In Roundball Mining Company’s first Big Board of the year we covered six prospects likely to be available with the 20th pick in the Draft. The second installment of this series will explore more higher-rated prospects who shouldn’t, but may fall to the Nuggets first-round selection on Draft night. This is the Denver Nuggets Big Board: Outliers edition.
It is no secret: This Draft is deep. Through the first 40 picks talent will be abundant. Players who get drafted after the Nuggets first-round selection at 20 stand a good chance of being better than those who go 10 spots higher. Because the talent pool is so expansive, it’s much more difficult to project which players will land where. If a team falls in love with a player that another team had pegged going 5-10 spots lower, it could throw a major kink in the master plan of every team following that pick. Suddenly some players begin to slip while others rise. Some teams panic and some play it cool.
It’s the nature of any professional sports draft… but this year seems different.
This year there are roughly 10-15 players who many believe won’t escape the Lottery. After that it’s anyone’s guess as to which players fall where. Everyone likes to believe the Minnesota Timberwolves are after a shooting guard, but when David Kahn is at the helm, a point guard most executives had ranked as a second-round prospect is never really out of the question.
The point is, it’s impossible to predict how the Draft will play out. This year is especially perplexing.
Just as in our first Big Board article, the players covered below are strongly based on the Web’s most trusted Draft aficionados’ mock drafts, updated player rankings and projections. When certain prospects move up and down their boards, all I can do is respect their judgment and adjust my expectations accordingly.
These are the outliers of what many consider to be the elite group of prospects in the 2012 NBA Draft…
1. Perry Jones // Sophomore — Baylor // 6-11 // Power Forward
Coming out of high school Perry Jones was touted as the next great physical specimen destined to play in the NBA.
He was the perfect player: great size, superior athleticism, versatile skill set, etc. Like LeBron James, he was the type of video-game athlete you’d construct to dominate in every aspect of the game. At one point he was even considered a possible No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft should he have declared.
Fast-forward to the conclusion of his sophomore season at Baylor and the perception of Jones has flipped nearly 180 degrees.
Instead of a praise and promise, he’s eliciting doubt and concern. Instead of being a potential No. 1 pick, people are wondering whether he’ll even get drafted in the Lottery.
No matter how you slice it, basketball fans across the globe are down on Jones for simply not living up to the lofty expectations the media created for him. Not expectations he placed upon himself; expectations he was given — without a choice.
Crazy, I know. But it happens all the time. Sadly.
No matter what side of the fence you’re on, the question still remains: Who is the real Perry Jones?
First and foremost, Jones is a good kid. People continue to rave about his easy-going, amiable personality and kind heart. He loves the game of basketball and has repeatedly stated how he’s trying to improve his questionable body language and on-court determination which scouts have questioned throughout his collegiate career.
Jones is an elite athlete. He’s muscular and explosive, yet graceful. He has a lengthy wingspan and near 40-inch maximum vertical. His has a great handle for a 6-11 power forward and can stretch the floor with his shooting. He also has an impressive post game and the ability to finish with authority around the rim.
Where Jones struggles, and where he’s gained his most ardent detractors, is with his consistency and motor. It’s not that he doesn’t care, he just appears unsure about how and where to assert himself. One game Jones is the best player on the court, the next he’s nowhere to be seen. In a tight game against BYU he put up 28 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals, only to turn around and post a four-point effort in 41 minutes of action in an overtime game against West Virginia.
Truth be told, Jones’ DNA probably resembles that of former Nugget, Nene. There’s a good chance he’ll never be the player everyone wants him to be, but if you accept him for who he is and refrain from setting unattainable expectations, you then won’t have to worry about disappointment. He’ll have explosive nights, and… let’s just say… less explosive nights. But when it’s all said and done, Jones will probably be known an effective, sometimes potent and always positive influence on his team(s) throughout his career.
However… unlike Nene, Jones is still brimming with potential. His book isn’t written yet. He’s still incredibly young and teeming with upside. If something just so happens to click, the Nuggets could have that franchise player they’re in desperate need of.
For a team drafting in the Top 10, Jones’ drawbacks are a legitimate concern; if he falls to 20, those concerns should fly out the window. At that point his upside should eclipse any possible trepidation the Nuggets have regarding his motor. Because the Nuggets have no glaring needs and are two deep at every position, Jones wouldn’t be pressured to step in and immediately save a franchise as would be expected if he went much higher.
Denver is the perfect fit for Perry Jones.
2. Jared Sullinger // Sophomore — Ohio State // 6-9 // Power Forward
Here’s how unpredictable this Draft is: Last night I had Moe Harkless in this spot. I even had a few paragraphs written for him. I had to erase everything. Today I have Jared Sullinger — a player I never even considered as a possibility for the Nuggets — in his spot.
This is weird.
On Monday doctors “red flagged” Sullinger for back issues stemming from excessively tight hamstrings. His agent and father have both openly acknowledged how Sullinger is aware of these issues and is taking the necessary steps to mitigate their long-term effects. Nevertheless, some teams have been advised to pass on Sullinger in the first round to due apprehension regarding the length of his career.
What may be terrible news for Hornets, Warriors or Portland fans is excellent news for Nuggets fans.
Sullinger is one of the best basketball players in the Draft. He may not be very athletic or imposing on defense, but he knows how to play the game and he knows how to play it well. He’s an outstanding post threat who scores in a multitude of different ways using his powerful lower frame to gain an advantageous position down low. An excellent shooter for a power forward, Sullinger has hit .519 percent of his shots from the field, .400 percent from beyond the arc and .768 percent from the free throw line this past season. He has great hands and a feathery-soft touch around the rim to pair with an intelligent, old-school utilization of the glass. In his two years at Ohio State, Sullinger has made steady strides on defense, averaging over a block and a steal per game during his sophomore campaign. He’s also an excellent rebounder and rarely turns the ball over for how often he handles it.
Sullinger didn’t fare well at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. This was expected; however, when juxtaposed alongside some of the best athletes in his class, he looked even worse than before. He excelled in virtually nothing and was consistently ranked as one of the worst prospects in terms of athletic ability alone.
Good thing the Combine isn’t too highly regarded these days.
When projecting how Sullinger will fare in the NBA detractors seem to perpetually point a finger at his below-average athleticism. While the argument may be valid, it’s worth noting these were likely the same critics who doubted Kevin Love, Zach Randolph, Luis Scola, David Lee and possibly even Dirk Nowitzki — just to name a few.
Elite athleticism is not a prerequisite to play in the NBA. Great basketball players are great basketball players no matter what their physical attributes suggest. Jared Sullinger isn’t DeAndre Jordan, but DeAndre Jordan isn’t Jared Sullinger either (thank goodness!).
Again, because of their depth the Nuggets can afford to take any possible “risks” associated with a guy as talented as Sullinger.
The last elite college player to get red flagged was DeJuan Blair. He dropped all the way to the 37th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. His medical condition was far worse than Sullinger’s. Three years later he’s still in the league doing just fine.
Sullinger is a great fit for the Nuggets. He’s a potential post threat the Nuggets are in desperate need of and haven’t had in quite some time. In the unlikely event he drops to 20, fans should have the utmost amount of confidence that the Nuggets front office would make the right decision and strongly consider drafting him.
It would be the Ujiri thing to do.
3. Terrence Jones // Sophomore — Kentucky // 6-9 // Power Forward
When scouts look for athletic bodies that will have no problem adjusting to the NBA, they look for guys like Terrence Jones.
At 6-9, with a chiseled 250-pound frame and dynamite leaping abilities, Jones is just about everything you’d physically want from an NBA small/power forward. Something like LeBron James minus the catlike agility.
In addition to his muscular chassis Jones is built on versatility, defense and mobility.
He’s capable of locking down three to four positions on the floor and has excellent anticipation — evident by his 1.3 steals and 1.8 blocks per game this past season. His one-on-one defense is generally superb, not only inside the paint but near the perimeter as well. In his sophomore campaign Jones held his opponents to less than 38 percent shooting in the post and 27 percent on jump shots.
Unlike most prospects, Jones has no specialty when it comes to scoring the basketball. His offensive possessions were evenly distributed between post-ups, jumpers, transition baskets, put-back dunks and isolation plays. He’s solid in every aspect of the game and has no glaring weaknesses that project to hinder his success in the future.
There have been questions raised about his consistency and body language ever since arriving at Kentucky. While Jones continuously impressed with his intensity, it wasn’t always something you could count on. Jones would often sulk when things didn’t go his way. Occasionally, like the other Jones mentioned above, he’d vanish entirely from the game leaving his teammates scrambling to make up for his lack of production.
Even considering his attitude concerns I’m unsure sure as to why Jones isn’t more highly regarded. His risks are minimal and his potential is fairly promising. I could easily see Jones dropping to the late teens or early twenties only to end up with a far more accomplished career than many of the players selected before him.
Some classify Jones as a “tweener”; I classify him as “underrated.”
The Nuggets have fared pretty well with those types of guys lately.
I’ll could go for another.
Other outliers to consider:
Kendall Marshall — If Marshall slips to 20 I’ll be stunned. He seems like a sure-fire Lottery selection or a perfect fit for Dallas, at the very worst. If he is available when the Nuggets are slated to pick in the first round, I’ll lobby to select him as hard as any of the players mentioned above. He has spectacular court vision and understands what it truly means to run a team, a la Rajon Rondo. His athleticism is being entirely over analyzed.
Terrence Ross — One of the best athletes in the Draft, Ross was also one of the first players to work out for the Nuggets. Take it as you may, but in my eyes, if a team wants you to be the first person to work out for them, that’s saying something. It’s hard to imagine Ross getting past Minnesota at 18, but if he falls to 20 Nuggets fans might finally get the J.R. Smith they wanted the real J.R. Smith to always be.
Moe Harkless/Arnett Moultrie — Both of these players find themselves between a piece of gold and a hard place in our Big Board series. They probably should have appeared in our first Big Board, but I simply didn’t have the time or space to include them. Both have consistently hovered around where the Nuggets will select but neither has captivated me the way the other main prospects featured in this series have.
I really like Harkless. I think his game will translate well to the NBA. He’s got an incredible body for an 18 year old and has an enormous amount of potential. He reminds me a lot of Rudy Gay. With an improved jump shot he could be special. I would have no issues with the Nuggets selecting him at 20. I just like other players a little bit more.
Moultrie is different. I must admit up front that I didn’t get a chance to see him play this season, however I followed him through articles, highlights and analysis over the course of the year. I always liked what I heard and read, but I was never enthralled.
For a 21 year old, Moultrie is really raw. He has no mid-range game and his 3-point shooting percentage is pretty skewed (he only made eight all year). He has a flat shot and release that most NBA power forwards would have no problem blocking. Nearly all of his offense came off alley-oop dunks, put backs and cuts. This elevates his shooting percentage however on film he’s pretty unrefined in this aspect of the game.
Defensively he’s a mixed bag. His isolation numbers are strong, however he can’t seem to grasp the concept of rotations and often gets lost in the heat of his opponent’s scheme. He’s also had character questions, which are way different than motor concerns, and has displayed flat-out awful body language as a direct result of not receiving the ball when he wanted it.
If the Nuggets draft Moultrie I’ll be on board because I trust Ujiri. Nevertheless, I’ll still be pretty surprised if they take him ahead of the players mentioned in our first two Big Boards.
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