The NBA draft was held last Thursday which means Lavar Ball, one of the biggest jokes in sports television history, got what he wanted which was the Lakers “getting that Ball”. This year’s draft was a historic one in that 16 out of the 30 picks were Freshman. 10 out of the first 11 picks were Freshman with the one exception being the Knicks’ Frank Ntilikina who came out of France and is just 18 years young. Clearly the NBA is experiencing a youth movement and with powerhouse program Kentucky producing top-tier talent seemingly every year, we will likely see this trend continue. Here is my take on the top 10 picks of this years draft and what I see these players becoming.
1) Markelle Fultz: PG/Washington
The Washington product was selected with the number 1 overall pick despite the Boston-Philly trade. This guy will become part of one of the best young teams in the league with the potential to become a dynasty for years to come. “The Process” seems to finally be complete and with the young trio of Simmons, Embiid, and now Fultz, LeBron and the Cavs should be worried about more than just the Warriors. Fultz will become part of the team-coined nickname, “The FEDS”. Not really sure if you can give yourself a name like that after being the laughing stock of the league for the past 5 years but hey with a guy as talented as Fultz who knows what can happen Tank City.
Bold Comparison: A James Harden who might be able to play some defense.
2) Lonzo Ball: PG/UCLA
Questions about his athleticism and for lack of a better term, “daddy issues”, have caused Lonzo to be pushed out of the running for the number 1 spot. However, his talent and playmaking ability is unmatched and has the potential to be a star for years to come. Say what you want about his dad but when Ball takes the court he can play and at just 19 years old, his ceiling is sky-high. The stars are aligned for Lonzo Ball to play in Los Angeles especially with the move by new GM Magic Johnson shipping off their former young talent D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn aka the NBA’s graveyard.
Bold Comparison: A dollar store Magic Johnson who plays in a T-shirt.
3) Jayson Tatum: SF/Duke
Tatum is an absolute scoring machine. He can take you off the dribble, score effectively in the post and shot the ball at over 34% from behind the arc which is enough for your defender to respect your shot, not to mention with a couple years of practice that number can be pushed beyond 40%. Tatum also has a 7-foot wing span and is a whole year younger than fellow Freshman Josh Jackson, possibly giving him a higher ceiling and making him a potentially more intriguing prospect.
Bold Comparison: Athleticism of Nuggets Melo with the offensive skills of Knicks Melo.
4) Josh Jackson SF/Kansas
Labeled by many as being the best two-way player in the draft, Jackson has the athleticism and defensive ability to be around in the NBA for years. While attending the University of Kansas this past year Jackson got in trouble with the law after he allegedly followed Kansas women’s basketball player McKenzie Calvert outside of a school bar to her car and threatened her while also kicking in her car door while she was locked inside. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say he probably won’t win the NBA Sportsmanship Award but nowadays who cares as long as he can help your team win (see Adrian Peterson, Joe Mixon, etc…).
Bold Comparison: Prime Andre Iguodala.
5) De’Aaron Fox: PG/Kentucky
Fox has already shown that he can step up in the big games when everyone is watching. Remember in the tournament when he absolutely embarrassed Lonzo Ball on the way to their 86-75 victory over UCLA? Fox has already been drawing comparisons to former first overall pick and fellow Kentucky Wildcat John Wall. Killer speed, great motor with the ability to play defense at a high level already. The one flaw in his game is his 3-pointer where he only averaged 24.6% on the season. This is the same problem that Wall had and Wall’s improvement over his career to shoot the long ball only proves that Fox’s ceiling is sky high.
Bold Comparison: A Rajon Rondo who isn’t a complete mental patient (who can also hit the occasional 3-pointer).
6) Jonathan Isaac: F/Florida State
This guy is an absolute freak and I mean that in the best way possible. 6 foot 10 with over a 7 foot wingspan who can also shoot the 3 and handle the ball? Sounds a lot like current NBA snake, Kevin “Cupcake” Durant. Every team in the league could use someone like Isaac and the Magic just landed someone who I believe will be an absolute stud for years to come. Paired with Aaron Gordon in the front court, this will be an extremely athletic duo who will create matchup problems and wreak havoc on both sides of the floor. With Isaac’s strong resemblance to a paper clip, their are some concerns about his strength but that is something that can easily be worked on over this summer. All-in-all this guy checks off nearly every box that scouts look for and the Magic may have just landed a steal at the sixth pick.
Bold Comparison: Somewhere between KD and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
7) Lauri Markkanen: F/Arizona
This guy is a carbon copy of Kristaps Porzingis. Whether it be the lanky, 7 foot frame, theawkward running motions, or the fact that he is just lethal from behind the arc this guy literally looks like a slightly smaller clone of KP when you watch him play. This guy can be very deadly in pick and pop situations as he was all throughout the year with Arizona. There are definitely red flags about his strength down low as his thin frame could easily exploited by most NBA centers. Markkanen’s length and shooting ability will allow him to hang around in the league for a while but his strength and defensive flaws are something that needs to be improved if he wants to take his game to the next level. Personally I think this guy comes off as soft and I don’t see him being any more than a role player off the bench but the last guy with similar attributes and concerns as I previously stated was Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis.
Bold Comparison: Flip a coin, one side is Porzingis and the other is Ryan Anderson, that’s what you’re drafting.
8) Frank Ntilikina: PG/Germany
Knowing Phil Jackson, James Dolan, and the rest of the shit storm of a front office that is the New York Knicks. Ntilikina will likely either get injured or sit at the end of the bench and be out of the league before his rookie contract expires. However, standing at nearly 6 foot 6 and with close to 7 foot wingspan he has a lot of potential and has already shown that he can at least be a lockdown defender. Questions about his strength and shooting raise some concerns but he has plenty of time to address these issues this offseason and next year. On top of that he is just 18 years old which means he may be raw now but there is plenty of time for him to grow. It seems that Ntilikina will be more of a project rather than some of the other rookies taken earlier who are already NBA ready but his ceiling remains sky-high. Lets just hope he gets a shot before his career is ruined by the jokes in the Knicks front office.
Bold Comparison: Dante Exum with a little Emmanuel Mudiay mixed in.
9) Dennis Smith Jr: PG/NC State
This is one of the most athletically gifted athletes in the entire draft. He has Russell Westbrook, John Wall type explosiveness and excels at creating his own shot which is something the Mavericks definitely need. The main concern with Smith are his James Harden moments where he sometimes is caught flat footed while playing off the ball which leads to easy back door cuts. He also boasts an average 6’3″ wingspan which only allows him to guard one position. However, in today’s NBA we are seeing now more than ever star point guards guarding the worst perimeter player on each team. Just look at any game with Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry or Isaiah Thomas. Obviously it is something that Smith needs to improve upon but I believe with his speed and quickness he has the physical skills to reach the next level as a defender.
Bold Comparison: Russell Westbrook/John Wall.
10) Zach Collins: C/Gonzaga
Being a fan of the traditional NBA big man who can post up, watching highlights of this guy gets me all hot and bothered. Collins has very developed post game and has one of the best drop-steps I have ever seen from anyone. He also has the ability to stretch the floor and drill 3’s which is something every NBA center has to be able to do in today’s game. My concern with Collins is that he only played 17 minutes a game in college so there are questions about if his game will be able to translate to the NBA. Another issue is that he often gets into foul trouble which is especially significant considering the amount of minutes he plays. Collins will need to have more discipline on defense if he wants to carve out a role for himself but at just 19 years old and with the offensive skills that he possesses, this kid is going to be a special player.
Bold Comparison: There is none, he’s got the low-post skills and touch around the rim of Kevin McHale but McHale never shot 47% from 3-point, this guy is on unicorn watch.