Just as there are underrated players in every draft, there has to be overrated players as well. It’s not that any of these guys are bad at basketball - it’s just that their games don’t necessarily translate to a role on an NBA team that makes sense for where they are likely to be drafted. Does a guy have a position he can defend? If he doesn’t, is his offensive game good enough to where a team is going to want to re-arrange their line-up in order to get him on the floor?
It’s really easy to hide a guy on defense at the college level and it’s almost impossible to do so in the NBA, especially if he’s going to be a starter. On the other side of the ball, there are a lot of guys who are great when they can take 15-20 shots a game and dominate the ball but who don’t have as much to offer in a more limited role at the next role. With that in mind, here’s a list of five guys who I’m thinking might not live up to where they end up being taken.
- Doug McDermott, Creighton
When projecting him to the next level, the first concern with McDermott is what position he plays. He was a small-ball 4 at Creighton, stretching the floor out to the three-point line and forcing bigger and slower players to run around screens and chase him on the perimeter. On the other end of the floor, not many college big men could punish McDermott for his lack of size, especially not in the Missouri Valley Conference or the new Big East, the mid-major conferences he played in.
However, at 6'8 230 with a 6'9 wingspan, McDermott is dramatically undersized for the PF position in the NBA. Not only does he lack ideal size, either in height or weight, he lacks the length to make up for it. NBA power forwards, most of whom have wingspans well over 7'0, can shoot over the top of him like he were a chair. Nor does he have the shot-blocking or rebounding chops to play bigger than his size - he averaged only 7 rebounds and 0.1 blocks a game as a senior.
There isn't a team in the NBA where he is going to walk in and be a first option and he doesn't offer much else as a third or fourth option. He can't defend a position, he's an average (at best) rebounder and a below-average passer. If you are looking for a prototype of guys who underperform, check out one-dimensional scorers without a clear defensive position. And when you consider how much older McDermott was than his college peers, the red flags are everywhere.
- James Young, Kentucky
Young looks the part of a big-time NBA prospect - 6’7 215 with a 7’0 wingspan and a 35’ max vertical - and he played a huge role in Kentucky’s push to the NCAA championship game. However, that team featured 7-8 future NBA players in its rotation, which makes it hard to evaluate what each one brought to the table. In and of itself, Young’s season wasn’t all that impressive. If he wasn’t playing for Kentucky, he probably would have had to stay in school.
Young averaged 14 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists a game on 41% shooting and had a PER of 16. For the most part, he spotted up on the perimeter and hoisted a bunch of 3’s, shooting 35% on 6 attempts a game. There’s value in being able to shoot 3’s, but he wasn’t bringing much else to the table - he wasn’t a great rebounder or a lock-down defender and he didn’t create shots for others. A guy with his athletic ability should have had more than 0.8 steals and 0.2 blocks.
There’s a spot for a guy with Young’s size, shooting and athletic ability in the NBA, but he will have to add a lot to his game to be a starter at the next level. He doesn’t have a great first step, so it’s hard for him to create good looks of the dribble. Young doesn’t have the elite athleticism of SG’s like LaVine and Wiggins and he’s a little undersized to be a SF. I could see him having a career like CJ Miles, bouncing around 4 different teams in 10 seasons in the NBA.
- Jerami Grant, Syracuse
Like most of Jim Boeheim’s players at Syracuse, Grant is a man without a country at the next level. At 6’8 210 with a 7’3 wingspan, he doesn’t have the size to survive in the paint as a PF and he doesn’t have the skill-set to play out on the perimeter as a SF. Grant will have to make his mark early in his career as a defensive player, but he spent the last two seasons playing on the wing of a 2-3 zone, so his instincts as a perimeter defender are likely spotty at best.
His offensive game is a huge work in progress - he averaged 12 points and 7 rebounds a game on 49% shooting as a sophomore, but most of those points came off running the break, crashing the glass and converting open looks around the rim. He attempted only 20 three pointers in his career at Syracuse and he will need to knock down that shot to earn a spot in the rotation at the next level. A complimentary player has to be able to shoot, one of the weakest parts of Grant’s game.
- Mitch McGary, Michigan
Even when “Magic Mitch” was tearing up the 2013 NCAA Tournament, I was never a huge fan of his game. At 6’10 255, he’s stuck between a PF and a C. He’s got good ball-handling and passing ability for a big man, but he’s not a great shooter and he’s not particularly athletic, so he has trouble being effective too far from the basket. At the next level, he doesn’t have the size to be too effective around the rim or the leaping ability to make up for it.
Michigan was a better team without him this season, since he couldn’t function defensively as a center and he hurt their floor spacing as a power forward. When you consider his back issues as well as the fact that he’s a sophomore whose older than many seniors, he’s not a guy I would take in the first round. The main thing for McGary is the jumper - if he can add a 20+ foot shot to his arsenal, he should have the all-around offensive game to stick in the NBA.
- Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
Early is another player whose stock was boosted by his play in the NCAA Tournament, particularly a 31 point, 7 rebound performance against Kentucky in the second round. Early, who played as a small-ball PF at Wichita State, took the slower Wildcats big men out onto the perimeter and killed them from the three-point line. However, at the next level, where he will have to play primarily as a SF, he won’t have the same type of edge in athleticism or skill-set.
At 6’7 210 with a 6’11 wingspan, Early is an older player (23) with only average size and athleticism for the position. He shot 38% from 3 on 5 attempts a game as a senior and as long as he continues to knock down that shot, there will be a place for him at the next level. The problem is he doesn’t really offer much else - he doesn’t have the physical tools to be a great defensive player and he’s not a particularly gifted passer or rebounder either. He’s just a guy.