NCAA tournament audition: Is Lonzo Ball Magic’s Magic?

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersFor those who are as into this stuff as I am, I’d suggest, once recommended to me by a GM, which includes Mike Schmitz’s stellar video breakdowns of strengths and weaknesses.The future isn’t yet, but this is what it looks like from here:1. Markelle Fultz, 6-4, 195, Fr., Washington – Consensus top pick but you’ll have to tune into the NIT after the Huskies lost their last 13 games.Fultz isn’t blamed for it. My GM sees no holes in his game. Averaged 23 points, 6.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds, shot 50 percent, 41 percent from 3-point range. With comparisons to Kyrie Irving and John Wall, this is the next great prospect in the Era of the Point Guard.2. Lonzo Ball, 6-7, 190, Fr. UCLA – He’s 1A or 2A to Fultz’s No. 1 with more issues but huge upside. One of Magic Johnson’s first stops as Lakers boss was Westwood, where you’d have to think he saw something of himself in this dazzling young playmaker.While Magic better not hold his breath waiting for the next Magic, Ball was nothing short of a one-man cultural revolution on a Bruins team that revolved around him from the moment he arrived and wound up averaging 90 points and shooting 52 percent.On the other hand, you see few quirkier shooting strokes with Ball firing from the left side of his head, which is hard to do with your right hand. Happily, lots go in (41 percent from 3-point range on 5.5 attempts per game with range like Reggie Miller’s), which is all that counts, assuming it’s “repeatable” (new hot word) in the NBA.Scouts wondering about the effect of his out-there father note approvingly that Lonzo is a down-to-earth young man who does, indeed, have a chance to be magical.3. Josh Jackson, 6-8, 203, Fr., Kansas – He’s compared to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as an athlete with a motor, even if that’s faint praise with MKG’s struggle living up to being Michael Jordan’s No. 2 overall pick in 2012.Happily, this player comes with a handle and a jump shot as well as a work ethic, averaging 17.7 points with 7.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 blocked shots, all eye-catching for a small forward, making 38 percent of his 3-point attempts.4. Jayson Tatum, 6-8, 204, Fr., Duke – He and Jackson are like brothers from other mothers. You love to see top prospects who track up. This one, a “four-three” meaning a small power forward with perimeter skills, started slowly after missing the first eight games with an injury but just averaged 22.5 points during their ACC Tournament title run.He’s a good mid-range shooter who is just starting to move out to 3-point range, where he shot 33 percent, decent for entry level. It looks like he’s on his way.5. Jonathan Isaacs, 6-11, 205, Fr., Florida State – There’s a dropoff after the first four. Admirers lump Isaacs, a huge, athletic, skilled small forward, in with the top group although he doesn’t have a takeover mentality (8.0 shots per game) or production (12.1 points) on sheer potential.Psychological makeup tells in the end, even if it’s easy to be wrong about it. I thought Andrew Wiggins was way too passive at Kansas and could miss. As you might have heard, he didn’t.6. Lauri Markkanen, 7-0, 225, Fr., Arizona – Scoring 29 points in the Pac-12 tourney against UCLA has hype flowing with “Unicorn” comparisons to the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis … or, worse, to all-time great Dirk Nowitzki. Like them, Markkanen’s a sharp-shooting 7-foot Euro. Of course, so was Nikoloz Tskitishvili.Nevertheless, the Finnish Markkanen is a good athlete with an NBA-ready body and a nice handle on top of being a 44 percent 3-point shooter in what is ever more a shooter’s game. Think Ryan Anderson but better, maybe by a lot.7. Frank Ntilikina, 6-5, 170, Strasbourg, France – He’s the top-ranked international prospect, another big, athletic point guard with shooting ability to space the floor.8. Dennis Smith, 6-3, 195, North Carolina State – He’s a shooting point guard, a freak athlete who can shoot (36 percent from 3-point range). More than his 18.1 scoring average, five 30-point games attest to his upside.9. De’Aaron Fox, 6-4, 190, Fr., Kentucky – Draft sites have him as high as No. 5, a compliment given his shot, which my GM calls “broken” (24 percent from the arc). He’s a great defender and athlete who has Kris Dunn size, not Rajon Rondo size.10. Miles Bridges, 6-6, 220, Fr., Michigan State – He’s a small power forward, one of the top athletes in his class and he’s learning to play on the perimeter. Everyone is looking for the next (former Spartan) Draymond Green. If playmaking, rebounding and defending 3-point shooting brutes don’t come in bunches like bananas, this is Tom Izzo’s latest version.11. Zach Collins, 7-0, 230, Fr., Gonzaga – Another dropoff here before a bunch of young bigs, starting with this one who’s all but hidden coming off the bench, averaging 10 points and 5.3 rebounds in only 17 minutes. Collins isn’t on a lot of first-round mocks but my GM has him in this generic lottery.12. Robert Williams, 6-9, 237, Fr., Texas A&M – Athlete with motor, 2.5 blocked shots per game.13. Justin Patton, 6-11, 215, Fr., Creighton – He’s another late-arriving prospect who is a shot blocker but not a great rebounder, so he has a ways to go.14. Harry Giles, 6-11, 222, Fr., Duke – He’s another darkhorse rated in the mid-20s in mock drafts. He was top-rated in his high school class before injuries set him back. He started 11 games late in Durham but is coming, if not blossoming like Tatum, going 7 for 8 from the floor in the ACC title game against Notre Dame.Mark Heisler has written an NBA column since 1991 and was honored with the Naismith Hall of Fame’s Curt Gowdy Award in 2006. His column is published Sundays in Southern California News Group print editions. Now you, too, can scout like an NBA general manager.Most of them no longer scout year-round, catching a local game or a conference tournament before the process spills into the spotlight in the NCAA Tournament that everyone watches and, consequently, gets excited about.That might or might not be a good thing. The best players stand out in the biggest games. On the other hand, draft lore is replete with hypes in which everyone decides some Adam Morrison is the next coming of Larry Bird.For better or worse, you can scout along with your local team, making this an exciting time even if your NCAA pool was DOA, like mine.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img