Wednesday, June 22, 2005

2005 NBA Draft Preview

I'm ignoring all the international players and most of the high school kids out of ignorance. I'll wait to provide my speculations on them until I see 20 seconds of grainy videotape on Tuesday night. Individual analysis in alphabetical order, followed by some rankings.

I do think the new CBA, especially the expansion of the D-League into a true minor league, will encourage teams to take risks with their second round picks as they won't have to relinquish their rights to American players who aren't yet ready to play in the Association. Thus, more four-year guys who project as nothing more than role players will go undrafted, hopefully benefiting from the freedom to find a situation that makes sense for them.

Yes, I'd watch minor league professional basketball.

Alan Anderson: There are going to be some decent players available at the start of the second round. It wouldn't be at all dumb for a good team to take him at the end of the first round and make use of Anderson's versatility. The early departures of Erazem Lorbek and Marcus Taylor forced Tom Izzo to play Anderson at both the point and inside at times.

Sean Banks: The new rules/procedures for the NBDL make Banks slightly more valuable. Somebody was going to take him in the second round anyway. He's talented enough to make a team, but the fallback position of retaining his rights while he plays in the minors makes him less of a gamble. He could easily demonstrate sufficient disinterest in playing in the D-League to follow Joe Forte's career path.

Eddie Basden: I'm skeptical of his defensive reputation as C-USA isn't awash with gifted swingmen. Perimeter shooting is also a concern. The new CBA could encourage more teams to take fliers in the second round and force known quantities with limited upside such as Basden into the free agent pool. That may not be a bad thing for such players. In five or six years he could be starting Mario Elie's career or be a third of the way into Anthony Parker's European success.

Brandon Bass: Bass has a good chance of falling through the cracks. He clearly lacks perspective on his relative ability. Talented yet ill-prepared for NBA basketball, his success will depend on both his own effort and luck.

Andrew Bogut: Bogut is not the most talented player in the draft. Nor does he have the greatest upside.
But he did show up in a suit with resume in hand when he met Senator Kohl. For the sake of Milwaukee fans, I hope every ridiculous quote from Milwaukee officials in that story is part of a smokescreen and they take Marvin Williams. As a potential Atlanta Hawks fan, I hope the Bucks take Bogut. Bogut won't be a bust, but he will be perceived as such due to his high draft position. Upside: almost as good as Brad Miller.

Will Bynum: Too small to play the two, but not a point guard at all. Nobody's really looking for the next Dana Barros, at least not in this country.

Will Conroy: Probably won't be drafted, but could be a decent backup at some point in the next decade.

Taylor Coppenrath: Coppenrath should take his shot at making the Association. I'm skeptical of him succeeding in that pursuit and would encourage him to go to Europe and be a star, but Matt Bullard's never going to have to work for a living and that's nice too.

Travis Diener: It might take a couple of years, but Diener will become a competent NBA point guard; one who can shoot and lead a team but give some back on the defensive end due to physical limitations despite his best efforts. Valuable second round commodity.

Ike Diogu: Somebody better take Diogu in the lottery. The great draft class of two years ago featured both Mike Sweetney and Nick Collison as lottery picks and Diogu's better than both of them offensively and possesses the physical gifts to develop into as solid a defender as Collison. Diogu's not just the best power forward in the draft; he's better right now and has greater upside than either Bogut or Channing Frye.

Monta Ellis: Fighting with Louis Williams for the title of the poor man's DeJuan Wagner. When people discuss Ellis' potential, please remember that he turns 20 in October. He's only a few months younger than Chris Paul. Ellis has been taking advantage of younger players and impressed no one at the high school all-star games.

Daniel Ewing: Ewing's three-point shooting fell off this year when he moved to the point. I doubt he'll get drafted and though I always liked his game, I don't see him as a successful backup in the NBA.

Raymond Felton: Felton arrived at North Carolina and quickly proved that his reputation as a scorer was unwarranted. He's improved his shooting over his three years in Chapel Hill and is ready to play significant minutes in the NBA should the team which drafts him not force into too much half-court ball. I'd take him over Chris Paul.

Channing Frye: This I don't get. Channing Frye, despite his combination of size and skills, can't consistently dominate college basketball games but he's going to be a successful NBA center against bigger, stronger, faster, better players. If the rumors are true, he'll be a perfectly representative pick for either Golden State or the Knicks.

Francisco Garcia: I hope that teams who passed on Tayshaun Prince have learned something. Garcia's game is unorthodox. It borders on clumsy looking at times, but he can play. There's no reason that Garcia couldn't be a key supporting player on a championship team within the next 3-5 years.

John Gilchrist: More unpleasant and less mature than anybody else in the draft. The new CBA makes him a much more likely second round selection than potential 10-year backup point guards Will Conroy and Aaron Miles as the drafting team can now send Gilchrist relatively risk-free to the D-League. Unless he matures quickly, he'll be a great steal or a complete washout.
Ryan Gomes: I'd rather have Gomes than Lee Nailon. Size-wise he's somewhere between the Corliss Williamson/Clarence Weatherspoon and Robert Horry/Clifford Robinson exemplars of valuable backup forwards. His upside is likely Rodney Rogers had Rogers stayed at 250 pounds.
Joey Graham: I'm more bearish on Joey Graham than most. To be sure, he's a delightful offensive player, but he never guarded anybody at Oklahoma State. Too many analysts have reflexively praised Graham's defense because he played for Eddie Sutton. Well, in point of fact, last year's Oklahoma State team struggled to guard anybody. They were the only team Kansas could score on the last six weeks of the season. Graham's athletic gifts suggest he could be a solid defender, but he hasn't demonstrated that yet. Some team might just be drafting a more athletic Wally Szczerbiak.

Stephen Graham: Joey's twin hasn't peaked yet. I think he could be an excellent bench player down the road and wouldn't hesitate to use a second round pick on him.

Danny Granger: Granger is easily the best swingman in the draft. He's been an efficient scorer throughout his college career, successfully expanding his range last season. He's always been a good rebounder as well. Why anyone would develop Gerald Green so some other team could sign him to his second contract rather than bring Granger in to contribute immediately is beyond me.

Gerald Green: I think Green will become a good player. I don't think there's reason to believe he will necessarily be better than Danny Granger but I'm always skeptical about high school players. Easily the most impressive high school player in the draft in my limited exposure to those players.

Chuck Hayes: I've always liked Chuck Hayes but he was overstretched as the first or second option at the college level. He'll never be asked to do that again, though. He might be the new Malik Rose. That's not a bad gig.

Luther Head: Luther Head will be an NBA All-Star. Among guards in the draft, only Chris Paul is a more dangerous offensive player and Head has demonstrated the ability to guard two positions competently. Head's projected to go at the top of the second round, allowing for my ignorance of the foreign players and most of the high schoolers, I can't find 10 guys I'd rather have than Head.

Julius Hodge: Remaking Hodge into a point guard is lunacy. I can't remember such a conversion working. Luckily for Hodge, he's versatile enough to be a useful swingman off the bench for an up-tempo team.

Jared Homan: Skilled enough to take advantage of an opportunity should he get one. I wouldn't surprised to see Homan dominate in the D-League over the next couple of years and work his way into the league.

Jarrett Jack: Jack is still getting better. Somebody is going to get great value in the mid to late first round. If he were a better defender, he'd be in the lottery with Williams, Felton, and Paul.

Dwayne Jones: Strictly an energy guy off the bench for as long as he can convince some team that his effort makes up for his lack of skills. It would help if got a nickname such as "The Junkyard Dog" and/or dove after a lot of balls that had already gone out of bounds to curry favor with the fans.

Linas Kleiza: Kleiza's lack of maturity as a player negates his obvious gifts. He's probably better off going to Europe than attempting to develop while on an NBA bench. There's not a coach in the league that wants a young, error-prone, finesse power forward on his roster.

David Lee: Lee's a gifted athlete who never lived up to his high school class ranking at Florida. After making allowances for playing his entire career under Billy Donovan and most of it without a point guard on the court, he'll get a fair chance to become the new Chris Andersen.

Jason Maxiell: Maxiell has destroyed most of his opponents in camps and workouts this Summer, but he's still just a miniature Ben Wallace at best. He'll have to show an ability to guard on both the perimeter and in the paint to have any real value in the NBA.

Sean May: Roy Williams got Sean May into good shape. If May can stay in shape he'll be a good post player for 10-12 years. He makes good sense for any late lottery team that either needs someone to consistently draw a double team (though May won't draw that sort of attention immediately) or play alongside someone skilled in the high-post.

Rashad McCants: I don't think I've read a report of McCants finishing a workout. He's a slightly undersized scoring guard with questions about his desire and/or health. I'd hate to draft him under the assumption that he'd play a key role immediately.

Aaron Miles: Even if he goes undrafted, I think Miles could carve out a nice career as a backup point guard. He'll never carry the burden of expectations greater than that or cause any problems off the court. He'll struggle to guard bigger point guards and make jump shots, but he can run a team effectively for short stretches.

Randolph Morris: This is exactly the sort of player that a true minor league can help. Morris obviously doesn't want to be in college but he failed to make an impact in his year at Kentucky (averaging just over four rebounds a game). He's got that much sought after "true center" body combined with the all too common lack of any idea what to do with it. Though equally unprepared to play in the NBA, I'd rather have Morris for the next ten years than I would Robert Swift.

Chris Paul: The next Steve Nash. Neither Felton nor Deron Williams possess Paul's offensive gifts, but neither have a weakness as vast and obvious as Paul's defense. In rare situations, that won't matter but it could be a public point of contention for a young player on a bad team in the short term.

Shavlik Randolph: Even before last season I was touting Randolph's potential. I have now stopped doing so.

Anthony Roberson: Roberson is also more attractive as a second round pick now that a team can maintain his rights while he plays in the NBDL. I don't think he'll ever be an NBA point guard, but he could mature into a scoring guard off the bench someday.

Lawrence Roberts: He's just not as good as Timmy Bowers made him look two years ago. Roberts will have to remake himself as a rebounder/defender to earn the league minimum.

Nate Robinson: Robinson will be a great combo guard off the bench for years. He's a gifted athlete who plays bigger than his listed 5-9, 180. Sure, there will be situations where his size will be a liability on defense, but Robinson is able to dictate enough on offense (both in the half-court and in transition) to mitigate those occurrences.

Luke Schenscher: Simply an immobile big man who can knock down the 18-footer and grab the occasional rebound. If you're in the market for the poor man's Michael Doleac, Schenscher's your man.

Wayne Simien: Simien will make most of his face up jump shots, free throws, and he'll rebound effectively in one spot. He can't guard anybody right now, but he'll probably pick up a couple of tricks that referees ignore and achieve near-competency. He could be a good role player, but nothing more.

Salim Stoudamire: I've always questioned Stoudamire's grasp of the big picture. That'll be less of a factor in the NBA as he won't have any responsibilities beyond scoring off the bench.
Chris Taft: Taft could inaugurate the following career path: first-round pick sent to the D-League, consistently outplayed by D-League free agents (Jared Homan, Chevy Troutman, Juan Mendez, Quemont Greer types), drafting team declines their option and he becomes a basketball vagabond at 22. He's gifted, but not especially skilled at this point: a poor man's Chris Wilcox.

Chris Thomas: Not going to happen.

Ronny Turiaf: Never really became a more effective scorer as his Gonzaga career progressed. Dickau and Blake Stepp left, but Adam Morrison became their go-to scorer. Turiaf projects as little more than a big body in the NBA and that body may have been diminished by injury. There should be better options available to most teams in the second round.

Charlie Villanueva: I predicted Villanueva would spend two years at UConn when he first pulled out of the draft. Thought I was right about that, I was wrong in thinking he would be an excellent college player over those two years. He was good at times, but I think he should have at least occasionally dominated the proceedings. He's talented, but I'm lukewarm about his desire to do much besides shoot jump shots.

Tiras Wade: Good scorer and shooter, Wade also pulled down 6 boards a game for Louisiana-Lafayette. Less likely to succeed than Alan Anderson or Julius Hodge, but more likely than Kennedy Winston, Eddie Basden, Dijon Thompson, or Sean Banks, Wade will need some good fortune with the situation he inherits.

Von Wafer: A talented scorer, who, if he ever figures out how to play basketball could do so professionally.

Matt Walsh: I've always hated Walsh's game, more for his lack of control than a lack of skills. Should he harness his talents and accept his limitations, he could have Drew Barry's career.

Hakim Warrick: Warrick doesn't have a position like Shawn Marion doesn't have a position. Strong, long-armed, and athletic: Warrick can play. The team that figures this out will have 20% of their starting lineup solved for the next decade.

Martell Webster: Webster looked quite passive and content to launch threes in the McDonald's game. He might have a more diverse offensive game that I have yet to witness. Listed anywhere between 210 and 235 pounds, I'm getting a distinct George McCloud vibe.

Deron Williams: If somebody wanted to trade up to get Deron Williams and offered an extra first round pick to me, I'd make the deal and just take Jarrett Jack instead. That's a compliment to Jack, not a criticism of Williams. I think the greatest values are in the middle of the first round this year (Warrick, Diogu, Wright, Jack, May, Garcia) or the top of the second round (Head, Robinson, Anderson, Gomes). Again, that's bearing in mind my ignorance of the Europeans. Williams has an upside somewhere between Mark Jackson and Jason Kidd. That's more than worth a high draft pick, but not as valuable as getting two good players.

Louis Williams: NBA general managers, if you're looking for a young Eddie House, you've found him.

Marvin Williams: I thought Luol Deng was a moderately risky pick last year. I was wrong. Similarly, Williams should thrive in the extra space created by the depth of the NBA three-point line. I'd put Williams down the list of my Rookie of the Year favorites, but most likely to be the best player from the draft in five, eight, and ten years.

Kennedy Winston: Unrealistic expectations made the Crimson Tide season seem more disastrous than it was. I don't know if that's hurting Winston's stock or if he's failing to impress in workouts. He's a decent offensive player, but a poor decision maker and was never made to play defense by Coach Gottfried. Worth a second round pick.

Antoine Wright: Wright benefited greatly from the coaching change at Texas A&M last year. His talent was always undeniable but the program was in such disarray on the court he never could make consistent use of his skills. He greatly improved his offensive efficiency across the board last year. I'm curious as to how he'll react to playing with better teammates. He could either diversify his game by maximizing his skill as a passer to complement his scoring or he could become a useful supporting player.

Best players (I've seen) in the draft
1. Marvin Williams
2. Ike Diogu
3. Raymond Felton
4. Chris Paul
5. Danny Granger
6. Hakim Warrick
7. Deron Williams
8. Andrew Bogut
9. Luther Head
10. Antoine Wright
11. Jarrett Jack

Safe, useful picks to fill needs (some even with upside)
1. Francisco Garcia
2. Sean May
3. Gerald Green
4. Joey Graham
5. Charlie Villanueva
6. Wayne Simien
7. Julius Hodge
8. Nate Robinson
9. Alan Anderson

Worth a flyer if you can afford it (good role players/high risk talents)
1. Salim Stoudamire
2. Rashad McCants
3. Ryan Gomes
4. Tiras Wade
5. Travis Diener
6. Stephen Graham
7. John Gilchrist
8. Jason Maxiell
9. Brandon Bass
10. Randolph Morris
11. Kennedy Winston
12. Sean Banks
and David Lee, Dwayne Jones, Ronny Turiaf, Jared Homan, Linas Kleiza

Hoping your team doesn't waste a valuable pick on a bust
1. Chris Taft
2. Channing Frye
3. Martell Webster

No comments: