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Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big Ten

Monday night’s NCAA Championship Game put the finishing touches on another exciting season that’ll produce even more exciting talent for the NBA. The deadline for prospects to officially declare for the draft is April 26, just over two weeks away, and while the Big Ten had an “off year” in the eyes of many pundits and commentators alike, the conference will provide some solid talent for the next level. Starting with Wisconsin and Frank Kaminsky, we break down some of the names to know before June’s draft.

Frank Kaminsky

Team: Wisconsin Badgers

Status: Going Pro

After labeling the NBA as “boring” in May of last year, the 2015 Naismith Award Winner will enter the league this coming summer after graduating from Wisconsin. Kaminsky was at the core of a Wisconsin team that led the country in offense this season, finding ways to score both inside and outside. Kaminsky is the most versatile big man in the conference, with his passing ability and off-the-ball movement unmatched by anyone, and he can put it on the floor as well. Not only does he have an array of post moves, but he’s also an excellent perimeter shooter with a basketball IQ that exceeds or at the very least matches that of his opponents.

Wisconsin put this bit together as an overall vote of confidence for their Player of the Year, and it does a good job showcasing his abilities:

Right now, Kaminsky is a projected lotto pick, but he needs to work on his rebounding, post defense and quickness. Kaminsky grabbed 8.2 rebounds per game his senior season in just over 33 minutes per game, compared to 8.5 rebounds per game for Jahlil Okafor in 30 minutes per game and 6.7 rebounds per game for Karl-Anthony Towns in 21 minutes per game. Could be worse, but could still use some improvement.

Where I think Kaminsky is really challenged is his lateral movement and overall quickness. It’s true that while Kaminsky has good size and length, he greatly lacks foot speed, and that may be something that even his basketball IQ can’t help him get around. He simply doesn’t have the natural athleticism that’s a good quality to have in an NBA big man.

Overall, I think Kaminsky sneaks into the later part of the lottery, but teams will have to gamble on his strength and post play defensively. If he can take a page out of the Cody Zeller book and get stronger quickly, it’ll be interesting to see where a team will insert him into their lineup.

Sam Dekker

Team: Wisconsin Badgers

Status: Undecided – 50/50

Sam Dekker did himself all kinds of favors with his play in the NCAA Tournament following the B1G Tournament in Chicago. I got to see Dekker first hand, and I’m not sure there’s a player who impressed more. This season, Dekker averaged almost 14 points and five boards while shooting over 52 percent from the field, up from the 12 points and six boards he put up last year on 47 percent shooting.

While Kaminsky was the Player of the Year, Dekker was arguably better in March than his 7-foot tall teammate. Dekker’s 27 points in the Elite Eight against Arizona was as impressive as they come in terms of individual performances, and that effort also showed why he’s too hot to handle when he gets going. Against Duke, though, Dekker struggled from beyond the arc:

Dekker shot just 33 percent from three-point range this year, up just a half-percent from last year, but ultimately down from the 39 percent he shot as a freshman.

While his three-point shooting is inconsistent, Dekker is consistently good at finishing at the basket, as evidenced here:

The Sheboygan native may not have the raw talent, rebounding ability or body of a Justise Winslow, but he can match Winslow’s motor and is currently a better mid-range player than the Duke freshman. Another potential upside to Dekker is that he could play down a spot as a shooting guard or play to his size as a small forward, leaving coaches room to work with. If he can display a more consistent jumper on workouts leading up to the draft, that will help him.

Right now, I see Dekker as a mid-first-round pick with the potential to go in the lottery. If there’s one thing he has proved over the last three years, it’s that he’s not afraid of a challenge.

D’Angelo Russell

Team: Ohio State

Status: Undecided – likely to leave

The Louisville native hasn’t actually told the world he plans on going pro, but almost everyone can agree that D’Angelo Russell has the ability to play at the next level and at a high level. Russell played nearly 34 minutes a game and averaged 19/5/5 per game on nearly 45 percent shooting and 41 percent from beyond the arc. At just 19, Russell is seen as the elite point guard coming out of the 2015 class with his silky passes and ability to coast around the floor almost effortlessly.

Russell sure knows how to put on a show, to say the least:

The 2015 NCAA Tournament was both good and bad for Russell. Ohio State opened up against VCU and the Buckeyes freshman lit it up, scoring 28 points on 4-7 from three-point range and 10-20 overall. However, the Buckeyes matched up against the Arizona Wildcats in the third round, and we saw a Russell almost entirely different from the game before. He scored just nine points on 3-19 shooting overall and 1-7 from three-point range, though he managed to snag seven boards and hand out six assists before his exit.

While Russell performed poorly against Arizona, it shouldn’t hurt his draft stock much. His shooting ability, effective passing and ability to control the game adds to his resume as a top five pick, and if he declares, he should be just that.

Terran Petteway

Team: Nebraska

Status: Undecided – likely to leave

Terran Petteway is an interesting case in a draft scenario. On the one hand, I think Petteway might just be good enough to sneak his way into the second round with his athleticism and scoring ability. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that he doesn’t get selected at all with the options available ahead of him.

Petteway spent his freshman year with Texas Tech before transferring to Nebraska and sitting out a year. Last year, the Galveston, Texas man was a productive junior playing 35 minutes a game and averaging 18 points, five rebounds, and just about three assists. His shooting percentage has dipped slightly since last year (42.6 percent -> 39.6 percent), but he has shot the ball more both inside and outside the arc.

Like Dekker, Petteway plays with a great motor and is extremely aggressive. Unlike Dekker, though, he can sometimes play a little out of his limit as evidenced by his more than three turnovers per game. At 22, Petteway is slightly older than the majority of the draft class and it’s unclear whether or not his game can really grow from where it is now. Where he remains a consistent factor is on offense, which just may help him get drafted.

Right now, I don’t see Petteway getting selected. Things can change, as do the opinions of NBA scouts and coaches, but Petteway will have to prove that he can be consistently productive while holding his own defensively to have a shot.

Petteway was going to announce his intentions earlier in the week, but he postponed the announcement until next week. due to the death of his mother.

Yogi Ferrell

Team: Indiana

Status: Undecided – unlikely to leave

Indiana fans are thanking their lucky stars that 4-star center Thomas Bryant committed to the Hoosiers, and for more reasons than simply having Bryant himself. The addition may just help to sway the opinion of Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, Indiana’s centerpiece for the last three years.

Ferrell spent his junior season dragging the Hoosiers through the mud to a second-round NCAA Tournament exit to Wichita State. Over the course of the season, Ferrell averaged 16 points, three rebounds, and almost five assists per game, shooting 44 percent from the field and 41.6 percent from the three-point line.

One of his other positives that’s not measurable, his clutch gene:

The draft boards list him as 6’0, 178 lbs, but I think Ferrell is closer to 5’10 than he is a solid 6’0. His leadership has been a key factor in the small amount of success Indiana has enjoyed the past two years, but as a freshman Yogi impressed even playing with Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo. Also impressive is that Ferrell cut down on his turnovers this season despite playing nearly 35 minutes a game and being the team’s main ball handler. Additionally, he’s one of a few players to improve his numbers every year in almost every major category. (points, rebounds, assists, shooting %’s)

While his numbers look good, I’m still pretty convinced that if Ferrell got drafted, he’d be looking at a late second-round pick at best. If he’s going to make it, he needs to get even stronger (he’s already pretty strong; arms like bowling balls), and he needs to continue to develop as a facilitator since his height is out of his control. Hoosier fans will also be thanking their lucky stars if their No. 11 stays.

A.J. Hammons

Team: Purdue

Status: Undecided – likely to stay

If you’re looking for a physical big with decent mobility, ability to score and is a defensive presence while also being extremely raw, sometimes disinterested and not always completely fit, look no further than A.J. Hammons.

Starting with the positives, Hammons is big. Like, 7’0, 280 pounds big, as listed by ESPN. He can get up and down the floor okay, but is pretty mobile on either end when he gets there. He has a good post presence and can find creative ways to score against opponents of similar size. Additionally, Hammons is a good rim protector who understands where he needs to be position-wise, even if he isn’t always there.

However, the knocks on Hammons happen to be where all his biggest issues are. He can often become disinterested in the game in losing moments, and doesn’t always run the floor to the best of his abilities. Chad Ford notes that one of his biggest weaknesses is the similarity in performances between year one and year three, where he is now. It seems like Hammons is in a shell he just doesn’t want to leave, but the potential of the kid in that shell is a first-round pick all things considered. If Hammons ever really puts the whole package together with the effort required to play at the next level, or to really succeed at the collegiate level, then he’ll be someone to watch. For now, though, he remains another project.

Aaron White

Team: Iowa

Status: Going Pro

Though he is a senior, Aaron White is someone who I don’t see making a big impact on the draft boards of NBA execs. Ohio born and raised, White enjoyed a four-year career at Iowa, putting up over 10 points per game each year. As a senior, he averaged 16.4 points along with 7.3 rebounds on 52 percent shooting, leading some to believe he can be that productive at the next level.

While he’s incredible effective at the rim, he has almost no jump shot or perimeter range, and that’ll surely hurt him. He’s also just 6’9, 220 lbs, so his effectiveness at the rim against 7-foot opposition every night has yet to be proven. I’ll say he runs the floor well for his size and he plays smart and hard, an admirable quality, but I just don’t think White has what it takes to make the jump.

Some boards have him as a late second-round pick, but the majority have left White off their list of predictions. The only thing he can do now is prove everyone wrong.

Caris LeVert

Team: Michigan

Status: Undecided – 50/50

Caris LeVert no question will be drafted should he decide to declare; the only remaining question is in which round. LeVert is a junior who didn’t see a whole lot of time his freshman year, but saw relatively the same amount of minutes in his sophomore and junior seasons. This year, LeVert averaged almost 15 points, five boards and nearly four assists, but didn’t played after January 20th due to a stress fracture in his foot. The year before, though, he averaged about 13 points, four boards and three assists. Quite similar. His shooting percentage dropped from 44 percent to 42 percent, but scouts remain high on him despite the injury, particularly because he didn’t get to show his full range of productivity in conference play.

Here he is against Nicholls State in November 2014:

LeVert is strong, a good shooter and pretty versatile on both ends. He could get even better by adding on more strength and finding a good fit within an offense. At 6’6, 185 lbs, he’s a useful commodity with the potential to develop into a great shooter, but will need to come back strong from his second stress fracture in order to continue impressing.

Some have LeVert being picked in the second round, while others have him in the first, assuming he declares of course. I see LeVert as a late first-round pick who could drop into the early second round depending on how well he looks in his pre-draft workouts. Michigan fans will of course hope that he returns for his final year of eligibility, though.

Overall, the Big Ten provides a lot of quality in different positions this draft. From Kaminsky to Petteway to Ferrell and back, the conference prospects span over every position, and it’s only a matter of who gets picked and who does not.

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