By Hocine LOUKKAF on 5/04/2018
Thanks to the new NCAA rules authorizing players to enter the NBA draft twice and moving the withdrawal deadline to the end of May, more than 200 prospects have decided to put their name this year. Some are surefire first rounders, others have no chance to be picked. Between those two categories, some may make a mistake by not returning to college to work for a better 2019 pick as they may display things they have not been able to display yet. Let’s take a look at them.
#1 Bruno Fernando, 6-10 PF/C, Maryland (10.3pts 6.5rbds 1.2blk in 22min)
There a lot of tools to appreciate in Fernando, his size, strength, athleticism, skills that could get him a first round call. Yet, Fernando doesn’t have any special talent which could translate immediately in the NBA. A good rebounder, Fernando lacks that quick leap to be an efficient shot blocker (only 2 games with 2blks or more in the Big 10). A good shooter with 74% FT, Fernando needs to be efficient from three, something he didn’t really work on his freshman year (1/3). It can be really tempting to be a first rounder, but with one more year to improve, Fernando could be a top 10 pick in 2019.
#2 Jarred Vanderbilt, 6-9 PF/SF, Kentucky (5.9pts 6.9rbds in 17min)
With 14 games for his freshman year played between two injuries, Vanderbilt has not been very lucky. In the limited playing time he got, he has shown some very interesting rebounding and versatility, but much more was expected from such a high profile. Kentucky’s roster will change a lot and another year, hopefully healthy, in Lexington would help Vanderbilt and convince NBA scouts to pick him the early first round.
#3 Donte DiVincenzo, 6-5 SG, Villanova (13.4pts 4.8rbds 3.5as in 30min)
It’s hard to find a reason for DiVincenzo not to stay in the draft. The junior from Villanova was solid all year and finished with a Final Four MOP title after his 31pts 5rbds 3as performance against Kansas. So why do we have him here? First of all, with the very deep crop of prospects who are testing waters, DiVincenzo is not guaranteed to be a first rounder. Then, he was far from being perfect, scoring 10+pts in only three of his last eight games before the championship game. Finally, with most Nova’s leaders going to the pros, DiVincenzo has the opportunity to be the man and take it to another level before a less deep 2019 NBA draft.
#4 Isaac Bonga, 6-9 SF, Frankfurt (5.9pts 3.1rbds 2.4as in 22min)
Never oversell a player. Bonga is not a PG and he’s not Antetokounmpo either. Of course, his length and versatility is interesting but that isn’t enough to succeed. Playing in German first division BBL, Bonga scores almost 6pts per game but with a poor 40% FG (34% 3pt with only 11 made over the season). Talking about his passing skills, his 2.4as/2.1to is not exactly what you expect from your PG. Last disappointment, despite his good length, Bonga is not that great of an athlete, as his 1stl and 0.4blk show it. Bonga is in the good team and championship to improve, let’s hope he won’t make the mistake to leave now.
#5 Josh Okogie, 6-5 SG, Georgia Tech (18pts 6.3rbds 2.5as 1.8stl 1blk in 36min)
In a draft stacked with guard prospects, Okogie is not the most talked about player. Yet, his combination of physicality, defense and shooting could get him a first round pick in a less deep draft. He also has things to work on. Despite playing six more minutes per game this year, Okogie could have improved more, above all on his FG efficiency. He also needs to show better passing instincts while being the same two-way player he has been the past season. If he succeeds in being the 20+pts scorer with 45+% FG he can become, scouts will reward his hard work.
#6 Jalen Mc Daniels, 6-10 SF/PF, San Diego State (10.5pts 7.5rbds)
At 6-10 with good length, McDaniels may interest scouts. Enough to get picked in the first round? Not so sure. Like a lot of players with great physical tools, McDaniels needs to use them, above all on defense where he can be much better by gaining strength and being more aware. A tweener at both forward spots, he has only made 4 three pointers over the season and needs to show more in term of passing.
#7 Jaylen Hands, 6-3 PG, UCLA (9.9pts 4rbds 2.6as in 25min)
With a good recruiting class to come, including center Moses Brown and forward Shareef O’ Neal, without forgetting rising sophomore Kris Wilkes (if he doesn’t stay in the draft) and the departure of Aaron Holiday, Jaylen Hands could be in the perfect situation to perform. His freshman year was ok and Hands has the kind of athleticism and shooting to burst out and become a surefire first rounder next year. The scoring PG has to focus on making his team better and putting his teammates in the best situation to score as his 2.6as/1.8to ratio was far from what a real PG is supposed to average.
#8 Kris Wilkes, 6-7 SG/SF, UCLA (13.7pts 4.9rbds 1.7as)
The lanky swingman possesses the typical profile to be a 3 and D with his 6-11 wingspan and outside stroke. Only thing he has to improve now is … his defense. Wilkes has too much upside to be satisfied with his defensive and rebounding numbers (4.9rbds 0.8stl 0.5blk). On offense, he’s ok but could improve his 3pt and FT shooting while being a better passer. Let’s hope he comes back to have the type of sophomore breakout season we’re expecting.
#9 Melvin Frazier, 6-6 SG/SF, Tulane (15.9pts 5.6rbds 2.9as)
Another potential 3 and D swingman, Frazier still has, despite his age, room to improve and be a dominant player next year in college. All his stats have risen drastically, above all his offensive efficiency (43 to 55% FG and 26% to 38% 3pt). Already a good defender with 2.1stls, Frazier could use his length and top notch athleticism to become a more focused rebounder and enter the 2019 draft as a potential first rounder. (This same day, it appears Frazier decided to stay in the draft, too bad)
#10 Jontay Porter ,6-11 PF/C, Missouri (9.9pts 6.8rbds 2.2as 1.7blk)
I confess it’s a bit strange to put someone who I have in the first round. Porter is the kind of player whose versatility, shooting and length are sure to intrigue NBA scouts, above all for someone his age. Yet, his season has been far from perfect. His 2.9 fouls and 1.9tos per game in 24min is something he has to work on. As good of a shooter he is (36% 3pt), he only shot 43% from the field, a very low stat for someone his size. And, last but not least, the 2pts on 1/7 FG against Florida State were not the best way to end his probable only college season. One more year could propel him into the top 10 but we may hear his name called on 22 June.
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