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NBA Draft

Follow the Talent: 17 Years of NBA Draft Eye Test Observations

By: Mike Garcia

The term “modern NBA” always struck me as funny. All teams need defense. All teams need shooting. All teams need playmaking. However, it’s up to the player’s talent to dictate where the trend goes.

In my eyes, the Lakers are the pioneers. Who plays big guards? The Lakers. Who started small ball? The Lakers did with Magic in Game 6 of 1980, obviously. Who played seven seconds or less first? Magic. Who acquired 3-point shooting at power forward? Robert Horry with the Lakers. Who initiates transition play at power forward? Lamar Odom with the Lakers.

My introduction to NBA basketball started with the 1980’s Lakers. I didn’t wake up to the idea of what talent was until I learned that not everyone could pass like Magic. Not everybody could shoot like Bird. I thought everyone was on a level playing field in terms of talent, but every player is different. Magic and Bird are Magic and Bird because no one else was talented like they were talented.

Nothing else made that clearer to me than memorizing statistics on basketball cards. I bought my first Beckett magazine, which gave me the first notion of what a scouting report was. There were short paragraphs about how great the next crop of rookies would be. Larry Johnson was the best guy in that draft, so he’d have the most valuable card. Stacey Augmon was a defensive stopper and defensive stoppers don’t make valuable cards.

I loved the Lakers of the 1990’s. I understood that Nick the Quick was a gunner and a low-percentage shooter. I knew Eddie Jones was really active on defense with a developing 3-point shot, but he could also finish at the rim with the best in the league. I realized that Cedric Ceballos was the best finisher I had ever seen that decade — anything 3’ and in, he just had tremendous touch and dexterity.

Fast forward into the 2000’s. I knew Shaq and Kobe were elite level talents, but as a die-hard Laker fan, I had a vested interest into what kinds of players would make their championship window bigger.

That’s when I really got into the draft.

I had a few ideas of how to approach a draft from a philosophical standpoint. If you wanted a mature, sure thing player, pick an experienced NCAA player with accolades. That being said, the idea of drafting the best athlete available was paying major dividends for franchises. Kevin Garnett used to look like he could trip over his own feet just running the floor. Kobe Bryant was the first guard drafted out of high school, then Tracy McGrady followed suit. Even Monta Ellis had tremendous speed and scoring ability out of high school.

So, I started watching the NBA Draft. Before there was NBAdraft.net or DraftExpress, there was ibiblio.org. There were no videos. There were no photos of players. There were brief descriptions of basketball players from their own scouts.

 

Best Athlete Available 

The 2000 NBA Draft was an odd one. The league started to transition from drafting upperclassmen to drafting younger NCAA players based on potential. Why not? If elite high school prospects could make the jump into stardom, why can’t other freshman and sophomores?

Kenyon Martin rose to the top of that draft based on three skills:

2-hand power dunks:

The ability to swat from the power forward position:

And signs of an 18’ jump shot.

Guys like Stromile Swift (Soph.) and Darius Miles (HS Sr.) were drafted #2 and #3, respectively, because of their athletic upside. After all, you could just train them in the NBA, right? Right?

Big wings made a splash that year too. Mike Miller, Dermarr Johnson, Jamal Crawford, and Keyon Dooling rounded off as big wings and project point guards.

The Lakers had the 29th pick. They dominated the 2000 season. Why not just get another big point guard? Marko Jaric was on the board. Chris Carrawell was a 6’6” SG out of Duke. Why was he slipping so far? Mamadou N’Diaye could give some defensive presence while Shaq sits on the bench. How awesome would it be to have a big point guard next to Kobe?

Instead, they drafted Mark Madsen. He was tough, intelligent, and very active. But I didn’t understand why the Lakers chose to go in a different direction. I was wrong, too. Carrawell and N’Diaye didn’t last long. Jaric had a decent NBA career, considering.

It turns out that Kenyon Martin and Michael Redd had the best NBA careers from of that draft. How did Redd slip so far? I had a lot to learn.

A Risky Trade Idea and Motor

 

With the mindset of drafting the best athlete available, there was one guy in 2001 that stood out. His name is Gerald Wallace. While he didn’t have the ball-handling ability of Kobe Bryant or Tracy McGrady, the guy played the wing position like a power forward. I wasn’t interested in his scoring ability. I was interested in how he rebounded and played defense. I read when he was in high school, he averaged roughly 14 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 3 steals per game during his senior year. That’s a tremendous amount of activity for any elite wing player. That kind of activity would later be known as motor.

The Sacramento Kings had the 25th pick in that draft.  While the Kings and Lakers were enemies, surely, they’d want a clutch player like Robert Horry that they could play beside Chris Webber to hit 3’s and play defense.  I thought Horry for a late 1st rounder was a fair trade.  After all, a guy like Horry was exactly the type of player that could have gotten the Kings over the hump.  I thought that the defensive advantages of Gerald Wallace, even as a rookie, would have been enough to contend for a championship in 2001 anyway.

 

While the Lakers didn’t make that trade, I always wonder what if. Sure, we would have Horry making clutch shots for the Lakers for championships, but my goodness, I think they would have had a blanket wing defender for a decade.

 

Wingspan, Speed, One NBA Skill, Draft Depth, and Upside

In 2003, the Lakers had 3 championships under their belts but didn’t have the team speed for a transition game. The long seasons had caught up to the team, especially Shaq and Bryant. Clearly, they needed help.

The idea of drafting the best athlete available didn’t matter as much. Darius Miles and Stromile Swift didn’t show the advanced improvement in their first years in the league like Kobe, McGrady, and Garnett. Skills and work ethic were part of the equation.

The 2003 draft was a special one. We got to witness what it looked like to have elite athletes with NBA level skills. LeBron James. Carmelo Anthony. Chris Bosh. Dwyane Wade. That’s the stuff of legends. I watched as many high school games of LeBron James as I could. I researched Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade.

In 2003, the Lakers had a late 1st rounder and an early 2nd round pick. At this point, I was still enamored with guys that had specific physical tools. The idea of speed, quickness, and wingspan was in my draft lexicon, and I was going to apply it to the draft.

The idea of drafting for fit didn’t sink in for me. The Lakers needed a power forward in 2000, but Mark Madsen didn’t supplant A.C. Green as a starting power forward. The top of the draft wasn’t just about the best athlete available. It was the best player available, regardless of position, which made sense to me. The worst-case scenario is drafting a player with NBA talent and adding depth to a team. All teams need depth.

What made 2003 a special year was the idea of draft depth as well. While the Lakers had a late 1st rounder and an early 2nd rounder, it was possible to draft starting talent at those respective draft spots. Work ethic, fit, and mentality are all variables that help fulfill a player’s upside, but the talent was there.

I had my eyes on one particular guy: Leandro Barbosa. He’s this Brazilian guard that had a 6’10” wingspan, was a blur on the court, and shot 40% behind the arc. Unlike Stromile Swift and Darius Miles, Barbosa could actually shoot. This is my idea of the perfect draft. Kobe would have a backcourt mate in transition and someone beside him with the physical tools to defend the point of attack. He could steal the basketball. He was quick.

While there was controversy about the form on his jump shot, there were no doubts about the results from a catch and shoot situations. Ron Harper was helping him with the draft process too. I figured this was a no-brainer pick. They had to have the inside word about Barbosa.

I had a short list of guys I wanted. I wanted Boris Diaw, knowing he was a big PG but he wouldn’t slip that far. I wanted Ndudi Ebi, because he was a McDonald’s All-American that could develop. I wanted Sofoklis Schortsanitis because that guy bulldozed teams in Greece. I wanted Steve Blake because I knew he would be a steady point guard. I wanted Malick Badiane, because he had great wingspan. I still wanted swatting off the bench. I would have even understood Derrick Zimmerman because he had a killer wingspan at the point guard position too. It was clear that I thought highly of upside based on physical tools.

Unfortunately, a day before draft night, I dreamt the Lakers drafted Brian Cook.

They drafted him. They drafted Luke Walton too, which I didn’t feel as awful about, but I didn’t really see either guy as potential starters. Brian Cook had great collegiate statistics but I didn’t see the athletic upside. I didn’t see great upside from both guys, especially in terms of athleticism. At least I believed in Walton’s basketball IQ, but I didn’t think that was as necessary on a championship team.

Fast-forward a few years and I watched Barbosa have a more successful career than Cook and Walton. I thought, maybe I’m getting better at this. I didn’t care about the other players I missed.

 

Best Player Available

Now, it’s 2005. Shaq was traded. The Lakers had a couple of foundation pieces in Bryant and Odom, but star talent was still needed. I remember thinking, it was a big year to try and attract Kevin Garnett onto the Lakers. I thought for sure that the Lakers could package Odom, Butler, and a player to lure Garnett. At least, that was a possibility in my mind.

But in order to make it work, the #10 pick had to be a potential star player. I did my research. I had the three guys on my list in order.

  1. Danny Granger
  2. Andrew Bynum
  3. Fran Vasquez

Why did I have Danny Granger over Bynum? He was a good athlete. He was a senior player out of New Mexico St. Here’s a self-made player that went from junior college to Division I. His senior year was fantastic. He shot 56% from 2-point, 43% from 3-point, averaged 9 rebounds per game, 2.4 assists per game, 2 blocks per game, and 2 steals per game. He played point-forward for New Mexico to close out the games. They finished 26-7.

I wanted a Pippen to Kobe’s Jordan. I figured the Laker franchise wanted a mature, experienced player. Well, here he is. He did everything on the floor. I was shocked that he wasn’t a Top 5 pick. Here I am, hoping that he slips because he’s from a small school and he’s a senior, and he’s available. This is the first time that it occurs to me, that my draft list doesn’t look like a mock draft anymore.

Andrew Bynum had the physical tools. Drafting Bynum meant that the Lakers changed to a completely different direction compared to their previous drafts since 2000. They had chosen experienced players in Walton, Cook, and Madsen. They tried with an international pick, Sasha Vujacic. They needed more.

Andrew Bynum was a project player. I read about a private workout where he was a bit overweight. He had good hands and didn’t exactly make elbow jumpers. Clearly, he was going to be a project.

Why did I want Fran Vazquez? I just wanted a guy at power forward that could swat, rebound, and finish. I wanted Odom at small forward. I wanted a big front line to support Bryant. In the end, he wanted to stay overseas.

The Lakers chose Andrew Bynum. I was excited, although I admit I wanted Granger, still. I thought he would have opened up the championship window more quickly, as he didn’t need as much development time. But at least, the Lakers had a project that they could work with, and I had faith in the organization.

 

Work Ethic and Health

While initially unhappy with how Andrew Bynum started in the league, I was shocked by his development by 2010. I once compared Andrew Bynum to Brendan Haywood as an upside. Haywood was a guy that similar size, wingspan, and mechanical moves. Out of UNC, he was a 12 point per game, 7 rebound per game center, but averaged 3.5 blocks per game. If the Lakers had that, they finally got a rim protector. But that was his upside, and the Lakers drafted a really raw player who they hoped they could transform into a contributor on a championship level.

By 2008, Andrew Bynum blew up. Not only was he physically stronger, now he had a post base. He once struggled to gather up for a dunk, now he’s catching lobs. He worked his way into being a 3rd option on offense and shot well from the field. He was actually intimidating. He really surprised me.

He was critical to two championship runs for the Lakers as well. The Lakers could not have gotten there without him, but his rise to stardom was fast, and I knew there was a cost. Not everybody can be Kobe Bryant in terms of work ethic and health. Knee injuries caught up to him. I personally felt that he burned out after working so hard. I learned that’s how Kobe separated himself from the rest of the league. I learned hard work is a talent, but health is luck. I learned that a player’s mentality, and a modicum of talent, meant a long career.

 

Motor, Archetypes, and Shooting

The Lakers were finally back in the lottery in 2014. They had struggled with injuries. They played uninspired basketball. Nick Young was the team’s leading scorer. The Lakers needed help everywhere.

I remember exactly who I wanted in 2014. Alongside Jacob Rude of LakeShowLife at the time (Now of LakersOutsiders), I wrote the most about Julius Randle. I also covered Rodney Hood, Zach LaVine, Adreian Payne, and Noah Vonleh. I distinctly remember having Randle at the top of my board at #7. I recall getting a lot of feedback where some said that I ranked Rodney Hood and Zach LaVine too high. Adreian Payne was the right archetype. I wasn’t as convinced that Vonleh’s high school athleticism translated well to the NCAA level after he got stronger. While I loved Marcus Smart’s abilities on defense, I wasn’t as convinced of his playmaking at the NBA level. He was mostly a straight-line driver that had trouble exploding at the hoop.

The guy I wanted was Randle. I knew Hood could shoot but I didn’t expect much else on the floor. I knew LaVine would meet my other requirements of a legitimate NBA prospect (elite athleticism, played PG in high school, great shooter), but it was how Randle played against Adreian Payne and Michigan St. that had me convinced. Unlike the other guys, he had a great motor. He had a post base and couldn’t be moved. He could handle the ball well for a small forward, let alone a power forward. He just needed to learn how to shoot. I didn’t think that was a big deal. If Karl Malone, Chris Webber, and Blake Griffin did it, why can’t Julius Randle?

For once, the Lakers picked the lottery guy I wanted. I finally believed in the front office’s ability to draft. Guys like Rodney Hood and Zach LaVine? It turns out they would have been fine at #7 in the draft as well.

 

The Importance of Interviews and Workouts

Then, there was Jahlil Okafor. I loved what he did on the floor for Duke. He has a 7’5” wingspan, mitts for hands, and created shots at will. I didn’t care that he was an average shot blocker or rebounder. Those were things that project players learned and he was a 19-year-old prospect. I just cared that he could get buckets. The Lakers didn’t have a guy outside of Kobe. After all, he did just enough to help Duke win the NCAA tournament.

Sure, he was bad at defense. He lacked motor. I didn’t care. I just wanted one thing to translate: field goal percentage. He shot 66% for the entire season for Duke, and it wasn’t just based on physical tools. He has incredibly nimble feet in the post. Want to know why the NBA went to perimeter shooting? It’s because there are no more post up players that could shoot 56% from the field like James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I really thought Okafor was next in line.

I recall D’Angelo Russell skyrocketed up mock drafts in January. He just had a phenomenal month. He displayed court awareness that was a step ahead of everyone else. He was big for a PG. Not that I would be disappointed if Russell was drafted, but Okafor was my guy.

Then, I watched the interviews.

D’Angelo Russell came off as a very intelligent individual. He worked out alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Devin Booker. He went up against Chris Paul. Don McLean raved about his basketball intelligence.

The Lakers worked out both players. D’Angelo Russell completed his second workout. Jahlil Okafor, well, didn’t.

Russell was their guy. That was the right choice.

 

Stride Length and NCAA Development

The 2016 draft was all about Ben Simmons. While LSU didn’t reach expectations of NCAA tournament play, Simmons’ talent with ball-handling, passing, and defensive versatility made him a clear prospect for the #1 pick.

However, Brandon Ingram was the guy I wanted. I watched him during the early weeks at Duke, and he looked like a 3-and-D guy but was really timid on the court. During the regular season, Amile Jefferson got hurt, and Coach Krzyzewski moved Ingram to power forward. He finally came out of his shell. He was more aggressive offensively and went from the 4th option on offense to the 2nd option behind Grayson Allen. Despite his skinny frame, he was physical in the paint and used his 7’3” wingspan to grab rebounds and protect the rim a bit. He attacked the basket much more often. He shot 48% behind the arc in January. By the end of the season, he was a tremendous isolation scorer at the NCAA level. This was the first time I had seen such rapid improvement within the season.

He showed a base level of triple-threat skills and great length, but there was a new element that I paid attention to that I didn’t before: stride length. Blame Giannis Antetokounmpo. Ingram and Antetokounmpo were forwards that could start at the 3-point line, take one dribble, two strides, and be at the rim.

 

This, to me, would be his one defining trait that few NBA players have. As shown by the end of last season, he showed the same rapid development and aggression, as well as the ability to finish surprisingly well.

 

Continuous Learning, Workouts, Analytics

Analytics have come into the fold more than ever when it comes to evaluating NBA prospects. It seems that every year, the bar gets raised in terms of height, wingspan, hands, standing reach, skill set by age, athleticism, and skill set by position. While it isn’t always as clear that the top 5 NBA prospects will all become franchise players, year by year, skill set expands deeper into the second round.

I’ve looked at analytics this year much more than I have in years past. It isn’t about assists, but assists in the half court. It isn’t about field goal percentage, but true shot percentage and free throw rate. It isn’t about 3-point percentages, but free throw percentages, distance of 3-point shots, and 3-point volume. We look at different statistics and try to find or create future models of success.

Then, there’s the NBA combine. There are players that put up fantastic numbers in terms of lateral agility and maximum vertical.

But the question is, do you see that on the NBA floor? Just because Steve Blake was the #1 athlete in his draft, doesn’t mean it all translated into elite point guard defense or finishing at the rim. Just because Kevin Durant was ranked 60th best athlete during his testing doesn’t mean he isn’t one of the deadliest NBA players in the league. When it comes to Semi Ojeleye and Jordan Bell? It translates, but that isn’t the case with all prospects.

Throughout all of this, I’ve learned about the one thing missing. Work ethic and skills advancement are the most difficult to quantify. For some, shooting takes years to develop. For others, it takes months. What makes a player tick bodes well for long-term success, and that’s why I’m higher on Tatum and have him Top 3. There is no analytics for guys like Andrew Bynum or Ben Wallace. It never made sense that Bruce Bowen became an elite 3-point shooter despite being a poor free throw shooter.

If there was a way to scout skill advancement over time, it’s arguable that those guys would be at the top of the draft every year.

Lakers Keep 2017 1st Round Pick — 2018 Pick Goes to Philadelphia

By: Pete Zayas

 

The Lakers defied the odds on Tuesday night, retaining the 2nd pick in the 2017 NBA Draft while managing to retain their 2019 1st Round pick in the process. These are the ramifications of tonight’s lottery.

 

A Paul George Trade Just Became A Lot More Likely

 

Despite the fondness that many Lakers have for Brandon Ingram and D’Angelo Russell, the #2 pick likely represents the most desirable asset that the Lakers possess. In the case of the Indiana Pacers, a shot at the player of their choice in a draft class where many pundits believe that the 2nd-6th picks are tightly clustered together should have a great deal of appeal, and having that player on a 4-year rookie contract amidst a rebuild is attractive as well. Ingram will be eligible for his second contract one year sooner than the #2 pick will, with Russell being up for that deal two years prior. These financial considerations are important to a team that is effectively hitting the reset button in the wake of George’s departure.

The Lakers may not be as willing to part with the pick. On one hand, as Laker fans have learned over the last few seasons, 19-20 year-olds aren’t terribly good at basketball, regardless of their long-term potential. It’s reasonable to suggest that Russell in his 3rd season or Ingram in his 2nd would be more effective sidekicks for Paul George in the short term. Yet the #2 pick also represents Magic Johnson & Rob Pelinka’s first attempt to add “their guy” to the young core. It’s likely that they are less invested in the players who were drafted by a previous regime, and the ability to trade one (or more) of them for Paul George while still drafting the player of their choosing could have significant pull in the minds of the decision makers.

Regardless of the approach that the Lakers take toward negotiations for George, they now have more routes to get there, and the retention of the pick likely represents the most appealing asset to the Pacers.


 

Who Should the Lakers Take If They Don’t Trade It?

 

I’m of the mind that trading Ingram, Russell, or #2 in exchange for George, with one year remaining on his contract, would be a mistake, so this is the route that I’d prefer. In a broad sense, I view this draft as having a clear #1 (Markelle Fultz), several prospects who are fairly closely bunched together (Josh JacksonMalik Monk , Jayson Tatum, Dennis Smith, Jr), and a wild card who has a high ceiling but also a relatively low floor. (Lonzo Ball).

Kevin Ding reported that the Lakers have particular interest in Fultz, Ball, Jackson, & De’Aaron Fox, who I don’t quite regard at the same level as the others, but does have excellent athletic gifts.


 

My Top 5 Prospects. 5/16/17

1)   Markelle Fultz

2)   Lonzo Ball

3)   Josh Jackson

4)   Malik Monk

5)   Dennis Smith, Jr.

 

I view Markelle Fultz as the best guard prospect since Kyrie Irving in the 2011 Draft, with apologies to Damian Lillard, who few people thought was going to be as good as he’s become. Fultz is one of the most productive pick & roll guards in the last decade in the NCAA, utilizing tremendous balance, solid athleticism, court vision, and a well-developed skill set to thrive in the NBA’s most common play.

I don’t worry about Washington’s atrocious record during his time there, as they were one of the most poorly coached teams I’ve ever seen at a high level, and there’s nothing that Fultz could have done to remedy their issues.

I do think that he will struggle at first as a catch & shoot player, due to a very slow gather, but that’s a relatively easy fix. Fultz has all-star potential, but also a very high floor, due to a highly developed skill set. He’s one of the safest picks in years.

I find myself conflicted on Lonzo Ball. I understand the skepticism on him, whether it’s his ability to create on pick & rolls, questions about his ball-handling ability, and even the absurdities that come from his father. Yet I can’t help but wonder if he is squeezing the untapped potential out of already established ideas. He barely dribbles the ball relative to other lead guards. He’d rather shoot an open 30-footer than a 25-footer that’s slightly contested. He’s an excellent screener and cutter. How he plays is statistically supported, but extremely unusual.

 

Will it translate? I don’t know.

 

He was surrounded by shooters at UCLA, and shared the ball-handling responsibilities with a pair of very good college guards in Bryce Alford & Aaron Holiday. How would Lonzo look playing alongside sub-30% three point shooters like Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, & Timofey Mozgov?

 

 

Can he still find a way to be extraordinarily effective, does it all fall apart, or somewhere in between? I would bet on him being able to make it translate eventually… although I predict a rough rookie year for him… but the worst case scenario with him is concerning.

I think that he’ll eventually put it together, but will struggle initially in the NBA. I also think he’s a SG rather than a PG, as noted in my offensive scouting report.

I regard Monk and Smith. Jr. higher than most and think they should at least be in the conversation for the 3rd pick. Monk is an elite scorer coming off of screens and in transition while showing a flicker of playmaking ability in the pick & roll.

Smith, Jr. is an athletic lead guard with potential as a 3-level scorer. Yet neither is a particularly good defender, which is where Josh Jackson excels.

 

 

Josh Jackson is a tantalizing mix of athleticism, intelligence, and motor. I question his ability to grow into a Top 2 scoring option on a team due to his questionable shooting, triple threat, and pick & roll abilities, but his defense, passing, and transition play are some of the most bankable attributes that anyone in the draft possesses. He has a high floor as a result, while still maintaining considerable upside, which is why I think he should be the 3rd pick, and you could make an argument for him at #2 as well.

I have concerns with De’Aaron Fox’s skill set, despite his excellent athleticism. He isn’t a particularly good shooter, and I don’t think his shot form is conducive to a longer 3-p=oint line. I believe that in order to succeed at the NBA level without a reliable jumper, a PG needs to have great court vision, along the lines of a John Wall or Russell Westbrook, and I don’t see that or elite ball-handling from Fox. He’s a solid defender, but I don’t think it’s enough of a difference maker to bridge the gap on the offensive end. Many fans point to his 39 point performance against UCLA in the NCAA tournament, but that was often the result of blown pick & roll coverages that rarely ever happen in the NBA.

Jayson Tatum is normally the type of player that I like quite a bit, as he’s one of the most skilled players in the draft, but I find his strengths to be a bit outdated. He can create his own shot in isolation situations and is competent in a variety of other Play Types, but I question his ability to fit in with a system that’s heavily dependent upon ball and player movement. This, along with a propensity to give in too easily on the defensive end sours me a bit on him, although I do think he’ll have a long career and will be one of the better individual scorers in the draft.

Jonathan Isaac is another name that’s brought up with some regularity, but I don’t think he belongs in the conversation for the #3 pick. While he’s one of the better defensive prospects in the draft, he provides very little in the way of shot creation, and I think he mostly projects as a 3 & D prospect along the lines of an Al-Farouq Aminu.

Lauri Markaanen probably has the clearest strengths and weaknesses in the draft. Strictly from an outside shooting perspective, he may be the best big man prospect in NBA history. He projects as a devastating pick & pop big, but as much as I’m dying for that kind of player within the Lakers offense, his deficiencies on the boards and defensively…both as a rim protector and on the perimeter…are too much to overcome, and I don’t think he belongs in the conversation at #3.

 


 

Regardless of whether they keep the pick or trade it, the rebuild has probably been accelerated by a year.

There’s no motivation to tank next season, due to the fact that Philadelphia owns their 2018 pick no matter what, so the Lakers will be motivated to be as good as they can possibly be, which is a refreshing change from the last few seasons.

Today was the last day that we have to worry about keeping the pick, after 3 seasons of uncertainty. What a relief.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Check out Cranjis McBasketball’s Twitter thread on D’Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith, Jr.

 

Josh Jackson Scouting Report

By: Mike Garcia

Age: 20.2 years old as of April 20, 2017

According to the Team USA 2015 measurements:

Height: 6’7.0″ w/o shoes, 6’8.25″ w/shoes

Weight: 203 lbs.

Wingspan: 6’9.8″

Standing Reach: 8’9.8″

 Source: http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Josh-Jackson-7239/ ©DraftExpress

Size comparison: T.J. Warren.

T.J. Warren measured at 6’7” w/o shoes, 6’8.25” w/shoes, with a 6’10.25” wingspan, 8’8” standing reach, at 220 pounds.

The 2015 USA Basketball measurements were used because the most recent measurements from the 2016 Hoops Summit in terms of standing reach, didn’t make sense. Also, in terms of height, wingspan, and weight, he has been basically the same size for roughly three years and counting. Add roughly 15lbs. of mass to his frame, and Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren nearly match in terms of height, weight, wingspan, and standing reach.

General Athleticism:

In terms of athleticism, Josh Jackson has the twitch of shooting guard. That level of athleticism, whether it’s power forward or small forward, is difficult to find. He has a great first step and always puts opposing power forwards on their heels. His leaping ability is well above average too, showing explosiveness off of one or two feet with his forays to the basket. More importantly, he has shown some dexterity with his footwork, including a euro-step in transition, a step back jump shot, and a handful of isolation moves for a midrange jump shot.

What makes Josh Jackson special, is the motor behind the athleticism. A great motor can be defined as a high level of activity within a limited amount of time. Remember all of those times that Dennis Rodman would tip a basketball two-to-three times before he grabbed a rebound? How about Kenneth Faried’s ability to attack the offensive glass? Josh Jackson’s motor is slightly different. He seems to be everywhere at once, whether he’s rotating well defensively or attacking the glass. He’s not one to sit around on either end of the floor but seems to be at the right place at the right time.

Defensively, he has shown great lateral agility. His level of twitch allows him to switch onto NBA-level small forwards and possibly a few shooting guards, while still being able to match up well in terms of footspeed. Since he played power forward for Kansas, his athletic ability and length allowed him to be great at defending pick and roll, switching from power forwards to the point of attack.

He has very good speed in the open court, and it shows whether he grabs a defensive rebound and pushes up the court, or flies down the wings for a finish.

Strength, on the other hand, is a big opportunity for him to improve on. It is a bit discouraging to see a player roughly the same weight from age 17 to age 20 where he is now. He has a lightweight frame in general, but his motor, length and athletic twitch may just be eviscerated by bigger NBA power forwards.

 


 

Offensive Skill Set

Per Game Table
Season FG% 3P% FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PTS
2016-17 .513 .378 .566 7.4 3.0 1.7 1.1 2.8 16.3
Career .513 .378 .566 7.4 3.0 1.7 1.1 2.8 16.3

Painted Area: In the painted area, he attacks the basket like a guard. Josh Jackson sticks primarily to layups, flip shots, floaters, and the rare jump hook. This can be seen as a large advantage offensively, as shown by over 5 shots per game at the rim, simply because he has the ball-handling and athletic ability to blow past defenders. Of his total shots, 42.9% were at the rim. He converted at a phenomenal 69% rate.

Mid-range to Long 2: The midrange game is where things get a bit murky. Due to his outward attitude of going into his shot form, he needs more space to create his own shots from midrange. He doesn’t compensate with Tatum’s ability to create space, but rather, brings the ball up more quickly and tries to elevate over defenders. Still, he shoots 38% outside of the painted area, which is fairly good. As the season progressed, he looked more comfortable shooting off-the-dribble from the midrange area.

Advanced Table
Season PER TS% eFG% 3PAr FTr ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% OBPM DBPM BPM
2016-17 24.1 .559 .552 .210 .403 8.7 17.4 13.3 18.2 3.1 3.5 15.9 27.2 5.1 5.7 10.7
Career 24.1 .559 .552 .210 .403 8.7 17.4 13.3 18.2 3.1 3.5 15.9 27.2 5.1 5.7 10.7


3-point Range:
 Josh Jackson’s 3-point shot shows promise. Fortunately, he removed a hitch while gathering up for his 3-point shot, which led to better overall efficiency as the season progressed. In January, he shot 38.5% behind the arc. In February, his 3-point shooting spiked to 47.8% for the month on 2.6 attempts per game. Entering tourney time, he leveled off at 40% for March. A majority of these shots are assisted, as shown by an 85.3% assisted shot rate behind the arc. At either forward slot, his ability to knock down catch and shoot 3-point shots is important. The progression throughout the season has been evident.

Playmaking: What Josh Jackson does best, is playmaking. He operates in the midrange zone and draws in the defense. He sees the floor like a guard and gets the ball moving.

Let’s take a look at a 31-point game by Josh Jackson.

 

He draws in the defense at the 1:42 mark, and kicks out to a shooter. In this highlight reel, he drives and kicks three consecutive times, demonstrating his aggression, his ability to find the open man, and the shots that are created. The best play by far is at the 2:08 mark, he attacks driving right using a dribble hand-off as a decoy, passes to Devonte Graham on the weak side, then relocates back to the 3-point line for the open shot. The defense is so far behind, that the rotating defender (number #11) starts from the elbow area of the free throw line as Josh Jackson gets the shot up.

Notice, that his mid-range shot is the step back jumper. That shot didn’t come into form until the last month of the season. He was clearly more comfortable attacking the basket and spotting up behind the arc.

 



Defensive Skill Set

Josh Jackson is expected to be a plus defender at the NBA level, with an ability to switch from power forward to shooting guard. He plays with a level of intensity and heightened awareness on the defensive end. His motor stands out. With a steal rate of 3.1% and a block rate of 3.5%, he’s able to force turnovers while playing solid man defense.

In terms of tools, his motor, wingspan, and athleticism allow a great deal of versatility. While he has a thin frame for defending post players, he compensates with lateral speed and length to attack post entry passes and get into solid defensive position. Defending pick and roll is even easier. He has the physical tools to provide a soft hedge, trap the ball-handler, switch, and recover well defensively. That skill set and athleticism is a premium at power forward, especially with the NBA trending to power forwards that can shoot from 3-point range.

It’s easy to project him as a primary defender at small forward, where he matches in terms of size but has an athletic advantage and motor to really be a pest.
In stints, he can defend both guard positions. Over time, point guards have had a tough issue with defensive players with great length. Whether it was Kobe Bryant in 2000 to Kawhi Leonard defending Chris Paul in more recent years, the added length simply blocks off passing lanes, and height combined with standing reach, alter shot trajectory from the point guards after they create space. Jackson can do more than just be a versatile defender but can be a plus defender at multiple positions as well.

Rebounding:

Josh Jackson rebounds at a 13.3% rate, which is solid, but not great. While he is able to mix it up with bigger players due to his motor and length, I don’t expect him to be a great rebounder at the next level. It’s possible that Josh Jackson may play a wing position in the NBA where his size and athletic tools give him the most advantage early on. He does chase down and grab a few rebounds out of his ordinary space, but playing power forward for Kansas had him underneath the basket setting screens for wing players. He was always in the painted area.

He does have a big advantage in terms of offensive rebounding from a wing position. When opposing teams miss the box-out, he will crash the offensive glass and follow up the shot. He has a knack for the ball and knows he can get it.

Conclusion:

Josh Jackson is a swiss army knife at the NBA level. Every NBA GM would love to have a player that can play both ends of the floor, be unselfish, defend multiple positions, and have a great motor to back it all up.

In terms of style of play, there is a similarity to Andre Iguodala and Aaron Gordon. Josh Jackson does similar things in different ways, especially when it comes to finishing around the rim, his 3-point shot, and his approach to defense. Where Andre Iguodala and Aaron Gordon were straight-line drivers out of Arizona, Jackson has better footwork with his euro-step and ability to change direction off the dribble. He has more of a knack for finding the open man cross court and hitting him with the proper pass and even has a more developed 3-point shot than both players coming out of the NCAA level. Andre shot 31.5% on 2.4 attempts per game during his sophomore year. Aaron Gordon shot 35.6% behind the arc on just 1.2 attempts per game. Jackson shot 37.8% on 2.6 attempts per game.

Aaron Gordon transformed his shot after his rookie year. It’s possible that Josh Jackson will do the same at the NBA level. Gordon had timing issues with his shot release. Jackson, though improved, has issues gathering up and shooting a flat shot. Gordon isn’t a great NBA 3-point shooter just yet but now shoots 44.6% from 10’ to 16’, great for any NBA player. That’s tremendous improvement after just two years.

While there is concern about Josh Jackson’s free throw shooting at 56.6%, he also shot 37.8% behind the 3-point line on 2.6 attempts per game. Three months of continued improvement is a testament to his work ethic, willingness to change, and led to proven results. More importantly, he doesn’t hesitate on that 3-point shot. If he hits just 33% behind the arc without hesitation, he can draw in defensive gravity to the perimeter, which only opens up the floor for the entire team, as well create more playmaking opportunities in the half court.

It’s difficult to see a floor with Josh Jackson. It’s easy to just watch him as a 3-and-D player at PF/SF, only, he has far more advanced court vision, playmaking ability to simply just be a role player. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him as a starting point forward at the NBA level, especially when guard scoring is so prevalent. In that sense, it is easy to see him as a natural fit as a Los Angeles Laker. While he would be physically outmatched at power forward, Ingram has tremendous length and can help out. In an NBA world leading to perimeter play, post up opportunities may be more limited.

Offensively, Josh Jackson would allow Ingram, Clarkson, and Russell to do what they do best, score the basketball. While these guys aren’t elite scorers just yet, they are all three-level scorers that specialize in different aspects. Ingram is growing to a devastating straight-line slasher. Clarkson still has an underrated floater and mid-range game. Russell is more of a natural playmaker with an easy three-point shot. Jackson is the kind of guy that can bring those talents together, just like he did for Devonte Graham, Frank Mason, and Mykhailiuk.

The Lakers have a history of running small forward types at power forward. James Worthy did it during his rookie year. Robert Horry did it during the championship years with Shaq and Kobe. Lamar Odom did it during the championship years with Kobe and Gasol. While it took Horry and Odom a few years to add weight to their frames, their defense, rebounding, the ability to push in transition, and 3-point range were critical to championship success.

Josh Jackson, can be that kind of role player too, only better.

Josh Jackson Scouting Report – Offense

Getting to the Rim

Josh Jackson possesses a level of athleticism and physical superiority that would be a welcome addition to a team that’s used its last two 1st Round picks on D’Angelo Russell & Brandon Ingram, both of whom are lacking in this respect. This is most evident in transition, where he’s fantastic at both filling a lane or cleaning up as the trailer. When he is able to collect his feet and get on the runway, he can tear the rim off of the backboard.

Josh Jackson Scouting Report Trailer

In half court situations, he’s capable of overwhelming an overmatched defender with his physical advantages rather than always having to rely on technical expertise. He frequently uses the motion of the offense — often in Weave situations at Kansas — to gain a step on his defender. From there his physical gifts kick in on straight line drives, where bigs are too slow to stay with him, and guards are too small to not get bumped off of their spot.

Josh Jackson Scouting Report Weave

When he needs to change direction, he has a crisp crossover dribble that he’s capable of using left-to-right or right-to-left with near equal proficiency, which is an encouraging attribute for a wing, although he’s much better at finishing with his right hand than his left.

Josh Jackson Scouting Report Crossover

Despite the beautiful inside out + crossover combo above, the vast majority of Jackson’s ventures to the rim are straight line drives that don’t involve changes of direction, which can separate a decent scorer off of the dribble from an excellent one. If Jackson’s initial penetration is thwarted he will generally shoot a pull-up jumper while going right, with limited success, or a step-back jumper while going left, with a bit more accuracy. That type of shot is a win for the defense. 

Josh Jackson Scouting Report Stepback

Over the course of the 7 games I watched while evaluating Jackson, I didn’t see him utilize any jab steps or other triple threat moves to create a shot opportunity, nor did I see him as the ball handler on more than a couple of pick & rolls. To be fair, Kansas doesn’t really put him in the position to run either of those actions. He is most frequently used as the screener on pick & pops and in the aforementioned Weave scenarios. Neither situation lends itself to triple threat opportunities, and unlike most NBA teams, Kansas’ Weave doesn’t usually end in a ball screen, at least not at Jackson’s position. These are areas I would heavily emphasize in any pre-draft workout with him. You can be a high-caliber scorer in the NBA without a deadly 3-point jumper (Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade), but you need to excel in the pick & roll and/or out of triple threat position in order to get there. If I had to guess based on his footwork in other scenarios, Jackson won’t be that kind of guy, but that’s admittedly speculative on my part. 

 


 

The Truth About His Jumper

Jackson has steadily improved his 3-point percentage throughout the season, shooting a respectable 35.3% on 2.6 attempts per game. Yet even Jackson’s most ardent supporters concede this is a relative area of weakness, and this notion is furthered by his 56.3 FT%, a figure that is typically more predictive of NBA 3-point percentage than NCAA 3-point percentage and doesn’t bode well for him going forward.

Almost all of his 3-point attempts are spot up jumpers, with his feet set. I charted 59 of his 71 3-point attempts on the season,  with an emphasis on the closest defender. Please note that the following chart consists of my estimates, and are NOT as exact as the SportsVU data on nba.com that this information mimics. With that “grain of salt” disclaimer:

These stark results can be read in one of two ways. The optimistic version is that while he may not be a knockdown shooter overall, opponents will have to at have at least a modicum of respect for his jumper, otherwise, he’ll make them pay. The more skeptical interpretation is that he’ll be open for shorter windows of time at a longer distance on the NBA level, spotlighting his relative inability to make contested jumpers.

The reasons for this discrepancy could be answered 5 different ways by 5 different shooting coaches (which I do not claim to be), but my observation is that Jackson is consistent with his feet on nearly all of his shots, and the problem is with his shooting stroke, which he speeds up in an effort to get his shot off against closeouts.

The fixability of that is debatable, and the cause of that flaw is likely related to shot mechanics that are beyond the scope of this scouting report, but I don’t think it would be wise to draft him under the presumption that this will change. If it does, it’s a pleasant surprise. 

Josh Jackson Scouting Report Contested

 


 

How Does He Fit Alongside Brandon Ingram?

Unlike the offensive fit between Lonzo Ball & D’Angelo Russell, a Josh Jackson/Brandon Ingram pairing is questionable on the offensive end due to their limited shooting ability. In Ingram’s case, he is merely a theoretical shooter at this point, with Laker fans hoping that his college success behind the 3-point line (41% on 5.4 attempts per game) translates long term in ways that it hasn’t during his rookie season (30.2% on 3.0 attempts per game). 

The combination of two wing players who are subpar 3-point shooters relative to other wings around the league is untenable and further exacerbated by the fact that neither of the PFs in the young core (Julius Randle, Larry Nance, Jr.) are 3-point threats as well. Most functional offenses in 2017 have a bare minimum of 3 players who can at least pose a credible threat from 3-point range on the floor for most of the game, and in many cases, they have 4.

Zooming out a bit to look at the young core as a whole, the Lakers only have one player (D’Angelo Russell) where you could make a credible argument that he will eventually be an above average shooter relative to his position. Jordan Clarkson, Ingram, Randle, Nance, Jr, & Tarik Black don’t fit that description, and you have to cling to a 4-11 performance from behind the arc in the D-League in order to convince yourself that 3-point proficiency is in the cards for Ivica Zubac.

Drafting for need is folly in the first place, but while you can make a decent argument that Brandon Ingram will one day be a good shooter, Josh Jackson’s shooting deficiency would be stacked upon an existing Laker weakness. That would ultimately need to be addressed if the Lakers drafted him, where it would be wise to move a couple of those players in exchange for players who are more effective at spacing the floor.

 


 

What Offensive Position Does He Play?

Jackson is not a SG by any stretch of the imagination, at least within the context of the Lakers’ offense. Beyond the questions surrounding his spot up shooting ability, he has almost no experience running the types of action that would be required of him at this position. Think about how Nick Young & Jordan Clarkson get their points, often navigating off-ball screens, catching & firing off of kickbacks, or utilizing drag screens in transition. Jackson doesn’t run any of these actions — nor does Ingram, for that matter — and it’s a stretch of the imagination to believe that either will be able to do so anytime soon. If they struggle on spot up 3’s, they’re nowhere near being capable of being functional shooters without their feet set.

Josh Jackson Scouting Report OReb

Jackson actually starts at PF for Kansas, alongside a three-guard lineup of Frank Mason III, Devonte’ Graham, & Svi Mykhailiuk, playing the majority of his minutes at that position. He’s often used in pick & pop situations and as a high post/low post option against zone defenses, where the 4 & 5 positions are interchangeable. I believe that Jackson primarily projects to be a SF in the NBA, but his secondary position will likely be a small ball PF rather than SG.

Josh Jackson Scouting Report Pick and Pop

 


 

Basketball Intelligence & Court Vision

Freak athleticism and basketball IQ are often antithetical. Gifted athletes can be prisoners of their own talents, dominating on lower levels via sheer physical supremacy, never learning how to do things the “right” way because they could achieve results without doing so. Conversely, middling athletes need to understand the game on a deeper level if they ever hope to compete on the NBA stage, where they start from a deficit that most cannot overcome. 

Josh Jackson is the rare exception to this rule, demonstrating a degree of spatial intelligence that rivals his physical tools. He’s not only bigger, faster, and stronger. . . he’s smarter too. This is most evident in his ability to drive & dish or drive & kick, where he’s able to read help defenders and move the ball accurately with either hand. 

Josh Jackson Scouting Report Drive and Dish

Josh Jackson Scouting Report Drive and Kick

This attribute also manifests itself when he’s the recipient of the pass, as he’s fantastic at both relocating on the perimeter and cutting from the weak side to exploit available passing lanes. 

Josh Jackson Scouting Report Cutter

I usually loathe player comparisons as they relate to incoming draft prospects, as their accuracy rarely survives superficial scrutiny, but Josh Jackson reminds me quite a bit of a bigger and younger Andre Iguodala. He’s a phenomenal athlete with a good deal of intelligence and ball-handling ability, but also a questionable jumper and skill set as an individual scorer. Yet the book is hardly written on Jackson in these respects, as those are skill-based weaknesses, which can be developed over the course of time at the NBA level. This scenario would take him out of Andre Iguodala territory and into the Kawhi Leonard stratosphere, with Leonard being a shining example of someone with similar attributes coming out of college, who was able to drastically improve his game in the exact areas where Jackson is weak.

But the road to retrospectively foolish draft analysis is paved with faulty assumptions of improvement, so proceed with caution.

NEXT UP: Josh Jackson Scouting Report – Defense