The Bigs After the Big Two: Wille Cauley-Stein, Myles Turner, Frank Kaminsky, and Kristaps Porzingis

The Bigs After the Big Two: Wille Cauley-Stein, Myles Turner, Frank Kaminsky, and Kristaps Porzingis

After the presumed top two of Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns go off the board, there are four other big men projected as consensus lottery picks.  DraftExpress has Willie Cauley-Stein 6th, Frank Kaminsky 9th, Kristaps Porzingis 10th, and Myles Turner 11th while Chad Ford has Porzingis 5th, Cauley-Stein 8th, Turner 9th, and Kaminsky 14th.

Comparing stats among these guys still has its benefits, but there is a lot of context to keep in mind when doing so. The natural and obvious distinction to make is in their ages. A wide range is present amongst these four. Kaminsky is oldest at 22.1 years, then Cauley-Stein at 21.7, Porzingis at 19.8, and Turner at the youngest 19.1 years of age.

It’s hard to always keep those exact differences in mind, but the most important thing to remember might be that Kaminsky and Cauley-Stein are almost the same age. It often feels to me as if Cauley-Stein is a much younger and rawer prospect than Kaminsky. In fact, they are at similar stages of their development.

Before diving into the player’s stats, I will note one thing on Porzingis. While I have made my best effort to watch as many of his games and highlights as are available on the internet, I have not seen as much of him as the other prospects. Actual NBA GM’s will have seen as much of him as they want, but for me he is slightly more of an unknown than the rest.

Shooting:

Player 3PA/40 Pace 3P% 2PJ% Combined J% FT%
Willie Cauley-Stein 0.0 0% 33.3 33.3 61.7
Kristaps Porzingis 4.2 36.9 N/A N/A 76.1
Frank Kaminsky 3.3 41.6 45.5 44.1 78.0
Myles Turner 3.3 27.4 42.7 38.0 83.9

Cauley-Stein is clearly the worst shooter of the group. He’s essentially a DeAndre Jordan type center, playing mostly 5 feet and in. If anything it should be seen as a positive that he elevated his FT% above 50% this past season so he won’t add to the hacking controversy.

Porzingis is on the other end of the spectrum. A legit stretch big who has a smooth and quick release for a big. He can hit shots spotting up, moving off screens, or even dribbling into a midrange pull-up. It is rare to see a legit 7 footer at any level with the coordination to hit shots like this:  

Amazingly, Kaminsky might be an even better shooter. He often passes up his shot looking to pump and drive, but in the NBA he will probably settle for the three more often. His release isn’t quite as quick, but like Porzingis he can shoot it in all types of situations with fluidity and accuracy.

Turner is not the shooter Kaminsky or Porzinigis is, yet. His release is a little slow, but it is high and soft. Based on his 2PJ%, elite FT%, and fluidity of his shot I have a lot of confidence in him developing his shot. I would be very surprised if he doesn’t develop into at least a 35% shooter from three, with the upside for even more.

Creating:

For bigs, there is no clear set of statistics to compare when it comes to creating. As I explained in my piece on some of this year’s power forwards, pick and roll play is the most important element of creating for bigs. In addition to pick and roll, attacking from the catch on the perimeter and finishing lobs or dump offs around the rim are critical skills.

Cauley-Stein’s offense comes almost exclusively from lobs and dunks around the rim. Kentucky’s system doesn’t run much pick and roll, but his ability to develop his timing in the roll game will be crucial for his career. He is an explosive athlete going up for lobs, but he struggles almost everywhere else. Even on dump offs he doesn’t do a good job catching and going up cleanly. He gets stripped often and isn’t very fluid finishing non-dunks.

As a decision maker Cauley-Stein is pretty middle of the pack for a big. He has above average court vision, but also forces things sometimes. One other thing Cauley-Stein does really well is run the floor on the fast break, often with impressive results.  

Porzingis has the potential to be a very dangerous threat in the pick and roll. His extremely thin frame prevents him from really deterring defenders, but he does a good job moving into them to set screens. Porzingis will be an immediate threat popping out of screens for his shot. Where he needs to improve is pumping and making plays or rolling to the basket.

What makes him so enticing is the potential to either pop or roll for a lob because he also has the length and athleticism to be an above the basket threat. If he ever were able to read defenses and decide whether to dive for a lob or pop to three at a high level, he would be a game-changing weapon.

Unfortunately, reading the court is one of his biggest weaknesses. His 5.24 AST% and 12.68 TOV% are indicative of his poor decision making and prevent him from being a greater threat on the short roll or off the bounce.

The in-between area is where Porzingis struggles. Along with his court vision, he isn’t very fluid catching and finishing at the rim. Mostly due to his lack of strength he tends to run into contact around the rim and just fling shots up, displaying below average coordination for such a good shooter.

Kaminsky doesn’t have the potential as a lob threat that Porzingis has, but he is awesome in most other respects. His screen setting is mediocre, as his base is somewhat narrow, and he doesn’t consistently seek out contact with defenders. After he sets screens, Kaminsky is dangerous popping or catching on the roll. Off the pump fake or the short catch Kaminsky can beat the defense in a multitude of ways.

He is an excellent ball handler for a big guy who sees the floor like a guard, and his 18.4 AST% and 9.8 TOV% are otherworldly numbers for a big. Around the rim, Kaminsky sometimes tries to get a little too crafty, but he does a marvelous job using angles and his soft touch to finish around other bigs.

There are a lot of questions about whether or not Kaminsky’s post game will translate to the NBA, but I think those questions are misplaced. No, Kaminsky is not going to be a great post player against most NBA big guys. However, Kaminsky’s skillset will make him incredibly dangerous in pick and roll, and crucially he has enough post game to where he will be able to punish most wings or guards in the post. It is key for his game that teams don’t just switch screens with him, and his post game is enough of a threat that teams will be scared to make the switch.

Turner is a bit harder to scout here. He mostly played out of position as a power forward at Texas, and they had him stick to fading on screens because of the other big in the paint. He sets pretty good screens with a wide base the majority of the time, but he needs to do a better job adjusting to where the defender is.

Turner is a mediocre vertical athlete, he can catch lobs, but he isn’t going to be particularly dangerous. Catching in the short areas or making plays on the move Turner is a mixed bag. He does a good job elevating and recentering his body for midrange jumpers, and he’s got pretty good fluidity finishing around the basket. His awareness passing the ball is somewhere between Cauley-Stein and Porzingis, below average but not awful.

Defense:

Player STL% BLK% DRB% DRTG TM RK DBPM TM RK
Willie Cauley-Stein 2.9 7.1 17.3 2 2
Kristaps Porzingis 2.3 5.4 18.2 1 N/A
Frank Kaminsky 1.7 4.5 25.7 1 1
Myles Turner 0.8 12.3 24.9 2 2

Cauley-Stein is a simply incredible defensive talent, and if anything his defensive numbers underrate him. This year’s Kentucky scheme dictated that he play on the perimeter more, and his BLK% dropped from last years 12.3% because they funneled things to Towns instead.

Cauley-Stein is a versatile and dangerous defensive threat. The idea that he can “guard 1-5” is an exaggeration, but he can comfortably switch out onto guards on the perimeter, and hold his own. With his incredible lateral quickness, he will be able to switch effectively, a potentially scheme changing skill in today’s NBA.

Around the basket, Cauley-Stein isn’t quite as impressive due to his skinny frame. His post defense, rebounding, and verticality are all negatively impacted by his lack of strength. The rebounding is a legitimate concern for him, but his leaping ability sustains his ability as a rim protector.

Cauley-Stein’s awareness and instincts off the ball seem to be top notch. However, assuming anyone will do great at NBA level schemes is foolish, communication and IQ are incredibly hard skills to scout.

Porzingis has the vertical leaping ability and agility to be a good defender, but lacks other elements for now. Currently, his body is rail thin, and if he doesn’t add bulk he’s going to have a really tough time in the NBA.

He’s got enough length and hops to be a decent rim protector, but players can go through him on the block and in the air due to his lack of strength. His overall awareness can slip at times, and considering his size and athleticism he should be a more effective shot blocker, even adjusting for competition.

Porzingis will probably never have the strength to sustain heavy minutes at the 5, but he’s got the mobility to play the 4 and some 5. He seems to be a bit mechanical about the way he rotates on D, and I do have a fair amount of concern about his ability to adjust to the speed of the NBA.

Kaminsky’s STL/BLK numbers do suggest that he is a bit behind the rest of the group as a defender, but the numbers are still solid. Moreover, his impact on his team’s defense suggests he may be underrated on the defensive end.

He is pretty mobile for a big, not a threat to switch onto guards, but he won’t be a sieve containing in the pick and roll either. If he is forced to hedge out and play uptight on guards he will look bad. He should be able to run a drop scheme competently.

Kaminsky has good activity and timing on D allowing him to get blocks and steals despite his T-Rex wingspan. Like Cauley-Stein and Porzingis, Kaminsky is pretty weak for NBA big standards. Guarding in the post will be a problem for him against bigger guys, but his rebounding is actually ahead of the more vertically inclined Cauley-Stein or Porzingis.

Concerns about Kaminsky’s defense at the next level are overblown. He’s got a high IQ level for rotating around the floor, quick hands, solid mobility, above average standing reach, and he’s not an awful leaper. He’s not going to be an impact defender, but he should be able to guard most NBA 4’s and play some 5 at a competent level.

After Cauley-Stein, Turner is the most exciting defender of the bunch. His mobility on the perimeter isn’t great, but it’s not awful either. Around the basket Turner is strong on the post and the boards, and uses his fantastic length and timing to be a scary rim protector.

Turner’s awareness isn’t ideal, but he has all the tools to be a very successful defender. The ability to rotate and communicate well will be huge for Turner’s career. Based on what I’ve seen in games and his supposedly high IQ off the court I would bet he turns himself into a good NBA defender with the potential to be a top-tier rim protector.

Other Stuff:

In my player rankings based on average draft model rank, Turner is 6th, Kaminsky 9th, Porzingis 12th, and Cauley-Stein 15th. Cauley-Stein’s block numbers were suppressed due to Kentucky’s scheme, and his rare ability to guard on the perimeter for a big guy isn’t captured by any numbers used by draft models.

Kaminsky and Turner are both consistently liked by almost all models giving them an element of safety, but Porzingis is more up and down. He ranges from 2nd in Pelton’s model to 36th in Andrew Johnson’s. I’m unsure what to make of his wide variance, but I guess it gives him a little more risk and upside than others.

Another thing on Cauley-Stein; there have been concerns that supposedly he isn’t entirely invested in basketball. He plays with reasonably high IQ and energy level so I don’t think those concerns should affect his draft status very much. Still, the chance Willie “Trill” Cauley-Stein does something nutty that hurts his career or isn’t totally committed to basketball gives him a little extra risk.

Turner’s awkward running style has also been brought up as a concern. After reading this DraftExpress article I am largely over that concern, and never thought it was that big a deal to begin with.

Another issue with Turner is that he put up great numbers against crappy competition, and struggled against more similarly talented and sized opponents. His splits back that up, but I’m not sure it’s actually a big cause for worry. Historically that hasn’t meant anything statistically, and while he may take longer than most to adjust to NBA competition it only slightly concerns me about his long-term NBA value.

Conclusion:

For me, the order goes Myles Turner, Willie Cauley-Stein, Frank Kaminsky, Kristaps Porzingis. Turner has the chance to be really special if he can be an elite rim protector who also shoots the three well. Turner isn’t great in any other area of the game, but he’s also not bad either. The combination of two awesome strengths with no glaring weaknesses puts him at the top of the group for me.

It is easy to see Cauley-Stein’s athleticism and style of play and assume he can be the next Tyson Chandler. However, there are a lot of little things Chandler is great at that mean Cauley-Stein will probably never get there.

Prime Chandler was an elite rebounder and post defender, vocally directed his team’s defense, possessed great timing and screen setting in the pick and roll, mastered verticality at the rim, and was great at catching and finishing through traffic on the move.

There is no guarantee that Cauley-Stein will be able to do any of that. It is most likely he will not reach Chandler’s level in the majority of those areas.

Cauley-Stein can be a damn good NBA player with his ability to dive to the rim on offense, protect it on defense, and switch on the perimeter like no other big in the league. However, his deficiencies in the little areas of the game will probably keep him from being a true all-star level guy.

Turner is a bit better at the minutia than Cauley-Stein, and his combination of shooting and rim protecting is slightly more enticing than Cauley-Stein’s overall defense and rim attacks on offense.

Cauley-Stein does sit above Kaminsky for me. Both are amazing one-way prospects, Kaminsky on offense, Cauley-Stein on defense. Cauley-Stein’s D is slightly more impressive to me than Kaminsky’s O, and Cauley-Stein’s O as a lob threat has a greater chance to be impactful than Kaminsky’s D.

Kaminsky and Porzingis are very close, and I give Kaminsky a slight edge. Porzingis has better tools than Kaminsky, but Kaminsky is just so much better in all the middle areas of the game.

Porzingis’s combination of shooting, athleticism, and solid stats give him enough interest to have him firmly in my lottery, but his lack of strength and shaky basketball IQ scream bust to me. Kaminsky has enough upside of his own as a potentially very dangerous stretch 4/5 to put him ahead.

In all, I am very high on this whole group, and the top of this draft as a whole. Along with the elite wings I already previewed, and the four “top” guys I haven’t written about this top-12 is very strong to me. As with the wings, all 4 of these guys are really close for me and though I would object with having Porzingis 1st amongst this group, I think it is a defensible position to have.

My strongest feelings are that Turner is underrated, and some people are too harsh on Kaminsky. Kaminsky is exceptionally smart and skilled, but also has the physical ability to play in the NBA. Turner simply has a combination of tools that almost no one else in the NBA has, and there should be more buzz around him because of it.

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