We were told at the beginning of the season that we would be discovering a lot about our younger players, and whether or not you agree with how that has been managed, the fact is that we are learning quite a bit about them. I was playing around on basketball-reference recently and started looking up players in the last 10 years who put up similar numbers to our guys. It gave me a pretty good idea of where our guys could be headed and what they need to work on. I figured I'd share my thoughts.
My thoughts: I'll start with the best case scenario. Gordon has the potential to put up stats similar to Paul Pierce. I'm not trying to say that they have similar styles, but, like Gordon, Pierce was never exceptionally athletic yet he managed to average a line of 25/7/4 in his prime. If Hayward figures out how to fulfill that #1 option role, I see his averages being about 25/5/5, not too far off from Pierce. The biggest obstacle Hayward will face in matching Pierce would be on the defensive end, where Pierce could be a force when necessary. As for the likely scenarios. Hayward is already putting up stats similar (if less efficient) to the listed players, which would place him as a solid 2nd or elite 3rd option player.
What he needs to work on: Defense and eFG%. Hayward will never be as long or athletic as many of these players, but he will need to develop his defensive game to really make an impact. His shooting efficiency has also gone down every year. He'll need to pull his eFG% up to about 50% to really shine.
Approximate stats: under 20 PPG, 8.5+ RPG, under 2 APG, 1.5+ BPG
Best case scenario: Andrew Bogut
Likely scenarios: Serge Ibaka, Marcin Gortat, Emeka Okafor, Andris Biedrins (early career)
My thoughts: I don't see Favors as ever being an offensive force, but I do think he can be a threat. That's why I like Bogut as a best case scenario. Before his injury, Bogut was a solid post option, and a defensive force. I think Favors could become the same thing. If Favors really works on his offensive game, but doesn't progress much defensively, I think he'll end up like Gortat or Biedrins, a solid player on both sides of the court. Right now, however, he's probably closest to Ibaka. Favors, like Ibaka, has great defensive instincts, but uses his athleticism to cover mistakes. Ibaka has really developed a mid range game, which Favors is likely to do as the years go by.
What he needs to work on: Passing, getting to the line, rebounding. I know it sounds weird to say that Favors needs to be a better rebounder, but it's true. For Favors to really hit that next level he needs to improve his rebounding percentage. Currently he's at 10% ORB and 24% DRB for a 16.8% TRB%. It's not unreasonable for him to hit percentages of 12%, 26%, and 20% respectively. To really enhance his offensive game, Favors needs to learn how to pass out of the post. Right now, both Favors and Kanter really struggle with that. One of them has to become at least better than average if they are going to play together.
Approximate stats: 15+ PPG, 4+ RPG, 4+ APG
Best case scenario: Rip Hamilton
Likely scenarios: Jamal Crawford, Kevin Martin
My thoughts: I've never been convinced that Burks is the next great scorer for the Jazz. Scorn me if you must, but I still see him as a 6th man. I'll admit that he's piling up the evidence to prove me wrong, but it still hasn't quite tipped the scales yet. That said, if he continues on the path he's started, I think he'll be Rip. Rip averaged about 20/3.5/4, and I think Alec would probably rebound a little more while assisting a little less. Not only that, but Rip's 3P% bounced around each year, going from 30% one year to 45% the next. I think Alec is likely to do the same. If Burks doesn't turn into Rip, then he's looking like a solid Crawford and Martin hybrid. Martin has always been great at getting to the line and putting up a lot of points efficiently, but never really had that killer instinct. Crawford thrived in the 6th man role, where he could use his skills to dominate other benches, but was never efficient enough to really solidify himself as a legitimate star. Burks seems to be straddling those two paths. He's great at getting to the line and finishing, but he still shoots more like Crawford.
What he needs to work on: 3PA, FT%, defense. Burks is already great at driving and getting to the line, but he really needs to work improve his FT%. He's doing better this year, but is still just above 75%. Hopefully he can bring it back to his college numbers and hit about 80% in the future. Other than that, he's only using 16% of his possessions to shoot the three. He'll be an even bigger threat on offense if his defenders can't allow him space on the perimeter. He's making his threes at about a 35% rate, which is good enough to warrant a few more attempts per game. He'll also need to focus more on defense. He's made some big steps in his defensive play this season, but he can't afford to let it stagnate if he's going to hit his potential.
Approximate stats: 15+ PPG, 10+ ORB%, under 10 AST%
Best case scenario: Pau Gasol
Likely scenarios: Al Jefferson, Nikola Pekovic
My thoughts: I know that Pau has a reputation for being soft, but I don't think that's the case. He's usually doing his work in the post, using excellent footwork and positioning to get to his spots. He's also an excellent rebounder and one of the best post passers in the league, and while he doesn't have range to the 3-point line, his mid-range shot has to be respected. Though Gasol isn't a threat for defensive player of the year, he's still solid on that end of the court. Kanter has a lot of the tools to get to that same level. More likely, though, he falls into the Jefferson or Pekovic mold. He'll be a bruiser down low with a decent mid-range shot, but will struggle to pass out of double teams. That means he'll have a lot of chances to score, but will likely turn the ball over a bunch too.
What he needs to work on: Passing, defense. Like I said with Favors, one of these two has to become a solid passer from the post. Kanter has always struggled with turnovers, and a lot of that stems from his inability to pass out of double teams. Also, like with most of our other guys, his defense needs work. With so many of our players struggling to defend, there is likely a system issue here, but, putting that aside, Kanter has been horrific at times on defense. He doesn't have the agility to recover from mistakes the way that Favors does, which means he needs to stay close to his man. Ideally, he should never need help defending his man one-on-one in the post as he's strong enough to push his guy off the block.
Approximate stats: under 20 PPG, 30+ AST%, under 15 TO%
Best case scenarios: Tony Parker
Likely scenarios: Ty Lawson, D.J. Augustin, Kyle Lowry
My thoughts: I just want to be clear-- I don't think Burke will ever be as good as Parker. I do think that he could be the poor-man's version of him, which is still really good. Parker's at his best when he can drive and dish. What really makes him a threat, though, is his ability to finish. His ability to hit a floater in the lane forces rim protecters to leave the deep post and try and stop him, which really opens up the floor for everyone. If Burke can do something similar, he'll be Parker 2.0. Without that finishing ability, he'll likely be at the level of Lawson and Lowry, a solid scorer and good passer, I think he'll be better at controlling the pace of the game, but will struggle on the defensive end.
What he needs to work on: AST%, eFG%, defense. Burke already has a lot of the tools needed to hit his potential, they just need some refinement. He's also the player we've seen the least of, so it could be that his flaws haven't been as exposed. He'll always struggle on defense due to his lack of size and elite speed. That means that he needs to play smarter defense. He's not long enough or quick enough to gamble on defense, so he isn't likely to rack up a bunch of steals, but he should be able to play fundamentally sound defense, stay in front of his man, and cut-off passing lanes. Also, like I said above, he has to be able to finish. He either needs to develop a floater or learn to avoid rim protectors, if he does that his eFG% should improve. Ideally it should be above 50%. His AST% needs to increase as well. The top passing point guards in the league are above 40%, and the elite top 50%.