The Missing Piece: Unveiling the Big Board

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Published: March 16, 2013
Missing Piece Four

It’s that time basketball fans. Whether you get sucked into March Madness for the pure love of the game or for the love of your bracket, we will all be watching closely these next few weeks, and when we do we should have our scouting glasses on. While Dell will have plenty of money to play with this summer, the odds are that the best chance that New Orleans will have at putting another ‘A’ level player next to Anthony Davis will come this June.

As tough as it is to admit to one’s self, Chris Paul ain’t coming back. Superman is not coming to New Orleans this summer, and the star-studded free agent class of 2014 led by LeBron James and Dwayne Wade are not going to take their talents to The Big Easy. If the Hornets want to add the Westbrook to our Kevin Durant (translation: Anthony Davis), then they will likely have to do it in this year’s draft. Next year’s team will likely be too talented to land one of the studs of the ’14 class, so this is it folks. Free agency should bring complimentary pieces, as will trades, but June will be the best chance to get that future star.

But first things first, before I lay out my Big Board. I have to make one thing crystal clear. You ALWAYS… always.. I said always, like in every single time, in every single scenario… ALWAYS draft best player available. Have I been clear enough on that? Drafting for need over BPA is hands down the stupidest thing you can do. It just doesn’t make any sense and it is unjustifiable.

Look, the majority of these guys are 19 or 20, and they will not reach their peak for at least 3-5 years. So, why in the world would you draft according to what you need NOW?!? They are not capable of filling that need. And you have no idea where your roster will be in 3-5 years when they reach their peak, so why would you draft a player who won’t even really be useful – in the championship chasing sense – to fill a need now, when you don’t know what your needs will be THEN?

The answer is that you don’t. You draft the best player available and the worst case scenario is that you have a logjam with too many great players playing one role or position. Trust me, that is not a problem. Sacramento would love to have the “problem” of having Damian Lillard on their team right now, trying to figure out how to play him, Isaiah Thomas, Tyreke Evans, etc. That is not a problem, that is a bounty of riches. When you take best player available, there is never a “problem”, there are just more options. Never a bad thing. When you take the lesser player to fill a need, that is when you run into problems.

In baseball, they say tie goes to the runner. In the NBA draft, you can say that a tie goes to the greater position of need. Some GM’s like to set up tiers and if two prospects fall in the same tier, then you take the one that is at a greater position of need – either for your current team or how you project it moving forward. Perhaps you have a quality shooting guard now, but he only has one year on his deal and you anticipate him asking for too much money, so in that case, you have shooting guard as a long term need.

Personally, I am not that care-free with my rankings. I can’t just put four guys in a tier and say they are all equal. It’s not that easy. If I project a guy to clearly be better than another, then I take him regardless of position. Only if two guys truly are equal do I then look to position. Again, that is me personally, and being a fan of the draft for over 20 years, I can tell you that this is not the norm. If it is even close, with regard to how a GM evaluates two players, he will stick them in the same “tier” and draft based on position or need. So it goes.

So, without further adieu, here is my Big Board as the college players head into their playoff season. We have seen what they can do in the regular season, but these rankings are subject to fluctuate now more than ever as these kids showcase what they can do when everyone is watching and the games really matter.

Big Board (as of 3/16)

1. Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas

Ben McLemore is a pure shooting guard. He can’t play any point and he is too small to play the three. “But we have Eric Gordon at shooting guard!” Uh, did you read the paragraphs above? McLemore has, by quite a good margin, the highest upside of any prospect in this draft. He combines a lethal shooting stroke with unbelievable athleticism and a high basketball IQ. His ceiling is Andre Iguodala’s open floor game combined with Ray Allen’s perimeter game. Basically, if he reaches his ceiling, he will be unguardable.

In his first season in college, he is putting up an unreal True Shooting Percentage (.637) and fills out the stat sheet at an above average clip for a shooting guard, as he grabs 5 boards per game while dishing out 2 assists and contributing a steal and a block. The biggest knock on McLemore is that he isn’t aggressive enough, as he often chooses to defer to Senior guard Elijah Johnson in key moments. I don’t consider this to be a huge red flag, because this is the norm in college basketball. It is hard for a freshman to come in and demand the ball, especially when he plays off the ball and you have a Senior point guard. McLemore has done amazing when he has been given opportunities this season, as he leads the Jayhawks in scoring and is one of the most efficient wing players in all of college basketball.

Projecting forward, he figures to be a 20-27 point per game scorer in the NBA, likely shooting between 45-48% from the field and 38-42% from deep, while draining 85-90% of his free throws. His athleticism should allow him to become a top tier defender on the perimeter who could grab 3-5 rebounds a game and produce 1-2 steals as well. He will have to put on 12-15 pounds in order to be able to hold his own when some of the bigger shooting guards take him to the post, and eventually he will have to develop more of a mid-range game, but he is a better prospect at this stage than Bradley Beal was last year, so he should be able to score at a relatively efficient level from day one.

2. Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State

We talk about finding a complimentary star to put next to Davis the way that OKC put Russell Westbrook next to Kevin Durant. Well, in the case of Marcus Smart, drafting him might be exactly like that. On the defensive end, Smart compares favorably to Westbrook coming out of college. If you remember, Oklahoma City drafted Westbrook to be a defensive stopper who can help them get out into transition by getting steals. They believed anything that they got from him on the offensive end would be a bonus.

Smart is not as athletic as Westbrook is (few are), but he is just as tenacious as Westbrook was in college on the defensive end and what he lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in strength. On the offensive end, Westbrook was a slightly better perimeter shooter when he came out but Smart does a better job finishing around the rim, getting to the line, and knocking down free throws when he gets to the line. Defensively, Smart might be an even better prospect. In fact, Marcus Smart might be one of the best defensive prospects we have seen on the perimeter in the last few years. He has an incredibly high IQ and a terrific work ethic, which is a big part of the reason why he is 1st in the Big XII and 3rd in the entire NCAA in steals per game. He also comes in 2nd in the Big XII in both defensive rating and defensive win shares, which is remarkable for a Freshman. Remember, Westbrook was a Sophomore when he came out.

Smart has the body of a combo guard, but make no mistake, he will play point in the NBA, as he is equally adept at getting good shots for himself and others. When opposing teams try to put a point guard on him, he will have a field day taking them into the post, where he has developed a baby hook shot and a turnaround jumper. When they try to cover him with a two, he will be able to get around his defender with ease. On the other side, he will be able to cover almost any 1, 2, and even most 3’s. He has to work on his perimeter shot and on limiting his turnovers, but history has shown that these are the two easiest areas for a perimeter player to improve upon. Once he does that, he will join Westbrook, Irving, and Rose in that elite class of young point guards.

3. Nerlens Noel, PF/C, Kentucky

Do the Hornets need Nerlens Noel? No. Is he a better prospect than anybody below him on this list? Without a doubt. So, what do you do if you are Dell Demps and you are sitting at picks 3 or 4 and both Smart and McLemore are off the board? Well, if you don’t have an offer to pick up another asset to trade down a pick or two, you just have to take Noel.

Nerlens Noel is out for the season due to an ACL injury that he suffered against Florida, and he might not even be able to play the first couple of weeks of the season. When you are drafting a guy for the next 10-15 years, however, that has no bearing whatsoever in your decision. Put it this way: Do you think Cleveland passes on Kyrie Irving at #1 (who played in less games than Noel) if he would have had to miss a couple of games? Heck, do you think the Clippers would have passed on Blake Griffin #1 even if they somehow magically knew he was going to miss his entire first season? Of course not. So, the injury means nothing, unless the doctor’s come back and say there is some reason to be concerned long term, which is highly unlikely.

With Noel, you just have to evaluate him on the tape that you have and how you project him moving forward. The tape shows an elite defensive talent with crazy athleticism and a high motor. The tape also shows a big man with a soft touch around the basket and the ability to pass the ball from the high post. What he does not have is Anthony Davis’s ballhandling skills or his ability to knock down a mid-range jumper. Noel is much more raw on that side of the ball, but defensively he is practically a mirror image as a prospect. Like Davis, he was first in the NCAA in blocks per game before he got injured and he averages more steals per game while posting a similar defensive rating and fouling as infrequently as Davis did when he played at Kentucky.

Nerlens Noel is Larry Sanders with a higher upside on the offensive side of the ball. No, he does not fit a need for the Hornets immediately and it is even hard to project him and Davis together long-term, but the Hornets should not pass on him if Smart and McLemore are gone, regardless.

4. (tie) Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown

Otto Porter is quickly becoming the fan favorite as this season is wrapping up and people are looking to June’s draft. What people have seen is a guy who has caught absolutely fire over the past month and a half. Since February 1st, he is putting up 18.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and a block. On the season he is shooting 50% from the field, 44% from three, and 78% from the line while providing terrific defense for the Hoyas. Perhaps even more impressive, is that despite the fact that the Hoyas entire offense runs through him and he is responsible for the other teams best perimeter player on defense, he is 6th in the Big East in turnover percentage and only picks up 2 fouls per 36 minutes. Translation: He makes tons of great plays, but very few negative plays for his team.

When you project Porter to the pros, you envision him falling somewhere in between Nicolas Batum and Paul George. He is long and athletic like both of those guys, with the ability to change a game on both ends. He has also shown the ability to knock down shots from deep, which is a major part of both Batum’s and George’s game, while showing the ability to attack the rim as well. While he doesn’t have the elite athleticism that George displays, his mid-range game is much more developed than Paul George’s was coming out of college. George, meanwhile, was much more of a playmaker, but with that came a tendency for turning the ball over as well.

What you are certain to get from Porter is a guy who shows up big when his team needs him. Porter has had the weight of a major program like Georgetown put on his back this year because, quite frankly, the talent around him is not very good. He has responded by taking on a leadership role and doing whatever it takes to win games in the final year of the Big East Conference as we know it. In his first meeting with Syracuse, he was needed to score and he did so at will, putting up 33 points on 19 shots on the road. In the second meeting, as Syracuse played more of a match-up zone that focused on Porter, he became a facilitator, dishing out 7 assists and perhaps a dozen hockey assists, as the Hoyas cruised to a 22 point victory, which helped capture a share of the conference title. In their third meeting, he wasn’t on his game offensively, but his defense on CJ Fair was the biggest reason Georgetown was able to take the game to overtime.

Porter does several things very well, and even one or two things at an elite level. He probably never will be an alpha dog on an elite team, and he might not make more than one or two All-Star teams, but he does not have a weakness in his game either, and he will provide all of the intangibles you can not find on a stat sheet. In that regard, he is somewhat similar to a guy like Luol Deng. A mix between Paul George, Nic Batum, and Luol Deng? I think I would take that.

4. (tie) Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana

Take notice that there is a tie here amongst two prospects. A dead heat if you will. I have gone back and forth on these two and there is just no way I can clearly say one is above the other at this point in time. Not even by the slightest margin. If you assume that the Hornets intend to keep Eric Gordon long term, then Otto Porter wins the tiebreaker, but if they move him, then all bets are off. And wouldn’t it be ironic if the guy they choose to replace Gordon is an IU alum himself.

Oladipo is one of the most disruptive on-ball defenders to come out in the last few years. While Marcus Smart is a better overall perimeter defender because of his size and strength, Oladipo is actually more capable of just completely shutting an opposing player down for an entire game. He is extremely similar in this manner to Boston’s Avery Bradley, but he is longer than Bradley and has even better hands. On the offensive side of the court, he is a work in progress, but if he continues to improve at the rate he has over the past two years, his offense might one day surpass his defense.

This season, Oladipo is arguably the most efficient offensive player in college basketball, as he possesses an Effective Field Goal Percentage of .664, which is 5th in the NCAA. He is 4th in the NCAA in Field Goal Percentage, 6th in the NCAA in TS% and 9th in Win Shares. As if averaging over 1.6 points per shot and playing exceptional defense weren’t enough, he also grabs over 6 boards a game, gets 2.2 steals, and dishes out 2 assists per game.

If all that weren’t enough, he is also the head and the heart of an Indiana team that looks poised to make a Final Four run this year. If there is any player in this draft who rivals Marcus Smart in terms of passion for the game, it is Oladipo. And if there is any player in this draft with a higher basketball IQ than Porter, it is Oladipo. He plays the game the right way, gives 100% of himself every time he is on the court, locks down the best perimeter player on the opposing team, and has grown leaps and bounds offensively over the last two years. Are you starting to see why choosing between him and Porter is so difficult?

6. Shabazz Muhammed, SF, UCLA

The last two guys on this list are jack of all trades who fill every stat column in the box score and could be a triple-double threat on any given night. Let’s make one thing clear, that will never be said of Shabazz Muhammad. Shabazz is a very good defender, with the potential to be great, who does two things extremely well on the offensive end – he gets buckets and he tears down offensive rebounds. In a lot of ways, he is very similar to Carmelo Anthony in that respect. Anthony was a much better overall rebounder due to his sheer size, but like Muhammed, he attacked the glass and scored in bunches while giving Syracuse little else in his freshman season.

Shabazz actually has better percentages across the board when compared to Carmelo in college, but Anthony was asked to do more and scored nearly four more points per game. But the comparison is reasonable, as both could get their points in the open court or in the half court game. Both players had mid-range games well beyond their years, could attack the rim and get hot from deep. While Muhammed might not become that level of scorer in the pros, it would be hard to imagine a scenario in which he wasn’t a 20-22 point per game scorer in his prime. When you combine that with his length, high IQ, and desire to play defense on the other end, he could make a couple of All-Star teams.

The problem with Muhammed is that he doesn’t help a team win on night’s where he is not hitting shots. When you combine his blocks, steals, and assists on the season (49) that number barely exceeds his total turnovers (45). When an entire season can rest on one playoff game, it is sometimes hard to go with the guy who can be taken out of the game so easily and that is why he lands just behind great players who can do multiple things like Porter and Oladipo.

7. Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV

If I did have ‘tiers’, this would be the final guy in my 2nd tier. My first tier would be comprised of guys who I think could be Hall-of Famers if they reach their ceiling (McLemore, Noel, and Smart) while my second tier would be comprised of guys who I think could make multiple All-Star games if they reach their ceiling. Bennett certainly fits into that group. Since he only measures at 6’7″, people try to force him into the role of small forward, but he is a pure old school power forward with advanced low post moves and brute physical strength.

He can step out to the college three-point line and has a solid mid-range game, but he is most efficient on the interior and when he gets out and runs in transition. His footwork is fantastic for a guy his size and his long wingspan allows him to get his shot off against taller defenders. Long story short, he will be able to score at a high level in the NBA, even though he will be going against guys 3-4 inches taller on some nights. It is on the defensive end where teams should be concerned, partly because he tends to check out and partly because he is too small to challenge most power forwards and too slow to defend small forwards on the perimeter.

The other concern with Bennett is that he experienced numerous injuries in high school, and although he has stayed healthy this year, he might be an injury prone player throughout his career. But if he can stay healthy, the potential is there for Bennett to marry a versatile offensive game similar to Zach Randolph’s with the length and athleticism of a guy like Darrell Arthur pre-injury. Big men who can dominate in the paint are becoming more and more rare these days, so Bennett can bring a whole new dimension to a team with his set of skills. But if you take Bennett, you better have a backline defender who can cover his mistakes the way that Tyson Chandler used to cover for David West. Fortunately, with Davis, the Hornets have just that.

8. Cody Zeller, C, Indiana

Even when Cody Zeller was the projected #1 pick at the beginning of the season, I was steadfast in my belief that he would not be a top five pick because of his lack of upside. Zeller is the prototypical “try hard” player that maximizes his athleticism and skill set at the college level, but that usually does not translate to superstardom in the pros. Most scouts had him as the likely #1 or #2 pick coming into the season because he had such an impressive season as a Freshman, and so they believed his numbers would improve drastically this season. That has not been the case, however.

He has seen very small increases in the three rebounding categories and has minimal increases in block percentage and usage rate, but everything else is down, and in some cases it has decreased drastically. His field goal percentage has seen the biggest drop, as Zeller went from a 62.3% shooter to a guy making 57% of his shots this year. What teams have done to Zeller this year is the same thing they did to Jared Sullinger the year prior after they got to scout him for a year. Basically, they put long, athletic guys on him and that has given Zeller problems, especially when he faces up his defender. Michigan State, in particular, has shown the formula for how to defend Zeller, as he has gone 9 for 23 against them in their two meetings due in large part to the defense of Adriean Payne – a solid player, but nowhere near the type of player Zeller will face on a day-to-day basis at the NBA level.

With all that said, Cody Zeller is still light years ahead of where Meyers Leonard was as a prospect last season, and he went 11th overall. Zeller does a terrific job of getting post position and has above average footwork. He has several quality moves in the post and when he gets to the line, he can knock them down. His hustle and hard work make him a good offensive rebounder, and he really excels when getting out in transition. The defensive end is more of a concern, as Zeller likely has to add 15-20 pounds to play the Center position. He also isn’t much of a shot-blocker or defensive rebounder.

Zeller most likely projects as a high post power forward or Center, who will have a much greater impact on the offensive end than the defensive end. LaMarcus Aldridge has been a common comparison, but that might be a stretch. Greg Monroe is a solid comparison, and I am sure most teams in this range would be happy with that. Again, if a team drafts Zeller, they should have a solid defender to put next to him on the front line and they would be best served by getting out and running to take advantage of his offensive strengths. The Hornets have the defensive linchpin in Davis, but under Monty they haven’t shown any desire to get out and run, making Zeller a questionable fit.

9. Trey Burke, PG, Michigan

Burke is likely the favorite right now for NCAA Player of the Year, and if the best college player always translated into the best NBA player, he would be the slam dunk #1 pick. Because of his height (6’0″) and lack of elite athleticism, however, most mock drafts have Trey Burke outside of the lottery in spite of his terrific year. Burke is a fantastic scorer who can get his points in a number of different ways. He has improved his three-point shooting this year and has been much more efficient finishing at the rim this season. He also does a terrific job setting up his teammates, averaging 6.8 assists per game this season. Essentially, he is averaging more assists than CP3 did in his sophomore season and has a better assist to turnover ratio while scoring nearly four more points per game.

Because of the height and some of the accolades and statistics, Chris Paul is the easy comparison for fans of Burke, but that might be placing unrealistic expectations on the kid. He does have the tendency to show up in the clutch like Paul, as evidenced by his late game performance against rival Michigan State, but Paul’s passion, leadership, and basketball IQ are once-in-a-generation level. Paul also was a much quicker prospect coming out of college, able to accelerate and get where he wanted to at will. Paul was also a much better rebounder and defender, with the potential of being a triple-double or even quadruple-double threat on any given day.

So comparing Burke to one of the greatest point guards of all time is a bit unfair, but comparing him to a guy like Terrell Brandon would not be, and again, any team would be thrilled to get someone like Brandon in this draft. Burke won’t be as explosive as Irving, Westbrook, or Rose but there are multiple ways to skin a cat and Burke is more meticulous and efficient on the offensive end. The concern with Burke is trying to project how much of a liability he will be on the defensive end when he is forced to match up with guys who are simply bigger, stronger, and faster. Monty has already criticized the media for praising a point guard who scores and assists on 25 points, but gives up 40. With Burke, it might be more like contributing 30, giving up 35, but a coach like Monty will see it as a problem nonetheless.

10. Alex Len, C, Maryland

When a true center goes in the lottery, but outside of the Top 3, fans immediately worry that the guy is a stiff. You can see the logic here, as one would argue that if a 7-footer has the potential to be a star, he would undoubtedly go at the top of the draft, and that any big who goes later is likely full of flaws and is only being drafted this early because of potential. There is no doubt that the last 20 years have seen dozens of guys who fit this criteria come and go. From Cherokee Parks to Stanley Roberts; Rafael Araujo to Saer Sene. From Hilton Armstrong to Robert Swift and Desagna Diop years before that. Practically every year we see a couple of bigs taken in the late lottery bust, and Alex Len has the feel of being ‘that guy’ to some people who evaluate this year’s class.

But let me lay out the reasons why Len won’t bust before you rush to judgement. First of all, unlike several of those guys I listed above, Len is actually a quality athlete. The true center is dying in this new era of basketball, in large part because they can not defend on the perimeter and this is becoming a pick and roll league. Len has the size and length needed to defend the post and protect the rim, but he also is one of the rare prospects who also has the mobility to defend out on the perimeter as well.

Defensively, he should be an asset to any team that takes him. The questions with Len are on the other side of the ball where he isn’t very assertive and you just can’t tell whether or not he wants to be great on that end. His numbers are mediocre for a guy with his size and athleticism, though a lot of scouts justify it by saying that he has guards that just aren’t good enough to get him involved. A lot of the same things were said about Derrick Favors when he came out, and so far he has shown flashes on the offensive end in the pros, but he is far from spectacular.

With Len, you are likely looking at a solid defensive player who will tease you occassionally with a monster offensive game. A guy like Nikola Vucevic wouldn’t be a bad comparison for Len, and quite honestly, in a league where very few 7-footers can walk and chew gum at the same time, he wouldn’t be a reach in the top ten if that ended up being his ceiling.The 10th pick will get a 4 year deal for about 11 million dollars, which would be a bargain for an average center in today’s NBA.

11. CJ McCollum, G, Lehigh

If CJ McCollum had not broken his foot on January 5th, he might be a few spots higher on this board. Prior to his injury, he was arguably the top point guard on most scouts’ Big Boards, and an almost guaranteed lottey pick. Since the injury, guys like Marcus Smart and Trey Burke have taken off and pushed McCollum back a bit. But don’t be surprised if McCollum gets himself back into playing shape in time for the scouting combine and individual workouts and climbs back up the boards. This is a copycat league, and after GM’s saw what Damian Lillard did this season, they will be looking for the next Lillard and McCollum is the closest thing to him in this year’s draft.

Like Lillard, McCollum has been out of high school for four years and his game has matured greatly in that time. When McCollum first came to Lehigh, he was purely an offensive player who had just one speed. This season, before his injury, he really displayed an all-around game that featured amazingly efficient scoring, great defensive pressure, and numerous intangible things that helped Lehigh get off to an 8-2 start. Also like Lillard, it is hard to project McCollum to the NBA because he rarely went up against top tier competition, but when he did the results were often quite good. Most people remember McCollum from his 30 point effort last March when 15th seed Lehigh beat Duke. Then, in Lehigh’s opening game this year, McCollum put up 36 points against a very good Baylor team that features Senior guard Pierre Jackson.

McCollum is a flat out scorer capable of heating up really quick and changing a game. But unlike Lillard and Stephen Curry before him, McCollum is also a guy who can make an impact on the other end, as evidenced by the fact that he led the Patriot League in steals his Sophomore and Junior years. He has good lateral speed, though he is not elite and he will probably have to put on 10-15 pounds if he wants to sustain the beating his body will take in the pros. He also is a guy who doesn’t have a clear position, but he shows the court awareness and vision to become a point guard somewhat similar to Jarrett Jack. He won’t average 8 or 9 assists per game, but he will make the right decision more times than not and absolutely destroy teams who play off of him.

12. Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State

If there is a guy in this year’s draft who sees a late meteoric rise the way that Dion Waiters shot up all the way to #4 last year, it will be Gary Harris. Harris is an athletic shooting guard with one of the most consistent outside stroke’s in college basketball. On the season he is shooting 42% from deep and he is one of those guys who has endless range. He is a bit undersized at 6’4″ and only has average length, but he is a tiredless worker on the defensive end who does a fantastic job of playing the passing lanes. When you compare Harris’s numbers to a lot of the other guys on this list, they look unimpressive, but a team would be drafting him on potential more than production at this point.

Harris compares favorably to a guy like OJ Mayo minus the diva attitude. He can play a little bit of point guard in a pinch and defend guys at that position as well, but he is better served at off guard. He has good athleticism, but not great, and is better suited for a supporting role on a good team than a starring role. His lack of rebounding is a bit disappointing, but it could be in large part due to the fact that Michigan State has several quality bigs who control the boards for them on the defensive end. Another concern is that Harris doesn’t have the quickest release. His stroke is pure but it takes some time to get off, and while he can get away with that at this level, it is reasonable to question how that would transfer the pros.

Overall, Harris is a notch below the other guys on this list right now, but a huge NCAA tournament, coupled with GM’s desire to gamble on upside could have him skyrocket up this board come June.

Others to Watch: Archie Goodwin (Kentucky), Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse), Kelly Olynyk (Gonzaga), Isaiah Austin (Baylor)

The Missing Piece is a weekly feature that you can find every Saturday on Hornets247.com. For past articles in the series, click here.

23 comments
nola_fredo
nola_fredo

If nothing else, landing a top 5 pick seems to guarantee a quality piece to this Hornets/Pelicans team. I don't think we'll be unhappy with anyone from McLemore to Oladipo. If I have a question, it's who do you think will use the NCAA Tourney to propel themselves up draft boards? There's always one or two players who shine bright in March and then leap past other players come Draft Night -- Bogut in 05 or Tyrus Thomas in 06.

YoungFella
YoungFella

Great piece. Getting McLemore somehow would be epic and would dramatically hasten our rise to the top. A "worst case" of Shabazz Muhammad (at one point nearly the consensus top pick) at our position of greatest need ain't all bad, either.

kwilly
kwilly

I agree that Hornets should draft best player available and I think Portland (Bowie over Jordan, Oden over Durant) has demonstrated that you are right.

da ThRONe
da ThRONe

I'll stick just to Trey Burke because I've followed his career so closely. I think your evaulation is a bit off. I think he's as passionate of a player (if not more so) than anybody in this draft. I think his IQ is definitely on top this class. This is a guy with a crazy worth ethic and will to win. As far as defense he certainly has lock down capability with sticky fingers and great instincts for playing the passing lane. He isn't always capable of playing the type of D some are critcial of because he has to do so much on the offensive side where he is one of the most efficient(at one point was tops) player in college. Whether it's a knock on him or not he lost some faith in his team(as their play declined)and he started to do more. He should have that problem in the pros. I think he could be the best player in this draft. He is the best college player while still having significant room for improvement. With his passion and worth ethic I see no reason why he won't be in the best PG's discussion 4-5 years from now. Because as elite as he's been his game is better suited for the pros. He'll have better spacing, more team athleticism, and better shooters.

Michael Pellissier
Michael Pellissier

Love Marcus Smart, but is it just me, or is he 10-15 pounds overweight? I don't think he's quick enough to guard the elite points at this weight, though it will help him in other areas. I haven't seen a whole lot of him, so maybe he was just tired yesterday. What I do love are his hands. We talk a lot about how AD can get blocks on the perimeter, which is a rare ability. In the same vein, the way I've seen Smart pick people clean on defense is pretty special. As a ball-handler, it's very discomforting to play someone who can pick you off of the dribble. He's also locked in off of the ball, and he appears to be a terrific communicator as a FRESHMAN. Communication is such a vital aspect of high level sports competition, and one that I think casual fans overlook. Of course, it does no good if you don't know what you're talking about, but he appears to have a very good grasp of team defense at an early age. Not hating on Smart, because I think he's going to be a great NBA player, and he's 2nd on my board.. I'm just curious if other people are seeing the same thing with his weight.

lsutigers33
lsutigers33

Marcus will struggle with guarding someone like westbrook, but who else would he struggle against? not many. Was he tired? I agree, I've watched him for a few years now and he did look flat at times and so did the team. He could loose 5-7, but he gets a little sloppy at times and that is due to him never playing point before. and you are right, great hands and that is b/c of his IQ like everyone talks about. he knows when to take chances and is very successful when he does. I've seen so much of him in HS and summer camps and I would take him over anyone in the draft this year, hands down. especially when we keep seeing GV get torched night after night against PGs.

Michael Pellissier
Michael Pellissier

Well-noted, and I'm not coming down on him, because not many people can stay in front of someone like Westbrook. But, like you said w/ GV, if you can't stop the ball, bad things tend to happen. Regarding whether he'd be an upgrade, I don't think there's any doubt. I'm just trying to evaluate him vs. the other elite guards. I think his defense is about more than IQ. He has remarkably quick hands as well. Smart looks special to me. You can roll down a checklist, w/e, but there's just something about him. Looks like a big-time player. I almost want him to be slightly overweight, because if he is, then he's got a higher ceiling if he chooses to get in proper shape. If he's at a proper weight now, he likely has less room for improvement in his quickness.

jsl05
jsl05

He does look a little big, but that is part of his advantage. He's 6'4 and 225 lbs, which is the same weight but one inch taller than Eric Gordon.

Michael Pellissier
Michael Pellissier

Right, but it's not just about getting caught from behind. He had a nice split of the pick and roll, but was close to losing the ball. In the pros, vs. quicker/smarter defenders, does he lose that ball. Small differences in quickness matter, and that's why I'm trying to determine how much room for improvement he has. In theory, any basketball player can drop weight. But is that drop from fat-trimming, or is the player losing muscle? You use Perkins as an example.. I'll use Lopez. Lopez looks like he's in pretty good shape, right? He looks like he's the right weight for his frame. So would Lopez losing weight help or hurt him? My opinion is that it would hurt, because he'd lose necessary strength faster than he'd gain quickness. So apply the same thing to Smart. Is he just built that way, or is he slightly out of shape? Again, this is about evaluating how much room for improvement Smart has by changing one thing about him. Put another level of quickness on Smart, and I believe it makes a big difference.

jsl05
jsl05

I'm not sure anyone can keep Rose or Westbrook in front of him. I don't have a problem with his weight because he still plays extremely well and moves well. If it is a problem, I'm sure that he could lose it with all the training. Kendrick Perkins lost 30 pounds one offseason. Everyone gets caught, including Chris Paul and Lebron James. I've seen McLemore get caught. As far as fatigue goes, he's going to be training for a whole offseason and will be in shape by the time the season comes around. I understand where you're coming from with all your points, but I just don't see them as a major factor, yet.

Michael Pellissier
Michael Pellissier

Right. It helps rebounding, fighting through screens, setting screens, posting up smaller guys, absorbing contact, etc.. but carrying a few extra lbs. against the Westbrook and Rose types could prevent him from keeping those guys in front of him. I'm not keen on comparing ht/wt straight up with another player. Weight hangs differently on different people. Eric Gordon, when healthy, is pretty damn quick. I don't see Smart having that quickness at this weight. There's no doubt that Smart is athletic, but it appears to be more than just a big frame.. he looks like he's got a little bit of a gut. I saw him get caught from behind by that pesky KSt guard a couple times last games. Could be fatigue, but he's going to be tired on the 2nd of back to backs as well. Everything I hear about him is that he's super-competitive, so it's not a huge red flag for me, just something to consider.

jsl05
jsl05

I've seen Ben McLemore play a few times, and I watched his DraftExpress video; but I'm not impressed. He shoots well and is athletic, but his on-ball defense is atrocious and is not a guy that can create his own shot very well. I'd take Smart over him.

lsucpolk
lsucpolk

I'd be really stoked if we landed any one of the players in the top six.

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

Agree. Which is why I am so on board with the tank. Outside of that top 6, I wouldn't be miserable with guys like Bennett or Zeller, but I think there is a pretty big gap in some ways after 6

mateor
mateor

I have been onboard for two years now. Next year, they fight.

jsl05
jsl05

Great read. I really like all 12 guys in a way, and none of them seems to have a major red flag. Can we please have another tournament in the summer like the 10th pick tourney from last year?

WhoDatPelican96
WhoDatPelican96

@ Jason I would love to submit one once the lottery is done. I've definitely got my big board down, but things could change after march madness

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

We definitely will. And even if we get the #1 pick, we can have a tournament because I am sure there will be a ton of varying opinions, including trading it, trading down, etc.

mateor
mateor

"...even if we get the #1 pick ..." I like the way you think.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

Maybe we can get some readers to submit articles and choose the best. One writer would have to step aside... who would that be... hmmm....

Snow
Snow

I say if the Hornets want to get the best talent available in the draft, we need to get a top 4 pick AND be ahead of the Kings. I just feel like if we want someone like Porter, we'll need to be in front of the Kings since they don't have a legit SF

lsutigers33
lsutigers33

need to be ahead of the Magic b/c they will take Smart

phelpsalot
phelpsalot

Awesome job as usual. I really liked the opening before the board on BPA. In addition to high school, Bennett has been injured during this season (shoulder?) as well which is somewhat concerning. I think Harris is a lean to stay in school surprisingly. Do you see any other lottery prospects possibly doing the same? Between the combine results, medical evaluations, and college games, which aspect has the biggest impact for GM big boards?