Welcome to Part 2 of our look at the top eight NBA prospects in the ACC; if you missed Part 1, make sure to check it out. Now, here’s 5-8 on our list — starting with Donovan Mitchell.
5. Donovan Mitchell, Louisville
Justin Jackson isn’t the only player that returned to school and drastically improved his draft stock; Louisville’s Mitchell played his way into first round status, thanks to a dynamic and efficient sophomore season.
Mitchell has put his fair share of opponents on posters while at Louisville, but more importantly, he’s found a way to become a more efficient shooter and distributor…Ah, just kidding, who cares about all of that stuff? Let’s just watch this dude dunk all over people.
GODDAMN DUDE. But for real, Mitchell has really evolved as a shot-maker and creator. Mitchell’s three-point accuracy jumped 12 percent, and 54.5 percent of his “unguarded” catch-and-shoot opportunities this season, according to Synergy. Mitchell could slice up a defense with his passes as well; when the sophomore was a passer in pick-and-rolls, his teammates shot an impressive 54.5 percent.
Mitchell’s in-between game could use some work, however; he’s shot just 27.6 percent on runners, according to Synergy, and 32 percent on jumpers inside 17 feet. Mitchell is 60 percent jet fuel, so he will always be able to get to the rim, but in the NBA that becomes much more challenging and painful. If he’s running pick-and-rolls on the next level, this midrange attack game will need some work.
His defense will always be a boon for him, too. Mitchell ranks 34th nationally in steal rate, per KenPom; roughly four percent of opponents’ possessions end with a steal when Mitchell is on the floor. Additionally, opponents have shot just 27.9 percent on spot-ups and 21.1 percent on pick-and-rolls defended by Mitchell, per Synergy.
6. John Collins, Wake Forest
I normally prefer small-ball and three-point chucking, but Collins was my favorite player in the ACC this season, and would’ve been my player of the year for the league. In the span of two years, Collins has played his way from a prep prospect outside the top 100 in his class to a borderline lottery pick. And he did so by becoming an absolute monster from the post on offense.
Collins scored in double figures in all but two games this season, and that included a stretch where Collins poured in at least 20 points in 12 straight contests. His averages over this stretch of games is ridiculous:
24.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 66.5 FG%, 7.7 FTA
Wake Forest loves running side pick-and-rolls, and this is where Collins can really excel. Collins shot 90.3 percent as a roll man this season, scoring better than 1.7 points per possession; this ranks No. 1 in the nation, per Synergy.
When Collins doesn’t receive the ball on a roll, he still knows how to weaponize the action. He will use the shifted defense to establish post position, which can be exploited with offensive put backs and post-ups. Collins, according to KenPom, ranks No. 3 in the nation in offensive rebounding rate: 17 percent, which is also tops in the ACC. Collins has made 62.1 percent of his put backs following offensive boards, and has scored an impressive 1.04 points per possession out of post-ups.
Collins doesn’t have much in the way of a jumper; that hasn’t mattered yet, but in the NBA this is something he should look to add. I certainly wouldn’t bet against him developing it, either.
Even if Collins fails to translate his back-to-the-basket game, the big fella still has a lot of utility as a rim-running juggernaut. You can just imagine him working magic with someone like James Harden in Houston.
And they said the big man was dead. Shaking my head.
7. Luke Kennard, Duke
Who knows if Kennard will depart for the NBA or return for his junior season; however, whenever Kennard does decide to take his talent to the next level, he will be a coveted prospect. The power of three-point shooting and off-the-ball gravity has never been more pertinent in the NBA.
Kennard, the ACC’s best shooter, is a whirlwind moving without the ball; he is feverous in his constant motion. The results are far from mixed; he has dominated and shifted the balance of the best basketball league in America with his patterns and cuts.
NBA teams love running dribble handoffs, and Kennard is the ACC’s best at this action. Per Synergy, the southpaw scores 1.31 points per possession on DHOs — 52.1 percent shooting. Kennard has also connected on 52.1 percent of his attempts after coming off of a screen. It’s easy to imagine him fitting right in with an offense, like Utah or Golden State, that prioritizes cuts, split action and handoff action.
8. Dwayne Bacon, Florida State
Bacon is not only Michael Scott’s favorite breakfast food; it’s also the name of a really good basketball player, too.
The sophomore wing has issues finishing at the rim; he’s only a 46 percent shooter as a cutter, and on drives to the basket, per Synergy, Bacon made just 7-of-17 field goals (41.2 percent). He is, however, an assassin from long range. Bacon made nearly 38 percent of his catch-and-shoots — most of which came from beyond the arc. His shooting prowess from deep, and lack of fear in big moments, should payoff in terms of his draft outlook.
He was unstoppable down the stretch at Virginia in January:
Bacon doesn’t record many assists — just 1.8 per game. His assist rate of 11.9 percent ranks just fifth on FSU’s roster. However, he has the chops to create for others. He’s powerful, and when he runs pick-and-roll he can find rollers and shooters in the weak side corner — something I saw him do multiple times at Duke this season. Factoring in possession when he either shot or passed the ball, Florida State scored 0.86 points per possession.
Harry Giles (Duke), Tyler Lydon (Syracuse), Bruce Brown (Miami) and the ACC’s very own Marc Gasol — Ben Lammers of Georgia Tech.