Posted by: Kingsguru21 | June 18, 2011

Kawhi Leonard, Jimmer Fredette, Alec Burks and the others involved at 7

So. Kawhi Leonard. Jimmer Fredette. Alec Burks. All 3 of these guys are in play (along with Klay Thompson or Brandon Knight if he drops to 7) right now for the 7th pick.

Let me make one thing clear before I start all this up: I prefer a trade for a veteran that could start from day 1. That veteran I prefer most is Andre Igoudala, but I would not be upset by a few other guys out there. Okay now that’s out of the way, onto the rest of the post.

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First Fredette. Jimmer mania is already starting to peak and hit it’s crescendo. (The fact that Sactown Royalty has quite a few active LDS members doesn’t hurt the cause.) But Jimmer mania is not a religious phenomenon in of itself; it’s more a debate about Jimmer Fredette himself. Can he run a team, can he play passable defense on small G’s at the NBA level and will his scoring/shooting translate well to the next level?

A) I don’t know but I doubt it B) I doubt it and C) he wouldn’t be a lottery pick if he couldn’t shoot and/or score at the rate that Jimmer did over his Junior and Senior seasons at BYU.

But, and I agree wtih Peter Newmann/Dean Oliver on one point: You can’t argue that Jimmer Fredette is a real PG. Especially when he played with Jackson Emery for 4 seasons. (Who is a combo G.) Especially when Emery is not a pass first combo G at that. (Before you get your panties in a twist about the Newmann/Oliver post, they reserved some possibility about Irving’s potential to bust as the 1st overall pick. It’s just that kind of draft.)

I don’t see the Mike Bibby comps being thrown around either. Bibby was, A, a lot more accomplished by 19 than Fredette was for one thing. Two, Bibby was a lot more of a facilitating PG than Fredette was at the college level. Three, Bibby ran an offense for the Grizzlies for 3 years with little success (in part because of the talent level of the Grizz). Four, Fredette is 22 and will be 23 by the middle of the season. When Bibby was 23, he was playing his first season with Sacramento. That was, in case you’ve forgotten, Bibby’s 4th NBA season by then.

I don’t really see why the Kings would take a 4th G when it comes to Kyrie Irving or Brandon Knight. And that of course applies to Jimmer Fredette, and hell Kemba Walker while we are on the topic for that matter, too. It’s not anti-Jimmer so much as I don’t see how a 4th G makes your team better next season. Which is what the Kings need more than any single thing right now. 4th G’s are very easy to find. And, right now, the Kings have such a dire need at the 3/wing spot that it almost can’t be overlooked.

But I’ll be honest here: I’m not sure how much better Kyrie Irving or Brandon Knight are when compared to Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette either. All of those guys have strengths and flaws.

When I started writing this about 4 hours ago last night, I was starting to get a deja-vu feeling. This is why.

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Kawhi Leonard. He has his strengths (rebounding, defense, athletic, wingspan, energetic) but has plenty of flaws (floats in & out of games concentration wise, poor shooter, inefficient offensively) on the flip side of this coin.

First things first: Would Kawhi Leonard even be guaranteed to be there at 7. The answer to that is clearly no, although, I must say, it’s seeming more & more like he will be there at 7 provided the current order does not change. (If Jonathan Givony is to be believed, there might be a big shakeup that changes how the draft is viewed next week. In my experience, I take this stuff with a grain of salt. On a side note, click on that link and listen to the podcast with Jon Santiago/James Ham and Givony. Interesting stuff, and the series of podcasts Santiago/Ham have been doing are excellent.)

Having said that, and I wonder about this a bit, why would a team trade into the top 6 picks (the Cavs and Wizards are not said to be looking to move their current picks) if they can trade into the lower lottery and get the same quality of player? Just one of more than a few questions surrounding this draft that the next 6 days will answer.

Which brings me back to Leonard. When I first looked at his numbers, I looked at his TS%. It’s extremely low at 51.2%, but on the flip side of quite a bit too high, so is the USG% at 27.5%. At the NBA level, anything higher than 20 USG% would be extremely high for Kawhi Leonard. Besides, I think a big reason that Leonard’s offense was so inefficient was due to the lack of a real offensive creator for SDSU. As a result, Leonard was pigeonholed into that role. If you take away about 10% of those total possessions for the season, it’s possible he ends up in a 57-60 TS% range if his shot becomes improved. (This is total hyperbole. I, of course, am projecting and hoping this is the case. But I will explain why I feel this could be the case.)

Draft Express did a video breakdown that has a good breakdown of Leonard as a player. I suggest watching it.

What I think Kawhi Leonard will do from day one is rebound at a high rate, defend the perimeter well, and be active. The Kings absolutely need that. The question is offense, and, to be honest, looking at Kawhi Leonard’s TO rate, especially in conjunction with his low TS%, I expected that Leonard’s TOV% would be higher than 14.6%. Alec Burks, after all, is at 14.8 TOV% and that’s not incredibly high.

If you read what I wrote about a month ago (which isn’t that hard because I’ve only written 1 piece since), I’m going to second guess what I wrote then. For 2 reasons: I think Leonard can be coaxed to be more efficient offensively (which was the biggest issue I had) with less shot attempts. He will make his living in the NBA defending, rebounding, being active, scoring in transition and wide open perimeter looks. If he can do it that is. The other reason is that I’m not convinced that Leonard’s greatest weakness (shooting) is worse than Knight’s weaknesses (not incredible defensively and turnover prone) or Burks weaknesses (mainly outside shooting and can Burks play the SF spot)

The question is: Do the Kings believe that?

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Speaking of Brandon Knight, I don’t love him. I just don’t. I’m on the outside of the Brandon Knight support group at the moment, but I don’t think Knight’s greatest strengths (shooting/scoring) outweigh the Kings need for wing presence and production. (Kawhi Leonard also has a higher ORtg than Brandon Knight believe it or not.) And, again, the 4th G argument sways me. The Kings don’t need a 4th G. They have one in Pooh Jeter assuming they wish to keep him. And with Pooh, there will be no pressure to get him time based on how high he was picked in the draft. That wouldn’t be the case if you draft Knight, Walker or Fredette.

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For awhile, I was going to push Marshon Brooks and Alec Burks as total sleepers in the slot of 7th overall. You’ve read my recent post about draft slots mostly being in the eye of the beholder and not necessarily because of a real consensus. I contend that’s true and that usually a top 10 of the draft doesn’t take until the week prior to the draft to solidify. (This is what happens when 4 potential top 10 picks pull out or don’t enter the draft as expected.)

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I’m torn about Alec Burks. I’m not convinced Burks is a reasonable shot at SF. Then again, Francisco Garcia weights 195 lbs and plays SF sometimes. So here is the issue with Burks. He’s not a great outside shooter (and neither is Leonard), and can get to the cup at a high rate. Burks draws fouls which is not an easy skill to replace. But can he defend SF’s? I don’t know, and the answer is neither does anyone else I suspect. This is probably going to be a matter of opinion moving forward and there is little way to settle this.

Marshon Brooks is another guy that I think the Kings may end up working out (although at this point in time Brooks is not scheduled for a workout), but, like Burks, I wonder how much Brooks can defend the SF spot. Partly, Brooks late blooming status is a bit of an issue given it didn’t translate to much success for Providence. Brooks is a terrific physical specimen (similar to Burks in that he’s rather athletic and similar to Leonard in that he has a good body and long arms) but Brooks, who is a Senior and 22 years old, is not 20 years old coming off terrific sophomore seasons like Burks or Leonard.

Which is why I think there are so many people wary of Marshon Brooks right now. These are all good reasons that just can’t be dropped because you want to take a risk. Even though I don’t think the Kings will take Brooks at 7, ruling him out based on those things alone seems a bit premature to me. If you don’t want Brooks because you think Kawhi Leonard is a better talent or player, fine. But because Brooks is 22? Not good enough. Because Providence was a below average team? Not good enough. The Kings worked out Paul George last year. Assuminng Marshon Brooks isn’t capable of growth because he’s 22 is silly. Believing that Kawhi Leonard has shown more at a younger age making him a more reasonable bet to tap his talent is not a silly argument. If the late bloomer thing was true, Danny Granger and Brandon Roy wouldn’t have been selected in the top 20 of the draft in either year they came out (Granger went 17th in 2005 and Roy went 6th in 2006). Late bloomers are not the best talent base to hope of a coming of age party, but, at the same time, late bloomers can’t be discounted either. It’s rather simple; in a draft where everyone is a risk, there isn’t really one risk that is especially greater than another. It’s as much personal preference as anything.

Also, it’s not like Jason Thompson wasn’t a late bloomer who was very under the radar when he came out of Rider in 2008. Oh wait, that’s different. He’s 6’11. My bad. (Stupid double standards. / Muttering )

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For me, this is about Leonard vs Burks. I doubt Marshon Brooks comes into play because he’s a shot jacker and that’s not necessarily something the Kings need with Evans, Cousins, and Thornton already in the mix. (If Burks is off the board, I wouldn’t necessarily bet against the Bucks looking at Marshon Brooks at 10. If Burks is on the board, I’d take him if I were the Bucks.)

Yesterday, Chad Ford displayed his tiered system (insider only sorry). Essentially it’s which players fit where in terms of talent. There are no tier 1’s (the last tier 1 talent was Blake Griffin and probably Derrick Rose or Kevin Durant before that) in this draft. A Tier 1 is a clear franchise superstar and/or an All-Star level player. Tier 2 is a potential All-Star or a very good player. But there is some bust potential.

One other point about Brooks from David Thorpe and his Insider writeup on June 2nd:

Brooks does share something with Kobe as an offensive player that is not so good — he takes bad shots. No player I’ve studied this season had worse shot selection than Brooks, who took 197 3-pointers, just 22 fewer than the number of free throws he earned. As a comparison, Kobe shot at least twice as many free throws as 3-pointers each season from his second NBA season to his eighth. For his college career, Brooks attempted 475 3s (and made 33 percent) and 402 free throws. Kobe, even after many seasons in which his somewhat worn-out legs forced him to take a lot more 3s, has still never even come close to taking as many 3s as he has free throws made in any season. For his career, he’s made over 7,000 free throws and attempted 4,185 3s.

Now, on the season, Burks attempted 3 times more FT’s than 3’s. Leonard was a bit short of doubling his FT total over his 3’s. Brooks, though, took about 20 more FT’s than 3’s. (Leonard took about 60 more FT’s than 3’s.)

This is one reason I’m not as in love with Marshon Brooks as others. But, Brooks is talented enough that he’s worth taking a risk on. Were Geoff Petrie to take him at 7, as opposed to Leonard or Burks, I would understand why.

Right now, and I think in part I’m going to start drinking the Kawhi Leonard kool-aid because I like the kid, and because I think Leonard has a chance to be something worthwhile and perhaps special at the NBA level. Is it a risk?

Of course it’s a risk. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t rather have Perry Jones or even possibly Terrence Jones. But, they aren’t in the draft so the point is moot. Gotta draft the guys that are there, and right now Kawhi Leonard is one.

I do think that right now, it’s very likely that Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, Enes Kanter, Jonas Valanciunas, Brandon Knight and either Jan Vesely or Kemba Walker are gone by the time the Kings pick at 7. Of all the top 10 guys in this draft, I can see Kemba Walker falling out of the top 10 or lottery. I don’t know why exactly, but it’s just a feeling I’ve got. Of course, I also said I would set myself on fire if the Kings selected DeMarcus Cousins. So yeah.

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My gut is telling me that this is coming down to Leonard and Burks. On one hand Leonard is clearly the better rebounder (although Burks is pretty good in that department), the better defender, and longer. He’s also built to play the SF which is something the Kings really need.

Burks is a slasher which is not a great complement unless you’re playing him off the bench. Then, perhaps, if Burks shooting improves in the next season or two, he becomes that complementary player to Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins you are looking for.

In otherwords, I think the belief that Leonard could tone down his offense, acquire better shot selection due to expectations of shooting less, and in general improve at shooting is perhaps balanced by the idea that Burks could possibly defend the SF, shoot better and be a better complement.

Of the two, I see Leonard’s ascension and transition to be an offensive role player easier and more likely at the NBA level than Burks’ transition to offensive role player who has to pick his spots. I’d be surprised if Burks lasts past the Bobcats or Bucks since they are both offensively challenged and in need of 2-guards, but, well, strange things have happened.

Unless you’re the Kings, and who knows how they feel about Jan Vesely at this point (although Amick, Givony and Ford have all mentioned that GP & Co do like Vesely), I would have to think that right now you’re probably feeling that Kawhi Leonard, Alec Burks and Jan Vesely represent, in that order, the best chances of success.

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So it’s settled. Kawhi Leonard it is. Unless it isn’t.

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