NBA Big Board: My Top 25 Prospects
All ages, heights, weights, and wingspans are from The Ringer’s NBA Draft Guide. Ages were rounded up if the prospect is nearing his next birthday.
1. Deandre Ayton
20 years old | 7-foot, 243 pounds | 7-foot-5 wingspan
Ayton is a monster, plain and simple. He is well developed physically, able to push defenders around on the block. He has a low center of gravity and is well balanced, which shows on both ends of the floor. His frame looks like it could fill out a little more despite already being 243 pounds.
Ayton honestly reminds me of Karl-Anthony Towns with both his strengths and weaknesses. He can rebound and has shown some ability to shoot from deep and mid-range, and has good footwork in the post. On defense, he can hold his own on the perimeter but doesn’t really have the best rim-protecting instincts — which may be a problem but also an area good defensive coaches can help him develop in.
Towns was the no. 1 pick himself in 2015, and he has lived up to that thus far. All signs are pointing towards Ayton going no. 1 to Phoenix, and we’ll see if he’s the guy to help Devin Booker bring the Suns out of irrelevance.
2. Luka Doncic
19 years old | 6-foot-8, 228 pounds
Confident, passionate, skilled perimeter player that dominated in a man’s league. Doncic, playing for Real Madrid in Spain, won the Euroleague MVP at age 19 — the youngest to ever accomplish such a feat.
There are worries about Doncic as an athlete — a la “he just looks like another slow European dude.” There is more to the game than athleticism. Sure, it may hold him back in some regards. He may not be the physical prototype of a great NBA defender. But his offensive skillset is great enough to makeup for any of those concerns.
Doncic is a skilled passer both in transition and half-court settings. He has a deadly stepback three-point in his bag, allowing him to create space for open looks — a skill that has drawn some James Harden comparisons.
He can shoot off the dribble, too, a skill that has proven in recent years as one of the best skills a ball-handler can have — especially if that ball-handler can pass the way Doncic can pass.
Doncic is more of a finesse player around the rim, but he can in fact jump, meaning he has an above-the-rim game if he needs it.
Doncic is far and away the most developed wing in this draft, and could one day become the best player from this class.
3. Mohamed Bamba
20 years old | 7-foot, 226 pounds | 7-foot-10 wingspan
I will never get over “7-foot-10 wingspan.” It is, without a doubt, a major part of what makes Bamba so tantalizing.
It will make him a good shoot-blocker and rim protector as a whole right off the bat. He averaged 3.7 blocks in 30 minutes per game at Texas, which should come as a surprise to no one.
Outside of rebounding, that was about the only thing Bamba showed consistently in college, however. Bamba, as a prospect, is certainly more theoretical than proven. His offensive game was very raw.
Bamba has drawn a lot of Rudy Gobert comparisons as a seven-foot, rim-running shot-blocker. But Bamba, since his season ended, has been trying to prove he can be more than that.
Working with infamous shot doctor Drew Hanlen, Bamba is trying to refine his mechanics and become a floor-spacer.
He showed some flashes of a three-point shot in college but only hit 27.5 percent of his attempts. It’s something to build on, though.
Bamba is pretty thin for his height and doesn’t have a super sturdy base. There are some questions about whether he will be able to hold his own in the paint — on both ends — with lower-centered big man moving him off his spots. If he does get to the point that he can, when will it be? And how much weight will he have to add to get there?
Bamba runs up the floor quickly, and frankly moves smaller than he is as a whole. A few times at Texas, Bamba took guys off the dribble from the perimeter and finished at the rim. He also showed some defensive versatility on the perimeter, sitting down and keeping the ball in front of him. His perimeter close-outs were solid.
Many just see a gangly shot-blocker in Bamba that has a long way to go before reaching his ceiling. But he has a lot in his bag, which may suggest his floor is one of the higher ones in this class.
4. Jaren Jackson Jr.
19 years old | 6-foot-11, 236 pounds | 7-foot-5 wingspan
What has Jackson so high in most people’s mock drafts and big boards? Security. Jackson may have the highest floor in this draft due to his defensive versatility and three-point shooting.
Jackson can guard 1–5, which automatically makes him a commodity in the NBA. He was a great shot-blocker as well, averaging three per game.
He often got into foul trouble, averaging 3.2 per game. He just averaged 21.8 minutes per game because of his fouling.
Jackson isn’t much of a creator on offense and is best when playing off of others, which may limit his upside if he doesn’t develop in creating his own shot and passing.
5. Trae Young
19 years old | 6-foot-2, 178 pounds | 6-foot-3 wingspan
Trae Young has superstar potential. His combination of long-distance shooting and elite passing makes for an All-NBA candidate.
On defense, Young will probably struggle. He’s skinny and has short arms. He’s actually not too bad at keeping guys in front of him, but the strength advantage will leave Young in the dust.
Young’s ceiling offensively is high enough where it may not be much of a problem, though. As Steph Curry has shown, off-the-dribble shooting opens a lot of things up for the ball-handler as well as his teammates. Young has the ability to breakdown defenders with his dribble and dish to almost anyone on the floor. He’s going to be really tough to defend.
6. Miles Bridges
20 years old | 6-foot-7, 220 pounds | 6-foot-9 wingspan
Bridges shocked the draft community when he opted to return to Michigan State for his second season. There’s always risk in a decision like that, especially considering he was projected as a lottery pick last season.
Bridges’ numbers pretty much dropped across the board, but I think returning was still a smart decision. Bridges was able to show his ability to play off of high-level creators like Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford as well as create on his own.
The Ringer is not high on Bridges’ passing, particularly when driving to the basket. I am a fan of his passing, however. Bridges isn’t a genius passer but he always seems to make the right pass, on-point and on time.
Bridges is one of the more well-rounded players coming into this draft — especially on offense. He isn’t the best ball-handler, but he is comfortable dribbling in tight spaces.
Defensively, Bridges’ strength makes him very tough to move — and he has the lateral quickness to slide with most wings and some guards. His sub-7-foot wingspan may cause some problems, but he should be above average on that end.
7. Wendell Carter Jr.
19 years old | 6-foot-10, 251 pounds | 7-foot-4 wingspan
Say it with me: Wendell Carter Jr. will be the best Duke prospect in this draft.
Playing next to Marvin Bagley III, Carter wasn’t able to fully show off his skill set. Carter’s game is much better suited next to a stretch-four, an an area where Bagley is improving but not reliable in yet.
Wendell Carter Jr. is going to be a monster
When it comes to Duke draft prospects, all the talk is surrounding Marvin Bagley III. The athletic, big-number-posting…
Bagley was in the paint so much, Carter didn’t have much room to operate. Bagley’s (and Trevon Duval’s) poor perimeter defense also put Carter in a position to fail at the rim.
Carter is a smart rim defender, though, knowing how to use his body and length to alter and block shots. He isn’t super quick guarding in space, but he does his best to close up lanes and keep the ball in front of him.
He also has some ability to space out to the three-point line — shooting 41.3 percent on 46 attempts at Duke. His mechanics look solid, and he should be a good shooter right away in the NBA.
Carter’s bread-and-butter is in the post, though. He has a back-to-the-basket game as well as a face-up game. His ability to pass out of the post will make him a tough defend in an NBA offense.
8. Collin Sexton
19 years old | 6-foot-2, 183 pounds | 6-foot-7 wingspan
Sexton is just a ball of fun. He is very dynamic with the ball and isn’t scared to take on multiple defenders.
That game said a lot about Sexton. Playing a good chunk of minutes with just two teammates, Sexton took over. He dropped 40 that game and Alabama only lost by five points.
He is a relentless ball-handler that bounces off defenders, throws down ferocious dunks, and can be a knock-down shooter if he’s feeling it.
Sexton isn’t a great shooter. He’s nowhere near Trae Young but he’s further along than Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. His form is good, but his shot selection is sometimes suspect.
His relentlessness translates to the defensive end. Sexton doesn’t have great size but he is strong, mobile, and has decent length to defend point guards. He takes defending the other team’s best guard as a worthy challenge, not just a duty that must be done, which is a good sign.
He isn’t a great playmaker, but is a great athlete with a tight handle which will open up a lot of easy dishes.
9. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
20 years old | 6-foot-6, 180 pounds | 7-foot wingspan
Despite his lack of an elite first step, Gilgeous-Alexander has the length and finishing ability to get to the rim, make shots, and draw fouls. With a not-so-reliable jumpshot as of now, he needs to be efficient around the rim.
He is comfortable operating in a pick-and-roll, often time looking at getting to the rim but did make on-point sling passes to open shooters if the opportunity arose.
As a defender, Gilgeous-Alexander outstanding size and length for his position gave him an extreme advantage. He often looked like a high school senior guarding a freshman, towering over his man. He is able to sit down and slide, keeping the ball in front of him, and was almost always looking to poke the ball away from his man above the break.
He does need to improve as a shooter and look to distribute more, but he has a lot of things to like.
Gilgeous-Alexander was not highly touted coming into his freshman season at Kentucky, yet finished the season as the program’s best player. During his rise, he looked calm, cool, and collected, playing the game he knows how. That calming presence as a lead ball-handler in the NBA could make coaches and teammates more confident and less stressed in the final moments of close games.
10. Marvin Bagley III
19 years old | 6-foot-11, 234 pounds | 7-foot wingspan
Bagley, in my opinion, has too many questions to be considered a top five pick.
I think he will be a fine NBA player. His motor, rebounding, and finishing ability should allow him to be an efficient scorer in the NBA. He is very comfortable around the rim and should be a dominant rebounder right away. He showed some ability to pass at Duke, and his shooting needs some work but he may become reliable in that area. I don’t have many concerns about his ability to be effective on offense (except using his right hand).
His defensive instincts are very poor, however, and he doesn’t have the length to defend the rim.
Unless he improves upon all of these things, how can he really be a starting forward on championship contender?
11. Mikal Bridges
22 years old | 6-foot-7, 200 pounds | 7-foot-2 wingspan
Bridges is one of the best defenders in this draft. With his length, lateral movement and all the goodies he learned under Jay Wright at Villanova, Bridges should be an above average-to-good defender right away.
Offensively is where I worry. He can shoot — he hit 43.5 percent of his six attempts last season, which is freaking awesome. He does have an off-the-dribble game, and often got to the rack and finished when releasing it. But I don’t think, if he can’t run around the defender, that he’s really going to be able to create a good shot for himself.
As of now, his ceiling is a great 3-and-D role player that plays well within the team. To go beyond that, Bridges needs to improve as a creator.
12. Kevin Knox
19 years old | 6-foot-9, 213 pounds | 7-foot wingspan
Knox is really good when he gets to his spots before receiving the ball and only needs two or three dribbles to get a good shot. He is comfortable with the ball, but only if he doesn’t have to dribble much. The more he dribbles, the looser is handle gets and the worse the shot he throws up becomes.
He does have a bit of a Paul George vibe to him, with his positional size and smoothness. But like George did when he was younger, Knox will have to become a much better ball-handler and creator to become an All-Star caliber forward.
Defensively, though, Knox has a long way to go. He has the mobility and length to defend most forwards but he often got lost at Kentucky and didn’t have a ton of discipline.
13. Michael Porter Jr.
20 years old | 6-foot-11, 211 pounds | 7-foot wingspan
What do we know of Porter? He is an athletic forward whom is a lob threat in transition with his size and leaping ability, and is a good shooter off the catch. He doesn’t have great defensive instincts and can’t really create off the dribble.
We didn’t see much of him in college at Mizzou thanks to a back injury that caused him to miss all but two full games.
Porter was once considered the best player in this class, which changed while he was down with injury.
Porter, to me, looks more like a four that has some upside off the dribble, but it isn’t there yet. Coming into the league, he will be a transition lob threat and off-ball shooter. Whether he develops beyond that depends on the situation he falls into.
14. Zhaire Smith
19 years old | 6-foot-4, 199 pounds | 6-foot-10 wingspan
Smith is one of the most fascinating prospects I can remember. Being the tallest player on his high school team, Smith played center and didn’t shoot a three until his senior year.
This fact has caused some worry among draft folk. Smith shot 45 percent on 40 attempts at Texas Tech. It’s a small sample size, but Smith’s form looks good-not-great. The motion is good, but it’s a little slow. He needed some time and space to get a good shot off.
There is so much more to Smith’s game, though, almost all of it near the rim.
Playing center in high school, Smith has the instincts of a big man — even as a 6-foot-4 guard. He dips in and out of the post, setting off-ball screens and hovers around the rim. Smith is almost always ready for a put-back dunk.
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On defense, Smith has the length to guard at least 1s and 2s. Whether he can guard 3s will remain to be seen.
He has good lateral movement and and good shot-blocking instincts as well.
Smith’s athleticism makes him a fun prospect, too.
The worries come with him on the ball. Many in the draft community worry that Smith won’t be able to develop into a reliable creator both with his passing and dribbling. He didn’t have a ton of opportunity to display that in college, so he didn’t do it much.
Smith showed flashes, though. If those things come along, Smith has a super high ceiling as a two-way combo guard.
16. Donte DiVincenzo
21 years old | 6-foot-4, 200 pounds | 6-foot-6 wingspan
DiVincenzo is probably one of the best creators in this draft. He is a very advanced passer, a comfortable ball-handler, and has a beautiful three-point stroke.
Often when watching Villanova, DiVincenzo was the guy standing out — even when sharing the court with possible first round picks Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson.
His length will limit him as a defender, but he tries — which is at least half the battle. He also did this in the National Championship.
DiVincenzo can create off-the-dribble and finish at the rim. At the very least, he will be one of the best sixth men in the NBA.
17. Lonnie Walker IV
19 years old | 6-foot-5, 196 pounds | 6-foot-10 wingspan
Lonnie Walker may be the best physically-built guard in this draft. He has good size and length with a strong body, and has the mobility to lock in defensively on the perimeter.
Walker also may be one of the best shooters in this draft. Well, he has a great looking shot, at least. He pulls up off-the-dribble with ease, often canning a beautiful jumper. He looks just as good off the catch.
He was streaky at Miami, though, and doesn’t always make the best decisions with the ball — as a shooter and a passer.
His handle isn’t great, and doesn’t have the basketball IQ at this stage to be even a secondary ball-handler. Walker is better suited as an off-ball menace that focuses most of his energy on defense.
18. Troy Brown
19 years old | 6-foot-7, 208 pounds | 6-foot-10 wingspan
Offensively, Brown reminds me of a slow Jabari Parker. The way he moves — the way he takes guys off the dribble and drives to the rim. I see some Jabari in there.
He can’t really shoot; he has a weird shot form and hit just 29.1 percent of his threes at Oregon.
Brown is a good ball-handler and passer, however, showing some ability to be a secondary playmaker.
His defense needs a little work, but he was good at picking off passes and averaged 1.6 steals per game.
19. Robert Williams
21 years old | 6-foot-9, 237 pounds | 7-foot-5 wingspan
Williams, a springy lob-finisher and shot-blocker, has drawn a lot of Clint Capela comparisons. He is a supreme athlete that punishes the rim on dunks and the ball on blocks.
Williams has the athletic tools to both defend the rim and guard the perimeter a little bit but had discipline problems at Texas A&M, not always committing to proper technique.
Unlike Bamba, Williams will probably never be able to step out and reliably hit three-pointers.
20. Khyri Thomas
22 years old | 6-foot-4, 199 pounds | 6-foot-10 wingspan
Thomas is one of the best stand-still shooters in this draft. He should come into the league and be a productive shooter right away.
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Thomas can be a good defender. Quick guys can get around him but he has good length and is strong when guards body him up.
21. Ellie Okobo
21 years old | 6-foot-3, 180 pounds
From France, Okobo is a solid on- and off-ball shooter — hitting 41.3 percent of his threes this season (172 attempts).
He is active off the ball as a cutter as well.
Okobo plays point guard but still has a ways to go before he can be a primary handler. He is a good passer but not at the level to lead a team.
Defensively, Okobo can fade but has shown promise staying in front of guys.
22. Aaron Holiday
22 years old | 6-foot, 187 pounds | 6-foot-7 wingspan
Holiday is probably better suited as an off-ball guard, as he doesn’t possess the physical tools to easily get past athletic defenders. He is good in the pick-and-roll, though, and a solid passer (averaged 5.8 assists this season).
Holiday is a great shooter, both off the catch and dribble — hitting 42.9 percent on 6.2 threes per game.
Despite his struggles getting around defenders, Holiday is a good finisher around the rim — even when challenged.
Because of his size, Holiday will have an uphill climb on defense. But he has good length for his position, is strong, smart, and tries hard. He will not get pushed around on that end.
23. Keita Bates-Diop
22 years old | 6-foot-9, 224 pounds | 7-foot-3 wingspan
Bates-Diop has great positional size and length but…what position is he? This is what holds Bates-Diop back from being a top 20 pick, in my opinion.
Offensively, Bates-Diop can handle, put in some work in the post, and has shown ability to hit shots off the dribble. With solid footwork at his advanced college age, Bates-Diop had no issue schooling defenders in the post.
He is more comfortable defending on the perimeter, but is fairly slow which should limit him against NBA wings. He would be better suited defending perimeter-oriented 4s, as he may not be able to defend developed 5s at the professional level.
Bates-Diop should have an NBA role right away, but it’s hard to give him starter upside until he proves he can defend centers.
24. De’Anthony Melton
20 years old | 6-foot-3, 193 pounds | 6-foot-9 wingspan
Where Melton will make his money is on defense. He has major upside as an All-NBA defender with his length, activity, and range. He is attentive and smart.
For his size and position, Melton is a strong rebounder.
Thanks to a Federal investigation, Melton was not able to participate in the last collegiate season. He was fairly raw offensively, and some development in that area this past season may have raised his stock. Alas, here we are.
Melton has underrated vision, able to make skip passes on the move. He seemed to be a solid decision-maker in transition.
Where scouts really would like to see Melton improve is with his shot, as he shot just 28.4 percent on 2.1 threes per game at USC. His 70.6 free throw percentage is worrisome as well.
Melton did participate in Combine scrimmages and his shot looked more refined.
If Melton can develop into even just an average shooter, he could be one of the most well-rounded players in this class.
25. Shake Milton
22 years old | 6-foot-6, 207 pounds | 7-foot wingspan
George Hill 2.0? Milton is a careful ball-handler but not dynamic enough to be a primary creator. He is more suited for an off-ball role where he can make easier passes and shoot off the catch.
Milton is a versatile defender with great length, but you can tell from his skinny legs that he may struggle defending forwards.
Milton has an easy shot and made over 42 percent of his three-point attempts in his three seasons at SMU.
Missing the last 11 games of the season, Milton slipped down draft boards after being a first round prospect through January.
SMU was 15–7 with Milton in the lineup. After his injury, they were 2–9.