2019 Top NBA Players 23 & Under: Part One
31. Dennis Smith Jr, Point Guard, New York Knicks
As a start of their rebuilding project, the Dallas Mavericks utilized a lottery pick in 2017 on the explosive point guard from Fayetteville, NC. All of the tools DSJ exhibited to get stamped with the “freak athlete” label coming out of NC State are still intact two years later. His floor feel as an initiator, while far from elite at the position, is still underestimated. He is a playmaker who has more room to grow as he matures as a lead guard than given credit for. Smith’s lightning quick burst on his first step allows him to get into the teeth of the defense at will and force defensive rotations. Learning to consistently make the proper reads off those drives is something Knick fans hope he improves on with additional repetitions. Learning the proper time to attack and when to get your teammates involved is a tango each young initiator has to dance with, at lower levels of basketball most of these guys can coast off pure raw natural talent and see good results.
Since the one and done rule was instituted in 2006, we have enough historical precedence to realize when it comes to young point guards, you have to give them time to develop. Teams not willing to work through the inevitable growing pains that come with the position of young lead ball handlers could easily be looking at a sunken asset before their rookie contracts expire. Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, and D’angelo Russell are all prime recent examples of players taking a roundabout path to become effective NBA starting point guards. They provide a glimpse of foresight into why we shouldn’t count DSJ out for the count just yet.
Be that as it may, DSJ’s lackadaisical effort level on defense, questionable shot IQ, and shooting consistency are largely genuine inquiries that still need to be improved upon after two years in the league. For him it will come down to simplifying his shooting mechanics and ironing out some of his bad habits, such as over-dribbling.
Smith’s lack of length is also a major issue. He doesn’t consistently exploit his high class leaping ability. He’s demonstrated the body control to make these high degree of difficulty, yet low percentage finishes. He’s a bull in a china shop, that never shies away from taking on take opposing defenders head on at the rim, which isn’t an equation for sustainability for someone his size.
Per CleaningTheGlass, DSJ ranked below league average in the 41st percentile among point guards finishing at the basket last season. With his athletic prowess, that number needs to improve to unlock the extra gear in his upside. According to NBA.com, Smith Jr. connected on just 28% of his catch and shoot threes last season, putting him in the 25th percentile in the league. DSJ’s in between game also is nonexistent. For someone in the lane as often as he is, doesn’t look comfortable taking floaters; finishing in just the second percentile on floaters at (19.6%) a year ago.
The Knickerbockers are now heavily invested in the short term development of Dennis Smith going forward whether they like it or not. He should be given every chance to turn the trajectory of his young career around, given the current state of affairs of the franchise. If things go well, he could turn out to be a statement to the outside world. Proving the franchise can actually develop young players, the most critical step to bringing back a respectable product to Madison Square Garden. If things go well, he could turn out to be a statement to the outside world. Proving the team can actually develop young players, the most critical step to bringing a respectable product to Madison Square Garden.
30. Kyle Kuzma, Forward, Los Angeles Lakers
After being drafted 27th in the 2017 Draft, not many foresaw Kuzmania becoming a thing in short order for Laker fans, but it certainly did. Kuzma’s developmental arc thus far from a borderline second round pick has seen him transform from a borderline second pick out of Utah to a legitimate offensively skilled forward. He’s already carved out a role in the NBA during his rookie contract, a massive win for the Lakers organization late in the 1st round. Kuzma has stood out at times playing next to a couple of high pedigree lottery picks, most recently, Brandon Ingram & Lonzo Ball, more on them later.
To the blind eye, Kuzma at times has looked like the Lakers best young piece as. an underrated part of his repertoire happens to be just how vast his bag of scoring tricks are Kuzma has a deep bag of tricks to get buckets with: runners, floaters, sky hooks, push shots, back door cuts. As someone that doesn’t win strictly with his athleticism, he’s proven to be much craftier than given credit for. Kuzma has shown the propensity to be a walking bucket, never one shy to hunt his own shot, he’s proven capable of putting up numbers in bunches. His performance against the Pistons on January 9th was one of the best scoring showcases anyone put on all season, especially while, Lebron James was still recovering from his groin injury. 41 points on 24 shots in 29 minutes without playing a single second in the 4th quarter is wildly impressive for anyone. Kuzma’s adjustment to playing besides Lebron was easily the cleanest transition on the team, as the spots he enjoys to attack on the court play as a natural complement to how Lebron’s brute force bends a defense.
The Flint, MI native only trailed Donovan Mitchell and John Collins among sophomores in scoring with 18.7 points per game. However, his efficiency from three-point range in season two regressed to 30% after shooting 36% from behind the arc in his rookie season. The swing skill for Kuzma is pretty simple at this point: How good of a shooter is he really? A career 30% shooter in college, his shooting sample has been mostly a mixed bag.
The Stepien’s Jackson Hoy wrote a great piece about how projecting future improvement with players is as much of a crapshoot as the rest of the draft. Kyle Kuzma has already proven all of the prognosticators wrong once about the level he could reach coming into the league, and by all accounts, the kid is a basketball junkie with an innate crave to be great.
29. Jarrett Allen, Center, Brooklyn Nets
The Nets selected Jarrett Allen 22nd during the 2017 NBA Draft, with a first round pick acquired by Sean Marks after he traded Bojan Bogdanovic to the Wizards. Allen has a ridiculous lob radius. It hasn’t mattered whether it was D’angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie or Caris Levert: Throw it up, and the former Texas Longhorn is throwing it down. Expect the same with his newest pick and roll partner, Kyrie Irving.
The Frow is already an elite protector of the rim, and is perhaps most well known at this point in this career for the awesome sizzle reel of All Stars he’s rejected point blank at the basket. However, as much as it would make the life of analyzing players future improvement easier if we could use a broad stroke of generalizations to assess fluid subjects such as all the variables that go into making you an effective defender at the NBA level, Jarrett Allen as a case study leads us to a perplexing crossroads. The tricky case of Allen’s impact defensively thus far has to be seen through two concurrent lenses: 1. His foot speed plus agility, which for a big man make him one of the most mobile big men in the league, capable of switching onto smaller guards and using his length as a nuisance when contesting jumpers.
The mobility allows you to dream of a scenario where his versatility could unlock many of the same doors Clint Capela has in a switch heavy defensive scheme 2. Recent reports out of summer league surrounding Allen indicate that he’s put on an additional 10 pounds of mass and muscle to help him survive in the trenches.
Proving the point that Allen is still early in his developmental process and is still too weak to dictate the physicality of the game in the post. The clearest evidence comes from the last time we saw Allen on the floor, during the Nets first round matchup against the Sixers where he was tasked with slowing down the Cameroonian behemoth down low that is Joel Embiid. Deandre Jordan being best friends with Kyrie Irving & Kevin Durant should end up dampening draft day value for Allen as his path towards a starters minutes workload just hit a speed bump. At the end of the day this is still a big man who won’t kill you with his free throw percentages (73% on 425 career attempts) and provides a stable anchor of blocks for your teams.
28. Bam Adebayo, Center, Miami Heat
The Heat selected Edrice “Bam” Adebayo with the 14th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. In case you were wondering, his childhood nickname is in fact derived from Flinstones lore and the legendary Bam-Bam Rubble.
Chiseled frame with broad shoulders, Bam already has a physically mature frame compared to many other of his peers, can hang with most big men around the league. Love him or Hate him, John Calipari’s recruiting track record of getting high level prospects to his program is among the upper echelon of coaches. The skill set optimization of all the recruits he brings to Lexington, that’s another discussion for another day. Bam was one of the first players that caught my eye during the 2017 Summer League shortly after he made his professional debut, when you see a dude with shoulders like a greek god effortlessly pull out a euro-step in transition it tends to leave an impression! Impressive specimen who has the athleticism to consistently leak out and beat his man up and down the floor in transition.
Bam has flashed a growing level of passing acumen since he’s entered the NBA, can make the rudimentary reads from the high post by hitting backdoor cutters or weak side shooters when defenses collapse his way. This is something the jettisoned malcontent Hassan Whiteside never showed any interest in doing during his time on South Beach. For reference, Adebayo accumulated 184 assists last season as a reserve, while Whiteside’s cumulative high mark in his NBA career is 57 dimes. According to CleaningtheGlass Adebayo’s 14.8 assist percentage ranked in the 83rd percentile for fellow big men.
Offensively, the Kentucky export overall still needs additional refinement of several parts of his game. His standout attribute happens to be his soft hands, which allows him to flourish as a vertical rim runner around the basket and grab dump-offs from his ball handlers. Although he doesn’t have a wide range of go-to post moves, he can still bully smaller defenders if he gets deep enough position in the post and finish with soft touch, and his motor does run hot on the glass. The jumpshot mechanics here aren’t the ugliest, if he adds a consistent mid range with the rest of his skills, the positives on his outlook will begin to heavily outweigh the negatives.
Adebayo has the skill set of a modern center, in the body of a slightly undersized power forward, how well can he hold up as a rim protector will be the litmus test for his future impact. Regardless, Bam seems like a wide awake “sleeper” pick and a lottery ticket for much more.
27. Jaylen Brown, Forward, Boston Celtics
Lars Anderson, Michael Bowden, Blake Swihart, Ryan Lavarnway, Anthony Ranaudo, Casey Kelly, Deven Marerro, and let’s just throw Terry Rozier in there as well, just to name a few. What do these names all have in common? Hmmm. This is an article about basketball, however these are all players who’ve fallen victim to the Boston media hype machine. Diehard TDG readers will be familiar with the idea of buyer’s remorse when it usually comes to *some* of prospects coming out of the Red Sox farm system, because perhaps no one over rates their own up and coming players quite like the Boston media.
Respectively, at his own craft Jaylen Brown is already better on his own merits compared to many of the dudes above, but at times it’s felt like the perception among his local media saw him as a mix between Kawhi Leonard and Ta Nehisi Coates. Players can’t control the hype around them so this isn’t on him, but more of just a reflection of media perception can sway how fans feel about players.
At the time of the ‘16 NBA Draft, Brown was coming off a sub-optimal one and done season at Cal, part of which can be attributed to a lack of floor spacing. He was seen as an enticing wing with an exciting toolbox of raw skills. Compared to other one-and-done wings who have gone in the lottery in recent years, Brown’s combination of an NBA ready physique in the early stages of his career, mixed with the fluidity of his movements as a slasher and an open court athlete, created an immediate path to impact for Brown on a Celtics team that was already competitive.
Brown’s ultimate impact as a fantasy asset is still actively in question. He’s finished the past 2 years on ESPN’s 9cat player rater at 177 overall in 18-19, and the 176th ranked player in 17-18. Brown’s fantasy profile doesn’t seem to have an immediate path towards becoming a credible dynasty building block because nothing he does offensively distinguishes himself enough for fantasy super-stardom, to this point.
The translation of his shooting stroke coming into the league was a legit concern, after he shot 29% during his freshman campaign at Cal. So far, Brown has shot a cumulative 36.5% on 717 attempts from downtown in his young career. At first glance, that seems like a positive, but his lack of free throw efficiency (career 66% on 559 attempts) leads to additional skepticism about just how good of a shooter he really is.
Historical precedence tells us that middling free throw percentage doesn’t equate with being an above average three point shooter over time. In order for Brown to raise his value in fantasy, he’ll need to maintain his gains made on his perimeter shooting, while also improving his blocks+steals (combined 1.4 the past 2 years) to add surplus value to his fantasy profile.
Brown lacks “wiggle” in his game as a ball handler in tight half court settings, especially if he has to do anything other than attack closeouts on a straight line drive to the basket. He doesn’t project as a primary wing creator for himself or others, so naturally his upside will be attached to the stability of his shooting profile.
The departures of Al Horford & Kyrie Irving this summer have put the additional spotlight on where exactly Brown resides on his developmental path. If he can improve upon his already strong building blocks while showing growth as a ball handler and creator, the step backwards we assumed the Celtics will be taking this season shouldn’t be as drastic. Nonetheless, Jaylen Brown might fall under the umbrella of “better real life NBA player than fantasy player”. It must be said that when the dust settles, he should still end up comfortably in the range of one of the best five to ten players in the 2016 draft class, at worst. All things considered, that’s still a win for Danny Ainge & co.
- Jonathan Isaac, Forward, Orlando Magic
While the most marketable and prominent faces of the league always tend to be players who carry large loads of the offensive burden on a nightly basis, when constructing a roster, finding the right players who can thrive in a complementary low usage superstar role player capacity becomes equally as important, particularly if the goal is maximizing high volume offensive players.
Defensive value, off-ball screening, cutting without the ball, playing as the roller in pick and roll, and the gravity of a floor spacer are just a few ways players can extract value while the ball isn’t in their possession. These are each an intrinsic layers to the game of basketball, facets that don’t show up in any box score or dominate the hot take sphere after any games. Yet, these are several of the parallels that illuminate on great teams that go far in the postseason.
After a nagging ankle injury plagued his rookie season to a total of 55 missed games, the health of his gimpy wheel was a major concern coming into year two for Isaac. The returns on his first real extended run of NBA basketball just so happened to coincide with the Magic making the playoffs for the first time since Dwight Howard was traded in the summer of 2012. Isaac is already an advanced defender for a 21 year old with barely over 100 games of NBA experience to his name. His Swiss army knife versatility on defense allows him to stay safe guarding isolation threats on an island, and also hold up as a one-on-one post defender, despite his incredibly thin frame.
Legitimate 3 & D wing players are a scarce prototype around the league that every team is seeking. Judah’s defensive value holds firm as a standalone trait that would keep him in the league even if he was a complete zero on offense. Listed at 6”11 with a 7”1 wingspan, Isaac theoretically has the frame to play center as a small-ball 5 in the NBA, but is nowhere close to being strong enough yet. His ability to add mass to his frame is obviously a huge key in the end product.
JI and Aaron Gordon for now make an effective, yet imperfect fit as a wing duo. Per basketball reference, the Magic finished eighth in the league in adjusted defensive rating, a direct reflection of their second half surge that led to a playoff berth for Orlando for the first time post Dwight Howard.
Even taking in part the sample from his freshman year at Florida State, Isaac has never been a primary scoring option. He goes through prolonged stretches on the court, when played out of position as a small forward on the perimeter where you’ll even forget he’s on the court due to his passivity. Isaac is comfortable handling the ball in transition, but has a basic dribble package and handle in the half court which at this point that only allows him to get to the basket on straight line drives.
Per NBA.Com’s Josh Cohen, “Before Jan. 31, the former Florida State standout shot just 30.8 percent from the right 3-point corner and 28 percent from the left side. From that date onward, he made 41.4 percent of his threes from the right corner and 33.3 percent from the alternate side.
From the NBA 3 point line, the Bronx, NY native is 33% shooter from deep”. Obviously he needs to improve, but it may be a rhythm and confidence thing for him. His jump shot mechanics give some reason for optimism, mixed in with the fact he’s been an 80& free throw shooter through his two year sample size.
Overall, Isaac remains one of the prospects I’m most intrigued with going forward due to the scalability of his defensive value, I believe at his peak he has top 50 fantasy value with a chance to be a monster in the stocks department. Going back to 2015, the only players in the NBA to record 100 steals and 100 blocks in the same season are: Andre Drummond (3x), Giannis (3x), Draymond (2x), Paul Milsap (1x), Anthony Davis (1x). Health permitting with a workload fit for a starter, I think he can break into rarified air.
- Zach Lavine, Guard, Chicago Bulls
After the late Flip Saunders selected him with the 13th pick in the ’14 Draft, Zach LaVine was originally 1/3 of the trio that once upon a time was looked at almost unanimously as THE most promising young core in the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Things change vociferously in the world of the NBA. Fast forward a couple years, a trade to the Windy City for Jimmy Butler, a torn ACL, and we’re finally starting to see a glimpse of LaVine’s tantalizing potential.
There aren’t many people walking the face of the earth who possess a 46-inch vertical with a sweet jumpshot to go along with it. It’s very easy to understand how one could get lost within the allure of LaVine’s toolbox of raw athleticism. The main attribute that comes to mind when you hear the name Zach LaVine is his otherworldly ability to jump out of the gym.
LaVine’s frame, particularly his lower body strength, allows him to get extraordinary lift from his legs on his jumper. This enables him to create separation necessary to get his pull up jumper off against bigger defenders with a high and quick release point.
According to cleaning the glass, LaVine ranked within the 70th percentile in overall three point shooting among qualified wing players; taking a deeper look into is numbers and the story becomes a bit more clear. His effective field goal percentage on pull up three pointers was 44.7%, compared to his eFG% on catch and shoot three pointers which was 54.8%. However, his frequency of these higher degree of difficulty pull up shots were double the figure of his C&S attempts because he was the main perimeter threat in the Chicago backcourt.
Additionally, according to NBA.com shot tracking tools, LaVine’s effectiveness also took a drastic dive based on the number of dribbles he took after receiving the ball. This brings additional credence to the reality that LaVine may be best suited as a secondary microwave scoring option who can get hot at any moment, as opposed to taking on the responsibility that comes as the main shot creating presence in a team setting.
- Lauri Markkanen, Forward, Chicago Bulls
Hailing from Finland, Lauri already takes the baton for the greatest European import from his motherland to make it in the NBA.
On volume, over his first 733 attempts through 2 seasons, Markkanen has stroked it at a clean 36% from the 3-point line. He’s already in the conversation already as one the most dangerous long range snipers in the league, independent of position, backed up by his shooting splits on the FIBA and NCAA levels.
The Fin is one of the rare big men that has the skills coordination to shoot off screens and pin downs. He possesses a clean stroke, with good mechanics and balance on his jumpshot, this makes him one of the easier offensive projections going forward from a dynasty perspective.
Far from an elite athlete based upon NBA standards, Markkanen is still a fairly fluid athlete with the ability to punish closeouts and smaller defenders in the post on switches. It’s safe to say there won’t be any All-Defensive teams in his future, due to below average lateral quickness, and lack of core strength at the moment. However I do think he has underrated team defense instincts, and as he gets stronger could improve on his pedestrian 0.6 blocks per game he’s averaged both years in the league. As he gets stronger, his ultimate upside is still based on how many minutes he can soak up effectively at the 5 in the future.
Still could possibly be a top-50 fantasy player starting as early as next year, if he could raise his overall efficiency and Chicago aids him by upgrading the point guard position and overall competence around him.
Every team in the league will be in the market for floor spacing big men who can open up the court for their guards and wings to have space to operate on the perimeter. Markkanen’s bankable shooting utility is valuable currency moving forward.
- Lonzo Ball, Guard, New Orleans Pellicans
Through his first 2 years in the NBA, it feels like everything that could’ve went wrong for Lonzo has. The 99 game sample we have thus far has accentuated the positive traits we knew he possessed watching his early development at Chino Hills & UCLA, such as his innate next level feel and understanding for the game on offense. In addition, a vastly underrated trait during the pre-draft process were his instincts and ability to fit into a team’s defensive philosophy as a havoc creator in the passing lanes.
On defense, it’s almost as if he plays a role reminiscent of a ball hawking safety looking to blow up plays in the backfield before they even have a chance to materialize with the way he anticipates actions. He leverages his 6″9 wingspan as a weapon on defense to cut off driving lanes, and also can slide and stay low fighting through screens.
Not to be lost is the fact that his musty shooting mechanics have made his transition to the NBA three-point line rougher than anticipated. Last season alone he shot: 30% percent on catch and shoot attempts, 23% on corner 3’s, and his 48% true shooting percentage overall ranked in the bottom 7th percentile in the entire league.
Modern analytics have increasingly discouraged players from firing away mid-range jumpers, with the same ferocity past era’s have. Then there’s Lonzo, who has never shown the requisite acuity to master the mid range or floater game, which would add needed value to his shooting utility profile, as he’s shot only 30% on 175 shots tracked as mid range.
The helium surrounding Lonzo while he was entering the NBA got out of hand over a litany of reasons, most of them coming via his father and Magic Johnson, combined with rabid Laker fans driving the hype machine. Not to paint this completely in a negative light, the value of Lonzo as a draft prospect in my opinion was due to his safety as a two-way player with a relatively safe floor towards impacting winning team culture, as opposed to the possibility of a ceiling outcome where theoretically he becomes the best player among the class. That argument falls more in line with guys such as DSJ, DeAaron Fox, Jayson Tatum, and Markelle Fultz, who were drafted around him. The main takeaway thus far should be: Being able to detect the difference between a lead ball handler being a great passer, versus being an efficient shot creator.
Everything in Zo’s profile falls under one extreme or another, his outlet passing is a thing of absolute beauty, a rare trait among NBA players. While his dribbling and ball handling skills still grade out as below average.
Lonzo has thrived before in more of a secondary offensive stabilizer role, his off-ball instincts are a huge part of his bread and butter that makes him dangerous. Utilizing him to the best of his capabilities should be high on the list of responsibilities for Alvin Gentry. That means involving him in more hand-offs and cutting sets which would magnify his passing abilities even more.
After the off-season move to the Bayou, the most important question facing Zo’s third season in the NBA is his availability. Any additional time missed and the questions about whether or not he can solve some of the glaring deficiencies in his profile begin to grow exponentially.
Gentry’s high paced offense, mixed with getting away from the scrutiny that comes with playing for the Lakers should help him get back to having fun on the court. His knack for beautiful outlet passes and Zion being a lob threat the moment he steps on the court should lead to some beautiful offensive synergy that makes the Pelicans an NBA League Pass staple among fans.
- Wendell Carter Jr, Center, Chicago Bulls
Wendell Carter Jr. has had an injury riddled start to his promising NBA career, a thumb injury against the Lakers on January 15th led to him missing the final 38 games of his rookie season, and underwent an additional procedure to address a core muscle injury that kept him out of the entirety of Vegas Summer League. When he is healthy, WC in many ways flashes a modern prototypical center skill set: Possessing adequate touch working as a post player around the basket, extremely polished and comfortable using either his left or right hand when attacking the rim, and showing impressive patience and footwork from a young big man.
His perimeter shooting at this point is still a theoretical asset. He flashed the ability to stretch the floor and consistently hit college three pointers during his freshman season at Duke, shooting 41% on a limited sample of 46 attempts, but struggled with the transition to the NBA 3 point line (6/32 16%).
The most frequent comparison that gets thrown around as a long term projection for Carter Jr. is Al Horford, stemming from their frame and skill set. In order to reach the secondary post initiator role that Horford has thrived in both Mike Budenholzer and Brad Stevens offense, Wendell will have to make noble improvements to his decision making skills, particularly passing out of the post when the defense rotates his way or sends a hard double to force a quick decision. Carter shows a tendency to get sped up and allow the defense to force him into errant passes out of the post. Especially since he doesn’t project as a transition big with the agility and foot speed to beat his man up and down the floor during fast break opportunities, unlocking surplus value from his passing is one of his major routes to reaching his ceiling outcome individually.
Defensively, Carter is also a mixed bag as he possesses solid mobility on the perimeter for someone his size, but the speed and skill level of the top guards in the league are so high it can still render it useless more times than not. He uses his 7”4 wingspan effectively to deter would be jump shooters, and with a couple more summers of NBA strength and conditioning programs, should hold up in the post against most 5 men.
Defensive technique (the ability to bend your knees, stay balanced and wide, while cutting down your strides from side to side) is a major issue that plagues young basketball players on every level, something that Carter has struggled with at Duke and in his rookie season, but it also isn’t something that can’t be taught or improved upon with proper repetition. Everything considered, Carter remains one of my favorite long-term center prospects due to my belief in his instincts to find a way to bring value overall within a team centric scheme on defense.
- Marvin Bagley III, Forward, Sacramento Kings
The 6”11 forward is apart of the new generation of hybrid one-and-done forwards to enter the NBA after being coached by Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. That club includes: Jayson Tatum, Brandon Ingram, Justise Winslow, Jabari Parker, followed up by the most recent draft class with Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett & Cam Reddish, as NBA exports during the past six draft classes.
The allure of MBIII’s potential begins and revolves around his otherworldly jumping ability on the glass. He possesses extraordinary hops and his second and third jumps are almost a thing of legend around NBA circles. From a Biomechanics perspective, Marvin is able to use his lower body springiness to explode for 50/50 balls on the offensive and defensive boards. If you don’t put a body on him as soon as possible, there’s a good chance he’s already back up in the air by the time opposing big man have landed from their original jump. It’s almost reminiscent of watching a game of Slamball, where everyone else on the court is bound to the normal rules of verticality and gravity while the hardwood is simply a trampoline apparatus for Bagley path of destruction
The obvious caveats about the pure translation of per 36 numbers apply here, however MBIII’s rate during his rookie season were: 21 points and 11 rebounds on 50% shooting from the field overall, which is still highly impressive considering the parts of him game that need additional refinement during the adolescent stages of his NBA development. We’re also talking about a 19-year old during his first go around the league.
Bagley’s most glaring weakness in his profile comes defensively. He averaged 1.5 combined steals and blocks per game during his rookie season. For someone with his natural quickness, you would love to see his activity result in more gaudy stock totals to supplement his fantasy game. Part of the issue to this point is that he doesn’t display a high level of awareness and an understanding of defensive concepts. Most of the highly recruited prep stars get to coast off pure talent and ability on the lower levels without having to worry about the intricacies of team defense. Add in the fact that these same red flags showed during his one and done season at Duke, and the concerns about his defense take on added validity.
All of the skills are present for Bagley to take a huge sophomore jump as his understanding of the game and skill level catches up to his physical gifts. Bagley flashed both a face-up and pull up jumper, his first step is ridiculous for someone his size. This means if he becomes a consistent shooter from outside, or even tightens up his handle and cleans up his tendency of getting the ball stripped in tight spaces, he could become one of the quickest risers in this list.
Honorable Mention: 50-32
50. Frank Nkiltina
49. Zhaire Smith
48. OG Anuonby
47, Landry Shamet
46. Lonnie Walker IV
45. Markelle Fultz
44. Kevin Knox
43. Anfernee Simons
42. Malik Beasley
41. Mikal Bridges
40. Colin Sexton
39. Malik Monk
38. Donatas Sabonis
37. Justise Winslow
36. Kevin Huerter
35. Dejounte Murray
34. Mohammed Bamba
33. Miles Bridges
32. Michael Porter Jr.
All ages for the purpose of this exercise are as of 1/1/19
2019 draft class was not in consideration for this list***
Recently graduated OR Excluded due to age: Pascal Siakam, Buddy Hield, Julius Randle, Caris LeVert, Montrezl Harrell, Malcolm Brogdon, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Derrick White, Jusef Nurkic, Gary Harris, Andrew Wiggins, Kris Dunn