First Round Rookie Grades as the Season Comes to a Close

First Round Rookie Grades as the Season Comes to a Close

As we prepare for the 2018 NBA playoffs to get started in the coming weeks, let’s take a look back at the draft and grade what rookies taken in the first round have done so far.

 

 

The 2017 NBA draft board.

Photo Credit/hoopshabit.com

 

 

30. Josh Hart – Los Angeles Lakers

Hart after making a 3.

Photo Credit/lakersnation.com

 

Joining the Lakers after a full career at Villanova, Hart has seen increased minutes as the year has gone on. The 22-year old has showcased above-average rebounding ability for a guard and a solid outside jumper. He’ll continue to share minutes with KCP for the remainder of the season once he returns from his hand injury.

Grade: B-

 

 

29. Derrick White – San Antonio Spurs

White in summer league.

Photo Credit/ralphiereport.com

 

White wasn’t expected to have a huge bench role for the Spurs but he’s been non-existent all season. To spend a first round pick on a 23-year old who’s not ready yet isn’t a win.

Grade: D

 

 

28. Tony Bradley – Utah Jazz

Bradley in a game against a EuroLeague team.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

Drafted as a project after one year at UNC, Bradley has yet to find barely any floor time in his rookie year. Even with the Rudy Gobert injury, the team favored Ekpe Udoh over Bradley for minutes. He has the potential to be a solid NBA center but needs to improve offensively and get stronger.

Grade: C

 

 

27. Kyle Kuzma – Los Angeles Lakers

Kuzma during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/si.com

 

Kuzma has been almost perfect for the Lakers so far and is a building block for them at the forward position. His outside shooting ability, offensive versatility, and length make him an exciting prospect and could be a 20pt scorer in just a year or two. He’ll contend for ROTY in June.

Grade: A+

 

 

26. Caleb Swanigan – Portland Trail Blazers

Swanigan fighting for the ball with Nikola Jokic.

Photo Credit/oregonlive.com

 

Though he rarely gets minutes, Swanigan was a great pick late in the first, as the Blazers got some much needed help in the frontcourt with his toughness inside and another outside shot. Rebounding is clearly his best attribute, but his 3pt shot has a chance to develop and make him a solid rebounding-stretch 4. The Draymond Green comparisons are fair.

Grade: B-

 

 

25. Anzejs Pasecniks – Orlando Magic

Pasecniks at a Blazers press conference.

Photo Credit/blazersedge.com

 

Pasecniks is already 22 and isn’t expected to make an NBA debut anytime soon. To pass up on a player like Kuzma and opt for a draft and stash with an older player is an awful choice by the Magic front office and is a symbol of the moves the franchise has made and continues to make that hinder their chances of being successful again.

Grade: F

 

 

24. Tyler Lydon – Denver Nuggets

Lydon in a rookie photo shoot.

Photo Credit/denverstiffs.com

 

Lydon has been a disappointment for a Nuggets organization with an already deep frontcourt that doesn’t have many minutes for the rookie. The Syracuse product has found himself in the G-League much more than on the Denver roster so far.

Grade: D-

 

 

23. O.G. Anunoby – Toronto Raptors

Anunoby going to the basket.

Photo Credit/espn.com

 

Anunoby was a clear steal for Toronto. The rookie swingman has shown an ability to knock down threes at a solid rate and displayed defensive versatility with his unbelievable length. He’s being compared to All-Star players at the moment and is the clear future for Toronto at the 3.

Grade: B+

 

 

22. Jarrett Allen – Brooklyn Nets

Allen passing the ball.

Photo Credit/newsday.com

 

Allen looks to be another steal as he’s putting up All-Rookie type numbers while still only logging around 20 minutes per game. With the dealing of Tyler Zeller to the Bucks before the deadline, Allen holds the reigns as big man of the future for Brooklyn.

Grade: A

 

 

21. Terrance Ferguson – Oklahoma City Thunder

Ferguson against the Lakers.

Photo Credit/basketusa.com

 

With the season ending injury to Andre Roberson, that would seem to open up some more minutes for Ferguson. He’s an explosive athlete with an improving jumpshot but he’s raw and needs to get stronger to ever be a starter for OKC. Ultimately, the Thunder are trying to compete now while they have Anthony and George, and Ferguson isn’t ready to produce yet.

Grade: D+

 

 

20. Harry Giles – Sacramento Kings

Giles in a rookie photo shoot.

Photo Credit/dukebasketballreport.com

 

After being highly touted coming out of high school, Giles was a disappointment at Duke and still is one with the Kings. He has massive upside but has been ruled out for the season with lingering knee problems.

Grade: C-

 

 

19. John Collins – Atlanta Hawks

Collins during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/peachtreehoops.com

 

Collins may be the biggest steal of the draft as he’s stepped in and already become one of the Hawks best players. His length, athleticism, and nose for the ball down low will turn him into a double-double big man with an All-Star future.

Grade: A+

 

 

18. T.J. Leaf – Indiana Pacers

Leaf dribbling up the court.

Photo Credit/hoopshabit.com

 

In limited minutes, Leaf has produced pretty well but still needs to develop more to see sufficient playing time in the Pacer frontcourt. Given some of the talents Indiana passed up on here, this isn’t a win.

Grade: C

 

 

17. D.J. Wilson – Milwaukee Bucks

Wilson backing down Patterson.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

Wilson was a reach for the Bucks at 17. His length and versatility make him worth holding onto but he won’t be ready to make any impact for Milwaukee for a while.

Grade: D+

 

 

16. Justin Patton – Minnesota Timberwolves

Patton in a team photo shoot.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

Patton has been another disappointment as he’s been thrown in and out of the G-League so far this year. He has great size and potential but after some injury issues early on, he hasn’t established himself at all yet.

Grade: D-

 

 

15. Justin Jackson – Sacramento Kings

Jackson driving to the rim.

Photo Credit/sacbee.com

 

There’s still a chance for Jackson to be the forward of the future for the Kings, but he’s been a little inefficient in his first year. He’s had steady production on the wing in limited minutes and should see increases in all his numbers as Sacramento plans to start sitting veterans more as the season goes on and into next year.

Grade: C+

 

 

14. Bam Adebayo – Miami Heat

Adebayo boxing out Mahinmi.

Photo Credit/allucanheat.com

 

Adebayo has been great for Miami so far, complimenting Whiteside well in the frontcourt. In just around 20 minutes a game, Adebayo is making a case to be considered for the All-Rookie 1st team. Given that the Heat passed on fellow big man John Collins here, it wasn’t a perfect pick.

Grade: A-

 

 

13. Donovan Mitchell – Utah Jazz

Michell running up the court.

Photo Credit/si.com

 

Mitchell is currently one of the frontrunners for ROTY, leading the Jazz in scoring and keeping them on the fringe of playoff contention. After losing Gordon Hayward in the offseason, Utah knew they needed to find their new star and they’ve taken care of that quickly as Mitchell has a chance to put up over 20 a game in his first season with the Jazz.

Grade: A+

 

 

12. Luke Kennard – Detroit Pistons

Kennard driving to the basket against Toronto.

Photo Credit/espn.com

 

Coming out of Duke, Kennard has been a reliable outside shooting option for Detroit as expected, but isn’t set to be the star that Mitchell is. Imagining Donovan Mitchell on a Pistons team with Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond would be a possible home court playoff spot for Detroit. Kennard is an NBA level player and could start at shooting guard for the Pistons a few years down the road but given who Detroit missed out on, it’s a disappointment.

Grade: C+

 

 

11. Malik Monk – Charlotte Hornets

Monk dribbling the ball up the floor.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

When the Hornets were on the clock with this pick, Monk seemed like the obvious choice, but the Kentucky product has been a massive disappointment for Charlotte. He’s been inefficient and sore in the Hornet backcourt. His rough start has led to him being underutilized, and Monk is a guy who needs the ball in his hands to excel. Again, Mitchell would have been the better choice at shooting guard here.

Grade: D

 

 

10. Zach Collins – Portland Trail Blazers

Collins during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/blazersedge.com

 

Despite playing on little minutes, Collins has been solid so far with Portland and looks like a future starter for the Blazers. Getting stronger to go with his long frame and possibly developing a better jumpshot should be the next steps in turning him into a star.

Grade: B+

 

 

9. Dennis Smith Jr. – Dallas Mavericks

Smith Jr. handling the ball.

Photo Credit/hoopshype.com

 

Though still fairly inefficient, Smith Jr. has been great for Dallas and is surely their point guard for the future. His athleticism and scoring ability will turn him into a star. When he improves his shot selection and playmaking ability he’ll be a perennial All-Star.

Grade: A

 

 

8. Frank Nitilikina – New York Knicks

Nitilikina during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/hoopshabit.com

 

Though Nitilikina has faced some tough criticism so far this season over not being as complete of a rookie guard as Smith Jr. or Mitchell, he’s shown some promise in his first year. Despite not getting starters minutes, the 19-year old Frenchman has displayed solid playmaking ability and has shot the 3 as well as most expected. Where he seperates himself from some of the other guards in the draft is his defensive potential. At 6’5″ with a 7-foot wingspan, Nitilikina can make several All-Defensive teams in his career.

Grade: B

 

 

7. Lauri Markannen – Chicago Bulls

Markkanen during warm-ups.

Photo Credit/sbnation.com

 

In the Jimmy Butler trade, the Bulls were able to move up into the top 10 and grab Markkanen, who’s put himself into outside ROTY contention in Chicago. The Finnish big man is putting up solid numbers while stroking it from the outside at an acceptable rookie rate. His size, combined with his somewhat guard skills could make him an All-Star soon.

Grade: A

 

 

6. Jonathan Isaac – Orlando Magic

Isaac pump faking under the rim.

Photo Credit/basketballinsiders.com

 

Isaac has had a quiet first year in Orlando after being drafted sixth overall by the new Orlando front office. The Bronx native has dealt with a few injury hiccups and has even spent some time in the G-League lately. At his length and athleticism, potential still reigns as the number one attribute for Isaac. More minutes and a stronger body should get him into double digits in scoring next year.

Grade: B-

 

 

5. De’Aaron Fox – Sacramento Kings

Fox dribbling up the court.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

Fox started the year coming off the bench for veteran G George Hill, but with the deadline trade of Hill to Cleveland, Fox is now running the Point in Sacramento. In a guard heavy draft, Fox went to a Kings team thirsting for a youthful PG and he seems to already be settling in as their most promising young player. Despite low numbers on the boards and a struggling outside shot, Fox has showcased All-Star potential and strong leadership for Sacramento.

Grade: B+

 

 

4. Josh Jackson – Phoenix Suns

Jackson driving to the rim.

Photo Credit/nbcsports.com

 

After a fairly slow offensive start to the season, Jackson has since picked it up and been better than expected in his rookie year in Phoenix. While putting up over 10 points a game and rebounding at a fair rate, the Kansas product has played stingy D all year and should be an All-Defensive selection someday. Continuing to work on his jumper in the offseason will further develop him into a two-way star.

Grade: A-

 

 

3. Jayson Tatum – Boston Celtics

Tatum dunking in a game.

Photo Credit/masslive.com

 

Danny Ainge made a great move last June to move down and still take the most polished player in the top 10. Tatum has been lights out from deep all year, shooting over 40% consistently throughout the year, near league’s best from beyond the arc. His length and versatility on offense made him a solid replacement for Gordon Hayward who went down on opening night. Tatum should make a smooth transition to the 4 next year when Hayward returns.

Grade: A+

 

 

2. Lonzo Ball – Los Angeles Lakers

Lonzo Ball during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/latimes.com

 

As expected, Los Angeles took Lonzo Ball with the second overall pick and have gotten nearly exactly what they expected, an inefficient scorer with an innate ability to see the floor on offense, and length on defense. Ball has dealt with a few injury spells this season but has been out there for the Lakers most of the year. While his shooting has been a dry spot in his game, Lonzo has given the Lakers a future at point guard and a special passer, putting up around 7 assists a game. He’ll never lead the league in scoring but Ball has All-Star potential and could be a starter on a championship team in the Lakers future.

Grade: A-

 

 

1. Markelle Fultz – Philadelphia 76ers

Fultz driving to the basket.

Photo Credit/philly.com

 

Fultz, the number one pick in the 2017 draft, has seen almost no court time all season. His nagging elbow injury hasn’t just kept him off the court but also completely transformed his jumpshot and has forced him to pretty much re-learn to shoot the basketball. If he’s able to get healthy he has the potential to be a top guard in the league and would add to the budding young stars in Philadelphia, but Fultz may not even return this year and it’s uncertain how he’ll fair adjusting to a different jumper while learning the NBA.

Grade: Incomplete

 

 

 

How Jimmy Butler Injury Affects Western Conference:

 

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Expendable Players for Each Team at the Deadline

With the trade deadline now just hours away, who are some of the guys on each team who could be in a new jersey come their next time on the court.

 

 

Griffin at his introductory Pistons press conference.

Photo Credit/detroitnews.com

 

 

Atlantic Division: 

Smart during a dead ball

Photo Credit/usatoday.com

 

Brooklyn Nets: DeMarre Carroll, Joe Harris

After a bad stint in Toronto, Carroll has played his way into starters minutes in Brooklyn and despite his overpriced contract, should be an option for contenders. Harris is no star for the Nets but he’s been a surprising bright spot for the young team, stroking it from deep almost as good as anyone in the league. With a low salary at $1.5 million, any contender would be happy to have Harris’ sharpshooting in a offense-driven league.

New York Knicks: Courtney Lee, Michael Beasley

Lee is having likely the best season of his career and with Hardaway Jr. set as the future 2 in New York, look for the veteran to possibly be moved. Despite his tunnel vision and lack of defense, Beasley is one of the best bench scorers in the league, something several teams are looking for.

Philadelphia 76ers: Timothy Luwawu-Cabarrot

The Sixers are likely to stand pat at the deadline this year having already moved Okafor to Brooklyn, but if there was a moveable piece on the team that could attract buyers, Luwawu is the most likely candidate.

Toronto Raptors: Jonas Valanciunas

Valancunias’ playing time has been dropping over the past few years and with the coming up of young big men Poeltl and Nogueira, the Raps could deal him, though with the season they’re having it’s likely he’s in Toronto until at least the summer.

Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier

The Celtics could make a number of moves on Thursday but Smart is the most likely player to be headed out of Boston. It’s highly unlikely Rozier is going anywhere as Danny Ainge loves the young guard but if a superstar deal is in place it’s possible he’s involved.

 

 

Pacific Division:

Randle and Clarkson after a play.

Photo Credit/sportingnews.com

 

Sacramento Kings: George Hill

The Kings may opt to move their veteran point guard to acquire a few assets and move forward with De’Aaron Fox for the future.

Phoenix Suns: Alex Len

After several years in Phoenix, Len has yet to fully grab hold of the starting job. He’s not being thrown around in too many trade rumors but he’s a possible trade piece for the Suns.

Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson

Randle and Clarkson have been involved in rumors for months but Magic and the Lakers haven’t come up with a deal yet. The two could garner attention from several teams and result in some young assets and draft picks for LA.

Los Angeles Clippers: DeAndre Jordan, Lou Williams, Avery Bradley

DJ and Lou should be moved by LA by today along with possibly Avery Bradley in a different deal. The Clippers could end up with some high draft picks to get their rebuild on if they sell a few of their older starters.

Golden State Warriors: Javale McGee

Though it’s likely McGee stays with the Warriors given rookie Jordan Bell’s current injury, he’s been on the trade block for a while and may be in a different uniform in a few days.

 

 

Southeast Division: 

Walker, Howard, and Batum on the bench.

Photo Credit/swarmandsting.com

 

Atlanta Hawks: Marco Belinelli, Ersan Ilyasova

Both these players have shooting ability that any team would love to have and should be on the move if the Hawks are smart.

Orlando Magic: Everyone

The Magic are loaded with talent but have yet to fully find an identity. Aaron Gordon is clearly their most valuable piece but even he shouldn’t be untouchable at this point. With  new front office in place Orlando should be selling at the deadline.

Charlotte Hornets: Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, Nic Batum

Though at this point it seems unlikely, Charlotte could move their top 3 players in an attempt to gain a top draft pick or a few young players. Michael Jordan doesn’t seem keen on the idea but it’d be smart for the mediocre franchise to shift in a different direction.

Miami Heat: James johnson, Justise Winslow

It’s likely one of these forwards are moved at the deadline. The Heat would receive more for Winslow but could dump the contract of Johnson while he’s still moveable.

Washington Wizards: Kelly Oubre Jr. 

The Wizards are another team that will probably be quiet tomorrow but with Otto Porter ahead of him for the future and the fact he’s still on his rookie deal, the Wizards should listen to offers for Oubre.

 

 

Central Division: 

Photo Credit/factoryofsadness.com

 

Chicago Bulls: Justin Holiday

The Bulls have already made the trade they needed to make by moving Mirotic recently. If they were to deal someone else, Holiday is a possibility with Zach Lavine just coming back.

Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson

Detroit has also made a recent trade with the acquisition of Blake Griffin. The team should now listen to offers for Stanley Johnson as the young forward hasn’t exactly panned out how they wanted it.

Indiana Pacers: Darren Collison, Thaddeus Young

These are two veterans who can still contribute as starters or off the bench. The Pacers are actually looking at a playoff spot this year but with some young stars ready to step up they may deal some older players if the right offer comes.

Milwaukee Bucks: Mirza Teletovic

Teletovic isn’t a highly desired player but his shooting ability could make him available for a low 2nd round pick at a deadline deal with a contender.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Everyone but LeBron

The Cavs have clear problems right now and to fix it, no matter what direction they decide to go in, anybody but the King should be available.

 

 

Southwest Division:

Evans dribbling.

Photo Credit/sbnation.com

 

Dallas Mavericks: Wesley Matthews

Despite his contract, several teams may be interested in a 3 and D guard who can come off the bench or start for a contender.

Memphis Grizzlies: Tyreke Evans, James Ennis III

The Grizzlies have recently stated that they’d like to keep Marc Gasol rather than dealing him, but they should listen to offers for these two cheap but valuable forwards, especially Evans.

New Orleans Pelicans: None

After the Cousins injury, New Orleans has already transformed their roster a bit and it’d be a surprise to see them move anyone else unless a drastic change in direction would be in place.

San Antonio Spurs: Danny Green

The Spurs rarely make mid-season trades but reports are that they are currently in talks with the Clippers to try to acquire Avery Bradley with Danny Green and a pick.

Houston Rockets: Ryan Anderson

There’s speculation that Houston is interested in George Hill, but the deal seems to have not gained much traction. They would likely need a 3rd team if they wanted to move Anderson’s contract and bring in a different player for the playoffs.

 

 

Northwest Division: 

Mudiay dribbling up the court.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

Utah Jazz: Rodney Hood, Derrick Favors, Joe Johnson

Hood and Favors are both players that could bring in a first rounder for the Jazz and allow them to fully start the Mitchell-Gobert era. Johnson has reportedly been looking for an exit from the team, but expect him to be more likely bought out in a few weeks rather than traded at the deadline.

Portland Trail Blazers: Shabazz Napier

Napier is having the best season of his career and has been in trade rumors for months. If Portland does deal him they can expect a lot in return.

Denver Nuggets: Emmanuel Mudiay, Will Barton, Kenneth Faried

The Nuggets are one of the deepest teams in the league and could benefit from letting go of some of these bench players that could get them multiple draft picks or talent in return. They’ve been in some talks with Cleveland about sending a few key role players to the Cavs if the Nets pick is in play.

Oklahoma City Thunder: None

OKC is an expensive team with key players that they won’t trade right now so it’s unlikely to see them move anybody even if they wanted to.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Shabazz Muhammed

After a few years in Minnesota, Muhammed has yet to develop much and will be out of Minnesota by the summer if not now. He’s a good scorer who could benefit a contender off the bench if the Wolves find a partner to take him at the deadline.

 

 

 

With Boogie Out, do the Pelicans Move Davis?

 

With Boogie Out, do the Pelicans Move Davis?

Due to the DeMarcus Cousins recent achilles injury, it’s possible the Pelicans are considering finding a trade partner for Anthony Davis. While the move would be drastic for the franchise, what are some packages New Orleans should look at if they do prefer to deal their superstar?

 

 

Davis running up the court.

Photo Credit/sportingnews.com

 

 

Anthony Davis is still 24 years young and is capable of dominating a game at the power forward position, but with upcoming FA DeMarcus Cousins out for the year, coupled with Davis’ notorious injury history, the Pelicans should at least field offers from interested teams. AD is obviously a generational player and even with the current circumstances in New Orleans, he’ll be tough to pry from the Big Easy. Here’s a look at some possible trade packages  for Davis.

 

 

Ainge Finally Unloads the Boston Draft Picks:

Davis dunking; Tatum looking on. (split picture)

Photo Credit/cbsboston.com

 

Pelicans Give: Anthony Davis, Rajon Rondo, Darius Miller

Celtics Give: Jayson Tatum, Terry Rozier, Al Horford, 2018 1st round pick (Lakers)/2019 1st round pick (Kings)

 

In this trade, the Celtics gather one of the best big 3s in NBA history which will consist of Irving, Hayward, and Davis by next year, also welcoming home Rajon Rondo to come off the bench. In return for their superstar, the Pelicans begin a rebuild around young star Jayson Tatum, also acquiring 23-year old guard Terry Rozier. Al Horford makes this trade possible financially but can also mentor some of the younger guys that’ll be the focus of a more youthful New Orleans team.

 

 

Phoenix Gets Booker Some Help:

Booker celebrating after a shot.

Photo Credit/brightsideofthesun.com

 

Pelicans Give: Anthony Davis, Darius Miller

Suns Give: T.J. Warren, Josh Jackson, Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss, 2018 1st round pick (Heat), 2018 1st round pick (Bucks), 2021 1st round pick (Heat)

 

Here, the Suns ensure Devin Booker stays in Phoenix for a bit by getting him another star player to make a run at the playoffs with. Phoenix gives up on their two young small forwards Warren and Jackson and move PF Chriss with AD coming to town. The Suns will have to dish out several draft picks to New Orleans as they don’t have a surefire cornerstone prospect like Boston that they’d be willing to trade.

 

 

AD to NYC:

Davis being guarded by 3 Nets.

Photo Credit/zimbio.com

 

Pelicans Give: Anthony Davis, Jameer Nelson, Ian Clark, Darius Miller

Nets Give: Jahlil Okafor, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeMarre Carroll, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Caris LeVert, 2018 1st round pick (Raptors), 2018 2nd round pick (Pacers), 2019 2nd round pick (Knicks)

 

In this one, the Pelicans will have to put their trust in some of the young guys from Brooklyn and hope they can develop into the players they look like they have a chance be. Dinwiddie excelled with Russell out and could be a solid backcourt player for the future in New Orleans. RHJ and LeVert are the real gems here besides the draft picks as they have outside chances of being above average starters in the league. A combo of Russell and Davis in the East would be dangerous and speed up the rebuild in Brooklyn.

 

 

Sixers Create a Frontcourt for the Ages; Give up on Fultz:

Davis and Embiid fighting over the ball.

Photo Credit/thebirdwrites.com

 

Pelicans Give: Anthony Davis, Tony Allen

Sixers Give: Amir Johnson, Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, 2018 2nd round pick (Rockets), 2019 1st round pick, 2020 1st round pick, 2020 2nd round pick (Mavs), 2021 2nd round pick (Knicks)

 

This trade would create one of the most dominant frontcourts in NBA history with Davis and Embiid. The Sixers would rocket themselves up to title contention here, though giving up a few young prospects and several draft picks. The disappointing start to Markelle Fultz’s career in Philly comes to a close as he’s shipped to New Orleans with rookie standout Dario Saric.

 

 

Davis Comes Home:

Davis dunking on Markannen.

Photo Credit/thebirdsaves.com

 

Pelicans give: Anthony Davis, Omer Asik

Bulls Give: Nikola Mirotic, Lauri Markannen, Justin Holiday, 2018 1st round pick, 2019 1st round pick

 

If the Bulls were to get involved in the AD sweepstakes, they’d likely need to unload their promising young forward Lauri Markannen, giving the Pelicans a new big man to center the team around. This also gives Nikola Mirotic a chance to get away from the Bulls while Justin Holiday will join his brother in the New Orleans backcourt. The big story here is AD heading back to his hometown Chicago and becoming a part of the high-flying Bulls with Zach LaVine.

 

 

 

Click: Why Paul George Would Ruin the Lakers

Top 15 Shooting Guards Heading into Next Season

At this time in the league, some say there’s a disparity in star shooting guards. We’ll see who’s at the top of the list for the guys at the 2 leading into the 17-18 season.

 

Just missed the cut:

Seth Curry

Eric Gordon

Buddy Hield

Victor Oladipo

Evan Fournier

 

 

 

15. Danny Green – San Antonio Spurs

Photo Credit/www.bleacherreport.com

 

You won’t see Danny Green put up 20 or more too often or be the number one option on any given night, though his relentless defense and sweet 3 point jumper get him into the top 15. The Spurs wouldn’t be nearly as good without Green. He’s one of the best backcourt defenders in the league and spreads the floor tremendously for LaMarcus Aldridge to work down low. Being on the Spurs will stunt Green’s numbers, but he’s definitely a huge piece for San Antonio.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 7.3   RPG: 3.3   APG: 1.8   SPG: 1.0

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 8.1  RPG: 3.2  APG: 1.9  SPG: 1.6

 

14. Gary Harris – Denver Nuggets

Photo Credit/www.denverpost.com

 

Harris will presumably fight for minutes with Jamal Murray this season, though I expect both of them to play 20+. Harris has tremendous offensive ability with a great jumper and solid quickness off the dribble, shooting above 50% from the field last season. If he improves his defense this year I think we could see him attain the starting shooting guard spot in Denver for good and spring himself into the top 10 on this list.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 14.9   RPG: 3.1   APG: 2.9   SPG: 1.2

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 16.3  RPG: 3.4  APG: 3.1  SPG: 1.5

 

13. J.J. Redick – Philadelphia 76ers

Photo Credit/www.usatoday.com

 

Redick appears to be just the player and shooter that the young Sixers need. It’s assumed he’ll join rookie guard Markelle Fultz in the backcourt this season and will be expected to spread the floor for Joel Embiid to score and make plays in the paint. Redick will likely go down as one of the best 3 point shooters in NBA history and his range from deep will make him money well into his 30’s. He’ll be an important piece for a possible Philly playoff team this year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 15.0   RPG: 2.2   APG: 1.4   SPG: 0.7

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 14.7  RPG: 2.1  APG: 1.8  SPG: 0.6

 

12. Zach LaVine – Chicago Bulls

Photo Credit/www.twincities.com

 

LaVine was another young guy involved in a superstar trade this offseason. The UCLA product was sent to Chi-Town on draft night as the main piece in the Jimmy Butler-Timberwolves acquisition. He and Kris Dunn now join Dwyane Wade in the Bulls backcourt, though sources say the veteran guard and the Chicago front office will likely agree on a buyout in the coming months. If this happens, the reigns to the team will be turned over to LaVine, and he will be the new star of the Bulls. We’ll see how he handles the new freedom and spotlight of Chicago this season. His defense remains in question.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 18.9   RPG: 3.4   APG: 3.0   SPG: 0.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 20.3  RPG: 4.1  APG: 4.7  SPG: 1.2

 

11. Dwyane Wade – Chicago Bulls

Photo Credit/www.businessinsider.com

 

According to CBS Sports, Wade is eyeing a return to Miami or a reunion with LeBron James in Cleveland if bought out by the Bulls. As of right of right now he is still in Chicago and if things stay the same he’ll be in a position battle with Zach LaVine for the starting job, unless Hoiberg sees LaVine fit to play the point. Over the past few years we’ve seen Flash slow down a little bit, losing some jump and quickness, though his basketball I.Q. is still amazing and he’s able to provide leadership to the young guys. We’ll see what uniform D-Wade is sporting come opening day.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 18.3   RPG: 4.5   APG: 3.8   SPG: 1.4

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 16.7  RPG: 3.9  APG: 4.1  SPG: 1.2

 

10. Devin Booker – Phoenix Suns

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Booker is coming off of a breakout year last year, putting up over 22 a game and setting a career high of a whopping 70 points against the Boston Celtics. Defense continues to be the area Booker struggles in. With a better defensive efficiency rating he could’ve easily made his way into the top 6 on this list. There’s no questioning his shooting ability and star potential, but with the freedom of being the only guy in Phoenix last year came the laziness on defense. This problem must be tended to by Earl Watson to turn Booker into a superstar.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 22.1   RPG: 3.2   APG: 3.4   SPG: 0.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 23.4  RPG: 3.6  APG: 3.7  SPG: 1.2

 

9. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Los Angeles Lakers

Photo Credit/www.nba.com

 

Caldwell-Pope joins the Lakers this year on a one-year contract. He’ll likely beat out Jordan Clarkson to start at the shooting guard position and play alongside Lonzo Ball in the backcourt. Caldwell-Pope brings some of the best backcourt defense in the league as well as an improving offensive game and jumpshot. Being in new scenery this season, we’ll see how the new role affects him and whether the Lakers decide to re-sign Caldwell-Pope next summer.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 13.8   RPG: 3.3   APG: 2.5   SPG: 1.2

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 15.2  RPG: 3.4  APG: 2.9  SPG: 1.7

 

8. Nicolas Batum – Charlotte Hornets

Photo Credit/www.cbssports.com

 

Batum enters this season with a young guy in Malik Monk who’ll challenge him for minutes at the 2, though I’d expect the Frenchman to retain his starting position. He’s showcased his superb all-around game over the last few years and proven he can be used to guard the 2 and 3 and play multiple positions on offense. If Batum can avoid excessive shooting slumps and use his versatility to his advantage, look for another solid season from him.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 15.1   RPG: 6.2   APG: 5.9   SPG: 1.1

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 14.9  RPG: 6.6  APG: 6.3  SPG: 1.4

 

7. Avery Bradley – Detroit Pistons

Photo Credit/www.usatoday.com

 

Bradley comes into Detroit as Caldwell-Pope’s replacement and in my opinion, an improvement. We knew years before that Bradley was a tremendous lockdown defender but this year and especially in the postseason without Isaiah Thomas, showcased his improved offensive game and shooting ability. If he carries over that game and mentality to the Pistons, they’ll love him in Auburn Hills. If all goes well for Detroit next year, Bradley and Drummond could turn into a dynamic duo in the East.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 16.3   RPG: 6.1   APG: 2.2   SPG: 1.2

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 18.7  RPG: 6.3  APG: 2.9  SPG: 1.6

 

6. Bradley Beal – Washington Wizards

Photo Credit/www.prioritysports.biz

 

Beal is currently in possibly the best backcourt in the East consisting of himself and John Wall. Both are 20+ point scorers, however Beal is clearly the better long range shooter. The Florida product has a career mark of 40% from deep and at just 23, can become a guy who shoots a plus 40% year to year. At 6’5″, Beal has the potential to become a better and more attentive defender to help the Wiz potentially get to a conference finals. We’ll see if he can keep his shooting percentages up while improving his D this year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 23.1   RPG: 3.1   APG: 3.5   SPG: 1.1

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 23.7  RPG: 3.3  APG: 3.4  SPG: 1.2

 

5. C.J. McCollum – Portland Trail Blazers

Photo Credit/www.bleacherreport.com

 

Like Wall and Beal, McCollum forms a pretty formidable backcourt himself with Damian Lillard. The former Lehigh star had a career year last year and comes into this season eyeing another playoff appearance with the Blazers. McCollum put up a career high in points last year and improved his shooting percentages significantly. He’s never been a great defender but he must continue to hold his own against most matchups in order to continue to be a co-leader in Portland and get them back to the postseason in a stacked Western Conference.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 23.0   RPG: 3.6   APG: 3.6   SPG: 0.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 24.1  RPG: 3.7  APG: 3.8  SPG: 1.1

 

4. Jimmy Butler – Minnesota Timberwolves

Photo Credit/www.csnchicago.com

 

Butler joins the Wolves this season after being traded from the Chicago Bulls on draft night. It’s likely we see a slight drop in his personal numbers this year, though he will most likely find more team success now that he’s in Minnesota. We saw the keys to the franchise be handed over to him in Chicago over the last few years, and now he’s the leader of a young Timberwolves team who could make their first playoff appearance since the Kevin Garnett era. The thought of a Butler-Wiggins-Towns big three sounds great, but will it pan out?

16-17 Stats: PPG: 23.9   RPG: 6.2   APG: 5.5   SPG: 1.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 21.7  RPG: 5.9  APG: 5.8  SPG: 2.0

 

3. Klay Thompson – Golden State Warriors

Photo Credit/www.sbnation.com

 

Klay could easily be number two on this list, but given his recent playoff slump I think this is the spot for him. We all know of his tremendous outside shot which could go down as the second best in history, but his defense is really what separates him from those just below him in this list. Despite what some metrics say, Thompson can lock down several guards, point or shooting, across the league and can slow down even the craftiest of players such as Kyrie Irving. This, along with his superb ability to play off the ball efficiently on offense put him at #3 in the rankings.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 22.3    RPG: 3.7   APG: 2.1   SPG: 0.8

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 22.7  RPG: 3.3  APG: 2.2  SPG: 1.1

 

2. Demar Derozan – Toronto Raptors 

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Derozan made major improvements in his game last season, solidifying his place as a top 3 shooting guard in the league. His points per game jumped nearly 4 points and he improved his rebounding, appearing in his 3rd All-Star game along the way. Derozan’s biggest flaw is clearly shooting from the outside. His 3-pt% dropped over 7% to an atrocious 26.6% from deep. If the Raptors are to have any shot at all at dethroning the Cavs in the East, Derozan must improve that shot as he enters his prime. I’d expect similar numbers this year, but if that 3-pt% drops anymore the California native may be moving back in the rankings.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 27.3   RPG: 5.2   APG: 3.9   SPG: 1.1

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 26.9  RPG: 4.7  APG: 4.3  SPG: 1.2

 

1. James Harden – Houston Rockets

Photo Credit/www.nbahoopsonline.com

 

Though Harden started at point guard for the Rockets last season, with Chris Paul headed to H-Town this year I decided to list him as a shooting guard. The Arizona State product had the best season of his career last year and could’ve easily taken the MVP over Westbrook in my opinion. The Beard put up numbers we haven’t seen in years and led what looked to be a messy Rockets roster all the way to third in the West. Now with Paul by his side, Harden could see his numbers drop just a tad, but none the less he’s the best shooting guard in the league and will have another MVP-like season this year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 29.1   RPG: 8.1   APG: 11.2   SPG: 1.5

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 28.3  RPG: 7.4  APG: 9.6  SPG: 1.8

10 NBA Players Bound for a Breakout Year this Season

Sometimes we see talented guys in the league held back by players in front of them in the depth chart or not being one of the top options on offense. Here are some players to look for as possible most improved candidates next season.

 

Avery Bradley – Detroit Pistons

Photo Credit/www.clutchpoints.com

 

Bradley is now out of the stacked lineup in Boston and whether Detroit is a better situation for him or not, his numbers will likely jump. AB has shown time and time again his relentless on-ball defensive ability, but last season and playoffs displayed improved shooting and rebounding at just 6’2″. He’ll likely play along Reggie Jackson in the backcourt, and now should be the offensive go-to in terms of guards. The team of course has center Andre Drummond down low and he and Bradley should be the team’s new little-big duo, rather than Jackson.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 16.3   RPG: 6.1   APG: 2.2  STL: 1.2

Projected 17-18 Stats: PPG: 18.7  RPG: 6.3  APG: 2.9 SPG: 1.6

 

D’Angelo Russell – Brooklyn Nets

Photo Credit/www.netsdaily.com

 

D’Angelo Russell is no longer a Laker. The young guard was traded to the Brooklyn Nets pre-draft after a messy beginning to his career in Los Angeles. Look for major statistical improvement for Russell now that he’s in New York. The Nets are currently in a rebuild and D-Loading is likely now the go-to scorer and biggest centerpiece for the team this year and going forward. A guard combo of Lin-Russell could be one of the best in the East in 17-18.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 15.6   RPG: 3.5   APG: 4.8   SPG: 1.4

Projected 17-18 Stats: PPG: 17.9  RPG: 4.6  APG: 5.3  SPG: 1.4

 

Rudy Gobert – Utah Jazz

Photo Credit/www.nbahoopsonline.com

 

With the recent departure of Gordon Hayward from Utah, expect Rudy Gobert’s numbers to jump next season. The Frenchman finished top 3 in DPOY voting last season and has proven his innate ability to protect the rim and grab boards. Though last year was his best offensive season in the league, id look for increased scoring and touches for Gobert in 17-18, as Hayward and Hill will no longer be in Salt Lake shooting in volume.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 14.0   RPG: 12.8   APG: 1.2   BPG: 2.6

Projected 17-18 Stats: PPG: 16.3  RPG: 13.7  APG: 1.1  BPG: 2.8

 

Kristaps Porzingis – New York Knicks

Photo Credit/www.slamonline.com

 

I really think Kristaps can put up a double-double this season, assuming Carmelo Anthony is out of the Big Apple by opening night. With Melo gone, Porzingis will have the ball in his hands nearly every possession and will be the new leader of the team. As much as the new Knick front office apparently would love to keep Anthony, It’d be a bad move for Porzingis’ progression. With Kris being the flat out number one option almost always when he’s out on the floor, his numbers could skyrocket in his third year in the league.

16-17 Stats: 18.1   RPG: 7.2   APG: 1.5   BPG: 2.0

Projected 17-18 Stats: 22.3  RPG: 10.7  APG: 2.1  BPG: 2.2

 

Myles Turner – Indiana Pacers

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Turner lost his superstar teammate this summer in Paul George. The big man will be the new face of the Pacers entering his third year in the NBA. Indiana will most likely look to rebuild next season despite the East being wide open for teams.  Turner will certainly lead the Pacers now in the Post-PG era. The former Texas C has shown a rare ability for a big guy to shoot from the outside and has also become one of the best young shot blockers in the game. Look for him to be the centerpiece in Indianapolis in 2017-2018.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 14.5   RPG: 7.3   APG: 1.3   BPG: 2.1

Projected 17-18 Stats: PPG: 17.3  RPG: 9.4  APG: 1.7  BPG: 2.6

 

Dennis Schroeder – Atlanta Hawks

Photo Credit/www.sportingnews.com

 

The Hawks lost their starting frontcourt this summer which handled a large load of the offense. With Millsap and Howard out of Atlanta, Dennis Schroeder will now be the top option for the team. He took over starting point guard duties last season for Jeff Teague, having the best year of his NBA career. If the German guard can stay healthy and improve his offensive efficiency and shooting percentages, expect a breakout year from him.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 17.9   RPG: 3.1   APG: 6.3   SPG: 0.9

Projected 17-18 Stats: 20.6  RPG: 4.2  APG: 6.7  SPG: 1.2

 

Dante Exum – Utah Jazz

Photo Credit/www.grantland.com

 

The Jazz lost PG George Hill to the Sacramento Kings earlier this summer, though traded for former Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio. Despite the Rubio acquisition, there should be plenty of playing time left for young Australian Dante Exum. Exum is labeled as pretty much a bust at this point in his career, struggling with injuries and not living up to his place on the 2014 draft board. With more opportunity and touches this season, look for Exum to have a solid year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 6.2   RPG: 2.0   APG: 1.7   SPG: 0.3

Projected 17-18 Stats: PPG: 10.9  RPG: 3.7  APG: 4.1 SPG: 0.6

 

Brandon Ingram – Los Angeles Lakers

Photo Credit/www.ocregister.com

 

Ingram came off the bench for much of last season but showed great potential and improvement towards the end of the 82. His length and athleticism are astounding and before suffering a minor injury early on, showed quick slashing ability and an improved shot in summer league. Ingram should come right out of the gate as a starter this season over Luol Deng, and I’d look for him to challenge Brook Lopez as the team’s top scorer this year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 9.4   RPG: 4.0   APG: 2.1   SPG: 0.6

Projected 17-18 Stats: PPG: 15.7  RPG: 6.3  APG: 3.4  SPG: 0.8

 

Bobby Portis – Chicago Bulls

Photo Credit/www.nba.com

 

With Jimmy Butler out of Chicago, the Bulls will likely be starting up a full on rebuild this season. This should give Portis a leg up on other bigs such as Nikola Mirotic and Robin Lopez, and we could even see him start at some points in the year. He’s shown flashes of potential in his first few years with the Bulls, though hasn’t seen enough of the court to turn heads. We’ll see if he gets his chance this season.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 6.8   RPG: 4.6   APG: 0.5   BPG: 0.2

Projected 17-18 Stats: PPG: 10.2  RPG: 6.7  APG: 1.1  BPG: 0.7

 

Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Embiid had a breakout rookie year last year after being riddled with injuries in his previous two seasons in the league. Though he was able to play some, he was on minute restrictions all season and eventually was shut down due to injury. Playing only 25 mins a game last season , Embiid was amazing and had some of the best offensive and defensive efficiency ratings in the league. With presumably more playing time in 17-18, Embiid could put up KAT like numbers.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 20.2   RPG: 7.8   APG: 2.1   BPG: 2.5

Projected 17-18 Stats: PPG: 23.6  RPG: 10.2  APG: 3.3  BPG: 2.8

 

NBA Rookie Mini Scouting Reports and Stat Predictions: Picks 14-1

NBA Rookie Mini Scouting Reports and Stat Predictions: Picks 14-1

This draft class has been one of the most hyped in NBA history. How will the players selected in the lottery fare in their rookie seasons?

 

14. Bam Adebayo – Miami Heat

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Adebayo will likely start the season as a PF for the Heat, though could play some at the 5. What he’ll bring down low for Miami is mainly strength, rebounding, and lots of energy especially on defense. The Heat definitely needed more help in the post for Hassan Whiteside and they have it in Adebayo. He’s shown a solid ability to score in the post in college and if he finds even just a 15-footer, he’ll be dangerous for Miami on both ends.

PPG: 6.3   RPG: 5.9   APG: 0.7   SPG: 0.4   BPG: 1.3

NBA Comparison: Bismack Biyombo

 

13. Donovan Mitchell – Utah Jazz

Photo Credit/www.espn.com

 

Out of Louisville, Mitchell comes to a team who’s star just left which could mean more minutes, touches, and shots for the rookie. I was very impressed by Mitchell’s ball-handling and shot-making ability in the summer league and believe he’ll be a go-to scorer for the Jazz almost right away. His size will always be talked about but the volume scoring will be huge for Utah in a league that demands points in bunches.

PPG: 11.7   RPG: 2.1   APG: 3.4   SPG: 1.1   BPG: 0.2

NBA Comparison: Lou Williams

 

12. Luke Kennard – Detroit Pistons

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Outside shooting was a huge problem for Detroit last year, finishing 28th among the league in team 3pt%. Kennard will provide relief from this awful stat, having a great outside jumper and spacing the floor for Andre Drummond whenever he’s out there. The Former Duke G put up over 19 points a game for the Blue Devils last year and was clutch in tight moments. We saw a difference in his offensive mentality from his freshman to sophomore year and we should see his game expand as he begins his rookie year for the Pistons. Athleticism, speed especially, is not a positive about Kennard, but his ball-handling, size, and shooting will greatly improve the Detroit offense this season.

PPG: 8.6   RPG: 2.9   APG: 1.8   SPG: 0.9   BPG: 0.2

NBA Comparison: Marco Belinelli

 

11. Malik Monk – Charlotte Hornets

Photo Credit/www.seccountry.com

 

It was a surprise that Monk dropped this far to #11 but Charlotte took advantage when he was on the board at their pick. He put up almost 20 a game last year for Kentucky and was the Wildcats go-to scorer all year. The 19-year old comes to Charlotte to most likely backup Nic Batum at the 2. Monk’s playmaking and shot making ability will be great for the Hornets as they’re lacking a scoring guard off the bench.

PPG: 10.3   RPG: 2.2   APG: 2.7   SPG: 0.8   BPG: 0.1

NBA Comparison: Jamal Crawford

 

10. Zach Collins – Portland Trail Blazers

Photo Credit/www.sbnation.com

 

Collins comes to a Portland frontcourt bringing a solid back-to-the-basket game and elite shot blocking ability. He has the size and potential to consistently put up double-doubles, though could develop a jump shot to be able to stretch the floor and give Jusuf Nurkic room to work down low as well.

PPG: 6.8   RPG: 4.4   APG: 0.6   SPG: 0.2   BPG: 1.3

NBA Comparison: Cole Aldrich

 

9. Dennis Smith Jr. – Dallas Mavericks

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Smith Jr. is one of the best athletes we’ve seen coming into the league in this century. I think he’s one of the biggest ROTY sleepers taken this year. He’s shown a tendency to slash and penetrate easily in Vegas this summer and make plays for others by occasionally kicking out after a drive into the paint. Shot selection and turnover reduction are what Smith mainly needs to control to improve but he has the potential to be a perennial All-Star guard for Dallas in my opinion.

PPG: 12.7   RPG: 4.3   APG: 5.8   SPG: 1.6   BPG: 0.3

NBA Comparison: Derrick Rose

 

8. Frank Ntilikina – New York Knicks

Photo Credit/www.denverstiffs.com

 

Expect Ntilikina to be a bit of a project for the Knicks. He probably won’t start this year despite the departure of Derrick Rose. The French guard has tremendous defensive potential at 6’5″ and long arms, but must improve his offensive consistency and shot selection to be an efficient PG for New York.

PPG: 7.3   RPG: 2.8   APG: 3.5   SPG: 1.4   BPG: 0.3

NBA Comparison: George Hill/Tony Allen

 

7. Lauri Markkanen – Chicago Bulls

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Markkanen comes to the Bulls in the Minnesota trade for Jimmy Butler. He’s now a talented frontcourt piece for a Chicago team in rebuild mode. Markkanen’s outside shooting ability and size give him the potential to be a perfect stretch big if he polishes his game up a bit.

PPG: 10.6   RPG: 5.8   APG: 0.9   SPG: 0.4   BPG: 1.1

NBA Comparison: Kristaps Porzingis

 

6. Jonathan Isaac – Orlando Magic

Photo Credit/www.nba.com

 

Isaac may take a while to develop for the Magic, but his length and athleticism make him an intriguing young prospect. He should be 3/4 type forward who can play center in some situations. He showcased flashy defensive ability and solid efficiency scoring above the basket at Florida State. He needs to improve his outside jumper and work on getting stronger, but once he’s ready and healthy he could be one of the best defensive players in the game and one of the most versatile forwards in the league offensively.

PPG: 7.1   RPG: 4.8   APG: 0.9   SPG: 0.8   BPG: 1.2

NBA Comparison: Kevin Durant

 

Before we head into the top 5, although the draft has passed, take a look at this “2017 NBA Draft Preview” clip on the Sports Fan Entertainment Youtube Page to see our video creator’s thoughts on busts and sleepers in this class!

 

5. De’Aaron Fox – Sacramento Kings

Photo Credit/www.slamonline.com

 

Fox is clearly the point guard of the future for the Kings and will get veteran help on and off the court this season with George Hill. It’d be a surprise to see him start at the beginning of the season with the addition of Hill, however, he should get an opportunity to run the team off the bench and showcase his game before his name is called. Fox’s speed is his most enticing attribute, often compared to John Wall for mainly this ability. His playmaking and size are two more positives about him after averaging over 4 assists last season at Kentucky and having an impressive 7’0″ wingspan. Shooting is certainly a problem for Fox at the moment, and though he can hit a 3 from time to time, he mainly gets his points driving to the rim and putting in layups and runners. If a jump shot is fully developed he could easily be a multiple time All-Star someday.

PPG: 11.6   RPG: 3.9   APG: 5.3   SPG: 1.4   BPG: 0.2

NBA Comparison: John Wall

 

4. Josh Jackson – Phoenix Suns

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

The Suns were lucky this draft was so deep for Jackson to drop to them at 4. After one year at Kansas averaging over 16 a game, Jackson joins a Suns team in dire need of defense on the wing. With T.J. Warren still playing in Phoenix, I’d doubt Jackson starts right away, but we could see him in the starting lineup later in the season. The 6’8″ forward is already a solid defender and slasher on the wing, finishing strong around the rim on offense and guarding multiple positions well on D. His inefficient shooting was noticeable during last college season though that will improve as his career kicks off. Rumors are swirling suggesting he would be in a potential Suns trade for Kyrie Irving, however, Phoenix has said multiple times he is pretty much untouchable. Expect him to make a solid defensive impact his rookie year and possibly develop into a superstar in the future.

PPG: 12.3   RPG: 5.7   APG: 2.2   SPG: 1.3  BPG: 1.1

NBA Comparison: Andrew Wiggins

 

3. Jayson Tatum – Boston Celtics

Photo Credit/www.celticsblog.com

 

The Celtics were able to grab Tatum at #3 after trading the #1 pick down to the Philadelphia 76ers. Tatum might just have the sweetest jumper in this draft and is one of the purest scorers in the class. He’s the wing scorer the Celtics need to possibly surpass the Cleveland Cavaliers in the East this year. Tatum is also capable of dropping off passes to big men after penetrating the paint, grabbing rebounds at his 6’8″ size, and playing good wing D when he wants to, though he’s nowhere near the defender Jackson is. With the massive depth Boston currently has at small forward with Jae Crowder and Jaylen Brown, it’s possible we see Tatum at the 4 when he’s on the court and maybe start some at power forward. His numbers could be down due to being drafted by a contender, though he has a shot at appearing in the finals as a top rookie, which is rare.

PPG: 10.8   RPG: 4.3   APG: 1.8   SPG: 0.5   BPG: 0.7

NBA Comparison: Carmelo Anthony

 

2. Lonzo Ball – Los Angeles Lakers

Photo Credit/www.nba.com

 

Ball joins the Lakers with about as high of expectations as a rookie can have. His playmaking ability is far ahead of any other player on the board and he has the size and instincts to become a good on-ball defender and make steals in the passing lanes. All this said, don’t expect him to give you mass amounts of points and take over like Kobe did. Zo’s jumper worked in college but it’s about as ugly as it can get and might cause trouble for him in the NBA. His release point is high but it takes him far too long to get it off, making it easier for defenders to get out on the perimeter and contest. If he’s able to speed up that shot with the help of the Laker coaching staff, that shouldn’t be a problem anymore because when he has time, it goes in. His size at 6’6″ with a 7’0″ wingspan gives him the ability to grab boards at the guard position, come up with steals, and easily contest shorter matchups. Lonzo’s defensive quickness might be his biggest problem right now, though he’ll learn to defend the drive and stay with his matchup on the pick-and-roll as he gains experience in LA. With his insane court vision and potential, Ball could lead the Lakers for a decade and more.

PPG: 13.7   RPG: 5.9   APG: 8.6   SPG: 1.7   BPG: 0.8

NBA Comparison: Jason Kidd

 

1. Markelle Fultz – Philadelphia 76ers

Photo Credit/www.celticshub.com

 

Out of Washington, Fultz is probably the most polished and ready player in this class. He’s able to score from anywhere on the floor, make plays for others efficiently, grab rebounds at 6’5″, and create turnovers on defense. His fit in Philly is perfect as he comes to a team primed for a playoff berth and will play beside veteran sharpshooter J.J. Redick where he’ll get leadership and a guy to kick it out to on the perimeter. Fultz’s numbers in his only year at Washington were ridiculous as he had one of the best freshman seasons of this century, despite not being able to grab his team a tournament bid. Where Fultz can really excel at the next level is on the pick-and-roll. He and Joel Embiid should be the duo on this play and could end up being more deadly than a Green-Curry pick-and-roll. Although he’s just a rookie and joining a team with a few great young players already on it, look for Fultz to be one of the go-to guys right away. He probably won’t make the Eastern All-Star team as a rookie, but expect Markelle to post rookie Curry/rookie Lillard like numbers in his first year.

PPG: 17.9   RPG: 4.6   APG: 5.8   SPG: 1.4   BPG: 0.6

NBA Comparison: Damian Lillard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NBA Season Outlook and Standings Predictions: Central Division

The Cleveland Cavaliers have won this division three years in a row. Will we see them capture a fourth straight Central title in 17-18?

 

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

16-17 Record: 51-31

Major Additions: Jeff Green, Cedi Osman, Derrick Rose, Jose Calderon

Major Losses: Dahntay Jones, likely Kyrie Irving

The Cavs biggest question mark this offseason is by far the status of PG Kyrie Irving. Irving recently requested a trade from the team, citing New York, San Antonio, Miami, and Minnesota as his preferred destinations. Despite these being the teams Irving would LIKE to play for, the Phoenix Suns currently have the most attractive assets to offer Cleveland for Irving. The presumed trade would be Eric Bledsoe, rookie Josh Jackson, and a 2018 1st round pick in exchange for Irving, though the Suns are reportedly not willing to include Jackson in any trade (per CBS Sports). In my opinion, Koby Altman and the Cavs front office must find a way to make this trade happen. Not only would declining to trade Irving make for a sour locker room but likely Phoenix trade asset, Eric Bledsoe, is very close with LeBron James. Bringing Bledsoe to Cleveland gives them better defense at the point guard position while increasing their chances of retaining James in free agency next summer. If this deal is made, along with the other playmaking pieces the Cavs signed this summer, I see them atop the Central Division again.

17-18 Record Prediction: 49-33

 

2. Milwaukee Bucks

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

16-17 Record: 42-40

Major Additions: D.J. Wilson

Major Losses: Jason Terry, Terrence Jones

The Bucks come into this season with a similar roster compared to last year. The team drafted Michigan project, D.J. Wilson, in the first round of the 2017 draft, adding to their plethora of length already in the lineup. Milwaukee will likely not re-sign veteran guard Jason Terry and will also lose PF Terrence Jones to China. As for their core, we all know what Giannis Antetokounmpo brings to the table with length, defensive versatility, playmaking ability, and an innate slashing attribute, all at around 6’11”. PF Jabari Parker is coming off his best season as a pro despite suffering a season ending injury. Expect him to put up 20+ppg on high percentages this year. Two other young talents for the team, Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon, should both have increased roles next year as Milwaukee improves. As for the frontcourt, reports are swirling that big men, Greg Monroe, as well as John Henson, are available via trade (per Bleacher Report). We’ll have to wait and see how the rest of the summer shakes out for the Deer, but they should finish next year higher in the East, grabbing a home-court playoff spot.

17-18 Record Prediction: 48-34

 

3. Detroit Pistons

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16-17 Record: 37-45

Major Additions: Avery Bradley, Luis Montero, Langston Galloway, Anthony Tolliver, Luke Kennard

Major Losses: Marcus Morris, Darrun Hilliard, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Aron Baynes, Beno Udrih

The Pistons made several franchise-changing moves this off-season. They acquired guard Avery Bradley from the Boston Celtics in exchange for F Marcus Morris. This move led to the departure of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from the Motor City, as it looks as if Detroit has found its shooting guard for the future. The team also added Duke G/F Luke Kennard with their 1st round pick in the 2017 draft. It’s possible we see Kennard play at the 3 with Bradley at the 2. Last season, the team voiced its uncertainty of the future of its two biggest pieces, Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond, though with the team yet to move either at this point in the summer, it’s likely the two are in Detroit to start the 17-18 season. Despite the loss of frontcourt depth in the offseason, I don’t think the Pistons will fall completely off the table this year. I predict they challenge for an 8 seed in the East barring injury.

17-18 Record Prediction: 39-43

 

4. Chicago Bulls

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16-17 Record: 41-41

Major Additions: Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen, Justin Holiday, David Nwaba, Antonio Blakeney

Major Losses: Jimmy Butler, Michael Carter-Williams, Rajon Rondo

The Bulls made one of the biggest trades of the offseason earlier this summer when they moved All-Star guard Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. The team also added to their young backcourt with the additions of Justin Holiday, David Nwaba, and Antonio Blakeney. This summer was really about out with the old and in with the new on the Chicago roster. The most intriguing new Bull is rookie Lauri Markkanen. Markkanen has achieved Dirk Nowitzki comparisons dating back to last college ball season when he was with Arizona. His silky-smooth long range jumper and post-potential along with his length on defense were enough for Chicago to select him number 7 overall in the draft. As their rebuild begins it will be interesting to see if one of the high-expectation prospects turns out as a star or whether we see a surprising young player shine. Despite retaining Dwyane Wade, the Jimmy Butler deal made the playoffs well out of reach for Chi-Town.

17-18 Record Prediction: 29-53

 

5. Indiana Pacers

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16-17 Record: 42-40

Major Additions: Victor Oladipo, Cory Joseph, Domantas Sabonis, T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Darren Collison, Bojan Bogdanovic

Major Losses: Paul George, Rakeem Christmas, Rodney Stuckey

Indiana’s worst nightmare came true earlier this summer when their star, Paul George, gave them notice he would not be re-signing with the team next offseason. The Pacers made the right move getting him out of Indianapolis before the start of the season, but was it the best they could do? In return for George, Indiana received Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis from the OKC Thunder. Though these two players are fairly young with considerable upside, it’s hard to believe the team couldn’t have squeezed a player like Jamal Murray out of Denver or a fairly high lotto pick from this year’s draft. A young core of Oladipo, Turner, and Leaf could turn out getting them a playoff appearance in 5 years or so, but if I were leading that front office, I would’ve been looking for a younger guard than Oladipo with much higher potential. What Oladipo is now and what he’ll likely be for years to come is a much, much lesser version of a Dwyane Wade type guard. I believe Myles Turner could turn into an Eastern All-Star in even as soon as two years, but as of now the Pacers are probably just praying Marvin Bagley lll is able to re-classify to be available in the draft next year, rather than having their eyes on the 2018 playoffs.

17-18 Record Prediction: 24-58