Ohio State vs. Michigan: Ranking the NBA Potential of Each Starter
In terms of NBA talent, this is a one-sided affair.
Michigan boasts three potential first rounders from its point guard to the wings, while Ohio State relies heavily on its lone legitimate prospect to consistently score in volume.
The firepower generated from Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III has been overwhelming at times. Michigan's supporting cast has been productive and efficient, creating an offensive balance that leads to ranks of No. 7 in the country in points per game and No. 2 in field-goal percentage. Not to mention a 15-0 record.
Deshaun Thomas has been the go-to guy for an Ohio State team that really doesn't have that secondary scorer. The Buckeyes will need to turn defense into offense by containing Michigan's runs and converting them into points.
This game hosts a top-heavy list of NBA prospects with some long-shots to round out the top-ten.
10. Sam Thompson, Ohio State—6'7'' SF
Notable Stats: 7.1 points per game, 3.7 rebounds per game, 44.3 percent shooting, 24 percent 3pt
If there was a National Dunking Association, Sam Thompson would be considered a potential lottery pick. But for the NBA, he just hasn't shown much with regard to a diverse offensive skill set.
Thompson makes at least one finish a game that makes you stand out of your seat. He's got big-time lift and explosiveness when launching himself at the rim.
But the NBA has enough athletes. There isn't much room for one-dimensional high-fliers. Teams want to know what you can do specifically that makes its rotation better.
Sam Thompson needs to figure out what that quality is, and master it.
9. Lenzelle Smith Jr., Ohio State—6'4'' SG
Notable Stats: 10.7 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game, 44.8 percent shooting, 43.5 percent 3pt
Lenzelle Smith Jr. has been No. 2 in the offensive pecking order for Ohio State. He's second in the team in scoring playing off Deshaun Thomas on the opposing wing
Smith has actually been the team's most consistent three-point shooter, making 1.8 a game on 43 percent of his attempts.
At around 6'4'', Smith is slightly undersized for a natural NBA 2-guard. Most of his points come off spot-up three-point attempts, line-drive takes to the rim or fighting for points on the interior, and there isn't much creativity in his offensive game.
Don't count on seeing Smith at the next level unless he expands his offensive game by the time he enters the draft.
8. Amir Williams, Ohio State—6'11'' C
Notable Stats: 4.5 points per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, 63.9 percent shooting, 1.5 blocks per game
Amir Williams has some NBA value just by standing upright. He's around 6'10'' with 7'1.5'' wingspan, which he uses to finish around the basket or protect the rim.
He's not overly strong, nor can he create his own shot in the post, but as a space-eater on the interior, Williams' physical tools serve a purpose.
You can get away with lacking skills at the 4 and 5 positions, but unfortunately for some of his teammates, it doesn't fly for wings.
7. Jordan Morgan, Michigan—6'8'' PF/C
Notable Stats: 7.2 points per game, 5.1 rebounds per game, 63.2 percent shooting
There's nothing sexy about Jordan Morgan's game, but he plays it the right way.
Understanding his limitations, rarely does Morgan step out of his comfort zone to put an offensive possession in jeopardy. He plays to the system by making the necessary passes and finishing the ones that come to him.
Morgan has the size and strength for a power forward, and shows good coordination in terms of positioning his body and making a play inside.
He's a long-shot for the NBA, but crazier things have happened. Teams looking for reliability in the second round could give Morgan a thought.
6. Nik Stauskas, Michigan—6'6'' SF
Notable Stats: 13.5 points per game, 53.7 percent 3pt, 88.6 percent FT
Nik Stauskas has been one of the surprises of the year, contributing production with efficiency in a complementary role.
He's making threes at a laughable rate, nailing 2.9 a game on 5.5 attempts. He's a floor-stretcher with the size to shoot over defenders, and has the awareness and IQ to use pump fakes or the dribble.
Stauskas' NBA appeal stems directly from his three-ball, which has the potential to fill a specialty role in a rotation.
He's got a few years before the NBA draft should even be considered, but with unique shot-making abilities, there's at least something to build on.
5. Aaron Craft, Ohio State—6'3'' PG
Notable Stats: 8.9 points per game, 4.7 assists per game, 33.3 percent 3pt, 1.8 steals per game
If Aaron Craft gets drafted by an NBA franchise, it won't be because of his athleticism.
There's just something about his effort and basketball IQ that could make a team overlook his physical limitations and focus on the positive energy he injects into a lineup.
One thing Craft does do well that could attract NBA attention is his ability to defend the perimeter. He's laterally quick, keeping his man in front of him with displaying active hands and feet. His motor and intensity force his man work extra hard on offense.
As a point guard, Craft takes care of the basketball (only 1.4 turnovers in 31 minutes per game), manages the game and knocks down open shots when available.
A team might want his intangibles to provide depth for its backcourt.
4. Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State—6'7'' SF
Notable Stats: 20.3 points per game, 6.8 rebounds per game, 47.2 percent shooting, 40.4 percent 3pt
Deshaun Thomas is a lethal college scorer with exceptional offensive instincts. He's become deadly from behind the arc and is capable of putting up points in bunches.
He's improved his off-the-dribble game, proving capable of pulling up off the bounce or using touch on runners in the lane.
However, Thomas' lack of foot speed on the perimeter and strength on the interior project poorly at the next level. He'd be a liability defending explosive NBA small forwards on the wing, and it could prevent teams from viewing him as a full-time player.
Thomas best shot at landing a spot in an NBA rotation is by establishing himself as a three-point specialist.
You can be sure that Thomas won't have nearly the same level of offensive freedom in the pros as he does in college. He's going to have to learn to play off the ball, which calls for stretching the floor, spotting up and rarely using the dribble.
Consider the second round a more likely landing spot for the top scorer in this game.
3. Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan—6'5'' SG
Notable Stats: 16.4 points per game, five rebounds per game, 2.9 assists per game, 49 percent shooting, 40 percent 3pt
Tim Hardaway Jr. has taken his game to a new level, illustrating an offensive repertoire that resembles an NBA scoring guard.
He's got the ideal build for a scorer at 6'5'' with long arms, and possesses the athleticism necessary to guard the position.
His ability to shake his defender east or west before creating separation to rise and fire allows him to consistently generate his own offense.
Hardaway is explosive attacking the rim, and can finish in traffic slashing off the ball or taking it one-on-one to the rack.
NBA teams in need of offensive firepower at the off-guard slot might consider Hardaway as early as the mid-to-late first round.
2. Trey Burke, Michigan—6'0'', PG
Notable Stats: 18.2 points per game, 7.5 assists per game, 54.6 percent shooting, 40.6 percent 3pt
Trey Burke decided to return for his sophomore year at Michigan, and his decision is paying off.
Burke is amongst the favorites for National Player of the Year, driving the bus and managing games for the second best team in America.
He looks stronger and quicker, and presents a nightmare matchup for opposing point guards who have to deal with his speed and craftiness. Burke's effectiveness stems from his dribble creativity, which he uses to navigate through the defense and create scoring opportunities for his team.
With the ability to change speeds and direction on a dime, Burke uses ball screens as well as any point guard in the country. He can attack the rim off the hesitation-dribble, orchestrate the pick and roll or pull up for an 18-footer.
Burke has the potential to be the first point guard off the board in the 2013 NBA draft, because of his leadership qualities and ball skills as a balanced scorer and playmaker.
1. Glenn Robinson III, Michigan—6'6'' SF
Notable Stats: 12.5 points per game, 6.1 rebounds per game, 59.2 percent shooting, 37.9 percent 3pt
Glenn Robinson III is a smooth criminal with NBA athleticism, and possesses the highest upside of any prospect on Michigan.
He makes everything look effortless—whether it's spotting up from 25 feet or eluding defenders in the air to finish above the rim.
Robinson has the ability to take his man off the dribble, pull up with balance or attack the rim with aggression. With ideal size for a wing, Robinson is a two-way threat who can slash off the ball and defend opposing scorers.
His versatility allows him to play multiple positions, and can give a team lineup flexibility on both sides of the ball. Think Andre Iguodala if you're looking for an early comparison.
As a freshman playing amongst established veterans, Robinson is the third option behind Tim Hardway Jr. and Trey Burke. He'll have a better opportunity to showcase his ceiling and potential in a featured role as a sophomore in 2014.
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