Good news, Hoopheads: Finch is back.
This is a big week for Finch. When the NBA draft tips off Thursday night, it will mark the culmination of a year's worth of bumpy flights, small towns, rental cars, cost-effective hotels and of course, lots and lots of basketball. Finch is tired -- real tired -- but he is prepared, and unlike most of the folks who are popping off about the draft these days, he has actually seen all of these players up close and in person. He knows what he is talking about, and now he's gonna talk to us.
Inveterate Hoop Thinkers know all about Finch, but for the uninitiated, allow me to explain. Finch is an amalgam of six NBA scouts whom I interviewed in the past week under the promise of anonymity. I have consolidated those conversations so the quotes below will read like they came from a single person named Finch. As always, I give full credit to my mentor, friend and Sports Illustrated colleague Alex Wolff for coming up with the pseudonym for a story he wrote for the magazine several years about an anonymous NBA scout. Alex chose to call his man Finch because that was Scout's surname in the novel To Kill A Mockingbird.
For some reason, Finch was more sanguine than usual this year when discussing the 54 prospects listed in alphabetical order below. That tells me this is a really good draft. Not only is there more talent at the top of the first round, but there is also more depth than in years past. Plus, this draft seems unusually stocked with young men of high personal character. As such, Finch was in a good mood -- which, believe me, is not his default position.
2014 NBA draft position rankings: PG | SG | SF | PF | C
Here is what Finch thinks about ...
Jordan Adams, 6-5 guard, UCLA. "I'm all over the place with him. I saw him work out. He must have lost at least 15 pounds. He does not have NBA athleticism at all. I don't even know if the kid can dunk. At that spot, being athletic is crucial. I think he's going to be challenged defensively, but he can be one of your second unit guys. "
Kyle Anderson, 6-9 forward, UCLA. "He might have the best basketball IQ in the draft. He's an elite passer -- not good, elite. He's like a Boris Diaw because he's a legit 6-9 and he does know how to play. The question is, will he be able to defend at our level? There's nobody on the floor he can guard. [Bruins coach Steve] Alford never played a minute of zone in his life, yet he played all that zone last year, because Anderson can't guard anybody."
Jordan Bachynski, 7-2 center, Arizona State. "Oh, I love him. I think he can be a career backup center. He's still improving. Two years ago, I thought he was the biggest stiff alive, but he has developed into a decent player. Physically, he couldn't hold the post to save his life."
Chane Behanan, 6-6 forward, Louisville. "He does nothing for me. That kid can't get out of his own way."
Khem Birch, 6-9 forward, UNLV. "I'm not taking him. He's tall and he's athletic, but that's about it. I don't think his body translates to the NBA. His NBA skill is shot blocking, but he's not a big guy. Can't score outside three feet, and that's not an exaggeration."
Jabari Brown, 6-4 guard, Missouri. "I liked him in the season, but I didn't like him in the workouts as much. He's going to be really challenged athletically. He's a good shooter, but when you're one-dimensional like him, you have to be an elite shooter, and I don't see him as that."
Markel Brown, 6-3 guard, Oklahoma State. "A little small, but a really good kid, good shooter. He's a ridiculous athlete, man. If he could commit to just being a pit bull defensively, I think he could make it. With reps, I think he can turn himself into a respectable jump shooter. He has to gain weight."
Jahii Carson, 5-11 guard, Arizona State. "Freak athlete -- like, freak freak. In pick and roll he's going to score, but he has a bad feel for the game. The ball never touches his left hand, and he's really tiny. I think he'll get drafted, but he'll struggle at our level."
Semaj Christon, 6-3 guard, Xavier. "Has some talent, pretty good athlete, but his shot is suspect. I can see him breaking into someone's rotation as a backup. He can really pass."
Jordan Clarkson, 6-5 guard, Missouri. "I like him, but I don't like what happened to his team. Broad shoulders, tiny waist, pretty skilled. He can guard two positions. Heavy right hand, jump shot is inconsistent. He has good size, but I don't think he's a true point guard. I think he's a two trying to play point guard."
Aaron Craft, 6-2 point guard, Ohio State. "Great college career, wonderful human being, but OK, end of story. He's not an NBA player."
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DeAndre Daniels, 6-8 forward, UConn. "He helped himself in the tournament, but he's just so inconsistent. Kids are going to be who they are. I don't know if he has a position. If he was a four, maybe, but he's too small, and as a three he's not skilled enough. I don't see his body getting better. He's got a thin-boned body."
Spencer Dinwiddie, 6-6 guard, Colorado. "I was really surprised he came out, but he has a chance to be good. He can shoot the ball, and I like his leadership. In today's world, an ACL injury is kind of inconsequential. If he hadn't gotten injured, he'd be a lock for the first round."
Cleanthony Early, 6-7 forward, Wichita State. "What a great interview. Just a great kid. I think he's a 'tweener, which scares me a little bit. Big athlete who can make shots, but his skills aren't good enough to be a three because he doesn't dribble or pass. Has a chance to become a lockdown defender. The only downside is he's a little older. That's a concern in six years. It's not a concern now."
Melvin Ejim, 6-6 forward, Iowa State. "He's a complete player, good guy, smart guy, good teammate. But I don't know what he is. He's an undersized power guy. I don't think he's an NBA player."
Joel Embiid, 7-foot center, Kansas. "I don't know if you can say he's injury prone. He's had two injuries. The foot injury is fixable, but there are certainly better places to break it. Anytime you hear about a back injury with a person that big, it's a concern. I don't know if it's a coincidence or if he really is injury prone, but it's odd that it happened close together. So it's another piece of information. I was at his workout in L.A. He's so big and quick off his feet. He's more athletic than Greg Oden was. His upside is ridiculous. He's been playing for four years, and he has moves that 12-year vets don't have."
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Tyler Ennis, 6-2 guard, Syracuse. "He's a smart player, but you look at his athleticism, he can't match point guards who are successful like Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose. Like with most Syracuse players, the question will be, 'Can he defend?', because he's been stuck in that zone all the time. He has a calmness about him, so over the course of 82 games, he's never going to be too high or too low."
Dante Exum, 6-6 guard, Australia. "I hear people say they don't think he's a one, but he's a one. Maybe not the truest point guard, but he's gonna be a hell of a player. He gets into the paint whenever he wants. He hasn't played a meaningful game against quality talent since last July."
Aaron Gordon, 6-9 forward, Arizona. "He's just an athletic freak. Playing hard is a skill in our league, and he's better than Kenneth Faried with that. The offensive piece will come. I see a Shawn Marion-type player. He'll never shoot like Ray Allen, but he has great work ethic. His shot will get better. What gets lost is he doesn't have any back-to-the-basket moves, either. You're just hoping he gets good enough offensively that people have to guard him."
Jerami Grant, 6-8 forward, Syracuse. "He's a bit of a 'tweener. He's a four who's trying to morph into a three, and that's the hardest transition. He's a good athlete, not a great athlete. Offensively, he's a ways away. He does not trust his jump shot. He's light in the ass, so he gets bumped around and spends a lot of time on the floor."
P.J. Hairston, 6-5 guard, North Carolina/NBDL. "Man, he's got a tremendous body. He's a little one-dimensional, settles for deep shots. In the D-League he just stood on the three-point line. His biggest issues, as you well know, are off the court. If he didn't have the off-court issues, I think he'd be a lottery pick. Whether those would scare you depends on who's in your locker room. If you've got a team full of young guys, he can get lost in the sauce. Not that smoking weed bothers me. If it did, we wouldn't be able to have a team. But it's a problem if you don't surround yourself with good people, and I'm not sure he runs with a good crowd."
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Gary Harris, 6-4 guard, Michigan State. "He can put the ball in the basket, but I would love him to be a better ballhandler and make plays for others guys. He's a good athlete; I don't think he's a special athlete. He can guard better than guys like [Nik] Stauskas and [Doug] McDermott, but he's not nearly in their class as a shooter."
Joe Harris, 6-6 guard, Virginia. "I'm a fan because of his size. He's a little better athletically than people think. He's no risk. You know what you're getting. He's one of the best shooters in the draft. I could see him going in the second round, and five years from now people are going to wonder how the hell we passed on him."
Rodney Hood, 6-8 forward, Duke. "He's a little vanilla. Good shooter, not an elite shooter. Doesn't dribble well enough, doesn't pass much but he can rebound. I do like his versatility. He's bigger than you think. He has a chance to be a rotation player. I don't know if he can be a starter."
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Nick Johnson, 6-3 guard, Arizona. "What position is he going to play? He's an undersized two, hasn't played a whole lot of one. He's a big-time athlete. If I was picking in the 30s, he'd be at the top of my list. I heard he has a good work ethic."
DeAndre Kane, 6-4 guard, Iowa State. "He's what, 25 years old? That's a big red flag. When you're that old and you're playing against college kids, you should be better. He just can't make enough shots. I'd be surprised if he gets drafted."
Sean Kilpatrick, 6-4 guard, Cincinnati. "I don't get why people are projecting him so low. The guy was the best player in that league. He's strong as a bull, and he can play point guard."
Zach LaVine, 6-6 forward, UCLA. "He should have played a lot more at UCLA. You talk about potential, this kid has big-time potential. Looks like a track athlete the way he runs and jumps. He's an obscene athlete. He reminds me of Rex Chapman. Hopefully the team that drafts him won't have to rely on him this year. He just turned 19. You know us, we draft on potential."
Roy Devyn Marble, 6-6 guard, Iowa. "He doesn't shoot it well enough at the two spot, but he does have some point guard tendencies. I think his versatility gets him into the league. Tough, great kid, hard worker. World class kid. Doesn't do one thing tremendously but does a lot of good things."
K.J. McDaniels, 6-6 forward, Clemson. "Super athlete, everybody knows that, but I'm trying to figure out who he can become. He's a terrific defender, but he's not a big-time scorer right now. He shot pretty well from the free throw line, so his shot isn't broken, but it's got a long way to go. If he was dedicated to just being a great defender, I would take him, but I don't see that happening."
Doug McDermott, 6-8 forward, Creighton. "He's going to be better than people think. People talk about footspeed and who he's going to guard, but when a guy is as skilled offensively as this kid is, you'll find a spot for him. Will he be a liability defensively? Maybe, but he's going to punish you at the other end. I don't think he'll score in as many ways as he did in college. He'll be more of a spotup shooter, but he does that at an incredible level."
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Mitch McGary, 6-10 forward, Michigan. "It's hard to draft a guy off four great weeks. He's a rugged inside scorer who can pass it, has decent feel. I'm concerned about his conditioning. Some of that is because he's had back issues. The people at Michigan adore this guy, and not just his teammates. The nerds in the chemistry lab think Mitch McGary is the coolest guy on campus. The back thing is more of a concern than the weed thing. The weed thing, that's three-quarters of the NBA right there. We've done some background checking on him, and it doesn't sound like there's an issue there. Just a stupid college kid at a party."
Jordan McRae, 6-5 guard, Tennessee. "Not a big fan. He could be a lot like Will Barton if he doesn't fall in love with his jump shots. He has to work on that body and get stronger. His mechanics are funky. His jump shot is a major concern for a guy at the two position, and I don't think he's a great defender either. So skinny, never gained weight. I don't think he got much better in college."
Shabazz Napier, 6-1 guard, UConn. "He doesn't have great size and he doesn't have the speed of a Ty Lawson, but he does have a little change of pace. He could be a better version of Tyronn Lue. Obviously he's a little undersized and not the greatest athlete, but he can really, really shoot. When you make shots, you automatically become quicker. He probably has the biggest balls in this whole draft. That goes a long way."
Johnny O'Bryant, 6-8 forward, LSU. "Very skilled post player. I like the fact that from Year 1 to Year 2, he worked on his body. Now he can score over those long athletes. One of the sleepers in this draft. He's an old-school, back-to-the-basket low-post scorer. He reminds you of Al Jefferson."
Jabari Parker, 6-8 forward, Duke. "He's ready to help you now. I think he has a chance to be really, really good. I have reservations about a true position. I don't think he can guard threes. He puts a lot of pressure on the defense because he's looking to score all the time. I don't believe he can turn around a franchise's fortunes. If that was the case, you should be able to beat Mercer by yourself. His weight is a question for sure. He's the kind of kid who can gain 10 pounds in a couple of days with his body and eating habits."
Lamar Patterson, 6-5 forward, Pittsburgh. "His basketball IQ is as good as anybody's. Holy s---, he can really pass. He's just going to be challenged athletically. I don't know if he can match up with the wings in our league. If he's a mid-to-late second rounder, I would jump at it. He needs to get in a little better shape."
Adreian Payne, 6-10 forward, Michigan State. "He's talented, but personally he makes me nervous. He's 23, so it's not like he's really old, but he is who he is. I think he thinks it's sexy to become an NBA stretch four. I don't know if he wants to commit to being a blue collar guy."
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Elfrid Payton, 6-4 guard, Louisiana. "He must be doing well in workouts because I hear his name rising big time, but I'm not as impressed as most people. Can't shoot a lick -- like at all. That's a huge glaring negative. He'll be one of the better defenders in this draft. Gets into the paint whenever he wants. He's getting a lot of buzz, but I'm not big on the guy. Point guards that can't shoot, that's a tough thing."
Dwight Powell, 6-11 forward, Stanford. "In the workout I saw, he was better than I thought. A little tougher than I thought. He's skilled and a pretty good athlete, which is a good combo to start with. People say he's soft, but he's the furthest thing from soft. Good rebounders are not soft. He's a finesse player."
Julius Randle, 6-9 forward, Kentucky. "He's strong and quick, but he's got to find another way to score. He's not going to be able to overpower people like he did in college. I like his motor. You can rely on him to bring it every game. I think he's got a little more skill than he showed at Kentucky. The foot with him is obviously a question. He has an unhealed break in his foot. It's true. But he played the whole season on it probably. He's adamant he can continue to play on it. I think he should have surgery, but he probably should have had surgery during the season, too."
Glenn Robinson III, 6-7 forward, Michigan. "I wish he had gone back to school. He was so up and down for two years. People questioned his motor because he has a tendency to float. I was disappointed he wasn't a better rebounder, because they played him at the four. I'm not sure what he does that's special. The biggest thing with him is mental toughness. Sometimes he goes and hides."
LaQuinton Ross, 6-8 forward, Ohio State. "I'm not a fan. He can shoot, but he's a limited athlete. Not a great rebounder, not a good work ethic, can't put it on the floor. And he couldn't guard you. Sixteen percent body fat with that body? Come on."
Marcus Smart, 6-3 guard, Oklahoma State. "Love his toughness, his grit. I think he's the best point guard out there. His shooting isn't a big concern for me. That part will come, all he needs is reps. You're betting on the kid more than the skill set. All he's ever done in his life is win."
Russ Smith, 6-1 guard, Louisville. "I don't like tiny guys that shoot up all the balls. He's got to be a point guard, but that's not what he does. He's only about 160 pounds. It's so hard for guys that size. But he was terrific in the workout in L.A. He was more unselfish with the ball than I had ever seen when he was in college. He's probably the fastest player in the draft."
Nik Stauskas, 6-6 guard, Michigan. "Cannot say enough good things about that kid. He's a big-time shooter, good size. More athletic than people think. Big fan. The guy is bouncier than you think and he can really pass. I think he can come in and play right away. I like his cockiness."
Jarnell Stokes, 6-8 forward, Tennessee. "Undersized center is really what he is. Not a great athlete, not a great shooter, but he's such a monster. He can't score away from the basket, which is a concern. There aren't too many successful 6-8 five men in the NBA. Plays below the rim."
Xavier Thames, 6-3 guard, San Diego State. "I think people are sleeping on him. That kid can run a team. He destroyed Kansas this year. Tough, hard-nosed kid, but he doesn't have NBA speed or athleticism."
Noah Vonleh, 6-9 forward, Indiana. "He's not super explosive, but he will absolutely rebound the basketball. He plays with passion. He'll be a very solid NBA player for years. He's a little short for a four but he makes up for it with incredible length and big hands. He's a really thick human being. Why didn't he dominate at Indiana is a huge question, because he scores in a lot of ways."
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T.J. Warren, 6-8 forward, N.C. State. "He just makes baskets, and he's bigger than people think. He's thick. He's strong. He reminds me of Cedric Ceballos. Crafty and good around the hoop. Very impressed with what he did off the court in the summer to change his body. I think that speaks volumes about him as a person. From 15 feet and in, the best scorer in the draft."
C.J. Wilcox, 6-5 guard, Washington. "I like him. He measured in Chicago a little bigger than what everyone thought. You think he's a catch-and-shoot guy, but he makes a lot of runners and floaters. A very questionable ballhandler. He'd have a hard time creating his shot, but if somebody can create a shot for him, he's going to make it."
Andrew Wiggins, 6-8 forward, Kansas. "Just a freak athlete. He'll be one of the top 10 or 12 athletes in the NBA. What concerns me is his motor. Does he care enough? Does it matter to him? I just don't think he has any 'f--- you' in him. I've watched him a lot since high school, and there are times you don't know he's on the court. Then again, for someone who got so maligned, he still averaged 17 and 6 in one of the best conferences in America as an 18-year-old. Shows how warped our perspectives are."
James Young, 6-7 forward, Kentucky. "He's the J.R. Smith of college basketball. He's really talented and he has range, but he ain't much of a passer. His ballhandling has to improve. Why doesn't he dominate? Why weren't his shooting numbers better? Does he work that hard? He's a good athlete that can score, but he can't pass, won't pass, and he's not a good defender."
Patric Young, 6-10 forward, Florida. "He doesn't do it for me, bro. He's an undersized center who's an average athlete. He looks like a beast, but he's not as good of an athlete as he looks. What a class kid, works his tail off, great student. He plays hard, but is he skilled enough to play at this level? He's going to have trouble scoring."