Now the draft is less than 24 hours away, and we’re about as close as we’re going to get to understanding who’s going where. There are a couple players I think have been overrated throughout the draft process, and I wanted to identify a select few who I think will be taken far too high tomorrow night.
3. Kristaps Porzingis
Over the past few weeks the hype surrounding Porzingis has gotten out of control. Ever since his recent workout infront of NBA executives, media members are mostly in agreement that Porzingis is a top-5 talent, and maybe even top-3.
There is some merit to the idea that Porzingis is a special talent. He’s very tall (7’1) and he has a very big wingspan (7’6), in addition, he’s an extremely fluid shooter. Watching him shoot is pretty amazing, and that alone makes him interesting. However, the idea that he’s got extremely high defensive potential isn’t founded on solid logic.
While Porzingis may develop into a rim protector in time, right now I don’t see a reason to believe that he’ll ever be an above average defensive player. First of all, he’s very, very thin. He might be able to put on weight, but for now he gets pushed around easily inside, and it’ll only get worse in the NBA. He was not a good defensive rebounder or a good shot blocker in the ACB, and I think he’ll struggle much more against stronger, more athletic NBA bigs.
Porzingis is not a natural shot blocker, and it doesn’t seem like he has very high defensive awareness. There will be a huge transition period for Porzingis moving to the NBA, and while a lot of analysts cite his European production as a reason to be optimistic about him as a rookie, I remain skeptical. I wouldn’t doubt that he could be useful on offense, but I think he’s going to struggle to perform well defensively, especially on a bad team.
Because of his offensive potential I think Porzingis should be a top-10 pick, but the rhetoric surrounding his potential as a two-way star simply ignores the evidence.
2. Devin Booker
Devin Booker is a good shooter, he really is. However, to be a good NBA player, you need to be more than that. There are good shooters that fail to make it in the NBA every year, so it’s important to look at factors beyond just shooting.
I’ll start by noting that Devin Booker was not really considered a good NBA prospect heading into the season. He was not among the 35 players listed on Chad Ford’s first Big Board, and I don’t think anyone had him going in the first round pre-season, much less in the lottery. This means that over the course of the NCAA season, he proved himself worthy of top-10 consideration in the eyes of scouts. However, I don’t see how his production last season merits such consideration.
Scouts have known all along that Booker has a great shooting stroke. He had a reputation as a shooter long before he won the Under Armour Elite 24 three point shooting competition last summer, and I don’t think many would’ve been surprised to learn that Booker would go on to shoot 41% from beyond the arc in his first season at Kentucky.
Besides Booker’s shooting numbers, his production wasn’t impressive. He put up very poor rebounding, steals, blocks, and free throw (attempts) numbers, and his assist production was average. He shot fairly well from inside the paint (53%) in a low usage role, and he made his free throws, but that’s it. Maybe if he was a good athlete he’d have a case, but he’s an average athlete at best.
Translating Booker to the NBA, he will probably be good shooter, but below average as a defender, ball handler, distributer, finisher and athlete. The same things that were true about Booker before the college season (both the good and the bad) are still true today. The only difference is that now he has gone from possible 2nd rounder to a possible top-10 pick.
With all that said, I think Anthony Morrow is a good comp for Booker. Morrow is a good shooter in the NBA, but he’s the kind of player that you’d be excited to see your team sign for the veterans minimum, not a player you want from a top-10 pick. Booker might be a good NBA shooter, but with a lottery pick there are so many more factors that matter, and those factors do not work in Booker’s favor. I think Booker has value in the 22-30 range, but picking him in the lottery is way too early.
1. Trey Lyles
It’s interesting that the top of my “most overrated” board features two Kentucky players. Maybe there just wasn’t enough production to go around, or maybe role players are riding the team’s success and exposure to unjustified draft spots. Either way, I don’t understand why Trey Lyles is being considered as a lottery pick. I first saw Lyles the summer after his junior year of high school on the EYBL circuit when he was playing for Indy Spiece. He was one of the least impressive top prospects I saw, as he routinely got pushed off the block, settled for jumpers, and failed to dominate the glass. If I wouldn’t have known him beforehand, I don’t think I would’ve pegged him as a top-100 recruit.
Lyles didn’t have a bad year at Kentucky, but what is his NBA skill set? He’s definitely not athletic enough to play at the 3, and he can’t protect the rim or rebound well enough to play the 5, so he’s a true power forward. Based on his defensive rebounding numbers from this year (5.9/40 minutes), he’s significantly below average on the glass even for a power forward¹.
His defensive numbers were also brutal last year, as he is one of just a handful of players in the draft to have averaged less than 1 block and 1 steal per 40 minutes. This is a bid sign. Lyles does have some skills on offense, but he’s not an elite dribbler or passer for his position, and he doesn’t have a reliable post game. He’s not bad at these things, but I certainly wouldn’t call him elite.
So why take Lyles? Well, he has a fairly large wingspan² and he’s a solid mid range shooter. He doesn’t have 3-point range yet (13.8% from the college line last season), but he can make 18-footers pretty consistently. He’s not an unskilled big, but I don’t know what stands out here.
Maybe I’m missing something here, but Lyles does not have an impressive statistical profile, he’s not a special athlete, and he’s not a 3-point shooter. I think he should be a borderline first rounder, if that. I’m not sure what he’s going to be good at in the NBA.
For all we know, all three of these guys could have productive NBA careers. However, they are currently projected to be drafted long before they should be, plain and simple.
¹Yes, he played a lot of small forward this year on a big Kentucky team, but good rebounders get rebounds. Many of the true small forwards in this draft actually were better on the defensive glass than Lyles (Stanley Johnson, Kelly Oubre, Justise Winslow) last season despite playing alongside two big men (with the possible exception of Winslow).
²Measured at a very solid 7’3.5 at the Hoop Summit last year, but a much more modest official 7’1.5 at the combine recently. It’s unclear which is correct, although I’d probably lean more toward his combine measurement.