This week should be the end of college basketball and the beginning of the NBA draft process for players looking to declare right away or at least test the waters and attend the NBA draft combine in May. In years past, we would have seen a couple of NCAA tournament heroes emerge, forcing NBA teams to take a closer look at those emerging stars. Instead, teams only have game film and intel from the regular season to evaluate players.
“In a way, it’s nice to not have to second-guess what you’ve seen all season, and our scouts are more confident in who fits our team and what we should do once the draft rolls around,” one NBA executive told Yahoo Sports.
With no postseason tournaments, and no word on how the NBA will move forward, players could face a much larger draft range. Players could go from Nos. 5-17 or from Nos. 15-45. It really is wide open. The Nuggets picked Bol Bol last year late in the second round when most didn’t see the 7-foot-2 center dropping out of the first round.
“I think we’ll see teams take the safer pick this year and not necessarily a player with a high ceiling or potential,” an NBA scout told Yahoo Sports.
Here are six players who have played two college seasons and could hear NBA commissioner Adam Silver call their names sooner this year because teams have a bigger sample size of their work and what type of player they are getting, instead of opting for flashier one-and-done prospects.
F Obi Toppin
Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 220
Dayton: 20 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.2 apg
Toppin is the biggest star of the college basketball season, winning the Naismith Trophy as college basketball's most outstanding player. Not a lot of players can do what he did against George Washington this year, scoring 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting, including maybe the three best dunks of the year. Toppin could end up being the best player to come out of this draft.
Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 175
Iowa State: 15.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 6.9 apg
Haliburton broke his left wrist against Kansas State early in February. He had a triple-double early in January in a win over TCU with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Haliburton can score at all three levels and shot 50 percent from the field and 41 percent from three. Haliburton has mostly been compared to Lonzo Ball, with his size and distinct shooting form. He recently told Josh Hart on The LightHarted Podcast that entering the draft this year was inevitable. “The way the NBA works is the older you are, it hurts your draft stock. I was hurt already, so I didn’t want to risk coming back and getting hurt again or hurting my draft stock anymore. It was kind of a no-brainer to put my family in the best situation.”
F Aaron Nesmith
Ht./Wt.: 6-6, 213
Vanderbilt: 23 ppg, 4.9 rpg
Nesmith only played half the season after suffering a stress fracture in his foot against Texas A&M in January. Prior to that injury, Nesmith was the best shooter in college basketball, shooting 51 percent from the field and 52 percent from three. The NBA values shooters and there is no better shooter in this class. Nesmith made 4.3 threes per game, an incredible number for a college player, and that would have been second in the NBA this season behind James Harden.
F Saddiq Bey
Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 216
Villanova: 16.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.4 apg
Bey’s shooting and his size make him appealing to NBA teams. He finished the season shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 45 percent from three in a competitive Big East this year. Bey passes the eye test and has all the tools to see early playing time as an NBA wing. He had four or more threes in 10 games this season, including eight in a win over Georgetown early in January.
G Tre Jones
Ht./Wt.: 6-3, 185
Duke: 16.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 6.4 apg
There are a ton of point guards in this draft class, but Jones is likely the safest bet. Teams already know what kind of player they are getting because older brother Tyus Jones currently plays for the Memphis Grizzlies. Tyus also played for Mike Krzyzewski, winning a national championship at Duke in 2015. Tre was one of the best defenders in college basketball this season and a true floor general. His 3-point shooting improved to 36 percent after shooting 26 percent as a freshman.
G Immanuel Quickley
Ht./Wt.: 6-3, 188
Kentucky: 16.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg
Quickley is one of the most improved players in the country and became “the guy” at Kentucky late in the season, shooting 41.6 percent from the field and 42.8 percent from 3-point range. Quickley averaged 5.2 points as a freshman but saw his minutes almost double this season from 18.5 to 33 minutes per game. After Aaron Nesmith’s season ended due to a foot injury, Quickley became the best shooter in the SEC, averaging 16.1 points per game. He was a point guard in high school and more of a combo guard at Kentucky, which makes him a valuable asset in the NBA.
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