Over the next month and a half we will be writing about and analyzing the top 30 prospects, in sets of five, in our NBA draft series here at Canis Hoopus. In Part 1, we look at five of the most highly-touted players in this year’s draft pool.
All of the height, wingspan, weight, and age data comes from DraftExpress. Visit their excellent site all year long for outstanding prospect coverage!
Markelle Fultz, Washington, PG
AGE: 18.9 (Freshman)
Draft Express Rank: #1
Via Tony Porter @porterzingis:
Markelle Fultz is one of the most enticing prospects in this year’s draft. He is a 6’4” point guard with a 6’10” wingspan and hasn’t even turned 19 yet. In a draft pool chock-full of guards, Fultz stands out as one of the elite scorers among the bunch thanks to his size and athleticism.
With a full arsenal of offensive weapons, he can score from anywhere on the floor. Fultz consistently abused smaller guards throughout the year, either by pulling up early in the midrange or just attacking the rim. He plays so smoothly and has great body control which leads to highlight plays like this...
It’s that change of pace that lulls the defense onto their heels. By then it’s too late; Fultz is on his way to an insane reverse layup.
He can shoot too, and although he was known to be streaky, his percentages were 50.2 percent from inside the arc and 41.3 percent from deep. He likes his pull-up jumpers off the dribble with a little head fake to keep defenders on their toes.
Who doesn’t like a good catch and shoot guard?
Again, you can tell how silky his game is with that highlight. His shooting mechanics and footwork is beautiful to watch. In fact, I highly recommend checking out the videos at DraftExpress on him.
Not only is he creative in his scoring but in his playmaking as well. He uses his great body control to make wrap around passes to his teammates when he drives the lane and is able to find open shooters on kick outs.
Overall, Fultz put up gaudy statistics at Washington this year on his way to a 9-21 record with the team. Critics around the country point to this as a potential red flag when drafting the young guard. He had 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks per game and could only muster nine wins all year?
The surrounding cast for Fultz was nothing special, and last year’s prize of the draft, Ben Simmons, did not lead his team to the NCAA tournament and was still selected number one overall.
The lack of wins is a bit concerning but there are other critiques of his game as well. He isn’t known as lock-down defender by any means, and he took his fair share of plays off on that end of the floor.
Chalk this up to being on a bad team and wanting to be in the NBA and you may be able to sleep at night. Also, seeing plays like this gives hope that he can turn into the defensive player that coaches covet.
Pure athleticism for the win! Another knock on Fultz’s game is that he can be too casual with the ball and at the same time, try to be too fancy. He gets silly turnovers at times trying to go for the highlight play that isn’t necessary. Fultz will benefit immensely with NBA spacing but he will also be playing NBA level defenses so he needs to have better discipline in certain scenarios. He finished his freshman season with a usage percentage of 31.4 (estimate of how many plays he used while on the floor), turnover percentage of 13.4 (estimate of turnovers per 100), and an assist percentage of 35.5 (% of teammate fields goal assisted by him when he was on the court).
Right now, he is likely to go number one based his upside but there is always time for movement before the draft. I’m not sure the NBA is ready to give the Wolves another number one pick in their rigged lottery (kidding, of course) but if they don’t get a top-three pick they likely have no chance of getting him.
If they do somehow get a shot at drafting him, I don’t want to know what will go through Canis commenters heads. You can’t pass on a prospect of his caliber even with Rubio’s stellar play down the stretch, and his overall consistency over his career. That would mean the team has to trade one of their point guards. It doesn’t have to be Ricky, but he’d likely be the top choice as he would garner the most in return and I can’t imagine him keeping quiet with yet another point guard drafted while he’s here.
Luckily, Wolves’ fans shouldn’t have to worry about that because the team isn’t winning the lottery because it’s not rigged. Right, Adam Silver?
Lonzo Ball, UCLA, PG
AGE: 19.5 (Freshman)
Draft Express Rank: #2
Via Kyle Theige @kyletheige:
While Markelle Fultz seems like the safest pick in this year’s draft, Lonzo Ball clearly is the player with the highest upside. Is he the next Magic Johnson? Is he the Millennial version of Jason Kidd? Or is he a more magical version of Ricky Rubio?
Only time will tell, but the 6’6” floor general out of Chino Hills, CA demonstrated during his brief time at UCLA a stunning combination of high basketball IQ, remarkable court vision, and natural leadership abilities that will transfer quickly to the NBA and increase his chances of becoming an elite-level playmaker on the offensive end.
His great size and 6’7” wingspan (drink!) give him the necessary tools to be a lockdown menace on the defensive side of the ball. In a league already flooded with guys who can score, Ball’s ability to impact the game in a variety of ways without actually shooting the basketball truly sets him apart as a special, can’t miss NBA draft prospect.
Speaking of shooting, if you’re looking for a true weakness of Lonzo Ball—aside from his father being LaVar Ball—you might start with his Kevin Martin-esque form. While his jumper is aesthetically unpleasing, it still got the job done during his freshman year at UCLA. He shot 41.2% from three on 5.4 attempts per game, and 73.2% from within the arc on 4.1 attempts per game.
Similar to Martin, who shot 44% during his 16-year NBA career, Ball has proven so far that it’s not always about how you shoot, but whether or not you can actually make shots. His coach at UCLA, Steve Alford, echoed those sentiments:
The only other real flaw of Ball’s game so far at age 19 is that his 6’6” frame lacks a lot of pure strength and muscle, necessary components for a man’s league and the overall grind of an 82-game regular season. While physically his body should fill out over time as he dives head first into NBA strength and conditioning programs, his lack of true explosion/speed is something that could give him fits on a nightly basis as he matches up against the likes of John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Eric Bledsoe, Kemba Walker, etc.
This was clearly evident in Ball’s two contests this past season against another likely lottery pick De’Aaron Fox. Considering how over-coached and micromanaged college basketball is, I try not to put too much stock into college stats, but it is worth noting that Fox outscored Ball 59-24 in their two matchups, while also turning the ball over only 4 times compared to Ball’s 10. More specifically, in their Sweet 16 matchup, Fox displayed his elite athleticism and pure speed as he hounded Ball full-court throughout most of the game and gave Ball real issues as he tried to initiate offense and create open looks for his Bruin teammates. Again, it’s only two college games, but this is the type of stuff GM’s look at on tape when deciding if a player’s game can translate to the next level—especially at the deepest and most competitive position in the NBA.
Whichever NBA team misses out on winning the lottery will have the comfort of knowing they can settle for the fantastic consolation prize of Lonzo Ball, and should immediately turn the keys to the franchise over to him soon after he puts on their team snapback. While the PG position has never been deeper in the NBA, Ball’s ability to create for his teammates and defend while also displaying a real threat to score make him the ideal prospect to revitalize a franchise.
Out of all the players in this draft, Ball may be the weirdest fit for the Wolves, considering he projects out to be eerily similar to Ricky Rubio 2.0 (the new model that comes with a modern NBA jumper). While the Wolves desperately need another floor-spacing big and/or rim protector, the opportunity to replace Rubio with the 19-year old Ball may simply be too good to pass up.
Josh Jackson, Kansas, SF
AGE: 20.2 (Freshman)
Draft Express Rank: #3
Via Josh Clement:
Josh Jackson is going to be really good in the NBA. He was dominant in his one-year in Kansas, in part due to his coach Bill Self putting him in a place to succeed by playing him more heavily as a Point Forward. He is the highest rated wing prospect in the draft.
Basic Stats: 16.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 3 apg, 1.7 spg, 1.1 bpg. 54.9 two point shooting percentage, 37.8 three point shooting percentage, 56.6 free throw percentage.
Strengths: The reason that Josh Jackson has teams so excited is he projects to be a star at the most important position in the NBA, the do-everything Wing who can play multiple positions on defense, while creating on offense.
At Kansas, he was tasked with a heavy load on offense, as reflected by his 27 percent usage rate. He was pretty good on offense and demonstrated a skilled passing game as well as great off-the-ball movement when he wasn’t in control of the offense. Jackson has great passing instincts and facilitation skills for a player who was essentially dropped into the Point Forward spot.
On top of that all, he is absolutely amazing at getting to the rim and he is can go either right or left when attacking the basket. He finished the year with a pretty good three point shooting percentage, 38 percent, but he was extraordinarily streaky. Jackson began the year 9 of 38 but then made 25 of his next 52 three point attempts. That, as will be delved into later, is problematic considering his poor 57 percent free throw shooting percentage.
Jackson stands out from his peers on defense. He was astonishing, whether we are talking about his feel for the game, motor, or athletic ability. His block and steal percentage, 3.5 and 3.1 respectively, are better than any high-profile Wing draft pick since 2012. He will be a force to be reckoned with on day one in the NBA, similar to how Justise Winslow was able to be an immediate contributor to the Miami Heat. He is also a strong rebounder, especially on the defensive glass.
Weaknesses: The only flaws that Jackson has in his game are due to his size and shooting. Both are real concerns for a player who many hope to be a small-ball 4 in the NBA, of which at first glance he would seem perfect for. While Jackson stands the prototypical 6’8”, his wingspan is only 6’10”, which seems insignificant, but is shorter than his supposed ceiling comparison of Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and Paul George. Harrison Barnes, a more modest size comparison, is also bigger. Jackson also falls short in the weight department, coming in around 203 pounds. All the aforementioned players have around 20 pounds or so on Jackson coming out of college, and Jackson’s relatively older age for a freshman has many wondering how much more his frame will fill out.
This issue is one that Wolves fans are well familiar with, but it’s hard to ascribe too much of a problem to a player’s potential ability to fill out. I would say that same argument holds true to some of Jackson’s questionable on-court decision making and handles. We have seen how Wiggins has developed over the years and how hard it is for young Wings to be able to handle high-usage roles right off the bat. Jackson seems light-years ahead of players like Brandon Ingram in that regard and should only improve once he is in the NBA.
Now the real problem, which is constant across all these types of players such as Winslow, Stanley Johnson, and Jackson, is can he shoot? Winslow was a player who many were concerned about due to his weak free throw percentage in comparison to his 41 percent three point percentage. Jackson’s mechanics are also all over the place, with a slight catapult like hitch to his three-point shot, bringing back horror-memories of Kris Dunn this season.
Timberwolves Outlook: If the Wolves are lucky enough to be in a spot to draft Jackson, regardless of who is on the board, they should take him. There are some concerns if he has the real skills to be a bonafide star that can lead a team, but, at least for the Wolves, we don’t have that issue. Jackson can take time to build up his shooting and playmaking and he would bring an immediate defensive improvement to the Wing position, not to mention a much needed edge to this Wolves roster. Jackson may or may not be a capital-S Star, but he would fit in perfectly with the Wolves and make their future that much brighter.
Jayson Tatum, Duke, SF
AGE: 19.1 (Freshman)
Draft Express Rank: #4
Via Eric in Madison @canishoopus:
Jayson Tatum didn’t come out of nowhere. He was one of the premier recruits in his high school class and has long been seen as a top NBA prospect. In fact, a year ago today, Draft Express had him at the top of their 2017 mock draft. He now sits fourth in the current DX mock.
His season at Duke was a successful one, though perhaps not as dominant as prospect watchers hoped. He missed the start of the year with a minor injury, but came back to be a major factor for the Blue Devils.
The first thing you notice about Tatum is his physical presence. He’s very long and has an impressive wing-span. He’s also quite physically developed for a player who just turned 19, and was consistently able to use his size to advantage against college competition. For the most part, he played the four spot for Duke, but I think ideally he’s a small forward in the NBA, who can occasionally shift to the power forward spot in small-ball looks.
What he does best is score. He has real skill in elevating and clearing for his shot, and nice touch, especially in the mid-range. He also uses his length to draw fouls. 5.7 free throw attempts per pace adjusted 40, and he shot an impressive 85% from the line. That gives hope that his three-point shot might develop into a real weapon; he shot only 34 percent from the college three, so that’s an area for improvement.
He also handles the ball quite well for his size. Showed the ability to grab a defensive board and push it up the floor himself, often getting transition hoops or fouls.
He’s more smooth and balanced than explosive as an athlete, and showed a tendency to settle. A lot of his highlights are made contested pull-ups in the mid-range—he was not able to consistently get to the basket in college, which is a bit concerning. As mentioned, his length allowed him to elevate over college defenders and make shots, either off the dribble or in the mid-post, where he was very effective, but this is not the path to efficiency in the NBA.
In fact, when watching both the strengths and weaknesses videos at Draft Express, what sticks out is how many of the clips in both are contested or semi-contested jumpers. How his offense develops in the NBA when he isn’t fed a diet of isolation and post-up opportunities is something to watch, but he appears far too talented a scorer not to figure out how to get points at the next level.
Defensively, there is work to do, as is true of almost all young players. His size and instincts are good, and led to a reasonable number of steals and blocks for a guy relied upon to score (1.6 and 1.4 respectively per pace adjust 40) but he often drifts off the ball, and lacks effort in getting into a stance, allowing lesser players to beat him off the dribble relatively easily. The good thing is he showed some strong rebounding skills, averaging over seven defensive boards per pa40.
If you squint, you can see some Carmelo Anthony in Tatum, though Anthony was more explosive and more dominant in his one college season. More obviously, he reminds of Rudy Gay, and seems likely to develop along similar lines. He’ll score. How much he helps you win depends on his development in other areas, focusing on defense, and integrating into team play.
Tatum is a talented guy, and also quite young; he just turned 19 in March. There is a lot to like about him. I’m not sure he’s a great fit for the Wolves, though he does check the “big wing” box. He is primarily a user of possessions, which is not something the Wolves need. I doubt they would take him with a top three pick if they are lucky in the lottery, and he’s unlikely to slip to the sixth spot, though it’s not impossible if teams fall in love with the guards.
Malik Monk, Kentucky, SG
AGE: 19.2 (Freshman)
Draft Express Rank: #5
Via David Naylor @ProfCedar:
Malik Monk is yet another outstanding prospect following Karl-Anthony Towns' footsteps with a year in Lexington, KY under John Calipari. Just like Towns' 2014-15 season, the Wildcats failed again to win a national championship, and Monk is now on his way to the NBA to prove himself.
The first thing that pops off Monk's impressive DraftExpress profile is his build. Monk last clocked in at 6'4", 197 lbs. at Kentucky, and put up 19.8 points per game while leading his team in points per game, minutes per game (32.1), and three-point percentage (39.7%). This was no case like Towns, who played just 21.1 minutes per game in college while still showing his game. The Wildcats were built around Monk's scoring prowess, and relied on him.
This profile from SBN's Kristian Winfield during the NCAA tournament covers Monk's scoring exploits this season. Monk's offensive game is ridiculous, from driving to shot creation to his set shot. However, Monk's counting stats don't look like much past his exceptional scoring. 2.5 rebounds per game and 2.3 assists per game don't exactly jump off the page. You draft Malik Monk for one reason: he gets buckets, lots of them, and is very, very good at doing so.
The Wolves, however, happen to already have two exceptional wing scorers on their roster in Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, who, one would think, should occupy the starting lineup slots for the foreseeable future (insert a small prayer for LaVine's health here). Just watching a couple of Monk's more exceptional performances from the season reminds me a lot of LaVine at his best: when he's on, you want no other player shooting the ball for your team. Monk as a dynamic scorer off the bench would be a tremendous threat and would allow great flexibility should the Wolves get into foul trouble or should one of the starters have an off night.
The other big question for the Wolves' this offseason is how to fix their tragically bad defense, and where Kris Dunn last season was a defensive minded pick, Monk's defense isn't typically highlight-reel play. He's a little shorter than either Wiggins (6'8", 200 lbs.) or LaVine (6'5", 181 lbs.) were on draft night, and while he's still on the young side of 19, the odds of him growing enough to switch onto anything beyond guards seem slim. One would think that opposing teams will give him the same treatment LaVine got as a rookie: run him through endless screens and see if he can keep up with NBA-level shooting guards consistently.
Monk is an elite scorer and will be at bare minimum a competent player in the league. If you can get buckets like this kid can, there will always be a place for you. However, it doesn't seem like a pick of Monk with the sixth pick in the draft would be the best fit for the Wolves. It would open up some fun possibilities, and he would be a valuable asset as he develops. There just could be another option that makes more sense at this position.
Who will be the best pro out of this group?
This poll is closed