If you're a long-time reader of Bucks blogs then the name Brett Boyer will be quite familiar. Along with Jeramey Jannene, Brett was the voice of the excellent (and excellently named) Bucks blog The Bratwurst for a number of years, and this fall he's launching his own fantasy hoops guide called "The Fantasy Basketball Book." In it you'll find detailed player projections, draft rankings for all sorts of fantasy formats, and fantasy strategy articles. Below you'll find Brett's review of he 2012 NBA Draft, and keep an eye on www.fantasybasketballbook.com (it hasn't launched quite yet). You can reach Brett with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. - Frank
Through several years of analysis, I have developed an NBA draft ranking system that distills the numbers of college and international players into several categories that appear to correlate well with NBA success. These include a player’s overall box score numbers, their rebounding rate (the single skill that translates most accurately into the pros – it’s something that a guy either can do or can’t), and ratios of assists, blocks and steals to turnovers and fouls. I also take into account a players’ age and how highly regarded they were coming out of high school. My system has done a good job of catching some of the most egregious mistakes and identified some of the best sleepers over the last 7 years, and gives a great starting point for analyzing the NBA draft. Some of the calls I’ve made over the last few years were loving Kevin Love and hating OJ Mayo, identifying Evan Turner and Wesley Johnson as potential busts, pegging Paul Millsap and Rajon Rondo as worthy of top-ten picks, and screaming "bust" when confronted with Adam Morrison and Hasheem Thabeet. My analysis goes back to 2005, the first year US players were required to wait one year after High School before entering the draft.
I’m also going to project how many of this year’s draftees are likely to perform this year. I’m able to create those projections by analyzing the rookie year performances of players that were ranked in similar draft positions as this year’s draftees. For example, Anthony Davis’ is the #1 rated prospect in my projections, and the most comparably rated power forwards since 2005 include Kevin Love, Tyrus Thomas, Derrick Favors and Blake Griffin. Averaging their production as first year players (and then slightly adjusting for the individual’s skillset, such as Davis’ shot blocking) gives a forecasted per-game average for each player. I calculated 2012 projections for all first rounders, plus second rounders that were ranked in my top 30.
Overall, I was very impressed with this year’s draft. There were a lot of starting-caliber players available, and there really weren’t that many egregious errors. GM’s seem to be looking closer at "production" than "potential" these days, after a decade of being burned by the Marvin Williams’ and Thabeet’s of the world. First I’m going to take a look at each pick, and then highlight some teams that were winners and losers.
#1, Anthony Davis, New Orleans
Davis ranks as the second best prospect since 2005, trailing only Greg Oden (Oh well). There’s not much more that can be said about his ability to dominate games without scoring, his performance in the NCAA tournament final illustrated that. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Davis, though, is that he was attracting some interest from mid-major college programs as a 6’3" shooting guard before his growth spurt into the #1 high school player in the country. This is a basketball player who became big, not a big kid who plays basketball. About the only question mark about Davis is whether he will be able to gain some weight without losing some athletic ability, but his instinctive rebounding and shot blocking ability should remain as he matures. How unique is Davis’ athleticism? Last year Davis blocked 186 shots and had 54 steals, while committing only 78 personal fouls. This ratio of 3.08 blocks or steals per foul is by far the best I’ve seen among drafted players since I’m been keeping track (second best was Hassan Whiteside in 2010, with 2.5 blocks/steals per foul). With only 8 players, and two frontcourt members, currently under contract the Hornets are going to turn the power forward position over to Davis, and based on the strength of his shot blocking and rebounding alone he should be a solid NBA player from day one (assuming the sprained ankle he suffered this week isn’t still affecting him).
Projected 2012 numbers: 33 mpg, 14.7 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.9 spg, 2.3 bpg, 2.2 to
#2, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte
Kidd-Gilchrist’s character and motor attracted the scouts’ attention, but it appears that GM’s were almost more attracted to what he is not, which is a polished offensive player. Kidd-Gilchrist’s offensive game consists mostly of headlong dives to the hoop at this point, although nobody seems to doubt his ability to improve. Of course, this gives scouts and GM’s plenty of time to sit back and dream about how good he might become someday, ignoring the fact that he is still pretty raw. So given all the positives about Kidd-Gilchrist, over the long haul will he really be the second best player to come out of this draft? Most likely he won’t be simply because the odds are against him – there are plenty of talented players that got taken after him. He only ranked as my #7 prospect, but it’s tough to complain about Charlotte’s selection of him, they need NBA players, and they need guys who are likely to eventually realize their potential. While Kidd-Gilchrist might not quite have the upside of a couple other players in this draft, he’s going to be pretty good. I’m not sure he’s an All-Star though.
Projected 2012 numbers: 33 mpg, 11.7 ppg, 6 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.8 to
#3, Bradley Beal, Washington
The knucklehead removal project in DC is almost complete, with only the eventual amnesty cut of Andray Blatche and the firing of GM Ernie Grunfeld remaining (who was responsible for putting that whole mess together). People seem to be falling over themselves to call Beal a Ray Allen clone with a dash of Dwyane Wade thrown in (which is a pretty good description of Ray Allen 15 years ago). Despite having a disappointing season at Florida last year compared to some of the hefty expectations he faced, he showed enough skill to rank as the #3 prospect in my rankings. His mere 34% 3-point shooting percentage last year was cited by some as a worrisome factor, although year-to-year deep shooting percentages are often very fluky. Beal should be a starter not too long into the season and eventually is going to be very, very good.
Projected 2012 numbers: 33 mpg, 13 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.3 bpg, 2.2 to
#4, Dion Waiters, Cleveland
I had Waiters ranked as my #8 prospect, and had him tabbed as a sure-fire draft day steal. Of course, that assumed he would be taken somewhere in the mid-first round. Taken this high, however, it appears Cleveland may have reached a bit. Waiters refused to work out or even interview with the Cavs, as his representation shut his workouts down fairly early in the combine process. Apparently, Waiters received a draft promise from someone, widely believed to be Phoenix at #13. But his work on the court at Syracuse has caught the eye of the Cavs’ brass, as Waiters’ smooth, efficient offensive game underscored his talent despite his coming off the bench all season. My issue with the pick isn’t so much who Cleveland took, but rather their team-building strategy. Wouldn’t this have been the right place to pick Andre Drummond? After all, it’s easier to get scoring wings than big centers, and Cleveland is set to be well under the salary cap this coming offseason. James Harden and Luol Deng are two players who may well be available, for example. Granted, the bust potential for Drummond is extremely high, but the Cavs are a team well suited to take that risk. Their biggest problem with building a championship contender during the LeBron James era was that LeBron was so dominant from day one they never had the draft picks they needed to choose a second star player. Compare this to Oklahoma City’s experience with Kevin Durant, where two years of growing pains with him yielded high enough picks to add Russell Westbrook and Harden. Irving appears to be good enough that this might be Cleveland’s last chance to draft in the top 4 for a while, so perhaps trying to pick up a potential star would be better than getting a guy who should be good but not great.
Projected 2012 numbers: 30 mpg, 13.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.2 bpg, 2.1 to
#5, Thomas Robinson, Sacramento
This was the perfect pick for the Kings. Most of the predraft talk suggested Sacto was interested in Andre Drummond, which would have been a huge mistake. Adding a young, impressionable player with a tendency to coast on talent to the King’s core of coach killers DaMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans would have ruined Drummond. Robinson, however, brings a combination of maturity and complementary skills to the Kings’ rotation, and the added benefit of being so ripped he can possibly physically intimidate Cousins into paying attention to the team concept. The guy’s shoulders are so big he doesn’t look like he even belongs on a basketball court, but instead an MMA octagon. My numbers only had Robinson as the #11 prospect in this draft, although his stats at Kansas this year were skewed by the clear fact that Bill Self was simply asking the guy to do way too much. Robinson had the ball in his hands enough to commit 104 turnovers last year, while was asked to defend enough to pick up 107 personal fouls. The only other drafted player to reach triple digits in those two categories was Michigan State’s Draymond Green, who had a similar role this season as his team’s offensive focal point and defensive lynchpin. Robinson is a fantastic rebounder, grabbing 0.373 boards per minute last year, the best rebound rate of all draftees. That is the single skill that best translates from college to the pros, indicating that while Robinson might not be able to translate his offensive success from college, given his fairly limited, mistake prone offensive skillset, he should fit right in as a running mate with the more offensively polished Cousins. And his personality should be a big help in that locker room.
Projected 2012 numbers: 28 mpg, 10.2 ppg, 7 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.6 spg, 1.4 bpg, 1.5 to
#6, Damian Lillard, Portland
The Blazers had two lottery picks, and used both to draft for need rather than taking the best player available. One wonders how much input new GM Neil Oshey had on the pick, since he only took the job in early June. Lillard isn’t that much of a reach, ranking as my #13 prospect, and sitting even with Kendall Marshall as the #1 point guard. Lillard’s intriguing long-range game (41% from 3 point range last year at Weber State) and body (6-foot-8 wingspan) made him a sexy pick, while he also apparently sealed the Blazers’ intentions when he had a great showing during an individual workout earlier in the month. There are a lot of great point guards in the league, but most of them are stars by age 22, not just arriving on the NBA’s radar at that age. If I was running the Blazers’ draft I would have looked at Harrison Barnes, John Henson, or Jared Sullinger before Lillard, and then targeted him or Marshall at #11. But that’s just me. Lillard may be a spectacular scorer, but I don’t really see NBA greatness here.
Projected 2012 numbers: 22 mpg, 9 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.7 apg, 0.8 spg, 0 bpg, 1.5 to
#7, Harrison Barnes, Golden State
I love this pick. Barnes ranked as my #9 prospect, so the pick represents fair value, while Barnes’ deep shooting ability should help turn the Warriors into one of the most dynamic offenses around. Between Barnes, Stephen Curry, Dorell Wright, Richard Jefferson and Klay Thompson, the team now has 5 players capable of shooting over 40% from 3-point range, while the passing skills of Andrew Bogut should keep the ball in the hands of open men with regularity (unfortunately, Bogut doesn’t command a double team any longer, however). Barnes has been criticized throughout his college career for an inability to step onto the floor and be a combination of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, but his shooting ability, smooth floor game and willingness to fit into a team concept almost guarantees he will be a successful NBA player. He might not quite be the athlete he was advertised as coming out of high school, but the worst case scenario for Barnes’ career appears to be "big-time scorer and borderline All-Star." What more could you want from the #7 pick in the draft?
Projected 2012 numbers: 28 mpg, 10.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1 spg, 0.4 bpg, 1.6 to
#8, Terrence Ross, Toronto
Ross appears to be the first real big reach in the draft, as his college shooting numbers sparkled but his secondary ratios only placed him in the middle of the pack in my projections, making him my #19 prospect. Ross has good size for the swingman positions but was a perimeter-oriented player in college, and needs to be able to develop more of an inside game to be effective. He totaled 44 steals and 33 blocks last season, showing good versatility, but gambled far too much to record those stats, picking up 97 fouls. The selection of Ross seems to indicate that Toronto’s management doesn’t know what to make of their roster. Already stacked with thin, defensively-challenged players and uncertain what last year’s first round pick Jonas Valanciunas will bring to the table (as well as committed to a push to sign Steve Nash) the Raptors appeared to try and pick the most "solid" player they could get. Unfortunately, they got a guy who appears to mirror the skills of DeMar DeRozan, but without the upside.
Projected 2012 numbers: 24 mpg, 8.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.4 bpg, 1.1 to
#9, Andre Drummond, Detroit
Credit Joe Dumars for not drafting like his job depends on this pick, even though it just might and "safer" picks such as John Henson, Austin Rivers and Perry Jones remained on the board. Drummond ranked as my #4 prospect, and when determining comparables to build his 2012 projection, I found his pre-draft ranking to be most similar to DeMarcus Cousins, JaVale McGee (that’s good!), Kosta Koufos and Patrick O’Bryant (that’s really bad!) So it seems that three years from now there is about a 50/50 chance that Drummond will be on track to make an All-Star game or out of the league. Drummond’s sleepy demeanor reminds way too many people of Kwame Brown and sub-30% free throw shooting recalls Chris Dudley, although he also has the raw athleticism of Dwight Howard. The bust rate for big centers – especially those who weren’t #1 or #2 picks – is exceptionally high, and probably because to be successful these players simply have to love the game. Think about it, centers get their butts kicked by some of the biggest athletes in the world game after game and have to come back for more. For a kid who plays the game because he happens to be huge, vs. playing it because he loves it, that’s a tough mental challenge to overcome. Drummond says he loves the game but now he will have to prove it on the court. If he does, he could be the heir apparent to Howard as the East’s dominant center in 5 years. But he’s likely way too raw to play much this year.
Projected 2012 numbers: 15 mpg, 5.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.8 bpg, 1.1 to
#10, Austin Rivers, New Orleans
As the consensus #2 high school player in the country last year, Rivers’ lone season at Duke was seen as a disappointment, as rumors swirled that he is "uncoachable" and thinks he is Kobe Bryant but without the talent. That doesn’t worry me, as a little immaturity and overinflated self-confidence can be expected from almost any 18 year old. However, his numbers last year suggest he might not be nearly the athlete he was advertised as. Rivers only totaled 33 steals and ONE blocked shot. That combined total of 34 ranked as the third lowest total among US-based draftees (ahead of Khris Middelton, who played 20 games, and Doron Lamb), and was a major reason Rivers was only rated as my #22 prospect. This pick could wind up being a major mistake, as the Hornets appear to have committed to building around an Eric Gordon/Rivers backcourt, neither of which might be able to play the point full-time. Rivers should be a solid player – top high school recruits such as him usually pan out – but if last season’s numbers are any indication, stardom is unlikely, and he might not find his niche in a Rivers/Gordon backcourt.
Projected 2012 numbers: 28 mpg, 3.1 rpg, 1.7 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.3 to
#11, Meyers Leonard, Portland
I wouldn’t get my hopes up too high for Leonard’s long-term prospects. As discussed in the Andre Drummond commentary, the bust rate for centers taken in the mid-first round is exceptionally high. Also, it worries me when pundits were making excuses for his mediocre production with lines like, "he played on a college team with really poor chemistry." Why should that matter? It’s not like his teammates were throwing the ball over his head on purpose because they didn’t like each other. Leonard’s high shooting percentage kept his overall numbers respectable, but his rebounding rate was in the middle of the pack for draftees, which is an ominous sign for big men entering the NBA. If you are only average at grabbing boards above college players who are mostly smaller than you, how are you going to do against guys who are bigger, stronger, and older? It appears that Portland’s always-in-flux front office went out of their way to replace Joel Przybilla, right down to a similar draft position, Midwestern roots, and, well, "whiteness". However, I went to the University of Illinois and watch more Illinois hoops than any other team, and there was never anything about Leonard that struck me to mark him as big-time NBA material. His game just seems to me to be more awkward than how lots of other analysts seem to assess it. I have a hard time projecting him as much more than a 15 minute player, but as my #14 prospect, he wasn’t that much of a reach here. Size like his is hard to come by, but so are starting caliber big guys at this stage in the draft. Portland wanted a big man, but in the long run is likely to regret passing on John Henson or Terrence Jones here in order to chase a "true center."
Projected 2012 numbers: 14 mpg, 4.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.7 bpg, 0.6 to
#12, Jeremy Lamb, Houston
Yet another player in the UConn "athletically gifted but sleepy demeanor" lineage (Andre Drummond? Rudy Gay? Josh Boone?) that Jim Calhoun seems to have patented. Lamb stands 6’5" and has an amazing 7’1" wingspan, which he used to assemble a respectable ratio of 1.11 blocks and steals per foul. However, he was only rated as my #18 prospect, well behind players such as John Henson, Jared Sullinger and Terrence Jones that were still available, as his overall numbers were pretty average. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has been accumulating picks in hopes of pulling off a Dwight Howard trade, and Lamb’s less-than-stellar college production suggests to me that Morey may have made this pick more in anticipation of interest from other teams in potential trade scenarios rather than taking someone he really wanted. Lamb might be able to use his physical gifts to become a starting-caliber player at some point, but his game needs a lot of refinement.
Projected 2012 numbers: 24 mpg, 9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.5 to
#13, Kendall Marshall, Phoenix
Phoenix was one team that was rumored to have made a predraft promise to Dion Waiters, and once he was selected the Suns clearly went ahead and drafted based on need. They appear to be throwing up the white flag, signaling the exit of Steve Nash in free agency and the beginning of what will likely be a long overhaul of one of the oldest rosters in the league. Marshall was my #12 prospect and even with Damian Lillard as the top point guard, so he does represent pretty good value at this stage. Typically point guards take several years to fully take over an NBA team, but Marshall will get his chance early. However, there probably won’t be very many wins to show for it, as the Suns are likely to undergo a wholesale rebuilding project over the next couple of years and a full-on assault on the #1 pick and the right to select Jabari Parker 2 years from now.
Projected 2012 numbers: 30 mpg, 12.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.1 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.1 bpg, 2.4 to
#14, John Henson, Milwaukee
The steal of the first round, no question. Henson is painfully thin, but highly skilled and athletic for his size. Henson’s block and steal rates may pale in comparison to Anthony Davis but were far better than anyone else in the draft, while Henson also rated as the third best rebounder available, collecting 0.342 boards per minute last year (a feat that was even more impressive considering he played alongside Tyler Zeller, the 4th best rebounder in the draft). Henson’s rebounding and shot-blocking should translate well to the NBA game, and he was easily my #2 prospect. He won’t start right off the bat, but this pick gives the Bucks a solid collection of shot-blocking 20 mpg frontcourt players, along with Samuel Dalembert, Larry Sanders, and Ekpe Udoh. Henson’s offensive game is a little more limited than one would like, as his back-to-the-basket game is relatively inefficient, although he is athletic enough to run the floor with authority. Henson should be good enough to start ahead of Drew Gooden by midseason, and in the long term, if he is able to gain a little weight without losing much athleticism and increase his offensive efficiency, he could become an All-Star over the next few years.
Projected 2012 numbers: 22 mpg, 9.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.6 spg, 1.3 bpg, 1 to
#15, Moe Harkless, Philadelphia
Harkless put up very similar numbers to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in his one season at St. Johns, and led all NCAA freshmen in minutes played. Harkless shot only 21% from 3-point range in college, and will have to improve his jump shot dramatically to make an impact at the next level, while, at under 210 pounds, likely needs to gain some weight to be effective on defense. Coming to a team with as much depth as the Sixers means Harkless is likely to sit deep on the bench this year, but as my #10 prospect he has a good chance of becoming a starter in the next few years.
Projected 2012 numbers: 15 mpg, 5.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.2 bpg, 0.9 to
#16, Royce White, Houston
White was the recipient of a lot of predraft hype for his bowling ball physique, ability to power his way to the hoop, and upfront attitude about his efforts to overcome an anxiety disorder and fear of flying. White’s numbers may skew his ranking in my calculations negatively, as his unusually high 130 turnovers were offset by 170 assists, by far the highest assist total among big men in the draft, trailing only Kendall Marshall and Marquis Teaque (the point guards on the two most talented teams in the league) among all drafted players. However, where most observers see a passing big man with skill, my rankings saw a mediocre assist/turnover ratio. White rebounds well also, but a relatively low rate of blocks and steals accompanied with a high foul rate suggests he might lack the lateral quickness to be an effective defender at the NBA level. White was only the #31 prospect in my rankings, but his 54% shooting and passing skills likely means he was underrated by my system and represents good value here.
Projected 2012 numbers: 16 mpg, 5.8 ppg, 4 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.4 bpg, 0.8 to
#17, Tyler Zeller, Cleveland
While Cleveland’s strategy of grabbing who they felt was the best player available at #4 and trading up to bag a starting center here seems solid, I can’t help but feel they came away with less than meets the eye. Zeller is an efficient shooter and excellent rebounder with decent mobility and good size for the position (7 feet, 250 lbs), but having played 4 years in college I worry his ability to translate his college success to the pros may be a mirage. One problem with top-level college teams today is that since all the best talent flees to the pros within a couple of years, by the time a player like Zeller reaches his senior year he will have either a significant talent or age advantage over his counterparts. At some point, a 21 year old big guy becomes something of a man playing with boys (although, to be fair Zeller did total 56 points and 29 rebounds in games against Duke and Kentucky last season). Of the 5 centers taken in the first round this year, Zeller is the only one seemingly mature and skilled enough to be plugged into a starting lineup this year, but is unlikely to improve much over the next few years. Zeller ranked #30 in my projections, and while he shouldn’t be a bust, he has limited upside.
Projected 2012 numbers: 26 mpg, 9.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.7 spg, 1.7 bpg, 1.3 to
#18, Terrence Jones, Kentucky
Jones slipped in the draft due to some perceived concerns about his attitude and poor on-court body language, but based on talent alone was worthy of a much higher pick. Jones’ 6’9", 252 pound body comes straight from power forward central casting. Jones’ athleticism shows up in a strong 1.29 blocks and steals per foul ratio while he also shot 50% from the field. Jones is a work in progress, but at only 20 years old when the season begins, has plenty of time to grow into an NBA role. Based almost solely on his strong upside, Jones rated as my #5 prospect, although he is likely a year or two away from seeing significant playing time.
Projected 2012 numbers: 16 mpg, 6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.6 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.6 bpg, 1 to
#19, Andrew Nicholson, Orlando
The focal point of the Bonnies’ offense, Nicholson shot 57% last year and despite being known as mostly a back-to-the-basket threat, also shot 43% from 3-point range also (albeit on only 53 attempts). He also blocked two shots a game. He’s a black hole, though, only registering 33 assists vs. 80 turnovers last year. At 22 years old, Nicholson has a rep as being hyper-efficient but not a great athlete, which suggests he won’t be as able to get his shot off and will have a hard time cracking an NBA rotation, especially if the Dwight Howard/Ryan Anderson frontcourt remains intact in Orlando. Once Howard is traded, however, Nicholson might get a look as the man in the middle, although Nicholson’s lack of passing ability would likely doom that experiment. Nicholson was my 36th ranked prospect, and he appears unlikely to eventually crack a starting rotation.
Projected 2012 numbers: 12 mpg, 4.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.2 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.3 bpg, 0.5 to
#20, Evan Fournier, Denver
Fournier might not even come to Denver this year, given their deep team and nearly $50 million in salary commitments, and while only 19 years of age he only rated #32 in my draft projections. He did average a team-leading 14 ppg for Poitiers, a first division French league team, which is no small feat for a teenager. He managed this while shooting only 28% from the three point line, which indicates he either has a solid inside game or, at 6’7", was consistently able to overpower subpar competition. If the Nuggets were willing to roll the dice on a player that might not even play this year then Jared Sullinger would have been a much better pick, but when the salary cap is part of the equation, waiting on Fournier’s potential sounds like an appealing prospect.
Projected 2012 numbers: 8 mpg, 2.5 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.2 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.5 to
#21, Jared Sullinger, Boston
Finally, the free fall for my #5 ranked prospect comes to an end. Sullinger’s draft stock was killed by rumors that he is suffering from a back condition that may cost him the entire 2012-13 season (which his camp denies), while worries about his weight and lateral quickness also dogged him. But there are no questions about Sullinger’s character and leadership ability, and you can’t argue with the numbers. He was a highly effective college player who averaged over 0.3 rebounds per minute last season, so despite a game derided as "below the rim" he clearly has enough quickness to go get the basketball. Maybe he won’t ever make an all-defense team, but his crafty offensive game might get him onto an All-Star team at some point. Kevin Garnett inked a three year extension with the Celtics, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Sullinger is starting ahead of KG before that contract runs its course. It won’t be long before the comparisons to Carlos Boozer begin.
Projected 2012 numbers: 26 mpg, 10.2 ppg, 7 rpg, 1 apg, 0.9 spg, 1 bpg, 1.6 to
#22, Fab Melo, Boston
Following a tumultuous career at Syracuse, which included an academic suspension, one gets the feeling that Melo never really was able to display his true talent in college. Of course, being able to roam the paint at the back of Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone means Melo may have had his weaknesses hidden by his college experience as well. Melo’s ratios of 21 assists to 43 turnovers and 88 blocks vs. 85 fouls are underwhelming (not the number of blocks, but the ratio of blocks to fouls), so despite 57% shooting his overall numbers pushed him down to only #37 in my rankings. He only played two years in college, but is already 22 years old, so his opportunity to gain experience before his physical skills peak is slipping away. I think Danny Ainge saw the opportunity of holding two consecutive draft picks as a great chance to take one sure thing and one risk, but between Sullinger and Melo, which one is the greater risk is up for debate. Arnett Moultrie would have been a better pick in this spot.
Projected 2012 numbers: 12 mpg, 4.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.2 spg, 0.78 bpg, 0.8 to
#23, John Jenkins, Atlanta
Jenkins is a lights-out shooter (44% from 3-point range) but is completely allergic to defense. How can a guy play an entire 35-game season, play 34 minutes per game and yet commit only 42 fouls unless he isn’t even trying to stop anyone? His offense lacked diversity as well, as out of 458 shots last season, 305 were from behind the arc. Hopefully the hot shooting continues for my 34th ranked prospect, or the two year contract that comes with being a first round pick might be the last guaranteed NBA money he sees.
Projected 2012 numbers: 10 mpg, 1.2 rpg, 1.1 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.9 to
#24, Jared Cunningham, Dallas
Cunningham rated as my #15 prospect, ranking him solidly as a steal this late in the draft. He has a good overall floor game although a 1:1 A/To ratio indicates he is likely unsuited for a switch to point guard. He has great hands, racking up 91 steals last season, and may have the potential replace Vince Carter as the Mavs’ starting 2 guard in a year or two.
Projected 2012 numbers: 15 mpg, 5 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.2 bpg, 0.8 to
#25, Tony Wroten, Memphis
On draft night, Jay Bilas went on and on about how Wroten, "Is just like Rajon Rondo – he can’t shoot either," implying that Wroten has the same ball hawking mindset and distribution abilities. That’s completely wrong, as Rondo was solid distributor and a jump shot away from being a complete player coming out of college. Meanwhile Wroten’s 1:1 A/TO ratio and 132 turnovers indicates he is better off playing off the ball, while his 16% 3-point and 58% free throw percentages indicate he’s better off playing without the ball altogether. Wroten is only 19 years old, and as my #25 rated prospect represents good value with this pick. Just don’t expect him to be Rajon Rondo. Tony Allen might be a better comparison in the long run. However, he was a good risk at this point in the draft, especially for a team that seems to be getting by just fine without any other shooters on their roster.
Projected 2012 numbers: 15 mpg, 5.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.6 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.4 to
#26, Miles Plumlee, Indiana
With a solid starting 5 and a fairly deep 8-man rotation, Indiana wasn’t looking for much more than insurance with their first round pick, and that’s pretty much what they got. Plumlee will be 23 years old by the time the NBA season starts which limits his upside, meaning that despite excellent rebounding numbers and 61% shooting he fell all the way to #52 on my prospect list. Plumlee should be able to carve out a roster spot as a low-mistake player who can grab some boards, use his 6 fouls, and block a shot once in a while. He’s a 10th man, but one who could be very valuable for a winning team. I would much rather have taken Arnett Moultrie here, though.
Projected 2012 numbers: 10 mpg, 3.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.7 to
#27, Arnett Moultrie, Philadelphia
Moultrie was selected by Miami and traded to the Sixers, but I can’t really see why the Heat wouldn’t have gone ahead and kept him. Sure, the new, more penal luxury tax means that a $1 million salary would cost the Heat $3 million, but Miami just won a title and has an eye on getting 3 or 4 more in the next few years. Isn’t Moultrie exactly the sort of player the Heat needs? Isn’t their problem with the luxury tax more a function of signing too many old guys than drafting young ones? Moultrie rated as my #27 prospect. Raw offensively, he is a good rebounder (11th best rebound per minute rate among draftees) but he doesn’t appear to be very instinctive, totaling only 25 steals and 23 blocks last season. What sort of an athletic 6’11" player gets more steals than blocks? It’s too bad he got traded, since it seems he could have been pretty good in Miami, where he would have had the inside track on a 15-minute-a-night job that fits his athleticism: rebound, run the floor, and hack people. Instead, in Philly a deep roster and Doug Collins’ known aversion to playing rookies means that Moultrie will likely spend more time in the NBDL or behind the bench in a suit than on the active roster. Hopefully that doesn’t kill his career before it gets started.
Projected 2012 numbers: 8 mpg, 2.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.2 spg, 0.3 bpg, 0.4 to
#28, Perry Jones, Oklahoma City
Just a few years ago, being a highly recruited, athletic player with a solid character and an overly passive on-court demeanor made Marvin Williams the #2 overall pick. Now that description makes Jones fall to the end of the first round (although Jones also slipped due to a medical red flag, suggesting he may need surgery for a meniscus issue). To call Jones passive on the court is an understatement; a more accurate assessment is that I’ve never seen him play, because in every Baylor game I watched he was totally invisible. For all of Jones’ perceived talent (and apparently he can look like a world-beater in a workout), his average shooting numbers (50% from the floor, 69% from the line) and uninspiring blocks and steals total (48 combined in 33 games) slotted him at #29 in my projections. Based on talent alone he is a worthwhile pick here, and the collegiate atmosphere surrounding the Thunder locker room and proximity to his Dallas home (Jones is very close to his mother, who has some serious health problems) has to be just about the best possible place in the league to set him up to succeed. The only question is whether he wants to take the ball and run with it. Fortunately for him, the pressure will be off until the salary cap forces Serge Ibaka out of town in a couple of years.
Projected 2012 numbers: 12 mpg, 3.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.3 spg, 0.6 to
#29, Marquis Teague, Chicago
The 19-year-old Teague ranked as my #28 prospect, so one can’t quibble with the value of the pick, but even with Derrick Rose likely out most of the 2012 season, why would you take a point guard here? Teague did a nice job running the floor for the national champions, but he had a massive amount of talent at his disposal, and besides a good assist total (how hard is it to get those with Anthony Davis hanging around the rim?) his other numbers weren’t all that impressive. Granted, the last time the Bulls drafted a John Calipari-coached point guard they struck gold, but wouldn’t a shooting guard like Will Barton have made more sense here? (Unless the Bulls’ master plan is to hold Rose out all year, start Teague and take their lumps, amnesty Boozer, let Asik walk, trade Deng for expiring contracts, and tank the season – walking into next offseason with a high lottery pick, a healthy Rose, and $25 million in cap space. Hmmm……)
Projected 2012 numbers: 15 mpg, 4.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 2.8 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.2 to
#30, Festus Ezeli, Golden State
The Warriors have spent the last decade pretending defense doesn’t exist, so given the chance to grab the backbone of the worst defensive team in all of college basketball, they might as well, right? Ezeli is a big, fairly bouncy center with some rebounding and shot blocking skill (52 blocks) but is better off not handling the ball much. Ezeli managed 89 made baskets, 8 assists, and 58 turnovers this season. The average draftee had 167 more baskets and assists than turnovers, Ezeli had 39. He ranked #56 on my prospect list and looks like little more than 12th man material.
Projected 2012 numbers: 6 mpg, 2.1 ppg, 2 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.2 spg, 0.3 bpg, 0.4 to
#31, Jeffery Taylor, Charlotte
My #48 prospect, Taylor made it three Vanderbilt players taken so far. The Bobcats finished last year desperate for shooting (and everything else), and Taylor made 42% of his three pointers last year. Of course, the Bobcats also drafted another small forward in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, added shooting in Ben Gordon before the draft, and still have Gerald Henderson on their roster, so they could have likely gotten more usefulness out of the pick by going big here. Draymond Green or Jae Crowder would have made a lot more sense.
Projected 2012 numbers: 6 mpg, 2.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 0.2 apg, 0.2 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.2 to
#32, Tomas Satoransky, Washington
A 20-year-old swingman from Spain, Satoransky is a stash pick who appears to have been taken based more on his friendship with Wizards forward Jan Vesely than anything else. He might make it to the NBA someday, as he ranked #46 on my list, but he’s going to have to gain some weight (6’7", 201 pounds) and improve on his 30% 3-point shooting to pull it off.
#33, Bernard James, Dallas
A 27-year-old center who served multiple stints in Iraq and Afganistan before resuming his college career, James’ journey to the NBA makes for an inspiring story. James managed 82 blocks against only 68 fouls last season, but remember that he was a 26-year-old playing against 19-year-olds, so those statistics might not transfer to the NBA very well. Due to his age, he was my lowest rated prospect to be drafted.
Projected 2012 numbers: 6 mpg, 3.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.2 spg, 0.4 bpg, 0.5 to
#34, Jae Crowder, Dallas
At only 6’5", Crowder is undersized for a power forward, but his hard-nosed, low-mistake style gives him a great chance to be a contributor in the league for a long time. Crowder ranked #17 on my draft board and while his size likely means he will never be a starter, his energy and ability to do a little bit of everything on the floor should make him a valuable bench player and crowd favorite.
Projected 2012 numbers: 10 mpg, 3.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.4 to
#35, Draymond Green, Golden State
The second consecutive pick where first round talent went in the second round, Green did a little bit of everything at Michigan State and was my #20 prospect. Green’s numbers were very similar to Thomas Robinson’s – he stuffed the box score in every category, including turnovers and fouls, indicating he was likely asked to do a little too much in college. He was a big-time rebounder (0.321 boards per minute), and while he is a little undersized for a power forward, his overall skill level and shooting ability (38% 3-point shooting on 134 attempts) indicates he might be able to fill in as a starter should David Lee miss any time this year. This is the guy that Golden State should have taken at #30 instead of waiting until the second round.
Projected 2012 numbers: 12 mpg, 3.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.4 bpg, 0.6 to
#36, Orlando Johnson, Indiana
Johnson will be 23 by the time the season starts, and following the pick of Plumlee, clearly the Pacers’ strategy in this draft was to find players that can help them fill out their bench and contribute immediately. Johnson is a very good shooter (43% from 3-point range) but had middling numbers otherwise. I have Will Barton ranked significantly higher, but as the #35 prospect and a more mature player, Johnson represents reasonable value here.
#37, Quincy Acy, Toronto
Acy is a 6’8" jumping jack that fills up highlight reels, blocking 70 shots last year and inspiring hours of You Tube dunk remixes. Acy ranked #21 on my list, but he seems to be the type of player who has already maximized a fairly limited skillset. He shot 58% from the floor but only put up 7 shots per game despite averaging 30 minutes per night. Shooting a high percentage on relatively few shots is the telltale sign of a player who is smart enough to realize he doesn’t have much offensive game, so he only takes the easy ones. He committed far too many fouls last year, a habit that needs to change if he’s ever to be more than a 10 mpg player in the NBA. Hopefully he sticks around for a while, though, because if he does he will probably wind up showing off in the dunk contest at some point.
Projected 2012 numbers: 12 mpg, 4.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 0.4 spg, 0.3 bpg, 0.6 to
#38, Quincy Miller, Denver
While Perry Jones got most of the press for being a highly rated Baylor recruit who didn’t do much on the floor, Miller was a similarly high recruit who did even less once the balls started bouncing. Despite being only 19 years old, Miller fell to #41 in my rankings after posting pretty poor numbers across the board. Top-5 high school recruits like him usually pan out fairly well in the league, so even though he’s not going to do anything this year, he represents a good long-term gamble for the Nuggets.
#39, Khris Middleton, Detroit
Middleton played only 20 games last season after suffering a knee injury, and that and turmoil surrounding the Texas A&M program, are often cited as the reason why his numbers were fairly disappointing during his junior season. I don’t know about that, his per-game numbers last year look about the same to me as the year before, and while he was the #42 prospect this year, if you plug in last year’s stats and take a year off his age he only rises to #31. Call me crazy, but if I’m drafting a 6’7" player based on his athleticism, I’d like for him to have blocked more than 17 shots in a three year college career.
#40, Will Barton, Portland
It’s funny, for all the teams in the league that couldn’t wait to get rid of Jamal Crawford over the years, it’s the team that had him last that drafts his 6’6", 174 pound doppelganger. Barton was a highly regarded recruit and put up pretty solid numbers across the board, ranking as my #16 prospect. Of all the players taken in the second round this year, Barton has the best chance of eventually becoming a starter, as long as he adds some strength and consistency to his 3-point shot.
Projected 2012 numbers: 10 mpg, 3.7 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 0.6 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.1 bog, 0.6 to
#41, Tyshawn Taylor, Brooklyn
Taylor has good size, quickness, and defensive skills but his overall numbers last season were underwhelming. He ranked as my #44 draft prospect, and may be able to carve out a role as a backup point guard.
#42, Doron Lamb, Milwaukee
Bucks GM John Hammond made this draft a repeat of 2010, when he picked a lanky, athletic power forward in the first round (Larry Sanders) and then a shooting specialist 2-guard from Kentucky in the second (Jodie Meeks). Lamb shows promise as a shooter, but it’s hard to believe he will wind up a starter on a playoff team like Meeks. Lamb rated #43 on my prospect list, and his draft ranking was torpedoed by him managing only 19 steals and two blocks last year while racking up 72 fouls. This indicates something: either his defensive instincts are terrible, he’s not all that athletic, or his primary defensive responsibility was to stop opposing fast breaks by grabbing guys as they went by him. His shooting skill alone, however, might keep in the league as a 10th man for a few years.
Projected 2012 numbers: 8 mpg, 3 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.2 spg, 0 bpg, 0.4 to
#43, Mike Scott, Atlanta
A power forward who will already be 24 years old by the start of next season, Scott ranked #53 on my draft board. However, Virginia played at a very slow pace last year, making Scott’s numbers look more pedestrian than they really are. He was a candidate for ACC player of the year last season, and may be able to stick around for a while.
#44, Kim English, Detroit
As the #49 prospect, English actually ranks as the second best shooting guard from Missouri on my list, behind Marcus Denmon. Apparently, English played himself into the draft at the predraft Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, when the 6’6" guard/forward was successfully able to fill in at point guard for his team. That sort of versatility and 45% 3-point shooting last season makes him worth a look at this point in the draft.
#45, Justin Hamilton, Miami
The 7-foot, 260 pound Hamilton doesn’t appear to have the requisite athleticism to make it in the NBA, especially on a high-powered team like the Heat. He’s huge and may replace Eddy Curry as the Heat’s 12th man, but otherwise will likely wind up making use of his Croatian passport, which would allow him to play in Europe without counting against a team’s allotment of Americans.
#46, Darius Miller, New Orleans
At some point it becomes tough to judge players from great teams like Kentucky, because there simply aren’t enough balls to go around for everyone to post great numbers. Miller was my #47 prospect, will forever be known as the 6th UK player to be selected in the 2012 draft. He will likely break camp with the Hornets, who simply need bodies, but is unlikely to make much of an impact.
#47, Kevin Murphy, Utah
Another player who helped himself at Portsmouth, Murphy was a 20 ppg scorer at Tennessee Tech and has good size for a combo shooting guard/small forward. Whether he has the skillset to transition from big-time college scorer to NBA role player is a good question, and Murphy is most likely to spend the 2012 season lighting it up in the NBDL.
#48, Kostas Papanikolaou, New York
Despite the crowd’s reaction at draft night, this is a pretty good pick. Popanikolaou is a valuable 20 mpg reserve for Euro powerhouse Olympiakos at 21 years old, and he is productive enough to rank #26 on my draft board. He’s unlikely to come to the US this year, and if he does, he’s not going to play much behind Carmelo Anthony, but he’s got enough talent to be worth taking here.
#49, Kyle O’Quinn, Orlando
What, the Magic already soured on Andrew Nicholson so they decided to take an identical player? Nicholson and O’Quinn each put up very good scoring numbers at small schools (Norfolk State), although O’Quinn was a much better rebounder. He played his way into the draft by being named MVP at Portsmouth after averaging over 11 rebounds per game. O’Quinn represents excellent value at this point in the draft, rating as my #24 prospect, and could easily wind up being a better NBA player than Orlando’s first rounder.
Projected 2012 numbers: 8 mpg, 2.8 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.2 spg, 0.3 bpg, 0.4 to
#50, Izzet Turkyilmaz, Denver
Turkyilmaz is a 22-year old 7-footer from Turkey, who will be stashed in Europe for at least the next couple of years. He’s only playing 10 mpg for Banvit in the Turkish league and is putting up pedestrian numbers (#56 rated prospect), but is rumored to be fairly athletic. I wouldn’t place very strong odds on ever seeing him stateside, though.
#51, Kris Joseph, Boston
A four-year college player who led Syracuse in scoring last season, Joseph has a decent all-around game, but at only 207 pounds might not have the defensive chops to stick around physically in the NBA. He rated as my #45 prospect.
#52, Ognjen Kuzmic, Golden State
A fairly athletic Bosnian big man playing with Unicaja Malaga in the Spanish "B" league, it appears Kuzmic declared for the draft more as leverage in his contract negotiations with Malaga rather than in a real effort to come to the US (he signed a contract extension before the draft). If the guy doesn’t even want to play in the US why would the Warriors even bother drafting him? Why not just send Adam Silver to the draft podium with a joke name on it so he has to announce; "The Golden State Warriors select …. ‘Passy McPasserson’ " or "Joe Mama"?
Aldemir appears to have an NBA-level game, grabbing 0.304 rebounds per minute in the first year of a 4-year deal with Galatasaray, one of the top teams in Turkey. However, the deal doesn’t have an NBA out clause until 2014. He was my #39 prospect and is putting up pretty good numbers in the Euroleage at 20 years old, but he plays the same position as Blake Griffin, so odds are he will never don a Clippers uniform.
#54, Tornike Shengelia, Brooklyn
Drafted by Philadelphia and sold to Brooklyn, Shengelia is a 20-year old Georgian playing in France. He only rated as my #57 prospect, but has not played enough high-level basketball to place much stock in my numbers. Shengelia is advertised as a 6’9 power forward with good inside post moves, but he will likely stay in France for another year at least.
#55, Darius Johnson-Odom, LA Lakers
DJO shot the ball well last season but doesn’t have the requisite all-around game (#50 prospect) to think he will hang around the league for very long. However, at this point the recent success rate of Buzz Williams-coached players in the NBA makes him a worthwhile flyer pick. With the Lakers a taxpaying team following the acquisition of Steve Nash and looking to fill out their roster with inexpensive players in order to protect cap room next offseason, DJO has a good chance of sticking on the roster for a year or two.
#56, Tomislav Zubcic, Toronto
You know how people joke about the stereotypical Euro player – tall, skinny, hangs around the perimeter? That’s Zubcic, who has been a well-known prospect for several years but at 22 years old is still coming off the bench for his team in the Adriatic league. He ranked as my 59th prospect, and has little chance of ever making Toronto’s roster.
#57, Ilkan Karaman, Brooklyn
According to Draft Express, Karaman has drawn some comparisons to Kenyon Martin because – get this – his last name starts with "K" (leading people to call him ‘K-Mart’) and he has a tattoo on his neck. A brawny, 6’9", 240 pound small forward, Karaman’s numbers last season ranked him #40 on my draft board, and supposedly possessing a solid back-to-the basket game and deep shooting touch, he may make it to the US in a year or two.
#58, Robbie Hummel, Minnesota
After two ACL tears, Hummel has lost quite a bit of explosiveness and athleticism he once had, killing his draft stock. He still put up solid enough all-around numbers to rate him as my #33 prospect, and his ability to take care of the ball (only 32 turnovers) is very strong for a frontcourt player who handles it as much as he does. However, the lost athleticism will make it a challenge for him to be able to keep up defensively and earn a roster spot.
#59, Marcus Denmon, San Antonio
Denmon ranked #23 on my draft board, and given that he was selected by the draft experts at San Antonio, I’d say he has a good chance at making the team and hanging on for a while. Denmon is undersized, barely reaching 6’2" as a full-time shooting guard, but he can light it up, shooting 41% from 3-point range and 90% from the foul line last season. Denmon plays a mature, low-mistake game, registering 74 assists and 54 steals last season vs. only 41 turnovers and 34 fouls. The Spurs’ roster is pretty much set for next year already, so even if Denmon makes the team he is likely to get most of his playing time in the D-League, but he could be a contributor in the 2013 season.
#60, Robert Sacre, LA Lakers
The Gonzaga center doesn’t rate too well in my prospect list, sliding to #58, but at 7 feet and 260 pounds he has a good chance to at least make the roster and get the occasional chance to throw his body around and use his fouls here and there. Andrew Bynum doesn’t need to be looking over his shoulder, though.
What teams did the best, and who struggled on draft night?
Golden State: Adding Harrison Barnes, a player with star potential and very little risk, was a great coup that fits their style of play, while adding Draymond Green in the second round more than made up for the bizarre Ezeli pick at #30.
Boston: Even if the rumors are true and Jared Sullinger has to miss the whole year with a back issue, I can’t ignore how productive a player and what an on-court leader he was in college. I think his career arc will be very similar to Carlos Boozer, and am not scared of his perceived lack of athleticism. Fab Melo might be a much better pro than he was a college player, now that the pesky "learn English and try to attend class often enough to stay eligible" distraction is gone.
Dallas: The Mavs added several players who should be able to fill out the end of their bench and contribute immediately while also allowing them total cap flexibility to drop well under the cap next year or the year after, since three of their picks will be getting non-guaranteed contracts. They aren’t likely to get stars picking below #17, so why not get 3 guys that can do the job of $3 million veterans for $500,000 apiece?
Portland: Lillard and Leonard – two unknown quantities – are not what I would want from a pair of lottery picks. Barnes and Kendall Marshall would have been a better combination, while there is a chance that Lillard would have still been there at #11 had Portland gone in a different direction at #6 (Golden State wouldn’t have taken him, New Orleans appears to have been set on Austin Rivers, Detroit drafted a point guard last year and Toronto is setting up to pursue Steve Nash). Will Barton was a good pick at #40.
Orlando: With the Dwight Howard saga ongoing, the draft couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Magic brass. But apparently they were too distracted to notice that they came away with two nearly identical players, both of whom played at small schools and have major question marks about how well their skillsets will translate to the NBA game.
Toronto: Stuck drafting at #8 in a spot where most of the top players remaining didn’t really fit their roster, the Raptors wound up with a player in Terrence Ross whose skills duplicate most of those of one of their other starters (DeMar DeRozan), while the same can be said for Quincy Acy (Amir Johnson). The Raptors have so many question marks on their roster that it’s a shame they held a lottery pick and high second rounder and couldn’t come out of it having found any likely answers.
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