The 2016 NBA Draft inches closer, and with an incredible Finals in the books, the offseason is officially upon us.
If you've been following these things, you may know that Dallas holds the 46th pick in the draft, having forfeited their first rounder (#16) to the Boston Celtics in the infamous Rajon Rondo trade. If nothing else, maybe that finally taught Mark Cuban a thing or two about valuing draft picks, because he said this a couple of weeks ago:
Mark Cuban: "We won't trade a future pick unless there is a deal good enough that they would fire the other general manager for making."— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) June 7, 2016
Will Dallas make a move to acquire a draft pick, possibly a late first rounder? That's something we'll discuss at greater length on draft day. For now, I'm still going to focus on second round prospects, and more specifically, guys we know Dallas has worked out. So if you don't see your favorite bubble guy here, you know why.
Without further ado, let's get to it:
Ron Baker, SG/PG
Last time I started with Kay Felder, and this time I'll start with my other favorite, Wichita State guard Ron Baker. Baker worked out with Dallas over the weekend:
Ron Baker worked out for Dallas on Saturday. OKC Thunder on Tuesday for his final workout before the draft. Will finish with 15 workouts.— Paul Suellentrop (@PaulSuellentrop) June 19, 2016
After redshirting his first year, Baker immediately became a key rotation player for the Shockers, and over the next four seasons, Wichita State not only made the tournament each year, but won at least one tourney game. As a Freshman, the Shockers went all the way to the Final Four and nearly stunned Louisville in Atlanta. As a Sophomore, while Cleanthony Early was putting himself on the map with an electric performance against Kentucky in the second round, Baker poured in 20 points himself. His Junior season, Baker and the Shockers trounced 2nd seeded Kansas before losing to Notre Dame in the Sweet 16, and finally as a Senior, Baker helped pound major-conference teams Vanderbilt and Arizona before falling to Miami.
So, Missouri Valley Conference or not, Ron Baker has played the best college basketball has to offer, throughout a tremendous college career full of major minutes in deep tournament runs. Along with fellow Senior Fred Van Fleet, Baker combined to form one of the NCAA's best backcourts, and I would not be surprised if one or both of these kids will be a second round/undrafted steal for a team at the next level. For Ron Baker, that would mark the end of an incredible journey that started as a barely recruited walk-on.
Baker checks in a little on the shorter side for a 2-guard at 6'4 1/4, but makes up for that with a nearly 6'10 wingspan. Baker handled the ball a good bit his last few seasons, averaging nearly 4 and a half assists per 40 minutes, so there may be some teams that consider moving him to point guard, similar to the move Matthew Dellavedova made. Baker has advantages both in his already mentioned wingspan and as an athlete (Baker posted a pretty solid vertical jump at the combine) over Dellavedova, so I'd rate his chances as better at sticking as an off-guard compared to the former St. Mary's star.
Like Delly, Baker is a tough, scrappy player with a high basketball IQ, and a nice shoot/pass skillset that is well-suited to today's NBA. Defensively, Baker has enough bulk at 215 pounds to avoid being out-muscled, and those long arms and smarts helped him post strong steal and block rates for a perimeter player. Only two players projected to be drafted averaged over two steals and at least .8 blocks per 40 minutes (pace adjusted): Baker, and Ben Simmons.
On offense, while Baker likely won't be able to create his own shot consistently at the next level, his versatility makes him an ideal candidate for a flow offense team like Dallas. Baker can play off-ball, either spotting up, coming off screens, or making well-timed cuts (watching his tape, he moves superbly well without the ball), but he can also be a secondary ballhandler who makes few mistakes and can either make the right pass or score. As this excellent video shows, he's proven he's not just a standstill shooter, but deadly pulling up for jumpers in pick and roll action.
Michael Gbinije, G/F
Syracuse wing Michael Gbinije met with Dallas a while back:
Former Syracuse G Michael Gbinije said he's met with Indiana, Golden State, San Antonio, Washington, Houston, Dallas.— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) May 13, 2016
Michael Gbinije (for those not familiar with college basketball, you don't pronounce the "G") started his unusual college career at Duke, but didn't get on the court much and decided to transfer to Syracuse. After sitting out a year and slowly earning playing time, Gbinije broke out for the Orangemen last season, though Syracuse did not participate in postseason play due to a self-imposed ban.
This season, with several players moving on to the NBA, Gbinije became the focal point of the Syracuse offense, leading his team in points, assists, and steals while shooting nearly 40 percent from three, and topped things off by helping Jim Boeheim's squad make a stunning tournament run all the way to the Final Four as a 10 seed.
Considering Gbinije's strong Senior season and remarkable postseason push, it's perhaps a little surprising that the 6'7 swingman's draft status isn't stronger. On paper, Gbinije has a lot going for him. He was well-recruited coming out of high school. In addition to Syracuse's March success, he helped Nigeria win the FIBA Afrobasket 2015 championships, qualifying them for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. He has a very well rounded game, with a 17-4-4 statline as a Senior and a good mix of athleticism and shooting skill. So what's up?
Perhaps the first rub is his age: Gbinije is already 24 years old, meaning he's almost five and a half years(!) older than Dragan Bender. Bismack Biyombo, who has been in the league a half-decade, is almost three months younger than him. That means two things: you probably can't expect him to get much better, and he spent most of last season beating up on kids way, way less advanced.
Continuing on that last point, there's reason to believe his stats may overstate his true ability level. Though he's shot the college three well, he continues to struggle from the free throw line (in his three years at Syracuse he's shot 64 percent, 57 percent and 66 percent at the charity stripe), so projecting his NBA shooting numbers is tricky. Plus, though Gbinije posted great point-assists totals for a non-PG, a lot of that came down to a lack of quality shot-creating alternatives for a university mired in scandal. I don't think Gbinije is smooth or athletic enough to be a go-to-guy at the next level, although he did perform exceptionally well at the combine.
Lastly, I suspect Gbinije also takes a hit because of 'Cuse's patented 2-3 zone defensive scheme that doesn't do its players many favors in terms of preparing them for NBA style play. I used to think this talking point was overblown, but at a certain point it gets hard to deny how dubious the history of ex-Syracuse defenders is. There's no reason going to Syracuse should mean you can't play good defense in the NBA (and in fairness, Michael Carter-Williams is a pretty solid defender), but at the very least it appears that the zone scheme makes it difficult for scouts to determine how good a fit certain players will be for their team, from a mental standpoint.
Those issues being what they are, the final analysis on Gbinije certainly doesn't preclude him from being a good prospect at pick #46. Getting a player with his resume would be a fine outcome at that point in the draft, and as Golden State has shown, stockpiling multi-talented wings can be a winning strategy.
Wayne Selden, Jr., SG/SF
The Kansas standout has been making the rounds:
Selden, Jr. is a "name" player, to be sure. He was a five-star recruit out of Tilton, New Hampshire, joining Bill Self's super-class at Kansas that included Andrew Wiggins. After a decent Freshman campaign, Selden bombed as a Sophomore, seeing his field goal percentage dip under 40 percent. He rebounded to have a solid Junior season, and entered the draft talking himself up as a possible lottery pick.
That's almost certainly not going to happen.
Wayne Selden, Jr. certainly looks like an NBA player. At 6'6, 230, he's chiseled from stone, with adequate length and athleticism. Though his overall play was up and down, his three-point shooting saw a gradual uptick each year, culminating in a 38 percent conversion rate in 2015-16.
If that kind of shooting can translate, then I imagine Wayne Selden might be able to carve out a decent role for himself in the NBA, as guys with his measurables who can shoot sometimes do. However, on the whole, I must admit I'm leery of this type of player.
It's not really fair to punish someone for the hype others have put on them, but Selden's time in Kansas can't be classified as much else other than "underwhelming." A big time recruit with plenty of physical traits, it says something about how poorly Selden performed prior to this season that moderate improvement is being lauded. Small gains are still gains, but I have trouble imagining that this would be widely considered a draftable player if his name was Wayne Jones and he played his college ball at Rutgers.
In fairness, Selden does bring something to the table more than pedigree. Being a solidly built 6'6 with 6'10 wingspan means he has the physical profile to be a quality defender, although I don't think I would have called him a lockdown defender at Kansas.
On offense, while Selden isn't the most dynamic guy, his assist-turnover ratios suggest he knew his limitations enough to avoid trying to do more than he could, and his combination of length/strength did mean that when he was able to get a head of steam he could thrown down some highlight worthy dunks. A knee injury kept him from doing much at the combine, so its hard to know exactly how he compares to his peers as an athlete. He didn't get a ton of rebounds, steals or blocks as a collegiate, so his statistical profile doesn't suggest athletic stud.
The three-point shooting is encouraging, if somewhat mitigated by consistently poor free throw converting. He has a good enough looking form, and was a nice spot up weapon for the Jayhawks. Shooting off the dribble doesn't appear to be nearly as comfortable for him.
If he goes undrafted, I would love to see Dallas try him out on their Summer League team, but as of right now I think better players than Selden will be on the board when Dallas picks. I can't generate much more enthusiasm than that for the player, I'm sorry to say. Check out this video if you'd like to judge for yourself.
Shawn Long, PF/C
Of the players reported to have worked out for Dallas thus far, a large number are point guards. This includes guys like UNC's Marcus Paige, Indiana's Yogi Ferrell, and Longhorn Isaiah Taylor, all of whom brevity has prevented me from breaking down at length. Meanwhile, the list of guys at center or power forward being linked to Dallas number very few. This could be simply a function of the poor draft depth at these positions, or an indication of an organizational directive. We don't know. What we do know is that Shawn Long is one of the few legit big man who has apparently also met with the team.
There aren't a lot of mocks out there projecting Shawn Long to be drafted come June 23rd, so it is possible that this is more an evaluation for a possible Summer League/undrafted signing. That being said, taking a look at the Louisiana-Lafayette center's career accomplishments makes a strong argument for him to hear his name called Thursday night.
Long has averaged a double-double all four years at Lafayette, including a stellar 19-12 line as a Senior. He's also averaged two blocks per game for his career, and made over 100 threes as a collegiate.
It's that potential floor-spacing element that really makes him intriguing. Long has a very nice looking stroke for a 6'11 player, and has easy range out beyond the three-point line. He slumped a little as a Senior from three, but made 40 percent as a Sophomore taking over two threes a game, and connected on 35 percent as a Junior.
The fact that he plays away from the basket so often also makes his prolific rebounding totals all the more impressive. Among Draft Express' top 100 prospects, only Stony Brook's Jameel Warney averaged more offensive rebounds per game.
Long has a 7'1 wingspan and a strong base, helping him keep good rebounding position down low. While not a great leaper, he has fairly quick feet and a great motor. Long was curiously not invited to the combine but does seem to be getting his fair of workout looks, so clearly teams are aware of the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. Scouts may be familiar with him from his days playing alongside Elfrid Payton, who was taken 10th overall in 2014.
Long's post game is a bit underdeveloped, but functional. His size and touch proved too much for most opponents, but there's reason to believe that his lack of explosiveness will hurt him at the next level, especially if he's at center. Long converted shots inside well and racked up free throw attempts, but he may find himself as primarily a pick and pop option, especially on a team like Dallas.
Long can block shots, but he probably won't be a premium defender at the next level, as he falls into the "tweener" category as a player who's not enough of a rim protector to play center, but also not quite athletic enough to guard power forwards away from the basket. Still, his energy was such at Louisiana that I don't think he'll be a passive observer at that end. Hustle can sometimes be enough when you're a third or fourth big.
Draft Express has another great video on Long, and you should check it out.