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My NBA Draft Top 10 Picks Preview
Here is how this is going to work. I am going to talk about the projected top 10 picks, what I think of them, and how they fit in with the team projected to draft them, etc. I am going to use the latest mock of Chris Mannix who is someone who works for SI and is a credible NBA name. I am also projecting based on the player not being injured during a majority of his career.
#1- Karl Anthony Towns- Minnestoa Timberwolves- I hope they take him. I really really hope they do. Not because I don't think he will be good, but because of how much I love Okafor but we will save that for the #2 pick breakdown. Towns is really good. He is big, and will get bigger, he runs the floor well, he can shoot free throws and jump shots out to the three point line, and he defends. He is an all around really good player and will probably have a very long career. He has a nice jump hook, but I think is a little limited offensively inside. Having said that, I have watched his NBA workout videos which are on YouTube and I was impressed. Here is why I don't think he is the best player in the draft. First of all he can shoot 3's really well. That is great, but I think that actually will hurt his game. Why? Every time he steps away from the hoop, he becomes easier to guard. He cant get drop off lay ups and dunks, he can't offensive rebound, he can't tip a long rebound out to a teammate, and most importantly, he can't post up. And how many perimeter shots is he really going to take? One or two a game? The fact that he is a nice outside shooter is irrelevant unless someone thinks he will be playing the 3 and I'll tell you now, that ain't happening. I think the worst thing that happened to Gasol and Gooden and Bosh is that they started shooting 3's. It keeps them away from the basket and makes them very one dimensional. And they only have to be guarded by one defender. The most valuable players in basketball are guys that demand a double team because it gives space to their teammates on kick outs. On his videos he dunks and they look amazing. There is no one playing defense. Of course they look great. They aren't on Marc Gasol or Roy Hibbert or Tyson Chandler or anyone like that. Any NBA player can do the things he does in those videos. I am not saying he is not a really good player and he might be an All-Star at some point, what I'm saying is the hype and elevation he has gotten since the college season ended, in my opinion, is not warranted. As for going to the T-Wolves, I am not exactly sure how he fits in. They have Pekovic at the 5 already who is a solid player, which would mean he plays the 4. Now if they want to let him step out and play like Anthony Davis, and he proves he can make that mid range and occasional 3, then maybe that can work. But in my opinion he is a 5 man and that means that they will have to phase out Pekovic in order for him to develop.
#2- Jahlil Okafor- Los Angeles Lakers- The next coming. I have been in love with his game since the McDonald's All-American game. I don't always watch it but I happened to catch it last year and he was phenomenal. I was hyping him then and I have seen nothing since then to change my mind. Let's not forget how for 90% of the college season, he was the consensus #1 pick. Everyone forgets "Chokin for Okafor." I was so mad at the Lakers every time they won a game because I felt they were getting a little further away from getting him and from becoming a contender again. He is so gifted offensively it makes me giggle inside. He has Olajuwon type moves down in the post, he has Duncan type moves down in the post. He can score on you in so many ways you won't know what to do. He is developing a face up game and we saw him hit that bank shot from 15 feet like Tim Duncan is known for. He is a great, not good, but great passer out of the post and is almost too unselfish. There were games last year with Duke where the opponents would send a weak double and he would pass out when I thought he could attack them and get a bucket or a foul. Finally, he led a team of basically all freshmen, a team that only played about 7 players, to a national championship.
Now his negatives. He can't shoot free throws. I don't care, either could Duncan or Malone when they came into the league. I think he will improve in that area and if he gets up to around 70% he will be fine. The next two are a little scarier. First of all they say he doesn't defend. Well I'll keep going back to that he just won a national championship and he was the only inside presence they had. I will also say that defense can be taught. Many recruiters want to take the most talented offensive players or most athletically talented players, and then the coaching is where they learn to play the game. Second, they say he doesn't have that passion to be great. That worries me a lot. Because when he gets paid, and he will get paid, he may think Ok I'm good, and be a 14 and 10 guy his whole career. If he wants to be an all time great, which I think he can be, he needs to get that passion and motivation very soon. But lets all remember that he is 19, and won the national championship. Finally, I was listening to the radio today and Dan Dakich came on. And I really don't like Dakich, I think he is a little full of himself but that is beside the point. He came on and said he thinks Okafor is the best player in the draft by a mile. He thinks he is an all-time talent and he thinks Minnesota is crazy not to take him. So Laker fans, I am not alone in what I see.
How does this work for the Lakers. I say use him like Duncan is used. Sometimes at the 4, sometimes at the 5. Exploit weak defenders and get bigs in foul trouble. What I would like the Lakers to do would be go after one of the free agent bigs, like Gasol or Aldridge. Pair him with Okafor on the blocks and now you have two huge bodies inside on defense and two really good scorers on the offensive end. Throw in Randle and Clarkson and you have a really nice nucleus. Now the important part Laker fans..... After this year go after Durant and/or Westbrook. I think Westbrook is more likely and give him the money from Kobe's expired contract. Then, offer Kobe the league minimum and guarantee him nothing. He might start, he might come off the bench, but he will be the third or fourth option and he will NOT be shooting at the end of every quarter or close game. He will be a glorified role player and if he wants to be part of a championship team then he is welcome to stay. If he wants to be the alpha dog on a team where 4 or 5 guys are better than him, then he can go somewhere else. Its not Kobe hate, its the realism that people need to have with him and he needs to have with himself.
#3- D'Angelo Russell- Philadelphia 76ers- I promise these will get shorter as I know less and less about these players. Everyone seems to like Russell and I think he is going to be a really good pro. I see some James Harden in him with the way he can score in a one-on-one situation, as well as make quality passes in traffic. I think we will also see some of the bad side of Harden in him where he takes really bad shots and teammates may not like that. Also, he admitted on the radio yesterday that he didn't play defense for most of the college season this year, but "I have changed that now." Well, I'll have to see it to believe it. I actually do believe he wants to defend. But he is going from a 30 game season with 40 min games, to an 82 games season with 48 min games. In a league where the physicality is significantly higher. So even if he wants to defend, I can see it being a struggle his first few seasons because he will be tired, and his team won't be very good, which means guys will be looking to save their energy for offensive statistics. As for his fit with Philly, I think they have to pick him. They have picked bigs the last two drafts, so it would be silly to pick another big with a possibly elite guard sitting right there for the taking. I think this is a no brainer for them.
#4- Kristaps Porzingis- New York Knicks- This is the absolute nightmare for the Knicks. The boos will reign down from New York City like have never been heard at a draft before. He might be the greatest Euro of all time and the fans there will boo because they don't know who he is. The weekend warrior who watches college basketball once a week drinking a beer wants a name he knows from the tournament when he was filling out his bracket. He doesn't want another skinny Euro that reminds him of Darko or the countless others who have come before him. Do I like the pick? I don't know. I had heard nothing but great things about him and his wingspan and his athleticism and his upside and I saw some highlights and I was impressed. And then Dan Dakich, yes the same Dan Dakich, who is known for being an international scout, came on ESPN national radio and trashes the guy. Utterly trashes him. Says he is skinny, and weak, and has no power in his legs, won't be able to defend, won't be able to post, won't basically be able to play because of how weak he is. And he said he has soft eyes. That he looks like a nice person. That he doesn't want to kill you in order to score that hoop in the 4th quarter. That scared, why I am here look, instead of that look like I'm comin to get you. And now I'm torn. So I say to you Knick fans, good luck, and Godspeed.
#5- Justise Winslow- Orlando Magic- I have heard him as low as #7 but he is considered to be somewhere in the top 7 which seems to be the cut off for where the elite talent is. I like his game a lot, as he was huge in the last couple games for Duke. He might remind me of James Harden more than Russell, possibly because their shots and attack to the rim are very similar. He is big and strong and will only get bigger and stronger. I think his only downside may be the hype that he got the last couple weeks of the college season, where he went from the 3rd or 4th option on Duke, to having a couple good games, to being a top 5 pick. Maybe he figured it out, and maybe he got hot when a lot more people were paying attention. But for the Magic I like the pick. Unlike the 76ers, they are gathering nice young talent, and that talent seems to be growing on the floor, not in the form of picks and injured picks.
#6- Emmanuel Mudiay- Sacramento Kings- I have never seen him play but I heard he is really good. Some people are saying he should be the #3 pick he is that good. Larry Brown says that if he played at SMU instead of playing overseas that he would be the #1 pick this year. But that is from the coach who recruited him. Anyway, Larry Brown does have some basketball credentials so if he is close to being right, this could be a great pick for whoever gets him. Do you want the human cancer Demarcus Cousins near that guy? Probably not but maybe lightning will strike.
Quick Demarcus Cousins story which is so classic and so him. I was watching a preseason game Cousins rookie year. I think it was against the Lakers. The Kings were going to lose it was like a 10 point game with under a minute to go. Cousins was pissed because they were going to lose the game. So he comes down and buries a 3. The Lakers call a quick time-out. And Cousins...a rookie...in the preseason...walks over to his bench where one of the assistants had walked out to the floor to give him a high-five for making the shot. Cousins walks up to him, looks at the guy holding up his hand, and walks by leaving the coach hanging. This is a rookie doing this to a coach...in the preseason before he had ever played an NBA game. I laughed so hard I cried, and I saved the clip for years. What a guy.
#7- Mario Hezonja-Denver Nuggets-Again I know nothing about him but have heard "good things???" I have heard he can shoot the crap out of it and he can make tough shots and he is athletic. Sounds pretty solid. Then they say, "Yeah, he is a lot like J.R. Smith." Whooooooa. Like that J.R. Smith? Because I don't want anyone who resembles J.R. Smith in any way, shape, or form. I heard he will make some crazy shots, and then take and miss some crazy shots that people are thinking what the hell was that. So having not seen him, he would be a pass for me. But good luck Denver, you have been really solid since you got rid of George Karl. Keep it up.
#8- Devin Booker- Detroit Pistons- I hate this pick so much. I think you can get a shooter in the second round, or off the street. I think wasting a top 10 lottery pick on a spot up shooter is terrible. You need to get an impact player. They just signed Jodie Meeks this past year and that's their shooter. They don't need another one. Did they not learn from drafting Caldwell-Pope a year or two ago. So now they have another gunner. I think you need someone who can be a focal point of a team in some way. And he is not that guy. He might end up being a nice player, but nice players are everywhere.
So I don't like who Mannix picked after this so I'm going to talk about the last couple guys I know about who are in this range.
Willie Cauley-Stein- I love this guy. He is ridiculously athletic, jumps out of the gym, is fearless going to the hoop, will dunk on you and tell you about it. He is a great defender, blocks shots and protects the rim like Tyson Chandler, but can also guard on the perimeter as he is very quick laterally and long enough to affect shots. I think he may go to Detroit at 8, which would allow them to let Greg Monroe go (to the Lakers) and spend their money keeping Andre Drummond. Good luck scoring in the paint with those two around the rim. Cauley-Stein can also shoot it a little bit, and has been working on his moves around the basket. If he is Tyson Chandler that would be great, but I think he will be better because he is more talented offensively.
Sam Dekker- I think he is a solid player but I think he benefited from Justise Winslow syndrome. He had a couple great games late in the season, and made a couple huge shots and he became the darling of the draft. I can see him being a Matt Harping type, which is solid, but not worth a top 10 pick. If he ends up being like Gordon Hayward, then you got yourself a player, but I just don't think he is fast enough or athletic enough to be a lot more than a role player.
Stanley Johnson- This guy should be taken by Miami. I think if he is there at 10 they have to take him. Mannix has him going #15 but I think that won't happen. The scary part is his lack of outside touch. And the 3 point line just moved back 3 feet from college to the NBA. I think if he can develop a jump shot he can be one of the best players in the league, which is why I don't think Miami can let him pass. He can attack the rim and is as athletic as many NBA players now. This is the kind of pick that teams are looking for at the top of drafts because guys that can get to the hoop and finish demand multiple defenders, and that leads to open 3s and re-drives and that's winning basketball. I think if he spends hours upon hours upon hours working on his shot where it is good enough that they have to respect it and guard him on the perimeter, then he will be an elite player in the league. If not, then he will have to scratch and claw for every bucket because defenses will sag way off.
Frank Kaminsky- I feel bad for Frank. He is suffering because of the fact that scouts don't see his game translating to the NBA. Some people have him as low as the high teens. Do we not remember he was NCAA Basketball National Player of the Year? Ok we do now. But I know that doesn't mean everything. We all remember Tyler Hansbrough and how he has become a 15-20 minute a game guy after being one of the best college basketball players ever. The reason I think Frank the Tank is different is this...he is 7-1 and was the best shooter on his team of great shooters and carried his team to the national championship. Sure Dekker got the hype, but it was Kaminsky who led them in scoring. Kaminsky was able to bring big slow defenders to the perimeter and hit 3s, and take smaller defenders to the post and score and get to the line. Does he have to use a lot of moves to counteract for his lack of athleticism? Sure he does. But lets look at an NBA comprised of athletes who are there to block shots, and a league comprised of referees who love to call fouls when a defender leaves his feet. And Kaminsky has the discipline to give you multiple up fakes and pivots before shooting which makes it even harder to stay down on him. I think he could be a really nice player in the league. Look for him to come off the bench for a year or two (obviously depending on who drafts him), and then figuring it out and being a good player and just on the lower edge of being an all star.
So there it is, I know we went a little long, but I think I have a pretty good feel for this years draft class and hope I am right on many of them. I am hoping one player is a Hall of Famer and I'm hoping that player will have a long career in Los Angeles. So we will see it all go down tomorrow night. Good luck, and may the ping pong balls be ever in your favor.