After a few coin flips tomorrow we will all know the draft slots and ping pong balls that every NBA team will have prior to the lottery. That means we are only a couple of months away from the actual draft. Here is a look at a few rising and falling prospects that I deemed noteworthy and my full big board is below. Looking forward to the next few weeks of playoff basketball and prospect scrutiny!
1. Mikal Bridges – Donte DiVincenzo stole the show in the championship game and Jalen Brunson was National Player of the Year, yet Mikal is going to be the Villanova Wildcat that gets drafted in the lottery (and for very good reason). Probably the oldest prospect in contention to be selected in the top 10 of this draft class, Mikal now has three full years of sample size playing on Jay Wright’s college superteam and two titles to show for it. Mikal’s steady incremental development in all aspects of the game that will translate at the next level make him a safe 3-and-D wing with upside to be so much more. Imagine Danny Green with a fluid offensive game. His 7-2 wingspan, motor, instincts, and desire to excel on the defensive end of the floor are tantalizing attributes for NBA teams that emphasize these traits on the wing in the pace and space era. I’d love to see Bridges show even more aggression on offense because his beautiful shooting stroke and smoothness handling the ball make him an efficient scorer.
2. Zhaire Smith – If Mikal is an already polished prospect with a safe floor, Zhaire is a perfect counterpoint. Nearly three years younger than Bridges, Smith is a project right now with the upside to blow everyone away. Full disclosure: I knew very little about him and Texas Tech going into the season. Both the team and Smith individually made huge strides from preseason through the NCAA tournament. The tournament only confirmed that this really young kid has the athleticism to complement his elite defensive tools. If his confidence grows on offense, he could blossom into an NBA All-Star. It is unclear if he will get any promises from NBA teams in the lottery, but if I’m the Clippers with the 12th and 13th picks, there is NO way that I’m passing on Smith. Reminds me a lot of Donovan Mitchell in his freshman season at Louisville. Oladipo is an interesting comparison too.
3. Jontay Porter – Really didn’t have any expectations going into his freshman season at Missouri, unlike his older brother. The explosiveness and strength were on another level from most freshman. Definitely a prospect that is rough around the edges and will need to develop requisite skills to ever get significant playing time in an NBA offense, Jontay will thrive on a team where his role is to do all the dirty work. A little pudgy right now, but if he becomes a gym rat and transforms his body that will go a long way for his career. I’m hoping he has a late growth spurt and becomes a true center instead of a tweener. At seven feet why couldn’t he be the next Marc Gasol? Maybe another year in college would have helped him improve his fundamentals, but he is jumping straight to the NBA with big brother.
1. Michael Porter Jr. – Porter had so much hype entering his freshman season. Unfortunately, injury misfortune reared its ugly head and it looked like he would sit out the full season. Ironically, his draft stock may have been higher entering the draft had he never came back and struggled shooting the way he did. The shooting ability and natural fluidity to his movement make him a very eye-catching young player. What he will need to prove with his package is how he can contribute to winning in the context of the modern offense and defense. Isolation scoring isn’t nearly as valuable as it used to be 20 years ago. The more I put Porter under a microscope, the more I see Tobias Harris. Which is a valuable and effective player type, but teams drafting him in the top five will expect more. Ideally, he can get his rhythm back and quiet all the doubters the way Tatum did this season in Boston. Tatum faced many of the same questions about his playmaking and integration into an NBA system. It’s all about diversifying his portfolio instead of over-relying on his greatest strengths. That will be the difference between being the next Andrew Wiggins or Jayson Tatum, although I’m sure Michael will say: “I’m the first Michael Porter.”
2. Lonnie Walker IV – Walker is being judged on theoretical ability, though I’m still waiting for him to show these hypothetical abilities. Obviously he has the size and athleticism, but where is the consistency in terms of shooting, finishing at the rim, and defensive effort? He isn’t entering the draft on a high note either with how he contributed to Miami’s early exit (ineptitude at the free-throw line). Walker is still young and some NBA team will take a chance on him in the first round. I’ve just seen too many players in his situation fizzle out after struggling to find consistent playing time. Even players like Ben McLemore who were given plenty of opportunities early on weren’t able to take advantage. I’m worried Lonnie won’t be given as long of a leash and will be entering the league with even less tools than McLemore.
3. Hamidou Diallo – I was so high on Diallo going into his freshman season. Unfortunately, he has been such a tease over the past 24 months. An elite scorer at the high school level due to his speed, strength, athleticism, and motor, Diallo’s ability to blow by or bully opposing defenders hasn’t translated at Kentucky. That is where he should have improved his shooting and handles. However, I haven’t seen any noticeable improvement. John Calipari likes his defense and he definitely contributed to Kentucky’s success. In the NBA, his body will only earn him marginal playing time if he never becomes a playmaker or 3-and-D wing.
|1||Luka Doncic||PG||Real Madrid||18.8||6-8||N/A|
|3||Jaren Jackson||PF/C||Michigan St||18.3||6-10||7-4|
|8||Michael Porter Jr.||SF/PF||Missouri||19.5||6-10||7-0|
|9||Wendell Carter Jr.||C||Duke||18.8||6-10||7-3|
|10||Zhaire Smith||SF||Texas Tech||18.7||6-5||N/A|
|11||Miles Bridges||SF/PF||Michigan St||19.8||6-6||6-9|
|14||Robert Williams||C||Texas A&M||20.3||6-9||7-5½|
|23||Lonnie Walker IV||SG||Miami FL||19.2||6-4||6-10½|
|24||Anfernee Simons||SG||Team Breakdown||18.7||6-4||6-7|
|25||Chandler Hutchison||SG||Boise St||21.8||6-7||N/A|
|29||Keita Bates-Diop||SF||Ohio St||22.1||6-7||N/A|
|35||Bruce Brown||SG||Miami FL||21.6||6-3||6-8½|
|42||Goga Bitadze||C||Mega Bemax||18.6||6-11||7-2|
|43||Jevon Carter||PG||West Virginia||22.5||6-2||6-3|
|48||Nickeil Alexander-Walker||PG||Virginia Tech||19.4||6-5||6-9|
|50||Tony Carr||PG||Penn St||20.4||6-3||6-8|
|51||Kevin Hervey||SF||Texas Arlington||21.6||6-7||N/A|
|54||Landry Shamet||PG||Wichita St||20.9||6-4||N/A|
|56||Jerome Robinson||PG||Boston College||21.1||6-5||N/A|
|57||Arnoldas Kulboka||SF||Capo D’Orlando||20.1||6-10||6-11|
|60||Kostja Mushidi||SG/SF||Mega Leks||19||6-5|
|63||Josh Okogie||SG||Georgia Tech||19.4||6-4||7-0|
|64||Shamorie Ponds||PG||St. John’s||19.6||6-1||6-3|
|66||Omer Yurtseven||C||N.C. State||19.6||7-0||6-5|
|70||Sagaba Konate||C||West Virginia||20.5||6-8||N/A|
|72||Xavier Sneed||SG||Kansas St||20.2||6-5||6-9|
|74||DJ Hogg||SF/PF||Texas A&M||21.5||6-9||6-10½|
|77||Yusuf Sanon||PG/SG||Olimpija Ljubljana||18.4||6-4||N/A|
|78||Lindell Wigginton||PG||Iowa St||20||6-2||6-3½|
|79||Karim Jallow||SF||Bayern Muenchen||20.9||6-7||6-8|
|80||Bonzie Colson||PF||Notre Dame||22.1||6-5||6-11½|
|84||Milik Yarbrough||SG/SF||Illinois St||22.3||6-6||N/A|
|86||Alize Johnson||PF||Missouri St||21.8||6-9||N/A|
|96||D.J. Hogg||SF/PF||Texas A&M||21.4||6-9||6-10½|
|98||Matur Maker||C||Team Loaded VA||20.1||6-10||7-2|
|102||Karim Jallow||SF||Bayern Muenchen||20.8||6-7||6-8|
|103||Markis McDuffie||SF||Wichita St||20.4||6-8||N/A|
|105||Malik Pope||SF||San Diego St||21.5||6-10||7-2|
|106||Aric Holman||PF/C||Mississippi St.||20.6||6-10||N/A|
|107||Maximo Fjellerup||SF/PF||Bahia Blanca||20.2||6-7||N/A|
|112||Jeffrey Carroll||SF||Oklahoma St||23.3||6-6||6-6½|