The NBA draft is a day, singular, away, and the excitement is peaking for one of my favorite days of the year for the league.
For one day, every team is undefeated, every team has a reason to hope, and everything is rainbows and unicorns. It's a fun day, and the league has done a good job making it a positive experience for the players and fans. It'd be nice if the Nuggets could move up in the draft for once, but regardless, it's still a fun moment.
Putting aside the satisfaction I draw from the draft, it's an important day for all the franchises in the league. The draft is the best way to secure talent in the league, and the decisions made on draft day can have a 20-year impact on a franchise. Some teams draft a star and change the destiny of their franchise for the better, and some teams draft a bust and trudge back to the draft a year later no better than they were the last year.
Here are three busts and three sleepers in the 2016 draft.
Chriss predicatably rocketed up draft boards after the NCAA season ended and scouts began watching him workout against chairs and air. Chriss hasn't been playing basketball for a long time, beginning to play in 8th grade. He's very young, and there is always room for players to improve, but I can't believe how much bad people are overlooking from his freshman season.
Chriss finished the season with 20 more defensive rebounds than Skal Labissiere, with 280 more minutes played, earning Chriss the dubious award of worst defensive rebounder at his position in the draft. Chriss' teammate Dejounte Murray, who played point guard, had more defensive rebounds, albeit with more minutes.
Chriss is lauded as a stretch four prospect after shooting 35 percent from distance. That's a good percentage, but Chriss attempted 60 3-point attempts this season, making 21. That's nearly identical to a much less heralded prospect, Joel Bolomboy, who made 20-55 3-point attempts last season, Robert Carter, who made 26-78 3-point attempts last season, and Perry Eliss, who made 28-64 3-point attempts last season.
Chriss is appealing for his shot blocking potential, with his ability to leap above defenders and send their shot back from whence it came. It's undeniable that he has the athleticism to block shots from the power forward position, but he was too aggressive in that part of the game, often sacrificing defensive rebounding position for shots he could never alter or fouling players who took advantage of his eagerness. He fouled out of 10 of 18 conference games, and finished with an impressive 4.1 personal fouls per game. That's a personal foul once every 12 possessions, which at the NBA, would put him in rare company with players like Cole Aldrich and Jason Thompson.
I'll come out with a player comp right off the bat - Yabusele reminds me of Anthony Bennett. He's not tall for his position, he's beefy, and he's thrilling to watch in transition. Bennett was overhyped, and shouldn't have been the No. 1 pick, but Yabusele doesn't have the same expectations.
What he does have is a sweet jumper, a versatile game, and the physical tools to potentially be the second or third best player on a team. Yabusele had an effective field goal percentage of 58.7 for Rouen last season. He's not a off-the-dribble shooter, but when he sets his feet and shoots, his form is solid and he's able to get his shot off due to his length. He can score in the post, but he has to establish position first - his ballhandling is at the "I look great with no one around me" stage.
Defensively, he's not NBA ready at all. He doesn't give consistent effort, and with his physical traits, should have done better on that end. He's a sleeper because of his physical tools. He'll need a lot of time (hurray for the stash option!) to improve his game, and perhaps being drafted by a NBA team gives him the extra motivation to take the next step forward. There's not a lot of risk later in the second round, especially if he puts everything together.
Jackson is a victim of circumstance more than anything. Mike Breen has a great system in place at Notre Dame, and Jackson had great players around him during his career. Jerian Grant was selected by the New York Knicks in the first round last year, and Jackson moved into the primary ballhandler role after he left.
But teams may pass Jackson by with concerns that have come up since the season ended. The weaknesses are his size, his defense, his handle, and his shooting ability. There aren't a lot of areas of his game that stand out - he's good at many things but not great at any one thing.
I think a team could take a gamble on Jackson as high as the late lottery or as low as the 25-30 range. If he's taken with the 12th pick, for example, that could be a bit of a reach, with other more talented players available. If he's taken with the 29th pick, may the basketball gods have mercy on the league when the Spurs put all their cheat codes on for his game. I worry that he's more Trey Burke than Jeff Teague, and therefore, have him as a bust.
Let's spend a few moments to talk about 6-foot-5, 190 pound shooting guards.
Cordinier is a great perimeter scorer, able to consistently shoot accurately from FIBA-range. He has the athleticism to finish above the rim, but will need to improve his ballhandling and passing ability to progress towards his ceiling. He doesn't have a well of experience against elite competition, and would likely need more time than other two-guard prospects to learn how to defend in the NBA, but if a team is willing to take a gamble on him learning how to defend, he could be an incredible value pick.
There is not a good history in the league for prospects that shot under 40 percent from the field making a successful jump to the NBA. Richardson has the physical tools to be a 3&D guy in the league, but in a time where more and more teams are listening to their stats guys for the draft, Richardson should not be a top-20 pick.
Richardson is a shooter who isn't afraid to stop and pull the trigger when he feels like he's open, but is a terrible shooter and misses so many shots. He's confident in his abilities but doesn't have anything to back it up. He's the guy in rec leagues that is playing with a mouthguard, elbow sleeve, $150 Jordans, but can't box out, make an entry pass, or knock down a wide-open corner three.
As a first round pick, there are few players I think could be a worse selection. As a second round pick for a team with a D-League franchise, Richardson makes more sense. He will need to show that he can play defense outside of the zone that Syracuse used, that he can make smart decisions with the ball in his hands, and that he can pass the ball without committing a turnover.
I wrote about McCaw for the Stiffs Draft Series, and believe he has a lot of sleeper potential in the draft. McCaw is a defensive felhound with his 6-foot-10-inch wingspan, speed, agility, and hands. He projects to be an above average 3-point shooter, with a steady shooting stroke that accompanies a jumper that should improve as he finishes growing into his frame.
As a believer in Gary Harris' future in the NBA, I can't help but be optimistic about McCaw. One of the questions I ask myself when I watch prospects is "Could this player help defend the (No. 1 team in the Western Conference)?" The last two years that's been the Golden State Warriors, who have so many 3-point shooters and move the ball so well. McCaw's length and ability to disrupt passes could help a team defend that, and that is one of the reasons I think he will find a role in the league.