It’s finally June, which not only means the start of the summer, but for NBA fans, it means the NBA Draft is only weeks away. No matter what channel you change to or website you look at, there is a consensus of pessimism towards this year’s draft. Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel is the player atop most draft boards and he could possibly miss the entire season with a torn ACL. Also, he weighs 206 lbs—and he’s a center. Outside of Noel, Jayhawk SG Ben McLemore, Georgetown SF Otto Porter, Indiana SG Victor Oladipo and UNLV PF Anthony Bennett are among the top prospects in the draft—not names that will exactly blow anyone away. If you’re looking for a LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Chris Paul in this year’s draft look elsewhere, but that doesn’t mean this draft isn’t important.
Take the 2013 Playoffs for example. Players such as Jimmy Butler, Chandler Parsons, Quincy Pondexter, Lance Stephenson, Tony Allen and Norris Cole are key role players to high impact starters that were drafted late first round or in the second round of the draft. What this draft lacks in star power it makes up for in depth, which doesn’t help teams drafting inside the top ten but is essential for teams drafting outside of it. For a team that is a Pondexter or Stephenson away from the title it is even more vital. In a draft with less star talent, teams will mostly draft based on need. Here are some players that could fit a role on teams drafting outside of the lottery in this year’s draft:
3 and D Wing Players (Playoff Examples: Jimmy Butler and Danny Green)-
A 3 and D wing player is a player who can play at both ends by being a floor spacer on offense and a lock down perimeter defender. These players are typically low-usage players that combine three point shooting, athleticism, and defensive ability—a surprisingly rare combination in the NBA.
This group of guys might not be complete 3 and D players right now, but with a little development, they can turn into valuable 3 and D players down the road.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia (Possible Lottery Pick) – 2.6 three’s per game shooting 37.3%, 34.5 Max Vertical
Glen Rice Jr., SG/SF, Rio Grande Valley Vipers- 1.8 three’s per game shooting 37.9%, 40.5 Max Vertical
Tim Hardaway Jr., SG/SF, Michigan- 1.9 three’s per game shooting 37.4%, 37.5 Max Vertical
Allen Crabbe, SG/SF, California- 1.9 three’s per game shooting 34.8%, 36 Max Vertical
Tony Snell, SG/SF, New Mexico- 1.8 three’s per game shooting 39%, 36.5 Max Vertical
Reggie Bullock, SG/SF, North Carolina- 2.5 three’s per game shooting 43.6%, 36.5 Max Vertical
Bullock may not have the highest upside or most talent in the group, but he has the makings of a prototypical 3 and D player. Highly recruited out of high school, Bullock finally found his niche as a Tar Heel in his junior year emerging as an elite perimeter threat. According to Draft Express, catch and shoot jumpers made up for half of Bullock’s field goal attempts. Bullock took most of his shots either at the rim or from beyond the arc and accomplished this while shooting 48.3% from the field. He also only turned the ball over 1.2 times per game which is the exact kind of low usage efficiency desired from a role player. With a huge 6’9” wingspan and an NBA body, Bullock was constantly called upon to defend opposing teams’ best perimeter scorer. Bullock is a good but not elite athlete and he isn’t the quickest player, which might lead to him playing mostly small forward in the NBA. If Bullock adds an attack off the dribble to his arsenal and continues to improve his defensive ability he could be in the NBA for a long time.
Interior Protectors (Playoff Examples: Larry Sanders and DeAndre Jordan)-
Blocks translate from college or overseas to the NBA well and there are no better prospects at swatting balls in the paint than this group of guys. End of the bench big guys who can matchup on the Roy Hibbert and Marc Gasol’s of the league for 10-15 minutes per game are invaluable. GMs always search for diamonds in the rough ala Serge Ibaka and that might fit the comp for any of these guys if they hit their ceilings.
Rudy Gobert, C, France- 1.9 bpg, 5.4 rpg (22.7 mpg)
Jeff Withey, C, Kansas- 3.9 bpg (third in the nation), 8.5 rpg
Lucas Noguiera, C, Brazil- 1.1 bpg, 3.4 rpg (13.6 mpg)
Jackie Carmichael, PF, Illinois State- 2.1 bpg, 9.3 rpg
Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville- 2.5 bpg, 9.4 rpg
Jeff Withey would also be a worthy selection here, but I think Dieng best exemplifies the interior protector persona. At 6’11” with a ginormous 7’4” wingspan combined with gifted athleticism, Dieng is an imposing force on the defensive end, altering at least as many shots as he blocks per game. Dieng has an NBA body and quick hands, averaging 1.3 steals per game this season. Originally coming out of Senegal, Dieng has only played organized basketball for a few years, so he still has a ton of learning to do—most notably on the offensive end. Coincidentally enough, Gorgui means “the old one” in his native language of Wolof, which is fitting as he’s 23 years old and will turn 24 in January. He’s one of the most NBA ready players in the draft so his age should not be an issue for teams looking to stash a big man on their bench.
Floor Spacing Big Men (Playoff Examples: Udonis Haslem and Carl Landry)
With the Miami Heat in the NBA finals it’s evident that floor spacing is more important than ever. The Heat utilize shooters like Ray Allen, Mike Miller, and Shane Battier on corner three’s but the biggest prick in the behind of the Indiana Pacers was Udonis Haslem. With LeBron, Wade and Bosh demanding all the attention, Haslem drained open baseline jumpers at will. With defenses conceding the midrange shot the jumper has become a lethal weapon. Investing in a stretch four for your bench is never a bad idea.
Mike Muscala, C, Bucknell- 39% on 2pt jumpers (makes up 56% of offense)
Grant Jerrett, PF, Arizona- 20% on 2pt jumpers (makes up 26% of offense), 0.9 three’s per game at 40.5% (makes up 51% of offense)
Ryan Kelly, PF, Duke- 37% on 2pt jumpers (makes up 35% of offense), 1.5 three’s per game at 42.2% (makes up 40% of offense)
Kelly Olynyk, PF/C, Gonzaga (Possible Lottery Pick)- 52% on 2pt jumpers (makes up 29% of offense)
Olynyk might get scooped up by the Thunder or Jazz in the late lottery, but if he slips he could be a huge get for a team in need of shooting. Olynyk led the nation with a 36.57 Player Efficiency Rating and is highly skilled offensively for a 7 footer with some scouts hoping he might even make the transition to small forward eventually. Olynyk averaged 17.8 ppg at a 62.9% clip and showed range on his jumper, even hitting 25 three pointers in his career. He showed a polished post game for a college player but will need to add strength to excel in that area in the NBA. He’s flat-footed, slow, and his T-Rex like 6’10” wingspan won’t help him much on the defensive side of the ball. There are only a handful of big men with his touch on offense which could keep him in the league for some time.
Score First Point Guards Off the Bench (Playoff Examples: Nate Robinson and Jarrett Jack)
The griping about this draft is almost endless but one position GMs are actually celebrating is the point guards. The likes of Shane Larkin, Dennis Schroeder and Pierre Jackson could all be available after the lottery and should all provide spark plugs off the bench at minimum. If there’s one knock on this year’s point guard crop it’s size. Larkin, Jackson, Isaiah Canaan, and Phil Pressey all measured six feet or under—but no one helped improved their stock more than Nate Robinson. Robinson averaged 16.3 ppg in the playoffs and put the team on his 5’9” 180 pound back at times, most notably in the Bulls’ triple OT comeback against the Brooklyn Nets in Game 4. After the lottery there may not be much starter potential left at point guard but a pint-sized scorer off the bench will do for playoff contenders.
Isaiah Canaan, PG, Murray State- 21.8 ppg (sixth in the nation), 4.3 apg
Erick Green, PG/SG, Virginia Tech- 25 ppg (first in the nation), 3.8 apg
Nate Wolters, PG, South Dakota State- 22.7 ppg (fourth in the nation), 5.8 apg
Ray McCallum, PG, Detroit- 18.7 ppg, 4.5 apg
Pierre Jackson, PG, Baylor- 19.8 ppg, 7.1 apg
After winning Junior College National Player of the Year, Jackson had himself an incredible two year run at Baylor. Jackson is only a touch under 5’11,” but he has a super hero like 44 inch vertical combined with swagger and blazing speed to more than make up for his physical limitations. Jackson’s best teammates from his junior season Quincy Acy and Perry Jones are now in the NBA, but his game only grew this season with less help. Jackson improved by 6 points per game, 1.2 assists per game, and almost doubled his free throw attempts per game (3.4 to 6.7) this season. Jackson had at least 17 points and 10 assists in his last four games of the season, leading the Bears to an NIT Championship. Jackson’s ability to hit the three, drive to the basket, step up in the clutch, and get his teammates involved are qualities every NBA team covets.
Here’s my first NBA Draft Big Board. This isn’t a mock draft, just an evaluation of talent and upside. I’ll put an updated version at the end of each of my articles leading up to the draft.
- Trey Burke- PG
- Nerlens Noel- C
- Anthony Bennett- SF/PF
- Ben McLemore- SG
- Otto Porter- SF
- Victor Oladipo- SG
- Michael Carter-Williams- PG
- Shabazz Muhammad- SF
- Cody Zeller- PF/C
- Dario Saric- SF
- Alex Len- C
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope-SG
- C.J. McCollum- PG/SG
- Shane Larkin- PG
- Steven Adams- C
- Glen Rice Jr.- SG/SF
- Reggie Bullock- SG/SF
- Dennis Schroeder – PG
- Gorgui Dieng- C
- Mason Plumlee- C
- Kelly Olynyk- PF/C
- Jamaal Franklin- SG/SF
- Tim Hardaway Jr.-SG/SF
- Rudy Gobert- C
- Jeff Withey- C
- Pierre Jackson-PG
- Sergey Karasev-SG/SF
- Allen Crabbe- SG/SF
- Giannis Antetokounmpo-G/F
- C.J. Leslie- SF/PF
**2pt Jumper Stats Provided by Hoop-math.com**