IT isn’t fair that we compare, in some case, teenagers to past hall of farmers and All-Stars. Before playing any meaningful basketball in the pros this year’s crop of draft stars will be heavily scrutinised, analysed and public picked apart. It’s a necessary part of the business and finding the right player inside the top-10 could change the future of the NBA. It’s impossible for these players to be carbon copies of former NBA players, but throughout the season we have seen flashes from certain guys that remind us of legends, past and present.
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NBA Comparison: Rich Man’s Michael Beasley
THERE is a tinge of Chris Bosh to the way that Marvin Bagley goes about his business. A stellar freshman season at Duke saw Bagley become one of the best players in all of college last year. His 20/10 averages pegged him as a top-5 prospect once he declared for the Draft and he seems destined to be taken early in June. Some even believe he is in the mix to become the No. 1 pick with all the tools to become a superstar.
- Awesome athleticism with a perfect blend of bounce and mobility
- Could become a perfect versatile player on offense if he develops his jumper a touch
- Incredible rebounder on both ends of the floor
- Shaky shooting mechanics that has scared off some GM’s straight away
- There are worries over his ability to be a defensive anchor with some sloppy plays
- Not an elite ball handler who can often force things on offense leading to turnovers
I still think that the upside Bagley has is enormous and he could become the next version of Chris Bosh. With that being said I understand some of the concerns that will probably see him miss out on being a top-2 pick. Atlanta at No. 3 doesn’t make a ton of sense with the high flying John Collins already on the roster. That leaves Memphis to snare Bagley with the 4th pick and potentially form an amazing frontcourt alongside Marc Gasol.
NBA Comparison: Taller Devin Booker
LET me quickly clarify something. By no means am I saying the Kevin Knox will be a taller Devin Booker, I’m saying that he can. If he develops in the same way as his Kentucky alum then Knox has elite potential as a big-time scorer. He had a number of performances with the Wildcats this season to suggest he is worth a lottery pick, despite his glaring shortcomings.
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- Has the potential to be an unstoppable scorer if he puts it all together
- Decent athleticism and length allow him to make an impact on defense
- Moves well off the ball to get himself open
- Lapses on defense have led to concerns over his basketball IQ
- Needs to improve his vision, tends to put his head down and drive to the basket without looking elsewhere
- Has shown tendencies to be a streaky shooter
IF Knox can piece together all the pieces of the puzzle then there is no doubt he can be a go-to scorer for a decent team. The biggest question is what happens if he doesn’t put it together? You would likely be left with a turnover prone, streaky shooting forward. Bummer. I still think Knox has shown enough flashes to warrant his place in the lottery with the Clippers a tempting spot at either No. 12 or 13. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Hornets packaged one of their contracts with the 11th pick to move up and secure they get Knox. Either way, I think he becomes a Hornet.
NBA Comparison: Bobby Simmons
A solid combine showing last week might help Keita Bates-Diop push his way into the first-round. A hot January helped Bates-Diop emerge as a legitimate draft prospect that saw the Buckeye become the Big Ten Player of the Year. He helped Ohio State surge in 2018 and put to bed a lot of doubts surrounding his leg injury from a year prior. Many GM’s might be concerned about the stress fracture in his left leg that forced him to miss most of 2017, but all signs indicate that KBD is healthy and ready to go.
- Defends both guards and big men well
- Solid shooter who has demonstrated NBA range
- Can score in a variety of ways around the basket, with good touch around the rim and in the post
- There are questions over his ideal position, lacking this size to be a legitimate 4 or 5 and the quickness to be a 2 or 3
- His motor is questionable
- Can’t create his own shot consistently with the lack of a quick first-step and ball handling skills
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I think for Bates-Diop his draft position will depend a lot on landing in the right spot. In an ideal world he is modern day three who can score in a variety of ways, but if he drafted by a team with a lot of wings he might be forced to play bigger. He could be used as a stretch-4 at times, but he isn’t big enough to play the role full-time. A lot of projections have him landing somewhere around the early 20’s and I’d love to see him become a Spur at No. 18. He adds some depth to the wings with Rudy Gay, Kyle Anderson and potentially Kawhi Leonard all able to leave this offseason. He’s worth reaching for if Pop can use him correctly.
NBA Comparison: Uber Manu Ginobili
I always try to compare European players to Americans, but there are too many tendencies of Doncic’s game that remind me of Manu. The Slovenian youngster plays the game with the poise and calm of a veteran, making the right play down the court almost every time. His incredible passing ability and ability to score in any way imaginable have linked his game to James Harden and Ben Simmons. Not bad for a teenager.
- Playing in arguably the second best league he was named the youngest Euroleague MVP in history, showing incredible composure in clutch situations
- Incredible playmaking abilities with natural passing instincts and sky-high basketball IQ
- Incredible shooting prowess from anywhere on the floor
- Lack of athleticism make some think he will be exposed in the NBA
- His lateral quickness and ability to stop quicker guards is a big concern
- Can sometimes settle for ill-advised shots if he can’t shake his defender
I have long been an advocate for Doncic considering him as one of the premier talents in this year’s NBA Draft. I have also been a big fan of Deandre Ayton’s, however, I have changed my stance. I think the upside of Doncic in today’s NBA makes him the best player available on draft night. With Phoenix now the owners of the No. 1 pick, I don’t think they should hesitate and take the transcendent star to join an exciting core with Devin Booker and Josh Jackson.
NBA Comparison: Mark Price
OPINIONS on Trae Young vary around the league. Most think he is one of the best point guards available, but there are plenty of questions about his star power. He did lead the college basketball world in scoring (27.4 PPG) and assists (8.8 APG) and recency bias has a lot of people calling him the next ‘Steph Curry’. However, I think his game translates better to Mark Price, who wasn’t an MVP but still emerged as a dangerous scoring for a long period of time.
- Unlimited shooting range, able to create space with his dribble and screens
- At one point this year was having one of the best seasons ever by a freshman
- Always plays with his head up and has great court vision
- Concern over his height and frame
- Struggles to finish in traffic and forces things on offense at times
- Lack of explosiveness and size leads to other guards blowing by him on defense
YOUNG isn’t as prolific a finisher as Steph Curry was, although there are equal concerns over his height. If he is given the chance to have the ball in his hands expect him to score a lot of points in 2018-19. I think it’s a match made in heaven for Trae Young to land in Orlando as they have been crying out for an offensive star to help their rebuild gain steam. Pairing him with Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac gives you a bright future.
NBA Comparison: Robert Covington
THE 2x national champion Mikal Bridges is on the verge of history. He could join the likes of Christian Laettner, Joakim Noah, Grant Hill and Al Horford as dual-time champions drafted in inside the top-10. All four of them went on to make at least one All-Star team, with Al Horford still having a profound impact on the NBA. The Villanova stud offers a ton of upside and potential as a 3-and-D prospect in the modern NBA and could very well join that prestigious list.
- Excellent catch-and-shoot player and doesn’t need the ball in hands to score
- Terrific defender, often coming up with steals and blocks
- Low risk with versatile, established skill set
- Doesn’t have much skill as a shot creator
- Has the tendency to be inconsistent and struggle in games, especially as a shooter
- Lack of size/strength have some wondering if he can play against big forwards
LOOMING as a top-10 pick, Bridges might be the safest pick in this year’s draft. You know you’re getting a no fuss, defensive wing who can score off the ball, albeit inconsistently. Is that worth a top-10 pick? Probably, especially if he can tap into some of his potential as an elite two-way guy. My guess is Chicago and Cleveland overlook him and allow the Knicks to pounce with the 9th pick.
NBA Comparison: Michael Carter-Williams
HOW is SGA’s jump shot? That is easily the biggest question surrounding Kentucky’s lanky freshman floor general. Standing 6’6″ with a wingspan scratching seven feet, there is upside as a versatile defender already for Gilgeous-Alexander who improved with every month that passed of the collegiate season.
- Excels at scoring off the dribble and attacking the basket
- Can defend both on the ball and off thanks to his lanky limbs
- Is developing a reputation as a hard worker and a gym rat
- Can sometimes be too risky when trying to create plays leading to turnovers or making things hard for teammates
- Has a slow shooting release with clunky mechanics
- Needs to get stronger right away to combat the wings in today’s NBA
FROM a draft range perspective Gilgeous-Alexander has floated around 15 for most of the offseason, with some squeezing him into the lottery and other letting him slide to the late teens. I think the fit in LA in a backcourt with Austin Rivers and Lou Williams would be awesome for SGA. There would be no immediate pressure on to score and he could fuel plenty of fastbreaks leading to transition baskets for the Clippers.
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NBA Comparison: Karl-Anthony Towns
AFTER breaking down Deandre Ayton’s game I can see flashes of some absolute superstars. His uber athleticism and sheer physical stature have seen him linked to Shawn Kemp, David Robinson and Patrick Ewing. His ability to occasionally hit a three-pointer though makes me see a lot of Karl-Anthony Towns about him. Regardless of who you compare him too, there’s no denying that Ayton could be a dominant force in the league for over a decade.
- Literally looks like his body was carved in stone, physical specimen with rare touch and agility
- Offers great upside switching on defense with the size to combat bigs and the lateral quickness to tame guards and wings
- Good shooting mechanics with an adequate jumper
- Lacks natural defensive instincts leading to worries about his consistency
- Doesn’t seem to be an elite shot blocker
- Sometimes fails to secure a rebound or pass with a habit of fumbling
THE pros for Ayton’s No. 1 case heavily outweigh his cons. He could really become a force in the league and this gigantic teenager might be destined for stardom. If Phoenix decides he’s the best guy then, by all means, they should go for it. If they don’t Sacramento won’t hesitate for a second to snap him up.
NBA Comparison: Rudy Gobert
LAZILY, I compared Bamba to Deandre Jordan a handful of times throughout the year. However, the Texas Longhorn isn’t as raw as Jordan was coming out of the league, with a bit more flair and star power about him. Dare I say it he has a hint of Hassan Whiteside about him on offense with his insane wingspan likely to lead to easy boards, blocks and buckets from day one in the league.
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- Can block any shot with his imposing 7’10” wingspan
- Has potential as a stretch big if he develops his jump shot
- Seems like a very, very smart player, impressing a lot of people during Combine interviews
- Limited on offense as a lob-catching and rim-runner at the moment
- There are questions over his frame/bulk and how he’ll hold up against thicker players
- Often lacks confidence on offense and can seem passive
IT’S no surprise to find another big man who can shoot at a decent clip from downtown as an appealing prospect. For what Bamba lacks in size he makes up with his off-court savvy and willingness to learn. He seems like a future star and he is putting in work with the right people, making him an appealing choice at No. 5 for Dallas. A safer pick might the play here for a Mavs team that is on the edge of rebuilding, but I think Bamba’s upside makes him top-5 worthy.
Michael Porter Jr
NBA Comparison: Harrison Barnes stretched out
ADD a few inches and take a few pounds from the current Mavericks forward and you get Michael Porter Jr. Personally, I think Porter has the chance to be a superstar in the NBA and is one of the best players available in the entire draft. His health is under the spotlight after surgery sidelined him for all but 53 minutes of the year.
- The ability to score on three levels (in the paint, mid-range, 3-point)
- Could become a point forward with good passing intangibles
- Owns all the traits and tools of a star, scoring big man in the NBA
- Minimal natural explosiveness and athleticism
- Missed the majority of his freshman season after undergoing surgery to heal a spinal disc injury
- Needs to work on his ball-handling to get to the basket with more frequency
REPORTS are surfacing of the Clippers’ eagerness to move up and take Porter. I think he’ll be snapped up by the Bulls at No. 7. A) I would love him to slip to the Cavs and B) I don’t think he should be taken this low, but I think his back injury is a worry for a lot of NBA executives. We could be looking back at the next Joel Embiid case and as long as doctors give him the all clear I want him.
Jaren Jackson Jr
NBA Comparison: Thon Maker
AN intriguing prospect who has pro general managers salivating at what he could become. Jaren Jackson seems like the perfect project to develop into a modern day big man, but there’s something about him that scares me off. There are some doubts over just how good he can be and whoever takes him on draft will find out quick smart just what type of player he is.
- Tremendous timing on blocking shots
- Does a little bit of everything and seems to project as a fantastic glue guy
- Can stretch the floor with his shooting and isn’t shy jacking up 3’s
- Odd shooting form which has led to questions about how it will translate to the pros
- Doesn’t have a great tenacity for the boards and at times gets boxed out
- Not incredibly strong with the ball, doubts over his finishing ability in traffic
SOME might call me crazy for being down on Jackson compared to other prospects, but I think there are other players who can translate into better pros. Time will tell just how accurate my assessment is and there’s still no doubt he will be snapped up inside the top 3-7 picks. Given how the rest of my projections have unfolded I think he will find himself on Atlanta, forming an exciting, raw, athletic frontcourt with Hawks sophomore John Collins.
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