The ACC had fantastic year in basketball last season, highlighted by UNC winning a national championship and then the conference having a record 10 first-round picks.
Now, those NBA picks are getting closer to making their debuts with the summer league in the past and most clarity provided into which players could make a monster impact.
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Johnson put together a list of the top 10 NBA newcomers worth watching, with four of the 10 being draft picks out of the ACC last season.
First off was NC State product Dennis Smith, who played one year in Raleigh, N.C., before darting off to the NBA as the No. 9 overall pick by the Dallas Mavericks.
“The Mavericks are led by one of the league’s most respected head coaches in Rick Carlisle and their lineup is anchored by no-nonsense veterans like Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes,” wrote Johnson. “Dallas didn’t splurge on a PG in free agency this off-season, and Yogi Ferrell projects more as a backup than a starter. The Mavericks should hand Smith the reins to the offense without blinking.”
Next up was Louisville product Donovan Mitchell, who was one of the most-buzzworthy players from the summer league after the Utah Jazz made him the No. 13 pick.
“The Jazz’s deal to move up and snag Mitchell looked like a prudent move on draft night, and it feels like a home run after watching Mitchell kill it during summer league.,” wrote Johnson. “His promising performance was exactly what Utah needed to get over the letdown of losing Gordon Hayward to the Celtics. Mitchell can’t replace Hayward, but he should be able to help keep the Jazz in the hunt for a postseason berth in the loaded West.”
Former UNC forward Justin Jackson (No. 15, Sacramento) and former Wake Forest big man John Collins (No. 19, Atlanta) also made Johnson’s list.
On Jackson: “Jackson will do a lot less winning in 2017-18 than he did as the co-star on North Carolina’s title team last season, but he should acquit himself well early on as a floor-spacer and team defender, and it’s easy to see him growing into a dependable 3-and-D cog.”
On Collins: “(New Hawks GM Travis Schlenk) also may have made one of this year’s best draft picks by plucking Collins in the back half of the first round. Collins’s post-oriented game may have scared off some teams worried about whether he’d find his place in a league increasingly in love with three-point shooting and spacing, but Collins was super-productive as a sophomore at Wake Forest.”