The ACC is arguably the top conference in college hoops year in and year out, and much of this can be attributed to its ability to re-tool in the recruiting department each and every season. Due to its size and depth, fantasy leagues are often played with a player pool featuring only this power conference. Those competing in this type of format will want to start their draft prep by taking a closer look at the newcomers, starting with the following three projected impact players.
Trevon Duval -- PG -- (6-3, 195)
Duval dragged out his recruitment for quite a while, but when guard Frank Jackson decided to stay in the NBA Draft this year and sign with an agent, he quickly made a decision to commit to Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils. Duval comes from the highly-regarded IMG Academy, from which several professional athletes and many more collegiate athletes got their start (Dwight Powell, Michael Beasley, Bo Scarborough, Dwayne Bacon, and Jonathan Isaac to name a few).
Duval is the one of two top-recruited guards in the 2017 class, and for good reason. His explosiveness and 6-foot-3 size (with a 6-9 wingspan) give him the tools to develop as a defender and become a steal threat from anywhere on the court. He has the vision in the open court to find open men in transition, while also showing strong defensive potential with his quick reaction times and elite speed and agility. Scouts do show some concerns about his jump shot and decision-making skills, but if there is anyone who can develop that in his players, it’s Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Fantasy-wise, his production levels will be a bit of an unknown starting out, as he’ll be playing alongside senior guard Grayson Allen, as well as two other 5-star commits in Wendell Carter and Gary Trent Jr. Owners will be wise to keep tabs on what Duval’s role in Duke’s rotation is expected to be before drafting him. Duval’s ease in playing above the rim will make him a fantastic player to watch coming into this year, but he may need to prove he’s a more attractive prospect than fellow guard prospect Collin Sexton in order to earn the title of top backcourt newcomer in 2018.
You can view his Home Team Hoops Mixtape here:
Lonnie Walker -- SG -- (6-4, 205)
Note: Walker recently suffered a torn meniscus, and although he's still expected to play this season, it could delay his start time. Keep him on the radar in dynasty formats especially, as reduced minutes this year could prevent him from being a one-and-done in advance of a sophomore season where he could be highly productive, given his health.
Walker is the first five-star recruit Miami has landed since 2009 (Lisandro Ruiz-Moreno and Garrius Adams) and was recently given the honor of being Mr. Pennsylvania for the class of 2017. His 6-4 frame is complemented by a 6-10 wingspan -- superb length for a shooting guard. Walker’s got decent range and shoots well off the dribble. The guard doesn’t play very flashy, but he gets the job done all over the court and is a tough competitor. In college, he’ll need to be coached to put in consistent effort on the defensive end of the floor, but when he shows up, Walker is a tough defender to beat due to his length and athleticism.
Walker is also a winner, an intangible that should serve him well with Miami. He led his high school team in Reading, Pennsylvania to a State Championship in 2017, showing he can excel in a tournament format. Fantasy-wise, his value will be connected to how many minutes he gets. He’ll compete with Bruce Brown and Anthony Lawrence Jr. for the bulk of his minutes, which means getting run at both the two and three spots. Fantasy owners will want to watch Walker closely, but it may be smarter to keep up with news on their depth chart and see how he fits into the Hurricanes’ rotation before adding the freshman to their roster.
Check out Walker’s highlights & athleticism here:
Brian Bowen -- SF -- (6-7, 190)
Bowen surprisingly chose Louisville in early June after backing out of several schools that seemed more likely to gain his commitment, including Creighton, Michigan State, and Oregon. The 5-star prospect is 6-7 with a 6-9 wingspan, fitting the latest Louisville mold of lengthy and athletic players. His size gives him the ability to play both small forward and power forward if needed. Bowen reminds me of a slightly smaller DJ Wilson, as he has a decent shooting skills but has the strength to play inside and above the rim. Bowen is also fairly fluid and shows promise as a facilitator in fast breaks, as well as strong ball-handling skills for his size.
His scoring instincts and range will give Louisville a needed boost, but Bowen will compete with both Deng Adel and Ray Spalding for a starting spot and minutes. Whether he’s starting or the sixth man, he’ll figure to get decent enough minutes to garner fantasy-worthy production on the offensive side of the ball. To put his potential for counting stats in perspective, he was able to score 24.1 points per 40 minutes at the Jordan Brand Classic his senior year against similarly calibered players.
Bowen’s defensive skills however will need to improve, and it’s not likely that he’s a good source of points in defensive categories such as steals or blocks right out of the gates. He’ll need to gain a bit of muscle before the season starts as well, but with a collegiate weightlifting program, this should be no problem. One last knock on Bowen is that sometimes he lacks in decision-making skills, and looks to shoot when he should be passing. Despite these shortcomings, Bowen is a strong freshman prospect to watch for, especially if his game can catch up with the speed of the NCAA.
Check out Bowen’s junior and senior year mixtape here: