Five draft prospects to watch: Midwest Region

It’s the greatest sports week of the year!

Much of the United States is going to drop everything at noon on Thursday and we won’t hear much from anybody – outside of maybe a few tweets – until Monday morning when the country starts back up again. That’s right, it’s tournament time!

While watching this year’s tournament, don’t forget to keep the Celtics in mind because a number of these players could be rocking green and white in the summer league when July rolls around. Beantown Baskets will give you five players in each region to watch out for as a Celtic fan, starting with the Midwest Region.

Name: Josh Jackson
School: Kansas
Position: Small Forward
Year: Freshman
2016-17 Stats: 16.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.1 APG
Draft Projection: Top five overall pick

Scouting Report: Jackson was co-MVP of the McDonalds All-American Game, so naturally there were sky high expectations for him entering his freshman year at Kansas and he delivered. His strong season earned him a number of accolades as he was recently named Second Team All-American, First Team All-Big 12 and Big 12 Freshman of the Year, all in helping the Jayhawks earn the top seed in the Midwest Region. While it seems like fellow freshman standouts Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball will be the only two guys fighting to be the top overall pick, Jackson is still essentially a lock for a top five spot and will easily be in play for the Celtics if the ping pong balls don’t bounce their way and they wind up with the third or fourth overall pick. Because Boston already has 2017 third overall pick Jaylen Brown in place and playing well at the same position, it would be tough to just fit Jackson into the lineup but it’s hard to pass on the best available player and Danny Ainge would surly just figure out the logistics later on.

Name: Donovan Mitchell
School: Louisville
Position: Shooting Guard
Year: Sophomore
2016-17 Stats: 15.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.1 SPG
Draft Projection: Late first or early second

Scouting Report: Boston would likely need Mitchell to slide to wherever the Timberwolves second round pick winds up in order to take him, but some mock drafts have him going early in the second round so it’s not impossible although it would still be a bit of a reach. If Danny Ainge can scoop this kid up with that early second round pick then it could turn into one of the draft’s bigger steals. He didn’t do much damage as a freshman, but he became one of Louisville’s better scoring options this season and has exploded up draft boards because of it. Mitchell will fit in real well with guys like Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart as he also causes havoc for any ball handler in his face, as shown by his 2.1 steals per game leading the ACC this past season. It was great to see his shooting improve this year. After making just 25.0% of his three pointers as a freshman, Mitchell drained 36.3% of such shots this season.

Name: Caleb Swanigan
School: Purdue
Position: Power Forward
Year: Sophomore
2016-17 Stats: 18.5 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 2.9 APG
Draft Projection: Late first or early second

Scouting Report: The Big 12 Player of the Year came up big for the Boilermakers this year and he was a monster on the glass, finishing second across all of Division I in rebounding and leading the country in total double-doubles. Swanigan is your classic low post big man although the game is really trending away from guys like him, which hurts his draft stock a bit and could put him in play for one of the three second round picks that Boston currently owns. While his skillset is something that the NBA is trending away from, he also isn’t that strong of a defensive player. He isn’t a good shot blocker and doesn’t have the athletic abilities to leave the paint and run with a more athletic big man. A very good player comparison would be former Celtic power forward Jared Sullinger; a very strong rebounder with solid offensive abilities who is pretty slow on his feet and can’t help you much on the defensive end. Sullinger played a nice role on a good Celtics team last year and there’s no reason why Swanigan can’t be a factor in the success on a winning NBA team, but at best he’s a strong role player with limitations.

Name: Dillon Brooks
School: Oregon
Position: Small Forward
Year: Junior
2016-17 Stats: 16.3 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.7 APG
Draft Projection: Early to mid second round

Scouting Report: Brooks was named Pac-12 Player of the Year, beating out a pair of highly skilled freshman and first overall pick hopefuls in Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz. This was actually a really impressive feat because the Canadian wing threat wound up averaging 8.8 fewer minutes per game this year compared to a season ago when he was a First Team All-Pac-12 selection. Despite playing far fewer minutes, Brooks averaged just 0.5 fewer points per game compared to his sophomore season while he saw his shooting percentage rise from 47.0% to 51.3% and his three point percentage jumped up from 33.8% to 41.1%. The minutes restriction is gone though as Brooks appears to be fully recovered from his offseason foot surgery. He averaged 20.1 over the Ducks final 10 games – a stretch where they went 8-2 and eventually fell in the conference championship game – and he’s looking to lead Oregon on another deep tournament run. Brooks hit the go-ahead jump shot that game his team the lead for good with 1:22 left in their second round win over Saint Joseph’s last year – part of a 25 point performance – and he went on to score 22 points in their Sweet Sixteen win over Duke.

Name: Jordan Bell
School: Oregon
Position: Power Forward
Year: Junior
2016-17 Stats: 10.7 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.1 BPG
Draft Projection: Early to mid second round

Scouting Report: Dillon Brooks has caused Bell to fly under the radar a bit, but he deserves a little love too after being named the Defensive Player of the Year in the Pac-12. Bell – who is now the program’s all-time leader in blocked shots – came in as a freshman and started right away for the Ducks and he’s been a defensive catalyst since day one, but his improved play on the offensive end is what has caught the eye of NBA scouts these past few months. The Long Beach, California native led the Pac-12 in field goal percentage this year by shooting a career best 62.1%. Bell also came close to doubling his trips to the free throw line this season and after making just 51.9% of his foul shots during his sophomore year, that number jumped to a respectable 72.3% this season. He only averaged 1.8 APG this year – which was a career high – but as the season went on he did become an active distributor, averaging 2.5 APG over the Ducks final 12 contests. This might not be a trend that is meant to last, but 12 games is a solid chunk of a college basketball season and it’s still good to know that the ability is there.

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