Archive for June, 2012

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”.

Obligatory “Dan Gilbert Tweets After the Heat Win the Finals” Post

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Via Dan Gilbert’s Twitter:

Great NBA season. Enjoyed playoffs. Congratulations to Miami & OKC for an exciting Finals. Back to work on next weeks promising Cavs draft.

It’s a polite tweet. It notably doesn’t acknowledge that LeBron and the Heat won the NBA title, but it’s polite nonetheless. I also enjoyed this NBA season. (Though not as much as last year. The lockout hurt the quality of play during the regular season, and the playoffs got off to a rough start due to all the early injuries. Regardless, the Conference and NBA Finals were terrific. A really high level of basketball was on display during those series.) I’m very sad it’s over. I use the summer as an opportunity to recede fully into my other interests, but I’m not sure I like anything more than watching, thinking about, and writing about the best basketball league in the world. I’ll be a happier person when late October arrives, and I can watch the NBA three to five nights a week.

I’m not going to comment extensively on this tweet or the implications of this Miami title. (Trust, I’ve written enough about LBJ, indirectly or otherwise.) If it’s any consolation to you, The Blog readers, I make a very conscious choice, when Bron-related things happen, to write or not write about them. My decision is usually based on whether or not I feel I have something valuable or interesting to add to the conversation; mostly because I’m aware of how strange it is to write about a player who left one’s team two full years ago, regardless of the inextricable ties he has to the Cavalier organization. After mulling things over a bit, I have nothing unique or of substance to say about LeBron’s first title, at least not in the context of a blog about the Cleveland Cavaliers. But I’m also aware this Heat Finals victory is an event that makes some Cavs fans angry/sad/conflicted/etc., and so I feel obligated to provide you guys with a space to talk about it.

Do me a favor, though: keep it civil in the comment section. As much as “[expletive] LeBron” might be cathartic, it’s not terribly intelligent or useful.

Cavs: The Podcast – 0008 – The Draft, Pt 1

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

IT’S HERE!

iTunes link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/cavs-the-podcast/id528149843 (it’ll take some time for the podcast to appear on here)

SoundCloud link: http://soundcloud.com/cavstheblog/0008-the-draft-pt-1

The eagerly anticipated draft podcast has finally arrived (sorry it took so long!)

It’s slightly dated, as we recorded it on Monday (we talk about a potential trade for Okafor) but I think we cover some interested ground, especially on the topics of the fourth pick, potential trades, and Jared Sullinger.

I’m pretty sure we’re going to record a second podcast the night or two before the draft, and we’ll likely follow that up with a post-draft podcast too.

Enjoy!

Cavs Looking to Acquire More Picks

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

From Joe Kotoch over at Pro Basketball Draft:

Trade talks among the teams in the top-10 seems to be heating up.  The Cavaliers have approached Charlotte, New Orleans, and Golden State about acquiring their lottery picks.  While it is common for teams to talk and gauge interest about potential deals the Cavs have been more aggressive.  Sources say the Cavs have expressed the willingness to absorb salary in addition to trading the 24th pick.  A potential stumbling block with New Orleans is the Hornets insistence thus far to have Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor included in a deal for the 10th pick.  According to one league executive the Cavs could get a deal done with the Warriors if they trade Anderson Varejao and 24 but that the Cavs are unwilling to pull the trigger on that deal right now.

On the subject of the Cavs, PBD reported that the Cavs have Andre Drummond ranked ahead of Harrison Barnes on their current draft board, which is still subject to change.  Drummond’s athletic abilities and size are extremely unique and has Grant and his assistants intrigued.  Wednesday is a huge day for Drummond as he will be working out in Cleveland.

It’s not like we’re dealing in 100% verifiable facts here, but these rumors are intriguing. Were I in charge of the Cavs front office, I’d strongly consider flipping Varejao and the 24th pick for the seventh selection. It’s a might steep, but it would give them the opportunity to draft both Beal/Drummond and Barnes/Waiters/Lamb/Rapidly Rising Draft Prospect X.

I’ve heard conflicting reports on this, but: both the Ariza and Okafor contracts and a late first-rounder? That’s a bit rich, right? I’m not wholly opposed to taking on those contracts, but I wonder if the Cavs could package one or both of their (very early) second-rounders in exchange for the 10th pick. Because they would already be affording the Hornets a ton of cap relief.

Bear with me for a second while I label the Warriors trade “Scenario A” and the Hornets trade “Scenario B” and play a wishy-washy game of “Benefits and Drawbacks.”

In Scenario A, the Cavs finish the post-LeBron demolition by dealing their second-best player. They’ll be super young, have tons of a cap space, and will probably be one of the three to seven worst teams in the league again next year. This is good or bad depending on how long you think the Cavs should wait to contend for a playoff spot. I think the team needs to take their medicine for one more season before they can hope to do much of anything going forward. They also get their pick of the non-Beal and MKG wings and guards. If they, for example, really love Lamb and want to (virtually) guarantee they’ll get him, Scenario A’s worth strong consideration.

Scenario B makes the Cavs immediately better than Scenario A and ties up their cap for the next couple of seasons. Ariza makes nearly $15 mil over the next couple seasons. (He has a player options for the 2013-14 season, which he’ll almost definitely pick up.) Okafor makes $28 mil over the next two years. My problem with this deal is that it ties up the Cavs’ cap for a couple years (not a major problem) while also making them pretty good (in the long run, perhaps a major problem). The Cavs would likely, for the first time in two years, have six to eight legitimate NBA players on their roster. That’s probably a playoff team in the East, which means the Cavs would have to absolutely nail this draft because their pick next season would land in the late-ish teens.

I don’t see Scenario B happening without some significant tweaks to the rumored deal. As described above in the block-quote, it’s pretty un-Grantian in its philosophy. There is no practical difference between trading for veterans with bloated contracts and overpaying free agents, and I don’t think the organization places much value on getting into the playoffs next season with a starting lineup that has three guys in their late 20s/early 30s.

And there’s perhaps a Scenario C: the Cavs swap the fourth and 24th picks for the Blazers’ pair of lottery selections, which, if they really like Beal and Drummond, doesn’t make much sense, but if they have a cluster of guys on their draft board around the four to eight range and are willing to live with whoever falls to them at the sixth spot, it’s a smart deal.

Obviously, there are plenty of variations on these hypothetical scenarios. Maybe New Orleans only wants their trade partner to take on Okafor’s contract. I keep hearing about this Blazers deal, but it’s not like we have a Marc Stein report that it’s definitely on the table. These rumors are indicative, however, of the fact Chris Grant has spent a lot of time on the phone over the last few weeks. This is encouraging news because I think the Cavs will have to get creative to get the most out of this draft.

UPDATE: Well, Scenario B is off the table, I guess. Okafor and Ariza are headed to DC.

OPINION UPDATE: I guess I’ll also add that this probably means the chances of the Wiz taking Beal just went up considerably. And that if MKG falls to the Cavs and they draft Barnes, I will punch a hole in this blog.

NBA Draft Rumor Roundup

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

From Kurt Helin over at Pro Basketball Talk:

Teams have fallen for Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal and, while he has only worked out for the top four teams in the draft that will be enough. He is not falling past the Cavaliers at No. 4,reports Hoopsworld’s Alex Kennedy (who provides a lot of the rumors on this page), but frankly he may not get that far. Washington at No. 3 likes him also.

You’re going to want to click on the link, because Helin’s linked to a lot of relevant stuff, but I also love me some Brad Beal. I was gchatting about the draft with sometimes-Blog-contributor Tom Pestak yesterday, and one of the things that came up was whether or not the Cavs should trade down. I like that rumored four/24-for-six/11 Blazers swap (if it’s even really a thing; it’s not like any of these reports have been confirmed) because I like the idea of a painfully talent-deficient Cavs team picking up what should be, if they do their homework, two future starters. But if Beal is there at four, I think I’d rather the Cavs take him and hope they can land a rotation player with the 24th pick.

But that’s my underinformed take. The fun thing about the draft is there’s no real right or wrong answers until three years afterward; you kind of forget what you were saying at the  time. Well, unless you write things on the internet and then people can dredge up old quotes and make you look dumb. (I’ve said too much.)

So: Beal at four? Barnes and PJ3 at six and 11? Offer Jordan partial ownership of Dan Gilbert’s new casino for the number two? Bueller?

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.