2019 NBA Draft: Top 5 boom-or-bust candidates

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3. Nassir Little, F, North Carolina

Height: 6’6” | Weight: 224 | Age: 19

A consensus top-6 recruit out of high school in 2018, Nassir Little’s lone season at UNC tanked his superstar perception after a pedestrian year. While Little may have the lowest ceiling of the guys in this article, he has the highest floor, by far.

That is not to say that Little isn’t a boom-or-bust guy — as recently as October he was being mentioned as a possibility to go first in the 2019 NBA Draft; his immense athleticism and world-class intangibles make a future All-Star selection somewhat realistic, but after struggling mightily at UNC, it is entirely reasonable that he simply isn’t the player scouts thought he was.

Little was always a top-100 recruit, but he did not shoot up lists until he dominated the McDonald’s All-American game. Similarly at UNC, the last month of the season was his most productive; Little could just be a late-bloomer, but even if that is true, he will struggle to adjust to the NBA game.

Little’s defensive shortcomings didn’t entirely dissipate even as his play picked up. His grasp of team defense is weak, as he often left strong-side shooters to needlessly help, and in transition defense he never utilized his athleticism to deter drives.

In Little’s defense, he was mostly played out of position. Despite his 6’6” stature, he has a 7’1” wingspan and should play most of his minutes at power forward in the NBA; he was largely a small forward at UNC, cramping the team’s floor-spacing. It is no surprise that Little shot a putrid 26.9 percent on 3s last season.

If the shot doesn’t improve — and his jump shot mechanics are inconsistent — he may not have a place on offense, but that assumes no progression. At team workouts he has looked much better:

Little has long demonstrated high character and a willingness to work hard and improve, which shined through his up-and-down season at UNC. If he winds up in the right situation, he could thrive.

There is little chance that Little is so volatile as a player that he is out of the league within five years, but his range of outcomes is legitimately anywhere from an end-of-the-bench athlete who is on a roster simple because of intrigue to a starting glue guy who does a bit of everything for a winning team.