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Early 2025 NBA mock draft: Meet the contenders for the No. 1 pick, top returning players


With Zaccharie Risacher, Alex Sarr, Donovan Clingan and the rest of the 2024 class off to the NBA, it’s time to shift our attention to next year’s draft.

The 2025 NBA draft is 12 months away, but we’ve had our eyes on these players for quite some time, publishing our first mock draft in February.

Over the past few years, we’ve watched the best prospects of the class grow up in high school, grassroots, USA Basketball and FIBA events, as well as many other settings — and we will continue that process this summer and fall.

NBA executives were sitting next to us at many of these events and sounded excited about this 2025 draft class, especially at the top where we’re seeing quite a bit of star power with headliners Cooper Flagg, Airious “Ace” Bailey and Dylan Harper.

Beyond those elite prospects, there will be others who will undoubtedly emerge in the college ranks and around the globe, the same way Reed Sheppard, Dalton Knecht, Nikola Topic, Devin Carter, Johnny Furphy, Bub Carrington, Kyshawn George and many others did in 2024. That’s the fun part of draft projections as one never knows when or where players will emerge, keeping NBA scouts constantly on their toes.

See the order:
2025 mock draft players and teams

Who will be the No. 1 draft pick in 2025?

Many have already penciled Flagg in as the top pick, and for good reason after an incredible year in which he demolished the Nike EYBL 16U league (averaging 26.8 points, 12.4 rebounds, 5.2 blocks and 4.7 assists per game), led Montverde Academy to a 30-0 record and national championship and then had stellar showings at the Nike Hoop Summit and Jordan Brand Classic games.

Flagg does everything on both ends of the floor, as he’s an explosive athlete, a prolific scorer, a much improved 3-point shooter, an outstanding passer and an incredibly impactful defender who plays with nonstop intensity covering ground, making plays at the rim and guarding on the perimeter.

After electing to reclassify and skip his final year of high school, Flagg’s youth (he turns 18 on Dec. 21) as well as developing his ballhandling and shot creation are the things scouts will be monitoring most closely at Duke next season. Expectations and pressure will be high from Day 1 for Flagg, and we still have things to learn about whether he indeed projects as a No. 1 type option and franchise player like you’d expect from a top selection.

Flagg, who is ranked No. 1 in the ESPN 100, has grown to 6-foot-9, adding bulk and showing the ability to pass off a live dribble and make pull-up jumpers with impressive confidence. Demonstrating how his talent translates to winning games is likely his best ticket to cementing himself atop the top of the 2025 draft class.

Bailey, who will play for Rutgers in 2024-25, is viewed as Flagg’s biggest rival at No. 1. A 6-foot-9 guard who is ranked No. 2 in the ESPN 100, Bailey has outstanding physical skills, defensive versatility, shot-making prowess and a serious-minded, competitive approach. Bailey isn’t anywhere near as polished a decision-maker as Flagg but has received far more reps operating on the ball, giving him an advantage as a one-on-one and pick-and-roll operator.

Harper, Bailey’s teammate at Rutgers, was the most impressive performer in April of anyone in the class in practices and games at the McDonald’s All-American, Nike Hoop Summit and Jordan Brand Classic. Playing almost exclusively at point guard — despite standing over 6-foot-5, 228 pounds with a 6-10 wingspan. Harper, who is ranked No. 4 in the ESPN 100, has added muscle to his frame, showed impressive ballhandling ability, strength and craft using and rejecting ball screens. He finishes with physicality inside the paint, guards instinctually all over the floor and can pass off a live dribble. He made a barrage of difficult pull-up jumpers every time we saw him play this spring.

Some NBA teams say they have Harper ranked No. 1 in the 2025 class, but others are enamored with Bailey’s upside. However, most are sticking with the status quo with Flagg as the early favorite since he’s clearly the most accomplished of the group.

Those who have seen enough of this group (most NBA teams are at a very early stage in their evaluations) to have a firm opinion often say any of these three prospects would have likely been drafted No. 1 in the 2024 draft. They are excited to see how this next group plays out, including the possibility of new candidates — for example Nolan Traore or VJ Edgecombe, two prospects who round out ESPN 100’s top five — joining the conversation.

— Jonathan Givony



See for yourself why Cooper Flagg is the No. 1 basketball recruit

Check out the moments that have made Cooper Flagg the top basketball prospect in the country.

Who are the top returning prospects to watch?

The early iterations of ESPN’s mock drafts tend to prioritize incoming freshmen and younger prospects who are higher on the draft board, and these players receive early benefit of the doubt because of their youth, upside and pre-college reputations. Yet it’s inevitable that some of them will be replaced in the first round by returning college prospects who break out in new team contexts after making developmental strides in the offseason.

We just saw Knecht, Carter, Zach Edey, Tristan da Silva and many other college returners complete long, impressive climbs into the 2024 draft’s first round, and most of them this time a year ago were not viewed as top prospects. With much left to play out over the next year, here are some of the top college players NBA teams will be closely monitoring going into the fall.

Motiejus Krivas, C, Arizona

Krivas logged 12 minutes per game last season for the Wildcats, but with incumbent starter Oumar Ballo transferring to Indiana, the 7-foot-3 Lithuanian center is poised for a breakout opportunity. Krivas is offensively skilled with good footwork and touch around the basket and had some productive moments this season at Arizona.

While more of a traditional center, Krivas has the size and length to be highly impactful as a rebounder and scorer next season. He doesn’t stretch the floor, and his defense will be a key area for improvement, but the pieces are here for him to turn into a full-fledged prospect, with the NBA always intrigued by size and productivity.

Collin Murray-Boyles, F, South Carolina

Murray-Boyles (6-foot-7, 231 pounds) enjoyed one of college basketball’s under-the-radar breakouts, playing a productive role as an 18-year-old freshman for a South Carolina team that made the NCAA tournament. By the end of the season, he had created NBA intrigue, with a strong feel for the game and a solid motor driving his success despite a somewhat unorthodox profile as an undersized big.

While not an elite athlete, Murray-Boyles’ impressive efficiency and ability to generate steals and blocks on the defensive end — all at a young age for his level — has made him a player teams, particularly in analytics-driven front offices, are monitoring closely.

KJ Lewis, G, Arizona

Another Arizona player set to step into a bigger role, Lewis produced good moments playing 18 minutes per game as a freshman, most notably on the defensive end. He puts his strength and lateral quickness to good use guarding on the ball and has shown excellent instincts, giving him a pathway to NBA appeal if he can make tangible strides on offense.

Lewis isn’t much of a creator on the ball, so his best route to finding a role is likely through improving his perimeter shooting (34.1% last year on 1.1 attempts per game). If he can make a convincing case with his offensive growth, Lewis could have a good amount of first-round interest.



KJ Lewis somehow gets the and-1 to fall

KJ Lewis somehow gets the and-1 to fall.

Tyrese Proctor, G, Duke

Proctor’s two seasons at Duke haven’t justified the lottery-level hype he was receiving earlier in his career, but he showed signs of improvement last season and is still just 20 years old. He’ll again be given a lot of responsibility on a loaded team that includes several projected first-round picks, and NBA scouts will be hoping to see tangible growth from him as a shooter, playmaker and leader.

Proctor has good size (6-5) for a point guard and can use it to his advantage defensively, but has struggled to score efficiently and make a consistent winning impact in college. While he’s likely a role player at best in the long run, Proctor is capable of putting together the type of complete season that would put him back in the first-round conversation, if things fall in place for him.

Dink Pate, G League Ignite

Pate was left without an immediate home for next season after G League Ignite folded, but remains under contract and has a potential home with the G League’s Mexico City Capitanes. Pate, 18, came on toward the end of the season for Ignite, stringing together some good performances, but has major strides to make from an efficiency perspective (40% on 2-pointers and 21.5% from 3) no matter where he plays next season.

It was a steep learning curve for Pate, who has excellent positional size, but wasn’t good enough to consistently impact winning at the G League level after making the leap and skipping his senior year of high school. Still, Pate was exceptionally young for that level, and NBA teams will give him a long look regardless to see what type of strides he can make with a full pro season under his belt already.

Jaylin Stewart, F, UConn

Stewart logged spot minutes on UConn’s title team as a freshman last season, but looks like a person of interest for NBA teams, considering the way coach Dan Hurley’s program has developed talent. Set to step into a bigger role on the wing as the Huskies aim to compete for a third straight championship, Stewart has the size and length (6-7, 205) to be effective on the defensive end and in transition and also offered some limited catch-and-shoot flashes in the minutes he got.

He’ll be one of the youngest sophomores in college next season, and with his excellent frame and situation, there’s certainly a chance he pops with a larger role. It remains to be seen exactly how he’ll fit on a roster that will include a handful of new faces, but the pieces are there for him to take the next step as a big contributor.

Adou Thiero, G, Arkansas

Thiero had sleeper appeal at Kentucky with his explosive athleticism, energy and shot-blocking ability as a 6-7 forward. Having recently turned 20, Thiero will presumably have an expanded opportunity to showcase his upside after following coach John Calipari to Arkansas. He was often undisciplined on the floor and has a long way to go before being trustworthy of minutes at a high level, but Thiero’s leaping ability and penchant for making things happen defensively give him an intriguing baseline if he can learn to read the game better and develop as a perimeter shooter.

There’s a wide range of development outcomes here, and NBA teams will be interested to see how his role might change in a new situation, even under the same coach.

Alex Karaban, F, UConn

One of the 2024 draft’s true tough stay-or-go calls, Karaban chose to remain at UConn and pursue a third championship rather than turn pro. His outstanding feel, catch-and-shoot ability and on-court intelligence makes him a pivotal player for the Huskies, and the type of player who is capable of adding value without needing the ball much. While not an exceptional run-jump athlete, Karaban is also a defender who uses his size (6-8, 220) and anticipation to his advantage.

He has a number of fans already in NBA front offices who will likely be interested in drafting him in a year and it will be curious to see if UConn expands his role on the offensive end.

Ryan Kalkbrenner, C, Creighton

Kalkbrenner has been one of college basketball’s top rim-protectors the past few years and opted to return to Creighton prior to the NBA combine rather than go through the pre-draft process in full. At 7-2 with a 7-5 wingspan, Kalkbrenner is a mobile player inside the paint who serves as a huge deterrent at the college level. He has also begun to flash 3-point range, giving him a pathway to an NBA role as a sort of poor man’s Brook Lopez, should he stay on his current track developmentally.

While not the fleetest of foot or most physical, the 22-year-old Kalkbrenner will be one of the top players in the Big East next season and will have a chance to reframe the conversation around him as a fringe prospect with another good year, particularly if he starts to consistently space the floor.

Kwame Evans Jr., F, Oregon

Evans exceeded modest expectations as a freshman, showing flashes of his talent as a rangy, defensive presence while also starting to dispel some of the questions that surrounded his motor at times in high school. While still scratching the surface of what he might become, Evans has a good physical profile and has started to produce in the flow of the game as a rebounder, finisher and versatile defender.

He’s quite limited as a scorer at the moment. He turns 20 entering next season, putting him on the older side for his class. He will have to shoot the ball better and demonstrate more confidence with the opportunities he gets. But there’s a lot of room for growth that could help NBA teams envision a useful frontcourt role, and his length and frame at 6-9 should presumably continue to fill out.

— Jeremy Woo

Will we see more 7-footers drafted in 2025?

The 2024 draft saw six players standing 7-0 or taller selected in the first round and nine in total — the most since 2016, when 13 were drafted (eight first-rounders and five second-rounders).

While to some extent this was a simple reflection of what talent was available on the 2024 draft board, it is noteworthy that these players were selected quite high, with Sarr, Clingan and Edey all drafted in the top 10. NBA teams proved willing to prioritize size in a way that hadn’t happened in quite some time.

With players such as Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic dominating the MVP conversation and young players such as Victor Wembanyama tracking on that pathway, there remains real matchup utility in having size on the floor, and teams are still clearly quite interested in developing those players.

Only three 7-footers are currently projected in the first round of our 2025 mock (Khaman Maluach, Motiejus Krivas and Rocco Zikarsky), so this will take time to play out. The adage is that you can only draft what’s available. This year, teams’ decision-making skewed large. Next year’s draft, which is expected to be much deeper, may tell whether the influx of size is more of a trend or simply a (big) blip.

— Woo



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Check out some highlight plays from Rutgers commit Dylan Harper, the No. 2 player in ESPN’s 2024 rankings.

2025 Round 1 mock draft

1. Detroit Pistons
Cooper Flagg, SF/PF, Duke | Age: 17.5

2. Washington Wizards
Airious “Ace” Bailey, SG/SF, Rutgers | Age: 17.8

3. Charlotte Hornets
Dylan Harper, PG/SG, Rutgers | Age: 18.3

4. Portland Trail Blazers
Nolan Traore, PG, Saint-Quentin (France) | Age: 18.0

5. Utah Jazz
VJ Edgecombe, SG, Baylor | Age: 18.9

6. Brooklyn Nets
Khaman Maluach, C, Duke | Age: 17.7

7. Toronto Raptors
Hugo Gonzalez, SF, Real Madrid (Spain) | Age: 18.3

8. Chicago Bulls
Tre Johnson, SG, Texas | Age: 18.3

9. San Antonio Spurs
Egor Demin, SG/SF, BYU | Age: 18.3

10. San Antonio Spurs (via Hawks)
Liam McNeeley, SG/SF, UConn | Age: 18.7

11. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Rockets)
Drake Powell, SG/SF, North Carolina | Age: 18.8

12. Sacramento Kings
Michael Ruzic, PF, Joventut (Spain) | Age: 17.7

13. New Orleans Pelicans
Jalil Bethea, SG, Miami | Age: 18.5

14. Memphis Grizzlies
Carter Bryant, SF/PF, Arizona | Age: 18.5

15. Orlando Magic
Noa Essengue, PF, Ratiopharm Ulm (Germany) | Age: 17.5

15. Indiana Pacers
Donavan Freeman, PF, Syracuse | Age: 18.8

17. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Heat)
Kon Knueppel, SG/SF, Duke | Age: 18.9

18. Utah Jazz (via Cavaliers)
Kasparas Jakucionis, PG, Illinois | Age: 18.0

19. LA Clippers
Motiejus Krivas, C, Arizona | Age: 19.5

20. Golden State Warriors
Rocco Zikarsky, C, Brisbane (Australia) | Age: 17.9

21. New Orleans Pelicans (via Lakers)
Derrion Reid, SF/PF, Alabama | Age: 18.0

22. Brooklyn Nets (via Suns)
William Riley, SG/SF, Illinois | Age: 18.3

23. Oklahoma City Thunder (via 76ers)
Collin Murray-Boyles, PF/C, South Carolina | Age: 19.0

24. Dallas Mavericks
Derik Queen, C, Maryland | Age: 19.4

25. Brooklyn Nets (via Bucks)
Ian Jackson, SG, North Carolina | Age: 19.3

26. Utah Jazz (via Timberwolves)
Kanon Catchings, SF/PF, BYU | Age: 18.8

27. Brooklyn Nets (via Thunder)
KJ Lewis, SG, Arizona | Age: 19.8

28. Brooklyn Nets (via Knicks)
Tyrese Proctor, PG, Duke | Age: 20.2

29. Orlando Magic (via Nuggets)
Dink Pate, SG/SF, G League | Age: 18.3

30. Boston Celtics
Jaylin Stewart, SF, UConn | Age: 19.3

Remaining Big Board for the 2025 class

31. Johann Grunloh, C, Rasta Vechta (Germany) | Age: 18.8
32. Adou Thiero, SF/PF, Arkansas | Age: 20.1
33. Ryan Kalkbrenner, C, Creighton | Age: 22.4
34. Alex Karaban, PF, Connecticut | Age: 21.6
35. Kwame Evans Jr., PF, Oregon | Age: 19.9
36. Michael Ajayi, SF/PF, Gonzaga | Age: 21
37. Milan Momcilovic, SF/PF, Iowa State | Age: 19.7
38. Kanaan Carlyle, PG/SG, Indiana | Age: 19.7
39. Caleb Foster, PG, Duke | Age: 19.9
40. Izan Almansa, PF/C | Age: 19.0
41. Zvonimir Ivisic, PF/C, Arkansas | Age: 20.8
42. Sam Walters, SF/PF, Ohio State | Age: 20
43. Hunter Sallis, SG, Wake Forest | Age: 21.2
44. Sion James, SF, Duke | Age: 21.5
45. Jaden Bradley, PG, Arizona | Age: 20.7
46. Saint Thomas, F, USC | Age: 21.1
47. Elliot Cadeau, PG, North Carolina | Age: 19.8
48. Baba Miller, SF/PF, Florida Atlantic, Age: 20.3
49. Jarin Stevenson, PF, Alabama | Age: 18.7
50. Payton Sandfort, SF, Iowa | Age: 21.9
51. Jamir Watkins, SG/SF, Florida State | Age: 22.9
52. Kam Jones, SG, Marquette | Age: 22.3
53. Baye Ndongo, PF/C, Georgia Tech | Age: 21.4
54. AJ Storr, SG/SF, Kansas | Age: 20.8
55. JT Toppin, PF, Texas Tech | Age: 19
56. Kobe Johnson, SG/SF, UCLA | Age: 21.4
57. Alex Toohey, SF/PF, Sydney (Australia) | Age: 20.1
58. Hansen Yang, C, Qingdao (China) | Age: 19


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