Posted: 8:17 p.m. Friday, May 10, 2013
Erick Green has perhaps the best chance to be drafted of any Hokie in the modern era. Though Tech has not been a hotbed of future NBA'ers, nor has it produced the best basketball pedigree, it has produced a handful of individual players who were good enough to make it to the NBA, though some for one reason or another did not. With Green's combination of size, athleticism and natural scoring-ability, he projects as a better prospect than some of the previous Tech players who were undersized or on-par for their position average, or were defensive specialists the like of Deron Washington or Jamon Gordon.
A year ago, nobody saw Green as anything more than a fringe-pro prospect, nor should they have. But Green's continual evolution that saw him be among the most improved players in college basketball each year over his four-year career has altered the perceptions of a lot of those doubters, and subsequently, caused him to steadily rise up the draft boards. Many feel that not only is Green a lock to be drafted, but that he is also quite likely to be a first-round pick.
But is that truly a possibility? Could Erick be the first Virginia Tech basketball player to be drafted in the first round since Dell Curry went No. 15 to Utah in 1986? Could he even go higher and be a possible lottery pick? Well, we've all become accustomed to my thoughts on Erick Green, so this time, we're going to give you an outsider's perspective in Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress.com, one of the leading NBA Draft projection sites. If you haven't ever been, do yourself a favor and check it out.
The video begins with Green and Johnson's soundbites and Green's measurables and 2012-13 statistics (quick note, I apologize for James Johnson's voice on those soundbites...awfully shrill and shrieky). It then transitions to Draft Express' evaluation of Green, starting with his perceived strengths. His strengths are listed as follows:
Next we go to his scoring instincts. Obviously we knew he was the nation's leading-scorer and those who know much about basketball love his elevation on his shot and his good release/shot mechanics. We also know about his efficiency despite his high-usage per several tweets back in basketball season (though I remembered it being in the high-20's, but either way, that's among the top in the nation usage-wise), a stat that I believe he led the nation in (please correct me if I'm wrong). What we did not know, because we did not break down every individual play on the season to find out, is Erick's pick and roll shooting percentage. But thanks to these guys (or whatever service they use to obtain/generate these metrics) we have that number now, and it's a high one at 44.6%. That's again, very, very good.
Then we see this stat about Green being tremendous off the dribble, which is true, as he does all of those things in the above picture well (creates separation with an array of moves and elevates over his opponent). But shooting 41.2% off the dribble, widely considering to be one of the worst types of shots percentage-wise that a basketball player can take, is just...wow. Just wow.
Draft Express is absolutely right. Green does have a quick trigger, and his shot is almost impossible to block (off of a jumpshot) because of his lift and mechanics. He shoots the ball from essentially overtop of his head. Frankly, it doesn't surprise me that he shoots 44.7% in these situations.
Again, Green scoring 1.32 points per possession off of screens doesn't surprise me. When an effective screen is set, Green gets rid of it quickly and is a good in-rhythm shooter who can knock down the open shot.
Green really developed the floater to be a big part of his offensive game. He has top-of-the-line touch on them. He is a very good ball-handler, as evidenced by his low turnover totals. They're even more impressive considering his usage. The fact that he shoots 9.3 free throws per game is evidence of how dangerous he is when getting into the lane, as he routinely beats defenders and help defenders to the cup, forcing them to reach in and foul. Being second among the top-100 Draft Express prospects bodes well for Erick, who should be able to do similar things in the NBA once he is comfortable with the transition.
We all know that Green is a willing passer. In fact, he started out his Virginia Tech career as essentially a pure point, having to come in to move Malcolm Delaney off the ball. It wasn't until he was forced to play a bigger role in the offense, putting up more shots than even he may have been comfortable with, that he began to evolve. Green will probably have to revert to the player he was as a freshman or a sophomore, style-wise, early on in the NBA, as very few players and even fewer young players in the league pound the ball and dominate the way Green did this season for Virginia Tech. Having a 4.7-to-1 assist to turnover ratio in transition, one of the most likely turnover creators, is phenomenal. That just shows how good Erick is at making the right basketball play, whether that be to find the open man or take the shot himself. I agree that he has a high IQ and is effective in drive-and-kick situations, but I think he needs to do more drive-and-kick as he goes to the next level. Some of that might be due to his teammates shooting 30-some percent (forgot the number and don't care to look it up because...derp) from the floor, a stat that caused James Johnson to estimate Green's assists would've been way up with better shooting.
This stat is also good, as it illustrates two things: 1. That Green is a very willing passer out of the pick-and-roll, and 2. That Green has good variation on who he hits with said pass, though he will need to look to cutters more in situations at the next level where a defender loses his man, as that is the easiest source of offense on the pass out of the pick-and-roll behind hitting the roll man.
Now we move on to Draft Express' assessment of Green's weaknesses:
I agree that Green needs to get stronger. Right now he doesn't have the build of a guy that is going to be successful for an 82-game NBA season. But that's usually not something players go into the NBA already possessing, including Kevin Durant. Most successful players do, however, develop that body/strength within their first two years in the league.
What I do disagree with is his ability to finish through contact at the rim. I'm don't doubt that stats are correct, but perhaps the rim is really the issue here. I remember Green finishing through contact umpteen times this year, and would put his body of work in that department up against any other guard in the nation. He showed real strength in doing that. But thinking about it again, many of those shots were floaters or further out than what may be considered at the rim. So that might be the disambiguation here. I do completely agree that his drive to the rim game is floater-heavy, however, and that NBA bigs who are better rotators, more athletic and generally taller will be able to affect that shot even more. So while it might be an asset in a way, he will have to back it out more often or cross over the rotating defender to get a good shot in the NBA.
I also think they hit the nail on the head in regards to Green's defense. He is not a very physical defender, but is good at keeping players in front of him 1-on-1. He's an accomplished on-ball defender who is good at getting steals, though some of that comes through playing the passing lanes. Off-the-ball, he does suffer through a little bit of ball-watching, a cardinal sin for a defender. But perhaps he was given the Kemba Walker treatment, which was basically just an admission that because he created so much for the Huskies on offense, he would HAVE to take the occasional play off on defense just to be able to stay fresh and in the game. If Green had to trade a little defense for his offensive output, I think it would be welcomed by Hokie fans despite how deficient the defense was as a unit. Green looks absolutely stupid on some of those plays in the video, but I feel like that's some of the worst I've seen from him. He was not that bad of an off-the-ball defender, though the video proves that he was prone to the occasional inattention and laziness off-the-ball that plagues the average player. Hokie fans know those plays are not an accurate representation of the effort that we were accustomed to seeing from Green on a nightly basis.
This stat to me is less important than nearly any other Draft Express has listed. I agree that 45% is too much, but pick and roll defense has a lot to do with who you're guarding, how successful the screen is and whether or not a teammate switches when the defense is designed to do that. For example, a score on a pick and roll could just be the result of an easy shot off of a good pick that eliminates a defender from the play, even if the defender would have played the pick and roll as well as he could have. Also, something that is exemplified on the video, when a team doesn't alert a player that he is about to be picked, it is very hard for that player to get over/under the screen in time to contest a shot or stay in front of the player. Green continually turns around after a made basket in this circumstance and begins to yell at his teammates for not doing what is required of them on those plays.
Again, this was addressed above, but I do think it is a concern going forward for Erick from a physical standpoint, especially as he will probably play as a combo-guard, meaning he'll defend his fair share of shooting guards. Can you imagine Erick trying to out-physical guys like Stephen Jackson, Joe Johnson, Paul George, O.J. Mayo or James Harden (though some of those guys play the small forward position occasionally, and George full-time this year with regular small forward Danny Granger missing the year with Patellar Tendonosis)? My guess is that would not be something Green would have much success with.
Currently, NBADraft.net has Green going to the Clippers with the 25th pick and Draft Express has Green going at No. 30 to the Phoenix Suns. It will be an eventful period leading up to the NBA Draft, as prognosticators try to project which team will want which player at what point. For Green, it just got even more interesting as it was announced today that Green would be invited to the NBA Draft Combine:
Just noticed former #Hokies PG Erick Green received an invite to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago next wk. Big since most there get picked.— Mark Giannotto (@HokiesJournal) May 10, 2013
Even though it seems like a lock Green will be picked in the 2013 NBA Draft, fans must exercise caution as former Hokie Zabian Dowdell was also hearing that he might be a late first-round pick (though the vast majority projected him as a second-rounder) nearing the draft, yet went undrafted.
In addition to trying to become the first first-rounder since Dell Curry in '86, Green will also try to become the first Hokie to be drafted since Deron Washington was selected with the second-to-last pick of the 2008 Draft.
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