Archive for the ‘Draft Profiles’ Category

Ben McLemore: Historical Comparisons to the Possible #1 Picks

Monday, May 27th, 2013

Last Friday, Cavs:the Blog proposed wild trade scenarios for the number one pick.  This week, I will look at the collegiate players in the running for that pick: Nerlens Noel, Otto Porter, Victor Oladipo, Ben McLemore, and Trey Burke.  The method employed is to scour the draftexpress.com measurement database and the numbers available at statsheet.com.  For each player, a list was culled of the most athletically and statistically similar players.  Stats and traits selected are intended to closely mimic each guy’s size, athleticism, playing style, and performance.  They include:

  • Barefoot Height
  • Wingspan
  • Weight
  • No-Step Vertical Leap
  • Agility Drill Time
  • Three-Quarter Court Sprint Speed

For performance, I gathered the following traits from each prospective #1 and a comparably aged season from the parallel youngster; i.e. if Player 2013 is 20 at draft time, while a comparison player was 21 at draft time, I used the stats from the comparison player’s previous season.  Those are:

  • Offensive Rating
  • Usage
  • Shooting percentage splits, in the form FG% / 3P% / FT%
  • A split of where they scored from.  If a player scored 50% of his points from inside the arc, 25% from three, and 25% at the foul line, his tally is 50 / 25 / 25.
  • Defensive Rebounding Percentage
  • Steal Percentage
  • Block Percentage
  • Assist Percentage
  • Assist to Turnover Ratio

Using those as markers, the two most comparable players were determined in order to frame a reference for what the future may hold for the youngster.  I started with the draftexpress.com measurements database, looking at players plus or minus 1” from each indivdiual’s barefoot height.

Each day this week, I will present the list for one of those players, before on Friday, announcing my preference for the Cavs on draft day.  While certainly not perfect, it is instructive to see how similar performers progressed through their NBA careers.  Let’s start with Ben McLemore, the 20-year old freshman Kansas shooting guard.  His line is:

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A look at the Combine Results

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Shane Larkin is poised to make noise in the NBA.

(This is Part 14, the final in the series that I published at Hardwood Paroxysm throughout the year.)

The 2013 NBA combine is behind us.  After thirteen parts attempting to quantify what it all means, now it is time to declare winners & losers.  Let’s start with the crew deserving a bump in their draft status.

Winners

Shane Larkin – If his NCAA-leading points produced through pick & rolls (scores plus assists) didn’t impress you, or his 24 points per game during Miami’s ACC Tourney run, then how about his joining this crew: Derrick Rose, Russ Westbrook, Mike Conley Jr, John Wall, Nate Robinson, and Jerryd Bayless?  Those were the drafted underclassmen point guards with sprint speed below 3.15 seconds and no-step vert of 30” or more.  Ignore concerns about his tiny stature; this Hurricane is primed to do big things.

Otto Porter – Tall small forwards rate as the NBA’s most-productive two-way players.  Who stood  tallest of the 2013 small forward class?  Of course, Otto Porter, also the draft’s most productive 19-year old.  I see a strong NBA career, despite middling athleticism tests…which aren’t consistently reflective of NBA success or failure for a small forward, anyways (actually, most of those correlations were negative).

Phil Pressey – He surpassed 3.2 seconds in the sprint and 11 seconds in the agility drill as a draft-worthy upperclassmen point guard.  That’s been a can’t-miss combination over the last thirteen years and a great source of late value.  Peyton Siva also bested these thresholds, but currently ESPN and Draftexpress include him outside the likely draftees*; at nearly 23, he has never been a particularly effective collegiate offensive player.  This serves as opportunity to say, don’t overrate players that otherwise may not warrant drafting, just because of favorable combine results (obviously an Olympic track athlete isn’t likely to find NBA success).

Nerlens Noel – Did I bump my head?  I am giving Noel the benefit of the doubt here.  The small group of very long, very speedy prodigy centers is fairly glamourous.  Nerlens’ 110” reach meets one criteria, and I have faith that his sprint speed bests 3.3 seconds.

Victor Oladipo – The complete list of underclassmen (Oladipo is still 21 as of February 1st, 2014) shooting guards with first-round talent and a 6’ – 9” wingspan, 31” no-step vert and 35” max vert in the last fourteen drafts is: James Harden, Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Joe Johnson, Eric Gordon, Ronnie Brewer and Jeremy Lamb.  I expect the young Hoosier will fit nicely into this list.  Ben McLemore also leapt over 31″ from a stand-still, exhibiting a trait often portending success for first-round, underclass shooting-guard talent.  Allen Crabbe barely missed the combination of qualifiers that Oladipo met.

Cody Zeller - His sprint speed ties the third best of the centers evaluated by this study.   His no-step vert rose the highest of the entire 2013 Combine.  Given the precedent of these traits predicting success in underclassmen centers, this helps solidify Zeller in the top-ten. Norvel Pelle flashed an exciting blend of speed and length…who is he?  I don’t know, but as a late second round project, he may be worth a look.

Losers

Rudy Gobert – Here’s the shocker; my big, contrarian view.  Also, this may not be fair, because this project focused solely on NCAA players.  But heading into May 16th, reports of his wingspan were 7’ – 9”…now it’s a confirmed 7’ – 8.25”.  Why would this bump his draft stock?  As an anecdotal case, the players in the draftexpress.com database with wingspan greater than 7’ – 8” include: Mamadou N’Diaye, John Riek, Alexis Ajinca, Saer Sene, Michael Olowokandi, Chris Marcus, and Boban Majanovic.  Is this a list that inspires confidence?  Detailed here and here, as a general rule, increased size did not correlate to improved offensive or defensive success for centers; instead, elite athleticism generally corresponded to raised performance.

Follow me on this gross simplification, as I attempt to illustrate a point.  Of the players investigated in this study:

  • Gobert’s reach of 9’ – 7” exceeds the 70th percentile of centers by 3.5”.
  • His max vert of 29” falls below the 70th percentile by 4”.
  • OK.   Ignore the second bullet point.  Based on his sprint speed of 19.7 ft / sec, compared to 70th percentile speed of 21.2 ft / sec, it takes 1/5 of a second for the faster player to gain 3.5″.

While I’m not sure that solved anything, athleticism provided much more reliable prediction of NBA success for Centers.  Gobert’s sprint speed was third-worst of the 2013 combine, his agility second from the bottom, with max-vert tied for last.  He failed at the more important stuff.  I don’t think the events of May 16 and 17 did anything to positively differentiate from May 15th .

Shabazz Muhammad – At the one position where size rated as consistently beneficial, the UCLA freshman comes up short.  Turning 21 at the start of next season, combined with non-elite NCAA production, he is probably a reach in the top ten.

Late draft shooting guards – Snagging a “two” in the final quarter of the draft is a longstanding popular decision amongst NBA front offices; following that pattern, a recent draftexpress.com mock shows five coming off the board between picks 46 and 60.  Invariably, these picks have not worked out…potentially bad news for Ricky Ledo, BJ Young, Vander Blue, Brandon Paul, or Michael Snaer.  Rolling the dice on a fast point guard is historically smarter.

Myck Kabongo – In addition to the facts that he was not particularly productive at Texas, and that he technically qualifies as an upperclassmen (22 years old by February 1st), his athleticism results were gross.  Not a good combination for a prospective point guard.

Upperclassmen Centers – Over the last 13 drafts, this has typically been the domain of marginally performing players.  The exceptions are Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert, Emeka Okafor, and Brendan Haywood.  Accounting solely for defense, Jason Collins can be added to the list.  Disappointing speed and leaping results from Kelly Olynyk and Jeff Withey do not help their case towards breaking into this tiny group of  successes.  Gorgui Dieng skipped the athleticism testing.

Neutral

Any sub-six foot point guard – Size showed zero inclination towards predicting offensive success for point guards, so if you like Trey Burke, Shane Larkin, Phil Pressey, Pierre Jackson or Isaiah Cannon, don’t be scared-off that they’re shorter than you.

Undersized big men – Richard Howell, Andre Roberson, DeShaun Thomas; if you liked these guys before the combine…carry on.

Anyone not listed here – Basically regardless of how amazing or disappointing the thing they did was…you shouldn’t let it dramatically change your perception of their draft stock.

*Casper Ware did not possess the necessary skill-set to get him drafted, hence he would not qualify in a re-do of this study in five years.  As a small, fast point guard though, I featured him with a picture in the second part of this series.  Due to that, I will always feel a small interest in his career.  This year, in his rookie professional season in Europe, he sits as the second leading scorer (20.4 ppg) and fourth-best assist person in Italian Lega2.  Despite struggling around the basket, he posted respectable true shooting of 55% to go with his bulk scoring.  His team currently battles in their playoffs, clinching a first round series yesterday, behind Ware’s 20 points on 59% true shooting.  Good luck in the semifinals, Casper.  Come on, NBA cellar-dwellars and higher-level Euro teams…next year, we can do better than the Italian second-division for Mr. Ware!!

Hoping the Roulette Wheel Stops on #19

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

An athletic big with a history of strong production, but attitude issues? Take him at #19 and see if a glimpse of D-League life brings him to his full potential.

All credit for stats and much information goes to draftexpress.com, statsheet.com and eurobasket.com; three unique and awesome websites.  Certainly I worked in an original opinion somewhere though.

Regarding the first round of the 2013 draft, I still think the Cavs benefit best by bringing aboard one player to the active roster next year.  Kyrie, Tristan, Dion, 2013 lottery pick, and Zeller need to be surrounded by veteran talent: players to share lessons learned, teach them how to be pros, etc.  Based on that thought, the nineteenth pick would be traded, Euro-stashed, or invested in a young player destined for a year of D-League time.

The latter scenarios present interesting opportunities to swing for the fences.  The Cavaliers employ the aforementioned crew of youngsters, plus possess a multitude of future draft picks to acquire role players.  Why not shoot for the moon with this year’s other first-rounder?

Here are some options.

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Clearing House

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

While primarily draft-related, let’s start the article addressing other quick topics.

First, the coaching search didn’t proceed exactly as anticipated, but at the end of the day (literally, one day), I feel much better about Mike Brown as Coach than Byron Scott.

Next, regarding the vague whispers of trade-talk, I hope the team stands pat.  It seems the storm has been weathered, and next season the wounds begin to heal.  I want to see the current core of players lead that charge.  Here are five indisputable facts about the 2012 – 2013 Cleveland Cavaliers:

  1. Kyrie Irving represented the team as the NBA’s youngest All-Star.
  2. Tristan Thompson turned 22 in March, works tirelessly, and of 72 qualified power forwards last season, he ranked 27th for PER.  I won’t be placing even-money bets on multiple All-Star appearances from TT yet, but last season reflected great progress from the second-year forward.
  3. In the 33 games from January 1st until his injury on March 18th, Dion Waiters averaged twenty-points per thirty-six minutes.  His PER climbed to 16.3, his Offensive Rating hit 104, with usage of 26.6 (those numbers thanks to the esteemed Randall Cooper of laughingcavs.com).  Once Dion quit routinely hoisting off-balance jumpers and instead persistently attacked, his age-21 performance compares reasonably with several other recent guards**.  A list includes: James Harden – 16.4 PER, 119 orating, 19.5 usage; Eric Gordon – 14.1 PER, 107 ORtg, 21.5 usage;  Russell Westbrook – 17.8 PER, 105 ORtg, 25.7 usage; Dwyane Wade (age 22) – 17.6 PER, 101 ORtg, 25 usage; Jamal Crawford, 15.3 PER, 102 ORtg, 21.5 usage; J.R. Smith – 15.6 PER, 112 ORtg, 22.8 usage.  Not saying he will match all of those guys, but the Dion we saw in 2013 performed admirably.
  4. The franchise picks top-six in this year’s draft and continues to carry-forward the NBA’s most future draft picks.
  5. Their salary cap situation is as favorable as any team in the League, with no guaranteed contracts in 2014 – 2015.

Give Mike Brown’s defense one year, stir in 60 games of Varejao, sign four respectable bench players this off-season, and let’s play ball.  I want to see these youngsters do work next year.

Porter swings it to Kyrie in the corner! The Bottom!

Certainly in my scenario, the team’s second high-profile addition (after Mike Brown) is the guaranteed top-six pick.  So who are my early favorites for the Cavs?

  1. Nerlens Noel sits atop everyone’s draft board.  Big and cat-quick, he is a fierce shot blocker that will play the entirety of his rookie season at 19 years old.  Considered an amazing athlete with a great attitude, the only thing more outstanding is his flat-top.  Either he or Tristan would need to develop a jumper.
  2. Here’s the thing about Otto Porter…what are the odds that he is available regardless of where the Cavs pick?  Because I have talked myself into some Otto Porter.  The two teams with worse records than Cleveland, Charlotte picked MKG last year, and Orlando traded for a 2011 (Tobias Harris) and 2012 (Moe Harkless) first-round small forward.  So they are both out of the running, right?  There is a 40% chance that a different team jumps all three of these squads.  In that scenario, three of the maximum five picks ahead of the Cavs aren’t picking Porter.  Draftexpress ranks the Otto-bahn at sixth, and David Thorpe argues for Trey Burke at #1.  If Porter was a near-lock to Cleveland in the top-five, I would be stoked.  I noted on Friday that Kevin Pelton’s projections consider Porter to be the second-most successful rookie.  Turning twenty in June, he is younger than freshmen Ben McLemore and Anthony Bennett.  A box-score stuffer, he posted a nightly line of 16 points, almost 3 assists, 7.5 rebounds, 1 block, and nearly 2 steals on 48 / 42 / 78 shooting.  Questions abound regarding his ability to be the go-to guy, but Cleveland doesn’t need that anyways.  A big, no-nonsense wing that rebounds, moves the ball well (of 94 small forwards in draftexpress’s database, his Pure Point Rating ranks fifth), plays defense, and knocks down jumpers?  Yes, please.    That is almost the prototype of the small forward to place amongst Irving, Waiters and Thompson.
  3. Described as a gym-rat, and universally acknowledged as the NCAA’s best-wing defender last year, Victor Oladipo finds himself third on my list.  According to draftexpress, nearly two-thirds of Oladipo’s shots come at the rim; his jumpers are typically of the catch-and-shoot variety.  Is Tom Crean preaching an all threes and layups diet, or is Oladipo a student of basketball efficiency?  Converting 60% of his field goals, the young junior averaged 14 points with an impressive offensive rating of 122 (best on this short-list) on respectable 22% usage.  Not a player that creates well off-the-dribble, fortunately like Porter, this isn’t what the Cavs are lacking.  A relentless defender that can shut-down the opponent’s best perimeter player, knock down open-shots, and finish spectacularly…checks enough boxes for me.
  4. Starting here, the Cavs start facing interesting positional dilemmas.  Anthony Bennett traditionally gets assigned to power forward, just like our boy Tristan (he’s also Canadian.  Are the Canucks going to be an absolute international force in the 2020’s?)  A knock on Bennett is his height of 6’ – 7” in shoes.  On the bright-side, he is an uber-athlete, capable of handling the ball with both hands, and also knocking-down 38% from long-range.  Tallying a 16 & 8, with PER of 28 as a freshman facing a reasonably difficult schedule, if desired, could he pair with Thompson?  Would this be the best all-Canadian front-line ever?  Can the Cavs sign Tiago Splitter and trot-out an all Brazilian / Canadian front-line next year?  I lost focus there…let’s just answer the first question.  I say yes; on Wednesday I watched Oklahoma City play a line-up of Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson, Derek Fisher, Kevin Martin and Nick Collison.  That’s the NBA’s second-best team…playing three point-guards at once…in the playoffs.  Teams are pushing boundaries.  If Bennett proves his shooting is legit, he and Tristan could play twelve minutes per night together as a small, fast tandem.  Given his limited-height and outstanding athleticism, if the team employed a center with passing skills, could Bennett play small forward for twelve minutes a night?  In the last five years, the Lakers showed that championships can still be won by “going big”.  Anyways, if bad lottery-luck besets the Cavs, snagging Bennett as consolation appeases me.
  5. I am putting Alex Len at number five, but at this point, I start getting less excited and would have to think about trading down-or-out (edit: or pushing hard to move-up and snag Porter); maybe another team is mega-excited about Trey Burke.  The Ukranian Maryland sophomore turns twenty in June.  A legitimately long seven-footer, he receives praise for him nimble movement, quick feet, and above-the-rim play.  His block rate ranked fourth in the ACC, where he finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds on 57% true shooting.  ESPN lists his ceiling as Zydrunas, a 16 & 8 guy and two-time All-Star; also a player with great familiarity in Cleveland.  Of course, Len’s floor is Darko Milicic.  My concerns begin with a potential lack of aggressiveness from him; his defensive rebounding rate ranks ninth of eleven centers that draftexpress expects to see selected this year.  And while his teammates deserve much blame, what sort of top-notch second-year center prospect doesn’t lead his team to the NCAA tourney?  Forging towards an exit in the NIT semifinals, Len averaged 11 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks.  He needs to keep getting stronger, and if he reaches Ilgauskas’ level, there are certainly worse outcomes from number five picks.
  6. Going six-deep, and ignoring Trey Burke (don’t need Kyrie’s back-up in the top-five), Ben McLemore assumes the worst-case scenario for Cleveland’s lottery pick.  Not that “worst-case” is a bad thing when talking the better-half of the lottery.  A gravity-defying highlight factory, he also canned 42% from deep (50 / 42 / 87); his sweet stroke draws comparisons to Ray Allen.  Despite this, he draws a rep as not possessing the killer-instinct; over his last six collegiate games in the Big Twelve and NCAA tourneys, he averaged 12 points on 45% from the field, with nine total assists against fifteen turnovers.  My inclination is that he is a complimentary player, not a star, and this freshman is only nine months younger than Oladipo, a junior.  On offense and defense, a reasonable goal for McLemore would be to reach Oladipo’s level in nine months…hence, the Hoosier at #3 and the Jayhawk at #6.

That’s it for today.  Hopefully the Cavs can pick Porter in June, sign-up a solid bench in July, then start rolling in October.

** – In 2011, Basketball-reference published an article equating offensive rating with usage. Based on that research, and normalizing each of these shooting guards to 25 usage, their respective Offensive Ratings at age 21 were: Harden, 113; Smith, 110; Westbrook, 105.5; Waiters, 105 (after January 1); Gordon, 1o3.5; Wade, 101; Crawford, 98.5.  Waiters needs to keep working on his shot, his body / explosiveness, and watching a lot of tape of himself while off-the-ball on offense & defense.  And he will be just fine.

Kevin’s Summer Project, Part 2: Point Guard Speed

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

(I will preface this article by saying that while I was on the calendar for today, Nate Smith and Tom Pestak also posted excellent articles on Kyrie’s defense and Andy’s untradeableness.  Bear down for a long sit of Cavs: the Blog reading and check out the articles below.  It is worth it.)

Last week, hopefully you read the intro to “Kevin’s Summer Project”, when I laid out the groundrules of a study correlating pre-draft measurements with NBA offensive performance.   The first article primarily asserted that most of the measurements do not prove highly useful, with some exceptions.  Today, the first of those exceptions will be explored; the implications of speed for point guards.

Who is this guy? Perhaps he could have been the Cavs' back-up PG. Apparently he was too small or something.

For primary ball-handlers, of the pre-draft measurements, three-quarter-court sprint speed served as the truest barometer of future offensive success.  The other athleticism tests, primarily leaping, also featured frequent positive correlations, but size proved unimportant.  Actually, nearly 90% of the size-to-offense correlations were negative.   Small, fast floor generals ruled, starting at the top with sub-six-foot Chris Paul and including players as short as 5’ – 8” Nate Robinson.

The following table reflects the accumulation of speed correlations with offensive win shares.

Fairly strong, including nothing lower than 0.10, one of the two ‘all player’ correlations above 0.50, and two robust values of 0.63 and 0.66; definitely a promising trait corresponding with NBA offensive production.  But what else can this info tell us?

First, note the sub-trend of speed factoring as a larger predictor of success for upperclassmen.    I will credit this to the overall importance of skill and production over athleticism or size.  While many highly regarded underclassmen flex strong athleticism, a more critical component to being draftable at a young age is dominance on a basketball court; athleticism alone does not provide for elite basketball.  Many underclassmen posted marginal measurements, but were very skilled, and  progressed to highly successful NBA players.  The list includes Chris Paul, Michael Redd, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Al Horford, and Al Jefferson.  These are highly skilled players that began exhibiting their abilities at a very young age, whereas many upperclassmen were not draftable at an earlier age, because they could not develop their talents to this high of a caliber.  Hence, a higher tendency for reliance on size and athleticism.

Now back to point guards and how the idea relates to pre-draft valuation.  While speed registers as a valuable commodity at draft time, the impact on draft positioning does not seem prevalent enough for upperclassmen.  The correlation between draft position and sprint time for upperclassmen point guards is 0.22, a number far exceeded by each of the applicable values in the table above.  The list of drafted upperclassmen point guards from 2000 through 2010 with sprint speeds below 3.20 is:  Speedy Claxton, George Hill, Darren Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Derrick Zimmerman, Ty Lawson, Jameer Nelson, Chris Duhon, Will Blalock, Eric Maynor and Earl Watson.  This looks fairly unremarkable until the average draft position of 28 is viewed, with only one player selected before 18th.  Despite the inauspicious draft positioning, nine of the eleven players outperformed their selection status.  The two non-contributors came off the board at 40th and 60th, so even with higher draft-day weighting towards speed, these players are probably second round picks.  Each of the other players warranted earlier selection than actual.  Finally, one addition expanded this list in 2011; 60th pick and eventual all-rookie team member Isaiah Thomas.  Apparently the trend towards small, fast point guards was not realized sufficiently to fix that one.

So; small, speedy, upperclassmen point guards are undervalued by NBA teams.  A sub-trend is that the new hand-checking rules initiated in 2004 – 2005 increased this group’s success.  While three of the five underclassmen correlations showed mild upticks, upperclassmen correlations rose dramatically, including all values above 0.50.  The graph below reflects the most-correlated data, with Ty Lawson, Jameer Nelson and George Hill populating the upper-left section and several less successful candidates filling up the low-lying portions.  The primary outlier at 3.9 offensive win shares is Jarrett Jack.

Drilling down further to determine combinations of traits that even more reliably provide NBA success, elite upperclassmen performers in both speed and agility rise to the top.   While not as strong for agility as for speed, correlations were always positive with occasionally high results.  From 2000 to 2010, the list of drafted, upperclassmen point guards who finished their sprint in less than 3.2 seconds and their agility drill in less than 11 seconds is: Speedy Claxton, Kirk Hinrich, Chris Duhon, Jameer Nelson, Earl Watson, Darren Collison, Ty Lawson, and Eric Maynor.  As the only player to meet these thresholds in 2011, Isaiah Thomas provided a stellar rookie season.  Every one of these players exceededed the expectations associated with their draft position, which should lead NBA teams to draft similar players higher.  No dice though; no upperclassmen selected in 2012 met these levels, even though Casper Ware was otherwise draftable and surpassed these marks.   Now playing in Europe, through six games in Italian LegaDue, his 22.6 PER helps pace his team to 4 wins and 2 losses.   Draftexpress.com lists his ‘best case’ as Isaiah Thomas, and I had Ware ranked 46th in the class of 2012.  Too bad the Cavs don’t desperately need a shot-creating second string point guard.  They do?  Apparently they needed Luke Harangody more.

For underclassmen point guards, the highest correlations were actually with leaping, with speed sitting in second place.  In a somewhat interesting twist, upperclassmen posited negative correlations for the leaping drills.  This will be explored deeper during the look at defense, but the agility drill may be more conducive to skills associated with role-players, a position more likely to be the dominion of older draftees.   The combination of strong speed and jumping from underclassmen produces a very exciting list of prospects.  Young point guards faster than 3.15 with a no-step vert of 30″ or greater is: Derrick Rose, Russ Westbrook, Mike Conley Jr,  John Wall, Nate Robinson, and Jerryd Bayless, with no additions in 2011 or 2012.  Obviously, this package is highly sought-after, featuring five lottery-picks, four top-fives, and two number-one overall selections.  There is no additional draft-day-value to be extracted from young, talented, explosive point guards; possibly my most shocking discovery from this series.   (one side note; the recent run of Rose, Westbrook, and Wall sort-of served as Kyrie Irving’s primary weakness leading up to the draft.   Pundits generally thought that Kyrie’s lack of athleticism removed him from ‘star’ potential.  In hindsight, clearly there is still a place at the top of the point guard heap for non-freak athletes who are young, highly skilled and ridiculously productive.  Kyrie, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams…your jobs are safe.)

Ok.  So I have potentially proved too expansive for one article and missed many important points, while hitting (or missing) on lesser elements.  Let’s wrap this up.  To summarize, as it relates to offense for point guards, there are four main takeaways supported by numbers:

  • Athleticism is helpful, with speed as most prevalent, and agility (upperclassmen) and leaping (underclassmen) also relatively important.
  • The success rate of fast, agile upperclassmen point guards is very much underappreciated on draft day.
  • Since 2004, the importance of speed in a floor general has marginally increased.
  • Size doesn’t matter

Come back next time, for a deeper look at shooting guard offensive production.

Kevin’s Summer Project

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Cavs fans, bear with me here.  This summer, my NBA draft-experting led me down a rabbit-hole I could not evade.  As the draft approaches, a plethora of athleticism data arrives in late May and early June, and I struggle with the question: “what does it mean”?  Dion Waiters is only 6’ – 4”; Jeremy Lamb has long arms; in a laboratory, Harrison Barnes jumps really high.  Should I care about any of this?  I embarked on a project to track how pre-draft measurements correlate to actual, eventual NBA production.  In today’s post, I hope to introduce the process.

Who is this guy? I don't know, but he has a 7-foot wingspan.

I started by compiling the pre-draft measurements for every drafted NCAA player from the 2000 through 2010 drafts.  This data was gleaned from the world’s most comprehensive draft website: drafexpress.com.  I focused on eight measurements:

  • Barefoot Height
  • Wingspan
  • Reach
  • No-Step Vertical Leap
  • Maximum Vertical Leap
  • Three-Quarter Court Sprint Speed
  • Lane Agility (Cone) Drill
  • Bench Press reps of 185 pounds.

To my spreadsheet, I assembled every player’s Offensive Win Shares (OWS), from basketball-reference.com, for each of their first four seasons.  For players drafted in 2000 through 2007, their “peak” season of OWS from their first four years is also evaluated.  The analysis ignores the strike-shortened 2011 – 2012 season, hence no four-year-peak season for 2008 draftees.  I purposefully chose separate offensive and defensive metrics.

Also, players were sorted into two groups by age; 21 and under as of February 1st of their rookie year, or Older.  Additionally, players were categorized by the five standard basketball positions.  Utilizing the positional-labels proves important, as comparing OWS across the entire spectrum of possible heights and athleticism would be meaningless; obviously both tall and short players are successful; clearly little guys are faster than big men, but both succeed.

After sorting into those various categories, I correlated each of the eight measurements with the players’ OWS’s.  Each player had a maximum of five OWS values: 1st season, 2nd season, 3rd season, 4th season, and peak.   Near-zero correlation meant no discernible relationship between the measurement and NBA offensive performance.  Highly positive correlations reflect that players strong in that particular measurement were likely to be successful offensive players.  Negative correlations can largely be regarded as near-zero; I won’t advance any theories that a certain group of players is better off being smaller or less athletic.  (As a final note, speed and agility correlations were made negative; i.e. smaller sprint times resulting in larger OWS are reflected as positive correlation.)

With that as the basics of the study; the pre-draft measurements provide a fairly minimal array of predictive uses for offensive production.  For five positions, two age groups per position, five seasonal OWS values, and eight measurements; there were four-hundred correlations.  The graph below reflects their distribution.

As you can see, this is approximately a bell-curve centered near zero.  Of the 400; only 228 (57%) are positive correlations, only sixty-five (16.3%) exceed 0.25, and only two exceeded 0.50.  As a frame-of-reference, here are graphs reflecting 0.25 and 0.50 correlations:

The 0.25 correlation graph is fairly useless.  In the specific case of this graph, Danny Granger was both tallest and overwhelmingly most offensively successful.   This alone drove the positive correlation.  The next four-tallest players were all offensively worthless.

The 0.5 correlation starts to resemble something meaningful.  Four of the five highest-leapers managed successful seasons, and the fifth was Greg Oden.  With one exception, the low-fliers all struggled.

Part of the draw towards the low correlations is second-round picks adding noise to the data, as every NBA flame-out was awarded zero win-shares for each season.  Looking only at first-round picks, with their guaranteed contracts, provides the distribution below.  There are only 320 correlations here, due to sample-size issues.  For both guard positions, there were relatively few upperclassmen first round picks, so I left everyone in one age-group.

194 (60.6%) were positive, with sixty-six (20.6%) exceeding 0.25. Most encouragingly, a tantalizing eighteen rose above 0.50.

Well, hopefully I have capably communicated the basics.  The only conclusion I hope you drew today is that the pre-draft size and athleticism measurements offer little predictive information relating to NBA offensive performance.  Over the course of the season, I plan on providing insights into:

  • What are those high-correlation measurements?  How useful are they?
  • What about defense?  A reasonable hypothesis would say that size & athleticism are more critical there.
  • Which measurements rarely or never provide strong correlation with offensive or defensive performance and hence, are reasonable to ignore?
  • Are there athletic traits that NBA teams are over or under-valuing?  Certainly some negative correlations are due to GM’s overpersuing players based on certain athletic profiles that do not reliably prove successful.
  • Are there combinations of traits that prove highly reliable towards predicting success of a drafted player?  What about failure?
  • Did the hand-check rules initiated in 2004 – 2005 make speed & athleticism more important?

I hope this turns out to be an interesting and provocative series.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

A Post-Draft Fireside Chat

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

In the wake of this draft we’re trying to make sense of things. Kevin and Colin are hanging out in an Edenic garden/irradiated wasteland sitting on giant, colorful toadstools/the carcasses of loved ones discussing the implications of whatever the hell happened tonight.

Kevin: Obviously this was not a “best-case” scenario, but I’m going to start with a glass-mostly-full take.  How did the Cavs respond to missing out on their two favorites: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Brad Beal?  They answer the question: what would a Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving backcourt look like?

In May 2008, the UCLA sophomore was projected as a non-lottery pick.  As an uber-athletic combo-guard, playing next to stud freshman Kevin Love, and upperclass stalwarts Darren Collison and Luc Richard Mbah a’ Moute, his college playing days passed by as a high quality role player.  In his second NCAA season, he averaged 13 points, 4, rebounds and 4 assists on 47 / 34 / 71 shooting.  Draftexpress listed his “best case” as Leandro Barbosa.  Mainly lauded for his athleticism and defensive intensity, questions existed about his position and offensive polish.  But then, a funny thing happened.  He started creeping up draft boards, by late June reaching the mid-lottery on most mock drafts.   On draft day, something CRAZY happened; GM Sam Presti did a solid job to resist the temptation to add (a more highly regarded player) and take a player with considerably more upside at the fourth pick in Russell Westbrook”.  The local media was surprised, as everyone thought the team may trade up or down.  Most were left scratching their heads.

Well, you see where this is going.  Four years later, it’s deja vu, except Cleveland shocks their fans by selecting an athletic combo-guard at #4.

And really, the two players have some similarities.  Admittedly, Westbrook was young for a sophomore, nearly one year younger than Waiters on draft day.  But both measured 6’ – 2” with a 6’ – 7” wingspan, except Waiters packs on thirty extra pounds.  Westbrook is more athletic.  Per 40 minutes pace adjusted, the 16, 5 & 5 of Westbrook and the 21, 4 and 4 of Waiters match-up favorably for Waiters.  Waiters’s 26 PER and 116 offensive rating with 26 usage thrashes Westbrook’s collegiate numbers of 19, 110, and 23.  Both players gained praise for their defense, while carrying offensive question marks.

What are your thoughts?  Is this a disaster?  What do you think of my best case scenario: Kyrie and Russ Westbrook?  Is it feasible from Waiters?  How does that work on the basketball court?

Colin: I’m from the Syracuse area, so I’m somewhat familiar with Waiters. It’s true: he’s Westbrook-y. That’s the comparison people make, at least. (You should know that the Syracuse basketball team is pretty much the main draw sports-wise in central New York; they tend to overrate their own out of love and boredom.) I hesitate to compare anyone to Westbrook because he’s a.) one of the very best players in the NBA, and b.) probably a singular talent. But Waiters is strong, fast, good with the ball in his hands, and a streaky shooter. He can defend when he wants to because he has great lateral quickness and active hands. I understand the pick, I think. He might have the highest ceiling of any player not picked in front of him. He’s a bit of a jerk, and has some work ethic issues; if he can get his head right, we’ll see what he can do.

How does he fit in next to Irving? That’s the tough question. Obviously, when Westbrook (and we’re really using “Westbrook” here under erasure) was brought into the OKC organization, the idea was to make him into a point guard. What would have happened if he remained at his more natural position? That’s a rabbit hole I can’t see far enough down, really. The pick isn’t a disaster. I really don’t think that. It’s just that Chris Grant has put his zeppelin-sized testicles on the table, and proclaimed “Come at me, bro! I stake my reputation on Dion Waiters being a very good player.” We will see, CG. I respect your sense of daring.

Kevin: Fair enough. To a large extent, the point I was trying to make is: Westbrook was a surprise.  One month before the draft, people weren’t saying “Russ Westbrook will be a top-ten NBA player”. A large majority weren’t saying it on draft day.  Also, there is a decent amount of similarity in them as players, as far as their skills, draft trajectory, etc.

You call him a “bit of a jerk.” I’ve read he thinks of himself as the best player on the court. That could be an issue next to Kyrie, who we all plan on being the best player on the court. But really, isn’t that an interesting dynamic of the Westbrook/Durant teaming?

Obviously Waiters will end up going the shooting guard route of a “combo guard”. I think an aggressive, scoring guard can work well next to Kyrie, and is kind of what was hoped for in Beal. You could even stagger Waiters off the bench, like a Harden, to keep a strong scoring threat on the court at all times. He’s a pretty well-rounded offensive player; in addition to his aggressive, attacking nature, his three-point shooting percentage finished better than fellow sophomore Harrison Barnes and the next-Ray Allen. The Cavs definitely got faster and more skilled today than they were yesterday.  Even defensively, Avery Bradley only stands 6′ – 2″ and wasn’t he a lock-down two-guard revelation this year?  I’m not sure Waiters’s size is completely prohibitive, and think Irving and Waiters form an intriguing next-decade backcourt.

Definitely props to Chris Grant. He went all-in. Speaking of, what do you think of the Tyler Zeller trade?

Colin: I should clarify: I don’t consider Waiters’s confidence to be a problem. I’m glad he thinks he’s better than he is. I think his jerk-ness is wrapped up in the fact that he sometimes doesn’t work hard. SU coach Jim Boheim called him the most talented guard he has ever recruited (high praise, though not quite as lofty as it sounds; it’s not like SU is a guard factory), but he sat the bench his freshman year, then threatened to transfer. Boheim essentially called his bluff, saying, “Fine, transfer. Maybe a change of scenery will be good for you.” After this incident, Waiters settled down and started to work harder in practice, care about defense more, etc. The work ethic thing is what bothers me. I like his arrogance. I like players with a little bit of “eff you” in them; the Cavs are lacking in that department.

Tyler Zeller’s a nice player. I have family that teaches at UNC (the Cavs really picked players in my wheelhouse tonight), so I’ve watched Zeller somewhat regularly for the four years he’s been at Chapel Hill. To sum him up in terms of tangible skills: he can post up a little bit; he runs well; he’s got pretty good hands and a soft touch around the basket. More crucially, I think he’s a good fit next to Tristan Thompson because he can knock down an open 14-footer. He’ll help the Cavs space the floor a little on offense; the paint won’t be so clogged for Irving and Waiters. He’s a little light, muscle-wise. He’ll get pushed around by some of the bigger centers in the league. But he’s a solid “5″. I think the Cavs overpaid for him in terms of value–there were  guys like Moultrie, PJ3, Barton, etc. available at the end of the first round and they lost the opportunity to take fliers on guys early in the second round–but Zeller will compliment TT pretty well moving forward. And overpaying to get the guys they like seems to be Chris Grant’s philosophy when it comes to the draft. Which is fine; he just better damn well be right about who he’s acquiring.

Kevin: It sounds like Waiters turned a corner during his freshman season. This year, he was the best player on one of the five best teams in college basketball, and seems to have willingly accepted a back-up role. Certainly, he could have acted out much worse.  I can’t speak specifically to his work ethic, but his defense was strong this year and to me, that’s a solid indicator of motor, intangibles, etc.

On to Zeller; my final “favorite” scenario this morning was Waiters and Zeller at 6 and 11. Obviously the day played out as 4 and 17 instead, but the Tar Heel seven-footer is a solid addition to the team. He did not shoot much from the perimeter at UNC, but did make 81% of his free throws, and in limited attempts, he was actually the 4th best outside shooter of 26 big men that Draft Express looked at. Pairing him with Andy and TT, could look really good. Maybe shades of Zydrunas.

Zeller has always been praised for how quickly he runs the court, and his “measurables” came in strong. Of 44 centers, he was 3rd in the agility drill, 8th in speed and 9th in vertical leap. I don’t love combine measurements, but when they match up with solid production that’s always an additional level of assuredness that a player can survive in the NBA. So in summary, today was ballpark of one of the ideal draft day scenarios I laid out this morning. Pretty hard for me to complain.

I agree there were a lot of likable players left at 24, 33 and 34. Will passing up Perry Jones III, Doron Lamb and Jae Crowder look regrettable in a few years when compared to Zeller? The NBA is definitely a game of quality over quantity. Cavs management accumulated all these draft picks to make moves like this.

Colin: We should probably address the “value” aspect of the draft. I’m actually one of the people who thinks value is overrated in the draft: get the guys you like, and if you pick them a few slots too high, so be it. But this seems like an extreme example of that. Was Waiters going before seven? I can only assume Chris Grant worked the phones to trade down and couldn’t. And was Zeller worth sacrificing the opportunity to take late first-round/early second-round fliers? Your answer can totally be “yes,” but I wonder what your thoughts are on that.

Kevin: I really liked the depth of this draft and was excited about the potential of the 24, 33 and 34 picks.  I had Zeller ranked top-ten though; so personally, at 17, the value of those later picks is pretty appropriate for him.

It’s hard to answer the question on draft day. Does PJ3 make Kevin Durant expendable?  That’s a joke, but you know what I’m saying.  Some really intriguing talents existed at the later picks, but are they just exciting draft day thoughts, or real NBA players?  When the rumor was #4 and #24 for #2, I took the tenet that Chris Grant needs to get his guys.  It appears that’s what the organization did, and it matches up well with “my guys”, so I’m ready to see what 2012 – 2013 brings.

With Waiters, yeah, I assume no other team wanted to trade up, or maybe Cleveland thought Portland really liked him at #6.  If there were other options to get DW; surely those routes were explored. I enjoyed the back-and-forth, but it’s about my bed time. Remember, I’m an old man.

Next year, Cleveland can suit up Irving – Waiters – Gee – Varejao – Zeller with Gibson, Casspi and Thompson off the bench.  Add a back-up point guard, and that’s a fun, young team.  Not too small, with decent floor spacing, ball-handling and defense.  They still have a lot of cap flexibility and plenty of draft picks moving forward.

This draft night did not work out like anyone hoped for, but ultimately, I think it’s all right.

Colin: As old man Kevin dozes—I begrudge him nothing; he has children and a wife to attend to; I’m just a responsibility-less dude sitting on my couch with a fuzzy black cat asleep on my foot—I relent: I’m okay with this? That’s the proper inflection, I think. On a day when dreams were stepped on like an Edokko beneath Godzilla’s reptilian sole, I think the Cavs made the best of it. I assume there were no reasonable options in terms of moving down, and that they decided they liked Waiters a lot and so drafted him where they knew he was theirs.

For the sake of pointing out something that feels obvious to me: Zeller is an admission that the front office botched Valanciunas pick, no? We flubbed on the last talented center that came our way, so we’re going to make sure we land a decent one in this draft. That’s a great strategy, if not the ideal one. It is better to acknowledge your mistakes while you can still remedy them. Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller might develop into an above-average frontcourt. Zeller’s set of skills will allow Thompson to focus on rebounding, shot-blocking (still very much a work in progress), and finding baskets by cutting into the paint. Now, Tyler, if you could hit the weight room a little bit, just so you don’t embarrass yourself against Roy Hibbert, that’d be great.

Final point: the Cavs didn’t move Varejao for a draft pick/picks. He was involved in a lot of trade rumors both before and during the draft; I’m pretty positive, from what I’ve heard, that he was dangled to various teams. He’s a great guy, and one of my favorite Cavaliers, but he’s more valuable now than he’ll ever be. He will be 30 when the season starts. What are the Cavs doing with him, exactly? Will he be around after next season’s trade deadline? I thought he was going to be gone six to eight months ago, which shows what I know. Perhaps they conceive of him as the perfect mentor the young big men they’ve acquired. Or perhaps he could leave tomorrow. Just some food for thought.

NBA Draft Open Thread

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

So, this is it. I’d rally you all with a Braveheart speech or some such, but I’m kind of a fatalist. It’d be a downer, probably. (“I know we are all deeply flawed human beings, alienated from one another, incapable of true empathy, but arbitrarily bound together by this basketball team. I’m not even from Cleveland, by the way…“) But tonight’s the night where the future of our Cleveland Cavaliers is determined to either a large or small extent. Probably large. Big night, in all likelihood. Might not be, though. We could totally look back on this night, and go, “Remember when we were all convinced of how momentous an occasion the 2012 draft was going to be, and then nothing particularly consequential happened?” That would be weird, though. Seems like we’d be saying that sort of thing in a nuclear wasteland wrought from war with a brutally violent alien race. Y’know, after some perspective was gained. It’s hard to care about sports when your entire family has immolated, and you’re drinking irradiated water out of a cup you carved from your dear pet dog Hobbes’s pelvis.

I’m geting off track. This is an important night, probably. So let’s get out there, and KILL SOME ALIENS! draft boldly and intelligently. Not us, of course. Chris Grant is the actor here. We will not participate in the decision-making process at all. We’ll be sitting at home, because none of us are qualified to work in an NBA front office, with our hope and sweaty palms. Maybe a beer. Definitely a beer. (If you’re wondering, had the linked article been mine and not Mallory’s, all the players would have been PBR, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would have been the cheapest bottle of champagne imaginable.)

Anyway, updates: we’ll have them for you here as picks and/or trades are made. Feel free to cheer, argue, yell, pontificate, etc. in the comment section. Enjoy the spectacle, everyone.

UPDATE I: Chris Broussard is reporting the Cavs are offering the Bobcats the fourth, 24th, and 33rd pick in exchange for the second and 31st picks. Most everyone assumes they’re going after Beal.

UPDATE II: The Cavs take Dion Waiters. The world disintegrates like a cookie beneath the rump of a corpulent eight year-old.

UPDATE III: The Cavs traded the 24th and the two second-rounders to Dallas for Tyler Zeller.

My Draft Day Favorite Scenarios (plus a sixth tier)

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Of all the rumors out there, I like two the best: picking MKG at #4 or trading the two first-round-picks for Brad Beal.  That said, if the Cavs proceed a different direction, no complaining from me…not worth the wasted breath.

Earlier this season; I posted a series called “Building a Winner”.  In the first post, a discussion of the “OKC Plan” entailed.  I pointed out that the Thunder really posed an exception to the rule.  Most runs of high lottery picks result in continued mediocrity.  Over the last two drafts and next few, Cleveland owns an outstanding opportunity to insert themselves on the OKC side of the ledger.  If they do – another exciting era begins for Cleveland basketball.  If not…no need talking about that; the Cavs surely draft three future hall-of-famers tomorrow.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist reacts to Cavs:the Blog selecting him in the True Hoop mock draft. He was like, "yeah, those guys are cool."

So with those as the stakes, here are four favorite draft day scenarios.

#4 – Michael Kidd Gilchrist

#24 – Evan Fournier

#33 – Doron Lamb

#34 – Festus Ezeli

Three years from now, a Kyrie, Fournier, MKG back-court would be amazing – provided one of the two teenaged wings learns to shoot.  Great size, scoring, defense, and if MKG or Fournier never learn to shoot, they only need to play a quarter together.  Doron Lamb spells the Frenchman at shooting guard, as Fournier switches to small forward while MKG rests.  Ezeli serves as an upgrade over Erden, Samuels, etc.

#4 – Michael Kidd Gilchrist

#24 – Will Barton

#33 – John Jenkins

#34 – Mike Scott

Same story as before, except four NCAA players are drafted, tempered by the aged influence of 24-year-old Mike Scott.  The Virginia Senior does not add great size, but his floor spacing at the four might look really nice next to Andy.

#2 – Bradley Beal

#33 – Quincy Miller

#34 – Jae Crowder

In this scenario, Miller slips a little, as ESPN shows him at #30 and draftexpress at #31, but I can dream.  Best case scenario, Miller turns into the 6‘ – 10” wing scoring machine envisioned of him in high school.  Relied upon as a back-up; perhaps Crowder can defend both back-court positions.  Maybe not, but as a quality defender with an amazing physique and a great combine agility test, back-up shooting guards might struggle with his strength and length.  And obviously, the scenario is rounded out with Brad Beal, eight-time-all-star and one-time Finals MVP (The voters didn’t want to give Kyrie four in a row).

#6 – Dion Waiters

#11 – Tyler Zeller

#33 & 34 – repeats of above

Ahh, the fabled Portland trade.  I have halfway convinced myself that Dion Waiters becomes the next Russell Westbrook and Zeller provides a needed seven-footer with shooting range.

Finally, a sixth tier of players that I’ll define as “in the right situation, with good coaching, you might here these names again”.  I didn’t  invest much time sorting these players, but this takes me from 38 through about 70.  No one not included in this list will play in the NBA.  It’s impossible.

  1. Kevin Murphy – I have a certain affinity for the Tennessee Tech senior.
  2. Khris Middleton – The Texas A&M Junior struggled this season, but played solidly his soph year.  This year was a mess, with his coach leaving before the season and new coach diagnosed with Parkison’s.
  3. Jared Cunningham – I think there are better slashing & defense wings in this draft.
  4. Miles Plumlee – I liked him before the combine, because of his offensive rebounding and how hard he played.
  5. Drew Gordon – Started at UCLA before transferring to New Mexico.  NCAA’s fifth best defensive rebounder is a relatively young senior, turning 22 next month.
  6. Furkan Aldemir – A young Euro energy big man, but he just signed a four-year extension with his Turkish club.
  7. Tyshawn Taylor – I could have been talked into ranking Taylor higher in Tier 6.
  8. Darius Miller – 6′ – 7″ tall, reasonably athletic and a quality jump shooter and, he may stick as a fourth wing somewhere.
  9. Casper Ware – The little dynamo from Long Beach State will not approach the season Isaiah Thomas finished, but his speed, shooting and intensity make him a decent bet as a back-up point guard.
  10. Hollis Thompson – 6′ – 8″ and hit 43% of his threes his junior season.  Marginal athleticism and associated defensive consequences possibly serve as his undoing.
  11. Kim English – He turns 24 before the next NBA season, but his sweet-shooting as an NBA sized two guard throws him in the mix as a nice spot-up shooter to have around.
  12. Jamychal Green – An athletic power forward that tries to dunk everything; he made 55% of his catch & shoot jumpers his junior year, but only 39% this season.  Which percentage he approaches consistently will determine his NBA ability.
  13. Kevin Jones – Lead the Big East in scoring and rebounding.
  14. Kyle O’Quinn – I think he has gotten by based on overwhelming his competition with his size.  That is not going to work anymore.
  15. Jordan Taylor
  16. Orlando Johnson
  17. Ricardo Ratliffe
  18. Bernard James
  19. Henry Sims
  20. Garrett Stutz
  21. Kostas Sloukas – Greek point guard made over 50% of his threes in Europe this year.
  22. Terrell Stoglin
  23. Darius Odom-Johnson
  24. Zack Rosen
  25. J’Covan Brown
  26. Robert Sacre
  27. Herb Pope
  28. Alex Young
  29. Robbie Hummel
  30. Tony Mitchell
  31. Quincy Acy

Kevin’s Tiers 4 and 5 (or, this draft stuff is exhausting)

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Tomorrow, I look forward to declaring my ideal Cavs draft.  Today though, I’ll continue to trek through my Draft Board into Tiers 4 and 5.  Let’s say that Tier 4 means players with 80th percentile career equal to “top-50 NBA player” and 25th percentile of “fine rotation player”.  Tier 5 equates to “this guy looks like a really solid bench player”.

Kevin’s Draft Board

  1. Anthony Davis (tier 1)
  2. MKG (tier 2)
  3. Robinson (tier 2)
  4. Beal (tier 2)
  5. Drummond (tier 2)
  6. Barnes (tier 3)
  7. Waiters (tier 3)
  8. Zeller (tier 3)
  9. Henson (tier 3)
  10. Marshall (tier 3)
  11. Fournier (tier 3)
  12. T. Jones (tier 3)
  13. Sullinger (tier 3)
  14. M. Leonard (tier 3)
  15. J. Lamb (tier 3)
  16. PJ3 (tier 3)

Tier 4 (players 17 – 26)

  1. Marquis Teague – One year ago, Kentucky’s PG ranked as the seventh best high-school player from a loaded group.  Since then, leading the NCAA champions in minutes and assists ensued.  A great athlete whose numbers improved as the season progressed; a solid NBA career waits for Teague.
  2. Terrence Ross -  Great size for an NBA wing and a talented perimeter game finds Ross in the top-twenty.
  3. Will Barton – The ninth-ranked high school player from the class of 2010, who in his sophomore year posted a PER higher than every other first-round-projected wing, can not drop below twenty.
  4. Quincy Miller – Before his ACL injury, Quincy Miller ranked as the fifth best prospect in the stacked high school class of 2011 behind Davis, Rivers, Kidd-Gilchrist and Beal.  Standing 6’ – 10” with a potentially diverse offensive game, a team drafting for upside will take a chance on the freshman small forward.  Maybe Clevleand.
  5. Damian Lillard – Probably nit-picking; but his pure-point rating falls below Teague, Waiters and obviously Marshall, despite being the oldest of the group.  His foot-speed clocked in the bottom-third of draftable point guards. Given his scoring came as a fourth-year-player against the NCAA’s 296th most difficult schedule, I want to be blown away by everything else.  I ask myself; how would Marquis Teague look playing for Weber State in three years?  Pretty awesome, probably, and I rank Lillard behind him.
  6. Moe Harkless – Many compare his NBA impact to Trevor Ariza.  That works for me.
  7. Austin Rivers – Finding reasons for excitement about Rivers is difficult for me.

    Jae Crowder salutes Cavs: the Blog on making him a top-25 pick (I can't stop talking myself into high-energy small forwards)

  8. Jae Crowder – This may be obvious, but I am a sucker for this type of player.  Originally, he fell below Jeff Taylor on my list.  Eventually though, the fact that Crowder measures longer, stronger and more agile than Taylor dawned on me.  The truth about him scoring, rebounding, and passing better than Taylor at 14 months younger hit me like a bombshell.  The percentage of possessions he ended with a steal ranked 21st in the NCAA.  Sometimes you need to rank the younger player who is better at everything further up on your draft board.
  9. Arnett Moultrie – Hopefully I don’t upset the boss, but Moultrie’s rebounding and shooting are respectable enough to be deceptive, and he needs a serious defensive mind-set adjustment.
  10. Tony Wroten- Another player with a huge range from “floor” to “ceiling”; I like closing my tiers with that type of talent.

Tier 5 (players 27 – 37)

  1. Draymond Green – Ranking as the NCAA’s seventh-best defensive rebounder against the second-toughest schedule, draining 39% of his threes, and playing a high IQ-style of ball; he overcomes his “tweener” status.
  2. Doron Lamb – Lamb plays quick and made 47% from long-distance.
  3. Andrew Nicholson – His jump shooting is not enough to rank higher than this.  He plays slow and needs to increase his toughness.  I don’t think he poses a low post threat in the NBA or blocks shots at the rate shown at St. Bonaventure.
  4. Jeff Taylor – Taylor fully-displayed his athleticism at the combine; his career as a three-and-D guy goes as far as his ability to drain jumpers.
  5. John Jenkins -  Defense presents an issue, but this man can shoot.  Extremely fast and accurate – while chucking nine threes per game, he converted 44%.  As a bench scorer on a good team, he has value.
  6. Festus Ezeli – Watching Ezeli in March, I came away impressed with his physicality.  His numbers slumped this year after starting with a knee injury and a suspension, but massive, aggessive, and athletic big men need snapped up at #34 in the draft.
  7. Mike Scott – Rumor says his skill level and motor have shown well in workouts.  Three weeks ago, I espoused a scenario where Cleveland trades into the later part of the second round and drafts him.  Now he is climbing draft boards, but his “veteran” presence as a 24-year-old rookie may be a strong influence on an otherwise young Cavs team.

    Ranked 34th by Cavs: the Blog...the most disappointing day of Royce White's life

  8. Royce White – Definitely in the minority here; White does not rate highly for me – and little of the reason relies on his anxiety.   A horrid shooter, combined with an isolation game marred by four turnovers per game, and marginal defense, makes him an ummmm…rebounder?  Statsheet.com logs on-court, off-court information for college games; according to their data, Iowa State outscored opponents by 133 points when White played and 77 while sitting.  White played over thirty minutes per game…I have not taken a math class in a few years, but didn’t that make the Cyclones better with him on the bench?
  9. Fab Melo – To me, Melo rates as a one-trick pony, and his flaming-hoop-jump fails.  While taking notes on two games, a pair of goal-tends and one scold-inducing bonehead play ensued.  No thanks.
  10. Marcus Denmon – The Missouri Senior’s 127 offensive rating on 22 usage against a quality schedule looks really strong.  In athletic testing, he ranked top-ten percent in both the speed and agility drills.  Last season, draftexpress described his defense as demonstrating “very good lateral quickness, which combined with his toughness and aggressiveness, allows him to guard all backcourt positions at the collegiate level.”  As a ceiling, how about 2008 – 2009 Delonte West?
  11. Scott Machado – Machado notches the second highest Pure Point Rating in ten years of the draftexpress database.  Possessing NBA shooting range, he knocked down 40% from deep this year.  Despite defensive struggles as a surety, capably managing a second-string offense seems probable.

Whew – this is wearing me out!  Two days until the draft and I’m ready to learn the future of the Cavs franchise!