1 – Markelle Fultz (PG – 6’4” 195 lbs, Washington – FR)
(previous rank: 1)
I’ll be the first to admit that I watched far less Washington games than I should have, but I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t going to stay up until 11 just to watch a sorry excuse for basketball. The Huskies were awful. They had a group of guys and Markelle Fultz. Fultz put on a show night-in and night-out, carrying the team on his back on a slash line of 23/6/6. I can’t tell you how many times Fultz split a double-team, moved into the lane and delivered a perfect pass only for it to be mishandled out of bounds. Had he been on a good team, maybe the numbers aren’t as good, but don’t let that distract you from the talent. It’s obvious he still has a lot to learn about running the point, but what he was able to do while learning on the job and without any semblance of a supporting cast showed poise beyond his years. His pull-up game has been most impressive to me. Typically players will pad their numbers with open looks off screens – not Fultz. Fultz has no problem stopping his dribble and shooting (on or off balance) from anywhere on the court, yet he still did it efficiently. Looking for a negative? His free-throw percentage was less than stellar (65%) and his defense was lacking to say the least. His physical tools and raw ability will be enough to make him a competent defender, so I’m not worried in the least. Fultz is a superstar in waiting.
2 – Lonzo Ball (PG – 6’6” 190 lbs, UCLA – FR)
(previous rank: 2)
I don’t know if I’ve ever been more in awe of a prospect than Lonzo Ball, for so many reasons. He’s the best passer I’ve ever seen in college, has no conscious for taking big shots, and has a creative vision unlike any of his peers. All the while, he’s not a great athlete, has an awkward (to put it politely) looking jumper, and has a father that can beat Michael Jordan one-on-one. All things considered, I am in love with his potential. Putting Ball in an up-tempo offense and letting him create in transition could be magical – and I chose the word “magic” carefully. People will doubt his form, his handle, his ability to defend smaller, quicker guards, even his family’s impact on his career. Ignore it. Ignore it all. Watch how he handles the ball around screens, how he always delivers the ball in the perfect location, how he will pull up from 28 feet to put a dagger into the opponent’s dreams. Trust your eyes. He’ll make it work.
3 – Josh Jackson (SF – 6’8” 203 lbs, Kansas – FR)
(previous rank: 3)
4 – Jayson Tatum (SF – 6’8” 204 lbs, Duke – FR)
(previous rank: 8)
I had Tatum unranked on my initial board. Last month, he moved into the 8th spot. This month, he rose to 4th overall. After a strong tournament, he may even go higher. Tatum can flat out score the basketball. He has good size for a wing, could play some stretch-four in small-ball lineups, and has shown flashes of a perimeter game. The biggest knock on Tatum for me was his lack of a jumper, and he’s made strides to quell my fears. The shot isn’t fully dependable yet, but given time, he’ll be able to make defenders respect just enough to keep him dangerous. The rest of his offensive game is remarkable, featuring a fantastic midpost arsenal of moves and a bag of half-dribble spins to score at will – and he’s converting 60% of his shots at the rim. It’s one thing to get to the rim, it’s another to finish there, hence my negativity towards D’Angelo Russell two years ago. Tatum looks like a guy that will put up 20 points per game for a long-long time, and although he may never be a superstar, there isn’t a team in the league that would turn down that type of production from a 19-year-old.
5 – Dennis Smith (PG – 6’3” 195 lbs, NC State – FR)
(previous rank: 4)
6 – Frank Ntilikina (PG – 6’5” 170 lbs, France)
(previous rank: 5)
Frank is still a mystery and I’m still thumbing through the pages waiting for the conclusion. Rather than follow the herd and bump him down the board based off unfamiliarity and lack of playing time, I’m sticking to my original evaluation. He’s recently moved into a starting role with Strasbourg and has responded well to the uptick in minutes. He takes extreme care of the ball (one turnover in his first 5 games as a starter) and seems to really have a feel for the game. Over the past 9 games, he’s shooting 62% from beyond. Frank will absolutely rocket up draft boards over the next few months, so just remember where you heard it first.
7 – Jonathan Isaac (F – 6’11” 205 lbs, Florida St – FR)
(previous rank: 6)
8 – Lauri Markkanen (PF – 7’0” 225 lbs, Arizona – FR)
(previous rank: 9)
Do teams in the NBA seem to be stretching the floor these days? Does Ryan Anderson make $20M per year to be out of shape and shoot 3’s? Here’s Anderson’s beta. Markkanen lets it fly to put it simply, shooting 43% on nearly 5 attempts per game. The stroke is pure and repeatable, and he’s shown the ability to shoot off the catch and around screens. Perhaps the most important part of his game is his ability to shoot moving to his right or left. We’ve all seen Ray Allen go through his drills on YouTube – weaving to his right and left, hitting shot after shot from his right and left shoulder. Markkanen has done just that, but is much, much bigger. He’s a decent athlete that shouldn’t have any trouble fitting into an offense. Some are concerned with his mediocre rebounding and defensive-fit, but that will not matter at all. He’ll be paid to do one thing: shoot.
9 – Malik Monk (G – 6’4” 185 lbs, Kentucky – FR)
(previous rank: 7)
10 – De’Aaron Fox (PG – 6’4” 171 lbs, Kentucky – FR)
(previous rank: 10)
Dropped from February rankings: N/A
On the bubble:
Miles Bridges (F – Michigan St), John Collins (PF – Wake Forest), Mikal Bridges (SF – Villanova)
Flavor of the Month: Mikal Bridges (SF – 6’7” 200 lbs, Villanova – SO)
Bridges made an appearance above “on the bubble” meaning I think he has lottery-level talent. Do I expect him to go 13th? Probably not. But I really think he has a future in the league based on his skillset. Still skeptical? Fast forward to when Robert Covington get’s his next contract and you’ll see why Bridges has so much potential as a two-way wing. Translation: 3 + D = PAID. Bridges is in my opinion, the pest perimeter defender in the nation right now – and this is coming from someone who fully despises the Wildcats. He can anchor their press, switch fluidly on screens, and sit-down in a stance at the top of key. He measured in at 6’6″ 178 lbs with a 7’1″ wingspan in 2013 (!!), and has made 40% of his threes and 91% of free-throws this season. He’s also shooting 71% on his two-point attempts, which is largely a testament to Jay Wright’s offense, but shows his proficiency to take good shots. He’s not a lock to declare, but if he plays up to his potential and Nova makes a deep tourney run, his stock may never be higher.
Sixers Mock Drafts
Current Picks (via standings 3/16): 5, 37, 41, 46, 49
5th: Dennis Smith – PG, NC State
37th (from NY): Josh Hart – SG, Villanova
41st (from DAL): Jonathan Jeanne – C, France (Nancy)
46th (from MIA): Mathias Lessort – PF/C, France (Nanterre)
49th (from ATL): Diego Flaccadori – SG, Italy (Trento)
NOTES: The Sixers get an NBA ready lead guard in Smith, who is no consolation prize at 5th overall. He has an NBA body and has regained his explosiveness following a knee injury his senior year of high school. He can already run the pick-and-roll at an NBA level and should improve over time – think better version of Jeff Teague. We get some local flavor with Josh Hart, a do-all wing who isn’t elite at any skill but pretty good at everything. He should be a nice rotation player, especially if he can improve on the defensive end. And then we have the international players. There simply isn’t room to draft five players and have them play on the team, so expect the Sixers to make some combination of trades and stash-selections. Jeanne is a long, bouncy wing who has nice upside and a lot of filling out to do. Lessort is a personal favorite of mine – he’s kind of a French Reggie Evans. Built like a tank and can run and jump for days, he’ll be an energy guy off the bench in a few years. Flaccadori has appeared in previous mocks and brings a creative approach to the offensive end despite less than ideal size for a wing. He can play the point in a pinch (or with Ben Simmons) and has a knack for finding the basket.
Simulated Lottery (via Tankathon simulation 3/16: 6 (37, 41, 46, 49)
6th: Frank Ntilikina – PG, France (Strasbourg)
NOTES: No luck in the simulation this month, so no changes with the selection either. With the 6th 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.
BONUS: Final Four Picks!
East: Duke Midwest: Purdue West: Arizona South: North Carolina
National Championship: Duke 76, North Carolina 69
DOUBLE BONUS: NIT Picks!!
Just kidding, nobody cares. Thanks for reading this entire post. I owe you ten minutes.