2010 Draft Preview: Oh, that tantalizing size you have …

“A guy that’s big, so we know he’ll rebound and block shots, and we hope to see him learn how to do something else one day.”

In my initial NBA Draft preview post, I covered some players that fit the “he’s athletic, perhaps we can build on this” mold. Today, I’ll take a look at a few guys with good size that project as good rebounders or shot blockers, but could be a little bit more. If there’s anyone missing, don’t worry, I may be taking a look at them later. Specifically I’m referring to Hassan Whiteside, who falls into a different category I have coming.

The waiting will only make it better, I assure you. In the mean time, I’ll present this glorious video. It really paints a good picture of what I like and don’t like about Daniel Orton.

Yes, Orton missed on his dunk that broke the backboard. Troubling, no?

Now, let’s delve into the wonderful world of big men.

  • Larry Sanders

DraftExpress.com Mock: 18 Miami Heat
NBADraft.net Mock: 18 Miami Heat

DraftExpress makes no bones about how they think Larry Sanders can most immediately play a role in the NBA.

Running the floor is where Sanders might be able to contribute the most to an NBA team right off the bat.

Remember Vegas Summer League circa 2009? Amir Johnson and Brandon Jennings formed quite a highlight reel tag team and hooked up for numerous crowd pleasing alley-oops. Once the regular season started and Johnson was gone, we saw Jennings frequently find Andrew Bogut skying above the defense for the easy catch and dunk, but Jennings didn’t really have a running partner to toss lobs to. Especially once Hakim Warrick was shipped out. Sanders could hopefully step in and fill that void and make it easier for the Bucks to get out in transition, something they rarely did last season.

At a reported 6’11” and 230 pounds, Sanders has the necessary size for the power forward position, but according to DraftExpress, lacks defensive stability inside at his current faze in his development. Despite being a good shot blocker, he often struggled even in the Colonial League.

… he still has a long way to go before being able to defend stronger and more versatile post players in the NBA. His lack of strength hurts him, but sometimes he looks passive when guarding his man.

Standing up to a challenge and failing simply because the other player is bigger, stronger or more talented is one thing, but if a player of Sanders’ considerable size and athleticism is getting beat because he’s passive, that may not fly in Milwaukee. Big men often run into the passive problem. They’ve been bigger than everyone else their whole life and often become passive simply to fit in. Sometimes it’s reflected on the court. Maybe it’s something Sanders is willing to work on. If it is, he might be a fit in Milwaukee, though it sounds like he’s not going to be the instant help many Bucks fans are aching for at the four. Sanders sounds like the classic project big man and already has me thinking of Marcus Haislip.

  • Daniel Orton

DraftExpress.com Mock: 13 Toronto Raptors
NBADraft.net Mock: 20 San Antonio Spurs

Sometimes, it’s what teams don’t see that helps players the most come draft time. Take this example about DeSagana Diop from Ian O’Connor’s Sebastian Telfair book “The Jump”.

“He had them all fooled; they all thought he was the next Shaq. Two years before DeSagana was drafted, he couldn’t make a left-handed layup.”

By skipping out on college and impressing front office types with his incredible length and potential based solely on the fact that he was raw, Diop was drafted 8th overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers. With that, he was promptly on his way to NBA journeyman status and a career full of expectations gone unfulfilled. Had Diop gone to college and struggled for a year, his potential would have still excited many, but the results he was producing may have made people think twice.

The “Diop Scenario” is not all together unlike Daniel Orton’s. Yes, I know that Orton’s probably been playing his whole life whereas Diop had only picked up the game in 10th grade, but work with me here. Orton spent a year in college at Kentucky, but he was stuck behind two stars in Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins. Orton logged just 13.1 minutes per game and didn’t even attempt 100 shots on the season. Orton has some clear flaws, but the sample size from last year is so small that it’s easy to write off anything that seems especially weak about Orton’s game. It’s always easy to write things off for players who stand 6’10” and weight 260 pounds and he did show flashes of above average play throughout the season.

In addition to those flashes, Orton also showed an incredible ability to not rebound the ball in his limited minutes.

Orton grabbed just 10.2 and 16.2 percent of offensive and defensive rebounds when he was on the court. Numbers don’t mean anything without a little perspective, so I grabbed a couple other players to compare Orton’s numbers to. Obviously every situation is unique, but I grabbed a similar sized Wildcat from a talented past Kentucky team (Nazr Mohammed) and three other top prospects from this year’s draft (Cole Aldrich, Ed Davis and Derrick Favors).

Orton’s rebounding percentages are simply not in the same league as any of these players. Davis is closest, with a 10.8 percent on offensive boards, but aside from his number there, no one is within so much as two percent of Orton on offensive rebounds or within three percent on defensive boards. Rebounds are historically a number that translates well to the pros, and the outlook isn’t sunny for Orton in this category.

As someone whose lateral quickness will likely limit him to time at the center position mainly in the NBA according to DraftExpress, poor rebounding skills could doom his future playing time. Especially in Milwaukee.

Orton’s potential is vast enough that some team will take a flier on him in the draft, and probably in round one. But that team will likely watch him blossom somewhere else, not unlike Nazr Mohammed did after leaving the Philadelphia 76ers in his third season.

  • Solomon Alabi

DraftExpress.com Mock: 21 Oklahoma City Thunder
NBADraft.net Mock: 26 Oklahoma City Thunder

Here’s an old Tweet from Jonathon Givony from DraftExpress:

Solomon Alabi dribbling ball off his foot, not even looking for on ball offense. Whoever drafts him is going to have to be REALLY patient.

That was posted on February 24th of this year. So it’s sightly terrifying to think how far Alabi would have to come in the next year to be a rotation player on a playoff team in the NBA, as the Bucks hope to be. Alabi is all center at 7’1”, 251. His arms, believe it or not, are very long and his potential is great. I’m already expecting to hear something crazy on draft night about Alabi, like he’s able to open  his front door to  his house while buttering a piece of bread in his kitchen due to his incredible wingspan.

Alabi shares some similarities with Daniel Orton. Like Orton, Alabi is a poor defensive rebounder, but actually performs slightly above average on the offensive glass with an 11.6 offensive rebound percentage. Like Orton, Alabi is a terrific shot blocker, blocking 10.3 percent of shots while he’s on the court.

Unlike Orton, opportunities have been plentiful for Alabi, a redshirt sophomore. Alabi played in every game for Florida State the past two seasons, averaging over 20 minutes per game. He’s certainly developed from the raw talent he was, but he’s got a significant ways to go. His 53.4 shooting percentage from the floor and 79.4 percentage from the free throw line do indicate that he could still blossom at the next level offensively.

But truthfully, no one is looking for Alabi to become Hakeem Olajuwon. If he can become a competent offensive threat on put backs and mis matches and be a reliable defender and shot blocker in the Joel Przybilla mold, everyone would be happy. I wouldn’t bet on that reliability being there in Alabi’s first year or two though, and that makes me wonder the logic of using the 15th overall pick on him. Those guys are out there if teams are looking hard enough, they shouldn’t be selected with the 15th pick. And I don’t suspect Alabi will be.

  • Ekpe Udoh

DraftExpress.com Mock: 10 Indiana Pacers
NBADraft.net Mock: 16 Minnesota Timberwolves

If you watched the NCAA Tournament, you know about Ekpe Udoh. A driving force behind Baylor’s surprise Elite 8 run, Udoh is getting some consideration late in the lottery, but may still be around when the Bucks select at 15 depending on how things fall draft night.

One of the better rebounders and shot blockers in the nation, standing 6’10”, 240 pounds at age 23, Udoh seems primed to be able to come and contribute quickly at the next level. He’s tailor made for the power forward position in the NBA and would fit in nicely next to Andrew Bogut up front for the Bucks.

DraftExpress has some nice things to say about Udoh’s defensive abilities.

As a man-to-man defender, Udoh plays to his strengths very well in the post, keeping his arms outstretched to force his man into tough shots, while also doing a good job moving his feet. He doesn’t have the greatest leverage, and is prone to being backed down by stronger opponents, but again, he probably can improve his lower body strength some.

Those notes strike me as important. All too often, big men play defense with their hands down, relying on their length to make up for their lack of total effort to get them the more impressive looking swat once the opposition attacks or shoots. Players who use their long arms to bother players and prevent them from getting clean looks seem to grasp the concept of stopping opponents from scoring better, rather than just using defense as a tool to make their numbers look better. DraftExpress is high on Udoh’s awareness.

He’s a great shot blocker both in man-to-man situations in the post and coming over from the weakside, showing pretty good rotational awareness. He shows a good feel for the game in general, something that’s become more apparent as the game slowed down for him as the year went on.

As a 23-year-old college junior, this is probably to be expected to a degree, but that’s the upside of drafting a more seasoned college player. Perhaps he’ll never develop into Chris Bosh, but he’ll probably avoid being Cedric Simmons too. I know you don’t know who Cedric Simmons is, and that’s the point.
Offensively, Udoh is further along than those I’ve lumped him with here too.

Udoh is also a potent threat out of isolation situations, being able to utilize everything out of the triple-threat position, be it taking his man off the dribble, shooting a mid-range jumper, or passing to an open man. Udoh’s isolation game is very intriguing, as he shows nice footwork, a good first step, and a nice variety of moves, while finishing at a decent rate at this level.

The though of a capable, plus sized four next to Andrew Bogut that can hit a mid-range jumper and block some shots, is certainly intriguing to me.

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