Tacko Fall, University of Central Florida, Sophomore - The most important stat to remember about Tacko Fall is that he is 7’6″. He uses his size to a great advantage, and purposes his length and girth to make plays on both sides of the basketball court. Fall moves incredibly well for a man his size, and he has surprisingly good hands. He gathers the basketball well on rebounds and short passes. He gets deep positioning under the rim and converts baskets in close. Fall lacks clearly defined post moves in the paint, however he uses his length to get putbacks and to score on half-hooks around the bucket. He is a great weakside defender despite having a smaller vertical because he has long arms and is usually 6 inches taller than all his opponents, and he gets some blocks on the ball too. Tacko Fall could carve out a solid NBA career if strengthens his base, develops definitive footwork to accent his size, and works on his lateral quickness.
NBA Comparison: Mark Eaton, the 7’3 giant who lead the league in blocks despite never leaving the floor in the 80s
Zach Collins, Freshman, Gonzaga - Collins is a legitimate seven-footer who is shooting 70% from the floor at Gonzaga. He knows how to score, and plays incredibly efficiently on the offensive end. He uses a little of a throwback game throwing a series of pump fakes, power dribbles, and excellent footwork to score in traffic. Zach Collins is extremely polished under the rim for a freshman as he plays well beyond his years. He scores with either hand near the rim and he has good touch on an assortment of finger rolls, flip shots, and short jumpers in the paint. Collins is extremely talented and extremely efficient on the basketball court. His only issues going forward into the pros are his average length (only has a 7’2″ wingspan though he is 7′ tall) and average athleticism. At the next level, he will have to put on muscle to compete, however Collins has could play in the NBA right now. He averages 10.5 points per game despite coming off the bench at number 1 ranked Gonzaga and being seventh on his team in minutes played.
NBA Comparison: Christian Laettner, he is more athletic than you think and extremely effective in the paint even when playing against better athletes
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue, Sophomore - Caleb Swanigan plays like a man under the basket. He only stands 6’8″ at power forward, but he has a 7’3 and 1/2″ wingspan moulded onto a 250 lb. frame. Swanigan moves people on the basketball court. He creates space using his great upper body strength and good leverage. He has a nose for a basketball and is always near the action. Though he is still a little raw offensively without extremely polished footwork, he has a good foundation of post moves and uses his drop-step well to score in the paint. Swanigan has soft hands on the catch and good touch on his shot all the way out to the three point line. And, he has shown a penchant for hard work because his statistics from his freshman year to his sophomore year improved across the board. With 6 more minutes per game, Swanigan’s averages swelled from 10.2 to 18.7 points per game on 54.0% field goal percentage up from 46.1%. And, his rebounds rose from 8.3 boards to 12.6 per game.
NBA Comparison: Dejuan Blair, he knows how to score under the rim and rebounds well despite being undersized. He uses power and athleticism to make up the deficit in height. Swanigan does not have the injuries that derailed Blair’s career. He should be a solid pro, and has the potential to be a star if he finds a distinct position in the NBA.
Miles Bridges, Michigan State, Freshman - It should have been impossible for Miles Bridges to live up to all the hype that followed him coming to Michigan State, but he has surpassed all expectations. Bridges is fifth in the Big Ten in rebounding at 8.3 per game and second in blocks at 1.6. He carries a 16.6 points per game scoring average and has played lights out since returning from an injury that slowed him early in the season. Though he is only 6’7″, Bridges utilizes elite athleticism, a good jumper, and a polished offensive repertoire to score at different levels of the offensive end of the court. He knows how to create space off the dribble and gets the shot that he wants. Bridges can score against bigger or smaller competition because he has defined moves to get his shots. With more polish and a little tighter handle, Miles Bridges could be devastating at small forward or a stretch power forward in the league.
NBA Comparison: Another talented left-hander with a little less size, Derrick Coleman. He scores inside and outside. He scores in the post with hard, quick moves, but can score on the perimeter with a jump shot or by driving past slower defenders. Has the potential to be great, but could be average at the next level if he does not continue to improve.
Marcus Keene, Central Michigan University, Red-Shirt Junior - Keene will be knocked for the size, but he is one of the most talented scorers in the nation. He is lights out shooting the basketball, he is lightning quick off coming out of a hesitation dribble, and he finds his teammates in the open floor and on drives to the rim. If he were four inches taller, scouts would tout him as the next bona fide All-Star in the NBA. But size matters, pun intended, and because he is so small, he will probably translate closer to a quality backup rather than a starter in the NBA.
NBA Comparison: Jameer Nelson with more scoring process and natural speed.
Malik Monk, University of Kentucky, Freshman - The only thing that is hindering Malik Monk from being a clear superstar at the next level is his lack of a defined position. In some situations, being position-less is an advantage, but for Monk it could be an obstacle. He can score with the best athletes in college basketball, and he gets points without having to handle the basketball which is a distinct advantage. Monk is a throwback in that respect. He moves extremely well without the basketball, and he scores as well off screens as he does in transition. He has a smooth release and gets high arc on most shots. Plus, he uses his shot, a pump fake, a quick first step, and a few hard dribbles to create space for drives and pull-up jumpers. But, Monk is not a great creator off the dribble despite only being about 6’3″ or 6’4″. He rarely breaks his defender down off the dribble and scores or creates. Most of his plays come off the basketball at this point in his career. And, with his lack of size, he may be forced to play point guard in the league. In the perfect situation, Monk could be an All-Star. In the wrong situation, he could just be a role player.
NBA Comparison: Jimmer Freddette, in a good way. Monk could score the basketball at the college level and does not have a defined position. But, unlike Fredette, Monk can score in traffic and finish against big athletes. The only question is can he learn to create at the next level?
Josh Hart, Villanova University, Senior - Every so often in college basketball or the pros, there is a player who resonates with coaches everywhere. That player is not necessarily as obviously gifted as others on the team, but they seem to always make the correct play regardless of whether it is a bucket, a steal or deflection, a rebound, or a charge. And, the play is always timely. Draymond Green was that player at Michigan State, and continues to be the heart and soul of a Warrior’s team that would be a finesse squad without him. That is who Josh Hart is. He is the soul of his Villanova squad. He picks them up when everyone has given up. And, if his jumper continues to develop, he could be a starter in the NBA.
NBA Comparison: Juan Dixon from the Maryland Terrapins and the Washington Wizards. He never seems to make a mistake, and he gets the most out of his talent. He’s undersized, but he out-rebounds most big men. He hits big shots even though his jump shot is not pure. He’s all heart and results.
Donovan Mitchell, University of Louisville, Sophomore - Mitchell is one of the best pure athletes in the NBA draft. He represents the prototypical wing player. He plays with incredible athleticism and aggressiveness on the offensive end and he is quick in open space and powerful in traffic, however he has not finished as well as his physical tools say that he should. He came into college as a great finisher in the open court, but last year he was limited by his jump shot in halfcourt sets. In his sophomore campaign, Mitchell took a leap forward from 25% to 35.9% from three. He proved that he could hit the three pointer and kept his ability to slash this year, but he needs to keep working to be more efficient. Mitchell is good at the rim, however he needs to work on a midrange game to be a star at the next level. Another year in college would have served him well, but his potential is too great to risk injury.
NBA Comparison: With his 6’10″ wingspan and his elite athleticism, Mitchell could be the second coming of Dwayne Wade at the next level if he learns to finish plays consistently in the halfcourt. If he does not improve his offensive game, he will be closer to Marcus Smart.
Jonathan Isaac, Florida State University, Freshman - Generally, a player with averages of 12.0 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game, and 1.5 blocks per game would not be so highly coveted. However, Jonathan Isaac has as much potential in today’s NBA as any player in the draft. He is extremely efficient for a freshman athlete with a field goal percentage of 52.7%, he has range out to the three point line despite being 6’10″, and he can guard multiple positions on defense. Isaac could be Draymond Green 2.0 in a league of stretch power forward, a big man with guard skills who can score at multiple levels on offense and anchor a defense. Isaac’s statistics were earned in only 26.2 minutes per game. He shared time on the floor and still affected games significantly. Isaac could be a star in the NBA if he works on a more definitive set of moves to the basket in half court settings, if he gets repetitions up to make his jumper more consistent, and if he builds up his frame.
NBA Comparison: Derrick McKey if he does not improve. He is long and a good athlete. Though he is legitimately 6’10″ and possibly still growing, he moves like a guard. Isaac has already has shown some prowess on the defensive and an adequate offensive package. If he works on his game, he really could be a more physically gifted Draymond Green.
Lonzo Ball, University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), Freshman - Lonzo Ball could be the best player in this draft or he could be a role player for a decent team. He is a professional basketball player regardless though. Ball plays within himself, but was still a star at UCLA. He is a classic point guard in the modern game. When he is playing his game, he controls the pace by pushing tempo. Lonzo Ball has the type of vision that few players have today. He delivers the basketball on time to teammates. And, when he is hitting his shot, his team looks unstoppable. However, Ball’s shot mechanics are flawed, even though he scores at a high clip and he struggles to create shots outside of his step-back jumper. If he puts in work revamping his jump shot by getting his hands over to the right side of his body (he’s right-handed and launches the basketball from the left side of his head) then the smoother mechanics could open up his offensive game. Ball is extremely left-handed right now because of his shot release.
NBA Comparison: A lankier version of Deron Williams with the Utah Jazz. He can score when he needs to, and has the vision to lead a team like old-school point guards. Could be a killer off the pick-and-roll.
De’Aaron Fox, University of Kentucky, Freshman - De’Aaron Fox may be the best NBA prospect in the draft. He has all the physical tools to become a great point guard in the league, and he has excelled against the best competition in college. He was the better player when he faced Lonzo Ball head-to-head in college. He is long, explosive, and very skilled with the basketball. Fox can create off the dribble without a pick, but can already exploit pick-and-roll situations. Defenders can not take the ball from him, and he is a blur in the open court. The only part of his game that needs significant improvement is jumper. And, De’Aaron Fox has good mechanics on his shot; he just needs multiple repetitions in future off seasons to insure that it becomes more reliable. He is mechanically sound so he probably needs practice to work out the rhythm of his shot. If Fox continues to develop his shot, Fox should be an All-Star. If he does not improve, he will be a starter.
NBA Comparison: Rod Strickland. Fox can get to the rim and finish in traffic just like Strickland did in the 90s. He can control games with his pace and scoring. And, he can facilitate. The only thing holding him back from NBA super stardom is him working on his jump shot.
Josh Jackson, University of Kansas, Freshman - Josh Jackson is as explosive of an athlete as you will find in college basketball. He is 6’8″ with long arms and can jump out of the gym. He can play four positions on the floor defensively, and three offensively. And, he will most likely start in the NBA from the very beginning of his career. Jackson has a good motor on both ends of the floor. He impacts the game on both ends. The only question about Jackson’s NBA career is how high will his jumper take him? He has a noticeable hitch in shot, and though he still has a good release on his jumper, he will have to smooth out his mechanics on his shot if he wants to excel in the pros. Josh Jackson is a surefire pick. He will be a starter in the NBA barring injury.
NBA Comparison: Andre Iguodala. He is an elite athlete with a questionable, but somewhat serviceable jumper. He will eventually start in the NBA, and he will leave a wake of highlights in his path like Iguodala did in his first eight years.
Justin Patton, Creighton University, Freshman - Justin Patton has more potential than almost everyone in the draft. He is a seven footer who runs the floor like a wing and he has one of the highest motors in this draft for a big man. He can take the basketball coast-to-coast and finish at the rim in the open floor and he can pull up and hit shots. Patton was one of the most efficient players in college last year. He averaged 68.4% field goal percentage and was even 8 for 15 from behind the three point line. He has a humongous upside offensively because he excels in facing the basket. Patton should be great in pick-and-roll sets because of his ability to catch and finish. He looks comfortable in triple-threat position, but he struggles in post isolation plays. With some practice focused solely on post footwork, positioning, and counters, Justin Patton could become the prototypical center of the new generation of big men. On the defensive side of the ball, Patton closes out well on offensive players. With his height and explosiveness, he should be a better shot blocker than he has shown to be in college, but he is an adequate shot-blocker now. Defense, even shot-blocking, is about positioning, timing, and physicality. Patton plays finesse basketball on both sides of the court now. He will need to learn to initiate contact instead of moving around the opposition to reach his full potential. The best basketball players use a combination of brute force and finesse to beat their opponents. Justin Patton will decide whether he is a role player or a star by the amount of work he puts in over the next few years.
NBA Comparison: Patton compares favorably to Jerome Kersey of the 1980s or Stromile Swift of the early 2000s. He is a big man who is high energy and moves extremely well for his size. Plus, he is explosive with a good set of basketball skills, but he is limited at this point. If Patton works on his game, he could be a star. If he does not, he will be a role player. But, all the physical tools are there.
Markelle Fultz, University of Washington, Freshman - Fultz will enter into the NBA as a complete guard. He is naturally aggressive off the dribble, and can finish with either hand at the rim. He plays quick when necessary, and strong when necessary to make the play. Markelle Fultz can create shots for his teammates. He can create space to pull up for quick midrange jumpers, and he can hit from beyond the three point line. On defense, he uses his long wingspan to play passing lanes and to create turnovers. He challenges shots at the rim because he is an excellent athlete. On the year, Fultz averaged 2.1 steals and 1.4 blocks per game from the point guard position. He has all the tools to be a star in the league. But, to become the star that the overall number one pick should be, he will have to work on making his shot more reliable and increase his range. He shot 47.6% from the field and 41.3% from behind the three point line which are both good percentages, however he only shot 64.9% from the free throw line which brings into question his touch. He seems like he is willing in some shots because shoulders are tight and his release looks forced at times. A shooting coach should remedy that problem at the next level though.
NBA Comparison: D’Angelo Russell is a fair comparison for Markelle Fultz. He plays poised on offense, and uses change of pace and a good handle to get to his spots on the court. Fultz’s jumper is shakier than Russell’s was at this point, but he is more athletic. It evens out.