The 2013 draft is shaping up as a pretty good draft overall. The strength is centers, which is a great thing as the NBA is in a perpetual shortage of quality big men. It also means the draft is going to be top heavy in big men, because they’re more valuable players. The draft will be similar to 2012 in that there is one guy who stands out, followed by a muddled group starting at #2. Like last year the top guy is a freshman center playing for Kentucky. The important thing is that while Anthony Davis > Nerlens Noel, the rest of the 2013 class > 2012 class. The 2012 class was Davis followed by a bunch of players who would have been good picks starting at about #20. The 2013 draft looks pretty deep with solid prospects. There are players I like who didn’t make the list. This is a welcome change from the last couple of drafts where I was reaching to find 60 players I liked at this point.
Another difference this January is the list is almost as muddled now as it was at the beginning of January. This is a time when a top 10 should be taking shape. Noel is a pretty solid #1, but after him things could change a lot in the next month. Players are listed in order of how I would draft them, all other things being equal, based on stats through 1/31/13
1. Nerlens Noel, C Kentucky: Noel is good and improving. He toys with opponents on defense. As freshmen centers go, he’s a great passer. His offense is getting better. Noel is an easy choice as the top pick.
2. Victor Oladipo, SG Indiana: Settling on a #2 is tough with this class. A month ago I had Michael Carter-Williams here and he had a very erratic January. Oladipo is equally shaky as the 2nd pick. He’s a junior who has posted some nice numbers his first couple of years, but hasn’t really broken out offensively until this year. Typically when juniors or seniors play over their career norms it’s a hot streak that cools off by January. That’s what happened with the likes of Fuquan Edwin and Jack Cooley. This January Oladipo got better. He was already a dominant defender, but this year his offense has been out of this world. He’s hitting .687 on 2-pointers and over .500 on treys. He’s the 2nd leading scorer on the top ranked team in the country. The pace he’s on puts him at on track to become an NBA star. The fact that he’s kept it going well into the Big 10 schedule means we have to take him seriously.
3. Otto Porter, SF Georgetown: A solid player who might even be better than his numbers suggest, as the Georgetown system has suppressed statistics in the past.
4. Isaiah Austin, PF-C Baylor: Austin stepped up his game nicely in January. Rather than a 7-footer playing a small man’s game, he started to rebound like a stud and blocked shots at a higher rate. His offense still needs work. Talented, productive 7-footers are rare and Austin looks like he becoming one of those. That makes him a top 5 pick.
5. Steven Adams, C Pitt: A solid freshman who just keeps chugging along. He’s been posting solid, if unspectacular numbers and has shown steady improvement.
6. Willie Cauley-Stein, C Kentucky: Cauley-Stein was playing great until an injury sidelined him for a few weeks. He and Noel might be the best pair of center prospects on the same team since Horford and Noah.
7. Cody Zeller, PF-C Indiana: Zeller’s rebounding has been much improved and that makes him a better prospect than ever. His offense slipped a little, but is still pretty solid. Still waiting to see the 3-point prowess he’s rumored to possess. He grades out much better as a PF than a center.
8. Kyle Anderson, SF UCLA: Anderson has posted excellent numbers in every category other than scoring. In general I give young prospects a break on offense, as it is historically the easiest skill to develop. Anderson’s offensive improvement has been a case of one step forward, one step back. Because SFs with this much ability are rare and valuable, he remains in the lottery
9. Michael Carter-Williams, PG Syracuse: Remains a dominant passer and defender. His already shaky offense fell off the table in January. Right now I’m willing to buy into his potential. I’d like to see him shoot less and concentrate on playmaking and defense. He’s leading one of the most talented rosters in the country, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
10. Anthony Bennett, PF UNLV: Bennett is a great scorer from inside and out and solid rebounder, but a weak defender. In general these players don’t make great pros. The best such player has been Glenn Robinson, a notable recent bust is Michael Beasley.
11. Marcus Smart, PG Oklahoma State: Smart is in the same boat as Anderson and Carter-Williams. He shows signs of dominance, but has to improve his offense before he’s a complete prospect. As a freshman he’s still a solid prospect. If he’s still the same player as a junior, not so much.
12. Rudy Gobert and Lucas Noguiera: A couple of foreign centers. Similar players. Both are incredibly efficient inside scorers and good shot blockers. Both come up short as rebounders. Both seem likely to be lottery picks. Right now I like the 4 freshmen centers in my top 6 and Zeller better than both these guys, but that could change. What’s news is that the impressive 2013 center class extends overseas.
13. Trey Burke, PG Michigan: Burke’s defensive numbers improved in January. This is a big deal, because as a passer and scorer there are few better PGs in the country. If he continues to crank the defensive numbers upward he could become the top PG available.
14. Ben McLemore, SG Kansas: Comparing the top 2 SGs, Oladipo has much better numbers than McClemore and is only 9 months older. That makes Oladipo the much better prospect. That isn’t a knock on McClemore, a solid SG prospect himself. It’s just that decent SGs are so plentiful that only potential stars should be drafted in the top 5.
15. Mitch McGary, PF-C Michigan: Another Michigan guy whose stock improved in January thanks to improved numbers on defense.
16. Eric Moreland, PF Oregon State: A player with very strong numbers. Moreland is a strong rebounder and shot blocker who has been hitting over .600 on 2-pointers and even has flashed some 3-point ability. He’s also only the 5th-leading scorer on a .500 team, which makes me wonder if his numbers are something of a fluke. Because this isn’t a great year for forwards in general and PFs in particular, a player like Moreland could stand out.
17. Jeff Withey, C Kansas: A great shot blocker. His other numbers aren’t special, but there are no red flags either.
18. BJ Young, G Arkansas: A talented player who has regressed some following a promising freshman year. He’s more of a PG this year after playing more SG as a freshman. His 3-pointer hasn’t been falling, but that isn’t a huge concern.
19. Alex Len, C Maryland: Len really fell off in January after a great start. His age is closer to that of a freshman, so he has a little more upside than the typical soph.
20. Fuquan Edwin, SG Seton Hall: Edwin has faded but he’s still a top notch defender who can drill the 3-pointer. That’s a nice combination for a SG to bring.
21. Andre Roberson, F Colorado: A player with a lot of skills. He’s one of the best rebounders in the nation. While he’s SF size that’s still a lot better than being one of the worst rebounders in the nation. He’s a solid defender and is hitting .406 on 3-pointers. The problem is he’s a low volume scorer and that has always been a big negative for prospects.
22. Tony Mitchell, PF North Texas: Mitchell has really slid following his break out as a freshman last year. He’s still a strong rebounder and dominant defender, which are both good things. He can shoot the 3-pointer better than most big guys and that also helps his case. But he also is hitting barely over .500 on 2-pointers, while playing for a sub-.500 team in a conference that could charitably be called mid-major. Those are a couple of big negatives.
23. Briante Weber, PG VCU: I mentioned Weber as a player to watch a month ago. He had posted dominant defensive and passing numbers, with very little offense. He had a poor January. I still feel he’s a player to watch because he’s incredibly dominant as a defender and dominance is what carries over to the next level.
24. Brice Johnson, F North Carolina: A young player with some impressive numbers. Johnson is raw and needs to put on a lot of bulk. Could go either way at this point.
25. Alex Poythress, F Kentucky: A wildly efficient scorer with pathetic defensive numbers, no passing skills and high turnovers. Generally that’s a bad combination for a prospect. The problem for Poythress is it’s incredibly difficult to improve on weak defensive numbers. I rate him high because of his youth and incredibly efficiency numbers.
26. Jordan Adams, SG UCLA: He has fallen off the radar since Muhammad arrived and became the top option. His numbers are still pretty strong for a frosh SG though.
27. Jordan Bachynski, C Arizona State: I could see a team talking themselves into this guy ahead of Withey. He’s a great shot blocker who improved his offense. He’s also old for a prospect and turns the ball over too often.
28. Kelly Olynyk, C Gonzaga: He’s something of an evil twin to Bachynski and Withey. His offense has been incredible, while his defense is lacking. All 3 look like they could become useful pieces in a center rotation.
29. Shawn Long, PF Louisiana-Lafayette: PF is the weakest position in the 2013 draft. Long is one of the more impressive ones out there. He has flashed some nice skills in his first college season, but his inside offense is weak.
30. Gorgui Dieng, C Lousiville: I like Dieng more subjectively than objectively. I’m impressed more by his defense whenever I watch him play and by the fact that his improvement is what fueled Louisville’s run to the final four last year. His numbers are good, but not great for a center prospect and he’s 23. Like the other older centers in this draft I see his high end as that of an effective part of an NBA center rotation.
31. Mike Muscala, C Bucknell: Another good, multi-skilled center. Muscala can hit an outside shot, rebounds well and defends adequately. The fact that he’s a weak inside scorer playing in a small conference is a pretty big negative. Still his many skills make him another potentially useful center rotation guy.
32. Reggie Bullock, SF North Carolina: Bullock is having something of a break out year. This was a top 20 prospect stuck in a supporting role his first two seasons, so his emergence isn’t all that surprising.
33. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Georgia: Sophomore who meets all the SG benchmarks. The biggest thing for KCP will be keep the efficiency at this level, or even improve on it. That was a weakness last year.
34. Doug McDermott, F Creighton: A great scorer, but his weak defensive numbers are a big red flag. Because he’s such a great scorer, I could see him becoming a useful NBA gunner if nothing else. But prospects with an unbelievable offense/incredibly weak defense skill set typically don’t make much of a ripple.
35. James Ennis, G-F Long Beach State: Ennis could be a player to watch. A senior who spent his first couple of seasons at junior college. Ennis joined a senior-laden team in 2012 as a junior and didn’t stand out. This year he’s taken a lead role on the 49ers and has been very impressive.
36. Derrick Marks, G Boise State: A solid combo guard. Because he’s just a sophomore there is some potential for improvement. His high steals are his most impressive statistic.
37. CJ McCollum, G Lehigh: Out for the season, which is a tough break. I doubt it will affect his draft stock much, because he put himself on the map last year with an impressive tournament performance in the win over Duke. As a prospect he’s OK, but not great. I will say that small college guards have been a tough group for me to get a feel for the past few years. I hit on Jeremy Lin, but missed on Damian Lillard. McCallum is a good defender, but has never hit over .500 on 2-pointers and that’s a huge negative.
38. Nate Wolters, G South Dakota State: In the same boat as McCollum. He’s a superstar at the small college level. He might be able to make the jump, but his numbers, while good, don’t have the look of a surefire star.
39. Archie Goodwin, SG Kentucky: He had a very inefficient January, but is still young and talented. The biggest concern is a low number of steals. He could be in a tough spot should he return to Kentucky next year. Three top HS perimeter players have committed to joining the Wildcats as freshmen next year and Goodwin may not get as many offensive looks as he has as a freshman.
40. Shabazz Muhammad, SF-SG UCLA: This is more of a nod to his hype as much as anything. As a prospect Muhammad is becoming Harrison Barnes. He’s a high-volume scorer with little in the way of other skills and unimpressive efficiency. Like Barnes he seems likely to be drafted in the top 10. If that happens he is going to get the opportunity to succeed that most players won’t, which is a huge advantage. It is also very possible he’ll plummet in the mocks like Perry Jones III did last year. Either way he’s currently wildly overhyped as a prospect and not a player who should be drafted in the top 5.
41. Carrick Felix, G-F Arizona State: An impressive player, but I’m not sure where he fits as a prospect. At 6’6” 195, he’s SG size but is more impressive as a SF prospect. He scores very efficiently, but not often enough. He’s a solid defender and is 3-pointer is falling at an acceptable rate for the first time in his career. I like the fact that he made serious improvement as a senior. That’s always a great sign for a prospect.
42. Nick Johnson, G Arizona: He’s a good defender and has shown potential as both a PG and a scorer. It looks like there’s some potential here as an NBA sniper/defender, but he needs to score more often before I consider him much of a prospect.
43. Jamaal Franklin, SG San Diego State: Talented, but erratic as a scorer.
44. James Southerland, SF Syracuse: His breakout senior season was derailed by an academic suspension. He might be returning soon and if plays at the same level upon return, he’s a decent prospect who will move up the list.
45. Reginald Buckner, PF Mississippi: He reminds me of Taj Gibson statistically. He doesn’t score much, but is very efficient when he does. He’s a decent rebounder and a good shot blocker. Definitely worth a look in round 2.
46. DJ Seeley, G CS-Fullerton: Fifth-year senior who has been lighting it up. He’s a good candidate to become a useful sniper/defender.
47. Zeke Marshall, C Akron: Marshall has gone full circle from over rated to under rated. He came to Akron with some high expectations. He was a good college player, but never looked like a much of a prospect his first three seasons. He slowly fell off the prospect radar. Now he’s playing the best basketball of his career and should be getting noticed again.
48. Khem Birch, PF UNLV: Transferred after his freshman season at Pitt didn’t go so well. He’s playing well and has put himself back on the prospect map. A transfer is something of a red flag to begin with. In Birch’s case, the fact that he blasted ex-teammates on his way out makes that flag a little bit redder. If he continues his solid play at UNLV and gets along with teammates, we can assume he and Pitt were just a bad match and it is better for both sides that he’s out.
49. Gregory Echenique, C Creighton: Echenique has surpassed every important benchmark for centers the past couple of seasons and is on pace to do the same this year. He’s short at 6’9” and is a 5th-year senior. But he looks like he has what it takes to be a useful inside banger.
50. Lorenzo Brown, PG North Carolina State: Brown is like Michael Carter-Williams and Marcus Smart, only older and not as dominant. His defense and passing are solid, but his offense is too inefficient.
51. Alan Williams, PF UCSB: A sophomore who is flashing some Faried-type of potential as an energy guy. His offense needs a lot of work, but he’s one to watch.
52. DJ Cooper, PG Ohio: Cooper spent 3 years as a good passing/solid defense/inefficient offense PG. This year he’s shooting less and hitting over .500 on 2-pointers for the first time in his career. It’s possible the coaching change at Ohio had a positive effect on his numbers. If he keeps this up, he’ll move up the list. Small player whose high end is probably an NBA reserve.
53. Bernard Thompson, SG Florida Gulf Coast: As is the case with Alan Williams at #48, Thompson is an unheralded sophomore posting some impressive numbers. Should both players continue at this level and make some improvements, they’ll shoot up the list. Such players could go either way at this point. I like to mention these guys, but should add the warning that one bad month could knock them back into oblivion.
54. Robert Covington, SF Tennessee State: Last year Covington looked like a first-rounder. This year he has struggled and just returned after missing 10 games to knee surgery. If we blame this year on the knee and look at his junior numbers, Covington would be a bargain this late.
55. Ray McCallum, G Detroit: McCallum is just a notch behind fellow small college combos McCollum and Wolters. In May I’ll sort out their prospectworthiness in more detail.
56. Mason Plumlee, C Duke: Plumlee has some potential as an energy player. The fact that he’s older than a typical senior and isn’t much of a shot blocker knocks him down to round 2.
57. Leonard Washington, F Wyoming: Combo forward whose making a case for himself in his 5th-year senior season.
58. Ed Daniel, PF Murray State: An undersized PF some team could talk themselves into as a Faried type. His strong senior season has moved him past Jamelle Hagins as the top undersized small college PF.
59. Tony Johnson, PG: A senior who is worth mentioning. He doesn’t score much, which is never a good thing for a small college point guard. He is a good passer with strong defensive numbers. As a scorer he’s always been very efficient. He seems to have the skills to become a useful reserve.
60. Arselan Kazemi, PF Oregon: A great rebounder and ball hawk. What concerns me is he doesn’t block many shots. Such a skill has always been a staple of great energy players. Still any player who is one of the top per minute rebounders in the nation who hits close to 60% of his FGs and has more steals than most guards is worth a look.
Like the Thunder trading James Harden, Memphis found that the new CBA luxury tax penalties cost prohibitive and they therefore decide to unload Rudy Gay. The calculus is more complex than just luxury tax considerations. I imagine the Grizz had to ask themselves several questions before reaching this conclusion. Let’s run though the analysis and see if we agree with logic train:
(a) What would the outcome be of just leaving the Grizz roster intact?
Memphis had a tougher call than most teams. Usually, the team making such a decision is clearly a contender or an also-ran. Memphis is exactly on the cusp between good team and potential title contender, which makes the call even more difficult (in the case of OKC, the Thunder felt that Harden was a cherry on the contention sundae and not absolutely necessary to go back to the Finals). Memphis probably had an outside shot at making the Conference Finals if everything broke right with Gay on the roster. Of course, it is also quite possible (but not likely) that the Grizz would lose in the first round. Depending on how much financial flexibility the franchise had, it wouldn’t have been crazy to let the season ride and see how far the team could go with the same core as the last few years. The fact that Memphis already was pretty set on giving away Mareese Speights and still traded Gay tells us that the Grizz have little to no wiggle room on finances and someone had to be traded.
(b) If you are going to trade someone, is Gay the guy?
This depends on how good you think Gay is and what the market is for the players who might be traded. Well, let’s look at the Grizz expensive players and look at the options:
-Rudy Gay, age 26, 17.2 ppg, .438 eFG%, 5.9 rpg, 2.6 apg, 14.3 PER (contract: two more years at $37.1 million)
-Zach Randolph, age 31, 15.8 ppg, .483 eFG%, 11.6 rpg, 1.4 apg, 18.7 PER (contract: two more years at $34.3 million)
-Marc Gasol, age 28, 13.7 ppg, ,489 eFG%, 7.5 rpg, 3.6 apg, 19.6 PER (contract: two more years at $30.6 million)
All are talented but have weaknesses. Gay’s are most evident: he is mostly a scorer, his efficiency is way down this year, and is the most expensive of the three. His shooting this year, however, may be an anomaly as he his career eFG% is right in line with Randolph and Gasol of 2012-13. Randolph is the oldest of the three and, while still good, he is down from his pre-2011-12 numbers and it is possible he might never be the dominant force he was before. As for Gasol, he continues to be a mini-Arvydas Sabonis (minus the rebounding) and is going nowhere. As between Gay and Randolph, trading Gay makes sense given his down numbers, bigger money, and the fact that his core skill (scoring in volumes) isn’t that hard to replace.
(c) What about the return for Gay?
Ed Davis is a very nice young prospect at age-23 and a nice potential eventual replacemet for Randolph (per-36 min: 14.5 pts, .549 eFG%, 9.9 rebs, 18.1 PER). For now, Davis will make a nice third big man for the Grizz and is better than the recently departed Speights. Losing Gay’s ability to create shots, though, is a gaping hole that isn’t filled by role players like Tayshaun Prince or Tony Allen. The Grizz already have the second rated defense in the NBA already, so Prince will at least keep the team at the same level but there isn’t much room for improvement in that area. Conversely, offensively, the Grizz are slightly below average with Gay (17th) and swapping Gay out for Prince could really hurt. The Grizz will have to find some sort of scorer cheaply somewhere and/or Mike Conley’s shots are going to have to go way up because there are no other perimeter players on the roster who can create shot. On the plus side, losing Gay won’t hurt the Grizz from three. The Grizz have made (and taken) the fewest threes in the NBA and are not that good percentage wise either (.344%, which ranks 24th). Gay was a big part of the problem (.310% from three so far). The more efficient Prince (.434% this year) will help but he’ll have to step up his frequency (only 53 attempts from three this year versus 129 for Gay). In all, it is fair to say that the Grizz didn’t gut their team but the Davis/Prince probably makes them a bit worse than they were before. This isn’t a bad deal considering it was forced by circumstance. The Grizz are still a playoff team and could still be a four seed after this deal if Prince can step up his scoring.
(d) What is Toronto doing?
I know Bryan Colangelo is under pressure to show improvement but this deal won’t quite get it done. Currently the Raptors are 16-30 and 12th in offense and 26th in defense. So, they traded their best young big man prospect to pair Gay, another a low efficiency scorer, with DeMar Derozan? The problem here is defensive sieves like Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon and not getting a high volume scorer. Gay won’t hurt the defense and he’s much better than Landry Fields/Mickael Pietrus types but it doesn’t fix the core problem and I’m not sure I’d blow cap room for a minor upgrade to a non-playoff team when there are much bigger fish to fry. I probably would have stood pat with Davis and tried to move Bargnani. Not a terrible move but it seems more like trying to make a splash without much thought put into whether it will fix the core issues.