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Tank for Frank?: Frank Kaminsky's NBA Outlook

By Chris Horton @HortonBBallSite

Frank 'The Tank' Kaminsky spent the last two Final Fours dominating future pros. With the NBA Draft looming, what is The Tank's pro outlook?

Back-to-back Final Fours. Back-to-back star making performances for Frank Kaminsky. I was watching live in Dallas last year and again in Indianapolis last week. Each performance an equally remarkable display of footwork, shooting, and rebounding. Before I give my scouting report and share how I think Frank the Tank will adjust to the next level, first let me communicate what I expected to see at the Final Four.

The Preconception

I fully expected Frank Kaminsky to be exposed by Kentucky’s frontline of future NBAers. Naturally, Willie Cauley Stein seemed like he would draw the assignment of trying to stop Kaminsky. Cauley Stein has the athleticism to shut Kaminsky down on the perimeter and the length to bother him in the post. Stein’s frontcourt mate, Karl-Anthony Towns, would challenge Kaminsky’s low court defense.

The Reality

63% shooting, 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks later Kaminsky dominated, again, and Wisco handed Kentucky their first loss of the season. Coach John Calipari mysteriously did everything he could to not have the best defender in college basketball (Cauley Stein) matchup against Kaminsky; and even when Cauley Stein did get the matchup, neither he nor Towns could do enough to prevent the Naismith award winning Kaminsky from being the best player on the court.

The Future for Frank

I have detailed my basketball Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on this site many times. But before I even evaluate KPIs, there are five areas that I assess to see if a prospect can contribute at the NBA level. These five competencies were inspired by one of my favorite basketball writers, Jonathan Tjarks, and his Pattern of Basketball. Essentially, each player’s most valuable contributions can be categorized by the following five competencies (like the commonly referenced ‘five tools’ for a baseball player): creating your own shot, creating a shot for someone else, spot-up shooting, rebounding, and defending a position. Here is how Kaminsky fairs in each competency:

Creating His Shot: At the college level, Kaminsky’s game is diverse enough to score in a variety of ways. He can score from the post and also attack off a catch on the perimeter. Kaminsky has never been accused of being fleet of foot, but his technical footwork makes him successful in the block and on the perimeter. Additionally, Kaminsky has adequate strength to bang with college big men and find good post position.

Despite this success, Kaminsky will struggle creating his own shot in the NBA. Listed at 234 pounds, Kaminsky will not have the strength to battle NBA centers and power forwards for space on the low block. With less than adequate speed, Kaminsky will struggle to threaten defenses off the dribble from the perimeter. And when Frank does get around the basket, I have reason to believe he will be far less effective than in college. In his final two seasons as a Badger, Frank the Tank shot a highly efficient 58% from inside the arc. Many of these makes that occurred around the basket, especially as seen in this year’s Final Four, are remarkably Tyler Hansbrough-y. By that I mean, his finishes are marked by off-balanced flailing and just the perfect amount of strength and ball rotation to finish the basket. Hansbrough, of course, was an All-ACC performer for all four of his years as a North Carolina Tar Heel and, like Kaminsky, a Naismith and Wooden Award winner. Hansbrough was drafted at the tail end of the lottery (13th overall), around the same area where Kaminsky is projected to be drafted. While Kaminsky is certainly a more versatile offensive player, the flailing that was so effective for both he and Hansbrough against smaller, weaker college competition does not translate to the NBA.

For Kaminsky to be an effective attacking offensive player, he will have to develop his high-post game where he can utilize his height, footwork, and shooting ability without being inhibited by his lack of quickness and strength.

Creating Shots For Teammates: Both Kaminsky’s assists per game (APG) and assist percentage (AST%) increased each season at Wisconsin. With that being true, Kaminsky still only averaged 2.6 APG as a senior. Kaminsky is an adequate passer for his position that can be trusted to make good decisions, as evidenced by his 1.6 assist to turnover ratio. In the NBA, Kaminsky will be most effective creating shots for teammates as a floor spacer who demands to be guarded on the perimeter rather than as a gifted passer from the post.

Catch & Shoot: This is Kaminsky’s greatest asset as a natural stretch four (or five) man in the NBA. In the modern NBA with teams shooting more threes than ever before, Kaminsky’s ability to shoot and space the floor from his position is highly coveted.

If Kaminsky goes on to be an effective NBA player, it will be largely because of this ability. I do have slight reservations though. Kaminsky’s three-point percentage improved each season, ultimately culminating in the 41% clip he shot this season. While many may attribute the rising percentages to an improved stroke, it might simply be the result of better shot selection. Each season, fewer of Kaminsky’s overall attempts came from three-point range. If you watched Monday’s National Championship in which Kaminsky shied away from multiple open threes this revelation shouldn’t be especially surprising. Although I believe that Kaminsky can be a legitimate stretch four man in the NBA, his three-point production does remind me of recent second overall pick, Derrick Williams.

Williams’ stock skyrocketed as he used his blend of athleticism and shooting efficiency to lead Arizona to an Elite Eight in 2011. Williams’ 57% shooting from three in his final season at Arizona was a byproduct of shot selection rather than actual shooting ability. Williams, like Kaminsky, attempted only about 20% of his total shots from three-point range. Just to reiterate, I believe Kaminsky can shoot it at the next level, but Williams is definitely a precautionary tale.

Rebounding: Because he is perceived a skilled big man, The Tanks’ ability to rebound is often overlooked. As I touched on earlier, Kaminsky snagged 11 rebounds against future lottery picks Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley Stein. Moreover, Kaminsky’s 16.1% Total Rebound Percentage (TRB%) this season was nearly the same as Duke Center and potential number one overall pick Jahlil Okafor’s 16.6%. Is Kaminsky a double digit rebounder at the next level? Will he out-jump DeAndre Jordan or out-stretch Rudy Gobert? Doubtful. But with his size, he should be a serviceable rebounder at his position at the very least.

Defending A Position: The position of an NBA player is defined by the position that they can defend. For example, undersized scoring guards in the Allen Iverson mold may attack like shooting guards, but because of their stature they can only defend point guards, thus making them point guards. This is the biggest question surrounding Frank Kaminsky. What position will he guard in the NBA?

Listed at seven feet tall and 234 pounds, Kaminsky’s build should give him the ability to guard NBA centers who average seven feet tall and 250 pounds. But for a player who more closely resembles Dirk Nowitzki (seven feet tall and 237 pounds) than DeMarcus Cousins (six foot eleven and 292 pounds), it remains to be seen whether Kaminsky has the strength, rim protection ability, or willingness to be a tank in the paint amongst NBA centers for 82 games each season.

Most likely, Kaminsky will line up at the power forward position, where he will spend less time banging in the paint with bigger, stronger bodies and more time using his feet on the perimeter or in the high post. While Kaminsky will not have the quickness or athleticism to bottle up the league’s elite four-men (Davis, Griffin, Aldridge, Gasol), he’ll be able to survive the against the David Lees, Jared Sullingers, and Kevin Loves of the world. And the only way he will even face some of these power forwards is if he establishes himself as such an asset on the offensive end that he commands a large amount of minutes (which his future team will gladly find a way to live with). Otherwise, he will be in action against primarily back up forwards early on in his career.

Ideally, you pair Kaminsky with a defensive-minded rim protecting center, much in the way that the Dallas Mavericks were able to pair Dirk with Tyson Chandler to offset his defensive deficiencies.

To recap, here is how Kaminsky measures up as a future NBA player in each of the five tools:

Creating His Shot: Below Average

Creating Shot for Others: Below Average

Catch & Shoot: Above Average

Rebounding: Average

Defense: Below Average

Kaminsky’s overall effectiveness will not be dependent upon having a well-rounded game, but rather his special trait: stretching defenses as an above average shooter from the power forward (or center) position. If Frank the Tank shoots like his name is Kaminsky Nowitzki, he’ll last as a specialist in the NBA, ala a Ryan Anderson type.

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