If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the San Antonio Spurs over the years — outside of the fact Gregg Popovich is an absolute freaking genius — it’s that perpetual success can be achieved through drafting well, especially late into the second round where unheralded international players often reside. Nine of the Spurs’ 15 players on their roster are from overseas and of all their players who logged at least 15 minutes per game this past season, only two were from the U.S. and only one was selected inside the lottery. So as much as NBA fans like to casually dismiss second-round picks as irrelevant, it’s probably best we absorb our history lessons from the actual world champions who just defied this sentiment for the fifth time in the last 15 years — which is exactly the goal of RMC’s final Prospecting post leading up to the 2014 NBA Draft.
Spencer Dinwiddie // 21 // 6-6 // SG // Colorado
I don’t typically like to make gaudy proclamations, but around this time of year that seems to be the name of the game. And because I like games (hence the ownership of this blog), I’ll go all in right now and say that Spencer Dinwiddie will go down as one of the biggest draft steals of the night come June 26. The guy just has it all. He’s young for his class, well spoken, he can shoot at high clip, he has a solid midrange game, great size for his position, impressive vision and more than anything, he’s capable of playing lock-down defense and he gets to the line at an extremely high rate. Those two factors (defense and getting to the line) are absolutely paramount in projecting the success of a collegiate wing at the next level. Just look at the best players in the NBA today. Almost all of them do both of those things far better than their contemporaries.
Prior to tearing his ACL, Dinwiddie was seen as a potential lottery pick. Had he remained healthy all year I don’t think much would have changed. In fact, I’d be willing to bet Dinwiddie would be right up there with the other four shooting guard prospects I detailed in the first post of our Prospecting series — maybe even leading the pack. The dude is just that good.
Statistically, Dinwiddie trumps nearly all his fellow shooting guards, leading this year’s crop in every free-throw attempts categories, pure point ratio and true shooting percentage, while ranking top six in assists per-40 minutes pace adjusted, steals per-40 minutes pace adjusted and Player Efficiency Rating. And of course, on a pure visual scale he takes the cake as well, displaying a loose resemblance to He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named in scouting reports, aka, Kobe Bryant.
I have a really hard time believing Dinwiddie will drop to 40. He’s simply too good and there are simply too many good GMs selecting before the Nuggets at 40 that won’t pass this kid up. So if the Nuggets do complete a trade with the Bulls on draft night for picks 16 and 19, I’ll be actively rooting for one of those selections to be The Man with the Mustache.
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Jahii Carson // 21 // 5-11 // PG // Arizona State
Jahii Carson is so unlucky. If he was three centimeters taller he’d likely be foretasted to land somewhere in the late first round. Unfortunately he falls just short of the coveted “6-feet or Taller Club,” and therefore has been deemed incapable of playing at a high level in the NBA. Which, of course, is nothing short of regurgitated nonsense perpetuated by the same trite decision makers who often select the Michael Olowokandis of the world. If you’re one of these types, I implore you to ask the 5-11 Ty Lawson, 6-foot Chris Paul or 5-9 Isaiah Thomas — all of who finished top 10 amongst point guards in PER last season — how their height has drastically hindered their chances of ever succeeding in the NBA.
For the last two years Carson absolutely torched the PAC-12, averaging no less than 19 points and five assists per game as a freshman and sophomore (similar numbers to James Harden’s during his campaign at Arizona State, I might add). He logged three 30-point games his freshman year and even dropped a 40-point performance against UNLV this past season. What allowed Carson to accomplish these remarkable feats was his speed and athleticism — both elite skills that should translate to the NBA. He’s as speedy as Ty Lawson was coming out of college, probably more athletic and is definitely a better one-on-one player, which should also translate well to the NBA. Additionally, his handle is one of the best in this draft as are his pure scoring abilities. Though he is a bit old for his class and has some questions about how he’ll defend more sizable point guards at the next level, neither should prevent him from doing what he’s already done in college, which is overcoming his opponent through sheer athleticism and raw talent.
Damien Inglis // 19 // 6-8 // SF // Roanne
If there’s another player outside Dinwiddie who I’m becoming more infatuated with by the moment, it’s Damien Inglis. Unlike Dinwiddie, his stats are abysmal. But according to DraftExpress.com, they’re extremely similar to those of fellow countryman and Inglis’ most accurate comparison, Nicolas Batum, prior to his arrival in the NBA.
Honestly, Batum is all I can think about when I look at Inglis. He’s probably not as good as Batum, probably never will be, but the similarities are evident and impossible to ignore. Like Batum he has a huge wingspan (7-3) in tandem with great height for his position. He’s also primarily a defender (and a versatile one at that), one of the youngest players in this draft and has nowhere to go but up. Given time and the proper nurture — which Shaw has proven to be more than capable of providing — I could see this kid turning into a franchise cornerstone on the defensive side of the ball. He’s the athletic wing defender I’ve been pouring over for the last month, one the Nuggets must have moving forward if they plan on contending for an NBA title. Draft him for defense, make a commitment to that side of the ball, and anything he delivers on offensive is all gravy.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo // 21 // 6-6 // SF // Delaware 87ers
Thanasis Antetokounmpo is, first and foremost, a player who’s name you must copy and paste at all times. He’s also the older brother of the Milwaukee Bucks’ 2013 first-round selection, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Some say Thanasis is actually more athletic than Giannis, and if you watch his scouting report above you’ll see why. The dude is truly a freak. He has unreal defensive potential and plays with more heart, emotion and hustle than any prospect in this year’s class. But he’s also more raw than sushi and has a pretty limited offensive repertoire for a 21-year-old wing. If you’re of the belief that players like Thanasis are still untapped and docile, then this is your guy. If you believe in patience and hard work and that even the most inexperienced athletes can be molded into role players at the next level, I don’t see a better pick at 40. But like fine wine, it’ll be a few years before the fruits of Thanasis’ labor turns into anything tasty.
Walter Tavares // 22 // 7-3 // C // Gran Canaria
Walter Tavares is a giant man with a fascinating story. According to DraftExpress.com, prior to 2009 — when he first touched a basketball — he was just another teenager working in his mother’s convenience store in Cape Verde. But when a German tourist recommended him to friends in the Spanish ACB league, his life as a professional basketball player abruptly commenced. Since then he’s worked his way up to becoming one of the best centers in one of the toughest leagues in Europe. Tavares is a hard worker with unlimited defensive potential, but due to his late start he’s still got a long ways to go before becoming a significant contributor at the NBA level. There’s a good chance he’ll be off the board before the Nuggets select at 40, but if he’s still available he deserves a long look based purely on his rare physical attributes and brief resume of rapid improvement.
Vasilije Micic // 20 // 6-6 // PG // Mega Vizura
Micic is a guy who’s been on the international radar for a while. He’s been playing professionally for over five years now and had firmly established himself as one of the best point guards in Europe by last season. He’s got great size for his position, he sees the floor as well as anyone in this draft and he’s fairly ambidextrous. He also has a good head on his shoulders, gives it his all on defense and desires to play in the NBA next season, according to DraftExpress.com. Micic reminds me a bit of Jose Calderon in that he has one elite skill (distributing — though his size is fantastic too) and is somewhat pedestrian at everything else. He’s the best passer in this class on a per 40-minute basis but also turns the ball over the most, according to DraftExpress.com. Micic likely won’t be anything more than a solid backup in the NBA, but given the dearth of genuine floor generals throughout the league, that’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of.
Nikola Jokic // 19 // 6-11 // C // Mega Vizura
I don’t know much about Jokic and neither does the Internet apparently. He has a few videos on YouTube and several articles pop up when you Google his name, but I can’t find anything definitive in terms of projecting his future as an NBA player. What is apparent, however, is that this guy has some intriguing tools — outside of the fact he just turned 19 and only started playing organized basketball a few years ago. He has a soft touch around the basket, he can stretch the floor out to the 3-point line and his court awareness is sublime for a guy his size. When you look at the league’s best centers, a high assist rate is often commonplace for many. So when I hear about a big man who can pass like a point guard, I take note, and immediately include him in my Prospecting posts based on criminally shoddy research and incredibly shallow reasoning, seen here.
Nick Johnson // 21 // 6-3 // SG // Arizona
I’m slowly coming to terms with the realization that other people just don’t like Nick Johnson as much as I do. But what I’m still having a hard time understanding is why exactly that is. People say his size will be a detriment to his success at the next level; they also say his size will be a detriment to his success at the next level. Actually, that’s all they say. And perhaps they’re right. At 6-3 he’s an undersized scoring guard by NBA standards. Then again, so is Randy Foye and about a billion other guys in the NBA. All I know is that I watched Johnson a lot in college and I always came away impressed. He has two elite skills — shooting (potentially) and athleticism — as well as the ability to run the point if necessary. I won’t be surprised if Johnson fails to find his niche at the next level, but I also won’t be surprised if he morphs into a defensive-minded role player for a title contender who can stretch the floor and occasionally throw down monster jams on people’s heads.
(All embedded videos courtesy of DraftExpress.com)