Tag Archives: Big Board

Scouting Report: RJ Barrett (Rank 8, Tier 3)

Scouting Report:

RJ Barrett (Rank 8, Tier 3)

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

6’7/6’10 wingspan/202 pounds/19 years/FR

I guess I have some explaining to do.  Typically every year there’s at least one overhyped prospect and my choice this draft is RJ Barrett.  I understand that he might not have been in the best situation at Duke since they didn’t have much shooting so let’s just focus on the facts.  Barrett shot 30.8% from three, 66.5% from the free throw line and excluding post-ups 52.2% around the basket.  He wasn’t a particularly good off-ball player posting a .952 points per possession on all catch-and-shoot chances which ranked 41st percentile, .689 points per possession on “off-screen” situations which ranked 22nd percentile and .949 points per possession on all “cut” plays which ranked 24th percentile.  So he wasn’t a good shooter, has questionable touch and can’t do much off ball?  Basically he better be the primary creator on whatever team he goes to because if not I question what role he’s going to play.  I guess either people are just hoping for substantial improvement or they really think the Duke situation was that bad.

So let’s go over the tape.  One of Barrett’s skills are his playmaking ability.  He uses his height to look over the defense and toss skip, pocket and over the top passes around the floor.  He’s pretty solid at the two-man game between ball handler and roll man.  Though I wouldn’t call him a primary ball handler but more of a tertiary ball handler due to his average feel and problems with misdiagnosing plays.  He’s decent at live-dribble but he’s not really a shifty ball handler.  He can use euro steps, cross steps and behind the back dribble drive moves but make no mistake Barrett is a power driver. He has long, strong strides on his drive and can dip his shoulder into the defender to dislodge for space.  His hips aren’t that fluid and he tends to straight line drive in the paint with his left hand.  A lot of times on layups he would switch the ball from right to left hand while midair wasting motion in this manner.  I guess he doesn’t trust his right hand all that much yet but that will be a problem if not remedied.

On defense he’s a decent on-ball defender, a questionable team defender and below average at defensive creation.  He’s best when on-ball locked in, sitting down in his stance and remaining balanced. He’s listed at 6’7 with a 6’10 wingspan and a good not great athlete.  That physical profile helps him well defending dribble drive moves. Although at times his positioning and footwork would be off giving Barrett a tough time to adjust on the fly.  He can make initial rotations weak side and help defense but struggles to process the next move.  He’s slow to identify his man off a scramble, will lazily fly by for closeouts at times and get lost looking for his matchup while defending early offense.  He has average instincts on defense and isn’t much for creating events.  He averaged 1.5 blocks+steals per 40 minutes.  Not impressive numbers for an NBA wing.

One of the reasons why I like Jarrett Culver so much is growth potential.  If you look at his high school senior season, freshman season and this past season he grew exponentially.  If you look at Barrett since the FIBA U19 World Cup in 2017 how much has he grown since then?  He’s pretty much the same player while Culver was the 43rd ranked shooting guard in ESPN’s 2017 class and now he’s a possible top five pick.  I just think this is who Barrett is. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that but I just think at pick three you want more growth potential.  I mean he’s still in my top 10 so it’s not like I’m going overboard with criticism…I think.

* All stats provided by Synergy Sports Tech and Hoop-Math*

Scouting Report: Darius Bazley (Rank 5, Tier 2)

Scouting Report:

Darius Bazley (Rank 5, Tier 2)

6’9/7’ wingspan/209 pounds/19 years

~ Sometimes you have to put your name on a couple prospects.  Especially in a draft as uncertain as this one there seems to be a few potential gems hidden outside the lottery.  That’s where Darius Bazley steps in for me.  He was the 13th ranked player coming out of high school by ESPN and decided to skip college and play in the g-league.  For whatever reason, he changed his mind about entering the g-league and planned to work on his body and skills leading up to the draft.  I obviously didn’t know much about him until I saw his performance at the NBA combine 5-on-5 scrimmages portion.  What really impressed me was the fact that he was 19 years old, hasn’t played organized basketball in over a year going up against a bunch of players who were 19-23 years old who just played college basketball 2-3 months prior and became one of the standouts nonetheless.

He stands in at 6’9 with a 7’ wingspan and an impressive 8’11 standing reach.  He also proved to be a bouncy athlete with a 37 inch max vertical and quick change-of-direction potential sporting a 2.95 shuttle run which was sixth best.  The thing that got me to start taking Bazley more seriously was his handle.  He had a pretty low, tight and in control handle with combo dribble drive moves.  He took players off the bounce with either a pump fake or decently quick first step.  He made turnaround two point jumpers, one dribble pull-ups and and-1 buckets.  He was quick off his feet for offensive putbacks, reverse layups and one-legged lay-ins.  His passing ability took me by surprise too.  It wasn’t all good with some forced passes and misguided transition throw aheads but he did make some standout plays.  One of them being an off-the-dribble behind-the-back pass to Ignas Brazdekis and the other being an off-the-bounce drop off pass to the man at the dunker spot.  When I watched some of his high school tape he showed pretty solid passing skills, it’s the instincts that need to improve.

His left-handed long distance shot looked workable.  I watched some of his high school games at Princeton (OH) and his mechanics have definitely improved since.  In high school they were really slow, his elbow had inconsistent arrangements and the shot came out at an angle.  His shot at the combine was quicker, his elbow placement was much smoother and the shot was actually lined up with the basket.  Obviously he still needs to tinker with his mechanics but making progress at this young of an age is a positive indication of shooting success.

He was a decidedly better on-ball defender than team defender.  At times he missed rotations, misread angles and lost his man.  His ability to cover ground in a timely fashion does give Bazley upside as a developing team defender and considering this was his first organized game in over a year it’s tough to judge but questioning his feel for the game is an inevitable concern.  On the other hand he was defending smaller, quicker players well, had a solid time playing different pick-and-roll coverages and was able to defend in the post. His long lanky legs gave him a big base to work with and his wide shoulders shoulders should fill out over time.  Add that to his length and athleticism and we’re talking about a potentially versatile swing forward on defense.  There was one play where he pressed the ball handler on a side pick-and-roll, the ball handler threw a pocket pass to the screener slipping, Bazley recovered well, picked up the screener at the free throw line and contested a post attempt for a miss.  That one play alone showed why I think he has tremendous upside on defense.

The transition to the NBA will take time.  His last taste of organized basketball was a year ago in a high school gym.  It’s probably going to take him at least a season or two to acclimate to pro speed.  On a few instances during the combine it looked like he was averse to the physical nature of the game.  Gaining strength and bulking up will be very important for Bazley.  He did just turn 19 years old.  As long as the franchise who drafts him is patient then they could reap major benefits.  Is ranking Bazley at five too high?  Probably.  But with so much skepticism towards this draft a player who is long, active with quick feet, has a budding shot, solid handle and passing skills…well, that sounds like a player to take a risk on.

Scouting Report: Darius Garland (Rank 9, Tier 3)

Scouting Report:

Darius Garland (Rank 9, Tier 3)

6’3/6’5 Wingspan/175 pounds/19.4 years/FR

 

Darius Garland tore his left meniscus five games into his freshman season.  That was unfortunate since he was on a roll offensively through four games.  It’s frustrating to grade him with the lack of game tape.  At times I think he’s a top five talent due to his shooting skills but other times I question his defense and wonder what role will he have on a championship caliber team.  He’s listed as 6’3 with a 6’5 wingspan and weighs in at 175 pounds.  A meniscus tear isn’t an athleticism altering injury but if Garland’s frame can’t mange NBA punishment that’s a long term problem.  Just like with most smaller stature players, Garland will need to add strength and bulk up.  Since he’s super agile and fast with solid quick twitch reactions he will need to be careful with paint drives and laying out his body on finishes.  Smaller players bodies tend to break down fast in the NBA and hopefully whoever drafts Garland will properly monitor his conditioning.

The main reason why he’s ranked number nine on my big board even though he’s only played four games has to deal with his shooting.  Unlike Ja Morant and Coby White, Garland has a more capable translatable shot.  His mechanics are the most natural out of the three guards; nice quick motion, power comes from the lower body and hips, loads up off his toes, set point has variances but seems high enough and solid touch.  He shot 47.8% from three and 1.441 points per possession on all jump shots which ranked 99th percentile albeit on a small sample size.  He was deadly off the dribble shooting 56.2% on his two point jumpers.  He can step back off either foot, sharp pull up, side step and pull back with nimble shake to his rhythm.  He can use change-of-pace dribble moves to influence defenders habits and dictate which angle to exploit.  His abrupt stop-and-go movements off the bounce and combo dribble drives moves help create separation for himself.  He also can use his shooting gravity off-ball, cut off screen and make movement three pointers.  That’s something I want to see more of in the NBA.

Entering the paint is one of Garland’s pluses but his finishing ability needs some improving.  He isn’t terrible around the rim sporting a 60% field goal percentage but the physical nature of the middle modifies his timing and power around the rim.  It felt like he would short arm some lay in’s and mostly jump off two feet around the hoop not trusting his body control on one legged leaps.  I also think he’s a better playmaker than he gets credit for.  He had a 13 assist to 15 turnover ratio and sported .647 points per possession on passes out of the pick-and-roll which ranked 9th percentile.  He clearly looks for his shot first, has tunnel vision and can’t identify the simple pass in a timely fashion.  The numbers don’t support his playmaking ability and the tape doesn’t either but in spurts I’ve seen good creation.  A lot of that has to deal with keeping his head up, trusting his teammates and not over dribbling.  Sometimes he will pick up his dribble too early if he sees a second man come his way.  Continuing his dribble and prolonging the play will also help in terms of playmaking.

His defense is somewhat concerning.  Obviously his frame doesn’t do him any favors, his on-ball defense waivers even though he has lateral quickness and his team defense is still a question mark.  I sometimes wonder how much of a difference there is between Garland and Carsen Edwards due to the fact they have similar builds and offensive styles.  Ja Morant is an elite play maker and Coby White is 6’5 with some play making ability.  On the other hand if Garland can’t playmake at the next level why is he ranked so much higher than Carsen Edwards who he compares well with?  That’s a question I’ve been wrestling with and I always fall back to dribbling ability and lateral movement.  I also can’t get the 2018 NBA combine scrimmages out of my head when it comes to Carsen Edwards.  He didn’t play well in a simulated NBA environment and became a motive for him to return for his junior season.  I trust Garland to be that much better of a shooter, scorer than Edwards as well.  Still it’s a valid question and part of my concern with Garland’s value.

 

* All stats provided by Synergy Sports Tech and Hoop-Math *

Scouting Report: Coby White (Rank 4, Tier 2)

Scouting Report:

Coby White (Rank 4, Tier 2)

6’5/6’5 wingspan/191 pounds/19.3 years/FR

 

Coby White is one of my biggest movers on this ranking.  A lot of that has to do with his scoring prowess.  For this draft class Coby has top level scoring instincts, can shoot threes in a variety of ways and is an improving play maker.  Being long, athletic with a good frame is great for potential but if you can’t dribble, shoot and create for yourself then that potential’s value is cut in half.  Even though Coby is listed at 6’5 he doesn’t have that big of a frame.  His shoulders are pretty slight with average size hands and a build that might not fill out.  The hope is that over time he will develop strength albeit with a slender frame.  His physical advantage is speed and quickness.  Coby might even be faster than Ja Morant but doesn’t have the vertical explosion to match.

Coby might not be an above the rim player but has craft and touch in his arsenal.  He shot 67% on all his attempts around the rim and only 17.9% of those were assisted.  He can change hands mid air on lay up attempts, go up-and-under for stealthy finishes and put soft english on the ball to fit over longer players.  He’s a decently versatile leaper around the rim with same foot, same hand lay in’s but tends to jump off two feet around rim.  I think as soon as he gains longer body strength he should use one footed leaps around the rim more frequently.  He has a quick first step with speed down hill with a multitude of hang dribbles, push crossovers, behind the back moves and hezi jimbos.  His sudden stop-and-go movements get defenders leaning and his blazing speed gets himself into the lane.  When he gets into the lane he likes to use a left-to-right spin move for separation and uses his momentum wisely to carry his body in space creating angles whether that be on step-backs or fallaways.  Unfortunately his handle can be too high, leaving the ball out in front exposed for deflections.  He needs better control and a steadier center of gravity.  Moving side to side can be an issue as well as White can be loose with his dribble.  As I said earlier, the hope is that additional core strength will improve control.

White is a score first guard that needs to see the court better but can make plays off the pick-and-roll since the game is slowed down.  Possessions that include passes off the pick-and-roll, White sported a 1.407 points per possession which ranked 97th percentile.  When he gets sped up White doesn’t see the court as well as he could but with a ball screen he does a good job looking for cutters and weak side action with one handed skip passes on occasion.  He can turn the corner off a hedge even with a dribble that’s high but what’s most impressive are his splits through doubles or hedges.  That was probably one of the first things I noticed about White, his ability to split pick-and-roll coverage’s.  That’s such a useful move to get the offense a 5-on-4 advantage on his way to the rim.  Although when he did split the coverage when he pulled up off the dribble White sported a .629 points per possession which ranked 27th percentile. Having better shot selection, more strength and body control should help with his off dribble game.

Just like with Ja Morant, White has a lower release point.  White had an inconsistent release point though and at times it was as low as his chin and as high as over his head.  Having a fluid set point definitely quickens your shooting mechanics but unless you get the ball high enough on the follow through and develop core strength then the shot may be prone to contests.  Luckily for White he does a good job of step backs, pull ups and momentum altering shots that create space to get the shot off.  He also sported a 1.339 points per possession on catch-and-shoot situations which ranked 93rd percentile.  Even in a limited fashion at North Carolina White displayed good instincts off-ball.  He set good cross and up screens plus pin-downs using his shooting gravity at times to distort the angles of the court.  He was more active off-ball than Morant and it’s something that I think is underrated when talked about Coby White.

White also tried on defense unlike Morant did this past season.  Coby isn’t the biggest, strongest or most vertically explosive player but he gave multiple efforts, fought over screens and used his quickness to his advantage.  Yes, when he did get caught up in a screen it took him time to recover but remarkably White did a solid job whipping his inside foot over screen setters to get skinny over screens.  He would then stay attached to the ball handler and hustle even if he was behind some.  White was actually a decent team defender collapsing middle on drives, walling off weak side attacks and cutting off drives at the nail then recovering back to his own.  Sometimes after making the initial rotation Coby would get stuck in the muck and at times he missed his sink-and-fill assignments but overall Coby was an above average team defender.  His quickness allowed him to stay in front of players but at times he over gambled and lost position.  Playing on his toes more, working on his lower body and strengthening his butt would help in terms of on-ball defense.

The importance of creating a shot for yourself can’t be understated.  It’s obviously important to have other skills and a baseline of NBA athletic ability but during the playoffs players who can’t dribble, shoot and create buckets for themselves are impossible to play.  White got better as the season went on and considering we’re talking about ACC play that was highly impressive.  I don’t know if White will ever be a starting point guard on a title team but can he be a highly productive rotational piece on a title team?  I think so.

 

* All stats provided by Synergy Sports Tech and Hoop-Math*

 

 

Scouting Report: Ja Morant (Rank 3, Tier 2)

Scouting Report:

Ja Morant (Rank 3, Tier 2)

6’3/6’6 wingspan/175 pounds/19.8 years/SO

 

I’m not as sold on Ja Morant as everyone else seems to be.  Memphis has already announced they are selecting Morant well in advance of the actual draft and he ranks number two on most big boards I’ve seen.  The hype for Morant is for real.  Now you may be asking the question, “Hey OldMan?  If you’re not high on Morant then why rank him number three?”  Fair question random reader.  The number one reason why he ranks so high on my big board is his shot creation ability; whether that be creating for himself or his teammates.  He has one of, if not the best first step in the entire 2019 draft class.  He uses a variety of quick twitch hesitations for his primary dribble drive move that creates separation.  Combine that with an assortment of crossovers with either hand and he breaks down the defense like a pro.

Morant is quick to process on offense, has a good feel for play maturation and solid passing instincts.  If the defense loses a player baseline get ready for an on time lob pass by Morant.  He’ll look off defenders for no look passes, draw defenders in the paint for dump off passes and find cutters with ease.  Morant doesn’t just sit back and take what the defense gives him but rather manipulates defenders into getting the play he wants.  His ability to read the game in layers and play make off it will always be a coveted skill in the NBA.    

He’s pretty ambidextrous with his handle and finishing ability.  He can leap off either foot, two foot leap for power and slam dunk off one foot in transition.  He doesn’t quite have great touch but rather good touch around the rim sporting a 61% field goal percentage around the basket.  His body control can improve on his finishes and I think gaining more strength would help improve his overall touch around the rim.  Morant can make tough shots off the dribble but wasn’t really asked to do much off-ball.  Improving as a movement shooter will be important since he won’t have the ball in his hands as much as he did sophomore season.  He wasn’t that active off-ball on offense but did sport a 1.133 points per possession on all catch-and-shoot situations which ranked 72nd percentile.  He did that on only 45 possessions though so the sample size isn’t hefty.  He also sported a .778 points per possession on all catch-and-shoot plays his freshman season which ranked 20th percentile.  He uses a one motion shooting technique for his follow through on his jump shot.  It lowers the release point but quickens the mechanics.  He needs to gain more lower body and core strength to help him with his long distance accuracy.  Since he shot 81% from the free throw line his two seasons at Murray State, has pretty solid touch around the rim and improved as a shooter from season to season gives me enough indication of potential shooting success in the NBA.

Like I said at the beginning of this report I have my concerns.  For starters he was a far better transition player than half court player which is somewhat concerning.  He scored 1.197 points per possession on all transition plays which ranked 78th percentile but on half court plays scored a .885 points per possession which ranked 58th percentile.  He also took a lot of risky passes through tight seams on the court for a fair amount of turnovers which could make for a messy adjustment period at the next level.  His off-ball offense is cause for pause, his small frame could ultimately be a problem, he needs to work on his strength and his shot isn’t a guarantee that it’ll translate to the pros.  His top tier play making ability and shot creation prowess are what’s holding me back from ranking him any lower.

The biggest concern I have however is his defense.  The amount of times I saw him blatantly let the ball handler he was guarding pass by just to attempt a back tap from behind at the ball was ludicrous.  He was more concerned about making a play on the ball instead of being a sound defender.  He’s done that as an off-ball defender too by reaching and swiping down instead of playing gap protection.  I get that his usage was 33% and he had so much to do on offense.  He was pacing himself throughout the game and expended a lot of energy on the offensive side of the ball.  I’m just worried he developed bad habits his sophomore season.  His defensive stance is either hunched over or straight up.  Rarely did I see him sit in his stance and use his butt as an anchor.  He floated off-ball with lackadaisical effort at times and needs to be more alert on give-and-go’s plus backdoor passes.  He hardly lock-and-trailed his man and shot the gap mostly or avoided screens all together.  It’s not all bad though.  Morant has shown that he’s capable of hugging the lane line and making rotations on help defense.  He also used his quickness and lateral agility to stay in front of ball handlers but only when he felt like it.  His athletic ability was a major redeeming quality on defense as that’s how he made up for his mistakes.

Having a consistent long range shot, gaining strength and putting effort in defensively are points of contention that Morant has to improve upon in the NBA.  Even with all my concerns I have Morant ranked third.  The substantial selling point is obviously his shot creation and play making talent.  Those still are in demand skills and very important for playoff basketball.  Pairing Morant with Jarren Jackson is a nice way to kick off a rebuild and should help with Morant’s progression.  

 

* All Stats provided by Synergy Sports Tech *

Scouting Report: Jarrett Culver (Rank 2, Tier 2)

Scouting Report:

Jarrett Culver (Rank 2, Tier 2)

6’7/6’9.5 wingspan/194 pounds/20.3 years/SO

 

Jarrett Culver started off ranked number two in my pre-tournament rankings and that’s where he’ll finish off.  The overall growth potential that Culver has is too enticing.  The combination of good size, decent frame, budding skill, workable shot and defensive prowess makes Culver a perfect upside play for today’s NBA.  He isn’t overly long and has a pretty mediocre standing reach at 8’4.5. To put that in perspective, Tyler Herro, who has a shorter wingspan than height sports the same standing reach as Culver.  If Culver wants to guard the best wing scorers in the game today he’ll need to pack on a few more pounds and bulk up.  His great athleticism and height is his saving grace.  Culver had a recent growth spurt since he measured in at 6’5 entering college and now leaves Texas Tech closer near 6’7.  Those additional inches will help in terms of getting shots up over pressure, defending multiple positions and seeing over the top of the defense.  Culver is quick off his feet around the rim, covers the court with his speed and shows slippery hips on point of attack defense.  His physical profile isn’t great but good enough to warrant the hype he’s getting.

On offense Culver is a solid play maker.  After being blitzed off a ball screen he can hit weak side shooters with an over the top pass or pocket pass to the release value.  He finds back action shooters with space coming of high side pick-and-roll’s or finds the roll-man with lob passes on side pick-and-roll’s.  Culver had 209 assists to 160 turnovers for his career at Texas Tech.  There’s still room for improvement as at times he gets careless with the ball and reads a play that was never going to open in the first place.  During the national championship game Culver forced some of these plays for boneheaded turnovers.  All in all Culver is a pretty heady play maker off the bounce or with a ball screen but needs to identify actions with more caution before making a silly turnover.

His long range shot is a hot topic.  He shot 68.7% from the free throw line and 34.1% from the three point line in his two years at Texas Tech.  He also shot 33.9% on his two point jumpers.  On catch-and-shoot situations Culver sported a .908 points per possession which ranked 34th percentile and on all jump shot opportunities he sported a .848 points per possession which ranked 37th percentile.  From a numbers perceptive Culver seems like a below average to average jump shooter.  His shooting mechanics look tense with no flow.  They aren’t compact or repeatable and it seems like he needs to work out the hitch in his release.  At times on the load up he generates power while flat footed but needs to spring off his toes to allow the power from his lower body and not his shoulders.  His shot clearly needs work and his shooting percentages are weak but considering he has solid touch around the basket shooting 67% around the rim and makes a fair amount of unassisted tough shots, there is some indication that he can improve his shot at the next level.  For Culver to reach full potential his shot is priority number one to fix.

His handle is solid but needs to be upgraded.  He lacks an elite first step, is sometimes hunched over when he dribbles, too high of a dribble and needs a consistent low center of gravity.  He uses a variety of rips, pumps and jab steps out of the triple threat to create separation with his slightly above average first step.  He tends to be more of a straight line driver and doesn’t possess enough side-to-side wiggle in the lane.  He can throw down off two feet from a spin move in the lane for some space creation or use a combination of push crosses and behind the back dribbles to change direction.  As long as he keeps the ball low, has a good anchor underneath him and use his left hand more frequently then he’s capable of having a much better handle.  A lot of things on offense for Culver need to be worked on but are definitely manageable.  Nothing he does is broken and has shown spurts of greatness in all areas on offense.

Overall as a defender Culver is one of the better one’s in this draft.  He’s good at creating events on defense and on-ball and team defense.  He isn’t afraid to leave his man weak side to take a charge in the lane or crash down on some strong side action causing havoc.  He has solid anticipation and hand eye coordination on deflections covering a lot of ground quickly in the process.  At times I noticed him staring at the ball one second too long and be late to process as a result.  But overall he does a fine job with his low man rotations and weak side contests.  He’s also a good live ball defender with long lanky legs creating a wide base and good anchor to contain dribble penetration.  He’ll stay attached to his man’s hip, doesn’t bite on fakes for the most part and funnels his man into help defense. Sometimes he needs to finish out the play since I’ve seen him gear up for a box-out while he should be gathering for a rim contest.  Getting stronger with better core strength will help with contact, rebounding and switching.

The year-over-year improvement for Culver is a reason why I’m betting on his growth potential.  Depending on how his body develops he could conceivably play positions one through four on offense and defend one through 5.  The biggest question I will monitor will be his shot process. That’s going to be key for him. Culver to me projects nicely as a two-way big wing with play making ability.  If that’s the ceiling then why not take the gamble?

* All stats provided by Synergy Sports Tech *

Final 2019 NBA Draft Big Board

Check out my first two big boards to understand my thought process a little better:

Pre-Tournament Big Board

Post-Tournament Big Board

FINAL NOTE: I just did some tweaks to my big board and everything is final for the draft.  Players I have red flagged for medical reasons didn’t make my ranking.  That includes Bol Bol and Jontay Porter.  I also haven’t included foreign prospects because I didn’t invest as much time in them as I would’ve liked.  I’d be ranking foreign prospects based off what other people have to say and clearly I don’t feel comfortable doing that.  My apologies to Sekou Doumbouya, Goga Bitadze, Luka Samanic and more.

 

………….

 

Tier 1

 

  1. Zion Williamson, Swing Big, Duke, 6’7, 6’10 wingspan, 18.9 years

~ Scouting Report

 

Tier 2

 

  1. Jarrett Culver, Wing, Texas Tech, 6’7, 6’9.5 wingspan, 20.3 years

~ Scouting Report

  1. Ja Morant, Guard, Murray State, 6’3, 19.8 years

~ Scouting Report

  1. Coby White, Guard, North Carolina, 6’5, 6’5 wingspan, 19.3 years

~ Scouting Report

  1. Darius Bazley, Swing Big, USA, 6’9, 7’ wingspan, 19 years

~ Scouting Report

  1. Brandon Clarke, Swing Big, Gonzaga, 6’8.5, 6’8.5 wingspan, 22.8 years

Brief Overview

Brandon Clarke is draft twitters love child.  I’ve seen draft experts have him ranked as high as number two.  While I wouldn’t rank him that high, I’m totally on board the Clarke bandwagon.  He’s still only ranked 6 on my big board, which I personally think is high, but to some people not high enough.  His physical frame is definitely a negative.  He’s listed at 6’8.5 with a 6’8.5 wingspan and only an 8’6 standing reach.  Those are below average numbers for a power forward and Clarke’s game projects to be a center.  Luckily for Clarke he is a freak athlete.  He had insane numbers for a big man at the NBA combine with a 34’ standing vertical (wow) and a 40’ max vertical.  That should tell you the type of explosion he has.

On offense Clarke isn’t a deep range shooter but has showed solid indicators of potential shooting success.  He made 79.7% of his shots around the rim for solid touch, made 52.8% of his two point jumpers which some of those were movement shots and improved his free throw percentage to 69.4%.  He’s almost 23 years old so I don’t know how much more shooting upside he has but he drastically changed his shooting mechanics from San Jose State to Gonzaga and working with pro coaches should help expedite the process.  He was a solid pick-and-roll screener with deft knowledge of when to slip and when to delay his dive.  But obviously becoming a better pick-and-pop player is a must.  He doesn’t have to “pop” from the three point line either, just deep two’s would suffice.

He doesn’t really have perimeter skills yet either and is a basic ball handler.  What he was good at was facing up 18 ft out and attacking off the dribble.  He could take a couple left handed pound dribbles, jump stop and finish off two feet.  He could catch the ball 20 feet out, face up, jab step, drive left, spin right in lane and finish off two feet. He sure did like that spin move off two feet in the lane and was able to move through tight spaces with it.  He could baseline rip-and-go but since he doesn’t have much change-of-direction at times he got trapped baseline forcing uncomfortable situations.  He was pretty ambidextrous on his finishes but needs to leap off one foot more often.  He could attack closeouts and finish with touch on his runners.  He could turn right shoulder for a hook shot as well but most of what I’m saying pertains to 18 feet and in.  He needs to diversify his off the dribble game, work on his spot up jumper and pick-and-pop game.

Defensively is where most draft fanatics freak out over Clarke.  I’ll start with his negative on defense: on-ball.  Let’s get this straight Clarke isn’t a minus on-ball defender but in comparison to everything else he does on defense it’s his biggest improvement area.  He’ll struggle to defend smaller, quicker players or players who have good ball handling ability.  Now a lot of that could be fixed by his upright stance.  He relies too heavily on his athleticism at times and doesn’t sit down in his stance as much as he should.  At times he can get beat at the point of attack but regardless he does his best to stay attached and contest from behind.  He has great effort, feel and instincts on defense.  His team defense is pretty amazing.  He isn’t perfect as at times he misses rotations but for the most part walls off drives, circuits through rotations and has great timing on his weak side blocks/contests.  He’s also not afraid to leave his man/position to help one man over or disrupt an on-ball action.  His defensive creation skills are top level too as he posted 6.2 blocks+steals per 40 minutes.  He has the speed to cover large areas of ground in a hurry even with subpar length.  As long as he uses his butt as an anchor more often Clarke could end up being the best defensive player in this draft.

A lot of his projection will be dependent of his long range shooting.  If he can be somewhat average from three on pick-and-pops and spot ups that would go a long way to maximizing his returns.  Clarke is older which means you could get more of his prime years for cheaper, something that goes underappreciated at times.  His position could be a mystery to people but I think swing big makes sense.  He could start at power forward then size down to center when it’s called for.  I like Clarke a lot…there’s really not much else to say.

Tier 3

 

  1. De’Andre Hunter, Wing, Virgina, 6’7, 7’2 wingspan, 21.5 years

Brief Overview

De’Andre Hunter doesn’t have the upside that people expect for a top 5 pick.  He’s not a big wing who also is an elite shot creator with playmaking ability.  Those tend not to grow on trees.  So if he doesn’t have superstar potential then why all the fuss?  In a draft as uncertain as this one it boils down to practicality.  Hunter projects to be an elite role player, one that plays at a position that’s highly in demand.  Don’t get it twisted, title teams are still built with superstars leading the way but inevitably you do need glue guys, role players and positive on-court impactors. That’s Hunter.

On offense he isn’t going to blow you away with his ball handling ability or passing.  In fact he has a pretty basic handle that mostly sets up straight line drives.  He likes to either rip-and-go, cross up, pump fake closeouts or jab-and-go to start his attack.  He would then take a couple dribbles and pull up, jump stop in the lane and leap off two feet or on some rare occasion spin move in the paint.  At times he will even use his strong frame to shoulder bump defenders off him to create space.  He doesn’t frequently leap off one foot around the rim but has shown that he can.  A lot of this though starts with his shooting.  He doesn’t have a diverse portfolio of shooting ability but with his feet set and shooting off the catch are pretty sound.  He posted a 1.284 points per possession on all catch-and-shoot plays which ranked 90th percentile and 1.099 points per possession on all jump shots which ranked 83rd percentile.  The fact he’s a good floor spacer helps him put the ball on the floor since the defense has to respect his shot and hard closeout.

On defense he’s a much better on-ball defender than team defender or defensive creation.  Hunter is listed at 6’8 with a 7’2 wingspan with good not great athletic ability.  He uses his wide strong frame, his long legs to strengthen his base, his sturdy off hand and high strong hand while containing dribble penetration.  His hands do a good job mirroring ball and defender on-ball.  He really has the chance to become a switchable defender due to his great on-ball defense.  As a team defender Hunter was a mixed bag. Sometimes he would make on time rotations and go vertical at the rim but other times he would have poor positioning or make the initial rotation without picking up the second.  He is also too grounded at times. Staying grounded does help in terms of staying disciplined but not much so in terms of defensive creation ability.  He rarely left his man to choke an off-ball action and posted 1.4 blocks+steals per 40 minutes.  For a potentially elite defender those are low stats.  And sometimes when he would leave his man he would linger for too long.  Overall a great on-ball defender, solid team defender and below average at creating on defense.

For most players situation dictates success but in Hunter’s case even more so.  He needs to go to a situation where they have their creator and rim protector so Hunter can play off-ball on offense and defend the perimeter on defense.  This high ranking could look a little silly if he goes to a terrible situation where he’s asked to do too much.  At the end of they day he is a high impact role player with a positive effect on team success that plays a position of need in the NBA.

  1. RJ Barrett, Wing, Duke, 6’7, 6’10 wingspan, 19 years

~ Scouting Report

  1. Darius Garland, Guard, Vanderbilt, 6’3, 6’5 wingspan, 19.4 years

~ Scouting Report

  1. Kevin Porter jr, Wing, USC, 6’5.5, 6’9 wingspan, 19.1 years

Brief Overview  

If you’ve been keeping up with my previous rankings you would notice that this is the lowest I have Porter ranked so far.  He’s still ranked 10th and in comparison to many other draft sites that’s still considered high.  He has a great frame for a two guard listed at 6’5.5 with a 6’9 wingspan and 8’7 standing reach with a strong frame and good quickness/speed.  He doesn’t have much vertical pop as he isn’t an above the rim player.  Porter gets by with his combination of craft and skill plus athletic ability.

On offense his off the dribble game was what caught my eye.  About 40% of his shots were off the dribble and he posted a .979 points per possession which ranked 81st percentile.  Porter was deft at using his ball handling ability to create separation with behind the back step backs, in-and-out crossovers, jab step head fakes and side step pull backs.  He has a sharp crafty handle capable of dribbling in tight spaces.  At times though he would get bumped off his spots in the lane, needs to absorb contact better but overall he’s fluid with great body control on his drives and at creating separation.  He was decent at finishing and showed the ability to leap off either foot around the rim.  When he was off-ball he tended to stand around.  He wasn’t really a catch-and-shoot guy.  His overall shot mechanics are one of the biggest reasons why he dropped on my list.  It’s not like I just found out but I just couldn’t overlook them anymore.  He has a low release point, one-motion type flick shot with a flat trajectory and inconsistent landing spot.  He made 22/46 free throws which was 52%, even with the small sample size it’s concerning nevertheless.  He wasn’t a good intermediate shooter either posting 28.6% on all his two point jumpers.  He can also pass and playmake off live-dribble although it wasn’t something that he displayed very much.

I personally think he gets undervalued defensively.  I think his biggest issue was engagement.  That obviously is still a flaw and needs to be adjustment at the next level but when he was locked in he played solid on-ball, team and creation defense.  He has quick hands, underrated timing and anticipation off-ball.  He uses his fluid hips, mobility and length to stay in front of ball handlers.  And when he focuses he makes solid rotations and help side assignments.  Clearly though these were few and far between as he tended to float off ball, ball watch and abandoned his fundamentals as soon as he lost ground.  His maturity is a big concern and he couldn’t stay healthy for the season.  Porter jr is a system dependent player.  If you end up drafting him for a motion based offense I wouldn’t expect him to find his footing.  But if you draft him for a drive-and-kick or spread pick-and-roll offense with Porter being one of the main ball handlers then he could flourish into an all-star.  In a draft that’s a crapshoot, having all-star potential, regardless of baggage still warrants a top 10 ranking.

  1. Grant Williams, Swing Big, Tennessee, 6’7.5, 6’10 wingspan, 20.5 years

Brief Overview

Grant Williams is another player that situation will dictate his success in a big way.  He is a swing big, high level role player with positive on-court impact.  His size is pretty average for a big man listed at 6’7.5 with a  6’9.75 wingspan and 8’8.5 standing reach and is average at best athletically.  His high IQ, feel and instincts for the game will have to propel him to the next level.  It also wouldn’t hurt if he’s teamed up with a high level initiator to play off of.

His shooting ability will be a huge determining factor of just the type of player Williams is at the next level.  He only shot 32.6% from three this past season but he shot 81.9% from the free throw line on a whopping 260 attempts.  He has a high release on his shooting mechanics but they still need to be faster.  The touch he showed on the free throw line and posting a 72.3% field goal percentage around the rim does give Williams a nice starting point to continue his shooing ability.  This past season he sported a 1.01 points per possession on all jump shots which ranked 69th percentile.  He scored mostly through post-ups, the free throw line and tough movement two point jumpers.  Even though he doesn’t have length he was still able to make tough shots like turn around jumpers, fadeaways and fallaways at a decent clip.  Williams shot 52.3% on all two point jumpers which is another indicator of potential shooting success.

He still needs to develop better perimeter skills as he probably won’t rely on post-ups as much in the NBA.  His first step is average, he lacks burst or explosion and overall is a below the rim player.  He typically drives in a straight line with some spin moves and pivots in the lane.  He uses jab steps and pump fakes to create a sliver of separation on his drive then uses his broad shoulders to maintain room.  He can struggle versus length at times but plays well in space.  Williams can potentially be an ultimate safety valve off ball screens and doubles.  He showed fantastic passing skills processing the game at a high level.  Whether off a long roll, short roll or ball handler blitz, make Williams your release valve and he will make plays.

Grant doesn’t have the quickest feet or jumps off the ground with haste but is a functional basketball defender.  He was great at team defense while attending Tennessee.  He had solid timing on his weak side rotations, walling off drives or going vertical at the rim.  His wide, strong shoulders help with absorbing contact on contests.  He’s also great after making his initial rotation to circuit through multiple rotations in one possession.  Williams had struggles on-ball defending quicker players at the point of attack.  Although, Williams does use his big, strong butt as a steady anchor on-ball and with his wide shoulders and fluid hips Williams actually does pretty well on-ball considering the lack of physical profile.  He sits down in his stance, stays balanced and has smooth backpedaling slides.  His recovery time on hedges can be less than ideal due to lack of length and speed but puts in good effort regardless.  He also doesn’t stand flat footed on rebounds and attacks the ball midair.

I’m probably ranking Williams too high since he needs to be in a perfect situation to unlock his skill set.  I think Atlanta would be a great situation since Tre Young would be an excellent creator to play alongside.  I just think players that have a positive impact on winning like Williams are extremely valuable.

Tier 4

 

  1. Romeo Langford, Wing, Indiana, 6’6, 6’11 wingspan, 19.6 years

Brief Overview

There are a lot of freshmen in this draft that have great physical profiles and showed enough skill during their one season to get excited about the future.  Unfortunately these players really didn’t have advanced skills and had moderate IQ levels.  Langford is a part of that bunch.  He is listed at 6’6 with a 6’11 wingspan and 8’7 standing reach and a good not great athlete.  He dealt with a torn ligament on his shooting hand for a good portion of the season.  That could have affected his shot but his shooting mechanics weren’t great to begin with.  He needs to get more extension on his release specifically his forearm and relies too much on the flick of his wrist for his follow through.  He shot 27.2% from three and .83 points per possession on all jump shots which ranked 33rd percentile.  He definitely needs to tweak his mechanics but there were a couple of indicators for potential shooting success.  He shot 72% from the free throw line, 64.1% around the rim and 40% on two point jumpers.  So even with a torn ligament in his hand he had solid touch around the rim and a decent free throw percentage.

His pick-and-roll game is one of the biggest reasons why he’s ranked this high.  For starters that was his number one used action at 26.2% of the time, posted .993 points per possession when scoring off a ball screen which ranked 90th percentile and 1.077 points per possession to the roll man off ball screens which ranked 63rd percentile.  He’s a solid live-ball player with a good first step, some change-of-pace ability and strong frame to bump defenders.  He can one dribble pull up, step back or cross his way into the lane.  He doesn’t have much change-of-direction, drives into traffic too often and likes to dribble pull up if he can’t see a lane open up.

His defense was pretty much average.  He has the potential to be a good defender because of his physical profile and the fact he displayed in spurts his defensive prowess.  At times he did a good job sinking and filling, staying in front of his man and chasing down players for blocks.  He was much better at timing his weak side blocks compared with anticipation jumping passes.  Langford would shoot the gap when chasing shooters, swipe down on drives and take poor angles.  He doesn’t leave his man or position often and his lackadaisical approach is worrisome off-ball.  He has the potential to be a switchable player but that remains to be seen.  Langford was a good half court offensive player at Indiana, has scoring ability, pick-and-roll skills and defensive upside.  It’s hard to grade a player like this because his outcome has so many different scenarios.  There’s a lot of freshmen like that in this class and it’s frustrating.

  1. Nicolas Claxton, Big, Georgia, 6’11.75, 7’2.5 wingspan, 20.1 years

Brief Review

Nicolas Claxton is one of my biggest risers on my big board and I still think I might be too low on him.  He’s listed at 7’ with a 7’3 wingspan and 9’2 standing reach.  His athletic testing at the combine was average to below average but his max/standing vertical was one of the better recorded measurements for a big man.  He’s not an uber athletic big man but he uses his vertical explosion and length to his advantage.  He utilizes his timing and overall fluidity to help him move across the court.

The first thing that stands out about Claxton is his defense.  I really think in five years he could be one of the best defenders from this draft.  He needs to bulk up and add strength but during his time at Georgia he was able to defend any position on the floor.  In one possession he would guard on the perimeter, the ball handler and on the block all the while do a good job at each.  That switchability should translate to the NBA.  He was a fantastic pick-and-roll defender using his length to dispute driving angles.  His deft understanding of how to defend ball screens come in handy with any coverage he needs to run.  He’s excellent at covering ground and running shooters off the line.  He can closeout a corner shooter from under the basket with only two wide strides.  He’s a solid backline defender with weak side blocks and walled off drives.  His blocks+steals per 40 were 4.5.  He would get blocks defending the backline and get steals defending the pick-and-roll.  He’s still a work in progress in terms of reaction time but he’s starting from a good foundation.  In the NBA I want my big to be a good on-ball, pick-and-roll and team/backline defender.  Not only can he do all three but he does them (for the most part) exceedingly well.  I might be going overboard by saying he could be one of the best defenders from this draft in five years but it sure has heck wouldn’t surprise me.

The biggest reason why I have my reservations about Claxton is his raw offensive skill set.  He has a surprisingly solid handle where he can grab a defensive rebound and push it up the court.  In fact he did that a lot.  He wasn’t an initiator per say but he would jump start the offense with dribble pitches, swing passes and post feeds.  He could take it off the bounce or attack closeouts with his handle.  He’s more of a straight line driver with basic dribble drive moves, doesn’t have much change-of-direction ability.  He definitely wasn’t timid about taking tough shots and shot 32.5% on two point jumpers.  He has shown good touch around the rim with a 71.2% field goal percentage but needs to have better body control on his difficult two point field goal attempts.  He’s a left handed shooter and has improved his free throw percentage 12 points to 64%.  His long distance shot is one of my biggest question marks as he shot 28% from three this past season and on all jump shots sported a .818 points per possession which ranked 32nd percentile.  His footwork, handle, tough shot making potential and touch around the rim give Claxton solid offensive upside nevertheless.  I don’t know if Claxton will be an instant success since he’s so raw but the potential is there to become a modern day versatile big man.

  1. Cam Reddish, Wing, Duke, 6’8, 7’1 wingspan, 19.8 years

Brief Overview

I guess technically I’m lower on Cam Reddish in comparison to the rest of the draft community but it feels like there is a certain subset of people who agree with him.  I guess apparently Reddish was playing with a fractured rib all season and wore a corset to help with the pain link.  So I guess that explains everything.  That’s why he shot 47.3% around the rim excluding post-ups, 27.7% on his two point jumpers, misread defensive coverages and was slow to process.  Now I understand.

I feel like the only reason why I’m ranking him this high is due to pedigree, upside and physical profile.  He is listed at 6’8 with a 7’1 wingspan and 8’9.5 standing reach and a fluid athlete.  The league is in desperate need of swing forwards and Reddish fits the bill.  I hear people call Reddish a shooter but was he?  He didn’t shoot particularly well in high school, sub 30% from three and shot 33% this past season.  He’s more of a volume shooter than good shooter since he shoots off the hop, has great length and gets the ball out quickly but when he gets rushed at times would chicken arm the shot.  He shot 10 threes per 40 minutes at Duke.  That will still help him in the NBA drawing defenders out to the perimeter but that’s if they respect his jump shot of course.  His free throw percentage is a saving grace as he shot 77% from the line.  He also had really good footwork coming off pindowns and single-doubles.

He’s a basic ball handler with little shift on his drives.  He looks smooth and fluid with his handle but has slight hips with limited change-of-direction.  He uses a variety of head, shoulder fakes, jab steps, jab stomps to get his defender off balance with a decent first step.  He liked to dribble pull up, no dribble jumper or shoot off the catch.  A majority of his offense was threes as they accounted for 61.8% of his shot attempts.  He can generate his own offense but doesn’t really create for others.  I hear that Reddish would’ve been a better playmaker if he had better teammates, that just sounds like an excuse.  I think we’re taking the fact the showed “flashes” of good passing a little bit too far.

Reddish is so frustrating on defense.  He has the physical profile to be a switchable wing defender.  I mean, yes, at times he showed good on-ball defensive principles but that wasn’t the norm.  He was too hunched over, needed to anchor himself more and sit with balance. He grew questionable habits on lack of communication, lazy closeouts and poor sink-and-fill fundamentals.  He would give up too easily at times switching off-ball, had poor positioning on-ball and was slow to identify his man off a scramble.  Reddish had quick hands and was capable of leaving his man/position to swipe down and create on defense.  His steal percentage was arguably the best part of his defense.  Reddish has the world of potential on defense but lacked the fundamentals which isn’t a good indicator.  I’m probably ranking Reddish too high but the upside is so vast.  He needs to go to the right situation if he wants any chance of realizing his upside.

  1. Nassir Little, Wing, North Carolina, 6’6, 7’1.25 wingspan, 19.3 years

Brief Overview

My tier four ranking has a bunch of frustrating prospects and of course Little makes the list.  Little has a great physical profile listed at 6’6 with a 7’1.25 wingspan and 8’8.5 standing reach and an explosive athlete.  His offensive game if pretty one dimensional right now.  He can attack closeouts or drive off the bounce in a straight line.  He doesn’t have much shift in the lane or momentum altering moves.  He’s not much of a playmaker and at times had tunnel vision. He would keep his head down on drives and miss wide open drop off passes to short corner.  His feel for plays just about to break is below average.  He also tends to bring the ball back to his right hand for finishes which wastes motion.  He was at his best when he was around the rim either on cuts, drives, lobs, transition runs and offensive putbacks.  He posted a 68.3% field goal percentage around the rim and used his explosion to finish with power.  

He doesn’t have a vast shooting portfolio.  As of now projects to be a corner-3 point shooter who can make some jump shots when pushed off the line.  His 77% free throw percentage and 34.7% two point jumper percentage helps in terms of potential intermediate game.  He didn’t have the greatest shot selection or decision-making. He did show some improvement from three as the season went on: shot 26.9% for the season and 31.6% for conference play.  I don’t know what his role will be without that three point shot.  He has some scoring instincts and is good around the rim but not much else.

He showed some potential on defense as an on-ball switchable defender by defending post players and using his strong anchor to impede space.  He has a strong off-hand containing dribble penetration but needs better positioning.  Sometimes he would give up baseline but the help would be positioned middle.  His on-ball defense does have upside due to physical tools and he did a fine job at getting blocks from behind or around the rim.  But for the most part he was a low IQ defender.  He was poor at identifying help situations, prone to being late on contests, tends to shoot gaps when chasing shooters and overall was slow to process.  His explosive ability does help greatly on rebounds since he’s quick to the high point.  Little has a wide array of possibilities.  He needs to grow as a defender and diversify his offensive repertoire.  The lack of feel and IQ could always be an issue but if has a good work ethic and has a willingness to learn then he can establish himself as a starting forward.

  1. Talen Horton-Tucker, Wing, Iowa State, 6’4, 7’1.25 wingspan, 18.5 year

Brief Overview

Talen Horton-Tucker isn’t your usual wing.  He’s listed at 6’4 with 7’1.25 wingspan and 8’7 standing reach while weighing in at 235 pounds.  He has a good height-to-wingspan ratio plus he has a strong frame.  His athletic ability is pretty average as he needs to improve his conditioning.  He is one of, if not the youngest player in this draft being 18.5 years old.  It makes sense that he needs to shred the baby fat and develop muscle.

I wouldn’t call Horton-Tucker a tough shot maker but he sure is a tough shot taker.  He can spin into his shot, stepback, pull back and have forward, backward and side leaning momentum altering shots.  His poor two point jumper percentage, 21.9%, is somewhat related to his tough shots taken.  He has great footwork with sudden movement springing into a stepback three.  Not the best athlete but uses advanced live-dribble skills to find his spots.  He uses combinations of in-and-outs, push crossovers and hang dribbles to create separation off the bounce.  He can rip thru, drive with an average first step, euro step in the lane and finish at a decent clip.  Horton-Tucker finish with a 70.3% field goal percentage around the rim with solid body control and nice english.  He can also shoulder dip on his drive with strong strides creating space in the process.

He has a vast assortment of skills but his shooting ability is still a work in progress.  He shot 30.8% from three and 62.5% from the free throw line at Iowa State.  He sported an .857 points per possession on all jump shots which ranked 38th percentile.  He has to tweak his mechanics, quicken his shot and raise his follow through.  He will freelance at times with poor decisions and random shot selection.  This random shot selection has at times thrown the team’s offensive flow out of rhythm.  Wherever he ends up going Horton-Tucker needs to be more willing to fit in a structured offense.  He is a decent playmaker in a pinch.  At times looking off defenders to create better passing situations and likes to distort passing angles with his movement.  He had 82 assists to 60 turnovers this past season.

On defense Horton-Tucker possesses some upside due to solid instincts and decent awareness.  He doesn’t have a quick jump and at times remains grounded.  That hurts in terms of his effort level but I think he needs to get in better shape for his effort level to improve.  He uses his long arms to pickpocket ball handlers one pass away, wall off drives and go vertical around the rim.  He isn’t afraid of contact and can play in the muck.  He doesn’t have great lateral movement but uses his anchor, length and wide base to help contain at the point of attack.  His lack of lateral movement could end up being a big flaw guarding ball handlers in the NBA but Horton-Tucker has shown some switchable promise.  He is hot and cold when it comes to help defense.  At times makes sound initial rotations then has the wherewithal to make a second help side play. His discipline does break down on occasion and will linger off-ball.  I think Horton-Tucker will be a project in the NBA due to his age and body type but has enough defensive awareness and offensive skill that he could become a starting level wing.

  1. Chuma Okeke, Big, Auburn, 6’8, 7’ wingspan, 20.8 years

Brief Overview

When Okeke went down with an ACL tear during the sweet 16 it made me sick.  For starters Okeke was having a hell of a tournament and one could make the argument if it wasn’t for his injury Auburn wins the title.  Okeke was someone I had my eye on since last season. He’s listed at 6’8 with a 7’ wingspan, good shooter, smart passer, defends well in space, can attack closeouts and plays the game low.  One of the things I noticed right away was his propensity to be around the ball.  Every rebounding opportunity he would always somehow be in the mist of the play no matter his position on the court.  Some might call him the energy, hustle big man but I think giving multiple efforts for a player who is an average athlete and not in the greatest of shape is a skill onto itself.

When Okeke gets healthy he needs to work on conditioning and core strength training.  He has good overall fundamentals when it comes to playing on-ball defense with anchoring his butt, not crossing his slides and playing on your toes.  But his lack of athleticism could be a hindrance when it comes to defending quicker players.  Okeke’s length, effort level and functional ability give him enough potential to be a switchable player in the NBA.  He has great instincts in space, not afraid to leave his position to choke a drive and solid timing on low man rotations.  Okeke averaged 4.2 blocks+steals per 40 minutes and had a 9.1% block+steal percentage which is pretty good for someone that lacks athletic ability.  He can be prone to the occasional lapse on defense, be a split second slow on a rotation or get overpowered in the post.  Although he can cover space due to his length, IQ and run shooter off the line with hard in control closeouts.

On offense Okeke projects nicely in the modern day NBA.  He’s not a shot creator and would benefit from having an initiator on offense but his contribution would come through his shooting ability.  He’s a career 38.9% three point shooter and 70.3% free throw shooter with 70.7% field goal percentage at the rim.  On all jump shot opportunities Okeke sported a 1.073 points per possession which ranked 79th percentile.  His spot up, catch-and-shoot and pick-and-pop ability will help reshape the court for an offense especially if he has a true shot creator.  He doesn’t have advanced dribble drive moves and rarely shoots off the dribble but he can attack closeouts in a straight line and use jab steps plus pump fakes to buy him time.  He also seems to find the holes in the offense and position himself well for drive-and-kick opportunities or flash at the dunker spot for a drop off pass.  Okeke was a sound passes at Auburn.  When he got doubled in the post he would find the correct shooter.  He can make over the top passes cross court with accuracy.  He had 111 assists to 93 turnovers for his two seasons in college.  Not a playmaker but does a decent job at processing the game.

Whoever drafts Okeke will most likely have to redshirt him for a year.  He most likely goes in the second round because of that reality. It will also take Okeke probably at least a year to adjust to pro level speed and develop.  Drafting Okeke is now a massive undertaking but one that I think will yield rewards if the team can endure the process.

  1. Tyler Herro, Wing, Kentucky, 6’6, 6’4 wingspan, 19.4 years

Brief Overview

If you look back at my other prospect rankings you would be able to notice I dropped Herro some.  I just couldn’t get over how inept he was at finishing and his lack of physical profile.  He stands in at 6’6 but with a 6’3.25 wingspan and 8’4.5 standing reach with average athletic ability.  His height will surely help in terms of getting his shot off but defensively his subpar tools will undoubtedly hurt.  I think he has decently broad shoulders so if he can fill out over time and add strength that would go a long way.

On offense his shooting is most appealing.  He improved as a shooter as the season went along and considering he played in the SEC I take note of that.  He shot 35.5% from three for the season but 42.1% during conference play.  He also improved shooting off screens and movement even though overall that’s still an area of improvement.  His footwork has to get crisper and shot preparation needs to tighten up.  He does have a great looking shot with some of the best mechanics in the draft.  He was at his best when shooting off the dribble sporting a .991 points per possession which ranked 82nd percentile.  Compare that with his .991 points per possession of catch-and-shoot chances which ranked 47th percentile and you see why movement shooting is a priority to enhance.  While shooting off the dribble, he made stepbacks, leaners and momentum shifting shots; his two point jumper percentage was 46.9%.

His live-dribble skills are average.  He doesn’t have a quick first step or wiggle in the lane but does have some change-of-pace, stop-and-go sudden movement dribbles.  He was a solid pick-and-roll passer, not the most accurate passer but made sweet, simple passes.  He can attack closeouts in a straight line but usually stops short for a floater instead of going all the way to the rack.  He posted a 49% field goal percentage around the basket not including post-ups.  However he does display touch since he shot 93.5% from the line and posted 1.077 points per possession on floaters which ranked 90th percentile but lacks the leaping ability, strength and extension to finish at a high clip.

On defense Herro improved as the season went along.  He became more active on-ball doing a solid job anticipating tendencies.  He doesn’t have the quickest feet and has average lateral quickness but he has decent leverage and improved his balance to stay with perimeter players.  It will still be a struggle for Herro to defend advanced ball handlers or quicker players in the NBA since he lacks length and lateral agility.  He does use multiple efforts to stay attached and recover from behind.  He has deceptively quick hands and does a good job playing off his man to disrupt the ongoing action.  Herro is under control on closeouts and uses choppy steps to stay on point.  He attacks rebounds midair and made hustle plays in the process.  He needs to be more attentive on team defense but overall showed good help defensive principals.  Herro needs to improve his movement shooting, finishing around the rim and continue to defend with feel and effort to become a legitimate starting caliber shooting guard.

  1. Jaxson Hayes, Big, Texas, 6’11.5 , 7’3.5 wingspan, 19 years

Brief Overview

I might be too low on Jaxson Hayes.  I think he’s seen as the best pure center prospect in this draft.  He has an unbelievable physical profile listed at 6’11.5 with a 7’3.5 wingspan and 9’2.5 wingspan plus good athletic ability.  The obvious thing to start with is his around the rim game.  His number one used play type was pick-and-roll “roll-man” where he posted a 1.429 points per possession which ranked 95th percentile.  He doesn’t necessarily set good screens and tends to be averse to contact but still had excellent timing on his dives understanding when to slip or delay.  He has a large catch radius on lob attempts with good body control and coordination.  He posted a 1.581 points per possession on around the basket shots not including post-ups which ranked 98th percentile.  He also has good touch around the rim sporting right shoulder turn around hook shots and shooting 74% from the free throw line.  Even though he hasn’t done much outside the paint he does display jump shot potential with his free throw and around the rim touch.  That would take time though since he’s nowhere close to game ready.

He was also capable of catching the ball around the elbow, taking a north-to-south dribble, jump stopping and leaping off two feet for basket finishes.  He doesn’t have a perimeter off the bounce dribble drive game but it’s totally in the realm of possibility.  He does need to improve his awareness as at times he wouldn’t relocate from the dunker spot when a drive took place.  If he wasn’t able to get a drop off pass he needs not to clog the paint.

On defense Hayes shows good rim protector potential.  Hayes was able to chase down players for blocks or help middle for contests and swats.  At times when he did go vertical around the basket his arms would go down and diagonal instead of straight up leaving himself vulnerable to fouls.  He needs to clean up those fouls since he could be too reliant on his hands and too jumpy.  He mostly played drop coverage at Texas but looked capable of defending hard hedges and covering ground due to his mobility and length.  He showed decent corralling skills on pick-and-rolls but at times had poor positioning and misread the action.  He needs to get stronger and fill out his frame since he was pushed around at times by much smaller players.  All they needed to do was get good leverage, be physical and make it difficult for Hayes to reestablish himself.  Hayes has a ton of upside due to his physical frame, age, pedigree, around the basket game, potential pick-and-pop ability and top level paint protection.  The only reason why he isn’t higher on my board is due to the fact his offensive game is very limited and in today’s NBA having skilled centers are big factors in winning titles.  Hayes can get there one day but he has a ways to go.

  1. Keldon Johnson, Wing, Kentucky, 6’6, 6’9.25 wingspan, 19.8 years

Brief Overview

I just don’t know what to think of Keldon Johnson.  He has a solid physical frame listed at 6’6 with a 6’9.25 wingspan and 8’8 standing reach and a good not great athlete.  He has a strong frame that only will get stronger as he ages.  His physical profile checks out but his skills are pretty basic.  Nothing really stands out about Johnson.  He’s not the greatest live-ball player, can’t really break down defenders and has an average first step.  He has strong strides on his drives to the rim and plays with power over finesse.  He doesn’t really have much wiggle in the lane and tends to be a straight line driver.  Not really a playmaker either and misses plays before they break on offense.  He is more of a two foot leaper around the rim relying on his power for body control on finishes.  He doesn’t have as much control when he leaps off one foot and sports a 1.106 points per possession on shot around the basket excluding post-ups which ranked 48th percentile.  He used his power around the rim to draw fouls but only shot 70% from the line.

He started off the season shooting well from three but couldn’t sustain that success has soon as conference play started.  His average numbers around the rim and from the line lends itself to average touch on his jumper.  He ran off a decent amount of screens in Kentucky’s offense and actually had solid footwork and good shot preparation.  He posted a 1.047 points per possession “off screen” which ranked 74th percentile.  His improved shot will have to guide him at the next level and develop a consistent shot portfolio.  On defense he was always active, high level of effort and energy which helped defending on-ball.  His instincts and feel are subpar on defense.  He hardly ever tried to make a play on defense, had poor steal/block rates.  He got his head turned around and would lose track of his own and had trouble making secondary rotations.  He played good team defense every now and then walling off the rim but if Johnson wants to make it in the league he has to buy into a 3-and-D role.  

 

Tier 5

 

  1. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Guard, Virginia Tech, 6’5.5, 6’9.5 wingspan, 20.8 years

Brief Overview

I’ve moved Nickeil Alexander-Walker down my ranking since my first big board but I still like his NBA potential.  He’s listed at 6’5.5 with a 6’9.5 wingspan and 8’6 standing reach with slightly above average athletic ability.  The first thing that stood out about Walker was his handle.  He doesn’t rely on quick twitch athletic ability but more so on craft.  He is one of the more skillful ball handlers in the draft displaying nice combinations of in-and-outs, between the legs, double cross moves with either hand.  He’s pretty ambidextrous with his handle, finishing and passing ability.  He can whip around one handed skip passes to the corner, drop off passes to the dunker spot, wrap around passes and drift passes.  Alexander-Walker does let hedges through him off his game as he can’t turn the corner that well, picks up his dribble and throws risky diagonal passes cross court.  He picks up his dribble too often while he needs to extend the play and move it along.

When Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech’s starting point guard, got hurt Walker had to take on a primary ball handler role.  That’s not him. He’s more of a secondary playmaker.  He did show solid pick-and-roll skills, found back action shooters and used his craft to set up defenders, get them off balance and burst off screen.  Walker has an average first step which hurts in terms of breaking down his man one-on-one but with a ball screen Walker can create much more rapidly.  He isn’t an above the rim player and can struggle at times finishing since he doesn’t protect the ball.  His jump shot is solid with a fluid release but needs to keep his follow through upward instead of out.  He’s definitely a better shooter when his feet are set and needs to work on movement shooting.  He needs to have better shot preparation and footwork off screens since that will help him extend his NBA career.  Walker is a combo guard that can attack closeouts and shoot spot up jumpers but needs to diversify his shooting portfolio.

On defense Walker is pretty solid.  He shows great effort level and makes hustle plays.  His lateral agility is average but he does a good job staying in front regardless.  Going up against quicker and stronger players might give him some trouble in the NBA but he’s very active on-ball and sits in his stance.  He isn’t afraid to leave his man and create events off-ball but at times can linger and get stuck in the muck.  He will have his share of lapses but does a fine job of walling off middle.  Alexander-Walker has a nice ceiling since he’s fairly long for a guard, can spot up shoot, playmake, create with ball screens and defend at an honest clip.  He could be a nice 3-and-D combo guard with some creation skills.  I might be too low on him.

  1. Ty Jerome, Guard, Virginia, 6’5, 6’4 wingspan, 21.9 years

Brief Overview

It’s such a shame Ty Jerome doesn’t have the requisite athletic ability you need in today’s NBA.  I mean he did measure in a 6’5.5 (with shoes) which should help but his 8’2 standing reach, 6’4 wingspan and slight frame don’t do him any favors.  I really wanted to rank him in my top 15 due to his shooting ability, high IQ, crafty ball handling and good defensive fundamentals.  Ty Jerome might not be an explosive athlete but he sure is a functional one.  Being a top tier athlete is great and all but if you’re slow to process then that ability is just for show.  Ty Jerome’s ability to process the game quickly will have to guide him through the NBA.  Understanding angles, positioning, secondary rotations and breaking the game down in layers will in effect be Jerome’s speed at the next level.

Jerome has all the skill you want for an offensive guard: shoot, create and dribble.  Jerome doesn’t have that great of a first step but his stop-and-go, momentum shifting dribble drive moves do a good enough job at breaking down the first level of the defense.  It’s the getting to the rim part that eludes Jerome.  He tends to pull-up off the dribble inside the arc or stop short for a floater.  He sported a .95 points per possession on all jump shots off the dribble which ranked 78th percentile and .887 points per possession on all runners which ranked 71st percentile.  On the flip side he sported a 1.047 points per possession on shots around the rim (no post-ups) which ranked 37th percentile on only 64 attempts.  To put that in perspective his teammate De’Andre Hunter had 137 attempts at the rim (no-postups).  Jerome lacks vertical pop and straight line speed to get to the rim even though he has a plus handle.  That plus handle does became handy when we’re talking about play making.  Jerome is a pretty clever passer bending passing seams in the defense to play make off the bounce.  Where Jerome really excelled was creating off the pick-and-roll.  I don’t know how good Jerome will be off the bounce at the next level but give Jerome a ball screen and he will produce at any level.

Obviously his shot is one of his most known strengths.  Showing pretty solid shooting versatility he can shoot off the dribble, off screens or spotting up.  Jerome sported a 1.445 points per possession on all catch-and-shoot chances which ranked 97th percentile.  If Jerome can do more than just spot up in the corner and become a fulcrum shooter that will boost his on court impact.  Defensively Jerome was a sound defender with discipline.  He wasn’t afraid to leave his man or position to stifle an off-ball action and was typically aware of rotating back to his own assignment.  Not the quickest on-ball defender but was extremely active, making multiple efforts to make sure he stayed attached.  Jerome is that quintessential high IQ defender but his lack of physical profile might become an issue staying with athletic ball handlers and bigger wings.  If you can’t defend point of attack moves in the NBA it’s going to be tough to find playing time.

I still think with his functional ability, high IQ and offensive versatility that Jerome can be a solid rotational piece, a backup combo guard.  Clearly he needs to get stronger and work on his conditioning so he can improve being an off-ball movement sniper. Maybe giving him a first round grade is too high because of his athletic deficiency but I trust that his vast skill and work ethic will triumph to help support a nice NBA career.

  1. DaQuan Jeffries, Wing, Tulsa, 6’5, 6’11.25 wingspan, 21.8 years

Brief Overview

DaQuan Jeffries projects to be a 3-an-D role player with positional versatility.  The utility of a role player doesn’t necessarily mean they need to have all the skill in the world but just to fit inside a box.  There’s a reason why when talented young prospects who don’t live up to their potential have a tough time transitioning to becoming a role player.  It takes a certain mindset and understanding of the parameters of the situation.  That’s why I have a player less skilled like Jeffries ranked this high, his role player upside.

For starters Jeffries is listed at 6’5 with a 6’11.25 wingspan and 8’8 standing reach plus good vertical explosion.  Jeffries is a high IQ player, plays the game with pace and patience.  Jeffries plays the game low on both sides of the ball.  His hips aren’t the most flexible and kind of stiff and his lateral movement is pretty average.  As an on-ball defender he plays with balance, wide stance, strong frame and active arms.  He tends to be on his toes defensively circulating through rotations and anticipating actions.  He has choppy, controlled steps on his closeout and if he gets blown by stays disciplined.  He has great verticality around the rim and his leaping ability sets up nicely for come from behind blocks.  Jeffries isn’t a lockdown defender but someone who is positive as a team, on-ball defender and at defensive creation will possess versatility at a position of need.

On offense he’s pretty basic.  Doesn’t have change-of-direction moves, not overly advanced live-dribble and isn’t deft at creating offense.  He can in-and-out push cross, rip-and-go and jump stop for a powerful in controlled leap.  He isn’t a playmaker but sets up nicely as a swing, extra pass type player.  He also times his cuts well slicing through tight spaces.  He’s pretty unselfish, with nice relocation ability off-ball and a good enough shot.  He shot 37.7% from three and 77% from the line for his entire college career.  He shot 72.6% around the rim and had decent extension and fine touch around the rim.  He isn’t someone that has a vast portfolio of shooting ability but as long as he can shoot off the catch, spot up and attack closeouts then he should be fine.  Jeffries is someone that an established team should really consider in this draft.  He has glue guy, role player and positional versatility potential.

  1. Dylan Windler, Wing, Belmont, 6’7.5, 6’10 wingspan, 22.7 years

Brief Overview  

I might be too high on Dylan Windler.  I just think he fits the mold of movement shooter with size well in the NBA.  He’s listed at 6’7.5 with a 6’10 wingspan and 8’8.5 standing reach which are all good measurements but his athletic testing really surprised a lot of people at the NBA combine posting a good max vertical, shuttle run and lane agility time.  His jump shot is the clear selling point when it comes to Windler.  His lower body mechanics need to improve somewhat because it doesn’t feel like he springs off his toes generating power through his hips in time with the rest of his jump shot.  But he does have a nice follow through, quick dip and solid release point.  On all jump shots Windler posted a 1.272 points per possession which ranked 96th percentile and 1.339 points per possession on catch-and-shoot opportunities which ranked 93rd percentile.  He can shoot off screens, off cuts, off the dribble, step back or pick-and-pop.  I think in the NBA using him as a pick-and-pop player could be a different way to maximize his skill set.

One of the differences between Windler and a similar player like Cameron Johnson is ball handling ability.  Now Windler isn’t some ball handling savant but he does have a deceptively quick first step, can playmake off ball screens or in one-on-one situations.  He’s more of a straight line driver but does have some change-of-pace ability and ambidextrous qualities.  He does need to drive with his right hand more frequently though.  He’s not a primary playmaker but can be a tertiary playmaker.  He made some nice reads to trailing big men, baseline cutters and back action shooters.  He needs to bulk up and get stronger as that’s a problem when he has to finish through contact or create separation.  I think he has a world of possibilities on offense through movement shooting, pick-and-roll ball handling, pick-and-pop screen setting, being a floor spacer, attacking closeouts and playmaking in a pinch.

Defense was a mixed bag for Windler.  He makes smart, sound initial reactions but he doesn’t follow up with secondary actions.  At times he struggled matching up while defending early offense but when he gets locked in can defend at a high level.  He attacks rebounds midair and doesn’t wait for the ball to come to him.  He made good use of his hips on boxouts.  He averaged 10.6 rebounds per 40 for his career putting multiple efforts behind cleaning the glass.  He does play solid on-ball defense, getting in a low stance in the process.  One of my biggest concerns was how he needs to take better angles and have better positioning on the court.  Defense is something that will make or break his NBA career.  Since he had his fair share of good and bad moments it feels like he could be an average defender in the NBA.  But since he has size and solid athletic ability there’s room for upside.  Also, going through his game logs almost every time he played a good team from a big conference he would have a subpar performance.  Luckily for Windler he played well against Maryland during the NCAA tournament his past season.  Outside of that though it was clunker after clunker.  In the NBA he will be playing with better players, better floor balance and more creative styles of play.  He still projects to be a big 3-and-D wing.  Those are in demand in the NBA.

  1. PJ Washington, Big, Kentucky, 6’8, 7’2.25 wingspan, 20.8 years

Brief Overview

Why do I have PJ Washington ranked lower than most other websites?  I’m just not buying his upside as a lottery pick.  I think Washington projects to be a backup big.  Washington doesn’t project to be a versatile defender in my opinion.  I saw a player who had trouble with change-of-direction, recovering ground and foot speed.  He actually was a decent on-ball defender going up against bigger perimeter ball handlers but he couldn’t keep up with smaller, quicker ones.  His lateral movement actually seems to be, at the very least, average for someone his size.  When he did get blown off the dribble his stiff hips made him a second behind his recovery.  The biggest advantage he has on defense is his frame.  He’s listed at 6’8 but has a 7’2.5 wingspan and a 8’11 standing reach.  His length helps him cover ground, contest shots from afar and contain dribble penetration.  I’m not saying Washington will be a bad defender but he just has his limitations and relies on length and average lateral movement to springboard his positioning.  He also has an average IQ.  Sometimes I see him be stationary, not react soon enough and miss assignments when guarding the perimeter.

It’s super important for big men nowadays to be versatile at pick-and-roll coverage, play good enough on-ball defense and pilot backline defense.  He should be good enough on-ball but other than that I don’t trust him to excel in the other two categories.  I just don’t see the upside on defense that warrants a lottery selection.  On offense he did a good job improving his long distance jumper.  He shot 42% from three this past season, up from 24% last season. Washington sets up nicely as a pick-and-pop big.  I personally think that will be his most valuable skill in the NBA.  His shooting is relegated to just spot up at the moment and not much else but he does have nice touch even though his free throw percentage was 66%.  His handle was deceptively tight, he made some nice dribble drive moves attacking closeouts and his straight line speed is solid for someone his size.  He liked to faceup about 15-20 feet out, rip-and-go, hop step and leap off two feet.  I wouldn’t call him a good playmaker but he did display some passing skills on double teams.  He also didn’t “roll” all that much at Kentucky but since he has decent straight line speed and nice touch around the rim I wouldn’t be surprised if he became proficient at it in the NBA.

Like I said I don’t think he warrants lottery hype but he should at the very worst be a respectable backup big, with some potential to be a low-level starter.

 

  1. Josh Reaves, Wing, Penn State, 6’4, 6’7 wingspan, 22 years

Brief Overview

Josh Reaves isn’t on many big boards I’ve seen.  I think he’s ranked something like 78th on ESPN’s top 100 and I don’t even think he’s on The Ringer’s big board.  And yet I have a first round grade on Reaves. Bottom line is that I buy his potential as a top level role player.  Reaves doesn’t have the upside to be an offensive initiator.  He can however play off the initiator, shoot threes, play make and create for himself in a pinch.  I’m basing a lot of this off last season.

Last season he played with Tony Carr who was a nice college initiator who could score and play make.  As a team Penn State shot 38% from three opening up the court for Reaves to be active off-ball. Reaves sported a 1.377 points per possession on “cuts” which ranked 85th percentile.  If he needed to be a tertiary playmaker Reaves could do that sporting a 1.207 on passes out of the pick-and-roll which ranked 88th percentile.  He had 107 assists to 48 turnovers which is a 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio, pretty impressive for an off-guard.  If he needed to catch-and-shoot he can do that too sporting a 1.167 points per possession which ranked 75th percentile.  He could attack closeouts and get to the rim making 65.9% of his baskets at the bucket.  He isn’t a scorer or tough shot maker sporting about 25% on his two point jumpers the past two seasons.  Typically when Reaves caught the ball he would either immediately shoot or go to the rim.

This past season however Tony Carr moved on, Penn State didn’t have a college level initiator (sorry Lamar Stevens) and as a team shot 32% from three.  The role I envision Reaves playing in the pros replicates his junior season and not his senior season where he had to create for himself more often and not explore his off-ball prowess even further.  Even if you give Reaves a ball screen he’s a much better playmaker than scorer.  He needs to be off-ball playing off a primary creator to succeed.  

He is a good athlete showing that he can one-leg dunk in transition and stay with quicker players on defense.  He has vertical explosion, lateral agility and end-to-end speed.  He’s 6’4 with a 6’7 wingspan but his athletic ability makes him play bigger than his listed height.  Defensively Reaves is overall a good player.  He’s best when defending in space but is a solid team and on-ball defender nonetheless.  Negatively at times he can over commit, be too handsy, float and ball watch but still brings the intensity, has quick reactions with terrific anticipation.  He averaged 4 blocks+steals per 40 minutes for his entire four year career at Penn State.  His defensive ability and athleticism are his core attributes but his potentially consistent shooting, off-ball prowess and play making in a pinch give Reaves a foundation to become a rotational role player.

  1. Terence Davis, Wing, Ole Miss, 6’4.5, 6’8.75 wingspan, 22.1 years

Brief Overview

Terence Davis has good role player potential.  He isn’t someone that has a ton of upside and is already 22 years old.  Does a player like Lugentz Dort have more upside?  Yes, but I think practicality is important and Davis might have more impact on-court for some established roster than Dortz does.  He’s a four year player at Ole Miss and had his best season this past year.  He’s listed at 6’4.5 with a 6’8.75 wingspan and 8’5 standing reach which solid quick twitch athletic ability.  The first thing that got my attention was his on-ball defense.  He has pretty big hands for a player under 6’5, has quick feet and quick twitch reflexes.  He needs to get stronger if he wants to be able to switch on every single player but as of now saying that he can switch one through four isn’t that much of a stretch.

He also creates events on defense by jumping passes lanes, disrupting actions and creating havoc with his quick, big hands.  He has pretty good instincts and anticipation for off-ball defensive rovering.  Though he does gamble a lot when jumping passes and at times needs to stay more disciplined.  At times he can over help and get stuck in the muck.  He can stay flat footed on rebounds and forget to box out his man.  He still makes good rotations on all levels of the defense for the most part.  On offense Davis has a quick first step with some change-of-direction ability.  His handle isn’t anything advanced but uses his quick twitch ability to make sharp dribble drive moves.  He can settle for shots, force the situation and misdiagnose a play.  He was an improved jump shooter this past season shooting 37.1% from three and 1.039 points per possession on all jump shots which ranked 73rd percentile.  He can shoot off the dribble, catch or attacking a closeout.  The question becomes will his shot continue to be steady at the next level?  Davis projects to be a nice 3-and-D combo wing with some tertiary playmaking responsibilities and a good pick-and-roll defender.

  1. Matisse Thybulle, Wing, Washington, 6’5, 7’ wingspan, 22.3 years

Brief Overview

Matisse Thybulle just sets up nicely as a 3-and-D wing.  For starters he’s 6’5 with a 7’ wingspan and above average athletic ability; that’s prototypical wing measurements.  Even though he shot 30.5% from three this past season, his career numbers at Washington are 35.8% from three.  Becoming a consistent shooter will determine his path to the NBA.  His mechanics are by no means broken, it’s just when he gets pressured he alters his mechanics somewhat and short arms the release at times.  He’ll bring the ball closer to his body with little extension on his follow through.  In terms of catch-and-shoot, when he was contested he posted a .719 points per possession which ranked 20th percentile and when he was unguarded he posted a 1.333 points per possession which ranked 77th percentile.  He doesn’t have a wide portfolio of shooting ability so he will need to become a more consistent catch-and-shoot player.  He did shoot 78.2% from the free throw line for his career and posted a 76.2% field goal percentage around the rim so his touch isn’t the problem.

His ball handling is OK.  He’s pretty athletic but his hips are a little stiff.  At times he can display shifty dribble drive moves but for the most part it’s straight line or curved driving angles.  He can two foot leap or one legged jump around the rim for finishes.  He’s not really a playmaker but can drive-and-kick, swing pass or just make sound extra passes.  Overall he’s he shoots mostly threes with some ability to put the ball on the floor.  Doesn’t play well in the muck either, not a scorer but has glue guy potential.

Defense is his strong suit.  He’s an awesome spatial defender coming from playing zone defense at Washington.  Thybulle averaged 7.4 blocks+steals per 40 minutes last season which is a historically good number.  His hand eye coordination, anticipation and timing are all pretty elite.  He has great instincts and defensive feel.  Question marks arise when talking about his on-ball defense since he played zone.  Can he be a switchable wing?  Those are justified questions since I question his change-of-direction and ability to defend at the point of attack.  I also noticed him be flat footed too often on rebounds, I just get the feeling he doesn’t like the physicality.  A team that could be a good fit for Thybulle is Brooklyn, especially if they sign Kyrie Irving.  The Nets play more zone defense that most NBA teams and having multiple creators on the team can have Thybulle play off-ball to be a floor spacer.  Situation will dictate his success as he projects to be a role player.

  1. Rui Hachimura, Wing, Gonzaga, 6’8, 21.3 years

Brief Overview

I might regret having Rui Hachimura ranked this low in five years.  He’s listed at 6’8 with a reported 7’2 wingspan and strong frame.  His upside lies in his offensive repertoire.  His ability to score will be his most coveted skill.  He isn’t a three level scorer just yet but is damn near close.  He has a post game, nice finishing ability and intermediate game.  He’s a powerful straight line driver with a decent first step capable leaping of one or two feet.  He’s not overly explosive but has enough vertical pop to go along with his strength, ability to take on contact and extension that he averaged 7.9 free throw attempts per 40.  His dribble drive game is continually improving even though he relies on power, quick rips and pound dribbles by adding double crosses and hang dribbles.

He’s great facing up 17 feet and in, making decisive steps and has a solid dribble pull up game with a two point jumper percentage of 45.1%.  He has an improving three point shot but does shoot on the way down and only attempted 36 threes this past season.  Improving his long range shot will unlock a world of potential as a three level scorer.  He can be a strong screen setter and has rim running potential.  He isn’t a playmaker, makes questionable decisions, forces the action, doesn’t have the greatest feel and drives with his head down at times.  On defense all I keep hearing about Hachimura is that he has major defensive potential.  I get it.  He has a great frame a good enough athletic ability to be a modern day versatile forward but his lack of instincts, positioning and processing are major red flags in terms of defensive potential.  He has poor fundamentals too with a hunched over stance on-ball, upright stance off-ball, doesn’t play off his toes and more likely to be flat footed.  He has a below average understanding on defense but I routinely hear it’s because he just started playing the game a few years ago.  That just sounds more like an excuse than a reason.  No matter what he projects to be a great scorer at power forward but I worry about his actual on-court impact.  I’m still giving Hachimura a 1st round grade though, just not as high as most other people.

  1. Shamorie Ponds, Guard, St. John’s, 6’1, 6’3.5 wingspan, 20.9 years

Brief Overview

Shamorie Ponds was one of my favorite players when making my pre-tournament rankings but with every new big board he drops.  I still like him as a player and have a first round grade on him which most people don’t.  His offensive game is the biggest reason why he’s ranked this high.  He’s a crafty ball handler and finisher even with his lack of vertical pop has good touch around the rim and uses his shoulders to shield the ball from defenders.  He’s a great passer and underrated playmaker posting 413 assists to 209 turnovers for his career at St. John’s.  He plays well off ball screens and understands the intricacies of pick-and-roll offense.  His height can be an issue however as he can’t see over the top as easily.  He can create offense for others or himself pretty well.  He does a fine job creating space with his step back and has a good pull up jumper.  He posted .978 points per possession on all shots off the dribble this past year which ranked 81st percentile.  He also posted a 1.131 points per possession on all his jump shots which ranked 87th percentile.  I think that could bode well for him at the next level when shooting off-ball.  

His poor shot selection was one of the reasons why his three point efficiency wasn’t great as he shot 32.8% from three for his career.  But considering his free throw percentage was an 84% for his career, I take his poor shot selection more like he was trying to overcompensate for an undermanned team.  The main reason why he kept on dropping down my board was obviously his size.  He’s listed at 6’1 with a 6’3.5 wingspan plus average athletic ability.  That is concerning for defense.  He was actually an OK on-ball defender at times due to stance, balance and fundamentals.  Going up against longer, quicker ball handlers could be a problem in the NBA plus he doesn’t have much switchable potential.  But he was a relatively smart defender in space showing great anticipation skills and super quick hands.  He did a solid job making initial rotations but was late on his secondary movement.  I think Ponds projects to be a solid backup point guard with scoring, playmaking ability and some spot up shooting off-ball.   His defensive upside is obviously limited but he has a decent IQ and as long as he puts effort in should be passable.

  1. Bruno Fernando, Big, Maryland, 6’10.25, 7’3.25 wingspan, 20.8 years

Brief Overview

Sometimes I think to myself, “why is Bruno Fernando on my ranking but not Daniel Gafford?  They’re practically the same player.”  The main reason is shooting potential.  Now neither player projects to be a good shooting big in the NBA but Fernando at least has shown some indicators.  For starters he shot 76% from the free throw line while Gafford shot 56% from the line, Gafford doesn’t even attempt three point shots while Fernando at least went 3/10 this past season and most importantly Fernando is more fluid on his two point jumpers shooting 47.1% with Gafford shooting 30.7%.  Both players project to be a backup big anyways but I think Fernando could develop a pick-and-pop game while Gafford will be an around the basket player. 

Fernando still needs to improve his passing ability out of doubles, decision making skills, his timing on rim-runs and not bringing the ball down on catches around the rim.  He has one of the better physical profiles for a big entering this class listed at 6’10.25 with a 7’3.25 wingspan and a 9’2 standing reach with a chiseled frame.  Unfortunately he isn’t that functional which is a problem but did improve mightily over last season.  On defense he has massive upside as a potential rim protector who can switch but he’s not that yet.  He doesn’t have the awareness, takes poor angles, bites on fakes and lacks discipline.  He is super mobile with length and has decent timing on blocks around the rim but is nowhere near the defender he should be with that kind of frame.  He has a ton of upside but most of it could lay dormant.

Tier 6

 

  1. Cody Martin, Wing, Nevada, 6’5.5 years, 6’10.25 wingspan, 23.7 years

Brief Overview

I understand that his age is a deterrent to some but I think Cody Martin is being vastly undervalued by some of the bigger media outlets…or maybe I’m just wrong.  He’s listed at 6’5.5 with a 6’10.25 wingspan with good athletic ability when it comes to quickness and lateral movement but doesn’t have much vertical pop.  He has a nice frame that still needs a little more bulk.  What intrigues about Martin is his ball handling and play making ability at his size.  He can be loose with his handle at times and dribble away from his body on occasion but does possess a methodical, momentum shifting, reliable dribbling style that could suit nicely for pick-and-roll, half court basketball.  He has a decent first step but it’s his stop-and-go, turn the corner and look over the defense ability that I think translates.

He’s not a flashy play maker but makes smart, clever passes and tends to be safe with the ball.  What makes Martin interesting is that he was an improved jump shooter this past season.  He shot 35.8% from three, 76.3% from the free throw line and 1.025 points per possession on all his jump shots which ranked 71st percentile.  Also he posted a 1.364 points per possession on his catch-and-shoot tries which ranked 95th percentile.  He has solid touch around the rim shooting 71.3% and his ability to hit movement, long two point shots bodes well for his new found shooting success to translate to the NBA.  He’s good at shooting off the dribble, with space, off the catch, off a closeout or with momentum which should help him transition to a more off-ball role in the NBA.

On defense he offers positional versatility, solid on-ball defense and a good team defender.  His great lateral movement helps him stick on-ball, his plus IQ helps with cycling through rotations and his size gives him the ability to defend bigger players.  During last year’s NCAA tournament he was switching onto Mo Bamba and consistently had to defend bigger players at Nevada.  I just think Martin projects to be a backup ball handler with size, that can attack closeouts, shoot off the catch and defend with versatility.  I guess his age is that grand of a deterrent.

  1. Quinndary Weatherspoon, Wing, Mississippi, 6’4.25, 6’9 wingspan, 22.7 years

Brief Overview

Quinndary Weatherspoon is another player I don’t see graded highly on most big boards.  He was one of the standouts from the Portsmouth Invitational and had a fairly solid showing at the NBA combine even though he didn’t shoot well.  He’s listed at 6’4.25 with a 6’9 wingspan and timed in at a 3.16 three-quarter sprint.  That end-to-end speed and quick first step ability is the biggest reason he’s so high on my big board.  He recorded 176 shots at the rim according to hoop-math.com which for an off-guard is quite impressive.  To put that into perspective Romeo Langford has 145 recorded shots around the basket.  He has decent touch around the rim but was able to be flexible with his leaping ability and made some nice hand-to-hand adjustments while midair.  He averaged 6.3 free throw attempts per 40 minutes last season and was able to use his frame, first step and leaping ability to draw fouls.

His change-of-direction ability is lacking but he can turn a corner, drive in a curve and get low to the ground.  He can dislodge defenders with his strong frame when he gets into the paint, jump stop and make somewhat difficult shots.  He shot 47.4% on all his two point jumpers and posted a 1.00 points per possession on all shots off the dribble which ranks 85th percentile.  He vastly improved his shooting sporting a 1.205 on all jump shot situations which ranked 93rd percentile.  His mechanics still need to quicken up but his form is much improved over time.  His overall scoring ability is a huge reason why I grade him highly.  He averaged 19.7 points per 40 minutes during his four year career at Mississippi State.

He could also playmake in a pinch.  He doesn’t have the greatest instincts but can make plays off ball screens and posted a 1.255 points per possession on passes off pick-and-roll situations which ranked 92nd percentile.  His defense is pretty average.  When watching him defend he looked pretty detached at times but when locked in played pretty solid on-ball and team defense.  He’s a better on-ball defender than team defender with his strong frame, solid lateral movement and good recovery speed.  He has an average feel, average IQ and is average at creating events on defense.  I just wasn’t impressed by his defensive effort but I wouldn’t call him bad…just…average.  I think having players create their own shot is very important in today’s NBA and Weatherspoon can do that.  He can attack closeouts, playmake if needed, shoot of the catch and play passable defense.  It just sounds like he could be a solid bench scorer and be a rotational piece.

  1. Isaiah Roby, Swing Big, Nebraska, 6’8.5, 7’1 wingspan, 21.3 years

Brief Overview

Putting Roby this high on my list was simple: positional versatility and floor spacing.  He has good size at 6’8.5 with a 7’1 wingspan and tested well at the combine athletically.  He has the frame and athleticism to become a switchable big.  At Nebraska he did a solid job defending in space, defending pick-and-rolls and contesting shots around the basket.  I’m more concerned about his offense than defense however.  Roby projects to be a 3-and-D big man but the “3” part of that equation is somewhat lacking.  I question his touch more than his mechanics which makes me a little weary.  Around the rim Roby shot 59.7% from the floor, he shot 33% from three and 67.7% from the free throw line this past season.  Now all those stats were much better the season prior: 73.2% at the rim, 40.5% from three and 72.4% from the free throw line.  He dealt with injuries this past year so maybe it had something to do with nagging foot or groin injuries?  That’s something I wish I knew: his medicals.  Obviously if I knew he had a persistent foot issue then he wouldn’t be ranked on my list.  But assuming that he’s healthy and his play trends towards his sophomore season stats then Roby does set up nicely as a 3-and-D big.  He didn’t shoot the ball that well at the NBA combine but he still displayed his pick-and-pop and spot up potential.  As long as he draws defenders towards his direction when shooting the ball, the threat alone affects the defense.  With all my concerns I have there is a reason why I have a second round grade on him.

  1. Zylan Cheatham, Big, Arizona State, 6’8, 7’ wingspan, 23.5 years

Brief Overview

Zylan Cheatham is about to turn 24 years old.  He doesn’t possess the upside of a player like Louis King but I trust Cheatham’s NBA practicality more so.  Cheatham is a quick twitch athlete that’s listed at 6’8 with a 7’ wingspan.  His potential to be a switchable swing big is the biggest reason he’s this high on my big board.  He has great feel and instincts as a backline, team and rim protector.  He can sink his hips, play off his toes and be on balance when guarding smaller, quicker players.  He needs to bulk up some more and add strength to defend against bigger players in the post but for the most part Cheatham has 1 through 5 switchable upside.  He is your typical energy big off the bench.  He can play a little too hyped at times and become foul prone in the process.

I guess he’s an improving jump shooter but his mechanics are still pretty funky.  He shot 68.7% from the free throw line for his four year career at Arizona State and this past season went 11/25 from three.  His shot wasn’t what I took notice on offense, it was his handle and playmaking ability for a big.  He actually has good control on his handle for being that long and his quick twitch movements help.  Sometimes he’ll look ahead when he should just settle down the offense and as a result commit stupid turnovers.  He had 108 assists to 103 turnovers this past season.  He can’t really shoot off the dribble, is better around the rim and much better playing in space off-ball.  I like Cheatham as a backup energy big with defensive versatility on pick-and-roll coverages and a release valve on offense. I’m probably being too high on him but I know he can fit a distinct role in the NBA.

  1. Jordan Poole, Wing, Michigan, 6’5.5. 6’7 wingspan, 19.9 years

Brief Overview

I must be wrong about Jordan Poole because I can’t find him almost anywhere on mock drafts and big boards.  He would be one of the first phone calls I’d make if he goes undrafted.  He has average size at 6’5.5 with a 6’6.75 wingspan and tested pretty well athletically at the NBA combine in terms of quickness and straight line speed but doesn’t have great vertical pop.  If we’re just talking about physical profile for a shooting guard I think Poole is close to prototypical but he does need to add strength and his hand size is a little underwhelming.

His shooting ability is his most prominent skill.  He has a high quick release on his mechanics but has a lot of wrist motion that doesn’t look like a traditional follow through.  He posted a .96 points per possession on all shots off the dribble which ranked 79th percentile. Most of those were probably threes as he only shot 30.3% on two point jumpers and 37% on three point attempts.  Working on his shot selection, attacking closeouts and overall midrange game would be beneficial to Poole moving forward.  He has pretty deep range on his shot which should help translate to the pros.  He shot 83.1% from the free throw line his two years at Michigan and posted a 1.183 points per possession on all spot-up opportunities which ranked 92nd percentile.  He is an underrated playmaker and ball handler with nice between the legs and behind the back combinations plus push crossovers.  Poole posted a 1.046 points per possession on passes off the pick-and-roll which ranked 69th percentile.  He has underrated vision finding shooters when the defense collapses.  He does need to tighten his handle as he tends to dribble away from his body, get bumped off his spots and doesn’t get to the rim frequently even though he has nice craft on finishes.

On defense he is pretty average.  I wouldn’t go as far as to say he’s bad but he’s just prone to ball watching, lack of attention and focus.  He does have good team defensive fundamentals at times doing a good job with help defense but whether it’s his lack of physicality or lapse of judgement he needs to be a more consistent defender.  He can stick to ball handlers due to his quickness, stance and effort level but going up against bigger wings could be an issue.  He might be limited in terms of switching too.  I’m obviously not super high on Poole hence the second round grade but it feels like he’s being overlooked.  I think Poole projects to be a 3-and-D shooting guard off the bench.

  1. Cameron Johnson, Wing, North Carolina, 6’8.5, 6’10 wingspan, 23.3 years

Brief Overview

Cameron Johnson is getting a lot of first round hype and while I understand it I remain somewhat skeptical.  The reason why I understand it is because of his near elite shooting.  He probably is the best overall shooter in this draft due to height, length, mechanics, quick release and shooting portfolio.  He’s 6’8 with a 6’10 wingspan to help him get his slightly lower release point off versus most defenders.  He has smooth, compact, repeatable mechanics with good balance and fast release.  He can shoot off screen, attacking closeouts or spot up.  He for sure is one of the best movement shooters in this draft sporting a 1.444 points per possession on plays coming off a screen which ranked 97th percentile.  He can pump fake a closeout, take one or two dribbles and pull up from midrange.  Johnson shot 41.5% on all two jumpers this past season.  His elite shooting will have to be his skill that keeps his head above water at the next level.

He’s not an advanced ball handler, not really a tertiary playmaker and can’t create for himself live dribble.  He has decent speed and is actually a solid athlete but he rarely went to the rim curling off a screen.  Johnson will have a role in the NBA since he has a vast portfolio of shooting ability but he’s a limited ball handler and creator.  That will cap his upside greatly more so since he’s about turn 24 years old.  On defense he had OK positioning, used his length in space, was a sound defender that didn’t take much risk.  He was decent enough at circulating through rotations but sometimes he got stuck in the muck, was slow to react and had a high center of gravity.  His on-ball defense wavered at times, it felt like he could get bumped off fairly easy and wasn’t on his toes as much as he needed to be.  He wasn’t a bad defender but I think his NBA upside maxes out at average.  Which I guess if we’re talking about a potentially elite shooter than being average at defense with length is suitable enough.

  1. Carsen Edwards, Guard, Purdue, 6’0.25, 6’6 wingspan, 21.2

Brief Overview

I go back and forth on Carsen Edwards.  I realize that he could have gravity warping shooting ability with shot creation for himself but I don’t think he has much to offer outside of that.  I think he’s an average athlete for a point guard with little vertical pop and poor size.  Don’t get me wrong he has solid straight line speed and his compact handle helps in terms of evading hedges but I wonder about his elasticity of his hips moving forward.  I think his low center of gravity makes his athleticism seem better than what it really is on TV monitors.  During last years 5-on-5 scrimmage portion of the NBA combine Edwards wasn’t able to deftly take advantage of his off the bounce game and looked like a third string point guard at best.

Luckily for Edwards that was last year and the last thing people just saw him do was an epic tournament performance.  Edwards has a 6’6 wingspan but with only a 7’10.5 standing reach.  He has the potential to play bigger than his listed height since he has a high release point.  He is a two motion shooter with a fixed set point that’s roughly above eye level.  He’s the type of player that can get his shot off most anywhere on the court.  He has to translate his off the dribble game to the NBA if he wants to stick in the league.  He can freeze defenders with his hang dribble then pull up from deep. He can step back, pull back and shoot with momentum.  He can shoulder dip to dislodge his defender to step back for a pull up three. He can also nudge the defender with his off hand while taking pound dribbles to create separation.  His play making ability is average and usually looks for flashy over sound.  On offense it’s his shooting off ball and shot creation that will determine his NBA life expectancy.

On defense Edwards doesn’t have the size to do much else other than guard the standstill shooter in the corner.  He has average feel, instincts and poor closeout ability.  He can get swallowed up by screens, over extend himself and has trouble guarding at the point of attack.  He does have a strong frame with decent shoulder width to help with the physicality but overall Edwards projects as an average at best defender with a decent chance at being a net negative.  I could see Edwards carving out a role in the NBA as a backup scoring guard ala Jamal Crawford.

  1. Kyle Guy, Guard, Virgina, 6’2.25, 6’4.5 wingspan, 21.8 years

Brief Overview

Why is Kyle Guy on my big board over players like Luguentz Dort or Louis King?  Dort and King obviously have more upside in comparison but I’m trying to project on-court impact over an extended period of time and I see Guy have more potential in those regards.  Guy is listed at 6’2.25 with a 6’4.5 wingspan and weighs in at 168 pounds.  Clearly his physical frame is lacking but his athletic ability will be what carries him through the league.  He had the fourth best lane agility time at 10.48 seconds, 3.07 shuttle run, 3.27 three-quarters sprint and a 36.5’ max vertical.  He’s quick, with a decent vertical pop, change-of-direction and end-to-end speed.

Guy arguably has the best shooting portfolio in this class.  He wasn’t a standstill, spot up shooter at Virginia even though he could do that as well.  Instead he can shoot off the dribble, catch-and-shoot off screen and shoot with or without a ball screen.  It’s his footwork curling off picks, his delays off screens and ability to elude defenders to garner space for the catch that separates himself with the other shooters in this draft.  Guy sported a 1.226 points per possession on catch-and-shoot plays which ranked 84th percentile and 1.138 points per possession on all “cut” situations which ranked 84th percentile.  He has compact form on his jumper and repeatable mechanics with a decently high release which is needed for someone his size.  Even though he’s just 6’2 if he can maintain his movement shooting and escape defenders trailing him off screens then that’s a role many teams covet.

He’s also a sneaky good ball handler in the pick-and-roll.  During the NBA combine 5-on-5 portion Guy made nice pocket, skip and back action passes.  He has straight line speed, a good center of gravity and his head was on a swivel.  I thought he played well during the combine scrimmages which I think speaks to his ability translating to the league.  Guy has great overall touch sporting a 66.7% field goal percentage around the rim, shot 83% from the free throw line and 42.6% from the three point line.  He didn’t get to the rim that often and maybe his lack of size and strength could be a hindrance there.

Defensively is probably the biggest question mark.  He’s average at defensive creation, solid enough at team defense and quick enough to stay in front of most ball handlers but his size could be an impediment since he was easy to move around.  He will be someone that teams head hunt and run off the court.  Kyle Guy doesn’t have that big of a frame either, so even if he bulks up how much of an impact will that have on his defensive play?  The path that I could see Guy take is Bryn Forbes for San Antonio.  An undrafted, undersized off guard that can play make in a pinch and shoot lights out.  Forbes is a little taller and has wider shoulders but the projection is the same.  At the end of the day good movement shooters don’t grow on trees, it might take Guy some time to acclimate to the speed but the capacity is there.

  1. Zach Norvell, Wing, Gonzaga, 6’5.5, 6’6 wingspan, 21.5 years

Brief Overview

The last player on my big board is Zach Norvell jr.  If he was remotely a better athlete I might give him a first round grade but unfortunately for him he’s not.  He had terrible athletic testing times at the NBA combine and measured in with average length.  Ranking him this high is probably pretty pointless.  He doesn’t have lift, explosion or back foot burst but what he does do well at is play within a structured half court offense.

Norvell sported a 1.074 points per possession in all his half court plays which ranked 94 percentile.  He mostly shot threes and shots at the rim.  His shooting ability, pick-and-roll play and decent touch were key in guiding his offensive base.  Norvell doesn’t have change-of-direction dribble drives moves, his handle at times is pretty loose, and has an average first step but he takes care of the ball and has strong strides to the rim.  If you are asking him to breakdown his defender at the point of attack then Norvell isn’t your man.  If you ask him to deftly play off a ball screen then Norvell is your man. Norvell sports a .99 points per possession on all attempts derived off pick-and-roll which ranked 90th percentile.  He was really methodical with the ball and if he didn’t see a play break open he would gladly move the offense along.  He had 116 assists to 53 turnovers this past season which is a 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio, pretty impressive for an off-guard.  He shot 37% from three and 83.6% from the free throw line at his two seasons at Gonzaga.  He had a quick release putting up 7.1 three point attempts per game. His mechanics were more of a one motion, fluid set point with varying release points.  If he can maintain that quick release at the next level and incorporate more movement shooting to go along with his pick-and-roll play, that’s how he sticks in the NBA.

Norvell was has solid IQ as a defender.  Playing good help and team defense needs to propel him at the next level if he wants to make a team.  He obviously had his mistakes with over and underplaying positions and getting stuck in the muck, his awareness needs to improve.  His lack of explosion and lateral agility don’t do him any favors but he can circuit through off-ball screens.  He wasn’t scared to leave his position to clog the paint, plug gaps or intercept passes.  I wonder how he will be as an on-ball defender in the NBA.  Norvell is 6’5.5 with a 6’6 wingspan and below average athleticism.  The best I can see him do is backup combo guard.  He might not have as much potential as big name freshmen like Lugentz Dort or Louis King but I could see him have a better pro career due to role player ability.

Post-Tournament Top 20 Prospect Rankings

*UPDATED 5/31/19* With the NBA combine and early-entry withdrawal deadline in the books I wanted to make the necessary adjustments to my ranking.  Nothing major.  Slight modifications were made to match with the final early-entry list and combine information.  I also left players like Bol Bol and Jontay Porter off my ranking due to injury concerns.

After watching the tournament I had to post an updated version of my rankings before I start posting scouting reports.  It wouldn’t have made sense if I posted a negative scouting report about a player I have ranked highly.  By updating my prospect rankings they will now be in line with my player breakdowns that are soon to be posted.  I’m trying to get at a threshold of games scouted before I start posting extensive breakdowns.  The more game notes I take the better.  With the NBA playoffs underway I’m going to post the player breakdowns sporadically but will still try to get as many out asap (Note: I haven’t watched much film on International Prospects so none are ranked):      

 

Tier #1

 

  1. Zion Williamson, FR, Duke, PF/C, 6’7, 18.7 years

~ Duh.  

 

Tier #2

 

  1. Kevin Porter jr, FR, USC, SG, 6’6, 18.9 years

~ Porter jr moves back up one spot.  If you just look at his box score stats you won’t get it.  If you look at his on and off court concerns you will think he’s too much of a risk.  He was also oft-injured for most of his freshman season.  Regardless of his baggage, I just really like how he maneuvers on a rope in traffic with his dribbling ability.  He can be knocked off his spots at times by stronger players but his live-dribble skills in tight spaces is arguably the best in this class. He’s also a tough shot maker with creation skills on defense.  He did rely on his stepback quite often even though it did create quick separation in an instant.  His poor free throw percentage and finishing ability are concerns.  But I do think the role he was playing at USC shouldn’t be his role in the NBA.  A spread pick-and-roll offense or drive-and-kick offense where he can be a primary creator and scorer would help his game flourish at the next level.  Porter isn’t going to be a player that can fit every system and won’t be able to mold his game from scheme to scheme.  Porter will be a perfect case study in situation dictates success.  In the right environment, support system and offensive scheme Porter jr can be a perennial all-star.

 

3. Ja Morant, SO, Murray State, PG, 6’3, 19.6 years

~ I moved Morant up four spots from my last ranking.  One of the big reasons why I moved him up so high and over RJ Barrett is due to long term faith in developing an outside shot.  His free throw percentage for his two seasons at Murray State was 81% which is a solid indicator of future shooting success.  His shooting mechanics can be a problem at the next level however due to his one-motion shooting technique.  One-motion shooting can quicken your jump shot but can lower your release point at same time.  He’ll need to add more core strength if he wants a more reliable long range shot at the next level.  On catch-and-shoot opportunities Morant shot 46.2% unguarded but only 26.3% guarded.  Morant will probably never be an elite shooter.  But as long as he can be an above average shooter with some shooting diversity added to his playmaking and scoring ability, his offensive game should translate.  Defensively on the other hand is a concern.  It was comical how bad Morant was defensively at times.  Blatantly letting ball handlers go by him just to attempt a back tap at the ball.  He got a lot of turnovers in the process but his defensive stance isn’t anywhere near what it needs to be at the next level.  Considering that three point shooting and defense are my two biggest concerns, it’s interesting to see him ranked third.  For one that tells me how weak this class is but secondly it should show what I think of his offensive creation skills.

 

4. Jarrett Culver, SO, Texas Tech, SG/SF, 6’7, 20.1 years

~ After an uneven performance during the tournament I have Culver ranked at four.  His first step is alright, he doesn’t have a consistent live-dribble anchor and his jump shot is still a work in progress.  His shooting mechanics are definitely something that needs improvement since it looks like he releases the shot starting on the way down.  All the tournament did is make Culver’s flaws glaring and emphasize his strengths.  Yes, Culver has trouble creating separation off the bounce.  Yes, his dribble drive stance can too hunched over at times.  And yes, his jump shot needs a better follow thru.  But where the high rank comes from is my projection.  If Culver measures out around 6’7 added with his good-to-great athleticism to go along with his creation skills off pick-and-roll, solid touch around the rim, versatile leaping ability and high level defensive play then projecting that his flaws can progress at the next level align with a tier two ranking.

 

5. De’Andre Hunter, (RS) SO, Virgina, SF/PF, 6’8, 21.3 years

~ Hunter moves down just one spot.  He ended up having a great championship game that overlooked what otherwise was a sub-par tournament performance.  Hunter is a plug and play 3-and-D wing. He just doesn’t offer that much live-dribble skills or creationism. He’s a better on-ball defender than team defender being out of position on certain actions and lingering off-ball too long.  But elite 3-and-D wings are still needed to construct title contenders.  He also possesses a high ceiling due to scarcity of position; 3-and-D swing forwards are in demand.  Hunter can also be cost efficient on his second contract due to lack of scoring prowess but will have a plus impact on-court.  Players like Hunter will be ranked highly in real plus/minus but be paid no where near what the other players on top of the real plus/minus leader board are.  Virginia in last year’s tournament lost in the first round without Hunter and this year Virginia wins the tournament with pretty much the same squad except this time Hunter plays.  I don’t know if Hunter will ever be an all-star but he sure can help a team win.

 

6. Grant Williams, JR, Tennessee, PF, 6’7, 20.4 years

~ Williams moves up four spots from my last rankings.  Grant Williams might not be an explosive athlete but he sure is a functional one.  He takes sharp angles on defense recoveries, he plays with a good low center of gravity, his defensive rotations are on a string and he uses his strong butt to carve out space.  His year after year improvement from the free throw line is encouraging for three point shooting success.  His shooting form is also pretty compact and repeatable too but I got the sense from Rick Barnes, Tennessee head coach, that he didn’t want Williams shooting threes and rather position himself in the post.  I think at the next level Williams will have more freedom shooting threes and the added confidence will go a long way.  He doesn’t really have live-ball skills; very limited off the bounce.  Most of his career he was a 17 ft and in type player.  He’s not breaking down a player off dribble any time soon but can make smart decisions when attacking a closeout or doubled in the post.  It’s really going to depend on how a team uses Williams skill set that determines his career path but I think he can produce, play good defense and have a positive impact on winning.

 

7. Darius Garland, FR, Vanderbilt, PG/SG, 6’2, 19.1 years

~ Garland moves down two spots from my last ranking.  I just wish he played a full season or even half season.  How different can Garland be when compared to other undersized scoring guards like Lou Williams and Eric Gordon?  Is that all he is or can he be a steady enough play maker to take his game to the next level?  His scoring ability and shooting portfolio give him a solid floor either way.  His injury history, size and defensive limitations are still concerns but dating back to his high school days he’s shown prowess as a shooter and scorer.  Also with how good the Clippers have been this season and how cost efficient Lou Williams is, maybe the role of a bench scorer with some play making ability and elite shooting should start to be looked at with greater reverence.

 

8. RJ Barrett, FR, Duke, SG, 6’6, 18.8 years

~ I moved Barrett down two spots from my last ranking.  If I’m wrong, I’m wrong but I think Barrett is one of the more over hyped prospects in this class.  Barrett’s overall long distance shooting, touch around the rim and free throw percentage are major red flags.  It’s the biggest reason why I’m lower on him then most other people. He also looked like just an average team defender with decent on-ball defensive skills.  He can always improve defensively since he has solid physical tools but too many times did I see him struggle to match up defensively during a scramble or poorly position himself defending at the point of attack.  But just like with Morant, Barrett’s live-ball creation skills, the ability to get to the line and pick-and-roll game make Barrett still very valuable at the next level.  The skills he needs to improve upon are all modern day necessities which makes me skeptic of Barrett even though I have him ranked eighth.

 

Tier #3

 

9. Tyler Herro, FR, Kentucky, SG, 6’5, 19.2 years

~ Herro stays ranked at number nine.  For a lot of young prospects they tend to regress as soon as conference play comes around.  Not Herro.  He improved as an on and off ball defender, was better at movement shooting and did more out of the pick-and-roll.  Herro needs to bulk up and get stronger if he wants to start finishing around the rim with efficiency.  I personally think he has the frame to fill out nicely overtime as he matures.  In the meantime, instead of attacking the rim off a closeout, Herro tends to pull up and use his excellent floater game.  Herro has fantastic touch but since he lacks explosion can be a little passive around the rim at times.  Herro is someone that I think can have a good showing at the 5-on-5 scrimmage portion of the NBA combine and rise up big boards as a result.  A lot of draft sites have him all over the board but it’s beginning to feel like more and more people are starting to buy into Herro.

 

10. Brandon Clarke, (RS) JR, Gonzaga, PF/C, 6’8, 22.5 years

~ Clarke moves up five spots from my last ranking.  If Clarke showed just a little promise shooting the ball I would have him ranked in my top five.  But guess what?  He didn’t.  Clarke in his three collegiate years shot 25% from three on .2 attempts per game and 61.8% from the free throw line on 4 attempts per game.  Yes, Clarke does possess good touch around the rim and some movement shooting 17 feet and in.  That could be an indicator for future shooting success.  Unfortunately Clarke is about to turn 23 years old.  I just would’ve liked to see more of an improvement with his feet set from the free throw line to the perimeter at this late of an age.  With that said I do think him as a rim-running, 17 feet and in type offensive player can produce at the next level.  Clarke off the dribble is really interesting because he can catch it at the perimeter, take two dribbles, spin right in the paint and leap off two feet for a power finish at the rim.  He has some live-dribble moves but I’m not holding my breath until he develops combo dribble drive moves.  On defense he possesses some switch ability, great vertical leaper at the rim and havoc creating plays on defense creating 6.1 stocks per 40 minutes.  His outside shot and off the bounce game will determine what ceiling Clarke has at the next level.  Either way he has a high floor regardless.

 

11. Romeo Langford, FR, Indiana, SF/PF, 6’6, 19.4 years

~ Langford’s pick-and-roll play is one of the biggest reasons why he’s still rank this highly.  I think Langford has a chance to be a strong wing scorer with a play making feel; those players don’t grow on trees.  Also if I had to bet on any prospect that shot less than 30% from three his freshman season and improve at the next level I would bet on Langford.  Langford shot 27% from three for the season but apparently he had a torn ligament in his shooting hand. When you combine that to his 72% free throw percentage, steady touch around the rim, inconsistent but manageable shooting mechanics, I would say Langford has a good chance being at least league average from three at the next level.  His defense was uninspiring.  He just looked average at all facets of defense: creation, on-ball, team.  It just looked like he was detached and wanted the season to be over.  I mean he didn’t even play in the NIT tournament. But when locked in defensively, he did show glimpses of good low man position ability and point of attack defense.  Langford could be one of those wings that if they don’t develop a three point shot will be a bench warmer but I think he possess enough other skills that his floor is higher than other swing forwards in this draft class.

 

12. Coby White, FR, North Carolina, PG, 19.1 years

~ Coby White was someone I was just considering last ranking and now he’s ranked twelfth.  I just wasn’t convinced about his scoring ability.  His long distance shot reminded me of Ja Morant; quick, low release and one motion mechanics.  He shot a bunch of step back jumpers and off the dribble pull up jays.  On 116 shots off the dribble White sported a .629 points per possession which ranked 27th percentile.  However throughout the season it did seem like he was putting more air underneath the ball and gave the shot more lift to shoot 38.5% from three during conference play as compared to 35.2% for the season.  Some of the biggest reasons why he’s now ranked has to do with his size, first step and defensive upside.  At 6’5, as long as he adds strength, he can be a solid combo guard with some small forward potential in small-ball lineups.  His first step isn’t elite but it’s pretty darn quick.  His overall herky-jerky dribbling style with combo dribble drive moves give him the ability to breakdown defenders off the bounce.  And for a point guard White was actually a good defensive player.  His on-ball could use some improvement but his effort level was still much better than Ja Morant.  White would whip his leg over screens to get a good angle and stay attached to ball handlers, collapse on drives and climb back to his own on kick outs.  Also, his off-ball movement on offense was pretty fair at times using cross, up or pin screens with decent relocation prowess.  As long as White continues his three point shooting ascension, he should carve out a nice role in the NBA.

 

13. Ty Jerome, JR, Virginia, PG/SG, 6’5, 21.8 years

~ Not only does Ty Jerome make my big board after being a player that “just missed the cut” last ranking but I have him ranked in the third tier.  His frame, athleticism and defensive upside are obviously big concerns.  It doesn’t look like Jerome has a wide frame to hold much muscle mass and it seems pretty slender.  His length will probably be average and I wonder if he takes part in the athleticism testing at the combine.  He might not have the defensive upside of most players on this list but his ability to give multiple efforts per play, have active feet on-ball and possess a high IQ to rarely be out of position make up for his deficiency in other areas.  Although when he does wall off a driver from the weak side, even though he wins the position and stays vertical, his average length can be easy to finish over at times.  He’s listed at 6’5 which will be a positive if true but his wingspan and hand size will be important factors moving forward. The main reason why he moved up so high on my list was offensive potential as a combo guard.  Jerome has a solid handle with sudden stop-and-go movements, a decent step back jumper and fantastic passing chops especially off pick-and-roll.  Jerome and Tyler Herro are similar prospects.  Both aren’t great at isolation scoring, getting to the hoop and exploding above the rim.  However, they are very patient with ball screens, waiting for the play to develop and identifying the open man before he pops free.  They possess some movement shooting off screens, can spot-up, off-the-dribble pull-up and are ideal shooters with touch on their floaters.  Jerome also isn’t afraid to leave his position to choke an action on off-ball defense causing turnovers.  Do both players have limited upside due to lack of physical profile?  Sure, but they have enough size to go along with skills that are becoming ever so important for today’s NBA.    

 

Tier #4

 

14. Nassir Little, FR, North Carolina, SF/PF, 6’6, 19.1 years

~  Little is frustrating.  He drops three spots from my last ranking.  I don’t even know why I have him ranked so high.  He feels like a Harrison Barnes type prospect.  A player that is primarily a scorer and nothing more on offense with some defensive potential.  Even though Little as a team defender was sub-par, I do like his defensive creation upside.  His positioning can be wonky defending dribble penetration but as long as he makes some tweaks to his footwork then his on-ball defense can translate to the next level too.  He’s an explosive rebounder and his 77% free throw percentage is a solid indicator for future three point shooting success.  He’s not going to be a pick-and-roll savant or playmaker off the bounce but he does possess a solid first step and some tough shot making ability.  Little is clearly more projection than reality but in a year where most prospects are flawed Little can be a lottery pick.  I also might have him ranked lower for my final prospect rankings, so there’s that too.

 

15. Keldon Johnson, FR, Kentucky, SG, 6’6, 19.5 years

~ Johnson moves down two spots from my last ranking.  I actually think Johnson should return to school for one more season to improve his draft stock because I don’t think it’s as high as it could be.  He isn’t great at offensive creation but does pretty much everything else average (or slightly above average) on offense. That’s not a bad thing per se but Johnson doesn’t possess one truly great skill.  He does possess nice foot work off screens, decent shiftiness in the lane and the ability to get to the rim.  His shot is also hard to trust since he wasn’t much of a long distance shooter in high school and he regressed shooting during conference play.  He also tends to leap off two feet most of the time which worries me at the next level.  Being able to leap off either foot around the rim helps throw off timing for shot blockers.  On around the basket buckets (no post-ups) Johnson sported a 1.106 points per possession which ranked 48th percentile.  Johnson may have solid speed and quickness but lacks above the rim explosion.  Defensively Johnson has the tools to become a solid wing defender but his team defense was a work in progress throughout the season having issues setting up in low man position.  He was also out done by Tyler Herro, his teammate, in terms of defensive creation.  This is now the second time Johnson moves down on my big board.  There’s still more games to be watched but I doubt he moves back up.

 

16. Cam Reddish, FR, Duke, SF/PF, 6’9, 19.5 years

~ Reddish falls two spots from my last ranking.  Take away the school on his jersey, his height and lofty high school recruitment ranking and I doubt anyone thinks Reddish is a first round pick.  But since he is 6’8 with a 7’2 wingspan and has good athleticism, Reddish is talked about like a top five pick.  I just don’t know many players who went on to succeed at the next level shooting 39.4% on two pointers.  How does a player who is known for his shooting have such mediocre touch around the rim?  He mostly drives in a straight line, doesn’t have much wiggle in the lane and alters his long distance shot when closely contested.  Reddish did shoot 7.4 three point attempts per game which is great volume. The ability to get your shot off when guarded on the perimeter and shooting 77% from the free throw line can be seen as indicators of shooting success at the next level.  He does possess nice defensive creation skills due to his length but his positioning, stance and communication are still meager abilities that need to be improved upon.  If I’m wrong about Cam Reddish then so be it but I think developing his game will be a major undertaking.  

 

17. Chuma Okeke, SO, Auburn, PF/C, 6’8, 20.6 years

~ Last year I wrote a series of articles under the title “prospect watch” and wrote about certain prospects that have the potential to be lottery picks some day.  Chuma Okeke was one of the players I wrote an article about.  The article is a little dated even after just a year.  For starters the way I grade prospects has evolved and secondly there’s more film to go off of.  I stated in the article that Okeke can be a Kyle Kuzma type player, which I still kind of agree with that statement.  But I actually think Okeke can be more of a cross between Kuzma and Boris Diaw.  A heady big that can play either front court spots, that isn’t overly athletic.  He uses his skills to affect the geometry of the court on offense with his pick-and-pop play and passing ability while possessing some switch ability and defensive creation.  Getting stronger, developing core strength and better conditioning will help Okeke explode on shots around the rim and not rely on head fakes.  His ACL injury is such a shame.  If he doesn’t get hurt a good argument can be made that Auburn wins the title.  At this point however why would he return to Auburn?  He might not even play until the end of the season and at that point his draft stock probably will decline.  But since his draft stock has value now he can rehab with a pro training staff and recover for his second season as a pro.  If I were a team that’s rebuilding, drafting Okeke makes a ton of sense.

 

18. Jaxson Hayes, FR, Texas, C, 6’11, 18.9 years

~ Hayes stays ranked at number eighteen.  I don’t want to repeat myself for the third time but my biggest concern is his offensive repertoire.  Can he do much outside of 5 feet from the basket at the next level offensively?  If you put Hayes in the Clint Capela role then obviously Hayes will flourish, but hoping that Hayes plays with one of the best pick-and-roll players in the NBA is wishful thinking.  His 74% free throw percentage is a nice indicator of shooting potential at the next level but Hayes never shot the ball outside the paint.  At least last season Mo Bamba was attempting to show scouts he could step out and stretch the court. There’s nothing wrong with being a Capela, Rudy Gobert type player but I just think the positive impact a play making or shooting center has on a team is the wave of the future for NBA centers.  

 

19. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SO, Virginia Tech, SG, 6’5, 20.5 years

~ One of my biggest fallers, Alexander-Walker falls eleven spots from my last ranking.  There’s still a chance I move him back up due to his three point shooting, playmaking ability out of pick-and-roll and defensive creation ability.  But this was now the second straight year where his production and on-court impact fell off during conference play and beyond.  He has trouble playing out of isolation and too often does he pick up his dribble early forcing himself into unnecessarily uncomfortable situations.  His skill set is similar to players like Herro/Jerome but one of the biggest differences between players like Herro/Jerome and Alexander-Walker are movement shooting.  Alexander-Walker has shot off baseline stagger screens before but he really is a spot-up, set feet type shooter.  I think as long as he adds more versatility to his shooting portfolio at the next level then he should earn a role with a NBA team.

 

20. Darius Bazley, Princeton HS (OH), PF, 6’9, 18.9 years

~ Easily the highest climber on my ranking is Darius Bazley.   Bazley sat out the entire year and didn’t play any basketball last season.  He was a top-15 ranked prospect by most recruiting websites but went the route of not signing with a college or playing in the g-league and instead improving through personal workouts.  Obviously I didn’t know much about him outside of some high school games and the amateur all-star circuit.  He has good versatile size at 6’9 with a 7′ wingspan and solid athletic ability sporting the sixth best shuttle run at the combine with 2.95 seconds.  But watching him play the five on five scrimmages at the NBA combine was going to be super important.  Since Bazley is one of the youngest prospects in the draft and sat out the year, watching him go up against older players who are coming off of playing college ball was going to be telling.

The five on five scrimmage portion of the NBA combine didn’t have as many first round fringe prospects like in years past.  Instead this year were mostly projected mid-to-late second round prospects invited to participate.  I was still impressed by some players like Nicolas Claxton, Zach Norvell jr, DaQuan Jeffries, Charles Matthews, Isaiah Roby and Jordan Bone but overall the talent level of the players were lacking and the style of the game felt more novice than pro.  But a clear standout was Bazley.  His ball handling ability at that size was the first thing to pop off the screen.  He had a fine first step for someone that big, showed decent foot work on finishes, nice touch around the rim and a shot that seems workable at the next level.  It looked like he made up ground in a hurry defensively and had solid on-ball defensive moments.  And again this is coming off sitting out a year to playing live action ball against older players.  That’s why even though the talent level of the scrimmages wasn’t as pristine as in years past, to be a standout nonetheless was impressive for Bazley.  He’s still very raw and the lack of tape is totally an issue in grading a prospect properly but with his physical profile, combine footage and the lack of great depth in this class pushes Bazley into my top 20 for now.

 

Players That Just Missed The Cut

  1. Talen Horton-Tucker, SG/SF, Iowa State, FR
  2. Matisse Thybulle, SG, Washington, SR
  3. Shamorie Ponds, PG, St. Johns, JR
  4. Kyle Guy, SG, Virginia, JR
  5. PJ Washington, C, Kentucky, SO
  6. Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland, SO
  7. Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga, JR
  8. Nicolas Claxton, PF/C, Georgia, SO
  9. Josh Reaves, SG, Penn State, SR
  10. Isaiah Roby, PF/C, Nebraska, JR
  11. DaQuan Jeffries, SF/PF, Tulsa, SR
  12. Terence Davis, SG, Ole Miss, SR
  13. Carsen Edwards, PG, Purdue, JR
  14. Quinndary Weatherspoon, SG, Mississippi State, SR
  15. Dylan Windler, SF, Belmont, SR
  16. Zylan Cheatham, PF, Arizona State, SR
  17. Cody Martin, SF, Nevada, SR
  18. Jordan Poole, SG, Michigan, SO
  19. Cameron Johnson, SG/SF, North Carolina, SR
  20. Zach Norvell jr, SG, Gonzaga, SO

Pre-Tournament Top 20 Prospect Rankings

Before the NCAA basketball tournament starts and the NBA playoffs consume most of my time I wanted to give an updated prospect rankings.   Probably after the college basketball tournament is over I’ll start posting scouting reports on each player for a more thorough breakdown.  I think one of the many themes of this draft is centered around players who look like “small forwards” but are actually “power forwards.”  Players like De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, Rui Hachimura, Grant Williams, Romeo Langford and Nassir Little all look like “small forwards” because of their body type but in actuality their skill package is more in line with “power forwards.”  Since they have the capability to play “SF” doesn’t mean that’s their true position, only that they’re versatile enough to play multiple positions.  Also, just like my last ranking I have each player ranked in tiers:

 

Tier #1

 

  1. Zion Williamson, FR, Duke, PF/C, 6’7, 18.6 years

~ With Zion healthy, Duke gets the number one overall seed in the tournament and their two losses were to Gonzaga (another one seeded team) by two points and to Syracuse by four points in overtime without Cam Reddish and Tyus Jones.  When Zion was out with an injury, Duke goes 3-3 and wins a one possession game versus the 11-20 Wake Forest Demon Deacons at home.  We’re talking about a Duke team that still had a projected first round pick (Tre Jones), a projected top ten pick (Cam Reddish) and a projected top five pick (RJ Barrett).  And yet, they’re an average team without Zion.  The overall impact Zion brings can’t be understated.  He really is a generational talent.

 

Tier #2

 

  1. Jarrett Culver, SO, Texas Tech, SG/SF, 6’7, 20 years

~ Culver moves up one spot from my last rankings.  Culver has been shooting better of late.  His guide hand is more steady on his follow thru and he’s releasing the shot at it’s apex more consistently.  He has great coordination leaping off one foot around the rim and has solid power leaping off two.  He’s a good play maker using ball screens or going live-dribble.  Add that to his great length, top level athleticism and his plus defensive skills makes Culver a tier 2 prospect.

 

  1. Kevin Porter jr, FR, USC, SG, 6’6, 18.8 years

~ He might have off the court red flags and his on-court production is nothing near any player on this list but I still think he has tier two upside.  Ranking players in a weak draft after Zion is a crapshoot and players like Porter possess enough skill added with his physical makeup to give him great upside.  I do think whether it’s because of his injury or the environment at USC it’s almost impossible to get a good read on Kevin Porter jr.  Although from what I’ve seen his body control in tight spaces, tough shot making ability and advanced dribble drive moves plus his creation ability on defense still makes me think he has all-star potential.

 

  1. De’Andre Hunter, (RS) SO, Virgina, SF/PF, 6’8, 21.2 years

~ I kept Hunter at four but his live-ball skills give me cause to pause.  He doesn’t create much separation with his handle or create for himself and others off the bounce.  He’s also too attached to his position on defense.  That still makes him a sound team defender but you would like to see more creation skills on defense like deflections, steals, blocks etc.  That could just be a schematic thing though.  But overall his efficiency on offense, shooting ability and on-ball defense to go along with his physical profile still gives Hunter a tier 2 rank.  I also think since his true position is PF and not SF that possessing a base line of live-dribble skills is a good starting point to develop from.

 

  1. Darius Garland, FR, Vanderbilt, PG/SG, 6’2, 19.1 years

~ Garland moves up two spots and he hasn’t played since November, pretty logical stuff I might say.  Bottom line is my uncertainty with this class and the fact I trust Garland’s scoring ability.  I think Garland has arguably the best long distance shooting and shot creation skills in this draft.  His size, injury and lack of defensive upside will be drawbacks that NBA front offices have to take into account.  But if Garland possesses an elite portfolio of shooting ability whether that be spot-up, off-movement, pull-up or off-dribble, then at least when it comes to this draft he should be considered a tier 2 player.

 

  1. RJ Barrett, FR, Duke, SG, 6’6, 18.7 years

~ Barrett moves down one spot on my new ranking.  I still have worries about his free throw shooting, three point shooting and finishing ability.  He definitely favors his left hand and he’s not that fluid around the basket; has some rigid motion on his finishing ability.  He does have long strong strides on his drives and when he dips his shoulder he clearly overpowers his opponent, but will that power translate to the pros?  Is he more of a power driver instead of using finesse moves in the lane?  Does he possess enough shiftiness to create separation and throw off defenders timing?  His creation skills off the dribble is the biggest reason why I think ranking Barrett number two overall is justified.  Barrett does put up good stat lines but I’m not entirely sold on him.

 

  1. Ja Morant, SO, Murray State, PG, 6’3, 19.5 years

~ Morant moves up two spots from my last ranking.  I have Morant and RJ Barrett kind of in the same boat.  I love their creation skills off the dribble but I’m worried about their touch around the rim and long distance shooting ability.  Both are elite athletes that have solid pick-and-roll skills but if you can’t be efficient around the basket or make three pointers then it’s tough to advance in the NBA as ball handlers.  I really want to see how he plays in the tournament versus teams like Marquette, Florida State and Gonzaga.  I usually don’t overrate tournament performances (aka Shabazz Napier) but since Morant has been playing in a weak conference for months, playing top tier talent will be a nice gauge for evaluation.  

 

Tier #3

 

  1. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SO, Virginia Tech, SG, 6’5, 20.4 years

~ Alexander-Walker stays ranked eighth but he moves from tier 2 to tier 3, do I think of him any differently as before?  Yes and no.  Yes because I created another tier to highlight the gap between levels. Even though I have Alexander-Walker ranked one spot below Morant doesn’t mean I think they are on the same level as prospects.  But overall I did keep him ranked at eight, so in the totality of things I don’t think of him any less.  Ever since Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech’s starting point guard, went down with an injury Alexander-Walker has taken a step back.  He’s used more on-ball now as opposed to him being off-ball typically creating with off-movement before the injury.  Even though he can step in and be the primary ball handler in a pinch that’s not really his forte.  He really should be a secondary/tertiary ball handler at the next level.  However I do like it when he one hand skip passes the ball on a rope off a ball screen; they’re so accurate and a joy to watch.  He can do that with either hand but I think that just emphasizes his overall versatility as an offensive player.

 

  1. Tyler Herro, FR, Kentucky, SG, 6’5, 19.1 years

~ You better believe I have Herro at nine.  Herro wasn’t even placed in my last rankings but now he’s nine?  Has the Old Man forgotten to take his vitamins?  I can assure you I’m lucid and this is not a typo.  Herro was apart of my fourth tier from my last ranking, so he was in consideration but didn’t make the cut.  However there has been a big difference between Herro non-conference and conference play.  For starters he’s a much better all-around defender now then he was at the start of the season.  That doesn’t mean he’s getting more steals/blocks but he’s doing a better job defending from weak side low man position, choking plays off-ball and recovering to his own and attacking closeouts.  I don’t know if Herro will ever be a great on-ball defender but he definitely is more active now trying to cut off players angles.

Offensively he has the diverse shooting portfolio that lends itself to next level success; good footwork and a nice compact repeatable shooting motion.  He has trouble creating separation off the bounce, which is a negative, but when using ball screens he reads gap protection well and attacks accordingly.  He isn’t very strong around the rim on his finishes since he isn’t an explosive player.  But what he does do instead of getting to the rim is stopping short and pulling up for floaters/runners.  Showing excellent touch Herro is shooting 1.048 points per possession on his runners which ranks 88th percentile.  He currently is shooting 1.05 points per possession on shots around the basket (no post-ups) which ranks 37th percentile.  With better core strength and conditioning he should get better attacking the rim and finishing through contact since he has displayed great touch on movement twos.

Herro isn’t going to be a player that has great measurables or athletic testing at the combine.  A matter of fact I think he has a 6’4 wingspan.  But overall he has the requisite skills and has shown vast improvement over the course of the season that should contribute to his future growth.  I think he has major sleeper potential.

 

  1. Grant Williams, JR, Tennessee, PF, 6’7, 20.3 years

~ Moving up six spots, Williams is one of my biggest climbers.  Clearly moving him up into my top 10 means I think he’s a top prospect but also this says a lot about how I feel about this draft.  So many players in this draft are inconsistent with their skills and production while Williams continues to be solid week after week.  He’s young for a junior, one of the better two-way players in this class and is an improving outside shooter.  He does have a limited handle, isn’t an above the rim player and lacks advanced creation skills off the bounce.  I guess I’m just skeptical of so many players in this draft that Williams’ consistency, year over year improvement and overall skill give him just as much upside as some of the acclaimed freshmen in this draft.  Just like with Tyler Herro, I think Williams has sleeper potential.  

 

  1. Nassir Little, FR, North Carolina, SF/PF, 6’6, 19 years

~ Little moves up two spots from my last ranking.  Even though I list him as a “SF/PF” his best position at the next level will undoubtedly be “PF”.  Little is probably the most volatile prospect on my ranking.  One week I think he’s a tier 2 player and should be ranked in the top 10 and the next week I have him ranked 17th with a tier 4 ranking.  Since Little is shooting 76.8% from the free throw line and 58.6% from shots around the basket (not including post-ups) I wouldn’t be shocked to see Little improve as a three point shooter next level due to decent touch and better shot selection.  Also for conference play he shot 31.6% from three compared with his overall percentage of 28%.  He’s an explosive rebounder with solid creation skills on defense.  However, his defensive IQ is still a major work in progress, taking bad angles and misreading weak side actions.  He also drives with his head down on offense and has a bad feel for doubles and where to find the open man.  Little still has tremendous upside because of his physical tools but should be a project.  A lot of times situation dictates success and it’s going to be no different for Little.

 

  1. Romeo Langford, FR, Indiana, SF/PF, 6’6, 19.3 years

~ I had a tough time grading between Langford and Keldon Johnson.  I went with Langford one spot higher because of conference play. Both players didn’t overwhelm during conference play but Langford did play slightly better as compared with his non-conference schedule while Keldon Johnson stayed the same or got worse in some respects.  While Langford is more of a straight line driver off the bounce, Johnson has more shiftiness and change-of-speed in the lane.  However Langford does a better job setting up his defender and reading ball screens compared with Johnson.  While at the rim Lanford can leap off one foot and finish with better finesse than Johnson can.  Lanford on shots around the basket (no post-ups) posted a 1.356 points per possession which ranked 87th percentile while Johnson posted a 1.038 points per possession which ranked 35th percentile.  Johnson for the season shot 38% from three which was far better then Langfords 27% from three.  But Johnson was worse from two, the free throw line and around the rim.  Langford also shot 32.1% from three during conference play while Johnson shot 32.7% from three during conference play.  I also think Langford is the better on-ball defender while Johnson is better at lock-and-trailing.  Overall it was close but Lanford did a slightly better job at progressing throughout the season.

 

  1. Keldon Johnson, FR, Kentucky, SG, 6’6, 19.4 years

~ There are a lot of players that I’ve moved down one or two spots on my ranking but a lot goes into that more than me being down on a prospect.  I’m moving Johnson down two spots but that has more to do with other players improving and Johnson staying the same.  A big theme of this draft class is improving strength and conditioning.  I think players need to develop core strength for a lot of things: finishing at the basket, movement shooting and long range shooting. Johnson could use to add strength to finish through contact.  He uses his two-foot leaping ability to finish through players since jumping off two-feet adds power and body control but he neglects using one-footed leaps to throw players off their timing.  I think he has good touch around the rim which is displayed by his .939 points per possession on runners which ranked 80th percentile.  But he needs to add strength and use one-footed leaps to be more efficient around the rim.  I still like his footwork off screens, his ability to get to the rim and make tough movement shots.  He’s improved as a defender throughout the season but is still a work in progress as far as low man defense is concerned.

 

  1. Cam Reddish, FR, Duke, SF/PF, 6’9, 19.4 years

~ Cam Reddish and Nassir Little are two of the most frustrating prospects to grade in this class.  They look like top five talents and should be top five prospects but their skills don’t match the hype.  Reddish had a perfect opportunity to showcase himself to the league when Zion went out with a knee injury.  Instead I saw more of the same, just in heavier doses.  He is a poor two point shooter, stiff finisher, inconsistent three point shooter with no wiggle in the lane.  He is more of a volume three point shooter, drives in a straight line and has some shooting versatility.  He does curl off screens with solid footwork and can be more than just a spot-up jump shooter.  Defensively his team defense is just average and that’s being generous.  He still has an amazing physical profile, ability to get his shot off at a high volume and closeout speed you want for defensive creation.  I hate ranking him this low because I understand his upside and realize he’s more of a project that could turn into a high caliber player.  I bet you more than anything he’ll be a “workout warrior” and blow teams away during the pre-draft process.  All I have is the tape to go off of and what it’s telling me is that he’s an unrefined ball player.

 

Tier #4

 

  1. Brandon Clarke, (RS) JR, Gonzaga, PF/C, 6’8, 22.4 years

~ Clarke doesn’t move up or down and stays at the same rank.  There has been a recent surge from the scouting community on Clarke because if you look at his overall career it’s very impressive.  He’s a great team and on-ball defensive player plus he possesses defensive creation skills.  I just think players like Grant Williams and Tyler Herro have more offensive potential then Clarke does.  Even though Clarke has great defensive instincts, can switch 1 thru 5 and uses his athleticism to wall off the rim I’m not sure he will ever be a three point threat.  He projects to be more of a rim-runner with 17-foot and in face up skills.  That’s still extremely valuable to have at the next level but it caps his upside if he can’t go out any further.  With that said he should still clearly be a top twenty pick and if he falls any further because of “lack of true position” then some smart team will take full advantage of their miscalculation.

 

  1. Shamorie Ponds, JR, St. John’s, PG, 6’1, 20.7 years

~ Ponds moves up two spots from my last ranking.  I think Ponds is one of the most undervalued players in this draft.  I said that in my last overview of Ponds but that can’t be overlooked.  Most mock drafts I’ve seen have him going middle of the second round.  If he gets that that kind of evaluation maybe he stays in school for another season to improve his draft stock.  I think what gets undersold about Ponds is his step-back/pull-up game, defensive creation skills, and crafty finishing ability.  His ability to make shots off the dribble, attack closeouts, make free throws, throw off a defenders rhythm in the lane and play with multiple speeds can translate to the next level even though Ponds is short with just OK burst and explosion.  He’s also been playing at St. Johns the past three years with little support.  The season before Ponds got to St. Johns they went 8-24 and now having some supporting cast around him this season they make the tournament.  With a little more added muscle Ponds has starting point guard in the NBA potential.  

 

  1. Talen Horton-Tucker, FR, Iowa State, SG/SF, 6’4, 18.3 years

~ Dropping eleven spots, Horton-Tucker is one of my biggest fallers.  It really doesn’t have much to do with liking Horton-Tucker any less but more to do with tempering my expectations for a player I’m probably overrating.  One of my biggest concerns is his lack of overall touch.  He has strong strides on his drives to the rim but can’t put enough touch on the ball for efficient makes.  Although, his tough shot making ability, dribble drive game and high IQ give him a nice starting point at a young age that most players in this draft don’t have.  But with possessing tough shot making ability comes poor shot selection and taking unnecessary looks that can through team offense out of rhythm.  I also think one of the biggest improvements he can make is better strength and conditioning.  I said this in my last overview of Horton-Tucker but I truly believe with better core strength he’ll be better around the rim and shooting from long range.  With better conditioning he can do a better job playing more consistently latter into the game.  Losing some body fat will undoubtedly help him be a better on-ball defender as Horton-Tucker is already a good team defender plus solid defensive creation skills.  I wonder if he even enters the draft at all but until that decision he’s a tier 4 player for this draft class.

 

  1. Jaxson Hayes, FR, Texas, C, 6’11, 18.8 years

~ Hayes falls 5 spots from my last ranking.  It had nothing to do with his knee injury either.  I think Hayes will be a screen setting, rim-runner, wide catch radius, paint protecting big.  He has the size and athleticism to fit that mold at an elite level.  My concern is offensive potential.  I’m concern that all he ever becomes is a Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside, Deandre Jordan type player.  Not having an offensive game outside the paint becomes a glaring issue more so in the postseason than the regular season.  The position of center is so saturated in the league that not being able to step out of the paint diminished some of his value.  

 

  1. Jontay Porter, SO, Missouri, C, 6’11, 19.3 years

~ I wrote a scouting report on Porter last September for a more extensive breakdown.

 

  1. Jordan Poole, SO, Michigan, SG, 6’5, 19.7 years

~ The last spot on my ranking was between Jordan Poole and Matisse Thybulle.  While Thybulle is the superior defensive prospect, Poole has a better all around game.  I think Poole is better at shot creation, off the bounce production and has a more complete three point shooting portfolio.  Poole might not be as good at defensive creation as Thybulle but is still a sound enough team and on-ball defender coupled with his physical profile to give himself sufficient defensive upside.  Thybulle could end up being a great 3-and-D player but I think Poole could end up being a great two-way player.

 

Players That Just Missed The Cut

~ Matisse Thybulle, SG, Washington, SR

~ Ty Jerome, PG/SG, Virginia, JR

~ Killian Tillie, PF/C, Gonzaga, JR

~ Chuma  Okeke, PF/C, Auburn, SO

~ PJ Washington, C, Kentucky, SO

~ Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland, SO

~ Naz Reid, C, LSU, FR

~ Coby White, PG, North Carolina, FR

~ Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga, JR