NBA Draft Positional Battles: Direct Competitors
There's a lot of parity in this year's first round draft pool. Outside of Anthony Davis, every prospect has a positional nemesis that can offer a similar package of services. Here's a look at who each prospect will be directly competing against when scouts and GMs conduct their evaluations.
Harrison Barnes vs. Michael Kidd Gilchrist
Theme: Small Forwards with Contrast
The top two small forwards have very contrasting styles.
Barnes plays strictly on the perimeter, using his three-point shooting touch to spread the floor and midrange game to score off the dribble. A team looking to compliment its big guys or point guard with a spot-up threat and floor-spacer would likely look at Barnes. However he's not the answer for a team looking to add a top one or two scoring option. If Barnes' jumper is off that day, he's liable to be a non-factor.
On the other hand, Kidd-Gilchrist is an impact player whether his shot is on or off, and is the much better defender and leader. There's more risk associated with eating from the bowl of nuts on the bar than there is with MKG. And when selecting in the top five, it's always wiser going with what you know over what you don't.
These players matched up in the early part of the season, and the freshman MKG got the desided advantage. He also benefits from UK winning the National title. Gilchrist is probably the first one off the board, particularly after Brnes tourney performance, but Barnes could certainly be the one that ends up with the better NBA career because he's the better offensive talent.
Andre Drummond vs. Thomas Robinson
Theme: Power Athletes
Guys like Drummond and Robinson are why basketball hoop manufacturers had to create breakaway rims.
This is your heavyweight matchup. Both possess the athleticism and mobility that allow big men who lack seasoning to prosper down low. You won't find this combination of power, explosiveness and feel for the game anywhere else on the board. But Drummond and Robinson are both very different as prospects.
Drummond has the size and higher ceiling, while T-Rob is more polished and less vulnerable to underachieving. However the value of a top five pick is too high, and the thought of "wasting" one could be a little too unsettling. Though Drummond has the potential to be dominant at the next level, he also comes with considerable risk when you think about past big men with raw offensive packages.
That should be enough to make Robinson the choice, although allowing Drummond to slip too far could be a painful error in judgement.
Jeremy Lamb vs. Bradley Beal
Theme: Off-guards with Upside
If a team is looking for scoring at the off-guard slot, it's likely that Lamb and Beal will be their top two options.
Two very different builds, Lamb is long and thin while Beal is strong and compact. Lamb has the upside edge as a prolific perimeter scorer who can create moving East/West or North/South. He does have question marks about his attitude and lack of urgency, failing to fulfill go-to duties as a sophomore.
Bradley Beal has a picturesque catch and release jumper, with a frame that aces the NBA eye test. And where Lamb's inconsistency and questionable shot selection could hurt his team, Beal's strengths play to his ability to fit in and compliment his counterparts.
Beal remains the safer option with Lamb owning the higher ceiling. Just a matter of a GM's willingness to roll the dice.
Austin Rivers vs. Damian Lillard vs. Dion Waiters
The common theme between the three revolves around their scoring mentalities off the dribble. All three can handle the ball. And all three definitely think shoot before pass- not necessarily a negative assuming that's the role they're auditioning for.
Rivers has the most upside of the group with a polished overall offensive repertoire and the confidence to execute in the clutch. Some question his ability to play off the ball, but I thought he did a pretty nice job considering the adjustment from one year to the next. Still, at 6'4 with a skinny frame, there's risk associated with Rivers as a one on one scorer playing the 2.
Waiters has the most NBA ready body, with broad shoulders, upper body strength and upward explosiveness. He averaged 12.6 points in 24 minutes a game, illustrating his ability to score in bunches in dynamic fashion. He doesn't have the ceiling of Rivers or the range and consistency of Lillard, but he'll have valuable experience playing the same role in college as he's destined to play in the pros.
Lillard has just become too good of a scorer. He's only 6'2 but can throw the orange through the basket from practically any spot on the floor. Sometimes GMs fall in love with that quality, like the Kings did with Jimmer Fredette.
If you're taking Lillard it's because you think he's too good of a ball-player to pass on, regardless of physical limitations. If you're taking Rivers it's because you see him becoming your second scoring option or a punch off the bench. And if you're taking Waiters it's probably because the other two are gone, but generally because of his ability to revive a flat-lining offense.
Arnett Moultrie vs. Perry Jones
Theme: Athletic, Size that Moves
Both hover around 6'11 yet have the mobility of small forwards.
We're still trying to figure out Jones' strengths. We know about his physical tools, ball-handling skills and all around level of talent- but what is his true identity? What is he going to do to help a team at the next level? These are questions execs and coaches will be asking when they consider Perry Jones.
Arnett Moultrie's identity is a little more clear. He's a fantastic athlete who gets up and down the floor, makes plays off the ball and rebounds at a high rate. He's not someone you're going to give the ball to and say get me a bucket down 1 with time running out. But his role is defined, and that's what separates him from Jones.
Jones has the upside advantage in this one. If things do finally click for him, someone will have pulled off a robbery. Remember, it wasn't too long ago Jones was considered a candidate for 1st pick overall. But questions do remain, which can trigger hesitation from active GMs.
Myers Leonard vs. Tyler Zeller
Theme: Traditional 5s
Your true centers, ladies and gentlemen.
Leonard is the better athlete and reaches that ever-so satisfying 7-foot mark. He's shown a nice touch in the midrange as well, and maintains substantial upside considering his size and skill-set.
Zeller is different in a lot of ways, playing considerably more minutes while receiving a much higher volume of touches. Zeller has to fight for a number of his points, and has a tremendous feel for the rim regardless of his positioning. He's got some post moves that have worked for him in the past, and there's no reason to believe that can't translate to the next level.
Teams selecting between the two will have to decide which they value more: The guy who's done it on a consistent basis or the guy whose potential is higher if his ceiling is reached. Risk vs. reward, a common pickle GMs find themselves in when selecting one prospect over another.
Jared Sullinger vs. John Henson
Both men love that painted box that extended 15 feet from the baseline and 12 feet elbow to elbow. Except both excel at opposite ends of the floor.
Sullinger's strengths revolve around his offensive post game, where he's capable of using angles playing back to the basket. While his outside stroke is a work in progress, a team looking for some points in the paint is likely to go with Sullinger.
Henson's length and defensive timing is what makes him such an appealing front-line addition. Occasionally he hits a 15 footer or converts on a hook, but a team interested in Henson will be looking for rim protection.
Two post players with completely opposite selling points. Just depends what a team is looking to buy.
Doron Lamb vs. Terrence Ross
Theme: Knockdown Shooters
If there's one thing I learned as a business major, it's the idea of recognizing your core competency- "A unique ability that a company (or prospect in this case) develops that cannot be easily imitated".
Terrence Ross and Doron Lamb share the same core competency- the ability to shoot the ball. That's what they'll be selling scouts on.
When comparing the two, GMs will weigh ball-handling, poise and efficiency against size, athleticism and upside, with Ross of course possessing the latter. Lamb shot lights out at 45% from downtown compared to Ross' 37%, but remains a bigger liability defensively.
Is it worth sacrificing defense for a few three-point percentage points? A decision that will keep GMs up at night.
Moe Harkless vs. Terrence Jones
These guys have the size, athleticism and mobility to play both the 3 and the 4. Put em' on the perimeter or let em' work the post.
Harkless is smooth, and can generally operate from any spot on the floor. He's an excellent, fluid athlete that scores off tip-ins, awkward angles or in transition. Jones plays a similar game, with a more accomplished outside stroke but a motor that sparks widespread debate. Playing two years of collegiate ball is like an eternity these days, and Jones' impact has been flushed out at times thanks to a deep rotation of pro prospects.
Both guys have very similar outlooks, but Harkless' ceiling appears higher. Though it could be a few years before he becomes a consistent contributor, I'm going with Harkless over Jones. Although if you feel otherwise, I ain't mad at'cha.
Royce White vs. Jeffery Taylor
It's a luxury for a coach to be able to say, "Guard Jrue Holiday in the first quarter and Andre Iguadala in the 2nd", or " Raymond Felton you're out, Royce White, you're in".
Two versatile players that can handle multiple positions, both fit the role as serviceable rotational cogs. You can run the offense through White, who led the Cyclones in assists standing 6'8. He's also effective on the glass, pulling in 9 a game despite being not filling the position his size suggests he would.
Taylor can guard 4 positions and pose as a stretch perimeter forward after shooting 42% from downtown. He's known more for finishing plays, while White makes them happen. Same labels, different products.
Kendall Marshall vs. Marquis Teague
These are really the only true points guards worthy of first round consideration.
We know of Marshall's vision and extraordinary passing skills. Ironically his impact became magnified when he wasn't playing, as UNC struggled to run their offense with Marshall sitting in a suit.
Teague ran the point of the National Champion Wildcats, but clearly lacks the quarterback instincts and tools of Marshall. I don't even think this one is close. Marshall should be the first legitimate facilitator off the board, followed by Teague.
Follow Jon on Twitter @NBADraftnetWass
nice article, one of my favorite so far. BUT
can moultrie really be considered "a fantastic athlete". he can run the floor well and has super mobility but he's not really explosive, which you would expect from a fantastic athlete.
I don't know about you Future_Scout, but I would say Moultrie is very explosive. In the games I have seen him play, he has elevated quickly and dunked or blocked shots with ease. I think a lot of his rebounding prowess is based upon his combination of length and quick jumping ability. He also has superb quickness for a 6'11" player.
yeah id say moultrie will be one of the best atheletes selected in the lottery..
Id say Royce White should go up against Sullinger and henson. Or maybe just Sully. If you want a four....Sullinger has been the guy for the last two years. But he had a mixed season...and a lot of his limitations exposed. Im not sure his lack of hops isnt a problem....getting his shot off in the pros. I would worry. White seems to have phenomenal upside...if you feel comfortable his medication is working. He is quicker than sullinger and just as strong, probably. And Ezeli vs Fab melo.....these guys might end up more valuable than Tyler Z and Leonard. Both are huge....and I happen to love Ezeli. Hes going to be a sound defensive contributor. Jeff taylor cant really be compared to Moultre. Taylor is a three, and Moultre a sort of stretch four. Taylor is Sefalosha for sure. Moultre is not a banger...and like Perry Jones, you have to wonder how he's going to use that length.
I think Lillard's passing abilities have been underrated. He's obviously shoot first, pass second, but I think he's definitely a point guard, as opposed to Austin Rivers and Dion Waiters. Lillard CAN distribute, he averaged 4 apg last season. And he wasn't exactly loaded with a super talented supporting cast. I liked how Jimmer was mentioned when discussing Lillard, because I think that's a very good comparison (for both his passing ability and his overall value). The difference is, Lillard can rely on ballhandling and slashing scoring (a bit. He's undersized, but ELECTRIC), while Fredette's shot is unrivaled, even by Lillard.
Pretty cool how this draft has so many good positional battles.
Nice article except Lillard is a true PG. just s owed because he had to for that team to win. He will be drafted as a PG and will be the first or second pg off the draft board
I am amazed. I understand what you saw at St. Johns with Harkless. A player that was the best on his team, versatile, etc... What I do not understand is what you didn't see in Jones? I know you said it could, "go either way" but I find that offensive. Jones is 10x the player Harkless was. He has power and finesse. He is a reliable ball handler. Can shoot consistently out to 18 ft and is not terrible from 3. I understand he was inconsistant, but it doesn't rise to the level of pairing him in the same category as Harkless. I could understand maybe saying you'd take Barnes over him, but Harkless? Jones rebounds, blocks shots, and can guard 3 positions. Harkless can't. To use your own words from the Lamb/Ross part, "is it worth a few % points to give up on defense?" Just saying.
Actually Harkless can rebound, blocks shots and guard three positions. And will have a higher chance of doing so at the NBA level, as I really dont see Terrence guarding 2's or 5's in the league.
I am sorry but if you think that Tyler Zeller is a true C then there is something wrong with you. Also, your explanation for Marshall being taken over Teague was not very informative. I think Teague has a chance to go before Marshall after the combine because his measurements and workouts will be more impressive. Teague's size and athletic ability will not be far off from Westbrook and Rose on paper. Marshall may drop when his measurements scream Eric Maynor.
Very poor analysis