Last week we broke down the guards in this year’s draft class, headlined by Cade Cunningham, and as we inch closer to the July 29th NBA Draft, this week, we will be taking a look at the wings.
Just like last week, I will be giving you the Top 10 wings in this year’s draft, and breaking down their biggest strengths and their weaknesses heading into next season. Just for clarity, I defined a wing as those who will spend the majority of their time playing off the ball, catching and shooting, or making plays off of closeouts. These guys could carve out roles as elite catch-and-shoot players, three-and-d type of guys, and some could even be franchise changers on the wing i.e. a Kawhi Leonard. But that is enough build-up, let’s get to the players.
1. Jonathan Kuminga- G League Ignite
Strengths- Kuminga’s greatest strength is his ability to affect the game on the defensive side of the ball. His frame at 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds combined with his athleticism make him the prototypical wing in today’s NBA. Kuminga can guard multiple positions at an elite level and will be able to step in from day one and make an impact on the defensive end. Offensively, Kuminga is an elite athlete, is great in transition, and can be dangerous as a cutter in the NBA. If Kuminga can polish his offensive game a bit more, his ceiling is a Kawhi Leonard type of impact, but a more realistic comparison would be a Jaylen Brown type of impact should he tighten up his handle and improve his jumper.
Weaknesses- Kuminga shot just 24.6% from three this season with the G-league Ignite on 5.0 attempts per game. This includes a 26.0% clip on catch-and-shoot jumpers, which is something that will have to improve at the next level. Because Kuminga will likely spend a lot of time playing off the ball, he will have to approve his ability to keep defenses honest and make them respect his jump shot, and if he wants to assume more playmaking responsibilities his handle will have to improve as well. Reports have said that Kuminga has a great work ethic, so if this is the case, I do not see a reason why he shouldn’t improve in both areas as his career progresses.
2. Scottie Barnes- Florida State
Strengths- Barnes is one of the most versatile players in the draft. At 6-foot-9, with an almost 7-foot-3 wingspan, Barnes is a swiss army knife of a player. He has a great handle and feel at his size and is great in ball screens and at getting downhill to finish. He also is an elite passer, and because of his size, he sees the court extremely well. Barnes also is an elite defensive player who truly has the ability to guard the one through the five. His length and his motor will allow him to make an impact from the day he steps foot onto an NBA court. Barnes has quick hands and great instincts on the ball. He averaged 1.5 steals per game in just 23.8 minutes per game, but you can expect that to increase next season given more playing time. If you are in the market for a player who can get you value in multiple categories, Barnes should definitely be a candidate.
Weaknesses– Barnes has to improve his jump shot both off the catch and off the bounce. His release is awkward and slow, which will inhibit his ability to get it off effectively at the next level. Barnes also shot just 27.1% from distance, and only attempted 1.7 per game. It will be essential that Barnes improve in that area at the next level or his impact offensively could be limited.
3. Corey Kispert- Gonzaga
Strengths- Kispert’s greatest and most transferable skill is his ability to shoot the ball. This is a skill that Kispert will bring to the table the day he steps foot in the NBA, and for teams that need shooting, he will immediately produce and help in that department. Kispert shot 44.0% from three as a senior on 6.5 attempts per game, and he is likely the best pure shooter in the draft. At 6-foot-7 he has no problem getting his shot off, and he can shoot standing still, or on the move. The NBA player that I would best compare Kispert to is Joe Harris because of their comparable size and deadliness from distance, so if you are a manager, who needs to add some three-point shooting, Kispert should be at the top of your list of rookies.
Weaknesses– Kispert’s biggest and most glaring weakness is his inability to guard off the bounce. This weakness was put on full display in the national title game as Baylor’s guards just took turns getting Kispert on a switch and beating him off the bounce. This will be an issue at the next level, especially at the end of games, if Kispert cannot be on the floor late in the fourth quarter. With that being said, seeing that his role will likely specifically be to catch-and-shoot, they will likely try to find ways to hide him on defense on lesser offensive players. Plus, there are some bad defensive players in the NBA who are still plenty effective because of what they can bring offensively, and Kispert’s deadly shooting could fall into that category.
4. Moses Moody- Arkansas
Strengths- Moody has the tools to be an exceptional shooter at the next level. His mechanics, footwork, and balance are already very advanced, and though he shot just 35.8% from three, he made just under two of his five attempts per game from distance, and he shot 81.2% from the foul line. Moody showed the ability to make shots standing still and on the move, which will translate immediately at the next level. He also is very good at drawing fouls and has the savvy with him to be able to draw them at the rim and on jump shots, similar to what you see from veteran NBA guards. At 6-foot-6 Moody has great size for an NBA shooting guard and showed a willingness and an ability to be a game-changer defensively. Moody averaged 1.0 steals and 0.7 blocks per game, which as a guard was pretty impressive, especially as a freshman. He will be able to be an effective three-and-d wing from day one and if he ends up in the right spot, could get you some decent offensive production, especially from the three-point line.
Weaknesses– Moody tended to disappear for stretches at times, especially in big games, which, if you are looking for a lead guard can be a red flag. He also struggled to finish around the rim at times, especially over bigger defenders. Like almost all of the freshmen in this draft, he has some work to do in the decision-making department, especially when he drives into crowds, but with more space in the NBA, and as he gains more experience, I think he should be able to improve in that area.
5. Franz Wagner- Michigan
Strengths- Wagner’s greatest strength is his versatility. He has great size for an NBA wing at 6- foot-9 and 220 pounds with a wingspan that exceeds seven feet. Wagner came in second in Big Ten defensive player of the year voting, and this will likely be one of his calling cards early on as he can guard multiple positions and can be a sneaky good rim protector as well. Wagner averaged 1.3 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game as a sophomore and showed the ability to guard bigs and guards in a competitive Big Ten. He also is a good passer at his size as he averaged 3.0 assists per game, which was good for third on his Michigan team that was one of the best in the country last season.
Weaknesses– Wagner does a lot of things good on the offensive end but doesn’t do anything great, which could make it hard for him to carve out a niche in the NBA. He was an average shooter, at just 34.3% from distance as a sophomore on just 3.6 attempts. If he can get that to around 40% it will help him to carve out a more defined role as a three-and-d wing in the NBA. For now, he probably projects best as a role player, who can come in and provide energy and some defensive value until he can become a more polished and aggressive offensive player.
6.Chris Duarte- Oregon
Strengths– Duarte has great size and is already an elite shooter. He shot 42.4% from three this past season, including 47.7% on catch-and-shoot jumpers. He can shoot it both off the catch, and on the move, and can also make shots off the bounce, and can make defenders pay if they go under in the pick and roll. As a shooter, he will be able to be productive right away in the NBA. He also is a sneaky good defender, as he was a member of the Pac-12 All-Defensive team as a sophomore, averaging 1.9 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. He has a solid frame and at 6-foot-6 and 190 pounds, he will be able to physically compete right off the bat at the next level.
Weaknesses– Though Duarte did handle the ball a good deal, a lot of it came either off closeouts or in isolation. His ball screen game is pretty basic, which is the main reason why he is slotted as a wing and not a guard. Duarte averaged just 2.1 assists for his career to 1.9 turnovers, so his playmaking ability still has a ways to go. He also only attempted about 3.0 free throws per game as a sophomore and for someone as aggressive as he was, you would like to see that number a tad higher. All in all, though, there is a lot more to like than there is to dislike when it comes to Duarte.
7. Ziaire Williams- Stanford
Strengths– When Williams is at his best, he has the potential to be an elite scorer, as he has great size for a wing at 6-foot-8 and has a knack for getting to his spots where he knows he is effective. Williams is great playing off of one to two dribble pull-ups and getting to his step back, especially going left. You don’t often see this type of offensive savvy this early on, but Williams has shown the ability to be a great offensive player in flashes. He also can be a great defensive player, as he can guard all three guard positions, and perhaps some four in smaller lineups. His length will allow him to be disruptive on the defensive end and if he can put on some weight and muscle, this will only increase his ceiling.
Weaknesses– First and foremost, Williams will have to get stronger and add some bulk to his frame. He gets pushed off of his spots too easily, and shy’s away from contact, which is likely why he relies on his stepback so much at times. He will also need to become more efficient on offense, as he shot just 37.4% from the floor and 29.1% from three as a freshman. A lot of that came from him not being able to turn the corner on drives and being forced into a bad shot, oftentimes fading away from the basket. A part of this can likely be fixed if he gets stronger, but a piece of it is also decision-making and figuring out when to pass as opposed to forcing a bad shot. Williams also averaged 2.9 turnovers and just 2.2 assists, which again ties back into his decision-making, which will have to improve at the next level.
8. Jalen Johnson- Duke
Strengths– Similar to Wagner, arguably Johnson’s greatest strength is his versatility. At 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds, Johnson can check a lot of boxes both offensively and defensively. He has a solid handle for his size and has a good feel, especially off the ball as a cutter and as a roll man in screening actions. Johnson also has the tools to be a good defender because of his size and athleticism. In just 21.4 minutes per game, he averaged 1.2 steals and 1.3 blocks per game for Duke, so if he can continue to buy in at that end of the floor, he could be an elite defensive player at the next level.
Weaknesses– Although Johnson shot 44.4% from three in 13 games at Duke, the numbers can be misleading as he only attempted 18 on the season, which was just above one per game. Johnson’s release is a bit funky and he shot just 63.2% from the foul line, which leads us to believe that his jumper needs some refining. Johnson also averaged 2.5 turnovers per game and only 2.2 assists, and for someone who was not relied on to do very much playmaking, this is alarming. For those managers that play in 9-cat leagues, you might want to stay away from Johnson. Also, there were questions about his temperament while at Duke, and though this won’t show up on the stat sheet, this could lead to fewer minutes, and for someone who will likely not be a lottery pick, it could turn some teams off on draft night.
9. Keon Johnson- Tennessee
Strengths- Johnson is a supreme athlete and one of the highest leapers in this year’s draft class. If he has a head of steam, he is almost impossible to stop. He also has a great motor and competes hard on both ends of the floor. He has the physical makeup and the desire to be a difference-maker from day one in the NBA on the defensive end. Johnson also is crafty off the bounce and is a pretty good finisher in traffic, either with a dunk, or a layup through contact. Johnson reminds me a lot of Hamidou Diallo, who had similar abilities as an athlete and slasher coming out of college and also had a similar motor and toughness. Johnson could have a similar role as he enters the NBA next season.
Weaknesses– Like Diallo at Kentucky, Johnson struggled from three at Tennessee, shooting just 27.1% from long range on 1.8 attempts per game. This will be the biggest area for improvement for Johnson if he wants to become a complete offensive player. Johnson also will need to cut down on the turnovers as he averaged 2.6 turnovers per game to just 2.5 assists. Similar to many of the young prospects in this draft, if you are in a 9-cat league, you might want to take a rain check until Johnson’s feel for the game improves, which I believe it will over time.
10. Trey Murphy- Virginia
Strengths– Trey Murphy is an elite catch-and-shoot threat, as he shot 41.7% off the catch this past season at Virginia. At 6-foot-9, he will translate immediately as a plug and play three-and-d wing in the NBA. Murphy shot 43.3% from distance as a junior and did not take very many bad shots at all at Virginia playing under Tony Bennett. If you know anything about Virginia basketball, then you know that they are an elite defensive team and Murphy showed the ability and desire to be a force on defense. Virginia’s defense is predicated on keeping the ball outside of the paint. They don’t gamble for many steals or block many shots, so you won’t see those numbers pop on Murphy’s stat sheet, but given his length, I believe he could get you some value in those departments next season.
Weaknesses– Murphy is rather ineffective if you run him off of the three-point line. He is elite off the catch, but when he puts the ball on the floor his impact decreases drastically. He will need to improve in that area if he ever wants to be considered more than simply a three-and-d wing. He could also improve his frame by adding some muscle, as he is a slender 206 pounds at 6-foot-9. He will likely play mainly the three but could see some time at the four in small lineups, so it could benefit him to bulk up just a bit.