Drafted by: Utah Jazz, No. 35 overall
Traded to: Memphis Grizzlies for a 2016 second-round pick
Height/Weight: 6'9", 263 lbs.
Age: 20 years old
Projected NBA Position: Power Forward
Pro Comparison: Poor man's Zach Randolph
Twitter Handle: @
|Statistics at Tennessee|
Height is often a misleading number when you evaluate a prospect.
After all, is it more important to have the top of your head reach a certain level or to be able to extend your arms well above your shoulders and reach a higher level? Last I checked, you don't block shots or shoot over people with the tip of your dome.
That is extremely relevant for Stokes. He's only 6'8.5", sure, but his 7'1.25" wingspan, as measured at the draft combine and reported in NBA.com's databases, helps his true height.
He's undersized only when you look at the top of his head.
Stokes isn't a great athlete, but he's a physical behemoth, one capable of clearing out space in virtually any situation. His tree-trunk legs give him impressive drive, allowing him to hold his ground when boxing out or to back a player down in the post.
He might not be the prototypical athlete at the 4, not in today's modern NBA landscape, but his combination of length and sheer power gives him an upper hand on most power forwards he'll go up against.
Stokes isn't just a good rebounder; he's arguably the best in this draft class.
According to Sports-Reference.com, the Tennessee standout led the SEC in offensive rebounds, total rebounds per game, offensive rebounding percentage and total rebounding percentage during the 2013-14 campaign. Not too shabby, huh?
Typically, players excel on one end. The two types of boards require different skills, after all.
Stokes doesn't limit himself to one, though.
He never stops working to get around box-outs on the offensive end, fighting for positioning until the ball either lands in his hands or drops too far away from him. He catches most things he gets his hands on, and his strength allows him to gain positioning even if he's a bit late to react.
On the defensive end, good luck moving him.
Work in the Post
As Joshua Riddell of DraftExpress explains, Stokes has just about every basic post skill you could ask for:
In the post, Stokes is excellent at gaining initial position with his lower body and then showed some decent footwork to get good looks at the rim. He relied on his size and strength against collegiate defenders, so he will need to improve his footwork and develop secondary moves when he cannot overpower his defender. He has solid vision as a post passer, especially out of a double team, but needs to become more consistent on the accuracy of his passes to his teammates to put them in better position to catch and shoot.
The footwork could use some improvement, and he'll need a wider arsenal of post moves in order to make a mark in the Association, but the tools are all there.
His passing is particularly impressive, even if he averaged only a pair of assists per game during his junior season. If you could count the assists that should've led to made shots and the secondary dimes, he'd fare much better.
Stokes' physicality helps him here as well, but don't overlook his craftiness and technicality.
This is what separates talented prospects who will find success from the ones who will flop at the next level. Without drive to improve and compete each second you're on the court, it's awfully difficult to make a positive mark in the NBA.
Stokes has that drive.
He's a relentless competitor, one who routinely displays his tenacity on both ends of the court. He's never going to give up on a transition play or fail to rotate because he's too tired to move his feet, nor will he stop banging in the post when he has a chance to receive an entry pass or has already received one.
And on the boards, he's as tough as it gets. Some players genuinely believe they can corral each and every missed shot while they're on the court, and Stokes sure seems to be one of those players. Not only does he fight for the rebounds in his vicinity, but he also actively chases down rebounds in open space.
Because of this, he's about as consistent as anyone could hope for.
You never have to worry about Stokes' switch turning off, even for a couple of minutes. He might not be able to keep up this type of effort level throughout an 82-game season, but he'll do his darnedest.
Despite his lanky arms, Stokes is still a below-the-rim player.
He's not explosive enough to finish in traffic against NBA defenders, nor will he ever be much of a shot-blocker. Though he can contest looks out of the post with his length, he's not going to get a hand on many shots, and it would be shocking if he ever managed to average much more than a block per game.
But the defensive concerns don't stop there.
Stokes might be strong, but he doesn't possess much lateral quickness. If he's squaring off with a stretch 4 who can put the ball on the floor or working against a small forward after a switch, he's prone to getting beat off the dribble, and he doesn't have the explosiveness to recover back into decent defensive position.
On offense, he's limited to scoring in the paint.
The mid-range jumpers are few and far between, and there's no hope of Stokes developing into a floor-spacing frontcourt player. Unless he can become completely dominant in the post, starting to use all sorts of moves and countermoves, he's not going to be a go-to offensive player in the NBA.
There's also a slight concern that the pace and length of a season in the Association could wear him down. Stokes is so dependent on his physicality and unstoppable motor that fatigue would be the death knell for his ability to contribute at a high level.
Even though he's 20 years old, Stokes already has a clearly defined niche. It's one that will allow him to play from the very first day of his rookie season, albeit in a smaller role that leaves him making more specialized contributions.
Elite rebounders are not a dime a dozen in the NBA. It's the reason players like Reggie Evans earned playing time right off the bat and remained in rotations for years and years.
And Stokes is no Evans, as he's also a capable offensive player who will keep defenses packed into the paint to avoid letting him work his way into a one-on-one situation.
Will the former Vol make an All-Rookie team? Probably not, but he'll be a contributor throughout his first go-round, one that will likely come on a competitive team drafting him at the tail end of the initial 30 picks.
This isn't too different from the section up above, barring the unexpected development of a high-quality jumper.
Stokes will always fill the same role—one that relies on his rebounding and skills in the post—but he's never going to be a standout defender, nor will he be a primary option on offense. His game is too limited on each end, both by his skills and his physical abilities.
But that's not entirely problematic.
Coming off the bench as the first frontcourt sub or being a mid-tier starter at power forward isn't exactly something to complain about, especially if he's able to fill that role for a decade or more. Given his drive and work ethic, it's hard to bet against that lengthy a career at basketball's highest level.
For Stokes, "long term" really should mean "long term."
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