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The NBA Draft is right around the corner, and after Cleveland’s upset victory of the Lottery, it’s time to re-rank the top 20 prospects in this class.
1. Andrew Wiggins. Freshman. Small Forward. Kansas. 6″8.
One photo isn’t enough to draft a dude by, but this one is pretty darn impressive. Wiggins is an athletic monster who will be at the very least a lockdown defender with elite ability to get to the rim. Should he hone in his jump shot and make it consistent, he’ll be absolutely unstoppable. And that’s exactly what any team who drafts Wiggins will be hoping for.
2. Joel Embiid. Freshman. Center. Kansas. 6″8.
I’m not a huge fan of drafting based on potential over proven success, but the upside of Embiid is sky high. Plus, he has a slick post game, superb defense and above average rebounding. While injuries are a concern, there is quite enough in his highlights to sooth the uneasy mind of GMs who have seen what happened Greg Oden. If Embiid ends up even close to as good as the player he’s most often compared to, Hakeem Olajuwon, then the Cavs, Bucks, or Sixers will be well pleased with their choice.
3. Jabari Parker. Freshman. Small Forward. Duke. 6″8.
The safest pick in the draft, Parker leaves Duke with an incredibly developed offensive game. With an under-rated amount of athleticism, great rebounding prowess and solid defense, Parker is no slouch of a third pick. The only thing holding him back from the top 2 spots is that his ceiling is a sizable amount less than the ex-Jayhawk teammates.
4. Dante Exum. 18 Years Old. Point Guard. Australia. 6″6.
Exum is a bit of an enigma, as he is tremendously gifted and has even drawn Magic Johnson comparisons, yet he hasn’t had the production to completely justify it. Still, Exum is the most NBA-ready point guard, and a team in need of a PG like the Magic will be well off with Exum for years to come.
5. Noah Vonleh. Freshman. Power Forward. Indiana. 6″9.
This kid has one of the best NBA bodies for a Power Forward in years. Weighing in around 250 pounds, with a wingspan of 7″4 and massive hands, Vonleh has all of the intangibles that scouts look for, plus an offensive and defensive skill set. Jump shots are in his wheelhouse, along with a strong defensive presence. Vonleh uses his body well to grab rebounds at a high clip.
6. Marcus Smart. Sophomore. Point Guard/ Shooting Guard. Oklahoma State. 6″4.
The transition to the NBA will be interesting to see for Marcus Smart, as there is still debate as to whether he fits best as a 1 or a 2 in the Association. He is magnificent in transition, and while not the best passer, Smart makes up for it with his ability to get to the rim in even the half-court. Also a lock-down defender, Smart will be a very solid choice for anyone outside the top 3.
7. Julius Randle. Freshman. Power Forward. Kentucky. 6″9. This man is an absolute ox. Weighing in at 250 pounds of seemingly all muscle, Randle won’t be easy to guard in the post, especially once he furthers and best uses his post game. He needs some work on defense and on the mid-range jump shot, and he seems to be the second best at his position in this class. Nevertheless, Randle can be very effective at the next level.
8. Nik Stauskas. Sophomore. Shooting Guard, Michigan. 6″6.
Stauskas isn’t merely a catch and shoot type of player, though he does excel in that way. Able to get through his defender and finish at the rim, this is a multi-dimensional player. While limited defensively due to less-than-stellar athleticism, Stauskas projects quite nicely as a Klay Thompson who can finish around the tin.
9. Aaron Gordon. Freshman. Power Forward. Arizona. 6″9.
Gordon can jump out of the gym, plain and simple. Behind Wiggins, Gordon may be the best athlete in the class, and his combine results prove it. While his jumper is inconsistent to put it kindly, and his frame may be an issue, the upside of this man is too sizable to land him outside the top 10.
10. Gary Harris. Sophomore. Shooting Guard. Michigan State. 6″4.
The definition of ready to play at the next level, Harris has a pre-made NBA-style game that suits any team. He can shoot, he can drive, he can pass, he plays very solid defense and he makes big plays. The only downside of Harris is that he may not have the explosiveness nor the high potential that some scouts look for. A lock to be at the least a solid NBA starter, Harris comes in on day 1 and is ready to contribute for whichever team drafts him.
11. PJ Hairston. 21 Years Old. Shooting Guard. Texas Legends. 6″5.
There are certain guys that one has “a feeling” about. I have a strong inclination to believe that Hairston will be an elite level scorer in the NBA, and while his defense and off the court behavior can be suspect, the sweet stroke and ability to get to the bucket outshine all possible issues. At the worst, a team gets a man who is lights out from deep, in the mold of a more complete, smarter JR Smith.
12. TJ Warren. Sophomore. Small Forward. NC State. 6″8.
Warren can flat out score. When this man touches the rock, it’s bound to find bottom of the net. An inconsistent deep shot keeps him from being an “elite” prospect, but a TJ Warren with a jump shot would be a scary thing for opposing teams. Already lethal at getting points from either being near the rim or shooting from mid-range, the offensive possibilities are endless. Unfortunately, Warren isn’t exactly a defensive presence.
13. James Young. Sophomore. Small Forward. Kentucky. 6″7.
Young has all the makings of a “3-and-D” guy, and this is quite a good mold for an NBA player today. His lefty shot, while imperfect, has the look to it that suggests that with a bit of work, he can be deadly. With good length and lateral quickness, stifling defense is a foregone conclusion.
14. Dario Saric. 20 Years Old. “Point Forward.” Cibona Zagreb. 6″10.
If I’m being fully honest, I’m not a huge fan of European players. They often get drafted and don’t perform as they did overseas. While men like Tony Parker or Dirk Nowitzki speak to the potential success, Alexis Ajinca and Darko Milicic show that busts are common. That said, Saric’s length combined with his ball-handling skills and shooting ability make him hard to pass up for a lottery team enamoured with such possibilities that exist in men like Saric or Giannis Antetokounmpo.
15. Doug McDermott. Senior. Small Forward. Creighton. 6″8.
There is no greater pure-scorer in the draft than Creighton star Doug McDermott. He can score from the block. He can score from the elbow. He can score from deep. He can drive. He can post up. He can shoot over the top. Sounds like a sure NBA superstar, no? Well, unfortunately, Doug will struggle tremendously to guard any NBA Small Forwards, let alone a guy like a Lebron or Kevin Durant. His defensive incapabilities make him a one way player, thus outside the lottery for me, but whoever gets McDermott will get a man who can score in bunches.
16. Zach LaVine. Freshman. Shooting Guard. UCLA. 6″5.
Many say that this man could be the next Russell Westbrook. And based on athleticism alone, with his 41.5 inch vertical, they have a somewhat fair argument. Unfortunately, LaVine does not possess the same amount of actual basketball talent, and will likely be drafted on potential alone. He could fit nicely with a team like Chicago that wouldn’t need him to step up right away.
17. Rodney Hood. Sophomore. Small Forward. Duke. 6″8.
Rodney Hood steps into the NBA ready to play. He stepped up for the Blue Devils multiple times this season, making big buckets when it counted. Hood has a great deep ball and can also drive to the rim well. Defense isn’t his strong suit, but he’s not bad at all. Hood will be a very solid pick and a likely long-term NBAer.
18. Adreian Payne. Senior. Power Forward. Michigan State. 6″10
Payne comes into the league as a Day-1 starter who can contribute to nearly any team. Payne’s big downside is that his potential isn’t all that great, and he comes in at the ripe old age of 23. Seriously, 23 is quite old for a first year man. Look for a team who wants to make an immediate improvement to pick Payne, such as the Hawks, who will benefit from a big who can shoot the basketball, rebound well, and will go 100% every single time he’s on the court.
19. Elfrid Payton. Junior. Point Guard. UL-Lafayette. 6″4.
A lockdown defender who is also a tremendous ball-handler who is best in transition, Payton has many of the tools looked for in an NBA PG. The Sun Belt Defensive POTY, Payton will be asked to defend top NBA 1s and seems quite capable. His downside is that his shot isn’t consistent, but nevertheless, Payton has the ability to be a quality PG for years to come.
20. Tyler Ennis. Freshman. Point Guard. Syracuse. 6″3.
Last year, I totally slept on Michael Carter-Williams, and I am still taunted about it. I don’t feel that I’m making the same mistake with Ennis. Ennis doesn’t seem ready for the NBA yet, and his lack of athleticism and ability to create buckets for himself makes for a rough transition. That said, he excelled in Boeheim’s pick-and-roll sets and was an unquestionably good passer. Perhaps the young Orangeman will end up turning out alright, but his value is right around the 17-21 range.