NBA draft: Al Iannazzone’s top 10 prospects

There already has been movement at the top of the NBA draft as the Celtics sent the No. 1 pick to the 76ers for the No. 3 choice and two future first-round selections. There could be more deals before Thursday night.

Many view this draft as top-heavy with not much separating the first five picks from the second five, but it changes after that.

“I think when you get past 10,” one longtime college scout said, “the draft is very average.”

Several point guards will be taken early, possibly as many as five in the top 10. Washington’s Markelle Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball are considered the can’t-miss guys who can step in and help a team right away. But there are some forwards who can make an impact, including Duke’s Jason Tatum and Kansas’ Josh Jackson.

The Knicks have the No. 8 pick and should be able to get a guard who they hope to convert into someone who can play well in the triangle offense. Some players who have been linked to them are Kentucky’s Malik Monk, North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntikilina, who played in France.

As in every draft, teams will have to wait on some of their players since so many of them are teenagers or someone who spent just one year in college. They just hope they don’t miss out on a future All-Star or overvalue a player who never reaches his potential.

“The top 10 is excellent and there are a lot of talented players,” another scout offered. “After that I think there are some guys with upside, but upside may get you fired.”

Here are the top 10 prospects in Thursday’s NBA draft. This is not a mock draft or necessarily the order they will be selected Thursday, but the top 10 players with the most talent and upside.

Lonzo Ball, UCLA, G

He’s not expected to be the first pick, but he might be the best player in the draft. Everyone loves Ball’s talent, vision, size and potential. “The game is easy for him,” a scout said. Ball has been compared to Jason Kidd because he can see the floor, read the play and defenses well and make the pass to the open man. He has an ugly looking shot, but his new team will try to fix that.

Expected pick range: Two to four.

Markelle Fultz, Washington, G

He has the size, skill and versatility to play both backcourt positions, and likely will be part of a promising young core with the Sixers. Fultz has a scorer’s mentality though, yet he still keeps his teammates involved. He was sixth in the nation in scoring (23.2) and 15th in assists (5.9). The Sixers agreed to a deal with the Celtics to land the top pick and reportedly will take Fultz.

Expected pick range: First

Jayson Tatum, Duke, F

He has a polished offensive game that should translate to the NBA. The 6-foot-8 Tatum needs to develop his long-range shooting though after knocking down just 34.2 percent of his three-pointers in college. But he can score from the perimeter or put the ball down and hit the pull-up jumper and could eventually guard both forward positions.

Expected pick range: Three to five.

Josh Jackson, Kansas, F

The versatile, athletic forward plays hard on both ends of the floor. He’s a good passer and an above-average defender who can guard multiple positions. His shooting needs work. Jackson has been compared to Charlotte’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a good defender who isn’t a great shooter. But scouts love Jackson’s defense and how hard he competes. One referred to him as “a warrior.”

Expected pick range: Two to five.

De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky, G

He’s one of the top point guards in this draft and probably the quickest. His terrific speed will make him hard to guard in the open floor and should help him defensively. Fox is a good pick-and-roll player, but he needs to improve his shooting. Teams will play off of him and go under ball screens until he develops a consistent jumper.

Expected pick range: Two to five.

Jonathan Isaac, Florida State, F

Long and athletic forward has drawn comparisons to Brandon Ingram, who the Lakers took with the No. 2 pick last year. Isaac can score inside and has a decent mid-range game. Isaac should be able to play both forward spots on both ends. One scout said Isaac “may have as much upside as anybody in the draft.”

Expected pick range: Six to 10.

Lauri Markannen, Arizona, F

Polished and skilled, Markannen fits into today’s NBA as a 7-footer who can open the floor with his shooting. The big man needs to get stronger, but he can score inside and step out and knock down a three. He shot 42.3 percent on 3-pointers his one season at Arizona and should be a “stretch four” on the next level.

Expected pick range: Six to 10.

Malik Monk, Kentucky, G

He’s the best shooting guard in this draft, and one of the best pure scorers. He considers himself a combo guard. Because of his explosiveness, Monk might provide “a Russell Westbrook look” for whatever team drafts him, a scout said. Monk doesn’t have the dimensions of the prototypical NBA shooting guard — he’s 6-3, 200 pounds — but he can score in a variety of ways.

Expected pick range: Six to nine.

Dennis Smith Jr., North Carolina State, G

He was mentioned with Fultz and Ball before tearing his ACL his senior year of high school. Smith had a very inconsistent season at N.C. State that could have been because he wasn’t fully healthy. He’s strong and explosive and can create shots for himself and his teammates. One scout said “Smith has as much physical talent” as the other point guards.

Expected pick range: Six to nine

Zach Collins, Gonzaga, F-C

He wasn’t considered a lottery pick early in the college season, but he came on in January and now could be taken in the top 10. One scout called Collins “a really, really talented big man” and “the highest riser.” Collins showed he can score in the post and step out and shoot. He also blocked 1.8 shots in just 17.2 minutes a game.

Expected pick range: Seven to 12.

NBA draft: Al Iannazzone’s top 10 prospects