2018 NBA Draft: Assessing the top prospects on Villanova

(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

Following one of the most dominant runs in modern NCAA history, Villanova has an intriguing quartet of 2018 NBA Draft prospects with tough decisions to make.

Villanova won its second national championship in three years in dominating fashion. The Wildcats cut down the nets after six straight wins by double-digits. While the school isn’t known for one-and-done freshmen, this current group might have more NBA players than any Jay Wright team of the past.

Kyle Lowry has found success in the league and Josh Hart is thriving in Los Angeles with the Lakers. However, those guys were more of the lone alpha on their squads. Younger players hadn’t taken the leap yet. This year was a different story. Part of the reason the Wildcats were able to be so dominant is they had four bona fide NBA prospects all playing heavy minutes.

You won’t find a star freshman, but you’ll find four high quality players all likely to get drafted over the course of the next year. No draft decisions have been made yet, but it would be shocking if the team’s top two players aren’t NBA-bound sometime this month. That would be point guard Jalen Brunson and super wing Mikal Bridges.

Both guys have a great shot at going in the first round. Bridges seems a lock for the lottery thanks to his combination of suffocating defense, 3-point shooting and shooting diversity. His ability to make a plethora of pull-up shots will allow him to chase a ceiling closer to Paul George and Khris Middleton than say, Robert Covington and Danny Green of a few years ago.

Brunson, on the other hand may, not have a lot of stock as an NBA-caliber starting point guard, but he could become one of the league’s best reserve floor generals. Brunson has a great touch, especially on his floater, can beat up smaller guards in the post, adds a clean jump shot and a calmness on the ball. Late in the first round, he still provides plenty of value. Both Brunson and Bridges should be able to help an NBA team from day one.

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That’s more of the “known” among Villanova’s prospects. On the lesser known side are perhaps their two biggest heroes of the tournament run. That would be redshirt freshman Omari Spellman and redshirt sophomore Donte DiVincenzo. DiVincenzo of course exploded for 31 points in the championship game against Michigan. Spellman played his best game against Kansas, knocking down 3s and dominating on defense. Both guys aren’t one-game wonders, though.

Spellman has legitimate stretch-4 potential at slightly below 6’10”. He’ll need to improve his space defense, but he’s shown a knack for protecting the rim well at times thanks to his athleticism and timing. If he adds enough strength, he may even be usable for short periods of time as a backup center. The 3-point shot is his big ticket. After shooting 43 percent on 150 attempts this year, that looks like something you’d bet on carrying over.

For DiVincenzo, he’s a bit of a Swiss army knife — not elite at anything in particular, but he has a bunch of skills you like in a combo or off-guard. He’s got good size at 6’5″ and moves his feet well. DiVincenzo competes, can make some great reads and is a threat as both a spot-up and pull-up shooter. He needs to work on getting stronger and consistently making better decisions, but there’s a lot to like.

Both of these guys are probably on that first round/second round bubble, so their draft choices are a bit trickier. Both players could come back to Villanova and try to thrive in bigger roles. We’ve seen that backfire for prospects in the past, but these guys aren’t exactly guaranteed first round picks. They have a bit more to think about. There’s a good chance they return to school, factoring in the seemingly big drop-off coming with the 2019 NBA Draft class.

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Either way, Villanova has churned out a four-man group better than most freshman recruiting classes that only spend six or seven months in college. Villanova is a rarity in that it’ll able to develop NBA prospects without almost any of them being one-and-done. It’ll be fascinating to track these four and the future of the program with that in mind. Jay Wright is doing something right.