Draft Retrospectives: What Have We Learned?

slamminsammya

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One of my favorite parts of the Port Cellar is that it seems like every poster who writes here is better informed, watches more basketball, and has stronger opinions on various players than I do and I learn a lot. Reading the opinions in the draft game thread on guys I have never seen in my life except for maybe the five minute highlight clip on youtube got me thinking that it would be an interesting exercise to look at some old predictions from NBA draft threads and talk about what we learned, whether people's lenses for evaluating talent have changed, case studies etc.

This is not meant to be a gotcha thread cataloguing every poster's worst draft take. Ive had mostly bad takes on this board, being absolutely heartbroken at the Kyrie trade and being certain Jaylen Brown was going to bust. I just thought it would be interesting to use past predictions as a means of figuring out what if anything we can rely on or not rely on when projecting NBA players. I have also always been very suspicious of the way "cieling" and "floor" discourse works in the NBA, because it usually seems to be way off and unhelpful so I thought it would also be a potentially interesting angle to look at who seemed like the high floor players.

the 2017 thread
the 2018 thread
the 2016 thread

To start, looking at the 2017 draft thread here are some takes:
I don't agree the qualms about his shooting have not been put to sleep. A .580 FT% on 5.6 attempts per game is much more of a red flag about his shooting than a .435 3P% on half the attempts is a green flag. We've been through this before, but it would almost unprecedented for someone like Jackson to become a good shooter. As far as I've seen, it's like Pierce, and that's it. (Correct me if I'm missing someone). I like Jackson - I love the passing at his age, I think he'll be a good defender, but the shooting remains a scare-point for me. If he was as good a free throw shooter as Tatum though, he'd be a pretty sure-fire number one overall for me.
I understand this and I am a believer that FT% does play a role in projecting future growth in 3-point FG%.......however when that 3-point shooting has shown dramatic improvement over the course of a season this is a much more reliable indicator as it is actually his 3-point shooting which is showing improvement.

There is also a much longer list than only Pierce. Chris Webber and Karl Malone were both sub-.500 FT% shooters in college who became good to excellent face-up perimeter shooters. In their day, 3-point shooting was discouraged among bigs so we will never truly know how well they would have expanded their range however face-up mid-range shooting was a strength in their games in particular Malone. There are many others off the top of my head Bruce Bowen......we are seeing it right now with Jaylen Brown. Shooting a basketball is one of the most easily improved skills as it's primary function is repetition which can be accomplished with practice as teams now employ coaches specifically toward improving this skill. This was not the case years ago.

We've watched Jackson all season. He's not taking wide open 3's.....he is creating these shots off the dribble and making them at a tremendous rate for 3 months now. Is that luck? Or is that improvement? Last night he showed shot making that was not evident in November or December......mid-range jumper off a crossover, a step-back 3 off the dribble and another deep 2 baseline jumper off the dribble. We are seeing evidence of improvement on these shots.....I don't see how only a slight improvement in a different shot (FT) negates the actual improvement he's shown in the shotmaking on jump shots.

Using FT% as a baseline in projecting these improvement is a valid position......until those improvements have already taken place. I expect his FT% to improve as it does for most 18-19 year olds but his 3-point shooting already has as evidence by his entire freshman season.
Ball may struggle to stay in front of a few of the truly elite athletic point guards, but not everyone is Russell Westbrook. His combination of size, effort, defensive awareness, and ability to switch makes him very promising defensively however. Off-ball, and perimeter defense are more important than ever, and those are all areas where Ball excels.

I agree that he's not going to be Chris Paul on defense, but he looks like a plus defensive prospect to me. Plus as Eddie Jurak notes, he may often end up guarding bigger/slower guys anyway. His size gives teams a lot of flexibility with whom to pair him with in the backcourt.
It certainly seems like Ball is consensus top 3 in mock drafts, but I wouldn't be surprised if there's significantly greater variance in how NBA teams rate him. He really is the most unorthodox elite prospect I can really think of in recent memory. For as much as I've raved about watching him here, and bagged on Dennis Smith Jr., it's easier for me to envision that DSJ's red flags will be solved by NBA spacing and a non-clusterfuck environment than it is Lonzo will greatly improve his lateral quickness and his ability to run the pick and roll.

For me, it's Fultz <big gap> Jackson <big gap> then Tatum, who has a more tenuous grasp on #3, with Ball and DSJ in the conversation for #4, and Isaac and Markkanen behind them. I think the Ainge tries hard to move the pick if it's not Fultz.
Apologies in advance for anyone who is quoted here, the point is to provoke some discussion, not to dunk on people who turned out to not have a crystal ball into the future.

The obvious big surprise this year was Fultz disappearing for like three years. But beyond that we had some big time busts in Dennis Smith Jr. and Josh Jackson. And obviously Tatum. Tatum in particular has made me question whether anyone can project defense well. He was supposedly going to be below average.

Some interesting ones from the 2018 thread:

Jaren Jackson has been the odd man out of the discussions here about the top half of the lottery, but he's gotta be top 7 at this point. Not quite Bamba protecting the rim, but he's close and he's a better perimeter defender. His shooting touch looks real- 44.6% from 3 on 2.6 attempts per game, and shooting 81% from the line. If he was just an elite rim protector who can also defend in space with a good shooting touch, he'd be good prospect, but he did this last night:


I did not know he could do that.
Yeah, there's no guarantee that Doncic ever becomes a major athlete. He may top out as Gordon Hayward+, which is still a damned good result. Ayton is just a monster, and that's not going away. The question with him is the motor one, will he bust ass enough to maximize his potential?

Ayton is one of those players where I think it's going to matter where he ends up. If he goes to a shithole like Sacramento his career is likely going to have a very different arc, whereas I think guys like Doncic and (especially) Bagley are going to be stars no matter what.
So I think some of Jabari Parker's failures got transposed onto Tatum. I wonder if there is a bit of that for Bagley.

I am super skeptical he can defend wings, and he's not big enough to play center, so you have to think he's gonna out althetic NBA fours. I'm just not seeing that as something I want to bet on over some of these other guys.
In a worse draft he would be doing better, but if I want a big all the others vs Carter seem better bets at the next level.

It could be he's just got a great nose for the basket and board and his high energy just pests him vs bigger guys and his motor let's him bully smaller.

I see a super raw guy without an NBA role. I'm not remotely shocked if you disagree here, I am not super confident in this.
But I would bet on all the other guys first.

Carter I think, and so seemingly does everyone, has the Al Horford mold. More confident he can shoot, and more confident he can defend, and more confident he can pass.
I'd wager the ceiling would normally say Bagley but then everyone is watching Al in the playoffs, and kill it.
Milton is my pick; big combo guard that can play D, shoot from outside and create for others. His game matches the way this team is playing right now.
I love Bagley, he's my #1 with Bamba close behind. His perimeter shooting is being severely underrated and watching him switch to defend 1's and 2's last year made me a true believer in his game. I really like Carter as a solid Juwan Howard, Otis Thorpe, Al Horford-type. The more I see the NBA game changing the more I dislike Ayton and I'd been touting him for 4 years now. I also don't have Doncic in that top tier due to his lack of explosiveness which could really prevent him from living up to his hype.

I'll post my full mock once I've looked at my Combine DVR's. I fell in love with Khris Middleton and Rudy Gobert from these workouts so I place significant value in this week.
I want DeVincinzo bad at 27. I think he’s going to be a really good combo guard / energy type guy in the league.
This draft obviously left Phoenix and Sacramento very sad that they passed up Doncic. Are the cases of Bagley and Ayton failures of projecting the players, or failures to perceive how rapidly the league was changing?


From 2016:

I keep saying this, but at 6'10" 240 Simmons is going to be playing the PF in the NBA. And if the teams drafting ahead of Boston are frightened off I trust Stevens and the current coaching staff to get everything possible out of him.
I have Dunn and Murray in the same tier as Ingram and Simmons, so, yes, I do think there's a real shot that whoever's drafting #2 talks themselves out of him. D'Angelo Russell's late season surge in LA has probably done a lot for Murray's draft stock around the NBA (much the same was that Lil' Zeke's success has cleared the path for Kay Felder in the NBA).
I think the Simmons criticism's gotten a bit out of control. Simmons wasn't a willing shooter at LSU, nor a good one, but his shot is far from broken. And beyond that, he's got an incredibly rare, intriguing skill-set for a 6'10 player. He's the perfect player for today's "positionless" NBA, and I think if teams are talking themselves into Brandon Ingram because of shooting it's going to be a mistake.

The funny thing, to me, is that while all of the "Simmons is can't shoot, he's going to be a bust" talks been reaching it's apex, Giannis was running the point in Milwaukee, basically providing the perfect blueprint for how a 6'10 athlete with excellent ball handling and court vision can be used. If teams honestly talk themselves out of Simmons, I'll be really, really surprised.
 

nighthob

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I wish poor Marv hadn't ended up Harry Giles v2.0. He was something to behold when he was still healthy.

Also, I wished Dunn had been more proactive about rebuilding that jumper of his. He otherwise had the talent to be a star. But you can't shoot like a young Rondo and still be a star anymore. Point for the Boston braintrust's insistence on drafting gym rats.
 

Cesar Crespo

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I also think it's too early to say anything about Bagley or Ayton other than they aren't Doncic. If Ayton adds a 3 point shot, it changes everything.
 

nighthob

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Well we were writing pre-draft. Pity that Bagley's slagpile of injuries look like they've derailed what should have been a great career.
 

Kliq

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Anyone can nail a Doncic take...nailing Shake Milton, that takes skill.

Simmons path in the NBA has been so strange pretty much everyone is going to be wrong in some way.
 

slamminsammya

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One thing that stands out to me regarding the projection of defense is the role of size. Ball and Tatum have turned out to be plus defenders, largely because of their length, and for both of them it was a question mark or a negative when they were prospects. From the other end we had Josh Jackson who was supposed to be a ferocious defender, and has turned out to be whatever since he lacks the above average size or strength necessary to lock guys down.
 

Euclis20

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One thing that stands out to me regarding the projection of defense is the role of size. Ball and Tatum have turned out to be plus defenders, largely because of their length, and for both of them it was a question mark or a negative when they were prospects. From the other end we had Josh Jackson who was supposed to be a ferocious defender, and has turned out to be whatever since he lacks the above average size or strength necessary to lock guys down.
I'm not sure if it's the size/strength/length that separates Jackson from Tatum. I remember the same statements about both their defense pre-draft (Tatum was disinterested and not agile enough, Jackson was going to be a plus defender immediately), and they are basically the same exact size (both are 6'8, Tatum is 3 pounds heavier and has 1 extra inch of wingspan). Who knows.

Going back a few years further, pre-draft Andrew Wiggins drew raves reviews for his defensive potential. Physically he was supposed to have the ideal body and athleticism to lock down on the perimeter, and he's been just awful defensively since day 1. I can't think of a prospect that has been more disappointing on that end.
 

slamminsammya

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I'm not sure if it's the size/strength/length that separates Jackson from Tatum. I remember the same statements about both their defense pre-draft (Tatum was disinterested and not agile enough, Jackson was going to be a plus defender immediately), and they are basically the same exact size (both are 6'8, Tatum is 3 pounds heavier and has 1 extra inch of wingspan). Who knows.

Going back a few years further, pre-draft Andrew Wiggins drew raves reviews for his defensive potential. Physically he was supposed to have the ideal body and athleticism to lock down on the perimeter, and he's been just awful defensively since day 1. I can't think of a prospect that has been more disappointing on that end.
Interesting. Wasn't there a story this year that Tatum has grown a decent amount since he was drafted? What is the story with Jackson then? Its amazing how big the miss on Tatum was, hes been a fairly solid defender since day one unless my memory of his rookie year does not serve.
 

PedroKsBambino

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No idea if Celtics still use the Brain Doctor, but the biggest difference between Fultz and Tatum is pretty clearly about mentality. However Ainge figured that out, he made the right assessment.

We often forget how much of this is about who wants it the most and will be resilient and work the hardest to be great. Myself certainly included among those who sometimes forget it
 

Cesar Crespo

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A lot of it is BBIQ which is something the scouting reports don't always pick up. All the length in the world isn't going to help if you are in the wrong place.
 

Euclis20

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Interesting. Wasn't there a story this year that Tatum has grown a decent amount since he was drafted? What is the story with Jackson then? Its amazing how big the miss on Tatum was, hes been a fairly solid defender since day one unless my memory of his rookie year does not serve.
Measurements were re-done before the start of last year, and they are both basically the same size as when they were drafted (a few pounds heavier). Reading the ringer's writeup on Tatum's negatives is almost hilarious now:

MINUSES
  • Lacks defensive mentality. Loses focus off-ball, dies on screens. He has the ability but doesn’t play with much effort or NBA-level physicality.
  • Lacks defensive versatility. Flat-footed on the perimeter; gets toasted by guards. Thin in the waist, so gets overpowered by bigs.
  • Needs to score to produce. He’s a willing passer but lacks vision off the dribble.
  • Not a natural shooter, with rigid mechanics. Gets to his shot pocket early and heaves the ball. Struggles off the dribble from 3-point range.
  • Lives in midrange. Settles for pull-ups and floaters. If his 3-pointer doesn’t translate, is he a player modern teams can build around?

Almost as funny as Jackson's positives:

PLUSES
  • Explosive athlete who plays with balance, force, and feel, and he’s unafraid of contact.
  • Capable of playing point forward given his passing vision and accuracy.
  • Go-to scorer potential; has a quick first step, fluidity, and the ability to change pace.
  • Excellent team defender who never gives up on a possession and fights for 50-50 balls.
  • Tremendous perimeter defender, already excels in the pick-and-roll and pick-pocketing ball handlers.
  • Noticeable presence in the post; rebounding well and blocking on the weakside on defense.

These takes do not hold up well, although I do remember them being pretty common. Matter of fact that whole guide has issues. Donovan Mitchell's "best case scenarios" are Gary Harris, Avery Bradley and Norman Powell. Woof.
 

Cesar Crespo

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Scouting report on Jaylen Brown is mostly accurate, and he's done what he's needed to do.

 

nighthob

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One thing that stands out to me regarding the projection of defense is the role of size. Ball and Tatum have turned out to be plus defenders, largely because of their length, and for both of them it was a question mark or a negative when they were prospects. From the other end we had Josh Jackson who was supposed to be a ferocious defender, and has turned out to be whatever since he lacks the above average size or strength necessary to lock guys down.
I'm not sure if it's the size/strength/length that separates Jackson from Tatum. I remember the same statements about both their defense pre-draft (Tatum was disinterested and not agile enough, Jackson was going to be a plus defender immediately), and they are basically the same exact size (both are 6'8, Tatum is 3 pounds heavier and has 1 extra inch of wingspan). Who knows.

Going back a few years further, pre-draft Andrew Wiggins drew raves reviews for his defensive potential. Physically he was supposed to have the ideal body and athleticism to lock down on the perimeter, and he's been just awful defensively since day 1. I can't think of a prospect that has been more disappointing on that end.
I don't think it was a size thing with Jackson. He was one of those guys that when you rewatched later you noticed that he was letting his body do the work for him. But once he no longer had the ability to dominate his opponents physically he looked much worse. OJ Mayo would be the offensive version, at lower levels where he could physically dominate he looked great. But once the athleticism of the competition caught up he couldn't do it.

Jackson's mental approach to the game is pretty bad, maybe all the helium he had blown up his ass throughout his AAU and college years convinced him that he was better than he was. Because I can't see that he's ever really worked at making himself into a star. His game was much broader than Jaylen's when he arrived in college (I mean Brown when he went to Cal, not since). But Jaylen has been relentless at turning his physical gifts into NBA stardom.

Marcus always talks about how it's a matter of your mental approach, if you want it badly enough you can do it despite any physical limitations, it's a matter of figuring out what you can do and applying it to the situation in front of you. Marcus is long for a 6'3" guy. But he's still just 6'3". And yet somehow manages to contain even Joel Embiid who has about 10" and 60lbs on him. Tatum pretty clearly does this, and he's become a defensive wrecking ball as a result.
 

Cesar Crespo

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I don't think it was a size thing with Jackson. He was one of those guys that when you rewatched later you noticed that he was letting his body do the work for him. But once he no longer had the ability to dominate his opponents physically he looked much worse. OJ Mayo would be the offensive version, at lower levels where he could physically dominate he looked great. But once the athleticism of the competition caught up he couldn't do it.

Jackson's mental approach to the game is pretty bad, maybe all the helium he had blown up his ass throughout his AAU and college years convinced him that he was better than he was. Because I can't see that he's ever really worked at making himself into a star. His game was much broader than Jaylen's when he arrived in college (I mean Brown when he went to Cal, not since). But Jaylen has been relentless at turning his physical gifts into NBA stardom.

Marcus always talks about how it's a matter of your mental approach, if you want it badly enough you can do it despite any physical limitations, it's a matter of figuring out what you can do and applying it to the situation in front of you. Marcus is long for a 6'3" guy. But he's still just 6'3". And yet somehow manages to contain even Joel Embiid who has about 10" and 60lbs on him. Tatum pretty clearly does this, and he's become a defensive wrecking ball as a result.
Josh Jackson and Smith have had known attitude issues during their NBA careers too. Mental makeup is a lot of it.

Josh Jackson is too busy getting infants high. DSJ ignored the plays called for him by his coach.

I mean, one of those things is far worse than the other but yeah.
 

DannyDarwinism

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It seems like there's a thousand different ways to miss, but generally where I hit, at least relative to consensus, it's where it's just kind of based on my impressions from watching guys and seeing that they're gamers on the court, combined with hearing good stuff about their off-the-court habits. I saw Donovan Mitchell absolutely work Dennis Smith Jr. in college and one guy clearly looked like a guy who'd be a winning player, and the other didn't. Same held true for the other games I watched of them that year- Mitchell cared, fought hard, and made more good decisions than bad ones. DSJ didn't do any of those things.

Then again, I saw the same thing in Josh Jackson that I saw in Mitchell. Great motor, decent IQ, decently skilled other than the jumper, and good athlete. I don't know enough about his post-draft life to speculate why he failed- maybe it's the off the court work habits? I'll generally always fade the guys I think have questionable work habits and BBIQ. Sometimes I'll talk myself into a guy like Kevin Porter Jr (to be fair, his on-court decision making wasn't too bad at USC, even if his off-court decision making was) but always with a large dose of skepticism, knowing they could crap out completely. I usually rely more on what I see on the court, because it can be tough to sort out the coach (or other interested parties) speak about a guy's work ethic/character, but when it's universal praise from seemingly everyone who's ever known a kid, I think it's worth factoring. Nesmith and Pritchard fit that description, incidentally.

There has to be NBA-level skill in at least one meaningful area, BBIQ, and some combo of strength/size/athleticism, but based on watching how they play in college, I'll always bet on a guy like Xavier Tillman making it over a guy like Jaden McDaniels


Regarding the Celtics, I knew Tatum was a skilled gym rat, but the biggest thing I missed with him was the BBIQ. It's crazy looking back, because his BBIQ is incredibly high, but I just didn't really see it at Duke. Plus, I knew he was a gym rat, but I didn't quite understand how driven he is to be great. I think those two things explain 95% of why he's exceeded everyone's expectations.

Jaylen at Cal just looked like the game was too sped-up for him, like his processing speed was slow. Now I think that it was basically the opposite- he's processing so much that he gets caught up overthinking things sometimes. The more game reps he gets, the more those decisions get automated. Off the court, he works hard and he works smart.

Sometimes a guy comes to the league and shows stuff I hadn't even really considered would be part of his game. I like Mitchell a lot, but I did not think he could be a primary initiator. I was high on Siakam, but never thought his offensive game would grow into much beyond garbage man with a decent jump shot. I watched a lot of Kentucky ball, and I never thought Bam would average 3 assists per game, much less five. I don't even really know how to account for missing that stuff. College systems can be so rigid and a guy's role can be so specialized it's hard to see much else than what he's actually permitted to do.

It's as much an art as it is a science, and that's kinda what I love about it, even if it's not always particularly helpful for one's self regard.
 

nighthob

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Josh Jackson and Smith have had known attitude issues during their NBA careers too. Mental makeup is a lot of it.

Josh Jackson is too busy getting infants high. DSJ ignored the plays called for him by his coach.

I mean, one of those things is far worse than the other but yeah.
Jackson got himself into legal trouble in college, too. He had some huge red flags that we all should have seen sooner, but were caught up in the athleticism (much like Wiggins). Some guys are just situational, by which I mean their career arc is determined by where they land.

Tatum, I think, would have been great no matter where he landed, he had the requisite physical ability and the mentality to be a star. But someone like Jackson needed to be in San Antonio. On a team full of vets that would have ridden him mercilessly, he might have developed the mentality. In the Phoenix NBA Day Care Center he was destined to flame out.
 

slamminsammya

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It seems like there's a thousand different ways to miss, but generally where I hit, at least relative to consensus, it's where it's just kind of based on my impressions from watching guys and seeing that they're gamers on the court, combined with hearing good stuff about their off-the-court habits. I saw Donovan Mitchell absolutely work Dennis Smith Jr. in college and one guy clearly looked like a guy who'd be a winning player, and the other didn't. Same held true for the other games I watched of them that year- Mitchell cared, fought hard, and made more good decisions than bad ones. DSJ didn't do any of those things.

Then again, I saw the same thing in Josh Jackson that I saw in Mitchell. Great motor, decent IQ, decently skilled other than the jumper, and good athlete. I don't know enough about his post-draft life to speculate why he failed- maybe it's the off the court work habits? I'll generally always fade the guys I think have questionable work habits and BBIQ. Sometimes I'll talk myself into a guy like Kevin Porter Jr (to be fair, his on-court decision making wasn't too bad at USC, even if his off-court decision making was) but always with a large dose of skepticism, knowing they could crap out completely. I usually rely more on what I see on the court, because it can be tough to sort out the coach (or other interested parties) speak about a guy's work ethic/character, but when it's universal praise from seemingly everyone who's ever known a kid, I think it's worth factoring. Nesmith and Pritchard fit that description, incidentally.

There has to be NBA-level skill in at least one meaningful area, BBIQ, and some combo of strength/size/athleticism, but based on watching how they play in college, I'll always bet on a guy like Xavier Tillman making it over a guy like Jaden McDaniels


Regarding the Celtics, I knew Tatum was a skilled gym rat, but the biggest thing I missed with him was the BBIQ. It's crazy looking back, because his BBIQ is incredibly high, but I just didn't really see it at Duke. Plus, I knew he was a gym rat, but I didn't quite understand how driven he is to be great. I think those two things explain 95% of why he's exceeded everyone's expectations.

Jaylen at Cal just looked like the game was too sped-up for him, like his processing speed was slow. Now I think that it was basically the opposite- he's processing so much that he gets caught up overthinking things sometimes. The more game reps he gets, the more those decisions get automated. Off the court, he works hard and he works smart.

Sometimes a guy comes to the league and shows stuff I hadn't even really considered would be part of his game. I like Mitchell a lot, but I did not think he could be a primary initiator. I was high on Siakam, but never thought his offensive game would grow into much beyond garbage man with a decent jump shot. I watched a lot of Kentucky ball, and I never thought Bam would average 3 assists per game, much less five. I don't even really know how to account for missing that stuff. College systems can be so rigid and a guy's role can be so specialized it's hard to see much else than what he's actually permitted to do.

It's as much an art as it is a science, and that's kinda what I love about it, even if it's not always particularly helpful for one's self regard.
Isn't there a concern that comparing guys based on one head to head matchup in college over indexes on a single game? I agree that ethic and mentality off the court play a huge role, but certainly that has to translate in college as well somehow. Is that just inherently extremely opaque to us fans? I've seen some try to add sauce to statistical projections by considering a players trendline through college as some kind of proxy for work ethic.

I also think that it's possible to use ethic as an explanatory crutch. Like nighthob pointed out for example maybe Jackson's defense didn't look so tight with hindsight - is saying a player wasn't a worker a way to avoid confronting our own inability to evaluate their true skill level from college tape?
 

DannyDarwinism

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Isn't there a concern that comparing guys based on one head to head matchup in college over indexes on a single game?
Of course- did you read the next sentence?

The “same held true for other games I watched them in that year” part.

As the the opaqueness issue, yeah that’s why i included the “I usually rely more on what I see on the court, because it can be tough to sort out the coach (or other interested parties) speak about a guy's work ethic/character, but when it's universal praise from seemingly everyone who's ever known a kid, I think it's worth factoring.”

I think I can generally see it when guys play hard and play smart consistently, within their role. Relying on reports or word of mouth about a kid off the court is far trickier, which is why I try to only really consider it a plus if it really is ubiquitous. But I’ll ding a guy if there are persistent rumblings about his work ethic, because those are typically less likely to be manufactured.

Edit- for the record, I just checked the old draft thread- I posted skeptically of DSJ’s BBIQ on 1/21/17 and Donny went on to eat his lunch on 1/29.
 
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nighthob

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I also think that it's possible to use ethic as an explanatory crutch. Like nighthob pointed out for example maybe Jackson's defense didn't look so tight with hindsight - is saying a player wasn't a worker a way to avoid confronting our own inability to evaluate their true skill level from college tape?
Wiggins and Jackson were the eye openers for me. Because when I watched them in college they both willingly took on tough defensive assignments and did them well. But after Jackson busted I began reevaluating how I looked at college D. Since people forget that JJ was ever in the NBA I use Wiggins as the poster boy for this.

Both guys had that same problem. They were longer and quicker than the guys they were defending and never focused on the little things. They could play man up against lesser competition and roll. But the rest of it? Defensive anticipation, positional D. Those were missing from the toolbox.

I think I made that point last year when watching Jaden McDaniels’s defense. He was great at the plays that he could complete with his length and quickness, but I couldn’t see that he had any real sense of positional defense or anticipated plays well.

It definitely helps if you have the physical ability to be a dominant defender, Jaylen’s the poster boy for this. He’s long, strong, and explosively athletic. And on a defensive oriented team he’s built the toolbox to be a pretty ruthless defender. Would Jaylen have become this good playing for someone like Phoenix? I have my doubts.
 

slamminsammya

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Wiggins and Jackson were the eye openers for me. Because when I watched them in college they both willingly took on tough defensive assignments and did them well. But after Jackson busted I began reevaluating how I looked at college D. Since people forget that JJ was ever in the NBA I use Wiggins as the poster boy for this.

Both guys had that same problem. They were longer and quicker than the guys they were defending and never focused on the little things. They could play man up against lesser competition and roll. But the rest of it? Defensive anticipation, positional D. Those were missing from the toolbox.

I think I made that point last year when watching Jaden McDaniels’s defense. He was great at the plays that he could complete with his length and quickness, but I couldn’t see that he had any real sense of positional defense or anticipated plays well.

It definitely helps if you have the physical ability to be a dominant defender, Jaylen’s the poster boy for this. He’s long, strong, and explosively athletic. And on a defensive oriented team he’s built the toolbox to be a pretty ruthless defender. Would Jaylen have become this good playing for someone like Phoenix? I have my doubts.
This is the good stuff. So regarding defense, how much more weight to you attach to the games where prospects play against other NBA level talent, with the tradeoff that there is less sample and in some cases maybe no sample? I dont remember what Simmons consensus projection on defense was when he was drafted but he has also turned out to be a beast.
 

BaseballJones

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I enjoy this call I made.
I'm so frustrated as a Syracuse fan at all the guys who have left early, gotten drafted, and then done nothing in the NBA. I get that every good college player thinks he's going to be an NBA star, but at some point they need to realize that they need a lot more work. Maybe it's better for them to do it in the D league, I don't know. But whatever these Syracuse guys are doing, doesn't seem to be working. And it has the additional effect of submarining the Orange squad, which I particularly don't like.
 

nighthob

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This is the good stuff. So regarding defense, how much more weight to you attach to the games where prospects play against other NBA level talent, with the tradeoff that there is less sample and in some cases maybe no sample? I dont remember what Simmons consensus projection on defense was when he was drafted but he has also turned out to be a beast.
Well there are three parts, you do want to see them dominate guys athletic enough to make it at the next level. Because it is evidence of the right mentality. But you want to see that guys have the physical ability, the defensive situational awareness, and that bulldog mentality. With guys like Wiggins and JJ, you really only saw the first item.
 

Cellar-Door

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I'm so frustrated as a Syracuse fan at all the guys who have left early, gotten drafted, and then done nothing in the NBA. I get that every good college player thinks he's going to be an NBA star, but at some point they need to realize that they need a lot more work. Maybe it's better for them to do it in the D league, I don't know. But whatever these Syracuse guys are doing, doesn't seem to be working. And it has the additional effect of submarining the Orange squad, which I particularly don't like.
nobody should go to Syracuse, they have a coach who has ridden a gimmick for years and who does nothing to help his players develop
 

BaseballJones

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nobody should go to Syracuse, they have a coach who has ridden a gimmick for years and who does nothing to help his players develop
Except it's a kick-ass school and a blast to be there.

But yeah, the way Boeheim coaches isn't exactly great for NBA careers. The proof is in the pudding.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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I'm so frustrated as a Syracuse fan at all the guys who have left early, gotten drafted, and then done nothing in the NBA. I get that every good college player thinks he's going to be an NBA star, but at some point they need to realize that they need a lot more work. Maybe it's better for them to do it in the D league, I don't know. But whatever these Syracuse guys are doing, doesn't seem to be working. And it has the additional effect of submarining the Orange squad, which I particularly don't like.
The really short of it is that SYR doesn't teach guys how to play defense in a way that's needed in the NBA.
 

benhogan

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I'm so frustrated as a Syracuse fan at all the guys who have left early, gotten drafted, and then done nothing in the NBA. I get that every good college player thinks he's going to be an NBA star, but at some point they need to realize that they need a lot more work. Maybe it's better for them to do it in the D league, I don't know. But whatever these Syracuse guys are doing, doesn't seem to be working. And it has the additional effect of submarining the Orange squad, which I particularly don't like.
BJ, agreed Syracuse has been particularly bad at developing good NBA players. Over the last 20 years, I'd say only two guys drafted have outperformed their draft place. Melo and Jeremi Grant. My recommendation: just avoid drafting Syracuse players. I'm pretty sure Elijah Hughes will bust this year. Sad but true

Basically, Jim Boeheim picks his best player every year, gives him 38-40mpg, and a complete green light to shoot. Every other player on the team is on a short leash. This leads to inflated counting numbers for the drafted players. When they get to the NBA as rookies they are expected to play in a system and not greenlit. They rarely add value as role players. Boeheim (like most coaches) talks up all his players when draft time comes.

Last 20yrs of drafted Cuse players:
Malachi Richardson
Micheal Carter-Williams - Rookie of the Year but journeyman since
Johnny Flynn
Tyler Lydon
Mike Gbiniji
Rakeem Christmas
Chris McCullough
Tyler Ennis
Kris Joseph
Fab Melo
Dion Waiters
Wes Johnson
Donte Green
Andy Rautins
Hakim Warrick
Demetrius Nichols

Syracuse hasn't had a sub .500 team in ~50 years (probably an ongoing record) so credit to Jimmy B for winning all those years, and riding the 2-3 zone. In reality, the talent he gets out of HS is pretty mediocre. The few times he's had a top 5 recruit (Coleman, Owens, Melo) they usually end up in a Final Four. He also deserves credit for getting guys drafted in the first place. Elijah Hughes was a 1-star HS recruit that transferred to Cuse from East Carolina 2 seasons ago.
 

lovegtm

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Wing defense is so valuable, and it’s the make-or-break skill for a lot of the guys we’re talking about.

I wonder how much, besides the coaching staff, it helps to have a steady stream of players who all go through the same thing.

The Celtics now have a streak from Smart to Jaylen to Tatum to Langford/Grant of guys being able to say “look, figure out team defense, work on lateral movement, and coach will play you all you can handle.”

In addition, there’s clearly a lot of little implicit knowledge being passed around between the wings as to how to handle different parts of D. That just doesn’t happen if you’re in Phoenix or Sac.
 

BaseballJones

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BJ, agreed Syracuse has been particularly bad at developing good NBA players. Over the last 20 years, I'd say only two guys drafted have outperformed their draft place. Melo and Jeremi Grant. My recommendation: just avoid drafting Syracuse players. I'm pretty sure Elijah Hughes will bust this year. Sad but true

Basically, Jim Boeheim picks his best player every year, gives him 38-40mpg, and a complete green light to shoot. Every other player on the team is on a short leash. This leads to inflated counting numbers for the drafted players. When they get to the NBA as rookies they are expected to play in a system and not greenlit. They rarely add value as role players. Boeheim (like most coaches) talks up all his players when draft time comes.

Last 20yrs of drafted Cuse players:
Malachi Richardson
Micheal Carter-Williams - Rookie of the Year but journeyman since
Johnny Flynn
Tyler Lydon
Mike Gbiniji
Rakeem Christmas
Chris McCullough
Tyler Ennis
Kris Joseph
Fab Melo
Dion Waiters
Wes Johnson
Donte Green
Andy Rautins
Hakim Warrick
Demetrius Nichols

Syracuse hasn't had a sub .500 team in ~50 years (probably an ongoing record) so credit to Jimmy B for winning all those years, and riding the 2-3 zone. In reality, the talent he gets out of HS is pretty mediocre. The few times he's had a top 5 recruit (Coleman, Owens, Melo) they usually end up in a Final Four. He also deserves credit for getting guys drafted in the first place. Elijah Hughes was a 1-star HS recruit that transferred to Cuse from East Carolina 2 seasons ago.
In your list, you left off one pretty important name (I'm sure by accident), a future Hall-of-Famer. Also, Owens never made a Final Four, sadly. :-(

To your list, I'm going to add drafted guys all the way through the '87 team (which is when I started following them).

Elijah Hughes
Malachi Richardson
Micheal Carter-Williams - Rookie of the Year but journeyman since
Johnny Flynn
Tyler Lydon
Mike Gbiniji
Rakeem Christmas
Chris McCullough
Tyler Ennis
Kris Joseph
Fab Melo
Dion Waiters
Wes Johnson
Donte Green
Andy Rautins
Hakim Warrick
Carmelo Anthony
Demetrius Nichols
Damone Brown
Etan Thomas
Jason Hart
John Wallace
Lawrence Moten
Conrad McRae
Richard Manning
Dave Johnson
Billy Owens
LeRon Ellis
Keith Hughes
Derrick Coleman
Sherman Douglas
Rony Seikaly
Howard Triche

That's 33 drafted players in 34 years (1987-2020). That's pretty good, especially if you go to Syracuse with the goal of being drafted. From this article, Syracuse has sent the 9th most players into the NBA:


So Boeheim is doing *something* right. Now this is about how bad these draftees at having an NBA career. I think we actually undersell these guys a little.

Carmelo - HOF career, no stats needed
Coleman - 15 years, all-star, 16.5 points, 9.3 rebounds for his career, ROY, best season: '92-93 - 20.7 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.7 blocks
Owens - 11 years, all-rookie team, 11.7 points, 6.7 rebounds for his career, best season: '93-94 - 15.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists
Douglas - 12 years, all-rookie team, 11.0 points, 5.9 assists for his career, best season: '90-91 - 18.5 points, 8.5 assists, 1.7 steals
Seikaly - 11 years, 14.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, best season: '92-93 - 17.1 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.2 blocks
Wallace - 7 years, 7.6 points, 1.9 rebounds, best season: '97-98 - 14.0 points, 4.5 rebounds
Warrick - 8 years, 9.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, best season: '06-07 - 12.7 points, 5.1 rebounds
WJohnson - 9 years, 7.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, best season: '14-15 - 9.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists
Waiters - 8 years, all-rookie team, 13.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, best season: '16-17 - 15.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists
Grant - 6 years, 9.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, best season: '18-19 - 13.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 blocks
Carter-Williams - 7 years, ROY, 10.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, best season: '13-14 - 16.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.9 steals

So it's not like the SU NBA cupboard has been bare. There's definitely been success stories. But there are just a ton of guys who have underperformed NBA expectations (as great as he was, Coleman fits this bill, as does Owens...plus a bunch more). And lately, a bunch of guys leaving school early have done virtually nothing in the league. I don't know why they keep leaving early when they're clearly not ready. Maybe they recognize that SU isn't a great place for them to develop NBA-level skills, so it's better to get drafted while the getting is good, and then develop in the D league (or whatever it's called now).

Anyway, long story short, Elijah Hughes is probably going to be a big fat nothing in the NBA.
 

bowiac

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Man, re-reading these (Jackson and Ball), these were among my better draft takes. Just glad I wasn't quoted on Jaylen Brown or Dragan Bender.
 

tbrown_01923

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They were longer and quicker than the guys they were defending and never focused on the little things. They could play man up against lesser competition and roll. But the rest of it? Defensive anticipation, positional D. Those were missing from the toolbox.

I think I made that point last year when watching Jaden McDaniels’s defense. He was great at the plays that he could complete with his length and quickness, but I couldn’t see that he had any real sense of positional defense or anticipated plays well.
Okay - objectively does this suggest stats based on "headiness", "anticipation", and "effort" like pass deflections and charges might be more predicitive? Because I agree but absent of hours in front of a TV (which i seem to be having less of as I get older) how might one identify who to look at/consider?
 

nighthob

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I can tell you that the Celtics were early adopters on the pass deflections issue as they felt it was a better marker than steals as proof of defensive ability. Charges taken are also important as it shows both anticipation and the right mentality. It takes a lot of willpower, especially for guards, to let a 240lb man crash into your chest at full speed and send you flying, so it's always one of the things I look for in game tape. I wish the people that did game highlight reels considered charges taken more worthy of attention, because to me that's a real marker of defensive IQ.
 

slamminsammya

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Man, re-reading these (Jackson and Ball), these were among my better draft takes. Just glad I wasn't quoted on Jaylen Brown or Dragan Bender.
Any commentary on where you went wrong with Brown and Bender and how if at all those misses affect your thought process on prospects in the future?
 

bowiac

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Any commentary on where you went wrong with Brown and Bender and how if at all those misses affect your thought process on prospects in the future?
With Brown, not especially; I give Danny a wider berth on seemingly questionable picks now, but I can't say what the concrete lesson is from Brown for me. It's still not a profile I'd like coming out of college (low production top athlete with a lot of fit/role/scheme excuses for why he was unproductive). Bender (and by contrast Doncic) has caused me to focus more on strength of competition and less on age. The case for Bender was that he was very productive in relatively weak league, but was so young that it was fine. If there's a lesson with him, that's probably where it lies.

Generally, I wouldn't read too much into any two prospects however. I don't consider myself a draftnik in the first place either - I don't do my own analytics there, and am just aggregating content written by others.
 

slamminsammya

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With Brown, not especially; I give Danny a wider berth on seemingly questionable picks now, but I can't say what the concrete lesson is from Brown for me. It's still not a profile I'd like coming out of college (low production top athlete with a lot of fit/role/scheme excuses for why he was unproductive). Bender (and by contrast Doncic) has caused me to focus more on strength of competition and less on age. The case for Bender was that he was very productive in relatively weak league, but was so young that it was fine. If there's a lesson with him, that's probably where it lies.

Generally, I wouldn't read too much into any two prospects however. I don't consider myself a draftnik in the first place either - I don't do my own analytics there, and am just aggregating content written by others.
That makes sense. I don't pay too much attention to the draft and even less so these days, but in the case of Doncic I remember thinking he was a slam dunk top pick that year precisely because he was an MVP level player in a top league. It is an interesting question how much the drop off is from NBA to euroleague these days.