It’s tough to find dynamic upperclassmen who generate NBA buzz and attract teams as high-impact options these days. Seniors are often viewed as overripe assets, with few of them landing early in the draft.
But if you search the college ranks long enough, you’ll find a small handful of versatile elder statesmen.
They don’t have as many prime years left as their teenage counterparts, but they’re more battle-tested and multidimensional than most freshmen.
We tabbed the top five senior prospects in the 2016 draft, ranking them based on skills, stats and noticeable potential.
5. Tyrone Wallace, California G (6’6″)
Sporting a 6’6″ frame and 6’9.5″ wingspan, California southpaw Tyrone Wallace offers an enticing blend of playmaking skills and size.
Wallace has a knack for navigating opposing defenses with smooth ball-handling ability and awesome timing. His length and command of the rock should make him a successful pick-and-roll quarterback in the NBA.
While Wallace can score effectively near the tin and from mid-range, the three-point shot remains a question mark. His perimeter efficiency didn’t improve at all from 2013-14 to 2014-15 (he shot 32 percent both years). Wallace could unlock a new tier of NBA success if he irons out his shooting delivery — or struggle to stay afloat if he doesn’t.
4. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma SG (6’4″)
Buddy Hield is a solid ball-handler, but not a devastating shot creator with advanced moves to generate separation. He’s also a capable three-point shooter, but his release point is low and he shot just 32 percent on two-point jumpers in 2014-15 (per Hoop-math.com). And lastly, he’s a good-but-not-great defender.
So what makes Hield an appealing pro prospect? He’s an elite competitor with a sharp feel for the game.
The Sooner senior magnifies his skills by playing aggressively, constantly operating in sync with his teammates and capitalizing on transition opportunities. Hield does a great job of using his speed in the pick-and-roll and finishing assertively through contact:
Buddy Hield looks a lot more comfortable playing with the ball this year. Playing some point. Changing speed in P/R. Streaky jumper.
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) June 29, 2015
Even though his skill set doesn’t scream “stardom,” there’s a place for Hield in the league.
3. Taurean Prince, Baylor SF (6’7″)
Armed with terrific length (6’11” wingspan), athleticism and an energetic playing style, Baylor’s Taurean Prince figures to latch on in the NBA as a versatile defender.
He can cover miles of territory in a hurry, chase wings on the perimeter and battle for rebounds around the bucket. With seasoning and more strength, he should be able to guard 2s, 3s and 4s in the Association.
When Prince is done boosting his team’s outlook on that end, he’ll serve as a capable three-point option and forceful finisher.
He stepped into a substantial secondary role as a junior in 2014-15, averaging 13.9 points in 26.3 minutes per game on 40 percent three-point shooting. If Prince’s strong play at the Nike Skills Academy and Pan American games are any indication, he’s ready for an even bigger senior year and some first-round looks:
2. Jake Layman, Maryland SF (6’9″)
Although Jake Layman isn’t the shiftiest or most dynamically creative wing, he’s still worth a first-round flier. The Maryland Terrapins forward has the vertical juice, vision and dexterity to become a superb role player.
Layman’s offensive repertoire won’t blow anyone away, but he can shoot from deep (38 percent in 2014-15), attack closeouts and convert mid-post forays athletically. The widespread comparisons to Chandler Parsons are fairly accurate because Layman has a similar cadence to his game and plays with poise like the Dallas Mavericks star.
Thanks to his 6’9″ frame and quick feet, Layman projects as a capable forward stopper in the NBA.
“What was under-appreciated most about Layman last season, however, was his ability to defend, not only on the ball, but also away from it,” notes Matt Ellentuck of Testudo Times.
1. Caris LeVert, Michigan G (6’7″)
Caris LeVert’s foot injury put a dent in his draft value and made him somewhat of a risk. Nevertheless, the Michigan senior’s rangy physical profile and exceptional versatility will likely get him drafted before any other senior.
On offense, he’ll hurt NBA foes whether he’s handling the rock or moving without it. LeVert shot better than 40 percent from three-land in each of the past two seasons, and he also dished out 3.7 assists per game in 2014-15 as a secondary distributor. LeVert’s combination of athleticism and awareness help him strike opponents at the perfect time in half court and transition.
The other end of the floor offers equally intriguing possibilities at the next level. LeVert owns the quickness and length to stymie guards and forwards alike, making him a candidate to flourish as a defensive Swiss Army Knife. John Bauman of Upside & Motor explains:
(LeVert) has long arms that crowd passing lanes and bother shots…LeVert also possesses the skill set to switch onto bigger, stronger forwards once in the league and not get bullied for easy post up baskets. He is strong and has quick hands to swipe the ball away from aggressive power forwards and centers…Teams want size on the wing to snatch steals and to pull off switching schemes on defense. LeVert fits the mold and is the ideal player for the modern day NBA defense.
While LeVert’s injury history is reason for pause, selecting him could yield a colossal two-way payoff.