Top 10 NBA Prospects in the SEC
Ahead of conference tournament week, let's dive into the players with the most NBA intrigue
Casual basketball fans (and big NBA fans) really start to pay attention to the college season around the start of the NCAA Tournament. March Madness is always a coveted time for getting eyes on future NBA players in high-pressure situations as they perform on the big stage.
In our world, college tournament week tends to be my favorite week of the year. Conference-level intensity provides for some fascinating matchups, particularly as teams duel for the second or even third time. There are more games on television, lots of even matchups, and the opportunity to see how players handle back-to-back situations. It’s a glorious week of hoops.
So in advance of next week’s multitude of conference tournaments, we’re giving a preview of seven of the most loaded conferences with pro talent. We’ll provide a prospect review for the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big Twelve, Pac-12, SEC, and American Athletic Conference in terms of the best immediate draft prospects that NBA fans should get to know and scouting departments are watching closely.
Today’s installment takes us to the SEC, the deepest conference in terms of first-round talent. Draft junkies should tune into the SEC Tournament and, in nearly every game, they’re likely to find a future pro. Five SEC players currently are projected as lottery picks in our most recent mock draft, accounting for more than a third of the lotto and half of the college-level talent atop this class.
Honorable Mentions: Johni Broome, Auburn; Daimion Collins, Kentucky; Jalen Graham, Arkansas; Josiah-Jordan James, Tennessee; Adam Miller, LSU; Matthew Murrell, Ole Miss; Will Richard, Florida; Liam Robbins, Vanderbilt; Mark Sears, Alabama; Tolu Smith, Mississippi State; Wade Taylor, Texas A&M; Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky; Jacob Toppin, Kentucky; KJ Williams, LSU
Long-term guys not ready yet: Jaden Bradley, Alabama; Rylan Griffen, Alabama; Riley Kugel, Florida; Chris Livingston, Kentucky; Jalen Reed, LSU; Kowacie Reeves, Florida; Adou Thiero, Kentucky; Yohan Traore, Auburn; Chance Westry, Auburn
Injured and out for the year: Trevon Brazile, Arkansas; Colin Castleton, Florida
10. Jordan Walsh - ATH, Arkansas
If Jordan Walsh declared for the draft this year and went in the top 40, we wouldn’t bat an eye or complain at all. He’s got so many intangibles he brings to the table, is a ferocious on-ball defender, incredibly smart off it, and has a motor that never quits. On offense, his smart cutting helps salvage some value in a half-court setting, and AAU film reveals some feel as a playmaker. But Walsh is a negative on the whole on offense as a non-shooter and a guy who doesn’t convert much off the bounce. We think he should head back to Arkansas for another year of development, but definitely understand why a pro team would want to take the reigns on his offensive development.
9. Noah Clowney - F, Alabama
While Clowney has his fans as a potential first-round pick, we’re a tad skeptical that his game is modern enough to be a true NBA 4-man. Something of a tweener, everything he contributes on offense is either created for him at the rim or with wide-open catch-and-shoot looks. The shot hasn’t fallen during the second half of the year, but when it does, it’s clear to see why some see him as a top-40 prospect. He plays with energy and is competent on defense at a young age. Clowney is definitely a guy worth knowing, but we think he has more to prove before declaring for the NBA Draft.
8. Kobe Brown - F, Missouri
Brown’s growth as a shooter and consistent factor for the resurgent Missouri Tigers has propped him up on draft radars out of nowhere. Since being tuned into his play, we’ve been really impressed by how solid he is. The shot is legit, the defends at a high level, is a physical finisher, and is a good passer. Brown is what Arthur Kaluma hopes to become someday, and taking a 23-year-old can provide more certainty as a role player to the team drafting him.
The Tigers should make the NCAA Tournament, winning over 20 games and finishing in the top half of the SEC. Brown is not a first-round prospect
7. Ricky Council IV - CG, Arkansas
Council’s offensive game is incredibly impressive. He’s a big guard with some of the best finishing touch you’ll find, awesome shiftiness when he puts the ball on the deck, and a glossoming pull-up game in the mid-range area. He’s one of the best in-game dunkers out there, a truly fun watch whenever he gets the lane to drive. Council could stand to be more consistent as a catch-and-shoot guy, but there’s enough juice off the bounce that he’s a real sleeper to be an impactful scorer at the next level.
6. Julian Phillips - W, Tennessee
Another freshman on the list, Phillips could also be a one-and-done thanks to his elite wing defensive tools. There are some real issues with his jump shot and how it translates to the next level, but a few small tweaks in-season have renewed optimism from several scouts. The defense, length, quickness, and instincts could make Julian a real interruptor in the NBA and a defensive specialist. He’ll likely only declare if he’s got a top-35 spot that he feels comfortable with.