While box scores and statistics certainly don't tell the entire story for NBA draft prospects -- and oftentimes can be misleading due to the eccentricities of specific collegiate programs -- they can help us make inferences into the abilities of prospects.
With (a lot of) help from Kevin Hogan, an awesome visual statistician and unfortunate UNC fan, we've worked in conjunction to create visual representations of where NBA Draft prospects lie in relation to their positional peers. For this study, we've taken the top 20 draft-eligible shooting guards and run them through a statistical gamut in order to help us understand more about their NBA prospects. Then, we've also thrown in all of the drafted shooting guards from the past three drafts in order to compare these prospects to their most recent counterparts.
Statistics by themselves aren't completely worthwhile though, so I'm going to try to contextualize them through what I've noted by scouting them. I've seen all of these guys play multiple times on tape, which means I should be able to give an adequate report on who is important here and who isn't. So without further ado, here are the prospects:
Jordan Adams -- 6'5, UCLA
Jabari Brown -- 6'5, Missouri
Markel Brown -- 6'3, Oklahoma St
Jordan Clarkson -- 6'4, Missouri
Spencer Dinwiddie -- 6'6, Colorado
Gary Harris -- 6'4, Michigan State
Aaron Harrison -- 6'5, Kentucky
Tyler Haws -- 6'5, BYU
Marshall Henderson -- 6'2, Mississippi
Nick Johnson -- 6'3, Arizona
Zach LaVine -- 6'5, UCLA
Derrick Marks -- 6'3, Boise State
Jordan McRae -- 6'5, Tennessee
Lamar Patterson -- 6'5, Pittsburgh
Wayne Selden -- 6'5, Kansas
Nik Stauskas -- 6'6, Michigan
Rasheed Sulaimon -- 6'4 Duke
Isaiah Sykes -- 6'6, UCF
Dez Wells -- 6'5, Maryland
C.J. Wilcox -- 6'5, Washington
Along with them, we have pulled the collegiate stats for the following 2011-2013 NBA draft selections: Archie Goodwin, Ben McLemore, Klay Thompson, Dion Waiters, Iman Shumpert, Alec Burks, Bradley Beal, Austin Rivers, Jeremy Lamb, MarShon Brooks, Travis Leslie, Terrence Ross, John Jenkins, Jared Cunningham, Will Barton, Doron Lamb, Darius Johnson-Odom, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Shabazz Muhammad, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Reggie Bullock. Within each of the graphical representations, you'll be able to break up the stats by Prospects, Lottery Picks, 1st Round Picks, and 2nd Round Picks through use of a drop down menu. Or, if you're feeling extra adventurous, use them all!
Basic Box Score Stats
As always, let's take a look at all of the prospects' basic per-40 numbers. We use per-40s here in order to attempt to regulate minutes played. All of these players have played at least 400 minutes, with the highest among them being Wilcox's 674. Henderson's 400 minutes are only due to his early season suspension. But I think we all know enough about Marshall Henderson at this point to make inferences from his stats. So let's begin.
So first and foremost, the two guys that stick out here are Haws and Henderson, the two pure gunners from BYU and Mississippi. I'm going to wait to discuss Henderson because, well, his stats get even more hilarious as this continues. So instead we'll talk about Haws. Haws has a bit more of a well-rounded scoring game than Henderson. He shoots threes, gets into the midrange for pull ups, and is actually big enough to get to the rim regularly. His pull-up midrange game is actually among one of the more impressive in the NCAA, and he's excellent at coming around screens for open threes in the same way Henderson is. Scoring is literally all that Haws does, but he's really good at it. Height and athleticism are the big questions with him, as well as his tendency to stop the ball. But he's certainly a better prospect than Henderson, and has another year to prove himself as he's only a junior. My guess is that he's more of a 2015 guy after he leads the NCAA in scoring next season (the odds are high he leads in the NCAA in scoring because of how fast BYU plays), but ultimately I'm probably a bit more interested in him than I should be.
The two other guys who stick out here are the well-rounded Patterson of Pittsburgh and Adams of UCLA. Patterson is averaging 23/6/6 per-40 for Pitt, as he's taken a step forward into becoming their go-to guy. He plays a bit more of a small forward type of game, but has NBA-ready three-point range and is an excellent decision-maker once he gets into the paint. His passing is superb. He can find open players on drive-and-dishes, and almost never stops the ball unnecessarily. Like most Pittsburgh prospects of past years, toughness is the best adjective you can attribute to him. He crashes the boards hard, and gets physical when he needs to defend. He has somewhat slow feet, which might limit his dribble-drive game as well as his defensive potential, but he plays so hard and has such high basketball intelligence that he reminds me a bit of Jared Dudley.
Adams, on the other hand, I'm a bit less bullish on than most for a few reasons. But let's start with the positives. He has extraordinary instincts when jumping passing lanes and gets a ton of steals. Sometimes he gets out of position, but mostly he understands how to get to the ball and create turnovers. This skill alone is extremely valuable. The fact that he does this with what looks like average-at-best length is even more incredible. He's also an excellent rebounder for his position, and always crashes the boards for a team whose big men (the Wear twins) struggle to rebound. The problems that I have with Adams mostly come with the fact that his production often seems empty, coming either in games that are out of hand or in games against lesser competition. I'd like to see him perform better in Pac-12 play throughout the rest of the season before I'd want to spend a late-first round pick on him. He's intriguing though because of his production, but you'll see soon that his production is slightly inflated by pace.
And with that, before we get any further down the rabbit of box score stats, let's pace-adjust them by using Ken Pomeroy's Adjusted Tempo statistic.
As you can see here, BYU and UCLA play two of the highest tempos in the NCAA, which leads to slightly inflated stats for Haws, Adams, and LaVine. Also, it's fun to mention that despite Henderson's flaws, if he keeps this pace and gets drafted he'd be the highest scoring shooting guard over the last four drafts. But I'm still going to hold off on him.
McRae is the impressive player here because of the slow pace that Tennessee plays. At 6'5 with a 7'0 wingspan, McRae profiles as a potential 3-and-D player that can utilize his length defensively and catch-and-shoot ability. He probably needs to clean up his mechanics slightly (the ball looks to be a little bit too in front of his head), but his release is lightning quick and he repeats his mechanics. He also has a little bit of handle to get to the rim, plus as you'll see later he finishes at a high rate once he's there (72%). If he's able to take a step back from his current near 30% usage, then he could be an excellent role player candidate in the late first, early second round. He has the tools and measurables that teams will drool over.
Now let's move onto looking at advanced stats, including efficiency and rate-based numbers. Here, we have a graph that you can compare any two prospects that you want over the course of the last three NBA drafts, as well as prospects within this draft.
Here, we see Patterson and Adams lead the way in PER, followed closely by Stauskas. However, not all PERs are created equally, and by looking more closely at Stauskas we can see that he really differentiates himself from the competition here. Look at how low his usage rate is. PER is heavily correlated to usage rate. For Stauskas to have a below-average usage rate, but still the third-place PER is mind-boggling. So what does Stauskas do that the others don't? First and foremost, he leads our entire sample in true-shooting percentage. His 46% from three is not a surprise, given his reputation. However, what may come as a shock is that he is nearly as good at the rim, converting 74% of his chances there. He doesn't take many shots at the rim, but one place he has improved this season is in his ball-handling skill. He's now a veritable weapon handling the ball in the pick-and-roll, and has excellent passing instincts -- good enough for fifth in AST% while still in the bottom five of TOV%. Stauskas is no longer just a spot-up shooter. His stock has gone considerably up in my mind from the start of the season. Unless you completely don't buy into his ability to defend in the NBA (it's a question: his 6'7 wingspan isn't particularly long for his size, but should be fine against mostly smaller SGs), I don't see a reason why he hasn't leapfrogged Adams and moved himself into the first round.
On the other side, we have Selden and Sulaimon. While their numbers clearly aren't particularly good, it's worth mentioning that they are both a product of their circumstances this season. Selden is at-best the third wheel in Kansas's cog (sometimes even the 4th or 5th because of Naadir Tharpe's chucking or Perry Ellis), so he doesn't get nearly as many opportunities as the rest of the sample. He has the lowest usage rate of the group, but even so hasn't shot particularly well. Selden wasn't known as much of a shooter coming into the NCAA, but is still mostly used as a floor spacer within Kansas's scheme because of the attacking nature of the rest of their offense. His stroke does seem to be pure, so it may be worth his time to stay in college for one more season and become a more central offensive player. He is one of the few guards in this sample that already has an NBA-caliber body, which may push him closer to the door. I'd give an edge to Stauskas right now over Selden because he's a bit more versatile, but ultimately that would be a tough choice.
Sulaimon is an entirely different case because he's been stuck in Mike Krzyzewski's dog house this season. Without speculating upon what he did, this midseason stretch really didn't do his numbers any favors. His stock is extremely difficult to gauge right now. When he's on, Sulaimon is an excellent shooter with a long frame and good ball-handling ability. I would assume that he is leaning towards staying in school in order to increase his stock, but who knows. Sulaimon should be able to beat out Grayson Allen (incoming five-star recruit, ridiculous shooter) and Matt Jones next season, but may feel threatened by Duke's unquestioned #1 recruiting class next season.
-Still haven't mentioned Harris yet, who is my unquestioned top SG. Harris is a bulldog on defense -- he made life hell for Stauskas when the two met Saturday -- and an excellent shooter on offense. He handles the ball well, has a polished game, and reminds me a lot of Bradley Beal. I have him at #8 on my big board in a tier by himself. He doesn't particularly stand out in any category here because his three-point shooting has been surprisingly off this season at 35%. For a guy with excellent mechanics, a shooter's reputation, and past history to back him up, it's probably fair to chalk that up to small sample size.
-I'm very surprised to see Dinwiddie's usage rate as low as it is, given that he was often Colorado's point guard this year. He's definitely a quiet, understated player. His AST% is fantastic, and he has improved his shooting stroke immensely. Plus, he's a strong defender with good length. He was turning himself into an excellent 3-and-D prospect for NBA teams. However, he will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL suffered on January 12th. I assume he'll be returning for his senior season.
-I'm also going to throw discussion about LaVine in here as well. I've gotten the chance to see him twice live, and there are very few things like watching him throw down in warm-ups. He's one of the two best athletes in the freshman class along with Andrew Wiggins, and they are in a class by themselves. He's extremely fast in the open court, has elite leaping ability, plus handles the ball very well. His outside stroke is fluid and gets excellent rotation on the ball. He wasn't a top recruit in his class because of a late growth spurt, but he's certainly established himself as one of the top freshman draft prospects in the country. So if all of that is true, why don't I have him as my #1 SG?
He faces some obstacles, mostly on the defensive end. Because of the late growth spurt, it seems he really hasn't grown into his body yet (he's probably right around his listed height of 6'5. He looks to be a solid inch taller than Adams when they're on the floor together, who is also listed at 6'5. LaVine's arms are also Gumby-like). His defensive intangibles/principles are...well...let's go with they're non-existent. Because of this -- and because of his open floor prowess -- UCLA often sits in a zone when LaVine enters the game with him on the right elbow. I don't think cherry-picking is the right word, but LaVine is awful quick to leak out on the break (which is why his TRB% is low at 6%). At this moment in time, LaVine has a lot of Gerald Green to his game, and it's a critical juncture in his development. If he stays in school, there is a good chance he's the #1 guard overall on my board next season. If he leaves, he still should be a top 20 pick just due to his immense potential athletically. But he has a high bust potential right now because he could get lost in the system, and that scares me a lot.
Finally, we're going to move onto shooting splits, where we'll be able to take a look at shots at the rim and shots from beyond the arc -- two critical places as the NBA continues to death march towards efficiency.
FINALLY. I GET TO TALK ABOUT MARSHALL HENDERSON. THE DAY IS MINE.
Anyway, look at how hilarious his stats are. HE'S TAKING 16 THREES PER 40 MINUTES. TEN TIMES AS MANY THREES AS SHOTS AT THE RIM. But he still has a near 20 AST%, which is almost double his mark from last season. So while he's chucking with even more reckless abandon, he's still passing and setting his teammates up more efficiently. I would say that his TOV% is low, but then again he's shooting 36% from the field so it's hard to really say that some of these shots aren't turnovers. He runs off of screens and chucks. He has a sub-six-foot wingspan. To pretend that he's a borderline draft prospect is an overstatement. But hey, crazier things have happened. The Timberwolves picked a 28 year old by accident. The Cavs took Anthony Bennett. Jalen Rose wore this. The NBA would be a more enjoyable place with Marshall Henderson, even if the chances are low.
-C.J. Wilcox is pretty interesting here as a jump shooter. He's shooting 42% both from midrange and from three-point range, plus 68% at the rim. He's pretty much just a jump shooter and might not be athletic enough to be a 3-and-D guy, but his jump shooting is excellent. He's very similar to Patterson of Pitt, except that he doesn't particularly do much else like Patterson does.
-Aaron Harrison is really close to LaVine. Excellent finisher at the rim, plus a solid ball-handler. He's 6'5 with good length. A great athlete, but really needs to improve his jump shot. He's definitely the more ready of the two twins, and I've discussed him a bit more at length here.
-Nick Johnson looks good here as a 6'3 shooting guard that finishes at the rim. I don't know that he can play SG in the NBA because of his size, but he's an awesome athlete with quickness and leaping ability. Still probably needs to develop on-ball skills, but probably won't get the chance to do so in Arizona because T.J. McConnell is also a sophomore. However, he's probably been the best player on the best team in the NCAA, so he's worth mentioning.
Here are my top ten shooting guards right now:
1. Gary Harris
2. Zach LaVine
3. Aaron Harrison
4. Nik Stauskas
5. Wayne Selden
6. Jordan Adams
7. Spencer Dinwiddie
8. Jordan McRae
9. Lamar Patterson
10. C.J. Wilcox
It tends to trend young early, then older late. All of the top six prospects are sophomores or younger, and all of the bottom four are older. I don't think all of the top six will declare, and I also believe Dinwiddie returns -- and I base this off of no inside information. LaVine and Harrison particularly are largely projection-based rankings, as is Selden. Harris is the only sure lottery guy for me, but LaVine and Harrison also have that potential.
It's also worth mentioning that you don't see P.J. Hairston here. He's plying his trade in the D-League, and would probably be my #5 SG prospect right now. More in Stauskas's tier than in Adams' and Selden's. He looks good right now, and I think he's a pretty similar prospect to Reggie Bullock last year.
I might also study Stauskas with the small forwards because I'm interested in how he compares to the much deeper class that is that position. Either way, shoot @kjhogo a follow on Twitter for helping and creating awesome graphical representations. We'll be back soon enough with more on small forwards.
All stats taken from hoop-math.com and sports-reference.com.