1. Henry Ellenson 6-11 245 PF/C Marquette Fr.
Ellenson is well liked by many for his versatility and potential as a face up big. He spent a good portion of the year in a lot of draft pundit’s top 5 and remains in the top 10 on many lists. While it’s true he has phenominal length with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, at 6-foot-11, which helps him on the boards, his lack of foot speed and leaping ability is glaring. He’s considered a tantilizing prospect due to his ability to attack the basket off the dribble and even handle the ball in the open floor, as he lead a few coast to coast breaks at Marquette. This adds intrigue, but the fact that he is so slow will probably make his ball handling proficiency a skill that doesn’t translate. Those familiar with Josh McRoberts remember him as a 6-foot-10 point forward as a sophomore in high school playing alongside Greg Oden. McRoberts was a speed burner compared to Ellenson and those skills generally get neutralized at the NBA level for slow bigmen. On the bright side, Ellenson is a gym rat, and his vision and passing will translate as sort of a Greg Monroe type who could facilitate the offense from the high post when called upon. Looking into the numbers, he hit just 30 of 104 three point shots, or 29%. Ellenson’s 75% free throw shooting leads to optimism that he can become a quality face up shooter, but it’s no guaruntee. His 44% Ft/Fg statistic shows that he doesn’t initiate contact and get to the line very well, as he only hit 4.3 FTs per game. His body strength and ability to add and carry weight remains a concern. While there’s reason to believe Ellenson’s body and athleticism may smooth out some as his body matures, he is considered by scouts as a heavy footed big that will likely always struggle to defend the elite level athletes at the NBA level. The real key will be whether he can improve upon his shooting numbers. If he can become a face up pick and pop threat, he can be worthy of a mid first rounder. But the fact that he struggled so much with his outside shot could be related to lack of speed and quickness in getting shots off. Hopefully his length can cover up some of his defensive shortcomings and also aid in getting shots off. I have no problem with Ellenson as an 18-25 area pick that you view as a project to develop in the future, but a 10 projection is setting the bar too high for him.
2. Wade Baldwin 6-4 190 PG/SG Vanderbilt So.
Baldwin is a dynamic player due to his incredible length at the point guard position. He shows an aggressive demeanor and had two very solid seasons at Vanderbilt. But questions linger about his ability to run a team as a true point guard and his leadership abilities. He didn’t always show the best body language and feedback coming from the team through NBA contacts did not do him any favors. He could potentially thrive in the right role as a (3rd) rotational guard, but there seems to be a little bit of arrogance and overconfidence coming from him expecting to be a star. He’s had some real highlight plays and his shooting efficiency was very good, despite a slow and unorthodox release. He doesn’t facilitate offense for others or make those around him better and there are some who question if he’s enough of a point guard, despite the fact that he has played the position since high school. Baldwin, like Ellenson has been rated by some extremely high all season, as a lottery level player, but it seems that is setting expectations too high for a guy that could ultimately thrive as a defensive role player, but not as a star.
3. Timothe Luwawu 6-7 195 SG/SF France 1995
Luwawu is a late bloomer who had a breakout season playing for Mega Leks in Serbia, knocking down above 40% from 3 and flashing high level athleticism finishing at the rim with dunks. On tape it’s easy to see why some rate him as a lottery pick. He’s got a 7-foot-1 wingspan, adding great length to solid athleticism. He’s known for being a high level defender in Europe, showing the ability to move his feet and lock down opponents with his length and athleticism. There’s no question the type of player is in demand in today’s NBA, as a 3-and-D type. The potential is obviously there. But there are also concerns with his lack of great experience at a high level, his reputation as a difficult kid to coach in the past and criticism about his attitude. Some important questions a team drafting him will have to consider. Is he a team guy that will be able to make the transition to the NBA and living in the US? Are the off court concerns a thing of the past, that he has matured and grown past? Is his toughness really there to handle the physicality of NBA players? Is his feel for the game strong enough to become a well rounder player? Did his abilities get showcased perfectly playing in Serbia, or will he make the transition to playing against similar level athletes without any trouble?
4. Skal Labissiere 7-0 215 C Kentucky Fr.
Labissiere is considered the top shooting big in this year’s draft and shows a tantalizing combination of agility, length and athleticism. He came into the season on more than one list as the #1 projected pick. He obviously has some intriguing skills as he was extremely dominant to conclude his high school career, and at the Hoop Summit in Portland. But at Kentucky he completely wilted. He couldn’t handle the pressure and seemed to show apathy in the face of adversity. You’ve got to love the kid’s physical attributes, but he has not responded well when challenged. This has led some to question whether he’s got the heart and desire to compete at the NBA level. His lack of rebounding numbers is another big concern, showing an unwillingness to hustle and fight in the paint. If he thought things were difficult in the SEC, wait until NBA bigs get a hold of him. If he develops the reputation as a kid that crumbles when he is played physical or trash talked, it will be the first thing every opponent does to take him out of his game. He needs to land in the right situation with a coach that can build up his toughness and confidence. Otherwise he may remain a tease that never is able to figure things out and realize his potential.
5. Tyler Ulis 5-10 150 PG Kentucky So.
We have been a little tough on Ulis this draft season, but it’s only because there was such unrealistic hype that has been put out there on him. He’s a phenominal kid. We rated him as having the highest IQ of anyone in the draft. He plays with the biggest heart of anyone, as well. And if anyone at his size can make it, don’t put it past Ulis to find a way to make an NBA team. But the fact remains that Ulis has been universally overrated. He was put in the lottery on some major sports sites going into the draft combine, and it lead him to decide to skip the event. It’s unfortunate because it was an event in which he could have impressed as he plays well in space in 5-on-5 and could have shown his ability as a point guard outside of the Kentucky system. Ulis is well liked but the fact remains that the number of players to make it in the NBA over the past 50 years at his size and weight (under 5-10 and under 150 lbs) can be counted on one hand. Isaiah Thomas has around 35 lbs on him. He didn’t have good medical reports as there are concerns about his hips. And he hasn’t had good workouts, as he struggled matching up with Ron Baker in 2-on-2’s in his pro day. Can he stick as a back up point guard in the league? Possibly. But that type of player is generally taken in the mid to late second round, not in the first.