Jared: Let’s talk about draft, ba-by. Let’s talk about… wait, no. Let’s just talk about the draft.
Jordan: YES. FINALLY. THE DRAFT IS NIGH. Oh, what’s that? It’s not that great of a draft? Alex Len may very well go number 1? WHATEVER, YOU CAN’T BRING DOWN MY SPIRITS BECAUSE IT’S DRAFT TIME. I know everyone is down on this draft, and for good reason: it’s low, if not absent, of potential stars, and only a smattering more of potential All-Stars. But it seems to me that, if navigated correctly, a few teams are going to come out of this thing with some very good role players. What say you, Jared?
Jared: I hate hate hate the idea that this draft is weak. I’ve been saying so all year. It seems like every time there’s not a surefire number one pick that everyone is decided on from the moment the season starts, the draft is immediately declared weak.
I’ve seen a lot of “the quality of player you’ll get at 15 and 35 are the same” type of comments about this draft. Well, guess what? That means the draft is hella deep. There are a lot of quality rotation players in this draft, even into the 30s and 40s.
Also, if Len goes number 1, I will die of laughter. Mostly because of Conrad’s potential reaction on Twitter, but also because it will immediately force me to conduct a deeply analytical study of bigs whose draft scouting report contained the words “can’t judge him because his guards sucked.”
Jordan: I think the “weak” argument does have merits, insofar as this isn’t a good draft for stars (that’s next year). But I have to think that if, say, the Timberwolves end up with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, giving them the shooting and athleticism they so desperately need next to Ricky Rubio, they’ll be perfectly content. This draft is good from the standpoint that there a ton of players that can fill specific team holes. Dennis Schroeder could be a perfect fit for the Jazz or the Bucks. Otto Porter seems tailor-made for the Wizards–despite reports that they won’t select him. For teams needing shooting, such as the Bulls, Celtics, and the Nuggets, there’s Reggie Bullock, Sergey Karasev, and Allen Crabbe. What’s that, Nets, Clippers and Spurs? You need to shore up your interior defense? Allow me to introduce Jeff Withey and Gorgui Deng. OK, maybe Rudy Gobert, too, but I am terrified of that tremendous a project.
The point being: teams can get the help they need from this draft.
Jack! Great to see you! Tell us: are we right to think this draft isn’t so weak after all, or are we merely delusional, like boys who have been at an all-male summer camp for two months and see their first girl, 50 pounds overweight with several teeth noticeably absent, and think her to be the most beautiful creature ever created?
Jack: It’s tough to say a draft is ‘weak’ if the majority of teams with a first round pick will be happy with their options when selecting. This is definitely a crappy class at the top; there may not be an All-Star this year let alone a franchise player. Tough luck for those teams choosing in the top five or ten, basically. But how many years are there more than one or two guys that even have the potential to live up to the expectations that come with the first or second pick?
It’s fun to think that every class has a few prospects capable of becoming transcendent stars, but that’s actually rarely the case. Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and even Kyrie Irving are the exceptions, not the rules. The chance that a draft produces a franchise cornerstone are already pretty small, so that we know – or think we do – there aren’t any this year doesn’t mean it’s weak. It just means there’s little intrigue at the top.
As you guys have already alluded to, this is a very strong group from 10-40. And one of the most enduring lessons from this season’s Finals is that players 3-7 in a team’s pecking order are ever influential on both ends of the floor. The game has changed; superstars rule but they can’t do it alone. That’s why this draft matters just as much as any other.
Also, glad we all agree on Len. I’ll be shocked if he’s half as good as his draft stock suggests. But hey, if you get a chance to take a less athletic Meyers Leonard first overall, you got to do it. Right, Cleveland?
Jared: The best part about that Meyers Leonard pick is that I keep seeing mocks that have the Blazers taking another center this year. It was a hilarious pick then and it’s even more hilarious now.
Speaking of white centers… Cody Zeller is a really intriguing player to me, and not just due to the sheer amount of times I watched Indiana the last couple years because my brother went there. I compared Zeller’s potential draft fall to that of Harrison Barnes – these are guys who came into college as presumptive number one overall picks, didn’t completely dominate the sport, and then wound up staying for their sophomore year to have their weaknesses endlessly picked apart. Barnes fell to 7, Zeller could fall even further. I think whoever winds up with him is happy he did.
Jordan: The difference between Barnes and Zeller is that, had Zeller left last year, he could have been the number one pick, certainly top-5. Barnes’ stock, meanwhile, slid both years. Zeller’s a victim both of a lack of progression (though, really, how much more was he supposed to progress) and of somehow not dominating at the college level despite the extreme difficulty of doing so. Zeller isn’t cut from the mold of Durant or Beasley, who absolutely scorched the college realm. His position demands more team play, and a reliance on teammates. That being said, there are two things that worry me about Zeller: his defense and his position.
Zeller posted impressive numbers at the draft combine, but we saw this year how his slight frame can get easily pushed around by bigger opponents. If he’s asked to guard fours, he’ll likely be OK. But when he’s tasked with guarding bigger, stronger centers, things could get ugly. My second worry, position, is more circumstantial. If a team drafts him to play primarily at the four, sliding him over when they want to run (because Zeller can certainly run), that’s fine. But if some team drafts him with the misguided hope of featuring him at center, I think he’ll struggle mightily on both ends.
Nevertheless, I think Zeller’s slide is beneficial to both him and whatever team chooses him. He’s not faced with the pressure of being the number one pick, and the team has the luxury of bringing him along at whatever pace they see fit.
Let’s talk stock for a second. Whose is way too high, whose is too low? Do you think there’s as much inflation this year as we’ve seen in the past?
Jared: Jared Dubin’s Official 2013 Your Draft Stock is Too High, Guy List
Jared Dubin’s Official 2013 Your Draft Stock is Too Low, Guy List
BONUS: Shane Larkin eats people. The first 23 teams in the draft should definitely pass on him.
Jack: Quickly on Zeller, all reports now say he considers himself something close to a stretch-4. Whether that’s due more to the horrible length numbers he posted at the combine or actual ability and fit remains to be seen. Obviously matters that he’s supposedly been stroking it from all over the floor in workouts. If he can actually guard power forwards and hit 20-footers at a solid clip, he’s a totally different prospect than the one we’ve been evaluating for the last two years. And holy god, that lane agility score. If there was ever a big that could hedge and recover or even switch on to a ballhandler, he seems it.
I like Jared’s format for Stock Talk, so here’s mine:
Caldwell-Pope – though I’m biased, as volume shooters/scorers just irk the living hell out of me
Bullock – 3, D and rebounds? Sign me up.
Jared: Quickly back to Zeller before Jordan gets his too high/too lows in: https://twitter.com/chadfordinsider/status/340190155937816576
Never never never never ever trust workouts, but the man can shoot. He didn’t shoot it much from the outside in college because he played for a team that rained threes and needed him in the high and low post, whether as scorer or facilitator.
Jordan: Jack, I seem to remember a certain debate we had on the 2011 draft that is in no way, shape, or form on my old, piece of shit basketball blog in which you professed a similar distaste for another volume shooter – Klay Thompson. That didn’t work out so well. Then again, I was against Enes Kanter, so I’m not one to talk either.
Len (the Austin Rivers of this year’s draft)
MCW (I like his passing, but, um, that’s about it)
Schroeder (For reasons beyond explanation, I love me some Schroeder)
Jack: The thing I totally whiffed on with Klay, though, was the defensive ability. Scouting reports suggested he’d be a total liability; instead he’s at least above-average. Pretty sure I didn’t understand TS% then, either, so fuck that version of myself.
Jared: I must find this old, piece of shit basketball blog.
Looks like we’re all in agreement on Len and MCW being rated too highly and Bullock being rated too low. We’re just going to pretend Jack didn’t say Shane Larkin was overrated so I don’t have to fire him.
Let’s talk about Bullock, though. I feel like we’re all in agreement mainly because of the shooting, right? Space is the most valuable commodity in the league these days (other than superstars), so a guy who can space the floor by knocking down open jumpers is key. But then there was also that stretch of the season when UNC played super small with Bullock at power forward, and like Jack alluded to, he rebounded like crazy. I love him. I have no idea why he’s not considered a potential lottery pick.
Jordan: It could be that Bullock is seen to have reached his ceiling, whereas other players – KCP, Anthony Bennett, Steven Adams, Giannis Antetokounmpo – have the ever-desired yet ever-undefinable potential. But, you’re right, in a draft devoid of true stars, why not go for extreme value and draft Bullock to be your 3 and D Wing that are so valuable these days?
Jack: Right, is it because he’s not sexy? Outside of Oladipo and Porter, Bullock might be the safest pick in the draft. To me a surefire skill and two plus ones are worth a top 10 pick EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR.
Jared: I know Jack really believes in that statement because he capitalized it and separated single words WITH. A. PERIOD.
Jack: I. DID. IT. FOR. THAT. VERY. EFFECT.
Jared: We’re kind of obligated to talk about Nerlens Noel, right? I’m definitely a fan, and I think he’s a worthy lottery pick, even top 5, but I also feel like he became a de facto number one because A. he’s an athletic big man B. he got hurt in the middle of the year so people didn’t have time to nitpick his game and C. the other top prospect big man is Alex Len and he is not.
Jack: I like Noel. That Ole Miss game was as dominant a defensive performance I’ve seen on any level of basketball, and almost by itself enough evidence he’s worthy of a top pick. All that said, he’s certainly a de facto number one pick. I’m not sure that has as much to do with the bigs in this class being especially weak or the lack of the proverbial ‘can’t miss’ prospect in general, and it doesn’t really matter.
He has a chance to be very, very good, but I’m not sure he’ll ever justify his draft position. Hearing people bitch about that pick – whether he’s successful or not – will piss me off for years to come. A 6’10” guy with elite athletic ability, rare length, awesome timing and untapped offensive potential will be a top prospect every year. That he might go number one shouldn’t change our perception of him, but it definitely, definitely will.
Jordan: Noel’s further hurt, in terms of expectations, by last year’s number one pick, Anthony Davis. The only way in which the two are similar are their athletic prowess, and even then, Davis has the edge. It doesn’t matter, though. They’re both seven-footers* both went to Kentucky, and both block shots. That’s enough for people to demand similar production of Noel, even though they are vastly different players. I think Noel will be a fine player, a solid building block for any franchise. it’s just a shame, as Jack said, that we’ll continue to hear people whine about his production potentially not justifying his draft position.
Jared: I probably should have made it more clear that I really like Noel. Like, a lot. Huge fan. I think that last email came off as me not liking him that much.
But I’m immediately going to pivot away from that and say that I firmly adopt Bill Simmons’ stance that Cleveland should take Victor Oladipo number one. Allow me to list my reasons three:
1. Cleveland has exactly zero players on its roster than can defend any perimeter positions. Oladipo is an absurdly aggressive and tactically-sound perimeter defender. At the very least, he’s going to be a guy who shuts down one of the wing spots on a night-to-night basis.
2. Drafting Oladipo would allow Dion Waiters to fulfill his manifest destiny as an off-the-bench scoring guard. This is a guy who needs the ball in his hands most of the time to be at his most effective. With Kyrie Irving starting, that can’t happen. This move lets Oladipo guard the biggest backcourt threat while Irving concentrates on the scoring/playmaking load, and Oladipo can terrorize teams off the ball and in transition. Then, Waiters captains the second unit offense, and someone else plays the Oladipo role for him. Against certain teams, you can play all three together for stretches and late in games.
3. Unless you’re landing a once-in-a-generation talent (LeBron, Tim Duncan, Anthony Davis, etc.), I’m not sure you can “win” the draft with the number one overall pick, but you can definitely lose it (Olowokandi, Kwame, Pervis Ellison). I don’t think there’s any player in the draft with less bust potential than Oladipo. Have you heard the stories about this dude and his dedication to working out? He’s an insane person. I want to clone him and put him on every team except Boston and Miami.
Jack: Yup. Oladipo’s been my favorite player in the draft since January. That doesn’t mean he’s Dwyane Wade or even a healthy, more defensive oriented Eric Gordon, but what it does is that he’s the only sure thing with All-Star type potential. At the very worst he’s an elite defender and integral locker room guy; at best he’s the game’s top two-way shooting guard and one of its most marketable stars.
I’d love to be a fly on the wall at Cleveland’s draft HQ when Oladipo is broached. Are they even considering him? What are they saying about Waiters? What does the presence of the latter due to the draftability of the former?
Jordan: For whatever reason, Oladipo is the prospect I’ve been the most “meh” on this entire time. Not because I don’t think he’ll succeed, or because his stock is overly inflated, he just doesn’t excite me in the least bit. His defense will be his calling card immediately, but any team that takes him has to hope that his offense at least comes close to his defensive production eventually. His shaky handles do scare me a bit, though he clearly has the work ethic to shore up any issue.
Is there a player you guys are most excited to see next year? I’m firmly on #TeamBurke, but I want to hear y’all’s thoughts first.
Jared: It literally boggles my mind that Oladipo doesn’t excite you. LOOK AT THIS GUY. If he doesn’t excite you, you’re not human.
I like Burke as well, but I don’t think he’s my “most excited” guy. I’ve got a few of those, for a host of different reasons:
Shane Larkin (for the obvious reasons)
Shabazz Muhammad (I don’t understand how a person wouldn’t be excited about watching this guy. Just the ride from prep to pro has been exhilarating)
CJ McCollum (Point guards that can shoot the lights out are awesome)
Lucas Nogueira (Watch his DraftExpress scouting video and tell me you’re not excited)
Jack: You’re taking crazy pills, Jordan. Oladipo is the most exciting shooting guard to come into the league for many years. You can count on two hands the number of players that can match his potential maximum impact on both ends of the floor. And even if he only reaches it defensively, a Tony Allen that can finish lobs sounds a hell of a lot of fun to me.
Jordan: Guys, relax, chill, take it easy. When I said he didn’t excite me, I meant purely in relation to this draft. His play is exciting, his brand of defense is exciting–much like Tony Allen, he makes defense fun and interesting to watch. He’s explosive, tenacious, and every other buzzword you want in a young, still-developing player. But it’s almost as if his place among the top rookies is already cemented. There’s little mystery or intrigue surrounding him. There’s no question as to what position he’ll play, like CJ McCollum (I’m excited too, Jared), and he didn’t explode onto the scene to become one of the highest-risk, highest-reward players in the draft, a la Giannis. He improved in college, excelling in an area that most college players take several seasons in the pros to learn (defense) and as such, improved his draft status. End of story. That does not mean, however, that I’m not excited about him as a player.
Jared: Whatever. Jack and I are still burning you at the stake.
How do you guys sort out the point guard class this year? It’s crazy deep. It seems like there could legitimately be 7 or 8 taken in the first round, depending on how you classify players like McCollum and Ricky Ledo. Where do Burke, McCollum, MCW, Larkin, Schroeder, Canaan, Ledo and Jackson stand on your personal PG big board?
Jack: 1. Burke
Sorry, Jared. I just fail to see how there’s some major difference between Jackson and Larkin as prospects.
Jared: Well, I think the differences are 1. shooting (Larkin shot 47.9/40.6 while Jackson shot 42.7/35.9) 2. if Larkin’s height (5’11.5) is a problem, Jackson’s (5’10.5) is an even bigger problem, and 3. Larkin tested out as the best athlete in the draft. All that said I love Jackson. I think it’s a travesty if he falls out of the first round.
(Note: I didn’t rank Schroeder or Ledo because I’ve never seen them play)
Jordan: FINE. I’ll rank them.
One guy who really intrigues me, though, is Myck Kabongo. He didn’t get to play much this year because the NCAA is the worst, but I think, if put in the right situation, he could develop nicely.
Jack: Context matters with regard to those numbers, though. Larkin’s supporting cast was far superior to Jackson’s, and I’ve (unfortunately) watched enough Baylor basketball to know the extreme limits of Scott Drew’s system. They’re equally tiny, too – Jackson is less than an inch shorter but has a slightly higher standing reach. And as well as Larkin tested, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better on-court athlete than Jackson.
I don’t hate Larkin by any stretch and I don’t love Jackson, either. It’s just fascinating that the former might be a late lottery pick while the latter could fall out of the first round when they have such similar physical and statistical profiles.
Jared: I think they should both get drafted #24 by the Knicks.
Okay, last things to discuss before we wrap things up. Some rapid fire questions…
1. How do you think the rest of the top 5 shakes out of Cleveland takes Noel, and how does it shake out if they take Len?
2. Where does KCP land?
3. Buy or sell: Anthony Bennett
4. Other than Bullock, who’s your favorite late 1st round wing prospect?
5. Shouldn’t Phoenix intentionally pick someone who sucks so they can get the best shot at Wiggins next year?
Jack: 1. Noel first – Oladipo, Porter, Len, McLemore. Len first – Oladipo, Porter, McLemore, Noel. But seriously, don’t hold me to this.
2. It’s tough to see him getting by Minnesota at nine. Perfect fit there on paper.
3. Sell. I’m very weary of report that he recently weighed in at 261 pounds. Explosion and overall athleticism is so key for Bennett; if his body grows too big or he won’t take care of it, those attributes will be hard to maintain.
4. Tim Hardaway Jr. could grow into the requisite ‘3 and D’ skill-set. The question then is whether or not he’s comfortable playing that role. If he does and he is, that’s a late first round steal.
5. Obviously, which is why my above scenario with Len going first is so perfect for them. Noel won’t only need time to recover from a torn ACL, but his payoff is longterm as opposed to immediate, too.
Jared: 1. I agree with you on your Noel first scenario, but I think it goes Noel, Porter, Oladipo, McLemore if Cleveland takes Len first.
2. Agree again!
3. I’m buying. I don’t think the weight thing is *that* big a deal (cue Conrad calling me a hypocrite because of my Waiters-related weight concerns last year). He had surgery and hasn’t been able to do stuff. This is a guy who’s only been playing basketball since he was 14 and he’s already an incredibly talented scorer and a good rebounder. His defense is bad right now, but you can teach an athlete like that better positioning and work on his instincts as he grows. I don’t think he’s the best player in the draft or anything, but I like him.
4. Jamaal Franklin. I know I’m contradicting my “you have to be able to shoot” stance, but this dude is ridiculous. He’s 6’4 with a 6’11.25 wingspan and he averaged 9.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. Get him a shooting coach.
5. Well, I posed the question. Yes, I think they should do this.
Jordan: 1. Scenario 1: Oladipo, Bennett, McLemore, Len — Scenario 2: Noel, Bennett, Oladipo, McLemore.
2. Number 9, and the Timberwolves get some much-needed shooting.
3. Sell. His weight has apparently ballooned since season’s end, and while some of that may be due to the injury, I’m still wary of him. The skill is clearly there, but it’s a question of whether he fully harnesses it.
4. Tony Snell. He’ll be a valuable contributor in both sides wherever he goes.
5. Yes, and here’s the plan. Draft Bennett, then assign him to be Michael Beasley’s rookie. Think of all he could learn!
Photo by Pieter Pieterse via Flickr