10. C.J. McCollum, Lehigh – PG/SG – Blazers
McCollum’s name was kicked around as high as No. 7 with the Kings, and the Blazers had to be thrilled when they saw him available at No. 10. A combo guard that can truly play both positions, he brings a polish to both sides of the floor that makes him one of the safer selections in this year’s draft. He can shoot, pass, and defend, with the only real knock against him being a lack of elite explosion to defend larger/quicker players – which he will be asked to do playing as the likely swing guard behind Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews.
Being a backup shouldn’t keep him off the floor, however, as the Blazers are paper thin and will likely use plenty of small lineups to ensure that all of the aforementioned players in addition to Nicolas Batum get maximum exposure. With no real weaknesses to his fantasy game, a 20-minute role in a dynamic, up-tempo offense could threaten for late-round value and the more likely scenario has him seeing upwards of 30 mpg as the year goes on. Also boasting great intangibles, McCollum should continue to improve and all of that adds up to a solid fantasy ‘floor’ and a nice bit of upside given the dearth of talent in Portland.
Recommendation: Worth owning in most, if not all leagues unless reports surprisingly turn south in the preseason. The middle of the late rounds is probably a good start.
11. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse – PG – Sixers
Carter-Williams reminds me of a better version of Suns backup PG Kendall Marshall, who possessed superior passing skills but because of the lack of an outside attack he cannot keep defenses honest. Luckily MCW appears to have better ability to get his own shot, though his shot selection and shot-making ability are right on par with his outside touch.
His shooting form isn’t broken like new teammate Evan Turner’s was upon entering the league, and his ability to take the reins and lead the suddenly PG-devoid Sixers will hinge on whether or not he can make big strides in that area (in particular playing with guys like Turner, Thaddeus Young and Nerlens Noel who don’t spread the floor).
On the other side of the floor he is a willing and able defender with well-above average steals potential after nabbing 2.8 of them per game last year for the Orangemen. With nobody to press him for minutes on the roster other than Turner, the Sixers will need to add a veteran in free agency or simply give MCW the keys and let him go. He’ll give owners solid assists, steals and blocks, but his shooting and scoring troubles are very likely to depress his value.
Recommendation: Worth a late-round selection in standard formats if the Sixers don’t add anybody to compete with him
12. Steven Adams, Pittsburgh – C – Thunder
Adams is a classic center project boasting great size (6’11/255) and athleticism for a big man, with checkmarks up and down the list of things he needs to improve (44 percent foul shooting, anyone?). Things like catching the ball and simple footwork are big issues for him on offense, and despite his size he still loses position on the defensive glass and in the offensive post.
Defensively, however, he’s a blocking machine averaging 3.7 swats per 40 minutes and he’s much better on the offensive glass due to his size/speed combo. He can run the floor and defensively he can switch and show on the pick-and-roll. A late bloomer, Adams saw just 23 minutes per game last year as a freshman, a reflection of how raw he is. There are questions about his intensity and basketball IQ is a problem. While Kendrick Perkins is a liability on both sides of the floor for the Thunder, the team has attached themselves to that anchor and is somewhere near the center of the earth.
Adams is a good add for them to give them some added presence down low, but expecting him to produce anything but a handful of blocks and boards in limited minutes this year is probably asking for too much, especially since he still has to beat out Hasheem Thabeet for backup duties.
Recommendation: Worth a look in super-deep Dynasty formats
13. Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga – C – Celtics (from Mavs)
Olynyk took nice steps forward in his time at Gonzaga, improving his physique at 7’0/239 while incrementally improving his post-up game along the way. Skilled for a big man, he does his best work as the roll man and finisher on the interior. When asked to shoot from mid-range, he has shown surprising ability to hit though nobody will accuse him of being a threat outside. The most disappointing part of his game is his rebounding and shot-blocking as a big man, which obviously hurts his fantasy stock, but his 78 percent free throw shooting on 5.4 attempts per game and 63 percent mark from the field will help ease the sting.
A serviceable post game, good handles and knack for moving to open space are all reasons he can be serviceable on offense at the NBA level, but against smarter defenders he might have trouble without a go-to post move. His defensive shortcomings will ultimately be the issue that determines his minutes, but the fact that he will be the Celtics’ only true center means that he could have a longer leash. With the expected tank job coming out of Boston they’ll have every incentive to play him as long as he’s not a liability. He reminds me a lot of Tyler Zeller going into Cleveland’s shallow frontcourt last season, and we all saw how that turned out.
Recommendation: Worth a look in deep redraft leagues and worth owning in deep Dynasty formats
14. Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA – SG/SF – Wolves (from Jazz)
Easily the most polarizing first round draft pick, the former No. 1 high school player disappointed at UCLA and never got on the same page with Ben Howland. Shot selection issues and in-between the ears stuff has been blasted onto everybody’s radar, and there is some question about how his game will translate to the pros.
The good news is that he already has an NBA body and his athleticism gives him a fighting chance to prove all the doubters wrong. He improved his jumpshot, which is still inconsistent, and he also improved his defense throughout the year, which he will also need to improve if he’s going to defend starting small forwards on a regular basis.
Flip Saunders and Co. admitted to have been surprised by the way the draft went down and said afterward that they didn’t get what they were looking for, which was more outside shooting and size on the wing. Saunders also said that he views Muhammad as a backup, but if Andrei Kirilenko opts out of his player option on Saturday and the team cannot re-sign Chase Budinger they could be looking at Shabazz as a fall-back option.
The one thing he can do is score, and while it’s doubtful they unleash him in full, even if there is a gaping hole to be filled, there is a reasonable chance he averages 20-30 mpg this season barring an implosion. Unfortunately his shooting numbers and peripherals don’t profile all that well. Even in an up-tempo offense next to Ricky Rubio he might have a hard time overcoming that to hold any real value in most formats.
Recommendation: Worth a look in deep leagues if Andrei Kirilenko walks and worth a look in deep Dynasty leagues, regardless, for the chance he can learn a thing or two from Rick Adelman.
15. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece – F – Bucks
The most interesting ‘name’ in the draft may also be the most enigmatic player, too. Antetokounmpo, 18 years old, stands at 6’9/196 with hands the size of Kawhi Leonard’s and he’s still growing. Playing in Greece he commonly plays multiple positions, handling the ball and using the unique benefits his size and athleticism bring to the table, all the while simultaneously highlighting his inexperience.
He has shown the ability to make outside shots, but his form and consistency are definitely an issue and he’s the prototypical definition of raw. Though he’s athletic, he’s not yet refined as his balance and leaping ability haven’t yet taken form, as he needs to develop better lower body strength and otherwise fill out.
The interesting thing about this project is that he lands in Milwaukee where Mike Dunleavy could be on his way out and nobody knows what Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has left in the tank. The Bucks themselves are in a bit of turmoil deciding on the future of RFA Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis looks to be a goner. The Bucks have a good amount of cap room and it makes sense that they retain a veteran small forward or two so Antetokounmpo can develop, but don’t tell that to the rookie, who has no interest in being stashed overseas.
Overall there’s very little to bank on statistically, except that he will likely produce solid defensive stats if given the minutes. If I have to bet right now on his playing time this season, I’d have a hard time lifting him above 20 mpg in a best-case scenario.
Recommendation: Worth a look in deep Dynasty leagues as long as he is in contention for a rotation slot and the Bucks haven’t added a bona fide starting small forward.