Too often when evaluating prospects and their potential, we don’t take into account the teams they land on. Fit might be the most critical part of drafting. Since we'll be covering ALL college basketball over the next week, leading into even more action during the NCAA Tournament on SnapCall Sports, we decided to give you a sneak peak three of the best college players in the game right now, and where they would best fit at the next level. Now, while you're watching the games and calling the action, you can start to decide for yourself how they would fit best in the Association. Plus, it's never too early to prep for our NBA Draft event on SnapCall Sports in June.
With such a strong potential draft class, we’re looking even closer at prospects at the top. We’re looking for strengths, weaknesses and everything in between. This is a natural part of studying from afar, especially not as NBA scouts. With that in mind, arguably the most important part of drafting and development is completely out of the hands of prospects.
Where a player lands on draft night can make or break their first contract. Why do so many players bust, boom or catch on late? Oftentimes, what team they landed on and what opportunities and coaching were like played a huge role. So before we get carried away with tournament action, I want to look at what NBA teams would be conducive to each top prospect reaching their maximum potential.
DeAndre Ayton (University of Arizona) - Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics would likely be one of the strongest landing spots for DeAndre Ayton. We’ve seen the leaps and bounds improvements he’s made under the tough coaching of Sean Miller. Brad Stevens would be a tremendous next step for development. It would take a lot for the Los Angeles Lakers’ pick to fall in Boston’s range, but you never know with the lottery’s luck.
In Boston, Ayton would be most likely to reach his defensive ceiling. He also would have a great mentor in Al Horford, who he could ultimately take over for. The Celtics would have the luxury of bringing him along at whatever speed he needs. A Kyrie Irving-Ayton pick-and-roll would be devastating.
Marvin Bagley III (Duke University) - Memphis Grizzlies
Marvin Bagley III is so productive, yet so hard to project as an NBA player. In addition to his projectable yet inconsistent jumper, this is mainly because of defense. Bagley is probably being undersold as a rim protector, but it’s clear he’d be better off as a 4. However, offensively Bagley is best off as a 5. The way to remedy this problem? You stick him with a stretch-5. Enter Marc Gasol and the Memphis Grizzlies.
This pairing offers some risk since the Grizzlies front office is not exactly making great calls and you never know if Gasol could be traded or massively decline. On paper though, sliding Bagley to the 4 and allowing Gasol to stretch the floor is promising. Memphis may want to make a playoff run rather than rebuild, so they need someone ready to play. That’s Bagley to a T, and Gasol would also be a great player for him to learn under.
Trae Young (University of Oklahoma) - Cleveland Cavaliers
We’ve seen this story before, where LeBron James‘ franchise drafted his favorite college player before seeing him out the door. However, Trae Young is not Shabazz Napier. Young is not only a superstar prospect who could help ease the loss of Kyrie Irving, but he’s one of The King’s little brothers. Playing with LeBron is everyone’s dream and would give Young the opposite load he carried at Oklahoma.
Young would have a lot less pressure to carry a franchise, not to mention all he could learn from James up close and personal is so invaluable. He would be able to play a lot more off ball as well, similar to Stephen Curry. With the Brooklyn Nets pick projected to come in at seventh as of Feb. 19, it really could happen. Talk about a dream scenario for Young.
Mohamed Bamba (University of Texas) - Chicago Bulls
Mohamed Bamba’s unicorn potential, especially as a defensive anchor, makes him a good fit for most teams. With the Chicago Bulls, he could provide defensive stability for a promising young core. Some might worry about the fit with Lauri Markkanen, but the Bulls aren’t becoming a playoff team with Markkanen at center anyways. The Bulls need more of a defensive identity.
Markkanen and Zach LaVine would provide the offensive spark, while Bamba held down the paint. Bamba also could be a great lob target for Kris Dunn and the Bulls other point guards. He’s not there as a shooter yet, but his mechanics are encouraging as he gets nice rotation on the ball. With Robin Lopez off the books in 2019, Bamba has a role to grow into and maintain.
Mikal Bridges (Villanova University) - Philadelphia 76ers
This is probably the best fit of any prospect and NBA team. Not only does Mikal Bridges hoop in Philadelphia already, but he’s the perfect second wing next to Robert Covington. With a defensive anchor in Joel Embiid, Bridges could wreak havoc on the perimeter, knowing his big man has his back. Not to mention, he’d get a plethora of open shots thanks to Embiid and Ben Simmons.
A defensive foundation of Embiid-Covington-Simmons is already elite. Adding Bridges would just be unfair. The Sixers would allow Bridges to take on less of a burden than he does at Villanova, offering him plenty of easy looks from deep and at the rim. With arguably the most exciting young core in the East, he could start his career playing for a playoff team with high hopes from day one. And who doesn’t want to play for Brett Brown at this point?
Use this as your homework heading into the conference tournaments on SnapCall Sports, all the way through draft night on June 21st, where we'll be covering the first round LIVE with all the predictions, stats, and info you can handle. Until then SnapCallers, keep callin' it.