The 2020-21 college basketball season begins on Wednesday. Though it seems like a whirlwind, particularly with the NBA pivoting almost directly from one season to the next, it has been a long time since college basketball was at the center of the sporting discourse. After all, COVID-19 prompted the cancelation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament and, with uncertainty reigning for months, there is something of a cloud over the sport as it attempts to begin playing again.
There will be cancellations by the dozens and all kinds of logistical challenges, but all signs point to basketball being played this week. As such, it is time to dive into a ten-pack of college players that will be drawing attention from NBA teams over the next several months. Unlike 2020, this group is high-regarded and filled with star power, so there is a lot to monitor.
Here is a quick glance at some projected lottery picks from the college ranks, arriving in alphabetical order.
Scottie Barnes, Florida State
It is incredibly on-brand that Barnes is at FSU. He is a 6’8, do-it-all forward that can defend at the highest levels, rebound, pass and finish near the rim. There are questions about his jump shot and, well, those hamper any perimeter prospect until they don’t. However, Barnes has enough to become a very, very good player even if his jumper doesn’t pop.
BJ Boston, Kentucky
As usual, Kentucky has myriad impressive prospects again in 2020, but Boston seems to sit atop the list. He is more of a pure scorer than some of the other top guys in this class, but there is always a market for that. He is long, aggressive and a developing shooter, with a well-rounded skill package that should allow him to excel in the SEC this season.
Greg Brown, Texas
Brown is a ridiculous athlete and that is his calling card right now. His game is reminiscent of a modern-day center in a lot of ways but, at the same time, he’s only 6’8 and really plays the 4 at the moment. It helps to be incredibly explosive, and he’ll be able to put pressure on the rim immediately, but the next step will be carving out an offensive role beyond that. Even without huge development, his tools are enough to generate excitement.
Terrence Clarke, Kentucky
Clarke will be playing alongside Boston, and he isn’t quite as hyped at this stage. There is a lot to like, though, with Clarke’s ability to get into the paint and finish using his 6’9 frame and creativity. He may not draw the headlines of Boston from an upside perspective, but Clarke is also a lottery-level talent as he arrives in Lexington.
Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State
There is a decent chance that Oklahoma State isn’t awesome this year, but it won’t be Cunningham’s fault. He is a brilliant 6’7 point guard with unbelievable feel and passing vision, with the profile of a future NBA superstar. There are other star-level talents in this class but, in general, the consensus is that Cunningham is the best of the bunch and it will be at least a mild surprise if he isn’t the No. 1 overall pick. Oh, and if he can make Oklahoma State into a good team, he also might be in contention for NPOY at the college level.
Keon Johnson, Tennessee
Draft-based observers seem to be higher on Johnson than scouting services were, at least according to his RSCI ranking. There is no questioning Johnson’s explosive athleticism, though, and he has a good frame at 6’5 that really shows when he is getting to the rim. As a shooter, there is enough to buy into his long-term appeal, and he has a good motor that shows up on the defensive end. He isn’t as famous as most of these guys, but the package is there.
Evan Mobley, USC
For a long time, Mobley has been in the discussion for No. 1 in this class, though Cunningham has pulled away in recent months. Regardless, the 7-foot big man is really talented, with the ability to match his length with the potential chance to defend adequately in space. He’s also a fluid athlete that can score effectively, and he should be a terror in the Pac-12. With any big man, there will be translation questions to the NBA, but Mobley is also quite a modern prospect.
Moses Moody, Arkansas
For a brief moment, it seemed like Moody could be playing alongside Isaiah Joe at Arkansas. While that dream didn’t happen, Moody should be fun to watch on his own as a 6’6 wing that played alongside Cunningham and Barnes in high school. That is, of course, an embarrassment of riches at the prep level, and Moody has the tools to be a lottery pick. He projects to be a good defender who can shoot threes, but there are some that believe Moody has upside beyond that, especially once he is out of the shadow of his two more publicized high school teammates.
Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga
Suggs is the top-rated high school prospect ever to commit to Gonzaga, and he’s suddenly a key cog on a national title contender. He may not be the best player on his own college team as a freshman, but Suggs has real scoring pedigree and a jumper that is easy to buy into for a 6’5 perimeter creator. He can also pass at a relatively high level, and Suggs should get plenty of attention during the season.
Ziaire Williams, Stanford
Williams has great tools, plays hard, and fits a very easy archetype in the NBA. Doesn’t that sound like a lottery pick? He is 6’7 with a reported 6’11 wingspan, and he’s a good athlete that also has flashed a bit as a creator for others. Defensively, he may not be absolutely dynamic, but he is big enough to defend multiple positions and, again, he seems to genuinely care enough to grind. Stanford got a good one.