The Cavaliers have been a much improved team over the past two months. And while that’s fantastic news and great for the long-term development of this franchise, it presents an intriguing new scenario for 2013 NBA Draft analysis.
With the team’s current 15-16 run since Dec. 22, Cleveland now sits at No. 5 in the NBA Draft order (up from No. 7 on Wednesday night). That’s inching closer to what many fans expected in the offseason, but not necessarily what they thought just two months ago.
Last time I looked at the draft class on Jan. 6, I featured the top five guys contending for the top spot. There has been plenty of shake-ups since that point. But ultimately, with the Cavs trending toward the middle of the lottery, I thought it would be most helpful to now feature a group of “second tier” players.
In general, this is a bottom-heavy draft. There are relatively few projected All-Stars or MVPs – according to the majority of reports – while there is a very impressive amount of depth, especially toward the end of the first round. This is both good and bad for Cleveland in the next few months.
Just like last time, I’ll begin my analysis today by sharing another aggregate big board. But this time around, I’ve recruited the help of WFNY friend @ClevTA for his thoughts on a group of five “second tier” college basketball prospects. Then, we’ll both take our turns sharing our thoughts on some late sleepers — who also could end up in Cleveland.
The sources for this month’s aggregate big board ranking (the most recent three big boards out of these five are counted double in my aggregate ranking below, as that certainly seems logical):
That’s a lot of information there. I’ve actually been tracking double the number of prospects as you see above via the big boards on those five sites. So I’ve literally been absorbing as much draft news as possible and pouring over Excel sheets. But all that results in the fancy table you see above.
Last time, as a reminder, I covered five of the above prospects. In quick bits, here’s a little update on each of these five fellows:
Noel’s season officially ended with his torn ACL on Feb. 12. Although his draft status has taken a bit of a hit, with advances of medical technology in 2013, he’s expected to make a full recovery and should likely be ready for the start of the 2013-14 season. Many still doubt his offensive game, but he’s an absolute game-changer defensively. Probably the ideal pick for the Cavaliers and their long-term needs.
T-1 Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas, 6-4, 195, 2/11/1993
The prospect who has made the biggest jump in his draft ranking this season, McLemore has cooled off a bit for the Jayhawks. He’s been oft-criticized of late for his lack of aggressiveness, not taking over offensively when Kansas needs him most. He’s still so smooth offensively that he won’t drop out of the top 5, but doubts finally are starting to creep into the picture.
I’m honestly surprised Muhammad is this high still. His draft stock has fallen quite a bit this season — much like the high hopes for Ben Howland’s UCLA team. The biggest long-term knock on Muhammad: He’s not big enough to be a SF, yet not really athletic enough to be a SG. He doesn’t have a natural defensive fit yet, so he’s likely going to fall closer to the 5-8 range eventually.
5 Cody Zeller, PF/C, Indiana, 7-0, 240, 10/5/1992
Zeller also has fallen quite a bit on the NBA fronts this season — despite similarly not having such a bad year at all. His game just doesn’t seem to project well to the NBA. Will he ever be an All-Star at the next level? That’s what scouts are debating right now, as he’s not exactly excellent at any one skill-set that will lead him to anything but a long career as a decent rotation player in the pros.
7 Alex Len, C, Maryland, 7-1, 255, 6/16/1993
Then, of course, there’s Len. He’s by far the most polarizing player in the top 10. I’d be about as shocked with him going No. 10 as him going No. 1. His impressively polished offensive arsenal and gigantic body frame make scouts salivate. But he really hasn’t proved much statistically. Many blame it on Maryland’s awful backcourt. He’s undoubtedly a very tempting prospect that could be a star or a bust.
Now, on to the much-hyped scouting reports courtesy of @ClevTA. Again, thanks so much to him for helping out with this awesome writing:
4 Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV, 6-7, 239, 3/14/1993
Strengths: Effective near the basket and ranks in the top 10 nationally in scoring 74% of the time at the rim. Has an NBA body already with a 7-1 wingspan. For a big man, Bennett already has a nice outside shot (37% from three) and is one of the most polished offensive players in the draft.
Weaknesses: Although he has an NBA body, he is an undersized PF, measuring at only 6-7. He is a poor defender and gets lost a lot away from the ball. After a hot start to the season, Bennett has been fairly inconsistent in conference play versus better competition. In addition, there are knocks against him having a bad motor and not always exerting the best effort on defense.
Cavs Fit: With Tristan Thompson flashing solid potential at the PF spot and with the chance that Marresse Speights picks up his player option, the need for another PF isn’t there. Also, Bennett’s poor defensive effort isn’t a good fit with a team that lacks good paint defenders already. However, if Bennett is the best player available when the Cavs pick is up, there is a chance the Cavs could draft him and that would make trading Anderson Varejao easier.
NBA Comps: Larry Johnson, Patrick Patterson
6 Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State, 6-4, 200, 3/6/1994
Strengths: Has an NBA body with great size for a PG. He is comfortable in the post and can overpower smaller PGs. With his size, he is also an excellent rebounder (5.5 per game) and can mix it up inside. Defensively, he has really quick hands and does a great job of creating deflections in passing lanes. Smart ranks in the top 10 in the country in steal percentage (5.25%). He’s more of a combo guard than pure PG and can play both guard positions if need be.
Weaknesses: He’s not a very good outside shooter (30% from three), yet likes to take lots of outside shots (4 three-point attempts per game). Settles for the jumper too much and isn’t very efficient offensively. Smart turns the ball over quite a bit (3.2 TOs per game) but that figure should improve as he learns to make better decisions.
Cavs Fit: Not much with Kyrie running the point. Has many similar traits as Waiters so would duplicate his strengths.
NBA Comps: OJ Mayo, Jarrett Jack
8 Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown, 6-8, 200, 3/6/1993
Strengths: His biggest strength is how extremely smart he is and how he always seems to make the correct play. Last, Saturday versus Syracuse, Porter constantly made the correct decision at the free throw line against the Cuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone. Offensively, the player assigned to the free throw line against a 2-3 zone is key to effectively beating the zone. Porter manned that role and single-handedly dominated the game. In addition, Porter’s outside shot has gone from a weakness to a strength in one season. His 3pt% increased from 22.6% a year ago to 46.8% this season. This has led to a highly efficient offensive game that continues to improve.
Weaknesses: The biggest knock on Porter is his lack of athleticism. He is not a high-flyer so you probably won’t be seeing big-time dunk highlights on SportsCenter. Personally, I find this laughable and is one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to NBA scouts. Give me a smart player who can score over a pure athlete who has no idea to score any day. Porter’s other weakness is a lack of strength. He has a slight frame and could use to put on more muscle.
Cavs Fit: Porter isquite possibly the best fit for the Cavs in the top 7 in my opinion. Cavs need a heady player who can score and defend at the SF position and Porter fits the bill.
NBA Comps: Shawn Marion, Nicolas Batum
11 Victor Oladipo, SG/SF, Indiana, 6-5, 210, 5/4/1992
Strengths: Tremendously efficient player and ranks #2 and #3 nationally in TS% (70.5%) and eFG% (68.6%). Off the charts athleticism which helps him finish at the basket. Approximately 70% of his shot attempts come at the rim & he is the best finisher in the country. Top-notch perimeter defender and can lock up a PG, SG or SF. Oladipo ranks 19th nationally in steal percentage (4.82%) in the toughest conference in the country.
Weaknesses: Still developing his offensive game and can needs to prove he can be a consistent scorer. Not a good assist/TO ratio (1:1) and can become a better ball handler.
Cavs Fit: Oladipowould be a nice fit for the Cavs who lack any sort of perimeter defense and would immediately be the Cavs best wing defender. Although they drafted Waiters last year to play SG, their skills are quite complementary. Oladipo would also take pressure off Kyrie defensively not having to guard the best PGs in the NBA night in and night out. With Kyrie, Oladipo and Waiters on the floor at the same time, the Cavs would have one of the best transition offenses in the NBA. Excuse me while I wipe the drool off the floor.
NBA Comps: Russell Westbrook, Tony Allen
13 Alex Poythress, SF, Kentucky, 6-8, 239, 9/6/1993
Strengths: Extremely athletic and very good around the basket (60% two-point FG %). Attacks the rim well and does a good job getting to the free throw line (top 100 FT rate %). Has a 7-1 wingspan and his length is an asset defensively. At a minimum, he has the potential to be a lock-down defender down the road in the NBA.
Weaknesses: Not a great scorer but has room to develop his offensive skills. He lacks ball-handling ability and isn’t your prototypical SF who can play on the wing. For most of the season with Kentucky, Poythress has not been as assertive as scouts would like him to be. However, since Noel has gone down with the torn ACL, Poythress has put up 18.5 points per game in the last two SEC games. It will be interesting to see if he continues to take control of the Kentucky offense down the stretch into March.
Cavs Fit: A good fit for the Cavs at SF, especially if they end up with a pick in the 6-10 range. Will most likely have the biggest upside at that point in the draft. Will probably never end up being an All-Star but has a chance to have a solid NBA career. At a minimum, he can help the Cavs biggest weakness as a perimeter defender.
NBA Comps: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Al-Farouq Aminu
As a final segment, both @ClevTA and I will share a total of five sleeper candidates we kind of like later in the draft. The Cavaliers, of course, have 3 other draft picks this season. In addition to their own lottery pick, they could have the Lakers’ first-round pick if that team makes up enough ground to reach the playoffs. Then, if not the Lakers pick, the Cavs will still at least have Miami’s late first-round pick, along with Orlando’s second-round pick and their own second-rounder. So that’s going to likely be 3 picks in the 16-40 range in some way, shape or form. And accordingly, here are some sleeper candidates to keep an eye out for in this range:
19 Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga, 7-0, 238, 4/19/1991
@ClevTA: He’s a rare college 7-footer who can score with his back to the basket. Olynyk is the most improved player in college basketball and is scoring 17.7 points per game after averaging only 5.8 points in limited minutes a year ago. He’s in the top five in offensive efficiency and is shooting 66% from the field and an impressive 39% from three-point territory. He still needs to add more muscle onto his frame but already has the offensive skills to succeed in the NBA. While I don’t expect Olynyk to be a superstar in the NBA, his ability to score around the basket combined with his outside shooting and 80% free throw shooting (and impressive 14.1 assist rate) allows him to have a good chance to have a long NBA career. A team in need of a center late in the lottery should take a shot at Olynyk.
25 Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State, 6-5, 205, 7/21/1991
Jacob: This is a unique player — He’s a natural SG, but playing mostly as a 3 for the Aztecs, he’s actually averaging an astounding 9.6 rebounds per 36 minutes over the last two seasons. Which obviously has intrigued me for the past 18 months. Franklin’s a hyper-athletic, defensively-sound wing who can pull off a highlight reel of a dunk anytime down the court. He still takes some wild shots and isn’t exactly that efficient offensively — 45.5% efficiency field goal percentage — yet that’s an improvable aspect of his game as he’ll easily carve out some type of niche in the NBA. He’s incredibly aggressive and active, while his defensive presence would actually be a nice fit as a backup for a team like the Cavs.
35 Myck Kabongo, PG, Texas, 6-2, 168, 1/12/1993
Jacob: Scouts love big point guards. Kabongo is not a big point guard. In fact, Chad Ford’s only listed weakness in his profile: “A bit undersized.” There’s also one more reason that Kabongo could be the biggest sleeper of 2013: Because of his peculiar 23-game suspension by the NCAA, mainstream fans haven’t seen much of this sophomore Canadian sensation. Since returning to action on Feb. 13, he’s been an apropos “Lone Star” in averaging 18.6 points, 4.4 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 51.8% shooting. He did make national highlight reels with his sensational 31-point heroics on Wednesday. He easily could blossom into an above-average starter in the league because of his big-time playmaking abilities. Previously ranked as a possible top-10 prospect, it’s amazing that Kabongo personally has done little wrong on the court besides a turnover-heavy freshman season.
38 Andre Roberson, SF/PF, Colorado, 6-7, 210, 12/4/1991
@ClevTA: Roberson is a rebounding machine for the Buffaloes and has put up 11 double doubles this season. He’s an extreme athlete and combined with a high motor, this has allowed the 6-7 Roberson to lead the country in rebounding this season (11.7 per game). His weakness is a lack of an offensive game but there is plenty of room in the NBA for a guy with Roberson’s rebounding/energy skill set (see Faried, Kenneth). Look for a team in need of good energy and rebounding off the bench to take a chance on Roberson in the early to mid-2nd round.
43 Allen Crabbe, SF, California, 6-6, 210, 4/4/1992
@ClevTA: Crabbe is a big-time scorer and has prototypical size for an NBA SG at 6-6, 210 lbs. Crabbe’s FG/3pt/FT percentage splits of 47%/35%/80% make him one of the best overall shooters in the draft. California is one of the nation’s hottest teams in the last month and Crabbe is the biggest reason for their emergence. The biggest reason he is not ranked higher by NBA scouts? You guessed it — lack of athleticism. I choose to ignore that and think that Crabbe will make an NBA team really happy if they can grab him late in the first round. Smart NBA teams like San Antonio have done a great job historically drafting good players like Crabbe late in the first round and ignoring the “lack of athleticism” label. Needless to say the Spurs have proven that highly skilled players are more important than focusing purely on athleticism. Keep an eye on Cal as they have the potential to make a sneaky, deep run in the NCAA tourney with help from Crabbe.
Photos via USA Today Sports Media and Associated Press
Jacob Rosen is a long-time contributor to WaitingForNextYear. He's also a writer online at SportsAnalyticsBlog and Nylon Calculus . An Akron native, Jacob is a current MBA student at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. You can follow him on Twitter @WFNYJacob or e-mail him at udjrosen(at)gmail(dot)com.