Porter is arguably the most talented draft prospect to come along in a number of years. He combines high character and work ethic with an elite skill set. His skill package is reminiscent of a smaller KD, as he’s already a skilled outside shooter with high level athleticism. His shooting and high character gives him the edge over mega-talents Bagley and Ayton, making him the top prospect in what may end up an even stronger draft class than 2017, despite, at the moment, having less hyperbole.
Bagley has as much natural talent as anyone in this year’s draft, Porter included. His decision to attend Duke ensured that he’s on a national title contender, and also gives Duke the most talent on paper heading into the season for the second year in a row. His decision also guaranteed his eligibility as Duke seems to be able to clear players in situations where no other program is able to. Some felt that he was the top talent on the high school level, Porter included, and a big season could put him in top pick contention. Bagley’s ability to perform consistently, improve his shooting and play as part of a team will be key in how highly he gets selected, and his ultimate success at the NBA level.
Ayton is a generational center talent and should end up a Top 5-10 center in the league by default. But that’s exactly the problem. He knows how talented he is and doesn’t seem to want to push things to see how great he can become. He has stagnated since his sophomore year when it looked like he could become a better version of David Robinson. There’s still time for him to change things around, but Ayton needs to embrace coaching and being challenged. Internet hype doesn’t do any favors for young supremely talented 7-footers, and Ayton clearly was unable to avoid that. He curiously decided to skip the 2017 Hoop Summit, instead of wanting to dominate an event he underperformed in previously. He’s a superior talent, but how hungry is he to be great?
While Ayton is the superior physical talent and has a better outside shot, Bamba has shown a greater willingness to challenge himself, and the improvement has been evident. His dimensions are remarkable for a player that is able to affect games. He’s an extremely bright kid who had Ivy League offers and probably would have ended up at Harvard if he never picked up a basketball, or if he were a foot shorter. His body continues to fill out and he seems to be trimming the fat with regards to managing his inner circle, and eliminating the bad influences from his life. Credit the young man for making tough personal decisions that will serve him well moving forward.
Doncic is a natural. A European MVP level guy before even being draft eligible. He’s a special talent, with an amazing feel for the game and an ability to make those around him better. But his best attribute is his playmaking ability and with below-average speed and athleticism at 6-foot-7, his upside may be maxing out quickly. WIll he be able to consistently beat NBA level athletes off the dribble and can he consistently defend NBA guys? He likely ends up closer to a Toni Kukoc level player than a perennial All-Star due to his athletic limitations.
Jackson was one of the few college players that drew positive reviews from NBA scouts at the Nike Academy. Tom Izzo isn’t big on showcasing freshmen, particularly bigs. See Zach Randolph. But Jackson’s talent is very intriguing. He’ll need to prove himself in the minutes that he gets and focus on being ready to play even if he’s not given a prominent role. He may struggle to put up big numbers, but his potential as a long, athletic big with offensive touch could allow him to go this high.
Carter isn’t the sexiest prospect, but his work ethic and skill level is impressive for an 18 year old. He is extremely smart, having received Ivy League interest along with Bamba and that translates to the court. While his ceiling isn’t as high as others due to his lack of speed and fluidity, his floor is very solid as he has great length, and finds ways to outwork and outsmart more talented opponents on the floor.
On talent, Williams deserves to be higher, but he did not have a strong summer showing and questions linger about his focus, determination and feel for the game. He has the type of rare length and athleticism that could make him a superstar at the next level. The big question is whether he’s learning the right work habits and focusing on the right things to improve his skill set. At times he seems to want to show that he can face up and create offense from the perimeter, when his focus should be more on utilizing his great size and strength and dominating on the block, and advancing his back-to-the-basket game.
Knox has the talent to be a Top 5 pick. Does he have the focus and desire to improve his weaknesses is the question. He has great size and fluidity and oozes potential as a hybrid forward. But he still needs to harness his talents and learn better shot selection and decision making. Whether he can improve his efficiency and become a well-rounded player will be the key.
Sexton is a bit of a wild card due to the fact the he shows a great deal of promise but still has a ways to go as a floor general and true point guard. He’s got the type of speed that will be elite on the NBA level. He has a pretty good shot off the dribble. He shows a great deal of determination and communication skills and just needs to learn to continue to improve his decision making and harness his energy in the right way.
Peters may not be projected in many prognosticators first round, but his play for three days at the July adidas Nations in Houston raised a lot of eyebrows. He made a name for himself, showing the most determination and competitiveness of any player at the event. He has a deadly combination of speed and playmaking ability, as he’s capable of getting into the paint and making plays for himself and others. He also plays with a tenacity defensively, giving amazing effort at all times on the floor. He can even shoot the ball well off the dribble. He played his best game in his team’s biggest game last year, putting up 31 points, coming on the heels of his father’s tragic death.
Richards is a bit of a risky pick to go this high. He’s an elite athlete with a lot of upside left to develop, but remains extremely raw. He even shows some touch from the perimeter, in warm-ups. However, he needs some time for things to fully click and his feel for the game to catch up with his talent level.
Trent is a natural shooter and scorer with a strong basketball family background. While his game is nothing like his Pop’s, he’s got a prototypical skill set for the position. Despite lacking standout athleticism, his ability to shoot gives him a lot of intrigue. He has natural leadership ability and intangibles to overcome athletic shortcomings.
Hachimura didn’t contribute much as a freshman as everything was new to him, and he was adapting to American culture and learning English. But with a number of key players gone, he should have a much bigger role with the team. If his performance for Japan at the U19 World Championships in Cairo is any indication, he’s pretty close to being ready for the big stage.
Bridges is an undersized 4 but he proved to be a productive scorer as a freshman. He even shot the ball well from 3. He’s one of the most explosive athletes in college. More will be expected from him this season if he is to maintain his status as a potential lottery pick. He shows a lot of determination, but at 6-foot-7 and with a short wingspan, he has an uphill battle playing against bigger opponents.
Tillie showed flashes in his freshman year but was overshadowed by fellow freshman Zach Collins. With Collins now in the NBA, it’s Tillie’s time to shine along with import Rui Hachimura. Tillie was a highly-touted European player who made a solid impact as a freshman and will look to build upon that this year. He runs the floor well and plays with confidence and energy. His versatility to play both on the inside and out gives him a lot of intrigue.
Metu will look to build off of a breakout sophomore season in which he averaged just under 15 ppg and 8 rebs. He is a high-level athlete with solid scoring and rebounding ability. He has a great body, showing the ability to play physical in the post and also some finesse to face the basket. He could break out this year into one of the top big men in the country if he can sustain his intensity level throughout games and raise his consistency. He fits the mold of today’s NBA four man with his versatility to defend, rebound, and score inside and out.
McCoy is another one of this year’s freshman wildcards. He chose to play at UNLV, which hasn’t had a great recent track record of developing prospects, but Coach Marvin Menzies is just in his second year. McCoy is a good rebounder and a solid scorer with above-average athleticism for a 7-footer. If he gives good effort and figures things out quickly, he’ll likely find a spot in the first round.
Brown is an aggressive offensive player with high-level speed and athleticism. He loves to get out on the break and finish at the rim in spectacular fashion. His ability to create offense for himself has made solid improvement during his short time at Miami. A big sophomore year is expected from him. If so, and if he measures well, he could easily grab a spot in the 20 range.
Brown should be an impact performer from day one for an Oregon team that came a play short of the national title game while missing one of their key guys. One of the most outgoing and friendly kids that you could hope to meet, Brown should benefit from his play at the lead guard position early in his HS career. He’s a versatile wing with solid athleticism and scoring ability. Adding more polish to his off the ball game will be key.
Bridges is very high on some scout’s lists as he combines great length (7-foot wingspan) with an excellent outside shot. He’ll need to become more proficient at creating shots and defending as he lacks ideal foot speed. Some feel that the Villanova system is the reason that he hasn’t been more productive and blossomed into a full-blown star yet. Whatever the case he’ll need to perform significantly better than he has thus far to justify a pick this high.
Wiley made a name for himself playing for Team USA in Cairo at the U19 World Championships. He established himself as the team’s most athletic big. His athleticism and size give him solid intrigue alone, and his willingness to battle inside and developing skill set should give him a chance to crack the first round if he plays to his abilities at Auburn this year.
Duval is a high-level point guard prospect who will be given the keys to the team at Duke as a freshman. While his confidence and decision making have been up and down, he’s got ideal physical attributes at the PG position. He may take some time to hit his stride, but should be among the top PGs on the college level by season’s end. Lottery might be a stretch considering his feel for the game at this point, but some scouts are very high on him. And if Duke wins it all, it will certainly help his cause.
Alize is Mr. Versatility. He shows the ability to score, rebound and defend multiple positions. Maybe most surprising is his tremendous passing ability. Despite playing at a small basketball program in Missouri State, he’s a big talent. Expect to hear his name frequently around draft circles this year as he plays with tremendous passion and energy, and his skill set has really developed. Let the Draymond comparisons begin!
Vanderbilt will not be back on the floor until early January, an obvious blow to his one-and-done hopes. He showed his full package of skills in the Nike Hoop Summit. He’s a high-level athlete with a versatile skill set who battled the injury bug in high school. He also had some consistency issues, particularly with his offense, but if he can get and stay fully healthy and address those main concerns, he could follow in the Kentucky pattern of being a one-and-done.
Diallo dipped his feet in the draft waters, even athleticism testing at the NBA draft combine, and recorded one of the all time highest verticals at 44 inches. But he ultimately made the wise choice to advance his skill set at Kentucky for at least one season. He’s an elite athlete who attacks the rim with ferocity. His feel for the game and composure still must improve, but he carries a New York swagger. If his jump shot can improve considerably, he could move way up this list.
Kurucs is one of Europe’s brightest hopes. While he may not have the same hype as others such as Isaac Bonga or Dzanan Musa, he has a lot of intrigue in his own right. He’s an aggressive scorer who can get to the rim as well as knock down shots from the perimeter. He’s had some knee injuries in the past few years. So staying healthy and having his knees check out in physicals will be key.
Whether it’s bad advice or just immaturity and impatience, Robinson’s inability to choose a path and stick to it is a bad look. He first shocked everyone by committing early to Western Kentucky. But then when assistant Shammond Williams left the program, Robinson broke his commitment. Only to recommit, and then de-commit again. His decision to “train for the upcoming draft”, instead of sticking it out and making the best of the situation is a curious one. It will be tough to justify taking him earlier than late first round for teams as he’s extremely limited skill wise and won’t have proven himself above the AAU level. Intriguing? Yes. Due to his tremendous rim protection. But there are more question marks than certainties with him.
Allen has assumed the role of the Dukie that everyone loves to hate. But in order to get that status (Laettner, Redick, etcetera) you have to be pretty good. His ability to draw fouls by driving and flailing upon hitting contact is unlikely to be as successful at the NBA level. But in the scouting world he has some true fans for his tenacity and competitiveness. After sparking Duke’s fifth title under Coach K with his fearless effort off the bench, things have not gone so smoothly for Allen. He’ll look to boost his draft stock into being a first rounder and carry Duke to another title in his senior year.
The son of Johnny Dawkins joins his pops at Central Florida and will be given every opportunity to shine. He doesn’t have the textbook shooting form that you would expect from a coaches son. But he finds ways to score. He’s a bouncy athlete that thrives in the open floor. He seemed to get a raw deal at Michigan as he fell out of favor when it appeared that he would step into a prominent role. His improvement as a playmaker, creating in isolation will be important.