With my latest Big Board update out now, I figured it was also a good time to drop some more scouting reports.
As I said in my first article of the cycle and want to reiterate here, these rankings only reflect where I PERSONALLY would have these players ranked if I were a general manager. THIS IS NOT A MOCK DRAFT (I'm looking at you Arkansas fans).
I once again included current or former NBA player comparisons for each player. Keep in mind that these comparisons are more from the standpoint of the type of skillset that player has or the archetype that I believe they will fit, not necessarily the impact they will have on a team or the league.
So with all that out of the way let's get back into the rankings.
Tier 4 - Potential Starters/High-End Role Players
15. Jalen Hood-Schifino | Guard | 20 | 6'5 | 215 | Indiana
Hood-Schifino was incredibly impressive in his lone season for the Hoosiers despite taking on more of the primary playmaking responsibility than expected after a season-ending injury to starting point guard Xavier Johnson on December 17th at Kansas. Ultimately it was that opportunity to show off his combo-guard potential that helped him climb from a borderline 1st round guy to a near lock to be selected among the first 30 players on draft night.
He uses his NBA-ready frame (6'5, 215 lbs) to bully weaker guards into the paint and fights through contact at the rim with relative ease. That coupled with his ability to finish reliably with either hand should make him one of the better "slashing scorers" at the guard position.
Hood-Schifino is fantastic in pick-and-roll and dribble hand-off situations as both a playmaker and a scorer and has an uncanny ability to manipulate defenders into no man's land allowing him to consistently create easy/uncontested looks for himself and others.
He isn't what I would consider a "reliable" threat from long-range quite yet, particularly off-ball (30.3% on catch-and-shoot attempts) but he is surprisingly effective shooting off the dribble (37.8% from three).
Hood-Schifino's bread and butter on the offensive end is his ability to make the most of his good but not great athleticism by using pacing ultra-effectively to keep his defender constantly off balance.
While I believe Hood-Schifino's bag of scoring tricks should translate quite nicely to the NBA level there is some definite concern about the role he will be able to play. He is an effective playmaker but his decision-making (2.8 turnovers per game) is questionable at times leading to concerns over his potential as the primary playmaker for an offense. Conversely, his struggles in catch-and-shoot situations potentially make it difficult for him to be an effective player off the ball if there isn't some significant improvement in that area.
NBA Comp: Jordan Poole/Jordan Clarkson
16. Gradey Dick | Wing | 19 | 6'8 | 205 | Kansas
Some people may consider it an insult to Gradey Dick to have him ranked this low but do not be mistaken, I'm a huge fan of Dick's game even if I don't believe the upside warrants a lottery selection.
Dick is, without a doubt, one of the best pure perimeter shooters in this draft class (40.3 3pt %), and his ability to shoot off of just about every platform imaginable was showcased throughout the season.
While Dick has yet to show a ton of self-creation upside, because of the respect opposing defenders have to give his jump shot he is able to score pretty easily when attacking the close-out and is a better finisher at the rim than people think (55% on halfcourt layup attempts).
Dick has an unbelievable understanding of defensive tendencies and uses it to his advantage in setting opposing defenses up for easy backdoor cuts/off-screen layups as well as any prospect I've ever evaluated.
When it comes to defensive ability I don't see him making any all-defense teams throughout his career but Dick's high basketball IQ puts him in the correct position more often than not and makes him more effective as a defender in the context of the team's defensive scheme than the individual POA dynamo you might hope for in a guy with his size.
Dick will potentially carry tremendous value throughout his career because his skillset makes him a plug-and-play option for nearly every franchise in the NBA but his off-ball expertise is an ideal fit alongside one (or more) more ball-dominant stars (think Dallas). With that being said I do think his unproven ability to create his own offense is a valid concern and one that probably limits him to a tertiary role in the NBA.
NBA Comp: Cam Johnson
17. Maxwell Lewis | Wing | 20 | 6'7 | 207 | Pepperdine
After the meteoric rise of Santa Clara's Jalen Williams from unknown to lottery pick in the 2022 draft cycle we have yet another wing with what can best be described as an unorthodox offensive game emerging from the shadows of the West Coast Conference in Pepperdine's Maxwell Lewis.
The rangy 6'7 wing will leave your jaw on the floor at times with his ability to slither into the paint and finish with a smoothness (52.3% on halfcourt layups) rarely seen outside of the most experienced players in the NBA.
While Lewis is most comfortable creating off the dribble he can score effectively in a multitude of ways, including on post-ups, depending on how the defense chooses to guard him.
Lewis' outside shooting was nothing to sneeze at either, particularly off the catch (44%) although from a shooting mechanics standpoint, he will have to adjust the way he consistently loads up from his hip in order to quicken his release.
As a defender, Lewis uses his massive length and solid instincts (7'0 wingspan) to disrupt passing lanes very effectively but does have a tendency to gamble that will occasionally see him caught out of position. His average lateral quickness will make it tough for him to defend the quickest guards in the NBA but he should be able to make up for it enough with his combination of length and hip fluidity to be reliable guarding 2/3's consistently.
While Lewis' unorthodox offensive abilities probably give him a higher ceiling than almost anyone left on my board at this point it is fair to question why it didn't translate to more success on the court (Pepperdine finished last in the WCC) and whether Lewis is more style than substance. His decision-making as a playmaker is, to put it simply, not very good at this point (5.7 turnovers per 100 possessions), and he sometimes looks like a guy out there hunting shots (28% on 75 off-dribble three-point attempts).
I, however, believe he flashed enough ability off the ball both as a shooter and a cutter that even if he doesn't reach his ceiling as a primary scorer/secondary playmaker that he will be able to find a niche in the NBA.
NBA Comp: Ceiling - Mikal Bridges | Floor - Jarrett Culver
18. Jordan Hawkins | Guard | 21 | 6'5 | 195 | UConn
Hawkins may be the only player in the class that can challenge Gradey Dick, both as the draft's best shooter and also as the most active player without the ball in his hands.
Hawkins' ability to thrive as a shooter coming off of screens and in DHO sets makes him an ideal offensive piece in a modern NBA system.
Hawkins' constant circling of the defense resembles more Roadrunner than basketball player at times but if he gets some space, absolutely any space, he will make the defense pay. One of the most impressive things about Hawkins is how consistent he is mechanically. Despite coming off of screens at basically a sprint at times, he is always able to get himself under control and keep his hips square with the rim.
Because of Hawkins' elite reputation as a three-point shooter (38.8% on 7.6 attempts per game last season), it's often overlooked that Hawkins is fully capable of using his burst to get to the rim and finish with either hand.
The main knock on Hawkins is that he doesn't do a ton to affect the game outside of scoring as evidenced by his averaging just 6.3 combined rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks per game but the shooting is at such an elite level that it's hard to imagine him not finding some kind of role in the NBA.
NBA Comp: Better shooting Malik Monk
19. Dereck Lively | Center | 19 | 7'0 | 230 | Duke
I was lucky enough to cover Lively and the Blue Devils in person this season on a number of occasions so I've seen him play live more than any other player on this list. While his rare combination of size and athleticism is evident on TV, until you see it in person I can't adequately quantify it for you. Simply put, even among the cream of the crop Lively stands out.
Lively's offensive game is currently still a major work in progress, but he has shown flashes of a more versatile skillset going back to high school and I don't think his film for Duke this past season quite does his offensive game justice.
With that being said, he isn't (and may never be) a traditional back-to-the-basket post scorer and will mostly be used as a lob threat in pick and roll and from the dunker's spot and rely on high motor opportunities (putbacks, transition, etc...) to affect the game on the offensive end.
Despite not having quite the polish of a productive NBA scorer yet, Lively's passing is criminally underrated. By no means is he a guy I would expect to see an NBA franchise running their offense through but his connective playmaking and quick processing ability is vastly undervalued.
Lively is particularly effective at identifying where help is coming from and is able to whip the ball cross-court with pace and accuracy to set his teammates up for open looks.
While Lively's offense progresses, his defensive ability should be enough of a game-changer to get him on the floor early and often in his NBA career. At 7'1 With a 7'7 wingspan, Lively's ability to protect the rim not just as a shot blocker but as a shot changer is unmatched in this draft class.
Lively averaged 2.4 blocks in just 20.4 minutes per game for the season but truly turned it on at the end of January (only had one game with less than two blocks after the 1/23 game at Virginia Tech) and you could easily make the argument he was the most impactful defender in the country over the course of the final two months.
Some shot-blockers make their living feasting off of easy weakside block opportunities and while Lively is very effective in that manner (see previous highlight) he is able willing and able to mix it up at the point of attack as well.
Lively's hustle is evident on every possession. Despite occasionally getting caught out of position, he never gives up on the play and could be seen sprinting end to end for chase-down blocks throughout the season.
Lively even showed flashes of being an effective switch defender in pick-and-roll situations although he will have some technical stuff to iron out (stays too upright in his stance) in order to put himself in positions where he won't always have to rely on his length to recover.
As previously mentioned, Lively only averaged 20.4 minutes per game this season, in large part due to constantly finding himself in foul trouble. He will have to learn to use his length more intelligently in one on one situations (going straight up, using vertical reach instead of reaching) if he wants to avoid the same issue plaguing him at the next level.
NBA Comp: Clint Capela/Nerlens Noel
20. Dariq Whitehead | Wing | 18 | 6'7 | 225 | Duke
Next up on the list we have another Blue Devil and someone I've become very familiar with over the course of this season, Dariq Whitehead.
Whitehead entered the season as a consensus top 5 recruit and a near lock to be selected in the lottery of the 2023 NBA Draft before a foot injury in preseason camp that delayed his debut in Durham and ultimately impacted his performance throughout the entire season.
Unfortunately as a result, the version of Whitehead we saw this season for the Blue Devils didn't quite match the one we had seen coming out of High School, making him one of, if not THE single most difficult prospect in this class to evaluate. Whitehead underwent a second surgery on the foot immediately following the season and expects to return to his high school form.
The Whitehead we hoped to see coming out of Montverde Academy (and the one we hope to see after his recovery) was an explosive, slashing scorer who mostly relied on self-creation to the rim at will and finish through contact like a hot knife through butter.
Although there were brief flashes of that Dariq Whitehead this past season...
They were unfortunately few and far between and Whitehead saw himself mostly relegated to a spot-up jump shooting role which he actually managed to make the most of (45.3% on catch-and-shoot threes).
Despite a small sample size (8-22) Whitehead also showed improvement shooting from the perimeter off the dribble.
In a way, I believe this "lost" year may have been a blessing in disguise for Whitehead, who, after playing a significantly more ball-dominant role in High School, was able to develop and show off his offensive versatility off-ball and may well end up in a better position to succeed by sliding into the late teens/early 20's.
If his explosiveness returns, Whitehead projects as one of the better offensive players in the entire class and potentially a franchise center-piece type of talent, but the precedent for recovery from foot injuries is iffy at best which makes the risk with Whitehead just as significant as the upside.
NBA Comp: Allan Houston