Today’s profile covers two remarkably similar players and also a guy that I wasn’t sure where to fit in otherwise. All three very much fall within range of Cleveland’s #24 pick; in ESPN’s latest mock draft, Royce White went #22, Moe Harkless #24 and Draymond Green at #27.
Royce White accomplished a rare feat by leading Iowa State in points, rebounds, assists, blocks & steals at 13, 9, 5, 1 and 1 per game. Most impressive as a distributor and rebounder, his defensive rebounding percentage ranked 2nd in the Big Twelve and his passing placed him fifth; pretty impressive for a 6’ – 8”, 270 pound forward. Although he turned 21 in April, this season was his first in the NCAA, after originally enrolling at Minnesota as the #30 recruit in his high school class, before transferring due to off-court legal problems. Given skilled ball-handling and court-vision, he frequently initiated the Cyclone offense, setting up a play and using over 29% of the team’s possessions. Downsides include relatively poor offensive efficiency. He lacks three point range and only converted 50% of his free throws; these two flaws resulted in pedestrian 53% true shooting. Due to frequently wild forays to the basket, his 3.8 turnovers a night waste the 9th most possessions per game in the NCAA. Defensively, he doesn’t always engage, which combined with his physique, may make effectively solidifying an NBA defense difficult. Finally, he has been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which for more information, I suggest you go here.
Moe Harkless finished his freshman year at St. John’s, averaging over 15 points and 8 rebounds in 36 minutes per game, as the Red Storm endured a difficult season dealing with Coach Steve Lavin’s battle with prostate cancer. Harkless is a long, 6’ – 8” small forward possessing great athleticism. Still offensively raw, his most efficient looks occur through transition, off-the-ball movement, and offensive rebounds. While aggressive with the rock in his hands, his ball-handling skills are a work-in-progress and shooting range is currently non-existent; he netted only 17 of 79 from three-point range this year. Combined with only making four trips to the foul line a game, in part due to his slender build, his offensive efficiency was poor (50% TS, 100 offensive rating). On defense, he possesses much promise thanks to his length, speed and jumping ability, which he parlayed into a combined 3 blocks plus steals per game.
Want to hear an amazing stat about Draymond Green? With 16 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game in 33 minutes, he was the first “major conference” player to post a 15 – 10 – 3 since Tim Duncan. Tim Duncan!! Green isn’t embarking on a hall-of-fame career, but does bring a lot to the table. For a power forward, he exhibits outstanding ball-handling and passing ability. Launching 134 threes this year, he found net on 39%. As a defensive rebounder, he ranked as 7th best in the NCAA. Downsides include his size; standing only 6’ – 6” tall, many question his ability to handle opposing power forwards in the NBA, especially when combining his height with his marginal athleticism. These flaws resulted in Green only converting 47% of his two point field goals, ranking him 18th of 19 power forwards likely taken in the 2012 draft. Defensively, he attempts to overcome his non-impressive physical traits with outstanding “motor” and “basketball IQ”, but larger and faster players can overwhelm in isolation, on switches or on the block.
Game Recaps: In Iowa State’s regular season finale; White recorded a double-double in the Cyclone’s 80 – 72 win over Baylor. Baylor’s zone didn’t allow White to showcase his best skills, but the game proved interesting in a few ways. White matched up with likely top-10 pick Perry Jones III and held him to ten points on eleven shots. His on-ball defense, primarily in the post, appeared to be much stronger than away from the ball, as his commitment to rotations ebbed. Sometimes loafing back down court, on one transition trip, PJ3 dribbled faster than White ran (admittedly, this is also a testament to Jones’ speed). On offense, White’s 11 points derived primarily through a unique wrinkle in the Bears defensive scheme; they chose not to guard him. Allowing White to set up shop at the free throw line in the center of their zone, Baylor dared him to take the 15 footer. He sometimes did, mostly unsuccessfully, but frequently attacked the big man waiting at the basket, either drawing fouls or attempting to kick to open cutters. His 5 of 10 from the charity stripe, along with four assists, often came from this setup. He definitely passes with NBA-level zip on the ball – throwing lasers, although this also helped contribute to his three turnovers.
Harkless played all forty minutes in the last game of his collegiate career, totaling 25 points and 9 rebounds on 70% true shooting, as St. John’s lost 59 to 73 against Pittsburg. As the tallest player on their roster, Harkless actually takes the jump ball for the Red Storm. He scored through diverse means, but proved most effective in transition and as an offensive rebounder, where his outstanding leaping nabbed five boards this game. Flashing a crafty finger-roll and a tough reverse layup, he displayed athleticism as a finisher. He frequently used jab-steps and pump-fakes to settle into pull-up jumpers from isolation. As ball-handling negatives, he nearly always starts right and lost a possession on a travel & a charge. On both ends of the court, his movements are laid-back, or “smooth” in the parlance of the announcers. In this regard, he looked like a younger, taller Jeremy Lamb, without a jump shot. Defensively, there weren’t a lot of high points; Ashton Gibbs left Harkless flat-footed on several drives, and his strength posed issues when battling screeners.
In leading Michigan State to the Big Ten Championship, Green tallied 12 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists as part of a 68 – 64 win over Ohio State. Starting with negatives, as part of a 4 of 15 shooting day, his back-to-the-basket work was miserable. One of five were made, including two blocked shots and two badly missed turnaround jumpers. Faulty footwork resulted in a travel, one of two turnovers from the low post. Being slow afoot showed on defense, as Aaron Craft twice blew past him and DeShaun Thomas once left him on the ground, after Green bit on a pump fake. Positives included draining two of three from deep and exhibiting excellent court vision, both driving & dishing, and on a sweet mid-shot adjustment to hit a wide-open cutter. Green’s off-the-ball team defense looked superb: setting up for two charges, rotating into a baseline trap & causing a turnover, and offering help on pick-and-rolls to force misses. For his defensive work, the announcers described him as “one step ahead of everyone else”.
Summary: A preference amongst these three may come down to a team’s draft philosophy. If they’re looking for a relatively safe bet as an immediate rotation player, Draymond Green is the choice. His court vision, shooting, rebounding and basketball IQ should provide immediate depth improvement to the team drafting him. If the team is willing to roll the dice on “upside”, Royce White or Moe Harkless make the grade.
Given that the Cavs won’t contend next year, Moe Harkless appears as a solid pick. They have the ability to be patient and develop him as part of the re-building process, and if he doesn’t pan out, Cleveland owns plenty of late 1st rounders over the next few years, where they can draft the “Draymond Green” of 2013 or 2014. Harkless fits a lot of Cavs needs as a long, athletic wing - the type of player the team is completely void of. He only turned 19 last week. Despite my reporting defensive malaise in the game recap; earlier in the season ESPN called him an “athlete who works hard on both ends of the floor” with a “non-stop motor”. Displaying serious defensive effort would look really good on Harkless. Surely, this was a tough season for him; he primarily played power forward and sometimes center, and the leadership carousel resulting from his coach’s cancer battle stressed the entire team. Possibly, by early March, Harkless was just ready to move on, and his defensive effort suffered because of it.
Regarding Royce White, his poor shooting and waning defensive motor cause concern. For what it’s worth, despite playing nearly 80% of Iowa State’s minutes, the Cyclones were only +133 when he played, compared to a relatively robust +77 with him sitting. He was electric in two NCAA tourney games, averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds on 71% true shooting, but all things considered, there are other players I prefer the Cavs to target late in the first round.