#16: PIERRE JACKSON – 21 years old, PG, Baylor (+0.44)
Until just yesterday, Jackson was not projected as a first-round pick by Draft Express. Now, with his inclusion in the group of players projected to go in the first round, Jackson is ranked #16 on my list. (These rankings are for projected first-round prospects only.)
As a player who is only 5’10”, Jackson needs to have good offensive point guard skills. He definitely qualifies in the assists category, as he got 7.3 assists per 36 minutes as a senior at Baylor. He also showed above-average ability to draw fouls, as he shot 6.9 free throws per 36 minutes.
If Jackson was an efficient scorer, he would qualify as one of my prospects likely to succeed in the NBA. Unfortunately, Jackson’s scoring efficiency is average at best. He shot 43 percent from the floor and scored at a rate of 0.97 points per possession. As expected, Jackson profiles as a defensive liability; he got zero blocks and only 1.6 steals per 36 minutes.
I can see Jackson possibly catching on as a reserve point guard in the NBA. He’s definitely shown the ability to run an offense and pile up assists. However, Jackson’s limitations, both as a scorer and defender, prevent him from making the cut as a player I think is likely to do well as a professional.
#17: MICHAEL CARTER-WILLIAMS – 21 years old, PG, Syracuse (+0.43)
Out of all players eligible to be selected in this year’s draft, Carter-Williams had the third-highest assist rate, at 7.4 assists per 36 minutes. That’s a good start, but unfortunately for Carter-Williams, his scoring is too much of a liability for me to grade him as a probable NBA success.
Carter-Williams shot just under 40 percent from the floor for Syracuse, and didn’t show a great ability to get to the free throw line either. Overall, he only scored 0.77 points per possession, a number which serves as an indictment of his ability to score with any kind of efficiency in the NBA.
What Carter-Williams has going for him (and why he’s not lower on my list) is his defensive metrics are actually very good. He got 2.8 steals and 0.5 blocks per 36 minutes, numbers which compare favorably with any other point guard available in this draft.
A team that drafts Carter-Williams will be getting a pass-first guard who can play quality defense. Sadly, his complete lack of ability to score with efficiency is too much of a red flag for me to ignore. I understand why teams would be interested in Carter-Williams, but Trey Burke is the better point guard option in my opinion.
#18: BEN MCLEMORE – 20 years old, SG, Kansas (+0.03)
This is likely to be my most controversial grading. McLemore has often been projected as a top three pick in the NBA draft. I’ve seen arguments that suggest McLemore should be the top overall pick. When I look at the statistical profile, I simply cannot understand what has people so excited.
What McLemore does bring to the table is excellent shooting ability. He shot almost 50 percent from the floor as a guard, including 42 percent from three-point range. He scored 1.10 points per possession, which rates extremely well among the guards eligible for this year’s draft.
The problem with McLemore is that he doesn’t bring anything else to the table. His rebounding, passing, and defensive metrics are all average or worse. Compare McLemore to C.J. McCollum, another efficient scorer who scored more points, had better rebounding and passing metrics, and similar defensive metrics.
For me to give a prospect a grade of likely success, he needs to show me more than one thing. Yes, scoring is the single best thing I can see out of a prospect. However, if McLemore turns out to be Kevin Martin, is that really a player worthy of the #2 pick? I would understand if McLemore was drafted in the late lottery, but I can’t support a team’s decision to draft him in the top three.
#19: SHANE LARKIN – 20 years old, PG, Miami (FL) (-0.11)
Larkin is a point guard whose metrics just don’t get to where they need to be for me to call him a good prospect. Larkin did play 36 minutes per game for a very highly ranked team, but it’s hard for me to see what he brings to the NBA that will help him stand out against the best players in the world.
The one point in Larkin’s favor besides experience is that he did shoot 41 percent from three-point range. If he catches on in the NBA, it will likely be because of his ability to make shots. Overall, Larkin scored 1.01 points per possession, which is a decent rate, but again, doesn’t really stand out.
Larkin’s other metrics are very unexciting. He had 3.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.9 steals per 36 minutes. He didn’t show much ability to get to the free throw line (2.3 FTA/36) and also didn’t show the ability to take on a lead scoring role (14.3 PTS/36).
If Larkin was still just 18 years old, I could see him developing into a quality NBA point guard. At 20 years old, it’s hard to get excited about him. Players who can shoot have some value from that alone, but Larkin is likely to face an uphill battle in the NBA.
#20: SERGEY KARASEV – 19 years old, SF, Russia (-0.80)
A common remark I’ve seen made recently is that NBA players who can both shoot and play quality defense are surprisingly hard to find. Players like Thabo Sefolosha and Shane Battier are often unheralded, but play a very valuable role for championship contending teams.
Karasev has the shooting part down. He’s a prolific three-point shooter who scored at a rate of 1.08 points per possession in the Russian league despite shooting 44 percent from the floor. He’s not much of a slasher, but he can definitely shoot.
Unfortunately, my complaint about players like Ben McLemore and Shane Larkin applies here too. Karasev can shoot, but what else does he bring to the table? He only got 3.3 rebounds per 36 minutes, which is a very low rate for a small forward. He also didn’t show much ability to pass, at 2.6 assists per 36.
Most troubling for Karasev are his awful defensive metrics. Karasev only got a mere 0.6 steals and 0.4 blocks per 36 minutes. Players who can shoot and play defense are rare, but players who can only shoot are a dime a dozen. That’s why I can’t get excited about Karasev.