2018 Rivals150 Roundtable: Analysts break down big decisions
NEW RELEASE: Updated class of 2018 Rivals150
Canadian import R.J. Barrett remains the top-ranked prospect in the 2018 Rivals150 but the Duke-bound wing is facing heavy competition from future teammate Cameron Reddish, who has risen to No. 2 and is making a serious run at the top spot.
Unsigned big man E.J. Montgomery has made a big move as well going from outside of the top 25 all the way to No. 11 nationally. He’s pushing for another move in the final rankings in late April.
North Carolina-bound guard Coby White has made the move to five-star status and Michigan-bound forward Ignas Brazdeikis - who is not ranked in the Rivals150 because he attends school outside of the United States - has been upgraded to five-star status as well. The biggest mover in the rankings is Vanderbilt-bound wing Aaron Nesmith, who has risen all the way from No. 120 overall to No. 69, while West Virginia-bound Trey Doomes leads a group of seven newcomers to the rankings.
The Rivals.com team of Eric Bossi, Corey Evans and Dan McDonald discussed the latest update to the 2018 Rivals150.
THE TOUGHEST DECISION IN THIS RANKING FOR ME WAS ....
Eric Bossi: I feel like as much, maybe more than, any other year there are several players in the rankings who have injury issues to take into consideration. For a long time I’ve been of the opinion that an injury shouldn’t hurt your ranking. While I still mostly feel that way, I’ve learned that especially when talking seniors, you have to factor it in to some extent. From Zion Williamson at the top through Immanuel Bates and Jordan Lathon later in the rankings, the trick is trying to compare where they were the last time I saw them healthy in comparison to where players that are currently healthy and playing are now. That’s not always an easy thing to do. But, I’ve learned from leaving Harry Giles No. 2 overall in the class of 2016 that we need to consider injuries and how they impact rankings more seriously, especially if there’s a guy who we didn’t get to see in the summer or as a senior due to injury.
Corey Evans: Where to rank Zion Williamson. The five-star forward has long been one of the most productive players in the class, but over the past eight months or so, questions regarding his next-level potential and if he can stay healthy and in shape have continued to appear over and over. Williamson has been shelved all winter due to injury and whether he belongs at third overall, higher or lower, remains up for debate. He is just so talented and gifted with the physical tangibles that others can only dream of that it would not be a surprise to see him hop back onto the playing floor and be as dominant as ever. However, when it comes to others who have continued to improve and shown just that during their senior seasons, how much do we weigh what Williamson had done prior compared to others who have proven their tremendous value all winter?
Dan McDonald: I've always thought this year's point guard class after Tre Jones gets really tough. We have Immanuel Quickley, Andrew Nembhard, Devon Dotson and Darius Garland all ranked in order from Nos. 15 to 18 and not too far behind them we have Ayo Dosumnu and Jahvon Quinerly. They all have a unique trait that makes them different than the others, so it's hard to figure out how to rank them in order. If Quinerly, for example, turns out to be the best of the bunch after being ranked the lowest, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised.
THE REASON I BELIEVE IN THIS PLAYER'S RANKING ....
Bossi: Five-star Jordan Brown should be ranked higher than No. 12 overall. However, this is a team endeavor in putting together the rankings, so we’ve had to come to a compromise. And, we do still have him higher than the rest of the industry. Every year there seems to be an elite prospect whose recruitment is quiet and game seems to be underappreciated and Brown is that guy. He’s got great size at 6-foot-10, has skill, is a high volume rebounder and is a good athlete with a body to build on in a college weight room. He’s been slowed by, but played through, some injury issues the last year or so but he could be an impact player.
Evans: Florida-bound Andrew Nembhard made a quick leap over some of the other more notable point guards during the latest update and now sits at No. 16 overall as the third-best lead guard prospect in the 2018 class. The reason? Nembhard is easily the best passer in his class and one of the very best playmakers that I have ever covered. This past week at the Cancer Research Classic, the Canadian also shot the ball the best that I had seen from him, the primary deficiency with him in the past, and also showed greater athleticism at the basket on the dunk attempt. He should immediately step in and earn minutes in Gainesville. Nembhard might not be done making his move up the rankings thanks to his steady production, progressions and already elite playmaking skills. Add in the fit at Florida where he should have shot-makers around him and things are looking up for Nembard.
McDonald: If you have been tracking the progression of his ranking over the past year, there has been a trend with Will Richardson, who has earned his place at No. 36. Every time a new ranking comes out, he moves up just a little bit more. My guess is that trend will continue as he transitions into being a point guard full time. He has a great natural feel for the game, great size for a lead guard and he's always been a talented scorer.
THE PLAYER I FEAR WE MAY HAVE TOO LOW IS:
Bossi: Point guard Brandon Williams, who actually moved up to No. 37. Headed to Arizona, Williams was formerly a top 25 prospect but missed his junior year and all of last summer due to knee injury. He’s just finally getting back to full speed and has been putting up some impressive performances so far. Williams is one that I really want to look into much closer before we do the final rankings in late April.
Evans: He is the definition of a prospect, but Bryan Penn-Johnson who ranks No. 111 has all of the tangibles that could eventually make NBA personnel salivate over what he can become. Mo Bamba created a major stir this past fall by perplexing scouts and media alike with his pterodactyl-like wingspan and standing reach; Penn-Johnson, though not the mobile athlete like the Texas star, boasts similar measurements with a 7-foot-7 wingspan and a 9-foot-6 standing reach. That would put him among the 99th percentile at the NBA level. His senior season has not gone great as he has lacked for a ton of offensive production, but defensively, the Wasatch product has the tools to be a total game-changer. He does need to find the right fit but at a program like DePaul and Washington, two schools that are most heavily involved, Penn-Johnson could become the rock of each unit’s defense all while being surrounded by shot-makers that would allow for more room to operate within the interior on the offensive end.
McDonald: Landers Nolley scores it at a high enough level to where it wouldn't be a surprise if he ends up leading the ACC in scoring someday while at Virginia Tech. Nolley has the size and athleticism to be a wing in the NBA that is only on a roster to get buckets. If we end up hearing his name called in the lottery of the NBA Draft someday, I won't be surprised. He's the guy who could outplay his ranking of No. 51 overall by the time he finishes up at the next level.
THE PLAYER I HOPE PROVES US RIGHT AND HE'S NOT TOO HIGH IS:
Bossi: I’m going to go with E.J. Montgomery here. We moved him up to No. 11 and though I’ve not seen him play in person yet this winter, both Corey and Dan have and I trust them that he needs to be moved up. Montgomery has always been one of those guys that I’ve felt is a bit of a tease in that he’ll show you high level of skill and athleticism for a 6-foot-10 player, yet his production often left much to be desired. I hope he’s turned the corner the way that he appears to because if that’s the case he could still have some room to move up even more.
Evans: Mike Devoe may be having one of the best senior seasons this winter for those not ranked as five-star prospects. Sure, he is playing alongside five-stars RJ Barrett and Andrew Nembhard, which allows for him to operate without a ton of defensive pressure, but it would be difficult to not appreciate all that he has done and how he has incrementally improved throughout the years. I am hoping that the top-50 ranking that we have given to him is not too high but really, he could reach even greater heights. I would not be surprised to see Devoe finish as a top-three scorer for Georgia Tech next season thanks to his well-rounded offensive abilities as he can run an offense but also create his own shot.
McDonald: Now ranked No. 31 overall, Talen Horton-Tucker is a prospect who has continued to move up with every rankings update. A strong 6-foot-5 wing, he has such a unique game that it's sometimes hard to project player like him. The key word with him is productivity, and I've always believed productive players usually translate well to the next level, so I feel pretty good about moving him up into the top tier of four-star prospects.