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Dennis Smith, Jr. Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Dennis Smith, Jr. started the season ranked second on Draft Express’s top 100 but his one year in college dissuaded people from the notion he belonged in the same tier as Markelle Fultz at the top of this draft.

On the surface, his individual performance withstood the higher level of competition, as he posted a decent-looking statistical profile with a 21.8 PER, averages of 20.8 points and 7.1 assists per 40 minutes, and a .520 effective field goal percentage on 27.2% usage.

But North Carolina State had a disastrous campaign – losing 17 of its 32 games and 14 out of 18 in the ACC, missing the NCAA Tournament. Smith got caught in the tire fire, lost some status and is now perceived as a second tier potential star – currently ranked seventh in Draft Express’s top 100.

Smith didn’t elevate his team’s level of play and has a lot to improve in terms of running a team, as he was rarely seen picking up the pace of the game or organizing his teammates in the half-court.

But he wasn’t surrounded by a lot of talent or put in a particularly dynamic structure that gave him a head start on his attempts to generate offense. Omer Yurtseven, who didn’t play very well in his first year in the United States, was his only NBA-caliber teammate and it was rare for him to give up the ball early in a possession then get it back later with the defense already bent. North Carolina State also didn’t shoot well enough from long range to open up driving lanes for him, as it ranked 212th in the country in three pointers made.

On the other end, things were a disaster and Smith shares a large part of the blame. As was the case in high school, he was constantly disengaged on defense and led a team in minutes that ranked 229th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency – according to kenpom.com.

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Jayson Tatum Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Jayson Tatum had somewhat of an up and down season in his one year at Duke.

The six-foot-eight combo forward started the season injured, missing the first couple of months with a foot strain, but Duke managed to survive his absence just fine thanks to Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen fueling a furious drive-and-kick attack.

When he returned, Tatum had some trouble fitting into that identity and played primarily as a pure post up scorer in his first few games back, acting mostly outside the ecosystem on slower-developing plays.

As the season went on, Duke incorporated Tatum into its drive-and-kick sequences a bit more but it never quite looked as good as it did when Kennard and Allen were leading the charge earlier in the year, which was crucial in order to make up for its problems on other end. Consequently, the team lost four of its first seven conference games.

Nonetheless, as Allen dealt with his unsportsmanlike conduct suspension and had his role within the team diminished as the season winded down, Duke evolved into a team who still ran plenty of motion but looked to get Tatum the ball in his spots even more regularly and he led the team in usage rate during conference play.

As Tatum got healthier and got going, averaging 19.2 points per 40 minutes against ACC competition, Duke righted the ship, eventually finishing the season with 11 wins in 18 conference games and winning the conference tournament in Brooklyn.

Duke went down in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, losing to eventual Final Four participant South Carolina, but Tatum did his part, finishing that game with 15 points on 12 shots in 34 minutes.

Overall, he impressed last season and solidified his status as a top five prospect, as Draft Express currently ranks him fourth in its top 100.

However, Tatum didn’t show a lot of improvement in terms of playing in more of a team-oriented manner. And considering he played on a team with a good deal of talent around him and within a well-structured offense that emphasized the sort of ball movement and people movement that the NBA is looking for these days, the fact that Tatum didn’t prove to be a natural fit is a cause for concern.

(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)

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De’Aaron Fox Scouting Report

CONTEXT

De’Aaron Fox is now perceived as the third best point guard in this draft class — ranked fifth overall in Draft Express’ top 100, after leading Kentucky to 32 wins in 38 games and within two points of a Final Four appearance.

Malik Monk will be a lottery pick as well and Endrice Adebayo still has some chance of ending up a first round choice but the six-foot-three point guard was the undisputed best player on that team, the engine of the Wildcats’ 12th-ranked offense and the top playmaker on their seventh-ranked defense.

As we will go through later, how highly regarded a defender the 19-year-old should be is up for debate but Fox’s performance on offense was no doubt impressive, especially when you consider spacing the floor to create clear driving lanes for his point guards has never been much of a priority for John Calipari, who prefers size at all positions instead.

The Wildcats had seven players logging over 600 minutes last season but only two of them (Monk and stretch big Derek Willis) took over 100 three pointers. Mychal Mulder shot 96 of those for a superb average of 11.4 attempts per 40 minutes but he only logged 338 minutes, a good chunk of them in garbage time.

(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)

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Lonzo Ball Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Lonzo Ball is the one player in this draft class, other than Markelle Fultz, who has already shown potential to become a franchise-altering foundation piece. The passing magician led UCLA, a team that had lost 17 of its 32 games the previous year, to 31 wins in 36 matches and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen this season.

Driven by Ball’s natural inclination to speed up the pace of the game and ability to create three-point shots for others without necessarily needing to get deep into the lane to collapse the defense, the Bruins ranked second in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency – according to Ken Pomeroy.

Though it should be mentioned he had the fortune of playing with a good collection of talent around him, as stretch four TJ Leaf and alley oop finisher Ike Anigbogu will be drafted in the first round, pick-and-pop threat Thomas Welsh will be signed to one of those preseason deals and shooters Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford will get D-League looks, Ball was nonetheless fairly considered the catalyst of UCLA’s resurgence as a national power.

He alleviated some concerns regarding his ability to control an offense and make it run on his rhythm, create for others in the half-court within a more structured system and also make shots from long range, despite his unorthodox mechanics.

But Ball, as is the case with most 19-year-olds, still has areas to improve in terms of getting to the basket against a set defense, hitting the eventual stop-and-pop jumper and making the sort of difference on defense that his physical profile (six-foot-six height, six-foot-nine wingspan – according to Draft Express) suggests he should be able to.

(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)

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Markelle Fultz Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Markelle Fultz announced last week he is declaring for the 2017 NBA draft, terminating his brief cup of coffee at Washington University.

With that as the case and with the trade deadline gone, giving us a clearer picture regarding which teams are expected to have the higher odds of winning the lottery, it seems appropriate to start thinking some more about how the projected number one pick in the draft is expected to fit with each of these specific teams.

I’ve profiled his base skill-set with more depth last month but for the tl;dr crowd, here are the basics:

(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)

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Jayson Tatum Scouting Report

Tatum started the season injured and was a bit underwhelming in his first couple of months back, as a part of a Duke team that lost four of its first seven ACC games. But as Duke righted the ship, subsequently going on a seven-game winning streak and finishing the season with 11 wins in 18 conference games, Tatum went back to looking like a top five pick.

(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)

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