Best Shooter – Luke Kennard
Not many around the Blue Devils could have expected the sort of season Kennard produced in his second year playing at Cameron Indoor. With an immensely talented roster filled with skilled guards, it seemed as if Kennard would be relegated to a bench role with sporadic playing time. The sweet-shooting lefty stunned the college basketball world as the only stabilizing force on a Duke team that faced multiple obstacles during the season. Kennard shot just shy of 44-percent from downtown in his sophomore season, flashing NBA range and a quick release. He has the talent to be a legit contributor at the next level, but should be able to carve out a niche as a spot-up shooter if all else fails.
Runner-Up: Lauri Markkanen – Zona’s big man shot 42.3-percent from distance while attempting over four attempts per contest. His smooth stroke and 7-foot frame make him incredibly difficult to defend.
Best Defender – Josh Jackson
Jackson has garnered a lot of buzz heading into Thursday’s draft. Projected draft placement for the Kansas freshman has jumped anywhere from the number one overall pick all the way down to the fourth of fifth spot. His outside shot and scoring prowess remain a question for teams, but there’s no denying what Jackson can bring to the table on the defensive side of the ball. He’s the Swiss-army knife defender that teams covet in today’s NBA, equipped with the size and foot speed to guard a multitude of positions. His length and athleticism will allow him to compete against the league’s very best.
Runner-Up: Ike Anigbogu – Rim protection is a key skill that teams look for in big man prospects. The best one of this lot is UCLA’s Anigbogu, who is a 6’10” Pogo stick with an enormous 7’6″ wingspan.
Most Athletic – De’Aaron Fox
Fox is a lightning fast point guard that has the rare ability to finish near the basket with authority in the half court. Analysts have drawn comparisons to fellow Kentucky Wildcat – John Wall. His passing and decision making will have to develop tremendously for him to be on Wall’s level, but they share many traits athletically. Having all of that speed and leaping ability also helps when Fox is relatively giant for a point guard – 6’4″ with a 7’0″ wingspan.
Runner-Up: Dennis Smith Jr. – Anybody that watched NC State basketball this past year has seen what Smith Jr. can do in the open floor. The explosive guard threw down a number of thunderous dunks throughout the year. And that was Smith coming off ACL surgery just a year prior.
Best Playmaker: Lonzo Ball
A passing savant with the ball in his hands, Ball simply makes his teammates better when he’s on the floor. His UCLA team last year was historically impressive on offense, and that was with a roster of players that were talented yet limited. He genuinely seems to enjoy getting his teammates involved, hitting shooters in their sweet spots, throwing crisp lobs in transition and finding cutters in half court sets. His perfect baseball passes rival fellow Bruin Kevin Love. As showcased by the Warriors this past year, being able to pass the ball is an imperative skill in the “Pace-and-Space” era, and Ball will quickly assert himself as one of the best passers in the NBA.
Runner-Up: Jawun Evans – Evans is another lead guard that is coming from a squad that plays at a pace similar to the NBA level. He’s an excellent ball-handler, able to get wherever he wants on the floor while keeping his dribble. His diminutive stature and fiery attitude has drawn loose comparisons to Chris Paul.
Best Scorer: Markelle Fultz
Fultz is likely to be the first name selected in Thursday’s draft, and it’s because of how polished of a scorer he is. The Washington product is the complete offensive package – tight handle, three-point range, size, and finishing ability. Philadelphia seems to be his destination, but Fultz will be scoring 20-plus points per game for the next decade for whichever team drafts him. He’s the perfect ball-dominant guard that every team is looking for, and was highly efficient from the floor during his lone collegiate year. With shooters to space the floor around him, Fultz will feast on any defense that tries to stop him with one defender.
Runner-Up: Jayson Tatum – Tatum is a bit more of a throwback player with a little Carmelo Anthony and a little Paul Pierce sprinkled in his game. He excels in the archaic art of post-ups, finishing off plays with heroic fadeaways. If he becomes a better three-point shooter, he’ll become almost impossible to stop.