1, Markelle Fultz – PG
- 6’4″, 195 lbs, Washington
- NBA comparison: Brandon Roy
Without a doubt Fultz is the number one player on the draft board for every team in the lottery. Washington wasn’t in the NCAA tournament but that didn’t stop Markelle Fultz from becoming a household name. To simply describe Fultz, he’s an all-around player. Fultz strives in tight spaces and labeling him a shot creator is an understatement. A combination of being extremely difficult to defend from both beyond the arch and in the paint makes him the best scorer in the draft class. His versatile offense comes by way of his physical profile and tremendous body control. The 6’10” wingspan allows him to make sharper passes, play above the rim, and even provide defensive potential. Fultz also has incomparable handles and the dribble moves to shake any defender. So what are his flaws? His intensity and the drive to win games. Given there was little help on the Huskies roster, there were instances where Fultz took the tough shot rather than initiate ball movement. Compared to Lonzo Ball he isn’t as developed of a playmaker and doesn’t fit the traditional lead point guard role that Lonzo does well. Most lottery teams are in need of go-to scoring options and that is what you’re going to get from Markelle Fultz.
Below you will see clips from his best game of the season.
2. Lonzo Ball – PG
- 6’6″, 190 lbs, UCLA
- NBA comparison: Jason Kidd
In order to see Lonzo’s superstar potential, one must ignore his father’s antics off the court. Separate Lavar Ball’s unorthodox marketing strategy from Lonzo’s. Ball’s physical tools and playmaking are his greatest strengths. The height and lateral movement is there for Ball to play as both a leading point guard that can see over defenders and rise over opponents as a slasher. This big baller quickly surveys the court before making precise passes and is capable of getting his teammates involved. His jumpshot could become ineffective as a pro because of the odd release but shooting 41% from three is no coincidence. Ball has the range to pull it from past the NBA line. His defense is spot-on with a combination of quick feet, composure, and the ability to recover back to his man. So why are teams more likely to take Fultz than Ball with the first overall pick? Fultz does much better in contested scenarios and has a mid-range game. The middle is non-existent for Ball, making only 12 mid-range jumpers all year. Overall, Ball is a great option for teams that already have their number one scoring option. Fultz isn’t on Lonzo’s level when it comes to being ready for the NBA. Lonzo Ball has proven to the world that he can handle himself in big games. It was Ball that we saw leading a great team throughout the NCAA tournament when Fultz was watching from the sidelines.
Here’s a video showcasing Lonzo Ball throughout this year’s tournament.
3. Josh Jackson – SF
- 6’8″, 203 lbs, Kansas
- NBA comparison: Grant Hill
Out of the entire draft class, Josh Jackson is the best two-way player at his position. Jackson plays aggressive and won’t stand down to anyone in his way. He storms to the basket better than Tatum or Isaac and has the ability to create his own space for lob passes and step back jumpers. He can cover all areas on offense. An elite defender that can stop any position on the other team. Jackson locks down the perimeter and is great at forcing bad shots. Per-40 minutes Jackson averages 20.7 points. But his 37.8% from three is alarming. Several NBA scouts believe it’s due to his mechanics though there are others that believe it’s because of his poor discipline. Decision making isn’t his strong suite and he needs to look for the open man rather than take early, contested shots. Throughout his time as Jayhawk Jackson was known for his bad temper and foul trouble. Frustration fouls can be avoidable if the right system selects him in the draft.
4. Jayson Tatum – SF
- 6’8″, 204 lbs, Duke
- NBA comparison: Carmelo Anthony
A versatile player on offense that lacks athleticism describes Jayson Tatum best. Tatum is a great option for teams like the Kings or Knicks that are looking for a center piece to build around. The one-and-done player from Duke provided so many scoring options for the Blue Devils this past NCAA season. His weakness? What makes him stand out from someone like Josh Jackson, Jonathan Isaac, or even Josh Jackson. As it was previously stated, he’s a versatile scorer. Tatum is a mid-range specialist that has the ability to back anyone down. He even has the ability to finesse his way to the basket on a break, without the help of anyone else. While Jayson Tatum can score from all over, he’s got a streaky jumper and his defense needs adjustments. His catch-and-shoot ability is unreliable when it’s contested. It could be that his mechanics are off, if that’s the case it will translate even worse to the NBA. The pressure and intensity isn’t always there and that’s shown when defending pick&rolls and perimeter ISOs.
5. Malik Monk – SG
- 6’4″, 197 lbs, Kentucky
- NBA comparison: J.R. Smith
At first glance an NBA comparison to J.R. Smith looks like Monk is a streaky shooter, lacks athleticism and would be a really good second-option on a team. However, this is not the case when taking into account that he’s a lights-out shooter and can dunk like no other winger in this class. Monk puts on a show from in, out, and all over the court when he gets the ball. A common misconception of Monk is that he’s only a catch-and-shoot threat on the wing. Throughout the NCAA tournament Monk was seen showcasing his dribble moves and creating his own shot. During Kentucky’s game against Lonzo Ball and UCLA Monk dropped 21 points and most it came by way of creating his own chances. When Monk wasn’t the Wildcats go-to scoring option, he was feeding De’Aaron Fox as the two were often seen getting each other on the scoreboard. Monk’s biggest drawback would be his effort on defense.
6. Dennis Smith Jr. – PG
- 6’3″, 195 lbs, N.C. State
- NBA comparison: Derrick Rose (before injuries)
Not much attention has been given to Dennis Smith Jr. so why hasn’t he gotten as much recognition as Fultz, Ball, or Fox? It’s due to the fact that he’s got the smallest build out of the top prospects and is much more inconsistent. At times throughout his season with the Wolfpack Smith showed minimal effort to capitalize on passing to the open man and often forced shots. By a small margin he is the shortest guard based on height and wingspan combined. Several scouts have even labeled Smith as lazy and careless but those words can describe any one-and-done player surrounded by bad teammates. What separates Smith from every other prospect in this class is his 61% shot percentage at the rim. Smith explodes like no other guard and plows through every defender in his way. Smith rounds out his game with a very effective mid-range game and superb defense.
If you only watched March Madness this season, you missed out on Dennis Smith Jr.
7. De’Aaron Fox – PG
- 6’4″, 171 lbs, Kentucky
- NBA comparison: John Wall
The NCAA Tournament did wonders for Fox. He can fly down the court and connect on the toughest of chances at the rim. Speed and finishing aren’t the only upsides of drafting him either. He’s a floor general that can run the fast break better than most other point guards in this class. Fox has only one major weakness and that’s his 3-point shot. But he doesn’t let it affect the rest of his game by forcing shots and always gets the ball to the open man. Coach Calipari produced a clone of John Wall in Fox – the explosiveness and the energy is identical.
8. Jonathan Isaac – SF/PF
- 6’11”, 205 lbs, Florida State
- NBA comparison: Kevin Durant w/ less shake
It’s tough to grade Isaac’s efficiency as he wasn’t the go-to guy for the Seminoles. A combination of stretched-out minutes that were never consistently given to him and the team’s focus was to feed Dwayne Bacon, a player projected to go in the second round of the draft. Isaac has a tendency to shoot from the perimeter and even at 6’11 he has the ability to shimmy around and create his own shot. Because he was limited to only eight shots per game, he became known in the ACC for his ability to hang people up at the rim. Isaac may have to bulk up some if he wants to prove any doubters wrong. The case for drafting him over Jayson Tatum is debatable but as of now Tatum has the edge in already being more physically and statistically proven.
9. Frank Ntilikana – PG
- 6’5″, 170 lbs, SID Strasbourg
- NBA comparison: Dante Exum w/ offensive production
“Frank the Tank” fits the mold of the modern NBA combo-guard. He’s got the size, athleticism, and transition game that makes him so much more than a traditional point guard, A 7’0″ wingspan and a strong on-ball presence makes defense Frank’s greatest strength. Another strength is his deadeye three-point shot that deserves more credit (47-102 in all competition). Ntilikana still has so much development left at just 18 years old so immediately pushing him into a starting role could be too pressuring. Loose handles and poor passing decisions have created a turnover issue for Frank. Trouble with making simple plays is certainly a red flag for this prospect. His age gives plenty of time to fix these bad judgement calls with the ball, but getting drafted to a bottom-feeder that needs him right away won’t benefit his potential.
Many were unable to see any clips of Ntilikina because he played overseas, so here is a highlight tape that covers all areas of his game.
10. Lauri Markkanen – PF
- 7’0″, 225 lbs, Arizona
- NBA comparison: Ryan Anderson
Markkanen, the Finnish sniper from the University of Arizona. Comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki are off because he plays with a lot more grit when he has the ball and isn’t afraid to push through and get his shot off, overall he’s stronger. Markkanen also doesn’t have the poor European footwork of someone like Kristaps Porzingis. Lauri’s biggest weakness is that he’s not a two-way player. The defensive game needs to be worked on if he wants to elevate his game to the next level.
Author: Tylar Pomroy
Twitter: @tylarpomroy, @SportingEdge1
Video courtesy; NCAA March Madness, Frankie Vision, Ballislife, Athletic Affairs