2023 NBA Draft on B/R

Bleacher Report: Pro comparisons for top prospects in March Madness

Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman has the latest NBA comparisons for the top Draft prospects competing this March.

Arkansas star Nick Smith Jr. has a game that may remind NBA fans of Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell.

Editor’s Note: Find more of Jonathan Wasserman’s coverage of the 2023 Draft on Bleacher Report or to read this article on BleacherReport.com, click here.

(B/R) — NBA scouting departments use pro comparisons as an exercise to paint a clearer picture of a prospect’s future role and effectiveness.

Viewers watching this NCAA Tournament are going to see glimpses of some of today’s and yesterday’s stars and impact role players.

Comparisons take into account physical tools/athleticism, style of play, strengths and weaknesses. We’re looking for NBA archetypes and reachable ceilings for the top prospects in this year’s March Madness.

Anthony Black, Arkansas | PG/SG, Freshman

Pro comparison: Dyson Daniels

Anthony Black’s two-way-playmaker archetype, strengths and weaknesses mirror Dyson Daniels’.

Black has a similar 6’7″ size for a player coaches can use to run pick-and-rolls or operate as a cutter off the ball. Neither are explosive athletes; rather, they get to spots off change of speed/direction, make plays over smaller defenders and have touch-shots in the paint.

Black and Daniels are both high-IQ passers, though they’re missing the shiftiness and burst to create more playmaking opportunities.

They’ll each earn extra money on defense, where they have overwhelming tools, quick hands and reactions, the ability to guard 1-4 and strong intangibles.

Like Daniels, shooting development will be key for Black, who’ll need more reliable jumpers to offer the type of scoring firepower coaches typically want from starting guards.

Some aspects of Gradey Dick’s game may be similar to that of Kevin Huerter’s.

Gradey Dick, Kansas | SF, Freshman

Pro comparison: Kevin Huerter

A 6’8″ wing and one of the draft’s best shooters, Gradey Dick should remind scouts of Kevin Huerter.

The Sacramento Kings starter is averaging an efficient 15.2 points and 2.8 threes this year, generating his offense with mostly off-ball shot-making and cutting. Dick (2.3 3PTM, 39.9 percent) will score playing a similar role with his quick, high release and IQ/athleticism for play-finishing around the basket.

Neither are considered creators, but both are threats to make plays in ball-screen situations, as Dick has been proficient on limited pick-and-roll ball-handling reps this season (1.0 PPP, 93rd percentile), per Synergy Sports.

Like Huerter, Dick has the skill set, tools and mentality to serve as a No. 3 option and complementary scorer for a winning team.

Kyle Filipowski, Duke | PF/C, Freshman

Pro comparison: Naz Reid/Maxi Kleber

Kyle Filipowski’s size and movement more closely mirror Maxi Kleber’s, but his skill level and versatility are more similar to Naz Reid’s.

Limited athletically, Filipowski and Reid score with three-point range, ball-handling ability to attack closeouts and strength around the basket. With size and perimeter games, they’re both interchangeable between the 4 and 5 offensively. They operate as stretch bigs, roll men, post players and finishers.

Filipowski and Reid aren’t shot-blockers, but the Duke freshman has showcased the mobility that could allow him to defend in space like Kleber.

Baylor’s Keyonte George has a skillset reminiscent of Anfernee Simons and Cole Anthony.

Keyonte George, Baylor | SG, Freshman

Pro comparison: Anfernee Simons/Cole Anthony

A perimeter scorer and confident shot-maker, Keyonte George reminds me of Anfernee Simons, who’s averaging 21.2 points per game at 23 years old.

It took Simons a few seasons to become more efficient with his jumper-heavy shot selection, and George figures to go through similar growing pains. But eventually, George, who’s been potent shooting off step-backs, screens and open spot-ups, has the potential to offer similar firepower off self-creation, pull-up shooting and deep range.

Both have an extra gear they can activate to split defenders and penetrate. And we’re starting to see more playmaking this year from Simons, something George has flashed in doses playing alongside older guards Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer.

Failing to improve his finishing could result in more Cole Anthony comparisons, given the Orlando Magic’s guard struggles inside the arc. Improving decision-making will be key for both players’ development and value.

Jalen Hood-Schifino, Indiana | PG/SG, Freshman

Pro comparison: Spencer Dinwiddie

Shades of Spencer Dinwiddie appear in Jalen Hood-Schifino’s 6’6″ size, slick passing and three-level scoring that doesn’t use much athleticism.

They’re both interchangeable guards with enough creativity for a point and physical tools to guard 2s.

Despite lacking both explosion around the basket and a traditional lead ball-handler’s assist numbers, Hood-Schifino has caught scouts’ attention with his clever dribble, hesitations, flashy playmaking, acrobatic finishes and pull-up shooting.

Dinwiddie has turned his three-ball into a strength after struggling with it early as a pro. While Hood-Schifino has looked limited behind the arc, his mid-range shot and free throws should create some optimism over his shooting range.

Xavier standout Colby Jones has a game that may mirror that of Knicks swingman Josh Hart.

Colby Jones, Xavier | SG/SF, Junior

Pro comparison: Josh Hart

Scouts see a safe, high-floor pick in Colby Jones, who they project to operate as a Swiss Army Knife passer, driver, set shooter and defender.

He’ll play a similar role as Josh Hart’s, which values his versatility, toughness and IQ. Like Hart, Jones is more of a capable three-point threat than a volume shooter. Neither player should be expected to serve as a top scoring option, but they can both make plays on or off the ball, whether it’s by attacking or playmaking in pick-and-roll sets, spotting up or cutting.

They’re easy fits with enough skill and size to play and guard positions 1-3. Just as the New York Knicks saw Hart as the glue guy or low-usage, impact role player they were missing, NBA teams will picture Jones to fill that same void.

Brandon Miller, Alabama | SF, Freshman

Pro comparison: Danny Granger

Brandon Miller’s 6-foot-9 size, 3-point range and overall shot-making versatility remind of former All-Star Danny Granger.

Paul George is the archetype — a big wing who can handle and shoot — but those comparisons ignore George’s dunk-contest athleticism and Miller’s more limited explosion, particularly around the rim.

Miller is more likely to find himself in the 3-point contest like Granger was. The Alabama freshman should provide whoever drafts him with a mismatch at the 2 or 3 and on and off-ball scoring (around the perimeter) with some live-dribble passing skills.

Kris Murray, Iowa | SF/PF, Junior

Pro comparison: Keegan Murray

While Overtime’s Thompson twins Ausar and Amen operate a little differently, the Murray twins share the same archetype and offensive strengths.

Kris projects similarly to Keegan, who’s been an effective off-ball scorer for the Sacramento Kings. Kris’ breakout came a year later, but he made a similar jump as a shot-maker this season, entering the NCAA Tournament averaging 2.3 made 3-pointers per game, more than Kris’ 1.9 last year at Iowa.

Similar to Keegan, Kris has become a threat to shoot off movement and attack closeouts in spot-up situations. While neither brother projects as an advanced ball-handler or face-up threat, they can create for themselves in the post using their feet, bodies and soft hands.

Like Keegan, Kris also has demonstrated promising defensive activity and IQ. Each should have a long career as a complementary scorer who can impact games with energy plays at both ends of the floor.

Nick Smith Jr., Arkansas PG/SG Freshman

Pro comparison: D’Angelo Russell

Nick Smith Jr. projects as a D’Angelo Russell-like combo guard, creative and skilled with the ball and capable of playing off it.

Both generate offense with crafty ball-handling and shot-making versatility instead of burst or explosiveness. They aren’t physically overwhelming or often playing above the rim. But like Russell, Smith uses hesitation and changes in speed, pull-ups and floaters.

Smith hasn’t been able to showcase Russell’s level of passing, but he’s played more of a scoring role for Arkansas, and high school tape shows more evidence of facilitating and play-making potential at the next level.

Houston star Jarace Walker has a game that combines some of what Jerami Grant and Scottie Barnes bring to the NBA.

Jarace Walker, Houston | PF, Freshman

Pro comparison: Jerami Grant/Scottie Barnes

Jarace Walker combines Scottie Barnes’ strength, length and passing and potentially Jerami Grant’s scoring versatility.

High school tape shows more of Walker’s playmaking, which has been somewhat masked so far at Houston. Like Barnes, Walker has the ability and IQ to dish off live dribbles. And like Grant, he possesses both wing and power forward skills, whether it’s with his three-ball, driving or post-game.

It took Grant years before blossoming into a go-to option on offense. Walker figures to similarly start as an energy role player, but he’s also flashed enough ball-handling, creation, shot-making and touch for NBA teams to picture a featured scorer down the road.

Walker has to improve his defensive consistency, but he does possess Grant’s and Barnes’ playmaking tools for forcing turnovers and blocking shots.

Cason Wallace, Kentucky | PG/SG, Freshman

Pro comparison: Jrue Holiday

A 6-foot-4, two-way playmaker and 42.5% pull-up shooter, Cason Wallace checks the same boxes as Jrue Holiday.

Neither are standout athletes. Defense separates both from others at the position. Like Holiday, Wallace has outstanding quickness and anticipation and enough size to guard both backcourt spots.

They aren’t the most advanced creators or isolation weapons, but both score within their team’s offense. And though Wallace’s 3-point percentage has steadily fallen over the past month, there is enough evidence (dating back to high school) of promising shot-making, particularly off the dribble

A trustworthy decision-maker and passer who can defend point and two-guards, Wallace projects as a similarly easy fit for any lineup.

Dariq Whitehead, Duke | SG/SF, Freshman

Pro comparison: Cam Reddish

While Dariq Whitehead and Cam Reddish both struggled adjusting to off-ball roles at Duke, their strengths and weaknesses were similar and easy to identify out of college.

Their NBA value revolves around shot-making and perimeter defense. Whitehead enters the NCAA Tournament at 41.1% from 3-point range, and he’ll enter the NBA with a strong, physical profile for defending guards and wings.

But like Reddish, Whitehead’s creation from high school hasn’t translated so easily. And both lack explosiveness on drives, resulting in poor finishing around the basket.

Whitehead’s draft stock has fallen off, but there will still be NBA interest in him being a 3-and-D, just as there was in Reddish’s last month when the Portland Trail Blazers targeted him in a trade.

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Jonathan Wasserman is the lead scout and NBA Draft analyst for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports and Sports Reference.