Disclaimer: Most of this re-rank is based on team fit (in terms of scheme, personnel and player development history), as well as opportunity, rather than drastic reaction to Summer League play. SL is a smaller component (I still feel like you can draw *some* valuable takeaways here) but is more significant for guys like Kyle Kuzma or John Collins who either just played much better than they did in college or showed skills not previously displayed in college. You wont see a ton of movement however, more so slight tinkering.
The ranking especially in tiers 4 and 5 are pretty fluid, but I tried to provide an order still. Tier 5 especially is filled with players I’m not really that fond of, but again tried to at least provide a top 30 along with some rapid fire notes on guys at the end.
Without further ado..
1.Markelle Fultz (Original Rank: 1st)
Team Fit/Opportunity: Fultz joins Ball, Smith, and potentially both Jackson and Ntilikina as projected day one rookie starters, thus early career opportunity in a solidified big minutes role will be available to Fultz. Of course, being the #1 pick Fultz was always going to have an established rotation spot, but the opportunity to start from the off and mesh with Philly’s other cornerstone pieces is a bonus. In terms of team fit, Fultz will likely play a James Harden OKC (albeit in a starting capacity) offensive role fit as a co-primary initiator next to Ben Simmons and a third banana to Embiid, and Fultz’s ability to space the floor off ball will be a crucial ingredient to the success of this new “big 3”. There is far more versatility to this Embiid/Simmons/Fultz construction than they are given credit for, mainly due to Simmons’ underappreciated versatility off-ball as a playmaking 4 type who can be used as the screener in PNR, post mismatches and be an overall mismatch creator. The opportunity to grow and build cohesion with Simmons and Embiid will only aid Fultz’s development and enable more role certainty surrounded by legitimate talent.
Summer League: We could actually have some post-hype sleeper potential with the #1 pick two years in a row due to injury! Fultz was basically as advertised in his limited summer league play. His assortment of gliding dribble moves and shot-making potential was on display, as was his passing creativity especially on skips. He still settles for early clock long two pull-ups when superior shot quality options are available too often, and it is certainly worthy of *some* concern. He needs to kill the tendency to settle for this kind of short early in the shot clock:
But I’m betting on his feel in other areas (especially passing) ultimately winning out and killing this tendency. It seems more habitual to me in having to take these kinds of shots consistently at UW playing with limited talent and cramped spacing than it is lackluster feel. Hopefully he’ll iron it out. Fultz is a crafty passer with underrated vision, and as will be an ongoing theme throughout this write-up his assist numbers, especially in Utah SL, criminally underrated his passing acumen due to lack of surrounding finishing.
The defense is FAR away, as evidenced by the clinic Exum put on his point of attack defense in Utah (Fultz dying on screens, laying on screens etc). He’s more of a long-strider and doesn’t have quick choppy steps sliding or plus reactionary athleticism, so he might never be that proficient guarding lead guard types. But he should improve over time with NBA coaching, and he has the size, frame and length to work with (he should be a capable switch defender).
It’s also noteworthy to point out Fultz has very obviously tweaked his shooting mechanics from his days at Washington. Fultz shoots the ball farther out away from his body now and with a lower release point. It still looks NBA 3 range-capable, but it does seem a bit more mechanical. Outside of some varying elevation and shooting on the way down at times at UW, I didn’t see much out of line with his shot, so the makeover is curious and certainly is worth monitoring as Fultz was one of the most efficient high-volume pull-up shooters in the last decade of lead guards in college, so the production was certainly there.
Ranking Justification: There isn’t a compelling reason to move off of Fultz at #1 based on an optimal team fit and limited SL play. I still think he’s the best prospect in this class despite the fact he ceded some momentum to Smith and Ball in July.
2.Dennis Smith (Original Rank: 2nd)
Team Fit/Opportunity: Perhaps the best player/team scheme fit in the entire draft, Smith fell to an optimal position at #9. Carlisle is exactly the kind of established and hardline coach to manage and extract Smith’s potential, and Carlisle’s scheme history with point guards (see even Yogi Ferrell last year) only fuels the promising fire here. Dallas is the spread pick-and-roll machine, and assuming they retain Noel Smith has a gravitational lob catching threat to pair with the best shooting big man of all time to work with. Throw in Barnes swinging between the 3 and 4 as well as Wes Matthews and Seth Curry on the wing and there is formidable spacing and talent around Smith to aid his development.
Summer League: Even as someone who was higher on Smith’s playmaking (vision especially) than consensus, it was nice to see it play out on the court in more consistent fashion against superior competition. Increased spacing in SL predictably benefited Smith’s play (and Dallas’ team spacing still wasn’t great with the likes of Finney-Smith especially clanking a high volume of attempts), and his assist numbers underplayed his passing prowess in my opinion. Outside of the 3Q turnover barrage against the Suns, Smith’s decision-making was about as good as you’d hope to see. With better driving lanes he has more space to make reads, and the self-gravity he generates as a shot-maker and finisher aids him more than it does for most in this regard.
Smith is a tick down athletically from Westbrook, Rose, and Wall, especially in terms of transcendent quickness, but he’s more skilled than the former 2 and a better shooting prospect than Wall. He’s certainly looked like an elite athlete, especially in terms of speed to power explosiveness. It was good to see him win the individual athletic matchups that you wanted to see against Kris Dunn, Josh Jackson and against big man switch defenders like Dragan Bender in terms of blowing by them or creating space for his shot, both in isolation and operating in PNR. He especially thrived in the latter component, shooting well enough to earn respect from defenses that freed up his attack dribble game.
Similar to Fultz (and by his own admission after the draft), Smith has a long way to go on defense, but he did show some positive elements that he put on tape at NC State. He has fast hands and good anticipation roaming for steals. He’s very physical with his underrated strength on switches, and was able to stay attached to athletes like Dunn defending on-ball comfortably. On the negative side, he drifted a lot off ball, and still has that damning default tendency of ducking under screens (seen especially guarding Justin Jackson which led to ~8 easy points). Wings like Perrin Buford were able to shoot effortlessly right over him, even when Smith was able to wall off penetration. Lastly, he helped too much one pass away off of shooters digging down when he didn’t need to. Again, Smith is a pretty sizable work in progress on defense, but he has more ability there than he was given credit for by most pre-draft.
Ranking Justification: Summer League is too small of a sample to rank Smith over Fultz, and I’m still definitely partial to Fultz. But conceptually when you look at how both project to the NBA level as 3-level scoring lead guards with very capable creation for others creativity, Smith deserves mentioning in the same tier. He’s a better athlete than Markelle and is both superior getting to the rim and finishing right now (I’m still really high on Fultz’s finishing). Smith’s big minus compared to Fultz coming out of college was Smith’s apathetic and inconsistent play without having the elite efficiency and superior tools that Fultz had to fall back on. Smith looked more like his pre-college competitor self getting up for big matchups like Dunn and Ball in SL than the NC State version of himself (you can’t pretend like this didn’t happen of course), which adds more certainty to his projection.
With both Smith and Fultz their relative successes will largely come down to shot-making efficiency off the dribble, and while Fultz is a better bet to reach that elite shooting level, Smith is also capable. I thought Smith was the #2 talent in the class pre-draft and that stance has only been buttressed by his destination. I’m still more comfortable with his their translation to the next level than Ball, especially in half-court play, which is why he vaults a tier ahead here.
3.Lonzo Ball (Original Rank: 3rd)
Team Fit/Opportunity: Another near ideal player/team fit, Walton’s motion offense which emphasizes passing, screening and spot-up shooting is tailor-made for Ball’s skill-set, and the system is a natural extension of a somewhat similarly principled UCLA scheme. LA also seems intent on pushing the pace, which is a necessity to fully capture Ball’s transition passing prowess. The Lakers were my favorite scheme destination for Ball pre-draft, and my only hangup at the time personnel wise was the defensive fit next to Russell long-term. After the egregiously bad Russell trade at least the Lakers were able to sign a near optimal backcourt fit next to Ball in KCP, who can compensate for Ball’s lack of point of attack defense and provide some secondary half-court creation. Even if KCP is only on LA for one year, he is conceptually the kind of backcourt partner you want next to Lonzo. Overall, Ball got into a system analogous to a system that we’ve already seen him flourish in, which for a divisive player provides more certainty moving forward.
Summer League: Dismissing the rampant hysteria on both ends of the spectrum, Ball was basically exactly the player we thought he was coming out of UCLA in SL. He dictated an absurd pace in transition with selfless hit ahead passes and a plethora of pin-point accuracy outlets. His top end speed with a head of steam in transition with the ball also led to blow-bys against unprepared prey.
Pete Zayas of LakerFilmRoom made an excellent point about Ball’s transition play potentially altering how opposing teams approach offensive rebounding, and I think there’s definitely credence to that because Ball is going to make you pay for every mistake in transition. I admittedly perhaps undervalue transition play as viewing it as a nice cherry on top to prospect evaluation instead of a primary input into analysis, especially with “elite” prospects, but Ball is legitimately going to alter opposing schemes with his outlet passing and ruthless decision-making in the open court, which is rare for any player in overall, let alone a rookie.
Two positive elements of Ball’s game were really reinforced in SL play. The first was his remarkably accurate passing, not only in transition but on post entries and skip passes. He legit throws guys open from a stand-still Tom Brady style just by ball location in leading players away from defenders even when guarded. His understanding of time and space in these settings is going to be elite upon entering the NBA.
The second most impressive part of Ball’s game in SL was his ability to recognize and attempt to exploit every weakness you have. His feel as a passer is tremendous, but his understanding and quick recognition of blown coverages, switches etc. is really special. This was a bang-bang immediate read after receiving that kick-out that looked better in real-time:
A lot of players can’t process this play quick enough, which leads to the defense likely passing the switch on Zubac off to a bigger defender, negating the exploitation window. Ball already saw this before he received the kick-out and the ball went on target to Zubac right after the catch. This isn’t surprising of course if you watched Lonzo at UCLA, but his mental edge in the recognition game deserves to be highlighted again. Ball might not have the functional athleticism or skill via handle and shake to exploit defensive mishaps every time, but he can damn well quickly diagnose them, and that has tremendous value in itself.
On the flip-side, Ball’s weaknesses were readily apparent in SL. His handle is poor, especially in tight half-court spaces and navigating conventional PNR sets. He was unable to shake NBA athletes like Hollis-Jefferson, LeVert, Dinwiddie and Nader. His shot-making off the dribble (3-fot-25 in the half-court) was especially brutal, and it’s not going to get any easier in terms of creating separation for his awkward mechanics at the next level. Ball isn’t as poor of a shooter (8-for-42 on jump shots in the half-court) as he showed in SL, but this just sheds light more on the fact that Ball should not have been considered a surefire bet to shoot in ++ fashion coming out of UCLA considering the SSS and homogeneity (step-backs to the left) of his pull-ups and lackluster FT% mark. He’s still a confident shooter (he kept shooting through that dismal outing against the Clippers), and should still be proficient off the catch especially, but there is some uncertainty here.
Defensively, his point of attack defense was poor. He has little chance staying in front of Ferrell types, and absolutely no chance against Smith type athletes which he’ll face at the next level. Whitehead also ran right through him in isolation play, illuminating his lack of strength. He still lays and dies on screens, and it’s so easy to create initial separation from him. He’s just not a physical player right now, and that can be seen across multiple fronts. He has the size to switch but don’t think he has the frame or physical mindset to do so, especially in a targeted playoff setting.
Conversely, he’s a plus team defender anticipation wise and can read plays while they develop. He’s such a weird prospect because he plays smaller than his size in some aforementioned areas but in others like rebounding he’s tremendous for a guard. He excelled jumping passing lanes in transition especially and showing active hands in most settings. His ability to crash down and block shots continued to be fantastic. He’s a poor PNR defender but at least he displays effort in applying back pressure with his size and length.
Ranking Justification: Outside of that onslaught against the Sixers in terms of scoring/attacking mindset, I view Ball pretty much the same as I did pre-draft. He had a few nice touch finishes that still don’t pass the eye-test as far as it translating against legitimate NBA rim protection with his avoidance of contact especially, but skill wise he was his UCLA form outside of just missing more shots.
I still have the same questions in terms of self creation gravity. I don’t see him ever demanding the gravity of two defenders on-ball in the half-court, and against top-shelf competition who are more disciplined in transition and switch everything in the half-court, I think Lonzo can be almost neutralized entirely as an on-ball player. That being said, his blue chip decision-making, hopefully capable shooting and defensive awareness will always be meaningful at any level, and his impact on regular season play is going to be pretty significant. He tore apart SL transition defense (which is usually objectively terrible), but it’s not like a ton of teams on a nightly basis play consistent transition defense, or even disciplined half-court defense. Lonzo’s brain alone is worth equity on a winning team in some capacity. It’s all about whether his skill level and body/flexibility improvements catch up to his mind. With his situation in LA and SL play (mostly the former) I think he did enough to separate himself from the rest of the pack slightly outside of Monk who didn’t play of course, even though I already had him 3.
4.Malik Monk (Original Rank: 5th)
Team Fit/Opportunity: Monk disappointingly missed Orlando SL, robbing the people of what would have likely been an explosive scoring showcase. But his fit in Charlotte is outstanding. Clifford’s offense incorporates a lot of floppy and off-screen actions for Nicolas Batum, ideal for Monk’s refined off-ball scoring game. I trust the Hornets to optimize Monk because of this, and he should get consistent minutes from the off coming off the bench and will likely close a fair amount of games as Clifford typically subs out non-shooting threats in crunch time.
Ideally Monk would also be able to run some back up lead guard, a reality that became less likely with the signing of Carter-Williams, but he still might get stints there which should be interesting. With Kaminsky and Zeller also on the second unit there is some talent and spacing there to compliment Monk’s game. We’ll likely see some dual guard lineups with Walker and Monk, which has legitimate firepower offensively with Batum kicking over to the 3 and either MKG, Williams or Kaminsky at the 4. The Walker/Monk fit defensively long-term is more tenuous of course due to the lack of size, especially against the elite teams, but the pairing could be a net-positive against a lot of lineups in the regular season where one can be more easily hidden on the worst wing player on the opposing team.
Ranking Justification: The cap-strapped Hornets did well for themselves at #11, acquiring desperately needed talent to a roster without the mechanisms to do so in other capacities. Monk’s shot-making could be special, and there is a semblance of lead guard potentially there down the road. His off-screen shooting/gravity and pull-up shooting should translate from day one. I like his upside as much as any non-Fultz or Smith player in this class, and his team fit is better than Isaac’s, which is why I moved him a tick ahead despite them both being pretty interchangeable at 4-5 in my pre-draft rank.
5.Jonathan Isaac (Original Rank: 4th)
Team Fit/Opportunity: In a vacuum I still like Isaac more than Tatum or Jackson given his rare defensive versatility looks like the most blue chip NBA skill of the 3, but his fit on Orlando is a bit disconcerting. It took the Magic two-and-a-half years to realize Aaron Gordon was a 4, and compounding the skepticism of the franchise being able to recognize and place players in ideal roles is the fact Isaac and Gordon (at least right now) play the same position. The skills of both are negated at the 3 offensively in terms of both floor-crunching spacing and creation. Down the road ideally Isaac could fill out enough to kick over to the 5 in small ball lineups, and that 4/5 pairing could be one of the most devastating defensive pairings in the league. But we’re probably 3-4 years away from that, if ever, outside of select matchups.
It’s entirely foreseeable that Isaac or Gordon see a lot of minutes at the 3, a far from ideal scenario. Isaac’s offensive ceiling creation-wise is probably overrated by the masses, but his skill level becomes more digestible as you push him down positions. Orlando has over 30% of their cap tied up in traditional 5s right now in Vucevic, Biyombo and Speights, which will likely limit lineup versatility. I would have been more bullish on Isaac’s ceiling outcome if paired next to Towns in a world where Thibs doesn’t play two traditional bigs. Orlando is a tougher sell.
Summer League: Isaac’s play in Orlando was to form. He showed a great motor on cuts and attacking the offensive glass for put-backs. Just in general he looked much taller than most of his opposition, best exemplified by him playing volley-ball at times above the rim.
He flashed the ability to create some space to get to his patented triple-threat shake one dribble to the left pull-up against an athlete like Miami’s Okaro White, but he missed most of his jump shots on both spot-ups and pick-and-pops, and still needs time via mostly strength acquisition to adjust out to NBA 3.
Defensively, his range in space to contest and rotate down for blocks with good instincts was apparent even on the Orlando SL’s annoying TV angle.
Ranking Justification: This slight downgrade is more about the fit with Gordon and the organization not inspiring a lot of player development confidence than the player for me. His ceiling is higher than this.
6.Jayson Tatum (Original Rank: 7th)
Team Fit/Opportunity: As the most recent addition to Boston’s potential two-way wing collection, Tatum will derive the same cultural benefits as Jaylen Brown did last year via defensive and toughness spillover from guys like Jae Crowder and under the tutelage of Brad Stevens. It’s a great situation for Tatum to develop, especially the ancillary parts of his game playing in Boston’s ball-movement scheme and with such heavy emphasis placed on defensive consistency. He of course wont start right away with both Hayward and Crowder manning the wing spots and Brown likely ahead in the pecking order due to seniority, but Tatum should carve out a rotation spot this year, especially with his ability to play situational minutes at the 4 with his rebounding prowess.
Summer League: There was a lot of buzz about Tatum’s style of play in SL: mainly all of the high degree of difficulty mid-range attempts, ball-stopping in the mid-post and unwillingness to pass. I’m not overly concerned with that. Tatum is not going to be allowed that kind of self-creation freedom at the next level as a primary set in the offense, and it’s entirely possible Tatum was told to play the way he did in SL just to see what he was capable of in that setting. He’s by no means an elite passer, but he has better vision and is a more willing passer than he showed in both Utah and Vegas.
I thought Tatum for the most part was as advertised. He won the individual matchups he should especially in the post against guys like Forbes, Tokoto, and Luwawu, overwhelming those players with his size and strength creating separation at will with his shoulder dip and ability to turn over either shoulder to score. The high-degree-of-difficulty Dirk one-legged pirouettes where insanely advanced for a 19 year-old, especially in terms of footwork. He also was able to win against bigger players in face up situations with his handle via crossovers, deceptive jabs and spins out of triple threat, creating some airspace to get to his step-back, boding well for his ability to play some four especially with his rebounding.
On the flip side, I didn’t see Tatum create a ton of seperation, especially against superior athletes who possessed the strength to hold position on Tatum. Mitchell especially was able to get into Tatum’s body, stay attached and contest. Tatum even struggled to separate from Kuzma at times, and he’s not someone who is just going to blow by guys at will and finish explosively at the rim. He made some insanely difficult shots, and he deserves credit for that, but there’s a big difference getting to spots against Bryn Forbes versus primary wing defenders in the NBA.
A lot of Tatum realizing his offensive ceiling will come down to his shooting, both from 3 and off the dribble (in terms of degree of efficiency and creating the threat of his shot). My thoughts on his shooting form are still the same: he lacks fluidity, is a bit stiff in the lower body and his two-motion shot, despite him having legitimate strength to combat this, doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence in terms of him evolving into a dynamically efficient self-creator. He’s still ironing out his mechanics, so we’ll see what it looks like in a year or two.
Defensively, Tatum was fine for most of SL. He noticeably struggled against the Sixers in Utah with positioning and containing athletes like Luwawu off the dribble, but he improved after that, and for the most part he tried hard.
Ranking Justification: Overall, Tatum’s archetype is mostly dependent on his self-creation efficiency, but with the Celtics organization he is arguably in the best spot to again realize the ancillary elements of his game such as passing and defense. Conceptually him and Jaylen compliment each other well down the road at their ceiling outcomes, as Boston has certainly cornered the market on versatile wing types. I feel better about Boston’s organization than Phoenix’s, which is why I vaulted Tatum ahead of Jackson (Tatum is also a much better bet to shoot and play the 4, but we already knew that), and Tatum’s situation both organizationally and developmentally is better than Isaac’s situation in Orlando as well, rendering it fair to bump Tatum up to 4. I still like Isaac and Monk more as prospects, so I’ll keep that order despite a lot of this tier being pretty fluid.
7.Josh Jackson (Original Rank: 6th)
Team Fit/Opportunity: Phoenix reportedly wanted a more NBA ready prospect in the draft, and Jackson is conceptually that kind of player (at least in their eyes). Josh is a good bet to start at the 3 from the off, with only bucket-getter TJ Warren and Jared Dudley (a 4 at this stage) in his path. This should mean immediate court time, and an opportunity to be tossed into the fire to iron out his defensive habits especially from day one.
I’m not overly bullish on his *present* fit here, but as best case personnel fit it could be really solid. While Jackson is unlikely to be stunted the way Dragan Bender was in his rookie year playing out of position at the 3, he Suns aren’t presently the kind of ball-movement ecosystem that Jackson needs to thrive offensively (29th in potential assists per game via NBA.Com last year). Jackson has to be utilized a very specific way on offense: mainly getting him the ball on the move via dribble-hand-offs like Kansas did on weave actions, along with using him in versatile ways like as a screener but mostly just giving him some on-ball secondary creation settings. He’s a fantastic cutter/explosive finisher off ball, but if he’s just going to stand in the corner and cede possessions to Bledsoe and Booker he’s not going to provide much offensive value as a spot up shooter with his lack of gravity. The Suns could try to implement more of a motion scheme, and they have the personnel via Bender and Jackson to get the ball moving there. But if they keep the current system with Chriss at the 4 as well it’s hard to see Jackson getting near optimal use here, even though the foundation for a fit is hypothetically very good, especially if Phoenix’s bigs can space well.
Summer League: I thought Jackson was largely a mixed bag in SL, and his earning of first team honors overrated his performance. Jackson showed some shot-making off the dribble, as he continues to hit pull-up shots reasonably well despite it being mostly instincts over fluidity and form. He fared well in PNR, with teams predominately either switching or chasing over the top. His handle in these settings was about as good as can be expected in setting up picks and snaking for pull-ups, as well as beating bigs like Qi to the rim on occasion showing some soft finishing touch.
Conversely, he struggled to create space without assistance. He’s just limited in these self-creation settings so much by his lack of first step and the fact defenders will willingly give him a bigger cushion to pull-up knowing he’s not feared in that capacity. His passing and decision-making in making some really poor reads in traffic especially was disappointing, but he’ll be fine with more simple reads as a secondary creator.
Defensively, Jackson’s playmaker/gambling nature was at the forefront, as he over-helped a lot off the 3pt line especially. It should be noted that he was guarding non-shooting threats like Finney-Smith and Troy Williams a lot of the time, but you still see him gambling for steals and overextending on the perimeter for blows-bys too often. He competes hard in individual on-ball defense but had negative moments such as getting crossed up pretty good by Williams-Goss and Smith blew by him with ease in isolation. Phoenix had Jackson switch basically every pick-and-roll, which they should, so there wasn’t a respectable sample to evaluate here in terms of chasing over etc. His lack of strength was also evident with events like Mitch Creek running through him. Overall, Jackson more of a playmaker on defense with chase down/crash down blocks than a disciplined defender right now. It was really good to see him make a difference on the glass and continue to make winning plays there, like he did in that 15 rebound effort against the Jazz.
Ranking Justification: I soured on Jackson in the post-draft analysis process for the reasons explained in my big board description, and his SL play only reinforced that position. I’m still not sure what he thrives at in plus fashion at the NBA level if he can’t shoot respectably well from 3 because I don’t think he’s going to bring elite wing defense. He’s still solid across the board and has a touch more upside than someone like Mitchell if he shoots it, even though Mitchell is arguably a safer bet at this stage to reach plus value with a more clearly defined avenue to success. If the Suns can incorporate a system more in alignment with Jackson’s strengths and their big men shoot to the level that they are capable of, Jackson could be a really solid NBA player. I’m just managing expectations.
8.Donovan Mitchell (Original Rank: 11th)
Team Fit/Opportunity: No one improved his stock more than Mitchell in SL, and while he was definitely impressive, I’m more excited about his developmental and scheme fit in Utah. Mitchell conceptually is tailor-made for Snyder’s motion scheme long-term, where he can be used in dribble hand-off situations and off-screens to leverage his speed with momentum and depending on how high his shooting ceiling goes that element as well. Utah has a ball-movement infrastructure with Rubio and Ingles, which should get Mitchell open looks from the perimeter and looks manufactured through the offense. The potential defensive pick-and-roll pairing with Gobert is also mouth-watering down the road, where Mitchell’s combination of strength, length, physicality, quickness and competitiveness at the point of attack icing PNR will allow Gobert to drop back and cover the rim. Mitchell looks like a two-way rotation player from the outset who will earn minutes with his defensive energy, and his ceiling mostly revolves around his shooting.
Summer League: In SL, Mitchell’s defensive prowess, especially in Utah SL, was noticeable and stood out above basically every other rookie. His strength and physicality affords him legitimate versatility, as he guarded players of different ilks. His defense on Tatum especially was one of the highlights of SL. He got into Tatum’s body and did an excellent job walling him off on drives and contesting shots. His ability to absorb contact getting over picks without getting dislodged and stay attached to ball-handlers is incredibly impressive, boding well for his point of attack defense in the future. He still weirdly runs into too many screens off-ball and he wasn’t as sharp on the defensive end in Vegas, but you saw basically everything you’d hope to see from him defensively overall.
The other dynamic component of Mitchell’s SL play was his shooting. Mitchell’s shooting aesthetically looks translatable to NBA range. He has clean mechanics, fluid preparatory footwork and made several NBA caliber shots from deep with his strength elevating quickly shooting off the catch over contests. He also showed better off the dribble shooting ability pulling up off the 1-2 and on step-backs. Overall, as surmised his college shooting stats due at least in part to shot selection being miscast as the #1 option for Louisville undersold his ability on tape, and while he might not be a knockdown shooter he looks very capable.
Mitchell ran a lot of lead guard in Vegas with Exum departing after Utah SL, and the results were mixed. He showcased some definite positives in PNR, again showing the ability to split and freeze bigs such as Deyonta Davis with in-and-out dribbles in space. On the flip side, his lack of explosion off one foot hindered his finishing ability in traffic, and he got trapped in traffic without a plan several times. He wants to drop his shoulder to dislodge instead of stepping around bigs, and he’s still raw as a drive-and-kick creator for others with only so-so vision. He looks capable of secondary creation with a workable handle, passable vision and the burst to get into the lane, but projecting any kind of primary creation at this juncture seems overzealous.
Ranking Justification: The Jazz have to be thrilled with landing Mitchell where they did, as his projectable role and value looks to be on the development curve of a bigger Avery Bradley with even greater ball-skills depending on the shooting variance (maybe not quite the athlete). That’s a hell of a player. His two-way floor was always his best selling point in my opinion, and that floor as a contributor to winning basketball warrants discussion in tier 3 here. Guys like the aforementioned Jackson have slightly higher upsides, but Mitchell might be the most likely in this entire tier to realize plus value to good team as his avenue to being a two-way player who can shoot is clearer than most. It’s thus reasonable to put him even higher than this, but I’m going conservative on his creation upside and shooting ceiling.
9.Frank Ntilikina (Original Rank: 8th)
Team Fit/Opportunity: Ntilikina is already drawing the ire of Knicks fans and NBA fans alike after Smith killed summer league and the news leaked that Frank was Phil Jackson’s selection due to scheme fit in the triangle before Jackson was jettisoned (of course it didn’t help either that Ntilikina missed SL). I’m still buying Ntilikina stock but the scheme/personnel and culture fit in New York is far from ideal.
I’ve always had reservations about whether or not Ntilikina can man a conventional NBA lead guard role, and given his only point guard competition on the Knicks is Ramon Sessions it looks like he could be cast into the fire running point from the off. New York already ran less triangle concepts than advertised previously, and it’s likely Hornacek will continue to move away from those principles now with Jackson gone, incorporating more PNR. I’m not sure if Ntilikina is cut out for that with his lack of burst, explosiveness and finishing rawness, especially from in the beginning of his career. Combine that with the pressure and scrutiny in New York (from all indications he’s a quiet personality) and it’s probably not the best developmental incubator. At least Frank has Kristaps to open up the floor in these PNR settings, and we’ll be able to see pretty quickly if Ntilikina has lead guard creation chops, although keep in mind his frame still looks like one of the most capable to difference-making strength/explosion addition and he’s young as hell.
Ranking Justification: I view Ntilikina and Mitchell as very similar players and still believe Frank’s upside is a touch higher, but Mitchell is the better athlete and has the safer team development fit, ergo the bumping of Mitchell up slightly ahead. Ntilikina will also play a role right away for New York, and given Collins’ expected longer physical maturation and learning curve post SL play to the point the Blazers are unlikely to get much value out of him on his rookie deal, Ntilikina playing worst case a more coveted position on the wing will probably afford more immediate value and their upsides are similar.
10.Zach Collins (Original Rank: 9th)
Team Fit/Opportunity: Collins’ fit on Portland has it’s pluses and minuses. From a positive standpoint, both Lillard and McCollum command a ton of gravity with the ball, and Collins’ conceptual stretch five ability should both open up lanes for Portland’s guards as well as free him for open shots. The Blazers don’t have a mobile rim protecting five on their roster, so Collins gives them a nice complement there to Nurkic’s power game. On the negative side, Collins is really just a finisher of possessions right now offensively, and his playmaking is a long ways out. Portland requires more from their bigs than just finishing, as screeners for Dame and CJ have to be short roll playmaking threats otherwise teams will just trap the guards and stunt the offense. Collins isn’t ready for that handling and passing on the move burden. He should be able to shoot 3s in those scenarios in due time, especially if screens are set farther out, and can be an off-ball floor spacer from deep probably sometime over the latter half of his rookie contract, but that might not be enough. Stotts is a very good developmental coach and there’s a decent shot he can mold Collins into a capable passer, but Collins likely wont realize this ability on his first contract. Stotts should be able to leverage Collins’ shooting threat and ability to dart quickly to the rim on dribble-hand-offs however.
Summer League: Of all the lottery picks Collins might have been the consensus most disappointing player in SL, but he was largely as expected. Collins looked fluid shooting from mid-range in spot up situations and on pick-and-pops, and has the mechanics to extend out to 3 comfortably. His quick-reaction instincts on defense were on display contesting shots with verticality, and his space defense mobility was also present walling off opposing big men on drives.
He predictably struggled with the physicality adjustment to stronger and more athletic front court players. Zizic and Bolomboy were able to move him around on the interior, where Collins’ lack of developed frame hindered him. He also really struggled as expected trying to make plays on the move either via handle or pass attempts offensively, and continued to get demonstratively frustrated on the court with himself.
The biggest takeaway from Collins’ SL play to me is that he’s probably going to need more time to develop physically, pushing his contributing time-table back. There were always clear warts in his game, mainly playmaking, but I feel like a lot of people are overreacting to the negatives and glossing over the still present unicorn equity here.
Ranking Justification: I’m still bullish on Collins, but his ability to contribute to winning basketball in any kind of fashion is going to take longer to materialize than previously expected.
11.OG Anunoby (Original Rank: 10th)
Team Fit/Opportunity: One of the best value picks in the draft in some time, OG lands in an ideal setting for both him and the Raptors. With Lowry and DeRozan monopolizing offensive possessions OG can fixate on what he does best: exert maximum on-ball defensive effort against the best wing scorer on the other team and work on refining his spot up mechanics. The Raptors are going to be a very good team again, and with the addition of CJ Miles and with Norman Powell already on-board there probably aren’t a lot of minutes to go around to start, but OG should get developmental minutes throughout the season.
Where the Raptors were operating from cap wise with limited resources after re-signing Lowry and Ibaka and their ever-present need for a defender to give them minutes against LeBron, they did about as well as you could possibly hope for here. There is no such thing as a LeBron stopper (apologies Kawhi), but OG just by his size, strength, length and athleticism could maybe man spot duty there in the playoffs. Getting that kind of player at 23 is a steal.
Ranking Justification: OG’s true ceiling is tied almost entirely to his spot up 3pt shot, which admittedly looks like a bad investment to make. But if he ever shoots in league average from 3 and emerges as a top 5 or so wing defender in the league, he’s going to crush his draft slot value wise.
12.De’Aaron Fox (Original Rank: 12th)
Team Fit/Opportunity: The Kings until proven otherwise don’t inspire a lot of confidence in terms of player development, and with George Hill on board Fox is unlikely to start. Out of the 3 veteran signings I like the Hill signing most, as he can easily play next to Fox with his spacing ability on offense and size versatility defensively. But the Kings are going to give a lot of minutes to Hield at the 2 as the core returning piece from the Cousins trade, as well as Bogdanovic, Temple and Carter to the point it’s hard to see Fox seeing anything more than backup lead guard minutes at least for his rookie season and probably a year beyond that.
Summer League: What stood out most about Fox’s SL play was his comfort and fluidity shooting on mid-range pull-ups. He made some impressive contested step-backs that passed the eye test (one notable one over Caruso), and really excelled pulling up after snaking over-and-drop PNR coverages. He also expectedly was a menace in transition with his outlier speed getting to the rim, and had a few nice adjustment finishes both through contact and with his right hand over Thomas Bryant in the half-court.
As a passer, Fox made some nice flashy bounce entries and drop-offs, but had some really poor turnovers/reads and still looks like a scoring lead guard with average vision. Defensively his athleticism, speed and agility advantage over summer league guards like Caruso and David Stockton was notable (also pressuring the ball against non-PG athletes like Kobi Simmons). He can just overwhelm those guys with ball pressure, and NBA lead guards are a different animal, and ones that should introduce not only added athleticism but an added strength component. In individual defensive matchups Fox ducked under on guys like Smith and Wade Baldwin in PNR, and had some struggles containing Mike James and Baldwin at times. I didn’t really have any takeaways on his off-ball defense, which was spotty at Kentucky.
I’m still very dubious on his translation obviously, as his 3pt shot looked far less fluid with almost every miss significantly short and flat given his unideal mechanics. He didn’t finish in traffic in the half-court nearly as well as in transition, struggling some with contact and length (he’s still fearless attacking bodies which has value in itself volume wise). Outside of Phoenix at times who ducked under screens and usually switched sagging off Fox in PNR, Fox mostly saw over-and-drop coverage, leaving him one on one with the big in space (he again beat Bryant specifically here). NBA teams wont play him that way, and while there are ways to combat this of course via re-screens, setting the screen closer to the foul line etc, it’s just a value-killing offensive hassle. If Fox can shoot with the same fluidity he showed in SL from mid-range it could be workable, but few players are ever good enough mid-range shooters to make that shot as a primary offensive recourse valuable.
Ranking Justification: If Fox turns into Mike Conley as a shooter, this ranking is going to look horrible. Also if you rank for pure upside that very small percentage chance he reaches that level is worth a higher spot. I still just think there is too much downside here and the downside is far likelier to manifest. The mid-range shooting just from the eye-test looked somewhat encouraging, but my stance on him hasn’t changed. He’s still the Kings’ best prospect however, and they need to find time for him to develop. If Fox went to Dallas I probably would rank him a tier ahead at the bottom, but alas that’s not the case.
13.Jordan Bell (Original Rank: 17th)
Team Fit/Opportunity: One of the best fits in the draft, Bell’s likelihood of striking second round value increased exponentially when selected by the Warriors. No team is better at integrating versatile players into their scheme and optimizing skills. In Bell’s case, his ability to switch, protect the rim, rebound and pass on short-rolls especially is tailor-made for the Warriors’ roster construction which is of course infused with ball-movers, shooters and self-creators. He should easily beat out Looney and Jones as he’s just a far better basketball player, and could challenge West and McGee for regular season minutes and serve as a matchup specific play in the playoffs. In using the full taxpayer MLE on Young the Warriors lost the ability to sign Bell for more than 2 years, but getting two guaranteed years should provide Bell enough opportunity to make his case to stick.
Summer League: Bell held to form in SL, where both his lack of positional size/tools and lackluster scoring prowess was overshadowed mostly by his ability to play within his lane in a specified role that has value. His 5×5 game illustrates Bell’s abilities and approach perfectly. He’s just a basketball player, and a smart one at that. His defensive instincts and reactionary athleticism are probably the best in the draft for a big, and despite not having the size or build that you’d like from a 5 he can still provide plus big man production.
One of my favorite plays in SL was when Bell caught a pass on a short roll and instead of forcing a low percentage contested floater he instinctually threw a lob pass to Jones on the move. How many bigs have those kinds of quick-reaction instincts? Bell isn’t just a garbage man type without any skill: he can really pass the ball, especially on high velocity skips. Placing him into the Warriors’ spacing where all he has to do is pass and make high energy plays is beyond ideal.
Ranking Justification: Due to his physical makeup as a 5 skill wise with a 4’s body Bell is likely still a niche player, and it’s hard to raise him higher than this as a result. But he’s in an optimal situation with a team who is fantastic at extracting niche skills. He might be overblown some by advanced stats, but there will also be merit behind his likely success.
14.Derrick White (Original Rank: 14th)
Team Fit/Opportunity: White’s all-around offensive game in being able to handle secondarily, playmake for others, shoot off the catch and shoot off the dribble should translate nicely to the Spurs skill-ball system. It’s a perfect system to leverage his playing in the team construct style offense, and it’s easy to envision White evolving into a better passing iteration of Patty Mills for the Spurs. He’ll have to beat out Forbes, Brandon Paul and probably even Murray for rotation minutes (Murray looked very unimpressive in SL) with Simmons departing for Orlando, but with Parker perhaps departing after this season it shouldn’t be long until White has an opportunity for a franchise who can really develop players (no shit Cole).
Summer League: White struggled in SL surprisingly with shot-selection and getting sped up with his decision-making. He took a plethora of contested long twos and struggled to turn the corner at times, as well as finish over length. It wasn’t full-fledged disconcerting to see, but I expected White to represent himself a little better in the mental game given his age. Some of this gets swept under the rug if he shoots better of course.
On the positive side, White showed impressive underrated athleticism for stints in being able to wall off both Brown and Tatum in his Utah SL outing against the Celtics, as well as stick on Exum’s hip against the Jazz. RC Buford in his post-draft interview noted that he believed there was more to extract from White’s defense sacrificing offensive usage at the next level, and while White projects as far from a sizable plus on that end, even respectable defense would do wonders for his translation.
Ranking Justification: White is a plug-and-play type of combo-guard, and his skill level will be optimized on the Spurs. He wasn’t a standout at SL, but you could see the flashes of his capabilities like in the 2Q against the Jazz in Utah SL for example. I like White as a prospect, but this is every bit as much of a bet on his situation then it is on his talent.
15.Sterling Brown (Original Rank: 16th)
Team Fit/Opportunity: Brown was considered one of the biggest draft sleepers by a lot of draft twitter, and his landing spot in Milwaukee in being able to play off Giannis was an ideal reward for those who invested a lot of pre-draft stock in him. The sweet-shooting Brown has a chance to carve out a rotation spot in Milwaukee behind Snell and Middleton if he beats out the inconsistent as all hell Vaughn, and the Bucks giving Brown 2 guaranteed years with an early 7/1 guarantee date on the third year reflects confidence in his potential role.
Summer League: Brown’s offensive value will predominately come on spot-ups, where he’s always been very proficient with his gorgeous mechanics despite low volume. He does have more off the bounce game than given credit for. His handle looked passable in SL play, as he was able to run a PNR and get his shot off the bounce at times. He lacks burst to separate but compensates with using his established frame to carve out space and keep defenders at bay. He had a few crafty finishes at the rim, showing ability to finish through contact and adjust around length with creativity, although he struggled at the basket in congested settings due to a lack of explosion. The Bucks started out SL playing Gary Payton II and Vaughn predominately on ball, but in their game against the Kings allowed Brown to initiate more and kicked GPII over to an off-ball cutter role, which he’s far better at in conjunction with GPII’s elite defensive instincts. The Bucks offense looked more functional in the settings with Brown running things, a testament to his feel and underrated ball-skills. He’ll never be a primary creator of course, but there might be more fourth or fifth option in a pinch creation potential than initially thought.
Defensively, Brown knows where to be, and does an excellent job contesting on the perimeter, an ability that stuck out in SL. He plays with active hands swiping at balls, is a solid dig defender and does smart things like not closing out hard on guys Sindarius Thornwell. More of a team defender than an individual defender, he’ll lose faster perimeter players on floppy sets due to his lack of speed, and wont be able to contain uber athletic wings, but he has some switch potential with his frame.
Ranking Justification: Brown again lacks even average NBA athleticism for a wing, but partially compensates with a tremendously strong frame and competitiveness on every play. He can also shoot the hell out of the ball, and due to these features it’s hard to see him failing on a Bucks team that needs as much two-way shooting surrounding Giannis as they can get.
16.Lauri Markkanen (Original Rank: 13th)
Team Fit/Opportunity: I always felt like Markkanen would be most valuable on his third contract in a Channing Frye type role on a good team, especially if the fit on his rookie scale deal was poor and the likelihood he gets overpaid on his second contract based on shooting and pedigree.. Landing in Chicago definitely satisfies part of this thought process.
The Bulls have a bundle of conceptual lead guards, but none are really of that make in reality. Dunn, Grant, and Payne (good god) are all significantly flawed in their own right on the floor, and more importantly from Markkanen’s standpoint there will be spillover in the creation for others category that will impact the quality of looks that guys like Lauri will amass. Markkanen will open up the floor for guards in PNR with his popping gravity, but he needs shots created for him and the trade-off factor of him playing the 4 versus the 5 (ideally an offensive 5 to draw the opposing teams rim protector out but he can’t be a defensive 5 outside of very specific matchups) is ever-present. I just don’t trust the Bulls to maximize Lauri at the next level.
Summer League: Lauri was basically similar to most these guys as advertised in SL outside of the ball not going in as much as expected. He was able to get off a considerable amount of 3s however, and that might say more for his future shooting capability than small sample efficiency. He also had a few impressive shows of athleticism on the offensive glass as well as a handful of nice half-court passes.
Outside of that, he struggled to help and recover in PNR against Ryan Kelly and Dwight Powell types, looking a bit plodding and not being a contest threat with his lack of length. He also failed to contain guys like John Collins off the dribble. Defense was always the issue with him, and he predictably didn’t do anything to temper those concerns.
Ranking Justification: Lauri has the most established elite skill in this tier with his shooting, but that skill has to be leveraged in a specific way and Lauri is a tougher roster fit with the tradeoffs he forces. As a third big he’s fine (not what you’re looking for at #7), and I think he’ll be a serviceable rotation player. I’m just down on his situation and surrounding personnel unless the Bulls land someone like Doncic in 2018.
17.Jonah Bolden (Original Rank: 20th)
Team Fit/Opportunity: The Sixers have a stacked front-court with Simmons, Embiid, Saric, Holmes, Johnson and Okafor (relative to their thinking), which is a large reason why Bolden was stashed this season, despite the fact I thought he easily earned a roster spot with his SL play. There is more uncertainty with Bolden because of this, as his avenues to opportunity are far less certain and so much can change in the NBA landscape in just a years time. Holmes is a free agent after 2018, and perhaps Colangelo is pushing back Bolden’s contract time-table to replace Holmes. Regardless, there is no surefire route to Bolden ever getting a definitive opportunity, and unfortunately that matters.
Summer League: The biggest surprise in the entireity of SL to me was Bolden’s defense. Having only had a cursory look at his film pre-draft his athleticism, mobility, quick release/range as a shooter and passing flashes were enough to rank him 20th as my upside dice-roll pick. He was switch capable and mobile on defense, but I still didn’t expect his athleticism to be THAT transparent in SL, and his awareness was also surprisingly good too.
Bolden’s rim protection and space defense mobility was outstanding for most of Utah and Vegas. He had a bevy of chase down blocks, while showing the ability to rotate over from the weak side to protect the rim. His ability to move backwards quickly in PNR and impressive lateral switching stints (such as on Tatum) with his athleticism really popped.
Offensively, his quick release 3pt shot is probably his best asset, but it’s a bit flat. Bolden also takes some ill-advised chucker caliber shots instead of moving the ball. That being said, he also makes some really interesting high velocity skip passes and reads on the move that a lot of guys his size can’t make.
Ranking Justification: This is a pure talent play on my part, as was ranking him top 20 in taking a shot in the dark pre-draft. Almost everyone else in this tier has a more established situation, but based on talent you could argue Bolden as high as 13. If I was an NBA team I would be trying to acquire his draft rights, as Bolden looks like an ideal modern NBA role-playing big man.
18.Jawun Evans (Original Rank: 15th)
Team Fit/Opportunity: Serving as the 5th guard/backcourt ball-handler to Teodosic, Beverley, Rivers and Williams, Evan’s’ path to opportunity is a bit more clouded, hindering his short-term development some. Aiding his cause is that all of the above players are proficient to some degree at playing off ball, and Beverley/Evans and Rivers/Evans lineups (the former specifically) will probably be able to survive defensively, aiding Evan’s route to playing time. If he ever gets it the Clippers have a ready-made PNR arsenal with Jordan’s explosive lob catching and Griffin’s high skill level, creating a very workable environment for Evans’ bread-and-butter PNR game. The Clippers gave Evans two-years guaranteed with a third year team option, a very respectable investment, thus Evans seems capable of eventually working himself into a backup PG role who can really push the pace on the second unit (I would have loved to see Evans learn from CP3, especially the nuances of creating space and finishing).
Summer League: Evans showed his strong-suits in SL as the most experienced PNR lead guard in the class. He’s so comfortable changing speeds and navigating confined spaces in traffic being low to the ground with a tight handle. He can make all the reads there, which is impressive for his size, and really showed off his ability to freeze the big in conservative pick-and-roll coverages and make the pocket pass.
Evans’ success in the league will come down to his shot-making off the dribble from both 3 and in the mid-range, as well as finishing respectably. He lacks the size and explosiveness to be a dynamic finisher, but he does absorb contact pretty well with his frame and had a nicely timed Steve Nash type scoop shot against the Bucks. He’ll have to win the craft, timing and touch game, as he’s not going to win the one-on-one finishing battle against NBA rim protectors, especially if he doesn’t get the corner. He did hit some promising pull-up jumpers, including a 3, which is likely where he’ll have to make his money as a self-creator.
Ranking Justification: This tier is almost entirely fluid, but Evans’ situation is a bit murkier than some others, which is why he lands a bit lower on the re-rank despite me still buying ideal modern NBA backup PG stock.
19.Sindarius Thornwell (Original Rank: 18th)
Team Fit/Opportunity: The Clippers have desperately needed a two-way wing defender with the size and strength to defend 3s for some time who can command some gravity as an off-ball shooter (Luc Mbah a Moute did shoot well on corner 3s last year but commanded no gravity). With LRMM following CP3 to Houston, the Clippers have a void in this capacity again with Gallo better suited at the four especially at this stage in his career. Thornwell’s combination of strength, length, competitiveness and advanced instincts will serve him well as a potential rotation defensive wing, and surrounded by legitimate shooting. If his 3 ever comes around (which is a huge if), he’s a legit NBA rotation wing.
Summer League: The biggest takeaway from Thornwell in SL was how much he looked like he belonged on the court in terms of profile and approach. He competes his ass off defensively, continuously busting ass to close out and challenge shots on the perimeter. I like the aggression he showed demanding the Ingram assignment and for the most part outside of a wicked crossover blow-by and one blown ICE coverage that wasn’t his fault, Thornwell did a respectable job sticking with Ingram, contesting and being physical with him. He is a bit too cavalier at times over helping too much relying on his recovery speed, effort, and length to challenge, but his defense overall was very good from what I saw.
Thornwell was really aggressive attacking closeouts, either getting to the rim or drawing fouls. He had one beautiful blow-by on Ingram, and consistently looked to take attack dribbles when defenders were unbalanced closing out hard. NBA defenders will be instructed to close out short to him to force 3 attempts, and Thornwell definitely benefited from poor SL execution, but his aggressiveness was still good to see.
His shot is the key and still has a ways to go. He would really benefit from catching more ready to shoot in order to expedite his release, which is too slow currently with his lack of preparation. He’s a long shot to shoot it well with a knuckleball release, but it was a worthwhile dice roll for the Clippers. Thornwell is also a better passer than he showed in SL.
Ranking Justification: I still like Thornwell’s defensive translation more than any component of Hart’s game for example, and given the Clippers’ need for his wing defense Thornwell has a reasonable shot at landing rotation minutes sometime this year potentially.
20.Josh Hart (Original Rank: 19th)
Team Fit/Opportunity: The motion system Hart played in at Villanova should prepare him well skill wise for Walton’s scheme in LA, which again is predicated on a lot of off ball screening action. Hart isn’t a dynamic off-screen shooter, but he does show ability on pin-down attempts, and definitely needs that running start on sets like dribble hand-offs to create separation at the next level. I thought Hart actually had a shot to start for LA pre-Caldwell Pope signing, given Clarkson is more ideally suited for a backup third guard scoring role, but with KCP on board now it’s going to be difficult for Hart to acquire rotation minutes barring injury unless he supplants Deng as the backup 3 or Walton kicks Clarkson over to backup lead guard.
Summer League: Hart obviously didn’t play a ton in SL and shot the ball incredibly poorly in his limited sample, which doesn’t leave a ton of room for takeaways. He had positive flashes like turning the corner on Jaylen on an iso and keeping Brown in front on the other side of the floor in an isolation play as well. But Hart’s lack of athleticism is going to limit him in some respects. We still see him forced to navigate into the lane and resort to a jump stop fadeaway to create separation, and both his balance and footwork need work on closeouts defensively.
Ranking Justification: As with most role players, Hart’s NBA success will hinge on shooting and being adequate enough on defense. He’s a cerebral player however, and in conjunction with Lonzo LA added a ton of BBIQ firepower to the roster.
21.Kyle Kuzma (Original Rank: Not Top 30)
Team Fit/Opportunity: The breakout star of SL, Kuzma finds himself in a bitter-sweet environment with the Lakers. From a positive perspective, Kuzma will really benefit from LA’s expected pace of play, having the athleticism and instincts to leak out in transition to receive Lonzo outlets. To extract full value from Kuzma his smooth one-motion 3pt shot has to be maximized, and Lonzo is exactly the kind of player who will always look for him on the perimeter. On the negative side, Kuzma is a NBA four, and the Lakers already have two young prospects at that position in Julius Randle and Larry Nance, which could block Kuzma from at worst case receiving early carer minutes entirely and in less than ideal case force him to man minutes at the 3. Long-term however, Kuzma (if he can defend respectably which is a huge if) might be LA’s best four option, as he’s the only player out of Randle and Nance who can space to NBA 3 comfortably on a team desperate for spacing.
Summer League: Kuzma might be the rare player who flashes a plethora of skills and is super inconsistent in college but then puts it all together in the pros. Watching his confidence, fluidity and ideal one-motion mechanics shoot in SL it’s hard to understand how someone with these shooting gifts could shoot 64.1% from the line on 271 attempts and 30.2% from 3 on 169 attempts in college, and unlike Donovan Mitchell as a big he didn’t have shot-selection in a primary creation setting to fall back on as a crutch.
His shooting was obviously on full display in SL shooting 18 of 39 off the catch in the half-court, setting the eye-test ablaze catching fluidly off the hop from legit range and even looking comfortable running off pin-downs setting his feet quickly to elevate. He wont be that efficient at the next level of course, but based on the eye-test in SL and at the Combine it’s reasonable to assume Kuzma will be a plus NBA shooter from 3, especially with Lonzo getting him high value attempts in transition.
You can’t just chalk up all of Kuzma’s SL success to Lonzo however. Kuzma showed translatable skills outside of just shooting in his own right, especially athletic flashes of wicked spin moves, agile footwork and very impressive passes on the move. He’s fast and athletic enough to make plays on closeouts, and has enough post footwork and touch to beat very overt mismatches on switches.
Kuzma’s NBA success will hinge on the degree of his shooting and if he can offer anything defensively as a space/switch defender. He’s noticeably agile on the court and is a capable reactionary slide defender (we saw him contain the likes of Tatum for example rather easily). He more so struggles in this area with positioning in pick-and-roll especially, and while he isn’t the most aware defender, he has tools to work with on the perimeter. He’s always going to struggle with physicality and interior defense/rim protection and rebounding, but true NBA fours like Blake Griffin and Paul Millsap are falling by the way side, which should allow Kuzma an easier path to NBA success.
Ranking Justification: Overall, Kuzma flashed a bevy of skills in college, but it never translated consistently to the court. If he can put it together in LA with his shooting and skill likely to be maximized in that system/with that pace, LA did well for themselves at 27. I’m still not fully buying in on either the shooting being sub-elite or the perimeter defense being good enough, as exemplified by this ranking of course. But my biggest pre-draft ranking regret is the inconsistency in having DJ Wilson top 30 and not Kuzma, given their stark shooting stroke difference. I thought Wilson’s college tape as a switch defender was more promising, but still that inconsistency was not ideal. Props to one of my co-hosts on the What On Draft Podcast Javier Pesquera who was probably the highest on Kuzma pre-draft (He also really liked Juancho FWIW). That should definitely be viewed as a vote of confidence for Kuzma’s future.
22.John Collins (Original Rank: Not Top 30)
Team Fit/Opportunity: Speaking of near ideal team fit and ideal opportunity on a re-building Hawks team, Collins’ projection got much cleaner after being selected by Atlanta at 19. The Hawks will have every incentive to give young players like Prince, Bembry, and Collins rotation minutes after the departure of Millsap and the trade of Howard, giving Collins an advantage over a lot of his draft counterparts. Doubling down on that sentiment, Collins will play a lot of minutes in a backup role next to a stretch 5 in Muscala, which is an ideal offensive fit. Collins is a hyper-athletic finisher who with a workable jump shot can be a legitimate dual PNR threat, and playing next to Muscala who can space as a 5 and also defend opposing backup 5s will allow Collins’ greatest strength, the ability to finish plays in PNR, to be unleashed.
Summer League: Collins was used in this PNR dive man fashion in SL, and he really thrived. He had one of the most ridiculous plays I saw in Vegas, catching the ball mid-air and fluidly transitioning into a adjusting layup in one motion, showing rare body control and the explosiveness to enable that kind of adjustment. He was one of the best front-court athletes in SL, with legit bounce in space and of course the numerous amount of highlight reel dunks. Some of this was enabled by playing next to Ryan Kelly, a capable SL stretch big.
Collins also looked fluid on face up jumpers in the post, and knocked down a pick-and-pop which looked surprisingly natural. He showed some physicality inside on offense (which was part of his repertoire Wake), notably punking Markkanen on a duck-in for a two-footed dunk.
One of the biggest areas of surprise in all of SL was Collins’ flashes of passing, a skill he did not show at Wake. He made several drop-off passes, a few on short rolls. While nothing *that* special, he showed more than expected (and the other Collins for sure) in this setting, and Budenholzer is the master at extracting and optimizing these kinds of skills.
My main area of concern with Collins is on defense. He looked completely lost in most matchups, losing Lauri especially a ton in the matchup with the Bulls. Was in no man’s land at times and slow to diagnose where he needed to be, especially in pick-and-roll coverages. Diallo blew by him twice on closeouts and bested him twice in the post. How much physicality does he have in these situations moving forward, as he’s not really going to protect the rim. He really needs to be a plus space/switch defender, and he currently lacks the strength, length, and awareness to be that guy. He is an excellent rebounder however, which gives him some defensive utility. If Bud can develop his defensive prowess, the Hawks really have something.
Ranking Justification: I probably underrated Collins pre-draft due mostly to lack of projectable role and lack of defense for a big man, combined with a lack of floor spacing and passing on offense. He’s a far better bet to shoot and pass having been drafted by Atlanta than he is to defend, and if you value defense from bigs it’s hard for Collins to inspire much confidence there. But he’s going to get opportunity and will likely put up numbers (and have a good PER!), and he’s a dynamic finisher with some skill upside. I still don’t think he’s a fit in the modern game, but if paired with a unicorn 5 like ceiling outcome Ayton he could evolve into a dynamic player with his finishing. I don’t know if he’s someone you want to build around, but in an ideal setting I can see his athleticism/finishing gravity being leveraged into a positive player. For now I will remain skeptical.
23.Jarret Allen (Original Rank: 21-30)
Team Fit/Opportunity: Allen of course didn’t play in SL, so there isn’t much to discuss in that respect. He did land in an optimal setting however. The Nets can be patient with Allen in their rebuilding process, and there is no reason for Allen not to receive adequate court time. The Nets only took on Mozgov to acquire Russell, and have no allegiance to him, and Quincy Acy isn’t a road block either to rotation minutes. I really like Atkinson as a developmental coach, and with him combined with the Nets guard play, I think Allen is in as good of a position as any to realize his offensive ceiling (he’s a capable mid-range shooter now and it’s foreseeable he is both given the freedom to and eventually makes the transition to NBA). I still have concerns about his defense, and developmental fives who lower ceiling outcomes aren’t tremendously valuable in terms of draft capital, but the situation for Allen is really good.
24.Bam Adebayo (Original Rank: Not Top 30)
Team Fit/Opportunity: Similar to Collins, Adebayo has avenues to both short-term opportunity and an ideal personnel fit. The Heat only have Olynyk behind Whiteside and potentially Winslow in small ball lineups (Hammons hasn’t shown anything to suggest he’s an NBA player) in terms of rotation fives. They will likely start the season with Olynyk in that role but over time the opportunity is there for Bam to seize a rotation spot. Of course, there is less desperation for Bam to capitalize short-term because of his lottery pick status, but seeing early career court time is almost never a bad thing. Adding to this positive is the fit next to Olynyk, where Bam can be used as a PNR dive man with Olynyk’s spacing drawing out an opposing big man. There are legitimate reservations about Bam’s ability to rebound and protect the rim as the sole big, so putting more size on the floor and still affording Bam spacing helps remedy those concerns to an extent.
Summer League: Again similar to Collins, Bam showed some skill he wasn’t allowed to display at Kentucky via some handling and shooting flashes. He had a few fluid mid-post turnarounds in Orlando SL, which was more than the situational face up jumpers he put on tape as a Wildcat, but still air-balled/had a fair amount of bad misses that didn’t make the highlight clips. Still, he might be able to shoot competently down the road in quasi-self-creation situations (although I’d bet against it).
The biggest shock to most draft niks was Bam’s grab-and-goes in Vegas. He’s faster and more coordinated with the ball than I ever thought he was capable of, even showing euro-steps and attempted in-and-out dribbles in space. But the result of these possessions usually ended with floater attempts where he was bailed out by bad fouls (he deserves credit of course still, and had one insane coast to coast finish against the Spurs).
Bam also showed some touch on short rolls and the body control to finish, as well as decent touch on jump hooks on mismatches inside against matchups like Shayne Whittington of the Spurs and Brandon Ashley of the Mavs, but struggled more with the size and length of the Wizards’ front line.
He looked more comfortable defending in space mobility wise closing out and switching in Vegas than he did in Orlando, despite still being slow to react at times in help-and-recover PNR situations against popping threats (although he did have a really nice sequence recovering to, walling off and blocking TJ Leaf’s pull-up in Orlando). His most impressive play arguably in SL was when he contained Dennis Smith on the PNR drive, absorbed Smith’s shoulder drop without getting dislodged and still blocked the shot. That play exemplifies Bam’s fantastic strength level, which combined with his relatively quick feet should make him a respectable space defender, which he’ll need to do because he’s not bringing much rim protection to the table and is a below average defensive rebounder for what he should be.
Ranking Justification: I’m still not buying Bam’s archetype, and don’t think the skills he displayed in SL he’ll either have the freedom to do in the NBA or will exceed at performing if given the chance. He’s a tough fit into any potential starting role at the next level, and while his space defense is competent, he’s not bringing enough value on that side of the ball to be much more than a decent backup 5. Perhaps I’m underrating his ceiling skill-set, but I don’t think so. At least with Collins you can see the potential elite finishing. Bam is leagues better as a defender, but that’s more of an indictment on Collins’ D than it is credit to Bam on that end. The Heat have a great player development staff however, and I’ll give them deserved credit here.
25.Davon Reed (Original Rank: Not Top 30)
Team Fit/Opportunity: Brandon Knight’s season ending injury opens up an opportunity for Reed to acquire rookie minutes as a backup two. The Suns desperately need more spacing, and knocking down open 3s is Reed’s game. Reed signed earlier in the process for 2nd rounders, and might have missed out in some guaranteed money, but still has more than 50% guaranteed in year two even though he made the rookie minimum in his first year and is non-guaranteed in years 3-4. It’s definitely a team friendly contract, but Reed also went higher in the draft than expected so that trade-off was probably built into the calculus. Regardless, as a straight low-end 3&D wing player, Reed has some upside.
Summer League: Reed’s game is again built around making open 3s off the catch and defending on-ball. He has simple mechanics with little elevation but gets shots off quickly despite often not catching on the hop. He’s not nearly as proficient when shots are contested, and didn’t look comfortable shooting on the move or off the bounce in SL. Reed has noticeably poor feel offensively with his inclination to take contested floaters and pull-ups without any displaying any vision, and makes some brutal reads. He’s not going to do much attacking closeouts either with his lack of explosion at the rim and lack of passing on the move.
Defensively, he looked to have decent off ball defensive awareness for the most part (take this with a grain of salt because I didn’t see much of him in college). He stunts and recovers, and looks to be a communicator pointing out assignments, and for the most part knows where to be, which is good to see. He’s not a lock-down type with the kind of athleticism to switch onto even Baldwin types, but he’s long, rangy and fast enough to switch some matchups, and is a plus closeout defender albeit taking some bad fouls.
Ranking Justification: Reed is a possible straight 3&D wing who can switch some matchups, so conceptually he’s tailor-made for the modern game. He is also walking into a nice opportunity situation with only the likes of rawer Derrick Jones (who I like more as a prospect) to beat out short-term, and the Suns likely covet Reed’s more readily able shooting at this juncture. Reed really has to shoot the shit out of the ball to be something offensively, but it’s possible in a limited off the catch role. I was on board with Phoenix’s pick from a philosophical standpoint when it was made even though I thought it was a talent reach based on limited viewing. But I’m certainly buying the idea.
26.Semi Ojeleye (Original Rank: Not Top 30)
Team Fit/Opportunity: Ojeleye becomes the latest addition to Boston’s collection of conceptual versatile wing types, and his defensive versatility will be key to him getting court time early in his career given how many others reside ahead of him in the lineup pecking order. Semi’s contract is essentially for two years with the second year about 3/4 guaranteed and the final two years non-guaranteed with early guarantee dates, and this Chandler Parsons esque contract structure is a nice get for Boston given the tradeoff of a higher year one salary. It’s not a heavy investment by any means, and a very reasonable bet on Ojeleye emerging into a two-way player.
Summer League: Ojeleye looked fluid and confident shooting from NBA 3 in SL (15-37 overall), and looked noticeably better catching in rhythm off the hop, especially on pick-and-pops. His best offensive minutes came as the small ball 5 playing the Lakers and matching up with Zubac especially, where Ojeleye was able to take advantage of Zubac’s plodding space defense knocking down pick-and-pop 3s. Semi’s strength and lower body girth allowed him to hold position defensively against Zubac inside and enable this positive tradeoff. The rest of Semi’s offensive game was pretty non-existent. He’s not going to create any offense off the dribble and as predicted struggled to finish inside due to inflexibility.
Defensively, Ojeleye moved better in space than I thought he would, being able to switch and stay in front of even some lead guards like Dejounte Murray. But I think that element of his game is being a tad overrated. Watching the film back, he has decent foot-speed but also fouled a lot in those switch settings. The idea of him as a plus switch defender capable of swinging 1-5 is overzealous. His strength is definitely real however, and that will allow him to hold up positioning wise against a lot of bigs in the NBA, and ideally the shooting advantage he’ll create on offense will compensate for his lack of interior defense and rebounding. If Semi’s shooting is real he can be a niche piece for Boston, and in R2 that’s a defensible pick.
Ranking Justification: Again I’m buying Boston’s infrastructure, and think they at least have a plan of attack for how they develop and utilize prospects. It will be tough sledding for Semi to crack rotation minutes on a deep roster, but it’s definitely a franchise that values versatility. I’m buying Ojeleye’s ability to defend bigger positions far more than switching onto smaller types, but as a situational four and small ball five he could have niche value.
27.Luke Kennard (Original Rank: 21-30)
Team Fit/Opportunity: With the Pistons selecting Kennard over Mitchell, the latter being a clear-cut better prospect (in my opinion), it’s clear they’re incredibly high on him, and with Avery Bradley an unrestricted free agent after next season, Kennard could get legitimate minutes by year two.
Summer League: Kennard’s spot up shooting is real. We knew that. His footwork there catching on the hop and getting to his pull-up off the 1-2 is tremendous. His success in the NBA will hinge on his off-screen shooting, which he did show flashes of in SL. Teams will likely just switch floppy sets likely to negate his off-screen advantage, so any kind of skill and craft translation is a huge plus. He did beat Dotson a few times in isolation, and has a good feel for setting up defenders in PNR with a workable handle, usually leading to pull-ups, which is crucial because he doesn’t have the explosiveness to finish against NBA length.
Kennard showed decent off-ball defensive instincts in SL, especially jumping passing lanes in transition and a handful of times reading kick-out passes on the weak-side, but he’s always going to be at a disadvantage on that end athletically.
Ranking Justification: Kennard looks like a rotation shooter, and how impactful he is will come down to degree of efficiency. Still don’t think he can survive in playoff basketball.
28.Justin Jackson (Original Rank: 21-30)
Team Fit/Opportunity: With the height at 6-foot-8 to play the NBA three Jackson will likely get rotation minutes as a plug-and-play shooter from the off given how the Kings have a gluttony of back court depth and only Vince Carter as a viewed “true three”. Jackson in actuality is far more of a traditional two than a three given his wiry frame, and if the Kings passed on Mitchell (who is better suited to guard threes than Jackson) because of difference in height that would be curious. Still, Jackson is looking at a legit opportunity, and while he will struggle on defense (probably mightily) in his role, he was never going to be a plus NBA defender, and his success in the league will pivot on his shooting efficiency.
Summer League: Jackson’s most eye-opening skill is his feathery touch on floaters, where he can come off a pin-down curl at high speeds and has the size and touch to get push shots off in traffic. He rarely gets all the way to the rim, and his SL runners verses finishing around the basket splits in the half-court really illuminated this component of his game (12-20 on runners, which is unreal, versus 1-9 at the basket). He has the ability to elevate at his size over Davon Reed types, and quickly rises on dribble-hand-offs especially. He’s not going to create in isolation, but on these quick-hitting DHOs or pin-downs, he has enough handle to attack in straight lines.
Defensively, Jackson struggled in PNR with his lack of quickness and strength. With his size and decent mobility he should be better than he is at applying back pressure. His team defense didn’t stand out as poor, but he was slow to make rotations at times.
Ranking Justification: A one position shooter, Jackson will need to be very adept at shooting on the move off pin-downs and floppy sets to excel as an NBA player. It’s always dicey to bet on these archetypes, but given likely opportunity, Jackson’s situation trumps some of the candidates behind him here.
29.Damyean Dotson (Original Rank: Not Top 30)
Team Fit/Opportunity: With Hardaway Jr., Ntilikina and Lee all ahead of him in the rotation for the foreseeable future, as well as Baker obviously valued by the organization after somehow receiving the Room MLE, Dotson is on the outside looking in for rotation minutes, especially because 3 of those 4 players can shoot, which is Dotson’s main skill, and Doston is a poor team defender right now and is thus unlikely to garner trust early in his career.
Summer League: Dotson was the one domestic player drafted who I didn’t see any tape of pre-draft, and he definitely popped in Orlando as NY’s clear-cut best player. He is a legitimate off-screen threat, with the ability to shoot off pin-down curls, flares and has good feel for relocating off-ball. He made several NBA caliber shots elevating quickly with range. He never drives or even attempts to utilize attack dribbles, but has a workable handle.
Unfortunately, his off-ball/team defense was amongst the worst I saw at SL for rookies. He was consistently needlessly over helping, and stunting for no reason off the strong-side corner, as well as being caught drifting in no man’s land. For a 23 year-old that was disconcerting to see. He does have interesting tools via frame and speed, and was fast to recover at times on closeouts showing plus mobility, but he looked like a zero in terms of awareness.
Dotson did have some impressive on-ball defensive pressure plays on Kennard, which was his best SL translatable SL matchup, but also inexplicably ducked under on one screen (showcasing again a lack of awareness) and got beat in space twice by a below average NBA wing athlete.
Ranking Justification: I like a lot of what Dotson does offensively. He seems to have good feel (far better than Reed) moving off-ball and as a ball-mover. His shooting looks relatively bankable as well, and he has some on-ball defensive ability to work with. But his off-ball defense in a limited sample looked especially damning for an older player. I understand taking a shot on a wing, but I obviously would have preferred Brown or Thornwell.
30.Caleb Swanigan (Original Rank: Not Top 30)
Team Fit/Opportunity: Swanigan is actually a more ready-made offensive fit for Portland than Collins, possessing the pick-and-pop shooting as well as the ability to make passes on the move on short rolls if Dame or CJ is doubled. Nurkic will man the starting 5 position of course, but behind him are some dicey propositions in Davis, Leonard, and Vonleh. Davis usually plays next to another big due to frame/anchoring on D concerns, which could open up an opportunity for Swanigan this year. Biggie’s defensive shortcomings present a poor fit when paired with Portland’s backcourt, but as a niche offensive player he might be serviceable if his 3pt shot is real.
Summer League: First things first: Swanigan deserves a ton of credit for the tremendous amount of work he’s put into his body (I wish Robert Carter did the same: hat tip to Tjarks here). He looked slimmed down and in very respectable shape, allowing his skill game a better chance of translating with enhanced mobility.
Swanigan was tremendously productive in SL, and while he deserves legitimate credit for that, hybrid 4/5s (basically backup 5s) tend to thrive more in SL play as the delineation of those two positions becomes much more stark at the next level. Still, Swanigan bullied a lot of summer league bigs inside with his size and skill advantage. It was notable in the Memphis game however contrasting his success against Deyonta Davis versus other bigs, the former possessing more representative size and athleticism of NBA 5s. Swanigan did show a versatile skill base in ambidextrous finishing with soft touch, fluid fadeaways out of the post and pick-and-pop 3 comfort. He notable excels catching on the hop on spot-ups with a pretty quick release. I don’t think he’s fast enough or has enough pop to be a dynamic roll threat, despite his ambidextrous finishing, and he usually just defaults to a spin-move to create separation but that’s also not quick enough. I’m buying the passing however, as he’s a skilled high-low entry passer and can pass out of the post, while also flashing legitimate accuracy and ability on the move.
The bugaboo here is what can he do defensively in any capacity? He got mercilessly blown by via Kuzma on a closeout, and really struggles to help and recover against stretch bigs like Bertans. Even Siakam blew by him. I don’t see how he guards the perimeter or the interior, as he doesn’t have the pop to protect the rim either. His defensive shortcomings will be exacerbated at the next level far more than SL could preview, so he’s going to need to be plus offensive threat to thrive.
Ranking Justification: I’m pulling for everyone in this class (pride be damned), but especially someone like Swanigan who has worked his ass off to overcome physical weight deficiencies. I’m buying the pick and pop jumper, even out to NBA 3, but it’s hard to see the playmaking component outside of short-roll passing (he’ll struggle to finish here) translating due to athletic limitations. I’m just philosophically opposed to bigs who can’t defend unless they’re so fucking good on offense that it’s worth the set-off (REALLY hard to be that good). There might be some matchups Swanigan can thrive in however, and he will probably get the opportunity in Portland. I hope he proves me wrong.
Cameron Oliver (Original Rank: 21-30 range)
Team Fit/Opportunity: Oliver was signed as an undrafted free agent (still surprising to me) into an ideal scheme fit that emphasizes transition play and 3pt shooting, both aspects that Oliver thrives in (more so transition play with his athleticism). He also got $300,000 guaranteed this year, a respectable amount for an UDFA on a team that is hard-capped. But given Houston’s “win-now” window with Paul aboard along with the signings of Tucker and Mbah a Moute paired with both Anderson and Ariza manning the four spot in Houston’s system, it’s unlikely Oliver will ever get a shot on the Rockets A-Team. A positive for him though is Houston’s D-League team is perhaps the most similar to the Rockets as any affiliate team in the league, and Oliver should put up numbers in that kind of construct.
Summer League: Oliver didn’t play a ton of minutes in SL, and I admittedly didn’t get a good gauge of his defense. His athleticism always pops, and he’s a capable shooter despite not ideal mechanics fading away slightly and kicking his front leg out. It all comes down to basketball feel with Oliver, and I’m not swayed.
The idea of what Oliver could be as a face up/stretch 4 is still worth consideration around this spot in the draft, even though I don’t think he knows how to play the game. He might figure it out. He probably wont.
D.J. Wilson (Original Rank: 21-30 range)
Team Fit/Opportunity: Fitting the size and length measurables former GM John Hammond coveted, Wilson in theory is a versatile forward type. But his position is far more concentrated based on a lack of athleticism to check/create against wings and the lack of size, physicality and rebounding to defend fives, rendering him basically a four only in today’s game. That presents a troubling reality for the Bucks, whose two building blocks are best suited to gobble up all the minutes at the four. For where Wilson was selected he’ll definitely get his chance at some point, and if the rational for selecting him was to fill Teletovic’srole off the bench in time, that seems justifiable. It’s just a hard sell when you look at a front-line that already struggles to rebound and is prone to getting moved around, especially Thon’s more slender frame. It’s hard to see how Wilson gets optimized on this team.
Summer League: In terms of SL play, Wilson’s 3pt shot didn’t look great. He has a flat, two-motion release, fades slightly away on attempts, and most of his misses right now are painfully short. This should correct itself some in time based on strength acquisition, and it’s notable that Wilson knocked down some impressive and fluid mid-range fadeaways. He can’t carve out position in the post yet with his frame, even against mismatches, which is still important for fours, and didn’t show much as a passer (but also didn’t turn the ball over).
Defensively, Wilson looked physically outmatched both on the perimeter getting blown by on closeouts by Montrezel Harrell and Brandon Paul, as well as on the interior, as Skal punked him in the post and he got moved around by the Kings front line especially.
Wilson is going to need time to mature physically, and his success in the league will come to his 3pt shot and switch defense. Working against Wilson is the tenuous personnel fit on Milwaukee, where unless they move on from Parker via trade, it’s unclear how he’s utilized in optimal fashion.
Justin Patton (Original Rank: 21-30 range)
Team Fit/Opportunity: The Wolves drafting a developmental five when they are already playing Towns out of position defensively was maddening, and the fit in Minnesota was going to negatively impact either Patton or Towns eventually. Unfortunately adding insult to injury Patton broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, and foot injuries for bigs as we’ve seen are no bueno. I hope he overcomes this, as Patton is a talented offensive big. It’s just a tougher hill to climb now.
Terrance Ferguson Original Rank: 21-30 range)
Team Fit/Opportunity: Ferguson is unlikely to get immediate court time as he’s simply behind the curve after missing so much time and the fact his game will take time to develop. The Thunder are all-in in win-now mode, and have Abrines, McDermott, Grant, Singler and Huestis all ahead of Ferguson on the depth chart, which is fine because he’s not ready anyway. If Westbrook and/or George leave and OKC goes into rebuilding mode, Ferguson will get a fair shake, and fits OKC’s iso system as an off-ball 3&D player (at his ceiling).
Ferguson deserves to be right in line with other shooting types like Kennard, as he’s a better defender, but probably wont be impactful enough on that side to compensate for inferior shooting.
Harry Giles (Original Rank: 21-30 range)
Team Fit/Opportunity: I was tentatively buying some Giles stock late in the first round just based on pure hypothetical and mostly misplaced upside, but that was sapped when selected by the Kings who have roughly 1,000 fives between Cauley-Stein, Skal, Papagiannis, and Koufos, not to mention Randolph getting front-court minutes. It’s not like the current Kings regime has a track record of developing fives either. Still very much pulling for Giles of course, but developmental fit and opportunity don’t look to be there.
TJ Leaf (Original Rank: Not Top 30)
Team Fit/Opportunity: After the Paul George trade, Leaf got drafted into an organization that values the intersection of positional size and shooting from the four position, and with only Sabonis (better suited as a 3rd big at his ceiling) blocking his avenue to minutes long-term, Leaf will definitely get a chance at the next level, which in itself could render this ranking too low. Conceptually Leaf is a nice offensive fit next to Myles Turner, and a defensive fit as well *if* Leaf can defend respectably on the perimeter.
Summer League: My biggest Leaf takeaway in limited SL minutes was that similar to Isaac he looked enormous on the court in Orlando (damn camera angle). His quick reactionary athleticism on the glass with a quick second jump looks to have translated at least to the SL setting. His shot looked a bit flat on pick-and-pops, and he lacks explosion and strength to finish at the rim (resorted to floaters). Whether he is anything as a player comes down to defense, where it was hard to deduce much in Orlando.