9. Marcus Smart
Other draft boards have him ranked higher. I appreciate his game. I just don’t think there is as much star-power. I liken him to a stronger Kyle Lowry. Both are stocky point guards with unusual athletic abilities despite their bulk. Both guys could be running backs. Both guys play defense. Marcus Smart is the Captain of the FIBA U19 for Team USA, and earned that right with his leadership, energy, and defense. He’s relentless attacking the basket, improved his jumpshot, and opted to stay in school because he felt he needed to mature. More recently, he scored 27 points against Iowa St., a tough NCAA team that plays Mike D’Antoni’s offensive style. Unfortunately, two missed free throws with under a minute to go, cost Oklahoma State the game. More information can be found on this link.
8. Rodney Hood
Rodney Hood is the kind of play that I nearly blindly admire. He has great size for a small forward, but his perimeter shooting abilities are so refined, he can play big at the shooting guard position as well. While he plays under Jabari Parker’s shadow, he is also Duke’s best defender and relentless at attacking the basket. He doesn’t have elite level quickness. He does have good speed. He worked on his game tremendously past summer and it’s now paying dividends. In fact, I like him so much, I wrote about him twice within a two-week span, found here and here.
7. Willie Cauley-Stein
Tyson Chandler, err, Willie Cauley-Stein seems like a bit of a reach here. Still, I can always appreciate a player who improved his free throw shooting by over 10%, and played wide receiver during his high school days. He shows tremendous defensive presence and activity around the painted area. There is an unusually high ceiling for him considering, he’s stronger than Tyson Chandler out of high school. I relate his game to Tyson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan. Both players were project centers coming out of their respective schools with tremendous athletic abilities. Both play impactful defense and rebound well. DeAndre Jordan is now averaging 14 rebounds per game. It’s easy to see Cauley-Stein averaging over 10 points per game without a play made for him, while grabbing double-digit rebounds, being a defensive presence in the paint, and running out in transition. More information can be found here.