Eight of 2015’s top 10 prospects will likely be in the upcoming NBA Draft.
Next year it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the entire top 10 and a number of others enter the 2017 draft. The crop of prospects in 2016 are that good.
In fact, the 2016 class is tracking as arguably the best group of prospects since 2007, which produced the likes of Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon, James Harden, Blake Griffin and a host of other quality NBA players.
Not only is the class deep, but it’s full of star power and elite prospects. Even coming up with this list of best one-and-done candidates was difficult because of the sheer amount of prospects that will have a chance to make this move.
With that said, here’s a breakdown of the best one-and-done candidates the class has to offer:
Harry Giles III, Duke
Even though the role of a traditional power forward who plays around the rim and focuses on rebounding is going away at all levels of basketball, even the NBA, there is no doubt that Harry Giles fits what the NBA is looking for.
Giles is 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-3 wing span and has a standing reach over 9-feet. All of those measurable are exactly what the NBA looks for in the power forward position. Add in that Giles is a very good athlete, and it is easy to see why he has long been considered one of the best prospects in high school basketball dating back to when he was a freshman.
One thing that also works in Giles’ favor is he has been dominant at times on the international level. As much as NBA scouts pay attention to high school and know everything in a prospect does in college, they seem utterly obsessed with what kids do in FIBA competition, and Giles has a long and decorated history in international competition.
With the requisite size, athleticism, and skill to be an instant impact contributor at the NBA level, the future Duke Blue Devil is considered a near lock to be a one-and-done. If there is one thing holding Giles back it has been his health. He has missed two years with knee injuries, and
NBA teams are already checking his medicals as best they can to determine things. Assuming everything checks out with Giles’ knees, and he comes back and looks like the same player he was as a junior in high school, there is no doubt Giles will be one of the highest drafted players from this class, and it would potentially be even money that is selected No. 1 overall.
Josh Jackson, Kansas
A 6-foot-8 small forward with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, Josh Jackson‘s size and freak athleticism are going to allow him to play and defend multiple positions in the NBA.
He’s an absolute big time athlete and is a tenacious competitor who uses that athleticism to impact the game in almost every way.
Jackson’s size, athleticism and motor make him a very good rebounder, while he’ll also block shots and guard players smaller and bigger than him.
Not just a freak athlete, Jackson is also a very good passer and is an unselfish player who is always looking for his teammates.
Jackson will need to keep improving his handle and jumper, but both of which are fine and will only improve.
The Kansas signee has an extremely high floor and a big time ceiling; he has the chance to be the top pick in the 2017 draft.
Jayson Tatum, Duke
Another player who has long thought to be in contention to be the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft is Jayson Tatum. The St. Louis native has the pedigree and the body that the NBA loves. Tatum, who is the god son of former NBA star Larry Hughes, is considered one of the more pro ready and safe prospects in the 2016 high school class.
In bare feet Tatum checks in at around 6-foot-7 with a 6-foot-11 wing span, and a very impressive 8-foot-10 standing reach. While Tatum isn’t an elite athlete by NBA standards, he is more than good enough in that regard, and combined with his physical tools, he is the prototype on the wing.
What makes Tatum truly special, and a near lock to be a one-and-done, is his ability to score the basketball. Quite simply there is no substitute for being able to put the ball in the basket, and Tatum can really do it. He uses his size to post up, scores it good in the mid-range, and also is good at creating off the dribble and getting to the rim. Now Tatum is adding a consistent three point jumper into the equation, and that will be key in determining just how high of a ceiling he has at the NBA level.
Headed to Duke next year, Tatum should be at home on the wing and has an opportunity to put up a ton of points playing a variety of different roles for Mike Krzyzewski. Given his versatility to guard multiple positions, Tatum fits perfectly into what the NBA game is moving toward, and his ability to score gives him the ceiling of a potential all-star caliber player down the line.
De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky
John Calipari has had a long list of elite prospects at the point guard position and Houston native De’Aaron Fox, who signed with the Wildcats in November, has next.
A 6-foot-4 guard, Fox has good size for the point guard spot. He has very good speed, is a high-level athlete and is a two-way player that can impact on both ends of the floor.
Offensively, Fox has developed quite a bit over the past two years, going from more of a combination guard to a full-time lead guard. Fox is quick and tough for the opposition to keep out of the paint. He’s a good passer with good vision, but he’s also a new age lead guard that can really score it, which was evident in his Jordan Brand MVP performance, where he pumped in 23 points.
A southpaw, Fox has developed his long distance shot and while he’s not super consistent from three, he’s getting better and is certainly tracking to be a good shooter in time.
Fox also shines on the opposite end of the floor. Fox takes pride in his defense and is capable of putting a lot of pressure on the opposition. He slides his feet well laterally and disrupts things with his instincts, quickness and athleticism.
To go with Jordan, Fox also participated in the McDonald’s All-American game afnd Nike Hoop Summit.
Markelle Fultz, Washington
Fultz has made extreme progress throughout his time in high school, going from Junior Varsity as a sophomore to cracking the Top 100 as a junior and by the end of that spring looking like a Top 25 combo guard.
The Washington signee kept improving from there, making the transition from a scorer who can pass to a point guard who can both score and create at a high level.
Scout projects Fultz on the ball due to his terrific combination of passing and scoring ability. His handle keeps improving and so does his vision and jumper.
The alarming rate at which Fultz has improved on a month to month basis for the last couple years makes him a player who there’s every reason to bet on moving forward.
He’ll have the ball in his hands from day one at Washington next season and that’s great news for Lorenzo Romar and staff.
Dennis Smith, North Carolina State
The name of the game with Dennis Smith is explosion. Though he last measured in at a hair over 6-feet without shoes, and isn’t especially long with a 6-foot-3 wing span, Smith has the quickness, toughness, and explosion to be someone who fits into the prototype role once he gets to the NBA.
Due to an injury Smith missed his senior year in high school, but what that did do was allow Smith to enroll early at NC State and get not only the best possible rehab, but also get engrained into a college weight program and the day to day grind that is college basketball.
Assuming his athleticism comes all the way back, and there is no reason to think it won’t, Smith will be one of the most dangerous one-on-one players in the country as a freshman. It is nearly impossible to keep Smith out of the lane due to his dynamic first step and impressive upper body strength.
Once in the lane Smith has good vision and also really knows how to score. Beyond that he has become more of a threat shooting the ball, and he is a nightmare to deal with in ball screen situations.
Medicals will of course be important for the NBA teams, and the occasional question about his demeanor and body language, but the reality is there aren’t too many questions here. Smith has everything you look for from an athleticism and skill perspective, and should be someone capable of a long career as a primary ball handler in the NBA.
Jonathan Isaac, Florida State
During the spring following his sophomore season, Jonathan Isaac stood just 6-foot-6 and while he was intriguing, he was a far cry from the potential one-and-done prospect he’s become.
Now, Isaac is pushing 6-11 is equipped with a 7-1 wingspan and has developed so much that he would likely have gone top 10 if he could have entered the NBA Draft this season, as it was rumored during his prep season at Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy.
So what makes him such a special prospect? At his size, Isaac moves fluidly and has an impressive skill set that allows him to play on the perimeter facing the rim, but also around the basket.
A good athlete, Isaac races end to end and despite lacking in strength, his touch allows him to finish well in the paint. His jump shot has turned into a weapon. His shot mechanics are good and he’s certainly capable of heating up from deep, like he did during the Nike Hoop Summit practice, where he pumped in six threes in a 15 minute span against the best players in the country.
Sure he needs to add weight and get stronger, but Isaac has been on an upward trajectory the last two seasons and with his physical growth and skill development, there’s reason to believe he’ll continue this climb and be a lottery pick following one season at Florida State playing for Leonard Hamilton.
Marques Bolden, Undecided
While his size and physical gifts are impressive, it’s the combination of that with his skill on the block and ability to rebound that make him a good option to be one-and-done next season.
Bolden is able to carve out space on the block, get good postposition and score the ball on the block in a variety of ways. In fact, he’s probably the top overall back to basket scorer in the class. Bolden has terrific hands; very good touch and a go-to jump hook over either shoulder.
In the prestigious McDonald’s All-American game, Bolden was 6-for-8 from the field, scoring 13 points and reeling in seven rebounds. He was also selected for the Nike Hoop Summit and the Jordan Brand All-American game.
One of the most unique and versatile prospects in high school basketball, you could make the argument that there isn’t a better passer at the youth level. Ball has elite vision and is a terrific outlet passer. He has NBA range on his three-point shot, although he has a low release and isn’t a consistent shooter. Ball rebounds his area well and isn’t a true point guard, but is a dynamic offensive talent with significant upside.
Lonzo Ball, UCLA
Lonzo Ball is at about 6-foot-5 with at least a 6-foot-7 wingspan, giving him very good size for a point guard.
The bottom line with Ball is that he’s one of the best passers high school basketball has seen in quite a long time. Right handed, left handed, outlet or halfcourt, facing the target or back turned; it doesn’t matter, Ball will deliver the pass right on the money.
Not just an elite passer, Ball also is a very good rebounder for the position and is a streak shooter who has the ability to get hot from distance.
Ball, whose father has publicly said he plans to be one-and-done, will be surrounded by talented offensive players at UCLA next season and you can expect him to rack up assists on a game by game basis.
With Ball’s elite passing ability at his size, there’s every reason to think it won’t take long before an NBA team is ready to draft him in the lottery.