Top 10 NBA Draft Prospects to Watch: East Regional
Arguably the most top-heavy region for NBA prospects, the East region, simply by virtue of containing Duke, is chock full of players that will play at the next level. The East has more than Duke's fantastic freshman, however. This edition will evaluate the ten college hoopers fans and scouts alike should focus on when action tips on Thursday.
Just Missed the Cut: Aric Holman - Mississippi State; Jordan Nwora - Louisville
Despite not making the Top-10, Nwora and Holman each possess a good chance of getting drafted or making a Summer League roster at the very least. Holman stands a little taller than Nrowa, but Nwora is the more advanced 3-point shooter. Do not be surprised if Nwora shoots up boards by draft day.
10. Tremont Waters - LSU
The Connecticut native Waters is very appropriately placed in the 10-spot, as he is just 5’10”. Waters would be one of the tiniest players in the NBA, yet he can get up for the occasional dunk, hinting that his functional athleticism makes up for his slight stature. Unlike a number of smaller pros whose size is a real detriment on defense, Waters can play his way into the second round by showing off the defense which earned him Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors in the SEC.
9. Dylan Windler - Belmont
Showing constant growth throughout his time at Belmont, Windler has emerged as a legitimate NBA prospect. The guard/forward combo has shades of Joe Ingles, and is one of only a handful of players to average a 20-and-10 over the full season. Though not a freak athlete, Windler is a dogged worker and possesses the one skill the modern NBA places more emphasis on than any other: shooting.
8. Miye Oni - Yale
Another Connecticut hoopster, Oni has a chance to rise up draft boards. A well put-together 6’6” wing with a 6’10” wingspan, Oni possesses the physical gifts for an NBA 3-and-D role. Playing against better competition in the tournament will reveal if Oni's athleticism is truly superb, or simply shined brighter against the backdrop of Ivy League players.
7. Tre Jones - Duke
The definition of a floor general, Jones has shades of Denver Nugget point guard Monte Morris: he plays stellar, smart defense and hardly turns the ball over. If Jones can string together a tournament of consistent shooting games, he’ll solidify a spot as a top-25 pick with room for advancement.
6. Naz Reid - LSU
Reid offers more upside than fellow LSU Tiger Tremont Waters. A high-energy big man, Reid was something of a Zion Williamson-lite: heralding an LSU revival by crashing the glass and dunking with force. There are worries about his lateral quickness, but Reid may have enough spacing and offensive potential to cancel out that deficiency. If he develops as a playmaker, Reid’s reasonable best-case scenario looks like Julius Randle’s breakout year in New Orleans.
5. Nickeil Alexander-Walker - Virginia Tech
The cousin of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Alexander-Walker displays similar prowess as a creator, maintaining his efficiency (54 percent on two-pointers, 38 percent on 3-pointers) on offense despite changing roles this year at Virginia Tech. He has blossomed as an offensive initiator, but expect scouts to question the guard's defensive ability due to Tech's affinity for playing zone.
4. Bruno Fernando - Maryland
A hot take would have put Cam Reddish here instead of Fernando, but the perimeter-oriented NBA just values the Reddish skillset a little more. That said, Fernando can surpass Reddish on my big board if he demonstrates any consistent outside shooting throughout the tournament. Fernando looks the mold of a prototypical NBA big at 6’10” with a 7’4” wingspan and strong shoulders, and has a clearly defined role as a paint protecting rim-runner as his floor.
3. Cam Reddish - Duke
Reddish has gradually moved down more than a few draft boards, as his lack of production at Duke has been more persistent than isolated into incidents. I contend that Reddish's struggles are due to fit, not talent. His shooting stroke is much better than what his numbers indicate, and he has a variety of shot-creation moves. Although he draws too many charges and struggles to play off the ball, expect scouts to fall back in love with Reddish during individual pre-draft workouts.
2. R.J. Barrett - Duke
From his measurables to his skill set, there is so much to like about Barrett. The Canadian wing complements his high intensity by bringing shiftiness and great body control to the court. A quick-twitch athlete, Barrett has shown glimpses of two-way potential as well. Scouts will question if his style of play can translate to wins, but Barrett has the scoring and passing tools of a cornerstone player.
1. Zion Williamson - Duke
Who else could it be? Williamson may be the best prospect since Anthony Davis. If he never developed a reliable jumper, he would still average 20/10/5 during the prime of his career -- that’s some worst-case scenario! His motor is unparalleled, and when combined with his incomparable physical qualities and winning attitude, Williamson makes for a near-perfect top overall pick. Zion will make several All-NBA and All-Defensive teams throughout his career, the only question is which team will win the lottery and the fantastic good fortune of his talent.