NBA Draft

NBA Draft Big Board: Who is rising, falling in latest prospect rankings?

mo-bamba-zhaire-smith-ftr-061118.jpg
Texas Tech's Zhaire Smith defended by Texas' Mo Bamba (Getty Images)

With the NBA Draft Combine a distant memory, team workouts and pro days in full swing and the season complete, it's time for an updated set of prospect rankings. After all, the NBA Draft is now less than two weeks away.

Despite a full season of scouting and data accumulation, all of the above pre-draft events are continuing to shape what NBA teams and draftniks around the web think of this year's crop of prospects as shooting forms, ball-handling skills and so on are tweaked by offseason development programs.

One of the beneficiaries of the combine - and seemingly a postseason retrospective of, "oh, hey, he was pretty good this year!" - was Maryland forward Kevin Huerter. The 6-7 wing's performance over the course of the season and his pre-draft development warrants a big leap. Huerter is No. 19 in our new rankings.

The 19-year-old was a career 39.4 percent 3-point shooter on 350 attempts for the Terrapins, a huge positive indicator for a league that demands outside shooting. He shot it well from NBA distance at a standstill during the combine, but it's his potential shot diversity that's most intriguing.

Just 20 Division I players finished more possessions last season coming off a screen than Huerter. Although he may not be a high-level on-ball creator at the next level, his ability to generate offense away from it both for himself (as a shooter or cutter) and his teammates (as a gravitational pull on the defense) could prove valuable. He also ranked in the 82nd percentile nationally as a pull-up shooter, per Synergy, suggesting an ability to attack closeouts with one or two dribbles before launching from the midrange.

On the other side of the floor, Huerter's defense faces significant question marks. He has an unexciting 6-8 wingspan, a thin 194-pound frame and posted average steal and block numbers as a sophomore. While he's a plus-IQ player, he'll need to add strength and physicality to be a stronger individual defender.

Keep up to date with all of the latest :tag: news!
Sure Not Now

Given most NBA teams are still searching for quality wings to fill out their ranks, the Maryland sophomore's success as a shooter will justify a likely first-round selection on draft night despite the defensive concerns.

The playoffs should also be shaping the way NBA teams think about their draft boards. Two ideas, in particular, stand out.

The first is that betting on young, athletic guards with positive IQ and feel indicators is worthwhile. It's probably the most likely path to finding the NBA's next Donovan Mitchell (if there is one). The second is that it's necessary in the modern NBA for big men to be able to defend on the perimeter. If they can't move their feet, they may have trouble staying on the floor in the playoffs. Both of these principles are reflected in the lottery section of the below board.

Texas Tech's Zhaire Smith is a beneficiary of the first idea, as he moved up No. 8 on this board. Here's the quick elevator pitch for him as an NBA prospect.

The 19-year-old averaged 5.0 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals per game last season. Only 107 freshmen (min. 20 games played) have hit those benchmarks in the last 25 years. Just 10 of them were 6-5 or shorter. Of that subset, four played high major college basketball: longtime overseas pro Charles O'Bannon, future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade, last year's No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz and Smith.

Prior research from Layne Vashro, a current analyst for the Nuggets, suggests certain statistical areas (namely rebounding, steals and blocks) are things prospects are unlikely to suddenly get better at in the NBA, so prospects who are good at those things theoretically should have more upside as they're more likely to improve at their other skills than high-scoring prospects are to get better at rebounding, stealing and blocking.

A quick comparison of Smith's freshman season stats per 40 minutes with Mitchell's should explain why there's reason to be interested:

Player Points Usage Assists Rebounds Steals Blocks
Mitchell (Fr.) 15.5 20.9 3.5 7.0 1.7 0.2
Smith (Fr.) 15.9 18.3 2.5 7.0 1.6 1.6

Mitchell attempted 3s at a higher rate than Smith and also had more on-ball creation opportunities, but the player fans saw on the floor for the Jazz this season came a long way in two years. Smith may need a longer runway, but history suggests there's value in betting on high IQ players with a good feel for the game and explosive athleticism.

Not many 6-4 guys can do this:

The playoffs are also suggestive about the types of prospects NBA teams should be skeptical of. In the past, non-shooters have been frozen out of playoff games, for example. This year, the lessons came in the frontcourt as traditionally excellent big men like Rudy Gobert and Clint Capela struggled to keep up defensively on the perimeter.

That's why this board is less high on players like Mohamed Bamba (No. 11) and Wendell Carter Jr. (No. 12). Although both players possess potentially elite skill sets - for Bamba, rim protection and for Carter, offensive versatility - they are each questionable perimeter defenders in switching situations.

Bamba's length can make up for getting beat on occasion, which is why he rates out higher here. Carter, on the other hand, struggled so much in ball screen situations (as did his teammates) as a freshman that Duke switched to a zone defense midway through the season.

Since both players possess useful skill sets in other areas, there's a reasonable chance the below projections could be proven wrong, but the direction of the modern NBA suggests a need for big men who are more comfortable defending on the the perimeter and a preference for guards over bigs offensively, hence a lower than expected rating for the two of them.

Finally, here's a look at our top 60 prospects in the upcoming NBA Draft.

NOTE: The below is not a reflection of where these prospects are expected to be drafted.

Rank Player Team Pos. Height Weight Age
1. Luka Doncic Real Madrid SG/SF 6-7 218 19.3
2. Jaren Jackson Jr. Michigan State PF/C 6-11 236 18.7
3. Marvin Bagley III Duke PF/C 6-11 234 19.2
4. Trae Young Oklahoma PG 6-2 178 19.7
5. Deandre Ayton Arizona C 7-1 260 19.9
6. Michael Porter Jr. Missouri SF/PF 6-11 211 20.0
7. Miles Bridges Michigan State SF/PF 6-7 220 20.2
8. Zhaire Smith Texas Tech SG 6-4 199 19.0
9. Mikal Bridges Villanova SG/SF 6-7 210 21.8
10. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Kentucky PG 6-6 180 19.9
11. Mohamed Bamba Texas C 7-1 226 20.1
12. Wendell Carter Jr. Duke C 6-10 251 19.2
13. De'Anthony Melton USC PG/SG 6-3 193 20.0
14. Collin Sexton Alabama PG 6-2 183 19.4
15. Robert Williams III Texas A&M C 6-10 240 20.7
16. Troy Brown Oregon SG/SF 6-7 208 18.9
17. Kevin Knox Kentucky SF/PF 6-9 213 18.8
18. Lonnie Walker IV Miami SG 6-5 196 19.5
19. Kevin Huerter Maryland SG/SF 6-7 194 19.8
20. Elie Okobo Pau-Orthez PG/SG 6-2 180 20.6
21. Melvin Frazier Tulane SG/SF 6-6 200 21.8
22. Josh Okogie Georgia Tech SG/SF 6-4 213 19.8
23. Dzanan Musa Cedevita SF 6-9 195 19.1
24. Keita Bates-Diop Ohio State SF/PF 6-7 235 22.4
25. Jacob Evans Cincinnati SG/SF 6-6 210 21.0
26. Chandler Hutchison Boise State SF 6-7 197 22.1
27. Mitchell Robinson N/A C 7-0 223 20.2
28. Jerome Robinson Boston College PG 6-5 191 21.3
29. Khyri Thomas Creighton SG 6-3 210 22.1
30. Anfernee Simons IMG Academy PG/SG 6-4 180 19.0
31. Shake Milton SMU PG/SG 6-6 205 21.7
32. Bruce Brown Jr. Miami PG/SG 6-5 190 21.8
33. Jalen Brunson Villanova PG 6-2 190 21.8
34. Landry Shamet Wichita State PG/SG 6-4 180 21.3
35. Donte DiVincenzo Villanova SG 6-5 200 21.4
36. Aaron Holiday UCLA PG 6-1 185 21.7
37. Devonte' Graham Kansas PG 6-2 185 23.3
38. Moritz Wagner Michigan C 6-11 242 21.1
39. Jevon Carter West Virginia PG 6-2 205 22.7
40. Gary Trent Jr. Duke SG 6-6 204 19.4
41. Kevin Hervey UT Arlington SF 6-7 230 22.0
42. Trevon Duval Duke PG 6-3 186 19.9
43. Grayson Allen Duke SG 6-5 205 22.7
44. Rodions Kurucs Barcelona SG/SF 6-9 220 20.4
45. Justin Jackson Maryland SF/PF 6-7 225 21.3
46. Omari Spellman Villanova C 6-9 254 20.9
47. Chimezie Metu USC PF/C 6-11 225 21.2
48. Gary Clark Cincinnati PF 6-8 230 23.6
49. Rawle Alkins Arizona SG/SF 6-5 220 20.6
50. Devon Hall Virginia SG 6-6 204 22.9
51. Hamidou Diallo Kentucky SG 6-5 198 19.9
52. Kenrich Williams TCU PF 6-7 200 23.5
53. Ray Spalding Louisville PF/C 6-10 215 21.3
54. Jarred Vanderbilt Kentucky SF/PF 6-9 214 19.2
55. Isaac Bonga Frankfurt SF 6-9 200 18.6
56. Tony Carr Penn State PG 6-5 204 20.7
57. Svi Mykhailiuk Kansas SG/SF 6-8 205 21.0
58. Malik Newman Kansas SG 6-3 189 21.3
59. Alize Johnson Missouri State PF 6-8 217 22.1
60. Vince Edwards Purdue PF 6-8 225 22.2

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

More from NBA.com

curry-beal-players-of-the-week-121018-ftr-playingsurface
Beal and Curry named Players of the Week
Gilbert McGregor
nba-league-pass-what-to-watch-grizzlies-embiid-drummond-121018
The Grizzlies are this week's team to watch on NBA League Pass
Gilbert McGregor
embiid-drummond-120618-ftr-nba-getty.jpg
Embiid vs. Drummond: breaking down the rivalry
Kyle Irving
wiggins-okogie-121018-ftr-nba-getty
Canadian moment of the week: Wiggins' big putback
Gilbert McGregor
#Melo Nuggets
On this date: Carmelo ties single quarter scoring record
Carlan Gay
Luka Doncic
The Luka Doncic day-by-day diary
Micah Adams
More News