Archive for the ‘Draft Profiles’ Category

Truehoop Mock Draft: Pick No 24, Arnett Moultrie

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Across the Truehoop Network we are, as we do every year, staging a mock draft. With the fourth pick of this mock, the Cavs selected Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Having filled one of their greatest needs by landing an athletic wing, the Cleveland Cavaliers select…

Arnett Moultrie, Power Forward/Center, Mississippi State

If you examine what the Cavs have done over the last few years, including a period of time when Chris Grant was the Assistant GM under Danny Ferry, they have an affinity for spectacular athletes: J.J. Hickson, Christian Eyenga, Tristan Thompson, et al. Whether those names fill you with dread or not, that’s been the trend. It’s why, for example, I don’t think the Cavs will take Thomas Robinson with the fourth pick even if he’s still on the board. They tend to go for players with higher ceilings.

Moultrie is nearly 6’11” in shoes and weighs 235 pounds. He’s one of the very best big men in the draft in terms of leaping ability. He’s a great rebounder when he wants to be, a clever finisher around the rim, has a nascent shooting stroke from fifteen feet and out, and a decent face-up game thanks to his above-average handle. That “when he wants to be” hangs over Moultrie’s game like a succubus, though. He is an intermittently unreactive player on the defensive end, failing to defend the basket from the weak side or show properly on the pick-and-roll. When things don’t go his way—when he works hard in the post, but doesn’t get the ball, for example—he has a tendency to pout, which means he fails to grab rebounds he should, or he doesn’t run back on defense.

If you’re getting J.J. Hickson PTSD flashbacks, let me try to sell you on Moultrie. Or at least my vision for him. At almost 6’11” with the ability to tell gravity to cram it with walnuts, he has the tools to become a center if he commits himself to putting on some additional muscle. On the Cavaliers’ roster, he makes the most sense as a “5,” considering Andy Varejao will be 30 by the time the season starts, Tristan Thompson is 6’9″, and Semih Erden is only marginally better at basketball than a papier-mâché model of himself. Moultrie, despite his struggles in terms of team defense, is a pretty good one-on-one defender who could conceivably check most centers in the league without embarrassing himself. On offense, his developing jumper is the reason he could fit well next to Thompson. Unlike TT, whose shot is broken to the point that I worry he’ll never be able to score from outside of eight feet, Moultrie has a high, fluid release that reminds me a little bit of LaMarcus Aldridge.

And that’s the idea, really. That Arnett Moultrie could grow into the role of a poor man’s Aldridge: a PF/C tweener who can rebound the ball, is competent defensively, can post-up a little, and knock down a few jumpers to open up the paint for slashing guards and wings. Lofty expectations, certainly, but Moultrie a.) improved measurably each of the three years he was in college and b.) seems to think he’s a little better than he actually is. If the coaches could sell him on his role, I think he would relish the challenge of becoming a starting center for this Cavs team. Plus, he’ll love running up and down the floor with Kyrie Irving and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Kidd-Gilchrist is an important component of this pick, by the way. If we suppose the Cavs land MKG, they will have a core of him, Andy Varejao, Irving, Thompson, and Boobie Gibson (give or take Alonzo Gee and some free agents). I think there will be enough dedicated professionals on this team that they can absorb a more temperamental player like Moultrie. That’s one of the main reasons you build a team full of model citizens, really, is so you can take a chance on a mercurial talent. Why not gamble on a possible solution at center?

It you’re displeased with the notion of drafting Moultrie, you probably needn’t worry too much. He fell in our Truehoop mock—and I think Chris Grant would jump on him if he dropped to the Cavs—but it’s unlikely that he’ll be around at 24. He’s slotted in most mocks to go somewhere between the end of the lottery and the early 20s. Alternatives to Moultrie include wings like Memphis’s Will Barton and Washington’s Tony Wroten, and big men like Syracuse’s Fab Melo and St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson. And whatever the hell you wanna call Baylor’s Quincy Miller. Obviously, predicting who goes at 24 is a difficult task. There’s a lot of fluidity in terms of how teams value prospects once the draft moves out of the top 10 or so. (What I mean is there’s almost zero chance Damian Lillard falls out of the top 12, but Moe Harkless could go anywhere within a 10-to-12 slot range.) The Cavs have also been very active in the trade market, and I wouldn’t surprised if, one way or another, they end up picking higher than 24. And of course, there’s always the possibility that the spirit of Russian novelist Andrey Platonov possesses Christ Grant’s body on draft night, in which case the Cavs will probably select Inevitable Death, a lanky shooting guard out of Wichita State who might just be the steal of this draft.

Truehoop Mock Draft: Pick No 4, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Across the Truehoop Network we are, as we do every year, staging a mock draft. To catch you up: Anthony Davis is headed to New Orleans, T-Rob went to the Bobcats at no. 2, and the Wiz selected Bradley Beal. Which allows the Cleveland Cavaliers to select…

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Small Forward, Kentucky

This is it. The Wiz take Brad Beal (*pours out a 40 oz*), and Chris Grant hands his intern an index card and tells him to “[expletive]-ing run!” to David Stern’s side. The index card reads: “Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Gentleman Sidekick.” This is a perfect fit for the Cavs, who upgrade from a small forward platoon of Alonzo Gee and Omri Casspi to a breathtaking athlete who, if he wasn’t a basketball player, would have hobbies like liberating small island nations from tyranny and demolishing buildings with his will. He instantly becomes the second- or third-best Cavalier.

You know how some people have a charisma that seems to vibrate the room as they enter it? MKG’s work ethic is something like that. The top half of this lottery is packed with likable gym rats (and Andre Drummond), but scouts and experts have labored to point out that Kidd-Gilchrist stands apart from his peers in terms of competitiveness. I don’t doubt he will struggle, like all rookies do, to adapt his game to the NBA, but he will not have to learn how to be a professional. From the moment he steps into the Cavaliers training facility, he will belong.

When Tristan Thompson and Kyrie Irving were introduced to the Cleveland media shortly after the Players Association and the NBA put the final touches on a new CBA, Chris Grant described them as “two high quality humans… [that] just happen to be really good basketball players.” There’s a whit of disingenuousness in that statement; obviously Grant would have said nice things about TT and Irving even if they were miscreants, but this front office has consciously and deliberately prioritized character. They are mindful that building a team (almost from scratch, really) means also building a culture that determines how the team is going to operate and grow. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would be a phenomenal addition to the group of industrious young players the Cavs have assembled over the past couple of years. The sheer voracity of his game is bound to rub off on his teammates.

In terms of the more tangible aspects of his game, MKG is a 6’7″, 235-pound wing who can guard three (or four, depending who you ask) positions. He will afford the Cavs some flexibility on defense because he can slide over and guard the other team’s best perimeter scorer, a luxury the team hasn’t had since LeBron left, and even then, LBJ usually wouldn’t check the other team’s best player all game because he also needed to shoulder the scoring load. MKG is a very good rebounder for his size, and has the strength to finish at the rim after he pulls down offensive boards. He’s mostly a slasher at this point in his development. He’s very quick and a good leaper. He reminds many scouts of Andre Iguodala, which sounds about right. In a perfect world, he will develop into a better shooter than Iggy and his ball handling needs work, but he doesn’t turn 19 until September, so he has plenty of time to grow his game.

I think he’s the best fit for the Cavs not named Anthony Davis, and I would love to have him. There’s a good chance Chris Grant agrees with me, but the Cavaliers have thrown up a lot of smokescreens as far as who they’re selecting with the fourth pick. According to Chad Ford, if both MKG and Harrison Barnes are available, it’s anyone’s guess who they’ll select. (Again, if they take Barnes with MKG still on the board, I will punch a hole in this blog.) Also, if Beal and Kidd-Gilchrist are out of the picture by the fourth pick, and Andre Drummond might be in play. There’s also a chance there will be a rupture in the space-time continuum, and from that rupture will saunter forth Morgwroth, Ravager of Worlds. In that scenario, I see the Cavs trading down.

Kevin’s Draft Board: Tier 3

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

First off, the “Defend Cleveland” show on 91.1 FM will be interviewing me tomorrow (Monday), immediately after their 11 am break.  The station is Case Western University’s campus bandwidth; if you are clamoring for more Cavs related draft talk, please tune in, on your radio or online.

Today’s post defines Tier 3 of my Big Board; players whose career spectrum looks like 75th percentile of “one-time all-star”, while 25th percentile equals “starter on a 40-win team”.  That range is completely subjective; since eleven players are included – two or three will meet or exceed the top end, while an equal number match or fail to reach the bottom.

Before moving on, I will briefly mention the rumors of Cleveland trading #4 and #24 for Charlotte’s #2 pick.  Because of my MKG infatuation, and the apparent likelihood of him sliding to four; it’s not my first-choice draft-day scenario.  Grabbing a highly regarded prospect while keeping the other first-rounder sounds great.  If the Cavs really prefer Beal however, the value of the respective picks seems very reasonable for the Cavs.  Beal possesses great potential, and the stakes for this year’s first pick are high; Cleveland’s management needs to get it right.  It will be interesting to see what happens on Thursday.

Now, on to tier 3.  A chance of two of these players falling to #24 exists.

Tier 3

  1. Anthony Davis (tier 1)
  2. MKG (tier 2)
  3. Thomas Robinson (tier 2)
  4. Bradley Beal (tier 2)
  5. Andre Drummond (tier 2)
  6. Harrison Barnes – The first tier 3 player starts a run on North Carolina Tar Heels.  Possessing great size, solid offensive production  and “NBA-combine MVP status”; Barnes offers a lot from a guy that turned 20 last month.  Like many though; I have not convinced myself of his rising star.  Drawing a firm distinction between Beal and Barnes represents a large reason my Draft Board posts split into tiers.

    Dion Waiters gets excited about his draft stock

  7. Dion Waiters – Ten weeks ago, when Waiters resided in the early-twenties of most mocks, I placed him above Austin Rivers.  I should have followed my instincts further though.  A lengthy list of positives exists for Waiters: efficient on offense, committed to defense, young, strong & athletic; this diamond in the rough eventually received notice from many.  The Sophomore Syracuse Sixth-man shot up draft boards and apparently received a promise in the mid-lottery.  I see shades of Russell Westbrook.  In May 2008, the UCLA sophomore resided in the mid-first round in most mocks, before rising to the mid-lottery by draft day.  Undersized for a wing, not exactly a point guard, but efficient, explosive and a top-notch defender; Oklahoma City snagged him at a surprise #4.  Could this be shades of four years ago?  Are all the pre-draft Cleveland rumors smoke screens and they made the promise at #4?  How would a Kyrie Irving & Russ Westbrook backcourt look?  I’m rambling now and do not think this happened, but the thought was fun.
  8. Tyler Zeller – In May, I forecasted Zeller as a 14 & 8 guy on 56% true shooting.  That still stands.
  9. John Henson –   Henson probably never develops a money eighteen-footer or a reliable post game, but destroying opponent pick-and-rolls, swatting weak-stuff as help, rebounding, and finishing strong all help accumulate wins, too.
  10. Kendall Marshall – Draftexpress’s best-case of Andre Miller and worst-case of Jose Calderon sums up my thoughts on Marshall very well.  With fear of being too precise; I think a 10-year NBA stint with accumulated PER between 17.4 and 17.8 sounds right.  Basically, a solid and steady career seems imminent.
  11. Evan Fournier – I’m going out on a limb here; bear with me through another Austin Rivers comparison.  Many mock drafts still show the Duke freshman as a lottery pick.  Fournier is three months younger than Rivers.  His PER in the top French professional league bested Rivers’ mark in the ACC.  Without attempting to prove this; French Pro-A is a grown man’s league and at least half of the players in the ACC will someday wish their career reached that level.  Athletically the Frenchman and the Dukie prove similar, except Fournier stands three inches taller.  A bit of a hunch; I bet the young foreigner proves to be a talented NBA scorer, and he serves as the first of my “tier 3” players that potentially slips to Cleveland.
  12. Terrence Jones – In a vein similar to Kendall Marshall; I think Jones is a can’t miss, with a relatively low range between “ceiling” and “floor”.
  13. Jared Sullinger – Did you know that Dejuan Blair missed three games in three NBA seasons after being medically red-flagged by the NBA?  Obviously, I am not a doctor and would not know what Sullinger’s x-rays meant even with access to them.  That said, what if he was treated the same way the Spurs treated Blair?  Basically, he averages 20 minutes a night…no exceptions.  Could Sully offer 8 years of above-average PER as a big-body stretch-four?  As one of the NCAA’s best rebounders and most-efficient scorers as an underclassmen; I say yes.  Sign him up, if he slips to #24, and team doctors think his back handles controlled NBA minutes.
  14. Meyers Leonard – Really big, surprisingly agile, and producing effectively at a young age; Leonard is worth a dice-roll late in the lottery.  As a best case, I envision him approaching the season Roy Hibbert recently posted.  On the other hand, a lot of super-sized bigs flopped in the past; Leonard needs to improve his physical and mental toughness to prove world-class.
  15. Jeremy Lamb – Many pass-off Lamb’s 2012 struggles due to the dysfunction of UConn’s season.  I’ve never been in a pro locker-room, but my guess is that the internal dynamics of the average NBA team picking in the top-ten proves approximately 78 times more ridiculous than the Huskies.  Last week, I discussed a reasonably likely career for Lamb as statistically similar to Jamal Crawford; a skinny, scoring guard with average shooting efficiency that does not otherwise stuff the box score.
  16. Perry Jones III – Did you know that Perry Jones once spanned 275 consecutive minutes this season of on-court time between blocked shots?  And summing his “Standing Reach plus Max Vert” leaves him third-best of the 150+ draft prospects in Draftexpress’s 2012 database?  Also he registered a top-ten-percent three-quarter-court sprint time?  How do these three questions make sense in succession?  The player whose career outcomes, according to DraftExpress, range from “Rudy Gay meets Josh Smith” to “Yi Jianlian” rounds out tier 3.

That’s it.  Tuesday, I’ll move on to my arbitrarily defined Tier 4.

Draft Profile: Jae Crowder (and Tiers 1 & 2 on my big board)

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

One week until the draft.  Today, I offer a quick draft profile on Jae Crowder, serving as my final player report.  Regretfully, I missed a number of players including: Jared Cunningham, Henry Sims, and Damian Lillard amongst other.  Also, starting today I’ll lay out a draft board; not Cavs specific, but mainly a discussion starter of one person’s ranking of the 2012 draft class.  Let’s start with the first two tiers; the best of these players available at #4 is my preference for Cleveland, with the exception of Beal over Robinson.

Tier 1 (50 /50 of making First-team All-NBA):

  1. Anthony Davis – No need to belabor this.

Tier 2 (50 / 50 of making two or more all-star teams):

  1. Anthony Davis (Tier 1)
  2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – In mid-December, I thought he could be the second best player from this draft class, and that has not changed.  As the youngest player of the group and with an epic work ethic, a respectable shots develops for him
  3. Thomas Robinson – Measuring 6’ – 9” in shoes with a 7’ – 3” wingspan quieted many critics.  He’s strong, fast, & explosive and finished as the NCAA’s best rebounder.  He possesses the ability to eventually match his 18 & 12 at Kansas in the NBA.
  4. Bradley Beal – The young Gator turns 19 next week, posted solid college numbers, and improved as the season progressed.  Coaches love his work ethic and scouts rave about his shooting form, to the extent of drawing Ray Allen comparisons out of high school.  Some Cavs fans worry about a dreaded “undersized” back court that served as a major flaw of the Lebron-era Cavs.  Remember though, that Delonte West measured two inches shorter than Beal’s barefoot 6’ 3.25”, while Mo Williams stopped an inch short of Kyrie.  Here’s a quick rundown of pre-draft heights of some current NBA twos: Wes Matthews – 6’ 4”, James Harden – 6’ 4”, Tyreke Evans – 6’ 4”, Dwyane Wade – 6’ 3.75”, Tony Allen – 6’ 3.5”, Marcus Thornton – 6’ 2.75”, Monta Ellis – 6’ 2.25”, Avery Bradley – 6’ 2”.  Perhaps you notice that offensive and defensive standouts make the list, and none is more than three-quarter inch taller than Mr. Beal.
  5. Andre Drummond – A recent hobby involves scouring the draftexpress measurements database.  For Drummond, comparables seriously lack.  Nearly seven-feet in shoes…a 7’ – 6” wingspan…280 pounds with only 7.5% body fat…10.8 in the agility drill…32” no-step vert.  Oh yeah, and 18 years old.  That is a physical & athletic profile unlike many others.  At 5 or 6, Drummond could absolutely be the steal of the draft.  Or he may never commit to dominating, eventually sign a max contract, and coast for three or four years.  His passive post game, poor defensive rebounding, and almost-impossible depths of free-throw shooting all present red flags about his passion & motor, but man, he is really big and athletic.

That’s a solid top five.  Today, a deeper look will be given to a potential second round sleeper.  Next week, I’ll go deeper down my draft board and provide some Cavs specific draft-day thoughts.

I was looking for a great action photo AND a great hair pic...but I settled for action.

Jae Crowder recently completed his senior year at Marquette as the Big East Player of the Year, stuffing the stat-sheet with 18 points on 60% true shooting, 8 rebounds, 1 block and 2.5 steals a game, with a stellar 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio.  Well suited to his likely NBA role-player status, his scoring primarily comes off the ball; through offensive rebounds, cuts and spot-ups.  Outstanding defensive activity resulted in the NCAA’s tenth most steals per game, for the 14th best adjusted-defense (of 345 according to kenpom.com).

Game Recaps: In Marquette’s second round NCAA tourney victory over Murray State; Crowder posted a robust 17 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks and 3 steals on 53% true shooting.  Scoring ten points on five possessions off cuts or teammate dribble penetration, he excelled at finding holes in the Racer defense, although his shooting range abandoned him, hitting one of five from deep.  For an idea of his defensive activity; I made about twenty notes during the game.  Not all were positive, but he stays very active & alert and has quick, strong hands.  Many of the negative comments relied on an assumption that Crowder stood taller than 6’ 5”.  He may struggle defending big NBA small forwards in the post.  Routinely doubling & trapping effectively and generally hedging & recovering well on pick-and-rolls, Crowder made his presence felt at this end of the court, including drawing two charges.

During Marquette’s Sweet Sixteen loss against Florida, Crowder struggled with 15 points on 44% true shooting, however he added 7 rebounds and 3 steals.  Jumpers constituted most of his fifteen shots, of which he converted a sorry two of ten.  Defensively, he looked out-of-sorts also; not recovering well on pick-and-pops, finding himself out of position, or getting beat off the dribble.  Positives existed though; trapping & receding to steal a pass and flashing quick, strong hands as help to wrestle the ball from a driving guard.  Not a premier final game for Crowder; surely he longs to take the court competitively again.

Summary: Draftexpress listed Crowder’s best case as “shorter-saner-Ron-Artest”; a comparison that I inadvertently stole when describing MKG.  Just to be clear, at age 24, Ron Artest earned NBA Defensive Player-of-the-year honors and provided the second-highest scoring on a 61 win team.  I view this comparison as very high praise, and do not see Jae Crowder at quite that level.

Viewing the DX database, the shortest small forwards to amount to anything were Aaron McKie and Danny Green, both 3/4” taller than Crowder.  Of over 400 players, around 25 measured smaller than Crowder and none registered a notable NBA career.  In that regard, I think Crowder can be a trendsetter and prove usable as a short small forward.  His strength, motor, defense, set-shooting and high basketball IQ makes him eminently useful.  Some contender will snag him late in the first round, and I’ll call him a “shorter, equally-sane Kawhi Leonard”.

Draft Profile: Evan Fournier and Tomas Satoransky

Monday, June 18th, 2012

The podcast moved to tonight, so how about another draft profile instead?

With Cleveland’s four draft picks, the option to draft-and-stash a Euro exists, similar to last year with Milan Macvan.  Today, two of the draft’s highest rated Europeans get a look.  Not having seen much of these players, this profile stays brief.

Evan Fournier breaks down the defense

Evan Fournier generally falls on draft boards around Cleveland’s 24th pick.  At 6’ – 7” tall, he possesses great size for an NBA wing.  Despite not turning 20 until this October, he lead his French League team in scoring, at 14 per game, and also won player of the month for March.  Not an elite league; the French sent four teams to the early rounds of the Euroleague competition, but none advanced to the final sixteen.  The five teams competing in the lesser Eurocup finished with only 16 victories compared to 24 losses.  But I digress; nineteen years old and the best player in a respectable pro league for a month – that is really solid.  This season, he proved most effective attacking the basket, making 52% of his two-point-field-goals and 75% of his four free-throws per game.  Strong ball-handling, combined with his size, allowed him to convert 63% at the basket this season according to Synergy (via draftexpress).  This June, at the annual Adidas Eurocamp for NBA draft prospects, he made the first-team, thanks to 26 points in 57 minutes on 68% effective field goal shooting.  According to reports I have seen; he clearly played at a higher level than others, scoring inside & out and looking strong & fast in transition.  Downsides include average athleticism, as his test results look similar to William Buford and Khris Middleton of other 2012 draftees, and inconsistent shooting, where he knocked down only 28% of the shorter European threes in 2011 – 2012.

Based on this picture, I project Satoransky to be a cross between Magic Johnson and Blake Griffin

Tomas Satoransky stands 6’ – 7” tall and plays point guard in the Spanish League – the second best national league in the world.  Of course, he’s a back-up and not terribly effective; tallying 5 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists on 43 / 27 / 71 shooting in 17 minutes per game this season.  Turning 21 prior to next season, this is his third ACB season, and last year he played much better, including 45 / 42 / 75 shooting across ACB & Eurocup games.  Not an NBA level point guard, he never posted a positive Pure-Point-Rating for a full season, and this season for that metric, he ranked 35th of 42 Spanish League point guards in the draftexpress database.  He exhibits plus-ball handling, but plays slow, struggling to beat his man off the dribble and to stay in-front of quick players on defense.  Named first-team at the recent Adidas Eurocamp; his play was praised for excellent court vision, a smooth shooting stroke, and the ability to score in traffic.

Summary: I’d be excited about the Cavs drafting Fournier.  He has great size and a knack for scoring.  Apparently owning great confidence, he strives for NBA success with a strong work ethic.  In a report on his private Eurocamp work-out, mention was made of him closing out the workout by finding twine on five straight shots from way outside NBA range.  Also, he converted 4 of 7 threes in the Eurocamp games.  If Fournier added shooting range to his game, I would not be shocked if he ended up with a top-ten career from this draft class. I remember last year reading that Kawhi Leonard spent a lot of time leading up to the draft working on his shot.  Reports from workouts raved about the improvements he made.  I was skeptical – after all, he made less than one-quarter of his NCAA threes after two seasons.  Then he stepped into the NBA and drained 38% his rookie season.  Certainly it is not that easy, but for a hard working teenager like Kidd-Gilchrist or Fournier, with great shot-specific coaching, a shot can be reconstructed and amazing strides made.  Possibly Fournier is already making those changes, and certainly my evaluation of MKG relies to some extent on the same.

Satoransky – meh.  I mean, his PER was 10 in the Spanish League last year as the equivalent of a college junior.  If he proves his 2010 – 2011 shooting as a non-aberation, maybe an NBA career is there for him, but I don’t see it.

Did Harrison Barnes fly at the combine or something?

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

The draft is in twelve days, so I’m posting something on a Saturday.  As the draft approaches, Cavs:the Blog should be pretty busy.  A podcast is planned for tomorrow and I’ll be shooting for a fairly steady stream of content over the next two weeks.  Today’s subject is a second look at Harrison Barnes.

Barnes launches from deep in the NCAA tournament

Many a mock draft links Cleveland to North Carolina’s Barnes.  Barnes recently re-grabbed everyone’s attention, enthralling scouts as this year’s “workout warrior” at the NBA draft combine.  His nearly forty-inch vertical, fifteen reps in the bench press, and leading sprint speed wowed all in attendance.

What does it mean though?  For an idea, I perused the draftexpress measurements database for the most similar players to Barnes for size and athleticism.

My original list of “workout warrior wings” included: Joe Alexander, Ronnie Brewer, Matt Barnes, Rudy Gay, Jason Richardson, Josh Smith, Dahntay Jones, George Williams, Richard Jefferson, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, David Noel, Tamar Slay, Chris Singleton, Thaddeus Young, Xavier Henry, Eddie Basden, Joey Graham and Luke Jackson.

Not a bad list, but after perusing their strengths & weaknesses and college production; I will focus on two players: Rudy Gay and Jason Richardson.  Both highly regarded in high school before leading their basketball power-house schools to deep, but failed NCAA tourney runs – Gay and Richardson entered the NBA draft following their sophomore years and were selected in the top-ten.

Gay entered Connecticut as a highly lauded recruit; praised for his size, length and explosiveness.  Like Barnes, he never completely lived up to the lofty expectations, mixing displays of dominance with periods of malaise.  Boiled down to catch-all stats, their performance in college looks similar; Barnes with offensive rating, usage and PER of 108, 26 & 21 – Gay at 108, 24 & 22.8.  Also like Barnes, he possessed great intangibles, but occasionally struggled creating efficient looks at the basket. Obviously players are like snowflakes though, with no two exactly alike.  Gay played more athletically and utilized his 7’ – 3” wingspan to accumulate 3.5 steals plus blocks per game.  Relatively poor as a shooter, he connected on only 32% from downtown.

Other than the “sophomore, athletic wing with good size, who took his team deep in NCAA tourney” thing; Richardson and Barnes feature relatively significant differences.  While both own 6’ – 11” wingspans, Richardson measures 2” shorter in height and 15 lbs lighter.  He was a lights-out three point shooter at Michigan State, converting 40% and tallying an offensive rating of 127 on 22 usage during his sophomore season.  Also, a nearly 2 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio combined with his one block and one steal per game, provided for reasonable box-score-filler.

So putting those diversions behind us, where does that leave Harrison Barnes?  His outstanding combine still leaves many questions unanswered; in some regards, it may increase them.  How can a long, 6’ – 8” tall player, the fastest man in the draft and with a 39” vertical, only block 13 shots in 38 NCAA games?  And why a minuscule 11% of available defensive rebounds?  His one assist per game as a perimeter-oriented offensive focal point remains troublesome, and after a blistering start to the season, from my January 5th profile until the end, he only nailed 31% of his threes.  In the pivotal possession of his final college season, down seven with two minutes to go in the Elite Eight, North Carolina took twenty-six seconds to shoot.  The possession, predominantly featuring Barnes, ended with back-up point guard Stilman White getting a lay-up blocked, and Kansas running the other direction for a dunk.  Game over as the Jayhawks waltz to an 80 – 67 victory.  Prior to that evening, White scored 25 points on the season; an elite player needs to make a play there, and Barnes could not.

Anyways, Barnes’s career amounts to more than one play.  In January, I compared Barnes to 2010 – 2011 Danny Granger; a 20 & 5 guy with slightly above league-average true shooting (55%)… a really nice player as a third offensive option.  Whether coincidental or not, Gay and Richardson offer almost identical NBA offensive production.  For his career, Richardson accumulated 18 & 5 on 53% true shooting, peaking with 23 & 6 on 54% in 2005 – 2006.  Over the last five seasons, Gay averaged 19 & 6 with 54%.

While comparing someone to other players does not constitute a complete player evaluation; using HB’s combine numbers to correlate to previous draftees helps to solidify my view from January.  My projection is of an almost-all-star, a top-40 NBA player, but ultimately, not an elite talent.  There are worse outcomes though than a twenty-per-game scorer with tolerable efficiency and proper size & speed to capably cover his defensive responsibilities.

While I prefer the “shorter-saner-in-his prime Ron Artest, Andre Iguodala, Gerald Wallace” spectrum of MKG to the “Rudy Gay, 2010-2011 Danny Granger, taller Jason Richardson” comparables of Barnes; whether the Cavs select either guy, the team receives a significant talent infusion.

What’s the difference between Jeremy Lamb and Will Barton?

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Let’s answer that question later.

The genesis of this post resulted through an amalgamation of three separate ideas.  First, a personal desire to re-think Jeremy Lamb.  I coincidentally profiled him during the lowest-performing part of his season.  That, combined with a lot of Cavs fans showing interest in him, warrants another look from Cavs: the Blog.  Second, Fran Fraschilla wrote an article at ESPN where he described his preference for Lamb over Brad Beal, summarizing his rationale for the young Huskie as: “because of his size, length, and effectiveness in an NBA offense’s ‘sweet spot’, the 15 – to 18-ft range.” Given this sentiment from a widely read (i.e. real) draft expert, I wanted to form a solid opinion on his argument, due to the significant impact on Cleveland’s selection.  Finally, I started researching for a profile on Memphis Sophomore Will Barton.  The summation of these three separate concepts resulted in a variety of mini-research-projects; all worth bringing to you here.

Jeremy Lamb makes an incredibly athletic play, opponent probably cries afterwards (photo by Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)

I’ll start by discussing perceived Lamb shortfalls this past season, of which many refer to the “shoot-first” point guards he played with.  Viewing his teammates versus Beal’s though, interesting results derive.  UConn’s Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright averaged 5.8 and 4.0 assists per game, compared to the 4.6 and 2.7 of Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton, respectively.  The sum of the Huskie backcourt duo’s usage is 45.4, almost exactly equal to the 45.5 of the Gator guards, except Napier & Boatright’s assist rates were 32.6 and 26.1%, as opposed to the 27.3 and 17.3 of Walker and Boynton.  When viewed along with Lamb’s usage of 22.3 and Beal’s at 22.5; the distribution of possessions amongst these trios could not be closer.

As a whole, Florida’s offense produced over one assist more per game than Connecticut’s, but some of that responsibility lies on Lamb, as his 1.7 assists in 37 minutes slightly lagged Beal’s 2.2 in less time.  Based on a high-level look, it would seem the shot-creating abilities and offensive distribution of the two teams was very similar.

Another primary support argument for Lamb is his size, but based on combine measurements, Lamb only sports 3/4” height over Beal.  His standing reach stretched 2” higher, but when combined with Beal’s advantage in leaping, the two players prove virtually equal.  Lamb’s wings spanned three inches longer, but Beal packed on twenty extra pounds of muscle.  Which is better?  I don’t know, but a scan of the 26 drafted shooting guards with 6’ – 11” wingspan or longer in draftexpress’s database features one player named to one all-defense team.  While obviously valuable, great length does not guarantee anything.

So, basically the comparison comes down to production.  And they’re pretty equal, despite the thirteen month age discrepancy.  Both players registered a PER of 22 and an offensive rating in the mid-110’s, with similar usage.  To me, Beal is younger, a better passer & rebounder, and ultimately, my inclination is his demeanor and intangibles result in a superior NBA career….

So now, on to this article’s title question.  Read the following two paragraphs and let me know who sounds preferable.

The 9th-ranked player in the high school class of 2010 recently completed his sophomore season; averaging 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 turnovers in 35 minutes per game on 51 / 35 / 75 shooting.  These box score numbers resulted in excellent efficiency of 26.4 PER and an offensive rating of 116 on 25 usage.  As a slashing wing, 82% of his points came from inside the arc or at the free throw line. A relatively old sophomore who turned 21 in January; his college production certainly owes something to the added experience, but his team played a relatively difficult NCAA schedule, with the 60th toughest slate of 345 teams.  Standing 6’ – 5” barefoot with a 6’ – 10” wingspan and weighing 174 pounds, he tested poorly in the athleticism tests at the combine, however draftexpress describes him as having the “right size, length and athleticism” for the shooting guard position.  About his defense in their 2011 – 2012 profile, they said his “athleticism, length and lateral quickness bode well for his transition to the NBA level, but scouts will likely be concerned with his slight frame…his activity level is plus though, as he’s really seemed to focus on this as a sophomore.”

And player number 2…

The 89th-ranked player in the high school class of 2010 recently completed his sophomore season; averaging 18 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 turnovers in 37 minutes per game on 48 / 34 / 81 shooting.  These box score numbers resulted in very good efficiency of 22 PER and a 115 offensive rating on 22 usage.  A strong jump shooter; over one-third of his points came outside the arc, but he only shot one free throw for every four field goal attempts.  Young for a sophomore, turning 20 in May, his production is impressive against the NCAA’s 16th most difficult schedule.  Standing 6’ – 4” barefoot with a 6’ – 11” wingspan and weighing 179 pounds, his athleticism tests excelled at the combine.  Draftexpress described him as possessing “nice size for an NBA shooting guard” but “his thin, lanky frame still needs to add strength”.  About his defense in 2011 – 2012, they wrote he “has the physical tools to excel, as he has good lateral quickness and instincts and is able to utilize his tremendous wingspan…his energy on this end looked very inconsistent this season, however, not displaying the competitiveness…that will likely be demanded of him at the NBA level.”

Who is the better prospect?  Both are similarly sized: thin, long, and athletic.  The older player was more productive, albeit against a slightly weaker schedule.  His defensive intensity proved more impressive, but time is running out for him to bulk up his stick-thin frame.  I guess, flip a coin, right?

Will Barton makes scoring look easy (photo by Jamie Sabau / Getty Images)

If you didn’t realize this, Will Barton receives coverage in the first paragraph, and the second entails Jeremy Lamb.  Barton is likely a late-first-round or early-second-round pick, while Lamb receives nearly universal acceptance as a top-ten pick.  Obviously the paragraphs above provide no credit to Lamb for his role in delivering UConn an NCAA championship.  On the other hand, in last year’s Big East and NCAA Tourneys, were Lamb’s 15 points on 66% true shooting more impressive than Doron Lamb’s 15 points on 65% this year?  For either player, is it wise to overly weight a ten-game run compared to a full body-of-work?

If the goal is to be provocative, I’d turn the “Lamb over Beal” argument into a “Barton over Lamb” piece.  Like everyone else though, I prefer Jeremy Lamb.  As a good-case NBA comparable for Lamb, I’ll offer Jamal Crawford.  A similarly sized and athletic player, with an offensive mindset who probably scores 15000 NBA points, along with winning a sixth-man-of-the-year award.

If capable of building a highly complex model to project these things, I think it would tell me that Jeremy Lamb surpasses 15000 career points in 42% of scenarios.  Barton does not quite reach those heights, instead besting Crawford only 19% of the time.  That difference is not as large as many would think.  If the Cavs snag their favorite at #4 and bring Barton on-board later…that is a drafty-day-haul with potential.

Draft Profile: Andrew Nicholson

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

This week, a look at St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson.  The Cavs have worked him out twice, as he fits a pressing team need – a stretch four.  The June 9th draftexpress mock included him at #24, making the trek to Cleveland to compliment Kyrie and Tristan.

Andrew Nicholson shoots against Florida State this season (photo by Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Nicholson completed his senior year at St. Bonaventure and turns 23 in December.  With barefoot height of 6’ – 8.5” and carrying 234 lbs, he possesses fine size for an NBA power forward.  Utilizing a bevy of post moves, solid face-up skills, and a jumper that netted 43% of his threes, Nicholson’s per-forty-minute pace-adjusted scoring ranks 2nd of 21 power forwards in draftexpress’s 2012 database.  Combined with 78% free throw shooting, his highly-efficient 64% true shooting ranked 2nd in the Atlantic Ten; impressive for a player that uses nearly 3 in 10 possessions. Despite improvement this year, his rebounding remains marginal, with defensive rebounding percentage ranked 84th in the NCAA and offensive rebounding rate falling at 233rd; relatively disappointing for a first-round-prospect Senior against a non-elite schedule.  He utilizes his outstanding 7’ – 4” wingspan to block two shots per game in 30 minutes.  Due to middling ball-handling, he turns it over on 18% of his possessions, made even more disappointing by his total of 33 assists in 32 games.  Other than his size and length, limited explosiveness and agility pose defensive concerns against the world-class athletes waiting in the NBA.

Game Recaps: During Christmas week against North Carolina State, Nicholson tallied 16 points on 56% true shooting with 6 rebounds in 37 minutes.  Ineffective through his two best scoring means, he posted four points on six post plays and two points on three jump shots.  The Wolfpack double-teamed him nearly every time he touched the ball, with fairly successful results, forcing five Nicholson turnovers.  Subpar reaction time and general inability to hold position allowed NC State center Richard Howell to grab seven of NC State’s thirteen offensive rebounds, compared to Nicholson’s three defensive boards.  On defense, bouts of non-alertness resulted in easy NC State buckets, but many high points occurred, too.  On several occasions, strong effort running the court in transition provided for blocked or altered shots, and at least twice, smart hedging and recovering by Nicholson thwarted Wolfpack pick-and-rolls.  On back-to-back possessions, he obstructed a driving big on a face-up and forced travels.  He generally plays below the rim and does not look particularly explosive; I expect his shot-blocking decreases in the NBA, where his length alone will not get it done.  In this game against several co-NBA prospects, he registered one block.

In the Bonnies thrilling double-overtime victory over St. Joseph’s in February, Nicholson registered 32 points and 14 rebounds on scintillating 69% true shooting.  His three makes from deep came in the final minute of regulation and both overtimes, each hugely clutch for St. Bonaventure to pull out the win.  Less effective near the basket, he generated only 11 points on 12 plays from the post, excessively relying on right-handed hook-shots, which he took ten of.  Defensively, his play did not appear particularly fast or agile, with marginal “bounciness” and an oafy gait running the floor.   Opposing big men drove past him twice, and his help defense frequently featured tardy rotations.  On the boards though, he sported constant effort, while also displaying solid lower body strength in defending the post.

Summary: The June 9th Draftexpress mock draft included the Cavs selecting Nicholson,  Bradley Beal, Doron Lamb and Festus Ezeli.  I am very supportive of this, despite not knowing exactly where to fall with regards to Mr. Nicholson.

Several sources compare him to David West; appropriate in that they measured nearly identical and possess capable back-to-the-basket and perimeter games.  An identifying trait for West however is his competitive fieriness.  Over Andrew Nicholson’s first three years with the Bonnies, his aggression & toughness were questioned by scouts. Bringing passion to the court every play will help determine whether his career pans out similar to fellow former Atlantic 10 player-of-the-year West, or if he finds obscurity like Justin Harper, last year’s “stretch 4” from the A-10.

While I think limitations exist that keep him from West’s level; Nicholson’s combination of size & skill will provide an effective bench big man for the team drafting him.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Can’t Shoot. Who Cares?

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Cavs:the Blog’s draft profiles on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Harrison Barnes and Jeremy Lamb arrived in December, January and February.  Things change fast with teenaged basketball players though, so time has come to freshen up our thoughts a bit.

Today, I’ll re-visit MKG.  I liked him in December and still do today.  There exists however, a sentiment that his current inability to shoot makes him unworthy of the fourth pick, let alone second.  I’ll estimate that 25% of Cavs fans do not consider MKG as a top-five pick.  For what it’s worth, a poll on NBAdraft.net basically falls at 50 – 50 with regards to “MKG vs Barnes”.  My understanding of the rationale is that the UK freshman star does not possess the offensive chops to warrant such a high rating.  I disagree, and will offer a few points on why.

He played well on offense this year

On a balanced offensive team where six players scored between 10 and 14 points per game, MKG finished fourth in scoring, including a respectable 112 offensive rating on 21.4 usage.  His true shooting percentage of 57% derived through beastly finishing in transition, off-cuts and through offensive rebounding.  With developing ball-handling ability he attacks the basket, earning five free throw attempts per game; he hit 75%.

Frequently, I see an excuse offered up on behalf of Harrison Barnes, that the NBA game will really open things up for him.  The same applies to MKG.  In addition to the NCAA three-point line falling one-yard nearer the basket than the NBA distance, Kentucky’s starting line-up featured four non-shooters.  Finding open lanes for a driving, cutting slasher will be easier in the better-spaced pro-game.

He will be one of the NBA’s best wing defenders

Within five years, maybe THE best.  I don’t know how people can ignore this.  Capable of guarding at least three positions and widely regarded as lock-down, his defense presents a completely elite NBA skill.  He turns nineteen in September and should be fighting for a place on NBA all-defense teams for over a decade.

At the NBA draft combine, he measured 6’ – 5.75” barefoot, 6’ – 7.5” in shoes, 233 pounds, with a 7’ – 0” wingspan and 8’ – 8.5” standing reach.

Not that this means a ton, but as I perused similarly sized prospects in draftexpress’s database, two of the NBA’s best wing defenders popped up.  Luc Richard M’bah a Moute registered 6’ – 5.75”, 6’ – 7.5”, 221 pounds, 7’ – 0.5” and 8’ – 7.5” while Andre Iguodala measured 6’ – 5.75”, 6’ – 6.75”, 217 pounds, 6’ – 11”, and 8’ – 9.5”.

These players are almost identically sized to MKG with one distinction.  At 3 and 1.5 years younger, respectively, he already sports an extra 10 – 15 pounds of muscle.  Defensively, he could be peak-level-Ron Artest, minus the crazy.

His floor is about as high as anyone in the draft

Draftexpress.com listed MKG’s “worst-case” as Gerald Wallace; a player who over the last seven seasons registered per-36 minute averages of 17 points on 56.5% true shooting with 7.4 rebounds per game.  Basically one point every two minutes with above average efficiency, while making one all-defense team.  That’s “WORST CASE” according to one reputable source; that rating is also known as “bust-proof” according to me.

He can learn to shoot

As a side note on Wallace, during his freshman year at Alabama he converted 18% of his three-point attempts, despite the NCAA line at a one-foot shorter distance than it is today.  Over the last six years in the NBA, he made 34% from long distance.

By all accounts, MKG is one of this draft’s hardest working players, a man with an unquenching desire to improve.  I find it unlikely that his three point shooting will not improve to respectable levels.  A quick search reveals several other small forwards besides Wallace to improve their shooting.

  • Kawhi Leonard knocked-down 20% his freshman year, 29% his sophomore year, and in his first season working in the Spurs system – 38%!  With hard work, great coaching and a well-oiled system, he exhibited an overnight transformation.
  • Richard Jefferson shot well in college, but his first five NBA seasons featured 32% three-point shooting, before improving to an average of 39% over the last six seasons.

The following players all played NCAA-ball before the three-point line extended to 20’ – 9”:

  • Paul Pierce made 30% his freshman year at Kansas
  • Danny Green hit 32% his first two NCAA seasons and is now a 42% NBA three-point shooter
  • Andre Iguodala bricked 21% his freshman year, before improving to 33% in the NBA, including a career-best 39% last season.
  • Jared Dudley started at 31% three-point shooting his freshman season, improved every year thereafter, and now strokes 40+% in the pros.

Shooting isn’t the most revered trait for an NBA Small Forward

Without comparing MKG to several of the players included; eight small forwards made an all-NBA team in the last ten years.  Their average three-point shooting percentage in that season was 34.7%, more than one-percent lower than NBA average shooting.  As many three-point shooting specialists rated as all-NBA (Peja Stojakovic) as players noted for their stout defense (Ron Artest).

Summary

Once upon a time, Ron Artest was the second-leading scorer on a 60-win team, the lock-down wing defender on a top-3 NBA defense.  Early in his age 25 season, his up-and-coming team hit their stride, rolling the defending NBA champs by 15 on their own court.  Then he punched a fan and started the brawl that crippled a franchise.

I think Michael Kidd-Gilchrist hits all those high notes, except his story ends without a riot, and instead finishes with a decade-long run of title contention.

Draft Profile: Marquis Teague and Scott Machado

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Today, let’s look at the position that Cavs fans love to ignore.  Kentucky’s Marquis Teague generally falls as a late first round pick, while Iona’s Scott Machado ranks in the first half of the second round.  I know there’s no chance that Cleveland takes a point guard at #24, but what’s a series of draft profiles without the sixth member of Kentucky’s national champs?  Oh, and if Cleveland chooses to look for Kyrie’s backup at #34, Scott Machado may be right in their wheelhouse.

Marquis Teague

Athletically, Teague meets all the criteria for an NBA floor general: 6’ – 2” tall, 6’ – 7” wingspan, fast, and explosive – he checks all the boxes.  Speed serves as his most elite trait, as he cruises around at warp pace, capably keeping the ball on a string.  His best work comes in transition, both attacking the basket and finding cutting wingmen or open shooters.  Struggles in the half-court result due to excessive dribbling, forced passes, and a frequently errant jump shot; overall his efficiency is poor, with true shooting of 49% ranking 37th of 44 qualified SEC players.  He converted only 32% of his threes. While he could certainly improve on his 2.7 turnovers per game, the corresponding 4.8 assists provide a respectable ratio for a freshman.  On defense, his size, speed and aggressiveness provide the tools to be an excellent contributor at that end.

With nearly ten per game, Machado lead the NCAA in assists last season.  As a 6’ – 1” tall senior, he posted 13.6 points on exceptional 50 / 40 / 81 shooting.  His “pure point rating” calculates as the second best of all prospects in draftexpress’s database for the last ten years, behind Kendall Marshall.  Marginal as an athlete; his leaping and agility tested below average at the New Jersey draft combine.  These flaws mostly manifest themselves on defense, where combined with his small size, they cause problems staying between his man and the basket.  As a quick point guard with deep shooting range and elite court vision, NBA teams searching for a “one” will surely look closely as the draft approaches.

Game Recaps: In UK’s final four victory over Louisville, Teague tallied 8 points, 5 assists and 2 turnovers on 50% true shooting.   Offensively, his damage came in transition, through the pick-and-roll, and from isolation, as he gathered buckets & assists from each set.  His speed looked great, including controlled coast-to-coast gallops, where he forced a few non-shooting fouls.  Two assists came via drive-and-kicks and two via no-look transition dishes.  On defense, it was a tale of two halfs.  For the first twenty minutes, he played the best point guard defense of this year’s prospects; attentive and quick, keeping U of L’s guards from penetrating and tying up big men on double-teams.  In the second half, perhaps he winded, as the opposing ball-handlers breezed by him on several plays and he limped through picks.

Scott Machado

Machado netted 24 points on 71% field goal shooting to go with 7 assists in Iona’s 75 to 85 conference tourney loss to Fairfield.  His best work came from the perimeter, producing 12 points on 7 shots, including shots out to NBA long-ball range.  Less effective at the basket; besides the six points scored during the last minute of garbage time, he procured only 6 points on 9 plays.  Several isolation forays resulted in blocked shots or wild tosses at the hoop.  He threw several nice passes, including two drive & kicks for corner threes and a beautiful cross-court transition dime from at least thirty feet out.  An odd aspect of the game included Machado receiving credit for three assists in the first four minutes though.  When the announcers mentioned this, I needed to check the play-by-play and rewind.  Two included passes to players at least eighteen feet from the basket, one technically a hand-off, then the player drove for a score at the basket.  To me, those aren’t assists, and I’ll assume Iona’s score keeper is not always that friendly.  Defensively he disappointed, frequently lit up by his opposing number in isolation and struggling through screens.

I watched this Iona game, because it was the only one available on ESPN3.  Obviously an efficient 24 & 7 looks pretty good in the box score and has it’s highlights, but as described, much of his work proved non-inspiring.  Maybe he battled some off-court drama on March 4th.  Draftexpress tweeted twice during the game, both negative, once saying “Scott Machado totally MIA here.  Not talking or trying to show any leadership.  Passive body language.  No emotion.  Very disappointing stuff.”  Anyways, it goes to show that even an efficient twenty-four points does not always mean dominance.

Summary: I like Teague.  From February to the end of the season (17 games), he scored 10.3 points on 50% true shooting with 5.3 assists and 2.5 turnovers.  All marks better than the first half of the season, and his distributing numbers jumped very nicely against a schedule that included Florida and Vanderbilt three times each, plus the NCAA tournament.  He’s really fast, plus as a teenager, he lead the NCAA champs in minutes played.  I’m not sure what else people expect from eighteen-year-olds on a big stage (not everyone can be Kyrie-fricking-Irving!).  I foresee steady improvement in his shooting and decision making, and a nice NBA career.  The close-constraints of the NCAA game, combined with the fact that four of UK’s starters combined to shoot 29% from three, lead to a lot of paint-packing-defenses and tough driving conditions for Teague.  The more open pro-game serves Teague very well.  My inclination is he won’t last until #26, but ESPN’s mock draft 5.0 included selection by his hometown Pacers.  It’s not NBA championship material, but adding Teague to 22-year old Paul George builds a strong backcourt foundation for many years.

Steve Nash played for a mid-major college and was too small, not athletic enough, etc.  Of course, he developed into one of the NBA’s all-time great point guards.  Do I think the same will happen with Scott Machado?  Of course not…that would be stupid.  Should the Cavs consider drafting the Iona Senior at #34, instead of mowing through a season’s worth of D-League all-stars at back-up point guard?  That seems like a reasonably defensible decision.