NBA Draft: Players to Watch (Part 1)

The month of June tends to bring about two things: warmer weather here up North (which means drinking 7 beer before 2pm is now somewhat acceptable), and the conclusion of the NBA season. I couldn’t help but feel somewhat relieved when the Warriors completed their sweep over the Cleveland Lebron-aliers. It was like a dead turtle finally being removed from the middle of the road. We knew if left untouched, it would just continue to get run over. But eventually, enough is enough and the mess is cleared, finally forcing us to turn our focus elsewhere. That focus is now the offseason, which has seemingly become just as important a product as the regular season. One heavily packaged product of the NBA offseason (probably presented by Kia or starring Kevin Hart) is the draft. A time when teams load up on new assets to hopefully improve their chances of losing to the Warriors in the finals. 

This year’s draft will take place on June 21st (also the birthday of Rebecca Black). In order to get to know some of the players who will hear their names called next Thursday, we brought in TINASS college basketball savant Rusty for a MULTIPART NBA DRAFT BOARD PREVIEW!!!! Here’s part 1, which features some surefire lottery picks and a few favourites from the Rust man (in no particular order). 

 

 

Marvin Bagley III 6’11 PF/C Duke (21 points, 11 boards, 61 FG%)

Bagley is a lock to be a top 5 pick this year. He was ACC player of the year, leading his conference in scoring, rebounding and FG%. He has amazing touch around the rim with a left hand blessed by the basketball Gods. He’s an explosive athlete and a good ball handler who can wreak havoc running rim to rim in transition. Marvin is also a huge problem for opponents on the offensive glass. His offensive game should transition smoothly to the NBA… his defensive game on the other hand, may not. Coach K elected to play zone all year because Duke struggled to guard pretty much anyone man to man. Bagley will struggle adjusting defensively simply because he’ll be forced to play man-to-man, he will get bullied in the post on occasion, and he’s not a natural rim protector. Due to his length and athleticism, I do think he could become a good pick-and-roll defender and perimeter defender at the next level with time.

DeAndre Ayton7’1 C Arizona – 20 points, 11 boards, 61 FG%

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Ayton is the guy I’d probably take #1. I mean holy shit look at the guy. He’s physically ready for the NBA today and has a versatile game on both ends of the floor. Ayton has the ability to beat defenders by going around, over or through them. He showed at Arizona that he can hit threes if left open, and he shoots very well from the foul line (73%). NBA GMs believe he can be a 3-point threat, although he’s probably best at shooting fadeaways over smaller defenders from the high-post/mid-range area. Defensively, Ayton is a good on-ball defender in the post, and on the perimeter too because Ayton can move exceptionally well for his size. He was not as big of a presence protecting the rim at Arizona as you might expect him to be, but that could have been due to him playing out of position next to another 7-footer, or the lack of a competent coach, but it was ultimately why his team didn’t make it out of the first round of the NCAA tournament.

 

Jaren Jackson Jr 6’11 PF Michigan State – 11 points, 6 boards, 3 blocks

Jackson is one of the safer picks in this draft. His numbers from his one season at State aren’t going to blow anyone away but he will be able to contribute immediately in the NBA. Triple J has been classified as a “unicorn,” meaning he can block shots and hit 3’s with consistency.

He was a monster protecting the rim, averaging over 3 blocks a game while hitting just under 40% of his 3’s in college. He has the ability to be a game changer defensively with his rim protection and ability to guard multiple positions, but he occasionally struggles defending and rebounding against larger players, which could be problematic because I think NBA players might be bigger than college guys. For example, he struggled guarding Purdue’s Isaac Hass and Matt Haarms and ended up barely touching the court in the second half of a Big 10 Tournament game, but on the other hand he looked great playing against Duke’s Wendell Carter and Marvin Bagley who more resemble NBA players than Purdue’s bigs. I don’t often like to make comparisons but JJJ looks like he could become a better version of Serge Ibaka. He likely will never be THE guy for his team, but he could certainly be a piece of the puzzle for a contender.

 

Luka Doncic6’8 PG (?) Real Madrid – 15 points, 5 boards, 5 dimes

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Scouts have been drooling over the Slovenian Luka Doncic, with many heralding him as the obvious #1 pick. I will admit from the start here that I’ve only seen Doncic play one (1) time, so I don’t have a ton to say. Doncic is heralded as a transcendent passer and at only 19, has been tearing up the Euroleague since 2015. I noticed two key things in that one game. The first is that Doncic has already mastered the pick & roll. When they put him in 2K, he’ll immediately have the “pick & roll maestro” badge. The second thing I noticed is that he’s really good at changing speeds when driving to keep defenders off balance. This is important because Doncic is not the most athletic fella in the draft. He’s very savvy offensively and good at getting to the line. Because he’s not super athletic, he will probably struggle on defense at the next level. Doncic is an intriguing prospect but I’m not sold that he’s the clear #1 pick yet.

 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 6’6 PG Kentucky – 15 points, 5 dimes, 4 boards

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Shai is one of my favourite players in this class. The Canadian guard is a great playmaker and finisher. He’s also a pesky defender with a 7-foot wingspan. SGA came into Kentucky as their lowest ranked recruit, but he left as their clear-cut best player. What impressed me most about him was that he never once got rattled on the court. He regularly controlled the game on both ends of the court, and always seemed comfortable even in the biggest moments (he averaged 21 and 7 in the SEC Tournament). Gilgeous-Alexander isn’t an amazing shooter, but he hit 80% of his free throws and 40% of his limited 3-point attempts so there is some potential in his shot.

Stay tuned for part 2, which will be dropping later this week!

 

 

Luke is a current Brock University Sport Management student who spends his free time travelling in search of the best chicken tenders in North America. Since going undrafted in the 2016 NBA draft, Luke has refused to shoot a basketball or do any other type of physical activity, yet he is not afraid to voice his opinion on sports whenever the opportunity presents itself.

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