Jackson arrived a day and a half late to practices and only logged 13 minutes in Saturday’s blowout, but the highpoints of Jackson’s game stood out even in a limited sample. The first time he saw the court in scrimmage coming in cold Thursday night against the makeshift local team, he executed a pick and roll lob play to Allen on the first possession, showing great timing and manipulation with the ball. On the second offensive play, he had a nice post bounce pass entry that resulted in another basket. Jackson just has an elite level combination of size, bouncy athleticism, defensive versatility and feel. To put it as simply as possible: he just plays the right way. He went incredibly hard as well in limited scrimmage minutes, displaying good acceleration and hustle in the passing lanes and was relentless attacking the offensive glass with good timing and an elite second jump. If you want to nitpick at Jackson’s game, he’s already 19, a year older than guys like Tatum, he doesn’t have plus length (6’9.75” wingspan) and his shot has a lower release point and a slight hitch. I don’t think any is a significant concern however. His athleticism overcompensates for the lack of elite length and he has displayed consistent mechanics and success both off the bounce and the catch shooting. I said earlier in the week Jackson is already everything we want Wiggins to eventually be, which is mostly centralized around his feel as a playmaker. He projects as an elite versatile two-way wing prospect at a position most highly coveted by the modern NBA game, and retains his spot at #1 on my board.
This ranking obviously warrants an asterisk as Giles didn’t partake in this past week’s events after a torn ACL. I’ve seen some of Giles (not in person) in the U17s in 2014 but don’t feel comfortable yet breaking his game down into specifics. He was present throughout the week supporting the team, however, and there were two main takeaways I gathered. The first is his frame, even after reportedly losing muscle weight post injury, stands out as superior to all the other bigs on the team. He has fantastic measurables (6’10.75”, 222 pounds, 7’3” wingspan and 9’1” standing reach) for a 4, but based on what I’ve seen I think he’ll be fine as a 5 in the league. Second, Giles carries himself in fantastic fashion. He had an effusive personality working with the kids at the Boy’s Shelter on Wednesday morning, and was consistently supporting his teammates throughout the week and pointing specifics out in games and drills. He just has an aura around that comes off as very impressive.
Tatum began the first few practices in disappointing fashion compared to the hype. He took a ton of fade-away midrange jumpers in scrimmage and drills, and was REALLY hunting his own shot. This was evident through probably the first quarter of the scrimmage against the local team Thursday night. Then, Tatum did an about face and started playing elite all-around basketball. He was making the extra pass and executed numerous well-timed drop-offs to bigs. More impressively, he really locked in on defense, and was an absolute terror with his combination of length and anticipation in the passing lanes (I counted at least 5 steals in the Thursday 3 quarter scrimmage). The best version of Tatum’s game is definitely a top 5 pick in the 2017 draft, even though he lacks top-shelf athleticism. I do think there are enough concerns, partly the athleticism, to nudge him behind Jackson and Giles. He really thrives in the intermediate midrange game with his combination of high release and smooth footwork, and doesn’t have consistent three-point range yet. Even in some three –point drills over the week he’d take a step in to shoot. I think he has enough athleticism to trail most wings, but he might profile better as a 4 with a developed frame that already looks very capable of adding legit muscle. Regardless, at 6’8.25”, 204 pounds and a 6’11”wingspan, Tatum looks like a elite level wing with 4 potential.
No one has impressed me more in the non “Big 3” tier over the sample of the McDonald’s game and week at Hoop Summit than Fultz. He checks all the boxes for a modern NBA lead guard, and I think he’s absolutely a lead guard. At 6’4.75” with a 6’9” wingspan, Fultz has great size and length for the lead guard spot in the League, and crazily doesn’t even turn 18 until the end of May. Fultz had the most shake and slipperiness with the ball of any player at the Hoop Summit, and in my recap of the McDonald’s game I noted his ability to change speeds in breaking down the defense really stood out. This may be a matter of preference, but I rate guards who can break defenses down off the bounce via shake/handle higher than pure one-speed turn the corner players. Fultz has that CJ McCollum slipperiness, and was basically impossible to keep out of the paint all week. He’s not an elite athlete in terms of explosiveness, but he’s very fluid and does have solid bounce. He profiles as an elite level pick and roll player, something he didn’t really get to showcase a ton this week with other lead guards commanding the rock, and has really good feel/court awareness as a passer (he’s fantastic at wrap-around drop-offs to bigs). Overall, there are still some understandable weaknesses in his game given his age and quick ascent to a legitimate prospect. His handle gets a bit loose at times and he can be a high-dribbler, he is prone to roaming on defense (perhaps overly so) and he didn’t shoot the ball that well in drills over the week both off the dribble and off the catch (though he did in games). He also seems like an interesting character off the court/in non-competitive on-court settings (not going to kill guys for having fun). That all being said, I’m buying on an unselfish lead guard who can score.
Allen didn’t get a ton of hype coming into the week, but man does this guy impact winning. At 6’10.5”, 227 pounds, a 7’5.5” wingspan and 9’2.5” standing reach, Allen checks all the physical tools boxes for an NBA Center. He’s super bouncy on the glass and shows tremendous instincts and mobility on the interior protecting the rim (5 blocks in the McDonald’s game and he blocked/changed/altered so many shots at the rim throughout the week). Allen also showed good foot-speed laterally defending on the perimeter in pick and roll and on switch outs throughout the week. I love his defensive upside, as he was easily the most impactful defender on Team USA. Offensively, Allen profiles as a PNR dive man and rim-runner with his fluid mobility and lob catching potential, but he showed more than just that projectable foundational skill-set. Allen has fantastic hands, as evidenced by the one-handed heater entry he caught in scrimmage Thursday night. He also had a few nice passes out of the post and hit a few jumpers (including a buzzer-beating 3 in the HS game), though the latter isn’t his game. He doesn’t have tremendous touch on non-dunk finishes, but his hands and body control profile well for his development there. Overall, Allen and Bolden are often compared as the two mainstay centers on the Hoop Summit team, and I don’t think it’s especially close thus far. Allen’s baseline is an elite defender/rim protector with a rim-running/PNR dive repertoire at the 5 spot. He really turned heads this week.
Isaac was a hot name throughout the week, especially after his 6’10.5” and 7’1.25” wingspan measurements broke, to the point where he drew the predictable Kevin Durant comps. Let’s just dismiss that from the off, please. Isaac was very impressive over the span of the week though, and really gained steam after the Wednesday afternoon practice where he hit 3 (to my count) trailer threes in the scrimmage. At that size with the ability to shoot off the catch paired with plus athleticism, Isaac has a very intriguing package of tools and skills. He really seemed to understand the importance of the 3pt element of his game as he was consistently working on that shot throughout the week after practices (showcasing likely). He’s not fluid with the ball outside of attacking closeouts in a straight line and doesn’t have advanced overall ball skills at this juncture. He played the 4 spot throughout the week and really thrived there, showing great quick leaping ability to high point rebounds and challenge shots inside on D. Isaac’s tools are very intriguing, and if the shooting is real and the creation skill-set follows he will move up this list.
After the McDonald’s game due to a lack of showcasing/opportunity I wanted to see what kind of athlete Ferguson was as a finisher (this might have been obvious to some), and it was apparent earlier in practices that he is an explosive one. Ferguson is not a true top-shelf unicorn type of wing athlete who will dunk n you in traffic, but he’s damn explosive in the open court or when he has space. The obvious main skill here is his catch and shoot three-point shooting. At 6’7” with a 6’9.5” wingspan and a very fluid and aesthetic quick release off the catch with NBA range, Ferguson has incredible potential as a shooter (see 7 threes made in the HS game). He moves very well off the ball finding cracks in zones and back-cutting when his defender overplays him. I don’t believe in a stark distinction between shooting guards and small forwards in terms of skill-set but Ferguson is I suppose your prototype shooting guard. He’s an elite three-point shooter, but that on it’s own without accompanying skill is not valuable enough to warrant elite level praise. What impressed me most with Ferguson is his defense. He’s outstanding getting over screens and moves well sliding laterally. He didn’t stand out from a steals perspective but he played great on ball defense and was solid from what I saw off-ball as a team defender. He looks to have a baseline skill-set of elite catch and shoot three-point shooter with plus D, or a 3&D ace. The concerns here are ball-skills and ability to shoot off the dribble. The World Team wasn’t able to shed light on these weaknesses in running Ferguson off the 3pt line, but he didn’t really do much throughout the week as a creator off the dribble. If he adds ball-skills off the bounce we’re talking about an elite level NBA prospect.
Fox was a spastic mess for the most part in the McDonald’s game, turning the ball over and showing poor shot selection. He really won back his stock at the Hoop Summit. At 6’3.5” with a 6’6.25” wingspan, Fox has excellent measurables for an NBA lead guard. He is fantastic defensively with elite quicks moving laterally and absolutely eviscerated the World Team lead guards with his ball pressure. He’s an elite on-ball defender who gets steals to boot. Offensively, Fox has more burst and bounce especially than gets credit for. His handle is tighter and more advanced than a guy like Fultz, as he showcased nice hesitation-crossover combos throughout the week to freeze defenders. He can also throw it down and play above the rim in space. The most concerning aspects of Fox’s game to me is his overall scoring and shooting combination. His shot selection off the bounce especially is poor at times, and while he does have a floater game (and he prefers that as a finishing avenue), it’s not overly reliable at this point. His jump shot looks more fluid than I thought in the McDonald’s game, but he’s a really inconsistent shooter. At this juncture NBA teams will likely just go under on Fox on every high PNR, and that reality keeps him below other elite prospects in the 2017 draft. Overall, I like Fox’s defense over a guy like Fultz at the lead guard spot at this juncture, but Fox’s limitations as a shooter/scorer keep him lower here.
Jackson ‘s three-point shooting both off the bounce in PNR and off the catch especially was evident all week as behind Ferguson and maybe Pritchard he was the most consistent shooter all week. He doesn’t pop in basically any other phase of the game however. At 6’3.75” with a 6’6.75” wingspan, Jackson looks like an undersized wing who really didn’t show lead guard instincts at all throughout the week. His combination of strong frame and shooting should allow him some defensive versatility and he has enough off the bounce in PNR to operate as a secondary handler at times, but I wasn’t overly taken by him this week. His athleticism got a ton of attention after winning the dunk contest at McDonald’s but that athleticism really doesn’t translate in plus fashion to an in-game setting. I’m intrigued to see more of Jackson, but I’m probably lower on him than most.
On measurables alone (6’11” 250 pounds, 7’6” wingspan, 9’4.5” standing reach) with solid athleticism/fluidity you can make a case for having Bolden higher. Admittedly, I have such a poor feel for his game right now. He really didn’t pop in any phase over the week outside of emphatically finishing some drop-offs. He looks to have decent touch but isn’t super mobile especially sliding laterally, and certainly to an extent looks out of shape. He didn’t have any blocks over McDonald’s and Hoop Summit combined, and didn’t show great instincts as a weak side shot blocker/rim protector over the span of the week. Almost want to define this section as inconclusive, but I wasn’t blown away with Bolden. Solid, but unspectacular.
Gabriel has an interesting baseline skill-set with his defensive versatility potential, high energy play and promising open catch and shoot 3 ability off the catch. At 6’9.25 with 7’1” wingspan, Gabriel has the size, feet and athleticism to defend multiple positions on switches etc, which seems to be his primary calling card. He’s essentially an energy guy at this point who attacks the glass with a great second jump and defends at a high level. Offensively, Gabriel is more much raw. He can make an open 3 off the catch when it’s wide open, but seems to falter over contests. He has absolutely nothing off the bounce as he can’t dribble or create, so at this juncture there is nothing promising to bank on in terms of a playmaking four with his apparent lack of feel as well. It’s been reported Coach Cal could play Gabriel on the wing at Kentucky, which has unmitigated disaster written all over it. He looks like an offensive four where his game is contingent on developing a consistent jumper and some semblance of ball-skills.
This may seem like a harsh ranking, but Langford didn’t pop at all at the Hoop Summit. At 6’4.75” and a 6’7.5” wingspan, he doesn’t have great size or length for a wing. In terms of ball-skills, he didn’t show basically anything, and while he shot well in drills at times, it didn’t carry over into scrimmages. Langford had a few nice defensive rotations and weak side blocks for a wing, showcasing some athleticism, but there’s not a whole lot there at this juncture. He may have just been overshadowed in taking a reduced role, but he might have been the only player on the US Team who didn’t have a good showing across the week.
Pritchard projects as a fantastic college player. He can shoot the hell out of the ball both off the catch and off the dribble, the latter evidenced by his dribble between the legs step-back jumper freezing the defender in the HS Game. He also has a stocky frame and showed tremendous toughness with good feet sliding defensively throughout the week. That all being said, at 6’2” with a 6’4” wingspan and not being an elite athlete, there are NBA limitations here (though these measurements were better than expected). I just wonder how Pritchard will finish in the paint over length at the next level. But this kid is a hell of a basketball player and tough as nails. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him taken in the second round after a fantastic college career whenever he declares.