The next draft prospects will be drafted in a time like no other. There was no March Madness to find the breakout player of the year, no combine to show off improvement during the offseason, and no medical checks to clear players with an injury history. Despite all of that, there are players who would fit seamlessly into particular teams’ current structure.
Here five prospects who would be a perfect match with their NBA team.
All statistics courtesy of https://www.sports-reference.com/
Aleksej Pokusevski, Serbia, Milwaukee Bucks
While the average fan may not have gotten around to the European draft prospects at this point, the Bucks have most likely been monitoring Pokusevski’s development all year. At 7 feet with a 7’3 wingspan, Pokusevski has the tools to be a disruptive defender. He is a threat from three with sound mechanics, although he needs to improve his efficiency. Pokusevski’s main downside at this point is his build. His weight is listed anywhere from 200 to 205 pounds and that may be generous. To be able to compete at the defensive end in the NBA with some of the game’s elite frontcourt players, he will need to add a good amount of muscle.
The Bucks should love them for the system they have built around former European prospect Giannis Antetokounmpo. Pokusevski provides a comparable level of shooting to current Milwaukee center Brook Lopez but brings more versatility. Pokusevski’s playmaking and handle are already far superior to Lopez. He may need time in the G-League to get his game up to speed, but the results could pay off. If a team has the patience to develop him, Povusevski could end up being the next great European big in the NBA.
Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt, Portland Trailblazers
Nesmith is the player the Blazers need and, what’s even better is that Nesmith needs the Blazers as well. Nesmith, a sophomore out of Vanderbilt, had one of the best shooting years by a college player in recent memory. Through 14 games, Nesmith shot an absurd 52.2% from three on 8.2 attempts. Those types of numbers are unheard of at the college and even professional level.
His accuracy is reminiscent of J.J Redick when coming off screens.
His defensive playmaking and IQ show also be a strong draw for the hapless Blazers. This season, the Trailblazers’ opponents had the 4th highest 3 point percentage. To make matters worse, the team themselves had the league’s 4th worst defensive rating. Nesmith makes smart plays and can operate well as a pick and roll defender, two dire needs for the Blazers. Although he only stands at 6’5, he has a 6’10 wingspan that can be highly disruptive for any player.
Nesmith struggles to finish around the rim due to his below-average athleticism. However, should he end up on the Blazers, that weakness could be hidden. With a backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Nesmith wouldn’t have to operate out of the pick and roll. He could help Portland maximize the time left in their rapidly closing championship window with Lillard and McCollum.
Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State, Phoenix Suns
The Suns have been a bottom feeder of the Western Conference for the last few years. With a potential addition like Haliburton, the Suns could put themselves into the playoff conversation.
Haliburton can perfectly mirror the game of current Suns point guard Ricky Rubio. He is more of a pass-first guard as he creates out of the pick and roll. This mentality should work nicely for him at the next level if he is surrounded by more prolific scorers. His shot may not have the most traditional form but nearly 42% from three erases any huge concerns and any shot is better than the notoriously limited shooter that is Rubio.
Despite being 6’5, he has a 7’0 wingspan and uses it to his advantage as he is a tenacious perimeter defender. He needs to bulk up to deal with the physicality of the NBA. His 175 pounds will not bode well for him as he starts to go up against stronger opponents. Haliburton can help ease the ball-handling duties that have fallen on star Suns guard Devin Booker at times and instead allow Booker to focus on getting good looks coming off screens and pin downs. Haliburton may be the piece the Suns need on the correct timeline to complete their roster that should be competing in the playoffs for years to come.
Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky, Minnesota Timberwolves
While Lamelo Ball has been the anticipated pick for the Wolves, Maxey deserves another look from the franchise. Maxey enjoyed a relatively successful year at Kentucky, averaging 14 points per game through 31 games. He finishes well around the rim and has a variety of skills that generate easy points near the paint. However, his defensive game is what makes the most sense for the Wolves franchise.
D’Angelo Russell’s defense has been a point of concern since joining from the Warriors before this year’s trade deadline and that weakness would only be amplified if he were to play next to Lamelo Ball, an already suspect defender himself. However, with Russell next to Maxey, the Wolves could find a great balance between the two guards. Maxey has the ability to match up against opposing teams’ most prominent scoring threat at guard. He can take the defensive burden off of Russell and allow Russell to focus on facilitating the offense.
Maxey also fits well as he can play off-ball and defer to Russell when needed. While he may not be the most prolific 3 point shooter at 29.2%, he can still catch and attack the rim with his arsenal of floaters and finishes around the rim. Maxey would be a great option for the Wolves and, while he doesn’t necessarily have superstar potential, he can perfectly complement the Wolves’ current roster.
Isaiah Stewart, Washington, San Antonio Spurs
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has a style that he has run in San Antonio for over 25 years now, and Stewart’s skill set seems to be a perfect match. The two centers the Spurs currently play hardly resemble any shooting threat. Jakob Poeltl has only attempted 2 threes in his entire career and LaMarcus Aldrige prefers his patented mid-range. Both of these players indicate that Stewart could come in and be a great fit with the system.
Stewart is one of the most physical players in the draft. At 6’9, 250 pounds, he is solidly built and has a 7’4 wingspan. He works hard on both ends of the floor for his team and shows his tenacity when rebounding. He finished 1st in total rebounds in the Pac-12 and is a great post scorer, using a smooth hook shot to capitalize against smaller players. His 77.4% free-throw percentage suggests shooting potential down the line although it is not a game ready attribute at this point.
The Spurs ranked 2nd-last in 3 point attempts, 2nd-last in offensive rebounds, and 8th-last in total rebounds this season. Each of these issues can be addressed with the addition of Stewart. He is a little undersized as a center at 6’9 but his strong body and frame compensate for any lack of height for the most part. His limited playmaking would be hidden with Demar Derozan, Dejounte Murray, and Derrick White primarily running the offense.