Monthly Archives: June 2012

Anthony Parker Has Retired, And Yes, You Should Care

Photo from Bright Meadow via Flickr

You probably didn’t realize this among the draft day madness, but Anthony Parker has retired.

It is a bit of NBA news that is fairly inconsequential – Parker is a 37 year old wing player who hasn’t been fairly good at most aspects of basketball over the past 3 years, nor on a relevant team over the past 2. However, this is but a misfortunate oversight, for in a different world at a different time, Anthony Parker was one of the best to ever don a basketball jersey.

Drafted 21st overall in 1997, an initial 55 game stint with the Sixers and Magic amounted to very little for the Bradley product, resulting in a move overseas. It was there that Parker honed his skills and became a consensus best player in the continent. We use the terms “The Michael Jordan of _____” lightly, casually bestowing it upon the best player from any given region whenever we feel particularly rowdy and/or xenophobic, but Parker’s play in Europe was Jordan-esque in the most pure sense. An uber-athletic wing that was often smarter than any player on the court (and I only use the prefix “often” because he was on the same team as Sarunas Jasikevicisius, who is outsmarted in the basketball sense as frequently as his name is spelled correctly), Parker was unstoppable.

He would drive at will. His fadeaway couldn’t be blocked. He was a lockdown defender. He was a leader. He was clutch. The way Jordan dominated the NBA in the 90s was the way Parker dominated the Euroleague in the early 00s, and even though the lesser level of competition should always be in front view as we throw out buzzwords of this magnitude, it was still magnificent to watch, even as he played for the team I hate most in the world.

By the time Parker made it back to the best league in the world, he was already 31 years old and past his athletic prime. He was still good enough to dole out effective all-around play for a pre-terrible Raptor team, a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none plugged next to Chris Bosh and the immortal Calderon-Ford point guard combo for a playoff team that will go down in history as unremarkable as best. After 3 such years signed in Cleveland, where complementing LeBron James on the wing became acting as a role model for a young team without a way, cementing his NBA status as that of an unremarkable “good guy” who might have done better given smarter breaks.

However, the most recent casting is of the wise, veteran defender/shooter doesn’t do him justice. At his best, Anthony Parker couldn’t be reduced to singular basketball qualities, because he really could do everything. How well he could do those things if the stage were America and not Europe, we’ll never know – the jump in competition in style is a tricky one that has killed many and boosted many others. But even if we have no idea how good a prime Anthony Parker would have been in the NBA (probably a better version of his first two Toronto years, amounting to very good starter), those who saw him in Europe can’t possibly feel slighted.

NBA Draft Analysis – Picks 1-10

Photo by Paulo Carrillo via Flickr

Throughout this week in leading up to tonight’s NBA draft, I have been examining the top 30 picks of the draft over the past 20 years. Click here for Part I which contains the explanations for the study and classification of players. Click here for Part II. Today we’ll conclude the series by covering picks 1-10. 

Superstar: None
All-Star: Paul Pierce (1998), Andrew Bynum (2005), Brook Lopez (2008)
Solid Starter: Eddie Jones (1994), Danny Fortson (1997), Jason Terry (1999), Joe Johnson (2001), Brandon Jennings (2009)
Role Player: Adam Keefe (1992), Lindsey Hunter (1993), Kurt Thomas (1995), Erick Dampier (1996), Caron Butler (2002), Mouhamed Sene (2006), Spencer Hawes (2007), Paul George (2010)
Bench: Keyon Dooling (2000), Jarvis Hayes (2003), Luke Jackson (2004), Jimmer Fredette (2011)
Bust: None
DNP: None

If there is a player to emerge as the 2012 draft class’s version of Paul Pierce or Joe Johnson, New Orleans is going to be a ridiculously fun team to watch not only this season, but in many years to come. If they go with the 2012 version of Luke Jackson, it could be another long, long season on the Bayou. Pierce and Andrew Bynum’s TS% numbers both rank in the top 10% of all players analyzed which is partly responsible for the #10 pick’s high rating in this category. Nothing particularly jumps out as a poor area statistically out of this spot meaning that, theoretically, the Hornets should land a  running mate alongside Anthony Davis for years to come.

Superstar: Tracy McGrady (1997), Dirk Nowitzki (1998), Amare Stoudemire (2002)
All-Star: Shawn Marion (1999)
Solid Starter: Andre Iguodala (2004), Joakim Noah (2007)
Role Player: Clarence Weatherspoon (1992), Rodney Rogers (1993), Samaki Walker (1996), Joel Przybilla (2000), Rodney White (2001), Mike Sweetney (2003), Ike Diogu (2005), D.J. Augustin (2008), DeMar DeRozan (2009), Gordon Hayward (2010), Kemba Walker (2011)
Bench: Eric Montross (1994), Ed O’Bannon (1995), Patrick O’Bryant (2006)
Bust: None
DNP: None

Oh hey! Your first Eric Montross reference in about a decade! Aside from Montross who was one of the worst selections to come out of this spot, there is serious value to be had here. Golden State’s selection of Adonal Foyle allowed Toronto to scoop up Tracy McGrady in 1997, Larry Hughes went one spot before Nowitzki, and the Clippers deemed Chris Wilcox as their big man of choice over Amare Stoudemire in 2002. All, of course, went on to have multiple All-Star appearances throughout their careers. This group is balanced offensively and defensively rating sixth or better in shooting, rebounding, and block categories along with PER.

Superstar: None
All-Star: Brandan Wright (2007)
Solid Starter: Vin Baker (1993), Kerry Kittles (1996), Andre Miller (1999), Rudy Gay (2006)
Role Player: Todd Day (1992), Brian Grant (1994), Adonal Foyle (1997), Larry Hughes (1998), Jamal Crawford (2000), Chris Wilcox (2002), T.J. Ford (2003), Channing Frye (2005), Jordan Hill (2009)
Bench: Shawn Respert (1995), DeSagana Diop (2001), Joe Alexander (2008), Al-Farouq Aminu (2010), Brandon Knight (2011)
Bust: Rafael Araujo (2004)
DNP: None

The aforementioned Foyle, Hughes, and Wilcox selections in this spot are merely a sampling of the pu pu platter that the 8th pick has resulted in over the past two decades. No one is mistaking Brandan Wright for an All-Star anytime soon, but his surprisingly strong career PER of 19.0 in four seasons has him classified there for the purposes of this analysis. For being the 8th pick, this slot is filled with a tremendous number of misfires including Joe Alexander who rode a Sweet Sixteen appearance at West Virginia into this spot only to find himself out of the league after 67 games over the course of two seasons. Andre Miller and Rudy Gay are the primary contributors of preventing this pick from being a historically awful place to land.

Superstar: None
All-Star: Greg Monroe (2010)
Solid Starter: Richard Hamilton (1999), Nene Hilario (2002), Luol Deng (2004), Charlie Villanueva (2005), Stephen Curry (2009)
Role Player: Walt Williams (1992), Lamond Murray (1994), Damon Stoudamire (1995), Lorenzen Wright (1996), Tim Thomas (1997), Jason Williams (1998), Chris Mihm (2000), Eddie Griffin (2001), Kirk Hinrich (2003), Randy Foye (2006), Eric Gordon (2008)
Bench: Corey Brewer (2007), Bismack Biyombo (2011)
Bust: Bobby Hurley (1993)
DNP: None

For teams looking for a role player to complement their roster, the 7th spot is as good as spot as any in the top 10 to be with over half of the players selected here over the past 20 years posting a PER between 13.0 and 15.9. Golden State, who holds the 2012 pick here currently, actually made one of the better selections out of here in the past few years with its pick of Stephen Curry. Someone like Dion Waiters could be chosen Thursday night as a backcourt teammate of Curry’s at a spot that is relatively average historically. Both assist categories are the only ones where the 7 pick has outperformed its position with those selected here generally being weak rebounders rating 23rd overall among the 30 picks.

Superstar: None
All-Star: Brandon Roy (2006)
Solid Starter: Antoine Walker (1996), Wally Szczerbiak (1999)
Role Player: Tom Gugliotta (1992), Sharone Wright (1994), Bryant Reeves (1995), Ron Mercer (1997), Robert Traylor (1998), Shane Battier (2001), Chris Kaman (2003), Josh Childress (2004), Danilo Gallinari (2008)
Bench: Calbert Cheaney (1993), DerMarr Johnson (2000), Dajuan Wagner (2002), Martell Webster (2005), Yi Jianlian (2007), Jonny Flynn (2009), Ekpe Udoh (2010), Jan Vesely (2011)
Bust: None
DNP: None

While there is obviously differences from the quality of draft class to draft class, the names at the 6th spot alone should serve as a reminder that there tends to be a talent drop off after the top five selections. Only 15% (or 3 total) of players selected here went on to rate as a solid starter or better which is the lowest of any top 10 pick. Brandon Roy was the best pick to come out of this spot in 20 years, and he finds himself out of the league six years later due to injuries. Overall, the numbers aren’t pretty with the players taken 6th having rated 20th or worse in rebounds, assists, and steals per 36 minutes. Every year we see teams vying to jump into the top 5; now we know why.

Superstar: Kevin Garnett (1995), Dwyane Wade (2003), Kevin Love (2008)
All-Star: Ray Allen (1996), Vince Carter (1998)
Solid Starter: Jason Richardson (2001), Devin Harris (2004), DeMarcus Cousins (2010)
Role Player: LaPhonso Ellis (1992), Isaiah Rider (1993), Juwan Howard (1994), Tony Battie (1997), Mike Miller (2000), Raymond Felton (2005), Shelden Williams (2006), Jeff Green (2007), Ricky Rubio (2009)
Bench: Jonathan Bender (1999)
Bust: Nikoloz Tskitishvili (2002)
DNP: Jonas Valanciunas (2011)

Among the top five picks in the draft, the 5th pick wins the “Forrest Gump Box of Chocolates Award” for the fact that you don’t know what you’re going to get. A franchise player like Kevin Garnett, Dwyane Wade, or Kevin Love? Maybe. A perennial All-Star at their peak like Ray Allen or Vince Carter? Perhaps. The poster child for a bust in Nikoloz Tskitishvili who has the lowest PER of any top 11 pick in the past 20 years? It’s in play. A seas0n’s worth of acquiring ping pong balls via losing and the lottery process which results in the fifth pick can be both a blessing and a curse depending on the scouting job done by the front office. The star power at the top end of the spectrum of the 5th pick carries it to high rankings in points, rebounding, assist, and PER categories among the 30 picks studied.

Superstar: Chris Paul (2005)
All-Star: Chris Bosh (2003), Russell Westbrook (2008)
Solid Starter: Donyell Marshall (1994), Rasheed Wallace (1995), Stephon Marbury (1996), Antawn Jamison (1998), Lamar Odom (1999), Eddy Curry (2001), Drew Gooden (2002),  Tyreke Evans (2009)
Role Player: Jim Jackson (1992), Jamal Mashburn (1993), Antonio Daniels (1997), Marcus Fizer (2000), Shaun Livingston (2004), Tyrus Thomas (2006), Mike Conley (2007), Tristan Thompson (2011)
Bench: Wesley Johnson (2010)
Bust: None
DNP: None

In Monday’s post, I discussed how rebuilding teams everywhere are trying to emulate the OKC Model in order to go from laughingstock of the league to serious title contender. The 2008 draft put the Thunder on the fast track to recovery when they were able to net Serge Ibaka at 24 and Russell Westbrook with the 4th pick. As luck would have it, the Cleveland Cavaliers, also in the midst of a massive rebuilding process, hold those exact same picks this year. Three of arguably the top 15 players in the league currently were selected in this spot in Chris Paul, Chris Bosh, and Westbrook which bodes well for Cleveland. Paul’s unbelievable AST% of 46.3 led all players over the past 20 years; therefore, it comes as no surprise that the 4th pick ranks number one in both assist categories. Strong PER numbers among the rest of the selections have helped to make the 4 hole great place to be for rebuilding teams looking to add a piece that will get them to the playoffs sooner rather than later.

Superstar: None
All-Star: Grant Hill (1994), Shareef Abdur-Rahim (1996), Chauncey Billups  (1997), Pau Gasol (2001), Carmelo Anthony (2003), Deron Williams (2005)
Solid Starter: Christian Laettner (1992), Anfernee Hardaway (1993), Jerry Stackhouse (1995), Raef LaFrentz (1998), Baron Davis (1999), Al Horford (2007), James Harden (2009)
Role Player: Darius Miles (2000), Mike Dunleavy (2002),  Ben Gordon (2004), O.J. Mayo (2008), Derrick Favors (2010), Enes Kanter (2011)
Bench: None
Bust: Adam Morrison (2006)
DNP: None

Pau Gasol, Carmelo Anthony, and Deron Williams highlight a group of stellar draft picks to emerge from a group far more known for their offense than their defense as the statistical rankings indicate. James Harden’s .605 TS% ranks tied for 7th best with Steve Nash among the top 600 draft picks over the past 20 years which helped drive the 2nd pick up to 2nd overall in the TS% category. Unless someone trades up for Brad Beal at 2, the Wizards will almost assuredly make the Florida shooting guard the pick here; as long as he doesn’t turn into Adam Morrison, he of the career 7.4 PER and deplorable -0.126 Wins Produced per 48, the Wizards will have an exciting starting back court for the future.

Superstar: Kevin Durant (2007)
All-Star: Alonzo Mourning (1992), LaMarcus Aldridge (2006)
Solid Starter: Shawn Bradley (1993), Jason Kidd (1994), Antonio McDyess (1995), Marcus Camby (1996), Keith Van Horn (1997), Mike Bibby (1998), Steve Francis (1999), Stromile Swift (2000), Emeka Okafor (2004)
Role Player: Tyson Chandler (2001), Jay Williams (2002), Darko Milicic (2003), Marvin Williams (2005), Michael Beasley (2008), Derrick Williams (2011)
Bench: Hasheem Thabeet (2009), Evan Turner (2010)
Bust: None
DNP: None

The 2012 draft class is being billed as the strongest in years, and Charlotte has quite the decision on their hands: keep the #2 pick and select Thomas Robinson, Bradley Beal, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, or Harrison Barnes, or trade the pick for additional pieces and/or selections. Interestingly enough, with Anthony Davis almost assured of being a future All-Star, history is not on the Bobcats’ side. Fun fact: only three times in the past 20 drafts have both the #1 and #2 picks gone on to become All-Star selections: 1992 (Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning), 1994 (Glenn Robinson and Jason Kidd), and 1999 (Elton Brand and Steve Francis). While its extremely doubtful that any of the aforementioned potential #2 selections this year will bottom out to the level of the Darko-Swift-Williams triumvirate, the past 20 years have not been especially kind.  The dearth of point guards selected with this pick help explain the low assist and steal rankings coming from this spot while the tendency to draft big men have propelled the #2 slot to rank highly in blocks, rebounds, and points categories.

Superstar: Shaquille O’Neal (1992), Tim Duncan (1997), Yao Ming (2002), LeBron James (2003), Dwight Howard (2004), Blake Griffin (2009)
All-Star: Chris Webber (1993), Allen Iverson (1996), Elton Brand (1999), Greg Oden (2007), Derrick Rose (2008), Kyrie Irving (2011)
Solid Starter: Glenn Robinson (1994), Andrew Bogut (2005), John Wall (2010)
Role Player: Joe Smith (1995), Kenyon Martin (2000), Kwame Brown (2001), Andrea Bargnani (2006)
Bench: Michael Olowokandi (1998)
Bust: None
DNP: None

Earlier this season, I wrote about the myth of the #1 pick. Last week, LeBron James became the third #1 overall pick since 1990 to win an NBA championship (Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal), while Duncan remains the only to do so with the team that drafted him. In fact, Duncan is the only player drafted since 1992 in the top three to win a title with the team that drafted him. With increased pressure on small market teams to win as soon as possible, general managers are forced to build with superstars rather than around them. The #1 pick is as good as a place to start though as this pick, as expected, has combined to rank #1 in points, TS%, rebounds, TRB%, and PER while also ranking second in both block categories analyzed. Given that the top pick is expected to have the ball in his hands as often as possible, the fact that they place 30th in turnovers should come as no surprise.

The draft is Thursday night at 7:00 Eastern. Tune in then to see if your team will simply become part of history or choose to make it.

Podcast Paroxysm: The Season is Over Already? Maaaaan…

Image via spieri_sf on Flickr

Wow. Can’t believe it’s over. After all the lockout buildup. After every great team started slow. All the injuries. All the trades. Ownership upheaval. Historically bad seasons. Historically awesome playoffs. Historically long discussions of clutchness, referee biases, lottery-fixing, flopping, tanking, draft depth, armchair-GMing, concussions.

And it’s over. LeBron’s got his ring, and that’s what a lot of people will take away from a season that was filled with so much more. But it at the same time, it wasn’t, y’know? We all had lots of feelings about things that transpired this season, but I think my wife said it best:

“I want the Thunder to win, but I want LeBron to get the Golden Snitch.”

That’s some damn fine microcosmin’, honey.

The HP crew had some thoughts on this season, too, so we got super excited and did a podcast about it. Join me, Noam, Sean, Steve, Jared, and Matt on this sonic adventure. Hedgehogs and non-hedgehogs alike are invited to listen.

THN Mock Draft: With the 18th pick, the Timberwolves (?) Select … Meyers Leonard

1. New Orleans – Anthony Davis (Joe Gerrity, Hornets247.com)
2. Charlotte – Thomas Robinson (Spencer Percy, Queen City Hoops)
3. Washington – Bradley Beal (Kyle Weidie, Truth About It)
4. Cleveland – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Colin McGowan, Cavs: The Blog)
5. Sacramento – Harrison Barnes (James Ham, Cowbell Kingdon)
6. Portland – Andre Drummond (Sean Highkin, Portland Roundball Society)
7. Golden State – Dion Waiters (Rasheed Malek, WarriorsWorld.net)
8. Toronto – Jeremy Lamb (Sam Holako, Raptors Republic)
9. Detroit – John Henson (Dan Feldman, PistonPowered)
10. New Orleans – Damian Lillard (Joe Gerrity, Hornets247)
11. Portland – Kendall Marshall (Sean Highkin, Portland Roundball Society)
12. Milwaukee – Perry Jones III (Jeremy Schmidt, Bucksketball)
13. Phoenix – Terrence Ross (Ryan Weisert, Valley of the Suns)
14. Houston – Tyler Zeller (Jared Dubin, Hardwood Paroxysm)
15. Philadelphia – Terrence Jones (Carey Smith, Philadunkia)
16. Houston – Austin Rivers (Robert Silverman, KnickerBlogger)
17. Dallas – Quincy Miller (Connor Huchton, The Two Man Game)

18. Minnesota Houston – Meyers Leonard (Steve McPherson, Hardwood Paroxysm)

Guys: I’m so confused right now. First there was the fact that when I logged in to make my pick in the TrueHoop Network’s mock draft that every wing I’d been looking at for the Minnesota Timberwolves (Ross, Jones, Miller, Rivers) had already been taken. And then shortly after I made my pick, this pick was traded away to Houston for a volleyball player. Here’s why Leonard made sense for the Wolves: if they couldn’t improve on the wing in the draft (and I’m not thrilled with Moe Harkless’ outside shooting—a major thing the Wolves need to add at the 2 and/or 3), the next area that needs immediate shoring up is the middle, and Leonard has a good shot to be that athletic, shot-blocking center that so many teams crave. Nikola Pekovic finally came into his own this past season with solid offensive numbers and great offensive rebounding, but his defense left a lot to be desired, especially next to Kevin Love, whose defense was often workmanlike, but not stellar. A benefit of picking up a center here is that he doesn’t have to produce immediately as a wing would probably be asked to, but can instead be brought along behind Pekovic in the rotation. Of course, I also doubt Leonard actually falls this far in the draft, but Houston would do well to pick him up since they have their own dearth of size at center to deal with. Thus, I am basically picking a player who probably won’t be here for a team that just traded this pick to another team. I feel super useful.

Here’s Meyers Leonard’s draft profile video on DraftExpress.com:

19. Orlando – Tony Wroten (Eddy Rivera, MBN)
20. Denver – Andrew Nicholson (Kalen Deremo, Roundball Mining Company)
21. Boston – Jared Sullinger (Brendan Jackson, CelticsHub.com)
22. Boston – Moe Harkless (Brendan Jackson, CelticsHub.com)
23. Atlanta – Royce White (Bret LaGree, Hoopinion)
24. Cleveland – Arnett Moultrie (Colin McGowan, Cavs: The Blog)
25. Memphis – Fab Melo (Red Coleman, 3sob.com)
26. Indiana – Marquis Teague (Tim Donahue, 8p9s)
27. Miami – Jeff Taylor (Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak)
28. Oklahoma City – Draymond Green (Royce Young, Daily Thunder)
29. Chicago – Will Barton (Matt McHale, Bulls by the Horns)
30. Golden State – Jared Cunningham (Rasheed Malek, WarriorsWorld.net)

THN Mock Draft: With the 14th pick, the Houston Rockets Select… Tyler Zeller

TrueHoop Network Mock Draft

1. New Orleans Hornets – Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky – Hornets 247

2. Charlotte Bobcats – Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas – Queen City Hoops

3. Washington Wizards – Bradley Beal, SG, Florida – Truth About It

4. Cleveland Cavaliers – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky – Cavs: The Blog

5. Sacramento Kings – Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina – Cowbell Kingdom

6. Portland Trail Blazers – Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut – Portland Roundball Society

7. Golden State Warriors – Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse – Warriors World

8. Toronto Raptors – Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut – Raptors Republic

9. Detroit Pistons – John Henson, PF, North Carolina – Piston Powered

10. New Orleans Hornets – Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State – Hornets 247

11. Portland Trail Blazers – Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina – Portland Roundball Society

12. Milwaukee Bucks – Perry Jones III, PF, Baylor – Bucksketball

13. Phoenix Suns – Terrence Ross, G, Washington – Valley of the Suns

14. Houston Rockets – Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina

Per-Game Stats: 16.3 pts, 9.6 reb, 0.9 ast, 1.5 blk, 0.9 stl, .553 FG%, .808 FT%, .552 eFG%, .615 TS%, 28.2 mpg

Per-40 Minutes Stats: 23.1 pts, 13.6 reb, 1.3 ast, 2.1 blk, 1.3 stl

The Rockets are rumored to be shopping this – and the 16th – pick, but if they keep it and Zeller falls to 14, they’ll happily snatch him up. Zeller is a legitimate 7-footer who can run the floor, is an excellent rebounder, can finish near the basket and hit the jumper from about 18 feet. He’s a sneakily good athlete who excelled playing in a fast-paced system at UNC and would be a good fit next to Luis Scola on Houston’s front line.

Zeller’s skill set allows you to play him in either the high or low post, meaning that coach Kevin McHale could use him interchangeably (position-wise) with Scola on the offensive side of the floor. Being able to work with McHale every day would also benefit Zeller’s development, especially on the block.

If the Rockets aren’t successful in unloading Samuel Dalembert, Zeller would make for a nice platoon partner at the center position. Most of Dalembert’s value comes from his defense and shot-blocking, and while Zeller is a pretty good defensive player, he’s not a force on that end, and it’s likely that most of his early-career value will come from his polished offensive game and rebounding. If the Rockets do send Dalembert packing, there isn’t a center in the draft more ready to contribute and start right away than Zeller.

Next Pick: 15. Philadelphia 76ers – Philadunkia

2012 NBA Draft: Baylor Notebook: Scott Drew On Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy

Photo by rustybadger on Flickr

We’re two days from the 2012 NBA Draft. I’m beyond pumped and so are you. But we’re probably not half as excited as Baylor University head coach Scott Drew, who will have the chance to see three of his players fulfill their NBA dreams. Below are his words on Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy, alongside recent comments from Jones, Acy and Marcus Elliott, who has worked with Jones at the Peak Performance Project in Santa Barbara for the last month and a half.

 

On the criticism Jones faced at Baylor and how it did and didn’t affect him:

Drew:

 “I think that’s why he’s mentally and socially prepared for the NBA. Why a lot of times people might not be as successful is they haven’t faced the criticism and scrutiny they’ll face  when they get to the NBA. Perry, being someone who was tabbed preseason Player of the Year in the Big 12, and people wanted double doubles and triple doubles out of him, he’s used to dealing with the pressure and the scrutiny and keeping it in perspective. I think unfairly people wanted individual numbers sometimes, but at the end of the day isn’t the most important thing the team winning? And you look at it, LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, their numbers all aren’t as good as maybe they would be if they were on their own individual teams but yet collectively they won a title. And you look at Perry this year, his numbers might have not jumped from his freshman to sophomore year but he was a much better player and we had a lot of pieces around him. We’ll have three players drafted and we won a school record 30 games.”

Elliott:

“When athletes show up at our place, a lot of them show up with this swagger like nobody else exists in the world. They walk in the room and it’s like nobody else is in the room with them. And Perry doesn’t have that. He’s conscientious and respectful to everybody around him and gives everybody time. He doesn’t have that about him at all yet. And I think that that extra swagger that a lot of our top athletes carry is a compensation to all the pressures that are put on them. To start not caring so much about the people around them and feel like they’re the center of the universe. And this kid’s still a kid. He’s sweet, sincere, thoughtful, all those things. To be in a situation where there’s all these expectations, it’d be tough for a kid like that. I’m sure he let a whole lot of it in.”

On Perry’s maturity level:

Drew:

“In the NBA and in college, I think we’d much rather have to worry about a kid on Saturday morning watching cartoons before basketball than just getting in. And I think he is mature when it comes to working out what he needs to do on the court, in the classroom. So socially if his hobbies are paintball and watching cartoons versus partying all night, I think every coach would take that.”

On Acy mentoring Quincy Miller and Perry Jones:

Drew:

“That’s what you’re supposed to have on every team. If you’re in high school it’s supposed to be your high school seniors, if you’re in college it’s your college seniors, if it’s the NBA it’s your vets. They’re supposed to lead by example and help mentor young guys. I think Quincy Acy is an outstanding leader and because he cares so much for Perry and Quincy Miller they listen to him and value what he has to say.”

Acy:

“I talk to Perry and Quincy Miller a lot and tell them stay hungry and things like that, don’t ever get satisfied. They’re still young, I’m still their veteran, just talking to them, doing my job.”

Jones:

“He grew up a lot. He has a son. His son has turned him into a man. Ekpe [Udoh] helped him through college and he helped me through college and he’s still helping me now. Just keeping me on the right path and things like that. Inviting me to church every Sunday.”

Jones:

“Quincy Acy tells me to beast it out. That just means to go as hard as I possibly can and show them that I can work.”

On being asked in a team interview why he doesn’t work as hard as Acy:

Jones:

“I didn’t really answer. I mean, I gave him all the credit. That’s the type of player he is. That’s the way he plays. A lot of guys can’t match that kind of intensity.”

On Miller and Jones’ roles and how they might improve in the NBA:

Acy:

“Not too many 6-10, 6-11 three men and let alone mismatch fours in their case. I think they’re going to work hard and they’re going to mature and they’re going to get better and every time that they step on the floor. It’s not going to be any school, it’s not going to be anything like that, it’s going to be all day dedicated to basketball and I think they’re going to have a great chance to improve.”

Drew:

“[In] the NBA, you want to be able to play inside and outside because of mismatches you can exploit … Every coach wants to coach a versatile player versus someone who’s limited. So the fact that they were able to do both in college I think is a benefit. But as far as in the NBA, I think, I mean you just have a lot more size and length. So the great thing is a player can play his true position but play it against other guys that are his size and length, versus in college a lot of times at the two you’ll have a 6-1 point guard or a combo guard and at the three you’ll have a 6-3 two-guard … It’s harder for bigger guys sometimes to play against a guy that’s seven inches shorter, too.”

Drew:

“[Miller] can play the three, the four. It depends. If he’s playing against a 6-9 three-man, he matches up perfect. I think he can be a stretch-four at times as well. So his versatility is something that’s good and I think, Perry, it’s the exact same thing, his versatility to play inside and outside. Remember, the spacing rules are different and in college we’re going to have five guys all inside trying to keep people out of the lane which makes it hard to exploit mismatches.”

Elliott:

“At the next level [Jones] is not going to be able to coast, he’s going to have to let it go. But if the kid’s touching 12’4.5 and he’s fast enough to play at the three … there’s just not many athletes like that. I mean really. Almost none whatsoever. My model for him is to get him to shift his force moment. If he can do that and keep his knees healthy, keep his body healthy and he has a chance to keep learning the game, I can’t imagine that he’s going to be stoppable.”

On Acy in the pros:

Drew:

“Some people say he’s undersized but I think his length and freakish athleticism and toughness make up for that and allow him to play undersized. The other thing is nowadays a lot of NBA teams switch a lot of ball screens and because of his athleticism and defensive capabilities he’ll be able to guard on a switch.”

On what draft night will be like:

Drew:

“Why we coach is because you want to help serve your players and help them reach their goals and dreams. Those three, their goal has been to play in the NBA. They’ve worked hard to achieve it and to see the excitement they’re going to have on their faces and their families are going to have on their faces, I know all Baylor nation is going to be extremely proud.”

Drew:

“They’re all good guys, so that makes it really nice too.”

 

Related: My earlier pieces on Jones and Acy.

Daryl Morey’s Moment

The Rockets’ willingness to trade for Howard — even without the All-Star center’s signature on a contract extension — is an open secret around the league. But it’s believed that two top-eight picks, assuming Houston managed to complete trades with both Sacramento and Toronto, would seriously pique the interest of new Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, who could then quickly start following the same sort of roster-building blueprint relied on by his previous employers in Oklahoma City.

via Rockets set sights on moving up in draft | ESPN.com

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Daryl Morey throw his hat in the ring when a marquee big man has become available. His Rockets almost landed Pau Gasol twice between last offseason and March’s trading deadline, and he even made a dark-horse bid for Chris Bosh in the summer of 2010. He signed Pau’s brother Marc to a massive offer sheet in December that Memphis ultimately matched. It’s not hard to look at Morey’s history of almost-moves and predict this latest attempt to extricate the most dominant big man since Shaq from an impossible (and excruciating) situation in Orlando.

A run at Dwight Howard is the move Morey has been building towards since he took over as GM in Houston in 2007. His modus operandi the entire time has been asset accumulation and value hunting, with the assumption being that eventually one of these assets will allow him to make a blockbuster move. Unfortunately, his Rockets teams have paid the price of mediocrity for his efforts, spending most of his tenure in the dreaded purgatory that is the back end of the draft lottery and the back end of the playoffs. The middle is the worst place for an NBA team to be—just ask the Suns, Blazers, or Hawks of the past half-decade. Teams that simply exist without vaulting into title contention or bottoming out and landing an impact player in the draft are the most hopeless of all. But what separates the Rockets from the teams with whom they share a tier on the food chain has been Morey’s tradable assets, sitting and waiting to be converted from promise to substance.

 Amid a report that stated the Houston Rockets are hoping to amass enough trade assets to make a deal with the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard–even though Howard would only be in Houston for one season before becoming an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2013 — a source with knowledge of Howard’s thinking said Monday that there was “not a chance” Howard would be persuaded to remain in Houston if traded there, and would leave next summer to sign elsewhere.

via Report: “Not a Chance” Dwight Howard Stays in Houston if Traded There | NBA.com

The revelation that the notoriously wishy-washy Howard doesn’t find Houston as appealing as, say, Brooklyn isn’t exactly earth-shaking. Around All-Star weekend, when Howard’s diva act was at its most embarrassing, I posited the theory that he was demanding a trade to a bigger market not out of his own desire to play in one but because that was what the cool kids were doing. And in light of his hilariously inexplicable last-minute opt-in that seemed prompted more by Twitter backlash than anything else, it’s hard to look at any of Howard’s reasoning behind where he wants to play as anything more than a blindfolded game of darts. This instability and volatility on the part of Howard and his handlers would probably scare off most teams from taking this gamble. But this appears to be the perfect moment for Morey to strike.

If the Rockets use Lowry, whose contract is itself one of Morey’s more cost-effective chips given how good he is, to leverage their way into two picks in the top 10 and flip those picks and Samuel Dalambert’s partially-guaranteed contract to Orlando for Howard, they’ll still have room to work. Morey can ship out Kevin Martin’s expiring contract for younger players or future first-round picks, accumulating more assets but also improving the team in the short term. Essentially, Morey would be putting everything into a one-season run with Howard, and no matter what happens afterward, it will provide his team with a sense of direction, something they haven’t had in a while.

Let’s say the retooled Rockets make a deep playoff run, and Howard falls in love with Houston. This is no guarantee, because Howard’s decision-making process is as reliable as a BlackBerry. But by that same token, it can’t be ruled out. If the Rockets can convince Howard to stay, then they have an honest-to-goodness superstar, one of the five best players on the planet, aged 27, to build around—at the toughest position to find that kind of talent, no less. This would be a pretty enviable position for a GM as sharp as Morey to find himself in. And if Howard bolts for Brooklyn? Well, a full-on rebuild of the “We’re going to be 2012 Charlotte Bobcats-level bad and land a franchise player in the top of the draft” variety is much easier to sell to your fans when you’ve just shown them that you’re not afraid to take a gamble on Dwight Howard when the opportunity presents itself. Either one of these options is more desirable than what the Rockets have been doing for the past five years. An opportunity this tailor-made for Morey’s approach isn’t going to come along every year.

NBA Draft Analysis – Picks 11-20

Photo by Paulo Carrillo via Flickr

In the days leading up to Thursday’s NBA draft, I will be examining the top 30 picks of the draft over the past 20 years. If you missed Part I (Picks 21-30 plus an overview of the objective of these posts and explanation behind the data, click here). Today we’ll be covering picks 11-20. The series concludes tomorrow with picks 1-10.

Superstar: None
All-Star: None
Solid Starter: Zydrunas Ilgauskas (1996)
Role Player: Scott Burrell (1993), Jason Caffey (1995), Dion Glover (1999), Speedy Claxton (2000), Brendan Haywood (2001), Jameer Nelson (2004), Renaldo Balkman (2006), Jason Smith (2007)
Bench: Hubert Davis (1992), Roshown McLeod  (1998), Kareem Rush (2002), Dahntay Jones (2003), Julius Hodge (2005), Alexis Ajinca (2008), Eric Maynor (2009)
Bust: B.J. Tyler (1994), Paul Grant (1997), James Anderson (2010)
DNP: Donatas Motiejunas (2011)

Big Z checks in at the 20th spot as the only player to post a career PER above 16.0 in what turned out to be a largely underwhelming group from this position. Players coming out of this slot have combined to rank 24th or worst in every non-assist or steal related category analyzed. The low point of the 20th pick came in 1997 as Paul Grant was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves and went on to post a PER of 4.0 in 111 career minutes spread across two seasons and three teams. Denver will simultaneously hope that the 2012 draft is as deep as experts claim it is and hope to buck the trend in doing so when they are on the clock on Thursday night.

Superstar: None
All-Star: Zach Randolph (2001)
Solid Starter: None
Role Player: Don MacLean (1992), Tony Dumas (1994), Scot Pollard (1997), Jamaal Magloire (2000), Dorell Wright (2004), Hakim Warrick (2005), J.J. Hickson (2008), Jeff Teague (2009), Tobias Harris (2011)
Bench: Acie Earl (1993), Walter McCarty (1996), Pat Garrity (1998), Quincy Douby (2006), Javaris Crittenton (2007), Avery Bradley (2010)
Bust: Randolph Childress (1995), Quincy Lewis (1999), Ryan Humphrey (2002), Sasha Pavlovic (2003)
DNP: None

With Danny Ferry recently being hired yesterday by the Atlanta Hawks, it is interesting to note that the 19th pick contains two of the hallmarks of Ferry’s moves while in Cleveland. J.J Hickson was selected by Ferry in 2008 to be a running mate of LeBron James; however, this dream never materialized as Hickson remained as raw as sushi on the offensive side of the floor up until the day that he was traded for Omri Casspi. Sasha Pavlovic, on the other hand, was swapped to Phoenix along with Ben Wallace and a second round draft pick to bring in Shaquille O’Neal in another attempt to satisfy LeBron’s desire for more star power. Since then, Pavlovic has bounced around the league from Minnesota, Dallas, and New Orleans before joining the Celtics in 2011. Zach Randolph remains as the clear cut best choice out of the 19th spot unless you have an unhealthy obsession with Jamaal Magloire’s 2004 All-Star campaign.

Superstar: None
All-Star:  None
Solid Starter: David West (2003), JaVale McGee (2008), Ty Lawson (2009)
Role Player: Tracy Murray (1992), Theo Ratliff (1995), John Wallace (1996), Chris Anstey (1997), James Posey (1999), Quentin Richardson (2000), J.R. Smith (2004), Gerald Green  (2005)
Bench: Eric Mobley (1994), Mirsad Turkcan (1998), Curtis Borchardt  (2002), Oleksiy Pecherov  (2006), Marco Belinelli (2007), Eric Bledsoe (2010)
Bust: Luther Wright (1993), Jason Collins (2001), Chris Singleton (2011)
DNP: None

If a team is in the market for a below average to average foreign player or guys that end up playing in Europe once they leave the NBA, the 18th slot is the place to be. Turkcan, Borchardt, Pecherov, and Belinelli all fit the bill here. On the positive side, David West emerges as the cream of the crop of this group with the highest career PER (18.9) and second in points per 36 minutes (18.0, second to J.R. Smith’s 18.6). JaVale McGee leads those who played more than one NBA season in this spot in both rebounding stats and BLK%, two categories in which the 18th picks perform admirably.

Superstar: None
All-Star: None
Solid Starter: Jermaine O’Neal (1996), Josh Smith (2004), Danny Granger (2005), Roy Hibbert (2008)
Role Player: Doug Christie (1992), Aaron McKie (1994), Bob Sura (1995), Rasho Nesterovic (1998), Desmond Mason (2000), Juan Dixon (2002), Sean Williams (2007), Jrue Holiday (2009), Kevin Seraphin (2010)
Bench: Greg Graham (1993), Cal Bowdler (1999), Michael Bradley (2001), Zarko Cabarkapa (2003), Shawne Williams (2006), Iman Shumpert (2011)
Bust: Johnny Taylor (1997)
DNP: None

One of the reasons that the Pacers found themselves as the third seed this year in the Eastern Conference is their ability to find value in the 17th pick of the draft. With their selection of Danny Granger in 2005 coupled with trading Jermaine O’Neal (another 17th selection) for Roy Hibbert less than two weeks after Toronto had picked him in 2008, the Pacers built the foundation of a contending team on the rise. Over the past 20 years, the 17 pick has established itself as the point to find a defensive presence with these picks ranking in the top four of Steals, STL%, Blocks, and BLK%. If history is any indication, the eighth ranked team in Defensive Rating (Points per 100 Possessions) last season, the Dallas Mavericks, are in good shape to add someone that will fit right in to their system.

Superstar: None
All-Star: None
Solid Starter: Marreese Speights (2008)
Role Player: Alan Henderson (1995), Tony Delk (1996), Brevin Knight (1997), Metta World Peace (1999), Hedo Turkoglu (2000), Kirk Snyder (2004), Nick Young (2007), James Johnson (2009), Nikola Vucevic (2011)
Bench: Randy Woods (1992), Rex Walters (1993), Clifford Rozier (1994), Bryce Drew (1998), Jiri Welsch (2002), Joey Graham (2005), Rodney Carney (2006), Luke Babbitt (2010)
Bust: Kirk Haston (2001), Troy Bell (2003)
DNP: None

Marreese Speights is a nice enough player, having started 54 games this past season for a injured Zach Randolph, but when a career 7.6 PPG scorer is one of the highlights of the group selected with the 16th pick, it is not exactly a ringing endorsement. That’s going to happen when the 16th pick is home to Troy Bell who managed a -4.5 PER in six games with the Grizzlies in the 2003-04 season.  However, that’s not to say that there is no value to be found here; Metta World Peace has arguably the best lockdown wing defender in the league in his prime, and Hedo Turkoglu’s sharp shooting helped carry the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009. Aided by guys like World Peace and Brevin Knight, 16th picks can generate turnovers as they check in with the third best STL% of any of the top 30 draft picks.

Superstar: None
All-Star: Steve Nash (1996), Al Jefferson (2004)
Solid Starter: Rodney Stuckey (2007), Kawhi Leonard (2011)
Role Player: Anthony Peeler (1992),Eric Piatkowski (1994), Brent Barry (1995), Kelvin Cato (1997), Matt Harpring (1998), Steven  Hunter (2001), Robin Lopez (2008), Larry Sanders (2010)
Bench: Jason Collier (2000), Bostjan Nachbar (2002), Austin Daye (2009)
Bust: Doug Edwards (1993), Reece Gaines (2003), Antoine Wright (2005), Cedric Simmons (2006)
DNP: Frederic Weis (1999)

It is incredible to think that two players who were drafted in the teens of a draft held when Tha Crossroads by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony was topping the charts are still not only playing in the NBA, but performing at a high level as well. We will get to Kobe Bryant later, but Steve Nash’s Fountain of Youth knows no bounds, and he is far and away the highlight pick out of this spot which has produced quality players. Al Jefferson flourished in Minnesota after being part of a trade package for Kevin Garnett in the 2007 offseason. Rodney Stuckey has played well despite being stuck on a dismal Pistons team. Kawhi Leonard fit well with the Spurs organization. And Frederic Weis is still recovering from getting dunked on by Vince Carter in the 2000 Olympics. All in all, the 15th spot is not a bad place to be for the 76ers as they look to add to a team which took the Celtics to seven games in the playoffs this year.

Superstar: None
All-Star: None
Solid Starter: Peja Stojakovic (1996), Anthony Randolph (2008)
Role Player: Malik Sealy (1992), Maurice Taylor (1997), Michael Dickerson (1998), Troy Murphy (2001), Luke Ridnour (2003), Kris Humphries (2004), Rashad McCants (2005), Ronnie Brewer (2006), Al Thornton (2007), Patrick Patterson (2010)
Bench: Scott Haskin (1993), Eric Williams (1995), Fred Jones (2002)
Bust: Yinka Dare (1994), William Avery (1999), Mateen Cleaves (2000), Earl Clark (2009), Marcus Morris (2011)
DNP: None

Any expert will tell you that you want to either bottom out so you get a high lottery pick or make the playoffs which basically means that the 14th spot is the last place you want to be. Now you see why. Peja Stojakovic and Anthony Randolph lead a decidedly average group of role players, for the most part, who are not going to be appearing on billboards around town any time soon. Throughout the past 20 years, picks here have routinely found themselves performing below average in rebounding, assist, steal, and PER categories across the board. The 14th pick is best utilized to select a player who specializes in a particular skill such as Stojakovic’s sharp three point shooting or Kris Humphries’s rebounding which rates in the top 25 of REB% among the 600 picks studied.

Superstar: Kobe Bryant (1996)
All-Star: None
Solid Starter: Corey Maggette (1999)
Role Player: Bryant Stith (1992), Terry Dehere (1993), Jalen Rose (1994), Corliss Williamson (1995), Derek Anderson (1997), Keon Clark (1998), Richard Jefferson (2001), Marcus Banks (2003), Sean May (2005), Julian Wright (2007), Tyler Hansbrough (2009),  Ed Davis (2010), Markieff Morris (2011)
Bench: Courtney Alexander (2000), Marcus Haislip (2002), Sebastian Telfair (2004), Thabo Sefolosha  (2006), Brandon Rush (2008)
Bust: None
DNP: None

Now we come to what could easily be viewed as the best pick made in the past 20 years: the Charlotte Hornets selection of Kobe Bryant at 13 in 1996. Of course, they promptly turned Bryant into two years worth of Vlade Divac, and the rest is history. Bryant’s unbelievable career almost single handedly propels the 13th pick into top 10 rankings in Points and PER as Bryant currently ranks seventh on the all-time scoring list, and his PER (23.4) is one of only two players, along with Corey Maggette, to rate above 15.5 to come out of the 13 hole.

Superstar: None
All-Star: None
Solid Starter: Thaddeus Young (2007)
Role Player: Harold Miner (1992), George Lynch (1993), Khalid Reeves (1994), Cherokee Parks (1995), Austin Croshere (1997), Etan Thomas (2000), Vladimir Radmanovic (2001), Nick Collison (2003), Jason Thompson (2008), Gerald Henderson (2009),  Alec Burks (2011)
Bench: Vitaly Potapenko (1996), Michael Doleac (1998), Melvin Ely (2002), Robert Swift (2004), Hilton Armstrong (2006)
Bust: Aleksandar Radojevic (1999), Yaroslav Korolev (2005), Xavier Henry (2010)
DNP: None

Vitaly Potapenko is more known for being the answer to the trivia question, “Which player was selected directly before Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, and Steve Nash in the draft?” than he is for any on court performance; one has to imagine Wayne Embry, Cavaliers general manager at the time, still has his regrets about that selection. This is yet another late lottery pick which has disappointed over the past two decades. Players selected here have combined to rank dead last in assists per 36 minutes, AST%, steals per 36 minutes, and STL% among all draft picks, and they rank in the bottom three of points per 36 minutes and PER. Not even Harold Miner living up to his “Baby Jordan” moniker could save this group.

Superstar: None
All-Star: None
Solid Starter: Bonzi Wells (1998)
Role Player: Robert Horry (1992), Allan Houston (1993), Carlos Rogers (1994), Gary Trent (1995), Trajan Langdon (1999), Jerome Moiso (2000), Andris Biedrins (2004), J.J. Redick (2006), Jerryd Bayless (2008), Cole Aldrich (2010), Klay Thompson (2011)
Bench: Todd Fuller (1996), Tariq Abdul-Wahad (1997), Kedrick Brown (2001), Jared Jeffries (2002), Mickael Pietrus (2003), Acie Law (2007), Terrence Williams (2009)
Bust: None
DNP: Fran Vasquez (2005)

Though I am partial to Bonzi Wells as a fellow alumnus of Ball State University, Robert Horry and Allan Houston should be viewed as the top picks to come out of 11th selection over the years. The mediocrity of the statistics produced by the 11th pick are actually somewhat alarming. When you’re bordering on the edge of a top ten pick, you want a little more value than what this slot has produced. It only ranks better than 11th in two categories: turnovers and TS%. The rest of the stats are pedestrian to the point that they are almost identical to the average numbers of all picks ranging from 11-20. Luckily for the Blazers, even a slight misfire on this pick does not completely sink their franchise…provided they are able to get a quality player with their other selection in the sixth spot.

Come back tomorrow as I conclude with a breakdown of picks 1-10.

NBA Draft Analysis – Picks 21-30

Photo by Paulo Carrillo via Flickr

In the days leading up to Thursday’s NBA draft, I will be examining the top 30 picks of the draft over the past 20 years. We begin today with picks 21-30. Picks 11-20 will be covered on Tuesday, and picks 1-10 will be profiled on Wednesday.

For many teams, Thursday’s NBA Draft is the most important night of the offseason. While teams are constrained by salary cap restrictions in free agency, the draft presents an opportunity to add youth and talent to a roster. Teams at the top of the lottery seek to add talent to a team that is most likely dismal, fringe lottery teams look for talent that can get them into the playoffs, and playoff teams are looking for that diamond in the rough that could put turn them into title contenders. While fans spend time looking at mock draft after mock draft and develop their dream scenarios, it is important to understand the type of player that a team can expect to get at various stages. Over the next three days, I will be examining the past 20 years worth of the draft by looking at some information associated with each of the first 30 picks.

For each pick, you will see four pieces of data presented. All stats were pulled from Basketball-Reference.com:

  • Per 36 minute stats: Points, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, Blocks, and Turnovers. Per 36 numbers are used rather than per game stats in an effort to normalize the data. Average stats for both the individual pick and the average stats of the last 10 picks of the draft are displayed.
  • Advanced stats: True Shooting %, Total Rebound %, Assist %, Steal %, Block %, Turnover %, and Player Efficiency Rating. Definitions for these stats can be found courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com glossary here. Average stats for both the individual pick and the average stats of the last 10 picks of the draft are displayed.
  • Rank (out of 30) of each of those stats allowing us to see how that pick compares to the other 29 picks in the first round.
  • Categorized breakdown, based on career PER, of the type of player using the following definitions:
    • Superstar: 22.0 or greater
    • All-Star: 19.0-21.9
    • Solid Starter: 16.0-18.9
    • Role Player: 12.0-15.9
    • Bench: 9.0-11.9
    • Bust: 8.9 or below
    • DNP: Players who never logged a minute in the NBA

It is important to note that these categories are to be used as a general guide only. One person’s definition of a Superstar is subjective and may be different than another person’s definition. PER was used as an objective measure as it is the most complete, single number assessment easily available for the purposes of this analysis.

Additionally, the upper right hand corner of each picture will contain the logo of the team holding that pick for the 2012 draft.

I will be counting down the picks over the next three days beginning with the 30th pick.


Superstar: None
All-Star:
Gilbert Arenas (2001), David Lee (2005)
Solid Starter:
Gheorghe Muresan (1993)
Role Player:
Sean Rooks (1992), Othella Harrington (1996), Marko Jaric (2000), Anderson Varejao (2004), Jimmy Butler (2011)
Bench:
Howard Eisley (1994), Ansu Sesay (1998), Roger Mason (2002), J.R. Giddens (2008)
Bust:
Lou Roe (1995), John Celestand (1999), Maciej Lampe (2003), Christian Eyenga (2009), Lazar Hayward (2010)
DNP:
Mark Sanford (1996), Joel Freeland (1996), Petteri Koponen (1997)

Unless it has been traded, as it has this year with Golden State having obtained the Spurs pick as part of the Stephen Jackson-Richard Jefferson trade, this pick has been reserved for the team with the best overall record in the league since the NBA expanded to 30 teams in 2005. While some teams opt to stash this late first rounder overseas, others have been relatively successful in finding solid contributors. The Warriors, oddly enough, have had the pleasure of employing the two of the best picks to come out of this slot in the past 20 years: Gilbert Arenas and David Lee. They will hope for similar production this time around.

 

Superstar: None
All-Star: None
Solid Starter:
Josh Howard (2003)
Role Player:
P.J. Brown (1992), Cory Alexander (1995), Nazr Mohammed (1998), Leon Smith (1999), Alando Tucker (2007), D.J. White (2008), Toney Douglas (2009), Daniel Orton (2010)
Bench: Travis Knight (1996), David Harrison (2004), Wayne Simien (2005)
Bust:
Antonio Lang (1994), Mark Madsen (2000), Trenton Hassell (2001), Mardy Collins (2006), Cory Joseph (2011)
DNP:
Sherron Mills (1993), Serge Zwikker (1997), Steve Logan (2002)

If a team is looking for flashy players that are going to put points on the board and dish out assists, the 29th spot is not the place to be. Ranking 30th in points per 36 minutes, 28th in assists and AST%, and 27th in TS%, offense is not the strong suit of 29th overall picks. However, a number of defensive contributors have been found here with the 29th pick producing top 10 averages in both STL% and BLK%. If the Bulls could get a P.J. Brown type player to come off the bench in spot roles, they should consider this draft a win.

 

Superstar: None
All-Star:
None
Solid Starter:
Tony Parker (2001), Tiago Splitter (2007)
Role Player:
Marlon Maxey (1992), Lucious Harris (1993), Greg Ostertag (1995), Scott Padgett (1999), Dan Dickau (2002), Leandro Barbosa  (2003), Beno Udrih (2004), Ian Mahinmi (2005), Greivis Vasquez (2010)
Bench:
Priest Lauderdale (1996), Erick Barkley (2000), Donte Greene (2008), Wayne Ellington (2009)
Bust: Keith Booth (1997), Corey Benjamin (1998), Maurice Ager (2006), Norris Cole (2011)
DNP:
Deon Thomas (1994)

There is a good reason that the San Antonio Spurs have had such an extended run of excellence and developed the reputation of having a terrific front office. Their ability to find sleepers such as Tony Parker and Tiago Splitter late in the first round is unparalleled. The fact that the Thunder have already made an NBA Finals appearance with their core players all under the age of 25 is scary enough; adding a Tony Parker caliber player with their pick this year could be a devastating knockout blow to the rest of the Western Conference for the foreseeable future.

 

Superstar: None
All-Star:
None
Solid Starter:
Mario Bennett (1995)
Role Player:
Malcolm Mackey (1993), Brooks Thompson (1994), Vladimir Stepania (1998), Jumaine Jones  (1999), Primoz Brezec  (2000), Jamaal Tinsley  (2001), Kendrick Perkins  (2003), Linas Kleiza  (2005), Sergio Rodriguez  (2006), Arron Afflalo  (2007), Darrell Arthur  (2008), Jordan Crawford  (2010)
Bench:
Byron Houston (1992), Brian Evans (1996), Jacque Vaughn (1997), Sasha Vujacic (2004), DeMarre Carroll (2009), JaJuan Johnson (2011)
Bust:
Chris Jeffries (2002)
DNP:
None

For the 94% of you that just did a collective “Who?” when seeing Mario Bennett as a Solid Starter, Bennett bounced around the league playing for the Suns, Lakers, Bulls, and Clippers for four seasons in the mid-90’s. During this time, he played in 68 games, yet put up a PER of 18.2 during his limited minutes. Though he appears as a Solid Starter for consistency and data’s sake, feel free to classify him as a Bench or Bust player due to his limited playing time. That being said, the good news for people that hate the Miami Heat is that no one selected with the 27th pick in the draft over the past two decades really jumps off the page at you with relation to being a game changing player; Kendrick Perkins at his peak defensively probably comes the closest. The bad news for those same people is that Miami does not necessarily need to add a piece like that to an already stacked squad. The 2012 draft is one of the deeper ones in recent memory; maybe this will be the draft to break the run of ultimately unimpressive draft selections to come out of this spot.

 

Superstar: None
All-Star:
None
Solid Starter:
Sherell Ford (1995), Kevin Martin (2004)
Role Player:
Geert Hammink (1993), Charlie Ward (1994), Jerome Williams (1996), Mamadou N’diaye (2000), Samuel Dalembert (2001), John Salmons (2002), Ndudi Ebi (2003), Jason Maxiell (2005), Jordan Farmar (2006), Aaron Brooks (2007), George Hill (2008), Taj Gibson (2009), Jordan Hamilton (2011)
Bench:
Charles Smith (1997), Sam Jacobson (1998), Vonteego Cummings (1999), Quincy Pondexter (2010)
Bust:
Dave Johnson (1992)
DNP:
None

For being a low pick, the 26th pick has turned out to be one of the better value picks in the later part of the first round. The pick rated no lower than 20th in any of the Per 36 Minutes or Advanced Stats categories analyzed for this study with its players turning in the second lowest TOV% of any pick. This is the ideal place to find a role player as 65% of players selected here have posted a career PER between 12.0 and 15.9. Unfortunately for the Indiana Pacers selecting in this spot, they are currently a team primarily consisting of role players. Ultimately, adding another player of this caliber is not going to get them over the hump to beat a team like Miami; they would be better served in packaging this pick with a current rotation player in order to get someone is going to have more of an impact.

 

Superstar: None
All-Star:
None
Solid Starter:
Gerald Wallace (2001)
Role Player:
Greg Minor (1994), Martin Muursepp (1996), Al Harrington (1998), Carlos Delfino (2003), Tony Allen (2004), Shannon Brown (2006), Nicolas Batum (2008), Rodrigue Beaubois (2009), MarShon Brooks (2011)
Bench: Elmore Spencer (1992), Corie Blount (1993), David Vaughn (1995), John Thomas (1997), Jake Tsakalidis (2000), Frank Williams (2002), Johan Petro (2005), Dominique Jones (2010)
Bust: Tim James (1999), Morris Almond  (2007)
DNP: None

The 25th pick is dangerous territory. Over the past 20 years, 50% of those selected went on to become bench players or were total busts. On the other hand, a team would be thrilled to land a Gerald Wallace type player this late in the round, and satisfied with adding a player like Nic Batum. Overall, 25th picks rate in the top 10 in all steal and block categories analyzed; no doubt, current Memphis lockdown defender Tony Allen aided in that fact. The Grizzlies would be fortunate to add another defensive presence in this slot.

 

Superstar: None
All-Star:
Sam Cassell (1993), Andrei Kirilenko (1999)
Solid Starter: Serge Ibaka (2008)
Role Player: Latrell Sprewell (1992), Monty Williams (1994), Raul Lopez (2001), Nenad Krstic (2002), Brian Cook (2003), Delonte West (2004), Luther Head (2005), Kyle Lowry (2006), Rudy Fernandez (2007), Byron Mullens (2009)
Bench: Derek Fisher (1996), Felipe Lopez (1998), Reggie Jackson (2011)
Bust: Loren Meyer (1995), Rodrick Rhodes (1997), Dalibor Bagaric (2000), Damion James (2010)
DNP: None

Within the past two years, the en vogue thing to do for small-market, rebuilding teams is to follow the “OKC Model.” That is, make smart trades, don’t overpay for free agents, and most of all, hit on every draft pick you are given. It is a model that the Cleveland Cavaliers are trying to pursue beginning with last year’s selections of Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson and the addition of the 4th and 24th picks this year. Fittingly enough, one of the cogs of the Thunder has been Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City’s selection in this spot four years ago. While the addition of an Ibaka type player would be a home run, the addition of any type of quality rotation player like Sam Cassell or Andrei Kirilenko in this spot paired with a running mate for Irving selected at 4 will go a long way in getting the Cavs back into the postseason.

 

Superstar: None
All-Star:
None
Solid Starter:
None
Role Player:
Ervin Johnson (1993), Wesley Person (1994), Travis Best (1995), Bobby Jackson (1997), Tyronn Lue (1998), Tayshaun Prince (2002), Travis Outlaw (2003), Francisco Garcia (2005), Josh Boone (2006), Wilson Chandler (2007), Kosta Koufos (2008), Omri Casspi (2009), Trevor Booker (2010)
Bench:
Lee Mayberry (1992), Efthimi Rentzias (1996), Devean George (1999), DeShawn Stevenson (2000)
Bust:
Brandon Armstrong (2001), Sergei Monia (2004)
DNP:
Nikola Mirotic (2011)

It is fitting that the Atlanta Hawks possess the 23rd pick. The Hawks are the walking definition of former Portland GM Kevin Pritchard’s so-called “Treadmill of Mediocrity”; they are a constant playoff team that has almost no chance of being a serious title contender in the near future. As an essentially average to above average team, they match perfectly with the 23rd pick. This pick has produced good ball handlers as they have posted the lowest number of turnovers and TOV% of any top 30 pick. As far as everything else, things have been decidedly average with stats ranging from 17th to 27th ranked in all other categories. Trevor Booker, Bobby Jackson, and Tayshaun Prince are the only players selected 23rd to post PERs at 15.0 or above, generally used as the standard for “average.” Expect more of the same from the ATL in the years to come.

 

Superstar: None
All-Star:
Kenneth Faried (2011)
Solid Starter:
Elliot Williams (2010)
Role Player:
Oliver Miller (1992), Chris Mills (1993), Roy Rogers  (1996),Brian Skinner  (1998), Kenny Thomas  (1999), Donnell Harvey  (2000), Jarrett Jack (2005), Jared Dudley  (2007), Courtney Lee  (2008)
Bench:
Ed Gray (1997),Casey Jacobsen (2002), Zoran Planinic (2003), Viktor Khryapa (2004), Marcus Williams (2006)
Bust:
Bill Curley (1994), George Zidek (1995), Jeryl Sasser (2001)
DNP:
Victor Claver (2009)

This pick is a classic case of solid numbers, but little name recognition among those selected here. The average stats coming out of this pick rank better than 22nd in all categories outside of those related to scoring (points per 36, TS%) and assists (assists per 36, AST%). However, there statistics do not always tell the full story as guys like Elliot Williams, Oliver Williams, and Roy Rogers, despite decent PER numbers, aren’t going to sell tickets. On the positive side, Kenneth Faried’s outstanding rookie season surprised even those who were bullish on him and pegged him as a terrific value pick when it was made last year. With the future of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett up in the air, Boston will need to build for the future and infuse some youth into their lineup with their back-to-back picks here.

 

Superstar: None
All-Star:
None
Solid Starter:
Michael Finley (1995), Rajon Rondo (2006), Ryan Anderson (2008)
Role Player:
Jon Barry (1992), Anthony Parker (1997), Ricky Davis (1998), Jeff Foster (1999), Morris Peterson (2000), Boris Diaw (2003), Nate Robinson (2005), Darren Collison (2009)
Bench:
James Robinson  (1993), Dickey Simpkins  (1994), Qyntel Woods (2002), Daequan Cook (2007)
Bust:
Dontae’ Jones (1996), Joseph Forte (2001), Pavel Podkolzin  (2004), Craig Brackins (2010), Nolan Smith (2011)
DNP:
None

Can the Celtics strike gold twice? Six years ago, they found their franchise point guard by selecting Rajon Rondo in this spot. This year, they will attempt to duplicate that feat, if possible. Of course, even a “consolation prize” such as Michael Finley, Ryan Anderson, or Darren Collison would not be bad for Boston. Of course, as long as Boston doesn’t draft the 2012 version of Pavel Podkolzin, he of the -2.8 career PER which rated as the second lowest PER of all 600 draft picks analyzed, they should be OK.

Come back tomorrow as I break down picks 11-20.

NBA Draft 2012: Perry Jones III At His Peak

Photo by Peak Performance Project

Perry Jones III only jumped as high as he could twice last season at Baylor.

Peak Performance Project (P3) founder and director Dr. Marcus Elliott learned this after giving Jones a vertical jump test. Jones’ first couple of jumps did not drop jaws, then the 6-11 forward seemingly effortlessly elevated 41.5 inches into the air and Elliott asked him what those extra five inches were doing in his backpocket. Jones responded with that surprising statement.

“That was one of those lightbulb moments,” Elliott said. “I’ve never heard an athlete ever say that to me.”

This raises obvious questions: Why hold back? If Jones can touch 12’4.5, why didn’t he use that freakish athleticism on every single possession in college? Why didn’t he dominate consistently when, sometimes, it looked like it was so easy for him to do so? Are the columnists and critics right when they say he has a weak motor?

Not according to Elliott.

“I think they’ve got that wrong,” said the Harvard graduate who worked with elite athletes at the U.S. Olympic Training Center before opening his own facility in Santa Barbara, California. “I don’t even know what that is: ‘A weak motor.’ I’ve heard that around him now over these last few weeks quite a few different times and I don’t know quite what that means. Is that like lack of effort? Does it mean not a lot of drive? Does it mean he can’t work at a high level for a long period of time? I don’t know. I don’t think any of these things are going to be true with this kid.

“He’s got a bigger work capacity than most of the athletes that we’ve had in, including NBA guys. He can go at high intensities for a long period of time.”

Elliott has worked with Jones for the last month and a half, preparing him for the Chicago pre-draft combine, team workouts and the leap to the next level. What he found was a mechanical issue, not one involving a lack of heart, desire or focus.

“When you create force for any kind of athletic movement out of your lower half — whether it’s jumping or sprinting or cutting — you use a combination of force generated from the ankle, the knee and the hip. We call those ‘force moments,’” Elliott said. Jones’ problem is that he was creating a bigger force moment over his knee than was desirable. His work at P3 has been about shifting his incredibly powerful force moments to his hips. While “motor” is a murky term, sports science showed something specific: His movement pattern put too much pressure on his knees to produce maximal force on a consistent basis. Perry’s smooth athleticism made everything look easy, but it was not.

Fortunately, unlike a lack of passion, this can be fixed. “It’s something we can absolutely affect,” Elliott said. “We’ve done it in dozens and dozens of athletes.” Jones has made significant physical gains in a relatively short amount of time. “It’s helped me a lot to be honest,” Jones said of P3 following his workout in Toronto. “I think if I wasn’t there I’d probably be tired through all of these workouts.”

In Santa Barbara, a typical day for Jones starts with a light 60-75 minute on court session in the morning, followed up by a high-intensity, rigorous training session at the P3 facility. In the afternoon, he’s back on the court for a demanding two-hour session. “We put the screws on him in overall work volume quite a bit,” said Elliott.

Jones is a rare athlete, with one of the most unique sets of physical metrics Elliott has ever tested. “He’s without question one of the ten most athletic athletes I’ve ever tested, maybe top five,” Elliott said. “In any sport.” As well as his ridiculous vertical leap and his deceptive strength, Jones’ agility at his size makes him special. His 5-10-5 shuttle was faster than any big man ever tested at P3 and faster than all but three wings. While some question his natural position at the NBA level — Raptors executive vice-president Ed Stefanski said “that’s something we’ll discuss thoroughly” —  Elliott believes that Jones can play small forward without question.

“If he was 6-6, people wouldn’t say he was slow. I guarantee if he was 6-6 and had the same movement that he has right now at 6-11 he’d be a natural three and they’d say that makes sense,” Elliott said. “Because he’s 6-11 people think that, I don’t know, that it’s some kind of stretch. But I can tell you it’s just because you’re not used to seeing guys that are 6-11 that can move like this this kid can move. They just don’t exist.”

“For a long guy, he is able to transition from eccentric to concentric movements, from down movements to up movements and all kinds of athletic movements faster than about any tall athlete we’ve seen,” Elliott continued. “Most big athletes have a little bit of a lag between, say, dropping into a depth jump and then coming out of it or loading onto a single leg and then driving out of it. He has no transition, he moves more like someone who’s 6 feet to 6-4 as opposed to 6-11.”

While Jones’ athletic ability made him stand out, his work ethic and engaging personality endeared him to the staff at P3. At the Raptors practice court at the Air Canada Centre, it wasn’t hard to see why. Waiting his turn for a video interview, he stood behind the camera and stared at fellow prospect Jared Sullinger as the Ohio State big man tried to answer questions. When I sat down with Jones minutes later and he described himself as “goofy”, Sullinger was a couple of seats over, returning the favor. With the scrutiny Jones faced at university and his family’s financial struggles, he’s had to grow up quickly in some ways. But in speaking with Jones, he can remind you of someone even younger than his 20 years. This is especially true when discussing The Looney Tunes Show. “It’s up to date. Bugs Bunny got an iPhone,” Jones said. “His roommate is Daffy Duck. Granny lives down the street … It’s real good.”

Jones’ father, Perry Sr., accompanied him to Santa Barbara. So did his childhood friend, Bobo, a barber who quickly became popular there, giving the other athletes haircuts. Every day, Bobo went for walks in the mountains with Perry Sr., sometimes accompanied by a jovial Jones. “He’s not closed off to his friends or the world like a lot of people are in his position,” Elliott said. “He seems really open, he’s a great listener, super sincere, super playful. How he ended up in a position where he was supposed to carry the weight of the university on his shoulders was just his freakish talent that was handed to him. He doesn’t know where it came from.”

In three days, that freakish talent will land him in the NBA. It’ll be a year later than many expected, but Jones has no regrets about staying for his sophomore year. “Those were the best guys I ever played with, to be honest, and they always had my back with anything I did,” he said. It might have hurt his draft stock, but it helped Jones to spend another year with that particular group.

“I take things more seriously,” Jones said. “I’m not as tense. I’m loosened up a little bit. Probably I speak a lot more.” Jones is still laid-back off the court, but he started to come out of his shell during his two years in Waco. “All I wanted to do was play video games and watch cartoons. I don’t play video games as much. I don’t watch — well, I do watch cartoons, but I’m more social now.”

On Thursday, Perry Sr. and Terri Jones will see their son get drafted. “It’s going to mean a lot. All the hard work paid off. I know they’ve been waiting for this moment forever,” Jones said. “I mean, they were modest about it. They didn’t want to rush it. Last year I could have left. I felt like I wasn’t ready … They support me in everything I do and I love them.”

No matter where Jones ends up, there will be more expectations. There will be more doubts, despite his skill level and his off-the-charts athleticism. It’s fair to say that he wasn’t assertive enough in college, but he’s hardly the first 6-11 player to not fully understand how to use his body at the age of 20. Call him a risky pick if you want, but perhaps it’s not such a leap of faith. You could do worse than betting on a guy with preposterous potential and a point to prove.