The 2017-2018 Hurricanes roster is loaded with former four and five star recruits along with players from overseas that have dreams of making the NBA. The hype surrounding Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker’s draft stock in April is warranted, but besides the two star-studded guards, who else has NBA potential? Keep in mind, the rankings below are on NBA potential, not college production to this date.
Tier One: NBA Locks
1. Bruce Brown: Let’s face it, all basketball fans in Coral Gables are kind of shocked to see Brown back after his phenomenal freshman season. Brown garnered first round buzz in last year’s NBA Draft that saw teammate Davon Reed get selected 32nd overall. The 6’5”, two-way guard now ranks as the top shooting guard in this upcoming draft class among some experts and seems cemented in the lottery. His three-point jump shot improved greatly over his first season, so if that trend continues, don’t be surprised to hear Brown’s name called in the top 10.
2. Lonnie Walker: The five-star freshman from Reading, PA brings unheralded one-and-done expectations for Miami basketball. Walker did suffer a knee injury in the preseason, but has been cleared and since practiced and scrimmaged. His production early on in terms of numbers may not scream NBA Draft, but as the season goes on, expect Walker’s name to by flying up draft boards. A 6’4” shooting guard has more build than Brown and welcomes contact in the lane while hitting perimeter jumpers as well. He is currently ranked the second best shooting guard in the upcoming draft, directly behind Brown by Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress/ESPN.
Tier Two: NBA Potential with Improvement
3. Dewan Huell: The former five-star recruit didn’t live up to the expectations in his freshman year that had some buzz about potentially entering the NBA Draft before the season. Now back for his sophomore season, Huell is expected to break out and be an offensive post threat for an inexperienced front-court. The Miami Norland product has put on some muscle in the offseason, which will be vital at the next level. The production has to increase this year, but based on talent alone, Huell could be linked to the second round. He features athleticism, touch around the rim, and effort on the glass. Opportunities will be plentiful for Huell as defenses will be keying on Miami’s guard play, and with scouts in the stands for Brown and Walker, Huell could surprise some NBA teams. Personally, I think he’s a 2019 draft candidate.
4. Anthony Lawrence: The junior from St. Petersburg, Florida being fourth on the list may surprise some people, but when you watch Lawrence’s game, he’s a Swiss army knife on the court that should appeal to some NBA teams down the line. At 6’7”, Lawrence is a traditional three, but plays the four most of the time and that’s where he’s most valuable. The former four-star rebounds well, pushes the ball off the break, and plays very solid defense, especially in the passing lanes. On offense, he’s shown capabilities of shooting a perimeter shot at 42% his freshman year, and 35% last year, which seems almost automatic in the corners. Lawrence does a lot of things that won’t show up in the box score, but will play well to scouts when looking for a potential development second round pick. I think Lawrence should stay all four years, stabilize his three point shot, and be ready to earn a rotational spot as a 3-and-D guy in the NBA.
5. Ja’Quan Newton: The senior point guard has had an inconsistent career in Coral Gables between off-court suspensions and on-court turnovers. Newton will wow you one play, and make you shake your head the next. As a college point guard, Newton is very solid, but does his style translate to the NBA? The former four-star from Philadelphia turns the ball over way too much for anyone’s liking and doesn’t feature a perimeter shot. Both of those facets are essential in the NBA game. On the positives, Newton can run an offense and finish in traffic, especially with a patented floater that would play in the NBA finishing over seven footers. If Newton shows significant progress in his perimeter shot this season, teams could take a flier on him in the second round.
Tier Three: Too Early to Tell
6. Deng Gak: An incoming four-star recruit from New Jersey, Gak, will redshirt this season to bulk up and get adjusted to the physicality of college basketball and the ACC. Gak is a promising talent at 6’10” who flashed a fluid mid-range jump shot in high school to go along with some powerful dunks. It seems like every year Coach Larranaga’s staff is taking a size/talent big man in hopes of striking gold, but Gak could finally be the one that flashes NBA potential. As a development prospect, it could take Gak two years of playing to flash, but the potential is there.
7. Chris Lykes: Another four-star freshman who will have to take a backseat this year before being handed the keys in the future, Lykes has promise to be a stud for the Canes. Lykes will come off the bench this year and play, but next year will be his time to shine. He will become a fan favorite in Coral Gables, but will his size prevent NBA scouts from taking him seriously? Listed at 5’7”, the point guard from the DMV has an uphill battle, but the talent is undoubted. Nate Robinson and Isaiah Thomas are the blueprints for Lykes to make it.
8. Sam Waardenburg: A 6’9” redshirt freshman from New Zealand is an intriguing prospect. Waardenburg played in FIBA’s U19 tournament this summer and displayed his excellent court vision for his size. This exposure could allow him to be on some draft boards in the future, but will need to carve out a serious role in these next two or three seasons in Coral Gables. The good thing for Waardenburg is that his style fits exactly what today’s NBA wants out of power forwards: an athlete who can shoot from beyond the arc.
9. Dejan Vasiljevic: The Australian sophomore is known for having unlimited range beyond the three point arc. That alone could draw some looks at the next level, but the lack of defense probably dampens Vasiljevic’s chances of ever making it there. His offensive game has layers to it beyond the shooting as he’s very crafty with his dribble getting into the paint and shooting one-legged jumpers. There will be nights where he lights up the box score, but other nights where he disappears. While he has time to work on his defense and consistency as a player, he doesn’t project as an NBA talent despite his sweet shooting stroke.
10. Ebuka Izundu: The 6’10” junior from Charlotte, NC will see a bigger role this season compared to the previous two years. Izundu is an athletic, size/talent combo that reminds me of a less polished Tonye Jeriki. Izundu is still very raw as a player, but has defensive traits that can boost his minutes. The only problem is staying out of foul trouble and his lack of a true post game on offense. Izundu probably won’t have an NBA future, but with valuable minutes this year, and a heavy load next season, he could potentially get some looks overseas somewhere if the progression continues.