My top 13 prospects, from Nerlens Noel to Jamaal Franklin, are players I think have a better than 50-50 chance of succeeding in the NBA. My players ranked 14-20 are players I think have a less than 50-50 chance of succeeding, but still a decent chance.
I can’t say that about the players I’m going to rank in the next two posts. These players are very likely to be busts in the NBA, for reasons I’ll explain for each player.
#21: KELLY OLYNYK – 22 years old, C, Gonzaga (-1.11)
Let’s be clear about this: Kelly Olynyk was an outstanding college player. He shot 63 percent from the floor and was good at drawing fouls. He grabbed 10 rebounds per 36 minutes. He scored a whopping 24.3 points per 36 minutes in leading Gonzaga to a top seed in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
Olynyk’s biggest problem is simple: he’s 22 years old. All of the players I’ve ranked so far have been 21 or younger. The reason is simple: players who enter the draft at 22 years old or older have a greatly diminished rate of success in the NBA.
To illustrate this, here are the players who were drafted in the first round from 2010-2012 at 22 years old or older:
- Tyler Zeller
- Andrew Nicholson
- Festus Ezeli
- Fab Melo
- Miles Plumlee
- JaJuan Johnson
- Norris Cole
- MarShon Brooks
- Jimmer Fredette
- Nolan Smith
- Damion James
- Wes Johnson
- Trevor Booker
- Quincy Pondexter
- Ekpe Udoh
- Greivis Vasquez
- Lazar Hayward
- Craig Brackins
Who is the standard-bearer here? Quincy Pondexter? Greivis Vasquez?
Olynyk could have still graded out as a good prospect if he had shown good defensive metrics, but unfortunately, he was only good for 2.4 blocks and steals per 36 minutes. As great as his offensive output was, I have to stand on the side of Olynyk not making it in the NBA.
#22: GORGUI DIENG – 23 years old, C, Louisville (-1.14)
This one hurts, because I really like Gorgui Dieng as a player. He doesn’t take a lot of shots, but much like Steven Adams, he provides excellent rebounding and defense. He was the anchor for the Louisville team that won the national championship this year.
The difference between Adams and Dieng is that Adams is 19 years old and Dieng is 23. This is a critically important point. If you don’t believe me, find a 16 year old baseball player who’s struggling against his peers. Have him play against nothing but 12 year old kids. Watch as the 16 year old dominates the game.
Age and development matter, and that’s why players like Olynyk, Dieng, and Jeff Withey (who we’re about to get to) don’t rate as good prospects in my system. Four years from now, players like Noel and Adams will have progressed a ton, while the older prospects will probably not have improved much.
With that said, if there’s an older center in this draft who catches on in the NBA, I think it’s most likely going to be Dieng due to the superb defense he showed for Louisville.
#23: JEFF WITHEY – 23 years old, C, Kansas (-1.59)
It’s hard to say bad things about players like Olynyk, Dieng, and Withey, because they really were outstanding college players. Withey was an efficient scorer for Kansas and provided a terrific shot blocking presence. Among first-round prospects, Withey’s 4.6 blocks per 36 minutes is equaled only by Nerlens Noel.
Let’s be clear: it is possible for a player 22 or older to get a passing grade in this system. To do it, though, they need outstanding numbers. If Olynyk, Dieng, or Withey had numbers as good as that of Anthony Davis last year, I’d give them a passing grade despite their older age.
I don’t like counting these guys out, but the evidence against them is pretty overwhelming. There are some really good options at center in this draft, so if a team really wants to draft one, there shouldn’t be a need to go for these guys.
#24: ALLEN CRABBE – 21 years old, SG, California (-1.72)
Finally, back to a player I can criticize for something other than his age. Crabbe did show decent rebounding ability for a guard (6.0 REB/36) and scored 18.3 points per game as a junior. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find nice things to say after that.
Crabbe was not a particularly efficient scorer at 0.99 points per possession. He didn’t show much ability to draw fouls or get assists. To top it off, he only had 1.8 blocks and steals per 36 minutes, indicative of mediocre defense.
When I look for players ready to succeed in the NBA, I like seeing players who dominate at the college level. From his scoring to his defense, Crabbe’s numbers suggest that he was merely a good college player. That’s not good enough for me to embrace him as a first-round NBA draft prospect.
#25: REGGIE BULLOCK – 22 years old, SF, North Carolina (-2.50)
You might expect me to continue ranting about age, but Bullock wouldn’t have had a passing grade at 21 years old either. What makes Bullock a somewhat intriguing prospect is that he was an incredibly efficient scorer as a junior for North Carolina.
He scored 1.13 points per possession despite only shooting 2.4 free throws per 36 minutes. That’s because he established himself as a very good marksman, shooting 43 percent from three-point range.
Like Sergey Karasev, Bullock suffers on the defensive end of the floor, where he only got 1.7 blocks and steals per 36 minutes. What makes him a worse prospect than Karasev in my opinion is the fact that he’s 22 instead of 19. Again, players who can shoot and play good defense are rare. Players who can only shoot are a dime a dozen. (To be fair, Bullock is a good rebounder too.)