1 – Markelle Fultz (PG – 6’4” 195 lbs, Washington – FR)
(previous rank: 1)
2 – Lonzo Ball (PG – 6’6” 190 lbs, UCLA – FR)
(previous rank: 2)
3 – Josh Jackson (SF – 6’8” 203 lbs, Kansas – FR)
(previous rank: 4)
Not much change at the top of the board. Fultz is showing out on an unwatchable Washington team, Ball is doing Ball things, and Smith has been a steady force on an incompetent NC State squad. So why has Jackson climbed into the top 3? Because he’s been really freaking good. Watch Kansas on any given night and you can’t miss his impact. He plays at 100 MPH for 94 feet for 40 minutes every single night. His defensive impact is astonishing, defending anyone and anything coming his way. You can’t ask for more energy and off-ball impact than what he provides. But we all knew that going in, so what’s changed? Houston, we have a jumper. We’ve had so many wing players come into the draft with everything but a reliable jump shot before – so is this is a flash in the pan or have we found El Dorado? He’s shooting 58% from deep in the past 5 games, moving his season number to a respectable 36% – but he’s still struggling from the charity stripe. The ferocity that Jackson plays with draws a ton of fouls – 31 trips in the past 5 games, but he’s converted just 54% of his attempts (48% in the past 5). Kevin O’Connor wrote about Jackson’s mechanics for The Ringer’s latest big board.
“His feet are spread too wide, which forces his elbow to flare out. He brings the ball up to his “shot pocket” too early, which means kinetic energy from his legs doesn’t transfer to his fingers for the release. Because of a strange hitch, sometimes he ends up shooting on the way down. The whole motion is slow, which leads to heavily contested shots or even blocks by longer defenders.”
Is his jumper a flash in the pan or is it here to stay? It’s too early to tell, but probably a little bit of both. If he can somehow manage to shoot 70% from the foul line and 35% from three at the next level, you’re looking at something very special.
4 – Dennis Smith (PG – 6’3” 195 lbs, NC State – FR)
(previous rank: 3)
5 – Frank Ntilikina (PG – 6’5” 170 lbs, France)
(previous rank: 5)
6 – Jonathan Isaac (F – 6’11” 205 lbs, Florida St – FR)
(previous rank: 9)
A wise man once said, “expect him to be a late riser”. Well here he is, rising like the phoenix. He’s everything I expected him to be – the en vogue NBA wing. He’s long, energetic, and can shoot it. There are 30 teams that could use a 7 foot wing that can defend numerous positions, rebound at a high rate, and space the floor. He’s been a strong asset to the Seminoles this season, providing whatever they are lacking in any match-up. A team will be lucky to find him on draft night.
7 – Malik Monk (G – 6’4” 185 lbs, Kentucky – FR)
(previous rank: 8)
Monk just won’t regress. I and more than likely most of the basketball world have been thinking “he can’t keep this up all season”. But somehow, he has. He hasn’t taken a step back from his whirlwind start. On the year, he’s shooting 42% from beyond on 185 (!!!) attempts. Despite gunning from tip to whistle night-in and night-out, he is shooting 50% from the field on 372 (!!!) attempts. He also has some of the best in-air body-control I’ve seen in a long time, never seeming out-of-control on the court. So why is he still this low on the board? Size and fit. Monk could be a second unit monster (think Lou Williams meets JR Smith) on any team, but in a starting five, you have to hide him. Or do you? This is NOT a Sixers-specific draft board, but on a team like the Sixers with a ball-dominant point forward (Ben Simmons), he doesn’t need to be hidden. In my opinion, he’s shown enough poise on the ball to run the offense in a pinch and has plenty of athleticism to pester lead guards on defense. His draft slot may come down to fit, which is unfair to the resume, but appropriate for the player.
8 – Jayson Tatum (SF – 6’8” 204 lbs, Duke – FR)
(previous rank: 10)
Despite my prior comments on Tatum (inside-out player, high usage, no outside game) he keeps on scoring. He’s played a lion’s-share of minutes for Duke since he’s come back, and has looked the part of his high school phenom status. At this rate, he’ll continue to rise as he has the counting stats and body to wow scouts across the board. If he can improve his defense and outside jumper, he’s an all-star. Even if he can’t, he’s a high-level starter in the right offense – he has finally garnered my full attention.
9 – Lauri Markkanen (PF – 7’0” 225 lbs, Arizona – FR)
(previous rank: 7)
10 – De’Aaron Fox (PG – 6’4” 171 lbs, Kentucky – FR)
(previous rank: 5)
Fox is still a favorite of mine – the way he shifts gears and moves is still on-par with John Wall and Derrick Rose at this level. The kid is a blur. But the jumper, despite not being a total aesthetic nightmare, is just not falling – he’s shooting 18% on the year from deep. He’s still impacting the game on both ends, navigating screens with his quick feet and pushing the ball in transition, but if he can’t improve the jumper, his ceiling will drop a level. NBA scouts are still reportedly in love with his potential, but if that 18% doesn’t climb back towards 30%, he’ll have an uphill battle.
Dropped from January rankings:
Flavor of the Month: Wenyen Gabriel (PF – 6’9” 210 lbs, Kentucky – FR)
Coming into the season, I thought Gabriel would be a bit player; someone who would flash on occasion but would need 1-2 years to fully develop. He reminded me of a cross between Alex Poythress and Jerami Grant. To date, the comparison is still valid although he may have found something neither of those two had – a jumper. Despite a small sample size (49 attempts), Gabriel has shown the range needed to make the jump from project to player in the draft. He’s brought the energy of Poythress (without the elite defense) along with the positional versatility of Grant. He has the feet and athleticism to defend 3-5 in a pinch, making him a small-ball favorite at the next level. Tuesday night (2/7) against LSU, he exploded for 23 points, the majority of which came in the first half. He fouled out, but showed enough to me that he has a career at the next level possibly sooner rather than later.
Sixers Mock Drafts
Current Picks (via standings 2/9): 4th, 40th, 60th
4th: Dennis Smith – PG, NC State
40th (from NY): Devin Robinson – SF, Florida
60th (from GS): Diego Flaccadori – SG, Italy (Trento)
NOTES: The Sixers get an NBA ready lead guard in Smith, who is no consolation prize at 4th overall. Robinson is a projectable two-way wing with good size and athleticism; he’d get plenty of mileage on I95 travelling from Philly to Delaware for lengthy D-League stints. Flaccadori is an Italian Manu Ginobili, utilizing his creativity and smarts to create for himself and others off the wing. He could be a nice piece in a few years.
Simulated Lottery (via Tankathon simulation 2/9): 5th, 40th, 60th
5th: Frank Ntilikina – PG, France (Strasbourg)
40th (from NY): Dillon Brooks – SF, Oregon
60th (from GS): Diego Flaccadori – SG, Italy (Trento)
NOTES: With the 5th pick, the Sixers get who could be the best player in the class in a few years in Ntilikina. He’s someone you grow in a laboratory and is a first-step away from being a superstar at 18. He’d need time to grow, but the reward could be great. Brooks is a plug and play forward with a high motor and decent jumper; size is a concern but he’s a gamer. Also, he’s great at flops.