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June 25, 2009
The Draft Pool
Frontcourt

by Kevin Pelton

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If you haven't done so already, please read yesterday's part one of this two-part series on draft similarity, where I laid out my methodology in addition to looking at the guard positions. Today, we wrap things up with the three frontcourt positions.

SMALL FORWARDS

Mid-First Round

1. Austin Daye, Gonzaga (1.6 WARP)
Age: 20.9 | Projected Stats: 0.343 Win% | 0.457 TS% | 18.5 Usage | 12.3 Reb% | 0.04 Pass

Charlie Villanueva (94.2), Josh Childress (93.7), Joe Alexander (93.0), Cedric Simmons (91.6), Troy Murphy (90.4)

Daye had a disappointing sophomore season, but his similar players still portend a decent NBA future for the Gonzaga forward. Working in Daye's favor is the fact that he is still fairly young, a fine defensive rebounder for a small forward, and a phenomenal shot-blocker. From a statistical perspective, his main area of necessary improvement is simply making shots, especially twos (his translated two-point percentage is 39.5 percent).

2. DaJuan Summers, Georgetown (1.6 WARP)
Age: 21.2 | Projected Stats: 0.344 Win% | 0.518 TS% | 19.4 Usage | 8.3 Reb% | 0.06 Pass

Antoine Wright (96.8), Richard Jefferson (96.1), Sonny Weems (96.1), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (96.0), Kirk Snyder (95.1)

Summers' translated numbers have never been particularly good, and in last year's College Basketball Prospectus I had him under the "scouts like" category of guys whose draft stock was better than their numbers would indicate. Now, by this system, he's underrated. Summers' top five comps tend to be more good than bad (Richard Jefferson props up a lot of wings with poor college numbers, since he has been a much better NBA player than he was a collegian.), but the overall number is pretty solid. Summers was a much more efficient offensive player than Daye in college, but isn't much of a rebounder for a guy who goes 6'8", 240.

3. Danny Green, North Carolina (1.4 WARP)
Age: 21.8 | Projected Stats: 0.468 Win% | 0.493 TS% | 15.3 Usage | 8.6 Reb% | 0.69 Pass

Mike Dunleavy Jr. (94.5), Tarence Kinsey (94.0), Kyle Korver (93.5), D.J. Strawberry (93.4), Brandon Roy (93.3)

While Green's comps are all over the board, as a group they tend to confirm my belief he'll be a steal in the second round or even late in the first. Green is a capable defender who can knock down a shot from the perimeter as well as handle the ball, and guys like that always seem to be valuable in the postseason (see Ariza, Trevor).

4. James Johnson, Wake Forest (1.4 WARP)
Age: 22.2 | Projected Stats: 0.443 Win% | 0.500 TS% | 16.3 Usage | 13.3 Reb% | 0.15 Pass

David Lee (96.1), Lonny Baxter (96.0), Paul Davis (95.8), David West (95.5), Othello Hunter (95.3)

Johnson's comparable players suggest he is more of an undersized power forward than a three-man in the NBA. A spot in the late lottery isn't much of a stretch.

5. DeMarre Carroll, Missouri (1.3 WARP)
Age: 22.7 | Projected Stats: 0.509 Win% | 0.501 TS% | 19.1 Usage | 13.2 Reb% | 0.40 Pass

J.R. Giddens (95.4), David West (94.4), Alan Anderson (94.0), Josh Howard (93.3), Ryan Gomes (93.1)

Carroll's solid translation is boosted by a steal rate third amongst small forwards. The Missouri system required such versatility of its big men that Carroll should have a relatively easy time moving to more of a perimeter role in the NBA. Ryan Gomes is a guy who has made a similar transition with aplomb.

Late First Round

6. Earl Clark, Louisville (1.3 WARP)
Age: 21.3 | Projected Stats: 0.403 Win% | 0.440 TS% | 18.1 Usage | 13.2 Reb% | 0.45 Pass

Richard Jefferson (96.3), Josh Childress (96.3), Troy Murphy (95.7), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (95.6), Joe Alexander (95.2)

Clark has always been a bit enigmatic statistically because of his poor shooting efficiency. Despite being just slightly older, he doesn't get the same bounce as Daye does from using comparable players. If you look at his top five, however, the returns are much more positive.

7. Terrence Williams, Louisville (1.1 WARP)
Age: 21.8 | Projected Stats: 0.491 Win% | 0.435 TS% | 15.5 Usage | 13.0 Reb% | 2.38 Pass

Kyle Weaver (96.1), Tony Allen (94.3), Caron Butler (93.9), Marquis Daniels (93.1), D.J. Strawberry (93.1)

Here's a case where a player is hurt by the use of comparables. Williams' projection is very solid thanks to his incredible versatility--the best steal and assist rates of any small forward and a strong rebound rate as well. However, looking at similar players suggests Williams may have a hard time overcoming his offensive inefficiency. He's a better shooter than some of the other guys in his top five, but struggles to finish inside the arc. Weaver was in a similar position a year ago, though he was more lightly regarded, and had a middling rookie campaign.

8. Chase Budinger, Arizona (0.9 WARP)
Age: 20.9 | Projected Stats: 0.439 Win% | 0.506 TS% | 18.6 Usage | 9.6 Reb% | 0.68 Pass

Antoine Wright (97.3), Marcus A. Williams (97.1), Chris Douglas-Roberts (96.5), Bill Walker (95.7), Rashad McCants (95.7)

There's an ugly group of comparable players. Budinger could become a credible scorer at the NBA level, but is likely to be a major defensive liability at either small forward or shooting guard.

Second Round and Beyond

9. Sam Young, Pittsburgh (0.7 WARP)
Age: 23.9 | Projected Stats: 0.397 Win% | 0.496 TS% | 21.9 Usage | 11.1 Reb% | 0.03 Pass

Al Thornton (94.2), Britton Johnsen (92.6), Carl Landry (91.9), Hanno Mottola (91.3), Dan Gadzuric (90.3)

The biggest red flag on Young is his age, nearly 24. Given he was up to five years older than his competitors, he would have had to be much more dominant at the NCAA level to be a legitimate first-round prospect by the numbers.

10. Derrick Brown, Xavier (0.6 WARP)
Age: 21.6 | Projected Stats: 0.407 Win% | 0.496 TS% | 16.4 Usage | 10.8 Reb% | 0.26 Pass

Malik Hairston (97.9), Antoine Wright (97.1), Tayshaun Prince (96.6), Chris Jefferies (96.5), Joe Alexander (96.2)

11. Paul Harris, Syracuse (0.5 WARP)
Age: 22.5 | Projected Stats: 0.439 Win% | 0.493 TS% | 15.1 Usage | 13.9 Reb% | 0.26 Pass

Alan Anderson (96.6), Joey Graham (95.5), David Lee (95.5), David West (95.4), Craig Smith (95.2)

The best rebounder in a group of small forwards that is strong in that area, Harris ends up similar to several undersized power forwards despite being just 6'4".

POWER FORWARDS

Top 10

1. Blake Griffin, Oklahoma (6.0 WARP)
Age: 20.1 | Projected Stats: 0.627 Win% | 0.561 TS% | 22.8 Usage | 22.2 Reb% | 0.17 Pass

Kevin Love (96.7), Andrew Bogut (96.6), Carlos Boozer (90.9)

In a stunning upset, Griffin comes out as the best NCAA prospect in the 2009 Draft using similarity. The names may seem a little underwhelming, but Bogut and Love were both fine collegians who have been productive in the NBA. Boozer has been my subjective comparison for Griffin, and I think it makes sense in terms of both his strengths and his limitations (detailed in an Every Play Counts I did during the NCAA Tournament).

2. DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh (5.2 WARP)
Age: 20.0 | Projected Stats: 0.714 Win% | 0.514 TS% | 19.4 Usage | 25.8 Reb% | 0.10 Pass

Kevin Love (87.8), Andrew Bogut (82.4), Drew Gooden (81.4)

Using comparable players should, in theory, help with someone like Blair whose size is a concern at the NBA level. Here's the problem: None of the other undersized big men (and I use that term loosely here) have been remotely as productive as Blair was. In fact, Blair's translated winning percentage is far and away the best of any player in my database. I think a lot of NBA people who did not follow the NCAA closely don't have a good sense of how dominant Blair really was last season. His translated offensive rebounding percentage (23.8 percent) would be an NBA record. Blair was really on a level all his own last season, and while his lack of height might limit him to some extent in the NBA, he still figures to be a highly productive player.

3. Jordan Hill, Arizona (1.7 WARP)
Age: 21.7 | Projected Stats: 0.488 Win% | 0.478 TS% | 21.4 Usage | 18.4 Reb% | 0.05 Pass

Nick Fazekas (97.2), D.J. White (97.1), Jason Thompson (96.2), Jason Smith (96.0), Ike Diogu (95.4)

Hill's top five comps don't leap off the page by any stretch of the imagination, but the entire group is good enough to make him the 10th-best prospect by this system. Note the presence of jump-shooting bigs like Fazekas, Thompson and Smith. For a guy who is lauded for his athleticism and frequently compared to Chris Wilcox (who does score a 95.0, though he was two full years younger when he left Maryland), Hill spend an awful lot of his time at Arizona shooting midrange jumpers.

Mid-First Round

4. Leo Lyons, Missouri (1.4 WARP)
Age: 21.9 | Projected Stats: 0.450 Win% | 0.484 TS% | 22.4 Usage | 13.4 Reb% | 0.29 Pass

David Lee (98.0), Paul Davis (95.3), Leon Powe (95.3), Brandon Roy (94.6), Joe Alexander (94.0)

Lyons' two-point percentage and his rebound percentage are concerns. The rest of his game is solid, including his ability to create his own shot and his defensive versatility.

Late First Round

5. Jon Brockman, Washington (1.2 WARP)
Age: 22.1 | Projected Stats: 0.469 Win% | 0.477 TS% | 17.3 Usage | 20.4 Reb% | 0.04 Pass

Wayne Simien (95.9), Leon Powe (95.9), Craig Smith (94.1), Jarron Collins (93.5), Darnell Jackson (93.5)

I've watched (and cheered on) Brockman for four years, but I've never been a big believer in his NBA potential. In this case, the numbers proved much more optimistic. His rebounding figures to translate to the next level; just Blair, Griffin and John Bryant have superior translated rebounding percentages. My concern has always been Brockman's ability to score in the paint and not have his shot blocked, since in addition to being undersized Brockman is not much of a leaper either. Still, in terms of translated winning percentage and comparable players, he looks like a very solid second-round pick.

6. Dante Cunningham, Villanova (1.1 WARP)
Age: 22.0 | Projected Stats: 0.419 Win% | 0.471 TS% | 19.4 Usage | 13.5 Reb% | 0.05 Pass

David Lee (95.6), D.J. White (95.5), Terence Morris (95.2), Leon Powe (94.9), Othello Hunter (94.9)

The next in the group of undersized senior big men, Cunningham enjoyed a breakthrough senior season, but his translated numbers are worst of the group. His comps still come out very solid.

7. Ahmad Nivins, St. Joseph's (1.1 WARP)
Age: 22.2 | Projected Stats: 0.488 Win% | 0.561 TS% | 16.1 Usage | 15.7 Reb% | 0.01 Pass

D.J. White (97.9), Ike Diogu (97.3), Wayne Simien (95.4), David West (95.1), Paul Davis (94.7)

I really like Nivins, whom you might know from Adrian Wojnarowski's The Miracle of St. Anthony, which dealt with Bob Hurley and St. Anthony's Prep during Nivins' time there. He's developed into a very strong offensive player whose translated 56.1 percent True Shooting is fifth amongst all prospects I rated. Nivins did a terrific job of getting to the free-throw line and hit a solid percentage there, boosting his numbers.

8. Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina (0.8 WARP)
Age: 23.5 | Projected Stats: 0.490 Win% | 0.525 TS% | 20.5 Usage | 13.5 Reb% | 0.02 Pass

Al Thornton (93.4), Carl Landry (92.5), J.R. Giddens (89.9)

Had Hansbrough come out after his junior season, his comparables would have been much stronger. As it is, he's dragged down in large part by his age--he played last season at 23. Even taking that away, Hansbrough's translated winning percentage was good but not phenomenal, and his rebounding was a surprising liability. If he goes late in the first round, I'm not convinced Hansbrough will be a great value. For a more positive perspective, check out my Every Play Counts on Hansbrough prior to the NCAA Tournament.

Second Round and Beyond

9. Robert Dozier, Memphis (0.7 WARP)
Age: 23.5 | Projected Stats: 0.446 Win% | 0.500 TS% | 15.0 Usage | 12.6 Reb% | 0.08 Pass

J.R. Giddens (96.4), Alexander Johnson (95.4), Al Thornton (94.6), Rob Kurz (94.6), Jackson Vroman (94.2)

Dozier looks like a pretty solid defender at the NBA level, though his offense is still a work in progress. If he can continue to develop his perimeter game, having hit 21 three-pointers as a senior, he'll help his chances tremendously.

10. Jeff Adrien, Connecticut (0.6 WARP)
Age: 23.2 | Projected Stats: 0.405 Win% | 0.452 TS% | 15.7 Usage | 14.8 Reb% | 0.11 Pass

Hakim Warrick (95.7), Dan Gadzuric (94.8), Lonny Baxter (93.9), Rob Kurz (93.9), David West (93.4)

The similarity system struggles a little with Adrien because of the combination of his age and his size (a rotund 6'7", 243). His translated numbers are nowhere near as impressive as the other power forwards in the same range using comparable players.

11. Jeff Pendergraph, Arizona State (0.6 WARP)
Age: 22 | Projected Stats: 0.491 Win% | 0.590 TS% | 15.8 Usage | 15.8 Reb% | 0.04 Pass

D.J. White (97.2), Darnell Jackson (96.3), Wayne Simien (96.3), Jarron Collins (94.7), Nick Fazekas (94.7)

Pendergraph is a big loser from the use of comparables, as his translated winning percentage was better than any power forward outside of Blair and Griffin. I suspect the big issue is that so much of Pendergraph's value is tied up in his two-point percentage, which doesn't tend to translate cleanly from the NCAA to the pros, especially for role players.

12. Josh Heytvelt, Gonzaga (0.3 WARP)
Age: 22.8 | Projected Stats: 0.375 Win% | 0.507 TS% | 16.8 Usage | 11.0 Reb% | 0.01 Pass

Jarron Collins (98.0), Hakim Warrick (94.4), Lonny Baxter (93.7), Brian Cook (93.6), Darnell Jackson (93)

On the offensive end, Heytvelt has some skills, but he was a very poor rebounder last season and has never been much of a shot-blocker. The similarity system doesn't like that combination at all.

CENTERS

Top Ten

1. B.J. Mullens, Ohio State (1.8 WARP)
Age: 20.2 | Projected Stats: 0.411 Win% | 0.538 TS% | 17.9 Usage | 14.0 Reb% | 0.00 Pass

DeAndre Jordan (97.0), Marreese Speights (94.8), J.J. Hickson (94.7), Robin Lopez (94.7), Charlie Villanueva (94.4)

Could there be a more poetic similarity than Mullens and Jordan? Both sure lottery picks had they been able to enter the NBA Draft out of high school, they had underwhelming freshmen seasons before entering the draft as one-and-dones. It seems the comparison will end on draft night; while Jordan slipped to the second round, Mullens seems likely to go just after the lottery. That actually seems reasonable, given his combination of age and decent production. Don't expect instant results, but the potential is there.

Late First Round

2. John Bryant, Santa Clara (0.9 WARP)
Age: 21.9 | Projected Stats: 0.583 Win% | 0.519 TS% | 19.6 Usage | 22.8 Reb% | 0.03 Pass

Aaron Gray (94.5), Roy Hibbert (90.8), David Harrison (89.5)

In terms of translated winning percentage, Bryant ranks behind just Blair and Griffin. Here, the similarity system does its job, comparing him to other slow-footed big men with strong college numbers. Even with the adjustment, Bryant still comes out as an underrated prospect who should go somewhere in the second round. As a third center, you could do much worse.

Second Round and Beyond

3. Goran Suton, Michigan State (0.6 WARP)
Age: 23.7 | Projected Stats: 0.506 Win% | 0.520 TS% | 14.6 Usage | 18.8 Reb% | 0.16 Pass

Alexander Johnson (92.8), Carl Landry (92), Al Thornton (91.6), J.R. Giddens (90.3)

After boosting his stock during the NCAA Tournament, Suton seems to have slipped back off the radar. He's of similar value to Bryant--someone who could be taken in the second round and play minutes next season without embarrassing himself.

4. Chris Johnson, LSU (0.5 WARP)
Age: 23.8 | Projected Stats: 0.386 Win% | 0.406 TS% | 12.8 Usage | 13.9 Reb% | 0.07 Pass

Dan Gadzuric (86.8), Britton Johnsen (85.6), Melvin Ely (85.0)

Any elite shot-blocker gets some workouts this time of year as teams look for the next Ben Wallace, I suppose. Johnson is a definite pass. His translated two-point percentage of 36.3 percent is third-worst amongst all prospects and far and away the worst of any big man.

5. Taj Gibson, USC (0.5 WARP)
Age: 23.8 | Projected Stats: 0.544 Win% | 0.537 TS% | 15.9 Usage | 16.2 Reb% | 0.05 Pass

Melvin Ely (91.8), Joey Dorsey (91.5), Dan Gadzuric (90.4), Stephane Lasme (90.2)

6. Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut (0.3 WARP)
Age: 22.2 | Projected Stats: 0.563 Win% | 0.562 TS% | 14.4 Usage | 17.5 Reb% | 0.00 Pass

David Harrison (91.8), Aaron Gray (88.5), Channing Frye (88.1)

Taking the latter two together here, both Gibson and Thabeet suffer in the similarity method from their uniqueness. There simply aren't a lot of shot-blockers in the database on their level, so both end up compared to inferior players. I also put together a projected score based solely on age and translated winning percentage, and by this Thabeet shoots into his rightful place in the draft's top 10, while Gibson is solidly in the first round. If age is taken out of the equation, Thabeet comes out most similar to Brendan Haywood (older) and Emeka Okafor (younger) and somewhere in between those two sounds reasonable. I do think the second pick is a bit high for Thabeet, but read nothing into his score by this measure. As for Gibson, his age is a major concern, but he should be a contributor as a rookie.

Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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