Breakout College Basketball Seniors Emerging onto NBA Draft Radar
Not everyone can be a one-and-done prospect. Sometimes, it takes four years for a player to find his game and ultimately generate NBA attention.
These aren't the top senior prospects—these are the seniors who've finally hit the radar in their last year to do so.
A season ago, none of the following prospects were considered legitimate draft options. Now, while in the midst of breakout years, they should all be in the conversation.
Markel Brown, Oklahoma State, 6'3'', SG
Markel Brown has been a poster boy for progress, as he's expanded and refined his game with each year at school.
Over the last four seasons, Brown has evolved into a basketball player after starting out as just an athlete. And by just an athlete I mean one of the best you'll ever see.
He's now added an impressive perimeter-scoring skill set to match that off-the-charts athleticism. Brown is terrific in the mid-range, with the ability to elevate and separate for jumpers he's consistently knocking down.
His three-point percentage has also gradually improved with each year at Oklahoma State—he's shooting it 38.2 percent as a senior.
Brown's overall decision making as a scorer has contributed to an extremely efficient start. His three-point attempts and turnovers are down, while his free-throw attempts and assists are both up.
Though undersized at the 2, Brown might actually be a tough defensive ball-stopper at the point, the way Avery Bradley is for the Boston Celtics. Offensively, he looks like a guy you can mix into the lineup based on matchups—his athleticism and incredible hops help make up for the inch or two he lacks in height.
Now averaging a career-high 16.6 points on a career-high 49.2 percent shooting, there won't be 60 better prospects to choose from in the field. If Brown doesn't sneak into the late first round, don't expect him to slip out of the second.
Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa, 6'6'', PG/SG/SF
Roy Devyn Marble took his game to a new level as a junior, but now his production is translating into significant wins. And that's when it's time to take notice.
Iowa is ranked in the Top 10 for the first time since 2002, and Devyn Marble deserves a fair share of the credit.
From an NBA standpoint, it's his versatility that drives his appeal. At 6'6'', you'll often see Marble play point guard for the Hawkeyes, though he's also the team's leading scorer with 16.3 points per game.
With terrific playmaking instincts and a handle that allows him to get to his spots on the floor, Marble can facilitate the offense or generate some of his own.
This year, his decision making has been smarter (1.5 turnovers per game, down from 2.2), and he's been more accurate and consistent as a perimeter scorer. He's bumped his three-point numbers up to 1.6 makes per game at a 37.3-percent clip, up from 1.3 makes at 32.7 percent.
With a sharp mid-to-long-range game and a well-rounded skill set off the dribble (pulling up, attacking, creating for teammates), Devyn Marble offers an intriguing blend of services from the wing.
Shabazz Napier, Connecticut, 6'1'', PG
He's been a rock-solid college basketball player since 2011, but now Shabazz Napier looks like a true NBA prospect.
Napier has matured as a floor general, doing a much better job of balancing scoring with facilitating. He's averaging roughly 17 points, around the same number as last year, only he's raised his assist rate from 4.6 to 5.9 a game.
As a shooter, he's now up to 43.8 percent from downtown on 1.8 makes per game, while his pull-up jumper looks crisp whenever he lets it go.
At the next level, Napier's core responsibilities will be facilitating—running the pick-and-roll, drive-and-dishing, simple ball movement—and knocking down outside shots. He won't be asked to generate offense as a go-to option the way he is at Connecticut.
And as a high-IQ presence with the confidence to want the ball under pressure, Napier has established himself as an excellent second-round option—if a team doesn't take him earlier.
Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State, 7'2'', C
It took four years, but Jordan Bachynski has finally figured out how to maximize that massive 7'2'' body.
He's averaging 3.3 more boards (9.2 from 5.9) and 1.1 more blocks (4.5 from 3.4) from a year ago—huge jumps for a guy playing just 4.7 more minutes a game.
Bachynski isn't very skilled or athletic, but with his size, teams will be targeting his ability to finish around the rim (shooting 58.9 percent) and protect it defensively.
There really aren't many centers in this year's field. The first round might be a long shot, but as a second-round flier, he's looked like one of the more promising options at his position. And quite frankly, there just aren't many guys who reach 7'2''.
Lamar Patterson, Pittsburgh, 6'6'', SG/SF
Lamar Patterson is having a monster breakout year—after reaching the 17-point mark only three times last season, it's now his scoring average as a senior.
At 6'5'', Patterson has a broad, strong upper body with quick nimble feet. He's crafty off the dribble, and while his scoring game has made obvious strides, his passing and facilitating game is also a major part of the package.
Patterson is averaging an impressive 4.5 assists to go with those 17.6 points a game. He's a smart and accurate passer on the move, something you don't typically get from wings.
As a scorer, Patterson has been lethal from downtown, making two threes a game at a scorching 42.9 percent clip. He's got that ability to shoot with hands in his face, and needs little separation to get off a comfortable jumper.
There isn't much upside here, but for teams looking for an opportunistic wing who can score and pass within the offense, Patterson has emerged into a realistic second-round option.
DeAndre Kane, Iowa State, 6'4'', PG
He'll be 25 years old by the time the 2014 draft rolls around, but that might not stop an NBA team looking for immediate toughness and backcourt depth.
Few have been able to make as big of individual impact as Kane, who after three years at Marshall is now the floor general in charge of the No. 16-ranked Iowa State Cyclones.
“I’ve gotta show people around the world that I can play with the elite players," Kane told ESPN's Myron Medcalf. "I deserve to be talked about a little bit more. And I will."
A confident and physically imposing guard, Kane is averaging 16.7 points, 7.2 boards and 5.8 assists while shooting career-highs of 50.8 percent from the floor and 34.9 percent from three.
This year, he's shown a great feel for facilitating the offense and picking his spots as a scorer. This is the area of his game that could ultimately push him into the second round, as it really completes the package that already came with scoring, rebounding and defense.
Kane is unstoppable on the break, given his blend of size, athleticism and strength. He's also averaging 7.6 free throws a game, as he's able to attack off the bounce and initiate contact at the rim.
His biggest hurdle in terms of landing with an NBA team will be his age, as it's not often you see teams target a 25-year-old kid out of college. But all it takes is one general manager to feel that Kane can help out immediately.
Alec Brown, Green Bay-Wisconsin, 7'1'', C
Alec Brown has been on and off the radar over the past few years, but it looks like he's found it once again in his last year at Green Bay.
He's been dominant as a scorer, now averaging 17 points a game (scored at least 20 points in four of his last five games). At 7'1'', he's got a nice touch around the key, along with the ability to step outside and knock down jumpers with consistency.
After an impressive year shooting the ball as a junior, he's hitting 44.4 percent of his threes this year on 1.3 makes a game—awfully intriguing numbers for a center with his size.
Defensively, Brown has been tremendous, averaging 3.3 blocks a game, 1.6 more than he averaged a season ago.
Brown is a finesse player and projects as a best-case backup and pick-and-pop target. He's a below-average rebounder (only 6.3 per game), but if Brown stands out as a shooter during pre-draft workouts, he'll have a good shot at getting a team to bite in Round 2.
Keith Appling, Michigan State, 6'1'', PG
Keith Appling has been a household college-basketball name for a while now. But many have questioned his mentality as a point guard.
Not this year. Appling's efficiency has improved and his production has increased. He's turning the ball over just twice a game in 32.3 minutes, while his assists are up to 4.6 from 3.3 a game.
Appling is taking much better shots in the half court—he's shooting it 48.4 percent after failing to finish above 44 percent in any of his previous three seasons.
His perimeter stroke has also improved dramatically—he's nailing over 45 percent of his threes, up big-time from 32 percent a year ago.
There's no doubt Appling can play—he went for 22 points, eight assists and eight boards in a win over Kentucky and 20, six and seven in a win over Ohio State. But now that he looks like a more disciplined and well-rounded point guard, teams might feel more comfortable targeting him as a potential backup in Round 2.