2013 NBA Draft Preview
Well it's that time of year again, where you can look back on your team's successes & failures & begin hoping & wishing who your team will draft. I love this time of year because it gives me a chance to get a peek into where the league is headed in the next 10 years. Each year brings a new attitude about the players coming out & this year is no different. All you continue to hear is how weak of a draft it is. I take issue with that line of thinking though. Not so much because it's inaccurate, but more because of the connotations. While it is a draft devoid of any certified superstars, like a LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Derrick Rose, it is a relatively deep draft in terms of substance players, guys who can be glue guys & fill a complementary role on a team.
With any draft you have to remember that there are a list of things to take into consideration when a team picks a player. One of them being where that player is drafted. That can have as much to do with a players career success as anything. A guy may have all the requisite skills to be a force at his position, but if he goes to the wrong team, he can end up becoming nothing more than a bit role player. Nowadays with most of the top players turning pro after their freshman & sophomore years in college, a team can be drafting on potential more than anything else. That makes GMs' & scouts' jobs that much more difficult. I recently heard Steve Kerr, 5-time NBA Champion & former GM of the Phoenix Suns, quote Jerry West when he said, as a GM, "if you're right 51% of the time, you're doing a helluva job."
The best formula quite simply is to draft the best player available. When you try to draft based on need, you can fall victim to reaching for a player. The pressure of being a top draft pick can be overwhelming for some players. They can try too hard to justify their draft position & lose focus of the big picture. The key is to always come away will value for your pick regardless of your draft position. The Spurs took Tim Duncan with the number 1 pick back in the 1997 draft & went on to win 4 Championships with him as their go-to guy. Then in 1999 they took Manu Ginobili with next to last pick of the draft & 2 years later, they took Tony Parker with the last pick in the 1st round. That's what you call getting value for your picks.
Another trap some GMs & scouts fall into is what I call, The Big School Syndrome. Sometimes players at the big schools can be over valued as well as over scrutinized. Guys who go to the big schools are the most heavily recruited so within basketball circles they're already a well known commodity. However, that player must then live up to lofty expectations & their games can begin to get picked apart. A guy like Carlos Boozer is a classic example of this. He was one of the best players while at Duke but he ended up going in the 2nd round to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
At the same time a guy who goes to a smaller school can go over looked until someone comes along to shatter that stereotype. Damion Lillard is a perfect example of that. Playing at Weber State, he went unnoticed by most but after the Draft Combine, everyone began to take notice. The Portland Trailblazers obviously made the correct move as he went on to win Rookie of the Year. Him accomplishing so much opens the door for other guys coming out of small schools, until some GM reaches on a player, & he doesn't pan out. CJ McCollum is going to be the next test subject. If he goes high in the 1rd round & lives up to his draft status, GMs will continue scouring the smaller Division I schools looking for the next sleeper. If McCollum doesn't, they'll probably go back to over looking those small school players.
For myself, when I look at the draft, the 1st thing I want to know is the player's height, weight, position & level of athleticism. After taking in all that information, I then start looking at what the player's strengths are. While I want to know his weaknesses, I don't get too caught up in them. If his weaknesses outweigh his strengths, then he probably doesn't belong in the draft in the 1st place. I prefer to focus on what he can do & where he is at in his development. How high his ceiling is & how far is he from reaching it? The one weakness I do take into serious consideration is, his mental approach & attitude. If I'm the GM in New York, I might want to stay away from a guy who has a rep for getting into trouble after hours. Unless his skill set is exceptional of course.
Sleeper picks are the most intriguing. Again, if a guy is good enough to even get drafted, then there is something he can do that's of value to an NBA team. Some guys may not jump off the screen with their athleticism, but they still may possess something intangible like an innate ability to make things happen on one or both ends of the court. You can't get too wrapped up in one category, you have to figure out how good his strengths are compared to his weaknesses.
I don't get into mock drafts either or making predictions of who's going where & at what number, but what I am going to do is list the guys that I feel are the Top 3 players available, my Most Undervalued, Most Overvalued & my favorite, the Sleeper pick. I'll get into why I have each player listed as I do, but again, I'm not really making predictions just evaluations. So with that being said, here we go:
1. Anthony Bennett PF 6-8 240lbs UNLV
Bennett is a physical force with a high motor who likes to attack at all times. He's a great rebounder & can face up & hit open jumpers. He's only 19 so as strong as he is, that will improve as his body matures. He has quick feet & a 7-1 wingspan which helps him carve out space & finish at the rim. His physical skills can translate to being a good defender & he should be able to develop a post game. As is the case with most young players, his energy level on defense isn't always what you want but with the right push he should be able to become a more than serviceable defender as he matures. My biggest concern with him is his mental preparedness. Watching him in interviews he seems almost surprised by the attention he's getting heading into the draft.
2. Otto Porter SF 6-9 198lbs Georgetown University
Porter to me is the most polished of all the players in the draft because he can do a lot of things very well. He is a very smart player competes on every play. He plays defense with an energy & sense that you want in a top pick, especially one as skilled offensively as him. Very often guys tend to be one way players having spent much of their development years focusing on one side of the ball. Porter is also a high character guy who has worked to improve his game as evidenced by his much improved jump shot. If you watch him from 2 years ago to now, you can plainly see his mechanics have improved tremendously. Every coach wants a guy like Porter on their team.
3. Alex Len C 7-1 225lbs Maryland University
A lot of draft boards have Nerlens Noel as the top-rated center but I like Len better. Len is better offensively right now than Noel though he isn't as good defensively. He is explosive around the rim & is an above average rebounder already even with his slight frame. He does need to get stronger & develop a legitimate post game, though he showed improvement from his freshman to sophomore year in nearly every attribute. Like Noel he does have an injury concern, though not as serious as Noel's. With his length & energy level he has tremendous upside.
1. Steven Adams C 7-0 255lbs Pittsburgh
I have Adams as my most under valued player based upon draft stock projections by scouts & analysts. The more I watched of him the more I came away surprised at his draft ranking. Adams is 19 but physically looks like he's in his mid-to-late 20s. He has surprisingly good lateral foot speed which allows him to defend guards on pick & rolls plays. He runs the floor well for a man his size & he possesses good fundamentals. With his soft hands he displays a good touch around the rim. When combined with his lateral fluidity, he could turn into a good to very good offensive center in the NBA given the chance. He's also a good rebounder & isn't afraid to mix it up. My feeling is, he's one of those guys who gets overshadowed by the guys from the big schools with the built in reputations because everything I saw of him suggests he can turn into a steal of a pick.
2. Dennis Schroeder PG 6-2 165lbs Germany
The first thing you notice when you sit down to watch Schroeder is his quickness. He's not only extremely quick with a great first step but he changes speeds very well. He's only 19 so his body needs to develop more which may affect him at the rim when he takes contact. Overall though his speed & quickness should enable him to be able to beat his man off the dribble. He's not a very good shooter off of the dribble but his mechanics are good enough that he's a decent spot up shooter. As is the case with most young PGs, he can be turnover prone but he is an excellent passer. The fact that he's an international player may be why he's somewhat under the radar, but one glance & you can plainly see, the kid can play.
3. Gorgui Dieng C 6-11 230lbs Louisville
When you first see his physical frame it's easy to take for granted his offensive skill set. He has surprisingly soft hands & moves his feet very well. He has a nice touch around the rim so if he ever develops a low post game, he can be very effective. His body is NBA ready & he should be able to contribute right away on the defensive end as a backup center. With his 7-4 wingspan he rebounds & blocks shots well. I think what will surprise whoever drafts him the most though is his passing. Setting him up on the high post will catch defenders off-guard
1. Nerlens Noel C 7-0 219lbs Kentucky
The more I watch of him the more I come away feeling like he is a by-product of a hype machine. Going to a big-time school like Kentucky & coming in ranked as one of the top high school players, to me, he's a little bit over valued. Don't get me wrong, I'm in no way suggesting that he won't make a good pro but sometimes scouts & GMs can get caught up in the high ceiling attribute. He is an excellent defender both on the perimeter contesting & blocking shots, but his slim built makes him susceptible to further injury. Personally there are 2 other bigs that I would prefer over him especially given his limited offensive skills.
2. Shabazz Muhammad SF 6-6 222lbs UCLA
Muhammad may be the poster child for the AAU hype machine. Coming into college he was being touted as the top player amongst freshmen. What he showed at the Division I level was that he lacked a real explosive skill set as his lateral quickness & overall speed was lacking. The fact that he's left handed helps as does his strength. It's not to say that he's not a good player just not the level of player many, including his dad, seem to think. I do like his guile on the offensive end & what he lacks in explosiveness he makes up for somewhat with his scoring instincts. His highest upside to me would be a Paul Pierce type of game. Putting him on this list doesn't in anyway suggest that he will flop as a pro because I do think he'll have productive career, I just feel that he's being over valued compared to a number of other players.
3. Cody Zeller PF/C 7-0 230 Indiana
When Zeller was coming out of high school he was another of those players that I feel was being a little over hyped. I do think it helped that his older brother was also a top prospect in recent years & was now in the NBA. It seems like sometimes scouts & GMs put more value than I ever would on trends. Whether it be small school players making a big splash & starting a trend or a player's DNA, sometimes too much is put into things that have very little to do with a players success. I think he can be a serviceable player but I just don't see the high upside. He will have to make a big adjustment to his game as supposedly the plan is for him to become a stretch 4 in the NBA. When a guy has to change his game in the summer between his last college game & his first NBA game, that's not a good sign. Maybe he can do it since he is a decent spot up shooter but time will tell.
1. Tony Mitchell PF 6-9 236lbs North Texas
Tony Mitchell went from being a potential lottery pick after his freshman season to being a late 1st rounder after his sophomore season. At times he played with a serious lack of interest, mostly from the defensive end but occasionally from the offensive side also. So much so that even he admitted as much. I give him credit for being up front & honest & addressing it with the hopes of showing that it won't be an issue at the next level. What he did show over his college career though was great rebounding & shot blocking skills. The fact that he went through a coaching change from his freshman to sophomore seasons may explain to some extent the drop in his numbers. Still, there's no excuse for a lack of effort but I personally believe he may have regretted not coming out after his freshman year. It may take a couple of seasons for him to show his talents similar to Lance Stephenson since he may be fighting for playing time, but I am confident whoever takes him will be more than happy with their selection.