I have no idea which teams are going to draft which prospects. I do not have any connections to NBA front offices so I will let Chad Ford handle that kind of "mock draft." Instead, I am going through the lottery picks and identifying which prospects teams should pick. This is the mock draft in a world where vjl110 is lord of basketball and sole decision-maker for every NBA team.
This gets a bit long, so I recommend you refill your mug before moving on. If you are a regular Canis Hoopus commenter, much of the discussion will be boringly familiar. Really this is just an excuse to compile all of my thoughts on the 2013 draft class into one place.
Comparisons: Kevin Garnett (w/o skills), Marcus Camby, Tyrus Thomas
Nerlens Noel isn't the perfect prospect. He is extremely raw on the offensive end and potentially too skinny to hold position in the post. I understand why Cleveland has spent more time looking elsewhere than a typical draft lottery winner does, but ultimately Noel is the only acceptable choice. Foundational defensive center is at the top of most teams' wish list and Noel absolutely has the potential to fill that role.
Noel weighed in at only 206 during the combine. This is really light for a center, but Noel claims his pre-injury weight is closer to 215-220. The list of past prospects in and around that range includes: Kevin Garnett (217), Larry Sanders (217), Nazi Muhammad (221), Marcus Camby (223), Joakim Noah (223), Tyson Chandler (224), Chris Bosh (225), Marcin Gortat (225), Dikembe Mutombo (228). Some of these guys needed to bulk up before they became impact defenders, but they all started from roughly the same place as Noel and most of these weights came when they were older than 19. If there is some reason to believe Noel's weight will max out at 220 that may be a problem, but I doubt that is the case. These teenage bigs just finished stretching there bodies to ridiculous proportions and it is silly to expect them to have already added sufficient muscle to their frames.
Moving past physical frame, Noel's athleticism and defensive instincts are about as good as the draft has ever seen. The two box-score statistics tracking defensive impact are blocks and steals. Fans always attend to blocks when evaluating centers, but for understandable reasons ignore steals. This is a mistake. The correlation between college steal rate and NBA success for bigs is actually considerably stronger than it is for block rate (beta=0.24 vs 0.14). Steals themselves may not be an important part of the big man repertoire, but they offer information about athleticism, coordination, and awareness that makes them an essential assessment tool.
Keeping this in mind, Nerlens Noel ranks 6th all time in NCAA steal rate for big men. Just behind Greg Monroe and just ahead of David Robinson. Not only that, but he is also a top 25 all time rim protector. Noel's 5.4 blocks and 2.5 steals per 40 minutes place him in the exclusive "5 and 2 club". Here is the complete list of seasons where a player registered at least 5 blocks and 2 steals per 40 minutes played: Hakeem Olajuwon '83, David Robinson '86, Nerlens Noel '13, David Robinson '87, Hakeem Olajuwon '82. Not bad company.
I'm not going to try to sell Noel's offensive game, because he doesn't really have one outside of the fact that his assist rate implies basic awareness and his athleticism makes him a great finisher. If somebody else does all the hard work creating an open look Noel will make sure it turns into 2 points, but he lacks even a rudimentary post game or mid-range shooting. Offensive struggles (and mediocre rebounding) are why Noel ranks considerably below the Hall of Famers mentioned above. Noel scored a 12.6 expected wins in my models while Shaq, Robinson, and Hakeem scored 21.2, 20.5, and 18.2 respectively. That is a big drop-off from the superstar centers, but Noel is still the 4th highest scoring center in my 30 year dataset, rating just ahead of DeMarcus Cousins and Andrew Bogut. Even without posing an offensive threat, Noel really does look that good on defense and passing on a potentially generational defensive big is never a good idea.
#2 Orlando Magic:
Comparisons: Ty Lawson, Terrell Brandon, Lee Mayberry
Orlando doesn't have a single player to build around. They have some young guys who all have a shot of developing into pieces of the puzzle, but especially this early in the draft they should completely ignore "need" in making a selection. Unfortunately it is difficult to pick a clear winner from the collection of talent following Noel. My second tier spans the next four picks and I don't see much spacing between those guys and anyone in my top eight. If some team down the draft gets excited about a particular prospect, the Magic should be open to taking advantage and moving down.
That said, I would be pretty excited about drafting Trey Burke. The point guard role does not change significantly between leagues. Some guys find themselves too physically overwhelmed by NBA competition (Eric Maynor, Kendall Marshal), and some actually find the NBA game more conducive to their skillset than the NCAA (Westbrook, Rose), but overall it is often easier to predict how college point guards will function in the NBA than any other position. For this reason, my model has a very strong track record with high rated point guards. It occasionally underrates future stars, but the guys it does like almost always pan out:
Not many busts on that list (though worth noting that Burke is right on the edge where bust rate increases). This makes me very comfortable throwing support behind Burke. Not only does the win projection model like him, but my "bust, bench, starter, star" model gives Burke the highest star likelihood of the 2013 class (33%).
Comparisons: Gordon Hayward, Jared Dudley, Josh Childress
John Wall may be demanding a pick'n'pop four to play with, but Washington's first priority should be filling that three spot with a complimentary young star. Porter is a plus player in every facet of the game, with the possible exception of shot creation. He hits shots, he moves the ball well, he collect boards, and he has the length and defensive mindset to harass LeBron, Durant, George, or Melo should the Wizards turn this into a contender. Porter's combination of filling box-scores and nailing corner threes (something Wall is uniquely good at creating) make him a perfect fit here.
While I noted above that I have lots of confidence in my model's ability to identify point guards, I don't have nearly as much confidence with small forwards. That said, Otto's high rating combined with the fact I need to go to his 13th best statistical comparison to find a bad player makes him look like an extremely safe pick. Porter's excellent positional and skillset fit on the Wizards makes this the second easiest selection of the mock.
Comparisons: Danny Manning, Adam Keefe, Lorenzen Wright
At the end of the college season, Cody Zeller was ranked 3rd in Draft Express' mock draft. He has since dropped to 9th. This pattern is consistent with what I have seen on other sites as well and is simply bizarre. How does a guy put up the best combine measurements of any big since Shaq, go town to town hitting shots from everywhere on the court in workouts... and see his stock plummet? The one reasonable explanation is that he is marketing himself as a power-forward as opposed to a center. Power forward is currently the least valued position, and nothing is ever as sexy as center come draft time. Zeller really is a face-up forward, so this was bound to happen eventually, but it is worth noting that he has the size to defend the vast majority of NBA centers. Zeller's mediocre shot-blocking and rebounding keep him from being a full-time center, but he can absolutely spot minutes there.
Zeller rates as a very good prospect in my projection models. His 8.7 expected win peak ranks him as the 22nd best of the 264 power forward prospects in the dataset. This is a nice place to be, since the track-record for high rated power-forwards is very good:
There really isn't a true bust on that list. Sweetney put up great numbers until he ate himself out of the league. Eddie Griffin tragically suffered from a more traditional substance abuse problem. Otherwise we have mostly stars, starters, and key role players. Zeller's closest college statistical comparisons are also impressive with Danny Manning, Brad Daugherty, and LaMarcus Aldridge headlining. In spite of the ho-hum press Zeller is currently receiving, he looks like an excellent prospect.
Cody Zeller is a great fit in Charlotte. He gives Kemba a great pick'n'roll partner, covers for MKG's offensive shortcomings, and in the case that everything clicks for Biyombo the two would form a really interesting post duo. Zeller has the tools to be one of the league's best offensive bigs. The big question is his defense. He has the physical tools to guard 3 through 5, but that often fails to result in the actual ability to do so. However, Zeller's steal rate is really impressive for a big and that tells me he may have the potential to develop into a strong defender. Drafting Zeller may go a long way towards making Charlotte competitive.
#5 Phoenix Suns
Comparisons: Josh Howard, Adrian Griffin, Eddie Basden
I love Oladipo on the Suns. Oladipo and Dudley immediately becomes one of the more synergistic wing pairings in the league. Two good but completely different defenders, and two smart offensive players, one with shooting but athletically limited and the other with top-tier athleticism and questionable shooting. McCollum makes some sense here as well, but if Dipo is on the board I think he has to be the pick.
Oladipo shot 44% from range last season, but given his freshman and sophomore seasons, it was too little too late to consider three-point shooting a likely asset. That said, if scouts and individual workouts substantiate the shooting I might start getting excited. Shooting from range may be the key factor in whether or not Oladipo can stay on the court at the next level, but it doesn't need to be a core part of his offense. Oladipo was a monster getting to and finishing at the rim in college (8 attempts per 40 on 70% efficiency, by far the best of all guards), and since scoring at the rim historically translates well to the pro game it should be his primary NBA skill. Oladipo seems to accomplish this without "handles" in the traditional sense. Instead, even in half-court situations he manages to simply choose a side and blow past his defender. If he can keep that up against NBA defenders he is the front-runner for ROY.
#6 New Orleans Pelicans:
Comparisons: Lou Williams, Iman Shumpert, Joseph Forte
McCollum is the scoring combo-guard that Austin Rivers was supposed to be. He is best known for his outside shooting, but he can absolutely put the ball on the floor and get to the rim or hit a pull-up jumper. The two comparisons McCollum most often gets are Steph Curry and Damian Lillard. He isn't Steph Curry. McCollum was a good college shooter (~ 7 points per 40 beyond the arc), but Curry was the greatest collegiate three-point shooter in history (~ 15 points per 40 beyond the arc). Lillard is a much closer statistical comparison, but Lillard's ability to transition from ball-dominant scorer to shooter/facilitator was unusually seamless. I wouldn't expect McCollum to duplicate that. I have also seen the "Randy Foye" comparison popping up on occasion. Foye and McCollum are physically similar, but at least according to my models Foye wasn't nearly as good of a prospect (8.3 vs. 2.1).
One key positive that these comparisons miss is McCollum's defensive potential. As a junior, McCollum had the best steal rate of all NCAA shooting guards and was top five among point guards. He knows how to pester his man, and given his clearly sky-high BBIQ he should be quick to master whatever defensive system he finds himself in as a pro.
In New Orleans McCollum's role would depend on what happens to Eric Gordon. He could be effective starting alongside Vasquez or relieving both guard positions as a 6th man. If things work out right, McCollum and Davis could form one of the best and most likable young nuclei in the league.
#7 Sacramento Kings:
Comparisons: Ricky Rubio, Nate McMillan, Everette Stephens
Kind of a tough spot here for the Kings. My favorite remaining players are a point guard who can't shoot, and two shooting guards. If Sacramento ends up giving a big contract to Tyreke Evans, all three of these players represent serious fit issues. That said, the Kings really just need talent so I'm going to close my eyes to fit and take the best player on the board.
Carter-Williams is an extremely long point-guard who has managed top-tier assist and steal rates for two years at Syracuse. You have to be a little cautious about projecting steals from that damn Syracuse zone, but MCW was clearly doing something right on the defensive end. Interestingly steals and assists often go together. Some players are mentally one step ahead of everyone else and that allows them to find teammates as they get open on offense as well as jump passing lanes on defense. Carter-Williams appears to be one of those guys. It is that same sense that made Ricky Rubio, Nate McMillan, Rajon Rondo, and Jason Kidd special players. No guarantee that MCW ultimately joins that group of course. The list of tall guards with great steal, assist, and rebounding numbers also includes players like Everette Sephens, Randy Livingston, and Derrick Zimmerman. The key for Carter-Williams will be developing at least some threat from outside and the ability to attack the rim.
#8 Detroit Pistons:
Comparisons: Richard Hamilton, Tony Delk, Eric Washington
I would like to give the Pistons a point guard simply to put a stake in the disastrous Brandon Knight experiment, but KCP fills a need just as well, and if Rodney Stuckey remembers how to play basketball the two have complimentary skill-sets.
I first became a KCP fan back in January 2012 when I was investigating freshman shooting guards and found this guy who had considerably better numbers than the more heralded Beal/Waiters/Wroten/Rivers group. Shortly after that Caldwell-Pope's shooting efficiency fell apart and he wisely stayed in college. He then came back in 2013 with a vengeance and put up excellent numbers while being forced into a 29.2% usage rate by a very pedestrian supporting cast. On offense KCP is heavily dependent on outside shooting. He isn't a bad ballhandler, but he does lack the ability to consistently beat defenders and get to the rim. Kentavious' efficiency is surprisingly good for a high usage guard who is reliant on threes and deep twos though, so the lack of penetration doesn't necessarily kill his chances.
The thing that really sets KCP apart is his defense. Kentavious averaged almost 8 rebounds per 40 in his two seasons at Geogria. There is some debate as to how important rebounding at the guard position is to team success in the NBA. However, it seems clear that rebounding prowess at least carries information about a player's dominance at the collegiate level. Steals are another great indicator of dominance and again something which KCP excelled in at Georgia. Here are the shooting guards in my dataset who collected at least 7.5 rebounds and 2 steals per 40 in college:
(You may want to embiggen this one in a new tab by clicking on it)
This is a pretty good list. About a third of the players went on to become stars in the NBA, which is a very good hit-rate (note Oladipo is on this list as well). However, Kentavious stands out a bit in this group and probably not in a good way. Fellow SEC guard Eric Washington is really KCP's only peer in terms of three-point reliance and ball-hoggery. It sounds like Kentavious' failure to distribute was more due to anemic teammates (Georgia was 323rd in FG% last season) than selfishness so hopefully he has better court awareness than he showed. The low number of attempts from close is a bit more concerning. If KCP can't hit the NBA three at an impressive rate I don't think he will have a career. If he can, he offers the active defense and physical tools to be a great starting two in a league sorely lacking at the position.
Comparisons: Jason Richardson, Chase Budinger, Wayne Ellington
The problem with doing a "who should they pick" mock draft is that by the time we get to the Wolves at #9 all of my favorite prospects are off the board. Minnesota really needs help at the two, and with McLemore still hanging around, he seems the logical pick...
Looking at various draft write-ups and mock drafts, I keep seeing Ben McLemore compared to Ray Allen. This comparison is absurd. Ray Allen did more than just look pretty shooting from range. When Ray Allen was Ben McLemore's age he was scoring 36% more points, generating 26% more assists, collecting 34% more rebounds and stealing the ball almost twice as often. Allen then went on to improve on these numbers his Junior season, putting up a line of 30pnts 8.3rebs 4.3asts and 2.2stls per 40 before entering the NBA. McLemore isn't remotely close to this kind of production. Stop making this comparison. This isn't to say McLemore is a bad prospect. He put up decent numbers and clearly has great physical tools. He actually compares well to young Vince Carter, another all-star who I think makes a more appropriate comparison anyway. Vince Carter's progression curve was pretty extreme as he entered his 20s, so hoping for Mclemore to replicate it is a big stretch, but if we want to play the "best case scenario" game Carter seems much more appropriate than Allen.
The one thing McLemore definitely demonstrated in college is shooting ability. He hit 42% from three, which I believe is more than just a hot streak due to his reputation, nice form, and 87% at the line. The Wolves were the worst shooting team in the league last season and the second worst in the past decade and in that sense this a a match made in heaven. The problem is that shooting is a cheap skill. Andrew Goudeluck shot similarly well in college and has even reproduced it in the NBA, but where has that gotten him? Anthony Morrow was an amazing shooter in college and has hit 42% from three and 90% at the line in the NBA. Morrow will be a cheap free agent this offseason, as will veteran snipers like Kelenna Azubuike, Wayne Ellington, Kyle Korver (less cheap) and Mike Dunleavy. McLemore looks close to average at everything else, which is more than can be said for some of those guys, but he really needs another skill to merit a lottery pick. If McLemore showed the ability to create offense for himself or others, get to the rim (1.6 rim makes /40 vs. 3.5 and 3 for Dipo and Goodwin), or play great defense (1.2 stls /40 vs. 3 and 2.5 for Dipo and KCP) in addition to the shooting he would be much more interesting.
The sales pitch for McLemore seems to be "athleticism". That is why he is projected as a potential star in spite of mediocre production. He managed to jump out the gym when put to the test, so I get where this idea is coming from (also his dancing skills). However, looking across the numbers I feel like McLemore actually did more at the combine to raise flags than secure his place in the lottery. Check out this comparison of McLemore and the other 2013 shooting guard prospects against all all-star guards 6'2"+ to participate in past combines:
The success stories are all pretty good leapers, so I assume there is at least a floor effect related to jumping, but given the variance among guys who made it in the league I am skeptical how important an extra couple of inches are. To quote Hoopus poster fanslaststand: "how much time will McLemore spend in the air next season between 34.5 and 42 inches above the ground?" Does anyone think Dwayne Wade is hindered attacking the rim by his max vertical of 35 inches? [Grain of salt... would the story be different if past All-Stars like Jordan (48), Drexler (43), Carter (43), Francis (43), and Bryant (38) where included in the comparison group?] On the other hand, McLemore is a clear outlier in the wrong direction with his agility-drill performance. Maybe this is the underlying source of his "ballhandling" deficiencies? I'm not trying to say poor performance running between cones is a prospect killer, but I do want it to serve as a reminder that condensing "athleticism" down to "how high do you jump?" loses a lot of information and may not always be a good idea. [BTW... note how similar KCP's combine numbers are to Wade and Jrue. This comparison extends to height, wingspan, weight, and bench as well]
Ultimately it is tough to write a script for McLemore developing into anything more than a Chase Budinger type who provides nice off-ball shooting and cutting to the rim for impressive dunks. At the #9 I would prefer to take somebody a little more "special" than that, but I'm just not sure who is left in this scenario. I am really tempted to go with Steven Adams, but Adams is very raw, and there should be solid bigs available when the Wolves pick again at #26.
Flynn it. I'm taking McLemore. He fits nicely with Rubio and should at least add immediate depth behind whoever the Wolves sign as a stop-gap.
#10 Portland Tailblazers:
Comparisons: Damian Lillard, Fred Hoiberg, Jerome Allen
Portland really needs a defensive big, but there is no way they are going to find immediate help in the draft and they already invested a lottery pick in Meyers Leonard who showed some promise as a rookie. What Portland really needs is depth, and I don't think it matters what position that depth fills.
Nate Wolters is the most underrated prospect in the draft. His numbers are exceptional, and while he may have racked most of them up against mid-major competition, it still takes an elite player to do things like score 50+ points in a college game. Additionally, with the exception of his final game against Michigan, Wolters replicated his excellent production when faced with high-major competition and even demonstrated the ability to dominate against the best college opponents when he posted a 34, 7, and 5 line in a win against a Washington team led by two future lottery guards (Wroten and Ross). Wolters isn't simply taking advantage of being an upperclassmen in a league where most stars leave early either. He has been filling boxscores since he entered the NCAA and was already averaging more than 23, 7, and 5 as a sophomore. In a just world, Wolters is off the board by the end of the lottery.
I hate sending Wolters to the Blazers given that Damian Lillard is his closest statistical comparison, but I have him at least one tier above the remaining talent. Wolters is big enough to defend shooting guards and has demonstrated the ability to score off-ball (47.3% on catch-and-shoot jumpers) so he may actually be an effective two. Even if he and Lillard can't share the floor Wolters is perfectly suited to a 6th man role.
#11 Philadelphia 76ers:
Comparisons: Emeka Okafor, Andre Drummond, Loren Woods
The 76ers should be looking for a defensive center and a perimeter shooter for next season. They aren't likely to find either of those with the 12th pick in the draft, but they may be able to find someone who can fill the void in the defensive post a couple years from now.
Steven Adams' 9'1.5" reach and 255 pounds make him one of those guys who gets drafted purely based on frame, and while his combine numbers aren't quite as impressive as the extreme freaks like Andre Drummond, he is still a great athlete with good speed and a 28.5" standing vertical. In addition, more than most bigs Adams looks like he will continue to add muscle, and If you have any doubts about this I refer you to his 6'4" 260lbs metal-orb-chucking sister. It should be clear by now that I don't rank draft picks based on physical profile, but center is the one position where ensuring a guy is capable of being the biggest strongest player on the court is important for at least establishing a baseline. There are at best a couple guys in every draft who satisfy this condition while bringing adequate athleticism, so you need to take all of them seriously.
Adams is a former rugby player who "loves contact" and while it shows in his offensive rebounding rate I am concerned that he failed to impress rebounding on the defensive end. Adams also put up a great but not particularly special block rate of 11.2% and based on scouting reports is really active hedging and can even handle himself defensively all the way out to the perimeter when necessary. Not only does Adams defend well, but unlike most 19 year old bigs he has shown he can do so while staying out of foul trouble.
This is pretty much Adams' game. Control the paint, protect the rim, and stay active on defense. Whatever offensive impact he has will be running in transition or being spoon-fed by his teammates. Filling that elusive defensive-center role is difficult enough that I think most teams would be happy with that eventuality.
Comparisons: Jason Thompson, Carlos Rogers, Nick Fazekas
Muscala has more to overcome in selling himself as a lottery pick than most top players. He was a marginal recruit out of high school who didn't do much to disprove that assessment until his junior year in college. Even once Muscala did start producing like a pro prospect he was doing it as an upperclassman at mid-major Bucknell. This is really important to factor into any assessment of Muscala's college performance, but he still looks like a dominant player even after accounting for age and strength of competition.
Muscala is proper center height with a 9' standing reach, but he definitely needs to continue adding muscle to maximize his potential. He also put up surprisingly impressive numbers in the daft combine, posting a 33.5 inch max vertical and solid agility for a big. During the workout process, Muscala has developed the reputation of a "finesse" player. This is appropriate to some extent, but it really hides the fact that he is a good shot-blocker who had an elite rebounding rate (15 per 40 pace adjusted) his senior season. Muscala does the things you want from a center defensively, but he is a bit thin and has fallen in love with his mid-range game on offense (56% of shots were 2pnt jumpers). Muscala's shot blocking ability will translate. Big school or little school, tall or short, it really doesn't matter because shot-blocking always translates (r ~ 0.9 between NCAA and NBA). However, he may need to bulk up in order to replicate his rebounding prowess since small school bigs historically don't see their rebounding translate as well.
Ideally Muscala would find himself in a system where his offensive game is an asset rather than a spacing killer. I'm not sure how he would work with the Thunder, but really I have him going here because he is a center and he should be ready to contribute in emergency situations. Kelly Olynyk also makes sense for the same reason, but Olynyk lacks Muscala's defensive ability which is OKC's priority.
#13 Dallas Mavericks:
Comparisons: Will Perdue, Bryant Reeves, Kirk Haston
The Mavericks have a nearly blank roster. The only players on the payroll are Carter, Marion, and Dirk... and I assume they would love to move Marion. Dallas isn't looking to play the lottery a few more times and build with youth. They are looking to make big free-agent acquisitions and compete. This probably means dumping the 13th pick, but if they use the #13 it should be on a prospect who can contribute tomorrow. Kelly Olynyk is that prospect.
The best scorer in college last season, Olynyk tallied 16.8 points per 40 just at the rim. The next closest post scorer in the past three seasons was freshman Cody Zeller who scored 13.3. With a rim efficiency of 73%, Olynyk could have comfortably handled even more volume. Olynyk was also one of the most efficient scorers from mid-range in the NCAA, shooting 53% on 5.3 attempts per 40. Those numbers are good enough for top 5 in the past three seasons even after including perimeter players.
Defense is a major question-mark for Olynyk, as is position. His rebounding and shot-blocking are pretty bad even for a power forward, and he is probably too big to spend much time at the small forward (though apparently he is marketing himself as one and has range to the NBA three-point line). I love his odds of putting up points and making nice passes, but one-way players are always problematic. Maybe Dallas can hide him in the zone.
#14 Utah Jazz:
Comparisons: Nate Robinson, Darren Collison, Adonis Jordan
The ideal players for Utah in this slot are Nate Wolters and Steven Adams (I understand that no team needs a young big less, but I imagine a Tongan Mormon would put butts in seats at the EnergySolutions Arena). Unfortunately both targets are gone in this scenario. Larkin is a bit of a reach given that his size may ultimately relegate him to a backup role, but once the impact prospects are off the board drafting for need starts to make more sense. Utah is desperate for a point guard of the future and Larkin has the potential to be that guy (Dennis Schroeder and Tony Johnson are other point guards to consider here).
Larkin avoids any flags across all of his boxscore measures, collecting 2.2 steals, 5 assists (with only 2.6 TOs), and 4.4 rebounds every 40 minutes in college, but where he really impresses is his diversity of scoring tools. He shot 40% from three on a lot of attempts along with a really impressive 55% from inside the arc, taking about an equal amount of jumpers and rim attempts and hitting both at a really nice percentage.
I assume we can attribute much of Larkin's recent rise in stock to his combine performance. Larkin put up the best all-around combine numbers in history outside of Nate Robinson (they look almost exactly the same in the combine drills) and this athletic freakishness is probably needed to achieve NBA success while being only 5'10.
That covers the lottery, but I want to take a minute to address some of the more high-profile prospects I chose not to select in the top 14.
Comparisons: Ryan Anderson, Brandon Bass, Trevor Booker
I couldn't find a place to put him, but Bennett really isn't a bad prospect. He did well in some of the earlier iterations of my draft model (though notably not in my best and final version) and not many freshmen put up 20 and 10 per 40. Of the players I don't have drafted in the lottery, Bennett is probably the one I have the most optimism for.
Still... there is a reason I have Bennett slipping this far. The recent history of athletic stretch fours is spotty. Being a Timberwolves fan and watching Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams on a regular basis may have inappropriately amplified this concern for me, but I think it remains a real one. In his defense, Bennett looks to have a more mature post game than either of those two players, so maybe Bennett can establish himself as a true four who just happens to be able to stroke it from outside. This would be great, but it leads to my second concern. There are too many good power forwards in the NBA right now. There are probably two good power forwards in free agency or backing up an even better player for every open starting spot in the league. The competition is heated and you need to be really special to warrant investing an early draft pick in that environment. Bennett's poor passing (1.3 ASTs and 2.6 TOs per 40) and uninspiring defensive stats (1 STLs and 1.6 BLKs) keep him from that "special' category.
Comparisons: Robin Lopez, Jon Koncak, Michael Olowokandi
I haven't had the opportunity to feel the firmness of Alex Len's handshake, sense the confidence with which he crutches around a practice facility, or even watch him post up a chair. Maybe this puts me at a disadvantage trying to understand what Len brings to the table, but based on his production on basketball courts during actual games I see nothing to warrant a lottery selection.
Len's scoring, rebounding, and shot-blocking are all good for a college big but mediocre even for a young NBA prospect. Scouts are comfortable looking past this because Len has a big frame and moves well. At first blush he is basically Steven Adams with the scale tipped a bit more towards offense. Decent enough production to allow hope that he figures out how to use his natural gifts. However, unlike Adams, Len has one very scary statistic: 0.3 steals per 40 minutes across two seasons.
Recall my earlier discussion of Nerlens Noel. Steals matter for big men... a lot. This may be difficult to wrap your mind around because the link is not intuitive, but it is undeniable looking at past results. Here are the top and bottom 25 steal rates for the 293 center prospect to play at least 1,000 NCAA minutes in the past 30 years:
The top 25 group includes Hall of Famers Olajuwon, Robinson, and Shaq (Ewing is right behind at 1.5), along with other excellent players like Monroe, Noah, Laettner, Miller, and Aldridge. The bottom group, which Len happens to be at the bottom of, is probably headlined by Will Perdue and Olden Polynice and includes a number of players who washed out entirely. Could Len be the next DeAndre Jordan (who also had a poor steal rate in college but on limited minutes) and eventually contribute in spite of his pitiful collegiate steal rate? Maybe... but it looks like a dangerous thing to bet on. Len scored a 2.1 expected wins in my projection models, good enough for the 110th best of the 283 centers in my 30 year dataset.
In addition to the steal-rate red flag and low overall rating, Len is a large young man already suffering from a stress fracture... so even on the off chance there is actually a good player in there, you then need to worry whether he will have the health to contribute long term. Yikes! There are some silly rumors going around about how the Cavs are considering taking Len #1 overall. There isn't anything Len could have done in workouts, short of turning water into wine, that would justify that reach.
Comparisons: Harrison Barnes, Kalenna Azubuike, Jarvis Hayes
There isn't a single non-big in my entire dataset who averaged 1 or fewer assists and steals every 40 minutes and went on to have even a modestly successful career. In fact.. I think Yakhouba Diawara and Joe Crawford are the only players to even make an NBA roster. The level of excuse making needed to fudge Shabazz' non-shooting college production into the range of future NBA players is ridiculous. This hasn't stopped some folks, but it is telling that even scouts who typically give high-school hype a heavy prior weighting are starting to dismiss Shabazz' NBA potential. Shabazz scores a 0.5 expected win peak in my model. Of the 209 wing prospects to score less than or equal to 1, only 11 (5%) achieved starter level production (5+ win shares) by age 26.
As a "freshman" Shabazz is older than most sophomores. He scored predominantly on mid-range jumpers over shorter opponents and consistently failed in his attempts to create opportunities at the rim for himself or others (he took more than 2 jumpers for every rim attempt and was assisted on 58% of his rim attempts). The only thing that holds me back from completely writing Shabazz off as a "do not draft even in the 2nd round" level of prospect is the relative rookie success of Harrison Barnes (who really wasn't very good outside of a couple playoff games). Barnes had slightly better numbers, but he and Shabazz fit a similar profile even down to being highly recruited prospects who disappointed in college. There may be a scenario where Shabazz finds the perfect fit, puts his ego in check, and becomes a a shorter and less athletic Harrison Barnes. Good luck.