We’re already more than halfway through March, and as the draft draws nearer, there still isn’t much movement towards the top of the draft. Point guards will own the lottery this year, with as many as five being picked in the lottery.
- Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets)- Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
At this point it’s a lock that Markelle Fultz will be the number one pick in the summer. His all-around game is unmatched by other point guards in this class. Despite having a dinged up knee, it’s nothing serious.
Fultz’s size, speed and wingspan make him a potential two-way freak in the NBA. Washington has fallen flat on its face, (both the state and D.C.) but Fultz stock remains too high for him to fall. (For a more complete breakdown of the top freshman point guards click here)
- Phoenix Suns- Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas
Lonzo Ball is also an option here, but Phoenix has a huge need on the wings. PJ Tucker is likely to either be traded or leave in free agency this year, and Jackson has the tools to come in as a day one starter. A starting lineup of Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Jackson, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender could be one of the NBA’s best in short order. Jackson has two-way upside, but his NBA role could be as a slasher and elite perimeter defender.
There are still concerns about his shot, as it needs plenty of work, but Jackson still has a high floor. His play as of late has pulled him into a firm top three spot in the summer. Outside of Fultz, there may not be a player in the class with a higher upside.
- Los Angeles Lakers- Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
Lakers get a gift at the third pick. Lonzo Ball is an elite level passer (2nd in the NCAA in assists), and has quieted concerns about his three point shooting. I know D’Angelo Russell is the guard of the future, but both he and Ball can play on or off the ball, giving the Lakers a two-headed monster in the backcourt.
He leads one of the most explosive offenses in college basketball, and has made UCLA cool again. However, Ball still is a porous defender (thanks to his Chino Hills coaches) and his mid range game is absent.
However, Ball’s size for a point guard and his athleticism should lead him to have a long NBA career. Only time will tell whether he’s the next Jason Kidd or Greivis Vasquez.
- Orlando Magic- Dennis Smith Jr., PG, North Carolina State
If it wasn’t for a major knee surgery and being surrounded by a less than good cast of characters at NC State, Smith could be in the running for the number one pick. Smith excels in the open court, where he shows off his great vision (6th in the NCAA in assists) but can also drive to the rim for an easy two.
Smith has unreal body control when attacking the rim, and when he gets a clean shot at the rim, he wants to hurt the rim. Smith’s shooting ability has been a nice surprise as well. He could still stand to be a better defender and has to get more consistent.
Elfrid Payton hasn’t worked out and DJ Augustin has no business being a starting NBA point guard. Dennis Smith is a slam-dunk pick for the Magic.
- Philadelphia 76ers- Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
The 76ers don’t get any good guards on their roster and have no knockdown three-point shooter either. Malik Monk can solve both of those problems at #5. Monk is an elite level athlete and shooter.
Monk isn’t just a catch and shoot type either. He might be the best-shot creator in the class. He’s prone to the occasional off night, but Monk is still second among freshman in scoring. Philly could use an outside scorer to complement Joel Embiid, and Monk can be that guy from day one.
- Minnesota Timberwolves- Jonathan Isaac, SF/PF, Florida State
Jonathan Isaac is a matchup nightmare waiting to happen in the NBA. At 6’10”, Isaac has the skill set of a player 6’6”. Isaac hasn’t been used heavily for FSU, but he has been efficient, shooting 52% from the field, 35% from deep and 81% from the free throw line. Inconsistency has plagued Isaac in his freshman campaign, but his upside remains high. He is a solid athlete, but still needs to get stronger on the posts and develop his moves down low. If Issac does that, he’ll be an unstoppable force.
Squeezing him between Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns would be one of the NBA’s brightest trio’s.
- Dallas Mavericks- Frank Ntilikina, PG, Germany
Frank Ntilikina has been the top international prospect in this class for a while. What really stands out about his game is versatility and high basketball IQ. His 6’5” size and improved shooting ability will allow him to play either guard spot at the next level, despite being a natural point guard. Ntilikina is a floor general, with good vision in the open court and in the half court set. He uses his long strides to get to the rim with ease and finish through contact, despite being skinny for his size.
The Mavs need to go with the best player available approach, and with Deron Williams and Seth Curry being the only point guards on the roster, they could use a long-term upgrade.
- New York Knicks- De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
The name to De’Aaron Fox’s game is speed. Fox is the quickest guard in the NCAA with the ball in his hand. He excels driving to the rim, using his superior speed to get open looks for himself at the basket. If no opportunity presents itself, Fox is a willing and capable passer. Fox also uses his speed on the defensive end, where he is a menace to ball carriers with his lightning quick hands and feet.
At 6’3”, he has good height for a point guard, but needs to bulk up more if he wants to continue to attack the basket aggressively. Also, his three point shooting is abysmal and probably won’t be a strength of his in the NBA.
Derrick Rose is a free agent and the Knicks need someone who can get the rock to Kristaps Porzingis more often than Rose.
- Sacramento Kings (via New Orleans Pelicans)- Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
Jayson Tatum has started to strengthen his draft stock as the calendar creeps towards March. There have been questions about his three point shooting ability, but after shooting 15/24 over his last ten from deep, his percentage has spiked to 38% on the year.
Tatum is a smooth athlete, but not an explosive one and has a game eerily reminiscent of Paul Pierce. He projects as a go-to scorer at all three levels in the NBA.
However, questions still remain about his defensive abilities and effort. Tatum also isn’t much of a distributor, but should be able to play power forward in small-ball lineups at the next level.
Sacramento desperately needs talent after trading DeMarcus Cousins, and Tatum is the best player on the board at #9.
- Portland Trailblazers- John Collins, PF, Wake Forest
John Collins is officially an elite recruit after a dominant performance against Duke in which he scored 31 points on 13/18 shooting and 15 rebounds. The 6’10” sophomore has blown up this year for the Demon Deacons. Collins is a threat on lobs and has bounce to spare. Collins is averaging 18.4 points a night despite no mid range game and a still developing post game.
The first non-NCAA freshman off the board is a strong rebounder on both ends, almost bringing in ten rebounds a contest. Collins has gone over 20 points in ten straight games and has gone for a double-double in six of those games.
The Trailblazers still have a hole at power forward, and with a little bit of seasoning, Collins could slide in and be an immediate impact player.
- Sacramento Kings- Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
Sacramento would love a point guard in this spot, but there isn’t one worth reaching for. Instead, they’ll opt for a stretch four who can give them another piece to build around. Lauri Markkanen has established himself as the cream of the crop in terms of shooting big men in the class. The Finnish freshman is a straight shooter, connecting on 45% of his three point attempts on the year.
He leads Arizona in points at 15.7 points a game. Markkanen is a solid rebounder, but needs to get stronger on the post to truly make him an inside-out threat. He will pretty much be a sieve defensively at the top level, which may not make him the best pairing with DeMarcus Cousins, but that’s where Willy Cauley-Stein steps in.
- Charlotte Hornets- Dwayne Bacon, SG/SF, Florida State
Charlotte desperately needs a scorer on the wing, and Dwayne Bacon has established himself as a go-to scorer over two years in college ball.
He’s certainly still unrefined and needs to work on his effort defensively, but all the tools are there for him to become one of the best scorers in the draft. His improvement on his perimeter shooting has him flying up draft boards, as he was already a tremendous athlete in the open court.
It may take a year or two for him to make a serious impact, but Bacon has tremendous potential to score 20 points a night in the NBA.
- Miami Heat- Harry Giles, PF, Duke
Harry Giles has had a tough time getting minutes for Duke because of a loaded frontcourt and Giles coming off two knee surgeries in high school. However, Pat Riley is known for making bold moves and if this gamble pays off, he’ll look like a genius yet again.
Giles has a long way to go offensively, but he’s a strong rebounder on both ends, and he still has a good amount of mobility. The #1 ranked player in his class still has Kevin Garnett/Chris Webber potential if he can stay healthy and continue to work on his mid-range jump shot. Even if his offensive game doesn’t catch up, he should still make an impact on the defensive end, thanks to his speed and length.
- Milwaukee Bucks- Justin Patton, C, Creighton
Greg Monroe has been a huge waste of money, and Thon Maker will not be a good professional basketball player. Harsh? Yes. Wrong? No.
Justin Patton has been one of the breakout stars in college basketball this year. While attention was rightly given to Mo Watson Jr. and Marcus Foster, Patton is a lottery prospect because of his bounce and energy level. Patton is a highlight waiting to happen, with the ability to jump through the gym, which helps him as a rim protector and while catching lobs and crashing the glass.
However, Patton does need to get stronger, especially on his upper body, where he is prone to being bullied on the post. Patton is a bit of a project, but his potential should land him in the middle of the first round.
- Denver Nuggets- Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina
It took almost three years, but Justin Jackson is finally delivering on his five star rating coming out of high school.
Jackson’s most notable improvement has come from behind the three point line, where he is shooting 102 points better than he did last year (39.4% this year, 29.2% last year). As a result, his scoring output has jumped to over 18 points a night. Jackson has good height for a forward at 6’8”, but still needs to get stronger. He won’t blow anyone away with his athleticism, but he knows how to get his spots. The Nuggets may be without Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler by the trade deadline, and Jackson would be a nice replacement.
- Detroit Pistons- Ivan Rabb, PF, California
Ivan Rabb’s fall out of the lottery has nothing to do with him not playing well (14.8 ppg, 10.7 rpg), but rather other prospects making huge steps forward.
The book hasn’t changed much on Rabb since high school. He has good athleticism and is active underneath the basket.
Rabb is a tremendous rebounder with sticky hands. Rabb may be a sophomore, but he still has plenty of potential as a back to the basket power forward, where his post moves have continued to progress.
Detroit’s starting five seems to be set, unless they move Reggie Jackson (don’t be stupid, Detroit), so going best player available here is the right move with no international draft-and-stash prospects worth reaching on.
- Chicago Bulls- Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
I’m not quite sure how Chicago is in the playoff hunt, but here they are with a month and a half left in the regular season.
Robin Lopez is really the only true center on the roster, and he should be looked at as nothing more than a stopgap for the center of the future. Jarrett Allen has rebounded after a rough start to the year. Allen has scored in double figures in 12 of his last 13 outings, with five double-doubles mixed in, including a monstrous 22 and 19 performance against Kansas.
Allen should be a 14/10 guy at the highest level, with great instincts and an innate ability to read shots off the rim. He’s an old school back to the basket center with limited range on the jumpshot. Allen should control the paint on both ends in his prime.
- Indiana Pacers- Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M
Outside of Justin Patton, nobody has risen more than Robert Williams. The freshman is slightly undersized at 6’9” for a forward without range, but he is an energizer bunny. With a 7’4” wingspan and explosive hops, he has wreaked havoc on the defensive end (2.7 bpg) and on the glass.
His offensive game is extremely limited, but has shown the ability in recent weeks to keep defenses at least honest with a 15 footer. His game screams Ben Wallace, even if he won’t win four Defensive Player of the Year awards. But he’s an undersized big man with great length and leaping ability with no offensive game. Ben Wallace could teach him a thing or two about how to stick in the league.
The Pacers have to get tougher in the paint, and with Paul George potentially on his way out the door (don’t do it), any building block will do.
- Oklahoma City Thunder- Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
Luke Kennard has trumped Grayson Allen as the go-to scorer for a loaded Duke team. Kennard has seen his game improve greatly over the last year, becoming a more efficient and consistent shooter from outside (45% from three) and has become a stronger on the boards and has become a better playmaker. He’s only been held under ten points once this year in a game against Boston College where he scored nine.
Although he’ll never be a top defender at the NBA level, the Thunder already have a number of good defenders, but need a shooter to help spread the floor to give Russell Westbrook more lanes to attack the basket from.
An obvious comparison is JJ Redick, but Kennard is better all around than his fellow Blue Devil.
- Atlanta Hawks- Miles Bridges. SF, Michigan State
I’m not sold at all on Miles Bridges’ 40% clip from three-point range. The shot is still ugly to look at and he’s only hitting 63% of his free throws. Bridges also has serious turnover issues. However, if the stroke is true, then the Hawks could wind up with one of the steals of the draft. Bridges should be able to play and defend three positions in the pros, but could be most effective as a small ball four.
His quickness and explosive leaping ability would make him a mismatch for bigger defenders, while smaller defenders would have a hard time matching up against his 230-pound frame. He’s been one of the few bright spots on an overall disappointing season for Michigan State.
- Toronto Raptors- Bam Adebayo, C, Kentucky
They call him “Bam” for a reason. Adebayo destroys rims when he gets the chance and is as powerful as they come around the rim. Most of his offense will come off of lobs and put backs, but his presence on the defensive end is where he’ll make his money.
Adebayo has tremendous quickness, both laterally and vertically. He’s capable of coming off his man from the weak side and sending shots away. His mobility allows him to guard multiple positions on the court.
He’s built like Dwight Howard, but I would be shocked if he develops into that kind of threat. However, Toronto could start him out in a Bismack Biyombo type role and see how he progresses from there.
- Portland Trailblazers (via Memphis Grizzlies)- Tyler Lydon, SF/PF, Syracuse
Portland really needs to revamp the frontcourt with the backcourt being all but set for the future.
Tyler Lydon has an intriguing mix of shooting ability and athleticism that allows him to play inside out and either forward spot at the next level. For the second straight year, he’s shooting over 40% from deep. Lydon has also been stronger on the boards, bringing in over eight rebounds per game for the Orange.
Despite his success, Lydon still needs to get stronger, especially on the posts. He’ll get bodied up by larger forwards, which could lead to a host of problems down the road.
He’s more of a shooter than post player, but with a team that loves to get up and down the court and pop threes, Lydon could find success in Portland.
- Utah Jazz- Terrance Ferguson, SG/SF, Australia
The one-time Arizona commit has been playing against professionals in Australia since signing a contract with the Adelaide 38ers. The book still remains clear on Ferguson, however.
He’s an electric athlete in the open court with legitimate NBA range. He could potentially win both the slam-dunk contest and the three point contest if his game continues to progress. Ferguson isn’t much of a playmaker from the wing position. On defense, the effort needs to be more consistent, but he has the length and foot speed to be a top-flight defender in the league.
Utah needs more size, shooting and athleticism on the wings, but all the pieces are there for the Jazz to be a title contender with a little more depth.
- Washington Wizards- TJ Leaf, PF, UCLA
TJ Leaf has surprised many with his productivity. While much of that can be accredited to the fast-paced offense at UCLA and Lonzo Ball running the point, Leaf has an NBA role waiting for him.
Leaf has potential as stretch/face-up four with plenty of bounce in his step. Leaf has been highly efficient, shooting over 60% from the field and 47% from three-point range. His bounce has led to impressive rebounding numbers. He’s also a willing passer from the post. However, his defense will always be suspect unless he toughens up on the post.
Washington would love a center here, but TJ Leaf in the open court with John Wall is too enticing.
- Orlando Magic (via Toronto Raptors, via Los Angeles Clippers)- Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, SG/SF, Kansas
Svi Mykhaiiuk has been in college for three years but is still only 19 years old. Svi is a great leaper and shooter, but doesn’t have much of an off the dribble or drive game. Mykhailiuk isn’t much of a defender either. At 6’6”, Mykhailiuk has good size for a two guard and is a pretty good playmaker and decision maker.
He hasn’t been featured much in the Kansas offense, so we haven’t been able to see a ton of what he has to offer. To be a success at the next level, Svi will have to get tougher and stronger to compete with the freaks in the NBA.
- Brooklyn Nets (via Boston Celtics)- Isaiah Hartenstein, PF, Germany
Brooklyn is in for a loooooong rebuild so going overseas isn’t an awful. Hartenstein may not be getting a ton of minutes overseas, but scouts have gotten a taste of what the 6’11” power forward can do. He can work both on the post with both hands and can knock down an occasional perimeter jumper.
Hartenstein is smart on the block and a willing passer.
The German big man has solid mobility, but isn’t overly fast. He’ll have to toughen up on the glass and on the defensive post to break through his perceived ceiling. He’s still very young and working on his overall game and growing into his body at the age 18.
- Portland Trailblazers (via Cleveland Cavaliers)- Kostja Mushidi, SG, Germany
With their third pick of the first round, Portland should go overseas. Caleb Swanigan would be a good move here, but bringing on three immediate impact rookies isn’t popular in the NBA nowadays.
Kostja Mushidi is a vocal and exuberant player on the court, but he also possesses an incredible amount of talent. He is an insane playmaker from the two guard spot with plenty of bounce in his step to boot. Mushidi is a witty and willing defender. On offense, his best trait is getting into the lane against opposing two guards and using his 6’5” 210 pound frame to work to carve out space in the paint.
However, his jump shot still needs work and he needs to get better with his left hand when attacking and finishing at the hoop.
- Houston Rockets- PJ Dozier, PG, South Carolina
Outside of James Harden, there isn’t much of a playmaking threat for Houston. Patrick Beverley is a more defensive minded point guard.
PJ Dozier has incredible height for a point guard at 6’6”. That size could allow him to play shooting guard at the next level as well. Dozier is a good rebounder for a guard as well, which is to be expected. Dozier has also knocked down a respectable 35% of his three point attempts, a stark improvement over last year’s 21% conversion rate.
Dozier is susceptible to thievery with a high dribble, but has shown good change of pace when attacking the basket. He’ll have to toughen up to survive going into the paint over and over again.
A backup playmaker role should be in the cards for Dozier due to his lack of explosiveness.
- San Antonio Spurs- Jaron Blossomgame, SF, Clemson
Jaron Blossomgame hasn’t gotten his jumper to fall this year (25% from deep), and that has hurt his draft stock. However, he’s still scoring at a high clip.
At the age of 23, Blossomgame doesn’t provide much upside, but should be a defensive presence at the NBA level. With a chiseled 6’8” frame and strong athleticism, he should hold his own at the highest level. His rebounding numbers have also dipped, but the pedigree is still there. Projecting what the Spurs are doing in the draft is like walking on the sun- impossible. I guess I’ll take this opportunity to get at least one senior in the first round.
- Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors)- Caleb Swanigan, PF/C, Purdue
Caleb Swanigan is a tremendous story. Homeless and overweight as a high schooler, he’s turned into a legitimate NBA prospect. He’s one of the best rebounders in the country and is essentially a lock for a double-double every night. Swanigan has 23 double doubles on the year, including a quartet of games of over 20 rebounds.
Swanigan has also knocked down 48% of his three point tries. At 6’8”, 250, he’s not overly athletic, but uses his frame to carve out space in the paint. He’s not much of a defender, due to his lack of speed and bounce, but will have an NBA role as a three-point shooter and rebounder, an interesting combo, at the highest level.
The Jazz just need depth, and Swanigan can provide that immediately.
Cover Photo via The Mercury News
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