59. Justin James
Justin James lives on the laundry list of prospects who need to shoot threes to have any real chance, but look legitimately good if they do shoot. It starts with James’ combo of tools–6’7 with a 7’1 wingspan–and explosive athleticism. James’ handle is good but not great, though he beats defenders off of the dribble with his great first step and explodes around the rim for touch finishes and dunks. He’s an excellent passer and a great decision maker, with craft, vision and a versatile passing arsenal, commanding an absurd usage (36.3) with a 1.1 assist to turnover ratio and a 33 assist percentage. He’s also an excellent rebounder with his athletic tools, posting a 22.4 defensive rebound percentage.
James has the size to play the two and the athleticism and IQ to be effective off of the ball and in a tertiary creation role. This all relies on his shooting improving, which is a dice roll at this point given average indicators.
58. Quinndary Weatherspoon
Weatherspoon projects as a playable backup combo guard with offensive skill, shooting and defensive ability. He’s a solid athlete, a great shooter off of the catch and off of the dribble with some legitimate creation ability. Out of the PNR, he’s a capable creator and a solid decision maker. Weatherspoon’s hands are active and he has good instincts off of the ball. On the ball, his frame (6’4, 6’9 wingspan) helps him on the ball, getting through screens and ripping ballhandlers. There’s no real upside with Weatherspoon, but he should find a role as a rotation combo guard with his shooting, IQ and defense.
57. Jalen Lecque
One combine game was all Lecque needed for NBA eyes to latch onto him. His elite vertical, burst and speed pop on both ends of the floor and Lecque will be in the upper tier of athletes the second he walks into an NBA gym. Despite some passing flashes in his one combine scrimmage, Lecque’s skill game on offense is raw, he’s a complete non-shooter and his feel for the game on both ends is poor. Somewhere in the second round, Lecque is a worthwhile gamble on rare athletic tools alone.
56. Darius Bazley
Like Lecque, Bazley saw his stock skyrocket after an impressive scrimmage at the NBA combine. At 6’9, he flashed his athletic tools, handling craft an even some passing on the move in chaotic situations (something markedly unexpected from him). Bazley is not a shooting threat at this point, his defensive awareness is lacking (in one game I watched, I caught at least a few “Wake up Darius!” from the sideline) and he is incredibly skinny. It is possible Bazley has improved his skill game and his feel to the point where it is NBA level in his season off, but is a two-game sample really enough to feel confident in that? Bazley has seen some first round hype (presumably for people not wanting to miss on Mitchell Robinson again) and people seem enticed by his upside. If he hits, Bazley could develop into a creating combo forward, though he hasn’t shown enough mental acuity or shooting development to prove he is capable of contributing at the NBA level anytime soon.
55. Luguentz Dort
Luguentz Dort doesn’t know how to play basketball, which is his fatal flaw. He doesn’t pass with any consistency and his overall feel for the game on the offensive end is incredibly poor. On defense, Dort’s feel rears its head off of the ball, often missing assignments, falling asleep and rotating when he doesn’t need to. I’m doubtful of Dort’s shot, as his touch around the rim is awful and his percentages from three, two and at the rim back this up. Dort will rely on his athletic tools to make an impact; his strength and powerful first step help him get to the rim often and his frame makes him a good point of attack defender. Dort will almost surely not be in a position to contribute early in his career, but he’s worth a speculative add at some point, banking on his tools and hoping he figures out the rest.
54. Daniel Gafford
Gafford’s ranking here comes as a result of the value of centers without special traits in relation to the rest of the league. Among the current NBA landscape, the center position is oversaturated throughout. Big men need to have special traits, such as outlier offensive skills or generational defensive talent, to be worth investing significant assets in. If a center is not special, teams would be better off signing a Khem Birch or Ed Davis type who can fill minutes and instead, drafting a wing, exciting guard or a big man with special skills. Daniel Gafford is not a bad prospect by any means, he just isn’t special. Gafford is a center who likely who is certainly an NBA player, though likely an average one without any reasonably predictable upside. His standout skill is his elite finishing, shooting a spectacular 81.3 percent at the rim this season. Besides his rim finishing and some solid mobility, Gafford does nothing to stand out in any way suggesting he could be anything more than a generic rim-running center. He isn’t overly athletic or special on defense in any way, with just average instincts and good vertical explosion. Besides rolling to the rim and finishing with layups and dunks, Gafford doesn’t provide anything special on offense, without any shooting, passing, handling or outlier feel for the game. Like Fernando, Gafford is a fine pick in the second round for a team needing to fill a roster spot at the center position.
55. Bruno Fernando
Fernando is a Herculean human being, with an immaculate build which helps him defend the interior. On the perimeter, his lateral movement is solid as well. Fernando has touch around the rim and some passing vision, though his processing is slow. With his build and touch among other traits previously mentioned, looks like he could be a decent starting NBA center. I would be fine with a center-needy team drafting Fernando anywhere in the second (Sixers) to get a guy who can play on a rookie scale deal, but my rankings are all about projected value, placing true fives like Fernando lower than their talent may suggest. Like Gafford, Fernando is a fine pick in the second round for a team needing to fill a roster spot at the center position.
52. Justin Wright-Foreman
Justin Wright-Foreman’s most realistic path to an NBA role is riding his pull-up jumper, which is one of if not the best in this draft class. He’s fluid getting his shot off from all over the floor; he needs little separation to drain pull-ups and can get them whenever he wants. At the college level, Wright-Foreman is an offensive dynamo of historic proportions, posting volume and efficiency few players have matched. While not super athletic, he is quick and gets to the rim, finishing with touch. He’s an underrated passer as well, with the vision and patience to make plays out of the pick and roll and to hit shooters on cross-court passes. Getting separation consistently at the NBA level and honing in his decision making will be key for his success. Wright-Foreman projects to be a major negative on the defensive end, given his overall size and lack of athleticism. His defensive box plus-minus, -3.3, is concerning, as very few college players have done anything in the NBA with a mark that low. Still, he figures to have a chance to carve out a role in the Lou Williams mold as a bench spark plug and backup facilitator.
51. Dean Wade
Wade has been hit with injuries throughout this season and his development has seemed to stagnate. His passiveness on offense is concerning, often to a point where it harms Kansas State. At 6’10 though, he’s skilled, with the ability to handle the ball and pass on the move. He’s fairly mobile on defense for his size and uses his smarts and strength to defend bigs and wings with some competence. Shooting over 40 percent from three during his last three seasons in college, big men with legit size, shooting, passing and decision-making ability are rare and I would be excited about taking a flyer on Wade in the late second or on a two-way deal.
50. Juwan Morgan
One of the lesser talked defensive specialists in the draft, Morgan’s intersection of IQ and tools make him one of the better versatile defenders in the class. At 6’7 with a 6’11 wingspan, Morgan has the size, length, strength and change of direction to defend multiple positions adequately. His weak side rim protection instincts and quickness off of the ground are great, as is his general feel for positioning on the defensive end. With excellent feet and hip mobility, he should be able to survive on the perimeter in the NBA. The offense is the big question with Morgan. He can pass out of the short roll and make good decisions, but there isn’t much skill or scoring. If Morgan doesn’t end up shooting–and the indicators are average, so take your bets on if he does–he probably isn’t good enough to make a rotation. If Morgan does shoot, he’s a versatile combo forward, a defensive plus with his tools and instincts and a passable ancillary offensive piece.