Draft Deeper's Top Risers and Fallers Part 2: Fallers | The Morning Dunk
The second edition of Draft Deeper's Top Risers and Fallers has our own Nathan Grubel taking a dive into why some players have fallen down his personal board PLUS Baba Miller's debut and more!
We’re back with another edition of The Morning Dunk!
If you missed last week’s column, I encourage you to go back and read here as I took a look at who is rising rapidly up my PERSONAL 2023 NBA Draft board, and what those prospects can continue to show to maintain those positions.
This time around, it’s Part 2 of that exercise, as this week it’s about who is falling and what they can possibly do to get back up on the board.
Just as a refresher, I don’t change the rankings on my board just for the hell of it. I don’t make any movements to reflect an overreaction to one or two games.
When I sit down to scout and take notes on a game, I’m always learning something. Whether it’s from the action on the court, the interactions, or little things I can note from being in person, or from trends I’ve noticed in one’s game that can agree or disagree with where the NBA is and heading, there’s ALWAYS a takeaway to be had.
So my rankings are no different. I’m taking all of the new information I’ve acquired and making decisions on where I would anticipate a prospect’s best value might be. Are they actually having a chance to return top-tier value? Or are they fringe first-round prospects who would be better off being taken in the second round or possibly coming back to school and waiting to adjust and rise up the board next year?
There are a ton of factors that I weigh in these decisions. The NBA Draft is complex and complicated, but we try our best to answer the big questions at No Ceilings. Hopefully, this week’s writing will give some insight into where I’m at with a handful of prospects and pose some new questions to you, the reader. After all, that’s my goal week in and week out: to spark intrigue and encourage learning and analyzing new and different perspectives!
Let’s dive into who is falling down my personal board and what those prospects need to show me to get them back in the first-round conversation!
Dillon Mitchell, Texas
Previous Rank: 23
New Rank: 36
Coming in as the fourth-ranked prospect in the entire country per multiple recruiting outlets, Dillon Mitchell was viewed as the athletic wing who could help keep Texas basketball in the national championship hunt.
Viewed as a two-way threat, Mitchell was utilized in high school as a play finisher in the paint while causing all sorts of havoc on the defensive end, acting as a weakside rim protector, switchable defender, and transition highlight machine.
Flash forward to what his career has actually looked like for the Longhorns, and it’s been a little bit of a mixed bag.
Mitchell’s play hasn’t been entirely bad; just not worthy of the same lottery status that he had preseason.
On the year, Mitchell is averaging 7.3 PPG and 5.3 RPG, which is a far cry from expectations (at least in the scoring department). While I’ve viewed his offensive rebounding and activity level as positives, there really isn’t much more to point to outside of his interior finishing (62.9% FG on the season).
Yes, it’s important for players to be able to score the ball effectively. Mitchell is a great dunker, capable cutter, and transition threat. But these are all play types where he has to be the beneficiary of someone else creating that opportunity for him. Sure, cutting is a movement skill that I believe goes underrated when we talk about self-creation, but he’s not making enough happen with the ball in his hands.
Overall, Mitchell is a reluctant shooter from the outside. Last year, Kendall Brown got a ton of criticism for not even looking at the rim on most possessions. He’d gladly pass to someone else if there was even a hint of traffic or contest on his look. While Mitchell isn’t THAT bad because there is some real touch there around the basket, the same can be said about any of his attempts away from the painted area.
Mitchell has taken just six (!) jump shots at Texas, and he has knocked down two of them. His jumper doesn’t look poor from a mechanical standpoint, and as I pointed out earlier there are ways he’s shown touch around the rim through runners, hooks, and push shots. So it’s not as if Mitchell is incapable of at least trying to branch out his offensive attack.
But his free throw stroke likely doesn’t foster any more confidence in his outside game (48% from the line), so right now his game on that end is very basic.
And even though the defense is something that an NBA team could very well bet on, as he has the tools and athleticism to continue developing into a disruptor on that end, without the deeper bag offensively it’s difficult to look at Mitchell as the type of talent worth taking up to a certain point in the draft.
There are still plenty of scouts who have a grade on him inside the Top 20. I, however, am not one of those evaluators and have a myriad of players I’d rather make a bet on in that range.
To climb back up my board, Mitchell either needs to start showing more diversity and assertiveness in his offensive skill set or become the type of defender both on and off the ball to where I’m willing to overlook some of the offensive shortcomings and fashion him a role in the mold of a Matisse Thybulle or Isaac Okoro. But even that path (defensive specialist) hasn’t exactly panned out great for either player up to this point in their careers.
In an NBA where floor spacing and offensive creativity are both at a premium, it could be best at this point for Mitchell to either go back to Texas next year or transfer for a new opportunity to continue sharpening the other parts of his game to solidify a higher spot in the 2024 draft.
Tyrese Proctor, Duke
Previous Rank: 21
New Rank: 37
There’s a quote that I shared on an episode of Draft Deeper just before the holidays started that could really come back to bite me.
Well, I may have gotten half of that right.
Clowney has rapidly jumped up my board as one of the more unique bets on raw, talented upside one could make in the first round of the draft.
Proctor, however, has yet to live up to the hype and has only teased with brief flashes this year at Duke.
Now let’s just call it what it is: despite what the record could show for the Blue Devils (which SHOULD mean something given how much parity currently exists in college basketball), this Duke squad isn’t what fans likely expected coming into the season.
There’s a lack of leadership, offensive execution, and defensive fundamentals across multiple positions. Throw in the fact that the main contributors are all freshmen (Kyle Filipowski has been the best Duke player up to this point, and Proctor as well as Dariq Whitehead, Dereck Lively, and Mark Mitchell were all expected to play big roles), and that spells potential disaster.
The good news for Duke is that the TALENT of these players, along with returners like Jeremy Roach, has been too plentiful to let this team crash and burn.
But what this team could absolutely use is a floor general able to orchestrate the offense and get everyone their shots with ease.
At times, that’s what Proctor has done. Out of the pick-and-roll, Proctor is very capable of hitting the roll man with a pocket pass or making a one-read move out of that play type.
But breaking down the defense, reading multiple levels, and whipping the ball to other parts of the court hasn’t been a strong point for Proctor from game to game. The decision-making and vision have been inconsistent for him, which has certainly led to mixed results for Duke’s offense.
Without a go-to playmaker, Lively and (this version of) Whitehead aren’t nearly as useful as scoring threats. Filipowski has to do far more off the bounce than an NBA team would likely ask of him. And if Mitchell is cutting to the rim and Proctor doesn’t see the play developing or time the pass correctly, how useful is having a guy like him on the floor outside of getting the hustle plays or occasionally hitting a spot-up shot?
When the rest of the lineup is filled with play finishers and not go-to options worthy of a higher usage role, it takes a point guard to act as an extension of the coach and play with the right pace, poise, and vision to guide their team to wins on a nightly basis.
I still believe Proctor has loads up of upside as a 6’5” lead guard who will continue to get better as a playmaker, pull-up scorer (88% from the charity stripe which is generally a great indicator of touch), and point-of-attack defender (rates in the 85th percentile in total defense per Synergy!). But he just doesn’t seem to be reading the game at that level quite yet. And when his outside shot isn’t falling at an above-average clip (23.9% from deep on nearly four attempts per game), Proctor’s threat to score falls apart closing off other opportunities.
Simply put, Proctor isn’t an off-ball player. He needs the rock in his hands to thrive, and if he can’t command that type of role, he wouldn’t be likely to see a ton of NBA minutes early on in his career.
If a team is confident enough in its developmental program, then one could take Proctor in the late-first/early second round. But Proctor has the tools to emerge as a lottery pick next year, so it may be smart for him to come back to Duke and refine his game further to unlock that type of potential that’s inside of him.
Jalen Wilson, Kansas
Previous Rank: 27
New Rank: 40
Now this is a tricky evaluation, as the raw numbers for Jalen Wilson should indicate he has a real shot at being a first round pick (AKA where I had him ranked previously).
But watching Kansas this year and studying Wilson’s tape, I’ve come away with a different conclusion up to this point regarding his draft stock.
As I mentioned, Wilson has the averages to pop as a worthy first rounder. Averaging almost 20 PPG and 9.0 RPG is no small feat for any high-major player. His production and willingness to take over the role of top offensive option is a testament to his confidence in his game.
That’s the type of belief NBA teams look for in first round picks. Are they confident enough in what they’re bringing to the table to fight for minutes early on in their career so they can get the time and reps to develop their other skills?
With Wilson, the answer to that question is a resounding yes. Especially this season, he hasn’t seen a shot he doesn’t like.
Is that type of shot selection part of the problem though?
Confidence can kill as much as develop if it’s abused. And for Wilson right now, it’s led to a dip in his efficiency across the board. Wilson is hitting on his lowest mark from the field overall and from inside the arc in the last three seasons, and his 3P% hasn’t taken a step forward from where it’s been previously either.
With prospects who are older and more experienced, the hope is that they’ve found ways to improve their skills to where they can handle more responsibility with improved efficiency. Wilson hanging his hat on high volume and low efficiency isn’t exactly what scouts want to see from him when projecting his rank on a big board.
The counter to that argument is, would an NBA team even be looking at him to take nearly the number of shots per game as he is right now for the Jayhawks?
That’s a fair argument, IF his efficiency was significantly greater in a lower-volume role. Throughout his career, that just hasn’t been the case. So while the highs on tape, as well as the counting numbers, are strong for Wilson, he’s never quite shown the level of touch to value him as a strong scoring option at the next level (or the one-on-one game, as he rates in just the 16th percentile in isolation).
Throw in defensively that his attention level and engagement haven’t always been the most consistent either, and it’s difficult to peg what a team could expect to get from Wilson game to game.
Those types of players, depending on positional value and fit, could stand to be taken late in the first round if the production warrants it. But as a second-round pick, the expectations for Wilson become lower which could mean less pressure and a better return on investment for the drafting organization.
IF I were to move Wilson back into first-round territory, it would be from him blending more of his passing into his usage on offense. Wilson has shown real passing chops, just not on a consistent basis. A better shot diet, more playmaking for others, and consistent defensive playmaking would be my path to a higher draft pick in June.
Ricky Council IV, Arkansas
Previous Rank: 32
New Rank: 42
Another wing prospect who has the scoring stats at surface level to warrant a first-round argument, I’ve cooled on the pro prospects of Ricky Council IV a bit after watching more of the tape.
Again, 18.3 PPG on 47.8% from the field is nothing to sneeze at. Add in a good mark from the line as well (78.9%), and it becomes easy to buy into a 6’6” well-built wing who can get buckets from a position of importance by NBA standards.
However, a lot of those looks have come on a diet of tough mid-range shots. For whatever reason, Council is much more comfortable pulling up from just inside the arc as opposed to beyond it. Council gets better elevation and squares up appropriately off a few dribbles on long twos, yet doesn’t practice the same form and mechanics on his three-point stroke.
Those inconsistencies in his shot preparation and practice have led to a below-average mark from distance over the last two seasons of his career on meaningful volume. Without the threat of a deep ball, defenses can sag off him and take away the best parts of his game.
And even when he gets a guy to play up on him, Council doesn’t have the burst, shiftiness, or handle to always separate from the defense at a high level. Contested shots are a steady part of his scoring diet, and unless he can get to the line at a reasonable rate, Council is prone to either forcing a poor shot or turning the ball over (negative assist-to-turnover ratio on the season).
Against Alabama, Council had the ball in his hands a ton due to Anthony Black being in foul trouble for the majority of the game. Now he certainly made a few things happen, like getting to the line, for example. But the time in which he held the ball, and ignored the concept of trying to move it to get a better look for his teammates, wasn’t an attractive form of offense to watch for an isolation bucket-getter who couldn’t quite make it happen effectively against a good team.
In that contest, Council finished with 15 points, but only canned 4-of-10 shots and turned the ball over five times. That’s not a recipe for success for a number one option.
So with Council, it’s a very similar argument to Wilson. A more experienced offensive player who has inconsistent marks from key spots on the floor from low-to-high volume. I’d take Wilson over Council because he’s taller, longer, and a better athlete (not to mention a better rebounder and passer). If Council isn’t defending his tail off and knocking down open spot-up shots, what exactly am I investing a first round pick in?
Now Council has shown enough to warrant a Top 45 grade on my board. But it’ll be tough to have him higher than where I have him now; we’ve likely seen a good snapshot over the last few years of what to expect from him as a pro.
Tyrese Hunter, Texas
Previous Rank: 45
New Rank: NR
I’ve saved this player for last because this evaluation pains me the most.
If you’re familiar with my draft coverage and the Draft Deeper platform, you’ve heard me state that Tyrese Hunter has shown lottery-level talent.
That statement could be true for a number of NBA prospects over the years, especially ones where their best games on tape are comparable to the dynamics of All-Stars in the league.
But talent isn’t the only thing that defines who a player is at the next level. As I’ve now outlined with a number of prospects in this column, CONSISTENCY is king.
And unfortunately for Hunter, we’re almost through two years of not knowing what he’s going to bring on a nightly basis.
Now sitting at under 40% from the floor, and 32% from three, after flirting with a 50/40/80 season just a month and a half ago, Hunter’s offensive game has gone cold.
All last season, the main complaint with Hunter wasn’t his ability to make plays for others or defend his position; it was the fact he couldn’t score efficiently from any one area on the floor. At 6’0” size (might be generous), he’s already fighting an uphill battle to stand out for NBA scouts.
If Hunter was going to make a leap into the first round, let alone as high as I left the door open for, he had to come into this year at Texas and shoot the living hell out of the ball.
Hunter hasn’t done that, and therefore he has fallen off my board appropriately.
He still possesses great speed, instincts, and defensive ability as a guard. Even though the numbers haven’t been as great in the playmaking department on that end, Hunter still sits in a stance and competes at the top of the floor. He’s stronger than given credit for, and he can handle either backcourt position defensively.
But this game is all about who can put the ball in the basket more than the other team. If Hunter isn’t able to make a name for himself in that department, then the rest of his case becomes all for not given the physical limitations.
Now in his sophomore year, Hunter has arguably regressed as an overall talent. Whether he should’ve stayed at Iowa State or not is a question for another day. But I can no longer make the argument that he’s worthy of major attention as a draft prospect.
Hunter has quite a bit of work to do in order to rank himself back on my personal board.
Games To Watch This Week
Tuesday 1/17, 7pm EST: Kansas State vs. Kansas: A Big 12 battle to get the college basketball week started as Kansas looks to take on rival Kansas State. The storyline to follow here is really the comeback of former Florida forward Keyontae Johnson, who has found his game and is helping the Wildcats put together a great season. For the Jayhawks, Gradey Dick’s name continues to buzz around the lottery, and Jalen Wilson remains in play for first-round consideration. Two names who have also played well for the Jayhawks of late: KJ Adams and Dajuan Harris.
Tuesday 1/17, 7pm EST: Notre Dame vs. Florida State: Hopefully Baba Miller has returned to action (again) for this ACC matchup against Notre Dame, as he showed in his debut last week against Wake Forest he’s just scratching the surface of the type of prospect he could become. A jumbo wing who can cover multiple positions defensively, handle the ball in transition, and shoot from the perimeter. NBA teams want to see more, and this is the next test on the schedule. For the Fighting Irish, JJ Starling still has great upside of his own despite the inconsistencies this year. Whether he’s a ‘23 or ‘24 draft prospect, the 6’4” guard has real three-level scoring potential.
Wednesday 1/18, 9pm EST: Missouri vs. Arkansas: Losses for both of these programs over the weekend means this could be a good bounce-back game for either. Arkansas has the type of talent to go win a national championship behind Anthony Black and Ricky Council IV. As for the Tigers, Kobe Brown and D’Moi Hodge are the potential prospects to watch, as both can fill it up from the perimeter and are mismatches in their own right.
Thursday 1/19, 9pm EST: Arizona vs. USC: An uncharacteristic upset loss to Oregon on Saturday puts Arizona in a bounce-back spot against a decent USC squad looking to keep the wins coming. Vincent Iwuchukwu made his debut against Utah over the weekend after sitting out to this point in the season due to a heart condition. One of college basketball’s best stories (and still a draft prospect himself) could ramp up to more minutes and more production quickly, as the Trojans need all the size to combat Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo down low for the Wildcats.
Saturday 1/21, Time TBD: Ohio State vs. Iowa: Two scoring wings/forwards (depending on how you positionally classify them) take center stage in this Big Ten matchup. Brice Sensabaugh and Kris Murray are two of the most efficient bucket-getters in the country and can score from all over the floor. Other prospects to watch on the Buckeye side include Bruce Thornton, Justice Sueing, Felix Okpara, and Roddy Gayle Jr.
Saturday 1/21, 12pm EST: Duke vs. Miami: Isaiah Wong continues to have a great run this year for Miami, and he’ll look to continue that trend against Duke’s backcourt. Tyrese Proctor has the defensive capabilities to limit an opposing threat like Wong, so it will be a good test for him. The Blue Devil bigs have a real opportunity to show how they can use their pure size to their advantage, as Kyle Filipowski and Dereck Lively are the clear winners here from a talent perspective, and Dariq Whitehead is starting to find his footing as a spot-up threat from outside.
Saturday 1/21, 1pm EST: Kansas vs. TCU: If you haven’t watched Mike Miles this year, now is the time. The junior guard is having a year that is making scouts question just how high he could end up going in the 2023 draft and if the first round could be in his future. Kansas is always a tough test, though, with a pair of wings in Gradey Dick and Jalen Wilson looking to solidify their grades as lottery and late-first round, respectively.