Mark Schanowski's NBA Draft Big Board 1.0


The NBA Draft Lottery on May 14 is the day all Bulls fans are anticipating, but why wait to start scouting the top college prospects?

This is the first of our weekly NBA Draft Big Boards, and I think it's pretty safe to assume the name at the top isn't going to change.

Duke's Zion Williamson possesses the combination of size, skill and athleticism we haven't seen since the days of Charles Barkley. At 6-foot-7, 285 pounds, Williamson is capable of end-to-end dominance. Not only is he a spectacular dunker, but he has above average ball handling skills for a man his size and can beat defenders off the dribble. Williamson projects as an elite scorer and shot blocker at the NBA level. The only questions for NBA teams: Can he defend at the small forward position and can he develop a consistent 3-point shot?

Williamson's Duke teammate R.J. Barrett will be a tremendous consolation prize for the team that doesn't get Williamson. The 6-foot-7 lefty is a versatile scorer with a knack for getting to the free throw line, drawing comparisons to Rockets' MVP James Harden. He’s currently averaging 23.4 points per game for the nation’s most talented team. Barrett should be able to defend at the 2 and 3 spots in the NBA, and would be a perfect fit for the Bulls at the small forward spot.

The No. 3 spot is wide open and could change frequently as we go through the rest of the NCAA's regular season. You won't catch Murray State games on television very often, but the Racers have one of the country's most dynamic players in 6-foot-3 point guard Ja Morant. He reminds scouts of Sacramento's De'Aaron Fox with his speed and ability to finish at the rim, and if you watch his game tape you can see some of the physical attributes that led to Dwyane Wade flying up draft boards back in 2003.

I had a chance to watch Texas Tech shooting guard Jarrett Culver play Wednesday night against Iowa State. Culver finished with 20 points and 16 rebounds with a mid-range game similar to DeMar DeRozan. Culver isn't a great outside shooter at this point, but at 6-foot-5 he has the size to get to the basket with a power game that will remind Bulls fans of Jimmy Butler.

Indiana's Romeo Langford is one of the nation's top ranked freshmen. He's a volume scorer in the mold of Zach LaVine, but has been inconsistent from the college 3-point line, shooting 24 percent from beyond the arc. At 6-foot-6, Langford is projected to play both the shooting guard and small forward positions in the pros, and could develop into a 20-point per game scorer.

Duke's Cam Reddish had been running third in most mock drafts early in the college season, but his ice cold shooting from the field and 3-point line has him dropping here. At 6-foot-8, Reddish has prototype small forward size and the shooting mechanics to be a solid 3-and-D guy in the NBA.

Much like Romeo Langford, Kentucky's Keldon Johnson projects as a versatile scorer, with the size to play both the 2 and 3 spots in the NBA. With all the McDonald's All-Americans at Kentucky, Johnson has emerged as John Calipari's go-to scorer, averaging 14.6 points a game while shooting 50 percent from the field and 39 percent from the 3-point line.

USC's Kevin Porter Jr. is another talented combo wing at 6-foot-6 and 217 pounds, but to this point his production hasn't come close to reaching his potential. An injury cost him some games early in the season, and now Porter Jr. is serving an indefinite suspension for conduct detrimental to the program. Character issues could cause him to drop depending on how well he interviews with teams at the draft combine.

Virginia forward De'Andre Hunter is a defensive specialist with ideal positional size at 6-foot-8 and 222 pounds. He projects as a 3-and-D player in the pros in the mold of former Spurs' defensive stopper Bruce Bowen. He should improve offensively playing in an up-tempo NBA offense.

Like Hunter, Gonzaga's Rui Hachimura could have been a first-round pick in last year's draft but decided to go back to school with the hopes of winning a national title. Hachimura has power forward size at 6-foot-9 and 234 pounds and a soft shooting touch out to the 3-point line.

Other players to watch: North Carolina SF Nassir Little; Vanderbilt PG Darius Garland; Oregon C Bol Bol; International F Sekou Doumbouya; Texas C Jaxson Hayes; Virginia Tech SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker; Gonzaga F Brandon Clarke

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