2014 NBA Draft Rankings: January Edition

January 17th, 2014 | by Clint Johnson
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Will Kansas claim two of the top three picks in the highly anticipated 2014 NBA Draft? (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The 2013 NBA Draft resembled a game of king of the hill played on a pitchers mound.  In a down class with no clear franchise prospects, a slew of players scaled what passed for the peak only to be displaced by a prospect little or no better than his predecessor.  The presumed #1 prospect, Nerlens Noel, was drafted 6th while the player residing back at 8th on Draft Express’s mock, Anthony Bennett, somehow seduced Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and has since been putting up historically embarrassing numbers and staking an early claim to worst first overall pick in history.  Were the draft to be redone today, the first pick would probably be Giannis Antetokounmpo, the 19-year-old Greek Freak taken 15th last summer by the Bucks.

The upcoming 2014 Draft, with both prodigious talent and anticipated depth, will be so very different — except, perhaps, in the difficulty of selecting the first player overall.  This year the contest is being waged atop a true mountain of talent, but at this moment, none of the best prospects have yet shown the strength to cast off their top competitors.  Should this continue, we might see a March Madness with more draft implications than any previous.

But in the muddle of mid-January, here are my rankings, along with a short explanation for my player comparisons.

*All statistics accurate as of Jan. 15th, 2014.

Andrew Wiggins, SF — 6’8″ and 197 lbs; 18 years old; Freshman, Kansas.  Comp: Kobe Bryant.

My rank: 1st; Draft Express rank: 1st; NBADraft.net rank: 3rd

2013-14 Stats: 15.8 pts, 6.3 rbs, 1.5 asts, 1.0 stls, 0.9 blks, 2.0 tos, 45% FG, 33% 3P, 76% FT

If I could rank three players all #1, I would, because right now there is plenty to argue for or against Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid being here in Wiggins’ place.  But of the three, I put Wiggins at 1A for the same reasons he’s topped my rankings all season: potential and no one has unseated him.  He’s inconsistent and disappears from games, and watching him can make you legitimately mad that NBA teams would consider tanking just to get the guy on the roster.  Then he has a game like the one he put up against 25th ranked Kansas State, 22 points and 5 rebounds while moving faster and jumping higher than anyone else, and putting in four of nine from three for good measure.  Before his next game, his father suggests he get to work on the boards, so he puts up 17 points and 19 rebounds (!) against Iowa State, showing that he just might be able to do anything on the court he really sets his mind to.  Wiggins has all-NBA and all-defensive upside, and I’ve yet to see the NBA team who can resist upside.

Wiggins reminds me of a young Kobe Bryant because of his combination of length, speed, athleticism, and surprising skill give his age.  He isn’t LeBron, who was so much bigger and stronger.  But he gets to the hoop quickly and with agility, using tornado-fast spins and slicing by defenders who manage to get in his way, and combines that with a silky step back jumper.

Jabari Parker, SF/PF — 6’8″ and 241 lbs; 18 years old; Freshman, Duke.  Comp: Carmelo Anthony.

My rank: 2nd; Draft Express rank: 2nd; NBADraft.net rank: 2nd

2013-14 Stats: 18.8 pts, 7.3 rbs, 1.5 asts, 0.8 stls, 1.2 blks, 2.2 tos, 49% FG, 39% 3P, 75% FT

Parker is in a slump.  There’s no other way to say it, especially given his torrid start to the season (seven straight 20+ point games), which had many drawing parallels to Kevin Durant’s lone year at Texas.  Five straight games under 16 points, including a 2 of 10, 7 point night against Notre Dame that got Parker benched, has ended such comparisons and started excuses.  “He’s a little bit out of position,” Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski admits of Parker, “because if I had a bigger team, I’d be playing him on the wing.”  Playing power forward and center in college, Parker has proven unable to match the strength and size of his collegiate counterparts.  But in the NBA I think his most likely position will be at power forward, as he lacks the speed to stay with the supreme athletes that roam the wings of NBA sidelines.  Whether playing the three position or the four, by NBA standards, he’s going to offer excellent offensive skill from all over the floor, but that will come with some defensive liability that can’t be hidden.

I’ve heard Glenn Robinson’s name tossed around as a comparison for Parker, but I think the young man can be a better scorer than that, particularly from the three point line.  Like Anthony, his well rounded scoring ability could challenge for scoring titles, but that elite ability will not extend to as many aspects of the game as a LeBron James, Kevin Durant, or even Paul George.

Joel Embiid, C — 7’0″ and 240 lbs; 19 years old; Freshman, Kansas.  Comp: David Robinson.

My rank: 3rd; Draft Express rank: 3rd; NBADraft.net rank: 1st

2013-14 Stats: 10.9 pts, 7.5 rbs, 1.4 asts, 0.9 stls, 2.6 blks, 2.1 tos, 68% FG, 25% 3P, 67% FT

While I’m ranking Embiid 1C here, if I had to predict the player actually taken first in the draft (team need not withstanding), at this point, I’d say the big man from Cameroon.  Along with Wiggins, he strikes me as the only player available with both all-league and all-defensive potential.  However, where expectations for Wiggins this season were so high he was doomed to under-perform them, the bar for Embiid was surprisingly low because he’s only played basketball since he was 16.  He offers all the tantalization of Wiggins (or Dante Exum) without enough familiarity to breed contempt.  Since breaking into the starting lineup, he’s averaging 12.5 pts, 8.4 rbs, and 3 blks a game while shooting 70% from the field and 74% from the free throw line and playing only 25 minutes a night.  He is a medium risk, sky-high reward big who will demand development by an NBA team, but after passing on Antetokounmpo last year, and possibly Andre Drummond the year before, I expect it will be extremely difficult for many teams to pass on the player with perhaps the highest ceiling in the draft, particularly because he’s a true seven footer.

The most common parallel for Embiid is Hakeem Olajuwon.  While Embiid has clearly watched the Dream’s game and does indeed bust out a Dream Shake every now and then, he doesn’t have the balance Olajuwon had.  At this point, he reminds me more of David Robinson, whose height and athleticism made it look like he dunked on a Nerf hoop.  Like a young Robinson, Embiid can run like a deer and jump like a player a foot shorter while flashing the beginnings of a technically sound game.

Julius Randle, PF — 6’9″ and 248 lbs; 19 years old; Freshman, Kentucky.  Comp: Chris Webber.

My rank: 4th; Draft Express rank: 4th; NBADraft.net rank: 5th

2013-14 Stats: 16.9 pts, 11.0 rbs, 1.4 asts, 0.2 stls, 0.7 blks, 3.3 tos, 54% FG, 0% 3P, 71% FT

Like the other super freshmen who gunned it out of the gate, Randle has come down to earth since.  He’s still a double double machine who eats glass as consistently as any player in the nation, and only five games ago he put up 29 and 10 while shooting 13 of 19 from the stripe.  But two of his three most recent games were his first scoring below ten points, and scouts noticed (though he did grab 14 and 11 rebounds in those games respectively while playing an average of only 23 minutes).  His decreasing scoring is as much about his teammates on the talent-glutted Kentucky team finally rounding into shape as his own cooling game.  I find it amusing that Randle is now getting criticism for his insistence upon staying in the post and beasting college basketball.  Coming out of high school the knock was he was too perimeter oriented, relying on his jump shot and speed too frequently.  Show us you’ve got a post game, was the complaint.  Go figure.

Zach Randolph’s name is frequently associated with Randle, and I admit, in college it looks like a great comp.  But the college game really compresses the paint, minimizing the value of a fast big skilled with the ball in his hands.  I expect Randle to be a better fit for the NBA game, where he will more often face up and abuse players with his speed and skill.  People have quickly forgotten how athletic Randle really is.  In the NBA, I expect him to remind everyone quickly, and look a lot like Webber as he does so.

For those who have forgotten:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4168l-H2ds&autoplay=0]

 

Marcus Smart, PG — 6’4″ and 226 lbs; 19 years old; Sophomore, Oklahoma State.  Comp: Somewhere between Joe Dumars and Jason Kidd.

My rank: 5th; Draft Express rank: 6th; NBADraft.net rank: 4th

2013-14 Stats: 17.9 pts, 5.5 rbs, 4.2 asts, 2.5 stls, 0.6 blks, 2.6 tos, 46% FG, 35% 3P, 71% FT

I am convinced that Marcus Smart will be a huge problem for teams drafting in the top five come June 26th.  Of the top five, maybe even seven, prospects, he is the one hardest to project as a franchise centerpiece.  He just isn’t a great enough playmaker (4.2 assists per game) to safely project as an elite point guard, nor is he a deadly enough outside shooter (35% from three) to trust him to become one of the rare dominant shooting guards.  In a draft where fans of teams with top five picks will be thinking ***SUPERSTAR***, Smart’s unique all-around greatness may not be great enough.  But every team with a top pick will know that following OK State’s opening conference loss to Kansas State, Smart punished Texas for 24 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, six steals, one block, and zero turnovers while going 16 of 20 from the free throw line.  His next outing at West Virginia, he settled for 22 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block while shooting three of five from downtown.  Next victim, Texas Christian: 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals, three of five from deep, and seven of nine from the line.  No player in college basketball can do more on the court than Smart (the acknowledged best leader in the game as well), and the same may well be true in the NBA.  It wouldn’t surprise me at all if at least a few management teams with top five picks are torn between shooting for the stars as their fans desire or getting the “safe” star they so desperately want in Smart.

Finding a comparison for Smart is extremely difficult due to his unique game.  Some say Dwyane Wade, but despite some similarities, Smart lacks Wade’s unreal explosiveness at the hoop as well as his otherworldly long arms.  When I watch Smart, I see Joe Dumars’ sturdiness and presence, the ability — and willingness! — to guard anyone without fear because of his mentality and strength.  But Smart is a superior athlete to Dumars, and while on the court, he works on his team like nitrous oxide.  Like Jason Kidd, Smart single handedly ups the pace of the game on both ends of the floor, particularly when he’s getting steals and rebounds and sprinting up the court to lead the fast break, where his passing is at its best.

And just for the record, anyone who can jump to block a shot and go completely over the shooter in the process is a world class athlete, despite what some claim of Smart.

Aaron Gordon, PF — 6’9″ and 212 lbs; 18 years old; Freshman, Arizona.  Comp: Shawn Kemp.

My rank: 6th; Draft Express rank: 7th; NBADraft.net rank: 20th

2013-14 Stats:12.2 pts, 7.9 rbs, 1.4 asts, 0.6 stls, 1.0 blks, 1.5 tos, 50% FG, 33% 3P, 47% FT

I’ve been critical of NBADraft.net’s low ranking of Gordon all year, but I do agree with them on one point: Gordon would benefit from another year in college.  In an era of young, raw prospects, he’s both young for his class and raw, and compounds these factors by possessing such elite athleticism as to be able to make a career off of it even in the NBA, in a worst case scenario.  Don’t think I’m down on Gordon as a player, as I’m not at all.  He’s a coach’s dream as he impacts all aspects of a game while paring his otherworldly athleticism with a team-first mentality and intense motor.  He was even named USA Basketball’s male athlete of the year.  But, like many, I see NBA star potential in him, and he’s not yet ready to meet such expectations.  Barring another year in college to build his foundational skills, I hope whatever teams picks him in the draft is capable of both teaching and being patient.  He’ll need several years of careful, considerate shaping to become the player he can be.

Those expecting Gordon to be a second coming of Blake Griffin need to pay attention to the scales.  Griffin was 40 pounds heavier than Gordon is now when he came out as a sophomore.  I expect Gordon to bulk up, but not by 40 pounds.  Instead, I foresee a modern version of Shawn Kemp, a pogo-stick of a player who uses speed and athleticism to contribute on both ends of the court while delivering dunks with epic style.

Dante Exum, PG/SG — 6’6″ and 188 lbs; 18 years old; Australian Institute of Sport.  Comp: Derrick Rose.

My rank: 7th; Draft Express rank: 5th; NBADraft.net rank: 6th

2013-14 Stats: Not applicable

The only real news on the Dante “the Unicorn” Exum front is the obvious: he’s turning pro.  In the words of Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, “Dante Exum has completed meetings with eight powerhouse player representation agencies and left them a strong impression that he plans to enter the June NBA draft.”  No kidding.  His little dalliances with Indiana, North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan, and Oregon never struck me as likely options for the Australian wunderkind.  He’s been formally schooled to be an NBA star for the better part of his adolescence, and the chance to be a likely top five pick is simply too tempting for a player with little to gain from giving NBA teams an additional year of college film to assess.  I expect the official announcement will come before I next update my rankings.  The day people will start testing the unicorn’s horn is nearing.

It’s hard to comp a player based on little more than highlights, but that’s what we’re left with in the case of Dante Exum.  From what I’ve seen, largely from his all-tournament level play at the Under 19 World Championships, he strikes me as a taller Derrick Rose.  He has a very quick first step and can jump, and he accents these advantages by sudden stops, changes of direction, and using his long arms to release the ball at uncommon angles.

Noah Vonleh, PF/C — 6’9″ and 242 lbs; 18 years old; Freshman, Indiana.  Comp: A more powerful Chris Bosh.

My rank: 8th; Draft Express rank: 8th; NBADraft.net rank: 16th

2013-14 Stats: 12.1 pts, 9.0 rbs, 0.5 asts, 1.0 stls, 1.3 blks, 2.1 tos, 56% FG, 54% 3P, 73% FT

Vonleh is the third player in my lowest tier of potential stars coming out of this draft.  Everything I said of Aaron Gordon in terms of the benefits of another year of school apply to an even greater degree to Vonleh.  (It may well apply to Exum too, for all I know.)  Plus, where Gordon has the freak athleticism and motor to make an impact in the NBA regardless of his skill level, Vonleh strikes me as a young man who could end up in a bad professional situation and have it cost him his career.  So much of his appeal is his passion for the game that killing that would strip away much of his value as a prospect.  All that said, if he comes out, he has too much talent to escape the top ten.  While his rebounding has dipped from a Randle-esque rate early in the year, his offense is starting to gain some polish.  He’s shot 50% or better from the field in eight of his last nine games, is making free throws at a 73% clip, and has even hit seven of the 13 threes he’s taken.  Add in his blocking four shots in two of his last four games, and he’s worthy of concluding this impressive list of prospects.

When I watch Vonleh, I imagine a young Chris Bosh playing the day after Thanksgiving.  He’s 20 plus pounds bigger than Bosh and thus stronger yet not so quick, but the likeness is all in the arms.  Both players make plays both offensively and defensively based on sheer length, often finishing an awkward looking move because they have an extra half foot of arm over their opponent.

Rising Prospects

Zach LaVine, PG/SG — 6’5″ and 180 lbs; 18 years old; Freshman, UCLA.

LaVine is an interesting prospect who shot up many boards like a rocket in November and early December but has since dropped back down considerably in the estimation of many.  He may be the only player in college basketball who can jump as high as Aaron Gordon, and that combined with a hot shooting start and (dubious) belief he may play the point in the NBA saw him in top ten territory.  (NBADraft.net loves the kid and still has him at #9.)  His stroke has since cooled and his passing isn’t any more plentiful, and the buzz is starting to subside.  I think he’s an NBA shooting guard who needs at least one more year, not the next Russell Westbrook.

Gary Harris, SG — 6’4″ and 210 lbs; 19 years old; Sophomore, Michigan State.

I include Harris less because he’s climbed many spots up boards recently than because he’s only recently started to justify the position most gave him at the start of the year based on his fine freshman season.  Harris is a clear product of Tom Izzo, a tough competitor who gets after it defensively and contributes an all around game.  He’s shorter than the prototypical NBA shooting guard but has the athleticism and length to make it work, as long as he shoots as well from range as people believe he can.  He really struggled from deep to start the year but a recent four-game stretch where he rang up 14 of 29 attempts has optimists hoping he’s turning a corner after ankle problems early in the year.

Jerami Grant, SF — 6’8″ and 196 lbs; 19 years old; Sophomore, Syracuse.

Grant has two things going for him now: his body and his team hasn’t lost a game.  He has a 7’2″ wingspan and is an excellent all-around athlete, giving him the NBA’s favorite term, potential, in spades.  But he’s extremely raw, especially for a sophomore, and has only started four games for the #2 ranked Orange. On draft day, lingering regret on the part of some teams over not taking the Greek Freak, who had a similar profile, may well work in Grant’s favor.

Falling Prospects

Isaiah Austin, C — 7’1″ and 220 lbs; 20 years old; Sophomore, Baylor.

If there’s one player who can compete with Alex Poythress for most frustrating physical talent, it’s Isaiah Austin.  Since last season many have waited anxiously for Austin to become a newly minted Marcus Camby, but it just is not going to happen.  Austin is playing fewer minutes and scoring and rebounding at a lower per 40 rate than as a freshman and, to top it off, he just delivered a monumental stinker (4 points, 2 rebounds in 22 minutes) in a bad loss against Texas Tech.  He may end up being picked in the first round just on his raw parts, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Austin is out of the league when his rookie contract is up.

Montrezl Harrell, PF/C — 6’8″ and 230 lbs; 19 years old; Sophomore, Louisville.

Harrell started out the year just outside the top six or seven all-world prospects, so expectations were high.  Now, he’s out of the lottery.  It isn’t so much that he’s performed poorly (his per 40 averages of 18.3 points and 12.9 rebounds while shooting 64% from the field are really strong).  Rather, he simply hasn’t moved much beyond putting his physical talent to good use.  If he develops a respectable post game, his stock could rise quickly, but there have been too few signs of that thus far.

Spencer Dinwiddie, SG — 6’6″ and 200 lbs; 20 years old; Junior, Colorado.

Dinwiddie’s slide down draft boards is of the worst sort: induced by major injury.  Colorado’s best player tore his ACL in a loss against Washington and will miss the remainder of the season, and likely any opportunity he had at a first round selection this year.  Dinwiddie has only been in the first round conversation because of his impressive sophomore campaign, and I anticipate he will need a second breakout college season as a senior to regain a real shot at an NBA career.

As of Right Now…

The Jazz have the third worst record in the league, after only the Bucks and Magic.  If the Jazz were in the same position on June 26th, I predict: With the third pick in 2014 NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz select…

Joel Embiid from Kansas.

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.
Clint Johnson

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33 Comments

  1. Clint Johnson says:

    Here is my reasoning for the Jazz taking Embiid at three:

    1) I think the Bucks want to win now and they have some promising bigs already, so Jabari Parker looks like the guy at #1. The Magic would be tempted to go point guard at #2, but I think they take one of the two better known players with the most upside. They already have Vucevic, so Wiggins is the pick.

    2) Embiid has the highest ceiling of the remaining players by a clear margin, and the Jazz always say they are a best player available team.

    3) With solid young talent at every position already (Burke/Burks/Hayward/Favors/Kanter), whoever they draft will have to be an upgrade on the existing piece. Embiid is a huge defensive upgrade over Kanter, and I can see the Jazz risking a Favors/Embiid combo for the all around upside.

    4) Honestly, if this were to happen, I think the Jazz try to trade back a few slots (maybe to the six or seven range), select whichever of Randle, Exum, Smart, or Gordon is left and pair that with the additional assets they could get for such a move, which could be considerable.

  2. JT McKenna says:

    I think that it’s time to start writing about what the Jazz will do with the 10th-12th pick. It just feels like we’re still pretending they’ll get a top 3 pick. Barring a trade that weakens the Jazz’s roster, that’s the way it’s trending and there is no stopping it. By the end of the year, teams not named the Jazz will be trying to lose games even more than they are now, and Utah will get some “freebie” wins.

    I’d be shocked if the Jazz finished with less than 30 wins or in the bottom 7. I think it’s much more likely that they will be in the difficult position of trying to trade up into the top 7. Adding Burks and Golden State’s pick to our own to trade up for Exum, or Kanter and Golden State’s pick to trade up for Gordon sound like more likely scenarios. And that’s if at that point it still looks like Kanter and Favors can’t play together. I’m not saying that I think Utah should do that. Just throwing out the types of scenarios and prices it would take to trade up to get one of the elite. Things will have changed by then.

    Disagree that the Jazz would try trade down if they land at 3 and can get Embiid. Like you said, the Jazz have roughly equal need at every position except maybe PG. Smart doesn’t make sense at that point, so that limits you if you trade down. The young core is complete with Embiid and the Jazz wouldn’t need or want to trade down for more draft picks. Unless you’re trading down for another really good youngish veteran, I think you take the best available, and size is valued more anyway. Sign some really good veterans with that cap space and try to make the playoffs next year. Drafting Embiid also makes Kanter expendable or a great 3rd big in the long term, or you could use him in a trade if need be.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I can see your point. That said, even after winning 10 out of 18 until the Wolves blowout loss, the Jazz are still projected to have the 4th or 5th worst record in the league by season’s end. The things working in the team’s favor are: 1) one injury to a key member can drastically affect this young team; 2) they play in the western conference, where most of their competition play in the much weaker east; 3) most informed people I know would be shocked if at least one trade didn’t happen; and 4) the schedule will toughen up again toward the end of the year. The combination makes me think somewhere around 5th or 6th worst record in the league.

      As for trading down, I think they would try, or at least strongly consider it. A twin towers approach is a gutsy strategy in the current era of basketball that has so moved away from post play to pick and roll, floor spaced offense. An Embiid/Favors pairing may congest the paint too much. Also, if Embiid did last until three, they could get a king’s ransom for him. The combination of being able to get a player at a position that fits their intended style of play plus rich compensation would, to my mind, make a move back very tempting.

      • JT McKenna says:

        The problem with the Jazz being “projected” to finish with the 5th or 6th worst record is that those projections are still taking the first 15 games into account. Hollinger weighs the last %25 of games more I think, but after just 41 games, the first 15 are still being factored in heavily.

        It would probably be more accurate to ONLY factor in the last 25% of games when making end of season projections, once the season gets to this point.

        You make a good argument about trading down if Embiid were to fall to the Jazz at 3. I hadn’t considered the recent fad of stretch 4s and floor spacing. Still, I’d be tempted to keep Embiid for a year and trade Favors instead if it looks like he’ll work out.

        • Clint Johnson says:

          The first part of the season was also incredibly difficult. That said, the end of the schedule gets really tough again, too, where recently things have been easier. I think the Jazz are between the two, and so I expect them to win, on average, about what they did the first half of the season.

          As for the Jazz trading down, personally, I think I’d rather play Embiid with Favors. I am not one who believes that size is outdated in the modern NBA. At some point, a team is going to put together a tandem of bigs that runs roughshod over the league, and the trend of smaller, quicker, better shooters is going to balance out once more. But it would take an organization and a coaching staff that is okay breaking the mold, and professional sports is full of copycats with true innovators really sparing.

    • Max says:

      I don’t think they’ll fall as far back as the 10th pick (unless 3 teams jump them in the lottery, but I agree with you that we can probably kiss a top 3 pick goodbye (unless, again, we get there in the lottery).

      Milwaukee is horrid, Orlando hardly better and then you have Boston, Philly and Detroit vying for that 3rd spot along with the Jazz. And that excludes the Lakers, based on the hope that once Kobe gets back, they’ll start winning some games.

      So realistically speaking the 3rd spot is not out of reach, but we’re looking most likely at the 4th or 5th spot. In that case we can kiss Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid goodbye unfortunately.

      • JT McKenna says:

        When you drop down to the 7th worst record, the odds of moving up into the top 6 drop drastically and well below 50%. With the 6th pick, odds are very high that you’ll stay in the top 6, with a realistic chance of getting into the top 3. So the #6 spot or better going into the lottery is the key.

        You say you don’t think the Jazz will drop to 10th, but 10th right now is New Orleans, who have just 2 more wins than the Jazz. 11th is just 3 wins away. 14th place just 6 wins away.

        • Clint Johnson says:

          If the goal is top five then you really want to be in the bottom four in the league. If you have the fifth worst record you basically have a fifty/fifty chance of getting fifth or better or six to eighth.

          • JT McKenna says:

            Finishing 5th worst gives you about a %30 chance of getting into the top 3, and about a 56% chance of staying in the top 5. About a %91 chance of staying in the top 6.

            Finishing 6th worst gives you about a %21.5 chance of getting into the top 3, and about a %65 chance of staying in the top 6.

            Finishing 7th worst gives you about a %15 chance of getting into the top 3, with no chance of getting the 4, 5, or 6 picks.

            So your chances of a top 6 pick go from %65 down to %15, just from finishing 6th worst vs. 5th. So I see 6th as being the magic number. You don’t want to go lower than that if you want much of a shot at the elite.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NBA_draft_lottery

            Unfortunately I still see the Jazz trending toward something like 10th worst. The good news is that there will still be some players with perennial all star upside available there, and the Jazz basically got the #1 overall pick in Burke last year!

  3. Paul Johnson says:

    I was watching Smart play today against Kansas, and the player he most reminded me of was Baron Davis–except that he needs to get a bit more accurate on his jump shot. Smart is an elite rebounder for a guard and can really post up other players–even players much bigger and longer than him.

    • Jamal says:

      Baron Davis? Plz! Marcus Smart doesn’t hav the break off handles nor the explosive ness that BDave had.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I’ve thought of Baron Davis as well. I think it’s a good comp in many ways, about as good as you’ll get in a single player. And Davis wasn’t that much better from range even. Smart is so unique, though; parts of his game look like a young Charles Barkley! The main reason I use the comp I do is his utter confidence in guarding anybody, and doing it well, along with the pace he plays at.

  4. Paul Johnson says:

    In looking at the Jazz’s current young players, some of the needs or weaknesses of the lineup are the following: no elite athleticism at the SF position (although Marvin Williams has pretty elite athleticism, if he would use it better); no top notch scorer, although both Alec Burks and Enes Kanter appear to have potential to be top notch scorers; Trey Burke seems to be the real deal at PG, but the Jazz still need a good backup PG, especially one who has better size than Burke; a backup PF with traditional size and skills; an elite wing defender; and more shooters.

    Based on need, I think the Jazz would be high on selecting Wiggins, Parker, Gordon (especially if he could play SF), Vonleh, Exum and Smart, with their first pick–if they had their choice of players. Jerami Grant seems to have elite athleticism at the SF position, but his offensive skills are very undeveloped, so he would probably be too risky of a selection for the Jazz’s first pick, unless it were in the low-to-mid-teens.

    With their second pick, Andrew Harrison or Semaj Christon might be a great fit as a big backup point guard; Jerami Grant might be a good value at that spot in the draft, to develop as an athletic SF prospect (who could be an elite defender); someone like Rodney Hood or Doug McDermott who can really shoot could add value to the team; Adreian Payne could be a good backup PF; or one of the young SG prospects, such as James Young or Wayne Selden, could add good depth at the SG position.

    I think the Jazz could add two very good players to the team with their two first round draft picks–hopefully with abilities and skill sets that the Jazz are currently lacking.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I think your summary of where the team stands is quite good. My assessment is Parker and Wiggins are all alone atop their wish lists, with a substantial drop off following those two players. The one thing I think you didn’t address is defensive aptitude. I believe Lindsey when he says that is the foundation management wants. If so, then Wiggins, Embiid, Smart, Gordon, and maybe Exum become more likely candidates. I too think they can fill a backup role with their second first round pick.

  5. Jamal says:

    I was reading this article and the writer compared Andrew Wiggins to Kobe Bryant all i could do was shake my head ! That had to be the worst comparison ever!

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Compare them as high school players and I think you’ll see a number of similarities in their games. Wiggins is no where as strong as LeBron, is quicker and smoother than Tracy McGrady, and has a better handle and is a better defender than Rudy Gay, and those are the most common comps. I freely acknowledge that Wiggins and Kobe have drastically different mental makeups. But in terms of their skill sets on the court at similar ages, I think there more similarities than other commonly used comps.

      • Jamal says:

        Wiggins is overrated ! Nothing in his game remind me of Kobe! Kobe style and flair was like MJ ‘s Wiggins can’t handle the rock! Everytime i watch him I leave dissapointed like yesterday against Oklahoma St. I’m gonna watch him tommorow & see if he shows me any different.

        • gotag says:

          Think about Kobe’s first season: 7.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.3 apg.

          His next was essentially double that but still no where near what we think of Kobe doing now. Wiggins is going to be good, he’s long, incredibly quick (which is where the Kobe comparisons come in) and doesn’t have glaring weaknesses. His last game was pretty bad but I think he’ll have a very bright future.

          • Jamal says:

            Really! You’re really comparing him to my favorite player of all time lmao! Now Jabari Parker reminds me of Carmelo but Wiggins & Kobe plz!

  6. gotag says:

    Clint, I love your break downs and agree with your top 7 rankings for the Jazz. I just think the Jazz are one of the few teams that would prefer Parker or Wiggins over Embiid. If the Jazz have the 3rd pick they will be able to get 1 of Wiggins or Parker bc Embiid will be off of the board.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      That’s very possible. If Embiid holds up throughout the rest of the season and Wiggins doesn’t have a break out tournament, I think it would be hard for any team at the bottom of the league to pass on the young seven footer.

  7. cw says:

    Unless something crazy happens (multiple long term injuries, surprising trades) there is no way the jazz are going pick at 3. If you look at their schedule and just add up the home games against the eastern conference you will see that, plus like the guy above said, the true tanking has hardly begun. So who do you like at 10? I think Dario Saric and LaVine are good choices.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I don’t think they pick 3rd either. My guess is 6 or 7, as I think they’ll have about the 5th worst record but be jumped by a team or two in the lottery. As for who I like at about ten, it’s a tough call. I haven’t seen much of Saric, and he sounds like he might be the prototypical Euro star who has a tough time transitioning to the NBA game. As for LaVine, it would be hard for me to go with him that high based on essentially one strong month of college play. If I had pick ten, I might have to go Saric because of his unique skill set. I’d also consider Rodney Hood because of his combination of length and solid shot and Gary Harris as a safe play worthy of the pick. LaVine would have to either show more consistency with his shot or much more aptitude as a playmaker for me to take him that high.

      • cw says:

        Saric has really good numbers in Europe where most players don’t have those kind of numbers and I think he’s 19 plus has good size.

        And LaVine has–from what people say–elite athleticism and good size along with good shooting.

        If they can’t swing some kind of trade I think they need to draft on upside rather than need, hoping to get lucky. I don’t know anything about Hood, but I wouldn’t take Harris because he has Journeyman written all over him. Although he’s supposed to be a good defender.

        You know, defense is one thing the Jazz really need. Some people blame Corbin, but the Jazz really lack good defenders. Favors and maybe Marvin (and Gobert potentially) are the only above average defenders, and they are not far above average. That’s something that will have to be addressed at some point and it you would think it would affect the composition of the team down the road. Although maybe Gobert can make a difference and Burks can get better. I don’t think Hayward and Burke can ever be more than slightly below average. Maybe you could write something about that.

        • Clint Johnson says:

          Good suggestion. LaVine is tall for a point guard, but I’m not sold he can play the point. For a shooting guard, his stature is quite average, though he is a freakish athlete. He doesn’t play up to his athleticism in the half court. As for Saric, his scoring recently has raised my opinion of him. I think he’s fourth in his league, though he is playing on an apparently dysfunctional team. High scorers on bad teams give me pause.

          You make a great point about defense. In this draft, the best potential defenders are Embiid, Wiggins, Smart, Exum, Gordon, Vonleh (in potential), Cauley-Stein, Grant, Harrell, and Seldon.

      • Paul Johnson says:

        If the Jazz end up around the 10th pick, I would like to see them go for a very athletic player who could develop a skill set over a period of years. I think that Noah Vonleh would be the best player you could hope to get at that spot in the draft. I would also take a look at Montrezl Harrell, Wayne Selden, James Young, and perhaps even Jakari Johnson or Jerami Grant–depending on how those players finish out the college season.

        • Clint Johnson says:

          I would snatch up Vonleh in a heartbeat at ten. I think that would be high for any of those other players right now, though Young and Grant might work their way up that high. Harrell and Selden are out of the lottery, so ten might just be too high. While I’m not sold on Zach LaVine as a lottery pick, he would fit your profile as well.

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  9. Spencer says:

    So my conclusion is that the Jazz need to trade Jefferson,Rush and Williams as soon as they can get some sort of asset for them with the hope they lose more games as well.

    Then they need to be ready (like they were with D-Will and Burke trades) to trade up to get whomever is on their list of franchise talent. Hopefully a top-5 pick and their second first-rounder (and possibly future first rounder)

  10. JT McKenna says:

    It’s not likely that anyone will be able to trade into the top tiers of talent. The Jazz need to get a top 7 pick at least or they will be on the outside looking in.

    They’d still have a lot of youngs and other trade assets and could explore other trade options though.

  11. Clint Johnson says:

    At this point, I think it would be hard to move Jefferson or Rush and get much, if anything, in return. If Rush continues to play better, then he may regain a little value. Williams is, to me, the key. He has the most value of any of those players at this point, and moving him would cause the greatest adjustment for the coaching staff, given how he’s spaced the floor. To me, that is THE DEAL that almost has to be made to achieve any of the team’s objectives going into the season.

  12. Paul Johnson says:

    Even though the Jazz might not get much for Jefferson or Rush, if it would ensure more losses, it may be worth it. Look at what Boston has done lately with their trades, after swearing publicly all season long that they are not tanking–and look at the result in the win-loss column. They’re even having one of their veteran players sit home rather than be with the team, in order to guarantee more losses.

  13. Clint Johnson says:

    I’m not sure it would ensure more losses. Jefferson has been contributing, but moving him would mean more time for Burks. The team may well be better in the minutes Burks takes, so they’ve have to be really bad with the backup in. And Rush hasn’t meant a thing to the team thus far.

    If they could move Jefferson for anything but a long garbage contract (questionable), I would, even if the only benefit is to make it easier to get Burks minutes. Rush I think I’d hold on to in the hopes he’ll improve his game. If he has a breakout and restores some of his value, I’d trade him. Otherwise, he looks like a cheap piece to possibly keep around. But personally, I cannot see an option that keeps Williams on the team except for Corbin starting Kanter and Favors and playing them major minutes together.

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