2018 NBA Draft: Are These Highly Regarded Prospects Overhyped?
There is perhaps too much hype surrounding a number of prospects preparing to enter the 2018 NBA draft. For five of them, it's premature or unwarranted.
Even at a young age, tools and athleticism shouldn't automatically equate to upside.
These players each have weaknesses that can really hold them back if not corrected. They're all considered lottery talents, but don't Sharpie them in there just yet.
And we're not looking to call out analysts for overzealous takes 10 months before the draft, but rather using select glowing observations as representative of the general narrative surrounding a player.
Trevon Duval (Duke, PG, Freshman)
Scout.com's No. 2 point guard of the 2018 recruiting class, a spotlight role in Duke's backcourt, tools and athleticism that scream NBA—the bar is high for Trevon Duval.
It should be lowered. Duval isn't nearly as polished as 2017's top 10 guards.
ESPN's Jonathan Givony pegged him as the No. 11 pick in 2018. But his jumper could draw red flags. He shoots a hard ball, whereas a player like Sacramento Kings rookie De'Aaron Fox, who also struggles from outside but still went No. 5 overall, has a softer, more fluid stroke that creates hope and optimism over its potential to improve.
Though Duval is capable of hitting open shots, over the years, we've seen a lot more unconfident releases and bad misses.
His floor game also needs work. Distributing comes second for Duval. The fact that he's more of a score-first ball-handler, but isn't a shooter, is unsettling.
There is obvious appeal tied to Duval's speed, length and explosiveness for the position. But expect a weak assist-to-turnover ratio and ugly three-point percentage to hold him back and raise concerns about his NBA potential.
Robert Williams (Texas A&M, PF/C, Sophomore)
Expectations are high for Robert Williams after he'd earned NBA scouts' attention coming off Texas A&M's bench.
He did it mostly with athletic plays around the rim—explosive finishes, emphatic rejections, putbacks and boards. His terrific physical tools and bounce hint at exciting upside for NBA coaches to unlock.
But to be considered as one of the top prospects in the country—presumably the goal after he'd passed on the chance to go in last year's lottery—Williams has a ton of ground to make up skill-wise.
He wasn't an advanced post scorer or a threat to face up and make a move. And he shot 2-of-18 from three and 59 percent at the free-throw line.
Williams the lob target, rebounder and shot-blocker is easy to buy. Williams the scoring threat is less believable. Buzz about him being a top pick is premature.
Kevin Knox (Kentucky, SF/PF, Freshman)
High-profile Kentucky recruits have made a habit of becoming one-and-done high pick. Just don't bank on Kevin Knox to follow.
Viewed by some as a lottery talent, including Sporting News' Sean Deveney and CBS Sports' Reid Forgrave, there are questions about his preference for the perimeter and whether he's sharp enough to play there. Knox has a tendency to settle for hero jump shots and hasn't proved to be a reliable three-point shooter.
There isn't much wiggle in his off-the-dribble game, either, nor is he a threat to create for teammates.
A power forward with a wing's mind and thin 209-pound frame, Knox could have trouble scoring efficiently and may need more than a year to adjust and reshape his game. He isn't a lock to light up college basketball or the NBA radar right away.
Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky, SG, Redshirt Freshman)
Despite Hamidou Diallo testing the waters and receiving some NBA interest in May, according to Zagsblog's Adam Zagoria, it's not guaranteed to grow at Kentucky the way some think it will. CBS Sports' Gary Parrish predicted he'll go in the lottery.
Athleticism alone wasn't enough for teams two months ago. Diallo must show them more offensive skill, and after his performance at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup, mixed results confirmed he still needs plenty of work in key areas.
He put up a 2-of-11 dud during the biggest game of the tournament that saw USA fall to Canada and 17-year-old RJ Barrett, who went for 38 points and stole the show. Through seven games, Diallo shot 2-of-10 from three and 57.1 percent from the line, looking no sharper as a shooter since he'd shot 0-of-3 from three and 47.6 percent on free throws at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship last summer.
He isn't a polished shot-creator, either, relying mostly on his quickness and bounce, as opposed to his handle and off-the-dribble jumper.
Dunk highlights, transition play and a 44 ½" max vertical won't translate to lottery interest or significant NBA success without Diallo showing real improvement to his scoring skills, decision-making and overall versatility.
Rodions Kurucs (Latvia, SG/SF, 1998)
Having earned first-round buzz last year before withdrawing from the draft, Rodions Kurucs is going to automatically appear on 2018 mock draft boards. But the love isn't necessarily warranted.
He shot just 43.4 percent and 31.9 percent from three playing for Barcelona's junior team in Spain's second division (LEB Gold). In 21.2 minutes, he averaged 1.4 assists and 2.8 rebounds. Kurucs, who's already suffered two knee injuries, isn't proficient in any one area and hasn't faced quality competition.
He should receive more chances to play in Euroleague and Spanish ACB this year, but not enough where he'll be playing regular minutes. Kurucs stands out with NBA size, athleticism and a capable jumper. Skill-wise, he just hasn't shown much to separate himself.