NBA Draft prospects are never perfect. There are always question marks that come with any young player making their way into the league. This article isn’t meant to throw cold water on some of the top talents in the draft, but there are some major question marks that shouldn’t be ignored.
There’s no need to nitpick Wemby, Scoot or Bandon Miller. Sure, they have some flaws as all prospects do but nothing that should keep them from being drafted 1,2 and 3.
There are a few big name prospects that are projected to be drafted in the top 10 that have some big question marks that deserve a closer look.
Cam Whitmore came into the season with a ton of momentum after a great showing in the all star games last spring and a dominant performance in the FIBA U18 tournament last summer. He looked like a future star and I had him mocked in the top four last summer and into the fall. He still might be a top five pick but as we saw more of him this season at Villanova it was clear there were some holes in his game.
There’s no doubt that Whitmore is a monster athlete who can score the ball. He also brings strength and energy on the boards and on the defensive end. But it feels like there is some boom or bust potential here.
The biggest concern is that he hasn’t shown much passing instincts/ability and can be a bit one-dimensional with his to-the-basket game. On the season Whitmore averaged 0.7 assists in 27 minutes per game. And he rarely showed advanced ball-handling or combo moves when getting to the basket.
We can look at Villanova’s system and the lack of shooters around him to explain the low assist numbers but the tape shows that he tends to have a singular focus with the ball in his hands, getting his own shot. There’s definitely a role for players like this in the league but the lack of passing/vision limits his upside as an on-the-ball player.
With his drives to the basket (impressive as they often are) he’s not the most creative and generally relies on his superior athleticism and power. His size/power will be somewhat mitigated at the next level, going against NBA defenders, and he’ll have to develop more creative abilities with the ball in his hands. It should be pointed out that he’s one of the younger players in this draft class and also missed the beginning of his college career with a thumb injury, so his development was a bit delayed.
I really want to like Cam Whitmore as much as I did this past summer but this season brought up some concerns for me that just won’t go away. He’ll probably be just fine and improve on his current weaknesses but drafting him does come with some risk. I’d personally still draft him in the top 8 or so picks, but see Jarace Walker, Taylor Hendricks and a few others as safer picks.
Questions about Amen and Ausar Thompson’s shooting are nothing new. These questions have been buzzing around the blogosphere for two years now. Ausar has shown more progress with his outside shot and if this development curve continues he could become a league average or better 3pt. shooter. Amen is a bit farther behind.
This past season Amen shot just 25% from 3pt land and his shot looked less than ideal. His follow through fades to the side and he doesn’t always have a consistent shooting form.
Ausar’s jumper has come along a bit quicker and it’s easier to project him becoming a league average 3pt shooter. This past year he shot just under 30% form 3, so not great, but there’s reason to believe he’ll keep progressing with his shot. Landing in a situation with a good shooting coach will be key for both the Thompson twins.
Despite the shooting concerns that come with both Amen and Ausar they are also both absolutely elite athletes with size, handles and silky smooth games. They both bring it on the defensive end, are very willing passers and have work ethic. I’m a believer in their abilities and think the shooting will probably come along in time. And even if it doesn’t, you’re still getting very valuable players with elite traits.
I’m a big, big Anthony Black fan and really like his all around game, especially his lead guard abilities, passing instincts and pesky perimeter defense in a big 6-7 frame but there is one obvious weakness in his game, his outside shooting. On the season Black shot just 31% from three. His 3pt shooting was actually decent at home (38%) but much worse in road games (just 19%) – however (strangely) his FT% was much worse at home.
Black also turns the ball over a bit too much for my liking but this is partially a result of forcing tight passes into a collapsed defense, as he was operating most of the year without many shooters around him spacing the floor.
Returning to the outside shot concerns: the numbers have been below average but the shooting form seems to have improved a lot since a year ago. Where he used to hoist the ball up with two hands and with poor rotation on the ball he’s now showing a much improved form with a better release, snap of the wrist and rotation on the ball. It’ll be very interesting to watch how NBA shooting coaches work with his form and to see how his outside shot develops over his career.
As I mentioned above, I’m a huge fan of Anthony Black and think he has star potential in the league, but his outside shot could be the difference between him being an All Star and being an All NBA player.
Some Boom Or Bust First Round Prospects
Coming into the season Nick Smith was projected as a top 5 pick on many boards but after an injury plagued season and an inefficient run of games there were some major concerns about whether he can stay healthy and regain his high school form. His athleticism never popped and he struggled to get separation, like he was able to in high school.
His NBA projection seems to be as a player who can be a microwave scorer who might be best coming off the bench. There is still some star potential their if his athleticism improves but I have my doubts.
I think his shooting ability is better than his college numbers indicate (he shot just 38/34/74 on the season). Still, given the above concerns I’d hesitate to draft him in the top 20.
Jett Howard has a chance to be an offensive force in the NBA. He’s a silky smooth shooter with handles and size on the wing. But I think there’s a chance his development levels off and his game stays a bit too one dimensional for him to ever be a star. His defense was surprisingly bad this season, given that he’s the son of a long time NBA player. His off the ball awareness was really bad at times and he’s average on the ball.
He clearly has a role in the league as shot-maker, floor-spacer. Whether he can be more than that…time will tell.
Again, just to reiterate what I said at the top: this article isn’t meant to throw cold water on these guys, and every prospect coming into the league has flaws. But I think it’s important to examine those flaws, as NBA teams certainly are.
The reality is that most NBA prospects don’t make it big in the league. It’s easy to get excited about potential but when it comes down to it, history shows that only a few handful of players from each draft class actually have a big impact in the NBA.