Scouting Reports for Top NBA Draft Prospects at 2017 Champions Classic

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterNovember 14, 2017

Scouting Reports for Top NBA Draft Prospects at 2017 Champions Classic

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    The 2017 Champions Classic features Final Four contenders and over a dozen quality NBA prospects. 

    Tuesday night will be one of the most heavily scouted events of the season. First, No. 1 Duke takes on No. 2 Michigan State, followed by No. 4 Kansas versus No. 7 Kentucky. Between the two games, we could be looking at the No. 1 overall pick and at least 10 first-rounders.

    We ranked the top 15 prospects participating based strictly on NBA potential.

    Kentucky's Jarred Vanderbilt would have checked in at No. 9 if he weren't out with an injury.

15. Lagerald Vick (Kansas, SG, Junior)

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Signature strengths

    Athleticism

    Lagerald Vick brings exciting athleticism to the off-guard slot. He covers ground quickly in transition with long strides and the ability to take off from behind the dotted circle. He's also a threat to come flying in for a putback or weakside rejection.

    Three-and-D

    Vick will have a shot in the NBA for his defense and shooting. He just drilled four threes in Kansas' opener against Tennessee State, and with more touches and minutes, he should have a better chance to build rhythm and confidence as a shooter.

    He also flashes glimpses of defensive potential with his quickness, size and tenacity. He makes mistakes, but the ingredients are there.

    Knows his role

    Vick doesn't force shots or plays and buys into his role offensively as a spot-up shooter, opportunistic driver and ball-mover. His supporting job at Kansas won't be too different from the one he's assigned at the next level. 

          

    Weaknesses

    Vick isn't a threatening isolation scorer or playmaker. He only averaged 0.9 assists per game last season, a possible red flag for a guard. 

    Without the ability to create, he'll need the three ball to carry him offensively. But he averaged just 0.8 threes made per game over his first two years.

    While Vick's defensive potential is enticing, it hasn't fully materialized at Kansas. He goes through lapses and mysteriously totaled just 21 steals in 36 games last season.

14. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky, PG/SG, Freshman)

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Signature strengths

    Defensive tools, potential

    With six steals through two games, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has quickly jumped out as a promising defensive prospect. Playing point guard, he brings 6'6" size, a 6'10 ½" wingspan and quick hands, which he uses to poke balls away, deflect passes and disrupt ball-handlers. He should be good to guard either backcourt position and some college wings.

    Versatility 

    He's split time early running the show with Quade Green. On the ball, Gilgeous-Alexander looks interested in finding his teammates and shows the patience to let them come out of their cuts and curls before hitting them in rhythm.

    As a scorer, he has threatening three-point range, and when he has time to stop, pop and set his feet, the pull-up works for him as well. 

          

    Weaknesses

    He lacks a degree of speed and explosiveness you'd like to see from a point guard. He doesn't blow by off the dribble and plays below the rim as a finisher. 

    We'll see if he can get enough separation from NBA defenders. He also doesn't elevate high on his jumper, and his release isn't the quickest.

    Gilgeous-Alexander will be a role player this year at Kentucky for his defense, passing and shot-making. But upside won't be a term scouts use when projecting his NBA potential. 

13. Devonte' Graham (Kansas, PG, Senior)

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Signature strengths

    Shooting

    Devonte' Graham's most attractive strength is his jumper, which he's used to convert at least 38 percent of his threes every season. He has a convincing stroke without any moving parts, and he can connect off the catch or the dribble (24 unassisted threes last year). He'll burn defenders who go under screens in the pick-and-roll game.

    Though undersized for a 2-guard, his ability to spot up or pull up to beat a closeout allows him to play off the ball as well, something he often did alongside Frank Mason III his junior year.

    Ball-handling/playmaking 

    In his first season as the full-time lead playmaker, Graham opened up with 12 assists against Tennessee State. He can get to his spots on the floor using his crafty handle and quickness. He's proven to be dangerous working off screens for his stop-and-pop game, but he's making strides as a facilitator as well.

    Defense

    Graham doesn't have eye-opening defensive tools, though he's shown he can get up in his man's grill and be a pest. For his career, he's averaged 1.8 steals per 40 minutes. 

         

    Weaknesses

    The eye test doesn't love Graham, who's 6'2" without long arms or explosiveness. We also haven't seen Graham run an offense as the primary decision-maker.

    Offensively, he prefers to shoot around the perimeter than take it all the way to the basket. Will he be able to finish around the NBA trees without much strength, length or bounce?

    Defensively, Graham can also only guard one position.

12. Nick Richards (Kentucky, C, Freshman)

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    Signature strengths

    Physical tools, athleticism

    At 6'11", 240 pounds with a 7'3 ¾" wingspan, Nick Richards looks the part of an NBA center. Along with fantastic physical tools, he's also a strong run-and-jump athlete.

    Finisher, lob target

    Richards gives his guards a high-percentage finishing target in the drive-and-dump and pick-and-roll games. They can throw it high above the rim and let their big man go up and get it. On a per-minute basis, he's a good bet to lead Kentucky in dunks.

    Post flashes

    When he's given space to operate playing back-to-the-basket, Richards has shown he's capable of separating into righty or even lefty over-the-shoulder jump hooks.

    Rim protection

    His size, length and bounce were designed for rim protection. He has the potential to sit back and anchor a defense by challenging bigs and driving guards. He'll block shots at a good rate, though Richards must avoid foul trouble to stay on the floor.

          

    Weaknesses

    Richards' offensive skill level is behind. His post game is basic and he isn't a threat with the jumper. Kentucky and NBA teams won't be featuring him. Don't count on him dishing out many assists, either. Being too raw may keep Richards from emerging as a one-and-done prospect and a regular 20-minute player in Kentucky's rotation.

    He'll be leaning on his rim protection for value, but impressive shot-blocking numbers don't always tell the whole story. Richards can be vulnerable to getting pushed around or beat too easily for baskets inside. 

11. Grayson Allen (Duke, SG, Senior)

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Signature strengths

    Explosiveness

    Grayson Allen's athleticism consistently leads to exciting highlights above the rim. Usually they're in transition, but his explosiveness also shows when he's turning the corner in the half court. 

    Shot-making

    Having hit at least 81 threes in back-to-back seasons, Allen clearly has dangerous shot-making skills. He's at his best off the catch, leaking out for quick-trigger, catch-and-shoot chances early in the clock, spotting up or running off screens. Allen can drill jumpers in bunches once his confidence starts to pump, and he doesn't need much time or room to release.

    Playmaking potential 

    Allen isn't a point guard or even a combo, but he led Duke in assists last year. He shows playmaking potential with a quick first step and the ability to find teammates on the move. 

          

    Weaknesses

    Allen has had trouble controlling his emotions, and after getting suspended last year for a third tripping incident, NBA teams will be watching closely to see if he's showing signs of maturity.

    In terms of basketball skill, he still struggles in the mid-range, having shot below 37 percent on two-point jumpers in each of his three seasons. He needs to improve his pull-up and floater. 

    Allen also shot just 52.2 percent at the rim last year. Despite his hops, length bothers him too easily.

    Defensively, he lacks length of his own and isn't known to offer much resistance. No one fears being guarded by Allen.

10. Billy Preston (Kansas, PF, Freshman)

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    Signature strengths

    Physical tools, athleticism

    Billy Preston stands out just with his 6'10" size, 7'0 1/2" wingspan and athleticism. He has excellent tools and mobility for a power forward, which is what his skill set suggests he'll play at the next level. 

    Scoring skills

    A skilled big man, Preston can score inside and out. He gives Kansas a player who can get his own shot out of isolation, whether he's facing up or shaking free for a fallaway in the post. 

    He's threatening from the short corners, where he can rise up for a mid-range jumper or put the ball on the floor. Preston shows good ball-handling ability for his position, which allows him face up and attack or push the break off a defensive rebound. 

          

    Weaknesses

    Preston can get tunnel vision and forget there are four other teammates on the floor. His shot selection isn't always the smartest. Too many of his attempts will come away from the rim, yet inside the arc. 

    He also doesn't seem to know how to play with 100 percent intensity on defense. Can he get low and dig in around the perimeter? Will he offer any rim protection?

    Preston is a score-first player with a weak basketball IQ at both ends.

    He's also a 20-year-old freshman and was already suspended for Kansas' opener after missing curfew.

9. PJ Washington (Kentucky, PF/C, Freshman)

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    Signature strengths

    Strength, length, mobility 

    At 237 pounds with a 7'3" wingspan, PJ Washington brings power and length to the paint. He has a strong build and light feet. He'll play both the 4 and 5 for Kentucky.

    Post scoring

    Washington may already be Kentucky's top option in the half court for his ability to create good looks in the post. He shows promising footwork with up-and-unders and hop steps into the lane, and he has a good feel using one-handers over his defender. 

    Expanding offense 

    Though mostly an interior scorer, Washington has improved his ability to attack facing up. He's nimble and agile for his size and demonstrates impressive body control when trying to elude defenders and finish on the move. Washington isn't a shooter, but he should prove capable of making short mid-range jumpers when left open.

    Defense, rebounding potential

    Washington can hold his ground around the basket, and with enough mobility and long arms, he's can close out and contest jumpers. Washington should also emerge as a strong rebounder at both ends thanks to his wide frame, length and hands.

          

    Weaknesses

    He makes up for a lack of height with his wingspan and strength, but at just 6'7", almost every NBA big will have a height advantage. And considering he isn't a perimeter player, it's a potential issue worth monitoring. 

    NBA 4s and 5s typically need to stretch the floor or protect the rim, and Washington may not offer either. Unless he unexpectedly emerges as a shooter, he'll need his post game to drive his value. Washington doesn't fit the description of a modern-day big man.

8. Kevin Knox (Kentucky, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Signature strengths

    Mismatch tools, skill set

    At 6'9", Kevin Knox brings the size of a power forward and the agility of a wing. He's built for the NBA's new small-ball 4 position. 

    Scoring versatility  

    With big-man height, Knox likes to operate around the perimeter. He's not a consistent shooter, but he does have the range to spot up from three or make a jumper running off a screen.

    He can take a defensive rebound coast to coast with good-enough handle and body control in the lane. In the half court, he works mostly off the ball, using closeouts as an opportunity to attack and cuts to catch and finish off one foot. 

    Defensive potential

    With the size to defend bigs, quickness to guard wings and mobility to make plays on the ball (four steals and a block against Utah Valley on Friday), Knox has the potential to be a plus defender. Scouts will want to see him bring it on a consistent basis and learn from the mistakes he'll inevitably make.

          

    Weaknesses

    Through two games, he's just 6-of-23 from the floor. Knox can be inefficient. His shot selection isn't the strongest, usually resulting in too many jumpers he hasn't yet mastered. His release also shows somewhat of a flinging motion. 

    He isn't the craftiest player on the move and doesn't have an advanced handle to create high-percentage shots for himself or teammates. Despite his preference around the perimeter, Kentucky isn't likely to use him as an isolation scorer or ball-screen playmaker. 

    Knox has an appealing, versatile skill set in place, but at this stage, his skills aren't sharp enough. And his decision-making needs fine-tuning.

7. Gary Trent Jr. (Duke, SG, Freshman)

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    Lance King/Getty Images

    Signature strengths

    Positional size

    At 6'6", 209 pounds, Gary Trent Jr. has strong size for an NBA 2-guard. He uses it to fire over defenders and rebound at a good rate. 

    Shooting

    Trent gives Duke a shooting specialist who can spread the floor by threatening the defense from NBA three-point range. He's already made 7-of-13 from behind the arc. Trent has picturesque form and a high release. He shows excellent balance when looking to pull up off a dribble. Confident, Trent doesn't need much room and can connect with hands in his face.

    Scoring instincts 

    He's a natural scorer who can improvise using runners and shots you don't necessarily practice. He has strong body control, which allows him to get good looks in the lane, even if he lacks the athleticism to explode past or over defenders.

          

    Weaknesses

    Trent doesn't have the jets to blow by anyone. He won't be taking many free throws.

    He'll never be considered a combo. Trent is strictly an off-ball shooting guard who lacks the quickness and ball-handling creativity to break down defenses. If his jumper is off, there is a chance he won't bring much to the table that particular game. 

    He's also never stood out as a disciplined, fully-engaged defender. Despite strong tools, Trent will have to work to earn the three-and-D label.

6. Trevon Duval (Duke, PG, Freshman)

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    Lance King/Getty Images

    Signature strengths

    Positional tools/athleticism

    At 6'3" with a tremendous 6'9½" wingspan, Trevon Duval has exceptional tools to match his explosive athleticism. 

    Breakdown penetration/playmaking

    Duval doesn't need a ball screen to get by his man. He can blow by off hesitation to break down the defense and set up teammates for easy layups or open threes. He has 20 assists and one turnover through two games, showing both playmaking ability and the willingness to facilitate as a passer.

    Attacking, scoring in the paint

    Duval should score his fair share of points in the paint, whether it's off transition or a hard drive. He shows the hang time to adjust and finish at the rim, and he's capable with the floater and runner. 

    Defensive potential

    Already with six steals through two games, Duval has terrific defensive tools. His speed and length can be overwhelming, particularly against college ball-handlers.

          

    Weaknesses

    Shooting has been a problem for Duval, who won't take many threes or hit many pull-ups. It affects his scoring potential and makes him more predictable. Scouts will be looking at Duval's jumper closely, given how important it is when projecting his game to the NBA.

    His decision-making has also been questioned in previous years, but it's worth noting he's done a nice job of running Duke's offense early on.

5. Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Signature strengths

    Transition offense

    An agile, explosive athlete, Hamidou Diallo is constantly looking for transition opportunities. He's at his best in the open floor, where he can side-step defenders or fly above them for easy finishes. 

    Scoring off screens, curls 

    Through two games, we've already seen Kentucky run Diallo off screens and curls, where he can take shorter jumpers and floaters off one or zero dribbles. At this stage, he's more effective with that type of action than he is in isolation.

    Attacking closeouts 

    Diallo is threatening enough on spot-up jumpers to make defenders come out and contest. He does a good job of using that threat to force the closeout, which he can attack and shake free from for one-dribble pull-ups, runners or quick slashes to the rack.

    Defensive potential

    Even if the fundamentals aren't there yet, Diallo's quickness and 6'11" wingspan can cause problems. He can get deflections in passing lanes and recover to contest shots if he winds up biting on a fake.

          

    Weaknesses

    Diallo can make jumpers, but he isn't a consistent shooter. Some of his misses are way off. His release point varies. He can hold the ball too long in the air before letting it go, not getting enough leg power into his jumper.

    Diallo also has a tendency to force wild shots, which is tied to the fact that he can separate so easily just by elevating over his man.

    He tends to avoid contact at the rim as well, resulting in acrobatic attempts as opposed to free throws.

4. Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Lance King/Getty Images

    Signature strengths

    Inside scoring, rebounding 

    At 6'10", 259 pounds with 7'3" length, Wendell Carter Jr. is a handful inside for any frontcourt. He plays through contact on the block and has enough bounce to finish above the rim despite his refrigerator-like build. Back-to-the-basket scoring is his bread and butter. Carter uses his body to get deep positioning. He plays with good balance and shows the footwork and touch to score over either shoulder with the right or left.

    He'll also use the offensive glass to pick up easy baskets and second-chance points.

    Shooting potential

    Carter isn't a shooter, but if left open, he's still a threat. He hit a three-pointer against Utah Valley on Saturday and has promising mechanics that suggest his jumper will only improve.

    Passing 

    Defenses can't focus all of their attention on Carter when he's in the post. He had four assists on Saturday, showing the vision and passing ability to find and hit the open man. Carter isn't a black hole down low and doesn't feel obligated to force shots, which is a valuable quality with Duke's depth and the likelihood there will be games where he doesn't see a ton of scoring chances.

    Interior defense 

    He looks fundamentally sound defensively in terms of anticipating and making plays on the ball. Carter already has six blocks and three steals through two games.

         

    Weaknesses

    Unless it's a rhythm catch-and-shoot opportunity, Carter isn't too dangerous away from the basket. He won't face up and take his man off the dribble.

    While today's NBA values bigs who can shoot and create, Carter is more of an old-school big.

    He also doesn't come off as the quickest laterally, which could limit his defensive versatility. At the NBA level, he may only be able to guard centers, and many will have a height or athletic advantage. 

3. Miles Bridges (Michigan State, SF/PF, Sophomore)

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    Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

    Signature strengths

    Explosiveness

    Defenses can't afford to let Miles Bridges get to downhill mode with space. He's too explosive, with the ability to elevate high over the defense and rim for easy dunks, layups or finger rolls. Opponents must also keep Bridges from flying in for putback opportunities. 

    Shooting

    After making two three-pointers per game last year, Bridges clearly established himself as a deep threat. Proving to scouts the 38.9 percent mark he shot as a freshman is legitimate could be the key to maintaining his status as a top-10 draft prospect.

    Attacking closeouts 

    Defenders have to be careful about their closeouts. Bridges has a quick first step, and he's most dangerous attacking with space in front of him, where he shows good footwork, body control and the ability to finish on the move in the lane.

    Defensive versatility, playmaking 

    Bridges can get down in a stance and play competitive perimeter defense. At 6'7", 230 pounds, he can be tough to beat or fully separate from. He's also an active playmaker, capable of blocking shots on or off the ball and forcing turnovers.

          

    Weaknesses

    Though we've seen signs, he's still a work in progress creating his own shot in the half court. If you can force him to stop and pop off the dribble, as opposed to letting him get all the way to the basket, it should be considered a win. 

    Bridges isn't the flashiest ball-handler when tightly covered. He could stand to improve his off-the-dribble scoring in the mid-range. 

    He's also vulnerable to making questionable decisions and letting missed shots or bad calls get to him. 

2. Jaren Jackson Jr. (Michigan State, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

    Signature strengths

    Defense, rebounding

    For now, Jaren Jackson Jr.'s presence will be felt more on defense. He uses that 7'4" wingspan to protect the rim and block shots (he had four during his debut), but he also moves well enough away from the basket to switch and contain around the perimeter.

    His tools and activity level should translate to an excellent rebounding rate and plenty of second-chance points and putback opportunities. 

    Quickness, athleticism 

    Jackson isn't over-polished offensively, but when given space, he can still face up and beat his man with a straight line drive. He can finish above the rim and over defenders. 

    Shooting touch

    He's gradually improved his jumper over the years. Jackson won't spend too much time outside the paint, but he's a threat if left open. He also made 9-of-10 free throws against North Florida on Friday.

          

    Weaknesses

    Jackson is raw and isn't the most advanced shot-creator. Defenses will want to push him away from the basket and get physical with him inside, where contact can throw him off.

    At this stage, he's more of a finisher than a scorer. Opponents should force him to make a move. Each of his core offensive skills is still relatively limited.

1. Marvin Bagley III (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Lance King/Getty Images

    Signature strengths

    Inside scoring/rebounding 

    Already off to a productive start averaging 24.5 points and 10.0 rebounds through two games, Marvin Bagley III has been too much inside for opponents with underwhelming frontcourt size. His mix of 6'11" size, bounce, coordination and motor translates to easy baskets off finishes and putbacks. He consistently uses the offensive glass as a source for scoring.

    And he does a good job of using angles to score around the low block. His post footwork is getting better and allows him to create shots playing back-to-the-basket, where he can finish over either shoulder, whether it's a jump hook off two feet or a swooping hook off one.

    Face-up offense

    He's unusually quick for his position. It shows on face-up moves in space, with his ability to put the ball on the deck, blow by and finish off one foot in the lane like a wing. 

    Transition

    An exciting target in transition for his speed and athleticism, Bagley will beat defenses down the floor without the ball. But alarms should also sound when he grabs a defensive rebound. He's a comfortable-enough ball-handler to initiate the break and offense himself. 

            

    Weaknesses

    Though capable from outside, (he made a three against Utah Valley on Saturday) opponents should be willing to let him take jumpers. He's far less of a threat around the arc than he is in the paint.

    Bagley has also missed seven of his first nine free throws. Forcing him to make foul shots should be part of the defensive game plan. Playing him physically inside will be a must. Bagley doesn't always show soft touch and tends to rush his shot.

    Defensively, he's quick around the perimeter and a bouncy shot-blocker, but he's still learning how to play team defense and guard throughout 30-second shot clocks.

                      

    Advanced stats courtesy of Hoop-Math.com. Wingspans courtesy of DraftExpress.com