NBA Draft Prospects to Watch: Isaiah Collier, Ja’Kobe Walter and more from the freshman class

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The consensus for the upcoming 2024 NBA Draft is that it is weaker than previous years, lacking a clear No. 1 prospect. That may be true at this point, but in every draft, some great players can change the direction of a franchise; they just have to be identified.

While there is still a long way to go this season, I wanted to highlight some of the best and most-discussed prospects around the world that Detroit Pistons fans should be keeping a close eye on throughout the year who could cement themselves among the top of draft boards with a strong season of play.

This is the fourth part of a multi-part series covering nearly 40 prospects. You can read the first three entries, which explore the G League Ignite players, some of the NCAA’s most notable returning players, and some top players from Duke and Kentucky.

Today, we’ll examine some of the most exciting and intriguing freshmen in this year’s class.

The Freshmen

Isaiah Collier

The No. 1-ranked recruit according to the 247 Composite, USC’s Isaiah Collier is a 6-foot-5 point guard who is a good athlete and possesses a strong frame that allows him to get to the rim with ease and finish through traffic. Collier is currently averaging 15.4 points, 4.1 assists, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 50/31/66. Collier has been an online slightly positive defender thus far based on DBPM with a 0.3 mark. The shooting is an area that needs to improve, but the biggest concern might be that he is turning the ball over 3.6 times per game which must be cut down to be effective as a full-time point guard.

Ja’Kobe Walter

Aside from Collier, there are many other freshman guards with the chance to follow the one-and-done route. Most notably, Ja’Kobe Walter will step in to help fill the void that Baylor has after losing both Keyonte George to the NBA and LJ Cryer to Houston. Walter is another big combo guard at 6-foot-5 who is a tough shot-maker, but working on his shot selection and overall offensive consistency will be an important development. He is off to a great start at Baylor, averaging 14.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 42/36/85.

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Butler

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Stephon Castle

Stephon Castle is a 6-foot-6 combo guard for the UConn Huskies. He is a smooth and athletic guard who finishes strong around the rim. The development of his three-point shot and how he handles playmaking responsibilities running point will determine how early Castle could be drafted, but there is definite lottery potential. Castle is still finding his role with the Huskies and is averaging 9.7 points, 5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.2 steals in only 25.6 minutes per game.

Carlton Carrington

Pitt freshman Carlton Carrington has emerged as a potential lottery prospect. Through 17 games, the 6-foot-5 point guard is averaging 13.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists to only 1.9 turnovers, which is a fantastic assist to turnover ratio. Carrington is shooting 39.6% from the floor, 28.8% from three on 6.5 attempts, and 78.6% from the free-throw line. He has cooled off shooting considerably after a hot start where he shot 47% from three in the first five games.

Cody Williams

Colorado’s Cody Williams, the younger brother of the Thunder’s Jalen Williams, is a similar prospect to his brother. A 6-foot-8, long, athletic wing/forward whose defensive tools are very enticing. He is not as polished on that end as his brother was but still has the potential to be a very strong and versatile defensive player. He is a strong finisher who can get to the rim but expanding his offensive game and developing as a shooter will be important, though he is off to a great start shooting the ball on a small sample size. Through 10 games, Williams is averaging 15 points per game while shooting 58.8% from the floor, 47.4% from three on only 1.9 attempts per game, and 67.5% from the line.

Yves Missi

Baylor freshman Yves Missi has been one of the nation’s dominant interior defenders this season. The 6-foot-10 center is averaging 1.6 blocks per game in only 20.5 minutes to go with 9.6 points and 6.3 rebounds and converting on 62.9% of his attempts. Missi does not offer floor spacing and must also improve from the free-throw line where he is shooting only 48.5%. He is a good athlete that can finish above the rim and offers value as a lob threat. Quickly rising on draft boards and could be in lottery conversations if he can continue to dominate on the defensive end.

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