Friday night was Midnight Madness at many university campuses—the official beginning of the college basketball season—but to hoops fans who chiefly follow the NBA, it means 2012 draft picks just started their final year of amateur ball. Last year I wrote an article in which I attempted to predict the pro futures of seven soon-to-be freshmen who were expected to be in the 2011 Draft, but the trick was that I used nothing but free, online scouting services before any college film or stats were available. Although not all of them ended up turning pro last summer and it will be years before we see how they really turn out, I feel confident after one college season that I pegged a few of them quite accurately (*cough* Josh Selby).
Now I turn my attention to nine recently graduated high school seniors who are expected to be selected by NBA teams next June; I will attempt to out-scout the league by weighing what a few free websites have to say about them and making some predictions. The goal is to look back at my deductions in the future after we’ve had a chance to see what they’re able to do in the NBA. I chose new college freshmen so that I won’t bring any personal biases from having watched them play already; unlike most of the college players, I’ve really only seen these nine in a few highlight tapes. The websites I’m using are run by professional scouts, but you’d hope NBA teams could do a better job; if not, they might as well simply read those websites instead of hiring their own teams of scouts.
To be clear: I’m trying to pinpoint the future impact these nine players will have on their clubs, not their scoring or All-Star Game participation. This means I have to consider more than simply skills because guys like Zach Randolph and Gilbert Arenas are plenty skilled, but they each have some red flags concerning their character and/or attitude that have resulted in their having done very little towards making their teams any good. The areas I’ll be looking to assess are a) each player’s physical components including size, strength, and athleticism, b) basketball instincts and skills including footwork, shooting, passing, defensive fundamentals, dribbling, etc. and c) each player’s attitude, effort, and mental makeup. For the record, I’d prefer a player who is strong in the latter two areas and weaker in the physical aspects than a top-notch athlete or super tall center whose skills and headiness are lagging behind (think Larry Bird and Magic Johnson over Joe Alexander and Hasheem Thabeet).
The websites I used for my information are DraftExpress.com, NBADraft.net, and SwishScout, but I did look at some other mock draft sites to get an overall idea where a player’s 2012 draft stock was at this time. I will only use direct quotes from these sites that stick out to me before breaking down the players in my own words. How important is scouting in the NBA? Is it possible for me to out-scout the league by simply focusing on some key phrases and descriptions of players before they ever play in a college game? Only time will tell.
Here are the nine freshmen-to-be, listed in the order of their future NBA impact as predicted by me.
Anthony Davis (Kentucky)
PF, 6-feet-10, 220 lbs
Physical (B+): “excellent length, fluidity and athleticism,” “7-4 wingspan and terrific athleticism,” “runs the floor well,” “very slender,” “frail frame”
Skills (B): “possesses good perimeter skills,” “ball handling and passing skills are very strong for a player his size,” “can handle the ball and distribute,” “dominant shot blocker who also shows great ability defending on the perimeter,” “exceptional post defender…legit shot blocker and changer in the paint,” “standout rebounder with his size, length, motor, and positioning,” “touch within 5 feet of the basket,” “isn't refined offensively,” “refining post moves and play in the paint,” “lacks a back-to-the-basket game, struggles to finish through contact, turns the ball over and generally does not have a great deal of polish”
Mental (A): “strong motor and aggressiveness,” “willing to make the hustle plays and is not afraid of contact at all,” “humble kid,” “competitive nature and a terrific attitude,” “foul trouble fairly quickly when matched up with a bigger opponent (due to aggression),” “plays extremely hard,” “it's only a matter of time until everything comes together for him”
My Comparison: I’m imagining Kevin Garnett but obviously not as intense or with KG’s other-worldly ability to lead a team’s defense
My Overall Take: Considering he’s grown 7 inches just in the past two years, it makes sense that the major issues with Davis have to do with his skills in the low-post and with being too skinny. Virtually every recruiting service believes that his body will fill out (wide shoulders) and that he has the proper head and attitude to learn the post skills quickly, so Davis really could end up as the nearest Garnett-clone ability-wise that we’ve seen in a while. We hear “the sky’s the limit” for pretty much any decent player with great athleticism, but Davis really does have all the physical and mental tools to become an absolutely tremendous NBA player.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky)
SF, 6-feet-7, 215 lbs
Physical (A): “stand out athleticism,” “athletic forward with great quickness and agility, explosive leaper, quick first step,” “great natural strength and frame to build muscle”
Skills (B+): “relentless defender that has the ability to defend 1-4 at the college level,” “immaculate timing and defensive instincts,” “defense remains his defining trait,” “rebounds very well while never forgetting the fundamentals of boxing out,” “offensively does everything well,” “jack of all trades type who shows the ability to do everything well, but a master of nothing,” “ability to play on the perimeter is a work in progress,” “lacks range on his shot past 15-17 feet,” “needs more reliable perimeter shooting,” “quick dribble moves and ball handling,” “advanced ball-handling skills remain improvable”
Mental (A+): “hard working kid who gets excellent reviews for his character and desire,” “strong work ethic,” “constantly talking, directing, leading by example,” “no coach will ever complain about the effort he brings,” “excellent defender that understands that defense is about attitude and desire,” “terrific competitiveness,” “aggressive driver who loves to attack the basket,” “noticeably improved frame”
My Comparison: Ron Artest’s game and role but with Grant Hill’s mentality
My Overall Take: There is no question that Kidd-Gilchrist will be a top-notch defensive force in the NBA and that his athleticism and aggression will make defenses have to account for him offensively, but his offensive skills will likely never be ideal. He sounds like the type of player every team would want on their roster, and his value to a club will only increase exponentially if he can develop something of an outside shot.
James McAdoo (North Carolina)
PF/SF, 6-feet-9, 225 lbs
Physical (B+): “smooth and highly fluid player with great coordination and mobility,” “solid strength and already fairly filled in with muscle,” “great athlete with excellent run/jump ability,” “tweener forward”
Skills (A-/A):“outstanding skill-level all around,” “can create his own shot driving either left or right,” “shows nimble footwork and an array of hook shots, step-throughs and turnaround jumpers,” “strong finisher in the paint,” “should work on developing a few go-to moves,” “dominates defenses in the post with his keen positioning, strong rebounding, and shot blocking ability,” “outstanding rebounder, does great job positioning,” “excellent defender, can guard on the perimeter or in the post,” “great defensive instincts and timing, superb shot blocker,” “shot needs work”
Mental (A): “biggest virtues lie in his skill-level and his basketball IQ, which is extraordinarily high for a player his age,” “rarely forces the issue and shows a high basketball IQ,” “still needs to get tougher and more aggressive on this end of the floor (defense),” “strong motor to battle for rebounds,” “unselfish, willing to make the extras pass,” “hard worker with great character”
My Comparison: Shawn Marion with Tim Duncan sensibilities
My Overall Take: Reading McAdoo’s reviews makes him seem like the type of player you didn’t really notice during a game except for a couple big throwdowns and a block, but his team wins a close one and his coach can’t stop talking about how important his 18 points and defense were in the victory. One site noted that McAdoo probably has the highest floor of this group, meaning he may not turn out to have the flashiest career stats-wise, but he certainly won’t be a bust considering how exceptional his skills and intangibles are at this point.
Brad Beal (Florida)
SG, 6-feet-3, 200 lbs
Physical (B): “well-developed frame,” “well-defined frame,” “he’s a deceiving athlete,” “not an explosive athlete, only decent quickness and leaping ability,” “solid, but not standout athlete”
Skills (A-): “shows a highly developed skill-level for a player his age,” “outstanding shooter, showing the ability to come off screens and make shots with deep range as well as pulling up smoothly off the dribble,” “shows a terrific stroke, very good mechanics and is a huge threat coming off screens or spotting up,” “array of change of speed and hesitation moves,” “savvy guard with the ball in his hands,” “can improve upon his ball-handling,” “not a tremendous ball-handler though, and thus struggles some as a finisher and slasher,” “defensively, Beal is highly competitive and fundamentally sound,” “defensively is strong,” “hit the pull up jumper or shoot the 3 with his textbook shooting,” “not a great passer”
Mental (A): “great maturity and an excellent basketball IQ,” “high basketball IQ,” “has solid court vision and can create for others within the flow of the offense,” “smart player with a high basketball IQ, efficient, great shot selection, competitive and confident,” “rarely forces the issue,” “smart scorer,” “efficient player who knows how to win”
My Comparison: somewhere in between Ray Allen and Rip Hamilton; his feel for the game is very reminiscent of Brandon Roy but with more of an outside shot
My Overall Take: Beal is a smart and savvy SG who knows how to play the game. He takes what he’s given and will add value to a franchise even if he doesn’t score a ton because he won’t hijack the offense to get his points and because of his defense. He seems prime to pick up some tricks of the trade as his career progresses to counterbalance his lack of elite athleticism.
Myck Kabongo (Texas)
PG, 6-feet-1, 170 lbs
Physical (B): “extremely quick guard, really excels on the move,” “solid athlete…super shifty,” “pretty good athlete, with nice agility, leaping ability, and body control,” “not super explosive or a standout athlete,” “has quick reflexes,” “thin frame,” “lack of strength around the rim,” “slender build and lack of strength”
Skills (B+): “a special playmaker for others and really likes to look for teammates,” “has an outstanding knack for finding open guys on the floor in position to score, and can make the full array of passes,” “excellent ball-handler who doesn’t have many problems getting where he needs to on the floor,” “a wizard with the ball in his hands,” “supremely gifted ball handler, ambidextrous, breaks down defenders at will,” “can operate in the pick and roll effectively,” “needs to improve as a shooter,” “lack of long range shooting touch,” “great shooting touch, tear drop shot in the lane,” “doesn’t show great fundamentals or physicality on this end (defense),”
Mental (A-): “very good floor vision,” “unbelievable court vision, high basketball IQ, offensive awareness,” “understands how to play at different speeds and thus is hard to contain off the bounce,” “shows very good leadership potential, and is a charismatic personality who’s vocal on the court,” “can be unselfish to a fault,” “has a definite flair to his game, but he will have to tone it down some to be more steady,” “defensively (he) impresses, playing a cerebral, team-oriented style, showing good awareness and focus”
My Comparison: It’s pretty much impossible not to compare him to Rajon Rondo, but it’s clear he’s not as athletic as RR.
My Overall Take: Everyone says the same things about Kabongo, that he’s a supremely crafty and smart PG who can’t shoot and needs to get stronger. I’m not sure how good someone like Rondo would be if he wasn’t as explosive as he is, but I’m thinking Kabongo might have some growing pains in the league from a physical standpoint on both sides of the ball, but he should ultimately be OK because of his amazing handles and intelligence—it’s hard to totally fail as a PG if you have both of those. Do yourself a favor and go watch one of his highlight videos (here’s one) which are easily the best of this entire group.
Austin Rivers (Duke)
SG, 6-feet-4, 195 lbs
Physical (A-): “good athlete, with excellent fluidity and agility, and adequate explosiveness, speed, and quickness,” “really good at changing speeds,” “great 1st step,” “explosive athlete, quick first step, springy leaper,” “average size for a shooting guard, at around 6-4, and will need to continue to work on his frame down the road”
Skills (A-): “very good shooting skills, with NBA range already,” “clever finisher around the rim,” “uses floaters and pull-up jumpers well,” “unlimited shooting range and great consistency,” “off hand (left) needs work,” “amazing scoring instincts,” “excellent crossover,” “prone to pounding the ball and overdribbling,” “makes good reads rotating in the half-court and seems to have strong anticipation skills coming up with steals and rebounds,” “fairly nondescript defender”
Mental (D+): “plays with aggressiveness,” “super aggressive offensively,” “can be selfish and ball-dominant at times,” “often demonstrates poor shot selection, shooting shots out of range of normal offense or under duress,” “shot selection can be poor at times,” “doesn’t show great floor vision,” “will pout and show bad body language on the court…developed a bit of a prima donna attitude,” “his body language often leaves something to be desired…he noticeably pouts at the first sign of adversity,” “can be selfish, doesn’t dependably share or help set up teammates,” “doesn't appear to be the easiest guy to play with,” “questionable effort on the defensive end”
My Comparison: OJ Mayo but with better scoring skills and worse athleticism and PG-ability
My Overall Take: Everyone loves that he’s Doc Rivers’ son and that he is in full-attack mode on offense at all times, but it seems troubling that the words written about his me-first style of play are lengthy and that no one even pretends anymore than he could someday be a PG. Just in the videos I’ve seen, it’s clear he’s a terror driving into the paint for a shot, but everything else about him just seems like too much for a team to handle if they plan on making him one of their key centerpieces while moving in the right direction, just like OJ Mayo.
Marquis Teague (Kentucky)
PG, 6-feet-2, 170 lbs
Physical (A): “great athlete, with prototypical speed, quickness, strength, explosiveness, and agility,” “very strong and well-defined frame,” “elite athleticism,” “excellent physical tools”
Skills (B-): “great command of jab steps, counter hand crossovers and hesitation moves off the bounce,” “handles the ball very well with both hands,” “nifty ball handler,” “raw shooting skills,” “doesn’t look confident shooter farther out than that (18 feet) consistently,” “inability to shoot consistently from the perimeter,” “does need to work on his fundamentals on that end (defense)”
Mental (C): “aggressive slasher,” “likes to make the flashy play,” “excellent court vision,” “struggles with decision-making, particularly in half-court offense,” “doesn’t show the best floor vision at all times,” “can be a little reckless with the ball, risk taker who can take bad gambles while creating for teammates with his passes,” “Teague's weaknesses come more into play in the halfcourt when he's asked to run a team and manage the game,” “can throw up some unnecessary circus shots,” “commitment to the defensive end (listed as a negative),” “his intensity wavers on that end (defense), and he isn’t a great pick and roll defender due to the lack of urgency,” “has leadership qualities”
My Comparison: Sounds like a more athletic yet more careless Baron Davis, maybe Brandon Jennings
My Overall Take: I’ve barely seen Teague play, but he strikes you as someone who can always drive past his man but who will then make a bad decision once he’s done so. Considering all the sites mention his problems running a team in the halfcourt (even the one that noted his “excellent court vision”) and problems shooting, I’m at a loss as to what exactly he will do other than make some great highlights while generally not adding much value to a club at either end.
Andre Drummond (UConn)
C, 6-feet-10, 270 lbs
Physical (A+): “physical specimen type of athlete with a huge wingspan, long legs and strength and agility,” “explosive leaping ability,” “incredible end to end quickness,” “great natural strength,” “imposing defensive post presence thanks to his physical and athletic gifts,” “ridiculous lower and upper body strength”
Skills (C): “range on his shot and consistency are something he will need to develop,” “shooting technique needs work,” “still relies on size and athleticism to dominate competition,” “showing occasional flashes of skills,” “surprisingly deft passing ability,” “he usually opts for weak finesse moves like turnaround jumpers and hook shots, neither of which he converts consistently,” “does a good job manning the paint and rotating to the help-side,” “(his man-to-man defense) shows the most cause for concern on the defensive end”
Mental (C+): “shows the toughness and tenacity to be a dominant inside player,” “not as dominant as he should at the prep level,” “unselfish and a team player,” “moments of brilliance dispersed between long periods of complacency,” “lack of assertiveness,” “rebounding is another area where Drummond isn't playing up to his potential, often isn't assertive in tracking down caroms”
My Comparison: A more athletic, perimeter-oriented, less-skilled Derrick Coleman, almost like Anthony Randolph on his best or worst day—I’m not sure which
My Overall Take: By all accounts, Drummond is an absolute physical freak, but it also appears that he’s content to fall back on his physical tools to get it done. He’s got the strength and explosiveness to stay in the league, but we all know that at some point he needs some skills and an aggressive mentality to go with it if he plans on becoming an All-Star. It’s troubling that he doesn’t have either yet, but for now he’s a decent perimeter passer and helpside shot-blocker, which probably is not what you were expecting to hear as a conclusion about the possible #1 pick in the most loaded draft in a decade. Long story short, Drummond has a lot of work to do in the coming year to make draft pundits believe he’s more than just potential.
Quincy Miller (Baylor)
SF, 6-feet-9, 210 lbs
Physical (B-/C+): “good, but not incredible athlete,” “not an elite athlete nor very explosive,” “terrific fluidity and excellent body control,” “excellent quickness and burst,” “needs to build muscle to his slender frame,” “super scrawny”
Skills (B-): “likes to create his own shot from the perimeter, where he shows outstanding ball-handling skills,” “kills defenders with his ankle breaking moves, change of pace, and aggressiveness getting to the basket,” “can break down the D for an easy jumper of to get to the rack,” “good finisher despite lack of strength,” “showing nice touch to compensate for his strange mechanics,” “mechanically flawed jumper”
Mental (C+): “confident, bordering on brash nature,” “very aggressive taking his man off the dribble,” “defensively…he doesn't always apply himself, especially when it comes to crashing the glass,” “questionable shot selection, takes too many errant looks in defenders faces, questionable range,”
My Comparison: Darius Miles the player (not the head case)
My Overall Take: Miller missed most of his senior year due to a torn ACL in his left knee, so there are a lot of questions going into his freshman season at Baylor plus not very many words written about him. It’s clear just from reading what is out there and watching some highlight tapes that he’s decent at creating for himself off the dribble, but his long arms and smooth dribbling style create the impression he’s more dynamic than he really is.