Ranking the Top 16 NBA Prospects in the Sweet 16

Missed the Cut

Admiral Schofield, Tennessee

Ashton Hagans, Kentucky

Chuma Okeke, Auburn

Carsen Edwards, Purdue

Killian Tillie, Gonzaga

Louis King, Oregon

Naz Reid, LSU

Iggy Brazdeikis, Michigan

Charles Matthews, Michigan

Zach Norvell, Gonzaga

HM: Tre Jones, Duke

Duke freshman Tre Jones is the definition of a pure point guard. The younger brother of Tyus Jones, Tre is the 4th wheel of Duke’s freshman class. He’s truly their point guard, setting up the other three with an impressive 5.8 assists per game. Tre’s passing and ballhandling are his main strengths, as well as his on-ball defense. However, Jones is only 6-1, 175, which draws lots of concern over his ability to defend bigger guards in the NBA. Possibly the most glaring weakness in his game is his three-point shooting, 23% at Duke. That has to improve if he wants to see the floor in the NBA.

16. Ty Jerome, Virginia

Jerome has been UVA’s point guard this season, averaging over 5 assists. His combination of shooting and passing is impressive, he’s made 40% of his threes this year. Jerome is an excellent defender at the college level and has size at 6-5, 195. Still, the main weakness in his game is his lack of athleticism. Jerome is slow for an ACC guard, not to mention an NBA guard. He won’t be able to create his own shot at the next level, but projects as a solid spot-up shooter and playmaker.

15. Cam Johnson, North Carolina

Carolina senior Cam Johnson is one of the best shooters in the draft, making 46% of his threes and 55% of his twos. That scoring efficiency is hard to find in other prospects in the draft, and it’s the main selling point for Cam’s draft stock. Still, he’s not the most athletic or creative scorer, so he doesn’t project as a first option in the NBA. Johnson’s defense isn’t great, but he’s also not a liability on that end. Johnson is one of the most NBA-ready role players in the draft.

14. Grant Williams, Tennessee

The SEC player of the year, Williams has been one of the best players in the college ranks this season. How his game translates to the NBA is another conversation. Williams doesn’t have great ball handling skills or athleticism at 6-7, so he doesn’t project as a perimeter player. Still, a back-to-basket power forward is a rarity in today’s game, so it’s hard to see where Williams projects. He’s got solid footwork and playmaking on offense, but his defense is a concern, especially on the perimeter. If Williams can move his feet on the perimeter and show the ability to create on offense or improve his jumper, he has a place as a role player in the league.

13. PJ Washington, Kentucky

PJ Washington is a slender, crafty forward at Kentucky. Currently dealing with a foot injury, it’s yet to be announced when he will return. Washington is a uniquely good playmaker for his position, with impressive awareness and feel for his teammates. He’s quick enough to project as a switchable defender, but not athletic enough to create off the dribble at the next level. Washington’s all-around play and defensive versatility makes him an intriguing NBA prospect.

12. Tyler Herro, Kentucky

Herro is a sniper from downtown who can hit spot ups and use the dribble to create his own shot. He’s also a great defender, able to shut down guards and wings alike. At 6-6 with a 6-10 wingspan, he’s got the size to be a wing in the NBA with point guard skills. However, he’s not a great athlete which contributes to a large amount of doubt that he’ll be able to get to the rim in the NBA. Still, Herro projects as a three and D role player with some creating skills.

11. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Virginia Tech

The first cousin of Clippers rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nickeil is a similarly built combo guard, at 6-5, 210 with a 6-9 wingspan. He’s already a very good outside shooter, at 38% this season, and with his size and handle, Alexander-Walker is a crafty scorer at the college level. He’s also an excellent defender and an above-average playmaker. However, NAW isn’t the most athletic, which causes concern for his ability to create shots in the NBA. He’s also pretty slim and may struggle to take on stronger guards as they drive through him. Still, he’s a well-rounded prospect and should be a lottery pick.

10. Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga

A junior forward from Gonzaga, Rui has an NBA-ready body. At 6-8, 225, with a 7-2 wingspan, Hachimura projects as a combo forward in the NBA. He’s strong and athletic, with good IQ on both ends. Rui can become a switchable NBA defender, but he has limited skills on the offensive end. He’s very selective from deep, shooting 0.9 threes per game, but making 46% of them, which makes it very hard to predict his shooting in the NBA. Regardless, he’ll be able to get to the rim with power, despite lackluster ball handling. Hachimura is a high-floor, well-built prospect who should go in the lottery.

9. Keldon Johnson, Kentucky

Keldon Johnson is an excellent all-around scorer. He’s not overwhelmingly athletic, but he’s making 40% of his threes and he’s a crafty creator and strong finisher. His playmaking and defense are above average, and he doesn’t necessarily project as a superstar or a #1 option, but Johnson can be a good complementary player at the next level. At 6-6 with a 6-9 wingspan, he’s a prototypical two-guard who will certainly be a contributing role player at the very least.

8. Nassir Little, North Carolina

Nassir Little is one of the hardest prospects to figure out. Before this season, Little was ranked the 3rd best recruit in the nation, behind Barrett and Reddish, and ahead of Williamson. But his rough season at Carolina has really hurt his stock. Little is shooting 48% from the field, and 27% from three. He’s 6-6 with a freakish 7-2 wingspan, and projects as one of the best defenders in the draft, with the potential to switch onto multiple positions. Nassir is also a very athletic prospect, which gives him great potential on the offensive end if he can put it together. He’s shown the ability to score in transition and on straight line drives, but he’s still a very raw prospect when it comes to his ability to create on offense. Little is a low-floor, high-ceiling guy.

7. Coby White, North Carolina

The Tar Heels’ lightning-quick point guard, White’s stock is trending up. One thing he’s proven is that he can fill it up. Per 36 minutes, White averages 21, 5, and 5. He leads UNC’s up-tempo offense and has shown a unique ability to lead the break. Although he isn’t an above the rim finisher, he’s got some moves around the rim that make up for it. White’s also shooting 38% from three, with lots of those attempts coming off the dribble. He’s also a solid playmaker who can project as an NBA starting point guard. Although there are questions about White’s size and defense, he’ll likely be a top 10 pick, and he’s one of the most fun prospects to watch.

6. DeAndre Hunter, Virginia

Hunter is a prototypical 3-and-D wing. At 6-7, 220, with a 7-0 wingspan, he’s got NBA size. Hunter’s making 45% of this threes at Virginia this season. Although that’s a small sample size (in part due to UVA’s slow pace), if he can keep that percentage in the 40s, he’ll be a very valuable NBA wing. Hunter’s strong enough to score in a few ways in college, but he projects as a spot-up shooter who isn’t much of a creator. His defense is very solid, and he’s got switchable tools, which makes him a great candidate for that 3-and-D wing role in the NBA, although he probably won’t become a superstar.

5. Cam Reddish, Duke

Reddish is one of the most frustrating players in this draft. He’s shown some incredible flashes as a big, athletic, smooth scorer who can stroke it from anywhere on the floor and gets buckets in a variety of ways. In high school and AAU, we saw some absurdly impressive games from him. However, at Duke, Reddish has been an inefficient, careless role player. He’s jacking up 8 threes a game, hitting 33% of them, and really not attacking or trying to score in other ways. He hasn’t had the ball much, partly thanks to the presence of the other three freshmen, but still, you’d like to see a more aggressive Reddish who exerts effort on both sides of the ball. He’s got one of the highest ceilings in the draft, with a good shooting stroke, freakish size, and athleticism (6-8, 7-0 wings) and flashes of point skills and playmaking to pair with switchable defense. That sounds like an MVP candidate. But he’s also shown some Jeff Green/Andrew Wiggins qualities that scare scouts.

4. Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech

Jarrett Culver is a do-it-all guard from Texas Tech. Culver is a gamer, he’s not afraid to take and make big shots, making 49% of his field goals and 34% of his threes, including lots of difficult attempts off the dribble. Culver has no real weaknesses in his game, he’s a solid defender, has shown playmaking skills, is a very good rebounder and can score in many ways. The concern I have with Culver’s game is that he’s a good athlete, but not a great one. It’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to get to the rim at the NBA level, which would prevent him from becoming a main scoring option. Still, Culver can project as a 3-and-D role player, as well. At the very least, he’ll be able to contribute, but his ceiling is still unknown.

3. Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga

Clarke is probably my personal favorite prospect in this draft. 6-8, 215 lbs, and needs to fill out his frame, but Clarke is very athletic for his size and often handles the ball as a point forward for the Zags. He’s registered more blocks than missed shots this season, shooting 72% from the field and averaging 4.0 blocks per 36 minutes. Clarke is probably the best rim protector in the draft, and he’s also a very good perimeter defender. Offensively, he’s still raw, but at the very least he can be a rim-runner, and with his unique ball handling, he could fill into a Pascal Siakam-type role. Lots of unknowns with Clarke but he’s a very intriguing player.

2. R.J. Barrett, Duke

Barrett is the 2nd-best freshman phenom on Duke’s roster this season, but he’s quite the prospect in his own right. Unlike Reddish, Barrett is a gamer. He plays hard on both ends, he’s competitive, and he clearly loves to win. RJ can score in a variety of ways. He’s very athletic, with an explosive first step and an impressive vertical, and can also score with finesse in the midrange and finish around bigs. Barrett’s mid-range game draws DeMar DeRozan comparisons. He needs to improve his three-pointer, 31% at Duke, but he’s also a great defender and has shown playmaking flashes. Barrett’s an excellent prospect, and it’s rare to find a player of his caliber. Don’t let Zion overshadow him too much.

1. Zion Williamson, Duke

There’s not a lot I can say about Zion that hasn’t already been said. Check out my piece from last week, where I broke down five different paths for his career. Zion is a one-of-a-kind player. 6-7, 285 with a 45 inch vertical is downright absurd. Read that again and try to process those numbers. Pick any two, and you get an unprecedented combination. Add in the third, and it’s a generational prospect. He’s also got the exact mentality you’d want out of a top pick, and he’s shown some great skills–finishing around the rim, playmaking, and 41% from three since New Year’s. Zion deserves all the hype, and I can’t wait to see him on an NBA team.

  
I grew up in a small town in Indiana, about an hour outside of Chicago. I’ve been a diehard Chicago sports fan my entire life, and basketball has always been my favorite sport. In high school, I founded a Sports Media Club, where my classmates and I wrote articles and produced podcasts. After graduating, I kept writing and podcasting on my own. Now I’m a freshman at Purdue University, and I am excited to join Lineups and continue to further the growth of the content side of the site.

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