Category Archives: Player Breakdown

2019 NBA Draft Reactions

I’m going to go through certain drafts that standout to me for good or bad reasons:

 

Atlanta Hawks: De’Andre Hunter (4), Cam Reddish (10), Bruno Fernando (34)

~ Would’ve it been better to keep the 8th, 10th, 17th and 35th picks in the draft compared with the 4th and 10th?  Yes, in terms of value the Hawks definitely could’ve done better.  I still like what the Hawks did though when it comes to system fit.  I had Hunter ranked 7th, Reddish ranked 14th and Fernando ranked 31st on my big board.  Ever since General Manager Travis Schlenk took over the Hawks they’ve had a concise plan with a blueprint to follow.  Whether it will work is a different discussion but the overall competence Schlenk has displayed is impressive.  Hunter and Reddish project well as 3-and-D switchable wings with Reddish possessing more upside with Fernando projecting to be an athletic rim-running big man that has room to grow on defense.  The upside of a unit that includes Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, Bruno Fernando, Omari Spellmen and John Collins will be a super fun story line to watch next season.

 

Brooklyn Nets: Nicolas Claxton (31), Jaylen Hands (56)

~ I had Claxton ranked 13th on my big board and didn’t even contemplate ranking Hands.  The Nets might look drastically different next season and the fit between Claxton and Jarrett Allen is interesting.  Nevertheless, Claxton selected at 31 is one of my favorite value picks in the draft.  The defensive upside he brings alone makes the pick worthwhile and there is untapped, raw offensive potential just waiting to be developed.  I think the Nets have shown they can develop raw talent well.

 

Boston Celtics: Romeo Langford (14), Grant Williams (22), Carsen Edwards (33), Tremont Waters (51)

~ I had Langford ranked 12th, Williams ranked 11h and Edwards ranked 38th.  Clearly, I really like this draft for Boston even though there were still some players left on the board at 14 that I rather have over Langford.  The Celtics have a ton of options this summer so it’s too early to tell what exact roles these rookies will have.  Langford gives them another big switchable wing, Williams gives them a skilled big and Edwards could be their backup scoring guard.  With Al Horford and Kyrie Irving leaving, the Celtics ended up finding solid young replacements that fit the bill.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers: Darius Garland (5), Dylan Windler (26), Kevin Porter jr (30)

~ I had Garland ranked 9th, Windler ranked 24th and Porter jr ranked 10th on my big board, so I obviously should love this draft for Cleveland, right?  I get what the Cavs are trying to do.  They are a team in total rebuild mode so just getting as much talent in the door as possible is priority number one.  The issue turns into a question of fit.  Does Garland, Sexton, Windler and Porter jr fit?  What system will they run?  Who will be the primary ball handler?  In terms of talent and value I should love this draft but I just don’t see a blueprint.  The Hawks are following a blueprint in their rebuild.  The Grizzlies are following a blueprint in their rebuild.  Whether or not it works isn’t the question, it’s the fact that plans and strategies tend to mitigate mistakes.  I just don’t see a plan with the Cavs.  Now that doesn’t mean it won’t work, like I said in terms of talent and value the Cavs did a great job.  I’m just curious how they’re going to put this together.

 

Dallas Mavericks: Josh Reaves (Undrafted)

~  The Mavericks didn’t have any picks but still did a good job.  Reaves is my 26th ranked prospect.  I thought he might go undrafted since he wasn’t on many media sites mock drafts.  I like his fit with the Mavs.  A 3-and-D wing that plays off of Luka Doncic and can playmake in a pinch.  I think Reaves has practical fit on the Mavs as a solid rotational piece.

 

Denver Nuggets: Bol Bol (44)

~ This was interesting.  I didn’t have Bol Bol ranked in my top 40 due to medical concerns.  I’m just a guy that watches a lot of basketball, I don’t have inside sources.  So when I saw Bol Bol fall I guess I turned out to be right, the league must have the same concerns or he’s medically red flagged.  Denver doesn’t exactly need Bol Bol.  They have Nikola Jokic and Micheal Porter jr has their frontcourt but the potential to get a player with lottery talent this late in the draft is too hard to pass up.  It’s a good gamble by Denver.

 

Golden State Warriors: Jordan Poole (28), Alen Smailagic (39), Eric Paschal (41), Dedric Lawson (Undrafted)

~ I had Jordan Poole ranked 36th on my big board and I thought I ranked him too high.  Most media sites didn’t have Poole ranked that high so I thought I was overrating him.  As it turns out the Warriors apparently overrated him too.  I don’t hate the pick but I just would’ve drafted other players like Kevin Porter jr, Keldon Johnson and Nic Claxton.  He’s still a great deep range shooter, very quick and has touch around the rim.  I just don’t get why they aren’t addressing a two-way big wing that can replace Iggy as he retires.  Is that supposed to be Poole?  Jacob Evans who they drafted last season?  Then they get three more players, all of whom are frontcourt players.  I’m assuming that means Kevon Looney is gone?  Smailagic has potential as a skilled big but I question his mobility.  Paschal could end up being a nice fit next to Draymond but at that point in the draft why not go for Bol Bol?  Ever since Travis Schlenk left to go to Atlanta in 2017 I’ve started to double guess the Warriors draft moves more often.

 

Houston Rockets: Shamorie Ponds (Undrafted)

~ Again, another team with no draft picks but I still come away loving what they did.  The Rockets had one of the better undrafted rookies last season with Gary Clark and they look to duplicate that success with Ponds.  Ponds was ranked 30th on my big board and I was pretty surprised he didn’t get drafted.  Ponds is someone who can create his own shot, play on or off-ball and can playmake in Mike D’Antoni’s system.  He might not have excellent size but he’s very skilled with a solid IQ.

 

Los Angeles Lakers: Talen Horton-Tucker (46)

~ The Lakers who didn’t have any picks to start the night ended up trading back into the second round.  I had Talen Horton-Tucker ranked 16th on my big board, so this draft pick gets a thumbs up by me.  The only thing I question is potential fit issues.  He isn’t a shooter and the Lakers are in desperate need of shooters.  Still, Horton-Tucker is one of the youngest players in the draft, has good touch around the rim and has a decent IQ.  I guess he fell due to conditioning concerns?  That was one of my worries when I wrote up his overview but thought that with better diet and an NBA training staff he could work himself into better shape.  Maybe it has something to do with his body type and teams were concerned he’d never be in shape.  Horton-Tucker still can create his own shot, has good feel for the game and has solid fundamentals on defense.  I’m iffy on the fit with Lebron and Anthony Davis but still like the value and his upside due to age and skill.

 

Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant (2), Brandon Clarke (21)

~ Do I even need to say anything?  I had Morant ranked 3rd and Clarke ranked 6th on my big board.  The Grizzlies are now in full rebuild mode after trading Marc Gasol and Mike Conley.  The future trio of Morant, Clarke and Jarren Jackson will be one of the most interesting subplots to the NBA season.  The amount of athletic ability and frontcourt defensive prowess is remarkable for such a young group of players.  This could end up being a draft that transforms their franchise for the next decade.

 

Minnesota TimberWolves: Jarrett Culver (6), Jaylen Nowell (43), Barry Brown (Undrafted), Naz Reid (undrafted)

~ I was a big fan of the job the TimberWolves did in last years draft by selecting Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop.  They’ve definitely outdone themselves this year.  Culver was my 2nd ranked prospect. All it took was the number 11 pick and Dario Saric to get draft Culver at 6.  His offensive game will take time to develop in the league but could be a day one defensive plus player.  Nowell didn’t make my top 40 but let’s just say he was ranked 41st.  He has a good frame and athletic build and nice potential to be a tertiary playmaker.  Then Minnesota signs undrafted Barry Brown jr from Kansas State who is one of the better defenders in this draft.  To top it off the TimberWolves signed undrafted Naz Reid who I’m not a fan of but still has a ton of upside as a big man who can maybe space the court and take it off the dribble.  I really like what the TimberWolves are trying to build around Karl Anthony-Towns.

 

New Orleans: Zion Williamson (1), Jaxson Hayes (8), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (17), Marcos Louzada Silva (35), Zylan Cheatham (undrafted)

~ The New Orleans Pelicans draft boils down to what did they put around Zion?  I personally have always envisioned Zion being a small ball five. That’s why I’m on the fence about Hayes.  Hayes was my 19th ranked player on my big board and he has rim-running, paint protection potential.  He actually had a good free throw percentage and touch around the rim so maybe he develops an outside shot but until that happens he mostly gets his points in the paint.  I like the thought of Hayes and Zion together defensively but wonder how will it fit on offense?  Nickeil Alexander-Walker was my 21st ranked prospect but more importantly he is a good spot up jump shooter and will be a much needed floor spacer.  With the 35th pick the Pelicans took Marcos Louzada Silva.  I don’t know much about Silva outside of his Hoop Summit performance where he looked like a potential 3-and-D wing with solid physical tools.  Cheatham was my 35th ranked prospect and to get him as an undrafted rookie is good value.  He projects to be a backup swing big.  Only time will time how well the Pelicans do supporting Zion.  As of now I don’t hate what they did but don’t love it either.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder: Darius Bazley (23), Luguentz Dort (Undrafted)

~ Bazley was my 5th ranked prospect on my big board which should tell you all that is needed to know.  I’m clearly much higher on Bazley than most draft sites and the Thunder share my sentiment.  As long as Bazley becomes a respectable three point shooter then the fit with Russell Westbrook and Paul Gergoe will work.  I’m not the biggest Dort fan either but to sign him undrafted is terrific value. Dort and Bazley both fit the mold of Thunder players: long and athletic.  I think Bazley in the right environment could be one of the steals in this draft.

 

Orlando Magic: Chuma Okeke (16), DaQuan Jeffries (undrafted)

~ This one is weird for me.  I had Okeke ranked 17th and Jeffries ranked 23rd on my big board.  I clearly like both players but I just don’t know if I would’ve drafted Okeke this high especially with the players that were still left on the board.  I get that the Magic didn’t have another draft pick until 46 and he might not have been available.  It’s just that all I heard pre-draft was Okeke projected to be an early to middle second round pick.  There could’ve been a chance he was still on the board when the Magic picked next at 46.  With that said, I really like the player.  He has to be redshirted for a season but when healthy has 1st round upside.  If Okeke ends up playing well and becoming a starting caliber player than this pick looks terrific.  At the end of the day if you like someone then go get him and that’s what Orlando did with Okeke.  I think the Magic got great value with Jeffries.  He is projected to become a 3-and-D swing forward and a nice complementary piece.  My biggest cause for concern is that the Magic don’t have the best track record in terms of player development and they already have a decent amount of long wings in their pipeline.  My worry is Okeke and Jeffries deal with a logjam and don’t develop properly.  I like the draft by Orlando in terms of talent but I’m apprehensive about the player development situation.  What the Magic do in free agency and how they mold their roster will matter heavily.  

 

Portland Trail Blazers: Nassir Little (25), Jaylen Hoard (Undrafted)

~ I had Little ranked as my 15th best prospect.  I still have my reservations when it comes to Little developing into a positive on-court impact player but the value and fit are amazing.  Portland does not have many ways to upgrade their roster due to salary cap implications.  They were in need of upgrading their wing position with limited options.  What so happens to fall in their lap?  A potentially two-way big wing scorer who will be on a cost-controlled contract for the next four seasons.  Little might take a while to develop and might not be on the same timeline as Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum but this just made way too much sense for Portland.  

 

San Antonio Spurs: Luka Samanic (19), Keldon Johnson (29), Quinndary Weatherspoon (49)

~ Keldon Johnson was my 20th ranked prospect and Quinndary Weatherspoon was ranked 33rd on my big board.  I don’t know much about Samanic outside of the NBA combine but he did look to have some big man floor spacing ability with mobility.  I can see the upside with that pick.  I think Johnson has 3-and-D starting wing potential and Weatherspoon has backup scoring guard potential.  The Spurs have an interesting young nucleus of Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker, Bryn Forbes, Davis Bertans, Jakob Poeltl, Luka Samanic, Keldon Johnson and Quinndary Weatherspoon.  The Spurs are one of the best when mining and developing talent and this draft could be a continuation of that success.

 

 

Scouting Report: RJ Barrett (Rank 8, Tier 3)

Scouting Report:

RJ Barrett (Rank 8, Tier 3)

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

6’7/6’10 wingspan/202 pounds/19 years/FR

I guess I have some explaining to do.  Typically every year there’s at least one overhyped prospect and my choice this draft is RJ Barrett.  I understand that he might not have been in the best situation at Duke since they didn’t have much shooting so let’s just focus on the facts.  Barrett shot 30.8% from three, 66.5% from the free throw line and excluding post-ups 52.2% around the basket.  He wasn’t a particularly good off-ball player posting a .952 points per possession on all catch-and-shoot chances which ranked 41st percentile, .689 points per possession on “off-screen” situations which ranked 22nd percentile and .949 points per possession on all “cut” plays which ranked 24th percentile.  So he wasn’t a good shooter, has questionable touch and can’t do much off ball?  Basically he better be the primary creator on whatever team he goes to because if not I question what role he’s going to play.  I guess either people are just hoping for substantial improvement or they really think the Duke situation was that bad.

So let’s go over the tape.  One of Barrett’s skills are his playmaking ability.  He uses his height to look over the defense and toss skip, pocket and over the top passes around the floor.  He’s pretty solid at the two-man game between ball handler and roll man.  Though I wouldn’t call him a primary ball handler but more of a tertiary ball handler due to his average feel and problems with misdiagnosing plays.  He’s decent at live-dribble but he’s not really a shifty ball handler.  He can use euro steps, cross steps and behind the back dribble drive moves but make no mistake Barrett is a power driver. He has long, strong strides on his drive and can dip his shoulder into the defender to dislodge for space.  His hips aren’t that fluid and he tends to straight line drive in the paint with his left hand.  A lot of times on layups he would switch the ball from right to left hand while midair wasting motion in this manner.  I guess he doesn’t trust his right hand all that much yet but that will be a problem if not remedied.

On defense he’s a decent on-ball defender, a questionable team defender and below average at defensive creation.  He’s best when on-ball locked in, sitting down in his stance and remaining balanced. He’s listed at 6’7 with a 6’10 wingspan and a good not great athlete.  That physical profile helps him well defending dribble drive moves. Although at times his positioning and footwork would be off giving Barrett a tough time to adjust on the fly.  He can make initial rotations weak side and help defense but struggles to process the next move.  He’s slow to identify his man off a scramble, will lazily fly by for closeouts at times and get lost looking for his matchup while defending early offense.  He has average instincts on defense and isn’t much for creating events.  He averaged 1.5 blocks+steals per 40 minutes.  Not impressive numbers for an NBA wing.

One of the reasons why I like Jarrett Culver so much is growth potential.  If you look at his high school senior season, freshman season and this past season he grew exponentially.  If you look at Barrett since the FIBA U19 World Cup in 2017 how much has he grown since then?  He’s pretty much the same player while Culver was the 43rd ranked shooting guard in ESPN’s 2017 class and now he’s a possible top five pick.  I just think this is who Barrett is. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that but I just think at pick three you want more growth potential.  I mean he’s still in my top 10 so it’s not like I’m going overboard with criticism…I think.

* All stats provided by Synergy Sports Tech and Hoop-Math*

Scouting Report: Darius Bazley (Rank 5, Tier 2)

Scouting Report:

Darius Bazley (Rank 5, Tier 2)

6’9/7’ wingspan/209 pounds/19 years

~ Sometimes you have to put your name on a couple prospects.  Especially in a draft as uncertain as this one there seems to be a few potential gems hidden outside the lottery.  That’s where Darius Bazley steps in for me.  He was the 13th ranked player coming out of high school by ESPN and decided to skip college and play in the g-league.  For whatever reason, he changed his mind about entering the g-league and planned to work on his body and skills leading up to the draft.  I obviously didn’t know much about him until I saw his performance at the NBA combine 5-on-5 scrimmages portion.  What really impressed me was the fact that he was 19 years old, hasn’t played organized basketball in over a year going up against a bunch of players who were 19-23 years old who just played college basketball 2-3 months prior and became one of the standouts nonetheless.

He stands in at 6’9 with a 7’ wingspan and an impressive 8’11 standing reach.  He also proved to be a bouncy athlete with a 37 inch max vertical and quick change-of-direction potential sporting a 2.95 shuttle run which was sixth best.  The thing that got me to start taking Bazley more seriously was his handle.  He had a pretty low, tight and in control handle with combo dribble drive moves.  He took players off the bounce with either a pump fake or decently quick first step.  He made turnaround two point jumpers, one dribble pull-ups and and-1 buckets.  He was quick off his feet for offensive putbacks, reverse layups and one-legged lay-ins.  His passing ability took me by surprise too.  It wasn’t all good with some forced passes and misguided transition throw aheads but he did make some standout plays.  One of them being an off-the-dribble behind-the-back pass to Ignas Brazdekis and the other being an off-the-bounce drop off pass to the man at the dunker spot.  When I watched some of his high school tape he showed pretty solid passing skills, it’s the instincts that need to improve.

His left-handed long distance shot looked workable.  I watched some of his high school games at Princeton (OH) and his mechanics have definitely improved since.  In high school they were really slow, his elbow had inconsistent arrangements and the shot came out at an angle.  His shot at the combine was quicker, his elbow placement was much smoother and the shot was actually lined up with the basket.  Obviously he still needs to tinker with his mechanics but making progress at this young of an age is a positive indication of shooting success.

He was a decidedly better on-ball defender than team defender.  At times he missed rotations, misread angles and lost his man.  His ability to cover ground in a timely fashion does give Bazley upside as a developing team defender and considering this was his first organized game in over a year it’s tough to judge but questioning his feel for the game is an inevitable concern.  On the other hand he was defending smaller, quicker players well, had a solid time playing different pick-and-roll coverages and was able to defend in the post. His long lanky legs gave him a big base to work with and his wide shoulders shoulders should fill out over time.  Add that to his length and athleticism and we’re talking about a potentially versatile swing forward on defense.  There was one play where he pressed the ball handler on a side pick-and-roll, the ball handler threw a pocket pass to the screener slipping, Bazley recovered well, picked up the screener at the free throw line and contested a post attempt for a miss.  That one play alone showed why I think he has tremendous upside on defense.

The transition to the NBA will take time.  His last taste of organized basketball was a year ago in a high school gym.  It’s probably going to take him at least a season or two to acclimate to pro speed.  On a few instances during the combine it looked like he was averse to the physical nature of the game.  Gaining strength and bulking up will be very important for Bazley.  He did just turn 19 years old.  As long as the franchise who drafts him is patient then they could reap major benefits.  Is ranking Bazley at five too high?  Probably.  But with so much skepticism towards this draft a player who is long, active with quick feet, has a budding shot, solid handle and passing skills…well, that sounds like a player to take a risk on.

Scouting Report: Darius Garland (Rank 9, Tier 3)

Scouting Report:

Darius Garland (Rank 9, Tier 3)

6’3/6’5 Wingspan/175 pounds/19.4 years/FR

 

Darius Garland tore his left meniscus five games into his freshman season.  That was unfortunate since he was on a roll offensively through four games.  It’s frustrating to grade him with the lack of game tape.  At times I think he’s a top five talent due to his shooting skills but other times I question his defense and wonder what role will he have on a championship caliber team.  He’s listed as 6’3 with a 6’5 wingspan and weighs in at 175 pounds.  A meniscus tear isn’t an athleticism altering injury but if Garland’s frame can’t mange NBA punishment that’s a long term problem.  Just like with most smaller stature players, Garland will need to add strength and bulk up.  Since he’s super agile and fast with solid quick twitch reactions he will need to be careful with paint drives and laying out his body on finishes.  Smaller players bodies tend to break down fast in the NBA and hopefully whoever drafts Garland will properly monitor his conditioning.

The main reason why he’s ranked number nine on my big board even though he’s only played four games has to deal with his shooting.  Unlike Ja Morant and Coby White, Garland has a more capable translatable shot.  His mechanics are the most natural out of the three guards; nice quick motion, power comes from the lower body and hips, loads up off his toes, set point has variances but seems high enough and solid touch.  He shot 47.8% from three and 1.441 points per possession on all jump shots which ranked 99th percentile albeit on a small sample size.  He was deadly off the dribble shooting 56.2% on his two point jumpers.  He can step back off either foot, sharp pull up, side step and pull back with nimble shake to his rhythm.  He can use change-of-pace dribble moves to influence defenders habits and dictate which angle to exploit.  His abrupt stop-and-go movements off the bounce and combo dribble drives moves help create separation for himself.  He also can use his shooting gravity off-ball, cut off screen and make movement three pointers.  That’s something I want to see more of in the NBA.

Entering the paint is one of Garland’s pluses but his finishing ability needs some improving.  He isn’t terrible around the rim sporting a 60% field goal percentage but the physical nature of the middle modifies his timing and power around the rim.  It felt like he would short arm some lay in’s and mostly jump off two feet around the hoop not trusting his body control on one legged leaps.  I also think he’s a better playmaker than he gets credit for.  He had a 13 assist to 15 turnover ratio and sported .647 points per possession on passes out of the pick-and-roll which ranked 9th percentile.  He clearly looks for his shot first, has tunnel vision and can’t identify the simple pass in a timely fashion.  The numbers don’t support his playmaking ability and the tape doesn’t either but in spurts I’ve seen good creation.  A lot of that has to deal with keeping his head up, trusting his teammates and not over dribbling.  Sometimes he will pick up his dribble too early if he sees a second man come his way.  Continuing his dribble and prolonging the play will also help in terms of playmaking.

His defense is somewhat concerning.  Obviously his frame doesn’t do him any favors, his on-ball defense waivers even though he has lateral quickness and his team defense is still a question mark.  I sometimes wonder how much of a difference there is between Garland and Carsen Edwards due to the fact they have similar builds and offensive styles.  Ja Morant is an elite play maker and Coby White is 6’5 with some play making ability.  On the other hand if Garland can’t playmake at the next level why is he ranked so much higher than Carsen Edwards who he compares well with?  That’s a question I’ve been wrestling with and I always fall back to dribbling ability and lateral movement.  I also can’t get the 2018 NBA combine scrimmages out of my head when it comes to Carsen Edwards.  He didn’t play well in a simulated NBA environment and became a motive for him to return for his junior season.  I trust Garland to be that much better of a shooter, scorer than Edwards as well.  Still it’s a valid question and part of my concern with Garland’s value.

 

* All stats provided by Synergy Sports Tech and Hoop-Math *

Scouting Report: Coby White (Rank 4, Tier 2)

Scouting Report:

Coby White (Rank 4, Tier 2)

6’5/6’5 wingspan/191 pounds/19.3 years/FR

 

Coby White is one of my biggest movers on this ranking.  A lot of that has to do with his scoring prowess.  For this draft class Coby has top level scoring instincts, can shoot threes in a variety of ways and is an improving play maker.  Being long, athletic with a good frame is great for potential but if you can’t dribble, shoot and create for yourself then that potential’s value is cut in half.  Even though Coby is listed at 6’5 he doesn’t have that big of a frame.  His shoulders are pretty slight with average size hands and a build that might not fill out.  The hope is that over time he will develop strength albeit with a slender frame.  His physical advantage is speed and quickness.  Coby might even be faster than Ja Morant but doesn’t have the vertical explosion to match.

Coby might not be an above the rim player but has craft and touch in his arsenal.  He shot 67% on all his attempts around the rim and only 17.9% of those were assisted.  He can change hands mid air on lay up attempts, go up-and-under for stealthy finishes and put soft english on the ball to fit over longer players.  He’s a decently versatile leaper around the rim with same foot, same hand lay in’s but tends to jump off two feet around rim.  I think as soon as he gains longer body strength he should use one footed leaps around the rim more frequently.  He has a quick first step with speed down hill with a multitude of hang dribbles, push crossovers, behind the back moves and hezi jimbos.  His sudden stop-and-go movements get defenders leaning and his blazing speed gets himself into the lane.  When he gets into the lane he likes to use a left-to-right spin move for separation and uses his momentum wisely to carry his body in space creating angles whether that be on step-backs or fallaways.  Unfortunately his handle can be too high, leaving the ball out in front exposed for deflections.  He needs better control and a steadier center of gravity.  Moving side to side can be an issue as well as White can be loose with his dribble.  As I said earlier, the hope is that additional core strength will improve control.

White is a score first guard that needs to see the court better but can make plays off the pick-and-roll since the game is slowed down.  Possessions that include passes off the pick-and-roll, White sported a 1.407 points per possession which ranked 97th percentile.  When he gets sped up White doesn’t see the court as well as he could but with a ball screen he does a good job looking for cutters and weak side action with one handed skip passes on occasion.  He can turn the corner off a hedge even with a dribble that’s high but what’s most impressive are his splits through doubles or hedges.  That was probably one of the first things I noticed about White, his ability to split pick-and-roll coverage’s.  That’s such a useful move to get the offense a 5-on-4 advantage on his way to the rim.  Although when he did split the coverage when he pulled up off the dribble White sported a .629 points per possession which ranked 27th percentile. Having better shot selection, more strength and body control should help with his off dribble game.

Just like with Ja Morant, White has a lower release point.  White had an inconsistent release point though and at times it was as low as his chin and as high as over his head.  Having a fluid set point definitely quickens your shooting mechanics but unless you get the ball high enough on the follow through and develop core strength then the shot may be prone to contests.  Luckily for White he does a good job of step backs, pull ups and momentum altering shots that create space to get the shot off.  He also sported a 1.339 points per possession on catch-and-shoot situations which ranked 93rd percentile.  Even in a limited fashion at North Carolina White displayed good instincts off-ball.  He set good cross and up screens plus pin-downs using his shooting gravity at times to distort the angles of the court.  He was more active off-ball than Morant and it’s something that I think is underrated when talked about Coby White.

White also tried on defense unlike Morant did this past season.  Coby isn’t the biggest, strongest or most vertically explosive player but he gave multiple efforts, fought over screens and used his quickness to his advantage.  Yes, when he did get caught up in a screen it took him time to recover but remarkably White did a solid job whipping his inside foot over screen setters to get skinny over screens.  He would then stay attached to the ball handler and hustle even if he was behind some.  White was actually a decent team defender collapsing middle on drives, walling off weak side attacks and cutting off drives at the nail then recovering back to his own.  Sometimes after making the initial rotation Coby would get stuck in the muck and at times he missed his sink-and-fill assignments but overall Coby was an above average team defender.  His quickness allowed him to stay in front of players but at times he over gambled and lost position.  Playing on his toes more, working on his lower body and strengthening his butt would help in terms of on-ball defense.

The importance of creating a shot for yourself can’t be understated.  It’s obviously important to have other skills and a baseline of NBA athletic ability but during the playoffs players who can’t dribble, shoot and create buckets for themselves are impossible to play.  White got better as the season went on and considering we’re talking about ACC play that was highly impressive.  I don’t know if White will ever be a starting point guard on a title team but can he be a highly productive rotational piece on a title team?  I think so.

 

* All stats provided by Synergy Sports Tech and Hoop-Math*

 

 

Scouting Report: Ja Morant (Rank 3, Tier 2)

Scouting Report:

Ja Morant (Rank 3, Tier 2)

6’3/6’6 wingspan/175 pounds/19.8 years/SO

 

I’m not as sold on Ja Morant as everyone else seems to be.  Memphis has already announced they are selecting Morant well in advance of the actual draft and he ranks number two on most big boards I’ve seen.  The hype for Morant is for real.  Now you may be asking the question, “Hey OldMan?  If you’re not high on Morant then why rank him number three?”  Fair question random reader.  The number one reason why he ranks so high on my big board is his shot creation ability; whether that be creating for himself or his teammates.  He has one of, if not the best first step in the entire 2019 draft class.  He uses a variety of quick twitch hesitations for his primary dribble drive move that creates separation.  Combine that with an assortment of crossovers with either hand and he breaks down the defense like a pro.

Morant is quick to process on offense, has a good feel for play maturation and solid passing instincts.  If the defense loses a player baseline get ready for an on time lob pass by Morant.  He’ll look off defenders for no look passes, draw defenders in the paint for dump off passes and find cutters with ease.  Morant doesn’t just sit back and take what the defense gives him but rather manipulates defenders into getting the play he wants.  His ability to read the game in layers and play make off it will always be a coveted skill in the NBA.    

He’s pretty ambidextrous with his handle and finishing ability.  He can leap off either foot, two foot leap for power and slam dunk off one foot in transition.  He doesn’t quite have great touch but rather good touch around the rim sporting a 61% field goal percentage around the basket.  His body control can improve on his finishes and I think gaining more strength would help improve his overall touch around the rim.  Morant can make tough shots off the dribble but wasn’t really asked to do much off-ball.  Improving as a movement shooter will be important since he won’t have the ball in his hands as much as he did sophomore season.  He wasn’t that active off-ball on offense but did sport a 1.133 points per possession on all catch-and-shoot situations which ranked 72nd percentile.  He did that on only 45 possessions though so the sample size isn’t hefty.  He also sported a .778 points per possession on all catch-and-shoot plays his freshman season which ranked 20th percentile.  He uses a one motion shooting technique for his follow through on his jump shot.  It lowers the release point but quickens the mechanics.  He needs to gain more lower body and core strength to help him with his long distance accuracy.  Since he shot 81% from the free throw line his two seasons at Murray State, has pretty solid touch around the rim and improved as a shooter from season to season gives me enough indication of potential shooting success in the NBA.

Like I said at the beginning of this report I have my concerns.  For starters he was a far better transition player than half court player which is somewhat concerning.  He scored 1.197 points per possession on all transition plays which ranked 78th percentile but on half court plays scored a .885 points per possession which ranked 58th percentile.  He also took a lot of risky passes through tight seams on the court for a fair amount of turnovers which could make for a messy adjustment period at the next level.  His off-ball offense is cause for pause, his small frame could ultimately be a problem, he needs to work on his strength and his shot isn’t a guarantee that it’ll translate to the pros.  His top tier play making ability and shot creation prowess are what’s holding me back from ranking him any lower.

The biggest concern I have however is his defense.  The amount of times I saw him blatantly let the ball handler he was guarding pass by just to attempt a back tap from behind at the ball was ludicrous.  He was more concerned about making a play on the ball instead of being a sound defender.  He’s done that as an off-ball defender too by reaching and swiping down instead of playing gap protection.  I get that his usage was 33% and he had so much to do on offense.  He was pacing himself throughout the game and expended a lot of energy on the offensive side of the ball.  I’m just worried he developed bad habits his sophomore season.  His defensive stance is either hunched over or straight up.  Rarely did I see him sit in his stance and use his butt as an anchor.  He floated off-ball with lackadaisical effort at times and needs to be more alert on give-and-go’s plus backdoor passes.  He hardly lock-and-trailed his man and shot the gap mostly or avoided screens all together.  It’s not all bad though.  Morant has shown that he’s capable of hugging the lane line and making rotations on help defense.  He also used his quickness and lateral agility to stay in front of ball handlers but only when he felt like it.  His athletic ability was a major redeeming quality on defense as that’s how he made up for his mistakes.

Having a consistent long range shot, gaining strength and putting effort in defensively are points of contention that Morant has to improve upon in the NBA.  Even with all my concerns I have Morant ranked third.  The substantial selling point is obviously his shot creation and play making talent.  Those still are in demand skills and very important for playoff basketball.  Pairing Morant with Jarren Jackson is a nice way to kick off a rebuild and should help with Morant’s progression.  

 

* All Stats provided by Synergy Sports Tech *

Scouting Report: Jarrett Culver (Rank 2, Tier 2)

Scouting Report:

Jarrett Culver (Rank 2, Tier 2)

6’7/6’9.5 wingspan/194 pounds/20.3 years/SO

 

Jarrett Culver started off ranked number two in my pre-tournament rankings and that’s where he’ll finish off.  The overall growth potential that Culver has is too enticing.  The combination of good size, decent frame, budding skill, workable shot and defensive prowess makes Culver a perfect upside play for today’s NBA.  He isn’t overly long and has a pretty mediocre standing reach at 8’4.5. To put that in perspective, Tyler Herro, who has a shorter wingspan than height sports the same standing reach as Culver.  If Culver wants to guard the best wing scorers in the game today he’ll need to pack on a few more pounds and bulk up.  His great athleticism and height is his saving grace.  Culver had a recent growth spurt since he measured in at 6’5 entering college and now leaves Texas Tech closer near 6’7.  Those additional inches will help in terms of getting shots up over pressure, defending multiple positions and seeing over the top of the defense.  Culver is quick off his feet around the rim, covers the court with his speed and shows slippery hips on point of attack defense.  His physical profile isn’t great but good enough to warrant the hype he’s getting.

On offense Culver is a solid play maker.  After being blitzed off a ball screen he can hit weak side shooters with an over the top pass or pocket pass to the release value.  He finds back action shooters with space coming of high side pick-and-roll’s or finds the roll-man with lob passes on side pick-and-roll’s.  Culver had 209 assists to 160 turnovers for his career at Texas Tech.  There’s still room for improvement as at times he gets careless with the ball and reads a play that was never going to open in the first place.  During the national championship game Culver forced some of these plays for boneheaded turnovers.  All in all Culver is a pretty heady play maker off the bounce or with a ball screen but needs to identify actions with more caution before making a silly turnover.

His long range shot is a hot topic.  He shot 68.7% from the free throw line and 34.1% from the three point line in his two years at Texas Tech.  He also shot 33.9% on his two point jumpers.  On catch-and-shoot situations Culver sported a .908 points per possession which ranked 34th percentile and on all jump shot opportunities he sported a .848 points per possession which ranked 37th percentile.  From a numbers perceptive Culver seems like a below average to average jump shooter.  His shooting mechanics look tense with no flow.  They aren’t compact or repeatable and it seems like he needs to work out the hitch in his release.  At times on the load up he generates power while flat footed but needs to spring off his toes to allow the power from his lower body and not his shoulders.  His shot clearly needs work and his shooting percentages are weak but considering he has solid touch around the basket shooting 67% around the rim and makes a fair amount of unassisted tough shots, there is some indication that he can improve his shot at the next level.  For Culver to reach full potential his shot is priority number one to fix.

His handle is solid but needs to be upgraded.  He lacks an elite first step, is sometimes hunched over when he dribbles, too high of a dribble and needs a consistent low center of gravity.  He uses a variety of rips, pumps and jab steps out of the triple threat to create separation with his slightly above average first step.  He tends to be more of a straight line driver and doesn’t possess enough side-to-side wiggle in the lane.  He can throw down off two feet from a spin move in the lane for some space creation or use a combination of push crosses and behind the back dribbles to change direction.  As long as he keeps the ball low, has a good anchor underneath him and use his left hand more frequently then he’s capable of having a much better handle.  A lot of things on offense for Culver need to be worked on but are definitely manageable.  Nothing he does is broken and has shown spurts of greatness in all areas on offense.

Overall as a defender Culver is one of the better one’s in this draft.  He’s good at creating events on defense and on-ball and team defense.  He isn’t afraid to leave his man weak side to take a charge in the lane or crash down on some strong side action causing havoc.  He has solid anticipation and hand eye coordination on deflections covering a lot of ground quickly in the process.  At times I noticed him staring at the ball one second too long and be late to process as a result.  But overall he does a fine job with his low man rotations and weak side contests.  He’s also a good live ball defender with long lanky legs creating a wide base and good anchor to contain dribble penetration.  He’ll stay attached to his man’s hip, doesn’t bite on fakes for the most part and funnels his man into help defense. Sometimes he needs to finish out the play since I’ve seen him gear up for a box-out while he should be gathering for a rim contest.  Getting stronger with better core strength will help with contact, rebounding and switching.

The year-over-year improvement for Culver is a reason why I’m betting on his growth potential.  Depending on how his body develops he could conceivably play positions one through four on offense and defend one through 5.  The biggest question I will monitor will be his shot process. That’s going to be key for him. Culver to me projects nicely as a two-way big wing with play making ability.  If that’s the ceiling then why not take the gamble?

* All stats provided by Synergy Sports Tech *

Scouting Report: Zion Williamson (Rank: 1, Tier: 1)

Scouting Report:

Zion Williamson (Rank: 1, Tier: 1)

6’7/6’10 wingspan/280 pounds/18.9 years/FR

 

Who else would be number one on my prospect rankings?  No offense to every other player in this draft but it isn’t even close.  Could Zion stand to lose a few pounds?  Sure.  Does he need to get in better shape?  No doubt.  Do I wish he had a longer wingspan and standing reach?  Who doesn’t.  But in terms of physical profile Zion isn’t just elite, he’s generational.  It’s his body control on rim attacks, his coordination on vertical hops, his fluidity off his back foot, his delicate footwork and his ability to catch, gather and accelerate in little wasted motion.  No man should be able to do what Zion does at his weight.  A lot of players have busted out of the league with elite athleticism.  They didn’t know how to harness it into basketball related activities.  Zion takes his elite athleticism and turns it into functional basketball movement.  He moves on a string inside the courts dimensions.  It’s one thing to be athletic, it’s another to couple that with skill.

One of the major points of contention about Zion is his long distance shooting.  He shot 33.8% from three for the season which isn’t terrible but his 64% free throw percentage didn’t do him any favors in terms of future predictors of success.  On all jump shot attempts Zion sported a .925 points per possession which ranked 52nd percentile and .966 points per possession on all catch-and-shoot opportunities which ranked 44th percentile.  Mechanically speaking his release is really flat and it doesn’t get much air underneath the ball.  He needs more extension on his follow thru and the shot to be released at it’s apex point.  Luckily, Zion possesses good touch around the rim.  His FG% at the rim was 79.2% and considering that 72% of his shot attempts came at the rim that’s great touch.  He also made 47.1% of his two point jumpers.  Some of those were movement two point jumpers off fallaways, fadeaways or while drawing fouls.  He was also capable of making pull-up threes off the 1-2 step or hitting step-back threes.  It isn’t a guarantee that Zion becomes a proficient three point shooter at the next level but considering his solid touch, two point percentage and difficult shot making ability, those pluses lead me to believe that it’s totally conceivable for Zion to become an above average shooter at the next level.  

Even if Zion becomes an average three point shooter, the overall skill that Zion possesses is still very advanced for someone his age.  While he can be too reliant on left hand finishes or left side drives, he has shown the capability to drive off the right side or with the right hand.  It’s the frequency of right handed attempts that Zion needs to increase.  He has displayed change-of-direction, change-of-speed, shifty moves on his drives with either hand.  He makes sharp, fluid dribble drive moves off the bounce using a cross move, between the legs or going behind his back, changing his driving angle, jump stop and finish through traffic.  The amount of wiggle the man has for a player that size is pretty remarkable.

I’ve seen him drive into the three defenders waiting for him in the paint, miss the shot, get his own rebound and finish off the play.  Saying that Zion absorbs contact in the lane is an understatement. Even though he has less than impressive wingspan, around the basket Zion still fits the shot over longer players, puts solid zip on the ball and contorts his body with great control to finish verses length.  Zion can leap off his left or right foot with solid coordination but too often does he rely on his two foot leaping ability.  Being more versatile around the rim would help throw off defenders trying to contest his shot rhythm.  He can also be more careful on how he lands after vertical leaps.  Too often did I see him land on one foot after a monster slam which made me fear a torn muscle.  To avoid injury he needs to start landing on two foot with more regularity to evenly disperse his weight throughout his lower body.

Zion is an underrated playmaker.  He can create off pick-and-roll, closeout or live-dribble.  Zion will read all levels of the defense and can promptly find corner cutters, roll-men or weak side shooters.  He obviously isn’t perfect at shot creation and will be out of control at times.  Zion has the IQ to be a high quality playmaker but needs to let the play breathe before he can take action.  He didn’t have much space or shooting at Duke so that improvement at the next level will surely balance his shot creation skills some.  I don’t know how often Zion will be stationed in the post in the NBA but he will fight for his spots on the court.  If you give up his preferred post position call it a wrap.  He draws fouls too easily at that point.  It’s tough to stop Zion in the paint after a post feed with his momentum and touch.

On defense Zion graded mostly positive.  Like all young players though he did show his lapses on team defense.  He sometimes will sink too far down on defense when he should be pressing the shooters on the perimeter or checking one man over but instead he gears up for block.  Don’t get me wrong he’s an excellent weak side shot blocker.  He has a fantastic second jump on blocks, quicker than most players one jump.  The amount of space he covers in a short period of time is elite.  He can be sitting under the basket, take two long strides and be in position to block a shot above the break.  He takes powerful but nimble strides on his closeouts.  He can make up for mistakes in a hurry with how quick he covers space; sometimes relying on his athleticism too often in the process.  But in certain instances he does stick to the perimeter when he should be tagging the roll-man or helping the helper.  He was still overall a good team defender playing the game low and making reads on the ball.  He could jump a pass for the steal or choke the action off-ball stalling the play.  As an on-ball defender Zion could possess the ever elusive switchable skill factor.  His hips are on a swivel, changing direction to stay attached to quicker guards.  He does a nice job kick sliding back with his man on dribble penetration making sure he doesn’t double step.  He will use his off-arm staying attached to his man on an attack to alter driving angles but at times can be too touchy drawing checking fouls.  

Not a lot needs to be said about Zion.  I probably wrote too much as is.  Zion is a generational talent at a time where the league benefits from the skill set that Zion owns.  There’s been some comparison to Lebron: a two-way, big wing scorer with playmaking ability.  That class belongs to players like Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard.  The best of the best.  Those are lofty comparisons that I won’t make. Instead I could see Zion in the mold of Blake Griffin meets Draymond Green.  The physical profile, offensive skill set and athletic gifts of Blake while having the IQ and defensive prowess of a Draymond Green.  Hopefully New Orleans does right by Zion and surround him with enough shooting, versatility and ball handling to succeed.  I could easily see New Orleans screw that up though and waste another superstar players talents.  For the sake of the league I hope I’m wrong.

*All stats provided by Synergy Sports Tech*

Maxi Kelber: Another Post About A Role Player

You might be thinking to yourself, “What the heck are you doing Old Man?  The Warriors are imploding, Jimmy Butler was traded to the Sixers, Lebron has been awesome leading the Lakers and teams like Boston, Houston and Utah are having disappointing seasons.  With all this going on in the NBA today why the heck are you writing about Maxi Kelber?  Who’s Maxi Kelber and why in the world is he worth my time.”  All valid questions.  Let me explain myself.  It all started when I began watching Mavs games this season.  Like most basketball fans I wanted to see whether Luka Doncic was the real deal or not.  News Flash: Luka is the real deal.  But with every Mavs game I watched there would be this other player that kept standing out.  He was long, active and seemed to be in the right spots always.  In the early going I dismissed this player and was fixated on Doncic. Stringing together some well played games early in the season isn’t going to grab my attention just yet.  However game after game I was continually impressed by this random player I knew little about.  

It wasn’t until the 11th game I was getting the feeling this was becoming a trend.  So I decided to check his on/off court efficiency numbers.  Even though these numbers are imperfect they would give me some sort of context regarding his on-court play.  And sure enough he lead the team with a +5.5 on-court while the team was a -9.9 with him off the court.  That’s a +15.4 swing whens he’s on and off the court.  The bench in general has better on/off court numbers compared to the starters but Kelber was still +4.1 over the next Mavs player on/off court efficiency (JJ Barea was next with an +11.3 swing).  As of me writing this article before the Mavs next game Wednesday versus the Rockets Kelber is currently a +12.2 while on-court and a -5.1 off-court.  That’s a freaking +17.3 swing when Kelber plays and doesn’t play.  This won’t last forever.  A lot of that success has to do with JJ Barea and Dwight Powell having good seasons off the bench too.  Probably even after the Rockets game those numbers will decrease significantly.  But we’re 18 games into the season and this doesn’t feel like a fluke even though his on/off court numbers will eventually regress to the mean.

Maxi Kelber is averaging 6.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.4 blocks per game on 45.1% from the floor, 32.1% from three on 18.6 minutes per game.  Kebler is 6’11 with his last known wingspan measurement being 6’11 in 2012.  This is his second season in the NBA from Germany, is 26 years old, plays PF/C and went undrafted.  Kelber isn’t going to be an all-star player, that’s not what I’m getting at.  Heck Kelbers floor is out of the league next year.  Instead what I’m trying to imply is his usefulness as an utility player.  He is becoming a glue guy that every title contender needs to bond together star players talents.  I also like acknowledging good role players like Maxi Kelber and Gary Clark because their contributions tend to be minimized by the mainstream.  Considering Kelber has been amazing at doing the little things this season I wanted to put into words my appreciation for the player he is becoming.

I’ll start with the weaker of his game: offense.  For starters his handle is almost non-existent.  His live-ball skills revolve around looking to pass it off immediately.  He might take a dibble or two to give himself a little room to operate and if given space on the perimeter Kelber will attack the rim in a straight line at times.  When he does pick up his dribble Kelber can get into trouble if the defender pressures him causing a turnover in the process.  His passing skills aren’t anything special either and he’s more of a ball mover.    Every now and then Kelber will make a good read for an assist but usually after he passes the ball off the offense tends to reset itself.  Kelber has minimal post skills for a big-man utilizing over the shoulder or fade-away moves mostly.  If the shot-clock is running down or Kelber has a smaller player on his hip then he’ll take it to the post.

His screen setting game is pretty good.  He rarely pick and rolls to the rim since a good portion of his playing time is with Dwight Powell and Powell is the more athletic rim-runner.  Kelber will instead set good off-ball screens whether that be seals, pin-downs or flare screens (Kelber is #42): 

On offense Kelber is mostly used for his floor spacing ability: 

Even though he is only shooting 32% from three Kelber has a smooth looking jump shot with a high release point: 

Kelber does need to quicken up his mechanics somewhat as that could be an issue behind his inconsistency from deep.  Kelber might not dive off of screens much.  That role is reserved for Powell on the Mavs.  But the Mavs make good use of his shooting ability and stretch the court horizontally with his pick-and-pop game: 

The Mavs telecast announcers, Mark Followill, Derek Harper and Jeff Wade, routinely talk about how much work Kelber put into the off-season working on his jump shot.  Kelber understands if he wants to stick in the league he’ll have to be consistent from three. He seems to be making incremental improvements from deep and in turn opposing defenses have given Kelber more respect from long distance giving the Mavs better floor balance.  Lastly on offense Kelber has a pretty solid IQ off-ball attacking rebounds in the air, angling up or down with the ball, relocating out of the paint when a pick-and-roll occurs and making well timed cuts for safety valve passes: 

Kelber has a lot to improve on offense that’s very clear.  Even his strength of shooting needs to be developed.  As of now the threat of his stretch ability as a big-man and high IQ gives Kelber enough offensive value to be passable on-court.  But overall his defense was the primary reason why I decided to write this post.  I started watching Mavs games for Luka but came away impressed by Kelbers defensive prowess.  Kelber currently sports a +1.52 defensive real plus/minus which ranks 19th among power forwards.  It’s hard to tell just by looking at Kelbers physical profile but deceptively Kelber is a plus athlete surprising players on switches and recovery contests. Look at how Kelber deals with cross matches on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jae Crowder and Terry Rozier: 

Kelber does a good job sitting in his stance, sliding his feet, keeping his core balanced and contesting from behind.  Kelber fits in with modern day “bigs” defending pick-and-rolls with versatility. Whether it be switching, showing or dropping, Kelber has the athleticism, size and fundamentals to maintain all pick-and-roll coverages.  Kelber also does a nice job straddling between ball-handler and roll-man on pick-and-roll “drop” coverages: 

He uses his sneaky good and well timed hops to blow up lob passes or runners defending downhill actions.  Kelber also uses his deceptive athleticism in the post defending quicker “bigs” like Al Horford: 

Kelber doesn’t lose his discipline on Horford’s fakes, stays low and forces Horford into a tough fade-away that’s well contested.  As an on-ball, point of attack defender Kelber is more than adequate in that regard but still can be susceptible to counter dribble moves by crafty ball handlers.  Another skill that Kelber seems to possess is verticality.  Whether it be in transition or on a cross-match Kelber does a solid job going straight up-and-down and not giving the refs a reason to blow the whistle: 

Kelber might be at his best on help side defense.  Just like on offense Kelber has a high defensive IQ that he uses to snuff out rim-runs: 

To protect the paint: 

And to rotate weak side: 

Overall Kelber has the team defense skills that is a must for any big-man in today’s NBA.  Kelber does a good job tagging cutters, stunt-and-recovering, bumping the roll-man while doing it physically enough and yet not commit a foul.  On the other hand Kelber isn’t perfect on defense and sometimes will ball watch, over help and misdiagnose pick-and-roll coverages with a teammate.  But if we’re to deconstruct Kelbers game then by far his most advanced aspect is defense.

Even after writing this whole article you still may think this wasn’t worth my time.  And that may be true as I’ve stated earlier Kelber could be out of the league next year if things don’t work out for him this season.  However currently as we speak that’s not the case. The Mavs player development system is working in full force with players like Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell and Maxi Kelber.  So the Mavs early season success is definitely a full team effort.  I’m not trying to make the case Kelber is the sole reason why the Mavs are playing so well.  The Mavs have a strong bench, a young star in the making and one of the best coaches in the league.  What the overarching point of this post was deals with Kelber and his value.

Kelber will be a restricted free agent this summer and to rebuilding teams he might not carry as much value compared with contending teams.  Presently Kelber is making only the veterans minimum and probably won’t make that much more on the open market due to lack of production.  So to some random contender out their looking for a bargain value contract like PJ Tucker, don’t look no further. Kelber could be a cheap, affordable contract for any cash strung contender and out play the worth of his contract.  If I were Houston, LA Lakers, Golden State, Philadelphia, Boston, Toronto or Milwaukee then I’d try to undersell the value of Kelber to the Mavs, steal him now, and obtain his restricted free agency this upcoming summer.  There’s little risk involved with Kelber and if he doesn’t pan out the cost to acquire him was minimal.  Kelbers role player ability could be what unlocks a new exciting lineup for one of these contenders and maybe another step towards title relevancy.

       

Season In Review: Jontay Porter

Jontay Porter,  Missouri,  Freshmen

PF/C,  6’11.5”,  7’0.25” wingspan

9’1” standing reach,  236 pounds,  18.8 years old

 

After last season Jontay Porter decided to enter the NBA draft and participate in the draft combine.  He ended up withdrawing his name from the 2018 NBA draft and returning to Missouri for his sophomore season.  During the pre-draft process many NBA draft websites had Porter as a first round selection, some even lottery bound.  Now that he’s projected to enter the 2019 NBA draft these same websites have Porter as a lottery selection in what amounts to a potentially weak draft.  I really didn’t watch Missouri games last season except for the Michael Porter games, so my level of Jontay Porter knowledge is novice like.  With so many draft websites that I respect having Porter as a 2019 lottery pick I decided to go over as much game tape as possible, breakdown Porters abilities and determine if he really warrants a lottery selection next draft:

 

Jontay Porter has good not great length for a center standing at 6’11.5” but with a 7’.025” wingspan.  His 9’1” standing reach could be his most important physical attribute since it helps him cover ground best in comparison to his lackluster athleticism.  Porter has a 13.85% body fat percentage worst at the 2018 combine.  Porter was out of shape as a freshmen and is partial reasoning as to why he didn’t play more minutes.  Draymond Green serves as a good example of a frontcourt player who suffered from weight issues and redefined his body at the pro level.  Reportedly Green lost about 20 pounds from his rookie to sophomore season with the Warriors (Link).  Green was also a senior when he came out of college and Porter will be a sophomore giving more time for Porter to make enhancements to his diet and exercise.  

Porter is going to need to be in better shape at the next level if he wants to make up for his lack of recovery speed.  Porter was in last place at the 2018 combine when he ran a 3.40 three quarter sprint. Testing his foot speed Porter ran the eighth worst lane agility test at 11.90 seconds.  Porter did score well at the shuttle run so he does have solid body control and change of direction.  To cap off his below average athleticism Porter had the worst max vertical with 31”.  Porter is subpar when it comes down to lower body explosion, back foot burst and lateral movement.  Porter is another candidate for functional athleticism versus actual athleticism.  Clearly not every great basketball player was a great athlete.  Testing well at the combine versus game speed aren’t mutually exclusive abilities.  However the danger lies in the fact that the position of center is increasingly becoming harder to play if you lack actual athleticism.

Even though I have Porter listed as “PF/C” it would be in his best interest if he played center at the next level.  As a center shooting is becoming more relevant in today’s NBA and Porter looks to become apart of the growing trend.  He shot 36.4% from three, 75% from the free throw line and posted a 1.153 PPP (points per possession) at all half court jump shots which ranks 88th percentile.  His shooting mechanics for a bigman are very encouraging; shoots lefty, feet are tilted on the load and sways on the follow thru to generate power, doesn’t strain shoulders for distance, dip is pretty quick around the stomach area at times, inconsistent set point and follow thru.  Sometimes the set point will be below the eye and the next it will be above the eye, needs to find a repeatable spot.  His follow thru is either an extended upwards release or a short choppy wrist motion. As soon as he finds harmony on those motions Porter should become an even more reliable shooter.  

He doesn’t have a face-up game or can create for others off live dribble yet.  His handle is actually solid for a man his size using crossovers and spin moves off the bounce but he doesn’t bend the defender with his live dribble.  61.7% of his shot attempts came from spot-up, post-up or roll-man type actions.  He’s a good screen setter that doesn’t shy away from contact.  Tends to pick-and-pop mostly, rarely dives.  Out of 66 roll-man shot attempts he finished on a dive only 9 times.  Since he doesn’t have lower body explosion, a quick second jump or a large catch radius he becomes more planted on his roll attempts.  He has to use his timing and manipulate the gaps between the ball handler to his advantage if he wants to become a good roll-man at the next level.

If he has a mismatch on a roll or switch he will instantly get the smaller player on his hip, seal the player and take them down to the block for post entries.  When in the post he uses over the shoulder flick shots, hook shots, dropsteps and fadeaways but can become too left hand dependent at times.  He uses pivots and pump-fakes to create separation in the post sporting a 1.114 PPP on all post-up attempts.  But he’s not very good around the basket (not including post-ups) sporting a .911 PPP which ranks 18th percentile. The problem I’ve noticed is that he will scrunch his shoulders, narrow his body and act smaller then what he actually is due to overusing pump-fakes.  He doesn’t have much lift or a quick jump so he tries to get his man off his feet first before he goes up.  He definitely needs to get stronger, use his shoulders and the rim as his protection.

His specialty on offense is by far his passing and high IQ.  He uses his basketball IQ at passing from all angles on the court and will make incredible one handed pocket passes in transition.  When in the post he will read the double or dig and kick it to the next man on the swing.  He reads the weak side tag-man so well and kicks it to the opposite corner as soon as he notices the defender motion middle. He’s great at high to low post feeds and hardly ever catch-and-holds the ball; is a willing ball mover.  He also uses his IQ reading a defenders actions; cuts to the rim as soon as his defender turns his head or slips the screen on a switch.  Porter is also a great rebounder attacking the ball mid-air.  He may not have the hops but times his jump and fights for position before the opposition gets set.  He is a hustle player that produces second chances.  Porter is the kind of player that even though he didn’t grab the rebound himself his attack of the glass or box-out will lead to one of his teammates getting the board.

Even though we have established that Porter is a below average athlete he was a plus defender his freshman season.  He still has his defensive flaws like not being able to contain penetration, lacks lateral movement on switches, can be too grounded at times and isn’t versatile at pick-and-roll coverage; overuses drop coverages.  Those are definite question marks when talked about at the next level.  But there still is a lot to like.  For starters his communication is amazing being able to point out actions, direct players on rotations and sniff out any misdirection.  Porter may be prone to getting beat at the point of attack but if he can sink his hips and stay with the ball handler since he has enough change of direction ability to distort angles and contest drives at the basket.  He does a fine job staying in an athletic, low stance with good balance at all times.  Sometimes he needs to do a better job closing air space on the perimeter attacking closeouts; can be late on rotations due to lack of quick twitch movement.  He does a good job walling off drives, helping the helper and staying vertical.  He uses his great hand-eye coordination and anticipation on weak side blocks and well timed swipe downs resulting in 4.1 total steals/blocks per 40 minutes.  However he can get too handsy at times and will overextend himself on shot attempts fouling 4.8 times per 40 minutes.  His upside might be limited on defense but uses his IQ and functional athleticism to defend at a high level.

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So now that I had time to digest my breakdown do I think Jontay Porter is a projected lottery selection for this upcoming draft?  If he had come out this past draft the answer would be no.  This upcoming draft on the other hand looks to be weaker than normal.  Porter looks like a Kelly Olynyk type of player: an unathletic big who can shoot threes, pass, screen, dribble hand-off and be sound on defense.  Although I think Porter has more upside then Olynyk the fact is they are solid glue-guys and role players.  As of now the 10-20 range is probably where I have him spotted.  But there is a new crop of players coming in and random prospects always pop up out of nowhere.  This is a discussion that’s tabled for now and will be re-examined for another day.