Posts Tagged ‘Draft Profiles’

Joel Embiid: From Cameroon to Number One Pick

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Joel-Embiid

Joel Embiid is a freak physically who had decent stats in college.  His freshman year matches up pretty well with Tim Duncan’s freshman year.  Those are just numbers though.  There have been plenty of busts that had wonderful college box scores and amazing bodies.  What is important is what actual skills Embiid has that can be seen, not just measured.  So, I deal with the numbers and what is being witnessed separately.  Luckily for Joel, he appears legitimate when you read his box scores and witness him play.

In the Raw

Joel Embiid is a 7’0,” 240 pounds and sports a 7’5” wing span.  Embiid grew up in Cameroon playing soccer and volleyball. He’s only twenty years old and has been playing basketball since 2011.  His path to America through basketball is unique, but his path to actually playing basketball was the same as most people his height.  He was pulled to a basketball camp just because of the chance he may become good.

The camp was led by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and the NBA player immediately saw that Embiid had amazing moves for someone who had never played organized basketball.  Mbah a Moute eventually talked Embiid’s father into sending him to the Montverde Academy in Flordia to play basketball.  However, Embiid didn’t see playing time during his junior year, so he transferred to the Rock School, also in Florida.  Mbah a Moute called the Rock school on Embiid’s behalf to get him a spot on the team.

Kansas assistant coach and former Florida native, Norm Roberts, brought the big kid to the attention of Kansas head coach, Bill Self.  Self watched Embiid practice and concluded he could be a dominant force and a future number one pick.

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Still thinking about the Draft? Less so…but, yeah.

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

In the second installment of Cavs: the Blog’s look at potential lottery picks, Harrison Barnes will be overviewed. These posts are envisioned as a look at potential future Cavs over the course of another re-building season. Barnes would be a long term solution at small forward.

Since deciding to return to North Carolina for his sophomore year, Barnes has been regarded as a top 3 pick in the 2012 NBA draft. He was the consensus #1 player in his high school class, and NBA teams are excited about his combination of size, offensive skill and maturity. I think he’s a tad overrated.

Let’s start with the promising aspects of his game. Barnes is a talented offensive player, leading a team of future first round draft picks in scoring. In only 26 minutes per game, he’s registering 17 points behind 57% true shooting and blistering 49% three point shooting. He’s young but already solidly built; at 6’-8” tall and 220+ pounds, he has ideal size for an NBA small forward. Playing with a high level of skill, he exhibits great footwork and a variety of step back and turnaround jumpers. He’s strong and can put the ball on the floor and finish at the basket. There’s little doubt that he brings the necessary size and abilities to find a way to get the ball in the basket in the NBA.

Some concerns about Barnes include the limitations to his offensive game. He’s a good athlete, but not particularly explosive with his jumping or first step. His ball handling is not extremely advanced. This combination can lead to him becoming primarily a jump shooter. His rebounding is down from last year, at only 4.7 per game. Gathering only 9.6% of available defensive rebounds isn’t going to get it done for a 6’ 8” forward. He has ideal character and temperament, but some are starting to question whether he has the disposition to be a star or if he’s better suited as a 2nd or 3rd option.

Finally, despite reports describing him as a defender with good fundamentals and intensity, it’s possible there’s weakness here. For more on this, let’s look at three recent UNC games.

11/11/2011 against Michigan State
Barnes finished with 17 points on 60% true shooting with 5 rebounds and 2 assists in 32 minutes, with UNC winning by a score of 67 – 55. This was just another day at the office; efficient scoring without a lot of additional box score filler. There weren’t tons of definitive moments for him offensively; he showed off well-practiced footwork with a long turnaround jump shot early in the game. On the downside, he had a couple of poor box-outs that lead to MSU putbacks (UNC was terrible on the defensive glass as MSU had 19 offensive boards). Two of Barnes’ shots got blocked, but on the bright side, after getting one turnaround jump shot blocked by a help defender, Barnes raced down the court and swatted a transition jumper. It would have been refreshing to see more of this defensive intensity throughout the game.

11/30/2011 against Wisconsin
In this 60 – 57 UNC triumph, 20 points came from Barnes on 66% true shooting with 3 rebounds, 0 assists, a steal and 3 turnovers. The game was a tale of two halves, as at times Barnes was nearly invisible in the first half. UNC has so many blue-chip players that their offense can occasionally exclude any given player. He missed a couple of jumpers, had a layup blocked, and was also frequently away from the action on the defensive end, as he spent much of the half guarding Josh Gasser. Barnes started the game guarding Ryan Evans, Wisconsin’s 6’ 6” forward and third leading scorer. After Barnes’ first trip to the bench though, he was switched onto Gasser, a 6’ 3” guard who is Wisconsin’s least involved offensive player (average of 7 points in 32 minutes per game). This made for a relatively uneventful half of Harrison Barnes watching.

The second half featured several highlights from Barnes as UNC pulled out the victory. These twenty minutes started out rough; a poor boxout lead to an opponent putback, then later he dribbled the ball off an defender’s foot. He was sent to the bench three and a half minutes in, and Roy Williams’ pep talk worked as Barnes’ defensive intensity was noticeably better when he returned. His array of offensive abilities was on display; he made a three off a screen, hit an 18 footer off a shot-fake / step-fake / one-dribble move, and drilled a spot up three. A couple of nice passes didn’t result in assists. He spent much of the half guarding Evans, but was again switched to Gasser during crunch time. Negatives included his couple of times in the post; on two possessions, he got his shot blocked once and had the ball stripped the other time.

12/21/2011 against Texas
Barnes had his best game of the season statistically; tallying 26 points on 70% true shooting with 10 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals. There are a few reasons to not overvalue this though. Texas is very young and very small; five of their top seven minutes earners are freshman. Their starters are 6’-1”, 6’-1”, 6’-3”, 6’-7” and 6’7”, with only one player on their team taller than Barnes. For much of the game Barnes was guarded by J’Covan Brown, who is 7” shorter. The other question mark was Barnes’ defense. Towards the end of the first half, Barnes appears to have been benched in order to get a defensive pep talk. He checked into the game with 4:20 remaining and was guarding Jonathan Holmes, the Longhorns fourth leading scorer. Holmes hit a couple of jumpers, including one play where he lost Barnes around a couple of screens…Barnes sat back on the bench after playing less than two minutes and didn’t return for the rest of the half. To start the second half, Texas ran pick & rolls against Barnes on their first three possessions and a few minutes later called two straight plays for Sheldon McClellan while being guarded by Barnes. Barnes didn’t handle one pick & roll well and McClellan got two looks from long distance (hitting one). Maybe I’m making something out of nothing; but did Texas view Harrison Barnes as a defensive liability? Barnes had two fouls in the first half, maybe Texas was just trying to get him in foul trouble. The sequence of events in the Texas game, combined with UNC’s decision to have Barnes guard Gasser in the Wisconsin game, certainly left me unsure about Barnes’ defense. He was never faced with a tough matchup in these three games, and it was a stark contrast to watching Michael Kidd-Gilchrist guard the opponent’s best perimeter offensive players.

I’ve belabored that enough; Barnes was very effective offensively against Texas and showed his range of skills as UNC won easily. He flashed good strength around the basket, finishing two and-ones and also making at least three other shots through contact, but with no foul called. He hit a couple of pull-up threes and made some nifty passes that didn’t lead to assists. He scored on a turn-around jumper on a post move, too.

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In summary, Barnes is a well-rounded offensive player. He is not an explosive athlete or a highly adept ball handler, which can limit his upside. Recently ESPN reported that an NBA GM described Barnes’ floor as Danny Granger. I’ll take this a little further; Barnes’ ceiling is 2008 – 2009 Danny Granger, scoring about 25 points on 58% true shooting with 5.5 rebounds and 3 assists per game. His floor is 2010 – 2011 Danny Granger, contributing 20 points a game with efficiency slightly above league average (55% TS). Either way, he is a quality NBA player that doesn’t project as the best player on a contender.

I lean towards the comparison with the latter Danny Granger and through two draft prospect reviews, my ratings (always subject to change) are:

1. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – I liked him before, and his recent 24 point, 19 rebound outing against Louisville didn’t hurt his cause. His ceiling is higher than all but a couple of players in the draft.

2. Harrison Barnes – For what it’s worth, there are a lot worse things to be than 2010 – 2011 Danny Granger.

Glass Half Full Draft Reflection

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

The draft is over, so this will be my last posting to Cavs:the Blog for a while. Writing these entries does take a lot of time. Lots of credit to John Krolik, for maintaining such a high quality blog for the last several years.

My “reaction” to the draft was a look at draft day from a “glass half empty” perspective. This will contrast that; reflecting on things that went well, as I want to end on a positive note. The negative reaction was based on spending a lot of time, as the Cavs: the Blog Draft Expert, thinking about the draft and having formed opinions on what the Cavs could do. I strongly preferred the Cavs to draft Jonas Valanciunas with #4. I preferred the Cavs do something like trade the #32 and #54 to the Spurs for #29, and take Jimmy Butler. Or at #32, draft Jon Leuer and keep him. Basically something to end up with a player from the 32 pick. At #54, I preferred a lot of players over Milan Macvan. I was unsatisfied with three of the Cavs four picks and dwelled on that. I still would have preferred different selections (and am confused about all the PF’s), but ultimately I’m just a fan with a computer. The Cavs have ways to quantify player contributions that I can’t begin to understand, and they like Tristan Thompson. Here are the positives I see in the drafted players:

Kyrie Irving – It’s folly to forget the Cavs’ good fortune of acquiring the #1 pick in the draft. The Cavs took on an extra $12 million in salary commitments to acquire a likely late lottery pick in a weak draft. Obviously this pick became #1 and has allowed the Cavs to begin laying a great groundwork for the future. Kyrie Irving is an excellent young point guard. The low end of his potential is considered as an above average NBA starter and the high end is as an All-Star. He’s everything a point guard should be; an efficient scorer, good shooter, quality distributor, hard worker, and intense defender. At 19; he is mature and confident, and appears to have a great NBA career ahead of him. On Thursday, the Cavs re-building process took a big step forward in acquiring Kyrie Irving.

Tristan Thompson – Going into Thursday, the Cavs had one player under 25 that was potentially a part of the long range plan (my opinion, see draft reaction). With Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, that number has tripled. Thompson still needs to develop his offensive skills, but he undoubtedly brings a lot to the table on defense. He has good size and strength for a 20 year old and was the most agile big man at the draft combine. Thompson should be able to defend power forwards in the post, on the perimeter, and even cover some small forwards. Per 40 minutes, he averaged 3.1 blocks and 1.2 steals in his freshman year. He had very effective defensive games against two other lottery power forwards. In a narrow NCAA tournament loss, he held Derrick Williams to 17 points on 42% true shooting, and in a mid-season victory over Kansas, he had five blocks while the Morris twins struggled to the tune of 26 total points on 42% true shooting. As John noted in his post draft summary, the Cavs were very lacking in defense last year; and Irving and Thompson will both step in and begin restoring the Cavs commitment to defense. Finally regarding Thompson; I would be remiss to not mention that he rated as the third best prospect in John Hollinger’s 2011 draft rater. Hollinger’s draft rater is not perfect, but it historically has been good at picking top performing big men.

So there are definitely positives from draft day that I didn’t discuss in my “reaction”piece. Similar to the reaction though, I still am look forward to an interesting trade, a 2011 – 2012 NBA season, and the start of the Irving / Thompson era in Cleveland (complete with a championship where Thompson shuts down Durant).

#54 pick – Draft Profile

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

The draft is this Thursday. It’s been fun providing these Draft Profiles and hopefully they’ve spurred some good discussion of what the Cavs can do in the draft. The remainder of my top 30 are:

14. Nikola Vucevic – Very big, versatile scorer. Anchored PAC-10’s best defense.
15. Tobias Harris – Quality offense and rebounding and turns 19 next month.
16. Jan Vesely – I view Vesely as an athletic finisher and energy player
17. Jordan Hamilton – Good offense will help offset disinterested defense.
18. Chris Singleton – Impressive defensive player that would benefit by developing three point range.
19. Jimmy Butler – I like what he brings to the table
20. Klay Thompson – Good shooter but limited as a play maker and defender
21. Reggie Jackson – PER, offensive rating, on-court splits really like Jackson.
22. Marshon Brooks – For some reason I think of Jamal Crawford, a scorer on average teams.
23. Josh Selby – Explosive athlete. A year ago, was considered one of the best in class of 2010.
24. Jon Leuer – Quality Stretch 4
25. Donatas Motiejunas – Disappointing Eurocup season. Lacks defensive intensity.
26. Darius Morris – Big point guard, could play similar to Andre Miller.
27. JaJuan Johnson – Good athlete and mid range shooter, could contribute on offense and defense.
28. Nikola Mirotic – Talented 20 year old European. Would be higher except for contract extension with Real Madrid.
29. Charles Jenkins – Had a great senior season in a surprisingly strong conference (3 tournament teams)
30. Norris Cole – Great pick and roll point guard who has been impressing in workouts.

Regarding my prior rankings, I wouldn’t draft Fredette at #13. He is apparently looking very good in workouts, but the later parts of the draft will include Charles Jenkins, Norris Cole, Ben Hansborough and Andrew Goudelock. If a team wants to draft a scoring point guard that is a potential defensive liability; there should be better value than picking Fredette in the top 13.

The following players won’t be drafted, however they deserve an “honorable mention” as players to try out in summer leagues or pre-season: Gilbert Brown and Brad Wannamaker from Pittsburg, Josh Harrellson from Kentucky, Damian Saunders from Duquense, Willie Reed from St. Louis, and Jacob Pullen from Kansas State.

Obviously with the #54 pick expectations are low, but without further ado; the players the Cavs should consider:

Adam Hanga – Hanga is a 22 year old, 6’7” tall shooting guard from Hungary. He is a good athlete, who last week scored 16 points in the Adidas Eurocamp all-star game. He is a quality shooter and scorer; averaging 17.6 points in the Hungarian League this year with 58% true shooting and 37% three point shooting. He is also disruptive on defense, averaging 2.8 steals per game. He recently signed a two year contract to move up to the Spanish ACB, generally regarded as the best national league in Europe. There are reasons for the Cavs to draft a player that will be in Europe for a few years. The Cavs have 13 players under contract next year. If they sign 3 or 4 players from this draft class, they will need to buy out some existing players. Also in the event of a lockout; it will be beneficial to have a young player developing in a high quality European league, rather than not playing competitive basketball.

Jereme Richmond – Richmond just finished his freshman year at Illinois. He was a McDonald’s All-American and the 27th rated player in the class of 2010. He is a 6’7” small forward who is highly athletic, reflected in the fastest ¾ court sprint at the NBA combine. He had a relatively productive season with 7.6 points and 5.0 rebounds in 22 mpg and showed flashes of great defensive potential. He needs to get stronger and is an un-developed offensive player, but he is only 19 and if the Cavs wanted to buy-out Joey Graham and sign Richmond; that seems fine.

Michael Dunigan – Dunigan is a big body (6’10”, 240 lbs, 7’3” wingspan) that could find a place in the NBA. He was the 24th rated senior in the class of 2008 and attended Oregon. Following a sophomore season marked by poor conditioning, when he averaged 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 20 minutes per game, Dunigan left Oregon and went to play in Europe. In Europe, Dunigan has improved his conditioning and had a solid season playing for an Estonian team. In the elite division of the Baltic League (the12 best professional Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian teams), Dunigan played 22.7 minutes per game and averaged a solid 12.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, and 1.2 steals. He was foul and turnover prone, but was named 3rd team all-Baltic league as a 21 year old rookie. He turns 22 next month.

Jon Diebler – Diebler is a 6’6” shooting guard from Ohio State. He does only one thing well, but fortunately for him he does it better than everyone else. Diebler is an outstanding shooter, leading the NCAA this year in 3-pt shooting percentage, true shooting percentage, and offensive rating. He shot 50% on threes this year, and over the last three years has made 326 of 734 from long range (44%). He has one definite NBA level skill and that could make him worth the 54 pick.

Jamine Peterson – Peterson is a 6’5” small forward with a big 6’10.5” wingspan. He turns 23 in July after having played two years at Providence and one year in the NBA D-League. His time at Providence ended due to him being dismissed for breaking team rules, but he was very solid when there. In 2009 – 2010 in 30 minutes a game, he averaged 19.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 1.3 steals; good for a PER of 28. Last year in 24 minutes a game in the D-League, he averaged 13.4 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting 36% from long distance. Peterson could earn a place in the NBA as a 9th or 10th man, and that’s about all that can be hoped for at #54.

Vote No for Vesely at 4

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

This is Kevin Hetrick contributing again. I want to add one last take on Jan Vesely. Vesely just finished his Serbian League season, averaging 14 points and 5 rebounds in the championship series. ESPN has moved him to 4th on their list of top prospects and 5th in their most recent mock draft. I’ve researched what Vesely has done through the years, watched what video is available to me, and I don’t understand the infatuation with him. A top 5 pick should become a top contributor on a playoff team, and I don’t see that. I view Vesely as a great fast break finisher and high energy player; not a player that will be a star.

I will start by comparing the Serbian League to the NCAA and build a very rough case that the professional Serbian League is not higher quality basketball than the top NCAA conferences. The league hierarchy of Serbian basketball is as follows:

 Euroleague: The best 24 teams from Europe’s national leagues participate, including Vesely’s team (Partizan).

 Eurocup: The second tier continental league. One Serbian League team (Hemofarm) played and lost in the round of 16.

 Adriatic League: Features the best professional teams from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Israel, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. In addition to Partizan and Hemofarm, two other Serbian teams qualified. Partizan was champion, Hemofarm finished 6th, and the other two teams finished 10th and 13th of 14 teams.

 Serbian League: Four additional teams compete with the four teams above for the Serbian SuperLeague championship. These other four teams are lesser than the teams that participated in the Adriatic League; as they finished 4, 6, 7 & 8 in the SuperLeague.

In summary, the Serbian League is not a high level European league. Other than Partizan, there are no Euroleague teams. They only send one other team to a continental league, and the team was not very competitive there. Partizan has won 10 straight Serbian championships and was 18 -2 this year, outscoring opponents by 14 points per game. One of their losses was against a team where the 3rd best player in minutes, points, and rebounds was Brandon Bowman. Brandon played at Georgetown until 2005 – 2006, peaking at 16 points and 8 rebounds per game his sophomore year when Georgetown went 13 – 15. Georgetown got more talented, and Bowman became their third leading scorer and rebounder his senior year. In summary, the 3rd best player on the 4th best team in the Serbian League was the 3rd best player on a 23-10 Georgetown team as a 22 year old. The other team that Partizan lost to this year was led by Michael Lee, who led his Serbian team in minutes, points, and rebounds. Lee was also the Serbian League’s defensive player of the year. He previously led the 2007 – 2008 St. Bonaventure Bonnies in the same categories when they went 8 – 22. So three years later, the best player from the last place team in the Atlantic Ten is now the best player for the 3rd best Serbian League team. I think this begins to build a case that the professional Serbian League is not better than the NCAA.

The Serbian League ended June 8th, and is the source of the stats I use below for Vesely. There is nothing particularly more impressive about his production in the 2011 Euroleague or Adriatic League. As a league’s talent level increases, Vesely’s production decreases. Also across all games in 2010 – 2011, Vesely shot 120 – 256 on free throws (47%). Something is broken with his foul shooting and fixing it will go a long way for his future production.

Now I will make a comparison to sum up where I rate Jan Vesely. Jan Vesely will be played by John Wesley. Tristan Thompson will be played by Tristan Tomovic. Thompson’s stats are from his freshman year at Texas.

John Wesley is 21 years old and just finished his junior year as a combo-forward at Kansas. He has declared for the NBA draft, and has always been tantalizing as an NBA prospect due to his highlight reel dunks and energy level. He really started to put it all together this year. Per 40 minutes, he averaged 21.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.0 turnovers, 1.2 blocks, 1.0 steal, and 5.1 fouls with 58% true shooting. He is relatively raw offensively; scoring on fast breaks and put backs, while still working on his post game and lacking a consistent shot. Scouts were blown away by his length, speed, and leaping at the combine; but are concerned about his agility and strength. His size and energy are good on defense, but questionable lateral quickness and a skinny frame could pose defensive issues in the NBA.

Tristan Tomovic is a 20 year old power forward from Montenegro, who just finished a second season with his Euroleague team. European basketball has rarely seen a player like Tristan. He is 6’9” with long arms, and is strong and athletic. His per 40 minute averages in the Serbian League were 17.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2.3 turnovers, 3.1 blocks, 1.2 steals and 3.6 fouls with 54% true shooting. He is raw on offense – scoring on offensive rebounds, cuts, and in transition; but his agility and strength make him a force on defense. He had strong defensive showings against some of the better players in the Euroleague this year.

Who gets picked first in the draft? Wesley scored slightly better and is a more freakish athlete, but Tomovic is also a good athlete and is stronger. Tomovic is younger and not too far behind on offense, while also being more of a defensive force.  Wesley’s team plays five possessions per 40 minutes faster (7% faster), so Tomovic’s stats are even more comparable if viewed per team possession.  If Tristan Thompson was from Montenegro, he’d probably be a top 5 pick. Would John Wesley be viewed similarly to Marshon Brooks; a talented upperclassmen with added appeal due to his athleticism? It would be even more skewed toward Tomovic if John Wesley’s numbers came playing for Xavier in the Atlantic 10. I made the comparison of Vesely to Thompson because both players are developing power forwards who were their teams second leading scorers; however another comparison could have been the Morris twins, who were actually Kansas’ junior power forwards. The statistical comparison of the hypothetical Wesley to the Morris twins is much less favorable for Vesely, especially when accounting for questions about the position Vesely defends in the NBA.

I am not a professional talent evaluator, but it seems to me there is a place for evaluating a player’s “tools” and a place for evaluating skills and production. Vesely has tools. He is fast, long & jumps high, but there aren’t a lot of well-defined basketball skills (besides energy) or a history of great production. With “older” prospects, it seems more credit needs given for skill level and production, and less for “tools”. I have trouble making sense of Vesely as the 4th best player in the draft while the Morris twins are in the mid-third of the first round.

#32 pick – Draft Profile

Monday, June 13th, 2011

If you only have ten minutes; read Tom Pestak’s post below, not mine. This week, Mo and I will profile players of interest with the Cavs #32 pick. Also my favorite players, numbers 7 – 13:

#7 Kemba Walker

#8 Marcus Morris – His well rounded offensive game has won me over.

#9 Bismack Biyombo – I don’t know what to think about Biyombo, which is why he’s #9. The players above him can be top 3 players on playoff teams, but I don’t think that about those below him. Per 40 minutes, Biyombo averaged 12 rebounds and 5.5 blocks in 14 games in Spain’s top division (ACB). He had 10 blocks and a triple double in the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit. Very impressive for an 18 year old, but here are reasons for controlled expectations (besides age questions). Looking at his five games against the Euroleague teams in the ACB, his averages are 7.8 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per 40 minutes. I’m not going to pretend to know what these next results mean; but his ACB team was 7-7 when he played and 14-7 when he did not. Six months ago he was playing in the Spanish third division. His team was 4-10 with him, allowing 76.7 points per game. After he left they were also 4 – 10, but gave up only 69.6 ppg. If he couldn’t dramatically impact Spanish third tier games, can he be the next Ben Wallace?

#10 Kawhi Leonard – I am not as high on him as others. I do like him enough to put him tenth.

#11 Tristan Thompson – He has good size and athleticism, but is young and raw. His 49% free throw shooting is scary.

#12 Markieff Morris – Similar to my take on Jon Leuer below; except Morris is stronger, younger, and shot 45% from three over the last two years (35-78).

#13 Jimmer Fredette – This is based on a benefit of the doubt that he won’t be a complete defensive void. He has fine size and strength for PG at 6’2.5”, 196 lbs, with a 6’4.5” wingspan. He surprisingly tested 2nd and 3rd in the combine agility tests. He needs to give some effort on defense, or he will not play very much in the NBA.

The Cavs are going to pick a lot in the 28-40 range over the next 5 years and need to add quality rotation players. Here are a few to look at this year with pick #32.

Jimmy Butler – Butler attended Marquette and was MVP of the Portsmouth Invitational, the annual pre-draft camp for NCAA seniors. His Portsmouth team won the championship, and he impressed with his effort on both ends. Butler turns 22 in September and has decent size for a SF at 6’8”, 222 lbs. He is a good athlete, confirmed by top 12 performances in 5 of the 6 combine athleticism tests. I don’t have the space here to cover how much I like Jimmy Butler, but he has a great attitude and intangibles. One fun stat involves how well Butler takes care of the ball. He had a positive pure point rating all three years at Marquette; no other likely first round non-PG had even one year of positive PPR. For his college career he had more steals than turnovers (115 to 110). He’s an efficient scorer, averaging 15 ppg on 60% true shooting. He only shot 94 three pointers in his college career, but hit 38%. Butler will be a starter in the NBA and fills a Cavs need.

Travis Leslie – If the Cavs can’t draft Butler, Leslie would be an option to add a wing athlete. In his three years at Georgia, Leslie played a lot at forward, but at 6’4”, 205 lbs, he’s an NBA shooting guard. He has a large wingspan of 6’10.5”, and is an explosive athlete that plays way above the rim. If the Cavs want to draft a future dunk contest participant, Leslie’s the guy. His shooting and ball handling are suspect; but he effectively scores on cuts, fast breaks, and offensive rebounds; averaging 15 ppg with a solid offensive rating. He is the best rebounding guard available and averaged 3 assists per game against 2.2 turnovers. Like all long, athletic players; Leslie can be a quality defender, but he needs to work on his perimeter defensive skills. Leslie will provide footage for the annual highlight video, and should be a capable rotation player. Comparisons include Maurice Evans, Shannon Brown, and Tony Allen.

Jon Leuer – The Cavs need help on the wings, but the long-term roster also lacks a big man to space the floor. Leuer just finished his senior year at Wisconsin and should perform four things a useful “stretch 4”needs to do:

1. Shoot at least 35% on threes – Over the last two years, Leuer has shot 38% from long range.

2. Protect the defensive glass – Leuer is 6’11”tall, which is great for a PF. The last two years, he grabbed 20 and 22% of the available defensive rebounds (NBA average at PF is 18 – 19%) by giving good effort with solid fundamentals. Leuer needs to increase his lower body strength, but he has the other tools needed to limit opponent’s second chances.

3. Not be a defensive liability – Leuer has great fundamentals, energy, and awareness. The biggest concern about his defense is his athleticism; however he was in the top 10 in both combine agility drills. Again, if he can add 10 – 15 pounds of muscle, Leuer’s length and effort will ensure he’s an adequate man-to-man and team defender.

4. Don’t turn the ball over – Despite being a highly used part of Wisconsin’s offense, Leuer limited turnovers to 11% of his possessions. This is in the top ten percentile of NCAA players, and two years ago Leuer’s turnover rate was a microscopic 8.6%.

Leuer has the tools to bring the benefits of a “stretch 4” without taking much off the table. In addition, he has been working on his high-post game with David Lee to improve his already well-rounded offensive game. For many years, Leuer should be a good third player in a front line rotation.

Enes Kanter – Draft Profile

Monday, June 6th, 2011

This week will be the final profiles of lottery picks. Starting next week, Mo and I will profile potential second round picks. I will also list the top 20 players that I think will be most successful. My top six are:

#1 Kyrie Irving – I see no reason to disagree with the majority. Point guard is an important offensive position and Irving is the best in this or next year’s draft.

#2 Derrick Williams – I think he can be an NBA SF.

#3 Enes Kanter – See below.

#4 Jonas Valanciunas – I would consider picking Valanciunas over Kanter, drafting him on the condition that he works with a Cavs provided strength coach and shooting coach. In a year, he can come from Europe with 15 lbs of added muscle and a reliable 18 footer.

#5 Brandon Knight –He’ll eventually be a quality PG in the NBA.

#6 Alec Burks – He’s a great scorer and rebounder with good size and athleticism for a shooting guard. PER, offensive rating, on-court / off-court numbers are all impressive and he doesn’t turn 20 until July. I like that he was the #33 ranked SG in the class of 2009, now he’s a lottery pick. I give extra credit for players with late growth spurts who are rapidly improving. With improved shooting, he should be excellent.

Now, for my #3. Kanter is meeting with the Cavs this week and is a likely pick at #4.

Enes Kanter
Height: 6’ 11.25”
Weight: 259 lbs
Position: PF / C
Age: Turned 19 in May

Summary: Enes Kanter is the mystery of the high lottery. He was a basketball prodigy, dominating Europe’s youth tournaments and playing in the Euroleague as a 16 year old. Due to NCAA eligibility problems, he has not played competitively in over a year. He is projected as a top 4 pick.

Basketball Bio: Kanter first made his name in European youth tourneys. At age 16, his 15 rebounds per game earned him first team all tournament at the 2008 European U18 championship. The next year he dominated; averaging 18.6 points and 16.4 rebounds while winning MVP and leading Turkey to 3rd place. At 16, he was signed by Turkish basketball power, Fenerbache Ulker, and played in 11 professional games, including 4 in the Euroleague. This brief professional stint proved more critical to Kanter’s future than the 2 ppg and 1.5 rpg would indicate. Kanter turned down large European contracts and decided to move to the United States to play college basketball. He enrolled at Stoneridge Prep in California, playing one year of high school. He committed to play at Kentucky, but was ruled ineligible by the NCAA due to his brief professional play. He has spent the last year practicing and training with the Kentucky basketball team.

Skill Overview: Kanter has the size to play power forward and center in the NBA. He measured as the second tallest player at the combine and was in great shape, weighing 259 lbs with only 5.9% body fat. Possessing the size & strength to match up with most NBA centers, he plays physically in the low post and is not afraid of contact. He is a strong competitor, staying active on the boards and defensively. His activity level, positioning, and great hands make him a dominant rebounder. Kanter has exhibited a range of offensive talents; displaying solid footwork and finishing moves in the post, while also demonstrating shooting range out to the college three. Kanter has a good attitude and works hard at improving his game.

Kanter is an average athlete. Of the seven players over 6’10” at the NBA combine, Kanter had the second lowest vertical jumping and wingspan. Of the “tall” players, he was 2nd in the speed drill and 3rd and 4th in agility drills. Kanter has been described as “non-explosive”, and the combine athletic tests support that. Kanter’s biggest negative may be his limited history of competitive basketball, with almost no experience against players older than 18. The game is about to get a lot faster; will Kanter’s rebounding and offensive games thrive against players as big and athletic as him? Will his defensive rotations look as impressive when the guards and ball are moving at blazing speed? No one can definitively answer these questions.

Additional Info: The other forum where Kanter impressed was the Nike Hoop Summit in April 2010. At this annual high school all-star game, Kanter nearly lead the internationals to victory over a United States team featuring Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight, Jared Sullinger, and Harrison Barnes. Kanter scored 34points, a new event record, and grabbed 13 rebounds in 24 minutes. He was great on the offensive glass and scored with post moves, jump shots, fast breaks finishes, and even on drives. Very impressive, but it was a high school all-star game, so it’s hard to tell how impressive. The US front line was not outstanding; consisting of Sullinger, Patric Young (3.4 ppg & 3.8 rpg at Florida State this year), Leonard Myers (2.1 ppg and 1.3 rpg at Illinois), and Terrence Jones (more SF than PF). Defensive rebounding wasn’t a priority in the game, as each team collected 17 offensive boards. Almost half the missed shots were rebounded by the offense.

Kanter is considered a good shooter, however again there isn’t a lot of actual data supporting this. High school highlights show him hitting high school three’s, but how many were missed? That info isn’t readily available. He shoots well during a workout, but what about with an NBA defender rapidly closing on him? Combine shooting tests were a mixed bag. Of the 16 players that performed the big men drills, he was in the top third in two drills and the bottom third in two. He was 5 of 12 for the timed shooting drill of 35 seconds shooting 15 – 18’ jumpers.

As an offensively skilled big man; comparisons include Al Horford, Kevin Love, or Carlos Boozer, and I won’t debate this. I have him rated #3 primarily because people who are a lot smarter than me have him rated highly. When he has played, he has been dominant against his age group. Hopefully the potential shown in the opportunities available to him will transfer to the NBA, both offensively and defensively.

Kawhi Leonard – Draft Profile

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Athletic tests from the draft combine were released. Derrick Williams had average vertical jumping, but lead the combine in the bench press and was in the top half for the speed and agility drills. Brandon Knight was top 5 (of 53) for the speed and agility drills and in the top third for vertical leaping. Knight also performed ten reps of 185 lbs in the bench press. One player with disappointing athleticism test results was Kawhi Leonard. Leonard had the 7th worst standing vertical jump, 12th worst maximum vertical, was in the bottom third on agility drills, and performed three reps in the bench press. Leonard is a potential top 5 pick and deserves a closer look.

Kawhi Leonard
Height: 6’ 7”
Weight: 227 lbs
Position: SF
Age: Turns 20 in June

Summary: Kawhi Leonard just finished his sophomore year at San Diego State. He was the leader in scoring, rebounding, and steals for a 34 win team. He is most intriguing due to his length and energy level and is viewed as a top 4 – 8 pick.

Basketball Bio: Kawhi Leonard played high school basketball in San Diego, where he was named Mr. Basketball California his senior season. As the 60th ranked recruit in the class of 2009, he stayed close to home and attended San Diego State. His freshman year, Leonard lead the Mountain West Conference (MWC) in rebounding and was first team all conference. In 2010 – 2011, Leonard averaged 15.4 points and 10.7 rebounds in 32 minutes while leading SD State to the MWC tournament championship and the sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

Skill Overview: Leonard is a great rebounder. While not possessing outstanding jumping ability, he gets off the floor quickly and has long arms and huge hands. His wingspan is 7’ 3”, amazing for a 6’7” player, and his hands were the largest of the 2011 NBA draft combine. Leonard is an active, high energy player and a hard worker; often described as a “gym rat”. These attributes allowed Leonard to snag the 9th most rebounds per game this year, despite SD State playing at only 64 possessions per game (68 was NCAA’s median). He was most effective on the defensive glass, grabbing 26% of the available rebounds which was the 15th best rate in the NCAA. Another strength is that Leonard uses his length and energy as a force on the defensive end. Guarding multiple positions (2, 3 & 4), he is disruptive in the passing lanes and fights through picks defending pick and rolls. Offensively, he can create scoring opportunities for himself and is also a good passer, finishing second on the Aztecs with 2.5 assists per game against only 2.1 turnovers.

Offensively, Leonard is still a work in progress. He shot 29% on three pointers in 2010 – 2011 and 31% on long 2 pointers. He wasn’t particularly skilled at anything, instead showcasing average ability to score in many different ways. Based on data from Synergy Sports (via draftexpress.com); Leonard was slightly below average as a per possession scorer on spot-ups, isolations, put-backs, fast breaks, cuts, and pick & rolls. Leonard creates scoring opportunities each of these ways, but was unable to distinguish himself as extremely effective at any of them. Leonard shot 44% from the field and had a true shooting percentage of only 51. He shoots free throws at 75%, but shoots less than one free throw for every three field goal attempts. At offseason workouts in Las Vegas, scouts have been very impressed by the work Leonard is putting into shooting and ball handling.

Additional Info / Advanced Stats: Due to his positional flexibility, size, and energy; Leonard is known as a high quality defender. He collects steals at 1.4 per game, good for 4th in the MWC (225th in the NCAA), but only blocked 0.6 shots per game. Sometimes these two stats are poor means to evaluate defensive impact. Looking deeper at SD State’s plus / minus, it appears their defense was better when Leonard was on the bench. Starting with their first BYU game (final17 games), SD State allowed 0.94 points per possession with Leonard playing compared to 0.87 with Leonard sitting. Over these games; the SD State defense was good with Leonard, but great when he was on the bench, as the 0.87 points per possession edges Fairfield’s NCAA best defense (0.88). This is a small sample size at just over three games worth of off-court possessions, but the difference in performance is enough to say that SD State’s defense was not better with Leonard playing. Perhaps the way that Leonard was used within SDSU’s system was not perfectly suited to his talents.

The most used comparisons for Leonard are Shawn Marion and Gerald Wallace. Both use their athleticism to rebound and play defense and are also good offensive players, despite below average outside shooting. Leonard probably projects as a “poor-man’s” version of either player. Marion has been racking up defensive stats since his college days, when he averaged 1.9 blocks and 2.5 steals at UNLV. Wallace has been first team NBA all-defense and, at his best, improved the Bobcats defense up to six points per 100 possessions when on the court. Leonard is probably not on that level and Marion and Wallace were likely not in the bottom third of their draft class in tests for agility and jumping.

A month ago, Leonard was considered a late lottery pick and that may still be appropriate. Leonard is undoubtedly a very good rebounder, plays with high energy, and works at improving his game. He is a reasonably skilled ball handler and passer. In interviews, Leonard wants to be viewed as a 2 / 3 however a more realistic career is as a 3 / 4. A lesser possible comparison could be a better version of Matt Barnes. Both are around 6’7” and 235 lbs. They are great rebounders, bring a lot of energy, and are capable of guarding multiple positions. Both are average to below average shooters, but Leonard can bring more to the table as an offensive player and has better defensive tools than Barnes. Leonard will be a valuable NBA player, but likely won’t be a top echelon offensive or defensive player.

Jonas Valanciunas – Draft Profile

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

It was obviously a very exciting week for the Cavs. Having picks 1 & 4 gives them a variety of options. The NBA draft combine also occurred. A few interesting items regarding previously profiled players includes that Kyrie Irving was taller than Brandon Knight (6’ 3.5” in shoes versus 6’ 3.25”) however Knight’s wingspan was 3” longer. Irving’s body fat was reported as 10.2% (6th highest at the combine). For comparison; Knight was 4.2% (2nd lowest), but Derrick Williams was at 10.8%. Irving went through medical exams, didn’t work out at the combine, and is focused on “getting in the best shape possible”. Kemba Walker had the combine’s smallest hands. Anyways, today’s profile is about a player that was not present in Chicago. Jonas Valanciunas may be of interest with the 4th pick or if the Cavs trade down.

Jonas Valanciunas
Height: 6’ – 10”
Weight: 230 lbs
Position: PF / C
Age: Turned 19 in May

Summary: Valanciunas is a 19 year old Lithuanian power forward / center. He has found great success versus his age group and played significant minutes in Europe’s top professional league last year. He has buyout issues with his European contract, and has positioned himself as a top 5 – 10 pick depending on resolution of the buyout.

Basketball Bio: Valanciunas has been a top player on the European Junior circuit for several years. In 2008, he led Lithuania to the Under-16 (U16) European Championship before leading them to the U18 championship in 2010. He was the MVP of the 2010 tournament, averaging 19.4 points, 13.4 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks on 70% field goal shooting. In 2009, he was first-team all tournament at two major Europeans events; the U18 European championship and the Nike International Junior Tournament. He plays professionally with Lietuvos Rytos in the Euroleague, Lithuanian League (LKL), Baltic League (BBL), and VTB United League (VTB). For 15 games in Europe’s highest league last year, he averaged 7.7 points and 5.8 rebounds in 15 minutes per game. In his other 46 games in 2010 – 2011 he averaged 10.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in 20 minutes and was named MVP of the LKL all-star game, totaling 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Skill Overview: Valanciunas has great length and may still grow. His long arms are immediately noticeable. He is not an elite athlete; but does jump quickly, run the floor well, and play with energy. There are U18 highlights that include some athletic dunks. He has good touch around the basket and shoots free throws well, typically around 80%. Offensively, his greatest skill is operating in a pick and roll. He is a willing pick setter; always moving on offense and looking to set picks. Following the pick, he can effectively find open space and convert in the paint. According to draftexpress.com, Valanciunas had 52 possessions through 12/26/2010 used as “pick-and-rolls or cuts to the basket.” He scored or was fouled on 42 possessions, which is a remarkable rate of conversion (unfortunately I was unable to update this stat through the end of the year).

One concern about Valanciunas is his defense. He frequently plays center and possesses the size and “motor” to play good defense, but needs to add strength as he has trouble with stronger players posting him and sometimes gets pushed too far under the basket trying to maintain rebounding position. He needs to improve his instincts as he often appears a half move behind when rotating. Surely some of his difficulties can be excused due to playing the most important defensive position in quality professional leagues at 18 years old. Valanciunas’ offensive game is still developing. He is effective, scoring 20 points per 40 minutes with nearly 70% shooting, but most of that comes on offensive rebounds and assisted shots in the paint. He rarely shoots from the perimeter and is still developing post moves. To maximize his pick and roll potential, he will need to hit 18 footers (like a former Lithuanian Cavs big man). Hopefully his free throw shooting reflects this ability.

Additional Info / Advanced Stats: Valanciunas played as a reserve professionally, but he was very efficient at what he does best. In 15 Euroleague games this year, he averaged 20 points and 15 rebounds per 40 minutes while shooting 71%, finishing with a PER of 26. In his other 46 games in 2010 – 2011, he averaged 21.5 points and 13.5 rebounds per 40 while shooting 66%. Due to his aggressive play, quick leaping, and long arms; he was great on the offensive glass, averaging over 5 rebounds per 40 minutes. He showed good ability to block shots; averaging 1.7 per 40 minutes in the Euroleague and an impressive 3.5 per 40 in non-Euroleague games. A symptom of his current defensive issues is a propensity for fouls. In the LKL, VTB, and BBL he averaged 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes and in the Euroleague he averaged a troubling 8 fouls per 40 minutes. The energy Valanciunas brings to the floor is outstanding, but he needs improved defensive positioning and controlled aggressiveness to stay out of foul trouble.

Considering that the Cavs have two lottery picks, Valanciunas may be an interesting selection. He is currently negotiating buyout conditions for his contract with Lietuvos Rytas. If the Cavs are willing to use a lottery pick on a player that may be in Europe for two years, they could trade down and gain an additional asset while also securing Valanciunas. I like to envision Kyrie Irving and Valanciunas as the Steve Nash – Amare Stoudemire pick and roll combo of the 2010’s. That is admittedly a crazy dream. A good case scenario would be Andris Biedrins of a few years ago; one of the most efficient scorers and offensive rebounders in the NBA, only with an added bonus of making free throws. John Hollinger of ESPN describes Biedrins with: “he rebounds and finishes shots in the paint as the dive man on the pick and roll. He can’t…defend the post.” Very similar to Valanciunas’ current skill set, but if Valanciunas can develop the ability to capably defend the paint or shoot from mid-range; he will be even more valuable in the NBA.

Brandon Knight – Draft Profile

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Brandon Knight is an intriguing player. He is young and has been very successful however he is still a work in progress. I think he would be a good pick for the Cavs for the long-term and could be a good consolation prize if the lottery doesn’t go well. That said, hopefully the lottery goes extremely well tomorrow.

Brandon Knight
Height: 6’ 3”
Weight: 185 lbs
Position: PG
Age: Turns 20 in December

Summary: As a freshman this year, Brandon Knight was the point guard for the Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky went to the Final Four, and Knight led the team in scoring and assists. He is still inconsistent, but current projections are that Knight will be a top 5 pick in the draft.

Basketball Bio: Knight went to high school at Pine Crest in Florida. After leading Pine Crest to two State titles and twice being named Gatorade National Player of the Year, Knight was a top 5 recruit in the class of 2010. Knight also found success on the AAU circuit, as his team won national championships in 2007 & 2008. He chose to attend Kentucky and during his freshman year averaged 17.3 points and 4.2 assists in 36 minutes per game while shooting 42 / 38/ 80. His performance earned him first team all-SEC honors as he helped Kentucky to 29 wins, an SEC tournament championship, and a Final Four appearance.

Skill Overview: Knight is 6’3” – 6’4” with long arms, so he has great size for a point guard. Although he doesn’t possess amazing speed like his Kentucky predecessor John Wall, Knight is very quick and a quality athlete. His speed allows him to create shots for himself; on drives, in transition, or by gaining separation on the perimeter. Using a quick release, he is an effective shooter from mid range to beyond the three point line, hitting shots off the dribble and coming off screens. His size and quickness provide the tools necessary to be an excellent defender. Knight diligently works on improving his game and is very intelligent. He finished his first year at Kentucky with a 4.0 gpa and is academically a sophomore.

Negatives for Knight include that he is turnover prone. He turned the ball over 3.2 times per game this year, experiencing trouble in traffic and when confronted with double teams. There are questions whether Knight can be a point guard in the NBA as he currently has better skills at creating shots for himself than for others. Getting to the free throw line is an issue due to settling for shots in the 5 – 10 ft range. Knight shot one free throw for every three field goal attempts, averaging only 4. 5 free throws per game. Finally, despite having a reputation as an intense defender in high school; Knight did not always exhibit this effort at Kentucky. Watching KY’s games, Knight sometimes lingers in no-man’s land when double teaming and can appear to coast defensively.

Additional Info / Advanced Stats: Knight turned over the ball 0.2 times per possession used and had an assist to turnover ratio of only 1.33, resulting in a negative pure point rating. In his defense though, freshman point guards typically experience turnover problems as they adjust to better competition. Knight’s turnovers per possession are similar to this year’s other lottery point guards (Walker’s freshman year) and with John Calipari’s three previous freshman guards. Each player’s turnover rate was between 0.19 – 0.24, and none had an assist to turnover ratio over 1.7. Early in the year; Knight particularly struggled, especially when forced to go left. In his first 19 games, Knight averaged 3.7 assists per game against 3.3 turnovers. As the season progressed though, he began showing signs of improvement as a ball handler and distributor. In the second half of the season he improved to 4.6 assists versus 3 turnovers while playing stronger competition.

Conversely to his ball handling, Knight’s shooting percentages got worse in the season’s second half. In his first 19 games; Knight was an efficient scorer, shooting 46% on all field goals and 41% from long range. In the latter half of the season; these percentages dropped to 39 and 35. The combination of his inconsistent shooting and ball handling was a slightly above average PER of 19.6 and true shooting of 55. Despite his flaws, Knight was the leader in minutes and the highest usage player on the NCAA’s 13th most efficient offense, and surely he deserves some credit for that. Improved consistency on his shot, in finding open teammates, and avoiding turnovers will be important for Knight to be a high caliber NBA PG.

Projecting Knight’s NBA potential is tricky due to questions about his eventual position and his inconsistency. He is very talented, athletic, and a hard worker; however he still has stretches like the SEC & NCAA tournaments, where he shot 34 / 29 / 79. Knight will continue to improve on his skills and get stronger, and a good case scenario for his career could be similar to Chauncey Billups (who incidentally averaged 4.5 turnovers per game his freshman year at Colorado). Both players are big point guards, good shooters, and can capably run an offense while not being outstanding assists guys. Hopefully unlike Billups, it doesn’t take a fifth team before Knight’s full potential is realized. If Knight doesn’t work out as a point guard, he could be a small, scoring “2” like Jason Terry or a player capable of manning both guard positions effectively, like the good Delonte West (from 2008 – 2009).

Knight is an interesting pick for the Cavs. He is not ready as a point guard in the NBA but could play alongside Baron Davis or Ramon Sessions. Knight could improve his strength and skills while not needing to be the primary ball handler today. By Knight’s third NBA season, the offense could become his as the starting point guard. The Cavs’ coach may have some tips for Knight too. Once upon a time, Byron Scott was s a top 5 draft pick as a 6’3”, 195 lb guard with a sweet shot.

One other note on Knight; several reputable sources list his birthday as 12/02/1992 however other sources say 12/02/1991. I called Kentucky’s basketball program, and they told me his birthday was 12/02/1991.