With less than a week left until the real drama of the 2013 NBA Draft unfolds, it's time to revisit my 2013 anti-NBA mock draft series with a renewed focus on evolution of the Draft Express top-100 big board. In a DX-related feature I posted two weeks ago, the draft stock of Cody Zeller and Shabazz Muhammad were falling, while Tony Mitchell's stock was rising. Some of those trends have held, while other new developments -- like the meteoric ascent of Giannis Adetokunbo -- have shaken things up heading into the final week.
If you're curious to learn more about the trends in NBA draft prospect rankings on ESPN and DX from early March until now, check out the other posts in my continuing series:
- Feature No. 1: Exploring the gap in talent created by young prospects who withdrew from the draft in April.
- Feature No. 2: Tracking trends on the DX big board
- Feature No. 3: Analyzing the evolution of the top-100 rankings from Chad Ford of ESPN.
Evolution of Draft Express' Top-100 Big Board
Notable Fallers (from highest rank to current rank):
|Cody Zeller (3-to-10)||Shabazz Muhammad (3-to-11)||Rudy Gobert (9-to-18)|
|Mason Plumlee (11-to-15)||Tony Mitchell (20-to-29)||Archie Goodwin (16-to-32)|
Notable Risers (from lowest rank to current rank):
|Alex Len (11-to-1)||Victor Oladipo (8-to-4)||Trey Burke (17-to-4)|
|C.J. McCollum (17-to-8)||Giannis Adetokunbo(30+-to-9)||Gorgui Dieng (24-to-14)|
How Can Alex Len Suddenly Jump To No. 1 While He's Still Injured?
Alex Len underwent surgery to stabilize a partial stress fracture in his left ankle in May and hasn't been able to play competitive basketball or participate in draft-related workouts, but he has somehow managed to vault (he's a former gymnast, by the way) from the No. 7 spot to the No. 1 spot on the DX board in recent weeks. How is this possible? And for that matter, what have fellow shelved prospects like Nerlens Noel (ACL) and Anthony Bennett (rotator cuff) done to move down?
These may be impossible questions to answer at this stage in the draft process, but the reason I chose to focus on big board rankings of online experts -- as opposed to the mock draft scenarios they dream up -- was to avoid this type of confusion. The game tape on these guys has been available for months, and they haven't been able to work out for teams, so it's odd to see drastic changes without any additional evidence to go on.
I understand why the rumors about the Cavaliers are considering Len at No. 1 would affect a mock draft, but big board rankings are supposed to be insulated from the rumor mongering. If Jonathan Givony and his staff believed Alex Len was the seventh-best prospect in the draft two weeks ago, why do they believe he's the best player available now? My best guess is that the final weeks are used to crowd source with NBA scouts and executives, and although these last weeks are always filled with strategic leaks and misleading rumors, the DX and ESPN crews parse out that information to enhance their own understanding of the draft landscape.
Len is a weird top prospect to me. He's touted as a skilled post player, but he converted just 38% of his post attempts last season at Maryland and 63% of his shots at the rim were assisted. He didn't exactly take over games, either.
So Len would be the first eligible college player since Olawakandi not to make it to the tourney the season he is drafted #1. Great sign.— Evan Zamir (@thecity2) June 18, 2013
He also played the entire season (unlike Nerlens Noel), yet when it came time for the ACC coaches to vote for the all-conference teams, Len failed to earn first-team, second-team OR third-team honors. But I'm sure third-team big men Akil Mitchell of Virginia and Ryan Anderson of Boston College are really good...
Then again, I'm clearly not a scout and I didn't watch a lot of Maryland basketball. Their run to the NIT didn't excite me. Some people have been on the Len bandwagon for a while, which does give me a bit of comfort.
Back in May, Jonathan Tjarks of SB Nation argued that Len has both a higher ceiling and a higher floor than Nerlens Noel, pointing to his potential as a two-way player. The underwhelming offensive numbers have since been blamed on two things: (1) poor guard play and (2) an improper diagnosis of his injury at Maryland, which he spoke about in a recent interview with Grantland.
Here's what I think: I'm fine with throwing lesser teammates under the bus for a mid-round prospect -- I've used (1) to justify my faith in Tony Mitchell -- but it's another story when you're a prospect at the top of a draft board who will be expected to dominate the game at the next level. I'm just not comfortable with that excuse. As for (2), I have no idea what actually happened, and since he's expected to make a full recovery I don't really care. Jalen Rose speculated that Maryland pushed him to play because it benefited the program (a run to the NIT? really?), but I could just as easily make the counter-point that if Maryland had shut him down early it may have depressed his draft stock and kept him around for another year.
Ultimately, I'm uneasy about Len jumping to No. 1. I don't understand how it happened and I can't wrap my head around the excuses used to justify his underwhelming profile.
Giannis Adetokunbo is a Top-10 Prospect Now?
Yes, apparently he is. The wiry small forward from Greece moved from unranked and unmentioned in early March, to a modest No. 27 overall ranking in late May, to the No. 9 spot by the middle of June. Let's try to figure out who the heck Giannis Adetokunbo is together.
At 6'9 with a 7'3 wingspan and freaky-large hands, the 18-year-old prospect playing professionally in Greece was bound to catch the eye of international scouts. He's been compared to Nicolas Batum and Thabo Sefolosha, but he's also a late bloomer who never had the chance to play against FIBA-level competition as a young athlete.
Even while playing for the second-best league in Greece he hasn't exactly dominated (7.9 ppg, 5.2 reb, 1.4 ast, 1.5 to in 20.4 mpg). In other words, he's a toolsy prospect with high upside, but his talents have never really been tested. It honestly looks like he's playing against eight graders at times in his scouting report video on DX:
He finally received the opportunity to play in an international competition outside of Greece in June, and that experience on the U20 national team produced mixed results in a game against Croatia (via Draft Express):
Starting at the power forward spot but regularly bringing the ball up the floor, he turned in a solid, albeit unspectacular performance, finishing with 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists by our count while putting many of his strengths and weaknesses on display for those in attendance.
Acting as a facilitator for his team in the half court and making a number of impressive plays in the open floor, Adetokunbo didn't look out of place competing with players one year his senior in most cases, but his lack of experience was evident. He had a number of rebounds ripped away from him, didn't always finish strong around the basket, and airballed a 3-pointer on one occasion--but later smoothly knocked down another. Directing his teammates as Greece ran its sets, Adetokunbo has a unique feel for the game considering his age and athleticism, and is undoubtedly a special talent, but is definitely still in the early stages of his development.
All in all Giannis probably didn't impact his draft stock significantly in either direction. People who liked him probably saw what they needed to see, while those that didn't surely weren't swayed by what he showed. A fairly substantial contingent of the 50 or so NBA scouts started to file out with 6-8 minutes left in the fourth quarter, which can't be considered a great sign. The stop and start nature of the game and overall poor officiating surely didn't help matters, but Adetokunbo will need to show more in the next two days if he wants to definitively boost his stock into the top-20.
For what it's worth, he is currently the No. 23 prospect on Chad Ford's big board at ESPN, up from No. 29 earlier in the month. Fran Fraschilla did a feature piece on him for ESPN two weeks ago, and he confirmed for me that this would be a long-term play on potential that would likely involve stashing him overseas for several years:
Based on what I saw, Antetokounmpo would have been one of the five best players in high school basketball last season. He stands out because of his playmaking abilities and 6-9 frame. I believe he is three years away from helping an NBA team, but his ceiling is high.
An NBA team that can be patient and even leave him in Europe for a season or two could be rewarded handsomely down the road. Antetokounmpo recently signed a four-year deal with Zaragoza in the Spanish ACB League and has a feasible buyout, I have been told.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Houston Rockets -- who are looking to avoid the cap hit of a draft pick to enhance their free agent buying power -- are rumored to be interested in Adetokunbo.
If he's going to take the league by storm, don't expect it to happen for at least another few years.
What Should the Bucks Do if Big Men Cluster at No. 15?
It's interesting to see that on the current DX big board we have Gorgui Dieng, Kelly Olynyk, Mason Plumlee, Steven Adams and Rudy Gobert in slots 14-18. The Bucks have no real need for a big man, but they do have a need for good players. Would Hammond have the testicular fortitude to go with a guy like Dieng if he couldn't find a good deal to trade down and Dieng was the highest-rated player on the team's board?
I'm sure Milwaukee's GM would work the phones under that scenario, but if nobody offered up value I wonder if he would he be willing to reboot the Ekpe Udoh experience (with Dieng) or to replicate the Larry Sanders show (with Gobert). I won't go into too much detail about why I love Dieng, but I like guys who can defend the rim and I want to pass along a chart from this site that details how good he has been on defense in the last three years:
The advanced statistical plus-minus table at that site covers the previous three seasons in the NCAA, and I encourage you to play around with it if you're interested in gaining some different insights on these prospects.
Updates on Shane Larkin, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jamaal Franklin
Shane Larkin (No. 19), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (No. 21) and Jamaal Franklin (No. 22) could create some difficult decisions for the Bucks on draft night -- all four players dropped one spot on the recent DX update due to the rise of Adetokunbo -- so I wanted to pass along some of the Synergy stats from recent articles on DX.
Shane Larkin's value proposition at the next level is simple, he created more combined points on the pick and roll for himself and his teammates last season than any prospect in the country at 14.3 points per-game. Playing in a pick and roll heavy, pro-style offense, Larkin kept defenses honest with his jump shot, which ranks second most efficient in this group at 1.137 points per-shot, and showed excellent command of the ball, turning the ball over on just 11.3% of his possessions creating in the two-man game. While scouts will scrutinize his size, his efficiency as a scorer and prolific shot creating ability seem tailor made for the NBA game.
Every year there's a player who makes considerable headway in endearing themselves to NBA decision-makers late in the draft process, and this season that player seems to be Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who backs up his late rise by joining Oladipo and McLemore among the more efficient scoring guards in this class, with a fourth ranked 1.035 PPP overall.
His play-type usage doesn't really stand out from the crowd, as he did a little bit of everything last season, but his 5.1 combined pick and roll and isolation possessions per-game does set him apart from McLemore and Oladipo, as he used more than twice as many possessions creating his own shot in the half court than any guard projected to be selected in the first round.
Caldwell-Pope's biggest weapon when he looked to score was his pull-up jump shot. With nearly three-quarters of his shot attempts coming from the perimeter in the half court, roughly half of which were off the bounce, he scored a second ranked 1.118 points per-shot as a pull-up jump shooter, an impressive mark relative to his average 1.066 points per-shot in catch and shoot situations.
If Caldwell-Pope has a weakness on paper, it is his average finishing ability relative to his peer group. A 55.6% shooter in transition and 53.7% shooter at the rim in half court situations, he hovers right around the mean in both categories. Turning the ball over on a sample second ranked 10.6% of his possessions, Caldwell-Pope's low turnover rate certainly helped compensate for his issues around the rim last season.
This study isn't very kind to Jamaal Franklin, who ranks as the second least efficient scorer in this group at 0.882 PPP overall. His sample worst 23.7% catch and shoot conversion rate and 17.3% turnover rate are the driving factors behind his limitations on paper. Getting to the line at a second ranked 18.5% rate and the only shooting guard prospect using more than one possession per-game in the post, Franklin's athleticism and versatility show here in various ways, but the team drafting him will be looking for him to provide value outside of the scoring column as he continues to work on his perimeter stroke.
Could Michael Carter-Williams Fall to No. 15?
These Synergy stats from DX scared the crap out of me w/r/t Michael Carter-Williams, so maybe they scare other teams too:
This study is not kind to Michael Carter-Williams who ranks as the least efficient scorer in this group at 0.746 points per-possession. His 22.1% overall turnover rate is the second worst among his peers, as is his 0.683 PPP in the half court. Those two stats are representative of the two key areas his scouting report notes he need to make strides in to reach his potential as a pro: his decision-making and perimeter shooting.
Turning the ball over on 28% of his pick and roll possessions, the highest among his peers, ball security was an area of concern for Carter-Williams in the half court last season. Sporting a 3.6 assist to turnover ratio in transition, he's more efficient as a playmaker in the open floor at this point in his career.
Carter-Williams' well documented issues as a shooter cost him here as well, as his 26.2% shooting on pull-up jumpers and 28% shooting off the catch are a major limiting factor on his scoring ability in the half court, resulting in his ranks as the second worst spot-up and 5th worst pick and roll shooter in this group.
Often lauded for his ability to score at the rim, a bit of fishing shows that Carter-Williams shoots a slightly below average 48.8% as a finisher in the half court, though he compensates by shooting nearly 60% at the basket as the ball-handler in transition.