2015 NBA Draft: The Young SFs

There are many reasons the 2015 draft will be one of the deepest in years. The bigs and the PGs are both deep. One of the most intriguing group of players is the young SFs. I already profiled Justise Winslow and Mario Hezonja in earlier pieces. Here I look at what I would say are the next tier of SFs, Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson of Arizona and Kelly Oubre of Kansas. All are young and talented, but have some work to do on their games.

With the SFs I look at a lot of numbers, but there are a few statistical benchmarks a prospect should hit by the time they’re college juniors. They should hit .500 on 2-pointers. They should score 18.0 P40. There is no benchmark for rebounding, but the higher the R40, the better a prospect. Anything below 8.0 R40 gets into the concern range. The A/TO shouldn’t drop below 0.6. The ASB40 should be above 5.0. That’s combined assists, steals and blocks per 40 minutes. ASB40 is a good number for SFs. A high number shows a versatile player whose skills translate well to the next level.

Because these benchmarks apply more to upperclassmen and the 3 players here are all young, there is some projection and guessing that has to be done. All players can be expected to improve on their freshman stats.

Here are the numbers:

Small Forward Prospects 2PP 3PP P40 R40 ASB40 A/TO
Stanley Johnson 478 371 19.6 9.2 5.1 0.8
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson 537 207 15.8 9.6 5.0 1.0
Kelly Oubre 497 358 17.1 9.2 4.2 0.7


Stanley Johnson, Arizona: At the end of January it looked like Stanley Johnson was going to be the SF drafted in the top 5. He had just finished off his best month, building on an already strong freshman year. Then his efficiency went south and suddenly he might now be out of the top 10. Here’s how his year went by month:

Stanley Johnson 2PP 3PP P40 R40 ASB40 A/TO
Nov-Dec 486 346 20.2 9.7 5.2 0.8
January 529 316 20.1 10.0 4.3 1.0
February 429 227 19.2 9.2 6.0 0.9
March 446 421 17.6 7.8 4.5 0.7

He did decline and in the process his draft stock went also. To make matters worse, that annoying tape measure guy discovered there was only 6’5” of Stanley Johnson (6’6.5” in shoes) which will also hurt. At 242 pounds sliding back to SG probably isn’t an option.

But seriously a lot of this is nitpicking. Johnson may be short for a traditional SF, but he has a wingspan of almost 7’. His stats did decline, but taken as a whole they aren’t that bad considering he is a freshman. The numbers are probably suppressed some due to playing on one of the most talented teams in the nation. The only negative in the final numbers is his low 2PP. While this is a concern, a sub-.500 2PP is something Paul Pierce, Paul George and others were able to overcome as freshmen.

Stanley Johnson looks every bit the solid SF prospect to me. He has some work to do, particularly he needs to become a more efficient scorer. He’s young so improvement can be reasonably expected. I’m impressed that he joined a talented team that had 2 upperclassmen with a similar skillset in Ashley and Hollis-Jefferson and immediately became the leading scorer. If he brings that same attitude to the NBA, Stanley Johnson should have a long, productive career.

Kelly Oubre, Kansas: Oubre’s freshman year was an interesting journey. He started out the year in the top 5 of most mocks. When he struggled to start the season he dropped to the bottom of the lottery. During the year he showed flashes, but was generally disappointing when compared to the hype. His stock was never hurt all that much by his inconsistent play, however, as he remained near the bottom of the lottery and will likely be selected there.

A look at Oubre’s splits shows a player whose skills were all over the map as a freshman:

Kelly Oubre 2PP 3PP P40 R40 A40 S40 B40 TO40
Nov-Dec 514 478 18.9 10.0 1.1 1.8 0.0 3.2
January 477 276 15.4 10.0 2.6 2.5 0.7 1.6
February 474 407 17.3 9.1 1.2 1.9 1.2 1.0
March 528 250 17.8 7.8 0.5 2.3 0.7 3.4

He started out with the numbers of an undersized PF. He was a solid scorer and rebounder with few other skills and a high turnover rate. In January he became a good passer and ballhawk, but his scoring dropped off. In February Oubre was a stellar defender who rarely turned the ball over. In March he was scoring more efficiently and the defense remained solid, but the turnover problem was back. At least he wasn’t boring and predictable.

Inconsistency is obviously a bad thing. But we have to keep in mind that this is just a college freshman we’re talking about here and it is best to focus on the positives. The main positive is that through the year he consistently posted strong numbers in rebounds and steals. Another one is he never had a prolonged cold spell where his offense went completely into the tank.  His passing was erratic at the beginning and end of the season, but for January and February it was actually pretty good. If he had posted his best number from each month over the entire season, he’d have stuck in the top 5 of the draft.

For that reason I feel the mocks were right in not dropping Kelly Oubre too far down the first round. When evaluating prospects I look at what they have proven they can do and what they might be expected to improve. If a player posts dominating statistics in rebounding, the assumption is he has rebounding figured out. At some point during the season Kelly Oubre was a solid scorer, rebounder, passer and defender. It was rarely all 4 at the same time, but the fact that he did post impressive numbers in each important skill at one time or another for an extended number of minutes tells me he’ll be one heck of a player if he can bring more consistency to his game.

Drafting Oubre obviously comes with some risks. He’ll be a project, but his upside is as high as any wing in the draft. He’s a freshman so the idea that he can learn to bring his A-game on a more consistent basis is hardly a crazy scenario. If he can get this consistency thing down he’ll become a very solid pro and might even develop into an all-star level player.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona: The phrase “if he could only hit the trey” seems to follow Rondae Hollis-Jefferson around. To me hitting the 3-pointer isn’t a huge concern. Many prospects with poor 3-point stats in college have become decent to good gunners in the pros. That’s a very easy skill to develop. While it shouldn’t be a given that he will develop a shot, lack of one shouldn’t stop any team from drafting this guy.

My biggest concern is that he doesn’t score a lot of points. In 2 seasons at Arizona his P40 is stuck below 16.0. A prospect needs to score if he’s a real prospect. But there have been a handful of SF prospects who became solid pros after finishing below 16.0 P40 in their freshman or sophomore college seasons:

Frosh-Soph SFs 2PP 3PP P40 R40 ASB40 A/TO
Shane Battier 652 415 15.4 8.2 7.4 1.7
Andre Iguodala 438 205 13.4 10.2 8.5 1.4
Robert Horry 436 308 13.6 10.6 6.4 1.0
Bryon Russell 448 321 15.9 11.7 4.1 0.7
Mike Dunleavy 553 351 15.1 7.1 5.4 0.8
Draymond Green 550 125 15.5 12.1 8.1 1.8
Trevor Ariza 509 237 14.7 8.2 5.3 0.6
Jared Dudley 502 316 14.0 7.8 5.1 1.3
Bobby Simmons 431 277 14.6 8.0 5.8 0.9
Khris Middleton 523 324 13.8 7.0 4.3 0.9
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson 537 207 15.8 9.6 5.0 1.0

As might be expected the list is dominated by super-role players like Battier, Iguodala, Horry and Green. The best ones tended to be better rebounders, like Hollis-Jefferson. All but 2 players topped 5.0 ASB40. Hollis-Jefferson is barely there at 5.0.

I would like him a lot more if he had posted a 6.0+ ASB40 to go with his weak offensive numbers. Battier, Iguodala, Horry and Green were all well over the 5.0 benchmark and all became the super role players such a dominant number suggested they would become. At 5.0 Hollis-Jefferson not only isn’t in their class, he barely clears the benchmark. It should be said that playing on a loaded roster probably suppressed his numbers a tad, but not enough that he should be considered a prospect in the class of Battier, Horry and the others.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson would be a risk if drafted too high. I would even be hesitant to use a late first round pick on him in this deep draft. His offense needs a lot of work. Defensively he has the body and athleticism to be a good one, but he hasn’t posted the numbers that would project him as a great NBA defender. I see him as a 2nd round long shot project.


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