As of late, the NBA D(G)-League* has been a great asset for NBA teams for developing their raw prospects. Just last year alone, 2016 draftees Jakob Poltl (9th pick), Georgios Papagiannis (13th pick), Guerschon Yabusele (16th pick), Wade Baldwin IV (17th pick), and Henry Ellenson (18th pick) among others spent significant time down in the D-League working on their skills.
*The NBA Development League is changing their name to the NBA Gatorade League for the 2017-18 season.
Now, let’s look at some 2017 first prospects who will probably be playing some time down in the Gatorade League.
The one-and-done Duke big man came into college as the number one prospect out of high school, and just last year many people thought Giles was going number one overall in the 2017 draft.
As a sophomore in high school, he tore his ACL and MCL in his left knee. In his first game as a high school senior, he tore his ACL in his right knee. Then before his lone season at Duke, he had an arthroscopy in his left knee.
Then at Duke he played just 11 minutes per game, but his per 40 minute stats were good, for he averaged 13.6 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game.
Now, Giles is projected to go anywhere from anywhere from 10-30 due to his injury history and low playing time in college. It’s no question Giles has top-five talent, but he hasn’t played big minutes in two years. Enter the G-League.
Giles is super raw and could use some time in the G-League to hone his skills and get used to playing big minutes while being the go-to guy on the court.
Like Giles, Anunoby carries injury concerns. Just 16 games into his breakout year at Indiana, Anunoby tore his ACL. He had been averaging 11.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.6 stocks* per game.
*Stocks are basketball expert Bill Simmons’ term for combined steals and blocks
The forward to go mid-first round for two big reasons: his stretch 4 and defensive potential.
Anunoby showed flashes of a three-point stroke before his knee injury and his length gives him the ability to be a dynamic stretch 4, something NBA teams are looking for in the modern age. OG has the potential to become elite defender. His wingspan (over 7’2″) and athleticism gives him amazing versatility to guard multiple positions well.
The question for many teams is his small sample size. For really just 16 games of good basketball, it’s hard to judge a player based off that.
Another con is Anunoby’s overall offensive game. Aside from his shooting, Anunoby doesn’t have much else in his offense game. He would really benefit from some games in the G-League to turn him from hope to a reality.
A top-30 recruit out of high school, Bradley entered the Tar Heels behind two experienced big men in Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks. Impressively, Bradley was able to carve out a role on the team.
Bradley quickly turned into a small-sample size superstar. Despite averaging 14 minutes per game, his per 40 numbers look like this: 19 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game while shooting 59.1% from the field. Bradley also looks the part of an NBA center, standing at 6’11” and a 7’5″ wingspan.
Bradley showed the ability to make good decisions in the pick and roll, corral offensive rebounds, and finish with good touch around the rim. His motor was probably his biggest strength, as he always hustled and outworked opposing big men down low.
As for his weaknesses, they can all be fixed with a little time in the G-League.
Conditioning is becoming more and more important for the modern big man, and Bradley has struggled with that. Bradley weighs 245 pounds and his body fat stands at 12%. Work and games in the G-League can get Bradley in shape.
Bradley’s combine-low standing vertical for big men and his unpolished skills have combined for Bradley to not profile as a rim protector or defensive rebounds as half of his collegiate rebounds were on the offensive end. His wingspan, reach, and offensive rebounding prowess can help make up for his low athleticism and turn Bradley into a good defensive big man.
The 2016 Utah Mr. Basketball played as the third wheel in a Duke backcourt that featured Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen.
Jackson’s efficient scoring (10.9 points per game, 46.2 field goal percentage) and a reliable three-point stroke makes him an attractive late first round pick with upside. Jackson also profiles as a slasher as he is able to get downhill quickly, and this may be his most attractive trait. To me, Jackson reminds me of former Bucks guard Jerryd Bayless, a combo guard who can slash and shoot.
Aside from this, Jackson has some glaring weaknesses.
For one, Jackson’s position isn’t defined. Jackson played at the point and off the ball at Duke, and it is unclear what position he will play at the next level with his skillset.
Another concern is his lack of playmaking ability. Despite playing next to Kennard and Grayson Allen, Jackson only logged 1.6 assists per game. He also committed some bad turnovers, despite what his 1.3 TO’s per game say.
His biggest weakness might be his defense. Jackson lacks the size and lateral quickness to be able to guard NBA level perimeter players.
Jackson could certainly use some time in the G-League to work on his playmaking skills and adjust to guarding NBA level talent.