This post is a little thought exercise. The higher you are in the draft order, the more likely you are to find a star player. But there are always exceptions and sometimes you get a player who is a starter or even a star later in the draft. In this article I’ll try and do the same, to make the case, based on some advanced stats, that certain draft prospects, who are outside the lottery based on ESPN’s top 100, could end up vastly outperforming their draft position.
Jackson had an up and down season last year. He is an incredible athlete, especially for his size. But he only played 21 minutes, mostly due to foul trouble and being turnover prone. And he played at Kentucky, where John Calipari does the same to prospects what Zeus did to Prometheus. There is a long history of Kentucky guys being better, more all rounded NBA players than what their Kentucky tape told you. Jackson posted an usage rate of 20, 2 point percentage of 56, free throw rate of 65 and offensive rebound rate of 11%. Here are freshmen of similar size and statue, selected in the first round:
Stellar company really. Davis is a magnificent basketball player who scores over 20 points per game for his career. Bam Adebayo went from close to 16 to close to 19 this year. Greg Monroe had multiple seasons with over 15 points per game. Noel had serious injury issues, peaked at 10 points per game in his career. Lets start towards the bottom, I think Jackson has better feel and athleticism than both Monroe and Noel, as well as higher potential as a floor spacer. So could a more athletic Greg Monroe get you close to 20 points in the NBA today? Absolutely.
Jackson has the potential to be elite as a roll man, dunker, transition big, very good getting to the line and converting, ok prospects as a floor spacer. But on the defensive end he could be a All NBA level rim protector with good swichability due to his stellar first step. In summary, if everything falls into place for Jackson, he could be an All NBA defender who gets close to 20 points per game.
Tre Mann improved exceptionally well as a scorer in his sophomore year for Florida. He also grew to 6-5. While his defensive acumen isn’t as impressive, there is a lot of scoring upside there. Mann is incredibly swifty with the ball, a wizard at getting to the rim, with over 60% makes at the rim and with less than 10% of those makes being assisted. Just a master at self creating his own offense. He posted usage of 25, 2 point percentage of 49, free throw rate of 31, and offensive rebound rate of 2.6. Sophomores drafted in the first round with similar size.
All of these have gotten to 20 points per game. Tre Mann doesn’t have to be a bigger, less athletic Mitchell, or a lite LeVert. If he can get to a Terry Rozier level, but bigger, shiftier, there is a good chance at his peak he is a 20 5 5 guard with good percentages to his volume. Fun fact for the end, Tre Mann and the athletic wonder big man Kai Jones have the same career defensive rebound percentage of 14.4. Let that sink in folks.
If there is one player in this year’s draft that gets described as a “Pure Gunslinger” it is Cam Thomas out of LSU. He indeed doesn’t really pass much and has barely an assist per game, but the scoring volume he produces is immense. He isn’t just someone who jacks up every possible shot from 3 and midrange. Thomas’ ability to get to the line has been very underrated during this draft process. He gets to the line 12 times per 100 possessions, more than any other prospect in the draft, and makes them at a 88% rate. But how does his self creation compare to prospects from the past, prospects who were selected in the first round as freshmen and were of similar size:
In terms of scoring, Eric Gordon was the best prospect out of the bunch. Sad injuries robbed him and us from a guy who could have peak well above 25 points per game. Thomas is sandwiched between Sexton and Trae Young. If his production falls between these two, he as well could be a guy who scores 20 or more points per game during the peak of his career.
One of my favorite prospects this year, offers a lot on both sides of the ball. Him and Keon Johnson are basically twins in terms of production and advance stats, with Springer shooting way better and being a better creator as well. But Keon is a lottery prospect, and Springer is a fringe first rounder, because he jumps higher??? One thing a lot of people missed, including me, was the fact that Springer was dealing with an ankle injury that messed with his explosiveness during the season. The feedback from most workouts is that he is looking a lot more explosive, like he was in high school. In addition to that, he is the youngest American player in this year’s draft, turning 19 at the end of September, a whole year younger than Cade , Mobley etc. He posted an usage rate of 26, free throw rate of 44, offensive rebound rate of 4.4 and 2 point percentage of 48. When comparing his numbers to freshmen of the past, young Jaden Springer finds himself in some stellar company.
Beal and McCollum have been amazing scorers in the NBA. While SGA is still a young player who just finished his third season in the league, he already go to 23 points per game. Springer has an very unique combination of strength and speed at 18, with an allround polish. He is also 6 4 with a 6 8 wingspan. He could have the same production I mentioned for Tre Mann earlier, a 20 5 5 , but also combined with a player who can defend both guard spots and maybe some smaller wings!
Sharpe was the most positive surprise for me this year, mostly due to myself still having lazy biases. When I looked at the size, weight and FT% I thought “Oh great another big strong center who can’t really do much but rebound and dunk”. But boy, oh boy was I wrong. His passing is fantastic! He processes the game so much faster than the vast majority of the players in college. The passes are both fast and precise, landing for the most part right in the shooter’s pocket. But what about his offensive production:
Only those two are similar enough to be compared, sophomore John Collins had similar numbers but the body type is far dissimilar. Poeltl doesn’t really set the world on fire, but his per 36 looks good and Sharpe is a superior athlete. I think he is currently a lot closer to the “Manimal”. Sharpe has at least 3 inches on Faried, also a lot stronger and I don’t think Sharpe is a lot less mobile. Sharpe is also a lot better passing the ball. Both struggle from the free throw line. But everyone has been raving about Sharpe’s workouts. Those are always to be taken with a grain of salt, but everyone, after every workout has said “He shot lights out” not good, not better, but “lights out”. Theoretically, we arrive at a player who plays like Faried, but is also bigger, stronger, a much better passer, defensive player and could have stretch big upside as well. Sharpe lingers between the first and second round, but could be a 15 points 10 rebounds 5 assists big at his prime. Also, the only big man drafted in the first round since 2008 with a better off rebound percentage than Sharpe is Boogie Cousins. Sharpe’s assist percentage of 15 is highest among freshmen since 2008 and here’s how he compares to bigs of previous drafts: