With the NBA season a few weeks in, now we get a chance to see who the future stars of the NBA are and get into the next phase of the draft process.
For most NBA teams, the files of the top prospects started a long time ago. If a name is on this list, the odds are that nearly every NBA decision maker has already seen them play and has obtained background information that would make the FBI proud. The one-and-done players have been in the spotlight on the AAU and Junior National Team circuits for the last couple years. To maximize exposure, the league office allows NBA personnel to observe some of the sneaker company sponsored camps, high school all star games, and international events. Rest assured, players like Michael Porter Jr., Hamidou Diallo and Wendell Carter Jr. have all played in front of the executives who will determine their fate on draft night. The college season is just another piece of the scouting puzzle to see progression and how they deal with adversity.
Those players returning to college, it’s another bite at the evaluation apple. Among the most scrutinized will be Miles Bridges, Grayson Allen, Robert Williams, Chimezie Metu and Bruce Brown to name a few. Let’s take a closer look at each of those players and figure out how they fit in the modern NBA.
Miles Bridges-Ranked at #6 by ESPN’s newly acquired draft guru, Bridges is a player that is getting a lot of preseason hype as college basketball’s player of the year. Physically, Bridges looks like a man among boys when he’s on the court. Last year, Bridges made a name for himself as a strong rebounder and defender who can shoot and score efficiently. And as we’ve seen in the NBA, those types of players are filling up the majority of roster spots. If Bridges stays around the 39% mark from 3PT and measures favorably with wing span and lateral quickness, expect him to be a top-15 pick. His height will cap his draft position as there are too many players on the wing that have elite size, while Bridges is about average in that department. He gets a few bumps because he plays for one of the greats and Michigan State has churned out some fantastic professionals in the recent years.
Grayson Allen-Probably the most polarizing figure in college basketball since whomever Duke’s last polarizing figure was. Seniors are notoriously over-scouted (picked apart) because scouts have watched every single minute of their career over the last 100+ games. Everyone knows his game. No one really knows who he is. Is he a fiery competitor? Is he a brat who can’t handle when things don’t go his way? The former can make it in the NBA, the latter has no chance. Allen has been projected as a first round pick the last two seasons, and fits the mold of players like Brad Beal and CJ McCollum in that he’s a combo guard who can get to the rim out of the flow of the offense and is a threat from deep. He’s not as talented as those two, but he could be a good piece on a second unit. And let’s hope he keeps himself out of trouble while he has a huge target on his back, no easy feat. On the ultra-positive side, Duke brought in a ton of help and Allen will play at his desired station, role player extraordinaire, as Bagley, Duval and Carter drive the winning for the Blue Devils. This will help to rehab his persona, especially if they close out the year cutting down the nets.
Robert Williams-Projected as a lottery pick last season, surprising to nearly everyone, Williams chose to come back to school and faces a deeper pool of talent to outperform. Since the NBA is a copycat league, Williams can thank Jordan Bell for having an early impact and keeping the powerfully-built bigs relevant. Not a proven shooter yet, Williams will have to show some touch if he wants to be in the lottery discussion again, but the condor-like wingspan certainly helps. Williams is out for the first two games for what is called a “violation of university policy” and rest assured that whatever that violation was, has already made its way into his file and will be addressed in every interview he walks into.
Chimezie Metu-Here’s an interesting guy to keep an eye on. Riding on the coattails of a breakout season last year, Metu fits how modern NBA centers look. He’s agile, fast, explosive. He rebounds and block shots. He’s quick enough to defend multiple positions. He scores efficiently and can play a low-usage role. What’s really enticing is the 74% FT shooting he tallied last year. As a freshman, Metu was 41-80 from the line. Last year he increased his attempts (to 174) and frequency of makes. FT% is a strong indicator of future shooting, so there is hope for Metu that he’ll be able to step out to the 3PT line during his NBA career. Another productive year on a good team will help his case. It doesn’t hurt that he seriously considered going to Harvard, most coaches like players that can process information quickly. He may be a sleeper in this year’s draft.
Bruce Brown-The consummate two-way player. Brown has the toughness and athleticism to be a defensive stopper along with the skill level to be a secondary creator and scorer in the NBA. Think Donovan Mitchell. He draws fouls and converts. He’s solid from distance. His pull up separation is elite and will translate in the NBA. Brown can handle the ball and run the offense or float off the ball to play with a big time scorer. His versatility is exciting. Height will be a little bit of an issue, but as we’ve highlighted in other posts, he fits into the positionless basketball because of his ability to play multiple positions. The U has produced some NBA roster players seemingly out of nowhere recently (DeQuan Jones, Sheldon Mac, Davon Reed) and Brown is better than all of them. Playing for Coach L is another nod in the right direction and he won’t have a spotty past as he’s a Vermont Academy graduate.
Keep an eye on these five in the early goings as they’ll all be looking to prove their worth.