By AARON BEARD, AP Basketball Writer
Jalen Green bypassed college to make the leap into his professional career. The next step comes from Thursday’s NBA Draft.
Green is one of the shooting goaltenders in this year’s draft and is expected to be among the top four picks. He leads a position that includes a pair of top prospects Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson of Tennessee, as well as James Bouknight of Connecticut.
Here is an overview of the main prospects:
The 19-year-old green went from high school to the G League and posted some good numbers.
STRONG POINTS: The 6ft 6in Green is a scorer. He’s averaged 17.9 points on 46% of shots in 15 games for G League Ignite, which offers an alternative to top-flight prospects looking to get around college basketball. He has an explosive athleticism, leading to high-flying dunks and a willingness to attack the rim. His shot touch also looked solid on 3 points (36.5%) and on the line (82.9%), offering a glimpse of his growing potential to become an elite scorer.
CONCERNS: Like many youngsters in this draft, he’ll need to add bulk to a 178-pound frame to be strong enough to handle the physical play on the perimeter. He will also have to reduce the errors that have led him to have almost as many turnovers (40) as assists (42).
KEON JOHNSON AND JADEN SPRINGER
The Volunteers’ five-star rookies are unique first-round prospects, with Johnson looking likely to land in the lottery.
STRENGTHS: The 6-4, 205-pound Springer led Tennessee with 12.5 points per game, while the 6-4, 184-pound Johnson was second at 11.3. Springer offers a bigger frame and could see the work at this point in the NBA with his ability to let loose in the great outdoors and connect with his teammates (2.9 assists per game). Johnson brings in enough athleticism to set an NBA combination record with a 48-inch vertical jump while still tied for third in the three-quarter sprint (3.0 seconds). They raised their games later in the year, dropping from around 24% of the team’s score in the first nine Southeastern Conference games to almost 43% in the last eight. And both offer great defensive potential.
CONCERNS: The location shoot is a bit of a question. Springer shot 43.5% from 3 points but only attempted 1.8 per game, so that wasn’t a primary weapon for him. Johnson also didn’t take much and only shot 27% from his 48 attempts, while he could also help himself by adding bulk to handle physical play.
The Connecticut sophomore brings in enough points to likely place him in the first half of the first round.
STRENGTHS: The Bouknight 6-5 averaged 18.7 points while shooting nearly 45%, including a 40-point game against Creighton in December. Bouknight can create his own shot by attacking the rim or removing the dribble, and has some athleticism to finish at the rim – like his high-flying dunk against Providence in February. He’s also a willful rebounder (5.7), including a pair of 10-board efforts in the Big East game.
CONCERNS: He’s shot just 29% at a 3-point range this year, with just 11 of 41 (26.8%) in his last nine games after returning from mid-season elbow surgery, and recorded 29 more turnovers than assists over two seasons. He also has a lean frame (190 pounds) who might struggle to handle stronger defenders without the added bulk.
– MOSES MOODY: The one-time goalie averaged 16.8 points to help Arkansas move closer to a Final Four victory. The 6-5, 211-pound goalie has a wingspan of almost 7-1 and could go into the second half of the lottery picks.
– CAMERON THOMAS: The 6-4, 210-pound freshman from LSU is a first-round prospect after leading the SEC with 23 points per game.
– CHRIS DUARTE: The 6-6 goaltender has gone from two seasons in junior college to two in Oregon and is now standing as a first-round prospect. Now 24, Duarte last year won the Jerry West Award as the nation’s top shooting goaltender after averaging 17 points while shooting 53% for a team that reached the NCAA Sweet 16.
– QUENTIN GRIMES: The junior 6-5 was the top scorer (17.8 points) for a defensive-minded Houston team that reached the program’s first Final Four since 1984. He is probably a second prospect. round that would offer size, score and defense to the right lineup.
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