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GBB’s NBA Draft Prospect Primer

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With college basketball heating up, it’s important to know the prospects to watch for heading into March Madness and the NBA Draft.

NCAA Basketball: Southern California at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The Grizzlies are 18-37, the NFL is over, and aside from the Olympics there’s a bit of a sports malaise at the moment. This is about the time of the year when people start paying more attention to college basketball. March Madness is almost upon us.

For Grizzlies fans, it’s been a long time since the attention has been on the top NBA Draft prospects available. Normally the focus is on playoff seeding, but instead, this year it’s on draft pick seeding.

So I wanted to put together an NBA Draft Prospect Primer. This will outline seven of the more important prospects to look for as you start watching more college basketball. A detailed breakdown of each individual prospect will come later on, but this will be a great primer to learn a bit more about the top draft-eligible players.

DeAndre Ayton, Arizona

DeAndre Ayton is the traditional center body that has an array of tools which instantly puts him on another tier compared to the competition. He is a 7’1” monster out of Arizona averaging 19.5 points and 10.7 rebounds a game. Ayton is the rim running center that has freaky athleticism and bounce for his size. His defense can use some work, and the same can be said for most of these prospects mentioned. Defense takes work at the NBA level, but one thing about Ayton is the rim protection, averaging 1.8 blocks per game. He has the potential to clog the paint every possession. He’s almost sure to be a top-5 pick, and his offensive game will excel at the next level.

Marvin Bagley III, Duke

If you’re looking for a player that is the easiest to watch on the weekends, it is Marvin Bagley. He and his Duke team can be found on the CBS or ESPN center stage most Duke game days. Bagley is a 6’11”, 18-year-old stud who has the offensive style to fit well in the new age NBA. He is averaging 21.2 points and 11 rebounds a game. Bagley stretches the floor well, and he even averages two three-point attempts a game. The biggest concern for him is his defense. His effort level on that end has always been a big question. However, it must be kept in mind that he is a very raw prospect. If he can correct that with the right situation, Bagley has a chance to eventually make a big impact for a team in need.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Texas Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Mohammad Bamba, Texas

Big Mo Bamba looks like he’s on another level on the court. He is a 7-foot center out of Texas. Bamba has incredible length with a 7’9” wingspan and a 9’6” standing reach. That is absurd. It’s all defense with this kid. His length on the defensive end disrupts any shots in the paint, and is what makes him so special. Bamba is averaging 4(!) blocks per game. He may not have a developed offensive game quite yet, but the pieces are there for him to grow into, especially with lobs to the rim. He averages a double-double with 13.6 points and 10.6 rebounds. Mo Bamba is definitely a longer-term project than the other prospects mentioned.

Luka Doncic, Slovenia

Depending on who you speak to or what Big Board you find, Luka Doncic could be the number one player in this year’s draft class. He is a 6’8” point-forward out of Slovenia who has been dominating the Euroleague for Real Madrid at 18 years old. Doncic is averaging 15.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game (only averaging 24.8 minutes a game) with incredible passing. He is the consensus most league ready prospect in the class. This is because the Spanish league he is in now, Liga ACB, has a better overall skill level than at the college level in the states (Liga ACB is touted as the best Euroleague).

This season, through 39 games, Doncic is shooting 47.1% from the field and 32.8% from three. The main transition for him will be the speed of the NBA game as we always see from these Euro prospects. If that happens, he will quickly become an impact player on the team that drafts him. Stay tuned to Twitter for highlights of this guy, since most games are harder to watch live.

Michael Porter Jr., Missouri

It was unfortunate news in late November when Michael Porter Jr. underwent back surgery, sidelining him for the start of the season. He has still not seen the floor yet this year. However, there has been good news as of late that Porter could return by the end of the season. Even without playing a minute this year, he will be a top pick in the 2018 draft. Porter is a 6’10” freshman out of Missouri who is seen as a point-forward type as well. He can be an instant ball-handling scorer for whichever team takes a chance on him. If the Grizzlies pull off a solid tank, I would love to see him be drafted by Memphis. Look for him around the 4-6 range.

And, it’s kind of fitting for Memphis, Porter’s biggest concern is his health coming off back surgery.

Collin Sexton, Alabama

Collin Sexton is one of my favorite prospects in this year’s draft class (and that is hard for me to say being a Tennessee grad). He is the electric Alabama point guard who can carry an offense by being a quality ball handler and distributor. Sexton is averaging 18.5 points but only 3.4 assists. His team has been streaky around him, but he can raise the level of teammates around him by drawing the defense in and then kicking it out to other the Alabama shooters. Also, he can attack the paint and drive successfully on smaller defenders if the paint is cleared.

His two weaknesses are his three-point shooting (33.5) and defense. These are two things that will hopefully come over time. If Memphis fails at a tank and lands around the 7-8 spot, Sexton would be a great prospect to learn from Conley and learn to play off the ball a bit.

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Trae Young, Oklahoma

If you have turned on ESPN over the last month, I’m sure you’ve noticed their love affair with Trae Young. Every game he’s in, they have his stat line above the score the entire game. This praise, even if it’s a little over the top, is warranted as this 6’2” freshman point guard from Oklahoma came out of nowhere to burst onto the college basketball scene. Young is averaging 29.5 points and 9.4 assists a game, shooting 44.3% from the field and 38.5% from three. He’s a dynamic player who has been compared to Steph Curry because of his crazy pull up range that can come from anywhere. The attention he brings from defenses opens up passing lanes which he finds with pinpoint accuracy.

Defensively, he brings a pesky edge, collecting 1.9 steals a game on top of his incredible offensive production. Young will be the top point guard in this draft over Sexton, but his size and durability will be a question mark in the NBA. He’ll have to learn to hold his own against the strength of the next level. If not, Young will always have his pure three-point shot.

Honorable Mentions: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Michigan St.), Kevin Knox (Kentucky), Miles Bridges (Michigan St.), Mikal Bridges (Villanova)

And there you have it. That’s a basic rundown of some of the top players to watch for as you flip over to college basketball in the coming weeks. We at GBB will be bringing you more detailed coverage on many of the draft prospects once the madness of March is here. We will be putting together a GBB Draft Guide breaking down each of the top prospects, as well as what to expect from the Grizzlies on draft night.

This Grizzlies season may be one to forget, but if all goes well, Memphis could be drafting a franchise-changing talent. Now that’s something the whole city can get excited about.

All Stats Provided by Sports Reference and DraftExpress.com

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