How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Waste Time in the Middle of the Night
I was comparing college players and I came up with the idea of treating it like a single elimination tournament. It seemed like a fun idea (whether that holds true remains to be seen) so I am going to try it out and see how it goes.
I give you:
The Prospect Bracket!‼
*all statistics are per-40 minute pace adjusted
Marcus Smart vs Otto Porter
Porter is a 6'8", 19 y/o, Small Forward.
Smart is a 6'4", 19 y/o, Combo Guard.
I'm not going to talk extensively about Smart. There has been ample discussion centered around him already so I think if you want information about him you will be able to find it rather easily.
Otto Porter is an exciting player. He is a lockdown defender. An elite rebounder for his position. He passes well, handles well, and he doesn't turn the ball over; leading all players in the Prospect Tourney in assist-to-turnover ratio. He's evolving into more and more of a go-to scorer while remaining very efficient and shooting 47% from three point range. For all of these reasons along with a reputation for toughness and good leadership he is one of the leading candidates for Player of the Year honors.
When comparing the two players the first thing that stands out is the shooting disparity. Porter scores in greater volume than Smart, but more than that he does so with ruthless efficiency.
Smart as a Combo Guard and the lead guard of Oklahoma St. has a lot of ballhandling responsibilities. Responsibilities that he meets with a variable degree of success. Porter handles the ball significantly less but has shown good passing ability with some possible Point Forward potential.
With their play up to this point it is hard to make a case for Smart.
Porter is the better shooter and overall scorer. Averaging 3 more points on 0.9 more field goal attempts and with a whopping 11.6% advantage in eFG%.
They both are excellent defenders. Smart holds a slight edge in defensive stats with 0.7 advantage in combined Steals & Blocks.
Smart is a great rebounder for a guard but Porter is even more impressive as a perimeter rebounder from the small forward position averaging a jaw-dropping 9.2 RPG (*reminder: per 40 pace adjusted).
And while Smart does average more total assists than Porter. That should be expected from someone playing most of their minutes at Point Guard. The fact that Porter actually has the better A/TO makes this one an easy match to call.
Winner: Otto Porter
Ben McLemore vs Anthony Bennett
Ben McLemore is a sharpshooting 20 y/o, 6'5", Shooting Guard.
Anthony Bennett is a scoring 20 y/o, 6'7", Power Forward.
Bennett is having a great year for UNLV. He is a do-everything forward (as long as everything is mostly scoring) that can also dominate the glass. He has a strong broad body and legitimate NBA three point range.
McLemore is the leading scorer on a very good Kansas team. He is a long-range threat and a classic catch and shoot guy. He has jaw dropping leaping ability and finishes above the rim very well.
My biggest problem with Anthony Bennett is that he is so tiny. He has fairly long arms in proportion to his height, which serves him well and allows him to affect competent defense and shot blocking at the college level. He also uses his long arms and bulk to rebound at a high rate.
But with all due respect to Carlos Boozer (never said that before) and a few minutes worthy roleplayers, undersized PFs have an extremely low success rate.
The only two really successful munchkin power forwards I can think of are Charles Barkley and Dennis Rodman. Those are also two of the least replicable and most unorthodox players in NBA history. Beyond those two, the ranks of the "Medium Forward" are littered with Fizer's and Traylor's and only a few mild success stories like the aforementioned Boozer.
Ultimately where the Magic will be selecting drafting Bennett would be a bit of a reach. In conjunction with the concerns that his Lilliputian stature raises, and the crowded Magic PF position (featuring Glen Davis, Tobias Harris, and Andrew Nicholson) Bennett would be hard pressed to seriously challenge a player occupying the top shelf, such as McLemore.
Winner: Ben McLemore
Shabazz Muhammad vs Cody Zeller
Shabazz Muhammad is a 6'6", 19 y/o, Shooting Guard.
Cody Zeller is a 7'0", 20 y/o, PF/C.
This is a match up of two of the three most hyped players coming into this season. Zeller was a stand out freshman last year and Muhammad has been a marquee high school talent for the passed couple years.
They both have had very good year's but have struggled only in the sense that they haven't lived up to everyone's expectations. Zeller has remained a secondary scorer and been consistently the second best player on his team. While he was expected to vie for the Player of the Year awards and be perhaps the best player on not only his team but in the nation. Muhammad been a competitor and a primary scorer and has been the best player on his team. But he was expected to average thirty points and lead a talented UCLA team to a top ten ranking.
I find both of these players to be solid and talented.
My preference as of right now would have to be for Muhammad.
Zeller could probably play PF at the NBA level. But he has virtually no floor game. He very very rarely takes any sort of a jump shot. His single-minded determination to get to the rim has served him well in college. But i am skeptical in how that will translate to the NBA and specifically the Magic. I think that there is a very good chance that that could collapse the defense too much and reduce the Magic's already meager ability to penetrate even further.
Adding a somewhat generic big to the Magic's roster just isn't a priority.
Winner: Shabazz Muhammad
Nerlens Noel vs Victor Oladipo
Nerlens Noel is a 6'11", 18 y/o, Center.
Victor Oladipo is a 6'5", 20 y/o, Shooting Guard.
This is a match up of possibly the two best defensive players in the country.
Noel was billed as the top player coming in from high school and has lived up to most of that hype. Oladipo came out of nowhere to have one of the best seasons of anyone in the nation.
Oladipo's numbers are insane. His eFG% is 68.4%.
It's to the point that his numbers might be working against him. His scoring efficiency is so good that it is almost surreal and has caused people to look over his offensive game with a microscope.
At the end of the day Oladipo is more of a finisher than a scorer. And there are concerns that his otherworldly three point accuracy is at least partially a fluke, as his percentage jumped drastically from last year and he does not shoot all that many so the sample size is small.
The other negative aspect of Oladipo's game is his ballhandling. He is an excellent shooter and a very good passer. But he has problems getting from point A to point B with the ball. He is actually a bad ball handler.
This results in the second most turnovers from any player in the Prospect Tourney beside Marcus Smart.
This dampens his overall offensive effectiveness tremendously and casts major doubts on his long term ability to develop into the type of go-to scorer teams look for high up in the draft.
Because of this and despite of all of the fantastic elements to his game, I think Oladipo is just too limited for a top-five selection.
Winner: Nerlens Noel
Nerlens Noel vs Otto Porter
Nerlens Noel - Dikembe Mutombo Lite
Otto Porter - Granger/Iguodala but with Grant Hill's (Detroit version) knack for rebounding
The plot thickens.
Round 2 understandably gets much tougher and will require more nuanced nitpicking.
Otto Porter is definitely the more polished offensive player. Noel is the better overall defender.
What this battle comes down to has to be the ever sought after Holiest of Grails.
There is elite athleticism and then there is elite athleticism. Italicized. Bold. Underlined.
Winner: Nerlens Noel
Shabazz Muhammad vs Ben McLemore
NBA Comparisons / Forecast:
Shabazz Muhammad - Rich Man's Kevin Martin to Poor Man's Kobe Bryant
Yeah... So play time is over, eh?
Two shooting guards that look similar at first glance but are very different players.We're going to have to go deep into this one.
Okay, take a look at the numbers and the first thing that needs to be addressed is without a doubt the percentage numbers.
McLemore is at 58.7% eFG.
Muhammad is at 50.0% eFG.
This is by far the largest discrepancy between the two players. And to understand how McLemore can be so much more efficient than Muhammad but this can still be anywhere close we have to understand how the two players score.
From three point distance there is effectively zero difference between their respective methodologies. Both of their three point makes are well over 90% assisted, meaning that both players tend to only take threes when another player creates opportunities for them and they have a mostly open look. Neither player "gets" his own threes or is in the habit of taking bad long distance shots. This shows up as more or less glowing percentages by both players. (and more or less comparable percentages too)
McLemore's additional three point attempts and his higher free throw percentage account for a couple of eFG% points.
The remainder comes from the 2pt% where McLemore scores at 55.3% and Muhammad achieves a less impressive 46% while attempting 5 more per game.
Here is where we get into stylistic differences. McLemore's two point field goals much like his threes are largely the result of defensive lapses by the opposition and space created by teammates. While Muhammad is much more involved in UCLA's offense as a creator and as the first option down the stretch in close games.
C.J. Moore did a very good write up on McLemore and his offensive limitations: here
So it isn't a straight comparison of shooting percentages but needs to be a comparison of skills and situational utility. The basic principle breaks down to, no Muhammad's 2pt% is not stellar. But the theory is that because of the role he plays on his team his percentage is closer to mean and therefore closer to a sustainable percentage that he could achieve at the NBA level.
This concept is not entirely theoretical and unsubstantiated. The Magic's own Arron Afflalo is a perfect example of a sharpshooting roleplayer and what happens when his abilities are stretched to take on additional offensive responsibilities. Here is a look at how his efficiency has been affected by this phenomenon over the last three years:
Based on this a reasonable conclusion would be that Muhammad would be better able to fulfill a "primary scoring" role, while McLemore would be better suited to a high efficiency "secondary scoring" role.
What do the Magic need more? A high flying finisher and floor spacer? Or a player that can create his own shot in the half court and get to the foul line?
A couple lesser factors:
1.) Physical Attributes.
Muhammad is 6'6" and 220 lbs with a 6'11" wingspan.
McLemore is 6'4.5" and 190 lbs with a 6'7" wingspan.
That means that Muhammad is about an inch and a half taller than McLemore, has thirty pounds of muscle on him, while being a year younger. Coupled with an impressive wingspan Muhammad's potential ability to match up with opposing player's at the next level from a purely physical standpoint has to be considered greater than that of McLemore's.
2.) Immediate playing time and team fit in the next year.
At 6'6" and with a more developed body Muhammad should be able to play small forward for the Magic in his first year. This would give the Magic added flexibility and time with roster decisions at SG and regarding Afflalo and his place with the team in the future.
What it really comes down to for me, somewhat ironically, is 3pt%.
You aren't drafting McLemore to score 2pt baskets or create offense or defend. Mostly what you are drafting him for is his outside shooting. And Muhammad has been roughly as good of an outside shooter as McLemore. So even if Muhammad "fails" and doesn't become an elite all-star you can still park him in the corner behind the three point line and have him shoot threes and he becomes, in effect, a version of what McLemore has always been destined to be.
(this is still very close for me even with all of the arguments presented)
Winner: Shabazz Muhammad
Nerlens Noel vs Shabazz Muhammad
Oddly enough this is where everyone started at the beginning of the year and here we are coming full circle and ending up back at the top two recruits.
I think that these two players represent the two fundamental needs of this Magic team.
1.) As we've seen when playing top defensive teams like Memphis and Indiana, the Magic offense falls apart against aggressive defenses. Aggressive penetrating offense is sorely lacking on this Magic squad. Not to mention, for the love of god, someone who can get to the free throw line. I think Muhammad could bring a lot of those strengths to the table.
2.) As we've seen against everyone with a marginally talented player that wants to set a career high. The Magic defense could get better in just about every facet of the game. Noel appears to be truly gifted defensive player that could anchor a top tier Magic defense for years to come.
In this case between these two highly talented players that fulfill entirely opposite needs for the Magic I think it comes down to risk.
The way i look at it Noel has two risk factors. The first being his nascent and nearly nonexistent offensive game which is so raw that you have to account for the possibility that it never develops and you end up with an extremely high end Kendrick Perkins. The second is obviously the ACL injury and the possibility that you end up with an extremely exactly Greg Oden.
In some ways Muhammad is the least risky player in the draft period.
I go back to my NBA Comparison of Best Case, poor man's Kobe; Worst Case, rich man's Martin. I'm not even sure that those are different players or if that is just describing a player that we haven't seen yet that is Muhammad.
Going back to the eFG% numbers that we talked about so much about in the semi-final.
Kevin Martin's eFG% for his career is .509.
Kobe Bryant's eFG% for his career is .488.
Shabazz Muhammad's right now is in the middle of the two at .500.
It's a a hard one to call. The top three are very close in my opinion and none of them are flawless prospects but a champion must be crowned.Champion: Shabazz Muhammad (by a nose for the free throw line and a healthy ACL)