NBA Player Best/Worse Case Scenario for Each Razorback in 2024-25

Arkansas basketball, Anthony Edwards, DJ Wagner, Karter Knox
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics / Minnesota Timberwolves / Arkansas Athletics

John Calipari becoming the new Arkansas basketball coach may not be front-page news anymore, but the excitement of his arrival and the roster he’s still piecing together for his first season on The Hill is still very much alive amongst Razorback fans.

Those same fans have grown used to learning new players’ names and faces over the last five seasons under former coach Eric Musselman, but not quite to the level of this upcoming season.

When Calipari first stepped on campus, he didn’t have a single scholarship player on his roster. Since then, Razorback big man Trevon Brazile decided to not only withdraw his name from the NBA Draft, but also to return to Arkansas for another season, giving his new head coach one returner.

That still leaves 12 roster spots that Calipari had to work with for brand new players. So far, he’s filled nine total spots including Brazile, and all signs indicate that he’s done exploring high-major transfer options to fill out the remainder of his roster.

In other words, the key players and core rotation is all but complete barring any other last-minute surprises – which is still a possibility, especially according to well-connected basketball trainer, John Parker, on his twitter page shortly after Brazile’s return announcement.

The key players being set means it is time to start learning about the new guys. For an in-depth breakdown on how the nine current scholarship players could fit together in different potential on-court lineups, be sure to check out this breakdown.

However, it’s also beneficial to learn about the players individually on what skill sets they bring to the table before they step on campus.

NOTE: The following player comparisons are strictly based on position, size, skillset, projected role on the team and other similar factors. They are not perfect, one-to-one comparisons.

The Kentucky Transfers

Zvonimir Ivisic: 7-foot-2 | Forward | Transfer

High End Comp: Kristaps Porzingis
Low End Comp: Luke Kornet

Better known by his Big Z nickname, Zvonimir Ivisic is the prototypical stretch-big man in the modern NBA. He’s the new version of the “3 & D” player who provides a good deal of offensive threat while being a rim protector on the other end of the court. He shot 38% from long range on a relatively low volume last season, but plenty to be encouraged about his offensive potential moving forward.

Ivisic also boasted one of the higher block rates in college basketball last year in limited minutes. Though he played only 11.7 minutes per game, Ivisic still averaged 1.3 blocks with a 11.9% block percentage – an estimate of the amount of actual blocked shots compared to shots available to block while a player was on the court.

For reference, Donovan Clingan, one of the best defensive prospects in the upcoming NBA Draft class, only posted an 11.4% block percentage last season.

The easy comparison here is Kristaps Porzingis. The original “Unicorn” stepped into the NBA as a 7-foot-3 European big man who could not only block shots, but could step out and hit from long range. He also possesses a serviceable amount of athleticism and mobility with an underrated basketball IQ – all traits he shares with Ivisic.

The lower end of this scale is newly-crowned NBA champion Luke Kornet. Standing at 7-foot-2, Kornet came into the NBA shooting 33% from long range through his first four seasons. He’s also spent time among the league leaders in block percentage, though limited minutes has often prevented him from being among the leaders in total blocks.

DJ Wagner: 6-foot-3 | Guard | Transfer

High End Comp: Kyle Lowry
Low End Comp: Gabe Vincent

Despite playing alongside a fifth-year senior and a pair of potential NBA Draft lottery picks, DJ Wagner excelled defensively and as a playmaker last season for Kentucky. He averaged an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.2, meaning he recorded an assist more than twice as often as he turned it over. The only Arkansas basketball player to get close to that number last season was Devo Davis at 1.8.

The experience, ball security and defensive pressure that Wagner can provide could push Arkansas into contending status come tournament time – similar to the abilities of Kyle Lowry, who helped the Toronto Raptors win an NBA Championship in 2019. Of course, Kawhi Leonard was the best player on that team, but Lowry’s role as a primary ball handler and point-of-attack defender should not be understated.

The second analogy comes from the KenPom database and was recently pointed out in a podcast episode from Southeastern 14. The Gabe Vincent comparison is in reference to his college stats during the 2015 season. He averaged 10.1 points and 2.1 assists while providing stellar defense at the point guard position.

Vincent finished his collegiate career averaging 12.8 points and 2.5 assists, including a 2.75 assist-to-turnover ratio as a senior at UCSB. He went on to play a key role for the Miami Heat on their way to a 2023 NBA Finals appearance – including averaging 21.0 points and 4.0 assists on 56% long range shooting in Games 1 and 2 of that series.

Wagner has plenty of room for improvement as a long-range shooter, but he’s shown the capability to be this type of guard. There was an eight-game stretch early last season in which Wagner shot 40% from long range, as well as a three-game stretch late in the season in which he shot 64% from distance (including going 4-of-5 against Arkansas). He simply needs to find consistency in his shooting.

Adou Thiero: 6-foot-8 | Forward | Transfer

High End Comp: OG Anunoby
Low End Comp: Isaac Okoro

Adou Thiero has the potential to be the perfect “glue guy” on a team otherwise full of go-to scoring options. He has all the tools and instincts to be an excellent all-around defender while doing the dirty work offensively such as cutting, making himself available for dump-off passes in the short corner and crashing the offensive glass.

He needs to grow as a jump shooter to become the future first-round draft pick that he is projected to be, but that’s not uncommon for an uber athlete in college. Take Kawhi Leonard for example. He was a great defender and rebounder in college and exponentially grew his offensive game once in the NBA.

While Leonard is a similar player archetype as Thiero, he’s still a bit far-fetched as a player comparison for this particular article. Instead, we turn your attention to a different elite wing defender: OG Anunoby.

A former member of the All-Defensive second team, Anunoby is widely regarded as one of the better wing defenders in the NBA. He has the ability to guard virtually any position on the court with the exception of bigger centers and provides some of the dirty work previously mentioned that Thiero excels at – though Anunoby is a career 38% 3-point shooter.

If Thiero isn’t able to take a step forward as a shooter, he would fall closer to the Isaac Okoro comparison. The Cavalier guard has a similar defensive ability in terms of size and versatility, though he doesn’t provide nearly as much of an offensive threat.

The Other Arkansas Basketball Transfers

Johnell Davis: 6-foot-4 | Guard | Transfer

High End Comp: Bradley Beal
Low End Comp: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Johnell Davis is a powerfully built guard, capable of scoring from all three levels and is a threat offensively from virtually everywhere on the court. He doesn’t particularly excel in any one offensive category – though he did shoot 41% from long range last season – but rather puts pressure on defenses by being versatile and capable of hurting them in a variety of ways.

Despite his high-level 3-point shooting last season, Davis would be better described as more of a scorer than a pure shooter. While this is not his specific player comparison, think of the difference between Mason Jones (scorer) and Isaiah Joe (shooter) when they were at Arkansas.

Bradley Beal and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are both roughly the same size as Davis and fit the mold of being versatile offensively. Beal is more of the scorer prototype, while KCP leans more toward being a pure shooter, but both can impact their teams in a variety of ways offensively.

Beal has been one of the elite scorers in the NBA for the better part of a decade now, including averaging 18.2 points on 51% shooting from the field in a reduced role with Phoenix this year.

Caldwell-Pope, on the other hand, is a bit better known for his defensive ability than a player like Davis. The Arkansas guard is strong enough to be a quality defender, but he isn’t known for having the lateral speed or footwork to be a lockdown perimeter option.

Jonas Aidoo: 6-foot-11 | Forward | Transfer

High End Comp: Jarrett Allen
Low End Comp: Drew Eubanks

Jonas Aidoo is known more for his defense and rebounding than anything on the offensive side of the ball, but his ability to make himself available out of pick-and-roll action through a quick first step and soft touch from mid-range is an underrated aspect of his game.

He draws the comparison to Jarrett Allen mostly due to his defensive prowess, coming off of an All-SEC Defensive selection. Aidoo is not nearly as athletic or the vertical lob threat that Allen is, but the archetype isn’t far off.

Drew Eubanks embodies the idea of making himself available and making the little plays on both sides of the ball that put him in position to impact winning without often needing the ball in his hands despite not being as talented as other big men in the league. He played a significant role off the bench for the Phoenix Suns much of this season.

The Lone Returnee for Arkansas Basketball

Trevon Brazile: 6-foot-11 | Forward | Returner

High End Comp: Chet Holmgren
Low End Comp: Obi Toppin

Arkansas basketball fans need little introduction to Trevon Brazile, but what they might need is a reminder of who he can be when not faced with sky-high expectations. During his eight-game pre-injury stint in 2022-23, Brazile had people believing he was a first-round draft pick lock.

That’s because he was outrunning other forwards down the court in transition, making himself available as a lob threat as a cutter and as a screener, and spotting up to show off his much-improved shooting stroke. When he’s not asked to be a creator on offense, Brazile thrives in his specified role. We even saw some of this toward the end of last season when he returned from a knee injury that sidelined him for a month.

Chet Holmgren has the ball creation skills that Brazile hasn’t shown yet – as well as better primary defender skills – so this comparison is more of a goal for the Razorback big man. If he gains the ability to beat his man 1-on-1 the way Holmgren can for the Thunder, the sky’s the limit for Brazile.

However, Holmgren also has the combination of wingspan, shot blocking, mobility and shooting that makes Brazile as good as he is. Obi Toppin has also shown a lot of these attributes to a lesser extent, and he’s more similar to Brazile with the lack of ability to create plays for himself or others. But both have shown that they can stretch the floor vertically at the rim and as spot-up shooters, as well as provide some level of rim protection.

The Incoming Freshmen

Boogie Fland: 6-foot-2 | Guard | Freshman

High End Comp: Tyrese Maxey
Low End Comp: Jordan Poole

Boogie Fland has a tight handle on the ball, a deep bag of tricks and a smooth shooting stroke that allows him to be a scoring threat from virtually anywhere on the court. The main things he needs to prove before he’s NBA Draft ready is an ability to rein in his shot selection and the willingness to work hard defensively – and he has the tools and basketball IQ to excel in both areas.

Tyrese Maxey is one of the more recent successful guards to enter the NBA after being coached by John Calipari. As a starting guard for the 76ers, he won Most Improved Player and was named to his first All-Star team during the 2023-24 season.

His lightning quick first step and consistent 3-point shooting have made him one of the most exciting young guards in the entire NBA. He’s just shy of 40% from long range in his NBA career and took a step forward as both a scorer and creator this season without James Harden in Philadelphia to run the show.

Jordan Poole has shown the ability to catch fire and lead an offense during his stint with the Warriors, though this season with the Wizards showed what can happen to this type of player if they fail to develop consistently good shot selection.

After playing an important role off the bench during the Warriors’ championship run in 2022, Poole saw his scoring average and field goal percentage plummet when tasked with leading the Wizards. He still had a few great offensive games and possesses the talent to be a premiere scorer in the NBA, but he has a few flaws that reared their head this season.

Karter Knox: 6-foot-5 | Guard | Freshman

High End Comp: Anthony Edwards
Low End Comp: Moses Moody

Standing at 6-foot-5, Karter Knox fits the mold of the stereotypical NBA shooting guard – especially given his three-level scoring ability and above-average athleticism. He thrives as a transition scorer, but has shown the ability to be an isolation scorer from the mid-post, a spot-up shooter from deep and a finisher around the rim.

He has the tools to be a plus defender, though he’s not known as a primary one-on-one type of defender at this point in his career. His length and athleticism should make him useful in a team defense setting, though, and this will likely determine exactly how much playing time he gets as a freshman at Arkansas.

Like Knox, Anthony Edwards has proven to be a scoring threat from all over the court. He’s even developed into a pesky perimeter defender. Edwards is a superior athlete to Knox – though this can be said when comparing Edwards to virtually anyone. However, Knox has arguably a smoother, more conventional shooting motion that could allow for more consistency from both the midrange and long range than what Edwards has shown to this point in his career.

Moses Moody filled more of a dirty-work role than the role into which Knox projects, but he had the same ability to knock down shots from all over the court and play many different positions for the Hogs during his lone year on The Hill. The two are of a similar build and wingspan and both have the chance to lead the Hogs in scoring as true freshmen.

Billy Richmond: 6-foot-6 | Forward | Freshman

High End Comp: Herbert Jones
Low End Comp: Matisse Thybulle

Billy Richmond is stepping into the Arkansas basketball program with college-ready athleticism and a serviceable frame at 6-foot-6. The Memphis native is known as a high-energy, defensive-minded forward with an attack-the-rim mentality on offense. His shooting ability is the biggest reason he’s the lowest rated incoming recruit for the Hogs and will remain a question mark as he transitions to the collegiate level. This shouldn’t keep him from earning significant playing time as a freshman even if he’s not an above average shooter in Year 1.

Herb Jones was a career 7.3-point scorer at Alabama, including only averaging 11.3 points during his SEC Player of the Year campaign. Richmond is likely to be closer to Jones’ freshman year averages of 4.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.

If the incoming Razorback freshman can provide those numbers as the current projected ninth man in the rotation, the Hogs could have a special team next year. And even if he doesn’t, his defensive versatility should still contribute to what’s shaped up to be a projected top-25 roster – much like how Matisse Thybulle is still an NBA contributor despite never developing enough of an offensive game.

While Thybulle is an anomaly with his defensive counting stats, this outcome would still likely be on the low end of Richmond’s potential given the playmaking flashes he’s already shown in high school and the time and opportunity he still has to develop in college.

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An insider’s look at Richmond’s background here:

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