In the last year he has traveled thousands of miles. He slept in more than a hundred hotels. In the last two months alone he has pored over video for scores of hours, watched dozens of workouts and sat through countless meetings while his co-workers shared opinions and plotted strategy.
So yeah, Finch is tired. But he's ready for his big night.
That night is Thursday, when the NBA holds its annual draft at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Regular visitors to this space know all about Finch. He is my amalgam of NBA scouts who have given me their thoughts on college prospects on the condition of anonymity. I usually do my Finch column late in the college basketball season, but I am offering a bonus edition now in advance of the draft.
Over the last week I interviewed six NBA scouts plus one coach to get fresh opinions that were informed by the workouts prospects have gone through for the benefit of those teams. Then I combined all the quotes into a single opinion uttered by a fictitious character named Finch. (That name was created several years ago by my highbrow colleague Alex Wolff, who selected it because Finch was the character Scout's surname in To Kill a Mockingbird.)
This year's draft features an especially strong crop of international players, but since college hoops is my bailiwick, I have limited my list of prospects to collegians. The two exceptions are Enes Kanter, the Turkish native who was a student at Kentucky but was ruled ineligible, and Jeremy Tyler, the Southern California big man who skipped his senior year of high school to play in Israel and Japan.
Here, then, are Finch's evaluations of 40 prospects who are hoping to hear their names called Thursday night. I'm sure you'll join me in wishing Finch good luck at the draft. Most of all, let's hope he gets a good night's sleep.
Marshon Brooks, 6-foot-5 senior guard, Providence. I've watched him work out, and I'll tell you what, he has really helped himself. He's long, he's athletic and he flat out scores. You watch him play at Providence and he didn't guard anybody. He also took a ton of shots. We asked him about that and he said, "My coach says I didn't shoot enough." So that was the role he was asked to play.
Alec Burks, 6-6 sophomore guard, Colorado. I'm not big on him. If your game is built on getting the ball to the rim, there are about 10 teams in the league you can't play well against. You have to be able to make open shots, and I don't know that he can do that. Burks is going to be a good player eventually, but I'd be scared to take him in the top 10 because those guys have to play right away. As good as Dwyane Wade was in college [at Marquette], what really put him over the top was when he got to where he could make NBA threes.
Jimmy Butler, 6-8 senior forward, Marquette. Typical Marquette guy. He's a hard-nosed defender, good mid-range shooter, can guard a couple of positions. Butler does a lot of different things and he's steady defensively. He's a second-round pick.
Norris Cole, 6-2 senior guard, Cleveland State. I love him. He's a poor man's Maurice Cheeks. He has defensive abilities, good size, great hands, can run a team. One of our scouts is absolutely in love with this kid. I'm telling you, his wheels are ridiculous. He's like Ty Lawson, except he's more of a scorer.
Kenneth Faried, 6-8 senior forward, Morehead State. He's a guy we're divided on. I saw him play a couple of times in college and he made some brilliant plays. I love his energy, and of course I love the way he rebounds. His footwork is terrible and he won't be able to score for you. He's not a real strong guy. To me, he's a notch below Bismack Biyombo and Tristan Thompson.
Jimmer Fredette, 6-3 senior guard, BYU. I saw him work out and he shot the ball very well. He's a little Steve Nash. People try to find a way to say he's not going to make it and find flaws. They compare him to J.J. Redick, but he can handle the ball so much better and can get his own shot. If he goes to the right team, people are going to say, "Wow, I can't believe we passed on him." He's a rich man's Dan Dickau.
Andrew Goudelock, 6-3 senior guard, College of Charleston. We had him in for a workout and I'd say he's a stretch. He didn't shoot it well but you know he can make shots, so that wasn't a concern for me. He might be an Eddie House-type who can stretch the floor. He doesn't have NBA athleticism so he has to be a specialist. Just don't say he's a point guard. If you set a pick-and-roll, the guy who sets the pick has very little chance of getting the ball. Goudelock is going to dance with it until he finds an opening for a shot.
Justin Harper, 6-9 senior forward, Richmond. I watched him in a workout, and he can really shoot. He doesn't rebound that well and he's a little soft. He's a shorter version of Channing Frye.
Tobias Harris, 6-8 freshman forward, Tennessee. I saw him in Chicago [at the draft combine] and I was very disappointed. He should have gone back to school and lost some weight [223 pounds]. He can rebound it and push it like a point forward, but his shot is a little funny. If you swing it to him and [defenders] close out, he'll be challenged. People project him as a first-rounder, but I've heard he hasn't looked good in the workouts. But he's intriguing because he's young and he does have a good feel.
Tyler Honeycutt, 6-8 sophomore forward, UCLA. He's the big tease in the draft. He's pretty talented. Passing, rebounding, has a really good floor game. He's a good athlete with a great second jump. He kind of reminds me of Doug Christie. Sure, he was inconsistent, but he was only a sophomore, right? That's not a concern for me. My worry is that he's always going to take the path of least resistance. If you're not ready to play on every possession in this league, they'll make you look silly.
Scotty Hopson, 6-7 junior guard, Tennessee. I just keep waiting for him. Waiting and waiting. He'll have a good game when he shoots and moves well, and then the next game he won't show up. He worked out for us and was just OK. His size, his length, his athleticism -- it's all good, but sometimes he floats like he doesn't care.
Kyrie Irving, 6-4 freshman point guard, Duke. Just a great kid. He has only an 11-game body of work, but he has an incredible ability to get in the lane. He's a pass-first point guard, but he can also score. He's not a freak athletically like Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook. His game is more of the Chris Paul variety, but I don't know if he'll be that good. His lateral mobility is probably his biggest question.
Reggie Jackson, 6-3 junior point guard, Boston College. He's better than people think. He's a good mid-range shooter, can shot-fake, put it on the floor and make a play. In the NBA you have to be able to make a play off a close-out, and I think he can do that.
He's been said to have a promise from Boston at No. 25, a promise from Oklahoma City at No. 24. He hurt his knee, but we hear he'll be ready. When a kid skips Chicago and skips workouts, you know something is going on. But I saw him play in the ACC Tournament and I thought he did a real nice job running his team. He reminds me a little bit of B.J. Armstrong.
Charles Jenkins, 6-3 senior guard, Hofstra. He worked out for us and he looked pretty good. When I saw him in Chicago, I thought he was heavier than I remembered and not as quick. The kid led his conference in scoring and assists and he was double-teamed all year. He's put together like a tank. People try to make him a point guard but he's not a point guard; he's more of a power guard.
JaJuan Johnson, 6-10 senior forward, Purdue. I don't know why people don't have him higher on their list. He reminds me of Harvey Grant. He needs to get stronger and put on weight, for sure. I liked him last year, and then he went back to school and added about 10 pounds to his frame. He's long, athletic, he can run, he can shoot to 16, 18 feet. I mean, what don't you like about him? If you make him into a small forward, then you're not paying attention to what the kid is. The body might scare you -- he's light in the pants -- but I've never seen him be soft. I have seen him score a ton of points.
Cory Joseph, 6-3 freshman guard, Texas. We had him in for a workout. He looked OK, but he should have gone back to school. He's a point guard but he couldn't play that position at Texas last year. He said Rick Barnes put him at the 2 [shooting guard] because he was the best shooter among the guards. Problem is, they signed Myck Kabongo, so he wouldn't play the point next year, either. Whoever drafts him will stick him in the D-League, and maybe he'll get better. Unfortunately, he just picked the wrong school. Right now, he's not good enough.
Enes Kanter, 6-11 freshman center, Kentucky. You love the way he plays. He's a big, strong kid and he knows who he is. He's a center and he's going to bang you. He just plays so hard. The coaches at Kentucky said he just works his tail off and really wants to be good. He's quiet. I think he uses the language barrier as a bit of a crutch; he understands English most of the time. He's a real physical specimen, but he can go through you and still has a little bit of feel. He can get hook shots and fallaways and he can step out and shoot it facing the basket.
Brandon Knight, 6-3 freshman guard, Kentucky. He won't work out against other players. To be honest, I think his agent is playing it right. Kyrie won't work out with him, so there's no advantage to working out with other guys. He'll be one of the top picks, for sure.
Malcolm Lee, 6-6 junior guard, UCLA. He was very good in our workout. He's long, he's athletic. He's not going to be a typical point guard, but he really defends. He'll guard you and that's the part I like about him. He can score better than he can shoot. His shot isn't broken; he just doesn't have confidence. He probably did the right thing to come out. It's his time.
Kawhi Leonard, 6-7 sophomore forward, San Diego State. The kid is a complete gym rat. They say he's going into the gym at night, getting janitors to open the place up for him, so he's going to work hard to get better. I heard during a workout in Washington he just destroyed Jordan Hamilton. About halfway through, Hamilton quit because he couldn't get his shot off. [Hamilton told reporters that he felt dizzy during the June 7 workout.] Leonard's shooting is a huge concern because at the end of the day when the ball gets swung to the corner, you have to make open shots. Yes, he's a great athlete, but those guys tend to do better in track and field. The last time I checked, that scoreboard keeps track of points.
Shelvin Mack, 6-3 junior guard, Butler. I'm a big fan. I just think he's steady. He's a point guard who can get you into the offense and can play off superstars. The team went to back-to-back championship games and he had a lot to do with it. Defensively, he knows how to play right now. He worked out very well for us. He's a career No. 2 point guard, but those guys have value. You have to have a really good backup point guard in this league. He has no B.S. in his game, and if you have B.S. in your game, he's going to take it away and make you wish you didn't see him today.
Demetri McCamey, 6-3 senior guard, Illinois. We had him in for a workout and you have to love a few of things about him. He has a great build, his body is terrific and he seems to play with some toughness. I liked him more last season. I have no idea what happened to their team at Illinois. We heard the coaches thought he was playing for the NBA instead of the team. If you expect him to be Deron Williams, you're asking too much. Someone is going to take him in the second round and get a decent player.
E'Twaun Moore, 6-4 senior guard, Purdue. He came through here for a workout and he really intrigued me. I see him as a guy who can come in off the bench and guard and play with energy. He's big and strong and he's really tough.
Darius Morris, 6-5 sophomore guard, Michigan. Shoot, he's not bad at all. In my mind, he's better than Nolan Smith or Shelvin Mack. He's just starting to get into his game. He has to work on his shooting, but he's a point guard who can really set guys up. Good size, good basketball IQ. In that system at Michigan, you didn't get to see a whole lot of facilitating, but he's still pretty good.
Marcus Morris, 6-9 junior forward, Kansas. He worked out for us and he shot it better than I thought he could. He's a versatile scorer. Offensively, he could play the 3 [small forward] or 4 [power forward]. He's in between positions -- not quite strong enough to guard 4s, not lateral enough to guard 3s. There are not many 4-men his size in this league, but he has a chance to be a starter on a bad team.
Markieff Morris, 6-9 junior forward, Kansas. He has a more defined role than his brother; he's a 4. He'll face up and shoot, he'll rebound and defend. He doesn't have the offensive skill-set his brother has, but he loves to bang inside.
Chandler Parsons, 6-10 senior forward, Florida. He's a little too up and down for me. He should really be a 4, but he wants to play the 3 so he's kind of a tweener. I watched Florida a bunch last year and I didn't come away liking any of them.
Jereme Richmond, 6-7 freshman forward, Illinois. He probably made one of the worst decisions of anyone to keep his name in the draft. He had a lot of expectations coming out of high school and he did nothing. Does he have upside? Sure he does, but how long are you going to wait on that?
Josh Selby, 6-3 freshman guard, Kansas. He shouldn't have come out. He didn't give himself a fair chance. He's worth taking a flyer on in the second round, but he's not a first-rounder. Is he a point guard? Will he make your team better? I don't know. We're digging in deep to his background, but when you talk to him, he seems like a good kid. I've never been a real fan because I think he plays with blinders on. Shelvin Mack would kick his butt 10 out of 10 times.
Iman Shumpert, 6-6 junior guard, Georgia Tech. We had him for a workout, and he's a freak athlete. He's long and athletic, but he doesn't shoot the ball that well. His people are trying to say he's a true point guard, but I'm not sure. You can put anybody in that spot, but is he going to make other people better? I like his skill-set but I don't like his intangibles. I get worried about kids who have never had success in winning. That doesn't translate well. You can have Shumpert and I'll take E'Twaun Moore, and let's play against each other and see who wins. I like my chances there.
Kyle Singler, 6-9 senior forward, Duke. I've seen him since he was in high school, and I'm still high on him. He's a great seventh man in the NBA. His shooting numbers haven't been great, but those will improve. He gives you a little bit of everything. He has great size for his position, and he's going to show up and compete every night. It's hard to find that. I heard the Spurs like him.
Chris Singleton, 6-9 junior forward, Florida State. I compare him to James Posey. His strength is he can guard multiple positions. He has some toughness to him, too. He has to be on a really good offensive team because at best he's going to be a six- to eight-point-a-game player. He doesn't have an offensive arsenal. If you can't score in this league, you better be on a really good team.
Nolan Smith, 6-4 senior guard, Duke. I don't like him as much as Shelvin Mack or Malcolm Lee. I don't see how he gets much better than he is right now. After watching him play this year, I never saw him get by guys and beat them off the dribble. He doesn't have that extra gear. Some people love him. I get in arguments in our own draft room. They say I'm crazy, but I just don't think he's good enough. People compare Nolan to Mario Chalmers, but Chalmers is a much better shooter. I'd rather have someone like that than someone who's a phenomenal athlete and can't shoot a lick.
Klay Thompson, 6-7 junior guard, Washington State. People say he's a little soft, but the kid has worked on his handle. He's going to get open in our league and he's the best shooter in the draft. The best way to describe him is he's "athletic enough." If I had to win, I'd rather have him on the floor in the last three minutes of the game than someone like Kawhi Leonard.
Trey Thompkins, 6-10 junior forward, Georgia. We had him for a workout and, boy, is he soft. He'd rather catch it at the elbow than get on the block. When you're his size, that's not a good thing.
Tristan Thompson, 6-9 freshman forward, Texas. He's a good kid, No. 1. That can't be valued enough in this league. He's a guy I'd love to work with every day for a year just to see how much better he gets. Woo, you talk about a motor! This kid goes after it. He rebounds the ball, has super long arms, blocks shots, a good defender. He's a terrible free-throw shooter and offensively, if he's not dunking it, he's in trouble. But you're not drafting him for his offense.
Jeremy Tyler, 6-11 center. We're all over the board on him. I watched him when he was in the ninth grade and he was just destroying people. When you sit down and talk with the kid, he's very impressive, but then during our workout he got pushed around and his immaturity came out. He's very raw offensively, but he looks like Shawn Kemp sometimes when he's running and jumping. He could be like a Jamaal Magloire, but I don't know if he's even that good. He can't shoot at all.
Nikola Vucevic, 7-foot junior center, USC. He measured out really well and he looked good when I saw him in a workout in Los Angeles. He uses both hands, but athletically he was not very good. Then again, do 7-footers even have to be athletic? Spencer Hawes was a starter for a playoff team [in Philadelphia], and this kid will be better than Spencer Hawes. His college coach, Kevin O'Neill, really likes him, and K.O. doesn't like anybody.
Kemba Walker, 6-1 junior point guard, UConn. People seem to have him in pretty high company, but I don't see that. I think he's a backup, so how do you take a backup in the top 10? He reminds me of Ben Gordon, and not in a good way. I see him as a point guard, and that's the problem: When your point guard is leading you in shot attempts, you wonder if he's Allen Iverson or Brandon Jennings. Those aren't winning point guards; they're just small guards who can score.
Derrick Williams, 6-9 sophomore forward, Arizona. I'm not buying that he's a 3 yet. I think he's an undersized 4. Michael Beasley was a No. 2 pick, and that's his problem. Jeff Green, too. He's another undersized 4. That takes away some of his advantage, but Williams has an explosive first step, an ability to finish at the rim and he gets to the foul line at an unbelievable clip. He's a starter.