NBA prospects to watch in the 2017 Champions Classic

The Champions Classic is loaded with NBA talent every year because of the level of teams in the event. Every year Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State get together to play in an early season event to signify to everyone that basketball is back. Here are the top NBA prospects to watch in the 2017 Champions Classic:

Duke Prospects

Marvin Bagley, PF, Fr.

NBA prospects in the champions Classic

Marvin Bagley (Photo by bleacherreport.com)

Bagley is a generational talent that will likely be in the running to be the number one overall pick. He can do a little bit of everything and is leading Duke in scoring. He is averaging 24.5 points and 10 rebounds per game on the young season. One thing he can work on is his passing, as he continually will not find the open man and will rather put up heavily contested shots. The good thing for him is that he is good enough to make most of his shots, 65.7%, even when being double teamed.

Projected draft range: Top three pick

Wendell Carter Jr., PF/C, Fr.

Carter is only averaging 10 points and 6.5 rebounds, but there is so much talent on the Duke roster that stats aren’t the deciding factor for being a great prospect. He has been the rim protector for the Blue Devils so far with six blocks in two games. Carter was the fifth ranked prospect in the 2017 class according to ESPN.

Projected draft range: Top 10 pick

Trevon Duval, PG, Fr.

The number one point guard in the recruiting class was Trevon Duval. He is averaging a double-double in the first two games with points and assists. He averages 11.5 points and 10 assists per game. Duval has shown the ability to drive and score or dish the ball out, but needs to show he can knock down outside shots in order to keep defenses honest.

Projected draft range: Lottery pick-late first round pick

Gary Trent, SG, Fr.

Trent can be an x-factor for this Duke team this season. He is a good wing player, that with his outside shooting, can take some pressure off of Bagley. In the first two games he has already made seven threes on 13 attempts. His length can make him a good defender, but he will be tested by Michigan State on the defensive end.

Projected draft range: Lottery pick-late first round pick

Grayson Allen, SG, Sr.

Yes, Allen is still considered to be drafted in the NBA Draft. He gets a lot of criticism due to his attitude problems, but he is a solid player that has learned how to best play in his role every year at Duke. He is the second leading scorer so far, averaging 20 points a game. He has been the Blue Devils’ best shooter so far this season and, like Trent, can take pressure off of other players by knocking down shots. He has made 10 three pointers in 15 attempts.

Projected draft range: Late first round pick-early second round pick

Michigan State Prospects

Miles Bridges, SF, So.

Nba draft prospects in the champions classic

Miles Bridges (Photo by draftexpress.com)

Bridges surprised a lot of people by deciding to return to school after a great freshman season. He does everything for Michigan State from scoring to rebounding. His athleticism is crazy, and it can be seen in some of his highlight reel dunks. If he can knock down outside shots and limit turnovers, he is a complete player. Bridges will be one of the best college players this season and will get consideration for Player of the Year to go along with being considered a top prospect.

Projected draft range: Lottery pick

Jaren Jackson Jr., PF, Fr.

The Spartans have a lot of good inside players this season, but Jackson got the starting nod in Michigan State’s season opener. He had 13 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots against North Florida and he looks poised for bigger things. Jackson was also able to knock down nine of 10 free throws, which is a nice skill to have, being that he will be fouled a lot this year.

Projected draft range: Lottery pick

Cassius Winston, PG, So.

Winston is one of the best passers in college basketball. He makes plays and shows off his high basketball IQ in the process. Not only can he drive to the basket, he can also knock down outside shots. Winston is not the most sought after prospect right now, but with continued good play, NBA executives will start to fall in love with him.

Projected draft range: Second round pick-undrafted free agent

Kansas Prospects

Billy Preston, PF, Fr.

NBA draft prospects in the champions Classic

Billy Preston (Photo by kuhoops.com)

Unfortunately, the world has yet to see Preston on the college level yet, as he was suspended from the season opener for missing curfew and class. That is a little concerning, but overall not a big deal. He was the 18th ranked recruit by ESPN and will be asked to be one of the few legitimate inside players for the Jayhawks.

Projected draft range: Late first round pick-early second round

Legarald Vick, SG, Jr.

Vick has crazy athleticism from the wing. He has been getting significant minutes the last few years at Kansas, despite a crowded backcourt. If Vick can add some muscle and have a good season as one of the lead guys on the Jayhawks’ roster he can get drafted.

Projected draft range: Second round pick-undrafted free agent

Devonte’ Graham, PG, Sr.

Now that Frank Mason is gone, Graham is tasked with running the offense. He is a little undersized for the NBA, but has a lot of desirable qualities. Graham is a great defender and has the ability to play on ball and off of it. He has shown that he can create for his teammates so far this season with 12 assists in one game. Graham can also shoot from deep, with a career percentage of 41% on three point shots.

Projected draft range: Second round pick-undrafted free agent

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, SG/SF, Sr.

Svi has gotten an increased role every year at Kansas. He is intriguing to NBA people because of his length and shooting ability. Svi is a 38% three point shooter and at his size, he is a tough matchup. This season he can really prove he is worth an NBA draft pick with his added minutes.

Projected draft range: Second round pick-undrafted free agent

Udoka Azubuike, C, So.

Azubuike’s year ended early last season due to a wrist injury, but now he is back and healthy. He has great length at seven feet tall and is strictly an inside player. With a changing NBA game, where good inside players are devalued, Azubuike has to expand his game. He is still worthy of a draft pick if he plays well.

Projected draft range: Second round pick-undrafted free agent

Kentucky prospects

Kevin Knox, PF/SF, Fr.

NBA draft prospects in the champions classic

Kevin Knox (Photo by seccountry.com)

NBA executives will love Knox because of his athleticism and face up game. He can dribble, shoot and rebound. Knox does need to shoot more efficiently, as in two games he has below a 30% field goal percentage. He will get good experience playing on the perimeter at Kentucky, but needs to start knocking down outside shots to make him the ultra-versatile player that will be drafted really early.

Projected draft range: Lottery pick

Hamidou Diallo, SG, Fr.

Diallo is one of the most athletic players in the draft class. He has been the best player for Kentucky so far. While he can get to the basket almost at will, he does have some areas of his game he needs to improve. These areas include outside shooting, shot selection and on-ball defending. The athleticism is good enough to get him drafted highly, but if he can improve in other areas, he can move up draft boards.

Projected draft range: Lottery pick-late first round pick

Nick Richards, C, Fr.

Richards is a former volleyball player, whose skills in that sport should help him at Kentucky. He had three blocks against Utah Valley in the opener. Richards can rebound and defend, which is nice, but he will have to show a vastly improved offensive game if he wants to be selected early on in the draft.

Projected draft range: First round pick

P.J. Washington, SF/PF, Fr.

In his first game Washington did not look good, but was great in the second game of the season. He has an inside-out game, that will pique the interest of NBA teams. Knocking down outside shots will drastically improve his draft status.

Projected draft range: Late first round pick-early second round pick

*Jarred Vanderbilt will not play in the event due to a foot injury, but is likely going to be drafted as well.

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Oklahoma City Thunder 2017 NBA Draft profile

On day 19 of NBA Draftmas, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s draft needs and targets will be analyzed.

SUMMARY

Russell Westbrook (Photo by: thebiglead.com)

The Thunder had a solid season, qualifying for the playoffs as a six seed, which is especially impressive given the fact that Kevin Durant left in free agency. Russell Westbrook took over and had a historical season, becoming the second player ever to average a triple double for a season. While they do have some other solid players on the roster, the focal point of the Thunder moving forward is going to be getting Westbrook some help.

Oklahoma City ranked 11th in the NBA in points per game and ranked 16th in points allowed per game. The biggest strength of the Thunder is rebounding, as they led the league in rebounds per game. The area that needs the most improvement is three point shooting. Oklahoma City ranked dead last in three point shooting percentage and needs to acquire players that can help spread the floor for Westbrook.

Signing Westbrook to a long term deal will be the biggest necessity, since superstars don’t grown on trees. Getting players who can shoot and spread the floor will help make the Thunder into a better contender. They do have some nice pieces in Victor Oladipo, Enes Kanter and Steven Adams, but more is needed to compete in a very tough Western Conference.

Oklahoma City Thunder DRAFT PICKS & NEEDS

Oklahoma City has one pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and will need to make the most of it. 

First Round: No. 21

As stated earlier the biggest need for the Thunder is a three point shooter that can spread the floor. If they can find one that can log minutes immediately it would help the team start winning more games.

Another area of need is a backup point guard. Westbrook is one of the best players in the league, but they don’t have much behind him. Cameron Payne was shipped to Chicago. Norris Cole was a stop-gap signing for the end of the year and likely won’t be a great option for next season. Semaj Christon is frustrating to watch and hasn’t fully developed into a great option to play behind Westbrook.

TARGETS

Pick #21: Luke Kennard, SG, Duke

Luke Kennard (Photo by: si.com)

Kennard fills the three point shooting void for the Thunder. He shot a great 43.8% from deep last season at Duke. He also improved his ability to drive and create plays for others. Kennard won’t ever be a star in the NBA, but at pick number 21 could be a great pick and have a solid career.

He will fit into the Thunder well, because he hits open shots. When Westbrook drives to the basket and finds open teammates, Kennard will be one of the few that will be able to hit them more often than not. Just having that extra weapon on offense last year would’ve helped them win a few more games.

The reason that Kennard is likely to slide to the middle of the first round at the earliest is his defense. He will be a defensive liability in the NBA. He had a defensive rating of 104.4 at Duke and he doesn’t have too much more room for improvement in this area of his game. With Kennard on the floor he will give up a lot of points, but he will also score a lot too.

CONCLUSION

The Thunder need to get someone who can help Russell Westbrook get back to the top of the Western Conference. A player coming from this draft pick likely isn’t going to be a star, but they could get a solid player who helps them get back to competing in the West. Oklahoma City will need to get another star before they can really be considered a team capable of winning a championship.

Thanks for checking out the Oklahoma City Thunder 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 20 of NBA Draftmas to see what the Brooklyn Nets are going to do.

Day 18: Atlanta Hawks

Day 17: Indiana Pacers

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Milwaukee Bucks 2017 NBA Draft Profile

On day 16 of NBA Draftmas, the Milwaukee Bucks’ draft needs and targets will be analyzed.

SUMMARY

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Photo by: NBA.com)

The Bucks made a big step for a young team and qualified for the 2017 NBA Playoffs. They ended up getting the sixth seed and took the Raptors to six games. This was an impressive showing for the Bucks, as they had to deal with a lot of injuries this season, most notably Jabari Parker, who tore his ACL and missed the latter part of the season. Khris Middleton was injured for the first part of the season and came on strong when he came back healthy. Staying healthy is a huge key for Milwaukee going forward.

Milwaukee ranks 20th in points per game, but they are the 10th best defense in the NBA. The Bucks did have the 10th best three point shooting team in the league and could see improvements if Middleton and Parker stay healthy.

The most encouraging thing for the Bucks is the continual progression of their young players. Giannis Antetokounmpo has blossomed into a star who averaged 23.2 points, 8.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. Putting him alongside a healthy Jabari Parker, who averaged 20.1 points per game this season, makes the Bucks a dangerous team in the next few seasons. Another intriguing player is Thon Maker. Maker didn’t play too impressively during the regular season, but showed some real flashes of development during the playoffs. Malcolm Brogden also surprised with a good rookie year. The improvement of these players are what the franchise will be built on.

The Bucks will hope to add some key pieces to their strong young core in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Milwaukee Bucks DRAFT PICKS & NEEDS

Milwaukee has one pick in each round of the 2017 NBA Draft. 

First Round: No. 17

Second Round: No. 48

A big need for the Bucks is someone who can rebound. They ranked second last in the NBA in rebounds per game and can benefit from selecting a player who can go get the ball. Antetokounmpo led the team in rebounds last season and will need some more help.

The Bucks may also want to consider going after a true point guard. Antetokounmpo and others have played the position, but Matthew Dellavadova is the only true point guard that got significant minutes last season and that needs to change.

TARGETS

Pick #17: T.J. Leaf, PF, UCLA

T.J. Leaf NBA

T.J. Leaf (Photo by: latimes.com)

While the Bucks have a lot of players that transcend a traditional position, they need a player who knows his role and position very clearly. That player is T.J. Leaf. He may have been forgotten about with Lonzo Ball on the same team at UCLA, but Leaf is an intriguing prospect himself.

Leaf put up 21.7 points and 11 rebounds per 40 minutes last season. His offensive rebounding in the regular season matchup against Kentucky was a huge boost to get the Bruins the win. He will come in and rebound from day one, but also has a nice offensive skill set. His post moves are good for his age and he can stretch his range out to the three point line as he shot 46.6% from deep.

At pick 17, Leaf would provide tremendous value because he could start his career from the bench and be a high energy rebounder. If he develops he could become a starter, but if not he will at least be able to rebound and stretch a defense as a substitute for years to come.

Pick #48: Edmond Sumner, PG, Xavier

Edmond Sumner NBA

Edmond Sumner (Photo by: si.com)

Sumner tore his ACL last season, which effectively ended his college career. He will be rehabbing to get back on the hardwood, but if healthy, he has the potential to improve and become a solid player.

He fits the mold of what the Bucks like: an athletic, tall player for his position. Sumner is a 6’5″ point guard who excels at driving to the basket. He has good quickness for his size and lanky arms, which are tools he could use to become a good defender at the NBA level.

As with any player taken in the second round, Sumner has some weaknesses. He does have a history of injuries that need to be checked out, including that ACL tear. Sumner also isn’t very proficient shooting from deep. His three point shooting percentage was an abysmal 28% for his career.

Sumner provides a high risk-high reward option for a team who takes him, but that will be welcomed in the second round of the NBA Draft, as second round picks rarely work out.

CONCLUSION

The Bucks need to use this draft to get some support for their young players. Players that they select in this draft won’t likely change a franchise, but can be role players for some very good Bucks teams in the next couple of years. Selecting a true point guard, even if it is just a back up, and a rebounder will help this team a lot heading into the next season. 

Thanks for checking out the Milwaukee Bucks 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 17 of NBA Draftmas to see what the Indiana Pacers are going to do.

Day 15: Chicago Bulls

Day 14: Portland Trail Blazers

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Dallas Mavericks 2017 NBA Draft profile

On day nine of NBA Draftmas, the Dallas Mavericks’ draft needs and targets will be analyzed.

SUMMARY

Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki (Photo by: scout.com)

The Mavericks are in a weird place in their franchise as Dirk Nowitzki winds down his career surrounded by a bunch of youth who aren’t ready to win big yet. Dallas did everything in their power to tank at the end of the season in order to get a higher pick, but have to settle for ninth selection overall. That pick won’t be enough to make the Mavericks a contender again, but could help the rebuilding process.

Scoring is what Dallas needs most, as they finished last in the league in points per game and were the only team to average under 100 points per game. Harrison Barnes led the team in scoring with 19.2 points per game and had a help from Nowitzki and Wesley Matthews, but Dallas needs someone who can create their own shot, much like a younger Nowitzki did. They were in the middle of the league in three point shooting, but do have a few really good shooters, especially Seth Curry.

The rebounding was the worst in the league last season and will need to be improved also. Acquiring Nerlens Noel at the deadline will help, but more is needed than his 6.8 rebounds per game.

Dallas had the fourth best defense in the league and will be looking to keep that up, while adding a scoring punch for next season. They shed veteran Deron Williams to the Cavs and now have a lot of nice young pieces that need to develop.

Dallas Mavericks DRAFT PICKS & NEEDS

Dallas only has their first round pick and needs to hit on it to help the future of the franchise.

First Round: No. 9

Second Round: N/A

Addressing their scoring and rebounding are their biggest needs, but may not be able to address it fully with their one pick. More is needed from free agency.

TARGETS & THOUGHTS

Option #1: Pick #9: Lauri Markkanen, PF/C, Arizona

Lauri Markkanen (Photo by: si.com)

Markkanen plays a lot like Nowitzki, which could make him appealing to the Mavericks. He is a multi-dimensional player that is unlike any in this draft class.

The most remarkable thing about him is that he led the Pac-12 in three point percentage, which is incredible given his 7’0″ height. He averaged 15.6 points per game, but shows the signs that he can score more in the NBA where the floor is spaced more. Working with Nowitzki on how to improve his game should help him grow more.

Some of the areas he needs to improve include: defense, play strength, rebounding and post offense. He was average at defense in college, but the NBA will provide a new challenge. If he wishes to play down low more, Markkanen will need to add muscle. It doesn’t have to be a great amount of strength he adds, but a little more is needed. He only averaged 7.2 rebounds per game at Arizona, but the Wildcats had plenty of big guys rebounding the ball, so with some development he can be a good rebounder. If anyone can help him develop more post moves, Nowitzki is the man.

Ultimately Markkanen can space the floor and provide scoring and three point shooting. If he develops, he should help rebounding a little bit. He can help the Mavericks fill both needs. At worst he will compare to a Ryan Anderson and if he develops, which is a big if, he could look like a clone of Nowitzki.

Option #2: Pick #9: Frank Ntilikina, PG, France

Frank Ntilikina NBA Draft

Frank Ntilikina (Photo by: defpen.com)

Ntilikina will likely be the first player who didn’t play college basketball to be drafted in the 2017 NBA Draft. He has a lot of potential, but is a boom or bust prospect.

General manager Donnie Nelson likes taking international players and could want to take Ntilikina. Ntilikina is a big, lengthy guard who played professionally in France for Strasbourg. He will add some value shooting from behind-the-arc, as he shot 40% in France, but he only attempted one three pointer a game in his career.

He should be able to develop into a good defender with his good length, but it will take a while. He doesn’t score a lot and will be harder for him to become proficient at. Ntilikina averaged 5.2 points per game last season and just 1.4 assists. If he is selected this highly, a team will be picking him based on potential and measurables.

CONCLUSION

The Mavericks will need more than just this one draft pick to help rebuild the roster. While Ntilikina would take a while to develop into an NBA player, Markkanen could help out immediately. Taking Markanen would be preferred and getting some decent players in free agency will help the growth of the franchise. 

Thanks for checking out the Dallas Mavericks 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day ten of NBA Draftmas to see what the Charlotte Hornets are going to do.

Day 7: Minnesota Timberwolves

Day 8: New York Knicks

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Five Prospects To Watch At The 2016 Champions Classic

The Champions Classic is a two game event in its sixth year. Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State are paired up and play each other on a rotating basis every year. The event is littered with NBA Draft prospects due to the caliber of teams competing. This year is no different and some of these players will hear their names called early in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Game One: Kentucky vs. Michigan State, 7 P.M.

1. Miles Bridges, G/F, Michigan State

(courtesy twitter.com)

(courtesy twitter.com)

Bridges got of to a stellar start in his college career in a big game against Arizona. He totaled 21 points, seven rebounds and and two assists. The scoring ability is apparent, but Bridges needs to work on a few facets of his game. He only hit one three on six attempts and had four turnovers to add insult to injury. Kentucky could throw a number of defenders at Bridges. If the Wildcats use Derek Willis to defend Bridges, he should be able to blow right by him and get to the rim. Kentucky goes small with three guards, so they may use Isaiah Briscoe to guard Bridges. He is a great on-ball defender. The advantage Bridges has here is his size. At 6’7″ he should be able to shoot over Briscoe or back him down in the post. Either way his match-up will be favorable.

2. Bam Adebayo, PF, Kentucky

It doesn’t take an NBA scout to see that Adebayo has one of the most NBA-ready bodies in the freshmen class. He has better size than Dwight Howard did when he entered his name into the NBA draft (Bam is 6’10” 260 pounds, Dwight was 6’10” 240 pounds). Adebayo could not really be list height or weight, but even if he isn’t, he is all muscle. He hasn’t had the best games so far, averaging 9.5 points and six rebounds per game. With Michigan State’s interior troubles (Gavin Schilling is injured and out), Adebayo should be able to show some good post moves and rebounding in this game.

3. De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky

(Courtesy chatsports.com)

(Courtesy chatsports.com)

The choice between Fox and Monk for the last prospect in this game was tough, but Fox has had the more impressive start so far. If he keeps up his current stat line of 16.5 points per game and 7.5 assists per game he will be an All-American. He has also helped out in the rebounding department with four rebounds per game. His main asset is his speed, but he will have a tough match-up against a few different defenders on Michigan State.

Game 2: Duke vs. Kansas 9:30 P.M.

4. Josh Jackson, G/F, Kansas

(photo courtesy kansascity.com)

(photo courtesy kansascity.com)

Jackson is the best wing player in the freshmen class. He has the chance to be an elite defender. Getting to the rim is one of his strengths, but much like Bridges he needs to show he has a consistent outside shot to keep defenders honest. He only had nine points in Kansas’ first game Duke will likely put Matt Jones, their best on-ball wing defender, on Jackson. It won’t be an easy task, but if Jackson can succeed it would be impressive.

5. Grayson Allen, G, Duke

Duke will likely be without Marques Bolden, Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum, but they still have a lot of talented players to choose from. Allen is now a junior and has turned into a good college player, but still could improve his draft stock. He can play both point and shooting guard, which is increasingly important as the NBA moves to players who are more versatile. His shooting stroke is pure and he can drive really well (averaging over 20 points for the second consecutive year), but he has a few areas of his game he needs to improve. Those include cutting down on turnovers, making players around him better (roughly has a three to two assist to turnover ratio) and defense. There have been players drafted high in the NBA Draft with more problems than Allen.

 

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