NBA Draft Big Board: Ranking the Top 30 Prospects Heading into Combine

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMay 10, 2017

NBA Draft Big Board: Ranking the Top 30 Prospects Heading into Combine

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    The NBA Draft Combine, which began Tuesday in Chicago, signifies the true start to the predraft process. 

    Five-on-fives create a platform for fringe players and possible first-rounders to move the needle. It's also the first time executives get to meet and see many of the prospects live. 

    A handful of projected top-10 picks won't bother to show. The other expected first-round names in attendance are only likely to participate in measurements, athletic testing and interviews. 

    At the combine, prospects, agents and teams also begin scheduling workouts for later in May and June. 

    Of our top 30, only No. 23 and No. 29 will head to the combine without an agent (thus preserving their collegiate eligibility). 

30. Tyler Lydon (Syracuse, PF, Sophomore)

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    Nick Lisi/Associated Press

    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 20-40

    Tyler Lydon didn't show anything new in 2016-17, but with NBA teams always in search of more floor-stretching bigs, his shooting and athleticism will keep him relevant in the first-round discussion. 

    He still has work to do, after mixing big scoring outputs with disappearing acts, From scrimmages to measurements and quickness drills, his combine results could be critical for his draft stock.

    Poor rebounding numbers (9.6 per 40 minutes), limited playmaking ability and Syracuse's zone defense are reasons to question his pro upside. But Lydon should still create debate within scouting departments for teams in the 20s. Finding a shooting specialist and finishing weapon that late would be considered a win.  

29. Semi Ojeleye (SMU, PF, Junior)

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 20-40

    Semi Ojeleye has something to play for at the combine, where he'll be looking to earn first-round looks by standing out in five-on-fives. He'll show up without an agent. The AAC Player of the Year could strengthen his credibility during scrimmages, just as mid-major prospects De'Andre Bembry and Pascal Siakam did in 2016. 

    He came out of nowhere to drill 73 threes at a 42.4 percent clip as a junior for SMU. Explosive around the rim, Ojeleye's powerful frame, athleticism and shooting numbers will have scouts tracking him closely in Chicago. 

    Teams must ultimately decide whether his low rebounding and defensive numbers are major red flags. Despite his strength and bounce, Ojeleye averaged just 6.8 rebounds, 0.4 blocks and 0.4 steals.

28. Jawun Evans (Oklahoma State, PG, Sophomore)

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    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 20-40

    Along with Semi Ojeleye, Jawun Evans will be one of the few players participating in five-on-fives with a chance to jump into the first round. 

    He stands out as the most enticing point guard in the draft once the top five are gone, which is likely to be in the lottery. The most productive pick-and-roll operator among power-conference guards, per Synergy Sports, Evans freezes defenses with crafty ball-handling and mean hesitation. 

    Lacking explosiveness around the basket without a great sample size of three-point shooting (55 made treys in 54 career games), there are questions as to how Evans' scoring will translate.  But NBA teams will value his ability to penetrate and create shots in a change-of-pace role. 

27. Harry Giles III (Duke, PF, Freshman)

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    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 15-35

    The Harry Giles lottery talk is over. Three knee surgeries, his minimal impact at Duke and a strong draft field all work against him. He's being viewed as a potential energizer rather than the high-upside scorer he once looked like in high school.

    Still, there could be value tied to his finishing, offensive rebounding and motor. If his medical reports come back clean, some teams will be willing to bet on his explosiveness returning and skills improving.

    The safer projection takes into account Giles' injury history, inexperience and lack of polish. The potential reward becomes worth the risk in the 20s.

26. Ivan Rabb (California, PF/C, Sophomore)

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    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 15-35

    Over the next six weeks, Ivan Rabb will look to make up the ground he lost during the season. It could be difficult, however. His athletic-test results should be middle of the pack, and he won't be able to diminish concerns in workouts over how rarely he took over as California's top option.

    With teams moving toward pace-and-space offenses—and away from post-oriented bigs—Rabb could slide deep into the 20s. It's in his best interest to show teams he can shoot the mid-range jumper and three-ball shots we saw in flashes, but not regularly. 

    He's still worth taking for his hands around the basket, rebounding motor and ability to score within 12 feet. Believers could point to Tristan Thompson as a possible best-case outlook for Rabb.

25. Rodions Kurucs (Latvia, SF, 1998)

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    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 15-30

    In the late first round, the idea of Rodions Kurucs could be enough for a team to bite.

    He's only played 25 games in 2016-17, 24 of which have come in Spain's second division. But for a projected wing, Kurucs' athleticism and tools stand out under the NBA lens. And he shows regular flashes that highlight his scoring, shooting and defensive potential.

    The hope is that his skills catch up over the next few years playing against pros with Barcelona in the competitive Euroleague and Spanish ACB. He's a draft-and-stash play in the 20s for a team uninterested in wasting a roster spot on a college prospect whose ceiling says backup.

24. Bam Adebayo (Kentucky, C, Freshman)

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 15-35

    Look for Bam Adebayo to make noise during athletic testing, where he could finish with the highest vertical leaps among bigs. That bounce should translate to easy baskets off pick-and-rolls, dump downs and offensive rebounds. 

    His agility and shuttle-run times at the combine will also be worth monitoring. Getting coaches to buy into his potential to switch and defend the perimeter would give his value a significant boost. 

    Lacking advanced post moves, shooting touch and range, Adebayo's scoring limitations knock him outside the top 20. He'll lean on his inside finishing and defensive versatility for minutes and paychecks.

23. Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky, SG, 1998)

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    Jessica Hill/Associated Press

    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 11-40

    Nobody has a wider draft range than Hamidou Diallo, who's flashed lottery-type talent but only at the high school level. His lack of experience, game film and polish will likely turn off the majority of NBA teams. But a few in the first round are bound to be intrigued by Diallo's explosive athleticism and room to improve.

    Upon seeing the Milwaukee Bucks get rewarded for gambling on Thon Maker with the 10th overall pick last June after he similarly passed on college for the draft, more teams could be willing to roll the dice on Diallo's boom-or-bust potential.

    Though he hasn't hired an agent and could return to Kentucky for his first full season, the NBA is clearly on Diallo's mind. Should he stay in the draft, look for him to rise following the combine and workouts. We could see Diallo start to leapfrog less sexy juniors and seniors.

22. Ike Anigbogu (UCLA, C, Freshman)

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    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 15-40

    Ike Anigbogu won't participate in five-on-fives at the NBA combine, where his lack of skill and offensive limitations could be exposed. He will, however, show up for measurements and athletic testing. 

    Anigbogu's tools and foot speed alone should get him into the first round. Strong, long and mobile, he's physically built to anchor the paint, but he's also quick enough to slide in pick-and-roll coverage. And despite lacking a jump shot or shot-creating ability, he's a high-percentage finishing target diving to the hoop.

    He'll look to convince teams he can follow in the footsteps of a center like Clint Capella, who impacts games simply by running, leaping and reacting.

21. OG Anunoby (Indiana, SF, Sophomore)

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 12-30

    Still recovering from a season-ending knee injury, OG Anunoby can only interview from here on out, though encouraging medical reports will help his case as well.

    He'll be hoping to sell teams on unique defensive potential fueled by ridiculous length and quickness. Those who expect his shooting to improve will have him higher on their board than others.

    Unfortunately for Anunoby, he went down after shooting just 31.1 percent on three-point attempts and 56.3 percent from the free-throw line in 16 games. He also showed minimal offensive development from one season to the next. 

    But without any notable offensive skills to lean on, he still shot a terrific 70.1 percent inside the arc, a tribute to his tools and athleticism. Even if his handle and jumper never improve, Anunoby's defense, attacking and finishing could hold first-round value.

20. Terrance Ferguson (Australia, SF, 1998)

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    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 13-30

    Terrance Ferguson must be salivating at the chance to work out for teams after averaging just 4.6 points per game in Australia's National Basketball League.

    His athleticism and jumper are suited for the open-gym setting. Ferguson should force teams to look past his off year shooting from three, particularly since he drilled seven triples at the 2016 Nike Hoop Summit.

    Ferguson won't be able to erase concerns over his limited off-the-dribble game, though. His 18 total assists in 17 games highlight minimal playmaking skills, which damages his value, especially if he plans on playing 2-guard.

19. TJ Leaf (UCLA, PF, Freshman)

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 12-30

    Skilled and productive, TJ Leaf now has six weeks to convince teams his offense can translate against superior NBA athletes. They'll likely look into his testing at the combine, particularly the agility time and shuttle run, which measure lateral quickness and reaction for defense.

    Confirming his 46.6 percent three-point shooting percentage during workouts will be another priority for Leaf, who wasn't as impressive at the free-throw line (67.9 percent). 

    Either way, he's built a first-round case with his freshman year production (16.3 points on 61.7 percent shooting, 8.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists), inside-out scoring versatility and high energy. He looks poised to carve out a supporting role somewhere.

18. John Collins (Wake Forest, PF, Sophomore)

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    Robert Franklin/Associated Press

    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 14-30

    After leading the country in player efficiency rating, there won't be a need for John Collins to play five-on-five at the combine. Scouts have already seen him consistently punish opposing front lines in the ACC.

    From here on out, he'll look to sell himself during athletic testing and workouts, where he'll want to make teams believe his jumper can become a routine weapon.

    He won't be able to improve his questionable defensive credibility over the next six weeks. But shooting well for scouts and executives should help Collins maximize his stock. At the least, he should be viewed as a pick-and-roll target, low-post scorer, mid-range threat and offensive rebounder. 

17. Isaiah Hartenstein (Germany, PF, 1998)

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    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 14-30

    Still seeing minutes with Zalgiris, Isaiah Hartenstein will miss the NBA combine, but scouts from across the league got a close-up look during April's Nike Hoop Summit.

    His jumper wasn't working there, but he was still able to showcase the size, mobility and ball-handling that's stood out for years. And though he missed his only three-pointer and 5-of-7 free-throw attempts, previous shot-making at junior levels still creates hope for his shooting potential. 

    He's also had some strong performances since returning to Lithuania, most recently going for nine points on six shots with a triple last Friday. 

16. Luke Kennard (Duke, SG, Sophomore)

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 12-25

    After averaging 19.5 points per game as a sophomore at Duke, Luke Kennard has nothing to gain from playing five-on-five at the NBA combine. And with his athleticism and quickness standing out as weaknesses, it wouldn't be a surprise if Kennard dodges testing as well. 

    His sales pitch ultimately revolves around skill level and basketball IQ. Kennard's shooting stroke and numbers (88 threes on 43.8 percent shooting) are convincing. And he compensates for limited explosiveness and speed with crafty footwork, ball-handling and fakes, as well as high-level shot-making ability. 

    Even if he struggles to finish at the rim or defend starting-caliber wings, Kennard's pick-and-roll game and jumper should keep him afloat in an offensive-specialist role.

15. Donovan Mitchell (Louisville, SG, Sophomore)

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    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 15-30

    Donovan Mitchell's fan club should only grow from here. He's poised to emerge as a winner during the combine's athletic testing and interviews. And after a breakout sophomore season during which he showcased tighter ball-handling and a deadlier shooting stroke (80 threes), he's bound to impress in a workout setting. 

    Teams are still more likely to view Mitchell as a sixth-man type of bench spark, as he's a 6'3" 2-guard with limited playmaking skills. But they'll also see value in his ability to score in bunches and create and make shots with crafty drives, step-back jumpers and streak shooting.

    Mitchell's value gets an additional boost if he can convert his quickness and strength into pesky on-ball defense.

14. Justin Jackson (North Carolina, SF, Junior)

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

     Pre-combine draft projection: No. 12-25

    The NBA combine won't help Justin Jackson, whose measurements and athletic testing results should fall short of the other projected top wings in attendance.

    He'll still draw first-round interest for his breakout junior season and the coveted strengths he established, specifically lethal shooting (105 threes), a patented floater and high basketball IQ. 

    The fact that he's proficient scoring off screens, spot-ups and curls—as opposed to needing isolation touches—should make coaches feel confident in his ability to make shots within an NBA offensive set.

    Jackson's defense on Kentucky's Malik Monk in the NCAA tournament could have helped him seal the deal with teams who were on the fence.

13. Jarrett Allen (Texas, C, Freshman)

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    Chris Covatta/Getty Images

    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 11-20

    Jarrett Allen should emerge as a winner from the measurement portion of the combine. Last summer, his wingspan checked in at 7'5 ½", a number that could wind up being the longest of any player expected to generate first-round interest.

    Between his size, extreme length and mobility, Allen covers ground at both ends, with the ability run the floor for easy baskets or slide his feet to block and contest shots. 

    Allen's offensive skills and improvement are what propelled him onto first-round radars after just one season at Texas. Physically, he clearly fits the NBA center position. But the flashes of high-percentage jump hooks and comfortable mid-range shooting are mostly behind Allen's top-15 ranking. 

12. Justin Patton (Creighton, C, Freshman)

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    Steven Ryan/Getty Images

    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 11-25

    Justin Patton had trouble with physicality, but there won't be any of that during workouts, where his tools, athleticism and shooting touch could turn heads.

    Between his wheels, springs and length, he covers an enormous amount of ground and air space, which led to easy baskets all season (67.6 percent shooting). And though it only came in flashes, we saw fancy footwork, post moves, passing and three-point range.

    Skeptics may point to his weak 9.8 rebounds per 40 minutes and lack of strength around the rim. But at 19 years old, neither are alarming enough to negate Patton's mix of tools, bounce and offensive versatility.

11. Lauri Markkanen (Arizona, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 6-11

    It's easier to buy into Lauri Markkanen's floor than ceiling.

    He could be the top shooter in the draft, after making 42.3 percent of his 163 three-point attempts and 83.5 percent of his free throws. And with 7'0" size, mobility and polished skills, at the least, he should be able to settle in as an offensive specialist and shot-maker.

    But the limited explosiveness and defensive numbers, which were red-flag low (15 steals, 19 blocks), along with the fact he averaged fewer than one assist per game, suggest his upside is capped.

    The crystal ball projects a high-end role player in the mold of Ryan Anderson.

10. Frank Ntilikina (France, PG/SG, 1998)

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    GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/Getty Images

    Pre-combine draft projection: Late lottery

    Frank Ntilikina isn't done yet in France, where he's made 13-of-25 shots over his last four games and continues to strengthen his draft case.

    Moved to the starting lineup in February, the 18-year-old combo guard has remained efficient among pros, shooting 54.7 percent inside the arc and 40.5 percent behind it. And he's done so playing on and off the ball.

    Ntilikina isn't a blow-by playmaker, a limitation that raises questions over his ceiling. But between his spectacular defensive speed and length, as well as his offensive versatility and shot-making numbers, teams should feel good about Ntilikina carving out a role.

9. Zach Collins (Gonzaga, C, Freshman)

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    Pre-combine draft projection: Late lottery

    Zach Collins strengthened his credibility in the NCAA tournament after previously creating buzz with productivity and efficiency playing limited minutes in the West Coast Conference. Impressive showings against Xavier, South Carolina and North Carolina made the regular-season numbers appear legitimate.

    He could look even more alluring during predraft workouts, where Collins can showcase a jumper scouts only caught in flashes. We saw promising jump hooks and back-to-the-basket moves throughout the season, but Collins becomes really intriguing if the 10 threes and 74.3 percent free-throw mark are signs that point to consistent shooting in the future.

    The 13.6 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per 40 minutes should only help teams buy into his body and quickness.

8. Malik Monk (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    Pre-combine draft projection: Top 10

    Figuring to be a top-10 lock, Malik Monk will avoid the combine all together. It's too bad. It would have been interesting to see how he measured after checking in just 6'3" with a 6'3 ½" wingspan before the season.

    Either way, he'll help teams forget about his size during workouts with explosive leaping and shooting.

    His upside is debatable. He flashed little playmaking potential and a jumper-heavy shot selection. But there isn't any argument over his shot-making or ability to score in bunches.  

7. Dennis Smith Jr. (North Carolina State, PG, Freshman

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Pre-combine draft projection: Top 10

    Quick, explosive and skilled, Dennis Smith Jr. aces the NBA eye test. But how efficient will he be running an offense? 

    Shot-hunting and lazy decision-making got Smith in trouble as a freshman. Between the overall inconsistency and uninspiring body language, there are questions about his potential to lead. 

    There aren't many over his ability to score and create, though. Smith's athleticism, attacking, streak shooting and playmaking suggest he's poised to produce. Eric Bledsoe could be a player Smith winds up mirroring over time.

6. De'Aaron Fox (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 4-7

    Following a big NCAA tournament, which a pair of other top guards failed to reach, De'Aaron Fox could be in position to rise even further during the predraft process.

    Persuasive athleticism could change minds during workouts, where he'll also be able to ease concerns over his jumper. Fox is a capable shot-maker with a fine stroke, having hit 73.9 percent of his free throws and nine threes over Kentucky final 10 games, so it wouldn't be surprising if teams on the fence felt better after watching him go through shooting drills.

    Even without the perimeter game, his speed, motor and playmaking at both ends are good bets to carry over. But Fox also wouldn't be the first NBA player to improve his jumper in the pros. He comes off as a low-risk, high-reward option.

5. Jonathan Isaac (Florida State, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    Robert Franklin/Associated Press

    Pre-combine draft projection: Top 10

    The predraft process can only help Jonathan Isaac, who played more of a supporting offensive role at Florida State. 

    After watching him defer for a year, it's fair to question whether he has the game and mentality to become a top option in an offense. But he'll create buzz during the NBA combine's measurements, assuming he checks in around 6'11" with a 7'1" wingspan—mismatch numbers for a 3 and good ones for a power forward.

    And he'll stand out during workouts, given his unique ball skills and smooth shooting stroke for a player his size.

    Scouts will want to see Isaac's lane agility and shuttle-run times. Defensive potential, both with his weak-side shot-blocking and lateral quickness around the perimeter, could help Isaac earn early minutes.

4. Jayson Tatum (Duke, SF, Freshman)

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 2-7

    Jayson Tatum could be anywhere from No. 2 to No. 7 on NBA draft boards. 

    Buyers look at his tools, skills and polish and see a refined, versatile two-way scorer. The ability to create and make shots separates him from other wings, and he possesses the size and length to execute against pros.

    Concerns focus on limited explosiveness at the rim and shot selection, which features a heavy dose of one-on-one play and two-point jumpers. Still, Tatum's offensive game has looked far too productive and advanced. He's locked into the top seven without any serious red flags heading in the predraft process.

3. Lonzo Ball (UCLA, PG, Freshman)

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Pre-combine draft projection: Top three

    Presumably cemented into the draft's top three, it's no shock to see Lonzo Ball skip the NBA combine. It wouldn't even be surprising if he declined meetings with every team except the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Ball has nothing to prove or gain at the combine, and after shooting 41.2 percent from three, he won't want to give teams the opportunity to pick apart his unorthodox mechanics during workouts.

    The big question with Ball will be whether he can become one of the league's best without a big scoring output. Every guard selected to this year's All-Star game averaged at least 20 points. And Ball projects more as a passer and shooter than takeover scorer.

    Regardless, he'll go top three based on his potential to improve a team's offensive efficiency by tapping into his unique basketball IQ, feel for the game and vision.

2. Josh Jackson (Kansas, SF, Freshman)

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 2-5

    Following the trend set by previously-projected top picks, Josh Jackson won't bother showing up to the NBA combine.

    He'll draw looks from each of the first five teams regardless, including the lottery winner. 

    Jackson wears the belt for No. 1 two-way player in the class, a title he's earned with scoring flashes, playmaking skills and standout defensive quickness. 

    Other than giving thoughtful answers to interview questions concerning his off-court trouble, shooting it well in workouts will be important. Teams will want to know the more accurate indicator, the 37.8 percent three-point clip or 56.6 percent mark from the line?

1. Markelle Fultz (Washington, PG/SG, Freshman)

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Pre-combine draft projection: No. 1

    Assuming Markelle Fultz finished the season No. 1 on the majority of draft boards, he'll enter the draft atop them as well. 

    Long, athletic and poised, nothing during the predraft process can hurt him.

    He'll attend the combine, but only to interview with media. It's unclear if he'll meet with any teams, but if he's willing to do so, it's likely to be ones with a chance to pick first or second. 

    Washington's lousy record aside, Fultz put up historic numbers, both in terms of productivity and efficiency. He was the only player in 25 years to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists and shoot 40 percent from three. He's on track to blow up as the NBA's next exciting scoring playmaker.

    All stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com and RealGM.com. Wingspans courtesy of DraftExpress.com