Hardwood Blues 2018 NBA Draft Big Board

RK PLAYER POS TEAM HT DMX
1 Luka Doncic SG RMB 6’7″ 13.6
2 Jaren Jackson PF/C MSU 6’11” 9.7
3 DeAndre Ayton C ZONA 7’1″ 9.9
4 Marvin Bagley III PF/C DUKE 6’11” 9.9
5 Trae Young PG OKLA 6’2″ 9.7
6 Wendell Carter Jr. C DUKE 6’10” 9.1
7 Mohamed Bamba C TEX 6’11” 8.7
8 Michael Porter Jr. SF/PF MIZZ 6’10” N/A
9 Shai Gilgeus-Alexander PG/SG KENT 6’6″ 7.9
10 Miles Bridges SF/PF MSU 6’7″ 5.8
11 Zhaire Smith SG/SF TTECH 6’5″ 7.3
12 Mikal Bridges SF VILL 6’6″ 5.7
13 Robert Williams C TA&M 6’10 6.8
14 Josh Okogie SG/SF GTECH 6’4″ 5.4
15 Troy Brown SG/SF ORE 6’7″ 5.2
16 De’Anthony Melton SG USC 6’4″ 5.9
17 Kevin Knox SF/PF KENT 6’9″ 4.8
18 Collin Sexton PG BAMA 6’3″ 6.5
19 Dzanan Musa SF CED 6’8″ 7.4
20 Kevin Huerter SG/SF MARY 6’7″ 5.3
21 Mitchell Robinson C N/A 7’1″ N/A
22 Jacob Evans SG/SF CINCY 6’6″ 4.8
23 Lonnie Walker SG MIA 6’4″ 4.1
24 Bruce Brown SG MIA 6’5″ 4.1
25 Elie Okobo PG PAU 6’2″ 5.4
26 Jarred Vanderbilt PF KENT 6’9″ 4.6
27 Rawle Alkins SG ZONA 6’5″ 3.7
28 Gary Trent Jr. SG DUKE 6’6″ 5.4
29 Shake Milton PG SMU 6’6″ 4.8
30 Landry Shamet PG WICH 6’4″ 4.8
31 Isaac Bonga SF FRA 6’8″ 5.1
32 Jevon Carter PG/SG WVU 6’2″ 4.6
33 Keita Bates-Diop SF OSU 6’7″ 3.2
34 Donte DiVincenzo SG VILL 6’5″ 3.5
35 Trevon Duval PG DUKE 6’3″ 4.4
36 Chandler Hutchison SF BOISE 6’7″ 3.1
37 Moritz Wagner C MICH 6’11” 5.7
38 Jalen Brunson PG VILL 6’2″ 5.1
39 Khyri Thomas SG CREI 6’3″ 3.9
40 Jerome Robinson SG BC 6’6″ 3.8
41 Gary Clark PF CINCY 6’8″ 4.0
42 Kevin Hervey SF/PF UTA 6’7″ 3.2
43 Vince Edwards SF PUR 6’8″ 3.1
44 Kenrich Williams SF/PF TCU 6’7″ 3.0
45 Bonzie Colson PF NOTRE 6’6″ 5.6
46 Rodions Kurucs SF FCB 6’8″ 3.6
47 Grayson Allen SG DUKE 6’5″ 4.0
48 Melvin Frazier SF TUL 6’6″ 3.0
49 Aaron Holiday PG UCLA 6’1″ 3.5
50 Bryant Crawford PG WAKE 6’3″ 5.3
51 Anfernee Simons SG N/A 6’4″ N/A
52 Omari Spellman C VILL 6’9″ 3.7
53 Allonzo Trier SG ZONA 6’5″ 3.4
54 Chimezie Metu C USC 6’11” 4.0
55 Raymond Spalding C LVILLE 6’10” 4.0
56 Hamidou Diallo SG KENT 6’5″ 2.3
57 Devonte’ Graham PG KANS 6’2″ 3.1
58 Justin Jackson SF MARY 6’7″ 2.1
59 Malik Newman SG KANS 6’3″ 2.7
60 Issuf Sanon SG OLI 6’3″ 3.1

Studying Abroad 2018

Before jumping in, I made a few notable changes to improve the international projections. FIBA tournaments and other junior-level competitions are no longer included; only stats from professional leagues beginning with each player’s first draft-eligible season. This narrows the focus of the projections, rewards guys playing in high-level leagues overseas, and puts them on more equal footing with NCAA prospects. Here is how DMX ranks the internationals in the latest ESPN 2018 mock draft:

Screen Shot 2018-05-15 at 12.01.16 PM


Luka Doncic

Slovenian prodigy Luka Doncic is not only the top-rated player in this draft class, but also stands as the DMX “GOAT”, and by a significant margin. Doncic is posting unheard of all-around production (23.7 PTS, 8.6 REB, 7.6 AST, 1.9 STL, 0.5 BLK Per 40 minutes) against what could be the toughest possible non-NBA schedule between the Spanish ACB and Euroleague. DMX is largely built on precedent and there is none for a teenager dominating the highest levels of international play. As much as I like Jaren Jackson as a potential defensive anchor with offensive upside, Doncic stands out to me as the most unique and special talent in this draft. Even if Luka is not a combination of Bird and Magic as his DMX would suggest, he could be a Gordon Hayward type which is a solid enough return on the top pick.

Dzanan Musa

Currently ranked between picks 20-26 on ESPN, The Stepien, and NBADraft.net, Bosnain bucket-getter Dzanan Musa strikes me as a candidate to be a draft-day steal. He is one of the youngest players in the draft, has good size for a perimeter player at 6’8″, and was highly productive and efficient on a good Adriatic League team. Even with valid concerns about his frame and defense, late first round seems pessimistic to me.

Isaac Bonga

Isaac Bonga is another Euro prospect that I think is oddly underrated. Bonga was once a projected lottery pick who is now regarded as a late-second rounder even though he fared well in the top German league as an 18-year-old. He also has an intriguing profile as a 6’9″ guy who can pass (4.6 AST/40) and potentially shoot (89.3 FT%). Just based on box score scouting, I don’t see why Bonga is rated some 20-30 spots lower than Oregon product Troy Brown (who I really like):

PLAYER POS LG DMX HT AGE PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV
Troy Brown SG/SF NCAA 5.2 6’7″ 18.9 14.5 8.0 4.1 2.0 0.3 3.2
Isaac Bonga SF BBL/PRO B 5.2 6’9″ 18.6 13.8 6.5 4.6 2.4 0.9 4.5

Elie Okobo

French PG Elie Okobo is a name picking up steam and for good reason. He has had a breakout year in the French Pro A, vaulting him into the top 25 overall in DMX. I have always been a fan of Okobo’s offensive game having watched him in FIBA tournaments and it seems like he has greatly improved. I think he’s a worthy choice in the late first/early second range.

Rodions Kurucs

It’s a bit disappointing that Rodi Kurucs only logged 56 minutes for FC Barcelona in his second draft-eligible season, but he has put up strong enough numbers in the Spanish second-division league (LEB Gold) to earn a top-50 grade. Kurucs is 6’9″, can shoot, and boasts a promising combination of steals (2.2/40) and blocks (1.4/40), albeit against weak competition. I would side with most draft boards that he is a mid-to-late 2nd rounder.

Issuf Sanon

Sanon is a really fun player who can play on the ball offensively and uses good instincts and athletic ability to rack up steals and blocks, but his shooting/scoring for a 6’4″ guard is a serious red flag. The Ukranian product has shot 26% from 3PT and 45% from the line this season (on just 1.8 FTA Per 40 minutes) and his scoring volume is outlier bad (11.7 PTS/40). Sanon will still be 18 on draft day and he is an NBA athlete, so he might be worth a late 2nd round flier for a team with a good shooting coach.

Karim Jallow

DMX is low on Jallow because he’s 21 and still playing mostly for Bayern Munich’s farm team, and with a sub-30 3PT% for his career I’m not sure he can be considered a 3&D prospect.

Amine Noua

Amine Noua has had a nice age 21 season in France, but his overall body of work does not merit drafting in my opinion. I would much rather take Gary Clark or a medically-cleared Bonzie Colson, a pair of NCAA power forwards who are not listed on ESPN’s latest mock.

Sizing Up The Freshmen

The NBA’s trend towards skill, speed, and “pace and space” has given way to a new breed of mutant centers who can stretch out to the 3-point line while also fulfilling the basic duties of a big man. 2014 draft picks Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic, as well as 2015 lottery selections Karl Anthony-Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, and Myles Turner are among the ten-or-so most promising young players in the league. Just as Hakeem, Shaq, David Robinson, and Patrick Ewing ruled the paint in the 90’s, another golden age of centers is on the horizon.  Nowhere is the center renaissance more apparent than in this year’s NCAA freshman class, which features a diverse set of burgeoning new-age big men who could shape the league for years to come.

Screen Shot 2018-01-10 at 12.13.01 PM*Pace adjusted Per 40 minute stats (courtesy of RealGM.com)


DeAndre Ayton – C – Arizona

A quick glance at DeAndre Ayton (pictured) and he looks like an obvious #1 draft choice. He has a chiseled, 7’1″ frame, an offensive repertoire that legitimately resembles Hakeem Olajuwon, and a reported 40+ inch vertical leap. With his 26 PTS and 15 REB Per 40 minute average, Ayton is also producing historically like a number one pick. However there is one glaring weakness that cast doubts over his future as a dominant NBA center; his defense, specifically protecting the rim.

A convenient comparison for Ayton is Sixers’ center Joel Embiid. The measurables, the footwork, the face up jumper, the background as a foreign giant (Ayton is from the Bahamas) who took to basketball relatively late in life. The rub is that Ayton is not like freshman year Joel Embiid. Embiid was a defensive monster who had more than double the rate of steals and blocks that Ayton has currently. Moreover it was not Embiid’s offensive polish that excited scouts, it was the fact that he could somehow execute a flawless dream shake even as he was still learning to control his limbs. A more apt comparison might be Karl Anthony-Towns, a defensive dud who has nevertheless achieved NBA stardom by being an efficient 20/10 machine. The problem with that is even Towns was a prolific shot-blocker in college (4.2 BLK/40) even though he, like Ayton, was often forced to share the court with true centers like Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson. The lesson here is that while NCAA blocks don’t guarantee defensive excellence, they almost serve as a pre-requisite to becoming a great NBA center. Ayton’s appeal is undeniable, but unless he starts swatting people in league play I would at least think twice before slotting him into the top two or three.

Marvin Bagley – PF/C – Duke

As you can see from the chart above, many of the concerns over Ayton also apply to Bagley. You could argue that Bagley has more outs if he is a minus defensively; he is abnormally fast and lithe for a near 7-footer and is a voracious offensive rebounder. He is still drawing live to be a version of Blake Griffin, but the idea of a big man who is neither exceptionally skilled on offense nor strong defensively should warrant some skepticism.

Mohamed Bamba – C – Texas

Mo Bamba serves as a perfect foil to Ayton and Bagley, an under-skilled beanpole who is chasing an historic blocks rate. It’s hard to imagine a better rim-protecting prospect at this level than Bamba. He is a quick and explosive leaper with a 7’8″ wingspan who volleyball spikes attempts at the rim in a way that will make you never want to drive the basket again. As a result, Texas is 5th in defensive efficiency via KenPom (up from 21st last season) while Duke and Arizona are 106th and 75th respectively. Outside of his willingness to shoot threes, there is little to suggest Bamba will be anything more than a lob catcher on offense. Still, it is conceivable that Bamba is such an impact defender that he could return more value overall than Ayton and/or Bagley at the next level.

Wendell Carter – C – Duke

Carter is sort of the happy medium among this group except that he is notably the best passer (on paper, anyway). There are two ways of looking at this: 1) he has no red flags and is the best all-around player, or 2) he isn’t outlier good at anything and is therefore the least intriguing of all. Given that he is also somewhat husky and ground-bound, I would lean towards the latter interpretation. I do think his passing skills are key, as this is a common trait among centers who have overcome athletic deficiencies such as Jokic and Marc Gasol.

Jaren Jackson – PF/C – Michigan State

Jaren Jackson arrived on campus with less fanfare than his peers, and since they have all lived up to the hype it has more-or-less remained that way. But consider the case for Jackson:

  • He is the youngest of the group
  • He has the highest steals rate
  • He is the best 3PT shooter (20-46, 43.5%)
  • He is one of the most prolific shot-blockers in recent draft history despite playing PF
  • He is the one who is best suited to play next to a traditional C in two big lineups
  • MSU is top 10 in both defensive and offensive efficiency, and #2 overall on KenPom

The only red flag in JJ’s statistical profile is his turnover rate which, unlike a low block%, isn’t any sort of a death knell for a young center prospect (Embiid, Derrick Favors, DeAndre Jordan, and DeMarcus Cousins were all NCAA turnover machines). Jackson projects as a stud defender with the potential for a complete offensive game, which I can’t say confidently for any of his counterparts. I believe he deserves serious consideration as soon as Luka Doncic comes off the board.

Hardwood Blues Preseason All-Americans

Previously I have used this post as an opportunity to shed light on unheralded NCAA players with eye-popping stats. Now that I have a handy draft metric to grade each player, I can use a more objective criteria: the top-rated player at each position by DMX that isn’t listed on a 2018 or 2019 mock draft (via ESPN/DraftExpress and NBADraft.net). So without further ado, here are my NCAA sleepers to watch:

GUARDS


Markus Howard / G / Marquette
HT: 5’11”
Projected Draft Class: 2020
DMX: 4.5

As a tiny, one-way player, Howard’s absence from mock drafts is understandable. The reason DMX can’t fade him is because he was an historically good perimeter scorer while being among the youngest players in NCAA. At the tender age of 17, Howard posted 23.7 PTS/40 pace adjusted on a blistering .686 True Shooting %. If you combine his freshman stats with those from the U16 and U17 FIBA tournaments, the diminutive sniper is 114-216 from 3PT (52.7%) and 62-70 from the line (88.5%). Howard is an offensive dynamo, but will it translate enough to the pros to compensate for his weaknesses as a defender and ball-handler? I would have to lean towards no.

John Konchar / SG/SF / IPFW
HT: 6’5″
Projected Draft Class: 2019
DMX: 4.2

My favorite part of draft modeling is that it forces you to consider guys as prospects who would be easily overlooked by conventional scouting methods. A shining example of this is redshirt junior John Konchar, a muscle-bound white guy from the Summit League whose statistical profile is dripping with goodness.

konchar-john

The positionally ambiguous Konchar combines the rebounding of a PF (9.6 REB/40) and the passing of a guard (3.5 AST/40). The only other guy I can find since ’06 with > 9 REB/40 and > 2 AST/TOV is projected #1 pick Luka Doncic, who looks to be literally one of the best prospects ever. In addition to a rare intersection of rebounding and passing, Konchar carries a 2.9% steals rate and an absurd .687 TS%. Basically, Konchar stuffs the stat sheet while hardly ever turning the ball over or missing a shot. Works for me!

FORWARDS


Kevin Huerter / SF / Maryland
HT: 6’7″
Projected Draft Class: 2019
DMX: 4.0

Huerter is my Josh Hart Memorial prospect hiding in plain sight. He was a highly-touted recruit who turned in a nice freshman year for the Terps, and his size and all-around skills ought to give him some NBA appeal.

Mike Daum / PF / South Dakota State
HT: 6’9″
Projected Draft Class: 2019
DMX: 4.2

With the importance of floor-spacing at an all-time high, mid-major hero Mike Daum stands a real chance to be drafted as a stretch four. Daum is the only prospect since god-mode 2008 Michael Beasley to average over 30 PTS/40 pace adjusted, and he has done so on .528/.425/.852 shooting splits worthy of several flame emojis. Daum is slow-footed and a liability on defense, but unlike Markus Howard, he could potentially offer an NBA team significant offensive value.

CENTER


Nick Ward / C / Michigan State
HT: 6’8″
Projected Draft Class: 2019
DMX: 5.8

Nick Ward is the exact type of guy DMX doesn’t know how to handle; a barrel-chested brute who makes up for paltry assist and steal rates with a cartoonish PER. This is how John and Zach Collins ended up rating slightly higher than superior prospects like Dennis Smith Jr. and Josh Jackson. DMX overrates Ward, but I am more than open to the possibility that he is #actually really good. As a freshman he put up 28.7 (!!) PTS/40, fourth among NCAA prospects since 2006 after Beasley, Daum, Steph Curry, and Rodney Stuckey. Even in limited minutes with a diet of easy shots, you can’t post a mark like that on 59% shooting without having great hands, footwork, and a soft touch like Ward. Though undersized, Ward leverages his 7’2″ wingspan to be a beast at the rim, swatting 3.2 shots per 40 minutes. If nothing else, he is sure to be a dominating presence in the Big Ten for the next few years.

 

New Guys By The Numbers 2017

1. Michael Porter Jr. – SF/PF – Missouri
Projected Draft: 2018
Projected DMX: 9.9

I’ve already discussed Porter as a potential #1 pick in last year’s write-up and in my FIBA recap and he now finds himself atop mock drafts on DraftExpress and NBADraft.net. However there is a groundswell among smart analysts and scouts that Porter is an overhyped scoring forward in the mold of Jabari Parker, Harrison Barnes, or Rudy Gay. Porter’s DMX projection tells a different story about how he stacks up among highly-touted combo forwards of years past.

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 5.15.53 PM

The Michael Beasley comparison is valid but not too worrisome when you consider that Beasley became the worst possible version of himself because he wasn’t serious about playing basketball. I’d argue that another dice roll on a player with Beasley’s talent is about as likely to yield Kevin Durant’s career as it is another borderline NBA-er. The more likely outcome for Porter is Carmelo 2.0 or a rich man’s Jayson Tatum which I believe will make him worthy of a top two pick.

2. Mitchell Robinson – C – Western Kentucky
Projected Draft: 2018
Projected DMX: 9.6

A good trend to look for in NCAA recruits is their trajectory through high school. Since last summer, Mitchell Robinson went from an unranked Conference USA recruit to a potential one-and-done lottery pick, and his projection suggests that the consensus still hasn’t caught up to his talent level. My pre-season “hot take” is that Robinson will mirror Hassan Whiteside’s freshman year at Marshall and prove to be the best among an especially strong class of fives.

3. DeAndre Ayton – C – Arizona
Projected Draft: 2018
Projected DMX: 8.9

Ayton’s career trajectory stands in contrast to Mitchell Robinson’s; once seen as a generational prospect, Ayton has since been surpassed by Porter and others in the eyes of scouts. Ayton was unimpressive at the Hoop Summit and various all-star games and is a candidate to be this year’s version of Harry Giles/Skal Labissiere.

4. Mohamed Bamba – C – Texas
Projected Draft: 2018
Projected DMX: 8.5

Mo Bamba’s game is still raw but he shows significant two-way upside thanks to his mobility and an epic wingspan. I’m buying.

5. Collin Sexton – PG/SG – Alabama
Projected Draft: 2018
Projected DMX: 7.2

What I’m most looking forward to this upcoming college basketball season is the legend of Collin “Sexy” Sexton beginning in earnest on a national stage. Generously listed at 6’3″, Sexton plays with an energy, flair, and competitiveness that will endear him to hoops fans and NBA front offices alike.

6. Kevin Knox – SF/PF – Kentucky
Projected Draft: 2019
Projected DMX: 6.8

Kevin Knox, Calipari’s top 2017 recruit, has great physical tools and is among the youngest players in this class. If he can show improvements as a shooter and passer, Knox could factor into the top five discussion.

7. Shai Gilgeus-Alexander – PG/SG – Kentucky
Projected Draft: 2019
Projected DMX: 6.6

Another member of Kentucky’s loaded class, SGA seems to be notably underrated. That would be a huge development for the Wildcats who figure to have a thin back court.

8. Wendell Carter Jr. – C – Duke
Projected Draft: 2018
Projected DMX: 6.5

Carter was a beast in FIBA and ought to be the same in NCAA, but I’m not so big on him as a draft prospect. He’s undersized, doesn’t shoot threes, and possibly not as skilled as he’s purported to be (0.5 A:TO in FIBA). I would put him in the second tier of bigs in this draft.

9. Troy Brown – SG/SF – Oregon
Projected Draft: 2018
Projected DMX: 6.0

With Dillon Brooks, Dylan Ennis, and Tyler Dorsey departing from last year’s Final Four squad, Troy Brown should step into a huge offensive role for Oregon as a freshman. Brown has a great all-around skill set and could emerge as a top ten pick if shows the ability to score efficiently on high usage.

10. Jaren Jackson – PF/C – Michigan State
Projected Draft: 2018
Projected DMX: 5.9

Jackson was a Hoop Summit standout (13p, 10r, 2blk) who was solid in a reserve role at the U17 Worlds. It will be interesting to see how he establishes himself in a crowded Sparty front court that also features top ten prospect Miles Bridges and draft model stud Nick Ward.

Honorable Mention:

Trevon Duval – PG – Duke
Projected Draft: 2018
Projected DMX: 4.7

Not to pick on Duke point guards (Frank Jackson was actually OK!), but Tre Duval is my pick for most overrated prospect. Duval is a bricklayer (25.2% 3PT) and turnover machine (4.7 TOV/40) reminiscent of Emanuel Mudiay.

Bol Bol – C
Projected Draft: 2019
Projected DMX: 10.9

My super early prediction for #1 overall in 2019 is Bol Bol, son of the late, great Manute Bol and a 7-foot-2, shot-blocking stretch five. Bol’s projected 10.9 DMX would put him in the tier of Joel Embiid and Greg Oden.