Top 10 High School Prospects in the Nation

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 7:02am

In early July, without having had the chance to watch many of these prospects in months, we asked Ian Powers to poll a number of gurus and put together our annual list of the Elite Talent on NBA Horizon: Top 10 High School Prospects.

Fast forward to mid September. After having the chance to watch all of these prospects over the course of the summer in events such as the LeBron James Skills Academy, adidas Nations and the U17 World Championships in Dubai, we revisit the list, along with the release of our top 50 seniors, top 25 juniors, and top 10 sophomore, 2015 High School Rankings.

DeAndre AytonDeAndre Ayton1. DeAndre Ayton 6-10 225 PF San Diego, CA HSSo. -- I had the opportunity to watch Ayton play for three days in Las Vegas in July at the LeBron James Skills Academy and he was as impressive as any HS prospect that I have seen in quite some time. One scout gushed, "I haven't seen a better bigman prospect in the 20 plus years that I've been doing this". To the wide eyes of every NBA scout on hand, he was routinely making jaw dropping plays like the one in which he posted up his opponent and then spin dribbled by him for a baseline reverse dunk, showing unreal speed, athleticism and ferocity. Ayton has an almost unfair combination of size, speed and athleticism combined with an apparent passion for the game and a strong head on his shoulders. He looks like a combination of a young Shawn Kemp (athleticism wise) but with a cerebral approach reminiscent to The Admiral (David Robinson). He is clearly talented enough to be a factor on the college level right now. To think this kid is only going to be a sophomore in high school makes you first scratch your head and then ponder what he could become. The sky (plus the moon and stars) is the limit for this kid. Sam Hinkie is already calculating exactly how to tank for the number one pick in the 2018 draft.

2. Ben Simmons 6-9 235 SF Melbourne, Australia HSSr. -- We have been the conductor on the Ben Simmons hype train for quite some time now as we stated that he had #1 overall pick potential after seeing him for the first time two years ago when he was a sophomore at adidas Nations. The talented Aussie forward has grown to 6'9 and could legitimately become a PF if he chose to. He also may not be done growing. He's got excellent strength for a high schooler but a good deal of his face up game and versatility would be wasted if he didn't continue his path as a SF. Simmons has made it clear that he's the top senior prospect in the Nation and even shows some LeBron like versatility with his excellent passing and ball handling, plus his unusual strength to absorb contact and make plays at the rim. He's special prospect, who we've felt all along was the superior talent to countryman Dante Exum.

3. Jaylen Brown 6-7 230 SG/SF Alpharetta, GA HSSr. -- Brown made a big impression on NBA scouts with his performance in Treviso, Italy in mid-June at the annual adidas Eurocamp. He displayed tremendous heart and toughness in front of a large contingent of scouts. The USA Select Team was filled with talent, but they were severely overmatched facing the cream of the European crop, many of which were 3-4 years older. Brown competed admirably, showing a competitive nature that is missing from many kid's DNA. His combination of strength and explosiveness puts him in elite company athletically. And when you factor in his ability to knock down shots with increasing regularity, his upside is considerable. One scout commented after watching him at adidas Nations, "I was absolutely wowed by that kid, he's got a real chance to be on the same level with the Wiggins and Parkers when all is said and done, he's that good".

Dennis SmithDennis Smith4. Dennis Smith 6-1 180 PG Fayetteville, NC HSJr. -- Brown beats out Smith for the 3rd spot on this list, but Smith was even more impressive at adidas Nations, as the catalyst to his underclassman team's path to the televised championship. Smith has dynamic athleticism and a composed, mature grasp of the point guard position. He reminds of Kyrie Irving with his all around scoring and point guard play but is a more explosive, dynamic athlete. He struggled some with the structure and strength of professional Europeans in Treviso, but improved as the week went on and displayed his elite quickness and explosiveness in spurts. With the premium on point guards in today's NBA, Smith has a chance to make a run at the top overall pick in 2017. The North Carolina native is the top point guard prospect on the high school level, and our top junior edging out three quality forwards.

5. Harry Giles 6-10 245 PF/C Winston-Salem, NC HSJr. -- Giles is still coming back from a horrific knee injury, but aside from the knee brace there was no sign of rust or athletic limitations in Dubai at the U17 World Championships. One NBA scout mentioned that he felt that Giles might be the best prospect on the high school level regardless of class, but he conditioned that by saying he had not yet seen Ayton. If the knee injury doesn't give him trouble going forward, Giles is a kid that could be competing to be the number one pick in a few years.The junior bigman won a starting spot over highly acclaimed seniors . Listed at 6-9, he looks closer to 6-10 and appears to have a massive wingspan in the neighborhood of 7'3" or greater. His aggressiveness to dunk over opponents is eye opening, while he also showed the ability to knock down the 15-18 foot jump shot with confidence. If it weren't for the knee concerns, he could be as high as 2 on this list.

6. Josh Jackson 6-7 190 SF Southfield, MI HSJr. -- Has all the physical tools to be a Paul George type of talent at the NBA level. He makes plays that very few, if any, other players on the high school level can make. He does this with breathtaking run/jump athleticism and a skill set that is slowly but surely rounding out. The key for Jackson will be getting the proper coaching and developing the attention to detail to work on his game and utilize his time. At this point he can just use his athleticism to outclass opponents, but his lack of a perimeter game gets exposed when he faces stronger more athletic opponents. If he can develop his ISO game to the point where he can create outside shots and get to the rim, he will be a nightmare to contain.

7. Jayson Tatum 6-8 190 SF St. Louis, MO HSJr. -- A kid with a real presence about him. In a word, Tatum is "smooth". Not the most explosive athlete or the best shooter, but very good in all aspects. He shows sneaky length, plus gets to the rim with ease with his developing handle and great body control. While he may never be a top 10 player in the league, he's a pretty sure bet to be a very solid NBA player with All-Star potential. Allan Houston is a player who comes to mind as a comparison, but being just 16, Tatum has a chance to be better, if he gets stronger and more explosive.

8. Cheick Diallo 6-9 220 PF Centereach, NY HSSr. -- Diallo is pure energy in the mold of a Kenneth Faried. He's still got a ways to go offensively as he does most of his damage within a few feet from the basket. But his offensive game is not a lost cause as he shows some touch and has been working on a mid range hook that showing some promise. His fast progression and tremendous attitude indicate that he's going to keep outworking the competition and exceeding expectations. He needs to add strength and continue to expand his offensive game, but his motor is as strong as any kid in the class.

9. Ivan Rabb 6-10 220 PF Oakland, CA HSSr. -- Rabb has been considered one of the top players on the high school level for some time now. He reminds me a lot of Chris Bosh with his high level agility and excellent offensive skills. What he really needs to work on is getting stronger and tougher. At times he looks like a future one and done top 5 pick, but too often he shies away from contact and doesn't force the issue and get to the line. Rabb has the talent to be much higher on this list, but after a disappointing end to the summer in Dubai in which he fell to 5th on the depth chart, he slips some on this list. His ankle injury is partly to blame, and look out for Rabb to make a big splash in college a year from now. Rabb needs to go live in the weight room for the next year and focus on being a destructive force around the basket.

10. Stephen Zimmerman 7-0 225 C Las Vegas, NV HSSr. -- We debated a number of players here and based on their current level of play Diamond Stone could certainly claim this spot. But we feel Zimmerman has superior upside. He struggled playing second fiddle to Rabb over the summer for the Oakland Soldiers, but has the size and touch as well as the mobility to ultimately become the better pro. Like Rabb, Zimmerman needs to get stronger and develop better toughness. He's a bit of a finesse big right now, but we feel that he can develop his toughness and better consistency with added strength.

Honorable Mention: Diamond Stone, Brandon Ingram, Malik Monk, Troy Brown

ncballer
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I love Dennis Smith, he is

I love Dennis Smith, he is Damian Lillard 2.0. However I don't know if I would take him over Giles and Jackson. I woud take him over Tatum.

Skal Labbisierre is EXTREMELY underrated on this list. I would put him at 3 (overall) and number 2 for the 2015 . Only bigman I would take over him would be Giles. This kid is going to be a monster.

I would take Ingram, Monk, Maker and Stone all over Zimmerman. I don't see him having the mental makeup of a go-to number 1 option. Just see him as a complementary 2nd or 3rd option. I think Ingram, Monk, Maker and Stone could all be go to scorers at the next level.

Lack of love for Maker is still really concerning.

ncballer
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Grant it, I haven't seen much

Grant it, I haven't seen much of Ayton, so I can't comment much on him.

sportspolymath
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Zimmerman

I just don't see the talent with Zimmerman that others are projecting. I find him to be highly overrated. We'll see how he does, but to have him on this list over Maker is a mistake in my opinion.

jwostrum
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thon maker?

once again this site has a bullshit bias against thon maker. I have heard all these age rumors, except the problem is this site is literally the only place it comes from. did thon maker's guardian take ian powers lunch money? he seems to be the driving factor on this site for the age claims, and all the other writers seem to follow tilt on that. not that im going to get a straight answer, but im curios if ian powers or any writer on the site can show legit proof that thon maker is older than 17. nobody else seems to be concerned with it on other sites, so to me this is freshman in high school girl gossip.

TheDagger40
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Dennis Smith

Point guards at a premium? What are you talking about? The league is saturated with point guard talent. Just ask Eric Bledsoe. He may be a great prospect but I would put Giles above him.

ncballer
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He does have good tools.

He does have good tools. Good athleticism. However everytime I have seen him play he leaves me wondering why he didn't dominate more. Playing alongside Davis at the global challenge helped him a lot. Davis carved up a ton of space. Before that event Z had looked average all summer.

I think he is likely a 2-4 year player.

Swim34061
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Maker

Regardless of any possible concerns about Maker, unfounded or otherwise, any list of 10 plus 4 considerations without him is counter every major college bball's wish list.

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