29. Tyler Herro
I have long been a Tyler Herro skeptic, but it seems I have reached a sort of middle ground with this ranking. I’m optimistic about Herro’s shot being better than his college efficiency showed, due to his elite free throw percentage, elite efficiency on two-point jumpers and at the rim. While he might not be athletic enough to get separation off of screens, he should improve shooting off-movement given his natural touch.
He’s a good athlete, with enough handle and quickness to beat some guys off of the dribble and get to his spots for pull-up jumpers. The pull-up is a primary driver of value for guards and Herro has a chance to be excellent in that area. He is a fine passer and probably will struggle to get to the rim and finish, but as an off-ball/secondary shooter type, he should provide value on offense. I worry about Herro’s defense; he is athletic and tries hard on the defensive end. His -3 wingspan and average frame may limit him to guarding ones and he is hyper-aggressive, sometimes resulting in steals, but often taking him out of position. Herro definitely has upside as a scoring/shooting guard and could put on weight, which would help him finish at the rim and at the point of attack on defense.
28. DaQuan Jeffries
Versatile wings who can contribute, especially in the playoffs, are invaluable and DaQuan Jeffries projects to provide positive minutes on the wing. He’s one of the best athletes in the draft, with quickness and strength to overwhelm opponents on both ends of the floor. Despite being only 6’5 in shoes, his 6’11 wingspan and strength help him play above his size on both ends. He struggles laterally and will struggle on guards, but his team defense is excellent due to his high IQ and feel for the game. His rotations on the weak side are excellent and can guard above his size with his strength and length.
Offensively, Jeffries will be an off-ball shooter, though his passing is underrated and his decision making is elite. His handle is good enough to beat bigs off of the dribble, though it is not dynamic by any means. With Jeffries’ smarts, strength and athleticism, I have a hard time seeing him completely flop, given a team gives him a shot to contribute.
27. Ignas Brazdeikis
Brazdeikis is not a flashy prospect, nor do his stats pop in any way (his steal and block percentages, both under two, and sub one assist to turnover ratio are a reason for some concern). However, Brazdeikis is going to contribute positive minutes on the wing, which every NBA team needs. His feel for the game is just average on both ends, as he’s wired as a scorer and misses rotations and closes out poorly on defense. As a scorer, he feasts on drives with his strength and touch and should shoot well due to his touch and shot versatility.
Ignas Brazdekis defends the ball well with his strength and 6’7 frame and has some as a team defender, making rotations and helping off the ball. Given Brazdeikis is likely to go in the lat second round, he will be a massive value pick for whichever front office ends up selecting him. Cost controlled wings who can play on both ends are incredibly valuable, giving Brazdeikis a high likelihood of having a long NBA career.
26. Nic Claxton
Claxton is a dicey prospect to evaluate, as he essentially played point guard for Georgia as a 6’11 big. He flashes clear skill in many areas, but there’s a question about how much of his skill will be functional at the NBA level. On defense, Claxton shines as the best switch big in this class, with elite movement, foot quickness and fluidity defending guards. Despite measuring well at the combine (6’11.75 in shoes, 7’2.5 wingspan), I would look to develop Claxton as a big wing due to his grave lack of functional strength. His defensive instincts and switchability are great, but I’d worry about him defending most NBA big men.
On offense, Claxton had enough handling and passing ability to run a college offense, which is impressive. At the NBA level, his team will probably relegate him to rim rolling and maybe some occasional grab and goes. With development to his shot and an improved handle, Claxton could be a devastating big wing with defensive versatility and some playmaking ability.
25. Terence Davis
Like DaQuan Jeffries, Davis’ elite athleticism helps him overcome his limitations of being 6’4 and being a senior. He’s a top-five athlete in this entire draft class, with elite vertical and lateral explosiveness, fluidity and brute strength. His quickness off of the ground is rare, allowing Davis to elevate for strong finishes and protect the rim. His overall game developed significantly this season, especially on offense. I buy Davis’ shot translating to the NBA level, given his touch around the rim and shot versatility.
He’s a solid passer as well, with enough vision to hit shooters on drive and kicks and even run some pick and roll. Athleticism and strength are his biggest assets on defense, but he has enough feel and IQ to function in a defensive scheme.
24. Alen Smailagic
A hidden gem in the literal sense, Alen Smailagic made a sizable impact as an 18-year-old for the Santa Cruz Warriors. Hoping to draft him themselves, the Warriors sheathed Smailagic from the public eye, hoping to lower his draft stock. Their diabolical plan seems successful, as Smailagic has little buzz despite being an incredibly good basketball player. He has the upside to be one of the best defensive prospects in this class, as a help defender well above his age, a rim protector and even with some switching capabilities.
Smailagic doesn’t shoot now but his mechanics are nice and his touch around the rim is excellent. His dribble-drive game for a 6’10 human is rare; few bigs will be able to deal with his handle and level of coordination. He’s still raw and a ways away from contributing in the NBA, but the foundation is there with his natural defensive feel, offensive flashes, and statistical production in the G league at 18.
23. Nickeil Alexander-Walker
What Nickeil Alexander Walker lacks in athleticism and size, he makes up with craft. He’s one of the more unique scorers in this class. Lacking an incredible first step or vertical, Alexander Walker wins with a creative handle, off-beat rhythm and footwork. He is comfortable weaving in and out of traffic, finishing with either hand and shooting from a variety of spots. He has excellent vision as a passer, capable of hitting shooters all over the floor with ambidexterity; the lefty skip pass is a favorite of his.
On defense, Alexander Walker lacks discipline, often making the wrong rotation. He’s an active team defender, though, flashing high-level defensive reads. He projects as a tertiary creator type wing, with the shooting, handling and passing to potentially take on a bigger role with some development. With all of his flaws, I like betting on Alexander-Walker’s unique offensive skills and feel for the game here.
22. Yovel Zoosman
Yovel Zoosman has all of the traits leading to positive NBA impact: IQ, feel, strength. At 6’7 with a 7’1 wingspan, Zoosman is one of the few 21-year-olds to make a positive contribution in the EuroLeague for Maccabi Tel Aviv. Zoosman sparkles in his role with Israel’s u20 team, where he takes on more initiator duties. Here, Zoosman dominates with his elite skill, his passing.
For a 6’7 prospect, Zoosman’s passing is impeccable, operating in the PNR and making all sort of creative reads. He flashes some pull-up shooting ability as well, despite his lack of an elite first step or vertical explosion. Zoosman is a solid athlete, excelling in some facets (body control, strength) while struggling in others (vertical).
As a defender, Zoosman’s length and strength make him a great point of attack defender and the aforementioned combined with his smarts help him create events off of the ball. Zoosman may never be a pull-up threat at the NBA level, but he will be a strong role player, similar to his role with Maccabi in the EuroLeague. His strength, frame, IQ and passing creation should make Zoosman a solid off-ball wing contributor at the NBA level.
21. Sekou Doumbouya
Sekou Doumbouya’s status as a top 10 type prospect is curious. Going for Sekou, he is 6’9, the youngest player in the draft and a fantastically fluid and coordinated athlete, capable of handling in the open court. Despite Doumbouya’s 33.3 percent shooting from range in the French league and most of his shots hitting the ceiling, he has nice touch, has shown some pull-up versatility and should shoot spot-ups well at the NBA level.
Aside from the aforementioned strengths and some skill flashes, there isn’t much going for Sekou on the court. He might be the worst decision maker in the draft on both ends, with remarkably poor defensive recognition and awareness and little clue what to do on offense, despite some occasional passing and rotation flashes. Because of Doumbouya’s lack of feel or basketball skills, it is hard to perceive the upside some have christened him with. His age, frame, athleticism and shooting are all valuable wing traits, though his underdeveloped feel and skills make Doumbouya a difficult sell high in the draft.
20. Matisse Thybulle
Matisse Thybulle is the third best defensive prospect in this draft, with tools, instincts and statistical indicators hinting at his defensive upside. Much consternation has come of Thybulle’s role in Washington’s zone, where he can play with hyper aggression at all times. His combination of steal and block numbers (8.1 block, 6.6 steal rate) are inflated by the zone, though they are numbers never done before. If we sliced those numbers in half, they are still upper echelon-level figures. While the zone did bump these stats up, plenty of great zone defenders have played in the NCAA and never sniffed those numbers.
Thybulle has plenty of translatable traits and skills to man to man defense at the NBA level. He has preternatural instincts and awareness on the defensive end, always scanning and reacting quickly to the ball. An underrated athlete, Thybulle is bursty, has excellent straight-line speed and is explosive vertically. His long arms clog passing lanes and help him contain the ball as well. Plenty of team defensive principles include zone concepts (X-out) and some teams outright run zone (in the finals, we saw a 2-3, triangle-and-two and box-and-one!).
Thybulle’s offense translating is a major question mark. Thybulle’s should shoot threes in time, given his touch and free-throw percentage His ball handling is better than he gets credit for, even if it is still unrefined. His inability to get to the rim is concerning: Thybulle only has 79 rim attempts this season, a minuscule 2.8 rim attempts per 40. As long as Thybulle becomes a league average three-point shooter on decent volume, he still projects to add significant value because of his elite defense. With chops to become a special team defender, Matisse Thybulle has a real top 20 case.