I'm still recovering from the gut-punch of watching Cleveland nab the #1 pick, against all odds, for the 3rd time in 4 seasons (along with two #4 picks during that time).
Given that 1) Jazz news is basically at a stand-still right now, 2) the draft is still about a month away, and 3) I don't have cable so I can't watch the playoffs, I find myself insanely bored. What to do with all this free time? Homework, you say? NO WAY! It's time to take a look at some players I'm irrationally excited about and have (most likely) unrealistic expectations for.
First up, we have Kyle Anderson. I already mentioned I don't have cable, so I didn't really follow college ball this year, but I've devoured all the tape I can find on this kid. I really like him. At the very least, I think he can be a poor-man's replacement or insurance policy to cover Hayward's possible departure from the team. He's around Hayward's height (just over 6'8" in shoes), but is heavier and has a much longer wingspan (230 pounds, 7'3" wingspan - really good for a wing). His scoring and rebounding rates are right in line with Hayward's college production, and his assists, steals and A:TO ratio are actually much better (6.5 assists, 1.8 steals, over 2:1 A:TO ratio). He shoots nearly 50% from 3 (!) and gets to the line frequently, making just under 75% of his free throws. He's projected to be drafted in the late teens or early 20's, and I think the Jazz need to jump on the opportunity to draft him if possible. A few things to worry about: despite weighing 230 pounds, he doesn't have a lot of muscle mass (13% body fat); his vertical and explosion are almost non-existent; slow feet, bad defense (although this appears it could be a lack of intensity, which can be somewhat fixed). His lack of athleticism is going to be a major weakness in the NBA, as well as his super slow release and lack of elevation on his jump shots, but I think he's worth a pick in the 2nd half of the 1st round.
Next up, C.J. Wilcox, who will probably be available in the 2nd round. He doesn't have great height for an NBA wing (only 6'5") but he has a 6'10" wingspan to help make up for it. He is an incredible spot-up shooter (1.26 point per possession in spot-up situations) who can also punish defenders for closing too hard with a 1- or 2-dribble pull up jumper. He's also great at getting space from screens, scoring 1.02 PPP in jumpers off of screens. He makes good decisions with the ball, committing just 1.9 TO per 40 minutes. His shot selection is great and he is willing to make the extra pass. I think the appeal with him is that he can make defenses pay in a variety of ways: spot-up, off-ball screen & curl, backdoor cuts, he can even handle the ball in PnR situations and does really well. He has good, but not great athleticism and his player type looks like it falls somewhere between Wes Matthews and Danny Green. Defensive intensity is a concern, as well as his slight frame (only about 200 pounds, can be bullied by heavier wings). He doesn't get to the rim or to the line very frequently, and his handles and quickness may not be good enough to beat guys off the dribble - although that's not a must for a spot-up shooter. He has the physical tools to be a good defender, but whether due to mental lapses or coaching schemes, he wasn't as good as he should have been defensively.
Next, Zach LaVine. This kid's combine numbers blew me away, and blew the competition out of the water. He tested well across the board and was one of the best physical performers at the combine. Nearly 6'6" in shoes with a 6'9" wingspan, he is a long point guard and with his athleticism, he could be a terror on defense for opposing point guards. He shot very well at the combine, hitting 14 of his 25 shots from the NBA 3-point line (spot up jumpers), and 21 out of 32 15-foot jumpers off the dribble. Of the point guards at the combine, he was #1 in lane agility, shuttle run, and standing vert, and #2 in 3/4 court sprint and max vert. His explosion, speed, and quickness could be perfect for an up-tempo offense in transition, and his quick first step and above-the-rim play will be an asset in the NBA, getting to the rim or to the line. He can also shoot the ball pretty well, hitting nearly 40% from 3. He has NBA range already and can create space from off-ball screens, a valuable skill. He has unorthodox shot mechanics, but a quick release - and who cares about mechanics as long as you're making shots, right? Perhaps his greatest asset is his youth - he just turned 19 in March, and with his already freakish athleticism, he can only get better. With the proper guidance, he could turn into a solid NBA player, maybe even a great one. His defense is probably the biggest concern, but I think his defensive shortcomings are due to lack of proper coaching/teaching. His fundamentals just aren't there, and that's something that needs to be taught. He has the proper tools (athleticism, quickness, length, explosiveness), but is missing the mental aspect. That can easily be taught if he has the proper mindset and is coachable.
Glen Robinson III. He seems like a no-brainer pick, right? Trey Burke's former teammate, good athleticism and lateral quickness, silly-good jumping ability, decent length (6'7 in shoes, 6'10" wingspan), and big hands? He has great defensive instincts and anticipation, jumping into passing lanes and snagging steals at a really good rate. He has potential as a slasher, with his good athleticism and finishing ability. However, he's not a great outside shooter and he can't really create his own shot. So I guess the question is, is he destined to be a Ronnie Brewer type of player, or can he develop into a poor man's Iggy? He would make a good late-first-round pick or early second-round pick.
Cleanthony Early. Great lateral quickness, good explosion and max vert (2nd among small forwards in standing vert and max vert). He has a good perimeter shot, hitting about 38% from 3, although his combine shooting didn't reflect that. Decent shooter off the dribble, good finisher above the rim. He could be a part of our new and improved "LOBfense" for 2014-15, alongside Jeremy Evans, Rudy Gobert, and maybe ... Aaron Gordon? Unlike one Al Jefferson, this guy doesn't shy away from contact. He had 30 (!) and-ones this season and got to the line 7.1 times per 40 minutes. Good in spot-up and off-screen situations and is an efficient shooter and scorer, with a TS% of 64%. His shot mechanics are smooth, not a lot of wasted motion, and he has a high release. He has question marks about his defense - can he guard NBA wings? He has the tools, but something just isn't there. Is it intensity? Fundamentals? Scheme issues at Wichita State? He definitely can't be an NBA 4, but even for a wing he's kind of frail. Needs to put on some muscle. His jump shot tends to be flat, needs more arc in his shot. Already 23, he won't get much better. As a second-round pick, I like him.
K.J. McDaniels has the potential to be the best perimeter defender to come out of this group. His frame will allow him to put on muscle mass. His on-ball defense, steals, and blocks are already there, and he has good length with a 6'11" wingspan. Because of his physical tools , he can guard both wing positions and could possibly guard point guards. His outside shot isn't great, but his incredible athleticism works well in transition, where he scored 1.45 PPP (he could also be an addition to the LOBfense this year!). He's a good rebounder for his size on both ends, and that should translate to the NBA because of how physical he is when boxing out - which would also help with overall team rebounding. He has great defensive instincts on the perimeter and at the rim. Despite playing on a terrible offense surrounded by little talent, he scored efficiently. He should look much better when surrounded by quality NBA players. Potential Gerald Green clone? He needs more elevation on his jump shots, and he will need to learn to avoid barreling into defenders at the NBA level.
The International Man of Mystery, Damien Inglis. He didn't play much, although his numbers look decent by per-36 minute standards (approx 11 points, 8.5 boards, and 2.5 assists in a Euro league, and he did it efficiently, shooting 55% from 2 and 39% from 3, with 72% FT) but his physical tools are drool-worthy. 6'9" and 240 pounds with a 7'3" wingspan, and he's only 19 years old (just turned 19 a few days ago, so he's one of the youngest prospects in the draft). He already has Marvin Williams size as a ripe 19 year old. He uses his size well, getting to the rim and finishing. He has good defensive fundamentals and will likely be able to guard positions 2-4. He anticipates well on defense, wreaking havoc on offenses. His rotations and help defense are already really good - something we've sorely missed the past few years. Sadly, he's not a very explosive athlete and struggles to finish at the rim despite his size. He's projected to go in the 2nd round around picks 35-40. If we nab him anywhere after pick 25, I would love it.
That's it for me. After going through this list, it appears that I'm gunning for players who fill a need we've been sorely missing the past few seasons; either lock-down perimeter defense, or outside shooting, or both.
Thoughts? Other players with good upside after the first 14 picks?