Tag Archives: College

Stop Looking At My Bias

I’m biased.  You’re biased.  We’re all damn biased.  Being biased in sports isn’t an inherently bad thing as long as you are self-aware and can subside your impulses.  Everyone in sports has their preferences but as long as you take inventory of your viewpoints and self-diagnosis objectively than managing dogmatic convictions might seem plausible.  If you leave your biased beliefs unchecked, well, that could lead to a cycle of groundhog day returns.  Controlling your bias might seem like a waste of time and unpreventable but it doesn’t hurt identifying one-sided sentiments.  Step one is acknowledging your biased, step two is self-reflecting and step three is monitoring your tendencies.  This bode of action might not work for everyone and it might not work for me either but I want to at least try to mitigate as many errors as possible when doing my NBA draft big boards and overall scouting.  I’ve written multiple scouting reports and have only done big boards for the 2018 and 2019 drafts. Checking these biases now could help me improve upon my love for talent evaluation:

 

 

  • I really like/overrate role players

 

~ If you’re a reader of my website, this was obvious.  For the most part I’d rather write articles about Maxi Kelber, Danuel House, Sterling Brown and Gary Clark over star players.  Heck, the next article I was thinking of writing about was on Kenrich Williams, underrated role players and breakout role players.  I also ranked prospects who I thought were projected to be good role players in the NBA higher than most mainstream outlets: Grant Williams at 11, Talen Horton-Tucker at 16, Chuma Okeke at 17, Tyler Herro at 18, DaQuan Jeffries at 23, Josh Reaves at 26 and Terence Davis at 27.  I’m still regretting ranking Matisse Thybulle at 28 and Nickeil Alexander-Walker at 21 and their careers haven’t even started yet.

 Probably one of the biggest reasons why I favor role players so much is the history of NBA champions personnel.  Whether you’re talking about good role players like Danny Green, Trevor Ariza, James Posey or great role players like Andre Iguodala, Robert Horry and Shane Battier throughout history these players help facilitate champions.  These are the players that make sacrifices to their box score stats, guaranteed money and have positive impacts on chemistry.  These players are important towards building title contenders but their obviously not the most important piece.  Drafting and signing superstar players is of course the best thing when it comes to winning titles.  Compare a player like Cam Reddish who has the potential to become a star player and a player like Grant Williams who might not have the ceiling of a Reddish but more potential to have greater impact towards on-court success, who do you rank higher?  Maybe that’s just a philosophical question on draft strategy but I at times do find myself ranking someone higher just because I don’t have enough potential role players ranked highly. This ties into my next bias.

 

 

  • I overrate “potential”

 

~ How can I overrate role players AND “potential” at the same time?  This just might be an issue of finding a delicate balance between the two biases moving forward.  However I often fall for prospects who have “potential” just because there’s a perceived chance he might became a “star”.  Players who are long, athletic, play at a scarce position or who have shown just enough of a skill set that indicates potential future success; Kevin Knox at 9, Marvin Bagley at 1, Lonnie Walker at 7, Zhaire Smith at 10, Darius Bazley at 5, Kevin Porter jr at 10, Romeo Langford at 12, Cam Reddish at 14 and Nassir Little at 15.

Now it’s only a year into the 2018 class and the 2019 class hasn’t even played yet so making definite determinations on these players is a little premature.  That’s not the point though.  I’m just identifying my potential blind spots to help bolster my ability to scout players.  A lot of times players with high “potential” their careers can be decided by situation.  How different is Jaylen Brown’s career if he gets drafted by Phoenix and not Boston?  Would Kelly Oubre’s career be different if he got drafted by Miami or Indianapolis and not Washington?  Same goes for role players.  How different is Draymond Green’s career if he didn’t get drafted by Golden State? Would Danny Green be a good role player if Cleveland never cut him resulting in San Antonio snatching him up?  Situation dictates success for most players outside of the truly elite.  Doing team specific big boards or post-draft big boards make more sense.

I like doing big boards in a vacuum because you get to see where that person stands on trends, prospects, positions and skill sets.  Moving forward I have to create some type of scale that will help sort out players with “potential” and role players.  I have to raise the requisite level of skill I use as a baseline when it comes to grading players with “potential”.  It doesn’t matter how long, athletic, mobile you are, if you can’t shoot over 40% on your two pointers, can’t make sound decisions on the move or have good processing speed on defense then I will have to readjust my outlook.  And just because someone projects to be a role player at the next level doesn’t mean they will have a significant on-court impact regardless of box score stats.  I have to do a better job classifying role players moving forward.  

 

 

  • I take player comparisons too personally 

 

~ Some might call me a basketball fan.  Others might say I need to get a life.  One thing is for sure, I take basketball very personally.  So when people in the mainstream, twitter or popular draft websites say that Tre Young is the next Steph Curry, well, I get heated.  When I hear people say that Young can be just as good of a shooter as Curry, I lose my mind.  I regard Curry as the greatest shooter of all time and arguably the second greatest point guard of all time.  Not only does he have a diverse portfolio of shooting ability but he’s also crazy efficient simultaneously.  He’s one of, if not the greatest off-ball player that I’ve ever seen.  His ability to manipulate his off-ball movement to his teams advantage plus his ability to be crazy efficient while having a diverse shot portfolio is the main reason why I hold him in such high regard.  And oh, he’s a pretty good playmaker too.  So comparing anyone to Curry is going to set me off since I think he’s one of a kind.

I ended up ranking Tre Young twelfth on my 2018 NBA draft big board.  Not really having anything to do about his talent but to push back the aggrandized opinion of Young that most people covering the draft were stating.  One of the very first articles I have on this website is talking about my first impressions on Trae Young.  The article really isn’t the greatest representation of my scouting ability since I was so new to the process and have evolved my talent evaluation approach.  I keep up a lot of my old articles just to show the progress I’ve made over the years.  In that article there was a brief excerpt detailing why people need to pump the brakes on Young Link.  At the same time I wrote at the very end that Young has “Damian Lillard with better passing ability potential” and yet I ranked him twelfth on my big board.  Something isn’t adding up.  Why do I think a ball handler who can create unbelievably well and has a diverse shooting portfolio is the twelfth best prospect?  A lot of it had to do with his defensive issues, handle concerns and overall efficiency but ultimately my love for Steph Curry fogged my thought process.  I have to separate my fandom from methodology.  Since I’m such a huge fan of someone doesn’t mean I should ignore proper talent evaluation.  I also need to disregard the noise too.  Whatever outside factors are saying should have no bearing on my big board. This ties in to my next bias.  

  

 

  • I rank players higher/lower than the consensus just to try to act smarter

 

~ Everyone wants to be the first to discover a prospect.  If that player pops at the next level that means you have an incredible foresight.  Everyone wants to project the next draft sleeper, steal and bust.  If you can routinely find hidden gems during the draft process than clearly you know what you’re talking about.  If you can outsmart mainstream voices than surely more people should be taking notice of your work.  Everyone is trying to prove themselves, develop a resume and stand out above the fray.  One way of doing that is making bold, risky picks; taking gambles on players you might not otherwise just for the sake of out-thinking the guy on TV.

This is primarily what happened when I ranked Marvin Bagley one and Luka Doncic two on my 2018 NBA draft big board.  Don’t get me wrong, I still really like Bagley and would say I was higher on him compared to the consensus even if I had ranked Doncic at one instead.  I still think Bagley can be a starting center on a championship team but he won’t be the driving force like Doncic can. Having Doncic at one seemed too inevitable for my first big board.  I wanted to make a gutsy call on my number one prospect.  Bagley was someone that had mixed reviews coming out of college due to his lack of defensive prowess and questionable long range jumper.  What gave me enough reason to take a chance on him as a possible number one was his athleticism, size, scoring ability, quick second jump, potential switch ability on defense and capable pick-and-roll nightmare skill on offense.  

I wanted to outthink people I respect just because it was a “quick” way to be noticed.  Same thing can be said about me ranking Darius Bazley at five.  I wanted to have a prospect ranked super high based off the fact he wasn’t graded favorably among the consensus.  I still like these prospects regardless but have to control my urge to take unnecessary risks for the sake of being “smart”.  I have to be reasonable with myself and not do anything outlandish just for the sake of looking shrewd.  I have to be more calculated and cool headed when it comes to my love for the game and not make a spectacle out of the scouting process.  

  

 

  • There’s probably more I can’t see

 

~ There’s probably other biases that I just can’t see because I’m so conditioned scouting a certain way that I normalize my tendencies.  Identifying my biases and working to pacify them will be an ongoing process.  I want to improve my ability to evaluate talent.  I thought doing more than just watching a bunch of game tape and analyzing the game of basketball can be an alternative way to address my technique. 

 

  • Grading Scale

~ I don’t even know if I’m going to do big boards moving forward.  I’ve always wanted to scout players on a grading scale.  I think if I just stick to objectively grading players on a scale that would remove most of my biases.  Can the player dribble proficiently with both hands?  How diverse is their finishing ability?  Can they pass on the move?  How fast can they process offensive actions?  How advanced are their live-dribble moves?  All these are yes or no questions on a varying scale.  Looking back on my first two big boards they are riddled with flaws and biases.  As of now, I’m leaning towards a grading system when scouting players.  I was thinking about grading players on offense, defense, star potential, role potential and system dependence.  Stuff like IQ would be all encompassing when grading offense (offensive feel) and defense (defensive IQ).  Star potential would deal with mostly a players upside and physical profile while role potential deals with the likelihood that they achieve their NBA roles (lead initiator, floor spacer, 3-and-D wing, hustle big).  And lastly system dependence would deal with figuring out if their game can adapt to all types of NBA offenses like motion, drive-and-kick, ball screen heavy, flow, spread, post heavy, etc.  I’m obviously still figuring out the kinks but I’ll try to be more thorough when I post my first scouting report for the 2019-2020 season.

My Favorite “Breakout/Sleeper” Candidates (Returning to College)

Last season’s returning college class was great.  There were four upperclassmen taken in the top ten and six taken in the lottery.   Players like Ja Morant, De’Andre Hunter, Jarrett Culver exceeded expectations but were still projected to be potential lottery picks even before the college season started.  Even players like Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke and PJ Washington had lottery buzz before the season started.  This years crop of players returning to college as of now is looking pretty…meh.  When looking at NBAdraft.net and ESPN.com’s 2020 NBA mock draft there are no returning players mocked in the top ten.  Heck, the first college returnee on ESPN.com’s 2020 mock draft is Tre Jones at 16 and there’s five in total mocked in the first round.  This year’s incoming freshmen/international class is deep in terms of quality NBA starting talent.  There isn’t a generational talent like Zion Williamson but there’s plenty of rotational players with upside. The closest thing to a sure fire number one pick would be Cole Anthony but as of now that’s something that will need to play itself out during the season.

Typically speaking, are all of these highly touted freshmen/international prospects going to have as good of a season as most are expecting?  No.  There are overhyped freshmen every season that fall out of favor when it comes to talent evaluation or physical ability.  Players like Bol Bol, Trevon Duval, Skal Labissiere, Louis King, Luguentz Dort and much more know this fact all too well.  That means either some lower graded freshmen/international player will have a surprisingly good season or a returning upperclassmen has an unexpected breakout season; enough so to launch themselves in serious draft consideration.  

The list of players that I’m about to talk about aren’t the college returnee favorites like Tre Jones, Tyrese Haliburton, Charles Bassey, Jalen Smith, Ashton Hagans, AJ Lawson or Ayo Dosunmu that are listed highly on NBAdraft.net and ESPN.com’s mock draft.  I wanted to identify my personal favorite “breakout/sleeper” candidates for the upcoming 2020 season, ones that I’m most looking forward to watch.  Even though I have these players listed under “breakout/sleeper” that doesn’t mean they aren’t on people’s draft radar already.  It just means players who aren’t being heavily considered on current popular mock draft boards (NBAdraft.net and ESPN.com) that have the potential by seasons end to boost their draft stock significantly: 

 

Obi Toppin, 6’9, PF/C, (RS)SO, Dayton, 21.4 years

(ESPN.com: 43, NBAdraft.net: not mocked)

~ It’s tough putting Obi Toppin on this list since he’s mocked 43rd on ESPN.com’s 2020 mock draft.  I guess since I consider Toppin the best returning bigman (only because Killian Tillie never stays healthy) and would mock him in the first round.  He’s also pretty old for a player who only played one season of division one basketball.  I don’t even know if he’s going to have a proper “breakout” season since the offensive system at Dayton doesn’t exactly highlight his skills.  The Dayton offense looks to be a Princeton styled offense which has Toppin cutting most of the time.  Personally I’d like to see him more as a ball screener in a spread offense, whether that be pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop.  His screen setting ability does need to improve since he tends to avoid contact and dive early.  He does have great timing on his dives to the rim but hardly ever did I see him delay his roll and break open extra passing lanes.  Still, his length, athleticism, soft hands, touch around the rim and one foot leaping ability help with his overall rim-running prowess.  Toppin actually has a solid intermediate game displaying movement two point jumpers now and again.  I would like to see his decision making improve when being the release value but he still can make plays with his respectable feel for the game.  I would also like to see Toppin spot up more.  He rarely shot from distance and when he did showed capable rhythm and touch.  I want to see him attack closeouts and display his dribble drive game more often next season.  With the offense that’s being run at Dayton I don’t know if Toppin will get that opportunity but on the rare occasion of him doing those actions he looks more than adequate.

On defense Toppin showed his positional versatility being able to bang down low with burly bigs and stay in front of jitterbug guards.  He still needs to gain more muscle if he wants to consistently go toe-to-toe with NBA frontline players.  But his ability to play on the balls off his feet, his lateral quickness, end-to-end speed and length help when defending multiple positions.  For the most part he’s a solid team and on-ball defender.  Nothing special but won’t beat himself. At times he has bit on fakes and lost position but made up for it with great recovery speed.  He’s the type of player who will thrive chasing down blocks.  I would like to see him fight at the rebounds apex more often.  I don’t know if that’s to prevent an injury but sometimes he seems too grounded.  I think he’s being somewhat undervalued due to the offense ran at Dayton and personally have a first round grade for him.  Until Killian Tillie shows me he can stay healthy the best returning bigman is Toppin.

 

Keyontae Johnson, 6’5, SF/PF, SO, Florida, 20.2 years

(ESPN.com: not mocked, NBAdraft.net: not mocked)

~ Keyontae Johnson really is an undersized power forward.  Heck, I think he can play some small-ball center as well.  Even though he’s listed at 6’5 he weighs 225 pounds, has wide shoulders, strong bulky frame, ample butt, lengthy arms and large hands.  He also apparently measured his vertical at 41” but even without that recording his explosion on tape shouldn’t be up for debate.  That explosion and his intuitive ability to track down rebounds helped Johnson post 10.7 rebounds per 40 minutes, 9.4% offensive rebounding percentage and 16% total rebounding percentage.  His defense was the first thing that I took note of.  He’s definitely a better on-ball defender compared to a team defender.  It’s not like he’a a bad team defender, it’s just that more times then I would’ve liked Johnson was a split second late on his assignments.  Sometimes he’s too locked in on the ball and has to quicken his recognition on back end rotations.  He can cover ground at a fast pace so as long as he aligns his head with his movement Johnson should become a more than suitable team defender.  But his on-ball defense and switchability really stood out. Johnson has a big, muscular frame and is still quick at the same time.  He has decently fluid hips and does a good job staying attached even when he gets beat.  He can be taken to the post by bigger forwards and do an admirable job holding his ground.

On offense Johnson is pretty limited.  He’s more of a straight line driver with little wiggle and finishes most of his drives with jump stops.  He has an average first step but is still able to draw fouls at a fair clip.  Johnson does a good job playing the game low so when he’s able to get a beat on his defender does a good job creating distance with his shoulders and chest and finishing around the bucket.  He has a good feel for off-ball cutting and does most of his damage around the basket.  His jump shot probably needs more extension on his set/release point to raise his follow through.  He did manage to catch-and-shoot at an average clip but anything off the dribble needs to improve.  He’s more of a ball mover on offense but at times has made some nice passes with anticipation.  Johnson probably doesn’t have the upside of some of the other returning upperclassmen and really maxes out around high level role player. With a quality freshman class and the transfer of Kerry Blackshear the Florida Gators should be a lot more talented this year compared with last season.  That should only boost Johnson’s role on the team and could be someone by seasons end with more hype.

 

Aaron Henry, 6’6, SF, SO, Michigan State, 20 years

(ESPN.com: not mocked, NBAdraft.net: not mocked)

~ As the season went along last year Henry got better and better.  He ended up starting and contributing for a team that went to the final four.  Henry plays the game with such balance and has a good center of gravity it helps him move about the court with as little wasted motion as possible.  He is a sound defender that plays well on-ball and team defense.  His low defensive stance helps defend 1 through 4 and his communication skills help him process the game.  Having a strong defensive anchor supports his upside as a total package defender.  There is still room for improvement as he can float on defense, ball watch and commit silly fouls.  He was a freshmen under Tom Izzo last year and Izzo doesn’t give much rope.  I mean during Jaren Jackson’s freshman season he barely cracked 20 minutes per game at the end of the season.  Henry should be able to afford more leeway his sophomore season.

Henry impressed me the more I watched him on offense.  I thought he was just going to be a straight line driver and floor spacer but I was pleasantly surprised by his skill set.  For starters his dribble drive game is more diverse than I expected with variations of pivots, jabs, step offs and pump fakes.  He can use this array of set ups while attacking closeouts.  He can finish with touch, hit runners and make jumpers on the move.  Even with all that said Henry is still pretty limited as a live-ball creator but has shown these flashes of skill which is a good place to start from.  He’s not really quick twitch in the lane and is still developing counter dribble drive moves.  His passing is pretty underrated making some pin-point passes right before the play breaks open.  His overall sharp IQ should help in aiding his developmental process.  Henry will be getting a greater opportunity to showcase his skills this season and has a chance to make the sophomore leap. 

 

Nate Hinton, 6’5, SG/SF, SO, Houston, 20.2 years

(ESPN.com: not mocked, NBAdraft.net: not mocked)

~ I really like Hinton.  The guy is just a good basketball player on both sides of the ball.  His handle in comparison to the other wings on my list (Johnson and Henry) is probably the furthest along in his progression.  He can actually grab-and-go defensive rebounds and jump start the offense.  He has a serviceable go-to live-ball move with a right-to-left push cross, has decent stop and go moves with balance and can accelerate/decelerate in the lane.  This could be a reason why he gets to the line at a good clip with a 32% free throw rate.  With that said he still doesn’t have the most advanced handle and still needs more counters, shiftiness plus more rim attacks.  Also, his first step seems to be pretty average but his solid control and stability help him with downhill speed.  But the bottom line is that his handle and live-ball skills are further along when compared with his peers and gives him a head start with his maturation.  Additionally, he’s growing his off the bounce pull-up game and can make tough movement two point field goals.  That will help enhance his overall scoring ability.  He also has some appeal as a playmaker even though it sparsely happens displaying passes on the move, out of the pick-and-roll and one hand passes cross court.  It kind of feels like a skill laying dormant and could be a huge x-factor in his development.  Maybe he never showcases his passing capability but from what I’ve seen there’s potential gains.

He should improve upon his 33.7% three point shooting percentage this season.  Mechanically speaking he does dip the ball down pretty low at times but has a quick trigger with his follow through.  Developing core strength and getting stronger in general should help with power and accuracy which should improve his shot.  His 85.7% free throw percentage is a fair indicator of potential shooing success in the future as well.  On defense Hinton plays with energy and hustle.  He’s a hard nose defender using his brawn and leverage to body up his man.  Off-ball he can get his assignments mixed up occasionally but overall has a manageable IQ plugging up the gaps and shrinking the court.  It also helps that he has good timing in the passing lanes and creates events on defense.  Overall Hinton has two-way wing ability.  His role should expand with Houston and so to should his draft stock.  

 

Paul Reed, 6’9, SF/PF, JR, Depaul, 20.3 years

(ESPN.com: 51, NBAdraft.net: 36)

~ It’s funny.  Out of Toppin, Johnson, Henry, Hinton, Reed and Pickett, Reed is probably the player I favor the least but is still mocked on both ESPN.com and NBAdraft.net.  Go figure.  I debated even having Reed on my list since there’s nothing “sleeper” about him at this point in time.  I’ve been a fan of Reed for a while and think he has major upside nevertheless.  So to keep in theme of upperclassmen that I favor for next season Reed would have to be on that list.  The very first thing that stood out about Reed is his long limbed profile.  His height, length and athletic ability really does fit well with the modern NBA.  Depending on how his skill set develops he could play small forward all the way up to center.  He does have to get stronger if he wants to absorb the heavy blows at the next level however.  I personally would’ve liked to see Reed involved more as the screener in pick-and-roll’s since he can be a devastating dive man and can function better with more space popping out from a ball screen.  He can drive in a straight line and spin back to the basket in the lane.  Most of his live-ball moves are pretty sluggish.  I mean, he does have a crossover but it’s pretty slow.  He has good overall touch, solid leaping power, body control exploding off one foot which makes for efficient finishing.  He didn’t shoot that many three’s but has a high release point along with solid touch gives Reed sufficient room to improve.  He’s more of an extra pass type of player but has made drive-and-kick passes on occasion.  Although he can be a black hole on offense and get tunnel vision.  He needs to do a better job taking advantage of his scoring ability and create for others.

Reed is a mixed bag on defense.  You see his potential and upside as he can traverse through large swaths of ground at a brisk pace.  He displays great creation skills and sports solid block and steal percentages (2.3%steal, 6.8%block).  But the guy just has poor fundamentals.  He can’t flip his hips on defense which hurts defending at the point of attack.  He plays back on his heels too often and needs to play on his toes for better mobility.  He commits careless fouls which can be highly frustrating.  He goes for the ball instead of staying sound with his responsibility which ends up knocking himself out of position.  He has underwhelming recognition skills on defense.  He can make the initial rotation but struggles to cycle through multiple rotations.  Reed is by no means a terrible defender but just infuriating to watch someone with such defensive upside be prone to that lack of detail.  He has the baseline ability and tools to become a lottery pick but until he establishes better habits his future might restricted.         

 

Jalen Pickett, 6’4, PG/SG, SO, Siena, 19.8 years

(ESPN.com: not mocked, NBAdraft.net: not mocked)

~ It feels like most people following the NBA draft knows Pickett by now and the term “breakout/sleeper” really doesn’t apply to him.  I just think there’s a very good chance by season’s end Pickett will have first round draft consideration.  I had to put him on my list especially since Pickett isn’t mocked by either ESPN.com or NBAdraft.net.  Does this mean I like Pickett more than other returning guards like Tre Jones, Ashton Hagans, AJ Lawson and Ayo Dosunmu?  Well, yea.  You can make the argument that those four other point guards have better first steps, better athletic ability and higher ceilings.  But they all have their question marks as well. Lawson is taller but I don’t trust his touch, Hagans and Dosunmu have quick first step’s but need to be a better shot makers and Jones can’t shoot threes.  I guess I favor Pickett more because of offensive versatility.  I think Pickett has more potential to become a Fred VanVleet type combo guard in the NBA in comparison to the others.  Pickett can set firm screens, move well without the ball, make tough movement shots, catch-and-shoot and make good decisions attacking closeouts.  

Pickett might not have a swift first step and top notch athletic ability but is a good leverage scorer using his butt, base, shoulders and footwork to create scoring angles.  He then takes these scoring advantages and uses them to support his ability to create for others.  He does need to tighten his handle as it can be high at times and he needs to finish with his left hand more often.  His long distance shot has a high release point but has a slight hitch in my opinion.  As long as he buffs that out then I think he can raise his three point percentage especially considering he has solid touch and a good unassisted make rate.  His mid-major competition level might be covering up some of his defensive capacity since Pickett doesn’t have explosive athletic ability.  He gets by defending with his strength, broad shoulders, long arms, functional movement and processing speed which helps create on defense.  Those traits will have to carryover at the next level if he wants to be a plus defender. Pickett doesn’t have the upside of some of the other returning guards but his game could translate better to an ever growing versatile league.  

 

DEEP SLEEPER 

Kessler Edwards, 6’8, PF/C, SO, Pepperdine, 19 years

(Not even close to being mocked anywhere)

~ He’s probably more likely to be a four year player than a second year breakout candidate.  Still, even after his senior season at college I don’t know how credible an NBA prospect he will be then.  He’s definitely a long shot to make the NBA.  But after watching some games from his freshman season there is a slight chance he becomes draft relevant.  For starters his physical profile is the most NBA ready quality about him.  He’s long, with good explosion and closing speed.  He can also cover ground in a hurry.  His overreliance on his athleticism to make plays is a problem though and he needs to develop better functional speed.  On defense his hand eye coordination is probably his best trait.  Add that to his long arms and he creates defensive events at a solid rate.  His defensive footwork is sloppy, his IQ is maybe average and he needs to be more focused off ball.  With that said he did show pick-and-roll versatility, doing an admirable job switching, hedging and recovering, and downing the roll.  That skill alone is in demand around the league and could be what propels his career.

On offense Edwards was mainly a spot up shooter.  He has a low set/release point but since he’s long armed and tall he gets his shot off over most defenders.  Developing core strength will be important to quicken his release over time.  Probably the next best thing he does on offense is diving off pick-and-rolls.  Being a great rim-runner makes sense with his athleticism, length, hand eye coordination, leaping power and touch around the basket.  He doesn’t really have a handle, mostly will attack a closeout with a 1-2 plant and release.  But his overall shot creation and live-dribble game is pretty much non-existent at this point.  I admit this is a long shot but it’s fun following prospects throughout their college career.

 

Honorable Mention

Anthony Lamb, 6’6, SF/PF, SR, Vermont, 21.6 years

(ESPN.com: not mocked, NBAdraft.net: not mocked)

~ Good leverage scorer; dips shoulder into defender, strong base and smooth footwork to create scoring angles.  Promising long distance shooting traits that should help translate to the NBA.  I’d say he’s an average NBA athlete with a strong frame and board shoulders.  Nice touch around the rim, gets to the line at a fairly high clip and makes tough movement two point jumpers.  Average to above average IQ on defense.  Needs to improve processing speed if he wants to consistently defend at the next level.  Overall by years end could be regarded as a second round prospect.  He’s more of an undersized power forward and his role in the NBA could be bench/rotational scorer.

 

Devin Vassell, 6’6, SG/SF, SO, Florida State, 19 years

(ESPN.com: not mocked, NBAdraft.net: not mocked)

~ Vassell didn’t play that much this season, only played in short spurts.  Has a long limbed frame that needs to fill out over time but solid NBA athleticism.  He was mostly a catch-and-shoot three point shooter on offense for Florida State but shot well from deep overall.  Most everything about his game seems at least average: vision, team defense, on-ball defense, finishing and handle.  His shot creation and off the bounce game are probably his bigger question marks.  Overall he looks like a potential 3-and-D wing in the NBA.

 

Quintin Dove, 6’8, SF/PF, SR, UT-Martin, 21.2 years

(Not even close to being mocked)

~ He’s another long shot to make the league like Kessler Edwards.  He transferred from a community college last season so he only has one year division one under his belt.  He’s a questionable defender, extremely foul prone and needs to tighten up his decision making.  So yea, long shot.  I guess what intrigued me about Dove was his physical profile, offensive rebounding, active hands on defense, he’s really good around the rim, actually has somewhat of a straight line handle, got to the free throw line at a good rate, shot 81% from the line, made some difficult shots and his jump shot looks to be translatable to the next level even though he hardly shoots any threes.  He really has to pop on defense, foul less and shoot more threes to get on any draft radar.     

2019 NBA Draft Reactions

I’m going to go through certain drafts that standout to me for good or bad reasons:

 

Atlanta Hawks: De’Andre Hunter (4), Cam Reddish (10), Bruno Fernando (34)

~ Would’ve it been better to keep the 8th, 10th, 17th and 35th picks in the draft compared with the 4th and 10th?  Yes, in terms of value the Hawks definitely could’ve done better.  I still like what the Hawks did though when it comes to system fit.  I had Hunter ranked 7th, Reddish ranked 14th and Fernando ranked 31st on my big board.  Ever since General Manager Travis Schlenk took over the Hawks they’ve had a concise plan with a blueprint to follow.  Whether it will work is a different discussion but the overall competence Schlenk has displayed is impressive.  Hunter and Reddish project well as 3-and-D switchable wings with Reddish possessing more upside with Fernando projecting to be an athletic rim-running big man that has room to grow on defense.  The upside of a unit that includes Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, Bruno Fernando, Omari Spellmen and John Collins will be a super fun story line to watch next season.

 

Brooklyn Nets: Nicolas Claxton (31), Jaylen Hands (56)

~ I had Claxton ranked 13th on my big board and didn’t even contemplate ranking Hands.  The Nets might look drastically different next season and the fit between Claxton and Jarrett Allen is interesting.  Nevertheless, Claxton selected at 31 is one of my favorite value picks in the draft.  The defensive upside he brings alone makes the pick worthwhile and there is untapped, raw offensive potential just waiting to be developed.  I think the Nets have shown they can develop raw talent well.

 

Boston Celtics: Romeo Langford (14), Grant Williams (22), Carsen Edwards (33), Tremont Waters (51)

~ I had Langford ranked 12th, Williams ranked 11h and Edwards ranked 38th.  Clearly, I really like this draft for Boston even though there were still some players left on the board at 14 that I rather have over Langford.  The Celtics have a ton of options this summer so it’s too early to tell what exact roles these rookies will have.  Langford gives them another big switchable wing, Williams gives them a skilled big and Edwards could be their backup scoring guard.  With Al Horford and Kyrie Irving leaving, the Celtics ended up finding solid young replacements that fit the bill.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers: Darius Garland (5), Dylan Windler (26), Kevin Porter jr (30)

~ I had Garland ranked 9th, Windler ranked 24th and Porter jr ranked 10th on my big board, so I obviously should love this draft for Cleveland, right?  I get what the Cavs are trying to do.  They are a team in total rebuild mode so just getting as much talent in the door as possible is priority number one.  The issue turns into a question of fit.  Does Garland, Sexton, Windler and Porter jr fit?  What system will they run?  Who will be the primary ball handler?  In terms of talent and value I should love this draft but I just don’t see a blueprint.  The Hawks are following a blueprint in their rebuild.  The Grizzlies are following a blueprint in their rebuild.  Whether or not it works isn’t the question, it’s the fact that plans and strategies tend to mitigate mistakes.  I just don’t see a plan with the Cavs.  Now that doesn’t mean it won’t work, like I said in terms of talent and value the Cavs did a great job.  I’m just curious how they’re going to put this together.

 

Dallas Mavericks: Josh Reaves (Undrafted)

~  The Mavericks didn’t have any picks but still did a good job.  Reaves is my 26th ranked prospect.  I thought he might go undrafted since he wasn’t on many media sites mock drafts.  I like his fit with the Mavs.  A 3-and-D wing that plays off of Luka Doncic and can playmake in a pinch.  I think Reaves has practical fit on the Mavs as a solid rotational piece.

 

Denver Nuggets: Bol Bol (44)

~ This was interesting.  I didn’t have Bol Bol ranked in my top 40 due to medical concerns.  I’m just a guy that watches a lot of basketball, I don’t have inside sources.  So when I saw Bol Bol fall I guess I turned out to be right, the league must have the same concerns or he’s medically red flagged.  Denver doesn’t exactly need Bol Bol.  They have Nikola Jokic and Micheal Porter jr has their frontcourt but the potential to get a player with lottery talent this late in the draft is too hard to pass up.  It’s a good gamble by Denver.

 

Golden State Warriors: Jordan Poole (28), Alen Smailagic (39), Eric Paschal (41), Dedric Lawson (Undrafted)

~ I had Jordan Poole ranked 36th on my big board and I thought I ranked him too high.  Most media sites didn’t have Poole ranked that high so I thought I was overrating him.  As it turns out the Warriors apparently overrated him too.  I don’t hate the pick but I just would’ve drafted other players like Kevin Porter jr, Keldon Johnson and Nic Claxton.  He’s still a great deep range shooter, very quick and has touch around the rim.  I just don’t get why they aren’t addressing a two-way big wing that can replace Iggy as he retires.  Is that supposed to be Poole?  Jacob Evans who they drafted last season?  Then they get three more players, all of whom are frontcourt players.  I’m assuming that means Kevon Looney is gone?  Smailagic has potential as a skilled big but I question his mobility.  Paschal could end up being a nice fit next to Draymond but at that point in the draft why not go for Bol Bol?  Ever since Travis Schlenk left to go to Atlanta in 2017 I’ve started to double guess the Warriors draft moves more often.

 

Houston Rockets: Shamorie Ponds (Undrafted)

~ Again, another team with no draft picks but I still come away loving what they did.  The Rockets had one of the better undrafted rookies last season with Gary Clark and they look to duplicate that success with Ponds.  Ponds was ranked 30th on my big board and I was pretty surprised he didn’t get drafted.  Ponds is someone who can create his own shot, play on or off-ball and can playmake in Mike D’Antoni’s system.  He might not have excellent size but he’s very skilled with a solid IQ.

 

Los Angeles Lakers: Talen Horton-Tucker (46)

~ The Lakers who didn’t have any picks to start the night ended up trading back into the second round.  I had Talen Horton-Tucker ranked 16th on my big board, so this draft pick gets a thumbs up by me.  The only thing I question is potential fit issues.  He isn’t a shooter and the Lakers are in desperate need of shooters.  Still, Horton-Tucker is one of the youngest players in the draft, has good touch around the rim and has a decent IQ.  I guess he fell due to conditioning concerns?  That was one of my worries when I wrote up his overview but thought that with better diet and an NBA training staff he could work himself into better shape.  Maybe it has something to do with his body type and teams were concerned he’d never be in shape.  Horton-Tucker still can create his own shot, has good feel for the game and has solid fundamentals on defense.  I’m iffy on the fit with Lebron and Anthony Davis but still like the value and his upside due to age and skill.

 

Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant (2), Brandon Clarke (21)

~ Do I even need to say anything?  I had Morant ranked 3rd and Clarke ranked 6th on my big board.  The Grizzlies are now in full rebuild mode after trading Marc Gasol and Mike Conley.  The future trio of Morant, Clarke and Jarren Jackson will be one of the most interesting subplots to the NBA season.  The amount of athletic ability and frontcourt defensive prowess is remarkable for such a young group of players.  This could end up being a draft that transforms their franchise for the next decade.

 

Minnesota TimberWolves: Jarrett Culver (6), Jaylen Nowell (43), Barry Brown (Undrafted), Naz Reid (undrafted)

~ I was a big fan of the job the TimberWolves did in last years draft by selecting Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop.  They’ve definitely outdone themselves this year.  Culver was my 2nd ranked prospect. All it took was the number 11 pick and Dario Saric to get draft Culver at 6.  His offensive game will take time to develop in the league but could be a day one defensive plus player.  Nowell didn’t make my top 40 but let’s just say he was ranked 41st.  He has a good frame and athletic build and nice potential to be a tertiary playmaker.  Then Minnesota signs undrafted Barry Brown jr from Kansas State who is one of the better defenders in this draft.  To top it off the TimberWolves signed undrafted Naz Reid who I’m not a fan of but still has a ton of upside as a big man who can maybe space the court and take it off the dribble.  I really like what the TimberWolves are trying to build around Karl Anthony-Towns.

 

New Orleans: Zion Williamson (1), Jaxson Hayes (8), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (17), Marcos Louzada Silva (35), Zylan Cheatham (undrafted)

~ The New Orleans Pelicans draft boils down to what did they put around Zion?  I personally have always envisioned Zion being a small ball five. That’s why I’m on the fence about Hayes.  Hayes was my 19th ranked player on my big board and he has rim-running, paint protection potential.  He actually had a good free throw percentage and touch around the rim so maybe he develops an outside shot but until that happens he mostly gets his points in the paint.  I like the thought of Hayes and Zion together defensively but wonder how will it fit on offense?  Nickeil Alexander-Walker was my 21st ranked prospect but more importantly he is a good spot up jump shooter and will be a much needed floor spacer.  With the 35th pick the Pelicans took Marcos Louzada Silva.  I don’t know much about Silva outside of his Hoop Summit performance where he looked like a potential 3-and-D wing with solid physical tools.  Cheatham was my 35th ranked prospect and to get him as an undrafted rookie is good value.  He projects to be a backup swing big.  Only time will time how well the Pelicans do supporting Zion.  As of now I don’t hate what they did but don’t love it either.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder: Darius Bazley (23), Luguentz Dort (Undrafted)

~ Bazley was my 5th ranked prospect on my big board which should tell you all that is needed to know.  I’m clearly much higher on Bazley than most draft sites and the Thunder share my sentiment.  As long as Bazley becomes a respectable three point shooter then the fit with Russell Westbrook and Paul Gergoe will work.  I’m not the biggest Dort fan either but to sign him undrafted is terrific value. Dort and Bazley both fit the mold of Thunder players: long and athletic.  I think Bazley in the right environment could be one of the steals in this draft.

 

Orlando Magic: Chuma Okeke (16), DaQuan Jeffries (undrafted)

~ This one is weird for me.  I had Okeke ranked 17th and Jeffries ranked 23rd on my big board.  I clearly like both players but I just don’t know if I would’ve drafted Okeke this high especially with the players that were still left on the board.  I get that the Magic didn’t have another draft pick until 46 and he might not have been available.  It’s just that all I heard pre-draft was Okeke projected to be an early to middle second round pick.  There could’ve been a chance he was still on the board when the Magic picked next at 46.  With that said, I really like the player.  He has to be redshirted for a season but when healthy has 1st round upside.  If Okeke ends up playing well and becoming a starting caliber player than this pick looks terrific.  At the end of the day if you like someone then go get him and that’s what Orlando did with Okeke.  I think the Magic got great value with Jeffries.  He is projected to become a 3-and-D swing forward and a nice complementary piece.  My biggest cause for concern is that the Magic don’t have the best track record in terms of player development and they already have a decent amount of long wings in their pipeline.  My worry is Okeke and Jeffries deal with a logjam and don’t develop properly.  I like the draft by Orlando in terms of talent but I’m apprehensive about the player development situation.  What the Magic do in free agency and how they mold their roster will matter heavily.  

 

Portland Trail Blazers: Nassir Little (25), Jaylen Hoard (Undrafted)

~ I had Little ranked as my 15th best prospect.  I still have my reservations when it comes to Little developing into a positive on-court impact player but the value and fit are amazing.  Portland does not have many ways to upgrade their roster due to salary cap implications.  They were in need of upgrading their wing position with limited options.  What so happens to fall in their lap?  A potentially two-way big wing scorer who will be on a cost-controlled contract for the next four seasons.  Little might take a while to develop and might not be on the same timeline as Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum but this just made way too much sense for Portland.  

 

San Antonio Spurs: Luka Samanic (19), Keldon Johnson (29), Quinndary Weatherspoon (49)

~ Keldon Johnson was my 20th ranked prospect and Quinndary Weatherspoon was ranked 33rd on my big board.  I don’t know much about Samanic outside of the NBA combine but he did look to have some big man floor spacing ability with mobility.  I can see the upside with that pick.  I think Johnson has 3-and-D starting wing potential and Weatherspoon has backup scoring guard potential.  The Spurs have an interesting young nucleus of Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker, Bryn Forbes, Davis Bertans, Jakob Poeltl, Luka Samanic, Keldon Johnson and Quinndary Weatherspoon.  The Spurs are one of the best when mining and developing talent and this draft could be a continuation of that success.

 

 

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 *

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.

Scouting Report: Zion Williamson (Rank: 1, Tier: 1)

Scouting Report:

Zion Williamson (Rank: 1, Tier: 1)

6’7/6’10 wingspan/280 pounds/18.9 years/FR

 

Who else would be number one on my prospect rankings?  No offense to every other player in this draft but it isn’t even close.  Could Zion stand to lose a few pounds?  Sure.  Does he need to get in better shape?  No doubt.  Do I wish he had a longer wingspan and standing reach?  Who doesn’t.  But in terms of physical profile Zion isn’t just elite, he’s generational.  It’s his body control on rim attacks, his coordination on vertical hops, his fluidity off his back foot, his delicate footwork and his ability to catch, gather and accelerate in little wasted motion.  No man should be able to do what Zion does at his weight.  A lot of players have busted out of the league with elite athleticism.  They didn’t know how to harness it into basketball related activities.  Zion takes his elite athleticism and turns it into functional basketball movement.  He moves on a string inside the courts dimensions.  It’s one thing to be athletic, it’s another to couple that with skill.

One of the major points of contention about Zion is his long distance shooting.  He shot 33.8% from three for the season which isn’t terrible but his 64% free throw percentage didn’t do him any favors in terms of future predictors of success.  On all jump shot attempts Zion sported a .925 points per possession which ranked 52nd percentile and .966 points per possession on all catch-and-shoot opportunities which ranked 44th percentile.  Mechanically speaking his release is really flat and it doesn’t get much air underneath the ball.  He needs more extension on his follow thru and the shot to be released at it’s apex point.  Luckily, Zion possesses good touch around the rim.  His FG% at the rim was 79.2% and considering that 72% of his shot attempts came at the rim that’s great touch.  He also made 47.1% of his two point jumpers.  Some of those were movement two point jumpers off fallaways, fadeaways or while drawing fouls.  He was also capable of making pull-up threes off the 1-2 step or hitting step-back threes.  It isn’t a guarantee that Zion becomes a proficient three point shooter at the next level but considering his solid touch, two point percentage and difficult shot making ability, those pluses lead me to believe that it’s totally conceivable for Zion to become an above average shooter at the next level.  

Even if Zion becomes an average three point shooter, the overall skill that Zion possesses is still very advanced for someone his age.  While he can be too reliant on left hand finishes or left side drives, he has shown the capability to drive off the right side or with the right hand.  It’s the frequency of right handed attempts that Zion needs to increase.  He has displayed change-of-direction, change-of-speed, shifty moves on his drives with either hand.  He makes sharp, fluid dribble drive moves off the bounce using a cross move, between the legs or going behind his back, changing his driving angle, jump stop and finish through traffic.  The amount of wiggle the man has for a player that size is pretty remarkable.

I’ve seen him drive into the three defenders waiting for him in the paint, miss the shot, get his own rebound and finish off the play.  Saying that Zion absorbs contact in the lane is an understatement. Even though he has less than impressive wingspan, around the basket Zion still fits the shot over longer players, puts solid zip on the ball and contorts his body with great control to finish verses length.  Zion can leap off his left or right foot with solid coordination but too often does he rely on his two foot leaping ability.  Being more versatile around the rim would help throw off defenders trying to contest his shot rhythm.  He can also be more careful on how he lands after vertical leaps.  Too often did I see him land on one foot after a monster slam which made me fear a torn muscle.  To avoid injury he needs to start landing on two foot with more regularity to evenly disperse his weight throughout his lower body.

Zion is an underrated playmaker.  He can create off pick-and-roll, closeout or live-dribble.  Zion will read all levels of the defense and can promptly find corner cutters, roll-men or weak side shooters.  He obviously isn’t perfect at shot creation and will be out of control at times.  Zion has the IQ to be a high quality playmaker but needs to let the play breathe before he can take action.  He didn’t have much space or shooting at Duke so that improvement at the next level will surely balance his shot creation skills some.  I don’t know how often Zion will be stationed in the post in the NBA but he will fight for his spots on the court.  If you give up his preferred post position call it a wrap.  He draws fouls too easily at that point.  It’s tough to stop Zion in the paint after a post feed with his momentum and touch.

On defense Zion graded mostly positive.  Like all young players though he did show his lapses on team defense.  He sometimes will sink too far down on defense when he should be pressing the shooters on the perimeter or checking one man over but instead he gears up for block.  Don’t get me wrong he’s an excellent weak side shot blocker.  He has a fantastic second jump on blocks, quicker than most players one jump.  The amount of space he covers in a short period of time is elite.  He can be sitting under the basket, take two long strides and be in position to block a shot above the break.  He takes powerful but nimble strides on his closeouts.  He can make up for mistakes in a hurry with how quick he covers space; sometimes relying on his athleticism too often in the process.  But in certain instances he does stick to the perimeter when he should be tagging the roll-man or helping the helper.  He was still overall a good team defender playing the game low and making reads on the ball.  He could jump a pass for the steal or choke the action off-ball stalling the play.  As an on-ball defender Zion could possess the ever elusive switchable skill factor.  His hips are on a swivel, changing direction to stay attached to quicker guards.  He does a nice job kick sliding back with his man on dribble penetration making sure he doesn’t double step.  He will use his off-arm staying attached to his man on an attack to alter driving angles but at times can be too touchy drawing checking fouls.  

Not a lot needs to be said about Zion.  I probably wrote too much as is.  Zion is a generational talent at a time where the league benefits from the skill set that Zion owns.  There’s been some comparison to Lebron: a two-way, big wing scorer with playmaking ability.  That class belongs to players like Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard.  The best of the best.  Those are lofty comparisons that I won’t make. Instead I could see Zion in the mold of Blake Griffin meets Draymond Green.  The physical profile, offensive skill set and athletic gifts of Blake while having the IQ and defensive prowess of a Draymond Green.  Hopefully New Orleans does right by Zion and surround him with enough shooting, versatility and ball handling to succeed.  I could easily see New Orleans screw that up though and waste another superstar players talents.  For the sake of the league I hope I’m wrong.

*All stats provided by Synergy Sports Tech*

Season In Review: Jontay Porter

Jontay Porter,  Missouri,  Freshmen

PF/C,  6’11.5”,  7’0.25” wingspan

9’1” standing reach,  236 pounds,  18.8 years old

 

After last season Jontay Porter decided to enter the NBA draft and participate in the draft combine.  He ended up withdrawing his name from the 2018 NBA draft and returning to Missouri for his sophomore season.  During the pre-draft process many NBA draft websites had Porter as a first round selection, some even lottery bound.  Now that he’s projected to enter the 2019 NBA draft these same websites have Porter as a lottery selection in what amounts to a potentially weak draft.  I really didn’t watch Missouri games last season except for the Michael Porter games, so my level of Jontay Porter knowledge is novice like.  With so many draft websites that I respect having Porter as a 2019 lottery pick I decided to go over as much game tape as possible, breakdown Porters abilities and determine if he really warrants a lottery selection next draft:

 

Jontay Porter has good not great length for a center standing at 6’11.5” but with a 7’.025” wingspan.  His 9’1” standing reach could be his most important physical attribute since it helps him cover ground best in comparison to his lackluster athleticism.  Porter has a 13.85% body fat percentage worst at the 2018 combine.  Porter was out of shape as a freshmen and is partial reasoning as to why he didn’t play more minutes.  Draymond Green serves as a good example of a frontcourt player who suffered from weight issues and redefined his body at the pro level.  Reportedly Green lost about 20 pounds from his rookie to sophomore season with the Warriors (Link).  Green was also a senior when he came out of college and Porter will be a sophomore giving more time for Porter to make enhancements to his diet and exercise.  

Porter is going to need to be in better shape at the next level if he wants to make up for his lack of recovery speed.  Porter was in last place at the 2018 combine when he ran a 3.40 three quarter sprint. Testing his foot speed Porter ran the eighth worst lane agility test at 11.90 seconds.  Porter did score well at the shuttle run so he does have solid body control and change of direction.  To cap off his below average athleticism Porter had the worst max vertical with 31”.  Porter is subpar when it comes down to lower body explosion, back foot burst and lateral movement.  Porter is another candidate for functional athleticism versus actual athleticism.  Clearly not every great basketball player was a great athlete.  Testing well at the combine versus game speed aren’t mutually exclusive abilities.  However the danger lies in the fact that the position of center is increasingly becoming harder to play if you lack actual athleticism.

Even though I have Porter listed as “PF/C” it would be in his best interest if he played center at the next level.  As a center shooting is becoming more relevant in today’s NBA and Porter looks to become apart of the growing trend.  He shot 36.4% from three, 75% from the free throw line and posted a 1.153 PPP (points per possession) at all half court jump shots which ranks 88th percentile.  His shooting mechanics for a bigman are very encouraging; shoots lefty, feet are tilted on the load and sways on the follow thru to generate power, doesn’t strain shoulders for distance, dip is pretty quick around the stomach area at times, inconsistent set point and follow thru.  Sometimes the set point will be below the eye and the next it will be above the eye, needs to find a repeatable spot.  His follow thru is either an extended upwards release or a short choppy wrist motion. As soon as he finds harmony on those motions Porter should become an even more reliable shooter.  

He doesn’t have a face-up game or can create for others off live dribble yet.  His handle is actually solid for a man his size using crossovers and spin moves off the bounce but he doesn’t bend the defender with his live dribble.  61.7% of his shot attempts came from spot-up, post-up or roll-man type actions.  He’s a good screen setter that doesn’t shy away from contact.  Tends to pick-and-pop mostly, rarely dives.  Out of 66 roll-man shot attempts he finished on a dive only 9 times.  Since he doesn’t have lower body explosion, a quick second jump or a large catch radius he becomes more planted on his roll attempts.  He has to use his timing and manipulate the gaps between the ball handler to his advantage if he wants to become a good roll-man at the next level.

If he has a mismatch on a roll or switch he will instantly get the smaller player on his hip, seal the player and take them down to the block for post entries.  When in the post he uses over the shoulder flick shots, hook shots, dropsteps and fadeaways but can become too left hand dependent at times.  He uses pivots and pump-fakes to create separation in the post sporting a 1.114 PPP on all post-up attempts.  But he’s not very good around the basket (not including post-ups) sporting a .911 PPP which ranks 18th percentile. The problem I’ve noticed is that he will scrunch his shoulders, narrow his body and act smaller then what he actually is due to overusing pump-fakes.  He doesn’t have much lift or a quick jump so he tries to get his man off his feet first before he goes up.  He definitely needs to get stronger, use his shoulders and the rim as his protection.

His specialty on offense is by far his passing and high IQ.  He uses his basketball IQ at passing from all angles on the court and will make incredible one handed pocket passes in transition.  When in the post he will read the double or dig and kick it to the next man on the swing.  He reads the weak side tag-man so well and kicks it to the opposite corner as soon as he notices the defender motion middle. He’s great at high to low post feeds and hardly ever catch-and-holds the ball; is a willing ball mover.  He also uses his IQ reading a defenders actions; cuts to the rim as soon as his defender turns his head or slips the screen on a switch.  Porter is also a great rebounder attacking the ball mid-air.  He may not have the hops but times his jump and fights for position before the opposition gets set.  He is a hustle player that produces second chances.  Porter is the kind of player that even though he didn’t grab the rebound himself his attack of the glass or box-out will lead to one of his teammates getting the board.

Even though we have established that Porter is a below average athlete he was a plus defender his freshman season.  He still has his defensive flaws like not being able to contain penetration, lacks lateral movement on switches, can be too grounded at times and isn’t versatile at pick-and-roll coverage; overuses drop coverages.  Those are definite question marks when talked about at the next level.  But there still is a lot to like.  For starters his communication is amazing being able to point out actions, direct players on rotations and sniff out any misdirection.  Porter may be prone to getting beat at the point of attack but if he can sink his hips and stay with the ball handler since he has enough change of direction ability to distort angles and contest drives at the basket.  He does a fine job staying in an athletic, low stance with good balance at all times.  Sometimes he needs to do a better job closing air space on the perimeter attacking closeouts; can be late on rotations due to lack of quick twitch movement.  He does a good job walling off drives, helping the helper and staying vertical.  He uses his great hand-eye coordination and anticipation on weak side blocks and well timed swipe downs resulting in 4.1 total steals/blocks per 40 minutes.  However he can get too handsy at times and will overextend himself on shot attempts fouling 4.8 times per 40 minutes.  His upside might be limited on defense but uses his IQ and functional athleticism to defend at a high level.

…………………………………..

So now that I had time to digest my breakdown do I think Jontay Porter is a projected lottery selection for this upcoming draft?  If he had come out this past draft the answer would be no.  This upcoming draft on the other hand looks to be weaker than normal.  Porter looks like a Kelly Olynyk type of player: an unathletic big who can shoot threes, pass, screen, dribble hand-off and be sound on defense.  Although I think Porter has more upside then Olynyk the fact is they are solid glue-guys and role players.  As of now the 10-20 range is probably where I have him spotted.  But there is a new crop of players coming in and random prospects always pop up out of nowhere.  This is a discussion that’s tabled for now and will be re-examined for another day.

Scouting Report: Jerome Robinson

 Jerome Robinson                                                                                                Boston College                                                                                                                 Jr.                                                                                                                                                    SG                                                                                                                                                6’5”                                                                                                                                                6’7.25” wingspan                                                                                                                  8’2” standing reach                                                                                                              188.4 pounds                                                                                                                           21.6 years old

Ever since the draft I really wanted to do a legitimate scouting report for Jerome Robinson.  He was the biggest reason why I didn’t like the Clippers draft and yet I’m a huge fan of Shai Gileous-Alexander.  I thought there were better players to draft at pick 13 and wondered if it was a wasted opportunity.  Robinson wasn’t a player I took into consideration for my top 20 prospect rankings so I didn’t do my due diligence properly and knew very little of him to begin with.  I want to do a more comprehensive breakdown so I can give a more informed guess as to what I think he could become.  As of now I think the Clippers should’ve drafted players like Miles Bridges, Lonnie Walker or Zhaire Smith over Robinson.  After this scouting report I’ll decide whether I still agree with that sentiment and how I feel about the Clippers draft now that I’ve broken down his tape some more:

 

To start off with his physical profile it may be average or even below average.  It’s never a good sign that a projected late first round or early second round pick doesn’t go through the athleticism testing portion of the NBA combine.  For instance Robinson’s agility, shuttle run and 40” vertical could’ve validated the perception around the league that he isn’t a good athlete.  But from what I’ve seen on tape he does actually have surprising hops for intended alley-oops but overall displays average at best foot speed, recovery time, burst and length.  Being an amazing athlete isn’t the end all be all for NBA success but it sure does help when you’re on an island defending top notch isolation players with no help behind you.  The way players like Robinson without a great physical profile make it through the NBA is high IQ, fundamentals and functionality.  Robinson will be a nice litmus test when comparing functional athleticism and actual athleticism.  Robinson might not perform well when it comes down to athletic testing but that doesn’t exactly mean he won’t display quality game speed at the next level. 

On offense the first thing you have to start with is his shooting.  I’m assuming that’s one of the biggest reasons why the Clippers drafted him shooting 40.9% from three his junior season and 1.066 PPP (points per possession) on all jump shots off the dribble which ranked 91st percentile.  His shot mechanics are sound for the most part; dips around the waist, dead eye set point, nice sway, with some inconsistencies involving his follow thru motion.  At times it will be an extended upwards release with a high point, other times it will have an “out” motion with more wrist action.  He did shoot 33% from three his sophomore season so being as consistent as possible with his follow thru will be key moving forward.  To step into his shot he uses the hop or 1-2 but mostly uses the 1-2; will that affect the timing of his release at next level?  He’s a well versed shooter at pull-up, off dribble, catch-and-shoot (1.186 PPP, 77th percentile) or spot-up jump shooting.  He doesn’t use his all-around shooting skill to his advantage off-ball as much as he should though.  He does a good job relocating off ball and filling the gaps for extra passing angles but doesn’t use his gravity to affect spacing whether that be off screen, cutting or being the screen setter.  When a defender lock-and-trails his off ball movement Robinson will use head fakes or hand swipes to create more distance between the two but due to his lack of strength/athleticism needs to be more concise with his footwork and actions to use his off-ball gravity to his advantage.

Robinson will utilize pump fakes the most while attacking closeouts but uses a variation of pivots, rip thrus, step-backs and pull-backs to create separation.  When Robinson drives the lane he narrows his hips and becomes more shifty then one would expect with average athleticism using hang dribbles, crossover moves, in-and-out dribbles and a behind the back handle creating shots for himself in the process.  He needs to develop more combo moves after his initial counter if he wants to get his man leaning for a beat.  He lacks a quick first step off the bounce and can be sloppy with his handle not being precise with his motion.  His handle needs to improve in transition also.  He’s more of a straight line driver when it comes to transition, when a defender walls off his fastbreak lane he struggles to side or euro step.  Would like to see him use jump stops more often.  Robinson has shown trouble dribbling versus length and athleticism but is pretty proficient with either hand helping add to his shimmy.  

As a pick-and-roll ball handler Robinson was one of the most efficient players in college basketball last season sporting a 1.041 PPP on those type of plays which ranked 94th percentile.  He did a good job reading weakside coverage looking for lobs, over-the-top and pocket passes.  Sometimes though he will keep his head down and get stuck baseline with nowhere to go forcing a mid-air jump pass back out.  On pick-and-roll drives he will pick up his dribble getting stuck in no mans land as well, needs to keep head up and continue his dribble as much as possible.  Even though he isn’t the greatest athlete Robinson can create off the bounce using his change-of-pace, change-of direction dribble moves looking for dump or drift passes.  Robinson will take some risky passes, overall he had a 1.14:1 assist-to-turnover ratio for his entire college career which isn’t amazing but solid.  Robinson needs to add more finesse to his around the basket game with more inside hand, inside foot layup attempts to get defenders off rhythm.  Adding floaters, reverse layins, finger rolls, push-shots and hook shots to is game will be paramount for finishing against NBA length.

Defensively Robinson really is a mixed bag.  He’s does a fine job reading weakside pick-and-roll coverages by bumping the roll-man and recovering to his own on time.  Although on his closeouts he needs to be more balanced with better angles taken due to his lack of quickness.  From time to time Robinson will float on defense and lose track of his man; needs to stay focused of his man off-ball.  Robinson is a little too flat footed on rebounds, doesn’t attack the ball while it’s in the air or fight for position; tends to run back more often.  Robinson might have on-ball defensive troubles at the next level.  As soon as Robinson’s hips open up guarding the dribble it’s tough for him to recover because lack of physical profile.  His ability to switch will be questioned as well.  Can he stay with quick point guards?  Can he guard bigger wings?  Can he bang with frontcourt players?  He needs to get stronger if he wants a chance at that plus fighting thru screens wasn’t a strong point of his either.  When Robinson is at his best defensively he gets his butt underneath him, arms balancing his core, not reaching and sliding his feet with anticipation.  Still, an argument can be made that out of the three seasons Robinson played at Boston College only this past year did he show he can defend at an NBA level.

………………………….

Now that I’ve had time to thoroughly breakdown Robinson’s game do I still think the Clippers should’ve drafted Miles Bridges, Zhaire Smith or Lonnie Walker?  My answer is yes.  Robinson doesn’t offer the two-way potential with switch ability and pick-and-roll coverage versatility that those other players do.  Do I still think dislike the Clippers draft?  Even though I still would’ve taken a bunch of players over Robinson, doing this scouting report makes me understand why the Clippers drafted him in the first place.  His pick-and-roll skills, ability to shoot off the dribble, passing, three point shooting and high IQ on defense makes me change my mind towards my original assessment about the Clippers draft.  I’m obviously still skeptical of the Robinson selection but there’s less doubt today than there was yesterday.

*All Stats Provided By Synergy Sports Technology*

Old Man Basketball: Top 20 NBA Draft Prospect Rankings

 

While doing my prospect ranking list I looked for trends from years past.  Was there something noticeable in the last few drafts between busts or sleepers?  Can you find any pattern through watching a lot of game tape, breaking down the advanced stats, listening to their interviews and reading what coaches, ex-teammates and scouts have to say about them?  To the best of my ability that’s what I try to do but I always seem to come back to the same correlation thats not quantifiable: personality and situation.

Personality meaning how is their work ethic, dedication to basketball, how they treat their teammates, how they respond to coaching, how they behave after something bad happens, what makes them ticked and how do they overcome it, how well do they work with others and how do they see themselves inside the team construct?  And situation meaning does the team that drafted the player place him in the best system to succeed, do they feature his skills properly, is there redundancy at the same position, is there organizational trust and what will the player development department focus on to improve? Understanding a players talent and skill level is one thing but personality and situation are the variables that really determines how good they may be in the NBA.  It’s hard not to devalue whoever gets drafted by the KIngs no matter if it’s my number one ranked player, there’s a difference between getting drafted by the Kings and the Mavs. So keep that in mind while reading my analysis of the top 20 prospects:

 

  1. Marvin Bagley, C, Duke, FR, 6’11, 7’1 wingspan, 234 pounds

~ Bagley has to start setting strong screens and diving to the rim in rhythm but I do find it impressive that he averaged 21 points, 11 rebounds, 61% from the field and 40% from three in a two big man lineup with little to no shooting at Duke this year.  Out of all the elite “bigs” that are in this draft I think Bagleys game should flourish the most offensively with extra shooting, ball handlers and within a pro-style offense.  His defensive concerns are justified displaying a lack of communication, inept at reading screens, taking poor angles and not consistently being in a defensive ready stance.  However it was noticeable after watching the finals that the future of the NBA “big” may not have to be a top notch paint protector like in years past. You still need some rim-protecting skills in your arsenal but being veristale on pick-and-roll coverages, mainly switches, and picking up rotations on team defense schemes seem to be more of a priority defensively for back line defenders nowadays.  Due to Bagleys poor defensive IQ it will take time for him to get acclimated to defensive rotations but his quick feet, length, and overall great athleticism should be a huge springboard to become a plus pick-and-roll defender.  With time and experience he should be able to improve both aspects of his defensive game which will lead him to become a plus defender even if his rim-protecting skills might be subpar.  

Offensively is where he’s more polished than any other “big” in this draft.  He has solid shooting mechanics on his long range shot with a nice follow thru and high release point.  His loading pocket on his jump shot can sometimes be far away from his body elongating the time of his release, he needs to keep it tight and shorten any unwanted motion.  He can attack closeouts, put it on the floor, pull-up or finish at the rim better than any other “big” in this draft because of his fluid handle. He needs to improve his right hand as he tends to use his left hand far too often even to his detriment.  Sometimes he can get blinders on when he has the ball in his hands, a habit that needs to be broken and over time can be with a fixed scheme. To me Bagley seems like a modern day NBA 5-man that can shoot, handle and develop his playmaking instincts in time.  He clearly has work to do but could be that skilled center most teams covet in the NBA right now.

  1. Luka Doncic, PG/SG (center is an option in my opinion), Real Madrid, 19 yr old, 6’8, 228 pounds

~ Doncic lack of elite athleticism, consistent outside shot, defensive fundamentals and questionable foot speed on defense are the reasons he’s my number two and not number one.  I actually think his true position might be a center (or just playing the Draymond Green role).  Him as a screen setter adds more space to operate off the pick-and-pop or bounce and not having to defend on the perimeter as much could be a solution.  But his amazing basketball IQ can also be the reason he gets over those concerns too.  He reads the court so well keeping his head up on drives, looking off defenders for no look passes and making accurate reads connecting with shooters sweet spots.  His pick-and-roll offense should already be a high level skill at the next level. It may take him time to get used to NBA length and speed but he’s young enough and smart enough where he should excel quicker than most guards.  He already has solid dribble-drive moves with in-and-out and hang dribbles plus change-of-direction moves in the lane.  He’s advanced with either hand driving to the hoop or finishing at the rim. Dealing with NBA length, athleticism and pressure could be an issue for Doncic to create separation.

His outside shot is a little worrisome too.  He has a diverse portfolio of shooting ability, whether that be step-back, pull-back or off-dribble.  That’s obviously a point in his favor.  What worries me is that he doesn’t use the momentum produced by his base at the apex of his release point.  Doncic will generate solid power from his lower body/hips but will release his shot before the the energy created by his lower body will hit at the shot’s apex.   Bottom line is I think his shot needs some tweaking before he can become a tier 1 shooter.  Defensively he does a good job playing the passing lanes, using his smarts on rotations and finishing off the play for a rebound quickly igniting transition offense.  He does ball watch from time to time and loses track of his man rebounding the ball. His mobility will be tested at the next level to see if he can stay attached to NBA athletes.  Getting beat off the dribble will be an issue but also how he recovers will be key moving forward defensively. Having a high basketball IQ will be important for understanding defensive schemes but if he’s a step behind moving around on the court his IQ could be null and void.  It’s hard to tell how European athletes will transition over in the States but since Doncic has been so impressive at an early age in a high level of overseas basketball it bodes well for his prospects.

  1. Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona, FR, 7’1, 7’5 wingspan, 243 pounds

~ Ayton and Bagley are similar prospects in respect to great rebounders, polished offensive game and defensive flaws.  Just like with Bagley, Ayton played in a two “big” system at Arizona. Even though physically Ayton is head and shoulders above Bagley I think Bagleys handle gives him an edge in determining advanced NBA skills off the bounce.  Ayton used his body control and overall athleticism as a tool to attack closeouts in college but if he doesn’t progress his handle than it will be an issue at the next level. He has a nice long range stroke for a seven footer but not being able to put the ball on the floor after a pump fake can cause less separation on drives.  Having an advanced handle and attacking closeouts are my concerns on offense but his rim-running, post play and around the basket game give Ayton the ability to be one of the better offensive “bigs” in the game. He can face-up within 18 feet and work his jab-sep and spin moves to attack the basket. He can finish with either hand and sports a 1.48 points per possession around the basket which ranks 96th percentile.  If he can open up his face-up game towards the perimeter he will be an offensive juggernaut. Give Ayton an advanced pick-and-roll partner with good spacing surrounding them and watch his pick-and-pop and rim-diving skills prosper.

While defensively Ayton has the tools to be an elite pick-and-roll defender he had trouble attacking perimeter actions, negotiating screens and overall showed a lack of understanding defensive rotations.  Just like with Bagley I think over time this is something he can pick up on and learn. It might take both players years to figure it out but since both are under the age of 20 they have time to correct their mistakes.  Ayton’s size, strength and athleticism lend themselves to a switching big-men that can help over from weak-side and recover quickly. It’s not a certainty that with high level tools one can become a high level defender; its taken Karl Towns years to become just a passable defender.  Ayton and Bagley’s work ethic plus the team they get selected by might be the ultimate deciding factor in their careers.

  1. Jaren Jackson, C, Michigan St, FR, 6’11, 7’5 wingspan, 236 pounds

~ I’ve been a fan of Jarren Jackson’s game ever since the Nike Hoop Summit but there are some things that I do worry about him.  He wasn’t getting any playing time during the most crucial time of season with a well respected coach like Tom Izzo.  Jackson lacked the discipline during big moments, was out of position, foul prone and unrefined skill wise. I understand that if you look at his per 40 minute numbers they are off the charts great with averages of 20 points, 15.6 rebounds, 5.5 blocks, 51% from the field and 40% from three.  To put a player that’s as raw as Jackson and has a lot of work to do to become an NBA caliber star player made me second guess if Jackson is really a top 10 player. It’s not like Jackson didn’t display amazing attributes during the season but if we’re talking about ranking a player top 5 he better be polished.  

I’ll bypass Jackson’s flaws for now and put him in my top 5 since he can play both frontcourt positions, shoot threes and guard 1 thru 5.  He has the length, strength and athleticism to jumpstart his NBA transition and become a modern day 5-man. His defense can suffocate perimeter players movement, cover ground in a flash and rotate weakside for highlight blocks.  If he gets blown by off the dribble his recovery time is arguably the best in this class. He has a great stance and stays low but needs to be more sound on bites, fakes and jab steps. On offense he can shoot threes as well, if not better, than Bagley.  Great repeatable shot mechanics that even though might not be a conventional stroke it’s fairly accurate, typically missing long or short. If he gets pushed off the line he can attack in a straight line and needs to develop advanced dribble drive moves for better opportunities around the rim.  Along with developing his handle his mid-post face-up game needs some work as well. He’s not really a scorer yet like Ayton and Bagley are. As of now Jackson projects more like an elite 3-and-D center. If he can refine his offensive game and stay sound on defense than his upside could be limitless.     

  1. Michael Porter jr, SF/PF/C, Missouri, FR, 6’11, 7” wingspan, 211 pounds

~ Porter was ranked first overall when I did my last rankings.  A big reason why I knocked him down to five was injury concerns.  Opening up someone’s back could have huge ramifications on their athleticism and since he wasn’t that athletic to begin with Porters overall game could take a nosedive.  Also from watching game tape he doesn’t seem like the friendliest of teammates. I know this might sound petty but he doesn’t respond to teammates with the enthusiasm you would hope for from the team’s “leader.”  He left teammates hanging on high fives or was late dapping them up making it awkward more than a few times. This may sound silly but like I said in the intro personality matters.

For anyone who wants to breakdown game tape on Porter I would suggest not watching any college tape and rather watch the 2016 FIBA U18 mens tournament played in Chile.  He was healthy playing other highly ranked prospects in a competitive tournament setting. Porter was the best scorer on team USA surrounded by guys like Markelle Fultz, Trae Young, Mo Bamba, Kevin Huerter and PJ Washington.  Porter showed off his scoring ability being able to attack closeouts, one-dribble pull-up from anywhere, finish with either hand and shoot from three. At his size he became a mismatch nightmare for the opposing teams 4-man and should continue to do so at the next level.  His long range shooting stroke at times looked textbook but at other times utilized his wrist action with no follow thru.

Even though Porter might not have elite athleticism he’s a fluid athlete with coordination and a solid handle.  However he does need to develop better dribble drive moves if he wants a better chance living at the rim or free throw line.  When he does break down the defense he needs to keep his head up, find the open teammate and not get tunnel vision. Defensively he has the tools to become a 1 thru 5 switching threat but was too upright in his stance.  He has to do a better job of moving his feet, anticipate action and stay centered on defense if he wants to hit his full potential. There isn’t much tape to go off on but Porter has the makings of a scoring threat mismatch at power forward that can guard every spot on defense.  Those don’t come around that often at his size.

6. Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan St, SO, 6’7, 6’9.5 wingspan, 220 pounds

~ If Miles Bridges had a longer wingspan would he be ranked higher by scouts?  As of now ESPN has Miles Bridges ranked 15th overall in their prospect rankings and I wonder how much of it has to do with his length versus his skill.  Lonnie Walker has displayed less skill compared to Miles Bridges but because of Walker’s length and athleticism he has a higher ceiling than Miles Bridges and ESPN has Walker ranked higher. Outside of having short arms Bridges does have other flaws like predictable off the bounce moves, mid-range heavy, limited creation skills, scared of contact and needs to raise his release point on his outside jump shot because well, you know, he has short arms.  His lefty jumper is a fine stroke but instead of putting emphasis on the flick of his wrist he should put more emphasis on the follow thru of his arms; it’ll give his release more height. Bridges is diverse in his shooting being able to use the 1-2 plant, hop into a curl off screens, shoot off a closeout or spot up in the corner for three. He needs to decipher when to take better shots and not to force a long two point shot thats contested.

When he attacks off the bounce its pretty basic: jab-step or ball fake, one or two dribbles maybe a cross over then pull-up from mid-range.  He has to expand that part of his game but it’s not like he can’t. He needs to develop a stern mentality of getting to the rim. He’s got in-and-out dribbles, behind the back, change-of-direction counters at his disposal but he rarely uses them when attacking.  For all his shots off the dribble Bridges shot .765 points per possession which ranks 47th percentile and only 3.2 free throw attempts and 2.7 assists per game this past season. He needs to get better off the dribble which if he sharpens his counter moves is a possibility.  

Defensively Bridges has the elite athleticism, strength and respectable standing reach to be a modern day swing forward.  As long as Bridges understands team concepts on rotations, doesn’t ball watch, stay low in his stance and be physical through contact then he can guard 1 thru 5.  Bridges playing pick-and-roll defense could be a huge differentiating factor since he can be the “big” in a contain assignment or the perimeter player fighting over a screen.  I understand the concerns about his length while finishing against length or contesting shots on the closeout but overall I think Miles Bridges is skilled enough to overcome that issue.

7. Lonnie Walker, SG, Miami (FL), FR, 6’4, 6’10 wingspan, 196 pounds

~ Lonnie Walker and Kevin Knox are in the same boat.  Both can end up becoming the best player in this draft class or be out of the league by their second contract.  Walker is a prototypical shooting guard standing 6’4 with a 6’10 wingspan alongside his elite athleticism. Just like with Kevin Knox, Walker does most everything average and doesn’t have one stand out skill.  The stand out skill is supposedly his shooting but considering he’s a 1.00 points per possession on catch-and-shoot chances which ranks 48th percentile, a .657 points per possession on all shots off the dribble which ranks 29th percentile and a .91 points per possession on jump shots which ranks 47th percentile doesn’t bode well for Walker.  His mechanics actually look pretty good with a nice follow thru and high release point so I question was there a problem with his knee from earlier in the year or a confidence problem. He has a strong enough handle combined with his elite lateral movement to blow by defenders and create for himself. He was a 1.034 points per possession on isolation plays which ranks 86th percentile.  He needs to be more instinctive to create for his teammates, be active off-ball and use more than just an in-and-out dribble to attack off the bounce.

He uses his athleticism as a crutch at times especially on defense.  While overall he was a plus defender in college Walker can be out of position guarding a perimeter players first attack move by relying on his speed to recover the blow by.  He can get away with it in college but not so much in the NBA. He does do a positive job closing out on the perimeter, lock and trailing shooters, and being versatile on pick-and-roll coverages.  I decided to rank Walker in my top 10 mostly due to his age and personality traits. He was one of the most aggressive and fierce competitors this season. Would I be surprised if Walker goes in the top 10?  Heck no. Would I be surprised if Walker goes late first round? Heck no. Once again, it’s all about where he gets drafted and how they pinpoint the skills he needs to improve on.

  1. Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova, JR, 6’7, 7’2 wingspan, 200 pounds

~ Mikal Bridges has the size, length and athleticism to become the very coveted 3-and-D swing forward every decision maker wants.  The question is can he create off the dribble? Can he create for himself? Is he beholden to other ball handlers? As of now he’s just a straight line driver off the bounce with no wiggle in the lane, very mechanical.  He doesn’t create much separation in isolation situations going to that play type 4.7% of the time. And for the most part he’s an off-ball player with 49% of his actions resulting in either spot ups or transition plays.  Bridges does have a high basketball IQ so when he does breakdown the defense to create offense it’s typically through pick-and-roll plays as he’s a .984 points per possession as the ball handler on screen-and-rolls which ranks 90th percentile.  He’s so long that his dribble tends to be high and if he can lower his center of gravity, develop advanced dribble attack moves and a weak hand handle then becoming an off the bounce creator is in his depth.

For now he’s a diverse shooter off the catch being able to read defenders movement on screens and picking the right action to pop free for a shot.  He has some pick-and-pop potential but he needs to bulk up for that to be a realization. His shot is much improved from his freshman season but at times can be too heavily associated with wrist action.  He has such long arms that creating a high release point might cause too much arc for him but more often than not his shot was picture perfect with the appropriate amount of air underneath the ball this season.  On defense he has the fundamentals, tools and IQ to be an elite perimeter defender. He needs to get stronger if he wants to handle switches better and he has to use angles more precisely if he wants to contain penetration.  By far one of the more accomplished and older players rumored to be a lottery pick. He might not have the ceiling you would want from a lottery pick but considering how shallow swing forwards are in the NBA and the importance placed on that position betting on prospects like Bridges are worth the risk.   

 9. Kevin Knox, SF/PF, Kentucky, FR, 6’9, 7” wingspan, 212 pounds

~ Knox has been getting a late second push through the scouting community recently and it’s understandable.  He’s 6’9 with a 7” wingspan, a 9” standing reach, an above average athlete, with three point shooting ability and perimeter skills.  That combination of length, skills, size and athleticism are what teams dream of. Yet the lack of developed skills, not having one great skill he can hang his hat on and the lack of feel for the game hasn’t been a deterrent for teams.  I’m assuming the fact he’s one of the younger players in the draft merged with his sought after physical attributes gives teams the inclination that they can mold him with time to evolve into an elite versatile perimeter player. If I were a GM or coach I’d probably be thinking the same thing.

The problem is it’s taking a leap of faith at this point since his skills aren’t really that advanced.  His handle is rudimentary at this point in time, totally strong hand dependent, his shot mechanics when contested fall apart and he can’t create off the dribble.  He doesn’t have an aggressive mindset when he’s in the paint, was easily pushed around and doesn’t have a low man wins mentality. On defense since he was typically upright his tools never matched his potential, had a terrible block rate for someone his size and didn’t use his length on recoverys.  He needs to assert himself in the game more forcefully, get tougher on everything he does, work his weak hand handle, start practicing shots on the move and with a broomstick in his face…seriously. But at the same time I have him ranked 9th because it’s not like he’s terrible at anything, he’s just average at everything.  It’s just frustrating to watch someone with so much potential not be self-assured with his talent. With someone like Knox his career will depend on where he gets drafted and how will he define himself with inside the team construct.

10. Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech, FR, 6’4, 6’10 wingspan, 199 pounds

~ I still hoped that Zhaire Smith would’ve came out in next years draft instead of this years draft due to his inexperience.  He was on a team that had a senior lead ball handler in Keenan Evans that saw the majority of touches. If Smith came back to school for another year not only would he have more opportunities to fix his weaknesses but to solidify his lottery position.  And yet I have him ranked 6th this year. The first thing that jumps off the screen while watching Smith is his elite athleticism. Recording a 41.5” max vertical, a 3.05 second three quarter sprint, a 3.15 second shuttle run and a 11.02 second lane agility time at the combine confirmed what we already knew.  Smith did a lot with his athleticism to emend his skill set granted he played a hybrid of positions off-ball

His off-ball movement on offense was a standout among the other top prospects.  Making good use of v-cuts, rip screens and silp actions Smith “cut” 22% of his offensive possessions with a 1.253 points per possession which ranked 70th percentile.  In an offense tailored around motion sets Smith was constantly active off-ball trying to free open his teammates for buckets at the basket, corner threes or for catch-and-shoot opportunities.  Smith acted more like the screen setting “glue guy” at Texas Tech this season instead of the athletic creation scorer that could be his role at the next level.

Even though he was seldomly used as a shooter Smith was a 1.289 point per possession on all catch-and-shoot plays which ranked 89th percentile, 1.027 points per possession on all half court jump shots which ranked 71th percentile and .828 points per possession on all shots off the dribble which ranked 57th percentile.  His jumper wasn’t a repeatable motion though sometimes dipping the ball down around his knees when he loaded up and pulled back his set point above his head. If he can develop a compact, repeatable motion then Smith’s shot can be part of his arsenal. Being a shot creator was something he was not this year and his isolations numbers back that up with a .789 points per possession on derived offense off ISO which ranked 42th percentile.  He needs to do a better job at creating separation off the bounce, developing counter dribble moves and reading the defense for better setups.

Defensively Smith was one of the best defenders in all of college basketball staying grounded on fakes, covering space quickly, fighting through screens and displaying prowess on switches.  He does need to do a better job of staying in front of first step attacks; he got blown by with quick steps more than he should’ve. Since he has nice athleticism/length he can easily recover a blow by in college but the pros will be a different story.  I think it might take Smith a year or two to develop a consistent outside shot, a better handle and feel for pick-and-roll creation but add that with the rest of his game and watch him flourish.

11. Troy Brown, SF/PF, Oregon, FR, 6’7, 6’10 wingspan, 208 pounds

~ If it wasn’t for the fact Troy Brown is an average athlete with poor shooting skills I would’ve ranked him in my top 5.  But he is a less than stellar athlete having trouble creating his own shot and at times getting blown off the dribble on defense.  He’s not versatile with his shooting skills and lacks footwork off of screens, tends to be more of a spot up jump shooter. It’s not like he has bad shooting mechanics either, which is one of my big takeaways.  A player like Josh Jackson or Justise Winslow had funky shooting mechanics coming out of college and even though Troy Brown was a .768 points per possession on spot up attempts which ranks 27th percentile his mechanics are salvageable.  It really is about confidence, developing a consistent, repeatable, compact tendency that he feels comfortable with. Because right now you never know what mechanics you’re going get with Troy Brown.

With that said Troy Brown did almost everything else well.  He might not be able to create for himself off the dribble but he sure can create for others.  Brown had a 1.00 points per possession off isolation derived offense which ranked 80th percentile.  When he did breakdown defenders off the bounce he did a good job of dumping short corner, making lob passes, skip passes and anticipating the action off-ball.  He also was a .846 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball handler which ranks 70th percentile. Brown displays a high basketball IQ and combine that with his size, handle and playmaking ability he could fill the role of an Andre Iguodala type at the next level.  Since he’s a lesser athlete he may need the help of screens to create space for him but Brown was a 1.323 points per possession around the basket which ranks 82nd percentile highlighting his finishing ability. On defense the absence of a quick first step was a problem but overall used his size and smarts to rotate on time, maneuver around screens well, collapse and recover on a dime.  He fought thru screens and used his length to help on closeouts. If Brown can develop his outside shot and get past his lackluster athleticism then he could be a steal outside the lottery.

  1. Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma, FR, 6’2, 6’3 wingspan, 178 pounds

~ Everyone’s favorite point guard was not in my last top 10.  One reason being I don’t like the pure point guards that are coming out in the draft this year and the value of small, average athlete, pure point guards is dissipating in the NBA.  Young was also a bad defender last year at Oklahoma. The difference between say someone like Trae Young and Kyrie Irving or Steph Curry defensively is size and athleticism. Curry and Irving are stronger better athletes with more size so if switched on a bigger perimeter player they can hold their own even though it’s a mismatch.  Young on the other hand might be a liability altogether defensively. He is an extremely high IQ player which will help him on rotations and scheme but pick-and-roll defense is critical for point guards. Even if Young covers the non-shooter he can still get stuck in a screen situation or taken down low in the post. Just one liability on defense and the whole integrity might break down. 

He isn’t perfect on offense either.  Once he played conference ball and teams started to double or biltz Young he had a harder time shooting threes; he shot 33% from three during conference play and 36% for the whole season.  He does have a quick release but part of the reason it’s so quick is because it’s a low release point. If he doesn’t fix his release point that could become an issue versus NBA athletes. Also during conference play his handle wasn’t as tight not being able to turn the corner with little wasted motion.  His handle looks more rigid and doesn’t have flexibility when pushed in tight spaces. He’s also rigid around the basket sporting a 1.07 points per possession which ranks 41th percentile. As a result finishing over length and transition offense is a major concern.

If it wasn’t for the fact he’s amazing at isolation and creation for others than I don’t know if I would’ve had him in my top 20.  Young was one of the better ISO players in college basketball last season with a 1.019 points per possession which ranks 85th percentile; derived offense off of ISO was a 1.048 which ranks 84th percentile.  As a pick-and-roll ball handler Young was a .881 points per possession which ranks 76th percentile. He displayed nice counter moves off the dribble, change-of-pace hang dribbles and created separation to generate points for himself and his teammates at a high rate.  So even though Trae Young does have his flaws his high IQ, off the dribble game and shot creation are arguably the best in this class. If he can manage to improve on the other aspects of his game he could be an elite point guard.

  1. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG/SG, Kentucky, FR, 6’6, 7” wingspan, 180 pounds

~ Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was in my top 10 last prospect rankings now he’s 13, what gives?  My confidence in his outside was tested I guess you can say. His mechanics need some work since his release has a form like a “shot put.”  It isn’t a high release point either as he doesn’t get much lift underneath him. By no means is it a broken shot but there are more questions now surrounding if he will get the shot off with more length and athleticism attacking him.  Also as an isolation creator off the bounce Alexander was a .716 points per possession on derived points off isolation plays which ranks 28th percentile. He doesn’t have the elite athleticism needed to create separation at times and is more of a fluid athlete.  Many have him projected as a point guard so it’s pretty important that he creates for others off the dribble. And on defense he can get blown by with quick first steps and counter moves on occasion.

Although, Alexander was a slick, skillful, pick-and-roll player that scored .95 points per possession as the ball handler on screen-and-rolls which ranks 86th percentile.  He’s going to need screens to help him create for himself and others but with that space he has a nice repertoire of change-of-pace dribble moves with either hand. At times he can be loose with his dribble and careless on turnovers but for the most part keeps a tight handle with great body control.  When he gets to the rim he’s a crafty finisher sporting a 1.194 points per possession which ranks 64th percentile. Even though his shot has it’s flaws he’s clearly improved shooting 40% from three, albeit from a small sample size, and 82% from the free throw line. His positional versatility on defense was one of the top reasons he was in my last top 10.  He needs to bulk up if he wants to manage switches better but being 6’6 with a 7” wingspan with a great understanding of defensive concepts sets him up greatly at the next level. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander can still very well be a sleeper pick but this draft when it comes to point guards isn’t anything special.

  1. Melvin Frazier, SF, Tulane, JR, 6’6, 7’2 wingspan, 198 pounds

~ I understand the critique of why rank a guy who is about to turn 22 years old over a 19 year old who when comparing freshmen seasons side by side the 19 year old had a better season.  So wouldn’t it make sense to rank the 19 year old over the 22 year old? It’s a fair argument to make especially when it comes down to potential and upside.  But with certain instances, advanced skill level even at an old age can trump nebulous upside.  Just because someone has more “potential” than another player doesn’t obligate me to presuppose they’ll improve in the future guaranteed.

Melvin Frazier might be turning 22 years old this year but was one of the better perimeter defenders in college last season, improved his outside shot, took more responsibility on-ball and exceptionally executed transition offense.  One of the big knocks on Frazier is his ball handling skills as they are very loose relegated to just straight line driving. As a pick-and-roll ball handler he was a .629 points per possession which ranked 26th percentile. Developing a stable handle and an off the dribble game is a must for Frazier.  He improved his shot and reworked his mechanics to become more mangable on the release. His set point can sometimes be pulled back over his head which culminated in a sling shot release. The improvement over the past three years gives me an optimistic approach when considering the consistency of his shot.  In all spot up opportunities this season Frazier was a 1.046 points per possession which ranks 74th percentile. He was one of the more active off-ball players displaying rub screens, pindowns, out cuts and making hustle putbacks. Adding creation skills, being consistent on threes and sharpening his handle can take his offensive game to the next level.

Defensively he fought over screens, helped pick up the slack on a below average Tulane team, did a great job closing out on shooters and containing penetration.  He plays the passing lanes well which ignites his transition offense which he scored 1.312 points per possession ranking 89th percentile. His 6’6 frame, 7’2 wingspan and 8’9 standing reach added to his plus athleticism and great defensive fundamentals makes Frazier arguably the best perimeter defender in this draft.  That’s why I have him ranked higher than most, his NBA ready defense plus evolving offensive game gives Fraizer a chance at being one of the most desired players in this draft.

  1. Wendell Carter, C, Duke, FR, 6’10, 7’4.5 wingspan, 251 pounds

~ Why do I have Wendell Carter ranked so low?  A majority of scouting sites have Carter ranked in their top 10 and some have him higher then Bagley.  The perception is that Carter contributed more to winning then Bagley did; Bagley was looked at like a stat stuffing “big” that doesn’t contribute during situational basketball.  Well for starters Carter was a better screen setter and overall had more reliable fundamentals over Bagley. Carter was by far the better defender protecting the rim, communicating coverages and being an excellent post defender.  Carter is also the more instinctive player passing out of double teams, finding open perimeter players and averaging two assists per 26.9 minutes of play. Carter arguably has the better looking outside shot with high release point mechanics, nice for a seven footer.  Carter was a 1.114 points per possession on all half court jump shots which ranks 87th percentile. He has a higher basketball IQ, better defender, arguably better shooter and more intuitive on offense than Bagley. Why do I have him ranked 14 spots lower than Bagley?

The number one reason is dribble drive game.  Bagley possess probably the best handle for any seven footer in this draft class and that will have a direct impact on shot creation.  Carter might be able to do high post split actions or operate from the elbows but he will be a stationary target nevertheless. Bagley will have the option to do that and create off the bounce which Carter can not do at the moment.  If Carter can’t attack closeouts in a pace-and-space league it will limit him somewhat while Bagley has the luxury of doing both off the dribble and pinch post actions. Bagleys athleticism lends itself for better activity on dives to the rim and a bigger catch radius.  Also Carter might be a better rim protector but how will he do on the perimeter? That’s a difference where Bagley should be able to be more versatile in. Carter might be confided to a contain first defensive system which caps his upside. How will Carter do covering space on hard hedges?  How will he do with switches? I’m more confident with Bagley than Carter in that area of expertise. But if Carter can show his versatility on pick-and-roll coverages, develop a decent handle and shoot threes consistently then there’s a very good chance he exceeds Bagley.     

  1. Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland, SO, 6’7, 6’7.5 wingspan, 194 pounds

~ If Kevin Huerter had a longer wingspan I wouldn’t have been shocked if he went top 10 overall.  Huerter has been the darling of the scouting community rising up their boards culminating with the 5-on-5 scrimmages at the combine.  For me, even after the combine, I thought he should return to school for another year because how weak next year’s draft class will be and to improve some weaknesses he currently has in school.  His frame is a problem. He has short arms, small hands and a slender frame that can get pushed around easily. He had trouble fighting thru screens, playing with bigger wings and playing thru contact on drives.  He wasn’t asked to guard the opposing teams best scoring threat often but when he did either through post play or physical drives Huerter had his troubles. He’s a smart defender comprehending defensive schemes and where he corresponds.  He obviously needs to get stronger and that might take time for him to grow into his man body. Huerter wasn’t as aggressive as he should’ve been at Maryland either. He was the best scoring option on a team devoid of scoring options and he only had ten shooting attempts plus three free throw attempts per game.  He has to affirm his role and take advantage of the moments.

Offensively he’s a fantastic shooter.  His mechanics might not be picture perfect with more emphasis on wrist action but he was a 1.144 points per possession on all spot up plays which ranks 88th percentile.  Whether it was off the dribble, off movement or pull-up jumpers Huerter showed he has the diversity of shot selection that teams are looking for. He’s more athletic than one would assume when looking at him.  He tested well at the combine during the athletic portions being ranked top 10 in every agility category. He was a 1.361 points per possession on derived points off of isolation which ranks 99th percentile. Huerter needs to expand his dribble drive repertoire but showed off some nice behind the back, between the legs change-of-direction moves when attacking the rim.  He’s also a very heady player driving with his head up prognosticating off-ball action and making solid reads. Huerter has some creation skills, can attack closeouts, is a well verse shooter and can finish around the rim with a 1.379 points per possession which ranks 89th percentile. He has that 3-and-D wing potential most teams want but if he gets more assertive on offense, develops his handle and plays defense with aggression than Huerter can be more than just a role player.  

  1. Robert Williams, C, Texas A&M, SO, 6’10, 7’5 wingspan, 241 pounds

~ Robert Williams played most of the season in two big-men lineups with Tyler Davis primarily being the center.  The team overall shot 33% from three so the spacing was an issue too. Correctly gauging Williams is a challenge since he played out of position and was suspended by the team multiple times.  Watching Williams on defense you had the feeling he should be better than what he’s exhibiting. A lot of it had to do with him relying on his athleticism and length to cover his mistakes, wasn’t as physical as he could’ve been and wasn’t sound on fakes.  If put in a situation like Clint Capela in Houston then there’s a solid chance he can be the defender we all think he can be; banging down low with “bigs”, chasing wings on the perimeter and moving laterally with guards. At times he showed off he can do that sort of stuff so whether it’s motor or fit he wasn’t as dependable as he should’ve been defensively.

On offense Williams is plain and simple a rim-running, high flying lob target with a massive catch radius.  That kind of gravity will suck in defenders from the outside. If no one helps then it’s lob city. When Williams gets the ball at the elbows or short corner he has to do a better job of making good decisions.  Setting screens, rolling to the rim and commanding extra defenders will be his essential role in the NBA. It’s hard to watch him and not think Clint Capela but Capela ended up in the best possible place for him to succeed.  I’m not sure if the same thing will happen for Williams. To have that type of outlook though deserves more attention than what’s been given for Williams.

  1. Chandler Hutchison, SF, Boise St, SR, 6’7, 7’1 wingspan, 198 pounds

~ The biggest reason why Hutchison fell from my top 10 is because of age; he just turned 22.  It took him four years to be marginally better than some of these freshmen or sophomores. Nevertheless, what Hutchison improved was his outside shooting sporting a 1.271 on catch-and-shoot sets which ranks 87th percentile.  His shooting motion looked so much better from where it was freshman year. His form can regress at times but his shot is a concise, condensed follow through with an elevated release point. He expanded his dribble drive moves with his quick first step, wiggle in the lane and was tough to stop in transition or off the bounce.  When he got to the basket he was a 1.344 points per possession which ranks 85th percentile being smooth with either hand. Hutchinson had a lot of ball handling responsibility with 123 pick-and-roll ball handler possessions and during those play types he was mostly average ranking 59th percentile. He needs to have better shot selection, shoot better off pull ups and refine his handle with a lower center of gravity.

Defensively Hutchison was solid at guarding shots of the dribble, ball handlers off of screens and contesting shots at the rim.  While Hutchinson is a good not great athlete he does need to get lower in his defensive stance and challenge screens with a little more aggression.  Clearly since I had him in my last top 10 I still like him a lot. He can attack closeouts, finish at the rim, create off the bounce, play the pick-and-roll and be versatile on defense.  As a 6’7 wing with a 7’1 wingspan that sounds pretty enticing.

  1. Josh Okogie, SG, Georgia Tech, SO, 6’4, 7” wingspan, 211 pounds

~ Along with Melvin Frazier, Josh Okogie really impressed me at the 5-on-5 scrimmaging at the combine.  Was projected to be a 2019 prospect but after a great combine decided to capitalize now.  One of the better producers in college the past two years Okogie has per 40 minute averages of 20 points, 7 boards, 2.5 assists, 1 blk, 1.5 stl on 38% from three.  His shooting mechanics aren’t anything to boast about since his set point can be pulled back frequently but did score 1.339 points per possession on catch-and-shoot opportunities which ranked 93rd percentile.  He has solid footwork off screens and does a fine job curling into his shot. In general he does need to steady his spot up and off dribble shot attempts. His handle can be stiff using his quick first step as a springboard to catapult him into his drive.  He has limited counter moves but still has some twitch in the lane sporting a 1.5 points per possession on isolation plays which ranks 100th percentile; sample size being only 16 possessions.

The biggest area of improvement for Okogie has to be finishing around the basket as he looks mechanical around the rim.  Okogie was a .946 points per possession around the basket which ranks 23rd percentile. Okogie might need to make slight adjustments to his ball handling, playmaking and all around shooting but if he can’t finish over length then he becomes a stationary player.  On defense Okogie was a mixed bag showing times where he looked like a lockdown defender that can guard multiple positions and other times where he was ball watching, out of position and having trouble containing penetration. He can cause havoc in the passing lanes plus use his length to block unsuspecting players shot attempts.  He has the mold of a modern day wing with size and athleticism. His skills are probably a couple of seasons away from progressing but the combination of the two is worth a look.

  1. Mo Bamba, C, Texas, FR, 7”, 7’10 wingspan, 225 pounds

~  I’m cleary lower on Bamba than most everyone else.  I understand his potential as a Rudy Gobert type player but no one seems to be making the argument that Bamba might be more Hassan Whiteside than Gobert.  Bamba should have the rim-protection skills at the next level with unworldly length and weak side instincts. It is interesting however when breaking down the analytics that defensively around the basket Bamba was a 1.057 points per possession which ranks 38th percentile and .885 points per possession on post-ups which ranks 61st percentile.  Not trying to read too much into those numbers since there can be noise on defensive analytics but I figured both those stats would be significantly better. Bamba did play alongside another big man with Dylan Osetkowski so that might affect those numbers contrasting NBA philosophy. The problem I have with Bamba isn’t his advanced statistics on paint protection but his skills on pick-and-roll coverages.  Will he be assigned to just downing every screen or can he switch on smaller players? I have questions about Bamba’s lateral quickness, pick-and-roll versatility and for someone his size got pushed around inside more than I would’ve liked. He needs to find his man and box him out routinely with authority.

On offense I’m just unsure of who Bamba is.  He doesn’t have any advanced go-to post moves as he posted a .73 points per possession on post-ups which ranked 34th percentile.  He relies on offensive putbacks too heavily and isn’t a sturdy screen setter sporting a .773 points per possession on dives to the basket which ranked 20th percentile.  If Bamba wants to be a Rudy Gobert type player than he should start setting better screens and rolling to the rim with certainty. It felt like he tried to become a pick-and-pop player and floated to the three point line to often.  I hate to break it to the people who say he can shoot threes after watching some 1-on-none practice footage but Bamba shot 28% from three and had a .82 points per possession on all half court jump shots which ranked 32nd percentile.  It’s simple: Bamba was a 1.523 on shots around the basket (not including post-ups) which ranked 97th percentile. Getting him to roll with conviction should be his priority right now and eventually try to expand his game out to the perimeter one step at a time.  This is why I think the Whiteside comparison might be more apropos.

 

Players Who Didn’t Make The Cut But Were Close:

 

Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA, JR

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State, SO  

Justin Jackson, SF/PF, Maryland, SO

Keita Bates-Diop, PF/C, Ohio State, SR

Allonzo Trier, SG, Arizona, JR

 

* All Stats Provided by Synergy Sports Technology*

NBA Combine (Part 3)

I’m going to breakdown the players I thought stood out, should return to school or disappointed me on the last day of scrimmages.  There are players who participated in the scrimmage’s that I’m not going to mention in either category: Kennedy Meeks, Rawle Alkins, Jamel Artis, Peter Jok, Melo Trimble, Moritz Wagner, Omer Yurtseven, VJ Beachem, Isaiah Briscoe, just to name a few.  These players were pretty forgettable and did nothing to stand out, or, I didn’t have any expectations for them to begin with.

 

Stand Out

 

Derrick White, SR, PG/SG, Colorado ~ He seemed to be more of a scoring guard than a traditional point guard but made some nice passes in transition and off the pick-and-roll.  He’s 6’4, athletic and has a decent shot.  Needs to improve communication on defense and to be more aggressive fighting through screens.  About to turn 23.  Could be back up guard ready for a team picking in the second round.

 

Monte Morris, SR, PG, Iowa St ~ I wasn’t overly impressed with Morris.  He forgot to box out his man on defense fairly often leading to offensive rebounds and putbacks.  He has to improve his off-ball defensive and offensive awareness.  However, I did like the fact he takes care of the ball, doesn’t commit fouls, is patient on offense and has pick-and-roll skills.  During a pick-and-roll the timing, rhythm, angles and spacing all have to be coordinated amid two defenders; it’s kind of a dance.  So even though Morris still has a lot of skills to work on, having pick-and-roll skills is a huge plus that not many players showed at the combine.  He should be a second round pick with backup PG capabilities.

 

Dillon Brooks, JR, SF/PF, Oregon ~ Brooks really made an impression me during the combine scrimmage.  He was able to drive with either hand, change his direction, shift, pivot, attack the rim and score.  His improved 3pt shot has to continue onward to the pro level.  If he can be more consistent from three then that will give him better odds at making a team.  His biggest impediment could be his lack of foot speed and length.  He measures in at 6’7 with a 6’6 wingspan.  Thats terrible.  He did show top level fundamentals and skills which is always a treat to watch.  If he can get past his physical drawbacks then he has a chance to be a solid NBA scoring threat off the bench.  

 

Damyean Dotson, SR, PG/SG, Houston ~ I had no clue who Dotson was before the combine.  He’s 6’5 with a 6’9 wingspan and a great athlete.  He really showed off his versatility by initiating the offense and making plays while also playing off-ball as a floor spacer and cutter.  He needs to improve his handle if he wants to be a combo guard.  It wasn’t tight and he couldn’t keep his head up while driving.  His bad handle lead to too many turnovers and mistakes.  Dotson should be picked in the second round or not at all.  I think he could become a backup combo guard.  

 

Jaron Blossomgame, SR, SF/PF, Clemson ~ Blossomgame was really one of the better stand outs during the scrimmage.  He’s 6’7 with a 6’10 wingspan, athletic and strong.  He played great perimeter defense, not biting on fakes all week, staying attached to his mans hip and keeping his hands active while not becoming over-aggressive.  He was one of the only players during the scrimmage to set strong screens with a well timed roll.  His shooting is very inconsistent and one of his biggest hurdles.  But during combine week he was making his jump shots.  He’s about to turn 24 years old.  Many of the players I really liked this week were older players.  I personally don’t think it’s a bad thing to be an older since older players have more developed skill.  I think Blossomgame should be a first round draft pick but probably won’t be picked until the second round.  If he can consistently make his jump shots, huge if, then he will be a steal.

 

Davon Reed, SR. SG/SF,  Miami ~ Reed and Blossomgame were my two favorite players all week.  Reed is an older player too; 22 years old.  Reed was great at defense, one of the better communicators and weak side rotators at the combine.  He’s 6’6 with a 7’ wingspan, not great but a good athlete and strong.  He was defending 1 thru 5, making hustle plays and looked like a modern day multi-positional wing player.  He needs to improve his handle.  At the moment he is strong hand dominant and a straight line driver.  He can shoot though which is a big help to create cracks in the gaps.  Not many mock drafts have him being drafted.  I think that’s crazy.

 

Jordan Bell, JR, PF/C, Oregon ~ Bell didn’t blow me away with his skills but I did like his energy.  He really looked like a guy who can come off the bench as a back up big and make hustle plays.  He was the best screener all week bar none.  His base was shoulder width apart, strong, well timed, and rolled with his head up, vision on the ball and angled to the rim.  He rarely slipped the screen.  Defensively he needs to be more sound and not bite on fakes but overall he was one of the most versatile defenders at the combine.  Setting screens and rolling hard to the rim are his best attributes on offense; frankly they’re his only skills on offense.  Needs improvement there.  He should be a second round pick and has nice backup big potential.  

 

Return to School/Draft-and-Stash

 

Justin Jackson, FR, SF/PF, Maryland ~ I’ve gone into detail about Jackson many times before but I’ll say it again: he needs to return to school.  He’s 6’7 with a 7’3 wingspan, good athlete and strong body.  He has no discernible skills.  He looks like an NBA player but doesn’t have the requisite skills to back him up.  He’s O.K. at most everything but has not one stand out skill.  If he returns to school and comes out next draft then I think he has lottery potential.  

 

PJ Dozier, SO, SG, South Carolina ~ PJ has great size at 6’6 with a 6’11 wingspan.  His size and athleticism give him an NBA body.  His skills are further along than Justin Jackson but Dozier can benefit from one more year at school to improve his offense.  Dozier was probably one of the better defenders at the combine.  He was wrecking havoc in the passing lanes, taking chances and causing turnovers.  That activity on the perimeter means his hands can be too busy at times and he should be more conservative depending on the matchup.  His offensive game was pretty raw.  His shot is was bad but not broken; his release point was on the way down and overall very inconsistent.  If he returns to school for another year, just like Jackson, Dozier has lottery potential.  

 

Jonnathan Jeanne, 20 yr old, C, France ~ He was probably one of the better players all combine long to correctly adjust his dive with the ball handlers dribble.  He was diving hard and accurate to the rim during the scrimmages.  But his screen setting technique was weak.  He tends to slip every screen he sets or faintly nudge the defender on the roll to the rim.  He should be drafted, maybe first round this year.  But whoever drafts him should stash him for a couple of years overseas.  He’s 7’2 with a 7’6 wingspan and we weighs 207 pounds.  Ergo, he needs to bulk up.  Overall he has solid skill but he got pushed around all combine long and committed too many fouls.

 

Disappointment

 

Devin Robinson, JR, SF/PF, Florida ~ He can’t dribble and doesn’t have any moves off closeouts.  His strong hand drive is weak and he mostly pulls up before getting to the rim.  He’s 6’8 with a 7’ foot wingspan but weighs 200 pounds.  He needs to get stronger.  He has great length and athleticism but since his fundamentals are poor, for a 22 year old, he still has a long way to go.  He should be a second round pick and with a great player development department helping him every step of the way he may have a chance to stick with an NBA team.

 

Nigel Hayes, SR, PF, Wisconsin ~ Unlike Robinson, Hayes does have great fundamentals and is a heady player.  During the scrimmage Hayes pulled the chair out from under Omer Yurtseven while he was backing Hayes down.  Yurtseven fell on his butt and the scouts smriked.  I’m rooting for Hayes but his lack of explosion and foot speed were a problem.  He couldn’t beat anyone off the dribble and he couldn’t stay in front of who he defended with regularity.  In an actual NBA game the athleticism sky rockets.  Hayes might go undrafted but I think a team should take a chance on him in the second round.  

 

Sindarius Thornwell, SR, SG/SF, South Carolina ~ I compare Thornwell to Hayes.  Both are older players who have great fundamentals and a great understanding of how to play the game.  His slow foot speed is a problem.  Unless his feet were fully set to explode, he got beat off the dribble and couldn’t do much with the ball in his hands.  He’s about to turn 23 years old.  I think Thornwell and Hayes’ career is system dependent.

 

Semi Ojeleye, JR, SF/PF/C, SMU ~ Ojeleye was one of the players I was really looking forward to watching in the scrimmage.  He’s 6’7 with a 6’10 wingspan and super strong body.  He improved his 3pt shot to 42% and his FT% to 78% this past year.  His shooting and overall offensive game were very versatile.  And his ability to switch on defense made me think he could be a modern day small-ball 4.  Unfortunately, he had problems all combine long with length.  He couldn’t get his shot up when the defense collapsed on him and he didn’t do that great of a job contesting shots on defense.  His overall defense was a negative for me; not being in the right spots and losing his man.  I still like the thought of him being a point forward but he looked over matched during the combine.

 

Wesley Iwundu, SR, SG/SF, Kansas St ~ He’s 6’7 with a 7’1 wingspan, good not great athlete.  I really liked Iwundu before the combine since he was a great pick-and-roll player.  He averaged 3.5 assists per game last year and improved his 3pt shot to 38%.  I don’t know if it was he felt out of place but Iwundu looked lost.  He forced the issue when he did have the ball in his hands making mistakes galore.  There were a few times his pocket passing off screens were on display and boy did it look nice.  Iwundu played in a system that was tailored for him at Kansas St so maybe now he’s a fish out of water.  The question is can he adapt?  I still like the thought of him being a multi-positional wing.  Before the combine I was thinking first rounder but now he should be drafted in the second round.