Coming to Grips With The Nets 2015 Draft Pick
In early January, when I first wrote about the upcoming draft for the Nets, I said “the Nets are currently projected to get the 28th pick in the upcoming draft, but this is subject to change as the Hawks probably won’t keep up the scorching pace.” This is what we in the business call being wrong. The Hawks are one loss out of first place in the NBA, and have a solid five-game lead on third place Memphis. At this point, it is safe to say that Brooklyn will be picking either 29th or 30th in the upcoming draft. To add insult to injury, the Nets haven’t exactly set the world on fire since my last post. Currently sitting with the 9th worst record in the league, and on the outside looking in on the Eastern conference playoff picture, the Nets are most likely going to be giving up a valuable lottery pick to the Hawks. Needless to say, things are a little bleak, but the one small silver lining is the Nets’ second round pick. If the Nets maintain their current position in the standings, they will have the 9th pick of the second round, a semi-valuable asset that could either be used to draft someone interesting, or potentially package with the Nets’ first rounder to move up in the draft.
One piece of news regarding the Nets’ upcoming draft that has come out since my last posting is this interesting tweet from Nets Daily:
FYI, #Nets reportedly had Markel Brown at #22 and Cory Jefferson at #36 on their internal draft board. Why so high? Nets value seniors.
— NetsDaily.com (@NetsDaily) March 2, 2015
Considering Brown and Jefferson were drafted 44th and 60th overall respectively, it’s fair to say the Nets really do place emphasis on drafting seniors. For a team desperately lacking youth, athleticism, and upside, I’m not sure if that’s the best strategy, but Brown and Jefferson have both outperformed expectations this year, so the Nets deserve the benefit of the doubt. The Nets’ love of seniors probably isn’t limited to just the second round; with their last first round pick in 2013, they took senior Mason Plumlee, and he has also significantly outperformed the expected value of a 22nd overall pick. With this in mind, I thought I’d take a look at some of the seniors who are ranked in the 25-75 range on either DraftExpress or Chad Ford’s Big Board. There are only five seniors who appear between 25-75 on either site, Delon Wright, Anthony Brown, Rakeem Christmas, Alan Williams, and Shannon Scott, and Wright is the only one who is a top-40 prospect on either site. Unfortunately, while Draft Express has Wright at 32nd on their big board, Ford has him 23rd overall, putting him at high risk of being taken before the Nets’ selection. If this ends up happening, there really won’t be any seniors deserving of that draft slot, and the Nets will either wind up reaching for a senior, or branching out to someone else. Meanwhile, with their second round pick, the other four would be realistic options, but none present a great value even at 39th overall. The Nets are certainly not limited to only seniors, and given the lack of seniors in their draft range, I doubt they end up with more than one senior from draft night. However, if they do stick to their recent trend, I would have to guess the Nets come away with one of these five guys:
Delon Wright: I have no inside info on the Nets’ thinking whatsoever, but just based on recent history, the Nets will certainly take a hard look at Wright if he is still available when it comes their turn to pick this June. The Nets have Deron Williams on the books for two more years, and Jarrett Jack on contract through next year with a team option for 2016-2017, but that doesn’t rule out Wright by any means. Wright has the size at 6’5 to cross match onto two guards, and could certainly play next to either Deron or Jarrett since they both can shoot the ball pretty well. Wright is the only of these five guys who I wrote about last time, but I’ve watched him play a lot since then, so it’s worth updating my thoughts. Delon doesn’t really possess any elite tools for the NBA that would obviously translate to making him an effective player, but his combination of high IQ and well-rounded game should make him successful. Wright plays in a pro-style offense at Utah where he is involved in tons of ball screens, and he has mastered the art of the pick-and-roll ball handler as well as anyone in the college game. Wright is extremely versatile from the pick and roll as he can score from all three levels, and distribute the ball. Wright isn’t a great shooter by any means, but he has developed to the point where if teams sag off too much, he can be relied on to hit the outside shot. On defense, Wright’s thin frame makes him susceptible to getting caught on ball screens, but he uses his length and quickness well to prevent his man from getting open looks. Wright also has fantastic anticipation in the passing lanes, and is devastating with his speed, athleticism, and vision in the open court. From a scouting perspective, Wright projects as someone who can be a plus on both ends of the ball at the NBA level, and his consistently great performance in draft projection models makes him even more intriguing. Wright’s well-rounded game and appeal to both scouts and draft models suggest a top-20 prospect, and the Nets would be lucky to get a player of his caliber at the back end of the first round.
Anthony Brown: Stanford’s Brown is considered the next best senior prospect in this class by both Draft Express and Chad Ford, so he would likely be the Nets’ next target. Brown is a prototypical 3-and-D wing player standing at 6’7″ with a 6’10” wingspan, a solid 215 lb frame, and shooting 45% from three. Brown has proven to be a very effective marksman by shooting 45% and 46% from three the past two seasons on 263 attempts, but doesn’t add much else on the offensive end. Brown has a weak handle, doesn’t really create for himself or others, and struggles shooting around the rim (57%) for someone with his size and athleticism. Over the course of a four-year college career, Brown has not rated above 1.5 in Layne Vashro’s EWP model, and not above 1.0 since his freshman year. Analytic models aren’t everything, but the number of NBA guys who have succeeded with that type of statistical profile is pretty small. Interestingly enough, Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson were both college prospects with similarly poor levels of college performance who have shown that they might actually have a role in the NBA. If Brown can just hit his threes and play solid defense, he will have value at the NBA level, and he certainly has the tools to be able to. Every year there are a handful of players like Brown in the draft with not very well-rounded games or statistical profiles such as C.J. Wilcox last year or Allen Crabbe in 2013 who seem to posses the tools to be good NBA players. Most of these guys don’t seem to be to successful, but Khris Middleton is an example of a fantastic 3-and-D guy who had a lackluster statistical profile. In general, I would shy away from the unskilled, unproductive, but toolsy 3-and-D archetype that Brown is, especially if they’re seniors (Middleton was a freshman). Brown wouldn’t be the worst pick for the Nets as he certainly has a path to NBA success, but there will without a doubt be better prospects on the board in the early second round that the Nets should consider instead.
Rakeem Christmas: Christmas is a 23 year-old, 6’9″ interior player with a 7’3/4″ wingspan who plays like a center, but is the height of a power forward. Christmas has a number of red flags as a prospect, and it starts with his size. His long arms, strong frame and very good athleticism allow him to play bigger than he is, but at the NBA level, there just aren’t many centers who stand 6’9 in shoes. Christmas is a good vertical athlete with great speed for a big man, but he doesn’t have the lateral quickness of most power forwards, or the outside game. To compound that problem, Christmas has played zone his whole career at Syracuse, and therefore has never learned to guard the pick and roll, a fundamental skill for an NBA big man. Possibly the biggest red flag for Rakeem is that he has only really produced at the college level this final year at Syracuse, and wasn’t on NBA radars until his breakout this year. In almost all cases this is a negative sign; his late breakout suggests he is only able to succeed once he is older than most of his competition. Additionally, after rating as a non-prospect statistically his first three years, he has still only posted a meager 1.9 EWP in his breakout year this season. Christmas has a solid back-to-the-basket game that allows him to score at the college level, but it’s tough to see it translating to the pros due to his lack of size or advanced moves. Ultimately, Christmas is a flawed prospect who doesn’t really space the floor on offense, isn’t big enough to be a strong rim protector, and doesn’t have experience guarding the pick and roll. Christmas projects as a decent player in the pick and roll on offense, but overall, as a minus on both ends of the floor. He deserves a shot in the D-League or through Summer League, but Christmas does not have the profile of a prospect who should be drafted.
Alan Williams: Alan Williams is a 6’8″ big man from UC Santa Barbara with a 7’1.5″ wingspan who uses his 264 lb frame to bang inside. Confession time, I have never watched Alan Williams play; I have opinions on him just from highlights/stats/other scouting reports, but I have never seen a full game of his. Williams has been a very effective player at the college level, averaging at least 16 points and 10 rebounds per game every season since his sophomore year, but has a lot of question marks when it comes to the NBA level. Like Christmas, Williams largely has the game of a center, but is even smaller, less athletic, and shorter-armed. Theoretically, Williams should be an even worse prospect, but he has some elements to his profile that make him intriguing. Williams has a combined 3.1 EWP over the course of his career which suggests a fringe-NBA-guy, and he ranks 8th among all prospects in Kevin Pelton’s statistical big board. His fantastic instincts shine through in his defensive numbers; despite his slow feet and ground-bound frame, he racks up 1.3 steals and 2.3 blocks per-40 pace adjusted. Where Williams fits in the NBA game is the question; the best hope for him is probably a Dejuan Blair-like career. Blair was even more loved by draft models, and despite his unorthodox fit in the NBA, has managed to stick around. Williams will struggle mightily in pick-and-roll coverage and won’t be able to protect the rim at the NBA level. However, his strength and instincts should make him a great rebounder, and his soft hands and decent midrange game will make him an attractive roll man on the offensive end. The Nets’ early second round pick would definitely be a reach for Williams, but if the Nets somehow acquire a pick at the back end of the draft, Williams warrants consideration.
Shannon Scott: Scott is a 6’2″ 175 lb PG with a 6’3.5″ wingspan who plays in the shadow of D’Angelo Russell over at Ohio State. Scott is not much of a scorer at the NCAA level, never averaging more than eight points a game in his college career, but he is a smart player who can distribute the ball and plays great defense. Scott has solid athleticism, and he uses it to get in the lane and create for others on the offensive end. What makes Scott a prospect is his defensive play; he has great lateral quickness, good strength, and good instincts that allow him to hound opposing ball handlers at the collegiate level. At only 6’2 and without particularly long arms, it is fair to question how his D will translate. Scott should be competent at the NBA level, but it’s possible he loses much of his effectiveness. Scott has been all over the place statistically in Layne’s model; his EWP has gone from 0.4 to 8.3 to 3.1 to 1.7 in his four years at Ohio State suggesting a player with limited, but existent NBA potential. If Scott were able to really play D and shoot the ball at the NBA level, he could potentially be a Patrick Beverley type player, but he hasn’t shot over 33% from three or 70% from the line yet in his career. If Scott can’t space the floor and isn’t able to translate his defense, there probably is no place for him in the NBA. Realistically, Scott can be a decent defender, and average creator at the NBA level which would be similar to what someone like Norris Cole provides. Norris Cole probably wouldn’t be in the league now if it weren’t for Lebron James though, so I tend to think Scott is more of a D-League/Summer League guy than a backend-of-the-draft guy. This draft class is not lacking for PG prospects, and Scott hasn’t differentiated himself enough from the pack to justify drafting him any later than the very back end of things.
Alright, more draft coverage coming sometime in the future; expect looks at other prospects who will be available around the Nets’ first and second rounders. Assuming Delon Wright’s stock stays at the point where he is a realistic target for the Nets, I will try to get out a full scouting report on his game. I, for one, am already dreading Billy King reaching for Anthony Brown at the end of the first round.