1. Markelle Fultz
DMX Comp: D’Angelo Russell (9.6)
In what could go down as a historically great point guard class, Markelle Fultz stands head and shoulders above the rest and is my early prediction to become the number one draft pick in 2017. Markelle’s projected 10.2 DMX is the third best for a point or combo guard since 2002 behind only Ricky Rubio and Kyrie Irving. He also edges Ben Simmons (9.9 DMX) for the status of “best prospect in the world”. This is based on a very small sample size even relative to his peers, but I still think it is noteworthy for several reasons. For one, it’s exceptionally hard to amass a double-digit DMX in a sample size > one game. Roughly 99% of the players in my model, many of whom are teenagers with samples similar to Fultz, have a DMX between 1-10. Fultz’s stats include games a year apart, in gyms in Garden Grove, CA and Brooklyn, so I think they hold some weight. Most importantly, his profile and eye test back up the projection of a future star PG.
Markelle is one of the youngest players in his class, has off-the-charts measurements for a PG (6’4”, 6’9” wingspan), explosive athleticism, a smooth jump shot, and creative passing skills. He was among the most buzzed-about players by scouts and NBA people over the last month, and for good reason. Fultz is not on top of draft boards yet, but the consensus is warming to him and I sense the movement has already begun. Basically, I see Markelle as the ‘17 version of D’Angelo Russell in a class without a Karl Towns.
2. Harry Giles III
DMX Comp: Myles Turner (7.6)
Giles is the one player besides Fultz with enough hypothetical upside to draft #1. HGIII didn’t get a chance to participate in the all-star circuit because of an ACL tear (his second in high school) that kept him sidelined all season. I would have liked to see him play against the other top bigs in his class, but between his projection, #1 recruiting ranking, and a quick YouTube browse he seems like the real deal. His injury history casts a dark cloud over what is an otherwise sparkling PF/C prospect. Giles has the two-way versatility that is increasingly valuable in big men as the small-ball revolution has phased out big, plodding centers. If he stays healthy and sharpens his skills at Duke, Giles should be a top-three lock.
3. Josh Jackson
DMX Comp: Stanley Johnson (7.1)
Josh Jackson has been billed as a potential #1 pick upon making his much-anticipated commitment to Kansas. He is a legit two-way wing player that is particularly good defensively, but he doesn’t seem special enough to be a top pick. He’s also the same age as some of the one-and-done guys this year, so he will have to be treated as an NCAA sophomore. Short of Josh looking like the second coming of Jimmy Butler, I think he will settle in somewhere in the top five. By the way, since I’ve seen this being discussed, I wouldn’t be worried about Jackson’s decision to play for Bill Self hurting his production. Self’s last three big shot wing prospects (Oubre, Wiggins, Xavier Henry) are all in the ~ 90th percentile of DMX.
4. Dennis Smith
North Carolina State
DMX Comp: Jay Williams (8.3)
Like Giles, Dennis Smith was unfortunately missing from the all-star games with injury. Smith is projected better than the other scoring point guards so this seems like a good place for him. If Cat Barber enters the draft, Smith with have a chance to put up big numbers as a freshman.
5. Jayson Tatum
DMX Comp: Luol Deng (7.6)
On paper, Tatum looks like a Jabari Parker-type scoring combo forward, but it’s apparent that he lacks Parker’s strength and burst. He reminds me more of Otto Porter, a fantastic college player and DMX stud (8.5), than a future superstar forward. He will join a loaded Duke roster that ESPN’s John Gasaway called “D-I’s strongest roster in years”. Duke will boast four top-20 DMX players in the 2017 draft class: Tatum, Giles, Grayson Allen (5.9), and Luke Kennard (5.5). The only other team with that distinction was 2006 UNC (Marvin Williams, Rashad McCants, Sean May, Raymond Felton), who won the NCAA championship.
6. Lonzo Ball
DMX Comp: Michael Carter-Williams (7.5)
The most interesting man of the McDonald’s game (where he set the assists record), Lonzo Ball is part Jason Kidd, part Kendall Marshall with a range of NBA outcomes falling anywhere in between. Ball is one of the best 18 year-old passers you will ever see. At 6’5” he can see the court and is remarkably intelligent, skilled, and unselfish. If his high school stats are any indication, Lonzo could push a triple-double per 40 minutes at UCLA, and is a lock to break stat models like former Bruins Kyle Anderson (7.5 DMX) and Jordan Adams (9.2 DMX) did a few years back. The hang up for Ball is his hideous jump shot and concerns over him being a scoring threat at the next level. I think he is unique enough to make do.
7. Malik Monk
DMX Comp: Jerryd Bayless (7.4)
8. De’Aaron Fox
DMX Comp: Jrue Holiday (7.0)
9. Bam Adebayo
DMX Comp: Noah Vonleh (6.9)
Monk and Fox will comprise the backcourt for Kentucky next season, and it ought to be something to behold. Fox is a quick, shifty 6’3” PG who plays hounding defense. Monk, who can play both guard positions, might be the best scorer in the class. Edrice “Bam” Adebayo continues a long-running tradition of Calipari sniping an elite big man prospect. I’m not sure this is a better haul than Duke’s, but it’s close.
10. Killian Tillie
DMX Comp: Ryan Anderson (7.4)
While most D-I programs fight over a handful of ho-hum 6’10” guys, Gonzaga, the Spurs of NCAA, signed the best international prospect in the world by DMX. Tillie’s 7.8 DMX is fourth best among incoming NCAA freshmen between Lonzo Ball and Jayson Tatum, the #5 and #2 ranked high school players. A grade like that in 450 minutes is too good to ignore and Tillie’s highlights make him look like an absolute stud. KT will make Gonzaga fans forget about Kyle Wiltjer quickly and it is only a matter of time before he appears on draft boards.
DMX Comp: Bradley Beal (6.8)
If Tillie is the most underrated newcomer, Jarron Cumberland is the most underrated high school prospect. The Cincinnati signee is ESPN’s 43rd ranked 2016 prospect despite having the fifth best DMX projection. It’s easy to see why scouts are bearish on Jarron, though. He is built more like a linebacker than an NBA guard and has the ugliest release on his jumper this side of Lonzo Ball.
The title of most overrated prospect goes to Duke recruit Frank Jackson. Albeit in a small sample size (they cut both ways), Jackson has a DMX hovering around 0 and an assist-turnover ratio hovering around 1. With Derryck Thornton transferring and a frontcourt that includes Giles, Tatum, and fifth-year senior Amile Jefferson, I expect to see a lot of Grayson Allen and even Luke Kennard running point for the Blue Devils.
Michael Porter Jr.
DMX Comp: Carmelo Anthony (9.0)
Projecting even further into the future, Michael Porter Jr. (class of 2017) looks like a bona fide #1 pick. I don’t have enough stats for 7’0” monsters DeAndre Ayton or Mohamed Bamba, but it’s going to be hard for them to top Porter, a 6’9” forward whose 9.3 DMX in 450 minutes puts him in Brandon Ingram territory.