The NBA Draft is so fun, isn't it? I would imagine that scouting the draft as a general manager or scout is in one of the most stressful and exhausting aspects of their job. But I am willing to bet that despite all the long, sleepless hours they spend examining these players, they would agree with folks like you and I that the draft is flat out fun; that's what truly motivates them to work so hard. It's also what makes fans spend so much time learning about these players with the hopes that our favorite team selects them on draft night each and every year.
When I rank and assess players, I try to focus on five broad categories. Click on the 'buttons' to reveal my reasoning for each one.
1. Victor Oladipo | Indiana
HT: 6'4" | WT: 213 | AGE: 21
Projection: Top 6
2. Ben McLemore | Kansas
HT: 6'5" | WT: 189 | AGE: 20
Projection: Top 6
Analysis: During Ben McLemore's only season at Kansas, he averaged 15.9 points on a 49.5 shooting percentage and had 5.2 rebounds along with 2 assists per game. Those numbers are very effective for a freshman but I believe he should have been more productive. Even though McLemore isn't a good ball handler, he should have attacked more often since he is an explosive athlete. McLemore is an explosive athlete that can elevate over defenders yet he didn't do it nearly enough with the Jayhawks. It might have been part of head coach Bill Self's system, but McLemore didn't get nearly enough touches during the NCAA tournament either. McLemore needs to be more aggressive and demand the ball since he is a lights out shooter from the perimeter. Even if Ben McLemore never reaches his full potential in the NBA, he should be able to make it as a knock down jump shooter. He has gorgeous mechanics and can hit shots off the screen, as a spot up shooter, and off the dribble. After all, Ben didn't shoot 42 percent from three-point range by mistake.
McLemore's athleticism bodes well for him on the defensive end. He has good, quick feet and his length allows him to stay in front of the ball handler. With time and experience, Ben should pan out to be a very good defender in the NBA. At only 20 years old, I think McLemore is ready to play in the NBA, but in order to become a great player he must work on developing a well-rounded game. If he does that -- watch out.
3. C.J. McCollum | Lehigh
HT: 6'3" | WT: 197 | AGE: 21
Projection: Top 10
Analysis: Playing with the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, C.J. McCollum wasn't able to show off his game very often against elite basketball programs, but when he got his chance he never disappointed. McCollum is a combo-guard that brings a full repertoire of skills to the NBA. In almost four seasons at Lehigh he averaged an incredible 21.9 points per game on 43.9 shooting and 37.5 three-point percentages. He can score in numerous ways: off the dribble, at the basket, from the perimeter, around the screen, and as a spot up shooter. He's also able to get second chance opportunities for himself and for his team, averaging 1.5 offensive rebounds per game over his collegiate career. Overall, he averaged 6.27 rebounds per game. He is a savvy, yet aggressive rebounder, much like a Deron Williams or Rajon Rondo. C.J. knows how to read the play and gets into position for a rebound opportunity.
Even though McCollum is only 6'3", I believe he is better suited as a two-guard that occasionally spells as the team's point guard. He doesn't have elite passing skills and I don't believe he has the speed or lateral quickness to defend most point guards at the next level. Another concern is the fact that he hasn't faced great competition very much in college. There's a chance that the positive aspects of his game fade when he faces off against great competition. In any event, McCollum has had almost four years of college experience and is still only 21 years old, making him one of the more seasoned players in this year's draft class.
4. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope | Georgia
HT: 6'6" | WT: 204 | AGE: 20
Projection: Top 12
Analysis: The lone bright spot on the George Bulldogs was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Kentavious averaged 18.5 points on 49.8 percent from two-point range and 37.3 percent from behind the arc. Caldwell-Pope is pure perimeter player, making good use of his beautiful jump shot that he can hit in a multitude of ways. Kentavious does a nice job of utilizing the pick-and-roll to create room for himself from the outside, but he is even better when pulling up. Caldwell-Pope would sometimes fall in love with his jumper for two reasons. For one, he is amazing at it, so that's understandable. But the worrisome part is the fact that he is terrible at getting to the rim. Caldwell-Pope's ball handling could prevent him from being a good NBA player. Kentavious is efficient at putting the ball on the floor for one or two dribbles in order to get positioning for a pull-up jumper, but when he goes to the basket, trouble is bound to happen.
He has a very high dribble, opening the door for quality defenders to get their hands on the ball. Caldwell-Pope is not very good at advanced dribble moves, like the common crossover, so he is basically limited to straight line drives in transition. Even when he gets to the rim, he lacks touch, forcing up contested layups far too often. He also struggles with any amount of contact, which suggests that he needs to add more muscle to his frame. Caldwell-Pope is extremely raw on the defensive end of the floor but has the tools you look for at the position. He plays with a nice wide base and slides his feet very well, showing off his side-to-side agility. Caldwell-Pope's lack of strength also gets him in trouble when he fights through screens. Despite the concerns, he has all the potential tools you look for in a quality defender. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's shooting alone is enough for him to be an effective NBA player, but in order to be a quality starter he must drastically improve his ball handling ability.
5. Jamaal Franklin | San Diego State
HT: 6'5" | WT: 191 | AGE: 21
Projection: Mid to Late First Round
Analysis: With off the charts intangibles, Jamaal Franklin would likely have been a top ten pick in the draft if he had a quality jump shot. Franklin is one of the most energetic, high intensity players this year. As a junior with the San Diego State Aztecs, Franklin averaged 17 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Even though he only shot 28 percent from downtown, he was a 49 percent shooter from two-point range, with the majority of his baskets coming near the rim. Jamaal is a high flyer and was often the receiver of alley-oop passes. His rebounding ability opened the door for put back slams and layups. Jamaal Franklin doesn't finish effectively with his left hand, but drives hard at the rim in both the half court and transition. If Franklin is able to find consistency with his mid-range jumper, he will be much more of a threat offensively, since he will have more space to drive to the rim. As a defender, Franklin's forceful on-ball pressure causes turnovers and his off-ball intensity gets him in the passing lanes at a high rate. Sometimes he can get overly aggressive and pick up unnecessary fouls, but the positives outweigh the negatives.
6. Ricardo Ledo | Providence
HT: 6'6" | WT: 197 | AGE: 20
Projection: Mid First to Mid Second Round
Analysis: The main knocks on Ricardo Ledo are his selfishness on the court and his character problems off the court. Mychal Lowman of SB Nation had a fantastic interview with Ricardo at the NBA Draft Combine and I think it gave a close look at his development as a man. Ledo seems to acknowledge that his path isn't ideal. After all, he attended four different high schools, had issues off the court, then committed to Providence, then de-committed, and then finally recommitted. Not to mention the fact he was ineligible to play due to academic problems. So, Ledo is entering the NBA one year out of high school with no collegiate stats on his resume. Nonetheless, he was able to practice with Providence and he claims he has worked hard on his game as a point guard. Even though he's expected to play the two-guard, he will be that much better of a player if he improves on his passing ability.
As a scorer, Ledo can do it all. He has very good handles and can get to anywhere he wants on the court. He can finish with either hand in the paint and is a terrific shooter from all parts of the floor. The reason why Ledo isn't higher on this list is because of his character concerns and lack of experience against college competition. We've seen Ledo play at a high level in workouts and in high school, but his lack of experience in college raises questions. Ricardo Ledo is your true high risk/high reward player in this draft.
7. Tony Snell | New Mexico
HT: 6'7" | WT: 198 | AGE: 21
Projection: Late First to Early Second Round
Analysis: With a wingspan near 7-feet, Tony Snell has the potential to be a versatile defensive player that can guard multiple positions on the floor. As of now, he is far too lanky, at only 198 pounds, and is better suited to play the two-guard. Nevertheless, Snell possesses amazing lateral quickness and his long arms allow him to bother his opponent's shots with ease. With more time in the gym Snell will be able to defend three positions: point guard, shooting guard, and the small forward. Snell features a picture-perfect shot release, which will make him an immediate threat from the perimeter. Snell shot 39 percent from beyond the arc during his junior year with the New Mexico Lobos. He isn't overly impressive when going to the basket, but will likely be a player that spaces the floor in the NBA anyway. With all of the positive aspects of his game, I think that Tony Snell could eventually become a role player starter in the NBA.
8. Archie Goodwin | Kentucky
HT: 6'5" | WT: 189 | AGE: 18
Projection: Very Late First to Mid Second Round
Analysis: Archie Goodwin was ranked as ESPN.com's 15th best high school prospect in 2012. Goodwin opted to go to Kentucky but didn't exactly fit in John Calipari's offense. However, Goodwin did manage to show off some of the skills that made him so highly recruited out of high school. He's a very athletic player that could become a threat in up-tempo NBA offenses. He finishes strong at the rim, though he needs to develop his left hand to finish more effectively. At only 18 years old, I believe he has plenty of time to do so, making him even more of a threat in a couple of years.
Goodwin's most noticeable weakness is his shot mechanics. Goodwin tends to shoot the ball flat, though there were spurts last season when he shot the ball with a high release. DraftExpress.com has a perfect breakdown of the problems with his shot, which you can view here. Once again, Goodwin has flashed the ability to hit the jumper, but he must solve his inconsistency problems in order to become a legitimate threat from outside and mid-range. Archie has very good potential as a defensive player and most of his issues seem to stem from his lack of experience. Considering his athleticism, speed, and instincts, I believe he should develop very nicely on that end of the floor. Archie Goodwin probably should have stayed in school for another two years because he will likely find himself in the developmental league instead of the NBA...unless his plan was to make money while he develops as a player.
9. Tim Hardaway Jr. | Michigan
HT: 6'6" | WT: 185 | AGE: 21
Projection: Mid to Late First Round
Analysis: Tim Hardaway Jr. projects to be a solid role player, one who brings scoring and energy off of the bench. Hardaway isn't great in any single category as a player but is solid all around. The primary weakness in his game is his consistency, on both the offensive and defensive end of the court. Hardaway has shown that he can be a very good man-to-man defender by fighting through screens, closing out on perimeter shooters, and by utilizing his speed to stay in front of his man. Yet, often times Hardaway would appear lazy on the court, especially when contesting jumpers beyond the arc. Sometimes Tim would close out slowly or appear to give up his man if the shooter pump faked and then drove past him. It's hard to pinpoint if this problem is mental or physical fatigue -- or both -- either way, he must bring it every night in order to be a reliable bench player.
On offense, Hardaway Jr. had terrible shot selection, often hocking up heavily contested shots in the lane when he should have passed. Whether it's selfishness or a low basketball I.Q., it's hard to know, but it could be the fact he was an upperclassman and felt he had to "get his." When Hardaway is on, he is a very good perimeter shooter, which is why he'll potentially be a good bench player in the NBA. He shot 37.4 percent from three-point range as a junior, a drastic improvement from his 28.3 percentage as a sophomore. Tim Hardaway Jr. is also pretty effective at putting the ball on the floor and finishing at the rim. If he can improve on his consistency, he has borderline-starter spot starter potential, but I believe his ceiling is as an average role player off the bench.
10. Allen Crabbe | California
HT: 6'6" | WT: 197 | AGE: 21
Projection: Late First to Early Second Round
Analysis: I am not nearly as high on Allen Crabbe as others, but I do think he will be a quality role player in the NBA because of his knockdown jump shooting ability. I think Crabbe could easily become a better version of Kyle Korver, but potentially better on the defensive end of the floor. Crabbe has one of the better shooting strokes in this draft. Allen's elevation on his jump shot combine with his huge wingspan, measuring in at 6'11", makes for a virtually unblockable jump shot. Crabbe only shot 34.8 percent from three-point land, but that statistic is quite misleading considering he was the focal point of the offense. According to Sports Synergy Statistics, he shot 53.8 percent when he was unguarded, a percentage he could potentially achieve as a role player in an NBA offense. Other than that, Crabbe is expected to be much of a threat offensively. He is not a very good ball handler when driving to the basket, meaning he will never be a threat to consistently create offense for himself. Defensively, Crabbe has the length and speed to be a good defender, but he must put on more weight in order to handle the rigors of a full NBA season.
Overall Shooting Guard Class Analysis
After much deliberation, I decided to rank Victor Oladipo as the number one shooting guard in this draft class. His defense is extraordinary, making his transition to the NBA an easy one. Even if Oladipo never pans out on the offensive end, he should be able to average a respectable 10 or 11 points per game. However, things between him and Ben McLemore are fairly close. I just think that Oladipo is a bit more ahead of McLemore and has more physical tools on his side. Both players should pan out well at the next level.
After the top two players, it doesn't get much easier to rank the shooting guards. The entire top ten has talent, making it one of the most talented positions in this draft. Even Allen Crabbe, my number 10 shooting guard, has the potential to be a quality role player in the NBA.
This position is very enjoyable to analyze considering the differences between each player. You've got perimeter orientated players like Ben McLemore, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Snell, Tim Hardaway, and Allen Crabbe; defensive orientated players like Victor Oladipo and Jamaal Franklin; and then the total wild cards like Ricardo Ledo and Archie Goodwin. Even amongst those very broad categories each and every player has a multitude of differences. I am very impressed by this class of shooting guards and even though there might not be a true star amongst the, there are potentially plenty of quality role players to be had.