Here are my thoughts on the players I have ranked as the #6-#10 prospects in this year’s draft.
#6: STEVEN ADAMS – 19 years old, C, Pittsburgh (+2.02)
Adams is a lot like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in this draft. I had both players ranked in the top ten of this draft class when they were both projected to go late in the first round. Since then, they’ve both moved into the lottery in a number of mock drafts.
Like Nerlens Noel, Adams is a player whose value comes from the defensive end of the floor. He had 3.1 blocks and 1.0 steals per 36 minutes as a freshman at Pittsburgh, numbers which are among the highest for centers in this year’s draft. He also was a very good offensive rebounder – strangely, Adams got almost as many offensive rebounds per 36 minutes (4.3) as defensive rebounds (5.4).
Adams is very limited offensively – he only attempted 8.4 shots per 36 minutes, making 57 percent of them. His points per possession was 0.96, which is low for a draft prospect. Adams makes up for this by not taking too many shots. He doesn’t profile as a me-first player.
What’s most impressive about Adams is his ability to play so well defensively at the age of 19 years old. If your team is looking for a rim protector and doesn’t have the chance to draft Noel, Adams is the next best choice.
#7: VICTOR OLADIPO – 21 years old, SG, Indiana (+1.85)
I see Oladipo probably being successful in the NBA, but I also see some irrational hype of Oladipo in some circles of the Internet. There’s a lot to like about him, but I’d stop short before comparing him to Dwyane Wade or anybody similar.
Oladipo is a very well-rounded player. He’s efficient enough on offense that he scored 1.11 points per possession as a junior. He shot 60 percent from the floor, which is extremely high for any player, let alone a shooting guard. He also has excellent rebounding abilities and a very high rate of steals.
There are a couple things holding Oladipo back as a prospect a little bit. One is that it’s unclear if he can be a consistent three-point threat in the NBA; he shot 34 percent on a career 142 three-point attempts in college. The other is that he’s 21 years old, which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but does make his statistics a little less impressive in comparison to some other prospects.
Oladipo’s overall skill set is good enough that I’d call him one of the safer picks in the draft. I doubt he has what it takes to reach Dwyane Wade status, but I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t become a steady and valuable contributor in the NBA.
#8: C.J. MCCOLLUM – 21 years old, PG/SG, Lehigh (+1.61)
If your team needs a scoring boost in the backcourt, look no further than C.J. McCollum. McCollum scored a whopping 27.8 points per 36 minutes in his senior season at Lehigh. He shot 49 percent from the floor, got to the free throw line a lot, and scored at an efficient rate of 1.11 points per possession.
The reason I don’t have McCollum rated higher is that his shaky defensive metrics are a bit of a red flag. McCollum got a combined 2.0 blocks and steals per 36 minutes, which is fairly low for a player expected to be a lottery pick.
Another issue is that McCollum has the size of a point guard (6’3″, 197 pounds) but the skill set and metrics of a shooting guard. He might turn out to be similar to Monta Ellis in that he’s a small guard with terrific scoring abilities but glaring flaws as well. (Hopefully he turns out to be a better teammate than Monta.)
One thing I’m not as concerned about is the fact that he played at Lehigh. Damian Lillard played at Weber State, Kenneth Faried played at Morehead State, and Jeremy Lin played at Harvard… those guys turned out OK. McCollum’s tremendous talent and scoring ability is enough to place him in the top ten despite the questions he’ll need to answer in the NBA.
#9: TREY BURKE – 20 years old, PG, Michigan (+1.53)
Burke is a player whose draft value is probably a bit higher than normal due to a draft very thin on point guards. Other than Michael Carter-Williams, Burke looks like the only pure point guard likely to be drafted in the first round. I think Burke will probably succeed in the NBA, but I’m not quite as enthusiastic about him as a lot people are.
Burke is definitely an impressive floor general. He scored at a respectable rate of 1.02 points per possession, but what’s impressive is that he did so while getting 6.8 assists per 36 minutes. It’s often challenging for a pure point guard to score at high efficiency because of a high rate of turnovers. Burke only turned the ball over 2.2 times per 36 minutes despite his high assist rate.
Burke is likely to struggle a bit on the defensive end due to his relative lack of size (6’1″, 187 pounds). He got a combined 2.1 blocks and steals per 36 minutes, which isn’t bad for a point guard, but it’s not really good either. Burke also isn’t much of a factor on the boards.
Overall, Burke is an impressive prospect due to his relatively polished abilities as a point guard, and the fact that he played that way as a 20 year old for a national powerhouse in Michigan. I think Burke is likely to succeed in the NBA, but he’ll have to battle some limitations as well.
#10: LUCAS NOGUEIRA – 20 years old, C, Brazil (+1.45)
With Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Steven Adams rising up the mock draft boards, Nogueira is now my late first-round prospect to look out for. There are legitimate questions about how well his game will translate to the NBA, but Nogueira’s upside is too great for me to ignore.
Some of Nogueira’s statistics are eye-popping. He shot 69 percent from the floor for Estudiantes Madrid last year. He blocked 3.0 shots per 36 minutes to go along with 1.1 steals. He scored at a rate of 1.22 points per possession and got a lot of offensive rebounds.
There are some concerns within the numbers as well. One is that he only played 13 minutes per game and less than 500 minutes overall. His defensive rebounding rate was very low, and very close to guards like Victor Oladipo and C.J. McCollum. He also was charged for too many fouls – a rate of 5.0 per 36 minutes.
I understand why Nogueira is only getting a late first-round grade from draft experts. It’s hard to justify using a lottery pick on a player with as many question marks as Nogueira. At the same time, some of the metrics suggest that Nogueira has incredible NBA talent. Overall, Nogueira lands #10 on my list, but he’s risky.