A lot goes into the decision making of a youngster on whether to continue his college experience or to declare his intentions of joining the ranks of professional basketball players in the National Basketball Association. For many, the risk of sustaining an injury is not worth staying an additional year in order to be selected 8th instead of 15th. Just as difficult it can be for an 18-year-old to choose between agents, potential shoe deals and leave college for the uncertainty of the NBA, it can be just as difficult to predict which order these young adults will be selected.
There is a multitude of variables that are increasingly difficult to predict, such as; order of teams selecting that particular year, needs of said teams, which players do decide to enter and those who choose another year of college. It takes just one elite prospect to play his junior year to revamp two drafts. With those challenges in mind, this is simply not just a list of the top 10 freshman players that will be in the NCAA over the next two years, it takes into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of each player’s game when determining if they will declare or not.
Centers traditionally need more time to develop and those lacking the size or speed for their position would benefit from staying in college until they develop. Unfortunately, for every player that wants to improve, there is a player that much rather cash in their lottery ticket than sit in class.
20 2019 - No. 1: R.J. Barrett (SF)
Leading the stacked Duke Blue Devils for the 2019-20 NCAA season will be Canada’s own, 18-year-old R.J. Barrett. The 6’7 Montverde Academy graduate and current Duke Blue Devil won the Jordan Classic Invitational MVP in 2016 after scoring 22 points as well as the U19 World Cup MVP. Then in 2018, he won five, yes five, Player of the Year awards as well as Mr. Basketball USA.
He can consistently hit open set shots, as well as off the dribble.
His explosiveness is a question on the offensive and defensive end that he will need to improve upon in the NBA.
19 2019 - No.2: Nassir Little (SF)
At 6’6”, 215 pounds, the Orlando Christian Prep High School graduate will be playing his home games at Chapel Hill with the North Carolina Tar Heels. In 2018 Little scored 28 points in the McDonald’s All-American game and 26 in the Jordan Classic Invitational. while taking home MVP honors in both. During the AAU season, Jonathon Glovony highlighted his energy on offense as well as defense. Little impressed with his ability to get to the rim after taking defenders off the dribble by utilizing jab steps and pump fakes. His height may prohibit him from playing small forward in the NBA.
18 2019 - No.3: Cameron Reddish (SF)
Having graduated from Westtown School in Pennsylvania, the 6’9” 215 pound small forward will be one of the highly touted freshman suiting up for Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils. There can easily be an argument that due to the extra 3 inches, Reddish is better suited to play small forward in the NBA than Nassir Little and perhaps Reddish will be going #2.
Reddish’s best performance in the High School Special Events, was the 19 points he scored in the 2018 Jordan Classic. After Bennett and Little, there were few individual awards left for Reddish to scoop up.
17 2019 - No.4: Romeo Langford (SG)
Another ‘one and done’ candidate is 6’7” shooting guard and New Albany High School graduate Romeo Langford.
Langford will be starting for the Indiana Hoosiers and will continue to demonstrate the athleticism and a wingspan that adds three inches to his frame.
Those gifts enabled him to score 19 points in the McDonald's game and be named 2018 Indiana Mr. Basketball.
While being a prolific slasher, a year of playing in the Big 10 will give an ample sample size to answer the question of whether or not he will improve his shooting enough.
16 2019 - No.5: Zion Williamson (PF)
Being one of the three Duke players being drafted in the top 5, one would think it would be difficult for the Spartanburg Day School graduate to stand out. At 6’6” 285 pounds, it was not a problem playing alongside Barrett and Langford, when he scored 8 points in the McDonald’s game. Having led Spartanburg to a state championship in South Carolina, Williamson attacked the rim and dunked on a lot of kids who could not match his physicality. His weight says power forward but his height screams small forward, let us hope he does not get lost between two positions in the NBA.
15 2019 - No.6: Rui Hachimura (PF)
There was a belief that the 6’8’ power forward from Gonzaga was going to enter the 2018 NBA draft, after averaging 11 points and 5 rebounds for the Bulldogs. By opting to stay for his junior year Hachimura sets himself up to lead a talented Gonzaga team, as well to be the first non-freshman drafted in the 2019 NBA draft. The Japan native will only see his minutes, points and stock increase over the season, and could very well move up the leaderboard if the hyped freshman do not pan out as expected versus NCAA competition.
14 2019 - No.7: Daniel Gafford (C)
The 6’11, 235-pound center already has one year of experience under his belt. In his freshman season at Arkansas Gafford averaged 22 minutes and 11 points while shooting 60% from the field.
With a wingspan of 7’2” his body frame is reminiscent of a Marcus Camby that is suitable for the modern NBA style of play.
At 52%, his success at the charity stripe will continue to be a concern, and if he is unable to improve it, depending which team is selecting, it may cause him to slip down the board. But his upside is too high not to take him in the top 10.
13 2019 - No.8: Kris Wilkes (SF)
The 6’8” small forward had a successful freshman season with UCLA, where he averaged 14 points and 5 rebounds. He managed to make over 50% of his shots, but averaged over 4 three-pointers per game and made just 35% of them. The scouting report on him is he has a quick first step that allows him to attack the rim and draw fouls. If he is going to capitalize on the fouls, he needs to improve his 65% from the free throw line. His lack of body strength and consistency from beyond the arc, have many thinking he is just a first-round selection.
12 2019 - No.9: Charles Bassey (C)
The sky seems to be the limit for the 6’11” graduate from Aspire Academy, and he will have an opportunity to reach that limit at Western Kentucky. Having scored 13 points and dominating the glass with 16 rebounds during the Nike Hoop Summit, the Nigeria born Bassey is on the radar of every NBA team. That is no hyperbole because depending on the mock draft, Bassey has been projected to go as high as sixth and as low as nineteenth. The main reason, he is an extremely raw basketball player with all the attributes to be outstanding, if it comes together.
11 2019 - No.10: Sekou Doumbouya (SF)
The 6’9” Guinea born, France raised small forward will be the always sought after international pick of the 2019 Draft.
Currently playing for CPS Limoges in France, this 18-year-old has three years of professional playing experience in France and has been quoted as naming Tony Allen as one of his idols.
Like a lot of international players, there are some unknowns that at times are overlooked by the fact he was averaging 7 points and 3 rebounds in a professional league at age 15. He has all the makings of a potential superstar but all the questions of a raw undeveloped player.
10 2020 - No.1: Quentin Grimes (SG)
The 6’5” guard could declare for the draft after his freshman season at Kansas and be a top 10 pick in 2019. He will, however, benefit from another year with Bill Self as he works on the two things that will cause him to not be the top pick in 2019; his defense and three-point shooting. Grimes showed his scoring touch in the 3 High School Special Events averaging 14.5 points and even dished out 9 assists at the Jordan Classic. Declaring for the 2020 draft will put Grimes in the position as the top-rated guard, a coveted position in the NBA.
9 2020- No.2: Bol Bol (C)
Bol Bol in 2020, for the symmetry alone, the 7’2” center should complete 2 years at Oregon. He will wait an extra year because along with his 7’2” height (and growing) comes his weight at just 225 pounds. Bol’s performance in the 2018 Jordan Classic summed up what he brings, 22 points on 8 for 9 shooting, 9 rebounds and 6 for 6 at the free throw line. His strengths are, great ball handling, good shooting range, and good speed, unfortunately, they all are followed up with the quantifier “for a 7’2”, 18-year-old’.
8 2020 - No.3 - LaMelo Ball (SG)
This is going to be a bit of a bold prediction, considering LaMelo Ball will be developing in the JBA and not under the conventional NCAA route. Still, some team will take a chance on Ball in 2020, given his natural ability on the court.
Family distractions aside, LaMelo Ball has a lot of NBA potential.
Whichever team is drafting Ball will inevitably have to deal with the LaVar Ball circus, but LaMelo continues to get better. While his shooting mechanics need work, he still sinks his shots and he is getting bigger and stronger. He also has a very high basketball IQ.
7 2020 - No.4: De’Andre Hunter (SG)
In his freshman year at Virginia, Hunter averaged 9 points and 4 rebounds in 20 minutes per game. With the 6’7” swingman being projected as high as a late 1st round pick and as low as an early 2nd round pick in 2019, waiting until 2020 to enter the draft, will be the most beneficial. There is no short of scouting reports that highlight his scoring ability, his downfall is that he is a “point A to point B” type of player and to score at the next level, he will need to be able to average more than 9 points in the ACC.
6 2020 - No.5: Keldon Johnson (SG)
By saying the 6’6” guard from Kentucky will be going 5th overall in the 2020 draft, is also a way of predicting that a Kentucky player will stay more than one year; still reading? Currently being predicted as a mid-first round pick in 2019, due to his tremendous NBA ready outside shooting, that was not demonstrated in the McDonald’s game, where he shot 4 for 8 and dropped just 8 points in 20 minutes.
While his basketball IQ is praised, his strength is a constant concern, which can be problematic when guarding NBA guards. An extra year could help him get stronger.
5 2020 - No.6: James Wiseman (C)
Currently, the 7 foot center with a standing reach of over 9’3” from Memphis East High School is projected to be a top 3 pick in the 2020 draft, and he has not even committed.
With Penny Hardaway now coaching Memphis, do not be surprised if Wiseman joins his AAU coach.
A lot of stock is being built on Wisemen having success on the defensive end against high school players, and it will be interesting if his defensive awareness improves as opposed to being a great defender because he is 7 feet tall. We'll get a much better idea of his NBA prospects when he begins his NCAA career.
4 2020 - No.7: Vernon Carey Jr. (C)
At 6’10”, 260 pounds Carey Jr, is another high schooler that is currently being projected as a lottery pick in 2020 but will still need to prove himself, at least for one year in the NCAA. Carey Jr. is killing it in the post, with a mix of power a skill, both that will be considerably less impressive versus the likes of DeMarcus Cousins and Joel Embiid. Being described as an ‘old school player’ than excels with his back to the basket while depending upon his left hand, is not a combination that translates well in the modern NBA.
3 2020 - No.8: Scottie Lewis (SG)
If YouTube was selecting players for each team, Scottie Lewis would be the first. YouTube has been loving his highlights since 8th grade. At 6’5” he has a 6’10” wingspan which gives him a standing reach of 8’6”, which has aided his popular dunks on YouTube.
Due to the fact that he has been next to impossible to stop in high school games, the finer points of his game need to be improved along with his outside shot.
At just 180 pounds, defending in the NBA is going to be a challenge and might be just cause him to wait until the 2021 draft to declare.
2 2020 - No.9: - Cole Anthony (PG)
The 6’3” point guard at Oak Hill Academy is currently having his game compared to Jalen Rose and is projected to be a top 3 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Much of Cole’s strengths are derived from his high basketball IQ, which is indispensable as a point guard and perhaps expected since his father is Greg Anthony. Similar to the other high school entrants on this list, his potential draft position is far from concrete once he plays against college players and projected high picks from previous years enter the 2020 draft. He could see his draft stock increase with a solid season in college.
1 2020 - No.10: Ashton Hagans (PG)
Why not another member of the Kentucky Wildcats that will stay past his freshman year. Currently being described as an Elfrid Payton with a better shooting touch, Ashton Hagans is being predicted as a late lottery pick after being awarded Georgia Mr. Basketball in 2018. Despite having better touch than Elfrid Payton, he still needs to work on it as a point guard, due to not being an explosive player off the dribble. Known more for his quickness and ability to break a defender down with his ball handling, Hagans is almost certainly going in the top 10 in 2020.