2018 NBA Draft Big Board: How High Will Oklahoma's Trae Young Rise?

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJanuary 8, 2018

2018 NBA Draft Big Board: How High Will Oklahoma's Trae Young Rise?

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    Ralph Freso/Associated Press

    With conference play heating up, the NBA draft board is starting to take shape, and it's becoming clearer who's going to drive conversation within scouting departments. 

    As the debate for the No. 1 player continues to rage on, the emergence of Oklahoma's Trae Young has made the discussion even more interesting and difficult to predict. 

    Our first big board of 2018 also features two new names in the top 30, both SEC freshmen.


    Advanced stats courtesy of Synergy Sports Technology unless otherwise noted.

No. 50-46

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    Gaston De Cardenas/Associated Press

    No. 50. Allonzo Trier (Arizona, SG, Junior)

    Trier is still scoring at a high rate (19.6 points per game), but he disappeared during Saturday's loss to Colorado, and he's had some trouble picking his spots throughout his career. He'll remain on the second-round radar for his scoring-specialist potential.


    No. 49. Lagerald Vick (Kansas, SG, Junior)

    Vick has fallen back to Earth in 2018, combining for 10 points against TCU and Texas Tech. But he's made a big leap this season with his shooting and two-point scoring. He'll have a chance to be an NBA role player if he can turn defense into a strength. 

    No. 48. Austin Wiley (Auburn, C, Sophomore)

    Wiley hasn't played yet because of this summer's FBI investigation. He'd put himself on the first-round radar with a strong showing for USA during FIBA play. NBA teams could buy into his motor and activity around the basket, but he'll need to get on the floor for a shot to go in the top 30.

    No. 47. Shake Milton (SMU, PG/SG, Junior)

    Milton's questionable athleticism and playmaking are concerns, but with 6'6" size, a lead guard's handle and one of the more consistent three-point shots in the nation, there are games where he looks like a pro.


    No. 46. Devonte' Graham (Kansas, PG, Senior)

    Graham has been on a roll, combining for 78 points over Kansas' last three games. He'll have a shot to stick in the pros for his pick-and-roll game and shooting.

No. 45-41

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    No. 45. Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State, F, Junior)

    Bates-Diop is 21 years old, but his breakout isn't too late. He's become a late-bloomer and draft sleeper worth paying attention to, particularly after he exploded for 32 points against Michigan State. Bates-Diop can continue to see his stock rise if he keeps up the hot shooting (38.8 percent 3PT).


    No. 44. Jevon Carter (West Virginia, PG, Senior)

    Carter earned points for making life difficult on Oklahoma's Trae Young. He'll get himself drafted with his defensive toughness and leadership at the point, but a lack of athleticism and scoring ability keep his ceiling at backup guard.


    No. 43. Oshae Brissett (Syracuse, F, Freshman)

    Brissett is nearly averaging a double-double (15.2 points, 9.8 rebounds), but he's only shooting 33.5 percent and needs another year to improve his scoring and shooting. At 6'8", he's shown he can hit the three, face up and attack and make plays around the rim.


    No. 42. Killian Tillie (Gonzaga, PF, Sophomore)

    Tillie is worth tracking for his shooting range, post footwork and the ability to guard close to and away from the basket. He's skilled and versatile at the 4, but he lacks the athleticism that's synonymous with NBA potential.


    No. 41. Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Virginia Tech, SG, Freshman)

    Alexander-Walker has NBA potential, being 6'5" with a sweet shooting stroke and three-level scoring ability. But he's been too hot and cold early on, and a lack of athleticism has been evident. 

No. 40-36

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    Laurence Kesterson/Associated Press

    40. Jarrey Foster (SMU, F, Junior)

    Foster is earning attention for his athleticism, defense, passing and improving three-point shot. He'll want to keep improving offensively, but the thought of Foster making a team as a do-it-all role player looks more reasonable by the month.


    No. 39. De'Anthony Melton (USC, SG, Sophomore)

    Melton still hasn't played, but he remains draftable for his playmaking and defense. He'll have the chance to crack the first round if he ever gets ruled eligible.


    No. 38. Alize Johnson (Missouri State, PF, Senior)

    Johnson is averaging a double-double and is also making 1.1 threes per game. His versatility is intriguing, but his five steals and five blocks all season are alarming.


    No. 37. Jalen Brunson (Villanova, PG, Junior)

    Averaging 19.4 points and 5.2 assists while shooting 59.0 percent overall and 49.3 percent from three, Brunson has been perhaps the top point guard in college hoops. Even without much athleticism or speed, it's worth finding out whether he can tap into his skills and brain and make it work in a backup role.


    No. 36. Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga, PF, Sophomore)

    Hachimura has turned it up as of late, scoring 10 or more points in five straight games while shooting at least 57.1 percent from the floor in each one. He's an NBA athlete with a developing offensive game, but it may take a third year at Gonzaga for him to max out his stock.

No. 35-31

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    Otto Kitsinger/Associated Press

    No. 35. Chimezie Metu (USC, C, Junior)

    Metu has mixed quiet games with big ones through three seasons, but at 6'11" with athleticism and impressive scoring ability in the post and mid-range, he'll be worth a late first-round look.

    No. 34. Goga Bitadze (Rep. of Georgia, C, 1999)

    A strong, 6'11" center, Bitadze created some buzz last week by scoring 21 points in 20.5 minutes. He's one of the most productive young players overseas, with a big, mobile body and developing skill.

    No. 33. Aaron Holiday (UCLA, PG, Junior)

    Teams will look at Holiday as a change-of-pace spark to bring off the bench. He lacks size and athleticism, but Holiday, who's hit the 30-point mark in two of UCLA's last four games, offers enough quickness, scoring and playmaking potential.

    No. 32. Chandler Hutchison (Boise State, SF, Senior)

    Hutchison is starting to shoot better from three, which could be a huge development. Averaging 18.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists, the athletic wing is viewed as a jump shot away.

    No. 31. Khyri Thomas (Creighton, SG, Junior)

    Thomas has earned attention with his perimeter defense and consistent three-point shooting. He struggles to create, but teams may covet his three-and-D potential in a supporting role.

30. Tyus Battle (Syracuse, SG, Sophomore)

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Pick-and-roll ball-handler: .773, 51st percentile (good)

    Spot-up: 1.291, 92nd percentile (excellent)

    Isolation: .708 PPP, 36th percentile (average)

    During a roller-coaster last two weeks, we've seen the best and worst of Tyus Battle, who's shown off his scoring but also his poor shot selection and lack of versatility. 

    He's still averaging 19.5 points, though he's also played at least 40 minutes during nine of Syracuse's last 10 games. 

    Battle doesn't offer any playmaking, a major knock for a guard. He'll look to break into the league as a scoring specialist, capable of making shots from three levels as a driver, mid-range weapon and shooter.

29. Jalen Hudson (Florida, SG, Junior)

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    Alex Menendez/Getty Images

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Spot-up: 1.632 PPP, 99th percentile (excellent)

    Transition: 1.035 PPP, 48th percentile (average)

    Pick-and-roll ball-handler: 1.182 PPP, 98th percentile (excellent)

    Jalen Hudson is building a case as a shooting specialist, making 2.7 threes per game at a 44.4 percent clip. 

    He's been moved to a bench role, though it isn't viewed as a demotion. He could find himself filling that role in the NBA, too. Hudson has become a terrific shot-maker, capable of catching fire and scoring in bunches.  

    Limited elsewhere, without shot-creating or playmaking skills, he won't have a huge margin of error. But between Hudson's spot-up (61.8 percent) and pull-up shooting (40.0 percent) and his ability to score out of pick-and-rolls, he could earn an NBA role.

28. Anfernee Simons (USA, PG, 1999)

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    Scout.com's No. 9 recruit, Anfernee Simons is visiting schools, but he's also draft eligible, which he's previously expressed interest in exploring, per ESPN's Jonathan Givony.

    With the talent likely to dry up in the 20s, NBA teams could look at Simons as a hit-or-miss, high-reward, high-risk gamble.

    He'd need a year in the G League to strengthen his body, confidence and floor game. But Simons' athleticism and scoring should be worth a first-round grade based on long-term potential.

27. Brandon McCoy (UNLV, C, Freshman)

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    Sam Wasson/Getty Images

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Post-ups: .888 PPP, 63rd percentile (good)

    Putbacks: 1.244 PPP, 67th percentile (very good)

    Roll man: 1.25 PPP, 79th percentile (very good)

    Between his NBA body and high-level production, Brandon McCoy has held his spot on the big board. 

    Despite basic skills, none of which overly polished, he is still scoring at an impressive rate, averaging 19.3 points in 28.0 minutes on 61.7 percent shooting. McCoy has already seen 107 possessions in the post, where he's shooting 55.4 percent. And he's finishing around the basket at a 61.2 percent clip.

    Limited away from the hoop at both ends, McCoy's lack of versatility suggests his upside isn't huge. A 4.6 block percentage, per Sports Reference, also highlights suspect defensive instincts in rim protection. Teams will likely view McCoy as a backup center who'll need time to improve his offense and IQ on defense. 

26. Jarred Vanderbilt (Kentucky, PF, Freshman)

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    There still isn't any word on whether Jarred Vanderbilt will suit up for Kentucky. 

    A McDonald's All-American, Vanderbilt would draw first-round interest even if he doesn't play a game. After suffering a foot injury before the season, it's possible he doesn't want to risk anything before the draft. 

    Scouts will want to see him shoot, something he struggled to do consistently throughout high school. But Vanderbilt remains intriguing for his playmaking ability at 6'9", plus his appealing mix of athleticism and length. 

25. Grayson Allen (Duke, SG, Senior)

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    Ben McKeown/Associated Press

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Spot-up: 1.205 PPP, 85th percentile (excellent)

    Pick-and-roll ball-handler: .719 PPP, 42nd percentile (average)

    Around basket (non post-ups): 1.059 PPP, 37 percentile (average)

    The scouting report on Grayson Allen hasn't changed. He's still at his best out of spot-up situations and off screens, ranking in the 85th percentile or better in both departments. 

    Between those strengths and his transition game alone, Allen could potentially carve out an NBA role.

    He's averaging career highs in three-pointers (2.8 per game) and assists (4.3) as well. Defensive concerns will always haunt Allen's outlook, and he continues to struggle knocking down runners (28.6 percent). But  athleticism and shot-making may be enough for Allen to contribute and stick in a supporting role.

24. Trevon Duval (Duke, PG, Freshman)

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    Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Transition: .962 PPP, 37th percentile (average)

    Pick-and-roll ball-handler: .706 PPP, 40th percentile (below average).

    Jump shots: .592 PPP, 11th percentile (poor)

    The conversation hasn't changed with Trevon Duval, who's still an exciting athlete at point guard but struggles to score away from the basket.

    Despite the poor shooting touch, he has managed to remain efficient, shooting 57.6 percent inside the arc. Duval has been good around the basket (61.0 percent) and excellent with his runner (7-of-15).

    He is coming off an eight-turnover game against North Carolina State on Saturday, but for the most part, he's been effective running Duke's offense and finding teammates (6.5 assists per game).

    Whoever drafts Duval will have to be patient, however, until he becomes more of a scoring and shooting threat. 

23. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky, PG, Freshman)

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    Crystal LoGiudice/Associated Press

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Pick-and-roll ball-handler: .803 PPP, 57th percentile (good)

    Catch-and-shoot jump shots: 1.643, 98th percentile (excellent)

    Dribble jumpers: .593 PPP, 23rd percentile (below average)

    Kentucky's best player over the last two weeks, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is earning fans for his versatility and defense.

    He was excellent during Kentucky's beatdown on Louisville, finishing with 24 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. And he was key (18 points, four assists) in a three-point win over LSU on Wednesday. 

    A two-way playmaker, Gilgeous-Alexander shows impressive passing and defensive instincts. And though he isn't an explosive scorer or athlete, he's making the jump shots he's taking, shooting 45.0 percent from three and 57.1 percent on all catch-and-shoot opportunities. 

    His lack of athleticism is problematic and casts a cloud over his upside. But as a potential role player who'll be asked to move the ball, make shots and defend, there is a chance Gilgeous-Alexander can follow Malcolm Brogdon's recipe for success.

22. Lonnie Walker IV (Miami, SG, Freshman)

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Spot-up: .854 PPP, 40th percentile (average)

    Jump shots: .833, 34th percentile (average)

    Transition: 1.152, 65th percentile (very good)

    Lonnie Walker IV is slipping, looking less and less like a one-and-done lottery talent. He's totaled 29 points over his last six games.

    An exciting athlete with NBA size, length and a fluid shooting stroke, Walker's potential remains intact. He may just need another season at Miami. And next year, he'd likely see more touches and shots with Ja'Quan Newton graduating and Bruce Brown Jr. possibly leaving for the pros.

    Unless he suddenly explodes during conference play, Walker's journey to the national spotlight and pros may wind up being delayed a year.

21. Jontay Porter (Missouri, C, Freshman)

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Jump shots: 1.182 PPP, 84th percentile (excellent)

    Roll man: 1.103 PPP, 62nd percentile (good)

    Transition: .533 PPP, 3rd percentile (poor)

    One of two players in the country averaging a three-point make, a steal and two blocks, Jontay Porter has quietly become a prospect worth monitoring.

    He turned heads Wednesday by sinking five triples and swatting four shots against South Carolina. And he followed with a nine-point, seven-rebound, six-assist, two-block line in a tough loss to Florida on Saturday.

    Big and strong at 6'11" and 240 pounds, he also has terrific touch and feet, working mostly as a spot-up shooter (40.0 percent) and a roll man off screens (1.103 PPP). He's also a terrific passer, both in terms of vision and execution.

    Below-average athleticism, which shows around the basket, is his biggest red-flag concern. But at 18 years old, Porter has looked skilled, smart and productive.  

20. Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Transition: 1.109 PPP, 60th percentile (good)

    Jump shots: .741 PPP, 23rd percentile (below average)

    Off screens: .667 PPP, 18th percentile (below average)

    It's been a struggle for Hamidou Diallo in conference play. After fouling out in 16 minutes against Tennessee on Saturday, he's now 8-of-21 over his last three games, bringing his scoring average down to 13.7.

    Showing little ability to create in the half court, having combined to generate six points all season out of isolation and pick-and-rolls, Diallo has had to lean mostly on transition (38.8 percent), spot-ups (23.6 percent) and cutting (7.6 percent). 

    He's still one of the most explosive athletes in the country, but his lower skill level, questionable feel and limited versatility are becoming concerning.

19. Bruce Brown Jr. (Miami, SG, Sophomore)

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Pick-and-roll ball-handler: .855 PPP, 67th percentile (very good)

    Jump shots: .667 PPP, 16th percentile (below average)

    Transition: 1.0 PPP, 42nd percentile (average)

    This hasn't been the anticipated breakout season for Bruce Brown Jr. He's playing more minutes and taking more shots, yet his scoring average is down from a year ago.

    But he's still making plays, contributing 7.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.2 steals a game.

    Brown has looked strong in pick-and-roll situations, both as a scorer and facilitator. A 6'5", he's shown he can handle the ball, attack and set up teammates.

    He has impressive tools, athleticism and intriguing versatility. But Brown hasn't recorded a basket out of isolation all season, and he's shooting just 23.1 percent on half-court jumpers.

18. Mitchell Robinson (USA, C, 1999)

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Not much will change with Mitchell Robinson from now until May or June, when he'll start meeting with and working out for NBA teams. 

    Despite sitting out the year to train for the draft, he'll draw plenty of interest based on his high school accomplishments and can't-miss NBA body that features a powerful frame, long arms and explosive leaping ability.

    Before the draft, scouts ultimately must decide whether he's merely all physical tools and athleticism, or if they see enough signs that point to skill development. That may be difficult to do in strictly workout settings, though. Robinson falls under the umbrella of high risk, high-reward first-round options.

17. Landry Shamet (Wichita State, PG, Junior)

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    Jessica Hill/Associated Press

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Pick-and-roll ball-handler: .984 PPP, 83rd percentile (excellent)

    Spot-up: 1.854 PPP, 100th percentile (excellent)

    Transition: 1.038, 48th percentile (average)

    Considered a breakout candidate heading into the season, Landry Shamet has lived up to the billing, averaging 17.1 points and 4.6 assists for the 13-2 Wichita State Shockers.

    Shamet lacks speed and explosion, making him more of a game manager at the point rather than a breakdown playmaker. But at 6'4", he has great size for a lead-ball-handler, which allows him to pass over the defense.

    And despite a low-arcing shot, the results put him in the mix for the top shooter in the draft. He ranks in the 99th percentile in points per possession on jumpers.

    Excellent in pick-and-roll situations, lights out around the perimeter and feisty on defense, Shamet excels in key, valued areas. His lack of athleticism just hints at limited upside.

16. Troy Brown (Oregon, SG/SF, Freshman)

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    Timothy J. Gonzelez/Associated Press

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Jump shots: .879 PPP, 41st percentile (average)

    Around the rim (non post-ups): 1.5 PPP, 93rd percentile (excellent)

    Transition: .897 PPP, 28th percentile (below average)

    Troy Brown has been steady early, finishing with at least 10 points in nine of Oregon's last 10 games.

    Already an eye-test standout for his 6'7", 215-pound size and 6'11" length, Brown has also flashed a well-rounded skill set and complete overall game. Through 15 games, he's averaging 1.3 threes, 7.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.2 steals. 

    He works mostly out of spot-ups, but he's had some early success as a pick-and-roll ball-handler (.875 PPP) and isolation scorer (5-of-8), which is a tribute to his ability to make plays off the dribble. 

    At this stage, Brown checks boxes, but he doesn't have a bread-and-butter signature strength. And he isn't a flashy athlete, either.

    He may need two years in college to develop and ultimately maximize his stock before the draft.

15. Robert Williams (Texas A&M, C, Sophomore)

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Post-ups: .731 PPP, 35th percentile (average)

    Cuts: 1.562 PPP, 94th percentile (excellent)

    Around the baskets (non post-ups): 1.452 PPP, 90th percentile (excellent)

    Robert Williams' physical tools and athleticism, which lit up NBA radars last year, are translating to the same high-level finishing, rebounding and shot-blocking. 

    Buying into Williams means expecting him to have similar success as rim-running, defensive specialists like Clint Capela and DeAndre Jordan. That's because he hasn't shown anything new or improved offensively, as he's averaging a measly 13.4 points per 40 minutes.

    Williams hasn't made a jump shot all season, and he's 9-of-21 in post-up situations.

    He's still an easy-basket machine, shooting 71.0 around the basket, where he gives his guards an enormous target. Meanwhile, Williams' ability to protect the basket and cover ground defensively should be enough to anchor his stock in the mid-first round.

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

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    Al Goldis/Associated Press

    Notable Synergy Sports Numbers

    Transition: 1.34 PPP, 85th percentile (excellent)

    Catch-and-shoot jumpers: 1.106 PPP, 60th percentile (good)

    Dribble jumpers: .552 PPP, 19th percentile (below average)

    Miles Bridges was operating on cruise control in recent weeks, with Michigan State winning each of its previous five contests by at least 30 points. He couldn't do enough to keep the Spartans in the game against Ohio State on Sunday, though.

    He hasn't made any significant changes or improvements since last year. His agility and explosive leaping at the rim continue to show, and he's averaging 2.0 three-point makes again. 

    But he still looks limited in the half court when forced to put the ball on the floor, as he's shooting just 27.6 percent on dribble jumpers and 22.2 percent on his right drives out of spot-up situations.

13. Dzanan Musa (Bosnia & Herzegovina, SG/SF, 1999)

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    Every so often, Dzanan Musa goes cold or quiet. But at 18 years old, he's standing out for his production and consistency, as well as his undeniable scoring instincts and expanding overall game. 

    Between Adriatic League, Eurocup and Croatia's A-1, he's averaging 12.0 points in 21.2 minutes, shooting 48.4 percent and 36.4 percent from three. Musa has already had a handful of baskets or key stretches late in games that point to his confidence and competitiveness.

    There will be questions about his athleticism and posture leading up to the draft, but Musa has been successful at too many levels. He's looking more like a first-round lock each month.

12. Daniel Gafford (Arkansas, C, Freshman)

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Post-ups: .92 PPP, 69th percentile (very good)

    Transition: 1.739 PPP, 99th percentile (excellent)

    Around basket (non post-ups): 1.559 PPP, 96th percentile (excellent)

    Daniel Gafford has forced his way onto the draft radar with constant activity and extreme efficiency, as he's averaging 22.4 points on 65.7 percent shooting, 11.4 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per 40 minutes. The fact that he's bouncy at 6'11" and 234 pounds makes his early success more intriguing from a scouting perspective. 

    He's been nearly automatic around the basket (73.5 percent) as a finisher, lob-catcher and putback weapon. And Arkansas has shown confidence in Gafford out of the post, where he's already had 50 possessions and converted on 18-of-34 attempts.

    Everything else about his game is raw—Gafford lacks skill and fouls 6.7 times per 40 minutes. But between his offensive ability in the paint and defensive potential in rim protection, there is suddenly a lot to like about the 19-year-old center.

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

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Dribble jumpers: .96 PPP, 74 percentile (very good)

    Spot-up: .812 PPP, 34th percentile (average)

    Around basket (non post-ups): .929, 21st percentile (below average)

    Outside of a 16-point, 11-rebound effort against LSU on Wednesday, Knox has struggled as of late. He shot 2-of-8 against Louisville on Dec. 29, 2-of-10 against Georgia the next game and 1-of-9 against Tennessee on Saturday.

    Being asked to carry the load offensively at just 18 years old, Knox will get a pass for inconsistency. At 6'9", he brings power forward size and the skill set of a wing, capable of scoring off the ball in different ways. 

    He's only 1-of-9 out of isolation all season, and he's had trouble finishing around the basket (46.4 percent in the half court). But Knox has flashed enough scoring versatility as a driver and shot-maker, whether it's been out of spot-ups or off screens and handoffs.

10. Mikal Bridges (Villanova, SF, Junior)

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    Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Spot-up: 1.27 PPP, 91st percentile (excellent)

    Jump shots: 1.229 PPP, 89th percentile (excellent)

    Dribble jumpers: .562 PPP, 20th percentile (below average)

    Consistency has made Mikal Bridges' breakout season seem more convincing. Averaging 19.8 points over Villanova's last four games, he's also filled Josh Hart's role as the team's top option.

    Already known for his defensive versatility and playmaking (1.9 steals, 1.3 blocks), Bridges has been one of the country's top shooters, converting 45.2 percent of his 5.6 three-point attempts. He's even flashed some scoring ability out of the post (11-of-17) and offense as a pick-and-roll ball-handler (6-of-15).

    His off-the-dribble game remains limited. Bridges isn't an isolation option, and he's just 4-of-16 on pull-up jumpers, but between his shot-making and defense, NBA teams could view the three-and-D forward as a Robert Covington 2.0.

9. Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke, C, Freshman)

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Jump shots: 1.357 PPP, 96th percentile (excellent)

    Post-up: .695 PPP, 30th percentile (below average)

    Around basket (non post-ups): 1.433 PPP, 89th percentile (excellent)

    Wendell Carter Jr. is gaining steam, having put together back-to-back impressive performances. He started with an 18-minute, 27-point masterpiece against Evansville on Dec. 20, which he followed by tallying 14 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and four blocks in a win over Florida State to open conference play. 

    Carter was quieter Saturday in a loss to North Carolina State (11 points on 3-of-6 shooting), but one could argue Duke did a poor job of getting him involved.

    With solid back-to-the-basket footwork, a smooth jumper and a nose for the ball on the offensive glass, the Al Horford comparison sounds accurate as a skill-and-smarts-over-athleticism-type big man. 

8. Collin Sexton (Alabama, PG, Freshman)

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Pick-and-roll ball-handler: 1.023 PPP, 87th percentile (excellent)

    Isolation: 1.034 PPP, 81st percentile (very good)

    Drives left out of spot-ups: .429 PPP, 10th percentile (poor)

    Collin Sexton continues to score and put defenses on their heels, averaging 20.6 points and 6.9 made free throws per game.

    His shooting has cooled off, though—Sexton is 3-of-15 from three over his last five games, and it's worth monitoring how long the slump continues. He shoots a noticeably flat ball without much arc.

    Otherwise, his ability to get to the basket remains highly convincing. And he shows excellent defensive potential with his quickness, intensity, anticipation and recoverability. 

    Notable areas that need to improve: Sexton is just 2-of-10 on half-court runners, he's shooting 53.8 percent at the rim (half court) and he's been graded average as a pick-and-roll passer despite being excellent as a pick-and-roll scorer.

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

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Spot-up: 1.255 PPP, 89th percentile (excellent)

    Catch-and-shoot: 1.324 PPP, 85th percentile (excellent)

    Around basket (non-post-ups): .902 PPP, 18th percentile (below average)

    Jaren Jackson Jr. continues to build a case with a mix of shooting and defense. 

    A 6'11" big man, most likely a future center who's forced to play the 4 at Michigan State, Jackson has a 14.8 block percentage (5.7 per 40 minutes), which would rank as one of the highest among any of the previous first-round picks over the last 10 years.

    The more surprising development has been the success of his unorthodox-looking jumper. After draining five of six three-pointers against Maryland on Thursday night, he's now making 43.2 percent of his 2.8 attempts per contest from behind the arc.

    Jackson is limited as a shot-creator, but he won't turn 19 years old until September and there is a high demand for his particular package of defensive switchability, rim protection and three-point shooting.

6. Mohamed Bamba (Texas, C, Freshman)

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Post-ups: .553, 14th percentile (poor)

    Putbacks: 1.314 PPP, 75th percentile (very good)

    Around basket (non-post-ups): 1.462, 91st percentile (excellent)

    Mohamed Bamba may never break into the elite top-four group, but he isn't falling out of the secondary tier behind it.

    He's now blocked at least four shots in every game but one. He did have some trouble Saturday with Baylor's Jo Lual-Acuil Jr., who scored 17 points in the win over Texas. But Bamba's defensive potential remains unmatched, thanks to unprecedented length and mobility built for rim protection and pick-and-roll coverage.

    Offensively, he's been mostly effective by putting back misses and finishing around the basket. He's struggled to convert out of the post, without much muscle to play through contact, but he has made a three-pointer in three consecutive games.

5. Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Likely out for the season after needing surgery on his back, Michael Porter Jr. will stay put in the No. 3-6 range, depending on how the other top prospects perform.

    He's earned a spot there based on his high school success and the fact he's a 6'10", face-up forward with three-point range and takeover scoring potential. Porter has put himself at the top of the recruiting rankings for years, resulting in invitations to NBA-scouted events like FIBA tournaments, Adidas Nations, the McDonald's All-American Game and Nike Hoop Summit.

    Medicals and workouts will wind up deciding when and where he goes.

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

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Post-ups: 1.097 PPP, 90th percentile (excellent)

    Putbacks: 1.51 PPP, 92nd percentile (excellent)

    Isolation: .838 PPP, 57th percentile (good)

    Too active and athletic, Marvin Bagley III has been punishing opposing front lines with his mix of speed, explosiveness and dexterity. 

    Through two conference games, he's totaled 63 points and 31 rebounds on 24-of-31 shooting. 

    39.5 percent of his offense either comes from post-ups or second chances on the offensive glass. Bagley does an excellent job of improvising while playing back-to-the-basket. And he uses teammates' misses as scoring opportunities, given his impressive nose for the ball and bounce around the rim.

    Elite in transition and the pick-and-roll game, Bagley finds ways to exploit his athleticism for offense. 

    But his touch away from the basket needs work (63 percent FT, 10-of-29 3PT, 2-of-10 unguarded catch-and-shoots). And he doesn't stand out as the most instinctual defender, rarely blocking shots (3.5 percent) despite his size and hops.

    Teams will question whether he's best at the 5, where he won't offer great rim protection. Or, if he's better at the 4, despite the evolution of the position, which has seen bigger wings who can shoot and create take it over.

3. Trae Young (Oklahoma, PG, Freshman)

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Pick-and-roll ball-handler: .942 PPP, 79th percentile (very good)

    Isolation: 1.07 PPP, 84th percentile (excellent)

    Jump shots: 1.143 PPP, 81st percentile (very good)

    The center of the NBA draft discussion, Trae Young has scouts contemplating whether his unprecedented production will translate to high-level NBA success. 

    Heading into Saturday's game against West Virginia, he'd already had a 43-point showing against Oregon, a 29 and nine-assist line against USC, 29 and 10 against Wichita State and 39 and 14 against TCU. He's proved himself early against quality opponents. 

    But Young did have trouble scoring efficiently on Mountaineers guard Jevon Carter, arguably the top perimeter defender in the country. Young shot 8-of-22 and was forced into many low-percentage looks.

    Shot selection was his downfall—not necessarily his lack of size, length and athleticism. He still finished with 29 points, a tribute to the relentless pressure he can put on opponents with his shiftiness off the dribble and shot-making.

    He does benefit from a green light to attempt any shot he desires. But nothing about Young's start looks fluky, even if he stumbled at times during Oklahoma's road loss over the weekend.

2. Luka Doncic (Slovenia, PG/SG, 1999)

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    Sonia Canada/Getty Images

    There will be teams who have Luka Doncic No. 1. He's been one of the top players in Euroleague, which he leads in player efficiency rating at just 18 years old, per RealGM.com.

    Doncic wasn't as effective in Friday's win (3-of-10, 11 points) over Maccabi Tel Aviv, who have Pierre Jackson (29 points) and a tough DeAndre Kane. But his overall body of work still appears worthy of No. 1 overall consideration, which he'll earn for both his unprecedented success for a teenager and versatility as a 6'8" playmaker with a dangerous handle, jumper and floater.

    He compensates for limited explosiveness with unpredictable change of speed, a spectacular skill level and unique size for a lead decision-maker. Teams could even view him as a full-time point guard based on his ability to run an offense and pass. 

    Either way, Doncic, who's already shown he can play with NBA pros during Eurobasket, should be a fit for any team and roster. He comes off as a zero-risk prospect—general managers just have to decide how high his ceiling is in a more athletic NBA.

1. Deandre Ayton (Arizona, C, Freshman)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Notable Synergy Sports numbers

    Post-ups: 1.035 PPP, 86th percentile (excellent)

    Isolation: Roll man: .962 PPP, 44th percentile (average)

    Jump shots: 1.034, 66th percentile (very good)


    After making an early case as the draft's No. 1 prospect through 2017, Deandre Ayton hasn't let up in January, having gone for 24 points and 14 rebounds against Utah and 26 points at Colorado.

    A flawless physical specimen, Ayton has been too much around the basket with his strength, length, athleticism and hands. But it's the skill level he continues to flash that may give him an edge during predraft evaluations.

    Ayton is scoring 1.5 points per possession out of isolation (No. 6 in the nation) and 1.035 PPP in the post. And he's made 53.8 percent of his jumpers within 17 feet and 52.4 percent of his jumpers from 17 feet to the arc.

    Throw in eight three-point makes and a confident, high release, and Ayton looks poised to eventually become a must-contest shooter.

    The only concerns with Ayton are his defensive instincts and that Arizona isn't winning every game despite having the top prospect on the floor. In its loss to Colorado on Saturday, many of Ayton's points came with the team trailing in the second half.

    But as we've seen with Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, NBA scouts show a willingness to overlook defensive questions and losses for offensive upside. And Ayton's is massive. Plus, with his quickness and length, he has excellent defensive tools and time to improve.


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