Editor’s note: When we aren’t covering everything lax 24/7 the team at Lax All Stars has a serious roundball love affair. With that in mind we’re bringing you an exclusive look at today’s NBA draft by someone who really knows his stuff.
The following was written by Joe Riehl. Mr. Riehl is a former assistant video coordinator for the Portland Trail Blazers, specializing in compiling and editing game footage for use by the team’s scouts and GM to evaluate prospects of interest. Currently, he is a scout for Marty Blake and Associates (3 years) providing scouting reports on players in the Big East Conference (past experience includes the WCC and PAC-10).
The Usual Suspects
To better appreciate the prospects’ college production, their physical measurements, and where each prospect stands in relation to the other prospects in this year’s draft, my top-20 big board is as follows:
1. John Wall; PG, Kentucky; Height (w/ shoes): 6’4, Weight: 196, Wingspan: 6’9.25”, Reach: 8’5.5”; 2009/2010 stats: 16.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 6.5 apg, 1.62 ast/to, 1.8 stl, 0.5 blk, FG- .461, FT- .754, 3P- .325
2. Al-Farouq Aminu; SF/PF, Wake Forest; Height (w/ shoes): 6’8.5”, Weight: 216, Wingspan: 7’3.25”, Reach: 9’0.5”; 2009/2010 stats: 15.8 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 1.3 apg, .41 ast/to, 1.4 stl, 1.4 blk, FG- .447, FT- .698, 3P- .273
3. Evan Turner; SG/SF, Ohio State; Height (w/ shoes): 6’7, Weight: 214, Wingspan: 6’8, Reach: 8’7.5”; 2009/2010 stats: 20.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 6.0 apg, 1.36 ast/to, 1.7 stl, 0.9 blk, FG- .519, FT- .758, 3P- .364
4. Derrick Favors; PF/C, Georgia Tech; Height (w/ shoes): 6’10.5”, Weight: 245, Wingspan: 7’4, Reach: 9’2; 2009/2010 stats: 12.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.0 apg, .41 ast/to, .9 stl, 2.1 blk, FG- .611, FT- .629, 3P- .000
5. Wesley Johnson; SG/SF, Syracuse; Height (w/ shoes): 6’7.25”, Weight: 206, Wingspan: 7’1, Reach: 8’10; 2009/2010 stats: 16.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.2 apg, .96 ast/to, 1.7 stl, 1.8 blk, FG- .502, FT- .772, 3P- .415
6. Greg Monroe; PF/C, Georgetown; Height (w/ shoes): 6’11, Weight: 247, Wingspan: 7’2.25”, Reach: 9’0.5”; 2009/2010 stats: 16.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.14 ast/to, 1.2 stl, 1.5 blk, FG- .525, FT- .660, 3P- .259
7. DeMarcus Cousins; C, Kentucky; Height (w/ shoes): 6’10.75”, Weight: 292, Wingspan: 7’5.75”, Reach: 9’5; 2009/2010 stats: 15.1 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.0 apg, .49 ast/to, 1.0 stl, 1.8 blk, FG- .558, FT- .604, 3P- .167
8. Willie Warren; PG/SG, Oklahoma; Height (w/ shoes): 6’3.75”, Weight: 208, Wingspan: 6’6, Reach: 8’3.5”; 2009/2010 stats: 16.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.1 apg, 1.08 ast/to, 1.0 stl, 0.0 blk, FG- .438, FT- .759, 3P- .309
9. Donatas Motiejunas; PF, Lithuania; Height (w/ shoes): 7’0, Weight: 215, Wingspan: NA, Reach: NA; 2009/2010 stats: 9.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 0.5 apg, 1.3 stl, 0.2 blk, FG- .531, FT- .721, 3P- .320
(* likely to withdraw from the draft so he is not included in the mock)
10. Luke Babbitt; SF/PF, Nevada; Height (w/ shoes): 6’8.75”, Weight: 218, Wingspan: 6’11.25”, Reach: 8’8.5”; 2009/2010 stats: 21.9 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, .89 ast/to, 1.0 stl, 0.8 blk, FG- .500, FT- .917, 3P- .416
11. Gordon Hayward; SG/SF, Butler; Height (w/ shoes): 6’8, Weight: 211, Wingspan: 6’7.75”, Reach: 8’7; 2009/2010 stats: 15.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.7 apg, .73 ast/to, 1.1 stl, 0.8 blk, FG- .464, FT- .829, 3P- .294 (note: .448 last season with similar 3PA)
12. Armon Johnson; PG, Nevada; Height (w/ shoes): 6’3.25”, Weight: 195, Wingspan: 6’8, Reach: 8’3.5”; 2009/2010 stats: 15.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 5.6 apg, 1.66 ast/to, .8 stl, 0.4 blk, FG- .495, FT- .678, 3P- .239
13. Craig Brackins; PF, Iowa State; Height (w/ shoes): 6’9.75”, Weight: 229, Wingspan: 7’0, Reach: 9’1; 2009/2010 stats: 16.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.01 ast/to, .8 stl, 1.2 blk, FG- .420, FT- .760, 3P- .310
14. Paul George; SF, Fresno State; Height (w/ shoes): 6’8.75”, Weight: 214, Wingspan: 6’11.25”, Reach: 8’11; 2009/2010 stats: 16.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3.0 apg, .94 ast/to, 2.2 stl, .8 blk, FG- .424, FT- .909, 3P- .353
15. Hassan Whiteside; PF/C, Marshall; Height (w/ shoes): 6’11.5”, Weight: 227, Wingspan: 7’7, Reach: 9’5; 2009/2010 stats: 13.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg, .3 apg, .16 ast/to, .6 stl, 5.4 blk, FG- .524, FT- .588, 3P- .600 (note: only 5 3PA on the season)
16. Patrick Patterson; PF, Kentucky; Height (w/ shoes): 6’9.25”, Weight: 240, Wingspan: 7’1.25”, Reach: 8’11; 2009/2010 stats: 14.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, .9 apg, .88 ast/to, .7 stl, 1.3 blk, FG- .575, FT- .692, 3P- .348
17. Xavier Henry; SG/SF, Kansas; Height (w/ shoes): 6’6.5”, Weight: 210, Wingspan: 6’11.25”, Reach: 8’9; 2009/2010 stats: 13.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.5 apg, .77 ast/to, 1.5 stl, 0.5 blk, FG- .458, FT- .783, 3P- .418
18. Cole Aldrich; C, Kansas; Height (w/ shoes): 6’11.25”, Weight: 236, Wingspan: 7’4.75”, Reach: 9’3.5”; 2009/2010 stats: 11.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg, .9 apg, .55 ast/to, .8 stl, 3.5 blk, FG- .562, FT- .679, 3P- .000
19. Epke Udoh; PF, Baylor; Height (w/ shoes): 6’9.75”, Weight: 237, Wingspan: 7’4.5”, Reach: 8’10.5”; 2009/2010 stats: 13.9 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.11 ast/to, .8 stl, 3.7 blk, FG- .490, FT- .685, 3P- .269
20. Ed Davis; PF, UNC; Height (w/ shoes): 6’9.75”, Weight: 227, Wingspan: 7’0, Reach: 9’0; 2009/2010 stats: 12.9 ppg, 9.2 rpg, .9 apg, .48 ast/to, .4 stl, 2.7 blk, FG- .578, FT- .659, 3P- .000
The Lottery Selections: What I would do if I were GM
With the 1st pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Washington Wizards select . . . John Wall from the University of Kentucky.
* Other players considered: none
Analysis: Hopefully this pick is not a huge surprise to anyone. Wall is a pure point guard (high basketball IQ and great court vision) with jaw dropping, elite athleticism. From day one in the league, Wall will be amongst upper tier of players in terms of creating offense for both himself and others. While his jump shot is still a work in progress, he does show solid form from which to work and is a superior shooter as compared to Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose when they entered the league.
I question whether he will ever be a knock down 3-pt shooter, but further work and repetition from 15-20 ft will make him that much more devastating on the offensive end. He needs to play with better pace (at times was always going top speed), which will come with time and experience. Also, Wall’s game is best suited for the open court and out in transition. His ability and comfort in the pick and roll will be tested (currently not quite where it needs to be); however, he has shown the vision and IQ to recognize difficult passing angles and play off the movements of his teammates, which should help him in this regard.
Also, his quick, explosive first step combined with his scoring ability in the lane using his length/extension to the rim (think: what we’re seeing from Rondo at the rim, not like Tyreke or LeBron with the added strength and power in their extension to the rim) and his likelihood of developing an efficient 18-20 ft jump shot will both aid his pick and roll play. He has the size (with the frame to get stronger), feet, athleticism, length, and instincts (once again showing his high IQ) to be a deadly defender with the versatility to defend both guard positions.
With the 2nd pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select . . . Evan Turner from Ohio State University.
* Other players considered: Al-Farouq Aminu and Derrick Favors
Analysis: I can hear my friends and family now — what about drafting the best player available (“BPA”)?! Let me briefly try and defend this selection to those people. I stand by my big board ranking of Aminu-Turner because of Aminu’s overall higher ceiling (so yes, there is some of that dreaded “potential” being factored in there).
However, I feel okay in selecting Turner here for Philadelphia for a couple of key reasons. First, while Aminu has the higher ceiling, both Turner and Aminu are at best #2 options on a quality NBA team. Therefore, I felt comfortable going forward that I wouldn’t be kicking myself for passing on a surefire franchise, #1 option type player (only one of those in this draft and he is already off the board).
As for Turner, I will admit that I was a skeptic of his entering this past season and I still kind of am today, but less so. My main concerns are his deficiencies as an athlete (limiting his potential impact on both ends), his slightly high and loose handle at times, and his lack of NBA range.
As an athlete, Turner is best characterized as smooth, which is code in the NBA for lacks some explosiveness, which is more evident in his first step and lateral movements than in his vertical leaping ability. His high basketball IQ, effective use of pace, and ability to maintain his triple threat in traffic (in other words, comfortable and effective with a defender on his hip) makes this less of a concern on the offensive end as compared to the defensive end.
However, with that said, college defenders were able to make a lot of Turner’s looks at the basket difficult ones because of his less than spectacular ability to create space. At the NBA level, he will be tested in terms of creating and finishing above, through, and around elite NBA defenders (more athletic and longer than college players). Back to the more serious defensive concerns regarding his athleticism. Turner has some potential positional defensive issues. His lack of athleticism limits his ability to defend out on the perimeter and his average length hurts him down on the block against some of the bigger NBA SF’s. Overall, he has holes in his defensive capabilities at both the SG and the SF spot.
As a shooter, Turner is improving from year to year (bodes well for the future) and is solid from 18-20 feet but does not currently possess consistent NBA 3-pt range. His shot is flat in trajectory and, therefore, there are actual mechanical changes that will need to be made going forward (although they are only minor ones). As a ball handler, Turner is extremely advanced and creative for a 6’7 wing. I can see him serving as a primary ball handler for stretches (mainly pushing it out in transition) but I am not a proponent of him being labeled as a full-time PG or point-SG/SF hybrid. His handle can get high and loose at times (see: his propensity for turnovers . . . often this is the cause); however, this is not a big concern for me going forward due to added experience and the increased spacing of the NBA game.
Turner translates as an immediate impact player in the NBA who does many things well and plays better as the stage and stakes get bigger, which is much of his intrigue and value, but the extent of his impact over the course of his career will depend upon the development of his jump shot and continuing to develop his body (to me it looks like he could get much stronger as he matures, which will allow him to increasingly impose his will upon defenders despite some athletic shortcomings).
With the 3rd pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the New Jersey Nets select . . . Al-Farouq Aminu from Wake Forest University.
* Other players considered: Derrick Favors and Wesley Johnson
Analysis: The consensus in the media for this pick is Derrick Favors because of the perceived inevitable departure of PF Yi Jianlian; however, I am opting to stick with BPA in Aminu because, quite frankly, the Nets were close to being the worst team ever in NBA history and have no business drafting anything but BPA.
Nonetheless, he fills a position of need for the Nets as a SF/PF hyrid. He is an elite athlete with a rare combination of speed, quickness (feet and hands), strength, length, explosiveness, and a frame that should be able to carry additional weight quite easily. In my opinion, Aminu has the second highest ceiling in this draft because of his ball handling ability (more so out in transition due to some ball security and creativity issues in the half court, which is mainly caused by an issue discussed below rather than a lack of ability) and his developing perimeter shot (see: his strong shooting performances in workouts thus far were he has shown a feathery soft touch on the ball from the perimeter) to go along with his impressive physical tools.
Speaking of his physical tools, Aminu presents a unique package of versatility on the defensive end of the floor with the capability of defending 3 positions (some-SG’s/SF/PF) His tremendous foot speed and lateral quickness allow him to defend out on the perimeter; his size, length, strength, and explosiveness allow him to defend the paint; while all of the above allow him to have a defensive influence over a large area of the court.
He is an animal on both the offensive and defensive glass both outside his immediate area and in traffic, which would be of great importance to the Nets and, more specifically, Brook Lopez. As an offensive weapon, he is still very much a work in progress. He possesses specific and individual tools but has yet to put it all together. Whether he ever puts it all together and reaches his full potential will mainly come down to him improving upon his overall feel for the game because at times it appears his game is thrown off by defenders taking up his space and making him move onto options B and/or C. This is most evident in his mid-range game, which is not surprising as the majority of his looks came either via spot up jump shots, opportunities out in transition, or at the rim via dribble drive or movement without the basketball.
From day one, he will be able to create opportunities for himself on the glass, out in transition (where he excels), and moving without the ball. In this regard, I feel that having an above average PG in Devin Harris would greatly assist Aminu both immediately and going forward. Overall, Aminu needs to put in the time and work to develop an improved and consistent 18-20 ft jump shot to be a solid 2nd option or a great 3rd option (this is how I would structure my team with him) because the other aspects of his game will naturally progress with time.
For the Nets, Aminu provides a uniquely versatile and dynamic style of game to compliment the PG play of Harris, the outside shooting of Courtney Lee, and the strong post play of Brook Lopez. Also, the Nets would add to their strong group of on-the-ball defenders in Devin Harris, Courtney Lee, and Terrence Williams.
Side note: at #27, to appease those of you screaming for a pure PF at this pick, the Nets should consider (in this order)- Larry Sanders of VCU (measurements really helped his stock), Kevin Seraphin of France (tons of potential), and Gani Lawal of Georgia Tech (NBA ready with very good moves and feet in the paint area but limited potential wise to merely a solid backup big on a quality roster).
With the 4th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select . . . Wesley Johnson from Syracuse University.
* Other players considered: Scenario A (if Kevin Love is really on the trading block, which is a terrible idea btw)- Derrick Favors and Greg Monroe . . . Scenario B (if Kevin Love is not on the trading block)- no other players considered
Analysis: Wes Johnson did some serious work in his one and only season at Syracuse. He is a long, rangy, elite athlete with a set of NBA ready skills. As for his specific fit with the T-Wolves, Wes will provide some much needed perimeter shooting prowess in order to better space the floor to allow Love and Jefferson more area to operate.
From day one, he will be a knock down shooter with NBA range (see: his shooting percentages on the year and consider the size of his sample as Syracuse go to guy). The Timberwolves will now have a nice three-man rotation at the SG/SF spots with Wes, Cory Brewer (aka “The Drunken Dribbler”), and Ryan Gomes (who I really like on my all-glue-guy team).
Wes does an excellent job utilizing his length and athleticism to create space for his own offense (better than Turner in this regard) and can finish off the dribble whether it is with a mid-range pull up/fade-away/step back or at the rim with his athleticism and length. Deadly out in transition with spot up 3-pointers or athletic finishes at the rim.
The only thing holding Wes back on the offensive end of the floor is his deficiencies as a ball handler (if he had Turner’s handle, we would be having Wall/Johnson debates for #1 overall and there would be no debate at #2 between Johnson/Turner). He is secure in his handle but it is limited in creativity in the half court.
Currently, he is a max 2-bounce wing and that is something he will need to increase in order to reach his full potential, both in terms of creating his own offense and being able to better utilize his high IQ, feel, and vision to get into the lane to create offense for others. Another potential issue is his size/strength. To me it is not a huge issue because he has a great frame to work with, is already quite basketball strong/wiry, and, more importantly, I have always felt that highly skilled players with good basketball smarts (ie. Wes) can make up for it.
The areas that could be affected, at least in the immediate future, would be his ability to defend some of the bigger, stronger SF’s in the paint, his impact on the defensive glass, his ability to play through/with contact, and his ability to finish through contact at the rim. Defensively, it was difficult to assess his perimeter defense in isolation because Syracuse uses zone so often, but his athleticism and IQ makes me comfortable in translating him as a nice NBA defender with the versatility (thanks to his length) to guard both the 2 and 3 positions.
Overall, Wes joins John Wall and Evan Turner as the only surefire NBA ready contributors on any roster (making them the preliminary top 3 candidates for Rookie of the Year; well, I guess we have to include Blake Griffin in there too so they are amongst the top 4). Going forward, if Wes continues to get stronger and adds to his handle, he should make the T-Wolves very happy with this selection.
With the 5th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Sacramento Kings select . . . Derrick Favors from Georgia Tech University.
* Other players considered: Greg Monroe and DeMarcus Cousins
Analysis: The Kings are in desperate need of an interior defensive presence and Derrick gives them just that. Also, he is the post player with the most potential and highest ceiling as a prospect. The Kings’ timeline (very young team) allows them to be patient in this regard. His measurements helped his stock — comparable to Cousins in the height and length department and already has a surprising 245 lbs on a frame that shows tremendous potential for additional bulk (should be able to get to 260 with little trouble). Think an uber-athletic Dale Davis with 5x the skill level.
Provides the Kings with another versatile big man, in addition to Jason Thompson, that can play the 4 and 5 and that can play in either the half court or out in transition (where he will out run almost any big man). Derrick is an elite athlete with a great first and second leap. This combined with his length, quick feet, and good reactionary times will allow him to be an effective last line of defense for the Kings and an equally effective finisher at the rim for Tyreke’s lob passes. Translates well as a defender in the high pick and roll with strong lateral quickness (a staple in the NBA and something other teams will exploit if you can’t do it – see: modern day Shaq, which breaks down your entire team defense leading to dribble penetration and drive & kicks).
He carries himself very well both on and off the court, showing great poise for his age. Offensively, Derrick is still somewhat raw, but shows encouraging signs of what could be in the future. The major issues holding him back at this point are: (1) lack of ball handling ability (if he ever develops a tight, secure, and efficient 2-3 bounce handle his speed in the post could be deadly to get easy buckets and/or many FTA’s) and (2) minor deficiencies in the post in terms of his overall feel and footwork (good, not great footwork in the post) with his back to the basket.
His length and explosiveness will allow him to get high percentage, quality looks at the rim whenever he wants them if he can develop the footwork and feel (recognition of angles, shifting defenses, etc) to either put himself in the proper spot or create the opportunity. Derrick gets and maintains great post position and presents a wide, easily accessible target. He possesses excellent soft hands, which will be useful from day one with crafty passes from Tyreke. He shows good touch on the ball with his one and only post move at this point, his right handed hook.
The other concern (in addition to the necessary development of his feel/footwork/handle) in the post is his release point on the hook. The release point on his hook is slightly out in front and therefore exposed; not creating the maximum amount of shot separation (will become more necessary and obvious at next level). His elite athleticism (the leaping ability) allows him to compensate for this fact because he is simply up on another level of the vertical ladder, but some minor tweaks wouldn’t hurt.
He has shown flashes of a promising looking 10-15 foot jump shot, and although not a great % (63%), his performance as a freshman big man from the free throw line is some evidence of that. The further development of his jump shot will add another dimension to his already promising game.
Overall, clearly based on these comments, Derrick is a work in progress but one that shows flashes of not being as far off as some may think and has all the physical tools to make the realization of his potential all the more likely. One must also factor into his stats and performance this past season with the fact that Derrick did not play with good guard play. By no means did he have the advantage that Cousins had playing with Wall and Bledsoe. I think he will be blown away by how much easier the game comes to him when playing alongside Tyreke. Additionally, all reports point to him possessing a strong work ethic (another reason not to bet against him).
With the 6th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Golden State Warriors select . . . Greg Monroe from Georgetown University.
* Other players considered: DeMarcus Cousins
Analysis: Yes, I know what you’re thinking right now… that I am nuts for still having DeMarcus on the board. However, there was no way I could not take Greg Monroe with this pick. He is the ideal big for the Warriors’ style of play with his advanced feel for the game and high skill level. It seems odd to base a pick upon how he will fit one single aspect of a team’s offense, but that is what I am about to do.
As I contemplated this selection, I had a vision of Greg Monroe setting high screen after high screen for either Stephen Curry or Monta Ellis. In addition to being a pick and pop threat out of the high pick and roll (good shooter out to 15-18 feet or so), he has the advanced ball skills (handle and passing) to operate in the mid range area after setting the screen to either create his own scoring opportunity or use his ball skills and court vision to kick to open shooters as the defense shifts.
Also, the Warriors are all about dribble penetration, which requires the lane to be open. Greg possesses a unique set of perimeter skills for a big man that will fit in nicely. In a nutshell, Greg will seamlessly enter the team’s offense and make it that much more potent given the unique competitive advantage his high skill level presents versus opposing bigs. He will be an ideal compliment to some of the other Warrior bigs who prefer to remain in the trenches and do the dirty work inside (Biendrins, Turiaf, etc.)
Greg is an excellent run and jump athlete out in space and once he gets some steam behind him, but in the half court and stationary he lacks some explosiveness but is overall very smooth. His measurements helped his stock as he proved to have more than enough size and length to make the transition to the center position in the NBA, which is where his greatest competitive advantage will be.
Greg will give the Warriors a good source of higher percentage looks at the basket in the half court, and, thanks to his speed in the open court, be able to add additional value to the Warrior’s fast break. Despite his size and length, he plays somewhat under the basket in the post relying upon craftiness (high basketball IQ), good agile footwork (but lacks some speed and lift in the post), and his large, wide frame to create space and shot opportunities more so than pure athleticism. These same attributes plus some time in the league should allow him to be quite effective in drawing fouls and gaining FTA’s.
Greg operates well in the post over both shoulders, making him twice as hard to guard… then you add in the ability to turn and face and you have yourself quite the dynamic scorer out of both the high and low posts. He has great hands (very necessary in the high octane and unpredictable Warrior offense) and shows a very soft touch on the ball whether in the post or out on the perimeter. Defensively, his stationary athleticism limits his area in terms of rebounding and protecting the rim; however, he really took a step in the right direction on the glass this past season.
Once again, these deficiencies are somewhat masked by his Warrior teammates Biendrins and Turiaf who rebound well outside their area and protect the rim. The positives that he brings to the table, however, come down to his sheer size, good lateral movements, and high IQ. These qualities will make him an excellent positional (aka stay down and stay at home… force a tough, contested shot) post defender down the road as he learns the NBA game (think a bigger Kurt Thomas… you laugh but check out his one-on-one post positional defense; impressive stuff).
And finally, he is a young sophomore, really has shown improvement (especially this year; hinting at what developments/improvements could be next, more potential to fulfill), and answered many of his critics regarding an alleged inability to maintain aggressiveness and assertiveness. Players with his size, IQ, and skill level don’t fail in today’s NBA and this will be even more of sure thing in the Warrior’s system. See! Told you it made too much sense.
With the 7th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Detroit Pistons select . . . DeMarcus Cousins from the University of Kentucky.
* Other players considered: none
Analysis: Quite simply this is a BPA pick, but even better it makes sense for the Pistons. There are many things to like about DeMarcus as a prospect but easily the most impressive is his size and deceptive athleticism. Similar to Greg Monroe in terms of athleticism (run and jump athlete out in space but lacks some stationary explosiveness), but even bigger, larger, and wider (and that’s saying something). If the only good thing about DeMarcus was his size, he would not be this high on my list.
What really makes him an intriguing player and one that may very well end up being the most productive and dominant player in this class (if he can get control of some things mentioned below and continue to diversify his game, also discussed below) is his excellent footwork (giving him some speed in the post) in the post. His footwork and capable 1-2 bounce handle with his back to the basket (limited handle in that it is not useful, secure, or creative in the turn and face style ala Amare) make him a potentially deadly low post scorer. I say potentially because, while he was the big man on campus at Kentucky and likely towered over the majority of his opponents and outweighed them by a sizable amount, in the NBA and against effective, experienced post defenders his skill level (couldn’t even tell you a single time I saw him execute an advanced post move, but maybe that was just the games I saw) will be tested and he will be forced to make contested shots over the top (which is where that before mentioned lack of some explosiveness may have an effect).
However, given his age, size, excellent footwork, and good, soft hands, it is hard to bet against him developing into one heck of a low post scorer. All he has to do is develop one go to move and a single counter, and all his physical tools, footwork, and good feel in the post will take care of the rest. Another intriguing aspect of his game, and quite an unexpected one, is his vision out of the post. He is very advanced in terms of recognizing defensive rotations, making the right play out of double teams, and executing crisp, effective passes out to wings, to cutters in the lane, or to the opposite post.
I never saw him take a shot outside of 5 feet from the basket. If he wishes to realize the true extent of his potential, he will have to improve from the free throw line. I don’t even want to see him worry about diversifying his offensive game by adding a 10-15 jump shot. He is most valuable to his team when he is on the block… the Pistons have enough shooters (Gordon, Stuckey, Hamilton, Prince, and Villanueva… being a perfect compliment to Charlie V) and Cousins will provide a much needed post player who commands defensive attention from day one.
Lacks the same basket protection capability and potential that other prospects possess (ie. Favors and Whiteside) but he always plays big, taking up lots of space, not avoiding contact, and it shows on the defensive glass. He won’t get you the board outside his area (however, his area is already a large one) but he more than effectively gets all the boards he should get and others in heavy traffic.
I have some concerns about his ability to defend out on the perimeter in the high pick and roll (this will undoubtedly be tested immediately). The major concerns about DeMarcus as an NBA prospect have little to do with his talent. There are legitimate and obvious worries (we all saw them on national TV) about his maturity, poise, and also some weight management/conditioning issues.
With the 8th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Clippers select . . . Luke Babbitt from Nevada.
* Other players considered: Gordon Hayward, Craig Brackins, Epke Udoh, and Patrick Patterson
Analysis: One of my personal favorite players in this draft. I would highly recommend that if you are to watch only one highlight video on YouTube it should be of Luke Babbitt (even more so than John Wall). A good, fluid athlete with a good amount of explosiveness. Has the length and frame of a stretch PF but the advanced skill set of a SF.
To me, I see Luke as a PF because his greatest competitive advantage is there. His skill set will be far more potent when matched against some of the more traditional PF’s. His frame is great (both upper and lower) and I see him being able to add the appropriate amount of bulk to play the 4 full-time. A knock down shooter with NBA range, and is as good a shooter off the bounce as stationary (particularly deadly with his jab step, one bounce, then lightning quick pull-up jump shot).
Has great ball skills (secure and creative handle with limited limitations both vertically and side to side; however, as compared to Hayward, lacks some fluidity) to create scoring opportunities for himself off the dribble and create for others (very good IQ and feel for the game to go along with his vision of the floor, made better given his height… great eyes with the bounce).
He doesn’t have the best first step when examined in isolation but it is made much better given his perimeter shooting ability and effective use of jab steps and other deceptive, high IQ, pace techniques. Utilizes his long rangy strides in the lane, good 2nd gear (better than his first step), length, and creative shot making ability with a soft touch to finish at the rim.
One of his greatest values is his multi-talented ability out in the open court on the fast break – he can either initiate the break like a PG, fill the lanes for an athletic, powerful finish, or space the floor for the secondary break for a 3-point shot. Aaron Brooks will love this kid as a great diverse source of assists #’s, that much will be true from day one.
There are legit concerns, at least in the beginning, as to his defensive position, but I feel that as his frame fills out (as it undoubtedly will) he will be more than able to hold his own against most NBA 4’s. Lacks any real advanced back to the basket moves. However, as he adds this to his game, his handle and athleticism will give him great speed in the post. Overall, Luke is a very intriguing prospect because of his extremely advanced skill set for a player his size. His ability to realize his full potential will likely come down to him being able to handle consistent minutes at the PF spot.
With the 9th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz select . . . Gordon Hayward from Butler.
* Other players considered: Paul George, Hassan Whiteside, Cole Aldrich, and Xavier Henry
Analysis: A silky smooth 6’8 wing with great natural talent and the skill set to match. A smooth athlete who lacks some explosiveness but makes up for it via his high basketball IQ, solid fundamentals, and advanced ball skills. I will admit that he currently lacks some bulk, but I have always liked his frame and discounted those who knocked his pro potential due to his body because it is one that will easily add additional bulk/strength (already has a natural thickness to him and therefore lots of untapped physical potential and his lower body is already fairly developed).
Gordon is a knock down shooter with a picture perfect form and quick release (he is a much better shooter than his % indicate from this past season). He is a better spot up shooter than he is off the bounce (but he is not terrible in this regard and will only get better as his body matures further in my opinion). The most intriguing aspect of his game to me is his ability to put the ball on the floor like a 2-guard at 6’8 with a solid first step made even better by the threat he presents as a shooter. His handle is not limited in any way (creative and secure both vertically and side to side).
He can even run some point-forward at times for the Jazz. This is an aspect of the game that other prospects to whom he may be compared lacked (former draft picks Oregon’s Luke Jackson, Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison, West Virginia’s Joe Alexander, etc.) and one of the main reasons why he has a great chance at success in the league as a match up problem.
He has extremely advanced ball skills for a player his size and utilizes them to either get to the rim or create scoring opportunities for others with his excellent feel and vision for the game. As hinted at above, Gordon lacks some degree of middle game to his offensive repertoire, as much of his looks at the basket come via either 3-pt shots or finishes at the rim. This becomes apparent when watching him drive the lane because as soon as the lane to the rim closes, he would only be a threat to distribute the basketball. He will have to become far more dynamic in the one-on-one setting in the mid-range area off the dribble drive because teams will quickly pick up on this and not have their team defense rotate over to help against a player that has no intention of being a scoring threat for himself.
However, I feel confident in predicting that Gordon will become a far more imposing offensive threat (beyond the already great shooting stroke) as his body matures, as it undoubtedly will. He can achieve good shot separation in the middle game but just must work to up his efficiency. I can see him developing into an imposing ball handling SG/SF hybrid akin to Steve Smith and Paul Pierce (not saying Gordon will reach the level of those players, just that is the style and type of player he can develop into). But initially I can see opponents testing his physical ability to play through bumps and other various forms of contact.
So offensively, Gordon brings to the table a NBA ready weapon with his perimeter shooting and an impressive overall skill set (mostly being his ball skills) that will become far more impactful in the near future. Defensively, some question his lateral quickness and, therefore, his ability to defend out on the NBA perimeter. While I do not think he will be a lock down perimeter defender by any means, I actually feel that he has good defensive footwork and should be able to more than hold his own.
Helping his cause will be his high IQ (a player you can’t bet against in terms of figuring out any way possible to get the job done) and fundamentals. Against NBA SF’s, he may struggle initially down on the block, but the before mentioned additional strength/size will help. A good rebounder and an overall tough kid. Overall, there is a degree of patience that Utah will have to have with Gordon, but I am confident that the patience comes with minimal risk and that Gordon is a lock to be a good rotation player in the league for many years to come.
With the 10th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Indiana Pacers select . . . Willie Warren from Oklahoma University.
* Other players considered: Armon Johnson, and Craig Brackins
Analysis: Willie is a good athlete with plenty of explosiveness (both with and without the ball) and an NBA ready body. His wingspan, strength, and athleticism allows him to play slightly bigger than his 6’4 height. The Pacers are in need of a dynamic and explosive lead guard and scorer and Willie gives them just that as he fits the definition of a true combo guard (offensively can easily play either position, but defensively remains to be seen).
He translates to the NBA equally as well off the ball as he does with it. I feel he can run the PG spot for stretches but will be best served being on a team with another quality lead guard (Pacers fit that mold as they currently have TJ Ford). Teaming TJ with Willie will definitely increase the dribble penetration of the Pacers’ offense, something valuable to their shooters such as Granger, Dunleavy, and Rush because their posts are currently not ones to demand a double team on a nightly basis (Hansbrough and Hibbert).
He has a good, creative, and secure handle both vertically and side to side (the only negative is that he can tend to over dribble at times). Where I was particularly surprised to see him excel (one of the key reasons I am higher on him than most at this point) was in the pick and roll. His explosiveness, strength with the ball through contact, quick first step, vision, passing ability, knock down shooting ability both stationary and off the bounce (with NBA range), IQ in the use of patience to let the play develop, ability to operate, explode, and finish in traffic, through contact at the rim, and effective use of pace makes him a lethal guard in the pick and roll.
As briefly mentioned above, Willie is a knock down perimeter shooter (albeit slightly streaky) with deep, effortless NBA range. His form takes the ball slightly out in front and dips almost down to his shoulder, making me question his ability to create adequate shot separation and scoring opportunities in the middle game, but he has a very quick release that helps this cause (mainly in the stop and pop game, which I see him developing very nicely with little trouble). However, with that said, much of his offense is either static jump shots, dribble drives all the way to the rim, or chances out in transition.
Going forward, he will be forced to (and it would greatly benefit him) develop some alternative releases (a floater for example) for his middle game because he will likely be faced with defenders much longer than himself. As mentioned above, unclear if his combo guard capabilities offensively are equally matched on the defensive end of the floor. Regardless, he has all the physical tools to be a pesky defender on the perimeter (all the qualities mentioned above as well as quick feet and lateral quickness) and the strength/frame to deal with some of the bigger PG’s and some SG’s.
Some question his maturity because of the troubles he had this past season. Reports had him clashing with coaches amongst other things. However, I am not part of the group that worries about his character. He proved to me during his freshman season while playing with the Griffin brothers and others that he plays well (actually better) when surrounded by other good players (this is the NBA so he will have plenty of good, quality players to play with and feel more comfortable trusting, which I feel was the main issue this past season – – he was all Oklahoma had).
He consistently made the right play that season, doing an excellent job of balancing his own offense and creating and deferring to others (mainly Blake Griffin of course). Overally, Willie slightly underperformed this past season but his talent is clear and too great to pass up here for the Pacers.
With the 11th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the New Orleans Hornets select . . . Paul George from Fresno State.
* Other players considered: Patrick Patterson, Xavier Henry, Epke Udoh, and Ed Davis
Analysis: A very long and supremely athletic wing-forward who just oozes talent and potential. It is rare to find a player standing 6’9 that is as comfortable with the basketball and playing out on the perimeter. Definitely needs to add some additional bulk to his skinny frame, but will never be an imposing physical specimen beyond his length and athleticism.
Offensively, he is still somewhat raw and is more of a jack of all trades rather than an expert at any one phase of the game. Combine this versatile skill set (shooting, balls skills, transition play) with a good feel for the game and elite athleticism, and you have a player who should develop into a very nice rotation player on any team in 2 seasons or so (I have little doubt that he is a guy that will “figure it out” so he is worth the minimal risk as somewhat of a potential pick).
Based upon video clips of some recent workout sessions, it is clear that Paul has made a few key changes to his shooting stroke. Before, his stroke had a slight hitch and had a release point that was low and out in front of his body. There still remains a ever so slight of a hitch but the release point is much improved. He has a good touch on the basketball and, while I don’t ever see him being an elite NBA 3-pt shooter, he should develop into a solid NBA perimeter shooter (35-40%). After the failed experiment with Julian Wright out of Kansas (they should have take Al Thornton for the record!), Paul is an ideal selection for the Hornets as they are in desperate need of a dynamic wing-forward who can spread the floor for their bigs and take some pressure off Chris Paul by creating and capitalizing upon offensive opportunities.
The Hornets can be patient with Paul and should reap the benefits. There are reports surfacing that question Paul’s dedication and work ethic on the defensive end of the floor. His response has been that Fresno State played zone and he was unable to do as much on defensive as he would have liked. Given his length, athleticism, and quick hands, I will give him the benefit of the doubt. However, it will be interesting to watch how he fares defending either the SG or SF spot… concerns at each given foot speed on the perimeter and strength defending in the post and through contact.
Overall, it is impossible to ignore Paul’s seemingly limitless ceiling as a prospect, especially at pick #11, making this a fairly no brainer pick.
With the 12th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Memphis Grizzlies select . . . Armon Johnson from the University of Nevada.
* Other players considered: Craig Brackins and Xavier Henry
Analysis: I know what some of you are thinking… Armon who?! Well, become familiar with the name because the guy has some serious game. He is currently flying slightly below the radar, and I am sure that some GM’s would love it to stay that way. Armon is a great but not elite athlete as some suggest (although, these reports are from recent workouts, so maybe he has upped his athleticism since the end of the season, which is very possible as he probably has trimmed down that last bit of fluff).
Armon is a ball dominant, power guard who plays with a great change of pace and shiftiness to his game. He is ready to make an impact from a physical stand point in terms of both size/strength and length (6’8 wingspan). His greatest value is his ability to impose his will upon his defender whether it be via dribble penetration, posting up opposing PG’s, or finishing through contact at the rim (great extension and strength to the rim).
He is not the highest % perimeter shooter by any means (and probably never will be) but should develop into a solid, albeit unspectacular, shooter with additional work and repetition. His form is somewhat unorthodox causing some limits on his shot separation but his release is quick and, more importantly, he appears comfortable with his shot in traffic and being highly contested. With that said, his opponents will undoubtedly test his ability to knock down the jump shot from day one.
While he is certainly not a pure PG like John Wall, Armon is a solid passer with good overall vision of the floor and without a doubt a PG prospect (not an undersized SG). He will have to work on striking that delicate balance between going for his own and facilitating others. His length and athleticism will allow Armon to have a larger than usual effect on the defensive end for a PG. In addition to being a disrupting force upon the opposing lead guard, he should be a helpful aid on the defensive glass.
Overall, Armon is an intriguing NBA prospect to me because of natural physical gifts, old school toughness and craftiness with the basketball in the lane and at the rim, adequate ability to distribute (especially out in the open court and in the pick and roll) and the added potential of him improving his perimeter jump shot, which would make him quite the difficult cover (if he ever got to the point of being a 35% plus 3-pt shooter… watch out!).
With the 13th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors select . . . Craig Brackins from Iowa State.
* Other players considered: Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich, Epke Udoh, and Ed Davis
Analysis: With each passing Chris Bosh tweet, it becomes increasingly clear that he is likely to depart Toronto. And, quite frankly, who can blame him? Therefore, the selection of Craig Brackins here is an easy one from both a BPA standpoint and a team need perspective. Craig, similar to the player he may replace in Bosh, is a multi-talented, skilled PF.
An underrated (not sure what others are looking at when they say he lacks some athleticism), good athlete with plenty of explosiveness. He was considered a lottery pick this time last year, but has inexplicably fallen off the radar for some scouts and draft websites because of both his team’s sub par performance and his stagnant individual statistics combined with a drop in some efficiency numbers. I, however, remain high on him as a pro prospect.
In a recent interview, he impressed me with his opinion on whether going back to school was a mistake and whether he is a better or worse player for it. He expressed a sincere appreciation for his additional year at the college level and for the further development he felt he made during this past season. One area in which this development is particularly clear is his body. Craig will always have a narrower frame (never going to be Dwight Howard, Carlos Boozer, etc) but he appeared to add some much needed bulk and is now that much more ready to make an immediate impact. Think Taj Gibson but with narrower shoulders.
I feel that there is now reason to believe and hope that further physical development is not impossible (something that wasn’t as possible back at his skinniest). His measurements at the combine really helped him as he is a legit 6’10 good athlete with above average length and a solid 230 lbs to build from. Offensively, Craig is a versatile inside out big man. He is a knock down shooter with range out to at least the NCAA three point line (20-22 feet). From day one, he is a big man that will pull opposing bigs out from underneath the basket.
Additionally, he has some limited ball handling ability (2-3 secure and capable bounces but lacking some degree of side to side creativity) best executed from the high post or FT line extended. He is not a big man like Dirk who you can give the ball at the three point line and expect him to create off the bounce, but is advanced enough to make up for some of his physical shortcomings. His handle is more akin to Amare Stoudemire or Antwan Jamison. His first step is made more explosive thanks to his great shooting stroke.
In the post, Craig has an ability to score over both shoulders with a right-handed hook and a turn around jumper over his right shoulder. A concern is that Craig struggles to get and maintain optimal low post position but makes due thanks to the before mentioned handle and perimeter jump shot. However, once in the post, he shows a love of creating and playing through contact, which will be even more important in the NBA as he tries to create adequate shot separation given his narrow frame. Has the length, leaping ability, and skill to finish over the top but it is just a matter of putting himself in the right spot and being able to stay there. Also, he has a knack for making highly contested shots.
Defensively, while he should be able to athletically play out on the perimeter at least to a passable degree, there are legitimate concerns about his low post defense against some of the bigger NBA PF’s. But who doesn’t struggle against some of those guys? As compared to some of the other players considered at this pick: (1) Craig has superior ball skills as compared to Patrick Patterson, making him far more dynamic, is just as long and only 10 lbs lighter, (2) Craig is much more fluid athlete as compared to Epke Udoh and a superior shooter, (3) Craig has a far more overall advanced of a skill set as compared to Ed Davis with a similar physical build, and (4) Craig has actual advanced post, back to the basket game – something Luke Babbitt does not at this point.
With the 14th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Houston Rockets select . . . Hassan Whiteside from Marshall.
* Other players considered: Cole Aldrich, Epke Udoh and Ed Davis
Analysis: An easy pick that makes too much sense not to make. Houston needs more depth at the C spot given the uncertain nature of Yao’s health from season to season. Hassan is as elite of an athlete as they come with the most impressive length in the draft, making him a potentially devastating force on both ends in terms of the area that he affects.
He runs the floor like a deer, which fits very nicely with the new style and core of the Rockets in Aaron Brooks, Kevin Martin, Trevor Ariza, and Jordan Hill. Has an equally great second leap as his first, making him a terror on the offensive glass and as a shot blocker from day one. Has good but not great footwork in the post, but shows a great soft touch on the basketball from out of the post and out on the perimeter (with an ability to hit the 15-18 foot jump shot).
Needs to make improvements upon the extent of his ball skills, add additional strength (should easily do this), and develop more advanced post moves with counters to reach his full potential. Additional strength will root him in his post moves and make him a potentially devastating inside-outside threat.
Overall, given his limitless potential, length, promising frame, athleticism, perimeter shot, developing footwork, and shot blocking instincts, Hassan is an easy pick for the Rockets.