These are the final five players in my rankings of NBA draft prospects projected to go in the first round. I will never completely count out any player’s chances of success, but I think these players are the most likely to end up as busts in the NBA.
#26: SHABAZZ MUHAMMAD: 20 years old, SF, UCLA (-2.57)
Over the past couple months, I’ve watched as Muhammad’s draft stock has slowly declined from the top five to out of the lottery altogether. It would not shock me if Muhammad ended up being selected in the second round when the draft actually takes place.
There’s certainly some talent with Muhammad; there’s a reason he was so hyped up in the first place. However, a look at the statistics showed that Muhammad was unable to translate his talent into being a valuable player on the court.
The one point in Muhammad’s favor is that he scored 20.9 points per 36 minutes, but that was on just 0.98 points per possession. After that, there’s nothing about Muhammad’s statistics that suggests he’s ready for the NBA. His defensive metrics in particular are very poor.
What really scares me away from Muhammad is his character. This is a player who’s been known to pout because a teammate made a game-winning shot. His father was caught lying about his age (he’s 20, not 19). Muhammad might have talent, but would you really want to gamble on a player who was not good at UCLA and has all sorts of character questions? It’s possible that Muhammad succeeds, but if I was a general manager, I’d want nothing to do with him.
#27: MASON PLUMLEE – 23 years old, C, Duke (-2.61)
Plumlee joins Kelly Olynyk, Gorgui Dieng, and Jeff Withey as players who turned in excellent senior seasons, but are too old for me to consider good NBA draft prospects. Plumlee certainly showcased a good offensive game for Duke, but falls well short of the standards I’ve set for college players in the draft.
If it seems like an unfair criticism, consider some of the NBA players who are the same age as Plumlee. For example, Paul George, who arrived as a top 20 NBA player this year, is 23. Ricky Rubio is 22. Even James Harden is just 23. Is a player like Plumlee really ready to be compared to these guys?
Ultimately, Plumlee doesn’t score enough points and doesn’t block enough shots to overcome his status as an older prospect. He might carve out a role as a reserve big man on some team, but I highly doubt he’ll be more successful than that as a professional.
#28: ISAIAH CANAAN: 22 years old, PG, Murray State (-3.15)
Canaan is also hurt badly by being a player 22 years old or older, but in his case, he could be 19 and I still wouldn’t regard him as one of the draft’s top prospects. Canaan lacks the efficiency on offense or defense for me to consider him a likely NBA success.
What Canaan does bring to the table is the ability to be a lead scorer, at 21.5 points per 36 minutes. Of course, he did that for a smaller school at Murray State, but it’s not insignificant. Canaan also showed a respectable assist rate.
Unfortunately for Canaan, his other metrics suggest that he’s not prepared to take on the NBA. He didn’t score with great efficiency (1.00 points per possession) and didn’t get very many takeaways either (1.6 blocks and steals per 36 minutes). There are too many good point guard options in this draft for me to endorse Canaan as being worthy of a first-round pick.
#29: DENNIS SCHROEDER: 19 years old, PG, Germany (-3.23)
Schroeder must look fantastic in private and combine workouts, because I can’t imagine why he’s being so hyped otherwise. Schroeder has moved up mock draft boards enough recently that he’s become a fringe lottery pick.
I don’t see it in his numbers. The talk is that Schroeder is similar to Rajon Rondo, but my retort is: if he’s so much like Rondo, why isn’t he getting more assists? Schroeder had 4.5 assists per 36 minutes for Braunschweig, a decent enough number but far shy of Rondo territory.
Where Schroeder is similar to Rondo is that he’s not a terrific shooter. He shot just 42 percent from the floor for a dismal 0.88 points per possession. To make matters worse, he didn’t show much on the defensive end of the floor either, getting just 1.3 steals and 0 blocks per 36 minutes.
There are a couple foreign prospects in this draft that I’m intrigued by and think have a decent chance of succeeding in the NBA. Dennis Schroeder is not one of them. There’s nothing about his stat line that makes me think he’s remotely ready to play in the toughest league in the world.
#30: TIM HARDAWAY JR. – 21 years old, SG, Michigan (-4.05)
While I’m perplexed about the sudden rise of Dennis Schroeder on mock draft boards, I can’t say the same about Tim Hardaway Jr. Don’t get me wrong, Hardaway Jr. is not a good NBA prospect at all… but he is the son of former all-star point guard Tim Hardaway, so up the boards he goes.
I don’t want to be too harsh, but his stat line is completely lacking of anything good I can say. If I had to say something good… his defensive rebounding rate is decent for a shooting guard (4.6 DREB/36). Other than that, it’s slim pickings.
Hardaway Jr. scored 0.95 points per possession, didn’t get many assists (2.5 AST/36), and didn’t show much ability to get to the free throw line. There’s no saving grace in his defensive metrics either – just 1.2 blocks and steals per 36 minutes.
Again, I’m not counting anybody completely out. However, if we’re playing a game of probability… I would guess that Hardaway Jr. has a less than 10 percent chance of success in the NBA. Still, nostalgia reigns supreme, which means it’s likely that some NBA team will spend (and probably waste) their first-round pick on him.