Dan Patrick talks with Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall as his team prepares for the Final Four in Atlanta.
There is so much that is going to happen between now and the time that next season starts that it almost seems foolish to publish a preseason top 25 today.
But we’re doing it anyway!
A couple of notes: Who is going to head to the NBA is very much in the air right now. There are still a number of freshmen that have yet to announce where they are playing their college ball. The transfer market has barely heated up. For decisions that are up in the air, you’ll see an asterisk next to their name. We’re making predictions on what certain players will do and ranking based off of them.
So with all that said, here is the preseason top 25.
1. MICHIGAN STATE
- WHO’S GONE: Matt McQuaid, Kenny Goins, Nick Ward
- WHO’S BACK: Cassius Winston, Xavier Tillman, Joshua Langford, Aaron Henry, Kyle Ahrens, Gabe Brown, Foster Loyer, Marcus Bingham, Thomas Kithier
- WHO’S COMING IN: Rocket Watts, Malik Hall, Julius Marble
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford, Kyle Ahrens, Aaron Henry, Xavier Tillman
- WHO’S GONE: P.J. Washington, Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro, Reid Travis
- WHO’S BACK: E.J. Montgomery, Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickly, Nick Richards
- WHO’S COMING IN: Kahlil Whitney, Tyrese Maxey, Keion Brooks, Johnny Juzang, Dontaie Allen, Nate Sestina
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Tyrese Maxey, Ashton Hagans, Kahlil Whitney, Keion Brooks, E.J. Montgomery
- WHO’S GONE: Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, Marques Bolden
- WHO’S BACK: Tre Jones, Alex O’Connell, Jack White, Javin DeLaurier, Jordan Goldwire, Joey Baker
- WHO’S COMING IN: Vernon Carey, Wendell Moore, Matthew Hurt, Cassius Stanley
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Tre Jones, Alex O’Connell, Wendell Moore, Matthew Hurt, Vernon Carey
- WHO’S GONE: Lagerald Vick, Dedric Lawson, Quintin Grimes, K.J. Lawson, Charlie Moore
- WHO’S BACK: Devon Dotson, Ochai Agbaji, Udoka Azubuike, Marcus Garrett, Silvio De Sousa, Mitch Lightfoot, David McCormack
- WHO’S COMING IN: Isaiah Moss, Jalen Wilson, Tristan Enaruna, Isaac McBride, Christian Braun
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Devon Dotson, Isaiah Moss, Ochai Agbaji, Silvio De Sousa, Udoka Azubuike
- WHO’S GONE: Eric Paschall, Phil Booth, Jahvon Quinerly
- WHO’S BACK: Jermaine Samuels, Cole Swider, Saddiq Bey, Collin Gillespie, Dhamir Cosby-Rountree, Brandon Slater
- WHO’S COMING IN: Bryan Antoine, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Justin Moore, Eric Dixon
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Collin Gillespie, Bryan Antoine, Saddiq Bey, Jermaine Samuels, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
- WHO’S GONE: Christen Cunningham, Khwan Fore, Akoy Agau
- WHO’S BACK: Jordan Nwora, Dwayne Sutton, Ryan McMahon, Steve Enoch, Malik Williams, Darius Perry
- WHO’S COMING IN: Samuell Williamson, Jaelyn Withers, Josh Nickelberry, Fresh Kimble, David Johnson, Aidan Igiehom, Quinn Slazinski
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Fresh Kimble, Samuell Williamson, Dwayne Sutton, Jordan Nwora, Malik Williams
- WHO’S GONE: Bruno Fernando
- WHO’S BACK: Anthony Cowan, Jalen Smith, Serrel Smith Jr., Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins, Ricky Lindo, Darryl Morsell
- WHO’S COMING IN: Chol Marial, Makhi Mitchell, Makhel Mitchell, Donta Scott
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Anthony Cowan, Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins, Ricky Lindo, Jalen Smith
- WHO’S GONE: De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, Jack Salt
- WHO’S BACK: Braxton Key, Mamadi Diakite, Jay Huff, Kihei Clark
- WHO’S COMING IN: Casey Morsell, Tomas Woldetensae, Kadin Shedrick, Justin McKoy
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Kihei Clark, Casey Morsell, Braxton Key, Mamadi Diakite, Jay Huff
9. TEXAS TECH
- WHO’S GONE: Jarrett Culver, Matt Mooney, Tariq Owens, Brandone Francis, Norense Odiase, Khavon Moore
- WHO’S BACK: Chris Beard, Davide Moretti, Kyler Edwards, Deshawn Corprew, Andrei Savrasov
- WHO’S COMING IN: Jahmius Ramsey, Chris Clarke, T.J. Holyfield, Kevin McCullar, Russel Tchewa, Terrence Shannon
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Jahmius Ramsey, Davide Moretti, Deshawn Corprew, T.J. Holyfield, Chris Clarke
- WHO’S GONE: KeVaughn Allen, Jalen Hudson, Kevarrius Hayes, Keith Stone, DeAundre Ballard
- WHO’S BACK: Noah Locke, Andrew Nembhard, Keyontae Johnson, Dontay Bassett, Isaiah Stokes
- WHO’S COMING IN: Kerry Blackshear Jr., Scottie Lewis, Tre Mann, Omar Payne, Jason Jitoboh
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Andrew Nembhard, Noah Locke, Scottie Lewis, Keyontae Johnson, Kerry Blackshear Jr.
- WHO’S GONE: Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke, Josh Perkins, Zach Norvell, Geno Crandall, Jeremy Jones
- WHO’S BACK: Killian Tillie, Filip Petrusev, Corey Kispert
- WHO’S COMING IN: Admon Gilder, Drew Timme, Oumar Ballo, Ryan Woolridge, Brock Ravet, Anton Watson, Martynas Arlauskas, Pavel Zahkarov
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Ryan Woolridge, Admon Gilder, Corey Kispert, Killian Tillie, Filip Petrusev
12. SETON HALL
- WHO’S GONE: Michael Nzei
- WHO’S BACK: Myles Powell, Myles Cale, Quincy McKnight, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Ikey Obiagu
- WHO’S COMING IN: Tyrese Samuel
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Quincy McKnight, Myles Powell, Myles Cale, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Ikey Obiagu
13. NORTH CAROLINA
- WHO’S GONE: Coby White, Nassir Little, Luke Maye, Cam Johnson, Kenny Williams, Seventh Woods
- WHO’S BACK: Leaky Black, Garrison Brooks, Brandon Robinson
- WHO’S COMING IN: Cole Anthony, Armando Bacot, Jeremiah Francis, Anthony Harris, Christian Keeling, Justin Pierce
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Cole Anthony, Leaky Black, Brandon Robinson, Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks
14. UTAH STATE
- WHO’S GONE: Quinn Taylor
- WHO’S BACK: Sam Merrill, Neemias Queta, Diogo Brito, Brock Miller, Abel Porter
- WHO’S COMING IN: Alphonso Anderson, Liam McChesney, Sean Bairstow
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Diogo Brito, Abel Porter, Sam Merrill, Brock Miller, Neemias Queta
- WHO’S GONE: Paul White, Louis King, Ehab Amin, Kenny Wooten, Bol Bol, Victor Bailey
- WHO’S BACK: Payton Pritchard, Will Richardson, Francis Okoro
- WHO’S COMING IN: N’Faly Dante, C.J. Walker, Anthony Mathis, Shakur Juiston, Addison Patterson, Chris Duarte, Lok Wur, Chandler Lawson
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Payton Pritchard, Chris Duarte, Anthony Mathis, C.J. Walker, Shakur Juiston
- WHO’S GONE: Justin Coleman, Ryan Luther, Brandon Randolph
- WHO’S BACK: Dylan Smith, Chase Jeter, Brandon Williams, Alex Barcello, Ira Lee
- WHO’S COMING IN: Nico Mannion, Josh Green, Max Hazzard, Terry Armstrong, Christian Koloko, Zeke Nnaji, Stone Gettings
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Max Hazzard, Nico Mannion, Josh Green, Ira Lee, Chase Jeter
17. SAINT MARY’S
- WHO’S GONE: Jordan Hunter
- WHO’S BACK: Jordan Ford, Malik Fitts, Tommy Kuhse, Tanner Krebs, Dan Fotu, Jock Perry
- WHO’S COMING IN: Alex Ducas, Kyle Bowen
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Jordan Ford, Tommy Kuhse, Tanner Krebs, Malik Fitts, Jock Perry
- WHO’S GONE: Ryan Welage, Zach Hankins, Kyle Castlin, Elias Harden
- WHO’S BACK: Quentin Goodin, Naji Marshall, Paul Scruggs, Tyrique Jones
- WHO’S COMING IN: Kyky Tandy, Dahmir Bishop, Zach Freemantle, Jason Carter, Daniel Ramsey, Dieonte Miles
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Quentin Goodin, Paul Scruggs, Naji Marshall, Jason Carter, Tyrique Jones
- WHO’S GONE: Tremont Waters, Naz Reid, Kavell-Bigby Williams
- WHO’S BACK: Javonte Smart, Skylar Mays, Emmitt Williams, Marlon Taylor, Darius Days
- WHO’S COMING IN: Trendon Watford, James Bishop
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Javonte Smart, Skylar Mays, Marlon Taylor, Trendon Watford, Emmitt Williams
- WHO’S GONE: King McClure, Makai Mason, Jake Lindsey
- WHO’S BACK: Tristan Clark, Mario Kegler, Jared Butler, Devonte Bandoo, Mark Vital, Freddie Gillespie, Matthew Mayer
- WHO’S COMING IN: Jordan Turner, MaCio Teague, Davion Mitchell
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler, Mark Vital, Mario Kegler, Tristan Clark
- WHO’S GONE: Jeremiah Martin, Kyvon Davenport, Mike Parks Jr., Raynere Thornton, Kareem Brewton, Antwann Jones Jr.
- WHO’S BACK: Tyler Harris, Alex Lomax, Isaiah Maurice
- WHO’S COMING IN: James Wiseman, D.J. Jeffries, Lester Quinones, Malcolm Dandridge, Damian Baugh, Lance Thomas, Precious Achiuwa, Boogie Ellis
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Tyler Harris, Boogie Ellis, D.J. Jeffries, Precious Achiuwa, James Wiseman
- WHO’S GONE: Jared Harper, Bryce Brown, Malik Dunbar, Horace Spencer, Chuma Okeke
- WHO’S BACK: Samir Doughty, J’Von McCormick, Danjel Purifoy, Anfernee McLemore, Austin Wiley
- WHO’S COMING IN: Isaac Okoro, Tyrell Jones, Jaylin Williams, Babatunde Akingbola, Allen Flanigan, Jamal Johnson
- PROJECTED STARTERS: J’Von McCormick, Samir Doughty, Danjel Purifoy, Isaac Okoro, Anfernee McLemore
- WHO’S GONE: Admiral Schofield, Kyle Alexander, Jordan Bone, Grant Williams, Derrick Walker Jr, D.J. Burns
- WHO’S BACK: Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden, Yves Pons., John Fulkerson, Jalen Johnson
- WHO’S COMING IN: Josiah James, Drew Pember, Olivier Nkamoua, Davonte Gaines
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden, Josiah James, Yves Pons, John Fulkerson
- WHO’S GONE: Michael Gilmore
- WHO’S BACK: Marcus Evans, Isaac Vann, Deriante Jenkins, Marcus Santos-Silva, Vince Williams, Mike’L Simms, P.J. Byrd, Malik Crawford
- WHO’S COMING IN: Jarren McAlister
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Marcus Evans, Isaac Vann, Vince Williams, Deriante Jenkins, Marcus Santos-Silva
25. OHIO STATE
- WHO’S GONE: C.J. Jackson, Keyshawn Woods
- WHO’S BACK: Kaleb Wesson, Andre Wesson, Luther Muhammad, Duane Washington, Kyle Young, Justin Aherns, Musa Jallow, Jaedon LeDee
- WHO’S COMING IN: D.J. Carton, Alonzo Gaffney, EJ Liddel, Ibrahima Diallo, CJ Walker
- PROJECTED STARTERS: C.J. Walker, Duane Washington Jr., Luther Muhammad, Andre Wesson, Kaleb Wesson
- WHO’S GONE: Nathan Ekwu, Dusan Kovacevic
- WHO’S BACK: Kellan Grady, Jon Axel Gudmundson, Luka Brajkovic, Luke Frampton, Kishawn Pritchett, Carter Collins, David Czerapowicz, Bates Jones
- WHO’S COMING IN: Hyunjung Lee, David Kristensen
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Kellan Grady, Jon Axel Gudmundson, Luke Frampton, Kishawn Pritchett, Luka Brajkovic
- WHO’S GONE: Sam Froling, Kaleb Joseph, Connor Cashaw
- WHO’S BACK: Davion Mintz, Ty-Shon Alexander, Mitchell Ballock, Jacob Epperson, Damien Jefferson, Marcus Zegarowski
- WHO’S COMING IN: Shereef Mitchell
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Davion Mintz, Marcus Zegarowski, Ty-Shon Alexander, Mitchell Ballock, Jacob Epperson
- WHO’S GONE: Jaylen Nowell, Noah Dickerson, Matisse Thybulle, David Crisp, Dominic Green
- WHO’S BACK: Nahziah Carter, Hameir Wright, Sam Timmins, Jamal Bey
- WHO’S COMING IN: Isaiah Stewart, Jaden McDaniels, Quade Green, Marcus Tsohonis, RaeQuan Battle
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Quade Green, Nahziah Carter, Hameir Wright, Jaden McDaniels, Isaiah Stewart
- WHO’S GONE: Namon Wright
- WHO’S BACK: McKinley Wright IV, Tyler Bey, D’shawn Schwartz, Lucas Siewert, Evan Battey, Shane Gatling, Daylen Kountz
- WHO’S COMING IN: No one
- PROJECTED STARTERS: McKinley Wright IV, Shane Gatling, Tyler Bey, D’Shawn Schwartz, Lucas Siewert
- WHO’S GONE: Sam Hauser, Joey Hauser, Joseph Chartouny
- WHO’S BACK: Markus Howard, Theo John, Sacar Anim, Ed Morrow, Jamal Cain
- WHO’S COMING IN: Koby McEwen, Symir Torrence, Jayce Johnson
- PROJECTED STARTERS: Markus Howard, Koby McEwen, Sacar Anim, Brendan Bailey, Theo John
FLINT, Mich. — A jury acquitted former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves Tuesday on charges alleging he sexually assaulted a woman in a motel room four years ago.
The verdict announced in a Genesee County courtroom in Cleaves’ hometown of Flint came after a nearly-two week trial that included the testimony of the Mount Morris woman, who told jurors that she had wanted to leave the motel room but Cleaves continued to force himself on her.
Evidence against Cleaves included a video that prosecutors contended showed the woman pulling away from Cleaves. Prosecutors argued she tried twice to escape from the motel room.
Cleaves did not testify. One of his attorneys, Frank Manley, said Cleaves had consensual sex with the woman who was in the motel room “of her own free will” after a charity golf tournament and visit to a bar. Cleaves’ attorneys told jurors that the woman lied about what happened because she felt guilty about cheating on her boyfriend.
The 41-year-old Cleaves was acquitted on all charges, including unlawful imprisonment and assault with intent to commit criminal sexual penetration. He had faced a maximum of 15 years in prison had he been convicted.
Cleaves has long denied the allegations, saying in a March 2016 tweet that he was “innocent and the allegations are without merit.”
The trial itself came after a long legal battle that started in late 2016 when a district judge dismissed the charges, saying that there were a number of factors that suggested “something else was going on” between Cleaves and the woman.
But in 2017, the charges were reinstated after the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office filed an appeal that contended the judge had abused her “discretion of power” in dismissing the charges. Then last year, the Michigan Supreme Court refused to review that decision, clearing the way for the trial.
Cleaves is a revered figure in Michigan, an integral part of a Michigan State team that won the national championship in 2000 before his six-year NBA career.
And on Tuesday, sitting in a courtroom was another reminder of that team: Coach Tom Izzo. Izzo told The Detroit News that he did not know the details about the allegations against his former star player but wanted to be in the courtroom to support Cleaves as he would “any of my guys.”
Less than 24 hours after cutting his list to five schools, five-star point guard Daishen Nix committed to UCLA.
Nix is a 6-foot-5 point guard from Alaska that’s currently playing his high school ball in Las Vegas. He’s known for his court vision and elite basketball IQ with a developing jumper and a feel for the game that cannot be taught. He ranks as a top 15 prospect, according to 247 Sports.
He was Mick Cronin’s top target at the point guard spot, and Cronin landed him. That’s notable, because one of the concerns that people had about UCLA’s decision to hire Cronin was whether or not a coach known for his toughness, his intensity and his team’s propensity for being defense first would adjust to playing at California’s flagship program, where tempo is a must and defense has been, for the last half-decade, optional.
And while it remains to be seen how the team and program will adjust to his coaching style – I will have a story coming on that later this week – at the very least, Cronin has proven that he can dip his toe in the west coast recruiting waters and get a player that he prioritized.
Over the course of the next two weeks, Pro Basketball Talk will be rolling out a project that we have been working on for the last month: Ranking the top 50 players five years from now.
Players ranked 46-50 were unveiled today.
You can find that list here.
In the meantime, since it is relevant, here at College Basketball Talk we are going to take a look at the guys that, in 2024, may actually deserve a spot on a top 50 players list that you may not know about just yet.
So without further ado, here are the ten best prospects that have yet to play a game in the professional ranks.
1. Emoni Bates, Class of 2022
Bates is the shoe-in at No. 1 on this list. Over the years I’ve gotten to know quite a few of the scouts that do recruiting rankings and cover the sport at the high school level. These guys have been in the business for a long time – some for decades – and every single one of them rave about Bates in a way that you don’t often see players get talked about. One called him the best freshman he’s ever scouted. One called him as good as any prospect that he’s scouted in more than 20 years in the business. One called him the best prospect in high school hoops, which is exactly where I have him on this list. Personally, I think that he’s the closest thing that we’ve seen to Kevin Durant since Kevin Durant.
I wrote a story on Bates from Peach Jam back in July, and one of the things that I made sure to note in that story is the danger that comes with this level of hype at this age. Many of the things that are being said about Bates were said about Renardo Sidney at the same age, and we know how that turned out. Part of the reason I’m a little less-hesitant to make such proclamations with Bates is that he has an alpha mentality and competitive streak that you don’t see all that often. So not only does he have the physical tools as a super-skilled, 6-foot-9 scorer with range out to the NBA three-point line, but once he gets on the court, he’s an a–hole in all of the best ways.
2. Cade Cunningham, Class of 2020
Cunningham is tailor-made for modern basketball. He’s a 6-foot-7, 220 pound point forward. He’s a tough, physical and athletic wing that, two years ago, made the transition to playing the point full time. He has the savvy, the maturity and the polish of an NBA veteran. He doesn’t have the highlight reel athleticism of guys like Zion Williamson or Ja Morant, but he has the kind of functional athleticism that will allow him to split the defense, avoid the charge, absorb the contact and finish in traffic. He was the MVP of the EYBL circuit this past season, and if he continues to improve his shooting stroke, there’s a very real chance that he gets picked with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft.
I think the best way to phrase it is this: He will likely be the first player to ever get compared to Luka Doncic, and I’m not sure how much more complimentary you can get.
3. James Wiseman, Memphis
4. Evan Mobley, Class of 2020
I’m listing these two together because they really are quite similar prospects. Both stand 7-foot. Both have the kind of length, mobility and athleticism that should allow them to thrive at the five in the modern NBA. Both of them are capable defenders with the potential to be very, very good with some added strength and a bit of motivation. And both of them are skilled enough where they have the potential of one day doing all four things modern fives are asked to do – protect the rim, switch ball-screens, space the floor to the three-point line, be a lob target as a roll-man in ball-screens.
Now, there are some differences. Wiseman, at this point, is probably more physically developed – he is a year older – while Mobley, at 6-foot-11 and 200 pounds, is going to have to make the absolute most of the meal plan USC gets him on. Mobley, on the other hand, seems to be more accepting of the fact that he’s destined to be a five in the NBA while Wiseman, in the words of one NBA draftnik, “thinks he’s Giannis when in reality he’s a lot closer to Myles Turner.”
There is nothing wrong with being Myles Turner. He just turned 23 years old and he is coming off of a season where he averaged 13.3 points, 7.2 boards and an NBA-best 2.7 blocks while shooting 38.8 percent from three. He’s really good. But he also knows what he is and what he isn’t, and he isn’t Giannis.
5. Jonathan Kuminga, Class of 2021
Kuminga is a super-explosive, 6-foot-8 wing that is just now starting to figure out how good he has the chance to be. He has all the physical tools that you want out of a wing – height, length, athleticism, versatility – and he has shown that he is willing and able to defend multiple positions. The big thing with him in the long-term is going to be how well his jumpshot develops, and if that comes along, his upside is as high as anyone on this list. I do think it’s worth noting that at Peach Jam, he was in the same group as Terrence Clarke and Patrick Baldwin Jr. and justified his spot on this list.
6. Jalen Green, Class of 2020
Green has all the makings of a future top five pick. At 6-foot-5, he’s a naturally gifted scorer that makes the game look easy. He’s at his best when he’s slashing to the bucket, where he can finish above the rim and also has a shiftiness about him in the lane. He’s a capable ball-handler and passer, but he’s going to make his money as a bucket-getter. If his jumper catches up to the rest of his game, look out.
7. Anthony Edwards, Georgia
Edwards is a big time scorer and athlete that has the ideal physical tools for a combo-guard. He’s a sturdy 6-foot-5 with length and explosive athleticism. His game is well-rounded. He’s a good shooter that can also operate in ball-screens, create for his teammates and shoot off the dribble. In theory, he’s an ideal fit for a sport that is becoming more and more reliant on scorers that can create in isolation with shooters spacing the court. Part of the reason he stayed home to play for Georgia is that Tom Crean coached both Victor Oladipo and Dwyane Wade in college, and those two are what Edwards has the potential to be at the next level.
8. Cole Anthony, North Carolina
Anthony is going to get a lot of hype heading into the 2020 draft. Beyond the simple fact that he is the son of UNLV legend and NBA journeyman Greg Anthony, Cole Anthony is headed to North Carolina, where Roy Williams is going to slot him into the same role that he used Coby White in last year. He is going to get a lot of shots, he’s going to score a lot of points and he’s going to have a lot of highlight reel plays in the process. My big question with Cole longterm is that I’m not convinced that he is big enough to play off the ball, I’m not sure he is a natural point guard and I don’t know if he is quite good enough to be allowed to play the way he has throughout his career at the NBA level. There is definitely some potential here, but I think the fit at the NBA level makes more sense with Green and Edwards than it does with Anthony.
9. Terrence Clarke, Class of 2021
Clarke is a wiry-strong, 6-foot-6 off-guard from Boston that has the potential to be the No. 1 pick in whatever draft he ends up in. (There’s a chance he can reclassify into 2020.) He’s an explosive athlete that can finish in traffic while also displaying a high-level feel for the game. He’s an improving shooter that can create off the bounce in isolation, and his court vision and passing gives him the upside of having some positional versatility down the road.
10. Patrick Baldwin Jr., Class of 2021
As one coach at a top ten program told me this summer, Patrick Baldwin Jr. “is the best shooting big man I’ve ever scouted.” Still just heading into his junior year in high school, Baldwin recently went through a growth spurt that saw him sprout up to 6-foot-10. He needs to add some strength and weight to his frame (what 16 year old doesn’t?) but that size and shooting ability is not something that we see all that often. The big question for Baldwin is how well the rest of his game develops. Is he simply a pick-and-pop five, or will he continue to develop a floor game and the physical tools that will allow him to be a plus-defender in the NBA?
THREE THAT JUST MISSED THIS LIST
Jaden McDaniels, Washington: McDaniels’ upside is as high as anyone on this list save for Bates and Cunningham. At 6-foot-10, he’s a skilled wing with a perimeter game and a developing shooting stroke. It’s not hard to watch him play and see what he can be if he continues to put in the work, but he has a ways to go to get there. He’s still just 190 pounds and, at this point, more of a prospect that a producer.
Paolo Banchero, Class of 2021: Banchero is a tough prospect to gauge the ceiling of. He’s already 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds with a frame that should easily be able to hold more muscle, but without the kind of physical tools that will set him apart from the field. I think it’s also fair to say that his best skill at this point is how well-rounded he is. Put another way, he’s one of those guys that can do everything well – he can shoot it, he can pass, he can beat bigger defenders facing up, he can hold his own defending the paint, etc. – with an exceedingly high basketball IQ. Put another way, outside of continuing to stretch out his shooting range, I’m not sure just how much better he’s going to end up getting.
Jalen Johnson, Class of 2020: Johnson’s biggest strength at this point is probably his basketball IQ and passing ability at this size. He’s a 6-foot-9 lefty with a complete skillset and the kind of floor vision at this size that will make you think Ben Simmons lost his Aussie accent. Already committed to Duke, Johnson will likely continue to generate buzz as his defense and perimeter stroke improve.
Lawyers for Michael Avennati filed a court motion on Wednesday alleging that Nike approved under-the-table payments to Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford while they were still in high school.
The alleged offers, which were for $35,000 to Zion and $20,000 to Langford, were found in “text messages, emails and other documents fro 2016-17” and prove “Nike executives had arranged for and concealed payments, often in cash, to amateur basketball players and their families and ‘handlers,'” the motion, which was filed in U.S. District Court in New York, alleged.
Specifically, the motion alleges that:
- EYBL manager Jamal James texted EYBL director Carlton DeBose and Nike’s recruiting coordinator John Stovall asking if they would be “willing to do … whatever may be needed for the Zion/Romeo situations as well as the money we’re now going to do for the [redacted because he is still a minor] kid in Michigan.” Stovall responded “Langford – 20 Zion – 35 [unnamed minor] – 15”. Stovall added that it was a bad idea for the offer to be put into print.
- DeBose said in a text message with an unnamed Kentucky assistach coach that the shoe company was “funneling payments to high school players through at least 10 different EYBL coaches.”
- An EYBL coach told Nike executives he was concerned about the money being paid to players and their families because it won’t end well for Nike and innocent coaches “will be deemed guilty by association.”
- DeBose told Nico Harrison, Nike’s VP of North America basketball operations, that he’s “willing to bet that 38 of the 40 teams in the EYBL had to pay a moderate to considerable ransom to families just to play in the EYBL.” He also said the arrangements are “being viewed as a contract” by the players and their families.
- Another Nike executive, Rachel Baker, allegedly said she was worried about carrying cash through an airport.
All the quotes listed above are from the motion itself. It refers to emails and text messages, but they are not attached. The motion can be read in its entirety here.
The motion does not make clear whether or not the money was actually delivered. Both Zion and Langford played their final season of AAU basketball on the Adidas circuit. Langford’s father was the coach of the AAU program that his son played for.
“Nike will not respond to the allegations of an individual facing federal charges of fraud and extortion,” Nike said in a statement. “Nike will continue its cooperation with the government’s investigation into grassroots basketball and the related extortion case.”
Avenatti was arrested in March and charged with attempting to extort more than $20 million from Nike by threatening to expose the way that the shoe company and its grassroots basketball league, the EYBL, funnel money to the elite high school players and their families. He threatened to hold a press conference at the start of the NCAA tournament announcing these allegations of misconduct.
Adding to the drama is the fact that Avennati represented Gary Franklin, who was the coach of the California Supreme at one point in time. Deandre Ayton, Bol Bol, Aaron Holiday, De’Anthony Melton, Solomon Hill and Brandon McCoy were among the players that spent time on his roster. The motion to dismiss also contains allegations that Franklin was directed by DeBose to make payments to people associated with Ayton, Bol and McCoy, and that he submitted false invoices to Nike to disguise the payments as expenses for the 501(c3) he operated.