Way-Too-Soon 2018 NBA Draft Big Board: Keep an Eye on Mohamed Bamba
The projected 2018 NBA draft class should feature a handful of intriguing names who'll attempt to follow Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and Jayson Tatum.
There are several potential stars that include incoming freshmen, returning prospects and a unique teenager expected to make a ton of noise overseas.
As always, the big board reflects NBA potential (not college impact) for the upcoming draft. For freshmen, only projected one-and-dones were deemed eligible for a preseason ranking.
30. Omer Yurtseven (North Carolina State, C, Sophomore)
Omer Yurtseven blended into North Carolina State's background too often for NBA teams to take him seriously.
He draws attention for his 7'0" size, mobility and hands. Yurtseven is light on his feet around the rim and shows soft touch on his jump hooks and mid-range jumpers.
Becoming a tougher rim protector and rebounder and more dominant offensive player should help Yurtseven restore some of his lost credibility.
29. Allonzo Trier (Arizona, SG, Junior)
Teams should show interest in Allonzo Trier for his scoring, but he also more than doubled his assist rate to 16.6 percent in 2016-17.
Raising it again in 2018 would help Trier's stock and suggest he's more than just a shot-hunter.
He'll return as Arizona's top option, a role he was efficient in last season with a 10.9 turnover percentage, 51.4 percent mark inside the arc, 39.1 behind it and 81.0 percent from the line.
28. Isaac Bonga (Germany, PF, 1999)
Isaac Bonga just had a rough FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup, but he's only 17 and still possesses a rare and valuable skill set.
Over the years, he's put himself on the map with unique ball-handling, playmaking and passing.
More of a point forward than a big, he lacks blow-by athleticism and doesn't take or hit many threes. But since he's able do some of things he does this early, Bonga will be on scouts' radars. He played in front of many during Basketball Without Borders in February and Eurocamp last month.
27. Shake Milton (SMU, PG/SG, Junior)
Shake Milton needs to take another step, but there is a lot to like about his 6'6" size, shooting and passing.
Milton shot over 42 percent from three in back-to-back years and shows strong poise and vision facilitating off ball screens.
A lack of explosiveness and poor posture raise question as to how his game will translate. Milton will want to increase his 45.5 percent two-point clip and continue enhancing his playmaking.
26. Kostja Mushidi (Germany, SG/SF, 1998)
Kostja Mushidi's production for Mega Leks came at the cost of efficiency. Creating easier shot selection is an obvious must-improve.
But there is no teaching his mix of size, length, agility and power for a 2-guard. And he's flashed enough ball skill and scoring ability with his driving and shot-making.
Mushidi scored 14 points at the Nike Hoop Summit and should be on each teams' scouting list in 2018.
25. Grayson Allen (Duke, SG, Senior)
Grayson Allen still has to prove he can go a full season without an incident. He needs to show scouts he's matured and learned from past mistakes.
Between his explosiveness and shooting, Allen has a decent case.
He's knocked down at least 80 threes in back-to-back season and consistently showcases his athleticism off drives and in transition. His 4.7 assists per 40 minutes highlight his ability to make a quick move and set up a teammate.
With Frank Jackson, Luke Kennard and Jayson Tatum gone, Allen is in position to regain his rhythm.
24. Rawle Alkins (Arizona, SG, Sophomore)
Rawle Alkins will look to build on his strong performance at the NBA combine in a bigger role at Arizona.
He'll see more featured possessions and chances to showcase his three-level scoring. Tough and athletic with driving ability, a pull-up and three-pointer, Alkins is out there to generate offense.
He'll want to flash playmaking skills this season to establish credibility as a combo guard.
23. Jarred Vanderbilt (Kentucky, PF, Freshman)
Jarred Vanderbilt drew attention following standout games at the Nike Hoop Summit (19 points, 10 rebounds, three assists) and Jordan Brand Classic (17 points, seven rebounds).
He offers a unique mix of rebounding and playmaking to the power forward spot. At 6'9" with 7'1" length, Vanderbilt likes to handle the ball and pass off the dribble.
Shooting is the obvious swing skill that could make or break his value. He'll be a potential one-and-done first-rounder if he can create hope among scouts regarding his jumper.
22. Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga, PF, Sophomore)
Averaging 20.6 points and 11.0 rebounds at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup put Rui Hachimura on NBA prospect watch.
An active leaper around the basket at both ends, he also knocked down eight threes in seven games and various pull-ups and runners inside the arc. His combination of inside play, ball-handling and shot-making is intriguing.
Hachimura only played 130 total minutes as a freshman but should see his role expand without Przemek Karnowski or Zach Collins back at Gonzaga.
21. Rodions Kurucs (Latvia, SG/SF, 1998)
Rodions Kurucs withdrew from the 2017 draft despite having a real shot to go in the first round.
He'll have a better chance in 2018, assuming he sees time this year with Barcelona's senior team in Euroleague and the Spanish ACB.
Kurucs has created buzz over the years with 6'8" size, shooting range and scoring instincts. Staying healthy and shooting the three ball well will be priorities.
20. Dzanan Musa (Bosnia, SF, 1999)
The NBA has been waiting on Dzanan Musa's eligibility, given he jumped onto the scene in 2014. Over the years, he's averaged 25 points through 31 FIBA games.
Musa lacks explosiveness for an NBA wing. Instead, he cooks with unpredictable ball-handling moves and tough shot-making skills.
An aggressive scorer, Musa should have a big role for Cedevita and a good chance to make a first-round case.
19. Tyus Battle (Syracuse, SG, Sophomore)
Used in just 18.2 percent of Syracuse's possessions, Tyus Battle flew under the radar in 2016-17. Despite scoring just 14.8 points per 40 minutes, he flashed an effective mix of slashing, shooting (60-of-164 on three-pointers) and defensive potential.
And at 6'6" with a strong body and fluid athleticism, he's physically built for the NBA 2-guard position.
He'll need to show more dribble creativity as a shot-creator and playmaker, but without John Gillon, Andrew White and Tyler Lydon, Battle should have plenty of touches and freedom.
18. Chimezie Metu (USC, PF/C, Junior)
After taking a big step as a sophomore, Chimezie Metu has one more jump to make.
He'll look to be more dominant. Otherwise, Metu has flashed a solid all-around package of post scoring and mid-range touch. And he grabbed 2.1 more rebounds per 40 minutes last year than he did as a freshman.
Metu is already on scouts' radars and clearly has the tools and game to draw first-round looks. Putting USC on his back will go a long way toward improving his draft stock.
17. Justin Jackson (Maryland, SF/PF, Sophomore)
Justin Jackson put himself in the NBA conversation as a freshman and received an invite to the combine as proof.
At this stage, the appeal to Jackson stems from his strong body and 43.8 percent mark from three. Jackson needs work as a shot-creator inside the arc, but still finds ways to score as a slasher and cutter.
He'll want to raise that ugly 43.8 percent two-point percentage in what should be a featured role now that Melo Trimble is gone.
16. Kevin Knox (Kentucky, SF/PF, Freshman)
Kevin Knox's game says NBA, but efficiency will be key.
At 6'9", he's skilled enough to shoot the three or separate into pull-ups and step-backs around the perimeter. And he picks up buckets off agile drives and smooth finishes at the rim.
Knox needs to find that healthy balance and mix up his shot selection, which at times has looked tougher than it needs to be. He'll be one of Kentucky's top scorers and another potential one-and-done threat for Kentucky.
15. Nick Richards (Kentucky, C, Freshman)
Nick Richards will look to sell his physical tools and agility playing the lob-catcher/rim-protector role at Kentucky.
With near 7'0" size, 7'4" length and light feet, he's a target off rim runs, rolls and dives, and he's capable of scoring with jump hooks and one-handers around the key.
Shooting a high percentage, defending pick-and-rolls and staying consistently active are Richards' keys to the 2018 first round.
14. Trevon Duval (Duke, PG, Freshman)
Trevon Duval will play in a spotlight role as Duke's projected point guard.
The conversation starts with his athleticism and ability to blow past defenders and explode up at the rim. Plus, he sports a giant 6'9 ½" wingspan the NBA scouting lens values.
Duval has a knack for breaking down defenses and setting up teammates. The big question centers around his shaky jumper—whether it will improve, and if not, how much that would limit his offensive potential.
13. Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky, SG, Sophomore)
NBA teams are already familiar with Hamidou Diallo, who just went through the predraft process.
He had mixed results in July at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup, where he averaged 10.9 points on 46 percent shooting, but missed 8-of-10 threes and shot 57.1 percent from the line.
He'll create highlights and conversation all season with explosive drives and finishes. Whether he can rise up draft boards will come down to how much skill and poise he demonstrates. Diallo is a capable mid-range scorer, but needs to tighten his handle and improve his shooting.
12. Jaren Jackson Jr. (Michigan State, PF/C, Freshman)
Jaren Jackson Jr. strengthened his image in front of dozens of NBA scouts during April's Nike Hoop Summit (13 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks).
His 6'10" size and 7'4" wingspan jump out. Jackson, who's still 17, isn't the most skilled big, but his tools, quickness and hands still translate to rebounds and points in the paint. And he can rip through into a drive or make an open jump shot.
Michigan State will value his defensive presence most, with his ability to block shots and switch. But if Jackson flashes enough post moves and shooting touch, lottery teams could be willing to draft him then wait on his potential.
11. Lonnie Walker (Miami, SG, Freshman)
Expected back for the opener after tearing his meniscus early in July, Lonnie Walker should give Miami an immediate weapon and wind up earning fans among NBA scouts.
At 6'4" with a 6'10 ½" wingspan, he looks the part of an NBA 2-guard. Walker scores off drives and slashes using his handle, agility, strength and body control. And he's a dangerous three-point shooter.
With terrific defensive tools and a jumper, Walker should generate NBA attention, even if he struggles with scoring efficiency at 18 years old.
10. Troy Brown Jr. (Oregon, SG, Freshman)
Troy Brown Jr. has some point-forward in his game. And he should have the chance to fully showcase it with Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks gone.
Brown doesn't explode off the floor, but at 6'7", he can handle, create, pass and shoot off the dribble. You get the sense Brown has a good feel for the game and reliable head on his shoulders.
He'll look to wow scouts with two-way versatility to distract them from questioning his athleticism.
9. Miles Bridges (Michigan State, SF/PF, Sophomore)
Miles Bridges finished strong last year with 22 points against Josh Jackson and Kansas in the NCAA tournament. He seemed like a first-round lock had he chosen to declare.
He'll draw lottery looks in 2018 by validating last year's 38.9 percent three-point mark and sharpening his one-on-one shot-creating. Getting to the line more than 3.3 times per game and improving his mid-range scoring arsenal are key.
An elite athlete with enticing quickness and power for the NBA's small-ball 4, Bridges' freshman production and two-way potential earn him a spot in the preseason top 10.
8. Bruce Brown (Miami, SG, Sophomore)
Bruce Brown could be a consistent jump shot away from blowing up as one of the nation's top guard prospects.
His 20.9 percent usage rate should rise significantly. A combo guard with good size, length and exciting athleticism, Brown brings both scoring and two-way playmaking to Miami's backcourt.
He went off a number of times last season. He hung 25 points on Duke and combined for 51 in two games against North Carolina. More frequent outbursts and better shooting (33-of-95 from three) should help push Brown into the 2018 lottery mix.
7. Collin Sexton (Alabama, PG/SG, Freshman)
Collin Sexton's athleticism and competitiveness should earn scouts' attention.
His first step, shiftiness and explosiveness jump out as NBA-caliber. Sexton puts pressure on the defense and rim as a driver and slasher, and he should wind up with a lot of points in the paint and free throws.
Showing he can run an offense and make outside shots will be the keys to Sexton's draft stock.
6. Wendell Carter (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)
Wendell Carter should be looking at a big role at Duke following the departures of Amile Jefferson, Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Chase Jeter.
His body screams NBA at 6'10" and 257 pounds with 7'3" length. He's also fairly polished around the basket in terms of his footwork and touch, and he's looked comfortable and promising shooting open jumpers.
A strong rebounder and sturdy overall player, Carter has a similar non-sexy, yet effective Al Horford-style game.
5. Robert Williams (Texas A&M, PF/C, Sophomore)
Potential alone could have given Robert Williams the chance to draw lottery interest last June. Now that he's back at Texas A&M, scouts will be looking for offensive improvement and more stretches of domination, considering he came off the bench as a freshman and played more of an energizer role.
Williams makes most of his noise around the rim, where he gets up high for explosive finishes and 3.8 blocks per 40 minutes. But he also swatted 11 three-pointers, which points to agility and ability to cover ground.
Physically and athletically, Williams aces the NBA eye test. He'll need to sharpen his shot-creating in the post and mid-range shooting to convince scouts he's more than just a dunking target and defensive specialist.
4. Mohamed Bamba (Texas, C, Freshman)
Prepare for wingspan mentions all season when scouting Mohamed Bamba, whose ridiculous 7'9" length surpasses Rudy Gobert's.
It's a big part of his identity as a lob target and rim protector.
Regardless of level, college or NBA, Bamba projects as an easy-basket finisher and game-changing defender capable of challenging shots from all over the floor.
He lacks offensive polish, but just like Gobert, Bamba shouldn't need it to leave his fingerprints on a game.
3. DeAndre Ayton (Arizona, C, Freshman)
DeAndre Ayton has either been No. 1 or near the top of recruiting rankings for the past three years.
He has had an obvious NBA body since early high school, but he's added more skill to his game, most notably around the perimeter, where his shooting stroke extends out to the arc.
Ayton's potential to protect the rim, score around it and stretch the floor should keep him high on draft boards all season.
2. Luka Doncic (Slovenia, PG/SG, 1999)
Few international prospects have ever been this hyped in their first draft-eligible year.
After playing a key role in Real Madrid's run to the EuroLeague Final Four, Luka Doncic should have attention from every NBA team, including the weak ones expected to tank for the No. 1 pick.
At 6'8", Doncic is highly skilled and crafty with unique point guard instincts, creatives handles, vision and wildly-exciting passing ability.
With 76 total threes and an 80.8 percent free-throw clip, he's also flashed encouraging shooting touch and range, which should make scouts feel better about his lack of explosion.
1. Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri, SF/PF, Freshman)
With 6'10" size, advanced guard skills and just enough athleticism, Michael Porter Jr. checks in as the favorite to go first in the 2018 draft.
Clearly a special offensive player, Porter creates with tight ball-handling and scores off tough shot-making. He's a good three-point shooter right now.
And though not the most explosive, he's agile and a smooth passer.
After one year at Missouri, Porter should stand out to NBA teams as a future No. 1 option.