They Smell Like the Future: Eric Maynor

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 24, 2009 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images.

VCU Senior
6′3.25”, 164 lbs. (Combine measurements)
22 years old
Point guard
Projection: Late 1st round

Eric Maynor is not a sexy pick.  He’s seriously lacking in the star power department, he doesn’t have the intrigue of a Jeff Teague or the pedigree of a Ty Lawson.  In many regards, Maynor is an inferior prospect to the other point guards in the draft.  But with the Mavs sitting pretty at #22, Maynor’s starting to look like an awfully nice player.

One of the reasons why Maynor doesn’t have the buzz or the hype of other prospects is because he lacks the one defining, marketable characteristic.  Ricky Rubio: flash; Tyreke Evans: size; Ty Lawson: champion; Stephen Curry: shooter.  What is Eric Maynor?  Well, he’s a point guard.  He can score, he can shoot, he can make plays, and he can D up a little bit.  But he’s not the best shooter in the draft, nor is he the best playmaker, or the best defender at the point.  Considering where the Mavs are in this draft, expecting otherwise would seem unreasonable.

What Maynor lacks in singular excellence he more than makes up for in overall sturdiness.  While it may be difficult to pinpoint an aspect of the game in which he stands above all else, it’s also tough to single out specific weaknesses.  He’s merely an average defender, and his shooting could definitely improve.  But given what he can bring on the offensive end (playmaking, savvy, creativity, scoring), aren’t those acceptable shortcomings?

The key for everyone outside the top 5 (if that) in the 2009 draft will be to find bonafied players, guys who can fill their spot in a rotation, become a contributor, and not be a burden.  Maynor may be the patron saint of the safe pick.  There is no way that he’ll pan out as anything less than a solid back-up at point guard, which is likely what the Mavs would expect from a prospect with a bigger name.  He won’t lead your team to the promised land, but Eric Maynor may very well be the guy to lead an offense, night-in and night-out, for the next decade.

Pro-level Projections:

I’ve asked Jon Nichols of Basketball-Statistics.com to use his Box Score Prediction System (BSPS) to project career numbers for Maynor.  The values given are career averages per 36 minutes, considering that per minute statistics at least partially eliminate variables such as abnormal playing time, lack of opportunity, etc.  The projections are based on Maynor’s four-year career at VCU.  For comparison’s sake, I’ve dug up some other players who have averaged similar numbers over their careers (click here for an enlarged chart):

(Note: the years indicated in the chart refer to the last year of the season played.  For examples, the 2004-2005 season will be marked 05.)

J.J. Barea pops up as a comparison yet again, and this time it’s actually encouraging.  Maynor essentially has the attribute that Barea desperately needs to legitimize his run towards starterdom: height.  Would Barea not be a fine heir apparent if he had Maynor’s size?  The Kirk Hinrich comparison also seems kind to Maynor, effectively balancing out the Beno Udrih snipe.

For what it’s worth, Maynor is projected as having the highest FTAs of the lot, and the lowest turnovers.  His percentages are solid, and his projected assist numbers are about what you’d expect.

There’s nothing wrong with going with the “safe” pick, especially if its Maynor.  The Mavs desperately need their draft picks from this point forward to pan out, and going with a sure thing like Eric Maynor, while not trendy, may be a step out of the Nick Fazekas/Maurice Ager darkness and into the light.

They Smell Like the Future: Austin Daye

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 22, 2009 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images.

Gonzaga Sophomore
6′10.75”, 192 lbs. (Combine measurements)
21 years old
Small forward
Projection: Mid-late 1st round
Combine Interview

Austin Daye doesn’t exactly fit the Mavs’ needs like a glove.  He’s a 6-10 small forward, which as you may recall is a position currently occupied by Josh Howard.  Daye obviously won’t be running the offense, he can’t fill the void at shooting guard (unless that meant Howard could be moved to the 2), and he isn’t going to be defending centers anytime soon.

In the spirit of the NBA draft, we’ve now covered what Daye is not.  What Daye is, though, is a pretty intriguing talent.  He’s a very versatile offensive player and an excellent shooter.  His knuckles rub on the ground when he walks, and he’s got some serious size.

Digging for stars in this draft is going to get you nowhere.  Instead, teams need to bank on talent and production to pan out with rotation players, with second tier guys to supplement their team’s core.  Austin Daye is a perfect prospect for that set of expectations.  He’s still far too thin to be dominant at 6’10”, and lacks both the strength and speed that would make him a superior NBA small forward.  His athletic abilities aren’t anything to write home about, but his height helps him compensate for that weakness defensively.  Daye’s knack as a scorer helps him from just about any spot on the floor; his three point stroke is pure, and his finishing ability is solid.  He’s a do-it-all offensive small forward with plenty of potential.  Daye’s blessing and his curse are one in the same: his versatility is more likely to result in a still very respectable Lamar Odom-esque career than a LeBron James one.  He has the talent to be a fantastic player, but his skill set and lack of brawn could send a team on all sorts of tangents trying to find his place on the floor.

I have a feeling that Daye would thrive in a role similar to Odom’s.  With two proven scorers ahead of Daye in the food chain, he could thrive as an offensive jack-of-all trades.  The Mavs have that with Dirk and JET, just as the Lakers do with Kobe and Pau Gasol.  Still, like Lamar Odom, teams may find Daye to be a bit mind-boggling.  He’s not a very aggressive player on either end, and that style may be confused for a lack of effort.  The skills are all there, and the notion that Daye wouldn’t seek to utilize them at all times is a bit confusing to some.  It’s one of the things that comes with the package, and given what Daye can bring to a team, I think it’s well worth it.

The biggest obstacle in terms of drafting Daye will be the Phoenix Suns at 14.  The Suns are rumored to be very interested, and have brought Daye in for workouts.  But if Daye manages to slip past the Suns for whatever reason, he could certainly slip into a freefall.  The incredible parity throughout the first round means that many teams are going to be high on very different players.  If there is no general consensus on Daye, it seems very plausible that he could still be on the board when the Mavs pick at 22.

I’m sold on Daye’s potential, but it’ll take some time before he’s ready to accept offensive responsibility in the NBA.  There’s a reason he was rocking the t-shirt look on the college court; Daye is so lean that his height won’t be useful in the post until he bulks up.  In the short-term, Daye can spot-up on the perimeter, take bigs off the dribble, and finish around the basket.  Not a bad set of skills, but only a glimpse of what Daye can bring to the table as a pro.

Pro-Level Projections:

I’ve asked Jon Nichols of Basketball-Statistics.com to use his Box Score Prediction System (BSPS) to project career numbers for Daye.  The values given are career averages per 36 minutes, considering that per minute statistics at least partially eliminate variables such as abnormal playing time, lack of opportunity, etc.  The projections are based on Daye’s two-year career at Gonzaga.  For comparison’s sake, I’ve dug up some other players who have averaged similar numbers over their careers (click here for an enlarged chart):

(Note: the years indicated in the chart refer to the last year of the season played.  For examples, the 2004-2005 season will be marked 05.)

Finding comparisons for Daye was tricky; he rebounds at a rate superior to most small forwards, and has enough range to disqualify most bigs.  That left one player in Daye’s range that had both size/rebounding and a sweet shooting stroke: Rasheed Wallace.  Wallace is a fitting comparison for Daye, despite the fact that Sheed is a power forward/center and Daye a more natural wing.  Just as Rasheed has puzzled teams with his playing style and tendencies, Daye may get on some nerves with his unwillingness to dominate.  What separates Daye from a player of Wallace’s caliber is defense.  Sheed is one of the better interior defenders of this era, combining strength and size with decent speed and shot-blocking instincts.  Daye is more likely to come out an average defender, albeit one who gets his fair share of blocks.

Heard It Through the Pre-Draft Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 20, 2009 under xOther | Read the First Comment

General

  • Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Blazers have legitimate interest in Jason Kidd.  Boot up the trade machine!
  • Nick Prevenas of NBADraft.net: “The 2009 draft frequently draws comparisons to the 2000 draft — otherwise known as the worst draft in NBA history. Kenyon Martin (a player eerily similar to Griffin) went No. 1 overall, but never developed into the dominant power forward we expected to see after his career at Cincinnati was stopped short by a broken leg. He turned into a key cog in the Denver Nuggets’ run to the Western Conference Finals, but injuries have held back a potentially promising career. The rest of that draft was just dreadful. Marcus Fizer? Keyon Dooling? Jerome Moiso? Courtney Alexander? Lottery picks. Seriously…Is this year’s draft that bad? At this point, I’m leaning no. However, it is the type of draft where a team would much rather pick in the 15-25 range than from 4-13…[Jrue] Holiday — along with guys like Tyreke Evans, DeMar DeRozan, Stephen Curry, Jordan Hill, Jeff Teague, and so on — are seeing their stock artificially inflated because of the lack of competition.”
  • Matt Kamalsky of Draft Express breaks down the shooting guards in the draft (notably Marcus Thornton, Terrence Williams, Jeff Teague) by the numbers.
  • John Hollinger’s Draft Rater is very high on Ty Lawson, Austin Daye, and Nick Calathes, three prospects which have been linked to the Mavs via rumors or simply availability.  The three came in as the 1st, 4th, and 6th best collegiate prospects respectively, outclassing plenty of their lottery-bound draftmates.  Jordan Hill and Patty Mills are listed as potential disappointments.  Hollinger willingly admits that the Rater has missed the boat entirely on some prospects, so keep in mind that prospect hunting is hardly a science.

Ty Lawson

  • The Nets’ GM, Kiki Vandeweghe, gave a glowing review of Lawson following his workout in Jersey: “To me, it’s more of what the guy has inside. It’s more about speed, quickness…At the end of the day, that’s what basketball is. Would you like to have taller players on your team? Yeah, it’s basketball…But having said that, this guy I think is one of the more ready guys to play. If he comes in, he helps a team, no question about it…First of all, he’s very strong…If you look at the history, he makes other players better, knows how to play. If you go back through the history of our league, guys who were very strong that way — no matter what size they are — they find a way to compete at their position. I think he really helps a team.”
  • Dave Berri also makes the case for Lawson.  That’s not one, but two of the most prominent stat heads in the field on Lawson’s side.  Ty also has all of the “heart of a champion” rhetoric and anecdotal evidence he could possibly need.  Considering that all that really seems to stand between Lawson and a guaranteed spot in the lottery are his measurables, can the Mavs really expect him to tumble to 22?

Jordan Hill

  • The Knicks may have some interest in Hill at 8, so if the Mavs are content with moving up in the draft to snag him, they’d best play it safe and aim for Washington’s 5th pick.  Then again, maybe they shouldn’t be doing that at all for the likes of Jordan Hill.  And then again, maybe Hill has convinced the Wizards to stick around in the lottery.

Jeff Teague

  • Michael Stephenson, in a guest post for TrueHoop: “Teague had the purest stroke and hit his jumper most consistently in the drills and during the scrimmage…But it was obvious that he’s a level behind and had trouble keeping up with his peers. In an extremely guard heavy draft, I imagine it’s going to be tough for him to turn many heads.”  The peers that Stephenson describes are Jonny Flynn, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Jrue Holiday, and Tyreke Evans.
  • John Givony, of DraftExpress fame, wrote a feature on point guards for NBA.com.  Conveniently absent from Givony’s superlatives is Jeff Teague, and there’s a reason for that: Teague is not, and likely will never be, a conventional point guard.  Asking Teague to run the show is akin to asking a young Jason Terry of the same

Terrence Williams


via Detroit Bad Boys via Dime

  • The Mavs certainly have competition for the services of Terrence Williams.  The Nets seem awfully high on him, and the Bobcats would not only make sense (Williams seems like a Larry Brown kinda guy), but be entirely possible with the 12th pick.
  • Williams knows how to win over the hearts and minds of NBA coaches, teammates, and die-hards: defense.  It’s what separates him from the rest of the talent pool the Mavs may face with the 22 pick, and Williams has the size, the resolve, and the athleticism to be a fantastic defender in the big leagues.

They Smell Like the Future: Patty Mills

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 12, 2009 under Commentary | 6 Comments to Read

Photo by AP Photo/Dino Vournas.

St. Mary’s Sophomore
6′0”, 175 lbs. (Combine measurements)
20 years old
Point guard
Projection: 2nd round (will likely go back to school)
Combine interview
Interview from  workout in Golden State

Patrick/Patty/Pat Mills is the dark side of Tony Parker.  He’s an incarnation of the little demon on TP’s shoulder telling him to jack up ill-advised jumpers, or to execute out-of-control drives.  Essentially, he’s Tony as a rookie with delusions of jumpshooting grandeur.  All the skills are present for Mills to be a wonderful scoring point guard, but without the expert hand of a Gregg Popovich and the steady support of a Tim Duncan on his side, no one can say whether Mills is fated to follow Parker on the path to stardom or drift into irrelevancy.

Unless Mills gets a guarantee from a team late in the first round, odds are he’ll be back at St. Mary’s next season.  That should be a positive move for Mills’ career.  Patty still has plenty to prove on an individual level before he’s ready to start on the path to success in the big leagues.  He needs to develop his playmaking skills, work on running the offense in the half-court game, and bring his shot attempts down (particularly the contested threes).  Mills is a fine shooter and should be excellent in the pull-up game as a pro, but considering he has some of the quickest feet in college basketball, he should really be getting to the rim more.  Having a shot that can space the floor is an important trait for a lead guard, but Mills needs to use his quickness to both create easy baskets for himself and draw in the defense to relieve his teammates of tight defense.  That is certainly within Mills’ power, but thus far exercising the kind of restraint that could make him an excellent point guard hasn’t been Mills’ strong suit. 

There’s nothing wrong with scoring from the point guard position. Tony Parker is the perfect evidence that having a scoring point can still be part of a championship formula.  But if Patty Mills is going to emulate Parker’s success, he needs to understand what makes TP such an effective player.  If any player that monopolizes the ball is going to reach success on a team level, they need to be either an efficient distributor, an efficient scorer, or optimally, both.  Parker is able to score at a very efficient rate because he uses his speed to augment his ability to finish at the basket, and that skill forces entire defenses to take notice of his movements.  The assists come as a result of his scoring.  If Mills remains inclined to stick to his pull-up game and overly reliant on the long ball, he’ll be much more Aaron Brooks than Tony Parker.  In the context of these playoffs, that’s not too bad.  But as far as long-term prospects as a NBA point guard, that certainly qualifies as a disappointment.  It’s up to Mills to put all the pieces together, because for the moment, he’s very much an incomplete player.

Pro-Level Projections:

I’ve asked Jon Nichols of Basketball-Statistics.com to use his Box Score Prediction System (BSPS) to project career numbers for Mills.  The values given are career averages per 36 minutes, considering that per minute statistics at least partially eliminate variables such as abnormal playing time, lack of opportunity, etc.  The projections are based on Mills’ two-year career at St. Mary’s.  For comparison’s sake, I’ve dug up some other players who have averaged similar numbers over their careers (click here for an enlarged chart):

(Note: the years indicated in the chart refer to the last year of the season played.  For examples, the 2004-2005 season will be marked 05.)

Those are definitely some interesting points of comparison.  Mavs fans should be quite familiar with what Jason Terry brings to the table, and there are definitely similarities between Mills and Terry.  I doubt that Mills can ever become quite the shooter that JET is today, but both are very quick scoring guards with sweet shooting strokes from midrange and deep, and neither is particularly adept at finishing around the rim or being a true point guard.  Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson are interesting comparisons, but I fear that Mills’ height renders them invalid.  Johnson and Crawford are both built to be off-guards, while Mills is coming in at 6’0” flat.  That’s going to make everything a bit more difficult as a pro, and to expect Mills to match those two (Johnson in particular) in production seems a bit misguided.

They Smell Like the Future: Darren Collison

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 10, 2009 under Commentary | 6 Comments to Read

Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images.

UCLA Senior
6′1.5”, 166 lbs.
21 years old
Point guard
Projection: Late 1st round/early 2nd round

Darren Collison is a point guard.  He’s probably even a point guard’s point guard.  And though he likely won’t pan out as a star, he has plenty to offer any team in the league.

The Mavs essentially have had two workout crops: players projected to go late in the 1st or early in the 2nd round and prospects likely to go undrafted.  Collison, a fairly high-profile candidate from one of the nation’s top schools, clearly falls in the former.  To be frank, he’d be a pretty good value at the 22nd pick.  At 22 in any given year, drafting a career starter or a career second string guy is the goal.  You just want to dodge the Zoran Planinic land mines.  So despite the fact that Collison will never be an All-Star point guard, he could definitely turn out to be the rock steady point that many a championship team has leaned on in the past.  Collison, though undersized, was a tremendous defender in college.  He’s quick enough to stick with almost anyone, and his defensive focus and intensity may be unparalleled as far as point guards in this draft.  Darren Collison is also a tremendously heady basketball player, stone-cold and unshakeable in his ability to to his damn job.  Darren Collison is a point guard.  There is no confusion about his role on the basketball court or which responsibilities are his.  He runs a team and he executes the offense, and in that regard he’s a stellar prospect.

I’ve grown fond of J.J. Barea.  He slays giants with his razor sharp will alone.  But he offers a completely different package than Collison does.  Situationally, is it so bad to pack both punches?  A defensive-minded guy to come in and right the ship, and a bit of a wild card that’s capable of busting out for 20?  Having three point guards too often creates issues of confidence and opportunity, but from a rotation standpoint, I don’t see the downside in having options on the bench.  Collison is a more realistic long-term option as a potential starting point (post-Kidd) than Barea is, and offers the Mavs the ever-elusive point guard defender that they’ve been missing since Devin Harris’ departure.

Pro-Level Projections:

I’ve asked Jon Nichols of Basketball-Statistics.com to use his Box Score Prediction System (BSPS) to project career numbers for Collison.  The values given are career averages per 36 minutes, considering that per minute statistics at least partially eliminate variables such as abnormal playing time, lack of opportunity, etc.  The projections are obviously based on Collison’s four-year career at UCLA.  For comparison’s sake, I’ve dug up some other players who have averaged similar numbers over their careers (click here for an enlarged chart):

(Note: the years indicated in the chart refer to the last year of the season played.  For examples, the 2004-2005 season will be marked 05.)

Nothing special here, but nothing to scoff at.  Antonio Daniels was a nice player during his time in Seattle, and I’ve been impressed with Ronnie Price’s production in his young career.  My money’s on Collison becoming an even better pro than any of these three.  Collison shares the defensive prowess of a young Daniels or Hunter, but is far more reliable on the offensive end in terms of his shot selection and ability to facilitate the offense.

They Smell Like the Future: Curtis Jerrells

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 9, 2009 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

Baylor Senior
6′1”, 200 lbs.
22 years old
Point guard
Projection: Undrafted
Highlights (07-08)

Thus far, the Mavs have worked out point guards and centers almost exclusively, likely in an effort to discover a valuable undrafted commodity a la J.J. Barea.  Curtis Jerrells is next in line in the point guard flock, a senior from Baylor with a quick first step and nice finishing abilities.  Unfortunately, that quickness he had in college won’t be nearly as pronounced in the NBA, and Jerrells may be left with little to show for an NBA career. 

I see a bit of a comparison between Jerrells and Philadelphia’s Louis Williams.  Jerrells is great at penetrating but in truth, he has trouble making plays if he’s not diving into the lane.  NBA defenders are bigger, faster, and stronger than their college counterparts, and Curtis’ opportunities to get into the lane will be affected as such.  His jumpshot is spotty at best, meaning CJ pans out as a point guard who doesn’t do anything particularly well on the offensive end in match-ups where his speed is negated.  He’s fast, but I doubt he’s fast enough to make a consistent impact.

Jerrells’ game really hinges on his speed.  He needs to show improvement as a distributor and a shooter if he wants to be able to run an NBA offense full-time.  Right now he seems to pan out as a nice back-up point, and perhaps a difference-maker when playing against slow-footed opponents like Steve Nash or Jose Calderon.  But for now, Curtis is a point guard without much range, and yet one that often resorts to taking ill-advised jumpers because of his lack of passing ability in a motion half-court game.  Jerrells was meant to run, and when the game gets bogged down his effectiveness does as well.

If the Mavs are looking for a third guard for the time being, I think Jerrells could be a good fit.  Maybe CJ is quicker than I think he is, and that skill combined with some work on his shooting could give the Mavs another option that is a bit taller than Barea.  But if the Mavs are looking for a defensive stopper of any kind, they need to look elsewhere.  The extra inch or so he has on Barea doesn’t mean all that much, and though Jerrells has the quickness to be at least a decent NBA defender, he never really made anything of his speed as a defender in college. 

Pro-Level Projections:

I’ve asked Jon Nichols of Basketball-Statistics.com to use his Box Score Prediction System (BSPS) to project career numbers for Jerrells.  The values given are career averages per 36 minutes, considering that per minute statistics at least partially eliminate variables such as abnormal playing time, lack of opportunity, etc.  The projections are obviously based on Jerrells’ four-year career at Baylor.  For comparison’s sake, I’ve dug up some other players who have averaged similar numbers over their careers (click here for an enlarged chart):

(Note: the years indicated in the chart refer to the last year of the season played.  For examples, the 2004-2005 season will be marked 05.)

Interestingly enough, Barea popped up as a similar player to Jerrells.  Though note the discrepenacies: the marked difference in assists, and even Barea’s edge in rebounding.  In the past year, we’ve seen enough of Barea to know that he’s a sturdy back-up point guard.  He’s undersized, but he works incredibly hard.  He can contest every shot, but he does draw offensive fouls.  And, for what it’s worth, he’s a slightly better scorer and passer than Jerrells.  I think CJ can offer something similar to Barea’s burst of energy off the bench, but until he showcases his quickness on the next level, I remain unconvinced.

They Smell Like the Future: Bamba Fall

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 8, 2009 under Commentary | 4 Comments to Read


Photo by AP Photo/Lance Murphey.

SMU Senior
7′1”, 200 lbs.
22 years old (turns 23 later this month)
Center
Projection: 2nd round/undrafted

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: seven footer from Senegal and Oak Hill Academy seems like a solid defensive prospect but never shows the ability to be an offensive threat.  Bamba Fall, you are the ghost of DeSagana Diop’s past. 

At the risk of sounding redundant, I’m going to say that Bamba Fall isn’t an offensive threat in the paint.  In fact, he and Texas A&M prospect Chinemelu Elonu are very similar in many facets, with Elonu getting a slight edge despite his shorter stature and dubious availability.  You should know the drill by now: both are big bodies that could help the Mavs defensively, but don’t appear to be projects or prospects worthy of heavy investment or consideration.  They’re not even on the level of Dikembe Mutombo or Hasheem Thabeet comparisons, because they’re more in the realm of Diop.  Both, at best, would be insurance policies to protect the Mavs from a roster flake-out or a Ryan Hollins implosion.  Hollins appears to be a much better prospect at this point, despite his generally poor rebounding numbers.  His energy and athleticism in the front court give the Mavs something that Fall (or Elonu) cannot.

The thing with prospects from small-time programs is that you need to ask “why?”  Some players simply elect to attend a smaller school for educational, familial, or monetary reasons, but others are forced to play for less prestigious basketball schools because they didn’t have the chops as freshmen.  Obviously not all players from big schools pan out, but those teams typically have the faculties and means to scout high school prospects with a great amount of depth.  In his four years at SMU, has Fall shown anything that would make a bigger program sigh with regret?  Has he shown the kind of development you’d expect from a four-year college player?  The easy answer is no.  I’m sure Fall has improved since his freshman year at SMU, but even as of now I think Fall wouldn’t start on a vast majority of NCAA teams.  He has the height to be a productive, if not dominant college player, but hasn’t been able to take advantage of that against smaller, weaker college opponents.  SMU is in Conference USA, which is definitely one of the weaker conferences in Division I (Memphis excluded, of course); Fall’s inability to find great success despite that level of competition doesn’t bode well for his pro prospects.

I don’t mean to rip into smaller schools, less prestigious basketball schools, or the players that wear their uniforms.  There are plenty of players who have been able to find professional success after playing for a smaller school.  However, those players were usually excellent as collegiate athletes, a standard to which Bamba falls short.  There’s a reason why Bamba Fall was playing at SMU.

Pro-Level Projections:

I’ve asked Jon Nichols of Basketball-Statistics.com to use his Box Score Prediction System (BSPS) to project career numbers for Fall.  The values given are career averages per 36 minutes, considering that per minute statistics at least partially eliminate variables such as abnormal playing time, lack of opportunity, etc.  The projections are obviously based on Fall’s four-year career at SMU.  For comparison’s sake, I’ve dug up some other players who have averaged similar numbers over their careers (click here for an enlarged chart):

(Note: the years indicated in the chart refer to the last year of the season played.  For examples, the 2004-2005 season will be marked 05.)

This is as expected; Fall would be an end-of-the-bench guy at best, the last big man on a team.  Don’t let Fabricio Oberto’s success as a member of the Spurs fool you, he was never a very productive player in the NBA.  Bamba Fall won’t have the opportunity that Oberto did, and likely won’t stick in the league.

They Smell Like the Future: Chinemelu Elonu

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

Texas A&M Junior
6′10”, 235 lbs.
22 years old
Power forward/center
Projection: 2nd round/undrafted, may return to school

Chinemelu Elonu is among a handful of other Texas prospects the Mavs have worked out, and would appear to be a Ryan Hollins insurance policy.  Big men will always be at a premium in the NBA, because even at their most raw they can be capable of making an impact with rebounding and shot-blocking.  Going to work on the offensive block requres great coordination, tremendous balance, soft hands, and rehearsed footwork.  All blocking a shot requires is the right sense of timing and favorably a long arm to swat with.

So few teams have true post scorers at power forward or center that “interior defense” has come to be defined as the ability to limit and contest both deep penetration and second-chance opportunities.  Ideally, you want to be able to guard Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, Shaq, or Yao Ming when they get within feet of the basket, but the current premiums are on help-side shot blocking and defensive rebounding.  Luckily for Chinemelu Elonu, those are two areas where he is relatively successful.  Elonu isn’t anything special on offense, with most of his points in college coming off of uncontested looks or layups/dunks against undersized competition.  He’s a low-attempt guy who isn’t going to use up a lot of possessions.  What Elonu does bring to the table is length and size in the paint; 6’10” isn’t ideal, but Elonu has more meat on his bones than the rail-thin Ryan Hollins, providing him a frame more conducive to the game down low.

With the right opportunity and training, I can see Elonu becoming an impact defensive player, akin to DeSagana Diop during his best years with the Mavs.  That’s not a cure-all, but it’s also not a bad find for a 2nd round pick or an undrafted free agent.  However, he will never be the type of interior scorer that Mavs fans have been craving since Day 1.  If the Mavs don’t feel like Brandon Bass’ status with the team is secure, plan on trading Erick Dampier, or aren’t pleased with Ryan Hollins’ chances as a potential rotation player, they could definitely take a look at Elonu.  I doubt he’ll stay in the draft if he doesn’t get some kind of guarantee (at least one other team, the Blazers, have worked him out), but if Chin is satisfied with a second round selection, that could work for both parties.

Pro-Level Projections:

I’ve asked Jon Nichols of Basketball-Statistics.com to use his Box Score Prediction System (BSPS) to project career numbers for Elonu.  The values given are career averages per 36 minutes, considering that per minute statistics at least partially eliminate variables such as abnormal playing time, lack of opportunity, etc.  The projections are obviously based on Elonu’s three-year career at TAMU.  For comparison’s sake, I’ve dug up some other players who have averaged similar numbers over their careers (click here for an enlarged chart):

(Note: the years indicated in the chart refer to the last year of the season played.  For examples, the 2004-2005 season will be marked 05.)

Personally, I think the first two comparisons are a bit kind.  Tyson Chandler and Joakim Noah are very good players, and each possesses unique skills that Elonu cannot match.  Chandler has the height, length, and athleticism to match up with the league’s best bigs and defend the basket, and Noah has both quick hands and feet that allow him to swipe at everything and keep up after being switched onto a faster player.  Chinemelu Elonu doesn’t have any of those traits.  He isn’t notably tall or quick for a pro, and his shot-blocking numbers were nothing notable.  But, like Chandler, I can see Elonu being a bit of a late bloomer.  Whether or not he can survive in the NBA despite a slow start is anyone’s guess, but as Elonu learns the nuances of defensive positioning he will become more and more valuable.  If a team is able to store him on their D-League affiliate (particularly a system D-League affiliate like the Spurs’ Toros or the Lakers’ D-Fenders), he could definitely be a long-term contributor.  He likely won’t be able to match Chandler’s defensive prowess at his peak nor Noah (or Amundson, for that matter)’s activity level, but he could definitely be an effective defender and rebounder.

Saying All the Right Things, and Seeing Some of the Right Numbers

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 6, 2009 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

I didn’t have a chance to attend the NBA Draft combine first-hand, but plenty of my blogger compatriots provided the eyes and ears on the scene.  Graydon and Tim got the ball rolling at 48 Minutes of Hell, but other bloggers sat down with players in the Mavs’ draft range:

Also, as part of ESPN’s D.R.A.F.T. Initiative (a needless acronym for an in-depth study of the draft), a nameless analyst crunched the numbers on player value based on draft position and by team history (both are accessible to ESPN Insiders only, I believe).  Neither is very optimistic.  Both analyses are based on John Hollinger’s Estimated Wins Added (EWA) metric, a step beyond PER and Value Added (VA) that measures the comparative worth of any player over generic replacement-level talent.  Oddly enough, pick number 22 is tied for the lowest EWA in the entire first round.  In all honesty, this means little; just that in drafts past, the players chosen at 22 haven’t been all that great.  The fact that many late first round selections match or trump the EWA of earlier draft positions should actually give Mavs’ fans great comfort; drafting earlier hardly guarantees a productive player, and drafting later hardly guarantees the opposite.

The team-specific data and grading is another beast entirely.  Teams were ranked based on EWA above or below the expected EWA at each of that team’s picks (to prevent penalty for consistently drafting late in the draft and prevent bonus for consistently picking in the lottery).  Based on that standard, the Mavs ranked 20th out of 30 teams in the last 20 years.  That said, most of the picks that sandbag the Mavs’ ranking took place before Donnie Nelson took over basketball ops in 1998.  Though Donnie is hardly considered a draft prodigy, the Mavs have enough value picks in addition to their two big hits (Dirk and Josh Howard) in that time to propel the Mavs’ EWA through the draft well into the black.  In fact, if you compare the Mavs’ net EWA (actual EWA as compared to expected EWA) during Donnie’s tenure to the other teams’ 20-year rankings, the Mavs would be safely in the top 10.  One incredible player can easily counter a half-decade of failed picks, and that should be taken into account when properly digesting the D.R.A.F.T. Initiative’s numbers.  But if we’re comparing Donnie Nelson to his peers over his tenure, I find that Donnie may be looked on more favorably than one would expect.

They Smell Like the Future: Marcus Thornton

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 4, 2009 under Commentary | 4 Comments to Read

Photo by AP Photo/Bill Feig.

LSU Sophomore
6’3.75”, 194 lbs. (Combine measurements)
21 years old
Shooting guard
Projection: Late 1st round/Early 2nd round
Highlights
Combine Interview

Marcus Thornton is the first legit NBA prospect the Mavs have worked out to date, and he could easily be selected in the 20+ range of the first round.  And, compared to many other prospects, Thornton has me pretty excited.

Thornton won’t be a star.  He’s not versatile or dynamic enough to be a top-level player or a ticket draw.  But he was a very good college player that can be a contributor from the wing in the NBA.  If Mavs fans are pining for Courtney Lee, Thornton may be the closest thing in the 2009 draft.  Marcus has the skills of a prototypical 2 guard, with the ability to shoot confidently from all over the court, finish strong at the basket, and not be a liability on defense.  That’s the main divergence between Lee and Thornton: Lee was able to become a go-to wing defender as a rookie, whereas Thornton may never be that in his career.  But their offensive games show similarities, with the only difference being Thornton’s relative weakness on the pull-up jumper.

Is that enough of a buzz-kill for you?  That Thornton may be Courtney Lee without Lee’s most attractive attribute?  It shouldn’t be.  Though Marcus doesn’t have the defensive chops to be a world-class defender, he’s hardly a sieve.  Thornton should be an average defender against NBA opponents, and that fact coupled with his offensive talents make him a nice fit for the Mavs’ shooting guard slot.  The sweet shooting that the Mavs needed out of Antoine Wright?  Thornton has it.  A bigger defensive body than Jason Terry?  Thornton has it, although he’s still a bit undersized at 6’4”.

Thornton was the man at LSU, but in the NBA he’ll be just another man.  Playing alongside proven stars and scorers will undoubtedly help to translate his game and improve his effectiveness.  When looking at the best players on mediocre college teams, I find efficiency to be one of the most important attributes.  Gaudy totals can be achieved through a variety of means, but players able to create offense efficiently despite being the focal point of the offense show the potential to succeed in their roles on the next level.  That role won’t typically be the top dog, but if Thornton was able to rank highly not only in college PER but also virtually every scoring metric available, all signs point to success on the horizon as a scoring role player.  He’ll be best served as a third or fourth offensive option, which is perfect for a team that already has Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, and Josh Howard.  Thornton will likely never be the best scorer on the floor for the Mavs as a rook, which gives him that much more freedom to play his game.

Finding a great wing defender or serviceable big man late in the draft is a bit hard.  Players usually don’t fall quite so far unless they have clearly visible flaws.  Thornton definitely has his limitations, and while he isn’t the defender the Mavs need at the 2, he has all the offensive skills necessary to make a deadly Maverick attack even more potent.

Pro-Level Projections:

Jon Nichols of Basketball-Statistics.com used his Box Score Prediction System (BSPS) to project career numbers for Thornton.  The values given are career averages per 36 minutes, considering that per minute statistics at least partially eliminate variables such as abnormal playing time, lack of opportunity, etc.  The projections are based on Thornton’s two-year career at LSU.  For comparison’s sake, I’ve dug up some other players who have averaged similar numbers over their careers (click here for an enlarged chart):

(Note: the years indicated in the chart refer to the last year of the season played.  For examples, the 2004-2005 season will be marked 05.)

There was a wide variety of players with similar per-minute averages to Thornton, but I’ve gone for diversity with the lot shown in the chart.  Kevin Martin is an elite level scorer, a super efficient shooter with the ability to get to the free throw line at an abnormally high rate.  Martin would rank as either a first offensive option or 1B on most teams.  J.R. Smith is a salvo off the bench, a creature put on this planet solely to score the damn ball.  He has incredible range, talent out the wazoo, and the handles to get to the bucket for layups and dunks.  Rashad McCants was a very good college player, but has yet to really make an impact as a pro.  McCants has been decent, mostly as a backup or starting for a bad Timberwolves team in 2007-2008, but is far from a proven commodity.

These are three very different players in terms of usage, but all have put up similar per-minute numbers with one exception: Martin’s rate of free throw attempts.  That’s the reason why Kevin Martin will always be an anomaly compared to “similar” scorers, and why his efficiency numbers catch your eye.  Thornton figures to fall somewhere in between Martin and J.R. Smith in that regard, which isn’t bad company in the slightest.

The height of these players is certainly worth noting.  Thornton measured in at nearly 6’4”, a tad short for a shooting guard, but not a death sentence.  Still, Kevin Martin is 6’7”.  J.R. Smith is 6’6”.  Both have the height to get their shot off, be it on the perimeter or in the lane.  Rashad McCants is listed at 6’4”, and hasn’t been able to find his way to notable levels of success.  Obviously not all 6’4” shooting guards are doomed to fail, but for the purposes of these projections it’s certainly worth keeping in mind that the taller off-guards are the ones whose actual production (on a per-game basis) most closely matches their per-minute pace.