2012 NBA Draft Prospect Rankings Vol. 2: Dion Waiters Divides ESPN And Draft Express

I think Dion Waiters is pointing to his latest ranking on ESPN. Chad Ford has officially fallen in love, but what does Draft Express think of the Syracuse guard?

If you take joy in examining the process of the 2012 NBA Draft, follow along with my offseason project. I've decided to track the changes in the 2012 NBA Draft prospect rankings on ESPN and Draft Express up until the actual picks are made. This is Volume 2 of the series (Vol. 1 is embedded in the interactive chart and available here).

The NBA Draft Lottery is over, the picks are set and everyone is starting to lock in on the draft. Anthony Davis isn't going to move on any draft board, but guys like Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones III, Terrence Jones, Jeremy Lamb, John Henson, Kendall Marshall, Austin Rivers and Dion Waiters have scouts and GMs across the league divided on their potential as NBA players. That means the Bucks are right in the thick of things with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Let's see what changes occurred over the last few weeks.

The Concept

I recorded the big board rankings and updates from Draft Express and ESPN (as of 5/12 and 5/25) and complied a chart of the top 20 players on each site. The chart below is organized according to Draft Express' hierarchy (which is why you see the clean diagonal line of full circles) and ESPN is listed side-by-side as an open circle for comparison. The easy thing to remember is that open circles trending to the left mean ESPN is higher on a player than Draft Express, while an open circle trending to the right means ESPN is less impressed than DX.

Note: Be sure to take advantage of the embedded charts by navigating to Vol. 1 and DX/ESPN rundowns using the tabs at the top of the sheet.

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Notable Rises

On Draft Express

  • St. John's SF Moe Harkless jumped into the top-20 (No. 18).
  • Connecticut SG Jeremy Lamb moved up two spots, getting him into the top-10 (No. 10).
  • Kentucky F Terrence Jones moved up two spots, placing him in the top-10 overall as well (No. 9).

On ESPN

  • Syracuse G Dion Waiters jumped up seven spots from No. 15 to No. 8 overall.
  • Washington SG/SF Terrence Ross rose five spots, going from No. 18 to No. 13.

Notable Falls

On Draft Express

  • Illinois C Meyers Leonard dropped five spots, sliding from No. 15 to No. 20.
  • North Carolina F John Henson fell three spots and dropped out of the top-10.
  • Kentucky PG Marquis Teague and Vanderbilt SF Jeff Taylor dropped out of the top-20.

On ESPN

  • Kentucky F Terrence Jones fell from No. 8 to No. 14, marking the largest fall on ESPN's board.
  • Jared Sullinger, John Henson and Austin Rivers each dropped two spots.

Notable Disagreements

  • Both sites agree that Connecticut C Andre Drummond is a rare physical specimen who possesses exceptional quickness for his size and a player with prototypical skills to defend the pick-and-roll in the NBA, but he still needs a lot of work on the offensive end. DX has Drummond as the second-best prospect behind Anthony Davis, while ESPN currently thinks Thomas Robinson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are better prospects. My guess is that ESPN raises Drummond's ranking before DX drops it, especially with the workouts coming up. Drummond could still be an Eddie Curry "I don't really care about basketball" type, but he's probably going to wow people in workouts.
  • DX moved Terrence Jones up on their board while ESPN moved him down, so there is potentially disagreement on his overall value and how his draft stock is trending. ESPN has Jones listed at No. 14, while DX thinks he is the No. 9 overall prospect. Both sites note his versatility, but harp on his poor body language and questionable motor. DX thinks Jones can create more NBA mismatches as a matchup PF in an up-tempo offense (your antlers should be up, Bucks fans) due to his wide array of offensive talents and quick first step.
  • John Henson is currently listed as No. 11 on DX and No. 15 on ESPN. Henson is really skinny, and his offensive game doesn't extend very far beyond the paint at the moment. Can he hold his ground on defense in the paint? Can he establish post position on offense and/or finish in the lane against much stronger professional players? Those are the big questions.
  • Dion Waiters is the big ticket item in the disagreement section. Back on May 12, DX didn't have Waiters in the top-20 (ESPN had him at No.15), and now Chad Ford is drinking the Kool-Aid. Waiters has moved all the way up No. 8 as of 5/25 on the ESPN board while DX has him down at No. 19. As for why, let's explore that further.

Should Bucks Fans Bother To Get Excited About Dion Waiters As A Hidden Gem?

At Syracuse, Dion Waiters didn't contribute much in his freshman season (6.6 ppg on 41.1 percent shooting), but he stepped up as a sixth-man scorer for the Orange in 2011-12 and is now apparently making at least one anonymous GM say stupid things. In his story on Waiters, ESPN's Chad Ford quoted one NBA GM who said the following:

There are really only two potential superstars in this draft. One is a sure thing -- freshman Anthony Davis. The other one is Waiters. He can be an electric scorer in the NBA. There's some Dwyane Wade in him.

Dion Waiters: potential superstar and Dywane Wade derivative. Nobody is going to top that one. Even Ford immediately distanced himself from that statement, admitting that "[c]omparing anyone to Wade is going too far," but he happily ran with a Tyreke Evans comparison in the very next paragraph. Waiters has a nose for the rim and believes he can penetrate against anyone, but he and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim clashed back in 2010-11 and that has pushed character issues to the forefront of the draft process.

Waiters' body language didn't impress scouts as a freshman, and Boeheim called out his defense before last season began: "He had nothing to be frustrated about because he was 100 percent wrong. He played no defense last year. Not some. None." Waiters says he left Syracuse a man, and now he is focused on trying to "destroy" Jeremy Lamb, Austin Rivers and Terrence Ross in workouts.

At 6-foot-4, size is another issue. Ford thinks he flashes enough ball-handling skills that he could play some PG. His analysis ends with the claim that Waiters' skills are good enough to push him into the six-to-eight range after workouts. Meanwhile, Draft Express isn't buying into the hype.

There are two primary reasons DX isn't as enamored with Waiters: (1) he struggled against top competition and (2) he has trouble performing in half-court situations. In 2011-12, Waiters averaged 12.6 ppg on 47.6% FG and 36.3% 3PT, but those numbers dropped off significantly when the competition improved in conference play. During the 18-game Big East regular season, Waiters averaged just 11.6 ppg on 43.6% FG and 32.1% 3PT, which is a serious decrease in every category and more on-par with his underwhelming freshman year.

As DX notes, Waiters used 28 percent of his possessions in transition -- odd considering Cuse ranked 178th in tempo -- and occasionally did well in pick-and-roll, but he generally struggled to contribute in the half-court offense. Joe Truetlin of Draft Express cites Waiters' lack of "a true go-to skill" as the reason for his persistent problems when the court shrinks and the angles are blunted by defensive rotations. As it stands, Waiters winds up taking too many ill-advised shots when he can't overpower his matchup.

As for the D-Wade comparison and the top-10 ranking, Jonathan Givony offered his response in a Twitter Q&A:

Feel free to get excited about Waiters if you'd like, but make sure to pump the brakes a bit and take a step back from the D-Wade stuff before deciding on him. After GM John Hammond expressed the team's desire to add size during his postseason press conference, I wouldn't expect the Bucks to be in the market for an undersized SG. However, it could hinge on whether the franchise is willing to break up the Brandon Jennings - Monta Ellis backcourt. It's hard to imagine Waiters heading to Milwaukee if Ellis and Jennings are both still around, unless John Hammond was that anonymous GM Chad Ford quoted...(unlikely, but a fun way to end the article).

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