THERE’S been little question that Arizona’s Deandre Ayton is the best of a potential-filled group of bigs at the top of Thursday’s NBA draft (Friday, Manila time).
Ayton was a force in his lone college season and looks like the favorite to land with Phoenix as the No. 1 overall pick. Behind him are several talented big men including Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson, Texas’ Mo Bamba and Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr., who like Ayton all played just one year in college and could all hear their name called in the first 10 selections.
A look at the top prospects:
The 7-foot, 250-pound big man can single-handedly dominate defenses, monopolize the boards and alter or swat shots.
STRENGTHS: Ayton offers an impressive mix of power and touch. He averaged 20.1 points and was a force around the rim with 75 dunks while shooting 61 percent from the field, yet he had enough range to hit 12 3-pointers to pull defenders away from the paint, too. At the other end, 8.2 of his 11.6 rebounds per game came on the defensive glass to secure a stop.
CONCERNS: He wasn’t particularly effective (14 points on 6-for-13 shooting) in the first-round NCAA Tournament loss to underdog and undersized Buffalo. His lofty draft stock assumes he continues to develop physically and build on his game, including on the defensive end (averaged just 1.9 blocks despite his physical tools).
JAREN JACKSON JR.
The Michigan State one-and-done big man is a possible top-five pick with size, length and a reliable jumpshot.
STRENGTHS: The 6-11 Jackson, who averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds, offers two intriguing skillsets. First, he shot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range even as he attempted nearly three per game. He also averaged 3.0 blocks per game, aided by a wingspan measured at more than 7-5 at the combine.
CONCERNS: The 18-year-old (he turns 19 in September) had issues with foul trouble during the year, which helped limit him to 21.8 minutes per game on the season.
The 7-foot freshman from Texas has the potential to be an elite defender and rebounder — and that’s just a start.
STRENGTHS: Bamba averaged 12.9 points and 10.5 rebounds while shooting 54 percent from the floor. But it’s the defensive potential that stands out here; he ranked second nationally with 3.7 blocks per game, aided by a wingspan measured at an incredible 7-10 at the combine — three inches more than any other player.
CONCERNS: While he’s a good athlete, he’ll need to add some strength to a 225-pound frame to hold up physically in the paint against stronger opponents.
WENDELL CARTER JR.
Duke’s “other” one-and-done frontcourt presence had his own big season, even if overshadowed by teammate and possible top overall pick Marvin Bagley III.
STRENGTHS: The 6-10, 259-pound Carter is a bit of a throwback with his post play. He has back-to-the-basket skills yet can step behind the 3-point arc, too. Carter averaged 13.5 points and 9.1 rebounds, posting 16 double-doubles. And he’s got enough bulk to battle up front at the NBA level.
CONCERNS: He doesn’t have a lot of foot speed, which can affect him in transition or at the defensive end. He also had bouts with foul trouble, ending when he fouled out in 22 minutes during an overtime loss to Kansas in the NCAA Elite Eight.
OTHERS TO WATCH
MITCHELL ROBINSON: The five-star recruit curiously opted to play for Western Kentucky, then never suited up at the college level. The 6-11 center is a first-round prospect with upside to develop thanks to his length and athleticism.
OMARI SPELLMAN: Spellman was the inside-out big man who shot 43 percent from 3-point range for national champion Villanova. He could be the defacto post presence capable of stretching the floor in a small lineup in the NBA, though he’s a likely second-round pick.
ROBERT WILLIAMS: Texas A&M’s 6-10 sophomore is a gifted athlete (check out the windmill dunk he threw down in the Aggies’ NCAA Tournament win against Providence for proof). That and his defensive potential is a big reason why he’s a possible lottery pick.