RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Teams looking for point guard help in Thursday night’s NBA draft are in luck — as long as they have a high pick, that is.
Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball have been the headliners in so much of the pre-draft conversations, projected to be selected first and second. Who will go first — and where — has dominated the build up to the draft, which starts with the Philadelphia 76ers picking first followed by the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 2.
Philadelphia and Boston have agreed on a deal to trade picks in this year’s draft; the 76ers get the No. 1 overall pick from the Celtics and the chance to select Fultz. Boston will get the third overall pick from Philly.
But Fultz and Ball are not the only two playmakers available who could help some NBA team.
There’s a quartet of touted one-and-done college players along with an 18-year-old international prospect with size and athleticism. And they’re all likely to be lottery picks, too.
Here’s a look at the top prospects:
Fultz is expected to be the No. 1 pick after a single season at Washington, where he put up big numbers but didn’t win many games.
STRENGTHS: The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Fultz ranked sixth nationally in scoring at 23.2 points per game while shooting 48 percent overall and 41 percent from 3-point range. He hit the glass (5.7) and ranked 15th nationally in assists (5.9) while having the athleticism to potentially play off the ball, too.
CONCERNS: He shot just 65 percent from the foul line. He missed six games with a knee issue late in the season. And he couldn’t elevate the Huskies to more than nine wins in a rough season .
UCLA’s freshman star made the Bruins’ fast-paced offense hum all the way to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.
STRENGTHS: He averaged a national-best 7.6 assists at the helm of an attack that ranked second nationally in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency (124 points per 100 possessions). And while Ball was at his best when he was distributing the ball in the open court, he also averaged 14.6 points and 6.0 rebounds and boasts good size (6-6, 190) at the point.
CONCERNS: It is unclear how well his offensive game and unorthodox shot will translate to the NBA, though he shot 55 percent overall and 41 percent from 3-point range with the Bruins. But will he be happy anywhere other than Los Angeles? Both he — and his outspoken father , LaVar — have made it clear they want to go to the Lakers at No. 2.
Step for step, few people can keep up with Kentucky’s one-and-done point guard on the court.
STRENGTHS: The 6-3 Fox has a terrific first step and opencourt speed, making him difficult to stop either in transition or off the dribble. He averaged 16.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists as his team’s No. 2-scoring option behind fellow freshman Malik Monk, driving the Wildcats to the NCAA Elite Eight. Along the way, Fox put on a dominating show against fellow star rookie point guard Lonzo Ball of UCLA. Fox went for a season-high 39 points on 13-for-20 shooting compared to Ball’s 10-point night in the Wildcats’ 86-75 win in the Sweet 16.
CONCERNS: The biggest question about Fox is his outside shot. He made just 25 percent of his 3-pointers and attempted fewer than two per game. Fox will have to stretch his range no matter where he ends up. He’ll also need to get a little stronger after weighing around 170 pounds at the combine.
DENNIS SMITH JR.
Smith spent a season at North Carolina State filled with big stats and few wins .
STRENGHTS: There’s no denying that the 19-year-old is a brilliant individual talent . He averaged 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists in his first year back from a serious knee injury. He was one of two players in the country to manage two triple-doubles and was the first player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to have two triple-doubles in league play in the same season. The high point was his dominating 32-point performance in the Wolfpack’s first win at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium in 22 years.
CONCERNS: Smith often didn’t elevate his teammates’ play and there were questions about his consistent defensive effort. His team also showed shockingly little resistance in several lopsided losses, including a 51-point loss at eventual national champion North Carolina.
There’s also a tantalizing international talent in Ntilikina (pronounced Nee-lee-KEE-na), a 6-5 guard playing for Strasbourg in a French pro league.
STRENGTHS: The 18-year-old Frenchman stirred plenty of interest when he led his team to last year’s FIBA U-18 European championship, scoring 31 points and making 7 of 10 3-pointers in the title-game win against Lithuania. He has a 7-foot wingspan, while his athleticism and potential are enough to have him as a possible lottery pick with plenty of room to grow his game.
CONCERNS: He is considered a longer-range project that some of the American point guards in the draft, in part because of the level of competition he has played against and questions about his offensive game.
OTHERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON:
— JAWUN EVANS: The 6-1 sophomore left Oklahoma State as the Big 12’s No. 2 scorer (19.2 points) and an all-conference pick. He is a late first-round pick in some mock drafts.
— FRANK MASON: The 5-11 senior is a tough competitor who closed his Kansas career as The Associated Press national player of the year and the Big 12’s top scorer (20.9 points). Mason is considered a second-round prospect.
— NIGEL WILLIAMS-GOSS: The 6-3 junior was a second-team AP all-American (16.8 points, 4.7 assists) in leading Gonzaga to the NCAA championship game. Williams-Goss is a possible second-round prospect.
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