There are no obvious stars in this class at this time, but there is a DEEP cluster of interesting guys who could emerge between now and the draft. Info on most of these guys is still fairly thin, but it is an interesting class.
The #3 through #20 range is particularly interesting because it could end up re-arranged in any order (with inevitably some guys falling out) after a full season of additional information.
- Scoot Henderson
- Victor Wembanyama
I don’t think these guys are quite as locked into the top 2 as everybody believes, but they definitely have the inside track at this time with no clear cases to leapfrog them without quality NCAA performance.
Scoot is a tough evaluation at this stage because there are still such few prospects to start off in the G League as teenagers, let alone at age 17 like he did last year. But he definitely seems good.
First his physical tools are awesome as he is listed at 6’3 with an alleged 6’9 wingspan and excellent athleticism. He also seems to be a real PG with 2:1 assist:TOV ratio and had good rebound and steal rates. His shooting is the biggest question mark as he only shot 11/51 from 3, but his 77.8% FT (42/54) helps that from being a major concern.
A conservative comp would be Derrick Rose, where he is a fine #1 overall pick that could look good if he develops well (pre-injury Rose) or be merely fine if not (post-injury Rose). But if we do a quick and dirty comparison of their per game stats:
They are nearly twins in spite of Scoot being 16 months younger playing against grown men. I am not sure he is quite as explosive, but he seems close enough to not sweat it.
Through this lens there is a decent case that Scoot is a generational PG prospect. The last PG prospect who was clearly above him was likely Magic Johnson. Jason Kidd + Kyrie Irving have arguments to be better (IMO Kyrie NBA career was a disappointment relative to his talent level). But if he makes a significant leap next year it will be difficult to put those guys above him decisively.
So right now I believe he is the best prospect in this draft.
Wemby the Weirdo
Wemby appeared to be a generational prospect last summer as a 17 y/o competing in FIBA u19, but that did not translate to playing against adults as he struggled in both Euroleague and Jeep Elite.
Granted, Euroleague is the toughest non-NBA league in the world and he was starting the season as a 17 year old, but the warts he showed were fairly gross. He carried a high usage offensively but had terrible efficiency.
He badly struggled to finish inside the arc with a stomach churning 37.2% 2P, and had a poor 6 assists vs 17 turnovers. He did block 1.9 shots per game in 17.5 mins, but his rebs (3.9) and steals (0.4) were a bit underwhelming.
His main selling point is his shooting ability, but he only made 27.5% 3P 68.4% FT. Historically he is a low-mid 70’s FT shooter, and the shooting potential is real given his age, but he still has a ways to go.
It was only 228 minutes in 13 games, but in the much softer Jeep Elite he showed similar flaws over 347 minutes.
He should be better next year, especially if his frame fills out a bit, so we will have more information then. But at this time there is no clear evidence that he is going to be significantly better than Kristaps Porzingis.
And even if he does make a major leap, he is so tall at 7’3 that it is a concern that he cannot stay healthy in the NBA. Ralph Sampson is a physically similar prospect who went #1 overall in 1983, had a few decent years, and then got derailed by injuries.
Currently there is not enough information to project Wemby’s NBA future with high confidence since he has such a polarizing profile and is still so young. But the one thing that is clear is that he is not a generational prospect, and is definitely not even the best international in recent memory as Luka Doncic was clearly superior.
There is some chance he re-claims #1 with a strong season next year, and there is also a chance that he slides further (at least in my eyes) if his flaws continue to linger too strongly
3. Nick Smith
One of the biggest surprises of the Nike Hoop Summit was Nick Smith’s defensive activity and disruption.
He is reputed as a scoring SG, which at 6’4 is not my type. But he was all over the place on defense with strips, deflections, and contests of shots.
It’s still not clear exactly how good on defense he is, or whether he will live up to his offensive reputation. Is he going to be a two way star? Or will he be a big time scorer with OK enough D? Or a Jrue/Smart type who has great D while falling short of offensive reputation? Or is he just another overhyped undersized SG recruit who disappoints?
He does not turn 19 until shortly before next draft in May, so for now we will err on the side of optimism until getting to know him better for Arkansas next year.
4. Cam Whitmore
Whitmore is one of the youngest prospects in the draft, as he doesn’t turn 19 until July after the draft.
The defining feature of his game is that he loves to dunk. He dunked a ton in both the Hoop Summit and FIBA u19 this summer.
The question mark for him is whether he has enough well rounded goodness to be a complete player, or if he just a one dimensional dunker at 6’6 or 6’7.
If he shows a well rounded skill set and has good measurements, he is one of the more exciting prospects in the class. If he is only 6’6 with meh length and doesn’t do much else it may be hard to quit him entirely but that is a weird mold to get too enthusiastic over.
5. Kyle Filipowski
Filipowski is exceptionally good at passing and moving his feet defensively for 6’11. He does not seem to be much of an athlete or scorer which should limit his draft stock, but seems like the type of guy who inevitably gets underrated in the draft. He has shades of Mike Dunleavy Jr. (who ironically did not get underrated in the draft) but is 2″ taller.
6. Cason Wallace
Wallace is an athletic 6’4 PG who seems to do a bit of everything based on his AAU stats where he averaged 15.2 pts 6.9 rebs 4.8 asts 2 tov 1.2 stls 1.4 blks with solid small sample shooting percentages.
Maybe he shows some weakness once he starts playing games for Kentucky but based on the limited evidence available it is hard to pinpoint anything clearly lacking with him.
7. Amen Thompson
8. Ausar Thompson
I do not understand Overtime Elite. It seems conceptually stupid since they play almost nobody– for prospects who want to skip college what advantage does it offer over G League or overseas?
But the Thompsons are interesting talents. They are super athletic and fill the stat sheet with rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. Their shooting is a work in progress, but they are high upside molds if they are 6’7 with 6’10 to 6’11 wingspans as reported.
The frustrating part is discerning whether they are actually good, but they did well performing against top AAU teams together in high school and this weekend they play in the The Basketball Tournament against a bunch of former college players. They open vs. a Creighton team that has no quality big men so it will be interesting to get some real info on them (albeit small sample) before they go back to playing nobodies.
The risk here is that they both could be non-shooters so you need to really be confident in their hooping ability to take them this high.
9. Dereck Lively
10. Kel’el Ware
The big boys of the class.
Lively was the best player to my eye in Nike Hoop Summit. He only played 14 mins but scored 8 pts on 4/4 shooting with 3 rebs 1 assist 1 steal 1 block 2 turnovers with at least one of the TOVs being Dariq Whitehead’s fault.
He looked fundamentally sound in the post with impressive passing and is huge and capable of rim protection. And it is only a matter of whether he can shoot and hold his own matched up with perimeter players, both which seem like somewhat dicey but plausible propositions.
The big question for him is whether he is just another Jahlil Okafor or Vernon Carey who does not fit in the modern NBA or a legit good player.
Ware is an explosive finisher with traces of shooting ability, and seems active at stuffing the box score. He is young for the class not turning 19 until April, and there is definitely upside there. The only apprehension is that he seems a bit awkward and uncoordinated at times. He was 0/2 finishing lobs in Hoop Summit and he struggled to corral a loose ball.
But he had an excellent summer in FIBA u18 Americas so there seems to be some clear potential there.
Both of these guys are on the fringe between really good and exciting vs. boring bigs that don’t fit the modern era.
11. Dariq Whitehead
Dariq managed to be Nike Hoop Summit MVP while also being the worst player on the floor and being responsible for about 5 of the 10 worst plays in the game.
How? He got hot from 3 making 5/7 but otherwise was mediocre at best shooting 1/5 from 2P with 4 assists and 3 turnovers, which seems like a minor miracle that he only had 3 turnovers with all of the poor decisions he was making. Although a number of them were taking awful shots that had zero hope of going in.
That said he did have 3 steals and a couple of them were fairly nice. He definitely has some natural processing power in his brain, he is merely a terrible decision maker.
But it is difficult to skewer him too badly since he is the youngest prospect in the lottery turning 19 in August after the draft. And he averaged 3.0 assists vs. 1.7 TOVs EYBL, so perhaps he is not always this sloppy and dumb with the ball.
He reminds me quite a bit of RJ Barrett. 6’6 guy with some PG skill, some shooting ability, a young birthday, and a frustrating amount of shortcomings. On average I would anticipate that he is less good than RJ, but he does have outs to be better if the Hoop Summit is not indicative of his typical self. We’ll see what he has to offer for Duke this year.
12. Dillon Mitchell
13. Anthony Black
14. Jordan Walsh
These are the super role playing wings who do a bit of everything but shoot and score. All are roughly in the Dalen Terry mold but with (hopefully) more upside.
Walsh is a fascinating sleeper with an ’04 birthday at 6’7 with 7’3 wingspan. He averaged 12.2 pts 7.4 rebs 3.2 ast 2.1 tovs 2 stls 0.3 blks in EYBL. It does not look bad compared to Dillon Mitchell who is a few months older and averaged 12.2 pts 4.3 rebs 2.5 asts 1.1 tovs 1.5 stls 0.5 blks.
But Mitchell was a more efficient finisher shooting 76.7% 2P vs 50.8% for Walsh. That is likely playing a role in his higher draft rating.
Black is a complete weirdo in his own rite. For FIBA U18 Americas this summer he averaged 4.7 pts 7.8 rebs 4.2 asts 1.8 tovs 1.8 stl 2 blks on 36.4% TS and his only FGA in Hoop Summit was an open dunk attempt that he badly missed getting rejected by the rim. He is elite at everything basketball related but seems to have some major scoring issues, so he will be a slippery guy to evaluate.
15. Julian Phillips
16. Jarace Walker
Don’t know much about either but they both seem to have solid wing tools.
17. Keyonte George
George is an undersized SG at 6’4. Maybe he can play but he is a worse mold so he needs to get in line behind some other better molds until he proves that he can.
18. Amari Bailey
In the Hoop Summit Bailey looked like a really good player who just cannot shoot, which is a problem at 6’4 but also makes him a somewhat interesting sleeper.
19. Sidy Cissoko
One of the funnest players in the Hoop Summit. His offense was a largely disaster although he had some nifty passes and a few too many spin moves. But his defense was absolutely smothering.
He only measured 6’7.25 with 6’9.25 wingspan so it would be more exciting if he was just a bit bigger. He had just turned 18 in April during Hoop Summit, so perhaps he can still grow a bit more.
But he had a couple of good possessions vs 6’11 Kyle Filipowski and seems like he may be super switchable regardless. My interest is piqued.
20. Chris Livingston
It’s hard to find anything exciting to grasp onto about Livingston, but he is a 6’7 5* freshman playing for Kentucky which is enough to make him worth keeping an eye on.
Now the Returning Players
21. Oscar Tshiebwe
I already wrote about Tshiebwe being an exciting draft sleeper before he decided to come back for his senior year.
22. Tyrese Hunter
Hunter’s freshman offense was raw for a little 6’0 guy, but he is highly athletic and capable of making plays on both ends of the floor. He is also still 19 years old, so if he makes a big sophomore leap he will be somewhat interesting.
23. Trayce Jackson-Davis
An awesome dunker– perhaps TJD has a bit of Brandon Clarke upside?
24. Colby Jones
25. David Jones
A couple of well rounded 6’6 SGs who rebound exceptionally well for their size. They are a bit boring, but this is the part of the draft where exciting players are off the board
26. Jaime Jaquez
27. Coleman Hawkins
Both well rounded and solid dudes to help round out round 1.
28. Henri Veesar
29. Mark Mitchell
30. Gradey Dick
A few more young guys round out round 1.
Henri Veesar had a pretty good 5 game run in FIBA u18 Challengers with 16.2 pts 11.6 rebs 2.6 ast 2.2 tov 1 stl 3.8 blks 3.6 3PA 71.4% FT. That is a complete profile for a big, and he committed to play for the best big man coach in college basketball in Tommy Lloyd. I would bet on him making it onto draft radar at some point or another.
No idea what Mitchell is but he is 6’8 and 5* committed to Duke so seems like the type of guy who can leap up the rankings if he randomly plays well and can still be a solid late 1st prospect if he plays merely decently.
Gradey Dick was one of my least favorite players in the Hoop Summit because he had a horrendous defensive play where he helped and jump at a pump fake when his teammate was already there jumping at the pump fake. The result was two players jumping at a pump fake and a wide open layup for Dick’s man. Perhaps he is not always so overzealous, but it was really bad. He also missed a wide open layup.
Can’t be all the way out on him because he is 6’7 and can allegedly shoot, but if his shooting proves to be fake (which is common at this age) and that one play is indicative of his typical BBIQ then he could be really terrible.
31. Brandon Miller
Miller is technically a freshman but he is sophomore aged with a late ’02 birthday. He is actually a pretty decent mold of 6’8 who got rebounds, steals, and blocks in EYBL, but he was not a scorer in spite of being a year older than everybody.
If he can play the age cannot be sweated too hard because he is the right NBA mold…but the age should inspire skepticism that he really can play. We will see.
32. Pete Nance
Pete Nance seems probably too slow for an NBA big, but he can handle, pass, and shoot well and overachieving in the draft runs in the family with his dad Larry and brother Larry Jr.
33. Kevin McCullar
McCullar is 6’6, athletic, and does a bit of everything.
34. Norchad Omier
35. Terry Roberts
A couple of interesting mid-major guys who transferred to high major for this season. Omier is 6’7 and stuffed the stat sheet with all sorts of steals, blocks, and rebs for Arkansas State. His top 2 kenpom comps are Kenneth Faried and Brandon Clarke, so he is definitely a guy to keep an eye on this year for Miami FL.
Roberts is an athletic 6’3 PG who transferred from JUCO and was a stud for Bradley stuffing the stat sheet with a bit of everything and playing excellent D. The main issue is that his offense may be too raw for his age to make it far in the NBA, he is fairly turnover prone and his shooting of 34% 3P 70% FT is OK but less than you would hope for his size and age. He plays in the SEC for Georgia this year, so let’s see how his offense translates to a higher level of athleticism.
36. Zach Edey
Is Edey too slow of a giant 7’4 monster to fit in the NBA? Probably. But he is too much of an elite outlier to write off entirely. At minimum he can be a Boban type, and possibly quite a bit better.
37. Harrison Ingram
38. Matthew Mayer
39. Azuolas Tubelis
Not much to add about these guys, they are all on the fringe of not good enough vs maybe slightly interesting if they hit.
40. Leonard Miller
I think Miller just doesn’t know how to play, but he is young and toolsy and has a chance to prove me wrong in G League this year.
41. Marcus Sasser
42. Terquavion Smith
It’s funny I was thinking Sasser may be a decent UDFA in this draft, and then suddenly he pops up at #27 in ESPN’s mock for next year. I guess they really just need some warm bodies to fill out round 1. It’s hard to figure out what returners are good.
But him and Terq are roughly the same thing. They are undersized 3 point bombers. Sasser is older and less athletic, but also has a higher BBIQ.
It seems like a terrible decision for Terq to return to school. He had all of the undeserved hype in the world, and he goes back to a bad NC State team that will likely be bad again next year. And what is there for him to build on his game?
He really needs to show some semblance of PG skills and make FT’s. But he really seems like an inefficient chucker who can’t guard anybody in the NBA, and if he looks that way at age 20 and NC State still sucks teams may need to question whether he belongs in round 1.
Rating him lotto ahead of some of these talented freshman is really bad. He probably just isn’t good enough for the NBA as a one dimensional shooter who only made 69.8% FT as a freshman.
Off the Board
ESPN has him #31 while CBS Sports has him #13 and the Athletic has him #15.
At a glance you may say well he is 6’7 and could be in line for a big freshman leap after having a career game in the tourney vs Kansas scoring 24 pts 12 rebs 3 assists. But looking at the big picture he has flags on flags on flags.
First– he was a sophomore aged freshman who turned 20 in March. He isn’t that young.
Further, every indicator for NBA perimeter ability looks bad for him. He had half as many assists as turnovers, an anemic 1.3% steal rate, and shot 26.5% 3P 67.1% FT.
So to stomach all of this weakness there should be a unique selling point. Which in his case I guess it’s that he has OKish wing tools? He is 6’7 with 6’11 wingspan and OK-ish athleticism. But he isn’t much of a rebounder, shot blocker, or interior scorer, so how does he make his bacon in the NBA?
The answer is he doesn’t. Don’t be scammed into drafting this guy, let him be somebody else’s mistake.
Hickman doesn’t have that much hype being just #32 ESPN #29 CBS…but it is difficult to see how he belongs on draft radar at all. He is 6’2 and averaged 5.1 pts 1.5 rebs 1.3 ast 0.6 stl 0.2 blk with 30.8% 3P 66.7% FT in 17.2 mins as a freshman for Gonzaga. He is young and did not turn 19 until after the season, but he is a little guy with practically nothing to build on.
It is difficult to see how he should ever be valued above fellow Zag Julian Strawther who is far from a world beater, but is 6’7 and can at least somewhat shoot.
It is crazy how much Bates hype has evaporated as he has gone from the next Kevin Durant to #33 in ESPN’s latest mock.
Honestly that’s still probably too high. The fact that he transferred all the way down to a terrible Eastern Michigan program likely indicates that he has some major red flags and just is not good enough for the NBA.