DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson takes a look at the ACC’s top prospects. The conference projects to feature anywhere from three-to-six Top 10 selections. Here’s how we rank and analyze them from top-to-bottom:
1. Zion Williamson (6’7, 285 lbs) F-Duke
What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths): Has the ability to affect every possession with his athleticism. Williamson is an efficient (68 percent from the field) scorer, who can dish the ball well for his size and position. “The freshman’s motor coupled with his athleticism stands out. So far this season, Williamson has been able to separate himself with his work on the glass and his finishing ability in transition,” said Draftnasty’s Troy Jefferson during his Duke vs. Gonzaga in-game report in November 2018. On the defensive side, Williamson plays with a bulldog aggressiveness and has the necessary athleticism to defend next level wings.
Weaknesses: Injury concerns. Williamson missed five games with a mild knee sprain. He played last year at 285 pounds, can he excel at that weight for an 82-game season? As the projected first pick overall, Williamson will be asked to shoulder a heavier offensive load. Williamson’s ability to create his own shot one-on-one and score with more finesse will be key factors in his long term success. Zion was able to bulldoze smaller opponents in both high school and college, but his counter moves will be tested against stronger NBA competition.
Other Notes: Attended Spartanburg Day School (S.C.) and was ranked as a five-star recruit by Rivals.com • Earned South Carolina’s Mr. Basketball and was the runner-up for USA’s Mr. Basketball behind future Duke teammate R.J. Barrett • Mother ran track at Livingston College and father played basketball at Clemson • 2018: 22.6 ppg, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists on 68 percent shooting en route to first team All-ACC honors • Scored in double figures in every college contest • Scored at least 25 points in 15 games
Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): Williamson’s size and athleticism resembles former Hornets and Knicks standout Larry Johnson, but even still Williamson is about 30 pounds heavier and more nimble on his feet. It’s hard to nail down a consensus comparison for the Naismith College Player of the Year. The former Blue Devil should contribute immediately as a double-double machine due to his motor and freakish athleticism. His long-term success will be predicated on his ability to add more to his offensive repertoire while controlling his weight.
2. R.J. Barrett (6’7, 203 lbs) SF-Duke
What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths): Barrett impresses with his smooth offensive game that resembles a much older player. Barrett has the size scouts covet out of the wing and can do everything offensively. Barrett showed the ability to handle the responsibilities of a top scorer after Zion Williamson went down with a midseason foot injury. In the seven contests, Williamson missed Barrett averaged 25 points, three more than his season average. Barrett has the most polished NBA-ready offensive game of anyone in the draft and DraftNasty expects him to be an immediate contributor.
Weaknesses: Takes plays off. Can be inactive and view the action too often on the offensive end. Settles for a number of outside jumpers. Becomes a score-first threat and fails to find open men (Gonzaga ’18). Tendency to try and do too much on the offensive end leads to unnecessary turnovers (3.2 per game). 10 games with five or more turnovers. Shot 30 percent from the three-point line.
Other Notes: Attended Montverde Academy (Fl.) •Was named first team All-ACC •Earned the Gatorade National Player of the Year and was the winner of Mr. Basketball USA • Father, Rowan, attended St. John’s and played overseas for 10 years • 2018: 22.6 ppg, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists on 45 percent shooting • Scored in double figures in every college contest • Godfather is former NBA all-star Steve Nash and has been known to work with Barrett on his game.
Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): Barrett will have to build his lower body as he gets older and scouts would like to see his free throw percentage increase (66%), but beyond that the former Blue Devil wing has the traits to excel in the NBA. Barrett’s one-on-one smooth step-back game and ability to lull defenders to sleep is reminiscent of James Harden’s. The offensive repertoire and bloodlines are there for Barrett to enjoy similar scoring success in the NBA.
3. Coby White (6’5, 185 lbs) PG-North Carolina
What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths): Explosive. Can get to the basket with either hand. White has the ideal height for the modern NBA point guard, standing at 6’5 despite having a shorter wingspan. Willing passer. Creates and scores for himself in one-on-one situations. Changes speeds and gets to the bucket with regularity. Doesn’t need much space to get his shot off and can play the off-guard position and score off screens.
Weaknesses: Can White command the offense as the primary ball handler? That will be the question (his assist to turnover ratio was 3:2). White could also stand to add to his thin frame. The former Tar Heel has excellent lateral quickness, which is evident from his offensive prowess but, more often than not, those traits didn’t translate on defense.
Other Notes: Attended Greenfield School (NC) • Was named second team All-ACC •Participated in the Jordan Brand Classic, McDonald’s All American game • Named North Carolina Mr. Basketball • 2018: 16.1 ppg, 3.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists on 42 percent shooting • Shot 80 percent from the free throw line and finished second on the team in points per game • Earned all- tournament honors in the 2018 FIBA Under 18 America Championship
Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): White will be a problem at the next level when he can initiate the offense from the high pick and roll to get downhill. His seasoning as a traditional point guard will take time and his defensive capabilities are yet to be seen. The former North Carolina Mr. Basketball possesses the finishing moves at the rim, long range shooting ability and height to excel.
4. De’Andre Hunter (6’7, 225 lbs) SF-Virginia
What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths): Hunter is a Swiss army knife of sorts, who can do a little bit of everything. The former Cavalier will project best at the next level as a glue man off the bench. Hunter averaged 11 points, four rebounds and 1.5 assists on 50 percent shooting during his two seasons in Charlottesville. As his playing time increased this season so did Hunter’s production. Hunter was also the best player on a championship team, which says a lot about his ability to contribute to winning.
Weaknesses: Hunter could be considered a man of many trades but a master of none. He doesn’t project to be a prolific scorer at the next level or a top-level offensive creator. Doesn’t project as an NBA-level primary ball handler. Hunter will have to make his name as a defensive stopper early on.
Other Notes: Attended Friends’ Central School (PA) • Was named first team All-ACC, ACC Defensive Player of the Year and ACC six man of the year (2017) • 2018: 15.2 ppg, 5.1 rebounds and two assists on 52 percent shooting • Scored 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the National Championship victory vs. Texas Tech •Named to ACC All Freshman team in 2017-2018
Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): Look for Hunter to enjoy a long NBA career as a do a little bit of everything type of wing. Hunter’s frame and glue guy skill-set is reminiscent of Andre Iguodala. Like Iguodala, expect Hunter to contribute in a number of ways for any team that drafts him.
5. Cam Reddish (6’8, 218 lbs) SF-Duke
What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths): Smooth offensive game. Can handle the ball well for his size. When Reddish is engaged offensively, he has the ability to take over games for long stretches with his ability to score in bunches. He played two of his best games this season against the Tar Heels during the regular season, posting 27 and 23 points respectively. However, when Zion Williamson returned against the Tar Heels in the ACC quarterfinals, Reddish posted six points. The season series against North Carolina was a microcosm of Reddish’s Duke career.
Weaknesses: Can be passive at times, as he deferred to both Willamson and Barrett. Reddish has some of his best moments when Willamson was out with his injury but too many times when Willamson was in the lineup, Reddish would camp out at the three- point line and make himself easy to defend. Reddish stands at 6’8″ with a 7’1″ wingspan and could conceivably contribute at three-to-four different positions but he must stay aggressive and engaged. His fans will point to his outstanding high school career as a barometer of how good he can be, but his detractors will point to his inconsistent play in college.
Other Notes: Attended Westtown School (PA) • On Jan. 19 against Florida State, he scored 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including a game-winning three pointer. • 2018: 13.5 ppg, 3.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists on 35 percent shooting • Played in the Jordan Brand Classic and the McDonald’s All American Game •Rated as the number three overall prospect on ESPN and Rivals.com
Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): Reddish is a versatile offensive weapon that can play multiple positions. However, the former Blue Devil will have to stay aggressive at the next level and compete more on the defensive end. Reddish has NBA length but has a thin frame and in college didn’t offer much resistance to wings that wanted to get to the rim. Out of the draft’s top prospects, Reddish has the most boom or bust potential.
6. Nassir Little (6’7, 220 lbs) SF-North Carolina
What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths): Little gets to the rim with aggression and is a strong finisher, who projects well at the next level as a slashing wing. On the defensive end, Little plays with a high motor and is active on and off the ball. What’s impressive about Little is his ability to power off either leg and get around defenders.
Weaknesses: Little isn’t a natural shooter and won’t wow scouts with his ball handling. The former Tar Heel will have to make his mark offensively through hustling and bulldozing his way to the rim. His offensive splits left a lot to be desired in his lone season in Chapel Hill, averaging nine points, four rebounds and 0.7 assists on 48 percent shooting and 26 percent from the three point line. Scouts will question Little’s inconsistency in a two-week time frame to end the season, the former Tar Heel scored 20 points on 72- percent shooting vs. Washington in a NCAA tournament win but a week before he shot 33-percent and scored nine points in a loss to Duke in the ACC tournament.
Other Notes: Attended Orlando Christian Prep. (Fl.) • Member of the National Honor Society in high school • Both parents served in the military • Most Valuable Player in the McDonald’s All-American Game after scoring 28 points and was co-MVP in the Jordan Brand Classic •Plays the piano
Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): High intensity players can have a lengthy NBA career and Little fits the mold. Little will need more offensive seasoning but should be a Top 15 pick based on his athletic gifts. Defensively, Little will have to carve out playing time by using his athleticism to stick to NBA wings. Offensively, rebounding and getting opposing wings in foul trouble will be how he makes his most immediate impact.
7. Cameron Johnson (6’9, 210 lbs) F-UNC
What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths): Efficient shooter. Johnson brings five years worth of college experience to the table and has a silky smooth jumpshot (shot at least 34-percent from the three-point line in each season). His tall and lean frame will remind scouts of former Tar Heel Justin Jackson. Johnson’s best hope is to make it at the next level as a “3 and D” prospect, who could hold his own vs. wings and stretch fours. He has improved statistically each season.
Weaknesses: Johnson’s draft stock could be hurt by his age (23). Historically, the first round has been reserved for younger prospects with more time to mold. It will also be interesting to see how the University of Pittsburgh transfer will hold up physically vs. more mature NBA players. Scouts will also question if Johnson has any other skills besides shooting that will translate to the next level. Is Johnson a one-trick pony?
Other Notes: Attended Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (Pa.) • Graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with honors• Father, Gilbert played basketball at Pittsburgh while his mom, Amy played at Kent State. His brother played at Clarion University • 2018: 16.9 points per game, 5.8 assists, 2.4 rebounds on 50-percent shooting •Two time All-Academic ACC
Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): Johnson has gotten better in every collegiate season and has a defined skill that translates to the NBA, his sharpshooting. The modern NBA game is played in space with shooters that can spread the floor and defend on the perimeter. Johnson is good enough at both to warrant a late first round look.
8. Nickeil Alexander-Walker (6’5, 205) G-Virginia Tech
What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths): Alexander-Walker is a slashing guard who is best when out in transition. The former Hokie will be an asset at the next level with his drive and kick ability. Alexander-Walker doesn’t wow with his athleticism but his smooth in control game reminds me of Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal. Like Beal, Alexander-Walker will be better served primarily working as an off the ball guard. His left-to-right crossover is his main go to scoring move. It lulls defenders to sleep and gives him the ability to get around defenders.
Weaknesses: Alexander-Walker doesn’t have blow by speed and will have to score in the lane with body positioning rather than jumping over NBA big men. The former Virginia Tech guard will have to be paired with a more traditional point guard and improve his ability to score without plays being run for him. At the next level, Alexander-Walker will also have to add strength to his build in order to absorb contact.
Other notes: Attended three high schools: Vaughan Secondary School (Ontario), St. Louis Christian Academy (Mo.) and Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Tenn.) • Cousin is former Kentucky guard and current Los Angeles Clipper Shai Gilgeous-Alexander • 2018: 16.2 points per game, four assists, 4.1 rebounds on 47 percent shooting •Competed with Canada at the 2016 FIBA Under 18 Championship and help lead the team to a silver medal. He led the team averaging 17 points per game.
Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): Alexander-Walker will be best served as mid-first round pick that can provide scoring punch for a second unit. His quick release and under control offensive game should make him an immediate contributor on the offensive end. Alexander-Walker’s ability to combat his lack of explosiveness when driving to the rim (or on defense) will determine his success in the NBA.
9. Jaylen Hoard (6’8, 216lbs) F-Wake Forest
What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths): Hoard is a heady defensive prospect who can come over from the weak side and challenge baskets at the rim. Offensively, Hoard can play on the perimeter and drive to the basket, but most of his money is made hustling around the rim as well as getting out in transition. The Wake Forest forward would be best served in a Golden State-type offense that is free-flowing and rewards the extra pass as well as interchangeable contributors.
Weaknesses: Hoard doesn’t have a specific skill that he does well offensively. The France native makes up for his lack of size with great awareness and length (7’1″ wingspan). Scouts will doubt if an undersized forward that can’t shoot is worth a high pick, but early in the second round could be ideal for Hoard. The former Demon Deacon also could stand to improve his field goal percentage (45 percent).
Other notes: Attended Wesleyan Christian Academy (NC) • Born in France and played for France at the 2016 FIBA Under 18 Championship (averaged 22.4 points per game) • 2018: 13.1 points per game, 1.5 assists, 7.6 rebounds on 45 percent shooting •Father, Antwon played at Murray State before playing professionally overseas and mother, Katia played for the University of Washington • Participated in the Jordan Brand Classic and Nike Hoop Summit
Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): We’ve seen players like Hoard make a niche for themselves in the NBA. In recent years, players like former Louisville Cardinal and Los Angeles Clipper forward Montrezl Harrell come to mind. Hoard isn’t as strong as Harrell, but has a frame that could add more mass. He plays with the same type of effort, energy and defensive intelligence.
10. Ty Jerome (6’5, 195lbs) PG-Virginia
What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths): Jerome has excellent height for his position and guided the Cavaliers to a championship from his point guard position. Most impressively, Jerome was able to initiate the different sets that Virginia used in its half court offense. Basketball is predicated on maximizing possessions and Jerome is one of the more efficient players in the class, boasting a 5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Jerome also has the ability to push the ball in transition and often gets it deep into the lane to create for others.
Weaknesses: Jerome has excellent height but doesn’t jump high off the floor. His ability to finish at the rim against more athletic talent is a question mark. Foot speed is also a question mark for Jerome. At the point guard position he will be matched up on a nightly basis against far superior athletic and more agile opposition. The three- year point guard will have to compensate with basketball IQ. Players may beat him to the spot to deny his penetration.
Other notes: Attended Iona Preparatory School (NY) • Scored 16 points, grabbed six rebounds and had eight assists in the National Championship win vs. Texas Tech • 2018: 13.6 points per game, 5.5 assists, 4.2 rebounds on 43 percent shooting •Missed only one game over his three seasons in Charlottesville and played in 105 games total• Named All-ACC second team in 2019 and All-ACC third team in 2018
Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): Jerome projects best as a backup point guard that can spell starters. He does offer a bit of position versatility, but much of that depends on his ability to adapt defensively to the NBA game. Look for whoever drafts him to get creative with how they use him off ball screens as a shooter (38% percent career three point shooter in college). Someone with his efficiency, shooting and strong ball handling skill will find a home somewhere on an NBA roster.