Last year when publishing my big board, I made it more my personal rankings rather than focusing the order around a specific team. Big boards can be fairly subjective, with each team needing and favoring a specific playing style or archetype of a player than the other, and that’s why this year’s is entirely focused on OKC and how the roster is currently constructed.
Many of these prospects’ outcomes rely on the team they get drafted into and the team context that they come into. The Thunder, who are in a position to take Best Player Available because of their rebuild, may value a player more than another team that, for example, already has a multitude of on-ball creators and ball handlers and just needs a player to slot into a specific role.
If I were to rank the Thunder’s top three needs for the future, in no particular order, I would rank it as:
- Secondary Ball Handler/Off-Ball Threat who can pressure the rim
- Off-ball players with shooting gravity
- Big/Strong Wing with secondary skills
- Versatile Big Man/Vertical Threat with some rim protection
As you can see below, picking at the top of the draft is still very important when looking for star players. I feel like fans have had their perceptions warped with draft picks like Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Devin Booker, Donovan Mitchell, and Bam Adebayo drafted near the late lottery in recent years. The reality is that drafting high is still incredibly important and is the main way to acquire stars.
The draft is all about weighing the potential outcome compared to the risk. OKC could look to take a high floor player with pick 16 and possibly pick 18, but is that really moving the needle? OKC needs stars and rotation players that can be on the roster for their next championship team. Shai is one of the better shot creators in the league and he puts a ton of pressure on the rim with his driving ability, the Thunder need players who can capitalize on these advantages that he creates.
The tiers within this board are put here to differentiate between players because the difference between each player isn’t equal. The players within each tier are fluid as well, as I wouldn’t have much of an issue with your placement of the players within the tier. With that out of the way, let’s get into it.
1. Cade Cunningham – Oklahoma State | G/Wing
Cade Cunningham is still my number one prospect over Evan Mobley and he has been all year. Cunningham was an extraordinary passer in high school and continued making high-level reads in his season at Oklahoma State. The assist numbers look pedestrian at best (3.5 assists compared to 4.0 turnovers this past season) but the team context and situation at Oklahoma State were terrible for him. The spacing was atrocious and no player besides Cunningham himself shot over 33 percent from three on at least 20 attempts. I think it’s fairly important to take some pre-college information into account as well when evaluating these players, and Cunningham was an incredible passer for Montverde during HS.
Cunningham is a natural point guard with a high-level feel and passing ability and yet is slightly bigger than Jayson Tatum. He shot 40 percent from three this season on 155 attempts and has developed a deadly pull-up jumper in his arsenal that fueled a lot of his high-scoring games. Cade is ridiculously strong for a 19-year-old, and he uses this to his advantage when dislodging defenders when driving to the rim, a place where he shot 62 percent on the year while only being assisted on 28 percent of his makes. OKC would have to my knowledge, one of the tallest backcourt in NBA history, and given Cade’s size, you can line him up and play him as a wing as well if you want to play off a Shai/Maledon or Shai/*insert any other point guard here* backcourt. Cunningham is one of the top prospects in recent memory and is one of the top defenders in the class as well. To be clear as well with the tiers, I decided to not put a tier between Cade and Mobley because I didn’t want to have too many, but I can’t see any scenario where Mobley is ahead of him. He is a top-tier talent and looks to be a franchise cornerstone for whoever selects him.
2. Evan Mobley – USC | Big
Mobley is the dream big man for the modern NBA. At 7’0 215 pounds, Mobley is incredibly agile for his size and covers a lot of ground on the defensive end of the floor. He was the college version of Rudy Gobert on defense last season, deterring almost any and every rim attempt, resulting in an 8.8 percent block rate. Leading the NCAA in Bart Torviks BPM as a true freshman is a feat only accomplished by Zion Williamson and Anthony Davis since 2008. The combination of Mobley’s mid-range shooting, FT percentage, and limited three-point attempts lead me to believe one day he’ll become a reliable shooter from outside, despite his pedestrian 30 percent on the year.
He had quite a few flashes OTD and shows a pretty advanced understanding of where everyone is on the floor, leading to some very impressive passes as well. The concerns with Mobley are fairly obvious, as he’s quite skinny for a player who is seven feet tall. His incredible length and awareness on the defensive end will give him a solid baseline of attributes to play average NBA defense, but he’ll have to get stronger to reach his defensive ceiling. The threshold a big man has to hit to become a true commodity at his position is quite high, and I think Mobley is one of the best big men to enter the draft in the last decade.
3. Jalen Green – G-League Ignite | G
Green is someone who I’ve become much higher on after watching him play for the G-League Ignite. His archetype of a hyper-athletic guard with flashes of elite-level shot-making is not something I’m particularly fond of, but after watching him play for Ignite and even factoring in the success of Zach LaVine and Anthony Edwards in the second half of the season, he’s grown on me a lot.
He shot 36.5 percent from three on 5.7 attempts per game while also shooting 83 percent from the line, which was a big boost considering his outside shot was a question mark coming into the year. He had two great games vs Raptors 905, who are a very high-level team that showcases the abilities of the Raptors elite developmental system.
His passing is not bad for a player of his archetype, but I don’t think you want him coming in as a secondary or even tertiary playmaker for your team. The defense isn’t up to par with the other top players in the class, but I wouldn’t call it a definite negative though and I think it can be improved with more reps and learning. His shot creation is off the charts and paired with Shai and possibly Kemba, two players who can create advantages and set him up for success early, I think you can maximize his developmental curve in an environment like OKC’s.
4. Jalen Suggs – Gonzaga | G
Suggs is perfectly suited for a high-level off-ball role with occasional initiator possessions next to Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Shai is one of the best in the league at putting pressure on the rim and having an elite defender and skilled passer next to him would be a dynamic backcourt. Suggs has occasional issues generating his own offense in the halfcourt due to a shaky handle, and having SGA next to him can help create advantages for him to attack, such as attacking closeouts and getting to the rim or create for others coming downhill.
Suggs isn’t nearly the scorer or ball handler that someone like Cade Cunningham is, but his two-way ability, passing acumen, and developing outside jumper should give the Thunder a solid foundation to build their next title contender.
5. Moses Moody – Arkansas | Wing
After getting off to a slow start in his freshman year, Moses Moody turned it on for the rest of the year for Arkansas. Moody is a 6’6 wing with above-average defensive abilities and a perfect statistical blend (.420 3PAr, .482 FTr, 1.6 steal rate, and 2.0 block rate) of a two-way wing. His assist numbers don’t stand out, but he’s a solid ball mover and consistently makes smart decisions with the basketball. The free throw rate is really outstanding for Moody, and he’s elite at drawing contact, especially on jump shots.
He had multiple games of 10+ free throw attempts which is rare for a freshman wing in college. Moody’s athleticism is his worst trait but he does have the length (7’1 wingspan and 8’9 standing reach) to mitigate some of the disadvantages he might face when tasked with guarding quicker players. Moody will likely never be a primary creator in the NBA, but his shooting, defense, and ball movement will be an excellent complement to the Thunder’s young core.
6. Jaden Springer – Tennessee | G/Wing
Jaden Springer is one of my favorite players in this class, and I had a hard time choosing between him and Moody at the five and six spots. Springer was an underrated player coming into the year despite his high RSCI ranking and continues to be underrated on draft boards in my opinion.
He’s very strong for a 6’4 player and is an excellent defender, especially at the POA, sporting a very solid 2.7 steal rate and 2.0 block rate. His foot speed is very good and he’s very smart on that end of the floor and quick to diagnose opposing sets. I think he’ll be able to guard up in the league because of his strength and 6’8 wingspan. He’s ridiculously young for this class and will turn 19 a month before the season starts.
He put up great shooting numbers on limited volume (43.5 percent from three on 46 total attempts) but shot good from the line, and given his age and development curve, I’m willing to bet he’ll become at least a league-average shooter in the NBA.
7. Josh Giddey – Adelaide 36ers | G
Josh Giddey is a 6’8 point guard with high-level passing feel, which instantly makes him a valuable player on an NBA floor. Even players like Tomas Satoransky, who is a 6’7 point guard who’s a solid NBA player and is making 10 million dollars this upcoming season. Giddey isn’t the level of passer and shot creator that LaMelo Ball was coming out, but their size and statistical comparisons (8.4 assists, 8.2 rebounds for Giddey, 7.9 assists, 8.7 rebounds for LaMelo per 36) are equally as impressive, especially for such a young player like Giddey who will be one of the youngest players to get drafted this year.
He had a 48.9 true shooting percentage this past year in the NBL, but he did get a good amount of shots up for a player his age. What really unlocks Giddey’s ceiling is his OTD and pull-up shooting, a facet of his game that can be immensely valuable given the fact he’s 6’8. Giddey’s defense is “meh” at best and will likely be worse in the NBA, especially at the POA due to his lack of athleticism.
His height is good for guarding wings but I’m not sure he has the flexibility and athleticism to stay with most forwards in the NBA. One thing you might hope for with him is that due to his incredible vision and court awareness on the offensive end, that some of this will translate to off-ball and team defense, as it seemingly did with LaMelo Ball, who was a better defender than most anticipated his rookie season.
8. Scottie Barnes – Florida State | Forward
One of the most unique players in this class, Scottie Barnes would be a nice fit for the Thunder next to their young players. Barnes was a 6’8 225-pound point guard for Florida State this past season, running the show as an initiator to the tune of 31.6 assist rate. Barnes won’t be a primary initiator in the NBA and may not be a secondary unless he increases his outside shooting volume. His playmaking is a major bonus and he can operate from the post, the short roll, and a variety of different reads where he catches the ball and can survey the court/make a quick decision.
His ability to create open looks for himself and gain separation from a defender is largely hindered by his lack of quickness and first step. Despite his perceived athleticism and 7’3 wingspan, Barnes isn’t quite the traditional athlete that he’s made out to be, specifically vertically. He makes great rotations to protect the rim but can’t always impact the shot to a high degree because of his lack of vertical explosion, but he truly is a fantastic team defender.
Barnes’ major question currently is his jump shot (27.5 percent from three and 62.1 percent from the FT line) but I tend to believe that shooting is the easiest skill to improve upon in the NBA, and Barnes does too many other things at a high level to drop him any further.
9. Franz Wagner – Michigan | Wing
Wagner is the perfect role player in today’s NBA. A versatile forward with outside shooting skills, above-average passing ability and instincts, and high-level defensive ability on the perimeter is an insanely valuable commodity to teams, especially in the playoffs (look at Mikal Bridges, though not a direct comparison). The issue with Wagner is that I don’t foresee him ever calling his own number and getting his shot off consistently and efficiently. He’s not a great athlete and coupled with fairly limited evidence of his shooting versatility, it’s hard to justify taking him very high for this OKC team.
For a team like the Warriors, I’d take Wagner as high as 5th overall, but for the Thunder, a team that is looking for another star to pair with SGA, I wouldn’t be able to justify taking him that high. When comparing Wagner to Moody, I value Moody’s potential shot versatility more as well as his self-creation ability (mainly his foul drawing) but Wagner would be a nice consolation prize if he falls.
10. Sharife Cooper – Auburn | G
Cooper is one of the best advantage creators in the class. An absurdly quick player and arguably the best passer in the draft, Cooper was one of the more exciting players to watch in college during his brief stint at Auburn. He averaged 24.4 points and 9.8 assists per 40 minutes as a true freshman in the SEC while boasting an absurd 51.9 assist rate and .560 free throw rate.
However, there are concerns with Cooper that can hold him back from ever being a true difference-maker on an NBA floor. He’s 6’1 180 pounds according to Auburn’s website (they are being generous here) and shot 22.8 percent from three on 4.8 attempts per game.
The amount of small point guards that end up returning positive value in the NBA is low (think of someone like Trey Burke who has flamed out) but I believe in Cooper’s shot developing given his 82.5 percent from the line and good touch at the rim. If you were to bet on a statistical outlier in this class, Cooper would be my choice.
11. Jonathan Kuminga – G-League Ignite | Forward
Kuminga is a polarizing prospect within draft circles, with some still holding out faith based on his physical tools and pre Ignite production, and some have sourced on him due to his underwhelming play in the G-League and current lack of ancillary skills.
I’m more of the latter in this scenario, as I want nothing to do with Kuminga in the top five, where he’s almost guaranteed to go (very likely 5th overall). Kuminga is a powerful and quick athlete with lots of upside on the defensive end of the floor. He physically dominated almost every player he went up against in HS and in the EYBL, even pushing Scottie Barnes around at some points in a game vs Montverde.
In the G-League, Kuminga shot less than 50 percent at the rim on non-dunk attempts, and while these are grown men he’s going up against, it’s a bit concerning when compared to someone like Jalen Green or even Daishen Nix. He was however miscast as a primary for Ignite, leading the team in usage and taking on a lot of self-created opportunities.
Kuminga has shown flashes as a shot creator and can certainly develop into a versatile defender with his 6’8 220-pound frame coupled with a 7’0 wingspan. I’m not sure of the fit with OKC’s roster, however. The idea of Kuminga and Bazley on the perimeter does not sound appealing and even if Baze is on the bench in favor of Poku or someone else, there just isn’t enough shooting on the roster currently to open things up for JK. There’s a lot of risk with Kuminga, and with a player who has not shown a lot with his outside shot (and mediocre FT shooting at best), there are better bets I’d be willing to gamble on in the top five.
12. Keon Johnson – Tennessee | G
This was the player I had the hardest time ranking. Keon Johnson was a very well-regarded prospect coming into the season, and he certainly had flashes that showed why he was regarded as a top-eight pick in this upcoming draft.
Johnson is an elite-level athlete, arguably the best in the class along with Jalen Green, which is shown here in this monster dunk off of two feet (he’s only 6’5). Keon was a legit bad offensive player this past season for Tennessee (where he had a -0.51 ORAPM) but he has a couple of intriguing tools that NBA teams can hope to build upon. There are high-level flashes of passing from Keon and his decision-making is quite good for a player who struggled so much on offense.
His scoring was a disaster this past season, shooting 45 percent from the field, 28 percent from three, and 70 percent from the line, good for a .519 true shooting on the year. His calling card, however, is his defense. As stated earlier, Johnson is an incredible athlete with great quickness and this shows up constantly when defending the perimeter. He can possibly guard positions 1-3 in the NBA because of his COD ability and length. Keon is a very volatile player in this draft and is someone who I wouldn’t be shocked to out-produce his ranking.
13. Usman Garuba – Real Madrid | Wing/Big
Garuba is one of the two best current defenders in the entire class. He’s been in the Real Madrid pipeline since he was 11 years old and won MVP for Spain in the 2016 FIBA U16 European Championship among a multitude of other awards.
Garuba compares physically to OG Anunoby, despite playing the role of a big man over in Europe. He’s been dominant in the playoffs recently and is starting to hit a few more three-pointers, which is a great sign to see because his offensive game and skillset are holding him back from being higher. He’s a smart player, with good reactionary passing ability but the outside shot is a real question mark with his game (31.5 percent from three and 59.8 percent from the FT line for his career). I think Garuba is potentially a player you will be able to put on jumbo initiators like LeBron and Luka and feel good about it. At the very least, however, you’re getting a net positive & versatile defender from day one.
14. JT Thor – Auburn | Forward
Teammates with Sharife Cooper at Auburn, JT Thor is a very intriguing and toolsy modern-day forward with late first-round projections (ESPN has him ranked 65 as of writing this). Thor is 6’10 203 with a 7’3 wingspan and the skillset of a wing on the perimeter, flashing high-level shot versatility and defensive ability. The high-end outcome of Thor would be much higher on this list, as he has star potential and is a very valuable archetype in today’s NBA, with the ability to hit pull-up threes at his size and take slower bigs off the dribble.
Thor isn’t without his faults, his passing is a clear negative right now and he struggled when Sharife Cooper didn’t play, but that’s mainly at the fault of Auburn’s roster and him being thrust into a role he wasn’t comfortable with. At the end of the day, the high-end talent of Thor is too much to pass up on in this range. In addition to this, it was widely listed that Thor was 19 years old, when in fact he confirmed that he’s only 18 years old. Thor’s potential high-end outcome is too tantalizing to let slip out of the lottery in my opinion, and I may regret not having him higher than this.
15. Kai Jones – Texas | Forward/Big
Kai Jones is one of the most intriguing players in the draft class with lots of high-end tools. He’s a very fluid and athletic 6’11 big who can run the floor with the best of them at his size. There was a big step up in production from his freshman and sophomore seasons at Texas, raising his true shooting by eight percent and mixing in more free throws and unassisted three-pointers to his game. He has a crazy high motor which helps him both on offense and on defense. He has a career 2.0 steal rate and 5.3 block rate and has flashes of defending out on the perimeter and in space, but despite that, I don’t have the utmost confidence in him consistently being a positive on defense in the NBA. I think the late lotto is a perfect place to take a gamble on Jones athletic & physical talents, and OKC would be a good environment for him to work out the kinks in his game.
16. Roko Prkačin – Cibona | Forward
Roko has been on the draft radar for at least three years now, after winning gold with Croatia in the U16 Fiba Championship in 2018. Roko is quite the defensive player at such a young age, he’s a very fluid athlete and is an easy mover in space and out in transition. He’s a very capable passer for his size and has an all-around intriguing versatile skillset for a forward in the modern NBA.
He isn’t a high-level explosive athlete but he is fairly strong for his age (won’t turn 19 till November, one of the youngest players in the class) and frequently bullied other players in the Adriatic League. His shot is a big question mark, he shot 39.4 percent from deep on limited volume this past year to go along with 65.4 percent from the line. The baseline skills are too valuable to pass up on in this tier, and I wouldn’t argue if you had him slightly higher than I have him ranked here.
17. Jalen Johnson – Duke | Forward
Jalen Johnson has some of the widest outcomes I’ve seen on people’s draft boards. Some people believe he’s a top 10 player and some believe he’s towards the end of the top 20. I’d have to agree with the latter, despite the possible high-end upside that could be reached. Johnson is advertised as a point-forward type of player, a 6’9 forward who can make every read from the post or the middle of the floor, and that’s a correct description of his best skills.
Johnson hardly shot any threes at Duke and was not good from the FT line, only shooting 63 percent from the line. These indicators are not good for his shooting development and significantly hamper his usage on the offensive end because of the fact he’ll never be a primary creator. His defense is solid and his length is only +2, which doesn’t bode well because his COD ability on that end is subpar because of his so-so athleticism and stiffness when not moving in a straight line.
18. Tre Mann – Florida | G
Tre Mann is one of the shiftiest players in the entire class. The ball-handling and space creation that Mann possesses is a high-level and very important skill, especially in the playoffs when you need to create your own shot. Mann came off a disastrous freshman season and was one of the most improved players in the nation this past year, improving his true shooting by 13 percent and bumping his assist rate by 14 percent while staying around the same turnover percentage.
He shot 40 percent from three this past season despite only being assisted on 31.9 percent of his makes. His added size (being 6’4) is what separates Mann from someone like Jared Butler on my board, as I truly think a high-end outcome of Mann is a legit shot creator and tertiary playmaker. The playoffs are a great example of this being such a valuable archetype and is something the Thunder are severely lacking outside of Shai on the roster.
19. James Bouknight – UConn | G
James Bouknight was one of the best scorers in college basketball last season after averaging 18.7 points per game on the year, even dropping 40 points in a close loss to Creighton. Bouknight is a 6’5 guard with inconsistent but very capable outside shooting and great skills as a slasher. He’s very capable of getting to his spot on the floor and has a quick first step to blow by defenders and finish in the lane.
The passing is very much not a viable skill as of right now, but because of the advantages he creates when driving downhill, the reads he will have to make may become simplified and thus he can slowly improve upon his playmaking over time. The defense is fairly solid as well, he’s in position most of the time but lacks the strength to defend some guards in the NBA. A lot of people want to compare Bouknight to Devin Booker coming out of college, and I feel like that’s such a lofty and unrealistic expectation for him. At the end of the day, Bouknight’s calling will be his scoring and if he isn’t able to get that three-point percentage up or have the gravity from distance, he’ll end up much lower than this ranking in a re-draft.
20. Ziaire Williams – Stanford | Wing
Ziaire had one of the hardest situations to endure during his time at Stanford this past season. There were injuries to go along with two deaths in his family and according to Brian Hamilton of The Athletic, Stanford had to “live out of hotels for weeks on end” due to the pandemic.
All of this and his struggles on the court culminated into a frustrating season for Williams, a season where he averaged 10.7 points per game on 47.3 percent true shooting and a -0.3 BPM. Williams is 6’10 188 pounds and is incredibly skinny and lanky for a wing prospect. The shotmaking at 6’8 is a very valuable archetype as seen in this year’s NBA playoffs, and that’s easily his best skill despite the bad percentages this year.
Ziaire has almost no ability to pressure the rim because of his lack of strength and he only shot 53.1 percent at the rim this season despite being assisted on 50 percent of his makes. In addition to that, he only had a .241 FTr rate this season and truthfully is just a complete mess on offense besides his shot-making. On defense, Ziaire is fairly solid staying in front of players on the perimeter. He has the movement skills and lateral agility to cover ground fairly well but like I’ve previously stated, his lack of strength is a huge hindrance on this end. The shotmaking at his size and the incredible value that is brings it too much to drop towards the end of the first round though, and I’ll take the gamble on OKC attempting to improve these ancillary skills.
21. Alperen Sengun – Beşiktaş | Big
Sengun is another polarizing prospect within this draft. The 19-year-old Turkish big man put up some pretty gaudy numbers for Beşiktaş in the Turkish Basketball Super League, averaging 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.7 blocks in 28 minutes en route to MVP. His passing really came along over the last 14 games of the season, going from zero games of 5+ assists in the first 20 games to five in the last 14 and he’s shown to be a very willing passer and has solid shooting projections with his FT percentage and occasional flashes of shot-making.
A lot of people have Sengun higher than this on their rankings, but I can’t get on board with that due to Sengun being an undersized and unathletic big. He is listed at 6’10 and has slow COD ability. The roster and lineup construction that will have to be done to hide his defensive deficiencies in the playoffs and other high leverage games is going to be a challenge. With a realistic outcome being that he might be borderline unplayable on defense, I can’t justify taking him that high for this Thunder team.
22. Jared Butler – Baylor | G
Slightly ahead of his more regarded teammate Davion Mitchell, I have Jared Butler here at 22. Butler has the best handles in the entire class and it allows him to create space for himself despite his middling athleticism for a NBA guard. Butler has a really translatable guard skillset with his pull-up shooting, crafty PnR reads, and smart team defense on the other end of the floor.
He’s been one of the best players in college basketball since his sophomore season and shot 39.8 percent from three on 387 attempts over the past two years. I’m banking on Butler being a reliable backup/low-end starting PG for a decade in the NBA and that’s great value in the back half of the draft.
23. Davion Mitchell – Baylor | G
Mitchell is someone who I’m lower on than consensus (ranked ninth on the RookieScale consensus board), and that isn’t without reason. Mitchell will be one of, if not the oldest, player selected on draft night, as he’ll be 23 years old when the season starts. In addition to that, Davion is only 6’1 and the ability to succeed with these small guards is much harder in the NBA.
Davion saw a serious efficiency jump this past season for Baylor, improving his two-point percentage by 9.8 percent, three-point percentage by 12.3 percent, and true shooting by 11.6 percent. Despite this, his free throw percentage regressed from his previous year, dropping from 66.3 percent to 64.1 percent. With free throw percentage being one of the main indicators of future shooting success, this doesn’t bode well for Mitchell’s statistical breakout this past season.
He did increase his overall volume, however, which is a welcoming sign for his potential. Mitchell is a 6’2 combo guard who lacks elite vertical athleticism, although he does have a very quick first step. When compared to fellow small guard Sharife Cooper, he wasn’t even close to the amount of pressure he put on the rim as Cooper. His POA defense is really good and he’s very physical with whoever he is guarding, as evident by his good 3.3 steal rate. The playmaking did really improve this past season, but Mitchell hasn’t shown the ability as a primary initiator, and likely won’t be in the NBA. I struggle with finding a good fit for Mitchell with the Thunder, especially higher up where he’s expected to be drafted.
24. Corey Kispert – Gonzaga | Wing
One of the many standouts on the Gonzaga powerhouse this past season, Corey Kispert is one of the best shooters in this entire class. Coming off a season where he shot 44 percent from three on 6.5 attempts a game, Kispert saw his stock steadily rise throughout this year. There are other skills on offense however that complement his shooting quite well and makes him a pretty versatile player on that end of the floor. He’s shown the ability to make good reads out of the PnR and can attack closeouts if NBA defenders run him off the line. Kispert will have below-average COD ability in the NBA and will likely run into trouble defending in space at the next level, but his team defense and awareness on that end of the floor is good enough to mitigate some of his physical issues. OKC desperately lacks shooting and Kispert’s ability as one of if not the best shooters in the class will help immensely on the offensive end.
25. Isaiah Jackson – Kentucky | Big
One of the best college rim protectors in recent memory, Isaiah Jackson is an incredible athlete for a 6’10 big man. He’s an unbelievably explosive vertical athlete who gets up off his feet in an instant to protect the paint. Jackson averaged 2.6 blocks last season in 20 minutes a game to the tune of a 12.7 percent block rate. He was a great play finisher this past season, throwing down dunks and catching passes deep in the paint and finishing at the rim, but there could be some untapped offensive upside with him. He shot 70 percent from the line but only attempted two threes all season.
If the Thunder work on developing more of his perimeter skills, I’m curious to see the results that could come out of that. At the very least, Isaiah reminds me of an early career Richaun Holmes-type energy big who can come in off the bench. The Thunder desperately lack rim protection and a lob threat at the moment, and while the latter isn’t the most important archetype in the world, it’s a glaring need on the current roster.
26. Trey Murphy III – Virginia | Wing/Forward
Like a similar player a bit lower on this board, Trey Murphy’s calling card is his shooting capabilities for being a 6’9 forward. Murphy is coming off a 50/43/93 season for Virginia with a very impressive .628 3PAr. Like Kispert, Murphy’s shooting is pretty much a lock of him being a plus skill, it’s just the rest of the skills that need to be developed for Murphy to hit his high-end outcome. He didn’t show the versatility that Kispert did, but he does possess a better athletic profile than he does.
He can take defenders off the dribble and rise up for some pretty impressive dunks for a player whose primary role in college was a shooting specialist. The passing is “fine” for his archetype and he’s genuinely just a very smart player on both ends of the floor, so he’ll likely end up being a solid ball mover at the next level. With a reported 7’1 wingspan, Murphy has the length to be a capable defender at the next level and should be able to stay on the floor at all times.
27. Josh Christopher – Arizona State | G
Josh Christopher may end up being one of the more talented scorers in the entire draft. Christopher had some high-level scoring games this past season for Arizona State, like a 28 point effort vs Villanova and a few other twenty-point games sprinkled in there. The efficiency wasn’t quite there throughout the season, but ASU was hampered by not-so-good players as well as Marcus Bagley’s injury, another talented freshman on the team.
Not to say that’s the only reason though, Christopher’s biggest flaw is his decision-making. He takes some wild shots and is not really a passer at all, averaging 1.6 assists in 30 minutes per game. The defense was passable in college. He has good size and length but may be sandwiched positionally on the defensive end. I’m normally not fond of this scoring archetype, but for a team that lacks offense outside of SGA, the Thunder might be able to extract good offensive value out of Christopher if they get the chance. At the end of the day, Christopher is a project player who could, at his 75th percentile outcome or higher, provide some serious offense for the team who drafts him.
28. Nah’Shon Hyland – VCU | G
Nah’Shon Hyland or, “Bones” Hyland, is a knockdown shooter with a flashy handle who effortlessly created space for himself in his time at VCU. He’s shot 40 percent from three over the past two seasons on incredible volume (.580 career 3PAr).
Bones has some of the most ridiculous displays of shotmaking and shooting that you’ll ever see from a college player, as he takes incredibly difficult shots and makes them on solid efficiency. The shot versatility is very impressive as well, he pretty much has every move in the book that comes with creating space with side-steps, step-backs, and pull-ups.
He improved his FT rate a ton this past season as well as his percentages, which was a glaring weakness heading into the season mainly because of his lack of strength. Hyland is currently a very wiry 6’3 169 pounds, and without great explosiveness and first step, shooting and operating within the PnR is going to be his bread and butter in the NBA. His defense is fairly limited because of his size.
He’ll likely only be able to guard point guards in the NBA and will almost certainly be a negative because of his body type alone, and despite his solid motor on that end, there’s just not much you can do at that size. Still, Bones’ elite shooting and potential tertiary playmaking are very valuable traits in the NBA and worthy of a first-round pick.
29. Julian Champagnie – St John’s | Wing
The description of Julian Champagnie is fairly straightforward, he’s a 6’8 217-pound wing who shot 37.7 percent from three on volume as well as 88.7 percent from the FT line this past season for St. John’s. Champagnie has a very good statistical profile for not even being 20 years old yet. He had a .415 3PAr this past year and besides his shooting generated a lot of events on the defensive end with a 2.4 steal rate and 3.2 block rate.
He showed more flashes of off-the-dribble shotmaking this past year and has shot versatility in his arsenal, including side-steps, off-movement shooting as well as pull-up shooting. Not sure how much it really matters or affects his evaluation at all, but he’s also a very impressive rebounder for a wing. His passing is nothing to write home about, but at the end of the day, a wing scorer who can shoot in a bunch of different ways at good efficiency is a valuable player in the NBA and a first-round caliber player in my book.
30. Chris Duarte – Oregon | Wing
Chris Duarte is this year’s older prospect who will likely come into the NBA immediately as a solid piece on your bench. Duarte is already 24 years old but was a fantastic player for the Ducks this past season. He put up a 53/42/81 slash line on good volume to the tune of 17.1 points a game. He’s a very good shooter from anywhere on the floor, with versatility and pristine off-ball movement to boot. He had a very good 3.4 steal rate and 2.9 block rate and has good awareness on the defensive end of the floor to go along with good athleticism for the position.
The fear of course with Duarte is that he’s already gone through most of his developmental curve and doesn’t have that much room to improve. Players like Malik Beasley, Matisse Thybulle, Luke Kennard, and Donte DiVincenzo are 24 years old, and it’s just a tough hill to climb when you’re that old already. Still, Duarte is without question a very skilled and talented basketball player who will at least find ways to contribute off the bench for teams.