As is usually the case in the days before the NBA draft, there are rumors flying everywhere. There's just too much incentive for reporters to publish speculation from team sources and there's no great reason for executives to divulge what they are actually thinking. The Knicks must have been linked to every player in the lottery at some point over the last two months. The mock drafts are useful in the sense that they give a general range of where every player is projected to go but all it takes is for one trade or one team with a high pick to make an unexpected selection and the whole dynamic of the draft changes.
For Myles Turner and Jonathan Holmes, there's no point in worrying too much about where you could do because just about every team in the league is in play once you are in their range. Turner is projected to go somewhere in the late lottery, which is a prime area for teams to trade up into if they fall in love with a particular guy. Holmes has been given the catch-all late first-round to early second-round tag, which can mean anywhere from 20 to 40, depending on individual team needs and the strength of their position in the draft.
What makes it difficult is so much of their initial success at the next level is going to depend on the team that drafts them, how they fit with the players around them and whether that team is dedicated to maximizing their value or is just grabbing draft picks to accumulate assets without any real concern for what role they will have. Neither guy has the type of game that's going to allow them to thrive in any situation in the NBA.
In the right spot, I think Turner can be one of the best values in the draft. What I think it will come down to is that he's going to have to play as a C. While he has the shooting ability to theoretically step out and stretch out the defense as a PF, given the way the league is going, I don't think he needs to be chasing guards 25+ feet away from the basket on the pick-and-roll. It would also be difficult for him to take advantage of his size edge as a PF if he was playing next to another big man at C who occupies a lot of space around the basket. In other words, you want to put him in the exact opposite of the role he had at Texas.
The idea with Turner is you want to have him in the Andrew Bogut role at Golden State, playing next to a smaller combo forward who can play out on the perimeter on offense and extend out on defense. The extra space would allow him to operate out of the low post in the half-court and give him a ton of space on the pick-and-pop. If he has a bunch of smaller, faster defenders playing in front of him, he can QB the second line of the defense and protect the rim by annihilating every shot within 10+ feet of the basket. That's really where he separates himself from a lot of the other guys in his range - he has the physical tools and the college production to where he could be a dominant interior defender in the NBA.
If you have a C with that type of defensive ability and he can give you anything consistent on the offensive end of the floor, you could have one of the best players in the NBA. The Warriors had to take Bogut off the floor in the playoffs because he can't score. If Turner is playing with a PG who can create open looks for him, that shouldn't be an issue.
When you look at teams in the latter stages of the lottery, what jumps out is there aren't a lot of natural fits for Turner. A lot of teams in that range already have a young C and Turner probably isn't going to make as much sense in a Twin Towers format as someone like Karl Towns or Kristaps Porzingis, who are more fluid and capable of playing out on the floor.
6. Sacramento - Boogie Cousins. Even if they pull the trigger and move Cousins on draft night, this is pretty much the last situation a developing young big man needs to be in. A lot of guys are refusing to work out in Sacramento for that very reason.
7. Denver - Jusuf Nurkic
8. Detroit - Andre Drummond
9. Charlotte - Al Jefferson + Cody Zeller + Noah Vonleh: The Hornets are built around a low-post C and they have taken 6'10+ big men in the lottery in each of the last two drafts.
10. Miami - Hassan Whiteside
11. Indiana - Roy Hibbert. The Pacers might be the ideal scenario. They have been making a lot of rumblings that they don't want Hibbert to stay long term and they are interested in playing a faster style of basketball. Turner's best case scenario is somewhere around a faster version of Hibbert whose more capable of creating his own offense and finishing around the rim. He can take a year behind Hibbert and he can be eased into a role that would really fit his strengths - hanging back around the basket and playing traffic cop on any penetration that leaks through.
Maybe more important that that, though, is that Indiana is a small-market team with a proven commitment to building through the draft that has shown the ability to develop guys who left college early into fairly polished pros. Turner would be in a stable situation with a strong locker room and a winning culture already in place and he wouldn't be asked to do too much too soon. He would provide a ton of upside for a No. 11 pick (and they've had a lot more success trying to swing for the fences with guys like Paul George and Lance Stephenson than trying to play it safe with picks like Tyler Hansbrough) and give them a young big man that could complement George as he continues to take a bigger role with the franchise, as Hibbert and David West seem to be aging out of their prime.
12. Utah - There have been a lot of rumblings about Turner at No. 12 and while he would fit the Jazz ethos of drafting super-sized players for their position, they already have two of the best interior defenders in the NBA in Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors. Turner would stretch the floor for both of those guys but not using him in a role as a primary rim protector would be a gross misuse of his skill-set.
13. Phoenix - Alex Len. Len has never gotten a ton of publicity but he's a young C whose 3 years older than Turner and whom the Suns invested a No. 5 overall pick in. He has two-way potential, he's already earned a spot as a starter as a 22-year old and he's a better fit with the uptempo style that Jeff Hornacek likes to play. I could see the Suns taking Turner as a value pick in that spot but I don't know if they would be making that pick with the idea of him staying there long-term.
14. Oklahoma City - They already have Enes Kanter and Steven Adams in the role of burly big man who operates around the paint and their best line-ups are probably with Serge Ibaka at the 5.
15. Atlanta - Drafting Turner would allow them to play Horford as more of a PF but they are a team ready to win now that desperately needs more size and athleticism on the wings. They have already shown with Adreian Payne - whom they took at No. 15 in last year's draft and then traded to Minnesota - that they aren't really trying to wait on a young big man.
16. Boston - This is probably closer to the floor of where Turner could go. He makes a lot of sense for Boston in that they are a young team with a lot of one-way big men who don't have much of an identity in the front-court and Turner would give them the type of piece they could build around. I'd love to see an All-DFW pick-and-roll with Myles Turner and Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas could be killer coming off the massive screens Turner can set. The Celtics have been linked to Turner and they have been making a lot of noises about moving up in the first round. Danny Ainge likes to play things close to the vest but this seems like something that would make sense for both sides.
If Turner falls below 16, which seems unlikely to me barring any last minute medical scare, I'd expect someone to move up and take him because at that point he would represent almost unbelievable value in terms of his upside vs. where he would be going.
With Holmes currently projected to go at No. 28 by DraftExpress, it's not so much the teams that will be picking in that range, since a lot of those picks could end up being moved, but the types of guys he will be competing against. If a team is looking for a stretch PF late in the first round, what other guys besides Holmes will they be looking at? The interesting thing about this draft is there are a ton of conventional PF's at the same time that the league is moving towards going smaller and playing SF's as PF's. If guys like Sam Dekker are being looked at as 4's, that's going to remove roster spots for guys like Holmes. Given the way Holmes played as a senior out on the wing, I don't think the idea of him as a SF in the NBA makes a ton of sense.
Once you get past Porzingis, Frank Kaminsky, Trey Lyles, Bobby Portis and Kevon Looney, that leaves Holmes among a group of 7-8 PF's fighting for one of those guaranteed contracts at the end of the first round.
- Montrezl Harrell: The most well-known of the group. The concern with him is that he tried adding a perimeter jumper as a junior at Louisville and playing that far away from the basket just isn't the ideal spot for him to affect the game. Montrezl makes his damage around the rim and he's going to go from being the biggest guy on the floor in the NCAA to almost a medium-sized guy in the NBA. He has the raw athleticism and the physicality to carve out a spot for himself but NBA teams are probably going to draft him to play as an undersized 5 more than a stretch 4 like Holmes.
- Jarrell Martin: He's shut down his workouts after reportedly getting a promise from someone late in the first round and I have a hard time seeing Holmes go ahead of him since they are basically the same player except Martin is younger, more athletic and was more productive in college. As long as he's out there, Holmes probably isn't coming off the board.
- Chris McCullough: He's a freshman who only played 16 games before tearing his ACL so he's much more of a long-term pick than Holmes. At a certain point at the end of the first round, though, the risk to reward ratio flips and it starts to make more sense to gamble on a guy with more upside than to take the sure thing. He hasn't shown a lot of range on his jumper but he is much leaner than Holmes and he's a much more fluid player on the perimeter. McCullough is an easy guy to fall in love with from a scouting perspective and it seems unlikely that he would declare given his injury situation unless someone had made him some type of assurance or at least strongly hinted at the possibility.
- Cliff Alexander: Alexander is another upside pick, as he's a freshman who was once seen as a potential Top 5 pick before plummeting out of the first round after a disastrous season at Kansas. The concern with him is that he might end up having to play as a small-ball 5, as he doesn't have a lot of polish or perimeter skill in his game at this point.
- Rakeem Christmas: He could be competing with Holmes to fill the role of four-year senior who can step in right away and compete immediately. The difference is that he was a much more productive NCAA player and he's probably slated for a role as a small-ball 5, given that he has a 7'5+ wingspan and didn't attempt a single 3PA as a senior.
- Jordan Mickey: I just wrote a thing about Mickey over at RealGM. He's a Dallas guy (a product of Prime Prep who actually managed to be eligible) and I think he has a chance to be a real steal as a 2nd-rounder. He has more of a perimeter game than guys like Montrez, Cliff and Christmas but I think he's still going to end up as small-ball 5 in the modern NBA more than a stretch 4.
- Christian Wood: A lot of the shine has come off the rose with Wood recently but he profiles as a stretch 4 ala Holmes while putting up better numbers with more physical tools. Wood has a ton of talent - it's just a matter of whether he's going to have his head on straight and play within himself to the point where he can show that at the NBA level. He's kind of like the exact opposite of Holmes in terms of risk/reward - a much higher ceiling and a much lower floor.
The point is that there is just a ton of guys who play Holmes position in his range of the draft. What Holmes has in his corner is that he's a proven veteran 4 that you know is going to be a professional and get the most out of his game. The concern is that he just doesn't represent the same type of upside. The key for him is showing that he can be a consistent 3-point shooter - the easiest way for him to carve out a spot for himself is to be able to stick 3's but he has never shot better than 33% from 3 in a season at Texas. There are definitely some mitigating circumstances in terms of how he was used but I'm not sure he's going to be athletic enough to survive around the rim so he has to be a fairly efficient scorer from the perimeter. If he becomes a volume shooter ala Mike Scott there should always be a place for him somewhere in the NBA.
The worry with Holmes is that he doesn't have great statistics or great measurables so it could be easy for him to fall through the cracks on draft night. It's going to be hard for a front office to fall in love with a guy who tops out as a 7th-8th man off the bench. If he can go somewhere that's going to run a lot of pick-and-pops and utilize him as a small-ball 4, he should have a chance. If he ends up slipping out of the first round, not getting a guaranteed contract and falling victim to a roster crunch, he could end up in Europe.
The one thing he has going for him is that he's a Rick Barnes guy so he's going to compete, buy in on defense and fight for his spot in the league. He's a senior whose dealt with a lot of adversity in his career so he's not going to get too flustered with anything that goes on at the next level. Given how he stuck with the program after everyone else in his recruiting class scattered like rats off a sinking ship, I hope he winds up somewhere in the NBA that can use him.
Turner's got such rare skills that he will get a ton of 2nd chances and eventually find a place in the league no matter what happens on draft night. Holmes is a guy who could go either way.