It’s never to early to start talking about the NBA draft. It may be useless to predict who will have the picks, but we still know who the top prospects are. This will simply be a monthly ranking of the top-10 NBA prospects in college basketball.
1. Ben Simmons — SF/PF, Freshman, LSU
It’s not often that players live up to the hype, but Simmons has. I’ve said it’s unfair to compare him to LeBron, however,games like his 43-14-7 line with three blocks and five steals make the comparison tough to ignore. Like LBJ, Simmons needs to develop a jump shot, but he’s the no-brainer top pick.
2. Skal Labissiere — C, Freshman, Kentucky
Labissiere has gotten off to an inconsistent start, but it’s obvious why he has so much interest from the NBA. At 6’11” he’s shooting 61% from the field and 71% from the FT line, while blocking 2.1 shots per game. Skal should become a more complete scorer in the long run, but for the short term he desperately needs to improve his average of 3.9 boards per game.
3. Brandon Ingram — SF, Freshman, Duke
Ingram has shown so much potential, especially of late. He’s had back-to-back games of 23+ points and 6+ rebounds, but it’s easy to tell he still has so much room to grow. He’s so lanky that you’d have to think he’s going to eventually put on some weight. Combine that with his unique skill set — a kid that had four blocks in his last game and also possesses a Durant-like step back jumper that’s unblockable because of his length — and he arguably has more room to grow than any player in the draft.
4. Jamal Murray — PG/SG, Freshman, Kentucky
Murray plays like the most polished freshman in the country. He always goes at his own pace, and never seems play out of control or feel pressured. At 6’4” he can play both guard positions, and has the ball-handing, court vision and jump shot to actually play both positions well. His consistency at his age is remarkable, and primarily due to his ability to find his own shot. His poise reminds me of a bigger Kemba Walker when he was on the college stage.
5. Jaylen Brown — SF, Freshman, Cal
Brown has as NBA-ready of a body as anyone in college basketball. He’s a freak athlete who also happens to be extremely talented. Brown has been very inconsistent so far, but so have his minutes. The potential is clearly there — check out his 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting against Richmond — but he’ll take time to adjust to the NBA, just as he currently is in college.
6. Kris Dunn — PG, Junior, Providence
I continue to rank him higher than most, but Dunn is so good, and has room to get a lot better. The 6’4” PG can do everything on the floor. He recorded a triple-double against Hartford last week, and has been very close on a few other occasions. Dunn also has three games with 6+ steals, including the season opener against Harvard — 32 points, six boards, five assists, two blocks and EIGHT steals. His shot is developing just as scouts hoped, leaving his biggest strength also as his biggest weakness — speed. Dunn has John Wall potential, but he needs to learn to change pace instead of always going full speed ahead. Sometimes his legs move a little faster than his head, but this kid has all the makings to be special if he figures it all out.
7. Ivan Rabb — PF, Freshman, Cal
Rabb and Brown make Cal a very fun team to watch this season. Rabb has been a little more consistent than Brown, but also hasn’t shown quite as much upside. The lanky big man is fantastic around the rim on both sides of the floor, though — he’s shooting 67% from the field while blocking 1.8 shots and pulling down nearly eight rebounds. The fact that he’s an 80% FT shooter suggests he could be a stretch four in the NBA, which makes his value that much higher.
8. Cheick Diallo — PF, Freshman, Kansas
Free Cheick! You may be aware that the NCAA kept Diallo from playing in his team’s first five games because of an academic issue dating back to middle school … seriously. The kid speaks four languages and is thriving in all his college courses. Anyway, he’s back now, and although he’s not playing a lot of minutes yet, it’s clear why he’s a top NBA prospect. In his first game, Diallo scored 13 points to go with six rebounds and three rejections in just 16 minutes. Let’s give him a chance to get into the swing of things.
9. Domantas Sabonis — PF, Sophomore, Gonzaga
Sabonis has shown NBA scouts exactly what they were hoping to see, raising his numbers in every statistical category. He’s averaging a double-double with 14.4 points and 10.4 boards, something not many college players do. Sabonis has the ability to be an elite scorer, evident by his 26 points in 21 minutes on 12-for-13 shooting in the season opener. He’s also displayed willingness to raise his game against top competition, posting 18 points and 16 rebounds vs. Arizona.
10. Caris LeVert — SG, Senior, Michigan
SMU finally shut down LeVert after his crazy hot start, but the senior has been fantastic for Michigan so far. He can score the ball with ease, and at 6’7” has great size for a SG. His height also helps him rebound the ball, along with pass over the defense to find his teammates. LeVert dropped a season-high 29 against Xavier earlier this season, the type of game he expects to have a lot of with his ability to get to the FT line — something that translates very well to the NBA.
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