Most Athletic: Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins is athletic enough that a picture of him jumping in a workout gained more buzz on the interweb than the NBA Draft Combine he chose to forego. His second leap is an absolute blur, with reaction around the ball that keeps plays alive like few others can. His combination of size, speed and vertical athleticism seems to be comparable to some of the best athletes in NBA history. With upside seemingly comparable to his hops, his world-class athleticism is special.
Strongest Player: Patric Young
Though it seemed that the combine never officially released full bench press numbers, everyone knew who would be at the top of the list. It was reported Young lifted 185-pounds 25 times, 2 shy of the NBA Draft Combine record. His football style off-season workouts on YouTube are incredibly impressive and have made him very difficult to move. It almost seems like he is a lineman on the court, which is what gives him a chance as a rotation big down the line. Young’s basketball skills may be raw, but his NBA ready body could get him drafted.
Fastest Player: Dante Exum
While he may be somewhat of an unknown, his ability to get to the basket is very real. Given that he has the size of a prototypical SG, it is still incredibly tough to stay in front of Exum. He seems to live at the foul line and his blow-by speed is what makes him so enticing. Exum ran incredibly well at the combine and he is very fast with the ball in his hands.
Least Athletic: Jordan Adams
While athleticism testing is not necessarily conducive to NBA success, Adams low numbers had to raise some serious concerns about his role at the next level. He certainly seems to be on the low end of the spectrum as both a runner and jumper, which could cause issues on both ends of the floor in a league full of fantastic wing athletes. Analytics experts certainly like the way his numbers translate, plus he has instincts that made him a threat in the passing lanes. The one the thing is, he sometimes struggled against top competition. This will be something to definitely keep an eye on with his transition to the league.
Longest Player: Joel Embiid
Another player who skipped the combine, Embiid’s camp released monster numbers regarding his wingspan and standing reach. The former volleyball player certainly seems to give him a massive "block jump vertical", which means he does not need a major running start to be a massive obstruction to someone attacking the basket. This length, teamed with the agility, athleticism and remarkable learning curve, are what made him the leading candidate for 1st pick in the draft, before his foot injury. It is also a reason for us keeping him #1 on our big board.
Best Shooter: Doug McDermott
The 2014 NCAA scoring champ and almost unanimous player of the year is an absolute assassin if given an open look. With a number of worthy candidates in this draft, "Dougie McBuckets" looks to have a niche immediately carved out once he gets to the league. He made 274 three pointers during his college career at an incredible 45.8% clip. His defense still is likely to be an issue at the next level, though his shooting should at the very least get him a role right away.
Best Ball Handler: Tyler Ennis
Transitioning to the NCAA can be difficult for PG’s, much less those being asked to run an offense at the high major level. One thing that Tyler Ennis possesses is incredible control when the ball is in his hands. The first time I watched Tyler during the summer before his senior year of HS it was completely evident that he did not seem to have an issue using either hand. His decision making led to an impressive 3.2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, blowing away other top PG prospects in the draft. Part of this is basketball IQ, though another large part is his ability to keep his dribble under pressure.
Best Passer: Vasilje Micic
The size and vision possessed by Vasa Micic make him a possible steal late in the first round. He possesses creativity, is crafty beyond his years and has great patience in the pick-and-roll. The floor general for a successful Serbian run at the youth level, he seemed to get better as the season progressed for Mega Vizura. Already a seasoned pro at 20 years old, he is a true pass first PG and someone who will get players the ball in great scoring position. He has some scoring ability as well, but his ability to find open teammates will be what stands out about him the most.
Best Defender: Joel Embiid
Kansas as a team did not have one of its banner years defensively, though it would have been much worse without the services of Embiid. He became a deadly shot blocker, taking up a lot of space and playing with fantastic energy. Through the year, he seemed to gain awareness, which led to blocks that few would deem humanly possible. His potential as a post defensive anchor was evident, at times dominating that side of the court. With defense and rebounding still playing a large part for teams hoping to be in title contention, Embiid is blessed with defensive potential that does not come around very often.
Best Rebounder: Julius Randle
While this very well could end up going to Embiid as well, Randle seems to be the most ready to come right in and be a factor on the glass. He averaged 10.4 rpg as a freshman and he is adept at battling for boards. Even if he is lacking optimal length, his body will help him fight with NBA bigs immediately and his instincts as a rebounder have always been a large part of his appeal. Some other players may have more potential than Julius down the line, though it seems doubtful they are as ready as he is to come in and help a team snag missed shots.
Best Post Skills: Jabari Parker
This was a tough choice, as there seem to be very few players with polished post games in this draft. Certainly players like Joel Embiid and Mitch McGary may get more post opportunities or score a higher percentage of their points from down low. However, when it comes to post skills, Parker could absolutely prove to be dangerous. His strength and footwork make him an absolute match-up nightmare with his back to the basket. With an offensive repertoire that allows him shot opportunities under incredibly tight defense, the added knowledge of how to work near the basket should pay dividends. Parker may not be a typical "post" player, but his post skills give him an advantage few players have entering the league.
Best Competitor: Marcus Smart
Toughness has always been synonymous with Smart, who barely lost at the high school level and was responsible for a major resurgence of a struggling Oklahoma St. basketball program. His energy and attitude are contagious; you just do not see him take plays off. Even if his "heart on his sleeve" style has gotten him into some bad situations (with emotional outbursts and the Texas Tech fan shoving suspension being examples), it just does not seem like he is going to be outworked. The way he approaches competition is part of what makes Smart a top prospect, he seems willingly to put in the work that makes good players great in the NBA.
Most Versatile: Kyle Anderson
With Boris Diaw playing a huge role in San Antonio’s latest championship run, one can possibly envision Anderson serving a similar purpose. Having multi-skilled players on the court can make a team very dangerous, much less when those players have similar size to a prototypical power forward. "Slo-Mo" may not spend all of his time running the point in the NBA and he will need to work on playing without the ball. Still, he has the ability to do so, is a fantastic passer and would go to work rebounding as well. The fact that he has ran point successfully should combine well with the fact that he has size that fits with either forward spot.
Highest Risk: Dante Exum
Dante absolutely possesses potential and ability that could make him a great NBA player. However, has there ever been a guard who was wrapped in more mystery considered to be a top 5 lock? He was wonderful against high school competition and his own age group, showing leadership capabilities for Australia. Even so, going up against your peers is not necessarily conducive to what you will face in the NCAA, much less the NBA. Drafting a player with such a limited sample size as far as facing top competition has to be a nerve wracking process for the team that scoops up Exum.
Lowest Risk: Jabari Parker
Simply put (by Uncle Drew), Parker is ready to come in and get buckets. Embiid and Wiggins may have more potential down the line; Parker looks to be the most ready to contribute as far as immediately making your team more competitive. It is hard to see him not turning into a 20 ppg scorer down the road, if not hovering around there as a rookie. At worst, he looks to be an impactful forward who comes close to All-Star level. His upside could make him a perennial member of the mid-February classic. Parker’s floor gives you comfort as far as a top 3 selection, while his ceiling could be difficult to catch-up to as well.
1st Round Sleeper: Glenn Robinson III
Little Big Dog as we like to call him struggled to break out in both of his seasons in Ann Arbor, and some would have liked to have seen him return and become the top 10 pick that many expected him to become this season. Is it possible that Robinson’s unselfishness kept him from fully taking flight into the star that he was capable of? Both seasons some very talented players emerged around him with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr and then Nik Stauskas this year, all appear to be lottery worthy players. Robinson may be as well and could fall into the mid 20’s on draft night.
2nd Round Sleeper: Semaj Christon
Christon had a tough task in running a young Xavier team and performed admirably. He improved a great deal from his freshman to his sophomore season, showing an increased understanding of running the point while improving scoring efficiency as well. He has nice size for the point and is very quick with the ball in his hands. Getting trips to the foul line at a solid clip, he has a chance to be a point guard that can penetrate the defense and really open things up for his teammates. The 2nd round may be his landing spot and it is quite possible the team that chooses him will be getting very solid value.
Undrafted Gem: Jordan Bachynski
It is difficult to call someone "Undrafted" before the Draft takes place, so this is just a projection that Bachynski is not one of the 60 names announced on June 26. Even so, the 7’2, 24-year old from Calgary led the NCAA in blocked shots and made his mark as a defensive post presence. His age and lack of offensive polish both could play factors in his not being drafted, with his skill as a shot blocker making it quite possible he still finds a team that will be after his services. He made a major leap during his senior season and the hard work should at least land him a try-out, with a possible roster spot being within his reach as a big man willing to do the dirty work.