Musings on the Draft

Jay Bilas had a nice piece (Insider) yesterday on NBA Draft prospects who have star potential. Bilas isn’t perfect, but (1) he has a good feel for the draft by virtue of actually having seen most players play multiple times, and (2) he sees the forest for the trees on this issue–the draft is all about identifying potential impact players – stars – which is correlated, but not synonymous, with college advanced stats.

It’s a deep draft, but beyond Anthony Davis it isn’t clear who will break out as the kind of player teams  later regret passing on.

Bilas sees five potential stars in the draft–maybe more.

Who are they?

  1. Anthony Davis (shocking!)
  2. Brad Beal (unsurprising)
  3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (unsurprising that he’s listed here, even if you disagree)
  4. Harrison Barnes (controversial)
  5. Jeremy Lamb (the big surprise)

Beal is very interesting to Timberwolves fans. But Barnes and Lamb should be too.

Here’s Bilas’  general take (abbreviated, paraphrased; go read the piece for his full take):

 Harrison BarnesNorth Carolina Tar Heels

I think Barnes can be a better pro than college player, and he was a terrific college player. I believed he was an elite athlete when I saw him in high school, but I changed my assessment of him in college. At North Carolina, I thought Barnes was a very good, but not world-class, athlete.

At the combine, he tested out as a true world-class athlete. Barnes had a 39-inch vertical leap and a 38-inch “no-step” vertical, which is phenomenal. That tells me that Barnes was thinking too much in college. He seemed very “process-oriented,” and I think, as good as he was, he will be better in the NBA.

Jeremy LambConnecticut Huskies

Lamb may have a sleepy look on his face, but he has tools. With a 6-11 wingspan and a high release point on his shot, Lamb can get shots off against lengthy defenders, and he can move without the ball and create his own shot. His midrange game is outstanding, and he can pull up and hit contested shots. He has a 38-inch vertical.

Lamb needs to improve his long-range shooting consistency, but I like his potential as an NBA player.

Andy G likes Barnes a lot. He refused to give up on him even when he struggled badly as a freshman.

I agree with Bilas’ *college* assessment of Barnes’–he doesn’t look explosive, not nearly to the degree his combine numbers suggest he should. And we need to be careful about reading too much into combine numbers, which made Kevin Love and OJ Mayo look like two of the top leapers in a draft that included Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook. Moreover, when I watched Barnes play at UNC, he just didn’t stand out in college like top NBA wings usually do. The Luol Deng upside comp seems about right, but if he doesn’t reach his potential, you’re looking at a pretty mediocre player. The Wolves reached for one two years ago when they drafted Wes Johnson and can’t afford to overpay for a guy like Barnes–that investment comes with too much risk. (To be more accurate, Kahn’s reach two years ago was actually for a horrible, horrible wing, but still.)

Andy G disagrees. After reading Bilas’ column yesterday, he wrote:

“If I were AdelKahn, I would trade Derrick Williams, Wes Johnson, and the 18th Pick to move up and take Harrison Barnes.  The dude is a legit NBA starting 3, who can create his own shot without being a dumbass about it.  I’d take him over Beal and any other player not-named @antdavis23. It wouldn’t completely shock me if something like this is done.  I’d guess the Adelman kids recognize how “NBA ready” Barnes is, and could sell their old man on it over some Portland IPA’s in the coming days.”

I replied:

“Hmm…I don’t like Barnes nearly as much as you do. His numb#rs aren’t bad. He’s just a yawner. I’d rather have Beal. I’d also prefer Lamb–especially if we’d only have to move up to, say, 12 or 13 to get him. Lamb’s numbers are similar to Barnes‘, he’s long, he’s from a great program, and he plays the two. Trading for him might not require giving up Williams. Why are no Wolves fans talking about him? They’re talking up every other wing prospect this side of the former Soviet Union.” (*cough* ALEXEY SHVED *cough*)”

There are a few knocks on Lamb: UConn was a big disappointment last season even though they had Lamb *and* Top Prospect Andre Drummond; Lamb didn’t always look like a leader; and his frame is a bit wispy. But then again, so was Rip Hamilton’s, and he turned out pretty good. And the same knock I made on Barnes can certainly be made on Lamb–he didn’t stand out last season like a star NBA wing usually does against college competition. Still, if I’m buying I want to do it when the price is relatively low, which seems to be the case with Lamb. In contrast, Barnes’ stock is through the roof after the combine, and it’s likely to remain high unless he has a bunch of bad workouts.

If the choice between Barnes and Lamb is essentially a coin flip–and I’m not saying it necessarily is, just that I’m ready to be persuaded–I’ll minimize risk and go after the guy who likely wouldn’t come at the price of Derrick Williams.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Musings on the Draft

  1. Brian J.

    Cosign on trade up with Wes, Thrill, and 18 to take Barnes (or Beal, if possible). As recently as 5 months ago giving up Thrill so soon would have given me some pause, but no longer – really disappointed by his showing after K-Love and Rubio went down and he whiffed on a BIG opportunity to step up and show something. I also think Thrill’s jumper is destined to be horribly inconsistent as long as he continues to jump so high and kick his legs out in front of him in that weird way. With his heavy frame, he should take notes from other jump-shooting bigs (see, e.g., KLove) and go with more of a stable set shot type of jumper. Anyways, I wouldn’t mind trading Thrill for a bona fide prospect at this point.

    For some reason I guess I would prefer Beal over Barnes, but I’ve never seen Beal play and can’t really speak to his abilities other than from what I’ve read. But I’m still in the camp – though maybe Andy G. and I are guilty of groupthink in this regard – that believes Barnes has a good chance to be an absolute stud in the NBA. Good shooter, elite athleticism, and, most importantly after suffering through the Wes years, can put the ball on the floor and create his own shot. Barnes might be more ready to contribute than Beal too, which could be a selling point for Adelman. I know I tend to get excited about and overvalue high draft picks, but I’m just not seeing a whole lot of good options in the “veteran free-agent” market that gets talked so much about. Love to see somebody like Barnes or Beal in a Wolves uni next year.

    • What this is is just a classic example of great minds thinking alike.

      I actually am not as high on Barnes as some other touted prospects of recent years (Rose, Griffin, etc.) but I love what he would do for the Wolves as a small forward with size, athleticism, deep perimeter shooting ability, defensive chops, and a winning attitude. Getting this guy on the rookie scale would be a coup for the Wolves, already looking good with Rubio and Love, but in need of a rangy wing that can do a little bit of everything. (You know, what we hoped to get in Wes Johnson.)

      Had Barnes gone to his hometown Iowa State (well, assuming no Royce White) he would’ve played a very different role than his at North Carolina. That team had the best front line in the country with Henson and Zeller, and a ball-dominant point guard in Kendall Marshall. Barnes was more limited in his role there than he would’ve been as a do-it-all guy for a lesser program. Problem was, he was also the “shot clock is winding down and we need a shot, even if it’s not a very good one” guy. That lowers efficiency, which has some up in arms about why Barnes could be picked high in the lottery.

      There were reports that he was giving Kevin Durant all he could handle in some one-on-one workouts last summer. He has all the look of an “NBA-ready” small forward.