NBA Vegas SRS Rankings 11/19

What Vegas thinks of the 30 NBA teams…

Team Vegas SRS Record
Miami +6.8 7-3
LA Clippers +6.5 7-4
San Antonio +6.2 9-1
Oklahoma City +4.9 7-3
Golden State +4.5 8-3
Indiana +4.3 9-1
Houston +4.1 7-4
Chicago +3.7 6-3
Memphis +2.7 6-5
Minnesota +2.6 7-4
Brooklyn +1.5 3-7
Dallas +1.2 7-4
Portland +1.0 9-2
New Orleans +0.9 4-6
New York -0.1 3-6
Detroit -0.5 3-6
Denver -0.7 4-6
Atlanta -0.7 6-4
Toronto -0.9 4-7
Washington -1.2 2-7
Cleveland -1.7 4-7
Sacramento -2.4 2-7
Phoenix -3.7 5-4
Orlando -4.2 4-6
Boston -4.9 4-7
LA Lakers -5.2 5-7
Charlotte -5.4 5-6
Milwaukee -5.6 2-7
Utah -5.8 1-11
Philadelphia -6.3 5-7

NBA Program 10/30

Away Team Home Team RSPM Line Vegas Line
 Brooklyn (+7.96)  Cleveland (-1.28)  Brooklyn by 6.24  Brooklyn by 3
 Miami (+12.23)  Philadelphia (-9.60)  Miami by 18.83  Miami by 10.5
 Boston (-8.51)  Toronto (+0.02)  Toronto by 11.53  Toronto by 8
 Washington (+0.27)  Detroit (+3.18)  Detroit by 5.91  Detroit by 2.5
 Milwaukee (-2.27)  New York (+3.96)  New York by 9.23  New York by 7.5
 Charlotte (-5.33)  Houston (+10.66)  Houston by 18.99  Houston by 13
 Orlando (-7.16)  Minnesota (+2.01)  Minnesota by 12.17  Minnesota by 10.5
 Indiana (+4.04)  New Orleans (+2.12)  New Orleans by 1.08  New Orleans by 1.5
 Atlanta (+1.43)  Dallas (+2.87)  Dallas by 4.44  Dallas by 6
 Memphis (+5.74)  San Antonio (+9.93)  San Antonio by 7.19  San Antonio by 6
 Oklahoma City (+1.09)  Utah (-4.18)  Oklahoma City by 2.27  Oklahoma City by 6
 Portland (-1.64)  Phoenix (-7.86)  Portland by 3.22  Portland by 5.5
 Denver (-1.98)  Sacramento (-4.23)  Sacramento by 0.75  Sacramento by 2.5
 LA Lakers (-8.09)  Golden State (+3.13)  Golden State by 14.22  Golden State by 12

2013-14 NBA Projections Now Live

After months of feeding data into complex and scientific calculations (and by months I mean hours) I have finished this year’s regular season win projections for the NBA.

Click here if you want to see a precise listing of all 30 teams and their projected records. In this post I will deliver an explanation of why each team got their specific projection.


I don’t think people realize that even last year, Houston improved greatly as a team when they traded away Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas, and Cole Aldrich, and then gave more minutes to players like Patrick Beverley and Greg Smith. Now add to what was already a very strong 8-seed Dwight Howard, who is not far removed from being the second most dominant player in the league. Howard + James Harden + a strong supporting cast = the best regular-season team in the league.

#2 MIAMI HEAT: 55-27

I still consider Miami to be the favorite to win the championship despite not getting the best regular-season win projection. The reason is because Miami now has two of the worst players in the NBA: Norris Cole and Michael Beasley. If those players combine for 3,000 minutes, it will be an anchor that drags Miami’s regular-season success down. In the playoffs the big three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh should play more minutes at a higher intensity, and that will make the Heat more formidable than the Rockets.


On paper it seems like bringing in J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley should be a good thing for the Clippers – it gives them two shooters to play alongside Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. However, RSPM isn’t a big fan of either player. The result is a Clippers team I think will be about the same as it was last year as far as regular-season success goes. Hopefully adding Doc Rivers as coach will get them further into the playoffs.


I was surprised to see a projection this high because Brooklyn is relying on an old roster. What makes Brooklyn’s projection so high anyway is that they’re just loaded. When Paul Pierce goes out of the game, Andrei Kirilenko will come in. They have Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett. They have Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. It’s just a great team… but they had better win the title this year before age catches up to Pierce and Garnett.


It’s unclear how long Russell Westbrook will be out because of his knee injury. For the purposes of this projection, I’m assuming he’ll be out for about six weeks. I see the Thunder being a formidable team anyway because Kevin Durant took his game to another level last season and Serge Ibaka is still a shot-blocking force. I also like the addition of rookie Steven Adams. This team isn’t going away.


It seems like people want to dismiss the Spurs as being old every year, but with the rise of players like Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter, it’s clear that the Spurs will remain a good team for quite a while. The only reason I see San Antonio falling a bit short of last year’s success is expected regression from Tim Duncan, who was crazy good as a 36 year old player last year.



Say hello to my first “shock” ranking of my projections. RSPM thinks Andre Drummond is already Dwight Howard Jr. RSPM loves the addition of Josh Smith and thinks he’ll greatly improve the Pistons. RSPM thinks Brandon Jennings is a significant upgrade over Brandon Knight. Not to mention that Greg Monroe is an excellent player as well. As long as Smith/Monroe/Drummond can fit (and that’s an open question), Detroit will be a very good team this year.


Before you think that I’m somehow slighting the Pacers by ranking them 8th, consider that they won 49 games last year. I have them winning three more this year thanks to a stronger bench and the return of Danny Granger. If Roy Hibbert can continue the strong play he showed in the postseason then I expect Indiana to beat this projection.


In an offseason in which so many teams bolstered their rosters, the Grizzlies didn’t do a whole lot. It’s pretty much the same team except now they have Kosta Koufos instead of Darrell Arthur (and I like Koufos a lot). That’s why I have Memphis going backwards – not because they got worse, but because so many other teams got better.

#10 CHICAGO BULLS: 48-34

A lot of people have Chicago rivaling Miami as the best team in the Eastern Conference. I have them #10 in the NBA. There are two primary culprits. One is coach Tom Thibodeau, who has no understanding of what effect playing 40 minutes a game has on his players. The other is a bench that is secretly not very good apart from Taj Gibson. If Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah stay healthy, the Bulls easily beat 48 wins, but Noah is already having injury issues.


After losing Andre Iguodala and trading Kosta Koufos for J.J. Hickson it doesn’t seem like the Nuggets should be this high. They may not have anybody as good as Rose or Noah but they have much better depth than Chicago. Faried, McGee, Gallinari (when he returns), Lawson, Miller, Hickson, Robinson, and Chandler all have decent RSPM numbers. The result is a decent regular-season team that will likely be bounced from the playoffs in the first round.


I think the problem here is that most people envision the Warriors as if nothing bad will happen to them. Has everybody forgotten Stephen Curry’s foot/ankle issues and Andrew Bogut’s injury history? Besides that, RSPM seems to think that most of the players on this team are overrated, including Curry (whose projected RSPM of +2.98 is still good). I could easily see the Warriors beating the expectations of RSPM but it will take further improvement from some of the roster.


This team is a total wild card. Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, and Nikola Pekovic are a great core, even if Pekovic is a bit overrated. Kevin Martin is a nice addition and a good fit. At the same time, Love and Rubio both have an injury history and the team lacks quality depth (they have QUANTITY of depth, just not quality). This is a team with a high ceiling and a low floor.


Two words: Anthony Davis. Davis had a better rookie season than people think and should only improve as a 20-year-old player. Bringing in Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans doesn’t hurt although I think they overpaid for both players. If the Pelicans don’t suffer too many injuries I see them as a fringe playoff team in the Western Conference.

#15 NEW YORK KNICKS: 43-39

I didn’t intend to make injuries a theme of this preview, but so much of a team’s success or failure depends on them. It’s the primary reason I think the Knicks will be a disappointment – they can’t count on Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony, or anybody else playing close to 82 games. If the Knicks ever trot out a lineup of Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith, Metta World Peace, Kenyon Martin, and Andrea Bargnani… you know they’re in trouble.


This team is even more of a wild card than Minnesota. Andrew Bynum could play anywhere between zero and 2400 minutes. Anderson Varejao gets hurt every year, but maybe the team can squeeze 60 games out of him this time? Kyrie Irving continues to improve and I like the acquisition of Jarrett Jack. With that said the Cavaliers are relying on far too many injury-prone players to be comfortable with any projection.


I’m a bit bullish on the Raptors and see them sneaking into the playoffs as the 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. Of course, I thought that would happen last year too. Even so, this is a team with Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson, two players I think are very underrated. They also have a greatly improved general manager in Masai Ujiri, who I believe already made a good decision to unload Andrea Bargnani on the Knicks. It’s not a great team but the Raptors should at least be competitive.


The free-agent acquisitions of Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis are too little, too late for this team. The whole plan was to get Dwight Howard or Chris Paul… and Mark Cuban struck out. The result is a team that will have deep, serious issues defensively and with little depth in the front court. Meanwhile Dirk Nowitzki is suddenly 35 years old. Maybe the Mavericks can squeeze one more great year out of him but I think his days of being an MVP contender are over.

#19 ATLANTA HAWKS: 39-43

On paper I like who the Hawks have 1-8. There are no superstars but Al Horford and Paul Millsap are both very good. The problem is that injuries to Louis Williams and Gustavo Ayon have left the bench very thin. I expect the Hawks to be forced to play guys like Dennis Schroeder and John Jenkins way too much. The result will be a team that falls just short of postseason play.


A perfect example of why stars are needed to win in the NBA. I like LaMarcus Aldridge a lot if he’s my second-best player. As the clear best player on the team it’s hard to see Portland going very far. Nicolas Batum, Damian Lillard, Dorell Wright, Robin Lopez, Wesley Matthews… all useful players but none of them are putting the Blazers over the top.


The Bucks are this year’s “Las Vegas surprisingly hates them a ton” team. Their regular season over/under win total is just 27.5. When something like that happens I’m usually very suspicious – it makes me think Las Vegas knows something I don’t. If I had to make a bet I would go under 27.5 for that exact reason. But when I do the RSPM analysis I see an excellent rim protector in Larry Sanders and useful players in Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson, and Zaza Pachulia. The result is 37 wins but again, my gut feeling is they crash and burn after seeing the Vegas line.


A very tricky team to project after the trade that sent Marcin Gortat here from Phoenix. I would like to think that the great depth Washington has will prevent them from giving too many minutes to players like Kevin Seraphin. However, based on past usage I have to assume the Wizards will do exactly that. If they’re smart about who plays and who sits then Washington can be a playoff team for sure.


Signing Al Jefferson means the Bobcats are officially not trying to be the worst team in the league anymore. It still leaves them far from the playoffs unless Michael Kidd-Gilchrist blossoms and Cody Zeller is ready to be an impact player right now. There are reasons to think this team has potential to be decent in the future but for now, there just aren’t enough good contributors beyond Jefferson and Kemba Walker.


I want to like the new culture coach Mike Malone will install in Sacramento, but I also distrust the front office for making DeMarcus Cousins the franchise player. For the time being the roster is a total mess – a bunch of mediocre players who all expect to be given prominent roles in the rotation. Some trades need to happen here for sure.

#25 UTAH JAZZ: 29-53

This team won’t be good but I think there are too many quality players to really tank with the likes of Philadelphia and Phoenix. Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward are both very solid, Enes Kanter is rapidly improving, and I think Jeremy Evans is the league’s best-kept secret as a potential impact player. The rest of the roster needs serious work but it’s enough to make the Jazz at least somewhat respectable.

#26 ORLANDO MAGIC: 25-57

If Tobias Harris continues to play the way he showed he can last season, then Orlando should stay out of dead last in the Eastern Conference. Harris, Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless, and Victor Oladipo should combine to be a nice young nucleus. Of course, none of them are stars and most of the players on this team are just bad. It won’t be a good season.


I won’t put it past this team to win 35 games just because head coach Brad Stevens is a warlock. But let’s be honest – Rondo won’t be back for a while and he’ll probably be traded at some point anyway. Jeff Green is inconsistent. Too many minutes will go to players like MarShon Brooks and Jordan Crawford, who are just plain bad. I also think Avery Bradley is wildly overrated. It’s rock bottom in Boston but things will turn around.


Say hello to my most shocking ranking on this list. This, coming from a person who said the Lakers would win 58 games last season. Outside of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Steve Nash, this roster is unspeakably bad. It’s just atrocious – players like Shawne Williams, Wesley Johnson, and Nick Young are expected to play prominent roles. Now consider that Bryant, Gasol, and Nash are all old and injured. At some point this year, the Lakers will have a lineup of Jordan Farmar, Young, Johnson, Williams, and Gasol. It’s going to get very, very ugly for this team.

#29 PHOENIX SUNS: 20-62

They just traded four players to the Wizards for Emeka Okafor, who might miss the whole season, and a first-round pick. Need I say more?


Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes both rate as positives according to RSPM, so at least Philadelphia has that going for them. They also have a roster so bad that they pretty much have to give Kwame Brown, Tony Wroten, and Darius Morris a lot of minutes. They’re holding Nerlens Noel out for the whole year so he can “learn the NBA game.” If this team doesn’t make the NBA change the draft to stop tanking then nothing will.

2013 NBA Draft Analysis: Philadelphia Wins, Minnesota Loses

A lot of people are going to give out letter grades to the teams that participated in this draft. I’m not going to do that because I don’t KNOW how well each player will perform in the NBA. I just have an idea of how likely it is that each player will succeed. I’m going to separate the draft into three categories: teams that got good value from their picks, teams that got fair value, and teams that got poor value. Let’s get started:



PHILADELPHIA: Of all the places I thought Nerlens Noel could go, I certainly didn’t envision him landing in Philadelphia. The 76ers gave up point guard Jrue Holiday and next year’s first-round pick to make it happen, which is more than worth it in my opinion. Yes, there are concerns about Noel, but in terms of pure talent and impact on the game, there’s no better prospect this year. I also like Philadelphia’s second round selection of Pierre Jackson, and taking Michael Carter-Williams at #11 isn’t bad.

DETROIT: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a very solid pick at #8, and Detroit followed that up by taking Tony Mitchell at #37. The Pistons got good value in both picks. With a very good frontcourt of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond and a solid point guard in Jose Calderon, I like the direction Detroit is headed.

EDIT: Never mind about Calderon, he was a free agent and has signed with Dallas. I still like Detroit’s nucleus, especially after signing Josh Smith.

UTAH: At first I thought they were the biggest loser in the draft when they grabbed Shabazz Muhammad at #14. Then I found out they traded Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng to Minnesota to get Trey Burke. That’s pretty sweet; Burke fills a huge need at point guard for the Jazz. What makes it even sweeter is they were able to trade for Rudy Gobert late in the first round. That’s two of my top 13 prospects for a team that entered the draft without a top 13 pick. Well done Utah.

OKLAHOMA CITY: Steven Adams is a very solid pick at #12, and should allow the Thunder to get rid of the overpaid Kendrick Perkins. If there’s one thing we know about GM Sam Presti, it’s that he can draft, and he made the Thunder an even more formidable team than they were before by taking Adams.

ATLANTA: By trading with Dallas, the Hawks were able to secure Brazilian center Lucas Nogueira, a player I think has a lot of upside. I also love their acquisition of Mike Muscala in the second round. That’s more than enough to make up for taking the overrated Dennis Schroeder at #17.

NEW ORLEANS: I loved the idea of Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel forming a devastating shot-blocking tandem, but the Pelicans were still able to parlay their #6 pick into Jrue Holiday and a first-round pick next year. That’s pretty good value. They also took Nate Wolters in the second round, who is a player I think has a decent chance to contribute. It was a good night for New Orleans.

MEMPHIS: The Grizzlies didn’t have a first-round pick, but they used their #41 pick on Jamaal Franklin, who was one of my top 13 players and a player I think has a good chance of making a big impact in the NBA. The Grizzlies got insane value with that pick.



WASHINGTON: Like every team in the top five, I think the Wizards made a big mistake not selecting Nerlens Noel, especially with Emeka Okafor likely to leave in free agency. With that said, I had Otto Porter as my #3 prospect, and the Wizards picked him third, so that’s fair value.

CHARLOTTE: Cody Zeller is a terrific offensive player and a guy I think will do well in Charlotte. It’s not a bust pick at all. I just can’t get too excited about the Bobcats choosing Zeller when Noel was on the board. Good player, but wrong pick in my opinion.

PORTLAND: Getting C.J. McCollum at 10th overall is a solid pick, and almost good enough for me to put Portland in the “good value” territory. He should work well in a backcourt with Damian Lillard. I wasn’t too blown away by Portland’s other picks, but they had a decent night.

MILWAUKEE: The Bucks could have done better at #15 than Giannis Antetokounmpo (I still prefer the shorter version of his last name) but they could have done a lot worse too. Antetokounmpo is a very young player with upside, and I anticipate we won’t see him in the NBA for at least a couple years.

LA CLIPPERS: I don’t think too highly of Reggie Bullock, but he got first-round grades from enough experts that I don’t think the Clippers did themselves a disservice by taking him at #25.

SAN ANTONIO: Livio Jean-Charles is a young prospect who didn’t get much playing time in France, and didn’t score very many points. I don’t see what the Spurs see in him, but the Spurs have such a good track record with foreign prospects that I won’t criticize them for choosing him at #28.

GOLDEN STATE: The Warriors didn’t start out with a draft pick, but they ended up with Nemanja Nedovic. Nedovic had one of the lowest ratings of any draft prospect I looked at, but the Warriors have done so well with finding good players later in the draft that I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now.

HOUSTON: As brilliant as GM Daryl Morey is, I’ve never been blown away by his performance in the draft (apart from Chandler Parsons). There were a few decent prospects still left at #34 but they ended up with Isaiah Canaan. I could easily see the Rockets trading Canaan as they try to sign Dwight Howard to a contract.

LA LAKERS: Win the award for least exciting draft by taking Ryan Kelly at #48. Kelly was a fairly solid player last season for Duke, but at 22 years old, he’s not an exciting prospect to get behind.



CLEVELAND: I like Anthony Bennett and think he’ll be a good player, but he wasn’t the #1 player in this draft… not even close. Perhaps Bennett can be a huge small forward on a lineup with Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao, but when Varejao gets injured again, they’ll wish they had taken Noel. Sergey Karasev at #19 is fair value for a player who can shoot.

ORLANDO: I understand why teams like Victor Oladipo, and I like him too, but he was only #7 on my list. Oladipo is the jack of all trades – good at everything, great/amazing at nothing. I expect him to play well for Orlando, but once again, a team that had the opportunity to grab the draft’s best talent in Nerlens Noel ended up passing.

PHOENIX: Fell into the Alex Len trap. I don’t think Len will be a bust – he was one of the players I had as likely to succeed – but when I look at his statistical profile there’s just nothing that gets me too excited about him. Certainly he isn’t the shot blocking force Noel is. Len will likely be a solid big man, but fall short of all-star status.

SACRAMENTO: Fell into the Ben McLemore trap. At least the Kings didn’t pass on Noel to take him. When I look at McLemore’s numbers I see a good shooter who doesn’t provide much of anything else. The Kings redeemed themselves a bit by getting Ray McCallum in round two. If getting these two guards means they’re moving on from Tyreke Evans, that is a silver lining for them.

BOSTON: Their original pick was Lucas Nogueira, but they traded him to Dallas for Kelly Olynyk. I have nothing against Olynyk except his age. He was a terrific player for Gonzaga but at 22 years old the odds are against him being an impact NBA player. They would have been better off with Nogueira for their rebuild.

MINNESOTA: The biggest loser of the draft. It’s a shame because the Timberwolves have such a good core with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. I don’t trust Shabazz Muhammad to be a team-first player at all. As much as I like Gorgui Dieng, he’s 23 and that stacks the odds against him. This is pretty damning of Flip Saunders as Minnesota GM.

DALLAS: Seemed to be focused on building for the future more than anything. With that said, Lucas Nogueira moved through them and they ended up with Shane Larkin. Larkin’s not a horrible pick but the Mavericks really could have done a lot better.

CHICAGO: When I look at Tony Snell’s numbers I find a player who rates well in absolutely zero categories. Why the Bulls reached to select him is a mystery to me.

BROOKLYN: Obviously what the Nets did in the draft is not the big news of their day. That pales in comparison to acquiring Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. With that said I was thoroughly unimpressed by Brooklyn’s selection of Mason Plumlee with the 22nd pick.

INDIANA: Solomon Hill is a reach from bustville, or a bust from reachville. Or perhaps the Pacers know something I don’t. Either way, Hill is my lowest rated player to be chosen in the first round and I’m not a fan of this draft pick.

NEW YORK: It’s always entertaining to watch Knicks fans go crazy when it’s their turn to pick. It was even more entertaining this year when they went nuts for their team’s selection of Tim Hardaway Jr. If they saw Hardaway Jr.’s numbers as a junior at Michigan they wouldn’t be quite so excited.

2013 NBA Draft Preview: Second Round Hidden Gems

Let’s say I’m Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder. I have the 29th pick of the draft. Somehow, Shabazz Muhammad has fallen all the way to 29. Despite all the hype he’s received over the past year, I would pass on Muhammad entirely and instead draft one of the players I’m about to mention.

These players would have received a passing grade as having a high probability of NBA success if the scouts viewed them as first-round prospects. I respect the scouts’ opinion, so I didn’t want to lump them in with the first-rounders, but they deserve special mention.

MIKE MUSCALA – 21 years old, C, Bucknell (+4.78)

If I’m a general manager, Muscala is at the top of my list of potential late first-round or early second-round draft steals. His numbers are remarkable in that he’s good at just about everything.

Muscala was efficient on offense, scoring 1.06 points per possession on 21.3 points per 36 minutes. He was an outstanding rebounder, grabbing 12.6 boards per 36. To top it off, he showed solid defensive metrics as well, with 3.3 blocks and steals per 36.

At the same time, there are some concerns about how well those numbers will translate to the NBA. One is that Muscala is on the verge of turning 22 years old, which makes him the oldest prospect in this draft that I think has a good chance of success.

Another is that Muscala played at Bucknell, which doesn’t exactly play against elite competition on a weekly basis. Muscala’s numbers did dip when he played tougher opponents. Overall, Muscala’s numbers were so good that I’d have to take him in the late first round, but there is bust potential as well.

BRANDON DAVIES – 21 years old, C, BYU (+1.26)

Davies is interesting because he’s currently projected to go completely undrafted. He showed good scoring ability for BYU, scoring 21.8 points per 36 minutes, although he wasn’t particularly efficient at 0.99 points per possession.

What Davies also showed was a terrific ability to draw fouls, and solid rebounding ability as well. His 3.0 assists per 36 minutes is a good number for a big man, and his 2.8 steals and blocks per 36, while not great, isn’t something to scoff at either.

Davies is the guy I’d pick if I had a choice in the middle or late second round. At least, of the players likely to be available at that point, he’s the one I think has the best chance of NBA success.


Two other players I think have a decent chance of success are Nate Wolters of South Dakota State and Ray McCallum of Detroit. I initially had both players as having a passing grade, but erroneously had them as 21 years old instead of 22. That one year makes a big difference, and knocks Wolters and McCallum out of the group of players I’ve given a passing grade. Still, they had passed initially for a reason. The talent they’ve shown may be enough to overcome their status as older draft prospects.

Thanks for reading my 2013 NBA draft previews! I’m excited to see how the actual draft unfolds, and will have post-draft commentary on Thursday night. See you then!

2013 NBA Draft Preview: 26-30

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.

2013 NBA Draft Preview: 21-25

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.)