The high upside prospects covered here are likely second round picks. These players have a bit more mystery. Anfernee Simons and Rodions Kurucs haven’t played against the best competition, and their draft prospects may have suffered because of that. Two others, Hamidou Diallo and Trevon Duval, have seen their stock fall after their flaws were exposed in the two biggest programs in the NCAA. Chimezie Metu, the oldest player in this crop, could be a bit of a gamble on development. Of course, that’s the gamble of the draft. The Nets are banking on their development staff to bring out the best in these players.
Anfernee Simons, Guard, IMG Academy (CMP: 28.00)
Simons is the second mystery player, but a little more is known about his recent game. A bucket-getter, Simons is a combo guard who doesn’t look physically intimidating, but can score in bunches. He’s a pretty slick ballhandler, and has a reliable and consistent jumper. Simons is adept at creating his own shot, and can finish above the rim or with craft (not the macaroni-and-cheese brand.) Simons doesn’t project as a pure point guard, but his ability to create space and his handle could be effective in setting up others. He’ll be a score first combo guard, and that’s never a bad thing.
On the other side of the spectrum, Simons looks like he just came out of high school. He literally did. He pales physically in comparison to powerful prospects like Trevon Duval and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He may need time to work on his strength before absorbing nightly punishment against NBA defenses. Simons’ height (6’3”) may force future coaches to pair him with bigger ballhandlers. He may never be a great defender simply due to his size and a lack of focus. At the rim, Simons is a solid finisher, but his in-between game is a little suspect. He settles on occasion, and that could be due to his lack of strength.
Simons is a decent prospect to look at for a talent-depraved team like the Nets. Simons has reportedly worked out with the Nets, so there could be some interest there. He has potential as a scorer and as a combo guard. But his strength and physicality need to go a long way. He could spend lots of time in the G-League wherever he goes. But that time could be worth it. At the end of the first round or early in the second, a player that can provide consistent scoring is more than enough. Simons can fill that role.
Hamidou Diallo, Guard, Kentucky (CMP: 42.00)
Diallo’s gifts are well-documented. The Queens native (718 represent!) is probably the best pure athlete in this year’s draft, maximizing his leaping ability and speed in the open floor. In his year at Kentucky, Diallo was successful in transition, able to outrun and out-jump defenders when given the advantage. In the halfcourt, Diallo will find success as a pro dizzying defenders off-ball or attacking closeouts. Aside from his physical gifts, Diallo seems to be developing a jump shot and shows decent ability as a ballhandler. On the defensive end, his athleticism is his calling card. Diallo’s wingspan (7’0”) and quickness bode well for him to guard three positions comfortably. His speed could help stop fast breaks and potentially rack up chasedown blocks. The 19-year old has the tools to be a good defender.
Compared to his 2017 Draft journey, Diallo’s stock has fallen. His year at Kentucky raised some important questions and magnified doubts. The most pressing issue with Diallo’s game is his awareness. On both ends, Diallo looked confused on occasion, shooting low-percentage jumpers and losing track of his man on defense. The number of fouls he picked up in 25 minutes per game (2.59) show over-aggression and a tendency to play with his hands, not his feet. As a ballhandler, Diallo’s vision and overall decision-making need game time to develop. While he shot an okay 33.8% from three, his jumper mechanics are wildly inconsistent. On the defensive end, Diallo will need to focus more. Despite his supreme athleticism, he got beat off the dribble way too much at Kentucky.
As a second round prospect, Diallo would be a reasonable choice, but he will need time to marinate. Even in John Calipari’s one-and-done system, he struggled. He scored in double digits only three times in his final 15 games as a collegiate athlete. The Nets have shown interest in him in the past. His athleticism is pristine material for the Nets to mold – either in Brooklyn or on Long Island. But Diallo’s awareness could develop in a day or never come. The Nets have found their most success developing wing and guard prospects, and Diallo could be another. At worst, he’ll at least be a fun player to watch in the open floor.
Chimezie Metu, Big, USC (CMP: 44.00)
Metu is the oldest player of the “high upside” players listed. He’s shown a little bit of everything recently at USC. Metu can rise quickly, with his highlight film providing lots of emphatic dunks. He’s also quick enough to get out in transition, dive to the rim, and make sneaky cuts. He has a decent jump hook in the post, but also shows a jumper that could expand to three-point range. Metu also isn’t afraid to put the ball on the floor from the perimeter, while making proper passes to open teammates. As a rim protector, Metu shows good patience blocking shots from the strong and weak side. He’s long enough to bother shooters, but also quick enough to slide over and at least alter a shot. His lateral movement bodes well defending the pick and roll as a pro.
Sounds like an All Star, right? As an older prospect, Metu’s development may have reached its ceiling already. To be a 21-year old “raw” prospect in this era creates doubt. That doubt is magnified when production doesn’t see much improvement in a year. He’s shown flashes of each enticing aspect of his game, but has yet to fully put it together. This may be a personal nitpick of mine, but Metu doesn’t play with much urgency, especially on the glass and setting screens. He has the physical attributes to succeed as a rebounder, but his effort could use a little more oomph. Metu may also need to add some strength to his lower body as a pro. He has a slender frame that looks like it could get pushed around easily by other bigs.
As a second round prospect, Metu is a rare upperclassman upside pick. While his production at USC the past two years has been solid, he has yet to put all of his skills together. If drafted by the Nets, Metu could be a pick-and-roll big to start his career. While not the most powerful, he could outrun opposing bigs on dashes to the rim. If his shooting comes along, he could be a pick-and-pop threat. Metu has potential, but his improvement on both ends could determine is he’s an end-of-bench energy big or something more.
Trevon Duval, Guard, Duke (CMP: 46.00)
Another one-and-done player, Duval is a second round prospect with interesting upside. With a rock solid frame and pure point guard skills, Duval fits the part of an NBA player. Duval’s vision as a playmaker is his standout offensive skill. He can throw one-handed passes into traffic with ease and can find teammates on the move. His stop-go skills as a ballhandler – paired with good agility and explosiveness - would fit in well in an open system. Duval will score most of his points going to the basket, where he can finish through contact or out-step bigs. Duval’s athletic tools project well defensively, especially against other power point and combo guards in the NBA.
Ranked No. 6 on the 2017 ESPN 100 for basketball recruits, Duval was slated above players like Collin Sexton, Jaren Jackson, Kevin Knox, and Trae Young. Those are four consensus first round picks – Duval is not. In the current one-and-done happy Duke system, Wendell Carter and Marvin Bagley outshone Duval. Duval was unable to operate optimally, with his flaws magnified. His poor shooting was on full display, especially when relegated to spot up shooting around Carter and Bagley. His jumper needs serious work, the motion a little slow and aesthetically unappealing. Even his free throw shooting is lacking. On the defensive end, Duval is a solid on-ball defender, but he may need to refine his instincts defending the pick and roll and off of dribble handoffs.
Duval is an example of a player who could have used more seasoning in college. Unfortunately, the corruption – um, I mean - nature of the NCAA essentially forced Duval out of Duke. Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer wrote about Duval’s failings, with prospects being churned out every year. With every Trae Young, there’s a Trevon Duval, whose upside has only tanked since first suiting up for Duke. For the Nets, Duval could thrive in an open, five-out system, able to drive-and-kick with an open floor. His athletic gifts could shine with one of the league’s fastest teams. His jumper still needs work, but the talent is there. Duval could be the case of a player that could shine with the NBA game.
Rodions Kurucs, Wing, Barcelona (CMP: 47.50)
Rodions Kurucs is a hypothetical. Hypothetically, Kurucs could be a solid slashing wing. He’s agile enough to get into the lane, capitalizing on long strides and long arms. Hypothetically, Kurucs could play three positions. He has solid size and could add to his frame whenever he decides to make the leap to the NBA. Hypothetically, Kurucs could be a spot-up threat. He has solid jumper mechanics, and is comfortable handling the ball to set up his shot. Hypothetically, Kurucs could be a gazelle in transition. He runs the floor extremely well, and could spark fast breaks himself. Hypothetically, Kurucs could play in the NBA (or the G-League) next year. But it’s all hypothetical. The lanky Latvian (and possible friend of Porzingis) is skilled, for sure.
(Also, shoutout to the play-by-play commentator for the Barcelona B team. Watching Kurucs film has inspired me to roll all my R’s and say everything with charisma and machismo.)
Anyway. Kurucs could be a bigger unknown than the none-and-done players like Anfernee Simons and Mitchell Robinson. He played most of the year for Barcelona’s second team, which may be on par with Division II or Division III programs. Even against subpar competition, the 20-year old didn’t dominate. He also hasn’t shown much growth since last season, where he tested the draft waters. Kurucs’ hypothetical three-point shot wasn’t the most impressive either, shooting 33.3% from the field and also showing questionable shot selection. As a young prospect in Barcelona, Kurucs is also in a system that may actively be trying to undercut its best young players (that’s really a thing.)
The Nets have shown interest in Kurucs dating back to last year, with Sean Marks personally watching Kurucs play (a bit) in person a year ago. (A weekend in Barcelona isn’t too bad, work or not.) So the Nets have done their due diligence. But his current situation is ugly. And his skillset is largely unproven – especially when relying on video and sub-optimal competition. Kurucs could be an unknown prospect that pays off in the long run. But his entry into the NBA, and more importantly, his continued development, is up in the air.
Be sure to follow me on twitter, @ignisyon for previews of profiles to come!
Next: Safe Bets, Part 1, Thursday