That was exactly my point, trade Martin and let the young dudes flourish.
The 2015 NBA Draft Thread: Draft Day Is Here - Page 7
If you haven't heard of Duke's talented freshman Jahlil Okafor by now, you either are ignoring college basketball entirely on purpose, or you have been living under a rock that does not have Wi-Fi or cable access.
Okafor is a 19-year-old who is a legitimate 6'11", 270 lb. monster inside, and he is at the top of our collaborative draft board. Courtesy of Sports Reference, here are his numbers per game and per 40 minutes:
There are a few things that obviously stand out: He scores at a very high usage AND efficiency. If you can score 23.0 points while converting almost 67 percent of your shots, without a big turnover problem, you're quite good. Additionally, his rebounding is very solid, grabbing 12.0 rebounds per 40 over the smaller collegiate players.
Okafor's main appeal is that he is already incredibly polished in the post. You can dump it into him on nearly any possession and you're almost guaranteed to get a good shot. Via Synergy Sports Technology, Okafor is in the 84th percentile of points per possession in the post, which is considerably more impressive when you consider how frequently he's down there and the attention that he commands from defenses. A very impressive sign of polish from him is that he goes to the left and right blocks almost the same amount, with 90 possessions at 1.144 points per possession on the left block, and 107 possessions at 1.019 points per possession on the right block. Furthermore, he's almost equally skilled already at turning either shoulder to score, which might sound simple, but is often not easy for a lot of big man prospects.
As you can see, Okafor is incredibly difficult to contain in the post. He's big, he knows how to position himself, he has excellent footwork and he has a very nice touch around the rim. I could show you countless post touches, because most of them are fun to watch and usually end in him scoring with a soft touch.
He knows when he has an edge inside, and he knows when he needs to go quickly before help arrives. Put simply, he's one of the most polished post scorers as a college freshman that we've ever seen.
When it comes to passing, Okafor is already pretty solid at reading double teams and passing out of them.
In terms of pick and rolls, Okafor has a lot of promise due to his wide frame and finishing ability, though he doesn't get a lot of them at Duke, so that's mostly conjecture. In today's small sample size theater, according to Synergy Sports Tech, Okafor has had only 12 possessions counting as a roll man, but has scored 21 points on those (1.75 PPP). So, while one can see why he would be intriguing for pick-and-rolls, we don't know very much yet.
Defensively, Okafor loses some luster compared to Karl-Anthony Towns (plenty more on him at a later date). Overall, he's just very average defensively. He does have the length and strength to do some things, but he is a pretty mediocre shot blocker for his size (1.8 blocks per 40) and he can get lost at times. Of course, him being not great at defense as a 19-year-old does not set his fate in stone on that end, but it would be nice to see a bit more out of him. Furthermore, one of the appeals of Towns over Okafor would be getting the rim protector that would complement Julius Randle quite nicely.
Rebounding overall is a strength of Okafor's, with a 17.5% total rebound rate (slightly worse than Towns), but he is not without his issues there either. However, this is obviously something that can improve with time, work ethic, and proper coaching. As our own Ben R noted, Okafor usually just relies on his length and strength to grab boards, but if he fixes these problems, he could improve a decent amount in this facet of the game.
In terms of the Okafor vs. Towns debate, the tide is turning a bit in favor of Towns. It's a tough call, but currently, as I detailed on our first Lakers Draft Board (which you should read), I am starting to lean toward Towns due to his tantalizing upside, and his potential defensive impact.
As for a fit with the Lakers, any fan should be ecstatic if the Lakers are able to draft Jahlil Okafor in June. He's going to be a really, really good player. Okafor combined with Randle would be a badass, old-school style frontcourt that would be fascinating to watch for many years to come, with both players getting lots of buckets at the rim. They probably wouldn't be great defensively, but the Lakers are not at the point of their rebuilding process where they can nitpick a prospect that is the best post scorer to come around in a long, long time.
There's a new No. 1 player on the board.
Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor has been the consensus top player since the first mock drafts were released the day after the 2014 NBA draft. However, it's another frosh who has moved into the conversation for the top slot -- many NBA sources think Karl-Anthony Towns has moved ahead of Okafor due to his upside.
It's a two-man race for the No. 1 pick -- and it'll likely come down to which team wins the lottery.
Note: Draft order is based on official standings through Monday, March 9. And traded picks are denoted by numbers with explanations at the bottom.
1. New York Knicks - Karl-Anthony Towns
Analysis: Jahlil Okafor has been the odds-on favorite all season long, but Towns has come on strong lately, and this will be a difficult decision for Phil Jackson and the Knicks, or whoever gets the top selection. Okafor is a true low-post center while Towns is long, skilled, versatile and has a higher upside.
2. Philadelphia 76ers - Jahlil Okafor
Analysis: Yes, I know that the Sixers already have a pair of big men in Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel. However, Philly general manager Sam Hinkie loves accumulating assets, and he can either keep Okafor or try to field offers for the pick. Okafor can easily play alongside the more skilled Embiid if that's the route Hinkie opts to take.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves - Emmanuel Mudiay
Analysis: (1) The Wolves have Ricky Rubio, but it will be too difficult for Flip Saunders to pass on the big, strong and athletic point guard who played this past season in China. He just has too much upside and fits along with the new breed of point guard in the league.
4. Los Angeles Lakers - D'Angelo Russell
Analysis: (3) No one has seen his NBA stock soar quite as much as Russell since the start of the season. He's not an explosive athlete, but he has a high IQ and can both facilitate and score. The Lakers need an upgrade at the point guard spot, and they will get Kobe Bryant and Julius Randle back from injuries next season.
5. Orlando Magic - Stanley Johnson
Analysis: Magic general manager Rob Hennigan has gone the "athletic" route recently by drafting Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton. Don't be shocked if Hennigan goes with another high-level athlete in the physically ready Johnson, who is strong and has shot much better than many anticipated this season.
6. Sacramento Kings - Kristaps Porzingis
Analysis: (2) The Kings have a true low-post big man in DeMarcus Cousins, but could use a skilled frontcourt player, and the 7-foot Porzingis fits the bill. He can really shoot it from the perimeter, but it will take him time to adjust to the physical aspect of the NBA game.
7.Denver Nuggets - Mario Hezonja
Analysis: The Nuggets have a nice young inside tandem with Kenneth Faried, and Jusuf Nurkic, along with one of the better point guards in the NBA in Ty Lawson. Denver could use a young wing with size who can make plays for himself and his teammates. That's what Hezonja is: a high-IQ guy who has tremendous court vision and can also score.
8. Detroit Pistons - Willie Cauley-Stein
Analysis: The Pistons have to prepare as if they will lose Greg Monroe, and the frontline duo of Andre Drummond and Cauley-Stein would be dominant -- especially on the defensive end. Drummond has the ability to step out on the offensive end, while Cauley-Stein is limited offensively.
9. Atlanta Hawks (from Brooklyn Nets) - Kevon Looney
Analysis: (5) Paul Millsap is a free agent after the season, and even if he comes back to Atlanta, Looney would be a nice addition. He's long, athletic and can really rebound. Looney is a tweener forward now, but could eventually become more of a 3 in the NBA with improved consistency on his perimeter shot.
10. Boston Celtics - Myles Turner
Analysis: Some teams might be a little scared off because he has an unorthodox running style, but he's a legit 7-footer who plays hard, can step out and make shots from long distance and is also a quality shot-blocker. Danny Ainge won't be able to pass on Turner due to his size, skill and potential.
11. Utah Jazz - Justise Winslow
Analysis: The Jazz could use a defensive-minded, athletic wing, and Winslow brings toughness and is a potential lock-down defender who is more than capable of making jump shots. He'd fit well around guys like Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors.
12. Philadelphia 76ers (from Miami Heat) - Devin Booker
Analysis: (7) His stock has skyrocketed throughout the course of the season due to his size and ability to make shots from the perimeter. The Sixers could sorely use a knock-down shooter -- and Booker might be the best in the entire draft.
13. Phoenix Suns - Kelly Oubre
Analysis: General manager Ryan McDonough has his backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, and he loves athleticism. Oubre started his college career slowly, but has come on strong over the last month or so and brings length, athleticism and also a threat from the perimeter.
14. Houston Rockets (from New Orleans Pelicans) - Frank Kaminsky
Analysis: (4) He's been the best overall player in college basketball this season and would be a great fit in Houston. He is a threat on the perimeter, can also score in the paint, and would complement Dwight Howard well up front.
15. Charlotte Hornets - Jerian Grant
Analysis: The Hornets need a skilled wing who can shoot it and also defend. Grant is a true combo guard who could fit in alongside Kemba Walker. He's had an All-American-caliber season for the Irish. He can score, facilitate and has the size to compensate for Walker and successfully guard 2s.
16. Indiana Pacers - Trey Lyles
Analysis: The Pacers will get Paul George back, and Lyles would give Indiana a skilled forward who can make shots from all over the floor, can rebound at a high level and also possesses a terrific feel for the game.
17. Milwaukee Bucks - Caris LeVert
Analysis: The Bucks have a couple of talented, young forwards with Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo, and also a young, long point guard with Michael Carter-Williams. LeVert is exactly what this team needs. He brings length, can really play defense and has become a reliable perimeter shooter. The question is whether he actually declares for the draft because he's missed the last half of the season with a foot injury.
18. Oklahoma City Thunder - Justin Anderson
Analysis: Sam Presti usually goes with the best player available -- and that should be the case even more with the uncertainty surrounding Kevin Durant. Anderson has been injured for the second half of the season, but he's a high-level athlete who shot nearly 50 percent from 3 and is also a tremendous wing defender. The question will be whether Anderson decides to leave school or return for his senior campaign.
19. Washington Wizards - Montrezl Harrell
Analysis: The Wizards have Nene and Marcin Gortat up front, but they won't be able to pass on Harrell this late. He's a high-energy guy who can really do work on the glass. Think Thomas Robinson.
20. Chicago Bulls - Kris Dunn
Analysis: Gar Forman and the Bulls need a quality point guard since Derrick Rose is often injured -- and Kirk Hinrich isn't getting any younger. Dunn is a little wild with the ball at times, but he has great court vision, is long and athletic and has improved his perimeter shot.
21. Toronto Raptors - Bobby Portis
Analysis: The Raptors have athletic guys, but they need a skilled forward. Portis is long, is an above-average athlete and has also proved he can make shots to the 3-point line.
22. Cleveland Cavaliers - Sam Dekker
Analysis: Best remaining player on the board. Dekker didn't put up eye-popping numbers this season, but part of the reason was due to an early injury and also a loaded group on his team that included Frank Kaminsky. Dekker played exceptionally well at LeBron James' Skills Academy this past summer, and that can't hurt matters.
23. San Antonio Spurs - Jarrell Martin
Analysis: Martin has so much upside, and the Spurs need youth and talent up front to go along with Kawhi Leonard. Martin hasn't shot it well from beyond the arc this season, but he's gotten tougher, and has been extremely effective on the glass. Martin is a high-upside guy.
24. Dallas Mavericks - Terry Rozier
Analysis: (11) It's looking more and more unlikely that the Mavs keep Rajon Rondo, and there's also a chance Monta Ellis goes elsewhere. That means Dallas needs another guard, and while Rozier isn't a pure point, he is a guy who can make plays with the ball in his hands -- for himself and for others.
25. Boston Celtics (from Los Angeles Clippers - Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Analysis: (9) The Celtics need an athletic wing, and while Hollis-Jefferson isn't a terrific shooter, he thrives in transition and can really, really defend.
26. Portland Trailblazers - R.J. Hunter
Analysis: The son of Georgia State coach Ron Hunter struggled this season from beyond the arc, but NBA guys are well aware he can stroke it from long distance.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (from Houston Rockets) - Jakob Poeltl
Analysis: ( The 7-foot Austrian is still a work in progress, but he's got a bright future because he's a big man who plays hard, is agile and runs the court well. True centers are hard to find, and while it will take time for Poeltl, he may be worth the wait.
28. Memphis Grizzlies - Cliff Alexander
Analysis: (6) Alexander was projected as a lottery pick entering the season, but he's had a rough season. He struggled on the court, especially on the defensive end, and was held off the court due to an NCAA investigation. But Alexander fits the Grizzlies -- he's a tough power forward who brings a physical nature to the court. His skill level is limited.
29. Brooklyn Nets (from Atlanta Hawks - Cameron Payne
Analysis: At this point in the draft, you just go with the best player on the board. Payne came into the season as a hidden gem, but now every NBA guy knows about the Racers' point guard. He's fast, skilled, knows how to play and can both score and set up guys. With Deron Williams aging and injury prone, Payne fits here.
30. Golden State Warriors - Dakari Johnson
Analysis: The Warriors need a quality young big man who can take up space and rebound. They have Andrew Bogut and David Lee, but those guys have injury histories, so Johnson would help.
Edited by PMatic - 3/10/15 at 11:20am
The NBA, NCAA and National Association of Basketball Coaches have joined forces to offer a proposed solution to prevent underclassmen from leaving early for the draft if they aren't assured of being a high pick.
The proposal, the result of a series of meetings first held at the 2014 Final Four, would move the withdrawal date for American college players to late May, nearly five weeks later than the current late-April date.
"This may be one of the best things the NABC has ever done," said Kentucky coach John Calipari, who has had players leave school who weren't lottery or first-round picks -- players who could have benefited from knowing where they would be drafted. "This is the first time the NABC understood that they represent the players."
The current deadline to declare for the draft would remain in late April, as stated in the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players' association (this year's deadline is April 26). The official withdrawal date of 10 days before the draft (mainly for international players) would not change.
Under current NCAA rules, once an underclassman submits the official paperwork to the NBA to declare for the draft, the player forfeits his eligibility and cannot return to school.
If the proposal is accepted, underclassmen would be able to participate in a new invitation-only combine in mid-May that would enable NBA teams to evaluate players and then offer feedback on their draft prospects. The pool would include all draft-eligible players: seniors, underclassmen and international players. But Dan Gavitt, NCAA vice president of the men's basketball championship, said the finite number wouldn't change if a player withdrew. The goal would be to increase the current NBA draft combine number by 20 to 30 percent (currently 65 to 70 players attend the draft camp in Chicago annually).
"Now, when you put your name in, if you're not invited that should tell you to go back to school," Calipari said. "Now after the combine you can make a decision -- go back to school or choose to go."
Kiki Vandeweghe, the NBA's vice president of basketball operations, said an invitation-only combine would replace the Chicago draft camp, which doesn't involve any underclassmen who have remaining college eligibility.
"What we're looking at is not perfect," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said, "but it gives them a true sense of where they stand and where they can get feedback from NBA teams to where it's not Joe Blow at the barber shop. 'Am I invited or not invited?' Then, after that, once the combine happens, they can get feedback from the pro teams and hopefully that can happen. They would know exactly where they stand. It allows the student-athletes to make an educated decision."
UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, who chairs the new NCAA Division I council under the new governance structure, in which subcommittees will handle specific legislation for men's basketball, women's basketball and football, said the proposal could take effect in time for the 2016 draft. Gavitt said while there's no guarantee, there is a strong chance the proposal can be voted on in January if the legislation is proposed in September.
"It's a very, very sound concept and provides an opportunity for student-athletes to determine if they should stay in the draft," Guerrero said. "There is an alignment of vision with the NABC, [NCAA] men's basketball committee and the NBA. This is the kind of legislation that is good for the game."
NBA commissioner Adam Silver supports an age limit for going pro of two years out of high school instead of one year out of high school and a player being age 19. National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts does not support the two-years rule. The CBA is not open to being renegotiated until 2017. Allowing underclassmen to participate in NBA-sponsored workouts -- something that was once permitted -- would be one avenue to stem the flood of marginal first-round picks from remaining in the draft. Prior to 2009, underclassmen were allowed to go to workouts and the draft camp. The draft rule continued to change with who could pay for the players to attend workouts. Policing whether agents paid for trips or if families reimbursed NBA teams for the workouts became a nightmare for the NCAA enforcement division and school compliance offices. Then, in 2011, legislation was adopted to one date in late April, forbidding underclassmen from testing the draft process.
"The way it is now, so many of them are not getting the information they need," Calipari said. "If we stay on this path, watch where the college game will go. It's the best decision for the kids."
Calipari, Thompson, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Michigan State's Tom Izzo were some of the high-profile coaches who were in on the proposal, with NABC director Jim Haney coordinating the effort. Gavitt credits Haney for putting all parties on the same page.
"The message being sent to an underclassman not invited would be 'Your odds of getting drafted are slim and none,'" Gavitt said. "That's a powerful thing, and it takes the coaches and the NCAA out of the mix. This is an NBA evaluation. Then, if you go, a few days after the process, there will be communication from all 30 teams with detailed projections of potential lottery pick on down. It's a significant first step, and hopefully the players' association will see that we are trying to improve the game at every level and the decision-making process for the kids and families."
Vandeweghe said the NBA wants underclassmen to make educated decisions. Under the current are-you-in-or-out, late-April deadline structure, "it's so quick to make a decision."
Vandeweghe said the hope is that this is the way in which the players can get the "straight scoop. I hope we can get some traction on this," he said. "It would be good for everybody. The kids would come out and compete against each other and see where they are."
The NBA altered the combine for this coming May, with players actually playing ball instead of solely doing drills. But the ongoing issue has been agents advising players who could be taken in the first round not to participate in the combine.
The NBA is hoping that underclassmen will wait to sign with an agent until they're advised of their draft stock. The league office is hopeful that agents will recognize the value of a true evaluation.
"In the long run, we want players who are better prepared" coming into the NBA, Vandeweghe said. "We want them to take advantage of hearing from the people drafting them. That's the idea, not get it secondhand."
The ACC coaches originally proposed the legislation in 2011 that changed the NCAA NBA draft deadline to late April. The reasoning behind it was so they wouldn't get burned by being unable to replace players on scholarship during the spring signing period. But now the coaches are going back on that premise.
"You're not going to find guys when [the underclassmen] come back later," Thompson said. "It might make things more difficult in terms of scholarships. But no system checks all the boxes and makes every entity feel good. But at the same time as it relates to our kids, they shouldn't rely on misinformation and partial information. We have to get them as much information as possible."
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March Madness is coming, and that means our Big Board is likely in for some significant shakeups.
Every year, NBA scouts and general managers insist that the NCAA tournament is just another few games in a much longer resume for a player. And then, every year, several players see their draft stock soar (see: Shabazz Napier last year).
This year, the shakeups are happening before the first game of the NCAA tournament has been played. A growing number of NBA GMs and scouts are now saying that Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns is No. 1 on their internal big boards. Duke's Jahlil Okafor has been at our top spot since our first Big Board in July. He remains at the top now but only by a razor-thin margin. Just a little under half of pro GMs and scouts now favor Towns.
Our new Lottery Mock Draft now reflects the rise of Towns on so many draft boards. We've also updated our Top 100 to reflect the overall progress of players beyond our top 30.
Remember, the Top 100 is a reflection on the consensus of NBA scouts and GMs about a player's relative value in the draft. Our Big Board is a more detailed look at the top 30 players (essentially the first round of the NBA draft) in our Top 100. And our Mock Draft is a mechanism to explain what we believe individual teams will do with their pick(s).
Here's our seventh Big Board of the 2015 NBA draft.
1. Jahlil Okafor
As we noted in the intro, Okafor's grip on the No. 1 pick continues to loosen. He's been battling an ankle injury for the past few weeks, but that's not the reason. He's still put up some monster games, such as a recent 30-point, 9-rebound effort against Virginia Tech and 13-point, 14-rebound performance against Syracuse. Okafor remains the most polished offensive freshman big man we've seen in a decade.
The issue is that Towns is not only a superior defender, but he's catching up on the offensive end. Just a little over half of the NBA scouts and GMs I spoke with have Okafor No. 1 right now. There isn't a GM alive who isn't praying that Okafor will meet Towns one-on-one in the NCAA tournament. Given the seedings, it likely won't happen until the Final Four, but if it does, it will add another major level of intrigue to what is, already, the best sporting event in the world.
2. Karl-Anrthony Towns
For most of the season, the only real debate between Towns and Okafor centered on defense versus offense. Towns was the superior defender, Okafor the superior offensive player. However, in the past month, Towns has made tremendous strides offensively while still dominating the defensive side of the ball. In the last 10 games, Towns has averaged 13.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG and 2.5 BPG in just 24 MPG for Kentucky. During that stretch, he's shooting a crazy 50-for-68 from the field (74 percent) and 29-for-33 from the free-throw line (88 percent). He has clearly emerged as the best offensive weapon on this undefeated Kentucky team despite his age.
His ability to stretch the floor, protect the rim and make free throws may make up for his lack of low-post polish (though he's not too shabby there, either). A huge tournament for Towns, or even more importantly, a win in a one-on-one showdown with Okafor, might be all he needs to push him into the top spot.
3. Emmanuel Mudiay
We went all-in on Mudiay last week. I wrote a feature story on his play in China and his quest to be the No. 1 pick. Fran Fraschilla broke him down in a film session. Jeff Goodman talked to former NBA players who played against Mudiay in China for a scouting report, and Kevin Pelton and I examined what analytics had to say about Mudiay. The consensus? Mudiay is still very much in play for the No. 1 pick. While his play in China didn't move the needle too much, how he handled the situation seems to have convinced scouts that he has the maturity and work ethic to handle the NBA.
4. D'Angelo Russell
Russell was the hot name when we put together Big Board 6.0. His slide from No. 3 to No. 4 is a small one and has less to do with his play and more to do with the recent infatuation scouts have with Towns and Mudiay. However, it must be said that Russell's play of late hasn't been quite up to par. Since February, Russell is shooting just 20-for-58 from beyond the arc (34 percent), has 28 turnovers and Ohio State has gone just 5-4 in that stretch. He's still the most lethal wing scorer in the draft -- and he's asked to shoulder a huge load at Ohio State -- but he hasn't been great of late and to make the move to No. 1, he's got to be great.
5. Kristaps Porzingis
Porzingis continues to draw praise from both NBA and international scouts who insist he's one of the best young international prospects to come along in a while. He has got size, athleticism and can both stretch the floor and protect the rim. Several respected international GMs and scouts swear he is the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki. The more cautious ones think he's a more athletic version of the Bulls' Nikola Mirotic. Either way, he should be a top-five pick. His lack of strength and definitive position are both knocks, but there are few plays with his size, skill and athleticism in the NBA.
6. Kevon Looney
This is where things start to get much more fluid on the Big Board. Anyone ranked from No. 6 to No. 12 could end up here. Looney isn't having a dominant freshman season, but his upside keeps him ranked this high on the Big Board. He has crazy length, is a terrific rebounder and should be able to play multiple positions on both ends of the floor. He nearly averaged a double-double as a freshman and showed fight even when UCLA was struggling. Right now, ESPN's Joe Lunardi has the Bruins on the wrong side of the bubble for the NCAA tournament. If UCLA does not make the tourney, has Looney done enough to secure his place as a top-10 pick? Virtually every scout I spoke with thinks the answer is yes. There is just too much upside to ignore.
7. Willie Cauley-Stein
Cauley-Stein is the most versatile defensive big man in the country. Offensively, he's still a major work in progress, but lately he's started hitting midrange jumpers. Despite the fact that he's a junior, NBA scouts still mention upside when talking about Cauley-Stein. He may never average 10 PPG in the NBA, but his defensive versatility alone may make him worth a top-10 pick.
8. Mario Hezonja
Hezonja's game has cooled off considerably the last few weeks, but at this point, I think he's done enough to put himself in serious play to go as high as the No. 6 pick in the draft. His combination of athleticism, shooting ability and energy might make him the most well-rounded of the wings in this draft class.
9. Myles Turner
Turner is inconsistent. Maddeningly so. And the Longhorns might be the biggest disappointment of any team in the NCAA this season. There was a time when they looked like a potential top-10 team in the country. Now they are barely hanging on for a spot in the NCAA tournament. But Turner is not solely to blame. Rick Barnes has a logjam in the middle and does not really seem to know how to best use his talented freshman center. But scouts are not down on him at all, despite his up-and-down play. He is big, protects the rim and can shoot the 3. Plus, everyone I have spoken with thinks he will be much better in the NBA.
10. Justise Winslow
Since recovering from shoulder and rib injuries, Winslow has been the most consistent wing in the draft over the past month. Since February, he has averaged 15.3 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.4 SPG and is shooting 55 percent from beyond the arc. Even his 2-point jumper percentage is up to 16 percent (still, yikes). Just as important, he has been a major reason why Duke has gone undefeated during that stretch. While he does not get the accolades of Okafor, he has been equally important to the team, and when Okafor was out of the lineup against Clemson, Winslow had 20 points and 13 boards. The same teams that had him ranked as a potential No. 5 or No. 6 pick in the draft in November and December are quietly moving him back up into that range, with a number of scouts praying that a Stanley Johnson-Winslow matchup might be in the cards for the Final Four.
11. Kelly Oubre
After a super slow start, Oubre has been pretty steady over the past month. With the exception of a zero-point performance against TCU, he's averaging 14 PPG, 7.0 RPG and is shooting 50 percent from 3 in his last six games. Oubre might be the rawest of the four top wings, but many scouts still believe the lefty has the most upside for a team willing to be patient.
12. Stanley Johnson
Scouts have been split on Oubre, Hezonja, Winslow and Johnson all season. But when recently polling scouts, it was clear that Johnson might be losing some ground. While he has an NBA body and a reputation as a winner, he's struggled a bit lately -- not only with his shooting but also with major defensive lapses. His play against Utah (3-for-19 from the field along with some lazy defense) earned him a spot on the bench. The scouts who have closely watched Johnson say that his reputation hasn't always lived up to his play this season.
He's not the athlete everyone says he is, nor does he have the motor everyone says he does. As one veteran scout said: "He takes plays off. His motor isn't always great and with the exception of a great NBA body, his tools aren't all they're made out to be. He struggles to finish at the rim. In my opinion, he's the most overhyped player in the draft."
13. Frank Kaminsky
Kaminsky continues to wow. It's tough for seniors to climb too high -- especially seniors like Kaminsky who lack flash or elite athleticism -- but, man, has he been good. He blocks shots, rebounds, scores in the paint and he's shooting 41 percent from 3-point range. He's carrying Wisconsin to a possible No. 1 seed. I understand upside issues, but after the above 12 guys are off the board, I think Kaminsky becomes close to a no-brainer pick.
14. Bobby Portis
Portis finally got his chance to shine against Kentucky's NBA-level front line, and he put up very Portis-like numbers: 15 points and 8 rebounds while shooting 6-for-11 from the field. Nothing jaw-dropping, just the same quiet production he's posted all season for Arkansas. On Saturday, he dropped 24 points and 15 rebounds against two other NBA athletes -- Jarrel Martin and Jordan Mickey of LSU. Portis might not steal many highlights, but the guy can really play.
15. Devin Booker
Scouts aren't necessarily concerned, but Booker's picture-perfect jump shot hasn't been tickling the nets the same way it was earlier in the season. Since the start of February, he's shot 12-for-40 from 3 (30 percent) with plenty of open looks. Teams are primarily interested in Booker for his shooting, and while no one is dissuaded about his shooting prowess, he needs to start hitting more shots to keep himself this high on the board.
16. Malik Pope
Pope hasn't really had much in the way of breakout games since he debuted at No. 25 on our Big Board a month ago. But he has drawn the attention of a number of NBA scouts and GMs, many of whom have traveled to San Diego State and come away with the same feedback: "He's not ready now, but when he does get ready -- look out." With the 76ers owning a draft pick in the late lottery to mid-first round, Pope seems ready made to be their guy. He's everything Sam Hinkie is looking for: A player who's long, athletic and, most importantly, a potential (emphasize potential) home run. After Okafor, Towns, Mudiay, Russell and Porzingis, there isn't a player in the draft with more upside than Pope. You're just going to have to be very, very patient with him.
17. Trey Lyles
Lyles has been a revelation for the Wildcats in three of their last four games. He had 18 points versus both Mississippi State and Arkansas and posted 14 points against Florida. Next to Towns, he's the best offensive big man on the team. What's special about Lyles is his sophisticated midrange game. He's money from 18 feet and is shooting an impressive 45 percent on his 2-point jumpers this season. More and more scouts are talking about Lyles potentially being Kentucky's fourth lottery pick in this draft.Lyles has been a revelation for the Wildcats in three of their last four games. He had 18 points versus both Mississippi State and Arkansas and posted 14 points against Florida. Next to Towns, he's the best offensive big man on the team. What's special about Lyles is his sophisticated midrange game. He's money from 18 feet and is shooting an impressive 45 percent on his 2-point jumpers this season. More and more scouts are talking about Lyles potentially being Kentucky's fourth lottery pick in this draft.
18. R.J. Hunter
Hunter's 3-point shot has been a disaster this season. After looking like he could be the second coming of Klay Thompson, he's shooting just 31 percent from deep (71-for-233). But that doesn't tell the whole story.He's averaging nearly 20 PPG along with a career-high 3.8 APG and 2.0 SPG. He's also gotten to the line 50 more times this season. Most of the scouts (and analytics people) I spoke with are still very high on him. "He's trying to do too much at Georgia State," one scout said. "Put him on the right team and I think he could be a dangerous player in the NBA."
19. Montrezl Harrell
I'm not sure there's much to write about Harrell other than to say that when he's focused, he's a beast attacking the rim and on the boards. What he lacks in size and shot selection (quit with the 3s, Montrezl), he makes up for in length, explosive athletic ability and toughness. He's been so steady over the years, bouncing between Nos. 12 to 20 on our Big Board, that it's easy to take him for granted.
20. Jakob Poeltl
We've had Poeltl hanging around the mid-first round all season despite a decidedly up-and-down campaign. Poeltl's appeal, like Pope's, comes from the upside of being a mobile 7-footer who can run the floor, crash the offensive glass and protect the rim. His body isn't NBA-ready, and he'd probably be better-served returning to Utah for his sophomore year, but he isn't going to slide too far if he declares. Some team will be willing to wait for him to be NBA-ready.
21. Jerian Grant
While everyone is on the Grant bandwagon this season, it's easy to forget that before he was suspended for academic reasons, he was actually having, across the board, an even better junior season at Notre Dame. Still, the long, athletic point guard has won his fair share of fans among scouts who believe that his versatility could make him an ideal guard coming off the bench at either the point or off-guard position at the next level.
22. Kris Dunn
Scouts have slowly been warming up to Dunn all season, and for good reason: He checks a lot of boxes. He has great size and length for his position, is a terrific athlete, sees the floor well and is a terror on the defensive end. He can be turnover-prone and isn't a great 3-point shooter, but there is a lot of talent there, and more and more scouts now see him as a potential late first-round steal.
23. Terry Rozier
With Chris Jones kicked off the team, Rozier has been asked to play more of a facilitator role, and the last three games Rozier has averaged six assists per game (up from 2.8 for the season) and nearly four steals per game. Rozier might never be a pure point guard, but his toughness, ability to hound players on the defensive end and his explosiveness getting to the rim remind some scouts of a young Kyle Lowry.
24. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Hollis-Jefferson might not be able to shoot, but he continues to hang around in the 20s because he's so valuable defensively, gets points in so many other ways, and is such a tough rebounder and leader. Some scouts aren't in love with him. Others think he can be a Gerald Wallace-type player in the NBA someday.
25. Sam Dekker
Dekker's toughness, versatility and consistency are keeping him in the first-round mix. He hasn't had a dominant junior season, but scouts are so fond of him for all the little things he does, like Hollis-Jefferson, to make his team better.
26. Delon Wright
Wright is another senior who is drawing serious accolades this season despite the fact that he (arguably) was better as a junior. Wright averaged more points, rebounds, blocks, steals and shot a higher percentage from everywhere but the 3-point line last season.
27. Zhou Qi
As Pelton pointed out in our column last Friday, Qi is quietly putting up dominant numbers in China for a 19-year-old. Scouts loved him at the Nike Hoop Summit a year ago. He's another versatile big man who can shoot the ball and protect the rim. A major knock on him is his slight frame: He's so thin that he makes Poeltl look like Shaq. But if there's another international player worthy of rolling the dice on late in the first round, Qi might be the guy.
28. Tyus Jones
Jones continues to draw a split decision from NBA scouts. The analytics folks love him while the old-school scouts look at his lack of size and elite athletic ability and wonder what the deal is. He can really see the floor and is shooting the ball well this season, but the one thing that stands out about all the other point guards ranked above him is their size and/or athletic ability. Jones might see the floor better than any of them, but he doesn't have those two intangibles that scouts really look for.
29. Domantas Sabonis
Sabonis is the 13th freshman on our Big Board (you read that correctly). Add Mudiay, Porzingis, Hezonja and Qi to the mix (all the age of average college freshmen) and that number swells to 16. Sabonis comes off the bench for Gonzaga and does not do much that is flashy. But at 6-10, he's an appealing big man who rebounds and knows how to score at both the rim (he's shooting 76 percent for the season) and in the midrange game (48 percent on 2-point jumpers). Several international scouts swear he'd be a major steal this low in the draft.
30. Caris LeVert
LeVert has been out since Jan. 20 with a stress fracture, though he should be healthy enough to compete in draft workouts. While his junior year was solid, his passing and shooting ability could make him a hotter commodity than he shows right now as we get closer to the draft.
Next five in: Justin Anderson, GF, Virginia; Jarrell Martin, PF, LSU; Christian Wood, PF, UNLV; Dakari Johnson, C, Kentucky; Cliff Alexander, PF, Kansas
Edited by PMatic - 3/11/15 at 11:46am
Imagine for a minute that you are the president of the New York Knicks. (Note: You may also want to imagine you have a large bottle of sedatives nearby, and a poster of the Cayman Islands to gaze at.)
You have torn down your muddled roster. You have opened salary-cap room for free agents. You have positioned the franchise for its highest draft pick in decades.
But you also have a star player, earning an average of $25 million over the next four seasons, nearing his 31st birthday. His window as an elite player—his window to contend for titles—is shrinking.
A rebuilding plan requires patience. A contending team requires urgency.
This is the quandary the Knicks face, the puzzle that team president Phil Jackson has created for himself. And it raises a prickly question:
Should the Knicks trade that glittery draft pick for immediate help?
The Knicks are at least testing the market, according to a recent ESPN report—a revelation that sent jittery, long-suffering Knicks fans into a group meltdown. Trading draft picks for quick fixes is, after all, a primary reason for the Knicks' misery these last 15 years.
But under the circumstances, the Knicks would be wise to at least gauge the value of their pick—likely to be in the top three—and ascertain what they might get in return.
In part, because they need to maximize Anthony's remaining years. In part, because the draft is a crapshoot, and the top prospects are all college freshmen who will not become NBA stars for at least two to three years, if they become stars at all.
"I think you have to explore every option if you're an NBA team coming off a horrendous season," said Jonathan Givony, the president of DraftExpress, which scouts NBA prospects. "I think that it's borderline malpractice to just shut off your phone and not listen to offers."
As Givony notes, accurately, "Crazy things happen. You have to listen to everything."
If a team offered an established All-Star and at least one other high-caliber starter, wouldn't the Knicks be obligated to consider it? Absolutely, said a rival general manager, who noted that a top-five pick offers no guarantee of stardom, or even competence. Indeed, many high picks go bust or turn out to be merely average.
In the NBA, sometimes the sure thing is better than the prospect behind Door No. 2.
"You could certainly make a case for trading (the pick)," said a veteran Eastern Conference scout.
The Knicks have the NBA's worst record (12-51), but their draft position will be determined by the lottery, on May 19. If they remain in last, the Knicks would have a 25 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick and a guarantee of drafting no lower than fourth.
What will the Knicks find in the top four? A batch of 19-year-olds, headlined by Duke's Jahlil Okafor and Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns, with much development still ahead.
"There's a huge learning curve going from college basketball to the NBA," Givony said. "I think it's going to take these guys a couple years to reach their potential."
The scout concurred: "The history of the league [suggests] those guys are going to struggle a little bit. Very few guys have an enormous immediate impact."
Can the Knicks afford to wait for Okafor to become a solid defender, or for Towns to polish his offensive game? Those are the two names likely to be called first on draft night. Both have All-Star potential, said Givony, "even though a lot can go wrong on the way."
The Eastern Conference scout was more conservative.
"I'm not sure either guy is a franchise player," he said. "Is it LeBron, Kobe, Westbrook, Durant, Duncan? I'm not sure about that. But they should be very good players...The downside would be above-average starters, just based on [their] talent. And they're only 19. You'd think they're going to get better."
Of course, the Knicks could easily drop to third or fourth in the draft lottery, where the consensus choices are point guards Emmanuel Mudiay (playing in China) and D'Angelo Russell of Ohio State.
Neither one is considered anywhere close to a sure thing.
"There are a lot of question marks with both of those guys," Givony said, "but they're also really, really talented. After that, honestly, it's a crapshoot."
Question marks. Crapshoots. Every draft brings as much false hope and heartache as it does enduring NBA talent. Trading a lottery pick, then, is a calculated gamble—a bet that the actual NBA player (or players) you acquire are better than the untested kid from State U.
The Knicks could also use their estimated $30 million in cap room to land a few veterans, thus giving any lottery pick time to develop. Yet their needs are so numerous, and their roster so devoid of talent, that free agency alone might not solve the problem. And free agency is its own crapshoot. So should the Knicks trade their pick? That will depend on (a) their actual draft position, and (b) what a team is willing to offer, neither of which can be known at this stage.
NBA trade history does provide some cautionary tales.
In 2006, the Bulls traded the No. 2 pick, LaMarcus Aldridge, to Portland in exchange for the No. 4 pick, Tyrus Thomas. Aldridge has become a perennial All-Star. Thomas is out of the league.
In 2001, the Atlanta Hawks traded the No. 3 pick, Pau Gasol, to the Memphis Grizzlies for a package of Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Jamaal Tinsley. Gasol is a future Hall of Famer. Abdur-Rahim made one All-Star Game.
And of course, the Cavaliers last year traded No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins (along with 2013 No. 1 Anthony Bennett) to Minnesota, in a deal for three-time All-Star Kevin Love. Judgment on that deal might take a few years—though a Cavs championship could render the debate moot.
Sometimes, trading a lottery pick works out just fine. Witness the Boston Celtics, dealing the fifth pick in 2007, Jeff Green, to Seattle in a package for Ray Allen.
Again, we don't know where the Knicks' pick will land. If they climb to 29th in the standings (second worst), they could fall as far as fifth in the draft lottery. If they finish 28th (third worst), they could fall as far as sixth. The value of their pick—and what it could net in return—will not be known for another two months.
(Also worth noting: By rule, the Knicks cannot actually trade their 2015 pick until after they have used it, because they've already traded their 2016 pick.)
In other words, it's probably too soon to judge the wisdom of trading the pick—or to freak out over the possibility.
- Jahlil Okafor: "He will be a starting player [as a rookie]. He'll be able to score. He's going to struggle defensively. How much of an impact will he make? If he's on a bad team he's going to be like Michael Carter-Williams—he's going to get a lot of touches, he's going to score a lot of points. Is he a good guy for the triangle (offense)? I don't know about that. He's not a face-up guy at all. He's a pretty good passer. Not really good defensively, not real athletic. He's more of a traditional five-man. ... His game is basically score on the block and rebound. He's not an up-and-down guy. He's a poor foul shooter."
- Karl-Anthony Towns: "He is much more well-rounded [than Okafor]. He can make an outside shot. Okafor is really going to be able to score. Towns has got more of a face-up, inside-outside attack, plus is much better defensively."
- D'Angelo Russell: "He's terrific. He's quick, he's got great vision. Is he a lead guard in the triangle? No, not really. You want the ball in his hands. You want him [to play like] Chris Paul, you want him dominating the action, because he makes so many good things happen. And he can score. His body's a concern. He's kind of skinny. Is he really a consistent shooter? That's not clear, but he can make plays."
- Emmanuel Mudiay: "He's a mystery man, like [Dante] Exum last year. But I think he's better than Exum. He's got more talent. Exum was a little bit of a myth. This guy, from what I've heard, is a little less of a myth."
Disagree with the Melo part but yea, wouldn't hurt to look at what he could get for the pick.
Still see Okafor going #1.
Edited by GotHolesInMySocks - 3/11/15 at 9:24pm
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It's why I'd rather have just traded Melo/let him walk and do a true rebuild. But with that contract it probably won't happen.
What I could honestly see happening is they get a top pick, get one of the big names, then in 18 months he gets traded for "a superstar" to try to win now and it doesn't workout.
Then Towns becomes one of the best big men in the NBA and we rue the day we traded him.
I'll be hopeful, keep the pick, sign another star, build the PERFECT team and they make their run in a few years once the draft pick emerges, the team works out the kinks, and a 34 year old Melo leads us to the promiseland
Look at the "talent" around him. He's also injured.
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We have a very small window to capitalize on. I'd say keep the draft pick and address whatever voids are there through free agency. If we strike out...that's another down year.
you dont trade the pick. the pick is there to have the torch passed to him when melo gets older. same reason cleveland should've kept wiggins.
ESPN Insider's Chad Ford and Kevin Pelton return to provide the kind of discussions that are happening in front offices around the NBA -- where scouts and statistical experts are breaking down NBA draft prospects using their "eyes, ears and numbers."
Question: Why hasn't Willie Cauley-Stein's rise up draft boards been mirrored by his WARP projection?
Kevin Pelton: No top upperclassman has done more to solidify his draft stock this season than Cauley-Stein, the junior center from Kentucky who is the only non-freshman NCAA player in the top 10 on Chad's most recent big board. Yet Cauley-Stein wasn't in the top 30 of my statistical big board; he currently ranks 44th in terms of projected WARP (1.2), a discrepancy that's worth considering.
From the perspective of box-score stats, Cauley-Stein hasn't improved dramatically from his sophomore season. While he's playing a larger role in the UK offense despite all the talent around him, Cauley-Stein has seen his block rate drop nearly by half from his sophomore season. So factoring in age, his projection is actually slightly worse than it was a year ago. What have scouts seen that has helped boost his stock?
Chad Ford: The raw appeal has nothing to really do with his box-score stats. It's the siren song of a super athletic 7-footer with the agility to defend, perhaps, all five positions on the floor. Those guys come along ... well, never. That's why he's in the conversation for a top-10 pick. He's inconsistent offensively, but his defensive upside is off the charts.
Question: What are Cauley-Stein's strengths and weaknesses?
Pelton: The big positive with Cauley-Stein is something my projection system usually loves: steal rate. Among players listed as centers in my database, Cauley-Stein's projected steal percentage (1.7 percent) would rank third behind DeJuan Blair and Nerlens Noel. In terms of both projected steal percentage and block percentage (4.4 percent), just two players can beat Cauley-Stein: Kentucky predecessors Noel and Anthony Davis.
The difference between Cauley-Stein and those players is on the glass. His projected defensive rebound percentage (15.9 percent) would be the worst of any NBA-bound center in my database. Cauley-Stein has had plenty of competition for rebounds from his teammates, including Noel, Julius Randle and now Karl-Anthony Towns. An adjustment for that competition is one reason Cauley-Stein scores so much better in Layne Vashro's draft projections. Still, it's hard to project Cauley-Stein as even an average rebounder in the NBA.
Ford: Cauley-Stein projects as a versatile, elite defender who has, time and time again, shut down the opposing team's best player when he's hot. I think he's a much better shot-blocker than his stats show this season. He's typically on the floor with another elite shot-blocker, Towns. With Towns protecting the rim, head coach John Calipari has used Cauley-Stein in all sorts of creative ways, including chasing players down on the perimeter and funneling them into a waiting Towns. If Towns wasn't on this team, Cauley-Stein would be used differently (like he was last season with Julius Randle) and his blocks would be way up.
While you're concerned about his rebounding numbers, it's his offense (or lack thereof) that scares me. He's still, three years into his college career, a major work in progress on offense. He's great in the open floor and alley-oops. He's showing the beginnings of a nice mid-range jumper. But his post game is still very raw and his shot selection can be highly questionable. He's going to be an offensive liability for a while.
The other knock you'll occasionally hear about Cauley-Stein is his personality. He's quirky and his entire life doesn't just center on basketball the way it does for so many other top prospects. That scares teams and makes them wonder whether he'll have the drive to improve his game at the next level.
Question: What is an NBA comparison for Cauley-Stein?
Pelton: SCHOENE's best comp for Cauley-Stein at the same age is former Florida State center Solomon Alabi, who played two seasons for the Toronto Raptors but never stuck in the NBA. The next two players are more encouraging: Larry Sanders and Joakim Noah. Throwing out age, Minnesota Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng was a good match, though he was a year and a half older and has evolved into a better offensive player in the pros (but a weaker defender) than his college stats suggested. Subjectively, I think like Cauley-Stein could be a rich man's version of Ryan Hollins. Is that selling him short, Chad?
Ford: I think so. He'd better be better than Hollins or Alabi if he's going to be a top-10 pick. I hear Tyson Chandler comps a lot from NBA teams. Sanders, too. I actually think Noel might be the right comp -- an agile, versatile, athletic big man who can collect high rates of blocks and steals but struggles to score.
Question: Who's your sleeper this week?
Pelton: Wade Baldwin IV, PG, Fr., Vanderbilt
Baldwin recently made the national headlines for all the wrong reasons -- he was on the receiving end of Commodores coach Kevin Stallings' verbal abuse after taunting a Tennessee player in the postgame handshake line. I suspect eventually we'll know Baldwin for his work on the court. I threw him into my projections after seeing how well he rated by Vashro's metrics, and he jumped immediately to 11th in projected WARP. That overstates Baldwin's readiness to play in the NBA -- he shot just 37.0 percent on 2-point attempts in the SEC -- but he's shown promise for a freshman point guard. Per Sports-Reference.com, Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell is the only other major-conference freshman who has averaged at least 8.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 4.0 APG, and past players meeting those criteria have tended to get to the NBA. So look out for Baldwin in the 2016 or 2017 draft.
My sleeper is: Domantas Sabonis, F, Fr., Gonzaga
I know I appear to have this fascination for freshman who don't start for their own teams, but Sabonis is quietly drawing major attention from NBA scouts and I can see why. Some of it, I'm sure, is the fact that his father is Arvydas Sabonis, perhaps the greatest international big man of all time. But more of it has to do with his elite rebounding ability (his total rebounding percentage is better than any freshman or sophomore in the country at 18.9 percent), size, great shooting percentages (74 percent at the rim, 48 percent on 2-point jumpers) and high basketball IQ for a player who doesn't turn 19 until May.
I know he's not an elite athlete (though his motor makes up for some of that), nor does he have a 3-point shot, but every time I see him on the floor, he passes the eye test as a big man who could really have a nice career in the NBA. We have him at No. 29 on our Big Board, but it feels too low. Especially given the fact that some teams see him as the perfect draft-and-stash candidate.
Pelton: Sabonis is currently 45th on my board, directly behind Cauley-Stein, but when players withdraw from the draft, I suspect he'll end up about the same spot as your big board if he decides to enter. Sabonis definitely makes sense as a stash candidate if he's interested in heading back overseas, since he's not yet ready to contribute in the NBA (my projections have him below replacement level next season), but at 18 he's one of the youngest players potentially in this draft class.
My big concern: Sabonis definitely isn't a rim protector (0.6 blocks per 40 minutes this year) and he doesn't figure to develop into a floor spacer (66.3 percent free throw shooting is a poor indicator in that regard). That's a tough spot for modern big men.
Really want to see Justise on the Hawks. Seen him mocked there a few times.
Jazz work too.
Russell Give me him over Mudiay 10/10
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NY Knicks | NY Jets | NY Yankees
"When I die I want the Knicks/Jets to carry my casket so they can let me down one last time"
NY Knicks | NY Jets | NY Yankees
"When I die I want the Knicks/Jets to carry my casket so they can let me down one last time"
Three of these dudes ain't even on the team and the one that is washed.
Coulda had Dame Lillard but instead they paying Deron MVP money.
Edited by awwsome - 3/12/15 at 5:37pm