We’re about six weeks away from college basketball season, which means it’s time to start taking a closer look at some top prospects on the best teams in the nation. This is a loaded freshman class, with multiple late enrollees due to reclassification adding increased depth to the 2018 NBA Draft class.
No team this year has benefited from players reclassifying more than Duke, who added one of the top prospects in the country in big man Marvin Bagley III. The Blue Devils were already loaded with 5-star talent before Bagley announced his decision, and they could see as many as four first-round picks among their freshmen in next year’s draft.
Let’s take a look at the top NBA prospects on Duke this coming season.
Honorable mention: Sophomore C Marques Bolden, freshman SF Jordan Tucker
5. SG Grayson Allen, senior, 6-5, 210 pounds
Allen has been in Durham for what feels like forever after a breakout sophomore season in 2015-16. He regressed a bit as a junior, as his field goal and 3-point percentage dropped as well as his overall offense. With a 6-6.5 wingspan, Allen is a bit of a tweener as he’s undersized for a 2 and isn’t a natural point guard. As a senior he’ll have a chance to improve his stock with a big final season and show improved playmaking for NBA scouts who want to see more versatility.
4. C Wendell Carter Jr., freshman, 6-10, 260
I’m not as high on Carter as many other draft analysts are at this stage. He’s a bit of a tweener with a 7-3 wingspan, making him undersized for a shot-blocking center and too slow for a 4. Carter has a lot of NBA-ready skills, though. He’s a great rebounder and has excellent timing as a shot blocker.
Carter has a good post game with soft touch, giving him range out to mid-range. Carter will need to improve his mobility to show more versatility to NBA scouts, but his skill level should earn him a first-round selection in 2018.
3. PG Trevon Duval, freshman, 6-2, 190
Duval is one of the most electrifying freshman point guards in the country, and could be a lottery pick if he can impress for the Blue Devils this season. Duval is incredibly explosive and knows how to play in the pick and roll effectively to create offense at the rim or for others. He has great size and nearly a 6-8 wingspan, which gives him two-way upside at the position:
Duval still struggles as a floor spacer and can often get a little too reckless as a passer/playmaker resulting in turnovers. He often tries for the home run play instead of the simple one, but he can improve on that. Duval has a lot of talent and ideal physical characteristics of an NBA-level point guard; if he can play well this season he will fly up draft boards.
2. SG Gary Trent Jr., freshman, 6-6, 215
Trent has been on the NBA radar for years, and could be the top pure shooting guard in the 2018 draft class. He has good size for an NBA 2 guard and a 6-8.5 wingspan, and has a smooth 3-point stroke with NBA range. Trent has good length and is capable of getting into passing lanes for steals when he’s locked in:
Trent is just an average athlete compared to NBA wings, and has below average lateral quickness which could cause issues at the next level. He’s not much of a passer/playmaker, and lacks the ballhandling ability to show that versatility. Trent can be too reliant on inconsistent mid-range shots and will have to improve decision-making offensively at Duke to show his NBA upside.
Playing off the ball exclusively alongside Duval and Bagley will bring out Trent’s biggest strength — spot-up shooting. If he can show more wiggle as a ballhandler in dribble-drive situations as a freshman, there’s a high chance he’s a lottery pick in 2018
1. PF Marvin Bagley III, freshman, 6-11, 234
I’ve written about Bagley and his reclassification in the past, and his impact will be awesome on this team for the upcoming season. Bagley is a long, lean athlete with good ball skills and awesome defensive potential. He could guard 1 through 5 in college and might have the mobility and quickness to do it in the NBA as well. Bagley has great size and a 7-0.5 wingspan, measured at the Nike Basketball Academy in summer 2016:
Bagley’s versatility defensively is awesome, but his offensive repertoire needs some fine tuning. He’s not much of a floor spacer yet, though he has a good-looking stroke that projects well to the next level. He lacks some strength and could benefit from another 10-15 pounds of muscle. Bagley lacks a degree of length compared to elite NBA bigs and that could give him some struggles at the next level.
Overall, Bagley will make a great impact on Duke defensively and can play off the ball offensively to be effective. He’s a great athlete in finishing at the rim with putbacks and dunks. If he can show his potential as a shooter, Bagley could be the top pick in 2018.
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