The draft is fast approaching! Today we're examining a scoring forward from UNLV and a couple of tantalizing European prospects. Would the Blazers take a chance on any of these players on Thursday?
Anthony Bennett--6'7", 239lb PF from UNLV, 20 y.o. Freshman
Anthony Bennett has an offensive arsenal that doesn't quit. He's a scorer, jump shooter, he can dribble, and he's a good finisher at the rim. This draft is full of players with the "Good in Transition" label. That's fine, but how many NBA defenses really let you make a living on the run? Bennett is good in transition and the halfcourt.
He's also strong, another rare quality among this year's bigs. DraftExpress has a scouting video showing him finishing buckets following contact. It's an underrated but critically important attribute. As soon as you develop any kind of scoring reputation in this league defenders are going to start chucking, bumping, and raking when you get inside. And-ones are the best answer to that tactic. Just about all of the sweet offensive big men in this draft are skinny, more likely to get destroyed by a foul than to finish through it. Guys strong enough to withstand the fouls can't hit the bucket in the first place. Bennett hits the sweet spot in the middle.
Bennett's not much of a defender and he's undersized as a power forward. Offensive rebounds and a reliable jumper will help compensate for the size on the offensive end but longer power forwards may cause him trouble on the other side of the ball.
Verdict for the Blazers
If the Blazers are looking for scoring Bennett would be an interesting, if unconventional, choice. My gut says he'll end up being considered a "forward", neither power nor small, and that scoring will be his key to remaining in the league. He might not ever become a reliable starting option as a traditional power forward. On the other hand he could create some points and a nasty matchup problem swinging between both forward spots, particularly if he can come off the bench. Portland might be able to use him in that role, spelling LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum or even running a small lineup with the three of them together. It's an unlikely selection, but weirder things have happened.
Giannis Adetokunbo--6'9", 196lb SF from Greece, 18 y.o.
You know how they always do an introductory montage to the draft with all the players talking, dancing, and showing highlights to some hip-hop song? My nomination for 2013's tune is a riff on M.C. Hammer.
Dah dah dah dah, dah dah, dah dah. Can't spell this.
NBA Commissioner David Stern is scheduled to retire in 2014. Rumors say he wanted to retire at the end of this season so he could get out of having to announce the first round of this draft, avoiding pronouncing all these names. Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver threatened to quit on the spot, so Stern agreed to take one for the team and stay an extra year. Either way, what the draft lacks in talent, it'll make up for in comedy.
OK, with that out of the way, international players are likely to provide some of the best value in this draft. The well's been dry the last few years but a few players have seeped through the Euro ranks this season. They're unproven and due to the dearth will be drafted young. But there's talent available.
Giannis Adetokunbo could be one of those talented guys. He's 6'9", flows like a stream on the court, and is semi-poetic in the air already. He has no trouble getting airborne and has great control of arms and torso when he does. Thanks to long arms and big hands, his finishes already have a touch of Dr. J in them. He's got a decent dribble and some passing ability. Going by raw tools alone this guy's got promise.
But trying to succeed on raw tools alone in the NBA is like showing up for a cooking show and throwing a bunch of ingredients on the judges' plates. The technical side of the game isn't there for this kid yet...nor would you expect it to be at 18 years old. He has all kinds of control over his body and no idea how to best take advantage of it. His jumper release isn't just low, it's diagonal. Even in relatively minor competition in Greece he's not getting away with it. In his first years in the NBA he's going to get butchered. He'll need to be with a franchise committed to bringing him along slowly, leaving him in Europe or keeping him in targeted situations on the floor. He's going to have to get mentally and physically tough. He'll need to go to school and learn the fundamentals.
Still, the potential of a gliding, dunking, rebounding 6'9" (or greater, he's still growing) point forward is hard to resist. Adetokunbo is going to prove a gamble worth taking for somebody.
Verdict for the Blazers
Taking Adetokunbo at #10 would be such a far reach the Blazers would fall over and get rug burns. Plus the guy projects somewhere near Nicolas Batum, Part 2. But that's not a bad thing. If the Blazers could acquire a later pick and then keep Giannis in Europe for some non-salary-cap-impacting seasoning, he could be a tantalizing prospect. This feels more like a Kevin Pritchard-Chad Buchanan move than Neil Olshey, though. The Blazers really want help now, which Adetokunbo definitely isn't. But Paul Allen has kept his hand out of the young prospect cookie jar for a couple years now. Can he stick to the diet or will he be tempted to splurge on an extra pick for this midnight snack? It would certainly give Portland fans something to hope for over the next few years, especially if Adetokunbo hits a growth spurt and ends up 6'11" by the time he's ready for big minutes. Wowza.
6'2", 165lb PG from Germany, 19 y.o.
German point guard Dennis Schroeder has been receiving plenty of attention as he enters the NBA draft process. He trades on quickness. Front to back, side to side, both ends of the court. His feet move like pistons, firing regularly and in rhythm. He's got Shane Larkin-like acceleration coupled with normal point guard size. Plus his lateral defense on the perimeter is a sight to behold. His sidestep is probably as quick as most normal people's forward run. He'll stay in front of most NBA point guards and be annoying to chase in return.
"Speed to what purpose?" is the question of the day. He's a scorer...in Germany. He's not really mechanically sound in most of his shots though. He doesn't finish well off the drive. His jumper is (recently) effective but to my eyes the release looks a little slow. My guess is that he'll feel more crowded on his release in the NBA which could send his perimeter percentage downward once again. Plus he turns over the ball way too much for a point guard. You could see him prospering in a lightning-quick attack but he probably needs more practice if he's to play a measured halfcourt game.
Then again, at 19 years of age Schroeder has plenty of time. He'd be a nice speculative pick for somebody with an adequate, but not overwhelming, point guard. He could at least become a quick reserve point guard, provided you don't mind the turnovers. He could develop into more, especially if his early defense is any indication.
Verdict for the Blazers
Portland can't spend another pick on a point guard, right? It took them, like, 7 years of drafting point guards before they came up with Damian Lillard. Going after another would qualify as an addiction, especially if that point guard were a Euro prospect. Cap savings if Schroeder stays in the Euro leagues would be the best justification, but seeing as how they'd have to buy a pick or trade way down to make Schroeder make sense, this is probably not in the cards.
Tomorrow: Our look at prospects concludes with quick peeks at players at the top and bottom of the first round plus a couple who could sneak in the early second.