January 19, 2018
NBA Draft
Mar 24, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard De’Aaron Fox (0) looks to pass the ball against UCLA Bruins guard Lonzo Ball (2) in the second half during the semifinals of the South Regional of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

By James Holas
Follow @SnottieDrippen

The NBA season had bright spots—the Russell Westbrook Experience, the Rise of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Escapades of the Cleveland Cavaliers—that quickly dimmed once it became obvious the playoffs were basically a two-month interlude for Cavaliers-Warriors III. Two games into the NBA Finals, I found myself longing for the NBA Draft.

The Warriors won the championship and barely broke a seat, but the run up to the draft has been as exciting as advertised.

Danny Ainge and Brian Colangelo turned the game on its head with the Boston Celtics agreeing to send the No. 1 pick to Philly in exchange for the Sixers’ 2017 No. 3 pick, plus what most likely will be another high lottery pick via the Los Angeles Lakers or the Sacramento Kings over the next two seasons.

Between that blockbuster trade, the Paul George dramatics (the BBALLBREAKDOWN gang looked at some possible trade rental scenarios), videos of prospect workouts, the mouth of LaVar Ball and the intrigue of the endlessly fluctuating draft boards, some would argue that the period between the NBA finals and the draft may be the most fun on the NBA calendar.

Who’s up? Who’s down? Go to 10 different mock drafts and you’ll get 10 different answers. Never fear, I put in countless hours (like, more than three) poring through tape (clicking on Youtube links) to help you, the reader, sort through the chaff and get to the kernel of truth about this upcoming draft.

I also enlisted the help of some of the smartest NBA heads out to help me break down a few of the most intriguing this crop of soon-to-be NBA players:

Cole Zwicker (@ColeZwicker, contributor to The StepBack and 16WinsARing, all around draft genius, and judging from his Twitter avatar, is some sort of foreign special agent who operates with an air of arrogance)

Torkil Bang (@Torkil_Bang, contributor to BBALLBREAKDOWN, editor of NBAinfo.dk, and apparently a coffeeholic, according to his Twitter pic)

Jabari Davis (@JabariDavisNBA, host of Triple Threat Radio, puts up with my nonsense)

Morten Stig Jensen (@MSJNBA, contributor at BBALLBREAKDOWN, co-host of the FanRag’s The NBA Podcast, and Naismith.dk, eternal NBA optimist).

Join us as I give you the best fit for the 14 lottery teams and we all give you the skinny on the upcoming draft class. Mock drafts are SO 2016 (and plus I tried that, just wayyyyy too early), so I’m putting these ballers in tiers, Top Flight, Prime Time, Question Marks, and Please, No.

Top Flight

Markelle Fultz

6’4”, 195 lbs, 6’10” wingspan

23.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.9 apg

My take: I’m putting Markelle Fultz in a tier of his own. Philly quit screwing around and swung big for the top pick in the draft. I’ve been gung-ho about The Process since Day 1, but having the ability to add a prospect of Fultz’s caliber to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons really drives home how incredible it’s been.

Fultz has it all: shooting, handle, finishing in traffic. His college team stunk, but who cares? So did Ben Simmons’. With Embiid already wowing and Ben “Point Simmons” ready to be unleashed, a dynamic lead guard like Fultz will help spearhead the 76ers’ return to relevance (or at least make them fun to watch again. Please stay healthy, Embiid). I see a ton of Brandon Roy in his game; he won’t overwhelm you with speed or power, but he’s fast and strong enough to make things happen.

Zwicker’s take:

Comparisons: Kyrie Irving with vision/skinnier James Harden

“The prototype modern NBA league guard, Fultz’s combination of physical tools (6-foot-10 wingspan), skill level, fluid athleticism, and outlier change of speed handling style should be too much for any team to pass up, no matter what guard you already  have on the roster. Fultz is first in adjusted FG% on finishing possessions as the pick-and-roll handler for all drafted lead guards in a single season in Synergy Sports’ database (minimum 100 possessions dating back to 2006/07) and is fourth overall in high volume points-per-possession shooting off the dribble in the half-court, with pick-and-roll play and shooting off the dribble being paramount skills in today’s NBA at the position. He throws in sub-elite vision on the move to boot. Josh Jackson and Lonzo Ball warrant discussion here, but Fultz is too clean of a playmaking prospect with too high of a ceiling outcome as a potential generational two-way lead guard to pass on.”

Prime Time

Josh Jackson

6’8”, 205 lbs, 6’10” wingspan

16.3 ppg, 7 rpg, 3 apg

My take: As a Celtics fan, hearing about Ainge trading the No. 1 pick was like dad canceling Christmas. Visions of Fultz had Boston fans giddy.

But in the NBA, wings reign supreme. Long arms and quick twitch athleticism were on display all through the playoffs, beyond the excellence of Lebron James and Kevin Durant. Not only did Gordon Hayward’s size and shooting topple the Clippers, but 6-foot-8 Joe Ingles and 6-foot-7 Joe Johnson put their fingerprints all over that Jazz series win. Andre Iguodala was the Warriors unsung playoff hero, the connective tissue between the star impact of Durant and Curry and the lesser talent of the bench.

Josh Jackson may be raw, he may not have the ball skills of Fultz or ball, but he’s a top-flight athlete and you can’t teach 6-foot-8. I love his energy, and, along with fellow young gun Jaylen Brown, gives Boston two rangy defensive disruptors who can guard 2-4 and even contain most point guards on switches. Word is, Boston can’t even get Jackson in for a workout and that Ainge is in love with Tatum. Dammit.

Dennis Smith Jr.

6’3”, 195 lbs, 6’3” wingspan

18.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 6.2 apg

My take:

Comparison: Westbrook Lite

As an irrational Russell Westbrook devotee, I have a thing for athletic guards who play with an edge. Smith doesn’t have the nuclear athleticism of Russ, but he’s strong, fast and he’ll continue the tradition of the NBA loose cannon. In the age of efficiency obsession, Smith looks like the kind of player who can get it done despite not playing to the spreadsheet. Long live chaos.

Jabari’s take:

Comparisons: Steve Francis or a myriad of other Baron Davis-lite, athletic specimens at the lead guard. (I, too, am bad at comparisons)

“Smith was the ACC Freshman of the year and even though he battled with consistency at times (the way most young guards do), he has also turned in some huge performances for the Wolfpack this season. Smith can get into the lane and impose his will just as well as he creates for others (6.2 APG at N.C. State). He has a tremendous first step when turning the corner, and can finish over the top or find a way to shift and avoid defenders to score at the rim better than many guys his size. Smith shot 35.9 percent from beyond the arc at N.C. State, but he should be able to improve upon that as he continues to stabilize his release point and footwork moving forward.”

Malik Monk

6’4”, 197 lbs, 6’4” wingspan,

19.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.3 apg

My take: Me and Morten are the only two to have Monk this high. Monk leaps off the screen when I watch tape on him. He’s one of the easiest scorers I’ve ever seen; gliding, yet blowing by people. He doesn’t ever seem hurried, casually pumping in 25 points. He’s an explosive leaper, and I’m banking that, like Karl Anthony-Towns and Devin Booker before him, he was content playing a very specific role at Kentucky and now is set to showcase his full game as a pro. In my world, there’s no way I take Ball in front of Monk, but alas.

Morten’s take:

Comparison: Ben Gordon, Chicago version. (I actually feel pretty good about this comparison. Thank God Markelle Fultz wasn’t on the board, or I would have said “Dwyane Wade with a 3-pointer” and made Heat fans flood my mentions.)

“The 6-foot-4 (ish) guard is a fantastic shooter who can probably nail 40 percent from outside right off the bat. While Monk at this point is more of a shooter than scorer, it’d be ridiculous to downplay his ability to put the ball in the basket. He’s getting to the line almost five times a game—a decent number in college—and is scoring a solid 21.4 points per game on a loaded Kentucky team. Even if his slashing won’t translate immediately, he isn’t going to be Steve Novak on the next level. Give him an open lane and his lanky body, with an attached 42-inch vertical, will find a way to make something happen.

Many would argue that putting Monk this high is a bit of reach due to his lack of an all-around game. That criticism is fair for the most part, but with how much De’Aaron Fox and Isaiah Briscoe handle the ball, it’s fair to argue that Monk might have more playmaking in his repertoire than most would have you believe. He’s taken fifth due to his explosive scoring game and long-range prowess, as his efficiency and high volume could turn him into one of the best offensive players from this draft.”

De’Aaron Fox

6’4”, 171 lbs, 6’6” wingspan

16.7 ppg, 4 rpg, 4.6 apg

Comparison: if Dennis Smith Jr is Baby Russ, then Fox is Baby Wall with a splash of Mike Conley Jr.

Don’t yell at my brain trust; it is I and I alone who had the audacity to put Monk over Fox. Fox is quick as a hiccup and shows flashes of John Wall-ish athleticism, but he’s thin as a rail and the lack of a jumper is troubling. Guys like Wall and Westbrook thrive due to their unparalleled natural gifts, and if a guard can’t shoot OR jump over a house? You’ve got Elfrid Payton or Ricky Rubio. Both fine players, but not guys you invest a top 10 pick in. Fox is fearless and his attitude would do wonders for the new-look Kings. It remains to be seen if his game is ready for the big leagues, but yeah, Fox is another guy I’d rather have instead of Lonzo Ball.

Jonathan Isaac

6’11”, 205 lbs, 7’1” wingspan

12 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.2 apg

My take:

Comparison: smaller Myles Turner, bigger Trevor Ariza with a better nose for scoring.

One of the most confounding yet safe picks in this draft. Isaac has the look of a prototypical modern stretch four with a build like Jeff Green without the layers of ennui and disinterest. He’s this weird amalgamation of athleticism and rigidity; seems to move well, but doesn’t seem especially fluid. Whatever. I wouldn’t want him super high, but I think his floor is that of a serviceable rotation big who can defend and block shots, which is fine. That said, the Jeff Green-ish look to him…beware.

Torkil’s take:  Isaac Comparison: Isaac’s strength is his versatility. He points to Durant himself when asked about his game, but let’s just say that he’s hard to pinpoint.

“Isaac is one of those guys where you don’t know the ceiling because he needs to fill out his frame to reach his full potential. But he has already shown that his lack of upper body strength doesn’t prevent him from competing physically, which is a very good sign.

Another reason why Isaac is difficult to project is that he only has the third most field goal attempts for a Florida State team that has a very deep rotation and shares the ball a lot. At the end of the ACC tournament that leaves Isaac with 8 FGA/Game for the season. He’s been dominant in a handful of games and disappeared in a few others, but mostly he’s just been an unselfish, efficient scorer (58-35-80) and the leading rebounder for the team (11.9 rebs/40 minutes).

Isaac has the tools to defend multiple positions, he’s been used at the power forward position in college but projects to be a small forward, at least in the beginning of his NBA career, otherwise he’ll get pushed around by the big men in the league. His versatility makes him well suited to play in any offense.”

Donovan Mitchell

6’3”, 210 lbs, 6’10” wingspan

15.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.7 apg

My take:

George Hill with more bounce

It’s funny how we collectively slot players early in their NCAA careers/seasons, then everything else is predicated off of that. Based off what I see, it’s Mitchell, not Ball, that should be considered up there with Fultz as the top guard prospects in this draft. His transition attack is reminiscent of young Wade, he can catch high flying oops in traffic, he’s strong as an ox, he can defend like the dickens…the guy is the complete package. I don’t know if he can “run” a team, but I don’t care, he’s going to be a force.

Jabari’s take:

Uncoincidentally, a poor man’s Westbrook at the top end, but at the very least a serviceable combo guard.

“Mitchell may be a bit of a tweener as a shooting guard at this level, but much like Victor Oladipo, he makes up for any potential size disadvantage with athleticism. His jumper lacks consistency at times, but he actually has a mid-range game to go along with an ability to get into the paint off the dribble. Unlike many young guards, Mitchell is expected to be able to defend both backcourt positions at the next level.”

Lonzo Ball

6’6”, 190 lbs, 6’7” wingspan

14.6 ppg, 6 rpg. 7.6 apg

My take:

I know everyone else involved in this would have Lonzo Ball and his “feel and vision” number two on this list. I call the shots here. No. I’m compromising by not putting him under Question Marks.

Dad’s big mouth aside, it’s hard to find any REAL fault in anything with Lonzo. I see the precision passing and the Moreyball-style offense (the guy shot like 12 midrange jumpers all season, meaning he was taking nothing but threes or getting to the rim all year, and his efficiency numbers are sterling). I get it.

I also see him having trouble breaking down bigs who swapped out to him with a lack of burst to turn the corner off of screens and the repetitiveness of his “stepback to the left-to-corkscrew jumper” go-to move. I like the kid’s attitude, not in love with his game. He just doesn’t “pop” off the screen to me. When I watch an upper echelon prospect, they usually seem to play faster than everyone else, or just operate on another plane at times; they’ll make a play that jolts you like a shot of caffeine. They “pop” off the screen. Lonzo got no pop.

Torkil’s take:

Comparisons: Jason Kidd with a 3-point shot (compared to rookie Kidd) but also less defense (Holas’ note: I hate this damn comparison. Young Kidd was a damn bull.)

“As you can tell from Coach Nick’s breakdown, Ball is far from a finished product, but he’s had a tremendous freshman season with UCLA. Even though nobody likes his shooting form you’ll have to admit that he already has NBA range. And with his size, speed, etc., he only needs body strength to have all physical tools at an NBA level.

Lonzo should in many ways be a great fit with almost any roster. He brings size, but is also fast enough for a octane offense.”

Question Marks

Jayson Tatum (for the record, Zwicker thinks very highly of Tatum)

6’7”, 205 lbs, 6’11” wingspan

My Take: He’s smooth with footwork that’s advanced beyond his years. He’s big and strong for his position, showing off elite one-on-one scoring acumen. He’s not great defensively, but he looked pro ready at Duke. Now, is this describing Jahlil Okafor, or Tatum?

Tatum is a prototypical 2003 wing in a 2017 world. There’s no doubt that he’s very good at what he does, but with the league moving away from “iso iso iso” and a premium put on motion and sharing the ball, exactly how valuable IS Tatum? Reports are that the Celtics are digging Tatum with the third pick, and that bums me out. I can see the allure, but the annals of the NBA are littered with the husks of 6-foot-7 college scorers who don’t have next level stuff and stall out in the NBA.

(Please, Danny Ainge. Don’t do it).

Zwicker’s take:

Comparison: Tobias Harris with better passing and defense is his floor, Gordon Hayward is his ceiling

(James’ note: Cole is one of the smartest NBA guys I know, but the Hayward comparison makes me think he’s a crazy person).

“Tatum might be the draft’s best wing self creator, armed with tremendous footwork in the mid-post area, plus shake out of triple threat and a high release point, constructing an overall polished scoring package. Simply put, Tatum is advanced for his age at creating his own shot, which has immense value if he can do so efficiently. What makes Tatum intriguing compared to a lot of college scorers is his complimentary skill-set. Tatum is good enough on defense with strength via his bulldog chest, respectable feet and instincts to create defensive events to be an overall versatile plus on that end (at least not a liability). He also passes just well enough on the move to indicate he could eventually become a primary wing creator.

The big question with Tatum outside of defense entering the season was outside shooting. He’s traditionally been more comfortable operating in the mid-range area, but he’s shown legitimate range in conference play shooting 37.5 percent from 3 on 80 attempts, and when paired with his positive free throw shooting indicator (87/100 from the line on the season), it’s reasonable to assume he acclimates to the NBA 3-point line in due time.”

OG Anunoby

6’8”, 215 lbs, 6’11” wingspan

11.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg

My take:

Comparison: A GOOD Solomon Hill

Kind of like Isaac, Anunoby seems like low risk for bust-hood. I’m not as enamored as his potential as some, like the Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks, are, but with his size and motor, it’s hard to see him not being an extremely useful player on at least the defensive side, while not scuttling you, Andre Roberson-style, on offense. The injury is the only thing that has me slotting him in with the question marks.

Torkil’s take:

“Anunoby might have been higher in the rankings if he hadn’t suffered a season ending knee injury in January. He has very high potential if he recovers his elite athleticism, but he never had what you would call a breakout performance on the offensive end, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if he drops this far or even chooses to stay in school for next season. He has an impressive highlight reel with finishes above the rim, but as a shooter he is streaky and he needs to work on his mechanics.

On the defensive end he is definitely a strong prospect with quick feet, strong lower body and freakish length. He has successfully defended all five positions at the college level when he was locked in. He might have problems with the biggest centers in the NBA but otherwise there’s no reason why it shouldn’t translate to this level.”

Frank Ntilikina

6’5”, 170 lbs

5.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg

My take:

Dante Exum with a jump shot; Justin Holiday who doesn’t suck

As a personal rule, I’m leery of non-NCAA guards entering the draft. It’s not xenophobia, it’s that when I try and track down film (meaning “youtube them while half asleep”), it’s so tough to get an accurate bead on them, due to the varying levels of competition. Emanuel Mudiay was destroying fools in the Chinese Basketball Association and Dante Exum looked like prime Kobe in the grainy footage I saw of him in Australia  pre-draft. I may reaching a bit for Ntikilina, but the tools are hard to pass up.

The numbers (5.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.2 apg) won’t wow you, but he’s really young, not even 19 yet, and has tremendous size (6’5″) and a hellacious reach (reportedly he has a 6’11” wingspan) for an NBA point guard. His handle looks solid, and while he’s not an otherworldly athletic freak, there’s footage of him posterizing some poor soul off of an aggressive drive. Most importantly, he possesses what appears to be an functional jump shot. He needs to pack on some weight, and “can he hit the NBA three” remains to be seen, but Frank “Tiki Torch” Ntilikina (patent pending) has the tools and upside to be the final young piece in the for a team on the rise.

Zach Collins

7’0”, 230 lbs, 7’1” wingspan

10 ppg, 5.9 rpg

My take:I can’t look at Zach Collins and not think of Jakob Poeltl, Stephen Zimmerman and Alex Len. All have good size, length and varying skill levels. None seem to move the needle. The NBA is, by and large, made up of “just a guy” level players; the foot soldiers who eat minutes and catch the lobs, set screens and clean up the misses for the movers and shakers. Like Will Ferrell and and Mark Wahlberg in The Other Guys, they have vital, yet unglamorous roles in the NBA. I feel like Collins might be a deluxe version of those guys, which is still a valuable player. Hey, the modern NBA big, on a good team with a creator and shooters should be able to hammer the boards, finish in pick and roll situations and protect the rim; any shooting is a bonus. If Collins can meet his projections and do all of these things? Awesome.

Zwicker says:

Comparison: Better Shooting Cody Zeller (Sorry Morey)

“With Robert Williams returning the Texas A&M, Collins might be the best five prospect in the draft with his unicorn intersection of floor spacing (9-for-20 on 3-pointers, but 75 percent from the line on 142 attempts) and rim protection (3.7 blocks per 40 minutes pace adjusted). Collins is very mobile and athletic in space for this size, as he gets off the floor quickly for lob catches and can defend in space with above average lateral agility. He’s more of a finisher than a playmaker at this juncture, but looks to be a legitimate threat as both a pick-and-roll dive lob catcher and pick-and-pop spacer out beyond the NBA 3pt line in due time.

As Gonzaga’s sixth man, Collins is flying a little under the radar even though he is easily their best player, but he shouldn’t be in draft circles. Collins is as good of a bet to shoot for any big in the draft outside of Lauri Markkanen, and unlike Markkanen Collins, can actually protect the rim, showing good instincts for verticality and the ability to block shots with either hand.”

Caleb Swanigan

6’8”, 247 lbs, 7’3” wingspan

18.5 pgg, 12,5 rpg, 3 apg

My take:

Comparison: part David West, part Big Baby Davis with 3-point range

the guy was an absolute monster in college. Kudos to him. The jumper looks great, he’s as powerful as a locomotive and he has good touch around the basket. He can flat out play. The NBA is a different kind of animal, however, and his lack of foot speed and pro level bounce limits exactly how much he can stay on the floor.

Mort says:

Comparison: Everything DeJuan Blair was supposed to be. With ACL’s.  

“Caleb Swanigan is already a major success story, and with him jumping onto an NBA team this summer will add to it. Having lost tremendous amounts of weight after dedicating himself to the weight room, Swanigan won’t be affected by hardship, as his work ethic is well-established and his game blossoming. The soon-to-be 20-year-old is an elite rebounder, a terrific big man-passer and an improving scorer who can shoot from the outside (43.2 percent on 2.4 attempts), score inside, and hit a high rate from the free-throw line, while also getting to it plenty (78.5 percent on 6.0 attempts).

Swanigan isn’t a Tyrus Thomas prospect, however. He’s not overly athletic, and a bit slow-footed, but with a 7-foot-4 wingspan he’ll at least not make it easy for anyone to shoot over him. Swanigan isn’t necessarily projected to be a star, but he should be a solid rotation guy right off the bat, and a starting nod in the future doesn’t seem too unrealistic, if his three-point shot transfers.”

Me: Justin Jackson

6’8″, 195 lbs, 6’11” wingspan

18.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.8 rpg

Some lucky mid-first team will tab rangy scorer Justin Jackson to bolster the offense. Jackson has turned himself into a dependable 3-point shooter (37.7 percent) in his junior year after shooting under 30 percent from deep his first two years. He’s become especially adept at getting buckets off of screens and in catch and shoot situations; per Draft Express, he’s scoring 1.15 points per possessions in catch & shoot situations, and .91 PPP off of screens, both very healthy numbers. Jackson isn’t particularly explosive, but has polished footwork and very good size.

Please, No

Luke Kennard

6’6”, 205 lbs, 6’5” wingspan

19.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.5 apg

My take:

Comparison: Cuttino Mobley

Dude filled it up for Duke. Kennard has the trappings of a flat-out score; great footwork, nice balance on the jumper, crafty finisher and the confidence to fire up from anywhere at anytime. I like the gunner mentality, I DON’T like the negative height-to-wingspan differential or lack of bounce. He probably ends up with a nice long NBA career, but nah.

Morten’s take::

God I hate to compare Dukie to Dukie.. Rodney Hood.

“Luke Kennard is a sweet-shooting lefty with a TS% of over .640 who can get to the line (5.1 a game), hit from the outside (44.3 percent), and limit his turnovers (1.6 in 35.9 minutes a night). He’s not going to wow you with superb athleticism, nor is he going to be a devastating on-ball creator, but he can get you buckets without using up a lot on the ball, and on occasion create something for himself, although that will be an initial hurdle in the NBA where the defenders are going to be that much bigger.

Kennard is sneaky, though. He’s got a knack of pulling out wonderful fakes and Paul Piercing his way to the basket without the athletic advantage. Whether that IQ is high enough for him to manoeuvre around NBA defenders is the question, but at the least you can rely on his outside shooting and the spacing it comes with. Defensively, his lack of athletic prowess will prove difficult.”    

TJ Leaf

6’10”, 220, 6’11” wingspan

16.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.4 apg

My take: Let’s put this out there, expose the dirty little secret: Leaf was probably UCLA’s best player this year. Luther Head and Dee Brown were at times the better college players than their teammate, Deron Williams, while he was the most NBA ready. It can happen. The word on Lonzo Ball is, he might not be the type to be The Guy on a good NBA team, but he’ll shine as the second or third best, the guy who makes everything work together. Well, Leaf didn’t get the shine that Ball did, but he certainly produced. In college, he caught lobs, pushed the ball on the break, knocked down threes, and crashed the boards. Key term here is “in college”. Can he still be the offensive all around dynamo he was at UCLA at the next level.

Defensively he’s a saloon door. Good luck to the lad but I’d want no parts of Leaf in the first 20 picks.

Jabari’s take:

“Leaf’s freshman exploits may have been a bit overshadowed on the national stage by the 24-hour hype machine that has existed around teammate Lonzo Ball for the past few months, but he has precisely the type of well-rounded skill set that could make him an ideal fit in systems that value bigs that can shoot and rebound on both ends.Leaf might not be a gazelle in the open court, but is fluid/agile enough in the halfcourt set to potentially be an above-average playmaker for his position/size. Even though he only attempted 1.7 shots from deep as a freshman with UCLA, his 46.6 percent from that mark should at least translate into him being a threat to stretch the floor at the next level. The jury is still out on whether he’ll have the ability to defend the more athletic bigs in the league, so it will be interesting to see if Leaf is able to incorporate additional strength/conditioning work prior to the annual combine and eventual pre-draft workouts.”

Lauri Markkanen

7’0”, 225 lbs,  6’11” wingspan

15.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg

My take: I want to be mean and call him the next Grant Jarrett…so I will. Dead eye shooter who can create off the dribble a bit, but doesn’t really rebound nor defend. Pass.

Jabari says:

Comparison: Much like Kristaps Porzingis faced two years ago, Markkanen’s somewhat lazy and convenient comparison would be Dirk Nowitzki. That would be an amazing ceiling, but a taller Ryan Anderson could be more accurate.

“While the inevitable Nowitzki comparisons are simply an unfortunate reality for taller, European players that happen to be able to shoot the ball from distance, Markkanen shouldn’t (necessarily) be “offended” by them in this case. The 19-year-old Finnish player isn’t just a “big” that can shoot. He’s a legitimate shooter that also happens to be big. He shot 49/43.2/82.4 from the floor/3pt/FT as a freshman for the Wildcats this season.

The general knock on him is a lack of overall physicality (again, he’s a shooter), as well as questions about him as a defender at the next level.”

John Collins

6’10”, 225 lbs, 6’11 wingspan

19.2 ppg, 9,8 rog

My take: Such an odd prospect. The guy can flatout play on the offensive end. He’s no low post maestro, but he has nice scoring tough out to 15 feet, he’s a pogo stick, and he has a good motor. My issue is that to stay on the floor, an NBA big man has to defend, or else you’ve got Enes Kanter. Draft Express has him all the way up at 13 to the Nuggets, and imagining Jokic and he putting up video game numbers while laying down a red carpet to the rim makes me giggle.

Morten says:

Comparison: Body of Deyonta Davis, shot-selection of DeAndre Jordan, game of Montrezl Harrell

“It’s difficult to find a suitable comparison for John Collins, because he’s an old-school player who does all of his damage inside the three-point line. Collins, however, does this damage well as he’s extraordinarily efficient (TS% of .653) while also being a high-volume scorer. Collins ranks 65th in the nation in scoring at 18.9 points a night, despite playing just 26.3 minutes per contest, the lowest number by far by anyone in the Top 100 scoring category. In that same time-span, he also ranks 22nd in the nation in rebounding at 9.8 and should have no problem bringing that part of his game to the NBA immediately.

Collins will lurk around the baseline for easy dunks off penetration from others, but has the ability to step back to the 15-17 foot area to clear space for ball-handlers. He’s extremely smart when it comes to locating his own shot and how to maximize his opportunities. He draws fouls at a tremendous rate, getting to the line 6.6 times a time, again in limited minutes, where he knocks them down at a fair 73.6% which can be further improved upon. He generally has good shooting mechanics, so it’s not inconceivable that he’ll develop a three-point shot in the pros. In the meantime, he’ll have to rely on a polished post game, and athleticism that makes it possible for him to finish over the top of defenses. He’s smart, knows his role, understands his limitations, and when pre-draft workouts begin, teams will likely begin to view him as being worth a Top 10 selection.”

Other Notables:

Isaiah Hartenstein

7’0”, 225 lbs, 7’1” wingspan

1 ppg, 0.8 rpg

Jabari says:

Comparison: Some say Brook Lopez, others say LaMarcus Aldridge. The truth is, he’s 18 and far from a complete product, but has tremendous potential if he joins the right group and puts it all together.

“Hartenstein is far from a finished product, but has the type of range as a shooter and bounce as an athlete that have international scouts raving about his potential. He’s a lefty with somewhat unconventional body movements, but can handle the ball in the halfcourt set, put the ball on the floor to attack and create, and has displayed quality footwork that could be developed into a post game if desired.

The main criticisms of his game tend to be related to his overall maturity and inexperience; which can be somewhat expected with a young big man still a couple months shy of his 19th birthday. Scouts don’t seem to question his tenacity or drive, but they do mention a bit of a “nasty streak” (somewhere, Gregg Popovich just shed a happy tear) and question his overall focus when faced with adversity. Again, while this could be an absolute red flag, it could also be a part of the maturation process for a young player.”

My take: I’ve never seen a white guy named Isaiah. That’s pretty cool. BUT HARD PASS.

Sindarius Thornwell

6’5”, 214 lbs, 6’10” wingspan

21 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 3.8 apg

My take: Sindarius Thornwell was a beast at USC, and the SEC Player of the Year’s physical brand of basketball will fit right in with any team. Good size, physical presence, and in his four years as a Gamecock, he’s turned himself into a knockdown shooter, drilling 39% of his 147 threes as a senior. Thornwell shined for most the tourney, averaging almost 25 points and six rebounds per game through the first three rounds. With his strength, reach, and relentless motor, defending wings not named LeBron and Durant shouldn’t be the issue, but his so-so explosiveness is a question mark. The biggest “knock” on him is his age- he’s almost 23, which, in today’s potential driven market, is practically a death knell. Dude is going to make some GM very, very happy in the second round.

And deep dive of the day goes to Cole Zwicker:

Rodions Kurucs

6’9”, 205 lbs

Comparison: Juancho Hernangomez/Sam Dekker (I don’t have a good one)

Zwicker’s take: Kurucs is a plus athlete with an explosive first step and shows enough shooting prowess to be a potential two-way wing/combo-forward. His physical tools including size, strength, length and above average athleticism are there. His most adept skill right now is slashing, where he has the first step and body control combination to finish at the rim. He’s shown progress as a passer on the move, and could develop into a two-way perimeter player in time and a secondary handler.

There are plenty of other intriguing names we didn’t even touch-Derrick White, Semi Ojeleye, Ike Anigbogu,Tyler Lydon- but that goes to show you just how deep this draft might be. Make sure you follow @ColeZwicker, @JabariDavisNBA, @TorkilBang, and Morten (@MSJNBA) on Twitter and yell at them.


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James Holas

Suffering Celtics fan. Lefty post dominator. Purveyor of the finest Steakums cuisine and candy corn.

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