Tier 1: Star
1. Lonzo Ball, 6’6″ PG UCLA
Ball is a basketball genius who has elite PG size and skill and could be one the best passer in NBA history. He also is an outlier of offensive efficiency, both at the individual and team level.
There are doubts about his ability to get to the rim off the dribble, and it is a valid weakness. I believe his strengths are so outlier good that they will comfortably outweigh his flaws, and he is the clear #1 in the class.
Tier 2: Possible Stars
2. Markelle Fultz, 6’5″ PG Washington
Fultz is a do it all scorer with great vision and instincts and a 6’10” wingspan that gives him James Harden-esque upside. The only flag is that his basketball IQ and defense are not elite, and his team woefully underperformed for a major conference team with a #1 overall pick.
He could be really great, or he could be an empty calories volume scorer.
3. Jonathan Isaac, 6’11” SF/PF, Florida St.
Isaac is a unicorn of elite perimeter defense, rim protection, and rebounding who also is great at playing off the ball offensively with good shooting, cutting, and finishing.
His major flaw is that he is extremely limited off the dribble, and also is an average passer. But he could be an elite role player that fits well in a heavy switching defense that is becoming so prevalent in the NBA.
4. Jayson Tatum, 6’8″ SF/PF, Duke
Tatum offers passable PF size and SF quickness, and fits the mold for a small PF that is becoming the standard in the modern NBA. He has potential be a two way star, as he can create his own shot, passes decently, and his 85% FT gives him elite shooting upside for a player that can switch onto multiple positions and make plays defensively.
But he has a number of minor flaws that could preclude him from being good: he lacks explosiveness, a strong handle, and he is often stripped or blocked and plays inconsistent defense. He could also be below average on both ends.
5. Josh Jackson, 6’8 SF/PF, Kansas
Jackson is the ultimate role player, as he rebounds, defends, passes, moves well without the ball, finishes, and is incredibly competitive. He is also 6’8″ and an explosive athlete, and with good intangibles seems likely to be a useful NBA player.
But does he have star upside? He is sophomore aged with an ugly hitch in his shot and 57% FT, a loose handle, and short arms and tiny frame that may limit his ability to guard PF’s. He has clear limitations offensively and his body may preclude him from being a beast defensively. His star upside is limited, although his competitive spirit gives him some small chance of being great.
6. De’Aaron Fox, 6’3″ PG, Kentucky
Fox is as super quick, super smooth slasher who gets wherever he wants to go and finishes well. Of all of the PG’s in the class, he is easily the most prolific at creating his own shot at the rim against set defenses. He also is a good passer and a pest defensively, and has a good baseline to become a 2 way PG.
But his big flaw is that he cannot shoot, making just 25% of his scant 3PA. His 74% FT gives him some hope for future improvement, but he struggled badly off the dribble and his shot clearly needs work. Also his thin frame makes it unlikely he can guard most SG’s, and even though he has upside on defense he is not a lock to be a positive on that end either.
7. Lauri Markkanen, 7’0″ PF, Arizona
Markkanen shot 83.5% FT and 42% 3P for Arizona, and the only NBA 7 footer with a higher career FT% is Dirk Nowitzki. Markkanen is also smooth and fluid with flashes of ability to create his own shot off the dribble and he holds his own on perimeter switches. He is somewhat one dimensional, but being a non-statue makes it worth wondering how much an NBA team can build on his unicorn combination of height and shooting.
His downside is that he is not long or explosive and is a bit passive. He had anemic block and steal rates defensively, mediocre rebounds, and a surprisingly moderate usage given his offensive talent. He also posted a low assist rate, and will need to develop his passing to be more complete offensively.
The traces of Dirk cannot be ignored, although he is far more likely to mirror players like Ryan Anderson and Channing Frye. This is nevertheless useful as 7’0″ with elite shooting gravity are few and far between, so it is worth gambling on the his rare intersection and seeing what happens.
8. Zach Collins, 7’0″ C, Gonzaga
Collins was the #28 recruit in the class who came out of nowhere to be an elite bench player for the Zags. He scores inside and out and can rebound and block shots, which is a nice combination of strengths.
His passing instincts are limited and he does not project to be elite defensively, but he nevertheless offers an intriguing gamble in the back end of the lottery.
Tier 3: Fun Gambles
9. OG Anunoby, 6’8″ PF, Indiana
Anunoby is the most intriguing upperclassmen, as he has similar measurements and athleticism to Kawhi Leonard and monster steal and block numbers to imply strong defensive upside for a prospect who is still just 19.
The only question is whether he can play offense. He is an elite finisher with 65% 2P in 2 years at Indiana and improved his passing as a sophomore, but his medium usage and 52% FT make him a possible liability on offense. And in spite of his defensive upside, he is still not consistent enough to be a guarantee to be great like Kawhi.
He is coming off an ACL tear that may hurt his stock but really should not factor in heavily.
10. Dennis Smith Jr. 6’3″ PG, NC State
Smith checks all of the boxes for a star PG: handle, athleticism, quickness, strength, the ability to score inside and out and the vision to rack up assists.
The only problem is that all of his stat stuffing and athleticism failed to add up to wins for NC State, as he struggled to be an efficient floor general and played exceptionally lazy defense.
I personally do not believe he will live up to his theoretical upside.
11. Donovan Mitchell, 6’3″ SG, Louisville
Mitchell is the prototypical 3 + D combo guard. His 6’10” wingspan, quickness, and competitiveness gives him the potential to defend both guard positions at a high level. He pairs this with a solid shot as he made 35% 3P and 81% FT as a sophomore. He does not have the ball skills to be a lead guard, but is decent enough across the board to be a positive player overall.
Mitchell is not likely to be a star, but he has great odds of being a useful player who fits in a wide range of lineups.
12. Malik Monk, 6’3″ PG/SG, Kentucky
Monk is a hyperathletic shooter who can make shots of any difficulty both off the dribble or spot up. And he flashed a bit of passing ability, and it is possible that he has some PG skills that were masked by sharing the backcourt with non-shooting PG’s De’Aaron Fox and Isaiah Briscoe.
That said, he doesn’t rebound, he doesn’t defend, he can’t get to the rim against a half court defense, and he may not have the vision to be a full time floor general. Those are a lot of strikes for a one dimensional shooter, and without surprise floor general skills he is unlikely to be more than a Lou Williams type.
13. Harry Giles, 6’10” C, Duke
Giles is coming off back to back ACL tears and an additional knee surgery that caused him to miss the early part of Duke’s season. Then he was a disappointment in the 300 minutes he played for the Blue Devils, as he looked lost on the floor.
But his medical reports are allegedly better than expected, and he was supposed to be a candidate for #1 overall before all of the injury noise. His instincts looked bad but it could be a product of rust and shaky confidence post-injury. Given that Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan both became all-stars without stellar instincts, is it plausible to believe Giles can as well.
He has stellar tools for a big man and while he has risk of both injury and poor skill and IQ, it’s worth the upside to gamble on him and see what happens once the prizes of the draft are off the board.
14. John Collins, 6’9 PF, Wake Forest
Collins stuffed the statsheet at Wake Forest with points and rebounds, as he posted a monster 36 PER as a 19 year old sophomore. He also has potential to develop a 3 point shot and pretty good athleticism, and his offensive upside is good for a PF.
That said his poor instincts and short arms caused his passing and defense to both be poor. Collins is a weird prospect with pointed strengths and weaknesses, and given his youth I like the idea of gambling on a polarizing weirdo in the back of the lottery.
15. Frank Ntilikina, 6’5″ PG/SG, France
Ntilikina boasts elite intangibles, IQ, and monster 7’0″ wingspan, and projects to be a 3 + D guard/wing.
He is listed as a PG as he reportedly has great vision, although he lacks the ball skills or burst to get to the rim and finish. And it’s not clear that he is great at either shooting or defense, as stat models are not particularly fond. That said he is incredibly young and as his adds bulk to his thin frame, he could develop into a useful rotation player.
Tier 4: Rotation Players:
Note that everybody in this tier is on a similar level
16. Caleb Swanigan, 6’9″ PF, Purdue
Caleb Swanigan is the Kyle Anderson of this year’s draft, as he has an elite statistical profile with gaudy rebound, assist, and scoring totals with good %’s from all levels.
But he had poor steal and block rates and is undersized for center and under quick for PF. He may not be able to fit on to an NBA defense without getting roasted.
But nobody else has nearly his offense and rebounding strengths, and he did manage to anchor the #23 defense as the starting center for Purdue. Maybe he continues to improve his body as he ages and just finds a way to fit and and make it worth all
17. Ivan Rabb, 6’10” PF/C, California
I don’t know why, I just like Rabb. He’s tall, smooth, and good at all of the role-player things.
He struggled to be the centerpiece for a dreadful California offense as a sophomore, but he fits best playing off the ball in the NBA as a cutter, rebounder, and pick and roll finisher. He is a former top 5 recruit who would have been a top 10 pick last year, and I feel that teams are overreacting to his sophomore performance.
18. Josh Hart, 6’5″ SG, Villanova
Hart is just a bit short of being a real prospect in terms of size, quickness, and athleticism. But he is not particularly weak in any of those areas, and he was an elite player for a Villanova program that was incredibly successful in his 4 seasons there.
He does a little bit of everything and has great IQ for making winning plays. He just feels like he is going to be a decent NBA rotation player, even if he cannot be a star.
19. Jawun Evans, 6’0″ PG, Oklahoma State
Evans did everything for the #1 offense in the NCAA as a sophomore. His lack of size and explosiveness prevents him from being a high upside prospect, but his length, quickness, vision, and basketball IQ gives him a chance at surprising as a better than expected floor general.
20. Ike Anigbogu, 6’10” C, UCLA
Anigbogu is a giant pile of tools in its fetal form as you are gambling on his monster 7’6″ wingspan to go with great length and quickness in the youngest player in the draft.
Anigbogu is a complete and utter mystery box. Right now is completely inept on offense, but his combination of tools gives him immense defensive upside. He’s a fine gamble somewhere in the late first.
21. Derrick White, 6’4″ PG/SG, Colorado
This division 2 transfer came out of nowhere to be a star for Colorado last year, and he can do a bit of everything: shoot, pass, get to the rim, and is an exceptional shot blocker for a guard.
At 23 he is on the older side of things but he does enough things well to be one of the more attractive late 1st/early 2nd gambles.
22. TJ Leaf, 6’10 PF, UCLA
Leaf is a skilled PF who does everything offensively, as he is a great cutter who scores inside and out and moves the ball well. But he also does nothing well defensively, as he lacks the length and athleticism to be more than a liability on this end.
It’s hard to say how much credit Lonzo Ball deserves for his draft hype, but he does have a nice skill level for a 6’10” player and that alone is worth a late 1st flier.
23. Frank Jackson 6’3″ SG, Duke
Jackson just turned 19 shortly before the draft and has good scoring upside for a young player. He is a good shooter and an athlete who can get to the rim, and his 6’7.5 wingspan gives him a chance to guard SG’s.
That said he is still in the awkward state of lacking vision to play PG and too small to defend SG’s, and projects to be a bit one dimensional in the pros.
24. Jordan Bell, 6’9″ PF, Oregon
Bell is a fascinating defense weapon, as his athleticism and quickness give him potential to be a versatile force as he is an great shot blocker that also racks up steals and rebounds.
The downside is that he is 22 years old and limited offensively. He mustered a 70% FT as a junior after 51% his first 2 years, so if he can build on that to somehow make 3’s he is an exciting piece, even if it is a long shot to happen.
25. Luke Kennard, 6’5″ SG, Duke
Kennard is a great shooter with excellent toughness, IQ, and intangibles, but is that really enough to overcome his weaknesses?
He has a poor 6’5″ wingspan and lacks the quickness or athleticism to get to the rim, and he also gets roasted on defense. Outside of shooting and moving the ball within the offense it’s not clear what value he offers.
He could surprise and become a decent role player like fellow Duke alum JJ Redick, but he does not have the upside to justify a lottery pick.
26. DJ Wilson, 6’10 PF/C, Michigan
Wilson offers good length, shooting, and efficient offense for a big. He also has solid quickness to switch onto perimeter players.
On the downside he is a poor rebounder for his height, and has a low usage rate and pedestrian steals and blocks. He has some role player potential for his tools and efficiency, but limitations are there.
27. Jarrett Allen, 6’10” C, Texas
Allen just turned 19 and has a monster 7’5.25″ wingspan to go with a pretty good interior scoring ability for Texas. He posted solid scoring numbers in spite of having no PG in a disastrous offense.
But he also seems to have broken instincts, as he posted an awful assist to turnover ratio and anemic steal and block rates for a player with his length.
There is enough hope for Allen to make his talent worth a gamble, but it is hard to ignore the fact that he profiles similar to a poor man’s Jahlil Okafor.
28. Bam Adebayo, 6’9″ PF, Kentucky
Bam offers interior scoring and the quickness to guard multiple positions.
That said he is undersized for center and his steal and block rates cast doubt on whether he actually can be a defensive weapon.
29. Jonah Bolden, 6’10” PF, Radnicki BAsket
Bolden was really bad as a sophomore for UCLA and then really good in a season in the Adriatic league. I have no idea what he is but he is tall, can make 3’s, and has quickness to switch so he could be decent.
30. Tony Bradley, 6’10” PF, North Carolina
Bradley is long, smart, and an offensive rebounding machine. He lacks exceptional skill or athleticism, but could be a nice rotation big.
31. Tyler Lydon, 6’10” PF, Syracuse
32. Isaiah Hartenstein, 6’11” PF/C, Zalgiris
33. Anzejs Pasecniks, 7’0″ C, Gran Canaria
34. Sindarius Thornwell, 6’5″ SG, South Carolina
35. Monte Morris, 6’3″ PG, Iowa St.
36. Kyle Kuzma, 6’9 SF/PF, Utah
37. Semi Ojeleye, 6’6″ SF, SMU
38. Justin Patton, 6’11” C, Creighton
39. Cameron Oliver, 6’9″ PF, Nevada
40. Justin Jackson, 6’8″ SF/PF, North Carolina
41. Alec Peters, 6’9″ PF, Valparaiso
42. Johnathan Motley, 6’9″ PF, Baylor
43. PJ Dozier, 6’5″ PG/SG, South Carolina
44. Sterling Brown, 6’6″ SG/SF, SMU
45. Dillon Brooks, 6’6″ SG/SF, Oregon
46. Thomas Bryant, 6’9″ PF/C, Indiana
47. Edmond Sumner, 6’5″ PG, Xavier
48. Terrance Ferguson, 6’8″ SG/SF, Australia
49. Jonathan Jeanne, 7’2″ C, Nancy
I had Jeanne as a top 15 pick before news of his Marfan syndrome. Now I’m just guessing where he belongs– but obviously his value is crushed.
50. Mathias Lesort, 6’9″ PF, Nanterre
51. Nigel Williams-Goss, 6’4″ PG, Gonzaga
52. Jeremy Morgan, 6’5″ SG, Northern Iowa
53. Luke Kornet, 7’0″ C, Vanderbilt
54. Davon Reed, 6’6″ SF, Miami FL
55. Wesley Iwundu, 6’6″ SG, Kansas St.
56. Devin Robinson 6’8″ SF/PF, Florida
57. Jake Wiley, 6’8 SF/PF, Eastern Washington
58. Reggie Upshaw, 6’7″ SF/PF, Middle Tennessee
59. Derrick Walton, 6’0″ PG, Michigan
60. Charles Cooke, 6’4″ SF, Dayton
Just Missed Cut: LJ Peak, Malcolm Hill, Nigel Hayes, Paris Lee, Ben Moore, Lorenzo Bonam, James Blackmon, Frank Mason, Damyean Dotson, Antonius Cleveland, Jarron Blossomgame, probably some internationals I know nothing about
Suddenly Fultz is in the same tier as everyone else? Did you get some insider info today? You’ve had him and Ball above everyone all season. A few days ago you rated Fultz and Ball way ahead of everyone.Now hes in the same tier as Tatum and Jackson?
Yeah. I mean it’s not a big drop, just decided to weigh the team success flag a bit heavier esp since I was so harsh on DSJ for it.
Liam M said:
I know it might be unfair to revisit this and shit on it, because obviously hindsight is 20/20, but man the Tatum takes did not age well
You mean the part where I said he had potential to become a two way star?
It’s just not obvious how good these 18 year old kids are going to be in the NBA. He had a lot of potential but his freshman season was also rocky at times.
He made huge improvements from Duke to Summer League, where I spent the entire time tweeting about how much better he was than Fultz.