2017 Preseason Big Board

This goes without saying, but take any preseason big board in terms of precise order with a grain of salt.  This is better utilized as an initial purview into players and a general outline of my thoughts on this class overall.

I view this draft as incredibly strong at the top with an elite first tier filled with potential all-stars.  You can make a legitimate case for 4 or 5 guys at the #1 overall spot, and that is rare for a draft class.

I feel most strongly about the top 4, which is why they comprise tier 1.  Some players in tier 2 can easily vault into that top tier; I’m just not as confident in their translation at this juncture.

Tier 2 is comprised of the other 3 players I’m confident have a high level floor with legitimate translatable high-level skills, rendering there a top 7 right now on my board that I feel best about.

Tier 3 is comprised of 13 players that I need to see improvement from in various capacities to feel more confident in their respective floors.  I ranked those I feel more strongly about in the lottery range, but the precise order is very fluid.

Overall, this is a tremendously strong class at the top in terms of potential all-stars, but might not have the same level of depth as last year.  Guys almost always emerge onto the scene unexpectedly and of course players improve, so commenting with any kind of authority on the depth of the class is somewhat premature.  That being said, this is my first stab at projecting this class.  For a description of what constitutes the various NBA position titles, click HERE.

Tier 1

1.Josh Jackson

6’8″ 203 (6’10” Wingspan)

Age: 19 (2/10/1997)

NBA Position Range: Category 3 Wing: Two-Way Swiss Army Knife Playmaker -> Category 2 Wing: Primary Scorer/Self Creator

There are four knocks on Jackson: 1)he’s old for his class 2)he has average length 3)his two-part shot mechanics is awkward  and 4)his handle isn’t especially advanced yet.  All critiques are fair, and while each negative certainly factors in as any negative does, the fact remains he is a generational prospect at the most important position in the league.

I’ve said before and have been saying throughout Jackson is already what we wanted Wiggins to be: an insane quick twitch athlete (though maybe not QUITE the athlete as Wiggins) and two-way force who can actually read the floor on offense with legitimate ball-skills.  His athleticism, speed, and explosiveness combined with his ideal height at 6’8″ renders him the perfect two-way wing for today’s game.  He can operate in pick and roll, change speeds, read the defense and has the vertical pop to finish around the basket.  He also has underrated touch on his floater, giving him a non-dunk avenue to finish around the rim. Defensively, he combines elite lateral agility and wiry strength with a high motor, the latter rarely seen in premiere two-way prospects.  He’s also an elite rebounder with the bounce, aggression and toughness to swing to the 4 spot.

All eyes will be on Jackson’s shooting, as his mechanics aren’t fluid: he dips the ball too much on spot up opportunities, has a lower release and often double clutches with a hitch.  If he shoots it well it’s going to be really hard to keep him out of this spot.  If he doesn’t, he still has a high two-way floor with plus feel with and elite athleticism.  There’s a chance Jackson’s age and corresponding developmental advantage has given him a heads up on the competition thus far, and his skill level might not be as advanced as it should be.  I’m not overly concerned about that though as Jackson already has a translatable game, and due to positional value he trumps Fultz entering the year until proven otherwise.

Skills to Watch For: Handling Tightness, Shooting Off the Dribble & Off the Catch

2.Markelle Fultz

6’4″ 185 (6’10” Wingspan)

Age: 18 (5/29/1998)

NBA Position Range: Category 4 Lead Guard: Two-Way Skilled + Shooting Threat -> Category 1 Lead Guard: Generational Two-Way Scheme-Changer

Fultz is the embodiment of everything you want in a modern NBA lead guard, and he has a chance to be an all-time good one.  He has an original, jitterbug like pace with the ball, changing speeds and directions effortlessly with tremendous shake, rendering him one of the trickier perimeter covers.  He’s a threat at any moment to go in any direction with the ball, can pull up on a dime in an instant, and blow by you with deceptive athleticism.  What makes him truly special is he can do all that while keeping his head up, locating his teammates with exceptional vision and anticipation.  Fultz not only finds guys who are open, he sees them before they are.  He’s a rare overall combination of positional size, length, above average athleticism, advanced handle and advanced vision.

Fultz’s success will come down to his ability to shoot both off the dribble and on catch and shoot situations, but especially the former.  The great lead guards in this league are scheme-changing 3pt threats that force the hand of defenses in pick and roll at the point of attack. Fultz has that potential.  He has the rare ability to shoot off the bounce without being totally squared up, boding well for his 1 on 1 creation and pull-up ability operating off ball screens.  If he shoots it well this year I’ll probably move him up to the clear cut #1 spot, which goes against my credo of favoring elite wings over elite lead guards.  But Fultz could be generationally special, and his youth compared to Jackson can’t be ignored.  He’s just scratching the surface of his potential.

Skills to Watch For: Shooting Off the Dribble & Off the Catch

3.Dennis Smith

6’2″ 175 (6’3″ Wingspan)

Age: 18 (11/25/1997)

NBA Position Range: Category 2 Lead Guard: Outlier Athleticism/Tools

Apart from scheme changing 3pt shooting with accompanying vision, the other archetype that turns out elite prospects at the lead guard position is outlier athleticism.  True top shelf athletes like Westbrook, Wall and prime Rose, armed with elite explosiveness, speed and burst, have a high floor and elite top 20 overall ceiling translating to the league.  Smith, arguably the best overall athlete in the class, channels that same level of outlier athleticism.

Smith isn’t as big or long as Westbrook, and there are both past and future durability questions with this kind of play style.  But he is a more natural passer with superior vision rendering Wall likely his best comparison, and is capable of making all the reads as a pick and roll dynamo.  Smith is score first but has lead guard vision, and pairing that with his speed/burst/vertical athleticism he’s almost impossible to keep out of the lane as a drive and finish or drive and kick threat.

Similar to Fultz, all eyes will be on Smith’s shooting, especially off the dribble.  He’s been inconsistent up to this point, and if he shoots the hell out of the ball this year it’s not unfathomable that he goes #1 overall.  He has all the athleticism to defend well at the point of attack, but his lack of length might hinder his positional versatility.

Skills to Watch For: Shooting Off the Dribble & Off the Catch

4.Harry Giles

6’11” 222 (7’3″ Wingspan 9’1″ Standing Reach)

Age: 18 (4/22/1998)

NBA Position Range: Category 2 Five: Outlier Athleticism/Tools -> Category 1 Five: Two-Way Playmaker

I’ve never seen Giles play up close in person due to ongoing battles with injuries, instead relying on FIBA tape and a limited amount of annoying Youtube mix tapes that are mostly intolerable.  Thus, I can’t attest to team defensive awareness etc.  What I can attest to is his frame was significantly more advanced than basically everyone else at the Hoop Summit, and on tape he really flashes quick twitch reactionary athleticism on the glass, an insanely quick second jump, fluid mobility, explosive vertical leaping and plus lateral agility in space.  He looks like a definite outlier athlete at the 5 who can protect the rim and defend in space with a burgeoning skill-set, which is a package everyone should be interested in.

His health and game availability this upcoming season, as well as medical information availability around draft time, will likely dictate where he goes.  I’m most intrigued with the skill set.  At a floor he seems to be a capable handler in large spaces and in straight lines, jump shot capable out to 15 feet and is a capable passer, rendering his combination of perimeter skill and tools enticing.  He’s ideally a 5 where his first step and potential dual threat pick and pop/role game can be unleashed.  If he flashes legitimate playmaking and of course proves to be healthy, he’ll probably overtake at least Smith for me.

Skills to Watch For: Handling In Space, Passing on the Move, Range Shooting

Tier 2

5.Frank Ntilikina 

6’5″ 170 (Reported 6’11” Wingspan)

Age: 18 (7/28/1998)

NBA Position Range: Category 5 Lead Guard: Defensive Tools + Non Shooters -> Category 4 Lead Guard: Two-Way Skilled + Shooting Threat

One of the youngest players in this class, what stands out about Ntilikina outside of outlier physical tools at 6’5″ with a 6’11” wingspan is his intelligence for his age.  He doesn’t look sped up making reads on the floor and has that “it” confident aspect handling the ball.  He is very adept operating in pick and roll, making the right reads for himself (rejecting ball screens etc) and for teammates via pocket passes or skips.  He has an advanced handle for an 18-year-old, and can create space for himself in 1 on 1 situations.

He might be a tier 1 player for some, and I might inevitably get there, but right now the shooting aspect is too uncertain with too small of a sample.  Ntilikina is more of a fluid, plus athlete than an outlier explosive one, and while he gets fantastic length extension around the rim and can play above it in space, plus finishing isn’t a given, rendering shooting off the dribble paramount without that outlier athleticism.  His mechanics look fluid and certainly isn’t broken.  With greater confidence watching more film this upcoming year and an increased sample size he could move up a spot or so pending Giles’ injury status.

Overall, Ntilikina has a high two-way floor as an excellent defensive player staying attached around screens with plus speed and lateral agility, with the length to contest both in recovery situations and in the passing lanes.  He’s probably the best point of attack defender in this class of lead guards if he adds strength, and his defensive prowess paired with his advanced feel and playmaking for others at this stage makes for a sub-elite prospect.

Skills to Watch For: Shooting Off the Dribble & Off the Catch, Finishing 

6.OG Anunoby 

6’8″ 234 (Reported 7’3″-7’6″ Wingspan)

Age: 19 (7/17/1997)

NBA Position Range: Category 9 Wing: Defensive Versatile -> Category 5 Wing: 3&D Versatile

There are only a handful of wings who can make life difficult for premiere taller scoring wings like Durant that exist on earth, and even fewer are two-way players.  At 6’8″ with a monster 234 pound frame, between a 7’3″and 7’6″ wingspan and plus athleticism, OG was designed in a lab for this task.  He is incredibly hard to get around when he sits down in an athletic stance armed with plus lateral quickness, and is virtually impossible to get through or over with his strong frame and long arms.  He has the athleticism to contain penetration, the speed to chase players off screens and the strength to not get dislodged backwards defending in the post or against slashing.  His length, his primary weapon, also gives him the ability to recover and erase any advantage given up.

Basically, OG projects as a dynamic defender in the most scarce position to acquire that ability, and is my bet to be the best overall defender in the draft.  The questions revolve around the offensive side, where no one is really buying the shooting at 44.8 3pt% on 29 attempts when it is undone by 47.6% from the foul line on 42 attempts.  His shot looked more fluid at Adidas Nations however, and if he shoots relatively well next season you can even make a case this is too low.  He’s shown flashes of attacking closeouts with a plus first step, but it’s probably unreasonable to expect any playmaking for others or self-created offense at this juncture.  If he shows any kind of creation it’s an entirely different ball game.  I wont compare anyone to an outlier developmental case like Kawhi, but OG has the tools to enter that stratosphere.

Skills to Watch For: Spot Up Shooting, Any Kind of Playmaking 

7.Lauri Markkanen 

7’0″ 225 (Reported Around 7’0″ Wingspan)

Age: 19 (5/22/1997)

NBA Position Range: Category 3 Fours: Skilled + Stretch -> Category 1 Fours: Two-Way Playmaker 

Markkanen carries a tremendous amount of allure as an ultra skilled and fluid 7 footer with a high shooting floor.  Over 33 games of FIBA play he’s 56/138 (40.6%) from 3 and 126/156 from the foul line (80.8%), thus the stats match the aesthetics with smooth mechanics.  Outside of the shooting, Markkanen’s greatest attractant is his agility with the ball as a perimeter handler.  Bigs with perimeter skills carry immense value, and Markkanen’s assortment of in and out dribble moves combined with a plus first step create an enticing package both attacking closeouts and perhaps creating offense in isolation or the mid post.

Markkanen isn’t overly fast with a ton of burst or vertical explosion, but he’s an agile long strider with exceptional body control on the move.  If he can hold position in the post where he currently has some turnaround jump shot skill he could be an all-around offensive force.  He shows flashes of playmaking for others on the move, and the playmaking aspect is one of the main elements to watch for with him at Arizona.

Defensively Markkanen has good feet and lateral quickness to defend the perimeter adequately, and offers some value as a weak side rotation rim protector from the 4 spot.  He doesn’t have the girth, physicality, reach or most importantly lift to man the 5 spot full-time, but he has just enough athleticism to be a plus defender at the 4.

Overall, Markkanen might be the best bet in the draft to evolve into a two-way playmaking 4 who can really shoot it.  I don’t see #1 overall pick upside yet mostly due to athleticism limitations, but with more handling refinement and legitimate passing skill it’s conceivable he gets there.  At his floor you have to respect his shot, which opens up dribble-penetration opportunities on closeouts.  If his off the dribble shooting is elite that is another dynamic factor to consider.

Skills to Watch For: Passing on the Move, Shooting Off the Dribble, Perimeter Defense

Tier 3

8.Jonathan Isaac

6’10” 205 (7’1″ Wingspan)

Age: 19 (10/3/1997)

NBA Position Range: Category 10 Wing: Offensive Skilled Combo-Forward -> Category 2 Wing: Primary Scorers/Self Creators

Isaac presents an outlier height and skill package for a wing, and is probably the highest upside pick left on here.  It’s rare to see a 6’10” player dribble like he does while also providing a decent shooting floor.

My issue with Isaac is that while he does have legitimate handling skills he doesn’t really get anywhere with those skills consistently as he isn’t overly fast and lacks that elite burst with the ball.  He is more adept just shooting over defenders, which carries value but there isn’t enough of a sample size to invest heavily in that shooting prowess yet.

Isaac is tremendously raw defensively and as a passer from an IQ standpoint.  The height + fluid athleticism + skill floor is there, but right now he doesn’t have that one translatable skill to really ground himself on.  He’s one of the most high variance players in this class, and I’d bet he’ll end up either much higher or much lower than this.

Skills to Watch For: Basically Everything 

9.Jayson Tatum

6’8″ 204 (6’11” Wingspan)

Age: 18 (3/3/1998)

NBA Position Range: Category 10 Wing: Offensive Skilled Combo-Forward -> Category 2 Wing: Primary Scorers/Self Creators

Here we go….. I’m not going to fade Tatum completely.  He’s the anti-analytics combo-forward who thrives in the midrange area with insanely advanced footwork for his age, a plus handle and a high release who really hunts his own shot.  He doesn’t have three-point range on his jumper yet, shoots a ton of midrange fadeaways, is a ball-stopper at times and perhaps most damning isn’t a plus athlete who brings inconsistent effort defensively.  My first player comparison thought after seeing him in person for a week was like a less athletic but more skilled Rudy Gay crossed with some Tobias Harris, which is basically the precise archetype I tend to fade.  The criticism is real.

However, the flashes of elite play are there.  In the annual Thursday night scrimmage at Hoop Summit between Team USA and a local team this past year, Tatum started out the way he played most of the week: hunting his own shot and taking some ill-advised fadeaways.  Then the second half rolled around and it was like a completely different player checked in.  Tatum was flying everywhere off ball accruing I think 5 or so steals showing excellent range and anticipation in passing lanes.  He was making the extra pass and locating bigs on drop-offs.  An overall total about face.

Tatum’s best version is worthy of going higher than this, but his worst version is even lower.  I’m going conservative for now, but this should be more as a skeptic and mild vote of no confidence.  He’ll probably play a lot of 4 with Giles’ injury questions, which could pad his stats.

Skills to Watch For: 3pt Shooting, Creation for Others, Perimeter Defense

10.Lonzo Ball

6’5″ 162 (6’7″ Wingspan)

Age: 18 (10/27/1998)

NBA Position Range: Category 3 Lead Guard: Offensive Scheme Changer

I watched Ball some in HS and it’s incredibly hard to analyze him intricately as Chino Hills plays at a Prime D’Antoni Suns pace on bath salts, thus everything is in transition.  What is evident with Ball is the advanced feel and passing ability, as he possesses a rare size and vision combination.  He’s an anticipatory passer like Fultz, but doesn’t have that level of athleticism or shake with the ball.  He’s currently an opportunistic defender, but doesn’t have the foot speed, general speed or outlier length to be a factor on defense from what I’ve seen.

The one box Ball really needs to check is shooting off the dribble.  He has a lower release point on his shot that he flings from the left side of his face, and thus needs room to get his shot off.  He doesn’t have the start/stop athleticism to create his own shot without a screen and doesn’t have the NBA burst/vertical athleticism package to get in the lane and elevate over length.  He projects as a spread PNR lead guard who does most of his damage from the perimeter as a scheme changer if the shooting is real.  I see him as a variation of D’Angelo Russell, but I’m way less bullish on his shooting and he looks to be even less of an athlete.  He’s an incredibly intelligent player however, and I’ll afford him some benefit of the doubt.

Skills to Watch For: Shooting Off the Dribble & Off the Catch, Finishing, Perimeter Defense

11.Miles Bridges

6’6″ 226 (6’9″ Wingspan)

Age: 18 (3/21/1998)

NBA Position Range: Category 10 Wing: Offensive Skilled Combo-Forward -> Category 3 Wing: Two-Way Swiss Army Knife Playmaker

A power player with an advanced frame, Bridges’ calling card is versatility.  He’s a bouncy athlete off of two feet, but also throws in ambidextrous finishing ability on non-dunks that makes him an all-around finishing threat at the rim.  To complete his offensive profile, he has intriguing passing vision for his size armed with plus intelligence.

Defensively, he is solid laterally and adds that exceptional strength which should afford him positional versatility there and the ability to swing to the 4 spot.  He’s also a plus rebounder who can hold position down low.

Bridges’ weaknesses revolve mostly around shooting and handling on offense, where he shoots a high ball that doesn’t pass the eye test and is more of a straight line driver with non-advanced dribble moves and doesn’t have exceptional athleticism.  He also doesn’t have elite length on defense.

There is a lot to like in Bridges’ profile both offensively with his finishing acumen and passing instincts, and defensively with his strong frame and legitimate quickness.  He’s one of the more underrated prospects in this class in my opinion, but I might be unfairly giving him a Michigan State bump.

Skills to Watch For: Handling, Perimeter Shooting, Perimeter Defense

12.Jarrett Allen

6’11” 224 (7’5.5″ Wingspan, 9’1″ Standing Reach)

Age: 18 (4/21/1998)

NBA Position Range: Category 5 Fives: Defensive/Energy + Lob-Catcher

Allen is one of the most cut and dry prospects in this class, projecting as a rim-running and pick and roll dive man lob catcher on offense and a rim protector on defense.  He has excellent hands and solid speed for a 5 running the floor, and he has the combination of vertical pop and plus length at the rim to be a nuisance there. Allen has decent touch on his jump hook in the post but doesn’t have the lower body girth to anchor there yet.

Where Allen really needs to improve is in his space defensive technique defending in pick and roll on the perimeter.  He has the tools and mobility to thrive at both defensive levels, but he gets blown by way too often at the point of attack, a noticeable trend on film.

Skills to Watch For: Pick and Roll Defense, Midrange Shooting, Passing

13.Isaiah Hartenstein 

6’11” 225 (Unknown Wingspan)

Age: 18 (5/5/1998)

NBA Position Range: Category 3 Four: Skilled + Stretch -> Category 2 Four: Offensive Playmaker

A flash player at this stage, Hartenstein is an upside play with his combination of size, mobility, versatile skill level and fluid handle.  He has rare skill level for a 7 footer, armed with a plus first step and enough juice off the bounce to get to the rim.  He doesn’t get great length extension around the basket and isn’t bouncy in traffic, but his size negates some of those concerns.

The lefty has sound shooting mechanics and has shot 23/60 from 3 (38%) in international play.  He also has solid feet defending in space and blocks a fair amount of shots despite not having plus lift.

Inconsistency and basketball IQ on both sides of the ball are the big questions.  He flashes outstanding passing vision, but has a career 34 assists compared to 56 turnovers.  He presses the issue too often going for the splash play, and he’s not a sound decision-maker at this stage.  Defensive effort level guarding the perimeter in pick and roll especially is another area to monitor.

Overall, Hartenstein provides a solid overall offensive game, armed with a plus frame and post touch to score inside, while possessing the shooting range and handling to be a versatile perimeter player.  There are questions about his defense, but he has the ability to at least be a moderate plus there.  Without the lift and plus length to protect the rim at the 5, Hartenstein will have to make his money as a playmaking 4.  With more skill refinement, he could emerge as one of the better ones in this class.

Skills to Watch For: Consistency in Every Component 

14.Bam Adebayo

6’10 258 (7’2″ Wingspan, 9’0″ Standing Reach)

Age: 19 (7/18/1997)

NBA Position Range: Category 2 Five: Outlier Athleticism/Tools

A physical freak with outlier strength, Bam has the physicality and girth right now to get minutes in a build only vacuum in the league.  He is incredibly explosive off two feet in space as a lob catcher, and does have some shooting skill on midrange attempts.

The biggest question surrounding Bam is can he protect the rim.  His blocks are sub par for his archetype, as he doesn’t have plus length to compensate for being slightly undersized. He looks like a strong hedger who can move his feet laterally in short spaces and provides a modicum of switching potential, but without that established rim protection component it’s hard to have a definitive stance on him.  He is limited skill wise, so he needs to be a defensive terror to compensate.  He’ll be a bull in a china shop at the college level, and can overwhelm most with his advanced build, which is something to keep in mind.

Skills to Watch For: Rim Protection, Ball-Skills

15.De’Aaron Fox

6’4″ 171 (6’6″ Wingspan)

Age: 18 (12/20/1997)

NBA Position Range: Category 5 Lead Guard: Defensive Tools + Non Shooters -> Category 4 Lead Guard: Two-Way Skilled + Shooting Threat

A quick twitch athlete with tremendous foot speed and reactionary athleticism, Fox looks like a defensive menace at the point of attack.  His ceiling is limited defensively with his wiry frame, disallowing him from providing plus versatility, but he’s an intense defender who can really pressure the ball and mirror lead guards.

The issue with Fox is half court scoring, as he’s a minus shooter off the dribble and isn’t a vertical athlete in a crowd.  He struggles to finish through contact with his frame, and doesn’t have incredible finishing craftiness around the rim to compensate (though he flashes a floater).  Fox definitely has NBA burst and acceleration, and will excel in transition, but in the half court pick and roll game, he’s currently not a shooting or finishing in traffic threat, nor does he possess elite vision to the extent of Fultz or Ball.

Overall, Fox provides a nice point of attack high defensive floor, but lead guards need to be scoring threats in today’s game, and currently Fox doesn’t provide a clear avenue to do that in the half court.

Skills to Watch For: Shooting Off the Dribble &  Off the Catch, Finishing

16.Tyler Lydon

6’10” 220 (6’11.5″ Wingspan)

Age: 20 (4/9/1996

NBA Position Range: Category 3 Four: Skilled + Stretch 

Another straight forward offensive prospect, Lydon is a prototype stretch 4 with a quick release, beautiful stroke and promising shooting indicators his freshman year (49/121 from 3, 40.5%; 72/93 from the foul line, 77.4%).  He is fully capable of setting his feet quickly in the pick and pop game to launch threes, and has good feel attacking closeouts off 1 or 2 dribbles with a decent first step.  Rounding out his floor is rare rim protection instincts from the weak side on rotations with plus lift in space.  He’ll likely draw some Ryan Anderson comparisons, but he’s a far better vertical athlete.

Lydon still has multiple boxes to check.   He doesn’t have the same athletic pop in a crowd on drives, nor the speed, burst or handle to navigate consistently to the rim outside of straight line plays.  His defensive rebounding numbers were also poor last year, and in Syracuse’s zone we don’t really have a credible sample if he can defend in space.  He does show promising passing flashes on film, both from a standstill and on the move, so improvement there would be significant.

Lydon allegedly added 20 pounds to his frame this offseason, a much needed acquisition.  He does have broad shoulders and thus should continue to put on weight.  His ceiling would rise with more girth to anchor against mismatches down low, as he has decent touch on his jump hook in the post. As an older Sophomore, Lydon’s improvement this year is crucial, but it’s hard to see him falling out of the first round if his shooting holds to form and he he continues to add strength.

Skills to Watch For: Playmaking via Scoring & Passing on Move Attacking Closeouts Beyond 1 Dribble

17.Ivan Rabb

6’10” 215 (7’2″ Wingspan, 9’0″ Standing Reach)

Age: 19 (2/4/1997)

NBA Position Range: ?????????? Category 5 Four: Energy + Motor?

Ivan Rabb the basketball player is a good one.  He has suction cup hands, elite finishing touch around the basket and is fluid changing ends with excellent mobility.  He clearly has plenty of utility.  I’m just not sure what his specific role is at the next level.

Rabb is the quintessential tweener for me.  He doesn’t have the frame or lift to anchor down low and protect the rim respectively at the 5.  He also isn’t a spacing threat or dynamic off the dribble handler at the 4.  Basically right now he’s a 5 on offense and a 4 on defense, which is a difficult skill-set to work with.

If he shows improved range shooting and playmaking off the bounce + passing acumen I’ll feel better about his translation.

Skills to Watch For: Range Shooting, Ball-Skills, Perimeter Defense

18.Mikal Bridges 

6’7″ 209 (7’0″ Wingspan)

Age: 20 (8/30/1996)

NBA Position Range: Category 9 Wing: Defensive Versatile -> Category 5 Wing: 3&D Versatile

This is more of an upside play based on plus athleticism, physical tools and defensive prowess.  Bridges could be a poor man’s Anunoby if he fills out, as he possesses similar athleticism and plus length.  He doesn’t have OG’s frame or outlier length, which lessens his ability to guard elite scoring wings.  How far he rises is dependent on ball-skill development and said strength acquisition.

Bridges’ 3pt shooting at a 23/77 (29.9%) last year doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence, but his foul shooting (59/75 78.7%) is good enough to keep him on the map as a 3&D possibility.

While a late 1st/early 2nd round profile at this juncture, I’m betting on a slight rise here.

Skills to Watch For: Spot Up Shooting, Any Kind of Ball-Skills

19.Rodions Kurucs

6’8″ 190 (Apparent Long Arms)

Age: 18 (2/5/1998)

NBA Position Range:????

I’ve seen a limited amount of tape on Kurucs, but he’s been ultra-productive in his minutes and does flash legitimate skills.  He can shoot off the catch and off the dribble, has a developed frame and is an underrated run and jump athlete.  His defensive stats especially stand out and he plays the league’s most valuable position with a plus size and length combination.

I haven’t seen enough to even pin down a positional fit, but he’s definitely an international prospect to monitor over the next year.  It’s also uncertain if he declares.

Skills to Watch For: Shooting Off the Dribble & Off the Catch, Perimeter Defense

20.Jonathan Jeanne 

7’2″ 195 (7’7″ Wingspan)

Age: 19 (7/3/1997)

NBA Position: Category 2 Five: Outlier Athleticism/Tools

Jeanne would have made my top 20 last year as a 5 with legitimate Gobert measurables in height and length.  He’s tremendously fluid changing ends for his size, is a legitimate lob-catching threat and has even flashed range potential from three.

The questions, similar to Zhou Qi last year, revolve around his rail-thin frame.  Unfortunately, those off-court body composition questions are the hardest to project for those without inside information, but I’ve heard from credible sources this guy’s work ethic is the real deal.  Who knows if his body actual permits this work ethic to enable physical development, but I think he’s worth a dice roll here.  The tools are insane.

Skills to Watch For: Spot Up Shooting, Rebounding

Honorable Mentions

Kostja Mushidi

The new Mega Leks star Mushidi flashes elite vision and versatile defense, but has a below average combination of burst and athleticism. He’ll need to shoot better to ascend, and the early returns aren’t promising (15/69 from 3, 21.7%; 14/26 on FTs, 53.8%).  There is a lot to like here in the passing and defense departments, but the lack of explosive athleticism is apparent.

Malik Monk

The complete opposite of Mushidi, Monk might have the most elite package of burst, speed and explosive vertical athleticism in the draft behind only Dennis Smith.  Unfortunately, the skill level and IQ does not currently match that top-shelf athleticism.  Monk looks like a secondary offensive handler without much wiggle with the ball and an inefficient chucker.  Defensively, he has the tools to guard two positions and the point of attack well, but lacks consistency.  He has a lot of boxes to check with efficient shooting/scoring and on the defensive side.

Terrance Ferguson 

The pride of the 2016 Hoop Summit game when he went full supernova from behind the arc, Ferguson’s effortless stroke can get next level hot.  He reminds me of JR Smith in that when his jumper gets going, he’s absolutely deadly on catch and shoot opportunities.  He’s currently a streak shooter without ball-skills however, and projects more as a 1/2 defender at best with a frail frame.  He’ll need to show more advanced playmaking and defensive prowess to match his streak shooting and above the rim athleticism.

Marques Bolden

A presumed lottery pick for most, Bolden has yet to impress on any stage I’ve seen him thus far.  During the week of Hoop Summit practices he was vastly outplayed by Allen, and maybe that comparison is weighing overly heavily in this analysis.  He’s a gargantuan human being with excellent measureables, but I’m skeptical at this stage on the value he provides outside of being enormous.

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