Way-too-early 2025 NBA Mock Draft: Duke's Cooper Flagg bucks trend, goes No. 1 ahead of Rutgers' Ace Bailey (2024)

Flagg is the favorite to snap a two-year streak of French players being selected first in the NBA Draft

By Gary Parrish

8 min read

Way-too-early 2025 NBA Mock Draft: Duke's Cooper Flagg bucks trend, goes No. 1 ahead of Rutgers' Ace Bailey (2)

A player from France has been selected No. 1 in each of the past two NBA Drafts — first Victor Wembanyama in 2023, then Zaccharie Risacher in 2024. That streak should end next year because, barring a surprise, the first player selected in the 2025 NBA Draftwill be Cooper Flagg, the projected one-and-done star at Duke.

He's American.

He's terrific.

He's been an undeniable star at the high school level (and on the grassroots circuit) for years, so much so that I really do believe all 30 NBA franchises would take the 6-foot-9 forward first overall if next year's draft were held right now. Could things change between now and next June? Yes — and they often do. But Flagg is such a well-rounded and high-level prospect that it's difficult to imagine anybody replacing him at the top of draft boards, especially if he's so awesome at Duke that he keeps the Blue Devils near the top of the national rankings all season. For what it's worth, they're currently ninth in the CBS Sports Top 25 And 1 preseason college basketball rankings.

As you've likely heard, tanking isn't as good of a strategy as it once was in the NBA with the lottery odds now flattened; even if you have the best odds to get the No. 1 pick, you don't have good odds to get the No. 1 pick. That acknowledged, #TankForFlagg should be a popular hashtag next NBA season. The Brooklyn Nets are already headed that direction. Expect more franchises to join them in due time.

(NOTE: Team needs were not considered when assembling this lottery projection because it's impossible to know who will be picking where this time next year. In other words, think of this as a big board more than you think of it as a mock draft. The lottery order was set by this past season's lottery odds and should not be considered a prediction on how the 2024-25 NBA season will unfold.)



Cooper Flagg (Duke)
Flagg has consistently dominated all competition that's been placed in front of him for years while developing a reputation as a generational talent. The 6-foot-9 wing is the centerpiece of Duke's top-ranked recruiting class and should compete with Alabama 's Mark Sears and North Carolina 's RJ Davis (among others) for national player of the year honors as a freshman. He's just an all-around great basketball player who positively impacts things on both ends of the court.


Ace Bailey (Rutgers)
There's a legitimate debate (perhaps for the first time ever) about which Rutgers freshman projected to be a top-10 pick should come off of the board first in the NBA Draft — Bailey or his similarly heralded teammate Dylan Harper. Reasonable minds can disagree. But I'm personally higher on Bailey, the 6-8 wing from Tennessee who finished high school in Georgia , where he was recently named the state's Mr. Basketball. Bailey is a top-tier athlete with good positional size who has also proven to be a capable shooter. That's a great combination and why he'll likely be selected very early next June.

Trail Blazers

Jalil Bethea (Miami)
Proven shooters like Reed Sheppard, Jared McCain and Dalton Knecht have never been more valuable than they are today, which is why all three were selected in the first round of the 2024 NBA Draft. Next year's top candidate to be the best shooter among legitimate prospects is probably Bethea, a 6-4 guard from Pennsylvania who signed with Miami after making more than 40% of the 3-pointers he attempted on the EYBL circuit last year. He's an athlete with deep range who should be spacing floors in the NBA for many years to come as long as he can alleviate some concerns about his maturity and approach to the game.


VJ Edgecombe (Baylor)
Baylor has had an alum selected in the first round of four straight NBA Drafts — the latest being Ja'Kobe Walter, who went 19th to the Raptors on Wednesday. The streak should extend to five straight drafts next June when Edgecombe presumably becomes the next in a growing line of one-and-done prospects Scott Drew has lured to the Big 12. The 6-5 guard is electric in transition, constantly putting pressure on the rim, and in possession of the kind of athleticism and mindset that should allow him to be a plus-defender. He's shown some promise as a shooter but needs to be more consistent in that area to solidify his status as a top-five prospect in next year's draft.


Khaman Maluach (Duke)
Maluach has been described as the best prospect to ever emerge from Africa's NBA Academy, which has existed since 2017. He's a 7-2 center (with a 9-foot-8 standing reach) who can block and alter shots on defense and face-up opposing centers on offense. His potential as a shooter is what separates him from other bigs expected to be available in next year's draft. There's some thought that Maluach will eventually be able to stretch things out to the 3-point line and assume the role of a true modern-center.


Liam McNeeley (UConn)
Arguably nobody has been better at improving college players as pro prospects in recent years than Dan Hurley and his staff at UConn . They helped get Jordan Hawkins drafted in the lottery last year, helped get Donovon Clingan and Stephon Castle drafted in the lottery this year and should help McNeeley go in the lottery next year. The 6-7 wing is an elite shooter with clean mechanics and strong statistics to back up his reputation. Like most players who have come through UConn recently, he'll likely leave the Huskies with a stronger game than the one he's taking to campus in an attempt to help the back-to-back national champions three-peat.


Dylan Harper (Rutgers)
It seems like sons of former professional players are a part of every NBA Draft these days — with Reed Sheppard, Matas Buzelis and Devin Carter among those with strong family genes who were selected in the first round of the 2024 NBA Draft. Harper is among those next in line. The 6-6 combo guard is the son of five-time NBA champion Ron Harper and brother of former Raptors guard Ron Harper Jr. His ability to play on or off the ball with great positional size nearly ensures he'll be selected in the top 10 next June even if he doesn't quite have the type of athleticism most NBA franchises prefer in combo guards.


Egor Demin (BYU)
Demin is one of the most heralded basketball prospects to ever enroll at BYU after choosing to follow first-year coach Kevin Young to college basketball. The 6-9 Russian, and Real Madrid veteran, is a gifted playmaker, accomplished shooter and creative passer. If the Cougars are good enough in a ridiculously strong Big 12, Demin could become the league's Freshman of the Year.


Hugo Gonzalez (Real Madrid)
Gonzalez is among the candidates to be the first non-college player selected in next year's draft. He's a 6-6 wing from Spain who has shown promise as a shooter but was disappointing in that area over 24 games with various Real Madrid teams this season. So that'll be the thing to watch over the next year — whether Gonzalez can improve enough from the 3-point line to alleviate some concerns evaluators currently have about this 18 year-old who has already been a professional for two years.


Caleb Foster (Duke)
Foster was a top-25 prospect in the Class of 2023 whose freshman season ended in February because of a stress fracture in his ankle. That was unfortunate — for both Foster and Duke. But before the 6-5 combo guard was sidelined, he did shoot 40.6% from 3-point range on 2.5 attempts per game. Assuming his shooting percentages stay similar and production goes up, Foster could be the third Blue Devil selected in the 2025 lottery.


Nolan Traore (Saint-Quentin)
A French prospect has gone in the lottery in each of the past three NBA Drafts. As a 6-3 point guard who won't turn 19 until May 2025, Traore should be the player who continues that streak next year. He's been described as the best backcourt prospect from France since Spurs legend Tony Parker entered the NBA in 2001.


Collin Murray-Boyles (South Carolina)
Despite being a sub-100 prospect in the Class of 2023, Murray-Boyles emerged as a legitimate NBA prospect during his freshman year at South Carolina, where he averaged 10.4 points and 5.7 rebounds in 22.8 minutes per game. The 6-7 combo forward might need to show growth as a shooter over the next year to secure a spot in the lottery, but Murray-Boyles is already very much on front offices' radars in part because of his defensive versatility.


Tre Johnson (Texas)
Johnson is coming off of a senior year of high school in which he shot nearly 40% from 3-point range and better than 90% from the free-throw line. If the 6-6 guard posts similar numbers during his freshman season in the SEC, he could crack the top five of next year's draft, mostly because guards with size who are proven 3-point shooters over multiple years are difficult to pass on.


Aaron Bradshaw (Ohio State)
Bradshaw was a top-five prospect in the Class of 2023 whose freshman year at Kentucky didn't go so well. He only averaged 4.9 points and 3.3 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per game after missing much of the preseason and first month of the season with an injury. That was disappointing. But the former McDonald's All-American is still a 7-foot athlete with real stretch-big potential — and now that he's transferred to Ohio State, I won't be surprised if he does enough next season to again make himself a part of the lottery conversation that he was definitely a part of a year ago. Think Kel'el Ware, who was also a heralded high school prospect who struggled in his first year of college but then transferred and became a top-15 pick.

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Way-too-early 2025 NBA Mock Draft: Duke's Cooper Flagg bucks trend, goes No. 1 ahead of Rutgers' Ace Bailey (2024)
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