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Evaluating The NBA Potential of College Basketball’s Biggest Stars

Frank Kaminsky

Draft Projection: 1st round, pick 8-15

Frank Kaminsky is an amazing player. He is tall, athletic, smart, and has great skills. You try to find flaws in his game, but even his defense is pretty good.

He is the ideal size (He’s a true 7 footer) for an NBA stretch four, and should have himself a nice long career. I don’t think he will end up in the upper level of stretch-4s, like Kevin Love, Dirk Nowitzki, and Pau Gasol, but he could still have a fantastic career.

His best scenario would be landing on a decent team, where he could ease into the NBA game, and start to make an impact in year 2. Even though he might not be an All Star, I can see him finding a nice starting role on a good team for a long time. He uses athleticism now, but his game should age well, and he can develop into a “Threebound” player (shoots 3s and gets rebounds). Once he gets acclimated to NBA competition and NBA three point range, he should be able to match his college averages, but I expect that process to take some time.

D’Angelo Russell

Photo via
Photo via

Draft Projection: 1st round, pick 2-5

Of all the stars in college basketball, Russell is the most surprising. He burst on to the scene from day 1 at Ohio State University.

He is the perfect example of why high level talents should go to top level high schools like Montverde Academy. He was prepared for college, and apparently, prepared to take it over. Tyler Ennis was the premier freshman point guard last year, and D’angelo Russell is out-producing him in almost all categories.

He has amazing measurables, 6’5″ with a 6’8.5″ wingspan, and he is also a great athlete. His game looks like one that will dominate for years to come. He would benefit from having a slightly better version of Michael Carter-William’s situation, where he is the man from day one. The more opportunities he gets, the better he plays, and that shows that this kid has even more potential. He could become one of the NBA’s best if he continues to improve at this rate. All he needs is the right coaching, and teammates who can convert baskets and let him rack up the assists. There will always be room in the league for players with height and talent, and when you have both, the sky really is the limit.

Jahlil Okafor

Photo via Duke Photography
Photo via Duke Photography

Draft Projection: 1st round, pick 1

Unless something crazy happens, Okafor is going to be the number one pick in the 2015 draft, plain and simple.

When you watch his game, it takes you back to the 90s, when Big men dominated. He is a throwback, and plays a bit of a different game than the current fast paced, shooting style of the NBA. He goes in the post and uses finesse and footwork. Some might say that this type of game doesn’t fit on an NBA team right now, but he is so good, that any team that gets him should focus their game around him.

He has not seen a defense in college that has been truly able to stop him, and with the right coaching and development, most teams in the NBA won’t be able to either. He has size and skills, and could become the NBA’s dominant center, like Dwight Howard was in Orlando. This projection might seem like a lot to live up to, but when you look at the field of centers in the NBA, there really aren’t too many stars, and no superstars at all. Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol, and Demarcus Cousins are at the top, along with Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond. Those players are good, but the production and potential of Okafor is past all of them.

The only thing he needs to work on is his defense, because it is, quite frankly, bad! he has the ability, now its all about the effort. If he improves that, he is well on his way to some very large NBA paychecks.

Karl-Anthony Towns

Draft Projection: 1st round, pick 3-10

When you play on a team with as much talent as Kentucky, it can be hard to separate yourself as the best. There are people who say Willie Cauley-Stein is the best player in Lexington right now, but I think he is just Javale McGee 2.0.

When you watch Karl Towns play, you see the immense potential that Dwight Howard had in highschool, and Andrew Wiggins has now. He is 7 feet tall and looks like an NBA combo-forward when he plays. It seems like every year there is a 7 footer with handles who somehow never ends up dominating in the NBA; but I think Towns has the ability and the game to flourish at the next level. If he were dropped into an NBA game right now, I don’t even know if he would get on the stat sheet, but his draft stock is all on potential. Someone with his height and skill could become a legend, but could just as easily fall of track and become prime bench warmer material. This all depends on who coaches him up, and if he truly wants to be a stud or a dud.

Jerian Grant

Draft Projection: 1st round, pick 12-22

I want to start this off by saying that Jerian Grant is my favorite player in college this year. He does everything for his great Notre Dame squad. He is their leader in points, assists, and free throw percentage, is second in steals, and third in blocks.

When you watch him play, he has that X factor. Few guys have it, and every player wants it. It cannot really be explained, but you know it when you see it. He just understands the game more than anyone else on the court. Will this innate skill translate to the NBA? That question will take years to answer, but history is in his favor.

He is undoubtedly college basketballs #1 hooting Guard this year, like Bradley Beal, James Harden, and Dwyane Wade, who all quickly went on to become great NBA players. Grant might not boast the untapped upside of these three, but he has the talent, skill, and swagger to take the NBA by storm.

His father and uncle had extended careers in the league, and will guide him through his journey. At worst, I see him being like Tim Hardaway Jr, who has crazy games on a god-awful team. At best, he could end up a game changing 2 guard, who controls games with his savvy and poise.

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