On Wednesday we explored 5 debates for this year’s NBA draft. Here is part 2 with five additional intriguing debates.
Two highly-touted international prospects with very contrasting playing styles.
Donatas Motiejunas is a remarkable offensive prospect, with a vast toolbox of skills for a legit 7-footer. "Motie" can operate extremely well in the post. His footwork is efficient and effortless, and allows him to shift around defenders. His soft touch and ability to finish with either hand makes him dangerous when he has deep position. There’s been some recent questions about his outside shooting ability, but he has good range and should develop consistency here in time. He is very comfortable handling the basketball with either hand and he is a very instinctual and willing passer. He’s mobile and athletic enough to play the power forward position, where his size will help him tremendously. Defensively, he isn’t ready for the NBA. He’s not much of a shot blocker and he’s a very poor defensive rebounder for a 7-footer. Still, Motie has a wealth of potential as an offensive player and he can do things that not a lot of big men can do.
Bismack Biyombo is the anti-Motie. He doesn’t possess any of the offensive attributes that the Lithuanian does. What he will bring to the NBA is power and energy. He isn’t very skilled at anything in particular, but his mammoth wingspan (measured at 7’7" at the Hoop Summit), relentless motor and explosive athleticism turn him into a potentially great defender, shot blocker and rebounder. Most people see his aggressive nature as a strength, but it’s a bit of a double-edged sword, as it gets him into a lot of foul trouble. There’s also speculation that he could be as old as 26, which would limit the potential of an already very raw prospect. With that being a mystery, teams may not be easy drafting Biyombo. Either way, he’s hard working kid (or adult/senior citizen) that is very well-spoken and polite. We’ll see if he can live up to some of the Ben Wallace/Serge Ibaka comparisons that have been bestowed upon him.
Long forwards with good scoring instincts.
Trey Thompkins is an incredibly polished offensive player. He possesses good size (measured 6’9.75" in shoes at the 2011 NBA Draft Combine) and strength for the power forward position. He is capable of doing a lot of damage with his back to the basket, looking great on either side of the hoop and showing a very soft touch around the basket. Like a lot of successful power forwards in today’s game, Thompkins can also do damage on the perimeter. He has very solid ball-handling ability and a dangerous jump shot all the way out to the college three point line. Conditioning problems are a red flag though. In terms of body fat percentage, Thompkins measured a combine-high 15.5% — a percentage that would make even John Bryant jealous. Because of his poor conditioning and underwhelming athletic ability, many people question his defensive potential at the next level.
JaJuan Johnson has shown that he too can operate on the inside. In his senior season he really made some impressive strides in his post game, including refining his hook-shot and his turnaround jumper. Both moves are greatly aided by his impressive length and soft touch. He runs and gets off the ground extremely well for a 6’10" player, which makes him a threat in transition. Some wonder if he can play as a power forward in the NBA. He weighed in at less than 220 lbs, and for obvious reasons players that lack girth tend to have trouble establishing post position in the NBA. Does he have the frame to add weight? If he doesn’t, he might fall victim to the dreaded "tweener" status as he would lack the skills to play on the perimeter and lack the strength to play in the post.
A couple of proven winners that have very high role-playing potential.
Nolan Smith is a very well-rounded combo guard. There isn’t much that he cannot do on the court. He’s a proven scorer, a good shooter and a solid playmaker. He can handle the ball and penetrate the defense or he can be a spot-up shooter and let others create for him. Defensively he is a competitor and never backs down from a challenge. He has good lateral quickness and length to help him in this area as well. Smith is considered a jack of all trades, which has its positives and negatives. Though he does everything well, he doesn’t do anything very well. That combined with his size (6’3.5" in shoes) will likely regulate him to a smaller role at the next level.
Shelvin Mack projects to be one of the en-vogue "instant offense off the bench" kind of players for a winning team in the NBA. He has excellent shooting mechanics and the ability to create his own shot with ease, despite not having great speed or quickness. On the perimeter, Mack shows a lot of confidence when pulling up off the dribble. He also has the ability to drive, using his strength to absorb contact and finish at the rim. His size is poor for a shooting guard (6’2.5 in shoes), but the Mavericks did just win a championship with key role-players like JJ Barea and Jason Terry, so there may be teams willing to overlook this in the late 1st round.
One 6’10" international sharp-shooting forward against… another 6’10" international sharp-shooting forward.
Nikola Mirotic has a lot of appeal as a scoring role-player. He’s a talented shooter from the three-point arc in, with a smooth release and a high arc. If I had to pick one adjective to describe his ability in the post, it would be "crafty". He’s very slippery in that he finds ways to elude his defenders (e.g. pump fakes, spin moves, etc…). Mirotic also displays good guard skills. He’s a smart passer and a capable ball handler, though he excels working off the ball in spot-up situations. At the moment, Mirotic’s biggest concern is his buyout situation. Whatever team drafts him may have to wait a few years before bringing him over and onto an NBA roster.
Davis Bertans kind of burst onto everybody’s radar at the Hoop Summit this year. He created a buzz with his size, mobility and impressive shooting ability. Some even went so far as to compare him to Dirk Nowitzki. While chances are Bertans won’t be winning any NBA Finals MVPs in the near future, there is a lot to like about his game. He is one of those players that can come into the game off the bench and instantly add some momentum with a few three point baskets. His shooting mechanics are superb, with a high and lightning-quick release. He’s one of the best shooters in the draft this year, but that’s really his only offensive skill at this point. Keep in mind that he’s only 18 years old, so he has some time to diversify his game and become more than a one dimensional player.
An NBA ready defender vs. a versatile wing with a lot of promise.
Chris Singleton is a lock-down defensive player that has the potential to guard four different positions in the NBA. His lateral foot-speed is outstanding and he has great length and strength on top of it. His physical ability combines with his hustle, toughness and anticipation to make a force of a defender. He blocks a ton of shots (1.5 blocks per game in 2010-2011), forces a ton of turnovers (2.0 SPG) and is a great rebounder for his position (6.8 RPG). He won’t contribute much offensively initially, as his jump shot is wildly inconsistent and his ball-handling ability is unrefined, but he’s showing improvement in these areas which can help justify a team taking him in the late lottery to mid-1st round.
Tyler Honeycutt is a long, intelligent wing player that could pay dividends for a team in the future. Right now the positive impact he’ll have in the NBA could be limited by his lack of strength (weighed in at only 187 lbs at the combine), but he has a great deal of natural ability could eventually become something special. Honeycutt has a high basketball IQ, excellent athleticism, an intuitive passing ability and a rapidly improving jump shot. He’s also a solid defender, and an abnormally gifted shot-blocker (2.1 BPG) for a shooting guard/small forward.