NBA Draft: College Coaches' candid scouting reports on first-round draft picks

Jamie Shaw05/25/23
Article written by:On3 imageJamie Shaw


Anthony Black, Arkansas Razorbacks guard
Anthony Black is a projected 1st-round NBA Draft pick (Wesley Hitt / Getty Images)

The NBA Draft will take place on June 22, which is less than one month away. There is a lot of back-channel talk going on. The NBA Draft Combine has come and gone. In-person interviews, measurements, medical checkups, gameplay, and much more. Players are now working out in pro days – put on by their agents – and individual workouts. Teams are trying to get one last look at the players high on their draft boards and meet with them to gather all the possible information. There is a lot of movement, most of which is behind the scenes, leading up to the draft night.

The San Antonio Spurs won the NBA Draft Lottery and received the No. 1 pick. Victor Wembanyama, the 7-foot-4 prospect from France, has long been talked about as the potential generational talent in this draft. While No. 1 is a sure bet, the craziness starts at No. 2.

It can be difficult at this point to figure out what information is real and what information is posturing or being put out to create a narrative. So I figured to talk to the college coaches about these players. I went straight on the source, the ones who had to scout, game plan, and play against each of the guys projected in the first round.

I reached out to over 30 coaches, so I could get multiple points of view, with each opposing coach giving their candid thoughts on every college player listed in the top 20 on my NBA Draft Big Board, as well as a few others. The coaches gave excellent insight into what they saw and how they played against each prospect.

I released my NBA Draft Big Board version 3.0 prior to the NBA Draft Combine. Let’s see what the coaches who game-planned against the projected first-round players had to say about them.

(No. 3) F Brandon Miller, Alabama

Profile | 6-9, 200 pounds | January 2002

2022-23 stats: 37 games, 18.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 43% FG, 38.4% 3P, 85.9% FG

A non-SEC opponent: “We played him early, but I was impressed with his poise. He had struggled from three early; we felt we needed to protect our feet and try to limit him from getting to the rim. We knew he could make shots but felt like we wanted to force contested threes. He played really well and was not phased with the shots missed leading up to our game.”

An SEC coach: “He is hard to guard at the college level. He can just make shots over the top of most defenders. He was not overly physical, but he wasn’t afraid of it. He’s got good feet and rhythm into his shot. Felt like he played to his strengths without trying to do too much. A talented player, for sure.”

(No.4) F Cam Whitmore, Villanova

Profile | 6-6, 235 pounds | July 2004

2022-23 stats: 26 games, 12.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 1.4 steals, 47.8% FG, 34.3% 3P, 70.3% FT

A Big East coach: “He is capable of making huge plays that feel like 10-point plays, but don’t get lost in that. He is a very physical cutter and rebounder. A very inefficient basketball player that can and will handicap them. More than capable shooter from three. He wants to drive left, so sit on that, and he will take tough ones. His immaturity will beat them.”

A Big East coach: “He’s got a great body and is very athletic. Explosive in the open floor. He is a streaky shooter, so keep him in front and give up nothing easy in transition. His size was impressive. The motor was not there all the time, but he is a big-time prospect never the less.”

(No. 6) G Anthony Black, Arkansas

Profile | 6-7, 195 pounds | January 2004

2022-23 stats: 36 games, 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.1 steals, 45.3% FG, 30.1% 3P, 70.5% FT

A non-SEC opponent: “His size is a major factor; he’s huge! Good with the ball and can use his strength and size when he gets downhill. We thought we could close short and let him shoot over a late contest. He made some huge shots for them. He’s a gamer and a winner. I was really impressed with how he tried to do the little things to help them win.”

An SEC coach: “We thought we could get by him defensively and get into the lane. And we could. We were able to use quickness against him. However, he is able to close quickly and affect shots at the rim with his size and length, even if he’s at an initial deficit.”

An SEC coach: “He has great size and athleticism. He sees all the plays. He struggled to make shots, but his athleticism and ability to finish around the basket made him very difficult to guard. I do think he will be able to shoot at the next level. He should do very well making plays, and if he can add that shooting consistency to his game, look out. He is very competitive and thrived in big moments.”

(No. 7) F Taylor Hendricks, UCF

Profile | 6-9, 205 pounds | November 2003

2022-23 stats: 34 games, 15.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.7 blocks, 47.8% FG, 39.4% 3P, 78.2% FT

An AAC coach: “He is very good in the catch-and-shoot. Also, a good right-hand driver, you have to make him a passer. Attack him on defense. He didn’t move his feet well, and unless he was blocking a shot, he wasn’t a good defender. He was really good in the mid-post and did a lot of damage there. Definitely a top-20 type pick.”

(No. 8) F Jarace Walker, Houston

Profile | 6-8, 240 pounds | September 2003

2022-23 stats: 36 games, 11.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.3 blocks, 46.5% FG, 34.7% 3P, 66.3% FT

An AAC coach: “We felt he was a really good talent from a size and versatility standpoint. Make him dribble, and his numbers dropped significantly. I think he was something like 30 percent from the field when he shot jumpers off the dribble. He seemed to really want to prove himself as a shooter. If he got you in the post, make him go over his right shoulder. He had a very efficient right hook, more of a floater, over his left shoulder. So he could actually score over the top of people when given that shoulder. He just didn’t seem to want to post very often, would rather shoot the jumpers.”

An AAC coach: “Keep him off the offensive glass. If you checked him, he would stop coming. He always seemed to be the guy on the team whose motor and effort weren’t quite up to speed with everyone else on their team. Not an indictment on the kid because those other guys on Houston played so physically and tough. But he seemed to be behind what they were demanding. He is a really good talent with a lot of tools. If he can figure out the motor part, which I think he can, he can be really good.”

(No.9 ) G Cason Wallace, Kentucky

Profile | 6-4, 193 pounds | November 2003

2022-23: 32 games, 11.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.0 steals, 44.6% FG, 34.6% 3P, 75.7% FT

An SEC coach: “I thought Cason Wallace was solid. A little bigger than you think in person He has the ability to play some on and off the ball. He doesn’t seem like a guy who needs the ball in his hands to impact a game. He finds ways to impact the game without the ball, which I think is very positive for who he is as a player.”

An SEC coach: “He was a big-time defender against us and should be a big-time defender at the next level. I don’t see him as ever being an elite scorer at the NBA level, but a solid rotational player. I’ve seen some Marcus Smart comparisons; if he has that type of NBA career, then he has had a successful one.”

(No. 11) F GG Jackson, South Carolina

Profile | 6-9, 215 pounds | December 2004

2022-23 stats: 32 games, 15.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.8 steals, 38.4% FG, 32.4% 3P, 67.7% FT

An SEC coach: “He was asked to do a lot on that team; only a freshman, and a young freshman at that. I like the energy he brought to the court. He was a definite alpha dog, and I love that. You knew the immaturity would be there because of his age. He was streaky as a shooter but at his best in the mid-range. He could get to his spots and rise up to make contested shots. He’s able to create the space he needs to get the shot he wants. Our whole gameplan was for him, and he still was able to do some impressive things.”

An SEC coach: “He is a face-up guy, not much back to the basket. He took a lot of tough shots without really having a go-to. He was able to make plays, and he made a lot of those tough shots. It seemed there wasn’t really a method to the madness with them at times. He’s bigger than you think and a lot more explosive than you think. He created space. I think the shooting will come, and it’s clear his best basketball is ahead of him. That setting he was in, with that team, and what he was asked to do made it hard to tell much about this feel or IQ for the game. He’s really talented.”

(No. 13) F Gradey Dick, Kansas

Profile | 6-8, 205 pounds | November 2003

2022-23 stats: 36 games, 14.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.4 steals, 44.2% FG, 40.3% 3P, 85.4% FT

A non-Big 12 opponent: “He was better in person than I thought he would be. A great shooter and an underrated athlete. He was also a competitive defender. He kicked our butt.”

A Big 12 coach: “He had one of those games against us where he couldn’t miss. He’s a flame thrower, a game-changing shooter. He’s like one of those guys on the Heat, Duncan Robinson or Max Strus, who create soo much spacing. His release is quick, he never drops the ball, his feet are set, and he is also on balance, so he is always a threat to score. He does not create for himself, so he needs to play with someone who can get him open. He needs sets and someone who can get him the ball in open spaces.”

(No. 14) G Kobe Bufkin, Michigan

Profile | 6-4, 175 pounds | September 2003

2022-23 stats: 33 games, 14.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.3 steals, 48.2% FG, 35.5% 3P, 84.9% FT

A Big 10 coach: “An aggressive driver. Good in the ball screen and dribble handoff actions, and we had to make him work. He needed to see bodies, and we forced him into tough twos. He is a better shooter than the numbers show and more explosive downhill. Really impressed with the jump he made this year after a relatively quiet freshman year.”

A Big 10 coach: “A dynamic guard with great length, capable of going on big scoring runs. Very good in transition and finishing. Want to make his touches hard and be physical with his drives. He cooked us and made some very tough shots. I would say you have to limit the looks from three and, be physical, try to support early in the gaps on penetration.

A Big 10 coach: “He was a complete combo guard. He would have been an 18-19 point guy easily if Hunter (Dickinson) was not the first option and a lot of sets were run for Jett (Howard). I think he’s a lottery talent.”

(No. 15) G Jordan Hawkins, UConn

Profile | 6-5, 170 pounds | April 2002

2022-23 stats: 37 games, 16.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 40.9% FG, 38.8% 3P

A Big East coach: “Make him make twos. Can’t relax for a second when he is on the floor. Maybe is the best I’ve ever seen at stopping and starting. He is running full speed off a variety of screens and ranges to get his shot. Incredible! He got better with the ball in his hands in not catch-and-shoot situations.”

A Big East coach: “He is extremely deadly without needing the ball. Almost Klay Thompson-like. Running off screens, shooting behind a ball screen, or a handoff, he’s the best. He competes on the defensive end as well. Taller and longer than the eye test makes you think.”

(No. 16) G Brice Sensabaugh, Ohio State

Profile | 6-5, 235 pounds | October 2003

2022-23 stats: 33 games, 16.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.5 steals, 48.0% FG, 40.2% 3P

A Big 10 coach: “He is a shot-maker. You have to stay close to him and contest his shot. I thought he was out of shape and a poor defender. He was a very dangerous scorer and shot-maker at all levels. As the season wore on, he was not as effective. Seemed very selfish, a volume shot taker. I wouldn’t want to coach him.”

(No. 17) C Dereck Lively, Duke

Profile | 7-1, 220 pounds | February 2004

2022-23 stats: 34 games, 5.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 2.4 blocks, 65.8% FG, 15.4% 3P

An ACC coach: “An elite rim protector and offensive rebounder. He developed more confidence as the year progressed, and he bought into his role at a very high level. His best traits were his ability to run and protect the rim and he had a unique ability to offensive rebound – and he was always willing to kick it out and find a shooter on the perimeter. He needs to continue to gain strength, which will only bolster his ability to score around the rim. And he needs to embrace physicality.”

An ACC coach: “He scores off rolls, drop-offs, and lobs. Sprints the floor hard in transition. High-level shot blocker. Watching him up close, he was impressive with his length and timing to block shots. You noticed in the ACC Tournament that he was playing with a lot more confidence than he did earlier in the year. Offensively, he occasionally showed the ability to hit a three, which is still a work in progress.”

(No. 18) G Keyonte George, Baylor

Profile | 6-4, 215 pounds | November 2003

2022-23 stats: 33 games, 15.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 37.6% FG, 33.8% 3P

A Big 12 coach: “He can really score it, and when he is making shots, he is really, really good. When he is unselfish and passes it, he makes his team better; that isn’t always the case. Athletically he can score in so many ways, off a rebound, pushing it, or just elevating with a pull-up. He needs to have a playmaking point guard with him. He is not driving to pass, so you can run at him and do some things that knock him off.”

A non-Big 12 opponent: “He is a gifted scorer. I like his alpha mentality to go and hunt shots. He needs to improve defensively. He struggled to beat screens and committed fouls based on a lack of experience and game discipline.

(No. 19) G Jalen Hood-Schifino, Indiana

Profile | 6-5, 210 pounds | June 2003

2022-23 stats: 32 games, 13.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.8 steals, 41.7% FG, 33.3% 3P

A Big 10 coach: “Scorer and a playmaker. He makes others better, but he is also capable of taking over a game scoring the basketball. He’s tremendous in ball screens, and he reads coverages at a high level. He is good off the bounce, and he hits shots all over.”

A Big 10 coach: “He was really good in the mid-range, a great pull-up game, so we tried to bulldog him over screens and force him to his left hand. Not a big three-point guy, but he was capable. A big guard, really strong. He was good defensively. Their team played a big help scheme and plugged gaps, so it’s hard to really know how he guards in space, but he’s capable on that end and can guard multiple positions.”

(No. 20) G Dariq Whitehead, Duke

Dariq Whitehead Profile | 6-6, 215 pounds | August 2024

2022-23 stats: 28 games, 8.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 42.1% FG, 42.9% 3P

An ACC coach: “He looks every bit of the part. Shot it very well, especially against higher level competition. Duke was 9-4 when he made two or more threes in games. He moved well and presented problems for talented offensive players with his length and athleticism. He has a great feel for the game. We had to box out or have contact on the glass every time; he moved so well without the ball. No open looks; make him take contested jump shots.”

Other potential first-rounders

G Nick Smith, Arkansas

An SEC coach: “He’s a volume guy, aggressive scorer, so you know he can get hot. Didn’t think he was able to really do any one thing, but he was solid at a lot. His thing is he is a shot maker, and that scares you. We tried to force him to shoot long twos, keep him in front of us, and didn’t long close out. He’ll take a tough shot. Didn’t see him make a lot of reads. He was just ok against us.”

An SEC coach: “He has some wiggle, and he wants to use that to get to his spots. He’s talented. His skill is mostly scoring. Didn’t think he looked to make anyone better, didn’t finish at the rim well. We made him play in crowds and play him in gaps. He didn’t get loose on us.”

F Jett Howard, Michigan

A Big 10 coach: “When it comes to Jett, great size, and he is a high-level shooter. Dangerous from anywhere on the floor, especially in transition. You had to find him early. I thought his dribbling needed improvement, and I’m not overly confident that he can go create a spot off the bounce in space in the NBA yet. Didn’t look to create for others. He had the ultimate green light.”

G Brandin Podziemski, Santa Clara

A WCC coach: “You have to have a hand in his face right away because of his shot-making ability. Told my guys we have to be able to touch him; if you’re not able to touch him, you’re not guarding him. He has to feel contact at all times, especially in ball screens. If you do a bad job trying to fight over the screen and lose contact with him, he is going to rise up and make a three. Does a great job using shot fakes and jab steps. Have to be disciplined in guarding him. Guys off the ball have to really be in their gaps to discourage him from driving.”

G Amari Bailey, UCLA

A Pac 12 coach: “He’s a much better athlete than you realize. You don’t really see that on film, but in person, watching him live, yes. He is bigger and stronger than you think. He can make open shots and knows how to play off his jump shot, shot fakes, pump fakes, etc. Quicker first step than you think. He made plays in big moments. Nothing about his game really popped, but whenever they needed something to happen, he would make the play, whether it was an offensive rebound, a jump shot, or a dive on the floor for the loose ball. He would make winning plays throughout the course of a game.”

C Noah Clowney, Alabama

An SEC coach: “He’s good. A lot of tools and bigger than you think, more athletic than you think. He competes. A better shooter than you think. He is just scratching the surface of what he could be. There is so much there. Plays with a chip on his shoulder. He doesn’t post up. Doesn’t do much on the block or in the mid-post. Charles Bediako protected him well; he didn’t have to do much to protect the rim. I’m not sure how well he moves laterally, he didn’t move great against us, but their defensive scheme kept him from having to do it much. I believe in the potential.”