6 Players Whose Names Should Have Been Called on NBA Draft Night
Heading into last Thursday night's draft, there was buzz that this year's class was the deepest we've seen in years. And now, with the top-60 picks a part of history, taking a look at the young fellas who weren't selected may serve as a decent barometer to further prove that stamp.
From past-rumored lottery picks and late risers, to less athletic and stagnant development, here's a look at a handful of household names that weren't called Thursday night, and whether or not they should've been.
James Michael McAdoo
Stories like these are always tough.
Once upon a time, an 18-year-old from Norfolk, Virginia saw his name thrown around as a potential lottery pick before even having stepped foot on a college court. Fast forward three seasons, and James Michael McAdoo is making decisions on where to play his summer ball in order to better his chances of making an NBA squad.
McAdoo's time at North Carolina wasn't bad. In fact, quite the contrary. He averaged close to 10 rebounds per 40 minutes over his three seasons in Chapel Hill, chipped in with 18.3 points and showed improvement last season with his low-post game. But clearly it wasn't enough for NBA teams to think of him as a top-60 guy.
Perhaps scouts were looking for McAdoo to improve as a shooter and shot creator, as most of his production came in transition and his jump shot remains a work in progress. Although his 6'8" frame may look like a small forward, McAdoo's style projects better as a power forward in the league, yet he doesn't provide the increasingly desirable stretch ability (just nine three-point attempts in three years and a career 44-percent shooter), making McAdoo a tweener in terms of both size and ability.
McAdoo will have a tall task this summer, but still seems like a decent candidate to stick. His length and hustle on defense can help buy him time on offense, and he'll need to win over the Golden State coaching staff with effort and energy.
UNLV's Khem Birch was an easy guy to root for in college - a bunch of hustle, defense and explosiveness mixed together in a 6'9" frame capable of running the floor and cleaning the glass. But therein may lie Birch's problem as a draft prospect - his best attributes were simply mixed together, making for an unpolished and unbalanced ball player.
Birch is best projected at power forward, despite playing more like a traditional center. While his career averages of 12 rebounds and nearly five blocks per 40 minutes serve as assets, Birch never eclipsed an 18.5 usage percentage, and a majority of his 11.5 points per game last season came by way of clean-up, close finishes at the rim and transition buckets.
Simply put, Birch is an energy and effort guy whose best chances come on the defensive end. He has the explosiveness, athleticism, length and two consecutive Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year awards to hinge on, but his offensive game is way behind. That said, there's room for him on a roster as a jolt coming off the bench. He's set to suit up for the Washington Wizards this summer.
Despite improving his shooting range, C.J. Fair actually watched his offensive numbers dip as a senior at Syracuse last year. After averaging 16.7 per 40 as a junior, Fair improved to 17.5 in 2013-2014, but saw his offensive rating fall from 113.5 to an ugly 101 on his lowest true shooting percentage of his college career.
Fair has the athleticism and size (6'8") to be an effective plug in the league, but his lack of consistent improvement following a promising freshman campaign was clearly enough to turn off scouts. He was given a huge role in Syracuse's offense (27.9 usage percentage), yet his net rating plummeted from 22.5 as a junior to just 2.8 last season. Additionally, Fair showed a rising turnover rate (which goes hand in hand with his shaky ball handling), lessened efficiency on the boards and a diminished defensive rating.
Fair is an intriguing player, but it may start and end there. Although there's a solid floor to build upon, he isn't a consistent scoring threat, his defensive ability appeared to take a hit during a significant senior season, and is anyone comfortable having him guard other small forwards in the NBA? The Dallas Mavericks will try to answer those questions when Fair joins their roster this summer.
The verdict among fans when it came to Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft always felt completely lopsided, yet seemed to fall on only one of two accords: love him or hate him.
Maybe people hate Craft because he's a smart and accomplished student with a solid degree to fall back on, making him too much of a "goodie goodie". Maybe people hate Craft because he showed annoying facial expressions after big moments in games (which I feel like happens a lot with us fans and how we treat college athletes). Or maybe, just maybe, people hate Craft because he was a solid point guard and at some point or another gashed your alma mater or the team you happened to be rooting for on a given night.
More than likely it was the latter.
It's easy to see Craft doesn't present much from a physical standpoint, as he doesn't jump out of the gym or rip up the hardwood with blazing speed. In turn, that lack of athleticism works to amplify Craft's lack of size both from a height (6'1") and length standpoint. But what he lacks in agility and measureables, Craft makes up for in other areas.
Throughout his four years in Columbus, Craft never put up crazy offensive numbers. His 11.7 points per 40 as a junior were the best of his stay, and people seemed to recognize Craft more for his awkward shooting mechanics than his actual ability to get the ball in the hoop. He didn't threaten from deep, his jump shot was good at times but never deemed deadly, and his ability to finish around the rim wasn't necessarily a result of soft touch.
Instead, Craft used his basketball IQ to find his spots, take angles and know where his teammates were going to be, making him more of a composer on offense than a scoring threat. He assisted his teammates on more than a quarter of their field goals last year and averaged close to six assists per 40 over the course of his career. His hesitation sometimes put opposing defenses on a string, and Craft didn't shy away from big spots, always willing to make the extra pass or drive the lane and draw the foul, where he'd successfully finish at the line as a 73-percent free throw shooter.
And then there's the other side of the ball, where Craft hones in as a stalwart on defense. He posted a 90.4 defensive rating and a steal percentage of 4.3 for his career, in addition to more than half of his 20.1 win shares coming from that side of the ball. Similar to his offensive game and creation, Craft understands his angles on defense and finds lots of success by way of anticipation.
Clearly I'm in the "love him" category when it comes to Craft, and it ultimately comes down to respecting his vision on both ends of the court. There's something to be said for the guy who doesn't come close to matching the athletic ability of his counterparts, yet demonstrates the ability to penetrate on offense, and remain a consistent pest on defense.
Seeing as how he isn't tattooed with star power or blessed with physical tools, Craft's chances are slim. As much as I'd like to see the small guy who knows how to ball find his way, I wouldn't put money on it.
One of the beneficiaries playing alongside Aaron Craft at Ohio State was small forward LaQuinton Ross, who possesses all of the physical traits Craft doesn't, but with none of the consistency you get out of the Buckeye point guard.
Standing 6'7", 245 pounds, Ross has plenty to like in terms of size and frame. He also shows the ability to fill it up (averaging 21 points per 40 as a junior last season) and knock it down from deep (36 percent from three-point over his three-year career). But none of it comes at a consistent clip. Ross never shot better than 46 percent from the floor (as a sophomore) and despite posting lofty usage percentages (28.6 for his career), wasn't one to create for his teammates, having never averaged better than one assist per game.
Ross has a good chance. His combination of height, length and shooting range would seem like enough to find him one. But not without consistency. Not to mention, Ross will have to show teams he can defend. Sure he's big, but not always nimble. How does he move on an island with a guy who's just as big, but quicker? When Ross joins the Lakers summer league, it'll be a whole lot more than just jacking up shots and hoping they fall in.
(Confession: I was in love with LaQuinton Ross as a sophomore, making that two Buckeyes I cheered for consistently, despite not being an Ohio State fan by any stretch. Anyway, Ross' inability to contribute elsewhere forced me to cool on him rather quickly last season, so fire away at him in order to keep Lil' Craft safe.)
This isn't a planned trend, but I like Florida's Patric Young too.
Young has no trouble looking the part of an NBA big man, standing 6'10" and carrying cannons made onto his shoulders. He's broad, muscular as all get out and probably the last guy you'd want to face in a dark alley. But teams didn't seem to care much.
What's most to like about Young is his effort, energy and aggression around the rim. He was a consistent and effective rebounder at Florida, averaging more than nine rebounds per 40 minutes during his four-year career, and battled on the offensive glass, working to grab 12.2 percent of the offensive rebounds he saw, and watched his trips to the free throw line increase each season as a result.
Two things that held Young back (which even so, still surprises me) were his length and limited offensive game.
Surely there's nothing anyone can do about length, but Young doesn't have the same reach as some of the other big men in his class, and perhaps his 1.6 blocks per 40 minutes last season is an indicative stat of his ability to protect the rim. But where he lacks in physical makeup, Young counters with that energy, hustle and strength.
On the other hand, Young's offensive game can certainly develop. At this stage he's an inside-the-paint player, who has no problem slamming, catching oops or cleaning up the offensive glass. The challenge will be drifting away from the rim and extending his range. Give Young a consistent jump shot and you're probably not reading about him in this article.
I was praying for the Wizards, but it looks like Young is headed to play for the New Orleans Pelicans this summer. Whether it be there or in another city, I don't think there's any question whether or not Young finds his way onto an NBA roster. He's too gifted an athlete, with crazy size, bulk and quickness to not at least catch on as a defensive guy to throw down low.