This year’s NBA draft class took a big with the news that Joel Embiid suffered an injury yet to be identified to his foot. There’s a chance he may have a broken foot, after recovering from a spinal stress fracture that forced Embiid to miss the NCAA tournament. During Embiid’s lone season at Kansas, he struggled with injuries to his knee and back, the two most serious parts of the body an athlete can injure. Embiid was the likely top overall pick, but that could change once the severity of his injury is revealed.
As a sophomore, TJ Warren led the ACC in scoring, brought home ACC player of the year honors, and carried his team to the NCAA tournament–only to blow a huge second half lead and bounce out to Saint Louis. Only looking at Warren’s box scores, and actually viewing his games are a very different experience. Sometimes, high-volume scorers can have a great night without anyone realizing until the game is over. Take Kevin Durant for example. He’ll often hit some 3’s, get some easy transition buckets, score off some post-ups, and all of a sudden he’ll have 30 points when it feels like 20. He does his work quietly and his box score will creep up on you. Warren is not like that. In college, when Warren scored 25+ points, it was clear to anyone watching, that he was dominating the game. That he was N.C. State’s only viable scoring option. Warren’s game is unusual in today’s 3-centric game. Today, nearly all of the great scorers, even those who play down low, are able to consistently hit 3’s. You’ll be hard pressed to find a guard who scores 20+ points per game, who doesn’t shoot and make a lot of 3’s. That’s where things get confusing for TJ Warren. Continue reading
Kwame Brown. Darko Milicic. Adam Morrison. What do these guys all have in common? Well, besides the fact that two of them were drafted by Michael Jordan. They’re some of the biggest busts in NBA history, of course! Sometimes it’s easy to spot a potential bust, but other times they come completely out of left field. Take Adam Morrison for example. No disrespect to the WCC, but he was not exactly facing stiff competition. He dominated the NCAA his junior year, putting up over 28 points per game, but came up very small in the tournament. And then tried to spin that in a positive light. All of the comparisons to Larry Bird were based solely on Morrison being a far from athletic, white jump shooter. In retrospect, it’s absurd that Morrison was the #5 pick in the draft, just another one of MJ’s brilliant personnel decisions over the years. Hindsight is 20/20, but the Morrison pick should’ve been more obvious. He was a one tool player. He was a scorer, but he was used to touching the ball every possession and being the go-to-guy, a role he would clearly never have in the pros. Morrison couldn’t handle the ball, couldn’t rebound, couldn’t play ANY defense, and didn’t come close to making his teammates better.
And yet what makes the Morrison case so frightening was that he wasn’t even drafted on that dreaded word that gets GMs fired: potential. More often than not, GMs will salivate over super athletic players who’ve yet to completely translate their athleticism onto the court. In other words, they’ve underachieved and often look like they’ve never played Basketball before, yet teams still believe it’s just a matter of time before these guys figure it out. This is not to knock athleticism as a guiding principle of drafting players, but sometimes actual college production and talent are overlooked at the expense of athleticism. How do you know you’re dealing with one of these guys? Well, there’s a few key phrases are sure-fire signs. If you hear phrases like “he has an NBA body,” “he hasn’t figured it out yet,” “he’s a tweener,” or “he needs to improve his motor” then stop whatever you’re doing, cover your eyes, and run. Sometimes these guys pan out, but more often than not, their potential is nothing but a pipe dream.
This year’s draft has been called perhaps the worst ever. There are no obvious franchise players or even future perennial all-stars like most years. Most scouts though believe there are many rotation guys in this draft and that the 30th pick may not be much different from the 3rd pick. Let’s take a look at the some of the players projected to go in the first round to see who some of the safest picks are, as well as the most likely busts. We will evaluate each player’s bust potential on a scale from 0-10, with 10 being a definite bust.
Ahh, it’s that time of the year again. The time of the year when the most incompetent franchises in the NBA pray that they’ll be gifted the absolutely unearned right to draft a great player. The draft is supposed to be a plac
e to get promising players who are very cheap. Unfortunately, many of the same teams find themselves in the lottery year after year, and are either hindered by bad luck or by delusional incompetence. (See: 2008-2009 Washington Wizards) This a useful example, if only because it is so absurdly idiotic and illustrates why every Wizards fan feels like this whenever Ernie Grunfeld is about to make a decision. It would not surprise me if some fans have in fact “lost their eyes,” being forced to watch the likes of Oleksiy Pecherov and Jan Vesely in the past few years. Anyway, the 2008-2009 Wiz give us a textbook example of a GM and team that are impatient and ridiculously delusional. We’re talking about a team coming off a 19-63 campaign. What does a 19 win team look like you ask? Well, we’re talking about a team 1) whose best player was bringing guns into the locker-room, 2) had a soon-to-be convicted murderer, and perhaps the worst indictment of all, 3) started Darius Songaila. We’re looking at a historically dysfunctional team that needed to be dismantled ASAP. So what did manageme
nt do when it had the 5th pick in the draft and the chance to draft Stephen Curry? They did what any competent team would do: they traded the pick for two mediocre role players, Randy Foye and Mike Miller! The Wizards may have been 19-63 and the punchline of the NBA, but they were going all-in next season! What’s the point of this example? The point is that patience is key and trading away top picks is rarely worth it, unless it’s possible to acquire a franchise player in return. Sort of like how the Wizards had a chance last year to trade the #3 pick used on Brad Beal for JAMES HARDEN, one of the ten best players on earth. This year’s draft has been called one of the weakest of all time, and while that may be true, there will inevitably be very good NBA players somewhere in this draft. Let’s look at the best and worst case scenarios for each of the lottery teams in this draft whose top prospect is a 206 pound center with a torn ACL!
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
Best-Case Scenario: Victor Oladipo
Worst-Case Scenario: Nerlens Noel
7. Phoenix Suns
As much as I wanted to put the Kings in the cellar, I just couldn’t do it. The Suns are that bad. Take a look at the Suns roster and you won’t find any egregiously bad contracts, but you also won’t find a single player worth building around. Goran Dragic has quietly had a very solid season, ranking 15th out of point guards who play at least 30 minutes per game in PER. Notably he’s ahead of players like Damian Lillard and Ricky Rubio this year in PER. Past the 26 year old point guard though, the Suns are stuck with mediocre perimeter players like Shannon Brown, Mike Beasley, and Jared Dudley, and Wes Johnson.
7. Charlotte Bobcats
It’s hard to ever get excited about the Bobcats. They don’t have any true superstar to build around, they hardly have any cap room this summer, and the upcoming draft class is extremely weak. Not all is lost for the NBA’s worst team though. The Bobcats do have improving Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Bismack Biyombo to build around. Plus, as Chad Ford suggested, a weak draft may be Charlotte’s best friend. Charlotte certainly won’t be a playoff team, even with the addition of a top pick in the draft. Drafting a guy like Nerlens Noel, with his ACL tear wouldn’t be a bad plan, as they could let Noel take his time rehabbing, not having to worry about playing him. Then presumably after another terrible season, the Bobcats would be able to add another top 5 pick in 2014. Oh and by the way, the 2014 draft should be loaded, according to scouts who can’t wait until Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker get to the league. For the Bobcats, building around a Kemba, MKG, Nerlens, and a 2014 top 5 pick would be ideal. Also, to speed up the process, the ‘Cats will gain nearly $20million in cap space after this year when Ben Gordon and DeSagana Diop come off the books. While the Bobcats have a few pieces for the future, it’s just hard to get too excited about a team that is making 60-loss seasons a habit.
Every year a few college players declare for the draft and end up regretting their decision. Often, young players who aren’t ready will slip to the second round and be forced to fight an uphill battle of ever having a successful NBA career. However, other times it is harder to measure how poor the decision is when a player is drafted in the first round, receiving a guaranteed contract. When college prospects are gaging whether they want to declare for the draft though, they should focus on the chances they will receive a second contract, not a first. Last year, Austin Rivers was selected tenth overall, but hardly anyone would argue it was a good decision. He has had the worst NBA season ever.
Rivers has dodged criticism without a doubt, out of respect for Doc, who is among the most respected figures in the league. While Rivers managed to be a top ten pick, he has already been replaced by Greivis Vasquez, who has seized the opportunity, ranking third in the league in assists. Meanwhile, another player who managed to be drafted in the lottery, Kendall Marshall is also struggling to see the floor. Marshall was the most mature floor leader in the the country as a Sophomore at North Carolina, partly because he was surrounded by three other first round picks, but the Suns are a far cry from a competent NBA team. Running any offense through two borderline washed up big men in Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat, with absolutely insane Mike Beasley is never a good idea. This is the risk of declaring for the draft though. Being drafted by the right team is everything. No one expected Kawhi Leonard to be knockdown 3-point shooter this quickly in the NBA, but that’s what getting drafted by the Spurs will do. While every prospect would love to be drafted by the Spurs, unfortunately such teams as the Wizards and Bobcats exist and exist for the sole purpose of ruining players’ careers. Here are four prospects who would benefit from spending another year at college, despite possibly already being projected as lottery picks.