Feb 06, 2014 3:33 PM EST
-Photoshop of Joel Embiid provided to RealGM by Mike King.
The Los Angeles Lakers entered the season as a fringe contender for a playoff spot in the Western Conference and have fallen into the running for a top lottery pick due to a rash of injuries that has left an already a depleted roster unable to contend. The Lakers rarely have high picks and this draft will prove extremely important for Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss to select a potential superstar as a successor to Kobe Bryant.
5. Julius Randle | Kentucky-PF | 6’9” | 250 LBS | Freshman
Randle starts off the list with massive upside. Fitting the mold as a prototypical NBA power forward, Randle has incredibly strong upper body strength. He is an absolute monster finishing around the basket while absorbing contact. His interior scoring is reminiscent of DeMarcus Cousins finishes around the rim. Soft hands with solid refined footwork for a man his size, Randle would be very impactful for the Lakers' interior offense. His other elite attribute is his rebounding ability. Randle averages an astounding 15.6 rebounds per 40-minute clip.
Randle has a tendency to be turnover prone. Like Cousins, he forces the issue too much, particularly when he’s getting double or triple teamed. With the Lakers, he would profile to take over the impending departure of Pau Gasol. He would have a lot to live up to given all the great big men that the Lakers have had in the past, but he is a suitable safe pick of this list to flourish and become at least a capable All-Star.
4. Dante Exum | Australia-PG | 6’6” | 190 LBS | 18 Years Old
The most interesting prospect on this list has to be young Australian point guard Dante Exum. Listed at 6’6” with a wingspan of 6’9” playing point, he has all of the physical elements to be an absolute franchise player at the NBA level. He immediately creates matchup problems for opposing point guards and is a great finisher around the rim. Like many young point guards, the knock on him is his perimeter shooting and shot selection.
There has been a lot of talk lately linking Exum to the Lakers. Exum recently declared for the NBA Draft and chose Kobe Bryant’s agent, Rob Pelinka, to represent him. Furthermore, there was a report a couple days ago that said Exum wants to play for the Lakers. Out of the players on this list, Dante Exum may have the greatest chance to land with the Lakers. As great of a pick Exum seems here, it would be tough to move him any higher on this list since there has not been a sufficient amount of scouting nor game footage that we can base his play on.
3. Andrew Wiggins | Kansas-SG | 6’8” | 200 LBS | Freshman
Wiggins entered the season as the consensus best prospect, but has often posted modest numbers and few foresaw the emergence of a potentially transcendent big man project in Joel Embiid. Although he is averaging a healthy 16 points and six rebounds per game, it is a bit misleading. He’s had games where he scores under 10 points while putting up disappointing shooting lines. During games when his shot isn’t falling, he loses confidence and becomes more reluctant to be aggressive on the offensive end. Wiggins has all the physical attributes to become a bonafide superstar in the NBA, and he remains likely to reach that level. However, he is still raw and would take some time before he can live up to the hype and expectations as one of the NBA's best two-way wings. That development time frame, along with the immense pressure to succeed for an impatient Lakers' fanbase, it might be a bit overwhelming for even someone like Wiggins. Positioned to take over the wing from Kobe Bryant, he should provide the Lakers with explosiveness from the backcourt. Even with the sobering of expectations on Wiggins, it is impossible to ignore the upside he possesses and he sits comfortably at No. 3 on this list.
2. Jabari Parker | Duke-F | 6’8” | 240 LBS | Freshman
The most refined prospect that comes out of this draft class has to be Jabari Parker. Drawing comparisons already to Carmelo Anthony, he is considered the most NBA ready prospect of the class. He is sensational at getting the rebound and creating transition plays immediately with his high motor. His offensive versatility is off the charts, a superb catch and shoot player along with the ability to create shots off the dribble. Like many prolific scorers, Parker’s defense is subpar, allowing opponents to blow pass him on the perimeter. Additionally, he regularly does not play physically when defending down in the paint. Parker gives up on average of 1.1 points per post up by opponents. Even with his questionable defensive ability, it is hard to criticize him too much for his expected value on offense.
1. Joel Embiid | Kansas-C | 7’0” | 250 LBS | Freshman
There is always a lot of risk with selecting big men at the top of the draft, but there is often as much risk in passing on a player capable of becoming the NBA's best center. Embiid is astonishingly very quick up and down the court, able to run on transition, and come help quickly on weak side defense. His long 7’5” wingspan gives him an advantage against his opponents to catch it at the apex and finishing at the rim without having to bring it down. His defensive upside is titanic even though he already covers the rim at an insane 4.6 blocks per 40-minute clip. Like many big men that come into the league, Embiid is still very raw on the offensive end since he only started playing organized basketball in 2011. His offensive shot selection is still a work in progress. With more experience and time on the court, he will learn where his sweet spots are on the floor and when not to hoist up ill-advised shots. Nevertheless, the Lakers have had a history of being able to churn out their big men to the best of their ability.
Jan 28, 2014 9:19 PM EST
Listeners to the RealGM Radio podcast are hopefully aware of the special podcast that is coming down the pike one of the next two weeks, but it felt best to set the table for everyone.
As someone who believes the NBA can do better, I always intended to use the podcast to bring in intelligent and proactive people to help discuss ways to improve the league. One of the biggest problems has been the flawed process that new players come into the NBA. Using a term more broad than “the lottery” proves necessary because proposals to fix the system can be much bigger than just tweaks to that part. While I have not asked any of my guests what their desired solutions are ahead of time, the whole process should be examined and considered for improvements even if we end up right where we started.
When considering my own preferences on the matter, one question loomed over the entire process and does not get nearly enough discussion:
Should the process by which new players are added to the NBA serve the aim of balancing and/or equalizing talent?
While no right or wrong answers exist to this question, it looms over every potential outcome, including the status quo.
Those who feel that making the league more balanced (or less top-heavy) should be one objective of the system will likely favor proposals that factor in components like record either from a single season or over the course of multiple years like the present system or a more straight record order like the NFL employs. Critics of these kinds of proposals will say that they will encourage teams to deliberately lose, though some ideas in this general grouping have methods of reducing that incentive.
Those who feel that the method of bringing new players into the league should not account for these factors would be more inclined to support an equal weight lottery or “The Wheel” proposal Zach Lowe reported on for Grantland. Critics of these kinds of proposals will argue that they will only increase the distance between the haves and the have nots and make the league as whole less competitive and interesting.
Additionally, there can be a middle ground between the two, including the modification to “The Wheel” Bills Simmons discusses on his podcast where teams are systematically put in one section of the wheel and ordered within that section or a differently weighted but not equally weighted lottery, such as one that gives non-playoff teams equal chances of getting the #1 pick.
The beauty of an intellectual discussion like this is that there are no wrong answers but every one of us must be open about our preference on this central question in order to fairly and completely discuss potential options and solutions.
Jul 03, 2013 9:30 PM EDT
While success in the NBA can be defined differently for each team (winning a championship, making the playoffs, etc), having elite talent makes the difference between reaching those goals and falling short. Unlike MLB, NFL and NHL teams, the current structure of the NBA makes acquiring and retaining high-level talent an incredibly difficult proposition for a large portion of the league. Having a league that has both a team salary cap and max salaries for individual players actually makes it harder for small market teams to retain players since they cannot offer something ridiculous to keep a max-level guy once the restricted free agency process has run its course.
Since many organizations do not have a reasonable chance to acquire a high-level player as a free agent, they have to use trades and the draft. The other factor that plays a major role in adding quality is the weighted draft lottery. Those components create the rules that make for the frustrating great truth at the heart of building a team in today’s NBA: Teams without elite talent are best served by clearing the boards and being terrible until they have the talent to spend around.
This occurs because the ways teams can get elite talent feed together in most circumstances since the best pieces a team can use to get these talents are young, cheap pieces and the space to take on bad contracts. As such, teams like the Celtics are well-served to clear the decks once they feel they cannot reach their definition of success- unloading and reloading marks their best chance to get back there. What balances the league here are teams willing to take on the players and salaries necessary for other teams to re-build like the Brooklyn Nets did in the megatrade with the Boston Celtics. While having smarter front offices could change this equation over time, some teams will always feel they are one piece away and swing for the fences.
The 2013-14 season will show the biggest problem that arises from this structure: when the incentives are high enough because of a strong draft class, shrewd teams that know they cannot attain success in the short term all race to the bottom at the same time. This could mean that we have a three-tiered regular season: organizations gunning for championships, rebuilding teams, and a few in the middle. This will likely lead to a disjointed regular season with some incredibly bad basketball towards the end as the incentives for tanking become more identifiable and accessible. While a team shedding their high salaries (Celtics) or not spending too much money to fill out their roster with sub-optimal players (Hawks, if the rumors are true) qualify as rebuilding and not tanking, we absolutely will see a ton of tanking towards the end of the season.
Teams tank because there is a major incentive to do so, especially when pick protection comes into play. Even if the chance of getting the first overall pick never gets that high for any single team, simply being one spot ahead in line can have major benefits. During the 11-12 season, extra losses at the end of the season put the Warriors into a coin toss which allowed them to keep their pick and draft Harrison Barnes after he fell to them. While the pretty blatant losing at the end of the season has its problems, it was within their rights and was the proper decision based on the system in front of them.
At this point, we pretty much know the rules of the game and how most teams will make decisions based on that structure. As long as the structure of the league stays the same, we will continue to see drastic rebuilds and some tanking each and every season. That possibility hurts both the integrity of the league and potentially season ticket sales in some NBA cities.
Unfortunately, only the league and the players (through CBA negotiations) have the ability to change it if desired.
Fortunately, there are a few different ways that they can do so which could eliminate or reduce these effects.
1. Reform or eliminate the draft lottery- There are two basic ideas that could be implemented to take out tanking: the NBA can either give every non-playoff team an equal chance at the first overall pick (one way would be giving each lottery squad the same number of ping pong balls) or an even broader change where every franchise gets a chance at the #1 pick (either by giving lottery teams a better chance or a straight even lottery for all 30 picks). Of these options, my choice would be a 30-team lottery where the teams that miss the playoffs get two ping pong balls and the playoff teams get one, with the process determining the entire first round rather than the first three picks.
2. Eliminate individual maximum salaries- By having both a team salary cap and individual maximum salaries, the league insulates the best players in the league from making a choice between money and quality teammates. Guys like LeBron James and Dwight Howard have the option of having their cake and eating it too since the money does not change too drastically between markets and team situations. Since major market teams would value their salary flexibility more (like now, they would have a better chance to use it to bring in talent through free agency), it could change the process for elite talents. A change like this would have to come through the next round of CBA negotiations because it would be such a fundamental change to the system and there is reason to believe that the NBPA would not support the change since it would squeeze out money for rank and file players.
3. Remove or limit the ability to protect draft picks in trades- In certain situations, pick protection plays a bigger role in tanking than the drive for a top pick. Think of teams like the Warriors in 11-12: at the end of the season an organization can often see a clear line in the sand which incentivizes bad basketball.
4. Eliminate the draft entirely-By far the most interesting potential solution to these problems, though I am sure the NBPA would not love the way it would redistribute salaries. It could be implemented either by giving teams a salary allotment (by record, uniform for each organization, or some other method) or by just using the existing system of cap space and exceptions to make it happen. Either way would also greatly facilitate movement between the US and Europe since players would not be constricted by the desires of the team who happens to hold their draft rights.
Jun 28, 2013
Breaking down all 30 teams by category of how they fared in the often surprising, never disappointing 2013 NBA Draft.
Jun 26, 2013
For all they told us, Thomas Robinson's college stats might as well have been his high school ones. Even the most advanced statistics depend on the underlying data and the data coming out of college is fairly flawed.
Jun 23, 2013
In the world of NBA scouting, polish and accomplishment are often dwarfed by the simple question of who is the most aggressive. If you believe you are the best player on the floor, maybe someday you will be.
Jun 04, 2013
The Mavericks can draft and stash a European prospect in order to have additional cap space this summer.
May 28, 2013
RealGM interviewed Sabonis-alum Mindaugas Kupsas, the only potential NBA draftee from Lithuania this year, to talk about his development, the upcoming NBA draft, future plans and much more.
May 07, 2013
Alex Len was wise not to jeopardize his future for a short-term gain. And most of all, he knew he could have challenged his ankle to perform in workouts, but then this stress injury promised to linger and leave him needing surgery anyway.
Mar 23, 2013
Important games in the round of 32 for Ben McLemore, Jeff Withey, Tyler Zeller, Doug McDermott, Jamaal Franklin, Mason Plumlee, Brandon Paul, Shane Larkin and more.
Mar 21, 2013
While the NCAA Tournament has cachet all its own, one way of looking at the Tournament from the perspective of NBA talent evaluators. Here are the games and prospects most worthy of your attention for the round of 64.
Jan 03, 2013
Marcus Smart plays with a poise uncharacteristic of most freshmen just acclimating themselves to the college level. He has a great motor and works extremely hard on both ends of the floor. His basketball IQ is highly advanced relative to his age, and his body is strong enough to compete at the highest level.
Dec 31, 2012
Anthony Bennett exhibits considerable promise as a faceup post player who can step out and hit from the mid range. With that said, Bennett has a lot of room for growth on the defensive end.
Dec 24, 2012
Shabazz Muhammad projects as a high energy slasher with a developing mid and long range game. As the season progresses, look for him to improve considerably and become one of the nationís most un-guardable weapons, not to mention a surefire top-5 NBA draft pick.
Dec 22, 2012
If Nerlens Noel can continue to progress in his understanding of basketball and improve his skillset along the way, he could actualize his potential and become a top player from the 2013 draft class. He does have a long way to go before he can make an impact in the NBA though.
Dec 21, 2012
Archie Goodwin projects as an athletic slasher with arguably the highest upside in the 2013 draft. He must continue to learn how to play without the ball in his hands, as he struggles using screens effectively.
Nov 28, 2012
Maryland's Alex Len promises to evolve as the year wears on, and he has tools that simply donít come natural for seven-footers these days: A soft 14-to-18-foot touch, being a willing post player, running the floor smoothly and, mostly, there is no teaching this size and length.
Jun 28, 2012
Center represents the position of greatest need for nearly half the NBA, while power forward isn't the top priority for a single team.
Jun 28, 2012
Austin Rivers' comparison to Tony Parker, Andre Drummond living with his mother, Anthony Davis ready to defend either frontcourt position, Dion Waiters' Philly swag, Damian Lillard in the Oakland point guard succession and Meyers Leonard's admired predecessors.
Jun 27, 2012
While he doesn't regret trading away their lottery pick, Billy King contends there are offers on the table to improve the Nets' draft position and land an impact player for the right price.
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