NBA Draft Stock Watch: Five Prospects to Watch

Analyzing five NBA prospects who should emerge as intriguing names on draft boards.
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With contact between teams and prospects limited to the digital sphere until further notice and the likelihood of draft and off-season being pushed back to August or September, it would be tough to characterize a player’s draft stock as “rising” per usual parlance. Other than players declaring for the draft and selecting agents and teams delving into extensive video and background work, the pre-draft process (whatever it ends up looking like) hasn’t really begun, to the extent that it ever will. Business continues for all parties, but teams have had to operate creatively in the short-term, with the dust still settling as far as the timetable for the season and off-season.

The NBA’s official early-entry list is forthcoming, at which point we’ll revisit the Top 80 rankings. For now, in lieu of the circumstances, we’ll highlight five prospects for whom this ongoing pre-draft cycle, however protracted, should be particularly intriguing.

Patrick Williams, Florida State

We’ve projected Williams as a first-round pick since the fall, and he’s not exactly a sleeper. But by the end of the season he was no longer the most hyped player on his own team, with Devin Vassell emerging as a first-round prospect and Florida State’s top perimeter shooter. Still, Williams put together a strong month of February, finding ways to produce within an offense that never ran through him, and while he would likely have benefitted from the platform the ACC and NCAA tournaments would have offered, he’s also the type of prospect who stands to profit as teams dig into his film and compare notes. He came in 17th on our March Big Board, and it’s not all that hard to see him moving into the late lottery picture as things shake out.

Saying a player “checks a lot of boxes” (I’m among the guilty) might be somewhat tried at this point, but the more you delve into Williams’ game, the harder it is to nitpick glaring weaknesses that would prohibit him from becoming, at the very least, a useful rotation player. He turns 19 in August, stands 6’8” with a solid if not jaw-dropping 6’11” wingspan, moves well enough defensively to switch most matchups, and has a strong build that should enable him to keep contending with bigs. He only made 16 of 50 three-point attempts on the year (32%), but shot 83.8% from the foul line on 74 attempts—both small sample sizes, but positive indicators that he’ll eventually shoot it well enough. His defensive impact was palpable both visually and through block and steal rates. Williams made little impact as a playmaker and still took his lumps, but theoretically, this is the type of player who can fit into any lineup, and which any team can use.

The thing (there’s always a thing) is that theoretically is the key word here. Williams was an effective college player despite lacking a bankable NBA skill. We think he’ll be able to knock down shots and defend because he looks good doing those things—not because he’s close to doing either thing at a high level. He’s shown vertical explosiveness off two feet, but doesn’t get a ton of burst off one, and settles for jumpers a little too often when he can’t get to the rim. Williams doesn’t pass for a lot of assists, but he’ll make the right pass. He wasn’t always aggressive, but his minutes fluctuated over the course of the season, and he was the youngest player on a relatively experienced team. The question with Williams isn’t so much whether his skill set translates, but it’s that his game translates mostly in theory right now. How high he ends up rising in the draft will depend on how much confidence teams ultimately feel. If the intel works in his favor, his tools make so much sense in concert that you might even call him a safer choice than most. The 10-20 range feels right, with the higher end of that eminently possible given a dearth of great options at forward.

Tyrell Terry, Stanford

Terry was left off our most recent mock draft given some uncertainty as to whether he’d declare, but he previously came in at No. 23 on our March Big Board and has indeed chosen to turn pro, another intriguing wrinkle in a first-round pool already dominated by guards. But even at 6’2” and a listed 160 pounds, it’s hard to deny that Terry belongs in the conversation after an under-the-radar yet wholly impressive freshman season at Stanford in which he shot 40% from three on 152 attempts and was efficient across the board, augmenting the Cardinal offense while splitting ball-handling duties with Daejon Davis. His slight build has created an initial holdup for some scouts, as it raises questions about what type of timetable he’ll be on to contribute to an NBA rotation. But Terry’s ability to make outside shots and facilitate offensive gameflow with his passing are both serious selling points, enabling him to play on and off the ball, preferably alongside a bigger guard.

It’s also worth asking if the weight factor should truly be a big holdup at all—Terry has legit height for his role, but will need time to bulk and increase his chances of viability on defense. The NBA’s lightest guards—think Ja Morant and Dennis Schroder—tend to thrive off end-to-end speed. Terry is not that type of electric athlete. But it’s evident he thinks the game in advanced fashion, understands how to get himself and others open, and is naturally a conduit for positive offense. Mike Conley is listed at 6’1”, 175 pounds. Trae Young is 6’1” and listed at 180. There’s a viable question to be asked about whether Terry has to hit a high-end outcome (think along the lines of C.J. McCollum lite) to survive at his size. But Terry appears to be an outlier in terms of skill and feel, and it’s certainly not crazy to think he can work into the 180 pound range, at which point] it becomes sort of par for the course. And while it’s not directly translatable by any means, for what it’s worth, Stanford finished as a top 10 team in defensive efficiency (per KenPom) with Terry logging 78.2% of minutes.

It’s fair to say that Terry profiles as one of the top shooters available regardless of position, supported by an 89% free throw clip and compact shooting mechanics, and that alone puts him in the first-round conversation. The kicker is that he has to keep improving as a shooter off the bounce to fully weaponize that talent, which will involve refining his footwork and handle and could lead to some growing pains. But the shooting as-is at least helps mitigate the question of whether he’s a point guard full-time or profiles better as a combo—being able to function on and off is particularly pivotal for smaller guards right now, and opens up more pathways to minutes on a wider variety of teams. Ideally, Terry would fit with a bigger backcourt-mate who can defend the more dangerous opposing guard. Terry’s overall offensive versatility should be seen as a strength, particularly given how many teams have shifted toward bigger point guards and non-traditional lead playmakers. If he shoots it that well, he’ll fit somewhere. Even on a big platform in the Pac 12, it felt like he was sort of hiding in plain sight.

Aleksej Pokusevski, Olympiacos

Pokusevski has become a popular wild card prospect: someone teams know they have to take seriously, but who’s been difficult to make sense of, given his relatively limited exposure, unusual skill-size combination, and huge but immature frame. After losing a significant chunk of the season to injury and playing nearly all of his games in the Greek second division, the Serbian forward was not the easiest player for decision-makers to see live. But some European-based scouts I trust have raved about his potential, and on film, the why becomes evident pretty quickly. Since there may not be pre-draft workouts at all, there’s an obvious missed opportunity for him to come stateside and get in front of teams. But if Pokusevski can find the right team fit—and if he agrees to remain overseas for another year or two—he becomes a particularly attractive stash opportunity and long-term proposition.

Standing a fairly legit-looking 7-feet, Pokusevski brings a surprising base set of of perimeter skills to the table. From his slender, undeveloped build, you’d typically expect a level of stiffness, but his movements are unusually fluid, particularly the ease with which he gets to his jumper. There’s an obvious, glaring lack of strength, but he’s also likely to be the youngest player in the draft, and doesn’t turn 19 until December. Other than that, the sell is fairly simple: Pokusevski is an excellent passer, plays hard, shoots it pretty naturally, and has the size to be a matchup problem as long as he can bulk up adequately enough to guard on the interior. Between the body type and unique athletic profile, the player he calls to mind for me is Jonathan Isaac, and Pokusevski is much further along offensively at the same age, albeit without Isaac’s immense potential as a shot-blocker and versatile defender.

The idea here is Pokusevski as a perimeter-oriented stretch-four who can be optimized in a variety of lineups, capable of sliding down to the five situationally or potentially spending time at the three in big lineups. Players cut from this rough type of cloth don’t pop up all that often. But Pokusevski will require a good deal of patience and oversight from a physical development perspective, and there’s a level of risk and investment attached to making a pick like this. He has a pretty intriguing case in the back half of the first round, and how teams decide to value it based off of game film and intel should be fascinating.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Immanuel Quickley, Kentucky

After spending time looking back at Quickley’s season, I’ll cop to placing Quickley much too low on our March Big Board, at 67th of 80 prospects—at least 30 spots lower than where he’ll land in the next update. He was Kentucky’s most valuable player, despite Tyrese Maxey attracting most of the NBA buzz. Quickley was billed as more of a lead guard coming out of high school in Maryland. Upon arrival at Kentucky, he faded into a bench role behind Ashton Hagans and Tyler Herro. As a sophomore, after the Kahlil Whitney Experience went sideways, Quickley stepped up in a big way, shouldering more minutes and eventually starting the final 15 games of the season. While his shot distribution is heavily perimeter-centric, he made 39% of all jumpers and 42.8% of his threes, and excelled working away from the ball, diminishing some of his playmaking limitations.

With that, Quickley took some big steps toward a potential NBA role. He’s generally always done a good job staying around the ball and has enough size to be passable defensively. When you couple that with his newfound understanding of how to make himself dangerous off the ball, he looks like a pretty reasonable three-and-D prospect, even without a ton of upside given his average athleticism. He made 92.3% of his free throws and is an easy sell as a legitimate spot-up threat. After Quickley bought in to what was asked of him and figured out the value of running and relocating around the three-point line, his game took off and Kentucky reaped the benefits. It’s the type of mold you can see working at the NBA level, and a particular sort of craft that the very best shooters can continually hone over time. J.J. Redick he is not, but you get the idea.

It’s still a bit concerning how infrequently Quickley got to the rim, and how often he was bailed out by fouls (per Synergy, he took twice as many runners as attempted shots directly around the rim). His physical strength has helped cover for a lack of explosiveness, and his surname is still a little bit ironic. But Quickley is just a year older than his teammate Maxey, who’s more of an on-ball player and is widely viewed as a lottery pick despite a statistically poor season. It’s possible the gap between them isn’t quite as wide as you’d think, yet they might be drafted 30 spots apart. Kentucky never lacks for visibility, and whether the utilitarian, low-maintenance Quickley can sneak into the back part of the first round is worth keeping an eye on.

Josh Hall, Moravian Prep

Every year there are one or two prep players who emerge as draftable prospects and are old enough to bypass college; at a glance, Hall sure looks like one of those guys. A consensus Top 50 recruit (Rivals has him ranked inside the Top 25, which is about where I’d have him if we had high school rankings), Hall committed to play at NC State next year, then announced his choice to test the waters with minimal fanfare. A native of North Carolina, Hall spent the year at Moravian Prep and turns 20 in August, placing him on the older end of the spectrum in the context of the current college freshman class. He had some national exposure, but massive hype never followed. So from an NBA perspective, there’s little context at all, save for some grainy AAU footage and word of mouth.

Whether it’s this draft or a year from now, it’s clear Hall will be a person of interest for teams—he has a promising mix of guard skills, size and shooting ability, and has no issues shooting over people in a sort of Brandon Ingram-lite way. Scorers in his mold can be boom-or-bust, he’s not an elite run-jump guy, and there’s not a ton of clarity situationally as to what his auxiliary skill set will look like. But clearly, there could be some value here in the second round as a developmental pick. The body of work here is limited and will be a holdup for some, but based on what film is available, it’s obvious Hall is someone worth taking seriously. Teams surely would have been eager to bring him in for workouts, and how much he can sufficiently bolster his case given the lack of options is certainly worth asking right now.

Regardless, there aren’t a ton of players with Hall’s base skill set as a big perimeter shooter with upside, and at the very least, teams with second-rounders to burn should take the appropriate time to parse his situation. It’s possible he still needs a year of college to make a better case, and NC State certainly could use him, to the point where his stay could be short. Hall is another situation that bears monitoring on this indiscriminate timetable.