One-and-done? Overrated? Seven NBA Prospects and How Scouts See Them
We look at seven top college freshmen and what NBA teams will be watching for
Yesterday I covered seven highly touted freshmen and provided assessments and concerns from NBA agents and scouts.
I really enjoy getting different perspectives on prospects, and oftentimes agents and scouts have totally different views, which can lead to some pretty interesting dialogue.
It can be in agents’ best interest to keep their true opinions about prospects close to the vest, while scouts more freely speak their minds.
Agents tend to believe they evaluate talent better, while scouts tend to think that agents are in the business of creating buzz.
Regardless of how they get there, I love hearing their different takes on players.
For instance, after I published Thursday’s column, I got several calls and texts regarding Alabama freshman Brandon Miller. Of the seven one-and-done prospects in the column, he received the most conflicting commentary and appears to have the widest draft range.
One scout told me Miller is a “top-five talent” while another said, “I’m not sold. He’s never dominated and he’s older than the rest of the guys in his class.”
Here are seven more potential one-and-done prospects, and what I’ve been told by scouts regarding each one.
Dereck Lively II
While he’s considered almost a shoo-in to be a lottery pick next June, Lively is another freshman — like Miller — receiving contrasting evaluations.
The 7’2” Duke center is either overrated or a talented big who can both shoot and protect the rim, depending on which of these two NBA scouts is correct:
The lack of aggression is a bit of a concern. He really does not do much in the interior, and in terms of rim protection, it’s mostly second side or in recovery. He really doesn’t put a lid on the rim like people think. He’s not strong, and [though Oregon center Kel’el Ware] isn’t strong either, Kel’el is willing to play inside while Dereck isn’t trying to mix it up.
I think he can really shoot the ball and will shoot it well [this season], and that’s going to keep him in the lottery discussion. At his size he can really shoot it off the catch. How many guys can do that and block shots? He’s the second-best big behind Wembanyama.
In 2021, Ware was ranked outside the top 30 college recruits. But after his breakout senior season, Ware’s draft buzz has increased significantly, and now he’s a projected lottery pick.
As he approaches his college debut next week at Oregon, Ware’s name figures prominently into the debates about who will be the first big man off the board after Victor Wembanyama.
Here is what three NBA scouts have to say:
I think there’s no ceiling on him and it’s all going to come down to his motor. When he’s dialed in and knows how to use his motor, he’s going to be elite. For him I think it’s all about understanding the game more and improving his feel for the game.
The physical stuff is there, he has this ability to track the ball and meet the ball at its peak, and he utilizes his length to protect the rim. I’m extremely high on him.
I think he’s got stronger indicators as a shooter. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a good shooter down the line. He’s improved quite a lot in a short time.
Walker is one prospect scouts and agents seem to agree on.
Versatile is the word that comes up often as his main attribute, and scouts are especially in love with his passing and rim protection. Plus, everyone raves about the motor and NBA-ready physique of Houston’s freshman power forward.
Here are a pair of scout takes on Walker:
Very high on Jarace. He’s a Swiss Army knife and does everything on the floor extremely well. He communicates on a high level, he’s a natural leader and [he’s] competitive.
He’s massive, physically mature, smart and processes the game at high level. He’s a guy teammates will gravitate to on the floor and in the locker room, and he’s also a really good passer that can orchestrate the offense and generate looks for his guys. Teammates will love playing with him.
Speaking of guys that teammates will love to play with, Black is known for being generous with the rock.
The 6’7” guard will have plenty of weapons around him at Arkansas, including Nick Smith and Jordan Walsh, both projected to be first-round picks.
The biggest question is, will Black be too selfless?
NBA scout take No. 1:
I think he’s a lottery pick. There are some concerns because he’s not an alpha and not always aggressive, but he’s an unbelievable kid, extremely unselfish and wants to win.
NBA scout take No. 2:
He does a lot of different things on the floor, he passes and defends on a high level but the shooting has a long ways to go. I think it's some mechanical stuff [with the jumper] that he needs to figure out, but he does so many things well and the measurables are all there. He’s an underrated athlete, which we’re starting to see now.
NBA scout take No. 3:
He’s a normal age for this class, but he’s just starting to come out of his shell as far as being aggressive. He was a late bloomer so it makes sense, he’s just starting to understand how good he is and how talented he is.
Black’s teammate and a fellow Dallas-Ft. Worth-area McDonald’s All-American, Walsh is considered a mid-to-late first-round pick and in theory is the perfect running mate for a pass-first point guard.
The small forward is an electric athlete who thrives as a downhill slasher and transition finisher, displaying a level of intensity and passion that will be greatly appreciated by fiery Arkansas coach Eric Musselman.
We asked two NBA scouts for their views of Walsh:
He led Arkansas in scoring the other day [vs. Texas]. He’s an extreme competitor, [he] comes from a great family and talent-wise he’s a monster.
The way he moves, I can’t even find a comparison. You don’t see that often, at 6’7’” with a 7’3” wingspan and ball skills. And he’s a freak competitor with a great motor. His ceiling is pretty high.
Wallace has NBA personnel raving about his defensive ferocity, team-first approach and track record of winning.
While the scouts I’ve talked to are not as high on his potential as compared to several other one-and-done prospects, the Kentucky guard is polished, plays a winning style of basketball and will rank as one of the best perimeter defenders in the country.
Two NBA scouts offered their thoughts on Wallace:
He’s a tough kid, not a real vocal guy but a lead-by-example guy that impacts winning at a high level. He’s probably the best point-of-attack defender in this class.
He’s a guy that NBA coaches are going to want to draft. Maybe not the front office because they’re gunning for guys with upside, but coaches are going to want him on their team.
After reclassifying into the recruiting class of 2022, Jackson is still just 17 years old — he won’t turn 18 until a month into his freshman season at South Carolina, and he’s expected to be the youngest player in the 2023 draft.
Several scouts mentioned they were a little uneasy about how the 6’9” power forward would adapt to NBA life. Some think Jackson could use an additional year of life experience before he jumps into the professional ranks. However, his potential is appealing and he's developing rapidly.
Here are three NBA scouts on Jackson:
By all accounts he’s a good kid and doesn’t have any character issues, but he’s really young.
He’s probably just outside the lottery for me if I were to do a Big Board right now. The ball skills are impressive and his development has been wild. He was strictly a rim-runner that just blocked shots, grabbed rebounds and finished alley-oops. Three months later he was popping 3s, creating separation and driving to the rim.
His age, and his recent development and how much he’s improved is why I’m high on him. He’s made a lot of strides recently and probably would be the top pick in 2024 if he didn’t reclass.