By John Hooper
Hall of Fame Potential
1. Markelle Fultz - Washington, SG
2. Jayson Tatum - Duke, SF
Tatum took a major step forward in February, averaging 16.1/8.3/2.9 on 43.3%/44.6%/96.2% shooting splits in helping Duke re-establish itself as a title threat.
Earlier in the season when Tatum was finding his way alongside Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard, Tatum seemed to project as a more aggressive version of Otto Porter due to their similar frames and jack-of-all-trades games. As the season’s progressed, however, it’s become clear that despite the initial similarities, Tatum’s propensity for scoring in iso situations really doesn’t match up with Otto’s style of waiting for others to create high-efficiency opportunities for him.
Impressively, where Tatum has proven to shine most is on the defensive end. He’s second on his team in Defensive Rating (amongst players in Duke's regular rotation), which is unusual both for a wing as well as for a Freshman. He’s also averaging 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks per game, showing his ability to disrupt his opponents’ offense.
The player that now makes the most sense for Tatum as a comparison is Paul George. They’re the same size, both very athletic, very good defenders and ideally would be the second scoring options on their team because of their jumper heavy attacks. Tatum has every skill you want in a wing and should now be in the conversation for the number one prospect in this year’s draft.
3. Lonzo Ball - UCLA, PG
4. Josh Jackson - Kansas, SF
5. Lauri Markkanen - Arizona, PF
6. Jonathan Isaac - Florida State, PF
7. Luke Kennard - Duke, SG
Luke Kennard is being rated as about the 20th best prospect by most sources at this point and I don’t understand why he’s so low. The one skill that all NBA organizations today covet is shooting and Kennard is the best shooter in college basketball this year. He’s making 2.4 threes a game on 44.4% shooting while also shooting 85.2% from the free throw line.
My favorite thing about Kennard's game is that his Offensive Rating is six full points higher than the next best player’s on his team (again, amongst those in Duke’s regular rotation). This is a testament to the type of gravity he has in drawing the attention of opposing defenses towards himself simply based on the threat of him getting an open three. This is the same concept that makes Steph Curry, Kyle Korver and other top NBA shooters so dangerous, in that their presence alone gives their teammates more space to operate with the ball. In addition to his shooting prowess, Kennard also only turns the ball over 1.6 times a game, reinforcing why he’s such a net-positive for Duke this year.
Kennard’s only ok defensively, but his floor's extremely high because he’s been such an impactful player offensively. He’s poised to have a similar career to JJ Redick or a more stable Delonte West.
8. Justin Patton - Creighton, C
9. Robert Williams - Texas A&M, C
10. John Collins - Wake Forest, C
11. Malik Monk - Kentucky, SG
12. Bam Adebayo - Kentucky, C
13. Zach Collins - Gonzaga, PF
14. Josh Hart - Villanova, SG
15. Dennis Smith - North Carolina State, PG
16. TJ Leaf - UCLA, PF
17. VJ Beachem - Notre Dame, SF
18. Tony Bradley - North Carolina, PF
19. Miles Bridges - Michigan State, PF
20. Chris Boucher - Oregon, PF
21. Monte Morris - Iowa State, PG
22. De'Aaron Fox - Kentucky, PG
After the UCLA - Kentucky game earlier this season, I saw Fox as a player with all-star potential as an athletic stopper who could facilitate on offense and also score when needed. Then I looked at his numbers.
Fox is still being rated as a consensus lottery prospect but there are a few telltale signs pointing in the direction of him being more Elfrid Payton-like. First, he’s a terrible shooter, shooting 22.0% from deep on two attempts per game. You don’t really need the stats on this one; once you’ve seen Fox hit nothing but backboard on a three you get it. More troubling to me is that his Offensive Rating is the second lowest amongst Kentucky’s players getting major minutes. This is death for a point guard because your main role is to help get your team’s offense rolling since you have the ball in your hands more than anyone else. If you fail here AND you can’t shoot you become well acquainted with the Fort Worth Mad Ants’ facility.
Fox still appears to be a strong defender, but his path is looking more like that of a Patrick Beverly than that of John Wall than I initially thought.
23. Tyler Lydon - Syracuse, PF
24. Sindarius Thornwell - South Carolina, SF
Am I too high on Sindarius Thornwell? Probably. You gotta admit though, any player with a name that passes equally well for a movie villain and for a relative of Nigel Thornberry deserves some extra run.
Thornwell just won the SEC Player of the Year award after averaging 21.0/7.2/2.9 on 44.0%/39.1%/83.2% shooting splits. He also led his team in Offensive AND Defensive Rating (again, out of South Carolina’s main players). With him on the court, they outscored their opponents by 34.2 points per 100 possessions. That’s incredible, especially for a team that has a 10.4 Net Rating overall.
Thornwell hits threes, gets to the line a ton, plays great defense and is big enough to slide to the 4 in a pinch. What else do you need to know? Think Bonzi Wells or PJ Tucker if he could rip it from deep and didn’t try to fight everyone he sees. I’m praying my mistress, Brooklyn, takes him with one of her picks this year. Caris LeVert and Thornwell on the wing together?! Excuse me while I clean up this mess.
25. Justin Jackson - North Carolina, SF
26. Rodions Kurucs - International, SF
27. Jaron Blossomgame - Clemson, SF
28. Caleb Swanigan - Purdue, PF
29. Ivan Rabb - Cal, PF
30. Dillon Brooks - Oregon, SG
31. Dwayne Bacon - Florida State, SG
32. Johnathan Motley - Baylor, PF
33. Jarrett Allen - Texas, C
34. Alec Peters - Valparaiso, PF
Don’t sleep on Alec Peters. He’s not Doug McDermitt 2.0 - he’s bigger, stronger, a better rebounder and a better defender. Think Kris Humphries if he came into the league with a stroke from deep. He’ll probably never be a reliable starter but I expect him to have an 8-10 year career as a valuable rotation guy.
35. Jawun Evans - Oklahoma State, PG
36. Harry Giles - Duke, PF
37. Peter Jok - Iowa, SG
38. Isaiah Hartenstein - International, PF
39. Terrance Ferguson - International, SF
40. Frank Ntilikina - International, PG