Every draft presents an opportunity for NBA franchises to improve their rosters and change their fates for the next basketball season. But, with that opportunity comes stress and responsibility for most management teams, because keeping their jobs are dependent on their ability to sift through a deep talent pool and find the players who will help their teams immediately and develop into solid professionals. The best general managers make the most of their high draft picks and continue to add talent after the lottery picks are gone. The players below will make some GM look like a genius next season.
1. Trevon Duval – Duke – Freshman
10.3 PPG, 5.6 APG, 2.0 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 2.8 TO
Duval is an elite athlete with good ball-handling skills. He possesses a lightning quick first step, and he can finish above the rim in transition or in traffic. He resembles the typical athlete that John Calipari gets at Kentucky rather than the dry, system point guards that Coach K usually recruits, and consequently Tre Duval never really fit at Duke. Krzyzewski relishes guards that can shoot and though he has decent mechanics, Duval was woefully inconsistent in the Duke offense. His inability to hit open shots caused defenses to run under picks instead of chasing him over them, and allowed opposing defenses to sag in the paint to clog driving lanes. Coach K never changed his offense to accommodate his young guard. Instead, he just lessened Duval’s playing time and used him in specific situations so no one has seen the full compliments of his talent. With only a little work on his shot, Trevon Duval could be an All-Star guard at the next level. But without any real improvement, he will probably still be a starter in the league with his low assist/turnover ratio and raw athleticism.
2. Hamidou Diallo – Kentucky – Redshirt Freshman
10.0 PPG, 1.2 APG, 3.6 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.4 BPG
The jury is still out on Hamidou Diallo’s decision to leave for the NBA this season. And, an even more questionable decision has been his choice not to participate in the NBA combine this year. Because he had such an inconsistent year shooting the basketball and creating shots for others,the combine could present the opportunity for him to answer some questions for NBA management teams. To his credit, last year, Diallo recorded the second highest vertical leap in combine history at 44.5″. No one questions his athletic ability. The questions surround his ability to produce consistent numbers at a high level. Diallo finished in the open court with the best of collegians. But his shooting was below what people expected from the super talented guard, especially since he sat out last year. He has a soft touch on his shot, but has inconstant mechanics. He can score on the break and off the dribble when lanes are created for him, but Diallo has some difficulty creating in isolation match ups. His first step is a good weapon, but he needs to polish his ball-handling skills to do well in the NBA. If Hamidou Diallo is afforded time to develop his basketball skills and improve his shot, then he has a chance to excel at the NBA level. He will need more effort from the defensive end because his physical tools should be expressed through blocks and steals.
3. Michael Porter Jr. – Missouri – Freshman
10.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 33.3 FG%, 3 Games Played
Porter spent almost the entire year inured, and he was never 100% as a college athlete. But, when he was healthy in high school, he looked like an offensive assault weapon. First, Michael Porter Jr. is big and athletic. He is 6’10″, 215 lbs., but he moves like a guard who is 6 inches shorter. He has range out beyond the the three point line, can drive and finish at the rim, and can score at mid-range on a pull-up jumper when he is one hundred percent. He could feasibly walk into stardom in the NBA if he performs there in the way that he was expected to perform in college. Porter’s success will be completely dependent on how well he returns from injury. And, if he returns to form, Michael Porter Jr. could be a top-tier scorer and an All-Star at the next level.
4. Mohamed Bamba – Texas – Freshman
12.9 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 3.7 BPG, 54.1 FG%, 0.8 SPG
Mohamed Bamba has a chance to be the best player in this draft. At 7’1″, he is a true 7 footer with a 7’10″ wingspan and ridiculous athleticism. He has shown defensive dominance at the collegiate level and the promise of offensive efficiency. Bamba has good touch on short jumpers, and is working on his high post and low post game. He has the base foundation of good footwork to be a scoring big in one-on-one situations, and he already finishes well when he has a lane to the rim or when teammates create for him through penetration. Mo Bamba plays above the rim on both sides of the ball, and if he keeps putting on weight and plays consistently at the next level then he could surprise a lot of people. To give you an idea of how physically talented this big man is, Bamba ran a 3.04 in the 3/4 court sprint, faster than both Russell Westbrook and John Wall ran in their combine.
5. Wendell Carter Jr. – Duke – Freshman
13.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 2.0 APG, 56.1 FG%
Marvin Bagley III overshadowed Wendell Carter Jr. at Duke with his scoring and overall athleticism, but Wendell Carter Jr. was decisively the best post in a Blue Devil uniform last year. Carter scored in one-on-one situations near the basket, he blocked shots and rebounded the ball, and he was polished under the rim with good footwork and counters. He has an NBA ready body at 6’11″ and 260 lbs, and has 7’3″ wingspan. Carter has good hands and feet with a good feel for the game of basketball. He can play. And more importantly, Wendell Carter Jr. wants to play like a big man which so few guys with his size want to do in this 3ball era, including his talented teammate. Right now, Carter is big enough and skilled enough to play center at the next level. If he improves his jump shot and increases his range, he could be very good in the NBA. Wendell Carter is fundamentally sound and consistent.
6. Deandre Ayton – Arizona – Freshman
20.1 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 1.6 SPG, 61.2 FG%
Deandre Ayton could be the last prototypical big man in the NBA if he is successful at the next level. And, all his statistics and accomplishments in college point towards him being a good pro. He scored efficiently and consistently in college despite having NBA talent around him at Arizona. Ayton has all the requisite big man moves including, but not limited to a strong hook shot and a turnaround jumper. He plays powerfully under the rim and is explosive at the point of attack. The only way to contain him in college was to either riddle him with fouls early or to keep the basketball out of his hands.
7. Robert Williams III – Texas A&M – Sophomore
11.9 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.5 BPG, 1.4 APG, 55.8 FG%
Robert Williams may be undersized at the next level for a guy who basically played center his entire college career, but he has a few advantages that should help him move seamlessly to the NBA. First, he has long arms and big, soft hands. His post game is raw at this point, but it is effective because of his great athleticism. Williams shows good touch that will serve him well at the next level. If he learned more defined post moves, then he could dominate on the offensive end of the court. However, he is good enough with offensive rebounding and blocked shots to play today in the NBA. He is great finishing lobs and completing plays where a shot is created for him because he can overpower and out jump defenders at the rim. When he starts too far out on the floor he can get into trouble with traps and double teams. But, with a little practice and more attention to the finer details of post play, Robert Williams III could be dominant post player in years to come.
8. Mikal Bridges – Villanova – Junior
17.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 51.4 FG%
Mikal Bridges has a lot of potential in the league just on the defensive side of the basketball. Bridges uses his 7’2″ wingspan on the perimeter to shut down the opposing team’s best player. He can guard bigger and smaller players, and he is one of the few players who can take the ball from the player that he is guarding and by playing passing lanes on the weak side. But, his consistent scoring in college this year showed that he could become a well-rounded basketball player in the pros. His 3 point shooting percentages and his scoring average increased in every year of college, so Bridges has a good work ethic. And, he never shot under 51% from the floor. Right now he projects as a 3 and D player who only hits open shots from the corners and plays excellent defense, but with improved ball-handling Mikal Bridges could potentially work his way into being asuperstar.
9. Jock Landale – St. Mary’s – Senior
21.1 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 2.0 APG, 64.0 FG%,
Jock Landale’s success at the next level is dependent on a few factors, but he definitely could progress far enough to be a good NBA pro. Landale has to drop his body fat level and clean up his post moves to be effective at the next level because he is an average athlete. However, he has excellent size at 6’11″ and 255 lbs, and has already shown a penchant for scoring in the post and using his body to shield the ball from defenders. He can make passes in traffic and has a good feel for the game of basketball.
10. Daniel Gafford – Arkansas – Freshman
11.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 60.5 FG%, 0.5 SPG
Daniel Gafford has pure athleticism that approaches the physical tools of perennial All-Star, Anthony Davis. He is extremely physically gifted, and he played well in college despite being fairly raw and almost completely right-handed. He uses his spin move so well and explodes off the ground so quickly that his penchant for finishing with his right hand may have been overlooked by some scouts. But, to excel at the next level Gafford will need some hours put into the Mikan drill to help him score more efficiently when he can not out jump his opponent. With a little work though, Gafford could be the steal of the draft. He moves incredibly fluid for a big man, and he plays up to his size. He shows good touch on short shots and tries to dunk everything at the rim. Polish is the only thing holding Daniel Gafford back from being the best player in the draft.