By Ian Powers
The 2015/16 NBA season just concluded after a record breaking 73 win season by the defending champion Golden State Warriors and a thrilling NBA Finals that saw Lebron James fulfill his promise to bring the city of Cleveland a title after 52 years. This year’s Game 7 drew over 30 million viewers, making it the highest rated finals since Michael Jordan’s last championship in Game 6 of the 1998 finals.
With a new $24 billion TV deal set to kick in next season, a looming free agent frenzy that has the potential to change the balance of power in the league, and a draft that will bring new exciting young players into the fold, the popularity of the league continues to grow.
While Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram now having joined their respective teams, it is never too early to look ahead at talent on the NBA horizon, at the high school level.
*Special thanks to recruiting gurus Eric Bossi of Rivals.com, Evan Daniels of Scout.com and Jerry Meyer of 247 Sports for helping to put the lists together. Here is our fifth Annual Top Pro Prospects In High School Basketball.
1) Deandre Ayton 7’0” 245 C/PF Hillcrest Academy, Phoenix, AZ 2017
For the second year in a row the sweet shooting bigman from the Bahamas gets the top spot on our list. After an October transfer from Balboa City in San Diego to Hillcrest in Phoenix, there was much speculation about what negative effect the transfer and the potential distraction would have on his game. The early returns in December at the Tarkanian Classic were nothing but positive. He was dominant and solidified his spot as the top prospect in the country. He has added a college 3 point jumper to his arsenal and it has opened up things inside for him. He thoroughly impressed scouts with his skill level in practices at the Hoop Summit in April. The game comes so easily to him that he sometimes looks like he hasn’t improved or is not playing with much effort, but at the end of the game the box score and the results on the scoreboard speak for themselves. Sometimes the lack of effort is not a deception because he has stretches where he coasts. But when he gets challenged he shows a competitive fire. He doesn’t play with his back to the basket as much as he should and scouts would still like to see a little more toughness to him, but his hands, shot blocking, rebounding and ability to change ends all scream franchise big. Perpective is needed, as every high school age big goes through ups and downs, and it’s not easy to play with high level intensity when they go through inevitable periods of boredom due to not being challenged.
2) Michael Porter 6’9” 215 SF Father Tolton, Columbia, MO 2017
Porter makes our list for the 2nd year in a row. He has been an absolute monster over the spring and early summer on the circuit. He has played with a take no prisoners approach and is in the conversation for #1 in the class. He’s always had a silky smooth jumper but he has gotten deadly with putting the ball on the floor and using his length around the basket. He is more aggressive taking the ball off the glass and bringing the ball up the court himself and once he gets a defender on his heels, he’s lethal going to the basket or pulling up for the jumper. He has NBA range on his shot right now and that will only increase as his body continues to mature and get stronger. He has shown a little bit of a mean streak that he seemingly lacked over his few years at the high school level and if that continues to develop, he has chance to be a perennial All Star and franchise cornerstone.
3) Charles Bassey 6’10” 215 PF Saint Anthony Catholic, San Antonio, TX 2019
Bassey is a native of Lagos, Nigeria. Introduced to the game at the age of 12, his game is still in it’s infancy, but the tools he displays has coaches and scouts from around the country highly intrigued. His length and athletic ability are what stands out and what will be the foundation of his growth moving forward. He flashes the ability to handle the ball at a high level and has shown instincts to develop into a very good passer. He can make shots but his form still needs some work and reps are needed to turn him into a more consistent shooter. His mother passed away 2 weeks after his arrival to the U.S. and he has handled it as well as any kid his age possibly could. These setbacks have taught him about dealing with the adversity that will come as he potentially blossoms from prospect to player over the next few years.
4) Mohamed Bamba 6’11” 210 PF Westtown Academy, Harlem, NY 2017
One of the longest players in high school basketball, and pro and college as well. He reportedly has a 7’8” wingspan and 9’5” standing reach and he uses it to his advantage. He really lacks a back to the basket game right now, but he flashes a face up game where he can make the occasional 15 to 17 foot jumper or put it on the floor for 2 dribbles and get to the basket. Where he’s special is on the defensive end of the floor. He blocks and changes shots at an alarming rate and rebounds and outlets as well as any big in the country. He runs the floor like a guard and gets a lot of buckets by out running opposing bigs down the floor. He needs to put a lot of weight onto his frame, but in terms of upside, you’d be hard pressed to find many with more than him.
5) Trevon Duval 6’3” 190 PG Advanced Prep International, Wilmington, DE 2017
Duvall has been the top ranked point guard in the class since 8th grade. He transferred to API in Dallas last season and had a soso year according to many industry heads. That has not dropped his stock, nor has it deterred his play on the spring travel team circuit. He is a powerful and athletic guard that can get anywhere he wants on the floor. He can finish through contact and if you attempt to challenge him at the rim, he can put you on a YouTube mixtape. His handle needs to tighten up some and his jumper is still a work in progress. He doesn’t need to rely on it at this level because he’s so much bigger and stronger than most high school point guards. Decision making is also a knock on him as he doesn’t always make the right read, and tends to force the issue at times. He’s a great kid and will work on his flaws, and make no mistake, he’s the best point guard in America.
6) Marvin Bagley 6’10” PF Sierra Canyon, Phoenix, AZ 2018
This young man has been talked about since he was in middle school and his high school career has not disappointed. He transferred between 2 schools over the last year and is now at Sierra Canyon in the Los Angeles suburbs and was forced to sit out the entire season due to California Interscholastic rules. He still remains one of the most sought after commodities in high school basketball. He is a great rebounder and will attack the offensive glass to get easy buckets. He can put the ball on the floor to get into the lane and play some point forward. He has shown the ability to knock down the 3 but that has not become a part of his game on a consistent basis. He is a lefty but can score with the jump hook with both hands. He is nowhere near the player he can be, but he has to stay focused and drown out the noise around him and dedicate himself to being an all time great. It’s there for him if he wants it.
7) Hamidou Diallo 6’6” 200 SG Putnam Science Academy, Queens, NY 2017
Arguably the most athletic player in the country checks in at number 7 on our list. He has a college ready body and a college ready demeanor on both ends of the floor. He can get to the basket with the best of them and make enough shots to keep you honest. He has the potential to be a great lock down defender because of his size, length and athletic ability, but he needs to focus on that end of the floor for 32 minutes. While he can make shots he’s still streaky. He can get hot and knock down 3 or 4 in a row and also miss 3 or 4 in a row. There’s nothing mechanically wrong with his shot, it just needs time to mature. He put on an absolute show at the Pangos Camp in L.A. a couple of weekends ago and is firmly established on everybody’s top 10 in the country rankings. Duke and Kentucky are in a major war for his services and it will be interesting to see which direction he decides to go in.
8) Brandon McCoy 7’0” 230 C Cathedral Catholic, San Diego, CA 2017
This native of Chicago seems to improve every time out. When I first saw him in May 2015 in Houston, he had very little coordination and seemed to be lost. Fast forward to last July and he looked like a completely different player. He plays hard all the time and has a much more consistent motor then his travel teammate Ayton. He can block shots and rebounds on both glasses. He has shown a jumper out to 18 feet and can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket off the face up. His footwork and balance have improved, but still need to be polished more, but he has the work ethic to succeed. He was a boxer as a kid and his hand eye coordination is beginning to show on the floor. He can potentially become the best big man in this class if he continues to put the time in.
9) Wendell Carter 6’9” 254 PF/C Pace Academy, Atlanta, GA 2017
Carter has been on the tip of national scouts tongues for a few years now. He is the most consistent and dependable player in the country. He may not have the sexy upside of Ayton or McCoy, but he brings his lunch box to work every night. He gave Ayton and McCoy all they could handle in a spring game and was the most productive player on the floor. Production is the name of the game with him. He has a big strong body and knows how to use it down on the box. He has a nice touch out to 15 feet and is a threat to score over either shoulder. He’s a good, not great athlete and has gotten more explosive over the years as he’s shed some baby fat and gotten in better shape. You can run things through him down on the box and he’’ either score or get to the line. Rumored to be a Duke lean for some time now but has yet to make a decision.
10) RJ Barrett 6’7” 190 SG/SF Montverde Academy, Mississauga, ONT 2019
Barrett appears next in line as the next big thing north of the border. He’s a long, lean lefty and has a nice skill set that should only improve over time. He can shoot the college 3, and is a high level athlete that brings the size and athleticism that can take his game to another level. He excels in the open floor where can get out and run and use his athleticism to finish plays at the rim. He has shown some ability as a playmaker. He can really be a great defender because of his traits. He put on a show against Lonzo Ball and National Champion Chino Hills at the City of Palms in December. He can make shots, but is not a knock down shooter as of yet and that will open up the rest of his game and that’s when his athleticism will be more on display. Still young and has plenty of time on his side to tap into his enormous upside.
Romeo Langford 6’6 195 SG New Albany, IN 2018
A "D’Angelo Russell with hops", Langford could easily been included on this year’s top 10 and figures to crack the list next year.
Jordan Brown 6-11 200 C Woodcreek Roseville, CA 2018
Athletic junior big from the Sacramento area. Needs to add strength but shows a lot of promise with his size and fludity.
Kevin Knox 6-8 200 SF Tampa, FL 2017
High flying wing who made a big move in the past year within the 2017 class, and received more than one top 10 vote.
Zion Williamson 6-7 230 SF Spartanburg, SC 2018
Underclassman that impressed as one of the top players at the recent NBA Top 100 Camp.
DJ Jeffries 6-7 190 SF Olive Branch, MS 2019
Wing forward with huge potential. Likely to be in top 10 next year as a junior and was one of the final cuts from this year’s list.