Some jewels can be found in the NBA Draft after the lottery selections. In 2011, Kawhi Leonard, Iman Shumpert, Kenneth Faried and MarShon Brooks were all taken outside of the lottery. With the exception of Brooks, who made the All-Rookie Second Team, they all made the First Team. One player that can seemingly develop into one heck of a player in a few years is Moe Harkless from St. John’s. Some basketball pundits and novices of the game have deemed him the best player to come out of New York City in the last 15 years.
The team that takes a chance and drafts Harkless from St. John’s will not regret it. Harkless has been compared to Kevin Durant and the Big East Freshman of the Year is years away from where Durant was at this time, but you can see parallels between the two.
Harkless is 6’8″, but his 7’0″ wingspan allows him to play menacing defense against an array of positions. During his only year with the Johnnies, Harkless blocked 1.4 shots and racked up 1.6 steals per game. Harkless has all the tools that make NBA scouts drool. He’s got an explosive first step, can attack the basket off the dribble, and has a solid mid-range jump shot.
In his Big East debut, he scored 32 points and 13 rebounds against Providence College, which set a Big East record. Additionally, Harkless scored 30 in Cameron Indoor Stadium, against the Duke Blue Devils.
The offensive side of the ball is what will kill his draft stock. Harkless shot just 20 percent from long range, and while he is effective at getting inside and scoring from under the hoop, he must improve his outside shot. He’s going to need to shoot the rock much more consistently from long-range if he wants to play on the perimeter on the NBA. Harkless went 1-for-19 from deep during a ten-game stretch beginning in late January, and completely lost confidence in his shot.
Like many freshmen, he was inconsistent at times and disappeared in games when his shot wasn’t falling. He had six games in which he scored fewer than ten points–which should not happen given his talent level. Harkless has the potential to be the next big thing in the NBA, but only time will tell.
Another non-lottery pick that can be a hidden jewel is Syracuse guard Dion Waiters. According to some NBA scouts, Waiters has been shooting up several draft boards because of his ability to score the ball.
One anonymous NBA GM was quoted as saying, “There are really only two potential superstars in this draft. One is a sure thing, freshman Anthony Davis. The other one is Waiters. He can be an electric scorer in the NBA. There’s some Dwyane Wade in him”.
However, there are some deficiencies in Waiters’ game. He has a decent mid-range jump shot, but as soon as the defense forced him to shoot beyond the college three-point line, he struggled mightily. He shot 36 percent from three in 2011-2012, which is average, but he struggled from the NBA three-point line. One thing that separates Waiters from most of the other prospects is his ability to penetrate the lane and score almost at will, but NBA teams will be able to contain his scoring abilities by forcing Waiters to make a jump shot.
Another inquiry for Waiters is his defense. He has the athleticism to play solid defense, but he doesn’t always put out a full effort on that end of the court. Additionally, during college he exclusively played in Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone. It will be intriguing to see him play in a new defensive scheme. Overall, Waiters is a terrific talent and will likely be a first-round pick in the 2012 NBA draft. However, due to the depth in this year’s draft, he will likely not be a lottery pick.
Austin Rivers, the son of current Celtics Coach Doc Rivers, could be another draft steal. His inexperience in the college ranks may cause him to fall beyond the lottery, possibly into the late first round, but his game is tailor-made for the NBA. Rivers’ numbers last season were solid; nothing fancy, but solid. He averaged 15.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists while primarily playing the shooting guard spot for the Blue Devils. However, he also averaged 2.3 turnovers per game. Notching more TO’s than assists is rarely a good sign for a guard. Rivers has a solid handle but would sometimes make a flashy play instead of a smart one, which resulted in unnecessary turnovers.
Defensively, he improved as the season went on, but he still has major strides to make before becoming a top notch NBA defender. He needs to add some bulk to his frame to guard NBA shooting guards, especially since he is a bit undersized at 6’4″. He is quick enough to guard most point guards, but he has to keep his intensity level high and not just gamble for steals.
Offensively, he can take his man off the dribble pretty effectively and certainly has range out to the three-point line. However, he sometimes did not know when to refer to a teammate instead of calling his own number, and while a 36.5 percent three-point clip is solid, it does not put him in the category of an elite shooter, or even that of his teammates Andre Dawkins (39.2 percent) and Ryan Kelly (40.8 percent). He needs to improve his ability to run an offense and make the smart play in order to be a success at the NBA level, as it is very unlikely he will be the first option next season.
Rivers has the heart and the talent to be a star, but he needs to be under the tutelage of a savvy NBA veteran and coaching staff that can help take his game to the next level.