The Big Ten has a strong group of recruits set to begin their college basketball careers in the fall. Many of them promise to make an immediate impact on their respective teams, but many also are solid NBA prospects. Here are the top five NBA prospects from the 2016 class.
Without even playing one game in college, Michigan State’s top recruit is already slated by Draft Express to be a first-round draft pick in 2017. Bridges was ranked eighth in ESPN’s ranking of the top 10 2016 recruits, and he was also named a McDonald’s All-American and to the roster of the Jordan Brand Classic. He is arguably the most talented freshmen to enter East Lansing in quite some time.
Bridges boasts an enviable combination of tremendous athleticism to go with great size (6’6" with a 230-pound frame) for an 18-year-old. According to a scouting report at Draft Express, he has a "rare and impressive combination of power, body control and explosiveness off two feet." During his junior year of high school, Bridges proved to be an efficient scorer (15.7 points per game), strong rebounder (10.6 rebounds), a skilled distributor (3.5 assists to go with only 1.1 turnovers) and a surprisingly solid defender (2.8 blocks). Basically, he can do everything on the court. He even showed great potential as an outside shooter, shooting 46 percent from three-point range.
The only places he can improve and likely has only season in college is to become a better ballhandler and a more skilled scorer off the dribble. Bridges also must show he can become a capable defender of multiple positions. Miles Bridges is going to be a first-round draft, is just a matter of how high he goes in the draft.
Michigan State’s other five-star recruit is less likely to be a one-and-done, yet he still has a ton of potential as a future NBA prospect. For a shooting guard, Langford has fantastic size at 6’6" and 205 pounds.
As a high school standout for Madison Academy in Madison, Ala., Langford revealed himself to be an outstanding scorer, scoring 23 points per game throughout his career. He was also a decent three point shooter, compiling a 36 percent three-point shooting clip. While he still can improve as an outside shooter, a scouting report praised his ability "to slice into the paint, draw contact and take a shot off the glass or simply get fouled." Langford’s size was an important element in allowing him to be a strong rebounder in high school with an average of 7.5 rebounds per game.
It remains to be seen if Langford will opt for the NBA after just one season, but nonetheless he must show that he can become a top wing defender this season for the Spartans. In addition to showing that can develop into a skilled defender, it is important that Langford become a more skilled ballhandler. During his high school career, he averaged more turnovers than assists per game—a trend that must improve in short order if he is to enter the NBA draft as a freshman.
The deep and talented 2016 Michigan State recruiting class continues with Cassius Winston—one of the nation’s top pure point guards out of high school. Winston is listed 31st in ESPN.com's Top 100 rankings of the 2016 recording class. As his performance at last summer’s Nike EYBL indicates, Winston is an equally skilled shooter and distributor. In that tournament, he averaged 19 points per game on 47 percent shooting and 41 percent shooting from three-point range. Winsted complimented these strong offensive stats with a solid 5.2 assists per game.
The reigning Mr. Basketball out of the state of Michigan is also noted to possess strong leadership qualities and a high basketball IQ. Both of those factors make up for Winston’s lack of size as he is only listed at 6’0". As much as those intangibles benefit Winston, his identifiable lack of size and athleticism will certainly emerge as a weakness for his NBA prospects. One of his other weaknesses is his tendency to turn the ball over, indicated by his 3.1 turnovers per game at the Nike EYBL.
Cassius Winston is likely a prospect that will benefit from at least two years at Michigan State in order for him to bulk up a bit, minimize his turnovers and development an offensive game not entirely reliant on jump shooting.
The one thing that immediately stands out about Maryland’s top recruit, Justin Jackson, is his wingspan. Though he only has an average height of 6’7", he has an NBA-ready wingspan of 7’3"—a physical attribute bound to draw immediate interest from NBA scouts. While Jackson is officially listed as a small forward, as he fills out into his frame he may be better suited as a power forward.
The Canadian prospect is already a powerful finisher at the rim and has the ability to use his size to be an imposing defensive presence. He also has a relatively effective mid-range game to go along with those other attributes. There is no denying that Jackson has the physical tools—specifically, his wingspan, speed and quickness—to emerge as an intriguing NBA prospect once people get a chance to see his raw talent in action.
Jackson still must develop into a more polished offensive player, especially in becoming a more dominant offensive force in the post. He also must show that he can spread the floor by adding a more consistent three-point shot to his arsenal.