This draft is really terrible but nevertheless here are rankings. I’m excluding internationals, the only one who is likely worth a first rounder is Goga Bitadze. Sekou Doumbaya has hype but there is no reason to believe he is worth more than a round 2 flier.
Tier 1: Stud
1. Zion Williamson
Zion is a generational talent. It’s too bad he was not in the 2018 draft, because it would be fun to compare him to Luka, Jaren, and Ayton.
My low confidence take is I would put him just behind Luka and Jaren, but ahead of any other prospect since Anthony Davis. His weirdness makes him difficult to project, as he is like a wing version of Shaq, and may create NBA fit concerns that other generational prospects lack.
But those concerns are mild compared to his overwhelming talent, and he will still be 18 on draft night. There is a real chance that Zion is the future GOAT if his jump shot comes around and his bulky frame doesn’t cause issues playing on the perimeter.
Tier 2: Really Good Prospects
Tier 3: Pretty Good Prospects
2. Ja Morant
Morant is establishing himself as the clear #2 prospect in the draft playing like the Russell Westbrook of the OVC for Murray State. He has good PG size at 6’3″, excellent athleticism for highlight reel dunks, is a decent shooter, and is still freshman aged.
He also proved that he can play efficiently in a smaller role as a freshman, which is something that disappointing PG’s such as Cam Payne and Kris Dunn never showed.
3. RJ Barrett
RJ reminds me of DeMar DeRozan, which is really painfully unexciting player to target at #3. But there aren’t any glaringly better choices in this draft.
4. PJ Washington
This may seem like a hot take, but there is no such thing as a hot take in this draft. Everybody is so bad teams can reach for whoever they want and not worry about missing out on a stud.
PJ is fascinating because he had excellent AAU stats for a recruiting class where most 5* prospects were very good. He is in an interesting mold, where he has potential to thrive as either a big wing convert or an undersized big. And he plays for a coach who notoriously makes elite talent look ordinary.
Based just on his Kentucky production he is a fringe lottery pick, but everything else makes him one of the more attractive gambles in the draft.
5. Jontay Porter
Jontay is missing the year with a torn ACL and MCL but there is still a genuine case for him as the 2nd best prospect in the draft.
6. Bol Bol
I have no idea how to value Bol. He is one of the true weirdos, with major flaws and a foot injury to boot. But when everybody else is so bad, how low can you get on his rare combination of height and shooting?
7. Grant Williams
8. Jarrett Culver
This is an interesting comparison, as these prospects have similar dimensions and both of their offenses run through them. But Williams is anchoring Rick Barnes’ best offense ever, which includes many seasons where he had access to superior talent at Texas. And Culver is the leader of Chris Beard’s worst offense ever, including his season at Little Rock.
Granted Culver is 9 months younger and is more of a traditional wing, while Williams is an undersized big. But there is a real chance that Williams can convert to NBA wing, and it makes him one of more interesting gambles in the draft.
9. Romeo Langford
Romeo isn’t too exciting, but he has good tools and enough production to have a sliver of star potential if his shot comes around.
10. Dan Gafford
Gafford isn’t sexy in any one regard, but he has good tools, good stats, excellent on/off splits, and if his skill develops better than expected he has sneaky upside.
11. Keldon Johnson
For a 6’6″ athlete, Keldon has been curiously allergic to blocks with just 2 on the season. And nothing about his profile is particularly exciting, but nothing is that bad either outside of his lack of blocks.
It tends to be a good strategy to draft Calipari players who aren’t transparently broken, so Keldon is a fine lottery pick.
12. Shamorie Ponds
On average, it’s bad practice to draft 6’1 PG’s who are more shifty than explosive in the lottery. But this draft is so thin it’s acceptable to gamble.
He is a very good shooter, has an excellent assist:TOV, has more assists than steals, and sometimes small PG’s become surprisingly good. Shamorie has a sneaky good upside tail
13. Nickeil Alexander-Walker
NAW is only 6’5″ but has done everything well this year, which is good enough to place him lotto.
14. Kevin Porter Jr.
Porter has missed most of the season with injury first and suspension later, but he showed a bit of promise in the time he played. He had solid games vs Texas Tech and Vanderbilt, and as an athletic 6’6″ player his upside cannot be ruled out.
In all likelihood he is just as bad as all of the other freshmen, but having the glimmer of upside hope is enough to argue his place in the lottery.
15. Tre Jones
Tre will often end up like his brother Tyus– a quality backup PG who is undervalued and underappreciated by the rest of the league. And he may not even be that good, as he isn’t nearly as good of a shooter as Tyus. But he also has a bit more size and defensive upside, so he has his own form of sneaky upside.
16. Killian Tillie
Tillie missed Gonzaga’s tourney loss last year with a hip injury, and the first 2 months this year with an ankle injury. Durability is a concern, but in his first 5 games back he picked up where he left off as an excellent basketball player. He is a versatile 6’10” with enough switchability hope to have a case to be in the lottery.
17. Cam Reddish
Reddish has been BY FAR the most disappointing prospect in this draft.
He is 6’8″, racks up steals, and shoots a high volume of 3’s, so in theory he should be at worst a very good 3 + D prospect. But that’s what everybody said about Andrew Wiggins, and it’s hard to be a useful player if you insist on making frequent negative plays.
Cam’s offense has been flabbergastingly bad for a guy who is mostly asked to stand on the perimeter and launch 3’s while Zion and RJ run the show. He doesn’t get to the free throw line, he can’t make a shot inside the arc, and he has an insane turnover rate for a player who rarely attempts 2’s or FT’s.
For perspective, let’s compare his per 100 stats to a couple of past top 5 recruits who underwhelmed as freshmen: Jaylen Brown and Harrison Barnes
He shares Barnes avoidance of FT’s, but at the cost of much less scoring inside the arc and many more turnovers. He shares Jaylen’s turnover woes at the expense of much worse inside scoring and fewer FTA.
Like Cam, both had high recruiting pedigree which helped them perform better in the NBA than their NCAA stats suggested. Yet neither has been above average offensively in the NBA, and Cam is light years behind them at the same stage. It’s difficult to imagine him being anything other than a trainwreck offensively in the NBA.
Who really knows what is going on. Maybe this is a fluke of some sort and Cam figures it out with NBA coaching. But he was flagged for a lackadaisical personality entering the season, and it’s hard to have confidence that a prospect with shaky intangibles who fell THIS flat will do great things in the future.
And this doesn’t even touch on the fact that he rebounds like a point guard in spite of being 6’8″.
He reminisces of a worse Andrew Wiggins without elite athleticism. He partially compensates with a higher IQ, but he is clearly a weaker prospect overall.
It’s hard to give up entirely on height + IQ + shooting + steals + pedigree. Maybe there’s some scenario where he can turn into a Khris Middleton. But it’s hard to envision with such grotesque warts. It would be a major error for him to be taken top 5. At this stage, he looks like an overwhelmingly likely bust.
18. Tyler Herro
He plays for Calipari and he hasn’t been terrible. That makes him a serious prospect.
19. Ignas Brazdeikis
Iggy is a sophomore aged freshman who isn’t too athletic, but he has good wing height at 6’7″, and is a versatile scorer and defender. He fits a strong prototype for NBA wing, and could have a Michael Redd type career.
20. Jalen Smith
21. Bruno Fernando
Mark Turgeon is essentially John Calipari Jr, as he has a knack for recruiting very good talent and making it look ordinary. But Smith and Fernando have both been highly productive this year, leading what may be Turgeon’s best team ever. This is good reason to take them both seriously as sleeper big men.
22. Coby White
White is 6’5″ and has just enough intersection of passing and PG skill to be interesting.
23. Brandon Clarke
Clarke’s shot may be too broken to thrive as a pro, but he has intrigue as a 6’8″ versatile defensive stopper
24. Talen Horton-Tucker
THT is in an unfortunate mold of limited height for a wing without great shooting or primary creation, but he is one of the youngest prospects in the draft and is so well rounded that he could amount to something useful.
25. Jaxson Hayes
Hayes is an exceptional lob finisher, with a unique combination of explosiveness and fluidity and that’s about the only dimension he brings to the table.
He doesn’t rebound, he doesn’t pass, he isn’t good on defense, and it’s hard to see him being better than Javale McGee. He would need to develop his skill level quite a bit, which his 70% small sample FT% offers hope for, but in all likelihood he’s just a dime a dozen big.
26. Nassir Little
It’s not clear what Little’s role in the NBA would be. He seems intelligent in some ways, maybe he can develop into a Gerald Wallace type. But most of his hype has come from the McDonald’s All-American game, and he has been underwhelming for UNC.
He has been playing better recently, which offers a ray of hope. Let’s see if he can build on it.
27. Simi Shittu
Shittu has been disappointing, but he is 6’10”, athletic, had good AAU priors, and is coming off an ACL tear. It’s plausible that he is much better than he has shown thus far for Vanderbilt, and has sleeper potential because of it.
28. Ty Jerome
Jerome is sorely lacking in explosiveness, but he has exceptional IQ and awareness and moves well laterally to atone. His lack of athleticism hurts, but he is so otherwise good he has potential to be a very unique and good role player.
29. Cassius Winston
30. Darius Garland
Garland appears to be a SG in a PG body, which makes it difficult to justify the lottery hype. But he is athletic and can shoot and has just enough PG skill to not be written off entirely.
For perspective– Cassius Winston is similarly a knockdown shooter. He is less athletic and 1″ shorter, but is a wizard level passer.
Winston has much less hype, but there is an argument that his passing advantage is more significant than Garland’s physical advantages.
31. Ayo Dosunmu
Ayo is young and not transparently awful at basketball. Has some shades of Caris LeVert.
32. Charles Bassey
If Bassey’s exceptionally young age is taken at face value, he may belong in the top 5. But he moved from Nigeria to America at age 14, as a 6’10” and chiseled 14 year old, which makes his age difficult to buy. He is still a semi-interesting prospect regardless because he does a number of things well, but it’s hard to get too excited about him if he’s actually in the 20 to 22 age range.
33. Ethan Happ
Happ’s shot is almost certainly broken and he may not be quick enough to be a defensive stopper in the NBA. But he has a fascinating skill set for 6’10”, and at a certain point it’s worth gambling to see what happens.
34. Ashton Hagans
Hagans doesn’t bring much to the table other than a monster steal rate, but Calipari guards rarely have big steals and that alone is enough to make him a serious prospect and even merit round 1 consideration.
35. Charles Matthews
He is athletic enough to play for Calipari, smart enough to play for Beilein, and if he can just learn to shoot he should have an NBA career.
36. Chuma Okeke
37. Dedric Lawson
38. Naz Reid
These guys are all fine but nothing special
39. DeAndre Hunter
Hunter is one of the more puzzling hype trains of the year, as there is absolutely nothing sexy about him. He isn’t explosive, he isn’t a dynamic shot creator, he isn’t a knockdown shooter. He’s just a guy who has been effective role player for an elite team as a 21 year old sophomore.
The best case for him is that Tony Bennett prospects tend to overperform their pre-draft profile. Klay Thompson, Joe Harris, and Malcolm Brogdon are examples of good outcomes with Justin Anderson being the sole disappointment.
This may be because Bennett values lateral quickness, height, shooting, and IQ, which is a good formula for NBA role players even without much athleticism which is true for Klay, Harris, Brogdon, and Hunter.
But based on NCAA production, Hunter is way behind Klay + Justin Anderson, solidly behind Brogdon, and in the same tier as Joe Harris.
Harris is a decent role player, but he was a complete zero until he turned 26. That is not the type of upside to target in round 1, and there is no strong reason to believe Hunter follows a similar developmental arc.
My favorite upside comp for Hunter is Ryan Gomes. Gomes was barely good enough at everything to be an NBA rotation player, but epitomized mediocre filler because he lacked any notable strengths.
This is Hunter’s issue– he isn’t good at anything, and for a 21 year old non-athlete his upside is painfully capped. Sure he is fine flier in round 2 in case he becomes a Gomes type, but it would be a major error to target such a weak upside in the lottery.
40. John Konchar
41. Ky Bowman
42. Devon Dotson
43. Trent Forrest
44. Jordan Murphy
45. KZ Okpala
46. Kerwin Roach Jr.
47. Aric Holman
48. Jordan Poole
49. Kris Wilkes
50. Isaiah Roby
Rui turns 21 in a few weeks, and he isn’t even a top 5 player on his own team. He has good tools and can score, but looks lost on the court fairly often and it’s hard to see him having any worthwhile impact as a pro. His upside is approximately Derrick Williams.
Best underclassmen unlikely to declare:
1. Tyrese Halibuton
2. AJ Lawson
3. Jalen Pickett
4. Tyler Bey
5. Jalen Crutcher
6. Andrew Newmbhard
7. Savion Flagg
8. Jahlil Tripp
9. Sincere Carry
10. Steffon Mitchell
11. DeJon Jarreau