Leading up to last month’s NBA draft, experienced NBA scouts and personnel people constantly mentioned to me how the 2016 draft class was ordinary, at best.
They particularly noted how this draft class didn’t have any bona fide stars and how, if one did emerge as a franchise player, it would take several years for that to happen.
As one longtime executive aptly stated: “This is a developmental draft.’’
Those same NBA talent evaluators were especially concerned about how good of shooters were in this draft group, not only with Ben Simmons, who was the No. 1 overall selection, but with most of the lottery selections.
Well, if you watched the recently-concluded NBA Summer League games in Las Vegas, you would have understood the scouts’ concerns.
“I was really disappointed in what I saw from the rookies,’’ an NBA executive who attended every day of the Vegas SL. “I shouldn’t have been (disappointed) because I’ve seen them all before quite a bit.’’
Indeed, of the Top 10 selections in the June draft, only two of them shot the ball decently in Vegas. And one of them, Kris Dunn, whom Minnesota took with the fifth pick, played only two games. The other eight players were average, if not horrendous, in the shooting department. To wit:
1. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers – Let’s preface this by saying, I think Simmons is going to be a stud. His court vision and passing are Magic Johnsonesque.
But, as one head coach cryptically said to me, “He can’t shoot beyond the free throw line.’’ In Vegas, Simmons didn’t shoot well – period. He was a horrible 32 percent from the field and missed his only 3-point attempt.
- Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers – Some scouts told me that Ingram could be the next George Gervin. I have my doubts about that. In five games in Vegas, Ingram shot 41 percent from the field and a dismal 25 percent (4 of 16) from 3-point line.
- Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics – Brown wasn’t a good shooter in his one season at Cal (4 FG, 29 3-PT, 65 FT), and he wasn’t a good shooter in Vegas. He shot an abysmal 30 percent from the field, including 27 percent (5 of 22) from beyond the arc.
- Dragan Bender, Phoenix Suns – Bender has a sweet stroke, but in five games, he connected on just 27 percent of shots and was 26 percent (9 of 34) on 3-pointers.
- Kris Dunn, Minnesota Timberwolves – In two games, Dunn converted on a highly-respectable 54 percent of his shots. On the flip side, Dunn didn’t alleviate the concerns of many scouts who questioned his shooting while at Providence, was a mere 16 percent (1 of 6) on 3s.
- Buddy Hield, New Orleans Pelicans – Regarded as one of the best, if not the best shooter entering the draft, Hield managed to shoot a woeful 32 percent from the field in five games. Worse, he was only 22 percent (11 of 48) from beyond the arc.
- Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets – Like Hield, Murray’s forte is supposedly shooting. And, in comparison to the other top 10 rookies, Murray was solid in five Vegas games, although 42 percent is hardly anything to rave about. And, BTW, he was a meager 27 percent shooter on 8 of 29 3s.
- Marquese Chriss, Phoenix Suns – Yet, another rookie who noticeably struggled shooting the ball: Not only was he 33 percent from the field, he misfired on all seven of his 3-point attempts in his three Vegas outings.
- Jackob Poeltl, Toronto Raptors – The Raptors big man was a high percentage shooter at Utah (an impressive 65 percent in two seasons for the Utes), and was again in the Vegas SL. Poeltl converted on 66 percent of his shots in five games, all from short to intermediate range as he didn’t take a single trey.
- Thon Maker, Milwaukee Bucks – There was considerable chatter before the SL about how Maker was certifiable 3-point threat, especially after he staged a lights-out shooting exhibition before a slew of NBA folks a few weeks before the draft. But in Vegas, in five games, Maker was an erratic shooter while being guarded: His shot wasn’t fluid and he converted on a mere 31 percent (6 of 19) of his shots from beyond the line. Overall, he shot a subpar 37 percent from the field.
Yes, it was only the Summer League. And, yes, it was a relatively small sample of games. Yet, as those veteran scouts pointed out prior to the draft, this draft class has a lot of work to do on its shooting.