Editor's Note: If you haven't already, please take the time to read Part One of this Draft preview, which serves an introduction to my method for translating NCAA statistics to the NBA and also evaluates players at both guard positions.
We're just hours away from the NBA Draft, and anticipation is building. I'm back with the remainder of my NBA Draft Analysis, looking at the forward positions and center -- we're now up to all of three of them!
I feel obligated to point out, since I noticed I didn't in Part One, that I'm strictly ranking players from NCAA Division I. As I explained in that column, the reason is that these are the players I feel I know enough about to form a rational, defensible opinion. The use of translated NCAA statistics is a major reason for this, and these do play a key role in my analysis. At the same time, it's so blatantly obvious that I shouldn't have to say statistics aren't everything, and understanding context -- particularly how a player's statistics might improve going forward -- is a necessary part of this analysis.
Jonah Keri had a nice piece worth reading at BaseballProspectus.com yesterday pointing out that the differences between statistical analysts and scouts aren't nearly as large as it has been portrayed to be by the media.
Before we move to my random thoughts for the day and then small forwards, I wanted to mention a couple of shooting guards I left out of Part One. Temple's David Hawkins is worth looking at because he averaged 24.4 points per game last season, fourth in the nation. Unfortunately, he did it despite shooting just 39.2% from the field. Hawkins is a career 40.7% shooter, and it's tough to see him boosting that number enough in the NBA to stick. Utah's Nick Jacobson has also apparently gotten some attention from the league because of his shooting ability after knocking down 43.6% of his threes last year. Jacobsen shot the same from inside the arc, however, and when you adjust for the Utes' strength of schedule, Jacobson comes out as a sub-marginal prospect. He can shoot, but not well enough to get by on that alone as I see it.
Briefly, Some Random Thoughts
I've written about 50 players for SUPERSONICS.COM over the past week, and about another 50 more (actually 49) for this set of Hoopsworld previews. I am now doing analyses of amateur prospects in my sleep. Between the Storm and my continuing Knicks roster analysis at KnickerBlogger (shooting guards yesterday), this is my busiest week of the year.
Jonathan Givony, a good friend to "Page 23", has a fun article on DraftCity.com. The key passage is this:
"Givony: So honestly, what are your weaknesses Kirk? I've been reading all over the internet that you aren't quick enough, obviously you made those people look stupid.
"Snyder: I think my biggest weakness is a lack of exposure. Take a look around this room, look how crowded every table is, people just have no idea who I am. I know that once the season starts and I have a great game or two people will be like: Wow! Who is that guy? Where did HE come from? But I've been doing this my entire life. I'm not going to beat around the bush, a lot of players in college get hyped up because of what school they go to."
Between Kirk Snyder and Bernie Bickerstaff, the NBA has officially gotten a whole lot more fun to cover. Seriously, I think I'm going to use that if I'm ever asked what I feel my biggest weakness is in a job interview. Who wouldn't hire me after I told them all I was lacking was pub?
Can someone please explain to me why the Bobcats took J.R. Bremer? They had way more than 19 guys; most of their restricted free agent selections were superfluous. At least Bickerstaff pretended to have some interest in most of the RFAs Charlotte took, but when host Matt Devlin introduced Bremer, Bickerstaff responded, "Let's just move on." I really don't get it. But I did laugh. And now to the good stuff. . . .
Player MPG PPG RPG APG FG% FT% 3P% TS% R48 Pass Eff
Luol Deng 31.0 10.5 5.6 1.9 .429 .716 .329 .490 8.6 0.19 .447
Luke Jackson 34.6 13.5 5.6 4.4 .428 .844 .389 .536 7.8 1.52 .479
Josh Childress 29.8 9.7 5.8 2.6 .424 .788 .346 .508 9.3 0.54 .452
Erik Daniels 29.9 9.8 4.8 2.8 .506 .621 .281 .527 7.8 0.75 .462
Bryant Matthews 35.5 14.0 6.9 1.5 .405 .642 .315 .468 9.4 0.05 .462
Trevor Ariza 31.6 7.7 5.1 2.0 .408 .749 .342 .425 7.7 0.51 .378
Delonte Holland 33.9 10.7 4.3 2.0 .403 .776 .305 .466 6.0 0.71 .411
Damien Wilkins 35.2 8.3 4.3 2.9 .360 .774 .289 .457 5.8 1.22 .389
Darius Rice 31.5 10.5 4.9 0.8 .362 .765 .263 .435 7.4 0.02 .394
1. Luol Deng, Duke
Sonics Director of Player Personnel Dave Pendergraft couldn't have put it any better on Monday, regarding Deng: "He’s the jack of all, master of none." There's nothing you can point to with Deng and say, "He's going to be really good at this." At the same time, there's also nothing that sticks out as a serious weakness. Deng didn't shoot all that terrifically well in college, but he was only a freshman and should boost that shooting percentage to around 45% or 46%, where he'll be more than efficient enough. (It's worth noting here that my numbers presume equal improvement by players of all ages when this is pretty clearly not the case, so freshmen deserve a subjective boost when considering their ability to contribute right away.) As a result, Deng has less star potential than some of the other top prospects, and I'd probably favor Andre Iguodala over him if position was no consideration whatsoever.
2. Luke Jackson, Oregon
I've been driving the Jackson bandwagon since the middle of the college season. Watching him on a fairly regular basis here in Pac-10 country, I was incredibly enamored of Jackson's development. As a sophomore, I hated him as a player because of his horrible shot selection and reckless style of play. Last year, as the only remaining guy from Oregon's Freddie Jones-Luke Ridnour-Jackson trio of stars, Jackson was forced to be the go-to guy for the Ducks and responded beautifully, doing a great job of knowing when to attack and when to defer. He put up huge offensive numbers despite the fact that he had virtually no help from a very poor Oregon supporting cast and was forced to be the team's lead ballhandler. Jackson is the best offensive player in this Draft class, and I'm confident he'll eventually approach a Brent Barry-type level of efficiency. Jackson could be better than Barry because he's more aggressive. Still, even I can't help but wonder if Jackson might not be a little overrated the way he's been climbing the draft boards lately, with the latest rumors putting him to Chicago with the seventh pick. I wouldn't take him over Iguodala or Deng, but I think Jackson is one of the safest picks this year.
3. Josh Childress, Stanford
I also saw plenty of Childress, including attending the only two losses his Stanford Cardinals suffered last year, both in the city of Seattle. Frankly, I thought it was a travesty -- or a traveshamockery -- that Childress won Pac-10 Player of the Year over Jackson, who was clearly far and away the superior player. Childress is a bit like Deng-lite in terms of doing a lot of different things, but standing out in none of them. Watching him play, he's not really the kind of guy who could impose his will on a game the way Jackson could. In that sense, his teammate Matt Lottich -- whose overall numbers were very poor -- was actually more frightening as the fan of an opponent. As a mid-round guy, Childress should be solid and should eventually develop into a starter, but the talk of him as a top-eight pick was pure hype.
4. Erik Daniels, Kentucky
And thus we come to the end of the NCAA small forwards likely to be selected in the first round, but don't stop reading. Last year, at a position with only three first-round picks, I ranked a player named Daniels number four and called him a "potential sleeper". Okay, technically, I called him a "potential shooter" (who isn't?), but that was a brain cramp; I meant sleeper. That worked out pretty well. Fingers crossed this year. This Daniels is one of only four players I'm discussing in my Draft preview to project to better than 50% shooting (the others being David Harrison, Nigel Dixon, and Emeka Okafor). He shot 58.1% last year, which is awesome. After playing inside at Kentucky, Daniels will have to take his game more to the perimeter, but I like his chances. There's some worry about his ballhandling ability at the three, but that doesn't show up statistically. Scouting reports praise his basketball IQ, and I always favor smart players. In my book, Daniels would be a great sleeper second-round pick (and an even better pickup as an undrafted rookie).
5. Bryant Matthews, Virginia Tech
Matthews put up some strong numbers for the Hokies last season; his 22.1 ppg ranked him 11th in the nation on a team that desperately needed the scoring. Like Daniels, Matthews will have to move his game outside, and he hit enough threes (31) last year to indicate the shooting aspect of that shouldn't be a major problem. I guess whether you like Matthews fundamentally depends on how much you think his efficiency will improve playing a smaller role in the NBA than the go-to guy one he played in college. I can't say I'm hugely optimistic, though Matthews is still a solid second-rounder.
6. Trevor Ariza, UCLA
Matthews basically concludes the guys I think will be in the NBA next year -- or, more accurately, should be in the NBA next season. Beyond that, Ariza gets the nod over a bunch of small forwards who aren't that good in that at least he's young and has the potential to improve. It was laughable for Ariza to declare for the draft after averaging just 11.6 ppg on a bad UCLA team, but he's a good defender with some definite potential. It would be a good idea to draft him and try to convince him to go overseas for a couple of years.
7. Delonte Holland, DePaul
For what it's worth (nothing), Holland is a product of the same JC, Vincennes, as Shawn Marion. He was a solid NCAA player, but nothing about him stands out at the NBA level. I only rank him this high because, in Sports Guy terms, while he doesn’t bring anything, he also doesn't take anything off the table.
8. Damien Wilkins, Georgia
Gerald's son and Dominique's nephew has gotten some NBA attention after a strong Chicago camp where he averaged 16.7 ppg, second in camp to Andre Emmett. In my book, those three games pale in importance compared to the 30 Wilkins played for Georgia last season, and he simply wasn't that good in them. Wilkins is an NBA-caliber ballhandler at the three, but his other skills don't measure up.
9. Darius Rice, Miami
There was once a time when Rice was considered a possible first-round pick, but that has long passed. He was pretty good as a junior, but wasn't nearly as good last year, and the time to be considering his potential is nearly gone. Rice is considered a good outside shooter, but hit just 30.6% of his attempts from downtown as a senior. That pass rating, incidentally, is not a typo. He was that bad as a senior.
Player MPG PPG RPG APG FG% FT% 3P% TS% R48 Pass Eff
Emeka Okafor 32.4 11.9 9.1 1.0 .512 .512 .000 .522 13.5 0.03 .493
Kris Humphries 34.1 13.7 7.9 0.7 .378 .721 .303 .441 11.0 0.01 .378
Jaime Lloreda 34.5 11.3 9.1 1.4 .497 .529 .000 .515 12.7 0.04 .447
Jackson Vroman 30.7 9.3 7.6 2.3 .485 .502 .100 .495 11.9 0.70 .450
Arthur Johnson 31.7 11.2 6.0 1.1 .475 .644 .000 .507 9.1 0.04 .456
Cory Violette 29.6 8.7 6.2 1.4 .466 .721 .333 .504 10.1 0.50 .443
Andre Brown 32.2 8.9 7.2 0.3 .482 .471 .000 .491 10.8 0.03 .423
Matt Freije 29.9 12.0 4.3 0.9 .368 .777 .317 .473 6.8 0.05 .445
Pape Sow 32.2 10.2 7.3 0.8 .404 .633 .278 .464 10.9 0.09 .418
Justin Reed 33.5 12.0 5.8 1.4 .402 .713 .207 .455 8.3 0.26 .411
Player MPG PPG RPG APG FG% FT% 3P% TS% R48 Pass Eff
Kyle Davis 21.9 4.1 5.2 1.3 .376 .585 .333 .418 11.4 0.54 .399
Herve Laminza 31.0 8.7 6.0 1.8 .349 .686 .250 .412 9.3 0.49 .391
Marcus Douthit 29.7 5.2 4.7 2.2 .384 .763 .000 .443 7.5 0.79 .383
1. Emeka Okafor, Connecticut
Really, unless I was a doctor, there isn't much insightful I can say about Okafor by this point. Scouts and the numbers are in complete agreement that he is the real deal if he stays healthy. Back problems are always a concern and he may not fit the timetables of some teams, but I'd take him number one in a heartbeat. For a deeper statistical look at Okafor, check out How Good is Emeka Okafor?
2. Kris Humphries, Minnesota
In all likelihood, Humphries will be the only other college power forward selected in the first round, and despite his crappy translated statistics, that's completely legitimate. It is a misuse of statistics when people go around pointing out that Humphries averaged 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds) as a freshman, as if all 20 and 10 seasons are made equal and the facts that Humphries played a rather high minutes total and shot incredibly poorly for a college big man (44.4%) don't matter. Humphries wasn't nearly as good as those two numbers make him look, but he was also a freshman playing on a dismal team and regularly getting double- and triple-teamed, so he's also not nearly as bad as the 37.8% translated field-goal percentage would make it look. I don't expect him to be particularly efficient next season, but he's got a good chance to shoot at least 40% from the field and has a chance to continue to improve. Measuring in at 6-10 was a boon for Humphries, but he seems to have lost that momentum in the mock drafts and is expected to go around pick 20, by which point he'd be good value.
3. Jaime Lloreda, LSU
There are a bunch of similar power forwards here, bunched at potentially the top of the second round. Of them, I narrowly favor Lloreda. After my draft coverage last year, a reader e-mailed me to suggest the idea of favoring guys who led the NCAA in rebounding. As a general rule, this is silly, but it's worked out pretty well lately with Reggie Evans and Brandon Hunter, a couple of great values (Evans went undrafted; Hunter was the 56th pick). Lloreda didn't quite lead the NCAA in rebounds -- he was second behind Paul Milsap of Louisiana Tech, who is not apparently on the NBA's radar but is actually an interesting prospect statistically despite his 6-7 height -- but close enough. Like Evans, Hunter (and Milsap), Lloreda is undersized, measuring in at 6-8.5 in shoes in Chicago. Still, he's not that that small for a power forward, and he's both a good rebounder an and efficient scorer. Anywhere in the second round, he makes a nice pick.
4. Jackson Vroman, Iowa State
Vroman is someone who wasn't on the NBA's radar at the end of the college season, possibly because he doesn't look much like an NBA player. His official headshot makes him look like a member of a boy band, not a power forward. Anyways, Vroman got an invite to Portsmouth because the Tournament chairman liked the way he played, and ended up playing great there. He was great in Chicago too, shooting 61.9% from the field. In this case, Vroman's post-season performance has allowed scouts to see what the numbers indicated all along, that Vroman can play at this level. He has good height for a power forward, though he's a little on the light side, and has no glaring statistical weaknesses. Vroman plays hard and with great energy, and it's hard to believe that combination won't allow him to stick in this league.
5. Arthur Johnson, Missouri
There was a time this season when I looked at Johnson and thought he could be this year's Dan Gadzuric. The problem with this idea is that, at 6-8.5, Johnson almost certainly can't play center in the NBA for anything but brief stretches. At power forward, his ability isn't as unique. Still, an argument could be made for ranking Johnson higher based on his scoring ability. He shot an outstanding 54.8% from the field last season as a key guy in Missouri's offense. Johnson's rebounding is his biggest downside; only a couple of power forwards in this group have worse translated rebounding rates.
6. Cory Violette, Gonzaga
By this point, we're hitting the middle to the bottom of the second round, and just making a team is becoming an accomplishment. Given those relatively low expectations, Violette wouldn't be a bad pick. He's a mistake-free player who shot 55.5% from the field as a senior and is also a pretty good rebounder. The depth on his Gonzaga team and foul trouble kept Violette from putting up bigger numbers, but he was a solid player in college.
7. Andre Brown, DePaul
Brown is garnering some second-round consideration, with good reason. He shot 57.0% from the field last season (although just 48.2% from the free-throw line) and pulled down 9.2 rebounds per game. Brown once pulled down 27 rebounds in a game to set the Conference USA record, and rebounding will be his calling card at the NBA level. It would help if he could make his free throws even a little bit.
8. Matt Freije, Vanderbilt
It's tough to rank Freije, since he's apples and oranges compared to most other college power forwards. Freije is a neo-Matt Bullard, shooting 174 threes last year, and he did average 18.4 points per game. However, Freije's three-point percentage was not that good (35.6%), and he'll have to improve to justify a spot in the rotation. He is also a poor rebounder by virtue of the time he spends on the perimeter, averaging just 5.4 rebounds per game. Still, odds are he'll find an NBA spot somewhere.
9. Pape Sow, Cal State Fullerton
Sow was another guy who played well at Chicago, averaging 7.7 rebounds per game, which was third amongst all players. Sow was a quality college player, but the strength of schedule factor drags down his numbers to marginal for the NBA. He's got a shot, but it's likely he goes the undrafted route, and rightly so.
10. Justin Reed, Mississippi
Reed led the SEC in scoring, but that's really about all he's got going for him. He was awfully inefficient while doing so and isn't a particularly great rebounder. Reed didn't play in Chicago, so his chances of being drafted seem pretty low. I can't say I disagree.
11-13. Kyle Davis, Auburn; Herve Laminza, Rutgers; Marcus Douthit, Providence
Three guys with something in common: The only reason they're worth NBA consideration is their shot-blocking ability. Respectively, they averaged 5.5, 4.8, and 5.1 blocks per 48 minutes last season. One of my uncompromising NBA theories is that nobody is good enough at blocking shots to get by on that skill alone. (I tentatively have named this "The Jim McIlvaine Postulate"). None of these guys are useful on offense whatsoever, so that's out. That leaves rebounding, and Davis is an okay rebounder. The other two guys fail to reach even that mark. Alas, Laminza and Douthit have been mentioned as second-round picks, while the only reason I've ever heard of Davis is because the Sonics worked him out and I had to write a one-sentence synopsis about him. That could just be because the SEC is the major NCAA conference I follow the least; Davis is the second-leading shot blocker in conference history behind some guy named Shaquille O'Neal.
Player MPG PPG RPG APG FG% FT% 3P% TS% R48 Pass Eff
Rafael Araujo 29.8 12.1 7.9 1.2 .495 .708 .244 .539 12.8 0.04 .487
David Harrison 31.6 11.6 6.9 0.9 .539 .531 .000 .552 10.5 0.01 .478
Nigel Dixon 25.1 9.7 7.7 0.4 .554 .407 .000 .538 14.8 0.02 .455
1. Rafael Araujo, BYU
I've been going back and forth on Araujo for a couple of weeks now, and I'm not sure I'm going to make up my mind on his potential until he's played a couple of NBA seasons. Really, this is a case of conflict between general principle and evaluating players individually. Araujo's stats come out great (the strength of schedule adjustment hurts him less than you'd think; BYU actually played a pretty solid schedule), and I was impressed when I watched Araujo play, especially in the Cougars' loss to Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament, which Araujo nearly turned into a win. The biggest downside I saw with Araujo at the collegiate level was his fouling, but that's not really as much of an issue in the NBA (because foul trouble is less common in general, and also because he wouldn't be so far superior to his backup). On the other hand, I concluded last year that, "Given the salaries paid to lottery picks, teams are almost better off forfeiting their picks or trading them for second-rounders than they are taking a center after pick three." John Hollinger has found similar results with centers drafted between about picks 4-19. Can Araujo buck the trend? I'm reasonably optimistic, but there's a part of me that doubts.
2. David Harrison, Colorado
With the exception of some amazingly mediocre rebounding, Harrison's numbers are great. I'll take 53.9% shooting with some blocked shots any day. Pendergraft has raved about Harrison's work ethic. So why did so many people mention Harrison a probable bust in the unscientific study conducted by David Locke of the Seattle P-I? Work ethic and character, my friends. It seems to me there are a lot of big guys like that, with Loren Woods, Brendan Haywood, and Brian Cook fitting the mold in recent years. On Woods, the doubters were right; on Haywood, they were wrong. The jury is still out on Cook, though he looked pretty good when he did get a chance this season, and I'm expecting to eat some crow on him. So maybe that concern is overblown. In the first round, Harrison is a bit of a gamble. In the second-round, with little to no risk, he's a no-brainer.
3. Nigel Dixon, Western Kentucky
A sleeper? Dixon played last year for the Hilltoppers after spending three years at Florida State, and he had a great year, leading the NCAA with 67.8% shooting from the field. Even after adjusting downward for the typical percentage loss (as well as Western Kentucky's poor strength of schedule), Dixon's 55.4% translated shooting is still the best of anyone I've looked at. The same is true of his rebound rate, which would have ranked him 14th amongst NBA regulars last season. There's more to basketball than scoring and rebounding, and Dixon isn't as good there. He turned the ball over on 23% of his possessions last year, which is just awful for a big man, and his translated free-throw percentage would make him a serious threat to Chris Dudley as the worst bricklayer in NBA history at the stripe. There's also a question of whether the strength of schedule adjustment I'm using is accurate for a player like Dixon, who simply physically overmatched his competition in the Sun Belt Conference. (The counter-argument there being that Dixon more than held his own against Western Kentucky's three big-time opponents, Auburn, Mississippi State, and Louisville, averaging 13.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in 21.3 minutes and shooting 18-for-28 from the field.) As a second-round gamble, you could do a lot worse than seeing if Dixon can have Robert Traylor's career.
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