The second in a five part series. Come back daily to see which other players to check out this year.
Plenty has been written about the top couple of player in this year's draft. If you want to read something on Ben Simmons, there are many great articles out there. Same with Skal or Jaylen Brown. But the great part about this draft is that the Sixers can - and probably will - be picking all over the place. The Lakers pick, if it conveys, may fall anywhere from 4 to 10; Miami could wind up 11th or 20th; and depending on Durant's health, Oklahoma City may not be such a lock to be picking in the late 20's again this year. That means we get to pay attention to the entirety of the draft, and have more arguments over who should be 16th on our Big Board than the rest of the teams combined.
Here are some first year players who are hoping to remain in the lottery conversation all year long. One or more may prove to viable when Hinkie is on the clock next June.
Malik Newman, SG, MIssissippi State Bulldogs
DX: 7, ESPN: 9, RSCI: 10
6'4 with shoes, 6'5 wingspan
Age: 18.5 years old
Why to be excited: Newman may be the best volume scorer in the draft. He's athletic and quick, and can score from all over the court. He has most frequently been compared to Monta Ellis, except Newman can actually shoot. An Ellis with a 3-point shoot would have been a very good NBA player, so Newman could be looking at quite a career as a primary option on offense. After committing to a weak Mississippi State team, Newman will have plenty of opportunity to show off his mettle in Ben Howland's backcourt this year.
Why to be worried: You mean, other than the fact the Monta Ellis is his most frequent player comparison? First and foremost, his decision-making may be suspect - he has lacked the vision and creation skills to get his teammates involved to this point in his career, preventing him from being a real point guard. As a 2, he's undersized and lacking length, which will hinder him on the defensive end.
What to watch for: Vision and passing. Newman needs to show that he's more than just an undersized volume scorer, and displaying a well-rounded passing game may be his best chance of doing so. He'll be given plenty of chances to create, so watch how well he picks out teammates, and whether he appears to have scoring blinders. If he passes those tests, he will be much more intriguing as a prospect.
Henry Ellenson, PF, Marquette Golden Eagles
DX: 9, ESPN: 8, RSCI: 5
6'10 with shoes, 7'2 wingspan
Age: 18.6 years old
Why to be excited: As a white power forward with a buzzcut, nice shooting stroke, and strong post game, Ellenson was bound to draw comparisons to Kevin Love. Unfortunately, he broke his hand at the end of last season, and was unavailable for the All-Star showcases when most draftniks gets their first looks at the rising stars. Still, he looks to be a skilled power forward, comfortable operating on the block or on the wing, with better athleticism and face up ability than you might expect.
Why to be worried: Like Love, defense looks to be a weakness for Ellenson. He doesn't have to the size or athleticism to be a true deterrent at the rim, and, like many young players, will need to improve his team defense going forward. Without elite physical tools, Ellenson will have to cultivate elite skills to be a true star.
What to watch for: Team and pick and roll defense. Love's biggest issue as a defensive player has been his inability to nail rotations and contain one-on-one matchups in space. Ellenson can easily be a more impactful player if he learns those skills and works hard at them, which may be what swings his value up or down from the mid-lottery.
Diamond Stone, C, Maryland Terrapins
DX: 11, ESPN: 14, RSCI: 6
7'0 with shoes, 7'4 wingspan
Age: 18.5 years old
Why to be excited: Diamond Stone is a big bruiser - another throwback to the back-to-the-basket post players of yesteryear. He's big and strong and skilled around the basket, perhaps providing more reason to believe that the post game is newly ascendant. Stone has prototype center size and is likely to be one of the center pieces of a Maryland team that enters the year as one of the national title favorites.
Why to be worried: His scouting report is similar to Jah's, only without the supreme strengths that Jah provides. Stone lacks Okafor's footwork, touch, and repertoire of moves, while possessing the same athleticism and defensive questions that our centerpiece had. For Okafor, it was that supremacy that allowed teams to overlook his warts. Without it, Stone lacks the offensive upside that you look for in top picks.
What to watch for: Defense. NBA centers are defensive players first and offensive players second. If Stone can become a plus defender, he'll be a productive starter for years. He'll need to prove he's athletic enough to contain pick and rolls and smart enough to act as the last line of defense.
Furkan Korkmaz, SG, Anadolu Efes
DX: 12, ESPN: 11, RSCI: N/A
6'6 with shoes, 6'6 wingspan
Age: 18 years old
Why to be excited: Fresh off a fantastic showing at the FIBA U19 Tournament, Korkmaz is one of the most intriguing wings in this draft. Korkmaz is known primarily as a shooter, but he has shown good potential as a slasher, and appears to be a cerebral player, consistently displaying outstanding cutting off the ball. As a passer, he has wonderful vision, but needs to tighten the screws so that he more frequently hits his intended target. Korkmaz is especially quick - he has a good first step and exhibits agility advantages on defense off the ball.
Why to be worried: Korkmaz doesn't look like he'll ever be a true superstar. He has great potential as a role player on the wing, but he doesn't look like a consistent first option creator at the next level. More, despite his quickness and natural athleticism, he has displayed poor technique as an on-ball defender, hindering his ability to keep players in front of him.
What to watch for: Pick and roll creativity and on-ball defense. These are the swing skills that could elevate Korkmaz from complementary starter to a second or third piece on a championship contender.
Cheick Diallo, PF/C, Kansas Jayhawks
DX: 15, ESPN: 12, RSCI: 7
6'9 with shoes, 7'4 wingspan
Age: 18.9 years old
Why to be excited: Diallo is one of the more intriguing prospects to come along in a while. He lacks experience and needs to improve many of his skills, but he has a great feel for the game, and, when combined with an undying motor, this makes him worth multiple looks. At the Hoop Summit and McDonald's All-American games this year, Diallo recorded 30 points, 16 rebounds, 4 blocks, 4 assists, and only 1 turnover in 33 minutes of play. Even in a small-sample, those are numbers that catch your attention.
What stands out most is the 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, which most big men struggle greatly with. In compiling those numbers, Diallo displayed fantastic nuanced footwork, Eurostepping through traffic on the break, and spinning around defenders for dunks. These innate understandings of his body and the game of basketball will be key to Diallo's development and growth as a player.
Why to be worried: Diallo appears to be the ultimate "center in a power forward's body." At only 6'9, Diallo is truly undersized for the center position, and he truly lacks offensive polish. He struggles as a shooter and as a post-up player. The question for Diallo will be whether his mature understanding of the game will outweigh his skill deficiencies, and how quickly he can improve upon those deficiencies.
What to watch for: Shot blocking and shooting. If Diallo can provide elite rim protection despite his short stature, he may overcome his lack of size at the next level. Look for him to be among the leaders in block percentage this year to determine whether that is viable. Beyond that, he needs to continue to work on his shooting stroke until he can punish teams for leaving him open.
Isaiah Briscoe, PG, Kentucky Wildcats
DX: 18, ESPN: 19, RSCI: 13
6'4 with shoes, 6'10 wingspan
Age: 19.3 years old
Why to be excited: At 6'4 with a 6'10 wingspan, Briscoe has very strong tools for a point guard, offering the potential for elite defense down the road. He's a bully guard in the mold of Deron Williams, who should be able to use his size to take advantage of numerous guards in the NCAA.
Why to be worried: Admittedly, Briscoe is one of the playersI'm least high on compared to popular opinion. while big, he's not particularly athletic, and lacks the first step to get by defenders and into the paint. He has better vision than Andrew Harrison, but has displayed poor decision-making in both high school showcase games.
Like Simmons and Labissiere, Briscoe is particularly old for his class, and older than a good portion of the freshmen drafted last year. Unlike the two of them, he doesn't seem to have developed stronger skills due to his older age.
What to watch for: Lateral quickness and passing vision. Briscoe may wind up as the odd man out in Kentucky's 3-point guard set. As the weakest passer and biggest player of the three, he's likely to see those weaknesses by spending the most time off the ball and guarding opposing 3's. Pay attention to when he does get to create - is he able to get a step beyond his defender, and does he make the correct reads to find teammates? On defense, watch him guard smaller, quicker players, to see whether he can keep them in front of him. If he impresses in those two aspects, his upside may be higher than I thought.
Check back tomorrow for some of the best returning college players.