Digging for Diamonds – Chris McCullough and Yogi Ferrell

Chris McCullough, who turned 22 on February 5th, was drafted by the Brooklyn Nets at the end of the first round in 2015 and has not cracked their pathetic rotation, so I understand if anyone is skeptical about his fantasy upside. However, right now he will cost you almost nothing besides a roster spot and he has the ability to be a standout in multiple categories.

In a small sample in 2015, McCullough stole or blocked the ball on almost 7% of possessions. Nerlens Noel is the standard bearer in that regard, registering a steal or block on 7.2% of possessions in 2015-2016. For reference, Draymond Green’s combined rate was 5.2%. In other words, even with significant regression in those categories (and there will be regression), all McCullough needs to do to turn a profit on your investment is get on the court.

So can McCullough develop the rest of his game enough to the point that he’s earning the playing time necessary for him to become a start-worthy fantasy contributor?

Here’s what Kevin Pelton said back in 2015:

McCullough’s performance at Syracuse before he tore his ACL doesn’t suggest he’s close to ready to contribute in the NBA. His steal and block rates were both strong, however, suggesting long-term potential.

Long-term potential indeed. In a tiny sample with the Nets this year, he’s improved his overall efficiency from last year (again in a small sample), but the minutes just aren’t there to make a conclusion. In the D-League, McCullough has attempted and knocked down enough threes to suggest he has it in him to stretch the floor. We know he can block shots and create deflections, which gives him a chance to start at the four. At just 215 pounds, I don’t know that he has the size to be a small “stretch” five.

McCullough’s top 10 closest NBA comparable players include 9-category fantasy studs Trevor Ariza and Gerald Wallace, who at their peak had top 10 (Wallace) to 25 (Ariza) type seasons. However, the other eight comps include a bunch of duds. That seems about right – he probably has about a 20% chance of hitting and a very high bust rate. But if he does hit, he has it in him to provide massive upside thanks to the steals and blocks.

Conclusion: Based on his good-enough prospect pedigree, fantasy friendly defensive abilities and developing three point range, McCullough is an ideal speculative add. Go out and make a 2 for 1 trade to clear a roster spot for him. ABC, “always be consolidating,” and then backfill with quality speculative adds like CM. I aggressively ranked him in my latest top 200, but you shouldn’t need to pay much if anything to acquire him.

Yogi Ferrell was cast aside by the talent-starved Brooklyn Nets. That alone should make us skeptical, but let’s look deeper. As a pre-draft prospect, Ferrell’s WARP projection was commensurate with that of a legitimate late 2nd round pick. (He ended up going un-drafted.) In college Ferrell had rebound and block rates that were off-the-charts bad and a below average steal rate. The good news is that Ferrell also had a top 75% percentile assist rate and had a high effective FG% thanks to his many attempts from three and the free throw line. The profile is one that typically has an upside of a Seth Curry as an offense-first backup who can sneak into a starting job on a bad team, though Ferrell’s assist rate suggests he has at least a shot at remaining a traditional point guard (albeit the more shoot-first flavor).

While he struggled badly with his shot in limited burn with the Nets, Ferrell was nearly a 40/90 guy (3’s and FT) in the D-League, accuracy he has maintained with the Mavericks. Given that the Mavs themselves are talent-starved, particularly at guard, the opportunity is there for Ferrell to continue to get the requisite playing time to fill up a box score. Over the last week (as of 2/9) he’s been a top 15 point guard, which is his upside in the short-term.

Conclusion:  Sell. The shooting efficiency could be legitimate based on his college and D-League production, but Ferrell screams “backup” to me long-term. If you can cash in on someone that falls in love with the present production and opportunity, I would jump at the chance to move him or perhaps package him with something else for an upgrade. Ferrell belongs in a dynasty top 200 thanks to his viable path to playing time and outside chance to stick as a Lou Williams style rotation player for the rest of this season, but he would not crack my top 150.

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Tom Trudeau

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