Sign Of Things To Come?

In my latest podcast I talked about how the Celtics were a bad matchup for the Bucks.  I also weaseled out of making a prediction since I was torn between both teams.  All season I thought the Bucks were the team that had the best on-court fit in the eastern conference.  A 5-out motion offense built around Giannis with shooting at every position.  Brook Lopez became instrumental with his floor spacing ability and paint protection on defense.  Even with having arguably the best player going in the league, the best record in the league, a top five offensive and defensive efficiency and a great coach, I wasn’t confident picking them over the Celtics.  A Celtics team a lot of people wrote off before the playoffs started, and with some justification of course.  They haven’t been on the same page all season, injuries have taken a toll and players haven’t progressed like they should’ve.  I still like the Celtics because of how they are designed; a pick-and-roll mismatch problem at center, a slashing scoring three point shooting point guard with big switchable wings.  That type of team design is built well for the postseason.

The regular season isn’t the playoffs.  It isn’t about doing one thing great, it’s about versatility.  Yes, the Bucks are a great defensive team but they were built primarily around a contain first pick-and-roll coverage.  In the playoffs you need to be diverse enough to cover pick-and-roll’s every which way.  Brook Lopez is great at one type of pick-and-roll coverage but can he hedge?  Switch?  And cover space in a timely matter?  That was my issue going into this series.  That was why I couldn’t in good faith pick the Bucks over the Celtics.  Game one confirmed my suspicion and if the Bucks don’t make the necessary adjustments they will lose this series.

To start off the game the Celtics had Horford defend Giannis.  They did the same thing to Ben Simmons last postseason.  Although, the difference is the Celtics are playing tighter gap protection on Giannis’ drives.

In the first play you have Jayson Tatum leaving his man along the perimeter to shadow Giannis with the help of Kyrie Irving, Marcus Morris hugging the lane line to shrink space.  The next play you have Giannis in transition with Horford guarding him, Irving shadowing him, Morris in the middle of the paint and Tatum taking a dig at him from the corner.  The Celtics were keying in on Giannis.

The Celtics would also put Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris on Giannis when Horford was on the bench.  Horford actually did a good job cutting off driving angles and giving help defense time to crash down.  Boston was ok taking an extra step in on Giannis while giving extra space to the Bucks shooters.  Whether that’s because Malcolm Brogdon is hurt and they are giving his replacement Sterling Brown license to drive.

Or they don’t trust players like Pat Connaughton, Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez, Nikola Mirotic and Ersan Ilyasova to torch them from three and attack closeouts. 

The Celtics were switching on most ball screens and then would revert back to safer matchups on the weak side.  The Bucks did headhunt on occasion looking for better cross matchups like Terry Rozier defending Giannis but rarely did they go to that.  That should be something the Bucks try to exploit more in game two.  Overall game one the Bucks stuck with what they knew best.  They’re going to have to trust their shooters moving forward even if they miss open shots.  Those shooters are paramount for Milwaukee’s floor balance.  I would like to see DJ Wilson get more playing time.  I think his length and athleticism at the forward/center position can help in terms of positional versatility.  Until they get Brogdon back, they will be lacking another creator on offense and players like Pat Connaughton will have to play major minutes even though they’re struggling just to defend Boston’s point of attack offense.  Brook Lopez will have to make open threes while Bledsoe will have to be better off the bounce if they want this to be a competitive series.

Rudy Gobert and Brook Lopez are great drop coverage defenders.  During the regular season you can rely on that to win defensive player of the year and be apart of a top five defense.  Come playoff time it’s about versatility and how well you can cover space.

The Bucks were containing most everything on ball screens and hardly stunted at the shooter left open.  If Horford can make that above the break three consistently the Bucks will have to make adjustments asap.  Lopez, Mirotic and Ilyasova can’t cover ground as fast as they need to versus the Celtics ball screen motion offense.

The Celtics were bending the Bucks defense all game and making them scramble on exploitable matchups.

That’s part of the reason why I think DJ Wilson should play more game two.  He has the lateral movement to stay on switches and good change of direction ability to cover space in a timely matter.  It doesn’t help when, at times, the Bucks were struggling to contain dribble penetration, were slow to matchup and had poor communication.

This was my overall fear coming into this series and it played out terribly for the Bucks.

The Bucks are obviously not out of it yet.  They have to do a better job headhunting on offense, making open threes, stunting at the pick-and-pop shooter and covering space on defense.  Hopefully it’s not a little too late when Malcolm Brogdon comes back, he could be the difference maker the Bucks need to help with continuity.  Until then however Eric Bledsoe will have to step up his role on offense.  I said whoever wins this series will win the eastern conference and I stand by that claim.  Unless the Bucks make the correct adjustments, the Celtics could be that team.

2019 NBA Playoffs Second Round Thoughts

It’s been a long time since I did a podcast.  I stumble over myself, mispronounce words, go off on tangents and the mic is terrible.  Just another OldMan podcast:

1:10 – Why is Andrew Bogut playing?  Will the Warriors lose to Houston?

7:25 – Tip of the cap to Daryl Morey.  Is Houston better than they were last season?

11:30 – Is Steve Kerr an idiot?

13:30 – East Preview

15:40 – Milwaukee vs Boston

Post-Tournament Top 20 Prospect Rankings

*UPDATED 5/31/19* With the NBA combine and early-entry withdrawal deadline in the books I wanted to make the necessary adjustments to my ranking.  Nothing major.  Slight modifications were made to match with the final early-entry list and combine information.  I also left players like Bol Bol and Jontay Porter off my ranking due to injury concerns.

After watching the tournament I had to post an updated version of my rankings before I start posting scouting reports.  It wouldn’t have made sense if I posted a negative scouting report about a player I have ranked highly.  By updating my prospect rankings they will now be in line with my player breakdowns that are soon to be posted.  I’m trying to get at a threshold of games scouted before I start posting extensive breakdowns.  The more game notes I take the better.  With the NBA playoffs underway I’m going to post the player breakdowns sporadically but will still try to get as many out asap (Note: I haven’t watched much film on International Prospects so none are ranked):      

 

Tier #1

 

  1. Zion Williamson, FR, Duke, PF/C, 6’7, 18.7 years

~ Duh.  

 

Tier #2

 

  1. Kevin Porter jr, FR, USC, SG, 6’6, 18.9 years

~ Porter jr moves back up one spot.  If you just look at his box score stats you won’t get it.  If you look at his on and off court concerns you will think he’s too much of a risk.  He was also oft-injured for most of his freshman season.  Regardless of his baggage, I just really like how he maneuvers on a rope in traffic with his dribbling ability.  He can be knocked off his spots at times by stronger players but his live-dribble skills in tight spaces is arguably the best in this class. He’s also a tough shot maker with creation skills on defense.  He did rely on his stepback quite often even though it did create quick separation in an instant.  His poor free throw percentage and finishing ability are concerns.  But I do think the role he was playing at USC shouldn’t be his role in the NBA.  A spread pick-and-roll offense or drive-and-kick offense where he can be a primary creator and scorer would help his game flourish at the next level.  Porter isn’t going to be a player that can fit every system and won’t be able to mold his game from scheme to scheme.  Porter will be a perfect case study in situation dictates success.  In the right environment, support system and offensive scheme Porter jr can be a perennial all-star.

 

3. Ja Morant, SO, Murray State, PG, 6’3, 19.6 years

~ I moved Morant up four spots from my last ranking.  One of the big reasons why I moved him up so high and over RJ Barrett is due to long term faith in developing an outside shot.  His free throw percentage for his two seasons at Murray State was 81% which is a solid indicator of future shooting success.  His shooting mechanics can be a problem at the next level however due to his one-motion shooting technique.  One-motion shooting can quicken your jump shot but can lower your release point at same time.  He’ll need to add more core strength if he wants a more reliable long range shot at the next level.  On catch-and-shoot opportunities Morant shot 46.2% unguarded but only 26.3% guarded.  Morant will probably never be an elite shooter.  But as long as he can be an above average shooter with some shooting diversity added to his playmaking and scoring ability, his offensive game should translate.  Defensively on the other hand is a concern.  It was comical how bad Morant was defensively at times.  Blatantly letting ball handlers go by him just to attempt a back tap at the ball.  He got a lot of turnovers in the process but his defensive stance isn’t anywhere near what it needs to be at the next level.  Considering that three point shooting and defense are my two biggest concerns, it’s interesting to see him ranked third.  For one that tells me how weak this class is but secondly it should show what I think of his offensive creation skills.

 

4. Jarrett Culver, SO, Texas Tech, SG/SF, 6’7, 20.1 years

~ After an uneven performance during the tournament I have Culver ranked at four.  His first step is alright, he doesn’t have a consistent live-dribble anchor and his jump shot is still a work in progress.  His shooting mechanics are definitely something that needs improvement since it looks like he releases the shot starting on the way down.  All the tournament did is make Culver’s flaws glaring and emphasize his strengths.  Yes, Culver has trouble creating separation off the bounce.  Yes, his dribble drive stance can too hunched over at times.  And yes, his jump shot needs a better follow thru.  But where the high rank comes from is my projection.  If Culver measures out around 6’7 added with his good-to-great athleticism to go along with his creation skills off pick-and-roll, solid touch around the rim, versatile leaping ability and high level defensive play then projecting that his flaws can progress at the next level align with a tier two ranking.

 

5. De’Andre Hunter, (RS) SO, Virgina, SF/PF, 6’8, 21.3 years

~ Hunter moves down just one spot.  He ended up having a great championship game that overlooked what otherwise was a sub-par tournament performance.  Hunter is a plug and play 3-and-D wing. He just doesn’t offer that much live-dribble skills or creationism. He’s a better on-ball defender than team defender being out of position on certain actions and lingering off-ball too long.  But elite 3-and-D wings are still needed to construct title contenders.  He also possesses a high ceiling due to scarcity of position; 3-and-D swing forwards are in demand.  Hunter can also be cost efficient on his second contract due to lack of scoring prowess but will have a plus impact on-court.  Players like Hunter will be ranked highly in real plus/minus but be paid no where near what the other players on top of the real plus/minus leader board are.  Virginia in last year’s tournament lost in the first round without Hunter and this year Virginia wins the tournament with pretty much the same squad except this time Hunter plays.  I don’t know if Hunter will ever be an all-star but he sure can help a team win.

 

6. Grant Williams, JR, Tennessee, PF, 6’7, 20.4 years

~ Williams moves up four spots from my last rankings.  Grant Williams might not be an explosive athlete but he sure is a functional one.  He takes sharp angles on defense recoveries, he plays with a good low center of gravity, his defensive rotations are on a string and he uses his strong butt to carve out space.  His year after year improvement from the free throw line is encouraging for three point shooting success.  His shooting form is also pretty compact and repeatable too but I got the sense from Rick Barnes, Tennessee head coach, that he didn’t want Williams shooting threes and rather position himself in the post.  I think at the next level Williams will have more freedom shooting threes and the added confidence will go a long way.  He doesn’t really have live-ball skills; very limited off the bounce.  Most of his career he was a 17 ft and in type player.  He’s not breaking down a player off dribble any time soon but can make smart decisions when attacking a closeout or doubled in the post.  It’s really going to depend on how a team uses Williams skill set that determines his career path but I think he can produce, play good defense and have a positive impact on winning.

 

7. Darius Garland, FR, Vanderbilt, PG/SG, 6’2, 19.1 years

~ Garland moves down two spots from my last ranking.  I just wish he played a full season or even half season.  How different can Garland be when compared to other undersized scoring guards like Lou Williams and Eric Gordon?  Is that all he is or can he be a steady enough play maker to take his game to the next level?  His scoring ability and shooting portfolio give him a solid floor either way.  His injury history, size and defensive limitations are still concerns but dating back to his high school days he’s shown prowess as a shooter and scorer.  Also with how good the Clippers have been this season and how cost efficient Lou Williams is, maybe the role of a bench scorer with some play making ability and elite shooting should start to be looked at with greater reverence.

 

8. RJ Barrett, FR, Duke, SG, 6’6, 18.8 years

~ I moved Barrett down two spots from my last ranking.  If I’m wrong, I’m wrong but I think Barrett is one of the more over hyped prospects in this class.  Barrett’s overall long distance shooting, touch around the rim and free throw percentage are major red flags.  It’s the biggest reason why I’m lower on him then most other people. He also looked like just an average team defender with decent on-ball defensive skills.  He can always improve defensively since he has solid physical tools but too many times did I see him struggle to match up defensively during a scramble or poorly position himself defending at the point of attack.  But just like with Morant, Barrett’s live-ball creation skills, the ability to get to the line and pick-and-roll game make Barrett still very valuable at the next level.  The skills he needs to improve upon are all modern day necessities which makes me skeptic of Barrett even though I have him ranked eighth.

 

Tier #3

 

9. Tyler Herro, FR, Kentucky, SG, 6’5, 19.2 years

~ Herro stays ranked at number nine.  For a lot of young prospects they tend to regress as soon as conference play comes around.  Not Herro.  He improved as an on and off ball defender, was better at movement shooting and did more out of the pick-and-roll.  Herro needs to bulk up and get stronger if he wants to start finishing around the rim with efficiency.  I personally think he has the frame to fill out nicely overtime as he matures.  In the meantime, instead of attacking the rim off a closeout, Herro tends to pull up and use his excellent floater game.  Herro has fantastic touch but since he lacks explosion can be a little passive around the rim at times.  Herro is someone that I think can have a good showing at the 5-on-5 scrimmage portion of the NBA combine and rise up big boards as a result.  A lot of draft sites have him all over the board but it’s beginning to feel like more and more people are starting to buy into Herro.

 

10. Brandon Clarke, (RS) JR, Gonzaga, PF/C, 6’8, 22.5 years

~ Clarke moves up five spots from my last ranking.  If Clarke showed just a little promise shooting the ball I would have him ranked in my top five.  But guess what?  He didn’t.  Clarke in his three collegiate years shot 25% from three on .2 attempts per game and 61.8% from the free throw line on 4 attempts per game.  Yes, Clarke does possess good touch around the rim and some movement shooting 17 feet and in.  That could be an indicator for future shooting success.  Unfortunately Clarke is about to turn 23 years old.  I just would’ve liked to see more of an improvement with his feet set from the free throw line to the perimeter at this late of an age.  With that said I do think him as a rim-running, 17 feet and in type offensive player can produce at the next level.  Clarke off the dribble is really interesting because he can catch it at the perimeter, take two dribbles, spin right in the paint and leap off two feet for a power finish at the rim.  He has some live-dribble moves but I’m not holding my breath until he develops combo dribble drive moves.  On defense he possesses some switch ability, great vertical leaper at the rim and havoc creating plays on defense creating 6.1 stocks per 40 minutes.  His outside shot and off the bounce game will determine what ceiling Clarke has at the next level.  Either way he has a high floor regardless.

 

11. Romeo Langford, FR, Indiana, SF/PF, 6’6, 19.4 years

~ Langford’s pick-and-roll play is one of the biggest reasons why he’s still rank this highly.  I think Langford has a chance to be a strong wing scorer with a play making feel; those players don’t grow on trees.  Also if I had to bet on any prospect that shot less than 30% from three his freshman season and improve at the next level I would bet on Langford.  Langford shot 27% from three for the season but apparently he had a torn ligament in his shooting hand. When you combine that to his 72% free throw percentage, steady touch around the rim, inconsistent but manageable shooting mechanics, I would say Langford has a good chance being at least league average from three at the next level.  His defense was uninspiring.  He just looked average at all facets of defense: creation, on-ball, team.  It just looked like he was detached and wanted the season to be over.  I mean he didn’t even play in the NIT tournament. But when locked in defensively, he did show glimpses of good low man position ability and point of attack defense.  Langford could be one of those wings that if they don’t develop a three point shot will be a bench warmer but I think he possess enough other skills that his floor is higher than other swing forwards in this draft class.

 

12. Coby White, FR, North Carolina, PG, 19.1 years

~ Coby White was someone I was just considering last ranking and now he’s ranked twelfth.  I just wasn’t convinced about his scoring ability.  His long distance shot reminded me of Ja Morant; quick, low release and one motion mechanics.  He shot a bunch of step back jumpers and off the dribble pull up jays.  On 116 shots off the dribble White sported a .629 points per possession which ranked 27th percentile.  However throughout the season it did seem like he was putting more air underneath the ball and gave the shot more lift to shoot 38.5% from three during conference play as compared to 35.2% for the season.  Some of the biggest reasons why he’s now ranked has to do with his size, first step and defensive upside.  At 6’5, as long as he adds strength, he can be a solid combo guard with some small forward potential in small-ball lineups.  His first step isn’t elite but it’s pretty darn quick.  His overall herky-jerky dribbling style with combo dribble drive moves give him the ability to breakdown defenders off the bounce.  And for a point guard White was actually a good defensive player.  His on-ball could use some improvement but his effort level was still much better than Ja Morant.  White would whip his leg over screens to get a good angle and stay attached to ball handlers, collapse on drives and climb back to his own on kick outs.  Also, his off-ball movement on offense was pretty fair at times using cross, up or pin screens with decent relocation prowess.  As long as White continues his three point shooting ascension, he should carve out a nice role in the NBA.

 

13. Ty Jerome, JR, Virginia, PG/SG, 6’5, 21.8 years

~ Not only does Ty Jerome make my big board after being a player that “just missed the cut” last ranking but I have him ranked in the third tier.  His frame, athleticism and defensive upside are obviously big concerns.  It doesn’t look like Jerome has a wide frame to hold much muscle mass and it seems pretty slender.  His length will probably be average and I wonder if he takes part in the athleticism testing at the combine.  He might not have the defensive upside of most players on this list but his ability to give multiple efforts per play, have active feet on-ball and possess a high IQ to rarely be out of position make up for his deficiency in other areas.  Although when he does wall off a driver from the weak side, even though he wins the position and stays vertical, his average length can be easy to finish over at times.  He’s listed at 6’5 which will be a positive if true but his wingspan and hand size will be important factors moving forward. The main reason why he moved up so high on my list was offensive potential as a combo guard.  Jerome has a solid handle with sudden stop-and-go movements, a decent step back jumper and fantastic passing chops especially off pick-and-roll.  Jerome and Tyler Herro are similar prospects.  Both aren’t great at isolation scoring, getting to the hoop and exploding above the rim.  However, they are very patient with ball screens, waiting for the play to develop and identifying the open man before he pops free.  They possess some movement shooting off screens, can spot-up, off-the-dribble pull-up and are ideal shooters with touch on their floaters.  Jerome also isn’t afraid to leave his position to choke an action on off-ball defense causing turnovers.  Do both players have limited upside due to lack of physical profile?  Sure, but they have enough size to go along with skills that are becoming ever so important for today’s NBA.    

 

Tier #4

 

14. Nassir Little, FR, North Carolina, SF/PF, 6’6, 19.1 years

~  Little is frustrating.  He drops three spots from my last ranking.  I don’t even know why I have him ranked so high.  He feels like a Harrison Barnes type prospect.  A player that is primarily a scorer and nothing more on offense with some defensive potential.  Even though Little as a team defender was sub-par, I do like his defensive creation upside.  His positioning can be wonky defending dribble penetration but as long as he makes some tweaks to his footwork then his on-ball defense can translate to the next level too.  He’s an explosive rebounder and his 77% free throw percentage is a solid indicator for future three point shooting success.  He’s not going to be a pick-and-roll savant or playmaker off the bounce but he does possess a solid first step and some tough shot making ability.  Little is clearly more projection than reality but in a year where most prospects are flawed Little can be a lottery pick.  I also might have him ranked lower for my final prospect rankings, so there’s that too.

 

15. Keldon Johnson, FR, Kentucky, SG, 6’6, 19.5 years

~ Johnson moves down two spots from my last ranking.  I actually think Johnson should return to school for one more season to improve his draft stock because I don’t think it’s as high as it could be.  He isn’t great at offensive creation but does pretty much everything else average (or slightly above average) on offense. That’s not a bad thing per se but Johnson doesn’t possess one truly great skill.  He does possess nice foot work off screens, decent shiftiness in the lane and the ability to get to the rim.  His shot is also hard to trust since he wasn’t much of a long distance shooter in high school and he regressed shooting during conference play.  He also tends to leap off two feet most of the time which worries me at the next level.  Being able to leap off either foot around the rim helps throw off timing for shot blockers.  On around the basket buckets (no post-ups) Johnson sported a 1.106 points per possession which ranked 48th percentile.  Johnson may have solid speed and quickness but lacks above the rim explosion.  Defensively Johnson has the tools to become a solid wing defender but his team defense was a work in progress throughout the season having issues setting up in low man position.  He was also out done by Tyler Herro, his teammate, in terms of defensive creation.  This is now the second time Johnson moves down on my big board.  There’s still more games to be watched but I doubt he moves back up.

 

16. Cam Reddish, FR, Duke, SF/PF, 6’9, 19.5 years

~ Reddish falls two spots from my last ranking.  Take away the school on his jersey, his height and lofty high school recruitment ranking and I doubt anyone thinks Reddish is a first round pick.  But since he is 6’8 with a 7’2 wingspan and has good athleticism, Reddish is talked about like a top five pick.  I just don’t know many players who went on to succeed at the next level shooting 39.4% on two pointers.  How does a player who is known for his shooting have such mediocre touch around the rim?  He mostly drives in a straight line, doesn’t have much wiggle in the lane and alters his long distance shot when closely contested.  Reddish did shoot 7.4 three point attempts per game which is great volume. The ability to get your shot off when guarded on the perimeter and shooting 77% from the free throw line can be seen as indicators of shooting success at the next level.  He does possess nice defensive creation skills due to his length but his positioning, stance and communication are still meager abilities that need to be improved upon.  If I’m wrong about Cam Reddish then so be it but I think developing his game will be a major undertaking.  

 

17. Chuma Okeke, SO, Auburn, PF/C, 6’8, 20.6 years

~ Last year I wrote a series of articles under the title “prospect watch” and wrote about certain prospects that have the potential to be lottery picks some day.  Chuma Okeke was one of the players I wrote an article about.  The article is a little dated even after just a year.  For starters the way I grade prospects has evolved and secondly there’s more film to go off of.  I stated in the article that Okeke can be a Kyle Kuzma type player, which I still kind of agree with that statement.  But I actually think Okeke can be more of a cross between Kuzma and Boris Diaw.  A heady big that can play either front court spots, that isn’t overly athletic.  He uses his skills to affect the geometry of the court on offense with his pick-and-pop play and passing ability while possessing some switch ability and defensive creation.  Getting stronger, developing core strength and better conditioning will help Okeke explode on shots around the rim and not rely on head fakes.  His ACL injury is such a shame.  If he doesn’t get hurt a good argument can be made that Auburn wins the title.  At this point however why would he return to Auburn?  He might not even play until the end of the season and at that point his draft stock probably will decline.  But since his draft stock has value now he can rehab with a pro training staff and recover for his second season as a pro.  If I were a team that’s rebuilding, drafting Okeke makes a ton of sense.

 

18. Jaxson Hayes, FR, Texas, C, 6’11, 18.9 years

~ Hayes stays ranked at number eighteen.  I don’t want to repeat myself for the third time but my biggest concern is his offensive repertoire.  Can he do much outside of 5 feet from the basket at the next level offensively?  If you put Hayes in the Clint Capela role then obviously Hayes will flourish, but hoping that Hayes plays with one of the best pick-and-roll players in the NBA is wishful thinking.  His 74% free throw percentage is a nice indicator of shooting potential at the next level but Hayes never shot the ball outside the paint.  At least last season Mo Bamba was attempting to show scouts he could step out and stretch the court. There’s nothing wrong with being a Capela, Rudy Gobert type player but I just think the positive impact a play making or shooting center has on a team is the wave of the future for NBA centers.  

 

19. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SO, Virginia Tech, SG, 6’5, 20.5 years

~ One of my biggest fallers, Alexander-Walker falls eleven spots from my last ranking.  There’s still a chance I move him back up due to his three point shooting, playmaking ability out of pick-and-roll and defensive creation ability.  But this was now the second straight year where his production and on-court impact fell off during conference play and beyond.  He has trouble playing out of isolation and too often does he pick up his dribble early forcing himself into unnecessarily uncomfortable situations.  His skill set is similar to players like Herro/Jerome but one of the biggest differences between players like Herro/Jerome and Alexander-Walker are movement shooting.  Alexander-Walker has shot off baseline stagger screens before but he really is a spot-up, set feet type shooter.  I think as long as he adds more versatility to his shooting portfolio at the next level then he should earn a role with a NBA team.

 

20. Darius Bazley, Princeton HS (OH), PF, 6’9, 18.9 years

~ Easily the highest climber on my ranking is Darius Bazley.   Bazley sat out the entire year and didn’t play any basketball last season.  He was a top-15 ranked prospect by most recruiting websites but went the route of not signing with a college or playing in the g-league and instead improving through personal workouts.  Obviously I didn’t know much about him outside of some high school games and the amateur all-star circuit.  He has good versatile size at 6’9 with a 7′ wingspan and solid athletic ability sporting the sixth best shuttle run at the combine with 2.95 seconds.  But watching him play the five on five scrimmages at the NBA combine was going to be super important.  Since Bazley is one of the youngest prospects in the draft and sat out the year, watching him go up against older players who are coming off of playing college ball was going to be telling.

The five on five scrimmage portion of the NBA combine didn’t have as many first round fringe prospects like in years past.  Instead this year were mostly projected mid-to-late second round prospects invited to participate.  I was still impressed by some players like Nicolas Claxton, Zach Norvell jr, DaQuan Jeffries, Charles Matthews, Isaiah Roby and Jordan Bone but overall the talent level of the players were lacking and the style of the game felt more novice than pro.  But a clear standout was Bazley.  His ball handling ability at that size was the first thing to pop off the screen.  He had a fine first step for someone that big, showed decent foot work on finishes, nice touch around the rim and a shot that seems workable at the next level.  It looked like he made up ground in a hurry defensively and had solid on-ball defensive moments.  And again this is coming off sitting out a year to playing live action ball against older players.  That’s why even though the talent level of the scrimmages wasn’t as pristine as in years past, to be a standout nonetheless was impressive for Bazley.  He’s still very raw and the lack of tape is totally an issue in grading a prospect properly but with his physical profile, combine footage and the lack of great depth in this class pushes Bazley into my top 20 for now.

 

Players That Just Missed The Cut

  1. Talen Horton-Tucker, SG/SF, Iowa State, FR
  2. Matisse Thybulle, SG, Washington, SR
  3. Shamorie Ponds, PG, St. Johns, JR
  4. Kyle Guy, SG, Virginia, JR
  5. PJ Washington, C, Kentucky, SO
  6. Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland, SO
  7. Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga, JR
  8. Nicolas Claxton, PF/C, Georgia, SO
  9. Josh Reaves, SG, Penn State, SR
  10. Isaiah Roby, PF/C, Nebraska, JR
  11. DaQuan Jeffries, SF/PF, Tulsa, SR
  12. Terence Davis, SG, Ole Miss, SR
  13. Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue, JR
  14. Quinndary Weatherspoon, SG, Mississippi State, SR
  15. Dylan Windler, SF, Belmont, SR
  16. Zylan Cheatham, PF, Arizona State, SR
  17. Cody Martin, SF, Nevada, SR
  18. Jordan Poole, SG, Michigan, SO
  19. Cameron Johnson, SG/SF, North Carolina, SR
  20. Zach Norvell jr, SG, Gonzaga, SO

Some Quick Hit Thoughts On The 2019 Playoffs

Lately I’ve been working on my post-tournament prospect rankings which will be out very soon.  After I post my big board I’ll start posting scouting reports.  Since the NBA playoffs just began (Nets beat at Sixers, Magic beat at Raptors, GSW win vs Clippers, Spurs beat at Nuggets) I’ll post my scouting reports periodically.  Interspersed with my scouting reports I’ll go over certain NBA matchups.  But for me I don’t want to over analyze the NBA playoffs like some have.  In the west Golden State is the clear favorite with home court advantage.  The only team I could see give them trouble will be Houston.  Houston has done a tremendous job of course correcting their season with mid-season acquisitions of Danuel House, Kenneth Faried, Austin Rivers and Iman Shumpert.  An argument can be made that Houston is a deeper team now then they were last season.  Last years version of Trevor Ariza was better than any player they’ve just acquired but the depth in comparison is better this year.  The series versus Golden State last season was a 7-8 man rotation for the Rockets with Gerald Green getting major minutes.  Now the Rockets can go 8-10 men deep with a better bench unit and possibly keep players fresher.

The next question becomes will the Golden State vs Houston series come to fruition?  The major roadblock is of course Utah.  Last postseason divisional round Houston beat Utah in five games.  Houston really is a bad matchup for Rudy Gobert; make him play in space, on the perimeter and guard multiple ball screens per possession.  The only thing that I could see derailing the Rockets would be Donovan Mitchell going off like he has over this past month.  Over his last 15 games Mitchell is averaging 24.6 points, 4.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 46.6% from the field but most importantly 47.1% from three on 6.1 attempts per game.  If Mitchell can continue his three point shooting barrage then that could affect the way Houston guards him on pick-and-roll.  Maybe instead of switching they blitz him and as a result can bend the defense in favor of the Jazz.  I could see the Jazz pulling off the upset if Gobert has a bigger presence in the paint offensively and Mitchell’s gravity changes the way Houston guards pick-and-rolls.  I wouldn’t count on it though.

As far as the other series go in the west, I really could care less.  Denver’s only chance at making noise in the playoffs was based off getting home court advantage throughout the playoffs.  Now instead of playing the Clippers in the first round they get San Antonio which has been playing much better defense compared with their sluggish start to the season.  The Spurs just beat the Nuggets game one.  The Nuggets obviously aren’t out of it yet but the Spurs might have the upper hand due to the difference in experience and the lack of go-to scorers the Nuggets have.  In the end does it really matter who wins this series?  And it feels like everyone is picking Oklahoma City to beat Portland.  The Thunder did beat the Trailblazers 4-0 during the season and without Jusuf Nurkic the series seems insurmountable for Portland to overcome.  So naturally I’m picking Portland.  They have home court advantage, Paul George is still dealing with shoulder issues and I trust Damian Lillard the most in this series.  But again, neither team pose a serious threat to Golden State.  Although, one of these four teams have to make the western conference finals.  I’ll pick Portland for the sake that they’re underdogs against Oklahoma City and a nice redemption story after losing last postseason to the Pelicans.  

In the East my pre-season pick was Boston then as the season went on I started to favor the Bucks.  Out of all the eastern conference teams, Boston is best designed for the playoffs while Milwaukee has the best fit.  Boston has a slashing, three point shooting scorer of a point guard, with a mismatch problem at center and a bunch of switchable big wings.  Remind you of any team out west?  That’s why I think they are best designed.  Al Horford was and still is a mismatch problem for Joel Embiid and he will force Brook Lopez to exit the paint on defense.  Kyrie is the do-it all offensive point guard and they have a slew of big wings that can switch, shoot threes and attack closeouts.  Yes, Boston hasn’t been quite the team we expected them to be before the season began.  Even though they might be well designed they haven’t been able to get on the same page all season. That is obviously my biggest reservation but then I remembered how everyone counted them out before last postseason began since Kyrie was hurt.  They were one game away from making the finals.  I kind of think when pushed against the wall this team finds ways to win.  For Milwaukee it’s more simple.  They’ve been the best team in the league all season due to fit.  Giannis as the fulcrum of a 5-out motion offense that has shooting at every position.  They have the pieces that fit the best out of all the possible eastern conference teams and they have home court advantage which helps too.  I honestly can’t make my mind up.  Boston or Milwaukee?  The easy answer is Milwaukee since they have the best player in the conference and home court advantage.  But I still like Horford being a mismatch problem to defend on pick-and-rolls.  The injury bug is a problem for both teams as Marcus Smart is out for Boston and Malcolm Brogdon is out for Milwaukee.

The reason why I’m not talking Toronto and Philadelphia isn’t because they both lost their first series game.  Overall I just think Kawhi has one foot out the door, OG Anunoby is hurt and Kyle Lowry’s playoff failures are still a thing.  For the Sixers, Embiid is dealing with another knee issue, their bench stinks and the lack of shooting is a major flaw.  I know that’s over simplifying both teams and if I’m wrong then I’m wrong but I think Boston and Milwaukee are best suited to win the east and give Golden State problems.  

This postseason could be very interesting for this reason: I really think the two best teams in each conference will play each other in the divisional round and not the conference finals.  Boston vs Milwaukee and Golden State vs Houston will both happen in the divisional round but both series could determine the actual winner of the conference.  Or at least, that’s what I think.