All of these players are freshman. All of them may be one-and-done. And all are as exciting as hell to watch. You may be cheering for a specific team or scouting potential franchise-saving lottery picks for your favorite shitty NBA team. Either way, get your popcorn ready…
7. Lonzo Ball – UCLA
Ball will stay home in SoCal to attend school at UCLA. He is a local high school legend who teamed up with his younger brothers to field one of the best teams in California prep history. The definition of a pass-first point guard, Ball had 13 assists and 0 points in the McDonalds All-American game last spring.
Best Case: A longer, springier Jason Kidd
Worst Case: Shaun Livingston
6. Harry Giles – Duke
If it wasn’t for two ACL surgeries in high school, Giles may have been #1 on this list. A freakishly athletic big man who runs the floor like a gazelle, Giles should be a huge part of Coach K’s loaded rotation if he can stay healthy. With the amount of National TV time Duke gets, it shouldn’t be a problem keeping abreast of his progress.
Best Case: Dwight Howard with a little bit of C-Webb thrown in
Worst Case: Out of the league with injuries. If he stays healthy, Nerlens Noel/Amir Johnson
5. Jayson Tatum – Duke
One of the smoothest offensive operators you will ever see in high school, Tatum will fit into Duke’s starting lineup like a Brooklyn hipster sliding into his favorite pair of just-a-little-too-tight jeans. He could easily turn out to be the best player on this list, but his lack of athleticism and freakish exploits knock him down a few rungs to #5.
Best Case: Paul Pierce/Carmelo Anthony
Worst Case: Rudy Gay/Jabari Parker
4. Bruce Brown – Miami
The lowest-ranked and most overlooked player on this list, Brown will turn heads at Miami from Day 1. The closest thing to Russell Westbrook we have ever seen in high school, Brown also brings tremendous defensive intensity, leadership, length, and character to the point guard position. Bet on him sneaking up draft boards all year once he gets to play against other elite talent across the country.
Best Case: Russell. Westbrook. Two. Point. Oh.
Worst Case: A lesser (but still very effective) version of Avery Bradley
3. Dennis Smith Jr. – NC State
A FREAKISH athlete, Smith is a ball of energy who apparently was born with a rocket launcher instead of a crotch. If he ever develops into a great shooter, the NBA better watch the fuck out. If not, he will still be tremendously fun to watch.
Best Case: A Westbrook/Lillard blend
Worst Case: Eric Bledsoe
2. Markelle Fultz – Washington
It may be hard to watch him play at Washington, but he will be well worth the effort. An extremely long and ridiculously talented point guard who was a late bloomer at famed Dematha HS in Maryland, Fultz is another player who combines solid fundamentals with consistent highlight reel-worthy plays. He possesses tremendous passing abilities, but can also jump out of the gym. He is 6’4 1/2, but his wingspan is 6’10. From a pure talent standpoint, Fultz is probably the best bet on this list to go #1 in the draft and be a super-duper star at the NBA level.
Best Case: More athletic, better passing Brandon Roy
Worst Case: Shaun Livingston with better scoring instincts
1. Josh Jackson – Kansas
If you designed the ideal human being to dunk a basketball effectively and repeatedly, this would be your man. It sounds absurd, but after watching him, you almost feel like he should play on a bigger court with taller rims. He literally jumps so high that dunking sometimes becomes awkward because he is basically eye level with the rim. Fortunately for Bill Self, he can also play a little bit. Actually a lot. Plus he has attitude for days: he once trash-talked Gary FUCKING Payton during a high school game when he saw The Glove in the opposing team’s cheering section. That takes gumption. He has gumption for days homes.
Best Case: A more competitive Tracy McGrady
Worst Case: Josh Smith/Corey Brewer blend who has decent career but never lives up to potential