The 6 Biggest Gambles in the 2015 NBA Draft Class

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistMarch 8, 2015

The 6 Biggest Gambles in the 2015 NBA Draft Class

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    The NBA draft is an inexact science, and nothing illustrates that better than this group of risky 2015 prospects.

    One-and-done players are attractive because they're young and have alluring physical tools. But many are in the early stages of skill development, and it's tough to project how much they'll improve in the coming years.

    International prospects are also precarious commodities. It's hard to gauge how reputable their competition is, and it's also difficult to determine how their talents and athleticism will translate to the U.S.

    Every draft pick is a roll of the dice to some degree, but who are the biggest gambles in this year's crop?

    We broke down the riskiest picks in the field based on known skills and qualities, keeping in mind their projected draft range.

6. Emmanuel Mudiay, China, PG (6'5", 1996)

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Draft Range: Top five

    Biggest Question(s): How smoothly will his scoring and facilitating translate?

    Any time a non-college prospect is in the top-five conversation, there's naturally a substantial amount of risk. Emmanuel Mudiay's coaches, teammates and opponents are all relatively unknown.

    He originally had committed to Southern Methodist for the 2014-15 season, but over the summer he opted to turn pro and play in the Chinese Basketball Association. During his 12 games for the Guangdong Southern Tigers, he posted 18.0 points, 5.9 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game on 47.8 percent shooting.

    His creativity and athleticism will undoubtedly serve him well in the Association, but can he back it up with dependable perimeter accuracy? Mudiay shot just 34.2 percent from the international line, and his delivery is often flat.

    The other significant question is whether he has the chops to run an NBA offense.

    It's one thing to weave around the less athletic competition in China; it's quite another to square off against Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard on a regular basis. Mudiay averaged 4.1 turnovers per 40 minutes for the Tigers.

    He has the wherewithal and potential to be a top-tier pro. But there's also a chance he falls short and turns into a streaky athlete with a spotty jumper.

5. Kelly Oubre, Kansas, SG/SF (6'7", Freshman)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Draft Range: Late lottery

    Biggest Question(s): Can he consistently create offense?

    If he keeps developing his ball skills and adds some strength, Kelly Oubre will likely be a very productive NBA wing.

    At this stage, however, there's still some risk attached to him because of his rawness. Oubre has improved for Kansas over the past couple of months of the season, but he doesn't have many moves in his arsenal to prove he'll definitely thrive at the next level.

    He's put up some nice stats for the Jayhawks, including 17.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per 40 minutes, but much of his production comes from superior length and agility. Once he gets to the Association, he won't be able to feed exclusively off those advantages.

    Oubre will need more strong, crisp moves to create separation if he wants to consistently produce.

    Right now, we don't know how much polish and power he'll add to his game. Therefore, it's trickier to pinpoint his NBA production compared to someone like Stanley Johnson or Mario Hezonja.

4. Myles Turner, Texas, PF/C (7'0", Freshman)

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Draft Range: Late lottery

    Biggest Question(s): Can he play in the post? Is his subpar athleticism detrimental?

    Myles Turner's size, shooting stroke and rim protection are undeniable, but he's far from a safe pick in this year's draft.

    Texas' reserve big man has not passed the eye test when it comes to athleticism and end-to-end mobility, and his frame isn't the sturdiest. Most importantly, these tools and his playing style have resulted in underwhelming offense around the rim.

    It's great that Turner is a confident outside shooter, but less than a quarter of his field-goal attempts are at the rim, per If he cannot use his seven-foot frame to post up and score in the paint against college competition, how much will he struggle at the next level? 

    Andrew Ford of Upside & Motor talked about Turner's unimpressive movements and strength, along with his shaky play against top foes:

    He still has a lot to learn in the way of positioning on both ends of the court, and every move he makes looks awkward to me. ... He has been marginalized by tough competition, which is worrisome, and he doesn't dominate a game like you'd hope to see from a lottery prospect. Throw in his slender, long frame that might make it tough for him to add muscle, and I think drafting Turner becomes a very risky proposition.

    Considering his height and shooting skills, he should be at least a mid-first-round selection. But if he's picked in that top-10 range, it's a significant risk.

3. Christian Wood, UNLV, PF/C (6'11", Sophomore)

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Draft Range: Late first round

    Biggest Question(s): Is he even close to being ready?

    UNLV sophomore Christian Wood is 200 pounds, which is rail-thin for a 6'11" player. He frequently struggles to establish position in the post, and he often falls in love with his jump shot.

    There are some games in which he shows nice inside-out production and gets to the free-throw line. However, there have been several tilts where he's drifted to the perimeter too much.

    "I tend to get outside a little bit," Wood admitted to Taylor Bern of the Las Vegas Sun.

    His potential versatility on offense and rim protection on defense are tantalizing, but he still has a lot to learn. Wood's decision-making is concerning, as he has trouble making the right reads (3.0 turnovers per 40 minutes) and knowing when to refrain from shooting triples (28.6 percent from three land).

    Using a top-20 pick on him would be a sizable risk.

2. Robert Upshaw, C, (7'0", 1994)

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    Draft Range: Late first/early second round

    Biggest Question(s): Can you trust him on and off the floor?

    The gamble involved in drafting Robert Upshaw has little to do with his physical tools or basketball skills, although he's not a complete player. It's one of those cases where a prospect's character is legitimately questionable.

    In late January, he was dismissed from the Washington Huskies squad for a violation of team rules. Upshaw was a transfer from Fresno State, and ESPN's Jeff Goodman reports that he failed multiple drug tests at both programs.

    In addition, his game film at Washington indicates that he takes his foot off the gas sometimes. Occasionally he gets beat down the floor or outworked on the glass.

    He's been discussed as a potential first-round draft pick by some prognosticators, largely due to his shot-blocking prowess (he was averaging 4.5 blocks per game through 19 contests). If he lands in the first round, he's naturally a risk due to the investment.

    Keep an eye on whether he lands in the 20s or slides into the mid-second round.

1. Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia, PF (7'0", 1995)

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    Draft Range: Mid-lottery

    Biggest Question(s): Will he succeed in the paint? Can he rebound?

    One of the most enticing European big-man prospects in recent years is Latvian stretch 4 Kristaps Porzingis.

    Not only does he have a sweet-looking outside shot, but he also exhibits fluid athleticism and above-the-rim potential on both ends of the floor. Between Liga ACB and Eurocup play, Porzingis is shooting 37.9 percent from the international arc and 49.5 percent from the field.

    The downside, however, is that he has a chance to be the next European disappointment. He could be an Andrea Bargnani-type player: a tall shooter who struggles to rebound, score in the post and play defense.

    Porzingis is averaging just 4.5 rebounds and 0.6 assists per game this season, and most of his offense comes from putbacks, alley-oops or jumpers. In other words, he doesn't have great instincts or strength to play in the paint yet.

    "Overall, I love Porzingis' offensive versatility and ability to cover ground on (defense), but am scared by his feel, awareness and lack of toughness," said Mike Schmitz of Draft Express.

    Can he pack on some bulk, and more importantly, can he adopt a stronger playing style to complement his outside shooting? That will determine his NBA ceiling.

    Note: Unless otherwise indicated, all stats come from and are current entering March 7.

    Follow Dan O'Brien on Twitter for more NBA draft coverage: @DanielO_BR.


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