Lonnie Walker’s is full of contradictions. On offense, he has a smooth jumper with compact mechanics, but only shot a meager 41% from the field and 34% from 3 on the year. He was only in the 22nd percentile in guarded catch and shoot jumpers and 29th percentile in pull-ups. He dazzled scouts with his one-on-one scoring but hasn’t developed a reliable enough handle to get to the places he needs. He has shown flashes of brilliance throughout the year but was unable to maintain it for extended periods of time. He exudes the confidence of a seasoned veteran but is prone to taking wild, inefficient shots. Walker’s duality is simply fascinating, enigmatic, and polarizing all at the same time. With that being said, a lot of Walker’s subpar production can be pinned on circumstance and should, therefore, be taken with a pinch of salt. He had a meniscus tear in the preseason and was surrounded by a supporting cast deprived of Bruce Brown, their primary playmaker. An up and down season combined with unreliable production didn’t stop the Spurs from taking him 19th overall, but it definitely makes his game harder to assess.
2. Mitchell Robinson
Mitchell Robinson has completely embraced his mystery man status by not only forgoing his sophomore year at Western Kentucky but also skipping the pre-draft combine. While Robinson’s choice to hide his seemingly freakish measurements and athleticism from NBA GMs might seem counter-intuitive, he was at point projected to go 17th to the bucks. In a way, it’s a testament to the league’s infatuation with leaping ability and long limbs. But Robinson still has a long way to go from fulfilling his theoretical potential. For one thing, getting suspended by his team raises red flags about his maturity. He has never tested his talents against legitimate competition nor has he had the chance to run the college gauntlet and experience the fine tuning of skills that come with it. Needless to say, he is raw and it is impossible to get a clear evaluation of his skill set. Under the right circumstances with the Knicks, however, Robinson definitely has all the tools to become the next lob-catching, high energy, Clint Capela-esque big man that so many teams nowadays are looking for.
So much of Miles Bridge’s depends upon his versatility: A versatility that he does not necessarily possess. Bridges is a weird cross-breed between a wing and a big man, possessing the best, and worst, of both worlds. His strong and beefy physique (6-6, 230lbs, 6-9.5 wingspan) draws comparisons to that of Houston forward PJ Tucker (6-5, 225lbs, 6-9 wingspan). Tucker bulldozed his way to a starting spot for the Rockets this year and was often deployed at the center or both forward positions during the playoffs. However, despite his positional versatility, his meager 39% shooting from the field shows how he was often outmatched by bigger, longer NBA big men on drives and post looks. Bridges faces the same dilemma of being that undersized small ball 4. His shooting also presents a big question mark. Although he has improved his free throw percentage from a paltry 68% from freshman year (eerily reminiscent of Justise Winslow) to a quality 85%, his three-point percentage has dropped from 39% to 36%. Seeing as Bridges projects as more of a complimentary slasher and floor spacer without much of a post-game, his shooting will be the make or break factor in his success at the next level.
4. Mo Bamba
It’s not difficult to spot what makes Mo Bamba appealing. He has the longest recorded wingspan (7-10) of any prospect in this millennium. He can reportedly run a faster ¾ court sprint (3.04 seconds) than Russell Westbrook (3.08), Dwyane Wade (3.08), James Harden (3.13), and John Wall (3.14). And he fixed his jump shot? All of that being said, Bamba’s reliance on length and lack of a discernable offensive skillset still make his true NBA value very unpredictable. There are fears about his defense — that he relies a bit too much on his wingspan and not enough on engaged, positional defending. At 216lbs, Bamba was just an average post defender at Texas, allowing 0.83 PPP (50th percentile). His offensive game, other than the occasional rim run or dump pass, seems pretty non-existent as well. What’s even more concerning is the lack of motor on both ends of the court, which usually helps more defensive minded players negate offensive shortcomings. While Bamba’s defensive upside arguably outweighs all of the above, the Magic have to seriously consider the potential implications of drafting length for the sake of length. It would be nice to avoid another Hasheem Thabeet.
5. Dzanan Musa
Dzanan Musa almost fits too well into the Lou Williams/Jamal Crawford prototype. He is a 6-8, high energy swingman who possesses a scorer’s instincts and a love for lulling his defender’s to sleep with bevies of crossovers and between the leg moves. He shoots the ball with confidence and resolve, best reflected by his tendency to make tough step backs outside the three and floaters in the lane. But while his talent and creativity are undeniable, it’s difficult to measure how well his skill set will translate to the NBA. First and foremost, Musa plays against pretty mid-level competition in the Adriatic league. Furthermore, Musa’s wild, no-filter style of play combined with a thin frame (187lbs) and a hunched posture yields inconsistent results on both ends of the floor. Due to a lack of explosiveness, he often fails to create separation against longer more athletic players, instead settling for inefficient pull-up threes. He also seems to have the ball in his hands a little too much and will chuck up bad shots more often than one would like. Against more physical opponents in the NBA and a much more controlled game environment, Musa will not have the freedom to operate with the ball as he pleases in the new-look Nets offense. His success will depend on how well he will be able to adjust.
- Kevin Knox II
- Anfernee Simons
- Zhaire Smith