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NBA Prospects to Watch at Jordan Brand Classic

As the summer circuit continues for the top high school players across the country, so does another event to showcase the top high school talent around the country. The Jordan Brand Classic is Friday, April 17 at 8 p.m. ET and potential NBA talent is plentiful, including prospects I mentioned earlier in the week following the Nike Hoop Summit. (Jaylen Brown and Skal Labissiere) I’ll be focusing my attention on other players who might make their way to the NBA after a successful season or two of college basketball.

Here’s the full roster of players:

East Team
Isaiah Briscoe G
Jaylen Brown SF
Jalen Brunson PG
Thomas Bryant C
Jalen Coleman-Lands G
Eric Davis G
Cheick Diallo F
Henry Ellenson F
Luke Kennard G
Skal Labiessiere C
Charles Matthews G
Malachi Richardson G
Caleb Swanigan C

West Team
Dwayne Bacon G
Malik Beasley G
Antonio Blakeney G
Deyonta Davis F
Tyler Davis C
Tyler Dorsey G
Austin Grandstaff G
Dedric Lawson F
Malik Newman G
Ivan Rabb F
Allonzo Trier G
Stephen Zimmerman C

EAST

Dwayne Bacon
6-6 210 SG/SF Florida State

Bacon is joining a Florida State roster that needs a jolt of scoring, and he’s ready to provide that. He joins another prolific scoring guard in Xavier Rathan-Mayes to provide a solid one-two punch for Leonard Hamilton’s squad.

Bacon is a prototype wing at the NBA level, as he has NBA athleticism and size at 6-6 with solid length. Bacon shows range from all over the court and shows the ability to hit a mid-range shot off one or two dribbles on closeouts. He gets a lot of his points in transition where he has the strength to finish through contact.

Bacon needs to continue to work on his handle to help him get to the rim in the half court and work on his left hand when finishing at the rim. Bacon even acknowledges he went to Florida State to work on his defense, too, which shows his commitment to making it to the NBA. He most likely won’t be a one-and-done, but look for Bacon to be a first-round pick in either the 2016 or 2017 draft.

Antonio Blakeney
6-4 180 PG/SG LSU

Blakeney is joining Ben Simmons to play for LSU this fall, and the McDonald’s All-American will make an immediate impact. The combo guard joins a backcourt featuring another NBA prospect in Tim Quarterman.

Blakeney is an NBA-athlete, with a wiry frame at 6-4 and 180 pounds with a 6-7 ¾ wingspan. He can score around the rim thanks to his hang-time, length and ability to take contact. He needs to continue to add strength for the next level, and although he has been hitting jump shots in practice this week, needs to gain consistency to be a threat in college from three-point range.

Blakeney might be a starter day one in Baton Rouge, and if he plays to his ability, could join Simmons to be a one-and-done and first-round pick in 2016.

Malik Newman
6-4 180 SG Undecided

Newman had a solid game for the USA team in the Nike Hoop Summit last weekend finishing with 10 points on 4-8 shooting, 2-4 from three with two steals. He’s still undecided on where he’ll be playing in college.

Newman is an electric scorer with the quickness to get his own shot and a jump shot with range. He gets elevation on his jump shot so he doesn’t get blocked and is a force in transition with his speed.

However, Newman has a short wingspan at only 6-5, which could be a concern for his NBA prospects. He admitted at the Nike Hoop Summit practices he sees himself as a point guard in college, which will have to be his position in the NBA due to the lack of length. His college decision will be crucial, as he’ll need a team that’ll give him the ball to showcase his skills as a point guard for the NBA. If Newman displays those skills, he could be a lottery pick in the 2016 draft.

Ivan Rabb
6-10 215 PF California

Cuonzo Martin caught California’s first big fish in quite some time. The five-star power forward is the first top 10 ranked commit since 2003 for the Golden Bears. He’s still trying to recruit fellow top-prospect Jaylen Brown to join him at Cal.

Rabb has been growing into his body the last few years, and at 6-10 with a 7-2 wingspan, has prototypical size and length for a power forward in the NBA. Rabb finishes well around the rim with a soft touch. He needs to continue to add to his skillset, however.

The lefty doesn’t have the size to play center right now, as he’s only 215 pounds. It’s important for Rabb to try and extend his range and gain more weight, as he’ll most likely be a power forward in the NBA. Being the number one option right away in Berkeley will showcase Rabb immediately, and if he performs, Rabb could be a top 10 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Stephen Zimmerman
7-0 235 C UNLV

Zimmerman made a surprising commitment to UNLV on Thursday, potentially joining Christian Woods if he decides against entering the NBA Draft. Zimmerman should have his impact felt immediately once he walks on campus.

Zimmerman is the type of center NBA scouts are looking for in this new day and age. Centers who are mobile, can stretch the floor and protect the rim are invaluable, and Zimmerman fits that mold. He has great reach with a 7-3 wingspan and 9-1 standing reach, which allow him to cause havoc near the rim.

At the Nike Hoop Summit last weekend, Zimmerman’s presence bothered top-prospect Skal Labissiere at times as he finished with eight points, two steals and two blocks. He also hit a couple mid-range jump shots, showing range to stretch the floor. He reminds me of a more-polished Meyers Leonard. I’d bet he’s a top 10 pick in the 2016 draft.

WEST

Luke Kennard
6-5 190 SG Duke

Unless someone from the 2016 class declassifies, Duke’s starting point guard next year might be Kennard. With Tyus Jones declaring for the NBA Draft, Duke is scrambling to find someone to take hold of the reins for the 2015-16 season, but Kennard said he’d be ready if need be.

Kennard is a lefty swingman who’s a prolific scorer with a pure jump shot. He passed LeBron James this past season and finished as the number two-scorer ever to play in Ohio with 2,977 career points. He was the best player on Team USA at the Nike Hoop Summit last weekend, finishing with 22 points on 9-18 shooting with five rebounds and two assists.

Kennard fits the mold of the Duke program. He’s a consistent threat with a deep jumper but needs to add strength in his time at Duke. Give him three or four years and I bet he’s a late first-round pick in the NBA Draft.

Cheick Diallo
6-9 220 PF/C Undecided

Diallo remains undecided on his college choice, but regardless, he’s one of the best NBA prospects attending this event. He scored 12 points and had three blocks last weekend at the Nike Hoop Summit.

With a hyperactive motor, length and athleticism that’s rare for a big man, Diallo has potential to be a top pick in the 2016 draft. He has a monstrous wingspan at 7-4, which helps him block shots and recover in help situations. For Diallo, defense is his calling card right now. He’s able to guard multiple positions and is strong for his size.

On offense, Diallo gets almost all of his baskets on putbacks and dunks. He’s raw at this point and doesn’t show much of a post-up game or face-up game. He basically out-motors everyone on the court to get his points, which is fine for a big man at the next level. He’ll need to develop something on offense to increase his draft stock, but look for him to be a first-round pick in the next two years.

Isaiah Briscoe
6-3 220 PG/SG Kentucky

Briscoe should help Kentucky immediately after the losses of the Harrison twins to the NBA Draft. He’ll slide into the starting line up next to Tyler Ulis and help create for an offense that has a bunch of production to replicate from last year’s team.

Briscoe has the tools you look for in a combo guard. He measured at 6-3.5 in shoes with a 6-8 wingspan last weekend at the Nike Hoop Summit. This will allow him to play either position in college or the pros, thanks to his supreme length.

He showed plenty of point guard skill last weekend in the Nike Hoop Summit, finishing with nine points, nine assists and two steals. He was consistently knifing through the World team’s defense, getting into the lane and making plays. If he does the same in his first season at Kentucky, he could be a first-round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Caleb Swanigan
6-8 270 PF/C Michigan State

Swanigan pulled off the surprise of the weekend when he committed to Michigan State over assumed-leader California. He should fit in nicely in Michigan State’s quartet of veterans Gavin Schilling and Matt Costello along with fellow AAU teammate and freshman Deyonta Davis, who’s also playing in this game.

Swanigan has wanted to play power forward in college, as that’s his most likely position to play in the pros. At 6-8 and 270 pounds with a 7-3.5 wingspan, Swanigan will be a mismatch nightmare in the post immediately at Michigan State. He has a soft touch around the rim, can stretch the floor a little and sees the floor very well for a big-man, which are all very valuable skills.

However, he needs to cut down on weight to play power forward in the NBA, which should help increase his conditioning and defense in the process. Given Tom Izzo’s ability to develop big men, it’s easy to see Swanigan as a first-round pick in the 2017 draft.

Henry Ellenson
6-10 230 PF Marquette

Ellenson is my biggest sleeper at this event in terms of NBA prospects. Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski did a good job to secure his commitment (his brother also playing at Marquette might have helped, too), as I think Ellenson will make a fine pro after his time in Marquette is done with.

Ellenson has the look of an NBA power forward at slightly over 6-10 with a 7-2 wingspan. He can space the floor and run the break to finish in traffic. He has lost over 30 pounds since 2012, which has helped make his game more versatile. Ellenson has the ball handling, shot-making and ability to finish around the rim with either hand. He has been compared to Kevin Love in the past.

He was wearing a bandage around his hand and didn’t practice this week, so it’s unclear if he’ll be participating in the game. Watch out for Ellenson in his freshman season at Marquette, as it might be his only one. Ellenson could be a top 10 pick in either the 2016 or 2017 drafts.

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