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Michigan State Basketball: Breaking Down NBA Potential for Spartans Stars

Adam BiggersSenior Analyst IIOctober 11, 2016

Michigan State Basketball: Breaking Down NBA Potential for Spartans Stars

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    Despite its success, Michigan State isn't an NBA player factory. 

    No, that honor goes to programs such as Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina. 

    But that doesn't mean head coach Tom Izzo has trouble putting guys in the Association. And it doesn't mean that Izzo's current roster is devoid of NBA-caliber talent.

    As of this year, the Spartans have two guys who will surely run NBA courts in the near future: senior Adreian Payne and sophomore Gary Harris.

    Branden Dawson, a junior, should also have the opportunity to collect a pro check if he performs up to the standards he set as a freshman. 

    Senior Keith Appling is borderline. He's a bit reminiscent of Kalin Lucas in that area. Lucas was once thought to have a future in the league, but that future didn't materialize. Appling may be given a chance to play professionally, but his status as an NBA'er isn't guaranteed. 

    This slideshow will take a hard look at Michigan State's could-be NBA products. 

Adreian Payne

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    Adreian Payne should be one of the first big men taken in the 2014 NBA draft. 

    According to NBADraft.net, he has an overall rating of 87 (on a scale of 100). 

    If that's anything like a high-school recruit ranking, Payne figures to be a 4-star NBA prospect. According to rivals.com, he was a 5-star prepster while starring at Jefferson High (Dayton, Ohio). 

    At 6'10" and 240 pounds, Payne possesses a unique skill set that's becoming more desired by professional clubs. He's not just a tree standing under the basket. He can shoot, rebound and run the floor, and he's incredibly athletic. 

    Josh Cochran of NBADraft.net put together the following scouting report on Payne, which appears to stem from 2009. Not sure if there's an error there, but the date is posted directly underneath the report. 

    Has tremendous raw talent, but a questionable motor … Payne has the tendency to disappear for stretches and for entire games … Displays poor shot selection as he often settles for lazy, forced jumpers instead of using his strength and athleticism to attack the basket … Does not possess much of a perimeter game with an inconsistent jumper and limited ball-handling skills … Needs time in college to develop his skills and understanding of the game …

    Payne's motor shouldn't be in question any longer. He played with a level of emotion nearly unmatched by anyone in college this past season. His personal and athletic growth have been noteworthy. 

    If the scouting report is indeed from 2009, it needs to be updated. Payne has a jumper. Payne attacks the basket. He doesn't settle for "lazy" shots. 

    In its 2014 mock, NBADraft.net has the Los Angeles Clippers selecting Payne with the No. 15 pick of the first round (as of June 23, 2013). Imagine Payne with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. The term "Lob City" will certainly be used a lot more with the Spartans big man entering the fold. 

Gary Harris

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    Gary Harris has developed into one of the sharpest shooting guards in the game. 

    At 6'4" and 205 pounds, the sophomore most definitely has an NBA body. According to NBADraft.net, Harris will be selected No. 13 overall by the Dallas Mavericks in the 2014 draft. 

    Here's the thing with Harris: He could have left after his freshman year and been taken early in the first round of the draft. But he didn't. And Michigan State has a legitimate superstar capable of leading the charge toward a sustained NCAA tournament run. 

    Harris' reach and wingspan are that of an average NBA shooting guard. However, his height is not. But he'll be a valuable asset for whichever pro team selects him in 2014.

    He's shown improvement, and another year under Tom Izzo will only boost his stock. 

    Most scouting reports rip on Harris' size. And that's fair enough. But the reports can't knock his quick release and marksmanship. 

Branden Dawson

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    If Branden Dawson had a reliable jumper, he'd be a great pro shooting guard. 

    At 6'6" and 220 pounds, that's the only thing he lacks. 

    Dawson can rebound. He's physical, when he wants to be. And he's a high-flying dunker whose athleticism might fill a few seats in Phoenix. NBADraft.net predicts that the Suns will take Dawson with the No. 34 overall pick of the 2014 draft. 

    Of course, the Suns have seen a Spartans dunking machine before. Jason Richardson played there from 2008-11. Critics had similar gripes about Richardson as they do about Dawson. Richardson didn't have a particularly great jumper while at Michigan State, but he made up for it with flashy dunks and drives to the basket. 

    Dawson is more physical, though. He could be a valuable bench player during his first couple of years in the Association. But he must develop a better jumper, or else he won't make it that far. 

Keith Appling

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    As mentioned in the opening slide, Keith Appling's NBA future is up to Keith Appling. 

    If the former Detroit Pershing Doughboy has the type of season expected of a Spartans senior, he'll land where NBADraft.net predicts he'll land: selected No. 56 overall in the 2014 draft by the Memphis Grizzlies. 

    At 6'1" and 190 pounds, Appling would be on the small end of the pro point guard spectrum.

    The very small end. 

    But his speed and clutch abilities are what likely draw pro scouts' attention. He's come through in close games with free throws and timely drives to the basket. His professional future would be as a backup unless he drastically develops his game. 

    Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

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