Now that Marvin Bagley has moved up and will play at Duke this season, the 2018 class has a different look. R.J. Barrett moved up to the No. 1 spot. Anfernee Simons, Darius Bazley, Tre Jones, Quentin Grimes and Nassir Little all made big jumps after strong months in June and July. There are still many unknowns as a new school year begins.
Here are five bold statements for the 2018 class:
1. No lock for the No. 1 spot
With Bagley, who reclassified into the Class of 2017, now gone, there is a much tighter race for the top spot in the class. And the race for that spot might go all the way until the final ranking in April. Barrett, Zion Williamson, Cameron Reddish and Bol Bol were all in the conversation this time around. Barrett grabs the spot -- for now. It is a tribute to the time he has put into his game. And now he's getting the results. His performances have ranged from good to dominating. His production level is now something you can count on in terms of scoring and rebounding. He has become a versatile scorer, showing potential on the perimeter and inside the arc. That is incredibly appealing to NBA scouts. Barrett carried Canada to a gold medal this past summer at the FIBA U19 world championships, where he picked up MVP honors.
2. The point guards are here, and might be for a while
The point guard position was as strong as we have seen in a long time in college basketball and the NBA draft this past season.
Last season, Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De'Aaron Fox all had outstanding campaigns in their one-and-done runs through college. They were all drafted in the top five in the NBA draft. Next up is the Blue Devils' Trevon Duval, who has a chance to be very good at Duke and certainly a one-and-done lottery candidate.
That likely won't be the case with the 2018 class. These guards are good, but they will progress at their own pace, meaning they might not be one-and-done stars like Fultz, Ball and Fox. Tre Jones will be the leader of the Duke program for years to come. Darius Garland is gifted. He has speed, quickness and vision. He also has an impressive 3-point game. Immanuel Quickley has the tools and a frame to develop into an NBA point guard. Jahvon Quinerly will keep Arizona winning at a high level. Coby White is as talented a lead guard as North Carolina has had over the years. The point guard position is the most important in basketball, and regardless of level it is the hardest to learn because you have to both produce and lead. That can be a lot for any freshman. The point guards are very good for the college game; they just won't immediately be ready for the NBA.
3. Don't be surprised if Bazley cracks the top 5
Every time Bazley steps on the court he progresses. With his length, skill and decision-making he has become one of the fastest risers in the class. Bazley catches your attention because of his fluidity and finesse facing the basket and in the paint. He runs the floor with good effort and protects the rim. His lack of strength and balance hurts him at times on the glass and as he tries to finish in traffic. As he continues to develop, don't be surprised if he is in the top five in the next ranking.
4. No spot is locked
There are plenty of prospects who could make a run for a better position. There are also some players who could make a move into the 100. Anfernee Simons could catch Romeo Langford. Shareef O'Neal could climb into the top 10. With a strong high school season, Silvio De Sousa could jump into the top 15. The field is wide-open.
5. This class needs to step up
Adding or losing one player can certainly make a big difference. Without Bagley or Jontay Porter, who reclassified to the 2017 class to join his brother, Michael Porter Jr., this season at Missouri, the class as a whole took a hit. Plenty of talent and size remain inside the top 10, but when will those players impact games and dominate? When will they be ready to jump to the NBA? Cam Reddish is ultratalented but must play with a greater urgency. Bol Bol had some strong performances, but he has been inconsistent. Players such as Naz Reid, Moses Brown and Jordan Brown need to go from prospects to impact performers. If this class wants to have an identity a few things have to happen: The current top talent needs to produce on a consistent basis and some back-end prospects must emerge to add some punch to the class.