I haven't had many profound thoughts lately; the playoffs have gone as expected (given Westbrook's injury, and then Griffin's) and there hasn't been any earth-shattering draft news. NBA Draft combine measurements were yesterday. A few things of note regarding some of the top prospects:
-Anthony Bennett is injured, was not present, and therefore was not measured. His actual height is still unknown as far as we know. That is a big deal. Bennett becomes a much better prospect if he's 6'7" without shoes - but I have a feeling he's closer to 6'5".
-Nerlens Noel weighed only 206 pounds. That is a skinny prospect, and actually should raise some concerns. Noel could add another 20 pounds and still be one of the thinner big men in the league. His weight might mean he is more naturally inclined to play power forward in the NBA as opposed to center. Injury and weight make Noel seem less of a surefire top prospect than he was in January. I would still probably take him first, but I can see why teams might be hestitant to do so.
-Both Victor Oladipo and Ben McLemore are less than 6'4" without shoes - not great size for a shooting guard. That's not a surprise, but it is somewhat significant. Oladipo has a huge wingspan, which should help make up for his height.
-Otto Porter, on the other hand, is really big for his position - almost 6'8" without shoes. I could see why a team would select him #1, although that appears unlikely.
-Rudy Gobert and Steven Adams, as expected, had great measurements. Both are big, big guys. You can't teach size, and each player has shown enough skill to make him worthy of being selected in the top ten.
-Michael Carter-Williams is almost 6'5" without shoes - huge for a point guard. That certainly helps his case for being drafted early.
As I wrote about extensively last year, rookie PER is an incredibly valuable statistic for predicting just how good a player can eventually end up becoming. Future star NBA players almost always post decent PERs right away. For big men that means a 15+ PER as a rookie, and for guards and small forwards that usually means a rookie PER of at least 13.So how did this year's class of rookies stack up? There are relatively few surprises; let's take a look at some of the notables:-Anthony Davis posted an exceptional 21.7 PER. Davis' excellent rookie season flew under the radar, but this guy is just as good as we all thought.-Andre Drummond only played 1243 minutes, but from a PER perspective he was just as good as Davis. The future looks very bright for Drummond; besides Davis he is the most promising rookie in his class.-Damian Lillard had an impressive 16.4 PER and played a ton of minutes; the likely rookie of the year clearly has star potential, particularly if he can improve defensively.-Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal and Dion Waiters - picks #2, #3 & #4 in the 2012 Draft - all managed to have PERs above 13. This is important, and shows that all three do indeed at least have the potential to turn into All-Stars. That said, it would not be surprising if none of them ever achieved that status.
-Pick #5, Thomas Robinson, looks to be a relative bust. His 10.9 rookie PER is very poor for a big man.-Jonas Valanciunas had a fine 15.6 PER; he looks to be one of the better players from the 2011 Draft.
-John Henson did not play much, but his 18.2 PER is very promising.-Orlando's Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O'Quinn both posted PERs above 15. They might have more potential than folks expect.-Jared Sullinger was having a decent rookie season for Boston before he went down with injury, but his 13.5 PER implies he will never turn into a truly dominant low post presence.-Similarly, Harrison Barnes and Terrence Ross both showed flashes of excellence this season, but their poor PERs make it highly unlikely they ever turn into star NBA players.-Mo Harkless posted a respectable 12.5 PER as a 19 year old while playing almost 2000 minutes. That's impressive, but the fact he couldn't get to 13+ still makes me doubt whether he can ever truly dominate in the NBA.
-Terrence Jones played very limited minutes for Houston, but posted a good PER. He is definitely worth keeping an eye on.-Evan Fournier's 13.8 PER is a good sign for a twenty year old swingman.
-John Jenkins quietly managed to post a 13.0 PER while getting minutes for Atlanta this season.-Big men Arnett Moultrie, Mike Scott and Quincy Acy are all longshots to ever become exceptional players in the league, but their 15+ PERs at least imply they could be very useful.
-Patrick Beverly was drafted back in 2009 and is 24, but his 15.4 PER shows he is a player with potential promise.
While the regular season taught us numerous small and interesting things, it did little to shake the big picture of the league. Besides the epic-fail of the Lakers, no team developments were shocking. And even the Lakers' surprising woes make sense when put into context, given L.A.'s injuries and age issues.
Before the season Miami was the favorite to win the title, and they still are. OKC, San Antonio and the Clippers are all legit contenders. Memphis is a fringe contender. Every other team is an extreme long shot to make it to the Finals.
Obviously in the East, given that Miami is the only dominant team, something weird could happen, and a team like Indiana or the Knicks could make the Finals. But this is highly improbable.
So, in my eyes, it is looking like we will have a rematch of last year's Finals, with the same outcome. I do think many people are undervaluing how dangerous the Spurs and Clippers can be in the postseason, but OKC is still my slight favorite to make it out of the West. The "real" season will start in a few days, and it should be fun.
I have been writing about the best prospects in the upcoming NBA Draft all season long, and there were a few things initially that seemed odd about this year in terms of when superior prospects began to separate themselves from the pack.
Through January, only Nerlens Noel seemed like a surefire top prospect, and he was the no-brainer first pick. But Noel then proceeded to go down with a serious knee injury, which slightly cast a cloud over his draft stock. He still might deserve to be selected first, but his ACL injury is unsettling.
However, at around the same time of Noel's injury, three other players elevated their game to a point where each could realistically be considered worthy of being selected first in June: Victor Oladipo, Marcus Smart and Otto Porter.
Noel, Oladipo, Smart and Porter have been the four best prospects in the draft for two months, in my opinion. I feel confident all four will turn into good pros, and they all have legitimate star potential. Any of them would provide me with comfort if I were picking early.
This is much more than I could say about the previous two drafts, where only Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving seemed worthy of being picked very high. The four top prospects this year might not be as great as Irving and Davis, but they all seem very promising.
So the 2013 Draft feels different than the last few years, and that will probably end up being a good thing. There are more "sure things" this year, even though such a thing does not really exist when it comes to drafting.
In regards to the other top prospects, there are quite a few interesting players out there. Trey Burke's stock has shot up recently, to where it should have been six weeks ago, but I still have slight reservations about his size, and the fact that he shot the ball considerably worse the latter portion of the season is not a good sign. Similarly, as talented as Ben McLemore might be, his relative lack of scoring for an elite shooting guard prospect makes me believe that his stock is overrated.
After the top 6 or so prospects, the uncertainty increases rather dramatically in my eyes. This is not a bad thing, just the reality of how most NBA Drafts work.
Listen, I understand that it is fun to speculate about future contracts, who is worth max money, and all that other assorted jazz. But there is absolutely no sane reason that so many different sources should be talking about John Wall's possible max extension with the Wizards right now, in the early Spring of 2013.Wall is eligible to sign an extension with the Wizards up until before the beginning of the '13-14 regular season. If the Wizards and Wall can't agree to an extension at that point, Wall will become a restricted free agent in July of 2014. The important word there is restricted. Even if another team offers Wall a max contract of approximately 4 years, $60 million, Washington can match it.In short, if the Wizards want to keep Wall, they can do so, no matter what. They really do not have to make a decision on whether Wall is worth max money until the Summer of 2014. If they do decide at that point he is worth the max, they can give him a four or five year max deal.Giving very early max contract extensions to players still on rookie contracts strikes me as daft. Especially in cases like Wall's, where the player very well might not be worth a max extension. The only bad thing that can happen by waiting to sign such a player is to seriously alienate him. But such fears I feel are heavily overblown, especially in a situation like this, where Wall is very self-aware of how he ranks on the point guard totem pole. Actually, Wall's sober assessment of how good he currently is as a player makes this whole situation even more astounding. Ty Lawson and Stephen Curry both signed for far less than the max this past Fall, and if I were the Wizards I would certainly try to get Wall to sign a similar deal to those two. The discussion should not be whether they offer him a four or five year max deal, but whether Wall will accept a 4 year, $50 million deal.Don't get me wrong - Wall is nice player, and he might be worth a max contract. But now, and the next six months, is not the time to decide this. Wall is a serious injury concern, and his play has only truly warranted a huge contract recently, and not in his first two and a half years in the league. The Wizards need to be realistic and understand that there is absolutely no point in giving Wall a max deal before the regular season opens next year, and that they would probably be best served to wait to give such a massive contract to Wall until 2014. Being the Wizards, I fully expect them not to heed this advice whatsoever.
I wrote a piece for BR today about Victor Oladipo's unique talent, and what it could mean in the NBA. Click here to read it.
NBA minds work in funny ways, and the collective consciousness sometimes misses things that should be obvious. I, like many fans and NBA scouts, had never heard of Sim Bhullar until this past weekend. He has not been on any draft boards I know of. Even though he is 7'5'' and was having a promising freshman season at New Mexico State. Never underestimate group-think mentality, and group laziness. At least a few of us should have had this guy on our radars much earlier than this. You will hear about Bhullar from now on; here's something brief I wrote for BR about him.
Point guard is arguably the toughest position to gauge future pro potential. Running a NBA team takes a lot of skills that are often hard (or impossible) to assess in college prospects. Because of the unique and hard to define demands of the position, many future All-Star NBA point guards have dropped in the draft over the years.
That said, when a point guard is selected very early in a draft, he usually turns into an excellent pro. It is an auspicious sign if a point guard prospect is regarded highly enough to be picked in the top 5, and especially promising if he is selected in the top 3. Let's look at all the point guards chosen in the top 5 since 1990; the players in bold were an All-Star at least once:
Allen Iverson, Derrick Rose, John Wall, Kyrie Irving
Gary Payton, Kenny Anderson, Jason Kidd, Mike Bibby, Steve Francis, Jay Williams
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Anfernee Hardaway, Chauncey Billups, Baron Davis, Deron Williams
Stephon Marbury, Antonio Daniels, Shaun Livingston, Chris Paul, Mike Conley, Russell Westbrook
Devin Harris, Ray Felton, Ricky Rubio
That's a very impressive list, with a high success rate and few busts. Of the 24 point guards drafted in the top 5 since 1990, 15 have been All-Stars. And 11 of the 15 taken in the top 3 have been All-Stars.
Basically any point guard prospect drafted in the top 3 we should expect to turn into an excellent pro, barring injury. Most drafted since 1990 have become All-Stars, and even those who didn't have been good. Bibby was a borderline All-Star talent, and Wall is moving in that direction. Jay Williams had a decent rookie year, but then was injured and never played again. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf wasn't a star, but was a good NBA player nonetheless. So the top 3 is a special place for point guard prospects. Picks four and five have obviously been very fruitful as well. Overall there are probably fewer busts among point guards selected in the top 5 than any other position. Point guards aren't picked in the top 5 every year, but when they are they usually turn out being worthy selections.
In terms of the 2013 Draft, this information is probably only relevant in regards to Marcus Smart (unless Trey Burke or Michael Carter-Williams really catch fire over the next few weeks.) If Smart is drafted early and can stay healthy, history says that he is almost guaranteed to become a very good NBA player.
As my recent draft review conclusions indicated, most NBA Drafts follow certain patterns. One of the main conclusions was that great players, the type who appear in many All-Star games, are virtually always picked within the top ten selections. In particular, superstars – like Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose – are almost always taken within the first five selections. Usually great players who drop out of the top five - like Dirk Nowitzki, Tracy McGrady and Amare Stoudemire - were unable to prove their value in college. With the establishment of the “Over 19” rule and the larger emphasis put on international scouting, superstars today seem even more unlikely to drop outside of the top five.
Particularly in recent draft history, pick #10 has been a cutoff point for greatness. Gilbert Arenas, Tony Parker and Rajon Rondo are the only players drafted since 1997 who have appeared in at least three All-Star games while being picked after #10. All three played point guard.This is what makes the 1996 NBA Draft so fascinating. It is not only one of the best drafts ever, but also probably the strangest. Some of its aberrations are understandable within historical context - and some are not. You could never predict an outcome of a draft as unusual as 1996. It truly was a black swan draft. It's important to acknowledge this, and to understand that occasionally everything does get thrown out of whack, and that no draft pattern is definitive. 11 players from the class of '96 made All-Star games - a huge number for one draft. 5 out of the first 6 picks became All-Stars: Allen Iverson, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen and Antoine Walker. The one player taken in the top six never to be an All-Star was Marcus Camby. So obviously the top of this draft was loaded. But that is not what 1996 is remembered for.
The main reason the '96 Draft is so highly regarded, and strange, is all the fantastic players picked in the middle of the first round: Kobe Bryant (#13), Peja Stojakovic (#14), Steve Nash (#15), Jermaine O'Neal (#17) and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (#20) were all selected there. Obviously it's Bryant and Nash that really stand out - the fact they were both selected in the mid-teens makes this draft exceptionally unusual, and then the draft's uniqueness is further bolstered by the combined 11 All-Star appearances that Stojakovic, O'Neal and Ilgauskas have made.
While no one could ever have expected such an amazing middle of a first round in a single NBA Draft, it does make more sense when put in historical context.
1996 was only the second year high schoolers were allowed to skip college and directly enter the draft. Bryant became the second high schooler to be selected in the lottery, following Kevin Garnett the year before. While Garnett had a successful rookie season, the idea of drafting a 17 year old shooting guard was understandably met with some apprehension in NBA circles. Despite Bryant's natural talents, teams were reticent to use a high pick on him. Nonetheless, the fact he lasted to 13th seems surprising, because supposedly Bryant had very good workouts with a couple of teams.
The same reluctance towards drafting high school players early also explains O'Neal dropping to 17th. It wasn't until the 1999 NBA Draft a high schooler would be selected in the top 5.
Similarly, foreign prospects were still regarded somewhat ambivalently by many NBA teams in 1996. So it is hardly surprising Stojakovic and Ilgauskas were not considered top-tier prospects. Their careers vastly exceeded expectations, but given context, their draft positions are not unexpected.
Nash falling to 15th is also not that hard to explain. He was a small college star, and questions concerning his athleticism made sense. These concerns were not unfounded, as Nash often struggled his first few years in the NBA. Plus, if any position lends itself to exceptional players dropping in the draft, it is point guard.
Despite all the rational explanations, the fact that all these stars dropped out of the top ten in one draft is pretty much unprecedented in NBA history. What makes the draft even more amazing is that Ben Wallace went undrafted out of Virginia Union University the same year. Wallace is arguably the best undrafted player ever, and a four time NBA Defensive Player of the Year winner.
So the 1996 NBA Draft was crazy, and it significantly defied many of the normal rules and patterns we associate with a draft. Also of note is that many future dominant players from the draft - like Nash, O'Neal and Wallace - struggled badly early on in their careers. Overall, 1996 vividly shows that you can never predict how a draft class will turn out. How we view a draft when it takes place, or even three years later, is often very different than how we will judge it with more historical distance.