2011 NBA Draft Lottery: Jimmer Fredette and 10 Prospects Teams Should Avoid
There are essentially three roles in the modern NBA—points (guys who run the offense), wings (guys who play on the perimeter) and posts (guys who play on the interior).
So when trying to see whether a college prospect will struggle to make the transition to the NBA, we've first got to figure out what role he will play in the league.
Most first-round picks initiated offense in college; it was their job to create a shot for themselves or someone else off the dribble. It takes an elite rookie to have that responsibility in the NBA; most are forced to play off the ball as role players.
Adjusting to this new role is difficult; if you have the ball in your hands a lot, it doesn't matter if you have a shaky jumper. But if you're playing off the ball and you can't shoot, then you become an offensive liability, and the other team can play 4-on-5 defensively.
Likewise, while an inferior defender can be hidden on the perimeter, it's much harder to do so around the basket. So while perimeter players are often offensive burdens, interior players are often defensive ones. If your big men can't rebound, block shots and defend the low post, then you will have a tough time having a good defense.
With that in mind, here is a list of 10 guys who might struggle in their new roles in the NBA if they are drafted as highly as they are projected, be they lottery picks who should go at the end of the first round to fringe first-rounders who should be second-rounders.
The problem: Jimmer had the ball in his hands the majority of the time at BYU, averaging nearly 21 shots a game despite shooting only 45 percent from the field and having a lackluster 1.22 assist:turnover ratio.
No NBA team is letting an inefficient guard who can't run point and create shots for others have that much offensive responsibility.
As a result, Jimmer will have to play primarily off the ball, even though he's not very fast at 6'2", 195. He doesn't have the floor game to be a starting point guard or the defensive ability to be a starting shooting guard.
The primary value he adds to a team is his ability to space the floor off the bench as a combo guard. But there are plenty of guys who can do that, many of whom are not nearly the defensive liability Jimmer will be.
Possible NBA comparison: Quincy Douby
The problem: At San Diego State, Leonard shot the ball nearly 14 times a game despite shooting only 44 percent from the field with a 1.20 assist:turnover ratio.
He was the Aztecs' most skilled player, but his offensive game still needs a lot of polishing before that would be the same situation on any NBA team.
As a result, he will be primarily forced to play off the ball at the next level, which is a huge problem for a guy who averaged 29 percent from the college three-point line.
If he can't consistently knock down open jumpers, it's going to be hard to get him on the floor despite his defensive versatility.
Possible NBA comparison: Ronnie Brewer
The problem: Burks was a dominant scorer for a mediocre Colorado team, scoring 20.5 points and leading it to the NIT semifinals.
But like Leonard, the problem comes when he doesn't have the ball in his hands, and he has a similarly gruesome 29 percent shooting percentage from beyond the college three-point line.
Without great athleticism, Burks is unlikely to be a difference-maker defensively, and without the ability to knock down open jumpers, he won't be very valuable playing off the ball.
He'll have to make it in the NBA as a scorer, and most NBA teams have a few guys who are not only more athletic (and therefore able to get to the rim easier) but are also much more skilled at creating shots for other players (Burks had a measly 1.13 assist:turnover ratio).
Possible NBA comparison: Julius Hodge
The problem: Much like Burks, he's a shooting guard who can't consistently knock down long-range jumpers (shooting 30 percent on only 43 three-pointers this year) or create shots for other players (a 1.37 assist:turnover ratio).
While he has incredible athleticism, he doesn't have nearly the ability to "get buckets," which would be his only value to an NBA offense.
Possible NBA comparison: Maurice Ager
The problem: A McDonald's All-American who declared for the draft as a freshman despite not even starting for Illinois, Richmond is very far from being a finished product.
Averaging only 22 minutes a game, Richmond shot a woeful 2-of-12 from the college three-point line with a 1.06 assist:turnover ratio. He's not ready to be a contributor to an NBA offense either on and off the ball.
He has great size and athleticism for a perimeter player at 6'7", 205, as well as a surprisingly diverse skill set, but he's so underdeveloped that he's one of the best examples of the harms of declaring pro too early.
Possible NBA comparison: Ndudi Ebi
The problem: Jackson is getting lottery hype because of combination of excellent size (6'3", 200) and production (18 points on 48 percent shooting with a 1.88 assist:turnover ratio) for a point guard.
But despite having the ball in his hands a lot at Boston College, he averaged only 4.3 assists, primarily because he didn't have the athleticism to blow by his defender and get into the paint.
NBA point guards who can spread the floor and defend their position have value, but not in the lottery. If a point guard can't consistently get into the paint, then it's nearly impossible for him to be an elite player.
Possible NBA comparison: Acie Law
The problem: Morris is a true point guard at 6'4", 190 with a sterling 2.28 assist:turnover ratio and almost seven assists a game for a Michigan squad built around his talents.
But he's also a terrible jump shooter who hardly ever looks for a perimeter shot, shooting only 64 three-pointers all season and knocking them down at an abysmal 25 percent clip.
A good perimeter jumper is nearly a requirement for an NBA starting point guard. Of the 32 starting point guards in the NBA, only one—Andre Miller—is a below adequate outside shooter.
Possible NBA comparison: Javaris Crittenton
The problem: Motiejunas fits all of the stereotypes of the European big man—concerned primarily with his outside jumper and either unwilling or unable to mix it up down low.
Despite standing 7'0", 215, he has the lowest defensive rebounding rate amongst interior players in the entire Italian League.
For him to be a starter in the NBA, he'll need to be paired with an absolutely dominant and defensively versatile frontcourt player to hide his multitude of defensive sins.
Possible NBA comparison: Yi Jianlian
The problem: At 6'11", 240, Vesely is an offensive tweener—not comfortable playing with his back to the basket, not a great outside jump shooter nor particularly skilled driving the ball at the basket.
He's most comfortable in the open court, where he can use his length and athleticism to be a difference-maker; it would be easy for a good defensive team to expose his offensive flaws in the half-court.
While his athleticism makes up for his offensive struggles in Europe, it wouldn't nearly be as exceptional in the NBA, where he may not have the pure strength to defend interior players in the paint nor the quickness to defend players individually on the perimeter.
Possible NBA comparison: Hakim Warrick
The problem: The one player not on this list for basketball reasons, Mirotic was named the Euroleague "Rising Star" this year at the age of 20. He plays for one of the top club teams in Europe, Real Madrid, who promptly gave him a three-year extension, putting him under contract until 2016.
Even worse for NBA teams, Mirotic now has a massive buyout tied to his contract. Coupled with the fact that he'd be locked into the rookie wage scale by whatever team drafted him, that would mean he'd be playing some of the prime years of his basketball career essentially for free.
As a result, Mirotic might not come over to the U.S. for years, if he ever does. European basketball is beginning to be able to afford to keep its best players.
Possible NBA comparison: Fran Vazquez (for contract reasons and refusal to play in the U.S. despite being an Orlando Magic lottery pick, not because of his game)