In the first part of my league-by-league prospect outlook series, I took a look at the top prospects in the Big Ten. Today, it’s on to the Atlantic Coastal Conference, which is surprisingly weak at the top but provides depth with many projected second-round prospects.
Teams like Duke, North Carolina and NC State lost a lot of talent the past couple years, and are often rebuilding on the fly – making it difficult to refuel with quality NBA talent each year. With that being said, who are the top NBA prospects in the ACC?
Honorable mention: Michael Gbinije SG/SF Syracuse, Zach Auguste PF Notre Dame, Sheldon McClellan SG Miami, Damion Lee SG Louisville, Chinanu Onuaku PF Louisville, Malcolm Brogdon SG Virginia, Kennedy Meeks C North Carolina, Marcus Paige PG North Carolina, Grayson Allen SG Duke
Justin Jackson 6-9 200 SG/SF North Carolina Sophomore
Jackson has NBA-ready size for a swingman at 6-8.5 with a 6-10 wingspan, while weighing in at only 200 pounds. Jackson is more smooth than athletic, but is long-strided when navigating to the rim in the half court. He has decent handles and a floater to help finish in traffic and a very good mid-range jumper (shot 50 percent on two-point jump shots, per hoop-math.com), which help round out his overall offensive game.
However, Jackson still needs to improve from the perimeter to make the adjustment to the NBA, as he only shot 30.4 percent from three as a freshman. Jackson desperately needs to add weight to his wiry frame, which should help him down the line as a finisher and defender. Jackson has a ways to go on defense, but should be improved on that end as a sophomore.
Overall, Jackson has the look of a modern day, versatile shooting guard or small forward at the NBA level. With added strength and range on his jumper, look for Jackson to be a solid addition between picks 20-30 if he enters the 2016 draft, and potentially a lottery pick if he stays at North Carolina until his junior season.
4. Demetrius Jackson 6-1 200 PG Notre Dame Junior
Demetrius Jackson has the body of a running back; at 6-1 with a strong and compact frame, Jackson is also quick, explosive and fast for a point guard. He utilizes his physical abilities to get to the rim, and he can also shoot from the outside (42.4 percent from three last year). He’s a pit bull on defense and very strong for his size, which allows him to stick with bigger guards.
Jackson will have to go under an adjustment period with point guard Jerian Grant graduated and on to the NBA. He’ll serve as the primarily ball handler, which might hurt his production and efficiency. Jackson will need to prove he can initiate offense and show more point-guard skills in general this season before he heads to the NBA.
Look for Jackson to be one of the breakout players next season in the ACC as he solidifies himself as a first-round pick. He has the tools, shooting and slashing ability to make it as a starting point guard in the NBA.
3. Brice Johnson 6-9 225 PF North Carolina Senior
Brice Johnson is an athletic and long power forward looking to break out as a senior at North Carolina. Johnson is young for his age (turned 21 on June 27), which gives him a bit more potential than your typical senior. Johnson uses his length and athleticism to dominate on the boards and finish around the basket with efficiency.
The lefty is an old-school power forward who works primarily from the elbow on offense (zero three-pointers attempted in three years), but is rather efficient from mid-range (47.9 percent on two-point jump shots per, hoop-math.com). He could stand to keep adding weight to help him on defense, which might help him stay out of foul trouble (2.9 per game).
Johnson is one of the top senior NBA prospects in college this season thanks to his length, touch and athleticism. With improvements to his body and range, Johnson could be picked in the middle of the first round of the 2016 draft.
2. Dwayne Bacon 6-6 210 SG/SF Florida State Freshman
Simply put: Dwayne Bacon is a scoring machine. He can score at all three levels thanks to his size, strength, handle and body control all combined with a good-looking jump shot. Eventually, Bacon will be able to play all three perimeter positions at the NBA level, which is a tribute to his skill level, size, athleticism and length.
However, Bacon needs to gain consistency and keep his motor up for an extended period of time. He has so much ability; sometimes his motor isn’t running as much as it should be. Bacon also could stand to improve on defense, and he mentioned Florida State’s excellent defense as part of the reason he committed to the Seminoles.
Bacon should be a key piece next year for Florida State, providing the scoring and shooting that they desperately have needed the past few years. With improved defense and energy level, Bacon could be an NBA lottery pick next season.
1. Brandon Ingram 6-9 195 SF Duke Freshman
Ingram has all the physical attributes you look for in an NBA small forward, as he’s very smooth on the perimeter at 6-9 with a 7-3 wingspan. Ingram is a bit raw from the perimeter, but he shows potential in the mid-range off the bounce. Ingram has the ability to finish drives in a straight line, but lacks the handle necessary to re-route when he gets in trouble.
Ingram desperately needs to add weight to his rail-thin frame and continue to round out his perimeter skills in order to help improve his stock at the NBA level. The consistency on his jumper needs some work, and Ingram doesn’t always play up to his potential when on the floor.
Overall, Ingram’s physical attributes on the wing should overwhelm college swingmen, and they’re on par with many NBA small forwards. With additional weight, consistency and improved ball handling ability, look for Ingram to be a top five pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.