For college basketball, even though I didn't watch every regular season game (ok you got me, I only watched a handful), I did watch at least a part of every tourney game, and tourney performance has proven to be a statistically significant indicator of NBA success. ESPN's Neil Paine has done research showing that All-Tourney selections don't necessarily fare better, but I saw another piece (will link to it when I find it) that indicates those players who improve their performance in the tournament do well in the Association. Based on that, here are my observations of the projected lottery picks, as found in Chad Ford's mock draft 6.0. For kicks, I'll throw in some player comparisons too:
Of course the first guy didn't play in the tournament! Noel scares me, and apparently he scares the Cavs, too. I'm not too concerned about the knee: it seems like a freak injury followed by bad player management (can't blame a teenage AAU kid from wanting to play). The problem for Noel is that he has Tyrus Thomas written all over him. I was fooled by Thomas' performance as an athlete the year he was drafted, and with that big LSU front line, looked unstoppable. But NBA bigs are, well, bigger, and Tyrus never learned how to score over or around them. That does not bode well for the 206 pound Noel. Does he lose athleticism if be tries to gain weight? Can he get a jump shot? To me, his ceiling is Theo Ratliff - someone who was good, but may never be someone to build around. Maybe with Kyrie, that's enough. Maybe in this draft, that's enough. Still makes me nervous.
I think Oladipo is like last year's MKG-they're such good kids and fearsome competitors, it seems like despite obvious flaws (shooting, ball handling), they possess the will to be better. He's an underrated athlete, and if he can learn to hit threes and take more than two dribbles, he should be special. As a bonus, he stepped up in the NCAA tournament, making the team his own and contributing even when his shot didn't fall. He's a pro, but he does need a team to develop him so he's not the guy on day one. The Dwyane Wade comparison isn't great: Flash was a great scorer in college, but Victor can get there and at worst, is a better version of Avery Bradley. But the guy he sneakily reminds me of? Joe Dumars.
Otto Porter, Jr.
We all know he can shoot, dribble, drive. But what impresses me is his ability to get to the line at ~5.2 times a game. I think his floor is a plus offensive player that can guard multiple positions. Maybe a poor man's Paul George. Red flag is you can take away his game, like teams did in losses, most notably FGCU in the first round of the Tourney. But that happens when you're the guy in college (see Redick, JJ), and Otto will be all right.
He's a good shooter and that's something. He will always have a jump shot, and guys like that will always make it. People criticize him for not taking over at Kansas. I like the fact that he deferred to the seniors, realizing that Kansas needed to play the same way to win it all as they had done the whole year. He'll fit in as needed and will always have that shot. He looks to be somewhere between Redick and Ray, with the athleticism to be the latter.
And I love his story. Kids like this can go two ways: burdened by the family that will always need help, always need a handout, or released from the pressure of worrying, fighting. He has to straddle the line between providing too much, having too large an entourage and becoming another athlete that loses it all, or he can use it as motivation and be a Jimmy Butler type. I think he'll be smart about it, get good guidance from Larry Brown and Bill Self, and make it.
I know there's buzz about Alex going first. The Cavs are certainly blowing lots of smoke. I'm going on a limb here, but I believe it when I'm write: Alex Len will be a bust. Look, I've watched too many Darkos, Psycho Ts, Olowokandis, Kwames, the list goes on. Alex looks like a stiff.
I know, he was injured. And you know what? It was a terrible injury. You do NOT want centers with stress fractures. Do you know what stress fractures are caused by? Stress! Guess what playing in the NBA is going to cause? Stress! This has so many red flags all over it, might as well be the Chinese Politburo.
I watched him while he was supposedly injured. There was that game at home against Duke, that magical game where he ate the Blue Devils' lunch in the paint. But there was also the earlier game at Duke, where Mason Plumlee dismantled him. And you know what? He looked so much more physically developed than Mason. Mason is tall, but Len looked like a different player staying next to him. Problem, Len didn't look like he was comfortable with his body, didn't look coordinated with the game, just looked like a bull in a china shop. I know he's rusty. I know the Maryland guards are horrible. But he has to manufacture more shots for himself. He basically played Mason to a draw in two games. Don't get me wrong, I love Mason, but if he's a late first rounder, how can Len be higher?
I love his size, as many do. He will need to learn how to use it better, use his length and off-hand on drives to create space. He already does a great job passing over the defense. But more impressive to me are how coordinated and in-control he looks. He doesn't take senseless forays into the paint, he doesn't try to make something out of nothing, and he doesn't take dumb shots. He is the prototypical coach on the floor: someone who knows not only how to get his team in good situations, but which situations his team needs at a juncture. Who's hot? Who needs to get going? Who needs the ball where? These are advanced point guard skills that many NBA players don't have.
Normally, I'm tepid about Syracuse players because I haven't seem them play defense, but this year's zone was something else. And his length will allow him to stay a couple feet off opposing 1s and recover faster. Carter-Williams is someone who can help an NBA team right away.
Like Trey, I like the chip on his shoulder. I also like his preparation, his devotion to film study (watch his interview with Grantland, he remembers all his plays, good or bad). He has a professional attitude about how he's going to handle himself. There's a lot to like from his handle to his shooting (52% from 3 in half a season) to his ability to get to the line (more than 5.7 FTA/game all four years).
But there's something about him that kind of rubs me wrong. Maybe it's the heavy isolation offense he can get caught in. He dribbles a lot. And though the Damian Lillard comparisons are inevitable, Lillard was a much better passer - only once did McCollum average more assists/game than Lillard did his freshman year. I think he'll be decent but will plateau as a ball handling scoring guard on a second unit, like Gary Neal, or at best, Jarrett Jack. Like Noel, maybe in this draft, that will be enough.
Anthony reminds me of Blake Griffin. Though not nearly as athletic, both dominated college 4s with their size. But are they going to do the same the NBA? Doesn't Blake seem more like a 3 at times? Still, Bennett is much more polished offensively, has a pretty jumper, and Blake doesn't play good defense anyway. I think Bennett morphs very nicely into a Luis Scola-type. Not good enough for the first pick, but then, it's a bad draft (aside from one player).
At this point, though Kentavious is a dead-eye shooter and no doubt a good player, each pick is going to be an indictment against a team for not picking Trey Burke. Note: I am enamored with Trey Burke. Minnesota could sure use him.
Caldwell-Pope reminds me of JR Smith, which isn't bad. Smith can definitely be the 6th man on a title team. Except Burke could become the best man on that same team. Anyway, Caldwell-Pope is an athlete with a sweet jumper. Problem is, he knows he's an athlete with a sweet J. Watching him, it looks like he loves pulling up for that J, and does so on over 70% of perimeter half court possessions. These are tough shots that he just happens to make. I just don't know about taking a gunner like this who can easily turn into Jordan Crawford. Especially over Trey Burke.
Portland already has a small-ish point guard, so I get not grabbing Burke. But really? Zeller? Look, just because he's white and comes out of Indiana doesn't mean he's the next incarnation of Larry Bird. He has some skills, is soft with the ball, and can drive on slower defenders, but NBA players are fast. He's a mediocre jump shooter and doesn't leverage his size at all. In fact, I don't know that he can put on much weight because it might negate his speed/quickness advantage. I love the kid's effort and drive, but I don't think he's a viable NBA player.
Unless he turns into the next Roy Hibbert (a possibility, I suppose), Trey Burke is going to haunt the 76ers, though they do have a couple guards ahead of him. I didn't watch Hibbert closely in college, so I can't appreciate how much he's developed, so if he looked as raw as Adams, maybe there's hope. I guess the 76ers do need a useful 7 footer that's can walk, chew gum, and handle the ball without getting hurt.
You can do worse with Olynyk, but with Burke on the table, this is insane. I don't know what OKC does with Kelly anyway. He leverages his available size better than Zeller and has a better body overall, but I'm concerned about him defensively. And where is he going to play? They did eventually start going big with Durant at PF in the Memphis series, but are they giving up on Perk (for heaven's sake, yes!). If it goes down that way with Olynyk and Ibaka, fine. But for James Harden, this pick is terrible, TERRIBLE consideration. But he can score and is good at getting to the rim. Kelly does annihilate smaller players on the block and is a good passer. But I don't know how OKC is going to get him minutes.
Trey Burke is the best player in the draft. His drop down Ford's draft ratings is shocking. I don't know how well he'll develop, but he has the highest floor as a guy that can dribble to any spot on the floor and has NBA range to boot. Throughout the NCAA tournament, he was unstoppable at getting what he wanted and time after time, made correct decisions out of the pick and roll. So at worst he's Jason Terry. That's pretty good. Dallas won a title against Miami with Jet as their second best player. At best? Chris Paul. He needs to keep that chip on his shoulder like Paul, continue to refine his shooting and defense, and his scary pick and roll game will take him far. If he keeps plugging, he has All-Star written all over him.
No idea why Ford thinks the Jazz are desperate for a bit. I would take a shooter. I haven't watched much of Nogueira, just what's on YouTube, so not much to this.
NOTABLE MENTIONS: Guys I think will make it but don't have time to comment on now.
Tim Hardaway, Jr.