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How Bright Is Wisconsin NCAA Tournament Star Frank Kaminsky's NBA Future?

Mar 29, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Wisconsin Badgers forward Frank Kaminsky (44) celebrates cutting the net against the Arizona Wildcats during overtime in the finals of the west regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament at Honda Center. The Badgers defeated the Wildcats 64-63. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport
Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2014

With his prolific play leading Wisconsin to the 2014 NCAA Final Four, Badgers center Frank Kaminsky is showing the world why he's an attractive NBA draft commodity.

No, he's not an elite prospect by any stretch of the imagination. The 20-year-old junior doesn't have the physical tools of the top tier, or the youth and upside.

But what he does have is skills, a whole treasure chest full of them—and a seven-foot frame with which to utilize them.

During his first couple of years in Madison, he rode the pine and played scant minutes behind upperclassmen. His years of working behind the scenes for Bo Ryan have paid off, because he emerged as a highly productive cog in the Big Ten, averaging 13.7 points on 52.6 percent shooting, including 36.6 percent from long range.

And in March, he's used the pressure-packed stage as his opportunity to shine in front of NBA scouts. After dropping 28 points against Michigan State during the Big Ten tourney, he's turned in some brilliant performances in the Big Dance. Back-to-back 19-point outings helped Wisconsin topple Oregon and Baylor, and his 28-point barrage clinched a Final Four spot for the Badgers.

Hello, rising draft stock.

Kaminsky wasn't in the draft conversation throughout high school and early in college because he had a late growth spurt and didn't possess upper-end athleticism.

Wisconsin assistant coach Greg Gard talked to Jeff Eisenberg of The Dagger about the big fella's development:

When he was younger in high school, he played point guard until he grew. Now he's added post skills and a more aggressive demeanor to his game. He's more aggressive, he's more physical and he's more willing to take it to teams in the paint.

Now, he's got a chance to get drafted and latch on as a solid role player in the pros.

Mark J. Terrill

His primary NBA asset is his ability to shoot over people, whether it's from beyond the arc or in the post. He's got terrific touch on his jumper, and he can finish in the paint with either hand.

Kaminsky has shown the ability to hit step-back three-pointers during tight games, including the NCAA tournament. His ball-handling ability isn't extraordinary, but he does enough with his footwork to create space and give his length a chance.

When he catches the ball on the interior, he demonstrates exemplary footwork and knows how to pump fake his opponents to find angles toward the rim. His ability to finish smoothly with his right or left off the glass makes him extremely dangerous.

The 7-footer also owns a great feel for the game away from the ball, as he gives his guards great opportunities to connect with him. When he gets the ball in traffic, he rarely forces anything and is capable of quickly passing to the open man.

He's instinctive on the glass but certainly not a strong or agile rebounder. NBA teams will know this as they consider him, so they won't be expecting much rebounding production.

Meanwhile, Kaminsky's defense is a strong selling point for the pro ranks. While he doesn't have the lateral quickness or strength to fall back on, he does have great instincts and a long reach to protect the rim.

He averaged a modest 2.7 blocks per 40 minutes in 2013-14, according to Basketball-Reference.com, but he altered countless others and has recorded some critical blocks throughout the postseason. With six blocks against Baylor in the Sweet 16, he and the Badgers were able to hold the Bears to 52 points in a convincing win.

So what does all this mean for his NBA outlook?

Throughout the season, Kaminsky has been largely viewed as a four-year player who would enter the draft in 2015. And that still may be the case, as most of Bo Ryan's pupils do.

However, he's got enough going for him to make the jump this year if he wants to. If he joins the 2014 fray, what are his best/worst-case scenarios?

 

Worst Case

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 29:  Frank Kaminsky #44 of the Wisconsin Badgers drives on Kaleb Tarczewski #35 of the Arizona Wildcats in the second half during the West Regional Final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Honda Center on March 29, 201
Harry How/Getty Images

Kaminsky could slip into the second round due to his below-average athleticism and mediocre rebounding ability.

When he enters the league, if he can't display enough lateral quickness to defend agile post players or create separation for his own shots, his usefulness may drastically wane. Defensive liabilities who aren't highly productive offensively usually struggle to earn playing time.

Also, if he doesn't bulk up, he could get eaten alive against the bruising physicality of the NBA paint.

Wisconsin fans won't want to hear it, but his worst-case scenario is out of the league and playing overseas.

 

Best Case

In a best-case scenario, Kaminsky would be drafted late in the first round by a team looking to add depth in the frontcourt and a dependably skilled big man.

If utilized properly in the rotation, he could operate in the post and also stretch defenses, serving as a capable third or fourth scoring option when he's on the floor.

It's not a stretch to think he could see 20-25 minutes per game and even flirt with double figures.

He doesn't have All-Star written all over him, but if we've learned anything from his March exploits, he's got enough skills to provide value in a squad's lineup.

Best-case NBA comparison: Poor-man's blend of Ryan Anderson and Kosta Koufos

 

Dan O'Brien covers the NBA draft for Bleacher Report.

Follow him on Twitter: @DanielO_BR.

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