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Draft Prospects to Keep an Eye on This College Season

With a bounty of draft picks from the 2019 Tradepocalypse summer, the Thunder will be scouting young prospects at the top of recruiting and draft classes once again. Daily Thunder will keep you informed on whether those players look like good targets for Oklahoma City.

With the Thunder out of win-now mode for the first time in nearly a decade, the draft is going to be a bigger point of emphasis for Thunder fans. Since college season is right around the corner, I compiled a list of a few names that Thunder fans should keep an eye out for this upcoming season.

Tyrese Maxey: Kentucky

Maxey is a 6’3 185-pound guard committed to Kentucky for this upcoming college season. Ranked as the 10th best player in the 2019 class according to 247 Sports, Maxey has all the tools to become a 20 point-per-game scorer at the next level with the combination of a deadly floater and upside as a shooter. Maxey put up 21/5/5 on 60 percent true shooting in the Nike EYBL in 2018 with an absurd 4:1 AST/TO ratio. He’s the player I’ll be watching the most this season, as the thought of a Maxey-SGA backcourt is exciting for me as a Thunder fan. ESPN’s latest mock draft has him going 14th overall; however, I expect him to quickly climb draft boards throughout the season and easily become a top 10 pick.

“Tyrese has unbelievable competitive spirit. I love Tyrese’s basketball savvy. He has an elite ability to score the ball, yet he creates shots for his teammates, he defends and he rebounds. In all the time I’ve watched him play, rarely does he make the wrong play.” – John Calipari

Nico Mannion: Arizona

Another guard from this loaded 2019 class, Mannion projects as a do-it-all type of guard. A consensus 5 star recruit out of high school, Mannion continued his dominance on the Prep Circuit, averaging 17 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game on an outstanding 66 percent true shooting. In April of this year Mannion put up 28 points in a matchup vs Cole Anthony and Team USA at the Nike Hoop Summit. Coming in at 6’3 190 lbs, Mannion doesn’t possess the ceiling that Maxey has (in my non-expert opinion); however, I believe he has a very high floor and will be a capable NBA player for many years due to his excellent ability in the PnR and his versatility as a shooter (pull-ups, catch and shoot, especially flaring to the corners after passing it off, similar to Steph Curry). Mannion is currently projected to go 8th overall (to OKC) in ESPN’s latest mock.

“I wouldn’t consider him just a pass first point guard. I would call him an all everything point guard. He can score, can really finish in transition, but he also knows how to get others involved.” – Sean Miller

Isaac Okoro: Auburn

Isaac Okoro would be the perfect Andre Roberson replacement. Standing at 6’6 225 lbs with a 6’9 wingspan at only 18 years of age, Okoro projects to be a lockdown defender. Nobody is perfect, though, and Okoro struggled with his shot throughout the EYBL season, shooting 64 percent from the line and 30.6 percent from three in 20 games. Entering his freshmen year at Auburn, Okoro currently isn’t listed on ESPN’s latest mock. He may choose to stay in college for another year, but watch for Okoro’s stock to rise this season.

“I like to watch Kawhi Leonard,” said the 6-foot-6 Okoro, from Powder Springs, Georgia, in metro Atlanta. “I like the defensive presence he brings, the way he does the little things right to help our team win.” – Isaac Okoro

Tre Mann: Florida

Tre Mann had quite the journey to where he’s at today. Mann went from an unranked prospect to the 21st best player in the country according to 247 Sports. Mann’s standout skill is his ability to shoot from three, especially off of pull-ups. Like Cole Zwicker said in his piece about Mann,  “We’re talking about a supremely skilled guard here  — especially for his age — with a strong foundation in dribble, pass and shoot ability. ” In 21 games during the EYBL and Peach Jam, Mann averaged 17.3 points a game on 57 percent true shooting, including 37.6 percent from three on over seven attempts a game. Currently listed at 6’4 172 lbs on Florida’s official website, Mann has the ideal height for a PG. His 6’2 wingspan (recorded at the Nike Basketball Academy in 2018), however,  is a real concern defensively. Mann is currently not projected to be selected in the 2020 draft, presumably because ESPN has him staying in college for another year.

“They used to call me Little Steph Curry, and I ain’t gonna lie—in seventh grade, that was my favorite player,” Mann says now. “I used to wear his shirts in warmups. It’s not like I went out trying to play like him, but I was always a shooter, and I was just crafty like that, so they gave me the name, started calling me Baby Curry.” – Tre Mann

Killian Hayes: Ratiopharm Ulm (Germany)

The first international prospect of the bunch that I’m going over is Killian Hayes, who has been playing professional basketball since he was 16. Hayes is currently averaging 13.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 12.3 assists per 36 minutes playing for Ratiopharm Ulm in the EuroCup (through 2 games). However – like Terrance Ferguson – Hayes is playing in a league filled with older players. The three leading scorers on Hayes’ team average 26.67 years of age. Hayes comes in at around 6’5 192 pounds and with his excellent feel in the PnR and dribbling ability, he has a chance to become a starting-caliber combo-guard in the NBA. Hayes is currently projected to go 21st overall in ESPN’s latest mock draft.

“He’s a unique player,” one scout said. “You like that he comes from a basketball family and that he will bring that professional experience from Europe. Playing professionally makes you tough, and you can see that in the way that he plays. I’d bet on him making a big impact right away in the NBA.” – Bleacher Report (anonymous scout)

Theo Maledon: ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne (France)

Another highly regarded international prospect, Maledon is looking like one of the top guards in the upcoming class. Standing at 6’5 and weighing in at 174 pounds, Maledon has great size for the PG position, especially at only 18 years of age. Last season while playing for Tony Parker’s French team, ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne, Maledon put up impressive numbers for one of the best teams in EuroCup, averaging 14.7 points, 4.4 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per 36 in 2018-2019. Shooting nearly 39 percent from three in 2018, Maledon’s touch from outside pairs well with his passing ability. Maledon is currently a mediocre athlete at best and that leaves a lot to be desired in terms of finishing at the rim. Maledon is currently projected to go 7th overall in ESPN’s latest mock draft.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl: Villanova

The only big on this list, Robinson-Earl is a bit of a tweener at his size. Coming in at 6’9 232 lbs, he should come into the NBA as a 4 or a possible small-ball 5. Robinson-Earl is coming off a strong showing in the Under Armor Association, leading his team with 29.7 points, 17.3 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per 40 minutes on 57 percent true-shooting. His basketball IQ is evidenced by his turnover numbers, with his low 6.8 TOV% encouraging to see.  He doesn’t appear to be the best athlete in the world, which could spark discussions about which positions he will guard in the NBA. Robinson-Earl is currently not projected to be selected in the 2020 draft, likely because ESPN has him staying in college for another year.

Robinson-Earl has an advanced skill set and some ability to shoot the ball from the outside – he is one of those talents that is best appreciated through repeated observance. He has quite a complete game but played mostly down in the low blocks in this scrimmage – perhaps in part because the team was short two of the primary ball-handlers on the roster. – Erik Watkins 247 Sports

I left off Cole Anthony, Anthony Edwards,  Deni Avdija, and LaMelo Ball because they are looking like the top picks in the upcoming draft and I don’t think OKC will end up that high despite the changed lottery odds. As the season progresses and OKC’s place in the standings is solidified, I’ll update my assessment of these players with more insights from watching film.

What players are you looking out for this college season?