As noted before, some of these prospects may be better suited for the 38th overall pick rather than the 24th, but draft selections can be unpredictable. Such was the case last season when a lot of guys were drafted ahead of their projected positions due to the amount of players who were opting for the undrafted route.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. 6’6″, 226 lbs. UCLA SF – Senior, Age 22
He may not stand out as a riveting NBA prospect, but Jaime Jaquez Jr.’s feel for the game may be legitimate enough to get him selected in round one in spite of his age.
The best part of his game is his fadeaway mid-rangers from either the post or elbow area. Jaquez has tremendous footwork, patience, and awareness, and he really has an exceptional ability to hit those fallaway shots as a result, especially after a fake/half spin preceding it. In isolation, he has a variety of ways he can score the basketball without being an outstanding athlete as his methodical approach and mid-range touch are terrific.
Since his high school days, Jaquez has been referred to as a Swiss Army Knife for his versatility. As noted, he can score in isolation, but he can also be a spot up threat, work as a pick-and-roll ball handler, and be an effective screener.
He shot just 32.8% from deep through four years as a Bruin, but when open and given time—particularly in the corners—he’ll punish the opposing defense; plus, his floor and spacing awareness will bestow him those sorts of looks. There’s potential upside, even for a 22 year-old.
Overall, his feel for the game translates to smart passes even if his off-hand handles aren’t exceptional. And without the ball, his willingness and smarts make him a good roll man option as well as a pick-and-pop threat, but mostly out of the mid-range.
As one can tell, the key to Jaquez is basketball IQ, and that extends to the defensive side as he is a good positional defender and excellent as a helper. He’s especially effective rotating from the weak side and jumping passing lanes, demonstrating that he’s got a nose for the ball.
However, he lacks lateral quickness and foot speed, making him a subpar on-ball option, especially against quick perimeter players. And he lacks the size to guard most big’s. Ultimately, it’s unclear as to what position he’d guard at the next level.
Furthermore, his jump shooting from deep could make or break a successful career in the NBA. So far, he’s far from being a three-point threat and will have to increase his consistency.
And for all his offensive strengths, will he be able to maximize his abilities with a vastly reduced role? He did a lot of dribbling at UCLA.
Jaquez still has a lot of things to like, but it’s highly unlikely he’d be the best player on the board at pick 24. If he’s on the board at 38 and Sac still holds that pick, that’d be great value.
Ben Sheppard 6’6″, 195 lbs. Belmont SF – Senior, Age 21
It looks like Ben Sheppard will be the third ever player drafted out of Belmont and there’s a range of reasons why.
The first thing about the mid-major standout is his shooting. Sheppard shot 37.0% from three throughout his college career, and in his senior season, he hit 41.5% of his 6.0 attempts per game. He’s as good in catch-and-shoot scenarios as he is coming off of screens, using his fluid form and quick release well. According to Adam Spinella, he’s extremely effective out of the Chicago action, which encompasses the pin down screen and the dribble handoff. And he has great awareness of spacing and where to be on the perimeter, able to relocate seamlessly.
He has a tremendous feel for the game when it comes to passing, averaging 2.9 assists as a senior. A former high school point guard, Sheppard is a good processor that can make some great reads. He showed a lot as a pick-and-roll ball handler and as an attacker after close outs since he’s able to dump the ball off and kick it out. He will also push and find teammates in transition, and he will always make the extra pass if it’s there.
Sheppard has good height and length while also possessing excellent instincts and IQ on the defensive end. He has a noteworthy ability to jump passing lanes like a cornerback as he racked up a fair amount of steals. The wing showed glimpses of great on-ball defense and was a member of the Missouri Valley Conference All-Defensive Team.
Still, his feet aren’t quick enough at the moment to stay in front of explosive NBA guards, plus his 195 lb. frame will create struggles against bigger wings that can lean into physicality. Sheppard could really benefit from some more coaching on that end too.
Overall, his athleticism, particularly in terms of hops, is limited. With that and his small frame, he struggles to finish in traffic and through contact. It also makes him prone to having his shots blocked, which happened a good amount in college. And he lacks burst on his first step, limiting the lethality of his attacks and cuts. In short, he’s not much of a threat as a scorer inside.
However, with a little more muscle and coaching, Ben Sheppard could be one of the biggest sleepers, and his attitude only lifts those chances. As Brett Siegel of Clutch Points opined, the Belmont product “may have the best attitude and character in this draft class.”
Gregory Jackson II 6’9″, 214 lbs. South Carolina PF – Freshman, Age 18
There are a lot of things about GG Jackson to not like, but when taking into account he’s still so young, the upside is impossible to ignore.
Jackson is not a terrific athlete—he’s not bad, he’s just not spectacular—and his wingspan is only 6’10”, but he’s got adequate size and body fluidity.
The variety of things he can do on offense is noteworthy. In spite of his size, he dribbles well. He loves to pull up for jumpers, but he can also get to the rim on his own. Overall, his upside as an isolation scorer is strong due to his surprising craftiness and the assortment of ways he can put the ball in the basket, which includes hitting high-difficulty looks.
Plus, he can play off ball as a cutter, which he does well, and as a roll man, which many have noted is something he did a lot in AAU ball prior to playing at South Carolina. Jackson is also great in transition as a fluid big who is able to play above the rim.
He was not a convincing three-point shooter at just 32.4%, but as he tries to improve that, he already has NBA-level range and is highly efficient on spot up looks in the corners. His mechanics are decent and his release is quick.
Defensively, he can make a difference in transition and has both the size and strength to guard on-ball, but he has to shore up a lot on that end. His commitment to that side of the ball was questionable throughout his freshman season. Energy, fundamentals—both on and off-ball—as well as effort were all missing for prolonged periods. For all the space he creates on offense himself, he hands out the same amount to the opposition when he guards them.
And really, he isn’t efficient at all on offense, shooting 38.4% from the field overall and 67.7% from the free throw line. Worse, he averaged 0.8 assists per game while averaging 2.7 turnovers per, which is insanely bad. In all, he has some try-hard characteristics and will let bad habits and decisions avalanche into even more.
There are a fair amount of things to like, especially relative to his age, but some news was made when one scout pointed to his youthfulness as “a convenient excuse.” It has to be taken into account that some scouts just don’t believe in him. He certainly has plenty of question marks surrounding him.
Jalen Wilson 6’7″, 230 lbs. Kansas PF – Senior, Age 22
After four years as a Jayhawk, three of which he spent as a starter, Jalen Wilson’s track record of improvement could foretell a solid NBA career.
With a senior season under his belt where he assumed a large load of responsibility and scored 20.1 points per game, Wilson’s intriguing mix of physical assets is evident. The length is average, but he’s very strong and has a frame ready for the next level, yet he also displays some very nice quickness and athleticism. That combination helps open up his offense from three levels.
Inside, he’s able to utilize mismatches. Wilson is nimble enough to beat bigger defenders, and he’s powerful enough to push around smaller ones. He’s solid in the post, having good footwork, some craftiness, and soft touch around the basket. Off-ball, he’s aware and decisive, making useful cuts to the basket, where he can finish with his trusty reverse layup.
Able to get by a fair amount of defenders, he’s able to exploit that by stopping and pulling up for an efficient mid-range shot.
He only shot 33.7% from three-point range on 5.8 attempts per, but it was a massive improvement from his 26.3% clip the season prior. Wilson’s shot form is smooth and the release is quick, particularly in catch-and-shoot situations. He shot just below 80% from the free throw line, so there is upside in improving his shot and its consistency.
Perhaps his best trait is his rebounding. He averaged 7.7 in his college career, 8.3 in his senior season. The past two seasons, he’s averaged 1.6 offensive rebounds per contest.
That comes from his solid motor. Wilson worked with Howard head coach Kenny Blakeney about a year ago, and he said that the Jayhawk forward “plays with a motor on both sides of the ball that fits” in the NBA.
Defensively, his athleticism, frame, and motor make him potentially versatile at the next level. But while he is fundamentally solid, he has something to prove on that end. For all his high IQ awareness on the offensive end, it’s not the same on the other side of the ball. Likely due to his significant role overall, his effort was susceptible to dipping every so often on defense.
Wilson also does not handle the ball exceptionally well. An eye test shows that pretty clearly as his speed without the ball is miles better than when he’s dribbling. Watching him dribble in transition here is an illustrative look at the state of his handles.
Worse, Wilson had 79 total assists in his senior season while committing 84 total turnovers.
There are some questions about whether he is a wing or a 4 in the NBA, but it feels like it’ll be the latter. Jalen Wilson’s athleticism, NBA-ready size, and spot up shooting upside should help him find a useful purpose at the highest level, and having a much smaller and more acute role as a pro could facilitate that.
Terquavion Smith 6’3″, 163 lbs. NC State SG – Sophomore, Age 20
Terquavion Smith’s sophomore season was a bit of a let down, but his offensive upside is still one of the strongest in his class.
Smith has authentic NBA-level range on his shot. He has a repeatable form that launches the ball with a beautiful arc. As a catch-and-shoot threat, he can space the floor without the ball, yet he also possesses a decent pull up game that will surface when he’s really feeling it.
Being such a threat from deep at any given time, it benefits his ability to go downhill. Without his range, he’s already very quick and fairly athletic, with room to grow in both areas. This allows him to slide through to the basket, where he has some touch, particularly on his runners. He also is a terrific mid-range shooter as he doesn’t need much space.
These traits make him a great pick-and-roll handler because he can snake screens and utilize the threat of his jump shot to his advantage. He doesn’t facilitate exceptionally well, but there was improvement in year two; and it’s noteworthy that he’s not incredibly prone to turnovers.
The biggest problem for Terquavion Smith is his size. He’s just under 6’4″ with an unspectacular 6’7″ wingspan that is not undergirded by strength. After his first year, everyone knew he had to improve his frame for the next level, but his progress has been marginal so far.
He’s therefore disadvantaged on defense where he can be targeted for physical mismatches. Plus, he lacks some off-ball awareness. Rarely does he do the necessary early work that prevent easy routes and cutting lanes for his man; he’ll lose his guy despite his quickness. Though, to be fair, his defense in year two showed some evolution, which can continue.
Another negative that stands out—but which seems so much more amendable—is he is inefficient and gets tunnel vision as a scorer. In two seasons at NC State, Smith hovered just beneath a 39% clip from the field. Simply put, he’s very streaky and, at times, lacks cognizance of what is and isn’t a good shot.
And he also dipped in efficiency in year two with more minutes and usage after opening eyes the season prior.
Having to improve his frame will allow for some refinement in other areas, and if he can get bigger—which is a must—and locate a steady NBA role, he could pan out to be a good prospect.