Final Draft Board 2011

OK folks, it's that time of year again.  Draft board time.  The fun begins below the fold. 

I tried something new this time around. One thing I've learned over the past year or so is that the ideal form of figuring out who can play in the NBA involves both statistical analysis and good ol’ fashioned scouting.

I think it is safe to say that the best player selection begins with the stat sheet and ends with interviews and eyeball tests. I think Houston assistant GM (and Wolves POBO dream candidate) Sam Hinkie put it best:  

Talk of a special sauce makes Hinkie nervous. Yes, he's a numbers geek and admits it. Yes, he and his staff devour forests of NBA numbers. Yes, he thinks it's comforting to know that while he can't personally watch all 1,230 NBA games in a season, his computer can analyze all 1,230 NBA games. But Hinkie doesn't claim those stats are the gospel. They are just one more piece to a complicated puzzle, and when you're dealing with players whose multi-million dollar contracts can make or break a franchise, every morsel of information helps. "Every team is looking to beg, borrow or steal any ideas any chance they get, Hinkie said. And don't think Hinkie studies only computer printouts.

I met Hinkie last December at the All-College Classic. He was scouting, which could get him kicked out of the numbers-geek union. While watching the likes of Oklahoma's Blake Griffin and Gonzaga's Jeremy Pargo, here's what Hinkie looked for. Does he talk to teammates? Does he talk to the crowd? Does he yell back at his coach? Does his coach baby him, and if so why? If he dunks off a lob, is it because the pass was perfect, or the play was a great setup, or did the defense go to sleep, or is the guy athletic enough to dunk without any of the above? "What we try to do is draw a clearer picture,,Hinkie said. The data trend will continue to be a part of our business, along with the judgment of experienced basketball evaluators and the unique chemistry building that coaches can create. This is yet another piece.

This is absolutely spot-on. In-game communication and team support may very well be an important part of winning. Attitude matters.  Communication matters.  Basketball intelligence matters.  Emotional intelligence matters.  How a player works in practice matters.  These are the sorts of things that require ol' fashioned scouting.  

This year, I have completely separated the two parts of the Hoopus Score (net and efficiency) as well as doing a bit more non-stats research and reading than I have in the past when looking at each of these players' games. The box score (in two columns: net and efficiency) provided the base upon which I made some fairly subjective decisions about who should be where.

Before I get to the final list, here is the net score, which consists of the following per 40 stats: ((reb+stl+blk+ast-to) + TS%)/games played.  This number is then weighted by estimated conversion to NBA production and a few things like age, strength of schedule, and defined NBA position (these are the items that I monkey with every year). This part of the score looks for players that shoot well and produce off the ball and it gives extra preference for those who are young.

Weighted production:

  • Kyrie Irving 16.8704545454545
  • Derrick Williams (big) 14.6467105263158
  • Tobias Harris 14.5963235294118
  • Kawhi Leonard 14.5465277777778
  • Brandon Knight 14.4585526315789
  • Kemba Walker 14.4359756097561
  • Malcom Lee 13.4363636363636
  • Nikola Vucavic 13.4272058823529
  • CJ Leslie 13.3783333333333
  • Tyler Honeycutt 13.3712121212121
  • Tristan Thompson 13.35
  • Jordan Hamilton 13.2944444444444
  • Alec Burks 13.2730263157895
  • Kalin Lucas 13.2595588235294
  • Markeiff Morris 12.1828947368421
  • Marcus Morris 12.1559210526316
  • Derrick Williams (wing) 12.1546052631579
  • Darius Morris 12.0957142857143
  • E'Twaun Moore 12.0735294117647
  • David Lighty 12.0310810810811
  • Scotty Hopson 11.9858108108108
  • Chris Singleton 11.0008928571429
  • Trey Thompkins 10.9825
  • Tu Holloway 10.91796875
  • Josh Selby 10.9028846153846
  • Demetri McCamey 10.8272058823529
  • Shelvin Mack 10.7111842105263
  • Marshon Brooks 9.709375
  • Jon Diebler 9.63108108108108
  • Isaiah Thomas 9.565
  • Jimmer Fredette 9.52837837837838
  • Chandler Parsons 8.34652777777778
  • Klay Thompson 8.33088235294118
  • Nolan Smith 8.28513513513514
  • Kenneth Faried 8.06571428571429
  • Travis Leslie 7.15757575757576
  • Justin Harper 7.15472972972973
  • Norris Cole 7.05069444444444
  • Kyle Singler 7.01148648648649
  • Charles Jenkins 4.7546875
  • Damian Saunders 4.74354838709678

The other part of the score is an efficiency-based number that works with per 100 possession percentages and is not weighted by age or schedule. I do weight things for NCAA position (i.e. rebounds for bigs are worth less than rebounds for point guards; opposite for assists). This part of the score looks for players that are...well, efficient. I view it as being the more important part of the total score and it makes up roughly 2/3 of the final number.  It takes into consideration work load (usage, %min, % shots), points/possession, ppr, oreb%, steal%, block%, etc.   

  • Kyrie Irving 46.72
  • Charles Jenkins 40.46
  • Norris Cole 38.76
  • Derrick Williams (big) 38.6
  • Kemba Walker 36.58
  • Derrick Williams (wing) 35.454
  • Alec Burks 35.02
  • Marcus Morris 33.96
  • Tu Holloway 33.08
  • Jimmer Fredette 32.78
  • Nikola Vucavic 32.27
  • Damian Saunders 31.85
  • Travis Leslie 31.68
  • Nolan Smith 31.2
  • Isaiah Thomas 30.85
  • David Lighty 30.52
  • Chandler Parsons 29.95
  • Markeiff Morris 29.67
  • Darius Morris 29.47
  • E'Twaun Moore 29.47
  • Tristan Thompson 28.92
  • Jon Diebler 28.9
  • Marshon Brooks 28.89
  • Demetri McCamey 28.67
  • Kawhi Leonard 27.56
  • Klay Thompson 26.78
  • Tobias Harris 26.386
  • Justin Harper 26.09
  • Shelvin Mack 25.95
  • Jordan Hamilton 25.58
  • Kalin Lucas 25.34
  • Kenneth Faried 24.52
  • Trey Thompkins 24.36
  • Chris Singleton 24.11
  • Brandon Knight 23.67
  • Kyle Singler 23.37
  • Malcom Lee 22.42
  • CJ Leslie 21.48
  • Tyler Honeycutt 19.91
  • Scotty Hopson 19.74
  • Josh Selby 19.06

Here are the combined scores:

  • Kyrie Irving 63.5904545454546
  • Derrick Williams (big) 53.2467105263158
  • Kemba Walker 51.0159756097561
  • Alec Burks 48.2930263157895
  • Derrick Williams (wing) 47.6086052631579
  • Marcus Morris 46.1159210526316
  • Norris Cole 45.8106944444444
  • Nikola Vucavic 45.6972058823529
  • Charles Jenkins 45.2146875
  • Tu Holloway 43.99796875
  • David Lighty 42.5510810810811
  • Jimmer Fredette 42.3083783783784
  • Tristan Thompson 42.27
  • Kawhi Leonard 42.1065277777778
  • Markeiff Morris 41.8528947368421
  • Darius Morris 41.5657142857143
  • E'Twaun Moore 41.5435294117647
  • Tobias Harris 40.9823235294118
  • Isaiah Thomas 40.415
  • Demetri McCamey 39.4972058823529
  • Nolan Smith 39.4851351351351
  • Jordan Hamilton 38.8744444444444
  • Travis Leslie 38.8375757575758
  • Kalin Lucas 38.5995588235294
  • Marshon Brooks 38.599375
  • Jon Diebler 38.5310810810811
  • Chandler Parsons 38.2965277777778
  • Brandon Knight 38.128552631579
  • Shelvin Mack 36.6611842105263
  • Damian Saunders 36.5935483870968
  • Malcom Lee 35.8563636363636
  • Trey Thompkins 35.3425
  • Chris Singleton 35.1108928571429
  • Klay Thompson 35.1108823529412
  • CJ Leslie 34.8583333333333
  • Tyler Honeycutt 33.2812121212121
  • Justin Harper 33.2447297297297
  • Kenneth Faried 32.5857142857143
  • Scotty Hopson 31.7258108108108
  • Kyle Singler 30.3814864864865
  • Josh Selby 29.9628846153846

At this point, I looked at all 3 of these lists and then at what I have seen with my own two eyes (both reading and viewing--mostly reading)  and put together the big board. If you want the uncut Hoopus Score board that was used last season and in 09, the combined listing is it (sans Euro players). What are some of the things I looked for when moving the final combined listing around?

  • Youth + weighted production: I’m willing to take a risk on young players that can put up good numbers. In effect, I’m weighing age twice (it’s part of the weighted production score), but I cannot stress enough just how much more impressive it is for a 19 year old freshman to put up crazy numbers than it is for a 20 year old sophomore to put up similar numbers (more on this below).
  • TS% is a good, good thing for lead guards (especially when they have a high 2%): I want guards that can shoot. Better yet, I want a solid TS% with a good percentage from 2 (which is also added into the production mix). Kyrie Irving has a TS% of 70 with a 2% of 56. That is insane. I want to know that lead guards either are lights out from beyond the arc or proficient from mid range. Having a good 2% means that the guard is not a 1 trick shooting pony. 
  • Rebounds. I think everybody should know this by now. Beyond rebounds, there are certain parts of the college game that transfer to the NBA better than others.  Who does these things well? 
  • Off the ball production is a must: There aren’t many college players that you can look at and say "Hey, he’s a good enough scorer where I know for sure that skill will transfer to the pros." Scoring in the NBA is tough, especially for rookies. What else can a good prospect bring to the table? 
  • Gut feeling and communication. Let it never be said that I am a slave to spreadsheets. I probably should be, but we’ll try something a bit different this year. This season I looked for evidence of high levels of communication and emotional intelligence with coaching staffs. We’ll compare the final board to the combined Hoopus Score board. 

Final board:

1- Kyrie Irving, lead guard:

Oh, it hurts to put a Dookie this high, and there is big small sample size problem here, but it is hard to ignore the basic mold of Irving’s game: an uber-efficient point guard who can shoot the ball unlike any other 19 year old in the world. While there has been some needed perspective on Irving’s TS%, the fact remains that his post-injury games featured the same sort of fantastic shooting (.681) as his pre-injury contests (slightly above .708). Irving has also been in the Team USA pipeline for about 2 years, and in 6 international games (5 in FIBA U18 and 1 at the Nike Hoops Summit), he posted a .602 TS%. What types of guards shoot this well from the field (above .600 TS%)? Last year, Kevin Martin, Steve Nash, Ray Allen, Chauncey Billups, Aaron Affalo, James Jones, and Daequan Cook made the mark.  The year before, guys like Ty Lawson, Billups, Allen, JJ Redick, Daniel Gibson, Nash, Kyle Korver, Rodrigue Beaubois, and Mike Miller made it. Even if Irving drops into the low-to-mid 60s, he’s still one of the top TS% performers in recent college memory. He’s up there with guys like Jeff Teague (.62), Lawson (.66), Mario Chalmers (.66), and George Hill (.66). Now throw in his Ortg being 16 points/100 possessions better than Nolan Smith. Long story short: Team USA pedigree + Duke performance + international shooting performance = the chances of him being a 60+ TS% performer in the NBA at the point are fairly decent. This is the type of player you build around. This is the type of player you want around Kevin Love. This is the type of player with the chance to be a very high end performer. One of the best arguments for not trading the #2 pick is that it would force the Cavs to pick between 2 players they might equally like: Derrick Williams and Irving. If they take Williams, you draft Irving and don't look back. 

2- Derrick Williams, big:

This will be D-Will’s first of two appearances in this year’s draft board. From size to weighted production, Williams is a decent prospect at the 4. Wolves fans should be very familiar with the type of player Williams could be in the NBA:

Player 1:

  • Wingspan: 7’1.5"
  • Standing reach: 9’
  • No step vert: 29
  • Bench: 19
  • Agility: 11.03
  • Pts/pos: 1.29
  • Reb/40: 11
  • Blocks/40: 0.9
  • TS: 62

Player 2:

  • Wingspan: 7’0.25"
  • Standing reach: 8’11"
  • No step vert: 30
  • Bench: 19
  • Agility: 11.06
  • Pts/pos: 1.23
  • Reb/40: 15.7
  • Blocks/40: 1.9
  • TS: 61

Do you want the Wolves to spend the #2 pick on a guy who may not even be Mike Beasley-Lite with a better head and a weaker all-around game? If this sounds like a plan, then Derrick Williams is the man for you. I think there is a legitimate argument that the Wolves absolutely cannot draft this guy, as he could not be any more similar to B-Easy and I honestly have no idea where you’d play him, especially (and mainly) because of Kevin Love. Let’s call this the Red Pill Argument. That being said, the Wolves have exactly 1 player that can consistently play at an above-average level and this pick is their best shot at picking up a player that has a chance to develop from an awesome rookie into a superstar-level player, which is what gets you lots of wins in a capped league. This is the Blue Pill Argument. 

Let’s be very clear: this is a 1 person draft with a bunch of similar players at 2-5. That being said, I think what matters most with the pick is how other teams view the top of the draft and it seems that the league views this as a 2-man affair. If this is the case, and if you are in the position to have to make this pick, I think you have to play the hand in terms of what the other guys at the table are going to do. In this case, they probably can’t pass on Williams. In terms of talent, I’m fairly certain Biyombo is the 2nd best player available, and that in terms of pragmatic drafting the best idea would be for a trade down to 4 or 5, but if they trade him for an established (and possibly massively overpaid in the new CBA structure) player like Iggy or Granger, I think they are once again missing the entire point of the draft. Good GMing and coaching can get you to .500. Hell, coaching and a culture of winning got Memphis into the 2nd round. Hitting on a top pick, even with an incompetent owner, a clownish ex-son-in-law behind the curtain, and an awful coach, is something that Wolves fans can hang their hat on for a very long time. With the possibility of a hard cap or a reduced cap, rookie contracts are a very good thing, especially if they are awesome rookies (awesome rookies on their 1st deal and superstars are the best two assets in the league).  

So, do you find yourself wanting to swallow a red D-Will pill where the Wolves should trade away the pick because there is no possible way they can have their 5 best players at a single position (Love, Randolph, Tolliver, Beasley, Williams), or do you take the blue one and draft what the rest of the league views as the 2nd best player in the draft and hope for the best with a future trade? Can you crack open both pills and cut out a few lines on the table that will allow you to draft him and then trade him for someone like Biyombo plus additional assets? Will Biyombo ultimately move up everybody else’s draft board? We’ll just have to wait and see. For the purposes of this draft board, Williams is the 2nd most valuable player in the draft and he is so primarily because of the hands of the other teams at the table. Oh, if he has a decent mid-range game or can hit 3s above .400 and can get to the line, he might be worth it

3- Kemba Walker, lead guard:

I know he’s undersized. I know he’s basically the type of player David Kahn thought he was getting in Jonny Flynn. He played off the ball a lot down the stretch and he’s not the best outside shooter. What Walker is is a good scorer who rebounds well for his position (5.8/40), passes well, and barely turns it over while playing huge chunks of minutes and handling gigantic mounds of possessions. Walker played 92.4% of his team’s minutes (9th in the nation), accounted for 31.4% of the possessions while he was out there (20th in the nation), while only turning it over 11.6 times/100 possessions (83rd in the nation) and carrying a 54.3 TS% with a decent ast% (28%). In other words, very good things happen when Kemba Walker is on the court and they tend to happen directly because of his play. I don’t really foresee a situation where the Wolves are able to draft Walker, but should they get the chance, he would immediately and without question be the best perimeter player on the team.  Walker is the one player in this draft that absolutely does not suffer from small sample sizeitis or is something of a gamble.  He may not be the player with the highest ceiling, but he probably is the one with the highest floor.  

Actually, I think Walker is getting something of a raw deal during this draft. One of the things that makes up part of the Hoopus Score is that I add up rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals per possession and then subtract turnovers/possession. This is about as basic as you can get with a raw value score for non scoring production. On this measure, Walker is above Irving. He is above everybody but Norris Cole. Throw in scoring, a lack of turnovers, awesome shooting, and you have a guy that deserves to be near the top of the draft. I debated putting Knight ahead of him for a long time but at the end of the day, it’s really hard to overlook what Walker did, despite his size and age. He’s just really, really, really good and he will be able to play point in the NBA. He’s going to surprise a lot of people. I’m convinced of it.

4- Brandon Knight, lead guard:

OK, here’s the first stretch away from the combined score. It was made largely on the combo of weighted production and age. Let’s take a look at the raw production numbers of some of the guards in this year’s draft as well as some top guards since the 08 Draft:

  • Kyrie Irving, 16.8
  • Russell Westbrook, 15.7
  • John Wall, 14.54
  • Derrick Rose, 14.49
  • Brandon Knight, 14.45
  • Kemba Walker, 14.43
  • Jonny Flynn, 12.9
  • Kalin Lucas, 12.9
  • Darius Morris, 10.5
  • Tu Holloway, 10.5
  • Shelvin Mack, 10.4
  • Jimmer, 9.1
  • Nolan Smith, 7.94

A few things: First, Rose put up a ½ season that was above 16. Second, if you take Irving’s per 40 numbers and average them against the average games played of all other point guards in the draft (instead of 11 games), and you put his TS% at his average at the levels seen in international play, he lands with a 14.7 score (which is still very good and above any other lead guard in the draft).

Why does Knight have such a high score? Age + across the board solid play. The one big concern I have about him is that he doesn’t do 1 thing extremely well. If he put up his freshman numbers as a 22 year old junior or a 23 year old senior, he’d be Shelvin Mack or Nolan Smith. Instead, he is producing as a 19 year old freshman. Again, the draft is the only place teams like Wolves can find players who present value (i.e. their production outpaces their contract). I’ll let Ed Weiland take it from here:

The point of trading stars for future draft picks is that the future draft picks remake the team into a force again. I’m just not sure the Timberwolves get this.

(This is, once again, also the best reason to not trade the #2 pick. Shouldn’t it be obvious to anyone looking at a Big Player for #2 pick trade that there is an opposite side to that coin? Why would a team like Philly or Indy want to trade big production for the #2 pick?)

Knight also has the added benefit of being...wait for it...long and athletic. A 6’6" wingspan and a 7’11.5" standing reach is more than enough to get things done at the point.

With the addition of Ricky Rubio and the existence of Bismack Biyombo and Derrick Williams, I cannot really envision a scenario where the Wolves walk away with Knight. 

5- Alec Burks, wing

I have kind of softened a bit on Burks. On one hand, I think he’s a relatively fantastic prospect in this draft. On the other hand, I’m not sure the gap between him and guys like Jordan Hamilton, Malcolm Lee, and Tobias Harris is enough to think about drafting him near the top of the draft. I just don’t think he’s the type of player you consider taking with the #2 pick so I’m not sure you think about the guy unless a) you really buy into the D-Will can’t play the 3 argument, b) you trade down, c) you value him over Biyombo, or d) you trade up from 20 to get him. Burks is right in the weird spot of the draft board where the Wolves will either have to overlook a lot of things or trade up to get these guys. Ditto Kawhi Leonard.

A MOMENT FROM THE HEART:

666- Josh Selby, lead guard:

There is absolutely nothing in Josh Selby’s resume to suggest that he is one of the top 10 picks of this draft. That being said, I just cannot shake the feeling that this guy is a top 3 talent and that he will end up being the biggest steal (possibly best player) of this draft.

I saw Selby a few times in high school and his standing as a top prospect makes me believe that a 9-game suspension and a stress fracture injury at Kansas prevented us from seeing that this kid is a top-level prospect. Something about his game just makes me think of Monta Ellis and he is as athletic as all get-out. I really think he is that good of a prospect and even though he was playing hurt at Kansas, the times I saw him play I saw a guy who knew what in the hell he was doing. I can’t explain this pick other than to say that in a weak draft with some big risks, I think Selby has the best non-Irving talent of the college bunch and I’d have zero problem with the Wolves taking him in the right spot. The guy had a stress fracture in his foot and he was suspended for 9 games. If the Wolves are going to get good, they need to hit the jackpot. I don’t see any other player in this draft as having as much "jackpot potential" as Selby, especially if he is available at 20.

Oh, ditto for Jeremy Tyler.  I've never seen him play but I'd rather the team take a flier at 20 on a guy like Selby or Tyler than I would them trade the pick. 

WHILE WE’RE AT IT:

777- Bismack Biyombo, big

Let’s turn things over to vjl110:

Of the top prospects, Biyombo, assuming he can develop basic NBA skills, is the best fit for the Wolves. Bismack is pretty raw, and shouldn't be starting his first year in the league. However, the Wolves currently receive the worst production from the center position in the NBA (Millicic WP48=-0.096 and Pekovic Wp48=-0.094, [5]). Darko and Pek cannot see significant minutes if we hope to crawl out of the cellar. Bismack might not set the world on fire next year, but he may be an upgrade over our current line-up. Giving Biyombo time will be especially tolerable given that he projects as the perfect front-court compliment to Kevin Love. Defensively Biyombo does everything that Love doesn't. He gets out on the perimiter, has the reach to combat any center in the league, collects blocks as a help defender, and is praised as a vocal leader on the defensive end. Offensively, Biyombo will be an oop target, a foul magnet, and will hang-out near the basket throwing down dunks and collecting boards. Off the court Biyombo seems to be a high-character guy and has a nice smile. Apparently Bismack even lists Kevins Garnett and Love as his favorite NBA players.

It’s almost too perfect: The longest and most athletic guy in the draft who specializes in defense and rebounding and is the ideal running mate for both Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio AND who lists two Timberwolves as his favorite players. Get him. Put him at the top of the list. Biyombo and Selby! Biyombo and Selby!

In all seriousness, this guy deserves tip-top consideration with the #2 pick. If they can find a way to move down and still pick him, fine, but he might be the perfect front court pairing (low usage + defense + rebounding + positional flexibility at the 4/5) with their best player and he has a better track record than the other highly-talked-about big man, Enes Kanter. We know a few things about EL/ACB transfers to the NBA: rebounds, blocks, and assists transfer well. If Biyombo is really 18 (and I think he is; hell, even if he’s 20 he's a top prospect), he will likely be able to give the team production in two key areas right off the bat. If we plug his ACB scores into the Hoopus spreadsheet, and we do not adjust them to the NCAA game, the guy puts up a reb/ast/blocks/steals/to/40 rate on par with Kenneth Faried and Kawhi Leonard. Tougher league, younger, bigger. Oi. We already know how he comps to Serge Ibaka in the ACB. Everything we know about the guy (albeit with small sample sizes) points to him being an upper level prospect. He’s a gamble, for sure, but he’s exactly the type of player you take when you’re a 17 win team in need of a home run.  (Actually, I think there is a better shot that Biyombo's shot blocking, defense, and rebounding transfers to the NBA at a high level than there is for Derrick Williams' 3 point shooting and free throw rate.)  He is not just amazing length and athleticism.  There is amazing production, as well.  He is much more than simply an amazing athlete.  

Also, one of the things I look for in all draft prospects is if they do one thing very well. If they have one bankable, go-to NBA characteristic, I’m willing to overlook some flaws (FWIW, this is the thing that worries me the most about Knight--see above). Biyombo will rebound AND block shots. He will foul and his offensive game will definitely be a work in progress, but I’m fairly confident that he will be able to rebound and block shots like an established NBA player from day one. He is also the most athletic player in the draft.  Awesome production in two key categories + amazing athleticism is a no brainer. We don't bat an eye when a guy like Derrick Williams shows signs of being an upper-level shooter with an upper level ability to get to the line; why do we show apprehension with a guy who might be better at two skills that likely have a better history of transferring to the NBA?  Why not pair the possibility of upper level shot blocking, defense and rebounding with upper level rebounding and efficient scoring (Love) and passing (Rubio)?  Rubio + Biyombo + Love has the possibility to be this amazing collection of upper level role players who are simply in need of a single high volume scorer.  It sets everything up for the Season of Redemption for Senor Skittles.  Anywho, this guy absolutely deserves to be taken with the 2nd pick. The only question about why he should be taken lower has to do with questions of pick value.

He’ll be a tough sale to casual fans on the day after the draft, but Biyombo is the pick. He has to be.

BACK TO THE PROGRAM:

 

8- Tobias Harris, combo forward

How did this kid fly so far under the radar this year? 18 years old, consistent, and diversified. He’s not the most athletic guy in the world but he appears to have it all together at a level you don’t typically see in 18 year olds. This is a guy who looks like he could develop into a very, very nice team player.  

 

9- Kawhi Leonard, wing:

If you cannot find a player who can carry a high usage rate while scoring efficiently and not turning it over, the next best thing you can hope for is a guy with a lower usage rate who can really produce off the ball while not turning it over. Leonard isn’t going to win any shooting awards but he will rebound the hell out of the ball, defend multiple positions, and be a decent passer.

Of all the players I put into the spreadsheet, Leonard carries the 4th highest reb/40 mark (13) behind Markeiff Morris, Kenneth Faried, and Thomas Robinson. Throw in his age (19), ridiculous measurements (7’3" wingspan, gigantic hands), and solid net production and you have a guy that you can pair with Wes Johnson (who, for better or worse, seems to be a part of this team’s long term core) at the ⅔. The team would still need a high-usage point guard to bring it all on home, but they certainly could do a lot worse at this point in the draft by passing on the top ranked wing player in the 11/12 class. Oh, he can't shoot a lick....so there's that.  

10- Derrick Williams, wing

He’s not a 3. I don’t know what else to say about this.

11- Nikola Vucevic, big

Gigantic, earthbound, can rebound, shoots well, does decent things off the ball, and he doesn’t turn it over. Would Enes Kanter be better than this guy after a year in college? It’s really too bad Kanter didn’t get to play at Kentucky.

LEAD GUARDS GONE WILD:

OK, we’ll try something different this year. I’ve put up what I believe to the the top players in this year’s draft. At this point in the game, it is ok to draft a bit for fit and need. The following guards are presented in the order I think they should be drafted in.

Charles Jenkins- Jenkins posted a 64% TS while going 56.3 from 2. This is in the neighborhood of Irving. He doesn’t rebound like Norris Cole, but that’s not exactly needed on the Wolves. He’s good with the ball and he can shoot the hell out of the rock. Jenkins is the poster child for scoring efficiency. He carries a HUGE workload (92.3% of his team’s minutes with a 28.4 %poss) while being a great shooter and not turning the ball over. He gets to the line and gets a lot more fouls than he gives. Let’s take a quick peak at a few of the top lead guards in the draft:

Player, Pts/40, FGA/40, pts/fga/40

  • Jimmer Fredette, 32.3, 23.1, 1.39
  • Norris Cole, 24.3, 17.8, 1.36
  • Charles Jenkins, 24.2, 15.6, 1.55
  • Kemba Walker, 25, 19.2, 1.30
  • Darius Morris, 17.3, 13.5, 1.28
  • Kyrie Irving, 25.3, 13.7, 1.84

First of all, holy crap Kyrie Irving. Second of all, if you are going to be a lead guard in the NBA (even off the bench), you have to be good with the ball and make the most of your shots. Jenkins doesn’t have the range as Fredette, but he clearly has the better game from mid-range in, and his length (6’7.5" wingspan) and athleticism give him better defensive potential than Jimmer.

Jimmer Fredette- Jimmer simply doesn’t have the mid-range game as the guy he’ll be most compared to: Steph Curry. Can he make it click as a 3 point specialist without carrying nearly the usage he had at BYU all while running the point? Curry is really good because he doesn’t need to muck it up in the paint. Will Jimmer be able to develop a 15-18 foot game that will also open up passing lanes in the pick and roll? We’ll see. What he will have as a positive coming right out of the gate is that nobody will ever go under a screen on the guy. Maybe that single talent (being able to shoot from anywhere) will play out better than I think it will in the NBA. Oh, he’s going to get murdered on defense.  

Darius Morris- Size and passing ability. He also shoots 53.3% from 2.

Norris Cole- 56% TS with a good assist, rebounds, and steals/40 marks. He’s older, had an easy schedule, and is not an athletic monster. That being said, he has continuously improved and he’s a threat with the ball.

The undescribed masses:

  • Shelvin Mack
  • Iman Shumpert
  • Isaiah Thomas
  • Kalin Lucas
  • Demetri McCamey (FWIW, my gut tells me this guy should be way higher. He had a terrible season and performed at a much higher level during his first few years at Illinois. I think he definitely should be a 2nd round target.) 
  • Nolan Smith
  • Reggie Jackson

THE AMAZING, WINGTACULAR GRAB BAG:

This post is getting a tad long so I’ll just leave out the descriptions.

  • Jordan Hamilton (I know I said I'd leave out the descriptions, but is Hamilton really going to be worse than Williams if D-Will doesn't transfer his 3s and fta/fga?) 
  • Malcolm Lee
  • Etwaun Moore
  • David Lighty
  • Marshon Brooks
  • CJ Leslie
  • Tyler Honeycutt
  • Chris Singleton
  • Jon Diebler
  • Scotty Hopson
  • Klay Thompson
  • Travis Leslie

THE FANTASTICAL BIGPOCALYPSE

Have at it:

  • Tristan Thompson
  • Marcus Morris
  • Markeiff Morris
  • Kenneth Faried
  • Trey Thompkins

A FEW THOUGHTS ABOUT ENES KANTER

Enes Kanter has played 31.2 minutes of pro ball. If you have no problem drafting Enes Kanter, then you should have no problem drafting Bismack Biyombo. One guy has the potential for awesome offense and shaky defense, the other vice-versa.  On the positive side of things, should the Wolves draft Kanter, it might be worth it simply to hear David Kahn try to explain how Love + Kanter is different than Love + Jefferson.  It will also be entertaining to hear him talk about how drafting without a coach is different than drafting with a lame duck coach. 

SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT KYLE SINGLER

Do not draft Kyle Singler.

GETTING TO THE POINT

This draft has a clear #1 and then a clear dilemma for the Wolves. I think there are 2-3 players that are absolutely deserving of the #2 pick. My gun-to-the-head take is that Biyombo is the 2nd best player in this draft. That type of production at that age and physical profile and with that type of game is something the Wolves absolutely cannot pass on. That being said, as I have repeated over and over and over and over again, in a capped league, the draft is the #1 way to build a team. The entire point of the draft is to accumulate awesome rookies, who are second only to superstars in their value to the bottom line. The Wolves need to walk away with an awesome rookie (or an awesome player on his first contract if it takes a year to warm up). Whether they keep the 2nd pick or trade down to pick up one of the top players, they cannot swing and miss on this draft. It absolutely cannot happen. They cannot afford to go through 3 drafts with multiple picks in each one without walking away without an above average starter.  

I do not feel as confident about this draft as I did about 09 and 10. In 09 our draft board would have netted the Wolves Steph Curry, DeMar DeRozan, Ty Lawson and DeJuan Blair (I don’t rank Euro players and I’m making an exception with Biyombo). In 10 it would have landed DMC and James Anderson. I felt good and confident about those picks and those rankings. This year, I feel good about Irving and Biyombo and kind of crappy about everybody else. If I had to put money on who besides Kyrie and Bismack would be an impact player, I’m laying money on Brandon Knight and D-Will (as a PF). That being said, I think the most important part of this draft, and the part where I am trying to muster as much fake-it-until-I-make-it optimism as possible is to be able to maximize the value of the #2 pick. For those of you who believe that David Kahn’s most competent trait is his trading ability, this is what you should get moderately excited about. If he can do anything at an average level, it appears to be making trades. If he can get Biyombo at 4 or 5 while picking up an additional asset or shedding a big salary, that’s a huge win. If Biyombo is rocketing up all of the draft boards and he has to take him at 2, I think that’s still a win.

Beyond the 2nd pick, I think it would be best for the team to hang on to #20. I think a decent perimeter player will be available at that point in the draft. Josh Selby, Malcolm Lee, Etwaun Moore, and David Lighty. One of these guys is going to be available and would be worth a flier, especially Selby.

Ideal outcome with the stauts quo: Biyombo + Selby or top wing on the board.

Ideal outcome with status quo and a little help: Cleveland allows Irving to drop to #2 + top perimeter player on the board.

Ideal outcome with trades Biyombo + Burks or Leonard.

Grab bag preferences not named Josh Selby and/or Jeremy Tyler:

  • Tristan Thompson
  • Jordan Hamilton
  • Charles Jenkins
  • Morris Twins
  • Malcolm Lee
  • Jimmer Fredette
  • Darius Morris
  • Norris Cole
  • Etwaun Moore
  • David Lighty

That should get us to 20.

I cannot say it enough: In a capped league, the draft is the best way to get the 2nd most valuable types of players in the NBA: awesome rookies. The Wolves own the highest draft pick in franchise history and they need to walk away with an awesome rookie (i.e. someone who will outproduce their rookie contract with a chance to become an upper level player). I don’t care if they draft at 2 or trade down. As long as they get a top pick and not trade this top chance at an awesome rookie for someone like Iggy, Granger, or Ellis. That would be an amazing failure, especially with a few players (Irving, Biyombo, Williams, Knight, and maybe Walker) who have the potential to meet the awesome rookie requirement, if not something more.

Draft rules:

  • Do not trade for a vet.
  • Do not draft Kyle Singler.
  • If you are willing to draft Kanter, you should be willing to draft Biyombo.
  • Do not trade 20 unless you move up.  The chances of picking up someone at 20 who can play as well if not better than the Wolves' current perimeter grab bag are fairly good.  The team can get a functional player here.  They can even take a shot at the moon.  Do not buy into the "there's too much youth" argument.  The problem the Wolves have is not youth; rather, it is that they have crappy personnel and coaching.  They need good players. Period.  The draft is the best way to acquire good players. 

One of the things that I have grown tired of during the past few Blueprints is hearing how the Wolves are going to follow the Portland Chicago Boston OKC Memphis model of success. If it isn't obvious by now, it should be: The Wolves need to develop their own model of success.  They operate in an environment where draft picks are a larger key to success than free agency.  They operate in an environment where the ownership is terrible and the team is run by a guy (Moor) who absolutely does not know what he is doing and will always have the ear of his former father-in-law.  The best the team can hope for, and the thing that fans should be pushing for, is a completely stripped-down basketball operations department that is completely focused on building the team through the draft with as much statistical input as possible (i.e. the more weight is given to a statistically-based process, the more unlikely it is that silly concerns about smiles, good NCAA tourneys, firm handshakes, etc come into play with a front office who clearly values these sorts of things as much as the prior regime. Draft picks are the most important asset this franchise has and they 100% should not be traded for vets until a solid core is formed.  Right now, the Wolves have a solid core of exactly 1 player.  It is ridiculous to think that they think a vet-for-#2 is the recipe for success.  Under Kahn, they've put together the 4th worst 2-year record in league history.  Even though Kahn has proven to be a terrible drafter, the draft is still this franchise's best chance at success, as it is more likely that Kahn will luck out with a pick than it is that he will trade for an upper level vet (or 2, which they would probably need to really be successful).  He's good at getting the B-Easy's and Anthony Randolphs of the world; he has yet to show he can bring in something more substantial. 

Keep the damn pick (or trade it to a lower spot if you can get your BPA and value).  

Well folks, that about does it. You’ll notice I’ve skipped over a few Euro prospects. This is on purpose. I know nothing about their games and I’m not going to take the time to add them to the list and transfer all of their numbers to NCAA/NBA projections. The only reason I added Biyombo is because he is so obviously talented and it was easy to break down why he'd be good in the NBA (defense, shot blocking, and rebounding..I have no idea how Euro Scoring and shooting transfer).  

It's definitely going to be an interesting draft night. 

What say you?

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