Utterly Premature Opinions About The 2025 NBA Draft

The very high level, albeit premature, overview of the 2025 draft class is that there is a very strong group of college freshmen, a super talented international group and a ton of experienced NCAA prospects who chose to return to school, and now provide awesome depth to the 2025 class.

Anyway you look at it, this is going to be a great draft class. At this point, with just over a year to go, it’s still not clear if there’s a superstar talent in the class but there are clearly many potential NBA stars in the class, plus a metric s$*t ton of depth.

Star Power At The Top

As I said, there’s not a clear superstar (Wemby/Lebron/Shaq) level player in this class but there are a number of big time prospects. The headliner for the past year or so has been Duke forward Cooper Flagg. He’s been listed at no.1 in most early mocks, thanks to his unique all around talent, including uncanny defensive instincts.

But Flagg has major competition for the top spot, namely from two Rutgers University freshmen (you read that correctly) Dylan Harper and Ace Bailey and star French point guard Nolan Traore. It’s possible another player will emerge and go no.1 next year but the four listed above are the most likely bets.

Another Very Strong International Class

I recently took a look at the strong 2024 international class. Now looking farther ahead it looks like the group of 2025 international prospects is extremely strong as well. My early prediction is that at least three or four international players will be drafted in the lottery next year (Traore, Gonzalez, Essengue, Demin and Zikarsky are the likely candidates) and that does not include Khaman Maluach who is now at Duke or VJ Edgecombe, who is at Baylor and who has lived and played ball in the U.S for the past 4+ years.

Dame Sarr could crash the lottery party…or at least be a first rounder. And there are plenty more talented guys as well.

Including the U.S.-based international players, I’d rank the top 20 International players as follows:

  1. Nolan Traore – PG – France
  2. VJ Edgecombe – SG – Baylor (Bahamas)
  3. Egor Demin – PG – BYU (Russia)
  4. Hugo Gonzalez – SG – Real Madrid (Spain)
  5. Khaman Maluach – C – Duke (South Sudan)
  6. Rocco Zikarsky – C – Australia
  7. Noa Essengue – PF – France
  8. Dame Sarr – SG – Barcelona (Italy)
  9. Zvonimir Ivisic – C- Arkansas (Croatia)
  10. Hamad Mousa – SF – Dayton (Qatar)
  11. Kasparas Jakucionis – PG – Illinois (Lithuania)
  12. Flory Bidunga – C – Kansas (Congo)
  13. Michael Ruzic – SF/PF – Croatia
  14. Adama Bal – SG – Santa Clara (France)
  15. Hanson Yang – C – China
  16. Somto Cyril – C – Georgia (Nigeria)
  17. Tomislav Ivisic – C – Illinois (Croatia)
  18. Ugonna Onyenso – C – NA (Nigeria)
  19. Mitar Bonsjakovic – SG – Real Madrid (Serbia)
  20. Ismaila Diagne – C – Gonzaga (Senegal)

Plus there are plenty more international players already on the draft radar and surely a few more names will emerge and rise up the rankings over the course of the next year.

France

Over the past few months Nolan Traore has emerged as a bona fide star. He’s been impressive playing at a high level in Europe and absolutely dominate playing against his own age group in international play. He does it all, from scoring in the lane, draining deep 3’s, dishing the rock and bringing great energy on defense. He’s not a physically dominating player but has elite quickness, skill level and feel for the game, putting him right there in the running for the top pick.

While you don’t often see him mocked in the top 5 or 10, Noa Essengue of France is easily one of the most exciting and intriguing prospects in the class. He’s an agile and explosive forward who was already an intriguing prospect at 6-7 but now he’s pushing 6-9 and could still be growing. At the recent Basketball Without Borders event Essengue measured with a 6-11 wingspan and an impressive 9-3 1/4 standing reach. He’s raw but full of upside.

Adama Bal (Santa Clara) is another French prospect to watch for.

France has been on a heater producing elite talent in recent years; a trend that is set to continue, not only next year but into the future.

Star Freshmen

As mentioned above Flagg, Harper, Bailey and Edgecombe headline the freshmen class and all could be top 5 picks. Then there are about half a dozen other freshmen that I see as having lottery potential including Maluach, Tre Johnson (Texas), Liam McNeeley (Indiana) Boogie Fland (Arkansas), Karter Knox (Arkansas) and Donnie Freeman (Syracuse). Fland and Knox will have to fight for playing time on a talented Arkansas team, so could end up being two-year players, or later first or second round picks but they are both high level prospects. Isaiah Evans (Duke) and Carter Bryant (Arizona) are in the mix as well.

It’s a really strong group with some special talents – that all still have a lot to prove as well.

Superb Depth – College Basketball Is Loaded

One of the many affects of the new Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) rules is that there are many more players deciding to return to school for a second, third, fourth…or even fifth year of school. This has made college basketball as loaded as it’s been since the good ol’ days when most of star players stayed in school for 3 or 4 years.

One of the hotter names in draft circles is South Carolina forward Collin Murray-Boyles, who could have been a first round pick this year but has a chance to move into the lottery with another strong season. If his 3pt shot comes around the sky is the limit.

I’m excited to see the progress that Mackenzie Mgbako makes in year two. I’ve been a big fan of his since his high school days and think he’ll make a big jump next season for Indiana.

A few other college players I’m excited to see progress next year include Adama Bal, Saint Thomas, Adou Theiro, Kwame Evans Jr., Garway Dual, Brandon Garrison, Aaron Bradshaw and DJ Wagner.

Last Minute Returners

With the NCAA deadline to withdraw from the 2024 draft in the rear-view mirror we saw a few last minute decisions from draft-able players returning to school, giving the 2025 draft even more depth. A’top the list sits Alex Karaban, Jamir Watkins,, Hunter Sallis, Ugonna Onyenso, Mark Sears, Xaivian Lee, Trevon Brazile, Nique Clifford, Caleb Love, Garway, Dual and Arthur Kaluma.

All of these make a lot of sense, although I was a bit surprised at the Karaban and Watkins decisions. 7 or 8 of the these late returners could be drafted next year, just adding to the depth of talent available.

A Few Underrated Freshmen

These aren’t necessarily the top incoming freshmen but here are a few that I think are underrated. Purdue got a good one in lanky wing Kanon Catchings who is a pogo stick athlete who excels at attacking the rim. Purdue doesn’t often produce one and done’s but I think he has a chance.

Georgia forward Asa Newell is one to watch as well. He’s a fast and fluid 4-man who does all the little things well and is becoming more of a complete offensive player. He’s got the athleticism and all the tools and should be in for a big season next year.

Bryson Tucker (Indiana), Drake Powell (UNC), Ian Jackson (UNC) and Derrion Reid (Alabama) all could be one and done’s as well.

No G League Ignite

With the Ignite program dissolved into thin air there will be one less league to scout for next year’s draft. Dink Pate, who played sparingly last year for the Ignite team, will be moving on, perhaps to the NBL or some other pro league. He’s a big time talent who still has some things to prove but definitely has lottery potential.

Strong Guards And Wings/Forwards, Upside Centers

The 2025 draft looks to be very strong at the guard and forward positions with a few very intriguing but imperfect center prospects.

Centers
Khaman Maluach, Rocco Zikarsky and Zvonimir Ivisic lead this group of centers. Maluach has huge potential but is very unproven at this time. He’s got elite size at 7-1, 250lbs with a 7-6 wingspan but I worry a bit about his ability to hold his own in the lane. He needs to improve his lower body strength and play with toughness and intensity to warrant a top 10 pick. He’ll be one of the more interesting scouts next season, especially watching how he progresses throughout the season.

Rocco Zikarsky doesn’t have the problem of being pushed around. He’s a strong 7-3 and can handle physicality in the paint. He’s a solid post scorer and has good touch from mid range. He protects the paint and rebounds the ball well but with all players of this archetype there are questions about his defending in space. He’s not as flashy with upside traits like Maluach but I could see him being the first center off the board next draft.

Last year we saw glimpses of greatness from Zvonimir Ivisic but overall he had limited opportunities and impact. I’m glad he’s back for another year and he could be a breakout star this year in college. If he has a big year he could rise into the lottery.

Wings/Forwards

This group is stacked. Lottery teams looking for help on the wing next year are in luck. Cooper Flagg is a combo forward with elite, truly elite defensive instincts, and a well rounded offensive game. His one major area of improvement is working on the consistency and accuracy of his outside shot. He’s a capable 3pt shooter but it’s not yet a strength. He’s the type of offensive player that fits into an offensive, working within the flow of the game, not a ball dominant type. He’s a very aware cutter, excels in transition and is a great finisher at the rim.

Ace Bailey is an impressive athlete on the wing. He’s got great size and athleticism and has emerged as a big time shot maker over the past two seasons. He tends to settle too often for tough jumpers rather than use his elite tools to get into the lane but he’s also very capable of hitting tough shots. He looks like a legit top 5 talent and a very high level starting wing, with star potential. It will be fascinating to watch how he and Dylan Harper share the ball at Rutgers next season, and to see if it’ll lead to winning basketball.

Collin Murray-Boyles is a powerful forward who is an outside shot away from being a lottery talent. It’ll be interesting to see if he expands his game this coming season. He’s got the strength and length to guard in the post and the quick feet to switch onto guards. He’s also a good passer who plays with his head up, although can be a careless with the ball sometimes. I’m not all the way in on Murray-Boyles yet but am excited to see how he progresses next season.

Donnie Freeman is a fast-rising prospect with one and done, first round potential. The 6-8 Syracuse signee plays a fundamentally sound game, can shoot it from mid range and beyond and is just a solid overall player. He’s not the flashiest guy but impacts both ends and has NBA level tools.

Guards
I see three big time prospects in this guard class with a fourth and a fifth in the mix as well.

Dylan Harper looks as NBA-ready as any incoming freshman guard you’ll ever see. He’s already got the frame of a NBA vet and is a fearless shot taker and alpha dog on the court. He’s not an elite run/jump athlete but his skill level is special and he looks like a clear one and done top 5 pick.

As mentioned above Nolan Traore has been dominant in overseas and international play and projects as a very high level starting point guard.

VJ Edgecombe is a special athlete with all of the upside in the world. He’s not a sure bet to be a top 5 pick like a few of the other guys ranked above him but he’s got special tools and just keeps getting better and better.

Hugo Gonzalez is a highly skilled shot maker and play maker who projects as a potential top 10 pick. He plays a mature and heady game, has good size and plays with competitive fire.

Recent BYU commit Egor Demin is a big time talent as well. The 6-9 point guard from Russia should have the ball in his hands a lot next season for the Cougars and is a likely one and done. He’s not an elite athlete but is very quick, plays above the rim, has great passing vision and unique size for position. I’m becoming a huge Demin fan.

A Year Is A Long Time

Over the course of the next 12 months we will see some of these prospects fall off, some new names rise to prominence and some of the younger players develop faster or slower than expected. The 2025 NBA Draft is a long ways off and a lot will change between now and then but this much is clear: there won’t be any talk of this being a weak draft class, like we’ve heard all year about the 2024 draft class

It’s been exciting to see how many international stars have come over to play in college basketball. These players, along with the great freshmen class and the huge number of returning stars, will make next year’s college basketball season one for the ages. The 2024 draft is just around the corner but man, I can’t wait until November!

2025 NBA Mock Draft