Ranking CBB's 5-Star Recruits Who Have Hurt Their Draft Stock Most
With March Madness comes countless delightful traditions, but none are as consistently magical as watching a previously unheralded player shine under the bright lights.
Whether it's a young Stephen Curry bringing Davidson to within seconds of the Final Four or Donte DiVincenzo jumping off the screen in the 2018 championship game, few events in sports have the power to elevate an athlete into the national conversation—and, often, the draft-related conversation—so rapidly.
However, when players like Curry rise, others must fall. Every year, numerous big-time recruits who began the season among the top tier of draft prospects fall out of serious consideration before their freshman year even ends.
Just in the past decade, players like Perry Jones, Cliff Alexander and Ivan Rabb have all been projected lottery picks before either falling to the second round or going undrafted in the span of one season.
Let's take a look at some of this year's 5-star recruits who've fallen the most thus far. We'll be using 247Sports' recruiting rankings to pick the recruits, while the preseason and most recent big boards from B/R's Jonathan Wasserman will function as effective snapshots of October viewpoints and current perspectives.
This article's rankings are not strictly beholden to math. The gaps between placements on the October and February big boards for any given prospect will serve as guidelines to order these players.
In the spirit of completion, here's a short breakdown of all the 5-star recruits whose stocks have not fallen substantially through NCAA play:
Draft Stock Up or Steady
- Precious Achiuwa, Memphis
- Cole Anthony, North Carolina
- Anthony Edwards, Georgia
- Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky
- Onyeka Okongwu, USC
- Patrick Williams, Florida State
- James Wiseman, Memphis
Didn't Attend College
- LaMelo Ball
- RJ Hampton
Never Received 1st-Round Consideration
- Armando Bacot, North Carolina
- Keion Brooks, Kentucky
- N'Faly Dante, Oregon
- Josiah-Jordan James, Tennessee
- Tre Mann, Florida
- Isaiah Mobley, USC
- CJ Walker, Oregon
- Trendon Watford, LSU
- Kahlil Whitney, Kentucky (plans to transfer)
- Samuell Williamson, Louisville
This leaves nine remaining candidates for consideration.
9. Nico Mannion, Arizona
247Sports Recruit Rank: No. 9
Preseason Big Board: No. 9
Current Big Board: No. 20
2019-20 Stats: 31.8 MPG, 13.8 PPG, 5.3 APG, 2.6 RPG, 17.3 PER
This season hasn't been the end of the world for Nico Mannion's draft prospects. But considering the amount of hype surrounding him before the season, it could have gone better thus far.
Mannion wasn't great in nonconference play, but his weaknesses have really shown themselves against Pac-12 opponents. In the new year, the redhead is shooting just 36.3 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from three.
In his August big board, Wasserman wrote: "Finishing at the rim and defending strong ball-handlers will pose challenges for Mannion. Questions about his NBA upside are sure to surface."
All that appears to remain true.
At 6'3" with an average-to-subpar wingspan and a lack of explosiveness off the dribble, Mannion seemed unlikely to become a truly elite guard at the next level, and his struggles this season have validated that hypothesis. If you shoot 36.3 percent from the field in a 16-game stretch against college competition, how will you handle the likes of Danny Green, Josh Richardson and Patrick Beverley on a nightly basis in the pros?
Mannion is still a likely first-round pick if he decides to declare. In fact, his dynamic passing and other ancillary skills have shone where his shot creation has often fallen short. But when talking about the absolute peak of his powers in the pro game, expectations may need some adjusting.
8. Josh Green, Arizona
247Sports Recruit Rank: No. 13
Preseason Big Board: No. 13
Current Big Board: No. 24
2019-20 Stats: 30.7 MPG, 11.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 17.9 PER
No, this is not just a list of Arizona Wildcats. But both Mannion and Josh Green have performed below expectations this season and deserve discussion here.
Green wasn't as well-known as his backcourt mate before the season, but he had a fair bit of promise to live up to, as well. Mentored by none other than Australian superstar Ben Simmons, the Sydney native's dynamic athleticism and potential two-way versatility garnered lots of sleeper buzz and made him a serious late-lottery candidate.
Unfortunately, nothing has gone according to plan for Green. Projected as a sharpshooter and potential secondary playmaker, he's made just 32.0 percent of his threes this year and averages only 2.6 assists per game.
Just like Mannion, however, Green still has plenty of tools to become a quality NBA player. The 2-guard is an elite transition scorer and has been an excellent defender for the Wildcats this year, boasting a rock-solid 5.0 defensive box plus-minus.
Green's combination of sterling defensive IQ, intensity, length and athleticism will endear him to pro coaches immediately and get him early minutes. Wasserman has dropped him on the latest big board due to his lack of consistency showing primary offensive skills, and that's the right idea. But it's defense that gets young players on the floor in the league.
If given the chance, perhaps Green will show out on the less glamorous end at first, and the flashy scoring potential will come along later.
7. Vernon Carey Jr., Duke
247Sports Recruit Rank: No. 6
Preseason Big Board: No. 20
Current Big Board: No. 35
2019-20 Stats: 24.8 MPG, 17.6 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 33.8 PER
Top college players are routinely ill-suited for the NBA. However, it may seem particularly counterintuitive that Vernon Carey Jr., one of the candidates for National Player of the Year, has seen his stock drop since the start of the season.
Well, it's falling largely due to circumstances out of his control. For two reasons, the Duke center is no longer considered a first-round lock.
The first has to do with expectations. Before a season begins, we haven't seen what freshmen will do against college competition, so they are ranked with leeway given to potential improvement in weak areas. Before this year, Wasserman wrote, "[Carey's] value in this draft will come down to his defensive mobility, rim protection and shooting development."
While Carey has been a great rim protector, his one-on-one defense hasn't lived up to expectations, nor has his shooting (he's made 40.0 percent of threes but on just 0.7 attempts per game).
The second reason is positional value, which Wasserman noted more recently: "The decline in value of NBA centers who aren't shooters or switchable defenders hurts Carey. … [He] should continue to give lineups an interior scoring presence and cleanup man—there just isn't an enticing need to reach on him high in the draft."
It's not entirely Carey's fault he may not be a first-round pick. He was just born 20 years too late.
6. Jaden McDaniels, Washington
247Sports Recruit Rank: 8
Preseason Big Board: No. 10
Current Big Board: No. 21
2019-20 Stats: 30.9 MPG, 12.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 13.9 PER
Players with obvious talent and physical tools who only reach their potential every so often are the most infuriating kind of prospect. Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Green are perhaps the most famous recent versions of this player type.
Soon enough, we may have to slot Jaden McDaniels right up there with them.
Watch McDaniels' high school tape once and the potential is mouthwatering. On his best days, the 6'9" forward can remind you of Brandon Ingram, using his slender frame to slither around defenders and find unique paths toward the basket while also demonstrating an ability to stroke threes with ease.
However, he's rarely shown those skills at Washington.
Head coach Mike Hopkins has given McDaniels ample opportunity as he plays nearly 31 minutes per game. But the Seattle native has responded by shooting just 40.3 percent from the floor and 33.9 percent from three while recording a sub-one assist-to-turnover ratio. He's even posting a below-average 13.9 player efficiency rating.
Despite not meeting expectations this year, McDaniels remains supremely talented, and he's recently reminded the world of that, shooting 41.4 percent from three over his last six games. With another year of seasoning in college, the forward might be ready to take the NBA world by storm.
5. Isaiah Stewart, Washington
247Sports Recruit Rank: No. 3
Preseason Big Board: No. 12
Current Big Board: No. 28
2019-20 Stats: 32.1 MPG, 16.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 26.1 PER
On the other end of the Washington freshman spectrum lies Isaiah Stewart.
The La Lumiere alumnus has lived up to expectations. Shooting 55.6 percent from the floor and grabbing 10.8 rebounds per 40 minutes, the big man easily leads the Huskies in win shares and could very well receive All-Pac-12 honors in some way.
So, why the drop in draft stock?
Similar to Carey before him, Stewart will likely find a role and succeed in the NBA. But his chances of being a star in this era are diminishing by the day. In a world in which the Houston Rockets have racked up several impressive wins without featuring a single player taller than 6'9", big men of Stewart's ilk are reduced to becoming Enes Kanter types who only succeed in certain matchups.
That's obviously a bit disheartening, but seeing Stewart get relentlessly targeted in pick-and-rolls during a playoff matchup would be equally sad.
All this is not to say that Stewart and players like him are looked down upon for the skills they do possess. Even dropping him to late first-round status, Wasserman views him positively, writing that "he does seem to have a high floor that's propped up by a 250-pound frame, live motor, strong footwork in the paint and production to back everything up."
For the sake of his career and the relevance of the old-school big man, let's hope such a high floor exists.
4. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Villanova
247Sports Recruit Rank: No. 16
Preseason Big Board: No. 19
Current Big Board: Unranked
2019-20 Stats: 32.2 MPG, 10.5 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 1.9 APG, 18.0 PER
At first glance, this seems confusing. Robinson-Earl entered the season as a fringe lottery candidate, has been a major contributor for a March Madness-bound team and has dropped off the draft radar completely.
What gives, draftniks?
Well, before getting completely up in arms, Nova fans, let's go back and read Wasserman's preseason blurb on the forward: "Though not overly flashy, he runs the floor hard, finishes well and shows promising touch when set for catch-and-shoot jump shots."
In 2020, the most important of the three traits Wasserman mentioned is the outside shot.
Well, the touch that was once promising has seemingly slipped away. At just 31.0 percent from beyond the arc, he hasn't posed much of a scoring threat this year, and with average-to-subpar assist, block and steal rates, there isn't a whole lot else in his game that portends immediate translation to the pros.
Robinson-Earl could still be a useful NBA player, and he picked the correct school to help him figure that transition out. From Kyle Lowry to Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo, head coach Jay Wright has a lengthy track record of molding highly pedigreed players into the best possible versions of themselves and then unleashing them in the NBA, where they almost always contribute to winning.
Seeing as Robinson-Earl is a former McDonald's All-American who Wright plays for over 32 minutes per game, perhaps he'll still be next in that distinguished line.
3. Matthew Hurt, Duke
247Sports Recruit Rank: No. 12
Preseason Big Board: No. 17
Current Big Board: Unranked
2019-20 Stats: 21.2 MPG, 10.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.9 APG, 21.8 PER
Next to the flashy highlight reels of Vernon Carey Jr., Tre Jones and Cassius Stanley, you may think fellow top recruit Matthew Hurt has merely gotten lost in discussions about Duke. However, while he has been solid in his role this year, the NBA just appears much further away for him now than it did in November.
Hurt's key skill is shooting, and at 40.0 percent from three, that has translated to high-level college play. However, nearly all stretch big men in the NBA have additional pro-caliber skills, and he hasn't shown any this year.
The 6'9" forward is nearly getting outrebounded by Duke's guards with just 7.3 boards per 40 minutes compared to Stanley's 7.1. He has the second-worst defensive rating in the team's rotation and boasts troublingly low steal, block and assist rates, even for college competition.
Since the three-pointer became essential to basketball, there's a distinct legacy of sharpshooting college forwards who stand out among scrawny 20-year olds but can't pass muster against the athletes of the pros. Names like Jon Leuer, Mike Muscala and Frank Kaminsky dot that list, as do several Duke alumni—remember Kyle Singler and Ryan Kelly? However, all five aforementioned players were dominant in college.
Perhaps Hurt will be able to run roughshod over NCAA opponents in time. But unless he bulks up and starts watching film more intently, he's in for the same rude awakening his predecessors received in the pros.
2. Scottie Lewis, Florida
247Sports Recruit Rank: No. 7
Preseason Big Board: No. 11
Current Big Board: No. 46
2019-20 Stats: 28.6 MPG, 8.0 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 15.2 PER
Before the season, the major questions about Scottie Lewis' skill set revolved around scoring efficiency, and he's seemingly responded to those criticisms, shooting 43.5 percent overall and 36.4 percent from three. He's also playing high-intensity defense, recording a terrific 4.9 block percentage and a 97.8 defensive rating.
Despite his limited role for a competitive Gators squad, all these positive indicators would suggest that Lewis will be a first-round pick in June, not gearing up for Year 2 in Gainesville.
However, in his most recent big board, Wasserman wrote of Lewis: "He's scored in double figures twice over Florida's last 13 games, and he's totaled 19 assists all season. Lewis' shooting development ... will determine how many years it takes for coaches to trust him on an NBA floor."
Lewis seems to have dropped for two main reasons.
First, though his shooting percentages have improved, he's also taking just 2.7 threes per 40 minutes. That backs up the idea that he'll need to show more to convince scouts of his jumper's validity.
Secondly, lack of playmaking in a guard is a real issue, and Lewis has a sub-one assist-to-turnover ratio. The only NBA guards who can get away with not being even secondary playmakers are sharpshooters, and we've just covered why Lewis doesn't fit that bill.
Passing aside, Lewis has mildly impressed during his freshman campaign. If he continues growing through the rest of this season and next, he might just be two-and-out in college.
1. Bryan Antoine, Villanova
247Sports Recruit Rank: No. 17
Preseason Big Board: No. 26
Current Big Board: Unranked
2019-20 Stats: 5.4 MPG, 1.1 PPG, 0.4 RPG, 0.3 APG, 4.4 PER
And we finish by going from Lewis to his high school teammate.
Unlike many of the players on this list, Bryan Antoine's slow start was anticipated. He spent most of his first offseason and the opening month of the regular season recovering from a torn labrum, making his collegiate debut on Nov. 21. Given that the labrum is part of the shoulder, low shooting percentages were an expectation for Antoine at the beginning.
What was not expected was just how little he'd end up playing for Villanova.
Head coach Jay Wright has a recent history of benching highly touted recruits. Last year, former McDonald's All-American point guard Jahvon Quinerly played just nine minutes per game and eventually transferred to Alabama.
Antoine's situation doesn't appear to be as drastic as Quinerly's—as recently as late January, he admitted that he understood his limited role. But regardless, playing a healthy 5-star recruit just five minutes per night seems a bit extreme. He was a tremendous three-level scorer in high school, and a talent like him could be of use to any team, even in a 15-minute spark-plug capacity.
Considering all this context, putting Antoine at the top of a list like this might be unfair. But if he's healthy for the full 2020-21 campaign and produces to the best of his abilities, then he won't have to worry. He'll be in the lottery conversation then with legitimate tape and excitement to complement that status.
All stats, unless otherwise indicated, courtesy of Sports Reference and accurate heading into games on March 2.