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2022-23 Conference Previews: ACC
With the start of the college season rapidly approaching, the No Ceilings crew preview some of the key conferences and players to watch for the coming season. Up first: The ACC.
The college basketball season is rapidly approaching, but we here at No Ceilings have already kicked off our season in style. After releasing our Preseason Guide and new merch in our No Ceilings store, we could have decided to slow down until early November. However, that’s just not how we roll over here. The crew gathered to preview the biggest conferences in college basketball, along with highlighting some potential mid-major stars. Up first: the ACC.
1. Ignore “consensus” boards and Twitter group think. Who is the best NBA prospect in this conference?
Nathan: I will be contrarian in this exercise here and go with Dereck Lively. I am in agreement that right now, after he’s back from injury, Dariq Whitehead is the better player. But when we talk about “prospect” evaluation, there’s long-term projection that comes into play. At 7’1” with the length, mobility, coordination, and finishing ability on lobs and transition, Lively gives Duke an excellent source of efficient offense with rim protection, potential switching ability on defense, and a budding jumper. If he puts all of these things together, we could be looking at him as a real challenger near the top of the draft.
Corey: I will be echoing the Dariq Whitehead love here. The Duke guard has a beautiful high arching jumper that barely grazes the net when it connects and may challenge as the best shooter in the class. I certainly have my reservations about some of the on-ball creation and affinity for settling for tough jump shots, but the Duke guard is a walking heat check that can most certainly knock down said tough jump shots when he has it going. Whitehead’s ability to both create on the ball, tethered with his ability to play off of it, will allow him to fit on a litany of NBA team constructs, and as versatility is the name of the game in the League, that matters. What will dictate just how high Whitehead rises in the draft will be his ancillary skills. As a senior and the “guy” at Montverde, Whitehead showed some intriguing defensive and playmaking flashes to compliment his scoring package. If he can build off his strong senior campaign, Whitehead could be a top 5 guy.
Rucker: Going to go with Dariq Whitehead here. Dereck Lively is going to have plenty of fans in NBA draft circles, and it shouldn’t be a surprise. Size and athleticism will always get people in their feelings. But Whitehead has the goods to be a heck of a talent in this class. A preseason foot injury will have to keep us waiting for his debut. Whitehead continues to show that his offensive game is rapidly coming together. It’s the defensive ability and upside that leaves me the most excited about his potential at the next level.
Metcalf: Dariq Whitehead. In his last two seasons at Montverde, we saw Whitehead play a myriad of roles and see a substantial improvement in his jumper. His combination of athleticism, two-way versatility, and year-over-year improvement makes him an easy Top 5 prospect to start the season.
Nick: Dariq Whitehead. I have to admit that I see the logic behind Nathan’s contrarian pick here, but Dariq Whitehead is an exceptionally well-rounded prospect who will cover a lot of gaps for Duke once he returns from his preseason foot injury. His developing jumper will help nicely in terms of rounding out his offensive game, and his athleticism and defensive awareness will give him a chance to compete with any wing prospects near the top of this draft class.
Albert: I absolutely hate the fact that we’re mostly going to have the same answer here, but truth is truth. Whitehead, when he comes back strong and healthy, should be the most dynamic and interesting player to watch in the conference. There’s a world where he could be a mix of young Peja Stojakovic and Allan Houston. Don’t think of old Allan Houston when he lost his knees–remember the young Houston that was still athletic and competing in dunk contests. If Whitehead plays well after injury, he should be in the discussion as a Top 5 pick.
Stephen: Gotta be Dariq Whitehead. Every team needs wings that can get buckets in a multitude of ways, and Whitehead is that dude. He’s got the handle, the fluidity, a nice projectable shot, and the athleticism to tie it all together. He has tough competition in this conference–even his own team–to wear this crown, but he’s got me sold!
Maxwell: It’s Dariq Whitehead. He’s a three-level scorer with NBA size. While he isn’t fully developed as a passer or playmaker for others, there have been flashes. His physical tools, scoring profile, and playmaking upside are exactly what NBA teams want at the top of the draft.
Paige: I’m going to go with Dariq Whitehead as well. Whitehead has great size at the wing, scoring versatility, and has shown shooting improvements to become a considerable threat from three-point land. With him being expected to miss the beginning of the season with a foot injury, I’m looking forward to seeing how fast or slow Whitehead comes back to the court.
Evan: I’m with the majority here; it’s pretty clearly Dariq Whitehead for me too. The fractured right foot injury he suffered prior to the season definitely tempers expectations slightly, but his offensive versatility, shot-making ability, and defensive potential on the wing are a rare blend of skills. He’s without question one of the top candidates in this class to be the third player taken behind Victor and Scoot come next June.
2. Admittedly, one of the most satisfying parts of analyzing the draft is being able to look back and say “psh, about time you guys took notice of him. I’ve been hyping him up for ages.” Who is the prospect that you are irrationally high on?
Nathan: Enough people know about him by now, but Baba Miller out of Florida State is the real deal. He’s nearly 7’ with the grace, athletic ability, and fluidity of a wing player. For as much of a threat as he is near the basket in transition, he can as easily sprint out to the corner and nail an open three. Guys with his versatility defensively and size/length combo, along with a developing perimeter skill set, don’t come around often. If he gets an opportunity for the Seminoles, he will climb up boards rapidly.
Corey: Bobi Klintman! When I watch film, there’s usually a prospect or two in particular that I am watching the game for, so when another player on the screen pops, I take notice. When I tuned into the Sunrise Christian games last season for Gradey Dick, Klintman was one of two guys who popped (the other being Scotty Middleton, class of 2023). The 19-year-old incoming freshmen followed up his time at Sunrise playing for the Swedish National Team at the FIBA u20 European Championships this summer, where he filled up the boxscore with averages of 16 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, 2.5 steals, and one block per game. Listed at At 6’10” 225 on Wake Forest’s website, Klintman has the look and all-around game that every NBA team is trying to find. Equipped with a smooth stroke, playmaking vision, and the frame to guard multiple positions, it wouldn’t shock me to see Klintman get the opportunity to fill the role previously occupied by the Memphis Grizzlies and friend of the program, Jake LaRavia. Keep your eyes peeled for the versatile forward this year.
Rucker: JJ Starling. Notre Dame lost a talented freshman in Blake Wesley to the NBA. They replaced him with another talented guard that I’m extremely intrigued by. Starling plays the game with some smoothness. He understands how to create bursts in tight windows and looks to have some serious upside offensively. At 6’4”, 200 pounds, with the ability to score in bunches, it won’t shock me if his stock heats up rapidly.
Metcalf: He played a meaningful role on the national championship runners-up, so I’m not sure how much of a “sleeper” he is, but I think Puff Johnson is due to finally break out. The younger brother of Cam, there are some expectations that naturally come with his shooting. At 6’8” and 200 pounds, Johnson has the versatility to defend multiple positions, rebound, and exhibit two-way versatility. If the shot really comes around this year, his name should be toward the top of the list of UNC prospects.
Nick: Mark Mitchell. He hasn’t quite gotten the same kind of buzz as fellow freshman forward Dariq Whitehead, but Mitchell has an NBA-ready body at 6’8” and 220 pounds and pairs that with excellent athleticism. His offensive game needs work, but Mitchell has a truly special defensive profile and will fill a ton of gaps for this team. Hopefully, he won’t get lost in the shuffle at Duke, and hopefully, he’ll have the opportunity to show enough scoring flashes to get scouts to notice the rest of his game.
Albert: I’ve been an Isaiah Wong fan for a long time. After last season I was starting to truly lose hope, but I’m back this year. I hope Wong can continue to grow as a shooter because I really like it when he gets downhill and attacks the rim. The trouble for Wong has always been his lack of an outside jumper. I’m hoping for growth this year; maybe the stars finally align for him, and we will see him sporting a reliable jumper and more growth and diversity on the offensive side of the ball.
Stephen: Tyrese Proctor had a little moment this summer that had the draft community buzzing, but that buzz cooled in a hurry. And I don’t like it! Proctor has a real opportunity to steal playing time from some college vets, and it’s due to a unique combination of feel, athleticism, and skill. The way he can slither around the defense is what leaves me breathless. He’ll have a number of teammates whom he can make look better and should be able to compliment them with his craft and finishing ability. He’s a player that SCREAMS “riser” as the season progresses. I’m keeping my receipts.
Maxwell: This is probably a wild answer, but Dereck Lively. I was blown away when I saw him in person at the McDonald’s All-American game. His size, athleticism, mobility, and developing jump shot make him a surefire Top 10 player going into the year for me.
Paige: Baba Miller. Miller hit an insane growth spurt, going from 6’2” to 6’11”, and hasn’t really missed a beat with his ball-handling. His defensive versatility, playmaking, and court awareness at his size will be a joy to watch develop at Florida State this year.
Evan: Bobi Klintman. The Swedish freshman forward could be a standout for Wake Forest this season and is a diamond in the rough I believe. He was dominant during the FIBA U20 European Championships this summer, leading the Swedes to a fifth-place finish in the Division B grouping. At 6’10”, Klintman has some tantalizing defensive and playmaking ability already, yet he is still only scratching the surface of what he can eventually become as a player on both ends of the floor. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him in the first round discussion at the end of the year.
3. Unfortunately, there are two sides to that coin, and they do not have equal probabilities. Which prospect do you like but believe has the most likely chance of failing to meet expectations?
Nathan: Kyle Fillipowski for Duke. He was a legitimate top high school recruit coming into the Blue Devils program, and for all purposes, he may be one of their most offensively ready contributors right out of the box. BUT…can he play the level of defense required to earn the role he deserves on the other end of the floor? He’s not a rim protector, nor do I want him out on the perimeter trying to keep up with guards and wings. If he doesn’t have a spot on the floor defensively, on top of any potential struggles on offense, he could be on his way to coming back to school or transferring rather than hearing his name called in the first round of the NBA Draft.
Corey: The expectations for Terquavion Smith are sky-high at the moment, and so I think that there’s a world in which Smith doesn’t show the kind of improvements to his game that will keep him in the lottery conversation. Smith is a sick athlete and an absolutely lethal shot-maker that made deep off the bounce shot making look effortless at the combine last May, but he is slight of frame and was a disastrous finisher at the rim last season. The NBA is sizing up unless you have an outlier skill. My question for Smith is, is the shotmaking great enough to make up for his improvement areas? It just may be. Smith can pretty easily come out of the gate showing a Jaden Ivey-level sophomore leap that makes this blurb look idiotic, but Smith’s expectations are through the roof. While he can still cement himself as a first round prospect without major improvements to his complimentary skills, without big-time progress, he may not find himself as a surefire Top 20 guy like he’s been projected during the pre-season.
Rucker: Matthew Cleveland had a ton of fans amongst the NBA draft community last year. That buzz started to fade, but it’s sure to pick up again during the 2022-23 season. Florida State has spoiled us with some of the recent freakish forwards they’ve produced, including Scottie Barnes and Patrick Williams. Cleveland will have plenty to do if he wants to cement himself as a legit NBA prospect, especially with the outside shot.
Metcalf: Baba Miller. I am fascinated by Miller and tend to lean more toward liking him. However, there are about a million different outcomes to his season, and I wouldn’t be surprised by any of them. I love the athleticism and defense, but I still need to see what he is on offense. Florida State is notorious for playing 12-15 guys every game, so I wouldn’t expect dazzling statistical performances from Miller. How that affects his draft stock will be fascinating, and it will be really important to see what he does that doesn’t show up in the box score.
Nick: Baba Miller. He has the potential to leverage his exceptional athleticism and size to become a defensive menace. He also has the potential to fall flat on his face offensively and end up being more of a longer-term project than a one-and-done type. I buy into his defense enough to still be intrigued, but I could also see a ton of different ways that this could go wrong for Miller and Florida State.
Albert: I’m ready for all the hate I’m going to get from the masses. What if Dereck Lively isn’t as good as people think he’s going to be? I’m not saying he’s bad–I’m saying there’s a world where things don’t work out for him, and he ends up becoming the next “what if?” prospect. I really like his mobility and his upside offensively. Think he could even become a solid shooter and be more than just a run running big. He could end up being a truly great center. I’m more worried about different variables like health and whether or not he continues to work on his secondary and tertiary skills. I like Lively a ton; I just think it’s possible things don’t work out as well.
Stephen: Matthew Cleveland is a player that had a lot of people convinced he would be a one-and-done last season, but that never came to fruition. There are folks suggesting that he could return with a vengeance this season. However, with a plethora of wings, along with the young sensation that is Baba Miller, I see Cleveland falling victim to a deep rotation. I am hoping the shot and decision-making improved over the summer because he has the tools to be a nice 3-and-D wing. But, in one offseason, it seems like a lot to ask for from him.
Maxwell: I hope I’m wrong, but I’ll say Caleb Love. He’s yet to make over 40% of his twos in a season, and at 6’4”, his defense and playmaking still need drastic improvement.
Paige: Kyle Filipowski. Yes, he was a five-star recruit coming into Duke, along with three other notable prospects that Scheyer brought in, but I think he lacks more athleticism than he should, as he isn’t a rim protector. Not saying he isn’t athletic at all; I just would like to see him improve on his lateral ability at his size this season.
Evan: I’m also going to go with Baba Miller. The hype that currently surrounds him is based on skills that are much more hypothetical than practical, in my opinion. I love the fit with Leonard Hamilton and Florida State, though, which ultimately could be the perfect spot for his development.
4. The shiny new thing is always the most enticing to go after, but there is always a ton of value in older prospects. Based on their previous college seasons, which returning player are you most excited to watch and has the best NBA potential?
Nathan: This is easily Terquavion Smith. I could’ve given him as an answer to any of the previous questions because he has that wide of a range of outcomes. Few prospects can match his combination of speed and shooting ability, but his efficiency was in the tank last year around the basket as well as from the perimeter. Smith needs to find balance as a shot-maker and become more comfortable as a lead guard running the offense if he wants to shoot up into lottery territory. His continued development will fascinate me all year.
Corey: The answer is probably Terq Smith, but I’m gonna go with Caleb Love. I want to believe! To put it kindly, the former five-star guard has struggled with efficiency, but underneath all of it, I still see a ridiculously talented guard with a great frame that has impacted winning on the biggest stage. When Love decides that he wants to mix up his offense with rim attacks to complement his outside shooting, he becomes a super dynamic and unpredictable offensive threat who could really make an impact with the right role in the NBA. I’m optimistic that Love will build off some of his more positive performances in the tourney and profile himself as a guy that could end up on a Jordan Poole-type trajectory given that he lands in the right spot.
Rucker: Terquavion Smith. Although I wasn’t sold on the hype train last year, I basically wanted to do a backflip when Smith announced he’d be returning for his Sophomore season. Terquavion has the tools to be the “sparkplug” weapon at the NBA level. He needs to showcase some strides of improvement in areas this year, especially when it comes to welcoming contact around the basket. He should be foaming at the mouth for a big 2022-23 campaign.
Metcalf: Terquavion Smith. His decision to return to school because he wanted to be in college for another year was equally shocking and refreshing. We still need to see him improve his at-rim finishing, but he easily has lottery expectations.
Nick: Terquavion Smith. He could very well have been a first-round pick last year, and his decision to return to school cemented him as one of the top returning prospects in all of college basketball. I’m admittedly still a bit concerned about his ability to finish around the basket, but he showed last season that he is an elite shot-creator from long range. If he can show a bit more scoring craft around the basket, he could easily end up going in the lottery in the upcoming draft.
Albert: I was really on the fence with Terquavion Smith during the last draft cycle. I understood why he had fans; from what I saw, though, I thought he needed more seasoning in college. When I saw that he decided to go back to school, I felt much better about him as a prospect. My biggest concern with him was his body and his decision-making. At times I thought he made some ridiculous choices with the ball in his hands last season and did not think he was even close to ready to play on the next level. With him spending another year working on his game and his body, I feel much more optimistic about his outlook as a prospect. Wishing you nothing but the best, Terquavion!
Stephen: Isaiah Wong! He had some very enticing moments in the Tourney last year. He has a solid handle and can get to the rim. He’ll be paired with another returning Guard in Nijel Pack–someone that I can see him kicking the ball out to while he’s getting past the initial defender. I think he’ll attract the attention of NBA front offices if he can improve as a facilitator and be a tad more consistent on his deep ball.
Maxwell: I’m going to go out on a limb and say Reece Beekman. He’s a nasty defender, his shot keeps getting better, and he’s a trustworthy playmaker. I worry how much he’ll get to show, though, given that Kihei Clark is still in the mix at Virginia.
Paige: Despite being “old” (22 on draft night), I’m going to say Isaiah Wong. I really like Wong’s creativity with the ball and how that allows him to create his own shot. He is a little bit undersized as a guard, and being able to develop more of a three-point shot will only increase his draft stock over the upcoming year.
Evan: Terquavion Smith. I’ll continue to be boring and once again side with the majority here. Like most people, I was surprised to see Smith return for his sophomore season in Raleigh after a freshman campaign that was impressive enough to have many pundits locking him in as a first round pick in 2022. I’m really excited to see what another year of the collegiate game does for his growth as a player, and I think he could have a Jaden Ivey/Johnny Davis-type sophomore season that vaults him into the lottery conversation.
5. Whether it’s Anthony Edwards dropping 37 points against Michigan State or Austin Rivers ripping the heart out of UNC fans, or De’Aaron Fox vs. Lonzo Ball, fans are provided with mesmerizing matchups and performances every season. Which matchup, whether team vs. team, player vs. player, or player vs. team, are you most looking forward to watching?
Nathan: I really want to see this Duke squad take on Florida State. Obviously we know Duke has another strong recruiting class, but there’s more to the Seminoles than just Baba Miller. Cam’Ron Fletcher, Caleb Mills, and one of my top sleeper prospects Jalen Warley will all come together to bring size, length, and scoring versatility against the raw talent of the Blue Devils. Leonard Hamilton is one of the best coaches in the game, and if he can find the right ingredients to build a competitive lineup, he could give Duke a run for its money.
Corey: Duke vs. UNC. Always.
Rucker: Duke and North Carolina. I mean, come on, who do you think you are? I am.
Metcalf: UNC vs. Duke. One is overflowing with five-star freshmen, while the other is returning the bulk of upperclassmen coming off a national title run. Oh, and they both absolutely hate each other, which is always a good time.
Nick: Duke vs. North Carolina. Sure, it’s a bit of an obvious choice, but UNC still has basically all of their key rotation players from last year’s national title run, and Duke has Dariq Whitehead, Dereck Lively, and Tyrese Proctor helming an exceptionally talented freshman class. What’s not to love?
Albert: There’s something so ridiculously intriguing about Duke having an awesome freshman class. Whether it’s Zion, Tatum, or Jahlil (kidding? He was good in college!), there’s always a different energy to the college basketball season when Duke has an exciting freshman class. I’m excited to see Duke play everyone, the whole conference. I believe every matchup within the conference will be must-see tv and will present another opportunity to see if this class has another superstar or superstars in the making.
Stephen: I want to see Miami go up against Florida State. Like I mentioned previously, Miami has two savvy Guards on their team that can get their own shot in different ways. Florida State is a land of giants. It’s a tale as old as time: David vs. Goliath. People always say that in college hoops, you need a scoring hand at Guard and a Big to punish the paint. I can’t wait to see who comes out on top!
Maxwell: I want to see Leaky Black go at Duke’s freshmen. He’s such a stellar defender and doesn’t let anything come easy. They’ll have never faced someone with his experience, skills, and tenacity.
Paige: Caleb Love vs. Terquavion Smith: get your popcorn ready! Both guys chose to come back another year for North Carolina and NC State, respectively, and I really want to see improvements in both of the dynamic guards. That improvement is more consistency behind the arc, as last time the duo played, Love shot 4/14 (28.6%), and Smith shot 3/11 (27.3%).
Evan: Wake Forest vs. Florida State on January 11 has my attention. I look forward to hopefully seeing Baba Miller and Bobi Klintman match up in the lone meeting of the two ACC foes l this season.