2019 NBA Draft Big Board: Top 50 College Prospects to Watch

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterOctober 19, 2018

2019 NBA Draft Big Board: Top 50 College Prospects to Watch

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    Rich Barnes/Getty Images

    With less than three weeks to go before the 2018-19 college basketball season begins, NBA teams already have scouts making the rounds.

    Our preseason big board weighs only long-term NBA potential as determined by personal opinion and conversations with scouts.

    As always, freshmen will dominate the top of the board, but watch out for prospects who come out of nowhere like Trae Young, and breakout upperclassmen, like Jerome Robinson and Donte DiVincenzo.

Nos. 50-46

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    Nickeil Alexander-Walker
    Nickeil Alexander-WalkerRyan M. Kelly/Getty Images

    50. Oshae Brissett, Syracuse SF/PF, Sophomore

    Strength, scoring versatility and production should earn Brissett an invite to 2019's NBA combine. With power forward size, the 6'8", 210-pounder made 1.5 threes per game and used his dribble to attack closeouts. He won't be taken too seriously, however, if he doesn't improve dramatically as a two-point finisher (36.6 percent) and passer (1.0 assists per 40 minutes).

              

    49. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Virginia Tech SG, Sophomore

    There will be room for Alexander-Walker to fly up the board if he shows more scoring creativity. A large portion—65.1 percent—of his offense (10.7 points per game) came from spot-ups and transition. Otherwise, he'll hang in the second-round mix for his 6'5" size, 39.2 percent three-ball and line-drive slashing.

                   

    48. Jordan Poole, Michigan SG, Sophomore

    Poole will go from 12.5 minutes per game to featured scorer. He's intriguing for his athleticism and confident shot-making. Scouts will watch to see how he handles a full workload as a top option. He hasn't yet gotten to show extensive shot creativity.

                     

    47. Desmond Bane, TCU SG, Junior

    Bane could find the radar this year with his shot-making and athleticism. The 6'5" 2-guard ranked in the 96th percentile in points per possession on jump shots and the 92nd percentile in transition. He won't offer much in terms of shot creation, though, which adds heavy pressure to his ability to make threes every game.

                      

    46. Dylan Windler, Belmont SF, Senior

    Windler has become a sneaky prospect to monitor in the Ohio Valley Conference. He averaged 17.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game last year, impressing with his shot-making (2.1 made threes, 42.6 percent) and above-the-rim-ability. Windler, 6'8", could start building a draft case in December with UCLA and Purdue on the schedule.

Nos. 45-41

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    Carsen Edwards
    Carsen EdwardsAssociated Press

    45. Tyus Battle, Syracuse SG, Junior

    Back for a third season at Syracuse after averaging 19.2 points per game, Battle is poised for another big campaign. But will it translate to NBA interest? He'll have to be more efficient after he shot just 39.9 percent and only averaged 2.1 assists in 39.0 minutes per contest. He must also improve his two-point shot selection and shooting accuracy.

    44. Xavier Sneed, Kansas State SG/SF, Junior

    Sneed could put himself in the second-round mix with his NBA tools and three-and-D potential. He averaged 1.8 threes and 1.6 steals per game a year ago. Sneed seems unlikely to develop much off the dribble, but there is plenty of room for his shooting consistency to improve.

                 

    43. Sagaba Konate, West Virginia C, Junior

    Konate will try to make a draft case as a defensive specialist and enforcer. He lacks offensive skill, though he did shoot 79.0 percent from the free-throw line and occasionally flashed mid-range touch. He'll draw looks for his length and timing in rim protection, where he blocked 3.2 shots in 25.4 minutes per game. 

    42. Admiral Schofield, Tennessee, G/F, Senior

    At 6'6", 241 pounds, Schofield is built differently than most forwards, but his mix of strength, quickness and outside shot-making gives him a chance. After hitting 46 threes combined during his first two seasons at Tennessee, he hit 64 of 162 from behind the arc in 2017-18.

               

    41. Carsen Edwards, Purdue PG/SG, Junior

    Edwards returns as a National Player of the Year candidate, though there will be debate over his NBA outlook. His selling point is his ability to catch fire on the offensive end for stretches. He made 65 pull-up jumpers at a 45.5 percent clip and ranked in the 98th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler. Edwards, 6'1", just isn't a point guard or an explosive athlete. He'll want to convince scouts that his scoring can translate and that he can be a bench spark.

Nos. 40-36

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    Lindell Wigginton
    Lindell WiggintonAssociated Press

    40. Saben Lee, Vanderbilt PG/SG, Sophomore

    Lee flew below the radar and figures to gain more recognition after Vanderbilt added two first-round talents. He'll have to share ball-handling duties with freshman Darius Garland, meaning he won't improve his assist numbers (3.1 per game) a great deal. But Lee could still earn looks for his explosiveness and ability to apply pressure at both ends. Improving his shooting (23 of 75 from three) will be a priority.

    39. Matisse Thybulle, Washington SF, Senior

    For an athletic wing, Thybulle has numbers—1.7 threes, 3.0 steals and 1.4 blocks per game—that hint at three-and-D role-player potential. Ranking in the 45th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler and the 19th percentile as a spot-up driver, Thybulle, who shot 13-of-37 on pull-ups, isn't threatening enough off the dribble to offer upside.

             

    38. Tyler Herro, Kentucky SG, Freshman

    Kentucky will lean heavily on Herro for offense. And he should deliver. He's a next-level shot-maker off the catch or dribble. He'll have to convince scouts he can consistently make the tough jumpers he's always taking and that he'll be able to guard his position effectively.

                       

    37. Lindell Wigginton, Iowa State PG/SG, Sophomore

    A 6'2" guard, Wigginton must improve as a facilitator (2.8 assists, 3.0 turnovers per game) and pick-and-roll ball-handler (47th percentile). But his microwave scoring will earn him NBA looks. The explosive combo guard averaged 16.7 points on 2.2 made threes per game. He won't move up the board unless he becomes more efficient and makes additional jumpers of the dribble (30.5 percent). 

            

    36. Dedric Lawson, Kansas SF/PF, Junior

    Lawson will work as Kansas' top option after he transferred from Memphis and sat out last season. His scoring versatility and expected production will earn him pro looks, but a lack of athleticism will give him an uphill battle during the scouting process. 

Nos. 35-31

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    Shamorie Ponds
    Shamorie PondsMitchell Layton/Getty Images

    35. Zach Norvell Jr., Gonzaga SG, Sophomore

    Norvell earned a spot on scouting watch lists after he averaged 19.0 points through three NCAA tournament games last year. He's not the most exciting athlete or playmaker, but Norvell will be worth tracking for his size (6'5", 205 lbs), lefty shot-making (2.1 threes per game) and efficient, balanced scoring repertoire.

                    

    34. Shamorie Ponds, St. John's PG, Junior

    Ponds has a chance to convert production into NBA interest, something he failed to do while averaging 21.6 points per game last year. Guiding St. John's to a winning record and successful season will also be a recipe for individual success. Scouts are aware of Ponds' ability to catch fire, but he'll help himself by progressing as a facilitator and decision-maker. Raising his 25.3 percent three-point mark will be another must to build credibility with NBA scouts. 

                     

    33. Louis King, Oregon SF, Freshman

    The 2020 draft may make more sense for King. It's unclear how much or how well he'll play at Oregon coming off a knee injury. But King has the textbook tools and athleticism of an NBA forward to match impressive scoring ability and a good-looking jump shot. Questionable decision-making and shot selection will be weaknesses to watch.

               

    32. Ty Jerome, Virginia SG, Junior

    Jerome will audition for an NBA role that's the same as the one he plays at Virginia. He's not a lead scorer or playmaker; rather, he's a confident shot-maker (1.7 threes per game), willing ball-mover (3.9 apg) and tough defender (1.6 spg). It's become easier to imagine a team that's picking in the 20-40 range seeing Jerome as a fit, even if he doesn't have upside.

             

    31. Ky Bowman, Boston College PG, Junior

    An uptempo, scoring playmaker, Bowman averaged 17.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game last season, and that was alongside 2018 lottery pick Jerome Robinson. With more freedom, as well as tremendous quickness and shot-making ability, he figures to be one of the ACC's top producers as a junior. The challenge will be to get scouts to overlook his suspect tools and decision-making. He ranked in the 49th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler and 28th percentile out of isolation.

Nos. 30-26

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    Killian Tillie and Rui Hachimura
    Killian Tillie and Rui HachimuraKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    30. Dean Wade, Kansas State PF, Senior

    Wade is missing the athleticism and length that typically hint at NBA upside, but his skill set and talent level suggest he can fit. At 6'8", Wade ranked in the 94th percentile in post-ups while shooting 40.4 percent off the catch and 51.0 percent off the dribble. 

              

    29. Jaylen Hoard, Wake Forest, SF/PF, Freshman

    The idea of Hoard is appealing, as he's a 6'8" combo forward who can make shots, attack in straight lines, guard multiple positions and rebound. He just hasn't established any go-to offensive skill, and it could take multiple years in college to convince scouts he offers enough as a scorer.

               

    28. Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga PF, Junior

    There may be too much hype for Hachimura, whose 6'8" size, quickness and athleticism point to NBA upside. He'll have to show significant progress as a shot-creator and shooter (nine total threes, 65 career games) to meet the bar he's set with exciting but sporadic flashes of potential.

                   

    27. Killian Tillie, Gonzaga PF, Junior

    A lack of athleticism may lead some scouts to ignore Tillie. He's still worth tracking for his potential fit. Tillie ranked in the 95th percentile out of spot-ups, making 49.2 percent of his non-dribble jumpers (51.7 percent on pick-and-pops) and seven of 10 drives to the basket in those situations. He also ranked in the 97th percentile as a cutter and the 86th percentile as a pick-and-roll man. 

                

    26. Aric Holman, Mississippi State PF/C, Senior

    For an athletic, 6'10" big, Holman has built an intriguing case around his 77.4 percent conversion rate at the rim, 44.0 percent three-point shooting and 3.1 blocks per 40 minutes. He isn't a threat to dunk, and he only ranked in the 46th percentile as a post scorer. But his mix of shot-making, finishing and rim protection should be coveted and translatable.  

Nos. 25-21

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    Jalen McDaniels
    Jalen McDanielsDavid Becker/Getty Images

    25. Jalen Smith, Maryland PF/C, Freshman

    Maryland added an active body in Smith, a 6'10" big with a nose for the ball and improving shooting range. He's long and skilled, but there are better, more nimble athletes out there. He'll want to show he can handle himself around the basket and slide laterally while defending forwards. Otherwise, Smith will be back for a sophomore year.

                   

    24. Eric Paschall, Villanova PF, Senior

    Paschall had been efficient all year before turning heads with 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting against Kansas in the NCAA tournament. Paschall's ready to take a big step forward with his shooting and face-up scoring, and his usage rate will skyrocket this season. NBA teams could wind up being drawn to his 6'8", 255-pound size, athleticism and versatility to play and guard both forward spots.

                     

    23. Kris Wilkes, UCLA SG/SF, Sophomore

    With Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh gone, Wilkes will carry the scoring load at UCLA. He's a shot-maker (1.7 threes per game) and slasher, but he'll have to improve on the ball, having totaled 11 points on 25 pick-and-roll possessions and only converted three isolation field goals as a freshman.

                  

    22. Kevin Porter Jr., USC SG/SF, Freshman

    Athletic and confident, Porter will give USC an immediate scoring punch. The NBA scouting lens will detect talent, but we'll need time to determine whether he's polished or proven enough to warrant first-round consideration after one year in college. 

                 

    21. Jalen McDaniels, San Diego State PF/C, Sophomore

    McDaniels' decision to return went down to the deadline. With the NBA clearly on his mind, he'll have to look sharper offensively this year with his face-up game, post moves and shooting. McDaniels is a quick, bouncy athlete who'll keep making noise around the basket regardless. 

Nos. 20-15

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    Ja Morant
    Ja MorantDonald Miralle/Getty Images

    20. Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky C, Freshman

    A powerful center, Bassey mostly possesses tools and athleticism, but they could be enough to finish, rebound and block shots in the NBA. At this stage, he's too raw offensively to crack our projected lottery.

                 

    19. Darius Garland, Vanderbilt PG, Freshman

    Garland earned extra preseason looks by scoring 16 points on four three-point makes during April's Nike Hoop Summit. He's appealing for his shot-making off the catch and dribble, but his breakdown ability and playmaking aren't as convincing. 

              

    18. Isaiah Roby, Nebraska SF/PF, Junior

    Roby appears on the verge of a breakout if he can get past some foot problems. The explosive combo forward shot 61.9 percent inside the arc and 17 of 42 behind it while averaging 10.4 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per 40 minutes as a sophomore. He'll help himself by flashing more off-the-dribble creativity and doubling last year's three-point make total. 

                

    17. Ja Morant, Murray State PG, Sophomore

    Of all the point guard prospects, Morant is the most explosive, a characteristic that points to upside. In his sophomore year, scouts will look for growth in terms of his skill level as a scorer and lead decision-maker. He made just 13 combined pull-ups and runners. He'll create highlights as a driver, finisher and playmaker. To fly up boards, he'll need to develop a more threatening perimeter game (1.0 threes per 40 minutes).

              

    16. Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech SG, Sophomore

    An athletic 6'5" 2-guard, Culver was an efficient spot-up scorer, knocking down 45.2 percent of his non-dribble jumpers and converting 10 of 19 catch-and-drive opportunities. With Keenan Evans and Zhaire Smith gone, Culver should move into a featured role. We'll find out soon if he improved on the ball after ranking in the 12th percentile out of isolation and 32nd percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler. Regardless, his tools, athleticism, shooting and defense should keep him relevant in the draft discussion.

                

    15. Coby White, North Carolina PG/SG, Freshman

    White will plug right in for Joel Berry II as North Carolina's lead scoring guard. He'll experience ups and downs while running the offense and making decisions. But NBA scouts should enjoy his 6'5" size, uptempo pace and ability to put pressure on defenses as a driver and shooter. 

14. De'Andre Hunter, Virginia SF/PF, Sophomore

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    De'Andre Hunter returns to Virginia to breakout expectations he created by winning ACC Sixth Man of the Year and flashing signs of budding scoring ability. 

    Offensively, he didn't excel in any one area as a freshman, but he shot well enough from three (21-of-55) and showcased developing shot creation (15-of-25 out of isolation) with step-back and pull-up jumpers. 

    Defensive potential also pumps up his value. A 6'7" hybrid forward, Hunter guards multiple positions—inside or out.

    He's not locked into the 2019 lottery, as he'll need to take a step forward with his shot-making and one-on-one offense. There doesn't appear to be enough upside for him to compete with the top freshmen. But as a safe, two-way role player and glue guy, he'll be one of the first returning prospects teams will look at.

13. Simi Shittu, Vanderbilt PF, Freshman

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The preseason wild card of the early NBA draft discussion, Vanderbilt's Simi Shittu possesses lottery upside—there just isn't enough certainty regarding how close he is.

    He should be ready by opening night November 6 after recovering from ACL surgery. The question is whether his explosiveness and offensive confidence will also be back.

    Shittu was an impressive athlete around the basket with open-floor handles, face-up scoring ability and excellent passing skill. 

    Depending on his role and the time it takes to shake the rust, he may be more of a two-and-done NBA prospect. But if he can move past the injury, cause problems inside and give scouts enough flashes of offensive versatility, NBA teams could reach early in what may be a weak 2019 draft.

12. Daniel Gafford, Arkansas C, Sophomore

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Despite creating first-round buzz last season, Daniel Gafford announced in March he was returning to Arkansas. 

    Even if he shows no improvement, there will be interest. At 6'11" with long arms, Gafford is a weapon around the basket, where he shot 69.3 percent and blocked 3.8 shots per 40 minutes.

    His tools, athleticism and immediate effectiveness suggest his finishing and rim protection can carry over to the NBA. Alone, they may not make Gafford worth taking in the lottery, but they won't allow him to fall far.

    He'll earn top-10 looks in June if he returns as a sharper scoring threat via his post game and mid-range jumper. Showing he can slide his feet and switch would be another plus.

11. PJ Washington, Kentucky PF/C, Sophomore

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Looking quicker, bouncier and stronger, PJ Washington could be primed for a breakout season that launches him up draft boards.

    He's clearly improved his body, which we saw during Kentucky's trip to the Bahamas this summer. Washington put up 20 points and 12 rebounds against Mega Bemax, an international pro team with multiple NBA prospects.

    Dating back to May's NBA combine, he's flashing signs of improved shooting touch and range, and given his projected increased role in Kentucky's offense, Washington should have the opportunity to take more jumpers and make more face-up moves to the basket.

    Convincing scouts he'll eventually stretch the floor and be able to switch will be key for his stock.

10. Jontay Porter, Missouri C, Sophomore

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Expectations have risen for Jontay Porter, who returned to Missouri despite earning an invite to May's NBA combine and having had a chance to go in the first round in 2018.

    The scouting lens picks up his shooting, passing and shot-blocking skills for a center. At 18 years old, Porter finished as one of two players in the country to average at least one three-point make, 1.5 blocks and two assists per game, per Sports Reference.

    He also had the highest body fat percentage at the combine, as well as the slowest three-quarter sprint and lowest max vertical (tied). 

    Porter will need to show he's improved his body, and it wouldn't hurt if he demonstrated more shot creation and execution around the basket. But he checks the boxes NBA teams now value in centers.

9. Quentin Grimes, Kansas SG, Freshman

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    Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

    Quentin Grimes' tools, athleticism and versatility should draw enough NBA interest during his first year at Kansas. 

    His core strength and bankable skill still remain unclear, being that he's a capable but inconsistent jump-shooter and more of a secondary playmaker than lead setup man. But Grimes always finds ways to contribute as a scorer or passer with his ability to drive and finish, make outside shots and pass out of pick-and-rolls.

    And he'll strengthen his value by defending multiple positions, creating turnovers and making defensive plays on the ball. 

    Grimes could move up the draft board if he proves to be sharper and more efficient offensively. Poor shooting percentages and a low assist-to-turnover ratio may cause him to fall toward the 20s.

8. Keldon Johnson, Kentucky SG/SF, Freshman

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    Keldon Johnson immediately stands out for his 6'6" size, explosive leaping and high energy. 

    His physical and athletic gifts are still far ahead of his skill level, but that shouldn't keep Johnson from pressuring defenses with his attacking and transition play. He's a high-flyer in the open floor and a tough slasher in the half court, where he's aggressive and plays through contact.

    Johnson's shot-creating needs work, particularly around the perimeter. And he has flashed some promise with his catch-and-shoot three-ball, though he doesn't appear ready to be a regular threat.

7. Nazreon Reid, LSU C, Freshman

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Nazreon Reid has always stood out for his 6'10", 240-pound frame and athleticism. But he's going to surprise and draw NBA looks for his skill level and fluidity.

    In the open floor, he shows the ability to handle the ball and change direction, and though mostly a power player the rim, he's nimble with impressive footwork on the move and finishing dexterity.

    It will also be interesting to see what kind of freedom he's given to shoot from outside. We've only seen it in small doses or during practice, but Reid has developed soft touch inside the arc, and he's spent time working on expanding his range to three.

    He should benefit from having Tremont Waters run the show, set the table and draw attention. The big keys for Reid: keeping his motor revved, avoiding careless decisions and appearing switchable defensively.

6. Romeo Langford, Indiana SG, Freshman

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Romeo Langford figures to emerge as one of the Big Ten's top freshman scorers. It's the athleticism and smoothness to his delivery that should help earn NBA attention. 

    A 6'6", 215-pound 2-guard, Langford's athletic ability matches the tools. But he's in the top 10 to start the year because of his ability to create and make tough shots from each level of the floor. Langford has a number of moves he can use to separate into makable jumpers, though they aren't always the highest-percentage attempts.

    A calm demeanor and casual approach could also make him a target following games where he's quiet. 

    Regardless, considering the bounce, quickness, offensive skill package and likely production, Langford comes off as an early top-10 candidate.

5. Bol Bol, Oregon C, Freshman

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Potentially the most polarizing prospect in this year's field, Bol Bol excites with 7'2" size and unique perimeter skill, but his skinny legs, awkward mobility and a questionable approach also create skepticism. 

    He'll start high on our board until it becomes evident he's not physical or smooth enough delivery-wise to execute against set defenses.

    Bol feels comfortable shooting threes, and he's even flashed the ability to use a dribble and pull up inside the arc. In the meantime, his size and length should still translate to easy baskets, rebounds and blocked shots.

    Bol won't be as switchable as Mohamed Bamba was last year at Texas. And he tends to forget about his height and instead tries to imitate Kristaps Porzingis away from the basket. How sharp he looks outside and tough he appears down low will help determine his movement and spot in our rankings through June.

4. Cam Reddish, Duke G/F, Freshman

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    Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

    Though Cam Reddish starts at No. 4, finishing in the top two remains a possibility.

    His reputation has taken a hit due to a perceived lack of consistent concentration. But with next-level athleticism and enough two-way versatility to play and guard positions 2-4, the appeal to his long-term NBA potential is always evident, even when he's playing poorly.

    Scouts' attention will focus on how Reddish performs alongside other stars, particularly after he shot 2-of-8 in a loss during April's Nike Hoop Summit.

    However, in terms of capability and upside, the 6'8" forward checks plenty of boxes, with ball-handling and playmaking skills, one-on-one shot-creating moves and tough shot-making ability out to the arc. 

    Reddish will frustrate at times with questionable effort and shot selection. He gives into the hero-jumper urges too often. When he's on, though, Reddish could look like Duke's toughest mismatch and one of the nation's premier NBA prospects.

3. Nassir Little, North Carolina SG/SF, Freshman

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Nassir Little starts at No. 3, and it's not his ceiling. 

    He made a late push last spring after combining for 52 points between the McDonald's All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic. He'll need to back it all up at North Carolina, where he'll be counted on to emerge as a key scorer behind Luke Maye. 

    With a solid 6'6", 220-pound frame and plenty of athletic ability, Little has also improved as a shot-creator and maker. He'll play through contact around the basket and defend both wing spots with intensity. 

    The development of his perimeter game will determine how high he finishes on draft boards, but signs point to Little as a safe bet to stick in the top-five discussion all season.

2. Zion Williamson, Duke PF/C, Freshman

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Zion Williamson will force scouts to expand their imaginations and throw out the traditional rules.

    On paper, there are questions about how he'll fit in the NBA and what position he'll play. But they're worth overlooking in this particular case, given the rarity of Williamson's talent, even if it comes in an unorthodox shape. 

    Listed at 6'7", 285 pounds, he possesses an unusual, destructive mix of power and explosiveness. And despite the odd size-to-weight ratio, he's surprisingly nimble, capable of eluding defenders and contact and beating bigs to loose balls with a quick second jump.

    He's also flashed intriguing skill, particularly with his ability to handle it low and pass. 

    If he can make enough jump shots—and he's looked capable of hitting open ones—concern over his NBA position will start to fade. 

1. RJ Barrett, Duke, G/F Freshman

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    RJ Barrett starts the season with a soft hold on the No. 1 spot. 

    For scouts, he's been more accessible, visible and productive than any of the other top freshmen. From FIBA and the GEICO Nationals to the McDonald's All-American Game, Nike Hoop Summit and, just recently, Duke's Canadian exhibition tour, Barrett has consistently looked like his game's star player.

    The NBA eye test approves his 6'7" size and athleticism for a scorer who'll be interchangeable between the 2 and 3 positions.

    Barrett has a knack for making shots, even if he's still a work in progress as a shot-creator and three-point shooter. He's improving his pull-up and catch-and-shoot games, but right now he's best attacking in transition and driving in the half court, where his improvisation takes over, as he's able to finish with a wide array of layups and runners.

    A competitor at both ends, Barrett enters Duke with very few questions to answer about his game. Most scouts agree he's No. 1 to start the year.  

        

    All advanced stats courtesy of Synergy Sports