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The NBA Draft is an event unlike any other in the world of professional sports. There are two rounds and 60 picks, and more times than not, the top five selections are dedicated to those with and immense upside and youth on their side.
It’s been a productive last two weeks for some of the country’s top NBA prospects. A couple of players have begun to really strengthen their NBA cases. Today we take a look at those top six NBA draftees!
#6 Jaylen Brown, Small Forward, California
Jaylen Brown offers similar size (6'7"), strength (225 pounds) and athletic ability to Chicago Bulls wing Jimmy Butler. Best-case outcome: Brown develops into a comparable two-way scorer and defender. He's at his best attacking the rim, whether it's in transition or the half court. Brown is already taking 10.4 free throws per 40 minutes early on. With a quick first step and low, tight handle, he's a threat to drive out of ball screens or isolation, and he's tough to deny both below and above the rim.
At this point, Brown's perimeter game remains somewhat behind. He's missed 24 of his first 32 threes and a whopping 28-of-33 two-point jumpers, per Hoop-Math.com. Brown is capable and confident from outside, but like Butler, who made just 36 threes in 106 college games, it could take a few years before Brown emerges as a viable go-to option.
#5 Jakob Poetl, Center, Utah
Jakob Poeltl's 7'0" size, mobility, defensive tools and soft hands should make him a fairly safe bet on draft night. Even if he prematurely plateaus, his interior presence should still hold NBA value. But if his new-look post skills and volume production represent a sign of more to come, Poeltl has the chance to resemble Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas on offense.
So far this season, Poeltl is averaging 20.1 points and 9.8 rebounds on 69.8 percent shooting. We've seen impressive back-to-the-basket moves and improved free-throw-shooting touch (he's made 47 free throws in nine games after making 55 total last year), as well as the ability to improvise and finish among interior traffic.
#4 Dragan Bender, Power Forward, Croatia
Not too many 7'1" rim-protectors with jumpers, ball-handling skills and passing instincts come to mind. There really isn't any one good comparison for Dragan Bender, whose potential versatility is off the charts. Bender has already shown more in terms of his ability to create off the dribble. Though not explosive, he's mobile and nimble, which also translates to defensive versatility (blocks shots and switches out in pick-and-roll coverage). That, along with the idea that he can facilitate from the 15-to-20-foot range, might make some think of Chicago Bulls big man Joakim Noah.
Dragan Bender says NOT IN MY HOUSE ! pic.twitter.com/s9hViidYY9— EuropeanBBallVideos (@EuroBBallVideos) December 11, 2015
#3 Skal Labissiere, Power Forward/Center, Kentucky
In terms of size and skill set, Skal Labissiere resembles San Antonio Spurs big man LaMarcus Alridge—a high-post scorer with back-to-the-basket moves and a face-up shooting touch. Labissiere has a promising jumper and the ability to shake and bake from the elbows down to the low block. But at this stage, he has a long way to go before approaching his All-Star-level ceiling. At 225 pounds, he's struggled with physicality in terms of separating, finishing and holding his ground after contact.
Still, at this point in Labissiere's career, you can't put too much stock in his early-season struggles when projecting his long-term potential. He needs to add bulk, as well as improve his shot-creating fluidity and defensive IQ. If it never clicks for Labissiere, we could be looking at a Cody Zeller-type player. But for now, we're going to assume the Kentucky big man just needs a few confidence-boosting performances before eventually breaking out.
#2 Brandon Ingram, Small Forward, Duke
It took a few weeks for Brandon Ingram to get going, but he’s been a head-turner since finding some rhythm. Ingram, who’s listed at 6’9” with a GIANT 7’3” wingspan, has a mismatched height and length for a face-up scoring small forward. Still, having just turned 18 years old this summer, Ingram has plenty of time to bulk up.
Meanwhile, he's flashed a convincing perimeter game and jumper, even if the numbers don't back it up early on. Like Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes, Ingram has three-point range and the ability to get his own shot working one-on-one in the mid-range.
In case you were wondering how the Brandon Ingram dunk clinic ended. pic.twitter.com/lFRRsyuJE9— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) December 16, 2015
#1 Ben Simmons, Small Forward/Power Forward, LSU
Whether or not Ben Simmons is the game's next transcendent talent, he's undoubtedly established himself as one of the more unique prospects in years. Simmons' athleticism and hustle have also translated to volume rebounding numbers (14.8 per game).
Without any signs of a perimeter game, he may have to play some 4 as a passing power forward (Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers has averaged 5.2 assists over his last 92 games). Simmons needs to work on his post-game, but he's terrific around the basket, with the ability to clean the glass and finish tough layups or runners using either hand.
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