The 2015 PF class is one that could go either way. There are no sure fire stars in this group and overall it could be mediocre or worse. There is a lot of good, raw talent though that could make this a pretty impressive class. The most intriguing players are freshmen and sophomores. There are several young PFs in this draft with intriguing upside, but none that look like locks for stardom. There are some interesting upperclassmen too.
One thing to know about PFs is shooting the 3 is going to become a necessity for all but the best prospects soon. That’s going to be particularly true in a moderately talented group like this where the ability to step outside as a stretch 4 could set a player apart.
With PFs the benchmarks I look for are .580 2PP, 10.0 R40, 3.5 SB40 and not too many TOs. In each case the higher the better. Numbers are pretty strict for juniors and seniors. Freshmen and sophomores have some leeway for expected development. An ability to hit the trey is good and becoming more important. For the stretch 4 prospect the benchmarks are a little more flexible.
Players are listed in order of how I would draft them all other things being equal. With this group best not to grade myself in 5 years, because down to #11 they all have things to like and dislike about them and I expect the development of the group to be surprising. Here are the numbers:
Kristaps Porzingis, Sevilla: In addition to the previous piece on Porzingis I’ll add that this piece from Yahoo speaks very positively of Porzingis as a smart, determined prospect with a great attitude and work ethic. That’s the type of thing I really like reading about any prospect. It still scares me that his numbers are in that ordinary sub-Bargnani range. But I have more confidence that he can approach his crazy upside after reading this. I’m impressed enough that moving Porzingis to the top of this so-so group seems like the right move.
Cliff Alexander, Kansas: That Alexander was suspended from Kansas late in the season due to alleged recruiting violations obscures the fact that he checked in with a pretty solid freshman year. Coming out of high school he was the highest ranked PF in the 2014 graduating class. He tops fellow freshmen Looney and Lyles in every historically important PF statistic. Alexander’s numbers are for only 492 minutes.
Alexander could be something of a throwback though who might find it hard to get minutes in the new NBA where PFs have to do more than just rebound. He attempted no 3-pointers and doesn’t have much in the way of perimeter stats. The lack of a diverse game is the reason he ranks behind Looney. As a raw youngster he will have more opportunity to develop such skills than a senior though.
Looking at what Alexander offers, he should be drafted in round one. He’s young and only played a half season of college ball so improvement is almost a certainty. He came in as the top PF prospect. He was mocking in the top 2 for most of the summer and the top 5 until the season started. His numbers don’t blow you away, but there are no red flags either. That’s something the other freshmen can’t say.
Alexander would be a worthwhile gamble in the 20s. His youth gives him a lot of upside, he’s already posted solid numbers and he has a 7’3” wingspan to boot. Ideally he’ll go to a team that can bring him along slowly.
Chris McCullough, Syracuse: This is another freshman who is something of a mystery, but did enough in less than 500 minutes that he has to be considered as a late round one possibility. McCullough’s freshman year ended in January when he tore an ACL. He is expected to make a full recovery. At the time he was posting some terrific defensive numbers, but the rest of his game had cooled after a hot start. Here are his splits from November and the rest of the year:
His game took a serious nosedive. He was terrible offensively after the hot start and the rebounding also took a dive. The impressive thing is his defensive numbers remained very strong. Topping 5.0 SB40 as a freshman puts McCullough in some good company. Here are the other freshmen PFs who topped 5.0 SB40 since 1990:
|NCAA Freshmen PFs||2PP||P40||R40||SB40|
Normally I omit players with less than 500 minutes on these lists. Because McCullough played only 450 minutes, I dropped that minimum. Hamilton, Swift, Baker, Etan Thomas and Martin were all under 500 minutes as freshmen. While this is a strong group there are the usual busts sprinkled in. The bad news for McCullough is he more resembles the busts, with his low 2PP.
McCullough is older than most freshmen, having turned 20 in February. That affects his upside some. He’s also thin, weighing in at 199 at the combine. The latter should be fairly easy to fix with diet and weight training, but is another red flag.
McCullough is obviously a risk with a high potential upside. He posted dominant defensive numbers. He also had some terrible offensive numbers that were getting worse at the time of the injury. Being young and in his first year of college it is possible he would have adjusted and fixed the offense had he stayed healthy.
McCullough’s situation is a lot like Alexander’s. The upside is there, but so is the downside. There are just a lot of things he has to fix about his game. He becomes a good upside pick late in round one for a team that can afford to give him some time to put on weight and develop.
Richaun Holmes, Bowling Green: Holmes is new to the prospect spotlight. Because this happened in his senior year at a small college we have to look closely. Here are his 3 seasons at Bowling Green after he transferred from Moraine Valley Community College, where he was the Skyway Conference POY in his only year there as a freshman:
The improvement was incremental, but obvious and impressive. As a sophomore he played only 18.8 minutes per game but was already a strong defender. As a junior he played starter minutes, but saw some decline in his efficiency and per minute production. As a senior everything came together nicely for him.
There have been 3 recent small college PFs who have had some success coming into the NBA. They’re listed here in a comp with Holmes:
The only thing he lacks are the monster rebounding rates of the other 3, particularly Millsap and Faried. Defensively he’s right there. As an outside shooter, he’s the best of the bunch at this point. The outside shot is something of a new skill for Holmes. The .419 is on only 43 attempts, following .300 on 40 attempts the previous year.
It took some time for Holmes to get where he is now and the fact that he didn’t dominate in the MAC until his senior year is a negative. But he has developed into a solid stretch 4 prospect. The 2 things I like about Holmes are his defense has been consistently excellent and his game has improved across the board since he started. I feel he’s a worthy late first round pick.
Montrezl Harrell, Louisville: Harrell has good size and length along with a lot of hype. He has been mocked in the lottery for most of his college career. A down season this year sent his stock down a little.
I see only one year here, the sophomore season, where Harrell looks anything like a prospect. He is an efficient inside scorer and that’s good. But he’s only an adequate rebounder and his defensive numbers are poor.
With bigs from Louisville, I assume the defense is better than the numbers suggest. I’m not sure why I do that other than respect for the program. The Cards were a top 10 defensive team and Harrell probably had a lot to do with that. With his wingspan, I doubt he’ll be overmatched in the NBA.
I don’t see him as anything more than a decent rotation big. Harrell will probably have a better career than the majority of youngsters listed ahead of him. He’s only 21, so it isn’t like this is some sort of grizzled veteran we’re talking about. He also has some upside. But he also has over 3000 minutes of playing time in college that suggest his ceiling is a good rotation big.
Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa: If I were to make a likely to be undrafted all-star team, Seth Tuttle would be the starting PF. There’s just too much to like about Tuttle to leave him undrafted. He checks all the stretch 4 boxes. He can score from inside and out. He’s a decent rebounder. His defensive numbers are good enough for a stretch 4. He has good size. He played at a competitive mid major program. Here are his numbers by year.
Tuttle has been a consistently good performer. The efficiency numbers have had a little fluctuation, but he finished so strong offensively and the trend is up so I don’t think that’s a huge concern. His defense has been weak, but good enough for a stretch 4. He has also flashed promise as a passer, another great skill for a stretch 4.
I have Tuttle below Holmes, because Holmes’ defensive prowess gives him an upside that Tuttle just can’t match. Other than the defense, Tuttle looks like a strong prospect. He does so many things well and has for 4 seasons now that he’s a legit bubble first round pick.
Jordan Mickey, LSU: Mickey has been a good shotblocker for a couple of seasons now. He’s just a soph, so he has that upside thing still in his favor. In his 2 seasons he hasn’t shown much promise as anything other than a scorer though. At some point in mid-round 2 he becomes attractive as a draft and hope he develops prospect.
Vince Hunter, UTEP: Hunter is a soph with decent PF numbers, especially rebounding, but SF size. The .400 3PP is on only 10 attempts so that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. If he can keep knocking them down at such a rate in the NBA, he’ll stick around a while. It is also possible that he develops some SF skills. He’d be a decent get late in the draft.
Alan Williams, UCSB: Williams was something of an inside terror for the 3 seasons before 2015. He rebounded as well as any player in the nation and posted excellent defensive numbers. His scoring was low efficiency/high volume, but that had improved enough during his junior year that there was hope he could add a decent offensive arsenal to the rest of his excellent game.
Williams did not have a great senior season. He injured his shoulder in January and his numbers were down across the board. The injury did have a big effect on his numbers:
Post-injury Williams stopped blocking shots at his normal high rate and shot the ball less frequently and efficiently. Previous to the injury he was having a typical Alan Williams year. Because of this I think it is safe to ignore the post-injury numbers and look at Williams’ previous seasons as the real Alan Williams.
Despite the consistently great rebounding and defensive numbers, Williams could have some problems at the next level. He hit over .500 on 2-pointers only once, meaning he’ll struggle to score inside at the next level. At UCSB he played center more than PF. At 6’7” he’s a PF in the NBA.
A player who rebounds and defends this well in college does deserve a look. An inside banger/disruptor/energy guy is never a bad thing to have on the bench and Williams is a good candidate for such a role.
Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse: Christmas spent 3 years as a role player on strong Syracuse teams. His strength was inside defense. His scoring and rebounding were always weak. He got his chance in the spotlight as a senior and did enough with it that he should get a chance somewhere. His strong defense continued while his scoring and rebounding ticked up to adequate. His high end is a rotation big.
Ousame Drame, Quinnipiac: Drame is a defender/rebounder and not much else. The .333 on 3-pointers is misleading. He was 1-3 this past year and those were the only 3 attempts in his college career. Going back to the Richaun Holmes small college PFs list, Drame has rebounding and defensive numbers similar to those of Millsap and Faried. Because his offense is so poor, he isn’t anywhere near the prospect those 2 were. He’s a player with potential as a low minute energy guy off the bench.
Scott Eatherton, Northeastern: Eatherton is a 5th-year senior who has had an up and down career, but I felt there were some impressive enough numbers that he deserves a mention. He spent 2 his first two seasons at St. Francis before sitting out a year for his transfer to Northeastern for his final 2 seasons. Here are his numbers for each year:
He was well over .600 3 out of 4 years. He flashed a decent outside shot. Rebounding was inconsistent and terrible this past year, but he did post a stellar 13.3 R40 as a junior. The defense was substandard, but good enough for a stretch 4 type. At some point in his career he has been a solid scorer from inside and out, an adequate defender and a strong rebounder. He was inconsistent, but it is possible he could put it all together in the right situation.
Aaron White, Iowa: He’s an undersized PF who has never rebounded or defended quite well enough to be considered a serious prospect. The type of guy we call a good college player. Because of this he needed to start hitting the 3-pointer more consistently. His first 3 seasons the 3PP was .279, .227 and .258, all substandard numbers. As a senior he put himself in the stretch 4 mix hitting .356 on 59 attempts. This makes him a tad more appealing, but his shortcomings as a defender and rebounder are still there. He’s not much more than an NBA role player and that’s only if he continues to improve his outside shot.