The following is a continuation of a midseason rookie report featuring the top 20 prospects. Check out part 1 here:


7. Dyson Daniels

My Original View: I struggle with identifying talent based on G League tape. Unless your name is Scoot Henderson, the likely 2nd overall pick in the upcoming draft and one of the 10-12 best prospects of the last decade, it’s not easy to determine how a prospect will translate. Young players within the G League with some athleticism concerns but a more polished shooting profile may be more likely to shine in the G League construct than they would on the crammed, congested college hardwood. Others, who would otherwise gain the keys to the car at a college program to explore shot creation at an appropriate age level, must fill the role of role player at the more competitive G-League level. Nascent abilities as a shot creator may be harder to determine. In some ways, watching Dyson feels a lot like watching Shaedon Sharpe. I am struggling to make heads or tails of his overall impact as a prospect. Unlike Shaedon, I love Dyson’s defense. It would not shock me to see him become one of the best perimeter defenders in the league within 3 seasons. A taller, longer Derrick White/Marcus Smart amalgam feels appropriate to mention as a possibility. While Dyson can self-generate opportunities and has a passable handle, the full package does not yet suggest the potential to emerge as an offensive engine. He rarely generated rim pressure at the G League level and his low 14% free throw rate is symbolic of those struggles. Ultimately, if I foresee him as becoming an apex on-ball defender and tall ball handler and passer who can shimmy his way around screens with the proficiency of guards much shorter, the shot needs to come around. His shot looks inherently fixable but he shot 30% on 3s over the full season and 25 from 45 from the line. That is rough. Few prospects in this draft would benefit as much from their swing skill of shooting becoming even passable. An 18-year-old in the G League shone as one of the best defenders in the league with a 3.1% steal rate and 2% block rate and was a passable creator who could be relied upon to swing the ball around. If the right team drafts him, the upside as an all-world role player might provide a new template to which future prospects are compared to.

Early Season Review: Perhaps the greatest prospect and team fit in this draft, Dyson is in Fred Vinson’s safe hands. While Booker did rook him and cook him a few times en route to 58 points, he’s been a key component of the Pelicans havoc creating bench lineups alongside Naji Marshall and the inimitable Jose Alvarado. His finishing has been somewhat underwhelming and he has sporadically disappeared on offense, but considering the lack of physical maturity at the moment, it can be excused somewhat. I would comfortably place him near the top of the draft and move him somewhere within the top five based on the promise of his play. Next season will be a huge season for him to show improvements to his shot and an improved prowess with more on-ball opportunities. Right now, he’s an integral part of a true contender for the Western Conference. Delightful!

8. Jaden Ivey

My Original View: He’s a unique prospect. Most high-level guard prospects who are not excellent defenders have difficulty being pure positives on the court. Ja is the exception, not the rule. It is perhaps too easy to make the comparison between Ja and Jaden, given their connection and unrelenting rim pressure, but he truly is an explosive, top-of-the-backboard finisher. The needle that a slashing shooting guard must thread is small. His 3-point release is a little low, but he does generate enough separation to continually create pull ups and step-backs. He can function well as an occasional PNR passer, as a cutter, as a downhill threat in halfcourt settings in actions such as Iverson sets, and as a destroyer in transition. If he can become a positionally-average 3-point shooter and defender, his offensive versatility can shine.

Early Season Review: He is what he is. The slashing is great, everything else is a mixed bag. The passing has been better than I expected due to the open floors of the NBA, but his finishing numbers are truly dreadful right now. 55% at the rim is not appropriate for an athlete of his caliber. I’m hoping it normalizes with more experience and as he adds more change of pace dribbles and hesitations to his combinations, but the rim scoring is a must. If he can’t establish himself as a frequent flyer above the rim who can convert paint shots at an above average rate for guards, there may be trouble.

9. Jalen Duren

My Original View: As covered extensively in my post-draft Prospects to Watch, I think Duren can be a special center. I want to see him with the ball in his hands and players orbiting around him, in the Sabonis role. He would be a perfect developmental center in a Warriors system. Ideally, there needs to be more flashes of self-creation on attempts near the hoop. An excellent PnR ball-handler would certainly provide more easy opportunities for Duren to forge that skillset. I just need to see more completed put-backs off the many offensive rebounds he can collect or just a simple drop-step on deep seals or strong cuts to the hoop. If his favorable free throw percentages and solid touch on shots away from the rim can slowly morph into a consistently reliably floater and a jumper, his rim gravity would amplify those skills dramatically.

Early Season Review: No real changes. Detroit is muddled with centers right now, but Duren is earning minutes and is a clear development priority. The entire young core in Detroit is growing at once. The Pistons are a work in progress, but they will likely improve over the course of the season, Duren included. I like what I’ve seen, particularly with his disposition to attack the offensive glass. I need to see him involved in more two-person actions where he is featured as a decision maker and asked to create more as a distributor. With Cade out for the year, that might not reasonable, but I’d like to see more of it regardless. Right now, he has limited offensive responsibilities. Over the course of the full season, that might not be likely to continue.

10. Jalen Williams

My Original View: I love watching Jalen’s PNR work. He’s just so sharp and such an insightful passer. I had some questions about how functional his athleticism might have been at the NBA level, particularly at the rim. Then, I watched his combine scrimmage games. Against other prospective NBA athletes, Jalen performed like the best player on the court. He was more than just savvy; he was able to generate small advantages and get to the hoop. His craft will still probably carry him early on, but the incredible testing numbers might demonstrate more developmental potential for a late bloomer. Defensively, he’s relatively mediocre on and off-ball but I would not be surprised if a shift in role and increased comfort in his newfound size made him a serviceable option. I believe in his shooting form, but I do not think he profiles to be a primary in any way. I don’t think he generates the sort of accelerative or decelerative bursts with the tightly wound handle needed for that kind of role, nor does he pitch shots from the perimeter at a rate that would suggest an outside-in attack. I just would not be surprised if he became an excellent connective piece on whatever team he joined.

Early Season Review: In Summer League, preseason, the League, it doesn’t matter. He’s been as advertised. For a Thunder team predicated on swing-for-the-fences prospects, it’s a wonderful change of pace to see a solid, reliable basketball player around Shai’s All-NBA campaign. His defense is still messier than it should be and he’s not offering much as a paint protector or frequent 3-point shooter, but he’s already just so crafty as a playmaker and profiles as a key complementary component of the Thunder rebuild.

11. AJ Griffin

My Original View: Without his medical report, it’s hard to make any judgements. In high school, AJ profiled as an offensively dynamic wing prospect, with an unorthodox yet formidable jumper. Injuries curtailed some of the enthusiasm and his defensive tape has not been particularly inspiring, but AJ is perhaps the best spot-up shooter in this class with potential to shoot off movement and handle the ball to a certain degree. He was not a prominent creator in his shortened freshman season, but his propensity to establish easier opportunities near the basket and finish at the rim pairs with his 3-point prowess to produce a promising prospect profile. 

Early Season Review: He’s thankfully looking so much sprier on offense than I would have expected. He’s an effective catch and shoot threat who’s had some high-profile game winners already. On his limited self-creation attempts, he’s been able to create solid shots for himself in spurts. The 1-2 dribble pull-ups have been effective and the shooting has been an unquestioned success. He uses his sturdy frame and sharp changes of direction off-ball to present a solid cutting and finishing option for easy offense. The defense is the major question mark. Against bench units and matched up on the least imposing offensive player in certain starting lineups, it’s been passable thus far. How it scales up over time as he tries to shift to a full-time starting role will determine his ceiling. While speedy, athletic wings and guards have definitely burst by him, his active hands in passing lanes have helped buoy his defensive value thus far (a 2.1% steal rate thus far). I certainly feel positive enough to move him several spots higher and, dare I say, into top-five territory.

12. Mark Williams

My Original View: He’s mobile, agile, an excellent rebounder, and elite finisher near the hoop. He feasts on dunks and putbacks. On first glance, the upside appears limited. Most of his shot profile is based around dunks and close lay ins and much of his defensive value stems from just shot blocking. Luckily, he does sport an 11% block rate, a solid mark that held up against high quality opponents across Duke’s schedule. With that said, he’s showcased a nice hook shot and nice touch on shots from the short midrange region. For a center, his shot provides an above-average foundation to build upon and the introduction of a reliable short midrange jumper appears entirely feasible. In flashes, he does display the dexterity and flair to become a crafty passer, but developing the vision is no easy feat. Most of his passing reads are relatively basic and sometimes even simple uncontested entry passes get away from him at that height. While DHO master Bam Adebayo wasn’t the most prolific passer at Kentucky either, t’s hard to predict that anyone becomes the next Bam. It’s possible, but I would not count on it. Similar to Bam, his defensive development (as is the case for most centers) could completely redefine his status within the league. In college, there were numerous occasions where his length could simply erase shots even as he keeled over when taking contact. Those would draw fouls in the big league. Developing core strength will be a boon. He’s not generally jumpy, but there are occasions where he will go for the shot block at the expense of opening up opportunities for a cutter or the big behind him. Those are the mistakes typically cleaned up by coaching staffs. Many of his fouls come from a hyper-competitive motor. As a personal choice, I prefer to see that and would much rather have a coaching staff work with a player on developing the right reads so that the high-intensity play style shine without foul trouble rather than have the staff cover for a low motor player. Ultimately, his comfort on the perimeter will determine his place within the league. He is shockingly adept as a big out on the perimeter. His footspeed is adequate, he often takes smart angles, and his hand placement mirrors the ball handlers’ intentions well to cut out their main choice of action. He erased multiple step-backs this season, due to his confidence and agility. Among all the centers in this draft class, he confidently maintains a cushion between himself and the ball handler that would only be second smallest to Duren. Even leaving aside the jumper or any shot creation, if he becomes the next switch big, an elite offensive finisher, a potent rim protector, an offensive rebound maven, that description depicts the key cornerstone for a playoff team. 

Early Season Review: With the Hornets’ unintentional tank blossoming in a competitive East, it’s time to unleash Mark Williams to his fullest. I don’t know the locker room dynamics or who his main vets are, but if Plumlee would want to focus on being a key piece for a playoff team rather than a mentor for a talented rookie, I would very much be willing to trade him. His deal lasts only through the remainder of the season and he doesn’t profile as a cornerstone component of a rebuild. An adequate drop defender, Plumlee is a premium target for opposing offenses to hunt on switches out at the perimeter and is not the complimentary lob threat to surround LaMelo with. Mark can solve those problems and I would love to see him get more run with LaMelo. It’s difficult to get a read on centers in Summer League and, as a rookie, Mark performed admirably in the preseason and especially so in the G League. His physicality and zestful exuberance popped and the Hornets finally anointed him a member of their rotation on Boxing Day. Defensively, it’s been hit or miss thus far as to be expected. Early on, Mark’s been primarily tasked with drop coverage responsibilities. For every moment where he plays the two-man game perfectly by cutting off passing angles with outstretched arms before pouncing on a guard as they pick up their dribble, there are moments he overruns the screen and unseals a clear driving lane. It’s classic rookie big material, but the athleticism and rebounding have still translated. The creation and shooting have been limited, but he did unveil this audacious attempt on his third game in the rotation: It’s been very encouraging so far.


TO BE CONTINUED…stay tuned for part 3 coming soon!