Draft Preview # 2.4: Prospect Evaluation

Written by Ian Ellis (iellis2018@yahoo.com)

‘Sup folks, today we look at the most important part of the draft, the players (duh). Let’s see who the heck these people are, their strengths & weaknesses and how they would fit in with our Knicks. There are three tiers I will place all the players in: the hopefuls, the most likely and the buy-a-picks.

Buy-a-Picks

Alright, we’re finally at the end. The Knicks have been rumored to be active shoppers of a second round pick, so these are some players that could be avaliable to pick in the second round. What was my criteria for these players? Well, I just picked some players I liked and whom I think could fit with the Knicks.

Pat Connaughton

Pat Connaughton

NBA Player Comparison: Danny Green

Highlights: HERE

 

Pat Connaughton is probably the player on this list you should keep your eye on the most, as he is planned to workout with the Knicks. Conaughton, a senior wing (SG or maybe SF in small-ball lineups) out of Notre Dame, opened most eyes at the NBA combine where he posted a ridiculous 44” vertical. The reason I have Connaughton as one of my buy-a-picks is because I absolutely love his ‘3 & D’ role player potential. He has good size at 6’5”, has a good solid frame, and as already mentioned is a crazy good athlete. With his physical profile, he is a solid on ball defender (look at this block!), good help defender (averaged 0.9 blocks) and is also a good rebounder at his position as he averaged 7.4 rebounds. In addition, he is a 3 point marksman as he shot the 3 at a 42% clip. Also, while he only averaged 1.5 assists his senior year, his junior year he averaged 3 (probably due to his decline in minutes and the offense being more oriented toward Jerian Grant handling the ball), so I don’t worry about his passing skills. All these good attributes together make me love him because he seems like an ideal role player, someone who can shoot 3’s, rebound, pass and defend.  In terms of weaknesses, he’s already 22 so he’s not gonna get a lot better overall and he is not a particularly good driver, but remember, a team who is drafting  him is drafting him to get a role solid player, not a star, therefore these weaknesses are not that impacting. In terms of player comparison, Danny Green is perfect. Danny Green was a second round pick (Connaughton is projected to be one), both players are 3 point marksmen, good rebounders for their position and good defenders. His Knick fit is perfect because he’s not going to command the ball, he can come off the bench (most likely) or start (if the odds fall that way) and just do anything to impact the game.

Robert Upshaw

Robert Upshaw

NBA Player Comparison: Festus Ezeli

Highlights: HERE

 

Robert Upshaw could be the biggest steal in the draft, but he could also be the biggest J.R of the draft (or biggest idiot, if you didn’t get the reference). Upshaw averaged 10.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and a whopping 4.5 blocks (7.2 per 40 min!) in his 19 games with the Washington Huskies this year. At the NBA draft combine, he measured at a good 7’0” and an with an insane 7’5” wingspan, and he is a very athletic player. With these tools, Upshaw is bound to be a NBA rim protector and rebounder. On the other side of the court, Upshaw has no offensive game (besides put back dunks and that sort) whatsoever and posted a putrid 43% free throw percentage. Even with these weaknesses, Upshaw still sounds like a first round prospect, but then come the off court issues. Upshaw was first dismissed from Fresno State in the 2012-13 season and then he was dismissed in the past season (2014-15) from the University of Washington (which is why he only played 19 games). Because of this, there are some serious questions about Upshaw’s character & habit off the court. Teams need to be careful to see if these issues are legit because teams do not want bad locker room attitudes. Upshaw is comparable to Festus Ezeli as they are both athletic centers who block’s shots, get rebounds and bring energy with their athleticism and size.  Before I go over to Knick Fit, let me make this clear: if Upshaw gets all his off court problems and gets rid of them, he could very much be the next Deandre Jordan (also a former second rounder), an athletic big man who is a top notch defender, shot blocker and rebounder, that also has no offensive game that hurts his team sometimes (hack-a-shaq). This is why Upshaw is could be the biggest steal of the draft, on one hand you could have a player that while has talent, he has too many off court issues to even play for an NBA team, or on the other you get Deandre Jordan, a defensive anchor who will probably get a max deal this summer. Anyways, finally to Knick fit. If he can keep his problems away from the team, he can serve as an athletic serviceable backup center that will bring defense whenever he enters. If he starts acting up, just cut him because he would be a second round pick.

Rakeem Christmas

Rakeem Christmas

NBA Player Comparison: Taj Gibson

Highlights: HERE

 

Rakeem Christmas was a late bloomer from Syracuse. After doing not much his freshman through junior season, the former McDonald’s All American averaged 17.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in his senior year. Christmas has a decent back to the basket post game, has a respectable free throw percentage (71%), showcased an improved midrange at the draft combine and is athletic enough to get up for dunks and finishes around the the rim. On defense, he uses his athleticism and his great 7’5” wingspan to block shots. Christmas’s weaknesses are his height, age, and questions on his fundamentals on defense. Christmas, who played center in college, is only 6′ 9.75″ meaning that he won’t play center in the NBA and will have to move over to PF. It remains to be seen if he will be able to adjust to that. Another weakness is his age, as he is already 23 and will not get that much better as he enters the league. Finally, there are some questions on defense, because teams aren’t sure if Christmas will be as good as a shot blocker in the NBA because he will no longer just be standing in the the paint of Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 defense for 35 seconds. Christmas is very similar to Taj Gibson because both measure the same size of 6′ 9.75″ and are athletic big men who are good shot blockers and rebounders who also have decent jump shots and post moves. With the Knicks, his floor would be a nice backup big man (which it seems like the Knicks never seem to have one of those) and his ceiling is a solid NBA caliber starting PF who is a good defender and rebounder who while is not relied on for offense, is still a capable option in the post or pick & pop.

Whoa, we’re finally done with the players. If you missed the earlier parts, here are parts 2.1, 2.2 & 2.3. If you guys want to do some more research on these players, or on different players I didn’t mention at all (Kristaps Porzingis maybe?) by yourself, some good places are DraftExpress and nbadraft.net.
Next Time: Mock Draft

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