By Max Feldman
Dalano Banton’s Versatility
If it is not obvious yet, I am higher on Dalano Banton than just about anyone. Banton, a native Canadian, is the absolute premium example of how to impact winning basketball as a prospect. Over the last few draft results, the public is now opening their eyes to the idea that the top overall picks are not always those who put up the biggest numbers at the college level. Banton’s scoring does not make him an NBA player, but the vast amount of categories in which Banton brings production in an efficient manner should surely open eyes. At 6-9 and 205 pounds, Banton lands in the 85th percentile as a PnR ball handler. Yes, ball handler. The Cornhusker swiss army knife already has one triple-double on the season and comes pretty close to one a nightly basis. His shot still has some ironing out to do, but his massive improvement from the free throw line, heightened volume from beyond the arc and natural intermediate game lend plenty of optimism for his shooting outlook. For a wiry wing, you might think he’d struggle on the defensive end especially against B10 opponents. Yet, here are just a few major statistics to show Banton’s defensive versatility: 2 steals, 1.5 blocks and 10.6 rebounds per 40 minutes, 75th percentile guarding spot ups and 71st percentile guarding PnR ball handlers. Banton showed flashes as a Hilltopper and has now become a star with Nebraska. Simply put, Banton excels in essentially every category. As he puts on weight and gets up to near 220 pounds as expected early in his NBA career, and raises his shooting percentage to near 38% from three, currently 33%, Banton’s provides the two way impact every organization seeks on the wing with an even more unique skillset as a playmaker. You will rarely ever see a 6-9 wing averaging 5.5 assists on over a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio.
Moses Moody’s Quick Trigger
Filling the holes left by Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones is no easy task. Moses Moody has done that and so more, leading the Razorbacks to a quick 8-0 start. I do not think I have ever seen a player expand his role from high school to a Freshman year in high major college basketball, but that’s what playing with Montverde Academy will do. Moody is shooting a healthy 10 field goal attempts per game while getting to the line 5 times per game, an area I thought he could have low volume in. Moody does not hesitate to let it go when given space, connecting on 42% of his deep balls which account for nearly half his shot attempts. The Little Rock native uses a natural pump fake and a fluid hesitation move to get to his spots with ease. He is not an overwhelming athlete, but the manner in which he scores the ball with ease from all three levels relying on touch and a slithery ability to separate is nearly reminiscent Bradley Beal, though Moody has three inches on the former 3rd overall pick in 2012. It’s still early, but landing in the 88th percentile off of spot up opportunities bodes extremely well for his stock. In addition, Moody has been better defensively than advertised, using instincts and overall IQ producing a heightened defensive win share and PnR ball handling defense efficiency. The level of polish from an 18 year old is beyond impressive, and he is just getting started.
Keon Johnson’s Burst
It was always going to be a bit difficult to get a full grasp on what Keon Johnson would be at the next level in one year at Tennessee with the amount of talent they have, but the 6-5 guard’s athleticism and motor jump off the screen. Johnson comes off the bench to play just 18 minutes per game, but immediately speeds up the tempo of the game with the build to guard multiple positions and a knack to find the ball. Per 40 minutes, Johnson is averaging 3.3 steals, 6.5 boards and 1.5 steals. He has struggled shooting the rock and taking care of the ball, but the polishing of his game will likely be a longterm project. But for now, his burst remains constantly portrayed on the defensive end with an impressive +/- on that end and thus far is placed in the 99th percentile as a spot up defender and the 90th percentile as an overall defender. More highlights are surely to come with transition flushes and acrobatic finishes, but come draft time the excitement will stem from Johnson’s athletic burst and activity on the defensive end.
Day’Ron Sharpe’s Motor
Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks and Walker Kessler are keeping Sharpe, the most talented of the bunch, from stacking up more than 18 minutes per game. When Sharpe is on the court, he does not hesitate to make his presence felt. Per 40 minutes, Sharpe puts up 16 boards and 3 blocks per game. Another Montverde alumni, Sharpe entered his collegiate career at a mature 6-11 and 265 pounds. For a massive big, he can move extremely well on both ends and uses his broad shoulders to carve out space in the paint. He is also active in the passing lanes, putting up 3.1 steals per game. The numbers are strong in a broader perspective, but just watching UNC when Sharpe is on the floor makes them look like a different team. The amount of activity put forth on the glass can swing a game in the Tar Heels direction and the energy is undoubtedly contagious to his teammates. Brooks and Bacot both have pretty polished post games with their back to the basket, whereas Sharpe is primarily a rim runner with flashes of a post game due to advanced footwork. Energy translates, and I quickly have fell in love with Sharpe’s outlook as a two way big. Think a more athletic Wendell Carter or a less versatile Bam Adebayo.
Justin Powell’s Confidence
By now, Powell should be everyone’s radar. A few weeks ago? Probably no one’s. The 6-6 Auburn Freshman carries an incredibly fluid scoring package with an undeniable confidence that jumps off the screen. Not only is Powell a shot creator, at 9 attempts from the field and 3 from the line each game, but he is a shot maker, shooting 51% from three (19/37 through 8 games), 49% from the field and 76% from the free throw line. He currently slots in at the 99th percentile against a zone defense, 96th percentile as a spot up scorer and 92nd percentile overall offensively. The analytics are sky high. There is a certain sort of swagger that oozes off the Goshen, Kentucky native on the offensive end. Powell is hard-nosed, gritty and shows an obvious pride in playing winning basketball. He was ranked outside the top 150 nationally as a recruit, and if there is such thing as better than advertised, that is Justin Powell. The entire nation including myself slept on Powell and he continues to prove himself game in and game out. Powell leads the Auburn Tigers in points, rebounds and assists per game. He remains a fringe top 30 prospect for me, because I want to see him compete against SEC competition on a relatively weak Auburn team, but at this point, I refuse to count out a potential leap. Think a right handed Luke Kennard with dare I say it, some hints of Tyler Herro as a versatile shot creator.
Jalen Sugg’s IQ & Feel for the Game
My love for BJ Boston is obvious. It was laid out in depth in my spotlight piece on the Kentucky Freshman. I bring that up because Jalen Suggs will now be atop my debut 2021 Big Board, because there is absolutely no reason anyone can be placed above him. Not only has Suggs not shown weakness in any specific area, he has shown a prominent strength in every aspect of the lead guard position. Suggs is averaged 8.6 assists and 8.4 rebounds per 40 minutes while hitting 50% of his 3’s and placing in the 81st percentile in overall defense. I had no doubt Suggs’ scoring would translate and he’d be a deadly transition weapon because of his athleticism, but I simply did not expect near this level of playmaking with Nembhard and Ayayi in the same backcourt. They are in extremely different situations, but the way that Suggs is elevating his team on both ends and setting up teammates in positions to thrive is what I expected from Cade Cunningham, who’s carrying a miserable 1:1 assist to turnover ratio. Cunningham will be special as a ball dominant creator with size, feel and a unique playmaking ability. I have a hard time keeping Evan Mobley out of the top spot simply due to the prominence of big men in the current NBA along with his special two way ability as a rim protector and all around scorer. As previously mentioned, I remain higher on BJ Boston than just about anyone because I am confident he will click sooner than later as he is far too talented. With all that, Jalen Suggs two way dominance and stardom game in and game out on the nation’s most talented roster is too difficult to ignore. The manner in which Suggs has grasped college basketball so quickly and not only had the ability to fill up the box score, but make his team much better when he is on the floor and dominate the opposition is the most impressive transition from High School to College that I have witnessed. We have yet to see a moment where Suggs does not look in control of the game. FOG loves to provide a unique lens and perspective on all prospects, especially at the top of the board, but there is absolutely no reason that Jalen Suggs shouldn’t be the top prospect on every 2021 NBA Draft Big Board.