The NBA Draft: By Position And Prototype

Nov 17, 2020, 2:39 PM | Updated: 2:40 pm

Arizona Wildcat guard Josh Green (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)...

Arizona Wildcat guard Josh Green (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The NBA Draft is Wednesday, and teams should be just about finished finalizing their draft boards. The Utah Jazz own the 23rd pick in the draft, and despite a strong starting lineup, could stand to add depth at basically every position.

Though the NBA has largely reduced its positional breakdown into guards, wings, and bigs, it’s still clear that that’s a bit of an oversimplification based on the variety of skillsets that exist within those classifications.

So, in an attempt to clarify what each player may offer at the next level, this is a breakdown of each player projected to be drafted in the late teens and early 20s, and what their position and prototype will be in the NBA.

Floor General Point Guards

While the point guard position has changed over the last two decades, as primary ball handlers are more heavily relied upon to be go-to scorers than ever before, the traditional floor general point guard still exists in the NBA a la Chris Paul. This draft has more than its fair share of guards, including a few prototypical throw-back point guards.

Cassius Winston: 6’1, 185 lbs PG – Sr – MSU

18.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, FG 46%/3p 43%/FT 84%Β 

Winston is the most traditional point guard in the draft, seamlessly running the pick and roll and acting as a floor spacer around his big man.

He lacks tremendous size but makes up for it with his physical style of play on the offensive end. He’s a low-end defender, but it’s easy to see him carving out a decade long career in the NBA.

Malachi Flynn: 6’1 185 lbs PG – JR – San Diego State

17.6 points, 4.5 rebounds 51 assists, FG 44%/3P 37%/FT 85%

Like Winston, Flynn excels in the pick and roll finding his roller or looking for his shot as a secondary action. He’s not quite as adept as Winston on some of his reads, but is a more prolific scorer, making him a slightly more modern adaptation of the traditional floor general.

He’s a better defender than Winston, but due to his size, he’ll likely be limited to defending only point guards at the next level.

Tre Jones: 6’3, 185 lbs PG – So – Duke

16,2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 6.4 assists, FG 42%/3p 36% 3p/FT 77%

Jones is the least proven scorer of the other floor general point guards projected to be drafted in the 20s, but he’s by far the most versatile defender.

He’s not the natural passer that either Winston or Flynn have shown, but his healthy 6.4 assists per game average and low turnover numbers are promising. He’s also the youngest of the three players and played at the highest level.

Theo Maledon: 6’4, 175 lbs PG – 19 – France

7.3 points, 1.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, FG 45%/3P 36%/FT 68%

Maledon has the best size of the four pure point guards which may be a better fit for the modern NBA. The French guard is always under control with the ball in his hands and shows potential as a high-level shooter at the next level.

He lacks tremendous speed and is an unproven defender after playing overseas, but his size, feel, and shooting potential is drawing interest as high as the mid-teens.

Combo/Scoring Guards

Though there are only four true point guards in the first round of the draft, it’s loaded with combo scoring guards that are more commonly found in the NBA.

Nico Mannion: 6’3, 190 lbs Guard – Fr – Arizona

14 points, 5.3 assists, 2.5 rebounds FG 39%/3P 32%/FT 79%

Mannion has shades of both a traditional point guard and a scoring guard based on his terrific vision, and willingness to pull up for deep threes well beyond NBA range.

If he continues to struggle against bigger players, as was the case at Arizona, he may be relegated to playing off the ball as a floor spacer and secondary ball-handler removing him from the point guard conversation. However, if the spacing in the NBA allows him to get to the paint more easily he could excel as a pick and roll guard who knocks down open shots.

Tyrese Maxey: 6’3, 198 lbs Guard – Fr – Kentucky

14 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, FG 42%/3P 29%/FT 83%

Maxey is the top player on my big board for the Jazz, though it’s unlikely he slips all the way to 23. Maxey showed the ability to run the show at Kentucky with the ball in his hand but is a more dangerous scorer than he is a passer.

He’s a hybrid guard whose high IQ a defense will give him a long NBA career. If his shooting numbers improve he could be a star.

Kira Lewis: 6’3, 165 lbs Guard – So – Alabama

18.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists, FG 44%/3P 36%/FT 79%

While Lewis’s body and speed are reminiscent of De’Aaron Fox and Ja Morant, he doesn’t quite possess the natural playmaking skills that have allowed those two NBA players to blossom into stars at the point guard position in the NBA.

Lewis’s speed and length will be his calling card in the NBA, and he’s shown real intrigue as a shooter, but he might be better served playing off the ball without heavy decision making early in his career.

Cole Anthony: 6’3, 190 lbs Guard – Fr – UNC

18.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4 assists, FG 38%/3P 34%/FT 75%

There may be no more prototypical combo/scoring guard in this draft than UNC’s Cole Anthony. The freshman guard’s game has strong shades of Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray, but he’ll need to significantly improve his shot-making to reach those levels.

His experience playing at high levels, talent, and potential is extremely intriguing, but he’ll have to prove he can help a team win in the NBA.

Tyrell Terry: 6’2, 160 lbs Guard – Fr – Stanford

14.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, FG 44%/3p 40%/FT 89%

Make no mistake, Terry will need to have the ball in his hands at the NBA level to succeed, but his best skill set is his shooting which draws comparisons to Steve Nash and Trae Young.

He is a crafty passer with a high IQ and will be able to run the show at the next level, but his game won’t resemble the Chris Paul’s and John Stockton’s of the world.

3-And-D Guard/Wings

Maybe the most niche of all the categories, this draft as a few players who might not be big enough to be considered true wings in the NBA, but lack the ball skills to be considered traditional guards in the NBA.

Josh Green: 6’6 210 lbs Guard/Wing – Fr – Arizona

12 points, 4.6 rebounds 2.6 assists, FG 42%/3P 36%/FT 78%

At 6’6 with a 6’10 wingspan, it’s hard to argue Green doesn’t have great size on the perimeter. However, his perimeter-oriented style of player at Arizona lends itself more to a 3-and-D guard who can match up against smaller wings than it does the reverse.

Green’s shooting needs to continue to develop, but he’s a top tier athlete with some untapped potential.

Desmond Bane: 6’6, 215 lbs Guard/Wing – Sr – TCU

16.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, FG 49%/3P 43%/FT 80%

Like Green, Bane lacks the ideal size to be able to defender bigger wings in the NBA, especially considering his negative height to wingspan ratio (6’6 to 6’5). However, he used his strong body to defend smaller guards in college and is a deadly threat from the perimeter.

Anyone expecting Bane to be a lockdown defender in the NBA will be disappointed, and he lacks the ball-handling skills to run an offense at the NBA level, but he’s highly productive and can fill several roles at the next level.

Leandro Bolmaro: 6’7, 180 lbs G – 19 – Barcelona

3.1 points, 1.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, FG 33%/3P 22%/FT 94%

Bolmaro is the most skilled of the three guard/wing prospects in the Jazz range, showing off tremendous ball-handling and passing skills. He has terrific size for the position and is an above-average athlete.

However, his shooting numbers are simply abysmal and could derail his entire career if he can’t bring them up. He’s intriguing, but as a draft and stash player, he won’t be helping any team in the NBA for at least the next season.

3-and-D Wings

Perhaps the most en vogue position in the modern NBA, the 3-and-D wing has transformed over the last decade. As opposed to the Bruce Bowen and Danny Green prototype that excelled in the NBA for a brief period, these wings now need to offer more playmaking and defensive versatility than ever before.

Aaron Nesmith: 6’6, 215 lbs Wing – Vanderbilt

23 points, 4.9 rebounds, 0.9 assists, FG 51%/3P 52% 3p/FT 82%

Contrary to the modern more versatile 3-and-D Wing, Nesmith has a ways to go as a ball-handler and playmaker to catch up to the Jaylen Brown’s of the world. However, he’s maybe the draft’s best shooter knocking down an unimaginable 52 percent of his threes as a sophomore in college.

He has excellent size at 6’6, though he lacks elite athleticism and quickness. Still, Nesmith scoring potential has shades of Khris Middleton at his best and Rodney Hood at his worst.

Robert Woodard: 6’7, 235 lbs Wing – So – Miss St

11.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, FG 49%/3P 43%/FT 64%

Unlike Nesmith, Woodard has flashes of elite burst and athleticism, mixed with a promising 43 percent three-point shooting percentage. However, he was bizarrely quiet during long stretches of games at Mississippi State and he really never took over games offensively.

He’s got a terrific frame that should translate to the NBA from day one on both ends so the floor, but he needs to exert himself more regularly to succeed in the NBA.

Tyler Bey: 6’7, 218 lbs Wing – Jr – Colorado

13.9 points, 9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, FG 53%/3P 41%/FT 74%

Without question the best defender of the group, Bey is a Tasmanian Devil off the ball getting into passing lanes, making quick rotations, and filling empty space. He’s also got elite length and athleticism on the perimeter.

However, his offensive game is raw at best despite his promising shooting percentages. He’s not a playmaker, and he’ll have to prove his small sample size three-point shooting translates at the next level. But he’s too active as a defender and lob catcher to not make it at the next level.

Jaden McDaniels: 6’9, 200 lbs Wing – Fr – UW

13 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, FG 40%/3P 33%/FT 76%

Perhaps the most controversial prospect in the second half of the first round, McDaniels has enormous boom or bust potential. At 6’9, with a long wingspan, good instincts as a help defender, a smooth shooting stroke, high-level athleticism, and blossoming ball-handling skills, he’s got an extremely tantalizing combination of skills.

However, he often floated through games at Washington, his full package of skills never fully gelled at the college level, and there are questions about his attitude towards the game.

Perimeter Oriented Bigs

As the league continues to be more perimeter-oriented, big men who spread the floor on offense and can defend on the wing are at a premium.

Zeke Nnaji: 6’11 240 lbs Big – Fr – Arizona

16.1 points, 8.6 rebounds 0.8 assists, FG 57%/3P 29%/FT 76%

If Nnaji succeeds in the NBA, it’ll be due to his ability to space the floor with him developing jump shot and motor on the offensive glass. He’s also a top tier athlete and should be able to function as a lob catcher as he learns how to operate in the pick and roll.

However, Nnajo knocked down just 29 percent of his three-point shots in college, and if he can’t improve and expand that to the NBA range, he might not provide enough defensively to succeed in the NBA.

Precious Achiuwa: 6’9, 225 lbs Big – Memphis

15.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1 assist, FG 49%/3P 32%/FT 59%

Achiuwa’s perimeter-oriented game is most apparent on the defensive end where he seamlessly rotates between defending guards, wings, and big men. He’s an elite athlete with a tremendous motor but remains somewhat raw from a skills standpoint.

Achiuwa assumed a bigger role at Memphis than expected after James Wiseman left school but showed off some truly bright moments thanks to his physical gifts and activity.

Aleksej Pokusevski: 7’0, 201 lbs Big – Olympiacos B

9.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, FG 40%/3P 32%/FT 78%

Along with McDaniels, Pokusevski has as much boom or bust potential as anyone in the draft. He’s seven feet tall, has tremendous athletic fluidity, and is continuing to develop as a playmaker.

However, he’s incredibly unproven playing against the lower levels of European competition, and his shooting numbers leave a lot to be desired. He might be a unicorn, or he might never play important minutes in the NBA.

Jalen Smith: 6’10, 225 lbs Big – So – Maryland

15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, FG 53%/3P 36%/FT 75%

Smith projects easily as an adequate floor spacer having knocked down 36 percent of his three-point shots while functioning as a help-side shot-blocker and rebounder. There are strong shades of JaMychal Green to his game.

However, he’s not a very fluid athlete and lacks strength in the low post which limits his defensive upside. If he doesn’t improve as a three-point shooter, he might struggle to carve out a bigger role at the next level.

Traditional Bigs

While big men who spread the floor are a sought after asset in the draft, there’s no lack of rim running paint defenders who still play major minutes in the NBA. While these prospects may not be as intriguing as other, more versatile big men in the league, they still play meaningful roles on most league rosters.

Xavier Tillman: 6’8, 245 lbs Big – Jr – MSU

13.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3 assists, FG 58%/3P 27%/FT 69%

Much of Tillman’s intrigue comes from his potential as a playmaker and the hope that he can step out to shoot the three. However, the overwhelming majority of his damage in college came as a screen setting, rim roller who protected the paint and quarterbacked a defense.

Those other perimeter skills may develop, but the foundation of his production stems from his traditional big man skillset.

Isaiah Stewart: 6’9, 250 lbs PF/C – Fr – UW

17 points, 8.8 rebounds, 0.8 assists, FG 57%/3P 25%/FT 77%Β 

By far the most traditional big man in the draft, Stewart has a true rim-protecting, rebounding style of play with a well developed back to the basket game.

There is some belief that his three-point shooting will develop at the next level, and it very well may, but early in his career, he’ll be called on to do the dirty work against other big men near the basket.

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The NBA Draft: By Position And Prototype