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Stat of the Week: College Basketball prospects

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The regular season for NCAA basketball just wrapped up. Here’s a snapshot of the current draft prospects

NCAA Basketball Tournament - West Regional - Duke v Oregon Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

This week’s Stat of the Week will focus on the college basketball landscape. The regular season just wrapped up, and with conference tournaments and March Madness the only games left to play, the actual scouting season for NBA teams is coming to a close as well. For players like Markelle Fultz, seasons may already be wrapped up or close to it, as not every team gets to compete.

With that in mind, it’s time to start dissecting the 2017 NBA Draft. NBA front offices are already deeply involved in the scouting process of these players, but for fans, the time is now to start paying attention a bit more. Some players under-performed, while others exceeded expectations and shot up draft boards.

Here are the top college players in the first round of the Draft Express 2017 Mock Draft, sorted by Offensive and Defensive Box Plus/Minus.

Basketball Reference

Here are a few notes before some takeaways. The above 25 players are playing college basketball, while five players are playing internationally: Frank Ntilikina, Terrance Ferguson, Isaiah Hartenstein, Rodions Kurucs, and Anzejs Pasecniks. The above graph is also not a definite ranking, but a starting point to see who performed well in which areas.

Three Takeaways

Donovan Mitchell had a great and under-appreciated season

One of the most surprising players of the year was a sophomore shooting guard from the University of Louisville. Donovan Mitchell was among the leaders in Box Plus/Minus on the year in the entire realm of college basketball. Not only were his strong skills on display offensively with a strong performance due to a high three point percentage and low turnover rate, but he also accumulated 66 steals in 31 games defensively. By comparison, Gary Harris accumulated 63 steals in 35 games. Mitchell was incredibly active on the defensive end, and while his 6’3 frame will put a damper on his stock, he could absolutely be a great player in the NBA for a long time.

Robert Williams played like a man possessed defensively

Grading as the best defensive player using Box Plus/Minus, Robert Williams accumulated these numbers in a variety of ways. First, he’s an outstanding shot blocker and shot alterer. As a shot blocker, he not only protects the rim, but his 7’4 wing span and amazing agility make him a threat to block shots from the weak side AND on the perimeter. He’s also a solid rebounder for his position. While his agility and recognition need work in the pick and roll, he has time to develop that. Offensively, he’s not much of a threat from outside the paint yet, but he understands how to vacate the paint and follow his man to an open shot, just like Kenneth Faried. Robert Williams is my favorite prospect for Denver to try and realistically draft right now.

Harry Giles did not have the season he wanted

Harry Giles was supposed to come to Duke for one season and be a top five draft pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. With his injury problems and a lack of efficiency when returning, it’s difficult to see Giles being drafted top five anymore. He was still a positive player at the college level, but just barely. With averages of 4.3 points and 4.1 rebounds in just 12.0 minutes per game, there was barely an opportunity to get a good look at him. Giles will have to hope for a good tournament showing and some strong combine and pre-draft workouts to boost his stock though. At this point, he looks more like Cliff Alexander than Derrick Favors, though with his potential, he could still be either.

Best Guards, Wings/Forwards, and Bigs in each category

Top 3 Guards in Offensive Box Plus/Minus

  1. Luke Kennard - 9.1
  2. Lonzo Ball - 8.9
  3. Markelle Fultz - 7.8

Top 3 Guards in Defensive Box Plus/Minus

  1. Donovan Mitchell - 5.2
  2. Lonzo Ball - 3.8
  3. De’Aaron Fox - 3.7

Top 3 Wings/Forwards in Offensive Box Plus/Minus

  1. Justin Jackson - 7.6
  2. T.J. Leaf - 7.1
  3. Alec Peters - 5.9

Top 3 Wings/Forwards in Defensive Box Plus/Minus

  1. Jonathan Isaac - 6.1
  2. Josh Jackson - 5.6
  3. Miles Bridges - 5.0

Top 3 Bigs in Offensive Box Plus/Minus

  1. Lauri Markannen - 7.4
  2. John Collins - 6.7
  3. Johnathan Motley - 5.4

Top 3 Bigs in Defensive Box Plus Minus

  1. Robert Williams - 7.4
  2. Justin Patton - 6.6
  3. Ivan Rabb - 5.8

Going into tournament play, the guys I will be watching the most closely are Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, Robert Williams, and De’Aaron Fox. These are the four that could change their stock the most with good or bad performances. Jackson has been steadily climbing draft boards with improved offensive play. Giles, for all the reasons above, is intriguing to see if he can make a positive impact. If so, how much? Williams has the ability to take over a game on both ends, and with his athleticism and aggressiveness defensively, he will either make a huge impact on the game or foul out. Fox will face locked in defenses and better competition than the SEC in the main tournament. Will he continue to impact the game offensively without a three point jump shot?