With college basketball starting conference play, we are starting to get an improved look at some prospects who have been labeled the future of the NBA. This list will change throughout the year, and with the first edition, we will add pro comparisions. The comparisons don’t mean that the player will match their comparison’s success, but it means that their playstyle is similar to that player.
Mo Bamba, Miles Bridges, Colin Sexton
5. Michael Porter Jr. (SF, Missouri)
If it weren’t for a spinal injury that ended Porter Jr.’s season after playing a few minutes, Porter Jr. would likely be #1 on this big board. His 6’10-11″ frame and his 7′ wingspan provides immediate mismatches for perimeter defenders. Porter has a lethal jumpshot combined with freaky athleticism, and even though he didn’t play this season, there won’t be too many teams that pass on his potential.
Pro Comparison: Kevin Durant
Porter Jr. reminds me a lot of Kevin Durant not only because of their similar lanky frames for a wing, but their lethal jumpshots combined with above average defensive skills. Both finish at the rim very well using their long arms and explosive verticals.
4. Trae Young (PG, Oklahoma)
Trae Young has been the MVP of college basketball this season, as he came from completely off the radar to being college basketball’s next superstar. In 12 games this season, Young has averaged 29.6 PPG and 10.7 assists per game. Not only does Young shoot the ball efficiently, he also can finish around the basket, as he is shooting 55% from inside the arc. Young’s all-around offensive game added with his impeccable vision has led Oklahoma to a 11-1 record, including big wins over Wichita St., TCU, and Northwestern. In arguably the biggest game of the season for the Sooners, their first conference matchup against TCU, Young dropped 39 points and added 14 assists in Oklahoma’s 90-89 win.
Pro Comparison: Steph Curry
Just like Curry, Young not only is a lethal shooter from three, but he’s got limitless range from behind the arc. It’s remarkable that Trae Young is shooting 41% from three considering how far away he shoots from. Young and Curry, despite their smaller sizes, are skilled and crafty around the baskets. Both lead their teams very well at the point guard position, as they set up open shots for their teammates. Young has changed the culture at OU with his dynamic play just like Steph Curry did with the Warriors.
3. Marvin Bagley III (PF/C, Duke)
Marvin Bagley III should be a senior in high school, but he graduated early, reclassed, and now is lighting it up for the #2 ranked Duke Blue Devils. Bagley is averaging an easy double-double, with 22 points per game and 12 rebounds per game. Bagley is extremely versatile, as he’s an elite rebounder, scorer, defender, and has had a decent jumpshot (63% FG, 35% 3PT). In an era moving towards position-less basketball, Bagley fits perfectly due to his versatility and ability to play multiple positions. His 6’11” height and elite rebounding skills allow him to play the five, but his speed and athleticism added with an improving jumpshot allows him to occasionally play on the perimeter. Bagley III has stepped up in Duke’s biggest games, adding 34/15 vs Texas, 30/15 vs Florida, 23/10 vs Indiana, and 32/21 vs Florida State in Duke’s first conference game.
Pro Comparison: Anthony Davis
Both Davis and Bagley are natural power forwards, but can fill in at center with their elite athleticism and rebounding. Both are long and athletic which helps them rebound and block shots. Bagley isn’t the shot blocker Davis is, but he’s one of the youngest players in his class and should only get better with time. Bagley and Davis both work inside-out, as they have natural talent around the basket and are expanding their games to meet the modernization of the NBA.
2. Deandre Ayton (C, Arizona)
Explaining the dominance of Ayton won’t do due diligence, so take a look at his highlight tape. He’s a man-child at 19 years old, as he’s 7’1″ and 250 pounds. Ayton is simply stronger and bigger than everyone on the floor, and his dominance (averaging a double-double) is being noticed by many. Not only is Ayton big and strong, he’s quite mobile and quick on his feet. Ayton is powerful around the basket and has a nice mid-range game that makes defenders respect him. Ayton is also a formidable dribbler and is able to use it to drive to the basket.
NBA Comparison: Joel Embiid
It’s really hard to have a comparison to Deandre Ayton because of his versatility and well-rounded game. But, Embiid’s skill at his size compares with Ayton quite well. Despite being large players, both possess great playmaking skill for a big man and both can stretch the floor effectively. At this point, I would say that Deandre Ayton has higher potential than Embiid due to his insane athleticism and lack of injury history.
1. Luka Doncic (SG/SF, Real Madrid)
Doncic, at 18 years old, is potentially the MVP of the second best league in the world, the EuroLeague. While many of his competitors are competing against fellow 18 and 19 year olds, Doncic is averaging 16.6 points per game against fully grown men, as has been doing so as apart of Real Madrid since age 16. Doncic’s IQ and playmaking ability is by far the best in this season’s draft, and his craftiness should make up for his lack of elite athleticism when on offense. Doncic’s only knock is he lacks elite athleticism, but he just turned 18 and has a lot of development left.
NBA Comparison: Ben Simmons*
There’s really no comparison for Doncic, as his all-around skillset simply does not match many NBA players’ skillsets. Ben Simmons perhaps is the closest to Doncic though, as Simmons all-around game makes him a tough matchup. Both have tremendous ball-handling/passing abilities at their height (Doncic is 6’8″, Simmons is 6’10”) that have fans and the media wondering what position they actually play. Although both are listed at forwards, both have the passing, IQ, and ball-handling ability to run an offense and play point guard. Doncic’s jumpshot is considerably better than Simmons’, but their unique skill at their height draws a formidable comparison.