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2018 NBA Draft: What top ten picks are the most likely to be busts?

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The 2018 NBA Draft is loaded with top-end talent and potential future all-stars.

The fascinating thing about this group in the top ten is that you can make a solid case that most of these guys could become stars.

On the flipside, all of them also have some kind of glaring weakness.

Deandre Ayton is likely going No. 1 overall and there is a healthy contingent of draft analysts and skeptics who point to his lack of defensive presence as a 7-footer.

Some of these same detractors also believe the NBA is continually going smaller — meaning giants like Ayton will get played off the floor by certain small-ball lineups like the Golden State Warriors just did to some teams during another title run.

That’s just one example.

Going down the list of top-ten prospects and you can point to a lot of potential flaws that could lead to downfalls. But here are two top-ten prospects who could wind up being busts.

MICHAEL PORTER JR.

Before his freshman season at Missouri, I thought Michael Porter Jr. was going to put up monster numbers and be a Player of the Year candidate. His top-five status in the 2018 NBA Draft appeared to be safe. After a decorated high school career in which he destroyed most challengers and played well on the international stage with USA Basketball, Porter looked like he could be a jumbo scoring wing at the game’s highest level.

Then the back and hip issues began.

Porter only played in three games during his lone season with the Tigers — including two uninspiring postseason efforts in which he couldn’t get his shot to fall while trying to prove that he was healthy. And now it feels like there are a million questions about MPJ and his health.

During the NBA Draft process, Porter has cancelled and rescheduled pro days, kept medical records private for long lengths of time and given plenty of teams pause as to whether or not he is truly healthy. If Porter’s back and hip stay as a lingering issue then it changes who he is as a basketball player. Already a bit rigid, with hips that aren’t particularly fluid, Porter could have trouble moving laterally in an increasingly quick and nimble league that is only getting smaller.

Porter’s jumper also uses his whole body to elevate. It didn’t look nearly the same during those March games where he tried to gut it out. And Porter has been such a gifted scorer during his high school career that he’s never had to worry about passing or making others around him better.

Some have also questioned Porter’s ego and his ability to be a willing teammate — which are legitimate questions in a league that often sees its stars feud with others and move on to new teams.

Again, if Porter is fully healthy and ready to go, he could be a double-double threat on the wing and a 20-point per game scorer. But if Porter isn’t healthy? Some team is taking a big risk on not only taking an injured player but passing on a talented healthy player who could morph into an all-star.

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TRAE YOUNG

Perhaps the most fascinating prospect in the draft because of his insane range and overall offensive ability, Young is going to be one of the names to watch on draft night.

Some mock drafts feel he’s a top-three talent, or even the best prospect overall because of his new-age ability to pull-up and hit threes from 30 feet away. Others feel like he’s a potential defensive liability who doesn’t necessarily play winning basketball all the time because of his shot selection and high number of turnovers.

While Young could be a monster steal for some team hoping to get the next Steph Curry, those comparisons are also going to be dangerous, while likely following Young the rest of this career.

For Young, it could be all about fit and who winds up taking him.

When Young was in high school, he was at his best when he had elite talent around him. Michael Porter Jr. was the go-to scorer on a MoKan team that won the Nike Peach Jam. Young also looked solid during stretches with USA Basketball when he had tons of weapons around him.

Once teams in the Big 12 figured out his individual offensive tendencies after a hot start last season, they forced him into being a playmaker and the Sooners struggled to win games. Of course, the lack of talent around him doesn’t fall on Young, who didn’t recruit his teammates at Oklahoma. But what happens if Young falls to a dysfunctional franchise like the Orlando Magic? He’ll be expected to be a savior right away with minimal help — while also having to overcome glaring deficiencies like perimeter defense and a high number of turnovers.

And how do you think NBA players are going to react to the task of guarding Young? There’s an old Dream Team story about Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen practically fighting so they could defend future Chicago Bulls teammate Toni Kukoc one-on-one during the ’92 Olympics. They had heard about the hype surrounding Kukoc, even though he had never played in an NBA game.

After being a national media darling much of last season, Young is going to get a lot of strong one-on-one defenders who are hungry to slow him down. Game plans will revolve around limiting Young’s touches and ability to launch shots. Teams and veteran players are going to do everything they can to frustrate Young and make life tough.

Young is talented and skilled enough to make all of these questions go away. He’s a unique talent who could very well end up being worthy of all of the hype. But he’s going to need some help reaching his full potential, and some of those things are out of his control.

NBA draft scouting report for Mo Bamba

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Mo Bamba is one of the fastest-rising prospects, with a number of teams now reportedly considering him as a top three prospect in the draft and a player that could potentially be the best five years from now.

Personally, I think that like of thinking is flawed — if you love what Mo Bamba can be as a multi-positional defender, rim protector and floor-spacer, take the guy that’s better at all of those things and 16 months younger in Jaren Jackson — but I can understand why his size, length and skill-set is intriguing.

Here is the NBC Sports scouting video on Bamba:

OTHER PROFILES

DEANDRE AYTON, Arizona
MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke
JAREN JACKSON JR., Michigan State

2018 NBA Draft: 12 players outside the lottery that will out-perform their draft position

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In three of the last five seasons, the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award was given to a player that was picked outside of the top five. Damian Lillard was the No. 6 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Michael Carter-Williams went 11th in 2013. Malcolm Brogdon? He was a second round pick in 2016.

This season, Donovan Mitchell, who was selected 13th in the 2017 NBA Draft, would be a shoe-in for Rookie of the Year if Ben Simmons had not been hurt last season, while Kyle Kuzma, the 27th pick in the draft, will be a First-Team All-Rookie selection.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at 12 players projected to be picked outside of the lottery in the 2018 NBA Draft are going to out-perform their draft position.

ROBERT WILLIAMS, Texas A&M

I know I said outside of the lottery and I know that Williams is projected by many to be scooped up in the back-end of the lottery, but he deserves a mention here because anyone getting him outside of the top ten will be getting a steal.

The reason for that is simple: Williams has the perfect set of skills to play the five in the NBA. At 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and the kind of athleticism that will leave him in danger of concussing himself on the backboard, Williams has every tool needed to be a rim-running, lob-catching, rim-protecting center in today’s NBA.

NBA scouts saw this in Williams prior to last season. That’s why he was projected as a lottery pick early on in his freshman season, but the combination of returning to school, playing on a team where the pieces did not fit together and dealing with some suspensions and injuries throughout the year limited his production. The biggest hindrance? For a player that needs space to operate, Williams played on a team that had no floor-spacing whose go-to option offensively was Tyler Davis, a 6-foot-10 land-warrior that did all of his damage within eight-feet of the rim.

Put another way, playing in the NBA, where spacing is plentiful and point guards excel at throwing lobs up at the rim, will be better for Williams’ production than playing in college.

One other note on Williams: One of the biggest knocks on him is his work ethic. Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy told me before the season started that the one thing that Williams had been working the hardest on was learning how to work hard. That’s a major reason why there are concerns about whether or not Williams will hit his upside or develop a three-point shot.

He can add nothing to his repertoire between now and when he hits free agency and Williams will, in my mind, be somewhere between Clint Capela and Tristan Thompson by then. If he drops all the way to the Wizards at No. 15, John Wall’s celebration will make Alex Ovechkin’s look humble.

DE’ANTHONY MELTON, USC

Everyone loves hot takes, so here’s a scorcher for you: If De’Anthony Melton had been allowed to play this season, if he had not gotten caught up in the FBI’s investigation into college basketball, we would he talking about his as a potential lottery pick. Melton is a swiss-army knife. He’s 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-8 wingspan, an athletic defender that averaged 2.8 steals and 1.5 blocks per 40 minutes as a freshman. His size and length should allow him to defend multiple positions, and his ability to create — 5.1 assists per 40 minutes as a freshman — makes him an intriguing and versatile talent. He was the only player in the NCAA to average 10 points, five boards, five assists, 2.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per 40 minutes in 2016-17, something that has only been done seven times in NCAA history.

His big question mark is his ability to shoot the ball. That was the major reason he opted to return to school for his sophomore season; he made just 21 threes in 36 games at USC. Melton spent some time working out with Drew Hanlen, who helped reconfigure the shooting stroke of Jayson Tatum and Mo Bamba and is now working with Markelle Fultz to get his shot fixed, and had a full year to do nothing but get his shot right. It looked improved at the combine, and sources at USC say that he looked much-improved before he opted to leave school.

Melton is likely always going to be somewhat limited offensively, but I see him as a perfect fit as a role player alongside a ball-dominant lead guard.

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AARON HOLIDAY, UCLA

I love Holiday as a mid-to-late first round pick in this draft, and I think he has the potential to thrive as the first guard off the bench for a playoff team even as a rookie. The season he had as a junior — 20.3 points, 5.8 assists, 3.7 boards, 1.3 steals — has been underrated because of the disappointment that UCLA was. He’s a point guard by trade, and capable of playing against second-units in the NBA, but as a career 42 percent three-point shooter that spent last season playing alongside Lonzo Ball, he’s also quite capable of playing off-the-ball as a floor-spacer.

He’s just a shade under 6-foot-1, but he’s a good athlete with a 6-foot-7.5 wingspan and is a better defender than he’ll get credit for because of Steve Alford’s inability to coach a team to get stops. Throw in his NBA pedigree — he is the younger brother of NBA player Jrue and Justin — and I think you’re looking at a guy that will spend a decade in the league.

CHANDLER HUTCHISON, Boise State

I love Hutchison’s potential as a scorer at the next level. He has positional size — 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot wingspan — and he spent the last year working on improving his shooting stroke and his toughness. His fluidity and shot-making should translate well to the NBA, and I think that he has the physical tools to hold his own on the defensive end of the floor. A late-bloomer with size, athleticism and the ability to shoot the ball should be something that playoff teams are looking for. I’m not sure that he is a starter at the NBA level, but I think he can help a playoff as a role player off the bench next season.

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KEVIN HUERTER, Maryland; MELVIN FRAZIER, Tulane; JOSH OKOGIE, Georgia Tech;  and KHYRI THOMAS, Creighton

All four of these guys fit the mold for what NBA teams are looking for out of a player at the end of the first round or the beginning of the second round. Players with positional versatility, size, length and shooting ability.

To me, Huerter is the best of the group. At 6-foot-7, he has the height to make up for what he lacks in length. He’s probably the best shooter of the group, and he has a much better feel for how to play than the others; he averaged 3.4 assists as a sophomore. Toughness and his impact defensively are the question marks, but what he’ll bring offensively will help to offset some of that.

Huerter, like Okogie, is also very young, younger than Mo Bamba, Deandre Ayton and Michael Porter Jr., and that adds to their intrigue. Okogie is just 6-foot-4, but his 7-foot wingspan, athleticism and ability to knock down perimeter shots makes him an ideal 3-and-D prospect, and his age is the reason why he’s likely to get picked ahead of Thomas, whose profile — 6-foot-3, 6-foot-10 wingspan, knockdown shooter — isn’t all that different.

Frazier is the x-factor. He’s the biggest (6-foot-7, 7-foot-2 wingspan) and the most athletic, but he’s also the rawest. The tools are there, and the 38 percent he shot from three this past season is promising, but sources around the Tulane program have said that number may be a bit fluky, like the 38 percent Josh Jackson shot from three as a freshman at Kansas. He’s a risk, but in the late-20s or 30s, he is certainly worth the risk.

RAWLE ALKINS, Arizona

Alkins hasn’t gotten much as any of the four players I just listed, but he’s a guy I think could sneak up on some people. He’s strong and athletic with that New York City toughness in his blood. He’s not a great three-point shooter, but he’s good. He’s not an elite defender, but he’s good. I do think he ends up in an NBA rotation by the end of next season, which is a pretty good return for a guy projected as a early-to-mid second round pick.

DEVON HALL, Virginia

Hall is a strong, 6-foot-4 guard with a 6-foot-8 wingspan and the kind of defensive toughness you know you are getting from a product of Tony Bennett’s system at Virginia. He shot 43 percent from three as a senior while averaging 3.1 assists. He can defend multiple positions, he can play off the ball and he is a playmaker when the ball is in his hands. As a mid-to-late second round pick, Hall seems to me to be a great fit as a back-end-of-the-rotation guard that will come on the cheap. I think he makes an NBA roster within two years.

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JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova

Brunson is so smart and so efficient and such a good shooter that I cannot imagine him not finding success in the NBA. Before Quinn Cook had the season that he had, I would have pegged Golden State as the perfect landing spot for Brunson. Now, I think he’ll probably slide to the second round, and if the Suns don’t land Aaron Holiday with the 16th pick, I think that might be a perfect landing spot for Brunson at 31. Either way, I think that his floor is Fred VanVleet, who averaged 8.6 points and 3.2 assists while shooting 41 percent from three as Toronto’s back-up point guard.

WHOEVER THE WARRIORS PICK

Golden State needs to find a player that can simply fill a role on the best team in NBA history, and they’ve proven in recent years that they excel at finding those kind of talents. Damian Jones was a miss, but Kevon Looney, Pat McCaw and Jordan Bell all played key roles for the Warriors during title runs the last two seasons. None of them are ever going to be great NBA players, but they don’t have to be: They are on a roster with two MVPs, three of the best shooters in NBA history and four of the top 15-20 players in the NBA today. All they have to do is the job they’re asked to do, and to do so on the cheap.

Whoever the Warriors get with the 28th pick should be able to do the same, whether that’s someone on this list — Thomas, Okogie and Brunson all make sense to me — or a player like Grayson Allen, a shooter that played both guard positions in college and is older and more physically ready for the league.

VIDEO: NBA draft scouting report from Jaren Jackson, Jr.

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On Monday,Pro Basketball Talk released the second in our NBA Draft Prospect Profile series, an in-depth breakdown of Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr.

Jackson is a weird prospect. He is almost assuredly going to get picked in the top four, yet he was the fifth option offensively for his team in college, played just 22 minutes a game as a power forward and just so happens to be the future of the center position in the NBA.

How are all those things possible?

We take a deep dive here, as well as in the scouting video above. Jackson is one of the more fascinating prospects in this draft class.

OTHER PROFILES

DEANDRE AYTON, Arizona
MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke
JAREN JACKSON JR., Michigan State

The Losers: Which college basketball teams got hurt the most by NBA draft early entries

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The NCAA’s deadline for players that are testing the waters came and went at 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday night.

These are the programs that took the biggest hits. 

The biggest winners can be found here. 

THE BIGGEST LOSERS

VILLANOVA

The reigning national champions were hit hard by early departures, as four key contributors made the decision to forego their remaining eligibility. Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson moving on came as no surprise, as in addition to their work on the court both graduated in May.

But also moving on were Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman, with the former receiving positive reviews after both his 31-point outing in the national title game and two-day run at the NBA Draft Combine. The latter is seen as an intriguing talent who could go in the first round as well. None of the decisions were shockers, and Villanova did fill some holes with a very good recruiting class, but that’s a lot of lost production to have to account for heading into next season.

The big question now for the Wildcats is going to be how Jay Wright develops his team moving forward. Eric Paschall and Phil Booth are both fifth-year seniors. Jermaine Samuels is a sophomore that should be ready for a bigger role. The Wildcats have a terrific recruiting class coming in. There is a lot there to like, but for a program that has been a staple in the top five for the last five years, there may be something of a drop coming this season.

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MARYLAND

Heading into the offseason Maryland had the look of a clear Big Ten title contender, even with Justin Jackson’s decision to enter the NBA draft. But those chances took a significant hit on withdrawal deadline day, as wing Kevin Huerter made the decision to forego his final two seasons of eligibility.

Losing a player of Huerter’s caliber, a versatile offensive playmaker who was also the team’s best perimeter defender, is a tough blow for Mark Turgeon’s team to absorb. With Anthony Cowan and Darryl Morsell returning and a talented group of freshmen led by Aaron Wiggins joining the perimeter rotation, Maryland won’t lack for bodies. But they won’t have a perimeter option as versatile as Huerter in the mix, which may drop them down the Big Ten pecking order.

It wasn’t all bad news for Maryland, as Bruno Fernando made the decision to return for his sophomore season, but a budding talent in the post doesn’t make up for what they lost.

BRIAN BOWEN

It’s hard not to feel bad for this kid at this point. He got caught in the FBI’s investigation in college basketball corruption and he is now forced to deal with the brunt of the blame for the seedy side of the sport. He wound up at South Carolina after transferring out of Louisville, but Bowen’s college career came to an end before it actually started once the NCAA made it clear it would be some time before he was ruled eligible to play.

TEXAS A&M

Losing Robert Williams, an expected first-round pick, isn’t a shock considering the fact that there was lottery buzz for him last spring.

But the NBA draft prospects aren’t as clear for either D.J. Hogg or Tyler Davis, yet both decided to forego their final season of eligibility and turn pro. In Davis the Aggies lose their most productive interior scoring option, and Hogg was a 6-foot-9 forward who had range well out beyond the three-point line.

Those departures leave Texas A&M rather thin in the post, with Isiah Jasey (3.3 mpg in 15 appearances last season) and Saint Francis (PA) transfer Josh Nebo (12.0 ppg, 8.2 rpg in 2016-17) being the returning big men. And in an SEC that, after making positive strides last season stands to be even better in 2018-19, the lack of front court depth could be a killer for Billy Kennedy’s team.

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STANFORD

While the Cardinal did not have any players forego their remaining eligibility to turn pro, the program did lose a player who would have been on the short list of preseason candidates for Pac-12 Player of the Year.

Reid Travis, who averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game last season, withdrew his name from the draft but decided to move on from Stanford as a graduate transfer. With Michael Humphrey having exhausted his eligibility, Jerod Haase’s front court rotation took a major hit with Travis’ decision.

Stanford won’t lack for wings next season, with Oscar Da Silva, Kezie Okpala and Kodye Pugh all returning, but the options in the post are limited. Josh Sharma and Trevor Stanback are the returnees inside, with freshmen Lukas Kisunas and Keenan Fitzmorris joining the program to add depth.

WAKE FOREST

It’s tough to think of an ACC program hit harder by draft departures this spring than Wake Forest, which lost two of its top three scorers from a season ago in guard Bryant Crawford and center Doral Moore. Crawford led the Demon Deacons in both scoring and assists, averaging 16.9 points and 4.9 assists per game.

As for Moore, he chipped in with 11.1 points per game while also averaging a team-best 9.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. What makes this all worse for Danny Manning heading into his fifth year at the school is that there were other departures as well, most notably Keyshawn Woods transferring to Ohio State. As a result a lot will be asked of Brandon Childress and a talented recruiting class headlined by Jaylen Hoard.

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THE DEADLINE WAS NOT GOOD TO THEM

THE BIG EAST

The Big East got crushed by graduation this offseason, as seven of the 13 players that received all-conference votes were seniors. Then Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges declared for the draft along with Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman. Creighton’s Khyri Thomas is gone. So is Georgetown’s Markus Derrickson. The top of the league took such a hit it’s hard to picture who out of that group will actually be able to contend with Villanova in a down year for the Wildcats.

WICHITA STATE

The loss of Landry Shamet proved to be even bigger for the Shockers, despite Markis McDuffie making the decision to remove his name from the draft and return. Shamet was one of the best players in the American last season, averaging 14.9 points and 5.2 assists per game while shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 44.2 percent from three.

Losing Shamet was tough enough for the Shockers, as his departure leaves a major question mark at the point guard position. What made it an even tougher blow to absorb were the release of Alex Lomax (he committed to stay in Memphis and play for Penny Hardaway shortly thereafter) from his letter of intent and Austin Reaves’ decision to transfer to Oklahoma. With Shamet no longer in the fold, junior college All-American Ricky Torres will need to hit the ground running for Wichita State.

PENN STATE

After winning the Postseason NIT the Nittany Lions entered the offseason with positive momentum, and with many of the key pieces from that team set to return there were expectations of an NCAA tournament in 2019. Unfortunately for Penn State, while other Big Ten programs experienced the joy of having key players return after testing the NBA draft waters talented point guard Tony Carr was “all in” and decided to forego his remaining eligibility.

As noted this isn’t a roster that lacks talent, with Lamar Stevens, Mike Watkins and Josh Reaves among the returnees and a good recruiting class joining the ranks as well. But in Carr the Nittany Lions lost a player who led the team in both scoring and assists, and his possession percentage (29.6) ranked second in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ. Penn State can still be a tournament team, but the loss of Carr is a big deal for Patrick Chambers.

Caleb, Cody Martin’s return to Nevada makes Wolf Pack dangerous

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Nevada received some huge news late Wednesday night as Caleb and Cody Martin will return to the Wolf Pack for their senior seasons, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

The twins opted to stay in the NBA draft process until the last 30 minutes before the deadline before opting to come back for their senior seasons. With the talented duo returning, Nevada now looks like one of the most intriguing teams in the country next season after the Wolf Pack return most of their Sweet 16 team.

Caleb was the more effective scorer of the two Martin twins last season as he put up 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from three-point range. Although Cody didn’t match the scoring output of his brother, he became the team’s starting point guard late in the season when guard Lindsay Drew was lost with a season-ending injury.

Putting up 14.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game, Martin is perhaps the most versatile player on the Wolf Pack entering next season. If Drew doesn’t properly recover from his injury, Cody also offers a nice insurance policy at lead guard.

Now that both Martin twins, and Jordan Caroline, are all back for next season, expectations are going to be sky-high for head coach Eric Musselman and the Wolf Pack. To put these returns in perspective, the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25 had Nevada as the No. 16 team in the country without the Martin twins coming back for next season.

Now that the duo and Caroline have all returned, the Wolf Pack look like a potentially scary team — especially on offense. The program will also have additional reinforcements for next season in form of some talented transfers like Tre’Shawn Thurman, Ehab Amin and Nisre Zouzoua. When you also factor in Nevada landing five-star center and McDonald’s All-American Jordan Brown, this is a Mountain West team with Final Four aspirations for next season.

With the Martin twins and Caroline all coming back for next season, it also leaves Musselman and Nevada with an interesting scholarship conundrum. Currently, the team has 15 scholarship players who are supposed to be suiting up for them next season. The NCAA limit is 13. So, something has to give. Somebody is likely going to have to leave.

But with four starters returning, a McDonald’s All-American joining the mix and some productive transfers adding much-needed depth, this isn’t exactly a bad problem to have at this point in the offseason. After barely turning to its bench by the end of last season, Nevada now might have one of the deepest teams in the nation next season.