Freshmen have been excluded from these previews, as we'd like to wait and see what they have to offer on the NCAA circuit before we come to any long-term conclusions.
-Top 20 NBA Prospects in the Big Ten
-Top 15 NBA Prospects in the Big 12
-Top 10 NBA Prospects in the Pac-10
-Top 15 NBA Prospects in the SEC
-Top 25 NBA Prospects in the Big East
Top NBA Prospects in the ACC Part One
#1 Mason Plumlee
#2 Chris Singleton
#3 John Henson
#4 Kyle Singler
#5 Nolan Smith
#6 Tyler Zeller, 6'11, Junior, Center, North Carolina
9.3 Points, 4.6 Rebounds, 1.3 Turnovers, 0.9 Blocks, 52.1% FG, 72.2% FT
Spending parts of his first two seasons of eligibility struggling with injuries, Tyler Zeller returns to school poised for a breakout season after spending part of his summer with the USA Select Team. With Ed Davis, Deon Thompson, and the Wear twins out of the picture, Zeller is going to see big minutes as North Carolina's starting center next to their stable of highly touted freshman. While Harrison Barnes will make the headlines for Roy Williams' Tar Heels, Zeller will be a key to UNC's success and is in perfect position to boost his draft stock.
Zeller has a number of interesting physical tools that once made him a highly touted recruit and play a key role in his NBA potential. First, he possesses tremendous size for a power forward, and standing almost 7-feet tall, has the height to play the center position. Showing excellent mobility, and great foot-speed in transition, Zeller is more rangy than explosive, but proves to be a fine leaper when he can gather himself. His biggest weakness at the moment is his lack of great physical strength, which tempers enthusiasm about his ability to be an effective one-on-one defender in the post at the next level. He's added some weight in the last few years, and shows good potential in other areas defensively, but still needs to continue improving his frame.
Zeller's offensive repertoire revolves around his ability to score with his back to the basket and finish the opportunities his teammates created for him at the rim. After scoring most of his points off of simple catch and finish chances as a freshman, Zeller saw nearly 40% of his offensive possessions in the post according to Synergy Sports Technology. His overall usage should grow considerably next season, and if he can maintain his efficiency, he could have a tremendously productive year as the Tar Heel's top interior threat.
Though Zeller has missed significant amounts of his first two seasons and didn't see extensive playing time in either, he is already an efficient interior scorer on the college level. He's able to play above the rim, displays extremely soft touch, and is quick enough off his feet to capitalize on the dump passes and quick post entries delivered from UNC's guards. His sheer length makes him an effective finisher when he can get position, and he does a nice job sitting in gaps and being in the right place at the right time when his teammates attack the rim.
When operating with his back to the basket, Zeller has made some progress, showing the same soft touch he does as a finisher, and flashing some nice counter-moves from time-to-time, but he still struggles to deal with contact and doesn't elevate or finish well in a crowd. He also lacks a reliable and polished turnaround jump shot, and while he flashes some jump shooting ability from the perimeter, he has a long shooting motion that hasn't helped him make an impact from the midrange consistently. His footwork seemed to improve late last season, he's able to score with both hands, and he shows a nice feel for taking what defenders give him down low, but Zeller still needs to refine his repertoire of hooks and drop steps to become more efficient. His ability to add weight will play a key role in his development as a post scorer, as defenders are still able to move him away from the paint as he attempts to establish position.
Defensively, Zeller uses his length well to contest shots and shows good foot speed stepping out to hedge the pick and roll and recovering to the paint. However, his lack of physical strength remains a concern and the more progress he makes improving his frame should also carry over to his rebounding ability. He proves capable of rebounding his area and does a fine job boxing out, but could make better use of his size if he had more weight to throw around.
Looking back at Zeller's first two years at UNC, his game matured considerably despite the fact that he wasn't playing all that much. If his skill-level takes a comparable leap this season, he could have a great year. Considering that the Tar Heels lack depth in the pivot and pretty young across the board, the pressure will be on Zeller to step up and show that he can be a high level contributor and a leader. A hard worker with great intangibles, Zeller should figure prominently into UNC's attempt to bounce back from last season. As this will be Zeller's first opportunity to showcase his talents in significant minutes, we'll undoubtedly be revisiting his progress in the near future.
#7 Xavier Gibson, 6'11, Junior, Center, Florida State
5.5 Points, 2.8 Rebounds, 1.3 Turnovers, 55% FG, 40% 3P, 53.8% FT
Looking at what Xavier Gibson accomplished on paper last season, he doesn't jump off the page as a NBA prospect. However, looking at his physical tools and watching his film, it isn't hard to see why he's firmly on the NBA draft radar. Teasing onlookers in limited minutes with an outstanding blend of size, athleticism, and potential as a stretch-four, Gibson could be a player to watch this season assuming he receives most of the minutes left behind by the departures of Ryan Reid and Solomon Alabi.
Gibson's intrigue begins with the same athleticism that made him a consensus top-60 recruit. Possessing excellent size for a power forward, he has great mobility for his size, is a good leaper, and has a tremendous physical profile overall for a power forward. In addition to his explosiveness, he has a huge wingspan and solid lateral quickness, giving him most of the tools to defend the power forward position on the NBA level and make an impact as a shot blocker. Though he still needs to add some muscle to his frame and would be able to exploit his athleticism more frequently if he was more aggressive, Gibson certainly passes the look test.
In addition to his athleticism, Gibson shows some flashes of potential that quickly pique the interest of talent evaluators. Probably the most interesting skill Gibson possesses at the moment is his ability to shoot the ball with range. Though he attempted only 24 jump shots last season, he knocked down a number of threes and seems to have some confidence in his shooting ability from beyond the arc. Though he has a low release point that is a bit inconsistent at times and less than ideal mechanics, he has a smooth shooting motion when given space that could turn him into a reliable pick and pop threat and high-post option down the road. Considering the sample size we have to work with, the fact that Gibson's turnaround jumper in the post is suspect, and that he struggles mightily from the foul line, we'll take a wait and see approach before deeming Gibson a potential spot-up threat.
Around the basket, Gibson is able to make an impact on the college level with his tremendous length and quick leaping ability. Capable of throwing down some impressive tip-dunks, Gibson looks to dunk the ball at every opportunity and his long arms allow him to score over the top of smaller defenders. He doesn't show great touch or finish through contact, but his tools allow him to finish at a good rate regardless. As it stands, he relies heavily on his teammates' ability to get him the ball to be efficient unless he's crashing the glass.
Gibson is limited with his back to the basket for some of the same reasons he sometimes struggles to finish around the rim. His lack of physical strength hurts his ability to establish position, and he just doesn't have the touch to convert the clean looks he does create for himself that aren't dunkable. Gibson likes to attack the baseline to use his length to his advantage to attempt reverse layups, falls back to a highly unreliable turnaround jumper, and generally looks like he has yet to find a move that he's comfortable using to score in the post. Additionally, he tends to get caught in bad spots on the floor, and doesn't seem to understand his limitations.
Defensively, Gibson uses his length to deny post entry passes and contest shots, but his lack of physical strength limits him to some degree in the post and his lacks great discipline often puts him in foul trouble. Though he is a step slow reacting to cutters at times, he has more than enough lateral speed to deny penetration from the midrange. The name of the game for Gibson defensively is improving his fundamentals, improving his frame, and bringing intensity on every possession, as he's capable of protecting the rim and blocking shots capably on the NCAA level.
As it stands, Gibson has had some moments of brilliances in the last two seasons, but at the end of the day, he'll need to become more consistent to emerge as a more interesting project. He has as much potential as almost any player in the ACC, but this season will test Gibson's mettle on both ends of the floor, and his ability to become more efficient and show marked development in his skill-level will dictate where he stands heading into next summer.
#8 Iman Shumpert, 6-4, Junior, PG/SG, Georgia Tech
10.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 3.1 turnovers, 1.9 steals, 38.5% FG, 72% FT 33.3% 3P
Shumpert is the most important returning player on an underachieving Georgia Tech squad that made the NCAA tournament with a 7-9 record in the ACC. This could be the year that the former McDonald's All-American finally has his breakout season.
Shumpert looks the part of an NBA guard. He's a physical and athletic specimen, standing 6-4 with an excellent frame and an incredibly long wingspan. He's a smooth, fluid athlete for whom everything comes easily for. He shows very good quickness, a powerful first step and the explosiveness needed to play above the rim.
His offensive game lacks a great deal of polish at the moment. He's not a prolific scorer at 12.5 points per-40 minutes, pace adjusted and he doesn't have the efficiency to compensate. He converts just 38.5% of his field goals, rarely gets to the free throw line and struggles in particular inside the arc, where he converts a paltry 42% of his 2-point attempts.
Shumpert does an excellent job pushing the ball up the floor and getting his team out in transition, but he lacks the skill-level and the decision making ability to be overly effective once he gets into the opposing team's half of the court. He tends to settle for the first shot that becomes available to him, resulting in dozens of possessions that end with a contested pull-up jumper early in the shot clock, before any of his teammates have had the opportunity to touch the ball. He doesn't seem to know what his weaknesses are at the moment. He tends to play with the confidence of a guy who shot 58.5% from the field last season, not 38.5%.
As a shooter, Shumpert actually shows better potential than you would expect considering his conversion rates. He has nice mechanics on his jumper, particularly with his feet set, and was relatively effective last season in the rare occasion that an open shot was created for him on the perimeter.
Unfortunately, Shumpert's shot selection kills any chance of him being an efficient half-court player. Teams regularly sag off him and go underneath screens when he's running the pick-and-roll, and he tends to reward them for that by settling for awkward pull-up jumpers. Shumpert attempted nearly twice as many pull-up jumpers last season than he did with his feet set and only converted 27% of them. He seems to make just enough of them to convince himself to keep shooting, which is a big reason Georgia Tech's offense struggled so badly at times last season.
One of the things that makes Shumpert attractive as an NBA prospect is the fact that, at 6-4, he sees such heavy minutes at the point guard position for Georgia Tech. He shows flashes of excellent court vision, at times threading the needle impressively between defenders with a highlight reel-caliber bullet pass or an alley-oop lob. He can also create for others off the dribble a bit, especially in drive-and-dish situations and occasionally on the pick-and-roll.
Shumpert is clearly not a natural playmaker, though, as his team's half-court offense very often looks disjointed. 27% of his possessions end with a turnover, which ranks him in the top 10 in the NCAA on a per-possession basis in that category. That's down from his freshman season, though, when he ranked in the top five in turnovers per possession.
Shumpert makes too many unforced errors for a team to be able to trust him as their full-time distributor at the moment, trying to be overly flashy at times, suffering from mental lapses, and often being too careless and making bad decisions with ball. While clearly showing significant talent with the ball in his hands, Shumpert is going to need to learn to reel himself in eventually if he's to reach his full potential as a playmaker.
Shumpert's shot-creating ability is also in need of serious refinement, as he's currently not even close to taking advantage of his terrific physical attributes. Mostly a jump-shooter at the moment, Shumpert's ball-handling skills are fairly crude, as he drives left almost exclusively, cannot change directions with the ball, and is nowhere near as good at drawing fouls or finishing around the basket as you would expect considering his tools. He also doesn't show any semblance of a post-up game, which is a shame considering that he often towers over his opposition at the point guard spot.
Defensively is where teams are likely to be most intrigued by Shumpert's potential, as he has the physical tools to defend at least two and possibly three positions in the NBA with his excellent size and gigantic wingspan. A menace in the passing lanes, Shumpert has the footspeed and length to switch on every screen and absolutely smother opponents on the perimeter, and he had some incredibly impressive possessions last season already against some of the top offensive players in college basketball, such as Evan Turner, Greivis Vasquez, James Anderson and many others.
With that said, Shumpert is not the most fundamentally sound player you'll find, and still isn't playing up to his full potential on this end of the floor, often relaxing in his stance and swiping at the ball excessively, relying on his length to bail him out rather than working to deny his man a path to the basket. He seems to play with a bit of an aloof demeanor at times, not always putting a maximum effort in, which might explain the volatility he displayed from game to game in the ACC last season.
All in all, it's tough to ignore the physical tools and tantalizing flashes of talent that Shumpert displays on both ends of the floor. He's the type of player that could go into a private workout against lottery pick types and absolutely shock a team with his performance if they catch him on the right day.
As of right now, though, he has yet to find a way to play efficient, winning basketball on a regular basis in his first two seasons of college basketball. How much of that is a product of the team he plays for (always ultra talented, but often looking woefully disorganized) is a question that will be hotly debated when it's time for Shumpert to enter the draft, especially considering the way former Georgia Tech players have overachieved once reaching the NBA in the past.
If the light bulb ever comes on, and he learns to accept his role, Shumpert could be an exceptionally valuable player. He is still very young, not turning 21 until after the 2011 draft, so it's totally within realm of possibility that that happens at some point. What type of progress he manages to make in his junior season will be crucial for him.
#9 Ari Stewart, 6'7 Sophomore, Small Forward, Wake Forest
7.3 Points, 3.2 Rebounds, 1.3 Turnovers, 37.3% FG, 37.1% 3P
After a solid but unspectacular freshman season at Wake Forest, Ari Stewart returns for his sophomore year poised to build on the contributions he made last season. Benefitting from the savvy passing of Ish Smith and the attention paid to Al-Farouq Aminu, Stewart will be asked to assume a bigger role this season for a young Wake team looking to define itself under new Head Coach Jeff Bzdelik.
Standing 6'7 with long arms, Stewart has prototypical size for a NBA small forward. Though he needs to continue adding muscle to his frame, he proves to be a smooth athlete with good leaping ability. He shows some quickness, but isn't able to exploit it due to his lack of dynamic ball-handling ability on the offensive end. Over the long-term, Stewart needs to continue working in the weight room and improving his skill set so he can maximize his frame and his ability to use his physical tools.
Though Stewart is a very capable athlete, he relied heavily on his jump shot as a freshman. Shooting the ball with excellent touch and smooth mechanics, Stewart's efficiency was limited by his inability to create space with his dribble and shot selection. According to Synergy Sports Technology, jump shots accounted for more the 75% of Stewart's total shots while three pointers accounted for more than half of his total attempts. He connected on an exceptional 43.2% of his spot up jumpers despite taking quite a few tough shots, but shot just 34% off the dribble.
A highly aggressive scorer in limited minutes ranking amongst the leaders in our database in field goal attempts per-possession, Stewart has some room to grow and improve his efficiency as a perimeter. His biggest weakness is his ball-handling ability. He simply doesn't look comfortable putting the ball on the floor to create for himself or his teammates, making him a somewhat one-dimensional player when he receives the ball on the wing. Moving forward, his ability to become more comfortable attacking off the bounce will dictate how good of a scorer he can become on the college level.
Around the rim, Stewart shows the athleticism to play well above the rim, but struggles to finish through contact and often loses control of the ball as he attempts to operate to the rim. Shooting a mediocre 48.6% around the basket, Stewart will need to continue working on his frame and ball-handling to reach the point where he can effectively exploit his very solid leaping ability,
Defensively, Stewart shows good potential, but lacks polish. While he doesn't have great fundamentals and is over-aggressive at times, he has the lateral quickness to contain penetration and could become a very solid on-ball defender as he becomes more disciplined. Last season, he often took bad angles when recovering to the ball and lacked of physical strength to keep stronger ball-handlers away from the rim, two things he'll need to work on moving forward.
Though Stewart had a solid freshman year, he still has a lot of improving to do. One of the top returning scorers on a very young Wake Forrest roster, he'll have every opportunity to showcase his development this season. It may be too early to render too many conclusions on the young wing as his role will no doubt change this season, but if improves his ball-handling ability there is little doubt that he'll emerge as a highly intriguing prospect.
#10 Durand Scott, 6-3, Sophomore, PG/SG, Miami
10.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.2 turnovers, 1.2 steals, 45.5% FG, 67% FT, 28% 3P
A top-25 recruit according to Scout.com and a product of a storied high school program for NYC point guards, Rice, Durant Scott had a successful freshman season. His rookie performance earned him a spot on the ACC All-Rookie team.
Scott brings good physical attributes to the table at the point guard position, as he has excellent size at around 6-3, to go along with a strong frame and solid athleticism. He sports a powerful first step and good quickness, which gives him a nice framework to build off for the future.
Offensively, Scott acts as his team's primary ball-handler and distributor, even if he isn't what you would necessarily call a pure point guard at this stage. His main focus revolves around creating his own shot and getting to the basket, two areas in which he certainly excels in right now.
Scott was about as aggressive a slasher as you'll find amongst freshman guards last season, showing a tenacity for making his way to the rim both in transition and in the half-court that will serve him quite well as his college career progresses.
A very good ball-handler, capable of driving in either direction, he has no qualms about using his strong, mature frame to power his way inside and then finish through contact, showing a toughness that is characteristic of many New York City guards. He's a pretty good finisher on top of thatdespite not being terribly explosiveunderstanding the nuances of using the glass and being pretty effective utilizing floaters when unable to make it all the way to the basket.
As a shooter, Scott is nowhere near as effective at the moment, knocking down just 26 of the 89 total jumpers he took last season (29%). He has a bit of a hitch in his mechanics, flailing his elbows out and sporting a long, deliberate release. While he did show the ability at times to make shots from beyond the arc despite his unorthodox stroke, for Scott to reach his full potential as a prospect, he must demonstrate that he can continue to make strides in this area.
As a playermaker, Scott is currently a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, he appears to be an unselfish player who is willing to make the extra pass, particularly within the flow of the offense or in drive and dish situations. He seems to have a good basketball IQ and posted a solid 1.55/1 assist to turnover ratio as a freshman. On the other hand, he's not a particularly creative distributor and seems to get tunnel vision at times with his forays to the rim. It's clear that he is still learning the nuances of the position at this point. Considered more of a combo guard coming out of high school, Scott made a good choice going to a school like Miami where he can improve his point guard skills by playing his future pro position on a full time basis.
Defensively, Scott is very effective. He has both good physical attributes with his nice size, strength and length and the mentality to take advantage of them, showing nice toughness and a good intensity level. He does a nice job keeping opposing players out of the paint, and uses his length effectively to contest shots out on the perimeter. At the college level Scott is asked to guard up to three positions, which exemplifies the versatility he brings to the table. He was already one of the best rebounding guards in the ACC last season as a freshman.
All in all, Scott is definitely a player to keep an eye on this upcoming season to gauge how much he improves on his weaknesses. If he can find a way to make strides as a perimeter shooter and playmaker, he certainly has a chance to enter the NBA conversation, as early as this year possibly. Much of that could depend on the type of success his team with him at the helm, though. Either way, Scott is someone we'll be monitoring closely.