Friday, June 11, 2010

2010 NBA Draft: Collegiate Small Forward Prospects

Disclosure: Previous draft analysis, both insightful and woeful: 2009 NBA Draft, 2008 NBA Draft, 2007 NBA Draft preview, 2007 NBA Draft analysis, 2006 NBA Draft preview, 2006 NBA Draft analysis/live blog, 2005 NBA Draft preview, 2005 NBA Draft grades


1. Wesley Johnson


2. Paul George

3. Damion James

4. Xavier Henry

5. James Anderson

6. Al-Farouq Aminu

7. Luke Babbitt

8. Quincy Pondexter

-----1st ROUND-----

9. Gordon Hayward

10. Devin Ebanks

11. Lazar Hayward

12. Marqus Blakely

13. Marquis Gilstrap

-----2nd ROUND-----

Wesley Johnson
is a really nice player but in a well-rounded, complementary vein which puts him clearly behind Wall, Cousins, Turner, and Favors. I suspect Johnson will rely more on his jump shot in the NBA but his already acceptable defensive rebounding rate (18.3% last season) and excellent steal and block rates (3.1 and 2.8 per 100 possessions, respectively) could benefit from playing in a different defensive system.

Paul George
has more upside than Damion James, Xavier Henry, and James Anderson but there's less certainty as to what percentage of George's production is down to skill and what's due to athleticism overwhelmingly superior to his collegiate competition. Which is to say that the NBA's not the WAC, but shooting and athletic ability are still a potent combination. I don't know if George would be better served going to a team that's patient with him or one that throws him into the fire but he appears the most likely candidate to make a (deserved) late charge up draft boards.

Damion James spent his entire Junior season watching the far inferior AJ Abrams shoot the ever-loving hell out of the ball cost James money (he's always had first round talent) and is another mark against Rick Barnes. James can score inside and out and can rebound on both ends of the floor. He's unlikely to create offense for other players and is primitive defensively (again, the Barnes influence). James didn't always conduct himself in an admirable manner as Texas' season fell apart but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and chalk that up to frustration rather than personal defect.

The difference between Damion James and
Xavier Henry is that James can contribute immediately while Henry's game still needs to gestate. Like Cole Aldrich, Henry suffered from poor guard play at Kansas last season. Henry can certainly shoot but even having seen each of his games in college I have no strong opinion as to whether or not he can create his own shot. He might not know either. Then again, he's 19 and there's time for him to figure it out. Like many NBA small forwards who play that position in college and frequently match up against much smaller, quicker players, concerns about his defense and athleticism are overstated.

I prefer
James Anderson to the somewhat similar scorers Quincy Pondexter and Luke Babbitt mostly by the virtue of the stronger competition he faced. Anderson can score against anyone, is a decent passer, and looks to have both the strength and athleticism to at least fake defense at both wing positions.

Al-Farouq Aminu
will be drafted early due to his athleticism (2.7 blocks and steals per 100 possessions, 14.6% offensive rebound rate) and youth (19) rather than any belief that he's a good basketball player right now. Aminu's a better prospect than former teammate James Johnson (and was a better prospect than Johnson at this time last year, also) but figures to struggle in his first exposure to NBA basketball.

Luke Babbitt
is the toughest player for me to evaluate in this draft. He was a terrifically productive (35 points per 100 on-court possessions) and efficient (62 TS%) scorer at Nevada but demonstrated none of the athleticism that he displayed at the combine. Babbitt posted a lower steal rate than any other small forward prospect in this draft, bests only Xavier Henry (among legitimate small forward prospects) in offensive rebound rate, and blocked just one-and-a-quarter shots per 100 on-court possessions. It's not impressive to throw one's hands up and say, "I don't know," but I don't know.

Quincy Pondexter
is a younger and more athletic version of Sam Young. Both are likely to be career bench players but Pondexter possesses a slightly higher chance of taking on a starting role without inflicting damage to his team. He can knock down open shots, fill the lane in transition, and help on the offensive glass. Having played for Lorenzo Romar, any defensive talent Pondexter possesses remains latent.

Opinions of
Gordon Hayward largely rest on what chance one gives him to maintain his high free throw rate in the NBA. If he can get points at the line, he should stick around the league for a long time (assuming his 37% career collegiate 3PTFG% is more indicative of his ability than his 29% mark from beyond the arc last season). If he can't get points at the line, he'll have to figure out a way to get by with what are, at this point, seriously secondary skills. Though he appears a heady player, no one's drafting Hayward for his passing, rebounding, or defensive skills.

Devin Ebanks
can defend and rebound. Sometimes he passes well for his position. He should do so more often because sometimes he forgets he can't shoot. He was a remarkable 8-70 from beyond the college arc in two seasons at West Virginia. A good role player if accepts his limitations, a headache if he does not.

Lazar Hayward
figures to be a decent, late second round consolation prize for a team that misses out on Pondexter at the end of the first round. He's a year older, a little bit bigger, and a better defensive player. Hayward played a supporting role at Marquette until his Senior season and could reasonably be expected to transition easily into spot duty at the end of a rotation. If the Hawks go big at 24, Hayward would be a fine use of the 53rd pick but backup to Marvin Williams is probably close to his upside.

If Marqus Blakely makes an NBA roster it will probably be as an undersized (6-5, 219 but with a 7' 1" wingspan) power forward but it's not outside the realm of possibility that he possesses the athleticism to defend on the wing. 3.5 blocks and 4.5 steals per 100 on-court possessions is impressive regardless of position or level of competition. Factor in a collegiate assist rate that would compare favorably to the combo guards in this class and drafting Blakely would not be an especially cavalier use of a second round pick.

I'm giving Craig Brackins the benefit of the doubt for playing at Iowa State in a subsequent post and I thought it only fair to give similar credit to his teammate
Marquis Gilstrap who put up numbers remarkably similar to those of Brackins' disappointing Junior season. Gilstrap doesn't have the 2008-09 season that boosts Brackins' standing but he could be a late bloomer who had his development slowed by injury.

DRAFT BOARD (Guards and Wings)
1. John Wall

2. Evan Turner

3. Wesley Johnson


4. Paul George

5. Damion James

6. Xavier Henry

7. Avery Bradley

8. James Anderson

9. Al-Farouq Aminu

10. Luke Babbitt

11. Eric Bledsoe

12. Elliot Williams

13. Willie Warren

14. Jordan Crawford

15. Quincy Pondexter

-----1st ROUND-----

16. Gordon Hayward

17. Devin Ebanks

18. Lazar Hayward

19. Lance Stephenson

20. Marqus Blakely

21. Mikhail Torrance

22. Manny Harris

23. Jerome Randle
24. Greivis Vasquez

25. Ben Uzoh

26. Terrico White

27. Sylven Landesberg

28. Jon Scheyer

29. Dominique Jones

30. Sherron Collins

31. Marquis Gilstrap

32. Scottie Reynolds

33. Devan Downey

-----2nd ROUND-----


Eliot said...

As a passionate follower of WAC basketball in addition to being a Hawks fan, I have to say I disagree with your evaluations of George and Babbitt.

Babbitt has a complete offensive game. He can put it on the floor, post up, spot up. He will be bellow-average to a liability defensively, but he will be able to score right away.

George certainly has all the physical tools, but I'm highly skeptical of his ability to harness those tools. It's difficult to judge George--he played under one of the worst strategic coaches in the country in Steve Cleveland. he nonetheless never demonstrated much in the way of basketball IQ--frequently being silenced offensively and embarrassed defensively by far less athletic players.

I know it's flawed to take production from college and project to the pros, but I saw too much to like about Babbitt's game and not enough to like about George's game to agree that George will be a better pro. With Babbitt, you know what you'll get: a scorer of the bench who probably can't guard NBA 3's--a taller Kyle Korver, basically.

George on the other hand, is a complete enigma.

Bret LaGree said...

Young Eliot --

I will both defer to your superior knowledge of George and Babbitt and allow that I may be exhibiting the fallacy of overvaluing the unfamiliar w/r/t George.

Thanks for reading and all the valuable insight you've provided in these draft prospect posts.

Eliot said...

Bret, first let me say that I greatly enjoy reading this blog. I also wouldn't say I have any superior knowledge, just exposure to these players--my evaluations could well be completely off base. Having seen them play frequently in college, it's hard to shake my evaluation of these guys as college players and evaluate their potential as pros.

With this year having three potential 1st round picks from the WAC (plus a very fringe 2nd round guy in Magnum Rolle), this is the most relevant my WAC info has been in Atlanta since UGA hired Mark Fox.