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John Wall Talks MVP Goal, Pitching Kevin Durant, More

John Wall opens up about his MVP goal, plan to recruit Kevin Durant, expectations for this year and more.

Alex Kennedy

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In recent years, Washington Wizards point guard John Wall has solidified himself as one of the best floor generals in the NBA. Last season, Wall averaged 17.6 points, 10 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.7 steals while shooting 44.5 percent from the field. He ranked second in the NBA in assists per game (10) and total assists (792), trailing only Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul. Wall and Paul each recorded 40 double-doubles last year, which led all guards.

JWInside1Wall put up these impressive numbers despite being hobbled by various injuries (including sprains in both ankles, a shoulder sprain, a sore Achilles and debilitating migraines) throughout the year. However, the two-time All-Star toughed it out, playing the sixth-most minutes of any player in the NBA (2,837) while leading the Wizards to a 46-36 record and the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.

In the playoffs, Wall’s averages increased to 17.4 points, 11.9 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks. He had a number of dominant games, such as his 26-point, 17-assist performance in a victory over the Toronto Raptors in the first round.

Washington advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals and had a 2-1 lead over the Atlanta Hawks, but then Wall sustained five non-displaced fractures in his left hand and wrist. Somehow, he managed to miss only three games and return during that series, posting 35 points, 20 assists, 10 rebounds, six steals and three blocks in Washington’s final two games against Atlanta. But the Wizards weren’t able to overcome Wall’s injury and lost the series in six games.

Wall spent much of the summer wondering what would have happened had he stayed healthy. Now, he enters his sixth NBA season determined to show significant individual improvement and lead his team further than ever before.

Basketball Insiders recently caught up with Wall to discuss a variety of topics including his offseason training, thoughts on the Wizards’ additions, lofty individual goals for this year, planned recruitment of Kevin Durant next summer, where he ranks himself among the NBA’s elite and much more.

Basketball Insiders: You played through a lot of injuries last year. How nice is it to be 100 percent healthy entering this season and how much will that help your game?

John Wall: “It helps a lot. I mean, throughout a season, you’re never going to stay 100 percent for the whole year. You’re going to have nicks and bruises because it’s a long year and you’re playing against tough players every night and competing at a high level. So I know that about 25 games in, I may have some injuries, some ankle sprains or whatever. But it is fun to finally be healthy again, and [it’s nice] to see everyone healthy. It makes the games more interesting; you get to see the best players in the world compete against each other.”

Basketball Insiders: This summer, you guys lost Paul Pierce, but you added some quality veterans in Jared Dudley, Gary Neal and Alan Anderson among others. Personally, I liked the moves since those guys can be key contributors and they will improve your depth. What did you think of the team’s offseason?

John Wall: “It was great. It was tough losing Paul [Pierce], Rasual [Butler] and those guys because they helped us a lot, but I like the additions. Alan [Anderson] can help us. Gary [Neal] has been around a team that’s been to the Finals. A guy like Jared Dudley knows what it takes to win and he’s someone who knows his role. These are all veteran guys who know their role and who can come in and just help us win games. Those kind of guys are key.”

Basketball Insiders: What aspects of your game did you work on this summer?

John Wall: “I can shoot the three well, but I just need to focus on not taking bad ones – like half-court ones and ones in late shot-clock situations so I can have a good percentage. I’ve been working on my floater a lot, I’ve been working on my post-up game and I’ve been working on improving my defense.”

Basketball Insiders: I think people forget how young you are since you’ve been so successful in your first five NBA seasons. You just recently turned 25 years old. How much more room for improvement do you feel you have?

John Wall: “I have a lot of room left to grow. I’m nowhere near reaching my full potential. I think I’m still just scratching the surface of how great I can be. I want to keep getting better. I think the only way you can be a superstar in this league and [become] a Hall of Fame player is by improving every season and getting better at something. That’s something I’m willing to put in the work to do, and I think I have a great opportunity to do that this year.”

Basketball Insiders: How good can your Wizards be this year? As a team, you guys have improved each season and a lot of people are picking you guys to go deep in the postseason. How good can this team be?

John Wall: “I think we can be really great, just like last year. I think we can be as good or better than last year’s team. But for that to happen, I have to step up. I have to make big shots and make big plays, especially with Paul [Pierce] going away. But I think we’re going to be great. We’ve added some new things to our team, added some new things to our offense that are going to help us this year. Our main focus is still on being a defensive-minded team and rebounding the ball because that’s what we pride ourselves on. That’s our team’s identity.”

Basketball Insiders: What has to happen for this season to be considered a success? What, in your mind, would be a good year for you guys?

John Wall: “A good year is 50-plus wins, getting home-court advantage in the playoffs and definitely making the Eastern Conference Finals to give ourselves a shot at the Finals. Anything goes from there – it’s just a matter of whoever can win four games first.”

Basketball Insiders: How do you guys take that next step to become a championship-caliber team? What do you guys need to do in order to get that level?

John Wall: “We just need to treat every game like we did in the playoffs. We need to have a playoff mindset, where every game matters and we’re locked in. Throughout the season, we can’t get away from that. You have to take every game seriously, as well as every shoot-around and every practice. We need to go into every game thinking that we’re getting ready for the playoffs. That’s going to be the biggest key.”

Basketball Insiders: What are some of your individual goals for this year?

John Wall: “I want to be in the MVP conversation and give myself a shot at being the MVP. That means I need to play well, help my teammates play well, get those guys shots and lead my team to wins. I definitely want to be an All-Star starter again. I want to be All-NBA First Team. I want to be on the All-Defensive First Team; I was All-Defensive Second Team last year. I think I was snubbed from the All-NBA Third Team last year, but I just use that as motivation for this year to try to get better. Another individual goal is definitely leading the league in assists this year. There are a lot of things I want to do, but those are some of the main ones.”

Basketball Insiders: I’m glad you brought up the MVP award because I was going to ask you about that. The Wizards rely on you so much on both ends of the floor and you’re so important to the team, yet you weren’t in the MVP conversation last year. There were 12 players who received at least one MVP vote last year, but you weren’t one of them. Does that motivate you?

John Wall: “Yeah, totally. I’m a point guard, so I don’t score a lot. I know I could score 24 points if I wanted on any given night, but I’m a guy who can average 18 points and 10 assists, and I’m perfectly fine with that as long as my team is winning. I’m just a guy who does whatever my team needs: rebounding, getting blocks, trying to shut down the best player on the other team. I’m willing to do all of that, and I think that’s what an MVP-type player does because they’re the most valuable player to their team.”

Basketball Insiders: There has been a lot of talk about player rankings lately. A number of outlets are releasing rankings and that has generated some heated debates. Where would you rank yourself overall among all of the players in the league, and where would you rank yourself among point guards?

John Wall: “Among point guards, I feel like I’m right there. I feel like I’m a top three point guard in this league. And overall, I feel like I’m right there in the top 10 players. I think this is my year to just get over the hump and prove it. I’m getting better every year and improving. There are a lot of great players and great point guards in this league, but I just feel like I have the same tools and abilities as them. I just need to believe in myself and produce on the court because all of the talking doesn’t mean nothing if you can’t back it up.”

Basketball Insiders: When you say you’re a top three point guard, who are the other guys you have right there alongside you?

John Wall: “Russell Westbrook is obviously a tough guy to cover because he does a lot. Steph Curry is another one. And when Kyrie Irving is healthy, he’s one of the best players. Those are the toughest guys to go against, I think.”

Basketball Insiders: You got your teammates together for two weeks of bonding prior to training camp. How beneficial was that experience for the team?

John Wall: “I always want to do that and take on that role. I think it’s important to get everyone together. We have some new guys who haven’t been around the team and a lot of us haven’t seen each other over the summer, so this gave us a great two weeks to workout, hang around, go out to the movies or a club or whatever we want to do. It’s all about enjoying being around each other and building some team chemistry and camaraderie.”

Basketball Insiders: You recently said that you’re going to make a recruiting pitch to Kevin Durant when he hits free agency next summer and that obviously made headlines. I know you have a ton of friends around the NBA. Are you and Durant close? Do you guys already have a relationship?

John Wall: “Oh yeah, [our relationship] is great. That’s like one of my big brothers in the league. I mean, I respect his game and respect everything he’s doing in business and how he runs his team and all of that. We’re really close. And like I said, when the opportunity is right to go ahead and throw a [free agency] pitch at him, I’m going to get the opportunity to do it. I would love to play with him because I know how talented he is. But right now, I’m focused on the Washington Wizards and he’s focused on the Oklahoma City Thunder. I’m not going to text him and ask him questions about that, you know what I mean? I’m focused on what I’m doing with my team, and I know that talk like that can throw people off track. He’s already hearing a lot of [free agency] talk and having people ask him that question. So when the time is right and I feel like I can throw my pitch, I will. But right now, I’m letting him do what he’s doing and I’m doing what I’m doing because I’m trying to help my team win a championship.”

Basketball Insiders: I wanted to ask about recruiting. I know some guys like to do it, but others don’t. Some players, like Chandler Parsons, are known for it and embrace that role as a recruiter. I know you said you’re going to recruit Kevin Durant, but how do you feel about recruiting in general? Is that something you want to do more of going forward for the Wizards?

John Wall: “Well, if I see my team is trying to go after somebody and I’m cool with them or I feel like they would be a great asset to our team, I don’t mind doing that. It’s just like when you’re playing in college. If you want to go win a championship, you need to go get the best players. You want to add great players so that your team has a shot to win. I don’t mind recruiting.”

Check out more of Basketball Insiders’ offseason interviews:

Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin

Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard

Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green

Los Angeles Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell

Boston Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas

Orlando Magic’s Elfrid Payton

Los Angeles Lakers’ Lou Williams

Portland Trail Blazers’ C.J. McCollum

Indiana Pacers’ Myles Turner

New York Knicks’ Kyle O’Quinn

Los Angeles Clippers’ Jamal Crawford

Portland Trail Blazers’ Ed Davis

Los Angeles Lakers’ Larry Nance Jr.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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Reviewing the Nurkic Trade: Denver’s Perspective

The Denver Nuggets have been on a miraculous run this postseason, but that doesn’t mean that they’re infallible. Drew Maresca reviews the 2017 trade that sent Jusuf Nurkic from Denver to Portland.

Drew Maresca

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The Denver Nuggets are fresh off of a 114-106 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, pulling within three wins of the franchise’s first trip to the NBA Finals. But what if I told you that the Nuggets’ roster could be even more talented by acting more deliberately in a trade from three years ago?

While Denver won on Tuesday night, they lost a nail bitter on Sunday – for which most of the blame has been pointed at a defensive breakdown by Nuggets’ center Mason Plumlee, who was procured in the aforementioned 2017 trade. What did it cost Denver, you ask? Just Jusuf Nurkic and a first-round pick.

Nurkic was a 2014-15 All-Rookie second team member. He played 139 games over 2.5 seasons in Denver, averaging 7.5 points and 5.9 rebounds in approximately 18 minutes per game. He showed serious promise, but Denver had numerous reasons to pursue a trade: he’d suffered a few relatively serious injuries early in his career (and he’s continued to be injury-prone in Portland), butted heads with head coach Michael Malone and – most importantly – the Nuggets stumbled on to Nikola Jokic.

The Nuggets eventually attempted a twin-tower strategy with both in the starting line-up, but that experiment was short-lived — with Jokic ultimately asking to move to the team’s second unit.

The Nuggets traded Nurkic to the Portland Trail Blazers in February 2017 (along with a first-round pick) in exchange for Plumlee, a second-round pick and cash considerations. Ironically, the first-round pick included in the deal became Justin Jackson, who was used to procure another center, Zach Collins – but more on that in a bit.

As of February 2017, Plumlee was considered the better player of the two. He was averaging a career-high 11 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists through 54 games – but it was clear that at 27, he’d already maximized his talent.

Conversely, Nurkic was only 23 at the time of the trade with significant, untapped upside. In his first few seasons with Portland, Nurkic averaged 15 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, while establishing himself as a rising star. As noted above, injuries have continued to be a problem. Nurkic suffered a compound fracture in his tibia and fibula in March 2019, forcing him to miss a majority of this current campaign. The COVID-19-related play stoppage in March gave Nurkic extra time to get his body right, and he returned to action in July inside the bubble.

And he did so with a vengeance. Nurkic demonstrated superior strength and footwork, and he flashed the dominance that Portland hoped he would develop, posting eight double-doubles in 18 contests. He averaged 17.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game and while his play dipped a bit in the playoffs – partially due to a matchup with first-team All-NBA star Anthony Davis – he still managed 14.2 points and 10.4 rebounds in the five-game series. So it’s fair to say that Nurkic is still on his way toward stardom.

But the Nuggets are in the conference finals – so all’s well that ends well, right? Not so fast. To his credit, Plumlee is exactly who Denver expected him to be. He’s averaged 7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in three seasons with Denver since 2017 – but to be fair, Plumlee is asked to do less in Denver than he had in Portland. Still, it’s fairly obvious that they’re just not that comparable.

Plumlee is a good passer and an above-average defender that’ll compete hard and isn’t afraid to get dirty – but he has limitations. He doesn’t stretch the floor and he is a sub-par free throw shooter (53.5 percent in 2019-20). More importantly, he’s simply not a major offensive threat and his repertoire of moves is limited.

High-level takeaway: Defenses tend to game plan for opponents they view as major threats – Nurkic falls into this category. Other guys pack the stat sheet through putback attempts, open looks and single coverage alongside the guys for whom opposing defenses game plan – that’s a more appropriate description of Plumlee.

On to the wrench thrown in by Zach Collins’ involvement. Statistically, Collins is about as effective as Plumlee – he averaged 7 points and 6.3 rebounds through only 11 games in 2019-20 due to various injuries – and he possesses more upside. The 22-year-old is not as reliable as Plumlee but given his age and skill set, he’s a far better option as a support player playing off the bench. He stretches the floor (36.8 percent on three-point attempts in 2019-20), is an above-average free throw shooter (75 percent this season) and is a good defender. Looking past Nurkic for a moment, would the Nuggets prefer a 22-year-old center that stretches the floor and defends or a 30-year-old energy guy?

Regardless of your answer to that question, it’s hard to argue that Nurkic should have returned more than Plumlee, definitely so when you factor in the first-round pick Denver included. There is obviously more at play: Denver was probably considering trading Nurkic for some time before they acted – did they feel that they could increase his trade value prior to the trade deadline in 2016-17? Maybe. Further, Nurkic and his agent could have influenced the Nuggets’ decision at the 2017 deadline, threatening to stonewall Denver in negotiations.

Had Nurkic been more patient or the Nuggets acted sooner before it became abundantly clear that he was on the move, Denver’s roster could be even more stacked than it is now. Ultimately, the Nuggets have a plethora of talent and will be fine – while it appears that Nurkic found a long-term home in Portland, where he owns the paint offensively. Denver can’t be thrilled about assisting a division rival, but they’re still in an enviable position today and should be for years to come.

But despite that, this deal should go down as a cautionary tale – it’s not only the bottom feeders of the league who make missteps. Even the savviest of front offices overthink deals. Sometimes that works in their favor, and other times it does not.

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NBA Daily: They Guessed Wrong

Matt John reflects on some of the key decisions that were made last summer, and how their disappointing results hurt both team outlooks and players’ legacies.

Matt John

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It doesn’t sound possible, but did you know that the crazy NBA summer of 2019 was, in fact, over a year ago? Wildly, in any normal, non-pandemic season, it all would have been over three months ago and, usually, media days would be right around the corner, but not this time. The 2019-20 NBA season is slated to end sometime in early to mid-October, so the fact that the last NBA off-season was over a year ago hasn’t really dawned on anyone yet. Craziest of all, even though there will still be an offseason, there technically won’t be any summer.

Coronavirus has really messed up the NBA’s order. Of course, there are much worse horrors that COVID-19 has inflicted upon the world – but because of what it’s done to the NBA, let’s focus on that and go back to the summer of 2019. It felt like an eternity, but the Golden State Warriors’ three-year reign had finally reached its end. The Toronto Raptors’ victory over the tyranny that was the Hamptons Five – as battered as they were – made it feel like order had been restored to the NBA. There was more to it than that though.

Klay Thompson’s and Kevin Durant’s season-ending injuries, along with the latter skipping town to join Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn meant two things.

1. Golden State was down for the count
2. Brooklyn’s time wasn’t coming until next year.

A one-year window was open. Even if neither Golden State nor Brooklyn posed the same threat that the former did when it had Kevin Durant, those were two contenders out of commission. If there was a time to go all in, it was in 2019.

Milwaukee certainly seemed to go all in. For the most part.  Malcolm Brogdon’s departure seemed a little odd since he was arguably their best non-Giannis playmaker when they were in crunch time. Not to mention there was nothing really stopping the Bucks from keeping him except for money. Detractors will call out Milwaukee for electing to cheap out by not keeping Brogdon and hence, avoiding the luxury tax. However, there’s more to it than that.

Milwaukee thought it had enough with the core it had on its roster. Coming off the best season they had put up since the eighties, they believed the franchise built the right team to contend. There was an argument that keeping Brogdon may have been overkill with their guard depth – let’s not forget that Donte DiVincenzo did a solid job in Brogdon’s role as the backup facilitator. This would have been more defensible had it not been for Milwaukee picking the wrong guy to let go. That was the indefensible part- electing to keep Eric Bledsoe over Brogdon.

Bledsoe wasn’t necessarily a bad investment. No one’s complaining about an almost 15 point average on 47/34/79 splits or playing individual defense tight enough to get named on the All-Defensive second team. By all accounts, Bledsoe earns his keep. That is until the playoffs. Bledsoe’s postseason woes have been a weight ever since he first entered Milwaukee, and this postseason was more of the same.

Bledsoe’s numbers dwindled to just 11.7 points on 39/25/81 splits, and Milwaukee getting ousted in five games at the hands of Miami made his struggles stand out even more than it had ever been. Bledsoe may be the better athlete and the better defender, but Brogdon’s all-around offensive savvy and his only slight dropoff defensively from Brogdon would have made him a bit more reliable.

Milwaukee guessed wrong when they opted to extend Bledsoe before the postseason last year when they could have waited until that very time to evaluate who to keep around. Now they face a hell of a lot more questions than they did at the end of last season – questions that may have been avoided had they made the right choice.

Now they could have kept both of them, yes, but it’s not totally unreasonable to think that maybe their approach with the luxury tax would have worked and maybe they would still be in the postseason right now had they gone with the homegrown talent. And just maybe, there wouldn’t be nearly as much of this Greek Freak uncertainty.

The Houston Rockets can relate. They got bruised up by a team that everyone thought Houston had the edge on going into the series and then crushed by the Lakers. Now, Mike D’Antoni is gone. The full-time small ball experiment likely did not work out. Since the Rockets emptied most of their assets to bring in Russell Westbrook and Robert Covington, there may not be a route in which they can become better than they presently are.

The mistake wasn’t trading for Russell Westbrook. The mistake was trading Chris Paul.

To be fair, most everybody severely overestimated Chris Paul’s decline. He’s not among the best of the best anymore, but he’s still pretty darn close. He deserved his All-NBA second team selection as well as finishing No. 7 overall in MVP voting. OKC had no business being as good as they were this season, and Paul was the driving force as to why.

For all we know, the previously-assumed tension between Chris Paul and James Harden would have made its way onto the court no matter what. Even so, Houston’s biggest obstacle in the Bay Area had crumbled. If they had just stayed the course, maybe they’re still in the postseason too.

To their credit, none of this may have happened had it not been for the Kawhi Leonard decision. Had he chosen differently, the Thunder never blow it up, and Houston might have very well been the favorite in the Western Conference. Instead, the Rockets took a step back from being in the title discussion to dark horse. But at least they can take pride knowing that they weren’t expected to win it all – the Clippers can’t.

Seeing the Clippers fall well short expectations begs the question if they too got it wrong. The answer is, naturally: of course not. They may have paid a hefty price for Paul George, but the only way they were getting Kawhi Leonard – one of the best players of his generation – was if PG-13 came in the package. As lofty as it was, anyone would have done the same thing if they were in their shoes. They didn’t get it wrong. Kawhi did.

On paper, the Clippers had the most talented roster in the entire league. It seemed like they had every hole filled imaginable. Surrounding Leonard and George was three-point shooting, versatility, a productive second unit, an experienced coach – you name it. There was nothing stopping them from breaking the franchise’s long-lasting curse. Except themselves.

Something felt off about them. They alienated opponents. They alienated each other. At times, they played rather lackadaisically, like the title had already been signed, sealed, and delivered to them. The media all assumed they’d cut the malarkey and get their act together – but that moment never really came. They had their chances to put Denver away, but even if they had, after seeing their struggles to beat them – and to be fair Dallas too – would their day of destiny with the Lakers have really lived up to the hype?

Even if it was never in the cards, one can’t help but wonder what could have happened had Kawhi chosen to stay with the team he won his second title with.

Toronto was the most impressive team in this league this season. They still managed to stay at the top of the east in spite of losing an all-timer like Leonard. That team had every component of a winner except a superstar. They had the right culture for a championship team. Just not the right talent. The Clippers were the exact opposite. They had the right talent for a championship team but not the right culture. That’s why the Raptors walked away from the postseason feeling proud of themselves for playing to their full potential while the Clippers writhed in disappointment and angst over their future.

In the end, everyone mentioned here may ultimately blame what happened to their season on the extenuating circumstances from the pandemic. The Bucks’ chemistry never fully returned when the Bubble started. Contracting COVID and dealing with quad problems prevented Westbrook from reviving the MVP-type player he was before the hiatus. As troubling as the Clippers had played, the extra time they would have had to work things out in a normal season was taken away from them.

For all we know, next year will be a completely different story. The Rockets, Bucks, and Kawhi may ultimately have their faith rewarded for what they did in the summer of 2019 – but that will only be mere speculation until the trio can change the story.

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Looking Toward The Draft: Power Forwards

Basketball Insiders continues their NBA Draft watch, this time with the power forwards.

David Yapkowitz

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We got some updated NBA draft news this week when the league announced that several key dates have been pushed back including the draft, the start of free agency and the beginning of the 2020-21 season.

The 2020 draft was originally scheduled for Oct. 16, but it will now likely occur sometime in November. Obviously, with the COVID-19 pandemic still wildly out of control in the United States, all of these potential deadlines are fluid and subject to change.

With that said, we’re continuing our position by position breakdown here at Basketball Insiders of some of the top 2020 draft prospects. We looked at the point guards and shooting guards last week, and this week we’re covering the small forwards and power forwards.

The power forward crop, like the draft overall, doesn’t appear to be as strong as recent years, that doesn’t mean there aren’t potential contributors and high-level NBA players available, as well as one who might just turn out to be a star-caliber player.

Onyeka Okongwu, USC – 19 years old

Okongwu is the player who just might develop into a star on some level. He was actually underrated in high school and was snubbed for a McDonald’s All-American selection his senior year. He established himself early on at USC as the team’s best player as a freshman and now appears to have turned some heads.

He’s been mentioned as a lottery pick and in some mock drafts, he’s top 4-5. He possesses a great all-around skill-set; he can score in the post, he can put the ball on the floor and attack and he can shoot. But perhaps his biggest attribute is his versatility on the defensive end. He’s got quick feet and mobility and can guard multiple positions.

Okongwu might actually play center in the NBA, especially in small-ball lineups, but he’s mostly played power forward and so he’ll probably see time there in the league. His skill-set fits perfectly with today’s game.

Obi Toppin, Dayton – 22 years old

Toppin is one of the older players in the draft, and in recent history, players that age tend to slip on draft boards. In Toppin’s case, it looks like the reverse might actually be true. He’s been projected as a lottery pick, and even going in the top 3.

He’s an incredibly athletic player who thrives in the open court. He looks like he’ll do well in an up-tempo offensive system that has capable playmakers who can find him in transition. He’s extremely active around the rim and he can finish strong. A decent shooter too, something he’ll need at the next level.

Toppin has the physical tools to be an effective defensive player, but that’s where the questions marks on him have been. In the NBA, he’s likely going to have to play and guard multiple positions. Whether or not he can adapt to that likely will answer the question as to what his ceiling can be.

Precious Achiuwa, Memphis – 20 years old

Achiuwa is another intriguing prospect. this writer actually got to watch him play in person while he was in high school and he was very impressive. He looked like a man among boys. He’s projected to be a late lottery pick.

He has an NBA-ready body and he’s got some toughness around the rim and in the paint. He was a double-double threat during his one season at Memphis and his knack for rebounding is something that should translate to the NBA. He’s a very good defender too, in particular, as a rim protector. He’s very quick and has the ability to guard multiple positions.

One of the main knocks on Achiuwa is his shooting ability. He didn’t shoot that well in college and power forwards being able to space the floor is almost a requirement in today’s NBA game. It’s something he can certainly work on and improve on though.

Honorable Mentions:
Paul Reed, DePaul – 21 years old
Xavier Tillman, Michigan State – 21 years old
Killian Tillie, Gonzaga – 22 years old

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