January 18, 2018

By Mike O’Connor

*NOTE*: Comparisons are meant to convey play-style and role more so than career arc and output.

Tier 1:

1. Markelle Fultz

  • Why: This should come as little surprise. To put it simply, Fultz projects as one of the most dynamic pick and roll threats as well as overall scorer and offensive creator as has entered the league in years. Fultz will also enter into a fortunate situation in Philadelphia. Fultz projects as a 5-10 time All-Star type of player.
    • Comparison: James Harden
    • Must see play:

Tier 2:

2. Lonzo Ball

  • Why: Think about the way this sounds: if Ball could hit a pull-up jumper on a reliable basis (particularly going to his right), there would be a very real case for him as the number one overall pick. The level of nuance that separates his talent tier from Fultz should show how much value he brings. Ball projects as one of the best transition threats in the NBA. He projects as one of the best and most surgical passers in the NBA. He projects as a reliable off-ball catch and shoot threat as well as an elite off-ball cutter. He’s also a quick and explosive athlete and figures to show that on and off-ball. Even if he never resolves the pull-up issue, Ball projects as a very productive NBA starter for years.
    • Comparison: There literally is none. Not Jason Kidd.
    • Must see play:

3. Jonathan Isaac

  • Why: Has there ever been a more right place, right time prospect in terms of what the NBA values? Isaac’s outright production may not spotlight exactly what he brings to an NBA team, but let’s put it this way: everything that NBA teams value the most in a player are Isaac’s biggest strengths. Perhaps we need not say more than this: when Isaac adds some weight to his slender frame, he can feasibly defend all five positions for limited time in most cases in the NBA. You can count on one hand the number of NBA players that you can say that about.
    • Comparison: Andrei Kirilenko
    • Must see play:

4. Malik Monk

  • Why: Monk brings something that every NBA team is in dire need of: elite shooting. Monk projects as one of the best shooters to come out of the draft in years. His form and lift give him limitless range and the ability to shoot in the face of contests from taller and longer defenders. But Monk is capable of contributing much more than that to an NBA offense. I also trust an NBA team to utilize his pick and roll talents as well as hiding his defensive issues, mainly his inability to navigate through screens. I see Monk becoming a borderline All-Star player in the NBA.
    • Comparison: Will Barton
    • Must see play:

5. Dennis Smith, Jr.

  • Why: While Smith is a human highlight reel, you really have to watch the full games to understand his impact. The amount of times that Smith sliced through a pick and roll only to be confronted by two help defenders successfully clogging the lane is staggering. I’m extremely confident in Smith’s ability to sift through the first line of coverage in NBA pick and rolls. And that’s the heavy lifting of an NBA pick and roll. My two concerns with Smith is the consistency of his shooting form — he sometimes shoots on the way down — and his defense. His lack of effort on defense was comical at times, but we’ll have to see what he does in an NBA setting.
    • Comparison: Kemba Walker
    • Must see play:
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6. Jayson Tatum

  • Why: The common narrative on Tatum is that, while he has no elite skill, he does a little bit of everything at an above average rate. While I agree with that sentiment, I think that brings a lot more value to an NBA team than is being perceived. I love the Swiss Army Knife potential that Tatum brings. In addition to being able to stretch the floor, I expect Tatum to create both for himself and others out of the high and low posts more than we saw at Duke. Sticking Tatum in a lineup full of players nearly as versatile as him is a tantalizing thought.
    • Comparison: Harrison Barnes
    • Must see play:

Tier 3:

7. Josh Jackson

  • Why: I’m far lower on Jackson than most. I really do not trust his shot — the hitch in his shooting form means he needs to be rebuilt from scratch. I’m not at all sold on his ability to create and penetrate. He displayed an over-reliance on running one handed lay-ups that will only get tougher in the NBA. I struggle to see his exact NBA role. As I’ve written before, I believe he’s a Power Forward. I also have concerns about his defensive recognition and technique. There are several issues there that will take three to five years to correct. Still, if Jackson ever becomes a league average shooter he could be one of the most uniquely useful players in the NBA. I think that more so than any prospect in the top 10, Jackson’s future will be majorly determined by fit. Still, he has a strong chance to be a very impactful NBA player and my ranking him this low has more to do with optimism in the top six.
    • Comparison: Aaron Gordon
    • Must see play:

8. De’Aaron Fox

  • Why: Let’s start with this: I’m more confident in Fox’s ability to improve his shot than most. In analyzing his form, one key error stand out: his hand placement. Fox keeps his hand nearly parallel to the baseline. This is a major problem the leads to both right to left and short and long misses. Yet, it’s also one of the most correctable errors in a shot. I give Fox about a 60 percent chance of becoming a league average shooter. Should that come to fruition, I love his potential to attack downhill in the pick and roll. That alone will make him a valuable NBA player. My big issues with Fox revolve around his overall creating ability — he needs a diversified handle and improved shake. But with an improved shot, I really like Fox’s NBA potential.
    • Comparison: Elfrid Payton
    • Must see play:
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Tier 4:

9. Luke Kennard

  • Why: The fact that Kennard comes one pick after De’Aaron Fox should speak to the value and importance of shooting in today’s league. Kennard offers elite shooting threat combined with several other offensive tools that will make him a valuable piece in any offense. Kennard reminds me of a slightly more spot-up heavy, pick and roll-light Rodney Hood. In addition to stretching the floor, Hood handles major pick and roll duties for the Jazz. I love Kennard’s vision and feel for the game, and I expect him to be able to carry that out for an NBA team in a lesser capacity. The one area where Kennard offers far less promise than Hood is on defense, where Kennard will struggle to adjust to the bigger, stronger competition even despite his solid form. Still, Kennard is an extremely skilled offensive player. While many consider the ninth pick in the draft where a tier drops off, I consider this tier not at all far behind Jackson and Fox.
    • Comparison: Rodney Hood
    • Must see play:

10. Donovan Mitchell

  • Why: I’ll admit that I tried very hard to keep Donovan Mitchell out of my top-10. The decision making, height and lack of passing vision are all things I hold dear in a prospect. But I’ve found that in an off-ball, role player situation, Mitchell offers too much promise to pass up. Few role player Shooting Guards offer a 6-10 wingspan, with a beautiful shooting stroke and tenacious defensive instincts. Also has the highest motor in the draft. I love the idea of Mitchell as a the first guard off the bench on a contending team.
    • Comparison: Marcus Smart with a jump shot
    • Must see play:

11. Lauri Markannen

  • Why: Shooting. Shooting. Shooting. I absolutely love Markannen’s potential in the pick and pop. I’d slot Markannen even higher if he were a more dynamic scorer, but his ability to utilize his shot as a setup and attack closeouts is enough to diversify his offensive portfolio enough. Markannen will need to improve drastically at rebounding and perimeter defense, but I’m very intrigued by the floor-stretching potential he could bring to an offense. Markannen’s footwork and balance will make him one of only about five or six NBA centers that could be used in off-screen shooting situations. How many NBA centers are prepared to fight through screens?
    • Comparison: Ryan Anderson
    • Must see play:
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Tier 5:

12. Jonah Bolden

  • Why: This tier is where the draft blows wide open. Bolden is one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft, and one that I’m very much sticking my neck out for as a lottery talent. Bolden played one season at UCLA in 2015-16 and then left to play in the Adriatic League. After seeing Bolden both at UCLA and in the Adriatic League, it makes a lot of sense why he left. He clearly was able to better display his captivating skillset overseas. I’ll always have room for a long, athletic, rim-protecting, three-point shooting forward on my team. I love his NBA fit as a full time Power Forward.
    • Comparison: More explosive Joe Ingles
    • Must see play:

13. Semi Ojeleye

  • Why: To a lesser extent than Bolden, Ojeleye is another divisive story due to his transfer from Duke and the narrative that his success has come against lesser competition. But Ojeleye offers too much athleticism, skill and upside to look past. Ojeleye can athletically step onto an NBA court today without getting picked on. His fluidity in driving gives me a lot of confidence in him as a tertiary creator or simply attacking close-outs. Ojeleye’s combination of strength and quickness will allow him to defend one through four at the NBA level. And best of yet: he can shoot. He has a very sound stroke and laced 42.4 percent of his 173 attempts last season.
    • Comparison: Jonathon Simmons
    • Must see play:

14. Jawun Evans

  • Why: With the exception of a 6-0 frame, Evans has every tool you could want in a pick and roll point guard. He is viscerally crafty with a reliable pull-up game and cerebral vision. His size limits his finishing ability, but we’ve seen several jitterbug type players have a great deal of success in the pick and roll in recent years. If Evans can improve his catch and shoot consistency, I absolutely love his NBA potential. Projects as an elite secondary or tertiary creator, or backup Point Guard.
    • Comparison: Tyler Ulis
    • Must see play:

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15. Derrick White

  • Comparison: Greivis Vasquez

16. Bam Adebayo

  • Comparison: Bismack Biyombo with 15-foot range

17. Justin Patton

  • Comparison: Theo Ratliff

18. Jordan Bell

  • Comparison: Malik Rose

19. Justin Jackson

  • Comparison: Matt Barnes

20. Tyler Dorsey

  • Comparison: Far less refined Devin Booker

21. Frank Ntilikina

  • Comparison: Dennis Schroeder

Tier 6:

22. O.G. Anunoby

  • Comparison: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

23. Sterling Brown

  • Comparison: Raja Bell

24. Ivan Rabb

  • Comparison: P.J. Brown

25. Terrance Ferguson

  • Comparison: Caris Levert

26. Zach Collins

  • Comparison: David Lee

27. Jarrett Allen

  • Comparison: JaVale McGee

28. Josh Hart

  • Comparison: Damien Wilkins

29. Ike Anigbogu

  • Comparison: Clint Capela

30. PJ Dozier

  • Comparison: Shaun Livingston

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Mike O'Connor

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