Monday June 22nd, 2015

Finch don’t lie.

He has worked too hard. He has traveled too far. He has stayed up too late and gotten up too early and hustled too much in between. Over the last year, his eyes have gone blurry while he sized up the top college basketball prospects in America—and more than a few borderline ones. Now, with Thursday's NBA draft approaching, Finch is ready to shoot straight, even if many of his players are not.

Regular Hoop Thinkers know all about Finch, but for the uninitiated, allow me to explain. Once again, in advance of the NBA draft, I interviewed four NBA scouts and two general managers. In each conversation, I ticked off the names of 50 available college players. (I did not include any international guys, except for Emmanuel Mudiay, who originally committed to play at SMU.) In exchange for their candor, I offered my guys total anonymity.

I have taken all of their comments and condensed them as if they were spoken by a single person. The name of this amazing amalgam is Finch, designated so because that was Scout’s surname in To Kill A Mockingbird. (As usual, I would like to credit my longtime colleague Alex Wolff for coming up with the name Finch. He used Finch as a pseudonym for an Sports Illustrated story on an NBA scout way back when.)

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Generally speaking, I found Finch to be less-than-titillated about this year’s draft class. He believes the draft is top-heavy but not very deep. He sees a dropoff between the Top 10 and the rest of the field, with very few diamond-in-the-rough types ready to be unearthed in the second round. Still, while the class may be lacking, the one thing Finch never lacks is an opinion. Which is great for us.

Thus, consider yourself forewarned. This man speaks the truth. Can you handle the truth?

Herewith, Finch’s Fifty:

Cliff Alexander, 6’9” forward, Kansas: “He’s really long, but he’s still an undersized four. My gut tells me there’s something missing there. Usually freshmen stand out at Kansas and this kid did not. He’s very raw and very athletic. Not a real smart player and doesn’t have a real high motor. Whoever drafts him better be prepared to spend a lot of time developing his game.”

Justin Anderson, 6’6” guard, Virginia: “Extremely athletic. The question is, was his shooting this year a mirage or is it real? He’s got 5% body fat. The new buzzword in our league is ‘three and D.’ Can you make threes and can you defend? He’s a guy I think who can do that. He’s not an elite shooter yet, but Bradley Beal only shot 28% from the three-point line in college. He’s a little bit rigid mechanically.”

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Brandon Ashley, 6’9” forward, Arizona: “I’m just not sold on him. He shows you flashes, but he’s been the same player since I first saw him four or five years ago. He’s a good enough shooter that you’ve got to honor it. He’s a tease. Somebody will take him in the second round off height and talent, but I don’t think he plays in the NBA right now.”

Wayne Blackshear, 6’5” guard, Louisville: “Maybe I’d compare him to Scotty Hopson, but he’s not even as good as Scotty Hopson. When he’s making shots, he’s pretty valuable but he’s just been inconsistent. He may be a D-League guy who gets a call up sometime. I don’t know what position he plays.”

Devin Booker, 6’6” guard, Kentucky: “He has a chance to be really good. He can handle the ball but doesn’t do anything with it right now. He has great size for a wing. I don’t know if it was by design, but when he was at Kentucky, he never dribbled and never passed. He’ll probably be drafted higher than he should because he can shoot.”

Willie Cauley-Stein, 7’1” center, Kentucky: “People talk about him like he’s this raw guy who just learned how to play, but he’s further ahead than that. He’s a freak of nature athletically, but he takes a lot of possessions off. He can guard all five positions, which is invaluable. I think he’s a little better offensively than he showed. His first two years, he was a below-50% free throw shooter, and then this year it went up to 62. That’s a big jump.”

Rakeem Christmas, 6’10” forward, Syracuse: “He has shown great growth. I think he’s a late first-rounder. He’s got great energy and now he’s hitting a 15-foot jumper consistently. His offense isn’t great, but it’s improved. He’s a two-position guy. Can play the four or the five. He’s another guy who doesn’t play with a high motor.”

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Pat Connaughton, 6’5” forward, Notre Dame: “I’m a fan. He was ninth in the ACC this year in rebounding, which is mind-boggling. He can really jump, tough as hell, really strong. Our league is about shooting, and he does that really well. Probably has the biggest balls of anybody in the draft. I think he’s a first-round talent. He’s got good bounce, but he’s not a great lateral athlete.”

Quinn Cook, 6’2” guard, Duke: “He’s not an NBA player. You look at some of the smaller guards in the league—if you’re not dynamic, you struggle to fit in. You gotta be special to be an NBA point guard. He’s a great shooter, but he’s not athletic enough to be a point guard consistently in the NBA.”

Branden Dawson, 6’7” forward, Michigan State: “He’s just not skilled enough offensively. I don’t think he knows what he needs to do to become an NBA player. He needs to be a lockdown energy guy. For some reason, he feels like he needs to be this offensive guy, yet you really haven’t seen any development of his offensive game over four years. He’ll have a tough time making the transition to the NBA because he doesn’t have a skill set outside 15 feet.”

Sam Dekker, 6’9” forward, Wisconsin: “I think he’s going to be a better pro than he was a college player. They kept him on a tight leash at Wisconsin. He’s a one-bounce player. His basketball IQ is actually pretty bad, which is surprising for the son of a coach. I think he’s going to be a good NBA player, but if he’s a starter, your other four dudes need to be really good. The only issue with Sam is his shooting. Otherwise, he’s a complete player.”

Michael Frazier II, 6’5” guard, Florida: “I don’t like him at all. He’s a shooting guard who has no ball skills, and I don’t think he’s elite enough of a shooter to make it as a specialist. He’s a small two with squirrely mechanics.”

Jerian Grant, 6’4” guard, Notre Dame: “Athletically, he’s not a freak, he’s more like an O.J. Mayo. I like his size. I like his versatility. He’s got an NBA game. He has big balls, takes game-winning shots. His basketball IQ is off the charts. Best screen-and-roll player in the draft. He was the beneficiary of a spread court in college. He has good size for a point guard, but I don’t think he’s a natural point guard.”

Montrezl Harrell, 6’8” forward, Louisville: “He got away with some things at the college level that won’t work in our league. Thomas Robinson was an undersized four and the transition for him has been tough. I don’t know that his basketball IQ is up to the level of his effort. He has some negative energy towards teammates, and that’s not gonna go over well in the NBA. His rebounding average is inflated because they never took him out. He’s not Kenneth Faried. I’m not sure if he has enough offensive skill to be a significant player. He’ll get drafted 18 to 25 somewhere and be a backup.”

Andy Lyons/Getty

Aaron Harrison, 6’6” guard, Kentucky: “I was really disappointed in him at the Combine. I hear his workouts have been just average. He’s a slightly above average shooter. He’s an Aaron Afflalo-type, but he doesn’t have the same instincts as a scorer. I don’t know if he gets drafted. I don’t think he does anything special. He hasn’t proven to be a reliable shooter, and that’s what he needs to be.”

Andrew Harrison, 6’6” guard, Kentucky: “He’s not a first-round pick, but he’s a 6'6" point guard who can handle it and defends. He’s a point guard so there’s some value there. Ones and fives, we’re always dying to find. He’s not going to put a lot of pressure on the defense because he’s an inconsistent shooter. He gets by with his strength and size, but that’s a hard transition because NBA point guards are some of the best athletes in the world.”

Tyler Harvey, 6’4” guard, Eastern Washington: “A really streaky shooter. He’s a guy you want playing point guard, but he doesn’t have any point guard skills. His shot is awkward to me. He’s not a big-time athlete. I just don’t think he’s athletic enough or special at any skill.”

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, 6’7” forward, Arizona: “He’s the best defender in the draft, but he’s going to have to be Bruce Bowen because his shooting is completely broken. It needs surgery, not just a tweak. Look what happened to Tony Allen, and Rondae is 10 times worse than Tony Allen as a shooter. Highest motor in the draft. He can’t shoot, but to his credit he doesn’t take shots that hurt you.”

R.J. Hunter, 6’6” guard, Georgia State: “A great spot-up shooter. His three-point percentages were not good, but I think some of that was shot selection. His dad [Georgia State coach Ron Hunter] let him shoot whatever he wanted, and he didn’t really believe in his teammates. He can really pass. I have no idea if he can guard because they played zone every single possession. He’s a first-rounder. His body scares me. He’s not an NBA athlete, so defensively he’s going to have a hard time guarding bigger, quicker guys.”

Vince Hunter, 6’8” forward, UTEP: “He’s just not skilled enough. He doesn’t know how to play. I loved his effort at the Combine, but for an undersized power forward, you have to have some skills and savvy. Could he be Udonis Haslem or Jason Maxiell? If he can, he has a chance.”

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Dakari Johnson, 7-foot center, Kentucky: “He’s not a sexy athlete at all. He’ll be a backup big in the NBA for a long time. In the second round, he’s a no-brainer. He’s not the quickest twitch guy in the world, but his energy is high and he’ll go rebound the ball. He needs to work on his body and agility, but from what I’m hearing he just doesn’t have the work ethic to make that happen.”

Stanley Johnson, 6’7” forward, Arizona: “He has the tools to defend at an elite level. Offensively you saw some improvement. His work ethic and competitiveness lead me to believe he will develop a jumper eventually. The downside is there’s no upward mobility physically. He is who he is. As you move up a level, you can’t punk guys like you did in high school. He’s going to see Wesley Matthews, who is built like he is. He’s got a body like Ron Artest. He had a lot of shots blocked because he has stubby arms.”

Tyus Jones, 6’2” guard, Duke: “He was the smartest player in college basketball this year. To be a small point guard, you have to either be an elite athlete or real physical, and he’s not either. He’s not very big, but he’s a winner. You don’t think he’s a great shooter, but when the game is on the line, the guy never misses. He’s going to go 16 to 22 [in the first round] and have a good career. Defensively, he’s got to get a lot better.”

Frank Kaminsky, 7’1” center, Wisconsin: “He’s a rare senior with upside. He has shown he can improve year by year, which leads you to believe he can develop even more. People ask if he’s athletic enough. He measured 7'1/2" in Chicago. How athletic do you have to be? I love that kid. He’s a matchup nightmare. His ballhandling separates him from most bigs. You’re going to be able to do so many unique things with him. He’s odd in a very good way. You just don’t see guys like that every day.”

Kevon Looney, 6’9” forward, UCLA: “I’m not sold at all. I think his rebounding was overstated. He doesn’t have the physical tools to get rebounds out of his area. He’s not an elite shooter. So I don’t know what he does that will get people excited. I don’t care if he can dribble through cones. I don’t know if he can transition to the three. His greatest asset is his length. He has a 9’2” standing reach. I think he could evolve into a decent shooter.”

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Trey Lyles, 6’10” forward, Kentucky: “That’s a high-level talent right there. When they were running those platoons, he was the one getting screwed. He’s a good all-around player, although I thought he was average defensively. Very coachable, good character, defends fairly well. He’s not great at anything, but he has good size.”

Jarell Martin, 6’9” forward, LSU: “He needs to get in shape. You’re auditioning for the NBA. Give up the donuts and pizza for a few weeks. I mean, trick us. Decent athlete, decent rebounder, decent offensive player, but there’s nothing that grabs me to think that guy’s a star. He has to fix his outside shooting. I can see him developing because he’s a young kid, but he doesn’t have anything to hang his hat on.”

Chris McCullough, 6’9” forward, Syracuse: “He’s intriguing. His measurements were strong at the Combine. The thing that worries you is, can he really defend outside of Syracuse’s system? These days, an Achilles or a shoulder injury is worse than a torn ACL. Questionable basketball IQ. He’s a long, young kid who has never lived up to his potential. Some of that was the injury this year, but he’s been an underachiever so far.”

Emmanuel Mudiay, 6’5” guard, China: “He’ll be at the Brandon Jennings-O.J. Mayo level. From what I saw of him at the Hoop Summit, I wasn’t blown away. I’m not convinced he’s an elite passer. Everyone talks about how athletic he is, but he’s not going to be like Russell Westbrook or John Wall. I was in China recently, and they all said he was a great teammate, good guy, responsible guy, not an idiot in any way. Just a big, strong point guard. Shooting is his biggest weakness, but I think he made progress on that over in China.”

Larry Nance Jr., 6’9” forward, Wyoming: “People say he’s a 'tweener, but he’s not a four. His skill set is for the perimeter. I saw him when he came back from his injury, and he didn’t have the same bounce. He had no confidence. Then I saw him two weeks ago at a workout in Chicago, and it was a different dude. He had no brace, he was jumping, he was punching stuff. Maybe a hair on the soft side, but he has a high basketball IQ. One of the best offensive rebounders in the draft.”

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Jahlil Okafor, 6’11” center, Duke: “My biggest issue with him is conditioning. He’s never been in shape anywhere. He’s a good post defender, but he’s not great laterally. A beast physically. He’s a terrific passer when he’s doubled. I thought he would have been a better rebounder. He predetermines a lot of his moves in the post, but he’s bigger and stronger so he gets away with it. Defensively, he’s not a real presence at the rim. I’m sure he’ll work on his free throw shooting, but many bigs have improved on that?”

Kelly Oubre Jr., 6’7” forward, Kansas: “Kelly’s a real enigma in this draft. He’ll probably go right outside the lottery, but he’s still a long ways away from being a contributor at the NBA level. I want to like him, but I don’t trust his shot at all. He can’t guard anybody. Drove Bill Self out of his mind. Very intriguing athlete, but he doesn’t have any game off the dribble. He had a fairly disappointing season at a place where freshmen usually succeed.”

Cameron Payne, 6’2” guard, Murray State: “He’s the hottest name in the draft right now. The dude can really pass. He’s right on the cusp of the lottery because he can make shots. I think he’s got the whole package. He’s just a natural point guard. He’s no Mike Conley, but he has a decent floater. He needs to tighten up his decision making, but he’s one the special guys in this point guard class.”

Terran Petteway, 6’6” guard, Nebraska: “I don’t see it. He’s older. He doesn’t make enough shots. He turns the ball over. I don’t think he’s good enough to play in the NBA. He’s going to have to try to make it the hard way.”

Bobby Portis, 6’11” forward, Arkansas: “He’s a high-motor, non-athletic big. He’ll never be a star, but he measured bigger than I thought. I saw the kid play a ton, and he never did much for me. Got kind of a funny body. A little bit heavy legged, kind of heavy in the a--. Very good ball-handling skills for a big. He can make shots, but he plays below the rim.”

Norman Powell, 6’4” guard, UCLA: “He is a great athlete. If he wasn’t so bow-legged, he would look taller. I don’t trust his shot one bit, but I like his versatility. You have to turn him into a monster defender. I think he’ll end up being a better pro than he was a college player. He’s a decent midrange shooter but not a good distance shooter.”

Terry Rozier, 6’2” guard, Louisville: “That little kid is a stone cold stud. He’s a guy I think intrigues everybody. He has a certain savvy to get to the rim. He’s got great body control. He just has a tough time finishing and knocking down shots consistently. Everyone says he’s a point guard, but he’s not. He doesn’t make perimeter shots but he can really guard. He’s a Kyle Lowry type. When Lowry came out of Villanova he couldn’t make a shot, but he did a lot of the same things.”

D’Angelo Russell, 6’5” guard, Ohio State: “He’s amazing. He’s the best passer in the draft. I hear people say he’s going to be challenged a little bit athletically—so challenged that he’s not going to get past pick No. 3 or 4 in the draft. He just has a magical feel about the game. Beautiful vision, great understanding of what he’s trying to accomplish. He’s not a great shooter yet, but he has a chance to be.”

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J.P. Tokoto, 6’6” forward, North Carolina: “He really rated high at the combine when he started knocking down some jumpers. He’s not the athlete people say he is. I like his activity and the way he competes, but I don’t see him finishing over people. He's a horrible shooter. That’s even more troubling considering he’s an upperclassman. He has the potential to be as good a defender as almost anybody in this draft.”

Karl-Anthony Towns, 6’11” center, Kentucky: “I’d take him No. 1. He’s a great player on both ends. There’s a huge gap between him and Okafor defensively. Towns can stretch out to the three, but Okafor only plays inside. I don’t know that he’ll be a dominant player on the block like Okafor will be.”

Myles Turner, 6’11” forward, Texas: “He might be a lottery pick, but I think he’s overrated. He doesn’t have much lower body strength and doesn’t have great mobility. There’s something in his biomechanics that’s not quite right. He’s over 80% from the free throw line, which tells me he has upside as a shooter. When we interviewed him, we asked him about coming off the bench at Texas. He could have said it was because of that dumbass Barnes and that’s why he got fired, but instead he said, ‘I wasn’t good enough.’ That impressed me.”

Robert Upshaw, 7-foot center, Washington: “We wouldn’t touch him. He has so many issues. Now he has a heart issue. He has an NBA skill with his shot blocking, but he’s not worth it. Physically, he’s talented. The problem is, if you crack his head open, nobody has any idea what might roll out of there.”

Rashad Vaughn, 6’5” guard, UNLV: “He’s a big guard, which we like. He’s going to go in the first round. The problem is no one has seen him play for months. He’s shooting up the draft boards. He’s just so athletic and he can score. He has a great body, good athleticism, shot the ball well the second half of the year before his injury.”

Chris Walker, 6’10” forward, Florida: “Um ... no. He doesn’t know how to play. He has to become Dennis Rodman or Kenneth Faried, but that would mean reinventing himself. He has no idea how to play. He couldn’t get off the bench at Florida. I’d be surprised if he gets drafted. He’s just not smart at all picking things up.”

Dez Wells, 6’4” guard, Maryland: “He doesn’t shoot the ball well enough for me, but I love his competitive nature. That will get him an opportunity to get to a training camp. I’m a fan. He’s a winner, man. He’s not a great shooter, but he’ll make big shots.”

Aaron White, 6’9” forward, Iowa: “Really, really good college player, but it would be tough for him in the NBA. He’s not quite skilled enough to be a three, so he’s a mobile, skilled four. If he was 20 instead of 22, he’d be in a better position in the draft. That’s how messed up this thing is. He’s a reluctant shooter.”

Streeter Lecka/Getty

Justise Winslow, 6’7” forward, Duke: “He’s a winning player. I don’t think he does anything at an elite level. I don’t think he becomes Jimmy Butler, but he’s a solid guy you’ll want on your roster. My favorite thing he does is grab a defensive rebound and go. He leads the break like Charles Barkley did. He needs to be a better shooter, but his shot is mechanically decent. He just needs a lot of reps.”

Christian Wood, 6’11” forward, UNLV: “When you’re that skinny and have 15% body fat, it just tells me that you don’t work. His shot’s not broken but I think he takes too many. He’s tall, he’s long. He checks a lot of boxes. He might have as much upside as anyone in this draft. He’s immature, but he’s not a bad kid. He probably sits around and watches cartoons.”

Delon Wright, 6’6” guard, Utah: “What concerns me is his shooting and lack of athleticism. You have to have one or the other to play that position. He had the ball in his hands all the time in college. I don’t know how that translates to the NBA. He’s not good enough to have the ball in his hands as much as he did. He’s more clever than fast. He’s 23 years old and still only 180 pounds, and he’s not a jet.”

Joseph Young, 6’2” guard, Oregon: “I think he can be an Aaron Brooks kind of player. He really scores. He’s not a pure point, but he’s got high energy, high character. I wouldn’t be surprised if he sneaks into the late first round. He reminds me of Eddie House. He can give you that instant offense, but for him to have a long career, he has to compete at the defensive end more.”

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