With the NCAA tournament starting next week let’s take a look at three of the top NBA prospects, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, Kentucky’s Malik Monk, and Kansas’ Josh Jackson. All three of them are freshman who have taken the college game by storm.
NBA Prospects to Watch in March
Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
Out of the three featured players Ball will likely be the first one selected on draft day. At 6-foot-6 he has great size at the point guard position. His court vision and playmaking ability is what separates him from the rest of pack. He leads the nation with 7.8 assists per game. He has a very tight handle and can usually get to where he wants on the court. Not a freak athlete but very smooth, and can still finish above the rim. His size and playmaking ability have drawn early comparisons to Jason Kidd.
Although Ball has shot it well from the outside this season at 42% from beyond the arch, questions has risen about his ability to do so from NBA range. His shooting stroke is very unorthodox and unnatural. He Brings the ball across his face before releasing it. This makes it harder for him to come off a screen and shoot the pull up, which has become a big part of the NBA game for point guards. He has good athleticism but not jump out of the gym ability, will have to prove he can still finish at the rim against NBA athletes.
Overall Ball has unlimited potential and should hear his name called very early in this year’s draft. A true point guard with great size and playmaking ability will have NBA teams drooling. Like with any prospect there are question marks but the bottom line is that the kids a special talent with the potential to flourish at the NBA level.
Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
Monk is a lethal shooter and explosive athlete which he displayed earlier this year in a 47 point performance against North Carolina. Shoots it very well both off the dribble and spotting up. He has NBA athleticism and can finish well above the rim. Has shown to be a willing defender with quick feet and hands.
Despite being a top end prospect Monk has some flaws in his game that need to be addressed. He doesn’t have a very tight handle and can get a little bit sloppy with the ball. Will have to work on beating his man off the dribble to succeed at the NBA level. Sometimes has issues finishing in traffic. At 6-foot-3 Monk will be an undersized shooting guard. However with players like Bradley Beal and C.J. McCollum having success playing the off guard spot at that size it gives Monk hope that he can do the same.
If Malik Monk decides to enter this years draft, and let’s face it he’s Kentucky guy, he’ll be leaving, he won’t have to wait long to hear his name called. His elite shooting ability and athleticism will be enough to intrigue teams. The questions with Monk Will be can he overcome being undersized at the off guard position, and can he become a high end NBA ball handler. If he’s able to put it all together he could end up being one of the best players in this anticipated deep draft class.
Josh Jackson, SG/SF, Kansas
Josh Jackson is one of the most athletic and dynamic players in the country. Heck, He would be one of the more athletic players in the NBA right now. At 6-foot-8 Jackson has the ability to blow past his defender and finish inside. He has a nice touch in the mid-range game as well as in the post. He has an extremely high motor on both sides of the court. An elite defender on ball as well as off. Also an above average passer for his position (3.1 APG).
The biggest weakness in Jackson’s game is consistancy when shooting the ball from the outside. As mentioned before he can work the mid-range game. However once he steps out further he often struggles to find a rhythm. With the way the game is played in the NBA now Jackson will surely have to make it a priority to develop his jumper. He also shoots just 56% from the free throw line. At 207 pounds he will need to put on some weight, luckily it’s clear just by looking at him that he has the right frame for that.
The bottom line is that Jackson might just have the highest NBA ceiling in all of college basketball. His size, athleticism, and well rounded game make him a must watch prospect. There’s plenty of freak athletes that play basketball, but it’s the ones who can bring other things to the table on top of that who flourish at the NBA level. Jackson has the potential to be one of those guys. If he can become a consistent outside shooter, he could be a serious problem for NBA defences for years to come.