NEW YORK — As evaluating an NBA prospect’s long-term basketball success becomes increasingly challenging, teams picking in the lottery can’t afford to get picks wrong and set their franchises back further than they already are.
While none of the players below will reach the level of all-time head-scratcher like the Cleveland Cavaliers selecting Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick in the 2013 draft, some of the selections have more to deal with if the player can be productive on the NBA level.
While some of the draftees’ questionable fashion choices could be easily corrected with a colorblind test, here are some questionable draft choices that also opened eyes.
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10. Dallas Mavericks, Dereck Lively II, C, Duke
Lively will not be an offensive threat right away, if ever, and the Mavericks, who allowed teams to shoot 49% from the field and couldn’t protect the rim at all, drafted the Duke product strictly on his ability to be a defensive disrupter. Dallas was the worst rebounding team in the league, so Lively should help in those two regards. The Mavericks always have championship aspirations on the brain, and not sure this selection does that, but Lively has a chance to be effective if he develops an offensive game.
11. Orlando Magic, Jett Howard, G, Michigan
Many mock drafts pegged Howard, a 6-foot-8, 215-pound swingman, who is the son of Michigan coach and former NBA player Juwan Howard, as a fringe first-rounder, so Orlando Magic taking him in the lottery is a surprise. The question is where Howard will play because he is not going to guard wings with supreme athleticism, and he might be overwhelmed by bigs that have superior range and also face the basket. The ceiling is high for Howard, and can eventually turn into a second or third scoring option in the future.
25. Detroit Pistons, Marcus Sasser, G, Houston
Sasser flourished until Houston coach Kelvin Sampson’s tutelage and worked his tail off on the defensive end, but the fit might be an issue. Detroit is stocking up on young guard talent with Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey figuring to take up heavy minutes and increase their usage rate. But in this age of the NBA, volume shooting can’t hurt as the Pistons need all the help they can get as they were 29th in scoring average per game and dead last in field goal percentage.
29. Denver Nuggets, Julian Strawther, SF, Gonzaga
If a player can really shoot, it may help teams look past other holes in a player’s game. Strawther is one such player, and going to Denver may give him a cushion to develop because the defensive display, the lack of explosiveness, and a tendency to turn the ball over, as he showed at Gonzaga, aren’t going to cut it on the NBA level. Again, the NBA champions can afford the pick for now and hope Strawther can eventually become a valuable option off the bench where instant offense is needed.
30. Los Angeles Clippers, Kobe Brown, SF, Missouri
The word most associated with Brown is his aggressiveness, almost in terms of being a bully in how he gets his points. That worked well against his competition in college. He is listed at 6-foot-8, 250 pounds, and is one of the older players in the draft at age 23. His improved 3-point shot got him selected, and the Clippers were one of the best long-range shooting teams in the league, so the fit might be ideal. But Brown is undersized for the position he might be playing in the NBA, and when he is on the floor, teams will use that to their advantage, creating a mismatch that could lead to instant foul trouble.
32. Denver Nuggets, Jalen Picket, SG, Penn State
Denver again ends up on this list, which again has nothing to do with Denver as an organization, but making sure the player is given a chance to succeed. Let’s suppose the Nuggets are about stashing players in the G-League or offering two-way contracts as a way to develop a deeper roster. If that’s the case, that’s their prerogative, and spending a second-round pick on a player not many people expected much out of has worked wonders before (see, Jokić, Nikola). Pickett was a productive college player, who did everything for the Nittany Lions and, at 6-foot-4, is effective at scoring and rebounding for his size.
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