With less than 30 games to go in the NBA regular season and March Madness right around the corner, the excitement around basketball is about to hit an all-time high. This means there's no better time than now than to highlight 10 prospects that will soon be showcasing their talents on the biggest NCAA stages and soon be declaring for the NBA Draft.
When developing my big board, I feel like it is best to not worry about where they get drafted and focus more on their individual talents. I've ranked each player based on where they are in their strengths, weaknesses, performance and how their game can translate to the NBA level.
With that all being taken into account, here are my top 10 prospects going into this year's NBA draft.
1. Zion Williamson, Duke
I'm not going to compare Williamson to Lebron James as some people have, but he definitely is one of the best prospects the NBA has seen in years. He is 6'7", 285 lbs, with the athletic ability to jump out of the gym, the basketball IQ to flow within a system, and the capability to be an efficient scorer and rebounder at the next level.
Averaging 22 points, nine rebounds, and two assists on almost 70 percent from the floor, the man is a walking highlight reel and a game changer for whatever franchise is able to land him. Something to keep your eyes on: Williamson is averaging such a high rebound total on top of averaging nearly two blocks a game at his height. It's hard to look over someone who is so freakishly athletic and committed to both ends of the floor.
2. Ja Morant, Murray State
Morant is one of, if not the most, electrifying guards in the draft class. Despite playing at a smaller school, Morant has done more than enough to display skills that can translate to the NBA and make him a heavy contributor from day one.
Averaging 24 points, almost six rebounds and 10 assists per game, Morant is the ideal combo guard. He can score at a high clip while also being able to facilitate. With his ridiculous athleticism and highlight capability, an easy comp for him would be Russell Westbrook. For some, that may be a turnoff, but for me, that displays a huge upside and shows he has a chance to significantly improve a team's backcourt.
My only concern would be the 32 percent shooting from behind the arc. That's not bad, but he is going to have to prove that he can shoot from that point/shooting guard position.
3. RJ Barrett, Duke
Once was projected as the definitive number one overall pick, Barrett has only dropped because he plays alongside Zion Williamson, who is a walking Hoop Mixtape across social media.
In reality, Barrett is the primary ball handler and takes the majority of the shots on this loaded Duke Blue Devils squad. Averaging nearly 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists on almost 45 percent from the floor, the "Mamba Mentality" that he claims to have is what makes him such a great prospect. I would never say that he is on Kobe Bryant's level this early, but he has that smooth mid-range game and is a great finisher around the rim. Barrett could easily be an 18+ point per game scorer in year one of his pro career.
Barrett, similar to Morant, concerns me in terms of his ability to shoot the three, coming into a league that has heavily embraced shooting from long range. If he can improve his shot even a little bit from distance, he's going to become a very special player.
4. Cam Reddish, Duke
Considered the "Chris Bosh" of the Duke Big Three, Cam Reddish has not gotten the type of respect I believe he deserves. If we put stats aside and focus strictly on game, attributes, and intangibles, I believe that Reddish and Barrett pound for pound are on the same level.
The stats scream that Reddish is no better than a rotation piece, as he is averaging nearly 14 points, almost four rebounds and two assists on 36 percent shooting from the floor. But when sharing the ball with two of the top three NBA prospects in this year's draft, we can't really expect him to be averaging 20+ points on a team that already has two 20+ point scorers.
Reddish is long, active on defense, and has consistently shown that if you need a late game three to win or put you ahead, he is not afraid to take and make the shot. The biggest question is whether or not this overpowered Duke team is watering down his true potential, or if it only highlights that Reddish is only at his best when alongside other All-Star caliber players.
5. Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech
I believe Culver is the most surefire prospect in the draft. Williamson and Morant have to live up to their Sports Center Top 10 hype, Barrett has to show that he's not just a high volume scorer and Reddish has to show that he's not just third wheel. Culver, on the other hand, is just a baller that gets buckets and locks down on defense.
Averaging nearly 18 points, six rebounds and almost four assists on 50 percent shooting, this man plays hard and has active hands on defense. Culver is the embodiment of the "Three and D" player every team in the league is looking for. Culver, to me, is just a really good prospect with the kind of intangibles that can make him a second scoring option on a team and a leader on the defensive end.
6. Bol Bol, Oregon
Better known as one of the few members of Unicorn Fam, Bol Bol is an anomaly, a high upside with a lot of questions.
When you look at the negatives, it's hard to overlook the fact that he is 7'3" with a skinny frame and has already had a season-ending lower extremity injury. That build, along with a league history of big men like Greg Oden and most recently Kristaps Porzingis, definitely would concern me if I was a GM looking at this guy.
On the positive note, the man averaged 21 points and almost 10 rebounds a game on 56 percent shooting from the field and 52 percent shooting from behind the arc when healthy. You can't teach 7'3" with a soft shooting touch and the potential to average at least two blocks a game at the next level.
The pros and cons show a prospect with a high ceiling and a really low floor, as that injury will linger in the minds of any GM looking to take a chance on Bol Bol.
7. Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga
Hachimura has been compared to Giannis Antetokounmpo based on his ability to dominate so far this year in college. Playing on a veteran Gonzaga squad, Hachimura has significantly improved his game every season, and this year is his best season by far. Averaging 20 points, almost seven rebounds and barely two assists, shooting both 60 percent from the floor and 42 percent from three, Hachimura is playing his best basketball. He is showing that he can be a long, athletic player that has star potential.
My only concern is that I don't exactly know where he fits in starting lineup. I can't tell whether he is a small forward or a small ball power forward/center at the next level, considering he is only 6'8. Nonetheless, he has star quality and can be a clear cut representation of a stretch forward with ball-handling skills in today's NBA.
8. Nassir Little, North Carolina
I'm not going to lie, right now I have very little to say about Nassir Little besides the fact that his potential is just too hard to pass on. This man once gained national recognition in high school, being known as "The Guy Who Shut Down Zion Williamson." If you don't believe me, just type it into YouTube and you'll find more clickbait thumbnails than you'll know what to do with.
Little is currently averaging barely 10 points and four rebounds in just under 20 minutes played per game. I don't know if North Carolina coach Roy Williams isn't utilizing him correctly or what, but Little is definitely a better player than he has shown so far this season. He is a big body, a high flyer with the ability to play defense the full length of the court.
Between his high motor and capabilities, if Little can just prove that he can be a decent shooter, he could, at the worst, be a Draymond Green-esque type player. Green was a sleeper in his draft class coming out of Michigan State and I feel like Little has the capability of being the same.
9. Romeo Langford, Indiana
Romeo Langford molded in the form of the San Antonio Spurs' guard Demar DeRozan. Bad shooter from three, but has the capability to be a great scorer from anywhere with 16 feet of the basket. The man lives in the mid-range as he averages 17 points, five rebounds and two assists per game on 46 percent shooting from the floor.
Langford has not played bad, but he has not had that "moment" or "flash" that shows us a very good NBA prospect. Honestly, I believe he is a top 10 prospect because he is a very good scoring guard with a wingspan that can help in converting him into a strong defender at the next level. For Langford, shooting and his commitment on the defensive end will be the difference between whether or not he rises or falls during the draft.
10. De'Andre Hunter, Virginia
The word I have to associate with De'Andre Hunter is underappreciated. If he didn't play in the same conference as players like Duke's Williamson and Barrett, he would be a possible front runner for ACC Player of the Year this season.
Averaging nearly 15 points, five rebounds and two assists per game, Hunter's stats are similar to Cam Reddish. This screams that he simply is a good rotational piece in the NBA. The reality is the advanced stats of shooting percentage say otherwise, as the man is shooting 53 percent from the field, 55 percent from within the arc and almost 46 percent from three.
With such a high-efficiency rating shooting-wise, the man ideally is a bucket getter that can be put into any NBA team's system and produce out the gate. I would like to point out that regardless, Hunter is better off going to a team where he can be a second or third scoring option rather than making him the primary ball handler, considering that he is not much of a facilitator.
This year's draft class is very top heavy. These top 10 players throughout the conference and NCAA tournaments will be jockeying for position, but regardless of ranking, these players all have a case to go within the top 10 of the NBA draft lottery.
Stay tuned as articles for spots 11-20 and 21-30 of my big board soon follow, featuring more top college talent with the potential to play in the NBA next season.