Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Open Thread: Free Agency Speculation

UPDATED 6/30/09 (7:40pm): Hawks restricted/unrestricted status update

UPDATED 6/30/09
(noon-ish): Blazers not offering Channing Frye, Johan Petro unrestricted, Brandon Bass's wants and desires, links

This will be updated and re-published as link-worthy news or speculation arises regarding possible targets. If you think I'm being unrealistic in either including or excluding anyone from this longlist, make your argument in the comments. I'm listening.

  • Mike Bibby
  • Flip Murray
  • Andre Miller
  • Gerald Green
  • Von Wafer
  • Morris Almond
  • Luther Head
  • Desmond Mason
  • Ronnie Price
  • Tyronn Lue
  • Royal Ivey
  • Bobby Jackson
  • Mario West (restricted)
  • Thomas Gardner
  • Ramon Sessions (restricted)
  • Raymond Felton (restricted)
  • Jarrett Jack (restricted)
  • Shannon Brown (restricted)
  • Shawn Marion
  • Trevor Ariza
  • Matt Barnes
  • Anthony Parker
  • Dahntay Jones
  • Quinton Ross
  • James Singleton
  • Rodney Carney
  • Marvin Williams (restricted)
  • Josh Childress (restricted)
Big guys
  • Zaza Pachulia
  • Lamar Odom
  • Drew Gooden
  • Chris Wilcox
  • Brandon Bass
  • Chris Andersen
  • Antonio McDyess
  • Joe Smith
  • Stromile Swift
  • Theo Ratliff
  • Jason Collins
  • Shavlik Randolph
  • Maceo Baston
  • Rasho Nesterovic
  • Johan Petro
  • Sean May
  • Robert Swift
  • Shelden Williams
  • Charlie Villanueva (unrestricted)
  • Othello Hunter
  • Solomon Jones (restricted)
  • Ike Diogu (restricted)
  • Channing Frye (unrestricted)

Hawks' D-League Affiliate To Be In Orem, UT

The Hawks old affiliate, the Anaheim Arsenal, moved to Springfield, MA. Apparently the Hawks needed to maintain near-maximum inefficiency with regard to location so they'll share (Ha!) the Utah Flash with the Utah Jazz.

I don't expect Jeff Teague or Sergey Gladyr to play there but maybe Othello Hunter can get another three-game stretch of experience while the Hawks are on a West Coast road trip.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Equal Time

From Acie Law's blog:
I guess it was a matter of time before it happened to me. You all read the news. Me and speedo have been traded to Golden State for Jamal Crawford.

Man, honestly I don't know how to feel. One moment I'm happy and the next I'm sad. I'm happy because it feels good to be wanted and I feel like I will get a chance to play. Lets be honest Coach Woodson never respected my game. I feel like a rookie again. Fresh new start excited for what's about to come. You can say I got a chip on my shoulder cause I do. Mark the day I return to Atlanta on your calender. I know I'm waiting for the new schedule to come out.

I'm sad cause although I didn't get to play, I had some of the best teammates you can ask for. Everyone was cool like family. Speedo said the first time is the hardest. My man Greasy (Mario West) was like my closest teammate. I wish he could come with me.
I wish he could too, Acie.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Keep It Classy, Coach

Mike Woodson:
"I’m not knocking Acie Law in any way shape or form but this kid [Teague] is what I’d call a true point guard. I gave Acie some opportunities, and it just didn’t work. That’s no knock on him as a player or me as a coach. Injuries probably hurt Acie the two years he was here, and honestly we just didn’t have the luxury of waiting on him when he first got here. We had to win."
I was of the opinion that Acie Law's upside was league-average point guard. Not great, but potentially better (and far more interesting) than running some combination of Royal Ivey, Tyronn Lue, and Anthony Johnson out there.

Injuries didn't help Acie Law over the course of the last two seasons but they were not the primary reason that Law failed here. Law failed because Mike Woodson didn't want or wasn't able to use Law in a manner befitting his skills. Law failed because Woodson didn't play Josh Childress enough in 2007-08, because Woodson never convinced Josh Smith to stop shooting jump shots and attack the rim, because Woodson felt he couldn't afford to play a rookie point guard two six-minute stints a night in the Winter and Spring of 2008 and still win a grand total of 37 games to sneak into the playoffs and improbably earn another contract to be the head coach of an NBA team that still has won only 37.3% of the games he's coached, and a whopping 51.2% of the games (not including the playoffs) over the last two relatively successful seasons.

Acie Law IV may not become a successful NBA player. That may be down to a lack of talent, a lack of health, or he may remain, to some degree, a victim of circumstance. It's hard to earn a job in the NBA. Mike Woodson didn't give him a fair shake. He couldn't accept Acie Law for the player he is so he banished Law to the bench. I think Woodson should take responsibility for that.

Drop the passive voice, coach. You and Acie didn't make it work. The franchise had time to wait for him to develop but you didn't. I'm empathetic to you wanting and trying to keep your job. You work in an almost total absence of media scrutiny. Take advantage of that. Relax a bit. A little honesty and direct speech would go a long way toward improving your reputation among the (still few) people that care about the Hawks.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Draft Debriefing

A month ago, I would have been unequivocally upbeat about getting Jeff Teague, possessor of both significant offensive talent and significant, realistic room for improvement, with the 19th pick of the NBA Draft. Last night, though, as it became apparent that the possibility existed to draft DeJuan Blair, that the possibility may even have existed to draft Blair and Teague, Blair and Lawson, Blair and Holiday, or Blair and Collison, but the Hawks ended the night with just* Teague, my excitement waned. The Spurs are the Spurs and the Hawks are the Hawks and last served as an obvious example as to why had the recent respective trades for Richard Jefferson and Jamal Crawford already faded from memory.

*No disrespect to Sergey Gladyr, but if he's ever coming over it'll be when he's not the player he is now and the Hawks are not the team they are now.

Teague's an excellent long-term prospect but I'm not bullish on his immediate impact. He does not possess the full arsenal of point guard skills. An optimist should feel free to add a "yet" at the end of the previous sentence. I suspect he'll be able to score at a decent rate from day one but while adjusting to the NBA while also constrained by the Hawks' half-court offense he's unlikely to score those points as efficiently as he did in Wake Forest's up-tempo system.

I don't think 2009-10 will be a wasted year for Teague. Unlike that piker Acie Law IV, Teague can get to the rim without the aid of something so complicated as a ball-screen and Teague is a far better jump shooter. Still, Teague is not a good defender and is unlikely to get the free pass on defensive lapses that Mike Woodson grants veterans and starters.

It's rather pointless to speculate as to where in the backcourt hierarchy* Teague will fit until free agency commences. His best hope is that he might, even as rookie, look very good in comparison to Jamal Crawford. It may not happen this year but I doubt it will be long before Teague proves himself a better shooter than Crawford, a more aggressive player on both ends of the floor than Crawford, and a better rebounder.

*Mike Woodson is lobbying against having to make adjustments:
"When we ended the season I made it clear to ownership and [Hawks general manager] Rick [Sund], you win 47 games, it would be nice to get everybody back and see where we go next season. But the way we ended the season, it was hard to evaluate our team. So to bring all of those guys back and give it another shot means a lot to me, because with a healthy team we would challenge Cleveland with the way played this season."
Last night, I pegged Teague as developing into a player somewhere between (both in terms of size and talent) Nate Robinson and Gilbert Arenas. He will almost certainly be a lead guard rather than a point guard. This morning I realized that a better comp (in a best-case scenario) might be Jason Terry, a small scoring guard who struggled as a rookie but has followed that with nine above average to excellent seasons most of them (unfortunately) away from the Hawks who too often focused on what Terry wasn't before trading him away for little return as part of a plan that came into include building around a player who's arguably no better than Terry.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

2009 NBA Draft Live Blog w/ THHB

TrueHoop Network NBA Draft Liveblog-O-Rama-Rama

A Reminder of Tonight's Schedule

TrueHoop Network Liveblog-O-Rama-Rama from 5pm.

Hawks-Centric Liveblog w/ THHB from 6:30pm.

Relevant comments to be shared via @hoopinion also.

all times EDT

Lunch Hour Ramblings

  • Draft Express has DeJuan Blair going to the Hawks at 19. Chad Ford (Insider) has the Hawks passing on Blair and taking Brandon Jennings. Both have Darren Collison going to the second round. My dream scenario: Blair falls to the Hawks, they take him, and buy their way (use Childress's rights, a future first-rounder, something) into a spot to draft Collison also. The more I think about the trade, the more appealing adding Collison seems as an antidote to Crawford's obvious and long-standing weaknesses with regard to shot volume, shot selection, and defense. A couple of weeks ago, I'd have been excited about Jennings (far from a sure thing but a great risk/reward option at 19) falling to the Hawks. Today I'm getting greedy.
  • In absolute terms, Jamal Crawford is a better basketball player than Flip Murray. Jamal Crawford is very likely to be a better basketball player than Flip Murray during the 2009-10 season. It's unlikely, however, that Crawford will be significantly better than Murray was last season.

Money: 2009-10

Assuming the Crawford trade goes through the Hawks would be within $2 million of the estimated* salary cap and $14 million of the estimated luxury tax line while holding the rights to nine players.

Name09-10 $ (in millions)
Pick #191.145
Williams (qualifying offer)7.355
Childress (qualifying offer)4.037

salary info from Hoopshype
2009-10 rookie scale from Hoopsworld

*Per this CelticsBlog post on June 3rd, the estimated salary cap for 2009-10 is $57.3 million and the estimated luxury tax line is $69.4 million.

If Childress stays in Greece, his salary won't count against either the cap or the tax once the season starts. I include him should the Hawks trade him for a player or players of equal cost.

Until they re-sign or renounce the rights of their free agents, the Hawks have the following cap holds:

NameCap Hold ($ in millions)

The cap hold exists so that teams cannot sign free agents from other teams before exercising Bird rights on their own players. (See Larry Coon's Salary Cap FAQ #30, #31, and #32)

  • I think the Crawford trade means either that the Hawks are willing to replace Bibby/Murray with Crawford/Murray/rookie PG or that Rick Sund believes he can re-sign Mike Bibby very cheaply. I admit to having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of Atlanta Spirit ponying up $19 million for a third guard. Crawford isn't good enough* to make the team appreciably better so what would be the motivation to spend more money to secure a seed between 4-6?
  • I think the Crawford trade makes it somewhat more likely that Marvin Williams is involved in a sign-and-trade that brings back one or more players (perhaps including a young-ish PG) than the Hawks give up. (EDIT: In the comments Aaron brings up Marvin's BYC issues which I overlooked. Consider this bullet point replaced byf one wondering how the Hawks plan to fill out their roster.)
  • This doesn't effect David Andersen.
  • The next Hawks move will be, like the most recent Hawks move, one that I haven't previously considered.
*He's appreciably better for the Hawks than Law and Claxton but those two played just 575 minutes last season. Crawford's league average production won't be replacing them as much as it will replace some amount of Bibby and Murray's league average production.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Further Draft/Free Agency/Trade Rumor Reading

  • Ed Weiland carries on with his position breakdowns at Hoopsanalyst: small forwards, combo forwards, and power forwards. Centers presumably to follow tomorrow.
  • John Hollinger translates European stats (Insider). The concise version: Ricky Rubio and Brandon Jennings put up lousy stats last season. Turkish center Oguz Savas translates best. Also, D'Or Fisher is a free agent and could be a decent backup center in the NBA, and, David Andersen, Hollinger writes:
    projects as a halfway decent pick-and-pop 4, but I've never heard anybody in Atlanta talk about him. Ever. Truth is he's probably not good enough to bother buying him out and bringing him over, and if there was a time to do so, it passed several years ago.
  • I'm not an extremist either way when it comes to Tyler Hansbrough but I doubt he'll be the best option for the Hawks at 19 (should he still be on the board) but today's workout story turned my thoughts to him and made we wonder if the potential juxtaposition of Hansbrough's countenances juxtaposed with that (a conscious use of the singular, that) of Randolph Morris might hold significant entertainment value.

  • Sean May's available and a cautionary example for any team planning to overlook weight and/or injury issues when drafting a talented, productive collegian.
  • Marc Stein is updating his compilation of trade rumors here.
  • Alan Hahn's showing his (significant volume of) work here.

ESPN.com: Stein: Jamal Crawford for Law, Claxton

It's still pending:
The Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors are closing in on a trade that would find a new home for Jamal Crawford.

NBA front-office sources say that the Warriors and Hawks will soon complete a deal sending Crawford to Atlanta for Acie Law and Speedy Claxton.

Warriors coach Don Nelson made no secret of the fact that Crawford wasn't in his future plans. By shedding Crawford's longer contract and by virtue of insurance payments that will cover some of the costs of Claxton, Golden State would secure a decent measure of payroll relief with the trade.

Less clear is what impact the move will have on Atlanta's forthcoming negotiations with free agent-to-be Mike Bibby. Although Crawford is not a pure point guard, he's a prolific scorer whose arrival could affect the sort of contract offer Bibby expected to command from the Hawks.
Crawford would provide a definite upgrade for 2009-10 at a cost of an additional $1.9 million over Law and Claxton. The player, not the money, leads me to believe that Mike Bibby is far less likely than Flip Murray to be re-signed. In fact, a Crawford/Johnson/Murray backcourt rotation would be something approaching Mike Woodson's platonic ideal. Hypothetical free agent signings aside, Crawford's arrival would likely continue to, if not further, limit Al Horford's role in the offense. Marvin Williams' role too if he's still here.

Crawford is owed an additional $10.08 million in 2010-11 to add to the $17 million owed Josh Smith and Al Horford, plus Mo Evans $2.5 million player option.

EDIT: David Aldridge calls it a done deal. (6:26pm)

Live Draft Coverage Schedule

There will be two flavors of live chat here Thursday night.
Mark your calendars, ready your quips, sharpen your analytical tools, or just stop by to see how many jokes I try to sneak into both conversations.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cold Water

From Director of Player Personnel Dave Pendergraft's interview with Hawks.com:
As much as fans are talking about the draft, and as important as the draft process is (and it is), free agency will have a much larger impact on the future of our club.
Note to self: spend time studying how players decline in the second half of their careers rather than how they improve during the first half.

Peachtree Hoops Drafts at #19

There are two (2) defensible reasons for doing a mock draft: 1) You're Chad Ford, it's your job to cover the draft 12 months a year, and, at this time of year you're on the phone 18 hours a day gathering information or 2) You get a knowledgeable fanalyst* from each team to act as GM and select the player that makes the most sense in his/her head or stokes the most desire within his/her heart.

SBNation has marshaled their resources to do the latter, and Peachtree Hoops has stepped to the podium on behalf of the Hawks:
Not sure if I am more depressed because my top five realistic choices for the Hawks are off the board or that BJ Mullens has already been selected. I feel like the Hawks have the 42nd pick right here...Considering that Jeff Teague may have earned his draft position during the first 17 games of Wake Forest season and his production fell off by mid January, he represents a large risk. But no player is a sure thing at 19. Shoot, BJ Mullens was drafted. And in Teague's case, those first 17 games were pretty dang good.
I think I'd be pretty pleased with Rick Sund doing the same Thursday night. Minus the BJ Mullens references, of course.

*Neologism or plagiarism? If it's the former I want credit. If it's the latter, I ask for your mercy.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Draft Board: T-Minus 3 Days

I've resolved the various position rankings into one long list: a draft board, if you will. I've intentionally left out those players about whom I don't have (or, at least, don't think I have) an informed opinion (Omri Casspi (Projection), Rodrique Beaubois, Jonas Jerebko, Victor Claver, Sergio Llull, etc.). I may have unintentionally left out others and reserve the right to make changes to this list in the coming days for reasons of thoroughness, accuraccy, or caprice.

Looking at this list from 1-68* it's apparent that I don't think that this is a very good draft for a team that is not 1) The Los Angeles Clippers or 2) looking to acquire a point guard with the reasonable expectation of having him provide above average production for five or six years and the hope that they get the one of the eight guys who fit the bill on that score that develops into an All-Star.

*The players are ranked in a rough sort of absolute value in an attempt to balance their potential against the likelihood of their achieving their potential.

The needs of the Atlanta Hawks were not factored in this ranking.

The differences between players shrink the farther down the list one gets. From 47 to the end, the players could reasonably be put in almost any order.

1) Blake Griffin
2) James Harden
3) DeJuan Blair
4) Ricky Rubio
5) Stephen Curry
6) Tyreke Evans
7) Jrue Holiday
8) Hasheem Thabeet
9) Ty Lawson
10) Brandon Jennings
11) Darren Collison
12) Terrence Williams
13) Jeff Teague
14) Eric Maynor
15) Earl Clark
16) Tyler Hansbrough
17) Jordan Hill
18) James Johnson
19) DeMar DeRozan
20) DaJuan Summers
21) Toney Douglas
22) Marcus Thornton
23) Jodie Meeks
24) Sam Young
25) Danny Green
26) Jeff Pendergraph
27) Jonny Flynn
28) Nick Calathes
29) Diamon Simpson
30) Austin Daye
31) Gerald Henderson
32) Patrick Mills
33) Chase Budinger
34) Wayne Ellington
35) Ahmad Nivins
36) BJ Mullens
37) Taj Gibson
38) Robert Dozier
39) Josh Shipp
40) Aaron Jackson
41) Paul Harris
42) Goran Suton
43) Leo Lyons
44) Daniel Hackett
45) DeMarre Carroll
46) Lester Hudson
47) Jerel McNeal
48) Brandon Costner
49) John Bryant
50) Wesley Matthews
51) Jack McClinton
52) Patrick Beverly
53) Alade Aminu
54) Dar Tucker
55) Garrett Temple
56) Chris Johnson
57) AJ Price
58) Ben Woodside
59) Tony Gaffney
60) Kyle Spain
61) Jermaine Taylor
62) Josh Heytvelt
63) Tyrese Rice
64) Dionte Christmas
65) Jon Brockman
66) Jeff Adrien
67) Dominic James
68) Alex Ruoff

Questions, comments, and requests for clarification welcome, as always, in the comments. Feel free to discuss the reports about workouts there, too. I don't have much to say about them as I didn't attend and likely wouldn't know what to look for were I to attend. I do enjoy teams and players pretending every single summer that showing up in a suit and tie is a valuable portent.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Round-Up: Big Guys

Due to some trouble formatting* tables, this post arrives a couple of days late. Due to the few center prospects in this year's draft, I decided to fold them in with the power forwards.

*I'm taking a loss on that score. Use the spreadsheet in lieu of looking at my tables for the purposes of this post.

Links on their names go to their DraftExpress profile and the bounty of information (both scouting and statistical) contained therein. Projections (if applicable) are by Jon Nichols at Basketball-Statistics.com.

Jeff Adrien

Adrien gets lots of deserved credit for his effort but his production at UConn mostly falls short of his reputation. Because of his constant and total effort I wouldn't rule out the possibility that he makes a roster but because of his limited talents I suspect he'll offer little tangible value.

DeJuan Blair (Projection)

As long as his knees hold out, DeJuan Blair will make your team a better rebounding team. A lot better rebounding team. Blair's OR% is 125% of the second-best OR% for a 2009 draft prospect and unlike second-best John Bryant, Blair played in the Big East not the WCC. Blair's OR% is higher than most big men's DR%. And Blair is a force on the defensive glass as well, trailing only Bryant and Blake Griffin amongst 2009 draft prospects.

Blair also scored a lot at Pittsburgh (occasional foul trouble and Pitt's slow pace hide his production to some degree) and averaged over 3.5 steals per 100 possessions. Should he maintain the slimmer build he's displayed in workouts this summer his mobility and agility could be even better and will likely improve the prognosis for his knees.

Knees...they've scared teams off Leon Powe, Carl Landry, and Monta Ellis in recent years. Blair's a better prospect than any of them. He's worth the risk.

Jon Brockman

Brockman is the very poor man's DeJuan Blair. He's not as good a rebounder as Blair and far inferior to Blair in every other phase of the game. Brockman's strong as an ox but his lack of athleticism will probably reduce him to a one-spot rebounder in the NBA if he's even able to stick on the end of a bench.

John Bryant

Bryant put up great numbers at Santa Clara but I see no reason to challenge the consensus that he's little more than Aaron Gray's number one rival for the increasingly rare roster spots reserved for third centers.

DeMarre Carroll

Carroll's rising stock befuddles me. Not that he wasn't a nice, effective college player but he never gave me the impression that he possessed either the size or the athleticism to play a significant role in the NBA at either the 3 or the 4.

Earl Clark (Projection)

If you know whether Earl Clark will succeed or fail you're smarter and more perceptive than I am. Or just a better liar. Clark can sort of do a lot of things which might mean that he could succeed in a couple of different ways (with a more defensively-oriented Josh Howard being the most optimistic and likely) or he could never develop a specific-enough skill set to earn a regular rotation spot. I suspect he's worth the risk but I couldn't quantify the likelihood of him succeeding and understand why teams would choose a surer thing with less potential reward before Clark.

Taj Gibson

Gibson really got the turnovers under control as his college career progressed which ultimately made him an okay rather than a terrible offensive player. If he focuses on what he can do (rebound offensively, block shots) he'll be a useful reserve.

Blake Griffin (Projection)

Without the size and/or athleticism advantage he enjoyed in college, Blake Griffin is likely to struggle to score at anywhere near the rate he did at Oklahoma. Had he played against Kansas either of the past two seasons we might have a better idea of what he would do against top-quality defenders his own size. Fortunately, he should be an excellent rebounder from day one in the NBA. It's an open question as to whether Griffin can't guard anyone or just wasn't asked to by Jeff Capel. His development as a defender will likely be the difference between him becoming a good player or an All-Star.

Tyler Hansbrough (Projection)

If Hansbrough can't figure out a way to score in the NBA, he won't stay in the league as he figures to be a liability defensively and a sub-par rebounder for a power forward. Between his underrated jump shot and his propensity to get to the foul line, I think he can figure out a way to score though Leon Powe with better knees is his best case scenario.

A word of caution regarding projections from college stats: No coach in America puts more emphasis on or does a better job of getting lots of quality shots for big men than Roy Williams. None of the big men who have played for him, going back to Mark Randall, have been able to score as often or as efficiently playing for anyone else.

Despite much opining to the contrary, I contend that very few college teams play less of an NBA style than North Carolina under Williams. If I'm overlooking an NBA team that pushes the tempo in the pursuit of high percentage two-point shots, please let me know.

Jordan Hill (Projection)

Had Brook Lopez not just completed his transformation from inefficient Pac-10 big man to highly effective NBA post player, I'd be a lot more dismissive of Hill's pro prospects. I don't know why Lopez proved to be a better offensive player against NBA competition. I don't know why Hill should necessarily compare to Lopez. I don't know if the league-wide preference for low-possession basketball makes projecting Pac-10 players a more onerous task. I do know that to this point Jordan Hill has demonstrated commendable athleticism, little in the way of offensive game, and no discernible defensive skills. I wouldn't use a lottery pick on him but there's a non-zero chance he'd provide nice return for a late first-round pick.

Chris Johnson and Tony Gaffney

Undersized (whether we're measuring vertically or horizontally) shot blocking specialists rarely get a real chance in the NBA. There may be a good reason for this or it may just be prejudice. Were an owner with an appreciation for the sublime to give me a decision-making role for an NBA team, my Stephane Lasme, PJ Tucker, Nick Fazekas, Salim Stoudamire bench would answer all sorts of questions no one cares to ask.

James Johnson (Projection)

I'll admit to struggling to differentiate between Johnson and his Wake Forest teammate Al-Farouq Aminu at times last season. To be brief, Aminu's the one with offensive upside and Johnson's the one who could be a highly effective player were he to accept that he does not. I love Johnson's defensive potential. I fear his lack of self-knowledge.

Leo Lyons

Lyons is a skilled scorer who never earned Mike Anderson's complete trust on or off the court. I'm skeptical of his ability to hold his own defensively or on the glass, but, should he prove me wrong he could have a decent career as a scoring big man off the bench.

BJ Mullens (Projection)

It may just be the result of a rounding and does not come close to meeting the standard of statistical significance but BJ Mullens (0.87) averaged fewer assists per 100 possessions last season than Hasheem Thabeet (0.88). Thabeet attempts to make up for this by blocking shots and rebounding. Mullens attempts to make up for this by turning pro before all 30 teams wise up and don't consider him reasonable use of a first-round pick.

There is no evidence that BJ Mullens will be a contributor to an NBA team while still on his rookie contract. I fail to see the argument for drafting him.

Luke Nevill

Simply not athletic enough to play in the NBA, a fact that's obvious whether you're watching him play or just perusing the OR% and S/100 columns in the spreadsheet.

Ahmad Nivins

Drafting Nivins would be excellent use of a second-round pick. He's not the most skilled offensive player but he gets to the line a ton (more often than Hansbrough last season) and rebounds effectively on both ends of the court. His ability to guard one or both post positions will likely determine whether his professional basketball career takes place in America or in Europe.

Diamon Simpson

I regret not being first to the Diamon Simpson party but I've been waiting to tout him every since I came across his rebounding and defense numbers while trying to figure out what Patty Mills had done* to maintain the excitement generated by his performances for Australia.

*Answer: little.

Simpson breaks the promising barrier of three blocks and three steals per 100 possessions, rebounds both ways, and stands the greatest chance of providing Luc Richard Mbah a Moute-type value (though likely without the ability to guard as many positions) to an NBA team in the 2009-10 season.

Goran Suton

Only if you miss Matt Bullard. I'm not judging you if you do.

Hasheem Thabeet (Projection)

Were it not for Jim Calhoun's bizarre compulsion to insist that Hasheem Thabeet is something that he's not (a useful offensive player) I suspect it would be easier for media types to see Thabeet for what he is: a tall guy with the potential to block, alter, and rebound enough shots that he might make up for his obvious and likely permanent limitations. For the right* team, Thabeet could provide significant value perhaps every validating a top 5 pick.

*One with a sufficient number of high volume, reasonable efficiency scorers

1) Blake Griffin
2) DeJuan Blair
3) Hasheem Thabeet
4) Earl Clark
5) Tyler Hansbrough
6) Jordan Hill
7) James Johnson
8) Diamon Simpson
9) Ahmad Nivins
10) BJ Mullens
11) Taj Gibson
12) Goran Suton
13) Leo Lyons
14) DeMarre Carroll
15) Brandon Costner
16) John Bryant
17) Alade Aminu
18) Chris Johnson
19) Tony Gaffney
20) Josh Heytvelt
21) Jon Brockman
22) Jeff Adrien

Hoopsanalyst Draft Preview

Simply the best draft preview year-in and year-out.

Point Guards
Shooting Guards
Combo Guards

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Marvin Williams v. Caron Butler

Mark Bradley:
Marvin Williams is the least essential Hawks starter. He scores points and takes rebounds but seems to leave no imprint on games, and one of the reasons Joe Johnson gets the ball with three seconds on the shot clock — or, worse, Josh Smith gets it 25 feet from the hoop — is that Marvin, four years a pro, still won’t assert himself.

I want to see Marvin not assert himself elsewhere next season. I want the Hawks to re-sign him — he’s a restricted free agent — and ship him and Acie Law to Washington for Caron Butler and Javaris Crittenton. The Wizards are looking to cut salary, so that part would work for them, and they’re also looking to get younger. Williams turns 23 on Friday; Butler is 29.

Butler is a small forward with deep range and — key point — a ton of self-assurance. He wants the ball when the clock’s ticking low. He averaged 20.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists last season to Marvin’s 13.9, 6.3 and 1.3.
Now, Mr. Bradley has access to the team and the players that I do not share so I acknowledge the possibility that he knows things I do not about the internal workings of the team. Marvin Williams may well ask Mike Woodson not to run any plays for him if Joe Johnson is healthy*.

*Completing this thought, Marvin was clearly comfortable asserting himself in Johnson's absence on two occasions last season to beneficial effect for the club.

Thus, the difference between Butler and Williams is largely one of opportunity. Their career efficiency stats:


Outside of Butler's far superior assist rate, there's little differentiating these two per opportunity. Considering the possibility that, at 22, Marvin Williams 2008-09 three-point shooting (35.5% in 155 attempts) represents a new level of true talent where Butler, who has made less than 32% of his threes in five of seven NBA seasons (including two of his four in Washington) through the age of 28, is unlikely to improve to a similar degree in that respect and that Williams' FT Rate is significantly better than Butler's (34.6 v. 27.7) despite Butler's excellent free throw percentage (85.2% for his career) it's fair, I contend, to assume that Williams is more likely to score efficiently going forward even before accounting the circumstances* in which they compiled their numbers to date.

*Butler as a key component of Eddie Jordan's motion offense; Williams as an afterthought in Mike Woodson's motionless offense.

The difference between the two is opportunity. Again, career stats for both:


Personally, I'd prefer the younger guy who gets to the free throw line more often, is a better rebounder, and has greater range better to complement the two young frontcourt players (Al Horford and Josh Smith*) who need more touches in the post. Which isn't to say that it's vital the Hawks keep Marvin Williams just that he still possesses enough potential that exchanging him for a slight upgrade at the small forward position (which is likely the easiest position at which to find a relatively cheap complementary player) rather than acquiring a young point guard or a big man who can defend and rebound is unlikely to make enough difference in the short term to outweigh the risk that Marvin Williams' value (both on-court and trade value) may be on the cusp of increasing.

*Bradley, yesterday afternoon: "If the Hawks trade Josh, they lose me. (Unless it’s for Kobe.)" I think he's on board with my premise in that regard.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

No Josh Smith News...I Think

It began with Chad Ford (Insider):
The big trade rumor flying around (if you're already tired of the Shaq-to-Cleveland talk) centers on the Hawks' Josh Smith. Several league sources told ESPN.com that the Hawks have been working hard the past few weeks to see whether they can find a taker for Smith.
Interesting, but certainly lacking in specifics which, I guess, is what makes it a rumor.

Sekou Smith addresses Smith's trade kicker that Ford mentioned further down in his piece as something that would seriously preclude trading Smith, something that makes me question the "working hard" part of rumor:
Normally, I’d take my garbage extinguisher and put down a silly, Hawks-related rumor before it starts burning. But not this one.

Even if the Hawks haven’t formally chatted up teams about the prospect of trading Smith, I know it’s been discussed internally. And here’s another warning, all those wanting to vote Smith off the island better be careful what you wish for. Aside from this being a win all the way around for Smith (if anything were to happen he’d get the $6 million, a move to a potentially better situation and he’d rid himself of all those folks groaning every time he does anything other than dunk or block a shot), it’s a huge gamble for the Hawks. There’s no way you move a player as young and talented as Smith without getting someone equally young and talented in return.

And Ford is absolutely right about one thing, there are plenty of teams that would love to snatch him away from the Hawks and plant him on their frontline for the next five to seven years and see just how much better he’ll get in that time.

I say this after having numerous conversations last summer and all season long with scouts and executives from teams around the league wondering just how good Smith might be if he played in another system (no one has ever seen him anywhere but in a Hawks uniform).
I've little doubt that Josh Smith draws more interest from other teams than anyone else on the Hawks' roster and, with the Hawks' roster both shallow and in flux, Rick Sund needs to keep all his options open. I don't think it's completely implausible that there's a team willing to take the one-time cash hit to acquire Smith, his reasonable contract, and his presumably untapped potential for a package that would make the Hawks better. I think it's unlikely but I may still be operating under the influence of an outsized notion* of Smith's potential.

*Though I think I'm closer to the truth than Jeff Schulz's inaccurate and incomplete attempt to list Smith's good qualities:
An enterprising reporter (work with me here) from the Entertainment Sports Programming Network reported that the Hawks have been working hard to find a taker for Smith – because, you know, you really have to labor to get somebody interested in a young player who can rebound, sky and run the floor, knucklehead tendencies notwithstanding.
Smith's limitations as a rebounder have been covered exhaustively in this space, "sky"-ing has a limited relationship to basketball skills (consider that a Mario West reference), running the floor is a fair cop, but Smith's value is overwhelmingly due to his shot blocking in particular and help-side defense in general--an odd thing to leave out of an argument against trading Smith, though perhaps not as odd as the cutie-pie swipe at Chad Ford from hard-hitting reporter Jeff "Scoop" Schultz.

What's most interesting to me about this story (if one ignores the low threshold for breaking Hawks news) is the implicit suggestion that there may not be a significant trade market for Joe Johnson thus the Hawks may not be able to use Johnson and his expiring contract to improve the team's future prospects. On the one hand, that's a little disappointing. On the other, I can't complain about anything that bring the heavy hand of reality to bear on the elements of the organization operating under the delusion that Joe Johnson is a player to build around.

EDIT: Chad Ford mentioned in his chat today that Smith's trade kicker is $7.2 million not $6 million. (5:09pm)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Small Forwards

I recognize the need to pick up the pace lest solid arguments arise regarding the rather arbitrary assignation of singular positions to these draft prospects. I don't know if Tyreke Evans will play the majority of his career at the point or at shooting guard. I don't remember why I originally put Danny Green and Josh Shipp with the small forwards rather than the shooting guards and I'm dissatisfied with Jeff Pendergraph being assigned to any positional group. If he succeeds in the NBA it'll be by playing like Jeff Pendergraph not by playing "small forward" or as an "undersized power forward" in the manner of anyone else.

College players only in this post, their 2008-09 stats below. Nine small forwards are under consideration (Chase Budinger, Austin Daye, DeMar DeRozan, Danny Green, Paul Harris, Jeff Pendergraph, DaJuan Summers, Terrence Williams, and Sam Young)

First, shooting and scoring:


Next, assists and turnovers:


Finally, defense and rebounding:


Now, player-by-player opinions. Links on their names go to their DraftExpress profile and the bounty of information (both scouting and statistical) contained therein. Projections (if applicable) are by Jon Nichols at Basketball-Statistics.com.

Chase Budinger (Projection)

It's tempting to give Budinger the benefit of the doubt for some of his apparent passivity at Arizona. It's probably been a pretty miserable place to play the last two years and was certainly not what he signed up for three years ago. Whatever sympathy circumstances beyond his control engenders they can't overcome the very real doubts surrounding who Budinger could conceivably defend in the NBA so ultimately he's just a guy who can shoot and an underrated passer who hasn't been able to translate his athletic gifts into competent defense or above average rebounding.

Austin Daye (Projection)

Austin Daye has the game of a finesse rather than an athletic power forward (Positives: good jump shot, good defensive rebounder, blocks a lot of shots from the help side; Negatives: struggles to finish in traffic, very low steal rate, very low offensive rebounding rate) but he seems years away from filling out into a power forward's body. The scrawny build combined with the (post-knee injury) Raef LaFrentz skill set does not augur immediate success. That doesn't mean Daye should go back to school. Another year at Gonzaga could quell the impression that his above average (but not extraordinary) athleticism and ball-handling are sufficient to overcome his improbable lack of strength.

DeMar DeRozan (Projection)

DeRozan will be drafted because of his potential so looking at the statistical record is admittedly rather beside the point but carry on I shall. Despite the middling record of production during his lone season at USC there are some reasons for optimism. His low scoring rate wasn't due to inefficiency as much as discretion. If shot creation* is a concern, shot selection (despite the 6-36 performance from behind the three-point line) should not be.

*Maybe it shouldn't be a concern. I have an untested hypothesis that true small forwards struggle to adjust to the college game because they're consistently matched up against the opposing team's strongest guard who can bridge some the athletic gap the true small forward would enjoy against similarly sized players while also using what, from one perspective, is a size disadvantage to bedevil a (relatively) high dribbler.

On the other hand, DeRozan's inability to be a factor on either the offensive or defensive glass and his miniscule blocked shot (19th of 20 small forwards in the spreadsheet) and steal (13th of 20) rates tempers one's enthusiasm regarding his athleticism. Long term, I'm more concerned about the rebounding as Tim Floyd's USC teams were famously inconsistent defensively in addition to providing (allegedly) poor value for money.

Danny Green

A team would sacrifice some potential scoring upside (both in terms of volume and versatility) by drafting Danny Green instead of Wayne Ellington but I'm not sure that Green isn't an equally valuable player (with a more specific and certain skill set) who would likely provide a far greater return on the investment of a second-round pick than Ellington will on a first-round pick.

Green will strictly be a catch-and-shoot guy offensively as he mostly was at North Carolina where, despite his limited offensive game, he posted an assist rate (5.4 A/100) high enough that I double-checked my work to rule out data entry error. It makes some sense that a guy without obvious high-level athleticism who breaks the 2.5 per 100 possessions barrier in both block and steals could similarly leverage skill and positioning into an advantage in another area of his game.

Paul Harris

On Harris I defer completely to the scouts. He looks like he should become an excellent defender but it's hard to make an informed judgment about that when you've only see him play for Jim Boeheim. Harris will have to earn his minutes defensively because it's hard to make it as an offensive wing with mediocre ball-handling skills and no jump shot. He's at least the player Mike Woodson thinks Mario West is.

Jeff Pendergraph

Pendergraph's range may not extend beyond this sentence and he can't create offense for himself or his teammates with the ball in his hands but his strengths are at least as extreme as his weaknesses and he should provide good value for a team that can afford to use an undersized power forward or a range-deficient small forward off the bench.

What's most impressive about Pendergraph is his understanding of his limitations and his refusal to conform to a traditional role in any way that would increase exposure of his weaknesses. He can't create his own shot off the dribble so he moves without the ball both before and after a shot attempt to get in position to be an offensive threat should he touch the ball. He overcomes his lack of range by never taking a shot outside his range and thus he shot 66% from the floor last season. Beyond taking good shots, he attacks the basket when doing so and gets to the free throw line* a lot. Strong but not especially tall, Pendergraph refrains from taking chances on the ball defensively and uses quickness and positioning to challenge shots and get into good defensive rebounding position.

*That he shot 77.9% from the line last season and over 76% for his career might be reason for optimism regarding expanding his range.

There's no false hustle in Pendergraph's game. He'll earn every bit of fan-favoriteness that comes his way and could challenge Shane Battier for doing the most tangible things per minute that announcers will assure you are intangibles.

DaJuan Summers

DaJuan Summers' appeal is obvious. He's a physical specimen who appears completely proportional (not unlike Joe Johnson). He's capable of scoring inside and out. His demonstrated preference for the latter may be of his own volition or of Georgetown's offense. He should be able to defend more than one position adequately.

DaJuan Summers' limitations are obvious. He's more impressive standing still (which he does too often) than when he is when moving. He's a black hole offensively. He can't create his own shot. He hasn't demonstrated the ability to guard the ball on the perimeter. He isn't a good enough rebounder not to be a defensive liability at the four once a shot goes up.

Summers could blossom off the bench for a coach that defines a role for him while helping him work on his weaknesses. For an impatient coach who fails to settle in his own mind how best to use Summers, DaJuan might consider Julian Wright's experience playing for Byron Scott something to envy.

Terrence Williams (Projection)

Terence Williams isn't an inherently limited offensive player but combining poor shot selection with infrequent trips to the free throw line is a good way to create that impression. If Williams can improve either of those facets of his game it will allow his offensive strengths (excellent passer, above-average ball-handler, above-average shooter when under control) to come to the fore and complement his great defensive potential. Like Daequan Cook and Brandon Rush in the last two draft classes, Williams augments his on-the-ball defense with an unusual and inexplicable proficiency on the defensive glass.

Sam Young

I fully expected Sam Young to be a steal at the end of the first or top of the second round of this draft. His rise up the draft board reminds me of a less extreme version of Shelden Williams' transformation from "good role player" to "lottery pick." I suspect that, like Williams, Young will appear much less of a physical specimen once he's alongside NBA players his own age (24), a suspicion that's encouraged by his pedestrian steal, block, and rebounding rates. Combine that with what could accurately be described as Joey Graham's offensive game* and Young might over-achieve himself into disappointing someone.

*An offensive game which is extremely useful for a first option in college but may not work as successfully for an NBA role player.

1) Terrence Williams
2) DeMar DeRozan
3) DaJuan Williams
4) Sam Young
5) Danny Green
6) Jeff Pendergraph
7) Austin Daye
8) Chase Budinger
9) Paul Harris
10) Robert Dozier
11) Josh Shipp
12) Wesley Matthews

Friday, June 12, 2009

Draft Board in Progress: The Backcourt

1) James Harden
2) Ricky Rubio
3) Stephen Curry
4) Tyreke Evans
5) Jrue Holiday
6) Brandon Jennings
7) Darren Collison
8) Eric Maynor
9) Ty Lawson
10) Jeff Teague
11) Toney Douglas
12) Marcus Thornton
13) Jodie Meeks
14) Jonny Flynn
15) Nick Calathes
16) Gerald Henderson
17) Patrick Mills
18) Wayne Ellington
19) Jerel McNeal
20) Daniel Hackett
21) Jack McClinton
22) Lester Hudson
23) Patrick Beverly
24) AJ Price
25) Dar Tucker
26) Garrett Temple
27) Ben Woodside
28) Aaron Jackson
29) Kyle Spain
30) Jermaine Taylor
31) Tyrese Rice
32) Dionte Christmas
33) Dominic James
34) Alex Ruoff

Shooting Guard Wrap-Up

Jerel McNeal demonstrated improvement as a shooter last year at Marquette. A solid defender at either guard position if he can consistently knock down open shots or show competence as a backup point guard he could make somebody's bench.

Dar Tucker's future looked far brighter a year ago. His sophomore was such a debacle that I assume team's will (and should) rely far more on scouting and workouts than the latter half of his playing record to estimate his true value.

Garrett Temple profiles as a defensive specialist but there are a lot of guys who profile as such and very few of them make an impact as a rookie. (This is why Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was so impressive last season in Milwaukee.) Temple's future will all be down to the confluence of effort, execution, and opportunity.

Jermaine Taylor and Lester Hudson deserve special attention for their collegiate scoring exploits. I'm skeptical about either guy making an impact in the NBA due to neither excelling at making a high percentage of three-pointers nor in getting to the free throw line. Both players posted good rebounding numbers for shooting guards while Hudson's assist total and Taylor's block-and-a-half per 100 possessions offer some hope but neither figures to be taken as more than a flyer.

1) James Harden
2) Toney Douglas
3) Marcus Thornton
4) Jodie Meeks
5) Gerald Henderson
6) Wayne Ellington
7) Jerel McNeal
8) Lester Hudson
9) Dar Tucker
10) Garrett Temple
11) Kyle Spain
12) Jermaine Taylor
13) Dionte Christmas
14) Alex Ruoff

Thursday, June 11, 2009

First Round Shooting Guards

College players only in this post, their 2008-09 stats below. Six shooting guards under consideration (Toney Douglas, Wayne Ellington, James Harden, Gerald Henderson, Jodie Meeks, and Marcus Thornton)

First, shooting and scoring:


Next, assists and turnovers:


Finally, defense and rebounding:


Now, player-by-player opinions. Links on their names go to their DraftExpress profile and the bounty of information (both scouting and statistical) contained therein. Projections (if applicable) are by Jon Nichols at Basketball-Statistics.com.

Toney Douglas

If the team that drafts Douglas focuses on what he can do (shoot, defend, create his own shot) rather than what he can't do (grow, play point guard full time) they'll get a very useful role player, his upside being something like a miniature Tayshawn Prince. Projections for Douglas should be fairly cautious as he's already 23 years old--three months older than Marvin Williams, for comparison's sake.

I doubt Douglas will last long should he slip tot he second round as he'd be an excellent complement to lottery picks James Harden or Tyreke Evans should the teams that drafted those two have kept their second round pick and I suspect a team* with a big lead guard that could succesfully play alongside a smaller shooter/defender or any team that appreciates a bargain will trade up to pick Douglas.

*I can immediately think of one that fits the bill.

Wayne Ellington

I'm more bearish on Ellington than any of his National Champion teammates. There's no doubt he'll be able to knock down open shots but his inability to create his own shot (or offense for anyone else) and his projection as a defensive liability figure to limit the situations into which Ellington could successfully fit--something which the similarly skilled and limited Jason Kapono and Kyle Korver have found out and which JJ Redick surely will sooner rather than later.

James Harden (Projection)

The part of me that desperately wishes that James Harden would get drafted by the Wizards and get to play alongside the somewhat similar Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, and (assuming health) Gilbert Arenas in a super-efficient offense made up of wonderfully unique players seems to have forgotten that Eddie Jordan won't be around to work his offensive magic but still speaks (accurately, one hopes) to the larger point that successful NBA players don't necessarily have to conform to a type--that a power forward can play below the rim and behind the three-point line, a small forward can be a scorer/distributor out of the post, and a point guard can be a relentless, powerful offensive player who shoots too much.

Harden will appear to be all elbows and knees while scoring in the paint and on the perimeter, finding the open teammate, grabbing rebounds both offensive and defensive, and, yes, probably turning the ball over far too often during his rookie season. But in time, the 19-year-old Harden should figure out what he can and cannot do and be able to use his varied skills to exploit defenses that, frankly, probably won't be designed to stop James Harden.

Gerald Henderson (Projection)

If I may be allowed a moment of candor, I don't have any confidence in predicting what kind of player Henderson is going to be. He was wildly inconsistent (offensively) from game to game at Duke failing to convince either as a jump shooter or as an attacker off the dribble. To his credit, he always played hard (and without displaying the weird, aggrieved mask of intensity so prevalent among his teammates the past two seasons) and defended well (though this may be overrated to some degree due to the generally poor defensive players he was surrounded by).

My best guess is that he continues to defend well, becomes intimately familiar with the corner three, moves well without the ball, and becomes a poor, smaller man's Josh Childress though he could just as easily become a less assault-prone Dahntay Jones.

Jodie Meeks

I think Meeks is getting a bit of a raw deal* in mock drafts to date and it may result in him returning to Kentucky rendering this argument largely pointless. I suspect that Meeks is getting knocked down both for the ridiculous nature of his scoring explosions last season and the general dysfunction of the Kentucky basketball program. Remember that Rajon Rondo was widely and inaccurately downgraded simply due to his presence amidst the poisonous atmosphere of the later days of Tubby Smith's tenure rather than any real limitations he displayed that would carry over to the pro game.

*See, for example, the first weakness listed in his DraftExpress profile: "Scoring instincts." Really? How many more points could he have scored last year had he been more instinctual?

Of course, his 54-point, 22-shot performance at Tennessee, or his 46-point, 21-shot explosion against Appalachian State in Louisville aren't likely to be replicated, and, no, he can't really do anything other than score, but such outsized performances aren't so much flukish as indicative of a very high skill level in the most important facet of basketball: scoring.

Meeks made more than half his two-point attempts, more than 40% of his three-point attempts, got to the line more frequently than any other real shooting guard prospect save James Harden, and made more than 90% of his free throws once he got there. He's competent off the dribble, excellent at finding space to spot up, and were it not for Stephen Curry he'd be the best player in the draft at using screens to get open.

If he stays in the draft (and I think he might be smart to do so as it figures to be The John Wall Show co-starring a miserable Eric Bledsoe in Lexington next season) he'll provide great value for a team in immediate need of scoring off the bench.

Marcus Thornton

Marcus Thornton's obvious weaknesses (ball-handling, shot selection, defensive consistency) make him less appealing in 2009-10 than either Toney Douglas or Jodie Meeks though were Thornton to join a team that helps him define who he is and what he can do successfully he could blow both Douglas and Meeks out of the water in terms of career vaule.

Left to his own devices to drift in a haze of not knowing himself Thornton might not become more than Von Wafer with some latent defensive potential. One more year playing for Trent Johnson, or even one less year playing for John Brady, would have made things a lot easier for NBA teams.

Shooting Guard Rankings

1. Harden
2. Douglas
3. Thornton
4. Meeks
5. Henderson
6. Ellington

NEXT POST(s): Second round and free agent shooting guard prospect rankings, combined backcourt draft board