The NCAA college basketball season ended Monday with the Duke Blue Devils hoisting the trophy after beating the Wisconsin Badgers in the National Title game. And with the close of the college basketball season, the talk now moves towards the draft. Many have already said who they believe will be the first overall pick in the draft, but who do any of these draft picks compare to that have played or are currently playing in the NBA? Let’s take a look at who some incoming or potentially incoming prospects into the 2015 Draft that we just saw in the Final Four and who they are similar to. The person they are compared to is who they could be based on their skills and aptitude for the game.
Frank Kaminsky, Senior
Frank the Tank was a man possessed in the NCAA tournament. He averaged 19 points and 8 rebounds 0 while helping carry his team to the NCAA Title game. And what makes him at his height (7 foot tall) is his ability to shoot and put the ball on the floor. And the next level, his ability to stretch the floor can give opposing four men as well as centers fits when he takes them on the perimeter. But there is one concern and that is the physical nature of the game. He is not by any means afraid of contract and is pretty physical. But the fact remains that he is not the most physically imposing and could stand to add some strength. Additional strength is something that could help him in the post on both ends of the court and will also allow for him to be a stronger player when in the NBA. The one thing you wonder about Kaminsky is will he float to the perimeter more than he will be in the post. That should be something to watch.
Best NBA Comparison: Andrea Bargnani, New York Knicks
Sam Dekker, Wisconsin, Junior
Dekker had an interesting run in the NCAA Tournament. He hit some big shots when his team needed it. He also had a habit of showing up in some for half of the game. He would go missing in either the first or second half of the game and then show up in the other half of it. The streakiness of his game had to drive Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan a little crazy at times. But even with that, Dekker had some moments in the NCAA Tournament that he looked special and that drew the attention of NBA scouts. Who can forget the stepback three he hit against Kentucky to help put them away in their Final Four game? Dekker is also a very athletic guy and has the height at 6’7” to defend wings in the NBA and finish at the rim with his explosiveness. One thing that he may need to improve on is his ability to handle the basketball. He may be better than he gets credit for, but the fact remains that he could have issues creating his own shot in the NBA. But all the aspects of his game are sound and he can also defend and that will be key for him in the NBA. His comparison is pretty similar to who he could be in the NBA provided he handle the basketball a little bit better. He has not declared for the NBA Draft yet, as he is a junior. But all indications are that he may do so and leave school a year early.
Best NBA Comparison: Gordon Heyward, Utah Jazz
Andrew Harrison, Kentucky Sophomore
Andrew was the point guard in the Harrison twins combo at Kentucky. He was pretty good at Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament this season. He was steady at times and quiet at others during the Tournament. At the point guard position, he is much better when he is attacking the rim than when he is out on the perimeter shooting jump shots. When he did that, he made Kentucky even more dangerous. His greatest strength is his ability to attack the basket and finish through contact. When he did that, it allowed for him to use his height (6’6”) and strength to overpower smaller collegiate point guards. He reportedly will declare for the NBA Draft and the first thing teams will probably do at the next level if force him to shoot the basketball on the perimeter. If you do that, he can definitely have some issue. And the other issue that some have with him at the next level is his speed. His size helped him get over the lack of speed at the position, but in there are point guards with size and speed at the next level that can give him fits defensively. But all in all, he will still be a problem on the offensive end when he attacks the rim in the NBA only due to his size. And he also has the ability to draw fouls when he gets in there. His NBA comparison is also a former player for Kentucky coach John Calipari. He is not as explosive as this guy, but he is certainly very similar. And he could also end up being moved away from the point guard position like this player was in the NBA as well.
Best NBA Comparison: Tyreke Evans, New Orleans Pelicans
Aaron Harrison, Sophomore
The other half of the Harrison twins combo, Aaron was the guy Kentucky usually depended on to hit a clutch shot when they needed it. He struggled a little to shoot this season, but he was not that bad on the defensive end of the court. In fact, he actually defended his position very well. That could be something that could help him at the next level as he, with his twin, is expected to go to the NBA. His range is pretty deep and should serve him well in the NBA, but the consistency is the issue that many will have looking at his game. Another issue that could come about is his lack of ability to make things happen off the dribble. Unlike his twin, he is not as good at attacking the rim. One thing he will need to work on is that ability to handle the basketball, but he has prototypical size for the shooting guard position, standing at 6’6”. His NBA comparison is a guy that was maybe a little more athletic than he is but was known as a big shot maker when he was in college at UCLA.
Best NBA Comparison: Aaron Afflalo, Portland Trailblazers
Karl-Anthony Towns, Freshman
The crown jewel of the Kentucky recruiting class in 2014, Towns was the best post scorer that Kentucky had this season. He was huge for Kentucky in the Elite Eight versus Notre Dame, as he carried the Wildcats for much of that second half to get them to the Final Four. He is expected to declare soon and enter the NBA Draft and some have him as the top prospect for the draft this season. His ability to finish inside and the ability to handle the basketball, which was not on display at Kentucky, should serve him well at the next level. With his size (6’11”), he has the ability to go out on the perimeter and has range all the way out to the mid-range jump shot and potentially the three-point line. At the next level, he will get to display all those skills and will have an even more open court to work with. Add that to his defensive presence and his vision as a big man and there could be potential for him to be a star at the next level. But with Towns, there is also the issue of his propensity at times to go quiet. Some of that may be due to his team and the talent that surrounded him, but it seemed like he would go times where you would not hear his name or see him make a play. His skill is very comparable to a former NBA big man that was extremely talented.
Best NBA Comparison: Chris Webber
Trey Lyles, Freshman
Lyles has not declared for the NBA Draft yet, but he is more than likely going to go to declare soon. Lyles was a unique talent for Kentucky. When junior forward Alex Poythress went down for the season with a knee injury, Lyles stepped into his spot in the starting lineup and it seemed as if Kentucky never missed a beat. Lyles was steady for Kentucky during the Tournament and he was their most versatile defender outside of big man Willie Cauley-Stein. Standing at 6’10”, Lyles can handle the basketball, finish at the rim and also has range out to the three-point line. In college he could play the power forward and small forward positions, but in the NBA, he will be a small forward. The one thing that he will need to continue to work on is his ability to play defense on the perimeter. His length is something that will cause problems for opposing small forwards, but his foot speed could be an issue at times as well. His NBA comparison is a former Kentucky star that is still playing in the NBA and has had a pretty successful career.
Best NBA Comparison: Tayshaun Prince, Detroit Pistons
Willie Cauley-Stein, Junior
Cauley-Stein was a huge force for the Wildcats on the defensive end of the court. He helped make Kentucky won of the most feared defensive teams in college basketball and used his defensive prowess to help propel Kentucky to the Final Four again this season. He along with the other Kentucky players listed, is expected to declare for the NBA Draft. His athletic ability is something that you cannot teach. And at 7’ tall, he can guard multiple positions as well as cover a bunch of ground as the backbone of your defense at the next level. But even with that, there is the matter of the other end of the court. Cauley-Stein has gotten better offensively, but he still has a long road to go. He had some moments this season where he struggled to finish outside of a dunk in the paint. And in the post, he needs some refinement with his ability to finish post moves. Another thing that may hurt Cauley-Stein at the next level is his ability to shoot free throws. That could cause him to be out of games at key points if he does not improve in that area. But even with that, his defensive presence is something that can alter games and help teams. His NBA comparison is someone that has been a defensive force for most of his career and helps every team he has been on become better defensively while still lacking defined offensive abilities outside finishing dunks.
Best NBA Comparison: Tyson Chandler, Dallas Mavericks
Jahlil Okafor, Freshman
Okafor was considered the best big man in college basketball by many who watched the game. Although he did have some issues in the NCAA Tournament, he definitely was a force in the post and helped lead Duke to the National Title. The one thing that helps Okafor stand out is his footwork and ability to finish with a feathery touch at times. His brute strength allowed for him to overpower players in college, but he also had the ability to face up players and beat them with the faceup jump shot. His offensive game has some thinking that he can contribute immediately at the next level. He is expected to declare soon and he and Towns from Kentucky are considered the main players that could be the 1st pick this season. Okafor is certainly talented offensively, but what some had an issue with is his ability to play defense. Okafor struggled to play against Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky. He just could not keep up with him at all. And another issue is his defense of the pick-and-roll. He got better on it over the season, but he still needs some work there. Looking at him, he could potentially give up as many points as he scores early on in his career. He will more than likely need to drop weight to become a better defender at the next level. As far as his NBA comparison, his offensive skill reminds me of another big man that came out of the ACC and was the first overall pick. Although Okafor is nowhere near the defender of this guy, he is definitely has good fundamentals that mirror this legend in the NBA.
Best NBA Comparison: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Justise Winslow, Freshman
Winslow was an afterthought for most when Duke got Okafor and point guard Tyus Jones. But he more than made his impact on this team when he was the biggest difference-maker for the Duke Blue Devils. His ability to attack the rim and finish through contact is definitely special. And along with that, he also has the ability to shoot the midrange jump shot along with the three-pointer. He has yet to declare for the draft, but he is also expected to declare for the draft along with Okafor. And with his draft stock soaring, who can blame him. Winslow got it done in the Tournament, but he also was a guy that disappeared at times during the year for Duke. Who can forget some games where he was just a bystander on the court instead of a participant? That may have some NBA scouts concerned in regards to Winslow’s abilities. But all in all, his skills and the way he attacks the rim remind and can shoot the jump shot remind some of an MVP candidate playing for the Houston Rockets right now.
Best NBA Comparison: James Harden, Houston Rockets
Tyus Jones, Freshman
Jones’ decision to declare for the NBA Draft is largely tied into what Winslow and Okafor decide to do. He has not announced either, but there is the feeling out there that he will declare for the NBA Draft as well this year. Jones had a great freshman season at Duke and capped it off with a great second half to help Duke win the National Title. It seemed like all year he played his best when the pressure was the most. His ability to hit contested jump shots and to finish inside at the rim was spectacular to watch. And for a guy that is listed as 6’1” (which is a generous listing of his height), it is amazing how he is able to finish at the rim. But at the next level, look for him to be able to finish at the rim as much. But the good thing is Jones does have good vision on the court. His ability to score at clutch times and have the vision to be able to find his teammates reminds me of a former University of Texas Longhorn point guard and current NBA backup point guard very much.
Best NBA Comparison: DJ Augustin, Oklahoma City Thunder
It should be interesting to see how all these guys pan out at the next level. Of course all of them have their own games and it depends on what teams they go to as to how they develop their skills. But they are all eerily similar to the people they are compared to and it should be interesting to see how similar they become to their comparisons in the NBA. Agree or disagree with the comparisons?