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The Biggest Concern for Each NBA Lottery Pick

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterOctober 10, 2016

The Biggest Concern for Each NBA Lottery Pick

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    Even the top NBA rookies have major concerns or holes in their game. 

    Some of these holes could restrict a player from successfully making the transition to the pros. Whether it's physical or fundamental, these are the concerns each rookie must address in order to make the impact their draft position suggests they should. 

     

     

Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Biggest concern: Falling between positions

    Anthony Bennett is a textbook combo forward—he's got the interior game of a power forward and the speed and agility of a wing. 

    But at around 6'7'', Bennett lacks the size of practically every starting 4 in the league. You have to wonder whether Bennett will be able to match up inside with guys like Carlos Boozer, Zach Randolph and Kevin Garnett.

    And though Bennett has the wiggle and athleticism of a small forward, he's not as adept off the dribble as your traditional 3. 

    The fear with Bennett is that he falls between positions—undersized to play up front without the skill set to play outside. 

     

Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic

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    Biggest concern: Creating/separating off the dribble against NBA-level defenders

    The Magic were making a legitimate effort to put the ball in Victor Oladipo's hands by testing him out at point guard during summer league. 

    But does he have the handle to create against NBA-level defenders? Oladipo played strictly off the ball at Indiana, where he shined and ultimately catapulted up draft boards. 

    Now he'll be playing with the ball in his hands, where he'll need to rely on beating his man or separating as an outside shooter. 

    He's shown flashes of improvement, but dribble and shot creativity weren't strengths of his coming out of college. 

Otto Porter, Washington Wizards

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    Biggest concern: None of his strengths stand out 

    Otto Porter is a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none type of player. He can score when the opportunity presents itself, rebound his area, and make the right pass when it's available. 

    But he's not a scorer, rebounder or facilitator. 

    Porter is polished in every area of the game but doesn't specialize in any of them. 

    The fear with Porter is that none of his strengths stand out on an NBA floor and he fades into the background without any can't-miss attributes. Before straining his hamstring, he struggled through two summer leagues without the ability to consistently create easy shots for himself. 

     

     

Cody Zeller

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    Biggest concern: NBA physicality is overwhelming

    Cody Zeller's biggest concern could end up making or breaking his NBA value. 

    His size, athleticism and skill level are all worthy of a top-five pick. But Zeller is more of a finesse player than a power one. He was exposed at times in college by stronger, more physical front lines. 

    If Zeller can't take the heat, he won't be cooking in the kitchen. And stretch 4s, which is what Zeller will be forced to play if he can't bang inside, just aren't as valuable as high- and low-post scorers. 

    Setting up a tent in the weight room wouldn't be a bad idea. 

Alex Len, Phoenix Suns

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    Biggest concern: Foot injuries plus big men equals trouble

    Alex Len underwent surgery on his left ankle in May, which called for a four- to six-month timetable. In July, Len needed minor surgery on his right ankle. 

    That's a surgery on each ankle before his first NBA training camp. 

    The list of seven-footers who've had their careers hindered or cut short because of foot, ankle or leg injuries is endless. 

    Of course, these could be isolated injuries that never return. But if you put any stock in patterns and recent history, you're probably a little concerned with Len's long-term durability. 

     

Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Biggest concern: Not strong enough to anchor a defense, not skilled enough to contribute offensively

    Nerlens Noel has built himself a fine reputation as a disruptive rim protector. But the center position in high school and college allows you to dominate at under 220 pounds. 

    It doesn't work like that in the pros. Noel's elite shot-blocking instincts might have trouble translating if he's unable to establish his ground inside. 

    Without much of an offensive game, there's a lot of pressure on his defensive game to do most of his talking. If Noel isn't the elite rim-protector many projected him to be, and he remains a nonscoring threat, his value takes a serious hit. 

    Adding weight and developing that low-post game will help ease some of these concerns over what should be a challenging transition.

     

     

Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings

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    Biggest concern: Forced to live or die by the jump shot 

    The fear with Ben McLemore is that his biggest strength will lead to his demise. 

    McLemore's jumper is a thing of beauty. He elevates high off the ground with picturesque mechanics you could feature on a postcard. 

    But sometimes he leans too heavily on his jumper. Part of that has to do with McLemore's struggles creating off the dribble. Rarely did he beat his man from the perimeter and take it all the way to the rack. McLemore prefers to fade away or rise and fire, which results in too much inconsistency. 

    He averaged 4.7 three-point attempts to 3.7 free-throw attempts per game at Kansas. McLemore has to make a concentrated effort to improve that ratio as he settles into the league.

     

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons

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    Biggest concern: Struggle with transition from go-to scorer to complementary scorer

    Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is about to go through a massive role change. 

    He led Georgia last season with 430 field-goal attempts; the team's No. 2 scoring option took just 223. Caldwell-Pope was Georgia's offense, and he will now have to adjust to playing without the ball in his hands. 

    In Detroit, with ball-dominant guards like Brandon Jennings, Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum in the lineup, Caldwell-Pope will have to learn how to seek out scoring opportunities from unfamiliar angles.

    Some guys are quick to embrace a reduced role. Most 2 guards like Caldwell-Pope develop into specialist "Three and D" players.

    Caldwell-Pope must find a way to contribute when he's not given the green light to shoot in volume. 

     

     

Trey Burke, Utah Jazz

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    Biggest concern: Executing in traffic as a scorer

    The knock on Trey Burke coming out of college was that he lacked athleticism at a position that traditionally requires it. He's missing that explosiveness, which could cause him to struggle as a finisher inside among the trees. 

    While we're seeing the new generation of point guards like John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and Russell Westbrook get up above the rim and finish after contact, Burke might be forced to take a variety of off-balance shots like floaters and runners in the lane.

    At Michigan, Burke was able to pick up routine, easy buckets by beating his man for layups. But NBA rotations are quicker and longer. Burke could struggle getting points in the paint at the next level.

     

     

     

C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Biggest concern: Offensive efficiency and consistency

    C.J. McCollum is a combo guard—a scorer who can handle the ball but lacks the size of an NBA 2. 

    At 6'3'', McCollum could have trouble scoring against 6'5'' and 6'6'' guards and wings. At his height, he's going to have to rely on plenty of long step-back two-pointers and pull-up three-pointers—a recipe for low-percentage offense. 

    McCollum will have to balance scoring with playmaking—knowing when to settle for those tough jumpers and when to settle in as a ball-mover and point guard. 

    He should watch tape of Jason Terry from the 2011 playoffs, a combo guard who managed his offense beautifully as the sixth man for the champion Dallas Mavericks. 

    McCollum averaged 20 field-goal attempts per game in five summer league contests and only converted 36 percent of his shots. He's going to have to find a way to stay more efficient with less touches.

     

Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Biggest concern: Lack of jumper weighs down the rest of his game

    There's no doubt that Michael Carter-Williams' biggest flaw is his shaky outside jumper. He shot it just 29 percent from downtown last season.

    As soon as defenses began realizing Carter-Williams wasn't a threat from outside, they began sitting back and taking away his driving lanes. And they'll do the same thing at the pro level if he can't knock them down around the arc. 

    Without a pull-up jumper, defenders will have the luxury of going under screens. It's going to limit scoring opportunities, not just for Carter-Williams, but for those who will be relying on him to break down the defense and set them up with easy buckets.

    Carter-Williams will be limited as a scorer and as a playmaker if he doesn't fix that outside stroke.  

Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Biggest Concern: Too raw

    Steven Adams is arguably the rawest prospect of the 2013 lottery. He's a top-flight athlete with 7'0'' size, incredible length and a strong upper body, which is essentially what caused Oklahoma City to pull the trigger. 

    But Adams lacks a refined offensive skill set. Unless he's got room to catch and finish, chances are his scoring opportunities will be limited.

    Only once all year did Adams record 10 shots or more in a game. In a loss to Cincinnati, he played 24 minutes and didn't attempt a field goal. 

    It could be a few years before Adams sees regular NBA minutes—especially considering he's on a win-now team. 

    The fear is that Adams struggles to improve his offense or understanding of the game without much playing time over his first few years. 

    There's a ton of long-term potential here, but the road he must take to get there is long and winding. 

Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics

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    Biggest concern: Defensive/rebounding liability 

    Though an incredibly advanced offensive player, Kelly Olynyk lacks strength and athleticism. He recorded an ugly 29'' max vertical leap at the combine, which is likely one of the reasons he only pulled down 7.3 boards and blocked 1.1 shots at 7'0'' tall. 

    Olynyk's scoring ability takes a slight hit in value if he's not doing his job on the other side of the ball. 

    Big men who don't defend or rebound can weaken a lineup if it's going against a physical front line. 

Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Biggest concern: Inability to generate offense off the dribble

    Shabazz Muhammad got the majority of his points at UCLA as a spot-up shooter, slasher or finisher in transition. Rarely were they generated by separating off the dribble.

    It just means his scoring opportunities will be limited in a pro offense. They'll have to come to him instead of the other way around, given his inability to go to work as an isolation threat. Muhammad will have to wait for the right pass or open lane to get going offensively, which could result in inconsistency if the ball doesn't bounce his way. 

    He averaged less than one assist per game at UCLA, illustrating how ineffective he was as a creator. Without the ability to elude defenders off the dribble, Muhammad will be limited.

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