Analysis: Lauri Markkanen or Zach Collins?
The Sacramento Kings will be the only team in the 2017 draft with two picks in the top ten and they will have to select them wisely. Depending on what player is left at the fifth pick (Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson or De’Aaron Fox), will determine who the Kings will draft at No.10.
Although the Kings have a plethora of big men consisting of Georgios Papagiannis, Kosta Koufos, Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein, the franchise may tack on another man in the trenches.
The two interchangeable 10th picks on many draft boards are Gonzaga’s Zach Collins and Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen. Both players excelled in their freshman years at their respected schools and now rank as the top two big men in this years NBA draft.
If available at No.10 , would the Kings draft Lauri Markkanen or Zach Collins?
In the event that the Kings draft Fox at the fifth pick, the gates open to the idea of drafting either Markkanen or Collins at No.10. The need for a big man is not as equivalent of a young small forward or point guard, but if the opportunity is there don’t be surprised when Sacramento adds another tree to the forest.
Markkanen and Collins are both proven seven footers with the ability to space the floor, run in transition and play with their back to the basket. Taking one or the other at the 10th pick could be the x-factor for a team needing to replace a 27-point per game scorer in DeMarcus Cousins.
Zach Collins 7-0, 230 lbs, Gonzaga
NBA Comparison: Nick Collison
Despite playing only 17 minutes per game in his freshman season at Gonzaga behind starter Przemek Karnowski, Collins proved that he is more than capable of being a first round selection.
Collins averaged 10 points and 5.9 rebounds in his freshman season and proved to be a crucial piece in the Bulldogs’ run to NCAA Championship game. Collins was able to show his canny ability to bring instant offense and create a spark off the bench.
Collins is a well-balanced player who can play both sides of the floor and excels in transition. He has the ability to run the floor efficiently and wait for the offense to develop to create great shot opportunities. Collins rarely takes a “bad shot” and can read a defense with ease.
One of Collins greatest qualities is his ability to spread the floor and score from deep. He shot 47.6 percent from deep during his freshman season while making some of his more critical shots in the final four. (He only shot 20 shots from deep)
His hustle and “in your face” mentality is what drives his mental success and it showed throughout the NCAA tournament.
Collins is not a liability on defense as he is able to guard positions 3-5 and can switch from defender to defender without being beat to the basket or on the perimeter. His skillset is NBA ready as his game is what many stretch bigs already exemplify today.
With that said, he did play in an inferior conference, which is not his fault but needs to be taken into account when comparing these two players. In 39 total games, he only played 165 total possessions on defense in comparison to the 258 possessions Markkanen played in a much more difficult conference.
Although Collins is a great scorer he can be timid at times when giving the shooting opportunity from midrange. He has room to improve on his passing ability because at times he tends to force passes in windows that aren’t there.
Free throw shooting is also something that Collins needs to improve on while transforming his game into the league. But it should not be a problem considering his current shooting stroke from midrange and deep.
Collins is a great defender with a knack to block or alter opposing players shots but tends to find himself in foul trouble quite frequently.
Overall, Collins is a NBA style two-way big, who can stretch the floor and could be a valuable asset in the Kings rebuilding process.
Lauri Markkanen 7-0, 230 lbs, Arizona
NBA Comparison: Dirk Nowitzki
The Finland native is a versatile two-way player with the ability to stretch the floor with his range. In his freshman year at Arizona, he averaged 15.6 points per game and 7.2 rebounds while shooting 54.5 percent from the field.
Markkanen earned all PAC-12 honors during his very efficient rookie season and was an intrical part in the Wildcats run to the Sweet 16. Markkanen also led the Wildcats to a PAC-12 Championship and earned tournament MVP.
Markkanen is a well-coordinated athlete who is very mobile up and down the court. He excels in midrange and baseline jumpers while having a very decent touch around the rim.
Markkanen is a great pick and pop big and is hard to guard on the switch because of his range. He can shoot the ball with ease from deep as he shot 42.3 percent on 144 attempts.
His greatest quality is his ability to catch fire at any given moment. Because of his size he’s able to have the separation he needs to shoot over players with ease.
Markkanen is great in the open floor and is more than capable of handling the ball and passing when warranted.
Markkanen is a great free throw shooter as he shot 84 percent during his freshman year at Arizona and could grow into a better one with proper NBA training.
Markkanen lacks a great post up game and tends to get roughed up physically in the paint. His defense is what lacks the most. His ability to play off of screens and pop out and guard the opposing ball handler is great but once the paint gets penetrated he doesn’t have the lateral quickness that is needed at the NBA level.
His game is easy to transform and will be able to acclimate to the NBA level with proper coaching and training. Markkanen’s shooting stroke is NBA ready but has some work to do in the low post on offense and defense.
Markkanen played overseas before his freshman year at Arizona and was the top scorer in the FIBA U20 European Championship in 2016 and was also voted in the All-Tournament team. With his size, Markkanen could grow into the new “Dirk” with just a year or two in the NBA.
Regardless if the Kings plan on taking Fox or one of the available small forwards at the fifth pick, Collins and Markkanen should still be on the Kings’ radar at No.10.
Tune into the NBA draft on June 22nd to see how the draft pans out.
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