NBA Draft: The Mostly Unimpressive Pro Player Comparisons

This year’s NBA Draft is terrible. It’s definitely the worst in the past ten years and you probably have to go back to 2000 to find one that rivals it. We’ve been consistently told that there are no superstar players at the top of this draft. In fact, many don’t think you can even project any of these guys as potential All-Stars. Chad Ford put out his annual “Tiers” column last week and the top two tiers were left completely blank. Ford compiles his list based on input from NBA teams and couldn’t get any of them to consistently project any of these players as future All-Stars. Furthermore, he notes that this is the first time he hasn’t had any players in tiers 1 or 2.

So, seeing as how all these players suck, we thought it would be fun to give you all some comparisons of what you can expect each of the consensus top six prospects to be as pros by comparing them against former players.

Now, since there are no All-Stars in this draft, you won’t find us comparing any of these guys to superstar players. Nerlens Noel does not project to be Kevin Garnett. Ben McLemore is not the next Ray Allen. Heck, we don’t even see Alex Len as comparing to Zydrunas Ilgauskas.[1] We’ll give you two pro player comparisons for each prospect. One that is largely unimpressive…not bad, just unimpressive. These players can have made a maximum of only one All-Star team. You won’t hate the comparison, but you definitely won’t love it.[2] The other comparison will be if the prospect totally bombs…so basically your worst case scenario for each guy. You get the idea…

Note: My editor, Ryan, gave me a lot of help on this one. His takes are included in italics.

Nerlens Noel

Philadelphia 76ers v Orlando Magic, Game 1

UNIMPRESSIVE COMP
Theo Ratliff—Made his bones on the defensive end as a disruptive shot blocker (3.7 blocks per game in 2000-01). Was never a great rebounder because of his weight (only 225 lbs.). Ratliff had a nice long career and made plenty of money simply because he kept getting chances to develop into more of a complete player. GM’s loved his length and athleticism and defense, but the offense and physical build never came.

WORST CASE
Brendan Haywood—Never as a great of a defender as he should be. Has also had injury issues to have held him back.

Editor’s take: How good of a defender can he be? He could be an elite rim protector but I’m not sure he can hold up for 82 games as a post defender. He may be more of a 4.

Alex Len

UNIMPRESSIVE COMP
Rik Smits—“The Dunking Dutchman” was an All-Star in 1998. He was very talented for his size (7’4”) but never developed into a great player. He is beloved amongst Pacers fans for his hard play and occasional great performances. But as the second best player on teams with superstar Reggie Miller, the Pacers never won a championship.

Darko 001

WORST CASE
Darko Milicic—This one was actually brought up by Chad Ford on the BS Report this week. When you list off the strengths of Len’s game (“Skilled big man, Good touch around the basket, Solid perimeter game, Nice passer out of the post, Good shot-blocker and rebounder, Good athlete for a player his size”) they are everything that you’d want out of a big guy in the NBA. But they’re also all the things that were said about Darko.

Editor’s take: It’s hard to see someone like Len developing offensively and defensively equally and not being a bust or superstar. Most likely scenario is that he focuses on one end and plays catch up on the other end the rest of his career.

Victor Oladipo

1994 NBA Finals Game 4:  Houston Rockets vs. New York Knicks

UNIMPRESSIVE COMP
Mario Elie—Not a great player or an All-Star but a versatile defender who was a key piece on three championship teams.

WORST CASE
Tony Allen—Great perimeter defender but a train-wreck on offense. Simply being on the floor during late-game offensive possessions makes it harder for his team to score because he’s not a threat.

Editor’s take: He’s going to be a great defender. Can he be the 3-4th guy on a really good team or the 1-2 guy? Also, this guy isn’t Wade. Dwayne Wade scored 30ppg one season…just STAHP with the Wade projections.

Ben McLemore

Hornacek 001

UNIMPRESSIVE COMP
Jeff Hornacek—A very talented player but is best known for being a great shooter (.403 career 3PT%). A one-time All-Star in 1991, Hornacek is probably best known now for how he finished his career playing as a complementary piece on the Jazz with Malone and Stockton.

WORST CASE
JJ Reddick/Dell Curry—Great shooters, but their inability to create their own shot with the dribble is what reduced them to simply being a bench/role player and not a star.

Editor’s take: His ability to put the ball on the floor will set his ceiling. If he can’t do that he needs to be able to work off of screens extremely well. Mclemore, to me is the least likely to be out of the league in 5 years…he can shoot! P.S.:All of his comps scream best player on a bad team. P.S.S.: How awesome would Mclemore look with Hornacek’s carefully coiffed hair?

Otto Porter

Russell 001

UNIMPRESSIVE COMP
Bryon Russell—Known best for being a defender but not much more. Best offensive season was in 1999-00 when he averaged 14.1 PPG. Never a good enough shooter to be a real threat and make up for his other offensive short-comings.

WORST CASE
Corey Brewer—Very good college player but never anything of note in the pros. Plays with heart and energy but ultimately doesn’t have the skill to make a real difference on a contender.

Editor’s take: The degree to which he can play defense/work out of the post is kind of what will make or break him. Average athletes don’t typically break out as elite defenders right away. Porter needs to stretch his range and develop a herky-jerky post game to get a good second contract.

Anthony Bennett

UNIMPRESSIVE COMP
Cedric Ceballos—Not nearly as big as Bennett but an explosive player who once led the league in field goal percentage. He was an All-Star in 1995 and won the Slam Dunk Contest in 1992. But for all of his talent he didn’t bring it all the time and won’t be remembered as a great player.

Weatherspoon 001

WORST CASE
Clarence Weatherspoon—Our old pal and the guy who coming into the league was called “Baby Barkely”. At 6’7”, 250 lbs. he fits the profile of Bennett. He was also extremely lazy and oftentimes could be found just sitting in the corner on offense waiting to throw up a bad jumper. Ah, those were the days. Possibly an even worse case scenario for Bennett is another former Cavalier, the late Robert Traylor.

Editor’s take: Some fun players…not exactly successful. Larry Johnson/Antwon Walker (best case) separate themselves with better rebounding and longer range. Ceballos had crazy high FG % for someone his size.


[1] Z made two All-Star teams so he’s out of the discussion. Also, if he hadn’t been derailed by all the surgeries he likely would have been a great, maybe even transcendent, center in the NBA. But alas, we’ll never know.

[2] I mean, after all, who wouldn’t love a reincarnation of Big Z in a more athletic body?

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