In the first parts of my league-by-league prospect outlook series, I took a look at the top prospects in the Big Ten, ACC and SEC conferences. Today, it’s time to look at the Big 12 conference, whose best prospect has a major question mark.
Kansas remains one of the most talented teams in the conference. Texas and Baylor both have a couple prospects that might get drafted next year. Oklahoma also has an NBA prospect looking to become a lottery pick. Who are the top NBA prospects in the Big 12?
5. PG Isaiah Taylor 6-2 170 Texas Junior
Taylor came to Texas known for his speed, and that’s his best NBA asset at this point in time. Taylor’s elite speed and quickness give him a high ceiling, but he needs to improve in many areas before heading to the NBA.
Taylor averaged a solid 4.6 assists per game last year and improving his decision-making as well. He’s a pesky defender utilizing his lateral quickness to stay in front of either guard position. Taylor has a nice floater and can finish in a variety of ways despite his slight frame.
That slight frame is a real issue for the NBA, as Taylor desperately needs to put on some muscle if he wants to defend NBA point guards. Taylor’s biggest glare is his jumpshot – he simply lacks any semblance of one. Taylor has made 16 threes in two years, shooting under 30 percent from long range both seasons at Texas.
However, Taylor shows promise as a free throw shooter (shot 84.2 last season), despite struggling as a mid range shooter in game. Taylor is also deadly in transition, getting free points thanks to his breakneck speed. It’s going to be interesting to see Taylor’s progress this upcoming season, as his stock could increase greatly if he improves offensively.
4. SG/SF Sviatoslav Mykailiuk 6-6 200 Kansas Sophomore
Mykhailiuk came to Kansas as a 17-year-old Ukrainian phenom and showed plenty of promise last year despite being ineligible for the draft thanks to his youth. Now, with the departure of swingman Kelly Oubre and year of maturity under his belt, Mykhailiuk looks to take charge of things from the perimeter.
At 6-6 and 200 pounds, Mykhailiuk has the size to play either wing position at the next level. Mykhailiuk has the ability to get his own shot off the bounce with nice shooting mechanics as well as footwork. Mykhailiuk is an average athlete by NBA standards, possessing enough quickness and verticality to get where he wants on the floor. Mykhailiuk is also a very unselfish passer and solid defender.
However, Mykhailiuk lacks the length (just a 6-6 wingspan) to finish at the rim and that hurts his potential on the defensive end. Mykhailiuk needs to get stronger to help compensate for his lack of length defensively. He really struggles with an in-between game, shooting a horrid 11.1 percent on two-point jump shots per hoop-math.com. Despite 93.3 percent of his three-point shots coming off of assists, Mykhailiuk only shot 28.8 percent, a number that really needs to see improvement for his NBA stock.
Overall, Mykhailiuk was so young last year that he should grow leaps and bounds in a successful sophomore campaign. It’s going to be exciting to see how Mykhailiuk improves this year, as his talent is through the roof offensively, with promise to be an average defender. With a successful season, look for Mykhailiuk to solidify himself as a first round pick in the 2016 draft.
3. SG/SF Taurean Prince 6-7.5 215 Baylor Senior
Earlier this summer, I wrote about how Prince was a mismatch nightmare as a stretch-4 for the USA during the Pan American games. If he can translate that effectiveness next year alongside big man Ricardo Gathers, Prince might be selected in the late first round in next years draft.
At 6-7.5 and 215 pounds with a 6-11 wingspan, Prince has the look of an NBA swingman. When you combine his elite athleticism and quickness with the fact that he brings constant energy to the game, Prince could turn into a defensive stopper down the line, a la DeMarre Carroll.
Prince gained consistency from the perimeter last year shooting 39.5 percent from three on 4.6 attempts per game, and is far ahead of where Carroll was in this regard at the same stage. Prince shot 47 percent from the right corner three and 49(!) percent on left wing threes (per shotanalytics.com), very impressive numbers for a player who transitioned to the perimeter.
However, Prince needs to improve his in-between game – Prince really struggled from that range as a junior. Prince could also stand to work on his playmaking, sporting a 0.63:1 assist to turnover ratio as a junior. Prince also struggles as a free throw shooter, shooting only 64.4 percent last year. With some improvements in these areas, look for prince to solidify his spot in the first round.
2. SG Buddy Hield 6-4.5 215 Oklahoma Senior
The only senior on this list, Hield is a deadly shooter from three-point range with adequate size and length (6-4.5 with a 6-8.5 wingspan) to be an effective shooting guard at the next level. Hield attempted over seven threes per game as a sophomore and junior, firmly supplanting himself as the number one option on Oklahoma.
Hield has the athleticism, quickness and handle to get his shot at the next level when teams overplay his jump shot. Hield improved as a rebounder last season (5.4 per game) and has always been a pesk on defense, accumulating over a steal per game all three seasons. Hield takes care of the ball well, especially considering how often he has the ball in his hands.
However, Hield struggled as a junior from long range, shooting only 35.9 percent on a similar amount of attempts he shot as a sophomore (when he shot 38.6 percent from three). Hield really hasn’t shown much of an in-between game either, shooting only 29.6 percent on two-point jump shots (per hoop-math.com).
Hield’s efficiency from the left corner three dropped 10 percentage points from 46 percent as a sophomore to 36 as a junior (per shotanalytics.com). Hield finishes well at the rim, but it’ll be interesting to see how his average height and length transition to the highest level of competition. If he’s able to gain the consistency he had as a sophomore and improve some deficiencies, expect Hield to be a mid-first round pick.
1. PF/C Cheick Diallo 6-9 220 Kansas Freshman
Diallo is the biggest question mark on this list, as he’s not even been deemed eligible to play yet at Kansas. When and if Diallo gets cleared, he instantly becomes one of the biggest immediate impact recruits in the country with a Kenneth Faried-esque energy combined with elite athleticism and strength.
Diallo will be a game-changer in the paint at either the 4 or 5 for Kansas, providing lateral quickness to defend ball screens and enough girth to provide resistance to big men. Diallo is a high flyer, capable of skying for alley oops and rebounds well above the rim. Diallo has good size and length for an NBA big man; at 6-9 with a 7-3 wingspan, and uses it to be a terror in the passing lanes and as a shot blocker.
However, Diallo lacks any sort of skill offensively, which limits his potential a good bit. He can’t really post up and doesn’t stretch the floor, two problems that are unfavorable with new era NBA. Diallo really is an elite garbage man thanks to his efficiency in the paint, athleticism and defensive prowess.
Diallo also needs to add weight, which shouldn’t be a problem when looking at his frame. It remains to be seen if Diallo will become eligible this coming season, but if he is, he’ll need to show a better touch and overall offensive ability to reach his immense ceiling.
Honorable mention: Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk SG/SF Kansas (not eligible until 2017), Perry Ellis PF Kansas, Cameron Ridley C Texas, Rico Gathers PF Baylor, Monte Morris PG Iowa State