- Who is the best guard in the draft: Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball or De'Aaron Fox? With the big day approaching, The Crossover breaks down the 15 best backcourt players available.
Who is the best guard in this year's draft: Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball or De'Aaron Fox? We have the answer.
With the 2017 NBA draft rapidly approaching, The Crossover has ranked the 15 best guards in this year's class. The backcourt group is loaded with big names and bigger games, headlined by the three above. But there are even more prospects for NBA GMs to drool over including experienced scorers (Malik Monk), lottery sleepers (Frank Ntilikina) and instant impact players (Luke Kennard, Donovan Mitchell).
Without further ado, here are in-depth scouting reports on the 15 best guards in the draft, along with brief breakdowns on their backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses.
(Research and analysis provided by Jeremy Woo, Jake Fischer, Chris Johnson and Michael Shapiro.)
1. Markelle Fultz, Washington (Freshman)
Stats: 23.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 5.9 APG, 47.6% FG, 41.3% 3FG
Bio: Regarded around the league as the consensus No. 1 pick, Fultz was a dominant individual player in his lone season at Washington, although the Huskies, with a relatively thin roster, underperformed as a team. He made first team All-Pac 12 and was a third team All-American. Fultz’s athletic tools and versatile skill set give him the draft’s best blend of star ceiling and consistent floor.
Strengths: Fultz jumps off the page athletically and possesses creative scoring instincts and playmaking skills. He’s an outstanding transition player, solid using ball screens and has the size to play both guard spots thanks to a nearly 6’10” wingspan. Despite how bad the Huskies were, Fultz was proficient in the pick and roll and as a passer. He’s a solid rebounder and developing jump shooter, and all the pieces are there for Fultz to become one of the league’s top guards. He’s an extremely well-rounded offensive player already.
Weaknesses: Although he has the tools to be a good defender, Fultz’s effort level occasionally wanes, and you’d like to see him renew his commitment on that end in the pros in order to maximize his talent. He can shoot, but could use added consistency in that area and might never be a high-end perimeter scorer, although he does enough things well that he may not need to be. He can occasionally come across as overly laid-back on the court, which combined with Washington’s frustrating season has sparked some minor questions about his competitiveness.
2. De‘Aaron Fox, Kentucky (Freshman)
Stats: 16.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 4.6 APG, 47.9% FG, 24.6% 3FG
Bio: Fox’s strong final stretch at Kentucky created serious momentum that’s lifted him into the upper tier of prospects. He partnered with Malik Monk to carry the Wildcats, making first-team All-SEC and winning conference tourney MVP. As an aggressive, hyper-athletic, defensive-minded playmaker, he stands as an intriguing point of comparison to Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball at the top of the draft. He’s likely to be drafted somewhere among the top five picks.
Strengths: The first thing you notice about Fox is his speed and agility with the ball in his hands, which was a game-changer at the college level. He’s light on his feet, loves to push in transition and has no problem finding his way to the rim, where he’s a creative finisher. He has the ability to be a standout defender with his lateral quickness and instincts in the passing lanes, and has solid size for his position. Fox is an intelligent kid with a vibrant personality that lends itself to on-court leadership, and his energy on both ends of the floor is often contagious.
Weaknesses: Fox must pull his jump shot together in order to become a star in the NBA. He’s left-handed, and his mechanics aren’t bad, but he struggled with confidence and consistency at Kentucky and will have to do enough to keep defenders honest and open the game up for himself at the next level. He probably won’t be a great shooter, but he can become a passable one. Fox also has extremely thin legs and a spindly lower body that will need to fill out.
3. Lonzo Ball, UCLA (Freshman)
Stats: 14.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 7.6 APG, 55.1% FG, 41.2% 3FG
Bio: Ball (and his father) have been the talk of the pre-draft process, and there’s a major stir about Lonzo staying home and going to the Lakers at No. 2. Thanks to his unique playmaking ability and a consensus All-American season at UCLA, he won’t fall past the first few picks. Ball has as much upside as anyone in the class, given how much better he makes his teammates and his consistency as a three-point shooter, but he’s not without his flaws as a prospect. Whether he’s a superstar or just a very solid rotation player, he’s as good a bet as anyone to have a long, substantial NBA career.
Strengths: It’s impossible to deny the effect Ball’s simple presence had on the Bruins’ offense last season: he’s extremely unselfish with outstanding vision, and it rubbed off on his teammates. He has the potential to essentially be an enabler for a fast-paced, modern NBA offense, and that’s extremely enticing. Even if he doesn’t evolve into a go-to scorer, Ball’s good enough in transition and as a set shooter that he’ll remain a threat. He likes to gamble for steals in the passing lanes, and has the size to defend both guard positions.
Weaknesses: Can you be a great point guard in the NBA if you can’t consistently create your own shot? That’s the biggest question surrounding Ball, who’s crafty but not especially quick or explosive. He also has unorthodox shot mechanics that make it difficult for him to pull up while attacking off the dribble. Ball’s shot is repeatable and should be fine when he’s unguarded, but creating space for it against athletic defenders in the halfcourt will pose a challenge. He may be well-suited as a team’s second-best player, paired with a go-to scorer who can shoulder the offensive burden.
4. Dennis Smith, NC State (Freshman)
Stats: 18.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 6.2 APG, 35.9 3P%, 45.5 FG%
Bio: After being rated as a five-star recruit out of Trinity Christian School in Fayetteville, N.C., Smith enrolled at NC State in January 2016 but didn’t play that season while recovering from a torn ACL. He suited up for the Wolfpack in 2016-17 and quickly established himself as one of the ACC’s best guards. Smith led NC State to a stunning road win over Duke in January and was named the conference’s freshman of the year.
Strengths: Smith’s most intriguing trait is his athleticism, and there’s little doubt he’s regained most, if not all, of the run-and-jump explosiveness that made him such a coveted high school prospect. (He reportedly recorded a 48-inch vertical leap at a workout with the Lakers earlier this month.) Smith is an adept scorer who does well creating offense off the dribble and shows major potential as a playmaker.
Weaknesses: The weakest point of Smith’s game is his defensive intensity, although it’s possible NC State’s sluggish play overall contributed to his effort on that end of the floor. He also lacks favorable length for a lead guard. Smith’s jumper isn’t broken (he sank 36% of his 153 three-point attempts last season), but he’s streaky, and it remains to be seen whether he can maintain his shooting range beyond the deeper NBA line.
5. Malik Monk, Kentucky (Freshman)
Stats: 19.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.3 APG, 39.7 3P%, 45.0 FG%
Bio: Monk arrived at Kentucky as a top-10 prospect in the class of 2016 and promptly got to work justifying his towering recruiting hype, highlighted by a 47-point explosion against UNC in December. As half of arguably the nation’s top backcourt (the other being De’Aaron Fox), Monk led the Wildcats in scoring and earned both AP SEC Player of the Year honors and the Jerry West Award, which is given to the best shooting guard in college basketball.
Strengths: Monk is a prolific scorer who haunts opposing defenses with his shooting ability. Launching effectively off the dribble or off the catch, he knocked down 42.5% of his three-point attempts in SEC play last season. With an excellent first-step and the capacity to finish above the rim, often in spectacular fashion, Monk is far more than just a perimeter sniper.
Weaknesses: Monk’s physical profile limits his utility as a defender, and he hasn’t shown that he can offset those weaknesses with his effort or awareness on that side of the court. It’s also unclear whether he has the distribution skills to log major minutes at point guard, which would help mitigate his vulnerability on D.
6. Frank Ntilikina, France (Age: 18)
Stats (All competitions): 5.7 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.6 APG, 45% FG, 39% 3FG
Bio: Ntilikina has long been considered the draft’s top overseas prospect, thanks to a blend of size, playmaking potential and athletic ability that could make him an outstanding defender and solid lead guard. He played around 19 minutes per game this season and his averages are somewhat skewed, but he stood out at the 2016 U18 European Championships and has plenty of potential in this range. In a thinner lottery, he’d have a chance to go higher in the draft.
Strengths: An extremely well-built ball-handler, Ntilikina is developing nicely as a three-point shooter and has an overall advanced profile at a very young age. He’s an aggressive defender who uses his length to create turnovers and pressure opponents. He’s long and has the the size to see over defenses and defend both guard spots. There’s a lot of upside here.
Weaknesses: Teams are working off a small, limited sample size, and Ntilikina isn’t the most experienced relative to a lot of guys who make the leap from Europe. He’ll have to adapt to the demands of full time point guard duty and prove he can produce once handed the reins. He’s not extremely explosive and likely won’t be a prolific scorer on a regular basis without marked improvements.
7. Donovan Mitchell, Louisville (Sophomore)
Stats: 15.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.7 APG, 35.4 3P%, 80.6 FT%
Bio: The Louisville sophomore broke out this winter, emerging from elite recruit to bonafide lottery pick. Before college, Mitchell led New Hampshire’s Brewster Academy to a 34-1 record and a second-straight National Prep championship as a senior. He thrived once again with the Cardinals as a lead guard following the graduations of Damion Lee and Trey Lewis. When he first declared for the NBA draft, Mitchell was widely considered a late-first round talent. But explosive performances at the combine and on the workout circuit have vaulted him up draft boards.
Strengths: At the combine, Mitchell posted the top three-quarter court sprint time, elite quickness and agility times, and also logged a 40.5-inch max vertical jump. At 6’3” with a 6’10” wingspan, Mitchell’s measurables bring promise for his ability to guard both backcourt positions and also switch onto some wings. A massive shooting improvement has helped his surge as well. Mitchell knocked down 35.4% of his 226 three-point attempts as a sophomore following a subpar 25% conversion rate on his 72 freshman tries. Converting 80.6% of his free throws provides some encouragement the shooting uptick wasn’t merely a mirage.
Weaknesses: Mitchell boosted his profile playing more on the ball during his second season at Louisville, but some NBA evaluators are skeptical of his ability to truly play the point. Mitchell’s playmaking for others was also scarce in college. The improved shooting was erratic throughout the season and he lacks an overall polish to his game. The team that drafts him will be more bullish on his upside that what he will be able to provide right away.
8. Luke Kennard, Duke (Sophomore)
Stats: 19.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.5 APG, 43.8 3P% 85.6 FT%
Bio: Kennard entered Duke as a vaunted shooting guard recruit out of Ohio and found a solid niche alongside Brandon Ingram and Grayson Allen during his freshman season. The 6’5” guard truly broke out as a sophomore, sharing lead ball-handling duties with Allen and turning into a legitimate sharpshooter from deep. Kennard logged heavy minutes for the Blue Devils and developed a reputation as a scrappy and heady player on both sides of the ball.
Strengths: Kennard’s improved three-point shooting is what’s truly turned him into a lottery-level talent. After converting just 31.8% of his 173 three-point tries as a freshman, Kennard poured in 43.8% of his 201 attempted triples as a sophomore. His stroke is quick and compact and he’s shown an ability to score from all three levels in the halfcourt. His faculty to score off the ball brings hope he will be able to contribute right away. Kennard also flashed an ability to create off the bounce that has some scouts pondering his potential to play point guard.
Weaknesses: While Kennard was especially crafty with the ball in his hands as a scorer, he managed just 2.5 assists per game and failed to routinely create for others. He wasn’t necessarily tasked with that role, but when Duke seemed to be searching for a point guard late during the season, NBA evaluators questioned why Mike Krzyzewski didn’t try shifting Kennard onto the ball more regularly. He’s not especially long and doesn’t possess elite athleticism. Scouts admire his tenacity but wonder if he’ll ever do more than simply compete on the defensive end.
9. Derrick White, Colorado (Senior)
Stats: 18.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 4.4 APG, 50.7% FG, 39.6% 3FG
Bio: After an impressive season at Colorado, White is one of the best stories in the draft. He had no D–I scholarship offers, then rode a late growth spurt to becoing a Division II All-American before finishing out with the Buffaloes. He was the best player at the Portsmouth Invitational and among the most impressive at the draft combine, and has played his way into first-round consideration. White’s scoring ability and defensive potential give him a great chance to help an NBA team sooner than later.
Strengths: Five years ago White might have been viewed as a tweener offensively. Today, he’s extremely valuable as teams load up on strong ball-handlers with defensive versatility. He’s a strong athlete and capable playmaker but a scorer first and foremost, and excels both attacking the rim and spotting up for threes. He can run the pick-and-roll effectively. White is a rangy, aggressive on-ball defender and has the size to defend wings as well. His makeup is impressive, and he looks well-suited for an NBA rotation.
Weaknesses: White will turn 23 in July, so what you see is sort of what you get from a physical standpoint. He’s not comfortable playing without the ball in his hands yet and will have to learn the finer points beyond simply spacing the floor if he’s going to play the two for extended periods of time. He may not be strong or long enough to be a truly elite defender and will need to show redoubled effort on that end in the NBA.
10. Frank Jackson, Duke (Freshman)
Stats: 10.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.7 APG, 39.2 3P%, 47.3 FG%
Bio: After earning five-star grades from recruiting services as a high schooler, Jackson joined a Duke team that entered last season as the clear favorite to win the national championship. He was overshadowed by other players in the Blue Devils’ backcourt, such as veteran Grayson Allen and projected first-round pick Luke Kennard, but Jackson nonetheless drew plenty of attention from NBA scouts with his performance. He’ll reportedly sit out part of the summer after undergoing surgery for a stress reaction in his foot.
Strengths: Jackson is one of the most athletic guards in this class. (He ranked second at the pre-draft combine with a 42” maximum vertical leap.) He also has favorable measurables for his position, standing 6’4’’ with a 6’7’’ wingspan. He possesses an explosive first step that enables him to power his way past defenders, and has shooting range that should translate to the NBA line, having hit 39.2% of his three-point attempts over one season with the Blue Devils.
Weaknesses: Despite his frequent success driving to the rim, Jackson hasn’t demonstrated that he can consistently break down defenders off the dribble. It also remains unclear whether he can be counted on to run an offense, as he’s not an advanced playmaker at this stage. That limitation could confine him to smaller, defensively tenuous backcourt pairings in which Jackson operates alongside a point guard.
11. Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State (Sophomore)
Stats: 19.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 6.4 APG, 43.8 FG%, 37.9 3P%
Bio: Evans’s sophomore season earned him a slew of honors as he led the nation’s most efficient offense according to KenPom ratings. The Dallas native received All-Big 12 recognition and was an All-American honorable mention in 2016-17, carrying Oklahoma State to the NCAA tournament. Evans isn’t an imposing presence at 6’0”, 175 pounds, but his production in Stillwater speaks for itself. He ended last season as one of four power conference players to average 16 points and six assists per game, joining lottery talents Lonzo Ball and Dennis Smith as well as conference foe Monte Morris of Iowa State.
Strengths: One of the most impressive scoring guards in this draft, Evans is a wizard with the ball in his hands. He changes speeds with the best of them, able to fly to the rim in the open court. He’s aggressive when attacking the basket, shielding himself from the trees that collapse on him. Evans is also capable in the half court. He’s a classic pick-and-roll point guard, slithering off screens for open looks. Defenders can’t sag under and dare him to shoot, either. Evans shot 38% from three last season.
Weaknesses: Evans’s struggles in college stemmed mainly from his lack of size. He had a difficult time finishing over long defenders, often flinging up low-percentage looks. These issues extended to Evans’ passing, too. His tiny frame limits his vision, and defenders often trap him off the pick-and-roll. He’ll need to clean up his turnover percentage to be a viable starting point guard in the pros.
12. Edmond Sumner, Xavier (Sophomore)
Stats: 15.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 5.0 APG, 47.9% FG, 27.3% 3FG
Bio: A torn ACL ended Sumner’s season in January, leaving some injury doubt going forward for a player once considered a possible first-rounder. He should still get drafted, but his history of leg injuries, thin frame and reliance on his explosiveness raise some questions. He’s got great size and slashing ability as a lead ball-handler, but his overall profile leaves something to be desired. He’s a long-term hail mary of a selection.
Strengths: Sumner is a very good athlete and has tools that match up well with the majority of backcourt players in the class, including projected lottery picks. If he gets back to that pre-injury level, it gives him a chance to impact games with his energy on both offense and defense. He’s all projection, but he’s a good finisher around the rim and is a bit stronger than he looks. His assist numbers are solid.
Weaknesses: There are a lot of rough edges here, beginning with a shaky jump shot. Sumner didn’t make many strides in that area in college and is unlikely to ever be a prolific perimeter scorer. He can make good passes but can get sped up and struggle with decision-making off the dribble at times. His array of skills is well behind his athletic ability, and where he’s at physically is yet to be seen.
13. Tyler Dorsey, Oregon (Sophomore)
Stats: 14.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.7 APG, 46.7 FG%, 42.3 3P%
Bio: Dorsey shined in the NCAA tournament, starring aside Dillon Brooks in Oregon’s first Final Four run since 1939. He averaged just under 24 points per game in tournament play, shooting 61% from three. Dorsey is a shot maker with impressive range—and he’s not shy, either. He averaged seven three-point attempts per 40 minutes last year, and had seven games with five treys or more. If he can bring his smooth stroke to the NBA, Dorsey will be a valuable asset for years to come.
Strengths: The Ducks’ second leading scorer last year, Dorsey’s ability to connect from long range gives him a discernable NBA skill. If all else fails, he’ll still prove his value via the three-point shot. Dorsey shot 42% last year from beyond the arc, and impressed scouts with a string of strong shooting efforts at pre-draft workouts. He’s got a quick release off spot-ups, and doesn’t mind pulling up in transition. Whatever physical limitations Dorsey may have, he more than makes up for them with his devastating jumper.
Weaknesses: Dorsey really takes to heart the role of a shooting guard. When the 6’5” Dorsey gets the ball, he’s focused on going up. Too often Dorsey dribbles the air out of the ball and misses open teammates, and while the issue can certainly be fixed, it’s uncertain as to whether Dorsey will ever transition out of his score-first mentality. The Los Angeles native is also a bit of a tweener defensively. Dorsey is too slight to match up with a rangy shooting guard, but also too flat-of-foot to cover speedy point guards. He’ll need to divert extra effort on the defensive end to survive.
14. Frank Mason, Kansas (Senior)
Stats: 20.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 5.2 APG, 49.0 FG%, 47.1 3P%
Bio: A stellar senior season earned Mason Naismith and Wooden National Player of the Year honors. That’s what happens when you’re the only player in Kansas and Big 12 history to average more than 20 points and five assists per game in the same season. The 5’11” senior is already 23, having delayed college a season to play prep ball at Massanutten Military Academy.
Strengths: There might not be a more seasoned point guard in this draft class. Mason has been running teams longer than anyone else available, and his experience shows in guile and craftiness. He can manipulate pick and rolls, get to the rim in isolation and finish amongst the trees. He’s an absolute sniper from the outside, draining 47.1% of his three-point attempts as a senior.
Weaknesses: What Mason has in skill he lacks in size. He measured under 6’0” without shoes at the Draft Combine and will likely struggle adjusting to the vastly superior size, strength and athleticism at the next level. A 6’3.75” wingspan should help him defensively, but at just 189 pounds, today’s bigger point guards will give him all he can handle. There are very few holes in his game, but Mason’s stature and limited athleticism should hinder him in the league. He’s not a poor athlete by any stretch—logging a 41” max vertical jump—but lacking elite athleticism at that size is a major deficiency.
15. L.J. Peak, Georgetown (Junior)
Stats: 16.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.5 APG, 48.0 FG%, 32.7 3P%
Bio: Peak hails from Frank Underwood’s hometown of Gaffney, S.C. and improved during each of his three seasons at Georgetown. He immediately filled a starting role for the Hoyas en route to being selected for the All-Big East Rookie Team. Peak failed to earn a nod for any of the All-Big East teams this season, but opted to enter the NBA Draft regardless. His success was overshadowed by a poor Georgetown team’s overall season.
Strengths: Peak is a scorer. He was second for the Hoyas in scoring both of the past two seasons, posting 16.2 points per game this year. He’s shown the ability to shoot from deep—especially when he drained 40.9% of his threes as a sophomore—although he ultimately finished his college career knocking down 33.5% of his outside tries. Peak’s advantageous frame—a 6’4” shooting guard with a 6’9.5” wingspan should be able to transition to the next level well—and athleticism have scouts intrigued. Peak also showcased some passing skills this season.
Weaknesses: Peak’s skillset and potential may be outweighed by his inconsistencies. There’s no telling whether Peak can replicate that sharpshooting sophomore campaign or if he’s more of an average or below-average shooter. He turned the ball over at a less-than-stellar rate and playing for a losing team has certainly dampered his stock.
There's three potential All-Stars atop a loaded class of wings in the 2017 NBA draft. Would you rather have Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum or Jonathan Isaac? That's a tough—but desirable—decision for NBA front offices to have to make.
While the guards have garnered most of the attention in the build-up to the draft, the wing position might be the deepest collection of talent. Outside of the three mention above, you have sleepers (O.G. Anunoby, Terrance Ferguson), instant impact players (Justin Jackson, Josh Hart) and plenty of more players of intrigue.
Without further ado, here are in-depth breakdowns on the top 15 wings in the draft, along with brief breakdowns on their backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses.
(Research and analysis provided by Jeremy Woo, Jake Fischer, Chris Johnson and Michael Shapiro.)
1. Josh Jackson, Kansas (Freshman)
Stats: 16.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3.0 APG, 51.3% FG, 37.8% 3FG
Bio: A projected top-five pick, Jackson is one of the more rounded wing players in this class. He was named a second-team All-American and Big 12 Freshman of the Year after an impressive season at Kansas. Jackson checks most of the boxes you want in a wing player—he’s a great athlete, can get to the rim, create shots off the dribble and can really defend when he wants to. He has a reputation for being extremely competitive, although his emotions can get the best of him at times. Jackson has the ability to become a high level two-way standout.
Strengths: Jackson is a clever scorer who prefers to play downhill but has a little bit of shake off the dribble. He’s a solid passer and at his best in the open floor, where he can attack the basket and find teammates. He’s built well and should be able to deal with NBA physicality. Jackson is an excellent on-ball defender when he’s keyed in and has solid instincts on that side of the ball.
Weaknesses: It all comes down to the jump shot for Jackson, who shot the ball pretty well from three at Kansas but still has flawed mechanics and will need some refinement. He knows how to get to his jumper off the dribble, but isn’t there yet as a shooter. Fixing his shot will be the first task wherever he ends up. Maturity comes with time, but it’s fair to question Jackson given an off-the-court incident at Kansas and his occasional bouts of bad body language on the court. It won’t preclude him from a desirable draft spot.
2. Jayson Tatum, Duke (Freshman)
Stats: 16.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, 45.2% FG, 34.2% 3FG
Bio: A scorer through and through, Tatum made his name as a prep star by putting the ball in the basket with the best of them and showed some growth in his lone season at Duke. He came on strong over the course of the season, helping lead Duke to an ACC tournament title and cementing his place near the top of the draft. He’s a likely top-five selection.
Strengths: Tatum possesses one of the most NBA-ready skill sets in the draft, with some comfort scoring at all levels. He’s able to create space for himself and make difficult shots when necessary, a necessity for most elite scorers in the league. He has the size to in theory play both forward positions, and the length to be a passable defender with some added work. He’s quick enough to attack bigger defenders and big enough to post up smaller ones. Tatum is also a solid rebounder. He enters the league with a solid offensive repertoire and has the potential to lead a team in scoring one day.
Weaknesses: Although Tatum’s skill set is impressive, he’s not an athlete of the highest tier, which makes it tougher to draw a direct through-line to NBA success. Tatum can fall in love with his mid-range shot at times and occasionally will take a tough look when he doesn’t need to. He’s developing as a passer but isn’t a playmaker with the ball in his hands, and if he doesn’t work on defense, it’s hard to see how he’ll impact the game when he isn’t shooting the ball. Tatum will have to expand his game or risk being branded a one-dimensional scoring specialist.
3. Jonathan Isaac, Florida State (Freshman)
Stats: 12.0 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 50.8% FG, 34.8% 3FG
Bio: In a different draft, Isaac’s substantial upside might be in play for the top pick. His combination of size, skill, defense and shooting potential can’t be found anywhere else in this class. He had an uneven season at Florida State, where he played a supporting role, had several eye-popping moments, and also some head-scratching games. Isaac has a longer development curve than most projected in the top 10, but he’s a big upside swing that could come at a value depending on how the first few picks shake out.
Strengths: Isaac has impressive ball skills and fluidity of movement for a near 7-footer, which enables him to play either forward spot. His size, rebounding ability and weakside shot-blocking ability suggest he could even play as a positionless center as he fills out and matures. He has solid shooting mechanics that should stretch out to NBA range and he can put the ball on the ground and attack the basket. There aren’t a lot of bigs with his potential level of offensive versatility.
Weaknesses: It’s hard to get past how thin Isaac is, and though he should fill out some, his eventual usage will depend somewhat on the development of his body. He looked tentative at times at FSU and doesn’t have outstanding instincts. Isaac will have to grow into his role and become more assertive and willing to score the basketball. He knows how to contribute without the ball in his hands, but with the talent he has, it’s natural to demand more.
4. O.G. Anunoby, Indiana (Sophomore)
Stats: 11.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 31.1 3P%, 55.7 FG%
Bio: A three-star recruit out of Jefferson City (Mo.) High, Anunoby shined as a defender in limited minutes during his freshman season at Indiana. He figured to take on a larger workload as a sophomore, but he wound up appearing in only 16 games after suffering a season-ending knee injury in January. Despite the uncertainty surrounding his recovery, Anunoby decided to enter the draft rather than return to a Hoosiers team that made a coaching change this off-season.
Strengths: In an era when teams are rolling out increasingly radical iterations of small-ball lineups, Anunoby projects as an ideal stopper. His blend of length (6’8’’ with a 7’2’’ wingspan) and quickness allows him to check guards, wings and big men. He gets into passing lanes and offers rim protection, rebounding and the switchability to muck up pick-and-roll actions. Anunoby might be the best defender in this class, full stop.
Weaknesses: Anunoby is limited offensively, and his scant body of work as a college player makes it difficult to assess how he’ll acquit himself as a scorer against NBA defenders. He sank 36.5% of his threes at Indiana, but he only registered 74 attempts, and his free-throw percentage (52.2%) is cause for skepticism regarding the reliability of his shooting range. Anunoby also has a long way to go as a ball handler and passer.
5. Justin Jackson, North Carolina (Junior)
Stats: 18.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.8 APG, 37.0 3P%, 44.3 FG%
Bio: Over three seasons at North Carolina, Jackson evolved from an auxiliary option on a squad fronted by veterans to a headliner on a national championship runner-up to a conference player of the year on a title winner. Jackson actually declared for the draft last year, but he elected to return to Chapel Hill as a junior and saw his draft stock soar during a stellar campaign.
Strengths: The biggest reason Jackson emerged as a potential first-round pick this year is his shooting; he went from knocking down only 29% of his threes in 2015-16 to 37% on more than twice as many attempts in 2016-17. That floor-stretching prowess, combined with his ability to hold his own defensively at multiple positions, makes Jackson an interesting two-way wing prospect.
Weaknesses: It’s difficult to see Jackson making much of an impact offensively beyond stroking jump shots. He’s not particularly adept at manufacturing space off the bounce when tightly guarded, and he could have trouble getting to the rim against NBA defenders. Jackson also could labor on the other end of the floor against bigger, physical NBA wings.
6. Terrance Ferguson, Australia (Age: 19)
Stats: 4.6 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 0.6 APG, 31.4 3P%, 38.2 FG%
Bio: Ferguson verbally committed to Arizona in April 2016 (after previously pledging to Alabama), but he never ended up playing for the Wildcats, choosing instead to spend a season with the Adelaide 36ers of the National Basketball League in Australia. He didn’t shoulder a major role for the team, however, registering just 15.2 minutes per game and scoring fewer than five points per game.
Strengths: Ferguson is liable to deliver impressive spurts of three-point shooting, such as his performance at the 2016 Nike Hoop Summit, when he went 7-for-11 from deep. He’s also a top-level athlete who has the foundation to grow into an effective perimeter defender. Ferguson profiles as a 3-and-D piece in a league filled with teams increasingly desirous of them.
Weaknesses: Ferguson’s limited statistical impact during his lone season Down Under reflects the reality that he probably isn’t equipped to help an NBA team much as a rookie. He remains prone to bouts of inconsistency as a jump shooter, purportedly his best skill, and he needs to add some mass to his 6’7’’ frame to better his chances of checking NBA forwards.
7. Semi Ojeleye, SMU (Junior)
Stats: 19.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.5 APG, 48.7% FG, 52.4% 3FG
Bio: Ojeleye stood out in his lone season at SMU after transferring from Duke and sitting out a year. He won AAC Player of the Year and led the Mustangs in scoring with his powerful inside-out game, and after testing the waters at the draft combine opted to turn pro. He’s an intelligent player with a pro-ready body who could thrive running the floor in a fast-paced offense. He’s on the first-round fringe.
Strengths: Safe to say, Ojeleye passes the old eye test, at a well-built 235 pounds. He can move smaller defenders around and drive past slower ones as a combo forward, and can step out and shoot the three with some comfort. He’s strong and possesses good body control that lets him attack the basket effectively. That versatility is very much en vogue, and he has a chance to excel as a small-ball power forward who can do damage in transition.
Weaknesses: Although Ojeleye’s body is a plus, he’s not extremely long, which makes him somewhat of an tweener in the NBA. His perimeter defense was on-and-off in playing in a relatively weak conference, and he may not handle it well enough to play heavy minutes on the wing. Ojeleye will have to become an adequate defender in some capacity or step up his offense another notch to stay on the court. He won’t be able to play bully-ball as much in the NBA and will have to adjust to more athletic defenses.
8. Josh Hart, Villanova (Senior)
Stats: 18.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.9 APG, 40.4 3P%, 51.0 FG%
Bio: After helping Villanova win a national championship as a junior, Hart elevated his game last season, leading the Wildcats to a Big East title and earning the conference’s player of the year award. Hart’s status as one of the top players in college basketball in 2016-17 is reflected by his earning the POY honor given out by the popular analytics site Kenpom.com.
Strengths: A well-rounded wing who plays hard on both ends of the floor, Hart has the tools to serve as an effective complementary contributor at the back end of a team’s rotation. He can switch assignments defensively, rebounds his position well, provides a shooting threat from beyond the arc and shows promise as a secondary playmaker. His versatility would give a team more flexibility in crafting lineups.
Weaknesses: Hart isn’t a top-notch athlete, which could limit him when trying to create shots off the bounce and finishing in traffic at the rim. He improved his shooting numbers toward the end of his college career, but Hart may not become a reliable long-range shooter unless he irons out his stroke. There’s also his age (22), which suggests he doesn’t have as much potential for improvement as other players in this class.
9. Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson (Senior)
Stats: 17.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.5 APG, 49.9% FG, 25.5% 3FG
Bio: Blossomgame is one of the oldest players in the draft class, and as such will need to impress out of the gate to carve out a place in the NBA. He’s a tough, versatile defender and athlete who could be a nice complimentary player. He has a history of serious leg injuries that may give some teams pause. If Blossomgame gets his jumper together, he has a chance.
Strengths: Defensive versatility is an important baseline for wing players looking to catch on in the NBA, and Blossomgame blends nice length, strength and athleticism with experience. He won’t create a ton of his own offense, but he’s intelligent on cuts and finds ways to be effective in spite of that. His motor is a plus, he’s a willing rebounder, and gives off glue-guy vibes.
Weaknesses: It hurts that Blossomgame doesn’t have an offensive calling card at this stage of his career. He shot the three effectively as a junior (44.6%) but took a step backward last season, which obviously didn’t help his stock after he chose to return to school. The injury history is somewhat concerning. He’ll have to answer those questions and be a strong enough defender if he wants to stick.
10. Devin Robinson, Florida (Junior)
Stats: 11.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 47.5% FG, 39.1% 3FG
Bio: A late-blooming, extremely gifted athlete, Robinson showed improvement every year at Florida and as a junior began to add the three-point shot to his game. He’s thin, but wiry with functional strength and has the length and foot speed to defend both wings and bigs, in theory. He’s a second-rounder with some upside as an active, floor-running forward who allows you to tinker with defensive matchups while spacing the floor on the other end.
Strengths: Robinson is as good an athlete as they come, with a 41” max vertical and nearly 7’1” wingspan. He had the lowest registered body fat percentage at the combine. He could thrive in a role with simplified offensive demands thanks to his potential as a versatile defender and rebounder. He continues to develop his own offense on the perimeter, but may not need to add too many wrinkles if he’s a standout in other areas.
Weaknesses: It’s imperative Robinson continues to bulk up in order to utilize his physical tools on both sides of the ball. He’s a limited offensive player who likes to play downhill, but lacks creativity and must improve his handle and decision-making. He’ll need to be some type of offensive threat to justify staying on the court. If his shooting continues to improve and he refines his defensive technique, he’ll have opportunities to do that.
11. Wesley Iwundu, Kansas State (Senior)
Stats: 13.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.5 APG, 48.1% FG, 37.6% 3FG
Bio: Iwundu has some point-forward potential after a strong college career at Kansas State that showcased his versatility on the perimeter. He’s made improvements as a jump shooter, but needs to improve as a scorer off the dribble. He’s also a long, agile defender with the potential to guard three or four positions. Tall ball-handlers aren’t easy to find, and Iwundu has intriguing potential in the second round.
Strengths: Impressive physical tools (including a 7’1” wingspan) and skill level give Iwundu clear NBA intrigue and fits the ideal mold for a wing. He can initiate some offense, run the pick and roll and push in transition, and was a critical cog for the Wildcats as a playmaker. If his defense comes together and his shooting improvement is more than a mirage, Iwundu could be a value pick should he slip to the back of draft.
Weaknesses: It’s still not clear if Iwundu’s shooting improvement is for real, and he’s still limited to spot-up, set-shot situations when shooting threes. He can be tentative offensively and switch it on and off at times. His ball-handling skills are a plus, but he’ll have to figure out how to score off the dribble more effectively. He can get to the rim thanks to his size, but isn’t incredibly explosive. His consistency on both ends of the floor left a little to be desired, but he brings notable strong points to the table that will make him a worthy developmental investment in the second round.
12. Sterling Brown, SMU (Senior)
Stats: 13.4 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, 45.9% FG, 44.9% 3FG
Bio: Despite being a four-year contributor at SMU, Brown remained an under-the-radar prospect going into the pre-draft process. The younger brother of former Lakers guard Shannon Brown, Sterling has a jack-of-all-trades type game and profiles as a sleeper 3-and-D type player at the next level. He’s receiving second-round consideration.
Strengths: Brown is a capable jump shooter, passer and ball-handler with a strong frame that allows him to deal with bigger defenders and attack the basket. He’s a consistent, intelligent player and also contributes on the glass. His length suggests he can defend multiple positions, and the role he’ll play in the NBA is somewhat akin to his complimentary role at SMU as a secondary ball-handler and scorer.
Weaknesses: A lack of elite athleticism limits Brown’s ceiling somewhat and may make it more difficult for him to create his own shot. He’ll have to improve his overall craft and get better attacking off the dribble in order to take on a bigger offensive role. As it stands, he could be a rotational floor-spacer if his jumper is effective at the next level. He doesn’t have one calling-card skill to be a true specialist at this point.
13. Davon Reed, Miami (Senior)
Stats: 14.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.4 APG, 43.3% FG, 39.7% 3FG
Bio: Another player who fits the in-demand 3-and-D mold, Reed is receiving interest in the second round thanks to his proven three-point shooting and ability to contain on the perimeter. He doesn’t have high-end upside, but he has the baseline skills to fill an NBA role without too much extra projection.
Strengths: Reed shot 39.5% for his career from three at Miami and has a 7’0” wingspan that helps him defend different types of players on the perimeter. He can score off the dribble and on set shots, and should be able to stay on the court against different types of lineups. Reed is also a solid athlete, which offers some room for added growth. He’s big enough to play a frontcourt spot in a pinch.
Weaknesses: In Miami’s offense, Reed wasn’t a high-usage offensive option, and won’t be ready to do much more than space the floor and score situationally. He’s not an ideal ball-handler and is better served on the wing, where he’ll have to fight for transition baskets and learn to get himself open. He’s not much of a playmaker, either. If Reed struggles at all defensively, it may be hard for him to separate himself.
14. Dwayne Bacon, Florida State (Sophomore)
Stats: 17.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.7 APG, 75.4 FT%, 33.3 3P%
Bio: An IMG Academy and Oak Hill product, Bacon returned to Florida State for his sophomore season after considering a jump last season with fellow freshman Malik Beasley. Bacon led the Seminoles in scoring this season as Florida State went 26-9, reached the ACC semifinals and the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Strengths: Bacon has all the physical tools to carve out a long NBA career. He’s 6’7” in shoes, can use a 6’10” wingspan to bottle up any wing on the next level and come jump with the best of them. Bacon has shown an ability to score and finish at the rim while flashing an outside shot. He also rebounded well for his position. He had moments where he looked capable of running an offense and showcased an ability to create for others.
Weaknesses: In the eyes of NBA scouts, Bacon’s physical profile doesn’t make up for his erratic shooting and questionable shot selection. Too often was he eager to step into lightly contested midrange jumpers rather than fully attacking closeouts or swinging the ball to his teammates. Bacon had just 111 assists in 69 career games. And with his inconsistent stroke, there’s a legitimate question as to which backcourt position he’ll play in the league. If he can’t create for others and can’t find the the range in the NBA, Bacon might not be long for the league.
15. Dillon Brooks, Oregon (Junior)
Stats: 16.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 48.8 FG%, 40.1 3P%
Bio: Brooks was Oregon’s leader in its run to the Final Four last season. He led the team in scoring en route to being named Pac-12 Player of the Year, also earning First-Team All American status. The young Canadian finished his career as one of the most decorated players in Ducks history, totaling three NCAA tournament appearances, one Final Four and two All Pac-12 honors. The 6’7” Brooks is a prototypical swingman, projected to be taken in the second round.
Strengths: Brooks is a strong, powerful scorer who uses all of his 225-pound frame to generate points. He’s a master at driving downhill into the paint, absorbing contact for the finish. He’s aggressive at the point of attack, not afraid to finish over opposing bigs. Brooks often looks at his most comfortable when serving as a small-ball four, taking advantage of a decluttered lane. When Brooks isn’t attacking the basket, he’s also a threat on the perimeter. He excels at mid-range pull-ups around the foul line, and is also a danger from three. Brooks cracked the 40% mark from beyond the arc for the first time in his career in 2016-17.
Weaknesses: While Brooks’s beefy frame allows him to battle with power forwards inside, he struggles when having to extend to the perimeter on quicker swingmen. Brooks isn’t the most fleet of foot, susceptible to getting beat on drives to the basket. This isn’t an issue of effort; Brooks just doesn't have the speed to contain effective dribblers. Brooks could use some refinement on the offensive side as well. He’s got mediocre handles, and often fails to get to his spot unless he can bulldoze his way there. His drives to the hoop are often predictable, with little change of direction. He’ll need to adjust his role and limit his dribbling in the pros.
With the 2017 NBA draft quickly approaching, The Crossover's scouting department provides in-depth scouting reports for the top 15 big men in the 2017 NBA draft.
While this year's class is loaded with talented big men who can stretch the floor, few possess the experience necessary to make an immediate impact. Many of the prized big men, including Gonzaga's Zach Collins, Duke's Harry Giles, and UCLA's Ike Anigbogu have only the smallest of sample sizes to go off of. That said, mere flashes alone have lottery teams considering their NBA futures.
Without further ado, here's a breakdown of the best big men in this year's draft, along with brief breakdowns on their backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses.
(Research and analysis provided by Jeremy Woo, Jake Fischer, Chris Johnson and Michael Shapiro.)
1. Zach Collins, Gonzaga (Freshman)
Stats: 10.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 65.2% FG, 47.6% 3FG
Bio: Collins was a McDonald’s All-American, but flew a little bit under the radar in picking Gonzaga. Of course, that didn’t last—his impressive play in a reserve role culminated during a March tournament run that turned heads and solidified his status as a lottery pick. With good size, applicable skills and mobility around the basket, Collins is a defensive-minded big man whose offense has a chance to catch up and make him extremely valuable.
Strengths: Collins has good rim-protecting instincts, timing as a shot-blocker and a soft shooting touch that has some scouts believing he can be a stretch–four, a scenario that increases his upside significantly. Versatile 7-footers are hard to find, and Collins checks a lot of boxes and put up ridiculous per-minute numbers last season. He should be able to add muscle and become a solid, starting-caliber big man down the road.
Weaknesses: There’s still not a huge sample size to look at with Collins, and plenty of prospects have benefited from recency bias during the draft only to lose steam once they reach the league. He’s inexperienced, relatively speaking, and can be mistake-prone. Collins has a pretty well-rounded profile, but the risk is in the unknown.
2. Lauri Markkanen, Arizona (Freshman)
Stats: 15.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 0.5 BPG, 49.2 FG%, 42.3 3P%
Bio: The highest-rated European prospect of the 2016 recruiting class, Markkanen did not disappoint during his freshman season at Arizona. The 7’0” sharpshooter from Finland truly burst onto the scene with a dominant performance at last year’s U20 European Championships. His strong play in the Pac-12 earned Third-Team All-American honors from multiple media outlets and garnered a first-team all-conference selection.
Strengths: Markkanen is arguably the premier shooter in the draft. He drained 42.3% of his attempts from the outside at Arizona, hoisting 4.4 per game. The NBA three-point line also won’t pose a challenge for his fluid mechanics. He’s a good rebounder, although he won’t make a living on the offensive glass. Scouts who evaluated his European performances also rave about his ability to handle the ball, both in transition and in half-court isolation settings. The thought of Markkanen running 4-5 pick-and-rolls with Karl-Anthony Towns or Kristaps Porzingis could induce nightmares for opposing NBA coaching staffs.
Weaknesses: What promise Markkanen brings on the offensive end, he equally lacks on the other. The defensive boards he gobbled appear translatable on tape, but he will struggle defending in space at the next level. For someone who attempted over 13 shots a game at Arizona, Markennan was an extremely limited playmaker, dishing just 32 assists in 37 games. There’s a legitimate fear he will never grow into more than just a knockdown shooter who spaces the floor for his teammates. That’s certainly a valuable player in the modern NBA, but those picking in the top 10 are certainly hoping to add a prospect who can provide far more.
3. John Collins, Wake Forest (Sophomore)
Stats: 9.2 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 62.2 FG%
Bio: Collins rocketed up draft boards last year after a stellar offensive campaign that earned him the ACC’s Most Improved Player award. The sophomore dominated the paint in conference play, averaging over 20 points per game. At just 19, Collins isn’t a completely polished player, but he’s shown enough in two years at Wake Forest to be considered a top-15 prospect.
Strengths: A skilled-rum runner with some serious leaping ability, Collins is one of the best offensive big men in the draft. He’s comfortable rolling to the rim off screens, with a deft touch inside the paint. He’ll run the floor with abandon, and is more than ready to live above the rim in the transition. Collins is also skilled in the post. He’s got clean feet for someone so young, able to use an array of moves to score with his back to the basket.
Weaknesses: Collins’s defensive shortcomings will be his biggest hurdle upon entering the league. He found himself lost in space too often at Wake, allowing easy drives to the hoop or open lanes for cutters. Collins struggled to hedge or switch effectively on the pick-and-roll—which will severely limit his NBA ceiling unless rectified—and he often looked unengaged or undisciplined. It’s not all bad news, though. Collins has an impressive blend of length and leaping ability—he can become a solid defender if he rids himself of his bad habits.
4. Harry Giles, Duke (Freshman)
Stats: 3.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 0.7 BPG, 57.7 FG%
Bio: Once considered the top overall prospect in high school basketball, Giles’s star had dimmed considerably by the time he finally took the court at Duke. He missed the first 11 games of his one season in Durham after undergoing a knee scope, his third knee procedure in as many years. Giles saw action in 26 games but played in only 20.3% of available minutes, according to Kenpom.com, and only twice hit double digits in scoring. He played 15 total minutes in the Blue Devils’ two NCAA tournament games.
Strengths: If Giles ever recaptures the qualities that made him a can’t-miss recruit in high school, he has all the makings of an elite modern big man. At his best, he can stay in front of quicker ball handlers, protect the rim and end possessions by beating opposing big men on the glass. He also does well diving to the rim, making him a promising partner for screen-and-roll sets.
Weaknesses: Even if his knee checks out this summer, questions will persist over Giles’s durability long-term. His one college season didn’t offer much reassurance that he’s on track to reclaiming his status as one of the nation’s best young big men. Giles also failed to demonstrate that he’s made significant strides as a shooter; he did not attempt a single three-pointer and made half of his 24 free-throw attempts at Duke.
5. Justin Patton, Creighton (Freshman)
Stats: 12.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 67.6% FG, 51.7% FT
Bio: Patton entered the season as an unknown after redshirting his freshman year, preceded by a flash-recruitment that kept the Omaha native close to home. Creighton leaned on him heavily and he produced, putting up huge efficiency numbers, although he was at times a mixed bag. An injury to Blue Jays guard Maurice Watson left the team without a lead ballhandler and the entire offense suffered down the stretch, including Patton. He carries much promise, but with a tiny sample size and little high-level basketball experience.
Strengths: With a soft touch around the basket and legitimate size for a center, Patton’s offensive fundamentals, mobility and face-up potential tied to a functional jumper make for an intriguing long-term project. He’s a solid shot-blocker, can make impressive passes out of the post and has a lot of promise, with one season as a baseline. He’s a likely first-round pick with a wide range of draft outcomes, and could be good value if he slips out of the Top 20.
Weaknesses: Patton struggled as a rebounder at times and has a ways to go as far as learning the game—Creighton was his first real taste of elite competition, and all things considered, his output was impressive. He’ll require a lot of teaching and development time. His athletic testing wasn’t great at the combine, and he needs to add weight to his slender frame. Though his best case is tantalizing, it’s particularly hard to peg exactly what he’ll become.
6. Ike Anigbogu, UCLA (Freshman)
Stats: 4.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 56.4 FG%
Bio: Anigbogu came to UCLA in a recruiting class featuring two other blue–chip prospects projected to be selected in the first round (point guard Lonzo Ball and power forward T.J. Leaf). While Ball and Leaf powered UCLA’s offense to ridiculous heights, Anigbogu made a name for himself as a rebounder and defender, helping the Bruins go 31-5 and earn a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament, despite playing an average of only 13 minutes per game.
Strengths: Anigbogu’s appeal as a draft prospect starts with his physical dimensions. He checks in at 6’10” and 230 pounds, while boasting a 7’6’’ wingspan and 9’2’’ standing reach. That length helps Anigbogu serve as a deterrent around the rim. Still only 18, Anigbogu is one of the youngest prospects in this class, which suggests he has plenty of room to grow. Anigbogu is a project, but he could be molded into a top-shelf shot blocker and rebounder.
Weaknesses: Anigbogu’s offensive game is basic. He does most of his work around the basket and lacks the jump-shooting ability to draw defenders away from the paint. Another issue that could hinder his transition to the pros is his inability to consistently avoid fouling. There’s also the matter of Anigbogu’s résumé; in short, it’s just not all that long. Anigbogu was relegated to a reserve role in his only college season.
7. TJ Leaf, UCLA (Freshman)
Stats: 16.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.4 APG, 61.7 FG%, 46.6 3FG%
Bio: Leaf was a highly-regarded recruit who enjoyed the spotlight at UCLA, pairing nicely with Lonzo Ball as a big man who tends to make the game look simple. He cemented his first-round status with a strong freshman season and made the Pac-12 first team in the process. Leaf hails from California but has played for the Israeli national team at youth levels (he was born in Tel-Aviv, where his father played professionally). He’s among an intriguing group of stretch forwards in this class.
Strengths: A diverse offensive skill set paired with explosive leaping ability makes Leaf a tough cover. He runs the floor hard, plays the glass on both ends and has a variety of post moves to compliment a consistent set jumper from outside. He’s a good passer and intelligent player who can play in a variety of offensive systems. He could become a good pick and pop player, and his athletic ability offers extra upside.
Weaknesses: Leaf’s measurements aren’t favorable, with a short wingspan relative to his height that leaves him more comparable to taller small forwards than an ideal four-man. He doesn’t have ideal lateral quickness and struggles defending man-to-man as a result. He doesn’t handle it well enough yet to do a ton on the perimeter beyond spacing the floor and moving the ball. He’ll need to get stronger to deal with stronger bigs and continue to refine his skill set. If Leaf can stay on the floor defensively, he can become a solid rotational piece.
8. DJ Wilson, Michigan (Sophomore)
Stats: 11.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 53.8% FG, 37.3% 3FG
Bio: Wilson declared for the draft after initially testing the waters on the heels of a breakout year at Michigan. He was under-recruited out of high school and had his freshman year derailed by a knee injury, leading to a medical redshirt. Wilson had some truly impressive flashes and became a key cog for the Wolverines last season. He’s a prototypical, athletic stretch-four and a likely first-round selection drawing significant interest from several teams picking in the 20s.
Strengths: With the NBA’s shift toward uptempo, spread offenses, there’s a premium on athletic shooters who can defend multiple positions. Wilson checks those boxes and blends that with legitimate size. He’s a good set shooter and can attack a closeout with straight-line drives. He’s a little slow-footed but displayed the ability to effectively switch screens and stay with ball-handlers. Wilson is also a solid weak-side shot-blocker. He could easily become a useful rotation player with the right team.
Weaknesses: Wilson is very slender and gangly, and though he’s functionally strong may struggle defending NBA big men on the interior. He’s still developing his offensive skill set, and there’s a relatively small sample size of useful games to parse through. He struggled with consistency and his statistical output wasn’t all in all that eye-popping—particularly as a rebounder, where he should in theory be much better.
9. Jarrett Allen, Texas (Freshman)
Stats: 13.4 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 56.6% FG, 56.4% FT
Bio: Allen came to Texas with much fanfare as Shaka Smart’s first blue-chip recruit, and began to deliver on it toward the end of the season. He’s one of the most physically gifted bigs in the draft, with impressive measurables (7’5” wingspan, 9’1” standing reach, 35” max vertical) and solid on-court mobility, which makes him pretty projectable. Teams are all over the board on him, as he remains a work in progress on both ends of the floor and continues to learn the game. He could sneak into the lottery or fall toward the back of the first round.
Strengths: There aren’t many players in the class more physically intriguing than Allen. His frame stands to fill out well, and he can be overpowering when he has time to gather off two feet and elevate. He runs the floor well and should be a threat to catch lobs. Allen has decent touch around the basket and has shown shot-blocking flashes, as well.
Weaknesses: There are a lot of questions here, beginning with Allen’s overall basketball comprehension. It’s normal to see a young center who’s not a polished post scorer or jump shooter, but he can look lost at times and drifts in and out of games. His technique as a rebounder and general footwork needs improvement. He’ll probably never be a consistent scorer, but could be a double-double type player with the right coaching. Scouts have questioned how much he loves to play basketball.
10. Anzejs Pasecniks, Lativa (Age: 21)
Stats (All competitions): 7.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 0.6 BPG, 65.8% FG
Bio: Pasecniks follows countryman Kristaps Porzingis out of Latvia into the draft, where he’s receiving first-round looks thanks to his physical profile, long-term potential, and ability to remain playing overseas for another season or two. He logged just 15.8 minutes per game in the ACB but did pretty well with that playing time, and he’ll drafted based off the possibilities, not the production.
Strengths: There aren’t many young 7’2” basketball players hanging around anywhere in the world. Pasecniks has displayed outstanding mobility and solid offensive skills in his workouts for teams. He excels catching lobs and finish around the basket and could be a dangerous pick-and-pop player as he continues to improve his jumper. He has the foot speed to defend adequately and can get off the ground to block shots. Impressively, he can put the ball on the floor and attack the rim, too.
Weaknesses: Pasecniks needs to continue bulking up in order to defend the post. He’s a late bloomer and relatively inexperienced. Accordingly, his fundamentals, particularly on defense, need refinement. His defensive rebounding numbers weren’t great. But there aren’t many standout centers in this class, and an NBA team will invest knowing they can let him develop further before bringing him over. There are pieces of a good player here, but they’re still just pieces for now.
11. Bam Adebayo, Kentucky (Freshman)
Stats: 13.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 59.9 FG%
Bio: With his 7’2 wingspan, Adebayo patrolled the paint for Kentucky in his lone year with the Wildcats. He averaged 30 minutes per game for a team that reached the Elite 8, pairing with De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk to form one of the most talented young cores in the country. After entering Kentucky as a top-ten prospect in the nation, Adebayo got his Coach Cal 1-year degree, and is now ready for the NBA.
Strengths: There might not be a more explosive player in the draft than Bam Adebayo. Standing at 6’10, Adebayo will swat shots and slam home dunks, providing energy on both ends of the floor. He proved to at his most lethal in the pick-and-roll, rolling to the tin with reckless abandon. Defensively, Adebayo is a versatile big, comfortable both banging with centers inside and chasing guards in space. He’s quick with active feet, paired with a solid 243-pound frame. He’ll be a capable NBA defender on day-one.
Weaknesses: Adebayo is far from a finished product on the offensive end. He can finish near the basket, but is limited otherwise, shooting just 13 jumpers all year. The Pinetown, North Carolina native also struggled when swarmed when the defense helped onto him. He ended the season with twice as many turnovers as assists. Adebayo also struggled to score when fed in the post, and will struggle to secure quality looks 1-on-1.
12. Ivan Rabb, Cal (Sophomore)
Stats: 14.0 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 48.4 FG%, 40 3P%
Bio: Rabb returned to school in 2016 after an impressive freshman campaign at Cal, hoping to season his game before entering the draft. But the former potential lottery pick squandered his additional year in Berkeley, seeing a dip in his efficiency and offensive effectiveness. Still, Rabb is a quality prospect with substantial upside. He averaged a double-double for the Bears last year, and has a lanky 6’10 frame that will translate to the pro level.
Strengths: Rabb’s greatest strength is his skillset in the pick-and-roll. Like most modern power forwards, he’s tough to contain rolling to the rim, leaping above defenders on dives to the hoop. He also has a soft pair of hands, finishing off the bounce pass or through a quick post up. Rabb was also one of the Pac 12’s most ravenous rebounders. He’s got good ball instincts and is sound on box-outs, leading to 19 games last year in which he hauled in 10+ rebounds.
Weaknesses: It’s hard to envision Rabb creating offense for himself in the NBA. He doesn’t stretch the floor effectively enough, and his shot is inconsistent on the perimeter. He’s not exactly a bruiser either. Too often Rabb found himself knocked off his spot by opposing defenders, resulting on tough fallaways and low-percentage looks. He seems to be a tweener defensively, not big enough to serve as an elite rim defender, yet not quick enough to survive on the perimeter. He’ll need to fill out his frame or improve his quickness to survive at the next level.
13. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue (Sophomore)
Stats: 18.5 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, 3P%, FT%
Bio: Draftnicks in search of a prime next-Draymond Green candidate, look no further. The Indiana native boasts a versatile game on both ends of the floor. It was a long journey for Swanigan to become the Big Ten player of the year. As a child, Swanigan floated between homeless shelters and unstable housing and lost his father at 16. Once tipping the scales north of 300 pounds as a high schooler, he earned the nickname “Biggie.” But he transformed his body and morphed into the most dominant player of the NCAA Tournament for as long as he carried Purdue through March.
Strengths: There’s very little Swanigan can’t do on the offensive end. He bullied opponents inside and flashed an outside shooting stroke (44.7% on 85 outside attempts) as a sophomore. His mechanics and consistency at the foul line offer promise that the shooting will also translate to the next level. Swanigan is an absolute beast on the glass, and hunted down nearly three per game on the offensive end. He also performed exceptionally for his size and position as a playmaker, averaging 3.0 assists per game and showcasing a relatively strong handle. His 7’3 wingspan offers elite length as well.
Weaknesses: While Swanigan has done an admirable job dropping weight, his body is still far from NBA ready. He’s by no means sluggish, but Swanigan also lacks the athleticism that wows NBA scouts. Defensively he will struggle to cover pick-and-rolls in space and some frontcourt players will also prevent a challenge for him. But there’s enough of an athletic profile here to eventually make Swanigan passable in his deficiencies even though he’ll likely never be able to convert them into strengths.
14. Jonah Bolden, Australia (Age: 21)
Stats (All competitions): 12.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 0.9 BPG, 48.1% FG, 40.5% 3FG
Bio: Bolden has an intriguing ceiling somewhere in the 25–40 range and presents some degree of value with his array of versatile skills for his size. Born and raised in Australia, Bolden played prep ball in the states and did a stint at UCLA before heading to the Adriatic League to ply his trade and ready himself for the NBA. He’s become somewhat of a forgotten man and hasn’t been especially visible for teams given his situation, but teams will do their homework given his upside.
Strengths: An impressive season in the Adriatic League highlighted Bolden’s potential to space the floor, as he shot the three expertly across a solid sample size (although he shot just 60% from the foul line). He’s an athletic big who can play above the rim and has potential as a defender. He can put the ball on the floor a little bit. His blend of legitimate athleticism for his position and potential outlier-level shooting are extremely interesting.
Weaknesses: Bolden’s defense could be another plus, but for now, it’s a work in progress. He can stay with smaller defenders and switch screens, but he’ll need to play tougher and embrace the rigors that come with playing on the interior in the NBA. He’s more of a face-up player than a back-to-the-basket big. Bolden wants to come over next season, meaning teams likely won’t draft him with the intention of stashing him.
15. Tony Bradley, North Carolina (Freshman)
Stats: 7.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 0.6 BPG, 57.3 FG%
Bio: Despite joining a North Carolina team headlined by a pair of veteran big men (seniors Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks), Bradley made a significant impact off the bench last season. After helping the Tar Heels win the national championship, Bradley chose to enter the draft rather than returning to a bigger role as a sophomore, becoming North Carolina’s first one-and-done player since Brandan Wright in 2007.
Strengths: Bradley’s calling card is his rebounding, particularly on the offensive end of the floor. He would have ranked among the nation’s leaders in that category had he played enough minutes. Bradley offers good physical tools (6’10’’ with a 7’5’’ wingspan), he’s mobile for his position, holds his own as a low-block defender who can deter drives and could develop into an effective interior scorer.
Weaknesses: At a time when more teams are trending toward switchable big men who can play away from the basket, Bradley risks becoming an anachronism. His offensive utility is mostly restricted to the paint, and an absence of elite athleticism could pose issues when trying to create clean looks against more agile defenders. Bradley’s shot-blocking prowess also falls short of the level required to anchor the back line of a good defense.