Predicting the Breakout 2015 NBA Draft Prospects
Some guys just need a few years before figuring out what works and what doesn't. Others just need the opportunity.
These are the guys who've shown signs in 2013-14—signs that suggest they're ready to turn flashes into regular, every-game occurrences.
The following prospects should expect bigger workloads in 2014-15 and, in turn, we should expect their names to hit NBA radars.
Terry Rozier, Louisville, 6'1", PG, Sophomore
With Russ Smith out of the picture, scouts will get a clean look at Terry Rozier, who played more of a secondary role for Louisville last year while waiting his turn to shine as a sophomore.
Though we'll find out just how good he is at running an offense, Rozier has the tools and talent, and now the opportunity, to make a run at the 2015 first round.
Rozier has standard point guard size with a mean handle and dangerous quickness. Super shifty off the dribble, Rozier is tough to stay in front of, which plays to his playmaking ability in the half court or open floor.
He also has that bounce the NBA guys love. Rozier can get up above the rim for rebounds and explosive finishes.
And while we're so used to talking about point guards who must improve as shooters, Rozier entered college as a freshman with a sharp-looking jumper, and his 37.1 percent three-point stroke (36 of 97) last year helped confirm its legitimacy.
Now in the spotlight as a key cog for Louisville, look for Rozier to break through in the NBA draft conversation and ultimately make his way up boards.
Bobby Portis, Arkansas, 6'10", PF, Sophomore
Bobby Portis aces the eye test, and he's got a skill set in place that, if mastered, could do some damage at the NBA power forward position.
As a freshman, we saw it in flashes—jump hooks, a face-up game, a mid-range jumper. Portis has shown he can score with his back to the rim, attack his man off the bounce or square up and stick an 18-footer. He averaged a modest 12.3 points a game last year, but he did so efficiently on 50.9 percent shooting.
Portis earned positive reviews for himself this summer at the LeBron James Nike Skills Academy, where he measured in at 6'10.5" and 235 pounds with a 7'1.5" wingspan.
“It was a great experience for me to go against some of the best players in the nation and go up against guys with more experience,” Portis said via Robbie Neiswanger of swtimes.com. “I think it helped me out a lot because I came out with a ton of confidence on the block.”
With a little more polish, experience and opportunity, Portis could be lined up for a big breakout season as an inside-outside mismatch in the SEC.
Isaiah Taylor, Texas, 6'1", PG, Sophomore
Isaiah Taylor didn't exactly put up mind-blowing numbers as a freshman, but the poise he showed and the skills he flashed were enough to suggest there's more to come.
Taylor's command stands out more than anything—when he's got the ball, he gives off the impression he's in full control.
His ability to change direction and speed using that hesitation dribble helps fuel the danger he poses to defenses with the ball in his hands. Taylor is quick off the bounce and terrific around the foul line, where he's got a number of runners and floaters to go to in the arsenal.
And at the end of the day, he's a pure, pass-first point guard. Taylor looks for his shooters and big men—there's no personal agenda he has to tend to as a scorer.
The obvious knock on Taylor is that jumper, which only connected on five three-pointers all season last year. Taylor's range needs to improve, but he looks comfortable shooting inside the arc, while he sports a respectable 74.5 percent mark at the free-throw stripe.
With a year under his belt, look for Taylor's game to take off and his name to blow up.
Terran Petteway, Nebraska, 6'6", SG/SF, Junior
Terran Petteway broke through last year as one of the top scorers in college basketball. The NBA draft radar is up next.
A fierce competitor with good size for a 2-guard or wing, Petteway's appeal as a prospect stems from his microwave-scoring ability. He led the Big Ten last season with 18.1 points a game. Petteway can create and make shots from all over the floor, whether he's separating into a step-back or getting to the rack off the dribble drive.
His jumper really cooled off down the stretch of last season, having connected on just 15 of his final 64 three-point attempts (23.4 percent), but when locked in, Petteway has proven he can knock them down with range.
After sitting out the 2012-13 season following his transfer from Texas Tech, Petteway will now be entering his second year as Nebraska's go-to option. I'm betting on Petteway putting it all together, scoring with a little more shooting consistency and ultimately maximizing his NBA draft stock as a 22-year-old junior.
Delon Wright, Utah, 6'5", PG, Senior
After hiding mostly under the radar despite filling up box scores as a junior at Utah, Delon Wright looks ready to emerge as a regular name in the 2015 draft conversation.
Wright was tremendous last season after transferring from junior college, having averaged 15.5 points, 6.8 boards, 5.3 assists and a whopping 2.5 steals a game.
Long and athletic with great size for the point guard position, Wright has mismatch-type physical tools to go with a sneaky floor game and crafty scoring attack.
With hesitation dribbles and nifty change-of-direction ability, he locates the seams in the defenses and finds ways to slip and slice right through them. And Wright is a dangerous weapon once in the lane, where he's shown exceptional instincts and dexterity as a finisher and playmaker.
Defensively, he ranked No. 4 in the nation in win shares last season, per sports-reference.com, and given his tools and commitment, there's no reason why he can't replicate those results in 2014-15.
He'll obviously have to shoot the ball better after finishing with only 12 three-point makes on 22.2 percent shooting, but with a 79.3 percent free-throw mark and a capable mid-range game, we might just be talking about a slowly developing jumper—not one that's broken.
Utah should be a tough out in the Pac-12 this year. Leading it to a big season and an NCAA tournament bid could go a long way for Wright's stock.
Caris LeVert, Michigan, 6'6", SG, Junior
Word on the street is that Caris LeVert is up to 6'7", 200 pounds this summer, just in time for his promotion to top-scoring option in Michigan's offense.
LeVert's 21.9 percent usage rate is likely to skyrocket as a junior following the departures of Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III on the wing.
In a complementary role, he averaged 12.9 points, with 29 percent of his offense coming as a pick-and-roll ball-handler (averaged 2.9 assists) and 10 percent coming in isolation, per Dylan Burkhardt of shotanalytics.com. He's dangerous on the ball, but he's also a threat off it, with 25 percent of his offense coming off spot-up opportunities as well. LeVert nailed 1.6 three-pointers a game last year at a 40.8 percent clip.
He's shown he can create offense or finish it, and given his size and athleticism, LeVert should attract plenty of NBA attention as one of Michigan's primary playmakers and scorers.
I wouldn't be surprised if he came close to averaging 18 points a game in 2014-15. Look for LeVert to emerge as a possible lottery candidate once he starts heating up the Big Ten in January.
Norman Powell, UCLA, 6'4", SG, Senior
Norman Powell looks poised for a breakout senior year with Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine each off to the pros.
Powell recently generated all sorts of positive buzz for himself at Adidas Nations, while the strides he made as a junior suggest he's ready to capitalize on extra touches and an increased workload.
But for Powell, it starts with defense, where he's earned his minutes on the floor over the past couple of seasons. Quick, long and active, Powell has the tools to pester both guard positions.
An excellent athlete with a quick first step and big-time hops, he's at his best offensively attacking the basket and scoring in the lane. From line drives to the rack to catch-and-slashes from the wing, Powell is a strong finisher on the move, having shot 53.3 percent from the floor and 67.7 percent at the rim, per Hoop-Math.
He's shot below 30 percent from downtown in back-to-back seasons, and that's kept any buzz from ever really generating. Still, he's proven capable of knocking down open looks, and as his opportunities and confidence increase, look for his shooting percentage to rise as well.