Hardwood Blues 2019 Preseason All-Americans

The Hardwood Blues All-American team is comprised of the highest-rated NCAA players at each position according to my DMX model that are not currently listed on 2019 or 2020 mock drafts at ESPN or NBADraft.net

GUARDS


Quinndary Weatherspoon / SG / Mississippi State
HT: 6’4″
Draft Class: 2019
DMX: 4.3

In spite of well-rounded production and an extremely cool name, Quinndary Weatherspoon has sort of flown under the radar his first three years as he has never been a dominant NCAA player and Mississippi State has not been especially good. Weatherspoon’s career Per 40 averages are 19 PTS, 7 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL, and 0.5 BLK. Since 2006, the only draft picks to hit those thresholds are Ben Simmons, Josh Jackson, Tyreke Evans, George Hill, C.J. McCollum, and Lester Hudson (who was 24 and playing at a low-major college). If you lower the barriers to 17 PTS and 6 REB, the list expands to include James Harden, Marcus Smart, Delon Wright, Evan Turner, Draymond Green, and Donovan Mitchell. Not a bad cross-section of the one-and-done draft era.

Trent Forrest / SG/SF / Florida State
HT: 6’5″
Projected Draft Class: 2020
DMX: 4.9

My choice for this year’s “prospect hiding in plain sight” is Trent Forrest, who has been a key contributor for two Florida State teams that have advanced in the NCAA tournament. Even before arriving in Tallahassee, Forrest stood out as a potential sleeper at the AAU level. The reason for Forrest being snubbed from mock drafts is clear: he’s a 6’5″ guard/wing who has made four career 3-pointers. If he grows that aspect of his game, Forrest could be a De’Anthony Melton-like steal in 2019 or 2020.

FORWARDS


Dean Wade / PF / Kansas State
HT: 6’10”
Projected Draft Class: 2019
DMX: 4.6

D-Wade is a very skilled 6’10” player (career 1.7 A:TO) who has shot close to 38% from 3PT over his first three years at Kansas State. He is primed for an All-America type season and could have a future as a stretch 4/5 at the next level.

Juwan Morgan / PF / Indiana
HT: 6’8″
Draft Class: 2019
DMX: 4.8

I am less optimistic about Juwan Morgan’s NBA potential because he is a bit undersized and a non-shooter, but his all-around production in the Big Ten should at least put him on the draft radar.

CENTER


Ethan Happ / C / Wisconsin
HT: 6’10”
Draft Class: 2019
DMX: 6.5

A late lottery pick according to DMX, Ethan Happ is one of the most extreme examples of the dichotomy between scouting and stats that I can recall. A ground-bound big man who dominates with instincts and slick passing, Happ is in many ways the NCAA version of Nikola Jokic, basketball’s analytics vs. eye test poster child. Happ’s utter lack of shooting range precludes him from being the next Jokic, but it shouldn’t stop an NBA team from taking a chance on a unique and extraordinarily productive college player.

New Guys by the Numbers: Class of 2018

In this piece I will attempt to project the top incoming NCAA freshmen based on their AAU stats. I have made some changes to the “DMX” model, so for full rankings and context the complete model can be seen here.

1. Bol Bol – C – Oregon
Projected Draft: 2019 (#1 overall)
Projected DMX: 12.0

You won’t find Bol Bol (pictured) atop any recruiting rankings or mock drafts, but his stats on the AAU shoe circuit speak for themselves. In the 662-minute sample I have, Bol is posting Per 40 minute averages of 31 PTS, 13.4 REB, 2.4 AST, and 5.7 BLK, while shooting 46.6% from 3PT (34-73) and 81.4% from the line. At 7’3″ he looks like a special prospect on paper while none of his weaknesses (extreme skinniness, laziness, odd release, etc.) work against him. There is almost no chance that Bol hits this projection (only Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant have earned higher marks out of the NCAA since 2006), but I wouldn’t be surprised if he looked like freshman year Mo Bamba or Myles Turner statistically.

2. Zion Williamson – PF – Duke
Projected Draft: 2019 (#2 overall)
Projected DMX: 10.3

Williamson is another polarizing prospect; a short and stocky power forward with nuclear athletic ability and a questionable jumper. Zion is a dead ringer for UNLV-era Larry Johnson, who would have crushed draft models and I suspect would have been awesome in today’s NBA. There’s also a chance that his game doesn’t translate against bigger, better, more athletic competition and he is more Shabazz Muhammad than Grandmama. Whether or not they are truly the top two prospects, Zion and Bol will be the most interesting guys to track next season.

3. R.J. Barrett – SF – Duke
Projected Draft: 2019 (#4 overall)
Projected DMX: 8.7

The safe bet to be the best player from this group is R.J. Barrett. Barrett was a decorated prep player at Montverde Academy and has starred for team Canada in FIBA, where he famously led an upset over the USA U19 team last summer.

Barrett has the tools and all-around skill to be a valuable two-way wing and will turn 19 a week before draft day. If he shows progress with his jumper, he is a bona fide #1 pick.

4. Charles Bassey – C – Western Kentucky
Projected Draft: 2019 (#6 overall)
Projected DMX: 8.3

A year after we were robbed of the Mitchell Robinson experience in the Sun Belt, another highly-rated Center is set to play for the Hilltoppers. Bassey is no MitchRob but, assuming he actually plays, my projections expect him to be efficient and dominant.

5. Devon Dotson – PG – Kansas
Projected Draft: 2020 (#8 overall)
Projected DMX: 7.7

Devon Dotson is my top-rated PG from this class. If he proves to be a worthy replacement to Devonte Graham, Kansas could make another run at the Final 4.

6. Cameron Reddish – SG/SF – Duke
Projected Draft: 2019 (#7 overall)
Projected DMX: 7.5

Reddish will join Williamson and Barrett on Duke’s latest superteam. A smooth 6’8″ wing with offensive skills, Reddish has an intriguing profile in this day and age.

7. Nassir Little – SF – North Carolina
Projected Draft: 2019 (#8 overall)
Projected DMX: 7.4

Nassir Little is another two-way wing who seems to be gaining momentum as a draft prospect. His matchups vs. Barrett and Reddish will be must-watch next season.

8. Romeo Langford – SG – Indiana
Projected Draft: 2019 (#10 overall)
Projected DMX: 7.3

Langford made a late commitment to Indiana where he should have a chance to step into a big offensive role for a Hoosiers team lacking backcourt talent.

9. Keldon Johnson – SF – Kentucky
Projected Draft: 2019 (#11 overall)
Projected DMX: 6.9

Johnson was great in the EYBL last season but shot just 9-38 from 3PT, which is not ideal for a 6’6″ wing. His development there will dictate his status as a prospect.

10. Tre Jones – PG – Duke
Projected Draft: 2020 (#9 overall)
Projected DMX: 6.9

The younger brother of draft model and personal favorite Tyus Jones, Tre is bigger but less of a basketball savant.


Overrated

Immanuel Quickley – PG – Kentucky
Projected Draft: 2020 (#41 overall)
Projected DMX: 4.4

Jalen Smith – PF/C – Maryland
Projected Draft: 2019 (#28 overall)
Projected DMX: 4.6

Underrated

Coby White – SG – North Carolina
Projected Draft: 2020 (#12 overall)
Projected DMX: 6.7

Ayo Dosunmu – PG/SG – Illinois
Projected Draft: 2020 (#11 overall)
Projected DMX: 6.8

Looking Ahead

Cole Anthony – PG
Projected Draft: 2020 (#1 overall)
Projected DMX: 10.8

My #1 player in the 2019 high school class and the 2020 draft is Cole Anthony. Anthony will look to follow in the long lineage of sons of NBA journeymen turned NBA stars.

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.