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NBA Draft Big Board Check In 1.0: RJ Barrett nets 4th triple double in Duke history, Ja Morant sets OVC single-season assists record

NBA Draft Big Board Check In 1.0: RJ Barrett nets 4th triple double in Duke history, Ja Morant sets OVC single-season assists record

Mark Schanowski's Big Board 5.0 had some movement, particularly around the bottom half of the top 10. We take the time to go over some of the best performances of the week from prospects on Schanowski's NBA Draft Big Board. 

RJ Barrett, Duke: 23 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, 0 turnovers 

The 18-year old Canadian joined some elite Blue Devil company, netting the first triple-double since Sheldon Williams in 2006. It was also the fourth triple double all-time in Duke basketball history.

We've seen Barrett rack up nice point and rebound totals before, but we rarely see him play under control. On Saturday night, Barrett had zero turnovers in an NCAA game for this first time in his career. 

His 3-point shot wasn't falling, but Barrett went 6/6 from the free throw line and flashed the abilty to score from the midrange, a crucial part of his game, especially if it takes awhile for his 3-point jumper to fully develop. 

Despite Barrett's jumper being maddeningly inconsistent, his ability to get into the lane with allow him to thrive in the NBA. If he beats his man off the dribble—which he does with regularity—a help defender has to commit to getting his way early or else.....

Barrett (vis Basketball Reference) has the second highest assist rate on the team behind point guard Tre Jones and one of the lowest turnover rates on the team as well. If Barrett keeps taking steps forward as a playmaker, then any concerns about his inconsistent shooting or defense take a backseat to that development. 

De'Andre Hunter, Virginia: 20 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block 

Hunter is the prototypical 3-and-D small forward prospect. He has great length, strong hands, and is capable of guarding bigger players in the post and holding his own against smaller/faster players on the perimeter. And on offense Hunter is a knockdown shooter who has improved as a playmaker as well. So far in the 2018-19 season, Hunter is shooting a hyper efficient 45.1 percent from the 3-point line and 53.3 percent from the field. In Virginia's win over Notre Dame on Saturday, Hunter came up big time with a 20-point, 10-rebound double double. 

His overall steal and block rates have dropped from his (also great) freshman season but make no mistake, he is still the best defender on one of the toughest defensive squads in the nation (that currently ranks third in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency per Kenpom.com).

Whatever team takes Hunter knows what they are getting, though he obviously has tons of room for development. His feel for the game is in question, especially on offense where he can sometimes show a suprising lack of aggression for a player who scores just under 15 PPG. 

The most important thing that Hunter did in the win over Notre Dame was getting to the free throw line. Hunter went 6/7 from the charity stripe against the Fighting Irish, the most FT attempts he has had in a game since January 29.

Ja Morant, Murray State: 25 points, 8 rebounds, 14 assists, 3 steals, 1 block 

The prospect that the Bulls have been linked to most in recent weeks in none other than viral sensation Ja Morant of Murray State. John Paxson was recently spotted at a Murray State game scouting Morant, and this comes on the heels of the Bulls publicly stating that they are still evaluating what they have at point guard. In his latest game, a win over the Eastern Kentucky Colonels, Morant netted a 25-point, 14-assist double double.

Mmorant was explosive in getting into the teeth of the defense, finishing 5/6 from the free throw line. His turnovers aren't a huge concern, as he obviously is the main (only?) ballhandler on his team. That being said, 9 turnovers are unacceptable, and it is the fourth time this season that Morant has ended a game with 9 or more turnovers. 

On the positive side, Morant's teammates shot a combined 63.6 percent from the field in the win over Eastern Kentucky, showing just how vital Morant's 14 assists were to the Racers' offense. Those 14 dimes also helped Morant make some history on the evening.

And on the scoring side of things, he had one his most efficient shooting nights in quite some time, going 9/17 from the field, which included a solid 2/5 (40 percent) shooting from 3-point range. His 3-point percentage for the season is at 32.5 percent. That figure isn't great, but it is better than his freshman year and on a greater volume of attempts, which shows a good amount of growth from the young guard. 

https://twitter.com/Mike_Schmitz/status/1083541053351882752His jumpshot form leads me to believe that he will not become an elite off the dribble 3-point shooter at any point inthe NBA, but as we've seen throughout his NCAA career, a lack of a pull-up 3-point shot won't stop Ja from becoming a great scorer at the next level.

Zion Williamson, Duke: 32 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals

There aren't any new developments as far as Williamson's NBA Draft stock goes. He was extremely aggressive and finish with 16 field goal attempts, his third highest in a single game this season. Williamson converted on 75 percent of his shots, which again, falls in line with his absolutely ridiculous 68 percent shooting from the field on the season. 

Williamson's final stat line in the win over NC State was 32 points, 6 rebounds, an assist and 3 steals in 30 minutes of action. 

And while his dominance over NC State was on Saturday night was superb, NBA fans were already thinking about what Zion's first NBA All-Star weekened will look like.

Mark Schanowski's NBA Draft Big Board 3.0

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USA TODAY

Mark Schanowski's NBA Draft Big Board 3.0

Let’s be honest.

The 2019 draft is shaping up as one of the weakest in several years.

After watching games involving the top prospects over the last 3 months, it’s pretty obvious there are 3 tiers to this year’s draft.

Tier 1: Zion Williamson. Potential franchise-changing talent who’s probably closer to Blake Griffin than LeBron James.

Tier 2: R.J. Barrett and Ja Morant: Potential multiple time All-Stars in the NBA. Barrett has the versatile scoring ability to average 20+ PPG on a consistent basis, while Morant is an explosive play-maker who has drawn comparisons to Sacramento’s 2nd year point guard De’Aaron Fox, with a ceiling of former league MVP’s Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook.

Tier 3: Everyone else.

In putting together a top 10 prospects list, the truth is you really can’t find any significant difference between Jarrett Culver at No. 4 and a player who might be drafted in the 20’s. Take any player on this week’s list between 4 and 10, and it’s likely he would have a tough time cracking the lottery in either of the last two drafts.

For example, if the Bulls don’t get lucky on lottery night and fall outside the top 3, which player are you taking?

Culver is a nice prospect who can score and can play the 2 and the 3, but isn’t an exceptional athlete. Reddish has been all hype to this point. You can see he has good positional size at 6’8” and is athletic enough to attack closeouts and get to the rim. But Reddish was billed as a knockdown 3-point shooter, and he’s been frighteningly inconsistent from beyond the college arc to this point, shooting 33%.

Nassir Little? He can’t even start at North Carolina!

That’s why some team in the top 10 will take a chance on Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland, even though he only played a handful of games in college before suffering a meniscus injury that ended his freshman season. Garland has already left school to start preparing for the draft, and if he tests well at the combine, he’ll be drafted highly on potential alone.

Similar story with Oregon center Bol Bol, Manute’s son. His one year college career ended with a broken foot, and foot injuries for 7-footers tend to set off alarm bells in the minds of NBA talent evaluators. Still, a player with that size who can knock down 3’s will probably work his way into the late lottery, maybe even the top 10 if GM’s are convinced he’s healthy.

And, let’s not forget about USC’s Kevin Porter Jr., who’s missed games because of injury and a conduct-related suspension. Porter Jr. hasn’t shown much on the court, but he’s one of the best perimeter athletes available in this year’s draft and could wind up in the top 10 if he interviews well at the combine.

Bottom line, once you get past the top 3, beauty will definitely be in the eye of the beholder for the 2019 NBA draft. I’m still hoping a couple players will start to move closer to Tier 2 as we head into conference tournaments and the NCAA big dance.

Admitted promise or not, the Bulls knew they wanted Chandler Hutchison – and they got him

Admitted promise or not, the Bulls knew they wanted Chandler Hutchison – and they got him

Neither John Paxson nor Chandler Hutchison himself would admit to what many called the worst kept secret in the pre-draft process. So whether you believe the Boise State senior had a promise from the Bulls that they would select him with the 22nd pick if still available, what Paxson and Gar Forman made clear was that they wanted Hutchison. And they got him.

“There are storylines and rumors all the time in this business and to keep trying to respond to them is often difficult. We liked Chandler a lot,” John Paxson said at the Advocate Center. We scouted him early, we scouted him often and we had our eye on him. He knew we liked him. Most players know when you like them, if you show up a lot and you’re around.”

There was plenty to like. Hutchison blossomed as an upperclassman at Boise State - after a unique basketball upbringing - averaging 18.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in his final two seasons with the Broncos. His 6-foot-7 NBA-ready frame kept him closer to the basket, leading to the efficient scoring and a blistering 72 percent at the rim, but keeping him a work in project on the perimeter.

He projects as a plus-defender who can defend on the wing and on the block in small-ball lineups and, as a four-year college player, should find minutes in a wing-depleted rotation. Put another way: he’s versatile at a position the Bulls have needed since the day Jimmy Butler walked out the door. Any shooting will be an added bonus.

But was there a promise, Chandler?

“I didn’t have any guarantee on where I was going," he said. "It could have been anywhere. Honestly, my heart was racing from 15 on. It was an exciting moment, though.”

The Bulls drafting Hutchison kept the theme of the night in Chicago trending after they took Wendell Carter 7th overall: complementary pieces to help an improving roster. Where Hutchison excels – physicality, scoring at the rim, defending multiple positions – the players he’ll share the floor with don’t. It’s easier to hide Denzel Valentine, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen defensively with a physical perimeter threat.

Paxson and Forman mentioned Hutchison's “slashing” multiple times, and that physical, quick style will help a Bulls offense that ranked 28th in the NBA on shots 5 feet and in. That inefficiency was one of the major reasons the team finished 28th efficiency and often struggled to find secondary scoring.

That versatility spans more than just defending, too. Hutchison was asked to become a do-it-all for a Broncos team whose second leading scorer averaged 11.8 points, second leading rebounder averaged 6.6 boards and second leading passer averaged 2.6 assists. Hutchinson did it all for the 23-win Broncos. His usage rate was 33.0, 10th highest in the country and a slight tick above Alabama point guard Collin Sexton (32.5%). His passing, shot creating and eventual shooting make him a Swiss army knife on the wing.

“We think he can put it on the floor and create. He got to the lane a lot as a ball handler. His shot is getting better and better, we think he’ll be able to shoot it from NBA range at some point but that’s an area he’ll have to continue to work on,” Paxson said. “The more guys you have that can handle and create and pass, with the way our game is and the way our floor is spaced, we think he can do those things.”

Promises aside – Hutchison is represented by Chicago-based Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports, who has plenty of ties to the Bulls – Hutchison checked all the boxes the Bulls were looking for, especially after they passed on wings like Mikal Bridges and Kevin Knox with the 7th pick.

“He addresses a position of need,” Paxson said. “We had debates all through this draft on wings and the type of player we wanted at that position. He fits.”