As the NBA draft is fast approaching, the NBA landscape looks as big and bold as ever, filled with opulent opportunity, swirling stories and rapid rumors. And, the NBA and its fans wouldn’t have it any other way, with the draft looming and a highly anticipated offseason to follow.
From the awful way Cavs owner Dan Gilbert handled the departure of David Griffin, to the big Celtics-76ers trade, to the LeBron to LA talk, to Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love headlining trade rumors, we’ve been treated to a concoction of scintillating storylines already, both good and bad. Now, let’s focus on the NBA draft, which some believe could be one of the best ever.
The Heavy Hitters
It’s hard to look past the top 5. You simply can’t because it’s so stacked. Whether you get Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Jaysum Tatum, De’Aaron Fox or Josh Jackson, you are not only getting a franchise cornerstone, but also a potential superstar.
With Fultz, the talent is off the charts. It’s hard to evaluate his one-and-done year at Washington because the team was so bad, and so I’m reserved on just how good I think he’ll be, but he’s obviously going #1 for sure.
With Ball, many people seem to want the kid to fail because of his outspoken father. I am not one of those people. The former Bruin has incredible vision, premier passing skills and a smooth but awkward-looking jumper (may need to work on his midrange game, though). But, his defense is definitely below average. That’s pause for concern, but his ability, along with the guidance of Magic Johnson and some potential big names on their way, give reason to believe the Lakers will return to stardom.
Then, there’s Jayson Tatum. I am very, very high on this guy. As Coach K has said, Tatum is extremely coachable, very hard working and a fantastic talent. With his ability to do almost anything on the court, along with his size and skill set, Tatum poses a threat to any opponent. Throw in that he might be able to play as a stretch 4 sometimes, and his value goes up a notch. The sky is the limit.
Next, we have De’Aaron Fox, who seems to be getting a lot of praise lately. And, rightfully so. He is truly a two-way guard, as evidenced by his great defense on Ball in the dance and his combination of speed, ball handling and finishing ability. He seems like a great kid, and I’ll be rooting for him.
Last but certainly not least, there’s Josh Jackson. Natural born athlete here. The dude can jump out of the jump. I worry about his shot and his free throw %, but you are getting a two-way tooth and nail player who could be a game changer.
The Second Tier
The second tier of guys isn’t anything to scoff at. Malik Monk is as intriguing a player as almost anyone. He has a sick J from deep, a strong work ethic and is a big time athlete. He is streaky and not the typical height of an NBA two guard, but whoever gets him might get the steal of the draft.
There’s also Jonathan Issac. When we think of the NBA as a man’s game, Issac certainly fits this bill. He’s nearly 7 feet, and may get taller. Growing up playing as a guard affords him the rare ability to shoot well from deep and pass as a big man, who can, of course, also block shots and rebound. This could be a sick arsenal for any team.
I am personally not high on Lauri Markkanen of late, but maybe I’m duped by his mixed results in the Pac 12 and NCAA Tournaments. He certainly has size, shooting and time to develop. We will see.
Lastly, there’s the guard trio of Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith and Luke Kennard. I can’t add too much on the French fella, or Dennis Smith for that matter, but I do think Kennard is particularly intriguing with his size, 3-pointer and defense. It will be interesting to see how these three unfold.
It wouldn’t be a draft without trying to find some sleepers. The one who headlines the list for me is Zach Collins. And, I think when it’s all said and done, he might be in the second tier or even the heavy hitters.
Collins didn’t play that much this season at Gonzaga, but when he did, he was so impressive. He’s 7 feet, mobile for a big man, shoots from deep, rebounds well and is a real rim protector. Playing in the West Coach Conference, it’s easy to say that he didn’t have to play top teams and big men, but he showed off his all-around skill set in the NCAAA Tournament, helping take the Zags all the way to the championship game. Throw in the fact that he has a good post game, and he can really do it all. I would love for the Mavs to draft him, but they probably won’t.
Another sleeper is OG Anunoby. Analysts have been likening him to Draymond Green. He does have a ridiculous wingspan, but he’s no doubt a project for any team.
There’s also TJ Leaf, the other freshman one-and-done from UCLA. The guy only shot 47% from 3 in college. Not bad! With his ability to rebound as well, he could be a real commodity in this league.
Then, there’s Josh Hart, a player of the year candidate all last season on Villanova. He brings a little bit of everything, providing excellent value at the end of the first round.
Almost Go Time
The draft is nearly upon us. Here’s hoping for an exciting night. Enjoy the festivities!