Going to keep the introduction as brief as possible here. I suggest you read all the articles leading up to this:
Reference Series: The Eye Test
Players are classified in the following positions:
-Primary: typical point guard role – 1 tier bump up
-Secondary: 3-and-D combo guards and wings who have the ability to handle and pass a bit and have the ability to develop into either a point guard or a strong complement to a point guard – half tier bump up
-Wing: typical 3-and-D run around screens and shoot players – 1 tier bump down
-Stretch: forwards who can shoot the 3 – no bump
-Rim: centers who can protect the rim – no bump
-???: players who don’t neatly fit into any of those other categories – mainly guards and forwards who can’t shoot and centers who can’t protect the rim – dropped 2 or more tiers
There’s also three minor modifications I make for players that I have not written about anywhere else:
-Odd bodies. This is short guys, fat guys, weirdly shaped guys, etc. These guys tend not to get a real chance to prove themselves (if they get any chance at all), and since opportunity is a big part of panning out, I have started dropping these guys a bit because even if they could be good, they typically just don’t get the chance, and I am taking that into account.
-Poor athletes. Every year, there’s a few guys who put up fantastic stats but scouts are much lower on them because of a lack of physical tools. These guys tend to overperform scout expectations, but they still tend to underperform stat expectations. I am adjusting accordingly.
-Conference player of the year. There has been some predictive value of these players going on to decent or better NBA careers. These players are marked with an * on the big board.
If you’re not familiar with my system, here’s my writeup from last year. Players are split into tiers. Tiers reflect a player’s total value – upside, chance of reaching upside, NBA role, etc. A player with a low ceiling but a high chance of reaching it may be in the same tier as a player with a much higher ceiling but a much lower chance of reaching any kind of potential. Players are not ranked within tiers. I did not rank any players who played less than 500 NCAA minutes last season, as my system does not project those players with any kind of accuracy. It does not mean they are good or bad prospects, it simply means that since I use a statistical system, I do not project any players who I do not have enough data for. No, I do not hate your favorite prospect or your school. Yes, these are real rankings and I am serious. Okay, let’s get to it!
Markelle Fultz, primary, 19.0 years old, 1.20 FPM
Lonzo Ball, primary, 19.6 years old, 1.10 FPM
These two lead guards are at the top of the class. Ball’s stats are absolutely out of this world – his shooting numbers (other than FTs) are elite, he led the NCAA in assists, he rebounded well above his position, and his advanced metrics were incredible. However, Ball is exactly the type of player warned about above – he is not an elite athlete, and while I would expect him to be a great player at the next level, he may never reach “best player on a championship team” level. Fultz was an elite player, but there are questions about his defense and ability to run an offense at the next level. He has higher upside than Ball, but is a little less safe. Overall, you can’t go wrong with either guy.
Dennis Smith, Jr., primary, 19.6, 1.02 FPM
DSJ finds himself alone here, not quite in the same class as Fultz and Ball, but better than the group below. Smith has all the tools to be elite, but needs to develop his game mentally. He may also have some physical upside, as he was only a year removed from ACL surgery, an injury that usually requires two years to fully recover from.
De’Aaron Fox, primary, 19.5, 1.02 FPM
Jawun Evans, primary, 20.9, 1.21 FPM
Josh Jackson, secondary, 20.3, 1.05 FPM
Jayson Tatum, stretch, 19.3, 0.92 FPM
Jonathan Isaac, stretch, 19.7, 1.04 FPM
Sindarius Thornwell*, secondary, 22.8, 1.12 FPM
This group is talented but flawed. Everybody has the ability to be an elite player, but they all have glaring weaknesses. Fox is has elite physical tools but showed no 3 point shooting ability, which is basically a must in today’s NBA. Jawun Evans was extremely productive, but is undersized and underathletic. Josh Jackson has an ugly looking shot and couldn’t make his FTs, leading to major shooting questions. Jayson Tatum is young and was good at everything but not great at anything – I have him as a stretch here, but he could be a secondary depending on who drafts him and how he develops physically. Jonathan Isaac is a D-and-3 player at this point – he looks to be a defense-first player who should be able to provide just enough on offense to make him a valuable player. Sindarius Thornwell fits the physical profile of secondaries who typically overperform – he is a big strong body. He shot the 3 over 39%, led all major conference players in free throw attempts, rebounded, played D, and helped facilitate at times. He led the nation in box plus-minus. The question is only if he was good because he was bigger and older than everybody or because he’s just that good.
Donovan Mitchell, secondary, 20.8, 0.94 FPM
Malik Monk*, wing, 19.4, 0.85 FPM
Caleb Swanigan*, stretch, 20.2, 1.04 FPM
TJ Leaf, stretch, 20.1, 1.05 FPM
John Collins, rim, 19.7, 1.24 FPM
Zach Collins, rim, 19.7, 1.18 FPM
This group is a step below the previous group in both top level potential and likelihood of being a major impact player. Mitchell appears to have all the tools to be an ideal secondary, but he’s likely going to need a few years to develop and may not have the ability to be a true second option. Monk has shown more creation abilities than most 3-point snipers, but he’s still not really a secondary. Any team drafting him would be wise to really work with him on his handling and vision to try to get him there. Swanigan and Leaf are a pair of highly productive stretch 4s with athletic and defensive question marks. It’s hard to see either of them being bad, but most likely, they settle in as roleplayers that make fans of at least 5 opposing teams hate them. John and Zach Collins were both highly productive players, but John will need to bulk up to play C at the next level or develop a 3P shot to play PF at the next level and Zach did a lot of interesting things, but did them in limited minutes as a mid-major backup. He could be a 3-and-rim guy, which is extremely valuable, but he will have to prove he can do it against a much higher level of competition – his foul rate was through the roof even against the lower level.
Derrick White, primary, 23, 1.04 FPM
Monte Morris, primary, 22, 1.04 FPM
Nigel Williams-Goss*, primary, 22.8, 1.02 FPM
Frank Mason III*, primary, 23.2, 0.96 FPM
Dillon Brooks*, secondary, 21.4, 1.00 FPM
Josh Hart*, secondary, 22.3, 0.98 FPM
Jordan Bell, rim, 22.4, 1.04 FPM
The veterans. Morris, Williams-Goss, and Mason are classic pass-first PGs who could help run the offense for bench units. White is a 3rd guard who should be able to swing between the guard positions and fill in wherever necessary. Brooks and Hart are your classic 3-and-D guys, with the ability to create a bit for themselves and others pushing them a little ahead of some others. Jordan Bell is a bit undersized but was 3rd in the NCAA in box plus minus – his ability to both protect the rim and switch on the perimeter is something teams are looking for.
I’m going to take a brief interlude to talk about Derrick White. Read this article on him. He’s the bingo card of evaluation errors. Undervalued coming out of high school because he was very young for his year. Ignored skills due to physical attributes. Didn’t have the hype of playing on a high quality AAU team. Now he’s undervalued because he’s too old. He’s proof that guys develop at different rates, physically, mentally, skills-wise. Everybody should internalize the story of Derrick White.
Justin Jackson*, secondary, 22.2, 0.88 FPM
Peter Jok, secondary, 23.2, 0.95 FPM
Jeremy Morgan, secondary, 22.1, 0.88 FPM
Luke Kennard, wing, 21, 0.84 FPM
Just splitting Tier 6 into secondary and bigs. Justin Jackson finds his way in here as he wasn’t particularly impressive, but he has shown to be a late bloomer and was ACC Player of the Year, so maybe there’s more there. Peter Jok needs to up his D and cut his turnovers, but he’s a good shooter and passer. Jeremy Morgan really faded as the year went on, but has all the skills needed if he can translate them to the next level. Luke Kennard just wasn’t productive enough, doesn’t project to be able to defend at the next level, and by the stats, he’s not good enough at creating for others to be considered a secondary, although he has shown enough ability to maybe develop into it in a year or two.
Rashawn Thomas, stretch, 22.8, 1.19 FPM
Jacob Wiley*, stretch, 22.8, 1.09 FPM
Cameron Oliver, stretch, 20.9, 1.06 FPM
Tyler Lydon, stretch, 21.2, 0.83 FPM
Thomas Bryant, stretch/rim, 19.9, 0.87 FPM
Tim Kempton, stretch/rim, 22.6, 1.06 FPM
Moses Kingsley, rim, 22.6, 1.02 FPM
Tony Bradley, rim, 19.4, 1.00 FPM
Justin Patton, rim, 20.0, 0.99 FPM
Kennedy Meeks, ???, 22.4, 1.15 FPM
Lauri Markkanen, ???, 20.1, 0.81 FPM
Rashawn Thomas led the NCAA in FTA, had 50+ steals and 50+ blocks, and added a 3 point shot late in the year that looks pretty good. Jake Wiley was Big Sky Player of the Year. Despite standing 6’7, he has a 7′ wingspan and an incredible 37.5″ no step vert. He has shown signs of being able to shoot the 3 with a little more time and development. Cam Oliver shot over 38% on 172 3PA and added 91 blocks. Tyler Lydon was a low usage player, but was a quality shooter who chipped in everywhere and may be able to carve out the same role at the next level. Thomas Bryant is a true C who has shown both stretch and rim abilities, but whoever drafts him should be prepared to let him develop in the D-League for two years. Tim Kempton is a second generation player who has also shown both stretch and rim abilities, but he just may not have NBA level athleticism. Moses Kingsley is an undersized rim protector with limited other abilities but who has only been playing professional basketball for 6 years and may have some growth left. Tony Bradley is basically an unknown, but whoever drafts him probably will not see any return on investment for at least a few years. Justin Patton has good athletic tools but needs time to develop everything else. Kennedy Meeks is really good but doesn’t really fit anywhere in the NBA. He may still be fine as a 3rd big.
So, Lauri Markkanen. Lauri Markkanen can shoot the ball, and shoot it well. He was also surprisingly adept at getting to the line. If he could do, well, anything else, he’d be a few tiers higher. But he’s bad at using his offense to create for others. He rebounds like a PF despite being 7′ tall. He absolutely cannot defend – he is second to last in steals+blocks per minute among players on this board, ahead of only Ojeleye, and his defensive advanced metrics match. So he can’t play C, and at 7′ tall, he’s the wrong size to play PF and doesn’t have nearly the athletic ability to hang with smaller 4s or punish them. I know shooting is important, but so is passing, defense, and rebounding.
Mo Evans, primary, 22.6, 0.98 FPM
Dallas Moore*, primary, 22.6, 0.97 FPM
Quinton Hooker, primary, 22.3, 0.93 FPM
Derrick Walton, Jr., primary, 22.2, 0.87 FPM
Michael Young, secondary, 22.8, 0.95 FPM
Malcolm Hill, secondary, 21.6, 0.88 FPM
Gian Clavell*, wing, 23.6, 0.94 FPM
Semi Ojeleye, wing, 22.5, 0.84 FPM
Alec Peters*, stretch, 22.2, 1.03 FPM
Josh Hawkinson, stretch, 22.0, 0.89 FPM
We’re into the real bottom of the barrel guys here. Mo Evans, Dallas Moore, and Quinton Hooker are low major PGs who can really, really shoot. Walton played can also really shoot but is too lacking in too many areas. Michael Young and Malcolm Hill are the types of guys who make for great college players but just aren’t NBA quality and end up as support players in Europe or the D-League. Gian Clavell might be the most interesting prospect in this bunch. His highlights make him look better than he is, but man, you can dream on these, can’t you? Semi Ojeleye is athletic and can score but hasn’t shown much other ability. Alec Peters and Josh Hawkinson are potential stretch 4s who probably lack the athleticism necessary for the next level.
Bam Adebayo, rim, 19.9, 0.86 FPM
Jarrett Allen, rim, 19.2, 0.77 FPM
Deonte Burton, ???, 23.4, 1.00 FPM
Jack Gibbs, primary, 22.4, 0.91 FPM
Devin Robinson, stretch, 22.3, 0.81 FPM
Adebayo was a below average rim protector who doesn’t bring anything special anywhere and has limited tools. Allen was very young and was playing out of position, so there might be something more there, but right now, he’s basically a toolsy big with no real skills. Deonte Burton is 6’4, 266. He is a skilled player, but he has to do a ton of body work before he’s an NBA player. Gibbs and Robinson are both right on the edge of what I consider a prospect but are included here.