CLEVELAND — On Tuesday, the 2018-19 college basketball season will officially tip-off.
And for the first time in five years, Cleveland Cavaliers fans might want to pay attention.
Although the NBA season is currently less than three weeks young, it’d be tough to blame any Cavs fans for wanting to look forward. At 1-8 on the season, Cleveland currently lays claim to the worst record in the league.
With All-Star forward Kevin Love expected to miss at least the next six weeks followings surgery, it’s unlikely the Cavs will find their winning ways anytime soon. And even if they do, it could ultimately prove to be too little too late.
As a result, Cleveland appears poised to once again be a fixture at this year’s NBA Draft Lottery — perhaps with a decent shot of landing a top-three pick.
For fans hoping to get a head start on scouting who could be the Cavs’ next franchise player, here are the prospects’ names you need to know for the upcoming college basketball season.
Zion Williamson, F, Duke
Although he’s yet to play in a regular-season game, Zion Williamson may already be the most famous player in college basketball. A 6-foot-6, 272-pound forward with freakish athleticism, the No. 5 recruit in the nation enters his freshman season at Duke with one of the most impressive highlight reels in recent memory.
According to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, Williamson will be one of the top athletes in the NBA the moment he enters the league. As for areas improvement, his 3-point shot and conditioning could use some work, although he’ll likely remain in the mix to be the No. 1 overall pick next June based on raw talent alone.
R.J. Barrett, SG/SF, Duke
While Williamson might be the most famous player in college basketball, he may not be the best prospect on his own team. That claim could very well belong to freshman forward R.J. Barrett, who Givony currently projects to be the No. 1 overall pick next June.
A 6-foot-7, 208-pound small forward, Barrett will likely be one of college basketball’s elite scorers in his freshman season. NBA scouts have already compared the Toronto native and No. 1 ranked prospect to Jimmy Butler and DeMar DeRozan, both of whom have made multiple All-Star games in their careers.
So long as the Cavs in fact wind up with a top-five pick, they’ll likely be linked to Barrett throughout the spring. In order to draft him, however, they may need to have lottery luck on their side.
Cam Reddish, SF, Duke
If you’re a Cavaliers fan — or fan of any struggling NBA team — you may want to just adopt Duke this season. Between Williamson, Barrett and Cam Reddish, the Blue Devils lay claim to three of the nation’s top five ranked freshmen.
A 6-foot-9 small forward with perimeter skills, Reddish may ultimately have the highest upside of the bunch. And between both his size and ability, he also possesses the potential to be an elite player on both sides of the floor.
Nassir Little, SF, North Carolina
Looking for a non-Duke option? You won’t have to travel far. In Nassir Little, North Carolina may lay claim to the best prospect in the country — Blue Devil or not.
An explosive athlete with the versatility to defend four positions on the court, the 6-foot-6 Little could be a perfect match for the modern NBA. He’s also shown signs of being an above average 3-point shooter, connecting on 38 percent of his attempts from long distance in the last 60 games.
Unlike his counterparts at Cameron, Little — who currently ranks as Givony’s No. 2 prospect — won’t be sharing the court with other elite prospects, which could give him a bigger platform to showcase his skills. For those curious, Duke and North Carolina will square off this season on Feb. 20 and again on March 9.
Bol Bol, C, Oregon
At 7-foot-2, Bol Bol isn’t quite as tall as his 7-foot-7 father, former NBA center Manute Bol. But the Oregon big man nonetheless makes for an intriguing prospect to follow in the coming year.
It goes without saying that given his size, the younger Bol could be an elite rim defender. But what’s more is that when you combine his size with his timing and feel for the game along with an intriguing offensive skill set, the 18-year-old Bol possesses the potential to be an NBA “unicorn,” comparing favorably to the likes of Anthony Davis, Kristaps Porzingis and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Entering his freshman season, Givony ranks Bol as his No. 10 prospect. Plenty, of course, can change between now and June as Bol’s upside may ultimately be too much to pass up.
Other names to know
- Romeo Langford, SF, Indiana
- Quentin Grimes, SF, Kansas
- Keldon Johnson, SF, Kentucky
- Sekou Doumbouya, PF, Limoges
- Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
- De’Andre Hunter, PF, Virginia
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