Favorite Play: Game #1 NBA Finals 2017

The first game of the the NBA Finals is finally in the books.  The game can be summed up in four words: pace, Curry, Durant and turnovers.  

Pace because Cleveland won last years finals at a rate of 95 possessions per game; the fewer the better.  Game one was at 102 possessions; advantage Warriors.  

Curry because when Cleveland put him in pick-and-roll situations last Finals the Cavs took advantage of the switches.  Game one had Curry showing instead of switching; it slowed down dribble penetration and gave the Warriors time to recover.  Curry on offense was amazing too, breaking down the defense with his handle and creating gravity with his shot.  

Durant because he was unguardable.  The Cavs had a tough time guarding him; do they trap?  Do they switch?  Do they bust out Ty Lue’s secret  defense he’s been saving for the playoffs?  Whatever they do they better think of something quick.  

Turnovers because it was a 20 to 4 difference; plain and simple.  If the Cavs can’t take care of the ball than this series is over in a hurry.

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My favorite play of the game came in the fourth quarter with about 11 minutes left to go.  The Warriors were up 21.  It’s a play that had a few options depending on what the defense did.  In this instance Klay Thompson was used more like a diversion cutting off two baseline screens and curling to the three point line.  Normally this play can yield a wide open three to Klay but this time it was as a misdirection.

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It starts off as a sideline out-of-bounds play with Ian Clark passing it in to Andre Iguodala.  Draymond Green sets a cross screen for Klay Thompson in the right corner.  

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The defense stays sound and Deron Williams is attached to Thompson’s hip.

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David West sets a wide-down screen for Thompson.  Thompson curls to the three point line.

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Here is where the option comes to play.  Depending on how the defense reacts, Iggy would either pass it to Klay or enter it in the post for West.

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Just like my last play breakdown, the Cavs miscommunicate on defense.  This time between Deron Williams and Richard Jefferson.  West slips the screen and Iggy makes a nice pass to a wide open West.

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Since there was a miscommunication between Jefferson and Williams Lebron makes the right rotation and steps in front of West’s path.

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As soon as Lebron rotated over to West, Shumpert needed to rotate to Green in the corner then Jefferson would find his way to Clark at the Right Wing.  However, Shumpert didn’t make the proper read and Green makes a well timed cut to the basket.

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West makes a great pass to the cutting Green.  Jefferson does an admirable job of trying to wall off Green.

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In the end Jefferson was late and ends up putting Green on the free throw line.  Even though this play doesn’t result in a direct bucket, the passing and play construction highlights the action of a fast paced offense with multiple layers.  Not only is ball movement and player movement a staple of the Warriors offense, it’s also just enjoyable to watch.

NBA Combine (Part 3)

I’m going to breakdown the players I thought stood out, should return to school or disappointed me on the last day of scrimmages.  There are players who participated in the scrimmage’s that I’m not going to mention in either category: Kennedy Meeks, Rawle Alkins, Jamel Artis, Peter Jok, Melo Trimble, Moritz Wagner, Omer Yurtseven, VJ Beachem, Isaiah Briscoe, just to name a few.  These players were pretty forgettable and did nothing to stand out, or, I didn’t have any expectations for them to begin with.

 

Stand Out

 

Derrick White, SR, PG/SG, Colorado ~ He seemed to be more of a scoring guard than a traditional point guard but made some nice passes in transition and off the pick-and-roll.  He’s 6’4, athletic and has a decent shot.  Needs to improve communication on defense and to be more aggressive fighting through screens.  About to turn 23.  Could be back up guard ready for a team picking in the second round.

 

Monte Morris, SR, PG, Iowa St ~ I wasn’t overly impressed with Morris.  He forgot to box out his man on defense fairly often leading to offensive rebounds and putbacks.  He has to improve his off-ball defensive and offensive awareness.  However, I did like the fact he takes care of the ball, doesn’t commit fouls, is patient on offense and has pick-and-roll skills.  During a pick-and-roll the timing, rhythm, angles and spacing all have to be coordinated amid two defenders; it’s kind of a dance.  So even though Morris still has a lot of skills to work on, having pick-and-roll skills is a huge plus that not many players showed at the combine.  He should be a second round pick with backup PG capabilities.

 

Dillon Brooks, JR, SF/PF, Oregon ~ Brooks really made an impression me during the combine scrimmage.  He was able to drive with either hand, change his direction, shift, pivot, attack the rim and score.  His improved 3pt shot has to continue onward to the pro level.  If he can be more consistent from three then that will give him better odds at making a team.  His biggest impediment could be his lack of foot speed and length.  He measures in at 6’7 with a 6’6 wingspan.  Thats terrible.  He did show top level fundamentals and skills which is always a treat to watch.  If he can get past his physical drawbacks then he has a chance to be a solid NBA scoring threat off the bench.  

 

Damyean Dotson, SR, PG/SG, Houston ~ I had no clue who Dotson was before the combine.  He’s 6’5 with a 6’9 wingspan and a great athlete.  He really showed off his versatility by initiating the offense and making plays while also playing off-ball as a floor spacer and cutter.  He needs to improve his handle if he wants to be a combo guard.  It wasn’t tight and he couldn’t keep his head up while driving.  His bad handle lead to too many turnovers and mistakes.  Dotson should be picked in the second round or not at all.  I think he could become a backup combo guard.  

 

Jaron Blossomgame, SR, SF/PF, Clemson ~ Blossomgame was really one of the better stand outs during the scrimmage.  He’s 6’7 with a 6’10 wingspan, athletic and strong.  He played great perimeter defense, not biting on fakes all week, staying attached to his mans hip and keeping his hands active while not becoming over-aggressive.  He was one of the only players during the scrimmage to set strong screens with a well timed roll.  His shooting is very inconsistent and one of his biggest hurdles.  But during combine week he was making his jump shots.  He’s about to turn 24 years old.  Many of the players I really liked this week were older players.  I personally don’t think it’s a bad thing to be an older since older players have more developed skill.  I think Blossomgame should be a first round draft pick but probably won’t be picked until the second round.  If he can consistently make his jump shots, huge if, then he will be a steal.

 

Davon Reed, SR. SG/SF,  Miami ~ Reed and Blossomgame were my two favorite players all week.  Reed is an older player too; 22 years old.  Reed was great at defense, one of the better communicators and weak side rotators at the combine.  He’s 6’6 with a 7’ wingspan, not great but a good athlete and strong.  He was defending 1 thru 5, making hustle plays and looked like a modern day multi-positional wing player.  He needs to improve his handle.  At the moment he is strong hand dominant and a straight line driver.  He can shoot though which is a big help to create cracks in the gaps.  Not many mock drafts have him being drafted.  I think that’s crazy.

 

Jordan Bell, JR, PF/C, Oregon ~ Bell didn’t blow me away with his skills but I did like his energy.  He really looked like a guy who can come off the bench as a back up big and make hustle plays.  He was the best screener all week bar none.  His base was shoulder width apart, strong, well timed, and rolled with his head up, vision on the ball and angled to the rim.  He rarely slipped the screen.  Defensively he needs to be more sound and not bite on fakes but overall he was one of the most versatile defenders at the combine.  Setting screens and rolling hard to the rim are his best attributes on offense; frankly they’re his only skills on offense.  Needs improvement there.  He should be a second round pick and has nice backup big potential.  

 

Return to School/Draft-and-Stash

 

Justin Jackson, FR, SF/PF, Maryland ~ I’ve gone into detail about Jackson many times before but I’ll say it again: he needs to return to school.  He’s 6’7 with a 7’3 wingspan, good athlete and strong body.  He has no discernible skills.  He looks like an NBA player but doesn’t have the requisite skills to back him up.  He’s O.K. at most everything but has not one stand out skill.  If he returns to school and comes out next draft then I think he has lottery potential.  

 

PJ Dozier, SO, SG, South Carolina ~ PJ has great size at 6’6 with a 6’11 wingspan.  His size and athleticism give him an NBA body.  His skills are further along than Justin Jackson but Dozier can benefit from one more year at school to improve his offense.  Dozier was probably one of the better defenders at the combine.  He was wrecking havoc in the passing lanes, taking chances and causing turnovers.  That activity on the perimeter means his hands can be too busy at times and he should be more conservative depending on the matchup.  His offensive game was pretty raw.  His shot is was bad but not broken; his release point was on the way down and overall very inconsistent.  If he returns to school for another year, just like Jackson, Dozier has lottery potential.  

 

Jonnathan Jeanne, 20 yr old, C, France ~ He was probably one of the better players all combine long to correctly adjust his dive with the ball handlers dribble.  He was diving hard and accurate to the rim during the scrimmages.  But his screen setting technique was weak.  He tends to slip every screen he sets or faintly nudge the defender on the roll to the rim.  He should be drafted, maybe first round this year.  But whoever drafts him should stash him for a couple of years overseas.  He’s 7’2 with a 7’6 wingspan and we weighs 207 pounds.  Ergo, he needs to bulk up.  Overall he has solid skill but he got pushed around all combine long and committed too many fouls.

 

Disappointment

 

Devin Robinson, JR, SF/PF, Florida ~ He can’t dribble and doesn’t have any moves off closeouts.  His strong hand drive is weak and he mostly pulls up before getting to the rim.  He’s 6’8 with a 7’ foot wingspan but weighs 200 pounds.  He needs to get stronger.  He has great length and athleticism but since his fundamentals are poor, for a 22 year old, he still has a long way to go.  He should be a second round pick and with a great player development department helping him every step of the way he may have a chance to stick with an NBA team.

 

Nigel Hayes, SR, PF, Wisconsin ~ Unlike Robinson, Hayes does have great fundamentals and is a heady player.  During the scrimmage Hayes pulled the chair out from under Omer Yurtseven while he was backing Hayes down.  Yurtseven fell on his butt and the scouts smriked.  I’m rooting for Hayes but his lack of explosion and foot speed were a problem.  He couldn’t beat anyone off the dribble and he couldn’t stay in front of who he defended with regularity.  In an actual NBA game the athleticism sky rockets.  Hayes might go undrafted but I think a team should take a chance on him in the second round.  

 

Sindarius Thornwell, SR, SG/SF, South Carolina ~ I compare Thornwell to Hayes.  Both are older players who have great fundamentals and a great understanding of how to play the game.  His slow foot speed is a problem.  Unless his feet were fully set to explode, he got beat off the dribble and couldn’t do much with the ball in his hands.  He’s about to turn 23 years old.  I think Thornwell and Hayes’ career is system dependent.

 

Semi Ojeleye, JR, SF/PF/C, SMU ~ Ojeleye was one of the players I was really looking forward to watching in the scrimmage.  He’s 6’7 with a 6’10 wingspan and super strong body.  He improved his 3pt shot to 42% and his FT% to 78% this past year.  His shooting and overall offensive game were very versatile.  And his ability to switch on defense made me think he could be a modern day small-ball 4.  Unfortunately, he had problems all combine long with length.  He couldn’t get his shot up when the defense collapsed on him and he didn’t do that great of a job contesting shots on defense.  His overall defense was a negative for me; not being in the right spots and losing his man.  I still like the thought of him being a point forward but he looked over matched during the combine.

 

Wesley Iwundu, SR, SG/SF, Kansas St ~ He’s 6’7 with a 7’1 wingspan, good not great athlete.  I really liked Iwundu before the combine since he was a great pick-and-roll player.  He averaged 3.5 assists per game last year and improved his 3pt shot to 38%.  I don’t know if it was he felt out of place but Iwundu looked lost.  He forced the issue when he did have the ball in his hands making mistakes galore.  There were a few times his pocket passing off screens were on display and boy did it look nice.  Iwundu played in a system that was tailored for him at Kansas St so maybe now he’s a fish out of water.  The question is can he adapt?  I still like the thought of him being a multi-positional wing.  Before the combine I was thinking first rounder but now he should be drafted in the second round.

 

  

NBA Combine (Part 2)

This is an overview of the second scrimmage.  After I post this I’ll finish up the rest of the combine in part three, breakdown the final two scrimmages and give my final thoughts.  After the final combine post I’ll do my first mock draft; by then the lottery will be set and we’ll know who’s drafting where.

This lottery is probably one of the most anticipated lotterys I’ve seen in a long time.  If the Lakers fall outside the top three, not only do they lose their pick to Philly this year (Steve Nash Trade), but they also lose their pick to Orlando in 2019 too (Dwight Howard trade).  This scenario rarely happens.  If the Kings pick falls outside of the top ten then it goes to Chicago.  Also, if that Kings pick finishes ahead of the Sixers pick then the Sixers have the right to swap picks.  If the Pelicans pick falls outside of the top three then it becomes the Kings selection.  And again, after the lottery I’ll do a mock draft for both rounds but I’m anticipating changes to the current draft slots.

The second scrimmage of the combine was much better than the first one.  When I did my overview of that first scrimmage I couldn’t find any true standout player.  There were players who played marginally better than others but no one blew me away.  None of these players that participate in these scrimmages are perfect; far from it.  Even from players that I grade highly, there’s still blown coverages and assignments all over the floor.  I’m looking for a Pascal Siakam performance; a player who before the combine was maybe a fringe prospect to after the combine being selected 27th overall.

 Kyle Kuzma, PF/C, junior from Utah, had that type of performance in scrimmage number two.  Standing at 6’9 with a 7’ wingspan, Kuzma played 20 minutes with 20 points on 4 of 5 from three and 5 rebounds.  Kuzma was a guy that wasn’t on many mock drafts before the combine began; maybe a late second round prospect.  For his junior year he averaged 31 minutes, 16 points, 9 rebounds, on 55% from the floor and 32% from three.  His inconsistencies from three and defense were huge red flags.  Typically college front court players with poor block and steal rates hardly become good defenders once they hit the pros.  Kuzma put up .6 steals and .5 blocks per game, not good.  During the scrimmage you can see he was lost on defense but I don’t think that was all his fault.

A theme of the first two scrimmages has been the lack of communication.  Barley did I see on pick-and-rolls, dribble drives and weak side rotations communication between players.  That’s why when I’m trying to breakdown how a player did defensively it’s a challenge since communication is practically half the game.  So to continue on Kuzma, did he look lost at times defensively?  Sure, but rewatching the tape he was actually one of the only players talking and pointing out where to go.  There’s no trust between these players, they’re going to do what they think will get the eye of GMs and coaches.

Offensively, however, Kuzma was great.  His release point on his shooting stroke was at it’s apex, good rhythm and good motion.  He typically slipped screens he set but with good spacing and timing awareness between the ball handler.  Soft hands, good finisher, read plays well, made pinpoint passes and had great footwork.  He has an average handle and is strong hand dominant.  Overall I think Kuzma is so far my standout prospect form the first two scrimmages.  He reminds me of a better rebounding version of Channing Frye.  I didn’t know much about him until this scrimmage so I’ll try to find more tape so I can properly grade his defense.

If you look at the boxscore of this game PG freshmen Frank Jackson of Duke had a good performance with 13 points, 4 assists on 6 of 10 from the field.  It was such a good performance, apparently, that Jackson the next day decided he need not play in anymore scrimmages and hired an agent.  Jackson, who had a very rocky season at Duke, decided after one 20 minute outing he is pro ready.  I hope Jackson is ready for the D-League next year because that’s exactly where he will be.  Jackson was over aggressive on defense; positioning himself with wrong angles to guard the gaps.  On offense he mainly just attacked every time he touched the ball.  He did have a couple of nice pocket passes and dribble drive moves but I saw a guy playing so aggressive to fill the stat sheet and solidify his spot in the draft.  Point guard is so deep in the NBA.  At the very best he’s a backup point guard.  But for now, I see D-League next year.

Justin Jackson of Maryland looks like an NBA player.  The size of his body, his strength, the way he moves up and down the court, he looks like a modern day swing forward.  Unfortunately he has basic skills.  He does nothing great and every skill I can grade from him came back as “average.”  After watching this scrimmage I would suggest to him returning to school for another year.  Semi Ojeleye’s draft stock definitely took a hit.  In my measurements post I said I was disappointed in his length, and it sure showed why in this scrimmage.  He couldn’t finish over length, he had problems dribbling and he couldn’t make rebounds that he would normally make at SMU.  Nigel Hayes of Wisconsin looked nonathletic.  Kennedy Meeks looked like he wishes he was playing in the 90s.  Tyler Dorsey has backup point guard potential.  And Derrick White continues to impress me.

I’ll finish off on two players, both of whom I really liked in this game.  Jaron Blossomgame, SF/PF, senior out of Clemson seemed to be in the right place at the right time always.  He made good back door cuts, he found breakdowns in the gaps and he was probably the best sound perimeter defender of the day.  He needs to improve his jump shot but by no means is it broken.  Though, until his shot improves he might be stuck in D-League limbo.  He stands in at 6’7 with a 6’10 wingspan; so he has to use his fantastic athleticism when he’s guarding longer players.  He is close to turning 24 years old.  Maybe that’s why he looked so polished with a bunch of 19 year olds.  Being 24 years old is a red flag to most scouts.  Malcolm Brogdon might become the rookie of the year at 24 years old.  If the kid can play then draft him in the second round.

Davon Reed, SG/SF, senior out of Miami, measures in at 6’5.5 with a 7’ wingspan.  If Blossomgame was the best perimeter defender of the day then Reed was the second best perimeter defender of the day.  Again, one of the older players in the bunch, about to be 22 years old.  He was also a sound defender, moved his feet well, didn’t reach, kept his butt down and was making proper rotations.  Unlike Blossomgame, Reed has a nice jump shot.  Reed needs to improve his handle and decision making.  Reed could be a steal second round or undrafted prospect.

Like I said last post, this is one 40 minute game.  There’s no communication on defense, little coaching and the team is beholden to the guards.  This is just a small sample of what it may be like for prospects to play in a pro style system.  This is not an end all be all like some players make of it…..Frank Jackson.   I’m curious to see how these guys do again with one more day of scrimmages.  I’ll give my final thoughts on each player then.

NBA Draft Combine Thoughts (Part 1)

In this part of my analysis I will go over mostly the measurements and the first 5-on-5 drill.  The link for the full list of measurements, brought to you by DraftExpress, is here.

 

  • I previously talked about my anticipation about OG Anunoby’s wingspan in my last blog.  I heard from multiple websites, including DraftExpress, that his wingspan was 7’6.  It turns out that it was 7’2.3.  With his height at 6’8 and a freakish wingspan I think Anunoby should be drafted top 15 maybe even top 10.  His knee is still a question mark and his offensive game is a work in progress.  But he’s long, athletic, versatile and defensive minded, that’s a good start at becoming a fantastic two-way player.  

 

  • Justin Jackson from Maryland (not North Carolina) had great measurables.  He was 6’7 with a 7’3 wingspan.  He hasn’t hired an agent yet since he’s lacking any discernible skills.  I think he should return to school for another year and develop a skill set that teams can point their finger at as an upside.  His body type is his only upside now but another year at Maryland and he should be in the first round discussion next draft.

 

  • Luke Kennard measured in at 6’5.5 with a 6’5.3 wingspan.  I’m a Kennard skeptic.  His short arms and small hands for his size have something to do with it but his poor defensive fundamentals, lack of lateral quickness, no explosion and limited handles are the basis behind my skepticism.  He really needs to add a lot of offensive skills to his repertoire if he wants to stick with a team.  A lot of mocks have him going first round.  I just don’t see it.

 

  • As far as “Bigs” are concerned Ike Anigbogu (6’10 with 7’6 WS), Jonathan Jeanne (7’2 with 7’6.5 WS), Justin Patton (6’11 with 7’3 WS), Thomas Bryant (6’11 with 7’6 WS) and Jarrett Allen (6’10 with 7’5 WS) were the players I had the biggest take aways with.  Being tall, long and mobile is super important for the game today so even though all these “Bigs” need to work on their skills having tremendous length is a great start.

 

  • Players who I was disappointed in their measurements were: John Collins (6’10 with 6’11 WS). Collins is a good athlete and has good ball skills but if he wants to be a starting center he’s going to have to bulk up to create separation otherwise he’ll struggle getting his shot off.  Zach Collins (7’ with 7’1 WS).  There’s nothing terrible about Zach Collins’ measurements, I just wish he had better length in comparison with his height since NBA length is viscous at the rim.  Semi Ojeleye (6’7 with 6’10 WS).  Semi doesn’t have the speed or quickness to be a small forward so NBA teams, I think, will look at him like a power forward.  He has ball skills and shooting to be a solid swing forward in the NBA today.  His lack of length could be an issue however when it comes to rebounding and defense.

 

  • Players who I was pleasantly surprised from: Wesley Iwundu (6’7 with 7’1 WS).  He has good passing skills for a wing; now, he has the potential to be a coveted point forward who can play multiple positions on defense.  Devin Robinson (6’8 with 7’1 WS).  He’s pretty frail.  He needs to add strength but put him in the 3-and-D wing camp.  Davon Reed (6’5.5 with 7’ WS).  That’s an awesome measurement for his height, he might need to spend a couple of years in the d-league but he has upside.  Hamidou Diallo (6’5 with 6’11 WS).  Good day for Diallo.  He didn’t take part in the 5-on-5 drills but his size and athleticism are turning some heads at the combine.  I think he should stay at Kentucky but I wouldn’t blame him if he leaves.  Donovan Mitchell (6’3 with 6’10 WS).  That’s just a wow measurement.  I rarely see guys with that height be that long.  He just went from late first round pick to possible lottery selection.  

 

 

I’m going to finish off by going over the first 5-on-5 scrimmage.  There are two twenty minute halves and there were ten players to a team.  I was thoroughly disappointed with this game.  There was no standout performance, no eye popping player, no Pascal Siakam.  Last year Siakam was eye popping.  He made hustle plays, set great screens, dove hard to the rim, had soft hands, finished and play defense 1 thru 5.  I understand this is just one 40 minute game with mostly second round talent; in the scheme of things it’s just a blip on the radar .  Watching game tape is way more creditable anyways.  But these scrimmages can make or break a lot of these players careers.  It’s actually very important even though it might seem ancillary.  Scouts and GMs get a glimpse into what players would be like in a pro-style offense.  They take it very seriously.

 

With that said there were a few players who had solid performances.  Rawle Alkins, SG/SF, freshmen from Arizona was assertive all game long while the same can’t be said about most players at this scrimmage.  He made great drives, shot well and was strong on defense.  He has a strong frame so he really bullied a lot of players around.  

 

Jordan Bell, PF/C, junior from Oregon was probably my lone standout.  He was everywhere on defense, switching, rotating, communicating, moving in unison with his assignments, shrinking the gaps; he had by far the most energy on the floor.  He needs to improve his jump shot and time his dives better but he was setting strong screens which not many players did this scrimmage.  He moved without the ball and became a nice safety valve on offense.  

 

Sindarius Thornwell, SG/SF, senior from South Carolina was a mixed bag.  He really solidified his second round projection.  At times he was moving well on defense, sticking to the players hip coming off screens, then other times he get completely blown by with his slow feet.  He’s a heady basketball player but his lack of athleticism really showed here.  Sometimes he couldn’t stay in front of the ball handler then sometimes he pump-fake and get to the rim with ease.

 

Svi Mykhailiuk, SG, junior from Kansas was probably the best shooter.  Monte Morris, PG, senior from Iowa State was probably the most vocal player.  He looked like a backup PG for sure.  Devin Robinson, SF/PF, junior from Florida.  I think he should return for his senior year.  He needs to add strength and fine tune his handle.  Melo Trimble, PG, senior from Maryland isn’t a NBA player.  Moritz Wagner, PF/C, sophomore from Michigan should return to school for another year but he definitely showed his skills on offense.  Jon Jeanne, C, France, he’s weak as hell.  He got pushed around all game long, committed too many fouls but has such length and ball skills some team might draft and stash him.  

 

This first scrimmage was a let down.  Hopefully the next 5-on-5 drill and Friday’s drills are more competitive.  It feels like no one wants to step on each others toes, no one is communicating and the energy level was dead for most the game.  The Gray team had a spurt of energy in the second half, that was it.  I’ll continue this with more of my analysis later.  

 

Pre NBA Draft Combine Thoughts

With the NBA playoffs currently underway a lot of people forget that the draft combine is this week.  I’m always interested to see who attends the combine since not everyone needs to help their draft stock.  Top five draft prospects like Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum aren’t participating but Markelle Fultz and De’Aaron Fox are.  I’m really not interested in watching the high lottery players anyways since I already know so much about them; I just want to know their measurements.

The players I’m looking forward to are the players I haven’t seen much tape on.  There are so many players who can jump into the first round off a good performance at the combine.  Pascal Siakam is a good example of a player who was projected to go late second round, had an excellent performance at the combine, and was drafted 27th overall by the Raptors last year.  The combine gives a good indication on how some players translate to pro-ball during the 5-on-5 drills.  The measurements are a nice tool to see a player’s length and athleticism but the drills are where the coaches can see how skilled the prospects actually are.

 After the combine is over I’m going to give a thorough breakdown on some players who helped their stock, hurt their stock and who should return to school.  There are a few who just come to the combine so they can get a scouting report about their weaknesses and return to school to fix them.  Justin Jackson from North Carolina is a perfect example from last year.  Jackson might’ve been drafted late second round last year but since he came back and improved his shooting, defense, and handle, he potentially may be a lottery selection this year.

I’m going to go through a list of 5 players who I’m interested to see:

 

Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky, FR

Who?  You got that right.  Diallo enrolled at Kentucky this past January and was preparing to be a redshirt freshman for the 2017-2018 season.  Since Diallo will be one year removed from his graduation he is eligible for the 2017 draft.  He hasn’t hired an agent so the door of returning is open.

Diallo is 6’5 with a 6’10 wingspan, super athletic, can’t shoot, solid finisher, strong hand dominant, a straight line driver and needs to work on his defensive fundamentals.  Drafting Diallo will be based off the “upside” in him since he’s a long athlete who can play multiple positions that doesn’t have any tape to judge properly.  It appears as if he’s going to skip the 5-on-5 drills and only do the measurements.

He is projected to go early second in most mock drafts.  Some mock drafts are optimistic and have him going late first.  Since we don’t have much tape on him it’s a shame he won’t take part in the 5-on-5 drills.  Nevertheless, if his measurements come back strong, he could be a top 20 pick.

 

OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana, SO

Before Anunoby hurt his knee in January and was out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL he was projected to be a lottery pick by most sites I saw.  Now, after his recovery, he is slotted to go anywhere between 10 and 30.  Scouts and GMs are going to want to know his medicals.  If they come back clean then that’s the first step in the right direction.

Maybe the biggest anticipation of the draft is Anunoby’s wingspan.  There is no record anywhere stating his wingspan but it is said to be rumored that Anunoby has a wingspan of 7’6.  If he measures anywhere near that number and his knee comes back clean he could catapult back into the top 10.

Anunoby is known for his defense.  He can switch onto almost any player, has a strong base and quick feet.  His offensive game needs work.  His handle is solid, his shot is inconsistent and his attack of the bounce game is rudimentary.  Still, if he measures in at 6’8 with a 7’6 wingspan the Kawhi Leonard comparisons will be flying around all month long.

 

John Collins, PF/C, Wake Forest, SO

Collins was an offensive juggernaut for the demon deacons.  His per 40 numbers are 28.8 ppg and 14.8 rpg, that’s amazing.  He isn’t a post-up player but has some post moves.  He really is more of a face up player that can take his man off the dribble and use his skill and athletic ability to maneuver around the rim.  His mid-range jump shot should translate to the next level and in time he will learn to take a step back for three point spacing.

Yes, Collins had incredible production on the offensive end.  But his measurements are a big issue.  He has scrawny legs, a lean body, little strength, tiny hands and a short wingspan.  The scouts will be keeping a close eye on his measurements.  In today’s small-ball fast paced NBA Collins is more of a Center.  He can play PF at times but that’s matchup dependent.  So he needs to put on weight and pray his wingspan is better than his last recorded measurement at 6’10.  

His defense was up and down all year.  He has the ability to switch and could be a good pick-and-roll defender but when it comes to guarding in the post he doesn’t have much leverage.  The number one thing I will be looking at are his measurements.  

 

Terrance Ferguson, SG, Adelaide (Australia,) 19yr old

Ferguson took the Brandon Jennings route.  He decommitted from Arizona and decided to play ball overseas for one year.  The last time we saw him was at the NIKE Hoop Summit where he made seven threes and showed off his 3-and-D capabilities.

He measures in at 6’7 with a 6’9.5 wingspan, good athlete and good overall size.  It’s always tough looking at the numbers of an 18 year old who plays overseas because the numbers aren’t very impressive.  Australia has a pretty competitive basketball league with a bunch of 30-something professionals.  So for Ferguson to get 15 minutes of playing time in the game is actually a good sign.  His three point percentage was disappointing at 32% but from what I saw it looked like he turned himself into a more consistent defender and a better ball handler.

From the little game tape I saw of him he actually looked like he made good strides in becoming a good all around player.  If he decides to play in the 5-on-5 drills the scouts and GMs will keep one eye fixated on him.

 

Harry Giles, PF/C, Duke, FR

Once upon a time Giles was a top three projected pick.  After a couple of knee surgeries and an up and down freshmen year at Duke he has slide back into the end of the first round.  I think we all know his upside; he’s 6’11 with a 7’3 wingspan, strong build and really athletic.  He has a decent jump shot, plays perimeter defense laterally, rebounds well and has tremendous versatility.

The negatives, however, were that he never saw any action, was consistently in foul trouble, was consistently out of place on defense and was never healthy.

The medical records and the health of his knees are going to be a big factor.  Teams are going to want to know everything about his health.  His measurables and athletic ability should be on display.  But if he can garner some trust about his health to GMs and play outstanding at the 5-on-5 drills then maybe he can creep back up into the late lottery.

As for now he’s a late first round prospect.  Out of all the players in the combine he might have the most to gain.

There are so many other players that I’m looking forward to watch; Zach Collins, Nigel Hayes, Josh Hart, Wesley Iwundu….this is a pretty solid draft so the combine should be better than usual.  Even the non-stars are so compelling to watch this year.   I’ll try to breakdown as many players as possible but there are always a few standouts.

SPIT TAKES

  • I’m a firm believer in stats regressing back to the mean.  For example, Otto Porter started off the season super hot from three.  He was shooting 46% from three pre-allstar break.  Lately he’s been struggling and only shooting 34% from three post-allstar break.  Typically things will average itself out.  So that brings me to my point about Steph Curry.  I think the more likely scenario when it comes to Curry and his shooting slump is regressing back to the mean.  He is a career average 43.6% 3pt shooter and this season he has shot 39% from three.  Everyone has been trying to dissect the why behind his shooting slump and for good reasons.  Maybe after the past two seasons he’s having a down year or his confidence is off.  It just feels to me that everyone is thinking since he’s slumping this late into the regular season he will most likely slump into the postseason.  I think the more likely scenario is that he shoots 45-50% from three the rest of the way out; get his average back to 43%.  I think there’s a better chance he will finish off this season super hot rather than continue his slump.  So with that said, with or without Durant, if Curry is shooting 7 of 14 from three on a nightly basis the Warriors win the title.  When you have a guy that dictates a defense’s reaction time when he’s 15 feet above the 3pt line it’s a wrap.

 

  • If I had to pick either Karl Anthony-Towns or Anthony Davis to start my franchise, I’d pick Towns.  They’re both equally good at rebounding.  Towns is younger so you get more years with him.  Davis is way more injury prone so durability goes to Towns.  Davis is a better defender than Towns, but for now.  If you compare Davis’ second season with the season Towns is having now than I would say Towns is more advanced with understanding of defensive coverages.  The same communication breakdowns that Davis suffered from in year two Towns shares as well in his sophomore year, however, Towns is a little less jumpy on fakes than Davis was.  I think this has been by far Davis’ best defensive year of his career but it took him 5 years to understand team defense.  You can see the same growth curve with Towns because understanding rotations as the last line of defense isn’t simple, takes time.  Defense goes to Davis, but again, for now.  Towns is a better shooter and a better all-around offensive player.  I’m going to get a lot of push back for this one but stats are facts and the facts say Towns already in year two is just as good offensively as Davis in year five.  Towns is a better shooter, passer and takes smarter shots.  Here are the shot charts for Davis and Towns, courtesy from NBA.com (Davis is on the top, Towns on the bottom:)

shotchartshotchart (2)

I’ve gone back and forth on this debate but my foot is down.  I’m going Towns.

  • Gary Harris is good.  He’s been improving with every year even though he has been oft-injured.  Since February 1st he’s averaging 17 PPG on 52% from the floor and 44% from three.  For the 19th pick in the 2014 draft that’s pretty good.  His handle is what he’s improved on the most.  An improved handle opens up the door for rim attacks, pick plays and mis-direction.  Now that he’s a good 3pt shooter closeouts on him have to be hard and Harris does a nice job throwing in moves to attack the basket.  His defense is kind of my issue.  He needs to do a better job of keeping his body in front of his man.  He gets blown by too often and reads flare screens terribly.  He should improve over time but since he’s short with a short wingspan and average athleticism he needs to be a heady defender or else he will always be a minus on that end.  The trio of Jokic, Murray and Harris is one of the better under-22 trios in the game.          

 

  • That brings me to my next point.  Nikola Jokic is a hot name in NBA circles.  They’re falling in love with his shooting, passing and transition skills.  He’s averaging 16 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists on 58% shooting from the floor and 35% from three.  So you can understand why he’s the new “it” thing.  But the only issue I have with Jokic is his pick-and-roll defense and rim protection.  The guy is slow footed, can’t jump, or at least he doesn’t want to jump and is the beginning stages of understanding PnR coverages.  Like I said with Towns, it’s going to take time for him to understand back line defense.  But that’s not the issue.  The issue is his body movement.  He’s just slow and not athletic.  Even if he does read a play properly he’s slow to get there:    
    Screenshot (12)_LI
    Arzia blows by Hernangomez on the right wing. Jokic notices the blow by and should try to cut off the drive. He should try to establish verticalilty where the X is. He has enough time to get there.
    Screenshot (9)
    Jokic takes one slide, slowly, a good defender should already be into their second slide by now
    Screenshot (10)
    Instead of taking another full slide he chops his step and is out of position
    Screenshot (11)
    Game Over

     

This is just one play of many that I have noticed.  It isn’t even a pick-and-roll play, just a simple blow by that he doesn’t cut off.  The Nuggets perimeter defense is nothing to ride home about but still sometimes he won’t even move in the direction of the gap attack.  He’s good at one-on-one post defense but this isn’t 1999.  I like Nikola Jokic as much as the next guy but his defense is a problem that I’m not sure is going away.

  • If I were Boston I’d seriously consider trading Isaiah Thomas.  The only reason why I say this is because of the fact Boston owns the Nets first round pick which will yield either Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball.  I don’t want to put too much expectations onto Ball/Fultz but I can say with almost certainty that they are going to be max salary players when they come off their rookie deals.  Boston wants to save a max salary slot for a Paul George or Gordon Hayward type to contend versus the Cavs.  Boston has max money already being spent to Al Horford and Bradley, Thomas, and Smarts contracts are coming up summer 2018.  So that’s potentially max money to Fultz/Ball (only if they extend their contract after year 2 new CBA rule,) Thomas, Horford, Hayward, and another $20 million contract on Bradley and another $15 million on Smart and there is still Jaylen Brown too.  Something has to give.  Either they lose their depth and don’t resign Bradley and Smart or they don’t sign a big name free agent and trade for one.  I’d trade a package of Thomas, Jaylen Brown, Smart and Boston’s 2018 first (unprotected) and Memphis’ 2019 first (unprotected) for Jimmy Butler.  Boston would get out of cap hell and keep BOTH Brooklyn’s first round picks.  Isaiah Thomas is going to be 30 years old when his contract comes up for renewal.  That means paying a 30 year old, who isn’t a top 20 player, about $40 million per year for 5 years.  If I were Boston I wouldn’t let it get that far and trade him before his contract is up.  

Man I’m Glad I Called That Guy

Now is the time of year with March Madness officially underway that breakout performances can affect where a player gets drafted.  I’m not talking about lottery superstars like Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson, Malik Monk or Lonzo Ball…that stuff is boring.  I’m talking about players that you’ve never heard of creeping up the draft boards.  Pro prospects that are most likely role players on the next level.  With one round in the books I’ve picked my five favorite pro prospects that you’ve probably never heard of making an impact on the next level.  It’s not out of the question that some of these players on my list become max caliber players.  But as of today, their late first round picks at best.

 

  1.  Mikal Bridges (SF, Villanova, SO)  

 

I love me some Mikal Bridges.  He’s 6’7 tall, 7 foot wingspan and 200 pounds, good athlete not great athlete.  His physical attributes set up nicely for a 3-and-D swing forward something that the NBA lacks.  His best skill is his defense.  Nice low stance, moves his feet well on close outs and doesn’t over extend himself.  He needs to improve on being a better help side defender and sometimes he reaches for steals but overall a sound defender.  He probably was ‘Novas best defender during their title run last year and is their best defender now.  Offensively he needs to improve his handle.  He doesn’t have any pick-and-roll skills and is more of an extra pass guy.  I would like to see him improve on attacking closeouts, work some jab steps or pivots in his repertoire.  He really is more of a straight line driver with no change of direction moves.  His 3pt shooting is his best skill on offense.  He is shooting 39.6% on 3.2 attempts per game this year from three.  Really more of a spot-up shooter, Bridges should work on his screen game and become more active off-ball.  I think he should return to school for at least one more year but since the league is in need for his skill set maybe he tests the waters.  As of now I think Otto Porter is a good comparison.

 

  1. Johnathan Motley (PF/C, Baylor, JR)

 

Motley has great size at 6’9 tall with a 7’3 wingspan.  Needs to add weight and get bulkier, currently at 230 pounds.  If this was 20 years ago Motley would be a PF but in today’s NBA he most likely will be used at Center.  Motley has the world of potential on defense, can be a legit rim protector.  I just don’t like his fundamentals though.  He bites on too many fakes, doesn’t rotate properly and has a general lack of awareness.  Instead of being sound he rather just time his jump for a block and use his athleticism/length to fix any mistake.  Unless you’re a sound defender on the next level you’ll ride the bench.  Then why the potential on defense?  His ability to switch onto the perimeter and guard 1 through 5 is undeniable.  Motley will be guarding Landon Lucas one possession and then Devonte Graham the next possession, well I might add.  He just needs a good coach to correctly teach him stance and how to read pick-and-roll coverages.  Offensively his shot mechanics aren’t that bad.  He needs to be more consistent with his balance, sometimes he lifts too heavily on his toes, knocking his legs off balance with his lift and using his upper body as his whole motion.  But overall he has ability shooting.  His pick-and-roll skills are what he needs to hone in on.  He needs to set stronger screens, he slips too early too often.  His diving ability is top notch; soft hands, great at finishing and attacks the gaps well.  Clint Capela with a better shooting stroke is his NBA comp.  

 

  1. Jonathan Williams (SF, Gonzaga, JR)

 

Motley and Bridges will probably end up as late first or early second round picks.  The next three guys on my list are second round or undrafted prospects.  They all have discernible skill sets and abilities that will translate to the next level.  Williams can defend, rebound and has nice size.  His shot is alright.  I mean, he is shooting 38.2% on 1 three point attempt this season but that’s because he has a great shot selection.  If he’s pressed on the 3pt line he won’t shoot.  He’s very aware of what he can and can not do so he doesn’t force the issue.  He’s great at filling the lanes on transition, hustling for offensive rebounds and making smart reads on mis-matches.  He needs to improve his handle.  On defense he’s versatile with the ability to guard 1 through 5.  He’s 6’9 tall and even though his wingspan isn’t listed you can tell he’s long.  He does a great job at staying in front of his man, active hands, doesn’t take chances and does a great job of positioning himself on box-outs.  Williams was a college transfer so he’s going to be 23 when he’s a senior.  I don’t think he gets drafted but put him in the D-League for a year or two and I think he can become a NBA rotational player.    

 

  1. Landry Shamet (SG, Wichita State, FR)

 

Who?  Most likely Shamet will stay at Wichita State for three to four years.  So even if they lose to Kentucky you should be able to follow him for a bit while he’s at school.  He’s listed as a shooting guard but he’s really more of a combo guard.  He averages 3.3 assists per game in 26.4 minutes played per.  That will serve him well at the next level since he’s only 6’4.  He can bring up the ball, initiate the offense, play off screens and most importantly shoot.  His shot is so pure, it’s probably the most NBA ready skill on this list.  He’s always balanced coming off screens, elbow in, high release point and great follow through.  He shot 45.3% from three on 4.4 attempts per game.  Adding a great shot with ball-handling skills as a combo guard will get you work in the NBA.  On defense he’s a typical freshman by making mistakes off-ball.  He has a slender frame so he gets caught up in screens more than I would like.  But he moves his feet well and hustles.  With every game you can tell he’s picking up coverages better.  Still very raw but as long as he puts in the work he should see some potentially great results.   

 

  1. Vince Edwards (SF/PF, Purdue, JR)

 

Edwards has size and offensive skill.  He is 6’8 with a 7 foot wingspan and an 8’9.5 standing reach.  That’s great size for an NBA forward.  Unfortunately he is an average athlete that affects his overall game but primarily his defense.  He stands up while defending which doesn’t help either, if he can just get his butt down and sit he’d have a better time at moving and staying in front of his man.  His hips are stiff as a board and his effort level is questionable.  I think when he gets to the next level he’s got to get in better shape and get better pro coaching.  His offense is why he made my list.  He is shooting 43% on 3.1 three point attempts this year.  His shooting mechanics are nice and balanced with a high release point.  The only problem is the speed of his shooting motion.  Maybe he is just one lazy piece of crap but everything he does seems slow.  Nevertheless, he’s got a handle, rip through and attacking style that makes him a candidate to attack closeouts well.  Every time I watch him play he reminds me of a very, very, very, very poor mans Carmelo Anthony.  Edwards should stay in school for another year.