College Basketball

College Basketball Recruiting Rankings: B/R's Top 20 Players in Class of 2015

C.J. MooreCollege Basketball National Lead WriterAugust 25, 2014

College Basketball Recruiting Rankings: B/R's Top 20 Players in Class of 2015

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    Andy Manis/Associated Press

    Every class has its strength. From what I saw this summer keeping tabs on the top prospects in the 2015 class, this is the year of the big man.

    Based on Bleacher Report's recruiting rankings—picked using my observations and discussions with college coaches throughout the summer—12 of the top 20 players in this class are big men.

    That's good news for coaches chasing a national title. A lot is made of guard play in the NCAA tournament, but it's hard to win without a big guy. Going into last season, only one national champ in 13 years had won the title without a big man who would eventually get drafted in the first round of the NBA draft.

    Connecticut likely bucked that trend unless one of the Huskies' bigs ends up getting drafted in the first round down the road. Their lack of talent in the post made their run all the more unbelievable.

    Most champs are built inside out. And with that in mind, let's take a look at which 2015 big fellas landed in my top 20 prospects.

20. Chase Jeter, PF

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    It's understandable why a lot of folks are high on Chase Jeter. He's a graceful athlete for his size who can run the floor, rebound and appears to have solid fundamentals. 

    To me, Jeter doesn't have one elite skill that makes him better than any of the other top bigs in this class. That's why I'm not as high on him as others.

    He's not a great scorer, but he has the potential to become a good scorer down the road with a developing jump hook. He's not an elite defender yet, but he has the potential to be a really good defender down the road. Even if the offensive moves never come, Jeter will still be a good fit at Duke, where Mike Krzyzewski is OK with his big guys just defending and rebounding. 

19. Tyler Davis, C

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    Billy Kennedy has struggled to get things rolling at Texas A&M since he took over for Mark Turgeon. The Aggies could be on the upswing after landing a surprise commitment from Tyler Davis last week.

    Davis is a load inside with really good footwork and a great understanding of how to play with his back to the basket. He had Peach Jam buzzing last month after he put up 36 points and 13 rebounds against Team Penny, the tournament runner-up. Davis averaged 19.0 points and 11.2 rebounds for the tournament. He should be a double-double machine for the Aggies.

18. Antonio Blakeney, SG

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    Antonio Blakeney is one of the best shooters and best athletes in this class. He's able to rise up quickly on his jumper, which makes him extremely difficult to defendespecially when he's hot. He's also has good form and balance on his shot.

    Yet Blakeney's numbers this summer don't really support the notion that he's a great shooter. He made 39 of 137 threes (28.5 percent) on the EYBL circuit. The ability to get his shot when he wants is one big reason why he should project as a good scorer on the college level, but his shot selection could use some tinkering. 

17. Stephen Zimmerman, C

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    Stephen Zimmerman has a European flavor to his game. He has a nice mid-range jumper and is one of the best passing big men in this class.

    At 7'0", you'd expect a guy like Zimmerman to play from the blocks, but that's just not where he's comfortable. Zimmerman doesn't have much of a back-to-the-basket game. He could be a nice piece in the right system that utilizes his skill set and plays him in the high post. He also runs the floor well and can finish in transition—his left-handed dunks are violent.

    Zimmerman also has the potential to be a good defender, as he moves well for his size. Just don't expect big scoring numbers from Zimmerman early in his college career. 

16. Deyonta Davis, PF

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    Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has landed another athletic big man who can shoot and is a tremendous athlete in the mold of an Adreian Payne.

    Deyonta Davis is one of the fastest big men in this class and gets off the ground easily with a great second jump. He can knock down a 15-foot jumper, and if he's able to stretch his range out to the three-point line he could be a really effective stretch 4. He also runs the floor really well and does a good job of catching and finishing alley-oops. With the hops and the jumper, he reminds me of former Kansas forward Darrell Arthur. 

15. Brandon Ingram, SF

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    Brandon Ingram often gets compared to Kevin Durant. While that kind of comparison doesn't do anyone favors, it's understandable why it has been made. Ingram, at 6'8", shoots it well and is a really smooth scorer with a super slight frame.

    Like Durant early in his career, Ingram needs to get stronger, but it's rare to be that tall and that smooth. He has upside. Just not Durant-like upside.

14. Carlton Bragg, PF

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    Carlton Bragg is one of several really skilled stretch 4s in this class. He has a nice-looking jumper and finishes well around the basket.

    The perception is that Bragg has a lot of upside and could be great in the right system. One high-major assistant coach said he loves Bragg's skill set and that it's as good as anyone in this class. He just needs "more seasoning."

13. Isaiah Briscoe, SG

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Isaiah Briscoe is not the most talented guard in his class but he's a proven winner. He led the New Jersey Playaz to an EYBL title this summer. He played on the United States' gold-medal team at the FIBA Americas Under-18 Championship in June, and he did a great job adjusting his game to fit with the other great players on the roster.

    That understanding of how to mold his game based on the guys around him is extremely valuable, especially at some of the top programs in the country. Many freshmen have a tough time adjusting to either not being the man or the speed of the game. Briscoe is noticeably advanced in his understanding of how to play.

    Briscoe is a true combo guard and will be able to play either guard spot in college. His best attribute is his ability to get to the free-throw line. He does a good job at getting into the paint and then using his body to draw contact.

12. Allonzo Trier, SG

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The only player in this class who can keep pace getting buckets like Allonzo Trier is Malik Newman. Newman is the better shooter. Trier is the better slasher.

    Trier has a special ability to get to the basket and score. He led EYBL in scoring at 29.4 points per game this summer. He's been used to attention for much of his life after getting featured by The New York Times as a sixth-grader. That can be a detriment to some. Trier seems to be mature and not bothered by the hoopla. That will help him transition to the college game.

    The one question mark surrounding Trier is his defense. One coach told Bleacher Report that Trier has never had to play "a lick of defense" and Sean Miller demands it.

11. Jalen Brunson, PG

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    Most of the top guards in the 2015 class are great scoring guards. Brunson can score, too, but he's more of a traditional point guard who makes others around him better. And the better the players around him, the better Brunson gets.

    Brunson really shined during the FIBA Americas Under-19 Championships in June playing for the United States. He outplayed Duke freshman Tyus Jones during the tournament, showing a great ability to set up his teammates (5.6 assists per game) and create his own offense (12.0 points per game). Brunson shoots the ball well from the perimeter and can get into the paint and finish. 

10. KeVaughn Allen, SG

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    KeVaughn Allen is the most underrated in the class based on where other sites have him ranked. Maybe I caught him at his best—at Peach Jam—because he was one of the best players at that elite tournament.

    Allen averaged 20.9 points and shot 48.8 percent from distance at Peach Jam, helping Team Penny advance to the championship game.

    Allen obviously shot the ball really well that week but his outside shot is not what left me most impressed. It was his combination of effort and athleticism, reminiscent of Victor Oladipo. What often gets overlooked when ranking prospects is defense, and Allen was the best perimeter defender I saw this summer.

    Allen has already committed to Florida and that style is ideal for his game. He'll embrace defending 94 feet and he's at his best offensively in transition.

    Florida is also the type of program where freshmen usually have to wait their turn, so do not expect huge early returns. Allen will likely play behind Michael Frazier as a freshman. Once Frazier graduates, look for Allen to become Florida's starting shooting guard. And if he has an Oladipo-like work ethic, Allen has the ability to become one of the best guards in the country down the road.

9. Cheick Diallo, C

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    Cheick Diallo is super-athletic and active with a lot of upside. He could be put in the project category but he has such good awareness of what his strengths are that he'll be good even if down the road he is what he is now.

    Those strengths include running the floor, simply jumping up and over opponents to finish in the paint and using his length and quickness as a shot-blocker on the defensive end. It's hard to find bigs with Diallo's combination of length, athleticism, strength and motor, and that's why he's so highly ranked for a guy who is not overly skilled.

8. Henry Ellenson, PF

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    Andy Manis/Associated Press

    Henry Ellenson is one of the most skilled players in this class. Not just one of the most skilled big men, but one of the most skilled, period. He can shoot it, handle it, pass and score with either hand and he's 6'10".

    One high-major assistant coach said that Ellenson was the best player at the LeBron James Skills Academy. That's high praise considering the caliber of talent at the James camp.

7. Skal Labissiere, C

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    Skal Labissiere is a skilled big man who can stretch the floor and shoot comfortably out to the three-point line. He has a strong face-up game and can score off the dribble.

    One high-major coach told Bleacher Report that he believes Labissiere is the best big man in the class. Some prefer Ivan Rabb or Diamond Stone. I haven't seen enough of Labissiere to feel comfortable putting him at the top, but his reputation earns him a top-10 ranking.

6. Ivan Rabb, PF

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    Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

    Ivan Rabb is a tough player to rate because one game he'll look like an All-American and the next he'll be nearly invisible.

    The most impressive part of Rabb's game is his footwork on the blocks and ability to shoot with either hand. He was a lefty when he first started playing basketball and then switched to shooting with his right hand in fourth grade. He can easily score with both inside.

    That combination of great footwork and the ability to score over either shoulder is why he's such a special prospect. He has a ton of potential, but he needs to play for a team that makes it a priority to get him the ball and a coach who can get him to be aggressive all the time. If that happens, Rabb may end up the best post player in this class.

5. Caleb Swanigan, C

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    Francois Nel/Getty Images

    His nickname is Biggie, and he doesn't shy away from playing to his name.

    Swanigan loves to bully on the blocks and he says his goal every time he touches it is to get a layup. That seems obvious when you're as big and strong as he is—he's 6'9" and 260 pounds and probably the strongest post player in his class. At one time, Swanigan was a left tackle with some of the best football programs in the country giving chase until he decided to stick to hoops.

    It's not always a given that a big man understands how to use his body to his advantage. Swanigan absolutely does. He's great at sealing his man in the post and giving his teammates a wide target. Once he gets the ball, he's not in a hurry and does a good job using his body to shield off shot-blockers. That's also helped him become an elite rebounder. He led the EYBL in rebounding (12.0 per game) this past summer.

    The chatter on the recruiting trail is that Michigan State is considered the favorite to land Swanigan. He'd be a good fit there or with any program where they make feeding the post a priority.

4. Jaylen Brown, SF

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    Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Getty Images

    Jaylen Brown has one of the highest ceilings in this class and so much talent that it's hard to see him fail. The way Brown moves and how he attacks reminds me of Arizona incoming freshman Stanley Johnson.

    Like Johnson, Brown has a great first step and is extremely powerful at the rim. He's one of those players who looks like he's shot out of a cannon when he attacks. He also handles it well for his size—6'7"—and has a nice mid-range jumper.

    The one question that I have with Brown is how he's going to handle adversity. In June, Brown played in the FIBA Americas Under-18 Championships for the United States, and his effort was not always there. Brown did enter the tournament under the weather, which might be why his energy wasn't the best, but it didn't appear he bought into the team-first concepts that Billy Donovan was preaching either. 

    It's possible my perceptions were off. It was obvious that Brown had the most talent of any of the 2015 prospects that were there. But at the college level, things are not always easy and you're going to deal with some failures eventually. I'm interested to see how Brown will respond in those moments, and what I saw at the U-18s kept him from ranking No. 2 on this list, which is where he deserves to be based on talent alone. 

3. Malik Newman, SG

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    Francois Nel/Getty Images

    Wherever Malik Newman ends up, he's going to get buckets. Lots and lots of buckets.

    Newman is the best natural scorer in this class. He can shoot from anywhere and get his jumper off pretty much whenever he wants. He's oozing with confidence. Sometimes this is a good thing. Earlier this month in the championship game of the FIBA Under-17 World Championships against Australia, Newman put the United States on his back when they were struggling to score.

    Of course, minutes later, when he finally started to cool off, Newman just kept attacking when he should have been using the attention paid to him as an opportunity to get his teammates easy shots.

    So the shot selection isn't always there. He handles the ball well enough to play point guard, as he did for the U.S., but that's probably not his ideal position in college if his future coach wants to keep Newman's teammates happy.

    Newman is a shooting guard, and used the right way he can be a great weapon. The right coach may also be able to help Newman understand when to attack and when to facilitate. He needs to learn how to make those around him better. If his game matures in that area, he has the chance to be a great college player.

2. Diamond Stone, C

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    Francois Nel/Getty Images

    Diamond Stone is the top-rated big man in this class and it's because he has the best mix of abilities of all the top post players.

    Here's a check list of the ideal post man.

    1. Good footwork. Stone's is not the best, but he's solid in this area and his feet are quick for his size.
    2. Good hands. Stone has the best hands of any of the bigs. He catches just about anything thrown his way, and his great hands help him snag rebounds as well.
    3. Strength. What stands out when watching Stone is his ability to finish through contact.
    4. Length. Stone is 6'10" and DraftExpress lists his most recent wingspan measurement at 7'3".
    5. Touch. Stone finishes really well around the basket and he can also hit a face-up jumper.

    That last attribute—ability to hit the face-up jumper—is the one knock on Stone. Not that he can't hit it, but that he relies on it a bit too often considering how gifted he is around the bucket.

    Stone reminds me a bit of DeMarcus Cousins, and wouldn't you know it, when you Google "Diamond Stone DeMarcus Cousins," the first result is a video claiming "Diamond Stone Is The Next DeMarcus Cousins."

    Cousins was a beast as a freshman at Kentucky (15.1 points and 9.8 rebounds per game) and is turning into one of the best big men in the NBA. It's too early to say Stone can follow that trajectory, but he has all the tools to develop into that kind of force. 

1. Ben Simmons, SF/PF

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    Last month at Nike's Peach Jam, coaches marveled at Ben Simmons. They knew they couldn't land him—he's already committed to LSU—but they still couldn't take their eyes off Simmons. His understanding of how to play the game the right way and make others around him better was something to behold.

    It's also really hard to find. A lot of guys can score. A lot of prospects look like they were built in some kind of Biogenesis lab. But Simmons has both going for him and the mind to match. He is the best player in this class from both a mental and physical standpoint.

    At 6'9", Simmons can handle and pass like a guard. He'll also be a good scorer at the college level because of his ability to get into the paint. He's a downhill driver with the ability to go either direction and finish with either hand.

    The ability to score and get easy buckets for his teammates is what makes Simmons a rarity in the grassroots circuit. That's the overseas influence—he's from Australia—in his game. He has great vision and see plays developing ahead of him. As I wrote in a recent feature on Simmons (coming soon), he reminds me of a more athletic Boris Diaw. He's at his best playing a point forward role where he can create for his teammates.

    Defensively, Simmons can guard multiple positions and should be able to play on the wing if both LSU's talented big guys, Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, stay in school. Simmons also has the size to play the 4.

    LSU coach Johnny Jones has a weapon that will make every coach in the country jealous. Simmons is the player most ready to dominate the college game right away and the most pro ready. That's why picking Simmons as the top player in 2015 was such an easy choice.

     

    C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @CJMooreBR.

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