Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Knicks just got the steal of the Draft in Jerian Grant

      On Thursday night the Washington Wizards selected senior point guard Jerian Grant with the 19th pick. He was inmediately to the Hawks in exchange for 15th pick Kelly Oubre. That same night, Grant was traded to the Knicks, who sent former first round pick Tim Hardaway Jr to Atlanta.

      Not much has been talked about this move, not even in New York City, where media outlets are too busy bashing Phil Jackson's main election on Draft night, Latvian Kristaps Porzingis. However, I have various reasons to think Grant has been overlooked by several franchises and that he will be a solid contributor and a starting point guard at the next level, for a 19th pick, I think that is a steal.


   Size. At 6'5 Grant will have excellent size as an NBA point guard. He has shown he knows how to use this advantage by shooting and passing over smaller defenders, as well as making plays from the low block, an underrated and unusual skill amongst point guards today.

   Passing. Without question one of the most effective passers in this year's Draft. His 7'3 assists per 40 were one of the best in the NCAA, his assist-to-turnover ratio was the third best amongst this year's prospects. He is always looking to push the ball up the court and find shooters and thrives in pick&roll situations, which play a vital role in any NBA team's offensive scheme.

  Creates offense. His quick first step, ability to change speeds and court vision make him an ideal player to create scoring opportunities for himself and for his teammates.

  Basketball IQ. Four years of college basketball paired with former NBA players within his family make up for a very smart player. Although he can improve certain fundamentals, mainly tighten his handles, he is fundamentally sound and will grasp Phil Jackson's triangle offense quickly.


On the downside of his game, Grant must improve certain aspects if he wants to excel in the NBA.

  Inconsistent shooting. Firstly, he must gain consistency in his shot. His shooting mechanics are solid, so I think it will be a matter of repetition rather than fundamentals.
  Finishing at the rim. Despite his size, his vertical leap is average. During his senior season, he shot a poor 46'8% at the rim in 14 games against teams that made the NCAA tournament. However, he shot 74'1% at the rim in 24 games against non-NCAA Tournament squads. Basically, the guy can finish, just not against the elite defenders and rim protectors he will encounter in the NBA. This flaw in his game can be fixed by working to strengthen his upper body, which will enable him to absorb contact and finish in traffic at a higher success rate.

  Man to man defense. The former Notre Dame point guard has quick feet and a considerable wingspan, but his lack of strength and willingness to play defense will translate into problems when guarding NBA point guards, which is by far the position with the most talented players at the next level.

  Why is he a steal then?

   His basketball IQ and passing ability will be key in a team full of shooters at almost every spot. His size will also enable him to play as a shooting guard if he has to share the floor with a smaller point guard, like Jose Calderón or Shane Larkin.

   After four years at Notre Dame Grant is ready to step into a starting point guard role for the New York Knicks. An aging and often injured Jose Calderon and an inefficient Shane Larkin do not seem enough of a threat to avoid Grant making the starting lineup and playing 20+ minutes frow day one. Abundant playing time and improving his shot will make him one of the best players in this year's Draft when it is all said and done.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

NBA Mock Draft

Just two hours away from the ceremony that will shape the NBA landscape for years to come there are still dozens of unanswered questions, ranging from the actual picks to possible Draft night trades, a yearly shocking experience. This is the order in which I think the first 10 players' names will be called out tonight.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns, F-C, Kentucky(Fr), 6'11, 250

      He would be a great fit for the Wolves at the power forward spot, forming a great tandem with Andrew Wiggins. Although he is not as NBA ready as Jahlil Okafor I do think he will end up being the better player, as he will be more of a mid-range threat as opposed to Okafor, who will make a living on the low post. Fans in Minnesota finally have a reason to be excited.

2. Los Angeles Lakers: D'Angelo Russell, G, Ohio State (Fr), 6'5, 180

     Even though most Mock Drafts place Okafor at number 2, I truly think Lakers executives will go small with this pick. Playing Okafor alongside Randle could translate into problems on the offensive end, as neither of the two have a mid-range game. Okafor will be a very good player in the NBA, but his lack of defensive presence and conditioning raise questions.

3. Philadelphia Sixers: Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke (Fr), 6'11, 270

    Sure, the Sixers have already drafted several bigs in the last couple of years, however, I believe they will take the best player available with the third pick, a player that will contribute as soon as he lands in Philly. Moreover, out of the three recently drafted big men, only one (Nerlens Noel) will be available this season, as Joel Embiid has suffered a setback with his foot injury and Dario Saric will stay in Europe for another year. Pairing a defensive minded big in Noel with a low post threat will positively reflect on the Sixers win column.

4. New York Knicks: Justise Winslow, F, Duke (Fr), 6'6, 225

    As I argumented in my previous post, the Knicks don't have the luxury of waiting for Kristaps Porzingis to blossom into a great player, and I feel like, although Phil Jackson likes big guards, Emmanuel Mudiay is still an unproven prospect. On the other hand, at only 19, Winslow has an already NBA body, and his versatility and defensive ability set him apart from other prospects.

5. Orlando Magic: Kristaps Porzingis, F, Baloncesto Sevilla, 7', 220

   The Magic are in the middle of a slow rebuilding process and can therefore aford to wait a couple of years until the Latvian power forward starts contributing on a nightly basis. I truly believe he has the most upside in this year's Draft. Furthermore, pairing a low post phenom like Nikola Vucevic with a stretch-4 that will give him room in the paint to operate seems like a combination that should give fans in Orlando something to cheer about.

6. Sacramento Kings: Emmanuel Mudiay, G, Guangdong Tigers, 6'5, 190

7. Denver Nuggets: Mario Hezonja, G, FC Barcelona, 6'8, 201

    Great offensive player, already a dangerous shooter, he is by far one of the most athletic European prospects in the last decade. He has a ton of upside, as he has played a limited role for European powerhouse FC Barcelona, mainly due to attitude related issues.

8. Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson, F, Arizona (Fr), 6'7, 245

    Forward who is always willing to play defense and with an NBA body. Stan Van Gundy generally likes this type of players.

9. Charlotte Hornets: Devin Booker, G, Kentucky (Fr), 6'6, 206

   The fact that the Hornets were a bad shooting team last season and that they have a free guard spot following the Lance Stephenson trade make Booker the ideal pick.

10. Miami Heat: Frank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin (Sr), 7', 234

   The first upperclassman in this year's Draft, Kaminsky will add depth to an already interesting frontcourt in Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside. His defense is below average and there are questions surrounding his strength, but he is an NBA ready player who be an outstanding low post scorer as soon as he steps in the league.

Get ready for a wild night.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Why Kristaps Porzingis has the most upside in this year´s Draft

Not very often do we see 7'1 bigs capable of consistently shooting 3s from NBA range, much less when it comes to 19 year olds. This is the main reason why I consider power forward Kristaps Porzingis one of the most intriguing prospects in this year´s NBA Draft and have therefore decided to break down his strengths and weaknesses.


    Shooting. As I mentioned above, the Latvian power forward has a great shooting stroke, along with a quick release, making him a constant threat from 3, especially in catch and shoot situations. He has managed to hit 37'8% of his 3s. The European 3-point line is further than the college 3-point line, and has hit numerous 3s from NBA range this season, as well as during his pre-Draft workouts in recent weeks. His outside shot is by far his most transferable skill to the NBA. He is also a solid free throw shooter, at 73% this past season.

     Mobility. Porzingis has a unique combination of length and mobility at the power forward position. Standing at 7'1, with long arms, the 19 year old possesses outstanding speed and quickness for a player his size.
     On offense, he is confident and capable enough to put the ball on the floor and drive to the rim looking to dunk on defenders with his above average vertical leap. His mobility enables him to constantly beat his defender without the ball, as well as being a great fit for pick-n-pop sets. On defense, his lateral quickness again makes him a good defensive player on pick-n-roll situations, as he can switch and keep the guard in front of him. 

     Length. He effectively utilizes his length to block shots and steal lazy passes (1.5 steals and 2 blocks per 40 minutes this season), although he lacks concentration on the defensive end way too many times.


    Physique. It is without question the biggest liability in Porzingis' game. At 220 pounds, his thin frame means he will be pushed around in the paint when hitting the glass and that he will be unable to consistently finish inside, or even catch the ball deep in the low post.

      For the sake of comparing, Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki have 30 pounds and 25 pounds on him, respectively. However, on the bright side of things, we must take into account that Porzingis has not even turned 20 yet, and strength training in Europe does not come close to the workouts he will go through once he gets drafted. In conclusion, adding 15-18 pounds of muscle will likely improve his rebounding numbers without having a negative impact on his mobility and shooting stroke.

    Lack of a post game. His lack of strenth combined with his shooting translate into an outside threat rather than a post player. Not only does he lack a variety of post moves, but the lack of muscle forces him to aviod the low post and settle for jumpshots. However, he is only 19, and has already been working on his post game prior to Thursday´s Draft. If he manages to gain 15-20 pounds and develop a few post moves he will be able to use his height to his advantage and become an offensive force in the NBA, as there are very few players who have the ability to be a threat both inside and outside.

     Lack of concentration on defense. Porzingis can use his length to block shots, but that does not make him by any means a solid defensive player. He is often late on the weakside help, sometimes with his back completely turned to the ball handler. His subpar strength, and sometimes lack of attitude, make him a below-average rebounder, as he sometimes does not even box out his opponent on the defensive end.

    Lack of court vision. The Latvian is not a good passer, having only accumulated 41 assists over the last 3 years, or one every 44 minutes. His assist percentage is one of the lowest amonst this year's Draft class.

    Where will he land? Will he be a difference maker?

     Both DraftExpress and have Porzingis being taken by the Knicks with the fourth pick. However, I do not think he will be a great fit for the Knicks for various reasons.

     Kristaps Porzingis is a high risk-high reward player. He has a ton of upside, but he is far from a finished product, as he will need 2-3 years of playing time before he can truly make an impact. The Knicks just don´t have that amount of time before they can make it back to the Playoffs. Having resigned Carmelo Anthony, playing in the nation's largest market and having Phil Jackson involved essentially means they will be drafting somebody who will be able to contribute right away.

    Considering there is unanimity that Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor will be the top two picks, I would not be shocked if Porzingis fell to 5 or 6, since the Sixers have an already loaded frontcourt of young players (Embiid, Noel and Saric) and the Knicks need an instant contributor. The Orlando Magic or the Sacramento Kings would both be a great fit for Porzingis, as he will primarily play as a stretch-4, leaving room inside for Nikola Vucevic or DeMarcus Cousins to operate on offense. Moreover, he would be landing on a team in the middle of a slower rebuilding process, therefore being able to play consistent minutes and develop into the great player he will eventually become.