Sam Vecenie's Lottery Board
Tyler Lashbrook's Lottery Board
Sam : Hey what's going on Tyler. Hope you had a great holiday season. We took a nice little break from these things -- okay mostly it was my fault because I was traveling everywhere and you were just emailing me to no avail -- but now we're back and better than ever.
I say that because at the top of this post I have placed both of our lottery boards. They're pretty similar. We have 12 of the same players here -- one of whom by me might not even be entering the draft -- but only five of them are slotted at the same ranking. I'll give you the floor to start.
What stands out about mine that you either like or dislike?
Tyler: I was shooting blanks with those e-mails, man, just hopelessly throwing myself at you to no avail. You left me at the bar, like I was a sloppy, lonely, drunk dude and you were the high-brow sorority girl, too classy to give me your number despite my most courageous attempts at getting it. Alas, you finally took it and you texted me back! And here we are ready to talk hoops. WOOT WOOT.
We should start at the top. You're in Jabari Land now, aren't you? I must admit that it's quite the appealing fairyland and I've had to stop myself more than once from buying the one-way ticket to Chicago Kid Superstar Heaven. If you put Parker on any of the Eastern Conference teams that are outside of the playoffs, he probably immediately boosts them to the No. 8 seed. He's that good. But I just can't hop off the Wiggins bandwagon until he gives me a reason to do so. So here I am with Wiggins at No. 1, despite the Internet's finest trolling ploys to dethrone him.
And you already know what I love on the back end of your list. AARON HARRISON! You put that in there to sweeten me for leaving me hanging, didn't you? You're brown nosing me! I don't even care. Keep it up! AARON HARRISON YEASDSADAHSHHHH, You have him even higher than James Young! Wait, there's four Wildcats on your list? You're the best.
Sam: I'm not going to go any further with the "shooting blanks and sorority girl" joke because I don't want to get fired. Please god don't fire me. We'll just go with the typical male response that I was scared of commitment but I've decided that it's worth it in the end.
You know that I've always been in "Jabari Land." I've had him ahead of Randle from the beginning of the season, and I felt strongly that he'd be the best freshman in the NCAA this season. However, that still didn't make me put him at #1 until about a week ago. And I'm really doing it at an odd time, given that Parker was just benched at the end of Duke's loss to Notre Dame this past weekend to place them outside of the top-ten for the first time in 123 weeks. So why now?
It's not so much about Parker. It's more about Wiggins. Wiggins is excellent. He's the most athletic player we've seen come through the NCAA in a long time. But the attitude concerns are starting to scare me. It's not that he has a bad attitude at all -- from all indications he's a model kid that does everything right. It's more that he doesn't have that killer instinct that most top wings do. LeBron James had it. Kevin Durant had it. Carmelo Anthony had it. Even Michael Beasley had it on the court at Kansas State, despite his off-court stuff seemingly getting the better of him. And ultimately, those are the guys we're supposed to be comparing Parker and Wiggins to.
Without that instinct, I start to get concerns that Wiggins never gets past that Rudy Gay or Andre Iguodala level. Something like a borderline two-way all-star who never really learns to play completely efficient basketball. To me, at this moment (and I reserve the right of course to change this because you know, 15 games so far and all), Parker is the much safer pick. He's a safe guy with a high ceiling, and that's extremely difficult for me to pass up. I worry that I'm falling victim to the same fallacy that would have made some select Anthony over LeBron in 2003, but such is life. That's where I am right now.
Tyler: I totally understand your reasoning. Parker is, without a doubt, the safer pick. You know exactly what he's capable of and you know that he has the body, athleticism and skill set to continuously get better when he enters in the NBA. But my thinking is mostly what you alluded to: we're only 15 games in so I'm still reluctant to back out on my Wiggins obligations. If I had to pick a guy to start a college hoops team, I'd take Parker, wouldn't think twice, and run away with any other pieces I can get.
I'm interested to see conference play. That's usually the time when players begin to separate themselves. And then there's the tournament. We'll learn a WHOLE lot more about Wiggins when tournament time rolls around as that's where the biggest moments live. If he's reluctant to attack then? Maybe we've got a problem. Maybe then I'll be willing to dethrone him. I understand your reasoning, though.
So the next topic, maybe the most important, is that we've both got Embiid above Randle. Here's my reasoning: if the wrong team drafts Randle, it can seriously set them back a few years. He needs to play alongside a unique, certain type of player to thrive. He's basically shown nothing on the outside this year. He drives fluidly from the perimeter to the rim, but he hasn't shown the ability to knock down jumpers. He's amazing around the rim, but if he can't spread the floor at all, he'll have to play alongside a rim protector. The issue there is that said rim protector will have to have an outside touch or the offense's spacing will be so incredibly cramped. You also can't play him as the only big man, because he isn't a rim protector himself.
So you need a big guy who can block shots and spread the floor, a rare breed. Nikola Vucevic could be this, though Vucci isn't the best rim protector. He is, however, long and can learn to defend the paint and he's shown improvement this year in doing so. Anthony Davis almost seems like a match made in heaven with Randle, but there's such a small chance that actually happens. Now, he's a solid free throw shooter, at 72 percent, and that's typically a good sign that he can find some range as he progresses. Let's hope that's the case, because if he can't, his upside is a little limited.
Sam: See, I tend to go the other way on this one. If the wrong team drafts Embiid, then THAT team gets set back much more so than if they drafted Randle. I feel pretty confident that Randle is going to be at his worst, an inefficient 17/10 guy. Obviously at his best he's an all-star, all-NBA, all-everything awesome power forward. He has a fairly high ceiling, but he's also got a high floor. Like you said, to get the best out of him he needs a big that can defend with him. Randle's wingspan is pretty average, which means that he may ultimately struggle a little to defend the rim. One thing I'm not particularly worried about is the midrange game. That will eventually come, and I don't think floor spacing will be an issue for the team that drafts him. He's still only 19, and it's immensely difficult for a power forward to shoot in the midrange in college.
Going to the other end of this, if the wrong team drafts Embiid, he has somewhat high bust potential. You need to have a strong developmental staff in place that can work with him and teach him how to play defense, because he's still pretty much just guessing on that side of the floor. The offensive instincts are there, and the tools are there, but you need more than that in the NBA. Matt Moore of CBS Sports wrote a great post on Embiid this week where he said "watch Embiid and you recognize that this isn't Hasheem Thabeet. He's not coasting based on his athleticism and height." And that's absolutely correct. But if you're using a top five pick in this draft class, you're expecting an all-star. Embiid has a lot of work to do to get there.
So I just made it sound like I should have Randle ahead of Embiid with that last paragraph. But I wouldn't. Embiid has way too much potential to be a difference maker on both ends. He's huge, graceful, and has at least some potential as a floor spacer (although I don't think he should be taking threes for Kansas right now). Despite not really having any idea where he's rotating half of the time in Kansas's defense, he still ends up having a greater defensive impact than anyone else on their team just because of his length. Put it this way: despite Kansas having the 4th best defensive rating as a team in the Big 12, Embiid has the second best defensive rating as a player. When he plays, his length shuts down the paint, plain and simple. He needs to stay out of foul trouble, as he's averaging 6.6 per 40 minutes, but he's still learning to play basketball. It'll take work with him to get him to be a real NBA player, but it's work that's entirely worth it.
Tyler: Embiid's potential is mostly why I have him over Randle--I just wanted to lay out some downside I've had with him lately. The potential thing also stays true with why I have Wiggins over Parker, so I wanted to stay consistent. Embiid's foul trouble is a problem, but you can coach that out of him. In fact, you can coach any issue he has, which is why his upside is a little higher than Randle's at this point. I am interested, when it gets closer to time, to see their measurable attributes: vertical, wingspan, standing reach, height, weight, etc. All that stuff does play a role when we start putting these guys under a microscope.
We talked about this one on one, but our 8-14 ranges are such a mess. I mean, any of those guys could probably move to any of those spots for either of our list. And there are probably 10-15 guys I thought of putting near the back end. These are all very nice, potential big-time, role-player caliber guys, and you can get them at the back of the lottery. Not to mention all the guys we don't have on the lists. This draft is so deep, man.
Tom Ziller wrote a piece recently about how cocky NBA general managers are. Something along the lines of, "they don't care where they're drafting because they're competitive, too, and extremely confident in their scouting ability." I find that to be so true and if there's any draft where these scouting wizards can land gold, it's this draft. There's such a good crop of prospects in that 9-20 range, which is why the back end of our lists is so mangled.
Sam: Oh god. Spots 9-14 I just have no idea (Harris is a very solid 8th for me). It's such a wreck. I actually disagree that this draft is deep. I think that there are a lot more high-potential, risky prospects here. But I don't actually believe that's a great thing necessarily. It's a much riskier draft from 8-20. We're going to probably see a couple all-stars that get picked in this range, but I also wouldn't be surprised to see a higher flame out/bust rate than normal.
The biggest thing for me personally is translatable skills that I see on the floor. It's pretty easy for me to see that McDermott's shooting is going to translate. Hell, if the raves from last summer's US Select team are true, then they already have. It's for that same reason that I have Payne at 14. With him, I see a player that is already a good post defender, already a good rebounder, plus has excellent potential as a three-point threat despite being a senior, shooting 44% on nearly 3 shots per game. I've done a total 180 on his draft stock. I used to think he was a dumb player that made unnecessary mistakes and didn't live up to his potential, but he's kind of flipped the switch this year and I'm almost all-in on him being at worst a role-playing big that can defend make shots. Kind of a Marreesse Speights that gives a damn defensively, maybe?
He's pretty much carrying Michigan State on both ends of the floor, and at a listed 6'10 he might have the size to steal some minutes at center in the NBA if need be. Depending on what you need as a team, I could easily see someone taking him over a Vonleh. Payne is basically a closer-to-finalized version of Vonleh, in that he has decent perimeter skills for a big, but ultimately his salvation is going to be around the rim. Vonleh has a bit higher of an upside because he's a much stronger athlete, but he's shooting the same percent at the rim Gary Harris is (only 59%), and that scares me a bit. In fact, Vonleh and Cauley-Stein are the two most terrifying guys to me. They could be out of the league in two years, or all-stars by year four.
Tyler: See that's why I think this draft is deep: if you've got a couple of all-stars in the 8-20 range, isn't that a good draft? I think that's basically the definition of a good draft--can't miss guys in the top 6-7 with other all-stars sprinkled in the first round. I obviously know that you know this draft is great, but I think that would qualify it as "deep" too. Especially if the guys in that bottom range become role players. That's a gold mine of prospects.
Payne's going to be a good pro. McDermott is going to be a good pro. Those are two of the safest guys in this draft. I agree with you that you know exactly what you're getting and how that's going to translate. Those are rotational playoff guys with starting potential. Those are guys, in different ways, with the upside of Chandler Parsons. I don't think anyone really knew what all he could do, but he's so polished that it didn't matter. That's kind of what those two bring.
I'm with you on Vonleh; he terrifies me. But Cauley-Stein doesn't. Big, long guys with good rim protecting instincts can find a home in the NBA. WCS doesn't really play outside of his comfort zone. He finishes offensive putbacks and runs pick and rolls on offense. He has nice hands, but not much touch around the rim--that's why he doesn't shoot too much or play outside of what he can do on offense. This notion that draft guys keep saying that he needs to develop a post move to be successful is bologna. How many big guys in the NBA actually have post moves? Just finish easy opportunities and catch and finish passes off the roll. On defense, he blocks shots like crazy and can get out and trap or hedge the pick and roll and he has the athletic ability to recover to his man. Will he ever be a go to offensive option? No. But I'm not sure he needs to be. I don't think he's ever an all-star, but he's a very capable, athletic big man. That... free throw shooting... isn't... ideal, though. In that sense, he reminds me a little of DeAndre Jordan.
Sam: That's a good call. Cauley-Stein and Jordan is a pretty fair comparison. I don't think he's particularly there offensively in any regard though. Like he doesn't seem to have great footwork in the PnR, which is the set where he's going to be most useful. He's also an exceptional offensive rebounder, with nearly 5 per 40 minutes at a 14.4% OReb Rate. So that will be useful for him and the team that drafts him. He's someone who probably isn't ready to contribute quite yet, but he'll get there.
Well, we've got to be at about 3000 words. So lets cut this one off a little before we get to everyone. As always, great to talk Tyler. We'll hit another one on Orlando Pinstriped Post next week.