Jamaal Franklin, Evan Turner, and the flaws in NBA Comparisons for draft prospects
There is a unique nature to evaluating the talents of a prospect. The fascination of comparing players from the past or the present to the next generation creates a lot of false logic as well as opens up holes in the process of talent evaluation.
Everyone does it from the top level evaluators, to bloggers, to National writers that watch the game of basketball. It is human nature in sports to look at someone that is raw and project that he could potentially mold into a great player we have seen before.
In the past DeShawn Stevenson was supposed to be Michael Jordan and this year Victor Oladipo is going to be the next Jordan. Creating the narrative is selling the player and if they make it — a big if in some cases — then the evaluators are selling themselves in the process.
The infatuation of going straight to the top shelf with player comparisons in an evaluation is mind-boggling and befuddling. As mentioned, everyone does it, but with different types of logic. There is the “eye test” that older scouts rely on as the best way to evaluate talent by watching players in their natural setting; on the basketball court. Then there are others who value numbers from advanced metrics, to size, and productivity seeing what translates and what does not. Trends are out there for basketball minds to reference in this process.
Scouting is not a simple game of “watch and see” or “numbers do not lie,” but rather a combination of both with the system the prospect plays as a major factor in the translation of a prospect game to the next level.
That concept is more widespread in today’s world of the internet and everyone having the ability to instantly get their “content” out to the masses.
Player comparisons are the last thing a scout should worry about when profiling a player and it is the last thing I consider when putting together a profile. They are more for fans of the NBA game to understand who these players might be. Having a ceiling, a basement, and a baseline general comparison are important to show the way a career can fluxgate from great, to average, to untapped potential. Every player has the potential to land in either of the three categories depending on the element of scouting that is invisible to the eye and does not show up in the numbers; interior motivation and drive.
When evaluating a prospect that is the entire offense for a team doing basically everything for them it is difficult to determine how that translates. They are not going to be in a position at the next level to have the ball in their hands as frequently or as consistently as they did in college.
Small school prospects are in that unique quandary with the offense typically funneling through them with the ball in their hands for every play. How does that translate to the next level?
Back in 2009-2010 Evan Turner had a usage rate of 33.1% for the Ohio State Buckeyes while leading them in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and minutes. He did that on a Sweet 16 team in a big conference. As a point forward Turner had the advantage over the defense with his 6-8 frame and ability to handle the ball.
This year that player is Jamaal Franklin of San Diego State who led his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, minutes, and was second on the team in blocks with a 29.9% usage rate.
Turner and Franklin are similar players in the aspect of usage and the bevy of skills they have on the court doing everything well, but nothing in particular great. They are classic five tool prospects that can do numerous things with the ball in their hands.
Transitioning that to the NBA game is a different story. Turner has a career usage rate of 19.8 for the Philadelphia 76ers on a team that has a play-maker at the point, but does not seem to know where or how to play Turner. With that, Turner does not know where or how to play without the ball. He was a career 36.2% shooter from three in college with a turnover rate of 21.1% showing he was a turnover prone play-maker that was inconsistent as a shooter at best.
The transition to the NBA has not been smooth for Turner because of his lack of shooting ability, but that is emphasized because he does not have a skill to hang his hat on with the ball out of his hands. He can create offense, but that takes the ball out of play0makers like Jrue Holiday’s hands, which is not ideal as he is an emerging star.
Turner is not particularly long (6-8 wingspan) or quick to make an impact on the defensive end. He is big enough to defend multiple positions, but not efficient or effective to date.
That is the primary difference between Turner, who went no. 2 overall in the NBA Draft, and Franklin who has great length as well as defensive ability. Franklin has a 6-11.25 wingspan to make up for his lack of height compared to Turner, which will allow him to defend multiple positions with effectiveness. Franklin has a hat to hang on when the ball is not in his hands on the offensive end.
It will be a similar transition for Franklin as a career 30.2% shooter from three with a turnover rate of 17.1% in college with the ball in his hands making the plays.
These two are similar, but different in the respect that they both were the leaders of their teams in every possible fashion and will have to make the transition to the NBA without the ball in their hands.
NBA comparisons are farfetched. Turner was supposed to be Brandon Roy, Anthony Parker, amongst others while Franklin is a late lottery pick with comparisons to Hassan Adams, J.R. Smith, Tony Allen, as well as others. In a fairly strong draft Turner was the No. 2 overall pick and was in the discussion for the top pick while Franklin, in a relatively average draft, is a projected late lottery pick.
Franklin has the ability to a better NBA player despite not being as acclaimed as Turner, which is why comparisons are only as good as the depth of the evaluation. On the surface these two have quite a lot of similarities in stats and general play on the court. Turner and Franklin are not the perfect comparison for NBA level talents, but they will have the same struggles, have similar weaknesses, and both are five tool prospects that can do everything well and very few things at a great level.
Making a comparison takes a lot more than just the “eye test” or advanced statistics, it is a combination of both leading to properly evaluating the abilities of a prospect. Which, is still farfetched at best…