There has been a lack of star power this college basketball season and the future top draft picks won’t even be playing in the NCAA tournament. Imagine if Zion Williamson, the No. 1 pick from last year’s NBA draft, didn’t make the NCAA tournament. We all would have missed out on the memorable matchup with 7-foot-5 Tacko Fall and Duke’s run to the Elite Eight. Fast forward one year and not only will the No. 1 pick in the draft not be playing in the tournament, but the first five picks won’t be dancing (barring surprise conference tournament runs).
James Wiseman left Memphis early after the NCAA ruled him ineligible due to a recruiting violation. Wiseman hired an agent a month later and has been preparing for the draft. There are also a few international players who are trending toward the top like Deni Avdija from Tel Aviv, and LaMelo Ball, who played over in Australia.
Setting those players aside, we take a look at the 10 best collegiate NBA draft prospects you won’t be watching in the NCAA tournament.
Anthony Edwards - Georgia
Edwards is third in scoring in the SEC with 19.5 points per game. He led the Bulldogs to a couple big wins in beating No. 9 Memphis on the road and No. 13 Auburn at home, but it’s not enough for Tom Crean’s young team to punch a ticket to the NCAA tournament. Edwards is everything teams are looking for in terms of a modern-day NBA guard. He has great size for his position and is quick off the dribble. His release on his jump shot is very high and even though he needs to work on his shot selection, all the mechanics are there. Edwards has drawn early comparisons to Donovan Mitchell and Victor Oladipo and is a projected top-three pick in this year’s NBA draft.
Cole Anthony - North Carolina
Anthony is the son of former NBA player Greg Anthony and didn’t exactly have the year he was hoping for at North Carolina. This was the worst season for Roy Williams in his 17 years at North Carolina. To his credit, Anthony could have sat out the year when he suffered a knee injury and was out for six weeks, but he elected to come back and play. Through 20 games, he averaged 19.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. Anthony is a bully guard who likes to get to the rim. His outside shot has improved and so has his passing off the pick-and-roll. Anthony is a projected top-10 draft pick in this year’s draft.
Tyrese Haliburton - Iowa State
Haliburton was sidelined for the season after suffering a broken wrist early in February. The 6-foot-5 sophomore was averaging 15.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.5 steals. The long guard is a great shooter, making 50 percent from the field and 42 percent from 3-point range. He was one of the breakout stars of the college basketball season and fans should expect Adam Silver to call Haliburton’s name early in the draft.
Jaden McDaniels - Washington
What a disappointing season for the Huskies. They finished last in the Pac-12 and only won five conference games this year. Head coach Mike Hopkins put together one of the best recruiting classes and they couldn’t make it work on the court. McDaniels chose Washington over Kentucky and elected to stay close to home for his one year of college ball. Standing at 6-foot-9, he has a Kevin Durant-like frame and a killer jump shot for his size. He has one of the highest ceilings out of any prospect in this draft but NBA teams worry about how long it will take for him to reach his potential or if he ever will. McDaniels averaged 13.1 points per game and shot 40.7 percent from the field.
Precious Achiuwa - Memphis
Achiuwa stepped up in a huge way after teammate James Wiseman announced he wasn’t returning to the team. After struggling with shot selection in high school, he worked closely with assistant coach Mike Miller this year to improve that area in his game. Achiuwa is a projected lottery pick averaging a double-double this season with 15.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. NBA teams love his size and how aggressive he is in the post.
Aaron Nesmith - Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt was one of the worst teams in the country this season but scouts from all 30 NBA teams went to see sophomore wing Nesmith play early in the season. He is one of the best shooters in college basketball, making seven or more threes in four games this season. Nesmith suffered a season-ending injury in January when it was revealed he had a stress fracture in his foot. In only 14 games, Nesmith averaged 23 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
Isaiah Stewart - Washington
Stewart dominated in high school and was a top-three recruit in the country. The 6-foot-9 center chose Washington over Michigan State and Duke. The season hasn’t gone as expected but Stewart is still averaging 16.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Stewart is strong in the lane and has a solid pick-and-roll game for a player his size. NBA teams like his upside as a big and how well he does with spacing on the floor.
Paul Reed - DePaul
DePaul won nine in a row to start the season and things went downhill pretty quickly after that. The Blue Demons are now sitting in last place in the Big East with only three conference wins and a 15-16 overall record. The junior forward has shown glimpses of greatness this season, averaging a double-double with 14.9 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Reed is a little older than other power forwards in this weak draft class and he could hear his name called in the first round.
Isaiah Joe - Arkansas
It’s a shooter’s game in the NBA and Joe is a pure shooter. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard will let it fly from all over the court and he shoots an average of 10 threes each game. He won’t have the freedom to shoot at the NBA level the way he has, but teams will take a chance on Joe in the first round because of his scoring ability. He is averaging 16.8 points per game this season.
Daniel Oturu - Minnesota
The 6-foot-10 sophomore is a force in a lane and a player that many NBA teams put on their draft boards early in the season. Oturu is a physical big who also runs the floor well for a player his size. He's averaging a double-double in a tough Big Ten conference with 20.3 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. Look for Oturu to go late in the first round or early in the second round of this year's draft.
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