Rebounding, raw size, athleticism. I've always tended to be lower on these big guys, simply because there are so many of them and few value in playing two of them together. The game has changed; post players are not worth stockpiling and are fairly replaceable when they aren't elite.
So that begs the question: what are the odds Sharpe becomes elite? If somewhat high, or the path is evident, then he might become worthy of a first-round selection, the four-year investment in his development. If not, it might be best to wait until the second round to gamble on a guy like him.
About a month ago, we wrote a full longform piece on Jones' potential and just how far away from his ceiling he really is. The consensus is that Jones is worthy of a lottery pick because that ceiling is so high. What he's athletically capable of, combined with the shooting touch he's shown and overall impact on defense, makes him a trendy lottery prospect.
Really, Jones is indicative of the conundrum outside the top-eight in this draft class. Will teams prioritize risky high-ceiling prospects who either had underwhelming freshman years (Jalen Johnson, Greg Brown, Ziaire Williams, BJ Boston), late-appearing high-ceiling prospects who showed better but are still far away (sophomore Kai Jones, sophomore James Bouknight), or the older guys who are proven positives but have less room for growth (senior Corey Kispert, junior Jared Butler, 23-year-old Davion Mitchell).
Tre Mann exploded up draft boards in the later-half of the year as his scoring became more consistent and the shooting from deep was not just a small sample size. He's turned himself into a shot-maker in difficult ways off the dribble, off step-backs, pick-and-roll pull-ups or deep behind the line. It's the most currently tantalizing skill for a guard to possess. But where's the rest of his game at?
I don't think there was any player who saw their stock plummet more than Brandon Boston Jr. this year. Coming into the year, Boston was in that top-tier for many, mentioned in the same breath as Jalen Suggs, Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga. But a woeful start to the season, generally underwhelming play and inefficient numbers have cost Boston dearly.
Nonetheless, Boston announced he's leaving for the NBA and won't return to Kentucky. He's going to have the opportunity to workout in front of teams in personal workouts, where just one good showing could rejuvenate the talk about his upside.
Over the last several years, we've seen the glorification of small ball. The Golden State Warriors won a title with skill over size, playing guys like Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Kevin Durant at the 4 and 5. The Houston Rockets followed suit, matching defensively with the Warriors and spacing the floor with five competent wings/ shooters. PJ Tucker manned the center at 6'6".
Now, almost every team has some option they can plug in at the 4 or 5 in a smaller lineup. Some do it to match opponents, and some do it to start an advantage. As the game becomes much more fluid in terms of position and everyone, regardless of size, shoots it, there's immense value in drafting a player who can bridge the gap between big and small lineups.
There are a few players in this draft class who come to mind as options for either. They might have a natural position where they are best, but have the requisite size/ strength/ speed/ skill to survive as a small-ball option in a different spot. We'll showcase each guy here, and discuss how this trait should raise their draft stock.
Cooper is one of those prospects I don't quite have a firm grasp on. Some of his strengths are incredibly clear: he's a prolific passer and in a pick-and-roll offense, can get into the lane and make the right decision. But what I can't quite get a grasp for right now is whether he's more like Ish Smith, a career backup who struggles to shoot but uses his speed and playmaking to make an impact, or like Trae Young-lite.
The shooting numbers suggest Cooper, who was barely above 20% from 3 on the season, is more like Smith. Teams will go under ball screens to keep him out of the lane and dare him to shoot, thus stalling out two of his best traits in passing and PNR playmaking.
But the confidence and frequency with which he takes 3-pointers, fires off the dribble when teams go under screens and pulls from deep behind the line, suggest there may be some normalization of his numbers to a higher 3-point percentage. If that's the case, Cooper becomes a non-lethal version of Trae Young, who manipulates defenses on all three levels.
Some people may be surprised to see turnovers not mentioned as an improvement area, but when you're in the PNR as much as he is and still have a 2:1 A:TO, it isn't a major concern. The strength, defense and shooting are all clear warts to his game. He may end up being a lottery pick due to the intrigue of that shooting upside.
Christopher is oozing with offensive talent. Man, if he puts it together he'll be a dangerous scorer. There's a bit of Nick Young to his game, an uber-talented wing who shoots you out of it as frequently as he shoots you into a game. Those guys top-out at the tail end of the first-round in my book. Christopher can be a paid assassin for NBA teams off the bench, with some starter potential. But that doesn't have much lottery hope.
Add to it the inconsistencies of his season and there's a little risk involved with him. He's likely in the 25-to-40 range pretty firmly.
On draft night, Kuminga will likely be the youngest lottery guy taken. To me, that counts for something.
As a should-be high school senior, Kuminga played against grown men and seasoned pros in the G-League bubble. And he did it well, averaging 15.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.8 blocks for the Ignite. While his shooting numbers weren't impressive and he was taking a great deal of shots to get those numbers high, the raw athleticism, size and comfort Kuminga has running an offense through him are all tantalizing in combination with his frame.
Kuminga demonstrated real comfort creating (both scoring and passing) out of the pinch post, a coveted spot for power wings. Because of his physical maturity and ability to bully guys much older and stronger than him, the Kawhi Leonard comparison gets thrown around. But Leonard has worked himself into a lethal shooter, relying on craft and ability to get to his spot on the floor. He's so sturdy physically and impossible to bump off his spots.
Kuminga is more of an initiator of contact, seeking to bulldoze and slowly back down/ spin to death anyone who dares crowd him. He's long and lean, and he'd prefer to patiently drop step his way to the rim than fire up a mid-range jumper.
I've been impressed with his feel as a passer enough to think he belongs in the top-five tier. I don't think there is any circumstance where I'd take him over Cunningham or Suggs, but he's definitely still in conversation with Mobley and Green for me. The jump shot is certainly the swing skill, and his shot selection/ understanding of the game is so raw that there's so much ground to cover before he's NBA-ready for the alpha role.
By all accounts, Kuminga is a great kid, a fierce competitor who wants to learn and takes to coaching well. To combine those with an already impressive start in the G-League for an 18-year-old (who is almost two years younger than Evan Mobley) makes me believe in him as someone solidly in the mix for a top-three selection.
Last night, the G-League Ignite season wrapped up with a quarterfinals loss to the Raptors. The four major prospects coming to the 2021 draft -- Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, Isaiah Todd and Daishen Nix -- are all done playing and now have a completed chapter in their pre-draft report. We put together a scouting report of what Green can do and how his game might translate to the pros. There are some real areas he must improve and tighten up to maximize his strengths in the NBA.
As we get into some of the top-tier prospects, a few words will accompany their videos to provide further context to what we see in them at the next level.