Sham's unnecessarily great big draft board: Power forwards
June 23rd, 2011
(Listed in no order other than the order they were thought of.)
Enes Kanter – There is very little to know about Enes Kanter, for the man has played very little.
In the 2008-09 season, aged only 16, Kanter made some infrequent appearances in the Fenerbahce first time, appearing in spot minutes of 9 games. That summer, he appeared at the under-18 European Championships, and absolutely tore them up, averaging 18.6 points and 16.4 rebounds in only 28.4 minutes per game. This is especially impressive considering that, in one game, Kanter recorded only 2 points and 1 rebound. The previous summer, Kanter had averaged 22.9 points and 16.5 rebounds per game at the Under-16 championships, on yet more dangerously efficient shooting. And then came the whole Kentucky debacle.
Because of the Kentucky debacle, Kanter has played nothing but practice and at the high school level since those championships. He dominated in those championships as a man amongst boys, which is fine, but it does raise concerns about what he’s like as a man amongst men. Without much to go on other than some tape, it is hard to answer. But the tapes are highly favourable.
By all accounts, he is really very good. I am not about to dispute that.
Bismack Biyombo – Biyombo exploded onto the scene by leading the ACB in shot blocks, by a long way, at an age when players rarely appear in that league at all. He recorded 2.3 blocks per game last season – tied for second place were crafty veteran D’Or Fisher, currently of Real Madrid, and the man Biyombo backed up, upstart late blooming Argentinian big man Gustavo Ayon (who has had a hell of a year, but we’ll save that for another day). Biyombo put up his 2.3 blocks in only 16.6 minutes per game – comparatively, Fischer took 19.6 mpg for his, while Ayon needed a comparatively enormous 22.1. Per 40 minutes, Biyombo led the league at 5.4; Real Madrid’s Mirza Begic (who played very limited minues) was second with 4.4; Fran Vazquez was third with 3.3, and Fischer was fourth at 3.2. Ayon was fifth at 2.4. No one else came close.
Considering the minutes played, his age, the standard of opposition, and his relative inexperience – Biyombo’s only previous experience had been in the lower levels of Spanish basketball, and he had not played in the ACB before this season – his achievements in this category have been incredibly. He does of course contribute little else right now; the rebounding is OK, but the offensive skillset is extremely raw, and the foul rates prodigious. But in a league full of truly good players, Biyombo proved himself to be head and shoulders above the rest in one category. That counts for something.
Comparisons to Serge Ibaka are inevitable. One came from the Republic of Congo; the other came from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Both came through ACB team systems; Biyombo at Fuenlebrada, Ibaka at L’Hospitalet and Manresa. Both are slender, athletic, shot blocking power forwards who get draft hype on account of their blocks more than anything else. Both need (or needed) plenty of seasoning. Ibaka stayed in Spain to get it. So may Biyombo.
Comparisons to Serge Ibaka are also highly valid. Ibaka’s growth and maturation into a starting calibre NBA player has been remarkably quick, and for Biyombo to mirror that will be quite the achievement. Ibaka is a very good NBA player. Yet they’ve pretty much mirrored each other thus far, so how much further can it go?
Donatas Motiejunas – Motiejunas is amongst the worst defenders in this class. For all his offensive talent – and there’s rather a lot of it – Motiejunas simply does not compete offensively. He is not quite as bad as Renardo Sidney, for no one is as bad as Renardo Sidney, but Motjienuas is guilty of the same problems. To put it bluntly, he just stands there, maybe going as far as clumsily reaching for the player driving past him, but making little effort to move his feet or stay in front. He also just doesn’t box out. Bumpy has plenty of impact defensively, but it’s all negative.
Of course, the above is also a description of Andrea Bargnani, another Benetton a prodigy. And, for all his faults and complete lack of awareness of his place in the overall scheme of things, Bargnani is at least a 20ppg scorer in the NBA. With this in mind, someone will take Donatas anyway. Considering his talent level in a draft so short of talent, you can understand and defend it if a teams takes him and waits for the day that the light comes on.
It won’t, though. He doesn’t get it and he doesn’t want it.
Marcus is, and has always been the better player. He is more versatile, the do-everything type, the guy whose style of play somewhat resembles David Lee or an early years Antawn Jamison, the one with the mid range game and the better shot creation skills, who can play inside and out, and who operates in between. Meanwhile, Markieff is the bigger of the two – his size advantage is the only way to physically tell the difference between the two, as they even have matching tattoos – the Raef LaFrentz-type with not-quite-centre size, who finishes around the basket and hits straight-in threes, and otherwise disinclined to leave the paint too much on either end.
It is not out of the realms of possibility that because of this, Markieff will have the better NBA career. But if he was 7 foot tall, it would be a certainty.
Kenneth Faried – My Kenneth Faried love goes a long way. Faried was the NCAA’s best rebounder last season, by a long way, by any metric, and the fact that he played in a mid=major conference doesn’t change that. He did it against the good teams, too; 18 against Florida, 12 against Ohio State, 17 against Louisville, 13 against Richmond. And even if the offense is not refined, the athleticism and hustle is sufficient to make an impact. Same on the defense.
The fact that he’s only about 6’7 doesn’t change anything. Measurements needn’t matter as much as they do. He’s not going to forget how to rebound, how to read the ball off the rim, how to get positioning, how to box out without fouling, how to tip the ball, how to work hard and hustle for everything. It’ll make it harder, yet it’s something he’s simply too good at to not continue to be good at. Kenneth Faried is going to be a good contributor in the NBA and I will punch anyone who disagrees.
Nikola Mirotic – Mirotic recently sign an extension with Real Madrid through 2014, and is likely to plummet in the draft accordingly. This is unfortunate, because he is one of the better talents in it. Mirotic did such a good job last year playing Jorge Garbajosa’s role that he caused Jorge Garbajosa to fall out of the rotation and eventually get released. He’s a versatile two way player who does a bit of everything, and has done it on a bigger stage than everyone else mentioned here, one of the most experienced players in the draft. There is absolutely no doubt that Mirotic is (or at least, will be) a rotation calibre NBA player. The only question is whether he wants to be. It doesn’t look as though he does.
The same is true of men as it is of women – nothing wrong with a little meat on the bones.
Bangaly Fofana – Fofana is so thin that, if you turn him sideways, he doesn’t actually exist. The French big man of African decent is decently athletic, but carries virtually no girth, and is also incredibly raw. He began to get the first decent minutes of his career last season, averaging 10.5 minutes per game in 21 French league contests for ASVEL, returning averages of 3.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game. He has great shot blocking potential because of his height, long arms and decent mobility. Unfortunately, Fofana is also extremely raw. He can’t dribble, post, create, shoot, hit a foul shot, defend the perimeter without fouling, nor defend the interior without fouling. He has Boniface N’Dong potential, but he doesn’t have any more potential than, say, Chris Johnson. And having joined basketball so late, Fofana is 22 years old and still a complete project. Any selection of Bangaly Fofana is the ultimate draft-and-stash, and must not be considered with the same level of hype as the Malick Badiane draft-and-stash once was.
Ryan Rossiter – Rossiter was barely heard from last season, through no fault of his own. With 125% of their 2009/10 rotation graduating, Siena fell off the map last season as they began a new era, and Rossiter was the only significant holdover. Even though it was barely acknowledged, Rossiter had a great year, averaging 18.7 points and 13.2 rebounds per game, second only to Kenneth Faried, and 1.4 rebounds per game ahead of 3rd place Jordan Williams. Despite permanently looking like he is 12 years old, Rossiter plays like a man around the basket, with great instinct and effort on the glass, as well as some shotmaking ability. He is unathletic, undersized and not strong, but he’s done everything Mark Madsen did at college. And more.
Tai Wesley – After seven years at Utah State, the now middle aged Wesley begins a professional career. Indeed, he’s already begun it, signing for EiffelTowers Den Bosch in Holland. Wesley won’t ever crack upper echelon leagues because he’s just too small. He’s a 6’7 power forward without athleticism, so not even Kyle Hines’s career arc is really doable. But he’s perfect for Holland, a versatile and incredibly smart player who can run an offense and anchor a defense. In the unathletic Dutch league, Tai finds himself in essentially a professional version of the WAC.
(NOTE: A good many names to be added after the draft. Post was not completed in time because I got carried away with the previous installments and ran out of time. And yes, I did Tai Wesley before Tristan Thompson and Malcolm Thomas, knowing that Tai wouldn’t get drafted. Tai was easier.)