Everyone gets excited around draft time. There’s so much talent entering the pool that we sometimes get carried away talking about our favorite guys who we followed throughout their college careers. As a result, we can get overzealous and hype up a player who may not be all we think he is.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty too. But sometimes it helps to think, “Are these guys really going to meet their expectations?” Here are some players who may not only slide further in the draft than most people think, but also might not be as talented as they are projected to be.
The following players are listed in order of where they ranked collectively on NBA draft boards that we recently surveyed, including The Athletic’s, ESPN’s, and our own, Hoops Prospects’. You’ll note that the draft range is rather wide for most of these prospects, since obviously our opinions differ.
Josh Green (W, Arizona)
Projected Draft Range: 15-35
Green is commonly ranked in the 15-25 range, and there are some good reasons for this; some of his strengths are skills that are in high demand in the NBA. The freshman plays strong defense, has shooting range (shot 36 percent from three this season), and is a solid passer (1.59 assist-turnover ratio). He plays an old-school style of perimeter defense that forces him right up against his assignment and locks them up, made apparent by his 0.86 points per possession (PPP) allowed on jump shots this season. Not the best figure that you’ll find (62nd percentile), but it’ll do in today’s style of play that features high-octane offense.
At the same time, Green has telling deficiencies on the offensive side of the ball. He shot only 21 percent off the dribble, struggled to finish at the rim, and failed to cash in on midrange jumpers. In terms of PPP, Green did not exceed the 15th percentile around the basket, jumpers off the dribble, or midrange jumpers. There’s no doubt that Green will be useful at some point as an Otto Porter-esque three-and-D player, but there are far too many holes in his offensive game to warrant reaching as high as some rank him.
Nico Mannion (PG, Arizona)
Projected Draft Range: 15-35
I did not intend to pick on Arizona, but Mannion is another Wildcat who appears to be overvalued. The 6-foot-3 guard is generally projected to be selected in the second half of the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft. He’s a good catch-and-shoot guard, which makes it easy to get hot and make opposing teams take notice. But if you game plan properly, containing his scoring shouldn’t take much effort. This season, the freshman ranked at the 54th percentile for points per possession with jump shots off the dribble, and had only a 35.5 percent field-goal percentage in half-court offense. He severely struggled when driving left, and even his right-side numbers were average (7-of-15 to the right, 8-of-27 to the left). He also rarely attacked the basket, and had limited success when he did, making just 5-of-13 shots within seven feet off drives.
Since his lack of length and explosiveness take a chunk of potential from his scoring, it makes it difficult to focus on the highlight of Mannion’s game, which is his passing skill. He averaged 5.3 assists per game and has a good feel for running an offense, knowing where both he and the ball need to be at the right time, hence his impressive 2.1 assist/turnover ratio. Even with those instincts clicking, I don’t have high hopes that Mannion blooms into anything more than an offensive second fiddle with limited scoring ability.
Tyrell Terry (PG, Stanford)
Projected Draft Range: 20-55
When I first watched the 6-foot-2 Terry, visions of Trae Young danced in my head. He was the most recent NBA hopeful to confidently and successfully pull up for threes from anywhere and watch them go in. The Stanford freshman ranked in the top 90 percent of the country for PPP with three-point shots. Everyone else must have had those visions too after his scoring tear at the beginning of the season because he is a popular choice to be a first-round pick.
Upon further inspection, the comparison to Young became weaker and weaker. Although Young and Terry are only one inch apart, Young has 20 pounds over Terry, which is a huge issue given how much more mercilessly Terry is bullied on defense (Yes, I did compare a player’s defense to Trae Young’s and somehow was praising Young. Crazy, right?). Young is the definition of a three-level scorer, while Terry’s efficiency anywhere south of the arc is not where you’d want it to be (25.7 field-goal percentage on shots between 17 feet and three-point range). Additionally, Terry only managed 3.2 assists per game this season and an assist/turnover ratio of 1.2, both are below average for a point guard and do not come close to the playmaking numbers that Young posted at Oklahoma.
It may be unfair to compare Terry to a prospect that was compared to Steph Curry right out of the gate, but my point is that Terry deficiencies are exactly where you don’t want them in a point guard. He’s not crafty enough to consistently finish without a screen, poor when attacking the rim given his small frame (15 of 39 on all attempts on drives, 38.5 percent), and very average when shooting off the bounce (50th percentile for PPP), and his lack of height and size (160 pounds) are a colossal defensive liability. While it may sometimes seem like he never misses a deep three, there are less glamorous parts of the position that he does not fit the bill, especially considering the fact that multiple draft sites seem to agree that he’s a first-round pick.
Vernon Carey (C, Duke)
Projected Draft Range: 20-45
I wrote about the Celtics’ draft needs and mentioned Carey as a potential fit because of his size and offensive numbers. Although most of his points come from post-up plays, Carey is a big center who can muscle his way to the rim on drives and get to the free-throw line regularly, attempting more than seven free-throws a night this season, in fact. Granted, the reason for this is that he played in the post on nearly half of his half-court possessions, which won’t fly in the NBA, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt since he’s strong enough to draw fouls against an NBA defender.
Carey has also shown competence in the pick and roll and some promise as an outside shooter, but my main concern is his defense. His 6-foot-10-inch height makes him a decent rim protector by default, but he lacks the shot-blocking ability of a true big. He allowed nearly half the jump shots that he faced this year to fall (20 of 42), and had a block percentage of only 5.8 percent, ranking 129th in Division I. He also ranks in the bottom two percent in the entire NCAA in defending the pick and roll, allowing 1.61 PPP. Likewise, his PPP allowance against jump shots is 1.357, which is in the bottom three percent. Carey’s role would have to be parking himself underneath the basket and guarding other bigs in the post, leaving him little breathing room in the rotation of perimeter defenders. In today’s game where point guards and three-point shooting rule, Carey needs to develop better defensive instincts before he can carve out a starting role in any roster.
Grant Riller (PG, Charleston)
Projected Draft Range: 25-55
There is a lot about Riller’s offense to be excited about. He’s capable from deep, has a strong burst when driving down the lane, and contributes in many other ways. He racked up an average of 21.9 points per game (PPG) and had a 31.2 player efficiency rating (PER, 13th best in the country) this season.
While his overall productivity is impressive, we have to remember that Riller played in the Colonial Conference and his stats were mainly produced vs. relatively inferior competition. He is an older prospect (23) and a modest career 3-point shooter (35.6 percent), and he is not an elite ball handler or passer (1.28 career assist-turnover ratio). As a driver, he’s a bit one-sided. He strongly favors his right hand in isolation. When driving right in isolation situations, his PPP is 1.282, which puts him in the top four percent of the nation. When you force him to his left, that figure drops to 0.825, the 61st percentile. This year, he converted only 13 of his 35 drives to the left, which is 37.1 percent. On drives to the right, he made 33 of 48, good for 68.8 percent, almost double his percentage from the left. He also struggles as a ball handler in the pick and roll (0.65 PPP, 33rd percentile). Having said all of that, Riller doesn’t seem worthy of a first-round selection, which some are suggesting.
Robert Woodard (SF, Mississippi State)
Projected Draft Range: 25-55
Woodard has been ranked as high as 25th overall on ESPN’s draft board, outranking similar talents like Cholet’s Abdoulaye N’Doye, TCU’s Desmond Bane and Colorado’s Tyler Bey. The Mississippi State product has shown flashes as a cutter and occasionally behind the arc. He sank 30 of his 70 threes this year, and had a 1.29 PPP around the basket, good for 79th percentile in the Division I. However, his overall game is limited, and he is somewhat of an underachiever in terms of overall production, thus his modest PER of 18.5.
Declaring after his sophomore campaign, Woodard finished his final collegiate season with a 42.9 percent three-point percentage. This is a great figure, but I’m not fully convinced it’s not a fluke. He only shot 64 percent from the free-throw line this year. If that’s not unsettling, rewind a year and look at his 27 percent three-point percentage in 2019. While he did play just 17 minutes per game as a freshman, he took enough attempts to drag his career 3-point percentage down to 36.8 and his free-throw percentage down to 61.7. When not shooting from behind the arc, Woodard is too often caught flat-footed and cornered when the ball is in his hands, hence his 54th-percentile ranking in terms of PPP with jump shots off the dribble (34 of 105 shots). He doesn’t have great ability to create space for himself with the ball, and certainly can’t do it for others, which is made evident by his career average of exactly one assist per game and an assist-turnover ratio of 0.81. He does pull in a decent amount of rebounds (6.6 per game this year), but that number being slightly above average doesn’t make up for his other deficiencies. Look for Woodard to be no more than a shooting specialist unless he can develop a more well-rounded game.
Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements: Stats used in our scouting reports come from Synergy Sports Technology, RealGM.com, and Sports-Reference.com. Other outside sources are noted with links to the source.