NBA Prospects Who Are A Year or Two Away From Shooting Up Draft Boards 3.0

Two years ago, I released a list of college players I viewed as promising prospects who were a year or two away from drawing serious NBA attention. Now in the third year, I will check in on those prospects who I chronicled and provide 10 new names to keep an eye on heading into the next couple of NBA Drafts. You can check out the lists from the previous two years here: 2017 2018

Revisiting Prospects From The 2017 List:

2017 Two Year’s Away (Expected to see NBA Draft stock rise this season)

Emmanuel Akot (Junior SF, Boise State):

Last Year I Said: “With 5-stars Nico Mannion and Josh Green coming next year, and Brandon Randolph potentially returning, the opportunities for Akot to make an impact won’t increase.”

Shortly after I published this list a year ago, Akot announced his transfer to Boise State. He will sit out this entire season with two years of eligibility left. I haven’t lost hope for the playmaking 6’8 wing. Arizona was going to be too crowded this season. With the Broncos, Akot will be a featured piece that should be one of the best two-way players in the Mountain West. His length and versatility will be on full display in a year that will finally draw some NBA attention.

Kostas Antetokounmpo (PF, Los Angeles Lakers [two-way])

Last Year I Said: “…Kostas is still a project, but he decided to enter the draft where he was taken with the last pick and traded to Dallas. They have a phenomenal developmental system which should make the most of the Greek Freak’s younger brother.”

Kostas was released by the Mavs and quickly signed a two-way contract with the Lakers. I can’t help but imagine how much fun it would be to see him pair with Obi Toppin on this year’s Dayton team. He is still in that project phase, but is showing solid growth. So far he is averaging 13.1 points and 7.1 rebounds with the South Bay Lakers. In the right system, he could be a useful rotation piece in the near future.

Jalek Felton (PG/SG, N/A)

Last Year I Said: “This was a huge miss. All I know is Felton is signed to play with Union Olimpija. Hopefully Felton can have a great career wherever he chooses to play.”

After just two games, Felton left the Slovenian team. He signed with BC Nokia where he played a large role, averaging 16.0 points and 7.3 assists while shooting 40 percent from three. He worked out for the Hornets in the pre-draft process. I’m not sure what Felton is doing today. But it does seem like he should be able to find a nice career overseas if he chooses.

Rayshaun Hammonds (Junior SF, Georgia)

Last Year I Said: “…Hammonds is the leading scorer at 14.4 points a game. He is shooting 40% on about two threes a game and averaging 6.4 rebounds a game. I would like to see him in a little better shape to stay on the floor for longer stretches. 2020 still looks like the most realistic year to declare.”

The unexpected commitment of star shooting guard Anthony Edwards brings more scouts to Athens. He remains a high-output player in short bursts, putting up 13.6 points and 8.8 rebounds in only 23.9 minutes a game. For context, that is 22.7 points and 14.7 rebounds per 40 minutes. His shooting has fallen off, but his role hasn’t taken a hit. He may be able to test the waters, but is probably best served returning to a lead role as a senior.

D.J. Harvey (Junior SF, Vanderbilt)

Last Year I Said: “The Irish will return the majority of their contributors next year. By then, Harvey could emerge as the top option.”

Harvey has never lacked in ability. But injuries and inconsistency led to a role that lagged expectations. He decided to transfer at the end of the year to join Jerry Stackhouse and a new-look Vanderbilt team. I’m hoping he can get fully healthy and work on his body during this year off. There is no reason he can’t average 13-15 points a game for Vandy next year. He is not where I expected him to be as an NBA prospect at this point in his college career.

Sam Hauser (Senior SF, Virginia)

Last Year I Said: “I still like Hauser’s profile as a versatile floor spacer. I’ve actually been impressed with his improved physicality on both ends. His brother, Joey, is the real deal and I would be shocked if Sam didn’t return next year given his current stock and chance to go deep next year.”

Coming off of an All-Big East season where he averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds on 40.2 percent from three, it looked like Marquette would have a top ten team. Then Sam and his younger brother Joey decided to transfer. The surprising decision is going to pay huge dividends for Hauser. He is the best player on the Virginia’s roster and is receiving excellent preparation practicing against a top-5 defense every day. I see a lot of Joe Harris in Sam’s game, which should bode well next year for the Hoos and his draft stock. He will come back leaner, quicker, and ready to be an All-ACC player. Sneaking into the first round is still a possibility in 2021.

Nathan Knight (Junior PF, William & Mary)

Last Year I Said: “He hasn’t regressed and he is doing this with more teams aware of how much he can dominate a game. 2020 is still the year I expect him to stay in the draft, even if he tests the waters this summer.”

There was a significant exodus of talent at William & Mary. Knight could have easily followed the likes of Justin Pierce (UNC) and Matt Milon (UCF), but stayed for his senior year. He is no longer the secret that he was when I first wrote about him in 2017. Knight is a steady 20-10 threat (19.9 ppg, 10.3 rpg) that is now a real threat from the three-point line. He remains as one of the best mid-major prospects in the country and is going to turn some heads during the combine.

Kezie Okpala (SF, Miami Heat)

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)

Last Year I Said: “He is a matchup problem with his handle and scoring capabilities. NBA teams are not going to need to wait until his junior year to take notice.”

Okpala continued to tear apart the Pac-12 and was selected with the 32nd pick in the draft by Phoenix before being traded to the Heat. If you have watched the way Miami plays, Okpala should develop nicely in a system oriented around ball-movement and positional versatility. He has split time with the G-League with all of the wings currently on Miami’s roster. Don’t forget, he is still only 20-years old.

Nate Reuvers (Junior PF/C, Wisconsin)

Last Year I Said: “His strides in the weight room, as a ball-handler and post scorer, and with his shooting consistency hint towards a player that could be special in the Big Ten next year once Ethan Happ is gone.”

As I anticipated, Ethan Happ’s departure made way for Reuvers to be the focal point of the Badger offense. He is averaging 14.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks a game. There are certain moves he makes on the perimeter that near-7-footers aren’t supposed to be able to create. A shot blocker that can connect from the outside is always as asset at the next level. Now, I would like to see him play with a little bit more toughness down low and react quicker as a pick-and-roll defender. See 0:00. 0:41, 3:05, and 3:16.  

Revisiting Prospects from The 2018 List:

2018 One-Year Away (Expected to see NBA Draft stock rise this season)

Brandon Clarke (PF, Memphis Grizzlies)

Last Year I Said: “Of all the guys on this list, he is the one most ready to play in the NBA right now. Few players in the country play with a consistent sense of urgency on both ends. Clarke has NBA-level athleticism, defensive ability, and finishing prowess.”

Clarke was the leading shot-blocker in the country before being selected with the 21st pick in the NBA Draft. I thought he was a lottery-pick talent in the class, but Memphis swooped in and traded for the pick to get the bouncy four man. Clarke is well on his way to an All-Rookie season, averaging 13.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, with a top-10 68.3 percent effective field goal percentage. And he is only going to get better and more versatile offensively.

Jaxson Hayes (C, New Orleans Pelicans)

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Last Year I Said: “His value as a roll man and paint protector may already be enough for some NBA teams to give him a late-first round look.”

Late first round? Hayes ended up being the 8th overall pick and landing in New Orleans on a team in need of frontcourt depth. After playing sparingly in the first few weeks, the 19-year-old rim-runner has shown why so many teams bought into his upside. He is protecting the rim with an attitude and remains active on the glass, averaging 4.8 rebounds to go along with 9.0 points. Hayes looks like he could be a long-term answer at center for the Pelicans.

Zach Norvell (SG, Free Agent)

Last Year I Said: “His ticket is definitely his ability to create and make shots. Depending on how the back-end of the season goes, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Norvell enter his name into the draft to at least test the waters.”

After lighting it up in the preseason for the Lakers, Norvell was just waived a few days ago. He would have been the leading scorer on Gonzaga this year, but that doesn’t mean he made a mistake leaving early after a nice tournament run. He shouldn’t be a free agent for too long given his shot-making ability.

2018 Two-Years Away (Expected to see NBA Draft stock rise next season)

Marcus Bingham (Sophomore PF, Michigan State)

Last Year I Said: “Bingham is a long, agile, 6-foot-11 forward that wants to do damage facing up. He definitely needs to bulk up and do more work on the interior, but a coach like Tom Izzo will get the most out of a guy with as much talent as Bingham.”

Looking at this Spartan team, that power forward spot is the one missing piece. Coach Izzo has been trying a number of options, including Bingham. Although he has added some muscle, he is still slight and can be frustrated with physicality. When he has been on the court, he has provided some sparks as a shot blocker (1.5 bpg) and rebounder (3.6 rpg) in only 11.0 minutes a game. When you add in his shooting touch, it seems like a matter of time before his maturity meets his talent.

Leaky Black (Sophomore SF, North Carolina)

Last Year I Said: “The overhaul in talent following this season should open the door for Black to become an All-ACC player that is a unique watch for evaluators.”

I didn’t anticipate the additions of Cole Anthony, Justin Pierce, and Christian Keeling. Black has started every game despite struggling to effectively score. His defensive activity, rebounding, and passing instincts make him a useful cog in any lineup the Tar Heels utilize. He may have to wait until next year to assume more ball-handling duties to flourish.

Ayo Dosunmo (Sophomore PG, Illinois)

Last Year I Said: “He is smart, has great size and length at 6-foot-5, and projects as a solid decision-maker in an NBA offense.”

Ayo has been a big-time playmaker for the Illini yet again. Some were shocked to see him pass up the NBA this past summer. To me, he doesn’t seem ready just yet. His shooting has regressed, down to 30.8 percent from three and he still has some muscle he could use. But I still see him as a first-round player with the smoothness and efficiency of his game. See his highlights at 0:18, 0:45, 1:45, 2:55, and 3:55 of the video below.

Talen Horton-Tucker (SF, Los Angeles Lakers)

Last Year I Said: “Horton-Tucker (15.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.3 apg) has been able to play a sort of quasi-Draymond Green role, making plays off the dribble, guarding multiple positions, and knocking down open shots. It wouldn’t hurt to become a bit leaner and improve on his finishing against length to help his stock.”

Teams really fell in love with the wingspan and all-round impact of THT. To this point, the G-League has been the best spot for his growth. He is not a rotation piece on the loaded Lakers team. With the South Bay Lakers, he is averaging 14.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists. Before he becomes a regular NBA player, his outside shooting and finishing consistency will need to improve.

Filip Petrusev (Sophomore C, Gonzaga)

Last Year I Said: “With the departures of Rui Hachimura, Killian Tillie, and Brandon Clarke coming over the next few years, look for the Serbian center to become the centerpiece of the Zags and the focus of NBA teams heading to Spokane.”

At this time last year, I was leaning towards Brandon Clarke returning. Now, Petrusev has looked like the best player on Gonzaga. It’s always nice to see post players with the footwork and toughness to score in the paint but also the touch to stretch the floor. I can tell Petrusev took his offseason training seriously with a more defined frame and improved physicality. He is leading the nation’s best big man unit with 2.7 offensive boards a game and 16.2 points. Petrusev is an NBA player that could be a pro a year from now.

Joe Wieskamp (Sophomore SG, Iowa)

Last Year I Said: “Wieskamp (10.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 38.7% 3PT) is going to improve exponentially with experience and should start gaining some attention on the NBA level by next spring.”

Wieskamp tested the NBA waters a year ago for feedback in the summer. Iowa kind of took a turn in focus, going to a post-centric offense that revolves around Luka Garza. Even without finishing as well as he would like, the lanky guard is averaging 12.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, and shooting 41.2 percent from deep. Regardless of how many touches he receives, Wieskamp affects the game. Garza is still expected to return, but Wieskamp’s projectable frame and shooting ability are going to allow Joe to see if he has any takers again in the NBA draft process.

Aaron Wiggins (Sophomore SG, Maryland)

Last Year I Said: “He is a disruptive defender on and off the ball with his long arms. He reminds me a lot of Trevor Ariza. That 3-and-D weapon is more valuable than ever.”

Of all the players from last year’s list, I am most surprised by the struggles of Wiggins. Still only a sophomore, the shooting slump he is experiencing is not uncommon. I like that he is still defending and isn’t shying away from taking open threes. The 2021 NBA Draft still seems to be the most realistic chance for Wiggins to draw serious interest.

2019 One Year Away

Bryan Antoine (Freshman SG, Villanova)

I tabbed Antoine as a lottery pick in the preseason. Only six games into the year after returning from an injury and the explosive guard has yet to look like himself. He is one of the most gifted guards in the country at full strength, but he is working his way back. With a wiry frame, elite hangtime, and a knack for connecting on tough shots, it’s only a matter of time. If he foregoes the NBA Draft, he can show scouts a full season of why he was a McDonald’s All-American.

Tyler Bey (Junior SF/PF, Colorado)

My main question with Bey was whether he could hit outside shots consistently. He has upped his attempts and is now shooting 41.7 percent from three with his follow through looking reliable. Bey is a springy athlete that slashes and crashes the glass about as well as any 6’7 player in the country. He is averaging a steady 12.6 points and 10.4 rebounds while creating havoc as a defender. The body of work will be there to enter the 2020 NBA Draft. Another year refining his perimeter skills could be huge for his draft position.

D.J. Carton (Freshman PG, Ohio State)

It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep the five-star point guard off of the court. Carton is a showtime finisher that is quickly learning how to balance scoring and playmaking duties. His set shot from three has shown promise and he thrives in the passing lanes defensively. The backcourt will be just as crowded next year, but Carton has undeniable All-Big Ten ability and the poise to be one of the top point guards taken in the 2021 draft.

Jay Huff (Junior PF/C, Virginia)

Huff is in his redshirt junior season taking that big leap with increased minutes. He is averaging 9.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks a game. Even the NBA is low on 7-foot-1 players as mobile and skilled as Huff. Strength isn’t nearly as much of a restriction as it was a year ago, regularly fighting for position down low where he is money (68.6 percent from inside the paint). Mamadi Diakite will be gone, leaving the top big man spot to Huff next year. NBA teams are probably taking notice as we speak.

Neemias Queta (Sophomore C, Utah State)

Queta avoided a serious diagnosis to a summer knee injury. He has only played two games so far after winning a bevy of Mountain West awards (All-MWC, All-Defense, Defensive POY, Rookie of the Year) and drawing significant interest from NBA scouts following the NCAA Tournamant. Queta is the ideal defensive anchor that has the mobility to contain quicker players and the length to recover. Sam Merrill definitely makes his life easier, but the signs are pointing towards Queta using his footwork and budding skillset to be an offensive focal point next year.

Paul Reed (Junior PF, DePaul)

Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven’t had a chance to watch DePaul and Reed this year, you are doing yourself a disservice. Reed has continued his upward trajectory as an NBA prospect that can shoot the three and defend multiple spots. Similar to Jerami Grant, Reed is a defensive force (1.8 spg, 3.4 bpg) that thrives in an up-tempo style where he can finish above the rim. Big East play will be a great opportunity for Reed to prove that he doesn’t even belong on this list. He is worth a selection in the 2020 draft but could cement himself as a first-rounder in 2021 if he can keep adding layers to his game.

2019 Two Years Away

Alonzo Gaffney (Freshman PF, Ohio State)

Gaffney is stuck in a behind an experienced frontcourt. For a 6’9 forward, he has a lot of ball skills that haven’t been on full display thus far. He has freakish length that allows him to be a disruptor on defense and as an offensive rebounder. In a couple of years, Kaleb Wesson will be graduated and Gaffney should have added meaningful muscle to his frame in anticipation of a breakout year as a college player and NBA prospect.

Kai Jones (Freshman PF, Texas)

Texas is stacked with big men, but Jones has been most impressive as a long-term prospect. He is a fast open court sprinter that changes ends with ease. While he hasn’t taken a bunch of threes, his touch extends out to the arc and should be a useful tool as he matures. On top of that, he has tremendous anticipation as a defender both on the ball and in help side situations. It’s early on in his development, but Jones has the upside of a mid-first round pick. See his dunks and activity at 4:55 and 5:45 of the video below.

Franz Wagner (Freshman SG, Michigan)

Franz is starting to find his comfort level for the Wolverines coming off a 21 point effort against Oregon. He is further along at this stage than his brother, Moe, was for Michigan. His feel and understanding of spacing is remarkable for a freshman. It’s no coincidence that Juwan Howard has trusted him to start every game so far. Wagner can really shoot it from the outside but he has slashing upside. When he stays low, he uses his strides well to efficiently get to the rim and finish. He is already the best NBA prospect on the team, but he could see a monumental jump in attention over the next few years. See 0:05, 1:29, 2:04, and 2:22 for highlights from Wagner game against Oregon.

Samuell Williamson (Freshman SF, Louisville)

Williamson received some Jayson Tatum comparisons coming into college. He is not that polished yet as a scoring weapon, but there are some similar traits. At 6’7, Williamson is fluid as a ball-handler and shooter off the dribble. He is a much better spot-up shooter than the percentages suggest as well. Louisville is a veteran team with multiple upperclassmen leaving over the next few years. If Jordan Nwora leaves early, Williamson is my pick to lead the Cardinals in scoring. Even if he doesn’t, I am confident that Williamson will eventually be a first round pick. I already have him rated as one for 2020.

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