*Disclaimer: I haven’t seen many of these players (all non ’14 U17 guys mostly) prior to tonight’s game and thus this ranking is largely founded on an incredibly small sample. However, I wanted to start the process earlier this year, and sought to head into the Hoop Summit with a working order (It’s admittedly mostly for functional use). While most of the order is comprised of what I saw tonight (or have seen before), there is a slant toward NBA translation in terms of sought-after positional skill-set and role.
(I’d also likely have Harry Giles #2, but he obviously didn’t play for medical reasons)
1.Josh Jackson (ESPN #3) 6’7” 195 6’10” Wingspan
With Giles on the mend Jackson looked like the clear-cut best prospect in the game with his blend of size, athleticism, feel & skill-level. Jackson-Tatum was the marquee matchup of the night, and Jackson won it pretty handedly. Tatum went at Jackson numerous times to start the game, beating Jackson baseline by a half step on one occasion, but Jackson’s superior athleticism allowed him to easily recover and block the shot. Jackson stripped Tatum on two other occasions in the first half. The only time Tatum was able to make hay against Jackson was carving out space in the post by going into his body to dislodge him and negate Jackson’s athletic advantage. Jackson also fouled Tatum late in the game on a lazy closeout being too upright in his stance and was back-cut once by Bridges pretty badly. Jackson’s feet and lateral agility are fantastic, and coupled with his motor (he had two outstanding shot contests on both Tatum and Fultz, the latter leading to a leak out) and bouncy athleticism he should be a lockdown defensive nightmare with switching capability 1-4.
Offensively, Jackson’s open court athleticism was as expected with his ranginess, speed and lob catching ability evident on several rim run finishes. He also showcased half court skill in the ability to split the pick and roll in keeping his head up, but due to a loose handle couldn’t navigate his way all the way to the basket on two occasions against Tatum. He did have a smooth left to right spin floater, displaying good footwork. Jackson also had an NBA level jab step three-point shot off the catch getting his defender to retreat and knocked down the shot. His mechanics aren’t ideal but he looked to have a consistent release.
Most impressively to me (verifying my past observation), Jackson showed unique feel and court awareness for a wing at his age. He had numerous excellent reads off dribble-drives either on skip passes to shooters or on drop-offs/lobs to bigs. He showed he understood how to navigate screens as his handle improves.
Overall, it was a fantastic performance form Jackson that earned him co-MVP, and coupled with what I saw from him in U17s in 2014 he’ll enter the Hoop Summit as my #1 guy.
2.Jayson Tatum (#2 ESPN) 6’9” 203 6’10” Wingspan
Stretch/Playmaking 4: Duke
Tatum’s combination of size, skill and smoothness operating with the ball and shooting in the midrange game was reminiscent of the U17 tournament in ’14. I was surprised with how MUCH more comfortable he is operating in post-up situations in the intermediate game instead of out on the perimeter. He displayed some fantastic footwork with a reverse spin fadeaway and has a fluid high release that is going to be difficult to contest in the face up game due to his already advanced handle for his age. He also definitely knows how to carve out space for himself using his size on the block and looks to have above average court vision.
However, as noted in the Jackson section above, Tatum’s lack of explosive athleticism was pretty evident, especially when compared to Jackson. I think Tatum got his shot blocked 4 times at the rim because he couldn’t explode to finish. His combination of size and athleticism should be an impediment for opponents defensively but his upside is limited but the lack of athleticism and speed.
Tatum might profile best as a playmaking 4 once/if he adds a three point shot due to the aforementioned athleticism deficiencies and his affinity for the intermediate area/upside creating in face up situations a quickness advantage over most fours on the NBA level. He’s going to destroy college basketball from the four spot.
3.Markelle Fultz (#10 ESPN) 6’4” 185 6’8.5” Wingspan
Fultz was the biggest surprise winner of the night for me having no prior knowledge of his game. He showed excellent pick and roll capability and feel whether using the screen as a passer or shooter off the bounce or splitting the defense to finish (even with the left). Fultz has a good handle with a hesitation and crossover, and really knows how to change speeds with some shake. His passing feel was also fantastic, as he made numerous high IQ plays including a wrap around to Jones for the finish. Defensively, he had several nice hustle plays including a hustle block and multiple high effort closeouts. He also had his fair share of defensive mishaps not navigating picks well as the primary defender and getting beat on a screen rejection once by Guy.
At 6’4.5” and a 6’8” wingspan Fultz has excellent tools for a lead guard. He certainly looks to have the feel to play the position and subtle quickness. He’s more fluid athletically than explosive, but his shake and slipperiness with the ball should overcompensate for some of those explosive limitations. Intrigue meter is really high.
4.Malik Monk (#7 ESPN) 6’3” 185 6’6” Wingspan
Secondary Ball-Handler: Kentucky
Monk definitely approached tonight with the most “all-star game” mindset, consistently going for flash plays, one of which he converted when he nutmegged Tatum on a laser bounce pass setting up an Allen dunk. Mostly paired with Ball, Monk operated off the ball, where he showed good instincts as a cutter, losing Ferguson on two occasions on back cuts. Monk also has good elevation on his shot with a fluid release as he displayed working off ball in catch and shoot situations despite not connecting on any threes.
Monk was most intriguing when he had the ball however, showing good speed and first step blowing by Ferguson in the open court and patience operating in PNR for drop-offs or wrap-arounds. Despite a limited sample with the ball he showed good feel and the ability to play both with and off the ball. His putback dunk attempt off the Allen miss and blocked shot of Tatum demonstrate his athletic upside.
I’m intrigued with Monk as a secondary handler at very worst who can play both on and off ball. He looks like a fluid explosive athlete for his size with the shot creation ability and feel to really thrive as a scorer. He is a bit undersized for a wing but his athleticism and skill-set will likely overshadow the size gap if he adds strength.
5.Bam Adebayo (#4 ESPN) 6’10 240 (Apparent Long Arms)
I haven’t seen much of Adebayo, but came away really impressed with his combination of size, strength, above the rim athleticism and fluid coordinated mobility. He had a rough start to the game dropping two catchable entries, but quickly recovered by taking the ball in transition with a decent handle and completely dislodging Leaf on the move. Adebayo just moves people around down low, and he’s an absolute terror on the offensive glass (8 OREBs in the game). He had a fluid-looking catch and shoot midrange hit in the second half and showed interesting skill attempting a one- footed fallaway jumper over Collins in the first half.
Adebayo looks to have the makings of a solid defender. He displayed quick feet blitzing Langford on the perimeter in the second half after being a little too aggressive picking up a foul on a hedge in the first. His best sequence of the game was containing penetration in PNR, getting the deflection for a steal and bringing the ball up in transition utilizing a behind the back dribble and dish to the perimeter. He also showcased some shot-blocking acumen blocking a Jackson floater in the second half.
Overall, Adebayo looks like a strong 5 who can anchor on the glass, defend ok in space and possesses intriguing offensive skill upside, especially with his shot.
6.Lonzo Ball (#5 ESPN) 6’6” 185 6’7” Wingspan
Ball has a very intriguing combination of size and ridiculous vision/passing ability. He is a natural operating in PNR making reads with the ability to make any pass (cross-court skip or hitting the roll man on a trap like he did with Leaf). Ball also had several outstanding looks in transition for lobs and had especially good chemistry with Monk. His shooting mechanics are Kevin-Martin like strange, bringing the ball from a low point starting on the left across his body. He looked to have good range and the ability to shoot off the dribble but that release point is a concern. He also got blown by off the dribble by Fox numerous times, and looks to be an average to slightly above average athlete.
Still, Ball’s combination of size and passing instincts really stood out as he had the most court composure in the game tonight, and he has the tools to overcompensate for average athleticism at the lead guard spot.
7.Miles Bridges (#6 ESPN) 6’7” 225 6’8.5” Wingspan
Wing w/ 4 Potential: Michigan State
I didn’t get a great read on Bridges but his combination of size, strong frame and explosive athleticism as a wing with 4 potential is very intriguing. He definitely made a wide array of plays with good passing instincts moving the ball quickly, high pointing a rebound and containing Gilbert off a switch. Most of the offensive splash plays came in transition, the most notable being the windmill dunk off the backboard. Given the two-way wing shortage in the NBA right now, especially those who can defend 1-4, this will be one of my favorite prospects to monitor.
8.De’Aaron Fox (#7 ESPN) 6’3” 185 6’6” Wingspan
The ultra-quick Fox displayed prototypical lead guard tendencies looking for his teammates and always keeping his head up. He didn’t shoot or finish well but he did show off his speed and first step beating Ball off the dribble on multiple occasions, as well as snaking the pick and roll. Fox just does PG stuff like making the extra pass at the end of the game to Ferguson and making a concerted effort to get guys looks on dribble kick-outs. I was also impressed with his full-court pressure defense at times, like when he stole it from Monk in the second half displaying quick hands playing the passing lane. My biggest concern is the shooting ability, as he looked raw both off the catch and the dribble with questionable shot selection at times. A bit of a spastic game for Fox no question.
9.Frank Jackson (#11 ESPN) 6’4” 195 6’5.5” Wingspan
Scoring PG: Duke
The “Other Jackson” did well for himself earning co-MVP honors due to his smooth scoring game at the lead guard spot. Jackson makes the game look easy as a PNR scoring guard with beautiful mechanics and capability of shooting off the dribble. Jackson ran a lot of PNR with Bolden especially and was able to get clean looks. He also acts as a dual threat with his catch and shoot ability, enabling him to play off ball and allow other creators to handle the ball. Outside of a late game alley-oop finish, Jackson didn’t really display much in terms of finishing in the paint or creating off the bounce outside of a few rushed floaters. He definitely has noticeable above the rim athleticism (I didn’t get a good read on him defensively).
Jackson definitely seems like more of a scoring lead guard than a true pass first lead guard who can score, but the athleticism upside is high, especially in terms of shot creation.
10.Kobi Simmons (#18 ESPN) 6’5” 170 6’6” Wingspan
Simmons quick and fluid athlete who gets good elevation on his jump shot albeit the release being low. He made a nice dribble drive and kick to Jones for a jumper, displaying a good first step and good speed getting into the lane. He has bouncy athleticism as showcased by his lob catch from Fox late in the game. He also has the quicks to be a good defender on-ball, even if his wingspan to height combination is poor. Overall, I’m concerned about the ability to shoot off the catch especially, as he had a few brutal attempts. He looks more natural shooting off the dribble, but still not especially confident about it mechanically. His combination of size, speed, quickness and defensive potential is still intriguing at the lead guard spot.
11.Sacha Killeya-Jones (#27 ESPN) 6’11” 190 7’2” Wingspan
Stretch 5: Kentucky
Killeya-Jones looks the part of a face up 5 with his size and high, fluid mechanically sound shooting stroke. He had a beautiful pick and pop drive in the second half, showing advanced coordination and body control on his way to the rim. He’s rail thin right now, but once he fills out he has the tools, coordination and shooting skill to be a potential dual-threat in PNR with his athleticism.
12.Jarrett Allen (#19 ESPN) 6’10” 235 7’4.5” Wingspan
Roll Man 5: Undecided
Allen looked like a prototype PNR diving 5 with his lob catching ability, fluid mobility and rim runner potential. He was the most comfortable out of any player in the game at defending the pick and roll, specifically dropping back and recovering. He had a plethora of high instinct blocks either recovering or rotating over from the weak side, totaling 5 total blocks and numerous contests. While his skill level offensively with a slow release/not-fluid mechanics on his shot and lack of skill and footwork in the post limits his upside, Allen looks to have a straight-forward role moving forward.
13.Marques Bolden (#20 ESPN) 6’10” 240 7’4” Wingspan
Roll Man 5: Undecided
Bolden looked similar to Allen in terms of PNR Dive 5 potential. He shined as a finisher off athletic putback finishes and operating as the screen setter/roll man with Jackson. He had an incredible left handed lob finish that might have been my favorite play of the night. He doesn’t look like a freak athlete but he definitely has plus hops.
Defensively, Bolden did some great things in pick and roll coverage zoning up and recovering (he was also badly out of position near the sideline once late in the game). His best defensive play was switching onto the faster Simmons running on the baseline and mirroring him in the passing lane for the steal.
With his length and plus explosive leaping ability he should be able to protect the rim despite having no blocks in the game. Will be looking at the skill level more closely moving forward because the tools are there.
14.Terrance Ferguson (#13 ESPN) 6’5” 190 6’7.5” Wingspan
Ferguson looked like your stereotypical two-guard, possessing a quick and fluid catch and shoot release. He looked to have arguably the best shooting form in the game with legit college 3pt range despite not shooting it well. I didn’t see much in the way of ball skills either off the bounce or passing instincts. He had a rough go defensively, getting crossed up by Monk in the open court and later back cut by Monk on successive possessions. Too small of a sample to make a call on, but he didn’t look to have secondary ball-handling capabilities. I also didn’t get a great read on his bounciness, which he’ll need to have as a slasher if he can’t create.
15.Joshua Langford (#14 ESPN) 6’5” 215 6’5.5” Wingspan
Wing: Michigan State
Langford looked like a bouncy athlete with some shake in transition, but didn’t really stand out. He has a solid frame, but his height and length combination is far below NBA wing average. Can he shoot?
16.Tony Bradley (#26 ESPN) 6’11” 235 7’4” Wingspan
Bradley showcased a nice combination of size and shooting ability, looking fluid in the pick and pop game even though his shot looks a bit flat at the top. Bradley had several other flash plays including hustling for an early seal on Allen, converting a nice post pass to King, and deflecting a full court pass by Jackson. He looks to have stretch 5 potential, but lacks evident athleticism.
Stretch 5: UNC
17.Udoka Azubuike (#22 ESPN) 6’11” 270 7’5” Wingspan
Traditional 5: Kansas
Azubuike is a gargantuan human being. He started out checking Allen and had two nice weak side rotation blocks showing unexpected mobility. He’s definitely not a big leaper but carves out space with his solid frame. His low push shot release doesn’t afford much confidence in his shot however, and I’m not sure he can serve as a lob catcher in traffic (looks more like a putback guy). Superior Diamond Stone?
18.Alterique Gilbert (#28 ESPN) 6’1” 170 6’0.5” Wingspan
The smallest player on the court, Gilbert did some nice things in pressure defense and rejecting screens, the latter where he showcased the ability to get really low with the ball on the drive. I also thought he was a bit careless with the ball, displaying a loose handle at times and jumping to pass once. He flashed his above the rim athleticism on a transition finish, but it’s going to be difficult for him to find an NBA role unless he really refines his shooting and decision-making. The size and length combo isn’t endearing.
The Rest/Players I didn’t Get a Good Read On
TJ Leaf (#9 ESPN) 6’9” 220 6’11” Wingspan
I didn’t notice Leaf much outside of on the defensive glass and on the turnaround finish off the Ball pass in PNR. He got torched off the dribble by Simmons once and got ran through by Adebayo in the open court as noted above. Need to see a lot more.
Andrew Jones (#29 ESPN) 6’2” 195
Looks like an undersized wing? I got nothing.
VJ King (#26 ESPN) 6’7” 190 6’10” Wingspan
His size and mobility as a slasher was evident on one back cut on a post look from Bradley. Otherwise he didn’t really impact the game.
Zach Collins (#37 ESPN) 7’0” 220
Stretch 5: Gonzaga
Collins had me really intrigued early in the game with his catch and shoot 3 with great mechanics and instincts on a tip-in. Then later in the game he had another spot up shot where his release looked different: more of a push shot Not enough on one run-through to take anything significant away outside of him looking like a fluid athlete up against bigger bodies.
Dewan Huell (#23 ESPN) 6’9” 230 7’0.5” Wingspan
Versatile 4: Miami
Huell had the worst performance from any player IMO, going 1-8 and being yanked early in the 2nd half for Jackson for missing a rotation in PNR. He has good size and looked like a mobile bouncy athlete so it might just be the case of a bad game.
Kyle Guy 6’2” 170
Guy had a few blow bys on Fultz and Jones as well as a sweet no-look to Jackson in the corner for 3 in transition but outside of that he didn’t stand out.