The NCAA season is now seven weeks old but talk of the 2015 NBA Draft is already dominating what has been an interesting college basketball season. Kentucky look to be in a league of their own in terms of talent but anything can happen from now until the Final Four, scheduled for April 4-6 in Indianapolis.
So who looks NBA ready? Which player is working hard to prove that he belongs in the league? Here are the top 10 prospects, via SLAM Online.
1 – Jahlil Okafor – Duke
As many freshmen are hitting the wall, Okafor seems to be getting stronger and further separating himself from the pack. Currently averaging 18.9 points and 9.3 rebounds a game. Think of Okafor as Picasso, a brilliant painter but strictly a 15-foot-and-in performer. Okafor has been consistent with his passing and scoring while showing improved defensive prowess (8 blocked shots in his first three ACC contests).
2 – Karl-Anthony Towns – Kentucky
Towns has been in beast mode for the undefeated Wildcats. The 7-footer constantly shows his immense upside but is often (incredibly) not the best post player on his own team. Towns shoots 51.6 percent from the field with 45 percent of those attempts coming from mid-range territory. Towns is 2-7 from beyond-the-arc. Towns scores 8.7 points, grabs 6.9 rebounds and blocks 2.4 shots in roughly 20 minutes per game.
3 – Justise Winslow – Duke
Winslow might have had two off-key games over Pittsburgh and NC State, but that doesn’t diminish the placement of Winslow as the top perimeter prospect in the class. The lockdown defender possesses strength, athleticism and the motor for the next level. Winslow is averaging 11.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. He is dominant on the left side of the court but seems to struggle on the right side. Work needed there.
4 – D’Angelo Russell – Ohio State
Few would have thought Russell would have turned out to be the best scorer in this year’s class, but that has been the case. While expected to up in the top 20 at least, not many projected him being this high either. Buckeyes will ride the Louisville talent as far as he can carry them. He is averaging 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5 assists. In the Buckeyes’ four losses, Russell was held to 17-68 shooting, 25 percent. He is nearly as deadly from three as from the field, hovering around 45 percent. A volume shooter who is tantalizing scouts with the potential to play point guard. Lacks explosion, but body is still developing.
5 – Willie Cauley-Stein – Kentucky
Poised to run away with all defensive player of the year accolades, defensive disruptor. Averaging nearly 2 steals and 2 blocks in 25 minutes per game to go along with his 9.7 points and nearly 7 rebounds. He can guard all five positions utilizing his quickness and athleticism. Quality shot blocker and capable rebounder who runs the floor well. However, the big man has weaknesses. He must improve scoring zone and adopt a go-to move. While he knows and plays within his offensive limitations. Turnovers and fouls need to go down.
6 – Stanley Johnson – Arizona
Powerful wing player who excels in transition; it’s his real strength and he loves the open floor plus he attacks the basket with ferocity. Currently averaging 14.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game 48 percent from field, and just about 40 percent from beyond the arc. Fouls have been a worry (4 per game in Pac-12 action), in addition to the Cats’ willingness to get him the basketball in halfcourt sets. Only getting 43 percent of his shots at the rim indicates some settling shots on the perimeter.
7 – Myles Turner – Texas
Turner quite possibly is the most difficult prospect to gauge during this college season. He came off the bench in last night’s win over TCU and was poor from the field, with the majority of his points coming from the foul line. Turner is averaging 11.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in 22.4 minutes a game. For a 7-footer, he is remarkably shooting 40 percent beyond-the-arc and with ease. While the assumption is that Turner would ideally migrate to the stretch-4 in the NBA, the Longhorns have not given Turner a go-to area on the court. The offensive spacing is a concern and the debate is whether it is compromising Turner’s talent or hiding his deficiencies.
8 – Kelly Oubre Jr. – Kansas
Emerging offensive talent unleashed the past month. Big-time athlete has scored in double digits in five of last his last seven contests (zero prior). Went 0-5 from beyond-the-arc in last year’s McDonald’s All American game, but as a college freshman, he’s scorching the nets at nearly 46 percent. A 6’7” forward with a 7-2 wingspan, Oubre Jr. moves gracefully, an offensive force and capable defender. Left-handed player who ironically is struggling from the left side perimeter. Has the opportunity to improve numbers with more opportunities at the rim and higher conversion.
9 – Devin Booker – Kentucky
Kentucky’s most consistent perimeter player is lights out from beyond the arc, a dynamic athlete and an important perimeter defender. Averaging nearly 10.5 points in just over 20 minutes per game. Strong play has warranted more time in SEC slate and he has backed it up. Defensive skills are underrated and so is his ball handling and bounce. We have become bullish on his game and upside in recent weeks. Get on board.
10 – Kevon Looney – UCLA
The silky smooth scorer has helped the Bruins stop the bleeding and end their five-game slide. During that stretch Looney shot 17-48 with 18 fouls and 10 turnovers. Was on fire against Stanford with 27 points and 19 rebounds, which was including 17 free-throw attempts. The rail thin, Durant like, positional hybrid can rebound and score. He averages a double-double (13 points and 10.3 rebounds). Looney is shooting 46 percent on his field goals and 30.4 percent from beyond-the-arc. With consistency and improved accuracy, he could very well leap into top-five consideration.