NBA Draft: Players to Watch (Part 2)

Written by Luke Webb (@ldotwebby)

It’s draft day!! Who’s ready to hear Jay Bilas use the words elite, NBA ready and basketball IQ until your brain explodes? Before you watch tonights draft, Rusty is back for part 2 of his players to watch. If you missed part 1 you can find it here, and if you have yet to see Big Daddy the Intern’s “mock” mock draft where he takes the guys Rusty breaks down and puts them in an order that will not happen, check it out. It’s good stuff! Now let’s dive into part 2.

Mohamed Bamba – 7’ C, Texas – 13 points, 10 boards, 3.6 blocks

In a draft loaded with big men, none have more defensive potential than Bamba. With a 7’9 wingspan, he won’t make it easy to score on him in the paint. Mo is also very mobile for a 7-footer, and can switch onto smaller defenders without too much trouble. At the very least, he can anchor a team’s defense, and I’d consider everything he does offensively as icing on the cake. Bamba is not exactly a post scorer but if you throw it up above the rim pretty much anywhere he’ll catch it and he’ll throw it down. He is ridiculously quick for his size (Bamba ran the ¾ court sprint in just over 3 seconds during his Bulls workout) which could make him a problem in transition as a rim-runner. He also shot and hit some 3’s at Texas so there is some unicorn potential in Mo. Ultimately it’ll take some patience for Bamba’s game to fully develop. He was seen working in the gym with Kevin Garnett recently which is for sure a good sign. He’ll have to add some muscle to his skinny frame before he can be an elite NBA defender and not get bullied inside by stronger big men, which shouldn’t be too much of a problem as he’s put on 30 pounds in the last three years without the help of NBA trainers.

bamba_KG

 

Collin Sexton6’2 PG, Alabama – 19 points, 3 boards, 3 assists

Alabama v Villanova

The first time I ever saw Sexton play basketball I was sold on him. It was a high school game against Penny Hardaway’s son’s team with Penny coaching. Sexton was giving them the business while also repeatedly telling Penny that his son was trash. The second time I saw Sexton play basketball I was all in. It was a game against Minnesota in November broadcasted on Facebook live, in which the entire Alabama bench was ejected for coming onto the court, leaving them with only five players. Another Bama player quickly fouled out, and John Petty (their best player not named Collin Sexton) also hurt his ankle leaving them with only 3 players for the final ten minutes of the game. Sexton refused to back down and finished with 40 points (roughly half were scored playing 3 v 5), and while Alabama ended up losing, they outscored Minnesota with 3 guys and it created the legend of Collin Sexton. Aside from the Minnesota game, Sexton is relentless at getting to the rim and was a pest on the other end. He’s quick as hell and pretty shifty, and probably the best athlete at PG in this draft. Sexton isn’t an amazing playmaker and he’s usually looking to score first so would not be surprised if he plays some minutes at shooting guard.

 

Kevin Knox – 6’9 Forward, Kentucky – 15 points, 5 boards, 51 FG%

knox.jpg

Knox is one of the more interesting prospects in the draft. He struggled at first adjusting at Kentucky but really started to figure it out later into the season, which is why his stats don’t jump off the page. Knox is a strong and athletic forward who could theoretically guard multiple positions at the next level. Time will tell if he can become strong enough to handle larger players inside and athletic enough to handle smaller players outside the arc. What we do know about Knox is that he is a gifted scorer who does not need the ball to be effective. He is already a weapon in the pick & roll, and pick & pop. Knox also has a legit 3-point shot. He only hit 57 of 167 3’s at Kentucky (34%), but it’s worth noting he apparently set a record for a shooting drill at UK where players must run a suicide and hit as many 3’s as possible in 6 minutes. Knox hit 118 3’s which is pretty good considering some of the past participants: guys like Devin Booker, Malik Monk, and Jamal Murray,  who are all doing just fine in the league. I know one shooting drill isn’t enough to say he’ll be a force in the league, but Knox definitely has some promising talent.

 

Lonnie Walker IV – 6’4 Guard, The U – 11 points, 2 boards, 2 dimes

lonniewalker_miami1.jpg

Lonnie Walker is another guy who could be a superstar in the NBA if he can figure it out. He is dripping with potential and he also has cool hair. Walker is an uber-athletic walking bucket with a 6’10 wingspan. He’s capable of guarding multiple spots, and has a pretty good 3-point stroke. He’s not perfect but most of his problems can be fixed. For instance, he sometimes seems lost when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands or when the man he’s guarding doesn’t have the ball. Lonnie excelled in a larger role when teammate Bruce Brown (also declared for the draft) got hurt, and averaged 20 points in 18 games as a starter for The U. Walker showed potential to become a great two-way player in time with flashes of go-to scoring ability.

 

Miles Bridges – 6’7 Forward, Michigan State – 17 points, 7 boards, 3 assists

miles.jpeg

Miles Bridges is one of the most overlooked players in this draft. I’m not sure if it’s because he’s not a freshman or if it’s because he might not be the first M. Bridges taken in the draft (see Mikal Bridges), but Miles is still a great NBA prospect. People seem to forget he would’ve been a lottery pick in last year’s draft too. Bridges is a do-it-all wing player with an NBA ready frame and elite-level explosiveness. Miles has shown at MSU that he is a good scorer and long-ranger shooter. He is already a pretty decent shot creator but could become great at it if he improves his ball-handling. He is also already pretty great at finding ways to score without the ball which will help him succeed from the jump in the league. Bridges is a natural SF but has the strength and rebounding ability to play PF effectively in small-ball lineups. His versatility along with his shooting ability will likely earn him extended minutes as a rookie.

 

Zhaire Smith – 6’5 Guard/Forward, Texas Tech – 11 points, 5 boards, 1 dime, block & steal

Texas Tech v Purdue

Zhaire Smith is the most exciting player you’ve never heard of. Unranked out of high school, he burst onto the scene sort of late, but averaged 20 points a game when given the chance to start for the Red Raiders. With a 45-inch vert, Zhaire can flat out fly. He could be in one of the next few dunk contests. I recommend watching some of his college highlights if you get a chance, or at the very least his 360 alley-oop from the first round of the NCAA Tournament (see below). NBA execs are drooling over Smith’s 6’11 wingspan, and ability to guard multiple positions. He isn’t a super polished offensive player yet but he is really good at playing without the ball, but will have to improve his passing and handling in the long run. Zhaire is a good offensive rebounder, that is always a threat for a put-back dunk if not boxed out. Smith also hit 45% of his 3’s in college, although he didn’t take a whole lot of them.

 

Mikal Bridges 6’7 Forward, Villanova – 17 points, 5 boards, 44% 3PT

mikal

Mikal Bridges has grown into becoming a premier 3-and-D prospect during his tenure at Villanova. He has steadily improved on both ends of the court while still showing flashes of even more potential. Bridges won two NCAA Championships in three seasons (not shabby) both as a role player and a star, so it’s probably safe to say that Mikal knows a thing or two about winning. Bridges is a great shooter off the catch and is lethal if you lose him in transition. He was a high-volume 3-point shooter at Nova (almost half his points last season were from 3’s) and did most of his damage playing off the ball. Defensively, Bridges is a pest by using his 7’2 wingspan, quick feet and high motor. His overall skill-set will allow him to immediately fit in nicely on almost any team in the NBA. It’s also worth noting that at 21, Mikal will probably end up being the oldest lottery pick in the draft this year.

 

 

 

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.

Leave a Reply