POSTED: Apr 8, 2013 10:51 AM ET
Indiana University's Victor Oladipo is one of three top-notch shooting guard prospects.
It is not a great Draft for shooting guards. There are only a handful expected to go in the first round, and only one international prospect, Russia's Sergey Karasev, is likely to have a chance to go that high.
The good news is that these days, there's precious little difference between ones and twos. Guards like Lehigh's C.J. McCollum and Illinois' Brandon Paul will play both spots throughout their careers, and many of the two guard prospects could also find homes as small forwards.
But there is a very good chance that the first player taken in the June 27 Draft will be a shooting guard -- Kansas freshman Ben McLemore. He and Indiana junior Victor Oladipo are head and shoulders above the other two-guard prospects in the mind of scouts.
As you know, in the past, we didn't include underclassmen on our Draft boards until they officially declared. But the "one-and-done" players and other early entries are almost always well known well now. So we list underclassmen that most NBA scouts and personnel people believe will enter the Draft, or are seriously considering entering the Draft.
We started with point guards two weeks ago, and will continue with small forwards, power forwards and centers after today, every other week, until Monday, May 20, just before the Lottery on May 21. (So, no Tip this week.) By then, we'll be well into the individual workouts and will have just completed the Chicago pre-Draft combine, which runs from May 15-19. (After Chicago, we will update the Board with official heights and weights, and add player wingspans as measured there. For now, player heights and weights are their listed ones from their schools or teams.)
Again: This is not a mock Draft. They are a complete waste of time, especially this far removed from June. Who knows what trades will take place between now and then that could impact a team's Draft needs, or what players have incredible individual workouts that send them high up on the board? (Having said that, I commit to embarrassing myself yet again and trying a mock draft a little bit before the real one in June. You seem to like it.) This is a rough consensus of what NBA personnel people that I trust -- and who obviously can't be quoted by name -- believe is the pro potential of this year's crop of players.
DA's Big Board Schedule
A note on the rankings:
This is not a predictor of when these players will be taken. These rankings, based on discussions with dozens of NBA and college coaches, and NBA college scouts and team executives, address the question of how ready players are to play the position which they are assigned: In other words, if there was a game tonight, who would play better at that position tonight, not in three years. Players are ranked based on the position that the coaches and scouts believe is their best NBA position, and even then, there is always disagreement between teams.
• "Sleepers" are players almost certain to go in the second round but who may have first-round talent or otherwise have an impact on the teams that select them if they overcome perceived shortcomings.
• "Some Scouts Like" are players who are not certain to declare, but are viewed as potentially draftable if they do -- with an emphasis on "potentially."
• All measurements are the official ones available after the Chicago pre-Draft combine. Measurements for players who did not attend the pre-Draft camp are from their respective university or team.
|David Aldridge's Big Board: Shooting Guards|
MAY 20 UPDATE: Michigan's Tim Hardaway impressed a lot of scouts in Chicago and moves up on the Big Board. So does San Diego State's Jamaal Franklin, even though he wasn't able to take part in drills and workouts because of a sprained ankle suffered the week before while working out. And scouts are more and more impressed with the shooting skills of North Carolina junior Reggie Bullock.
McLemore's game much like Ray Allen's
The NBA used to call players that tried to enter the Draft before their college eligibility ended "hardship cases." Back then, players who displayed a legitimate need to turn pro to provide financially for their families were given special dispensation. This only happened after Spencer Haywood, in 1971, defeated the NBA in court, winning a Supreme Court decision that allowed him to play professionally before he was eligible under the NBA's old rules. (That Haywood, four decades later, is still waiting to become a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is a travesty and a stain on the institution.)
Few in those four decades since the Haywood case have had a harder road than McLemore, the 6-foot-5 guard from St. Louis who has already endured a lifetime of hardships in his 20 years. His life of utter poverty has been well-documented, with several family members living in his family's small house at once, going days at a time without food.
So no one expects McLemore will have a second season in Lawrence, after earning second-team all-America honors as a freshman, averaging 16.4 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 50.7 percent and almost 44 percent from 3-point range. His game is already too good to spend another season in college. And he is on the short, short list as the potential first pick overall in the Draft.
Every year these days, promising two guards are compared with ex-UConn star Ray Allen, who went fifth overall in the incredible 1996 Draft. McLemore is no different. Though some scouts say Allen has the quicker release, McLemore is right there.
"He's the closest thing to Ray Allen, but Ray Allen stayed in school three years," a Western Conference general manager said of McLemore. "Today's basketball is a little different; you talk about potential and projection. But he has all the tools. Whatever Ray has, he has. Ray didn't jump; this kid can jump. This kid can fly."
Now, Allen did have a little bounce back in his pre-Jesus Shuttleworth days. But McLemore's hops are good.
"I like Oladipo, but Oladipo will be a role, rotation-type guy," a Central Division personnel man said. "The other guy [McLemore] can be a star."
There are questions about McLemore. For one, how can the first pick in the Draft only be a second-team all-America? The uncertainty comes from McLemore's habit of deferring to the upperclassmen at Kansas this season; on a team with center Jeff Withey and guard Elijah Johnson, McLemore often waited his turn. During the regular season, he played in 12 games in which he didn't have double-figure shot attempts.
McLemore's NCAA appearances crystalized the issue. In Kansas' first two tournament games, he was a non-factor, attempting just 14 shots total -- including an awful 0-for-9 performance against North Carolina. But in the Sweet 16 against Michigan, McLemore erupted for 20 points in an 18-minute stretch, leading the Jayhawks to the brink of the Elite Eight before Michigan's Trey Burke buried a deep three in the final seconds of regulation to force overtime. In overtime, McLemore barely touched the ball as Kansas fell.
Draft Combine: Ben McLemore
Some scouts don't think McLemore has a great handle. One scout that watched him play said he had trouble making entry passes to the post, and the ball often slipped out of his hands. But others don't anticipate that being a drawback to his potential.
"People are killing [McLemore] because he can't put the ball on the floor that well and he doesn't assert himself," the Central Division man said. "My argument would be he didn't play last year [McLemore redshirted at Kansas] and he's young. People compare him to Ray Allen. The kid already puts it on the floor better than Ray Allen ever did, and he shoots it just as well. And Ray Allen has been a star in our league for how many years?"
Even the scout who questioned McLemore's entry passes and handle knows he'll go very high.
"No doubt he can shoot the hell out of the ball," the scout said. "...I know one knock on him is that he's not aggressive the whole time. But that's a beautiful stroke, though. I like him some. There's nobody in this Draft that you go, 'I gotta have this guy.' But he can really shoot it ... I think people have mixed opinions. But he's the best two out there."
Defensively, McLemore has high potential, but still needs some work.
"Kansas demands defense," another scout said. "They base their program on it. And he had all of those upperclassmen to help him. Of course on one of the key possessions he played against Michigan, he got switched off on Trey Burke and he was obviously concerned about getting up on him, and Burke hit that shot."
Defensive-minded Oladipo has untapped offense, too
By comparison, Oladipo, Indiana's star junior, is a solid defender already. Oladipo was a first-team all-America, the school's first since A.J. Guyton in 2000, and finished a close second to Burke in media voting for the Wooden Award. (Burke also beat Oladipo for Big Ten Player of the Year honors.)
At 214 pounds, Oladipo is more than big enough to handle most college guards. His 2.17 steals per game were among the top 30 nationally and he was the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year. Scouts compare his potential defensive abilities to those of Memphis' Tony Allen or Chicago's Jimmy Butler. And a few think his pro potential is unlimited, just as high if not higher than McLemore and Georgia's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
"In a different way, I'd put Oladipo up there" ahead of McLemore, one scout said.
"Oladipo, the big thing about him is he plays with such intensity. He's not the shooter those other two are, but he plays so hard and he is so explosive athletically. He can handle it and he gets in trouble sometimes because he overhandles it. He's quicker than the ball sometimes. I could see Oladipo, initially, depending on the team, he could make more of an impact. He plays hard. He should be able to guard you."
On an Indiana team that didn't have many athletes this season, Oladipo had to do a lot. Against Syracuse in the Sweet 16, he took turns guarding Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche. He was the only player who had much success attacking Syracuse's 2-3 zone, finishing with 16 of the Hoosiers' 50 points.
NBA Combine Victor Oladipo
His developing game -- he shot almost 60 percent overall and 44 percent from deep -- has assuaged some concerns about his shooting.
"He can finish on the break and in transition," one general manager said. "He wouldn't do much in the halfcourt. But Kawhi Leonard couldn't shoot a lick [in college]. There's some guys. But there's been some guys that were bad shooters that stay bad shooters. The majority of them figure it out."
UGA's Caldwell-Pope a mature prospect
Caldwell-Pope didn't have the success McLemore and Oladipo had. His Georgia team didn't make the NCAAs, losing to LSU in the second round of the SEC Tournament and finishing below .500 (15-17). But NBA types don't hold that against the 20-year-old, who led the Bulldogs in scoring (18.5 ppg) and rebounding (7.1).
"He's a sleeper because his team didn't play well, but it wasn't for a lack of his production," a Northwest Division personnel man said. "Those are, sometimes the guys that have had so much attention on them all year, there are guys that are lurking behind them that might have a little chip on their shoulder, think they belong there. I think he's like that. He put up some numbers and did the best he could for that team."
Caldwell-Pope wasn't the most consistent perimeter shooter -- he shot just 43 percent from the floor this season -- but he also was the only game in town most nights for the Bulldogs. When he was on, he could score in bunches, as when he scored 24 on 12 shots in a win over Tennessee. He didn't shoot it as well against Kentucky a month later, but he got to the foul line 11 times and added 10 rebounds in the Bulldogs' upset.
"I thought he was, he had the talent, you check off that box for sure," said a college assistant coach whose team played Georgia this season. "He had that in spades. And then I thought he had kind of a mature-type deference to his game that great players have. They'll play. They'll do what their coach asks. When a coach asks you to play, I always thought there was kind of a wink to your best players ... like, OK, you take over when it's time. But I thought he was really compliant with what [Georgia coach Mark] Fox asked him to do, but he was ready to take over when needed."
Scouts believe Caldwell-Pope has to get stronger. But he can get by people on the dribble.
"I don't think there's a great deal of difference between him and McLemore," one scout said. "They're both pretty good shooters. McLemore had good percentages but Pope's a pretty good shooter, too. He didn't have as good a group of teammates ... I think he's a first-rounder and I think he can move up and help himself. He can catch and shoot very well. I like both of those guys. I don't think there's a huge difference. They both have the size for the position."
After the top three, there is no consensus.
Cal's Crabbe leaves some scouts wanting more
California's Allen Crabbe, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, has many supporters and could find his way into the first round. Crabbe, who was on the receiving end of his coach Mike Montgomery's infamous shove in February, led the Bears to the NCAAs and a second-round win. He scored 20 or more 15 times and was third in the conference in scoring at 18.4 ppg. Consistency is his problem.
"I saw him at San Jose [in the NCAA Tournament], and he wasn't good at all," one Western Conference scout said. "He didn't even score. But I saw him at Cal and I saw some things I really liked that translated to the pro game. They ran some curls and he looked really good. But he's another one. He could have a really good first half, and then the second half, you don't even know he's on the floor.
Like another former Pac 12 standout guard, Washington State's Klay Thompson (who plays alongside Stephen Curry with Golden State), Crabbe is expected to be more consistent when he is surrounded by better talent in the pros.
"He could be a sleeper kind of player, because he's only getting better," said a college coach whose team played the Bears this season. "People question whether he can put the ball on the floor. He's gotten better at that ... People said [Thompson] couldn't do this or that. He can really shoot the ball. He's going to be open.
"Everybody geared their stuff [defensively] to try and stop him at our level. In the NBA, that's not going to happen. He's going to have a little more freedom. He's going to be open more. He's not just a jump shooter any more, that's for sure."
But Crabbe needs to improve defensively.
"He was a little bit lethargic," the college coach said. "He doesn't really get after it like he should. Somebody's going to have to really get into him defensively. He got more engaged when they made their run [to the NCAAs]. He hasn't really shown he can dig in. It isn't like he doesn't have the tools. That's more desire, more heart."
An NBA personnel man concurred.
"He's going to have to be with teammates that demand it every night," the personnel man said. "He can't have the leeway. I think he'll take the easy way out most nights if you let him."
Karasev, Spartans' Harris intrigue some
Other NBA types are intrigued by Karasev, the 19-year-old guard who plays for Triumph Lyubertsy in the Russian Professional League. He was on David Blatt's Russian Olympic team that made a run to the bronze medal at the London Games last summer. Karasev will be on the World roster at the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland April 20, along with Canadian forward Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 prep recruit this season who is expected to be the top Draft pick in 2014.
Michigan State's Gary Harris won the Big Ten Rookie of the Year award and led the Spartans in scoring, despite playing much of the season with a separated shoulder suffered early in the year. Players who try to let the shoulder heal without surgery, as Harris did, usually wind up having to get the shoulder tacked down. But Harris hasn't decided what to do yet.
With coach Tom Izzo's track record of sending mature players to the pros, Harris has the attention of pro scouts, even though he won't turn 19 until September.
"If he does come out he'd be one of the youngest guys in the Draft," one personnel director said. "He's a very solid all-around player. There's not a lot of risk to him. There's not a lot of high reward with him, but he makes shots. He's turned into a good on-ball defender under Izzo. He's the kind of guy that a coach could put on the floor because he doesn't make a lot of mistakes."
Playing for his father, Vasily, who is Triumph's coach, Karasev led the team in scoring (18.5 ppg) and won the country's Best Young Player Award. In the more competitive VTB League play, Karasev's numbers were slightly lower (16.1 ppg), but he wasn't embarrassed there or in Eurocup play. Like his countryman Alexey Shved, who signed with the Timberwolves last summer, Karasev hopes to make the leap, having officially declared for the Draft last week.
"He's pretty good," a Western Conference GM said. "I think he'll climb in the Draft a little bit. He's got a unique skill and can shoot it."
One scout said Karasev might be ahead of Caldwell-Pope and Crabbe among two guard prospects.
"He kind of knows how to play," the scout said. "Good athleticism for a European. His dad is the coach so he doesn't have restrictions on his shot selection. He's an 18-year-old playing with men and he held his own. If he's set, he can really shoot it. He struggles a little on the move. But he moves well, handles the ball well. He's left-handed and he can go to the left or to the right. He's well-schooled."
Notes on the rest of the crop ...
• Kentucky's Archie Goodwin is, at the moment, the only one of this year's batch of Wildcats freshmen to declare for the Draft. Unlike the last three years, when 14 Kentucky players were drafted -- including 11 in the first round -- the Wildcats will not dominate Draft night.
Many scouts think the 18-year-old is not ready for the NBA, even though he led Kentucky in scoring (14.1 ppg) and got to the free-throw line more than 200 times. Kentucky's season was derailed by the loss of potential first overall pick Nerlens Noel to a torn ACL; the Wildcats failed to make the NCAA Tournament and were bounced from the NIT in the first round by Robert Morris.
"Very little of his scoring is from the perimeter," one Western Conference scout said. "Everything is at the basket. He really needs to stay another year, but if he stayed another year, he wouldn't play, because they've got all those guys coming."
Another scout called Goodwin a "futures" pick who can attack the basket, but who will struggle to do that in the pros at just 195 pounds.
"He's so aggressive attacking," another personnel man said. "He hasn't figured out when to play slow and when to play fast. A team is going to have to be really patient with him. He's going to make a lot more mistakes for you early on than he's going to make good plays. You'll have to have patience with him. He's going to drive it in there with no purpose or no plan. He's going to get knocked to the floor and throw up a wild shot and you're going to pull your hair out some nights."
• Tim Hardaway, Jr., the son of NBA star Tim Hardaway, has made his own name as the Wolverines made the national championship game against Louisville. A first-team all-Big Ten coaches' selection, Hardaway, Jr. has meshed with Burke. On a team that includes Burke, freshman Glenn Robinson III and emerging big man Mitch McGary, Hardaway, Jr. has shared the wealth.
"He'll guard his position," one Western Conference personnel man said. "He's not very good handling the ball but I you give him catch and shoot opportunities he's going to get it going. He reminds me a little of Martell Webster. He'll have nights where he goes five of six and other nights where he's 0 of 8. But he's got a feisty competitiveness to him and I'm sure he gets that from his dad."
• New Mexico was a sexy pick to go far in the NCAAs, but got bounced early, despite having two potential NBA players in point guard Kendall Williams and shooting guard Tony Snell. Although Williams was named Mountain West Player of the Year, many NBA scouts believe the 6-foot-7 Snell is the better pro prospect. (Williams, a junior, announced last week that he will return to the Lobos next season and play for new coach Craig Neal.)
With his wingspan, Snell has the potential to be an above-average wing defender in the pros. But scouts say he sometimes get affected if his streaky shot -- he shot 42 percent last season, though he made 64 3-pointers -- leaves him. And some teams may look at him as a small forward in the pros.
• Florida State's Michael Snaer made his share of game-winning shots in college, but he'll make his way in the NBA as a perimeter defender. Scouts like his physical and mental toughness, which he showed in being named the ACC's Defensive Player of the Year and to the all-ACC third team. He'll try to follow in the footsteps of another recent Seminole defender, Chris Singleton, who was a first-round pick by Washington in 2011.
"With him, he's a better shooter than he's shown," one scout said of Snaer. "At Florida State, they're so reliant on playing defense I think it affects their ability to shoot the ball."
• San Diego State's Jamaal Franklin has the unfortunate distinction of contemplating turning pro two years after another Aztec swingman, Leonard, became a favorite of Gregg Popovich in San Antonio as a rookie. Franklin isn't as big as Leonard, and scouts say he doesn't have Leonard's intangibles. But Franklin was an AP honorable mention all-American for the second straight season, along with earning first-team all-Mountain West honors.
Franklin led the Aztecs in scoring, rebounding and assists, and his all-around potential could convince someone to take a look at him in the second round.
"He's not a great shooter and he does take some bad shots," one scout said. "He brings it up after rebounding it. He can pass well. In terms of shooting, Kawhi wasn't a great shooter coming out. He became a better shooter. Jamaal is a better ball handler, better passer."
But the coach of one team that played San Diego State this past season was not as impressed.
"He doesn't have the intangibles, the toughness," the coach said. "We played them to make him shoot it. We questioned his ability to do that. We didn't guard him in the halfcourt. And I don't know if he's a work ethic guy to make himself into a great shooter, whereas Kawhi would just will teams to victory."
• Kansas State's Rodney McGruder was a first-team all-Big 12 choice and an efficient player for the Wildcats, who found his shot where he could and didn't make a big deal about it. He will have to show he's a little more capable to get a real look to make an NBA team.
"He's not at that level talent wise," said a coach whose team played K-State this season. "He didn't have as much facility with the ball. He got where he got by being a hard trier. But he's strong. He's hard-nosed. So he'll kind of get some of those 50-50 (balls) and intangible stuff ... he was relentless on the offensive boards.
"We made him miss a lot of his first shots. Leaving Rodney McGruder open, I don't think, right now, would scare anybody in the league right now. He's kind of a self-check that way. But the handle, the toughness, the follow up, commits to defense, all of those things are in place, I think."
• Two ACC players, North Carolina junior Reggie Bullock and Duke senior Seth Curry, have some support among scouts, but both have uphill climbs to stick in the NBA.
• Bullock didn't get a lot of the attention this season as the Tar Heels overcame a tough start by going to a smaller lineup, but he did a lot of the scut work, always guarding the opposition's best perimeter scorer. Bullock will have to show offensively that he can do more than catch and shoot.
"I thought he had a heck of a year," said a coach whose team played North Carolina this season. "Last year, I was iffy on him. He had the reputation of making shots, but he was overshadowed, because that team was loaded. He shoots it well, rebounds the heck out of the ball. He can't dribble. I think he's very similar to (former Tar Heel) Danny Green. He's just going to make it in the NBA. He's not a star, but Danny started in Cleveland and struggled, then went to the Spurs with better players and has played well. You put (Bullock) around other really good guys, and you say 'just rebound and play defense.' I really thought he was their best player by far this season."
Curry would have to prove he could get his shot off. But in a league where everyone seems to be playing smaller and teams want multiple shooters on the floor, there's no certainty he couldn't get a look, especially on a team with a big point guard who could check the opposition's two guards.
• Arizona State's Carrick Felix is a potential sleeper.
"He's not going to get drafted that high, but he's a guy that I would bring to my camp," said the coach of a team that played ASU this season. "Once he's there, he shoots the ball better than you think from three. I know Crabbe's range is there. I don't know if this kid's range is there. But he's a very good athlete. He has good pro athleticism. He can get to the basket and finish. Of course, he's not a first rounder. I think he could be a kid that once somebody gets him, they'll be happy, because he has a good motor and he plays hard. And he can defend multiple positions."
• LaSalle senior Ramon Galloway showed his toughness in leading the Explorers in their unlikely run from the First Four to the Sweet 16. He will need to be in a system with freedom, but his passion for the game is unquestionable.
"I like him because he's a Philly guard and I like those Philly guards," one scout said. "They know how to play. But he's not a real athletic player. I'd be surprised if he's drafted. He'll get shots."
So will another Philly player, Temple's Khalif Wyatt, who was 12th in the country in scoring (20.5 points per game). Both Galloway and Wyatt were first-team all-Atlantic 10 selections.
"He has a chance, but he'll have to be in the right situation," an Eastern Conference executive said of Wyatt.
• Marquette junior Vander Blue came on as his team did, making the second team all-Big East team and reaching the Elite Eight before falling to Syracuse. Scouts think Blue should return to school and try to improve his Draft status for 2014. But if he comes out, he'll get a look with his school's recent pedigree of sending strong perimeter players (Butler, Jae Crowder, Wes Matthews, Steve Novak) to the pros.
• Arkansas' B.J. Young didn't come out after his freshman season, and it might make sense for him to stay another year and work on his shot selection (he shot an abysmal 23 percent on 3-pointers) and playmaking. With his slender build, the second team all-SEC selection he may have to play some point guard, though few believe that's his best position.
• Maryland's Dez Wells was up and down like his team, which reached the NIT semifinals before losing to Iowa. The sophomore and Xavier transfer has an NBA body, but he had almost as many turnovers as assists. He has talent, but scouts think he should return for his junior season.
• The jury is equally torn on C.J. Wilcox, who shot 37 percent on 3-pointers, but just 42 percent overall. Scouts do not think he's as good an athlete as Terrence Ross, who came out last season and was a Lottery pick by the Raptors. But he's not a bad athlete, and if Wilcox could make enough shots, he might be able to stick on a roster.