Last year around this time, I wrote my first post here: a comparison of lottery prospects' statistics per 40 minutes, as I found that to be a better manner of contrasting like players than spouting out raw numbers per game. One year later, the Sixers are in the same place, and the draft remains as paramount as it did then. So let's do the same exercise, starting with the wing players this year.
Here's the major caveat: this is the ultimate thin slice of these players. Most teams have played 5-8 games, so we can begin to see indications of what players excel or struggle at. Still, we're looking at tiny samples in a sport that has a lot of variance, so please take these statistics with a fistful of salt, and expect any numbers that look truly outrageous to regress back towards the player's mean as the season progresses.
Here are the per 40's for the players I see as the top prospects, with the best wing prospects from the past two years included as well, as a reference point*:
|Player||Points||Rebounds||Assists||Turnovers||Steals + Blocks||True Shooting%||FT%||3FG%|
*Stats current though games played 11/30.
**Active NBA player
The first thing to stand out is that Denzel Valentine is breaking college basketball right now. Averaging a triple double per 40 minutes, with a 52.3% assist rate, a 20.3% usage rate, and 62.5% true shooting is insane. It's also unsustainable. Valentine is a real prospect, but expect these numbers to fall back to earth a bit as the season progresses, teams plan more for him, and he faces tougher competition on a regular basis, he'll look human again. Still, these 7 games for Valentine have been like Steph's first 10 games of the NBA season. Success on an unprecedented individual level.
The second thing to stand out is that Malik Pope is not a first round prospect. Chad Ford may have fought the good fight, but lottery prospects don't hold a 33.8% TS against a schedule including Illinois State, Arkansas-Little Rock, East Carolina, and San Diego Christian. He, too, will regress to the mean (in a positive manner in this case), but let's stop pretending he's a definite NBA talent. Thanks, Chad.
Like last year, here are some leaderboards for these stats so you can see the players' skills side by side:
Steals & Blocks:
Lots has been written about Ben Simmons, so I don't feel it necessary to contribute more on him at the moment. If you'd like to read excellent summaries, you can check out Jonathan Tjarks at the Cauldron and Luke Winn at Sports Illustrated. Simmons is the top prospect in this draft. In my opinion, it's not particularly close given how others have played to start the season.
I'd also like to point out that there may be some bias in terms of which players are selected, as I have a soft spot for strong passers, but these assist numbers are off the charts. When I ran my first piece on wings last year, Caris LeVert was by far the best assist-man at 4.3 per 40 minutes. 10 players on this list have accomplished at least that so far. Again, this is unsustainable, but it points to some real talent in terms of cerebral players who can help with ball movement and creation.
Some thoughts on individual players:
Jaylen Brown: Roy asked over the summer whether Brown has a jump shot. The answer seems to be a definitive "no" so far. A poor FT% and horrid 19% from three suggest that he can't really shoot at all. Brown is also shooting 4-15 on 2-point jumpers according to Hoop-Math, so it would appear as though he has a long way to go before becoming a productive NBA wing player on offensive. Brown's handle and understanding of the game also appear to be below average. His assist numbers are on the lower end of the spectrum, but his 4.1 turnovers per 40 are concerning. It looks as though he's a scoring wing he can't shoot and can't create for others.
I haven't had a chance to watch Cal yet (and desperately want to), so I can't comment on Brown's defense, but his counting stats on that end are surprisingly poor. A player with his length and athleticism should have accumulated more than one block in six games. This, again, may point to a poor general understanding of the game, but I certainly expect his blocks and steals to improve going forward.
For what it's worth, I had concerns about Brown's feel for the game coming into the season, given his play at the Nike Hoop Summit and the McDonald's All-American game. He hasn't exactly quelled those fears through his first few games.
Brandon Ingram: It's unclear what Ingram is actually good at, if anything. He has been very inefficient as a scorer, struggling to score in any manner. Most surprisingly for someone who was billed as an excellent shooter, Ingram is shooting a putrid 56% on free throws. Not a good look.
Still, you can see why scouts are so tantalized by him. He's averaging 2 blocks and 2 steals per 40, just by virtue of his go-go gadget arms which disrupt everything on D, even as he fails to grasp schemes and shows poor fundamentals. The good news is that he's very young, his body is still improving, and he's shown more than Kelly Oubre had at this time last year. Look for his numbers to tick up over the next few months as he comes to understand the college game a bit more. If they don't, he should consider returning to Duke for his sophomore year.
Furkan Korkmaz: Like Porzingis and Hezonja last year, Korkmaz's numbers should be understood to be coming against stronger competition, and should therefore be seen as deflated when compared to his peers. He has played a few more games this season, so a picture is beginning to form more strongly.
He reminds me very much of Hezonja last year, except without the sexy physical tools and oversized ego. Korkmaz has been an ludicrously efficient scorer this year, putting up a preposterous 69.7% TS, while shooting 50% from 3. The issues will come in his creation ability-- his assist rate is passable, but unremarkable. The real issue is his free throw rate. Through 13 games, he has only taken 6 free throws and has a paltry FTr of .111. That's a problem, as it turns him into a 6'6 jump shooter with short arms and middling athleticism.
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk: He's looked good so far! His freshman season was hugely discouraging, given how wildly inefficient and reliant on the mid-range he was, but Svi's last couple of games have put him back in the lottery conversation for me. He's scoring efficiently, shooting from range, and passing well, while also providing some nice defensive counting stats. Encouraging start for him.
Vince Edwards, Daniel Hamilton, Theo Pinson: These are three outstanding wing passers who are aiming to improve as scorers themselves. Pinson has shown more willingness to shoot from outside this year, and likely has the highest upside of the three. Hamilton has improved his scoring efficiency while providing top-notch wing rebounding, and his 85% FT percentage is promising for his shot. Edwards is the best shooter of the bunch, but probably the worst athlete. All three are intriguing as late first rounders.
Denzel Valentine & Caris LeVert: These are the well-rounded seniors who are putting up great numbers on strong efficiency and high usage. Neither will be a star, but both could become important cogs on championship contenders. They can just do everything you want from a wing-- pass, shoot, rebound (especially Valentine), and protect the ball, while competing on the defensive end.
Troy Williams: He has all the athleticism in the world, but can't shoot a lick. His TS% is misleading in this case, as he has only attempted 17 jumpers this year and has made a whopping 4 of them. He's a fantastic finisher around the rim, but is a turnover machine and will cripple offenses with his jumper. All of the defensive and rebounding positives will be negated if he can't figure that out.
That's it for now. I could write multiple articles on Grayson Allen, so I'll just say that he has some flags that don't come out in his overall statistics and leave it at that. I'll be back next week to cover the bigs. But draft talk is back, and that's exciting enough for me!