Ranking the best bigs available in the NBA draft

While there’s been much debate in recent years over the value of playing a nominal center in the uptempo NBA, the fact of the matter is that talent evaluators will always be drawn to size. If there’s a key storyline in this year’s draft, it’s the number of gifted bigs set to be drafted in the first 10 picks, antithetical to where trends would suggest the game is at, but also a potential sign of where it’s headed next.

Between Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson jr., Marvin Bagley III, Mo Bamba and to a slightly lesser extent Wendell Carter, the NBA is getting a flux of big men for the new era, all possessing athletic mobility, above-average skill levels and potential to become versatile options that can play inside and out offensively. As the NBA has changed, taller players won’t phase out, but the best athletes will change to fit it. And the more of them arrive, naturally, there will be increased demand for size to match them. This is not a deep class of bigs, but the high-caliber talent atop the draft is unquestionably there.

Given the increasingly positionless nature of the league, these position rankings are split into three groups—guards, wings and bigs—rather than five, to offer a sense of which players teams might be choosing between at a given spot. Our complete list of the top 100 prospects in the draft can be found here, and our latest mock draft projections here.

Scouting reports compiled by Jeremy Woo, Chris Johnson and Jake Fischer.


Buffalo v Arizona

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1. Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona | Freshman

Height: 7’1” | Weight: 260 | DOB: 7/23/98 (19)
Stats: 20.1 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 1.9 BPG

Bio: Ayton showed up at Arizona as a hyped-but-unrefined prospect. He leaves having transformed himself physically and answered many of the questions surrounding his approach to basketball. He began lifting weights for the first time last summer and saw immediate dividends on the court, too big or strong for any college defender to properly handle around the basket and establishing himself as the front-runner for the No. 1 selection in the draft. A native of the Bahamas, Ayton has a gregarious personality, boasts a soft shooting touch and an improving feel and skill set. If he puts in the work to become a better defender and rim protector, he should become a franchise cornerstone.

Strengths

• Elite physical specimen. Lean, muscular frame with 7’5” wingspan and 9’3” standing reach, similar to Joel Embiid. Already in the upper echelon of NBA bigs from an athletic standpoint.

• Nice-looking, projectable jump shot with range. Made 12 of 35 three-pointers and 73% of his free throws.

• Able to score over either shoulder in the paint or simply overpower opponents for dunks. Learning to use his size and strength to his advantage. Powerful finisher, particularly off a clean gather.

• Good passer out of double teams. Feels pressure coming and is willing to find open teammates.

• Excellent rebounder within his area. Size allows him to corral balls other players can’t. Rated 16th nationally in defensive rebound percentage and 40th in offensive rebound percentage.

• Quick enough feet to have utility defending mobile big men in space and help hedge on ball screens.

• Responded well to being seriously coached and challenged for the first time at Arizona. When his competitive juices are flowing, he can be extremely difficult to stop.

Weaknesses

• Mediocre defensive awareness. Misses rotations and occasionally takes plays off entirely. Good but not great shot-blocker who should improve with better positioning.

• Played out of position at power forward next to a pure center in Dusan Ristic, which may have been a setback in processing help defense and other principles.

• Prefers to elevate and go get the ball rather than box out his man, which will be harder to get away with in the NBA.

• Not consistent running the floor. Tends to trail the play and seek spot-up opportunities instead of getting out ahead for easy baskets.

• Had a reputation for dogging it in high school. Chance remains he reverts to his old ways and doesn’t fulfill his full potential.

Highlights

Read More

Deandre Ayton Leads College Basketball’s New Breed of Big Men (March 2018)

Inside Deandre Ayton’s rise from the Bahamas to 2017’s No. 1 prospect (August 2015)

Player Comparison: Joel Embiid

Ayton doesn’t possess Embiid’s footwork or rim-protecting instincts, but is a more explosive athlete who comes without the injury history. It‘s not a stretch to think he could follow a similar path to stardom. Jeremy Woo


2. Jaren Jackson Jr., C, Michigan State | Freshman

Height: 6’11” | Weight: 235 | DOB: 9/15/99 (18)
Stats: 10.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.0 BPG

Bio: Jackson played his way into the draft’s top group of prospects with a freshman season that included some eye-popping moments. Capable of stretching the floor on one end and altering shots on the other, his theoretical versatility at center sets him apart from most every other prospect in the draft. Jackson comes from basketball bloodlines: his father played in the NBA for a decade, and his mother works for the WNBA Players’ Association. As one of the youngest draft-eligible players, he offers a lot of room for improvement.

Strengths

• Enviable physical tools, having measured with a 7’4” wingspan and 9’1” standing reach. Nimble feet allow him mobility on both sides of the floor. Should be able to pack on muscle.

• Strong rim-protection potential (averaged 4.9 blocks per-36 and his 14.3% block rate was fourth-best nationally). Has the fluidity to defend in space and a feel for timing, making him an ideal defensive prospect for a modern center.

• Shot 39.6% from three, offering potential to grow into a consistent floor-spacing threat.

• Developing offensive skill level. Showed flashes of being able to handle and drive from the perimeter. Has made huge strides dating back to his senior year of high school.

Weaknesses

• Can be pushed around on the interior. Not overly explosive off the gather, which creates issues playing and finishing in traffic. Not a go-to scorer on the block yet.

• Shooting form isn’t ideal. Has a push mechanism were he lets it go in front of his face. Can make jumpers when wide open but could pose some issues when being closely contested.

• Needs to mature both physically and mentally. Gets visibly aggravated at times when the game doesn’t go his way. Battled foul trouble often.

Highlights

Read More

Scouting Reports: Big Ten Tournament (February 2018)

Comparison: Rasheed Wallace

Jackson’s ability to shoot threes, generate defensive stops and develop his own offense make him a projectable versatile frontcourt piece to work with (minus Wallace’s level of crazy). JW


3. Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke | Freshman

Height: 6’11” | Weight: 235 | DOB: 3/14/99 (19)
Stats: 21.2 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 61.4% FG

Bio: After spending time at three different high schools, Bagley reclassified to skip his senior year and attend Duke, where he put together a prolific statistical case as one of the draft’s top prospects and helped the Blue Devils to the Sweet 16. Known for his high-energy game and unusual athleticism, Bagley continues to improve and expand his skills and could become a mismatch problem at the next level. His defensive struggles were somewhat exposed last season, but he remains a prospect with significant upside and room for growth. Bagley is the grandson of former NBA and ABA All-Star Joe Caldwell.

Strengths

• Terrific athlete. Coordinated. Moves like a wing and can face-up and get by opposing defenders. Strong body and runs the floor for easy baskets.

• Good finisher in traffic. Explosive enough to elevate over defenders and catch lobs.

• Elite offensive rebounder (averaged 4.0 per game). Aggressive in pursuit of the ball off the glass and rarely takes plays off. Quick first and second jump off the ground.

• Skill potential. Has a functional handle and shooting ability at an early stage of his development. Room to grow.

• Athletic enough to defend one-on-one in space. Potential to guard on the perimeter with more experience and coaching.

Weaknesses

• Poor defensive awareness. Has a tendency to ball-watch. His struggles in this area were a big part of Duke’s need to play a 2-3 zone.

• Not a rim protector. Averaged less than a block per game. Average wingspan (7’0”) for his height may leave him unable to defend NBA centers.

• Extremely lefthand dominant. Finishes almost everything going back to his left. Tall, athletic defenders may be able to sit on it.

• Has a hard, flat jumper. Made 39.7% of threes but just 62.7% of free throws. Touch is just OK. Without stretch-offense component, could end up stuck between positions.

Highlights

Read More:

The Case for Marvin Bagley as the draft’s prize jewel (August 2017)

Marvin Bagley at home as one of nation’s top players (July 2016)

Comparison: Amar’e Stoudemire

Bagley’s ability to run the floor and do damage around the basket are evocative of Stoudemire, another hyperathletic big who could be overpowering on offense but struggled defensively. JW


4. Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas | Freshman

Height: 7’0″ | Weight: 225 | DOB: 5/12/98 (20)
Stats: 12.9 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 3.7 BPG

Bio: Originally hailing from Harlem, Bamba’s prodigious shot-blocking skills helped him become a coveted high school recruit and an impactful one-year force at Texas. While the Longhorns had a disappointing season, his defensive potential remains through the roof. He possesses the type of verticality that only comes along every so often, and continues to round out the rest of his game.

Strengths

• Highest-caliber potential as a rim protector. Absurd 7’10” wingspan and 9’7” standing reach allow him to occupy a ton of space despite his thin build. Averaged 4.3 blocks per-36 with a 13.2% block rate.

• Useful rebounder who will get to balls others can’t, simply thanks to his physical gifts.

• Improving offensive skill set. Size allows him easy baskets and lobs. Has some level of shooting touch. Made 14 of 51 attempts from three and 68% of free throws.

• Has shown some ability to defend in space and switch ball screens. Light on his feet. At times looks like he’s still getting used to his body but far from a stiff.

• Intelligent and thoughtful off the court.

Weaknesses

• Needs to get a lot stronger. Doesn’t seem to love contact and sometimes leans on his talent rather than boxing out or fighting for the ball.

• Doesn’t establish deep post position. Can appear out of his comfort zone trying to create his own offense. Not at a point where he can impose his will as a scorer.

• Inconsistent motor. Scouts have wondered how badly he wants it at times. Doesn’t consistently impact games. Has yet to fully convince people he can reach his considerable potential.

Highlights

Read More

Bamba’s tourney stay is brief, but his future is quite bright (March 2018)

Bamba, Carter’s eyes on academics aren’t for show (September 2017)

Comparison: Rudy Gobert

Though Gobert’s defensive impact is tough to replicate, Bamba’s ability puts him in that conversation long-term as he refines his skills and approach. JW


5. Wendell Carter Jr., C, Duke | Freshman

Height: 6’10” | Weight: 250 | DOB: 4/16/99 (19)
Stats: 13.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.1 BPG

Bio: Carter wound up mildly overshadowed by fellow blue-chip recruit Marvin Bagley at Duke but just about as good from a statistical perspective in every way but scoring. As a result he played more on the perimeter, adjusting nicely to being somewhat out of his comfort zone, and Carter’s all-around skill set makes him a safe choice in the eyes of scouts to have a productive NBA career.

Strengths

• Developed offensive skill set, comfortable scoring with his back to the basket and finishing with either hand. Projectable, sound jump shooter (41.3% from three).

• Instinctive rebounder. Wide frame and long arms (7’3” wingspan, 9’0” standing reach).

• Competitive with an advanced feel. Finds spots in the defense for easy baskets. Plus passer. Adapted well to a supporting role next to Marvin Bagley.

• Strong positional shot-blocker (7.6% block rate). Good team defender. Likes physicality.

Weaknesses

• Lacks great quickness off the floor. Can have trouble finishing in traffic and when defense has time to get set. Underwhelming post-up scoring efficiency (0.753 points per possession).

• Lateral agility is average. May have issues defending in space in wide-open play. Probably needs to defend centers.

• Without elite athletic ability star upside may be capped, though he should be extremely serviceable regardless.

Highlights

Read More

Five draft prospects worthy of more attention (February 2018)

Comparison: Elton Brand

Carter has all the ability to become a starting-caliber frontcourt player, and should benefit from operating with added space in the NBA. – JW


6. Robert Williams, C, Texas A&M | Sophomore

Height: 6’9″ | Weight: 240 | DOB: 10/17/97 (20)
Stats: 10.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 2.6 BPG

Bio: Williams surprised some by returning for his sophomore year, and while he was unable to really advance his own place in the draft conversation, his big-time athletic ability makes him a first-round caliber prospect. He often played out of position alongside another center Tyler Davis last season, which may have had a role in his struggles. Williams offers untapped ability, but there are questions surrounding his consistency and motor. Teams were disappointed he chose not to attend the combine.

Strengths

• Plays above the rim in an impressively natural manner. Quick off the floor with long arms (7’4” wingspan), and is a threat to catch lobs and work the offensive glass. Runs the floor easily.

• Has some feel for where to be and how to pass the ball. Not a one-note athletic player

• Productive shot-blocker (10.1% block rate) with a good level of mobility. Room to become a consistently helpful defender if he works at it.

Weaknesses

• Not as involved in the game as he should be. Doesn’t get as many easy baskets as he could.

• Lacks great anticipation skills as a rebounder. More reactive than proactive when reading shots off the rim and tends to rely on athletic ability.

• 54.1% foul shooter over two college seasons.

• Questions linger about his consistency and desire to improve. Began the season on suspension for violating team rules.

Highlights

Comparison: Clint Capela

Placed into a simplified role where he can utilize his power and explosiveness as a rim-runner and rebounder, Williams could become a productive piece in the middle. JW


7. Mitchell Robinson, C, Chalmette HS (Louisiana)

Height: 6’11” | Weight: 230 | DOB: 4/1/98 (20)
Stats (2016–17 HS): 25.7 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 6.0 BPG

Bio: An All-American and five-star recruit who effectively spent a year on sabbatical, Robinson tread a winding path to the draft. He initially committed to Texas A&M, then followed Rick Stansbury to Western Kentucky, where he enrolled briefly before leaving campus, attempting and failing to transfer, and eventually choosing to take a year entirely away from competitive basketball, then entering his name in the draft. He offers immense physical potential but profiles as a total wild card.

Strengths

• Uncommon athletic ability, able to play above the rim and run the floor with surprising speed for someone his size. Has measured with a 7’4” wingspan and 9’3” standing reach.

• Constant threat to finish lobs and generate easy baskets. Dunks everything. Explosive off the ground. Plays hard.

• Good timing as a shot-blocker. Length and athletic ability allow him to compensate for mistakes. Nice upside as a rim protector.

• Has demonstrated some ability to shoot jumpers.

Weaknesses

• Lacks a degree of offensive skill level. Not someone you regularly throw it to on the block. Needs to add strength to more consistently impact the game.

• Questionable feel for the game. Has mental lapses and is foul-prone. Likely needs a very specific, simplified role to thrive.

• May lack the necessary footwork and lateral agility to defend in space.

• Already 20 years old, having never played against high level competition on a consistent basis. Learning curve should be steep.

• Significant questions about his off-court situation and decision to sit out a year.

Highlights

Read More

What if Mitchell Robinson had decided to play at Western Kentucky? (November 2017)

Comparison: Tyson Chandler

Placed in the right situation and role, Robinson could become a valuable defensive presence and finisher, but he has a lot to learn firstJW


8. Keita Bates-Diop, F, Ohio State | Junior

Height: 6’8″ | Weight: 225 | DOB: 1/23/96 (22)
Stats: 19.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 35.9% 3FG

Bio: Bates-Diop returned from injury and worked his way to Big Ten Player of the Year honors, leading a revitalized Ohio State program to a strong season. His productive scoring numbers and shooting potential have caught the eyes of the NBA as a potential floor-spacing forward.

Strengths

• Capable jump shooter with a repeatable stroke. Career 77.6% from the foul line. Finished well around the basket and has some pick-and-pop functionality.

• Rebounds well for his size (24.5% DREB rate, 7.8 defensive rebounds per-36). Only stands 6’7” but benefits from 7’2” wingspan.

• Uses his length to make some level of defensive impact. Blocked 1.8 shots per-36. Can at least bother taller players.

Weaknesses

• Below-average athletic profile. Lacks quickness and explosion. Doesn’t create much off the dribble from the perimeter. Reliant on having some type of mismatch, which he might lose in the NBA. Most players in his mold are a couple inches taller.

• May be a tweener, as he doesn’t handle well enough to be a wing, nor is he especially physical to be a small ball four.

• Shot just 35.6% on all jump shots, underwhelming for a player pegged as a stretch-four. Will need to shoot the three at a high clip to stay on the floor.

• May have been a manufactured scorer last season. Was fed touches in the midrange, where he could shoot over smaller defenders or get a step against bigger ones. How much of his offense translates to the NBA level?

Highlights

Comparison: Mike Scott

If Bates-Diop continues to improve as a shooter and finds a way to cover for his athleticism, he could become a useful contributor. JW


9. Omari Spellman, F/C, Villanova | Freshman

Height: 6’9″ | Weight: 250 | DOB: 7/21/97 (20)
Stats: 10.9 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.5 BPG

Bio: After playing an extra season of prep ball, then redshirting in 2016-17, Spellman entered Villanova’s starting lineup as an older freshman last season. His three-point shooting helped provide extraordinary spacing for the Wildcats’ high-octane offense, and Spellman was a key contributor to Nova’s national title. Rather than stick around, he rode that momentum into the draft.

Strengths

• Excellent shooter for a frontcourt player. Spellman drilled 43.3% of his 150 triples at Nova. Skilled offensive player.

• Spellman’s combine measurements will be critical, but a reported 7’2” wingspan helped him provide a rim protection presence in college. Hard-working rebounder who occupies space and boxes out.

• Has an overall feel, soft hands and ball skills that make him a good fit within a modern offense. Good passer. Should be used well in dribble-handoff and ball-screen situations at the next level.

Weaknesses

• Spellman will be 21 by the start of the season, very old for a player coming off his freshman year. He’s seen limited high-level minutes relative to others.

• Standing 6’9”, Spellman isn’t quite big enough to defend most centers, nor mobile enough to guard on the perimeter.

• Packs a lot of weight onto a smaller frame for a big man, will need to continue dropping weight to increase his foot speed defensively. Was very overweight in high school and needs to stay in shape.

Highlights

Comparison: Boris Diaw

Spellman’s feel for the game and interest in winning has piqued the interest of NBA scouts, and while he skews closer to late-career Diaw than the young, athletic version, he should have a chance to find a role if all goes well. — Jake Fischer


10. Moritz Wagner, C, Michigan | Junior

Height: 6’11” | Weight: 240 | DOB: 4/26/97 (21)
Stats: 14.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 0.5 BPG

Bio: After a disappointing showing at the 2017 combine, Wagner, a native of Germany, returned to school and helped engineer Michigan’s run to the national title game. A skilled but slow-footed stretch big, his ability to shoot from outside gives him a chance to stick in the NBA.

Strengths

• Wagner shot 39.5% from three over his final two seasons at Michigan, elite for his size and position. His mechanics are comfortable.

• Has a nice handle and all-around skill level, able to attack the rim from the three-point line off of closeouts or when he has a step.

• Showed major improvement as a rebounder last season, committing more to playing physically, upping his defensive rebound rate to 24.9% and averaging 9.3 boards per-36.

Weaknesses

• Wagner is coordinated for a big man but lacks the foot speed and athleticism to defend in space, making him vulnerable at the next level.

• Despite his size, he offers very little rim protection for his position, averaging 0.6 blocks per-36 for his career.

• Despite the shooting and impressive numbers, Wagner is pretty limited offensively, using a predictable skill set and infrequently getting to the foul line. He often feasted on smaller opponents.

Highlights

Read More

Behind dominant defense and continued growth, Michigan runs to Final Four (March 2018)

Comparison: Mo Speights

Wagner could find a niche somewhere as a stretchy big man off the bench. It’s a common role in today’s modern game, and one that often allows players to have their defensive liabilities excused for offensive production. JF


11. Kevin Hervey, F, UT-Arlington | Senior

Height: 6’7″ | Weight: 210 | DOB: 7/9/96 (21)
Stats: 20.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.2 APG

Bio: Hervey comes with a serious injury history—he tore his right ACL in high school, and his left in the middle of his sophomore season at UT Arlington, but has a well-rounded offensive game and a nose for scoring the ball. He bounced back from injury to win Sun Belt Player of the Year as a junior, and followed that up with a similarly strong senior year. He has the build and skill level to fit in as an offensive-minded frontcourt piece.

Strengths

• Prolific college scorer, albeit in a small conference. Inside-out game. Can spot up or score in the post. Was mostly efficient while taking 34.1% of his team’s shots this season. Could be a difficult matchup against slower bigs or smaller wings.

• Floor spacing potential. Improved his three-point shooting each year of college, making 33.9% as a senior. Career 77% foul shooter. Can hit off the dribble or catch.

• Quality rebounder. Has a 7’3” wingspan, wide shoulders and a strong build.

Weaknesses

• History of knee injuries is a definite concern. Overall mobility has somewhat diminished.

• Offers little rim protection. Career 0.6 blocks per-36 average. Not a particularly physical player on the interior.

• Doesn’t create much of his own offense in space. Tends to settle for jumpers. Decent athlete but may lose some of his mismatch against better defenders at the next level.

Highlights

Read More

Five Mid-Major prospects on NBA radars (January 2018)

Comparison: Anthony Tolliver

Hervey’s floor-spacing capabilities make him potentially useful, but he’ll need to prove he can defend enough to stay on the court. JW


12. Jarred Vanderbilt, F, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6’9″ | Weight: 215 | DOB: 4/3/99 (19)
Stats: 5.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 42.6% FG

Bio: Injuries have significantly hampered Vanderbilt’s career to date and make him a bit of a wild card when it comes to the draft. He appeared in just 14 games this season due to a string of issues, beginning with the left foot he injured twice in high school. Viewed as a potential first-round pick coming into the season, he’s more likely looking at a second-round selection given all that’s transpired.

Strengths

• Productive, natural rebounder with a solid motor. Good athlete when he’s healthy. Given that it’s a tiny sample size and he saw sparse playing time, he averaged a wild 16.6 rebounds per-36. Works hard on the offensive glass.

• Can handle on the perimeter and likes to facilitate with the ball in his hands. Didn’t get to showcase this aspect of his game at Kentucky but displayed some playmaking ability in high school.

• Good physical measurables for a combo forward: has measured with a 7’1” wingspan and 8’10” standing reach.

• When healthy, can be disruptive defensively.

Weaknesses

• Long history of lower body injuries dating back to high school. Has a muscular upper body but thin legs. May need to address that physical imbalance. Potential to be red flagged.

• Poor shooter. Lefty, attempted just one three-pointer in 238 minutes. Shot 63% from the foul line. The jumper has never been a big part of his game. Poor right hand finisher.

• Limited sample size makes him tricky to properly evaluate. Had little to no opportunity to find a role or a rhythm and was essentially a rebounder and finisher only.

• Only really leaps off of two feet and generally needs a full gather to elevate.

Highlights

Comparison: Kevon Looney

Vanderbilt is a question mark in many respects, but given his entire body of work, should warrant a flier. JW


13. Chimezie Metu, F/C, USC | Junior

Height: 6’9″ | Weight: 220 | DOB: 3/22/97 (21)
Stats: 15.7 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.7 BPG

Bio: A bouncy, athletic big who can play above the rim, Metu put together a solid three years at USC, although consensus is that he underachieved a bit relative to his talent level. He has the tools to succeed in an NBA role but will need to elevate his overall game and energy level to thrive.

Strengths

• Above-average athlete. Capable of highlight-reel plays around the basket. Runs the floor naturally. Good converting in situations where the play isn’t run for him.

• Potential to protect the rim and also defend in space. Moves his feet well laterally. Career 2.2 blocks per-36. Some natural timing.

• Developing jump shooter. Shot 30% from three (12–40) in first season attempting them and 30.6% on all jumpers. Can make progress in that area. Shot 73.6% from the foul line last two seasons.

• Skill level is improving. Some feel for handling and passing. Good touch with his right hand. Can face up and put it on the deck when he has a step.

Weaknesses

• Just average length relative to his height, having measured with a 6’11” wingspan. Could impact him negatively as a rebounder. Athleticism helps but could be best suited as a four given his slender build.

• Not a great post scorer. Not much of a left hand. Shot just 37% on post-ups.

• Effort level comes and goes. Still has games where he floats outside the action. Overall mentality needs to improve.

Highlights

Comparison: Noah Vonleh

Metu has all the talent to make things work in the NBA but needs to do it on a more consistent basis. JW


14. Justin Jackson, F, Maryland | Sophomore

Height: 6’7″ | Weight: 230 | DOB: 2/18/97 (21)
Stats: 9.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.9 APG

Bio: A freakishly long forward with a developing skill set, Jackson earned a combine invite last year but chose to return to school. The decision wound up backfiring somewhat: Jackson appeared in just 11 games as a sophomore before Maryland shut him down due to a torn labrum in his shooting shoulder. He has NBA-caliber tools, but teams have to evaluate how much of his struggles can be attributed to the injury while making sense of his prospects.

Strengths

• Off-the-charts length (7’3” wingspan, 8’11” standing reach) allows him to play bigger than 6’7”. Huge hands. Smooth athlete with a strong body. Physically similar to Kawhi Leonard.

• Some ability to switch and defend multiple positions. Willing to play physically and defend larger players. Has shown solid instincts as a rebounder and making plays on the ball, averaging 1.1 steals and 1.0 blocks per-36 for his career.

• Above-average ballhandler for his position. Comfortable on the perimeter. Straight-line driver with some passing ability. Still unlocking this part of his game.

Weaknesses

• Shot just 12 of 40 (25%) from three-point range as a sophomore after making 45 of 102 attempts (44%) as a freshman. Limited as more of a set shooter. Were his struggles due to the injury, or is there a larger issue?

• Not an above-the-rim type and also lacks a post-up game. Lacks great quickness and explosion. If the jumper doesn’t come, may have issues finding an offensive role.

• Overall feel can be so-so. Decision-making ability and consistency have come into question. Already 21.

Highlights

Comparison: James Johnson

Jackson’s physical profile and ball skills give him a chance to become a versatile contributor in the right system, but the adjustment curve may be steep.JW


15. Gary Clark, F, Cincinnati | Senior

Height: 6’8″ | Weight: 225 | DOB: 11/16/94 (23)
Stats: 12.9 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.1 APG

Bio: Clark was a dynamic star within his role at Cincinnati, an active interior presence who averaged more than a block and a steal per game in all four of his college seasons. Although he’s undersized, his statistical profile and intangibles make him a sleeper late in the draft.

Strengths

• Tough interior competitor who plays bigger than his size. Despite just a 6’10” wingspan at his height, consistently boxes out and can go up and get the ball off the defensive glass. Active player.

• Good timing on steals and blocks, particularly for a big. Won’t be able to body up all larger players, but as the game shifts away from post-up play the lack of size might be less of a drag on his value.

• Willing passer who can step out and be a ball-mover on the perimeter.

• Has shown some ability to hit open threes, shooting 43% on 62 attempts as a senior.

Weaknesses

• Not someone who will generate his own offense. Reliant on offensive rebounding and receiving optimal touches from teammates.

• Lack of size could impact his effectiveness in all areas against NBA competition. Will have to keep punching above his weight. Will he be as effective defensively? Not an elite athlete. Can he switch onto NBA wings?

• Has to continue as an effective shooter to maximize his value. Needs a way to have an offensive impact.

Highlights

Comparison: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

Clark’s statistical track record and intangibles are an inviting flier in hopes he can become a viable role player and small-ball big. —Jeremy Woo


16. Raymond Spalding, F/C, Louisville | Junior

Height: 6’10” | Weight: 215 | DOB: 3/11/97 (21)
Stats: 12.3 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.7 BPG

Bio: After two contributing seasons as an underclassman, Spalding saw a dramatic increase in playing time and touches as a junior. Long and athletic, Spalding’s build jumps off the page, but his NBA role is murkier.

Strengths

• Mobile big with a reported 7’4” wingspan. Moves his feet well. Natural-looking athlete.

• Good lob catcher with solid touch around the rim. Blocks shots on the other end.

• Has some skill level. Can handle the ball in space, can rebound and go and has an ability to shoot jumpers.

Weaknesses

• Very thin and can be pushed around inside. Overall physicality is lacking. Needs to get stronger to play through contact. Not extremely athletic.

• Inconsistent shooter and has just an average feel for the game offensively. Unlikely to evolve into a strong offensive option.

• His toughness and motor have often been questioned.

Highlights

Comparison: Hakim Warrick

Spalding’s athleticism and development potential could translate into an NBA role, but he’ll be pressed to stick long term. JF


17. Brandon McCoy, C, UNLV | Freshman

Height: 7’0″ | Weight: 250 | DOB: 6/11/98 (20)
Stats: 16.9 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 1.8 BPG

Bio: A native of Chicago who attended high school in San Diego, McCoy was a five-star recruit who made an immediate impact for an otherwise-underwhelming UNLV team in his lone season. He’s more of a classic rebounder and finisher on the inside who would have been more at home in the league 10 years ago, but has enough ability to potentially make it work.

Strengths

• Mature body should allow him to keep up right away. Has a 7’2” wingspan, which is about average for his height, but a solid 9’1” standing reach. Very solidly built.

• Impressive production sample as a freshman in the Mountain West. Averaged 21.2 points and 12.9 rebounds per-36. Showed he could play hard over a sustained period of time. Created easy opportunities for himself on the offensive glass.

• Passable free throw shooter at 72.5%, and made 37.8% of jumpers. Could potentially become a consistent shooter from 18 feet with some work.

Weaknesses

• Not an especially impressive shot blocker. Protects the rim more by way of being large than anything else. Decent athlete but not a freakish leaper.

• Questionable overall feel for the game. Makes little impact as a passer and can be turnover-prone.

• Scoring was padded somewhat by how often he got to the foul line. Overall offensive impact may be lessened when his physical advantage is diminished. Has a very rudimentary post game.

Highlights

Read More

NBA Draft Midseason Stock Watch (January 2018)

Comparison: Brendan Haywood

McCoy doesn’t have the long-term upside of many of his fellow one-and-dones but could end up sticking in the league if he figures out how to star within his role. JW


18. Alize Johnson, F Missouri State | Senior

Height: 6’8″ | Weight: 215 | DOB: 4/26/94 (22)
Stats: 15.0 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 2.8 APG

Bio: One of the most productive mid-major prospects in the country, Johnson has an unorthodox skill set but a clear level of talent that have kept him on the NBA radar and in the mix to be drafted in the second round.

Strengths

• Highly productive rebounder on both ends of the glass.

• Decent skill level with the ball in his hands. Has functioned like a point forward in the past. Has some ability to distribute.

• May have some functionality as a small-ball big given he can play inside and out and be moved around the court. Sort of a weird body type. Given short wingspan (6’9”) helps that he can slide on the perimeter a bit.

Weaknesses

• Highly streaky three-point shooter (28.1% last season) who is not a safe bet to consistently space the floor.

• What is his positional fit? Played primarily as a center for Missouri State but is somewhat undersized. Rebound numbers may be skewed by the fact he was always the tallest guy on the floor playing against less-athletic competition.

• Made little to no defensive impact in terms of steals and blocks despite playing heavy minutes in a key interior role. Those numbers are an outlier in the negative sense.

Highlights

Read More

Alize Johnson: From 5’9” to NBA Prospect (January 2018)

Comparison: Quincy Acy

Johnson has to become a more consistent shooter and has positional concerns, but his best case is a bench role on the right team. JW


19. Thomas Welsh, C, UCLA | Senior

Height: 7’0″ | Weight: 255 | DOB: 2/3/96 (22)
Stats: 12.6 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 40.2% 3FG

Bio: The rare McDonald’s All-American who also became a four-year college contributor, Welsh is a potential role player who scouts are highly familiar with. He earned a combine invite in 2017 before returning to school and didn’t get one in 2018. He should be in the second-round mix for teams that value his shooting ability and size.

Strengths

• Automatic midrange jump shooter. Successfully extended to three-point range as a senior after attempting just one three in three seasons. Will be a pick-and-pop threat no matter what level he’s playing at and a natural safety valve for teammates in late-clock situations.

• Good touch in the post and has enough size to be effective at the next level.

• Productive rebounder whose numbers improved all four years of college.

Weaknesses

• Averaged less than a block per game as a senior and was far from prolific as a rim protector in college.

• Not a great athlete or rebounder outside of his area. Will face an adjustment and likely struggle to play uptempo.

• Given his heavy feet, unlikely to be able to switch ball screens or defend pick-and-roll at a competent level.

Highlights

Comparison: Jason Smith

While the league is moving away from slower-footed big men, Welsh has a chance to stick in the right place as a backup center given his size and skill level. JW


20. Kostas Antetokounmpo, F/C, Dayton | Freshman

Height: 6’10” | Weight: 200 | DOB: 5/16/98 (20)
Stats: 5.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.1 BPG

Bio: The third of four Antetokounmpo brothers, Kostas redshirted a year at Dayton, then played sparingly this season. He opted to turn pro rather than stick around, following in the footsteps of his older brothers. Though he’s nowhere near Giannis’s level as a player, Kostas possesses similarly impressive athletic tools. He’s an interesting long-term project.

Strengths

• Physical outlier with a 7’2” wingspan and impressive mobility. Runs the floor like a wing, though he may be best suited as a four or five-man. Body can still fill out.

• Can play above the rim and catch lobs easily. Good transition finisher. Dunks everything.

• Some skill level. Has shown some ability to put it on the floor and get to the rim. Can shoot it a little bit, but isn’t a natural.

• Instinctive defender who hunts down blocks and steals. Could defend multiple positions.

Weaknesses

• Not a polished scorer or ball handler. Doesn’t have a defined game yet. Shot just 51% on free throws. Struggled with turnovers.

• Some uncertainty as to what his best role is. Not really a post-up player. If the jumper doesn’t come, he’s probably an energy-based five but needs to be a tougher, more physical rebounder. Extremely skinny build.

• Limited production sample. Played just 15 minutes per game in college. Tricky to get a feel for him. Why couldn’t he get off the bench?

Highlights

Comparison: Jerami Grant

If Antetokounmpo puts it together, he could be an athletic frontcourt piece. It’ll take some time for him to get there, if at all. JW

This post was originally published here via Google News