(From the FanPosts. An annual favorite ... -- TZ)
Ah yes. It's time for the 2nd Annual Positional Rankings Post, wherein I predict the fortunes of the draft picks, and which provides great fodder for future arguments as you can always pull the name Jeff Teague out of the hat and make me crazy.
Watch, I can prove it: "Jeff Teague"
DAMN you. GIVE IT SOME TIME!!!!!
See how that works? But before you write my inner-Nostradamus off completely, here are last year's predictions so you can judge for yourself how I did. And in case you're wondering: After TEARING IT UP IN TURKEY, Josh Heytvelt is now playing for Brandon Jennings' old Italian team. Next stop: world domination.
But enough about last year! 2010 Positional Rankings after the jump.
Note that these rankings are based on who I think will have the best career, not necessarily in the order I think makes sense for the Kings. If I don't mention a player it's because I haven't seen them play and didn't find a good YouTube replacement video. Everyone else I've seen in at least several games unless otherwise mentioned.
My basic draft philosophy:
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 (and watch me ignore that hello DeMarcus Cousins my old friend!!)
1. John Wall – It’s become trendy in some parts to treat John Wall as something other than the best draft prospect in the draft by leaps and bounds, and some contrarians are busy whispering that Evan Turner or DeMarcus Cousins is actually a better prospect. This is insane. It’s not super exciting when the guy you thought would be #1 by a mile at the beginning of the season is #1 by a mile at the end of the season, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s still #1 by a mile. Wall has freakish Reke/Wade-esque finishing ability, he's dynamite in transition, he's an elite athlete, and he has some great vision. If he develops more consistent outside shooting and gains experience he could be one of the top players in the entire league.
2. Avery Bradley – Yes, indeed! It’s time for this year’s Jeff Teague, i.e. the player that I think is underrated but who will probably sit on a bench for a good team and we won’t know for a few years whether I should be merely chided or laughed straight off the website. Bradley is incredibly quick and athletic, he’s a tenacious defender, he has an unbelievably advanced midrange game for a freshman, and he’s a very creative passer. He needs to improve his shooting consistency, but make no mistake: Bradley can play PG and he is seriously talented. Think of him as a farther-along-at-the-same-age Russell Westbrook.
3. Eric Bledsoe – Bledsoe is a tough prospect to read. He is wildly talented and athletic and is capable of acrobatic shots as well as some impressive (though streaky) outside shooting. On the other hand, he often plays out of control and seems very immature: early in the season he had to be taken out of a game 30 seconds in because he managed to get into a shouting match and no one could calm him down. The question with Bledsoe is whether he has the maturity and work ethic to capitalize on his gifts and obvious intensity. I don’t know the guy, so who knows.
4. Armon Johnson – The dropoff from Bledsoe to Armon Johnson is steep. Johnson has good size, he’s pretty quick and can get into the lane, but his jumper is really weak. Since his point guard skills are also somewhat lacking you’re basically looking at a 6’3" shooting guard who can’t shoot.
5. Ben Uzoh – This guy is a phenomenal athlete and streaky scorer who can play some D, but is really more of a SG. He may be destined for a Ronnie Price career trajectory, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he landed somewhere.
Sherron Collins and Jerome Randle: Sub-6’0" point guards have a really tough time in the NBA when they’re not blindingly fast. Collins and Randle are quick, but I’m not sure that they’re quick enough.
1. Evan Turner – He may well be the best SG in this draft, but I’m not really a fan. Much like our own Tyreke Evans, Turner is a crafty ballhandler and scorer who can change directions, get his own shot, passes decently, and is a subpar outside shooter. But here’s the problem: Turner is not as athletic as Evans (or Brandon Roy for that matter). He’s not nearly as quick, he’s not explosive, and he doesn’t have the same uncanny finishing ability. He also is an almost unparalleled turnover machine: his 4.4 turnovers a game represent half a turnover more than Wall, who is often knocked for being turnover-prone. Turner has to dominate the ball to be effective, but is he really good enough, efficient enough, and athletic enough to justify that in the NBA? And if he’s playing off the ball how is he going to contribute? He definitely has enough shot-creation and finishing ability inside 15 feet to be a solid player, but I don’t see a star.
2. James Anderson – Anderson is a versatile scorer with deep range both catching and shooting and off the dribble. Unfortunately, while he's a fairly good leaper, he is not very quick and is not the greatest ballhandler, so against good defenses he struggles to create his own shot. Still, he’s a very solid all-around player and his ultimate potential probably comes down to how well he adapts to the NBA three-point line.
3. Xavier Henry – An underwhelming athlete whose only offensive skill is catching and shooting. So: Jason Kapono. Or Kyle Korver. Or Martell Webster. You get the idea.
4. Jordan Crawford – Crawford had a pretty stellar end of season run, but I’m still not totally convinced of his NBA potential. He’s only 6’4", and while he’s fearless at the end of games, he’s also fearless about launching ill-advised shots and forcing drives. He’s pretty athletic and we all know he dunked on LeBron James in a summer camp, but I don’t know if he’s quite athletic enough or quite talented enough to make up for his lack of size. Basically: I worry that he's more Rashad McCants than Eric Gordon (or Marcus Thornton for that matter).
5. Terico White – White is another guy who can get up off the floor and is capable of some spectacular dunks, but he’s not that great creating his own shot. He is also slightly undersized for a SG at 6’5", but he’s a pretty good shooter and can handle the ball.
Elliot Williams – Very similar to Gerald Henderson in terms of size, athleticism, and game. And no, that isn’t exactly an endorsement.
Quincy Pondexter – He’s definitely athletic and had a strong season, but since he’s not a good shooter and not a great ballhandler I don’t really see what he’s going to do in the NBA.
Willie Warren – Just…. no.
Lance Stephenson – Somewhat crafty scorer, but really not that quick.
Greivis Vasquez – The poor man’s Francisco Garcia.
1. Wesley Johnson – There is always a place in the NBA for athletic guys who can shoot. Johnson already projects as a JR Smith type of player who runs the floor and shoots 3s. But like Smith, Johnson doesn’t really have a versatile offensive game. He’s not effective taking the ball to the hoop or getting to the line, and he’s not good pulling up off the dribble. With his athleticism and shooting ability he seems like he could step in and be a solid contributor relatively quickly, but he won’t be a star unless he can learn to put the ball on the floor and vary his offensive game.
2. Paul George – George looks the part of an NBA small forward. He’s got the athleticism, size (6’9"), he’s a pretty good ballhandler, and he can shoot from outside. The problem is that he plays and acts like he’s already convinced of his own greatness. He takes horrible shots, shoots for a very poor percentage, coasts on defense, is careless with the ball, and is the type of guy who will make an awkward fast break layup and then yell at the opposing bench like he’s LeBron James. Dude. Come on. You played in Fresno. George has a whole lot of potential, but he needs a whole lot of polish.
3. Stanley Robinson – There is also always a place in the NBA for 6’8" freakish athletes with crazy hustle who can play lockdown defense and knock down open jumpers. Robinson could be an ideal glue guy/bench energizer on a team where he’s not counted on to score points, especially alongside a passing PG who can get him alley-oops. But his success is going to depend a lot on landing in the right situation.
4. Damion James – Good but not great at pretty much everything: good but not great athleticism, good but not great size, good but not great shooting, good but not great handle. He had four good but not great years at Texas during which he never really seemed to get all that much better. Despite all that, he may just be good but not great enough to be a solid bench player in the NBA.
5. Al-Farouq Aminu – So why do I rank Stanley Robinson and Damion James ahead of Aminu? It’s all about the jump shot: Aminu doesn’t really have one. You have to be unbelievably good at other facets of the game to stay on the floor in the NBA when you’re a small forward who can’t shoot. While he’s a pretty good rebounder, offensively Aminu is both clumsy and has terrible fundamentals. Look at how Darius Miles’ and Hakeem Warrick’s athletic gifts never really translated because they couldn’t put the ball on the floor and they couldn’t shoot. If Aminu learns some offense he could be a force. But he’s so uncoordinated I just don’t see it happening. A bust in the making.
Devin Ebanks – The quintessential smooth 6’9" small forward who can dribble, pass, run the floor, looks like a great prospect…. Only he can’t shoot. And that just never works. Billy Owens. Julian Wright. Earl Clark…. Devin Ebanks.
Gordon Hayward – When a player’s best case scenario is Mike Dunleavy Jr. that should really tell you all you need to know.
Luke Babbitt – A good shooter and able to score in a variety of ways. The problem is that he's so slow he makes Adam Morrison look like Carl Lewis.
1. Greg Monroe – Here is the paradox that is Greg Monroe: 1) When it’s all said and done I think he’s going to be the best power forward in this draft. 2) The idea of drafting him makes me crazy. Monroe is extremely skilled, he's 6’11", he can shoot, dribble, run the floor, he is quick for his size, and he will be one of the elite passers in the NBA the second he steps on the floor. He is one of the most multi-talented offensive bigs to come into the league in a long long time. The problem is that despite his better rebounding this season he is earthbound, soft, he was a key player on two Georgetown teams that wildly underachieved, and he is a rather terrible defender, of which the Kings already have too many. All that said: Petrie will draft him. He just will. They've probably already sewn the jersey.
2. Craig Brackins – You know how Bonzi Wells realized he screwed up by not accepting the Kings’ offer and he signed with the Rockets but was never the same again? That was kind of the season Brackins had. After making the headslapping decision to return to Iowa St., Brackins struggled through a disappointing year during which he mainly was content to launch threes and contested long twos. He showed some signs life at the end, but this bad season obscures what a uniquely talented player Brackins really is: how many athletic 6’10" power forwards are comfortable putting the ball on the floor like a guard, pulling up from midrange, posting up, and shooting well from outside? This is still the guy who dropped 42 points on Cole Aldrich. If he rediscovers his heart he could be a serious sleeper.
3. Derrick Favors -- Other than Favors' admittedly very impressive reverse alley-oop against Clemson, this is what happens way too much when you go looking for Georgia Tech highlights: Oh wow! Oh wait, that was Lawal. Oh wow! Oh wait, that was Lawal. Oh wow! Oh wait, that was Lawal. One of the biggest questions I ask myself when thinking about pro potential is: What can this guy do in the NBA? Well, I don’t think Favors is skilled enough to consistently score on the block, and while I’ve seen him hit the (very) occasional 15 footer and he has a soft touch around the rim, he really doesn’t have much of an offensive game. Barring rapid improvement on offense you’re looking at him mainly as a rebounding/shotblocking/hustle guy. Only: he doesn’t really hustle, he’s a disappointing shotblocker given his athleticism, he's slow running the floor, he never showed aggressiveness, and he wasn’t even the best rebounder at Georgia Tech (again, that would be Lawal). Favors has lots and lots of potential: it’s not hard to squint and imagine him becoming the next Amare. But he was just so underwhelming in college that I can’t shake the feeling he’s going to end up being someone everyone would have been thrilled with if they drafted him at #15, but not so much at #2 or #3.
4. Ekpe Udoh – Udoh can do a little bit of everything offensively. He can score inside with either hand and he can shoot from outside. He’s not a great shot creator and he needs to add strength, but because he's both a good shooter from 15' and a good passer, he could be pretty deadly operating out of the high post. He needs to add strength if he's going to be a good rebounder, but he has some real shotblocking potential.
5. Patrick Patterson – Patterson diversified his game this season and added a consistent outside jumper to the mix. At 6’9" and not freakishly strong he’s somewhat undersized for PF, but because he is quick and has that outside jumper he could be a Udonis Haslem type, with an outside chance at Carl Landry territory. I’m not really a fan of undersized power forwards, but Patterson has the offensive and athletic gifts, as well as the hustle, to be one of the exceptions.
Ed Davis – Looks the part of an elite power forward and is a talented rebounder, only he has shaky hands and not much touch around the basket. He could be a pretty good rebounding/shotblocking PF, just don’t count on him for offense.
Gani Lawal – Relentless hustler, incredibly strong, improved his skills a lot this season. If you need toughness and rebounding, he’s your guy. Outshone Favors most of the season.
Donatas Motiejunas – What I know about him is mainly limited to YouTube videos, and from what I’ve seen he looks and plays a lot like Andrea Bargnani. With all of its attendant pros and cons.
Jarvis Varnado – Athletic and long-armed, which translates to some very good shotblocking. He’s not very polished on offense after four years at Miss. St., but he has the skills, as well as the cool name, to be the next Bo Outlaw.
Larry Sanders – The question about Sanders is whether he will ever be strong enough to be a good rebounder and post defender in the NBA. He needs to be, because shotblocking alone isn’t enough to keep him on the floor.
Trevor Booker – You have to love the ferocity that Booker plays with. You’d love it even more if he were taller.
1. DeMarcus Cousins – At this point the only person in America who has had their sanity questioned more often than DeMarcus Cousins is Lindsay Lohan. Cousins has real serious 20/10 potential - he's strong, he has great footwork, terrific hands, and is solid offensively both with his back to the basket (with an unstoppable jump hook) and facing up out to 15'. However, IN CASE YOU HAVEN’T HEARD, question marks abound about his conditioning, maturity, and heart problems of the motivational variety. Will he be Kenyon Martin, threatening to put his hands on someone when they prank him but otherwise able to keep it together? Or is he Eddy Curry, never sufficiently motivated to capitalize on his talents? His future (and the franchise that drafts him) hangs in the balance.
2. Hassan Whiteside – Unfortunately I was never able to watch Marshall play this season, so this rating is based solely on some grainy YouTube videos. Which naturally make him look pretty awesome. Long, extremely athletic, able to hit outside shots, incredible shotblocker. People compare him to Marcus Camby. What’s not to like? Well, there’s a reason YouTube is YouTube. They don’t show weaknesses.
3. Cole Aldrich – Notable for being quite possibly the least exciting draft prospect in the last ten years. You know he’s solid. You know he has a place in the NBA. And the idea of drafting him makes you want to fall asleep. Don’t worry. It can’t be helped. An entire fanbase is going to groan when his name is called and then promptly talk themselves into the pick the next day.
4. Daniel Orton – Um. Who knows? He’s big and athletic, but this season he basically just served as a foul machine. Your guess is as good as mine.
5. Solomon Alabi – He’s tall
Jerome Jordan – If you like your centers skinny and weak, Jordan is your guy.
Brian Zoubek – If the Collins twins could have long NBA careers why not Brian Zoubek?
My personal Kings draft board, balancing need and BPA (according to my own twisted logic):
Let the Teague jokes commence.