Chris Walker’s NBA Lottery Power Rankings

Photo Credit: Flickr user bikeride via Wiki Commons

As the NBA Playoffs continue to heat up, there are still 14 teams contemplating their offseason recruitment. The prospects have finished declaring, the scouting combine is coming soon, and the lottery is still a hot mess to be sorted. With all of these in mind, like my co-conspirator Tim Lewis, I put together a top 14 of 2017 NBA Draft prospects.

1. Markelle Fultz

Height: 6’4” — Weight: 195 lbs. — Age: 18 (05/29/1998) — NBA Position: Combo Guard — Recent Team: Univ. of Washington

Points/Game: 23.2 — Rebounds/Game: 5.7 — Assists/Game: 5.9

Strengths

  • Strong Scorer — averaging 23.2 points/game built on 41.3% 3 point percentage; Great variety of iso moves and strong in the pick and roll as a scorer & passer
  • Athleticism — Used in body in a variety of ways to get his shots and move the ball; changes speed on a dime; great foot work
  • Big Body — At 6’4” with a 6’10” wingspan, there’s is a great potential to play big and defend bigger players at the next level; physically ready for the NBA
  • Can Play Off the Ball — Has had to play with another point guard for Washington and was able to smoothly play as more of a shooting guard at times

Weaknesses

  • Played for a Terrible Team — Washington has been pretty bad for a while, which contributed to a 9–22 record and another missed NCAA tournament. Fultz was the team’s best player, meaning he had to play a healthy amount of hero ball this past season. I’m really curious how he would have played on a UCLA or a Kentucky — a team with better shooters, and players altogether.
  • Took Plays Off Defensively — Despite all the tools, he just went through the motions.

Best team fit: Sixers, Knicks, Magic

2. Josh Jackson

Height: 6’7” — Weight: 203 lbs. — Age: 20 (02/10/1997) — NBA Position: Small Forward/Shooting Guard— Recent Team: Univ. of Kansas

Points/Game: 16.3 — Rebounds/Game: 7.4 — Assists/Game: 3.0

Strengths

  • Great Defender — Over the run of the year, he proved capable and able to guard both guards and forwards with ease. Averaged 1.1 blocks and 1.7 steals per game.
  • Positional Versatility — Honestly, it’s not hard to see him playing some point guard in order to cause mismatches, depending on the team. In the same breath, it is just as easy to see him playing small ball 4, to take advantage of less athletic power forwards.
  • Very Athletic — Plays above the rim with ease. An explosive scorer.
  • Great Ball Handler and Passer

Weaknesses

  • Maturity issues — He’s got recent court trouble due to an incident involving property damage.
  • Bad shooting mechanics — He improved his 3 point shooting over the run of the season, but at the same time got a good number of corner 3s which improved numbers. Also, averaging 56% from the charity strip is very concerning.

Best team fit: Suns, Magic, Lakers

3. Lonzo Ball

Height: 6’6” — Weight: 190 — Age: 19 (10/27/1997) — NBA Position: Point Guard — Recent Team: Univ. of California, Los Angeles

Points/Game: 14.6 — Rebounds/Game: 6.0 — Assists/Game: 7.7

Strengths

  • Best Passer in this Draft — Led the NCAA in Assists this year, while keeping his assist to turnover ratio at a 3:1 range over the year
  • 3-Point Shooting — Probably is already prepared to shoot at the NBA range, averaging 41% on 5 attempts a game in college.
  • High Basketball IQ — Doesn’t need the ball to affect the game, which means he could play off the ball in the right system.

Weaknesses

Best team fit: Knicks, Lakers, Pelicans

4. Jason Tatum

Height: 6’8” — Weight: 204 lbs. — Age: 19 (03/03/1998) — NBA Position: SmallForward — Recent Team: Duke

Points/Game: 16.8 — Rebounds/Game: 7.3 — Assists/Game: 2.1

Strengths

  • Strong scorer — Tatum really made his name with his iso game, but he has a lot of moves that can get him to the basket. He had some games where he was a terror this year, like against Virginia, a notoriously slow, defensive team, who he cut up for 28 points.
  • Gets to the free throw line at 4.8 attempts a game
  • Really good rebounder at his position — He had a couple of double-doubles on the year, but a lot of 8–9 rebound games.

Weaknesses

  • Decision making — That iso game sometimes came at the expense of an open shot for another teammate or just a better option altogether. When you’re at Duke, hero ball is probably only necessary in dire straits.
  • Could have been better all around — Maybe this is indicative of having to start later due to injury. His 3 point percentage was just alright, not a great defender. He has so-so athleticism, so his first step isn’t going to get him paid.

Best team fit: Hornets, Nuggets, Kings

5. Malik Monk

Height: 6’3”— Weight: 197 lbs. — Age: 19 (02/04/1998) — NBA Position: Shooting Guard — Recent Team: Univ. of Kentucky

Points/Game: 19.8 — Rebounds/Game: 2.5 — Assists/Game: 2.3

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Not a great Defender — average 0.9 steals, which alone doesn’t show as much defensive awareness. There is also the fact that……
  • 6’3” shooting guard — Monk is not going to guard NBA 2s because of the size mismatch. In accord, can he play point guard? Coach Cal didn’t have him do it all year because of Fox and Isaiah Briscoe being around.
  • Streaky Shooter — He can shoot you into a game as much as he can shoot you out of a game, but needs a lot of shots to get there.

Best team fit: Sixers, Kings,

6. Lauri Markkenen

Height: 7’0 — Weight: 225 lbs. — Age: 19 (05/22/201997) — NBA Position: Power Forward — Recent Team: Univ. of Arizona

Points/Game: 15.6 — Rebounds/Game: 7.2 — Assists/Game: 0.9

Strengths

  • Good Body — 7 feet and 225 pounds is a bit taller than the average power forward but the weight is similar.
  • A True Stretch 4 — He is making his money as a big shooter. A 42% three point shot, the Finish 4 spent the year actually showing a healthy range in the college game.

Weaknesses

  • Not a good defender — For his height, he only averaged .5 blocks a game, which is really disappointing.
  • Needs to be a better interior player — He averaged 7 rebounds, which isn’t that good at his size. Also, he did not showcase a lot of post moves over the season.
  • Solid, not Great Athleticism — He’s slow. Plain and simple.

Best team fit: Mavericks, Nuggets, Timberwolves

7. De’Aaron Fox

Height: 6’4” — Weight: 171 lbs. — Age: 19 (12/20/1997) — NBA Position: Point Guard — Recent Team: Univ. of Kentucky

Points/Game: 16.7 — Rebounds/Game: 4.0 — Assists/Game: 4.6

Strengths

  • Very Athletic — The backcourt of Fox and Monk looked like a track meet at times. Gets to the rim easily and finishes with a strong variety of moves.
  • Great Defender — See what he did to Lonzo Ball twice.
  • Can get his own shot — For a guy who cannot shoot a 3 to save his life, he actually averaged 52% for 2. A great game to look at is the Sweet 16 game against UCLA, where he dropped 39 points built on a lot of drives to the basket and 15 free throws.

Weaknesses

  • Horrid 3 point shooter — At about 25% 3s made, it’s definitely not a strength.
  • Should be a better playmaker — He made some bad decisions in terms of passing vs getting his own shot. Did not do enough with the pick and roll. Having to share a backcourt with Briscoe contributes to this, but he also sported about a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio.

Best team fit: Mavericks, Knicks, Kings

8. Dennis Smith

Height: 6’3” — Weight: 195 lbs. — Age: 19 (11/05/1997) — NBA Position: Point Guard — Recent Team: North Carolina State

Points/Game: 18.1 — Rebounds/Game: 4.6 — Assists/Game: 6.2

Strengths

  • Strong Scorer — Led NC State with 18.1 point/game, which he got through a variety of ways, from a good 3 point shot (35%) to a solid mid-range stroke. His game against Duke from January is an example of him attacking with variety.
  • Still Athletic after ACL injury — Background: tore his ACL right before his high school senior season. As far as I’ve seen, he still very explosive and very fast.
  • Probably the best handles in this draft.

Weaknesses

  • Played on a bad team — NC State was 15–17, 4–14 in the ACC this year, which is really bad. Again, like Fultz, I would have been interested to see how he would have featured on Arizona or even Florida State, both better teams in terms of talent. A pick and roll of Smith and Markkanen or Isaac would have been a nice sight.
  • Still Needs to Work One Being a PG — Smith led the ACC in assists, so he clear knows how to make a pass. He needs to figure out when to facilitate v.s. getting his own shot.

Best team fit: Kings, Knicks, Magic

9. Jonathan Isaac

Height: 6’11” — Weight: 205 lbs. — Age: 19 (10/03/1997) — NBA Position: Small/Power Forward — Recent Team: Florida State

Points/Game: 12.0 — Rebounds/Game: 7.8 — Assists/Game: 1.2

Strengths

  • Long — 6’11” with a 7’ 1” wingspan for a Small Forward is going to be fun to watch at the NBA level. Very Kevin Durant-esque frame.
  • Moves really well for his height — He actually moves like a smaller player, handles the ball well.
  • Solid shooting percentages — He only averaged 34.8% on 3s but his free throws were at 78% and an altogether 50% field goal percentage. These are good numbers for a 3rd option on an NCAA tournament team.

Weaknesses

  • Small Frame — At 205 lbs, he’s going to need to add some muscle so he doesn’t get pushed around.
  • Didn’t always look elite — He had about three 20 point games and was never the man on this past year’s Florida State team, because guards Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Dwayne Bacon we around. It would have been something to see him be more assertive and take over a game.

Best team fit: Mavericks, Timberwolves, Celtics

10. Zach Collins

Height: 7’0” — Weight: 230 lbs. — Age: 19 (10/19/1997) — NBA Position: Power Forward — Recent Team: Gonzaga

Points/Game: 10 — Rebounds/Game: 5.9 — Assists/Game: 0.4

Strengths

  • Great Size — Collins is 7 feet with a 7’2” wingspan at 230 lbs, he’s got good size as either a center or a power forward in the NBA.
  • Good defender — His per-40 projection for blocks came to ~4.2. He actually was used the best in relief of a center who couldn’t keep up with smaller players.
  • High Motor — He doesn’t take plays off, making quick transitions from defense to offense and back again.

Weaknesses

  • Didn’t start — Again, he started on the bench and averaged about 17 minutes/game behind Jonathan Williams and Przemek Karnowski. Maybe seniority played a role, but it’s probably not a good sign that the most time he played all year was 22 minutes.
  • Still young — This goes back to the minutes but also the fact that he is going to be a project in the NBA. He definitely excelled because of a combo of athleticism and IQ. He needs to get better offensively so he can stay on the floor.
  • Played in the West Coast Conference — Not the ACC or Pac 12 in terms of talent.

Best team fit: Timberwolves, Miami, Hornets

11. Justin Patton

Height: 7’0” — Weight: 230 lbs. — Age: 19 (06/14/1997) — NBA Position: Center — Recent Team: Creighton

Points/Game: 12.9 — Rebounds/Game: 6.2 — Assists/Game: 1.2

Strengths

  • Great Size — He’s 7 feet tall with possibly a 7’3” wingspan, so he should be able to go to work in the post, offensively and defensively.
  • Very efficient scorer — His 12.9 points/game came on 67% shooting from the field.
  • Athlete — He sported some great lateral quickness for his size, as well as being able to play above the rim. Also, played defense on guards and didn’t look intimidated.

Weaknesses

  • Redshirt Freshman — Patton’s already 20 with only a year of playing, due to being redshirted last year. He really came out of nowhere this year. It’s a matter of do you strike while the iron’s hot or wait a year, when anything can happen?
  • Horrid free throw shooter — 51% is not going to cut it in the NBA.
  • Definitely a project — He didn’t rebound as well as his size would make you think he should. He needs the time to develop and learn the game more.

Best team fit: Miami, Bulls, Hornets

12. Frank Ntilikina

Height: 6’5” — Weight: 170 lbs. — Age: 18 (07/28/1998) — NBA Position: PG/SG — Recent Team: SIG Strasbourg (France)

Points/Game: 4.8 — Rebounds/Game: 2.0 — Assists/Game: 1.0

Strengths

  • Fantastic height — He’s 6’5” with a rumored 7 foot wingspan, which means he projects to be a solid defender, depending on IQ and willingness.
  • Good passer — To note, during the 2016 FIBA U18 European Championships, Ntilikina was named MVP after averaging 15.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. When given the keys, he works to find his teammates, as proven over the run of the tournament.
  • He’s been a pro since 15 — There’s a maturity that has to come with the fact that he’s been practicing against grown men since he could start learning how to drive

Weaknesses

  • Doesn’t play enough — Better put, we don’t have enough data on him, in league. It’s honestly the biggest advantage a lot of the American players have on him.
  • He’s kind of passive offensively — Listen, if the NY Times has a profile where this is front and center, there’s a good point. Better put, he’s needs to get better at creating off the dribble, so he doesn’t run in circles.
  • Body — He needs to put on like 20 pounds so he doesn’t get pushed around.

Best team fit: Pistons, Mavericks, Pelicans

13. Ogugua ‘OG’ Anunoby

Height: 6’8” — Weight: 235 lbs. — Age: 19 (07/17/1997) — NBA Position: SF — Recent Team: Indiana Univ. Bloomington

Points/Game: 11.1 — Rebounds/Game: 5.4 — Assists/Game: 1.4

Strengths

  • Great size at position — Anunoby is 6’8” with either a 7’2” or 7’6” wingspan, which means he could play small ball 4, when needed.
  • Athleticism — He finishes strong around the rim and shows a great lateral movement and foot speed. Also, his dunks could kill a man.
  • Terrific Defender — He’s intense. He’s able to successfully use his body to basically swarm a player, forcing turnovers. He got 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks a game, having to defend every position.
  • Cool Name

Weaknesses

  • ACL injury, still recovering — Automatically dinged because we don’t know where he is in terms of recovering from his injury. He got injured in mid January, so he could be ready for the start of the NBA season, but that’s still 9 months away from basketball and having to get comfortable playing at a new, higher level of competition.
  • Limited offensively — He’s a 56% free throw shooter with a 31% 3 point shot, so he basically had to get his 11.1 points/game more in the post.
  • Motor — Took plays off at times and could become passive when he didn’t have the ball or was the main defender.

Best team fit: Bulls, Nuggets, Trailblazers

14. Justin Jackson

Height: 6’8” — Weight: 210 lbs. — Age: 22 (03/22/1995) — NBA Position: Small Forward — Recent Team: Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Points/Game: 18.3 — Rebounds/Game: 4.7 — Assists/Game: 2.8

Strengths

  • Solid small forward size at 6’8” with a 6’10” wingspan
  • Now a multi-weapon offensive player — His first 2 years at UNC, he sported a 30% shot behind the arc. This year, it shot up to 37%, thanks to a cleaner form. In accord, he is a solid passer and displays a strong basketball IQ, shown through his ability to score in face of what the defense gave him throughout the year.
  • Won a national championship

Weaknesses

  • He’s 22 — He’s more of a finished product at this point than most players of this list.
  • Not a great athlete — Jackson didn’t blow by people naturally. He doesn’t posses a strong first step.
  • How strong is he? — In the NBA, he needs to be stronger because he’ll get pushed around by bigger players, with ease.

Best team fit: Hornets, Sixers, Nuggets

Next Four Up —

Jarrett Allen, Center, Texas — He’s 6’11” with a 7’5” wingspan, at last measure. He needs to get better offensively, but he did make progress this past year at Texas.

John Collins, Power Forward, Wake Forest — He’s blew up thanks to playing big against the upper crust of the ACC, but also for being efficient.

TJ Leaf, Power Forward, UCLA — Leaf proved himself to be a strong offense player, leading his squad in scoring at 16.3 points/game. Length leaves something to be desired on defense.

Terrance Ferguson, Shooting Guard, Adelaide 36ers (Australia) — He averaged 4.6 points/game playing in Australia, coming off the bench. Would have been great to see him play at Arizona, just to have more data.

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