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The college basketball season is over, but for NBA talent evaluators, the analysis is still a long way from complete. Over the next three months, NBA front-office personnel will commence the exhaustive process of vetting draft prospects, including conducting background checks, making countless phone calls to coaches around the country and, of course, watching a ton of film.
During my time in the front office with the Phoenix Suns, I always made it a point to watch film from beyond the current season, all the way back to high school and AAU if possible. I liked doing this because it gave me a clearer idea of the progression the player made from level to level, and it allowed me to track any continuous flaws that had not been corrected. One of the reasons I had such a strong opinion on Austin Rivers, for example, was because I watched him play in high school and AAU prior to his time at Duke.
Another advantage is watching the player handle adapting to different situations and expectations. How does he handle being asked to do more or less than he's used to? How does he handle playing for a new coach in a new system? How does he handle playing with more or less talent around him? These are all important questions that decisions-makers must be able to answer as they envision how potential draftees would fit on their teams next season and beyond.
Here's a look at five draft prospects who fit five teams' needs perfectly in terms of both position and style of play.
Trey Burke | Point Guard | Michigan
NBA fit: Orlando Magic
As we near completion of Year 1 of Orlando's rebuild, the Magic have done a good job of collecting young talent of varying levels of potential. Nikola Vucevic was an absolute steal as an elite rebounder in the Dwight Howard-Andrew Bynum deal; Maurice Harkless has come on strong over the past 10 games, showing a tantalizing mix of athleticism and versatility; and Tobias Harris has taken full advantage of the playing time afforded to him since being acquired from Milwaukee. The Magic have established a culture of character, hard work and effort (necessary in a rebuild), but lack a motor for their offense, which struggles to shoot efficiently (49 percent team eFG%) and doesn't get easy scoring opportunities (23rd in corner 3-point attempts and 29th in FTA rate).
Burke would provide a significant boost on the offensive end as both a playmaker and decision-maker. One of the things that impressed me over his college career was his ability to remain poised and not lose control. Burke's dribble-penetration skills, coupled with his strength and ability to finish at the rim, will force defenses to react, allowing him to set up teammates who are more adept at finishing plays.
Victor Oladipo | Combo Guard | Indiana
NBA fit: Oklahoma City Thunder
Despite being one of the top teams in the league, the Thunder will be one of the clubs intently watching the draft lottery, as they acquired Toronto's top-three protected pick in the James Harden trade. For a team flirting with the luxury tax threshold, this pick allows the Thunder to augment their roster on a financial subsidy via the rookie-scale contract. Further, the departure of Harden left a gaping hole in Oklahoma City's bench production in terms of scoring and playmaking. While Kevin Martin has filled in admirably (14.0 PPG, 42 3P%), the Thunder still lack a consistent playmaking threat off the bench.
Oladipo is an athletic, scoring guard who can get into the paint and finish with power. He doesn't have great court vision, but he is able to get into the paint and make plays from what develops. His sheer speed and explosiveness with the ball make him tough to corral, but he definitely would add a missing element to Oklahoma City's bench. Even better, he's a terrific on-ball defender, which would give the Thunder another defensive option on the wing along with Thabo Sefolosha. As with all of the Thunder's draft picks, the pressure to come in and produce immediately won't exist as long as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are healthy, so Oladipo would have time to develop along with Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III, giving Oklahoma City a trio of young, high-caliber talents off its bench. Perhaps in a year, Oladipo and Jones would be able to run a second-unit version of the vaunted Westbrook-Durant pick-and-roll.
Michael Carter-Williams | Point Guard | Syracuse
NBA fit: Dallas Mavericks
For Dallas, the plan in 2012-13 was to make short-term investments in players who would help keep the team competitive while maintaining cap flexibility for next summer. The cap flexibility remains, but injuries, underwhelming performances by new acquisitions and stagnant development by incumbents all conspired against the Mavs' playoff hopes. (Despite a late-season surge, Dallas will miss the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.) But if there is a silver lining, it's the availability of a lottery pick that will allow the Mavs to get younger while remaining competitive with (hopefully) a healthy Dirk Nowitzki next year.
Carter-Williams has all of the tools for stardom: great size and length, high IQ, competitive spirit and good basketball pedigree (both his father and mother played, and his stepfather is one of the most successful high school coaches in New England). He is an underrated athlete, testing with a 40-inch vertical as a freshman. If the Mavs can retain O.J. Mayo (who is expected to opt out of his deal and test free agency), they could forge a big, versatile backcourt with two players who could switch off defensively and take turns offensively. Carter-Williams needs to improve his perimeter jumper and get stronger, but those are two things a lot easier to develop than work ethic and feel for the game.
C.J. McCollum | Combo Guard | Lehigh
NBA fit: Minnesota Timberwolves
The Wolves have had their fair share of bad luck with injuries this season, with Ricky Rubio coming off last season's torn ACL, Chase Budinger missing most of the season to a torn meniscus and Kevin Love succumbing to injury after injury (not to mention whatever it is that possessed them to sign Brandon Roy). But even with their full complement of players, Minnesota has been only an average offensive team at best (101.5 points per 100 possessions last season prior to Rubio injury), and has struggled mightily from the perimeter.
McCollum has been one of the best-kept secrets in college basketball the past two seasons; of course, one reason he was such a big secret in 2012-13 was because he missed most of it because of a foot injury. That shouldn't scare away the Wolves, as McCollum's ability to score from the perimeter (career 20-plus PPG scorer; 38 3P%) while still getting to the free throw line (career FTA rate more than 42 percent) is exactly what they need. He's undersized as a shooting guard, but playing him alongside Rubio would give Minnesota a versatile guard tandem with enough size to handle most opposing backcourts. An interesting development will be whether Rick Adelman returns next season and, if he doesn't, what offense replaces his system, as Adelman's "corner" sets would mesh perfectly with McCollum's skill set.
Jeff Withey | Center | Kansas
NBA fit: Chicago Bulls
Similar to the Wolves, the Bulls have endured games lost to injury: Besides the torn ACL that has kept Derrick Rose out for the season, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich have all missed time in 2012-13. While the Bulls lack scoring punch from the perimeter, one of the overlooked issues has been the lack of depth in the team's frontcourt created by the departure of Omer Asik. As a result, Tom Thibodeau has had to resort to playing extended minutes for his frontcourt (Noah averages 37.5 minutes per game, Deng 39.1), and playing Gibson out of position at the 5 while Deng plays the 4. The cumulative effect of heavy playing time and undersized matchups has worn down the Bulls frontcourt and presumably contributed to the injury situation.
Withey is almost tailor made for Chicago as an Asik replacement: He's a true 7-footer with an active, athletic body (Withey is a former volleyball player like fellow San Diego native Budinger). Plus, he's an excellent rebounder and was one of the best shot-blockers in the nation. Offensively, he's going to do most of his damage off of putbacks as well as dunks and layups off drive-and-dish plays. However, he also does a nice job of moving without the ball, utilizing weakside duck-ins and cuts to the rim.
Defensively, he would give Thibodeau a big body who is agile enough to play the "2.9" game (zoning into the paint on the weak side and exiting before the defensive three-second violation is called), while also possessing the length, explosiveness and timing to protect the rim. By playing Withey the 15 minutes per game Asik used to get, Chicago would not only buy more rest for its other bigs, but also potentially add an elite shot-blocker to its mix.
I am going to be MR OBVIOUS here but Dipo isn't a combo guard - he is a SG and going to the Thunder ? WTF
With Sefolosha and Kev Martin taking all the minutes from a very talented rookie by the name of Jeremy Lamb was stuck on the bench all season. Why would they take another SG.
I am sure most users would agree they will be taking a big
I think Presti learnt a lesson with Cole Aldrich, and will be taking the best player available, regardless of position
I agree that Sam Presti likely learned a lesson with Cole Aldrich, but I don't think that means he won't take a big guy if one is available that he thinks fits his teams needs. I think the Thunder would likely take Cody Zeller or Alex Len if they are available because they are big, athletic, and each have abilities offensively that would be useful to the Thunder. Someone who can score effectively and consistently from the post would change things up in a great way for the Thunder. Too much of their offense just comes from jump shots and the bigs they have aren't really threats in the post.
That being said, I don't think Presti will absolutely take a big guy as you said if there isn't a big he values available.
Zeller just seems like the anti Sam Presti pick to me, he's not that good of an athlete, and his severe lack of length seems to be the opposite of what he values.
The wingspan/height differential players Presti has drafted (and not traded before playing)
2007: Kevin Durant + 7.75" Jeff Green +5.5"
2008: Russell Westbrook + 5.5" Serge Ibaka + 7" (reported)
2009: James Harden + 6.75" Byron Mullens + 1.75"
2010: Cole Aldrich + 7.75"
2011: Reggie Jackson + 7-8" (reported)
2012: Perry Jones + 3.5"
Then even other guys he has acquired, Thabo Sefolosha is an easy +5-6", Perkins +6", Lamb +7" Brewer +5.5"
Even the end of the bench guys are crazy long
Orton + 7.5"
Thabeet + 5"
To me, I think Len seems like a pick we can expect... but Zeller is almost off the table for OKC imo... if we pick him, i would be expecting a trade...
I believe that Alex Len and OKC are a perfect match. OKC need low post scoring badly and Len would give them that. They could afford to have him on the second unit with collison and work him slowly until he is ready to start for Perkins where collison could help him out being a very tough player with a high bball iq and Len could learn a lot from him. I would rather him over Len be a use of his size and I feel he has more potential defensively then Zeller too IMO
Len and Tulsa more like it for the first season :(
A few years ago alot of people were shaking their heads when Orlando gambled and took the high schooler Howard over Okafor who had just won a national title and was an olympian..........But as we all know now they made the right choice..So i wonder if they get the 1st pick will they gamble on Giannis Adetubunko?
I believe that Alex Len and OKC are a perfect match. OKC need low post scoring badly and Len would give them that. They could afford to have him on the second unit with collison and work him slowly until he is ready to start for Perkins where collison could help him out being a very tough player with a high bball iq and Len could learn a lot from him. I would rather him over Zeller because of his size and I feel he has more potential defensively then Zeller too IMO
Sorry for the double post had to correct a few things
But another thought I was having.... Does anyone else think that having Vasquez and Burke on the floor at the same time would be pretty good considering the way the NBA is going more and more to small ball? Having 2 guys who can shoot and create for others would be great not to mention that they both rebound pretty decent for guards and Vasquez has good size so he may be able to guard some of the bigger guards. Not sure if I would start them together but having them together for stretches would be interesting