This year’s draft is an interesting one as we see the strength of it in the top 5-10 picks, and a lot of parity in that range. While we don’t see the same depth as say last year’s draft where possible Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon was taken by Milwaukee with the 36th pick and Patrick McCaw was purchased for cash by Golden State at the 38th pick. In order to better illustrate the depth and talent of this year’s draft, here is a look at the teirs, as we see them, going into this year’s draft.
Tier One (likely franchse talent):
No one. The top tier is reserved for obvious franchise level talents. Last year’s draft had one in Ben Simmons. Next year’s draft has one in Michael Porter Jr. This draft while it has a number of players that could reach that level, none where you would feel comfortable mortgaging the farm by trading a top 10-15 NBA talent for (Kristaps Porzingis for instance). Josh Jackson is our top prospect, but misses the cut.
Tier Two (potential franchise talent)
Josh Jackson 6-8 205 SG/SF Kansas Fr.
Markelle Fultz 6-4 190 PG Washington Fr.
Lonzo Ball 6-6 190 PG UCLA Fr.
De'Aaron Fox 6-3 170 PG Kentucky Fr.
Jonathan Isaac 6-10 210 SF/PF Florida St. Fr.
Dennis Smith 6-2 195 PG NC State Fr.
Six guys make our list for potential franchise talents (Tier Two).
While Fultz makes perfect sense for a team like Philadelphia to target and even give up an asset (future first) and take first, we do not see a great deal of talent difference between he and the sixth player on our board, Dennis Smith.
While Smith gets more criticized for questionable attitude and desire, he’s a more explosive player and has a chance, depending on situation, to be a better pro than Fultz. There are some that feel some of those same criticisms could be made about Fultz. While rating the two so closely is not popular opinion, having followed both player’s prep careers, we believe it to be true.
Josh Jackson has a slight hitch in his shot. It didn’t stop him from being an effective college three point shooter, but it will require some restructuring of, in order to extend it to NBA 3 effectively. We see it working out and him becoming the best player to come out of this draft. But realistically any of these 6 players could.
Like Dennis Smith, Jonathan Issac stands a solid chance of falling into the 6-10 range on draft night. And while his floor isn’t as solid as some of the other players on this list, his ceiling (and Smith’s) is arguably as high as anyone’s.
De’Aaron Fox lit up Lonzo Ball for 39 points in the tourney and won the individual battle in both of their match ups. However, the Lakers appear likely to grab Ball due his his superior ability to elevate those around him. Fox going two to the Lakers would be quite an exciting curve ball on draft night, and there are plenty who feel he ends up the better player. It’s difficult to put Ball in a higher tier than Fox when he has so many advantages (speed, defense, athleticism, potential distractions) over him, including their head to head match ups.
Tier Three (potential All Star)
Jayson Tatum 6-8 205 SF Duke Fr.
Tatum is among the most solid prospects in the entire draft. If you’re drafting strictly to add a solid piece and reduce risk, Tatum is your guy. He has a good chance to be an All Star and there’s a good chance that if the Celtics elect to keep the pick, they will take him 3rd, as he has worked out for them while Josh Jackson has not. But we don’t view him as a guy with franchise talent, and therefore he is in the group below the top 6.
Tier Four (potential high level starter)
Frank Ntilikina has a chance to be very good, but he has an uphill battle to be an All Star or franchise talent (practically one and the same for point guards in today’s NBA). Monk has more upside than anyone else in this tier, due to his ability to create and make difficult shots, but his size, ball handling and defensive shortcomings put him a notch below the aforementioned groups.
Collins has a below average 7’1 wingspan, just two inches greater than his height. He is an athletic and physical player and does show potential as a shooter. While it’s not out of the question for any of these three to develop and become all stars, odds are they will fall into the starter to high level starter category.
Tier Five (potential NBA starters)
Lauri Markkanen 7-0 230 PF Arizona Fr.
Luke Kennard 6-6 195 SG Duke So.
Donovan Mitchell 6-2 210 SG Louisville So.
John Collins 6-9 225 PF/C Wake Forest So.
Bam Adebayo 6-10 245 PF/C Kentucky Fr.
TJ Leaf 6-10 225 PF UCLA Fr.
Jarrett Allen 6-10 235 C Texas Fr.
Kyle Kuzma 6-9 225 PF Utah Jr.
Justin Patton 6-11 230 C Creighton Fr.
Terrance Ferguson 6-7 185 SG Adelaide 36ers 1998
Harry Giles 6-10 230 PF/C Duke Fr.
We have 11 players in the potential starter tier. And expect half of these guys to have a run of starting for 2-3 seasons or more, and the rest to fall short. There are only 150 starter positions in the NBA and only so many spots open up every year.
Markkanen is seen as potential top 10 pick in this year’s draft, and would be a spot or two higher if it were a list based on scout’s opinions, but this is ours. Markkanen had a prolific college career, and fits into today’s NBA well as spread the floor bigman. His shortcomings are related to his potential struggles with strength and athleticism at the defensive end.
Kennard and Mitchell being considered late lottery picks speak to the significant drop off after the top 10 or so guys. While solid picks, neither are locks to be NBA starters and are long shots to be anything more. Both seem like they should be late first rounders in a typical draft.
The glut of bigmen that follow are all just solid, (Giles, Patton, Adebayo, J Collins, Kuzma, Allen, Leaf). All could find a spot in the mid first round, but all have the feel of late first to early second rounders in a typical draft.
Giles had a chance to be special before the knee injuries, but the fact that he did not share his medical records with teams has scared off a lot of potential suitors. He’s probably worth a risk in the lower third of the first round, but the odds of him making a full recovery from multiple knee surgeries seems low. At this point Giles becoming a NBA starter for 2-3 years might be optimistic. He has the potential to be far more, but the odds would point to him probably falling into the rotation category, all things consdered. We’ll spilt the difference and give him starter tier.
Tier Six (Rotation guys/likely NBA backups)
Ivan Rabb 6-10 220 PF/C California So.
Justin Jackson 6-8 200 SF North Carolina Jr.
Jawun Evans 6-0 185 PG Oklahoma State So.
Cam Oliver 6-8 240 PF Nevada So.
Wesley Iwundu 6-7 195 SG/SF Kansas State Sr.
Jordan Bell 6-8 225 PF/C Oregon Jr.
DJ Wilson 6-10 235 PF Michigan Jr.
Isaiah Hartenstein 7-0 250 PF Zalgiris Kaunas 1998
Caleb Swanigan 6-9 250 PF/C Purdue So.
Frank Jackson 6-3 200 PG/SG Duke Fr.
Tony Bradley 6-10 250 C North Carolina Fr.
Ike Anigbogu 6-10 250 C UCLA Fr.
Tyler Lydon 6-9 215 PF Syracuse So.
OG Anunoby 6-7 230 PF Indiana So.
There will probably be an exception or two with some of these guys getting time or even establishing themselves as starters in the league. However these are our 12 players in the tier below starters. A player like Justin Jackson is projected as a probable top 20 pick and the team that takes him will certainly hope they are taking a starting level player. This is where you can see that this just isn’t the deepest of drafts, at least in our minds.
Guys like OG Anunoby and Ike Anigbogu have received a lot of hype and are perceived by some as players that could be rated a number of tiers higher. But due to their lack of skill and questions about their knees, we feel it’s more likely they fall into the rotation tier than become starters or more.