It’s been some time since my last foray into the world of Sactown Royalty Fanposts. My last entry was about How to Avoid a Draft Bust, and I tagged it with the ominous subtitle "how I learned to fear this year’s draft."
Well, that was January. A lot has changed since then and… actually not much has changed. I still fear this draft. I still think James Harden is a future NBA roleplayer and Rubio’s lack of athleticism scares me to death. But hey – the guy can just flat out play, right? Um….. Right?
In order for that joke to make sense and to explain where I’m coming from with the rankings, here is a brief rundown of my drafting philosophy as expressed more extensively in that old post:
1. Avoid guys who are underathletic and/or undersized but who pundits say “can just flat out play."
2. Raw upside guys: a) must be athletic; b) SGs and SFs need to be able to shoot and have a handle; c) bigs must have good hands; d) point guards have to be very quick and either really good at scoring or really good at passing.
3. Watch out for the unmotivated
In the hopes that posterity will either remember me as an anonymous basketball savant or, much more likely, as an unadulterated idiot, I thought I would provide some draft capsules on this year’s crop of players for everyone to argue over.
Positional rankings, point guard to center. Here they come...
1. Jeff Teague. Yeah. I said it! Jeff. Teague. Not Rubio, not Jennings. Jeff "1/1 assist to turnover ratio" Teague. Here’s what you need to know about Jeff Teague. The guy is one of the quickest, most athletic point guard prospects that has come into the league in the last few years. He’s got great size for the PG position. He can get into the lane and shoot floaters or dunk over people. He’s also a deadeye shooter. WHEN HAS THAT NOT WORKED? Ask Monta Ellis how that worked out. Then tell him that scooters are for girls.
2. Ricky Rubio. Why is he not #1? I’m sorry, he’s just not that quick, and this is an era when NBA point guards are faster than ever. In the absolute bestest of best scenarios, Ricky Rubio is an athletically limited, great-passing, decent defending point guard who you can’t really count on to score. Which, okay, hello Mark Jackson or post-prime Jason Kidd. Is that worth trading up to #2 or praying that Rubio doesn’t pull a Fran Vasquez for the next two years? In the meantime, it remains to be seen if he can keep up with NBA point guards, he turns the ball over too much, and he can't shoot unless completely set and wide open. He's got a long way to go in the best case scenario. Stop Photoshopping Ricky desktop images: Rubio skeptics unite! You have nothing to lose but your man crush.
3. Stephen Curry. The most surprising thing about Stephen Curry isn’t that the NBA could actually have a girlier looking player than Tyronn Lue. Nope. If you watched Davidson this season you know what I’m talking about: Stephen Curry is actually a pretty amazing passer. The quickness deficit remains. But with that passing mixed with his scoring ability, Curry could “just flat out play” himself into a pretty incredible pick & roll point guard. And then give up ten thousand points on the other end. This guy is destined to play for Mike D’Antoni or Don Nelson. Or, uh, Geoff Petrie.
4. Brandon Jennings. Have you seen the TV show version of Friday Night Lights? There’s this character in the first season called Voodoo Tatum who is a Katrina refugee and he interviews potential coaches in a hotel rooms where they pledge to give his family houses and money if he’ll play for their team. Then he screws over the Dillon High team and bolts. Brandon Jennings may be a talented, athletic, raw point guard prospect. I can’t shake the image of Voodoo Tatum.
5. Jonny Flynn. I really want to like Flynn more than I do. On paper everything checks out. He’s 6’0”, he’s tough, he’s quick, he showed some clutchness late in the season. But he’s not that great of a shooter, not that great of a passer, not that great of a scorer, and he has a bit of Jason Williams in him when it comes to his decisionmaking. It’s really tough to make it as a point guard in the NBA, and there’s something about Flynn's inability to really stand out in any one or two facets of the game that makes me feel like he’s destined to disappoint relative to where he'll be chosen.
Darren Collison. You know what you’re getting with Collison. Good quickness, good passing, good defense, good floor leadership. Nothing special. Probably destined to be a career backup. That’s not a bad thing at #23.
Ty Lawson. I liked him better when he was more talented and his name was Ray Felton.
Eric Maynor. Sean Singletary wants his career trajectory back.
Patty Mills. Quick quick quick. Streaky streaky streaky. Let someone else draft him let someone else draft him let someone else draft him. TJ Ford or Marcus Banks. Flip a coin.
Jrue Holiday. I want this guy’s publicist. He showed absolutely nothing at UCLA to justify a 1st Round Pick, let alone lottery consideration. It makes no sense whatsoever. Let's move on.
1. Tyreke Evans. If you can imagine a spectrum of John Salmons to Brandon Roy… Evans is somewhere in there. He’s similar to those guys in that he needs to have the ball to be effective. But is he more Salmons, needing to pound the ball and somewhat limited athletically but really crafty penetrating? Or can he be Roy, deadly crunch time player and a killer passer? Tough to say. He doesn't have great size, but Evans has some serious talent with the ball, he's got crazy long arms, and he's athletic enough that I think he's got the best chance at stardom out of this class of shooting guards. I also really don't think he's a point guard.
2. James Harden. In the annals of NBA Draft combine history, the nugget that James Harden scored a higher vertical leap than Dwyane Wade surely does more than anything else to invalidate the entire exercise. Harden has some definite strengths: he's a surprisingly good finisher, he's got good all-around skill, he's a solid passer, and very few bearded players in NBA history have been busts. However, his weaknesses are also manifold: he's undersized, he's not that quick, he can't go right, he's not a great leaper (sorry combine), he's not great at creating his own shot, he doesn't have great elevation on his jumper, and he has an unfortunate last name. Ultimately, when I add up the strengths and subtract the minuses, I'm left with one conclusion: NBA roleplayer. How many undersized AND underathletic guards are stars in the NBA? Honestly. He'll give you some good minutes, but you're going to be crying in a few years if you think he's going to be a star.
3. DeMar DeRozan. DeMar DeRozan is the type of player who can jump out of the gym in a combine test but you might go an entire game without seeing evidence of freakish athleticism. He's definitely athletic, but he's not a Gerald Wallace type player who shows it constantly on the floor. Instead he's more of a midrange player with a shaky handle and is streaky from outside. DeRozan has both outsized talent and outsized bust potential.
4. Jodie Meeks. Let's talk about this for a moment. Of the undersized SGs left on the board, does anyone really think that Gerald Henderson and Wayne Ellington are better than Jodie Meeks? If so, please find a tape of Meeks against Tennessee when he exploded for 50+ points, and, oh yeah, also had 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Or maybe the one against Arkansas where he had 45/7. Meeks might not make it as a pro because he's undersized, but take Henderson and Ellington out of the state of North Carolina and we wouldn't even be talking about them. Meeks can score from everywhere. He was basically Kentucky's entire offense and he still scored like crazy. He's got some limitations, but he's the best candidate in the draft to be the next Anthony Morrow. Which would be totally fine relative to where he'll be drafted.
5. Terrence Williams. I like Terrence Williams a lot. He's tough, he's athletic, he can rebound, he has a lot of skills. Unfortunately, scoring the basketball is not one of those skills. You have to be REALLY awesome as a glue guy to stay on the floor as an NBA guard if you can't score, and no one has any idea what kind of man defense Williams plays because Lousiville zones. Williams seems like he'd be perfect on a contender as a do-everything hustle guy, but he needs the right situation for his skills to shine. He also strikes me as thoroughly insane.
Others: Chase Budinger. I mean, come on now. Really? Budinger? He's not quick, his game comes and goes, and if it weren't for his random 40" vertical he'd probably be on a beach somewhere trying to decide if he should hang ten or hit on your girlfriend again.
Gerald Henderson and Wayne Ellington. Henderson is athletic but can't shoot. Ellington can shoot but isn't athletic. They're both undersized shooting guards who can't create their own shot and whose stock was inflated by playing in the state of North Carolina. They should totally get married and have lots of babies together, one of whom might be a good NBA player.
Dionte Christmas. He can shoot and score. He's not a terrific athlete but he is a very good candidate for some instant offense off the bench. His last name would also probably give Jerry Reynolds a punnerific anyeurism.
Nick Calathes. Enh. That's all I have to say. Enh.
1. No One. This group of small forwards is so bad no one deserves to be listed #1.
2. Earl Clark. I mean, I guess. He is a really athletic 6’10” small forward who can handle the ball, run the floor, and looks like an NBA player. One problem. He. Can’t. Shoot. He can’t shoot. He can't shoot from inside, he can't shoot from outside. And NBA small forwards need to be able to shoot.
3. Omri Casspi. Remember about 10 years ago how there were all those articles about that red headed kid they were calling the Jewish Jordan and he didn’t play on the Sabbath? Whatever happened to that guy? Huh. All of this is to say, I know nothing about Omri Casspi except that he’s from Israel and he's supposed to be tough and reasonably athletic. Let’s hope he turns out better than the last Jewish Jordan.
4. Victor Claver. Super-athletic, 6'10", skinny, and a turnover machine. He can finish strong and shoot from outside. Nothing in between.
5. Sam Young. A pretty solid all-around player, could be a Courtney Lee-type who plays tough defense and doesn't screw up too much at everything else. The drawback is that he's already 24, so probably not as much superduper upside potential as the other players.
Danny Green. There's always a place in the NBA for okay athletes who can play okay D and knock down open jumpers but can't be counted on to score. That place is the bench.
DaJuan Summers. What in the heck happened to this guy? At the beginning of the season he looked pretty good -- he lacks any semblance of a midrange game, but he's very athletic and can shoot from outside. Then his game (and the whole Georgetown team) fell off a cliff and he was last seen on a milk carton.
Damion James. My basic philosophy is that in order to be a good NBA small forward you need to be able to handle the ball, shoot from outside, and preferably create your own shot. Barring that, you need to be a top athlete and a really good defender. James has precisely none of those qualities.
Tyler Smith. If Tyler Smith and Damion James changed jerseys at a workout and pretended to be the other person do you think anyone would notice? Me neither.
1. Blake Griffin. Well, the pre-draft measurements solved the mystery of the ages: Griffin really is 6'10" in shoes. He also has the arms of a T-Rex. If Griffin can perfect some type of a fall away jumper he can probably be a pretty deadly player offensively, and as David Lee demonstrates, simply being motivated can get you 15 rebounds a game. Unfortunately, Griffin is also destined to be the worst defending power forward since Vin Baker.
2. Jordan Hill. Yawn. In my experience the Hill camp is divided between people who watched him play all three years at Arizona and saw a middling power forward who got slightly less middling, and those who saw him just his junior year when he looked "halfway decent" to "pretty good" and extrapolated from that that he's got a lot of NBA potential. Hill is fine. He's got NBA size and athleticism. He'll provide a perfectly respectable 20 minutes off the bench. He's just not anything special, and anyone who is drafting him for more than just a placeholder big is going to be disappointed.
3. Josh Heytvelt. You read right, folks! #3 power forward. Heytvelt is my pick for sleeper big in this draft. He's an extremely skilled, tough, surprisingly athletic big who has quite the slew of red flags: namely that he's already 23 and was suspended a substantial length of time because he was caught with shrooms. Provided he doesn't ditch training camp for the next Phish reunion I think Heytvelt could be a really good big in the NBA. Sort of like Brad Miller's more-athletic, even-more-stoned younger brother.
4. James Johnson. There's some debate over whether Johnson projects as a small forward as a power forward. Unfortunately he's not really quick enough to be a small forward and not really big and strong enough to be a power forward. He's the ultimate tweener. As Carl Landry and Brandon Bass go to show, the undersized but skilled power forward thing works in the right situation. Johnson is going to need the right situation if he's going to avoid Kenny Thomas disease.
5. Gani Lawal. Ladies and gentlemen, the next Reggie Evans. Lawal might be the strongest guy in this entire draft besides Griffin. He's tough, he's got a nose for the ball, he's got decent hops. He's also a tad undersized and, although perfectly decent, won't wow you athletically. Is that worth the #23? You betcha. Would Petrie touch Lawal with a ten foot pole? Only if he was carrying a Marcel Proust novel.
Others: DeJuan Blair. The red flags abound. He's short. He can't jump. Word is his knees are shot. So... Who wants an earthbound 6'6" power forward with bad knees? Anyone? Anyone? Oh. Someone raised their hand. What's that? "He can just flat out play" you say? Yeah. Exactly. You can put your hand down now.
Tyler Hansbrough. He's better than Mark Madsen. Not that much better. But better enough that his buggy eyes will be around to annoy us all for years to come.
Taj Gibson. This guy is soon to be 24, so it's unlikely he's going to get a whole lot better. The good news for the team that drafts him is that he's already pretty good. He's skilled around the hoop, has good hands, and he learned 7,234 different defenses under Tim Floyd at USC.
Jeff Pendergraph. The oop to James Harden's alley, Pendergraph is a very athletic PF who excels at catching and finishing and not much else.
1. Hasheem Thabeet. Silenced a lot of doubters with a strong NCAA tournament and looks like he'll go #2 or #3 as a result. Here's something that remains underrated about Thabeet: I've never seen this guy fall for a pump fake. Do you know how hard that is? Everyone falls for pump fakes! Thabeet never, ever leaves his feet except when someone actually shoots. He hardly ever fouls. It's the reason why he's such a great shotblocker. (That and he's 7'2".) I can't believe people hate on this guy.
2. B.J. Mullens. Why is this guy so low on draft boards? I'll tell you why: Thad Matta stuck him on the bench and led a whisper campaign about his work ethic in order to hurt his draft stock so that Mullens would be forced to return for his sophomore year, nevermind that Ohio St. would have been a lot better if he had just sucked it up and played Mullens. Thad Matta? I salute your idiocy. Anyway, at age 19 Mullens is already as good as Jeff Foster and has the tools to be even better. What is it with 7'0" athletic bigs falling in the draft these past couple years (no, really, Javale McGee wants to know)?
Others: there aren't any others. At least none that I know anything about.
Annnnnd there you have it. Flame away.