PLAYER PROFILE: ELI NDIAYE
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By Ersin Demir
May 22, 2023
Eli Ndiaye took the basketball world by storm after he became the youngest starter in the EuroLeague Final Four this century. Yet, the 18-year-old forward remains one of the most under-discussed prospects in recent memory.
At 6'9", Ndiaye has a very slim frame which makes it unlikely that he'll play as a center at the next level, a role he played when he was younger. However, he has broad shoulders, and his overall psychical traits for the NBA are at a very high level as he has excellent hips combined with the fluid mobility he possesses; Ndiaye has the tools to be on an NBA floor, especially if he manages to slowly add more and more strength to his frame in the long run.
Ndiaye makes up for the lack of size with a 7-foot-plus wingspan. Combined with his excellent vertical explosiveness and quick decision-making, Ndiaye shows signs of being able to serve as a switchable interior help-side defender that can protect the rim at the same time. The feel for the game at his age is remarkable and is a big reason why Real Madrid is keen on continuing to give him playing minutes at the most crucial stage of the season.
NBA decision-makers should consider Ndiaye to fulfill a role as a modern floor-stretching four in a high-motion offense. He stood out as a play-finisher for most of his young career. Ndiaye has great touch at the rim and a different way to finish a play in his arsenal. Despite the lack of strength, he looked confident, and he was able to finish through contact. However, this may not translate at the next level as the physical level changes as he's facing better athletes.
As a rebounder, Ndiaye won't win the physical battle against the average NBA forward and center. Nevertheless, he's good at positioning himself and anticipating rebounds, making him work less to get his rebounds. While averaging almost two rebounds per eight minutes, the returns look solid. However, they should be better as Ndiaye is solely focused on his assignment and loses too much ground in defensive box-outs. However, if he gets stronger in the long run, I project him to be an above-average NBA rebounder, making it more likely Ndiaye can stay on the floor for longer stretches.
To prepare for the next stage of his career, Ndiaye added the midrange jumper to his game. The release is high but still slow. The feasibility test on this end is limited to a few possessions, but the shot technique and results look promising in the long run. What stood out is that he's continuously floating around the court doing all the little things, especially as an off-ball screener. He recognizes rotations well for his age and is very coachable on the court.
In the next few years, Ndiaye has to expand his range to a three-point territory, which looks possible. He's shot 70% on 40 free-throw attempts in the last two seasons, which is a good indicator. The results from three-point land are less relevant due to the differences between an NBA court and a basketball court with FIBA rules. What gives me confidence Ndiaye can turn into a good shooter is that he gets to his spots with ease. Another detail to add is that Ndiaye is always looking to get the ball when serving as a spot-up shooter, instead of waiting for the ball coming to him. Details like these are another example of why he can play a role in a higher-paced NBA motion offense and that Real Madrid trusts him with playing minutes at the highest level.
On the open floor, Ndiaye has the potential to be a grab-and-go threat. With long dribbles, he can serve as the ball-handler and rim runner in transition. The handles are not good, but they are still better than anticipated from a prospect that used to play as a center for most of his young career. Considering that handling the ball won't be his role in the NBA, I valued that aspect of his game less. However, he does show promise to play as a slasher, but in reality, Ndiaye defers to the post-up game in most of these sequences. With fluid hip mobility, Ndiaye can get his offense on that end, but as a face-up scorer, Ndiaye still has a lot to develop, limiting the offensive versatility in his draft profile.
Another area of development is his passing. Ndiaye can make quick reads but isn't able to execute them consistently. He's good as a ball-mover, especially in the post but does not stand out as a short-roll playmaker. Being an average passer makes it less likely he'll develop this skill in the long run. However, with the lack of reps, he has gotten on that end, the opportunity to showcase some short-roll playmaking hasn't been there. The quick decision-making does help, but the outcome of his reads makes it tough to project a feasible long-term skill as a short-roll passer.
NBA Draft Projection
Eli Ndiaye has all the psychical tools to serve as a modern floor-stretching four. His feel for the game is at a high level for an 18-year-old, leading to him playing as a connector piece for Real Madrid. If Ndiaye gets stronger in the next few years and the jumper improves, he can become a high-end role player in the NBA.
His development will cost a few seasons and thus some draft stocks as he isn't able to help on day one. Depending on the role he'll play at Real Madrid next season, whether it's on the first team or loaned out, Ndiaye could benefit from being stashed for one season before making the move stateside. Overall, I project that he's an early-mid second-round pick if he keeps his name in the 2023 NBA Draft.
PLAYER PROFILE: JAMES NNAJI
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By Ersin Demir
May 14, 2023
With the center position being the most important building block for NBA defenses, the importance of drafting versatile and mobile big men is something we see more often in recent years. The increasing amount of talent at the guard position and their ability to break down defenses and punish defenses for leaving them open makes it a natural cause for teams looking for more than the traditional drop-coverage center.
And that's what James Nnaji can bring on the long run. At 18 years old, James Nnaji is one of the youngest prospects in this draft class. The Nigerian-born big man emigrated to Europe in his early teens and played organized basketball for almost four years.
Despite his very young age, Nnaji developed a more than NBA-ready body. At 250 pounds, he has a ton of natural strength and a ripped body.
But that's not where it stops. The hands are also good, something I value in a big man. Not only are they big, but can also catch the toughest passes effortlessly. Combined with his excellent verticality and quick feet, there's a role for Nnaji early on in his career as a rim-running screen-and-roll big.
In terms of feel for the game, Nnaji still has a lot to learn. He's still raw as a prospect overall but checks most boxes for his role in the NBA. He's a good and active screener. What stood out is that he's not only forcing defenses into making a decision, but he's also good at creating separation for the ball handler. His quick feet allow him to roll hard to position himself for the potential offensive rebound or serve as a play-finisher.
However, I wouldn't say he's a good finisher at the rim—59% on 103 attempts. Despite it being below average, the context that we must not forget is that he's playing for a contender at the highest level in Europe. Overall, he still has to improve on this end for him to be able to stay on an NBA floor for extended minutes. The consistency of his motor is something that caught my attention. Combined with him averaging five fouls per 30 minutes in the Euroleague, that's something to keep in mind.
A part of this is related to the rawness of his game in general. But another part comes down to his decision-making. While he's developing rapidly within the playing minutes he's getting in both the Liga ACB and the Euroleague, Nnaji still has a lot of learning to do as a pick-and-roll defender. Although he's a dominant paint presence, he tends to bite on pump fakes, especially against ball handlers. I am confident he will improve in the long run, but he won't hold enough value in the playoffs early in his career.
His struggles at the free-throw line are another area of development—44% on 62 attempts in the last two seasons. However, the shot looks good enough to improve. In his role at Barcelona, he's not asked to stretch the floor. The sample size for the feasibility test is limited, but by grading his free throws in terms of shooting form, he's giving enough flashes of potentially expanding his range to the three-point line in a few seasons. Expanding to midrange is key for his development in the early stages of his career.
Playing as a drop-coverage big man is the most common role in the NBA. However, his defensive footwork and lateral quickness are promising to potentially serve as a switchable defender that can guard in space. He doesn't have a quick first step but moves very well. His court awareness needs to improve, but this is related to the rawness of his game rather than something that can't be solved. Another detail is that the court is smaller, and the paint is wider in Europe compared to an NBA floor. And without the defensive three seconds, it's much more common that the big man plays solely under the rim instead of moving actively.
Comparing his early-season film to his recent footage speaks volumes about his dedication to the game and his will to learn. He has an excellent work ethic and is very unselfish. In terms of decision-making, he has gotten better. He also looks more active on the court as he recognizes schemes better and can play his role with more confidence.
NBA Draft Projection
I expect Nnaji to play as a backup center on day one. In the long run, his defensive potential and psychical profile are his unique selling point. With a continuously changing need at the center position, Nnaji comes at the right moment. The tools to work with should have quite a few franchises intrigued. Overall, the rawness combined with Nnaji not being able to play in the playoffs right away will cost him some draft value. However, I expect that his being one of the youngest players in this class and his long-term potential should be more than enough to be picked in the latter stages of the first round.
PLAYER PROFILE: NIKOLA DJURISIC
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PLAYER PROFILE: TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS
By Ersin Demir
April 30, 2023
Despite having a population of only 7 million people, Serbia has always been a dominant factor in basketball. With five active NBA players and three players drafted in the last two seasons, the country keeps delivering high-level talent to the NBA. Next in line is the 19-year-old Nikola Djurisic.
With size and skill becoming increasingly important nowadays, Djurisic offers a unique combination of both. When watching him, his offensive versatility immediately stood out.
His advanced handles make it more than likely that NBA teams will trust him with on-ball duties, where he has shown to be a very good pick-and-roll operator, especially when creating for others. With a solid frame, he is able to exploit mismatches in the post. In this area, his size of 6'8" comes into play as an advantage. However, the lack of athleticism limits his self-created offense inside the arc, where Djurisic is a 49%-finisher at the rim on 91 attempts this season.
The lack of touch at the rim does put a limit on his long-term potential as a scorer. However, I don't expect teams to ask Djurisic to create his own offense. This is due to his jumper being another unique selling point in his profile, mainly because he is so good of a stationary and movement shooter. Having a more prominent role at Mega Mozzart this season helped Djurisic develop his pull-up game, where he's getting more and more effective in the midrange.
Shooting 74% from the line over the last two seasons indicates his improving shot. The three-point shot is what separates Djurisic from his peers. He has a beautiful high release where he uses his size to his advantage. In a league where shooting has never been as vital as it is today, that's a trait that'll leave a lot of franchises impressed.
On the defensive end, Djurisic is in an interesting position. His lack of athleticism makes him less useful against smaller and quicker guards. However, his size and strong frame make him suitable for guarding opposing wings and smaller forwards. The feel for the game on that end makes the transition to the NBA more smoothly. Although, Djurisic still has a way to go in becoming a plus defender at the next level. In the early stages of his career, he'll have to put in the work to translate his offensive versatility to his defense, which makes him - for now - less useful in the playoffs and thus impacts his draft stock.
As a passer, Djurisic is at the top of the international prospects. He uses his size very well to see over the defense. The instincts and passing touch at 19 years old left me impressed. Especially because he's already able to leverage the threat of his jumper to create space for his teammates. This resulted in occasional plays where his efforts resulted in a wide-open possession for a teammate via ball reversals. His strong frame enables him to handle contact inside the arc and kick the ball out to open shooters.
NBA Draft Projection
I expect Djurisic to play early on in his career as a floor-spacing wing that can handle secondary or tertiary ball-handling duties. NBA front offices have more than 1000 playing minutes available to perform their feasibility test. The lack of athletism and finishing at the rim are the early concerns, which are mostly mitigated by his excellent jumper and passing traits that lead to playing a certain role right away. Overall, I expect Djurisic to be selected in the early stages of the second round.
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By Demi Kilanko
April 1, 2023
Trayce Jackson-Davis is one of the tougher prospects to evaluate. A clearly talented upperclassmen with quality skills, but comes with flaws that are hard to ignore. The 23 year old senior has fared well in dazzling us at the college level, but how much can truly translate to the next? Today we’ll try to answer that question.
Davis’ offense is built around his mobility as a big man. His handle allows him to cut through space when rolling, have solid ability off the catch, and be pretty quick on post ups, having a solid spin move. His dynamic finishing allows him to do more wing-esque finishes, making him harder to contain in stride. He uses this skill to also hit play finishers, being one of the better passers in the class.
He can use these skills to be a short roll threat, where he has a PPP of 1.14. These skills also allow him to push in transition, where he ranks in the 88th percentile. In theory, his skillset sounds perfect to plug into the NBA, but he comes with baggage.
His shooting is mediocre to non-existent, ranking in the 3rd percentile while shooting 23% on 2pt jump shots. The free throw numbers are not encouraging either, as he shoots only 70% from the foul line. His finishing numbers are elite at the college level, but his lack of strength and vertical pop is concerning and could present an issue against NBA defenders. We’ve seen a lack of athletic tools bother prospects before, and unlike them, he's too old to make a massive shift. In open space he’ll be a solid piece, mainly out of the PNR and breakdowns. This culminates in a profile that's solid, but not as glamorous as his college numbers would suggest.
His defense however, may be his best quality as Jackson-Davis is one of the better defenders in the class. His ability to handle guards in the pick and roll has been huge this season along with being a great isolation defender - holding players to a meager 11% FG.
But what truly makes him special, is his rim protection as he held opponents to shooting 47% at the rim. His activity after the roll has been impressive, showing a good understanding of how to hold the roller and recover to contest the handle where he is a terrific weak side shot blocker.
His off ball rotations on the perimeter will need to improve as he has a tendency to allow players to blow by him to get into the paint. However, the film points to him being a positive defender that will fit seamlessly at the next level.
His defensive rebounding percentage of 24.8%, ranks near the top of the nation. Still, there still are concerns. At the next level I think his lack of positioning could come to haunt him times - which would prevent the same level of dominance he showcased in college.
When looking for historical precedent, it is hard to find a perfect comparison to Jackson-Davis. But after looking over all the options, Boris Diaw seems to have the most similarities. Both are offensive swiss knives, being able to dribble, pass and finish at the rim. Defensively they are comparable as well, though Davis is more of a traditional post defender. Diaw was more active as a helper, where Trayce works more as a versatile pick & roll big with rim protection skills. TJD's resemblance to Draw shows a path where he can be a high impact player for teams with championship aspirations.
Overall, I see Davis as a potential first rounder, with that can provide immediate value to a franchise. His playstyle will be needed even more in the coming years, so picking him now gives a solid piece for the future as well. However, his ceiling is interesting. If he can bring really good value early on, he could become a sub all star one day. However, that all lies in the development of this unique forward.
BRANDON MILLER : THE MOST PRODUCTIVE FRESHMAN IN COLLEGE BASKETBALL
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By Montrell Jackson
April 1, 2023
Strengths Brandon Miller has shown a special ability to shoot from behind the arc this season. With his quick and compact release, Miller has gained a reputation as one of the best shooters in the country, shooting with volume, difficulty, range and consistency - Shooting 38.4% from 3 on 7.5 attempts per game!!!
While looking every bit of 6’9, Miller has shown impressive ability as a ball handler. He has a natural handle that he uses to lull his defenders to sleep before making his move. Miller’s PNR reps have been staggering, showcasing a quirky ability to make smart reads and create advantages as a PNR handler whether it's him capitalizing off his man going under and taking the jumpshot, taking the easy 8-10 foot floater if the opposing big is in deep drop, or finding a wide open man in the corner off of a skip pass.
One of the reasons that Miller has had so much success as a freshman is his ability to be one of the best without the ball, He has a knack for scoring in a variety of different scenarios, whether in transition where he ranks in the 82nd percentile in points per possession (1.248 PPP), as a spot-up shooter where he ranks in the 89th percentile in points per possession (1.147 PPP) , even crashing the glass off of his team’s misses where he ranks in the 75th percentile on putbacks, where he has scored 54 points this season. (stats per synergy)
Areas For Improvement - As a 20 year old freshman, Miller’s body seems a bit underdeveloped, transitioning into college he was consistently struggling finishing at the rim through traffic. Brandon has recently gotten his rim fg% to 56.8% after hovering in the low 40’s earlier in the season but these numbers are still underwhelming for the 6 '9 athletic freshman.
Miller is not what I’d consider a “strider” ; he takes short choppy steps which I think contributes to his lack of short area quickness and explosion. Miller doesn't seem to be very flexible and you can tell when he’s handling the ball he will rarely go outside of his frame to get to his spots.
While I don’t believe Miller is a bad defender, he leaves much to be desired on that end. He struggles with quick, shiftier guards due to his slower foot speed, but also has a problem containing bigger forwards who can bully him into fouls or easy buckets. Miller relies a lot on his length instead of positioning while contesting shot attempts, sometimes it works, most times not so much. I have a hard time projecting what position he will guard at the next level.
Projections For Brandon Miller
Draft Range: From Picks 2-7
Optimal Team Fits: Oklahoma City Thunder, Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz, Detroit Pistons
Ceiling: Top 40ish player to All-Star
Floor: Tall Rotational Shooter
Comp/Shades Of: Trey Murphy, Khris Middleton, Michael Porter Jr, and Harrison Barnes
PLAYER PROFILE: JULIAN STRAWTHER
(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
By Demi Kilanko
April 1, 2023
Upperclassmen are always underrated in the draft process. With the age and high ceilings of freshmen, it’s easy to see why they get all the buzz. But in between the high talent first round players, and the UDFA’s, lies a group of upperclassmen with the ability to show value at the next level. Among that sea of talented non freshmen, Julian Strawther truly stands out.
Strawther’s offense is built around his outside shooting, as he's one of the best snipers in the 2023 draft class. This season, Strawther converted 40% of his shots behind the arc. When you dig deeper into the numbers, he connected on 45% of his 3s when guarded - which shows his resiliency against pressure. His ability to hit 3s with movement is truly special, making 41% of his movement plays from 3.
While shooting will be the skill set he hangs his hat on in the NBA, he's more than a 3 point specialist. He made 57% from 2pt range of his spot up attempts, while ranking in the 90th percentile in scoring as a cutter. These subtle qualities pair nicely with the threat of his outside shooting. When defenders bite too hard on on close outs, he has a counter. He's also shown solid touch around the rim in throwing in evasive finishes from time to time.
When judging the rest of his offense, we can see the cracks. His passing is solid -being able to hit clear openings - but overall looks to be a connective piece, rather than a consistent playmaker or initiator. His finishing without defensive breakdowns is mediocre, and in general Strawther isn’t a standout self creator. His isolation numbers are low in volume - but still point to it being a negative only shooting 33% from the field. Even when looking at his off the dribble jumpers, he shoots a measly 33% from 3.
However, it's not all gloom in the halfcourt, he shot 55% on his runners this season, showing an ability to adjust when contact comes near. His qualities also blend perfectly in transition, where he ranks near the top of the nation. Overall, his offensive package will fit seamlessly in the NBA, with an influx of initiators and advantage creators being around him.
His defense leaves room for improvement, with clear strengths and weaknesses. His on ball defense is decent as he has can slide his feet guarding average wings, but lacks the mobility to slide down and defend guards - something that will most likely continue at the next level. Strawther offers very little point-of-attack- defender potential, due to his lack of mobility when trying to beat screens.
I believe he'll be a decent on-the-ball-defender in the NBA, mainly being placed on solid perimeter threats who either don’t match his size or mobility.
When looking at historical precedent, the best comparison for his skill set would be Pat Connaughton. Both were great catch and shoot players who worked off movement actions and breakdowns to bring value. Both were solid connective pieces, but never could reign in an offense. Connaughton early on in his career struggled to be a solid defender while Strawther won’t share the same level of worry, due to his size and mobility - but will still face issues with his on ball capabilities.
Where they diverge however, is in potential. Strawther's size allows him to get off shots with less strain, along with showing a level of touch around the rim that Connaughton never displayed. If he can continue to improve his ball handling, there's a clear path to him being a high quality role player.
Oftentimes in the draft, teams are looking for pipe dreams and semi projects to build on. Strawther has the potential to bring impact from day one, due to his outside shooting. Strawther would add value next to high volume creators and could potentially crack the rotation for a playoff teams.
Due to a lack of a strong ceiling, his value can’t get too high. Still, in the league of size and spacing, Strawther brings quality value as a late first round pick.
THE INTRIGUING SKILLSET OF MAXWELL LEWIS
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By Demi Kilanko
February 24, 2022
With the constant development of other prospects during the second half of the season, many prospects have fallen under the radar. Clearly skilled, but having flaws that limit their floor and ceiling. Among one of them is a player that is built for the modern NBA, with potential to be an offensive star. Let's deep dive into what makes Maxwell Lewis so special.
At 6 ft 7 200 pounds, Maxwell Lewis is more wiry than strong. He uses that reality to his advantage, having some of the best finishing in the class(66% shooting at the rim). This ability stems from his insane athleticism, being able to slip into so many different angles and finish. His 6 ft 10 wingspan allows him to extend around players, and his adaptability when facing contact makes him even harder to contain. This all stems from his touch, which I’d say is some of the best in the class. Add in these qualities with his footwork, and you can see why he’s a projected lottery pick. But there's more to his game than acrobatic adventures around the rim.
Maxwell has been shooting 35% this year from 3, on 7.2 per 100. Relative to this era, that level of volume is solid , especially when accounting for his shot profile. He’s aggressive in isolation, taking multiple 3pt shots off the dribble. His ability to use the 3pter as a counter is a good way to balance off his rim threat, and forces the defense to be more honest. His catch and shoot numbers are in the high 30s on good volume, showing his flexibility in a more off ball role. His most subtle quality is passing, as he's shown solid strides in making tight delivered off breakdowns. From hitting kickouts to rolling bigs, his delivery has always been solid off clear breakdowns. Despite some limitations with his overall advantage creation, he’s still an overall plus passer.
But with all of his positive qualities, there's still clear concerns. The biggest being his defense. Maxwell’s mobility and frame in theory would allow him to be a positive off ball defender, sliding down in gap and being good on off ball rotations. In reality, the consistency in both decision making and technique has been head scratching to say the least. When closing out he consistently bites on the shot fake, leading to him getting out of the play. His help defense isn’t standout, due to his recovery concerns and lack of ball tracking. His man defense is alright when engaged, but can fall asleep off the catch. Along with that, he barely brings any rim protection. This leads to a defensive profile that screams needed development, which many teams can provide.
His offensive flaws are less alarming, as they stem from traits he may never have to be great at. As an overall ball handler in isolation, he’ll struggle early on at the next level, due to his lack of control and loose dribble. His footwork will allow him to be really fluid in open space, but those situations will mainly be gifted on breakdowns, and quick off the catch situations. There are concerns about him as an on ball driver due to his lack of strength, limiting his isolation and pnr reps. His passing is good, but due to him not being a good advantage creator out the gate, will more so work as a connective passer, using his speed off the catch to force rotations to hit his teammates.
To develop a prospect of his style, starting him off as an off ball wing around creators will be key. It will get him used to working off the catch more, taking safer 3 pointers , and being more so a complimentary piece than a focal point. Improving his strength as a driver, body flexibility as a ball handler, and overall offensive reads will be key to him reaching his potential on that end. Defensively, studying film, getting reps in the g league, and learning proper defensive technique will be key to maximizing his potential on that end.Theres a path to him being at least a positive defender at the NBA level.
In summary, his floor projects to be a bench spark plug with ok to solid minutes, a normal path leading to a sub all star role(a more offensively gifted Trey Murphy III),
and a ceiling of a strong all star, with him being one of the best on ball slashers in the NBA. Teams with a need for a slash and splash wing with defensive potential should heavily look into him, whether developing or in a playoff push. At the end of the day, the development of the front office, and Lewis' own willpower, will determine what new heights his game can reach.
KHALIFA DIOP SCOUTING REPORT
Who is this 2002-born Senegalese big man?
His name hasn't popped up on many draft related articles yet, however, soon the world will know more about the 20-year old giant with an NBA dream..
His path to professional basketball
Growing up in Senegal, Khalifa Diop moved to Spain when he was 14 year old. After starting playing basketball at a small local club, several scouts discovered his talents and led him the Gran Canaria talent factory.
After an appearance at the Adidas Next Generation Tournament, his doors to exposure via international scouts was opened. His draft considerations grew even faster when he attended the Basketball Without Borders tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina at the age of 17.
The easiest way to describe Khalifa Diop would be a strong defensive minded big man. At 6’11” he’s more than capable of being a two-way NBA starter level player in the future. More on that later on in the article.
His 230 pounds come into play in his rebounding. With his strong frame he has the advantage in box-outs in most of the occasions, despite his young age. The 16.4 rebounding rate in a span of 36 games this season is a clear indicator for his value added in rebounding.
Another indicator that makes him an NBA prospect is his switchability. With some good lateral quickness and a solid motor he’s able to guard players on the perimeter. Especially in pick-and-roll positions, which are run a lot in Europe, his value on defense is on the table. Whether he drops the coverage or goes over screens, he’s able to keep most opponents he’ll face in front of him.
Despite his slow first step, he accelerates quite well, making it more likely he’ll be able to even meet smaller and quicker players at the rim, especially when the ball handler decides to not use the roll man and finishes the play themselves.
The part which needs development is limiting personal fouls. With 2.7 fouls in 14.6 minutes per game that’s an indicator of risk in his profile. However, after seeing Diop on the floor, I would grade it more to him being inexperienced, rather than not being able to get stops without fouling.
Being a good pick-and-roll defender and rebounder checks important boxes in what NBA scouts are looking for. The extras Diop offers are for the biggest part him being a great rim protector.
He doesn’t bite on pump fakes often and has a surprisingly quick second jump. In European basketball you’ll see a lot more old school back-to-the-basket possessions from big men. He’s doing a good job keeping opposing centers outside the painted area. Even if he gives up ground, his contests at the rim are timely, tough and more importantly strong. My personal evaluation is that he’ll be more than able to handle the strength of the average NBA big, especially around the rim.
In today’s NBA, being a lob threat seems like the first box that scouts check when evaluating the offense from centers. In Diop’s case, he’s definitely more than a lob threat. He has a great vertical jump. Compared with good timing, that’s very valuable. With an - unofficial - 7’2” wingspan it’s more than likely he’ll be able to catch any lob pass that comes his way.
With skill being slowly valued more and more, his back-to-the-basket game definitely adds value to his profile. His biggest unique selling point is being able to nail a mid-range jumper.
The most common two plays that he’ll run is either forcing his way into the paint and finishing with an hook shot, or going for a turnaround jumper as an alternative when failing to win ground in post-ups. The point to detail is that he has a quite high release, reducing the opponent block rate.
The shooting stroke looks natural and is promising when evaluating his potential as a floor stretcher in expanding his range to three-point shooters.
In terms of him separating himself from most NBA prospects is his ability to set screens. He’s a natural screen setter. One of the main reasons Gran Canaria is playing him around 15 minutes per game in both the Eurocup and Spanish ACB.
Another advantage is - like mentioned earlier - he’s able to score on mid-range jump shots. This makes his versatility on pick-and-roll offenses quite special. As a traditional big man, he still prefers operating as a roll man and getting his action at the rim. He doesn’t have problems finishing through contact neither.
When the situation occurs, for example after a pick-and-pop, he’ll be the open man attempting a jump shot. Especially since we see a trend of NBA big men dropping coverage if the opposing big man isn’t a good three-point shooter, that’s a valuable position for Diop to be in.
However, he does not convince me in being entirely confident in his own face-up game. His overall footwork is on a decent to good level. Upon evaluating this aspect of his offense, him being quite inexperienced on face up drives to the rim is clearly visible.
Like with many things in life, every advantage has its disadvantage. One of the risks in Diop’s profile is him being a bad free-throw shooter. He’s averaging a tad under 2 free throw attempts per game and converting them at only 54.9%.
This limits his potential for NBA teams as he’s not a suited player to close games with. This has been the part that surprises me a lot, considering how the shooting form looks on his mid-range jumper and it's not translating at the line. This is the challenge for NBA teams to try and fix.
Another indicator that makes his presence on a 5-man lineup fruitful is his offensive rebounding. He’s averaging an impressive 13.3 percent offensive rebounding rate. His factor of success on this end is his ability to position himself well for offensive box-outs.
With shooting having an historic high importance in the NBA, this definitely gives him a slight edge versus most NBA centers, because his potential offensive rebounds per game have increased significantly compared to the game ten-twenty years ago. Especially considering all of the other - above mentioned - skills he already possesses.
NBA Draft projection
I project Diop to be an NBA-ready defensive big man on day one. His strength and overall rim protecting qualities set the base for a rotational player on most teams in need of a back-up big man. This also due to him being a natural screen setter and the shooting already being present. Moreover, we rarely see a center who’s both of an excellent pick-and-roll defender and shooter. With Diop that’s the upside NBA teams shouldn’t hesitate betting on.
I am confident he will test late first round waters. However, I am leaning towards him being picked in the early second round, due to teams being confronted with a buy-out situation. This makes it more attractive to take a guy in round two, to potentially add the buy-out fee in a player’s contract; for first round picks this usually means player covering every dollar above the $750,000 maximum amount NBA teams are allowed to pay as a buy-out fee.
Overall my evaluation is that Khalifa Diop is a late first round level talent and should be looking ahead to a successful career in the NBA.
NBA DRAFT JUNKIES LIVE SCOUTING - MATTEO SPAGNOLO
This year my goal is to think outside the box and find ways to take my NBA Draft content to another level. Every year hundreds of new websites or twitter pages dedicated to the NBA Draft pop up and the field is getting pretty competitive..
I’ve made hundreds of videos breaking down prospects since I started my site, but this season I’m focused on being in the gym more and doing less scouting from my computer.
While filming from the baseline isn’t ground breaking, I think I can add a little flavor to my scouting reports by filming prospects and giving my audience a chance to see the prospect from my eyes through my camera lens. I’m thankful I have the skill set to create my own content because I’m too cheap to pay anyone!
This weekend Matteo Spagnolo was the first prospect I filmed where my camera was on him exclusively the entire time he was on the floor. He scored 18 points and handed out 4 assists against the top team in Italy and provided me with plenty of clips I can go back and study to have a better assessment of his game.
Scouting him in person was a lot better than watching game film. Hopefully I can continue to get access so I can make more videos like this because I am determined to have the best NBA Draft content in the world..
NBA DRAFT JUNKIES MAILBAG EPISODE ONE
I've been super busy the last few weeks traveling through Europe scouting and I have not been able to reply to a lot of the comments under my videos. So I've decided to answer some of the questions or comments on video to be more engaging with my audience. Check out some of the questions and my responses.
NBA DRAFT JUNKIES SLEEPERS | ISIAIH MOSLEY SCOUTING REPORT
Missouri State junior Isiaih Mosley is arguably the hottest player in the country right now and is fresh off a 40 point performance vs ranked Loyola of Chicago. Mosley is what I classify as a professional scorer. When I label a prospect a professional scorer then you know he gets buckets.
He actually might be the best one on one player in college basketball. He’s the type of player I can see agents keeping their clients away from during the pre draft process in order to protect their players draft stock.
I believe Mosley is falling under the radar despite being a consistent 20 point per game scorer (that’s been crazy efficient) because he's playing in the Missouri Valley conference.
As of today he’s averaging 21 points and 5 rebounds on 52/45/90 shooting splits. Let me say that again. He’s shooting 52% from the floor… 45% from 3 and 90% from the foul line. A 50/40/90 season is benchmark for efficiency and Mosley is on pace to make it happen.
ONE ON ONE WITH PROJECTED 1ST ROUNDER ISMAËL KAMAGATE
BIG BOARD 2.0 | WISCONSIN'S JOHNNY DAVIS RISES TO THE TOP 5
NBA DRAFT JUNKIES SLEEPERS | TARAN ARMSTRONG SCOUTING REPORT
My 3 favorite attributes are low post scoring, offensive creativity, guys that can get buckets one on one AND flashy confident playmakers..
In some cases a player that possesses these skill levels aren’t NBA prospects and in some some cases they are. I personally believe Cal Baptist freshman Taran Armstrong is a legit NBA prospect because because of his incredible passing instincts, court vision and feel.
Being a 6’5” helps his case also, but if you haven’t seen this kid play, you’re missing out on the most creative passer in all of college basketball.
He reminds me of a smaller version of Josh Giddey. It may sound like a lazy comparison since both are from down under and represent the Australian National team, but their games are really similar and they share a unique ability to pick defenses apart with live dribble dimes.
Armstrong is wizard that sees the entire floor and makes some of the craziest skip passes look routine. I love his pace and how he plays at his own speed but I really love his mindset and how he’s not afraid to whip high risk cross court passes to open teammates.
Having the vision is one thing but having the confidence to attempt some of the passes is what impresses me the most…
NBA DRAFT JUNKIES SLEEPERS | DEREON SEABRON SCOUTING REPORT
It is officially time to stop sleeping on NC State ball player Dereon Seabron. I labeled him a ball player because his the epitome of position less and it would be unfair to put him in a box and categorize him by a traditional position as a 1, 2 or 3.
Listed at 6’7” 180 pounds. He’s easily one of the most unique prospects I’ve scouted. At times he looks like a natural point guard with his feel as a passer and play maker. But he rebounds like a big and currently ranks in the top 20 in the nation on the glass, highlighted by 18 rebound game vs Nebraska. He also chipped in 39 points and shot 17-20 from the free throw line that game, which was his coming out party in my opinion.
Seabron is a high level slasher that has the handle and shake & bake to his game collapses defenses with his drives to the rim where he takes nearly 83% of his shots. N.C State has done a good job in maximizing his versatility and running plays to get him matched up in space where he can blow by defenders and get to the rack.
At this point in his career he’s not a very good shooter, teams know it and he’s still getting to the rim at will. Kinda like Giannis Antetokounmpo in the sense you know he’s looking to get down hill on every possession and he ends up…Getting down hill.
NBA DRAFT JUNKIES SLEEPERS | ALONDIS WILLIAMS SCOUTING REPORT
When Alondes Williams transferred from Oklahoma to Wake Forest it barley made a headline. I know I personally did not have Williams as a sleeper or even a top 100 NBA prospect coming into this season. Now as of today January 7, 2022 I have him as a top 35 prospect and a legit candidate to hear his name called by Adam Silver on draft night. So far in his senior season, Williams has tripled his scoring average and is currently averaging 20.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per contest while shooting 54.7% from the floor.
Transferring across the country has paid off big time as Williams is now a legit NBA prospect who is quickly rising up draft boards. When I watched his film he immediately pop. You know how when you listen to a song and you know within the first 5 seconds whether you’ll like the track or not?
Well I knew I was a fan of Williams when I saw his combination of size, handle, burst and court vision. Dare I say he reminds me a little of Deron Williams?
LEONARDO OKEKE : THE BEST NBA PROSPECT YOU HAVE NOT HEARD OF
I may be getting way ahead of myself here, but I think 18 year old Italian Leonardo Okeke is the biggest sleeper prospect in the 2022 NBA Draft class. I could be totally wrong OR I could strike gold, but remember where you heard the name first.
I’m hungry to succeed in this business so I’m always open to watching film on guys who are truly under the radar. My goal as an independent scout is to one day find the next Giannis Antetokounmpo. Now I understand Giannis is a once in a lifetime generational talent with a ridiculous work ethic to match, but I'm going to embrace the opportunity to find a poor man's version. So when I came across Leonardo Okeke's film I was totally stunned to see he is a legit NBA prospect that I hadn’t seen on any draft boards.
The first thing I noticed when I watched his film was his impressive frame with broad shoulders, long arms and good hands with a soft touch around the rim. To my surprise, Okeke is really polished for an 18 year old post player. I was really impressed with his ability to make soft touch finishes though contact. Even when he’s defended well, he has such a soft touch he can throw up a shot around the basket and it has a good chance of going in. I actually think he has some upside as a mid post shot creator that you can dump the ball to on the block and feel good about his chances of getting a bucket.
He’s not quick or explosive, but he’s got a good enough handle to be a threat to attack the rim from different spots on the floor. He gets to the cup with long strides and does a good job of putting defenders on his hip and driving through and bullying them to get to the basket. Every once in a while he makes an impressive play off the dribble that makes me believe he could end up being a match up problem….Especially if he can expand his shooting range and force defenders to respect his pull up game off the dribble.
I really believe in his skill set and feel he has the tools to be impactful on both ends of the floor. Best case scenario I see him as a modern day 4 or even 5 that can post up smaller players and attack bigger defenders off the dribble.
I don’t have any official measurements but it doesn’t take 20/20 vision to see his wingspan it’s at least 7 feet which makes him an intriguing defender. He’s a promising rim protector that has the length to possibly play some small ball center.
I may be getting a little ahead of myself. But I see potential as a small ball 5, that can protect the paint, score around the basket AND handle the ball in space.
On top of the fact I think he has enough of a soft touch to develop into respectable floor spacer within the next 3-5 years which would pit him around 22-24 years old.
Maybe I’m being over zealous but Leonardo Okeke could be the biggest sleeper in the 2022 draft.
BIG BOARD 1.0 | DUKE'S PAOLO BANCHERO LEADS THE PACK
1. PAOLO BANCHERO | 6'1O" | 250 | FRESHMAN | DUKE
I had Chet Holmgren as my number 1 prospect coming into the season, but I’ve changed my mind and as of today. Paolo Banchero is the guy.
Banchero has been so good this season that we’re starting to hear people nitpick and talk about his lack of upside and other prospects possibly being better long term. That's simply because there's really not many red flags or things to be concerned about on the floor. Other than missing parts of games due to cramping issues, Banchero has showcased everything that NBA scouts wanted to see out of him this season.
He's been bullying weaker opponents on the block and efficiently knocking down pull up jumpers that has drawn comparisons to a young Carmelo Anthony.
2. CHET HOLMGREN | 7'O" | 195 | FRESHMAN | GONZAGA
Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren has been solid but a little disappointing through 9 games. He’s shown he's tough, competitive and not afraid to mix it up and throw his 195 pound body around against stronger opponents. However, it's been clear the he struggles with physicality, often time being boxed out under the rim, and for some odd reason his jumper has abandoned him as he’s only shooting 4-17 on jump shots.
He’s making up for it by shooting a blistering 94.7% at the rim and blocking nearly 4 shots per game. He's shown flashes of ball handling, skill set and shot creation that helped him earn the label as a unicorn, but it's only been flashes.
I thought it was interesting that Holmgren only played 22 minutes in Gonzaga’s loss to Alabama despite not being in foul trouble. Right now Banchero has passed him on my board but if he can get the jumper falling then there's a chance he can move back to the top spot.
3. JABARI SMITH, JR. | 6'1O" | 210 | FRESHMAN | AUBURN
Coming into the season I had some concerns about Jabari Smith. I thought he settled for too many jumpers, his game was too predictable and he reminded me more of Channing Frye than a franchise cornerstone.
He’s quieted my concerns and has been much better than I thought. Much better. I knew he could put the ball on the floor and I knew he could shoot but I didn’t know he was a sniper. He’s currently shooting 43.9% from deep on 5 attempts per game.
His ball handling has also been better than advertised and his shooting opens up opportunities for him to attack closeouts and drive by defenders facing up.
Although it’s a small sample size with only 8 attempts, I like what I’m seeing from Smith out of the post. That was my biggest concern I had coming into the season. I wrote in my notes he didn’t post up enough and seemed to prefer being used as a pick & pop floor spacer. Now that he’s getting stronger and his body is filling out, he seems more comfortable on the block. I've seen a couple turn around fade away jumpers that looked like he took a page out of the LaMarcus Aldridge book post post scoring.
4. JADEN IVEY | 6'4" | 200 | SOPHOMORE | PURDUE
At number 4 I’m going with Purdue sophomore Jaden Ivey. There may be some debate on if Ivey is a 1 or a 2, but in my opinion he's just a ball player. I've mentioned it before on previous podcasts, that Jaden Ivey reminds me of Russell Westbrook.
Whether you like Russ or not, you can't deny his accomplishments will guarantee him a spot in the Hall of Fame one day. I'm not saying Ivey is the next Westbrook, but his athleticism, competitive fire and motor literally pop out on every possession, similar to RW.
Like Westbrook, he’s an excellent rebounder and solid passer especially when it comes to finding teammates on drive and kicks. Ivey's speed and his relentless drives to the rim lead to easy dump off or wide open shooting opportunities for teammates. The big question surrounding Ivey is his jump shot and if he can continue to make strides as a shooter. Even without a consistent jumper, he can impact games and be Russell Westbrook 2.0.
Returning for his sophomore season is paying off big time for Jaden Ivey.
5. KENDALL BROWN | 6'8" | 205 | FRESHMAN | BAYLOR
Baylor freshman Kendall Brown didn’t have much top 10 hype entering his freshman season, but it only took me 8 games to put him in my top 5..
The NBA is always in need of versatile wings that can defend, and Brown has all the tools to be a multi positional disruptor. He’s an elite athlete that routinely makes plays above the rim and has a knack for making plays for others. He gets most of his points off energy plays, cuts to rim and transition dunks. So far this season he's making a ridiculous 72% of his attempts. Yes, you read that correctly. He's shooting 72% from the floor.
However, Brown is a reluctant shooter and has only taken 12 jumps shots this season, but the percentages are encouraging as he’s converted 41.7% of his jumpers. If he can develop into a more confident shooter the sky is the limit.
6. JD DAVISON | 6'3" | 195 | FRESHMAN | ALABAMA
I know this will be a surprise to some and I was thinking of putting JD in my top 10 before the Gonzaga game despite the fact he doesn’t start for Alabama. But after his performance vs the loaded Zags this weekend in Seattle, I’ve moved him to 6th on my board.
First and foremost I’m impressed with how he’s handled his role as a 6th man. That says a lot about his character and commitment to winning over gaudy numbers. He could've been the focal point and high usage guard for a number of Power 5 programs, but he chose to compete for minutes and a championship in Tuscaloosa.
Davison is arguably the best athlete in this class and anyone that watched him in high school knew he could fill it up and get buckets. But this new role at Alabama has shown his passing is a lot better than most thought. He also has been playing off the ball and knocking down 3’s (38%) at a high clip.
Like Jaden Ivey he’s a strong rebounder for a guard and NBA scouts and execs have to be drooling at the thought of Davison operating out of pick & roll with NBA spacing.
7. KENNEDY CHANDLER | 6'0" | 170 | FRESHMAN | TENNESSEE
This is also probably a surprise to some, but I just really like what Kennedy Chandler has done so far at Tennessee. Yes, I get he's small and doesn’t have the same physical attributes as Jaden Ivey or JD Davison, but this guy gets the job done despite his small stature.
He’s pesky on defense averaging nearly 3 steals and a little less than a block per game. You read that correctly. The 6'0" Chandler had a block in 7 of his first 8 college games. He's also been an efficient scorer boasting 52/42/83 shooting splits and averaging close to 5 assists per game while sharing ball handling duties.
8. JADEN HARDY | 6'4" | 200 | N/A | G-LEAGUE IGNITE
Jaden Hardy was considered to be the crown jewel of the G-League Ignite recruiting class, but has recently been overshadowed by the ultra talented Scoot Henderson.
Hardy finished his prep career with the reputation as a big time scorer with the potential to develop into a point guard, which lead to his name mentioned as a dark horse candidate to be the first player selected in the 2022 NBA Draft.
So far, Hardy’s introduction to pro basketball had been tougher than expected as he’s only shooting 33% from the floor and 28% from 3. Despite efficiency struggles, Hardy is a big time shot maker with deep range that projects to be a 20 point per game scorer in the NBA. Only time will tell if he has the passing instincts and mindset to play point guard on the next level.
9. JALEN DUREN | 6'10" | 230 | FRESHMAN | MEMPHIS
Here’s a question I have to ask myself. Would Jalen Duren be ranked higher if he had a legit point guard feeding him the rock?
I’m a big Emoni Bates supporter, but I'm not a big fan of the Emoni Bates at point guard experiment. This experiment may or may not have an impact on Duren’s draft stock depending on who you ask.
I have to remind myself Duren is still supposed to be in high school, so I should cut him a little more slack. He’s still a little unpolished on the offensive end of the floor and his motor hasn’t been consistent. Due to his size, strength, athleticism and defensive impact, he's been compared to a young Dwight Howard. In order to live up to the Baby Dwight Howard comparisons he’ll have to crank up his engine a little more.
10. JEAN MONTERO | 6'2" | 175 | N/A | OVERTIME ELITE
I’ve been following Dominican born Jean Montero for a few years now and had the opportunity to see him play live at 2020 Basketball Without Borders event during NBA All Star weekend in Chicago. Despite the concerns about his lack of size, length and defined NBA position, I've been high on Montero's upside and expect him to develop into a legit NBA scoring option.
I expected Montero to shine in OTE’s inaugural season and so far his draft stock doesn’t seem to have been negatively impacted by playing against younger players. But then again, I may be a little biased.
11. KEEGAN MURRAY | 6'8" | 225 | SOPHOMORE | IOWA
6’9 forward from Iowa who’s made huge leaps in his sophomore season. Got off to a video game numbers start to the season which was highlighted by a game where he scored 27 points, grabbed 21 rebounds and blocked 4 shots.
I wanted to see how he faired against tougher competition and he’s put up 18 and 19 points vs Virginia and Illinois. It sucks we didn’t get to see him vs Purdue last week as he was held out with an ankle injury.
12. OUSMANE DIENG | 6'9" | 185 | N/A | NZ BREAKERS
6’9" versatile wing out of France currently playing on Australia's NBL. I’ll be paying close attention to Dieng’s role and how he’s used this season. In a friendly game a couple weeks ago he posted 18 points and 9 rebounds in 29 minutes and made some impressive live dribble reads and one handed skip passes.
Dieng pretty much showed everything that has put him in the discussion to be a lottery pick and the Paul George comparisons. However, that game was sandwiched between games where he shot 1-7 and 2-6.
13. TYTY WASHINGTON | 6'3" | 185 | FRESHMAN | KENTUCKY
Kentucky guards have a tendency to out play their draft position so this may be too low for TyTy. Especially when you consider BJ Boston dropped to pick #51 in last years draft and scored 27 points in a game for the Clippers a week after dropping 46 in a G-League game.
TyTy has been steady playing off the ball and efficiently knocking down shots with a 47/39/81 shooting splits through 8 games.
Could TyTy be the next Kentucky guard with more tools in his tools box than he’s been able to show off in Lexington? It’s something to consider.
14. PATRICK BALDWIN, JR. | 6'10" | 205 | FRESHMAN | MILWAUKEE
I’m having a hard time evaluating Patrick Baldwin because his production vs mid major competition hasn’t been what I expected. I see the size, physical tools and skills and I can visualize how his versatility fits the modern day NBA. But I also see games where shot 7-20 vs Eastern Kentucky, 3-11 vs Bowling Green and I was not impressed with his play at the U19s where 28 of his 44 attempts were 3’s and he only shot 32%.
He was only shooting 25% from 3 through his first 4 college games until he exploded vs Robert Morris connecting on 6 out of 6 attempts to bump his percentage to 40% for the season.
Milwaukee got bombed nearly 40 vs Florida and Baldwin hasn't looked good vs strong competition. He's too talented to fall out of the lottery, but his production has not come close to matching his natural gifts.
15. BENNEDICT MATHURIN | 6'7" | 195 | SOPHOMORE | ARIZONA
After getting off to a so so start, Mathurin has been looking more like that player I was expecting to have a breakout season. Mathurin is a high level athlete that can defend multiple positions and knock down open shots.
I actually believe he has the physical tools to be a top 5 pick. But he lacks the ability to get his own shot, offensive creativity off the dribble and passing instincts. He's made some strides this season, but if he can continue to show signs of self creation off the bounce he'll be a lot higher than 15.
16. MARK WILLIAMS | 7'0" | 245 | SOPHOMORE | DUKE
This may be a bit high because many feel you can get similar value in the second round. But Williams has made himself some money and raised his stock with his play this season averaging 9 points 6 rebounds and 3 blocks in less than 20 minutes per night.
17. NIKOLA JOVIC | 6'10" | 255 | N/A | MEGA BEMAX
Jovic has struggled this season after a strong summer at the U19s. The good sign is the jump shot is looking better and encouraging and he's making 3's at a good clip on a high volume of attempts.
The bad is he’s struggling big time scoring out of post ups and as the P&R ball handler. He’s turning the ball over on 39% of his P&R possessions which is concerning for a wing who's main asset is his offensive versatility and playmaking.
18. ISMAEL KAMAGATE | 6'11" | 230 | N/A | PARIS BASKETBALL
I’m probably higher on Kamagate than anyone outside of France. I had the opportunity to watch him live in November in a matchup vs Victor Wembanyama the projected top pick in 2023 and Kamagate kicked his butt. That’s the best way to put it. He was too strong, too physical and his motor and energy were on fill display.
19. DYSON DANIELS | 6'6" | 200 | N/A | G-LEAGUE IGNITE
Australia’s Dyson Daniels has been really good for the G-League Ignite this season. He actually reminds me of Lonzo Ball but with a little more creativity off the bounce. I see him as a connective tissue that defends, manages that game and can play up to 3 positions. His versatility brings value as a big guard that can run the offense and and if he can improve his shooting he'd be an ideal compliment a primary scorer who needs the ball to be effective.
20. MICHAEL FOSTER | 6'9" | 250 | N/A | G-LEAGUE IGNITE
Foster is another member the G-League Ignite class that could hear his name in the 1st round of the 2022 NBA Draft. The 6’9 Foster is averaging 16 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2 blocks per game as an 18 year old rookie. Foster has a nice skill set to build upon but has a tendency to try to do too much off the dribble. In my opinion, he’s taking too many 3’s as he's still considered poor shooter at this stage in his career. He’s only shooting 58% from foul line and his decision making is questionable which is why he's attempting 1.3 attempts per game from 3.
21. CALEB HOUSTAN | 6'8" | 205 | FRESHMAN | MICHIGAN
Now I’m not as high on Houstan as others. I actually almost left him off my 1st round list but he seems like he’s slowly coming along after a horrendous start. Back to back good shooting games where he’s a combined 8-12 from deep vs San Diego State and Nebraska have bumped his 3 FG to 38%. But I don’t know how he scores or what he brings to the table if he’s not shooting well.
22. BRYCE MCGOWENS | 6'7" | 180 | FRESHMAN | NEBRASKA
Speaking of Nebraska. I was born and raised in Omaha and having a Cornhusker receiving first round NBA interest doesn’t happen often.
McGowans is a 6’7 wing averaging 16 points and 7 rebounds per game despite only weighing 175 lbs. Maybe, I’ll give him 180 lbs but he’s skinny tough and skilled. The NBA is always in the market for skilled wings that can create their own shot.
23. ROKO PRKACIN | 6'9" | 235 | N/A | CIBONA
Roko was expected to have a big season after flirting with NBA draft last summer. The results have been mixed but I’m still intrigued with his skill set and believe he can carve out a nice NBA career as a role player that brings energy and toughness off the bench. The swing skill is the jumper.
24. CALEB LOVE | 6'4" | 195 | SOPHOMORE | NORTH CAROLINA
Caleb Love has bounced back after a disappointing freshman season at North Carolina where he only shot 31% from floor and 26% from deep.
Through 8 games he’s currently averaging 16 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists on 44/40/77 shooting splits and has made the improvements you'd expect with a year of experience under his belt.
The 40% from 3 on 4.65 attempts is a sign in the right direction.
25. HUGO BESSON | 6'3" | 195 | N/A | NZ BREAKERS
My biggest sleeper and wildcard of the draft. Besson is an under the radar scorer/shot maker from France who is playing for the NZ Breakers. Last season Besson lead the French Pro B league in scoring and shot a respectable 36% from 3 but a large percentage were self created. I think this is a name you’ll be hearing more about in the very near future.
26. JULIAN CHAMPAGNIE | 6'8" | 215 | JUNIOR | ST. JOHN'S
Champagnie is just a hooper. That’s the best way to put it. It’s hard to box him into a label or position that we often want use to categorize players. He fills up the box score on both ends of the floor, averaging 21 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block per game on 47/40/73 shooting splits. There may be sexier prospects with a higher ceiling, but it's going to be tough to find a more productive player in college basketball.
27. TERRENCE SHANNON, JR. | 6'6" | 205 | JUNIOR | TEXAS TECH
Shannon’s athleticism, defensive versatility and motor have had him on NBA scouts radars for years. The main knock on his game was he lacked an offensive identity and he was not a reliable shooter. This year he’s shooting 36% from 3 on 6 attempts per game which is a major improvement from his freshman season where was he was very reluctant to let it fly from deep.
28. OCHAI AGBAJI | 6'5" | 215 | SENIOR | KANSAS
I can almost repeat what I said about Terrance Shannon verbatim and apply it to Kansas senior Ochai Agbaji. Agbaji has improved every season and has improved his scoring average 8 points from his junior season. He’s currently putting up 22 a night while shooting 57% from the floor and 46% from deep. The confidence and assertiveness he’s shown as a senior is what NBA scouts have been waiting on for 3 years now.
29. YANNICK NZOSA | 6'11" | 175 | N/A | UNICAJA MALAGA
Nzosa has been the biggest disappointment of the season. However, his struggles and slow start have been due to things out of his control. He's slowly recovering from a mysterious injury and is only playing 12 minutes per game. He’s always been regarded as a long term project with a high upside as a switchy defensive anchor. Unfortunately, we probably won’t get to see much of his potential this season as it’s doubtful his team will give him developmental minutes competing in Spain's competitive ACB league.
30. WENDELL MOORE | 6'6" | 215 | JUNIOR | DUKE
Moore is on the rise and may keep rising if he continues his stat stuffing performances in conference play. He’s been a Swiss Army knife for Duke averaging nearly 18 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists per night while shooting 56% from the floor while chipping in 2 steals. He’ll only be 20 on draft night so he’s pretty young for a junior. Crazy thing is if he were putting up these numbers as a sophomore there wouldn’t be any debate about him being a 1st round pick
CAN SCOOT HENDERSON CHALLENGE VICTOR WEMBANYAMA FOR THE TOP SPOT IN 2023?
It only took me 2 plays to see this kid is the real deal. I’ve heard he was nice but I didn’t know Scoot Henderson was THIS nice. I read the Sports Illustrated article on his upbringing, how he dominated high school basketball in Georgia and how he’s considered a trailblazer in America as a 17 year old professional basketball player.
Henderson agreed to skip college and bypassed job opportunities abroad to sign a two year deal suit up for the G-League Ignite earning a reported $1,000,000’s total.
With all the hype and attention surrounding him including the SI article, I’m sure Scoot Henderson entered the season with a target on his back. After all, he’s an unproven 17 year old that is collecting checks bigger than most teams payroll.
Henderson’s 31 point outburst in his second game returning to action after missing the first few games with a rib injury served as his professional coming out party and put the league on notice.
I wanted to wait for Scoot to get a few games under his belt before I created a scouting report and page for this website. I assumed he’s need a few games to adjust and he’d struggle early on.
I’ll be honest. I knew the name, I was familiar with his resume but I didn’t spend much time studying his game so this was my first look outside of a few highlight clips I’ve seen on YouTube.
After watch clips from ONE game, I am now not 100% sold that Victor Wembanyama is the top pick in 2023.
3 months ago I would’ve been considered crazy to think anyone could pass Wembanyama on draft boards.
Scoot Henderson might be that dude.
The first thing that stood out to me was his burst and first step. I haven’t seen anyone with this type of explosiveness, acceleration out of stand still and strength since a young Derrick Rose.
Henderson has the type of blow by speed that allows him to get to the rack at will without the help of a ball screen. He literally makes defenders look like they’re defending him in sand while he’s playing on a totally different surface.
Not only is he blessed with an incredible first step that is quicker than a hiccup, he also has a frame built to absorb all the punishment he’ll take on as a downhill attacking point guard.
He has a thick muscular frame and broad shoulders and looks as if he’s been putting in work in the weight room. Real work.
I don’t have any measurements on his hand size but it looks as if his hands are large enough to palm a basketball off the dribble, similar to Rajon Rondo. Having big hands is a major asset, which should make him even more of a dangerous finisher around the basket and create advantages as a passer and defender.
A freakishly athletic point guard with elite burst and strength with big hands? That is just unfair.
If you’ve ever had the opportunity to drive or ride in a Rolls Rolls Wraith or a similar high end luxury performance car then you’ll get this analogy.
The Wraith boasts a 624 horse power V12 engine and weighs nearly 5,400 pounds. The design is a work of art and even though it is considered a coupe, the Wraith is as long as some SUVs. The Wraith handles and weaves in and out of traffic effortlessly and smoothly gets up to 60 mph in only 4.3 seconds despite its enormous weight.
The large 14.7-inch front and 14.6-inch rear brakes can halt the massive car in a braking distance of just 109 feet in a panic braking 0-60 mph scenario.
That’s Scoot Henderson in a nutshell. He shifts downhill, accelerates to top speeds with ease but can stop his momentum on a dime to get to his pull up jumper.
The threat of his first step makes defenders think twice about crowding him, which allows him to get to his sweet spots around 15-17 feet where he looks as comfortable as man sitting in his own living room. So far, his pull up jumper has been the main weapon in his scoring arsenal.
We don’t usually see an athlete of this caliber so advanced as a pull up shooter. It’s 2-3 years into their professional career or even after they rookie extension where they develop a reliable jump shot. Scoot seems to be way ahead of the curve as a shooter, especially off the bounce, and I totally expect for him to be fully adjusted to the NBA line before his stint with the Ignite ends.
I know it’s only been 3 games into his professional career but I’m confident that I’m not jumping the gun here. As of today, Victor Wembanyama is still the favorite to go #1 in next years draft even though he’s had a difficult early start to this season. Injuries, illness and struggling with physicality have played a major role in his adjustment to ASVEL.
Unfortunately for Wembanyama, he was hyped and heralded after a dominating U19 performance and the only thing left to do is pick his game apart. I’m not here to nitpick, but I am here to say that I believe some scouts or GM’s may prefer to trade in a Wraith instead of a unicorn.
Scoot Henderson is the real deal. And Maybe, just maybe. The way too early race to be the top pick in the 2023 draft is more competitive than we think..
NBA DRAFT JUNKIES | FRESHMAN ADJUSTMENT SERIES
Tennessee freshman point guard Kennedy Chandler was a consensus 5 star recruit and many considered him the top point guard and top NBA prospect in his graduating class.
So far the Memphis area native has had a smooth adjustment to college basketball.
Through 6 games Chandler is averaging 14.3 ppg, 5.2 apg a shade under 3 rebounds. His energy, effort and active hands on defense have helped him collect 2.7 steals per game.
Now 16 steals in 6 games is pretty impressive. But I’ve been more impressed with the fact that the 6’0' Chandler has blocked a shot in every game but one and also has 3 dunks this season. He has more dunks than some projected lottery picks who are 10 inches taller!
Chandlers scoring efficiency and outside shooting has really stood out to me. His 48/50/100 shooting splits will be nearly impossible to maintain, but then again those numbers would be even better if not for the 1-9 shooting performance vs Villanova..
He bounced back the next night with a 14 points 8 assists and 5 rebounds game on 6-13 from the floor vs North Carolina.
Tennessee’s next few games against Colorado, Texas Tech, cross state rival Memphis followed up by a matchup vs Arizona will be major tests before Chandler's second semester also known as the start of conference play.
Duke freshman Paolo Banchero is off to a strong start to his much anticipated freshman season in Durham.
Banchero arrived on campus with a lot of hype and fanfair and many draft analysts and fans believe he could be the 4th Duke player o selected 1st overall in the last 25 years following the footsteps of Elton Brand, Kyrie Irving and Zion Williamson..
Through 8 games, Banchero has been as good as advertised averaging 17.8 ppg, 7.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists on 50/33/84 shooting splits highlighted by dominant halves vs Kentucky and Gonzaga..
The majority of his possessions have been in the post where he’s shooting a respectable 47.6% from the floor. At 6’10” 250 lbs, Banchero is a real problem on the low block for defenders. He has the strength to play bull ball and run through most matchups.
But in my opinion, he’s most effective facing up where he can beat you in a variety of ways. To be totally honest, Banchero is a face up monster… He’s capable of beating defenders off the dribble, but also has an effective pull ups game that has drawn comparisons to Carmelo Anthony..
Here are a few of the numbers that have stolid out to me through 8 games. The numbers would likely be even better but he’s dealt with some cramping issues in the games vs Kentucky and Duke..
Overall at the rim he’s shooting 71%
I had concerns about the jumper and he’s making 42.5% of his jumpers. 41.7% off the dribble and 43.8% in catch & shoot situations
He’s been deadly inside of 17 feet where he’s shooting 60-% on jumpers.
It’s still early, but as of today I believe Duke freshman Paolo Banchero would be the top pick in the 2022 NBA draft…
GONZAGA VS DUKE OR SHOULD I SAY HOLMGREN VS BANCHERO?
Gonzaga vs Duke is not just a big showdown between two of the top powerhouses in college basketball. This is Chet Holmgren vs Paolo Banchero! The top two NBA prospects in college basketball will square off on this holiday weekend and in my opinion, this is the most anticipated matchup between freshman prospects since Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins faced off in 2013.
Both Holmgren and Banchero represent the modern day NBA big despite having totally different styles. Banchero is a 6’10" man child that perfectly blends power, finesse and skill. While Holmgren epitomizes the unicorn label as the rare 7 footer that can space the floor, and turn a blocked shot on defense into his own personal fast break on offense.
The NBA scouts in attendance will be carefully watching and evaluating every move, and every step on every possession. Especially bottom feeder teams like Houston, New Orleans, Orlando, Sacramento, Oklahoma City and Detroit who are likely to be in position to draft Holmgren or Banchero with the top two picks in June. It still baffles me that billion dollar NBA franchises are hoping and in some cases praying, these teenage freshman sensations can change their franchise fortunes in the very near future.
Finally after months of debating who is the better prospect between Banchero and Holmgren. We may have our answer on Friday night.
SCOUTING BARCELONA'S B TEAM
Last weekend I went to scout my first basketball game since relocating to Spain. To be totally honest, I hope I am not met with the same set of challenges on my next trip across the largest country in Southern Europe. I attended the Barcelona vs CSKA Moscow game earlier in the week, but outside of New York Knicks draft and stash playmaker, Rokas Jokubaitis, there was not much to scout from an NBA draft perspective.
Barça’s Michael Caicedo is a potential NBA prospect, but he was a DNP-CD, and I didn’t arrive to the game early enough to watch individual workouts. Also, I’m not even sure Barça has NBA style intense pre game workouts for young players not in the 8 man rotation.
Even though Caicedo and Agustin Ubal have been promoted from the B team to the senior team, I was excited to check out some of the other prospects in Barcelona’s youth program. I’ve been tracking Gael Bonilla and James Nnaji for the past 18 months, so this was my first opportunity to see them play live.
BARLOWES ABROAD: EPISODE I
Who gets married at the Eiffel Tower in the morning and then goes to scout 2 basketball games that same day? Me!
Thank God my wife Shay is most understanding, supportive and coolest wife on the planet. In this episode we travel from Dallas to Paris to begin what we hope will be a season long journey living abroad as newlyweds. This is my wife's first time living overseas so this will be quite the experience for her!
For years my dream was to travel the world as an international basketball scout hoping to find the next Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo or Nikola Jokic. I hoped the opportunity to work for an NBA team would come, but without any scouting experience I was left with zero options. So I started NBAdraftjunkies.com in 2016 with the hopes of using my website as a resume.
5 years later, I'm living out my dream....but instead of working for an NBA team, I'm working for myself.
HOLMGREN OR BANCHERO? WHO WILL BE #1?
We’re still months away from the 2022 NBA Draft and there’s still a few weeks to go before the college season basketball tips off. If you're a person who eats, sleeps and breaths the NBA draft like I do, it’s never too early to discuss who should be the first player to hear his name called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver next June.
As of today, I believe it’s a 3 person race with Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren as the favorite with Duke manchild Paolo Banchero and Jaden Hardy, a professional scorer who bypassed college for the G-League, as the main challengers.
What’s crazy is Chet Holmgren could be the #1 pick in the 2022 NBA draft despite not being the best player on his team! In my opinion Gonzaga junior Drew Timme will be the best player in college basketball next season while Holmgren will be the best NBA prospect.
Timme is coming off a strong sophomore season where he averaged 19 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists while shooting 65% from the floor on a Zags team that made it to the Final Four before losing NCAA title game to a hungry Baylor squad. Timme, Holmgren and McDonald's All American Hunter Sallis are expected to lead Gonzaga back to the Final Four and will likely begin the season as the #1 team in the nation. And all eyes will be on the lanky sharp shooter from Minnesota who followed Jalen Suggs path from the Twin Cites to Spokane, Washington.
I personally think Holmgren’s unique blend of size, length, skills, shooting and rim protection should make him a lock to be the # 1 pick.
The label "unicorn" has been thrown around a lot over the past few years in the basketball world, but you can make a case and say Holmgren is the most deserving of the high praise.
Holmgren is 7 footer that can handle, shoot with efficiency from 3, create scoring opportunities for teammates who also glides across the floor like a natural wing. Defensively he’s a high level shot blocker that can also defend in space and screw up an opponents offensive game plan. I truly believe he has the highest upside in this draft class and will be the face of a franchise if he can maximize his potential.
The main concern about Holmgren’s NBA potential would be largely related to his frame or lack there of. He’s listed 195 pounds and his body doesn’t look like he can add a lot of bulk or weight, which could impact his draft stock as teams may be worried about his durability. I can imagine comparisons to Kristaps Porzingis , another player labeled a unicorn, will mentioned often between now and the draft.
Although, it's concerning, I'd still take Holmgren number #1. Despite the fact he looks like he’s skinny enough to dodge range drops, he’s what I called skinny tough. He plays with heart, aggression and with competitive fire. Let's be honest, there’s a stereotype that slim 7 footers who can shoot the lights out are usually soft and avoid contact and physicality.
Chet Holmgren does not fall in that category.
I personally have Gonzaga freshman Chet Holmgren as the favorite to be the top pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, but I wouldn't say he's a guaranteed lock to go #1. Many believe Duke’s Paolo Banchero is the best NBA prospect in college basketball and will be the first player to hear his name called on draft night.
I’m old enough to remember when the hot topic around the NBA was about small ball being the new wave and how you can’t build a contender around a big man. Maybe that thought process has changed since Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid finished first and second in MVP votes last season and Giannis Antetokounmpo lead his Milwaukee Bucks team to the NBA title.
Now I know Giannis isn’t a traditional big, but neither are Holmgren and Banchero. What's weird is their games aren’t similar in style, but very similar as far as how they impact games with their versatility.
Holmgren’s thin frame and lack of strength has raised questions about his long term durability and NBA fit, while Banchero’s frame and natural strength (on top of his skill set) are usually the main selling points for those that believe he is the top NBA prospect in this draft class.
When you look at Banchero body, it’s hard to believe he’s just a few months removed from playing high school basketball. I definitely don’t remember seeing any 6’9 235 lbs teenagers roaming the halls back in my high school days.
What makes Banchero since an intriguing prospect is he has the size and strength to dominate games by playing bull ball in the low post, but he also has ball handling and shot making ability to create mismatches in space when opponents look to defend him with size.
To make it simple and plain, Paolo Banchero is a matchup nightmare for coaches to game plan against. When he’s in the mid post he’s got a little Carmelo Anthony in his game where he can get to the rim off the bounce or knock down face up jumpers. If a coach wants to send double or triple teams to slow him down, he has the court vision and passing instincts to create easy scoring opportunities for his teammates.
Did I mention he’s also comfortable as a pick & roll ball handler and can initiate the offense as point forward?
It’s hard not to love Banchero’s game and what he’ll bring to a team as an offensive weapon. At the very minimum he’ll serve as connective tissue that contributes to winning basketball and makes everyone around him better.
The concerns about Banchero’s lack of athleticism and explosiveness is legit, but we just saw a below average athlete and slow footed big man win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award.
DAYS UNTIL 2022 NBA DRAFT
LOCKED ON NBA DRAFT PODCAST
Check me out every Mon & Thurs on the LockedOn NBA Draft Podcast on Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts..
TOP INTERNATIONAL PROSPECTS
VICTOR WEMBANYAMA | 7'2" | 210 | CENTER | ASVEL (FRANCE)
France’s Victor Wembanyama is a special talent that is worth all the hype surrounding his name. I personally think he's the top international NBA prospect since Luka Doncic and should be the top player taken in the 2023 NBA draft. I've seen the Rudy Gobert/Kristaps Porzingis hybrid comparisons, but I believe he could also have some Karl Anthony Towns in his game.
Wembanyama's talent was on full display at the FIBA U19 World Cup this summer where his play on the defensive end alone would make him one of the best prospects in recent memory. Through 7 games he averaged a whopping 5.7 blocks per game.. 5.7!
YANNICK NZOSA | 6'11" | 175 | CENTER | UNICAJA (CONGO)
Prior to the start of the season, Yannick Nzosa's name was mentioned as a candidate to be selected #1 in the 2022 NBA Draft. Most fans in the states, aren't familiar with the name but they will soon be familiar with his game.
Nzosa is fits the mold of the modern day NBA center with his coordination, mobility and quickness which allows him to defend in space while being an elite shot blocker.
MATTEO SPAGNOLO | 6'4" | 185 | POINT GUARD | VANOLI CREMONA (ITALY)
Italian point guard Matteo Spagnolo, who is arguably the most exciting prospect from an entertainment standpoint in the 2022 draft class. But he’s not just all flash and flare, he’s got the game to compliment his highlight reels.
First thing I noticed about Spagnolo was his offensive creativity and swagger. Swagger is becoming and overused term in sports, but if I had to pick out one prospect that exudes swagger in this draft class, I’d probably go with Matteo.
I’m intrigued with his upside as a shot creator off the dribble but what really stands out is his confidence.
NIKOLA JOVIC | 6'10" | 210 | FORWARD | MEGA BEMAX (SERBIA)
Serbia is a country with a little under 7M people, but in the past few years, Serbia has been a hotbed for producing NBA prospects. 2021 MVP Nikola Jokic, Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic and last years media darling Oklahoma City rookie Aleksej Pokusevski are all Serbia. Next up is Nikola Jovic a skilled oversized wing that can do a little bit of everything on the basketball court with a game that fits the modern day NBA.
At 6’10” Jovic creates mismatches all over the floor. He has the size of a center and the skill set of a guard.
HENRI VEESAAR | 6'10" | N/A | CENTER | REAL MADRID (ESTONIA)
Estonia born Henri Veesaar is one of the best players born in the 2004 generation and has a really good opportunity to be the first player to represent Estonia since Martin Muursepp played in the NBA back in the 96-97 season.
Veesaar projects to be a pick & pop 5 in the NBA. Although he only shot 28% from 3 U18 European challengers, he shot over 41% from 3 in last season through 8 games for Real Madrid in the Adidas Next Generation tournament. He also shot 43% from deep in 2020 at the U 16 Baltic Sea Cup so I'm a believer in his upside as a floor spacer.
GABRIELE PROCIDA | 6'7" | 215 | WING | FORTITUDO BOLOGNA (ITALY)
Italy's Gabrielle Procida is a 19 year old 6’7" 215 wing that is one of the top international prospects in the 2022 class after flirting with NBA Draft in 2021.
Procida is an uber confident shooter that is not afraid to let it fly from behind the line.. In his first season as a rotation player in Italy’s top division, he attempted nearly 3 attempts per game from deep in only 15 minutes.
And the results were positive as he connected on 38.8% of his 3 point attempts. Including a very small sample size of only 6 attempts during the 2019-20 season, Procida has shot 39.5% from behind the line in 35 career games.
JUAN NUÑEZ | 6'3" | 180 | POINT GUARD | REAL MADRID (SPAIN)
Spain’s Juan Nunez is ranked as one of the top prospects in Europe born in 2004 largely due to his ability to run a team and his incredible playmaking skills. He's definitely one of my favorite prospects to watch from an entertainment standpoint. If you love passing creativity and flare then you'll love Juan Nunez.
Nunez is a terrific passer with a little bit of flash and flair to his game… Well let me take that back. A LOT of flash and flair. His creativity as playmaker is the reason he’s one of my favorite players to watch.
OUSMANE DIENG | 6'9" | 185 | WING | NZ BREAKERS (FRANCE)
France's Ousmane Dieng is one of the most highly regarded international prospects and became somewhat of a pioneer in Europe by deciding to spend the 2021-22 season in Australia’s NBL with the New Zealand Breakers. Dieng’s name has been buzzing as a potential lottery pick in 2022 due to his size, ball handling and potential as a shot creator which has drawn a lot of comparisons to Paul George.
I briefly had a chance to watch him play pick up in Los Angeles a few weeks ago and his size, ball handling and potential as a shot creator really stood out to me. I’ve seen the Paul George comparisons and one of the players he was competing against in the pick up games though Dieng played like Michael Porter Jr.
HUGO BESSON | 6'3" | 195 | WING | NZ BREAKERS (FRANCE)
As of today Hugo Besson is my new favorite prospect in the 2022 draft class. I was sleeping on him all last season but now I am awake and will be driving the Besson bandwagon all season. 3 & D prospects are so valuable in today’s NBA, but they’re boring to watch from a scouting perspective.
Hugo Besson is far from boring and is the total opposite because he gets bucket and buckets in bunches. The 6'3' guard from France is coming off a strong season where he lead the French Pro B in scoring.
MOJAVE KING | 6'6" | 195 | WING | ADELAIDE 36ERS (NEW ZEALAND)
Mojave King is a 6’5 wing from New Zealand that projects to be a 3 & D floor spacer and ball mover in the NBA. King will be playing this season for the Adelaide 36ers, a team that has produced two first round draft picks in the last 5 years most notably Josh Giddey who was selected 6th in 2021 by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
There’s a chance King could be the next prospect to transition from Adelaide to the big leagues due to his combination of positional size, athleticism and shooting.
JEAN MONTERO | 6'2" | 175 | GUARD | OVERTIME ELITE (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC)
Jean Montero, a 6’2” scoring machine from the Dominican Republic who played the last couple seasons for Gran Canaria in Spain and will be the face of the new Overtime Elite league which will feature highly regarded high school and international prospects.
Montero doesn’t pass the eye test as he’s not an great athlete that wows you with his explosiveness or highlight dunks. But what he lacks in ideal physical tools he makes up for it with his knack for putting the ball in the basket. He’s an impressive scorer that plays with great pace and is a creative shotmaker that slithers through defenses to get to the cup.