NBA Draft 2014: Evaluating Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh, Marcus Smart, and Aaron Gordon

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

In these capsules, Tyler Lashbrook scouts how the fifth-eighth players on the Orlando Pinstriped Post Community Big Board might fit with the Magic.

Tyler Lashbrook opens his series of scouting reports on 2014 NBA Draft prospects with this inside look at the top four players on the Orlando Pinstriped Post Community Big Board. Tyler will make general assessments about the players, and then specifically attend to how they'd fit with the Orlando Magic. - ED

Let's go.

Julius Randle

Height: 6-foot-9
Weight: 250 pounds
Wingspan: 7-foot-0

Kentucky's floor spacing was so cramped all season long. Only three regular rotation guys shot in the 30-percent range behind the arc and the best shot 35.6 percent. College teams wanted the Wildcats to shoot from deep, if it meant getting the ball out of Randle's hands. He routinely faced coverage like this:

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Despite that coverage, he averaged 15 points while shooting 70 percent at the rim and 50 percent from the floor overall. He struggled turning the ball over early, but that facet got better as the season progressed.

There are two main issues with Randle: Rim protection and his perimeter game. I'm a little less worried about rim protection. There was a big fuss made about his wingspan, but he measured better than expected at the combine (7-foot-0) and he's big and strong enough to handle his own in the paint.

The perimeter game is an issue: He won't be able to jam his way into the paint with his left hand in the NBA as easily as he did in college. He'll need to smooth out a mid-range game and become more comfortable using his right hand.

Snippet:

Randle is a forward with a rare combination of power and finesse. He can plow through defenders or spin around them. He shot 9.4 free throws per 40 minutes and sank 71 percent of those attempts. He can grab a rebound and bring the ball up court or sit in the post and work his defender from the block.

He has his shortcomings, of course. Randle will never be an above-average shot blocker, his shot selection still needs some work and he needs to improve his overall perimeter game. But the tools are there. He can come into the NBA and be a productive offensive player from Day 1.

Potential fit in Orlando:

I wrote more on depth about Randle's potential fit with the Magic here. The idea being that Randle would produce from the gate at the power forward spot. He would work really well next to Kyle O'Quinn's rim protection and if Nikola Vucevic continues to improve on that end, that pairing could work, too.

Noah Vonleh

Height: 6-foot-9
Weight: 247 pounds
Wingspan: 7-foot-4.25

I'm less bullish on Vonleh than most people, but mostly because I'm always terrified of guys who make serious climbs during the pre-Draft process. Vonleh is a gifted athlete and rebounder with a massive wingspan; he's also a pretty good shooter. Of course he looks good in workouts!

But what are physical gifts if you don't know how to use them? I think what most concerns me is that he shot just 59.3 percent at the rim. That percentage is horrible for a guy with his size and his athleticism. Embiid is considered raw, too, and he shot 76.3 percent there. Aaron Gordon, with five fewer inches on his wingspan, shot 73 percent at the cup. 59.3 percent is worse than Aaron Craft!

I love the idea of Vonleh: Big, long, athletic, and with good range on his shot. But it's going to take a good deal of coaching to tap out his potential. There is a very long list of guys who looked the part, were drafted in the lottery, and never became what they were supposed to be. I hope that fate doesn't befall Vonleh.

Snippet:

Vonleh has all the physical tools to play power forward in the NBA. He's long, athletic and coordinated. He also fits nicely with the NBA's movement toward floor-spacing bigs. Vonleh shot 48.5 percent from behind the arc and 71.6 percent from the line. He did, however, only shoot 33 three-pointers on the year and that small sample size worked to his favor.

But he needs a ton of work on both ends of floor. He's wildly inconsistent on defense, he needs to learn how to finish around the rim and he has to cut the turnovers. The potential is there because all of the tools are there; it'll just take years to mold him into that.

Potential fit in Orlando: Again, the idea of Vonleh is great. He's long-armed and has the tools to become a good defender and shot blocker, but it's going to take time. If he becomes a floor-stretching four man who can also protect the rim, then he'd be perfect next to Vucevic.

The same general lineup principles that worked for Randle would work for Vonleh. Tobias Harris would work as the sixth man alongside O'Quinn and either Maurice Harkless or Arron Afflalo would fill the small forward position. Or Harris could start at small forward.

Marcus Smart

Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 227 pounds
Wingspan: 6-foot-9.25

Smart is a wildcard. Like, literally, he plays the game of basketball really wild. This style hurts him--he turns the ball over quite a bit and he fouls a bunch--but it also helps him. He's pretty incredible to watch off the ball on defense and his anticipation in the passing lines is unlike anything I've ever seen. He seems to know where the offense is passing the ball before it does.

He's also a much better passer than we give him credit for. He's creative passing around the basket and he's very good at finding shooters on the opposite corner whenever he drives. He turns the ball over a lot, but he actually did a better job of taking care of the ball in his sophomore season than Dwyane Wade did in his sophomore season at Marquette. Wade averaged 4.4 assists to 3.2 turnovers. Smart averaged 4.8 assists to 2.6 turnovers. Wade was the more efficient scorer, but Smart was the better facilitator and took better care of the ball.

Snippet:

Smart has the size (6-foot-3, 227 pounds), length (6-foot-9.25), and feistiness to defend either backcourt spot. His anticipation on that end is fantastic and he'll immediately be one of the strongest guards physically in the NBA. On offense, he's strong enough to get into the paint and cause havoc once he's in there.

But he has to learn how to be in control, as he was against Texas Tech. He can't afford to squander possessions by taking bad shots, and if he does, it'll be difficult to even give him minutes. He will give whatever team that drafts him an edge, but he first needs to smooth himself out.

It's important to note how much variance there was between Smart's best and worst game. Against Texas Tech, he took smart shots, took care of the ball, dominated on defense, and looked like a point guard by finishing with seven assists and zero turnovers. Against West Virginia, however, he was mess, forcing up bad shots, wildly fouling, and turning the ball over three times. He still rebounded well and dished four assists, but he really struggled shooting the ball.

Potential fit in Orlando:

Smart and Victor Oladipo would be a terror on defense. They are both quick and strong enough to defend either backcourt spot and they would generate havoc up top. They would also be able to cross-match in transition and pick up multiple positions.

But I worry about the offense. Not necessarily getting the team within the flow of the offense--I think their combined ability could work, though Smart would take care of most of the handling--but with the shooting. Smart will likely never be a very good shooter, unless he reworks his jumper. Look at how low he brings the ball and how off-balance he is when he catches it:

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And look at how far the ball travels in the pocket of his shot:

Smart4

There's just too much movement from below his waist to above his head. It's tough to have any consistency shooting this way and I worry that it will take a ton of work to iron those kinks out.

Which brings me to Oladipo: I like his mechanics and he shot 38 percent from behind the arc after the All-Star Break, but he will have to stay around that percentage for a full season for the pairing to really work. Otherwise, teams will give up the long range shot and pack the paint on the two, taking away what those two guards do best.

Aaron Gordon

Height: 6-foot-9
Weight: 220 pounds
Wingspan: 6-foot-11.75

Here's the thing about Gordon: We talk a lot about how Kyle Anderson is the most unique, versatile player in the draft, but we should probably start throwing Gordon into that conversation. Gordon can do just about anything on the basketball floor besides shoot.

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He's the only player in the draft who can run a pick-and-roll, be the screener on the pick-and-roll, and defend both spots. At Arizona, he guarded all five positions depending on the opponent's lineup. That ability gives a coach a ton of flexibility on defense, if one of his guys can defend such a variety of spots. His defensive statistics (.09 steals, one block) aren't that impressive, but I'm convinced that they would be higher in a different system. Sean Miller-coached teams play a strict back-line defense and they don't gamble for steals or blocks. They are disciplined, planted, and in the right spots. If Gordon were given the freedom to roam and gamble more, he would have had better numbers on this end.

The problem with Gordon is that his jumper is awful. He's even said that during the season his three-point, mid-range shot, and free throw were all different forms. That's the first time I've heard anyone admit they have that problem. He's a very underrated ballhandler and passer, though, and I think those skills are strong enough that he won't be an absolute minus on offense, but defenses are going to sag way off him and beg him to shoot. I mean...

Gordon1

... We could line up OPP users on either side and run sprints in between where Gordon is and where his defender is playing. NBA defenses will not be afraid to defend Gordon this way until he proves he can at least threaten to knock down outside shots.

Snippet:

Gordon is a very good passer for his size, he's active on the offensive glass (10.4 percent), and he can defend several different positions. He's a bouncy athlete with the skill to play in transition either on the wing or as a ballhandler.

But any team drafting him will have to decide whether he can develop his jumper and whether he'll improve as a free throw shooter. He's still only 18 years old so there's hope for his shot to improve, but it's going to take patience and a lot of work. The team that drafts Gordon would be wise to study what the San Antonio Spurs did to improve Kawhi Leonard's shot coming out of college and duplicate that process.

Potential fit in Orlando:

As much as I like the versatility Gordon brings to the table, and that he's only 18, he would be a very awkward fit for Orlando. The Magic have struggled spacing the floor over the last two years and Gordon would just add those struggles. He isn't a good enough back-to-the-basket player to bring immediate scoring like Randle, and he doesn't project in the same mold that Vonleh does.

Now, if he slipped to No. 12, which I don't think he will, then sure, Orlando can afford to grab him. He could play reserve minutes as a versatile, pace-changing defender and stay on the bench until his shot develops. But I wouldn't reach for him at No. 4, not with the roster Orlando is working with.

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