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The Top NBA Draft Prospects in the SEC 1.0

On3 imageby:Jamie Shaw11/22/23


Kentucky freshman Justin Edwards enters the season as one of the SEC's top players looking toward the NBA Draft (Photo by Dr. Michael Huang | Kentucky Sports Radio)

As we are in the middle of the ever-popular Feast Week in college basketball, it feels like a good time to start discussing the NBA Draft. Yes, we are still seven months away from NBA Draft night and the college basketball season is not even a month old, but we need a good starting point. I wanted to go through each of the Power Six conferences and talk about NBA Draft prospects and get a baseline for the season that is to come.

Next up is the SEC. The format of this exercise starts with the top five projected players for the 2024 NBA Draft. Then it goes through four superlative-like quick-hitters. I then finish with a list of players who could rise into the conversation in the future, maybe this year, or maybe over the next couple of years.

The SEC is interesting as the league is not very top-heavy when talking about the top part of the NBA Draft, but it does have a solid depth of players. The SEC is also interesting in that this list could change completely over the next three or four months. This will be a fluid exercise that I plan to update throughout the season.

Let’s discuss the top NBA Draft prospects in the SEC.

1. F Justin Edwards, Kentucky

The Buzz: Justin Edwards knows how to play basketball, and that is a lot of the appeal of his game. He is one of the older players in this freshman class, he will turn 20 in December. Edwards is a connecting wing. He is an excellent off-ball cutter, he can find soft spots in the defense for dump-off passes, and he gets to the rim in transition. Defensively, Edwards uses his length and understanding of rotations to be a very good team defender from the wing, someone who can also guard up a lineup. Edwards will need to develop his ball handling and creation. As a wing who is an average to below-average shooter at this point, he will need to be able to get to his spots in the mid-range off the bounce. Edwards is someone who could maintain this position or continue to drop. He has never been a shooter or a creator, but his instincts and understanding are so good.

2. C Aaron Bradshaw, Kentucky

The Buzz: The value in Aaron Bradshaw’s game is that he is a true 7-footer who runs the floor well, has range to knock down threes consistently, and he can block shots. That is a unique skill set for a person to have, but one that is almost necessary to play as a center in the NBA. The two pieces with Bradshaw’s game are he will need to continue adding strength, and he needs to get healthy and on the floor. Bradshaw has been out with a foot injury to start the season and it would be advantageous to see him back playing; however, it is hard to ignore what he has and how it plays toward the NBA.

3. G Riley Kugel, Florida

The Buzz: Riley Kugel ended last season very strong, showing his ability to create and make shots at each level. Through four games this season, you see the growth in confidence from Kugel, and as the season continues you want to see the consistency to match. Kugel has a smooth floor game, comfortable on the ball and knocking down shots. At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, he has a sturdy frame with functional athleticism. The three-point shooting and the processing are the two pieces you want to see steady this season. He is in a featured role with talent around him. He is averaging 13.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.0 steals so far, with an intriguing matchup against Pittsburgh to kick off the NIT Season Tip-Off.

4. G Dalton Knecht, Tennessee

The Buzz: Dalton Knecht piqued interest last season after averaging 20.2 points on 38.1 percent shooting from three last season. The Northern Colorado wing entered the transfer portal and chose Tennessee. Five games in, Knecht is averaging 18.4 points and shooting 43.5 percent from beyond the arc. At 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, Knecht has good size for an off-guard at the next level. He plays and efficient game with toughness. He will have to continue close to this pace and answer defensive questions; however, he has started the 2023-24 seasons as one of the best players in college basketball.

5. F Trevon Brazile, Arkansas

The Buzz: Trevon Brazile was starting to climb up NBA Draft boards last season prior to a knee injury that kept him out after only playing nine games. Listed at 6-foot-10 and 220 pounds, Brazile has great length and explosive athleticism. He is one of the league’s most natural shot blockers, with excellent timing and pop. In a small sample size – 13 games and 40 attempts – he has shown he is capable of knocking down a three when his feet are set (16-40, 40%). At the end of the day, even though he is 20 and a junior in college, Brazile has not played a lot of basketball. However, the upside is high and he fits a player archetype that the NBA has drafted relatively high in the past.

Next Up:

Upperclassman to Watch

C Johni Broome (Auburn) – By this time, we know what Johni Broome is as a player. Last year, he had a good showing in the G-League Combine, earning an invite to the NBA Draft Combine. Broome has been steadily scoring efficiently, rebounding, and protecting the rim. He might not have the highest of ceilings, but he does have a somewhat stable floor.

Player to Watch After Year Two

G Silas Demary (Georgia)Silas Demary is an intriguing player who brings positional size (6-foot-5) and excellent defense to the point guard position. He will need to solidify the jump shot, but there is an ‘it-factor’ he brings to the floor.

Freshman Who Could Climb Into the Top Five

F Jarin Stevenson (Alabama)Jarin Stevenson reclassified up into the 2023 class and played his first college game at 17 years old. Now 18, Stevenson has size, fluidity, and skill. As he continues to add strength and gets caught up to the processing speed, he could continue taking steps. Through four games, he is averaging 10.3 points and 3.8 rebounds.

Second-Year Player Who Took a Step

C Micah Handlogten (Florida)Micah Handlogten is a unique prospect on the defensive end. His mobility and his timing give him a lot of value in today’s game. He will need to continue getting stronger and carving out his offensive niche. At 7-foot-1, he is averaging 10.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks through his first four games.

Other Players to Watch

Senior F Grant Nelson (Alabama), Sophomore G Rylan Griffen (Alabama), Junior G Tramon Mark (Arkansas), Senior G Khalif Battle (Arkansas), Freshman G Aden Holloway (Auburn), Junior G Walter Clayton (Florida), Senior F Tyrese Samuel (Florida), Freshman F Alex Condon (Florida), Junior F RJ Melendez (Georgia), Freshman G DJ Wagner (Kentucky), Senior G Antonio Reeves (Kentucky), Freshman G Robert Dillingham (Kentucky), Sophomore G Tyrell Ward (LSU), Sophomore F Jalen Reed (LSU), Senior F Tolu Smith (Mississippi State), Freshman F Jordan Butler (Missouri), Sophomore F Aidan Shaw (Missouri), Junior G Matthew Murrell (Ole Miss), Junior G Brandon Murray (Ole Miss), Senior C Jamarion Sharp (Ole Miss), Sophomore F Zach Davis (South Carolina), Junior C Jonas Aidoo (Tennessee), Freshman F Cameron Carr (Tennessee), Junior G Jordan Gainey (Tennessee), Senior F Josiah-Jordan James (Tennessee), Junior G Wade Taylor (Texas A&M), Senior G Tyrin Lawrence (Vanderbilt)