The trade deadline has passed us and Cleveland has a 0.6% chance at making the playoffs (according to John Hollinger's playoff odds on ESPN.com). Naturally, many Cleveland Cavaliers fans are looking forward to the NBA Draft. Over the next four months, I'm going to break down prospects that the Cavaliers may select in the NBA draft. Every Friday or Saturday, I'll have a post up looking at three particular players: two "name" prospects, plus one that I feel is flying somewhat under the radar. If there is anyone you want to see me break down, feel free to leave a note in the comment section and I'll absolutely take that into account.
This week, I'll be looking at small forward prospects. In order, I'm going to break down Otto Porter of Georgetown, Alex Poythress of Kentucky, and Reggie Bullock of North Carolina.
Otto Porter, So. F, Georgetown
Strengths: The first thing you notice about Otto Porter is his length. He's 6'8" with a 7'1" wingspan. His arms literally take up the entire space between the elbow and the collegiate wing three-point line when extended. This, along with his above-average lateral quickness for his size, will give him the potential to be a plus-NBA defender.
What Porter has improved upon most during his two years at Georgetown is his three-point shooting ability. After shooting just 22% from long distance last year, Porter is now shooting 47% on over 3 three-pointers per-game. I don't believe that it's a Derrick Williams-level aberration either. He keeps his legs solidly under him, creating good shooting balance. That along with his quick release should bode well for his continued success. One concern is a somewhat low release point, but with his height it shouldn't be a major problem.
The biggest thing that makes him a fit for just about every NBA team offensively is his ability to play without the ball in his hands. Part of this has to do with the Princeton offense that Georgetown employs, but their offense has clearly taught him how to move without the ball. He rarely ever stops moving when he doesn't have the ball. Within the video below, you'll see some of the kinds of cuts and movement that I'm talking about. He's going to be a backdoor terror in the NBA, in my opinion.
Otto Porter Off Ball Movement (via Sam Vecenie)
He also has some hope in the post/as a small-ball power forward. He is pretty good at sealing off his man after acquiring position. To go along with this, despite his relative lack of bulk he's a pretty good finisher through contact around the hoop. Finally, he is an excellent passer out of the high post, where he excels at hitting cutters going to the hoop within the Princeton offense.
Weaknesses: Porter's off-the-ball defense leaves something to be desired. Even though his length allows him to be a pest in passing lanes, he gets lackadaisical from time-to-time, and forgets where his man is. In college, where the half-court sets are in a much more condensed, he makes up for it with his length. This is something that should improve as he matures though. Bulk may also eventually be an issue defensively, but one has to assume that he'll continue to get bigger as he plays professionally.
On the offensive end, ball-handling is his biggest weakness.. He struggles to create for himself in the half-court, as his game really slows down when he puts the ball on the floor. Most of the time, he is a two-dribble-and-pass type of player. He tends to put his head down when driving too, thereby missing open shooters. One place where that isn't a problem is in transition, where Porter can really move up the floor in transition with the ball.
Finally, despite averaging 7.6 rebounds this year (4th in the Big East), Porter does not display good rebounding technique. He often simply "out-athletes" other players with his leaping ability and length and doesn't box out. It may be a product of Georgetown's often-employed zone defense, but in the NBA he'll need to do a better job of finding his man and boxing out if he is to play any sort of small-ball power forward.
Overall Outlook and Comparison: Chad Ford rates Porter as his 6th ranked player and Jonathan Givony ranks Porter at 11th. I think that there is a pretty good chance that Porter will be very high on the Cavaliers' draft board due to his excellent off-ball game. He is exactly what the Cavaliers need at small forward with two ball dominant guards in Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. The best comparison I can think of at the moment is Danny Granger, with a little less offense and a little more defense. Both have strong post games and three-point shots. Where Porter can truly establish himself as better than Granger is on defense.
Alex Poythress, Fr. F, Kentucky
Strengths: First, Poythress has an NBA-ready body already, at 6'8," 240 pounds. He's a strong, explosive athlete whose strength shows through in his ability to finish around and above the rim. He came on like gangbusters at the beginning of the year, scoring 20+ points in four of his first five NCAA games. Against Duke, he got to the rim at will scoring 20 points while accumulating 8 rebounds.
Poythress's offensive game right now is built around getting to the rim. He has a quick first step where his great straight-line speed allows him to beat almost anyone to the rim. Also -- averaging nearly 3 per-36 minutes -- he's a very good offensive rebounder considering he's been stuck at small forward most of the season. He knows exactly how to sneak in around the defensive rebounders and get strong position at the rim for put-backs.
Alex Poythress At the Rim (via Sam Vecenie)
His shooting is a bit inconsistent, but is ultimately projectable. He shoots about 43% from behind the arc, but has only taken 28 of them this year and it's obvious that he doesn't feel totally confident with his perimeter jumper yet. Due to the amount of shots he takes around the rim and his high three-point percentage, Poythress is third in the SEC in TS% at nearly 64%.
Weaknesses: His consistency is his biggest weakness so far. Poythress went nearly a month in SEC play (January 27th-February 22nd) without scoring in double figures. It has to do with his assertiveness. Even though he should clearly be Kentucky's top option offensively, he still has only taken 8.5 shots per game in Nerlens Noel's absence (7.4 shots per game for the season). He tends to float a little bit on the perimeter. The Kentucky coaching staff has even gone to the lengths of putting a heart rate monitor on him to check his effort level.
Even though he's an excellent offensive rebounder, he's a somewhat underwhelming defensive rebounder, with a DRR of around 17% -- low considering he plays some minutes at the 4. This may have to do with the fact that excellent rebounding big men like Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein surround him, however he really doesn't show any sort of solid box-out form either.
Finally, he gets in foul trouble a lot against perimeter players due to a lack of elite lateral quickness (he averages 3.7 fouls per 36 minutes). Poythress has fouled out of four games this year, and has accumulated four fouls in seven others. This is the major reason why I believe that he should be a power forward. He's not going to be able to stay with perimeter players without fouling in the NBA, where the hand-check calls are much tighter. He hasn't played enough in the post yet either for us to know how good of a defender he has potential to be there.
Alex Poythress Fouling (via Sam Vecenie)
Overall Outlook: If Kentucky is to make any noise in the NCAA tournament this year, it's going to have to get a confident and assertive Poythress. Far too often he's invisible and doesn't make a real impact on the game. An assertive Poythress could rocket up draft boards, as when he decides to play he's an extremely effective college player.
As far as his pro prospects are concerned, he's a true 3/4 tweener right now. He doesn't have any moves in the post, but he's not entirely comfortable on the perimeter either. Whereas Porter is a 3 that will be able to play some undersized 4, I think Poythress is more of a 4 that can play 3. That is where his best chance of suceeding lies.
I worry that he has a bit of Al-Farouq Aminu in him. Aminu was a similarly highly touted prospect counted on to deliver for his undermanned Wake Forest team, and really didn't his freshman year. However, Poythress has shown to be a more adept shooter than Aminu ever was, so maybe that ends up being a little harsh. He's an athlete playing basketball as opposed to an athletic basketball player right now, so I do believe he would be aided by returning for his sophomore season.
Reggie Bullock, Jr. SF, North Carolina
Strengths: Shooting 44% on nearly 6 three-pointers per game, Bullock is one of the best shooters in college basketball. That's a reputation that has followed him from high school. With a smooth, super quick release along with range that extends past the NBA three-point line, Bullock will have no problem spotting up for jumpers in the NBA.
He's got the size that everyone looks for from a small forward in the NBA, at 6'7" and 205 pounds. To go along with that, he plays hard-nosed defense on the perimeter. Blessed with lateral quickness and a high energy level, Bullock should be able to guard most perimeter players in the NBA at a high level.
One of the things I've been impressed with most over the past two years in regards to Bullock is how he's able to fit into any situation. With players such as Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall, John Henson and Tyler Zeller on the 2012 North Carolina roster, Bullock never really forced the issue. He simply laid back, played as a role player, and didn't force jumpers (worth mentioning that this season he's probably North Carolina's most consistent scorer and he does force the issue from time-to-time). The ability to fit into situations is often an overlooked aspect of making a rookie impact, and Bullock should be able to do that right away.
He's an underrated passer as well from the small forward position. With a 17.0 AST% and nearly 4 assists per 36 minutes, Bullock is able to find open players in scoring positions in a way unlike most spot-up shooters.
Weaknesses: He literally cannot create for himself at all. Because of a handle that makes Alonzo Gee look like Chris Paul, Bullock is pretty reliant on others to create for him. Every once in a while in college he's able to put his head down and just plow through defenders to get to the rack, but that's not really plausible in the NBA where everyone is as athletic as he is. He'll be a two-dribble-and-pass player in the NBA.
He's not a super explosive athlete, more of a smooth and quick athlete. He's a pretty bad rebounder for his size as well because of it, and it's not going to help him around the rim with the ball either. He will, for the most part, be a perimeter player in the NBA.
Overall Outlook: I don't understand why more people don't like Reggie Bullock'spro potential. He's got excellent size, a beautiful jumper, and solid defensive instincts. He will never be a star, but I feel extremely confident that he will be a C.J. Miles-esque role player in the NBA (a basic 3 and D guy). If the Cavaliers have a chance to scoop him up with their late first round selection, I think they should jump at the chance.
(all statistics taken from sports-reference.com, unless otherwise noted)