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A Decade of NBA Draft Ups and Downs

Eric Pincus breaks down each individual class from the last 10 NBA Drafts.

Eric Pincus

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The NBA will hold its annual draft on Thursday night.

The top two prospects are widely believed to be LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram, although it’s yet to be determined if the Philadelphia 76ers (first overall) and Los Angeles Lakers (second) agree.

Every draft class is unique.  Some produce multiple All-Stars, but are shallow in depth. Others can boast a long list of starters, but few to no superstars.

Naturally, it takes time for young players to develop into franchise players.  The last three draft classes have yet to produce a single All-Star, but Minnesota Timberwolves forward/center Karl-Anthony Towns, taken first in 2014, looks like he’ll start earning that honor relatively quickly.

The 2010 class produced All-Stars in Paul George, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, but 58.3 percent either didn’t make the league or fell out within five years.

How will Thursday’s 60 prospects fare?  The challenge for teams, when selecting a number of 18- or 19-year-old kids, is guessing correctly.

The true answer may not be clear for a handful of years.

Some teams are more successful than others, as detailed in A Decade of Drafts: Which Teams Fared Best?

The following is a breakdown of the last 10 drafts, focusing on the number of All-Stars and starters in each class – along with a count of players who weren’t on NBA rosters after five season:

All-Stars

Class Individual All-Stars Total Appearances Average Appearances per Year
2006 5 17 1.7
2007 4 15 1.7
2008 5 14 1.8
2009 6 16 2.3
2010 3 8 1.3
2011 5 9 1.8
2012 4 7 1.8
2013 0 0 0
2014 0 0 0
2015 0 0 0
Total 32 (5.3%) 86 12.4

The 2009 class generated the most individual All-Stars and was just one shy of matching 2006’s total appearances mark, despite the latter class’ three-year head start.

None of the last three classes have produced All-Stars, yet.  Only Blake Griffin was named an All-Star as a rookie, and that technically was in his second year of service after injuries knocked him out for the 2009-10 season.

Six players were named All-Stars in their second season (Brandon Roy, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, Derrick Rose and Griffin – noting the argument that the Clippers forward was still considered a rookie).

Five were All-Stars in their third year (Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Paul George and Kevin Love).

By that standard, the 2015 class may not be behind without any All-Stars, but 2013 and 2014 are lagging.

Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers, Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder (formerly the Seattle SuperSonics) and Golden State Warriors each drafted the most All-Stars over the last 10 years (three apiece) – although Oklahoma City’s James Harden wasn’t honored as such until he was traded to the Houston Rockets.

Highest Paid Players by Class

Class Player Total
2006 LaMarcus Aldridge $171,154,937
2007 Marc Gasol $180,435,514
2008 Kevin Love $172,106,169
2009 Blake Griffin $117,873,362
2010 John Wall $108,639,665
2011 Kyrie Irving $117,541,135
2012 Damian Lillard $154,260,167*
2013 Victor Oladipo $21,487,440
2014 Andrew Wiggins $24,850,243
2015 Karl-Anthony Towns $25,720,035
Total $1,090,140,842*

* The exact figures for Lillard’s extension won’t be established until early July.

Numbers include past and future NBA earnings, including any option years ahead.

Lillard beat out Anthony Davis, by virtue of a bigger contract extension qualifying for the “Rose Rule.”  Lillard qualified by two All-NBA honors (second team for 2015-16 and third team in 2013-14).  Davis was named to the All-NBA First Team in 2015 and voted in as an All-Star starter once – but he needed two of either to qualify the bigger extension.

Gasol not only tops the list in career earnings, but he’s the only second-round pick on the list.

Starters

Class 50+ Starts on Average for Career 50+ Starts at least 40% of Career Not Yet in NBA Out in Five Years or Less Total
2006 6 (10.0%) 11 (18.3%) 8 (13.3%) 28 (46.7%) 36 (60.0%)
2007 7 (11.7%) 12 (20.0%) 11 (18.3%) 22 (36.7%) 33 (55.0%)
2008 11 (18.3%) 19 (31.7%) 9 (15.0%) 16 (26.7%) 25 (41.7%)
2009 8 (13.3%) 14 (23.3%) 10 (16.7%) 17 (28.3%) 27 (45.0%)
2010 5 (8.3%) 11 (18.3%) 9 (15.0%) 26 (43.3%) 35 (58.3%)
2011 9 (15.0%) 15 (25.0%) 7 (11.7%) 19 (31.7%) 26 (43.3%)
2012 7 (11.7%) 10 (16.7%) 5 (8.3%) 23 (38.3%) 28 (46.7%)
2013 8 (13.3%) 8 (13.3%) 11 (18.3%) 13 (21.7%) 24 (40.0%)
2014 4 (6.7%) 11 (18.3%) 10 (16.7%) 6 (10.0%) 16 (26.7%)
2015 4 (6.7%) 4 (6.7%) 20 (33.3%) 0 (0.0%) 20 (33.3%)
Total 69 (11.5%) 115 (19.2%) 100 (16.7%) 170 (28.3%) 270 (45.0%)

Few players hit the NBA as a starter.  The 2008 class yielded 19 players who started at least 50 games over a minimum of 40 percent of their careers.  The 2014 class has early starter depth, while 2013 is lagging.

Twenty players from the most recent draft in 2015 have yet to sign in the NBA.  Based on previous years, between nine and 15 will eventually make their way (like recent rookies Nikola Jokic, Nemanja Bjelica and Sasha Kaun).  The Philadelphia 76ers hope to have Dario Saric (2014-12th) ink this summer after staying overseas for two seasons.

Results by Tier

The following table shows the league averages over every five picks in the first round, and every 10 in the second:

Tier All-Star Starter Not in NBA
1-5 12 (24%) 30 (60%) 3 (6%)
6-10 8 (16%) 30 (60%) 7 (14%)
11-15 2 (4%) 12 (24%) 8 (16%)
16-20 3 (6%) 10 (20%) 8 (16%)
21-25 2 (4%) 8 (16%) 15 (30%)
26-30 1 (2%) 5 (10%) 20 (40%)
31-40 1 (2%) 11 (11%) 52 (52%)
41-50 2 (2%) 8 (8%) 70 (70%)
51-60 1 (1%) 1 (1%) 87 (87%)
Total 32 (5.3%) 115 (19.7%) 270 (45.0%)

The odds of finding an All-Star in the 15-30 range were better than it was in the second round, but the majority were top-10 picks.  The same can be said of starters, where 60 of the 115 starters (52.2 percent) were taken the top 10.

Teams were twice as likely to find an All-Star with a top-10 pick – and six times more likely to land a starter – than choose a player who didn’t last more than five years.

The lone stand-out in the 51-60 range is Isaiah Thomas, the 60th pick in 2011.  Only 13 of 100 players (87 percent) in that same tier lasted more than five years in the league.

The data for the most recent drafts is inherently incomplete.  The 2015 class has only had one year to prove itself.

Year by Year

The numbers for the 2011 lockout-shortened season are adjusted up from 66 games to 82.  Teams listed are after any pre-career trades.  Frontcourt (FC) includes forwards and centers; Backcourt (BC) includes guards.  Some fall between the two, and a subjective decision was made case by case.

2006

Count: FC 37 (61.7 percent) — lottery nine (64.3 percent); BC 23 (38.3 percent) — lottery five (35.7 percent)

All-Stars: LaMarcus Aldridge (2nd — Portland Trail Blazers), Brandon Roy (6th — Trail Blazers), Rajon Rondo (21st — Boston Celtics), Kyle Lowry (24th — Memphis Grizzlies), Paul Millsap (47th — Utah Jazz)

Lottery Misses: Andrea Bargnani (1st — Toronto Raptors), Adam Morrison (3rd — Charlotte Hornets née Bobcats), Tyrus Thomas (4th — Chicago Bulls), Shelden Williams (5th — Atlanta Hawks), Patrick O’Bryant (9th — Golden State Warriors), Mouhamed Sene (10th — Oklahoma City Thunder née Seattle SuperSonics), Hilton Armstrong (12th — New Orleans Pelicans née Hornets)

Second-Round Steal(s): Paul Millsap (47th)

Between All-Stars and Misses: Randy Foye (7th — Minnesota Timberwolves), Rudy Gay (8th — Memphis Grizzlies), J.J. Redick (11th — Orlando Magic), Thabo Sefolosha (13th — Bulls), Ronnie Brewer (14th — Jazz), Shannon Brown (25th — Cleveland Cavaliers), Jordan Farmar (26th — Los Angeles Lakers), Steve Novak (31st — Houston Rockets), P.J. Tucker (35th — Raptors), Daniel Gibson (42 — Cavaliers), Ryan Hollins (50th — Hornets)

At Least 50 Starts

Career average — Six players (10.0 percent)

In 40+ percent of years — 11 (18.3 percent)

Yet to Reach NBA: Eight (13.3 percent)

Out in Five Years or Fewer: 28 (46.7 percent); FC 18; BC 10

Notable: Four of the first six drafted played briefly in the NBA.  Roy was a tremendous player whose career was derailed by injury.  Leon Powe (49th) was a contributor with the Boston Celtics before injury.

2007

Count: FC 38 (63.3 percent) — lottery 12 (86.0 percent); BC 22 (36.7 percent) — lottery two (14.0 percent)

All-Stars: Kevin Durant (2nd — Thunder née Sonics), Al Horford (3rd — Hawks), Joakim Noah (9th — Bulls), Marc Gasol (48th — Grizzlies via Lakers)

Lottery Misses: Greg Oden (1st — Blazers), Yi Jianlian (6th — Milwaukee Bucks), Acie Law (11th — Hawks), Julian Wright (13th — Pelicans née Hornets), Al Thornton (14th — Clippers)

Second-Round Steal(s): Marc Gasol (48th), Ramon Sessions (56th — Milwaukee Bucks)

Between All-Stars and Misses: Mike Conley (4th — Grizzlies), Jeff Green (5th Thunder née Sonics), Corey Brewer (9th — Timberwolves), Brandan Wright (8th — Warriors), Spencer Hawes (10th — Kings), Thaddeus Young (12th — 76ers), Rodney Stuckey (15th — Pistons), Nick Young (16th — Wizards), Marco Belinelli (18th — Warriors), Jason Smith (20th — 76ers), Jared Dudley (22nd — Hornets née Bobcats), Wilson Chandler (23rd — Knicks), Aaron Brooks (26th — Rockets), Arron Afflalo (27th — Pistons), Tiago Splitter (28th — Spurs), Carl Landry (31st — Rockets), Glen Davis (35th — Celtics), Josh McRoberts (37th — Blazers) and Ramon Sessions (56th).

At Least 50 Starts

Career average — Seven players (11.7 percent)

In 40+ percent of years — 12 (20.0 percent)

Yet to Reach NBA: 11 (18.3 percent)

Out in Five Years or Fewer: 22 (36.7 percent); FC 13; BC nine

Notable:
Overall, a quality draft, with a high volume of still-active players. But for the second year in a row, the top overall pick was dramatically overshadowed by the second.

2008

Count: FC 39 (65.0 percent) — lottery seven (50.0 percent); BC 22 (36.7 percent) — lottery seven (50.0 percent)

All-Stars: Derrick Rose (1st — Bulls), Russell Westbrook (4th — Thunder née Sonics), Kevin Love (5th — Timberwolves), Brook Lopez (10th — Nets), Roy Hibbert (17th — Pacers)

Lottery Misses: Michael Beasley (2nd — Heat), O.J. Mayo (3rd — Grizzlies), Joe Alexander (8th — Bucks), Anthony Randolph (14th — Warriors)

Second-Round Steal(s): DeAndre Jordan (35th — Clippers), Goran Dragic (45th — Suns)

Between All-Stars and Misses: Danilo Gallinari (6th — Knicks), Eric Gordon (7th — Clippers), D.J. Augustin (9th — Hornets née Bobcats), Jerryd Bayless (11th — Blazers), Jason Thompson (12th — Kings), Brandon Rush (13th — Pacers), Robin Lopez (15th — Suns), Marreese Speights (16th –76ers), JaVale McGee (18th — Wizards), J.J. Hickson (19th — Cavaliers), Alexis Ajinca (20th — Hornets née Bobcats), Ryan Anderson (21st — Nets), Courtney Lee (22nd — Magic), Kosta Koufos (23rd — Jazz), Serge Ibaka (24th — Thunder née Sonics), Nicolas Batum (25th — Blazers), George Hill (26th — Spurs), Darell Arthur (27th — Grizzlies), Nikola Pekovic (31st — Wolves), Mario Chalmers (34th — HEAT), Omer Asik (36th — Bulls), Luc Mbah a Moute (37th — Bucks) and Sasha Kaun (56th — Cavaliers).

At Least 50 Starts

Career average — 11 players (18.3 percent)

In 40+ percent of years — 17 (28.3 percent)

Yet to Reach NBA: Nine (15.0 percent)

Out in Five Years or Fewer: 16 (26.7 percent); FC eight; BC eight

Notable: Beasley and Mayo have had productive years in the NBA — “miss” may not be fair — but neither should have gone before Westbrook.  Kaun was just a rookie this last season, his fate as a hit or a miss is still to be determined.

2009

Count: FC 30 (50.0 percent) — lottery five (35.7 percent); BC 30 (50.0 percent) — lottery nine (64.3 percent)

All-Stars: Blake Griffin (1st — Clippers), James Harden (3rd — Thunder), Stephen Curry (7th — Warriors), DeMar DeRozan (9th — Raptors), Jrue Holiday (17th — 76ers), Jeff Teague (19th — Hawks)

Lottery Misses: Hasheem Thabeet (2nd — Grizzlies), Jonny Flynn (6th — Wolves), Terrence Williams (11th — Nets); While Griffin and Harden are certainly justifiable, Tyreke Evans (4th — Kings) and Ricky Rubio (5th — Wolves) should not have been taken before Curry.

Second-Round Steal(s): Danny Green (46th — Cavaliers), although Cleveland let him go after a year, giving the Spurs the chance to sign and develop an important championship role player.

Between All-Stars and Misses: Jordan Hill (8th — Knicks), Brandon Jennings (10th — Bucks), Gerald Henderson (12th — Hornets née Bobcats), Tyler Hansbrough (13th — Pacers), James Johnson (16th — Bulls), Ty Lawson (18th — Nuggets),Darren Collison (21st — Pelicans née Hornets), Omri Casspi (23rd — Kings), Taj Gibson (26th — Bulls), DeMarre Carroll (27th — Grizzlies), Wayne Ellington (28th — Wolves), Toney Douglas (29th — Knicks), Jeff Ayres (31st — Kings), Dante Cunningham (33rd — Blazers), DeJuan Blair (37th — Pistons), Jonas Jerebko (39th — Pistons), Jodie Meeks (41st — Bucks), Patrick Beverley (42nd — Heat), Chase Budinger (44th — Pistons), Patty Mills (55th — Blazers).

At Least 50 Starts

Career average — eight players (13.3 percent)

In 40+ percent of years — 14 (23.3 percent)

Yet to Reach NBA: 10 (16.7 percent)

Out in Five Years or Fewer: 17 (28.3 percent); FC nine; BC eight

Notable: Evans and Rubio should not be considered misses outside of overlooking Curry.

2010

Count: FC 44 (73.3 percent) — lottery 11 (78.6 percent); BC 16 (26.7 percent) — lottery three (21.4 percent)

All-Stars: John Wall (1st — Wizards), DeMarcus Cousins (5th — Kings), Paul George (10th — Pacers)

Lottery Misses: Evan Turner (2nd — 76ers), Wesley Johnson (4th — Wolves) — neither should have been taken before Cousins; Ekpe Udoh (6th — Warriors), Xavier Henry (12th — Grizzlies); also any non-All-Stars taken before Paul George.

Second-Round Steal(s): Lance Stephenson (40th — Pacers), Hassan Whiteside (33rd — Kings) would have been a steal, but he didn’t last in Sacramento.

Between All-Stars and Misses: Derrick Favors (2nd — Nets), Greg Monroe (7th -Pistons), Al-Farouq Aminu (8th — Clippers), Gordon Hayward (9th — Jazz), Cole Aldrich (11th — Thunder), Ed Davis (13th — Raptors), Patrick Patterson (14th — Rockets), Luke Babbitt (16th — Blazers), Kevin Seraphin (17th — Wizards), Eric Bledsoe (18th — Clippers), Avery Bradley (19th — Celtics), James Anderson (20th — Spurs), Trevor Booker (23rd — Wizards), Quincy Pondexter (26th — Pelicans née Hornets), Greivis Vasquez (28th — Grizzlies), Landry Fields (29th — Knicks), Jeremy Evans (55th — Jazz)

At Least 50 Starts

Career average — five players (8.3 percent)

In 40+ percent of years — 11 (18.3 percent)

Yet to Reach NBA: Nine (15.0 percent)

Out in Five Years or Fewer: 26 (43.3 percent); FC 18; BC eight

Notable: Bledsoe and Bradley were two sharp, non-lottery picks.  Turner was a very productive player with the Celtics last season.  Johnson has contributed as a role player, but they were both drafted too high.  Both Tibor Pleiss (31st — Jazz via Thunder) and Nemanja Bjelica (35th — Wolves) were rookies last season; too soon to declare either a hit or a miss.  Larry Sanders (15th — Bucks) was initially productive, but left the NBA for personal reasons.  Fields also had a short, five-year career.

2011

Count: FC 33 (55.0 percent) — lottery eight (57.2 percent); BC 27 (45.0 percent) — lottery six (42.9 percent)

All-Stars: Kyrie Irving (1st — Cavaliers), Klay Thompson (11th — Warriors), Kawhi Leonard (15th — Spurs), Jimmy Butler (30th — Bulls), Isaiah Thomas (60th — Kings)

Lottery Misses: Derrick Williams (2nd — Wolves), Jan Vesely (6th — Wizards, Jimmer Fredette (10th — Kings)

Second-Round Steal(s): Chandler Parsons (38th — Rockets), Isaiah Thomas (60th — Kings)

Between All-Stars and Misses: Enes Kanter (3rd — Jazz), Tristan Thompson (4th — Cavaliers), Jonas Valanciunas (5th — Raptors), Bismack Biyombo (7th — Hornets née Bobcats), Brandon Knight (8th — Pistons), Kemba Walker — Hornets née Bobcats), Alec Burks (12th — Jazz), Markieff Morris (13th — Suns), Marcus Morris (14th — Rockets), Nikola Vucevic (16th — 76ers), Iman Shumpert (17th — Knicks),  Tobias Harris (19th — Bucks), Donatas Motiejunas (20th — Rockets), Kenneth Faried (22nd — Nuggets), Nikola Mirotic (23rd — Bulls), Reggie Jackson (24th — Thunder), Norris Cole (28th — Miami), Cory Joseph (29th — Spurs), Bojan Bogdanovic (31st — Wolves), Shelvin Mack (34th — Wizards), Jon Leuer (40th — Bucks), Lavoy Allen (50th — 76ers), E’Twaun Moore (55th — Celtics)

At Least 50 Starts

Career average — nine players (15.0 percent)

In 40+ percent of years — 15 (25.0 percent)

Yet to Reach NBA: Seven (11.7 percent)

Currently Out Through Fifth Year: 19 (31.7 percent); FC 11; BC eight

Notable: The best first-round picks outside of the lottery were Leonard and Butler.  Other strong selections were Faried and Joseph.  Andrew Goudelock (46th — Lakers) is hoping to stick in the league again on a non-guaranteed deal with the Rockets.

2012

Count: FC 39 (65.0 percent) — lottery seven (50.0 percent); BC 21 (35.0 percent) — lottery seven (50.0 percent)

All-Stars: Anthony Davis (1st — Pelicans née Hornets), Damian Lillard (6th — Blazers), Andre Drummond (9th — Pistons), Draymond Green (35th — Warriors)

Lottery Misses: Thomas Robinson (5th — Kings), Austin Rivers (10th — Pelicans née Hornets), Kendall Marshall (13th — Suns); Honorable mention to any non-All-Stars taken ahead of Lillard.

Second-Round Steal(s): Jae Crowder (34th — Mavericks), Green, Khris Middleton (39th — Pistons), Will Barton (40th — Blazers)

Between All-Stars and Misses: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2nd — Hornets née Bobcats), Bradley Beal (32nd — Wizards), Dion Waiters (4th — Cavaliers), Harrison Barnes (7th — Warriors), Terrence Ross (8th — Raptors), Meyers Leonard (11th — Blazers), Jeremy Lamb (12th — Rockets), John Henson (14th — Bucks), Moe Harkless (15th — Magic), Tyler Zeller (17th — Cavaliers), Terrence Jones (18th — Rockets), Andrew Nicholson (19th — Magic), Evan Fournier (20th — Nuggets), Jared Sullinger (21st — Celtics), John Jenkins (23rd — Hawks), Tony Wroten (25th — Grizzlies), Miles Plumlee (26th — Pacers), Festus Ezeli — (30th — Warriors), Quincy Acy (38th — Raptors), Mike Scott (43rd — Hawks), Kyle O’Quinn (49th — Magic),  Robert Sacre (60th — Lakers)

At Least 50 Starts

Career average — seven players (10.0 percent), rounding up Kidd-Gilchrist from 49.5

In 40+ percent of years — 10 (16.7 percent)

Yet to Reach NBA: Five (8.3 percent)

Currently Out Through Fourth Year: 23 (38.3 percent); FC 14; BC nine

Notable: Rivers has found a valuable role the past two seasons on the Clippers, but he wasn’t especially successful on the Pelicans.  Marshall has found a place in the NBA, but was cut early by the Suns.  Royce White (16th — Rockets) and Fab Melo (22nd — Celtics) have yet to find footholds in the league.

2013

Count: FC 33 (55.0 percent) — lottery eight (57.1 percent); BC 27 (45.0 percent) — lottery six (42.9 percent)

All-Stars: None

Lottery Misses: Anthony Bennett (1st — Cavaliers), Trey Burke (9th — Jazz)

Second-Round Steal(s): Perhaps Allen Crabbe (31st), Isaiah Canaan (34th) and/or Joffrey Lauvergne (55th)

Between All-Stars and Misses: Victor Oladipo (2nd — Magic), Otto Porter (3rd — Wizard), Cody Zeller (4th — Hornets née Bobcats), Alex Len (5th — Suns), Nerlens Noel (6th — 76ers), Ben McLemore (7th — Kings), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (8th — Pistons), C.J. McCollum (10th — Blazers), Michael Carter-Williams (11th — 76ers), Steven Adams (12th — Thunder), Kelly Olynyk (13th — Celtics), Shabazz Muhammad (14th — Wolves), Giannis Antetokounmpo (15th — Bucks), Lucas Nogueira (16th — Raptors), Dennis Schroder (17th — Hawks), Shane Larkin (18th — Mavericks), Sergey Karasev (19th — Cavaliers), Tony Snell (20th — Bulls). Rudy Gobert (27th — Jazz), Archie Goodwin (29th — Suns), Jeff Withey (39th — Pelicans), Mike Muscala (44th — Hawks), Raul Neto (47th — Jazz), Ryan Kelly (48th — Lakers), James Ennis (50th — Heat), Lorenzo Brown (52nd — 76ers)

At Least 50 Starts

Career average — eight (13.3 percent), rounding up for Miles Plumlee from 49.7

In 40+ percent of years — eight (13.3 percent)

Yet to Reach NBA: 11 (18.3 percent)

Currently Out Through Third Year: 13 (21.7 percent); FC four; BC nine

Notable: Gobert was a tremendous selection by Utah late in the first.  Others who stands out with the All-Star potential include Antetokounmpo and McCollum.

2014

Count: FC 35 (58.3 percent) — lottery nine (64.3 percent); BC 25 (41.7 percent) — lottery five (35.7 percent)

All-Stars: None

Lottery Misses: Nik Stauskas (8th — Kings), although he showed he still has potential in stretches after a trade to the 76ers.

Second-Round Steal(s): Nikola Jokic (41st), Jordan Clarkson (46th)

Between All-Stars and Misses: Too early to say, too many to list.

At Least 50 Starts

Career average — four (6.7 percent)

In 40+ percent of years — 11 (18.3 percent)

Yet to Reach NBA: 10 (16.7 percent)

Currently Out Through Second Year: Six (10.0 percent); FC three; BC three

Notable: Two lottery picks are expected to make their debut next season with the Sixers – Joel Embiid (3rd) and Dario Saric (12th).

2015

Count: FC 36 (60.0 percent) — lottery nine (64.3 percent); BC 24 (40.0 percent) — lottery five (35.7 percent)

All-Stars: None

Lottery Misses: To be determined.

Second-Round Steal(s): Josh Richardson (40th — HEAT), Norman Powell (46th — Raptors)

Between All-Stars and Misses: Too early to say, too many to list.

At Least 50 Starts: Four (6.7 percent)

Yet to Reach NBA: 20 (33.3 percent)

Currently Out Through First Year: None

Notable: Devin Booker (13th — Suns) was an excellent late-lottery pick.  Larry Nance Jr. (27th — Lakers) was also a solid find.

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NBA

NBA Daily: Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons Still Working Out Kinks

The Philadelphia 76ers are still looking for the best ways to combine Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons offensively. Quinn Davis looks at what the team has done so far and what it could do going to forward to maximize their talents.

Quinn Davis

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Late in the third quarter of the Philadelphia 76ers’ win over the Toronto Raptors, Ben Simmons brought the ball up the court and called a play.

After directing some traffic, Joel Embiid came up to the three-point line and ran a simple pick-and-roll with Simmons. Simmons slashed past Marc Gasol to the rim and threw down a left-handed dunk.

For most teams, this simple high pick-and-roll would go unnoticed, a faint memory from a normal December win. For these Sixers, though, that play is symbolic of the team’s championship aspirations.

There has been much hand-wringing and alarm-sounding over the fit of Embiid and Simmons offensively. The concerns are justified, as Simmons and Embiid both do their best work around the basket. They are yin and bigger yin at times.

As of their win over the Raptors, the Sixers’ best offensive units have been the ones featuring Simmons, but not Embiid. The lineup of Simmons, Matisse Thybulle, James Ennis, Tobias Harris,and Al Horford has scored 114.9 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. That same lineup with exception of Furkan Korkmaz in for Thybulle has scored 117.7 points per 100 possessions. For comparison, the Sixers score 107.8 points per 100 possessions when the two young stars share the court.

The key to those Simmons-led lineups has been their pace. At their fastest, they have zoomed up and down the hardwood at a pace of 111.6 possessions per game, per NBA.com. That lineup, which is the Simmons-Thybulle-Ennis-Harris-Horford grouping, would rank first in the NBA by a mile in that category.

With Embiid on the court, playing at that pace is impossible. Lineups with Embiid have hovered around a pace of 98 or 99 possessions per game so far this season.

That is not knock on the star center; any player at his size would be a better fit for a slower game. This is just one example of the tricky fit between the two leaders of the franchise.

This wide gap was not present last season. The starting lineup used at the end of the 2018-19 run, which featured both Embiid and Simmons, ran at a pace of about 106 possessions per game, a number that would rank first in the NBA this season. Also, the offense stagnated when Embiid left the court last season. With Simmons on and Embiid off, the Sixers only could muster 108 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass.

The change this year can largely be attributed to the addition of Al Horford. Horford, who is now the starting power forward and backup center, has had a profound effect on the team’s offense and pace.

Firstly, he has proven to be an ideal partner for Simmons. Horford is a master at trailing the fastbreak for top the arc threes and also can be weaponized as a pick-and-pop partner against defenses who collapse on Simmons, like in this play against the Raptors.

Secondly, Horford as a power forward contributes to the snail’s pace that the team plays with their starters. The sheer size of that five-man unit makes running up and down the court counter to the advantages that they pose.

With Horford in tow, the differences between Simmons and Embiid are now amplified on the offensive end.

With Embiid and Simmons on the court together, the spacing predictably tightens. The cramped paint leads to turnover problems, as the Sixers’ turnover percentage jumps to nearly 18 percent when those two share the court, per Cleaning the Glass.

Minimizing those turnovers and piecing together a strong half-court offense will be key in the Sixers’ title hopes as the year goes on. They may need to get creative in order to do that considering the unique skillset.

Philadelphia head coach Brett Brown is aware of this. He is sure to use the regular season as a laboratory to experiment with the best possible sets when the two share the court.

One of those ways is to have Simmons space to the corner in half-court offensive sets. Brown didn’t mince words over the weekend when asked about Simmons’ second made three of the season, saying he wanted to see “one three-point shot a game,” from his star point guard.

Brown noted that the attempt itself is not only important, but it is the way it would open things up for the rest of Simmons’ game. Brown continued that the ability to attack the paint from that position would lead to dunks and free throws.

As of now, there are a lot of possessions like the one below. The ball gets entered to Embiid while Simmons lurks in the dunker spot on the opposite side of the basket. Most defenses simply collapse into the paint and force the kick out with ease, as the Indiana Pacers do here. The Sixers’ three shooters are located around the top of the arc, so defenders have a short distance to close out.

Simmons spacing to the corner on plays like this would make the Sixers much more difficult to defend. A few passes around the perimeter could lead to an open three or a drive to the rim when a defender closes out wildly.

There is also the step of involving Embiid and Simmons in more two-man actions. The most common two-man action in the NBA is, of course, the pick-and-roll.

Going back to the pick-and-roll at the beginning of this piece, the one thing that stands out immediately is the way Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is guarding Simmons. He is tight on Simmons all the way out five feet above the three-point line. That defense allows Simmons to get free with a head of steam to the basket.

Simmons will rarely see a player guard him that way all season. Most will sag to the foul line or deeper and be content drifting under ever pick. Basketball Insiders asked Brown about this specific play and what they could do going forward to get more actions like this, his response was detailed.

“It’s always been a wish to grow those two in pick-and-rolls,” Brown said. “It sounds good, in this room. But when you watch how the league is defending him, there’s nobody to screen. You have to go to different angles, like deep pick-and-rolls and I think they have had success out of that.”

The Sixers have dabbled in those deep pick-and-rolls this season. The play usually involves Simmons getting the ball on the mid-block, where Embiid sets the screen and Simmons moves toward the basket. The play usually results in a decent look for Simmons, as it does on the play here.

Unfortunately for the Sixers, Simmons has had a bit more trouble with those short hooks this season. His percentage in that area is down from 38 percent last season to 34 percent in this campaign, per Cleaning the Glass. This could be variance, as the season is still young.

Still, there are other ways to maximize their combined skills. Perhaps the Sixers try more actions with Simmons as a screener while Embiid plays the role of the dunker. There is also the possibility of more high-low action, weaponizing Simmons’ ability as a passer from the high post.

It is also important to mention the benefit of having two distinct styles. Having a team that can play multiple ways depending on personnel is an inherently good thing.

While the two make for an odd couple offensively, the situation is not as dire as it may seem. The pair operates at a plus-11.4 net rating when sharing the court, per Cleaning the Glass. When Embiid plays without Simmons, the net rating sits at plus-9.7, while that number is a plus-5.7 in the reverse scenario. When you further specify to view lineups with Simmons and Horford sans Embiid, that number jumps to plus-12.7.

These numbers can be attributed to the defensive side of the ball, where the two make for a destructive duo. Embiid has provided his usual rim-protection while Simmons has taken a leap on that end, locking down guards and wings alike while leading the league in steals.

If a few things are tightened up offensively, the Sixers could go from contender to favorite in the championship race.

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NBA

Buy Or Sell: Northwest Division

Matt John starts off Basketball Insiders’ latest series “Buy Or Sell” by taking a look at which teams in the Northwest Division will be buyers and sellers when the trading season commences.

Matt John

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The holidays are a joyous time — but particularly so for NBA junkies.

Christmas Day is one of the most highly-anticipated events for basketball fans everywhere. Not only do we get to see the best teams in the league face-off — but the best players in the league show themselves off on national television. Needless to say, there’s a lot to look forward to on Dec. 25.

Did you know, however, that there is one day that the NBA’s most devoted fans look forward to arguably even more than Christmas? If you didn’t, that day in mind is Dec. 15.

Sounds a little random at first, doesn’t it? Well, there’s a good reason for this. On that day, almost all of the players who agreed to new contracts over the summer become eligible to be traded. That means, almost everyone in the entire league is free game to acquire once that date rolls around.

With that moment mere days away, Basketball Insiders will take a look at which teams should consider upgrades and what franchises might be in sellers mode.

Today, we start with the Northwest Division.

Denver Nuggets (14-7) – Buyers

Does a team flip a script if they are still in the same place as they were last year? Ask the Nuggets.

Last year, the Nuggets attained the second seed because of their elite offense first and foremost. That hasn’t been the case this year. Denver is still one of the better teams in their conference, but their offense has fallen down the tubes, going from scoring 113 points per 100 possessions to 107.1. Their defense has made up the difference, as they’ve gone from allowing 108.9 points per 100 possessions to 102.5.

Their offensive woes should change, but their bench needs some offensive help. Denver’s starters are doing just fine as they are plus-11.6 when they’re on the floor together. But their second unit is a different story.

The Nuggets’ highest scorer off their bench is Jerami Grant, who scores 9.5 points a game. That’s adequate for a player like him, except Denver is minus-19.5 when he’s on the floor. Grant also does not have a reputation as a scorer, so the fact that he’s the bench’s highest bucket-getter is troubling.

Denver is tied for 18th in the league in three-point percentage although they are 22nd in three-point attempts a game – 30.6. What could give their bench a boost on that end is adding a pure three-point shooter on that end. Doing so could open up the floor a bit for them.

For now, the Nuggets’ needs aren’t all too pressing for them, but if these offensive woes as a team continue, something has to be done.

Minnesota Timberwolves (10-13) – Buyers (?)

Give credit to the Timberwolves. They’ve managed to be slightly better than everyone thought they would be. Karl-Anthony Towns continues his ascension into the league’s most offensively talented big. Andrew Wiggins has recouped a fair amount of the hype he’s lost over the last two years. As for the rest of their roster, well…

Minnesota has a team full of solid players outside of Towns and Wiggins. The best one among them obviously being Robert Covington, who, at his peak, is an elite role player. After him, it’s a roster full of solid rotation players that — sans Jarrett Culver and Josh Okogie — have reached their ceilings.

More likely than not, they’re not going to sell anyone — both because they don’t want to pull the plug on their best young players and their role players outside of Covington wouldn’t fetch much value. At the same time, they don’t really have the assets to get anyone that good. They’ll probably try like mad to get their hands on D’Angelo Russell, but they likely don’t have anything that Golden State would want.

Minnesota’s not particularly great on either side of the floor — 18th-rated offense/20th-rated defense — so of course, they could use personnel for both sides. Because they lack the assets right now, don’t expect them to make any head-turning moves.

Odds are, they’ll probably do nothing barring any unexpected jumps from anyone else not named Towns or Wiggins. So, technically, they’re more likely to be buyers but that’s because they don’t really have much to sell.

Oklahoma City Thunder (11-12) – TBD

See, the obvious choice here for Oklahoma City is to be sellers and for good reason, too. For starters, the Thunder have already sold off their superstars for lesser players and a hefty dose of youth. Overall, they’re strictly a middle-of-the-road team in a loaded Western Conference. The sooner they get rid of Chris Paul and his expensive contract, the better.

Better, in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, they already have the next face of the franchise. Beyond that, Oklahoma City has talented players who could fetch them more young value — so no one would blame them if they blew it up.

And yet, there’s so much to like about this team. They come to fight every night. They have enough manpower to compete with just about anyone. They’ve had their good stretches, though it’s pretty evened out by their bad stretches. Above all else, these guys look like they’re having fun playing together.

All reports indicate that Chris Paul is fully embracing his new role as the mentor of this young team. He probably would prefer playing for a contender, but he’s teaching this team how to win and they’re soaking it all in. The Thunder would be better off without him clogging up their cap, but he is bringing a positive influence in the locker room — that counts for something.

Whether they decide to really start from scratch depends on how desperate the interested parties would be in their players. They also have to ask how much would they honestly get for Danilo Gallinari, who’s been excellent, but is on an expiring contract.

The Thunder also have the rare opportunity to have their cake and eat it. They can put on a fun, winning team on the court while acquiring young players through the draft. Teams have formed winning cultures by going this route and it’s worked for them. Just ask Boston.

The more sensible direction for Oklahoma City is to blow it up and start fresh, but seeing how their current group does this season isn’t the worst idea, either.

Portland Trail Blazers (9-15) – Buyers

We already knew Portland would look into improving their roster when the season started. We just didn’t know how many wrenches were going to be thrown into their plans. It was bad enough for them to deal with Jusuf Nurkic’s unclear return date. Zach Collins hurting his shoulder early on hindered an already thin frontcourt — and now, Rodney Hood is done for the year at the very least.

Carmelo Anthony and Hassan Whiteside have done what they can — although the latter is guilty of falling into the same frustrating habits he had in Miami — but that’s not enough. The Trail Blazers currently have the 21st-rated defense, allowing 112.2 points per 100 possessions and their offense hasn’t been as efficient as it was last year. They went from scoring 114.7 points per 100 possessions to 109.6. Now that they’ve lost Hood, it’s going to be even harder to keep that up.

Their needs are clear as day: They need depth in the frontcourt or, more specifically, they need interchangeable wings. Portland losing Moe Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu has been very reminiscent of Houston losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute last year. Those lock-down assets gave so much cushion with their shooting, defense and versatility that replacing them hasn’t been easy.

That’s why the perfect candidate would be Marcus Morris. He’s a tweener three-four who should fit snugly in Hood’s role as the third off-ball scorer. Admittedly, Morris is a ball-stopper but still a reliable shooter that provides better defense than any of Portland’s other wings.

Further, Morris wold also gives Portland a headstrong personality that would benefit them both on and off the court.

But they will need more than just him. Whiteside’s mammoth expiring deal can be awfully useful in a trade, but if Nurkic isn’t the same guy when he comes back, it may not be the wisest decision to trade Hassan.

For Portland, we’ll get a better picture of things when February arrives.

Utah Jazz (13-11) – Buyers

Something is wrong in Utah. What’s been happening to them over the past week or so is not indicative of a bad stretch. It’s indicative of what they are as a team — broken.

While early-season struggles are a yearly tradition for Utah, this go-round feels different. Their offense isn’t as fluid as it’s been in the past and the defense has somehow taken a step back. The worst part is that the Jazz have seemingly lost their identity in that they don’t play as one unit anymore.

When they added Mike Conley Jr. and Bojan Bogdanovic — the talent may have come in, but the grit went out. Their mediocre start in spite of their new toys is garnering them comparisons to the 2018-19 Boston Celtics.

In order to avoid the same fate as that team, the Jazz must address their issues head-on. Plainly, the Jazz have one of the worst benches in the league. The disappearance of Joe Ingles’ three-pointer has hurt a lot, Utah has lacked scoring from the likes of Jeff Green, Emmanuel Mudiay, Dante Exum and Ed Davis — so the starters aren’t getting the support they need.

If they are serious about contending this year, they need a reliable scoring option in their second unit. Quin Snyder can stagger Donovan Mitchell and Bogdanovic’s minutes to help their bench, but they can only do so much on their own.

They also have to start asking themselves if they acquired Conley one year too late and — if they believe they have — decide what their next move is. Conley has fallen well short of expectations and his shot isn’t falling nearly as often as it once did. There’s still time for him to get his form back, but if it’s still the same story as it’s been these first two months, the Jazz may have to look for someone else.

It’s not pretty in Utah — and frankly, same for Portland and Minnesota as well — but there’s still time to salvage the season. As for Oklahoma City and Denver, they’ll need to evaluate just high their ceilings rise this season and act accordingly. Trade season only heats up from here — so stay tuned to Basketball Insiders for the other divisions this week.

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NBA

NBA Daily: Welcome To Trade Season

You may not be thinking about NBA trades until closer to February but trade season actually begins this Sunday, writes Douglas Farmer.

Douglas Farmer

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Trade season may conventionally be considered February’s territory in the NBA, but its start actually arrives Sunday. Of course, while trades could have come to life at any point in the last couple of months, as much as a third of the league has been off-limits to be moved.

Come Sunday, players who signed new contracts this past offseason can factor into negotiations.

So, unofficially, let D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle join Kevin Love in trade ponderings. The Cleveland Cavaliers forward has long been the cornerstone of the rumor mill — soon, he will have company.

While Love has become a mainstay in imagined trades, Russell and Randle will provide new ground to cover, though far from unexpected being each of their summer signings was met with immediate trade musings.

Love signing a four-year deal worth $120 million never fit with the Cavaliers’ innate youth movement. At the end of the deal, he will be 34. For these first few months, that has simply been a known reality, but now it becomes a distinct possibility. At some point, Cleveland will understandably want to find a frontcourt piece on a timeline more compatible with rookie guard Darius Garland and second-year guard Collin Sexton.

Russell’s arrival in the Bay Area always stood out as a redundancy once Klay Thompson gets healthy, while a market already existed for him in free agency — specifically via the Minnesota Timberwolves’ chase. That market was prevalent enough, the Golden State Warriors felt the need to quickly insist Russell was not a piece to flip no matter how worrisome having a fourth max contract player might be given the state of their bench.

And Randle’s three-year contract in New York was a bit of an anomaly during an offseason in which the Knicks otherwise signed a multitude of veterans to only one-year deals. In other words, he was the only new piece with long-term trade potential, while Bobby Portis, Marcus Morris and Taj Gibson would serve as nothing more than expiring contract rentals in a deal.

New York’s plan may have been to build around Randle, but this season’s first two months have made that less and less likely. Even after head coach David Fizdale’s firing, and maybe more so, the Knicks’ tailspin warrants a seller’s attitude. By no means are they alone in that regard — note the Cavaliers. The same can be said of the Chicago Bulls, where forward Thaddeus Young and guard Tomas Satoransky fit these same qualifications as Russell and Randle.

The layers of possibilities opened on Dec. 15 go further and further.

If the Orlando Magic do want to make a move for a backcourt scorer, perhaps the San Antonio Spurs’ DeMar DeRozan, then being able to include Terrence Ross and/or Al-Farouq Aminu could help along a deal. On the Spurs’ side of things, Rudy Gay, DeMarre Carroll and Trey Lyles will be trade eligible by the end of the weekend.

The majority of both the Sacramento Kings’ and the Dallas Mavericks’ rotations fit these parameters, one hoping to join the other in playoff contention. Teams trending the opposite way in the standings might try to pilfer those rotations for pieces and a draft pick in exchange for, as examples, the Atlanta Hawks’ Jabari Parker or the Charlotte Hornets’ Terry Rozier, both now tradeable.

Nearly any conversation comes back to Sunday’s opening limit. The Boston Celtics may be a strong frontcourt presence away from genuine contention. Their biggest name in the post, Enes Kanter, could not be moved until this weekend. Maybe flipping him with a pick could net the needed threat, — or maybe it would yield a defensive post piece, the opposite of Kanter.

To further this entire premise and pick a name not available just yet, Oklahoma City’s Nerlens Noel fits the thought. If the Celtics insisted the post piece have an offensive repertoire, they could do worse than the Memphis Grizzlies’ Jonas Valanciunas.

Four Houston Rockets’ wings were off the market until now, though Austin Rivers essentially remains untradeable given the nature of his contract. As Eric Pincus explained regarding the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, some inherent no-trade clauses do exist.

Otherwise, every name mentioned thus far was exempt from honest discussion until now, aside from Love’s permanent role as trade talk fodder. If trade season both peaks and concludes in February, it logically needs a starting point. With or without Rivers and Caldwell-Pope, that starting point is Sunday when Kevin Love will not be alone in the conversation anymore.

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