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Top NBA prospects to watch during the Phil Knight Invitational and … – USA TODAY

PORTLAND, Ore. — Phil Knight sure knows how to throw a party.
The Nike co-founder and Oregon super fan, who turns 85 in February, will celebrate his birthday a couple months early this weekend when 24 of the top teams in men’s and women’s college basketball play in the Phil Knight Invitational and Phil Knight Legacy tournaments. Each tournament features an eight-team men’s bracket and four-team women’s bracket. 
Games tip off Thursday, with the tournament concluding Sunday (there are no games on Saturday because of college football). All games will be broadcast on ESPN networks and feature multiple NBA prospects. Here are the top nine to keep an eye on:
Basics: 7-foot-4, 290 pounds, Jr., C
Follow every game: Latest NCAA Men’s College Basketball Scores and Schedules
Stats: 20.7 points, 13.7 rebounds, 3.3 blocks
2023 NBA Draft projection: Second round
Watch him because: Arguably the most dominant player in college basketball, Edey has a fascinating journey as a former hockey and baseball standout who didn’t get serious about hoops until his sophomore year of high school.
Scout’s take: “He’s a monster. Typical Big Ten basketball guy with his size and with the way (coach) Matt Painter likes to play. He loves his bigs. Edey is an interior scorer, he finishes around the rim. He’s got pretty good hands and touch for being that big. The athleticism, the switching on defense and just his mobility, there’s worry about him in the NBA. People will put him in pick-and-rolls, and he will really have some trouble.”
Basics: 6-5, 195, So., G
Stats: 10.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists
2023 draft projection: Likely second round
Watch him because: Hawkins is poised for a breakout season after injuries derailed the end of his freshman year. Praised for his catch-and-shoot ability, he’s trying to be a more consistent scorer and better creator.
Scout’s take: “He’s interesting. Obviously playing for Coach (Dan) Hurley, he’s tough. He can really shoot and score. He’s a confident player, believes in himself. But more of a scorer. He’s not a great playmaker for others. He doesn’t handle the ball great but finds a way to put the ball in.”
Basics: 7-1, 230, Fr., C
Stats: 3.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 70% FG
2023 draft projection: Potential lottery pick
Watch him because: He’s an athletic rim protector whose potential defensive impact will make a lot of NBA teams swoon. He needs to be more productive offensively though.
Scout’s take: “He’s been out most of the early season. He played in Indy (Champions Classic) a little bit. He’s skinny so he has to improve his body. But he has a good motor and can protect the rim a little bit from what I’ve seen in his pre-college days. He’s really skilled and that skill level is intriguing. But he didn’t get a chance to show that much in Indy because he didn’t get the ball a whole lot.” 
Basics: 6-4, 200, Jr., G
Stats: 17.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists
2023 draft projection: Late first round to early second
Watch him because: You’ll be hard pressed to find a player who loves the pressure of a big moment more than Love, whose speed and craftiness make him a terrific finisher at the rim.
Scout’s take: “He’s a big guard and he can really score. He’s not really a shooter but he can make shots and just has a knack for scoring when North Carolina needs it. He just needs to keep improving his decision making. He’s the streakiest player in college basketball. He’ll go for 30 points in a half and in the next half, you can’t play him. He’s a roller-coaster. His good is unbelievable. His bad is bad. Can he be consistent? He can get hot and score. There’s some value in that for a guy off the bench in the NBA.”
Basics: 6-9, 200, Fr., F
Stats: 20.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 51.7% from 3-point range
2023 draft projection: Potential lottery pick
Watch him because: His long, lanky frame and athleticism will translate immediately at the next level, and he can score from all over. 
Scout’s take: “He could be, arguably, one of the most talented guys in the draft. He can really do it all. He can handle the ball. He can defend. He’s fluid like a guard or wing. He’s actually shot the ball extremely well from 3 to start the season. That was one of his question marks coming in. Another question about him is his motor, but honestly he just makes it look easy because he’s so smooth. I’m not saying he’s Paul George, but there’s some similarities. He could be top-five guy if he plays like this.”
Basics: 6-7, 205, Jr., F
Stats: 15.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 50% from 3-point range
2023 draft projection: Second round
Watch him because: Strawther entered the 2022 Draft but ultimately decided to return to GU for another year, where he’s getting more of a starring role this season. A skilled scorer with an NBA-ready frame, he’s also a good rebounder on both ends.
Scout’s take: “A wing shooter who can defend a little. Not much else to his game. But guys who can shoot and defend and are athletic are hard to find in the NBA. He knows how to play. He’s got a decent feel for the game. Has a good size. He’s not great with the ball in his hands. But all he has to do is spot up, make shots and defend and run the floor.”
Basics: 7-0, 210, Fr., C
Stats: 7.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks 
2023 draft projection: Likely first round
Watch him because: True centers are harder and harder to find at all levels of basketball, and he’s one of the few available. His size is intriguing, and he moves well for how big he is. 
Scout’s take: “Slim. He has to put on weight and add some strength. But very skilled. Can stretch the floor. Can put the ball on the floor a little bit. He’s a stretch big with a good skillset. He had one breakout game recently, but he had been struggling a bit just trying to get used to the physicality of the game.”
Basics: 6-7, 220, Fr., G/F
Stats: 4.0 points, 1.0 rebound, 1.0 steal
2023 draft projection: Lottery pick
Watch him because: Sidelined early with a foot fracture, Whitehead has barely played. When he’s at full strength, he’s a do-everything player on both ends of the floor who likes physical play, especially when he’s attacking the rim.
Scout’s take: “Very small sample size so far. He’s working his way back from that injury. He’s probably the highest rated prospect on that Duke team – a possible top-10 pick. He can really shoot it and score. He’s a good defender. Gets in passing lanes and has good athleticism. He knows how to play. He’s just not jacking up shots. He’s off to a slow start, but he has the most potential of this group. Check back in March and he’ll probably be the best player on this team.”
Basics: 6-7, 232, Fr., F
Stats: N/A
2023 draft projection: Lottery pick
Watch him because: Whitmore hasn’t pla.yed yet this season after having thumb surgery in October, but if he comes back this week, expect to see an explosive player who’s tough to stay in front of and who uses his athleticism to impact every defensive possession.
Scout’s take: “Hopefully, he plays at the Phil Knight tournament. He’s a big wing, super competitive and has two-way potential. Good athlete. He’s what everyone is looking for in today’s NBA. I want that guy on my team. Villanova toughness. He can make a shot. He can drive it. He can make plays for others. He defends at a high level. He’s got that ‘It’ factor. Maybe not a superstar but someone who goes to a team and you will win a ton of games with him.”
Follow Lindsay Schnell on Twitter @Lindsay_Schnell and Jeff Zillgitt @JeffZillgitt



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