With the conclusion of the NBA Draft last week, itís finally time to take a look at the best upcoming college basketball freshman that youíll need to know this season. In this edition, Iíll be profiling the three most heavily discussed prospects in the nation, and providing links to their best hoops mixtapes. Believe it or not, none of them are headed to Duke or Kentucky. Yet, all three are expected to be top NBA Draft picks in 2018, and two (Porter and Bamba) even have the potential to set their respective college programs on a new trajectory.
Michael Porter Jr -- SF/PF -- (6-10, 215)
Michael Porter Jr. is the No. 1 recruit in the 2017 class by consensus, and has had made some dramatic decisions regarding his commitments. The prospect was originally committed to Washington, but when former Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin elected to take the head coaching job vacated by Kim Anderson at Missouri and hire on Michael Porter Sr. as an assistant coach, Porter Jr. elected to follow his father and play for his home state college team, the Tigers.
With that unique sequence of events in the past, Porter is expected to make an immediate impact upon arrival, making him arguably the top freshman to target in fantasy drafts this season. His physical tools as an 18-year-old are outstanding, boasting a 7-foot wingspan and 9-foot standing reach. However, his size is just part of why heís expected to be a one-and-done, top-3 pick in 2018 NBA Mock Drafts. While Porterís size allows him to play above the rim with ease, the Mizzou commit can also knock down jumpers and extend his range out to the 3-point line.
Defensively, Porter isnít necessarily a liability, but still has a few flaws that have been brought to light. His ability to play with 100 percent physicality for the entirety of a 40-minute collegiate game has been questioned, as has his closing speed to the perimeter. This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that he is a very tough competitor, as shown in the McDonaldís All-American game, when he stole the ball back immediately after a rebound for a quick score. While Porterís ability to develop into a strong defender remains a bit up in the air, his scoring ability, size, and athleticism should allow him to excel at the collegiate level.
Porter's BallisLife Mixtape:
McDonaldís All-American Highlights (1:46 for the aforementioned steal):
Mohamed Bamba -- PF/C -- (7-0, 215)
Bamba is an intriguing and explosive prospect out of Harlem, New York. His long-awaited decision finally came to conclusion when he picked Shaka Smartís Texas Longhorns over Duke, Kentucky, and Michigan in mid-May. Physically, Bamba has an elite frame with a 7-foot-9 wingspan and a 9-foot-6 standing reach. Heís able to play above the rim at ease, and has the potential to become a defensive monster at the next level.
From watching his highlight reel, itís easy to see that his size isnít the only thing making him an offensive threat inside. Bamba is a light 216 pounds for a 7-footer; his frame will need to fill out more, but his size also gives him fluidity, agility, and quickness in the post not seen in other prospective big men. Heís expected to be a top-5 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft by most accounts, and quite possibly could be the first forward/center off the board.
At Texas, Bamba will make an immediate impact in the paint, and tremendous fantasy upside in the rebounding and blocking categories. After a tough 2016-17 season in which the Longhorns went 11-22 on the season, they also lost 6-foot-11 freshman center Jarrett Allen to the NBA when he was drafted No. 22 overall by the Nets.
Bamba is joined by four 4-star recruits, including Matt Coleman, Jericho Sims, Royce Hamm, and Jase Febres. While Sims and Hamm are both listed as power forwards, itís unlikely they will make strong competition to start at center, but instead will be treated as complements. Bambaís commitment to Texas gives the Longhorns quick relief in the frontcourt, and could turn around Smartís coaching career at Texas if heís impactful as his scouting report says he has the potential to be.
Bamba's MakePlayz Mixtape:
DeAndre Ayton -- PF/C -- (7-0, 240)
Ayton turned heads last September when he decided to commit to Sean Millerís Arizona Wildcats instead of Kentucky. He was once named by Scout.com ďthe No.1 long-term prospect in high schoolĒ back when he was a sophomore, and already has the eyes of many NBA scouts on him. The big man will make an immediate impact at Arizona, but itís unclear whether he will play power forward or center. With Lauri Markannen leaving for the the NBA, that leaves an immediate opening for Ayton.
The Phoenix native is a 7-footer with a 7-foot-5 wingspan, giving him the prototypical size for a big in todayís NBA. With his size, heís naturally able to work well in the paint, however heís also got a solid stroke and plus midrange jump shot that should serve him well offensively in college. He also shows astounding rebounding ability, averaging 18.5 boards per 40 minutes for Team USA Harden at the 2016 Adidas Nations tournament. This combination of skill and size makes Ayton a good option for fantasy teams needing a freshman, as he could be a legitimate nightly double-double threat if he is used properly by the Wildcats.
One knock on Ayton is that despite his size and fluidity, heís not very explosive as an athlete and seems to get lost on the court at times. This could cause him to be overshadowed by the likes of junior guard and star player Allonzo Trier. His class also boasts another five-star recruit, small forward Emmanuel Akot, who has the potential to overshadow Aytonís impact. Ayton will likely need to develop some more this offseason if heís to have a standout freshman year with Arizona and truly live up to his hype.