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.
- Zion Williamson, Swing Big, Duke, 6’7, 6’10 wingspan, 18.9 years
~ Scouting Report
- Jarrett Culver, Wing, Texas Tech, 6’7, 6’9.5 wingspan, 20.3 years
~ Scouting Report
- Ja Morant, Guard, Murray State, 6’3, 19.8 years
~ Scouting Report
- Coby White, Guard, North Carolina, 6’5, 6’5 wingspan, 19.3 years
~ Scouting Report
- Darius Bazley, Swing Big, USA, 6’9, 7’ wingspan, 19 years
~ Scouting Report
- Brandon Clarke, Swing Big, Gonzaga, 6’8.5, 6’8.5 wingspan, 22.8 years
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.
- De’Andre Hunter, Wing, Virgina, 6’7, 7’2 wingspan, 21.5 years
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.
- RJ Barrett, Wing, Duke, 6’7, 6’10 wingspan, 19 years
~ Scouting Report
- Darius Garland, Guard, Vanderbilt, 6’3, 6’5 wingspan, 19.4 years
~ Scouting Report
- Kevin Porter jr, Wing, USC, 6’5.5, 6’9 wingspan, 19.1 years
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.
- Grant Williams, Swing Big, Tennessee, 6’7.5, 6’10 wingspan, 20.5 years
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.
- Romeo Langford, Wing, Indiana, 6’6, 6’11 wingspan, 19.6 years
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.
- Nicolas Claxton, Big, Georgia, 6’11.75, 7’2.5 wingspan, 20.1 years
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.
- Cam Reddish, Wing, Duke, 6’8, 7’1 wingspan, 19.8 years
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.
- Nassir Little, Wing, North Carolina, 6’6, 7’1.25 wingspan, 19.3 years
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.
- Talen Horton-Tucker, Wing, Iowa State, 6’4, 7’1.25 wingspan, 18.5 year
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.
- Chuma Okeke, Big, Auburn, 6’8, 7’ wingspan, 20.8 years
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.
- Tyler Herro, Wing, Kentucky, 6’6, 6’4 wingspan, 19.4 years
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.
- Jaxson Hayes, Big, Texas, 6’11.5 , 7’3.5 wingspan, 19 years
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.
- Keldon Johnson, Wing, Kentucky, 6’6, 6’9.25 wingspan, 19.8 years
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.
- Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Guard, Virginia Tech, 6’5.5, 6’9.5 wingspan, 20.8 years
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.
- Ty Jerome, Guard, Virginia, 6’5, 6’4 wingspan, 21.9 years
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.
- DaQuan Jeffries, Wing, Tulsa, 6’5, 6’11.25 wingspan, 21.8 years
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.
- Dylan Windler, Wing, Belmont, 6’7.5, 6’10 wingspan, 22.7 years
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.
- PJ Washington, Big, Kentucky, 6’8, 7’2.25 wingspan, 20.8 years
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.
- Josh Reaves, Wing, Penn State, 6’4, 6’7 wingspan, 22 years
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.
- Terence Davis, Wing, Ole Miss, 6’4.5, 6’8.75 wingspan, 22.1 years
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.
- Matisse Thybulle, Wing, Washington, 6’5, 7’ wingspan, 22.3 years
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.
- Rui Hachimura, Wing, Gonzaga, 6’8, 21.3 years
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.
- Shamorie Ponds, Guard, St. John’s, 6’1, 6’3.5 wingspan, 20.9 years
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.
- Bruno Fernando, Big, Maryland, 6’10.25, 7’3.25 wingspan, 20.8 years
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.
- Cody Martin, Wing, Nevada, 6’5.5 years, 6’10.25 wingspan, 23.7 years
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.
- Quinndary Weatherspoon, Wing, Mississippi, 6’4.25, 6’9 wingspan, 22.7 years
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.
- Isaiah Roby, Swing Big, Nebraska, 6’8.5, 7’1 wingspan, 21.3 years
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.
- Zylan Cheatham, Big, Arizona State, 6’8, 7’ wingspan, 23.5 years
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.
- Jordan Poole, Wing, Michigan, 6’5.5. 6’7 wingspan, 19.9 years
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.
- Cameron Johnson, Wing, North Carolina, 6’8.5, 6’10 wingspan, 23.3 years
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.
- Carsen Edwards, Guard, Purdue, 6’0.25, 6’6 wingspan, 21.2
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.
- Kyle Guy, Guard, Virgina, 6’2.25, 6’4.5 wingspan, 21.8 years
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.
- Zach Norvell, Wing, Gonzaga, 6’5.5, 6’6 wingspan, 21.5 years
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.