NBA Draft Prospect Report: Opening Week Edition

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NBA Draft Prospect Report: Opening Week Edition

Basketball

NBA Draft Prospect Report: Opening Week Edition

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The college basketball season is underway and scouts have finally gotten the chance to scout many of the top recruits from the highly touted 2023 NBA draft class. In a year where most of the top picks such as Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, and Amen and Ausar Thompson are playing in non-collegiate leagues, teams still get to watch top prospects take the typical route to becoming a pro. Although some of the top college prospects such as Nick Smith Jr (Arkansas), Dariq Whitehead (Duke), and Cam Whitmore (Villanova) are battling injuries, here are some takeaways from a few of the most notable prospects during the NCAA’s opening week.

Jarace Walker 

Walker is a bruising 6’8 creator bet with really intriguing upside as a versatile, big forward. Despite his early shooting struggles, he’s consistently showcased his unreal athleticism on both ends of the floor and he’s getting to his spots from mid-range really well. The handle and creation at his size is rare, and his strength gives him a real path to creation value.

With his scoring skill set mixed with the monstrous defensive tools he possesses, Walker seems like a perfect candidate to skyrocket up big boards as the season progresses. In recent years, we’ve seen big versatile wings like Scottie Barnes and Patrick Williams shoot up into the top five because of their size, frame, and versatility on both ends of the floor. Jarace Walker seems like a perfect candidate to shoot into the top five and it’s only a matter of time before he’s considered a top ten pick.

 

Keyonte George 

Keyonte George is one of the most exciting scoring prospects in this upcoming draft. Documented for his incredible shooting and three-level scoring potential, George has averaged 16 PPG on 36% from three so far in spite of streaky shooting splits. Most of his early work has come off the catch but he’s more than comfortable getting into the mid-range, pulling up or side stepping to create space, or attacking closeouts.

George’s defense and passing have been the most notable so far though. He’s been using his scoring gravity and slashing to find open shots for his teammates both on the interior and on the perimeter, and his defense has simply been stifling. He’s a score-first guard, but he’s not a score-only guard. He’s proven his ability to contribute in other aspects of the game, which will be key for developing a top ten or even top five case.

Looking forward, I want to see him get to the rim more consistently and create more offense for himself. A lot of his work off the ball has been impressive, but in order for him to be a top pick, I would like to see more creation going forward. However, he’s been really solid so far and looks every bit of a lottery pick.

 

Cason Wallace

Cason Wallace has been one of my personal favorite watches so far this year. He’s been awesome on both ends of the floor and had a particularly impressive showing at the Champions Classic, where he scored 14 points and had a record eight steals against Michigan State. His complimentary scoring and playmaking combined with his defensive prowess has made him a joy to watch.

He’s had a few solid self-created rim attempts paired with some flashes of high-level shot making including a movement three against Duquesne. He’s also been a good floor general and he’s done a good job of getting to his spots but not forcing any offense. However, his defense is by far his best skill. He’s menacing at the point of attack with quick hands that allow him to poke the ball and get a ton of steals. 

There are some subtle improvements he needs to make on both ends, but it’s been a very promising start for Wallace. His self-creation and assertiveness on offense along with his screen navigation defensively will need to be watched as the season progresses, but it’s looking like Kentucky will have another guard prospect selected in this year’s lottery.

 

Terquavion Smith

Terquavion Smith could’ve been a top 20 pick last season but instead decided to come back for a second season at NC State and it is looking like a homerun decision. He’s been electrifying as a scorer and will probably end up being not only one of the top NBA draft prospects, but one of the top players in all of college basketball.

Smith is a dynamic pull-up shooter with incredible footwork, flexibility, and range to generate space for his three point shot. He can pull-up from thirty feet, run off of screens, or pull-up in traffic which forces defenders to have to play up and guard him closely. This has allowed him to progress as a driver, using his handle and speed to dart into the lane and it looks like his finishing has improved tremendously. His biggest issue last year was that he could get to the rim but his finishing numbers were woeful, but that ability looks extremely improved. 

His incredible scoring and athleticism as a combo guard make him an exciting prospect, but his improvements as a playmaker and facilitator will make him even more enticing. He lacks some of those lead guard skills that would make him a surefire top ten pick. However, if he can improve upon those things, there’s no limit to how high he can soar up draft boards.

 

Brandon Miller

Brandon Miller has received a ton of hype heading into this season, and he has lived up to it so far. At 6’9, Miller is a great shooter with pull-up versatility and solid defensive tools. He’s got a flicky, one motion release that is lightning quick, and he’s comfortable shooting from beyond NBA range. With time, he could be one of the draft’s best shooters.

However, he has gotten some early potential top five buzz that would require him to improve a few things tremendously. With a stiff upper body and a loose handle, Miller doesn’t get to the rim very often and isn’t a particularly good finisher either at this point. He struggles to create easy looks for himself and he’s forced to rely on tough shot making to get buckets at this stage of his career.

Miller is extremely talented with a lot of useful skills. Big shooters who can defend and pass are extremely valuable to NBA teams. There’s a very high chance he could shoot up boards come the summer of 2023. However, he needs to make significant strides in his offensive creation in order for him to justify the top five expectations scouts are suddenly beginning to have for him.

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