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The NBA Draft Look-Back: 2016

Spencer Davies goes back to take a look at the 2016 NBA Draft to see the hits, sleepers and misses from the class.

Spencer Davies

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This week at Basketball Insiders, we’ve taken a trip back in time together. Since we haven’t seen any NBA action since mid-March, we’ve gone ahead to take a look at how drafts of the past have worked out.

The 2016 NBA Draft can be classified as “studs and duds,” with the duds almost outweighing the studs. It says something that its undrafted free agents — Fred VanVleet, Danuel House, Dorian Finney-Smith, Derrick Jones Jr. — have been more successful than most of the first-round crop. It’s also notable that some of these players have had success outside of the organization that originally drafted them. That’s why it’s hard to evaluate whether picks are good or bad. Is it due to the players themselves or the franchises who took them there? It’s a fine line to toe, so we’ve broken it down into four categories.

A. The Hits
B. The Misses
C. The Sleepers
D. Jury Is Out

So without further ado, a look at the class of 2016!

The Hits

Ben Simmons, No. 1

Well, not exactly right away. Simmons, as per Philadelphia 76ers first-round pick luck, had to miss the entirety of the 2016-17 campaign with a foot injury. He returned with a vengeance in his “rookie” second season — take that up with Donovan Mitchell and Utah Jazz faithful — and made an enormous impact as the Sixers finally got to see what waiting “The Process” out could look like when their pieces were healthy. Nobody expected Simmons to be a shooter, but the expectations placed on the 6-foot-10 Aussie have been tough to meet.

Once marveled over by his innate vision, poise in transition and size as a ball-handler, Simmons is no longer treated like the All-Star he truly is. It’s just easier to make jokes about his lack of threes, apparently. The debate over whether he and Joel Embiid can take that next step as championship-caliber teammates, however, is a question we’d all like the answer to.

Brandon Ingram, No. 2

Ingram is a good case study for staying patient with young prospects. At 22 years old and in his fourth season, he was just selected to the All-Star Game for the first time in his career. Would you have believed that if you were provided his statistics as a rookie? They’re not exactly pretty, nor was the situation in Los Angeles. Structure and player development can have a symbiotic relationship. Clearly, the environment was not conducive to growth back then. That doesn’t mean Ingram was completely faultless, though, and the following seasons were a major bounceback in shaping who he became elsewhere.

His length is quite problematic on both ends. He’s been letting it fly from deep at a career rate and is converting 38 percent of those, forcing the opposition to close out. Now a primary option with the New Orleans Pelicans, we’ll find out what he and the other promising youngsters are made of as this franchise moves forward

Domantas Sabonis, No. 11

Little did the Oklahoma City Thunder know that they had a future double-double machine just camping out on the perimeter as a spot-up guy. That’s why the general public was up in arms when Sabonis and Victor Oladipo were the pieces going back to the Indiana Pacers for superstar Paul George. Funny how we grade that trade in the present day now, isn’t it? Nate McMillan has utilized Sabonis as an elite, physical screen-and-roller that can rebound the heck out of the ball. The son of Arvydas earned his first All-Star honors this season, too, so Domantas’ best is likely still ahead of him.

Jaylen Brown, No. 3

It’s not normal for a team that was in the playoffs to have the third overall pick, but the Boston Celtics had this luxury for two straight seasons thanks to the Brooklyn Nets. It allowed the C’s to establish their cornerstone pieces moving forward, starting with Brown and then with Jayson Tatum the following year. While Brown received playing time in his rookie season, the focus was on learning behind the team’s young mainstays. Despite a surge in his second season alongside a first-year Tatum, both players hit a bump in the road during 2018-19. Fortunately for Boston, this current version of Brown is exactly what they’ve envisioned — aggressive, unafraid and gritty. As Tatum’s star begins to shine, his partner shouldn’t be too far behind. Danny Ainge oughta send a thank you card to Billy King for Boston’s two franchise faces.

Buddy Hield, No. 6

Jamal Murray, No. 7

Both of these guards are hits in the sense of producing big numbers and taking their games to new heights with each season. They should be considered solid picks at these positions, albeit not home runs. Hield was traded in the middle of his rookie season to the Sacramento Kings, where he’s blossomed as a top-tier volume scorer just getting into his prime. Murray has hovered around the same level player as he’s been the last few years, forever waiting for fewer passive nights and more attack-heavy outings in which the Blue Arrow can shine.

The Misses

Dragan Bender, No. 4

Often (incorrectly) compared to Kristaps Porzingis coming into the draft, Bender was ironically selected in the same slot as he was. The seven-foot Croatian big man was highly touted as the best prospect coming from overseas. In reality, he wasn’t even close to ready. He was too slow on his feet to keep up with faster wings and too small to guard players in the post. The shooting touch was supposed to be his most consistent quality, and even that portion of his game didn’t come through aside from a decent effort in year two. Sure, it didn’t help that the Phoenix Suns were a bottom-dweller – but that doesn’t mean Bender did himself any favors. He’s got one silver lining going for him — he’s 22 years old and there’s nowhere to go but up, as evidenced by a 23-point night for the Golden State Warriors before the league shut down.

Kris Dunn, No. 5

It’s really difficult to include Dunn on this list because he is a legitimate individual defender that can lock up a lot of talented guards and change momentum with just a few plays. In fact, he could be a real steal for a team looking for a specialist this offseason. His road is far from ending. That said, you can’t justify a top-five pick being a specialist — even if it was in a class scarce of upside.

Marquese Chriss, No. 8

The majority of what we’ve seen with Chriss is a well-below-average shooter that has a ton of athleticism… without the skills necessary to succeed consistently. However, an opportunity with the Warriors has given Chriss the stage to showcase what some hands-on learning and hard work can accomplish. We’ll see if his name gets removed off the “miss” list in the future. That’s a long way away though for the former eighth overall pick.

Thon Maker, No. 10

When the Milwaukee Bucks decided to select Maker with the 10th overall pick, most agreed that the South Sudanese center would be a raw prospect in need of major polishing. Those concerns were valid to this day, as he has yet to average 20 minutes per game. He just isn’t consistent enough to warrant valuable playing time. When you can’t stretch the floor and struggle with players that overpower you, it doesn’t help your case. Similar to Bender, he’s got age on his side. The Detroit Pistons have taken a less is more approach with Maker, leading to an uptick in efficiency as a decent backup big — not at all worthy of a top 10 selection.

Georgios Papagiannis, No. 13

Considering the slew of disappointments in this draft class, Papagiannis actually put up respectable production as a rookie with the Sacramento Kings… in 22 games… after the season was given up on. He played 16 more games with them afterward — never more than 16 minutes — before being waived at the 2018 trade deadline. Papagiannis would appear in exactly one NBA game for the Portland Trail Blazers following that. Currently, he is playing for Panathinaikos back home in Greece. So, in other words, thumbs *down* for a lottery pick.

Guerschon Yabusele, No. 16

Wade Baldwin, No. 17

Just because they were mid-round picks doesn’t exclude the Celtics and Grizzlies from their swings and misses on these two. Yabusele and Baldwin had made their fair share of noise in the G League, but that’s not enough. The former is in year four with no role and the clock ticking, while the latter is playing for Olympiacos in the Euroleague.

Sleepers

Malik Beasley, No. 19
DeAndre’ Bembry, No. 21
Furkan Korkmaz, No. 26
Ivica Zubac, No. 32
Patrick McCaw, No. 38
Jake Layman, No. 47
Georges Niang, No. 50

Pascal Siakam, No. 27

The year-to-year rise of Siakam has been astounding. It’s the beauty of what can happen with a little time and a plan. He waited his turn, observed the players ahead of him and starred in his role off the bench. Eventually, that turned into a promotion to starter and the man they call Spicy P just took off from there. His determination to expand his game manifested itself into becoming Kawhi Leonard’s right-hand man en route to a Toronto Raptors championship. Now, he’s an All-Star, one of the top point forwards in the Eastern Conference and very well could be its best player in the near future. Shame on me for thinking he’d struggle to handle alpha status.

Malcolm Brogdon, No. 36

It’s not often that the class Rookie of the Year is considered a sleeper. A second-rounder had never won the prestigious award until Brogdon came along. As he did so well under Tony Bennett at Virginia, the upperclassman point guard proved to be a true floor general with an advanced feel for the game right from the jump in Milwaukee. He alternated backcourt roles in his first three seasons with the Bucks, punishing the opposition from deep and on the defensive end. He’s fought some injury issues here and there as well. In his debut season with the Indiana Pacers, we’ve seen more pick-and-roll wizardry from the talented guard with Sabonis. And though his shooting numbers have dipped noticeably, that’s probably an outlier. Indiana’s got a solid future with Brogdon running the show alongside a pair of All-Stars.

Jury Is Still Out

Caris LeVert, No. 20

Injury issues plummeted LeVert down to No. 20. He’s been plagued by a few of them here and there in the NBA, but none have stopped him from putting on the show he’s capable of. He’s one of those players that when he sees one shot go in, there’s no telling how far his hot hand will go. All you have to do is go back to his 51-point outburst in a comeback win back in early March. LeVert’s 6-foot-6 frame with a wide wingspan is perfect for the modern NBA. If he puts on a little more weight, the Nets could see him taking a giant step forward with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant leading the charge.

DeJounte Murray, No. 29

The San Antonio Spurs know how to draft. Murray was the first of two 29th overall picks that they’ve seen promise from, the other being Derrick White. Murray’s a stat-sheet stuffing, athletic, long pest of a player on both ends. Defensively, he doesn’t give you an inch to get by, nor does he make it easy for a clean pass anywhere. His hands are among the quickest in the league. The offensive portion of his game is slowly but surely coming back to him after a devastating ACL injury last season caused him to miss all of 2018-19, but there’s been no sense of fear whatsoever. He’s driving and dishing and knocking down his triples. Let’s just hope those injuries are behind Murray for good and he can continue to ascend the way he has.

Jakob Poeltl, No. 9

You know the saying “the best ability is availability?” That’s been Poeltl’s MO since he entered the league. Unfortunately, there’s little a traditional big man can offer if he doesn’t excel in more than one area. The former Ute is adept at protecting the rim and snagging rebounds and… that’s pretty much it. Even so, his advanced statistics point to a big improvement since his move to the Spurs. Not enough to be declared a hit, but surely not enough to be called a miss either. He’s in the middle for now.

The 2016 class is, for lack of a better word, a weird one to look back at. There’s plenty of first-round names that have succeeded, while others have flamed out of the league. Even the second-round picks were slim pickings if you want to go that far. But still, there are stars in the room and those are the standouts we love to watch play the game — and we could see more pan out if we’re lucky.

Spencer Davies is a Deputy Editor and a Senior NBA Writer based in Cleveland in his third year with Basketball Insiders. Covering the league and the Cavaliers for the past five seasons, his bylines have appeared on Bleacher Report, FOX Sports and HoopsHype.

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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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