Welcome back for Part 4 of our NBA draft series here at Canis Hoopus!
That means we are going to look at the next best five prospects according to Draft Express. This part brings a diverse group of players to the class, including one of the quickest risers up draft boards, a mystery man from Barcelona, a sharpshooter from Duke, and two intriguing bigs with very different résumés.
All of the height, wingspan, weight, and age data comes from Draft Express. Visit their excellent site all year long for outstanding prospect coverage.
Donovan Mitchell, Louisville, SG
Draft Express Rank: #11
Via John Meyer @thedailywolf:
Donovan Mitchell is rising up draft boards after his showing at the NBA draft combine in Chicago. Julian Applebome of Draft Express wrote the following:
Louisville Sophomore Guard Donovan Mitchell impressed on day one of the Combine with his huge 6'10” wingspan measurement, and he continued to leave his mark on day two, posting the highest standing vertical leap at 36.5. That number matches the marks of Iman Shumpert and former NBA Dunk Contest Champion Glen Robinson III. Mitchell also posted the fastest three-quarter court sprint time at just 3.01 seconds, which is the quickest time since Sonny Weems ran a 2.96 at the 2008 Combine. His 40 ½ inch max vertical was the fourth best at the Combine, and he also shot the ball well in the drills we watched. Mitchell, who just recently signed with an agent, has certainly boosted his stock with some elite physical and athletic testing.
Some people have labeled Mitchell as a combo guard because he hasn’t shown the ability to run an offense, and is undersized for a two-guard, but his wingspan (6'10”), athleticism, and shooting ability—35.4 percent on 6.6 attempts per game during his sophomore season at Louisville—make him appear to be a pretty solid shooting guard prospect.
Mitchell proved to be very athletic and explosive at the combine, as noted above, which should help him compensate for being a smaller off-guard. His tremendous burst and strong ball-handling and dribble moves should ease his transition to the NBA a little bit, as teams figure out the best way to use him. Though if there’s one clear knock against him, it’s that his position is undefined at the moment. His shot selection, at times, can also leave a poor taste. But Mitchell is clearly a talented prospect with two-way skills.
Stats: 15.6 ppg in 32.3 mpg with 46.3/35.4/80.6 shooting splits, 4.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.1 steals, 0.5 blocks, 1.6 turnovers, 22.2 PER, 1.08 PTS/POSS, 0.54 TS%.
Question marks: Can his jumper continue to improve? What position does he play in the NBA? Is he able to run an offense? Can he deal with bigger wings?
ESPN lists his three player traits as: penetrating, defending, and leaping. He is very explosive, plays above the rim (watch his highlights and you will see many backdoor lobs) and looks like he can get his own shot basically whenever he wants to:
One of the most intriguing parts of Mitchell’s game is his defense. He averages 2.6 steals per 40 minutes pace adjusted, possessing the ability to really disrupt opposing guards, switch on to forwards at times, and get into passing lanes. Like most young players, he appears to be inconsistent on defense. But his profile suggests that he could develop into a very strong defender. With his wingspan and quickness, one can imagine him being a menace—especially against point guards. If Mitchell can learn to operate in halfcourt sets, run pick-and-rolls, throw post-entry passes, and get things early in the shot clock, his value is going to skyrocket. If not, he still forecasts to be a strong role player off the bench due to his shooting, scoring, and defense. He profiles as a potentially lethal sixth man that could go matchup well against a variety of guards across the league.
Mitchell has been soaring up draft boards since the combine and DX currently has him going #12 to the Pistons. If mock drafts are to be trusted, the Louisville product should go somewhere between picks 12-20. The Wolves most likely will not be in the market for his services unless they trade down, and even then it’s hard to see them going with Mitchell over a big wing or stretch forward, but he does potentially check a few of the boxes Thibodeau wants to fill this offseason (shooting and defense) and offers long-term upside at both guard spots.
Ike Anigbogu, UCLA, C
WINGSPAN: 7'6 ¼"
Draft Express Rank: #15
Via Tony Porter @porterzingis:
The next prospect on our list is Ike Anigbogu, the young big man out of UCLA. He's taking the Zach LaVine route to the NBA as he came off the bench for the Bruins squad in his first and only year of college. Though, Ike played only 13 minutes per game to LaVine's 24 minutes per game his freshmen year, he still showed enough potential in that limited time to be considered a first-round talent.
Due to his minimal minutes, let's first take a look at his measurements. He's actually the shortest center that participated at the NBA combine coming in at 6'8.5" without shoes(closer to 6'10" with shoes). Despite that, he has the second biggest wingspan of any player at 7'6.25" and some of the biggest hands in the draft. Match that with his standing vert of nearly 30 inches and you've got yourself a prototypical rim protector. He weighed in at around 250 pounds with only 5.4% body fat, which feels ridiculous to report to you but it shows he's not just big, Ike's got muscle.
The main thing Anigbogu can bring to an NBA team right away, and maybe the only thing, is his defense. He uses his frame to his advantage on the defensive end by not giving up any space in the post. Big men will have a tough time backing Anigbogu down:
At the same time, Anigbogu's physical tools allow him to be an excellent shot blocker. He's got quick feet which allow him to stay anchored in the paint while still being able to close out on perimeter shooters. He averaged 3.5 blocks per 40 minutes in his short college career and is a great weak side defender.
While he shows a lot of potential on defense, Ike isn't perfect on that end. Sometimes he will attempt to block shots that he has no business blocking, allowing the other team to dish to the now open big. It can also lead to offensive rebounds for the other team when he overplays his hand.
He does have a high motor which may explain his aggressiveness. One major concern, and a common one for raw big men coming into the league, is if he'll even be able to stay on the court for more than a quarter. He averaged 7.6 fouls per 40 minutes at UCLA as he showed a lack of discipline at times. He always wants that highlight block, but he'll need to be more calculated at the next level as NBA players (*cough* James Harden) have become elite at drawing fouls on even the best defenders.
Crashing the boards was one of his only roles at UCLA and it definitely showed. He averaged 4.4 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes and his size allows him to get after just about anything that doesn't go in. When a shot goes up, you can see he immediately adjusts his positioning to try to get that rebound. As more NBA teams start to launch more and more three-pointers, a competent rebounder on the offensive end can get you that many more attempts.
Other than his rebounding, Ike's offensive game can be distilled down to this two-dunk gif:
He's a rim runner and is great in open space. However, send one defender, let alone two, his way and the buck stops there. His lack of post moves may not concern some teams but he's definitely not bringing any with him. It's something that whomever drafts him will need to be patient with while they bring him along. His awkward jumper leaves a lot to be desired and maybe that's just not going to be a part of his game. He took eight jumpers his freshmen year and shot 53% from the free throw line.
It's hard to compare Anigbogu to a modern NBA player. He's modern in the sense that he is an athletic defender that can switch onto guards effectively. However, his offense is archaic and practically non-existent, something from the old NBA for big men. If his offense doesn't progress, I guess I'll compare him to Ben Wallace, even if the steals aren't there yet and Ike has more length than the former defensive dynamo.
Ike Anigbogu is a very young player. After his rookie year he won't be 20 years old yet. He may make me eat crow if the team that drafts him is able to unlock an offensive skillset. Those 14-20 picks may salivate at the chance to draft such a young and raw talent, again in spite of only playing 13 minutes per game while coming off the bench. The only chance the Wolves take him is if they trade back and really value his defense. We all know Thibs love for that side of the ball and rim-protecting is a definite need for this team, but I have a feeling that the POBO will want a player that can contribute in more ways in a more immediate timeline.
Luke Kennard, Duke, SG
AGE: 20.9 (sophomore)
WINGSPAN: 6'5 ¼"
Draft Express Rank: #16
Via Dane Moore: @NikolaPekovic
When looking at any draft prospect, a place many people begin is with physical “measurables.” In today’s NBA, the varying aspects of physicality are held at a premium. The most intriguing aspect of this physicality is often the vertical leap. The players who possess a massive vertical have a certain glimmer to them, much like a football prospect who delivers a sub-4.4 40-yard dash time.
This physical measurable has, both, proven to be important and irrelevant dependent on the specific case. For every 43-inch vertical there are both Tracy McGradys and Jamario Moons.
The next most intriguing measurable is a player’s anatomical measurements, their height, and wingspan. Every draft combine is also full of physical freaks in this category. But much like vertical leap, this physical category can also be volatile in its translation to skill. There are both Giannis Antetokounmpos and Jonathan Benders with 7’4” wingspans. Elite physicality, while certainly helpful, is by no means definitive of future success.
And that brings us to Luke Kennard. When looking simply at the anatomical measurements of the first round prospects, the results are uninspiring. Kennard opted to skip the vertical leap test, according to draftexpress.com’s measurements. But he was anatomically measured. Kennard was the only player to have a wingspan an inch less than his height. While his 6’6” height seems to make Kennard the “right” size to play the two-guard in the NBA, his overall physicality is actually one of the bigger factors that could hold him back from being an impactful NBA wing.
Lack of Length
Length is crucial in finishing in the lane. While Kennard has craft to finish with both hands, his simple lack of reach can make converting more difficult. Especially when defended by a player who has length.
Similarly, Kennard’s lack of length is noticeable when he is the defender. While his fundamentals are sound in staying in front of the defender, that is only half of the battle. Contesting shots at the NBA level will also be a weakness, regardless of his fundamentals.
Compensating for Length
As is true for all players, the NBA brings a shock to rookies in the physicality they will face. For Kennard, it is fair to say that he may be one of the most acclimated first round picks through two years of experience in the ACC. Outside of North Carolina junior Justin Jackson, Kennard will have had the most experience playing against elite size and skill at the college level. This is apparent in Kennard’s game through his clear ability to create space in his jumper.
One thing that is noticeable in his jumper is a fade or lean of sorts that creates space from the defender. Kennard maintains a squared and pure form while leaning back from the length of the defender. Here, against NBA prospect Devin Robinson who is 6’8”, Kennard features quick footwork and an effective fade to mitigate the effect of Robinson’s 7’1” wingspan.
Another way to impact a game despite physical limitations is by simply being an undeniable positive in the three-point shooting category. While many offenses have become particularly adept at attacking their opponents specific weak spot on defense, those defenses have similarly found ways of successfully hiding their own weak links.
Great players like Isaiah Thomas and Damian Lillard are hidden on defensive specialists and so too are lesser role players, Doug McDermott, Ryan Anderson, and Kyle Korver to name a few.
There are many indications in Kennard’s college play that he could be a great shooter at the next level. This season, Kennard shot a robust 201 threes that he converted at a scintillating 43.8 percent. While three-point percentage can be volatile, when coupled with a pure shooting form, it is fair to project success at the next level. Kennard checks both boxes.
Shooting Guard Scarcity: An Argument for Kennard
The calling card of this draft is the point guard position. Seven of the lottery picks will almost certainly be point guards. While the talents of Fultz, Ball, Fox, Monk, Smith, and Ntilikina are undeniable, so too is the already present convolution of point guards in the NBA.
When detailing The Worth of Ricky Rubio, Josh Clement showed us the plethora of primary ball handlers that are already prevalent in the league:
Point Guard Tiers (Rubio left out)
1 - Point Guard Gods. Serious MVP Candidates
- Russell Westbrook
- James Harden
- Steph Curry
2 - Bonafide All-Stars, in career years are MVP Candidates
- Isaiah Thomas
- Kyrie Irving
- Chris Paul
- Kyle Lowry
- John Wall
3 - All-Star Bubble
- Mike Conley
- Damian Lillard
- George Hill
- Kemba Walker
4 - Quality Starters who can match up against best point guards game to game
- Jrue Holiday
- Eric Bledsoe
- Goran Dragic
5 - Starters with some deficiencies
- Jeff Teague
- Reggie Jackson
- Patrick Beverly
- Jeremy Lin
6 - Worse than average starters
- Dennis Schroder
- Malcolm Brogdon
- T.J. McConnell
7 - Past their prime, not good, or young
- Derrick Rose
- Rajon Rondo
- Darren Collison
- Elfrid Payton
- D’Angelo Russell
- Emmanuel Mudiay
- Tony Parker
- Yogi Ferrell
This list doesn’t count guys like Patty Mills, Cory Joseph, and Lou Williams. Quality backup point guards who could start for several teams.
Of Josh’s top-22 point guards (without Rubio) every one of them is in their prime or yet to enter it. Chris Paul and Goran Dragic are the only two who are over 30-years-old in the top-22. This means they aren’t going anywhere.
While the league will always make tweaks to showcase talent, the point guard position can be a particularly difficult adjustment due to a simple lack of size. Before adding these seven new point guards, it is very possible that the league has reached a critical mass of sorts.
There will be undeniable difficulties in adding a point guard, especially if your team is hoping for immediate impact. As Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer detailed in his The Year of the Game-Changing Point Guard Prospect column, “Point guards are often in utero for years ... Learning point guard is like learning an instrument: There’s a steep learning curve on the way to an advanced level.”
Look no further than recent top-five picks D’Angelo Russell and Dante Exum. Even after learning the position, mastering the position seems to take even longer. It took Kyle Lowry ten years to make an All-NBA team and if John Wall makes an All-NBA team this year it will be his first in seven years of service.
The shooting guard position is far more scarce in this draft and therefore presents an argument for Kennard. While a couple of the seven “point guards,” will likely find their way into playing off the ball, Kennard will be the first pure shooting guard off the board in this draft.
This only becomes more demonstrable when considering the overall scarcity of shooting guards in the NBA at present. From Josh’s point guard list, it took 14 players to reach the “starters with some deficiencies” demarcation. That happens far quicker at the two-guard position.
Couple Kennard’s relative NBA-readiness with the shooting guard scarcity in the league and you have something that resembles value in the middle of the first round. Kennard would fit well on a variety of teams in the league and through this, it is likely that a team who is looking for more of an immediate impact will jump on the Duke guard earlier than his physical deficiencies may imply.
Rodions Kurucs, Barcelona, SF
Draft Express Rank: #18
Via Eric in Madison @canishoopus:
Rodions Kurucs is a native of Latvia who turned pro at age 16 and signed with VEF Riga in the Latvian Basketball League. The following year, he moved to Barcelona on a four year deal, and spent a year playing with their junior squad. This season he has been playing primarily for Barcelona’s reserve squad in the Spanish second division. He made his senior team debut in a brief appearance during a Euroleague contest in March of this year.
Kurucs is an intriguing player: He’s quite young (he turned 19 in February,) he’s been in a professional system for several seasons, and he has an interesting physical profile along with some tangible skills. He’s a 6’9” small forward with what appears to be a good feel for the game, some slashing and shooting ability, and some decent passing and play-making chops.
A couple of keys for him will be the three-point shot and adding strength. He shot 32 percent from three this season, though is a very good free throw and mid-range shooter, which gives some hope that the three-pointer will come in time. I’m fairly certain he will at least shoot well enough from behind the arc. Like almost all prospects, he’ll need to add muscle as his career goes forward. He has terrific length for the wing, and hopefully will be able to use that defensively, but will have to get stronger to avoid being bullied.
Unfortunately, it’s tough to get a handle on him, since he’s been playing for the reserves. Here’s some video of him with the reserve squad:
And here is more, this time I believe with the senior squad:
Watching these videos, he reminds me a lot of Sam Dekker in his first couple of seasons at Wisconsin. Tall and rangy, though not yet completely physically developed. A guy who is good in a lot of areas, but perhaps not great in any. A good athlete, but not an elite one by NBA standards. A decent shooter, but not a great shooter. A guy with good feel, but not a savant. A slasher who can use his length and strides to get to the rim, but not an overwhelming driver of the ball. A decent ball-handler but very right-hand dominant. A guy who you can imagine attacking close-outs, but not someone you isolate for.
In other words, a guy who you can imagine helping an NBA team, but not a guy who has stardom in his future. That’s fine—he’s not going to be drafted top-five. He’s currently mocked 21 by Draft Express, and it wouldn’t surprise me if whatever team takes him around there winds up with a contributor.
He’s obviously not in play for the Wolves barring a trade down, but he’s certainly someone who should be on their radar if they do wind up later in the first round somehow. He’s a rangy wing who should be able to shoot it, something they clearly need. He’s likely going to need time to acclimate, but a team with patience could eventually reap rewards.
John Collins, Wake Forest, PF
AGE: 19.6 (sophomore)
WINGSPAN: 6'11 ¼"
Draft Express Rank: #20
Via Josh Clement:
Basic stats per game: 19.2 pts, 3 fouls, 1.6 blocks, .6 steals, 9.8 rebounds, 6.7 free throws
Jason Collins may have been a top ten pick five to ten years ago, as he would have been an amazing prospect for a bruising power forward who can score and rebound with the best of them. But the NBA has changed. That is why he is ranked down at #20.
On a per 40 minute bases, Collins ended his sophomore campaign (he is super young for a sophomore, turning 20 in September) scoring 28.8 points per game and grabbing 14.8 rebounds with a 67 true shooting percentage. That is really good.
He stepped up immensely from his freshman season, growing into his featured role. he really grew into this a ton during his sophomore campaign, going from 14.4 minutes per game to 26.6 and 7.3 points to 19.2. His usage jumped from about 24 percent to close to 30 percent.
It’s obvious from watching game tape of Collins that he has an incredible motor and is super skilled around the basket. He is potentially elite at rim-running and was also the most efficient pick-and-roll scorer in the NCAA this past season. He is a great screener, headhunting aggressively and seeking out contact. He will make a great roll man in today’s NBA, as he has a natural feel for the play-set and is able to throw down lob dunks amidst traffic. He almost seems like a smaller DeAndre Jordan in that regard.
Collins also has a pretty good post-up game. He has several distinct moves, from a mid-range face-up game to baby jump hooks. He is really talented at getting buckets and is extremely headstrong on the offensive glass, boasting the second best rebounding percentage of any prospect in this draft. Collins is the best offensive rebounder in the class, averaging 5.6 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes.
His shooting percentage around the basket is astonishing for a player who is often slightly undersized, as he made 69.2 percent of his shots.
While he has not shown much of an outside game, his free throw percentage is pretty decent for a big man, as he made 73 percent of his free throws on a high volume. He is going to be at least an average mid-range shooter, and Wolves fans know how helpful a player like Gorgui Dieng can be when he simply can spread the floor at least to the free throw line.
Collins is very athletic, too. He may not have the elite wingspan or strength that other prospects do, but he is fast, often beating everyone else down the court, and springy. He can go up and get his own misses and his high motor means he can simply outwork the opponents for a rebound. He plays like he wants to win. There is a big time competitor inside of him and that in itself is a skill in the NBA.
On the defensive end, Collins is unpolished to say the least. But he can stay in front of his man and play good individual defense if he is in the right place at the right time. He also averaged 2.3 blocks per 40 minutes, which is good. He showed the ability to switch on to other power forwards and keep up with them throughout the season.
While Collins had a stunning season for Wake Forest, there is a lot to make NBA teams worried about how much of his game can transfer to the league. He fits in perfectly (unfortunately for him) to the “tweener” label, as his skillset makes it almost impossible to play him anywhere other than center, but his limited wingspan and size makes that challenging.
Let’s take a look at the problems for Collins if he were to play either position.
Power Forward: Collins has no feel for playmaking. He is a bad passer that often gets tunnel vision. He has a career 24 assists against 92 turnovers. On shots outside of 15 feet, he attempted 11 and only made three of them. His handle is loose and he lacks any sort of creativity to get to the basket unless he has posted up. He will have an immense learning curve as any sort of playmaking-four.
On defense, Collins takes terrible angles that get him caught flat-footed. He does not do well on rotations and his limited length makes it difficult for him to catch up once a player gets passed him. That was also in the NCAA. Those problems will be exacerbated ten-fold in the NBA. Some of this could be a lack of polish, as he is quite young, but he is not athletic enough to cheat on defense the way he does, and he will get absolutely destroyed if those habits remain.
Center: Collins will be small for a center. The rim-running types that exemplify what Collins could be good at will tower over him. He brings somewhat of a limited Jahlil Okafor-like skillset to the position, but without Jahlil’s size. That’s not a good place to be starting from. Collins also had trouble when teams would double him in the post and would simply try to barrel through the defense. His lack of passing skills hurt him in this regard. He also had a habit of getting in foul trouble, which further reveals his poor basketball IQ on defense.
A lot of the difficulties that Collins will face in the NBA are already faced by a player on the Wolves, Gorgui Dieng. Dieng isn’t quite fast enough to play the four, nor is he strong enough to face off against centers all night. Gorgui also does not stretch the floor often enough, though he is capable.
But Dieng has the benefit of being really freakin’ good at basketball, which helps mask his deficiencies.
Collins may have a really tough time at the next level. He struggled against NBA-like size in the NCAA, which does not bode well for a player whose skillset is fading at a rapid pace. For the Timberwolves in particular, Collins makes zero sense as the roster is already overloaded with fives. The Wolves are not going to be drafting him.
I am hesitant to write Collins off completely though, even if I have a hard time imagining how he will succeed. Watching him play, he just has a look of a player who is going to continue to fight and will try to revamp his game. Not to mention, he is only 19-years-old and already has several distinct skills. Collins may not be a star, or even a starter, but he is going to have an NBA career grabbing rebounds and busting smaller players in the post or running past slower-footed centers.