- It's not too early to dive into future NBA Draft classes. Sports Illustrated's Front Office reports on potential lottery prospects and standouts from the 2019 HoopHall Classic.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Although a torrent of snow hampered some teams’ ability to travel and altered this year’s schedule, the HoopHall Classic remains perhaps the best annual high school scouting event, bringing together a host of NBA prospects and their teams for three days of showcase games. For the fourth consecutive year, The Crossover’s Front Office sat courtside to track the major players and storylines going forward. Here’s what we saw.
Looking Forward to 2020
Obviously, there’s a long way to go between now and the 2020 draft, but there’s at least a general shape toward the top, with several players jockeying as potential No. 1 selections in the eyes of NBA teams. Two players are at the forefront of the early discussion: power guard Anthony Edwards, who reclassified into the 2019 class and has yet to pick a school, and skilled 7-footer James Wiseman, who will play for Penny Hardaway at Memphis in the fall. Also part of the mix at the moment are Jaden McDaniels, a uniquely skilled forward with size and shooting ability, and Cole Anthony, the son of former NBA player Greg Anthony. Wiseman’s Memphis East was not on the schedule and Anthony was missing for Oak Hill with an ankle injury, but Edwards played twice and McDaniels once over the weekend, with the results mixed.
Edwards is probably the buzziest name at the moment, a byproduct of his decision to advance his pro timeline, his effortless athleticism and a growing bit of malaise around the NBA when it comes to Wiseman’s consistency and effort level. The 6’5” guard was not playing his best basketball at HoopHall—his Holy Spirit (GA) team was understandably overmatched against Montverde in a matchup that was only arranged due to weather cancellations, but then he turned in a complete dud of a game on Sunday against Long Island Lutheran (NY), who outworked the opposition all game. While it’s not a proper representation of Edwards’ talent, it will serve as an interesting data point going forward, at least.
A gifted athlete and former football player who switched sports and found even more success, Edwards is still developing his feel for perimeter decision-making and is not a finished product. However, with his body type, explosiveness and ability to get into the paint, he could help a college team on some level right now. The idea with him is that he can become a lead ball-handler as his handle improves, and he does have enough natural passing ability that you can see it working. We’ll hope to see more from him in terms of all-around impact and consistent engagement in a different setting, but his pure talent is hard to debate: Edwards is capable of tough jumpers and difficult finishes, and plays an effortless game when things click.
Wiseman is an easy eye-test guy with a massive 7’1” frame, a 7-foot-6 wingspan, and a burgeoning skill level, but is often panned for his approach to the game, which is often a low-intensity one that leaves scouts wanting more. It could be that his situation is akin to that of Deandre Ayton, where things began to click more consistently in a more competitive college environment. He has all the tools to be a terrific player, even with the value of the modern center and how best to fill that position being up for debate, but Wiseman is going to have to do it on a consistent basis to maximize his case as the top prospect. Over the last year or so, perception has been more a case of him defaulting into that spot until someone else stakes a better claim.
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Perhaps more of a dark horse is McDaniels, who was terrific when we evaluated him in Brooklyn in December, but struggled on Monday when pitted against an aggressive, physical Ranney School team anchored by two lottery-type athletes in Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine. Ranney pressed McDaniels and Federal Way (WA) for much of the game, stunting their offensive flow and his ability to catch and shoot comfortably. At 6’10”, McDaniels has an unusual gift for perimeter play, and shoots it with soft touch—he’s built like a stretch-four, but seems to want to play the three.
McDaniels still prefers to shoot jumpers rather than attack the rim, which may have something to do with his skinny upper half limiting his ability to play through contact. He can be a terrifying cover, but it was somewhat concerning that Lewis, a bigger wing, was able to take him out of the game for so much of the time. In terms of talent, there are few bigs with his skill package who can score so convincingly from the perimeter, but whether he can become an alternative at No. 1 will come down to consistency and his physical development. Looking at the thin frame of his brother Jaden, who is on the 2019 first-round fringe at San Diego State, there should be some level of concern about how much stronger he can get. His recruitment is thought to be down to Washington, his hometown school, and Kentucky, who could badly use his floor-spacing ability and scoring.
It’s too early to bother trying to handicap this based on the small sample we’ve seen up close, and Anthony will warrant a close look later this season when healthy. There may not be a Zion Williamson or Ben Simmons who sweeps everyone off their feet and makes this an easy choice. But the spring circuit of All-Star events will be another key evaluation setting for these guys to leave better impressions.
Enter Evan Mobley
For my money, the best overall prospect in high school basketball is Evan Mobley, who is a junior and on a path where the top selection in 2021 will be within reach. A 6’11” big with extreme length and an impressive level of skill and coordination, it’s not an exaggeration to say that Mobley’s talent and role potential falls somewhere on what we’ll call the Anthony Davis/Jaren Jackson Jr. spectrum. He basically has every gift you could ask for, and seems to have the whole playing hard thing nailed down at a young age, which is not always common for guys that tall and gifted. Mobley’s Rancho Christian (CA) team fell to McEachern (GA) on Monday, but his full array of skills were on display, from easy two-footed dunks to rangy blocks. His hands and feet are particularly impressive, and after a freshman-year growth spurt, he’s still getting used to his body. Mobley shot a pair of jumpers that went up soft and with touch, and told the Front Office he hopes to expand his game somewhere in the direction of perimeter-centric bigs like Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
While it’s not exactly likely that things pan out in that direction—Mobley has a natural handle but has a long way to go as far as looking like a guard—they certainly don’t have to for him to become a legitimate anchor at the next level. He is estimably further along than Jackson was when we evaluated him at about the same age, and as his body fills out, Mobley could really end up being a special player. His brother and teammate Isaiah, who’s also a prospect, albeit a less-gifted one, will play for USC this fall, where their father is an assistant coach. Evan remains uncommitted, and Andy Enfield’s program is enduring real struggles this season, but provided things stay constant, it seems likely Mobley, a native of Southern California, ends up there. But when it comes to his NBA potential, his talent is such that the landing spot probably won’t matter. Stay tuned.
Scottie Lewis, SF, The Ranney School (NJ)
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 185 | Draft-Eligible: 2020
Lewis was among the weekend’s top individual performers, with some eye-opening work defending Jaden McDaniels by himself for much of the game as Ranney topped Federal Way on Monday. He was focused, aggressive and used his length and agility to harry one of the more difficult players to defend in the country and limit his comfortable touches. While racking up 26 points, eight rebounds and three steals, Lewis showcased a much-improved jumper and pull-up game. He remains an outstanding run-jump athlete, which has proven applicable to his success, but the breadth of his skill set really pops, although there are still times where he tries to do too much, and bouts of inconsistency. He’ll be huge for Florida next season, and as a player with strong intangibles, plays both ends and offers a solid floor, Lewis continues to track as a lottery-caliber prospect.
Bryan Antoine, G, The Ranney School (NJ)
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 170 | Draft-Eligible: 2020
Every bit as impressive was Antoine, a high end quick-twitch athlete and Villanova commit who looks to have come a long way in terms of assertiveness. Against Federal Way, he scored 23 points and stole the ball five times, showing terrific instincts for jumping the passing lanes, and proving an extremely difficult player to slow down in transition. The way Antoine darts around the floor and is able to get to spots is pretty special, and he may well be the most talented player Jay Wright has ever recruited. He can get into the paint essentially whenever he wants, finishes well with either hand, and impressed from a competitive standpoint as well. Defensively, he could be a plus-plus option as he gets stronger. While his playmaking skills and three-point shooting are still developing and his build is naturally slender, Antoine’s overall package of strengths makes him an extremely interesting name to follow going into next season, and should make him the rare Villanova one-and-done.
Josh Green, SG, IMG Academy (FL)
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 200 | Draft-Eligible: 2020
As college-ready a wing as there is in his class, Green is set to make an instant impact at Arizona next fall alongside fellow high-end prospect Nico Mannion, and was predictably solid (19 points, 10 rebounds, three assists) as IMG edged Oak Hill on Sunday night. He will be in the one-and-done conversation next year, as there are few holes in his skill set. The Australia-born Green is an effortless athlete and plays with a lot of toughness, particularly on the defensive end where he is agile and long enough to defend all over the perimeter. He projects with a sort of super-utility player upside, with the right type of feel to slash, move the ball, play above the rim and contribute on the glass without needing his number called a ton. His long-term ceiling is tied to how much he can improve creating shots for himself, as pulling up off the dribble does not yet come naturally, although his jump shot looks passable. Whether or not Green expands that part of his game, he will present bankable value for teams, and may end up part of the mid-to-late lottery conversation for 2020.
Brandon Boston, G/F, Norcross (GA)
Height: 6’6” | Weight: 175 | Draft-Eligible: 2021
It feels like low-hanging fruit to state this outright (and it’s not just because they share a first name), but Boston’s frame and build are eerily reminiscent of Brandon Ingram around the same age. While he is not quite as tall or as wiry, that statement points to the obvious upside in his skill set: he has a terrific shooting touch, promising pull-up game, and is much more athletic than he looks at a glance, particularly from a vertical standpoint. He was impressively focused during Norcross’s blowout of Roselle Catholic on Saturday, turning in 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting (4-for-7 from outside) while also making an impact defensively with his rangy length. Boston’s frame has not yet matured, and while he’ll never be a thickly-built player, a key for him going forward will be adding functional strength, which might enable him to become more of a downhill-oriented scorer. He turned one of the weekend’s more eye-opening performances, has offers from every blue-blood school, and looks to have a tantalizing ceiling as a scorer.
Jonathan Kuminga, SF, Our Savior New American (NY)
Height: 6’8” | Weight: 195 | Draft-Eligible: 2022
Well on his way to becoming one of the most sought-after recruits in the country, Kuminga poured in 28 points and shot 4-of-8 from beyond the arc in a one-point loss to the Patrick School on Saturday night. While the Congo native is still learning to impact the game in ways beyond scoring (he had just one rebound), his physical tools are immense, and he is already very difficult to knock off his line going toward the basket. His footwork, jump shooting and overall ball skills are well ahead of the curve, and when coupled with his mature frame, it’s easy to see high-end upside as a scorer. He should have no issue impacting the game defensively and on the glass as his approach improves. Though Kuminga is a sophomore, his date of birth would make him draft-eligible as soon as 2021 if he is able to reclass up a year. It’s not a stretch to posit that he could be among the first players chosen in that draft as his development continues.
Isaiah Stewart (La Lumiere) made waves with his commitment to Washington over the weekend and will be on the one-and-done radar next year with his strong build, productive rebounding and intangibles. His offensive skill set is a work in progress and he will be nitpicked from a rim protection perspective, but his energy and leadership are going to help him…Cade Cunningham (Montverde, class of 2020) will be of interest from an NBA standpoint, with great positional size as a 6’6” lead guard, a nice-looking jumper and solid decision-making skills…Kentucky commit Kahlil Whitney (Roselle Catholic) will be in the first-round picture next year based on great physical tools and scoring ability on the wing, but shot selection was an issue for him on Saturday…Villanova will have two strong program fits in addition to Bryan Antoine, with Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (IMG) and Justin Moore (DeMatha Catholic) both skilled, intelligent players who will slot in nicely…Wichita State should be getting a college-ready guard in Tyson Etienne (Putnam Science), whose toughness and steady play does call former Shockers guard Fred Van Vleet to mind…Balsa Koprivica (Montverde) turned in a productive weekend and has intriguing tools up front, although consistency has been a factor. He could help immediately at Florida State in the fall…DJ Steward (Whitney Young, class of 2020) has an intriguing ceiling on the defensive side of the ball and could become a legitimate backcourt stopper as his game matures.