Looks Can Be Deceiving

by Justin Cherot

It’s hard to believe, but Pick and Pop has been here since 2009.  Crazy, right?

The reason I think about 2009 is because our first post was right after the NBA Draft that year.  If I remember correctly, Colin was like most NBA pundits and saw the draft as “thin“.  Not to toot my own horn, but I saw it differently (“toot, toot”).  I saw a draft loaded with potential stars, solid starters, and even nice niche role players.

To call that year’s draft weak today is laughable.  Obviously, there were a couple big misses (Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet), but that draft produced three of the top 15 players in the NBA by almost any metric (James HardenStephen Curry and Blake Griffin); four perennial all-star/borderline all-star point guards (Ty Lawson, Jrue Holiday, Ricky Rubio and Brandon Jennings); two borderline all-star swingman (DeMar DeRozan and Tyreke Evans), and a slew of solid starter and rotation guys (Danny Green, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, Marcus Thornton, Chase Budinger, Earl Clark, Darren Collison, B.J. Mullens, James Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough, Eric Maynor, Patrick Beverley, Wayne Ellington, and Gerald Henderson.)  I really, really, REALLY wanted to put Roddy Beaubois in that last group, but unfortunately he’ll have to do it at his next stop.

My point is that while on the surface this draft looks to lack the star-power, it seems eerily similar to this year’s draft.  Let’s see if we can find the diamonds in the rough.

Best Chance at Being Stars

Word about the Cleveland Cavaliers taking Alex Len is intensifying, and for good reason: I never understood how Len could dominate Nerlens Noel in an individual match-up and not end up being drafted ahead of him.  There’s no doubt in my mind that Len will struggle early, but if the Cavs–or whoever takes him– are patient with him, he could very well end up as the best player in this class.

Ben McLemore is prototypical NBA shooting guard.  He’s athletic and he has a stroke that reminds some people of Ray Allen.  Early in the season, Bradley Beal struggled with a lot of the same consistency issues that McLemore displays on occasion, but the Wizards seem to have found a future all-star to pair with John Wall.  I actually think McLemore , talent-wise, is a better version of Beal.

I’m interested to see where C.J. McCollum ends up, because at the very least he can start for teams right now.  He’s essentially Damian Lillard with a better jump shot and more explosiveness.  He might be the latest guard to debunk the whole “mid-major stars don’t translate to the NBA” myth that should have been shattered the instant S-Dot Curry put on an NBA uniform.

A sleeper might be Ricardo Ledo, who didn’t even play in college last year.  Much like Len, he won’t come in setting the world on fire, but he reminds me of a mini-Carmelo Anthony.  Stay tuned.

I also like Dennis Schroeder.  He’s young and explosive, but at the same time he plays a very heady game with basketball IQ that’s mature for his age. 

Starters For the Next Decade

 I’m not quite in the same camp–or universe, for that matter– as Dime Magazine, but Victor Oladipo will at least be a starter in this league for years to come.  Based on his college resume, he’s going to be a handful every single night and will probably harass the opposition’s best perimeter player for 48 minutes. 

There’s nothing that blows me away about Otto Porter, but his efficient offensive game will be a nice staple in someone’s starting line-up.  Can you win a title with Porter as your third or fourth best player?  Down the road, I think yes.

During my limited exposure to Anthony Bennett, I came away impressed.  He reminds me of a cross between Antoine Walker and Anthony Mason without the negative intangibles.

Cody Zeller is the player from this group with the most potential to rise or fall one tier.  I think it will benefit him if he goes into a situation where he isn’t the team’s offensive focal point.  I’m not sure if he’ll ever fulfill NBADraft.net’s   LaMarcus Aldridge comparison, but give me a guy with touch that can get up and down the floor any day of the week.

Trey Burke is another guy that could go up or down a notch.  He reminds me of a smaller, pass-first version of Jarrett Jack.  No shame in that.

Why aren’t people higher on Tim Hardaway, Jr.?  Outside of McLemore, he’s the most complete guard in the draft.  Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, an athletic but- streaky shooting guard, gets more love and might have more of an upside, but Hardaway is more NBA ready.

I’ll throw Noel in this group with the caveat that he has to, HAS TO get bigger.  If he does, he can have a Tyson Chandler-like impact for years to come.

I’m reeeeally iffy on Michael Carter-Williams if for no other reason that he reminds me of Shaun Livingston and I’m not the biggest fan, but with hesitation I will put him in this group.  Of course, one could only imagine what Livingston would have been like if this didn’t happen:

Strong Role Players

I like Shane Larkin as an athletic change of pace guard, but for better or worse he reminds me a lot of Jordan Farmar.  That said, when you’re athletic, it negates a lot of other deficiencies.

Kelly Olynyk could be a very good stretch four or five for the right team.  He has a high basketball IQ that will keep him in the league for years.

Virginia Tech’s Erick Green has an ability to get buckets (Uncle Drew voice) that cannot be overlooked.  Anyone who averages 25 ppg in the ACC while shooting a healthy percentage despite being the ONLY guy who can create his shot speaks volumes about his potential. 

There’s definitely a place for Gorgui Dieng in the league.  He’s gotten better every year, and at his apex I predict he will be playing important playoff minutes.

Mason Plumlee intrigues me.  In college, sometimes he looked like the best player on the floor.  Then there were times where he looked completely lost and resorted to fouling and trying to plow through people.  He’s too skilled not to be in the league, but to say he’ll be anything more than a good role player is a stretch. 

Erik Murphy and James Southerland are essentially the same player: valuable stretch fours that are vital in today’s NBA.

Pierre Jackson has some rich man Eddie House tendencies, and since I like House, Jackson gets a nod here. 

Most Likely to Bust

This isn’t me being lazy or racist, but all of the foreign big guys (Steven Adams, Lucas Nogueira, Rudy Gobert) are huge gambles that more often never pan out.  Draft history confirms this: for every Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki or Serge Ibaka, there are about five DeSagna Diops.  So good luck to the GM who wastes a pick on a project that will 1) probably never develop, and 2) be rendered obsolete as the league becomes more perimeter-oriented.

I can’t take Shabazz Muhammad serious, not after averaging less than an assist a game in college and only measuring 6’6″ at the combine while underwhelming the scouts athletically.  He doesn’t strike me as the type to just suddenly “fit” into a team’s scheme.

This was all well and good, but of course, four years from now I’ll probably come back and take a look at this and light myself on fire, especially when Gobert is averaging 25-15-3 and Len is playing overseas somewhere. 

Only time will tell, although it would be cool if PnP is still around then.


2 thoughts on “Looks Can Be Deceiving

  1. Pingback: Mid-Season Awards | The "T" is Silent, Tho.

  2. Pingback: Mid-Season Awards | The "T" is Silent

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