Criticisms of Carter-Williams include that he can’t shoot, and he can’t make contested shots at the basket either, as he’s too slender. He’s raw, he’s too turnover prone, he doesn’t use his left hand enough, and he makes poor decisions. All true enough, and all sound bad. But all can be worked at. What Carter-Williams does undeniably possess is size, a handle, the ability to score in isolation and in transition, a knack for getting to the rim more with guile than speed, passing skills and vision, and an innate skill for the penetrate-and-dish. If he needs to get bigger, tougher and smarter while developing a jump shot, that’s fine. So do most 21 year old guards.
Cooper couldn’t have done much more for Ohio than he did, leading them to multiple NCAA tournament appearances, including a Sweet 16, and averaging 14.1 points and 7.1 assists per game. He did so while averaging 42% shooting, a marked improvement on his 34% the year before, and upped his three point percentage to 36%. A better jump shot is essential to the sub-six footer, who, no matter how good his passing and handles, and how blazing his speed, needs to be able to make shots to make the league. He’s both smaller and slower than Patty Mills, for example, so he needs to compensate.
Eric was signed to a substantially guaranteed contract with the Cavaliers last season – over 60% of it, in fact – and then was waived before the season started anyway. He then went to the D-League, and, although he played pretty well (8.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 22 minutes per game), he was nonetheless outplayed by Arinze Onuaku. Eric has shot blocking instincts, size, and effort both defensively and on the glass, although the offensive game is a little short. Nevertheless, despite having no real moves, he can catch and finish, and very occasionally hits a jump shot. Further work in the D-League to develop offensive consistency, and at least an average free throw stroke, might see him make the NBA one day.
Signed very late in the season to a contract through 2015, Jrue’s brother could be that coveted three-and-D type that all teams seek in their non-star wings. He has improved year on year, particularly in the “three” part of that description, hitting 41% of them for the Idaho Stampede on his way to averages of 17.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. This is very impressive from a player standing only 6’6, and Holiday is perhaps as ready as anyone for a Danny Green-like breakout to whoever affords him the opportunity. This isn’t Rodney Carney we’re talking about here – this is a potential high quality NBA role player. Give Holiday minutes and the loss of Dorell Wright is immediately offset.
Kazemi crashes the glass extremely well, defends both the perimeter and the interior fairly adeptly, has decent athleticism, and provides very little offence. It’s all cuts and transition, and even then it isn’t much. Nevertheless, Dominic McGuire has turned a multi-year career out of a similar skill set, and he has done so without even being that effective defensively, merely looking like he should be. So Kazemi has a chance.
Leslie was waived by the Clippers in preseason last year, and spent the season with Santa Cruz in the D-League, where he averaged 15.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. He scores through cuts and transition, rather than any real isolation ability – his strength is the defensive end, where, when tuned in, he can be truly disruptive. If he can truly plug in and take pride on that end, and gets lucky with an opportunity, he could have a career a bit like Tony Allen’s. But he needs to want that first.
More Ryan Hollins than DeAndre Jordan, Marshall is tall with a long wingspan, good athleticism, and shot blocking instincts. These are the knowns, the strengths, the calling cards. And everything else is disputable or insufficient. Marshall has put on a little muscle but not nearly enough, and it affects all facets of his game, particularly his man-to-man post defence, defensive rebounding and finishing with anything other than a dunk. The rebounding is perhaps the most pertinent – as Hollins has proven, if you’re 7’0, athletic and thin, you don’t really need to have much offensive skill, as long as you’re prepared to run and have good team mates. But Hollins has also proven that you need to be able to rebound. Hollins has somehow gotten away with this. Marshall won’t.
Mbakwe’s fourteen year college career has finally come to an end, somehow only playing 83 games in that time, for an average of just less than six games per season. Injuries and off-court issues are to blame, both of which are marks against him, thereby necessitating his play stand out even further. And while Mbakwe is certainly productive, he likely doesn’t overcome these hurdles. His rebounding rate is prolific, his athleticism and wingspan NBA calibre, and he gets his through aggression, hustle, and a degree of skill, but it comes with big turnover numbers, plenty of fouls, and some clumsiness. If he’s going to make it, he’ll make it as a hustle player, yet the argument will go – and I’m not saying it’s right – that you can get one with less baggage.
Motum is a tough one to gauge, a 6’9-6’10 forward with dreadful rebounding but big point totals stemming from a diverse inside/outside game. He can post, shoot with three point range, and float in between, all with decent touch and a solid handle. But Motum is in no way an athlete, nor is he nearly strong enough to handle other NBA power forwards. And despite the prevalence of the myth that the European game is softer, the same is true of there, where hard fouls against anyone in the paint are much more of the norm than shot block attempts. It’s not that he’s afraid to challenge, just that he’s ineffective when he does, and the same applies to his rebounding and defence. Nevertheless, Motum has a very high offensive IQ, which will make him rich.
There weren’t a whole lot of minutes available for Moultrie with the Sixers last year, partly due to his own poor conditioning, but in the 47 games he played in, he returned an efficient 3.7 points and 3.1 rebounds in 11.5 minutes per game. Rebounding, as is usually the case, translates, especially in one with NBA size and athleticism. Offensively, Moultrie can get open and finish with power, if not create, and commits very few turnovers – his issues going forward are defensive. He has the tools.
Southerland has a good if slender frame for a small forward, and a good if streaky jump shot. Those are his two clear-cut and defined strengths, and he’s not made a great deal of effort to expand beyond that. Southerland knows how to get open without the ball for his shot, and can spot-up, but doesn’t create much off the dribble. And when it does, it’s normally for the jump shot, from either three or mid range. Southerland’s decent athleticism and long wing span help him, as does his quick release, but to make it as a shooting specialist, he needs to be a better shooter. The 39.8% from three he shot from three is an outlier that needs to continue.
Williams is an almost perfect athletic specimen for the small forward position, who wasn’t doing an awful lot with these gifts until his junior season, when he broke out. He then completely stagnated if not regressed as a senior and was back to his intriguing yet frustrating norm. Williams averaged 10.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game last year for Minnesota, but is more Paul Harris than Justin Holiday. Put simply, he can’t dribble or shoot. If he gets to the rim, it’s in transition, straight-line drives, dive cuts or the occasional post-up – there’s no hesitation move, spin moves, tight handle, pull-up jumper, or any other nuanced facet of a driving game. Defensively, it’s almost all there, but he needs more.
Wyatt flat-out scores. He’s a natural at it and a real, real talent. Wyatt has good three point range (his 31% three point shooting as a senior is an outlier until further notice), and he draws an incredible amount of foul shots through aggression and guile. The most impressive part is how he does it with below par athleticism. Wyatt has moves, footwork, hesitations, control of both his body and the defence, and a good handle. He’s not really a point, and is undersized to go with his athleticism. But if C.J. Watson can make a career out of pull-ups around a screen and average playmaking ability, can Wyatt? Possibly, if he shows he can defend the spot.