Who Got Next? B/R's Next-Generation NBA Superstars
College and international basketball remain on track to continue pumping out future NBA stars.
With the addition of Marvin Bagley III, who announced on SportsCenter he's reclassifying and enrolling at Duke this year, the 2018 draft may offer needy organizations a handful of franchise players to choose from following 2017's highly anticipated class.
And we've already started to witness the emergence of high school juniors and seniors destined to rock the NBA radar.
We pointed out the names who'll be viewed as top picks in the 2018, 2019 and 2020 drafts.
Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri, SF/PF, Freshman)
Early 2018 NBA draft projection: No. 1
Invited to the 2014 USA basketball development camp, Michael Porter Jr. has been on the scene for years and now enters his draft-eligible season as a legitimate No. 1 overall candidate.
Playing with and against older prospects at the 2016 U18 Americas Championship last summer, Porter helped lead the U.S. to gold, averaging an effortless 30 points, 10.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists per 40 minutes. Since then, we've seen him go off at the Hoophall Classic (37 points) and have productive showings in front of scouts at the McDonald's All-American Game and Nike Hoop Summit.
He separates himself with guard skills for a 6'10" face-up forward. Porter can be a mismatch on the wing, but the 4, where his quickness and perimeter game are most advantageous, will suit him best in college and the pros.
Porter is a scorer already equipped with advanced shot-creating moves and next-level shot-making ability. His arsenal consists of everything from pull-up threes in transition and fallaway jumpers to drives and slashes. He shows body control and coordination in the paint and enough bounce to finish over rim protection.
Just like Markelle Fultz did at Washington, Porter is going to put up a ton of points his freshman year. Carrying Missouri to the NCAA tournament could make him the favorite to go first in the 2018 draft.
RJ Barrett (Canada, SG/SF, 2000)
Way-too-early 2019 NBA draft projection: No. 1
Canada can't stop pumping out talent. Its next star in the pipeline could be its best: RJ Barrett, who recently put on a signature, memorable performance to bury the U.S. in the U19 World Championships.
Barrett, who only turned 17 years old one month before winning MVP of the tournament, hung 38 points on an American team that included a handful of first-round-caliber incoming college freshmen.
He already passes the eye test with enough size, length and athleticism (6'8" and 180 pounds with a 6'10" wingspan) that scream NBA 2-guard or wing.
Barrett has awesome scoring instincts and the ability to improvise and finish out of unfamiliar angles using body control and touch. He's exceptionally effective off one foot in the lane. And though he's flashed shooting range and a pull-up game, it's his knack for converting challenged runners and floaters that leads to big scoring outputs.
Barrett has ultimately been building his image since 2015, performing at a high level for scouts at the U16 FIBA Americas, the U17 World Championships, the Jordan Brand Classic international game, Basketball Without Borders Global Camp and the Nike Hoop Summit.
July's performance through seven games against international competition—21.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists per game—only validated the hype. Barrett would start the year at No. 1 atop our 2019 way-too-early mock draft board.
Marvin Bagley III (Duke, PF, Freshman)
Early 2018 NBA draft projection: No. 2
The reclassification of Marvin Bagley III changes the 2018 NBA draft discussion.
It suddenly has a new No. 1 overall candidate. But with Bagley lacking any FIBA experience or appearances at showcase events like the Nike Hoop Summit, McDonald's All-American Game or Jordan Brand Classic, NBA scouts, who aren't allowed in high school gyms, haven't seen him perform in person.
Bagley, at 6'11", stands out with elite quickness and bounce, is difficult for bigs to contain in face-up situations and dominates around the basket. He consistently gets himself bunnies by running the floor, making himself available for finishes and crashing the offensive glass.
Flashes of ball-handling, scoring on the move, outside touch and post play fuel versatility that could power Bagley's ceiling above the pack.
Mohamed Bamba (Texas, C, Freshman)
Early 2018 NBA draft projection: No. 3
Scouts got their first look at Mohamed Bamba back in 2015 at the Nike Skills Academy, where he shook the radar by measuring a ridiculous 7'8" wingspan.
It puts him in the unicorn conversation that features NBA players with unique blends of physical tools and skills.
At this stage, Bamba is more of a high-percentage finishing target whose presence is mostly felt on defense, where he protects the rim and changes shots around it. He is reminiscent of Rudy Gobert patrolling the paint with his remarkable length and quick feet.
But flashes of shooting touch and back-to-the-basket moves suggest there could be more to his offensive repertoire after a few years of seasoning.
Look for Bamba at Texas to have a similar season as Nerlens Noel did at Kentucky when he averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.4 blocks and shot 59.0 percent. Bamba will efficiently produce and go high in the draft, even if he doesn't showcase much scoring ability.
His potential to add some—along with his unmatchable measurements (his wingspan has been recorded as long as 7'9 ½")—makes Bamba one of the more rare, intriguing prospects in years.
Luka Doncic (Slovenia, PG/SG, 1999)
Early 2018 NBA draft projection: No. 4
While the other big names on the horizon have spent the past year dominating high school competition, Luka Doncic was playing a key role in Real Madrid's run to the Euroleague Final Four.
The 18-year-old was a legitimate impact player against grown men and pros, whom he picked apart with crafty dribbling and snazzy passing despite lacking the traditional athleticism that hints at NBA upside.
Doncic is a unique player—a 6'8" point-wing with phenomenal setup instincts in the pick-and-roll game and the size and shooting stroke (72 total threes, 77 combined games) to score off the ball.
Just last week, he went for 27 points, eight boards and five assists during a friendly against a Dario Saric- and Bojan Bogdanovic-led Croatian national team.
He's doing things in Europe we haven't seen from international teenagers, which, along with his NBA-friendly versatility and basketball IQ, lessen concern over the fact he isn't explosive or super quick defensively.
He has the chance to be one of a kind. Subtle improvements and continued impact play will put Doncic right in the mix to go first overall.
DeAndre Ayton (Arizona, C, Freshman)
Early 2018 NBA draft projection: No. 5
DeAndre Ayton has sat atop recruiting rankings or near it for years while his obvious NBA body fueled hype over his pro potential.
Last measuring 6'11 ¾", 243 pounds with a 7'5 ½" wingspan and a 9'3" reach in 2016, Ayton blends size, power, length and light feet to own the paint as a finisher, low-post scorer, dominant rebounder and rim protector.
Even at 19 years old, he's going to physically overwhelm Pac-12 opponents at Arizona. Establishing an inside presence at both ends will remain his bread and butter.
But expect him to also showcase some perimeter skills, particularly a confident shooting stroke that extends out to the arc and raises the height of his NBA ceiling. Ayton should get consideration as the No. 1 overall pick if he can convince scouts a consistent jumper will be part of his repertoire.
Zion Williamson (Spartanburg, PF/C, 2000)
Way-too-early 2019 NBA draft projection: Top five
Having just turned 17 years old on July 6, Zion Williamson's future NBA identity isn't clear yet. It's just too early. It's not too soon, however, to say that scouts will be all over him when the time comes.
He's already earned national attention with internet-friendly bounce that's creating hype and generating conversation. Williamson was also just moved to No. 1 on ESPN's 2018 recruiting rankings, a tribute to his basketball ability, as opposed to the athleticism he's mostly known for.
Williamson, at 6'6" and 220 pounds, has a wide, powerful frame. He'll be groomed to play power forward, but if he can grow a few inches, it wouldn't be a surprise if he wound up playing minutes at small-ball center.
A beast around the basket, Williamson can also get there by attacking off the dribble, using his quickness and strength to drive and coordination to finish on the move.
Whether Williamson emerges as an elite NBA prospect will likely come down to his perimeter-skill development. Until then, he'll remain a hot topic of conversation in terms of potential stars in the pipeline.
Others to Track
Bol Bol (Mater Dei, C, 1999)
Son of former NBA giant Manute, Bol has risen with ridiculous 7'3" size, 7'8" length and a 9'7" reach. Though mostly a finishing and shot-blocking project, flashes of skill create optimism over his potential to be more than just physical tools.
Cameron Reddish (Westtown, SG/SF, 1999)
Reddish just earned valuable experience with the U19 American team and did more than hold his own, having put up per-40 minute averages of 21.5 points and 6.3 assists on 51.2 percent shooting and 13-of-24 from three. A versatile 6'7" wing who can handle the ball, pass, make open jumpers and force turnovers, Reddish is one of the top names to track in the 2018 recruiting class.
Charles Bassey (St. Anthony Catholic, PF/C, 2000)
Standing 6'11" with 7'3" length, Bassey is blessed with physical tools and athleticism, but at 16 years old with NBA size, length and bounce, scouts will be tracking his development and hoping to see year-to-year improvement to his offensive skills.
Vernon Carey (University School of Nova South, C, 2001)
Carey drew buzz during EYBL and averaged an impressive 14 points on 75.7 percent shooting at this summer's U16 Americas Championships. At 6'10 ½" and a whopping 259 pounds, Carey goes to work with a rare mix of power, agility and soft hands.
Measurements courtesy of DraftExpress.