By Sam Agnitsch
- New Orleans Pelicans- Kris Dunn PG Providence
You have to feel for a team forced to play 40 plus different starting lineups last year due to injury. The bright young core for the Pelicans has dimmed with each blow and a team once on the rise now faces the prospect of falling off the map in the brutal West. Anthony Davis needs help immediately and due to the uncertainty surrounding Jrue Holliday’s shins, they’ll be leaning towards a guard. Kris Dunn is maybe the most NBA-ready prospect in the draft. At 6’4” with a 6’9” wingspan he has an outstanding size for the position and a ton of defensive potential. His elite athletic ability should allow him to be a terror getting to the paint and in the open floor as well. Wasn’t the strongest shooter in college but steadily improved throughout his career eventually shooting 37% last year. Does have a history of right shoulder problems including two surgeries which could make the injury-weary Pelicans think twice.
- Denver Nuggets- Marquese Chriss F Washington
No one’s stock has risen more in recent weeks than the high-flying 6’9” Husky freshman. Chriss might wind up as the steal of the draft or fall somewhere in Darius Miles land but there’s no denying the upside. With a 7’1” wingspan and a massive vertical leap, Chriss is a rim destroying freak of nature. Couple that with his 3-point range and footwork it makes sense why scouts are drooling over his “stretch four and d” potential. Has work to do, particularly in the strength department before he’d be ready. Also had a glaring foul trouble problem in college, fouling out in almost half of all Washington games this season. Denver has a burgeoning young nucleus that could make the transition easier for the soon to be 19 year old, giving him the option to be patient and learn behind Kenneth Faried.
- Sacramento Kings-Jaylen Brown G/F California
The Kings have finally decided to move on from the awkward George Karl situation and now look to improve a roster stuck in a playoff drought since 2006. After building around stud big man DeMarcus Cousins and taking Willie Cauley-Stein in last year’s lottery, the Kings need some help on the wings. Rudy Gay has been a walking trade rumor since he entered the league and former lottery pick Ben Mclemore is flirting with the bust zone at this point in his career. Brown might be the answer if he falls into the Kings lap at 8. An immensely physical and tough player at 6’6” 225 pounds, Brown is quick enough to defend the perimeter and strong enough to body up with bigger players down low. Very strong inside game and able to take defenders off the dribble however tends to over-rely on his physical gifts, which has hurt the freshman’s outside jump shot. Reminiscent of last year’s lottery pick Stanley Johnson, he has all the tools he needed to be a strong two-way player and maybe bring the Kings back to respectability, although with the Kings laughable front office who really has confidence in that happening?
- Toronto Raptors-Skal Labissiere F/C Kentucky
On paper this spot looks similar to where we saw last year’s Thunder team however it only appears that way. Coming off a successful Eastern Conference Finals run the Raptors have many questions looming in the offseason with contract decisions involving Bismack Biyombo, DeMar DeRozan, Luis Scola, and Jason Thompson on deck. With that, Skal Labissiere makes a lot of sense here at number 9. Labissiere was a projected top 5 prospect entering his freshman season at talent factory Kentucky but watched his draft stock fall after an underwhelming season. He’s seen a recent rebound after a series of impressive draft workouts showcasing his unique offense and rim-protecting skills. The Haitian big man has an outstanding shot that could eventually drift to the 3-point line, shot blocking prowess almost unmatched in the draft class (4.5 blocks per 40) and soft hands/touch around the basket. The Raptors are unlikely or unwilling to match any lucrative Biyombo offers that come his way and with Scola on the last leg of his career, they will need to replenish their front court. Labissiere could be a nice compliment inside to starting center Jonas Valanciunas and provide a staunch rim-protecting tandem on defense. On the downside, Labissiere has been tagged with the dreaded “soft” label. He’ll need to put on weight and work on his motor to shake the perception he’s not tough enough inside. He has a tendency to be foul prone, something he’ll have to work on before he sees the court but we’ve learned after the Bruno Caboclo pick the Raptors aren’t afraid to take chances.
- Milwaukee Bucks-Henry Ellenson F/C Marquette
The Bucks don’t really seem to have a team direction other than length, athleticism, and more length. Ellenson can at least help in the length department at 6’11” with a 7’2” wingspan. The athleticism part not so much. The Bucks have a need for a big man that can stretch the floor and Ellenson fits the bill. Despite shooting an uninspiring 28% from 3-point range at Marquette, He has shown potential with a mechanically sound shot and high release point. He showed impressive confidence for a freshman leading the Golden Eagles in points (17 ppg), rebounds (9.7 RPG), blocks (1.5 BPG) and minutes (33.5 mpg). Has a rare ball handling/court vision skill set for a F/C ,making him an effective passer in face up or back to the basket situations. As mentioned earlier, definitely not an athlete and doesn’t exhibit explosiveness which makes you question how high his ceiling is in the NBA. The long arms should make up for some of that in relation to rebounding but as far as how much remains to be seen.