A 6’2 scoring guard, Adams is trying to emulate David Logan and go from Division II Indianapolis right to the highest levels of professional basketball. And he’s doing a bloody good job of it. In fact, he’s already done it. A scoring machine, Adams has worked his way to the Spanish ACB in three short years after graduating. He led Division II in scoring as a senior with 23.2 points per game, followed it up with 18.9 points per game with Guaiqueries in Venezuela, followed that up with 19.3 points per game in the Ukraine with Kryvbasket, followed that with 18.0 points per game with Bremerhaven in Germany, and followed that up with 18.3 points per game with Nancy in France. There aren’t many more levels to go up after that – Nancy were a EuroLeague team this year – and after a mid-season move to the ACB and Laboral, Adams is now knocking on the NBA’s door. Adams is not just a scorer – he’s also a high assist guy, a very good rebounder for his size, and a decent defender with great hands. He’s streaky as a shooter and takes some bad ones, but such hot streaks can be extremely hot, and although he is small and does little at the basket, his energy and dynamicism make him a pest on both ends. Adams is fast, athletic, energetic and relentlessly aggressive, and he is becoming one of the better American point guards not in the NBA. Be prepared for a LOT of turnovers, however.
An out and out post player, Alexander was something of a disappointment as a freshman, which is a little unfair given that no one ultimately can control the expectation of others but which nonetheless speaks to his underwhelming season, in which he showed distinct limitations.
Alexander has a strong frame with a good amount of muscle on it for one so young, and although he is not much of a run and jump athlete, he is not a stiff. His very long arms make up for being a couple of inches short of ideal in height, and he can outmuscle pretty much all the competition, particularly on the glass. The physical profile is quite established.
The skill set isn’t. Alexander looks a bit bewildered in the post, has no handle and very little jump shot away from it, misses a lot of shots (his only consistent offensive tool is the dunk), shows little skill with his off-hand, and has little offensive poise or awareness. He also shows little defensive poise or awareness, being little help on the perimeter and either getting lost or jumping needlessly on the perimeter. At this point he’s a rebounder and opportunity scorer, and given that he is not especially explosive (Alexander dunks a lot, but has to gather himself to do it), the skills are going to have to develop quite a lot to overcome the current problems.
As a general rule, early declarations should not be frowned upon, given the backwardness of the NCAA model. In Alexander’s case, however, it might have been in his best interests. Some continuity and intense skill development is needed. Alexander will make money anyway, but the big money will elude unless things change.
Birch is an exceptional rebounder, one of the best there is and that there can be. He also averaged an enormous 3.8 blocks per game, again about as good as there can be. He hustles and scraps, tracks the ball off the rim, rebounds outside of his area, rebounds over people, and has the length and athleticism to compete with anybody. Birch’s thin frame lacks for strength and he can be boxed out, but he can grab the rebound anyway, and will certainly try to. Around the basket, he will swat whatever he can around the rim, has good timing and anticipation, and of course gets up very quickly. In two of the most big man-ny big man areas, Birch is extremely productive.
Everything else is less of a sure thing. On offence in particular, Birch is markedly underskilled, creating almost nothing in the post, not shooting a jump shot with any consistency, not making his foul shots with any consistency, and indeed not even making layups with any consistency. He runs the court, hustles and dunks, but it’s opportunistic only and he’s plenty subdueable. With his physical profile, Birch should forgo trying to be a post-up player and become a dominant pick-and-roll presence, but he is a long way short of this, and the guards he plays with can only partially be at fault. Birch’s offence is underdeveloped to the point that spacing and screen, real fundamental skills, aren’t even comfortable for him. The same can be true of his defence; Birch’s physical tools allow him to mask many mistakes, but there are many mistakes of the positional and staying-in-front sense. There is an awful lot to do, and Birch is very much a project still.
That said, look at those rebounds. Look at those blocks. Look at that athleticism. Don’t look at the bits he can’t do; look at the bits he can do that can’t be taught. Look at the lack of character concerns that go with it. Is that not worthy of a second-round pick and a slow developmental process?
Turns out it wasn’t; Birch went undrafted and, although he signed a camp contract with the Miami Heat that even included a little bit of guaranteed money, he never made an NBA roster. Birch instead spent the year with the Heat’s affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, and took full advantage of the D-League’s high pace with averages of 11.1 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in only 24.5 minutes per game. My views from before still apply – Birch is not skilled, but he doesn’t especially need to be. As rebounders and opportunist scorers go, I’d take him over Alexander.
Boatright is dynamic, but not with any great control. He is fast, with a very tight handle, aggressive and fearless, and relentlessly attacking the rim. But he struggles to finish when he’s there, and he takes some poor shots along the way. Boatright is quite a good shooter, especially good with a step-back, but he overfancies himself and can stop the ball at times. And while he can play close, tight, pressing defence, he can also overhelp and gamble recklessly.
Shooting a very good pull-up shot, Boatright is a half court scoring option on every trip and a dynamo in transition, but his unreliability and excessive shot taking negates some of that. Boatright’s blazing speed and great leap make him one of the better athletes on this or any list, but his tiny frame and short arms make him one of the smallest players on this or any list. Boatright can get to the rim without a screen going right, but struggles to get there even with one when asked to go left. Boatright can pass on the move, drive and kick, and drive and dump off, but he rarely finds a role man and is often driving to shoot. He has great agility and body control, but is really, really small. Some of that stuff can be fixed. Some can’t.
Brown’s athleticism is as good as anybody’s. He is a cannon in transition, a seriously dynamic player who absolutely flies down the court and who isn’t afraid of contact. Brown runs the court at every opportunity and has learnt how to use this athleticism – by leaking out, cutting off the ball and playing defence, rather than by trying to do everything with the ball.
This is important, because in terms of ball skills, Brown is lacking. Despite all the athleticism, he doesn’t have the greatest first step when driving with the ball, in large part because his handle is not good enough to keep up with his feet. He lacks advanced ball handling skills in terms of hesitation dribbles, changes of direction and the like, and although he is developing in this area, Brown lacks the handle that a 6’3 guard would ideally have. At that size, one would expect a guard to be able to play some point, but Brown rarely does – forced into doing so in the absence of Marcus Smart, Brown was not especially reliable at getting the ball over half court, and showed little in the way of playmaking ability other than to start the endless series of perimeter passes.
Brown’s abilities and upside lie elsewhere. As a defensive player, he has every physical tool required; recovery speed, strength, long wingspan and, pleasingly, a penchant for blocks. These tools also allow him at times to be able to get to the basket without using a pick, and he has developed over the years an understanding of the timing and angles involved in when to make such attacks. He also has some projectable ability as a shooter. Utilising a good shot fake and with an incredibly high leap on his shot, Brown has improved his catch-and-shoot jumper to being perfectly adequate, and is already a good mid-range shooter. He rarely shoots off of curls or screens (despite often using both for getting to the basket), which if developed would be a new string to his bow.
At times, Brown drifts and gets lazy on defence, undermining his physical prowess. And at times, despite his increased offensive IQ and skills, he forgets the fact that he’s the kind of player who can split double teams, dive off the ball, attack the basket and finish through contact, and instead tries to shoot through everything. But on his game, Brown is an NBA player. And if he can develop the defence to an elite level, whilst also developing enough of a handle to fill in at point or enough of a shot to be a capable higher volume shooter – or both – he might stick around for a while. He hasn’t the ideal size for Tony Allen’s job, but then many of these same things were once said about Tony Allen, too. Allen learnt his role and embraced it. So must Brown.
He was certainly given the opportunity to be that Tony Allen clone by the Nets last year, recording 781 minutes and 29 starts in the regular season, although barely featuring in the playoffs. Brown gave some youth, athleticism and dynamicism to a team that sorely lacked for those qualities, and has plenty of moments defensively. He was extremely tough to place offensively, however, passing up jump shots, missing many others, driving to nowhere and losing the handle too regularly. Brown’s athleticism is elite and his defence pretty good, but pretty good will have to become elite for him to break out. The Nets really need the exact type of player Brown could be, and a pairing of him and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson could be a spectacular wing defensive pairing. But it will also be a terribly spaced unit unless Brown can improve his catch-and-shoot game.
Clark is now 27. This should be his prime. And yet here he is, back in summer league, once again trying to get back in the NBA after a season on its very fringes. The man whose calling card was the fact that he “does so many things” continues to struggle to find a place in the bigs on account of not doing any one particular thing. Occasional shooting and good passing vision for his size are not proving enough, and now in his late twenties, it’s getting tougher. There are better shooters to use as stretch bigs, and there are younger unpolished 6’10 athletes.
Delaney is a very athletic wing with good size and length, who was given the opportunity to score at New Mexico last year due to a severe dearth of options, but who didn’t really take it. He did score some – 11.7 points per game in 29 minutes, on 49.5% shooting with a 37.2% three point stroke – but he didn’t assume the role of go-to guy, despite one being sorely needed, as he just hasn’t that mindset or skill set. Delaney’s offence suffered from unaggressive periods when his team needed someone to step up, and moments of reckless abandon when going to be the basket. His offensive instincts in the half court are still behind the curve. That said, there are plenty of tools in the shed – the physical profile (athlete, dunker, good length and speed), coupled with a decent three point catch-and-shoot shot and a mid-range pull-up. Although only a decent defender despite his tools, Delaney has the tools of a three-and-D role player at the NBA level with his athletic profile, set shot and ability to disrupt on the perimeter. He does however have to prove he can do the latter two to a higher standard and higher frequency, as others have proven themselves ahead of him.
Gasser was the token gritty glue gumption guy for Wisconsin for four years, whereby his intangibles and hustle and effort and face and whatnot embodied the Wisconsin way and totally justified the fact that he had almost no production. Tat statement is simultaneously facetious yet indisputable; Gasser never seemed to do anything, but things rarely went as well when he wasn’t in.
Gasser averaged as-near-as-is 6.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.8 assist in 33 minutes per game as a senior. In 4,774 career minutes for the Badgers, he totalled 1,025 points, 575 rebounds and 284 assists. As is evident, he didn’t receive 4,774 minutes because he was productive. Rather, a large part of the reason was what he didn’t do. With a better than a 2:1 career assist/turnover ratio, Gasser never did anything he couldn’t do, shooting efficiently from downtown (40.2%) on low attempts, being judicious with every shot and dribble. He moved the ball on, fed the post and endlessly if completely unincisively swung the ball around the perimeter, which is exactly what he meant to do. Similarly, Gasser’s main virtues came defensively where, despite being not fast, big or athletic, Gasser played tough as old boots and made himself a very good on-ball perimeter defender. A high IQ system player on both ends with great effort and anticipation, Gasser is leaving the place that was absolutely perfect for him.
The only players to have made the NBA with a comparable resume were Chris Kramer and Mario West, and while West stuck around for a few years in a ridiculously specialist role, Kramer never got out of camp. Gasser might not even get that far, as it will be tough if not impossible to look beyond the fact he really did only average 6/3 in 33 minutes. Kramer at least had athleticism. Nevertheless, Gasser can make some money in Europe, and having the NBA on your resume is quite the boost for that.
Gray made a name for himself right at the end of his senior season with a 33 point, 30 rebound game against Coppin State in one of his final collegiate games. It was the culmination of consistent improvement in this area of the game, as Gray’s rebounding rate developed significantly throughout his career. As a freshman, he tried to block everything, recording 3.2 blocks in 25.3 minutes per game but rebounding only 4.8 times in that time. But as a senior, while still blocking 2.8 times per game, Gray grabbed 11.8 rebounds per game, second in the nation behind only UCSB’s Alan Williams. Decently sized for the paint and decently mobile so as to be able to rebound outside of his area, Gray boxes out on everything, and uses great timing rather than explosiveness to swat shots at the rim and track the ball coming off of it.
The Coppin State game, however, was also a bit of an outlier. Gray struggled with fouls and fatigue quite a bit down the stretch of the season, and didn’t record a double double over his final four games (the Coppin State outing was therefore his last one). Despite the appearance of being an automatic double double, Gray wasn’t that, struggling with consistency and seeing his production taper off quite significantly. The Gray who likes to run the court and pursue the ball was a step slower, and without that motor, Gray does not stand out.
There is some offensive skill to his game, however. The staple of Gray’s scoring game is a mid-range jump shot, added to which he has the ability to put the ball on the floor and drive on close-outs from that area. Gray’s offensive game is almost entirely from the mid-range area facing up; he creates little in the post, shows little in the way of moves, and hasn’t the core length or strength to ever be particularly strong in this area. He also shows little inclination towards trying to seal position for a pass over the top or dump-off down around the basket, is prone to standing around on offence, and without any great strength or explosiveness is not the best finisher around the rim. Yet in addition to shooting from the mid-range area, Gray is also a capable and willing passer from there, hitting cutters and throwing good high-low passes when the opportunity presents itself. He is a defence-first player, but he is not an offensive liability.
Gray is quite mobile, but certainly not explosive, and quite big, but not powerful. He runs without moving his arms (which is weird) and does not use any tools especially to succeed. Much of what he does is through instincts and timing rather than explosiveness, and through having size and athletic advantages at the Delaware State level he won’t have any longer. There are holes in the skill set and there’s doubts as to how well the good bits will even translates. That said, Dwayne Jones played many years in and on the fringes of the NBA with a similar skill set and body of work; slightly bigger and more athletic, maybe, but less offensively skilled. Rebounding generally translates, and a stint in the D-League (where, in the right spot, he could readily average double digit boards again) will put him in the conversation.
This will be the fifth summer that Gonzaga guard Gray has tried to make the NBA, and although he was able to get one training camp contract from the Washington Wizards in 2012, he has yet to make a regular season roster. Gray has spent the last three years of his career in France, and last season averaged 16.8 points and 3.1 rebounds in French league games with Dijon. Included in that was 42% three point shooting on more than seven attempts per game, as well as a 40% three point shooting stroke in 16 EuroCup contests. This is not an outlier; Gray is always a good jump shooter, from mid-range and out, off the catch and off the bounce. Gray also makes good reads on defence, anticipates well and shows a decent effort level on this end. He would be a very projectable three-and-D wing role player were it not for a lack of physical tools. With below average size for the NBA shooting guard position and without the great length or athleticism to make up for it, Gray has entirely the right skill set for the job, but not quite the optimum size. If he can shoot it well enough, this may not matter.
Lionel’s son is here after spending the first season of his professional career in the French second division with Denain. For Denain, Hollins averaged 8.5 points in 17.9 minutes, shooting 40.3% from three point range, whilst also making three pointers be the vast majority of his offence. From last year’s seniors list;
Playing alongside his nakesake Andre at Minnesota, Lionel’s son had to shoulder more of an offensive burden as a senior than perhaps best suited him. The Golden Gophers were suitably short of offence that Hollins’s 12.4 points per game actually led the team, yet being a leading scorer is not what Hollins is good at. Hollins does not create like a primary offensive creator, nor does he have the tools for being so. He has neither the explosive foot speed, nor the intricate handle, nor the jump shot to be so. What he is is a solid combo guard and role player.
Hollins is a good athlete with a long wingspan who is fairly consistent in his production and effort, but who lacks stand-out offensive skill. He can hit a few three pointers, but without the greatest natural rhythm or a high volume of looks, Hollins’s jump shot is only an occasional weapon, one shot better off the catch than off the dribble. Despite decent wingspan and athleticism, Hollins is not much of a slasher, favouring the jump shot and never proving consistently able to get to the rim when defended man to man.
However, the fact that Hollins was never a go-to player should not discredit the value he brought as a role player. With decent tools, timely scoring, good extra passing, unselfishness and enough of a shot to be a threat, Hollins had subtle but key benefits to the Golden Gopher’s offence, and was also a decent and consistent defensive player, despite often having to defend wings much bigger than he. Hollins led the team to an NIT championship, the best all-around player on the team who always took on the challenge, even when he was ill-suited for it.
To make the higher levels of the European game, Hollins will have to improve some facet of his game so that it is a discernable strength, something on which he can hang his hat. That facet will likely be the shot. If he can up his percentages and also add more shooting outside of just catching and raising up, he could be a role player at a high standard of professional basketball.
The uptick to a 40% three point shooting mark sounds like a good start towards that. But going from a bench role in the French second division to the NBA is a huge ask, no matter who you’re related to. Hollins still needs to prove he can be a volume three point shooter.
Hollis-Jefferson is not a shooter. Indeed, he’s almost a non-factor as one. Aside from, if we’re being generous, a fairly consistent 12 footer, Hollis-Jefferson is little other threat on the jump shot, and does not have much potential in this area with his current form. He does at least shoot 70.7% from the foul line, which is not bad, aided by a quite contrived wiggle in his pre-shot routine. But the wiggle can’t be adapted to the jumper, and so a wiggle-less RHJ is able to be entirely left alone from the perimeter.
Every other part of the game, however, has plenty of potential. Strong, long, fast and athletic, Hollis-Jefferson defends multiple positions and plays with great energy on the defensive end. He plays hard on the offensive end, too, but his skill is underdeveloped – lacking a jump shot with range (as mentioned above), demonstrating little in the way of ball-handling ability, not posting up, and not in any way creating much offence other than by running the court. Hollis-Jefferson is also not the best finisher when he does get looks at the basket that aren’t dunks, although he does attack defenders looking for contact, and does at least create these opportunities through cuts and hustle. But in order to be a slasher, he has to develop his handle beyond being the straight line driver that he is now, and improve his awareness so as to not barrel in recklessly.
The defensive end is the calling card and likely always will be. Always with great energy, Hollis-Jefferson stays in front, bodies up, uses his length and reading of passing lanes to recover for blocks, and has a knack for clean stripping drivers. He stays in front of smaller guys and smothers them on the perimeter, closes out quickly and with his hand up, and bodies up the bigs with core strength that it does not look like he has. In theory, RHJ can defend every position – that makes him a 3 by default in the NBA, as do his measurements, but a small forward with defensive versatility to go both bigger and smaller is exactly the type of small forward the NBA wants.
These improvements are required more than desired for Hollis-Jefferson, if he is to stand out from the Julian Wright types that have gone before him, players did not develop these skills and found themselves soon out of the league for the next crop of the same type of player who might. The idea of a multi-positional, defensive-mind, transition-and-cutting athletic presence is nonetheless a nice one. Hopefully RHJ keeps up the intensity and is exactly that.
However, a discussion of Hondae-Jefferson here is incomplete without a discussion of the trade that sent him to Brooklyn. On draft night, the Nets acquired his rights along with Steve Blake from Portland in exchange for Mason Plumlee and the rights to Pat Connaughton (41st pick). Disregarding Blake, who is irrelevant to the talent part of the trade and was included purely to match salary, the trade is Plumlee and Connaughton for RHJ. And no matter what anyone may think of RHJ, it’s an extremely valid question to ask why Plumlee’s value was deemed so low. Plumlee is athletic, rebounds very well in traffic and has potential (if not yet all that much effectiveness) as a paint protector. It is duly noted that he was somewhat stuck behind Brook Lopez, a man with whom he pairs very badly, and that although the aim would be to have both Plumlee AND Hollis-Jefferson, the Nets hadn’t the assets elsewhere to make that possible. Yet Plumlee has been an effective NBA centre for two years, in an ugly yet sustainable way, and is both cheap and capable. Very capable, in fact. So why is his value considered to be that of a #23 pick? And why on Earth was Connaughton added?
Nonetheless, RHJ is here now. He is, sans the spacing issue, what the Nets need, and a player with a lot of potential. If he lives up to some of it, Connaughton’s bizarre inclusion won’t matter.
Jefferson’s distinctive characteristic is trying to tear the rim off. He is a mostly scrappy offensive player, benefiting more from cuts to the basket, transition and put-back opportunities than shot creation from the post or off the dribble, but when he gets a ahead of steam and a lane to the basket, he dunks as explosively as anybody. Jefferson has an NBA body and NBA athleticism, and he proves it at any opportunity.
There is skill to go with it, especially in the form of a mid-range jumper that is becoming quite consistent. A scrappy high IQ player with good shot selection, Jefferson can utilise this jump shot in pick-and-pop plays or when turning around from the post, and he is also starting to add occasional three point range to that. Thriving in pick-and-roll play, Jefferson struggles to make more than about two dribbles or driving anywhere other than in a straight line with the ball in his hands, but when given a straightish line, he is plenty capable of finishing the play. Although he lacks badly for assists or any playmaking skills for others, this is not something that should be held too much against Jefferson, an unselfish player with limitations but who knows exactly where they are and who is incredibly efficient in what he does do. He attacks the contact, gets to the line, and creates offensive purely through his physicality, effort level and athletic prowess. Defensively, although Jefferson somewhat lacks for much strength or great lateral quickness, he projects to be able to defend perimeter bigs at the professional level if he can improve his footwork, and he has sufficient awareness to take quite a few charges.
Always bouncy, Jefferson is hard to ignore, and hard to subdue. He has NBA talent, and will stick if he can add consistent outside range to what he already has.
Jefferson showed he belonged in his first NBA season, averaging 3.7 points and 2.9 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game and making few mistakes on the way. His athleticism is plenty translatable on defence – it matters not that he hasn’t the strength to defend the post, as not many of the opponents he will play against do either these days – and although he is prone to overhelping, he can recover. Jefferson already demonstrates a pretty good mid-range catch-and-shoot jump shot, and although he was responsible for a spectacular airball last year, the three point range should follow soon.
As a senior, Mitchell completely lost the free throw stroke he had built up to mediocrity as a junior, and his 42.7% shooting from there made him a liability. He rushes the release on the shot and snatches aggressively at it, and has absolutely no rhythm on it nor any jump shot. Given what an offensive liability he became from the line, this also affected his minutes, and as good as Virginia was last season, Mitchell had to watch some of it from the bench, averaging only 25.7 minutes per game.
Mitchell nonetheless played a big role for the Cavaliers, mostly defensively and on the glass. He is a good leaper with a high motor, who returns a very good rebounding rate and embraces his role as a dirty worker. He uses this motor in a similar fashion on the defensive end, where, despite an average amount of lateral quickness that his jumping ability rather masks, and despite a lack of optimum size for post defence, he nevertheless contests on everything. Mitchell hedges hard on pick-and-roll actions and can stay in front of driving big men, but he can be blown past on closeouts given that he does not change direction too quickly, and sometimes those pick-and-roll hedges are a little too hard. He nonetheless moves his feet as best he can, has some shot blocking timing around the rim, and is a nuisance defensively if not a lock-down player at any position.
There is occasionally some offence from Mitchell, who is not Reggie Evans out there. He runs the court hard and can finish around the rim if set up, throwing a little spin to a righty hook if impeded and going straight up if not. He has not the best footwork, has very little handle, has even littler of a jump shot and travels a bit, but his sprightliness and cuts to open spots give him a purpose offensively, and he stays within that role. Players who recognise their limitations and play within them are always fun to be coached, and Mitchell is so capable of and willing to embrace his interior role playing status that he has made it all the way up to this level. But at 6’8 and 230lbs-ish, anything further is a long shot.
Mitchell spent his first professional season with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the D-League, averaging 9.8 points and 9.0 rebounds in 26.9 minutes per game. The free throw stroke still hasn’t come back, as he shot 48.9% from the line, and although Mitchell took 41 three pointers on the year after taking only 11 his entire college career, hitting only 9 of them doesn’t make him a stretch threat. Not yet, anyway – another year of working on that, like Eduardo Najera once did, and Mitchell’s in the frame.
Jayvaughn Pinkston improved considerably throughout his collegiate career without it being all that evident in his production. He arrived at Villanova with hype and talent, but not much idea of what to do with it. And after a fraught beginning, he left as a reliable, versatile senior who contributed in many ways.
As a senior, Pinkston dispensed with much of the face-up game that had rather burdened him until that point, Pinkston always played as though he wanted to be a face-up player, a shooter and a driver, but he was never especially good at these things, and his continued insistence on trying was helping neither himself nor his team. He was not nearly as good of a ball handler as he thought he was, and while he took the open threes he was given, hitting them at 26% is precisely why he was given them. But as a senior, Pinkston mostly stopped all this, re-engaged himself with the post, venturing outside only really to run pick-and-roll action.
This is not to say that Pinkston is the greatest option in the post – he lacks athleticism and hasn’t the greatest range of moves, and is not a consistent halfcourt option for every trip inside. But with his strength, Pinkston is very hard to stop from getting position, and he creates the angles for feeds well. Finishing mostly with his right hand, Pinkston has a hook shot and good feet, barrels in and attacks contact. He can isolate down low or get open in the flow, and although his lack of explosion limits him a bit, the ton of fakes he uses down low can create a bit of separation from his defender. He draws doubles from the defence, and notwithstanding some lazy passes, he kicks the ball out of the post fairly well.
Elsewhere, Pinkston’s lack of speed and explosion limit him on the glass, and he struggles to clear the defensive boards or rebound out of his area. This is not helped by a reluctance (or constantly forgetting) to box out. Yet his defensive awareness probably improved even more than his offensive one did. Without great leap or length, Pinkston made an impact defensively by getting position, using his strength on the interior, and taking quite a few charges for a man of his size. Pinkston’s perimeter defence still needs work, as his footwork does not keep him in front of the play enough, but he provides quite a good amount of help defence without fouling, and rotates well. Pinkston’s lack of size and speed is probably not an NBA combination, but the total package of skills will work somewhere.
Reddic was the big man in VCU’s havoc press, and as such can correctly be assumed to have some good perimeter defensive skills for a big man. Be in on switches or traps, Reddic moves well on the perimeter and also makes good reads, recording a good amount of steals for a de facto power forward and able to stick with the opposing guards. Athletic and agile, Reddic overrotates at times, but has good recovery speed, making him very much a pest in this aspect of the game.
The problems come on the interior, where Reddic doesn’t do his work early enough. He has some strength on his frame, but does not do much with it, not being tough enough on the interior nor consistently boxing out on the glass. A power forward in name only, Reddic is not one for the power and physicality of the interior, and never has been a paint or post protector.
Offensively, Reddic’s main skill is the offensive rebound, at which he is much better (and seemingly more interested) than defensive rebounding. He contributes a few different things on offence – some pick-and-roll play, an occasional mid-range jump shot (including a turnaround from the post), occasionally stepping out and being able to take slower defenders with a two-dribble drive from that area. None of it is especially consistent, though, and although Reddic looks fairly smooth in his offensive moves, he simply misses quite a lot of shots. Reddick does little in the post and is only effective from there in opportunistic situations, and although he is very good at the putback, he has little in the way of reliable halfcourt offence.
In total, then, Reddic is a perimeter player on defence and only an interior player on offence, without being particularly effective at the latter. That’s a tough combination to place. If he develops a more consistent shot with better range, then the skills he already have combined with his physical tools make Reddic a potentially very solid stretch four. As it is, he’s somewhat limited.
Reddic’s first professional season was spent with two Italian teams, Pesaro and Bologna, averaging 9/5 in 22 minutes for the former and 7/4 in 15 for the latter. He remained a distinctly poor defensive rebounder, however, and this may be his area of most immediate concern.
Since leaving Houston in 2012 with averages of 14.7 ppg and 5.0 rpg as a senior, Simmons has been in the US minor leagues, firstly the ABA and then the last two years with the Austin Toros/Spurs of the D-League. He enjoyed a decent spike in minutes last year, and averaged 15.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 33.8 minutes per game. Although that isn’t actually that much in the high scoring D-League – as evidenced by a 13.6 PER – it’s plenty solid enough, and came on percentages of 49.4%/39.8%/75.0%. Simmons is prone to mistakes, driving into trouble, losing the ball, throwing it away, and overfavouring his right hand. But at 6’6, athletic and contributing a little in all facets of the game, Simmons has some assets that would make him an NBA role playing wing. It would benefit him greatly to prove he can be a high volume three point shooter, as, although an efficient one, this has yet to happen.
Thames is a high scoring combo guard who is essentially best as a half court driver. Inside the lane, he uses subtle fakes and hesitations to create spacing and looks, and can either get to the basket or shoot a pull-up. Thames gets to the line a lot, welcoming contact and able to draw it through his craft, as well as owning a useful floater for the occasions he is up against true length. He uses both hands to both handle and finish, and although he has little flair, he has good body control and positional awareness to be able to find and expose seams in the defence.
What Thames does not excel at is being able to take that ability to penetrate in the half court and turn it into being able to find looks for team mates. He does not often kick out to shooters when on the drive, nor does he drop off to the big men; he’s driving to score, and seems to lack the vision to do more than that. Thames has some point guard abilities, able to find a roll man in pick-and-roll action and very secure with the ball, smooth and safe, but he does not move a defence much.
Outside of the arc, Thames is less effective, as his three point stroke has never been that good. For all his understanding of time and score, of when to carry the scoring load and when to step up, Thams lacks much in the way of dynamicism, being all craft rather than flair. That said, Thames can carry his team for stretches through this craft. Lacking great speed, Thames makes up for it on offence with reliability and an unflappability in the face of defensive pressure, and copes with it on defence with good anticipation, hands and rotations.
A lead guard at the college level, Thames is harder to peg at the NBA level. A bit like Nolan Smith before him, Thames is either big but slow for a point, or small and a bit slow for a two, with a skill set that resides somewhere between the two. Most aspects of his game are solid, but none are spectacular, which begs the question as to what role Thames fits. “Just a guard” is fine in theory, but what’s his role in a half court offence, and who does he defend? A very good shot creator and defender at the college level, neither projects that well. Thames is good, very good, but might be better suited for Europe.
Europe is where Thames did indeed go, signing with Sevilla in Spain, but he struggled quite a bit. Averaging only 3.4 and 0.8 assists in 15.4 minutes per game of ACB play, Thames returned to American part way through the season and finished up with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants averaging 7.3 points and 2.1 assists in 19.7 minutes per game. Thames isn’t a shooter, a microwave, a half court breaker-downer or an athlete, so not only is he stuck on the fringes of the NBA, but he’s also beholden to a team he really does not fit. The very things the Nets need, the very things Jarrett Jack doesn’t have, nor does Thames.
Despite having very little in the way of picks, the Nets gave up two future second-round picks to Charlotte for the rights to Vaulet, drafted 39th. Had Vaulet fallen two more spots, they might have picked him at #41 instead of Pat Connaughton, kept the two seconds, kept Miles Plumlee and not traded for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. But regardless, Vaulet’s here now.
Playing last year for Bahia in his native Argentina, the 19 year old Vaulet averaged 16.9 minutes, 7.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.4 blocks per game, shooting 50.5% from the field, 66.7% from the line and 10% from three point range. Bahia lost to Penarol in the quarter finals of the Argentinian league, and Vaulet had a big role to play in that; after barely playing to start the season, Vaulet was a key contributor by the end, recording 24 minutes and 13 points in the game five loss in the championship series. Aside from the occasional goose egg – everyone has the occasional goose egg – Vaulet routinely contributed every time he was given minutes, and was the bright spot in an uncompetitive season for the team.
Argentina haven’t had much potential come through since the demise of the great era, but the new era is being blooded in as we speak, Vaulet represents one of the more athletic prospects they have had for a while. He is not a shooter, as evidenced by the 10% three point shooting, and seems to release the ball while still on the way up, which isn’t good for his rhythm. He is distinctly raw still on the defensive end, lost at times and overplaying people, but not out-toughed. Indeed, his toughness is a virtue, as is his physical profile. Without being a run and jump athlete necessarily, Vaulet is more spry and nimble, laterally quick and with a tremendous motor. He is fast with and without the ball and is always pushing it, the team entrusting the youngster to make plays in the full court, demonstrating the awareness, handle and step-through to be able to get to the rim. A very willing (if too willing) help defender, Vaulet has great recovery speed, timing and anticipation, and if he is prone to mistakes in man to man and isolation defence, there is no reason to assume this will stay the case. He is raw but not hugely so – the skill set has holes in it, most obviously the jump shot, but the poise and IQ is there, as are the tools. It was odd of Vaulet to declare (and stay declared) so early, but it has worked out, and he is one worth monitoring.
Vozzola is an odd addition here, a much travelled player who played for four colleges in five seasons and seemingly scowled in every one of their team photos. After two years and precisely 10 minutes at San Diego, Vozzola transferred to Cowley County commuunity college for one year (averaging 9.4 points per game), transferred back to Division I with Cal State Northridge for his junior campaign, averaged 2.9 points in 33 games, and then transferred to NAIA school St Catharine as a senior. There, he averaged 15.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, but a lot of players average that much at the NAIA level, and roughly none of them get NBA looks. Why has Vozzola (apparently) got an invite to Nets camp? No idea, but fair play to him. Here’s some tape.
I am continuously intrigued by the esoterica and minutiae of all the aspects of building a basketball team. I want to understand how to build the best basketball teams possible. No, I don’t know why, either.