Writer: Caleb Akpan
Following possibly the craziest March Madness in history, the men’s NCAA basketball tournament is beginning to come to an end with the Final Four and championship game coming this weekend. As more and more teams bow out of the tournament, the NBA prospects on those squads are beginning to declare for the pro draft. We’ll be able to find out how these players will fit in the NBA starting this summer, but until then we can only speculate on what their stats may look like a year from now.
Center: DeAndre Ayton (Freshman, Arizona)
20.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 55% FG
After some early speculation, Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton seems to have secured the number one pick selection from whoever wins the NBA Draft Lottery. With an insane Pac-12 tournament performance, Ayton turned even more heads than he already had, and many are beginning to talk about him having all-time great potential. If that’s the case, Ayton will have to start off his rookie season with an amazing statline, similar to the great rookies big men who came before him and took the league by storm. Guys like David Robinson, Shaquille O’ Neal, Tim Duncan, and even Blake Griffin all averaged at least 20 and 10 on 50% shooting in their first seasons. If Ayton is as good or better than them, he’ll have to do the same. With the power he already he possesses at the collegiate level, that shouldn’t be too difficult as long as he continues to get the ball.
Power Forward: Marvin Bagley III (Freshman, Duke)
17.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 50% FG
Duke’s Marvin Bagley isn’t as dominant as DeAndre Ayton, but that doesn’t mean he won’t make a great NBA player. Bagley shows a great presence in the post already in college, with a strong fluidity to his game. He’s arguably the greatest freshman Duke has ever had, breaking their first-year scoring record. In the NBA, he should be able to do much of the same, though he will likely face better pro defenders in the big leagues compared to the NCAA. Because of this, he probably won’t hit 20 points per game out of the gate, but he should have a lot of big games and solid rookie season to build upon moving forward.
Small Forward: Michael Porter Jr. (Freshman, Missouri)
16.7 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 45% FG
After only playing in the last moments of his NCAA career, Michael Porter Jr. is a bit of a mystery entering the NBA draft. The Missouri product showed some potential in his three-game college stint as well as in the NCAA preseason, but he clearly wasn’t 100% and that played a part in him struggling shooting, finishing his freshman year at just 33% from the field. Porter Jr.’s per 40 numbers (22.6 PPG, 15.1 RPG) show that he has the potential to be a monster player, but first he needs to fully heal up. When healthy, he has the potential to be the best player in this draft class, and we’ll likely see glimpses of that in his rookie year, even if he struggles to get back to his old self.
Shooting Guard: Luka Doncic (International):
15.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 5.2 APG, 44% FG
Luka Doncic is a star in what many people call the second best basketball league in the world, Liga ACB of the Euroleague. Against grown men in that league, Doncic is averaging 15, 5, and 4.5 assists per game in just 24.6 minutes of action every night. If you combine him with the NBA’s pace of play and give him more minutes, he should be able to hold those numbers up pretty easily even as a rookie. Doncic displays a tremendous amount of basketball IQ at a very young age and can lead an offense as a wing or point forward if needed. Some say he deserves consideration for the #1 pick, but even if that doesn’t happen, Doncic should have an excellent rookie season showing the NBA what he can do.
Point Guard: Trae Young (Freshman, Oklahoma):
15.0 PPG, 5.5 APG, 39% FG
Trae Young is college basketball’s most debated player. Some think he’ll go into the NBA and be an absolute star, shooting the ball and displaying a scoring dominance ala Stephen Curry. Others think he’ll be a complete bust, throwing up bricks at an alarming rate and making whichever team drafted him look like complete idiots. In actuality, Trae Young’s rookie year will probably fall somewhere in the middle. They’ll be great moments no doubt, he’ll probably end up having the highest point total in a game for his rookie class, but he’ll also face adversity as NBA teams scout him with great detail. It’ll take Young a bit to adapt to teams who know how to guard him and have the lockdown defenders to do so, and only time will tell if he’ll be able to become the phenom that he was in college in the pros.