One Last Disclaimer: This isn’t as in-depth outside of some of the rationale with Fox. The Ntilikina organization is also a formatted differently. Enjoy!
8. FRANK NTILIKINA
NBA Position Range: Category 6 Wing 3&D Perimeter/Point of Attack->Category 7 Wing Two-Way Secondary Handler -> Category 7 Lead Guard 3&D Plus
Age (At Time of Draft): 18
Positional Size/Tools: Versatile size at 6’5″ with an insane 7’1″ wingspan. Underdeveloped frame at 170 pounds but looks to have some athletic upside via strength acquisition and potential to add explosion.
On-Ball Defense: Does a solid job staying attached right on the handlers hip. Not super quick twitch or fast on recoveries, but length is fantastic asset at the point of attack. Good stance with active feet. Can really sink in stance and slide with above average quickness, despite lacking plus foot-speed. High effort level applying ball pressure and rerouting handlers. A little jumpy trying to shade to one side in pick-and-roll, and gets caught out of position at times as on screens. Great length to mirror passing lanes. Takes too wide of angles at the point of attack at times. Good footwork for the most part getting around screens, and should be able to fill out enough to be an asset forcing players away from screens in ICE coverage. Gets blown by in space especially when strung out and forced to cover more ground outside the radius of his arms.
Off-Ball Offense: Aggressive defender helping one pass away and digs down one pass away, giving up 3s. Definitely a gambler trying to shoot gaps and jumping passes. Helps off strong side corner too often. A ton of off-ball freelancing. High effort and range on closeouts. Tries to communicate on the court which is good to see, and already puts advanced things such as stunting and recovering on film. Good awareness tagging the roll man. Flies around. Head turned away from the ball a lot ball-watching. With how aggressive he is it’s a bit disconcerting that he couldn’t generate events better with his tools. Lack of anticipation?
Offense: Profiles better as an off-ball secondary handler type than a lead guard in a non-triangle type role. Lacks dynamic burst or separation ability with an average first step and underwhelming top end speed. Over-reliant on winning with his handle, which is problematic because with his size and length it’s hard for him to dip low with the ball in confined spaces, instead possessing a higher dribble. Struggles with ball pressure with that that higher dribble at times, and he lacks the kick off a live dribble
Arsenal of dribble moves with hang-dribbles, crossovers and hesitations is relatively tight and proficient for a secondary type. Can make all the basic reads in pick-and-roll, especially pocket passes and flashes skip ability, and shows good poise operating in pick-and-roll. Uses screens pretty well for his age, and can reject etc. When tasked with starting point guard duties he struggled with on-target passes and decision-making against teams like Mega Leks. Very raw slashing instincts on-ball attacking the basket. Has the length extension to improve in time but right now his lack of vertical pop and craft at the rim is noticeably poor.
Biggest appeal with offense is his shooting, which looks translatable. He’s comfortable off the catch from extended 3 in international play. Shows great footwork getting into his pull-up off the 1-2 and catching on the hop. Not the quickest release but relatively fluid without a lot of bad misses. Shot the hell out of the ball at the FIBA event in December (15-22 off the dribble), and even though that was likely an outlier he can make NBA 3s off the dribble, forcing teams to likely chase over the top in those situations.
Translation/How He’ll Win in the NBA: With Frank it’s all about contextualizing role at the next level. If he’s viewed through the lens of a spread pick-and-roll lead guard who has to probe and slash into the lane or serve as a 3-level scorer, he has far less allure due to his athletic limitations. If utilized as a secondary handler type who can run a secondary pick-and-roll against a bent defense, space the floor and make the extra pass keeping the chain moving, his appeal is improved exponentially.
Ideally, Frank will be unleashed as a high intensity point of attack defender who can exert a ton of energy in that role and be able to switch a lot of matchups 1-3.
Best Team Fit: New York Knicks
Ntilikina is an ideal triangle lead guard, where his blemishes as a slasher in the half-court will be mitigated kicking over to an off ball role. If the Knicks abandon the current front office and in conjunction the triangle I like Frank’s ability to move over to the two in more traditional schemes.
Outcome Range/Player Comparison:
Floor Outcome: Less Athletic More Cerebral Iman Shumpert
Ceiling Outcome: Iteration of George Hill/Jrue Holiday
Ranking Justification: The NBA has a dearth of real two-way wings who are capable floor spacers. Ntilikina doesn’t have considerable upside as far as a creator, but he is skilled and tooled enough to improve upon some baseline skills. He’s the youngest player in the draft, and already shows mature cerebral play and pace across multiple fronts.
He’s often compared to Dante Exum, and he’s not the athlete Exum in terms of dynamic speed. But he’s a far better shooting prospect, and again I really believe in the jump shot translating. You at least have to acknowledge his presence on the perimeter, and that in itself carries value.
There is also some intrigue with his athletic upside. His frame looks conducive to strength and explosion enhancement, as his body is still maturing. Giannis is often cited as a parallel here (as far as body maturation), and while I think that is extreme (Giannis underwent a growth spurt after he was drafted), an outcome in the same stratosphere can’t be ignored. which would change his trajectory as a player with his athleticism really being his biggest detractent at this juncture. I’m somewhat enamored with this possibility, and for that reason have his upside ranked ahead of someone like Mitchell
9. ZACH COLLINS
NBA Position Range: Category 5 Defensive Energy/Lob Catcher -> Category 3 Unicorn
Age (At Time of Draft): 19
Positional Size/Tools/Frame: Legit 7-footer with a underdeveloped 230 pound frame that should be able to add some girth. Workable standing reach at 9’3″ but lack of length wingspan wise at 7’1″ shows contesting on the perimeter.
Spot Up: Very ease release that isn’t quick but minimal input which I like in big man shooters. Doesn’t get a lot of elevation but mechanics are compact and gets good wrist action. Shot type looks very projectable to translate to NBA 3.
Off the Dribble: Might develop a pull-up jumper as a face up 5 in time. Looks to have the footwork and the release type.
Off Screen/Motion: Not a Markkanen type of shooter who can run off screens like pin-downs but very capable as a pick-and-pop threat setting his feet quickly catching on the hope and elevating.
Handle: Not a playmaking type of creative dribbling five but has enough off the bounce to attack big spaces on closeouts in straight lines to the basket in specific settings.
Pick-And-Roll: Dual pick-and-roll threat as both a diver and popping out. Not the most physical screener but shows the ability to flip sides quickly and read opportunities to flip. Currently a legitimate pick-and-pop threat from mid-range. Can easily finish lobs in open space on dives but will that translate into traffic in the NBA? Really needs to show more as a passer on short-rolls.
Finishing: Not a dynamic leaper but very quick off the floor with a decent lob catch radius in space. Not going to be a gravitational lob catcher in a spread pick-and-roll system but can get above the rim at ease with good hands and coordination. Outstanding touch around the basket with either hand.
Post Up: Can catch and face up in the post and elevate quickly to shoot. Lacks the lower body girth to establish position consistently but has the skill level via drop steps and ambidexterity to convert over switches with a jump hook over either shoulder. Not adept passing out of the post yet.
Passing/Vision: Very unspectacular vision that is reduced to very obvious one pass away reads in high-low situations. Doesn’t show much passing on the move proclivity, especially on closeouts when guys closeout hard to him.
Decision-Making: Gets flustered in traffic with the ball, especially on double-teams in the post, often resulting in turnovers. Very foul prone technique wise (although he obviously got hosed in the NCAA title game).
Perimeter: Reactionary athlete with plus initial quickness for his size. Can sit down and slide well for a 7-footer keeping non-outlier athletes in front with good change of direction ability. Pretty fluid in his hips which helps him react quickly. Has the foot-speed and recovery speed to hard hedge and recover. Doesn’t have the length to really impact shots consistently and against NBA perimeter player athleticism he probably can’t risk staying close enough to challenge due to blow by potential.
Interior: Two-level defender with fantastic recognition skills for a big man to quickly diagnose plays and rotate over to protect the rim with advanced feel for timing. Already very advanced utilizing verticality and can block shots with either hand. Battles for position denying the post and has a physical edge to him, but lacks the advanced frame in certain matchups. Lack of plus length will be more of an issue in the NBA against superior length/athleticism in terms of shot-blocking, but he should still be able to contest with timing, instincts and mobility.
Translation/How He’ll Win in the NBA: Collins brings a very alluring combination of shooting and two-level defense, tailor-made for the modern game. He can stay on the court against some versatile lineups, and provide enough finishing offensively to derive some gravity. He’s a capable dual pick-and-roll threat who can both dive and pop out for shots. His ceiling on that side is tied to his 3pt shooting, which looks reasonably projectable. If his spacing is legit and he’s paired with a dynamic dribble-driver perimeter player he could really open up the floor for a good offense.
Best Team Fit: Orlando Magic
6 is probably too high for Collins especially if someone like Isaac is still on the board but I’m intrigued with his fit next to Aaron Gordon. The Magic have a one-way offensive center in Nikola Vucevic who is adequate spacing out to 18 feet, and a one-way defensive center in Biyombo who is a fumbling dive man liability on the other end. Getting Collins’ two-way play and 3pt potential would really open the floor for Gordon and the rest of the team that is bereft of spacing.
Outcome Range/Player Comparison:
Floor Outcome: Iteration of more athletic Mike Muscala (shooting variance)
Ceiling Outcome: Poor Man’s Physical Tools Myles Turner
Ranking Justification: Collins is the only five in this class to me with starting equity due to his intersection of potential shooting and two-level defense as a unicorn. He doesn’t have attributes of the elite fives in the league via elite defense/physical tools or dynamic perimeter playmaking (self-creation or for others), but if he can play both sides of the floor in quality fashion and potentially add a spacing element not often found in fives he’ll return top 10 value in this class. He’s not a Porzingis or Markkanen kind of shooting prospect as a 7-footer who can shoot off movement. Instead he profiles more like Myles Turner who excels as a pick-and-pop spacer and quick face up shooter in the mid-post. If Collins had Turner’s tools in terms of girth and length I’d be higher on him, but I do think he has the potential to be a solid starter in the league.
10. OG ANUNOBY
NBA Position Range: Category 9 Wing Defensive Versatile -> Category 5 3&D Versatile
Age (At Time of Draft): 19
Potential Blue Chip Skills: On-Ball Perimeter Defense
Positional Size/Tools/Frame: Generational physical tools for a wing prospect. Ideal height at almost 6’8″ with a plus 7’2″ wingspan. Incredible frame with tree-trunk legs and a mature/cut upper body.
Spot Up: Saying his shot lacks fluidity is the understatement of the draft. Low release point and shoots a flat ball, lacking the arc to extend from great distance. Short-circuits his release by shooting out and not up and not following through.
Off the Dribble: Non-threat shooting in these situations lacking the mechanics and fluidity.
Off Screen/Motion: Stationary shooter only.
First Step: Doesn’t have any deception from triple-threat due to his lack of a shot but has a dynamic first step explosiveness wise. Plus burst in straight lines.
Handle: Big space dribbler on closeouts and in transition only with his lack of control with the ball and inability to quickly change directions.
Closeouts: Incredibly explosive off either one or two feet in space with a head of steam.
Pick-And-Roll: Lacks the control and shiftiness to handle in more confined spaces trying to change direction. Can make some interesting passes on the move but not out of a creation setting like pick-and-roll.
Finishing: Can finish emphatically above the rim in space off one or two with a head of steam or off a two foot gather on lob catches. Runs through rim protectors around the basket and rarely gets knocked off course with his dominant profile, which allows him to finish through contact.
Post Up: Has some underrated coordination and natural touch in the post on obvious mismatches.
Passing/Vision: Makes some interesting passes around the basket sometimes on the move that signify feel but those are few and far between.
Decision-Making: Very reduced playmaking role make this difficult to assess. Limits turnovers but does make some poor reads into traffic.
On Ball: The best on-ball defensive prospect I’ve seen in recent memory. Combines elite size, strength, length and quick reactionary athleticism to create a versatile monster capable of guarding basically any position on-ball. Ate up Josh Jackson on a few plays when healthy eating up Josh’s airspace with his length. His moments staying attached to Jamal Murray really turns heads as far as potential defensive impact.
Off Ball: Makes some timely backline defense rim protection plays but is consistently out of his stance and overextends out on the perimeter. Much better on-ball.
Rebounding: Has the tools to be a plus here but doesn’t box out enough and has poor instincts locating both bodies and the ball, which limits some of his four appeal.
Translation/How He’ll Win in the NBA: This one is fairly obvious. Anunoby’s on-ball stopper ability to go out and harass the elite wing scorers in today’s game will drive his value. He has the tools and athleticism to match up with basically any player in the league, and will be able to maximize energy on that end with such a reduced offensive role.
He’s going to cramp spacing on offense because teams will consistently help off him and he isn’t a dynamic enough dribbler to eat up space off the bounce if left alone. If he ever shoots it even respectably well from NBA 3 he’ll easily return top 5-7 value in this class because the defense is that real.
Best Team Fit: Atlanta Hawks
If OG gets to a team with an established shooting coach with a good track record for modifying shots, his ceiling outcome rises significantly. He’s not an ideal fit in the Hawks’ motion scheme due to his lack of ball skills but picking at 19 you don’t often see these kinds of high upside prospects.
Outcome Range/Player Comparison:
Floor Outcome: Better On-Ball Defense Al Farouq-Aminu (shooting variance)
Ceiling Outcome: More Explosive Robert Covington On Offense with Kawhi’s On-Ball Defense
Ranking Justification: Anunoby’s ceiling as a legit defensive wing stopper trumps everyone else in this tier in terms of impact if he ends up shooting 3s at even close to league average. JZ Mazlish broke him down better than anyone could here in terms of potential impact. We’re talking about a legit potential +4 wing defender, and someone who has the ability to hang with the Kevin Durants, Kawhi Leonards and Paul Georges of the world. I’m just incredibly bearish on the shot projecting. The mechanics, while not technically “broken”, are just so far from ideal, especially the release going out and not up which decreases range capability. I don’t mind *as much* the lower release with little elevation. He’ll have a lot of wide open shots at the next level. It’s more about his ability to extend that range back a few feet with mechanics that aren’t conducive to that. Still, behind elite big man defenders elite wing defensive prospects don’t come around often, and Anunoby legitimately has #1 on-ball defensive wing upside in the NBA.
11. DONOVAN MITCHELL
NBA Position Range: Category 6 Wing 3&D Perimeter/Point of Attack->Category 7 Wing Two-Way Secondary Handler
Age (At Time of Draft): 20
Positional Size/Tools/Frame: Undersized bull guard at 6’3″ but a compactly built frame at 211 with a 6’10” wingspan to help compensate for being a “two-guard” at a point guards height.
Spot Up: Lackluster percentages due to shot selection in a miscast star role really undersell his mechanics. Catches on the hop. Great strong base and balance. Deep range with a simple, effortless one-motion release.
Off the Dribble: Quick elevation off the dribble allowed by strength not to dip the ball and fluid mechanics. Outstanding footwork either hopping into or going off the 1-2, preferably to his left.
Off Screen/Motion: Not a dynamic shooter off movement but can square up quickly off flare screen actions with plus footwork.
First Step/Burst: Has some burst off a live dribble but not the most explosive first step out of triple threat. Underrated top-end speed in the open court
Handle: Not shifty but handles low to the ground due to low center of gravity. Can play off non-deceptive hang dribbles, hesitations and get to his pull-up with through-the-legs step-backs. Struggles to create space to shoot over the top because of his lack of shake and size.
Pick-And-Roll: Adept pick-and-roll player in space as a self-creator, flashing the ability to split coverages sinking low with the ball and knifing through tight spaces. Not advanced in terms of reads, but can make the simple drop-off or entry to the dive man.
Finishing: Explosive off a two-foot gather, but far less so off one foot in space (overrated finisher in the latter respect). Not a crafty finisher around bodies, but gets good length extension in space.
Passing/Vision: Limited vision in traffic, basically reduced to open space easy reads. Doesn’t see the entire court.
Decision-Making: Take a lot low percentage shots off the dribble due largely to miscast role as a go-to scorer, which he was underqualified for even in college. Best with a simplified role that will lessen his usage and playmaking burden.
On Ball: Outstanding combination of strength, length, physicality and foot-speed at the point-of-attack. Love his physicality. Active hands and high effort. Lacks elite reactionary quickness but can really press up and take away airspace with his length, and absorbs contact well with his frame. Physical and stays on the hip of ball-handlers. Works his ass off to contest shots in space, even when he’s out of position. Has the low center of gravity and strength to switch onto wings and hold his ground, and then contest with his length.
Off Ball: Solid anticipation skills in the passing lanes with his length and range. Makes the rotations in Lousiville’s amorphous zone. Does noticeably struggle to navigate screens chasing off ball, running into too many bodies as he’s a big target mass wise.
Translation/How He’ll Win in the NBA: Mitchell is a relatively clean and simple projection as a 3&D plus kind of player who can handle and pass functionary, has very translatable mechanics from NBA 3 and is probably the best high-end in the draft plug-and-play point of attack defender in the draft. Paired next to a dominant wing initiator will be ideal for Mitchell, who can find a role as a two-way 5th starter on a good team.
Best Team Fit: Milwaukee Bucks
Mitchell wont fall to 17 but amassing two-way contributors like Mitchell to surround Giannis-types with is the best way to optimize Mitchell’s contributions.
Outcome Range/Player Comparison:
Floor Outcome: Iteration of Iman Shumpert (better shooter)
Ceiling Outcome: Avery Bradley
Ranking Justification: Mitchell lacks upside due to a lack of playmaking for others prowess and the inability to finish around the rim in lead guard settings off one foot. He makes up for this with a relatively high floor in a projectable winning archetype role. How well he shoots it will ultimately determine his success, but it should be noted there is *some* playmaking upside in a secondary role with Mitchell’s baseline of pick-and-roll handling comfort and ability to make simple reads. Less is ultimately more with Mitchell, and just the ability to play both sides of the floor reasonably well gives lottery type value. He doesn’t possess the upside that Frank does, but he has a higher floor.
(USA Basketball) Also that’s me!
NBA Position Range: Category 5 Defensive Tools/Non-Shooters -> Category 6 Dribble-Driver or Category 4 Two-Way Initiator
Age (At Time of Draft): 19
Potential Blue Chip Skills: Speed with high volume driving
Positional Size/Tools/Frame: Average height for a modern lead guard at 6-foot-3 with a respectable 6’6″ wingspan. Diminutive frame at 170 pounds. Skinny legs, narrow build, inhibits difference-making strength upside and impacts both balance finishing around the rim and shooting.
Spot Up: Lacks range and confidence. Was only 9-for-45 on catch and shoot attempts in the half-court. Passes up open looks and teams give him the Tony Allen treatment often.
Off the Dribble: Two-motion sling-shot type release negates range extension to NBA 3 with flat arc. Brings the ball back too close to his forehead and releases out more instead of up. Has the shooting mechanics that require more strength addition. Does profile relatively well to shoot respectably in the midrange with footwork and release style.
I covered Fox’s off the dribble shooting in depth for The Step Back HERE.
Chris Stone also wrote a fantastic piece contextualizing Fox’s shooting HERE.
Off Screen/Motion: Not a threat currently to shoot off motion, lacking the footwork and experience.
First Step/Burst: Best first step/burst combination in the class. On another level in terms of quickness and functional athleticism. Sudden speed either out of a stationary position or off a live dribble is elite.
Handle: I went into a lot of depth on Fox’s handle HERE. But to summarize Fox has a strong lead guard handle with his ability to sink low with the ball with choppy dribbles. As far as dribble moves he can play off hang dribbles, hesitations and blow-bys, and his trademark move is a hesitation blow by left.
Pick-And-Roll: Shows advanced ability to keep defenders in jail with hesitation dribbles in pick-and-roll. Kills over-and-drop coverage (see UCLA) with the ability to freeze bigs in space with wicked in-and-out dribbles. Not a natural playmaker here but best on drop-offs attacking. Misses shooters on skip opportunities. Coverages employed against him at times (switch and sag, going under) limited his effectiveness.
Driving/Finishing: Again, if you haven’t seen my series on lead guards check out a deep dive into Fox’s finishing HERE. Got into the lane at will in college with handle and burst. Explosive athlete in space who can explode off one or two feet. Has some craft and the explosion to adjust in air on up-and-unders. Outstanding finisher when he can turn the corner or get into space. Concerned with his ability to finish over or through NBA size and length. Struggled in matchups against bigger frontcourts like UNC and NBA caliber rim protectors like Luke Kornet. Can finish with either hand but still comes back to his left driving right too often. Has a refined floater game with good touch.
Passing/Vision: Better transition vision on the move and when attacking on dribble-drives in the half-court to guys in the dunker position than in pick-and-roll making reads. Made some really impressive on target lob passes. Creates better passing opportunities with his speed and ability to finish.
Decision-Making: Not at advanced decision-maker but very solid who usually makes the simple play. Can force drives at times and doesn’t show a lot of poise in pick-and-roll.
On Ball: Ultra-quick twitch sliding in space. Can really get in a stance and explode laterally. Doesn’t take a lot of plays off at the point of attack, bringing high intensity trying to wall off defenders. Does get a bit too aggressive at times pressuring out and overextending on the perimeter leading to blow-bys. Shows the footwork to get around screens but lacks the frame to fight through and once he’s out of the play trailing he has the recovery speed to catch up but not the strength or great length to apply back pressure. Not a switch threat due to lack of strength, and could even be a liability against some NBA point guards in the post. Can’t absorb contact well in isolation without getting dislodged trying to contain ball-handlers.
Off Ball: Not the most attentive defender on the weak side who falls asleep. Really rangy with speed to close out but inconsistent footwork.
Translation/How He’ll Win in the NBA: Fox’s best asset is his speed and handling combination, and his role in the NBA is heavily tied to his ability to create high volume drives, both to compromise defenses forcing rotations leading to kick outs to shooters and for his own finishing point generation. Defenders will sag off Fox and try to incentivize him to shoot, and NBA teams will scheme for Fox in pick-and-roll like a lot of teams didn’t in college, via ducking under or just switching and sagging off. Fox will have more space in the NBA to operate, and even with these coverages he’s still fast enough to get to his spots.
Defensively, Fox doesn’t profile as an impact point of attack defender like a Kris Dunn, lacking that core strength and length, but he has the quickness and the competitiveness to break slightly above even value wise there potentially, which he’ll need to do because he’s not bringing value via switching.
Best Team Fit: Dallas Mavericks
Fox is ideally paired with a stretch big like Dirk who commands a ton of gravity in pick-and-pop settings to create driving lanes for Fox to attack. If he’s paired with more of a lob-catching pick-and-roll partner it will be easier for teams to sag off and build a wall in the paint, reducing Fox’s access to it. Fox will definitely go before the 9th pick, but Dallas is likely his best case scenario outcome wise in the top 10 (the Kings taking Fox at 5 and Markkanen at 10 works conceptually, but I don’t trust that organization).
Outcome Range/Player Comparison:
Floor Outcome: More explosive/better finishing Dennis Schroder (without the threat of a shot)
Ceiling Outcome: Iteration of Mike Conley
Ranking Justification: Most people probably just skipped right to this part knowing the format to process the rationale for why I could have Fox so low. I have 5 distinct reasons:
- If you draft Fox he has to be your primary initiator because no one is going to guard him off ball. You can use some motion principles with him but it’s likely going to have to be spread pick-and-roll because again no one is going to treat him as a shooting threat. If you have the fulcrum of your offense as Fox with the ball in pick-and-roll, every team is going to go under, incentivizing Fox to shoot. That automatically cuts off so many high value opportunities and advantage situations to teams who can force help with those plays. You can screen closer to the foul line and re-screen like Kentucky did in the first matchup against UCLA to get Fox closer to the basket, but you’re still talking about inefficient floaters or pull-ups as the fulcrum of your offense. The value of a lead guard who can shoot that scheme-changing shot isn’t just the 3 but more so opening up the rest of the offense. That is lost with Fox in his present form.
- Fox is not a speed to power athlete. At 170 pounds I question his ability to carve out lanes getting to the basket with his body and finish over and through NBA caliber length/strength (he again struggled in certain matchups against low level NBA rim protectors this year). Guys like Wall, Rose, and Westbrook have the frames AND the dynamic burst to get to their spots and finish through contact on high volume despite defenders not respecting their shots. Fox does not have the build to do that, lacking the balance with skinny legs and a frail frame. If he had Dennis Smith’s body I might have Fox #1 or #2 in this class. He does not, and I don’t see his frame (especially skinny lower body) being able to add difference-making strength. Dennis Schoeder has a similar body type (entered the league at 165) and was only able to add 7 pounds of strength. That’s more the trajectory I see with Fox. It’s a lot different finishing over or around one dynamic NBA rim protector than it is attacking a college crowd. I don’t like him in those one-on-one matchups where physicality matters if he can’t get the corner. He’s likely going to be a good finisher, but for what he is as an archetype he needs to be great efficiency wise, and I don’t see it.
- So what if his shooting improves? I also don’t like his shot form or confidence. His two-motion release is more conducive to bigger, stronger wings who have the strength to shoot with NBA range. Fox doesn’t have that body strength to extend out with his current motion. I prefer guard shooters who have one-motion releases, allowing for greater energy transference which enhances arc and range capability. I am most certainly not a shooting coach, and Fox’s form could be fixable for people way smarter and more qualified than me, but given what I know I can’t operate with that presumption. I know people often cite Mike Conley, but I’ve watched Conley’s college shooting tape and despite some mechanical similarities (Fox brings the ball back towards his forehead and flexes past 90 degrees a bit more) Conley was more comfortable shooting from range on film. He took some deep, fluid threes, showing at least some confidence in his shot. At .15 Fox’s attempt rate is obscenely low, and that is reflected on film passing up open perimeter shots.
- I don’t think Fox’s ancillary skills are worth the multi-year investment that it will likely take to iron out his shooting (*if* it is ironed out). Fox isn’t a dynamic playmaker for others to me. He’s actually a rather rudimentary one, who is best described as capable of making simple reads when he can collapse defenses with his speed. He’s not a Conley level of natural playmaker for others, and isn’t anywhere close to John Wall in terms of vision and of course tools. He’s Tony Parker esque in terms of style and floater touch, and Parker thrived in one of the most outlier franchise settings in all of sports. Fox is not going to San Antonio.
- Fox’s defense in terms of how he’s perceived impact wise is overrated. It’s incredibly difficult to bring one-positional elite point of attack defense, which is already the defensive position with the smallest value. There were only seven +1 ORPM point guard defenders in the regular season last year (Paul, Beverley, Holiday, Lowry, MCW, Hill and Grant). All of those players have some combination of strength, length size and/or agility. Fox only has agility. He might be an even defender in the league which has value, but impact wise he doesn’t project to be a plus.
I don’t mean to dwell in negatives. Fox is everyone’s favorite kid character wise in the draft (mine as well having seen him up close at the Hoop Summit) but there is just SIGNIFICANT downside in marrying an offense to a player of this archetype. It took the Wizards years to build a good offense around a lead guard who couldn’t shoot, and he was a vastly superior prospect to Fox.
I want to make something clear: I like Fox WAY more than Elfrid Payton or Michael Carter-Williams types. He’s so much faster and quicker, possessing more natural scoring instincts, which makes those comparisons not analogous. I probably wouldn’t even rank players of those ilk at all. Fox is intriguing enough with his package of abilities that the low % chance he shoots reasonably well should command a spot in the lottery because there is tangible upside with his ability to get into the teeth of the defense at high volume. But I can’t go any higher than this.
I guess this comes down some to preference. We all have to acknowledge good players regardless of that though, and Fox may turn out to be a really solid player. Even if he shoots 32-34% from 3 I think he tops out as an average to slightly above average caliber point guard. He’ll probably finish pretty well, but not elite, pass reasonably well but not elite, and shoot below average. I pull for every prospect, but I see too much downside to draft him where he’s being projected.
Let’s chill out and get away from the scouting report style now that justification is less necessary to cement points.
NBA Position Range: Category 3 Four Skilled + Stretch
Age (At Time of Draft): 20
Potential Blue Chip Skills: Shooting (Diversity: pick-and-pop, off-screen, pull-up)
Positional Size/Tools/Frame: Excellent size for a four or five at 7-feet with a developed 225 pound frame and relatively broad shoulders. No official wingspan measurement but looks average at best. Probably not going to get more explosive with strength addition to already developed body. Will strength impact mobility?
Overview: I wrote about the trade-offs Markkanen presents as a player back in December, and those opinions stills hold true for me now. Lauri is a 7-foot shooting guard playstyle wise. He’s an established skill shooter who can really shoot the living piss out of the ball, which is buttressed by the stat profile you’ll see below. What makes him a special shooter is his diversity. He can fluidly run off pin-down actions, set his feet quickly off motion and rise with an easy release. He’ll be an enormous asset as a pick-and-pop threat, especially in side pick-and-rolls again ICE coverage, a set that is virtually impossible to guard when you have a stretch big.
He can also do a little bit with the ball skill wise, even being used in 4/5 pick-and-rolls at Arizona, as well as attack closeouts to finish left like we saw in the Tournament. He’s glacially slow, but with defenders really closing out on his shot he’ll probably have some room to at least get to his pull-up jumper if ran off the line, which he shows plus fluidity at doing. He flashes some interesting drop-off passes on the move, but nothing that really entices you that much.
Defensively, we know the drill. Markkanen is salvageable in a one or two slide hard-hedge setting and is somewhat mobile for a 7-footer, but outside of that he’s dead in the water. He struggles to change direction in space and isn’t a switch threat onto perimeter players. He doesn’t contest in isolation moving backwards guarding the perimeter, and dribble penetrators can just elevate right through and over the top of him in that setting. Markkanen also isn’t a rim protecting threat, lacking the anticipation and painfully limited length and vertical pop to be of use there. I don’t see any way he’s anything more than a minus defender (degree of course will be important).
Translation/How He’ll Win in the NBA: Best served in a third big role off the bench (at least in the playoffs), Markkanen can be a legit gravitational spacing threat to open up the floor for lineups and really knock down open shots. There will be some matchups where he’ll be able to stay on the floor against high level competition such as Ryan Anderson or Kelly Olynyk (he’s not the rebounder Anderson is or as fast as Olynyk), and he’ll be able to cause havoc offensively there. But he’s also going to be played off the floor against the league’s elites. Still, he’ll net value in this spot as a regular season plus and an ace card to have when the lineups dictate.
Best Team Fit: Miami Heat
Markkanen would be an interesting fit in Miami with the assortment of perimeter defenders to insulate him and Whiteside there to pick up the pieces.
Outcome Range/Player Comparison:
Floor Outcome: Iteration of Better shooting Frank Kaminsky
Ceiling Outcome: Better Shooting/Inferior Rebounding 7-Foot Ryan Anderson
Ranking Justification: This is just an archetype I tend to fade too high in the draft value wise because as starters they aren’t conducive to winning basketball. There are a few exceptions of course, Dirk being the most prominent. Lauri gets some Dirk equity by some. That is a mistake. I summarized this in a recent article:
- “Nowitzki was on another level in terms of fluid athleticism and agility, with the ability to grab-and-go in transition at higher speeds and displaying rare quickness and deception for his size in face up or post up situations getting his shot in isolation. Dirk is just one of the all-time awkward shot-makers, armed with unreal fluidity and underrated athleticism in his prime. Markkanen to me is far more stiff and lacks that same flexibility and short area quickness in on-ball settings that makes Dirk an outlier (on top of being the best shooting big man ever).
And in regards to Anderson:
- “Anderson has some on-ball utility with the ability to post up and get to his one-legged fadeaways in non-special fashion, as well as shoot on the move especially on pick-and-pops. I see Markkanen as far more similar to that both stylistically and outcome wise.”
If a team can afford to spend capital on Markkanen as a situational offensive weapon, I can definitely understand that. He’s an all-time big man shooting prospect. He just doesn’t do anything else.
NBA Position Range: N/A (Secondary Handler)
Age (At Time of Draft): 23
Positional Size/Tools/Frame: Very average build for a secondary handler at 190 pounds with a 6’7″ wingspan, but has good height at 6’5″.
Overview: I was late to the party on White, but when I finally got to his tape he jumped off the damn screen with his playmaking acumen. At 6’5″ he has great feel in pick-and-roll, is a creative passer and can shoot off the dribble very fluidly (with a slight lean). He’s also an underrated athlete in terms of burst with the ball, and can get up in space to finish. He’s a senior of course and only played at Colorado for one year, but his Senior year went about as good as you could ever hope for from a player his age.
Defensively, White is going to take some off the table with his lack of plus athleticism, frail frame and average length. We saw a guy like Dillon Brooks run through him at the combine easily, and White doesn’t have the functional core strength to switch a great deal. But he makes up for some of his athletic deficiencies by at least trying on that end and possesses good instincts as a team defender and for playmaking on that end as seen by his blocks (a lot of these were on smaller guards but he shows good anticipation).
Translation/How He’ll Win in the NBA:Whites value will come offensively from likely an off-guard position, where he can playmake secondarily as a very capable handler, passer and shooter. As with all these lower tier wings, shooting will be the most imperative input, and while it’s not a surefire bet that his shot translates from NBA range, I think he’s a decent bet to shoot at or above league average from 3. He’ll need to bring creation value on the perimeter especially because he’s probably not going to do so on volume driving and finishing.
Best Team Fit: Atlanta Hawks
I pegged De’Andre Bembry to the Hawks last year because of loved his skill-set in that motion type scheme being able to pass and cut exceptionally well with his high IQ. White isn’t quite the athlete Bembry is, but he’s a similar passer and decision-maker, while also adding clearly superior shooting in a plethora of ways. White would be be a wonderful white in that system, and the Hawks could have wing spots to fill with THJ and Thabo perhaps on the way out.
Outcome Range/Player Comparison:
Floor Outcome: *Insert decent offensive and slightly negative defensive combo-guard*
Ceiling Outcome: Iteration of Malcolm Brogdon (better offense, less defense)
Ranking Justification:I compared White to Brogdon mostly in terms of acquiring a plug-and-play type player who can help right away. White doesn’t have Brogdon’s frame, length or physicality defensively (Brogdon also spent a lot of time in college off ball running off screens). But White projects as a better offensive player with his superior creativity as a passer and pull-up shooting prowess, the latter of which I really value. White lacks legitimate upside given his age and physical tools, but he’s incredibly skilled and should be able to fill a rotation spot on a roster.
NBA Position Range: Category 6 Dribble-Driver
Age (At Time of Draft): 20
Positional Size/Tools/Frame: Below average size for a lead guard at 5’11” in change but has a stout and compact build at 185 pounds and surprising length with a 6’5″ wingspan.
Overview: One of the quickest and shiftiest players in the draft with the ball, Evans is a high-level backup waterbug type lead guard. He has an advanced handle that is really aided by his small stature, allowing him to quickly change directions on crossovers and hesitations moves.
Evans basically ran high volume pick-and-roll in college,and was the driving force behind one of the best offenses in the country. He has great experience using screens in these settings, and his high volume self creation will help him as a potentially dynamic change-of-pace type. His shot looks fluid enough to bet on his translation to NBA 3 at a reasonable percentage, although right now he is more proficient in the mid-range area.
If Evans was a better finisher I would have him potentially higher than this, but his lack of vertical pop at the basket and average touch casts a shadow on any kind of 3-level scoring upside. Defensively he competes and has active hands, while also possessing better length and physical strength than he’s given credit for. But there’s only so much a player his size can do on that end.
Translation/How He’ll Win in the NBA: Evans can carve out a long NBA career as a high-level scoring backup who can run pick-and-roll and generate offense on second units. He has some low level starting equity, but on a good team given his size he’s probably a high level backup.
Best Team Fit: Oklahoma City Thunder
Whoever drafts Evans needs to be an up-tempo team who will let Evans get up and down the court in transition. The Thunder are in desperate need of a backup with Semaj Christon failing in that role last year, and Westbrook is actually big enough to play alongside Evans in certain lineups (same with Oladipo). The 21 spot is good value for Evans.
Outcome Range/Player Comparison:
Floor Outcome: Iteration of DJ Augustin (shiftier)
Ceiling Outcome: Better Passing Darren Collison.
Ranking Justification: Evans is everything you look for in a backup lead guard. He can push the pace, is a pick-and-roll maestro, is a capable playmaker for others and can get into the lane with dynamic quickness, speed and handle. His jump shot off the dribble is his swing skill, because project to be the level of finisher he needs to be despite having some unorthodox craft there to be efficient. Evans is underrated by consensus, and it’s definitely possible given the degree of shot-making that he’ll far exceed where he’s drafted value wise.
NBA Position Range: N/A
Age (At Time of Draft): 22
Positional Size/Tools/Frame: Underrated tools package at 6’5″ with a strong and mature 225 pound frame and solid length with a 6’9″ wingspan.
Overview: Sporting one of the mostly aesthetically appealing jumpers in the class, Brown is probably the most unrecognized likely to shoot NBA 3s proficiently while also being an average type defender prospect in the class. Brown’s role at SMU wavered as his surrounding personnel changed, and even though SMU plays a motion type offensive scheme with interchangeable similarly sized players (and also switch a ton defensively), Brown’s abilities were able to seep out his senior year.
Sterling has underrated skill with a workable handle and the fluidity to shoot off the dribble, which we didn’t see until his Senior year (shooting off the dribble) all that much. He lacks plus burst and separation ability, but he has the pop to play above the rim in space. His upside creation wise is probably running an occasional secondary pick-and-roll, but he’s a smart feel player who will keep the chain moving swinging the ball and has some vision.
Defensively, Brown isn’t the most agile or speedy athlete but he has outstanding strength and good length to pair with solid positional defense and instincts off-ball. He doesn’t have the athleticism to be a point of attack defender but he can be passable as a team defender and switch some, even onto fours with his frame.
Translation/How He’ll Win in the NBA: Brown’s translation centers mostly around his 3pt shot. He’s not going to be tasked with playmaking duties often, so making deep shots will be his primary source of court equity. Coaches probably wont play him if he can’t stay on the floor defensively, but his intellect, tools and competitive fire should really help him there.
Best Team Fit:San Antonio Spurs
Brown just seems like a really Spursy player to me. Not valuing his archetype being an older wing without great athleticism is typically a market inefficiency in the draft, and the Spurs are always good bets to exploit that.
Outcome Range/Player Comparison:
*Don’t really have any good ones here*
Ranking Justification: The sweet-shooting Brown will likely be underdrafted for all the aforementioned reasons, but he’s a reasonable bet to carve out a rotation spot in the league. From everything I’ve heard he’s a super intense worker who doesn’t take plays off even in drills, and that’s a huge plus for a borderline NBA athlete at the next level. Brown has already been kind of molded into a role-players kind of game, which could make the transition into the same setting easier. I like his shooting projection more than Thornwell and Hart, which is why he takes the cake here.
NBA Position Range: Category 5 Defensive Energy/Lob Catcher
Age (At Time of Draft): 22
Potential Blue Chip Skills: Space defense in a niche role
Positional Size/Tools/Frame: Poor physical tools for a five with below average height at a shade under 6’9″, a slender 225 pounds with only a 6’11” wingspan. Tools and build lock him into a backup role playing with a five-man skill-set in a four-man body.
Overview: Bell is one of the most pro-ready prospects in the draft, having a strong grasp of the game that should aid his transition to a faster setting and being athletic enough to hang with almost anyone. The main allure with Bell is his defense. He’s one of the rangiest big defenders in the draft with excellent timing and instincts as a weak side rim protector. He changes ends and runs like a guard, and his chase-down blocks in transition are a sight to see. Bell is also very adept switching onto perimeter players in space and containing. He lacks the length to significantly impact shots via contests, but has probably the best reactionary first step defensively of an big in the class (see game against Michigan matched up with Walton in space). It’s difficult for any big to really switch and contain NBA perimeter athletes consistently, but Bell be able to corral a good deal of wings especially.
We saw front and center Bell’s main weakness as a prospect down the stretch against North Carolina: he just really lacks the physical tools to anchor on the glass or in the post against more albatross centers. That’s not going to change. Bell is a light five, and his tools relegate him to a five only role. That doesn’t mean he can’t still have value.
Offensively, Bell is a garbage man type who works hard to generate offensive rebounding opportunities, and has the range and vertical pop to high point balls coming off the rim. He’s a solid lob threat when he can gather off two, and is insanely fast diving to the rim in pick-and-roll. His main offensive skill however is his passing. Bell is super adept at playmaking on short rolls, reading defenses on the fly and firing off high velocity skips to open teammates. He’s already a more advanced passer than Tristan Thompson, and it took Thompson some time to put that playmaking for others component into action.
Bell’s offensive value will mostly come from put-backs, cuts, hard dives to the rim and of course rim-running in transition to beat less mobile bigs down the floor, but his passing acumen gives him some half-court value.
Translation/How He’ll Win in the NBA:Bell is a nice player only at the next level in a specific back up five role. He wont have any value against some lineups, but on the flip side he’ll have impact value against some teams, especially on higher levels of play. With the league continuing to downsize and roll out more non-traditional small lineups, Bell’s quickness in space defending the perimeter and ability to still protect the rim will be a valuable weapon for a team to employ selectively. If he can play next to a unicorn type on the second unit that would be ideal.
Best Team Fit: Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are the best in the league at taking players like this into their scheme and figuring out how to maximize them. Bell’s passing on short-rolls playing with that kind of shooting would be optimal for him, and no team understands the role of versatility in today’s game quite like them. The Warriors would need to buy a pick for this to come to fruition, but when have we seen that before?
Outcome Range/Player Comparison:
Floor Outcome: Better Passing Montrezl Harrell Without the Length
Ceiling Outcome: Iteration of Tristan Thompson
Ranking Justification: I never usually value backup only fives this highly do to positional value not being there with the saturated big man market in today’s game. But Bell does some things a lot of bigs just can’t or wont ever be able to do. If utilized optimally I like Bell’s chances of carving out a nice niche role with the way the league is trending.
NBA Position Range: N/A -> Category 5 Wing 3&D Versatile
Age (At Time of Draft): 22
Positional Size/Tools/Frame: A touch undersized for a wing at a shade under 6’5″ but compensates with compact build at 212 pounds and a 6’10” wingspan.
Overview: Thornwell might be the most advanced perimeter defender in the draft instincts wise. He shows great anticipation on that end off-ball as well as use of angles to either close out or get to shooters quickly on closeouts. He lacks lateral explosiveness but compensates with positioning, length, a ridiculously strong frame, and surprisingly quick reaction ability. His girth especially allows him to swing between the 2 and 4 reasonably well. We saw him defend the likes of Tatum and Kennard in the tournament, and he excelled against both styles.
Offense is the tougher side to pin down with Thornwell. He’s a very adept passer who is a willing ball mover and can make simple reads, but he lacks shake off the dribble and was so overreliant on strength to dislodge in college, something that wont be available to him at the next level in a lot of matchups.
His shooting stroke looked simple and clean on screen when I watched him, and he even showed some comfort shooting off the dribble against Notre Dame. But most all of his 3 attempts in his career where right at the college 3 line, and every in person account of his shooting that I’ve heard is that he shoots a knuckleball without much rotation that looks like a poor bet to translate.
Translation/How He’ll Win in the NBA:In terms of potential impact, it all comes down to the 3pt shooting. But even with a low 30s 3pt shot Thornwell can still earn a rotational role as a high intensity defender who will do the little things like crash the offensive glass like a madman to earn him minutes.
Best Team Fit: Any team that needs potential two-way wing capital (which is everyone)
Ranking Justification: A common theme among these two-way wing dice-rolls, each really competes on the floor, which you have to do to maximize athleticism that you don’t have. Thornwell’s defense looks more impactful than Hart’s all around game, but Brown edges his out with a cleaner shooting projection/
19. JOSH HART
NBA Position Range: N/A -> Category 7 Wing Two-Way Secondary Handler
Age (At Time of Draft): 22
Positional Size/Tools/Frame: Average size and tools for a wing at 6’5″ with a compact and developed 209 pound frame, sporting a 6’8″ wingspan.
Overview: Hart is the kind of the jack of all trades master of none senior wing. He’s a cerebral player who makes winning plays, like key offensive rebounds, and really always seems to maximize the below average athleticism that he has.
As an offensive player Hart has always been an adept finisher with the frame to absorb contact and impressive body control. He can operate in pick-and-roll, facilitate and get to the rim in space. A lot of the times due to his lack of burst he has to either jump stop or spin for a fadeaway when he can’t turn the corner, and he struggles to finish over the top of defenders. But when he gets even with a big on his hip he does a tremendous job using his body to shield the ball.
Hart’s success offensively in the NBA again comes down to shooting prowess. He has apparently worked on ironing out the hitch at the top of his shot, and looks relatively fluid shooting off the dribble and off movement. If he can make a corner 3 at a reasonable rate he does enough in other areas such as limit turnovers and make the extra pass to stick.
Defensively he’s not as strong obtaining contact as you’d think, noticeably getting run through and dislodged by perimeter players more than he should (this was the case with Valentine too). He knows where to be as a team defender and will make sounds rotations, but he’s not going to be much of an on-ball defender at the next level do to a lack of reactionary athleticism and overrated strength.
Translation/How He’ll Win in the NBA:Hart can carve out a rotation role on a good team if he can knock down 3s at a respectable rate. Teams will probably trust his intelligence as a team defender enough for him to get a decent shot at court time, and I think he’ll shoot well enough to stick.
Ranking Justification: Hart doesn’t have a potential plus attribute like both Brown and Thornwell do. His main value comes via efficient decision-making, which paired with his bevy of foundational skills could earn him some money in the league.
20 .JONAH BOLDEN
NBA Position Range: N/A
Age (At Time of Draft): 21
Positional Size/Tools/Frame: Intriguing size for a four at 6’10” with excellent length (reported 7’3″ wingspan). Athletic frame but lacks girth/strength at 227 pounds.
This is my upside dice roll in this class. I’ve only undergone a cursory look at Jonah going down the list of internationals, but similar to Derrick White he was someone who just jumped off the screen. Part of that might be the surrounding athleticism in the Adriatic league making him look better, but he looked to have a legit combinations of athleticism and skill for someone with his physical tools.
The ability to space the floor from the four spot and also switch on the perimeter is in high demand in the modern game, and Bolden looks to have the switchability and the shot to make this leap. His shot isn’t the most fluid in terms of footwork and release, but it’s really quick for a player his size and he can shoot from range. The stats here aren’t super enticing, but it looks projectable on film.
Trevor Magnotti, comrade at the Step Back and a must-follow for all things draft and especially internationally, has seen far more of Bolden than I have, and noted that Bolden’s decision-making in the half-court isn’t great, which in uninspiring. Most of the film I saw was in transition, where Bolden showed grab and go fluidity and some vision on the move.
I’m just fairly intrigued with the skill-set here. I know he probably wont go this high given his character flags at Duke. This is more so just a reasonable talent gamble on upside with basically none of that left in the draft.
*In no specific order
Jarrett Allen: I liked what I saw from Allen at the Hoop Summit, and while he played better down the stretch last year I don’t know what you look at and say he does well outside of skill flashes. Still, he has the size, length and modicum of skill upside to gamble on in this range.
Justin Patton: Very intriguing offensive skill-set as a dive man, potential shooter and he flashes some interesting passing, but his poor instincts protecting the rim against Villanova especially and lackluster rebounding just doesn’t really excite me.
Harry Giles: Looked like a total non-prospect at Duke outside of rebounding as a 4/5 tweener. Feeling good about this rank would require more access to medicals, because you have to be baking on some kind of athletic resurgence.
Cameron Oliver: The intersection of shooting, shot blocking, athleticism, build and some perimeter skill/fluidity shooting off the bounce is kind of intriguing. I just dont think he knows how to play basketball in a team construct and I wouldn’t bet on his shot mechanics translating.
DJ Wilson: The idea of him is pretty intriguing, but unless you are either a power-playing four or a floor spacer who can rebound at a high level and protect the rim, the NBA is trending towards combo-forward types. Wilson isn’t a physical or adept rebounder, and if his shot doesn’t translate I don’t see how he makes an impact.
Terrance Ferguson: Ferg’s frame is the the biggest drawback with him in conjunction with his complete lack of ball skills. He’s a conceptual 3&D point of attack defender with plus defensive footwork and some lateral explosion, but his narrow frame holds him back too much here. He’s also a streak shooter living off one dynamic Hoop Summit game. A definite NBA athlete with a projectable 3 and a chance at defending is worth a spot in this range.
Justin Jackson: Jackson has an intriguing combination of size and shooting with improved mechanics and the ability to shoot off screens. He also has some feel as a passer. I just don’t think he has enough game to beat switches on off-screen actions and he isn’t a gravitational threat to command defenses. With his razor thin build there isn’t a clear avenue for him to defend either, but he could be a rotation shooter with his size.
Luke Kennard: The second best wing shooter in the class behind Monk, Kennard is dynamic off the catch, off screens squaring quickly to the basket and off the dribble where he can shoot over smaller players. He has some craft to his game, but it’s hard to see him creating separation at the next level, and he has virtually no avenue to become a non-liability defender. But he at least has an NBA skill.
Frank Jackson: Jackson is a microwave scorer type who can shoot and slash some with plus athleticism. He probably wont be efficient enough at this to thrive, but he’s shooting + athletic intersection is worth a dice roll here.
Edmond Sumner: (Shout out to my guy Dave Dufour). I’m very much not sold on Sumner’s jump shot, but he has the handle and athleticism to slash effectively from a secondary role off the bench assuming he retains his athleticism post injury. Decent bet on an athletic guard translating better to NBA space.