- As college basketball rolls on, The Front Office takes a look at NBA draft prospects who have boosted their stock since the season began. Murray State's Ja Morant, Arizona State's Luguentz Dort and USC's Kevin Porter Jr. are just a few prospects to rise in our Big Board 2.0.
College basketball season, and the beginning of the 2019 draft cycle, have gotten off to a fascinating start, with a variety of players emerging over the course of a month and a very small degree of certainty as to how things are going to shake out. Some of that reflects a lack of star power as many teams see it right now, but there’s also a wide swath of young prospects on the cusp of breaking out, and a narrower talent gap between players that makes parsing through which guys are draftable a bit of a challenge. The one-month mark is a good opportunity to re-assess preseason opinions and sketch out what the picture looks like, and our December update leaves these rankings looking much different from where they were coming into the season.
Among the notable early storylines: Zion Williamson, our preseason No. 1 prospect, has surpassed teammate R.J. Barrett in the eyes of many to establish himself as the consensus top guy. Highly touted freshmen like Nassir Little and Quentin Grimes have struggled, while others like Kevin Porter have shown enough high-end talent already to be considered in the lottery mix. With Darius Garland done for the season, Murray State’s Ja Morant has burst onto the scene as potentially the draft’s top guard. Bol Bol has proven a tricky evaluation, and a slew of other newcomers have burst onto the scene. There’s a whole lot left to play out, but the early returns are juicy.
Between in-person scouting evaluations, reviewing statistics and film, and factoring word of mouth from ongoing conversations with NBA personnel, the aim with our rankings is to present a picture that helps better understand which prospects should warrant serious consideration for the 2019 draft, in what order and why, and to responsibly gauge and contextualize prospects’ individual outlooks.
As always, these rankings will be fluid over the course of the season and expand as things clarify in the spring. And a reminder: These rankings do not factor in team need or fit.
1. Zion Williamson, F, Duke | Freshman
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 285 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 1
It hasn’t taken long for Williamson to distance himself from the field as the early favorite for the No. 1 selection after opening the season atop this Big Board. His otherworldly athleticism, remarkable scoring efficiency and ability to impact the game in a variety of ways make him a truly unique player and prospect. Williamson is nearly impossible to defend in space and in transition, he’s an expert finisher and a terrific passer, he’ll draw tons of fouls, and he rebounds and blocks shots at a high rate. If you throw out traditional position constructs and focus on roles, he projects to be extremely dangerous in the modern NBA. While he is not an outstanding jump shooter, he’s shown enough to think he can improve that area of his game, and he has the size and mobility to defend bigger players. Williamson’s immense potential as a shot-creator, scorer and playmaker have set him apart.
2. R.J. Barrett, G/F, Duke | Freshman
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 210 | Age: 18| Last Rank: 2
Barrett has come under some scrutiny early in the season after a series of high-scoring but often inefficient showings. He remains a high-quality prospect and likely top-three pick, but the somewhere along the way the off-season hype jumped the shark a little bit. Right now, it’s not that he’s taking too many shots—based on the talent around him, Duke needs him to shoulder the load—but that he could be much more selective and make a better effort to get teammates involved. There’s no real reason to think he can’t make an adjustment. Barrett is most effective with a head of steam going toward the basket, utilizing a variety of finishes and understanding the importance of drawing contact. His biggest area of improvement is his three-point shot, which is often streaky. His competitive makeup and room for growth as an all-around wing player bode well long-term.
3. Cameron Reddish, G/F, Duke | Freshman
Height: 6'8" | Weight: 220 | Age: 19| Last Rank: 3
There has always been a case for Reddish as Duke’s most talented player, and NBA scouts have been intrigued by his strengths, but true to reputation, he remains an inconsistent performer. This team situation sometimes caters to his tendencies, as he has been content to play off of Barrett and Williamson and shoot threes. As a product of his role, Reddish hasn’t shown as much of the playmaking skills that make him so intriguing. He possesses great upside nonetheless, and as Duke’s team evolves, it will be curious to see how his performances ebb and flow. All things considered, it’s a long season, and just because we haven’t seen him truly break out yet, that doesn’t mean it isn’t coming. His size and skill set will make him an intriguing building block for somebody.
4. Nassir Little, G/F, North Carolina | Freshman
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 220 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 4
As we detailed in-depth last week, Little has faced a steeper adjustment than some of his freshman classmates, coming off the bench to begin the season and playing in a system that doesn’t intrinsically feature him. There was a reason he earned his lofty preseason reputation, and UNC will likely have to lean on him as the season rolls on. He’s more powerful than twitchy as an athlete, but has NBA-caliber physical tools and potential to be a positive factor on both ends of the floor. Little can improve attacking off the bounce and shooting from outside, and showing those elements of his game over the next couple months is critical.
5. Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana | Freshman
Height: 6'6" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 8
Langford has more or less held up his end of the bargain to start his college career, putting together a fairly consistent string of performances and leading Indiana in scoring. His inconsistent three-point shooting is a blemish, but he’s skilled, smooth, plays with intelligence and has been pretty solid defensively. What his actual upside is sort of hinges on his jumper, but Langford’s shot-creation ability, size and feel create some level of floor. If he can carry the Hoosiers through conference play, it’ll help his case.
6. Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC | Freshman
Height: 6'5" | Weight: 220 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 17
Despite coming off the bench to begin the season and missing a string of games with injury, Porter has opened a lot of eyes in his early minutes, emerging as a serious NBA-caliber talent. He’s a gifted scorer with the ability to freelance off the dribble and a sort of unpredictability to his game that creates an advantage. Concerns stem from the fact he’s not particularly polished yet, particularly as a defender, and that he might have a longer conceptual learning curve upon arrival in the pros. But some scouts think USC’s overall lack of structure doesn’t help the issue, and at some point Porter’s ability is going to trump all. At this point, he should essentially be considered a one-and-done lock, with potential to rise from here.
7. Keldon Johnson, G/F, Kentucky | Freshman
Height: 6'6" | Weight: 210 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 5
As expected, Johnson has been one of Kentucky’s most consistent performers during a somewhat uneven start to the season and leads the team in minutes played. It speaks to his impressive makeup and energy, and a well-rounded game. Johnson is a capable scorer at all three levels, though his three-point shooting stands to improve. His ability to shoulder an offense may be slightly capped by the fact his frame has already filled out, and that he relies more on strength than skill at times. He remains an attractive, high-floor prospect.
8. Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga | Junior
Height: 6'8" | Weight: 230 | Age: 20 | Last Rank: 9
Hachimura’s much-anticipated breakout is upon us, and spurring Gonzaga’s undefeated first month and putting him in the early National Player of the Year conversation. He has been efficient, consistent, and shown off an improving inside-out game that has helped him take advantage of his physical mismatch. Hachimura already has an NBA body, and profiles as a versatile four-man with promise to space the floor, rebound and create offense. Scouts love his tools, and he’s inarguably trending up at this early juncture.
9. Sekou Doumbouya, F, Limoges
Height: 6'8" | Weight: 230 | Age: 17 | Last Rank: 7
Although Doumbouya has started slowly this season, it’s vital to understand that he’s a 17-year-old going on 18 and adjusting to a higher European level, playing in France’s Pro A and in Eurocup competition for the first time, and against players much older than him. He’s been playing a supporting role and has been tasked with adapting. NBA teams are intrigued by his build, tools, and soft shooting touch, and he remains on track to be the first international player drafted in June. To nobody’s surprise, Doumbouya shaping up as a bit of a project right now, but he remains a likely lottery pick with some upside.
10. Ja Morant, G, Murray State | Sophomore
Height: 6’3” | Weight: 175 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 26
Morant has managed to eclipse his substantial summer hype with stellar early-season play, and is making a case for himself as perhaps the best point guard prospect in the country. Tasked with all of his team’s ball-handling responsibilities for the first time, he has done a nice job setting up teammates despite having relatively little help around him. He is a remarkable athlete and a terror to defend off the dribble, as affirmed by his 38-point showing against Alabama with a large NBA contingent in attendance. Morant is extremely turnover-prone and sometimes a bit nonchalant with the ball, but some of it is a byproduct of his absurd usage. He is also not a great three-point shooter yet, and has a thin build that may need some work. But there is a whole lot going for him right now, and plenty of reason for long-term intrigue.
11. Bol Bol, C, Oregon | Freshman
Height: 7'2" | Weight: 235 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 15
After watching Bol play in November, we went in-depth on what makes him such a fascinating, risky prospect. While his counting stats have been wildly impressive, Oregon has begun to struggle. His height, skill, shooting ability, supreme length and athletic coordination are all unique. His shot-blocking instincts and ability to cover ground could make him special defensively. But NBA teams continue to express real concerns over his thin build, his inconsistent rebounding, his ability to defend in space, and his mental makeup. It’s difficult for the vast majority of players Bol’s size to be more than role players in the modern league. He makes for a complex evaluation: one team will probably roll the dice in the lottery, but others will be hesitant to take the risk.
12. Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt | Freshman
Height: 6'3" | Weight: 170 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 12
Due to a torn left meniscus, Garland’s season ended unceremoniously just two minutes into his fifth game. If he’s intent on going to the NBA anyway, his stock likely won’t suffer much. In a draft somewhat bereft of high-end point guard talent, Garland’s natural talent as a playmaker and scorer make him plenty intriguing. Some scouts have expressed concerns over his thin, small build and his ability to hold up long-term, but there is a sort of it factor to his game that suggests his craft will continue to help split the difference. It’s too early to say for sure what the injury will mean for Garland’s draft slot, but it doesn’t seem he’ll fall too far.
13. De’Andre Hunter, F, Virginia | Sophomore
Height: 6’7” | Weight: 225 | Age: 21 | Last Rank: 10
Hunter has delivered efficient offensive production and added punch to Virginia’s offense playing as a full-time starter, a promising development. Noting his strength, agility and defensive versatility, his growth into a consistent jump shooter is promising. At worst, it seems he’ll have a chance to be a quality role player. His lack of facility creating off the dribble makes it hard to envision great upside—he will need to play off others, and at present may lack a consistent, translatable way to generate offense at the next level. Still, Hunter does so many things well on both ends that he’ll likely warrant a pick in this range, given the market for versatile wings.
14. Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas | Sophomore
Height: 6'11" | Weight: 235 | Age: 20 | Last Rank: 11
Possessing a great mix of size, mobility and instincts, Gafford has been productive to start the season and has played up to billing. He fits neatly into the basic responsibilities asked of modern centers: he dunks and finishes around the basket, works hard on both sides of the glass, covers ground and blocks shots, and won’t need heavy post-up touches to be effective. Though his lack of a jump shot hurts, Gafford’s NBA tools and ability to play uptempo lend themselves to easy role projection.
15. Luguentz Dort, G, Arizona State | Freshman
Height: 6'4" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 23
Dort is the catalyst behind Arizona State’s hot start, possessing great physicality and the ability to play both backcourt spots. He’s more reliant on powerful bursts than off-dribble creativity when he goes downhill, but his size and strength help him draw and play through contact. Though he’s a streaky outside shooter, he has some touch and has room to improve. Dort could be a more consistent defender, and some question his ceiling a bit, but for as athletic and effective as he is already, his arrow is pointing the right direction.
16. Quentin Grimes, G, Kansas | Freshman
Height: 6'5" | Weight: 205 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 6
Put simply, Grimes has not looked or played like a one-and-done talent at this stage of the season, and has work to do to warrant serious consideration early in this draft. That’s not to say he can’t or won’t right the ship from here, but he has frequently been passive, has seen his minutes decrease, and has done little beyond a great debut against Michigan State. Grimes’ ball-handling has looked somewhat suspect, and may be part of what’s preventing him from getting into the paint consistently. It also raises concerns as to whether he’s legitimately a combo guard, or projects strictly as a wing. Don’t write him off yet, but it’s worth re-evaluating him a little bit based on what he’s shown. At this point, it wouldn’t be a shock if he needs a second year at Kansas.
17. Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech | Sophomore
Height: 6'5" | Weight: 195 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 18
A popular preseason breakout candidate, Culver has fit nicely into a primary on-ball role after spending much of last season as a wing. He’s helped himself as a result, stuffing the stat sheet, playing big minutes and showcasing more of his off-dribble game. Culver relies on being smooth and crafty to attack the basket, shoots it well and can handle in pick-and-roll. His lack of high-level explosiveness and burst may limit his upside a little bit, but his size, tools and potential as a secondary shot-creator are intriguing.
18. Jontay Porter, C, Missouri | Sophomore
Height: 6'11" | Weight: 235 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 19
Porter’s sophomore season unceremoniously went down the tubes after severely injuring his knee in a preseason scrimmage, but it won’t totally wreck his stock as a prospect. He’s still young for his class, turning 19 this month, and his success has always been predicated on his impressive skill level and offensive feel more so than his athleticism. Porter was tracking as a first-rounder before surprisingly withdrawing from the 2018 draft. Though he may not end up in the lottery should he choose to enter this season, teams won’t forget what he’s already shown them, and he retains a first-round case at this point.
19. P.J. Washington, F, Kentucky | Sophomore
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 230 | Age: 20 | Last Rank: 16
Staying at Kentucky has looked like a solid move for Washington, who has been the team’s best rebounder and is earning a large share of minutes up front. The Wildcats will have to lean on him for consistency. While his upside is limited a bit by his size, Washington’s strengths as a small-ball big are apparent, and as his jump shooting improves, he will remain appealing as a low-usage role guy who can impact games without needing lots of touches. Kentucky is still figuring things out on whole, but his success goes hand in hand with that of the team.
20. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech | Sophomore
Height: 6'5" | Weight: 205 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 33
After missing his own hype train a bit as a freshman, Alexander-Walker has gotten up to speed in year two and looks the part as a first-round type talent. His shooting and playmaking skills are evident, he’s played more assertively, and he’s the top dog on a solid Hokies team. He has to continue to shoot it well, but Alexander-Walker has the size and combo-guard skills that make it easy to envision him fitting into a variety of different lineups. Versatile guys like him are always in demand.
21. Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky | Freshman
Height: 6'11" | Weight: 245 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 14
Bassey has mostly produced at a high level to start the season, but is still a project in many respects after reclassifying. He fits the bill physically, but began the season playing with a large knee brace after a preseason injury. As he gets further removed from the injury, it’ll be easier to assess his mobility. Bassey is still very much learning how to play, but profiles fairly well into a rim-running, shot-blocking role. That’s probably his ceiling, but in the right environment, it can certainly work.
22. Luka Samanic, F, Olimpija
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 210 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 13
Samanic’s season is off to a slow start after moving to Slovenian club Olympia this summer. He’s a major talent who has yet to convert his highly-skilled game into consistent pro production. His long-term potential was apparent at Basketball Without Borders camp in February. Samanic’s ability to handle, pass and spot up at his size him ideal for positionless basketball, and after winning MVP for Croatia at the 2017 FIBA U18 Euros, he’s firmly on the map with NBA scouts. He’s a work in progress, and he’s going through an adjustment period, but should be worthy of a stash pick at minimum if he enters this draft.
23. Talen Horton-Tucker, SG, Iowa State | Freshman
Height: 6’4” | Weight: 240 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 36
Following a breakout performance against Illinois in Maui, Horton-Tucker has established himself as a player NBA teams will track closely the rest of the way. He has the makings of a useful jack-of-all-trades player in the long run: he’s a streaky but capable shooter, he’s terrific making plays and attacking off the dribble, and he’s shown a good deal of maturity for a true freshman who just turned 18. Horton-Tucker will need to continue working on sculpting his body, and might be able to unlock more of his explosiveness by doing so. It’s still very early, but his talent level is undeniable, and his natural shot-creation ability has been impressive.
24. Jalen McDaniels, F/C, San Diego State | Sophomore
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 195 | Age: 20 | Last Rank: 29
Though still quite skinny for an NBA big, McDaniels has intriguing skill at his size and has begun shooting threes regularly as he works to turn himself into a versatile forward. He has work to do, but continues to flash his talent and is the type of prospect teams are often willing to gamble on. McDaniels has some touch and quickness, is an extremely productive rebounder and can make an impact around the rim with his length. He’s been solid if unspectacular, but his case as a first-round investment remains unchanged.
25. KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford | Sophomore
Height: 6’9” | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: NR
Okpala has quietly broken out at Stanford, following up an uneven freshman year with a string of good showings and putting himself in the mix for first-round consideration. He’s very slender and has to continue filling out, but he had a 10-inch growth spurt in high school, grew a bit in college and is now a lanky, athletic 6’9” with guard skills. Okpala’s improvement to his sophomore year has been night and day, he’s shooting the ball better, and is a willing ball-mover on the perimeter. He offers plenty of untapped upside.
26. Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas | Freshman
Height: 6’11” | Weight: 220 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: NR
No recruiting service ranked Hayes on their Top 100 lists coming into the season, and he’s been something of a revelation as an early contributor for the Longhorns. For a guy his age and his size, Hayes has already displayed impressive mobility, timing and defensive instincts and established himself as Texas’ best pro prospect. He doesn’t shoot jumpers and his offensive skill set is not very fleshed out, but his feel is strong and he has plenty of time to grow. If he keeps playing well, his physical gifts are such that his stay in college will be brief.
27. Ignas Brazdeikis, F, Michigan | Freshman
Height: 6’7” | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: NR
As has been widely noted, Brazdeikis turns 20 in January and is only technically a freshman, after doing a prep year in Canada. The good news is, it doesn’t really matter. Brazdeikis has been Michigan’s most consistent scorer and impressed with his ability to hunt shots off the ball. He can shoot it from outside or face up and attack the basket, and profiles as a useful offensive-minded role guy in the pros. His competitiveness and feel stand out, The big question with him is perimeter defense, as he will probably need to be parked on fours in the NBA. Regardless, if the Wolverines continue to play this well, Brazdeikis won’t have to stick around long.
28. Coby White, G, North Carolina | Freshman
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 185 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 37
White has shouldered a surprising load for a UNC team that has occasionally struggled to establish an offensive flow. He has legit size, and his ability to shoot from deep and create his own shot have been a helpful safety valve. That microwave scoring ability has value in the NBA, and though White could be a better playmaker and defender, his scoring talent is going to earn him serious looks. He will need to rein himself in at times and learn to better run a team, but his start to the season has been impressive.
29. Zach Norvell Jr., SG, Gonzaga | Sophomore
Height: 6'5" | Weight: 205 | Age: 20 | Last Rank: 42
With Killian Tillie injured, Norvell has been the most potent perimeter threat for the No. 1 team in the country, launching threes with an impressive lack of concern and making them at a highly impactful clip. He’s a redshirt sophomore and turns 21 next week, and it’s fair to begin penciling him into the picture for this draft, particularly as Gonzaga continues to dominate the competition. Norvell isn’t asked to play much on the ball, but has size and passing feel to go with his long-range shooting. He’s looked ready for his close-up.
30. Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland | Sophomore
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 235 | Age: 20 | Last Rank: 31
It would appear Fernando made a strong decision to stay at Maryland, as his early-season play has been strong and the impressive NBA tools are still very present. He fits conceptually as a rim-running, mobile center and has shown the ability to shoot from range, despite continually not being encouraged to shoot them. Where he actually ends up in the draft may stand as a referendum on the dwindling market value of centers, but Fernando’s athletic profile and skill potential are legitimate and his feel and comfort level have improved.
31. Jaylen Hoard, PF, Wake Forest | Freshman
Height: 6'8" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 20
Wake Forest has been almost inexcusably bad, but Hoard is still a very interesting player with the type of body and fluid athleticism that will warrant NBA opportunities. His feel for the game is a bit questionable, and he has not shot the ball especially well, which is a little concerning given most of the offense he creates for himself has come through the post. It’s tough to sell yourself on him based on the team context, but his build and natural gifts are still interesting. He’s just starting to tap into his ability, and can’t be expected to figure everything out in one year at Wake, but based on the current situation it may be in his best interest to get out and develop in the pros.
32. Louis King, F, Oregon | Freshman
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 24
King is close to returning after tearing his meniscus in January. Oregon has struggled out of the gate and could use his help on the wing. King has size and a translatable perimeter skill set that will warrant close attention: he’s a solid ball-handler, passer and shooter and isn’t lacking for talent. King has a reputation for being inconsistent with his effort and focus, and will have to shake that going forward.
33. Jarrey Foster, SF, SMU | Senior
Height: 6'6" | Weight: 220 | Age: 21 | Last Rank: 27
Foster was a surefire draft pick as a junior prior to an ACL injury that ended his season. SMU has won its first three games since his return, and he has the athleticism and savvy to fit neatly into the NBA game as a high-end role player. A depleted roster around him could make scoring efficiently a challenge, but Foster is highly versatile and can impact the game without a high volume of shots, which bodes well. As he works back into peak shape, he should have a chance to play into the late first-round mix.
34. Isaiah Roby, F, Nebraska | Junior
Height: 6'8" | Weight: 225 | Age: 20 | Last Rank: 32
An athletic, versatile forward who’s playing a little out of position at center for Nebraska, Roby is a quality long-term prospect with his ability to play and defend both inside and out. He’s comfortable handling, passing, knocking down set threes, catching lobs and playing in transition. He has terrific mobility on the defensive end that should make him a switchable piece, and has solid shot-blocking instincts. Nebraska doesn’t do much to orchestrate touches for him, but Roby’s strengths should translate nicely into a combo four-five role as a pro, particularly with playmakers around him.
35. Tre Jones, PG, Duke | Freshman
Height: 6'3" | Weight: 185 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 43
To nobody’s surprise, Jones has been a hugely important part of Duke’s team, tasked with setting up his talented teammates, playing defense and keeping the ship steady. As the Blue Devils continue rolling the competition, he will have a huge platform to showcase his strengths. Jones has done a good job making decisions and picking his spots to score, and he may be a little ahead of where his brother Tyus was at the same stage. Based on what he’s doing, and the context of Duke’s situation, Jones has to figure into the one-and-done conversation.
36. Andrew Nembhard, PG, Florida | Freshman
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 30
A quintessential pass-first guard, Nembhard hasn’t scored much but is piling up assists while hardly ever turning it over. He has a great mix of size, feel and unselfishness, and is one of the better pick-and-roll players anywhere in college basketball. He’s also a solid on-ball defender. Nembhard needs to improve his shooting, but has plenty going for him, and has quickly become Florida’s most important player. If the Gators can navigate conference play, his stock should benefit.
37. Goga Bitadze, C, Mega Bemax
Height: 6'11" | Weight: 245 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 39
Bitadze drew interest as high as the late first-round last season but opted to stay overseas, and has continued to impress as a highly productive pro at his age. While it’s harder for big-bodied, below-the-rim centers in his archetype to log heavy minutes in the current NBA, his improving skill set and strong feel for the game give him a chance to make the leap successfully. Bitadze is a pretty natural scorer around the basket, capable passer and strong shot-blocker. As a potentially stashable player and intriguing long-term hold, he’ll have appeal again.
38. Charles Matthews, G/F, Michigan | Junior
Height: 6’6” | Weight: 205 | Age: 22 | Last Rank: NR
Michigan has again emerged as one of the best teams in the country, and Matthews has been a tone-setter and looked like a new player in many respects. He has reinvented himself as a defensive stopper and unselfish offensive piece, and checks a lot of boxes teams are looking for in wing players. He’s playing the best basketball of his career right now, his consistency has improved, and he may need only become a more comfortable catch-and-shoot guy in order to maximize his ability. Matthews has more or less rejuvenated his standing as a prospect over the course of a month.
39. Eric Paschall, F, Villanova | Senior
Height: 6’8” | Weight: 255 | Age: 22 | Last Rank: 22
Paschall is a solid all-around player, but some of his summer hype has dimmed a bit. His struggles to create his own shot have been evident as Villanova has struggled, and while Paschall will get an NBA opportunity, his age, skill set and lack of ideal height (he’s listed generously) make him best suited as a role guy. He will need the right system to thrive, but his rebounding, defensive instincts and spot-up shooting will give him a chance to succeed.
40. Brandon Clarke, F/C, Gonzaga | Junior
Height: 6’8” | Weight: 215 | Age: 22 | Last Rank: NR
After transferring from San Jose State, Clarke has been an unexpectedly massive piece for Gonzaga, stepping into the starting five with the injury to Killian Tillie. It may be hard to take him out, as his rebounding, shot-blocking and energy on the inside have given the Zags a vital defensive backbone. Clarke is bouncy, can defend multiple positions, shoots it from outside and has looked like a good fit for where the NBA is headed.
41. Jalen Smith, C, Maryland | Freshman
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 25
Solid if unspectacular, Smith has bolstered Maryland’s frontcourt with his rebounding and offensive effort, but has not shot the ball especially well nor established a rhythm with his jumper. Some of this is situational, as he frequently shares court time with another big in Bruno Fernando and is not a consistent focal point beyond sporadic post-ups. But he will need to demonstrate more of the floor-spacing potential that made him interesting to begin with, given he is not an elite athlete or shot-blocker and is still somewhat thin, relying more on his length and positioning when playing inside. Based on where he’s at right now, he shouldn’t be considered a one-and-done lock.
42. Ty Jerome, G, Virginia | Junior
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 195 | Age: 21 | Last Rank: NR
Although Virginia’s system can be restrictive for guards, Jerome is actually a beneficiary of his role there, standing out both on and off the ball as a combo guard with ideal size for his position. He’s not an eye-test guy based on his body and tools, but his ability to shoot off the catch and dribble, his quick release, and his playmaking skills should all be translatable at the next level even without great athleticism. Jerome is a willing defender and could be a strong role player at the next level.
43. Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky | Freshman
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 195 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 35
Herro and Kentucky have had some ups and downs to open the season, but his three-point shooting is an important dimension for them and he’ll get every opportunity to be successful going into conference play. There was preseason talk that he would end up a first-rounder, and he has time to make that happen. While his physical profile doesn’t pop and he may not bring much defensively, Herro is a deadeye shooter who can hit from distance off the dribble and with his feet set. That elite skill will get him an opportunity, whether it’s this year or next.
44. Killian Tillie, PF, Gonzaga | Junior
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 215 | Age: 20 | Last Rank: 40
Still on the mend from a preseason ankle injury, Tillie has obvious potential as a specialist with size and an elite skill to sell. NBA scouts have understandably held concerns about his extremely thin build, but if he continues to score the ball in such an efficient manner, Tillie will have a pretty decent case in the draft. Questions will center on how his positional defense translates, which may limit his upside, but he’s an underrated, bouncy athlete who should be able to rebound passably and better play through contact as his body fills out. At minimum, Tillie’s offensive talent should earn him pro opportunities.
45. Simi Shittu, F/C, Vanderbilt | Freshman
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 240 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 21
Losing Darius Garland to injury hurts the immediate outlook for his teammates, as well, but Shittu has been productive as he continues working back from injury and has the sort of versatility up front that fits nicely into the modern game. He has some legitimate handle and feel on the perimeter and is a strong passer and rebounder, but needs to shoot it better from outside going forward. Shittu isn’t playing his best basketball yet, and continues to warrant one-and-done consideration, although there’s a long way to go.
46. Naz Reid, C, LSU | Freshman
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 250 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 28
It’s easy to look at Reid and get caught up in his size and offensive skills, but his play has been rather uneven and he’s struggled when pitted against better competition. Scouts have questioned his lack of passion, poor rebounding, athleticism and slow defensive foot speed, and those items are tough to argue. Aside from his jump shooting potential and size, there has simply not been a whole lot from him that warrants excitement. Much of Reid’s ball skills are more for show than functional right now, and he will need to stay much more engaged to play his way into the first round.
47. Herbert Jones, SF, Alabama | Sophomore
Height: 6'7" | Weight: 200 | Age: 20 | Last Rank: 34
This has been a disappointing start to the season for Jones, who remains a work in progress as an offensive player and particularly as an outside shooter. He’s long and has immense defensive upside, but is built thinly and has yet to put everything together. His tools are tantalizing, but at some point it might be worth tabling Jones as a priority name for this draft if there’s no uptick.
48. Ky Bowman, PG, Boston College | Junior
Height: 6'1" | Weight: 190 | Age: 20 | Last Rank: 44
With Jerome Robinson gone, Bowman simply does not have much help this season, and will continue to be the lone engine for BC’s offense. Many teams liked him after last season, and his new, challenging team context will help couch efficiency concerns somewhat. Bowman is a great athlete and stat-stuffer who has done well to limit turnovers and run the show thus far. He plays huge minutes, impacts both ends of the floor, but faces an uphill climb through conference play.
49. Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington | Senior
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last Rank: 38
Although he remains one of the most intriguing defensive prospects in this draft class, Thybulle’s offensive impact has been alarmingly minimal. Granted, he won’t be asked to do much but defend and shoot at the next level, but some level of progress in terms of efficiency, if not volume, would be nice. He blocks a ton of shots and records a ton of steals, but Washington plays a 2-3 zone that succeeds due in large part to his length and athletic gifts. Thybulle doesn’t offer much upside, but his strengths are certainly pronounced.
50. Carsen Edwards, G, Purdue | Junior
Height: 6’1” | Weight: 200 | Age: 20 | Last Rank: 48
Edwards continues to score at a high rate, using a massive number of Purdue’s possessions out of necessity, but the fear here is that he’s starting to plateau somewhat. He’s an outstanding shot-creator and scoring threat, competes with a cool demeanor and has strong intangibles and leadership, but his messy assist-to-turnover ratio is concerning, although he has less help around him. Edwards’ game is fun and easy to love, but will have to overcome some concerns pertaining to his size, build and playmaking skills.
51. Jordan Poole, SG, Michigan | Sophomore
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 195 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: NR
As Michigan’s national profile has exploded, Poole’s game has made positive gains in his second year. He’s shot the ball extremely well from distance, but is beginning to show he’s more than a catch-and-shoot player, making some nice passes and plays off the bounce and also taking a step forward defensively. Although Poole is still learning and has maturing to do, based on the way the Wolverines are trending, it’s totally possible he steps up big in March, tests the waters and forces the issue. This is speculative, but his play has been encouraging.
52. Shamorie Ponds, G, St. John’s | Junior
Height: 6’1” | Weight: 180 | Age: 20 | Last Rank: 59
With a trio of 30-point games under his belt, Ponds has carried St. John’s to several wins by himself, although it’s fair to note they haven’t been seriously tested yet. Regardless, he has a unique capacity to score and step up in big moments, and though there are concerns as to how much of his game makes sense at the next level, his play shouldn’t be ignored. He’s not a pure point guard, but has taken care of the ball, scored efficiently in the paint and enjoyed some positive statistical regression shooting threes. Still, while his craft helps compensate for a lack of explosiveness at the college level, Ponds will be hard-pressed to succeed as a smallish, ball-dominant scorer.
53. Dedric Lawson, F, Kansas | Junior
Height: 6'9" | Weight: 235 | Age: 21 | Last Rank: 49
At some point, Lawson’s productivity can’t be ignored, but there are fair questions about what parts of his game translate to the NBA. The issues begin with his athleticism and also include his jump shooting and defense. Kansas maximizes his passing ability by playing through him, and puts him in advantageous positions to score inside. If he can’t space the floor, defend the perimeter or protect the basket consistently, it may be a challenge for Lawson to last at the next level. The Jayhawks will take every last drop of his production, of course.
54. Aric Holman, F/C, Mississippi State | Senior
Height: 6'10" | Weight: 225 | Age: 21 | Last Rank: 54
Holman is tall, mobile, blocks shots and shoots naturally from outside, which is more than enough to make him an interesting player worth developing with a draft pick. His scoring numbers have been poor to start the season, but his offensive opportunities are also somewhat limited by playing next to a slew of ball-dominant guards. Holman is a good rebounder, but scouts have questions about his physicality and how he’ll hold up at the next level. He has a ways to go, but he’s young for his class and has the type of skill set worth rolling the dice on.
55. Jaylen Nowell, G, Washington | Sophomore
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 200 | Age: 19 | Last Rank: 46
Nowell has shot the ball much better to start the year and has been impressive scoring the ball, which is what he does best. He is not a natural playmaker, but has nice athletic tools, has been more efficient on whole, and has an innate ability to create and attack off the dribble. His shooting start may not be totally sustainable and he could be better defensively, but Nowell is one of the more gifted players flying under the radar at the moment.
56. Kris Wilkes, SF, UCLA |Sophomore
Height: 6'8" | Weight: 195 | Age: 20 | Last Rank: 45
Once pegged as a 3-and-D type prospect, Wilkes has made marked improvement in neither category, making him more or less a scorer who hunts shots with some athletic upside. He has the type of build and natural talent teams will gamble on, but his feel for the game is underwhelming, he doesn’t play all that well off the dribble, and he struggles with shot selection. Wilkes has the tools and traces of greatness that should get him drafted eventually, but without some significant progression, it’s hard to get overly excited about his all-around game.
57. Max Strus, SG, DePaul | Senior
Height: 6'6" | Weight: 215 | Age: 22 | Last Rank: 56
Though Strus is a bit miscast in a high-scoring out of necessity for DePaul, he remains an efficient, gifted spot-up shooter who can impact the game as a floor spacer while providing a little bit of everything else. Strus has great size on the wing, is an above-average athlete, and might look even better if he played as a secondary scorer on a better team. He can shoot off the catch and on the move, plays with toughness, and remains an underrated players nationally. He might thrive in a better environment with more help around him.
58. Lindell Wigginton, G, Iowa State | Sophomore
Height: 6'2" | Weight: 185 | Age: 20 | Last Rank: 47
Iowa State has been just fine without Wigginton so far, and whether he augments their unselfish offense or clogs up their ball movement will be indicative of how much he’s grown as a player. He’s talented but inefficient and likes to play in isolation and hunt shots, recording more turnovers than assists as a freshman and making an unconvincing case that he can play point guard. Wigginton needs to be more efficient and patient going forward, and should be back by the time Big 12 play starts.
59. Darius Bazley, F
Height: 6’9” | Weight: 195 | Age: 18 | Last Rank: 58
Bazley made headlines with a string of decisions that led him out of his commitment to Syracuse and his plans to play in the G Leagus, instead accepting a year-long paid internship with New Balance as he works out and angles for a spot in the draft. Scouts have been less than impressed with his showings at All-American practices and the Nike Skills Academy in recent months, and there’s some legitimate long-term concern here given his lack of offensive skills and feel. Expect him to stay in the conversation, but where he falls in the draft will hinge on his workouts come spring.
60. Lagerald Vick, SG, Kansas | Senior
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 190 | Age” 21 | Last Rank: NR
Vick is still a wild player who likely won’t be more than a shooting specialist at the next level, but there are teams who value his toughness, athleticism and potent jumper and will look at him closely in the second round. He’s even surprised Kansas with how well he’s shot the ball, and has stepped up as a heat-check factor in their offense. Vick is still built very thin and could be a better defender. But as long as he shoots it like this, he will get a shot to re-prove himself.