5 Rookies To Watch

The 2013 NBA Draft class was dubbed by pundits as being a “weak” class. Whether that’s true remains to be seen, but I believe there are definitely intriguing first-year players worth watching. Here are five rookies that I’m especially excited to watch:

1. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope:

You down with KCP? Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is on this list for good reason. Yes, partially because of his fantastic name, but also because of his silky smooth jump shot.

I go bonkers whenever there is a shooting guard in the draft labeled as a hybrid with the attributes “athletic freak” and “natural shooter”. Those are my favorite kinds of players besides bruising centers that can crash the glass. KCP falls under that shooting guard hybrid category. If you ask anyone that watched Georgia basketball last year, they’ll tell you how KCP carried the team. He posted an offensive rating of 115.7, along with 3.9 offensive win shares and 6.3 total win shares. Get this: Caldwell-Pope led the team with his 3.9 offensive win shares while the second highest OWS on the team belonged to Vincent Williams at 0.5. Crazy, right?

The Pistons shooting guard position is up in the air. KCP has been going up against inefficient chucker Rodney Stuckey in training camp. After Stuckey’s atrociously bad 2012-13 season – Stuckey posted a dreadful .505 TS% and a PER of just 13 –  it would make a lot of sense for Caldwell-Pope to start at shooting guard. Not only does the upside effect come into play for KCP, but he’d provide Detroit with some much needed floor spacing. With a Smith-Monroe-Drummond front court, the Pistons will need as much outside shooting as it can get from the guard spots. Stuckey is also on an expiring contract, so there is no long term commitment if Detroit wants to go in a different direction. If he starts, he could get off to another horrible start like last season (32-102 shooting in his first ten games of 2012-13) which would also open up a door for Caldwell-Pope.

The principal viewing will not be on the two-guard position due to Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond being in the starting lineup. But with the Pistons “Big Three” on the floor (I hate using that term, but here goes it), KCP would be a viable perimeter threat. In his final year at Georgia, KCP hit 37% of his threes, establishing himself as a perfect off-the-dribble option and won the SEC Player of The Year honor. If he starts, then there would actually be floor spacing! The Pistons SB Nation blog Detroit Bad Boys made a great case for KCP starting at shooting guard.

As a matter of fact, Brandon Jennings is out for three weeks with a wisdom tooth fracture – which reminds me of a horrible root canal I had – and Rodney Stuckey broke his thumb in a car door. Will Bynum is more of a point guard, being just a 26% career three point shooter, and Chauncey Billups is very old. Billups could be in line to start, but I would bet that Caldwell-Pope takes his minutes by seasons end.

You down with KCP…he knows you…and me.

2. C.J McCollum:

Everyone should love C.J McCollum. He’s the epitome of a “student of the game.” During last year’s playoffs he would tweet smart basketball tweets and would interact with fans on a daily basis. Just before the draft, Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose did a segment for Grantland entitled “The Full NBA Job Interview,” in which they interviewed top draft prospects about their NBA paths. In my eyes, McCollum’s interview was the best one. His extroverted personality blends very well with his immense appetite for the game. It’s incredibly hard not to like him.

McCollum made Las Vegas Summer League  watchable for me. Summer League hoops is usually something I really could care less about. One night, there was nothing on TV. I flipped to NBATV, where they were rebroadcasting a Suns-Blazers game. It was early in the game, and I was thinking about turning it off. But here’s McCollum bumbling and stumbling (Clyde Frazier homages!) with the ball, trying to regain his balance. McCollum regains his balance like he was a gymnast by doing And-1 Mixtape Tour-esque moves. He drives to the baseline, and drains a floater that Raymond Felton has been trying so desperately to nail consistently for his entire career. Thanks to that moment of awesomeness, I watched the rest of the game. The Blazers ended up losing 92-84, but I didn’t care about the end result; I just cared about McCollum. He scored 22 points.

Unfortunately, McCollum broke a metatarsal in his left foot, causing him to have surgery. The injury was deja vu all over again for him, as he had the same exact injury while playing at Lehigh. The injury shelved him for the rest of his fourth and final season at Lehigh. What sucks is that McCollum was turning heads early in the process with his fantastic Summer League – he averaged 21 points in five games. He’s out indefinitely, meaning that he’ll probably miss the season opener and the first couple to few weeks of the regular season.

3. Victor Oladipo:

On top of Jason Maxiell’s elite post defending (haha just kidding, his post defense is horrible) and Arron Afflalo’s underrated play, Magic fans will be looking forward to Victor Oladipo’s freakishly athletic skillset. I too am excited about Oladipo’s athletic ability. In the draft, this was the main talking point used when discussing the second overall pick. If you watched Indiana play at all this season, you have an idea of what we’re talking about here.

The step taken between Oladipo’s sophomore and junior years are mind-blowing. His FG% went from 47% to 59%, his 3P% went from an abysmal 20% to 44%, and he raised his scoring totals from 10.8 up to 13.6 PPG. His draft stock went from bottom-of-the-table material to top 3 lottery pick in a span of two seasons.

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn has reportedly contemplated about playing the Indiana wunderkind at point guard. The proposed experiment makes no sense whatsoever. Court vision is the most rudimentary skill to have in a point guard and Oladipo doesn’t have it. Just thinking about the idea gives me the chills. Speaking of players being played out of position, this reminds me of when Iman Shumpert was inserted as a point guard in this year’s Summer League, prompting James Dolan to demand his trading from the team, and in his rookie year. This is a horrible idea and heads should roll in Orlando if Oladipo’s talents are wasted at point guard.

Magic fans’ only hopes are Oladipo and Arron Afflalo this upcoming season. I’m happy for you, Magic fans, but at the same time you have Jason Maxiell, Ronnie Price and E’Twaun Moore. Sorry about that.

4. Isaiah Canaan:

Ever since Steve Prohm took over the Murray St. head coaching position in 2011, the basketball program’s resurgence has been swift. The Racers have been transformed into an NCAA tournament contender. In Prohm’s inaugural coaching season, he coached the Racers to a 23-0 start and later to a 31-2 overall record while going 15-1 in the Ohio Valley Conference. They eventually lost in the Round of 32 against Marquette.

There’s one particular salient individual that assisted Prohm to that 31-2 pinnacle; rookie PG Isaiah Canaan, now of the Houston Rockets. The Knicks were considering drafting him with their 24th pick, but passed. Canaan fell to the early second round, which is weird to me because he was the centerpiece of Murray State’s offense. Without him at the helm, the Racers were hapless without their master general.

The Rockets investing in Canaan with their lone second round pick was a very smart decision. I penned him as the biggest steal of this year’s draft. Grabbing a 21.8 PPG scorer and .211 WS/40 point guard that late in the draft is impressive. Although Canaan will be the third point guard behind 2012-13 D-League graduate Patrick Beverley, the future is still bright for him. He’ll certainly be around.

5. Reggie Bullock:

Reggie Bullock was the guy that the majority of Knick fans wanted to draft. Why? Because he replicated the Knicks offense from last year: As Blind Melon said, “Three is a magic number.” Shoot threes, bomb threes, make threes, chuck threes; everything is about the number three. Essentially, Bullock’s role at North Carolina was to stand on the perimeter, or run around curl screen, and knock down the open perimeter shot. He shot 43% from downtown in his final season at Chapel Hill, and shot almost 39% lifetime. The Knicks drafted Tim Hardaway Jr. and Bullock went the selection after. His final season was his best, partially helped by his teammates Kendall Marshall, Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes all declaring for the NBA draft the year before. He was picking up much of the responsibility that those three left over, a very hefty bulk.. No matter what team was going to draft Bullock, any team was going to get a bang for their buck in a good “3 and D” wing.

Bullock may not get major playing time, due to the Clippers acquiring Jared Dudley and JJ Redick in the off-season, but he can be that full-time three point specialist in the future. He could become a Danny Green type player in the future. Bullock is currently the fourth shooting guard on the depth chart behind Jamal Crawford, Dudley, Redick, and Willie Green.

I’m talking about all of this offense relentlessly. It must mean Bullock is a subpar defender, right? Nope. In fact, he’s a pretty good defender. You can place him under the “3-and-D winger” category along with the likes of Shane Battier and Kawhi Leonard. A “3-and-D” type player is a very special player to have. Players like that are very valuable to a team. In this day in age, the three point shot is incredibly valuable to a team’s offense. Bullock is an example of what the analytics crowd adores. He posted a scorching .625 TS% his junior year at North Carolina and is good defender. Bullock is a new age role player and should fit in quite nicely in Los Angeles.

2013 Mock Draft

Hey the draft is tonight! I put together a mock draft of what might happen tonight, though each pick is probably incorrect.

1. Cleveland – Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky. Though the Cavs have a void at small forward, I think they dip into their $22 million in cap space to fill that spot. I think Noel is going to be an absolute superstar on defense, though he’ll be a project in the short term. Coming off an ACL injury, Noel probably won’t be ready to play until late December, which works out for a Cavs team that would benefit from being in the lottery again next year. They’ll ultimately try and trade out of this pick, but I think they’ll ultimately be unable to move it and they’ll take Noel.

2. Orlando – Victor Oladipo, G, Indiana. The Magic will take Noel if he falls, but their pick is up in the air if he doesn’t. I think ultimately they’ll be deciding between Ben McLemore and Oladipo. Oladipo is a better prospect and I think his defense and motor win out over McLemore’s shooting stroke.

3. Washington – Otto Porter, F, Georgetown. I think the most often used comparison of Tayshaun Prince is right on. Like Prince, Porter is a long wing who understands floor spacing well. The biggest question mark with him is whether he does any single thing at an elite level. Nonetheless, I think the presence of guards John Wall and Bradley Beal, guys who can break down a defense, will help Porter get open looks as a floor spacing wing.

4. Charlotte – Ben McLemore, G, Kansas. The choice is between McLemore, Cody Zeller and Alex Len, and all three of those picks make sense here, but I think they go McLemore. They can either start him alongside Kemba Walker or bring him off the bench in a scoring role, and his outside shooting stroke is something they could definitely use – they were the 4th worst team in 3PT% last season.

5. Phoenix – Alex Len, C, Maryland. If Len’s here, he seems like the obvious choice for Phoenix. He has medical question marks, but there’s no better training staff in the league than Phoenix’s. With Gortat in the last year of his deal, it makes sense to have Len as the heir apparent. He’s high risk, but has Hibbert like potential defensively. In this draft, I think that’s a gamble worth taking at 5.

6. New Orleans – Trey Burke, PG, Michigan. With Burke, CJ McCollum, and Michael Carter-Williams all still on the board, there are three legit point guards deserving of being taken here. I think the Pelicans go with Burke. The national player of the year brings New Orleans a scorer with legit three point range that can push the ball in transition. If Eric Gordon forces his way elsewhere, they’ll need somebody to pick up the scoring. Also, Burke in the pick and roll with Anthony Davis could be lethal.

7. Sacramento  – CJ McCollum, PG, Lehigh. McCollum is one of my favorite prospects in this class. Not only is he a true student of the game and articulate, but he really can play. Sacramento needs a guard who can shoot the ball, and McCollum certainly fits that role. With the roster as is, he’d probably play off the ball quite a bit. However, I think the new regime will/should blow up that roster. He’ll be a good player for a rebuilding franchise. He’ll work hard, be coachable and contribute on the court.

8. Detroit – Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse. With Brandon Knight looking like more of an undersized 2 than a point guard, I think the Pistons grab Carter-Williams. At 6’6, he’ll provide good size at the position, and he’s more of a pure point than a scorer.

9. Minnesota – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia. I think Pope is the obvious choice here for Minnesota. He can’t create his own shot, nor shoot mid-range, but he does pretty much everything else well. I like him as an off-ball shooter next to Rubio, who will be handling the ball the majority of the time anyways.

10. Portland – Cody Zeller, C, Indiana. With all three point guards and Caldwell-Pope off the board, I think the Blazers bolster their front court with Zeller. With Meyers Leonard already there, Portland would have a young and exciting duo at center.

11. Philadelphia – Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV. Bennett has great potential as a dynamic 4 who can step out and shoot the three. He’s super athletic and can score inside as well. Philadelphia needs more impact players alongside Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young, and Evan Turner. Bennett can be that.

12. Oklahoma City – Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh. Oklahoma City gets a very good value pick here. Adams is raw on offense, but has ridiculous defensive upside as a 7 footer with 7’3 wingspan. He’s not there yet, but Oklahoma City is in as good a position as any to be patient with young players.

13. Dallas – Sergey Karasev, F, Russia. The Mavs have been trying to move this pick for cash. If they can’t, I think they get a draft-and-stash guy. I’m giving them Karasev. He’s a guard who can play multiple positions and has a high basketball IQ. He just feels like a player Rick Carslile would be able to get good production out of, whenever he comes over to the NBA.

14. Utah – Shane Larkin, PG, Miami. Utah has needs at point guard and PF/C with Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson being free agents. I think they address point guard here and go big with their pick at 21.

15. Milwaukee – Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany. With Larkin off the board, I think Milwaukee has to jump on the next best point guard. Schroeder has been lauded as the next Rajon Rondo, except that he can actually spot up and make shots. He’ll be a good fit with new coach Larry Drew.

16. Boston – Shabazz Muhammad, F, UCLA. Paul Pierce appears to be headed to Brooklyn, leaving a void at small forward. I think Muhammad has been scrutinized to the point of where he’s now underrated. Boston gets a good value pick here.

17. Atlanta – Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Greece. Multiple reports say the Hawks love this guy, and it makes sense. His reputation suggests he’s a point forward type who can handle the ball and pass well. With coach Mike Budenholzer coming over from the Spurs, it makes sense he’d like a guy like this.

18. Atlanta – Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil. Al Horford is a one of the best centers in basketball, but the Hawks get a bigger, shot blocking center they can bring off the bench. Nogueira is raw offensively, but has great potential as a shot blocker.

19. Cleveland – Reggie Bullock, F, North Carolina. Knicks fans weep as Bullock comes off the board here. He just makes too much sense for the Cavs, given what they need.

20. Chicago – Gorgui Dieng, C, Lousiville. Given his defensive prowess and ability to pass, I think Dieng fits in nicely as a backup center in both Tom Thibodeau’s offense and defensive systems.

21. Utah – Jeff Withey, C, Kansas. Al Jefferson is probably gone in free agency. Utah replaces him with the gigantic Withey, a big who has high upside defensively.

22. Brooklyn – Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga. Olynyk has good size and a versatile game. If he develops, he and Brook Lopez could be a very formidable front court.

23. Indiana – Isaiah Canaan, PG, Murray State. Indiana gets a fantastic pick here. They need a point guard that can score, which is exactly what Canaan is. He’s not a great distributor, but Indiana runs much of it’s offense through the post anyways. He’s a good fit here.

24. New York – Tony Snell, F, New Mexico. A 3 and D SG/SF, Snell fits in nicely with the Knicks. Part of New York’s problem is that they have too many one dimensional players – Novak, STAT, Melo, Felton. They need more guys like Shumpert who can contribute on both ends of the court and I think Snell can be that. He can’t dribble much or create his own shot, but he’s a guy who is an excellent spot up shooter, as well as a good defender with NBA athleticism and length.

25. Los Angeles Clippers – Tim Hardaway Jr, SG, Michigan. Hardaway gives Doc Rivers and Alvin Gentry yet another offensive weapon to an already dominant offense.

26. Minnesota – Rudy Gobert, C, France. I think this pick comes down to Gobert or Allen Crabbe from Cal. Minnesota could easily add Crabbe to bolster their non-existent shooting even more, but they got Caldwell-Pope at 9 and I think they grab the 7-2 center from France.

27. Denver – Allen Crabbe, G, Cal. Another team that needs outside shooting, the Nuggets snag Crabbe. He’s got good size and length and will allow them to continue to play versatile lineups with all the wings they have.

28. San Antonio – Mason Plumlee, C, Duke. San Antonio needs size and might lose Tiago Splitter in free agency. I think Plumlee is a good fit here.

29. Oklahoma City – Jamaal Franklin, G, SDSU. They need to find a replacement for James Harden. Franklin can’t shoot, but he’s incredibly athletic and gets himself to the foul line. Without Russell Westbrook, OKC was unable to breakdown defenses with anyone other than Durant. Franklin gives them a guy who can do that.

30. Phoenix – Lorenzo Brown, G, NC State. Phoenix takes the best player left on the board. They’d probably think about Ricky Ledo here, but his off-court question marks might scare the Suns away – they don’t exactly have a sound veteran locker room in place.

2013 NBA Draft Profiles: Rudy Gobert

There is some international talent to look out for in this year’s draft. Brandon has already covered Croatian superstar, Dario Saric, who is considered to be the international crop of NBA Draft prospects, according to the great Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, and German point guard, Dennis Schroeder. In last year’s draft, Frenchman, Evan Fournier, was drafted by the Nuggets with their 20th pick, the first international prospect to be picked off the board. Fellow high-rising 7-2 Frenchman, Rudy Gobert, is considered to be the second best international prospect below Dario Saric. It’s actually a back and forth battle between draft analysts and writers with Saric and Gobert. They really get into a war over the two, which is pretty hilarious to say the least. But I’m only touching on Gobert in this post.

Gobert’s career in the French Pro A League was mostly a successful one, due to his gargantuan 7-2 height and length. He has a whopping 7’9 wingspan, bigger than both Javale McGee and DeAndre Jordan’s wingspans at 7’6 at their pre-draft measurements. It’s absolutely nuts looking at Gobert’s arms. Just thinking about them gives me nightmares, but good nightmares (that sounds weird). Like McGee, Gobert’s wingspan is on a lanky frame of 238 pounds. He can extinguish pick and roll lanes with ease, resulting in an abundant of steals when he sticks his hand into passing lanes. Opposing offenses would have horrific hallucinations of his wicked length. If a team is implementing traps and or double teams and Gobert is one of the trappers, then forget it; throw up the white flag and surrender, because you’re not going to find a cutter or someone open in general like Lebron James does when he’s doubled.  I WANT YOUR EXTREMELY LONG ARMS, RUDY. ALL I’M ASKING FOR IS JUST ONE, ONE I TELL YA! ONE!!!!!! I WOULD LIKE BOTH, BUT THAT’S ASKING FOR A LITTLE TOO MUCH.

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In some scenarios, big men have clumsy hands, but Gobert? He has hands like Elmer’s glue. Imagine throwing lobs to him in game. Every point guard, no matter how good the point guard is, would acquire the NBA 2K13 alley oop signature skill. Gobert wouldn’t even have to jump to receive the lob with that ridiculous standing reach of his; he could just stand on his tippy-toes and dunk it while in transition, probably. He’s also a fantastic finisher off of pick and rolls, cuts, and offensive rebound put-backs with those soft hands of his. You can’t bring up a center without talking about an awesome sweeping hook, so guess what that means? Gobert has a nice hook that is virtually unstoppable,

Not surprisingly, Gobert is a rim protector to the max. In 27 games played, he lead the Pro A league in BPG with 1.9, his biggest strength by far. The defensive end is where Gobert will definitely thrive. It’s not a revelation that a big man like him has great instincts and timing when blocking opposing shooters. It is almost impossible to chuck up a shot over him, while going up against him man-to-man with that length of his. The offensive equivalent of that would be Dirk Nowitzki doing his patented, insurmountable-to-defend fadeaway.

Unfortunately, like the lion’s share of tall, skinny big men, there are certain limitations, particularly outside of the paint. I bet every draft writer you talk to will say that 85% of the big men in this draft, with the exception of Gorgui Dieng and somewhat Jeff Withey, have no game outside of the paint. And Gobert is part of that 85%. He has little-to-no jump shot that he can apply, along with not being a smart decision maker when he gets touches. He isn’t a dependable post player either, especially with lack of lower body strength, and going face-to-face with the basket too much. His offensive majority comes from inside the realms of the paint, which isn’t shocking. If, somehow, Gobert can hit the weight room and develop the abounding lower body strength he needs, then he can be capable of becoming a post option in the future, not so much now, but it can happen later, so he doesn’t keep facing the basket all the time. Gobert’s post defense kind of corresponds with his post game, in that because of his lower body strength inadequacy, he’ll get pushed back a lot while defending someone in the post. Let’s say if Al Jefferson, a post player by heart, posts him up; he’ll get killed right away. Tall guys like Gobert, and I mentioned this in my Jeff Withey profile, are klutzy, uncoordinated, and, in Gobert’s case, weak at times.

Comparing Euro league players to NBA players is difficult to do. I’m always skeptical when it comes to drafting Euro players, because the Knicks have either traded them away (Kostas Papanikolaou. Yes, I needed to search his name on Google), or they never played a single game (Frederic Weis aka the guy that got dunked on by Vince Carter in the 2000 Olympics). Gobert has said that he’ll be working on his poor offensive game the most throughout the offseason. His work ethic is simply “get better” at whatever he needs to really work on, and I really like that. His projected draft stock is about a mid-to-late first rounder.

2013 NBA Draft Profiles: Dennis Schroeder

Today’s featured draft profile will be on German point guard, Dennis Schroeder. A literal unknown several months ago, Schroeder began soaring up draft boards after a strong performance in the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit in April, leading the World Team to a decisive 112-98 victory over the U.S. Junior Select Team. Schroeder took on a leadership role for a young World Team roster, contributing 18 points, 6 assists, and 2 rebounds to grab the attention of the numerous NBA scouts in attendance. Fast and intelligent, Schroeder’s talent is already remarkable, and at the young age of 19, his potential for growth has many labeling him as not just one of the best international point guards of this year’s draft, but one of the best available period.

Birthday: 9/15/93 – Projected NBA Position: Point Guard – Class: International – Ht: 6-2 – Wt: 168 – Team: New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig – Hometown: Braunschweig, Germany

2012-13 Per Game Averages: 12.0 Points – 3.2 Assists – 2.5 Rebounds – 42.2 FG% – 40.0 3P% – 83.2 FT%

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Schroeder’s Pre-Draft Combine Results

Strengths

– Explosive first step

– Very crafty and shifts speeds with ease

– Excellent passing ability/sees the whole floor

– Good ball handler

– Runs the pick and roll well/very patient

– Defensive pest on the perimeter

Weaknesses

– Can get careless with the ball/turnover prone

– Poor shooter off the dribble

– Trouble finishing over length

– Doesn’t seem too comfortable going left

Schroeder’s biggest strength is his elite level speed and quickness. He can blow by his defender with his lethal first step, and get to the basket almost at will. He’s a strong ball handler who employs a wide array of dribble moves to get his defender off-balance, and does well with splitting double teams when defenses apply pressure. He also makes use of an effective floater when finishing in traffic. Schroeder is at his best when he’s attacking, and when he decides to do so, is extremely difficult to stay in front of.

Schroeder is also a solid play-maker for others, as he’s very good at scanning the entire floor, and finding the open man on the perimeter after he gets into the paint and breaks down the defense. He can fire the ball from one end of the court to the other in the blink of an eye, yet still has the touch to throw a great lob pass to the diving big on the pick and roll. Schroeder is equally solid as a pick and roll ball-handler, as he shows great patience waiting for the play to develop, and is very good at finding the roll man in traffic with a chance to finish. Schroeder is unselfish and always willing to move the ball.

Schroeder also makes an impact on the defensive side of the ball as he is an excellent perimeter defender. Making use of his long wingspan and superb lateral quickness, Schroeder can harass opposing guards the entire length of the court, and generally cause havoc when locked in. He plays with passion and energy, doing a good job of navigating screens and contesting shots with his length. He also has solid instincts for his age, playing the passing lanes and staying with his man when off-ball.

Despite being a dependable shooter in catch and shoot situations, Schroeder has yet to develop a consistent shot off the dribble, and it hampers him in the pick and roll. Until Schroeder can steadily make defenders pay for going under the screen, he’ll see NBA defenses play him as such. While he has a quick first step to get to the rim, he isn’t an explosive leaper, which makes finishing over length an issue. He’s liable to beat his man to the rim, only to see the weak-side help arrive and pin his layup attempt on the backboard.

Schroeder’s biggest deficiency at this stage of his career is his decision-making. Although he’s shown he has the ability to be a distributor and run an offense, he’s still suffering from the growing pain that most young players are guilty of: trying to do too much. Schroeder sometimes gets unnecessarily flashy, trying to force the issue instead of making the smart pass, and ends up turning the ball over. He can also get loose with his dribble in traffic, unknowingly setting himself up to get ripped by a defender.

All things considered, Schroeder’s flaws become much easier to accept realizing that he’s only 19 years old, and most of the deficiencies in his game can be corrected with experience. His unique combination of instincts and physical tools even have some NBA personnel going as far as to compare Schroeder to All-Star and NBA Champion, Rajon Rondo. While those are lofty expectations to live up to, it’s hard to ignore the immense potential Schroeder possesses, and it’s a big reason why so many teams have reached out to his camp in recent weeks.

Schroeder’s journey to this point has been an interesting one, and after being a labeled a possible second round pick at best, he’s now been projected by many mocks to go anywhere from 16-24. A rumor began to surface last week that the Boston Celtics had made Schroeder a promise to draft him at #16 but his camp has vehemently denied the report, and Schroeder has continued doing workouts for teams, including some selecting before the Celtics, so take from that what you will. If Schroeder can further develop his offensive game, and continue to mature as a decision maker, he could become one of the stars of this class a few years from now. It goes without saying that he’d be a great pick for New York at #24.

2013 NBA Draft Profiles: Isaiah Canaan

Four year hundred-proof Murray St. phenom, Isaiah Canaan, is yet another unique point guard that is contained in this year’s draft. He intrigues me the most. Canaan is perhaps the most underrated player in this year’s draft. He has draft steal written all over him, literally.

Canaan decided to return to Murray State for his senior year, after his ridiculously awesome junior season, in which he lead Murray State to a 31-2 record, including 23 straight wins, and to a 15-1 record in the Ohio Valley Conference under 1st year head coach, Steve Prohm. That 23 game win streak start is also the third best winning streak for a coach starting out in his inaugural season. If I was in Canaan’s position, I would have felt the same, too. I would have been like “hey, we ended up at March Madness…for two games, until we got eliminated. But still, what a mirthful ride that was! Let’s do it again, team!” That’s exactly what Canaan did, except, obviously, he didn’t say those same exact words in the quote. Maybe the “team” part, but, yeah. He has everything in a point guard you want: leadership while running the offense, and most importantly, confidence.

As the centerpiece of Murray State’s offense, Canaan ran it like a floor general should. He exterminated his teammates when it came to scoring. Canaan’s 21.8 PPG lead the team, 8 points more than teammate’s, Stacy Wilson’s total at 13.5 PPG. A large component of Canaan’s game is pulling up off-the-dribble when running pick and rolls, which already shows his fundamental point guarding attributes. You’re really going to pay when you get yourself under a screen when the pick and roll is being ran, because Canaan’s NBA-like range while shooting off-the-dribble with his swift, deft release makes it a huge nuisance to defend. According to DraftExpress.com, Canaan made 43% of his pull-up jumpers, second to Michigan freak of nature and near-top 5 prospect, Trey Burke, who hit 45% of his pull-ups. Speaking of Burke-Canaan comparison statistics, Canaan accumulated the highest true shooting percentage out of anyone, with a 60.6 TS%, while Burke had shot close to a 57 TS%.

Throughout his collegiate career, Canaan made sure he was the main marksman for Murray State. In his freshman year, Canaan shot a whopping 48% from beyond the arc, because of his catch-and-shoot proficiency and the good looks he was getting, but, however, that total plunged down to 40% in his sophomore year. But, Canaan recouped by amassing 45% from downtown in his very successful junior year, the reason why he returned for his senior year. But again, Canaan’s total dove back to 37% flat, mostly due to the amount of three point attempts he averaged in his senior year this year, which was at 8.2 a game, compared to 6.5 a game in his junior year. Canaan’s three point numbers explain his shoot-first mentality. He’ll add to the Knicks three point shooting repository.

Even though this generation of point guards have major large-scale bounce above the rim, (most of them) Canaan’s vertical explosiveness isn’t what you would call great at 6 feet tall, but he has impressive acrobatic poise like a gymnast when driving to the tin. He’s not what you would call lightning fast, but with his muscular 200 pound frame, Canaan is able-bodied enough to draw contact at great rates. He causes defenses to collapse with his dribble penetration, giving himself a ton of leeway while in drive and kick situations, forcing the opposing defense to implement help defense, finding the open shooter where ever, particularly in the corner. Canaan is also a 82% free throw shooter, which is an ideal free throw shooting percentage for a point guard that draws contact consistently. I’m not saying Raymond Felton doesn’t do that, because after all, he’s the bulldog! But someone that can get to the line as much as Canaan would definitely assist the Knicks’ free throw shooting.

The first time I saw a highlight reel of Canaan, I immediately thought of Damian Lillard, not just because of the small school size of Murray State and Weber State being eerily similar, but because of their playing styles. Going by their playing styles and by looking at their stats, if you were to compare Lillard and Canaan’s offensive attributes, they are almost exactly identical; high volume scorers that can score at will, and that can dish at a mid to high rate, depending on the situation. But that’s the common weakness among draft scouts when they evaluate Canaan’s game. I remember some draft writers stating that with Lillard, and whether or not he could accept that role. And surely, he did, beating Anthony Davis in this year’s ROY voting by a landslide. With Canaan, scouts question whether or not he can can place himself into a pass-first role. They already know that Canaan is a score-first guard, because he’s already proved that. He can score at anytime he wants, and anytime he can. But his assist to turnover ratio catches eyes…in a bad way: 4.3 APG to 3.2 TPG. Yes, it’s not really appealing to anyone. So, Canaan may have to accede to become a pass-first guard.

Last Wednesday, the Knicks had worked out Canaan, and he thinks that they should take him with their 24th pick, despite his high-to-mid second round draft stock. I don’t dispute with him at all. As I said earlier, Canaan’s extremely high confidence level plays a colossal role in his playing style and his personality. It would be fantastic if the Knicks draft Canaan. In fact, I think the Knicks will take him because of the recent retirement of Jason Kidd, but don’t guarantee it, cause anything can happen on draft day. I really want it to happen, though. Hopefully it does. Reiterating what I said earlier, again, he’s hoisting a “DRAFT STEAL!” sign right in front of every team’s front office’s faces. Lastly, you can’t not like this photo.

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2013 NBA Draft Profiles: Allen Crabbe

Today’s featured draft profile will be on the University of Cal’s 3-point specialist, Allen Crabbe. Arguably the best pure shooter in this year’s class, the 2013 PAC-12 Player of The Year is best known for his seemingly unlimited range and easy-going attitude on the court. At 6’6 with good length, he has the frame of a prototypical shooting guard, and possesses a solid skill-set that could fill a need on just about any team in the NBA. Labeled as a late first round pick when he initially declared, it appears that an impressive performance at the pre-draft combine has upped Crabbe’s value, as some mocks have him going in the teens. The Knicks will be bringing in another group of possible picks for workouts on Monday, and Crabbe will be one of the prospects in attendance.

Birthday: 4/4/92 – Projected NBA Position: Shooting Guard – Class: Junior – Ht: 6-6 – Wt: 197 – Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

2012-13 Per Game Averages: 18.4 Points – 2.6 Assists – 6.1 Rebounds – 45.9 FG% – 34.8 3P% – 81.3 FT%

Crabbe_Pre_draft_info

Crabbe’s Pre-Draft Combine Results

Strengths

– Pure shooter

– Displays excellent form and elevation on shot

– Deadly in spot-up situations

– Very good coming off screens and curls/understands how to work without the ball

– Runs the break well

– Solid size for the position/has length to be defensive pest

Weaknesses

– Inconsistent effort on defense/lacks focus

– Can’t consistently create off the dribble

– Not a strong ball handler/uneasy in traffic

– Questionable finishing ability

– Lacks explosiveness/not an exceptional athlete

Crabbe is without question one of the best shooters in this year’s draft, and it doesn’t take long to see why. At 6’6, with his long arms and a textbook shooting stroke, Crabbe has the ability to effectively shoot over the top of his defender. His mechanics are sound and consistent, with the next attempt no different from the last, whether or not there is a hand in his face. His ability to receive the pass and seamlessly enter his shooting motion makes him equally dangerous in catch and shoot situations, as well as when spotting up on the perimeter. He squares his shoulders to the rim, elevates, and releases the ball at the apex of his jump without any hitch in his shot.

Crabbe also shows a solid understanding of how to work without the ball and get himself open. Being one of the top 3 scorers in the PAC-12 Conference last year, Crabbe often saw opposing teams throw the kitchen sink at him defensively, but he countered with his ability to use screens and curls to get open. His footwork is very good and he never stops moving on the offensive end, always making his defender work. Crabbe is also a solid threat on the break, as he runs the floor well and takes good angles to the basket.

Although he’s a pretty good athlete, creating off the dribble has proven to be to weakness for Crabbe. While not terribly slow, he doesn’t have a quick enough first step to beat defenders off the dribble, and the few times he enters the lane (only 4.2 free throw attempts per game in 2012-13 season) he’s still not very consistent when finishing over length. His sub-par ball-handling can also get him into trouble when he tries to attack the basket, as he isn’t especially comfortable in traffic.

Although Crabbe has a good frame at 6’6, and possesses a near 7-foot wingspan, he isn’t as good of a defender as he should be. When defending on-ball, Crabbe is at his best; he’s engaged and uses his length to harass the ball-handler. Off-ball is where Crabbe’s deficiencies come to light, as he suffers from lapses in focus. He can get caught ball-watching and will lose his man, often leading to backdoor cuts and alley-oop opportunities. Crabbe’s motor on that side of the ball is a question-mark as well, as it’s too easy for his man to shake him with a single screen. He also has a bad habit of standing straight up and not getting down into a strong defensive stance, making it too easy for the ball handler to get a step on him. At 197 pounds, he’s still somewhat wiry and could stand to add some mass and strength to prevent getting bullied by larger shooting guards.

Despite being one of the NCAA’s purest shooters in 2013, and being named the best player in the PAC-12 Conference last year, you probably know of Crabbe for something much less flattering: this famous incident with his former head coach at Cal, Mike Montgomery. During a February home game against the USC Trojans, the Golden Bears found themselves down double-digits early in the 2nd half. Cal had just surrendered another bucket to see the deficit balloon to 12, and when Crabbe jogged across half-court after in-bounding the ball, Montgomery had seen enough.

He called a timeout, confronted Crabbe, and shoved him before several players had to intervene. A teammate pulled him off the court to calm him down, and minutes after returning to the bench, was reinserted into the game by Montgomery; sparking a 40-20 run by Cal, including 14 points from Crabbe. After an inspiring 76-68 comeback win, Crabbe handled the situation with professionalism, and deemed it as water under the bridge. Montgomery claimed Crabbe was out of it and he needed his best player to wake up, and this leads into one of my concerns regarding Crabbe.

A talented player who has drawn comparisons to Allen Houston from some NBA scouts, he’s often been criticized for too often going through the motions. Much of his defensive deficiencies are mechanics/mental, and on the offensive side of the ball for the Golden Bears last year, it was too common to see him not being as aggressive as he should have been. Crabbe is a natural scorer who when engaged can be very dangerous, it’s just odd as to why he doesn’t play like it more often. While I don’t condone what Montgomery did that day, it’s clear that Crabbe sometimes needs a kick to get going, and I believe he’d get that from head coach Mike Woodson. Crabbe is a knock-down 3-point shooter with good size and length for the position, as well as a decent rebounder who will run the break and add some depth. Don’t be surprised if you see Crabbe in a New York cap come draft night.

2013 NBA Draft Profiles: Nate Wolters

Today’s featured draft profile will be on the South Dakota State University’s floor general, Nate Wolters. A skilled scorer and passer with a solid understanding of the game, at 6’4, Wolters appears to have all tools necessary to run the point guard position off the bench for an NBA team. But questions regarding his athleticism and the quality of competition he faced in his four years in The Summit League have hindered his stock. He is currently pegged as an early second rounder in most mock drafts, but I believe there is a possibility of him sneaking into the tail-end of the first.

Birthday: 5/15/91 – Projected NBA Position: Point Guard – Class: Senior – Ht: 6-5 – Wt: 196 – Hometown: St. Cloud, MN

2012-13 Per Game Averages: 22.2 Points – 5.8 Assists – 5.6 Rebounds – 48.5 FG% – 37.9 3P% – 81.3 FT%

Wolter_Draft_Info

Wolter’s Pre-Draft Combine Results: A minor injury to his hip flexor kept him from participating in any agility drills.

Strengths

– Offensive game is NBA ready

– Skilled passer/Keeps head up and always finds the open man

– Adept at drawing contact and getting to the line

– Not explosive but has a deceptive first step/Changes speed with ease

– Superb ball handler who maintains his dribble under pressure

– Plays the game at his own pace and rarely forces the issue

– Strong decision maker/Averaged just 2.3 TO per game despite team high 29.8% usage rate

Weaknesses

– Won’t wow you with his athleticism

– Lack of lateral quickness will make defending on the perimeter a challenge

– Somewhat small wingspan for his height

– Didn’t face top shelf talent in college

Wolters’ path to the draft has been an interesting one. The Minnesota native was making a name for himself in The Summit League, doing it all for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, but to the rest of the basketball world was essentially invisible until a match-up with the University of Washington on December 18, 2011. The Jackrabbits stunned the Huskies 92-73, and Wolters slowly began to demand attention from pro scouts by racking up 34 points on 50% shooting, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds with 0 turnovers. In 4 years at South Dakota State, the 2013 All-American has accomplished much, including leading the Jackrabbits to their first winning season as a member of the NCAA Division I as a Sophomore, and their first two Division I NCAA Tournament appearances in his Junior and Senior years.

Looking at Wolters’ highlights, it’s clear that his primary job at South Dakota State was to score the basketball, and score the basketball he did. His ability to put the ball in the hoop is the cornerstone of his game, as he boasts one of the most complete offensive games of any guard in this year’s draft. Despite a funky hitch in his shot, Wolters has solid range and can connect from just about anywhere on the floor. He can hit the pull up, knock down set shots off the catch, and drive to the basket, where he utilizes a very effective floater that he can put up with either his left or right hand. Wolters is also good at drawing contact on his dives to the rim, and was a superb 80% free throw shooter in college. He even reminds me of a young Andre Miller at times with his “old-man” game.

A skilled ball-handler, Wolters plays the game at a steady pace, making up for his lack of an explosive first step with an extensive repertoire of dribble moves that he combos together to get his defender off-balance. He maintains his dribble in the face of pressure and rarely turns the ball over in traffic, which leads to his strengths as a distributor. Despite Wolters shouldering a majority of the offensive load for the Jackrabbits, he actively sought to get his teammates involved, consistently keeping his head up and looking for the open man on the perimeter when driving to the basket. He could be regularly depended on to make to smart pass, and registered a surprisingly low amount of turnovers given how often the ball was in his hands.

Wolters’ weaknesses lie on the other side of the ball, as his sub-par lateral quickness causes him to struggle defending opposing guards on the perimeter. He’s tries to make up for it with his high I.Q. and toughness, but more often than not, he’ll be a liability defensively. Average athleticism, strength, and a small wingspan also raise questions as to how he’ll fare against NBA-caliber point guards night in and night out.

But the biggest cause for concern has been questions regarding how Wolters’ game will translate to the NBA considering the conference he played in for the past 4 years. The Summit League isn’t necessarily a cornucopia of talent, and the last player to be drafted from South Dakota State was Steve Lingenfelter by the Washington Bullets in 1981 with the 44th overall pick. Yet, with his combination of smarts, toughness, and natural scoring ability, I strongly believe Wolters will be drafted. Most scouts have him pegged as an early second round pick, but Wolters has recently been speaking with several teams with first round picks this year, and the list is growing. It’s amazing to look at the history of Wolters’ Alma Mater, and then to read the amount of teams he’s been connected to, including Utah, Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Detroit, Denver, Minnesota, and Cleveland.

On the idea of Wolters in New York, I certainly believe he’d fill a need. The point guard position was a cause for concern BEFORE the retirement of Jason Kidd, and with Pablo Prigioni still undecided on whether or not he’ll be returning for next season, Raymond Felton is the only point guard under contract. Wolters is skilled in running the pick and roll, and has the ability to make defenders pay for going under the screen, as well create for others. He’s a high I.Q. basketball player who takes care of the ball, and as the second or third point guard on the roster would be a nice addition at #24.

2013 NBA Draft Profiles: Gorgui Dieng

There are lots of great centers in this year’s draft; Nerlens Noel being the main man out of guys like Cody Zeller, Alex Len, Kelly Olynyk, Dario Saric, Jeff Withey, and lots more. In this post, I’ll be discussing the Senegalese, Gorgui Dieng, the full-grown center from Louisville.

Dieng’s journey to America is a pretty interesting one, to say the least. He attended the prestigious Huntington Prep school in West Virginia, the same prep school that nurtured the most hyped prospect since Lebron James/presumed first overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft from the University of Kansas, Andrew Wiggins et al. In 2010, the NCAA ruled Dieng ineligible, not letting him attend individual workouts and practices. Of course, Louisville had to repeal the decision. They did, and the NCAA reversed it, and Dieng’s college career begun. Louisville coach, Rick Pitino, complemented his attitude and his defensive strengths, and made him the officer of the Cardinals zone defense, quarterbacking it throughout the whole season. Think of it this way: Dieng is to Louisville as Tyson Chandler is to the Knicks; both of them were/are anchors of their defenses, and had/have total control over them.

Dieng has a massive 7’4 wingspan. If he stood in my house hallway, his arms would almost extend from the beginning to the end of the hallway. When talking about defensive adroitness, Dieng was the most adroit out of all Louisville defenders. He logged a team-leading-by-a-mile 2.5 BPG, and lead the big East in blocks the year before that, as well as leading the Big East in defensive rating with a cool, astounding 81.7 DRtg. That’s impressive. If you’re driving into the lane, you should make sure to watch out for Dieng’s flailing arms, you’ll either get smacked, or annihilated. Watching him this year, Dieng did get beat on hasty post moves and shot fakes, but those are mistakes every big man makes, whether they’re mistimed jumps, or allowing and-ones. No one is perfect. If you watch game film from this year, it happened to him as much more than it did in his junior year and in his sophomore year.

For Dieng, paint defending is his bread and butter. Obviously, big men are paint defenders; it’s a given. But in some aspects, Dieng can defend the perimeter. He has fast feet, and defensive fundamentals that he can apply while defending lightning fast guards, i.e on Trey Burke in the Final Four title game in case he ever has to switch onto them (Paging Mike Woodson). It is a rarity to see a big man play perimeter defense, but that’s a very underrated part of Dieng’s defensive skill set. As a kid, Dieng used to play soccer, which is the principal reason why he has chop-chop feet.

Dieng took one giant step from his freshman year with his offensive game. Offensively, if you were to compare Dieng’s jump shot to someone in the NBA right now, in terms of lethal mid-range jump shot, it would be David West. Before that, Dieng’s offensive skill set was hampered; the only way for him to score was off of putbacks and transition baskets. Since then, the spot-up mid-range game he’s been working on has been his main source of scoring. Using him as a stretch-four or even a stretch-five (maybe) would spread the floor immensely. Dieng does have a hook shot, but he isn’t the most reliable guy to go to for one-on-one moves, such as being in the post, but that’s if the post is being used excessively. If Dieng were to develop a post game and more muscle, a team can consider using him in post situations more often, which would enable him to stop facing the basket too often.

I mentioned this in Jeff Withey’s profile; much like Jeff Withey, Dieng’s age is a problem. He’s the same age as him, at 23. As a matter of fact, he’s the second oldest player in this draft behind only Withey. That doesn’t take away the fact that Dieng’s experience is in the upper echelon of draft prospects, as his stats increased greatly, but again, his upside can be perceived in copious, negative ways. I tend to disagree with people that say Dieng’s upside is low, because his ceiling went from the abyss to sky high in a matter of two full seasons. Besides, the transition he made from Senegal to Louisville was a huge transition for him to make, and he did it.

In most mock drafts, Dieng is projected to be a mid-first rounder. It’ll be interesting to see how Dieng will get his first NBA minutes; as a back-up center, or a starting center. His age takes that into account. The Knicks may not even have a chance to pick him at 24, according to most mock drafts, but if he’s still up on the board, then the Knicks should absolutely, without a question, draft him.

2013 NBA Draft Profiles: Dario Saric

Today’s featured draft profile will be on European phenom, Dario Saric. The 19-year-old forward is believed by many to be the best international player available in this year’s draft, and his uncanny passing ability in combination with his size has led to his fans labeling him as “The European Magic Johnson”. While I wouldn’t go that far, it isn’t hard to look at Saric and notice the immense potential he possesses when he’s on the court. After winning the gold medal with Croatia in the 2012 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship, where Saric was unanimously voted tournament MVP by averaging 25.6 points per game (1st) and 10.1 rebounds per game (2nd), he was pegged as a lottery pick by many scouts, but his stock has begun to sink due to his sub-par performances this year with his new club, and there is a possibility he makes it into the late 1st round.

Birthday: 4/8/94 -Projected NBA Position(s): Small Forward/Power Forward – Class: International – Ht: 6-10 – Wt: 225 – Team: Cibona Zagreb – Hometown: Sibenik, Croatia

2012-13 Per Game Averages: 7.7 Points – 2.1 Assists – 6.1 Rebounds – 36.8 FG% – 30.3 3P% – 50.0 FT%

Saric_Draft_Info

Because Saric is currently playing for a European club, he was not able to participate in the Pre-Draft Combine. His height, weight, and wingspan are the only official measurements available.

Strengths

– Gifted passer with exceptional court vision

– Terrific ball handler for his size

– Threat in transition/Fluid when running the floor

– High Basketball I.Q./Has a strong feel for the game

– Considerable potential as a Point-Forward

– Good rebounder who always brings effort on boards

Weaknesses

– Not a great athlete

– Defensively, slow feet will hurt him against 3′s/Lack of strength will hurt him against 4′s

– Shot is improving, but still inconsistent

– Needs the ball in his hands to make an impact

– Character concerns over the last year/Speeding ticket, DUI, fined by club for breaking curfew

Saric is in an unusual position in 2013. His draft stock appeared to have peaked last year at the conclusion of the 2012 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship, where he led his club to the gold medal and his dominant performance earned him MVP honors. NBA scouts were drooling over his game, and he saw himself projected as a sure lock for the lottery whenever he decided to declare for the draft. But that has begun to change, as Saric is now playing on a professional club, and is going through the growing pains you’d expect a 19-year-old to experience when transitioning to playing with grown men. His numbers have been less than stellar, and along with his recent screw-ups, including a DUI where he hit three parked cars and had his license suspended, he has fallen out of the lottery in most mocks and is currently labeled as a mid-to-late first round selection.

Offensively, Saric’s game reminds me of Paul Pierce with a little Hedo Turkoglu mixed in. While he lacks considerable athleticism to beat defenders off the dribble with his first step, he’s crafty. Using his exceptional ball handling and body control, he works to get his man off-balance and then attacks with his long strides, also making him a threat off the bounce. He’s very good at changing direction and timing his dives to the basket, similar to Pierce and his “slow yet smooth” style.

But without question, Saric’s true potential lies in his ability as a creator for others, and similar to Turkoglu, can be a legitimate Point-Forward. A gifted passer with incredible court vision for his position, Saric can grab a defensive rebound, turn, and be across half-court in three steps, looking to initiate the offense. It also makes Saric a power in transition, as he is very good as getting his teammates shots at the rim on the break. He’s just as strong a passer from the post, always keeping his head up and reading the defense, then firing the ball to a shooter on the perimeter or a cutter as soon as he senses a double coming or sees an opening.

Saric’s weaknesses begin with his inconsistent jumper, which features a slight hitch just before the release. Instead of the ball coming off his fingers, it sometimes launches from his hand, taking some arc out of his shot. It’s mostly an issue with his mechanics, and although some time with a shooting coach could remedy this, it hurts his ability to threaten a defense in the half-court.

Saric also has a somewhat small wingspan for his size, and his lack of lateral quickness makes the idea of sticking him on the perimeter as a defender less than ideal. Despite his size, Saric’s game is one of finesse not physicality, so although he is a solid rebounder, don’t expect him to be throwing down in the paint. He clearly is a better defender in the post, utilizing active hands and his basketball I.Q. to deny the entry pass, but he must add more mass and become stronger to handle the battles he’ll be having against some 4′s on the low block.

I’m usually wary of drafting European players, as it is often difficult for their games to transition to the NBA, and for every Dirk Nowitzki, there is a Darko Milicic. However, Saric’s ability and potential is hard to ignore, and despite his recent struggles, one must remember that he is only 19 and still maturing. If the Knicks were thinking towards the future, like in 2015 when they have several contracts coming off their books for example, they could pull a “draft & stash” with Saric. Let the young forward continue to grow in Europe for another year or two, then in 2015 when the rebuild begins, they’ll be adding a 6’10/235-240 pound Point-Forward. Whichever way New York decides to go in this year’s draft, Saric’s upside is evident, and he presents himself as a very interesting option if available at #24.

2013 NBA Draft Profiles: Glen Rice Jr.

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Whether it’s Stephen Curry, Carmelo Anthony, Ray Allen, even Steve Novak, it doesn’t matter. Any shooter that ignites a fire is a joy to watch. In some cases, a hot shooter is more exciting than a monster dunk. Shots that are hit at a high clip will make you ask for more and more. Glen Rice Jr, much like his father, is a perfect example of a shooter with those traits that were previously listed. 

Because I mentioned Carmelo Anthony, the first thing that came to my mind was good ol isoball (sarcasm intended). When it comes to isoball, you can rely on Rice to score in iso situations, like most shooters. Most draft experts say that Rice’s most eye-catching skill is his jump shot, which greatly follows the footsteps of his father. Like most wings, he has a long wingspan close to 7 feet, which, for a wing, is above the ideal wingspan for a 6’6 shooting guard/small forward, usually. However, his ball handling ability is iffy, as he tends to only drive left in most scenarios, and has difficulty in becoming his own shot creator. And, using him in pick and roll situations automatically turns off any draft scout.

When mentioning shooters, you usually tend to think that they don’t play defense. That certainly is the ruling in Rice Jr.’s case, somewhat. He lacks most defensive abilities you would look for, fundamentally, but can get rebounds and steals at a decent rate. He doesn’t get lost in screens that much, but doesn’t have defensive awareness. He’ll have to eventually acquiesce to guarding wing players of his caliber, rather than guarding small and power forwards in the D-League. The NBA is a lot faster and tougher than the D-League. As a matter of fact, it’s faster x10000000000, something around there.

Knick fans have the right to make fun of J.R Smith’s straying around at local nightclubs, but, unfortunately, Rice Jr. was involved in his own incident at a nightclub involving a weapons possession in March 2012. Rice channeled his inner Plaxico Burress, which certainly hurt his draft stock, and ended up getting kicked off of the Georgia Tech team by coach Brian Gregory, along with having several “disciplinary issues.” Rice ended up playing 21 games in his junior year, and had some pretty decent stats, averaging 13 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.3 APG, and 1.3 SPG. He didn’t even play his senior season last year, a sign that told him that he may get drafted late in the second round. If the incident didn’t happen and he played his senior season at Georgia Tech, then maybe he would have been looking at a late first round opportunity, obviously depending on the outcome of that season. Rice’s draft stock plunged dramatically after the incident. His future was uncertain.

But Rice got a second chance elsewhere: the D-League. His second chance was awarded to him by playing in the D-League in what supposed to be his senior season at Georgia Tech. It was, however, an elongated, bumpy ride for Rice to enter the D-League. He would have had to sit out a full year if he wanted to transfer to another to school to play, so, that would have been a colossal inconvenience. The D-League draft was winding by, and Rice’s name was finally called in the fourth round by the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Rockets D-League affiliate. This year, Rice led them to a D-League Finals championship in a 2-0 sweep, averaging 25 PPG 9.5 RPG and 4.3 APG in the playoffs. Bearing that Finals title in mind, Rice has since then legitimized himself, making up for his careless mistakes from the past. In 42 games of the D-League season, a full D-League season, Rice averaged 13 PPG and 6.2 RPG and close to 2 APG, shooting 39% from the perimeter, along with an All-Rookie Second Team honor to boot. And, the amazing thing? He went up against guys that are mostly older than him, D-League veterans, if you will, and proved himself a whole lot, while playing as a 22 year old rookie. Rice was finally able to focus on the NBA Draft, because at the time of his D-League draft entry, his mindset was certainly not on the draft; it was on playing to his maximum best and potential, making up for his past careless mistakes.

When people talk about an offense that shoots threes relentlessly and without warning, the Knicks come up first in that conversation every time, with the Rockets being a close second by a hair. This year, the Knicks lead the league in three pointers made and attempted, hitting close to 38% of the threes. Rice Jr. is a staunch catch-and-shoot option, especially from the corner. Not only would adding another three-point shooter would make the Knicks arsenal infested with three-point shooters heftier, but it would greatly help Iman Shumpert. As much as I love Shump, his off-the-dribble game was horrid this year; he’s clearly a lot better on catch-and-shoot situations, as showcased this year beyond the arc, shooting 40% in 45 games this season ever since returning from his ACL rehab. Rice can pull up off the dribble with his quick, swift stroke, and by coming off of ball screens, something Shump isn’t really capable of doing, but at the same time, Shump is essentially the Knicks’ only youth, so he’s still developing. Still, Rice would be a good backup behind Shump.

What’s Rice Jr.’s draft stock as of now? Most mock drafts have him as an early second round pick going to a team like the Rockets, which actually does seem like a perfect fit for him, but you never know what’ll happen on draft night. And here’s Rice Jr.’s Top 10 D-League highlights, which, I must say, are pretty epic.