Conference Call: NBA Draft top prospects and sleepers
The NBA Draft is less than a week away. as the future of the game is prepared to take the next step to stardom.
During this week’s conference rundown, we lay out the top NBA prospect from each power conference and also take a stab at a prospect that remains more of a second round draft selection but could blossom into a productive professional ballplayer in a few years.
The third-ranked prospect in the 2016 class, Jayson Tatum is expected to become the next Coach K product to be selected in the lottery. Quite possibly the most polished scorer in this year’s draft, Tatum will be fending off Florida State’s Jon Isaac to be the first player to be selected from an ACC league member. A 6-foot-8 wing/forward who is a major matchup issue in the frontcourt, Tatum is a practical lock to average over 15 points per game during various seasons of his NBA career.
Ranked as the No. 102 best prospect in the 2013 class, it would be safe to say that Michael Young outplayed his slotted number at Pitt. He had a strong 2016-2017 season, averaging over 19 points, six rebounds and close to three assists. The downside with him is that he will be 23 years old by the time his rookie years rolls around and is not an explosive athlete. The upside: He has the potential to be a small ball power forward who can present major matchup issues in the frontcourt.
About six months ago, Justin Patton was one of the biggest revelations of the non-conference portion of the season. The Creighton star was producing across the board, leadinb to a great start for his team. Since then, things have gone downhill, however, and questions have popped up surrounding Patton's physical abilities. Still, he remains the best Big East draft prospect and should hear his name during the middle portion of the first round next week.
Hart was arguably the best player in college basketball last year, though Frank Mason and Caleb Swanigan would also be very much in that discussion. As for his NBA stock, some love Hart's continued progressions and intangibles, while others are rather pessimistic about his limited upside and physical limitations. (He stands under 6-foot-4 without shoes.) In a winning culture and with the proper role, Hart has the chance to eradicate many of the questions he faces.
It is not a great year for headlining talent out of the Big Ten Conference, as the top-rated prospect is O.G. Anunoby, someone that holds more questions than answers. After tearing his ACL at the beginning of his sophomore season, Anunoby has won over the majority of NBA personnel thanks to his outgoing personality and well-mannered approach. However, he is likely to take an NBA redshirt year, if one can do so, next season. But once he regains his strength, the freakish athlete could develop into an always desirable 3-and-D type of wing.
It is a bit difficult to be perceived as a sleeper, but that is the exact situation that Caleb Swanigan finds himself in. The most dominant big man this past college season, the Purdue standout posted averages of over 18 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks per contest, numbers that we have not seen since the days of Tim Duncan. His body and size may scare some NBA personnel, but there is no reason why Swanigan can’t turn into a Paul Millsap type in the frontcourt.
Off the floor issues have popped up for Josh Jackson during his lone year at Kansas, to the surprise of many. Hopefully that is all in the past as Jackson, a do-it-all small forward that showed much improved shooting abilities during his freshman season, has steadily cemented his case as a top-three pick next week. He is an elite defender, playmaker and athlete that could go as high as second overall to the Los Angeles Lakers, a franchise that he worked out for earlier this week.
A three-star prospect in the 2013 class, Wesley Iwundu wasn’t even a top-25 recruit within his own state. After developing his game and skillset at Kansas State, could Iwundu become the next giant find within the second round? He boasts a 7-foot-1 wingspan, can guard the two through four, and can even act as a facilitator at times. This all adds adds greater intrigue to his potential as a late snag in next week’s draft.
Lonzo Ball has taken up most of the attention of late, but one cannot diminish Markelle Fultz's abilities. Looking to be the second-straight first overall pick to not make the prior NCAA Tournament, Fultz has it all. The 6-foot-4 combo guard can switch between either guard spot in the backcourt; that makes his talents all the more desirable for the Boston Celtics, who already boast Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley on the perimeter and own the draft's first selection. The possibility that Fultz is chosen No. 1 overall should come as no surprise next week.
DERRICK WHITE, COLORADO
White was a practical unknown during his high school days in Colorado, but thanks to a giant growth spurt, a skillset that matured nicely as he grew and a burning desire to be great, White went from the Division 3 ranks into the NBA Draft. Now with the potential to be drafted in the latter portion of the first round, White, a 6-foot-5 off guard who averaged over 18 points, four assists and four rebounds during his senior year, could be another gift for some of the winning franchises throughout the league.
After outplaying Lonzo Ball twice throughout the 2016-2017 college basketball season, Fox has continued to make believers out of some of those that questioned his shot-making abilities. One of the most competitive prospects in this year’s draft, Fox has already been compared to John Wall, thanks to his speed and toughness at the lead guard spot. Add it up and Fox could be the surprise winner of Thursday’s draft as the Los Angeles Lakers could select the Kentucky star second overall.
One of the lone class of 2014 five-star prospects that was still playing college basketball in the 2016-2016 season, Devin Robinson began to play up to his original expectations, as he was a major catalyst for his team’s run to the Elite Eight. A 6-foot-8 small forward that can play some small ball power forward, Robinson has all of the tangibles, including a 7-foot wingspan. If he can play with consistency and more to his strengths, the likely second-round draft pick could emerge as a heavy two-way contributor in the NBA.