As Draft Picture Gets Clearer, De’Aaron Fox’s Stock Rises

1. MARKELLE FULTZ, WASHINGTON
6’4″, 195 | GUARD | FR.
last big board: 1

2. JASON TATEM, DUKE
6’8″, 204 | FORWARD | FR.
last big board: 2

3. DE’AARON FOX, KENTUCKY
6’4″, 171 | guard | fr.
last big board: 11

Admittedly, this isn’t as much reflective of Fox’s stock rising as it is a major shift in opinion that was partially influenced by his stellar play down the stretch. When it comes down to positional size and strength, end-to-end speed, defensive instincts and highlight-reel talent, Fox may be tops in this draft class. He’s extremely competitive, aggressive and shone as Kentucky’s best player in the second half of the year. He’s offered plenty to suggest that he’ll be highly impactful regardless of the questions about his jump shot — which to his credit, doesn’t look broken, but will need addressing. Fox was not always an efficient scorer and is less polished offensively than Fultz and Smith (who also favor driving off the bounce), but in terms of pure malleable talent, there is a case for him to be selected even higher than this. The shooting issues give him a slightly lower floor, but the ceiling is massive.

4. JOSH JACKSON, KANSAS
6’8″, 203 | forward | FR.
Last big board: 3

Jackson is clearly the most well-rounded wing in the draft at this stage, and did his best to try and assuage some concerns about his jump shooting in the second half of the season. His strength and explosiveness allowed him to get where he wanted in college, and his calling card strength is first and foremost his defensive ability. Everyone needs two-way wing players, and Jackson has shown some ability to create his own shot while closely guarded and is a strong passer in transition. Nobody’s convinced he’s going to be a consistent NBA shooter yet, and he’s not built particularly well to keep playing prominently as a small-ball four at the next level. The overall package here is attractive, and like Fox, is tied to his jumper long-term. He can certainly impact the game without scoring, but Jackson also may never be a guy who carries your offense. 

5. DENNIS SMITH, N.C. STATE
6’3″, 195 | guard | fr.
last big board: 4 

6. LONZO BALL, UCLA
6’6″, 190 | guaRD | FR.
last big board: 6

This ranking doesn’t mean Lonzo Ball is going to be a bad NBA player — on the contrary, he’s likely to be a pretty good one. But it does express some doubt over whether his ceiling is remotely as high as the overall narrative around him suggests. With his unorthodox release and trouble creating separation against top athletes, Ball is going to have some trouble creating his own shot. Even if he grows into a more assertive player on a nightly basis, it doesn’t mean scoring will suddenly come more easily to him. There are no questions about his unique playmaking gifts, but a ton of those “wow” moments came in transition, and when you boil things down to crunch-time, halfcourt situations, it’s fair to think Ball may not be the guy that gets you over the hump. He’s going to help his team win and make his teammates a lot of money, but there’s enough going on here to warrant some critical evaluation, at minimum.