The prize for best big men is likely to be an affair among Harry Giles, Bem Adebayo and Marques Bolden. When we are considering shooters, the names to keep in mind will probably be Malik Monk, Rawle Alkins and Josh Langford. As for point-guards, expectations are sky-high for Markelle Fultz but De’Aaron Fox and Lonzo Ball will make their case. And nowadays, it’s hard to forget about small forwards, arguably the most important slot in the modern NBA and as a consequence, under deep scrutiny at college level. It will be a long year for Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum, and they won’t just have to live up to the promise, but pay attention to their competitors, with Miles Bridges ready to make some noise. The freshmen class of 2016 is an injection of high level talent and expectations.
Here is a list of the top 10 talents as voted by three of the most important recruiting websites:
|1- Josh Jackson
|2- Harry Giles
|3- Jayson Tatum
|4- Markelle Fultz
|5- Lonzo Ball
|6- De’Aaron Fox
|7- Bam Adebayo
|8- Jonathan Isaac
|9- Malik Monk
|10- Miles Bridges
Let’s consider how this 2016 class is shaping the teams and the season that will come.
Duke is the clear favorite at season start. The Blue Devils recently decided to follow the “Kentucky way”, signing big names who will most likely declare for the draft in June. Their recruitment brought to campus the aforementioned Giles and Tatum as well as PG Frank Jackson, center Marques Bolden and power forward Javin DeLaurier. That is a lot of talent and height. Giles relies on his strength and verticality to dominate the game. He has already drawn comparison to a young Chris Webber and has been labeled “the next Kevin Garnett”. These labels are, of course, silly, but they are a good measure of the hype surrounding him. He will be a lottery pick, and has a fair chance to be the first selection. The fact that his teammate Jayson Tatum is not far behind Giles only confirms how good this recruiting class is for Duke. Tatum is an all around player who needs to bulk up – à la Brandon Ingram, but with a better start – and improve on a few aspects of the game to be dominant. Among the rest, Bolden is a name worth keeping an eye on. He has the potential and the physical tools to climb up the ranks.
UK has its usual collection of future NBA talent, and Monk, the best shooter in this class, Fox, the best pure scorer, and Adebayo, the most powerful big men, are there to prove it. The Wildcats also recruited Wenyen Gabriel, a power forward who would be a starter anywhere else in the NCAA, Sacha Killeya-Jones, an athletic 6-11 power forward too skinny for his position and Tay Wynyard, from New Zealand. They will make for one of the tallest teams next season. The most exciting duo will be Monk and Fox, who put on a show at the last Jordan Brand Classic (they were the only two players to score more than 20 points), because of their offensive talent and scoring abilities. And we could complete a legitimate “Big 3” with Adebayo, who is sometimes stubborn with his post moves and might not read double teams particuarly well, but he proved at the McDonald’s All American that he can be a factor inside the paint.
Josh Jackson is your average 6-6 two-way wing who might be the number one pick in an era where the forward spot is the most important position in the NBA, and he will share the floor with 6-11 center Udoka Azubuike and 6-8 power forward Mitch Lightfoot. However, Jackson will steal the spotlight more often than not, as he is considered the must-see player of the 2016-17 season if there is one. He lives his game constantly on the attack, relentlessly probing any kind of defence, fighting on every loose ball and never taking breaks. If he had to develop a reliable jumper, he will be a lock as a first round pick.
UCLA, it’s payback time
UCLA deserves more words than a short paragraph, but the addition of Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf sure make for an interesting team next season. Lonzo Ball is a 6-5 PG projected to go in the first round in June. He has the talent to score, but his record 13 assists at the McDonald’s All American turned a few heads. He tends to fall in love with the pretty pass, costing him more turnovers than you would like, and his shot selection is questionable at times, but, as of now, that’s splitting hairs. His pick-and-roll partner will be Leaf, a big man who can score both from the inside and the outside, but needs to work on his defensive game and rebounding.
Michigan State, change is brewing
Coach Tom Izzo has never recruited so well. The fact that a prospect like Miles Bridges, tenth in the list above, will play for the Spartans should scare every opponents, because as far as physical tools go, he’s second to none. His deficiencies in the shooting department hurt his stocks, but if he had to improve on his jump shot, he will be a factor in the Big Ten. And coach Izzo will also have Josh Langford, a deadly shooter at 6-6.
In no particular order
No slot in the next draft is “locked” yet, but it is safe to assume Markelle Fultz (Washington) will be one of the first names called by Adam Silver. He is a true point guard, not necessarily the most explosive or athletic but he can run an offence, score when needed and be a factor on defence (no one had ever recorded 5 steals at the Nike Hoop Summit). It is almost a shame that Chriss and Murray jumped to the NBA.
Another prospect to keep an eye on is Jonathan Isaac (Florida State). He is very tall, incredibly skinny and he is the proverbial jack-of-all-trades: he does everything well but excels at nothing. And players with that kind of skills, and the potential to grow into all-around players who can be taught to excel in a one or two aspects of the game, are considered the future of the NBA.
If you are curious about one of the players who is sure to be selected at the next draft, on Youtube you will find a series of ten videos where an incredibly shy Fultz tells his own life while showing most of his highlights. This is the first chapter:
Nobody saw them coming but…
There are too many freshmen, if we had to describe them all… nobody would read about them. We would still like to point out a couple of under-the-radar names that could leave their mark on the season. Players like Rawle Alkins (Arizona), for example, who is sure to be a factor at least on offence, given his physical profile, ball handling, outside shooting and his ability to attack the rim. Those who are still in love with Villanova should keep an eye on Omari Spellman, who comes with a reputation as a solid player and will likely pile up double-doubles all season long. And finally, a player that is out of most conversations but a favourite here at basketballncaa.com is Braxton Key (Alabama), from Oak Hill Academy, the MVP of the High School final his school won over La Lumiere. He finished with 20 points, scored the two free throws that brought the game to overtime and a key basket that kept Oak Hill alive in OT. And he is a good passer and rebounder, which makes the whole package even more interesting.
If you have a couple more minutes to spare, you can watch game highlights here. Keep an eye on our man, wearing #3