Sacramento also has made shooting guard Ben McLemore, in the final year of his rookie contract, available for months, after acquiring Malachi Richardson in a draft-day deal and signing veteran Arron Afflalo.
We had our resident draftniks and basketball futurists weigh in on three of the most notable prospects in what promises to be a draft class worth tanking for. Markelle Fultz. Kevin O’Connor: One month before USA Basketball won gold at the Rio Olympics, Markelle Fultz led the U.S. Under-18 team to a championship of its own at the FIBA Americas tournament in Chile. Fultz, Washington’s incoming freshman point guard, was named tournament MVP, averaging 13.8 points and 5.2 assists with a 60.4 effective field goal percentage. Fultz is a top prospect in the 2017 NBA draft, which seemed unthinkable just a few years ago when he couldn’t even make DeMatha Catholic High School’s varsity team as a sophomore. The coaches knew he was good, but it wasn’t until Fultz’s three-inch growth spurt (to roughly 6-foot-4 in shoes) that his game blossomed.
Josh Jackson. Jonathan Tjarks: Every team in the NBA needs players like Josh Jackson. He’s 6-foot-8 and 203 pounds, and he’s the best athlete in one of the strongest high school classes in recent memory. Even at the McDonald’s All American Game in March, with future pros all over the floor, Jackson stood out. He was as fast as any of the point guards on either team and he had the size to bang with the power forwards.
Harry Giles. Danny Chau: Harry Giles has torn the MCL and meniscus in his left knee, and he’s torn the ACL in both knees, all before turning 18. Had everything gone perfectly, he would have assuredly been the undisputed no. 1 player in the nation. Instead, after two catastrophic knee injuries — the most recent occurring 10 months ago, during the first minutes of his senior-season debut — Giles plummeted all the way to … no. 2, according to the cumulative rankings compiled by the Recruiting Services Consensus Index. ESPN, so enamored with Giles’s talent, kept him in the no. 1 position at the end of the season; a day after the tear was confirmed, Giles became the crown jewel of Duke’s outstanding 2016 recruiting class. Calamity keeps trying to get in the way, but Harry Giles might be too special, too Teflon, for any of her wicked stunts to change the trajectory of his career.
There have been 20 college big men drafted in the NBA lottery over the past five years; when charting their college production by way of true shooting percentage (to account for their scoring efficiency) and Defensive Box Plus-Minus (an estimated metric that measures points contributed, similar to PER or Win Shares) the results reveal some interesting clustering within the four quadrants. Most notably, the first quadrant features three players: Embiid, Towns, and Davis, three of the league’s best big-man prospects since Tim Duncan.