Stay Away! Tempting NBA Draft Prospects You Shouldn't Buy into
The NBA draft is one of the most anticipated events of the season.
Fans hope their teams can land the next franchise player or the next steal, depending on when they pick. After all, the Toronto Raptors, who just won a championship without a single lottery pick on the roster, showed you don't need to draft high to select well.
Not too long ago, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker were the top two picks of the 2014 draft amid much fanfare. But it's Nikola Jokic, the 41st overall pick, who leads the class in career win shares, per Basketball Reference.
Knowing which picks will outperform their draft status is just as hard as picking the ones who will underperform. But while the former can make a general manager's career, the latter can crush it.
If you look carefully at 2019's prospects, you can see the warning signs for players who, though they might not be busts, will be reaches who never fulfill their draft statuses.
Kevin Porter Jr., USC
Kevin Porter Jr. has all the tools to be a rotation NBA player and perhaps even a good NBA player. He stands 6'5½", 213 pounds and emulates moves used by superstar James Harden with some degree of success, including the Beard's ridiculously effective step-back jumper.
The questions about Porter revolve around his maturity and decision-making both on and off the court.
NBADraft.net's Ben Parker wrote, "Talking to NBA scouts regarding Porter, there are a lot of off court concerns surrounding maturity and decision making."
ESPN.com's Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz explained Porter's on-court problems:
"Erratic decision-maker. Settles for contested pull-ups rather than using his physical gifts to get to the rim. Jump shots made up 73.6% of his field goal attempts. Not always efficient with his dribble. Misses open teammates in transition and in the half-court. Finished the season with 30 assists and 39 turnovers. Needs to develop his feel, as he's most useful with the ball in his hands."
Porter was also suspended by the USC Trojans for "conduct issues," per Brady McCollough of the Los Angeles Times.
That's a combination that should make teams cautious before squandering a lottery pick. It not only indicates a lack of discretion on the court, but the reported maturity issues should also give teams further reason for trepidation.
His stock has been falling this year, and it might even be too much of a risk to take him in the first round.
Bol Bol, Oregon
Bol Bol, the son of NBA legend Manute Bol, bowled over audiences in his brief NCAA career.
He averaged 21.0 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks over nine games with the Oregon Ducks, but his lone season was shortened by a navicular fracture in his left foot. That not only raises one concern, but it also amplifies the biggest one.
The 7'2½" center already has fragility concerns, but when you combine the foot injury with this morsel from NBC Sports Northwest's Bri Amaranthus, you get a player you may want to think long and hard about taking with a lottery pick: "Bol weighed in 208 pounds, the same weight as Duke's 6'8" Cam Reddish. He also was listed at 7.1 percent body fat, one of the highest percentages measured. On the 2018-19 Oregon basketball roster, Bol was listed as 235 pounds before his season ending foot injury."
Combine that with the fact that the 2.7 blocks per game suggest greater rim protection than Bol really provides—and that the slender 7-footer is often reluctant to engage in contact and lacks the kind of lateral foot speed that would allow him to switch onto guards—and you have the potential for a bust here.
Even if he does learn to play a more physical brand and manages to pack on some pounds, that process is going to take time. Or, you could end up in a worse position with Bol, one in which he finally starts to show his worth in the last year of his rookie contract. That could leave the team that picks him in the worst possible position: letting him go or retaining him at an elevated price.
Bol has a better-than-decent chance to enjoy a long and productive NBA career. It's also more than feasible his best years aren't with the team that drafts him.
General managers might want to let someone else worry about turning him into an NBA player and then be the ones doing the stealing when he's ready.
Cam Reddish, Duke
At 6'8", 208 pounds, Cam Reddish averaged 13.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists in one season at Duke.
He's regarded as a three-and-D prospect, but guys who carry that label can generally make the deep ball. That's not quite the case with Reddish, whose surname is also an adjective for his shot chart, as Eric Fawcett of NBA.com explained:
"For someone labeled as a shooter, Reddish has never actually been efficient in that area. He shot 33% from behind the arc this season on lots of volume (7.4 attempts per game) and while he did have a tendency to put up some bad shots that number is still fairly concerning. Another number I find troublesome is the fact he only shot 20.6% when closely guarded. Most jump shot attempts in the NBA are closely guarded and historically a good way to see whether or not a college shooter will transition well to the NBA is to look at his closely guarded shooting numbers in college. Obviously, this number doesn't look good at all for Reddish."
NBA.com's draft profile for Reddish backs that up: "Did the majotiry [sic] of his scoring as a set shooter as a freshman. 55% of his shots were catch and jumpers within Duke's offense, which he converted for 0.847 points per catch and shoot jump shot in the half court [27th percentile]."
The advanced numbers at Sports Reference aren't that impressive, either. He produced a 49.9 true shooting percentage, 10.7 assist percentage, 6.5 total rebound percentage and 16.5 turnover percentage.
A three-and-D player without the three—and who is inefficient overall—makes a team play four-on-five on offense. That's not something you want from a lottery player.
De'Andre Hunter, Virginia
De'Andre Hunter skyrocketed up draft boards after a spectacular NCAA tournament, but that comes with its own set of concerns. Is he the player he was before the tournament? Or is he the player he was for a few games in the tournament?
The safe bet can always be found with the larger sample size, which is still good—just not superstar good.
Hunter averaged 15.2 points, 5.1 boards and 2.0 assists over the course of the season. His measurables are great at 6'7" with a 7'2" wingspan. He plays both sides of the ball well. He doesn't have any real limitations on offense, and he can guard multiple levels on defense. He shot 43.8 percent from deep and can score at the rim, as well.
Hunter is a complete player and arguably the most NBA-ready, but he's not a go-to guy. And that's important context when you're talking about a potentially high draft pick.
The problem is he's not elite at anything. If you're going to draft him to be your superstar based on what he did in the NCAA title game, you're going to be disappointed.
Now, if you're drafting him to be your second-best player, you might not be. So I'll provide that qualifier.
But most teams picking in the top five might not be doing that.
RJ Barrett, Duke
RJ Barrett is 6'7" with blazing end-to-end speed, spectacular driving ability and an explosive first step. He plays above the rim and has a dunk highlight reel rivaled only by Duke teammate Zion Williamson. Defensively, he shows great lateral movement and can guard multiple positions.
It's little wonder the consensus has him going third in the draft to the New York Knicks.
So why am I placing a "buyer beware" flag on his name?
His weaknesses indicate he could struggle to transition those skills to the next level. Here are some samples from William Desautelle's scouting report for NBADraft.net:
"Outside shot lacks great form and confidence seems to waver ... Needs to improve his ball handling to become a more efficient half court player ... Left hand dominant, looks awkward dribbling or finishing with his right ... Almost always ends up going back to his left hand ... Poor ball control, handle is high and loose, struggles to make passes off the dribble ... Poor shooter off the dribble and has a relatively slow and inconsistent release ... Needs time to get it off cleanly ... Not accurate with his passes, sloppy ball placement ... Can get too caught up in playing hero ball and get tunnel vision trying to create and not looking for teammates at the end of games."
When you put these things together with the NBA's switching defenses (and with the context of what teams need out of Barrett's projected position at No. 3 overall), they form a picture of a player whose biggest strength (getting to the rim) is negated by bigger opponents. He could become prone to forcing shots, making bad passing decisions or turning the ball over because of an inability to use both hands.
Barrett shot 30.8 percent from deep, and his 66.5 free-throw percentage suggests he might not easily develop into a good shooter. That's going to make it easier for defenses to simply plug the lanes and go under screens against him.
Featuring high-usage, turnover-prone, low-efficiency players is an easy way to lose games in the NBA, and Barrett's weaknesses all point in that direction.
As great as his strengths may be, the flaws indicate he'll be a disappointment at No. 3.