The Big East begins conference play tonight – and there will be more on that later – but all in all the slate is pretty slow, as many would expect right after Christmas. So with people tuned in to the NBA and the college hoops season more than a 1/3 of the way done, we can start to talk about what NBA Draft prospects are out there.
This doesn’t take into account where teams will end up in the Draft as that tends to play a role in who gets drafted when, but rather if a person is looking at best player available. This Draft is also quite different from last year’s in which everyone talked about the depth that the class of 2017 had. This coming draft feels quite top heavy as everyone seems to agree on the top-4 in some order. So here are the top-30 prospects – 26 of which are currently playing college basketball.
1. Marvin Bagley (Freshman, Duke) – I still have Bagley at the top of my list here because of how polished he has been in the post and banking on that NBA teams can help his jumper. Throw in the fact he’s uber athletic and can score in a variety of ways, I’m a big fan of his game. The question is can he be a decent defender at the next level for me – something that he should be able to do.
2. Luka Doncic (Real Madrid/Slovenia) – Doncic has a little bit of everything in his game, but can really shoot the ball. The numbers he’s currently putting up at Real Madrid are absolutely nuts as he’s putting up 17/5/4 in just 29 minutes per game as an 18-year old. He’ll step in from day one and be able to provide shooting and off ball playmaking.
3. Deandre Ayton (Freshman, Arizona) – The more and more I watch Ayton the more I fall in love with his game. He’s beyond polished, has showcased the ability to step out and hit jumpers and is blocking more than a shot per game. He has been put in some bad defensive positions on the floor when he’s out there with Ristic, but you can see why people are so high on him.
4. Michael Porter Jr. (Freshman, Missouri) – So this is obviously pending whatever NBA doctors find out about his back when the teams do their research. That said, if he comes back with a clean scan and everything like that he’ll be right up there for the No. 1 pick. He’s the prototypical stretch four with good size, the ability to create his own shot and shoot from the outside.
5. Collin Sexton (Freshman, Alabama) – A super athletic point guard that can create for others as well? Yes, please. He’s currently shooting 42% from the 3-point line. If that number stays above the 40% mark, he’s going to continue to be a top-5 prospect.
6. Mo Bamba (Freshman, Texas) – He’s an absolute freak defensively and has the ability to be a real game-changer on that side of the ball. He’s not as polished offensively as the other top guys here, especially the other bigs, but he’s the best defender of the group. He can fit in with a team that wants to play ‘small’ due to his ability to run the floor as well.
7. Trae Young (Freshman, Oklahoma) – So the guy who is putting up historic numbers so far this year should be talked about as a top-10 guy. He has decent size at 6’2″ – he just looks smaller due to his weight, something that will change as he’ll likely add 10 pounds with NBA strength departments. He’s an excellent passer and can obviously score with anyone in the country.
8. Jaren Jackson (Freshman, Michigan State) – I absolutely love Jackson’s game. At 6’10” you can play him at either the 4 or 5 spot due to his ability to step out and shoot the ball. He’s currently shooting 34% from the 3-point line and is averaging 3.5 blocks per game. Throw in the fact he’s just 18 and he’ll be someone that could continue to jump up draft boards.
9. Miles Bridges (Sophomore, Michigan State) – Another super athletic guy that can play multiple positions. That’s what teams are starting to fall in love with more and more and that’s what Bridges has. His 3-point shooting is down about 5% this year from last year, but the number that is more important is that he’s shooting 93% from the free throw line compared to 68%.
10. Robert Williams (Sophomore, Texas A&M) – Williams is someone who teams know they can at least throw out right away and be fine defensively. He’s incredibly athletic and can really protect the rim – he’s averaged 2.5 blocks per game so far through 1.5 years in college. I do worry about his 36% free throw shooting, but he has shown some polish in the lane.
11. Bruce Brown (Sophomore, Miami) – Brown’s numbers aren’t necessarily going to jump out as he’s averaging just 11 points per game, but he’s one of the best two-way players in the class. He’s an excellent defender who can play both on and off the ball defensively. He needs to improve his shooting (27% from 3 and 56% from the FT line) but he can get to the rim and likes to get out and run.
12. Kevin Knox (Freshman, Kentucky) – Knox is another one of these guys that you can throw out on the wing and play multiple positions thanks to his size at 6’9″, wingspan and ability to step out and shoot. He’s been inconsistent from the 3-point line at 34%, but you can see where teams see that number improving.
13. Mikal Bridges (Junior, Villanova) – Perhaps the one person who really pushed their value up the most this year so far has been Mikal Bridges. He’s turned into the ultimate 3-and-D type guy with his crazy wingspan and ability to catch and shoot. I do want to see him create his own shot a little bit more but at the next level he likely won’t have to pending on his team/role.
14. Lonnie Walker (Freshman, Miami) – Walker got off to a little bit of a slow start after suffering a meniscus injury before the season, but NBA teams are still high on him due to his length and defensive ability. He’s starting to show his outside shooting as he’s now up to 35% from the 3-point line, but it’s his versatility that has him so high.
15. Troy Brown (Freshman, Oregon) – Brown is one of the best rebounding wings in this class. He has good size at 6’7″ and can guard multiple positions, but it’s the fact he can go get the ball and go that I really like his game. He’s an okay shooter at 35% from the 3-point line and a pretty strong 79% from the free throw line.
16. Dzanan Musa (Cedevita/Bosnia) – At just 18 years old he’s still a work in progress and that’s evident whenever you watch him attempt to play defense. However, he’s someone who can step in and provide shooting right away.
17. Hami Diallo (Freshman, Kentucky) – There are very few – if any – guys in this class that will test better or look more athletic than Diallo. The freshman from Kentucky can jump out of the rim and has all the makeup to be an elite defender at the next level. He needs to continue to shoot the ball above a 35% clip though.
18. Trevon Duval (Freshman, Duke) – Duval has great size for the point guard position and can absolutely get to the rim and is a strong finisher there. However, his shooting is a serious concern as is just who he is from a defensive standpoint. Duval is shooting just 15% from the 3-point line and 61% from the FT line, which shows that he’s simply not a good shooter. He is an excellent passer though and his ability to defend both guard positions still could make him a lottery pick.
19. Wendell Carter (Freshman, Duke) – Wendell Carter has been overlooked due to the fact he’s on the same roster as Marvin Bagley and Trevon Duval, but he’s a really strong prospect in his own right. He has the ability to step out and shoot the ball as he’s shooting 50% from the 3-point line on over 1 attempt per game. He can protect the rim at about 2 blocks per game and is an excellent rebounder.
20. Shake Milton (Junior, SMU) – There are two things that teams know they can count on with Shake Milton. First, he’s going to shoot the hell out of the ball. So far this year he’s had his worst shooting year at SMU, shooting 39% from the 3-point line. The other thing is he’s already used to defending multiple positions due to SMU constantly playing positionless hoops.
21. Brandon McCoy (Freshman, UNLV) – McCoy has quietly been putting together one of the best seasons for freshmen this year. He’s averaging 19 and 11 and has shown the ability to step out and hit 12 footers to go with his polished post game. He’s shooting 69% from the free throw line, which at 7’1″ is a huge positive sign.
22. Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Freshman, Virginia Tech) – Alexander-Williams was one of the more underrated players coming into this college basketball year and still sits a little under the radar. The Canadian star is 6’5″ with long arms and shooting 47% from the 3-point line. On top of that he’s excellent getting to the rim and can break down defenses to set teammates up.
23.Mitchell Robinson (N/A) – It’s a shame we’re not getting to see Robinson play college ball at Western Kentucky, because I think he’d be about 5 spots higher on this list. During his high school/AAU days he relied on athleticism to dominate players and while he does have tremendous athleticism, we simply don’t know how polished his game has gotten over the last 8 months.
24. Anfernee Simons (N/A) – Simons was a one-time Louisville commit before the Pitino/FBI stuff hit and he’s since decommitted. He’s now thinking of skipping college all together and entering the NBA Draft as he’s technically one year removed from high school as he’s playing at IMG Academy. At the current level we do know he likes to attack off the bounce and is a good shooter off of there as well.
25. Grayson Allen (Senior, Duke) – Yeah, I know it’s Grayson and it’s easy to make fun of him, but the dude was a first round lock a few years ago. After struggling last year and dealing with injuries he’s back to shooting 45% from the 3-point line. He’s someone that is a scorer and although he’s gotten away from attacking the rim, he’s going to be someone that can stretch the floor.
26. Khyri Thomas (Junior, Creighton) – There’s a lot to like about Thomas’ game, most notably the fact he’s been an absolute shutdown defender this year. More importantly he’s continued to grow on the offensive side of the ball, which was always the question with him. He’s upped his free throw shooting, 3pt shooting and points per game so far this year.
27. Jalen Brunson (Junior, Villanova) – Cole Zwicker about Brunson recently and he made a good comparison that he’s similar to TJ McConnell. The one difference for me though is Brunson was always better and smarter than McConnell at the collegiate level. He’s made to be the perfect backup point guard at the NBA level.
28. De’Anthony Melton (Sophomore, USC) – Another guard goes off the board here and here’s another guy dealing with the FBI fallout currently. He has yet to play this year as there was eligibility questions, but there is at least a season of college tape on him. He was someone who was able to impact the game without the ball in his hands last year and at 6’4″ can guard multiple positions.
29. Aaron Holiday (Junior, UCLA) – I’m a little more bullish on Holiday, but again he’s a two-way point guard that can fill that backup role that teams are looking for late in the first round and second rounds. I’m not as worried about the drop in his 3-point shooting this year (41% to 31%) due to the fact that his free throw shooting has stayed at 79% all three years.
30. Nick Richards (Freshman, Kentucky) – He’s in no way polished or near the player that many expect him to be once he gets into the NBA. He’s been playing basketball for just a few years now but at 6’11” he has great size and is a strong rebounder and rim protector.