By Ian Powers
We saw the most unpredictable NBA Draft in recent memory on Thursday night. Anthony Bennett being selected as the No. 1 overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers took everyone by surprise. While this draft may have lacked a true franchise player, the 2014 draft looks to be loaded with potential franchise talents, such as Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker.
We’re taking it a step further and looking ahead to the 2015 draft and beyond. We consulted numerous talent evaluators across the country, including our own Frank Burlison (who’s also on the McDonald’s All American Selection Committee), Joel Francisco, John Stovall, Reggie Rankin of ESPN, and Evan Daniels of Scout.com. Each of them submitted their top-10 pro prospects in high school basketball regardless of class for our third annual edition. This list is fluid and can change from year to year — and in some cases month to month. After tallying the votes, we present this year’s edition of our top-10 high school pro prospects.
1) Ben Simmons, 6-foot-9, 230 pounds, SF/PF, Melbourne, Australia, Montverde Academy 2015.
Simmons took the U.S. high school basketball scene by storm, dominating the 2012 Pangos All American Camp. He moved to the United States this past year to suit up for coach Kevin Boyle at Montverde Academy in Florida and did not disappoint, helping them win the high school national championship.
He has small forward skills in a power forward’s body. A smooth and skilled lefty who can do everything on the floor, Simmons has a feathery outside shooting touch and he can put the ball on the floor and get into the lane when he wants to. His passing ability for a kid his size sets him apart from his peers.
With upperclassmen such as Kasey Hill, and D’Angelo Russell, Simmons took a backseat on a senior-led Montverde team this past season, but he will be the focal point offensively, which should allow him to grow into the alpha dog role that his talent suggests. If he stays focused and continues to work hard, he has a chance to be special. NBA Comparison: Tracy McGrady
2) Myles Turner, 6-foot-11, 225 pounds, PF/C, Euless, TX, Trinity 2014.
In 2010, we saw Anthony Davis turn himself from an unknown prospect into the best player in the country. In 2012, Marcus Lee rose from obscurity to become a McDonald’s All American and a member of Kentucky’s vaunted 2013 recruiting class. This year, meet Myles Turner.
After sitting out all of last summer with a broken ankle, he has emerged as the one of the top-five players in the country and he has a chance to end up being ranked No. 1 in the 2014 class when all is said and done. He is a highly skilled big who can dominate a game on the defensive end of the floor and score from all three levels on the offensive end. He is long, runs the floor well, has great hands and is an adept passer out of the post. He has range on his jumper out to 20 feet, along with a developing back-to-the-basket game.
Turner is just scratching the surface of his immense upside, having turned 17 in March. It is possible that he will pass the 7-foot mark, due to his size-21 feet. By the end of the summer, we may need to revisit this list and move him to No. 1. NBA Comparison: Lamarcus Aldridge
3) Harry Giles, 6-foot-9, 210 pounds, SF/PF, Winston-Salem, NC, Wesleyan Christian Academy 2016.
Giles has been a household name among recruiting analysts for quite some time. He will go down as one of the most dominant high school players in recent memory. He has an advanced skill set for a player so young — and he hasn’t even come close to reaching his potential. He can handle the ball in the open floor and finish inside.
What makes him special, though, is his sixth sense for the game. He has an advanced basketball IQ that doesn’t come along very often among high school prospects. Giles still hasn’t become a deadly perimeter shooter, but his form is strong and he just needs reps to iron things out. The one knock against him is a lack of a killer instinct, but that should come with time. Unfortunately, he tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in Uruguay representing the United States in the Under-16 World Championships and could miss the entire upcoming season. NBA Comparison: Lamar Odom
4) Ivan Rabb, 6-foot-9, 205 pounds, PF, Oakland, CA, Bishop O’ Dowd 2015.
Rabb burst onto the scene last summer at the Lebron James Skills Academy and he has not disappointed. He’s coming off a sophomore season that saw him average 25 points, 13 rebounds, and eight blocks per game. Rabb is a an elite athlete with the ability to face up and put the ball on the floor. He catches everything thrown to him and can finish with either hand around the basket.
He needs to continue to add to his back-to-the-basket and midrange game. Rabb has added considerable bulk since his freshman year, but he still needs to add weight/strength to his frame as he grows older. He helped lead USA Under-16 team to a gold medal in Uruguay and will be a fixture with the USA Basketball program for years to come. He is a humble and hard-working kid. There is no reason to think that he won’t maximize his potential and have a long, productive NBA career. NBA Comparison: Chris Bosh
5) Stephen Zimmerman, 6-foot-11, 215 pounds, PF/C, Las Vegas, NV, Bishop Gorman 2015.
Bigg Zimm, as he is known, is arguably the most skilled big in the country, regardless of class. He is a smooth lefty who can score with his back to the basket, as well as facing up. He has range on his jumper that extends to the college three-point line. He runs the floor very well, catches and finishes in traffic, blocks/alters shots and plays with a nonstop motor.
Zimmerman has trouble holding his position down on the block at times due to a lack of strength, but he is smart enough to adjust and use his quickness for scoring opportunities. Has a tendency to be too left-hand dominant and will need to focus on not being predictable offensively, but all of the tools are there for him to be as good as he wants to be. NBA Comparison: Pau Gasol
6) Emmanuel Mudiay, 6-foot-5, 190 pounds, PG, Arlington, TX, Prime Prep 2014.
Mudiay is in the mold of the big, athletic point guard that we see in the league today. He has a feel for the game that cannot be taught and he has it on display at all times. He makes plays that may not show up in the box score, but they help you win games. He runs the pick and roll at a pro level now. His jumpshot is still a work in progress, but his ability to get in the lane and terrorize his opponents in transition mask his lack of a consistent jumper. His form is good, so he just needs to get the shots up in the gym to refine it.
His athleticism has improved as he’s matured physically, making him one of the most athletic point guards in his class. As good as he is now, there is still a ton of upside left. If Mudiay can minimize distractions and keep his turnovers in check, he has a chance to be a franchise point guard at the NBA level. NBA Comparison: John Wall
7) Jahlil Okafor, 6-foot-10, 270 pounds, C, Chicago, IL, Whitney Young 2014.
Okafor has played in the shadow of fellow Chicagoan Jabari Parker over the last few years. That will change this year. He has the best combination of power and skill in the high school game today. He has an array of back-to-the-basket moves and finishes well in traffic. He has huge, soft hands, allowing him to catch and finish anything in his vicinity. In addition, he can counter just about any move a defender tries to take away.
The main knocks on Okafor at this stage of his development are a lack of elite athleticism and foot speed, along with an occasionally suspect motor, average defensive rebounding and his lack of an impact as a shot blocker. This hurts his NBA potential in the eyes of some scouts. With all that being said, he plays to his strengths, having honed those skills to become an elite high school player. He projects as a solid pro down the road. NBA Comparison: Jared Sullinger
8) Tyus Jones, 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, PG, Apple Valley, MN, Apple Valley 2014.
Jones may not possess Mudiay’s size or athleticism, but he makes up for it with his feel and IQ for the game. He is the best pure point guard prospect in high school basketball. He took an undermanned Howard Pulley team to the quarterfinals of the Peach Jam last year. This year, he was arguably the best player on the Nike EYBL circuit.
Jones can impact a game without scoring the ball because of his ability to make people better. When he wants to score, he can do it with the best of them. He is not super fast or athletic, but he has a mind for the game we haven’t seen on the high school level in quite awhile. NBA Comparison: Kyrie Irving
9) Malik Newman, 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, SG/PG, Jackson, MS, Callaway 2015.
Newman can flat out put the ball in the hole. Whether it’s with the drive or the jumpshot, half court or transition, Newman has a knack for scoring. He can score from all three levels, but he excels in the mid range. He can stop and pull up on a dime, while maintaining great balance and lift on his shot. Has a scorer’s mentality and thinks every shot is going in. He did a great job running the point for the USA Basketball Under 16 team and seems capable of making the transition if need be. Right now, his best asset is his scoring ability. NBA Comparison; Tyreke Evans
10) Cheick Diallo 6-foot-9, 220 pounds, PF, Centereach, NY 2015.
A late bloomer who similar to Turner has been on a metoric rise over the past 6 months. Was the surprise MVP winner at the NBAPA camp after having an eye opening performance at the Jordan Classic, International game. He’s a long, athletic shot blocker with an improving offensive game. A fierce competitor and relentless rebounder.
Diallo appears to be a guy that can develop excellent strength and toughness over time. He also shows nice ability to run the floor. UK and all the other heavyweights are in hot pursuit. NBA Comparison: Serge Ibaka
Deandre Ayton, 6-foot-10, 200 PF/C, San Diego, CA……Could top this list by next year’s edition but unfair to put a guy with no HS experience in the top 10. Already 6-foot-10 and is as coordinated and athletic as any big man on any level.
Cliff Alexander 6-foot-9, PF, Chicago, IL……Physically dominant inside presence with a great motor. Strong consideration for one of the top 10 spots but was Edged out by Diallo.
Lonzo Ball 6-foot-4, PG, 2016 Chino Hills, CA…… Maybe best point guard prospect out West.
Thon Maker 7-foot-0, PF, Martinsville, VA….Another Aussie import who got mentions in the recruiting analyst’s top 10. Slight frame but very skilled and intense.
Chris McCullough 6-foot-10, PF, Bronx, NY…..Elite athlete who oozes upside.
Justin Jackson 6-foot-7, SF, Houston, TX…….Smooth and skilled scorer who needs to add strength.
Karl Towns 7-foot, PF, Metuchen, NJ……Skilled big with three-point range.
2012 Edition: Elite Prospects on NBA Horizon