The NBA Draft is Thursday.
By AARON BEARD AP Basketball Writer
Jarrett Culver made himself a top-flight NBA prospect by pushing Texas Tech to within a win of its first national championship.
Culver is regarded by many as the top shooting guard in Thursday's draft, part of a rapid rise from solid freshman contributor to Associated Press All-American. He could be picked in the top five, joining Duke's Cam Reddish as lottery picks to headline off-ball guards in the draft.
Here's a look at the top prospects:
The sophomore can make a big impact at both ends on the court.
STRENGTHS: Culver offers size (a nearly 6-foot-7 measurement with shoes at the scouting combine) and the versatility to defend multiple positions for one of the nation's toughest defensive units. After averaging 11.2 points as a freshman, Culver developed into the no-doubt first option and Big 12 player of the year while leading Texas Tech in scoring (18.5), rebounding (6.4) and assists (3.7).
CONCERNS: Culver must improve his outside shooting after making 49 of 161 (.304) 3-pointers in his first run in a leading role. That was down nearly 8 percentage points from his freshman year and included a 4-for-26 showing (.154) in the last five games of the team's run to the NCAA title game. He must also improve at the line after shooting 68.7% there over two college seasons.
Reddish offers two-way potential, though an uneven freshman year has created some uncertainty about his development.
STRENGTHS: Reddish has size (6-8, 208 pounds) to play shooting guard or small forward. He's a solid athlete with the potential to be a good defender with a 7-foot wingspan. And he's known for his shooting range, illustrated by his 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds left to win at Florida State.
CONCERNS: Reddish arrived as a top-five recruit but it was a bit difficult to evaluate his college transition. He was a third option (13.5 points) as classmate Zion Williamson rocketed to stardom and classmate RJ Barrett became the Atlantic Coast Conference's leading scorer. He didn't shoot the ball as well as his reputation would suggest (35.6% overall, 33.3% on 3-pointers) and was a surprise late scratch against Virginia Tech in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 with a left knee injury.
Kentucky's latest one-and-done talent brings outside shooting and plenty of swagger as a first-round prospect.
STRENGTHS: The 6-6 Herro can create space to get his shot and stretch defenses. He averaging 14.0 points with a team-best 60 3-pointers, including the go-ahead 3 with 25.8 seconds left against Houston in the NCAA Sweet 16. He also hit 93.5% of his free throws, earning him late-game minutes in close games. And he's got confidence to take any shot, notably telling an Arkansas player after making a key free throw: "I'm a bucket."
CONCERNS: He doesn't have much length to disrupt ballhandlers (6-3 wingspan) and needs to add strength to his 192-pound frame. He could also improve his outside accuracy after making 35.5% on 3s, which included him making 2 of 15 in the NCAA Tournament outside of the Houston winner.
The Indiana freshman looks set to go midway through the first round.
STRENGTHS: There's no questioning his physical gifts. The 6-6 Langford measured well at the combine with a 6-11 wingspan that could serve him well on the defensive end. Langford averaged 16.5 points and 5.4 rebounds, and he was aggressive enough to rank among the Big Ten leaders at getting to the foul line (6.1 attempts per game).
CONCERNS: What's his range? Langford made 34 of 125 3-pointers while playing with a thumb injury on his shooting hand for much of the year. That was a 27.2% conversion rate with a shorter shot than he'll see in the NBA — the lowest for any Hoosier with more than 100 attempted 3s dating to at least 1992-93, according to Sports Reference LLC's college basketball site.
OTHERS TO WATCH
NICKEIL ALEXANDER-WALKER, Virginia Tech: The 6-5 sophomore averaged a team-best 16.2 points and looks likely to be picked in the middle of the first round, which would make him Virginia Tech's second first-rounder in program history (joining Dell Curry from 1986).
KELDON JOHNSON, Kentucky: The 6-6, 216-pound one-and-done talent looks likely to be a first-round pick with his ability to attack the rim or hit from outside (38.1% on 3s).
KEVIN PORTER JR., USC: The freshman played just 21 games due to injury and a team suspension, but is a first-round prospect with his athleticism and 6-6, 213-pound build.
MATISSE THYBULLE, Washington: The senior averaged 9.2 points for his career, but could go late in the first round with his stopper potential as a two-time Pac-12 defensive player of the year.