Best returning draft prospects

Marcus Smart might not be completely polished, but his steals rate is a good sign for his pro prospects. William Purnell/Icon SMI

Editor's note: In a new series, ESPN Insider's Chad Ford and Kevin Pelton will provide the same kind of discussion that is happening in front offices around the NBA -- where scouts and statistical experts are breaking down NBA draft prospects using their "eyes, ears and numbers."

NBA scouting has evolved in the past decade thanks to the use of advanced statistical models. While there continues to be some debate between old-school scouts and a new generation of talent evaluators, more and more front offices are supplementing their traditional scouting methods with analytical tools that allow scouts to verify that what they think they are seeing is actually what they're seeing.

Some time still is needed to draw any meaningful conclusions from the numbers produced by this season's freshman class, but Kevin Pelton's wins-above-replacement projection (WARP) projections have plenty to say about some of the more interesting players who returned to the NCAA this season, including the consensus best prospects and two players the numbers like much more than the scouts.


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