Ayton has been a double-double machine for the Wildcats and has an extremely intriguing ability to shoot the ball. He’s a generational center talent and should end up a Top 5 center in the league by default. While he’s still a teenager and at times acts like it, he seems to have embraced the coaching he’s received at Arizona and is showing solid development in his game. He has begun to show more rim-protection ability as the season has progressed. Ayton is the most dominant true freshman center since Greg Oden, and should get strong consideration to go first along with guys like Marvin Bagley and Trey Young. At seven feet and with a 7-foot-5.5 wingspan, his ability to dominate on both ends of the floor, plus his shooting edge (over Bagley) makes him the main contender to go first.
Young has taken the college game by storm drawing comparisons to Stephen Curry. While Young may be an inch or two smaller than Curry, his effortless game and ability to stop on a dime and release the ball with incredible range makes the comparison legitimate. He’s running away with the college Player of the Year award and leading the nation in scoring and assists, which is unheard of. He has the rare ability to make those around him better. Conference play is likely to reveal whether the current hype is legitimate, but all indications are that he is the real deal and destined to be a Top 5 pick on draft night. Size, strength and defense are all concerns, but with the way Curry added strength and with diminutive point guards like Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving dominating the pro game, there is a lot to like about Young’s ability to be an elite PG in the NBA. For a guy that some had pegged as a mid-major level player while in high school, Young now amazingly has a legitimate shot to go first overall.
Bagley doesn’t turn 19 until March and is one of the most physically dominant players on the college level. He has made a seamless transition and if not for Trae Young would be the frontrunner for the Wooden award this year. He plays with great energy, effort and consistency and has some nice face-the-basket and post skills. While he needs to continue to work on his offensive game and expand his range and consistency, his elite athleticism and motor gives him a lot of intrigue among NBA scouts. He remains in the conversation to go first, with a legit chance to lead Duke to a national title.
Porter seems to be the forgotten man among scouts and pundits. Obviously a back injury is nothing to downplay, and there will be a lot of skepticism and concern from teams deciding whether to invest a Top 5 pick in him. How he responds to his back surgery and the outlook that team doctors give him in the weeks leading up to the draft will be key. Porter has as much upside as any player in this draft. He was the most impressive prospect in the heavily scouted April Hoop Summit practices in the 10 years that the event has been held in Portland.
With an amazing 7-foot-9 wingspan and a 9-foot-6 standing reach, Bamba has length that is nearly unmatched at the next level. He also possesses unreal fluidity and agility for a player his size. He’s extremely quick off his feet and anticipates shots well, making him an elite rim protector. His offensive game remains a work in progress but there is optimism as he shows decent form and touch on his shot. He needs to become more comfortable creating offense and develop a better post game, but those things should improve over time. He’s an extremely cerebral and mature kid who teams are sure to be salivating over once the workout and interview process begins.
Doncic is the top European prospect since Kristaps Porzingis and could end up going even higher than the Unicorn (4th) on draft night. While his speed and athleticism is below average for the NBA, his intelligence and maturity is off the charts. What he’s currently doing in Europe, essentially having become the top Euroleague player before turning 19 is unprecedented. How one views the talent level in Europe versus the NBA probably factors into how highly one rates him for this draft. Depending on the scout, he is seen anywhere from 1-7, with an extremely strong group of U.S. freshmen available this year. Doncic’s size (6-foot-8 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan and 8-foot-9 standing reach) and playmaking ability give Europe’s “Boy Wonder” a chance to be special.
Thanks to guys like Bamba, Jackson, and Sexton, the mid lotto area possesses a great deal of talent, just like last year. Jackson is a long, fluid big man who fits today’s NBA perfectly with his potential to spread the floor and his speed in the open court. He will need to work on adjusting his shot as it is flat, but he hits it with consistency. With his ability to block shots and play inside and out on the offensive end, the sky is the limit for him. He may need more time than some of the other top prospects, but he will likely be worth the wait.
Sexton is as intense a competitor as you will find on the college level. He’s extremely intense and loves the big stage. He seems to raise his level of play when the situation calls for it. He still has the tendency to play erratic at times, so learning how to play more composed will be key. He’s developed a very good pull up jump shot His performance against Minnesota, orchestrating a comeback while down two players was the stuff of legend. Sexton’s superior length and athleticism put him above Trae Young on some team’s boards.
Knox has a tantalizing combination of size and offensive skills. He’s able to knock down shots out to three-point range and is adept at utilizing the dribble. His shooting has been erratic as his three-point percentage has hovered around 30 percent this year. His form looks good but he could improve upon shot selection and not force things when he’s not open. With his size, he has added intrigue as a player who can play either forward position and be a small ball mismatch option at the 4. He should continue to develop and improve as the season rolls along.
Bridges is having a breakout junior season, nearly doubling his scoring output from 9.8 ppg to 17.8 ppg. He’s also been highly effective shooting 45 percent from deep and hitting nearly three per game. He has the size and skill set to be a prototype 3-and-D type with his 7-foot wingspan and prolific three-point shooting ability. Bridges also uses his length well to fill up the stat sheet with steals and blocks. He should look to get stronger in order to become better at finishing plays at the rim.
SGA has tremendous speed and size for a point guard, at 6-foot-6 with a near 7-foot wingspan. He is a very good athlete who defends well and has improved in his playmaking ability as the point guard of Kentucky. He has a developing runner that he utilizes to get the ball over rim protectors. His outside shooting remains unproven, though he has knocked down an excellent clip on the year at 44 percent. If he can prove he has the ability to shoot in workouts the way he has shot this season, he can go in the lottery.
Carter lacks the speed to play on some of the more high-octane teams in the league. But he’s a highly skilled and hard-working post player who should have a solid career in the league. What he lacks for in foot speed, he makes up for in toughness and skill. He’s an excellent face-up shooter, and has great length and decent leaping ability. He’s probably a long shot to become an All-Star, but can become a highly effective pro and worthy of a late lottery selection.
Bridges is an undersized four 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.
Fernando would benefit greatly from another year (or two) in college. But the temptation to go may be strong if he continues to display the type of potential he has through the first half of the season. Fernando is extremely raw, but he displays very good footwork and touch for a big man. He has some developing jump hooks and seems to play within himself. He would likely need a few seasons before he could be expected to produce, but with a chance to be a high-level center in the league, the interest in him is likely to intensify if he continues to produce.
There’s still no word on when he will make his debut, but it’s expected to be sometime in early January. He showcased his package of skills in the Nike Hoop Summit, impacting the game in a number of ways. 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. If he can play to his ability for the Wildcats, he can challenge to be a lottery pick.
Walker is well-liked by scouts from his prep exploits. He’s struggled with his shooting this season at Miami but has a very athletic, and strong frame and a good feel for the game. He’s hitting just 33 percent from 3 and 70 percent from the line. Coming off a knee injury, Walker hasn’t been as effective as expected this year. He’ll need to finish strong in order to fulfill the lofty expectations.
A tough-nosed NYC kid, Diallo is a freak athlete with a 6-foot-10 wingspan and explosive slashing/driving ability. He used his draft eligibility wisely having graduated high school early last year, spending time at UK and then dipping his toes into the draft pool. He was told by scouts that shooting was his major shortcoming and he put in the work during the summer to improve upon that weakness. He’s become one of UK’s most consistent outside shooters, knocking down nearly one three ball per game and at a decent 36 percent rate. While not ideal for a 2-guard, it’s a big step in the right direction. Diallo could move all the way up to the lottery if he can continue to knock down outside shots at a good rate.
Williams is one of the most polarizing prospects in this year’s draft. He made the surprising decision to return to Texas A&M despite many feeling he was a potential lottery pick last year. He’s had a rough sophomore year as he has struggled to improve offensively. He is playing in the shadow of the conference’s top big man player in Tyler Davis, so he only has so many opportunities offensively, but he appears content to not be much of a scorer. He seems to play at his own speed, lacking a sense of urgency. He was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and has outstanding run/jump athleticism. The talent is obviously there for him to be a much higher pick, but his intensity and energy level has started to worry scouts.
Brown is an intriguing prospect with his ability to play 1 through 3 positions and his tremendous size, with a near 7-foot wingspan. He played point guard in high school and has spent this year transitioning to playing more off the ball. His efficiency and production while soild hasn’t been sensational. He’s still learning the nuances of playing off the ball and becoming a better catch-and-shoot player. But he’s a charismatic kid and should only improve going forward.
McCoy has played better than expected this season, exhibiting scoring and rebounding ability. His level of competition has been a factor, but he had a huge performance going up against his buddy DeAndre Ayton early in the season, proving that he’s not only beating up on the little guys. There are some maturity question marks surrounding him, so he’ll need to impress on his pro day and in interviews. But his stats speak for itself and his ability to face the basket and knock down mid-range shots gives him solid intrigue.
Metu was stripped of his captaincy for a crotch punch that certainly showed a lack of judgment. He’s a talented big, but the knock on him has been maturity and his “incident” certainly illustrated that. Chris Paul had a similar crotch punch while at Wake Forest, but his didn’t include a running start, so Metu obviously can overcome this. Metu’s ability to knock down mid-range shots will be his bread and butter at the next level. Aside from his increase in points per game, his statistics are eerily similar to last year.
Musa has had a solid season showing excellent shooting and all-around skills. He’s very thin, but has improved his body quite a bit from a season ago. Musa has improved his game as well as he’s impacting games and producing solidly against men in Europe at just 19 years of age. He’s a cerebral, competitive player with a smooth offensive game and stands a good chance to grab a first-round spot if he declares and stays in this year’s draft.
Duval is an elite athlete who pushes the ball well up the floor, and displays solid vision and passing skills. He has proven to be a solid distributor, though his decision making is still a work in progress. He has NBA starter potential, however he’s still got a lot of developing to do to get there. He has a major weakness to his game and that’s his inability to shoot the ball. He shies away from open shots and lacks confidence in his shooting ability. His 6-foot-9.5 wingspan gives him great size at the position, but he’s more of a project than a complete player at this point.
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.
Despite being vilified by many college basketball writers and fans, Allen is well liked by NBA scouts for his toughness and competitiveness. He’s a senior, which works against him as he doesn’t have the same upside of other prospects. However, he should be more ready to contribute than many of the underclassmen available. Scouts have him graded as a late first rounder, most likely in the mid-20s. He’s a high-level shooter who has become adept at getting himself open for shots as well as creating offense off the dribble.
Shamet is a big, lead guard who is a good athlete and makes those around him better. He lacks great foot speed, which means that he has to use ball fakes and utilize his size in order to be effective. He’s shooting the deep ball extremely well at 53% on the year and at a high clip, nearly 3 per game.
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 give him a lot of intrigue. Scouts will likely have to decide if he’s worth the gamble without seeing him play as a sophomore, as it appears he will be forced to miss the season after the FBI probe into Auburn.
Brown has been asked to play the point position this season and it has been a tough transition for him. He’s a dynamic athlete and very good at attacking the rim. He’s also doing a very good job of distributing without committing turnovers as his 2/1 a/to ratio can attest. But he’s really struggled with his shooting (43% fg, 27% 3p) and could slip out of many team’s first round projections if he’s not able to salvage his efficiency numbers in the second half of his sophomore campaign. He’s still well liked by scouts for his play as a freshman, but has some work to do to justify this draft projection.
Alize shows the ability to score, rebound and defend multiple positions, but his best attribute might be his tremendous passing ability. Despite playing at a small basketball program in Missouri State, he’s a big talent. While he hasn’t shot the ball especially well, and has struggled to improve upon his numbers from last year, he remains a highly sought after player for his versatility.
Carr is a sophomore point guard who’s gaining steam as a potential first rounder according to scouts. He’s not an above the rim type, but has good speed and excellent size at 6-foot-4. He has a plus 2 to 1 assist to turnover ratio and shoots the three at over 50 percent. He also is an 85 percent free shooter and shows unusual maturity for his age.