Before Thursday’s NBA draft, we ranked the top 50 players available.
1. Markelle Fultz: It doesn’t matter that Washington stumbled to only nine wins with the superstar guard in the lineup in Lorenzo Romar’s final season. Fultz, a 6-foot-4 guard with pinpoint passing accuracy and an offensive game that never flusters, is this draft’s top prospect, a player who used nearly a third of UW’s possessions (meaning, the ball was in his hands when the possession ended) in his freshman season and still converted more than 50 percent from within the arc and 41 percent from deep.
2. Lonzo Ball: Ball is 1A on this list. We all know that the 6-foot-6 guard is the draft’s best passer, equipped to thread the needle to a cutting big man as well as predictively pass into open space and finding a free teammate, but he is slotted below Fultz because it’s unclear how Ball will score once NBA defenders learn to clamp down on his various step-back jumpers.
3. Josh Jackson: Sure, the 6-foot-8 wing’s jump shot appears broken, but there were few in Division I this past season who could get to the rim in the half-court offense as effectively as the deceptively quick and athletic Jackson. Per Hoop-Math.com, Jackson led Kansas — a team that ranked just outside the top 100 in rim attempts — in percentage of shots at the rim (36 percent) and effective field goal percentage (54 percent; among non-frontcourt Jayhawks). He doesn’t have the isolation game yet to compete against NBA defenses, but Jackson portends to be a matchup nightmare.
4. De’Aaron Fox: The jet-quick point guard is a problem in the open court, which is where much of his offense came during his lone season at Kentucky. What sets Fox apart from others in the field is his defense, using an almost 6-7 wingspan to disrupt passing lanes and make life miserable for opposing ballhandlers. His offense will only continue to progress, but his defense — he was arguably Coach John Calipari’s best on-ball defender — makes Fox a sui generis prospect.
5. Jayson Tatum: Tatum’s half-court offense is smooth. He doesn’t waste much motion to get his shot — a jab step here, a few counters there — but the 6-8 Duke product innately understands how to free himself from a defender. Aided by a burgeoning perimeter game — 37 percent shooting in ACC play — and Tatum, who sometimes relied too much on that jumper, is one of the more well-rounded offensive prospects in the lottery field: Per Synergy Sports, Tatum scored .90 points per isolation play, which ranked 15th nationally (Frank Mason of Kansas is the only other potential first-round pick to post a higher iso PPP than Tatum).
6. Lauri Markkanen: A stretch-five who made 42 percent of his three-pointers (and that’s including a brutal February in which he only connected on four of his attempts). The team that drafts the Finnish forward will have to hide him on defense, but Markannen’s scoring skill set — especially in pick and pop possessions (1.2 PPP, per Synergy) — is without comparison in this draft.
7. Frank Ntilikina: The French guard is super raw, but there’s a reason NBA teams have been raving about the 6-5 Ntilikina for the past two drafts: He is an uber-athletic, multi-positional defender, which hits just about every buzz word on NBA GMs’ wish list.
8. Dennis Smith: It’s difficult to judge the guard’s lone season at North Carolina State. He showed flashes of brilliance in limited moments (e.g. the Wolfpack’s late January win against Duke, in which Smith scored 32 points), but Smith’s overall luster dimmed throughout ACC play. He has all the potential to be an elite scorer — 54 percent from within the arc and an offensive rating just below 1.10 PPP — but there’s a reason Smith has dropped in this draft’s crowded point guard field.
9. Donovan Mitchell: The Louisville guard has all the tools to be a three-and-D player in the modern NBA. He made 40 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc, and though the Cardinals’ defensive system is predicated on forcing giveaways, Mitchell’s athleticism, anticipation, and speed allowed him to post the ACC’s top steal rate (nearly 4 percent). But don’t expect Mitchell to live on the perimeter — he led all Cardinals guards in percentage attempts at the rim in transition, and the majority of those shots were rim-rattling dunks.
10. Jonathan Isaac: Potential, potential, potential. It could take Isaac some time to find his way against NBA opponents, just as it took him some time to figure out opposing ACC squads. A top 15 prospect coming out of high school, the 6-10 Isaac was at best a role player within the Seminoles’ system (his usage rate ranked third on the team), but his skill set is indeed enticing.
11. Zach Collins: No player shined more during the conference play and the NCAA tournament than Collins, who parlayed an efficient post game (1.12 points per post up play, which led Division I) and a rapidly burgeoning defensive skill set (his block rate and defensive rebound percentage both ranked within KenPon’s top 100) into the lottery.
12. Malik Monk: A volume shooter who doesn’t often pass and is — at the moment — a defensive black hole. But there is no denying the 6-3 Monk can score in bunches: At Kentucky, Monk shined best coming off screens and in spot-up possessions, and he is equipped with a supremely quick release and lift, both of which enabled him to connect on 40 percent of his threes. Still, though, Monk is a high risk prospect with an equal high reward.
13. Jarrett Allen: The 6-10 big was an enigma at Texas. He would dazzle with his offensive touch at the rim (per Hoop-Math.com, 73 percent on his attempts in half-court offense) and defensive effectiveness, but then would disappear from games. He has all the upside to be a rim running (1.09 PPP) shotblocker at the next level, but the transition might not be instantaneous.
14. Luke Kennard: No other D-I prospect had a bigger sophomore leap than the Duke guard, whose bevy of shot feints in the half-court offense transformed him into one of the more challenging ACC players to defend. Kennard also rarely turns the ball over (11 percent), which makes his half-court perimeter game all the more effective (44 percent from beyond the arc and 50 percent of two-point jumpers).
15. Bam Adebayo: Another big that oozes potential. The 6-10 Wildcat really doesn’t have a reliable post-up game, but that doesn’t matter when he is running the rim and skying for ally-oops and offensive boards.
16. Justin Jackson: Similarly, no other D-I player had a bigger junior leap than Jackson, whose floater has become one of the most unguardable shots in the college game. Coupled with a transformed perimeter skill set (37 percent from deep, his best rate in three years at Chapel Hill), and Jackson is a nightmare to defend while cutting or coming off screens.
17. TJ Leaf: The UCLA big is equipped with a burgeoning pick-and-pop game that, while he didn’t showcase it often as a Bruin, is his most effective offensive skill (1.3 points per two dozen or so plays, per Synergy). He does other things well too — converting nearly 75 percent of his shots at the rim and hauling in 20 percent of opponents’ misses — but Leaf’s true potential is operating out of pick-and-roll situations where he can either finish or find an open teammate (13 percent assist rate, per KenPom).
18. John Collins: There is no player advanced hoopheads praised more this past season than Collins, a 6-10 big. And with good reason: Using just 28 percent of Wake Forest’s attempts, Collins posted an obscene offensive rating of 1.25 PPP. It doesn’t matter that his defensive skill set is nonexistent; he is an effortless scorer who transitions efficiently between his face-up and post-up game (which are both tough to guard).
19. OG Anunoby: Even with a knee injury that sidelined him the remainder of the 2017 season, Anunoby remains a fringe lottery pick because he can seamlessly guard all five positions. Before he was hurt, there was talk in Bloomington of the 6-8 sophomore playing point guard, and while that scenario never materialized, it underscores the potential that Anunoby represents on both sides of the ball.
20. Justin Patton: Raw upside. That’s the best description for Patton, who burst onto the D-I level following a redshirt season. The freshman big has soft hands and an even softer touch around the basket (making 80 percent of his attempts, per Hoop-Math.com), and according to Synergy, he scored an astounding 1.4 points per pick-and-roll play, which means that maneuverability in the half-court might be his greatest asset.
21. Anzejs Pasecniks: A classic NBA five, the 7-2 Pasecniks can score above the rim with either hand and possesses an offensive game that extends away from the basket. Despite his size, he is limited defensively, but whatever fundamentals he may lack will come in time.
22. Terrance Ferguson: The 6-7 wing would have provided a significant scoring boost at Arizona, but following a year playing in Australia, Ferguson was able to showcase a game that is raw but oozes potential. He won’t provide an immediate impact in the NBA, but a three-point touch and athleticism off the bounce have fueled Ferguson’s rise through the first round.
23. Semi Ojeleye: A jack-of-all-trades scorer who is equally proficient scoring from midrange and from beyond the arc. Include his steady ballhandling and ability to consistently draw fouls (nearly six per 40 minutes), and the 6-foot-7 Ojeleye is an intriguing prospect.
24. Harry Giles: The Duke big’s best spurts during his lone college season came during the ACC tournament. Giles had finally shed the rust that accompanied his two pre-Duke knee injuries, and the 6-11 forward was crashing the rim with abandon, blocking shots, and easily converting. At the moment, the big is an unmolded project, but what Giles showcased during those three days in Brooklyn is the potential NBA execs hope accompanies him to the league.
25. Tyler Lydon: A pick-and-pop savant with a quick release, uncanny accuracy (40 percent from deep in his two seasons at Syracuse), and a feel for spacing in the half-court. Some may say Lydon is one-dimensional, and lacks the physicality for the NBA, but NBA execs covet his shooting stroke.
26. Caleb Swanigan: A bruising forward out of Purdue with an unrefined post-up game who also possesses an emerging and shockingly proficient touch from the perimeter (45 percent).
27. Ike Anigbogu: The dark horse of the NBA draft. Anigbogu didn’t see the court often at UCLA (nearly eight fouls per 40 minutes), but has all the potential of a rim-running, shot blocking force.
28. Isaiah Hartenstein: A 7-1 stretch-forward who possesses an improving perimeter game and can also put the ball on the floor and drive past less mobile defenders. The 19-year old plays for a Lithuanian team.
29. Derrick White: The 6-6 guard spent three years at the Division II level before transferring to Colorado for his final season, where he was the most overlooked player in the Pac-12, connecting on 57 percent of his two-pointers and 40 percent of his threes. White is the type of player that always seems to surprise post-draft night.
30. Tony Bradley: Bouncy and athletic, Bradley was too raw to see many minutes in a crowded Tar Heel frontcourt, but when he did play, he was a defensive mismatch who constantly crashed the boards (while, at the same time, showcasing a developing offensive game that suffers from that same lack of reps).
31. DJ Wilson: The 6-11 has a versatile game that extends well beyond the three-point line but he was largely dependent on his Michigan teammates to set up those scoring opportunities (43 percent of his half-court attempts were unassisted, per Hoop-Math.com).
32. Jordan Bell: An athletic force who can do everything on both sides of the ball well, the 6-9 Bell has a roll player skill set that every NBA team covets. He played college ball at Oregon.
33. Ivan Rabb: The California big struggled in his sophomore season, and sorely lacked a consistent perimeter touch that, when coupled with converting fewer than 50 percent of his two-point field goals, caused many to question why he returned to Berkeley for another year.
34. Jawun Evans: A potential pick and roll dynamo, Evans possesses a quick first step, an athletic bounce off the ball, and superior passing vision to engage his teammates, which explains why Oklahoma State’s pick-and-roll points per possession ranked within Synergy’s top 50.
35. Jonah Bolden: Another first-round dark horse, Bolden spent a year overseas following a disappointing freshman year at UCLA. He’ll need more seasoning, but the 6-10 Bolden mixes a pick-and-pop game with a heady interior scoring presence.
36. Tyler Dorsey: Another player who can get buckets in a hurry. There are few shots the Oregon guard didn’t like during his two years at the D-I level, but when the 6-4 guard is connecting (42 percent from deep in 2017), he can carry a team’s offense for stretches.
37. Johnathan Motley: There a few shots around the rim the 6-10 Motley doesn’t convert. Per Hoop-Math.com, the big’s entire game for Baylor consisted of scoring in the paint, which he does effectively (71 percent) thanks to the relentless energy he showcases once he gets the ball at the basket or post.
38. Josh Hart: Perfect fundamentals mixed with an old-school work ethic, the Villanova guard is the embodiment of an NBA role player.
39. Frank Jackson: The 6-4 guard shone at Duke once Coach Mike Krzyzewski began to utilize a small-ball lineup, converting off the catch (41 percent from deep) or breaking down defenders to get to the rim and finish, but until he hones his point guard skills (12 percent assist rate), he’s a two masquerading as a point.
40. Sterling Brown: The SMU guard honed his isolation game as a junior (after just five attempts in 2016, more than 10 percent of his shots were off the dribble and he scored 1.07 PPP), and with a consistent three-point touch (45 percent), he projects as an ideal three-and-D player in the modern NBA.
41. Mathias Lessort: A 6-9, athletic (albeit undersized) center from France who should shine on the fast break and whenever opposing ballhandlers penetrate the paint.
42. Kyle Kuzma: The Utah junior is a tantalizing prospect — 6-9, doesn’t turn the ball over, can grab rebounds with aplomb (defensive rebounding rate of 23 percent in 2017), has shown that he can connect from deep (30 percent) — but consistency on both sides of the ball bedeviled Kuzma throughout his Utah career.
43. Edmond Sumner: Though some may blanch at the anterior cruciate ligament tear that ended his 2017 season, what is more concerning is his inability to finish at the rim during his two seasons at Xavier (per Hoop-Math.com, 51 percent in the half-court over the course of his two seasons).
44. Devin Robinson: Arguably one of the most athletic players in the draft, the Gator and Virginia native is long, lanky, and oozes three-and-D potential (39 percent from deep in 2017).
45. Thomas Bryant: The big used about the same percentage of shots during both his freshman and sophomore seasons at Indiana to mixed results — all of his shooting percentages were down or flat in 2017. Was it an indicator of teams adjusting to how they guarded the 6-10 big? Or rather, a sign that the forward’s offensive game is still developing?
46. Alec Peters: A bigger Doug McDermott is the most common comparison to Peters, though the Valparaiso forward didn’t have the quality of McBuckets’s supporting cast at Creighton and still managed to post an offensive rating of 1.17 PPP in his final college season, converting more than 50 percent of his two-pointers and 37 percent of his threes.
47. Cameron Oliver: Athletic and relentless throughout the court, Oliver was one of the best at finishing around the rim, connecting on nearly 80 percent of his attempts for Nevada. He isn’t a slouch using that energy on the defensive side of the ball, hauling in a quarter of opponents’ misses.
48. Jaron Blossomgame: One of ACC’s best defenders and rebounders, Blossomgame — who spent all four years at Clemson — is still very much a project at the next level.
49. Wesley Iwundu: A 6-7 wing who can not only guard every position but also operate a vast variety of pick-and-roll coverages.
50. Frank Mason: The 5-11 guard committed to Towson, shined at Kansas, and is now a fringe NBA draft pick. There are few players who work harder than Mason, whose brilliant use of angles in the half-court and finishing ability once he drives the paint (shooting 238 free throws and drawing nearly six fouls per 40 minutes) are unparalleled.