Sham’s unnecessarily great big draft board: Small forwards
June 23rd, 2011

(Listed in no order other than the order they were thought of.)

Derrick Williams’s underarm hair.

Derrick Williams – From a barely recruited forgettable college prospect to one of of the best current NBA prospects in only two short years, Williams has had quite the stretch, And he has the potential for more.

Williams is a combo and/or positionless forward with good small forward size (6’8), a tweener’s game, yet terrific athleticism. He is strong, big enough, runs the court, creates in the post, creates off the dribble, can shoot from mid-range, can shoot from three, has good hands, can pass (although he should do it more), rebounds in big numbers, defend the post, and defend the perimeter. He is unfathomably productive, averaging 19/8 in only 29 minutes, with a PER of 32.5 and a true shooting percentage of over 70%. He even shot 57% from three. Williams does a bit of everything to startling efficient levels, and nothing about his physical profile says that it won’t translate.

The current rumour state that Minnesota – a team who either place absolutely no value on holding their cards close to their chest, or who have laid the most intricate series of double bluffs in modern history – are threatening to take Enes Kanter at #2 instead of Williams, the assumed logical candidate. This is unless they can trade the pick, which they have been remarkably up front about doing. The latest rumour seems them trying (and maybe yet succeeding) to trade the #2 to Atlanta in exchange for Josh Smith. I can get on board with a trading of the pick (and, by proxy, Williams), but not necessarily in that deal.

Because Williams may yet become the equal of Josh Smith.

So stick with the younger, cheaper guy.

And stop making a playoff push when you’ve just won 17 games.

If a lack of quality veterans is the problem, it’s the Lazar Hayward types that need to be changed.

Jordan Hamilton – In his first year as a Longhorn, Jordan Hamilton was the most selfish player ever. He looked to shoot every time he touched it, and I do mean every time. On the rare occasions that a team mate was allowed to shoot, you could actually see Hamilton in the background pretending to shoot, so desperate was he to get another shot up despite not having the ball. It was ugly.

Last season, Hamilton was still somewhat selfish. But relative to what he was, he is 900% less selfish than he was. And Jordan Hamilton is the kind of player you want to have shooting a lot, for he is a fine shotmaker, with 27 feet of range and the ability to hit almost anything, even when contested. He shouldn’t be doing that a lot of the time, of course, but it’s good to know that he can. Furthermore, on the rare occasions that he passes, Hamilton demonstrates good vision, a good sense of awareness, and an always conscious effort to get open. He dribbles into traffic at times, can lose the handle, and doesn’t shoot especially well off of more than one dribble yet, but his ability to hit pretty much anything can bail him out, even when it shouldn’t. His defence is considerably less impressive, but at nearly 6’9 in shoes with his athleticism, there’s great potential on that end if someone can make him buy in.

A comparison to a bigger Ricky Davis with more range may leave a sour taste, but it needn’t. I’d prefer a Rudy Gay comparison, too, but Ricky Buckets would be fine. Failing that, J.R. Smith.

Jan Vesely – Vesely is European, so it assumed and ofen amateurishly misreported that he is a shooter. He isn’t. He can hit a few jump shots with his feet set, but there’s nothing consistent, no off-the-dribble shot, and a very bad free throw stroke. He is not even as good of a shooter as notoriously inconsistent shooter Andrei Kirilenko, a man to whom he is about to be implicitly compared heavily.

Vesely is one of the most athletic European forwards out there, only slightly below those at the very top of the athleticism stakes such as Josh Smith and Tyrus Thomas, comparable to one such as Chris Singleton. He is absolutely bloody enormous for a small forward, equal to or taller than probably have of the NBA’s current centres. Even though he can’t shoot, dribble extensively, regularly post up, or create off the dribble, Vesely nonetheless contributes offensively via dives to the hoop, running the court, put-backs, and sheer opportunity scoring. He is a very good offensive rebounder, and a highly efficient finisher, as long as you overlook the free throw percentage. And he can dunk with the very best.

For whatever reason, he is much less of a defensive rebounder than he is offensively. And because of his size, it can be difficult for him to keep the quicker and smaller opposing perimeter players in front of him on dribble penetration. That is about the limit of his defensive limitations, however, for Vesely’s huge size, great athleticism, effort and timing make him a hell of a freeroaming defensive presence. He tries hard, and while he’s exposable in isolation situations on both the perimeter and the interior, the help defence, and the overall defensive potential, is magnetic.

Given that his handle is bad, his jump shot so fledgling, and his physical profile so rare, Vesely is hard to make a comparison to. Kirilenko may be as close as we get.

Kawhi Leonard – Leonard’s best attribute is his physical profile. He measures out at 6’7, which is pretty average, yet he has a 7’3 wingspan with that, and hands the size of small digger scoops. This hand size is best demonstrated by this startling picture, in which Leonard’s hand is held up next to that of Holly Mackenzie. It is possible that Kawhi has normal hands and that Holly is instead a legal midget, but I am assured this is not the case.

Leonard was blazing his way up the draft boards, but has started falling during the individual workout phase (a phase which seems to be valued far more highly than the simple fact of how players have played in every game of their career to date). He is the pound for pound best rebounder in the class, averaging 10.6 of those puppies in 32 minutes per game, further contributing 2.5 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.6 blocks and a healthy 15.5 points per game. Shot creation, finishing and indeed offensive in general is not a strong suit – he is neither a ball handler not a dribbler, more of a putback-er and an opportunity scorer-er. He is tough, aggressive, fearless and versatile defensively, his Mr Tickle-like arms being an incredibly difficult object to navigate around on the perimeter. Even if he never develops the ability to handle in traffic, or shoot off the dribble, or create anything out of the post, he won’t need to to be effective.

Tyler Honeycutt – Honeycutt’s declaration as a sophomore may be more to do with the weak draft than anything, yet he demonstrates sufficient potential on both ends of the court to be selected.

A big wing player, Honeycutt has a very unique station – 12.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 3.0 blocks, 0.9 steals and 2.1 blocks, being one of the nation’s best defensive players while also never fouling (only 1.6 per game). The high turnover numbers and the 40.6% shooting probably don’t suggest it, but Honeycutt is a capable offensive player, too, a good (and overly deferential) passer with some shooting touch, particularly on the rather unfavourable long two’s. He has added some range and has a pretty smooth handle to boot, although his slender stature can be a problem at the rim, and the turnovers rather alarming. But if he makes mistakes and is inconsistent, that’s fine. He’s a sophomore.

People who know better about such matters suggest that UCLA’s system is unfavourable to the offensive statistics of wing players, and have used the argument to make a similar defence for Malcolm Lee, previously covered here. If true, there’s even more to like.

D.J. Kennedy – Kennedy had a good chance of being drafted, until he began to underwhelm in the second half of the season before going down with a season ending knee injury, right in the midst of St. John’s crescendo. When healthy, he was an athlete and very good passer, whose remarkably flat jump shot nonetheless went in a few times, with good rebounding and versatile defensive play. He couldn’t create off the dribble, handle or post, yet he had potential, even after four years at college. But the injury killed the buzz, and now Kennedy may have to go the Deron Washington route – the LEB Gold, via the D-League.

Gilbert Brown – Brown mirrors Kennedy rather a lot. With good size and very good athleticism for the wing, Brown thrived as a role player, never consistently asked to do anything offensively other than finish. He did this well, improving into a 41% three point shooter, passing well, chipping in with the rebounding, running the court, defending the perimeter and making few mistakes. Brown can’t handle the ball or create, but there’s always a need for role players of this type, those who realise that they are actually role players without the Antoine Wright-like moments of grandeur. So he has a chance.

Chandler Parsons – Parsons was once just a physical specimen, although I guess we all were when we were merely sperm. He stood 6’10 and athletic, with a small forward’s mindset, an intriguing mix. He slowly added some muscle to the frame and some skill to the athleticism, and became something of a point forward, a capable secondary or tertiary ball handler with good passing vision. He also improved his shot to the point that he was a decent catch-and-shoot player from the outside, although his free throw percentage remains truly God awful. However, Parsons’s ability to create in the halfcourt, either for himself or others, was not that good. He passed for a very nice 3.8 points per game, but he wasn’t collapsing the defence regularly to do it, and he scored only 11.3 points per game for himself. He carries clout over someone like D.J. Kennedy simply because he’s bigger, but a role for Parsons in the NBA is not immediately obvious. Not unless he becomes like Brian Cardinal or Brian Scalabrine. (That is intended as a compliment, although it probably won’t be interpreted as such.)

Damian Saunders – Damian Saunders plays like Shawn Marion, if anyone can ever be said to play like the very unique Marion. He drew some attention on some underwhelming Duquesne teams, but as Duquesne merely trundled averagely through the weakened Atlantic 10, Saunders drew less attention than his peers. He also seemed to suffer from stagnated growth – his points dropped from 15.0 to 12.6, and his rebounds made an alarming tumble from 11.3 to 7.9. That’s still a big number of course, and the 2.3 steals and 2.7 blocks numbers are huge. But they, too, were down on the previous season, despite the minutes going up.

Saunders is a good sized 6’7 with a long wingspan and athleticism, and projects well as a defender, able to cover both wing positions and the occasional face-up four. He has all the physical tools, save for perhaps a bit more strength, and plays hard on that end of the floor, making himself a very disruptive defender whose location on the play must always be noted. He plays hard on offence, too, but far less well – he is not a ball handler, nor a shooter, nor a post-up threat. Saunders will run the court, get put backs, and occasionally lunge wildly at the basket – even more occasionally, he’ll hit the jump shot. He is certainly trending upwards in that latter regard. But there’s a long way still to go, even with just the catch-and-shoot, let alone the shot off the dribble.

If that also sounded like a description of Shawn Marion, it was supposed to. Marion was, of course, better at everything. And still is. By a long way. But the style of play is highly similar.

Jimmy Butler – Butler’s made some waves lately for his story, which can be read here. That feel-good piece doesn’t make Butler any better, but it does make him more popular. His quirky offensive game, somewhat described here, is not necessarily conducive to the NBA, yet it hasn’t held him back so far, a 16 ppg scorer in the Big East without needing good range or good physical tools to do it. Talent is talent, and talent translates. Donnell Harvey churned out a few years, and so may Jimmy Butler.

Adam Hanga – A combination of his domination of the Hungarian league (of all places) and a powerhouse agency (FCM) has made Hanga into a possible second-round draft-and-stash candidate. Playing for Albacomp last season, Hanga averaged 17.6 points, 4.4 points, 3.4 assists and 2.8 steals per game, shooting 45% from the field and 38% from three point range on six attempts per game. Rather than pretend I regularly watch Hungarian league action, here’s some tape.

Looks pretty smooth, as one game sample sizes go.

Hanga has already signed for next season with Manresa in Spain, and would thus clearly be a draft-and-stash candidate. But given the lack of good sized offensively skilled wing players right now, wouldn’t it be worth it?

Xavi Rabaseda – The same could be said of Xavi Rabaseda, another of the Fuenlebrada youth crop that also produced Bismack Biyombo. Unlike Biyombo, however, Rabaseda has not really done anything. A big minute player last season, averaging 22.0 mpg in 33 of 36 games, Rabaseda averaged a rather average 8.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game. He shot a sedate 42.6% from the field and a below par 31.4% from three point range. with a near 1:2 assist to turnover ratio. He has a nice size for the position, but not much stand-out production to date.

Why is he here, then?

Possibly because he’s a product of the Barcelona youth system (he’s merely on loan to Fuenlebrada), which gives a prospect’s resume added clout. Possibly because he started this season strongly, before a truly underwhelming second half. Possibly because he’s fairly fluid, and just looks right, even if he has no one obvious plus point. Or possibly all of the above.

The truth, though, is that I’m not really sure. His reputation – that of having much potential – precedes him, and he appears to still be dining out on it. You’d think a shooter would shoot better than that. To his credit, Rabaseda has no stand-out weaknesses, a high IQ, the right frame, and enough good games to his credit to merit interest. We shall see where it all takes him.

I’d be OK with calling Chris Singleton “Professor Chaos.” Don’t know about you.

Chris Singleton – Singleton was as disruptive of a defensive force as there was in college basketball last season. With his frame, athleticism and reach, he seemed to be everywhere, a constantly disruptive force and bringer of chaos and destruction, and now, this puny world, uh, will bow down to him. Everything about that half of the floor should translate easily.

Offensively, Singleton is more awkward. He is certainly not talented, but it will be tough to find a niche; much as he may prefer to handle and shoot from the perimeter, he is rather average at both. There’s also nothing more than a rudimentary post-up game, and as much as Singleton wants to be a ball handler and slasher go-to type, he isn’t. If he were to stick to spotting up, getting out and running, and using the looks facilitated by his physical tools, this would be better. (The greater spacing offered up by the NBA game, as well as the increased pace, could both be big helps to him. As could going to a team with a playmaking point guard better than Derwyn Kitchen.)

Vesely is enjoying somewhat more hype to Singleton because he’s bigger, and, to the American audience, more of an unknown. Singleton has been on ESPN for a few years, so while his strengths are well established, they are also now assumed, whereas the Vesely learning curve continues. Truth be told, the two are pretty comparable. Vesely’s size, upside and what have you will more than likely see him go before Chris, but if you wanted Vesely and he’s already off the board, Singleton is the logical back-up plan.

Jereme Richmond – Richmond will be drafted on potential, because right now, he does not do much. He is a hugely athletic wing with absolutely no jump shot right now, albeit with a decent understanding of how to get open off the ball, thus giving him a contributing offensive role without needing a jump shot, handle or post-up game to do it. He runs the court, rebounds and defends well, showing some finishing ability, as well as all the athleticism.

That said, he really shouldn’t be here. But he is, and while there’s a hell of a long way to go, his impeccable physical profile means someone will be willing to wait it out.

Kyle Singler – As a four year white guy from Duke, it has proven to be inevitable that Singler has been compared to every good white shooting forward ever, from Danny Ferry to Mike Miller. Deadspin has compiled a rather amusing list of such comparisons from various places around the world. Most of them are attempts to be either very favourable, or very harsh, depending on perspective. But nowhere in that list did the name appear which, if we’re honest, may be the most apt of all.

Pat Garrity.

(Not really. But the jump shooting is the only obvious skill that will translate. Singler is tough enough, but it remains to be seen how the improved NBA spacing will affect the rest of his game.)

Rashad Bishop – In spite of losing leading scorer Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati were a much improved club. And they did it with defence. The aforementioned Ibrahima Thomas was a part of that, yet the lynchpin of that defence is senior wing man, Rashad Bishop, who drew the toughest assignments in the toughest conference, and dealt with them all admirably. He is strong, athletic, long and tenacious, can guard the positions 1 through 4, chips in with the defensive rebounding, and does it all without fouling. He’s even improved his three point jump shot over the years, although any offence is a bonus.

“The sentries report Zulus to the south west. Thousands of them.”

Bojan Bogdanovic – As has been the case with Vesely, Bogdanovic has been touted as a shooter when he really isn’t one right now. He certainly takes a lot of three pointers, and is capable of hot streaks, yet he’s also a 34% three point shooter. And that’s from the shorter European range. If you’re calling Bojan Bogdanovic a wing shooter, you might as well call Dante Jackson a wing shooter.

Then again, unlike Vesely, Bogdanovic projects to be one. He has demonstrated that with his hot streaks and workouts. The form’s nice, the confidence unwavering, and the ability to get open and shoot off the dribble ever-improving. He is not just a catch and shoot player out there – he has become a featured player offensively, and, with his decent passing vision, handle and smooth athleticism, now somewhat resembles Jiri Welsch with the potential of Antoine Rigaudeau. [Please don’t be scared off by that.] Standing 6’8, Boggs’s physical frame is not in question, and his quick development as an offensive player shows no signs of slowing up.

Bogdanovic has already signed a new contract for next season, moving from Partizan Belgrade to Fenerbahce. It is not clear to me what the contract stipulates in the event of a good NBA offer, or even if Bogdanovic wants to hear one, yet it does now make it extremely unlikely that Bogdanovic comes over immediately. This, though, is fine, because Fenerbahce being amongst Europe’s elite gives Bogdanovic a great place to learn. If he can develop some Turkish defensive intensity in the process, even better.

Carleton Scott – Scott was not expected to declare, and is now not expected to be drafted. He will turn 23 before the season begins, and may have declared mindful of his unlikelihood of being drafted, simply hoping to get underway with a professional career. Fair enough. But that doesn’t make him any greater of a draft candidate. Scott blocks shots and shoots threes, with not a whole lot going on in between. He plays like a face-up power forward in the body of a senior, favouring the interior on defence and the perimeter on offence, with little desire and/or ability to post-up and not a great driving game, nor much success with the perimeter defence game. If it’s not a transition finish, a put-back dunk or a catch-and-shoot three, Scott struggles with it. There is a chance that his fine stroke could see him be an energy player off the bench – that range gives him an advantage over, say, DeAngelo Casto – yet it’s not a big chance.

Joe Trapani – Trapani actually compares favourably to some of the above, although you wouldn’t know it. He shoots it about as well as Tim Abromaitis, and plays a different yet similarly effective style to those of Chandler Parsons and Jimmy Butler. He’s also comparably to Kyle Singler, statistically if not reputationally (or bloviationally). Boston College were largely overlooked this season, but it wasn’t Trapani’s fault, as he averaged 14.9 points and 7.0 rebounds in 30 minutes per game. The inside-outside forward wasn’t especially efficient as a scorer, but he rebounded very well for a 6’8 235lb wing player, defended sufficiently, and was a nightly matchup problem.

Maybe Trapani did no one thing sufficiently well to be worthy of draft consideration. But frankly, did Chandler Parsons? Did Jimmy Butler? Does Singler’s frankly limited game deserve so much better of a rep than he? Even if he is not worthy of being drafted, Trapani belongs somewhere in the conversation, and yet he has rarely been so. Perception is a selective thing.

Justin Holiday – Like Bishop, Holiday excels a defender, a glue guy and defensive wing specialist with a rather underwhelming offensive profile. But like Bishop, his offensive game took a significant leap forward as a senior, to the point that he’s put himself into draft connection. Holiday’s off-the-dribble game is still limited, he never gets (or looks to get) to the foul line, and there’s no hint of a post game, yet his ability to spot up for jumpers improved at least twofold, and his scoring average almost doubled from 5.9 to 10.5ppg. Holiday has a shooting guard’s body without having a handle – if he can demonstrate enough of one to allow him to regularly play the two guard spot, this will help greatly.

Tobias Harris – TBC

Davis Bertans – TBC

Nihad Djedovic – TBC

Posted by at 9:35 PM