The NBA Finals are taking place right now, but unless you’re a Heat or Spurs fan, your season is over. The time is now to start looking to next year and how your favorite team will improve to put them in the situation to be in a future NBA Finals. The process of getting better during the off-season begins June 27th with the NBA draft. This year’s NBA draft doesn’t have the one guy that makes you stand up and say, “Yes, we’ve got our future franchise guy.” Instead, this draft is very deep with talent. When the draft ends this year, you can expect that agents will be getting calls from several teams to get undrafted guys into summer leagues. I’m going to break down 10 guys that can be very helpful to a team in the future. Some you may know, and some that you may not have heard of before.
It’s no surprise that Nerlens Noel was probably the best player in the draft before he tore his ACL. The guy many believe could be the #1 pick, if the Cavaliers shy away from Noel, is Otto Porter from Georgetown. Porter is a 6’9″ small forward, coming into this year’s NBA draft after a sophomore season at Georgetown. Otto is a very smart basketball player and averaged only 1.5 turnovers per game. The scouts across the NBA have noticed his ability to improve, from his freshman to sophomore year, which means this 19-year-old kid will probably only get better as his NBA career goes on. The one knock on Porter is that he may have trouble creating his own shot, as could’ve only have been a problem within Georgetown’s system. However, scouts aren’t ignoring the problem.
Trey Burke, the National Player of the year, has to find his way into any NBA draft article you read, as he’s a very interesting player. He became well known while leading Michigan to a National Championship appearance. Burke is short for the position he needs to play, but the scouts seem to think he can make up for it with his above average wingspan. He is very quick in the open court, and can shoot very well, but sometimes he struggles on the inside if he gets to the basket. Trey lacks the explosiveness in his game to become elite around the basket in the NBA. Burke is known for being the best guard in the draft off the pick and roll, and brings a complete package to the table for NBA teams to look at. He’s considered by some to be the best point guard in this year’s NBA draft, and barring an injury, should have a nice NBA career as a starter.
The once highly recruited freshman played only one year at UCLA before declaring for the NBA draft. Muhammed is a 6’6″ small forward who many think will go in the late teens. Shabazz is a good athlete, but isn’t a great one, as he relies on instinct and his strength to make plays. Muhammad will score a ton of points in transition and get to the free throw line a lot during a game, as he’s known for crashing the glass and getting to the hoop. He can spot up and score but will struggle in the isolation to create things for himself. Muhammad is also primarily left handed and very rarely goes to his right, which can make him predictable to the defender, something he will have to improve on in the NBA.
CJ comes into this year’s NBA draft, after a senior season at Lehigh University where he became widely known after leading his team to an upset over the Duke Blue Devils. He’s coming off a major foot injury that sidelined him for the end of his college career, and has scouts taking a much closer look at him now to make sure he’s recovering properly. Before the injury, McCollum was showing much improved shooting from his junior year, but only in a small sample of games he played in. CJ can create his own shot in one-on-one, and uses ball screens well to get open. He’s known as a truly unpredictable defensive assignment; he can use his quickness to score from just about anywhere on the court. If he wants to become an elite guard at the next level, he must improve on his leadership skills, as he will need to play the point in the NBA due to his size. McCollum will be a lottery pick, but has the potential to be a bust if he’s not able to improve on being a better point guard than just a shooter at the next level.
Giannis Adetokunbo or GA, as we will refer to him for the rest of this write-up, is a 6’9″ small forward from Greece. He’s known for being a good ball handler and passer for his size as he’s brought the ball up the floor in quite a few of his games on the international level. He’s a very versatile player with great size and length to defend his opponent. GA is a guy of whom little is known due to his competition level, but scouts see a guy with a tremendous amount of upside that may be worth taking a gamble on. He is very young and is still growing, as he’s grown 8 cm in the past 10 months. Scouts hope as he develops, it will bring more lower body strength to improve his leaping ability. If GA becomes more balanced on the defensive end, he has the potential to be a huge get for a team in the early 20’s range of the draft.
Kelly Olynyk played 3 seasons at Gonzaga, and was a key piece on a team that, at one time, was ranked #1 in the nation this past season. Olynyk is 7’0″ tall and plays the center position with a lot of energy. Kelly has an interesting past at Gonzaga. He chose to sit out his junior year to red-shirt, and come back once his position had opened up. He also benefited a ton from such a decision. He no longer will settle for a spot up shooter and takes the ball to the rim embracing the role of a finisher in the post. The thing that separates Olynyk from most centers is his size, as well as his ability to step outside the paint and shoot a jumper. The knock on Olynyk from scouts is the fact he ranked in the top 10 in turnovers among prospects for this year’s draft, as he can often try to do too much. Kelly will have to improve on the defensive end of the floor to play the center position in the NBA. He’s a guy that will go mid-first round, as some team will see him as a very energetic inside player to help their team.
Nate Wolters is a 6’4′ point guard from South Dakota State, who can flat-out score with the basketball. Nate is the Summit League player of the year, which looks great for him, but the NBA scouts question the level of competition that Wolters faced. He has all the size to fit the point guard description well but lacks the wingspan to make him perfect. The NBA scouts are well aware that Wolters is a lights-out shooter, but fear his size will make him a defensive liability. Nate’s leadership is not really in question; he handled more than 60% of the offense at SDSU, and can run an offense for an NBA team as he develops. Wolters uses his skills to get away from the defender and create his own shot, which should give him a chance at being a 1st round draft choice on the 27th.
Canaan was known for his recent success during his junior year in which he carried a Murray State team to the NCAA tournament with only 1 loss. They were the last undefeated team that year in the NCAA and brought a ton of exposure for Canaan. Isaiah made the decision to go back to school for his senior year, which was a tough act to follow from his previous year. He is a 6’1″ point guard who is a primary ball handler and accounted for nearly a third of Murray State’s offense. Canaan is a shoot first guard, who is very comfortable in shooting off the dribble, from just about any where on the court. He’s a very good 3-point shooter, who will improve with work in the NBA. The knock on him is that Isaiah has trouble once he gets inside, finding the open guys to score. Isaiah will make a great pick in the late 1st or early 2nd round; he’s a kid who is willing to listen and get better.
Seth Curry is the brother of Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, who had an amazing NBA season this year, which may cause scouts to look at Seth a little closer. Curry played his freshman year at Liberty before transferring to Duke to play the rest of his college career. The obvious strength for Seth is his shooting, with the ability to shoot lights out at times. He’s a project for any team that chooses to take him because he lacks the athleticism and size to be a good point guard in the NBA. The work ethic of Curry will help him though as he will do everything he can to make his game better in the NBA. There is a very good chance that you’ll be hearing Seth’s name in the 2nd round of the draft.
Livio is a 6’9″ forward coming to the NBA from Villeurbanne International. The 20-year-old is known for stealing the show at the 2013 Nike Hoops Summit; he did more for himself than any other player in attendance. Charles has good speed and is known for his defensive play. He could become a guy who shuts down either forward position for a team as his frame improves. Livio is going to have to work on his jump shot and ball handling abilities, as they are liabilities to his game. He has to also get stronger to be able to defend other power forwards in the NBA, as most are already too much for him to handle at this time. Charles will go in the second round. This guy has the potential, with work, to be great in the NBA.
These 10 guys are the ones I’ve got my eye on in the draft. I think they all have the potential to surprise some people with their talent. The International superstars are the ones that I found the most interesting. I personally can’t wait to watch their game develop after I watched some highlights of their game. I’d love to hear from some of you out there on Twitter on what you think about these guys.