With the 5th overall pick in the upcoming 2013 NBA draft, the Phoenix Suns will have their fair share of options. Lacking a true, bonafide star, this year's draft class has been said to be relatively weak in terms of top-flight talent. Regardless of whether those "expert" assessments are true or not, this draft will go a long way in determining the direction of the Suns' future. Although the team is lacking talent at almost every position and in every department, the shooting guard spot is one that stands out more than others. Therefore, the Suns have regularly been named as a great fit and ideal destination for the top two shooting guards in this year's draft: Ben McLemore and Victor Oladipo.
**Now, a disclaimer for readers: this discussion may be moot because both McLemore and Oladipo could very well be gone by the time the Suns are picking. There's a good chance the two of them could go in the top four, leaving the Suns to choose between several other candidates. There's also an extremely high likelihood (as in close to guaranteed) that one of the two will definitely be gone, leaving the other as a strong and likely pick for Phoenix. Ignoring that, let's move to assessments and comparisons of the two players.
|Height w/Shoes||Wingspan||Weight||No Step Vert.||Max Vert.||Lane Agility||3/4 Court Sprint|
At the draft combine last week, both players registered remarkably similar numbers. They both measured out to be similar heights - McLemore is a half inch taller but Oladipo offsets that with his slightly longer wingspan. Both players also displayed their impressive athleticism by posting the same exact max vertical jump - 42 inches, which is an exceptionally number. Just for shits and GIFfles, here are both players throwing down 360 dunks:
The biggest discrepancy between the two in terms of physical measurements is in their weights. Oladipo weighs more than twenty pounds more than McLemore, which is something that is sure to help him defend the bigger and stronger guards in the league.
For the following few categories, let's look at stats from each of McLemore and Oladipo's 2012-13 college seasons.
Both players shot the ball at great percentages. Ben McLemore averaged about 16 points a game while shooting nearly 50% shooting from the field, 42% on threes, and 87% from the charity stripe (almost a college 50-40-90 member!). Meanwhile, Victor Oladipo posted 13.6 points while shooting a ridiculous 60% from the field, 44% from three, and a shade under 75% from the free throw line (something he'll need to improve in the league).
The stats don't tell the whole story here. While they posted similar numbers during the last collegiate season and at the combine last week, the two are extremely different offensive players.
37% of McLemore's point production came from three point shots, with 42% coming from two point shots and free throws making up the remaining 20%. McLemore possesses one of the purest jump shots of anyone in the entire draft class and is known for his ability to light it up from beyond the arc.
On the other hand, Oladipo attained his extremely high field goal percentage from smart shot selection and by attempting most of his shots from inside the paint. Only 18% of Oladipo's offensive production came from the three point shot, with an overwhelming 62% coming from two-point field goals and 20% from free throws. Although he improved his jump shot a great deal over his college career (to the tune of 44% three point shooting on 2 attempts per game), it is still not one of his better offensive weapons.
Both prospects, each sporting 42 inch verticals, possess the high-flying ability to play above the rim and throw down some major dunks in transition (see above). Due to their elite athleticism, neither has trouble finishing at the rim. However, both have their issues getting the rim in the first place - which is something we'll tackle in the very next section.
This is an area of weakness for both shooting guards. In his lone year at Kansas, Ben McLemore was mostly restricted to spot-up shots and transition points. Meanwhile, in his junior year, Oladipo was also an excellent finisher in transition and earned many points in the paint, but struggled to create space off the dribble.
Although both players were functional dribblers at the college level, they will need to improve their ball-handling skills if they hope to maintain a good level of offensive production in the NBA.
Although both players have a long way to go if they ever want to be labeled as playmakers, neither was a black hole on offense. Both guys are smart, efficient offensive players who know their strengths and weaknesses and thus take good shots that don't hurt their teams and find the open man when they can - they both averaged about 2 assists per game last year. .
However, they also turned the ball over more than they assisted on scoring plays, leading to a bad assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.9 for both. That number needs to be a lot higher in the NBA, meaning they need to make smarter passes and turn the ball over less. Once again, stronger dribbling skills would help both guys out significantly in terms of turnovers - if they learn to take defenders off the dribble, they will have an easier time creating shots for teammates and reducing their turnovers.
Advanced stats show that Oladipo registered a higher assist percentage (an estimate of the percentage of teammate's field goals he assisted on while on the floor). Howver, he also posted a higher turnover percentage, making this category a wash.
The figure above charts both players' free throw rates - how often each gets to the line on a per possession basis - over the course of their 2012-13 seasons. One can clearly see that Oladipo was much better at drawing fouls than McLemore. Oladipo's free throw rate for the entire season was 42.7% while McLemore's was 34.5%. Although Oladipo was obviously superior in terms of getting to the line, there are two things that must be considered in this analysis:
1. Oladipo's style of play allowed him to be fouled and get to the line more often than McLemore. While the latter earned most of his points via jumpshots, the former played in the paint significantly more (often scoring off of offensive boards), which explains part of his higher free throw rate.
2. Although Oladipo got to the line more than McLemore, he converted his free throws at a much lower rate. He only shot 75% verus McLemore's 87%. In effect, that twelve percent differential nullifies much of the advantage Oladipo has in terms of getting to the charity stripe.
|Off. RPG||Def. RPG||Total RPG||Off. Reb %||Def. Reb %||Total Reb %|
Both McLemore and Oladipo are great rebounders for their sizes and position, each using their elite athleticism to secure misses on both ends of the court. While McLemore averaged a solid 5.2 rebounds per game, Oladipo was even more tremendous on the boards with 6.3 rebounds per game (in 4 less minutes per game than McLemore.
A closer look at the advanced statistics reveals that although both players posted similar defensive rebound percentages (an estimate of the percentage of available defensive rebounds each player grabbed while he was on the floor), Oladipo's offensive rebound percentage was far superior to McLemore's (11.8% vs. 5.0%). Once again, much of this can be attributed to the players' distinctive styles of play. While McLemore typically plays beyond the arc on the offensive end, Oladipo cuts to the basket and plays in the paint much more regularly, allowing him to secure his teammates' misses on the offensive end.
Oladipo has a nose for the ball and is great at fighting on the boards on both sides of the court, which is displayed in his terrific total rebound percentage of 12.9% compared to McLemore's 9.1% (which isn't a bad number itself).
|Steals/Game||Blocks/Game||Steal %||Block %||Defensive Rating|
Victor Oladipo is touted as the best wing defender in the entire 2013 draft class. He earned this reputation with his stellar play on the defensive end of the court in Indiana, using his athleticism, wingspan, exceptionally high motor, and keen defensive awareness to lead his team's defense. He is a phenomenal on-ball defender, and his off-ball defense is great as well (his 2.2 steals per game average is evidence of this). He's also a good shot-blocker for his position (once again due to his wingspan and athleticism), making him the complete package defensively. His excellent defensive rating (an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions) of 86.9 was tops in the Big 10 conference.
Although Ben McLemore's defensive skills don't quite match up to Oladipo's he proved to be an effective defender during his freshman year at Kansas. Like Oladipo, he is also a good shot-blocker for the shooting guard position and is a good on-ball defender (though not quite as great as Victor). However, he was not nearly as consistent on the defensive end as Oladipo was and had a tendency to get lost during possessions where he was defending off the ball. Even with his occasional lapses, McLemore posted a great defensive rating of 93.3 and with some more consistency and a higher motor on that end of the floor, he projects to be a good NBA defender due to his size, length, and athleticism.
Ben McLemore's media interview after Suns workout:
Victor Oladipo's media interview after Suns workout:
Now comes the most important question: which of these two players would be better for this Suns team?
Although they are entirely different prospects, Ben McLemore and Victor Oladipo are both considered to be two of the top prizes to be won in this year's draft. Pretending that we have the luxury of choice at the moment, let's examine this hotly discussed topic.
The Phoenix Suns need talent. Lots of talent. Although they could use an influx of youth and skill at nearly every position, shooting guard the most glaring need. Fortunately, Ben McLemore and Victor Oladipo happen to be shooting guards. Even more fortunately, they both seem to possess great talent.
With McLemore, the Suns would get some much needed perimeter shooting and athleticism to pair in the back court with the current best player on the roster, Dragic. With Oladipo, the team would have an elite wing defender with an extremely high motor and strong work ethic who has been improving and expanding his offensive game for several seasons.
If he reaches his potential, McLemore's best case NBA comparisons would be a more athletic Klay Thompson or even a Ray Allen during his Seattle days. His worst case would be former Suns fan favorites Mickael Pietrus or Wes Johnson with a worse smile.
On the other hand, Oladipo's best case NBA comparisons would be Tony Allen with a far superior offensive game or Andre Iguodala with a more consistent long range touch. His worse case scenario would have him be Avery Bradley or Iman Shumpert.
Although McLemore spent just one year in college as opposed to Oladipos' three, he is only nine months younger, so age will not be a factor in the Suns' decision. Both players seem to be likeable, hard working individuals: McLemore comes from a humble background (overcoming poverty) while Oladipo has continually developed his game to the point that he went from not even being on draft boards after his sophomore season to being a lock for a top 5 pick after his junior campaign.
And for what it's worth, both prospects seem to have some off-court skills as well:
Anticlimactic? Sorry. I decided to leave my personal pick out of this analysis (Oladipo has been my pick for months now). The truth of the matter is, the Suns would be lucky to land either of these two guys. Although they're both very different players, they are both talented in their own ways and would ideally become the best player on the roster in due time (except for whoever we pick in 2014).
Let's just hope that one of them will be available when the Suns are on the clock on in twenty days...
Sometimes things are not what they appear to be on the surface. For example, I often come across as acerbic, brooding and negative, but in real life... ok, bad example. Maybe this is a better one (thanks to the Gumpster). Take one of those boxes of assorted chocolates. At first glance most people would think - "Yum. Chocolate.", but then... by some cruel, insidious prank... it turns out some of the pieces are filled with some noisome concoction that I wouldn't feed my dog. Others are still perfectly good. Some are even absolutely delectable. But it's hard to know what you're going to get.
Such is the dilemma of the NBA draft. It's hard to know for sure how things will turn out. Sometimes there appear to be sure things, see James, Lebron, but other times unforeseen pitfalls still derail great expectations, see Oden, Greg. Now that we factor in that educated guesses are still wrong to a certain degree, how can we quantify that degree?
Let's take a look at 10 recent years of lottery picks (2002 -2011).
*Player position was determined by using the position with the most career games played based on basketball-reference.com
Here's what I used as my general criteria:
What does this show? That guards are the safest picks and forwards and centers are almost identically riskier picks. In fact, it's about twice as likely for a forward or center to bust.
So... fact or fiction - centers are the most likely to bust... Fiction.
What this illustrates is that once a player gets to about 6' 7" or above they are equally likely to bust.
What does this mean to the Suns heading into the draft? Don't shy away from picking a center in the lottery if he's #1 on your BPA list.
The names may not jump off the page as top level or highly rated prospects, but today the Phoenix Suns did their due diligence bringing in some options for the No. 30 and 57 picks respectively. Nobody in this group projects to be a superstar talent, but all have specific roles they can play at the next level.
Today's group included C.J. Leslie (No. 37 on the Big Board), Matthew Dellavedova (69), Phil Pressey (71), Rodney McGruder (NA), and Ian Hummer (NA).
Read into this as you will, but Korie Lucious worked out with the Phoenix Suns for the second straight day. There is that.
Other than Lucious being there a second straight day, which is the most visits (two) a player can have with a team the other interesting faces were Kendall Marshall and Diante Garrett. They seemed to be there helping in the workout to give the team more bodies.
This workout was likely designed to get another look at Leslie, who at the NBA Draft Combine, impressed the team a lot. He is a tweener, but has the measurables and athleticism to play the four, but not the strength. His college career was defined by not meeting his full potential and this is his chance to right the wrongs so far. At No. 30 Leslie is a quality pick-up adding athleticism and another lane filler on the fast-break.
In college Leslie had some issues with his coach about his role and the way the team used him on the offensive end. They may have been overblown, but that adds to why Leslie never was able to reach his maximum potential in college. Leslie sees himself as a basketball player, not a three or a four, but a versatile player that will have his role defined by his team.
Of the two point guards -- Dellavedova and Pressey -- they each bring in the pass first mentality.
Dellavedova is a lethal shooter that can run an offense. He has great size and feel for the game. Pressey has the same feel, but not the size or shooting. He was erratic in pressure situations at Missouri as well bringing up questions of his ability to lead a team at the next level. Both can be third point guards on a team and have the potential to run a second unit.
Here is a scouting take on the group:
The Phoenix Suns have held star-studded workouts the past couple of days. You might even say that the talent walking around US Airways Arena on Wednesday and Thursday was greater than any collection of talent in Suns uniforms in a long while (though you'd be wrong).
"A little inexperienced, maybe," Hornacek quipped when asked about that.
Yet, the potential is there. The Suns would be fortunate to have any of the top players on the team next season. The process over the next three weeks is to get to know the guys through group workouts, individual workouts and one-on-one meetings.
All but Nerlens Noel have visited or will soon be visiting Phoenix. And don't count Noel out either. They all know this draft is fluid, and anyone could end up at #5 overall.
Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek has made it clear he likes to see guys compete together. And most of the guys want to compete against each other as well, to raise their draft stock.
Videos: check out Suns.com for videos of each interview (I'm the guy to the left of MCW in his interview)
While PG is the strongest position on the team, that's not saying much when you're the Phoenix Suns. Coming into the 2013-14 season with an underrated Goran Dragic as starter and 22-year old Kendall Marshall as the backup is not good enough to check off the box and look in another direction.
"We're talking that way (point guards) because guys are highly rated as a fifth pick," Hornacek said. "That doesn't mean that Kendall isn't better than them. These guys will get on the court and they'll battle. If we draft a point guard, it's up in the air. We're going into training camp like anybody can be a starter."
Hornacek's favorite Suns memory is the 1990 Conference Finals run when the Suns played havoc with the league by employing an unguardable three-guard lineup featuring himself flanked by Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle.
"When the ball comes out of Goran's hands, we need more guys to be able to make a play with it," Suns GM Ryan McDonough said. "Some of the guys in here, to be honest with you, fit that description."
It sounds like McDonough is looking for a combo guard who can play both PG and SG depending on the lineup. But when you're drafting so high, you just have to take the best player available and let it all shake out from there.
If the Suns draft a Trey Burke (at 5) or a Shane Larkin (at 30, or via draft-day trade), it's because that was the best player on the board at their pick.
MCW is the biggest point guard in the draft at 6'6". He never reached his potential in two years in college, but was the man for Syracuse during a strong NCAA tournament run. He cited the advantage his height gives him, to see over people on offense and be big enough to crowd the opposing guard with his size.
One big question mark on MCW is his ability to play defense. Syracuse has historically played zone, and produced sketchy NBA defenders as a result of not learning the fundamentals of individual and team defense.
"I think I just want people to see it for themselves. I can sit here and tell everyone till I'm blue in the face I can play defense. But when they see it that's when they will really believe it."
Shane Larkin is rising up draft boards on a weekly basis, but still ranked no better than fourth on the PG depth chart and stuck in the middle of the first round of mocks. Trey Burke, C.J. McCollum, Michael Carter-Williams and even Dennis Schroeder are ranked higher at the moment.
"Yeah, that's why you come out here," Larkin said of joining the PG-heavy group. "To go against guys rated above you. I wanted to come out here to work out against all three of them but Trey was doing the individual today."
Larkin's biggest knock is size (5'11"), yet he's nearly the same size as Trey Burke who is currently projected to go as many as 10-15 slots higher in the 2013 NBA Draft.
"Trey is maybe ¾ inch taller than me. He doesn't have the undersized label, but it's whatever."
Larkin's advantage is athleticism. He jumped the highest at the combine and overall ranked very well in all the athletic tests. He clearly has a desire to show off his skills against his closest PG competitors.
"I wish it was one on one," Larkin said. "So I could show my quickness is hard to guard one on one. And the bigger guys [like Michael Carter-Williams], its going to be hard for them to go around me just because I can get into them as a smaller guy. But I wasn't able to show that today but it was a good workout, great strategy, so it was fun."
While Larkin has a lot to prove, and a lot of room to rise up the draft charts, C.J. McCollum is in a trickier spot. If he shows poorly against guys like MCW and Larkin, his draft stock could plummet.
But that's not even an issue for McCollum, a 6'3" combo guard who's happy being pegged with the PGs this week.
"I'm not running from anybody," C.J. McCollum said when asked about playing against the other point guards. "I'm working out against whoever. We're all basketball players, so there should be nothing to hide."
McCollum has been compared to another small-school combo guard who just won rookie of the year, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers. McCollum embraces that comparison, considering Lillard did so well that McCollum will benefit from an inflated draft stock as a result.
"His demeanor sets him apart, and I think I have the same demeanor. Nothing really fazes us, we're both heady players, both able to score.
"I think it's funny," McCollum continued. "He did well, so now people will say CJ will do well at the next level. But if he would have done poorly, or if Steph Curry did poorly, they'll be saying small school guys can't play in the NBA, it's impossible. I'm glad he did well."
McCollum just graduated from Lehigh with a journalism degree in his four years of playing, citing that dedication as a testament to his character. "I stayed there and committed myself. It shows what type of person I am. I was in an environment where you're a student first, athletes were second. And that's kind of how I approach this game, approach life. "
McCollum is currently rated higher than any PG prospect besides Trey Burke, and could even get drafted above Burke if he shows well in workouts. But it will be tough to surpass Burke since he won't be able to compete directly against the Michigander.
Still, McCollum sees the workout tour as a chance to prove himself, to show the NBA scouts that he can play the game despite not having the prefect measurables.
"I was very undersized, very small," he said. "I watched smaller guys like Allen Iverson. And I watched a lot of guys that weren't very fast like Steve Nash. He does a great job of changing pace and learned to play the angles. I'm not the fastest guy in the world. But I'm kind of smart, I know how to use my body and change gears a little bit."
After watching Kendall Marshall (21 last year) fail to use his big body to create separation for shots, it's clear that McCollum (who will be 23 as a rookie) is a bit more mature in the game of life and basketball.
"Definitely there's an advantage to playing four years and then get thrown into the fire," he said. "You go to bigger schools, you're waiting behind All-Americans, potential pro guys. I got to learn on the fly, and I think that's helped mold me into the player I am today."
After leading Michigan on a wild, fairy-tale ride through March madness, hitting shots from all over the court and controlling the game like few in college can do, Trey Burke has put himself into a position of power leading into the NBA draft.
While other players like Shane Larkin have to answer questions about size, Burke does not. Burke's amazing tourney run gives him the benefit of being compared, body-wise, to Chris Paul who tossed aside any concerns over being 6 feet tall by being a transcendent player.
Still, Burke is only 6 feet tall and hasn't displayed quickness on defense or a great court vision, two traits that Paul brought with him into the league. Burke's shot-making and leadership is A-plus, but that resume compares just as closely to Acie Law as Chris Paul.
So it's no surprise that Burke is riding this wave and doing nothing to derail it.
"I wouldn't mind competing with a group," Burke said. "My agent just told me it's best to compete by myself. I really don't have a lot to gain by competing with others."
Like Ben McLemore, Burke is only doing individual workouts. His draft stock can't be any higher than it is - as high as #2 to Orlando - so why take any chances? The King of PG Mountain can only go down from here.
Here's the prospect profiles and where they rank on Kris Habbas' Big Board (nbadraftinsider.com)
The only PG prospect not in attendance was Germany's Dennis Schroeder who is not working out for any teams. Rumor has it he's been given a first-round promise, so he returned to Germany until the draft.
SB Nation is building scouting reports on all the top prospects. Check them out - very good work. It's always good to see another perspective besides the usual suspects in scouting.