This preview excludes internationals, although I will note that I do not understand why Sekou Doumbaya has top 5 hype. At a glance he does not appear to deserve a first round selection.
Race for #1
If you want to scout the top of the draft, get used to watching Duke basketball as they have the 3 best tanking prizes in this year’s class. Along with Bol, it’s a close four way race for #1 with nobody clearly standing out above the rest at this moment.
1. Cameron Reddish
2. Zion Williamson
3. RJ Barrett
4. Bol Bol
Reddish is a 6’9″ point forward who is more cerebral than explosive and has Grant Hill upside.
Zion is a smooth, strong, and explosive slasher and is highly unique with a center frame and wing dimensions.
RJ Barrett has some winning gravity on his side with monster performances in wins vs team USA in both FIBA and the Hoop Summit. But with limited dimensions and shot making, he is in the DeMar DeRozan mold which makes him slightly less exciting than Reddish and Zion.
Bol Bol is the Deandre Ayton of the draft– uniquely talented with elite shooting and rim protection, but enigmatic with a lackadaisical attitude.
Regular Lottery Prospects
5. Jontay Porter
The top returning prospect, Jontay has an elite combination of size, passing, and shooting and is younger than most true freshmen. He has Draymond/Jokic potential and will inevitably get underrated for his doughy physique.
6. Simi Shittu
The most interesting freshman who isn’t getting lotto hype, Shittu has point forward potential
7. Keldon Johnson
Slightly undersized for a SF at 6’6″ with a 6’9″ wingspan, Johnson atones with good frame and athleticism and solid two way potential.
8. Ja Morant
Morant came out of nowhere to post a monster 18 year old freshman season for Murray State. He is an explosive 6’3″ PG who posted impressive rebound and assist:TOV rates in spite of his thin frame. Now he can leap into the lottery if he continues to improve and fill out physically as a sophomore.
9. Nassir Little
Currently ranked #2 at ESPN, Little is the freshman who is most clearly overrated. He has a great combination of length (7’1″ wingspan), explosiveness, and intellectual curiosity, but he simply has not performed well enough to justify top 5 hype at this stage as an inefficient 6’6″ wing.
He could develop into a Jaylen Brown type, but seems closer to Kelly Oubre at this stage.
10. Daniel Gafford
11. PJ Washington
A couple of obviously good returners. Gafford is an athletic big who offers defense, rebounding, and finishing.
PJ is an undersized PF who is athletic and well rounded enough to possibly be converted to wing. His talent was likely not maximized as a freshman but John Calipari’s poor coaching.
12. Tre Jones
13. Romeo Langford
14. Charles Bassey
15. Coby White
16. Quentin Grimes
The next tier of freshmen. Tre Jones is Tyus brother and similar in a number of ways as a high IQ point guard. Tyus was massively underdrafted sliding to the late 1st, and Tre may share a similar fate.
Romeo Langford has excellent tools for a SG, but still needs to prove he can play.
Bassey is an athletic big who does athletic big man things
Coby is a shifty 6’5″ combo guard who figures to play point guard for UNC. Has sleeper potential if he runs the offense well, and it would be unsurprising if he turns out better than his much more hyped classmate Nassir Little.
Grimes figures to be a good college player with no clear NBA role, as he is an undersized 6’4″ SG with non-elite athleticism and shooting.
17. Jarrett Culver
18. Killian Tillie
19. Isaiah Roby
20. Dedric Lawson
21. Ethan Happ
22. Aric Holman
Some of the strongest returners. I am higher than most on Happ who is a PF who has a broken shot but has sneaky upside as an incredibly cerebral passer and defensive player. And Holman is interesting as an athletic 3 + D big man who can finish lobs.
A few more freshmen
23. EJ Montgomery
24. Devon Dotson
25. Darius Bazley
Freshmen who could land on either side of upsidey prospect vs. pile of meh.
26. Ky Bowman
Ky is 6’1″ and still learning to play PG, but he is explosive, can shoot, and is cerebral enough to have a chance of figuring it out.
27. Ty Jerome
Jerome sorely lacks explosion but makes up for it with elite IQ, lateral movement, shooting, and passing to make for an intriguing 3 + D PG with good 6’5″ height.
28. Eric Williams Jr.
Williams is a shifty 6’6″ wing who does a bit of everything and rebounds exceptionally well for his size. He was a young freshman and has monster breakout upside as a sophomore.
29. Trent Forrest
At a glance Forrest appears to be a 6’5″ defensive specialist. But he showed sneaky point guard potential as a sophomore and has similarities to DeAnthony Melton. If he shows more offensive polish as a junior, his value will be pumped up quite a bit.
30. Charles Matthews
Athletic enough to play for John Calipari and smart enough to play for John Beilein, Matthews is an ideal role playing wing if he learns to shoot.
31. Saben Lee
32. Darius Garland
Vanderbilt’s pair of athletic PG’s. Garland has all of the hype (projected #9 ESPN), but Saben may be the better prospect. He a fairly young freshman and has big breakout potential as a sophomore. Garland is the better shooter but Lee is likely better at everything else.
33. Anfernee McLemore
34. Kris Wilkes
35. Oshae Brissett
36. Steffon Mitchell
37. DeAndre Hunter
38. Justice Sueing
39. Jalen McDaniels
Well rounded combo forwards abound here– all have first round potential with breakout seasons, but none of them assuredly deserve to be drafted.
McLemore is a monster shot blocker at 6’7″ who can shoot and had offers from Ivy League schools. His ball skills have a long way to go to fit in as an NBA wing, but if they come along he can be an excellent role player.
Hunter has the most hype but is the oldest of the bunch and does not have any special qualities to deserve lottery value.
Steffon Mitchell is the hidden gem of the group who can pump up his value with improved shooting and creation.
40. Jack Nunge
41. Dean Wade
Nunge and Wade are a pair of stretch 4’s who may move well enough to fit in NBA defenses. Nunge is particularly interesting as he has added bulk this offseason and at 6’11” has all sorts of unique upside.
42. D’Marcus Simonds
43. Shamorie Ponds
44. Xavier Sneed
45. Jahlil Tripp
46. Markis McDuffie
47. Jarrey Foster
48. Amir Coffey
49. Chris Clemons
50. Donta Hall
51. Keith Braxton
52. Cassius Winston
53. Tremont Waters
54. Tyler Cook
55. Andrew Jones
56. Bruno Fernando
57. Grant Williams
58. Quinton Rose
59. John Petty
60. Daejon Davis
This is the point of the board where there are about 100 names in a similar tier to choose from.
At 5’9″, Chris Clemons is in a tier of height where few have had successful NBA careers. Calvin Murphy, Isaiah Thomas, Muggsy Bogues, Spud Webb, Nate Robinson, and Earl Boykins make up the list of success stories, which is why Clemons cannot be taken in round 1. But he is an exceptional athlete and shooter, and appears to be a better version of Nate Robinson. Isaiah Thomas provided an excellent return after sliding to the last pick in the draft because of his height, and Clemons has clear potential to be similar or better.
Keith Braxton is a 6’4″ combo guard who has crazy rebound rates, can shoot, and is slippery at finding his way to the hoop. He will likely be overlooked playing for low major St. Francis and has his own brand of sneaky potential.
Just missed the cut: DeJon Jarreau, Sagaba Konate, Devon Daniels, Carsen Edwards, Zach Norvell Jr, Kenny Wooten, Terence Davis, Taveion Hollingsworth, Shakur Juiston, Vic Law
Hachimura has great physical tools, but will turn 21 this season and be the 5th best player on Gonzaga at best. For some reason scouts want to compare him to Giannis even though he is a complete non-passer and 3″ shorter. He is worth a 2nd round pick with a big junior leap, but this hype train needs to cool down.
Jones was an unmitigated disaster offensively as a freshman. There is no way that a wing who is that poor offensively should ever be drafted. There are at least 300 prospects better than him in this draft.
Hoard has first round hype as a big wing, but he is very old for the class and unlikely to deserve to be drafted.
People need to stop overhyping Villanova upperclassmen. Paschall is a great NCAA player but not a draftable prospect.
If you are wondering if he belongs in round 1, the answer lies in his initials: NAW. Although he has a fair case as a second rounder.
Under The Radar Freshmen to Watch
Nembhard isn’t that explosive or skilled at scoring, but he is a 6’5″ PG with elite vision and passing. The intersection of size and passing is a great place to seek upside
Oturu is a 6’10” defensive oriented big man whose favorite player is Nikola Jokic. His combination of size, defense, and passing can sum to a strong upside tail.
Overachieving runs in the family, as his dad Larry and brother Larry Jr. both massively over performed their draft slot. Nance is 6’10” with an interesting base of skill and IQ. He’s a bit of a mystery box as he did not play for AAU, but his upside is monstrous.
Black is similar to Theo Pinson, who could have become a good prospect if he developed better over his NCAA career. Even with no discernible improvement over four years he was still good enough to get a two way contract from Brooklyn.
Gonzaga has done a terrific job of international scouting, and Petrusev may be another gem as he had an excellent summer playing FIBA u18 for Serbia’s gold medal team. He stuffed the stat sheet and made 80% of his FT’s as a 6’11” big.
Perry is a 6’8″ PF who offers a bit of everything, and if his skill level if more polished than expected could make for an ideal big wing.
Others: Darius Days, Talen Horton-Tucker, Khavon Moore, Mike DeVoe