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NBA Daily: 2018 Draft Features Intriguing Wing Talent

The 2018 Draft is highlighted with elite big men but there is a lot of interesting wing talent as well, writes Jesse Blancarte.

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If you are a fan of an NBA team not named the Warriors or Cavaliers, chances are you’ve started to shift your focus towards the 2018 NBA Draft and offseason.

This year’s draft features plenty of top-end talent, including a glut of elite prospects at the power forward and center positions. Once we move past the top seven picks or so, we then have several promising guard prospects that will be fighting to climb up teams’ draft boards. However, while there aren’t many elite prospects at the wing position (outside of Michael Porter, Jr.), this draft offers several solid and intriguing prospects who could be sneaky additions for teams that are looking for more talent on the wing.

Here are a couple of promising wing prospects who will likely be selected in the second half of the first round or later, and who could add significant value to the team’s that select them on draft night.

Dzanan Musa

Musa just turned 19 years old last this month but he has been on the NBA’s radar for some time as he started his professional career at age 16 with Cedevita Zagreb. At 6-foot-9, Musa has the size and mobility to play both forward positions and, if he puts on more muscle moving forward, could potentially play center in some small-ball lineups. Musa isn’t an athletic specimen but he manages to make good use of the athleticism he does have. Whether that will translate effectively at the NBA level is an open question, but Musa certainly has the tools and skill to be a nice contributor at either forward position on offense.

Musa is good at driving to the rim using off-pace footwork, is solid operating out of the pick and roll, is a confident shooter (perhaps to a fault) and can run the fast break effectively. That’s a nice skill set for a good sized wing who could play multiple positions at the next level and who likely won’t require a lottery pick.

Another factor working in Musa’s favor is his experience. Musa has been playing in a professional league since he was 16 and played in over 70 games this season. Most college prospects are limited by the relatively short NCAA season and aren’t prepared to play an 82-game season. Musa is primed to acclimate to the NBA’s physicality and calendar at a quicker rate than other members of his draft class, which in an attribute that each team has already taken note of.

Keita Bates-Diop

Bates-Diop earned the 2018 Big 10 Player of the Year award, averaging 19.8 points and 8.7 rebounds in his senior season at Ohio State. Bates-Diop put up some bigtime performances in his final college season but NBA teams aren’t necessarily looking for him to be a 20+ points per game scorer at the next. Bates-Diop doesn’t have the playmaking skills to be a point forward or secondary playmaker for his teammates, but he is a solid shooter who can run the court, cut to the basket, make crafty floaters in and around the lane and finish at the rim.

Not every forward has to have Ben Simmons potential, which is the case for Bates-Diop. However, he can impact the game in similar ways to Trevor Ariza, who can knock down jumpers, play well off the ball and be a positive contributor on defense. Bates-Diop doesn’t necessarily have star potential but he could be a nice addition for a team looking for a wing with good size who can plug into an offensive system that can utilize his shooting and off-ball movement.

Jacob Evans

Evans spent three seasons at Cincinnati and rounded himself into a versatile two-way player who can bring a lot of value at the NBA level. Evans is clearly a 3-and-D prospect first and foremost, but more importantly he could become one of those valuable glue guys who helps his team in ways that aren’t apparent in a box score. Evans is a very cognitive player, especially on the defensive end. He has a better grasp of his limitations than most players at this stage of their respective careers and is able to maximize his individual defensive ability within a team concept. Evans generally makes the right rotations, double-teams at the right times and funnels his opponents to where his teammates are when he cannot contain the ball-handler on his own. With the right coaching, he could become a valuable defensive wing in an NBA rotation sooner than some anticipate.

Additionally, Evans is more than just a shooter. He led his team in assists last season and has some skill as a playmaker. Evans will be more of a shooter and finisher in the NBA, but the ability to make the right pass, swing the ball when he isn’t open and take the ball off the dribble when necessary make him an intriguing prospect. This is especially true when you consider how valuable a player like Kris Middleton has become over the years, adding layers to his 3-and-D skill set each season.

Rodions Kurucs

Kurucs is a different sort of prospect than the other three covered in this article. Kurucs has another year left on his contract with Barcelona, so it’s possible that he is a draft and stash prospect. Any team drafting Kurucs isn’t doing so with the expectation that he is going to be a major contributor next season but is more concerned with his long term outlook.

At 6-foot-10, Kurucs has great length and could be a difficult matchup if he ever reaches his potential. He can shoot, take the ball off the dribble, run the fast break, operate out of the pick and roll, attack the basket and make plays for teammates. Kurucs is not elite at any single thing right now, but his potential is high (though he has previous knee injuries that could be an ongoing issue). Kurucs has been stuck in a tough situation with his team and hasn’t received the playing time he would like. There are a lot of questions surrounding Kurucs but his potential is sky-high, which is why a team may take a chance on him with a higher pick than most reasonably expect.

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This year’s draft is highlighted by elite bigs and a strong collection of point guard prospects. But don’t be surprised if several of this year’s wing prospects end up being some of the most impactful players to come out of this draft.

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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