On June 30th, the 2012 NBA Draft will take place. The Dallas Mavericks, after a less than thrilling title-defense season and an early playoff exit at the brazen, unnecessarily youthful hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder, currently hold the 17th pick, the highest such selection they've "earned" since the year 2000, when they took Etan Thomas12th. Thomas, of course, would never play for Dallas, and there is every possibility whoever is taken 17th next month won't play for Dallas, either.
But that's no fun. So, for your reading pleasure, here is a breakdown of a handful of candidates for the Maverick's selection. You'll notice that certain names are neglected, as I tried to narrow my focus to players that, at this moment, are projected be in range for where Dallas will pick.
Just to be clear, I'm not a scout, and I do not claim absolute knowledge about where these players will go or what they'll do in the NBA. That said, I do, however, follow these things with a fairly close eye, and I try to be balanced in my analysis with advanced statistical insight, game footage(not highlights), and reputed scouting sources. It should go without saying that I welcome discussion and disagreement if it is well-founded.
I organized the players alphabetically, since at this stage a "ranking" is pretty close to a worthless exercise(unlike writing about a bunch of prospects and attempting to flush out which is the best pick a month before a draft, which is not only worthwhile but commendable). Now, without further delay:
Shooting Guard Memphis
Height: 6'6 Weight: 175 Birthday: 1/6/91
35.3 min 18.0 pts 8.0 rbs 2.9 asts
50.9 FG% 74.9 FT% 34.6 3P% 26.88 PER
Positives: great athlete, long arms, finishing skills
Negatives: rail-thin, streaky from 3
Barton is an interesting place to start. Right now he is mostly projected to the late 1st round, or even early 2nd, and so the assumption might be that he isn't on the radar for Dallas at pick #17. I find him pretty intriguing, however, and I would openly wonder if he's really worse than the half-dozen or so wing players projected ahead of him. There are a lot of similarities, both physical and statistical, to Terrence Ross, a name Mavs fans are getting to know and someone I'll cover later.
The first thing that probably jumps out about Barton is that he averaged 8 rebounds a game last year for Memphis. This wasn't a pace-created mirage, either; his rebound rate was better than highly touted big men like Fab Melo and Terrence Jones. He also had strong assist and turnover rates, and shot over 50% from the field, something credited by many to an improved midrange game and a better understand of shot selection. The gametape agrees with the stats: he is definitely an NBA caliber athlete with capable guard skills, and it is reasonable to think he'll be able to continue to get to the rim and score at the next level. Why is he not a lottery pick, then? Well, for starters, he is Kate Moss thin, listed on some sites at as low as 165 pounds. He also plays in Conference USA, which isn't totally obscure, but isn't a power conference, either.
My main concern is that I am not completely sold on his outside shooting. He hit 34.6% of his threes this past season, a big improvement from the previous year, but still not necessarily ideal. The impression I get is that scouts view him as more a scorer than shooter, and the few Memphis games I've seen don't contradict that.
Back in 2010, Portland took Elliot Williams with the 22nd pick in the draft, another thin 6'5 Memphis guard with hops and an iffy jumpshot. I think Barton is a better prospect than he was, but perhaps that speaks to the depth of this draft. Still, Barton's is a name to remember as the combine looms and draft boards shift.
Height: 6'11 Weight: 255 Born: 10/21/89
23.2 min 10.1 pts 5.9 rbs 2.0 blks
53.9 FG% 60.4 FT% 20.9 PER
Positives: size, athleticism, shotblocking
Negatives: rebounding, feel for game
Like Barton, someone who is currently floating around that late 1st/early 2nd bubble. It might be weird to talk about a redshirt senior as an "upside" pick, but I think that's what we have in Ezeli. At 6'11 and a solid 255, he has an NBA body right now and if you watch him you will see NBA-quality athleticism as well. The Nigerian is still learning how to put that talent to use in games, however. After a breakout junior season that saw him score with incredible efficiency, he regressed somewhat as a senior, leading to questions about his motor and overall focus.
Scoring aside, someone who can run and jump as well as Ezeli should be able to rebound better than he has over his college career, and that is definitely concerning if you're looking at a guy to potentially pair with Dirk. He also was never able to stay in games very long, having something to do likely with his high rate of fouls.
Ezeli has some wrinkles, that much is clear. However, he can run the floor, block shots, and finish at the rim, and that is probably going to get him drafted by some team. #17 is probably too high to chance on him, but should Dallas trade back for whatever reason, and still be targeting bigs, Ezeli is someone that might be a solid developmental pick.
Small Forward St. John's
Height: 6'8 Weight:195 Born: 5/11/93
36.1 min 15.3 pts 8.6 rbs 1.4 blks
44.5 FG% 20.2 3PT% 67.8 FT% 21.06 PER
Positives: rebounding, athleticism, just turned 19
Negatives: skills need refining, may be bit of a tweener
It might not be the perfect comparison, but Moe Harkless, in a lot of ways, reminds me of Thaddeus Young: similar size, both "one and done" prospects who flashed tons of potential and displayed an intriguing mix of skills that could develop in many different ways. Harkless got to a rebuilding St. Johns team that had almost completely turned their roster over under Steve Lavin, and he was immediately handed the keys to the car. This was both good and bad. Good because he responded by putting up 15-8 and proved he was not overmatched by the Big East. Bad because being asked to do so much highlighted some of the areas he still needs to work on. The true shooting percentage and assist/turnover rates leave a lot to be desired, suggesting that a kid with his size and ability shouldn't have been playing on the perimeter as much.
That being said, Harkless had stud athletic markers for a small forward, with great rebound, block and steal rates. He is a tantalizing ball of clay. What I've seen and heard from him in games and interviews also suggests to me he is the type who wants new challenges and is intelligent enough to adapt to them. If he can sharpen the skills(which is certainly possible when you consider he's one of the youngest players in this draft), I think you have a borderline All-Star on your hands, in the Danny Granger mold. And even if he falls shy of that, I think he can still contribute as a combo forward much like Young does.
At this point in the draft process, Harkless is on the short list of guys I'd be really excited to see in a Dallas Maverick uniform. We will have to wait and see if his stock gains helium in the next few weeks or if he's a real possibility at #17.
Shooting Guard Vanderbilt
Height: 6'4 Weight: 215 Born: 3/6/91
33.6 min 19.9 pts 2.9 rbs 1.2 asts
47.4 FG% 43.9 3P% 83.7 FT% 25.43 PER
Positives: shooting, shooting, more shooting
Negatives: pretty much the rest...but boy can he shoot!
Probably being a little unfair to Jenkins. He is a decent ballhandler, and he didn't score all his points on jumpshots...but let's be frank here: he has one real NBA skill, and that's shooting. Hey, nothing wrong with that, especially not when you shoot it like he does. He attempted 699 threes in his three college seasons, and made 43.8% of them. He posted outstanding true shooting percentages all three years, averaging nearly 20 points a game the final two. So, if you're looking for a spot up specialist, this is definitely your guy. He has a super quick release, and is never afraid to uncork it. That kind of package saw J.J Redick go in the top 15, though I don't think that's where Jenkins will end up.
For one thing, Redick is probably a bit better of an athlete than Jenkins(don't laugh), and could pass a little better. There are definitely questions about whether or not he can guard anyone in the show. If you're taking Jenkins, you're probably expecting him to be a bench ace, and, at the risk of being controversial, I don't think that's necessarily so bad to settle for if you're picking in the back quarter of the top 20.
Jenkins is probably a guy who could really benefit from a strong combine, at least to demonstrate he's not totally a one-trick pony. If he doesn't impress with his measurables, it is possible he slides to the end of or out of the first round entirely.
Shooting Guard Kentucky
Height: 6'4 Weight: 195 Born: 11/6/91
31.2 min 13.7 pts 2.7 rb 1.5 ast
47.4 FG% 46.6 3P% 82.6 FT% 18.94 PER
Positives: shooting, ballhandling
Negatives: playmaking, lack of definite position
Lamb is an interesting prospect, because I'm not sure if the fact that he played on Kentucky makes him overrated or underrated.
On one hand, if he had put up these numbers on the NIT champions, would anyone be talking about him in the first round? Maybe not. On the other hand, if he wasn't on Kentucky, chances are he'd have opportunities to put up much better numbers.
Like Jenkins, he has a good chance of earning an NBA paycheck because he can really shoot. Also like Jenkins, there are questions about his position and whether or not he's a good enough athlete to play a major role on a team. He did play alongside Kidd-Gilchrist, Jones, and Davis, so maybe I should forgive the lack of rebounds and the pedestrian usage rate. One positive aside from the outside shooting is that he seems to be very good at playing within himself, and not trying to do too much. His assists numbers aren't incredible, but the assist to turnover ratio is good enough that I wonder if some team might not try him out at point guard at the next level.
Right now I think he's an early-mid 20's pick, but the combine could change that.
Height: 7'0 Weight: 240 Born: 2/27/92
31.8 min 13.6 pts 8.2 rbs 1.9 blks
58.4 FG% 73.2 FT% 24.02 PER
Positives: size, athleticism, surprisingly skilled
Negatives: not a finished product, needs to add strength
Meyers Leonard broke out as a sophomore at Illinois, and it is entirely possible that his stock will continue to rise into the lottery, or even top 10 status. Legitimate 7-footers with his kind of athleticism and a clue of how to play generally go early. Right now, however, he is, by most accounts, on the outside of the lottery looking in, and I'm really hope it stays that way.
When you watch Leonard play, you notice immediately how fluid his movements are for someone of his size. I think a good comparison is Javale McGee, but without the "good grief, what the hell was he thinking there?" moments. Leonard can finish at the rim as well as anyone in this draft, and he is starting to develop his post game, also, though as can be expected with a kid who just turned 20, it's still a work in progress. He shoots his free throws well, and will flash the occasional 12-15 foot jumper, which makes me think he could be potentially devastating in the pick and roll down the line. If his 13-8 averages don't wow you, keep in mind that he played in the very slow-paced Big Ten(seriously, watch Wisconsin games; I think their football team scores as much). UNC's pair of big men, Tyler Zeller and John Henson, both averaged more rebounds per game, but had worse rebound rates than Leonard.
Most of the work Leonard has to do is on the defensive end. He can block shots in bunches, as you might imagine, but there are questions out there about his motor and concentration. Indiana's Cody Zeller abused him when the two met during the college season, showing that bigs who have more than just one or two moves can give Leonard fits. He'll also need to add a little muscle. I think he is mature and intelligent enough to make these adjustments, though that obviously remains to be seen. On a personal note, apparently the main reason Leonard has come out early is because he desperately wants to help his family out financially. His father died when he was six, his mother has a debilitating injury that leaves her unable to work or afford proper medical care, and his brother is currently overseas serving in Afghanistan. This is the kind of kid who has had to grow up really fast, and shoulder responsibility most his age can't fathom.
Overall, Leonard is probably the guy I'd want Dallas to take right now, assuming he's there. Why? Well, it's all subjective, but I think he is one of only a couple of guys Dallas has a shot at with mega upside. Also, as Dallas learned last summer, the market for centers is brutal. If you plan on having a halfway-competent big man and don't want to majorly overpay, this is how you get one. You draft him. Now, Leonard is not someone who is likely to come in and be a major factor immediately, but I could see him as a backup behind a veteran starter(such as a Kaman or a Camby)where he could provide energy as be a future building block/potential Dwight Howard trade piece.
Height: 7'0 Weight: 260 Born: 6/2/90
25.4 min 7.8 pts 5.8 rbs 2.9 blks
56.6 FG% 63.3 FT% 20.40 PER
Positives: massive size, shotblocking
Negatives: very, very raw, off-court questions
Melo is one of the better known prospects on this list. He's already been mentioned as a possible Maverick selection on this site, as well as others, and it is easy to see why. At 7'0 and somewhere in the 260-270 range, Melo has the size and defensive chops to probably be a rotation player right away. He moves fairly well for a big guy, and plays with a lot of energy, so he's not the typical college stiff who succeeds simply by being taller than everyone else. Syracuse was a dominant defensive squad with him in the lineup, and the Big East is as deep a conference as you'll find in college basketball.
So, why am I not terribly excited by him? Well, to start, he's still very raw offensively. As in, so raw I'm not sure he's ever really going to get it. His turnover rate was sky high, and he pretty much has no post game to speak of. Though he's a sophomore, he's not as young as you might think, as he'll be 22 when the draft rolls around. He did show major improvement though from his freshman campaign, as a passer and free throw shooter, as well as understanding where to be on the court, but when you look at how far it seems he has to go, there is a very real chance he will be basically a nonfactor on offense at the NBA level.
The second area of concern is that for a guy who has all the physical tools, he wasn't a dominant rebounder. He cleaned up on the offensive glass at a pretty reasonable rate, showing again that he has a solid motor, but his defensive rebounding was simply unacceptable, and as Syracuse fans know this was a problem for their team all season(they were obliterated on the boards by Ohio State in the tournament, which ended their run). One thing to consider, and maybe Mavs fans of all people should know this, is that Syracuse plays a zone defense, which often takes players out of ideal rebounding position. It is possible that this has undersold Melo's talents.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, Fab Melo made headlines nearly all year with poor decisions unrelated to the basketball court, from an altercation with teammates after he took an ill-advised shot late in a game against UConn, to his being ruled academically ineligible for the tournament(the second stretch of games he'd missed in the season). Basketball isn't rocket science, so I won't overemphasize the grades issue. I don't think Melo is a bad kid or a troublemaker exactly, either. However, ideally in a player you'd like to see certain qualities that demonstrate a willingness and desire to not settle for simply being good, to need to get better. I am not sure Melo has these qualities, though this is a determination I am sure Dallas will make in their interview process, should they consider him at all. In the end, if Dallas does select Melo, I'll get behind it. However, right now my personal opinion is that he's too risky to take in the middle of the first round.
Small Forward Baylor
Height: 6'9 Weight: 210 Born: 11/18/92
24.4 min 10.6 pts 4.9 rbs 1.4 asts
44.7 FG% 34.8 3P% 81.6 FT% 19.85 PER
Positives: long, versatile, multi-skilled forward
Negatives: very skinny, no one dominant attribute
Probably the player with the most potential career path outcomes in the group I'm outlining is this man, Quincy Miller. He is the type of guy scouts make their money on; when you look at him, do you see a glass half full or half empty? I suppose that makes him a "boom or bust" guy, and it will be interesting to see where his stock goes after the combine.
Physically, you probably couldn't draw up a much better blueprint for a small forward. He is 6'9 with a reported 7'4 wing span, can handle the ball, and has a streaky but capable outside shot. He tore his ACL his senior year in high school, and at times appeared to still not be fully recovered yet, so it is possible he has more in the tank athletically. He was a highly touted recruit from Chicago and for a brief period when Perry Jones was still out, he looked like he was going to take college basketball by storm as a freshman. His season hit a bit of a speedbump when Jones came back, and he was pretty much a nonfactor in the tournament. Curiously, he had initially announced he was going to return to Baylor for his sophomore year, before changing his mind shortly after. You wonder if this means he got some information about where he might be drafted, though he wouldn't be the first kid to get bad advice on that front.
His statline suggests he is a jack of all trades, master of none type at this stage in his career. Watching him, he clearly looks most comfortable playing on the perimeter, where he might be a point-forward in the right situation. If the explosiveness doesn't come back, he has the length to maybe play the four, but if that's the case he will definitely need to add weight.
Miller is probably going to make a team look really smart or really dumb. I'm not really sure which. I definitely like his size and skill potential, but he has a long way to go, and I'm not sure I'd take the risk with him over a few of the other names on this list. He's definitely worth keeping updated on, though.
Power Forward Mississippi St.
Height: 6'10 Weight: 225 Born: 11/18/90
35.8 min 16.4 pts 10.5 rbs 0.8 blks
54.9 FG% 78.0 FT% 24.7 PER
Positives: terrific all-around game, good athlete
Negatives: may need to add bulk, questions about past
A fast-rising prospect, news circulated recently that Dallas has already worked him out personally. It's not hard to see why they are interested, as Moultrie looks like a do-it-all type big man. Texans might remember from his days at UTEP that Moultrie played outside on the perimeter way too much, but in his year off after transferring it's clear he has worked hard on his post game. He has the athleticism to score over opposing players, but can also take it outside, where he shows pretty good range, and after struggling at the free throw line at UTEP he has overcome that hurdle, as well. By the way, he's a beast on the boards.
In truth, I can't see any reason why this guy shouldn't be a lottery pick. I see a near-complete offensive game, in the ballpark of a LaMarcus Aldridge. That's not to say he doesn't have some room for improvement. Maybe it was the poor quality of teammate(who he openly called out after a five game losing streak that saw Mississippi State's promising season come crashing down), but Moultrie looked like a guy that, when he got the ball, didn't think much about passing. He could force the issue at times, and turn it over. He also didn't always seem completely engaged on defense, averaging under a block per game, which is very odd given he's big and can jump. Again, maybe it's because he had to shoulder so much of the offensive load on an otherwise mediocre squad.
The biggest knock on Moultrie definitely isn't his game, which is stout, but that it's taken him this long to get here. Moultrie had two up and down seasons at UTEP, and after coachTony Barbee left the team for Auburn, Moultrie was expected to follow him. He, instead, chose Miss. St, which is apparently still a sore subject for Barbee. What exactly happened and why is still a bit of a mystery, and I think any time a major talent transfers some eyebrows are raised, but to my knowledge I can't see any serious red flags character-wise. That's something worth keeping an eye on, though.
There are some people out there saying Moultrie could play center at the next level. I don't think that's going to happen. He has a classic power forward's body and repertoire. Even with the presence of Dirk Nowitzki, I would be very excited about the possibility of a player like this joining the Mavs. That being said, I think he has too much going for him to fall to #17.
Power Forward St. Bonaventure
Height: 6'9 Weight: 225 Born: 12/8/89
30.1 min 18.5 pts 8.4 rbs 2.0 blks
57.1 FG% 43.4 3P% 77.6 FT% 31.63 PER
Positives: great inside-outside offensive game, good size
Negatives: poor competition level, inconsistent rebounder/defender
An under the radar guy, for now anyway, is Nicholson, a four-year stud at Atlantic 10's St. Bonaventure. Hailing from Canada, Nicholson was a bit overlooked as a recruit, but won A10 Freshman of the Year honors and hasn't looked back since. As a 6'9 power forward with a solid post game and a rapidly improving jumpshot, the obvious comparison is to another A10 standout, David West. That's high praise. Nicholson is going to get a lot of push from stat-inclined analysts, for his impressive array of skills. Guys who block two shots a game and also shoot over 40% from three are rare.
Skill-wise, you could make the argument that Nicholson is farther along than West was at the same point. Even if his post game doesn't translate to the next level, Nicholson could definitely carve out a career as a stretch-4 who spreads the floor and operates in the pick and pop. Where he falls short of West, however, is as a rebounder. West was a double-double guy at Xavier, while Nicholson was barely cracking seven boards a game until his senior season. To be fair, Nicholson's rebound rate was pretty solid this year, but do you disregard the other three?
Scouts will be paying close attention to how Nicholson does in drills at the combine, where he'll be facing the best competition of his career to this point. Fair or not, where he played will be a factor in how much or little he's scrutinized. Though his numbers are, on the whole, outstanding, you wonder how much he was really challenged playing teams like Fordham, Rhode Island and Duquesne several times a year.
I like Nicholson a lot more than Justin Harper of Richmond last year, who was another Atlantic 10 power forward with a similar game. Harper was projected in the late 20's, and ended up going 32nd overall. Nicholson will probably go before that, but how much before? In the end I'm not sure if he's really someone Dallas will be looking at, but it's good to cover your bases.
Shooting Guard Duke
Height: 6'4 Weight: 199 Born: 8/1/92
33.2 min 15.5 pts 3.4 rbs 2.1 asts
43.3 FG% 36.5 3P% 65.8 FT% 16.85 PER
Positives: playmaker, quality ballhandler, streaky shooter
Negatives: consistency, shot selection, size
Rivers is another of what will likely be many polarizing prospects in this draft. While most of the others, like the Jones's, Jared Sullinger, and Andre Drummond will probably still go in the lottery, I think there is a chance Rivers may not and it is possible he could fall into the Mavs' range. Now, there are definitely things to like about Rivers. He was a highly touted recruit who came into a major program at Duke and immediately became the primary scorer and playmaker. He is aggressive and fearless on the court, and if you looked at his highlight reel of knee-buckling crossovers and smooth fadeaways(including maybe the play of the year against UNC), you would probably think he is a future star. Also, as most know, he is the son of Boston head coach Doc Rivers, and I don't think it's any secret that scouts love good bloodlines.
That's the good. For the bad...well, he had just the sixth best PER on his own team. His own team! I'll try not to make too much of that but it needs to be noted. What I find so odd about Rivers is that all his positives have sort of a negative backslider. He scores, but has a bit of a reputation for being selfish. He can definitely shoot, yet he made just 65% of his free throws and I don't think it's a stretch to say his shot selection needs work. He has a spectacular array of dribbling moves but turns the ball over a bit much(there's also this youtube clip). Then there's the thing I'm really concerned about: he had 1 block all year, against Penn. Between that and his poor rebound rate, I am wondering how his athleticism will translate to the next level. If he had stayed in school he could have worked on his combo guard skills a little more, but as it is I am not entirely convinced he can guard 2's. C.J McCollum lit him up for 30 in LeHigh's round 1 upset, and Rivers will face as good or better than McCollum every night in the NBA.
The most likely scenario is that Dallas won't have to make a decision on Rivers, since I imagine a team somewhere in the 12-16 range will bank on making something of his skills. Personally, I would stay away. But, maybe I'm wrong.
Shooting Guard Washington
Height: 6'6 Weight: 190 Born: 2/5/91
31.1 min 16.4 pts 6.4 rbs 1.4 asts
45.7 FG% 37.1 3P% 77.4 FT% 20.86 PER
Positives: long, smooth, good shooter, great birthday(or birthday-ability, in Bilas-speak)
Negative: thin, not an exceptional playmaker
Someone already covered by SB Nation Dallas, Ross is almost certainly going to be a popular mock pick for the Mavericks, a team noticeably old and slow at the wing positions. Ross, tagged by many as a breakout candidate, did just that as a sophomore, and after a bit of a up and down first couple of months, turned it on after the new year and performed very well in the NIT.
Ross has pretty much all the physical traits you could want in a 2-guard, he's tall and long, lanky but fluid, and has a quick release on a picture perfect jumpshot. The physical markers are there, as he rebounded well and averaged nearly a block a game to go along with a healthy portion of steals. If you watch his workout video it is clear that he has major potential as a scorer with his ability to shoot, run and jump.
Now, if I can respectfully disagree with SB Nation Dallas's assessment in one regard, it would be about Ross and getting to the basket. By most accounts, and certainly from my eyeball test, Ross is a good athlete who is quick and sudden. However, if a Mavs fan is looking at someone who will breakdown the defense with drives and rack up layups and free throw attempts, I'm not sure Ross is necessarily your guy. The majority of his offense came from his jumpshot, and his free throw rates were pretty pedestrian. What's more, there are some questions about his ballhandling, which, while not bad, isn't as refined as other aspects of his game. Given that he was primarily a jumpshooter, his turnover rate was maybe a tad high, or, at the very least, not something that could be pointed to as a positive. There are also questions about his playmaking and court awareness, since most of the time Ross was looking for his own shot.
At the other end of the court, Ross also might need some work. I can maybe given him a bit of a pass here, though. Washington had an unusual season; after they were expected to take over the mantle as premiere Pac-12 team from the self-destructing UCLA Bruins, they underachieved somewhat. Ross maybe took a few too many plays off, but when you look at his size, length and speed, there's no reason he can't be a plus defender in the NBA, with proper motivation.
Ross is intriguing, if imperfect. The shooting and athleticism certainly are worth mentioning, but, to be honest, I feel like this is a little bit of a mixed bag, kind of like a taller Roddy Beaubois. If you bring him in and can work on his ballhandling and understanding of what to do on the court, you could have something. Players with this kind of package have failed before, though.
Small Forward Vanderbilt
Height: 6'7 Weight: 225 Born: 5/23/89
32.1 min 16.5 pts 5.6 rbs 1.7 asts
49.3 FG% 42.3 3P% 60.5 FT% 24.21 PER
Positives: Good athlete, defender, can do a little bit of everything
Negatives: What you see is pretty much what you get, likely a nonstar
This is the third member of the Vanderbilt Commodores on this list, and it's not by accident. Kevin Stallings has done a terrific job with that program, and I think all three of these guys, while not stars, have a shot at NBA careers. Taylor is probably my favorite of those three, and while #17 might be a tad high for him, I'd keep him mind without question if a trade back scenario occurs.
To start with, he is hands down the best perimeter defender on this list, and one of the top couple in this draft. For proof, check out the SEC Championship game against Kentucky, when he swallowed up Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, among others. You can count Kentucky's losses last season on two fingers, and Taylor is a big reason it wasn't just one. Taylor is 6'7, and solidly built at around 220-225. Although it hasn't always manifested in bigtime stats, Taylor is a terrific athlete and can really jump.
Earlier in his career, Taylor was known as someone who would rarely ever take an outside shot, preferring to score on cuts, offensive putbacks and transition dunks. In his senior season, however, he broke out as a shooting threat, and this is what makes him a first round possibility. He shot over 40% from three and was also dangerous with long 2's, and if that's no fluke, it could make him an ideal "3 and D" candidate at the next level; someone who defends the opponents' best perimeter player, and spots up for jumpers at the other end.
Taylor is a 4 year senior, so he's not someone with tons of upside. The most common knock on him is that he doesn't have a great in-between game, and isn't a great ballhandler or playmaker. For what it's worth, his assist rate was pretty decent, if unspectacular, and he was able to get to the line as a collegiate. He also did his part on the glass. Taylor hails from Sweden, where his father(a former NBA player who went to Texas Tech) played basketball, but moved to Hobbs, New Mexico to pursue hoop dreams in America. Taylor is intelligent and cerebral, sometimes to his own detriment, but hits me as someone who would have no trouble adjusting to NBA life.
I don't think Jeff Taylor will be a star at the next level. But, on the right team, in the right system, I think he could be a super glue-guy; someone who does all the little things and lets others take the bulk of the glory. Those are important roles to fill.
Shooting Guard Syracuse
Height: 6'4 Weight: 215 Born: 12/1/91
24.1 min 12.6 pts 2.3 rbs 2.5 asts
47.6 FG% 36.3 3P% 72.9 FT% 26.29 PER
Positives: athletic, playmaking combo guard
Negatives: streaky shooter, where does he play?
A solidly built, 6'4 combo guard from the Big East who can handle the ball, create for others, and drive, but may be tweener at the next level, and still has work to do on his jumpshot.
No, that's not Dominique Jones, that's Dion Waiters, the off-guard from Syracuse. Now, that comparison probably isn't going to go over great with some, but keep in mind, Jones was a great college player, a first round draft pick, and talented enough to still have a career in the NBA. At least no one is comparing him to Khalid El Amin.
Also, to be fair, Waiters has a better looking jumpshot than Jones did coming out of college, and unlike Jones was a bigtime recruit at a powerhouse basketball program. I think Waiters definitely has a role in the NBA somewhere. He can score, and really handle the ball. In fact, he had the best turnover rate of anyone on this list, and a terrific assist to turnover ratio for a two guard. This will likely spark some interest in making him play the point, but I'd shy away from that, as it almost never works(unless you're Russell Westbrook).
The book on Waiters says he's a pretty good, maybe "sneaky good" athlete. He did do well finishing inside as a 6'4 guard, but his rebounding numbers aren't stellar(maybe this really is just about that zone defense), and this may be where the combine decides if he's a borderline lottery guy or something else, because sub-6'5 guys have to be pretty special athletically to stick at the wing. If he can do that, you might have something pretty special. It's possible that this guy is the real "poor man's Dwayne Wade", instead of Jones. Still, you'd like a guard with this much talent to have shown up more in the box score than Waiters did.
Waiters wouldn't be my first, or second choice as of this second, but as names move up and down on big boards he is someone to think about. I know there will be some who are discouraged by the similarities to Jones, but just because one guy failed doesn't mean they all will.
Power Forward Iowa St.
Height: 6'8 Weight: 250 Born: 4/10/91
31.5 min 13.4 pts 9.3 rbs 5.0 asts
53.4 FG% 33.3 3P% 49.8 FT% 22.05 PER
Positives: highly skilled point forward
Negatives: conditioning, personal issues
The Iowa State Cyclones made a surprising run in the NCAA tournament, beating the defending champs in the 2nd round before losing to the eventual champs in the Sweet Sixteen. Royce White, in his first taste of college basketball, led that team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals during the regular season.
So...top 5 pick, right?
This is a touchy subject, and I really don't want to be insensitive, but I think it's fair to say that the reason Royce White won't be a top 10 pick, and may slip to outside the top 20, is because of some fairly serious off-court issues, including to but not limited to a shoplifting case that got him kicked off the Minnesota basketball team, and the fact that he has been diagnosed with anxiety disorder.
How severe is the latter? I'm honestly not sure. I know individuals who suffer from similar problems, and it is no small matter for them. The story goes that, after being kicked off Minnesota, White was set to transfer to Baylor, but didn't because of a crippling fear of flying that prevented him from boarding the plane and subsequently led him to choose Iowa State instead. That, to me, sounds fairly severe. I mean, NBA players fly A LOT. They pretty much have to.
Getting away from that area, I'll focus on what White can do on the court, which is plenty. White would initiate the offense for the Cyclones, and displayed tremendous skill as a ballhandler and passer for a guy his size. When he needed to go inside, he was more than capable of doing that, as well, rebounding and finishing in the paint the way you'd expect someone at around 260 pounds to.
White did have some trouble shooting the ball from the free throw line, and if his NBA future is on the perimeter he may need to shed some lb's, but overall, he can really play. He is 21 already, and maybe not a premiere athlete, but with his skill level I don't think he'll be hurt much by that. I've heard the Anthony Mason comparison and I think it's very apt.
Now, would I take him with the #17 pick? I just don't know. Put a gun to my head and I'd probably say no, and I really don't mean offense when I say this, but I'm just not sure if I could trust a player like this to be there for my team. Then again, I don't know him personally at all, so who asked me? This is why I'm glad I'm not a GM, because if you take someone like this high and miss, everyone wants you fired. Whoever takes him hopefully has the right environment and has done their homework on him, so he can mature and flourish as a player and a person.