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The NBA draft takes a different shape every year in terms of a prospect class’ perceived NBA potential. In some years, there’s a clear-cut No. 1 prospect followed by everyone else (e.g. Kentucky big man Anthony Davis in 2012). In other years, it’s unclear as to who the No. 1 prospect may be, leading to intrigue heading into the draft (e.g. 2013).
Sometimes, there’s a group of players at the top who could emerge as superstars (e.g. 2003 in the LeBron James-led draft class), while other draft classes look especially deep on paper (e.g. 2011, when Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Isaiah Thomas went 15th, 30th and 60th, respectively).
It’s still early in the pre-draft process, but here’s a crack at deciphering three tiers for the top 10 in addition to providing a top-30 big board.
NBA Draft Big Board: Top 30
1. Arizona C Deandre Ayton
2. Real Madrid PG/SG Luka Doncic
3. Duke F/C Marvin Bagley III
4. Michigan State F/C Jaren Jackson Jr.
5. Missouri SF/PF Michael Porter Jr.
6. Duke C Wendell Carter Jr.
7. Villanova SF Mikal Bridges
8. Texas C Mohamed Bamba
9. Oklahoma PG Trae Young
10. Alabama PG/SG Collin Sexton
11. Texas A&M F Robert Williams
12. Michigan State SF/PF Miles Bridges
13. Texas Tech G/F Zhaire Smith
14. Kentucky SF/PF Kevin Knox
15. Villanova PG Jalen Brunson
16. Missouri C Jontay Porter
17. Kentucky PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
18. Miami SG Lonnie Walker IV
19. Boise State SF Chandler Hutchison
20. Cedevita Zagreb SF Dzanan Musa
21. USA C Mitchell Robinson
22. Creighton SG Khyri Thomas
23. Kentucky SF/PF Kevin Knox
24. USC PG/SG De’Anthony Melton
25. UCLA PG Aaron Holiday
26. Duke SG Gary Trent Jr.
27. Villanova F/C Omari Spellman
28. Ohio State SF/PF Keita Bates-Diop
29. Oregon F Troy Brown
30. IMG PG Anfernee Simons
Tier 1: Ayton and Doncic (No. 1 and No. 2)
Arizona center Deandre Ayton seems like the best big man in the class thanks to his 7’1″, 250-pound frame in addition to his incredible scoring and rebounding potential on the next level, as evidenced by him averaging 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds in his lone year in Tucson. His draft position should reflect that, as many teams in the lottery have a need at center. A No. 1 or No. 2 pick is very likely.
Real Madrid guard Luka Doncic is neck and neck with Ayton for the No. 1 slot, and if he keeps pulling off feats similar to his lightning-fast triple double in Liga ACB play, then he could even take hold of the No. 1 big board spot by the time the draft rolls around on June 21. Doncic will also likely be drafted early, as he’s clearly the No. 1 guard in this class.
Tier 2: Bagley Jr., Jackson Jr. and Porter Jr. (No. 3-5)
Marvin Bagley Jr. and Jaren Jackson Jr. lead the way in tier two. Both big men bring different skillsets to the table: Bagley is the more proficient scorer and rebounder, while Jackson is the better defender, as partially evidenced by his 3.0 blocks per game.
The slight edge goes to Bagley overall given his more polished offensive skillset (he averaged 21.0 points per game and shot 61.4 percent from the field), but Jackson has a ton of potential: Impressively, he only turned 18 years old two months before his lone season at Michigan State.
The fact that Michael Porter Jr. is being considered a top-five prospect is impressive considering that he suffered a back injury that led to spinal surgery and sitting out all but three games during his one season with Missouri. The 6’10” Porter has a ton of upside, and NBADraft.net gave him a pro comparison to Kevin Durant and Joe Johnson.
Tier 3: Carter Through Sexton (No. 6-10)
Like Bagley and Jackson above, Duke big man Wendell Carter and Texas center Mohamed Bamba are on opposite spectrums. Carter is the better scorer (13.5 points per game, 56.1 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from three-point range), but Bamba is the better defender (the 6’11” center averaged 3.7 blocks per game and has a 7’9″ wingspan).
The interesting thing is that both players are better fits on different lottery teams in the mid-range. For example, Carter might be best for the Sacramento Kings, who need more scoring help, especially with Zach Randolph entering free agency. On the flip side, the Chicago Bulls could desperately use a center to shore up a defense that allowed 110.0 points per game.
Elsewhere, Villanova forward Mikal Bridges is a name to watch. It wouldn’t be that much of a surprise to see him sneak into the top five of many big boards by draft time, as he’s the perfect fit for today’s NBA thanks to his three-point shooting ability (43.5 percent from beyond the arc), offensive efficiency (52.5 percent from the field in three collegiate seasons) and defense (1.4 steals per game).
The two guards (Oklahoma’s Trae Young and Alabama’s Collin Sexton) were both excellent scorers in their one year in school, with Young averaging 27.4 points per game and Sexton posting 19.2 points per contest.
Young has the edge right now, perhaps in part because of his incredible jaw-dropping run at the beginning of the season (he was posting 30.3 points per game through January, per Sports Reference), but Sexton is the more physical and athletic player and could make some waves in the coming weeks.