With many NBA fans getting their first look at 2016 NBA Draft prospects, BBALLBREAKDOWN is here to provide analysis of each region’s best prospects and most enticing matchups.
Best Prospect: Jakob Poeltl, #3 Utah
Playing alongside the senior Delon Wright, freshman Jakob Poeltl helped lead Utah to one of the school’s most successful seasons ever. Returning for his sophomore season, Poeltl showed his success didn’t all come thanks to Wright, leading the Utes back to the postseason and solidifying his stock as a top 10 selection.
Poeltl is best on the block, where he has a wide array of post moves. He can score with either hand with his back to the basket, facing up to beat his defender with one or two dribbles, or with a jumper. He’s a dangerous pick and roll player who always dives to the rim with quickness and energy to force rotations from the defense, which opens up the rest of the floor. He’s an elite finisher around the basket, converting 65 percent of his two point field goal attempts.
He has a unique combination of size and agility that allows him to be a useful perimeter defender in addition to his fierce interior defense. He won’t be able to switch onto smaller guards on a regular basis, but he will be able to hold his own on some possessions, and will do enough to corral opposing point guards and snuff out the ball screen action the majority of the time.
Poeltl is a mobile seven footer who is athletic, can finish around the rim, block shots and rebound. Those types of two way bigs who can fit into almost any team’s rotation today don’t grow on trees. While he may not be a player to build an entire offense around, he fills a valuable role and should be in high demand throughout his long NBA career. That’s why he’ll be going into the top 10, possibly the top five of the upcoming draft.
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Sleeper Prospect: Tyler Lydon, #10 Syracuse
The 6-foot-9 power forward freshman had a nice debut season for Syracuse, finishing the regular season with an average of 10.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per game on a 61.5 percent true shooting percentage. He can stretch the floor as he knocked down 41.7 percent of his three-point attempts on 3.2 such shots per game. Lydon showed some confidence attacking closeouts off the bounce and this will be a development area for him heading into his sophomore season.
He has the size to be a stretch forward for a NBA team with his seven-foot wingspan to match his height. Lydon still needs to fill out his frame, which is why he may not be on NBA radars this year. He struggles with toughness at times, especially when defending and rebounding. He also has a tendency to avoid contact, especially in the paint. If he can add some strength he should become more confident mixing it up down low, which would boost his value. This could put him in line to be in the draft mix by 2017 or 2018.
Best First Round Matchup: #6 Seton Hall vs #11 Gonzaga
This game won’t provide any great individual battles, but it is the meeting with the highest concentration of potential NBA players in the first round in the Midwest region. For Gonzaga, you can see Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer square off against a young and improving frontline for Seton Hall in Angel Delgado and Ismael Sanogo. The Pirates currently rank 17th in defensive efficiency according to Ken Pomeroy, so it will be a decent test, just not against NBA caliber big men.
After a poor freshman year and a slow start to his sophomore season, Isaiah Whitehead is one of the hottest college players in March after leading Seton Hall to the Big East conference title. In the month of March, he has true shooting percentage of 60.4 percent (up from 52.5 percent for the season) buoyed by a two point percentage that has risen from 39.5 percent to 52.3 percent. He’s a shooter without a conscience and will be looking to make every big play in the tournament. A strong showing that continues to prove his hot month isn’t mainly the result of a good weekend but is him turning the corner from an efficiency standpoint, scouts will see him in a new light. His opening round performance against Gonzaga will be a good start.
Best Potential Matchup: #3 Utah vs #1 Virginia, Elite Eight
Virginia’s post doubles would put Poeltl under intense pressure every time he caught the ball. Although he wouldn’t face similar defenses in the NBA, it will show scouts how he deals with pressure and his decision making process. Poeltl will need to move the ball quickly and confidently to beat the double teams. UVA’s Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey are tough to beat in an individual matchup and this will be a nice test for Poeltl.
The backcourt matchup could be just as fascinating as Utah can throw several players at Malcolm Brogdon. Although not as high on draft boards, the 6-foot-4 Lorenzo Bonam and 6-foot-6 Jordan Loveridge will do their best to bother Brogdon on the offensive end. Brogdon will also get a chance to show his finishing ability against a NBA rim protector in Poeltl. Brogdon has been creeping up draft boards all year and his performance against Utah could put him solidly in the first round.
Prospect Ranking Notes (ranking, assuming they enter the draft)
1) Jakob Poeltl (5-10): Best post man in the NCAA, has a wide range of post moves. Light on his feet, is comfortable guarding the pick and roll on the perimeter.
2) Deyonta Davis (10-15): Raw, lanky big man. Excellent rim protector and finisher. Could develop into the anchor of a top defensive team.
3) Malcolm Brogdon (25-35): Capable off ball offensive player, uses screens perfectly to get open. Moves well without the ball, sheds his man in the halfcourt. Tough minded defensive player who can guard anywhere in the backcourt.
4) Denzel Valentine (25-35): Do it all combo guard. Not the best athlete but super skilled and intelligent. NBA team should give him keys to bench unit to maximize his potential.
5) A.J. Hammons (40-60): One of the best shot blocking true centers. Strong defensive rebounder, stepped outside for 11 three point attempts this year, after 12 total in the previous two.
6) Monte Morris (40-60): Steady handed point guard, dynamic pick and roll player. Doesn’t blow you away but can slide into a NBA style offense.
7) Isaiah Whitehead (40-60): Low-efficiency gunner, turns the ball over too much. Could use another year to iron out offense but building on his strong performance in March so far will make him test the waters.
8) Domantas Sabonis (40-60): 6-foot-11, hard-nosed big man. High motor on both ends, will control glass. Not really a rim protector or shooter makes NBA teams question his role.
9) Caleb Swanigan (undrafted): Inside-out threat as a 6-foot-9 wide-bodied power forward. Attempted two long range shots per game but connected on only 29 percent. Struggled to find his way alongside Hammons and Isaac Haas, stat production, especially blocked shots and offensive rebounds, wasn’t there for the freshman.
10) Michael Gbinije (undrafted): A soon to be 24 shooting guard. 40 percent three point shooter, can make plays with the ball in his hands. Not an amazing athlete.
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