Cleveland Cavaliers writer Sam Vecenie, who also covers college basketball extensively, joined Brew Hoop on Monday night to talk about the NBA draft and the top prospects the Milwaukee Bucks could target this summer. We covered a lot of topics, so to make things easier we've consolidated much of Sam's chat into a new post. Read up for some well-informed and interesting comments on all the top players in college basketball. Don't forget to follow Sam on Twitter for lots of draft info!
There's honestly a TON of great stuff to get to, so here's part one for now and part two will be coming soon.
ConoverBucks: What's all the hype of LaVine about?
Sam Vecenie: Zach LaVine is a really interesting case. I think the hype has gone slightly overboard on him. He’s an immensely talented, athletic kid with a ton of potential. He’s going to win a dunk contest probably. He has a pretty stroke, handles, and can jump, so those are pretty much all of the tools that you need to get hyped as a potential #1 pick.
I’m worried about his basketball sense right now, and he’s kind of a guy without a position. Unless he’s grown this year, I don’t think he’s actually the 6’5 he’s listed at, more like 6’3.5. He should definitely stay another year and refine his skill set.
Having said all of that, he’s an incredible talent that was clearly undervalued coming out of high school (he was somewhere around the 90th best recruit in his class). He’s a great kid to watch for 2015 though.
Frank Madden: Thought it was interesting that some people were throwing around Westbrook comparisons with him—my immediate reaction was that he could just as easily be Jerryd Bayless.
SV: Yup, exactly. I think he’s more athletic and can handle the ball a bit better than Bayless, but Bayless is certainly a better shooter.
There is an equal chance that LaVine ends up as a Bayless as he does a Westbrook. #10 overall this year based on what we’ve seen of him so far is crazy to me. I like him, don’t get me wrong. But he’s inconsistent, has no point guard sense yet, but still needs the ball in his hands to create for himself. I’d love to see Jordan Adams leave after this season just to see LaVine really let loose after a year of getting acclimated to the college game.
henson31: Embiid Number 1 overall?
SV: I have him at 3rd on my board right now, behind Parker and Wiggins. Could definitely see a team falling in love with him and taking him at #1 though. Whether or not that should be the Bucks? I’m not convinced given the guys they already have.
henson31: Should teams be worried about the perception that Wiggins can't or doesn't have the mindset to take over games?
SV: This is the exact reason actually that I have Parker slightly ahead of him. That scares me a lot. All of those big combo wings that were huge prospects/surefire players had something of a killer instinct. LeBron had it. Durant had it. Anthony had it. Even Michael Beasley had it on the court despite his noted off court issues.
Wiggins needs to develop that, and soon. He’s an excellent kid by all indications and really works hard, he just so far hasn’t shown that desire yet when it comes down to it. He needs to be a killer.
Steve von Horn: If he's not a killer, might he have an Iguodala career arc?
SV: An Iguodala or Gay arc is definitely possible for Wiggins. Not that that's bad by any means! But it's certainly not the peak of his potential.
mOraVeC33: Best PG not named Exum or Smart? Because I keep reading that both might not be "true" PGs.
SV: I’m pretty sure the only answer here is Jahii Carson, and he’s somewhere in that 16-20 range for me. The reason I say that he’s the "only" answer is because Andrew Harrison has shown he’s not ready for the league yet. He’s struggling a bit with his distribution, and is averaging nearly 4 TOs per minutes. Those aren’t bad stats at all, but they aren’t quite where they need to be. He’ll improve, and will most likely end up in the lottery next season.
As far as Carson is concerned, the closest comparison I can think of Isaiah Thomas of Sacramento or a better shooting Shane Larkin from last season. He’s a 5’9 PG that can really shoot the three and is quick enough to get to the rim regularly. He also has really solid vision. I have him 5th among PGs in assists per game among draftable players this season. He’ll always struggle to defend but offensively he’s as good as advertised statistically.
Frank: I remember [Andrew Harrison] was projected to the Bucks at #7 in Ford’s first mock of the year and people were really excited about it based on his pedigree, size, etc. But he’s seemed kind of tentative whenever I watch him—including vs. Louisville when he put up good numbers. Hasn’t really seemed to use his physical tools to their fullest potential.
SV: Yup, that's a very fair assessment. Looks like he's struggling with how to distribute the ball to all of these five star guys.
Frank: How would you rate Dante Exum vs. Marcus Smart...GO!
SV: I have no problem being honest about this one: I’ve only seen Exum play 3 or 4 times outside of the highlight tapes. That’s why I have him at 7 and Smart at 5.
I’ll talk about Smart though. Smart’s going to be a really strong two-way point guard. He’s an absolute truck of an athlete. Maybe one of the strongest players at PG I’ve ever seen. He can get to the rim at will because of that and his athleticism. The biggest thing with him is the shooting. He came out on fire this year with his jumper, but he’s regressed back to the mean a bit over the past few weeks. He’s definitely improved on his efficiency this year though generally, which is huge. I wasn’t much of a fan of his coming into this season, but I’m definitely there now. I just can’t see many PGs in the NBA being able to stop him from getting to the lane.
LastFirstism: So do you think Smart is best suited to play PG in the NBA? I am concerned that his struggles with shot selection and turnovers would make him a guy best suited to play SG in the NBA, given that he certainly has the physique necessary for the position.
SV: He has the physique for shooting guard, not the shooting for it. Plus he really likes the ball in his hands. He’s a definite point guard to me. His vision is good, he’s just a bit reckless. That will need to be fixed.
CanadaBucks: I'm all aboard the Embiid Train and rank Wiggins/Parker as my number 2 choice. My worry with Parker, what's his position? Is he another 3/4 tweener?
SV: He’s kind of a tweener, but I think he’ll be fine at either spot. You can play small ball four with him, or more conventional with him at the 3. This isn’t an Anthony Bennett situation where he’s a full tweener that really can’t play either of those spots. This is a situation where he can play both spots. He’s more "versatile" than "tweener" in my mind.
CB: So if you had Larry Sanders as your centre (CANADA ALERT), you would be confident with Giannis and Parker at the 3/4?
SV: Yeah, absolutely. Parker would be my pick for the Bucks.
Steve: Giannis is like the secret answer to the SF/PF tweener question for Parker, because Giannis can just slide into the other spot and guard the tougher opponent for Parker. It's almost too perfect.
BreakingBucks: Am I wrong about Parker, or is he already very close to his ceiling (and thus we are more impressed with him)? Out of the big 5 (Wiggins, Parker, Exum, Embiid, Randle) he seems like the least valuable to me. I feel like we already know what he is: volume scorer, avg defender, stretch 4, slow 3.
Frank: That's my concern--you go for the short-term polish over the long-term shine. You watch Parker and Randle and it’s clear these guys already have skillsets way beyond even your typical lottery pick. So I agree that maybe they have less room to improve. Then again, it also feels kind of silly to dock them for being so far ahead of the curve, you know?
SV: He’s certainly closer to his ceiling than the others are. The best comparison I’ve been able to come up with for him is a Melo that is fun to play with. He passes, he doesn’t take terrible contested shots like they’re his job.
He is very comparable to Melo though as far as when he has the ball in the triple threat, even down to the jab step. He’s a smart scorer that has every shot in the book, but still has the strength and athleticism to get to rim/post when he wants to. A Melo that’s fun to play with is what I’m going with.
ConoverBucks: I really like Gary Harris but he just seems to float around the top 10 on most people’s big board. What are some of the things that are limiting him from being a top 5-10 pick?
SV: I love Gary Harris. The shooting is going to translate. He loves playing off ball. He’s a tenacious, tenacious defender any time I watch him. I have him as my clear #8 prospect, kind of in a tier by himself.
I don’t think he necessarily has the high end potential that some of these guys do. But he’s going to be, at worst, an excellent role player that can shoot the ball and play off ball. He could be an all-star, but he probably settles into that Arron Afflalo range of player.