The start of the college basketball season is still a few days away, but we essentially already know who are going to be the hot names come next spring when the first NBA draft boards begin to take shape. Here are five hottest prospects entering the season:
Kris Dunn, Providence
What he does well: Sees openings that don’t exist
The junior guard is the nation’s best point guard, and the gap between Dunn and other points isn’t really that close. He is so skilled coming off a pick and finding his Friar teammates at the perfect moment for an easy conversion. Whether throwing passes from his hip, underhanded or the Naismith-approved chest variety, Dunn sees the opportunities even before they arise.
Brandon Ingram, Duke
What he does well: Scores in a variety of ways
A majority of the wing’s attempts will come at the rim during his freshman season. While Ingram lives above the rim, he isn’t the type to drive the lane and put an opponent on a poster (though he can do that too). His superb body control allows him to manipulate his shot, after he elevates, with a contortionist’s mastery. His athleticism is his greatest strength, but don’t call the 6-foot-9 Ingram “just a leaper.” He has spent hours upon hours in the gym refining his jump shot, which he’ll get off and convert simply because no one can stay in front of him.
Ben Simmons, LSU
What he does well: Everything
The 6-foot-10 forward is just the fourth freshmen to be named to the AP’s preseason All-America list, and there isn’t just one skill that helped bump him into that select group. He sees the court with a Dunn-like clarity, his handle is tight enough that even smaller defenders struggle to agitate and potentially turn him over, and his footwork enables Simmons to score from essentially anywhere on the court. Simmons is the amalgamation of many of the NBA’s franchise-revitalizing bigs — there is no aspect of the game he seems to struggle with.
Jamal Murray, Kentucky
What he does well: Attack
Kentucky coach John Calipari has stressed players need to go north and south to succeed in his system. There isn’t any room for wasted dribbles or sideline-to-sideline plays. You have to attack, and Murray is tailor-made for this offensive structure. Calipari will likely heavily depend on a three-guard lineup this season (with Murray, Isaiah Briscoe and Tyler Ulis), and Murray will be the Wildcat with the ball in his hands as the shot clock winds down. He has the innate ability to get his shot off in a myriad of situations, and he thrives once the offense clears, seeing various lanes he can exploit to beat his man to the rim.
Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State
What he does well: Heat up
When we talk about the 6-4 Rathan-Mayes come draft day, one of the first anecdotes will be of his 30-point outburst in a little over four minutes against Miami last February. The guard can seem complacent, maybe even stymied by opposing defenses, but once he finds a rhythm, there is little a defender can do to cool XRM off. His usage rate should skyrocket this season — coach Leonard Hamilton intends to shift him between point guard and off the ball — and while the sophomore wasn’t the most efficient player of 2015 (it’ll be interesting to see how much his perimeter game progressed this offseason), Rathan-Mayes is one of the most electric scorers in the college game.
More from the 2015-16 NCAA basketball preview