Texas Tech basketball newcomer projected as first-round pick in 2025

According to some early projections, new Texas Tech basketball forward JT Toppin could be a first-round pick in the 2025 NBA Draft.
Colgate v Baylor
Colgate v Baylor / Justin Ford/GettyImages

This past week, the NBA held its annual draft and, as expected, no Red Raider was selected. However, that could change in 2025 with new transfer JT Toppin projected by many to be a first-round pick next year.

According to CBSSports.com, Toppin is solidly in the first-round projections for the next NBA Draft. In their early 2025 mock draft, the former New Mexico Lobo checks in at No. 18.

"JT Toppin took the Mountain West by storm as a freshman and is moving on to prove himself at Texas Tech," they write. "He's a 6-foot-9 forward [who has] length and athleticism. He excels as a rebounder and defender but also has a budding offensive game."

Last season in Albuquerque, Toppin put forth an excellent true freshman campaign. Averaging 12.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, the Dallas, Texas native turned plenty of heads in the Mountain West earning Freshman of the Year honors in that league.

What's more, at the NBA Draft Combine this spring, he impressed by putting up 11 points and 10 rebounds in one scrimmage. That began the talk about him playing his way into the first round of next year's draft.

Of course, Toppin's draft status is a complicated issue for Texas Tech. With three years of eligibility remaining, the Red Raiders would love to have him for the duration of his college career.

However, if Toppin is an NBA pick next year, it will mean that the Red Raiders only have one year with him in their program. That wouldn't be ideal.

On the other hand, if Toppin does play his way squarely into the first round of the 2025 draft, it would mean that he played extremely well for Tech in 2024-25. If Toppin excels and even turns himself into an NBA lottery pick next year, then Tech will have gotten the best out of him during his lone season in Lubbock.

NBA teams already love his massive wingspan, his athleticism, his ability to rebound and block shots, and his transition game. However, he still has work to do if he wants to guarantee he's a first-round pick next summer (remember that only first-round picks have their rookie contracts guaranteed).

Toppin must improve at the foul line where he shot only 56% as a freshman. He must also improve his defense away from the basket (that's something that Texas Tech head coach Grant McCasland can certainly help him with given McCasland's defensive pedigree).

If Toppin can also improve upon his 34.4% shooting from 3-point range, it would do wonders for his NBA stock. That's because, at 6-foot-7, he is going to have to prove to NBA teams that he can be a perimeter scorer as well as a finisher around the rim.

Texas Tech hasn't had a player selected in the NBA Draft since Jahmi'us Ramsey went to the Sacramento Kings in the second round of the 2020 draft. What's more, since 2004, the program has produced only three draft picks, Ramsey, Jarrett Culver (2019), and Zhaire Smith (2018).

That trend needs to change for this program to take a step forward and be a consistent national contender. In each of the two most successful seasons in program history, 2017-18 and 2018-19, Tech had a first-round pick on the roster and that proved to pay huge dividends.

Next season, the Red Raiders could have another first-round pick on the team in Toppin. If he can refine his game and take his productivity to another level as a sophomore, he could be a player that everyone is talking about a year from now.