The NCAA’s West Region may not have the NBA prospect power of some of the others, but they do have a lot of quality upperclassmen, as well as Duke’s Brandon Ingram, a potential number one pick this year. As a whole, this group will have a lot of second round value, though there will be a few who find themselves in the first round by June, as well as a few players who should be back for another run next season.
Here is a short breakdown of the best NBA prospects in the South region, with the players listed in the order of their team’s seed. Click here for the South Region. Click here for the East Region. Click here for the Midwest Region.
Dillon Brooks, Sophomore, Oregon, G/F – Brooks took a big step forward as a sophomore, helping lead Oregon to a number one seed in the tournament. Brooks, 6’7” and 225 pounds, has good size for the wing, and combined with his versatile offense, he can create some mismatch problems. He uses his size well to try and get to the rim, and while he can get a bit wild, he is a strong finisher around the rim. Brooks also uses his size well to get off mid-range jumpers off the dribble, which he hits efficiently. However, while he shows good range on his long-range jumper, he’s not very consistent, hitting about 33 percent in each of his first two seasons. Brooks has also shown some skill creating for others, using his size well to see cutting teammates over defenders. He runs the floor well in transition, though, again, control can be an issue. With his size, he can also be used to post-up smaller defenders. Defensively, Brooks has improved, but he still doesn’t have the skills to seal off the perimeter, but he does have good instincts off the ball to force some turnovers. I’m not sure coming out this season would be Brooks’ best bet, but if he did, I could see a team taking a shot in the late-first to early-second round.
Chris Boucher, Senior, Oregon, F –Boucher, a junior college transfer, is in his first season at Oregon. Athletic, long, and wiry, the 6’10”, 190 pound Boucher has not been playing basketball very long, and is still a very raw prospect, but he has made some strides this season with the Ducks. There isn’t a lot to his offensive game so far, but he is a strong dunker around the rim, and he has shown that he can knock down the three at a decent clip, but he hasn’t shown much of an ability to create his own offensive chances. Like most of the Ducks, he gets up and down the floor well, and does a great job heading straight to the rim for a lob, when he has space. Boucher’s real value right now comes on the defensive end, where his length can cause problems on the perimeter, and he has already proven to be a quality rim protector. He still lacks a lot of the skill and nuances to be a good defender, but his shot-blocking helps. At just 190 pounds, he will need to work on adding strength before the next level. Oregon has petitioned for an extra season for Boucher, which was just granted today, but if he came out, he could be a good value pick in the last of the first through mid-second round.
Buddy Hield, Senior, Oklahoma, G - Hield, the two-time Big 12 Player of the Year, was also one of the top two players in all college basketball this past season. Last year, when writing about Hield, I noted that he wasn’t a strong perimeter shooter, but he took care of any problems over the summer, emerging as one of the top long-range shooters in the country, hitting 127 threes at a near-47 percent clip. He can hit his jumper in a variety of ways, and it doesn’t matter how closely he is guarded, Hield is confident he will knock it down. While jumpers are much of Hield’s offense, he is also capable taking the ball off the dribble to the basket, showing a quick first step and a nice speed burst, though he can have some troubles finishing. On the defensive end, Hield has the potential to be good, though the focus and effort aren’t always there. When he’s engaged, he moves well, showing active hands and feet, but he always seems more focused on his next scoring opportunity. Hield could go as high as the mid-to-late lottery this year, though he is a bit undersized, 6’4”, for the NBA shooting guard spot, but he’ll bring some scoring pop.
Danuel House, Senior, Texas A&M, G – House has made an impact for the Aggies since transferring from Houston a couple of years ago. A big 6’7” shooting guard, House is a versatile scorer, with the ability to knock down shots at all levels. Shot selection can be an issue, especially from long-range, but the skills will translate. House also uses his big body well to attack the basket, showing above-average ballhandling skills, and some nice bounce on his way to the rim. His skill-set should translate better to the pro level, where the open floor will provide more opportunities. Defensively, House has really improved since coming to Texas A&M. He’s shown the ability to defend multiple positions, and his ability to move his feet on the perimeter allows him to prevent wings from getting to the rim. House has NBA size for the two spot, but he will need to show more consistent shooting during the pre-draft process to secure his spot in the draft, probably in the mid-second round.
Brandon Ingram, Freshman, Duke, F – Ingram’s name is the one most mentioned along with Ben Simmons for the number one spot in this year’s draft. A long, thin forward, Ingram has the skill to attack off the dribble or knock down long-range jumpers. Ingram shows very good form on his jumper, and at almost 6’10”, he gets a good look most of the time. While not a great ballhandler, Ingram is above-average, and his long strides into the lane make it tough for many defenders to stay with him. He can have some trouble finishing at the rim when the help rotates over, but if he gets just a little space, he can take off quickly and finish with a big dunk. Ingram still needs to work on creating more space for his jumper, but his talent is evident, especially in the open floor. Defensively, his long wingspan can make him disruptive, but in terms of actually defending his man, he still needs a lot of work on the basics. His long arms also help him hit the boards on both ends of the floor. The battle for the top spot in the draft between Ingram and Simmons should go back and forth until June, but, at worst, it’s hard to see Ingram falling out of the top three, barring something unforeseen.
Grayson Allen, Sophomore, Duke, G – After emerging in the NCAA Tournament last season, Allen took over the Blue Devils from day one of this season, on his way to becoming one of the top scorers in the country. Allen has the ability to score from anywhere on the floor, and his quick first step to the rim is tough to stop. He is an efficient finisher around the basket, with the need to be creative when the situation warrants it. Allen is also a good long-range shooter, almost 42 percent, but doesn’t take many mid-range jumpers, preferring to take it all the way to the basket or look to draw contact, which he is very skilled at doing. He has shown skill as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, and while his control can use some work, his ability to force help to rotate opens up teammates. On defense, Allen can be a nuisance at times, but he also can be sloppy and doesn’t show the same quickness he does on offense. There’s no doubt he can score though, and that will carry him to the NBA, where he could go in the late first round, if he declares this season.
Taurean Prince, Senior, Baylor, F – Coming off a strong junior season, Prince was expected to have a big year, though he was a bit too inconsistent to really take the next step. 6’8” and solidly built, Prince is a capable scorer in a couple of different fashions. His long-range jumper had improved significantly as a junior, but he didn’t seem to be getting as many good looks this year, and his numbers suffered. When he puts the ball on the floor, he can be elusive trying to get to the rim, and though not always a great finisher, he is efficient. Prince is also a decent mid-range shooter, both off the catch or the dribble, but he still needs to work on creating his own looks. On defense, Prince is a versatile defender who has the ability to guard multiple positions, and his length allows him to play passing lanes well. While his senior year wasn’t as great as predicted, he still is a quality player, and I expect him to be in the mid-second round mix in June.
Prince Ibeh, Senior, Texas, C – Used sparingly in his first three seasons, Ibeh stepped up as a senior to become a defensive force for the Longhorns. 6’11” and 265 pounds, Ibeh showed the ability to defend the low post well, while also being able to protect the rim as well as anyone in the country, averaging two blocks per game in just 18 minutes per. Ibeh moves well for his size, evident in his improvement defending the pick-and-roll, and he is a quality rebounder on both ends of the floor. There isn’t much to say about him on the offensive end other than he still needs work. Ibeh attempted just 89 field goals this season, and just 280 in four seasons. He doesn’t show many moves in the low post, and his touch isn’t very good, but he does a good job scoring when a couple of feet from the rim. Ibeh is still a raw prospect, even as a senior, but he could be a great second round value for a team with a history of developing young big men.
Gary Payton II, Senior, Oregon State, G – Payton, the son of the NBA Hall of Famer, made an immediate impact last year after moving to Oregon State from junior college, and he followed it up by leading the Beavers to the tournament this season. At 6’3”, Payton has decent size, but he has good speed and control, which allows him to knife through the defense almost at will. He is at his best as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, using great pace to beat primary and help defenders, and either getting to the basket or finding an open teammate. Payton can have some problems finishing around the basket, so he relies on angles to try and find his shots. His jumper is a problem for him, even though he does a great job clearing space for good looks, and he’ll often hesitate on open looks because he’s not confident in the shot. Payton is a beast on the offensive boards for his size, averaging well over two per game, and his rebounding ability does carry over to the defensive end. Payton can be a very good defender, though he is better off the ball than on. He has a sneaky way about him, drawing opponents into making bad passes which he can pick off for an easy basket on the other end. Payton should hear his name called by the middle of the second round this year, though his shooting ability may cause some teams to shy away.
DeAndre Bembry, Junior, St. Joseph’s, F – Bembry may not be known to many across the country, but he is a name worth knowing by the time the NBA Draft comes around. The Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, Bembry is a 6’6” wing with a strong body, which he uses well to dominate around the basket. He is also effective in the mid-range area, using a well-controlled dribble and his body to clear space, though he has yet to find any consistency from long-range. Bembry is also very good at seeing the floor and finding open teammates, using his ability to draw defenders to open up the floor for his teammates. Defensively, Bembry does a very good job guarding multiple positions, often covering players much bigger than he is. He can also get out and pressure on the perimeter, using his length to disrupt shot attempts and passes. Bembry is an excellent defensive rebounder, with a very good sense of positioning and always going strong for the ball. Bembry is another player whose shooting may affect how teams view him, and he may elect to come back to school for one more year, but if he leaves, he could go anywhere in the second round.
Others to Watch – Jordan Bell, Oregon; Tyler Dorsey, Oregon; Isaiah Cousins, Oklahoma; Alex Caruso, Texas A&M; Tyler Davis, Texas A&M; Jalen Jones, Texas A&M; Luke Kennard, Duke; Jonathan Motley, Baylor; Isaiah Taylor, Texas; Isaiah Miles, St. Joseph’s; Octavius Ellis, Cincinnati; Melvin Johnson, VCU; Justin Sears, Yale