*This tier is mostly comprised of players I see having a role on a championship caliber team with the small % star outcome players beginning the tier and the player I’m least certain will have a role on a winning team ranked last:
NBA Position Range: Two-Way Secondary Handling Wing (Category 2)–> Two-Way Primary Handing Wing (Category 1)
Physical Tools: *Unofficially 6’7” 205 pounds with a 6’11” wingspan
I recently wrote a scouting report with over 50 GIFs on Luwawu mostly to justify this big board rank but also to provide video clips for anyone who hasn’t seen Luwawu this season. That can be found HERE.
Yellow Flags: The obvious yellow flag is that I’m evaluating an international player in a different level of competition in the Adriatic League solely based on youtube game film. I saw clips of Isaiah Cordinier for instance online and was rather high on him prior to seeing him at Hoop Summit practices for a week in person, when I became far less bullish. I’ve seen 5 or 6 full games of Luwawu so I feel much more confident about this evaluation without seeing him in person. Still, there have been reports of Luwawu not impressing scouts overseas. ESPN has him ranked outside the top 30 (I think this is bat shit crazy), and DX is in the teens. Those guys have intel on recent workouts etc that I obviously do not. This is basically a giant disclaimer that us draft nerds do the best that we can with what we have. Moving on (Luwawu is absolutely perfect without a trace of a red flag and that’s all I’ll hear of it).
Translation/How He’ll Win in the NBA: At his absolute floor, Luwawu has KCP like speed, agility with superior size and length to defend at the NBA level. He’s a plus athlete who has shown excellent ability to guard on the ball, and projects as primarily a “1/2 defender” who can harass opposing lead guards and switch competently against most players 1-3. Offensively, at bare minimum he can handle some in large spaces, run a basic pick and roll and pass competently. That’s an incredibly enticing baseline. The shooting is a bit less certain, but I’m bullish on his clean mechanics and believe a lot of his poor FG% last season is reflected in adjusting to superior competition in the Adriatic League and poor shot selection (especially off the dribble). With a more refined role I think Luwawu is a competent 3&D player with ball-skills who can defend on ball. His off ball defense needs brushing up, but very few wings (stares at Justise Winslow) walk into the league and immediately have the intelligence to play smart wing defense. By the way, even if Luwawu can’t shoot at an above average level, he can still be an effective NBA player. KCP can’t shoot at all and couldn’t dribble or pass really until this year (now 23). He’s still an effective starter. There is a less than a 5% chance Luwawu hits his ceiling outcome and becomes some variation of a poor man’s Paul George (this is a difficult comp), which would require considerable handling improve on top of the right team situation. But Luwawu probably makes up the last of the star upside in this class with a very alluring floor.
Best Team Fit: Milwaukee Bucks (Can you imagine this guy guarding opposing lead guards in an all wing lineup with Giannis at point center?)
Outcome Range/Player Comparisons:
Floor Outcome: Taller Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with More Advanced Ball-Skills
Ceiling Outcome: REALLY Poor Man’s Paul George (very small hit %)
Ranking Justification: Every team in the league needs wings who can play both sides of the court, run a pick and roll and shoot some. There is a shortage for that position and skill-set right now, rendering a wing of Luwawu’s make in high demand. I would never rank a player this high just based on positional demand in a vacuum, but it’s definitely something to consider when the talent is similar. Luwawu’s wing archetype right now is just more valuable than anyone left on the board. He slightly edges out an underrated Davis for me.
NBA Position Range: Defensive 5 (Category 5) -> Unicorn Two-Way Stretch 5 (Category 2: low hit %)
Positional Size/Athleticism: Above average physical tools with plus length to compensate for being an inch or so undersized for a 5. 6’10.5” with an advanced 237 pound frame for a 19 year-old and a long arms which are evident extending for rebounds (7’2.5” wingspan, 9’0.5” standing reach). Tremendously coordinated and a fluid mover for his size, displaying the ability to change ends as a rim runner with ease. Vertically explosive, possessing bouncy athleticism with a plus second jump and the lift around the basket as a finisher/defensively protecting the rim. Rangy and agile defender when he sits down with plus lateral agility and the ability to hedge and recover. Can guard the perimeter with fluid hips and move both forwards and backwards. Big, soft, suction-cup hands.
Shooting: Flashes mid-range catch and shoot prowess. High, smooth release with sound mechanics and follow-through. Very low volume to analyze. Overly-optimistic to project consistent 3pt range but mechanically it’s in the realm of possible outcomes.
Creation/Offense: Elite combination of fluid mobility changing ends, coordination, speed and soft hands as a rim runner in transition. Outstanding catch radius and timing as a lob catcher with his quick jumping ability and vertical explosion. Rare combination of dual PNR dive and pop potential with a high floor for the former. Soft touch with fantastic length extension around the hoop on his go-to right hand over left shoulder jump hook, but can also finish a turnaround right hand push shot over his right shoulder. Doesn’t possess advanced footwork, counters or a left hand in the post, and projects more as a duck-in guy. Can finish around the rim on non-dunk opportunities on the move with soft right hand touch. Not an adept passer at this stage in the post out of doubles. Needs more space awareness when he puts the ball on the floor. Projects more as a finisher than a 1-2 dribble decision-maker/passer in 4 on 3 situations. Very good instincts on the offensive glass with the ability to move bodies, quickly locate the ball and finish putbacks above the rim, making it difficult to switch smalls onto him.
Defense/Rebounding: Promising frame for his age with growth potential to anchor in the post on defense and on the glass. Usually active denying post entries, but sometimes allows easy catches. Quick twitch reaction time and athleticism as a rim protector with the lift and bounciness to challenge shots in quick succession. High ceiling as a shot-blocker. Defensive positioning on the interior is usually solid, though his timing on weak side rotations to contest is not advanced. Has the frame to absorb contact with verticality and not get run through. Has the fluidity in his hips and stop-start athleticism when he sits down to guard the perimeter and switch onto smalls. Displays excellent control to close out on the perimeter on balance and contest with length. Not a technically sound defender yet much the same way that Willie Cauley-Stein isn’t. Overextends at times on the perimeter, uses arm bars and swipes at balls instead of moving his feet at times, all of which usually result in fouls. These are fixable issues over time. Has the athleticism to defend most fours, but definitely projects better as a pure 5.
Intelligence/Intangibles: Appears to be a hard-worker and earned the trust of Izzo at a young age with his work ethic. Had a quick leash for mistakes, but played through the raw technique.
Yellow Flags: Overall feel isn’t elite, and it’s probably fair to tip the scales more in favor of pure athlete than basketball IQ.
Per 40 Minutes Pace Adjusted
Translation/How He’ll Win in the NBA: Davis feels like what most people thought Skal would/could eventually still be, save for actually being good at basketball. He is a potential dual PNR threat with the ability to dive quickly to the rim and finish lobs with a great catch radius and soft hands. His shooting mechanics are also sound enough to project a workable midrange game as a threat to pop. The volume isn’t there to really project surefire shooting success, thus it is more of an eye test thing coupled with his soft touch around the rim. Due to his strength, instincts, motor and reach/hands, Davis is a legitimate threat on the offensive glass, rendering him capable of making defenses pay for switching smaller players onto him (this is rather crucial so defenses don’t just switch the PNR and Davis can’t exploit smaller players). He’ll pose a threat as an offensive player at all times with his lob-catch finishing ability whether as a spread PNR diver or in the dunker position, and has enough touch to duck-in on players to use his jump hook. Defensively, Davis has rare ability to guard both the interior with plus lift and the perimeter with fluid mobility and athleticism. A big who can cover 4 analytic-based criteria of lob catching on offense, defending in space in PNR, protecting the rim and cleaning up on the glass has immense value in the league, even if the center position is a bit saturated. Davis also adds potential floor-spacing ability, and thus brings the ability to hit on every aspect of what you want from a big man in the modern NBA.
Best Team Fit: Boston Celtics (Stevens likes his bigs to defend more aggressively in the PNR, which Davis can do, and from a fit perspective the Celtics have no real rim protection at center or dynamic lob catching threat on offense)
Outcome Range/Player Comparisons:
Floor Outcome: Ed Davis w/ Better Physical Tools & the Ability to Anchor
Ceiling Outcome: Tristan Thompson w/ a Jump Shot and Touch
Ranking Justification: Davis’ floor outcome is a two-way big who can protect the rim, guard in space/switch and catch lob passes diving in PNR, which is insanely valuable in the modern NBA (he still needs technique refinement, mainly not fouling). His ceiling outcome largely revolves around his shooting acumen, which is difficult to analyze based on the small sample. If he can shoot mid-range shots competently, which is the upside I’m banking on, he’s an elite role-playing big man on a title-contending team. If he can somehow shoot 3s, which is probably too optimistic, he becomes a unicorn big in the Ibaka mold (who can actually rebound) and a fringe all-star. A reasonable expectation is competent midrange shooting, which puts him ahead of Onuaku’s passing acumen but scoring deficient profile, Baldwin’s primary handling concerns and Valentine’s defensive questions. We see what a big with an extremely limited offensive skill-set like Thompson can do switching out on the perimeter and attacking the offensive glass in the Finals. Imagine Thompson with legitimate touch and shooting prowess.
NBA Position Range: Quasi Lead Guard: 3&D with Enough Playmaking to Initiate (Category 7) -> Two-Way Skilled + Shooting Threat (Category 4)
Positional Size/Athleticism: Incredibly toolsy with elite size (6’4” with a chiseled upper body at 202 pounds) and outlier length (6’11.5” wingspan) for an NBA lead guard. Plus open court speed and above the rim vertical explosion in the open court when building up momentum with a head of steam. Above average first step with enough burst to get into the lane turning the corner, but not overly explosive in the half-court in start and stop situations. Not a stiff but does not possess plus side to side hip flexibility and doesn’t change direction well in that capacity with wiggle. Fast in a straight line with the ball. Plus lateral quickness when he sits down in an athletic stance.
Shooting: Effortless release that is compact and consistent, but with a lower release point. Usually reverts to the “1-2” off the catch but is an excellent 3pt shooter in that capacity over high volume (1.394 PPP off the catch as a Freshman, 1.246 PPP as a Sophomore). Flashes off the dribble shooting ability but is not nearly as adept there (.875 PPP as a Freshman, .829 PPP as a Sophomore). Should benefit on dribble-jumpers in PNR in the NBA with enhanced spacing to get his lower-release shot off. Flashed the ability to quickly shoot coming off screens as a Sophomore (1.571 PPP in this regard, but on a limited 2.8% frequency).
Creation/Offense: Not a pure lead guard from a current handle perspective. Doesn’t have advanced dribble moves, but flashes between the legs step-back jumpers and hesitation cross-overs. Doesn’t look comfortable handling the ball against pressure and is currently a 1 move guy without the ability to go to 2nd or 3rd counters. Not shifty or slippery with the ball moving side to side without much wiggle. Changes speeds in a straight line adequately, but without a lot of shake. Doesn’t create a lot of separation off the bounce as a result, and mostly relies on dislodging a defender’s body with his upper body strength to create room. Got to the rim a lot in college but mostly in the open court or on straight line drives. Not an explosive above the rim finisher in the half-court, instead reverting to excellent length extension finishes utilizing his strong frame to absorb contact. Plus body control as a finisher and consistently flashes ambidextrous potential with left hand scoop finishes. Smart passer who can run a pick and roll and know where his teammates are and makes the extra pass. Not a prober who creates passing angles, but can function as a primary initiator and make all the reads/passes in PNR. Very adept at drawing fouls. Has considerable experience playing off-ball on offense.
Defense/Rebounding: Plus foot speed defending on the perimeter with incredible length to disturb dribbling and passing on the ball. Shows good footwork getting over screens in pick and roll when engaged in an athletic stance, with the speed to chase around and recover to challenge shots with this outstanding length. Too upright at the point of attack most of the time, and can show better consistent effort. Aggressive nature as a help defender, with excellent anticipation and length to harass passing lanes. Shows great dig-down recognition and has the length and fast hands to swipe at balls with the speed and length to recover to challenge on the perimeter. Good instincts recognizing and reacting to backdoor cuts. Projects to be a plus team defender who can really close out with his combination of speed and length, even though he needs work keeping his stop-start balance. Best defensive attribute is ability to switch 1-3 in most situations. Even showed excellent ability to switch onto bigs and box out/deny. Can get a bit overaggressive at times roaming too far off of shooters. Biggest weakness is over reliance on length and at times doesn’t finish plays with his feet despite being in position, instead reaching.
Intelligence/Intangibles: Appears to be an intelligent player with an intelligent pedigree. Did compare himself to Westbrook (don’t do this).
Yellow Flags: I question long-term side to side hip flexibility capping his slashing potential. A lot of his development curve is tied to handling improvement, which can obviously (in theory) be improved
Stats Profile (With Player Archetype Grouping):
Per 40 Minutes Pace Adjusted
*Data includes putbacks
Translation/How He’ll Win in the NBA: Baldwin has a floor outcome of being able to space the floor on offense with 3s off the catch with respectable ball skills and competent pick and roll play combined with plus perimeter defense at the point of attack, which again is an enticing package. The George Hill player archetype is not one you probably want as one of your high usage creators, but it’s a high value archetype still due to defense and spacing. I don’t see how Baldwin doesn’t shoot it at least respectably off the catch from 3 in the pros (199 career 3PTAs, 42.2%). His role is easy to forecast as a quasi lead guard who has enough handle to initiate the offense (he’s not Avery Bradley limited here) but largely plays within a system construct. He doesn’t need to the ball to be effective, which is what you want from lead guards if they aren’t elite off the dribble shooters, ET athletes or have generational vision. As a reiteration, Baldwin’s ceiling outcome is tied to his handle improvement. If he develops that ability, he vaults from a Hill offensive baseline (probably your 4th best offensive player on a title team) to a peak Holiday variation (3rd best or so). Regardless, Baldwin’s skill-set is very conducive to winning in the league.
Best Team Fit: Milwaukee Bucks or Utah Jazz (Baldwin is ideally paired with high usage wings where he can still initiate offense but play a large portion off ball spotting up or coming off screens, while conserving energy for elite defensive play guarding lead guards).
Outcome Range/Player Comparisons:
Floor Outcome: Some Variation on the George Hill Scale
Ceiling Outcome: Better Shooting Jrue Holiday if His Handle Improves
Ranking Justification: Most might see ranking Baldwin over the shiftier, more athletic Dunn as ludicrous, but I’d bet heavily on Baldwin’s player archetype being a high level starter on a championship team over a player like Dunn. Baldwin probably wont be able to handle the usage and role Dunn will assuredly have in the league, but Baldwin’s combination of shooting and defense is more alluring to me than Dunn’s athleticism/creation advantage paired with spotty shooting and decision-making when you factor in impactful role. At this point in the draft every player is fit dependent with no real star upside left (in my opinion). Baldwin slightly edges out Valentine with enhanced physical tools and athleticism as he’s a better bet to defend at the NBA level, while also providing floor spacing.
NBA Position: Wing Secondary Handler (category 4) -> Wing Secondary Two-Way Handler (Category 2)
Positional Size/Athleticism: Underrated physical tools with good size at 6’5.75”, a workable frame with some strength upside at 210 pounds (9.2% body fat) and plus length (6’10.75” wingspan). Below average vertical athlete without explosive leaping ability off of 1 or 2 feet. Not a quick twitch athlete, sudden accelerator or quick start/stop athlete. Average/below average first step with minus burst, though he does have the speed and mobility to track around screens. Average sliding laterally in an athletic stance. Really struggles quickly changing directions north and south at high speeds on closeouts. Plays smaller than his frame suggests, consistently getting put on his ass getting run through in back-peddling situations trying to contain dribble penetration getting dislodged. Could use added upper body strength to absorb contact.
Shooting: Elite shooter both off the catch (1.366 PPP as a Senior) and off the bounce (1.096 PPP as a Senior). Quick, fluid release with consistent mechanics and a high release point. Can quickly set his feet and square up to the basket on the move, making him a difficult cover with his quick trigger. Also has step-to-the-side three-point shooting ability. Excellent range on his shot both off the dribble and the catch. Adept at shooting off screens (1.156 PPP as a Senior at 13.5% possession frequency).
Creation/Offense: Outlier generational court awareness in always knowing where everyone is on the court. Incredible passer who can make every read on the move. Tight handle with a nice hesitation dribble and good instincts to use his body to shield defenders from the ball, but doesn’t have the athleticism or burst to be a lead guard in the NBA. Doesn’t get a ton of separation due to athleticism deficiencies, and probably needs a screen to operate at the next level with the ball. Rarely gets all the way to the rim, but has a plethora of crafty floaters and flip shots. Does not project a plus finisher at the rim with his lack of vertical athleticism which significantly impacts his slashing upside. Adept at changing speeds with start and stop ability to get to his spots, but can use refinement there.
Defense/Rebounding: Has average lateral agility when he sits down in an athletic stance on the ball (surprisingly this isn’t his #1 problem). Shows good technique getting his foot around screens in pick and roll defense despite getting caught on screens at times. Has the speed to lock in and trail wings off the ball running off screens, which is probably his best defensive trait. Demonstrates some positives as a team defender based on his high IQ such as stunting at non-shooters and digging down on bigs. Does give up deep seal opportunities but has the quick hands to swipe at the ball. Projects as a poor closeout defender currently with his aforementioned deficiencies changing direction north/south. Also gets dislodged way too easily containing dribble penetration. Could really benefit from enhanced upper body strength and strength balance training. Very adept at crashing down on the glass from the perimeter and adds elite-level defensive rebounding for a wing.
Intelligence/Intangibles: The smartest pure basketball player in the draft (along with Simmons) with leadership and character to boot, just not the matching athleticism.
Yellow Flags: The athletic limitations are well documented, and again worth mentioning, but if Valentine can add some core strength and get better on closeouts he might rate out as an above average defender based largely on intellect.
Stats Profile (With Player Archetype Grouping):
*A note on player comps here: Valentine isn’t even in the same realm of athlete as Iggy or Green, so a straight comp here is impractical. My intent is more so to pick out similar elements of their games (Iggy’s decision-making for a wing and Green’s build/profile w/ the catch and shoot prowess).
Per 40 Minutes Pace Adjusted
*Data Again Includes Putbacks
Translation/How He’ll Win in the NBA: Valentine’s team fit in the league is far more crucial than most. He has a relatively clear path to success offensively as an off-ball wing in a motion type offense who can shoot and pass and then kick over to the lead guard spot to maximize his passing skill-set against inferior skill/athleticism on second units. You don’t want Valentine as the primary offensive wing who the best (and likely most athletic) player on the opposing team checks, nor do you want Valentine being the primary wing defender on another team’s best (and likely most athletic) wing scorer. If fit next to a dominant wing like Jimmy Butler, Valentine can kill in a secondary role as a shooter on the move and facilitating in secondary pick and roll situations when the defense is already in rotation.
Best Team Fit: Chicago Bulls or Indiana Pacers (essentially next to any category 1 primary handler two-way wing where the aforementioned situation can exist).
Outcome Range/Player Comparisons:
Floor Outcome: Shorter, Less Athletic but Better Shooting Evan Turner
Ceiling Outcome: The Better Shooting/Non Athletic Version of Andre Iguodala (basically getting at on-court decision-making)
Ranking Justification: I’m more bullish on Valentine than most. People often talk about replicating the Warriors template for success. Elements such as Steph and Klay’s shooting aren’t replicable, and rarely do Bender types come around in the Draymond ceiling archetype. You want to know what is replicable? Flooding the court with really smart skilled decision-makers, and no one exemplifies that more in this draft than Valentine. He has a similar offensive shooting profile to Hield and Murray (there are notable differences of course) for an off-ball wing archetype, but he adds an otherworldly passing and decision-making baseline to the table that can’t go overlooked. It is quite possible that Valentine is never more than a slightly below average NBA defender, and at some point that lack of athleticism defensively will likely have a negative impact when the best teams target him on switches. But few teams have two elite scoring wings (Miami with Bron and Wade is a rarity), and hiding a wing on defense is much easier than any other position, especially if that wing is a smart team defender. Valentine is probably a 1 position defender who hides on smaller players without ball skills or 3&D wings who can’t post, but he can still hold immense value at his floor. If he hits his ceiling outcome and improves his strength/quickness, his player archetype is a title level role player. He’s that damn skilled and smart, channeling elite lead guard decision making at an off-ball wing spot, which is a rarity. If utilized in a motion offense that maximizes his passing and has him play lead guard in the second unit, he’ll return top 10 value in this class, potentially top 5.
NBA Position Range: Defensive 5 (Category 5) -> Playmaking 5 (Category 1)
Positional Size/Athleticism: An inch or two undersized for an NBA center at 6’10” with compact, strong build at 245 pounds and above average length for the position (7’2.5” wingspan, 9’1.5” standing reach). Huge frame plus for a 19 year-old with excellent girth and core strength to anchor on the glass and in the post. Very fluid mover and coordinated mobility for his size with the ability to change ends at high speeds. Incredibly light on his feet at all times which aids change of direction and ability to stop/start covering a lot of ground. Can slide laterally with plus agility when he sits down. Average lift as a jumper and isn’t an explosive vertical athlete. Good motor on the glass.
Shooting: Rough shooting profile with negative free throw sample and resulting form change to underhand attempts. Flashed a mid range game as a Sophomore, but is that reliable given shooting form? No real tangible evidence to suggest any consistent jumper with range with lack of touch and wavering releases.
Creation/Offense: Can really move bodies in the paint to position for offensive rebounds and on duck-ins near the rim, projecting as capable of killing switches on the offensive glass. Not a post up threat outside of duck-ins due to raw footwork and minus touch around the rim on his jump hook. Excellent frame and mobility to serve as a PNR dive threat as a screener, but doesn’t have the lift, catch radius or plus hands to be a sizable lob catch finisher in traffic. Displays rare fluidity to catch on the move, put the ball on the floor one or two times and make a decision. Has average hands, but isn’t Asik or Festus level bad. Very advanced passing instincts for a 19 year-old, flashing good high-low understanding, the ability to pass out of the post and especially on the move. With more refinement could make passes/plays on 4 on 3s and also facilitate from the high post on DHOs and swing passes. Not a reliable scoring threat outside of both the restricted area and transition as a rim runnner currently. Showed promise as a mid range shooter his Sophomore season (59/114 on 2pt Jump Shots: 52%, though the precise range can’t be ascertained by Hoop-Math), but it’s hard to fully buy the stroke when factoring in free throw shooting.
Defense/Rebounding: High floor defensive prospect with advanced intelligence, excellent communication skills and physical toughness. Has the frame and strength to anchor in the post on defense and on the glass. Difficult to move down low, and is very adept at locating bodies to box out. Excellent timing and understanding as a rim protector rotating over from the weak side, and uses that timing to compensate for the lack of elite lift. Active hands defending the perimeter and has excellent range to cover ground with his fluid mobility. Light-of-footness really helps him react quickly in space especially, where he possesses plus lateral agility in an athletic stance to cut off driving lanes. Not an overly technically sound defender at this point. Inconsistent technique reaching in too much and gambling for steals which results in fouls. Can be an even better defender if he plays within himself. Played a lot of zone in college so the PNR defense is difficult to assess, but has the physical tools and natural communication to thrive there.
Intelligence/Intangibles: Freshman to Sophomore improvement for a player who is still younger than some Freshman shows fantastic work ethic. The willingness to try underhanded free-throws despite the image ramifications shows commitment to the team construct. Flashed on tape as the best interior defensive communicator in the class visibly pointing out and recognizing actions.
Yellow Flags: The lack of elite size/burst/scoring avenue combination is a bit concerning for ceiling potential, and I can see the argument for warranting a red flag.
*Potential Red Flag Update: Heart Condition (Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome), which required minor heart surgery. I’m obviously not a doctor, but it’s worth mentioning. Will adjust/update accordingly with more information.
Per 40 Minutes Pace Adjusted
Defensive Box Score Plus Minus (Since Inception of Stat)
Translation/How He’ll Win in the NBA: The fact that Onuaku has no current visible path to scoring outside of duck-ins and offensive rebounds in the NBA should be a concern, and if he didn’t show his passing acumen, I’d be much less bullish on his ceiling outcome. But I’m buying the passing stock. 19 year-old centers just don’t typically make the reads and passes on the move that he has displayed. It still renders his team fit especially important. Onuaku’s passing and screen-setting ability has to be fully utilized, meaning getting the ball at the high post and having perimeter shooters to come off DHOs so bigs actually have to come out and guard Onuaku instead of sagging in the paint and screwing up spacing. If Onuaku is drafted into a system that has the perimeter shooting and spacing to utilize his passing ability, he can be an impactful enough offensive player via that and crashing the offensive glass to salvage value on that end. Of course, hitting his ceiling outcome of developing a workable midrange jumper would help his transition immensely. There are promising indicators, but again it’s hard to have confidence in his current stroke with the foul shooting. I’m defnitely buying the defense, despite a lack of elite lift to contest. He profiles as a very high floor post and team defender with outstanding instincts/understanding with some technical, correctable refinement, and in my eyes is the best defensive big in the draft. The eye test is fortified by the stats, especially DBPM, where he ranks among a very promising group projection wise. I feel much better about Onuaku merging the stats with scouting.
Best Team Fit: Anywhere with perimeter shooting situation described above (LA at #32 stands out, mostly because Walton has already had experience making Bogut salvageable on offense as a screener and the Lakers do have the perimeter personnel + positional need to capitalize on Onuaku’s skill-set).
Outcome Range/Player Comparisons:
Floor Outcome: More Mobile Shorter Current Version of Andrew Bogut
Ceiling Outcome: Adding a Dieng like Mid-Range Game to That Floor
Ranking Justification: I can’t decide if people are overrating or underrating the importance or scoring for centers. All offense types like Vucevic and Okafor used to warrant more positive attention than I afforded them. Conversely, I don’t think most realize how ineffective of an offensive player someone like Bogut would be if teams weren’t worrying about Steph or Klay walking into an open 3 and bigs didn’t have to get out on Bogut as a result (Bogut still gets played off the floor at times by some teams because he can’t score). The reality, as per usual, likely rests somewhere in the middle. Onuaku’s elite defensive profile as both an interior and perimeter defender puts him in elite company and passes the eye test in the bigs need to defend in space age. But without his passing acumen he probably takes a sizable dive for me. I have him ahead of Dunn notably because I can see his role player potential on a title team. He will likely get played off the floor in some matchups, but his defensive mobility and ability to crash the offensive glass will make that harder to do so then with other less mobile centers. I think he can hold his value here even if he doesn’t develop a workable jump shot, but obviously that would be enormous for his ceiling outcome.
NBA Position Range: Defensive Tools + Non-Shooters & Non-Elite Athlete Lead Guard/Go Under Screens (Category 5) -> Two-Way Skilled + Shooting Threat Lead Guard (Category 4)
Positional Size/Athleticism: ELITE physical tools with plus height (6’4.25”), an athletic frame (unknown weight but around 205) and plus length (6’9.5” wingspan). Not an ET athlete, but damn close to top shelf. Incredible speed in the open court and a quick twitch start/stop athlete who covers ground quickly. Fantastic hip flexibility and agility moving side to side with the ball. Advanced first step explosion and burst to turn the corner to get into the lane. Plus vertical explosion and lift in the open court especially off 1 or 2 feet. Can really move laterally when he sits down defensively on the perimeter. Has the advanced frame to absorb contact moving backward.
Shooting: Not especially adept off the bounce (.851 PPP in 15/16) or off the catch (1.053 PPP in 15/16). Shot selection and inconsistent mechanics are question marks. Tends to lean back on shots, turn slightly sideways at times and often doesn’t follow through despite a high release point. He gets good lift on his shot but there are a lot of moving parts and aesthetically it does not look fluid. The result is a lot of brutal way off center misses. Even some of Dunn’s made 3s are unintended bank shots. Consistent sub 68% FT% over each season does not project well for shot improvement as his age.
Creation: Has highest floor for shot creation due to athleticism and natural wiggle to create space of any lead guard in the class. Very adept at changing speeds and direction with the ball coming off of high ball screens to navigate his way into the lane. Shifty handler with hesitation cross-over moves and immediate start/stop acceleration and side to side agility despite having a loose handle. Adept transition passer when the reads are easier and his head is up. Doesn’t have great feel or natural vision in the halfcourt, often overshadowed by splash passes. Often doesn’t make the simple reads in PNR, though is capable of making all of the passes (pocket passes, skips etc). Can post up smaller guards with his frame, adding additional value. Not an effective finisher in the halfcourt, lacking touch around the rim on non-dunk attempts.
Defense/Rebounding: Elite defensive package and best perimeter defender in the class. Insane quickness at point of attack on ball with the ability to navigate screens and apply pressure to opposing lead guards without fouling. Active, fast hands stripping at the ball. Elite combination of speed and instincts/anticipation defending off ball in the passing lanes. Creates impact steals, which makes up for some gambling. Really shoots the gap through small spaces with speed and acceleration to create steals and deny. Sometimes overextends on close outs but still has the COD to recover. Projects to be a plus off-ball defender with anticipation and closeout speed/length. Excellent scheme versatility to switch in PNR/floppy sets and defend most players 1-3 with frame and length. High points rebounds with good vertical athleticism.
Intelligence/Intangibles: Demonstrative on-court personality can be a blessing (head in game) and a curse (looks like he can get in his own head with frustration, but I hate saying stuff like that based solely on perception).
Red Flags: Dunn has two significant red flags: shooting potential and decision-making, as will be exemplified in the following section.
Per 40 Minutes Pace Adjustment
Translation/How He’ll Win in the NBA: Dunn is an elite defensive prospect (Posting All-Time Steal % numbers), and any analysis of his future in the NBA has to start there. He’s a high-end to elite starting defensive lead guard, probably the best in some time. The question marks rest on the opposite side of the ball at a position where plus offense and even marginally good defense outweighs plus defense and marginally good offense. I question whether Dunn has the vision and intelligence to be a full-time lead guard with high usage to create efficiently for himself and others. He has the decision-making metrics of a scoring/shooting lead guard (not a pure lead guard), but doesn’t have the shooting base to back it up. If there were more favorable shooting indicators to alleviate the shooting concerns I would be more bullish, but it’s hard to see Dunn remedying spotty decision-making AND shooting. If he doesn’t remedy either, he’s Michael Carter-Williams/Elfrid Payton esque as his floor with a bit more wiggle, and while that can be an average starter in some systems (not many), it’s incredibly hard to build around and win with. Teams will undoubtedly go under screens and force Dunn to shoot threes. Just that act alone reduces Dunn’s value significantly because it reduces the options available to an offense at the point of attack. If he shoots it (I’d wager this has a better chance of improving than the decision-making/vision), his ceiling outcome rises to like a Reggie Jackson (but even Jackson showed improvement in his Junior year as a shooter) who defends in elite fashion level.
Best Team Fit: Sacramento? (Hypothetically Dunn would be better off having the decision-making duties shared among another primary creator to ease his transition, but that fit requires a very specific kind of player who can also space the floor. Dunn might be better suited just being put into a high usage role to see if he can work the kinks out. There are strong arguments for both).
Outcome Range/Player Comparisons:
Floor Outcome: A More Shifty Michael Carter-Williams/Elfrid Payton Variation
Ceiling Outcome: Reggie Jackson Who Defends
Ranking Justification: If it hasn’t been evident already, I’m not big on lead guard archetypes who likely can’t shoot, aren’t ET athletes and who aren’t good decision-makers. Dunn quietly throws in the fact he’s already 22 and doesn’t finish that well in the half-court to boot (his finishing will likely improve with enhanced spacing as Providence was a bit cramped there but it’s just another question mark to ponder). Dunn might be better suited playing with another lead guard type who can handle some playmaking responsibility and reduce the decision-making burden, but that brings into question spacing issues because Dunn isn’t an off-ball shooting threat. It’s a tenuous fit regardless. His defensive floor in this class keeps him in the top 10 for me, but his ceiling offensive outcome of a Reggie Jackson (maybe an average to slightly above league average lead guard) keeps him lower than most will have him.