Here’s my quick and dirty preview of next season (not including internationals). It looks like a relatively weak freshman class outside of Barrett, although there are some interesting weirdos and under-hyped returning players. There are also some fraudulent hype trains that I want to debunk so here we go:
1. RJ Barrett, 6’7″ SF, Duke
Barrett is the obvious #1 for this class, as he is the only prospect with clear star potential. He is a 6’7″ point forward who is smooth, explosive, and cerebral, and he has a pretty good track record of beating team USA in basketball.
He led Canada to a 99-87 victory at FIBA u19 weeks after turning 17, posting a monster 38/13/5 line with just 1 turnover.
Then in the 2018 Nike Hoop Summit, he led World team to a decisive 89-76 victory with 20/9/6/5 and just 2 turnovers. He had only one teammate projected in ESPN’s 2019 Mock (#19 Charles Bassey) vs team USA whose featuring 4 projected lotto picks and Tre Jones (who could go lotto).
Barrett’s one weakness is shooting. But he is so good otherwise it’s hard to see him failing because of this. Barrett is a unique player and it’s hard to find a perfect comp for him, but optimistically he will be a hybrid of Grant Hill, Andre Iguodala, and Penny Hardaway.
2. Jontay Porter 6’11” PF/C, Missouri
Jontay Porter won’t actually go #2 overall. He may not even go in the first round. But he is awesome and underrated because his combination of size, vision, IQ, and shooting is unprecedented. He may be the best player in the NCAA next year, and he will still be younger than plenty of true freshman.
I am ranking him this high because the freshman class doesn’t have any sure bets after Barrett, and at this juncture Jontay’s higher floor makes him overall more valuable
3. Nassir Little 6’6″ SF, North Carolina
Little is being hyped as the #2 guy to challenge Barrett. He is extremely athletic with a long 7’2″ wingspan and has potential to be highly disruptive on defense.
But he had a terrible AAU assist to turnover ratio for a 6’6″ player, and likely does not have the basketball IQ to be a transcendent star. He has improved quite a bit since then, so it will be interesting to see how he performs at North Carolina. But he may not perform as well vs NCAA defenses as he did in an all-star game setting like McDonald’s All-American.
4. Cam Reddish, 6’9″ SF/PF, Duke
Reddish has excellent wing size and tools to be a lockdown defensive player. He needs to improve his shooting, but if he does he has some nice two way point forward potential.
5. Romeo Langford 6’6″ SG, Indiana
Romeo is a silky smooth scoring SG with good size and athleticism for the position.
He has decent enough rebounding, passing, and defense to justify a top 3 pick and be a Brad Beal type. But he is likely not well rounded enough to genuinely challenge Barrett for #1 overall.
6. Bol Bol 7’2″ C, Oregon
Bol is talented enough to contend with RJ Barrett for #1 overall, as he offers an incredibly rare intersection of shooting (44% 3P and 82% FT in small NCAA sample) and shotblocking to be a unicorn stretch 5.
But he has a reputation for apathy and low effort, which makes him less shiny as a franchise changing star. He will likely be one of the most polarizing prospects in the class.
7. Simi Shittu, 6’9″ PF, Vanderbilt
Shittu currently is recovering from an ACL tear and does not have much draft hype, but the #10 recruit in the class may be the biggest sleeper. He is 6’9″ swiss army knife big with point forward potential.
Shittu is more interesting than most of the highly rated freshmen at this juncture.
8. Quentin Grimes, 6’5″ SG, Kansas
Grimes is an undersized SG who is a good but not great athlete, and may struggle to consistently make 3’s. It is not a good mold for the NBA.
But he starred for team USA in both the Nike Hoop Summit and FIBA u18 tournament. He offering good passing and defense and is a good slasher with decent point guard skill. Grimes offers shades of Marcus Smart
9. JA Morant, 6’3″ PG, Murray State
Morant is easily the best returning college player that nobody is talking about. He is an extremely quick PG with good height and excellent vision. He was an excellent rebounder for a skinny 18 y/o guard as a freshmen.
He is essentially a rich man’s version of Cam Payne. Payne was a lottery pick, and if Morant continues to improve his game he should be too.
10 Daniel Gafford, 6’11” C, Arkansas
Gafford is an athletic big who fits a sort of Clint Capela mold. He is not as athletic as Capela, but nevertheless has an easy path to usefulness as a pro.
11. Zion Williamson 6’6″ SF/PF, Duke
Zion is extremely thick, jacked, and athletic and looks more like a tight end than a basketball player. He bullied high school opponents effectively, but it remains to be seen how well he translates to playing the perimeter against higher levels of competition.
He isn’t a very good shooter, so who knows what to expect. He is an extremely weird player.
12. Naz Reid 6’9″ PF/C, LSU
Reid is a defensively disruptive big who gets loads of steals and rebounds and a fair amount of blocks.
Offensively he has a weak assist:TOV ratio, but an acceptable shot and smooth footwork give him potential to develop into a 2 way player.
13. Devon Dotson 6’2″ PG, Kansas
Dotson is a weirdo. He’s 6’2″ and not the most natural PG, but he racks up a ton of steals and rebounds and he can score.
If he develops his floor general skills, he has potential to be a two way PG. If not he could be a SG in a PG body.
14. Darius Garland 6’3″ PG, Vanderbilt
Darius Garland isn’t that strong or athletic, and will likely be bad on defense. But he makes up for it with great passing and shooting and decent enough PG size at 6’3″. He may be one the most one way prospect in the draft.
15. Tre Jones 6’2″ PG, Duke
Jones currently has no draft hype because he has limited physical tools and not a great shooter, but he has excellent point guard instincts.
If his shot comes around, he will be a serious prospect. His brother Tyus was underrated in the draft, and it looks like Tre will be as well.
16. Darius Bazley, 6’9″ SF/PF G-League
Bazley is taking a non-traditional route to the NBA by going through the G-League instead of college. He is one of the youngest players in his class, having just turned 18 in June which may indicate that he is underrated.
17. EJ Montgomery 6’10” PF, Kentucky
Montgomery has an interesting blend of height, shooting, and passing and moves fairly well. He doesn’t have hype now but has clear potential to rise into the top 10 with a strong freshman year.
18. Jarrett Culver 6’5″ SG, Texas Tech
Culver is a skilled and cerebral shooting guard.
He isn’t big or quick enough to have elite defensive potential, although his excellent steal, block, and rebound rates as a freshman indicate some upside on that end.
19. PJ Washington 6’7″ SF/PF, Kentucky
Washington’s freshman year was a disappointment, but he is strong and athletic and had performed much better at the AAU level. It’s likely that he is actually better than his freshman performance indicates.
20. Isaiah Roby 6’8″ SF/PF, Nebraska
Roby is the prototypical big wing in the modern NBA, as he can rebound, pass, defend, and is developing into a capable shooter. If his shooting further improves as a junior, he has some of the sneakier upside among upperclassmen.
21. Ethan Happ, 6’9″ PF Wisconsin
Happ is an incredibly cerebral player that stuffs the box score and can do everything but shoot. He is also getting fairly old, and if he fails to show progress as a shooter this year he may be destined to forever be a bricklayer. But he has a fascinating combination of outlier strengths highlighted by excellent handling, passing, and defense. He has potential to be a round 2 steal.
22. Andrew Nembhard 6’4″ PG, Florida
Nembhard was the star of the show for team Canada in the FIBA u18 championship, averaging 16/9/4/3. He isn’t particularly athletic or good at shooting, and his performance in a blowout loss vs Team USA could have been better. But it’s rare to have his combination of size and point guard skill, and if his shot comes along he could rise into the lottery.
23. Dedric Lawson 6’9″ PF, Kansas
Lawson is the poor man’s Jontay of the class– a highly cerebral big man who can shoot and pass but is too slow to truly excite scouts.
24. Aric Holman 6’10” PF/C, Mississipi State
Holman is tall and athletic, and can rebound, block shots, dunk, and is developing into a capable shooter. That is everything that you hope for in an NBA big man, and if he builds on his junior breakout he will be one of the more interesting upperclassmen in the draft.
25. Nickeil Alexander-Walker 6’5″ SG, Virginia Tech
The rising sophomore SG has a kind of boring profile as a jack of all trades but master of none without having special size or athleticism.
But Buzz Williams has a special power of making good pros look ordinary statistically, as Wes Matthews and Jimmy Butler were two players who had little signal for future goodness at Marquette but became good pros. So it’s reasonable to take Walker seriously as a prospect.
26. Ky Bowman, 6’1″ PG Boston College
Bowman is not the most natural point guard for a 6’1″ player, but he is extremely athletic with an excellent motor. He plays bigger than his size and is a strong rebounder and a good shooter.
If he can improve his floor general skills, he has the athleticism, shooting, and IQ to thrive as a little guy in the NBA.
27. Killian Tillie 6’10 PF/C, Gonzaga
Tillie has excellent IQ and skill for a big, and will be one of the best players in NCAA. Only question is whether he has the quickness and strength to succeed in the modern NBA.
28. Charles Bassey 6’10” C, Western Kentucky
Bassey is an athletic big who had a whopping 16 rebounds in 24 minutes at the Hoop Summit.
But he is also unskilled and may be slightly undersized to be a true center, and his basketball IQ remains to be determined.
29. Michael Weathers 6’3″ PG, Oklahoma State
As a freshman, Michael Weathers was the Russell Westbrook of the MAC as he posted stuffed the box score with points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, turnovers, and bricks.
Now after transferring and sitting out a year, we get to see how he performs for a major conference team.
30. Khavon Moore, 6’8″ SF/PF Texas Tech
Moore is one of the biggest wildcard freshmen. He is 6’8″, young, and athletic with vision and point forward skill, and could easily rise into the top 10 with a strong freshman year.
But he is raw and erratic and extremely turnover prone, so he also may not sniff draft radar.
31. Anfernee McLemore 6’7″ SF/PF, Auburn
McLemore offers an intriguing combination of shooting, size, athleticism, and IQ. He is only 6’7″ but posted a monster block rate for Auburn. He may be an undersized big who fails to translate, but he is interesting as a wing convert.
32. Xavier Sneed 6’5″ SG, Kansas State
Sneed is a quick and cerebral 3 + D wing who is very good defensively and rarely makes mistakes on offense.
He isn’t much of a scorer and he needs to further improve his shot to be a 1st round value, but if he makes a shooting leap as a junior he will have an easy path to NBA usefulness.
33. Ayo Dosunmu, 6’3″ PG/SG, Illinois
Dosunmu is an undersized combo guard who isn’t a great shooter, but nevertheless has interesting role player potential.
He is exceptionally quick and is very good perimeter defender. And has some budding PG skill, if he can build on that an improve as a shooter he could be a nice PG prospect.
34. Charles Matthews, 6’6″ SG/SF Michigan
Matthews is athletic enough to play for Calipari and smart enough to play for Beilein, and it shows in his performance as he is an excellent defensive wing with tools to translate to the NBA.
But he is a really bad shooter, and unless he makes a massive leap in this regard his upside will always be capped.
35. Ty Jerome 6’5″ PG/SG, Virginia
Jerome is a fascinating sleeper because he is the least vertically explosive athlete in the draft. But he moves his feet well and is incredibly intelligent with good PG size, making him one of the best defensive guards in the NCAA.
His athleticism will always limit his upside, but he has potential to be a good 3 + D role player in the NBA.
36. Jaylen Hoard 6’8″ SF/PF, Wake Forest
Hoard is old for his class and will be a sophomore aged freshman, and will need a strong freshman performance to justify much draft hype. But he has good wing size and solid rebounding, passing, and shooting, and this is a package that easily sums into a good prospect.
37. Tres Tinkle 6’8″ SF/PF Oregon State
Tinkle is a big swiss army knife wing who shot 84% FT and 33% 3P as a junior. If his 3P% catches up to his FT% as a senior, don’t be surprised to see Tinkle get first round hype.
38. Kris Wilkes 6’8″ SF, UCLA
Wilkes has good tools for a big wing and was decent enough as a freshmen. He’s interesting if he makes a sophomore leap
39. DeAndre Hunter 6’7″ SF, Virginia
Hunter is currently being hyped as a top 10 pick as a swiss army knife 3 + D wing.
But he isn’t particularly good at any one thing, he only has good but not great size and athleticism, and was a sophomore aged freshmen. Everything about his profile screams ordinary round 2 flier, so it’s hard to see why people are so excited over him.
40. Keldon Johnson 6’6″ SF, Kentucky
Johnson is the most obviously fraudulent freshman who currently has lottery hype. He has meh size for a wing, is more strong than explosive, and is highly inefficient on offense. In all likelihood he is a bully who developed before the rest of his class and has limited value as a prospect.
Other Names to watch:
41. Javin DeLaurier
42. Zach Norvell Jr.
43. Cole Swider
44. DeJon Jarreau
45. Jahlil Tripp
46. Trent Forrest
47. Jalen McDaniels
48. Terence Davis
49. John Konchar
50. Markis McDuffie
51. Tremont Waters
52. Saben Lee
53. Quinton Rose
54. Shakur Juiston
55. Yoeli Childs
56. D’Marcus Simonds
57. Cassius Winston
58. Bruno Fernando
59. Devon Daniels
60. Josh LeBlanc
Do Not Draft
Rui Hachimura, 6’8″ SF/PF, Gonzaga
Hachimura is athletic but has bad feel and skill. He wasn’t even a good college player at age 20, and unless he has a major breakout as a junior he will likely be a toolsy guy who doesn’t put it together
Herb Jones, 6’7″ SF Alabama
Herb Jones is a toolsy prospect who plays great defense, but he is a complete and utter abomination on offense. He cannot score from any level and he is horribly turnover prone, and frankly it’s hard to see him ever improving enough to justify an NBA rotation role.