Two players are neck and neck for the top spot in this year's Draft Rater. You could easily guess that one of them is Blake Griffin, but most folks never would have guessed that the other is Lawson.
Lawson, who is coming off an electric performance in leading North Carolina to the championship, grades out highly for several reasons: Although he's short for a point guard, his shooting numbers (47.1 percent on 3-pointers), strong assist rate and microscopic turnover ratio (9.1, first among point guard prospects) all point to him as an NBA keeper.
The Draft Rater puts Lawson slightly ahead of Griffin for first, but this doesn't mean a team should take Lawson first. The standard error in the projections for point guards is higher than it is for big men, which means random noise could be putting Lawson ahead just as easily as on-the-court performance. If the consensus is that Griffin is the better player, I don't think Lawson's statistical record alone is strong enough evidence to refute it. Additionally, we've heard questions about Lawson's work ethic and injuries.
But the rating is emphatic enough for me to say Lawson should be at the top of the college point guard ladder, ahead of Jonny Flynn, Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague & Co. (If you're wondering about Ricky Rubio, I'll have more on him next week.)
The second is DeMar DeRozan, whom the Knicks saw on Thursday up at the MSG Training Center. From what I know, DeRozan, who worked out alone, showed off athleticism and a decent shooting ability. All the necessary skills to be a good pro. But according to Hollinger's formula, DeRozan has bust written all over him:
I'd be hard-pressed to name a potential high lottery pick throughout the years about whom the Draft Rater has been less excited. I rated 90 prospects for this draft, and DeRozan ranked 54th among them. Two of his USC teammates -- Daniel Hackett and Taj Gibson -- outranked him, as did assorted other nonentities such as Kevin Rogers, Chinemelu Elonu and Ben Woodside. I'll wait here while you Google them.
Why? Because there really isn't anything in DeRozan's statistical profile that makes you think "NBA star." He rarely took or made 3-pointers, and he had a strongly negative pure point rating, which are two powerful indicators for a wing player. His numbers in other areas were unimpressive, too. In particular, he was a bad free throw shooter, which indicates that his outside shot might never be a strong suit.
Some scouts I have talked to have compared DeRozan to Rudy Gay in terms of being an NBA athlete but having a questionable motor. But that comparison falls flat, according to the Draft Rater: Gay was the top-rated player in his draft class, while DeRozan is nowhere close. And although he's supposed to be a great athlete, he didn't show it on the court often enough: His rebound, block and steal totals were all very ordinary.
As I mentioned above, one-and-done players sometimes fool the system -- they're the youngest, least experienced guys in the pool, and thus, a major factor is how much they improve post-draft rather than just how good they are pre-draft.
Nonetheless, I would back away from DeRozan if the 12 relatively safe guys at the top of the Draft Rater are still on the board.
Here is Hollinger's top 12:
2. Blake Griffin
3. Tyreke Evans
4. Austin Daye
5. Stephen Curry
6. Nick Calathes
7. DeJuan Blair
8. Danny Green
9. Jonny Flynn
10. James Harden
11. Hasheem Thabeet
12. Earl Clark
Other notables: Jrue Holiday was 13th, Terrence Williams was 19th, Jordan Hill was 26th and DeRozan 54th.