This year’s NBA Draft has long been pegged as top-heavy. A month out, nothing has changed in that department. The top three prospects are universal across draft boards, and after that, it gets murky. When it comes to these kinds of drafts, it’s a complete crapshoot once you get past a certain point. The lottery will have its fair share of players who should’ve been drafted way earlier and players who shouldn’t have been drafted at all. With that in mind, here are the prospects who, from the initial look of things, have the highest bust potential.
Zion Williamson, Duke
Hold on, hold on. Before you get your pitchforks out and attempt to find my home address on the internet, let me explain. I’m not saying there’s a good chance Zion Williamson will wash out and be a bust in the Anthony Bennett sense of things. I do, however, think there’s a chance that he won’t be the otherworldly player he’s been pegged as since he was 13. Pundits are calling him the best prospect since Anthony Davis or even LeBron James.
Zion will be good if only because of his athleticism. But a questionable jumper paired with a stocky body that doesn’t seem built to withstand the force of that athleticism does raise questions about if he’ll reach what we believe to be his true potential, that of a top-five player in the league. Injuries are the obvious caveat for any draft prospect, but the sheer height of the expectations surrounding Zion makes it easy to envision him not living up to those lofty expectations.
R.J. Barrett, Duke
R.J. Barrett is an interesting case. He clearly has sky-high potential, but his year at Duke amplified what he can’t do well rather than what he can. He has a sweet touch in the mid-range and in the paint, but the turnovers are a big issue and he gets serious tunnel vision when he decides to look for his shot. That isn’t exactly an unusual problem for young players, but nonetheless, it’s a substantial one for Barrett. His ceiling is a James Harden-lite player who can carry an offense on his back as the primary ball-handler with the skill and athleticism to get to his spot every time.
But there’s also a decent chance, more of a chance than usual with these kinds of prospects, that he never surpasses his floor of an offensive spark off the bench who carries a chucker reputation. It doesn’t help matters that he shot poorly from deep at Duke and wasn’t very good at the charity stripe, a percentage often used to project a shooter’s ceiling. That’s a lot more variation than you’re usually looking for from the consensus third-best prospect in a draft.
Bol Bol, Oregon
Bol Bol may have the highest true bust potential of any player in this class, meaning he could play and be an All-Star, or he could never see a professional minute. At 7’2″ and with a 7’6″ wingspan, Bol can shoot the three and exhibited the instincts required to be an effective rim protector at a high level. He also missed all but nine games with a fractured foot, an injury that often spells doom for men of his size. His tantalizing potential as the platonic ideal of a stretch five will attract many teams and will likely result in a first-round selection, but there’s no assurance he’ll be healthy enough to make impact.
Romeo Langford, Indiana
Romeo Langford’s only year at Indiana was marred by injuries, which led to inconsistent play, so there’s a chance someone buys low and ends up with a good player. As of now, though, Langford is projected as a mid-first round pick, and given his shooting struggles, could end up a bust. He’s good in many areas but elite in none. This can be seen as both a positive and a negative.
Many attributed his poor jump-shooting to a hand injury suffered early on the year, but his free-throw percentage is only 72%, which indicates the poor shooting might not be an anomaly. In tandem with his lack of bulk, Langford could find himself out of place in a league that values shooting and defensive versatility when he may not be able to provide both until he’s been in the league a few years.