I’ve been a bit lazy with my writing this spring, so I’m going to try and crank out big positional breakdowns for 2/3 wings, 3/4 wings, 4/5 bigs, and true centers in the next few days before the draft. Hopefully, I will get through all of those and still have time to post my big board before draft night. As I did with point guards, I’m going to first examine these players in order of their DraftExpress rankings, then, I will rank them in my own order.
It’s important to emphasize how closely packed this year’s draft class is. For the purposes of entertaining writing, I will make clear which prospect I think is better than the next, but I see almost all of these guys as likely falling somewhere between 6th-9th men on decent NBA teams, so there isn’t a ton to separate them.
Jamal Murray – Freshman – 19.3 years old – Kentucky
I released a piece today on Upside & Motor outlining why I don’t see Jamal Murray as a lottery pick, so I recommend you read that for more in-depth analysis. In sum, he doesn’t have the quickness on defense or passing vision to be a point guard at the next level, and as a two-guard he will be a mostly off-ball player who is an undersized negative on the defensive end. I think he’s going to be a good offensive player, but since I see him in more of an off-screens shooter role than an on-ball creating one he won’t provide enough offensive value to offset his defense. It’s possible I’m underselling his athleticism and scoring instincts and he really does become a C.J. McCollum-esque player, but I’m betting against it.
As a result, I think he’s a low-upside guy who most likely ends up as a good bench scorer, but not a particularly flexible or valuable guy. I do think he could be a valuable enough bench player to deserve a first round selection, just not the lottery heights he’s currently projected at.
Buddy Hield – Senior – 22.4 years old – Oklahoma
Dean Demakis did a great job of outlining why Buddy Hield shouldn’t be a lottery pick here, and I pretty much agree with everything he wrote. Compared to Murray, Hield has a much better chance of being a close to average defender due to superior athleticism and frame, but I still expect him to be at least a slightly negative defender at the NBA level. His college defense was never impressive, and he doesn’t have the physical tools to where you would expect him to improve dramatically.
On the offensive end, Buddy’s senior shooting numbers suggest he could be a truly elite shooter at the NBA level, in which case I’m too low on him, but I’m just not a huge believer in his shooting stroke. I obviously think he will be a good shooter at the NBA level, but he’s never hit the type of hard plant off-screen shots that pure shooters like Klay Thompson and J.J. Redick make a living off. His ability to attack closeouts with his handle should translate, but he doesn’t have the passing ability to create for others and I don’t think his pull-up three-point game is going to translate against longer and quicker defenders.
While I do give Buddy the edge on defense, I see Murray as both a better pure shooter and better creator than Hield, so I grade Murray as the noticeably better prospect. Murray’s youth also gives him more upside to really outperform my expectations than Hield. I really believe Hield will just end up as a slightly better version of Jodie Meeks, about the same as a spot shooter and defender with a little more attacking and off-the-dribble shooting. That isn’t a very inspiring player, and I wouldn’t really consider taking Hield until the back end of the first round.
Denzel Valentine – Senior – 22.5 years old – Michigan State
It is worth noting that rumors have erupted surrounding possible injury red flags in Denzel Valentine’s profile. I don’t have the info NBA teams do, or any medical background, so I will be commenting on him as if his injuries don’t exist, but it is obviously fair to dock his actual status based on injury reports.
Valentine shares a lot of similarities with Murray and Hield as a shooter who is going to struggle to play defense at the NBA level. The biggest reason I prefer Valentine to either of them is basketball IQ. Valentine is both the worst athlete and probably the worst shooter of the three, but he’s by far the smartest player, and it changes the way he plays on both ends of the floor.
On defense, Valentine’s lack of quickness means he’ll never be more than an average defender, and he might really get exposed in certain playoff matchups down the line. However, he’s got adequate size to guard the least threatening of an opposing team’s 2 or 3, and he’s such a smart player that he will at least execute his team’s scheme to perfection. The defense will still be an issue, but in a regular season setting, I think he will be better than Murray and similar to or possibly even better than Hield on the defensive end.
Offensively, Valentine doesn’t have the athleticism to translate his creating to the NBA level, but he’s such an elite passer that he’s going to provide some added creation value. Particularly if used as a sixth man, Valentine’s ability to make smart decisions against closeouts and run some pick-and-roll in addition to shooting the ball will allow him to bring more offensive value than Hield, and about even with or possibly more than Murray. Slight advantages on both ends make a big difference in my overall grade, and Valentine grades out as a late-lotto pick for me. I still wouldn’t consider him too hard in the top-10 because I don’t see him being quite good enough on either end to fit in as a starter on a good NBA team.
Timothe Luwawu – French – 21.1 years old – Mega Leks (International)
I would first like to link Cole Zwicker’s scouting report on Luwawu, which I think is excellent.
Finally, we get to a player I’m really excited about. I’ll start off by saying that all the concerns with Luwawu are pretty legitimate. It’s not a guarantee his shooting stroke translates to the NBA level, he needs to tighten up his handle, and he needs to become a less wild player and better decision maker on both ends of the floor. However, compared to the concerns that plague other wings in this year’s draft, I struggle to see why Luwawu is ranked below the guys above him.
Luwawu, and one other guy still to come, are the only wings who it is reasonable to project as being good enough two-way players to start on a good team in the NBA. Defensively, Luwawu is a little skinny and a little out of control, but he’s a great athlete with super quick feet who actually competes with some instincts on that end of the floor. He doesn’t have an elite defensive profile like Justise Winslow last year, but he’s got great tools with decent mental indicators, suggesting he will be a solid-good wing defender at the NBA level. His lack of strength probably prevents him from switching onto bigs too much, but he does have the type of quickness to envelop point guards and provide some versatility that way.
Offensively, the biggest question with Luwawu is obviously his jump shot. He’s not a great free throw shooter and he hasn’t shot the three ball well outside of this year, which means there’s reason for skepticism about his NBA three-point shot. His mechanics are good though, and he’s shown a lot of confidence shooting off-the-dribble, so I’m a fairly big believer in him at least providing Matt Barnes level shooting at the NBA level. He’s even shown some comfort running off screens, so I think he also has upside to develop into a pretty good outside threat.
The rest of his offensive game doesn’t look very good from a numbers perspective – he’s turnover prone and a low-efficiency scorer. If you actually watch Mega Leks games, his poor numbers become a little less concerning. Mega Leks features him as the team’s primary creator, and he simply doesn’t have the type of advanced handle to function in that role, resulting in turnovers and forced up bad shots. Luwawu’s handle is an issue for his NBA future, but it’s not so bad that it will prevent him from providing some secondary creation at the NBA level.
In fact, having the creating burden Luwawu did this year should mostly be seen as a positive for his NBA future. He’s not going to be a high usage guy in the NBA, but he’s got real passing vision and the athleticism to attack the whole and make some plays. As an off-ball wing, Luwawu has the potential to provide shooting, attacking, and passing, making him a very useful wing asset. He’s a good enough athlete that he even does have some super small upside to turn into a Paul George type guy with improvement in his handle and shooting.
Luwawu might take a few years to earn NBA coaches trust with his decision making and defensive execution, but he’s got enough green flags on the mental side of things that I think he will figure things out. From there, he’s got all the tools to be a very good two-way wing, which as we can see with Harrison Barnes who isn’t even a very good two-way wing, is worth a ton in today’s NBA. Luwawu is my #4 prospect in this draft, and I really think any team outside the top-3 should be targeting him.
Furkan Korkmaz – Turkey – 18.8 years old – Anadolu Efes (International)
I will admit I’m a little unsure of what to do with Furkan Korkmaz. After watching him extensively in the FIBA u18 and u19 tournaments last summer I felt pretty confident in where I stood on him as a prospect. I have not watched many of his minutes at Efes this year, but his numbers were extremely poor. He didn’t play all that much, and when he did he did a bad job with A/TO and creating steals and blocks, both of which are important indicators for prospects. I’m going to choose to mostly trust in my scout of him from last summer, only slightly downgrading him, but it is possible I should be harsher on him than I am.
What I saw last summer was a guy who would probably wind up somewhere between a solid backup wing and low-end starter, deserving of selection in the late lottery to late teens area. The biggest concerns for him are on the defensive end. He’s quick laterally with pretty good instincts but he’s got a super skinny frame and struggles to get low in his stance. I think he’s athletic and long enough to develop into close to an average defender, but there is some real chance his weak frame and upright nature make him a real sieve on the defensive end.
On offense, he’s got a fairly complete package of shooting, athletic slashing, and passing vision, but struggles with decision making and handling the ball when people get into his body. His super skinny frame really hurts him on both ends, and he’ll need to improve it to play in the NBA. If I were purely basing things on last summer I would probably rate him slightly above Denzel Valentine as a late-lottery pick in this year’s weak draft. He’s got the same skill set with less strength and not the same elite IQ, but a lot more quickness and bounce. However, due to his poor play this year, I’m going to drop him between Valentine and Murray.
Malik Beasley – Freshman – 19.5 years old – Florida State
Oh hey, another good shooting wing prospect with real defensive questions. Korkmaz, Valentine, Hield, Murray, and Beasley all share a lot of overlapping traits, and each player could basically be described as an amalgam of the others. Beasley is undersized for a 2-guard like Murray, but has the athleticism to where you could envision him playing solid NBA defense. However, his feel for defending guys at the college level was really poor as he struggled to contain penetration, and his poor steal and block numbers are indicative of poor awareness.
It’s hard to know what to make of a guy like Beasley’s defense. He could be like Terrence Ross and never figure out how to play D despite having the physical tools to do so, but he also has a lot better chance of turning into an average NBA defender than someone who just lacks the athleticism like Murray. There’s a high chance he’s a negative defender in the NBA throughout his career, but there is also real reason to favor his defensive profile over Hield, Murray, or Valentine.
Offensively, Beasley is less advanced than the rest of those guys, but close enough behind that he deserves to be in the same conversation. He’s not much of a passer and exhibits pretty poor shot selection at times, but is a very good shooter with some real feel for using his athleticism to attack and score the ball.
Beasley’s reasonable two-way profile without anything exceptional means I see him fitting in as a rotation wing 7th or 8th guy down the road. That’s about what I project for Hield’s career, and a little worse than what I expect from Murray, but I give him a slight edge over Hield due to his youth and athleticism giving him a little more starter upside.
Patrick McCaw – Sophomore – 20.6 years old – UNLV
Again, rather than repeating myself, I suggest you go read my piece on why I love Patrick McCaw. I mentioned in the Luwawu section that he is one of two wings who I see being a good enough two-way player to start, and McCaw is the other. Like Luwawu, I think the concerns surrounding McCaw are legit, I just don’t find them as damning as the whole question of whether or not guys like Murray/Hield/Valentine will be awful defenders in the NBA.
The biggest concern with McCaw is his ultra skinny frame. Without improving his frame it is very possible he never unlocks his potential on either end of the court. However, due to him being a late grower who seems to still be developing into his body I have confidence he can at least add enough strength to compete at the NBA level. From there, McCaw isn’t quite as explosive an athlete as Luwawu, but his quickness and instincts defensively are absolutely elite, and I give him an edge over Luwawu as a defensive prospect.
Offensively, McCaw faces nearly the same questions as Luwawu. His shooting numbers in college weren’t great, and I don’t love his mechanics, but he shows enough fluidity hitting different types of shots I think he can at least be respectable from outside in the NBA. Off the bounce, he doesn’t have as much burst as Luwawu, and also needs to shore up his decision making, but is a little better as a handler and passer.
McCaw needs some refinement around the edges, but he’s got a real path to becoming a near elite defender who spaces the floor and provides a little extra creation compared to someone like Danny Green. That player is super valuable, and would absolutely be worth a top-5 pick. McCaw has too many questions to project exactly that, but I still would draft him in the 5-10 range with the hopes of him turning into a solid starter.
Malachi Richardson – Freshman – 20.4 years old – Syracuse
The Malachi hype has gotten out of control recently, though I am not quite as down on him as some of his loudest detractors. He’s an old freshman who struggled to score even close to efficiently in college without elite athleticism, shooting ability, or feel for creating. The idea that he will be able to become a high-level creator at the NBA level is utterly ridiculous. Compared to Malik Beasley he has a less impressive shooting profile, less burst around the rim, and maybe a little more in the way of handle/moves, but not all that much. People aren’t tossing around ridiculous hyperbole about Beasley’s offense, but I grade him as a better offensive prospect.
On the other end of the court, Richardson can again be compared to Beasley. He’s got a much better frame that will allow him to guard 2’s and 3’s, but he was similarly unproductive from a numbers perspective, and is a good, not great, athlete laterally. With his size and athleticism he could certainly turn into a solid NBA defender, but not being able to produce high steal/block numbers in Syracuse’s aggressive zone is certainly a flag that he might not have the anticipation and awareness to utilize his tools on the defensive end. I’d give him an ever so slightly better overall defensive outlook than Beasley, but his future is also filled with potential negative defensive outcomes.
I do disagree with Richardson’s craziest naysayers in just how harsh they are on him. His me-first style of play at Syracuse made his offensive numbers particularly terrible, but if he learns how to accept an off-ball role at the NBA level his offensive creation can function as a slight bonus on a 3-and-D profile. Richardson isn’t a great 3-and-D prospect by any means, with serious questions about his defense and decision making on the offensive end, but he does have some paths to being a solid two-way backup wing.
I confidently rate Beasley as the better prospect, and also give Hield the slight edge over Malachi. Malachi’s 80-95th percentile outcomes are probably a little better than Hield’s, but I’ve got enough more confidence in Hield fitting in as a 7th/8th/9th man that I rate him ahead of Malachi. Hield’s got a strictly better offensive profile, and Malachi has enough questions on D to give Hield the overall edge.
Isaia Cordinier – France – 19.5 years old – Denain
I’m going to admit that I’ve seen by far the least of Cordinier of anyone on this list. I watched all his minutes at the Hoop Summit very closely, went back and watched some of his games from the FIBA u18 tournament two summers ago, and have seen his DraftExpress video, but have seen no full games of his in the past year and a half other than the Hoop Summit. Therefore, I’m a fair amount less confident in my opinion on him than the other guys in this group.
Just looking at his tools, it seems like Cordinier should be a lottery pick. He’s an athletic two-guard who competes on defense, shoots the ball, and has some real ball handling and playmaking chops. On that description alone Cordinier looks like a stellar 3-and-D prospect with some real extra juice, a deserved top-10 selection. Additionally, this comparison of Cordinier’s stats in France’s League B this year to Timothe Luwawu’s League B stats from last year makes Cordinier look damn good if you’re a fan of Luwawu (Cordinier was slightly younger this year than Luwawu was last season).
Playing a bigger offensive role, Cordinier was a more efficient scorer, much better shooter, similar passer, and managed to produce more as a rebounder and shot blocker despite his smaller frame. Luwawu certainly improved a lot from last year to this, but if you’re a Luwawu fan these numbers for Cordinier are pretty darn encouraging. He’s got the athleticism and statistical profile to indicate good defense, a strong shooting profile with good mechanics, and some promise as a creator – though it is clear he needs to work on his decision making.
All of the above is why I might be too low on Cordinier. There’s a very real chance he’s deserving of a lottery pick, and develops into a good two-way wing. However, I’m going to place more emphasis than I probably should on his Hoop Summit performance, and what I heard from people I trust who watched him at practices that week. When it came to actually putting his tools to use Cordinier seemed sped up and overmatched. His weak and undeveloped frame might be the reason, but Cordinier struggled to actually do anything on the court in what I saw and from what I heard. I probably place an undue amount of trust in my eye test, but I was pretty unimpressed with what I saw at the Hoop Summit.
My way of rationalizing his poor performance is that he doesn’t have the necessary feel to utilize his tools against higher level of competition. I could argue for putting Cordinier anywhere from right next to Luwawu to last among this whole group, but I’ll settle for kind of splitting the difference by putting him behind Beasley and ahead of Hield. Cordinier’s inability to fully utilize his tools could easily regulate him to an 8th/9th man wing rotation piece or worse, but he has enough upside to where I would still grab him above Hield. My reasoning for Beasley>Cordinier is that Beasley’s 25th-50th percentile outcomes are better rotation pieces than Cordinier’s, and his upside is relatively similar.
Malcolm Brogdon – Senior – 23.5 years old – Virginia
It is worth noting just how old Brogdon is. The full 4 year age gap between Brogdon and Cordinier is equivalent to what should be the age gap between an average high school senior and college senior. When it comes to Brogdon I’m probably a little lower on him than most of his supporters, but I still see the appeal with him.
The biggest question with Brogdon for me is just how good of an NBA defender he can actually be. He’s got great length, a strong frame, and really knows how to play defense, but simply isn’t all that special athletically. Brogdon’s low steal/block numbers can be framed as indicators of his lack of athleticism or his high IQ non-gambling style of defense. I tend to be a little on the pessimistic side about Brogdon’s NBA defense. I see his lack of athleticism making him an ~average wing defender, but it is possible I’m underselling just how far his smarts on that end of the floor can take him.
On offense, Brogdon is a really smart decision maker and a good passer for a wing, but I don’t think he can provide much if any creation at the NBA level. He struggled to consistently create space from college defenders, and Brogdon’s lack of advanced moves or burst should prevent him from doing much with the ball at an NBA level. Brogdon’s shooting should translate to the NBA due to solid percentages from three and the free throw line across the years, but I do have some small concerns about the deeper line due to his line-drive shot. I expect him to shoot the ball well in the NBA, but I think his shooting stats overstate how much of a sure thing his NBA outside shot is.
Altogether, an average defender who strictly spot shoots on offense is still a solid NBA rotation piece. I rate him below Malachi Richardson because I see virtually no worlds in which he’s better than an average team’s 7th man, but his median outcome is probably a little higher than Malachi. It’s possible I’m underrating Brogdon’s defense, but I see him as a good mid-second round pick who could be a deep rotation wing on a decent team.
The fact that projecting as an 8th/9th man translates to a mid-second round pick speaks to the depth of this year’s class, in a lot of years someone I think will hold a role in the NBA as a rotation piece is deserving of being drafted around 25th.
Caris Levert – Senior – 21.8 years old – Michigan
Like with Denzel Valentine, I am not qualified to judge Levert’s medical risk and will ignore that in my evaluation, but it seems totally fair to dock him based on his history of foot problems. I wrote earlier this year on why Levert is a better prospect than Hield, and I stand by that conclusion. The prospect Levert can be most directly compared to his Korkmaz, who I think is a strikingly similar player.
Both guys are long and quick, really good shooters, have some real vision in pick-and-roll, and struggle on defense and creating inside due to their rail thin frames. Really, there isn’t all that much to separate the two as prospects. Levert is a little more refined as a creator – he’s a better decision-maker with a slightly tighter handle, but Korkmaz’s ability to see over the top of the defense and make passes is nearly identical to Levert. On defense, Levert is a little better at getting low and moving laterally, but Korkmaz has shown more in terms of off-ball anticipation and is younger so it is easier to project his frame developing.
Overall, Korkmaz’s edge in vertical explosion and advantage in youth make him the slightly higher upside (and better) prospect, but I have Levert close behind Korkmaz and ahead of Jamal Murray. Depending on how concerned you’re with Levert’s (and Valentine’s) injuries it may be appropriate to drop him anywhere between 5-25 spots on your board.
Next on DraftExpress’s board among 2/3 wings are (in order) Wayne Selden, Michael Gbinijie, Sheldon McClellan, and Damion Lee. None of them are particularly inspiring or worth writing about in my eyes. They all have serious defensive questions, and don’t do enough on offense to offset their sketchy defensive profiles. The one guy I would potentially draft at the very end of the second round is McClellan, who has the best chance of turning into a solid defender and finding a role as a 3-and-D guy of the group. The one other guy I’m going to write about is Ron Baker, who seems to be a little underrated at 82nd on DraftExpress’s top-100.
I’m also going to briefly mention Daniel Hamilton, who has his fans as an NBA prospect. His combination of length and playmaking ability is certainly intriguing, but I think he’s too slow to create for himself at the NBA level and will have serious problems on the defensive end. Add in his somewhat shaky shooting profile and I wouldn’t draft him outside of the last 2 or 3 picks, if at all. The one other guy I’m going to write about is Ron Baker, who seems to be a little underrated at 82nd on DraftExpress’s top-100.
Ron Baker – Senior – 23.2 years old – Wichita State
It is unclear to me why Malcolm Brogdon is getting late first round hype and Baker is seen as an undrafted guy. They possess extremely similar frames and athleticism, were both great college defenders to their high IQ, and have alike shooting profiles with some extra passing juice.
I would say between the two I give the smallest of edges to Baker’s offensive profile because he more consistently took NBA range threes at the college level and shot with higher volume from outside. However, I give a slightly bigger edge to Brogdon’s defense since he did it against higher levels of competition and always jumped off the screen with his ability to corral ball handlers in a way that Baker did not. Hence, I rate Brogdon the slightly better prospect, but I like Baker as a mid-late second round pick who could carve out a back end of the bench role due to solid shooting and defense.
Now, the players are listed based on my personal rankings. I separated them into tiers, but there really isn’t all that much to separate between each tier. My suggested draft range for each player is in parentheses. Again, Denzel Valentine and Caris Levert probably deserve to be moved down based on their injuries, I just don’t know how much.)
Tier 1 – Potential Two-Way Starters
#1 Timothe Luwawu (4-7)
#2 Patrick McCaw (6-11)
Tier 2 – Solid-High End Backups
#3 Denzel Valentine (10-18)
#4 Furkan Korkmaz (15-25)
#5 Caris Levert (15-25)
#6 Jamal Murray (18-30)
Tier 3 – Rotation Backups
#7 Malik Beasley (20-35)
#8 Isaia Cordinier (20-35)
#9 Buddy Hield (25-45)
#10 Malachi Richardson (30-45)
#11 Malcolm Brogdon (35-50)
#12 Ron Baker (40-55)
Like with point guards, emphasis on defense shines through in my rankings. A great offensive player can impact the game more than a great defensive player, but guys like Jamal Murray and Buddy Hield don’t project as nearly great enough offensive players to overlook their defense. The NBA has a long history of overvaluing shooters who don’t defend in the draft, and this year looks like no exception. I’m more confident in my negative opinions on those guys than I am in my love for McCaw and Luwawu, though I do really like both as prospects.
I also really do want to reiterate just how deep this wing crop is. Most drafts do not go 12 deep with guys who last in the league at any position, but I really believe the above 12 guys have solid shots at carving out multi-year NBA careers as at least back end of the rotation pieces. Only McCaw and Luwawu excite me as potential starters, but there seem to be an inordinate amount of potential role players in this year’s wing crop. Guys like Rashad Vaughn and RJ Hunter went in the late first round of last year’s draft, and I wouldn’t rate either of them as noticeably better prospects than Richardson/Brogdon/Baker who make up the back end of this year’s wings.