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NBA Draft Big Board: Tier 3 Rankings

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Which players should be selected in the late lottery?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Jackson’s Big Board for slots 21-30 was posted on June 18.

I’m back again to rank my third tier of prospects, which extends from the ninth to the 20th pick. I’m a pretty big fan of this group, as I think many of these players either have some star upside or project as high-level starters long-term. This was the toughest tier for me to rank. Let’s dive in.

20. Cam Reddish

This is one of the prospects whose top-10 hype confuses me and feels solely based off the fact that he entered the year as the nation’s No. 3 recruit. It was a brutal season for Cam Reddish. He shot 35.6 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from deep, and had 96 turnovers to 56 assists. Despite playing a tertiary role next to Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett, Reddish struggled to consistently hit shots, and when provided self-creation opportunities, struggled with decision-making, often driving into defenders without a plan of attack.

Reddish’s shot-making flashes remain some of the best in the class. He’ll bury step-back jumpers and deep 3s, or spin around his defender to finish at the rim. But Reddish is also a very poor athlete by NBA standards. He lacks any semblance of noteworthy vertical explosion — evidenced by his 51.2 percent shooting at the rim — and isn’t dynamic enough to take guys off the bounce, restricted in part because of pedestrian ball-handling.

I do think he’ll become a good 3-point shooter, both on spot-ups and off-movement, with a bit of off-the-bounce shot-making, but the upside is much lower than perceived. I also buy into his defense, where he has good positional size and length (7-foot-1 wingspan), and even popped off the screen occasionally with noteworthy on- and off-ball sequences (1.6 steals per game, too). However, he’s prone to moving too robotically on defense and I don’t think he’ll be anything more than a useful cog — never approaching All-Defensive-caliber — and given his athletic/offensive limitations, is left merely as a projectable role player.

19. Talen Horton-Tucker

Talen Horton-Tucker is one of the most unique prospects in this year’s class. He’s 6-foot-4 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and weighs 235 pounds. As a reference point, he’s four inches shorter than both Brandon Clarke and Cameron Johnson, yet 30 pounds heavier. Horton-Tucker applies that size and length particularly in transition and near the hoop. He lowers his shoulders to create space and wields soft touch around the basket, as he shot 70.3 percent at the rim and only 20.5 percent of those buckets came off assists. His rare dimensions also provide him defensive versatility and Horton-Tucker proved capable of defending power forwards on occasion.

At the same time, though, he’s a poor on-ball defender against other wings, routinely caught lead-footed and burned on the perimeter. The hope is he cuts some weight while maintaining the strength that powers his dribble-drive game and interior defense. And while he periodically knocked down pull-up jumpers, hinting at primary initiator upside, he shot just 21.9 percent on 2-point jumpers, 30.8 percent on 3s, and finished the year at 48.8 percent true shooting. To become a viable shot creator worthy of significant on-ball usage, his efficiency will have to take a massive jump and he’ll need to clean up his shot selection.

Horton-Tucker isn’t a good basketball player at this stage, but the actualized version of his game is worth the risk. If he connects the dots, he becomes a shot-creating wing capable of defending three positions — backed by some sharp defensive awareness — putting significant pressure on the rim as a high-volume and high-efficiency paint scorer, shooting off the dribble and making passes on the interior and perimeter. It’s a rare but valuable archetype and one that Horton-Tucker has faint outlines of at just 18 years old (turns 19 in late November).

18. Carsen Edwards

My full thoughts on Carsen Edwards and his fit with the Sixers can be found here. I won’t say too much in this blurb. With Edwards, I buy into his versatile shooting, both via pull-ups and off-movement, and the gravity his equity provides. He has a quick release, has proven to be elite in a scaled-down role like the type he’ll be given at the next level, and is an NBA-caliber athlete with regards to strength and lateral mobility. He’s capable of making mildly complex reads when double-teamed and his shooting gravity from well beyond the arc should translate. Edward comes in at 18th on my board because of elite shooting, better-than-advertised playmaking/defense, and a 6-foot-6 wingspan that should allow him to guard both backcourt spots. I’ll keep it brief.

17. De’Andre Hunter

I’ll be blunt to open this section. I’m not a fan of De’Andre Hunter. I think his ceiling is very low for a projected top-eight pick and that his floor is much lower than it’s made out to be. Taking a high-floor, low-ceiling guy in the top 10 is a cowardly move, in my opinion. Hunter is billed as an elite defender but I genuinely don’t see that. He moves well at his size, sheds screens easily and looks the part of a wing stopper with good size (6-foot-8), length (7-foot-2 wingspan), and functional strength. He uses that strength to cut off ball-handlers and contain drives; his showing against Jarrett Culver in the national title game boosted his reputation, too.

Yet he’s not elite on the ball, susceptible to blow-bys against other future NBA players, and I’m not confident his strength is outlier good to the point of being a significant plus against other 3s and 4s in the league. He’s also just a tick slow reacting to movements at times, leaving him to trail the play or forcing him to foul. In the NBA, things move faster. Players are stronger, quicker, and more decisive. It’s possible the nuanced issues of Hunter’s on-ball defense become increasingly pronounced.

Hunter lacks the requisite instincts to be a good team defender. Far too often, he sticks to his man and isn’t in the proper position to be a helper or make rotations. Virginia’s conservative defense deflated his stock (steals/blocks) numbers to an extent, but it’s still concerning that he only amassed 76 stocks in 71 career games. He doesn’t have the awareness to regularly blow up plays off the ball. So, while he should be a good but not great individual defender, his poor awareness off the ball severely caps his upside.

Offensively, Hunter relied on a face-up game filled with mid-range jumpers, straight-line drives from the perimeter, and spot-up 3s. He’s not a poor passer and intermittently flashed valuable reads, but too often, he felt a beat slow or missed the read altogether. He lacks the wiggle to be a true self-creator and his career 41.9 percent 3-point mark belies his actual talents beyond the arc. His 3-point rate was only .264, a product of a slow load-up time and proclivity for passing up open looks in favor of mid-range pull-ups or drives inside. As such, I’m not sold that he’s very valuable as a shooter beyond some spot-ups. Much like Rui Hachimura, the face-up package exists, but is tough to unlock if Hunter isn’t a dominant interior scorer or cerebral distributor.

Hunter turns 22 in December, didn’t take a noticeable leap forward last season, and isn’t very dynamic on either side of the ball. I see a guy whose ceiling is a mild plus on both ends, but whose floor is a troublesome negative offensively with tunnel-vision defense that’s tough to fit within the context of a team scheme. I’ll pass on that inside the top 10.

16. Bol Bol

Recently, I didn’t feel entirely confident in my evaluation of Bol Bol, so I rewatched some games. Over the course of those few hours, I don’t think I’ve shook my head in frustration or been left with my jaw agape in amazement more often while watching a prospect. Bol is a spectacle. He can bomb 3s (13-of-25 in nine games at Oregon), bury smooth turnaround jumpers, and put the ball on the deck. He moves very fluidly on offense and exhibits rare ball-handling for a 7-foot-2 big man. It’s legitimately a special scoring arsenal.

But in between those tantalizing buckets exist bone-headed plays highlighting questions about his feel, awareness, and motor. He’ll hoist up ill-advised jumpers. He’ll miss simple passes. He’ll stare down drivers and completely fail to make standard help-side rotations at the rim. On top of that, he’s incredibly weak, weighing just 208 pounds. Consider this: Carsen Edwards is 14 inches shorter than Bol and weighs 200 pounds. That strength deficit allows Bol to get pushed off his spots on the glass and sacrifice deep position for post touches; the issue is exacerbated by an unwillingness to embrace contact, which manifests itself in the paint on both sides of the floor. He opts for those pretty but inefficient fadeaways in the post and is bullied on the interior defensively.

And while he’s coordinated on the offensive end, he’s by no means some switch-heavy big defending guards around the perimeter. He is far too stiff and upright and was largely protected by Oregon’s zone. Even then, his poor defensive technique revealed itself on closeouts, where Bol routinely failed to contain guys.

Despite all those defensive flaws, Bol’s sheer length with a 7-foot-8 wingspan deterred drivers from attacking the rim and allowed him to block a healthy amount of jumpers. His 2.7 blocks per game aren’t representative of dominant rim protection, but rather, speak to his ability to be a positive influence on defense in some capacity. In the NBA, that won’t have close to as much value because smart players will reset the offense, isolate Bol on an island and target him in space.

At times, he’s also shown a willingness to make sharp passes, though he’ll need to make a sizable leap for it to become a genuine weapon; the flashes are enough to believe meaningful growth is possible. The shooting equity is potentially special, too. Concerns about motor, frame, decision-making, and defensive viability persist, though, and while I acknowledge his upside as a special offensive player, I can’t quite peg him as a lottery talent.

15. Chuma Okeke

On the surface, Chuma Okeke appears to be a high-floor, low-ceiling, 3-and-D wing. But the game tape suggests he might be a truly special off-ball defender, fueled by incredibly smart, perceptive and instinctual reads, and strong, lively hands. And the numbers back it up. Only two players in Sports Reference’s database (since 2009-10) have ever shot 38-plus percent from 3 while posting a block rate of at least 5.5 percent and a steal rate of 3.5 percent (min. 100 3-point attempts): Okeke and Robert Covington. Now, Okeke isn’t the athlete, quick-trigger shooter, or physical defender of Covington, though it highlights Okeke’s rare intersection of outside shooting efficiency and defensive playmaking.

Okeke isn’t the most fluid athlete and is merely a solid on-ball defender, sometimes caught too upright and burned by quicker ball-handlers. But at 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot wingspan and the aforementioned block rate, he adds some value as an ancillary rim protector. There isn’t a ton of versatility to Okeke’s individual scoring prowess, though he’s a good shooter (38.9 percent from deep on 229 career attempts), has flashed a post-up game (92nd percentile) with adroit footwork — I’d bet on this primarily being useful against switches — and is a heady cutter (87th percentile).

Given his size and relative fluidity, Okeke has some versatility in how he’s deployed. He can spot up, set flex screens that flow into post-ups, and be a pick-and-pop big and attack the rim against closeouts, where his impressive on-the-move passing vision shines. He isn’t a go-to scorer and it’s possible his arsenal is limited to spot-up shooting to an extent. Yet given his special instincts as a defender and track record beyond the arc, I’m banking on Okeke to be a very good player with a hint of outlier potential defensively.

14. Romeo Langford

There are those who are a bit higher on Romeo Langford than me, ranking him in the 10-12 range, but generally speaking, he’s a prospect I like. He’s 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, has a deft touch at the rim (87th percentile around the basket), displayed some off-the-bounce juice (65th percentile off the dribble), and applies his size well as a downhill slasher. Synergy numbers aren’t the end-all, be-all for evaluation, but they paint Langford as a diverse scorer. In conjunction with the aforementioned marks, he ranked in the 75th percentile or better in cuts (98th), post-ups (87th), pick-and-rolls (90th, isolations (76th), and off-screens (75th). Granted, he only accumulated more than 40 possessions in isolation and pick-and-rolls, so those numbers could be fluky, but I think Langford’s strength, length and finishing acumen merge for a versatile arsenal.

Langford utilizes his frame effectively on drives, particularly with his shoulders to generate power, and has proven capable of creating space off the dribble for jumpers — leveraging that downhill threat before stepping back to shoot. The issue for Langford is that he had to do so because he is sorely lacking the requisite burst to get the edge attacking the rim. In the NBA, defenders are bigger and stronger, and Langford’s advantage could completely disappear. And if that’s gone, he doesn’t currently have the shooting gene to compensate, having converted just 27.2 percent of his 3s and 72.7 percent at the free throw line. He flexes his wrist back abnormally far, especially on catch-and-shoots (21st percentile), and that’s where the gulf between his stationary and live-dribble shooting numbers arises.

Defensively, Langford is a really good on-ball defender. He’s strong, physical and long. He uses those tools to wall off drives and projects as a high-level, multi-positional defender in the NBA. There are bouts of over-helping or simple blown coverages off the ball, but he consistently tags rollers and displays pesky hands inside against bigs. Langford probably didn’t flash quite enough passing upside at Indiana — missing pocket passes, kick-outs or dump-offs too often — yet he looks to be a capable secondary ball-handler.

I’m also of the belief that the injury Langford suffered in November, a torn ligament in his right thumb, contributed to his poor shooting numbers. Assuming there are no long-term complications, I’d bet on his soft finishing touch and off-the-dribble efficiency as strong indicators of his outside shooting potential. Langford is a highly valuable on-ball defender with a good physical profile who can score at the rim and create for himself. That’s worthy of a pick in the mid-teens and if the shooting develops — it’s his obvious swing skill — he’ll be a top-10 player from this class.

13. Kevin Porter Jr.

Kevin Porter Jr. is one of the three high-upside freshman wings in this tier, joining Langford and Horton-Tucker. Ultimately, I valued his fluid athleticism and space creation upside — headlined by those smooth step-back jumpers — a bit more than what the other two offer. At 6-foot-5.5 and 212 pounds, Porter Jr. has a good physical profile for a wing, adding functional strength and smooth ball-handling to power his shot-creation skills.

To truly unlock his primary ball-handling upside, Porter Jr. must put more pressure on the rim as a downhill driver. His physical profile and athleticism are conducive to being a high-level dribble-drive guy, but he’s prone to falling in love with jumpers despite shooting 68.6 percent at the basket last season. And the release point on his jumper — right around the chin — could be problematic against NBA defenders. It’s also possible that, given the release point and odd hand placement, his mechanics restrict him from being a dynamic pull-up shooter (81st percentile in off-the-dribble efficiency, per Synergy) in tight quarters. He connected on 41.2 percent of his 3s (28-of-68) but shot just 52.2 percent at the free throw line (24-of-46). Both are very small samples, so it’s tough to say either one is a strong indicator of his shooting ability, though the abnormal shooting form is concerning in conjunction with his free throw clip.

Porter Jr. regularly struggled with engagement as an off-ball defender — poor closeouts, failing to make simple rotations, etc. — but on the ball, his size, twitchiness, length and anticipation were all boons. He posted a decent steal rate (2.1 percent) and the fact that he wasn’t a glaring negative is encouraging. At the worst, he should be a useful switch defender capable of guarding 1-3 (maybe some 4s if he really bulks up).

There are a few tweaks Porter Jr. could embrace to unlock his ceiling: attacking the rim more, consistent defensive engagement, and better balancing his role as a shooter/playmaker. But looking at them listed together, it feels unlikely all those things happen, leaving him as an intriguing scorer with significant flaws that keep him out of the top 10.

12. PJ Washington

Jack of all trades, master of none players can be tough sells in the lottery, but PJ Washington is just too good in too many areas to ignore, especially in a draft lacking high-level star power. What really intrigues me with Washington is his potential to fill both forward spots offensively. Periodically, he’ll make incredibly fluid moves attacking from the perimeter, whether it be from a standstill or attacking a closeout. Unlike some bigs who flash perimeter skills, Washington can also fall back on traditional abilities as an interior scorer. He ranked in the 70th percentile on post-ups and is an ambidextrous finisher with soft touch.

If that perimeter creation, along with his outside shot (38.4 percent from 3, 38-of-99, in two seasons) translates to the NBA, he unlocks some fun versatility for his team(s) as a scoring threat at small and power forward. It would be easy to point to his career 63.2 percent free-throw mark and say his 3-point shooting is a mirage, but Washington’s mechanics are far more fluid from deep whereas he tends to be more robotic with a two-phase shot at the charity stripe. I think it’s fully possible his outside shooting belies his mediocre free throw efficiency for the duration of his NBA tenure. Either that, or I’d bank on him becoming a better free throw shooter as opposed to regressing from 3.

Washington excels as a facilitator. He can play-make from the elbows, slip interior feeds against double-teams and rifle passes to shooters around the arc off a live dribble. Schematically, you can leverage his face-up and perimeter attacking game while tapping into his passing talents, reinforcing his offensive versatility.

With a 7-foot-2 wingspan and sharp off-ball awareness, he’s proven to be a good weak-side rim protector, relying on verticality, timing and a durable frame. Switch-ability is probably his swing skill. Intermittently, he translates that offensive fluidity and has little trouble containing ball-handlers. Other times, he doesn’t get low enough in his stance and looks helpless as a perimeter defender or drop big in pick-and-roll. If he irons out his defensive positioning, improves his physicality on both ends and continues to be a good shooter, Washington has some low-level star equity, but the likely scenario is as a quality starter for years to come.

11. Darius Garland

Darius Garland is one of the more difficult case studies among projected top-10 picks. He has an elite handle, is a quick-twitch athlete, and knocked down 47.8 percent of his 3-pointers in college, coming on pull-ups and off-movement. But he only took 23 3-pointers in college and his gaudy numbers (16.2 points per game, 65.7 percent true shooting) came against four mid-major schools and a non-NCAA Tournament team. Scouring for a larger sample to better gauge his shooting equity, I found 167 3-point attempts between his high school and college days. In that sample, Garland went 66 for 167 (39.5 percent). Now, I’ve not watched the tape for most of the attempts in that sample, but I’d wager they were primarily pull-up looks. I’m willing to buy in to Garland as a near-elite shooter with legitimate pull-up gravity and NBA range (8-of-17 in college). He uses a shifty handle and quick start-stop ability to create space off the dribble and flashed some off-screen shooting as well.

However, my concerns stem elsewhere. He’s 6-foot-2.5 and 180 pounds. Those measurements limit his defensive versatility, even though he does well to skinny himself around screens, applies his bouncy athleticism on the ball, and has a 6-foot-5 wingspan. Whereas he utilizes his quick-twitch athleticism as an on-ball defender, he’s far too East-West with his movements offensively and doesn’t leverage his elite handle enough. When he did get to the rim, his undersized frame, lack of vertical explosion and weak upper body/core strength limited his efficiency (60 percent, albeit a small sample of 15 shots). That East-West approach muted any chance to be a high-volume foul-drawer, as he shot just 16 free throws in four-plus games. Granted, Garland could surely reorient his mentality to better maximize his athleticism and handle as a downhill scorer once he bulks up, but a shift in play-style is tough for me to project.

I’m also of the belief Garland is best utilized as an off-ball guard, meaning he needs a big wing initiator next to him. While he’s flashed some impromptu playmaking, his passing in structured settings (pick-and-rolls) was disappointing. Too often did he either miss rollers completely or was a second late seeing the necessary read. He struggled against traps and hedges in ball-screen action. Rarely did he make instinctual skip passes. Even when he did see the proper play, his accuracy and timing was erratic. Playing him on the ball could either accelerate his development curve or enable concerning tendencies. It’s probably a worthwhile strategy if you’re investing in him to that degree, but I’m wary of it panning out.

Garland projects as a near-elite shooter with pull-up equity and a high-caliber horizontal athlete who’s serviceable defensively against like-sized guards. His underwhelming passing vision, relatively small frame and lack of potent downhill scoring are too prevalent for me to pin him as a top-eight prospect.

10. Coby White

Much like Garland a spot below him, Coby White is likely an off-ball guard who could be shoehorned into a primary role. Nonetheless, his functional speed — particularly as a transition creator — ability to swiftly accelerate or decelerate, innate balance on step-back and off-movement jumpers, and finishing efficiency (67 percent) are all worthwhile bets. And the ancillary shooting numbers are quite good: 95th percentile on spot-ups, 93rd percentile in half-court catch-and-shoots, 69th percentile in off-screen shooting. All encouraging marks as it pertains to White’s off-ball viability. Questions arise in relation to his lead guard potential.

One of White’s primary issues is a debilitating handle. It’s high, loose and almost completely absent of a left hand — the latter of which manifests around the rim, forcing up right-handed attempts at the cost of efficiency. White’s lack of functional ball-handling restricts his dribble-drive ability, too, as only 22.5 percent of his field goal attempts came at the rim, often left settling for off-the-dribble jumpers. When he did attack the rim, he failed to make the proper read too often, depreciating his upside as a primary initiator. His pull-up shooting was also more flair than substance, since he only ranked in the 27th percentile in off-the-dribble efficiency. Although, part of that is due to his significant perimeter creation duties and the fact North Carolina was an elite rebounding team (first nationwide in total rebounds) that likely encouraged White to let it fly, so bigs could clean it up for put-backs.

White’s short-burst athleticism is a functional skill that allows him to be a dynamic live-dribble creator, aided by a quick shot release. With a lot of young prospects, you’re buying into flashes of what they can do, not necessarily what they do on a consistent basis. Personally, that’s the case with White’s pull-up game.

At 6-foot-5, he’s sometimes billed as a multi-positional defender, but his 6-foot-5 wingspan and poor core strength (to be fair, this can be improved) won’t allow him to offer value beyond 1s and the occasional 2-guard. He’s also nothing special on or off the ball — lacking on-ball physicality/strength — and isn’t a highly instinctive defensive playmaker. He made flash plays here and there (2 percent steal rate, 1.1 per game) but I never wrapped up a game overly impressed.

There are plenty of things to like about White. He’s a very good shooter. He’s dynamic in space. He has good size for a lead guard. But his underwhelming playmaking/pull-up shooting, lack of defensive versatility, and restrictive ball-handling leave him in my third tier, far closer to being the 15th-best prospect than the No. 5 one.

9. Jontay Porter

Let me preface by saying this is easily my ranking most reflective of Draft Twitter. That’s not to say it’s influenced very much, just the ranking with the biggest gulf between my board and consensus. I understand the concerns. He tore his ACL twice in less than one year. His family has a history of health issues. It’s possible his draft slot is higher than his total number of NBA games. But dammit, Jontay Porter is so good at basketball as a dribble-pass-shoot big man. I’d rather miss on this evaluation because of injury rather than ranking less talented players ahead of him.

The list of things Porter does well is quite long. He’s a very good post scorer (68th percentile) with craft and precise footwork; if a double-team comes, his post passing is weaponized. In fact, he’s virtually a plus passer from everywhere on the floor, which speaks to his adept ball-handling and intellect, as the latter is reinforced by crisp help-side rotations. Despite being a very poor vertical leaper, Porter averaged 1.7 blocks per game and posted a 7.1 percent block rate as a freshman. He’s only 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot wingspan, so anchoring him as your back-line defender probably isn’t sustainable. Rather, he’s a secondary rim protector whose awareness and timing can overshadow physical limitations. As a 236-pound freshman (he weighed in at 210 pounds at this year’s combine), he still displayed some perimeter mobility, and having trimmed down, that switch-ability should only expand.

Porter also has strong indicators that he’s an elite shooting big man, netting 36.4 percent of his 3s (40-of-110, .462 3-point rate), 75 percent of his free throws, and 46 percent of his 2-point jumpers (non-rim attempts). With an above-average handle, he can attack some closeouts and wields on-the-move passing chops, though his subpar athleticism might restrict this skill in the NBA.

Certain guys have inherent limitations that force teams to build around them, hamstringing degrees of flexibility. Porter is the opposite, as a player who fits within various roles and schemes. He opens up possibilities for an offense. You can deploy him as a pick-and-pop big, spot-up shooter, short-roll creator and post-up scorer. High IQ, vastly skilled players who act as offensive and defensive engines in a pinch aren’t all that common. Porter isn’t a generational prospect by any means, but he’s a modern big man with preternatural feel on both sides of the ball. Maybe he never plays and makes me look dumb. I’ll live with it while betting on talent.