Predicting Stat Lines for Each Incoming 5-Star Freshman in 2014-15 CBB Season
The 24 incoming college basketball freshmen listed as 5-star prospects by Rivals.com walk into situations of varying urgency on their new teams. While one player may be allowed to set foot on the court fully aware that he is "the man," another might focus on learning the differences in the college game behind or alongside a fully established star.
Barring injury, each will still be a major part of his team's success in the 2014-15 season. These 23 players (No. 2 overall recruit Emmanuel Mudiay is absent, as he is bolting for China) should all get their chances to put up numbers, but how much will they contribute?
Join us for a purely unscientific look into the crystal ball to determine how hard these elite recruits will do just that—ball.
Players ordered by rank in Rivals150, last updated May 13, 2014.
24. JaQuan Lyle, Oregon
With the dismissal of Dominic Artis back in April, Oregon has to rely on three freshmen to battle for its point guard job, and the smart money is on 6'5" matchup nightmare JaQuan Lyle. Not only will he be able to see over the top of most opposing playmakers, his 215-pound frame will be difficult for smaller guards to keep out of the lane. He should also be strong enough to finish in traffic.
Lyle will need to score, and score in bunches, because mighty Duck scoring machine Joseph Young needs all the help he can get. There's only 8.6 points per game on scholarship from last year's team, and the bulk of that was produced by reserve forward Elgin Cook.
If he has trouble finding his shot early on, we should still look for Lyle to rack up solid assist figures. All he'll need to do is find Young, who promises to be this season's T.J. Warren—the biggest "throw it to him and get out of his way" player in the five power conferences.
One caveat on Lyle, however: According to Matt Prehm of Oregon's 247Sports site, Duck Territory, Lyle has yet to be admitted to UO. The school's admissions office apparently means business, since forward Ray Kasongo was denied in late July.
Projected Line (if admitted): 13.5 points, 5.8 assists per game
23. Isaac Copeland, Georgetown
Georgetown could be a very solid contender in a Big East Conference dying for someone to challenge Villanova. To do so, however, the Hoyas will need their freshman class to hit the ground running, and the man most likely to have his track shoes on is 6'9" forward Isaac Copeland.
Copeland should have no issues scoring from anywhere on the court, with a jumper that will make defenses pay for collapsing on drives from Hoya star D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera. Listed at 210 pounds, Copeland's not really built for low-post battles—yet—but it doesn't stop him from scrapping on the glass.
Georgetown will be helped immensely by mercurial center Josh Smith getting his focus on class and basketball, but you and I would also be helped immensely by winning the lottery—and both appear about as likely to happen these days.
So, Copeland may find himself starting next to sophomore Reggie Cameron or senior Mikael Hopkins, and it's still very likely that Copeland will be included in the Hoyas' top five. CSN Washington reporter Ben Standig even invoked the name of GU All-American Otto Porter in a Copeland comparison. That's some praise.
Projected Line: 13.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.2 APG
22. James Blackmon, Indiana
It only seems like James Blackmon Jr. committed to Indiana about the time his parents started investing in Pull-Ups, but it was actually just September of 2010. Yes, that's still quite a while ago.
IU fans panting for a savior may not quite get their wish this season, but Blackmon will still be an exciting piece of an offense that can desperately use more of what he brings—that being the potential to catch fire, NBA Jam-style, from the arc.
Hoosiers not named Yogi Ferrell shot only 30 percent from long range last season, so Blackmon's shooting stroke will be immediately welcome. He'll be expected to start next to Ferrell from the season's opening tip, and it's unlikely that he'll lose that status unless he starts chucking up a ton of ill-advised bricks.
Aside from his perimeter game, Blackmon's no slouch inside the arc either. He has potential to lead the Hoosiers in scoring if Ferrell settles into more of a distributor role. We're not 100 percent sold on that happening, therefore the projections for Blackmon are tempered slightly.
Also, how will he handle the pressure that comes from being the talismanic prospect that coach Tom Crean landed by fighting off the evil Kentucky empire?
Projected Line: 14.3 PPG, 38.0 3-pt. FG%
21. Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
At 5'9" and 145 pounds or so, Tyler Ulis will have his share of moments where he's the speed bump and an opposing player is the car, similar to the picture above. When he's upright, though, the rest of the Kentucky Wildcats will have a good time playing with the capable—and willing—distributor.
The first out-of-state scholarship player shorter than 6'0" to come to Kentucky since at least 1950, per NextCats, Ulis is likely to spend his first year as an understudy to much larger sophomore Andrew Harrison (6'6", 215 lbs). Harrison, like most of the Cats, found a groove in March after struggling under the weight of ludicrous expectations.
If the starters are humble and hungry throughout the 2014-15 campaign, Ulis will still have enormous value as a change-of-pace playmaker. His vision and quickness help him pick out passing lanes that will produce an array of easy baskets for the Wildcats' sizable stable of big men.
The Cats were frequently guilty of hero-ball tactics last season, as only 44.4 percent of their baskets came off an assist. While more of the same could continue with Harrison leading the offense, Ulis should be allowed to be the primary facilitator when he enters the game. While he may only see 15 minutes per game, there's still the potential for him to lead UK in assists—steals, too, perhaps.
Projected Line: 4.2 PPG, 4.4 APG, 1.2 SPG
20. Devin Robinson, Florida
One man's misfortune opened a door for incoming Florida forward Devin Robinson. A season-ending ACL tear to wing DeVon Walker left some minutes—and potentially a starting spot—available for the 2014-15 campaign, but Robinson may need a little more seasoning to seize them.
The makeup of Florida's frontcourt could fluctuate from matchup to matchup, with a trio of Dorian Finney-Smith/Chris Walker/Jon Horford serving as a defensive platoon. Offensively, the Gators have more firepower with Robinson at the 3, Finney-Smith at the 4 and Walker as the nominal center.
Robinson has the kind of shooting range that will make him an attractive alternative to the sometimes-sizzling, sometimes-sputtering shot of Finney-Smith, but DFS is hard to bench completely because of his elite rebounding ability and physical gifts.
No matter whether he starts a game or not, Robinson is still likely to see something close to 20-25 minutes per game, and he can make some noise given that amount of time. His defensive productivity will decide his fate. Robinson's a decent shot-blocker, but don't expect miracles on the glass straight away.
Projected Line: 9.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.1 BPG
19. Chris McCullough, Syracuse
If you want to be a contrarian, spurn Jahlil Okafor and look for another winner for ACC Freshman of the Year, there are much worse choices than new Syracuse forward Chris McCullough.
A 6'10" athlete who will get up and down the floor like a guard, McCullough is a key piece for a Syracuse team that should push tempo more than usual. Without a proven scorer returning, the Orange will seek more opportunities in transition, an area where McCullough should excel.
Where he may struggle is in the finer details of Syracuse's 2-3 zone, but physically, he's more than equipped. McCullough's wingspan was measured at 7'3" at a 2013 USA Basketball camp, according to DraftExpress.
If he comes to compete on day one, McCullough could be the most dominant player at Syracuse since—dare we say—Carmelo Anthony. If not, he's still talented enough to have a similar impact to, say, Perry Jones' at Baylor.
Of course, getting PJIII when you're hoping for Melo is like expecting a bacon-wrapped filet mignon and being handed a Whopper. It's good, but not exactly life-changing.
Projected Line: 16.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 1.8 BPG
18. D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State
Much like new Big Ten rival James Blackmon, D'Angelo Russell is joining a team that can desperately use his scoring abilities. For all the veteran savvy Ohio State sported last season, the Buckeyes were simply a poor offensive outfit. Losing that team's three top scorers may or may not help change fortunes on that end, but Aaron Craft's graduation can't help but hurt the defense.
Russell's scoring will therefore be all the more important to OSU's chances of staying in Big Ten contention. He's a capable three-point threat who should sink a higher percentage than Sam Thompson's team-high 35.5 from last season.
Craft and erstwhile backup Shannon Scott were/are not three-point threats, which made a defense's job too easy. Simply sag off the guards, cut off penetration and force a bad shooter to take a bad shot. Russell can play either guard position, so his bringing the ball upcourt makes for a much larger menu of options than anything Craft or Scott could/can produce at the point.
At 6'4", Russell is also more of a physical threat on defense, capable of keeping the Buckeyes' tradition of grand theft basketball alive and kicking.
Back in June, I forecast Maryland's Romelo Trimble as the pick for Big Ten Freshman of the Year, in the midst of concerns over Russell's late-arriving transcripts. Now that Russell is cleared, the race is well and truly on. (And cue the angry mob stumping for Blackmon once again.)
Projected Line: 15.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.1 APG, 2.1 SPG, 40.5 3-pt. FG%
17. Theo Pinson, North Carolina
Don't expect Theo Pinson to walk straight onto the North Carolina campus as a starter. He's not as much a shooter as his classmate Justin Jackson, and junior J.P. Tokoto has experience on his side. However, if you're interested in a little action on ACC Sixth Man of the Year, Pinson would make a fine bet.
A Tar Heel defense that was effective, if not overly aggressive, last season should get an extra shot of intensity with Pinson on the floor. He takes a particular dose of pride in disrupting offenses by sticking an obstacle in the passing lane, whether he can take a turnover the other way or not.
"It can take time off the shot clock," Pinson said to the Associated Press (via the News & Record, Greensboro, North Carolina). "It can destroy a whole lot of stuff you don't even think about. ... You focus on stopping the man, but if you get the ball, they can't do nothing with it."
Those transition moments will be where Pinson makes his offensive bones for now, making him very similar to Tokoto, who still isn't a perimeter threat two years in. The two of them together will give opposing wings ulcers at very young ages.
Projected Line: 6.7 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.2 SPG
16. Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall
Four years into his tenure at Seton Hall, coach Kevin Willard is 66-66 with zero NCAA tournament appearances. He's expecting that to change with the addition of a top-15 recruiting class spearheaded by New York City scoring machine Isaiah Whitehead.
Whitehead will occasionally dazzle with his shooting range, a trait that he recently showed off on Instagram. Of course, like many great shooters, he'll frequently exasperate with his shot selection. NBC Sports' Rob Dauster quoted one recruiting analyst in referring to Whitehead as “the best bad shot maker in the country."
The Pirates return only three scorers who averaged more than 3.0 points per game, so it's very reasonable to expect that Whitehead will get the green light every time down the court.
The departures of Doug McDermott from Creighton and Bryce Cotton from Providence leave the Big East without a true dominant scorer, but Whitehead's very capable of stepping into that void. Don't be a bit surprised if he leads the conference in scoring and the Pirates sometimes appear disjointed while Whitehead hunts baskets.
Projected Line: 18.3 PPG, 35.5 3-pt. FG%
15. Dwayne Morgan, UNLV
UNLV lost its top five scorers in a whirlwind offseason, but the addition of a Rivals top-five recruiting class still engenders some optimism. While Baltimore wing Dwayne Morgan may not set the scoring charts aflame, his impact on nearly every other area of the game may be felt immediately.
Rebels coach Dave Rice indicated to Taylor Bern of the Las Vegas Sun that Morgan will spend a lot of time playing power forward this season, a position for which he may not be ideally built right away. Sure, he's 6'8" with decent length, but he's also listed between 190 and 205 pounds, depending on the source. A lot of time in the weight room looms in his future.
Known primarily as a defensive stopper, Morgan could find himself playing a sixth-man role behind sophomore Christian Wood and fellow frosh Goodluck Okonoboh. It's probably more likely, though, that Morgan and Wood will comprise the Rebels' front line on opening night.
If Morgan can add muscle, he can handle the grunt work on the glass, much like similarly built ex-Rebel Roscoe Smith. It's not out of the question that he could guard all five positions on the floor before the season's up, even if those contributions may not lead to a bunch of sexy crooked numbers on his stat line.
Projected Line: 7.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 1.5 BPG
14. Daniel Hamilton, UConn
At 6'7", Daniel Hamilton is enough of a tall and lengthy athlete that he should be able to spend his freshman season on the wing, safely escaping a major logjam at UConn's off-guard position.
Wherever he's listed, he'll fit in well with the other versatile athletes whom coach Kevin Ollie has assembled. NC State transfer Rodney Purvis and Hamilton are perhaps the two highest-profile newcomers, but both need some work on playing within a team structure.
Hamilton is a gifted scorer from anywhere on the court, but he must bulk up a bit to handle contact both on the defensive end and during his drives to the lane. With Hamilton being an occasional ball-stopper in his high school offense, look for Ollie and the staff to spend time making sure that Hamilton is willing to move the ball elsewhere rather than take ugly contested shots.
His freshman year shouldn't be as rocky as the departed DeAndre Daniels' was, but he'll still have his moments where the coaches will staple him to the bench.
Projected Line: 9.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 36.9 3-pt. FG%
13. Trey Lyles, Kentucky
Minutes, minutes, minutes. There are only 200 available in any given game, and Kentucky has a lot of bodies to spend its 200 on. Indianapolis product Trey Lyles should find a niche, but his prospects for becoming a starter are still hazy.
Lyles is perhaps the most polished offensive player on the entire UK roster, but he's not the athlete Marcus Lee is, he's not the defensive stopper Willie Cauley-Stein is, and he doesn't quite have Karl-Anthony Towns' shooting range.
Lyles' points will come in the mid-range and through an array of post moves, a skill that he has over all of his teammates. He's a solid rebounder, but he's a sneakier producer than his frequently spectacular teammates. Consider him similar to Kansas big man Perry Ellis, and he could have a similar rookie season. Watch out for him in March, or any time injuries strike the Wildcats' post stable.
Projected Line: 6.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 58.8 FG%
12. Justise Winslow, Duke
As I forecast earlier this week, expect Justise Winslow to slot right into the Duke starting lineup, barring Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones making sweet music together in the backcourt. Calling Winslow a "glue guy" seems almost demeaning for one of the nation's elite prospects, but he'll set an example for older and more celebrated teammates with his unselfish passing and gritty defense.
Winslow's 6'6", 210-pound frame and 6'10" wingspan make him capable of guarding nearly any position on the floor. He should swarm any unsteady ball-handler, frequently sending the flow of play back the other way.
He may dish more assists than Cook this season, whether finding shooters on a kickout or sending entry passes to Jahlil Okafor, which is rarely a bad idea. As for Winslow's scoring, he'll get plenty from simply running with Jones in transition and uncorking some SportsCenter dunks.
Winslow could be a one-and-done Blue Devil, as DraftExpress currently lists him at No. 8 on its 2015 mock draft. If he is, it'll be because he's made a surprising amount of fans with his scoring, because that may be the one thing that he'll need to improve in a second year in Durham.
Projected Line: 9.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.0 BPG
11. Justin Jackson, North Carolina
Justin Jackson enters college alongside another solid prospect, Theo Pinson, who nominally plays the same position. Pinson and junior J.P. Tokoto are very similar players—defense-first athletes who need offensive polish. Jackson's offensive game carries no similar concerns, so expect him to land in the 2-guard role next to Marcus Paige.
Paige was the only reliable scorer on last season's Tar Heel roster, thrust into a role that wasn't his preferred way to play the game. With a shooter like Jackson on the roster, coach Roy Williams has a tailor-made candidate to hit the trailing three-pointer on the break. He's comfortable with a mid-range pull-up, he'll hit floaters in the lane—there really isn't a limit to the ways Jackson can get his points.
The one thing that can undermine Jackson is if he's completely lost on defense. He's not a muscular, strong defender, and questions linger over whether the 6'7" Jackson can defend smaller, quicker players. He'll rarely be outworked on either end, but some weight-room time will be essential.
Projected Line: 12.1 PPG, 50.0 FG%, 41.6 3-pt. FG%
10. Kevon Looney, UCLA
While it's highly unreasonable to expect Kevon Looney to walk onto UCLA's campus and produce 13 rebounds and eight (!) blocks per game as he did in high school, he could very easily step in and become the Pac-12's most productive freshman. In a league adding guys like Stanley Johnson and JaQuan Lyle, that's a hefty statement.
The term often attached to Looney is "blue-collar," meaning he'll attack the glass, body up on the opponent's biggest bruiser and contest every penetration. However, don't take that to mean he's a clueless ball-handler, shooter or passer. He frequently ran the point for his high school team.
He's still working on his jumper, but it's unlikely to be his primary scoring source. Look for him to average 8.0 to 10.0 points per game just on putbacks. Averaging a double-double is no lock, but it's not impossible either.
Projected Line: 14.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 57.1 FG%
9. Myles Turner, Texas
At Texas, Myles Turner faces a major battle for playing time in the post, with veterans Cameron Ridley and Jonathan Holmes seemingly immovable objects in the starting lineup.
But what if Turner spends his offensive possessions on the wing?
Owner of a silky three-point stroke, Turner is still a work in progress with his back to the basket. He has a tendency to drift to the arc anyway, and that becomes an exasperating trait in a player expected to play with a hand up, calling for an entry pass.
While Holmes improved as a three-point shooter last season, he's still more comfortable from the mid-range and in. If the team takes him out of the paint, it deprives the Longhorns of one of the Big 12's most reliable rebounders. Turner can certainly contribute in that area as well, but his superior length makes it less essential that he establish a classic box-out position to clean the glass.
Defensively, Turner's shot-blocking ability can't be denied, so on that end, he can stay in the post all he likes while the Horns take their chances with Holmes defending wing players. If Holmes lets one by, Turner and Ridley are always lurking to clean up. Even if Ridley is stationed at the rim, Turner's quickness and vision make him a dangerous help-side threat.
UT coach Rick Barnes likes to occasionally dig out a 2-3 zone, and a back line of Ridley, Holmes and Turner would be one of the longest, bulkiest frontcourts in America.
While Turner's role is still undefined, he'll get minutes to figure it out. He could give Barnes one of the strangest lineup dilemmas in the country, but he should be well worth all the head-scratching.
Projected Line: 10.7 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 36.4 3-pt. FG%
8. Rashad Vaughn, UNLV
The UNLV Runnin' Rebels could easily start three freshmen, and it should be an upset if shooting guard Rashad Vaughn isn't their leading scorer at season's end.
The 6'5" Vaughn has absurd shooting range, which he's not shy about showing off. He's a physically strong player who can finish through contact. He's a mentally strong player who's capable of forgetting the previous possession's miss.
All this could add up to a player who fires away with little regard for the team concept, sort of a desert version of Marshall Henderson. Coach Dave Rice doesn't exactly have the bench to wield as a hammer if Vaughn can't get his shot selection under control, thanks to the massive turnover from last season's team.
It's not likely to come to that, but still, Vaughn's presence this season turns up the pressure on Rice to prove that he can develop talent as well as he recruits it.
Projected Line: 17.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 39.3 3-pt. FG%
7. Tyus Jones, Duke
The package deal heard 'round college basketball begins to bear fruit this November, as Duke suits up point guard Tyus Jones and center Jahlil Okafor. The two joined forces in Durham not only because they're great friends, but because their games will complement each other nicely.
Jones should step into the Blue Devils' starting point guard role very early, if not immediately. He's a pass-first player not prone to mental breakdowns or seeking his own shot. Incumbent Quinn Cook lost his starting job midway through last season because of just such issues.
There are plenty of shooters and a capable big man surrounding Jones on the Duke roster, which should make it less pressing that he get his own shots—not that he's incapable of doing so, mind you. He'll get the ball to the player with the best look, and if that happens to be him, all the better. He sank more than 40 percent of his threes in Nike EYBL play before his senior year of high school, so he's not one to ignore.
Defensively, Jones does need some improvement. A bit of extra muscle would help, because he'll never be the quickest guard in America. He may gamble a bit too much for steals, seeking to short-circuit his more physically gifted opponents before they can get started, but the Devils' best opponents are unlikely to fall for it.
An ACC assist title isn't out of the question if Jones takes a firm grip on the starting position.
Projected Line: 9.2 PPG, 6.9 APG, 1.4 SPG, 37.3 3-pt. FG%
6. Kelly Oubre, Kansas
At various points this offseason, Kansas fans have attempted to sell me on nearly every Jayhawk putting up at least All-Big 12 numbers. I'm sure there's at least one who is on the Hunter Mickelson bandwagon, but he's about the only player I haven't been upbraided about "disrespecting" or "hating on" or my personal favorite, "sleeping on." That last one would really disturb my wife.
Jokes aside, this brings us to incoming wing Kelly Oubre. If you're high on Oubre's scoring potential, join the club. He's got good range, he's capable of posterizing nearly any defender in America and he's not afraid to pull up for a mid-range shot when needed. He's a more aggressive offensive player than Andrew Wiggins, if slightly less efficient.
His perimeter stroke does need some tuning, as a three-pointer simply looks awkward coming off his hand. He's also still very geared toward his left hand.
Oubre can be a solid wing defender with his expanding frame. He's currently listed at 6'7", 200 pounds with a 7'2" wingspan, all of which will make him a supreme irritant to small forwards who may or may not be capable handlers. If he's interested, that is.
Much is made of Oubre's hunger and competitive drive. On offense, he'll need to guard against that getting the best of him and taking ill-advised shots. More of that fire needs to be channeled toward the defensive end, where he's capable of making a major impact.
In the end, for every possession Oubre uses, that's one that Cliff Alexander can't. Or Wayne Selden. Or Perry Ellis. Or even Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. While Kansas doesn't walk it up by any stretch, it's also not Loyola Marymount circa 1990. So somebody's likely to fall short of 15 points per game.
Who's it going to be, Kansas fan?
Projected Line: 11.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.2 SPG
5. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky
Karl-Anthony Towns enters Kentucky in a similar predicament to Myles Turner at Texas. He's a player with tremendous perimeter skills in a center's body, and he'll need to make sure that one doesn't completely suffocate the other.
Towns can make baskets in the lane with either hand, and his 9'5" standing reach makes him almost impossible to swat without giving up free throws. He can be an excellent rebounder and shot-blocker for that same reason. That is, if he wants to get his hands dirty.
Observers at April's Nike Hoop Summit were impressed with Towns' skill set, but his physicality left a lot to be desired, per Matt Kamalsky of Draft Express. Kentucky can certainly use his shooting ability, but he's not a guard. He'll need to prove he's willing to throw down and fight in the paint if he's going to see the bulk of the minutes at any of UK's frontcourt spots.
After all, there are five other guys in that frontcourt group who are expected to be NBA draft picks at some point in their careers. If Towns is hungry, his versatility can make him dominant. If not, he'll be forced to watch from the bench.
It says here that he figures it out, but it may take a few games—and that there are still a lot of mouths to feed.
Projected Line: 11.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.0 BPG
4. Cliff Alexander, Kansas
Cliff Alexander is only 6'8", meaning he's not the archetypal Kansas rim-protecting center. He's no Cole Aldrich or Jeff Withey, to be sure. But what he may be is a rich man's Darrell Arthur or Markieff Morris, which tells us he's still more than equipped to dominate in college.
While Alexander appears vertically challenged to protect the rim, consider that he has a 7'3" wingspan and a 9'0" standing reach. Both measurements dwarf teammate Perry Ellis—who stands 6'9"—by a good five inches. So, Alexander will still get a few swats on the defensive end despite his height. No one will outwork Alexander on the glass, so be very surprised if he's not KU's leading rebounder.
Offensively, Alexander has gotten by on strength throughout high school, but there are few better places to develop post skills than Kansas. If he's a fast learner, the scoring average projected below will seem highly conservative. If not, his brutal intensity will still nicely complement Ellis' smooth mid-range game—as long as it doesn't land him in recurring foul trouble.
Projected Line: 14.5 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 62.9 FG%
3. Stanley Johnson, Arizona
If there was an award for Defensive All-Americans, Arizona wing Stanley Johnson would probably be first in line to snag one. And then take it the other way and dunk it.
Johnson is a freak among freshmen, with a shredded 6'7", 225-pound frame reminiscent of an NFL tight end. He loves to utilize that size and strength to great effect on the defensive end, where he should stand as one of the Pac-12's most disruptive forces.
Offensively, there are still a few quibbles. Johnson is expected to fill the Wildcats' starting shooting guard role, which is all well and good as he's a matchup nightmare. But he's not a tremendous shooter just yet. Against overmatched opposition at the FIBA Americas U18 championships, Johnson shot merely 47 percent—28.6 percent from deep—despite leading his team in attempts.
That Johnson still won the MVP award at the same competition speaks volumes about how well he played in all other facets of the game.
Similar to the departed Aaron Gordon, Johnson will find his share of points off putbacks and run-outs, many of which he'll start himself by stripping unfortunate opponents. Playing Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson together on a regular basis will mean that Arizona can stop anyone, but the occasional scoring drought will keep many games closer than they should be.
Projected Line: 14.8 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.8 APG, 2.2 SPG, 1.0 BPG
1. Jahlil Okafor, Duke
The package deal heard 'round college basketball—wait, already used that lead. Let's start over.
Jahlil Okafor won't get on SportsCenter's top plays very often. The new Duke big man isn't an explosive athlete or a jaw-dropping dunker.
What he is, is a player who makes basketball plays, usually the right one at the time. He'll score in the paint on hooks, drop steps, up-and-unders—basically anything an NBA coach wants his big men to do, Okafor's already capable of doing it at 18 years old. His hands are soft and his feet are educated, meaning we're not likely to see a ton of stumbling and fumbling in the post.
A very good rebounder and passer, Okafor will have games at which Duke fans will begin murmuring about a potential triple-double with about 15 minutes left. Duke has an arsenal of shooters willing and able to convert kickouts when Okafor can't find a shot of his own.
Okafor's defense lags appreciably behind his offense. He won't block a ton of shots, and big men with perimeter skills will be able to capitalize on his lack of quickness. He has no qualms about banging bodies inside, and at 270 pounds, he'll win a lot more of those collisions than he loses.
Conditioning questions linger, and a tired Okafor could find himself in occasional foul trouble. Still, barring any major surprises, he should be one of the surest things in the Class of 2014.
In perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay, he's sorely tempting me to break my embargo on freshmen on my preseason All-American team. And I wasn't even slightly tempted by Andrew Wiggins.
Okafor's not quite a young Tim Duncan, as Duncan was more athletic in his Wake Forest days. But would you settle for a taller Elton Brand?
Projected Line: 17.7 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 62.2 FG%
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