We all know by know that Anthony Davis is going to go #1 overall to the New Orleans Hornets in the upcoming NBA Draft. My opinion on him is about the same as everyone. Davis looks like a great prospect who at the very least will be a defensive stopper, big man who runs the floor in transition, and can hit the open 14-18 footer. His ceiling is a Bill Russell like leader on the defensive end, and a young Kevin Garnett matchup problem on the offensive end. ESPN.com's draft guru Chad Ford then lists Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal, Thomas Robinson, Andre Drummond, and Damian Lillard as the next five best prospects. Here is a breakdown of the next top prospects and who could emerge at the next level.
PROS: Gilchrist is a great athlete, who at 6-7 can comfortably play either the 2 or the 3. Unlike many incoming prospects these days, scouts have no worries about him needing to "bulk up" or "hit the weight room" as he is already a built 233 lbs. Scouts love Gilchrist's drive and determination, and he has already been labeled as a "winner."
CONS: Outside of transition, Gilchrist is extremely raw offensively and leaves a lot to be desired. MKG has an incredibly broken jump shot, and his ball-handling skills are iffy at best. Scouts are unsure how Gilchrist will fit in offensively when not in transition. He can't be a spot up shooter, but because of his ball-handling deficiencies he also can't create his own shot, so it is tough to project how he will fit in.
OVERALL: MKG reminds me considerably of an Andre Iguodala, Shawn Marion, or Gerald Wallace type of player; however, I don't think he is as good an athlete as Iguodala or a young Marion. He is most similar to Wallace, but Wallace is more of a 3 or 4 and a superior athlete. Gilchrist will find a place in the NBA and can definitely become a quality starter and defensive stopper, but because of his balls to the walls style and reliance on athletic superiority, he does not have much NBA longevity. Unless late in his career Gilchrist can significantly improve his jump shot he will have a tough time remaining at a starter-caliber level. I do think with his work ethic and motor, his ball-handling and shooting will improve to make him an everyday NBA player, but he is not worthy of the lofty draft status at which he is projected
PROS: Beal is a very good shooter who has great range, but also a good mid-range shot that is very effective in games. He has long arms (6-7 wingspan), and is very strong, which gives him an advantage on the offensive and defensive ends. He also possesses a high basketball IQ, and is a solid all-around athlete athlete
CONS: Beal only measured at 6-4 in shoes at the draft combine, so some scouts question whether he has the size to play the two guard at the NBA level. He is only an average athlete, and when coupled with being slightly undersized he will have a tough time creating his own shot. Beal also has a slightly below average handle for a shooting guard and is not a very good passer.
OVERALL: Beal is most frequently compared to Ray Allen and Eric Gordon, but I don't think he is that similar to either of them. Beal is not nearly the shooter Ray Allen is, nor does he have a famed work ethic like Allen to get him to that point. He is also not as tall or as good an athlete as Allen was in his younger days. In comparison to Gordon, Beal is not nearly as good a pure scorer as Eric. Beal does not have the explosive first step and above the rim athleticism that Gordon has, and Gordon is much better as a shooter with a defender right in his face pulling up. Gordon is also a better ball-handler than Beal, but much more one dimensional. Neither Allen nor Gordon have the defensive potential of Beal, and that is what separates him from those two. A better comparison for Beal might be someone like Bruce Bowen. Bowen was a average athlete, who could knock down the open jumper and defend like crazy on the other end. I think Beal is a better offensive talent then Bowen, and does not have quite the nastiness on D that Bowen possessed, but nevertheless will have a similar role to that of Bowen. Like Kidd-Gilchrist, Beal will be a quality starter in the NBA, but also like Gilchrist, he does not have the potential one would like in a top 5 prospect.
THOMAS ROBINSON: Robinson is rated the number four prospect on Ford's big board, but is projected to go second to Charlotte in the draft.
PROS: Robinson is a great athlete and is incredibly strong for his position. He has a nice frame at 6-9, 244 and measured with a good 7-1 wingspan. Robinson is a fantastic rebounder, and seems to eat up boards wherever he is on the floor. In his past season at Kansas, his 10-15 foot jump shot improved drastically over the course of the season, which speaks volumes to his high work ethic. Robinson goes 110% every game he plays, and is extremely confident in his own abilities. Scouts are also impressed with how he has fought through the two tragic deaths in his family over the past year.
CONS: Scouts were concerned about his size, but he ended up measuring very well at the combine. Free throw shooting has been a big cause of concern with Robinson, but because of his improvement on his mid-range jump shot, scouts believe that can be fixed. His jump shot still needs improvement also, and he needs to become more confident taking it. Robinson sometimes seems to play lackadaisical defense and commit lazy fouls, but still scouts believe he has a very high motor. Robinson can also be turnover prone, and sometimes tries to do too much on offense. For his athletic ability and size, some scouts are concerned with his only middling shot blocking skills.
OVERALL: Robinson is most frequently compared to a poor mans Blake Griffin. He is not quite the athlete Blake is, but like Blake he runs the floor exceptionally well and attacks the rim offensively. Robinson also does not possess the ball handling and passing skills of Griffin. Griffins motor is hard to match, and though Robinson is considered a high energy guy, he is not at Blake's level. However, Robinson is already a better shooter than Blake, and seems more capable of improving elements of his game. Robinson also is a better rebounder and defender than Griffin, and is more versatile defensively because of his longer arms. Robinson is similar to Griffin, but will not just be a poor mans Blake. Though he doesn't have the moves, explosiveness, and motor of Griffin, he is only slightly worse in all of those categories. Robinson is however a better defender, rebounder, and shooter, making him in my mind a potential all-star. Robinson himself makes an interesting case to multiple GM"s that he thinks he deserves to be the number one pick. One great measure for incoming draft prospects is how they play against fellow NBA prospects. In the last two final four games against Jared Sullinger, William Buford, MKG, Terrence Jones, and Anthony Davis, he outperformed everyone but Davis.One could say he played Davis to a draw in the finals. With all that in mind, I think Robinson should be the clear number two prospect in this upcoming draft.
ANDRE DRUMMOND: Drummond is rated the number five prospect on Chad Ford's big board, and is widely considered the biggest enigma in this draft class.
PROS: An absolutely phenomenal athlete, Drummond has scouts drooling. At the combine he measured a ridiculous 7-0, 279 with a 7-6 wingspan. He was taller, bigger, and longer than Anthony Davis. Not to mention, he possesses elite jumping ability, speed and quickness. He can also knock down a mid-range jump shot, and has a fantastic handle for his size. Drummond has already shown in college that he has great timing on the defensive end, and shot blocking tends to carry over well to the NBA.
CONS: Reading those pros, you would have to think Drummond is considered the best prospect since Lebron, right? Nope. Like many demigod athletes these days, there are a lot of questions surrounding Drummond. His favorite player is Kevin Durant, and he wants to play on the perimeter like Durant. Drummond wants to be a guard, but he also doesn't want to try. He is considered to have an incredibly low motor, and no work ethic whatsoever. Despite his incredible tools on offense, he doesn't take over games or even look to dominate, and instead he settles for questionable outside shots. On defense, Drummond tends to not try and then picks up stupid fouls because of his lack of effort.
OVERALL: Scouts compare him to all the great athlete big man prospects recently. Dwight Howard and Amare Stoudemire are his ceiling, Deandre Jordan a possibility, and Kwame Brown the low point. Drummond may be more talented than all of those people. He is bigger and stronger than every one of those comparisons, and his body type is most similar to Demarcus Cousins. His skills are also similar to Cousins, and his problems even more similar. The difference between the two is that Cousins is incredibly strong and a fantastic rebounder, but Drummond is incredibly explosive and a fantastic shot blocker. Whether Drummond even reaches half his potential is entirely up to him. I do not think he will ever be better than a Cousins or a Tyson Chandler. I do think he can be a better version of Deandre Jordan though, as long as he doesn't spend all of his time on the perimeter. Because of his potential I think he warrants a lottery pick, but I do not envy the team that takes a giant gamble on him.
HARRISON BARNES: Harrison Barnes is rated the number six prospect on Chad Ford's big board, and has been projected to go anywhere between the 4th and 10th picks.
PROS: Barnes is a very good shooter and can knock down mid range and deep shots with ease. Barnes is very smooth offensively and at 6-8 can use his size to get his shot off from anywhere on the court. He has great size for a 2 or 3, and he is able to utilize that well on the defensive end. He is a very well rounded athlete, and has a high basketball IQ. Scouts are impressed with his mature personality and his ability to handle the media attention that has been put upon him.
CONS: Some consider him to be a vastly overrated athlete, as he does not have a great first step or explosion at the rim. He struggles to create his own shot against superior athletes and needs to bulk up. In order to create his own shot more effectively, he also needs to improve his ball handle. Most importantly, he needs to be more assertive offensively. Barnes can be very passive and doesn't seem to have that killer instinct that everyone wants in scoring perimeter players.
OVERALL: Barnes came out of high school with giant expectations, and has largely failed to live up to those expectations. Despite that, he has been a very effective player in college and his scoring ability should translate to the NBA. Barnes performed like the fourth best player on his loaded North Carolina team last year, and it showed how much he defers to the talent around him. When Barnes was effective, it was usually against 6-5 or 6-6 average athletes who had no chance of matching up with him. In the NBA, Barnes will be facing 6-7 or 6-8 fantastic athletes every night. He showed very little improvement from his freshman to sophomore year, and because of that, I wonder if his ball handling skills will progress. If Barnes does not become significantly more assertive and a better ball handler, his lack of explosion coupled with those two factors will make him largely ineffective on the offensive end. Offensively I think Barnes will be limited to spot up jumpers, and taking advantages of mismatches when he gets them. On the defensive end Barnes will use his size and length to be a above-average defender, but because of his lack of athleticism will not be elite. Because he doesn't rely on his athletic ability he should be able to have a long NBA career. I think he will be most similar to how Stephen Jackson and Caron Butler are now. Not how they were when they were young great athletes, but how they are as decent NBA swingman at this age. Barnes is probably a slightly better athlete and shooter than they are, but he is also not as confident and assertive. Jackson and Butler both had some good moments this post-season, and I think Barnes will be able to perform like that on a consistent basis. The question is, where does that put him in a lottery perspective. He is much more of a sure thing than many prospects, but he does not have as high a ceiling as some. In my opinion that does warrant a late lottery to mid first round pick 12-20, but certainly not a top 10 selection that he will likely receive.
DAMIAN LILLARD: Lillard is the 7th rated prospect on Chad Ford's big board, and is by far the most unknown by many scouts of these prospects.
PROS: Lillard is a scoring point guard who's stock probably jumped around five picks at the combine. At the combine, he measured very similar to Derrick Rose at 6-3 189 with a 6-8 wingspan. Lillard is a very good athlete, and has great lateral quickness. He is also pretty explosive around the rim, and seems to be able to finish among NBA big men. He is also a great shooter, and has NBA three range. Lillard is great at getting in the lane, as he uses his explosiveness, ball-handling skills, strength, and high basketball IQ to maneuver around the court effectively. Lillard tends to make very good decisions offensively and does not commit very many turnovers. He is also a good defender and uses his size, strength, and athleticism to bully smaller guards.
CONS: The main knock on Lillard is that he possesses all the tools that you would want from a shooting guard, but he has the size of a point guard. The main point guard skill that Lillard lacks is the ability to distribute the ball. Lillard is a scoring point guard, and he has not proven that he is a very good distributor. Scouts do not think he is a ball hog, they simply don't think he is very good as a passer. The question of whether you can win with a point guard who doesn't distribute the ball is a good one, and Lillard can do nothing but see what teams decide.
OVERALL: I think Damian Lillard will be the steal of the draft. He measure with a 40 inch vertical, and as mentioned earlier, his measurements were nearly exactly the same as Derrick Rose. On his espn.com draft profile, Chad Ford shows just how similar they are in an extended breakdown. What makes Lillard special is that he is a much better shooter than Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook or any of the super athletic point guards to come out recently. Among these players, there are examples of how scoring point guards can positively and negatively impact their teams. Rose and Westbrook demonstrate how scoring first point guards surrounded with the right pieces can lead a team to success. On the other hand, Wall and Evans have failed to gain traction from a win/loss perspective with a clear lack of talent around them. In last nights game two of the finals, Westbrook's turnover prone play, recklessness, and selfishness severely hurt the Thunder's chances. Lillard is different than Westbrook though because he is known to be unselfish, under control, and not turnover prone. Damian Lillard is probably not as fast as Rose, nor does he have the first step, but his shooting ability takes him to another level. There are some others players in this class with a lot of potential, but after analyzing many of the top prospects on my own Lillard along with Anthony Davis and Thomas Robinson I deem most likely to be an All-Star. Lillard has a very high ceiling and at the very least can be a very young Tony Parker like quality point guard. With a high basketball IQ and no real off the court causes for concern, I think Lillard will reach his potential and deserves a top 3 pick in the upcoming draft.
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