Pre-Draft analysis is riddled with discussions over the top bigs (Towns, Okafor, Porzingis, and Cauley-Stein) and the top guards (Russell and Mudiay). However, what we just saw in the Warriors-Cavaliers finals may be a glimpse into the future of the NBA. Positionless basketball, pacing and spacing, and switching almost everything on defense are trends forcing teams to reevaluate how they build their roster. Is a guy who can guard 3 positions on defense and hit the three consistently more valuable than an All-Star post scorer or a prolific passing point guard? Maybe not yet, but things seem to be trending that way. We know the importance of wings in the NBA and this year’s draft class has guys who can make a difference on NBA teams.
1: Justise Winslow: Freshman, Duke, 6’6.5”, 222 lbs.
Mock Draft Range: 4-7
Winslow was an instrumental part of Duke’s championship run this past March and his tournament performance has vaulted him up draft boards. The first thing mentioned when it comes to Winslow has to be his athleticism. Boasting a 6’10” wingspan and having only 5% body fat, Winslow’s game is built on his speed and strength. He is one of the best defenders in this year’s draft and could develop into a guy that guards 3-4 positions.
Offensively, he is good at driving to the basket and finishing through contact, using his big frame to power through defenders. His three point shooting was a question mark throughout his freshman campaign, but he showed great improvement over the last two months of the season with his three-point rate rising from 35.2% on January 31 to the 41.8% that he finished the season with. Winslow is also unique in the way he can grab a rebound, go coast-to-coast, and finish at the rim or hit the trailer for a transition three. We saw Andre Iguodala pushing the pace off rebounds in the Finals and Winslow was doing the same thing all year for the Blue Devils.
Winslow does not have the greatest midrange game and he struggles shooting off the dribble. However, the new NBA does not require a player like Winslow to have this as a part of his game. Though he might never evolve into a knockdown shooter, Winslow should be able to shoot decent enough from three right away to force teams to guard him, and he will definitely be a plus defender for a long time in the league. The improvement seen over the course of one year at Duke is only the beginning for Winslow and the ceiling for him looks just as high as any prospect in this year’s draft.
2. Mario Hezonja: Croatia, 6’8”, 215 lbs.
Mock Draft Range: 5-11
Mario Hezonja is getting lost in all the buzz over Kristaps Porzingis. In fact, Hezonja could be the best European player to come out of this draft. He shoots the three as well and anyone in the draft this year and he combines his shooting with superior athleticism. He can finish above the rim in transition or spot up for an open three. Hezonja’s also strong coming off pick and rolls and shooting off the dribble. His combination of size and athleticism makes him a very tough matchup coming off side ball screens.
Hezonja does not come without risk, though. Many question his attitude and his demeanor towards teammates. Draftexpress writes that he, “Looked disconnected mentally from his teammates, and from the game in general. Constantly talking to opponents. Seems to lack focus on the court.” He is also noted to be disinterested defensively, though his athleticism points to potential on that end of the court.
Hezonja has all the skills and physical tools to succeed in the NBA. He is NBA ready physically, but his ability to develop mentally could determine his level of success in the NBA.
3. Stanley Johnson: Freshman, Arizona, 6’6.5”, 242 lbs.
Mock Draft Range: 8-12
Stanley Johnson is someone that we should be paying more attention to. He has a lot of the same characteristics as Winslow. He’s long with a wingspan stretching nearly 7-feet, he is a terror on the defensive end, and he was better than expected from three, shooting 37.1%. Unlike Winslow, however, Johnson was the first scoring option for Arizona. Johnson was not completely ready for this role and it wound up hurting his efficiency (44% from the field).
Johnson certainly has NBA athleticism and an NBA body. I mean, just look at the guy. However, he does not have NBA ready skills quite yet. His three point shooting needs to improve and he needs to become better at finishing at the rim over bigger guys. He scored a lot of his points in the 7-18 foot range which is an area that NBA teams are trying to stay away from.
Johnson’s bread and butter is on the defensive end and he will be good on that end right away. Also, his shooting percentages should go up in the NBA where he will be surrounded by guys to take the burden off of him offensively and allow him to develop. He has a high ceiling, but his NBA future depends on the growth of his game offensively.
4. Devin Booker: Freshman, Kentucky, 6’6”, 206 lbs.
Mock Draft Range: 9-14
Booker came off the bench for Kentucky in his first and only season in Lexington. He averaged double figures in scoring (10.3/game) and shot the ball well (47/41/83 shooting splits). He is one of the top shooters in this year’s draft and showed an ability to carve out points for himself on a loaded Wildcats team.
There are major question marks about Booker defensively and he is hurt by the fact that he does not have elite length. He is 6’6” but has only a 6’8” wingspan and did not perform well in the vertical at the combine (34.5 inch max vert). He plays mostly below the rim and he rarely finished at the rim at Kentucky.
Despite not having great length or verticality, Booker is mobile laterally, boasting the fastest lane agility time at the combine (10.22 seconds). This will help him improve defensively in the NBA.
Booker will be in the NBA for his ability to shoot the three and space the floor. He was essentially a spot-up shooter at Kentucky who showed the ability to upfake and shoot mid range jumpers off the dribble as well. His impact will be determined his ability to improve the other areas of his game, but he should have a long and productive career solely based on his ability to shoot threes at high level.
5. Kelly Oubre: Freshman, Kansas, 6’7”, 203 lbs.
Mock Draft Range: 14-18
Oubre has all the physical attributes you’re looking for. 6’7” with a 7’2” wingspan, he even posted an impressive 37” max vert at the combine. With above average quickness and good overall athleticism, Oubre on paper seems to be a prototypical NBA prospect.
Despite being a highly-touted recruit, Oubre had a less-than-stellar year at Kansas. He came into a situation where players had developed and were ready for a bigger load offensively. Oubre wound up deferring to the more experienced players at Kansas, such as Frank Mason and Perry Ellis. As a result, he struggled offensively in his limited touches (44/36/72 shooting splits) and he seemed to disappear during games. He seemed a little lost at times and spent big chunks of games camped out in the weak side corner waiting for the action to come to him. Defensively, he showed flashes of becoming a top-notch defender, but he was not dialed-in all the time.
Kelly Oubre might have more question marks than some players later in the draft, say Sam Dekker or R.J. Hunter, but it’s Oubre’s upside that places him at fifth on this list. Oubre is only 203 lbs. right now, but he will be stronger after a few years in the league. He’s a lefty with a sweet shooting stroke that, though is a little inconsistent now, could develop into the strength of his offensive game. He has the length and athleticism you need to compete defensively and is a better rebounder than people give him credit for, averaging 9.7 rebounds/40 minutes. He will take some time to hone his skills and adjust to the NBA, but he has one of the higher ceilings we will see in this draft.
Other notable wing prospects include Sam Dekker and R.J. Hunter, who are noted for their ability to shoot the ball. Questions for both on the defensive end are major hurdles, as well as Dekker’s tweener status (He’s athletic, but might not be able to keep up with high-flying wings or bang with big post guys). Justin Anderson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are touted for their athletic ability and defensive-mindedness. Anderson shot well from three (45%) but is not considered to be the knockdown shooter that Dekker, Hunter, or Booker is. Hollis-Jefferson is a lockdown defender, but a total liability on the offensive end. All four should go in the first round.
This draft could be telling as to what teams see as the future of the league. We might see teams start to prioritize the versatility of some of these perimeter players over grabbing a 7-footer like Myles Turner or a point guard like Cameron Payne. No matter where they are drafted, the guys listed above should be fixtures in this league for years to come.