With June practically in full swing and the NBA draft approaching, the prospects train keeps chugging along. Here is the sixth installment of potential options for the Kings on the 22nd of this month. Sacramento holds the 24th, 38th, and 54th selections this year.
Julian Phillips 6’8″, 197 lbs. Tennessee SF – Freshman, Age 19
After losing his spot in Tennessee’s starting lineup due to the absence from a mild ankle injury, Julian Phillips decided to stay in the draft following a showing in the pre-draft process that impressed NBA teams.
As seen at the combine, where he posted the best standing vertical and max vertical leaps, it’s clear Phillips is one of the most athletic members of this class. He also has a 7’0″ wingspan, possesses quickness, and moves fluidly, so in terms of physical traits, he’s more than solid.
That also means he has a lot of potential on the defensive side of the ball. In a nut shell, he was one of the best defenders on the country’s third best defensive team. He stands out as a guy who gets steals and on-ball blocks, but he’s probably most intriguing because of his versatility. Phillips doesn’t have much body on him at less than 200 lbs. (for now), but he guarded a variety of positions for the Volunteers, demonstrating good switchability and activity.
More than half of his field goal attempts came at the rim, where he shot an underwhelming 53%. Still, he’s able to finish with either hand and has shown an adequate feel for cutting. A fair amount of those attempts come off of put backs, and it’s fair to call Phillips an effective offensive rebounder, grabbing 1.8 per contest.
See below for the shooting numbers—they’re horrifying—but still, Phillips has some potential. He shot 82.2% from the free throw line. And he did it on 3.2 attempts per game, demonstrating upside in being able to get to the line at the next level. Helping his cause is that athleticism that allows him to get into the air so quickly.
But he needs to work on his ball handling, which is not tight. And in terms of attacking, his first step is not a danger to defenders.
Regarding those shooting numbers, Phillips shot just 41.1% from the field and 23.9% from beyond the arc (1.4 attempts per), exhibiting nothing special in terms of catch-and-shoot ability. He attempts some mid-rangers from the elbow, but even those are converted at a sub-30% clip. The free throw percentage is really his saving grace.
He’s also young and very much a project player at 19, but his athleticism, as well as things like his defensive upside (which is good) and his free throw shooting (which is intriguing), should make him a worthy investment in the early to mid-second round.
Keyontae Johnson 6’5″, 239 lbs. Kansas State SF – Senior, Age 23
Keyontae Johnson is one of those guys that sounds good when you think about him in a specific NBA role rather than the larger one he played for the K-State Wildcats.
At roughly 240 lbs. and equipped with a 7’0″ wingspan, he’s got the makeup of a good defender. He’s quick and strong enough to guard the 2 through the 4 at the next level, though he’ll start with 3’s and 4’s. Johnson is very strong and performs with good fundamentals on that end of the floor, which make him such a versatile competitor there.
He does some things offensively too. Johnson’s strength comes into play on that end as he can muscle through some guys and target leaner mismatches with pretty adept post moves.
Alongside that is the fact he’s a catch-and-shoot threat, hitting 45% of all such looks this season. Notably, he converted over 40% on all looks from three, proving to be “automatic” when left wide open. His shot form is quick and smooth that rises up without much of a jump; he’s great when set.
As a high-energy guy, he’s a terrific cutter with excellent awareness that makes decisive breaks to the basket. Again, his frame allows him to finish in strong fashion. Johnson also earned 4.2 attempts from the free throw line per game, hitting them at a 71.5% clip.
With a smaller offensive role, it’s easy to envision him standing in a corner creating space, making hard cuts, and always crashing the glass (6.8 rebounds per game).
But at Kansas State, it was clear that Johnson has limitations creating for himself. He’s not explosive penetrating with the ball, often relying on a decent crossover move, and he doesn’t even have much of a feel for it as he takes a lot of bad routes and hits a lot of walls. The jump shooting form is also not great as it pertains to pull ups or coming off any extensive movement, really.
While he can create in transition off a rebound, he commits a lot of turnovers at 2.9 per game. With his poor attacking and persistence to do it in his large role, he either lost the ball or made bad passes.
Johnson’s also going to be 23 when he gets drafted, which lends little room in terms of his ceiling.
Even still, it’s very possible that Keyontae Johnson can thrive in an acute role off the bench as a versatile defender with floor-spacing qualities.
Seth Lundy 6’5″, 214 lbs. Penn State SG – Senior, Age 23
Seth Lundy is another guy that, despite his age, projects to fit a specific role that’s useful to all NBA teams.
As a senior, Lundy shot 40% from three on 6.4 attempts per game. His shot form rises straight up and gets the ball off from a high release point. He hits catch-and-shoot looks as well as those coming off of movement. Without the ball, he’s very good with relocation, helping earn a lot of good looks.
Lundy also earned 3.0 free throw attempts per contest, hitting 80.7% of those, which is another confirmation of his shooting touch.
One of his intangible qualities is how smart he is, and it’s something that makes him a timely cutter. He’s been making a concerted effort to have a high basketball IQ.
With his effort and at 6.3 per game, he’s also a good rebounder despite being slightly undersized at 6’5″. Lundy’s strength and bigger frame makes up for that, allowing him to have success when getting a body on a man. He was the best defender for the Nittany Lions.
He’s also not super explosive, but that strong body helps him defend the forward position adequately. His 6’10” wingspan is a weapon and he plays with awareness on that end. He can be a 3-and-D guy.
But he won’t be anything more since there is no foreseeable future where he creates shots on his own. He lacks the athleticism, quick first step, and handles to do any of that.
Nor will he create for his teammates, committing the same exact number of assists as turnovers this past season.
The underwhelming athleticism also limits his defense. He’d be a far more appealing prospect if there was more certainty that he’ll be able to check some guards, but it’s not clear right now.
And the obvious thing is his advanced age, which makes him a likely mid-second round pick, but nevertheless, there is a real route for Seth Lundy to carve out an NBA role.
Jordan Walsh 6’7″, 204 lb. Arkansas SF – Freshman, Age 19
Many thought Jordan Walsh would benefit from another year in college, but the wing has his sights firmly set on a professional career.
With plus-athleticism and a 7’2″ wingspan, Jordan Walsh’s defensive potential is his biggest draw. He racked up a noticeable amount of steals and on-ball blocks, using his hops (on display here with a throw down) and length to his advantage. With that, Walsh also plays with a competitive spirit and a decent sense of intensity. That end of the floor is where most of his promise lies.
Offensively, he utilizes off-ball movement well to get in position to shoot or to get off a runner. He’ll hit a fair amount of turnaround jumpers in the mid post; he’ll target mismatches, but can hurt bigger forwards too. Though Walsh is most effective in the open floor where his athleticism helps out a lot.
He has the potential to be a secondary playmaker/point forward. Though he averaged just under 1 assist per game, Evan Tomes of NBADraft.net said the forward “can create offense out of nothing.” He has a ways to go, but the floor is set for him to climb in that department.
Walsh is also a decent rebounder, where he can grab some offensive boards.
Shooting wise, he has upside because his form is smooth and the release is pretty quick, particularly off the catch and/or stepping into it, but the kid shot a mere 27.8% from beyond the arc. It feels futile saying he has to improve his shooting consistency because it’s so obvious.
In addition to that, he does not reliably create his own shot, which is exacerbated by his struggles in traffic and, at times, finishing through contact. And while he has potential as a playmaker, he really needs to tighten his handles and reign in his more ambitious—i.e. dangerous—passing attempts.
And defensively speaking, as some have noted, it’s noteworthy that he really struggled to stay on the floor at times due to fouls. In his lone season for the Razorbacks, Walsh was committing 4.8 fouls per 40 minutes.
Perhaps most of his allure comes from his youth and potential ceiling rather than anything he does on the floor, but his NBA-ready size and strength back that up to a degree that could get him drafted somewhere in the middle of the second round.
Amari Bailey 6’4″, 191 lbs. UCLA PG – Freshman, Age 19
He was a consensus first-rounder at the beginning of the season before he had what was considered an underwhelming year, but Amari Bailey is still a high upside prospect.
Bailey is a legitimate on-ball defender with the skills to really disrupt teams’ points of attack. First and foremost, he wants to play defense, he’s dedicated and engaged. With the high effort, it maximizes his solid positional length with his 6’7″ wingspan. He’s quick and active, sticking onto guys while moving his feet and not fouling.
The former five-star recruit has a good baseline as a playmaker. He’s really good out of the pick-and-roll, making some nice passes and moving with an excellent sense of half court pace. More than that, he can use some craft and touch to finish at the rim, and he has an outstanding pull up mid-range shot.
He shot 38.9% from three on 1.8 attempts, proving to be a floor spacer when off the ball as he hit most of those in catch-and-shoot scenarios. Scouts say his form could use some refinement, but his shooting touch is palpable.
Similar to his defensive commitment, Bailey is known as a high-IQ player that “absorbs” scouting reports.
But he could use some work with his ball-handling, which caused a lot of turnovers—the most of any Bruin—and prevented him from averaging more assists than he did (just 2.2 per game). This is a must-fix issue.
In the same vein, Bailey’s decision making is also an area in need of improvement. His shot selection can be overambitious, he’ll attack at the wrong time, and he’ll sometimes pick up his dribble too early and get trapped.
He’s also deficient in his ability to hit pull up jumpers from deep range as evidenced by his reluctance to take such shots.
A few places have Amari Bailey as a second round pick, some have him mocked as a first rounder. If he’s available at 38, Monte McNair may very well view him as the best available player and thus the best potential asset.