College basketball transfer portal: Ranking the best players available right now

right arrow

It’s time to hit the transfer portal.

The men’s NCAA Tournament has concluded, and the offseason has begun. Which means players going into the portal; we should again approach 2,000 total names as the sport continues to feel the effects of the extra eligibility year given to all athletes during the 2020-21 season.

There’s no better way to quickly rebuild a roster in 2023 — just ask UConn, Miami, San Diego State and Florida Atlantic, all of which used the portal to supplement their rosters; or Kansas State, which made the Elite Eight with a roster entirely made up of transfers.

So who are the best talents available? That’s where this list, now in its third season, comes in. We’ll update this constantly, taking off players as they commit to their new schools and adding on new players as they hit the portal. This year, there is a window for players to make their decisions, as they must enter the transfer portal by May 11 to be eligible next season. Buckle up, it should be an eventful ride.

When players commit to new schools, they move from this list to our list of top fits.

1. Arthur Kaluma | 6-7 wing | Two years of eligibility | Creighton

Kaluma is a player NBA scouts have had eyes on. He made only gradual improvements from his freshman season in 2022-23 but the idea of what he can become is still intriguing. Kaluma is a rangy athlete with good ball skills for his size. He put up solid numbers as a sophomore — 11.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists — but there’s potential for him to be an all-league type performer and potentially a first-round draft pick. Not many guys can move like him, with explosion and smoothness. He needs to be a more consistent defender and improve his jumper to get there. He shot only 31.1 percent from 3 and has made 29.1 percent of his 3s in his two seasons at Creighton. He’s actually better shooting off the bounce than the catch — 38.2 percent compared to 29.8 percent, per Synergy. He was on a team with a lot of weapons, so the counting numbers may not look as flashy as some players with his talent on worse teams. Kaluma should have a ton of interest. He’s been a starter for two seasons on a winning team and has NBA talent. He could play either forward position and fit into just about any scheme. Creighton seemed like a good system for him, and this is the second starter the Jays have lost to the portal.

2. Grant Nelson | 6-11 forward | Two years of eligibility | North Dakota State

Nelson has also declared for the NBA Draft and it’s possible he goes that route. He ranked 75th on the latest big board and he received an invite to the Combine. If Nelson decides to stay in school, he’ll likely have some heavy hitters coming after him. He is a Swiss Army knife that fits in just about any system. He’s got the size to play center but is more of a playmaking four. His shooting is the one area where he could really help his stock by returning, and that’s been the focus of his pre-draft preparation. He shot just 26.9 percent from 3 this season on 3.1 attempts per game and is a career 30.7 percent 3-point shooter. He does most of his damage inside 15 feet. He’s a long and fluid athlete who was a constant mismatch in the Summit League. He handles the ball really well for his size and has a nice hook shot on the move and is really good with long finishes at the basket. He shot 66.9 percent at the rim, per Synergy. He averaged 17.9 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.7 blocks this season. While he had some huge scoring games — twice going over 30 — one Summit League coach told The Athletic he doesn’t think he’s “an alpha male.” That coach predicted on a Top 20 team, Nelson would average eight to 10 points but “help them win a lot of games.” We see him more in the 12 to 15 ppg range. North Dakota State used him a lot in pick-and-pop settings, and he can mix up screening angles, flip a screen or ghost. Get him in space and he’s able to score or find open teammates. He would be a great pick-and-roll partner with a high-level guard. Defensively, he’s switchable, but he can get lost in space. Oral Roberts really picked on him in the Summit League title game. He may also have to adjust to the physicality of the high-major level if that’s the route he chooses. But there’s a lot to like offensively. His fluidity with the ball in his hands and his potential defensive versatility is what makes him an interesting pro prospect and why the high majors will come calling. His rate of improvement is also striking. He went from averaging 6.3 points and starting only five games as a freshman to someone legitimately discussed as an NBA prospect as a junior.

3. Julian Phillips | 6-8 wing | Three years of eligibility | Tennessee

A McDonald’s All-American in 2022, Phillips started for the Vols for a majority of the season and was a really useful player as a freshman for a coach that can be hard on younger players. Particularly, I thought Phillips was actually the Vols’ best defensive player this season. He is long and switchable, with aggressiveness that allows him to be effective on any player one through four that he’s guarding. On top of that, he’s an impactful help defender all over the court, rotating well within scheme and wreaking havoc for offensive players. Speaking of offense, that was a bit of a mixed bag this year. Phillips was a good shooter in high school that made some slight mechanical tweaks entering his freshman year that didn’t pay off, as he made only 24 percent from 3. Because of that, he was actually at his best attacking the basket out in transition and as a cutter, averaging about four free throws and eight points per game. Phillips is also an entry into the 2023 NBA Draft, and is seen as a potential first-rounder if he has a strong pre-draft process due to his length, defensive capabilities, and on-ball upside. Scouts are excited to see him outside of a Tennessee scheme that can be a bit offensively limiting. But if he does decide to return to college, there will be a long line for his services because his defense is incredibly useful and his offensive game has shown real upside at lower levels.

4. Olivier Nkamhoua | 6-8 forward | One year of eligibility | Tennessee

Expect that Nkamhoua will be one of the more popular players in the portal. It’s surprising that he’d leave Tennessee, as he really came on late in the year. He likely would have been a preseason first-team All-SEC pick if he decided to go back. His 27-point outburst against Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament was one of the best performances we’ve seen in this Big Dance, and it was far from his only monster game. He only averaged 10 points and five rebounds per game for the Vols, but Rick Barnes’ team tended to spread the wealth on offense. Nkamhoua shot 51 percent from the field and grew into a potential 3-point threat over the course of the season. The 6-foot-8 forward was also a big part of one of the most stifling defenses in the country this year, constantly being aware of what’s happening around him rotationally and taking on tough frontcourt assignments. He’s been a reliable two-year starter, and he looks like he’s on the verge of breaking out into something even bigger. The question is whether or not that will be in college basketball or in a professional setting. Nkamhoua is a native of Finland, and won’t have any issues finding gainful employment overseas in a really strong league to start his career. That’s probably the more sensible move for him financially long-term. But if Nkamhoua does return to college, he’d likely be an all-conference player next season wherever he suits up.

5. Ernest Udeh Jr. | 6-11 center | Three years of eligibility | Kansas

Udeh has star potential and a chance to be the best defensive center in college basketball, not just in the portal. He struggled to earn consistent playing time for Kansas until late in the season and even had five straight DNPs, but he was a difference-maker once he cemented himself in the rotation. The counting stats shouldn’t matter here because he averaged only 8.3 minutes per game. The per 40 numbers are more appropriate in projecting what Udeh could become, and those were 12.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 2.9 blocks. He can legitimately guard all five spots and has the quickness and length to wreck ball screens. He’s built to get deflections. He also committed 7.7 fouls per 40 minutes, and if he’s going to become a starter — and that’s likely to happen wherever he lands — then he’s going to need to figure out how to play without fouling. That said, he could play with reckless abandon because he knew he was playing in short spurts. Offensively, Kansas did not trust him in the post and his shooting mechanics beg to be fixed, but he is a real weapon as a vertical lob presence. It turned into lob city anytime he touched the floor, because KU’s guards had the faith they could throw it up anywhere near the rim and he’d get it. He simply needed time to develop, figuring out the intricacies of screening and all the little things that would keep him on the floor for KU. The Jayhawks ran a lot of ball screens, and Udeh fit well in that scheme, but Self also prefers to be able to throw it into the post and that’s where the player and system didn’t exactly align. Maybe Udeh would have got there, but once KU landed Hunter Dickinson, the opportunity for starter minutes as a sophomore was no longer present. Udeh should seek a system that is ball-screen heavy and can take advantage of the pressure he puts on the rim. Defensively, he fits just about anywhere. He was a McDonald’s All-American a year ago, and while the numbers make it look like he underwhelmed, do not be fooled. The tape says otherwise, and the interest he’s about to see from high-majors will as well.

RayJ Dennis was the MAC player of the year at Toledo. (Scott W. Grau / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

6. RayJ Dennis | 6-2 point guard | One year of eligibility | Toledo

This is a big late addition to the portal. The MAC Player of the Year put up big numbers — 19.6 points, 5.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game — while piloting the most efficient offense in college hoops and leading Toledo to a regular-season MAC title. Dennis is also testing the NBA Draft waters. Dennis has the ball on a string and has sort of an old-man game. He loves turning his back to his defender, able to spin either direction. He knows how to get his man off balance and can also knock down a turnaround jumper. He also has a good feel for how to play out of ball screens and read secondary defenders. Toledo played fast, and he’s used to pushing the ball up the court. He sees the floor well and can spray it out to shooters — the Rockets were the second-best 3-point shooting team by percentage in the country. Dennis’s ability to get defenders’ eyes on him helped create a lot of those good looks. Dennis was never much of a shooter until this season when he knocked down a respectable 36.5 percent of his 3s. That’s not his biggest strength, but it’s at least part of his game now and made him a more well-rounded scorer. The MAC is a solid mid-major league, and Dennis looks capable of making the leap to the high-major level. He’s proven he can produce at a higher level, averaging 8.6 points and 2.9 assists per game as a sophomore at Boise State.

7. Aziz Bandaogo | 7-foot center | Two years of eligibility | Utah Valley

The WAC Defensive Player of the Year is the best defensive weapon available in the transfer portal. Bandaogo averaged 11.5 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.9 blocks in a breakout season after spending two years at Akron. Bandaogo told ESPN’s Jonathan Givony that he is transferring for his mental health, so he’ll obviously be trying to get a mental health waiver, which he would need to play right away. Even if he’s not able to secure a waiver, considering his rapid rate of improvement, it might be worth it for a high-major program to stash him for a redshirt year and then have two seasons of eligibility remaining. Bandaogo is quick-twitched and can really move for his size. He’s able to defend out on the perimeter and then is an elite rim protector. Utah Valley opponents shot just 39.8 percent inside the arc and scored 0.88 points per possession when Bandaogo was on the floor, per Bandaogo is a vertical lob presence at the rim who can get off the ground quickly and go get the ball in the air. He’s also an effective roller, able to get out of a screen and cover ground in a hurry. He had 105 dunks for Utah Valley this season. He also stepped out and made five 3s on 13 attempts. He was also used on the perimeter to initiate handoff actions. He runs the floor hard and is a guy who will steal a couple easy buckets every game just because of the pressure he puts on the rim. Bandaogo was part of the NBA African Academy, and he’s originally from Dakar, Senegal. He played only 15 minutes in seven games his freshman year at Akron and then averaged just 12.2 minutes per game as a sophomore. He blossomed under Mark Madsen at Utah Valley, replacing Fardaws Aimaq, who transferred to Texas Tech. Aimaq just followed Madsen to California. Bandaogo, unlike Aimaq, is not much of a post-up threat, and will fit well with any team that uses a lot of pick-and-roll.

8. Tyrin Lawrence | 6-4 guard | Two years of eligibility | Vanderbilt

Something about a lefty. They just look better scoring the ball than everyone else. Lawrence is one of those guys. He does a good job of reading his defender’s feet and leverage to get where he wants. He can drive either directions, but it seems like he always finds a way to get back to his left hand. He really excelled flying off of zoom actions in Vandy’s offense, which was a good way to get him going left. His shooting and scoring numbers weren’t great his first two seasons at Vandy but he blew up this year. He averaged 13.1 points and one made 3 per game on 36 percent shooting from deep. He’s at his best when driving lanes open up, and the development of his jumper really keeps defenders guessing. That combination also makes him good in the open floor. He really showed off his scoring potential late in the year when he averaged 19.6 points over a nine-game stretch. He’ll fit best in an offense that plays with pace and figures out ways to get him going downhill to his left hand. He enters the portal late, but he should get plenty of attention. Not easy to find a guy with his combination of scoring ability, size and athleticism this late in the game, especially a guy who has proven himself at the high-major level.

9. Allen Flanigan | 6-6 wing | One year of eligibility | Auburn

Flanigan is the son of Wes Flanigan, who left his job as an assistant coach at Auburn to join Chris Beard’s staff at Ole Miss. It’d be surprising if the younger Flanigan goes anywhere besides Ole Miss. Flanigan is a guy who looks the part of a pro from a size and athleticism standpoint. He put up pretty good numbers as a sophomore — 14.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists — but he wasn’t the same player as a junior when he dealt with an Achilles injury. He started to look more like his old self this past season, averaging 10.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists. It’s possible if Ole Miss is the destination that he returns to more of a playmaking role and has the ball in his hands more — like he did as a sophomore. But even if he puts up similar numbers as his senior season, he’s a solid starter in the SEC who has produced on winning teams. He’s at his best playing in space and slashing to the basket or setting up teammates when he draws help. He needs to continue to improve his jump shot. He shot just 33.3 percent from 3 and is a 29.8 percent 3-point shooter for his career, but he’s had stretches where he’s looked like more of a mid-30s shooter.

10. Keshad Johnson | 6-7 wing | One year of eligibility | San Diego State

This one was a surprise, considering Johnson was a starter on a Final Four team. He has also put his name in the NBA Draft. As is the case with almost everyone in the San Diego State program, he’s built to play defense. He has NBA athleticism and size. He’s able to guard any position and was often tasked with guarding the best opposing wing. His signature defensive performance was holding Alabama star Brandon Miller to just nine points in the Sweet 16, and none of those baskets came against Johnson. He did get lit up by Florida Atlantic’s Alijah Martin. He’s fast in a straight line but not as quick moving laterally. Offensively, he’s limited. He averaged 7.7 points, and while he’s built like a big wing, the Aztecs used him more like a traditional power forward. Most of his buckets came on dump-offs or duck-ins. He did finish with one of his best games, scoring 14 points in the national title game against UConn. He made both 3s he tried in the Final Four but was just 9-of-40 from deep the rest of the year. He’s shot 25.2 percent from beyond the arc for his career. He is a good finisher in the paint and has proven he can thrive in his role as a defender and dirty work guy.

11. Connor Vanover | 7-5 center | One year of eligibility | Oral Roberts

Vanover is on pace to graduate and will be a grad transfer. The big man would be wise to follow former ORU coach Paul Mills to Wichita State. Vanover thrived playing for him after falling out of the rotation at Arkansas. He averaged 12.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game, making the All-Summit League first team and also winning Defensive Player of the Year in the league. He’s best utilized as a pick-and-pop/roller. He’s a capable shooter with a high release. He made 32.4 percent from 3 on 142 attempts this season. The mechanics are good and he’s made 81.1 percent of his free throws for his career. He’s almost automatic when he catches it in close, shooting 80.2 percent at the rim in his one season at ORU, per Synergy. He made 51 dunks in 34 games. He does a good job of blocking and contesting shots at the rim without fouling, committing only 2.3 fouls per 40 minutes. He’s at least proven he can be a useful role player at higher levels. He averaged 7.5 points and 1.3 blocks as a freshman at Cal and then 6.3 points and 1.8 blocks in his redshirt sophomore season at Arkansas, when he started 27 games. Guarding in space and dealing with physicality are the two concerns when Vanover has played at higher levels. If not Wichita State, Vanover should find a team that uses its big to set a lot of ball screens and is willing to let him fire from the mid-range and 3.

12. Mike Sharavjamts | 6-8 guard | Three years of eligibility | Dayton

Believed to be the first Mongolian citizen to ever earn a Division I basketball scholarship, Sharavjamts — who goes by the nickname “Mongolian Mike” — is an extremely skilled guard with plus positional size at 6-foot-8 to pair with legitimate passing and shooting skills. This season at Dayton was a bit up-and-down. Despite personnel that included a terrific rim-runner in DaRon Holmes and athletic, skilled guards and wings, the Flyers this season played at a snail’s pace that probably did not get the most out of its talent — a bizarre departure from the fun style that Anthony Grant brought to the Flyers during the Obi Toppin era. Sharavjamts is a player that really likes to play in a wide-open, high ball-screen attack that allows him to make plays both as a primary and secondary ballhandler. This on-ball skill at his size is why, despite averaging just 5.6 points, 1.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists, Mongolian Mike was invited to the G League Elite Camp during NBA Draft Combine week in Chicago, essentially seeing him ranked as a consensus top-120 prospect in the 2023 NBA Draft by NBA teams. In that vein, it’s also worth noting that Sharavjamts is far from certain to end up in college next year. He’s currently focused on pursuing professional opportunities, and entered the portal simply to leave the door open in case those chances don’t materialize in the coming weeks. He’s a boom-or-bust player that has real defensive deficiencies right now, and I’d recommend that he only goes to uptempo, well-spaced offensive situations that allow him to get the most out of his skill level. Still, he’s worth ranking because the upside if he gets into the right environment is very real.

(Top photo of Grant Nelson: Wesley Hitt / Getty Images)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top