoring on the block in the NBA.
Anthony Bennett: He’s a bit of a tweener. He measures at 6’7” but is a good enough athlete and strong enough to get away with that as a power forward. The problem is that he fancies himself as a bit of a small forward, a position where he doesn’t have nearly the lateral quickness to keep up on defense. For a player who isn’t exactly an enthusiastic defender to begin with, this is problematic. If he can be convinced that he’s a power forward, learn to embrace defense just a little and continue to develop then he’s got a chance to be really good. I’m just not sure that’s happening.
Ben McLemore: McLemore is probably the player best equipped to become an All-Star in this draft. He has everything you want from a shooting guard from a physical standpoint with his size, strength and leaping ability. Unfortunately, there are major questions about McLemore otherwise. He’s reportedly not been in great shape for his workouts and has some less than stellar people advising him. Now, McLemore is young and in the right situation could easily mature and clear up these issues. By all accounts he’s a good kid, if somewhat naïve and immature. Personally, what worries me most about McLemore is his inability to create off the dribble. Surely you’ve heard talk about how passive McLemore was in many big games for Kansas this year. Some of that can be attributed to the mental side of things but just as much is a result of his inability to put the ball on the floor when defenses close out on him. If McLemore matures and develops a good handle, he’s an All-Star. If not, he’s probably at the end of someone’s bench for most of his career.
Trey Burke: This has as much to do with where he’s being projected as anything. I like Burke and think he can be a decent NBA PG. I don’t think he’s ever making an All-Star team or becoming one of the three best players on a title team. He’s small, just an average athlete and a streaky shooter. In an NBA filled with elite PGs, that’s an awful lot to overcome. In my opinion, Burke’s a lot closer to Jameer Nelson (though he’s much better defensively than Nelson) than Chris Paul.
Giannis Adetokunbo: He’s 6’9”. He’s a fantastic athlete. He’s 19 and he handles and passes the ball unbelievably well for his size. One problem: From what I can tell, he was playing the Greek equivalent of Division III basketball last year. If he’s going to be a good NBA player (and I think he might) it wont be for a few years.
Glen Rice, Jr.: You and Sarah Palin recognize the name. Like Palin, you may not have heard of him. He’s spent the past year in the D-League after being kicked off the team at Georgia Tech during his junior year. He averaged nearly 15 a game in the D-League and didn’t have any of the problems that caused his unceremonious exit from Atlanta. More importantly, he was fantastic late in the D-League season and led his team to the championship while averaging 29/11/4 in the Finals. He’s not short on ability but has to prove he can continue to mature if he’s going to be a contributor in the NBA.
Ricky Ledo: Lots of talent, possibly the best shooter in the draft. Never played at Providence due to academic issues and attended four high schools in four years. Obviously he's not a sure thing but it speaks to his talent that he's projected to go late in the 1st round.
Ray McCallum: Good size for a PG (6’3”). He’s a coach’s son who attended University of Detroit to play for his Dad despite being a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school. McCallum has NBA skills but has played a lower level of competition.
Pierre Jackson: I made my annual “time to file for your passport” joke about Jackson on Twitter earlier this year. I was wrong. Jackson’s a freak athlete who really improved his jumper during two years at Baylor. He’s tough, runs a team reasonably well and can score enough to be a backup PG and sparkplug off the bench.
Nate Wolters: I know the Teej loves him. I can't decide if he has a meaningful NBA career or he's in Europe within a year or two and dominates Spain for a decade. He's got decent size and is talented creator for himself and teammates. Can he defend anyone in the NBA?
Tony Mitchell: He should probably go in the 50/50 section. Originally a Missouri commit, he ended up at North Texas due to academic issues. If he would’ve left school after his freshman year he would’ve gone in the top 15. Instead he went back to school and was worse in every statistical category this past season. He’s 6’9”, 240 with a 38” vert. If he goes to the right team and is convinced by his coaches to focus on rebounding and running the floor for dunks he could be a steal in the mold of Shawn Marion. Or he could end up sucking dick for crack.