2015 NBA Draft: Ranking the Best Prospects in the Final Four

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterApril 3, 2015

2015 NBA Draft: Ranking the Best Prospects in the Final Four

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    With Kentucky, Wisconsin, Duke and Michigan State all headed to the Final Four, count on the NBA scouts to follow. 

    This year's Final Four is loaded with NBA prospects. In fact, there could be eight or nine first-round picks participating in Indianapolis. 

    There is even a chance we'll see the top two prospects on the board go at it in the championship game. 

    We ranked the 15 best prospects remaining based on their NBA potential; however, not all of them are guaranteed to declare for this June's draft.

15. Aaron Harrison, Kentucky, 6'6", SG, Sophomore

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    Making big shots hasn't been the problem for Aaron Harrison. It's hitting the routine ones consistently that's given him the most trouble. 

    Harrison clearly has NBA 2-guard size and shot-making skills, with the ability to spot up from deep or pull up from 18 feet. He just hasn't been a reliable shooter. After making 35.6 percent of his threes as a freshman, he's regressed to 31.7 percent as a sophomore. 

    And that's a problem when 186 of your 360 field-goal attempts come from behind the arc. 

    Without the explosiveness to get to the rim or the playmaking ability to play the point, Harrison will need his jumper to start falling more often. His chance of cracking an NBA roster will depend on it.

14. Branden Dawson, Michigan State, 6'6", SF/PF, Senior

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    With Branden Dawson already 22 years old and averaging just 11.9 points per game, his upside is minimal. He remains a limited offensive player without much of a jumper or shot creativity. 

    But he did pull down 9.1 rebounds and block 1.6 shots per game—impressive numbers for a 6'6" forward. He's a hustle player. Dawson's motor and athleticism translate to finishes (career 56 percent from the field), defensive plays and boards.

    Dawson hasn't hit a three-pointer in four years, and he's shot just 49.5 percent from the line in 2014-15. No NBA team would bring him in to score. But in a role that would allow him to play to his strengths, Dawson could have a shot at catching on as an energizer or dirty-work glue guy.

13. Andrew Harrison, Kentucky, 6'6", PG, Sophomore

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    Andrew Harrison made some strides in 2014-15, particularly as a decision-maker. Per 40 minutes, he's averaging 0.6 more assists and 0.8 fewer turnovers than last year.

    Harrison's ability to handle the ball, drive and play over the defense At 6'6" is a huge plus. But his lack of explosiveness is a killer. 

    He really struggles to get off the ground, and it's led to a disastrous 49.1 percent mark at the rim, per Hoop-Math.com. It's too bad, because Harrison can be tough to slow down when in attack mode. He just can't finish. 

    This marks the second year in a row he's shot below 38 percent on two-pointers.

    As a sophomore, Harrison has made a respectable 37.6 percent of his threes and 79 percent of his free throws—encouraging signs regarding his touch. 

    His size for a point guard and shot-making ability could lead to second-round consideration, but it's going to be an uphill battle to make a roster playing arguably the NBA's most competitive position.

12. Dakari Johnson, Kentucky, 7'0", C, Sophomore

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    Dakari Johnson lost around 20 pounds in the offseason, and it showed in transition, where he's occasionally beaten the defense down the floor for an easy bucket. 

    But Johnson didn't add much to his skill set. He's still limited offensively, without a jumper, much touch (62.5 percent from the line) or an advanced post game. Johnson's bread and butter is the over-the-shoulder hook, though he hasn't flashed the ability to counter if his defender takes it away. 

    On the bright side, Johnson didn't shrink. He's still 7'0" and now 255 pounds. He pulls in 11.4 rebounds per 40 minutes and shoots 51 percent. Johnson finishes dump passes, tips back misses and cleans the glass. 

    However, he doesn't get off the floor very high, and he isn't particularly long (wingspan matches his height). Johnson blocks 2.3 shots per 40 minutes, an average yet uninspiring number.

    He only played 16.5 minutes per game this year, so he hasn't exactly had the reps to build much rhythm. Either way, Johnson would likely need to come back as a junior to generate first-round interest. Backup center looks like his best-case NBA outlook.

11. Tyus Jones, Duke, 6'1", PG, Freshman

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    Skilled, poised and intelligent, Tyus Jones has played an important role in Duke's 2015 success. From an NBA perspective, his most attractive strength lies in his ability to set the table for teammates. 

    Jones' passing instincts and decision-making have translated to 5.7 assists and just two turnovers per game. 

    Of the 212 assists he's dished out, 45 percent of them have come within the first 10 seconds of a Duke possession, according to Hoop-Math.com. Jones is at his best pushing the ball up the floor and finding his teammates before defenses can set.

    However, he's not as effective in the half court, due to his limited size, strength and athleticism. Jones struggles finishing over length. And he's been fairly average from outside, where he's made 37.3 percent of his threes and 36.4 percent of his two-point jumpers, per Hoop-Math.com.

    But Jones' biggest obstacle when it comes to making the NBA jump will be defending the perimeter. He has trouble fighting through ball screens and containing dribble penetration in general. 

    Given his physical limitations and shaky scoring attack, Jones' ceiling seems to top out around backup point guard heights. He could be worth a late-first-round look for a general manager who is seeking backcourt depth. But Jones could be vulnerable to a draft-night slide, as most playoff teams traditionally target veteran free agents when looking for a secondary ball-handler.

10. Marcus Lee, Kentucky, 6'9", PF, Sophomore

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    Marcus Lee's game is cut and dried. His strengths and weaknesses are well-defined. At 6'9", Lee has incredible bounce around the rim, where he puts back misses, throws down lobs, blocks shots and picks up easy buckets on the break. 

    He plays with tons of athleticism and energy, which allows him to affect games without needing touches in the offense. 

    And that's where his NBA values lies—with his motor and ability to provide a spark off the ball. 

    On the ball, Lee just isn't particularly threatening. He can face up and take a dribble but not from outside the foul line. And the few jumpers he has attempted have not looked pretty. 

    Lee seems highly likely to return as a junior, when he'll have a better chance to expand his offensive game with more touches and playing time. 

    Assuming he returns, I'd peg him as a 2016 late first-rounder whose stock has room to improve.

9. Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin, 6'7", SF/PF, Sophomore

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    Nigel Hayes has emerged as Wisconsin's No. 3 weapon and a fairly interesting NBA prospect. He doesn't get too many chances to create, but Hayes has done a nice job of capitalizing opportunistically as a scorer within the Badgers offense. 

    He's made 35 three-pointers this year after failing to hit any as a freshman. And now with defenders having to close out harder on the perimeter, Hayes has been able to take advantage of his foot speed.

    He has a quick first step for a 250-pounder who can also hold his own down low. In this postseason, Hayes has made a number of impressive drives in isolation from the mid-range or behind the arc. 

    And he's become a crafty little post player. Hayes seems to have a counter for whatever the defense shows him. Up-and-unders, pump fakes, back-to-the-basket spins—he has the footwork and ability to improvise on the fly and find ways to finish on the move.

    There are definite questions regarding his NBA position and upside. At 6'7", he's more of a combo forward than a 3 or 4. But Hayes' versatility, efficiency (50.2 percent shooting, 1.3 turnovers per game) and newfound shot-making ability have certainly made him worth looking into as a draft option. 

8. Devin Booker, Kentucky, 6'6", SG, Freshman

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    Even if Devin Booker's one-on-one game never improves, his ability to hit shots should hold plenty of NBA value. 

    Though not a particularly threatening shot creator, Booker is excellent at shooting and finishing off the catch. That allows him to put up points within his team's offense without needing dribbles or isolation touches.

    He does most of his damage in the half court, knocking down jumpers off spot-ups and screens. And when given a clear path to the basket, he's demonstrated the body control to convert challenged layups on the move.

    However, Booker struggles to beat defenders off the bounce. He's made just 12 baskets at the rim in the half court all season, according to Hoop-Math.com, and he averages only 1.7 free-throw attempts per game. 

    Booker ultimately projects as a perimeter-scoring specialist who'll be better off as a third, fourth or fifth option in an offense.

    In terms of his skill set and approach, he reminds me of J.J. Redick. 

7. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin, 6'9", SF, Junior

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    Sam Dekker will be entering the Final Four having averaged 21.7 points through four rounds of games. And it's noteworthy, considering his career high coming in was 22 points.

    It's helped that he's making threes. Dekker hit five against Arizona in the Elite Eight, three against Oregon in the third round and four against Coastal Carolina in Wisconsin's opener. 

    "There are no words to describe what it's like to be in a zone like that," Dekker told Bleacher Report's Jason King after dropping 27 points against Arizona. "You feel like you can do anything out there."

    Quite frankly, an inconsistent jumper had seemed like the only thing holding Dekker back. At 6'9" with smooth athleticism, he has physical tools that are tailor-made for the NBA wing. He's a major threat as a driver, slasher and cutter.

    He's also a good passer, high-IQ player and versatile defender, qualities that play to his role-player potential in the pros. 

    But Dekker shot 32.6 percent from three and 68.6 percent from the line as a sophomore. And coming into this year's tournament, he was making fewer than 33 percent of his threes once again. 

    Dekker isn't much of a playmaker or one-on-one scorer, but if he can continue capitalizing as a shooter the way he has been, his value as a prospect and future NBA player will rise.

6. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin, 7'0", PF/C, Senior

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    There isn't any question about Frank Kaminsky's role or fit in the pros. The question concerns his ceiling. 

    Just how good will he be offensively without the traditional strength or athleticism shared by most NBA frontcourts?

    In the college game, nobody can match up with Kaminsky, who just went for 29 points against Arizona in the Elite Eight. 

    However, playing against stronger, bouncier big men is going to make it tougher for Kaminsky to separate, particularly in the paint. That could limit his upside. 

    Still, his ability to stretch the floor as a shooter (41.5 percent on threes), as well as attack closeouts off the dribble and pass out of the post (2.7 assists per game) are skills that should carry over and work from Day 1 until Year 10. 

    I'd ultimately project Kaminsky as a low-end starter to high-end reserve. That should be good for mid-first-round value.

5. Trey Lyles, Kentucky, 6'10", PF, Freshman

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    In terms of fundamentals, there aren't many big-man prospects who are sounder than Trey Lyles. He's flashed skills that seem built for the NBA power forward position. 

    At 6'10", he's comfortable in the mid-range, where he has textbook shooting mechanics, both off the catch and the dribble. He rises and fires with balance, and every jumper looks the same. Lyles projects as a reliable target in the drive-and-kick or pick-and-pop game out to 18 feet. 

    Facing up, Lyles also has the mobility and body control to put the ball on the floor and finish on the move. And he's showcased some impressive footwork in the post, where he can spin baseline or hop-step into the lane.

    Lyles isn't a particularly strong or explosive athlete. Maybe the biggest concern is whether or not he'll be able to guard quicker forwards out on the perimeter. 

    But between his sharp offensive versatility and high basketball IQ, Lyles projects as a safe bet worthy of late-lottery consideration.

4. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, 7'0", C, Junior

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    We've seen some offensive progress from Willie Cauley-Stein. Occasionally, he'll knock down a jump hook in the lane or a 12-to-15-foot jumper.

    But the real appeal of Cauley-Stein from an NBA perspective stems from his defensive versatility. 

    We saw it in the final minute of Kentucky's Elite Eight win over Notre Dame. 

    With fewer than 40 seconds left, he switched onto point guard Jerian Grant out on the perimeter and ended up blocking a step-back three-point attempt. On the game's final possession—with Kentucky up one—Cauley-Stein chased Grant baseline to baseline and forced him into an off-balance heave that never came close.

    While Cauley-Stein's 7'0" size and leaping ability primarily translate to rim protection, his remarkable foot speed for a big man also allows him to switch onto guards in pick-and-rolls and pressure full court. 

    Regardless of how well his post game develops, Cauley-Stein will have the chance to become one of the game's most unique defensive weapons. He'll be able to bring something to an NBA team from Day 1.

3. Justise Winslow, Duke, 6'6", SF, Freshman

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    Justise Winslow had been opening eyes all year with his motor and athleticism. Chasedown blocks, end-to-end pressure, coast-to-coast takes—he has that ability to convert energy into easy buckets and forced turnovers on defense.

    He's even hit a three-pointer in 32 of Duke's 37 games. 

    But recently, we've seen his scoring attack come to life. He went for 16 points against Gonzaga in the Elite Eight, after putting up 21 against Utah in the Sweet 16. 

    Winslow has been knocking down jumpers and runners in the mid-range that hadn't been in his arsenal. 

    At 6'6", 225 pounds, he projects similarly to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in terms of lockdown tools and off-ball action. But at 18 years old, Winslow appears much further along offensively as a shooter and ball-handler. 

    Though he still has a ways to go with his one-on-one skills, Winslow has flashed plenty of promise while excelling in areas of the game you just can't teach. 

2. Jahlil Okafor, Duke, 6'11", C, Freshman

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    It only takes a few games to pick up on Jahlil Okafor's offensive polish. He's as skilled from the foul line to the baseline as any post scorer we've seen in years. 

    And at 6'11", 270 pounds with a 7'5" wingspan, there is no reason those skills shouldn't translate to the NBA paint. 

    He blends power, agility, giant hands and world-class footwork to consistently create high-percentage shots. While his 17.5 points per game is obviously impressive, it's his 66.8 percent field-goal mark that highlights just how unstoppable he's been. 

    Okafor has also gotten his fair share of practice operating out of double-teams. Throughout the year, he's showcased his ball-handling for escaping trouble, as well as his passing ability and awareness.

    On the downside, he's made just 51.1 percent of his free throws. Okafor looks uncomfortable shooting with two hands on the ball, particularly outside the key. 

    But his defense is arguably the biggest concern. Per Basketball-Reference.com, his 4.5 percent block percentage is abnormally low for a center, especially one with his physical tools. Conditioning and effort play a role, but so do instincts and reaction time—two attributes he could have a tough time improving.

    Still, it's Okafor's ability to score against a set half-court defense that drives his NBA appeal. He'll give whatever team that drafts him an option to feature on his first day on the job.

1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky, 6'11", PF/C, Freshman

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    Karl-Anthony Towns always had the upside edge over the other premier prospects. Center size, power forward athleticism, inside-out versatility, rim protection—nobody has the potential to cover more two-way ground down the road.

    But it's been the gradual improvement that's allowed Towns to leapfrog Okafor as the No. 1 prospect in the country.

    His jump hook that wasn't falling earlier in the season has suddenly been a reliable weapon of choice. Towns used it to dominate Notre Dame for 25 points in the Elite Eight. 

    And though he hasn't taken many jumpers, he's hit a handful of them, as well as 81.7 percent of his free throws. Towns ultimately has the touch and comfort level as a shooter to suggest he can one day become a stretch big.

    However, for the majority of the year, Towns' presence has been more consistently felt on defense, where his bounce, aggression and anticipation translate to an 11.7 percent block percentage, according to Basketball-Reference.com. He's blocked 35 more shots than Okafor in a whopping 300 fewer minutes. 

    At this stage, Towns isn't as polished as the big fella at Duke. Towns' 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes also shows he'll have some adjustments to make.

    But there is no question whose ceiling stands tallest among those participating in the Final Four. And given Towns' progression and recent play, you get the feeling that ceiling is within reach.


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