AP Photo/John Locher
In all likelihood, the earliest a college player goes in the draft is No. 3 overall. France’s Victor Wembanyama and the G League’s Scoot Henderson have quickly emerged as favorites at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.
And between the other G League players, Overtime Elite and various international leagues, we could see more non-NCAA players draw top-five, lottery, and first or second-round consideration.
Projected Top-Three Picks
Victor Wembanyama (Metropolitans 92, PF/C, 2004)
At this point, only doctors’ red flags could prevent Wembanyama from going first. After leaving scouts awestruck in Las Vegas with a combined 73 points, nine threes and nine blocks through two games against Ignite, the projected No. 1 pick has continued blowing minds in France’s top league. The 7’4″ 18-year-old is averaging 21.3 points, 8.9 boards, 1.6 threes, 2.7 assists and 2.9 blocks for the 6-1 Metropolitans 92.
The outrageous long-range shooting, self-creation into dribble jumpers and drives through defenders come off as persuasive and translatable based on the incredible fluidity he executes with. Throw in the 8’0″ wingspan and mobility for rim protection, and Wembanyama has the chance to be impactful in more areas than any other NBA player.
Scoot Henderson (G League Ignite, PG, 2004)
Henderson strengthened his case as the draft’s No. 2 prospect with 28 points, nine assists and a number of tough jumpers against Wembanyama in Las Vegas. For a half of basketball, before Wembanyama erupted, some scouts thought that Henderson would eventually deserve thought in the No. 1 overall debate.
Extremely high levels of ball-handling counters, change of speed and burst point to a guard who’ll bring consistent, breakdown penetration and creation to an NBA lineup. The seemingly improved shot-making has helped Henderson create distance from anyone in college or Overtime Elite, though he always had a signature mid-range pull-up.
Amen Thompson (Overtime Elite, PG/SG, 2003)
The NBA’s best athlete debate will soon include Thompson, who’s 6’7″, jumps like Jalen Green and gets to spots with Ja Morant’s quickness and flexibility. And despite possessing the physical profile of a wing, he spends more time playing making as a lead ball -handler, creating for teammates and slicing through gaps. Perimeter scoring is a weakness, but any signs of potential shooting improvement could put him in the No. 2 overall discussion.
Ausar Thompson (Overtime Elite, SG/SF, 2003)
Though not the playmaker that Amen is, Ausar has more of a traditional scorer’s label and mentality. He’s also equally spectacular athletically, with quickness and bounce that translates to easy baskets and even more defensive impact/range. Ausar’s shooting and decision-making need the most fine-tuning.
Leonard Miller (G League Ignite, SF/PF, 2003)
Miller’s last handful of appearances for scouts have been mixed, but the 6’10”, 18-year-old’s mistakes seem worth living with. Miller can become a versatile scoring mismatch and two-way presence.
Nikola Djurisic (Mega, SG/SF, 2004)
Scouts got an interesting look in September at Djurisic going for 24 points and six assists against Overtime Elite’s Thompson twins. Playing as a featured weapon for Mega, the 6’8″ Serban wing should remain in the first-round discussion all season while he showcases a valued mix of shooting and passing IQ.
Ryan Rupert (New Zealand Breakers, SG/SF, 2004)
Rupert is building a three-and-D case in the NBL, shooting 38.9 percent from deep (NBL and NBL Blitz) and flashing his 7’3″ wingspan and ball pressure. Not turning 19 until May 30, his valued archetype and room to improve should keep his name anchored in the No. 15-30 range on boards throughout the year.
Sidy Cissoko (G League Ignite, SG/SF, 2004)
Not much of a factor during Ignite’s exhibition games against Metropolitans 92 in Las Vegas, Cissoko is more of an intriguing idea than a future pro. His combination of 6’8″ size and two-way playmaking remains interesting from a versatility standpoint, though he’ll have to show more promise as a half-court creator and shooter this year in the G League.
Efe Abogidi (G League Ignite, PF/C, 2001)
After two seasons below the radar at Washington State, Abogidi has a better chance to make an impression playing with Henderson and the Ignite. At 6’10”, 225 pounds, his impact is built around finishing and shot-blocking, but he was also an excellent free-throw shooter in college (79.9 percent career) who’s flashed mid-to-long-range touch worth monitoring.
Mojave King (G League Ignite, SG/SF, 2002)
King made a strong impression in Las Vegas, showing off his off-ball scoring skills and three-and-D potential. He has a nice comfort level getting himself involved from a spot-up role by shooting off the catch, cutting, line-driving and running off screens.
Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports, Sports-Reference.com