By: Joe Laland, KCOU Sports
In fairness to college hoops, the NCAA practically holds a monopoly on basketball fans minds in March. However, mixed in the stands with the crazy student sections, will be NBA scouts and GMs. March is the biggest stage for NBA prospects to display their promise. Here are a couple story lines to watch to help determine what will transpire in the 2015 NBA draft.
The race for #1: Duke’s Freshman Jahlil Okafor seemingly had this spot locked up earlier this season. However, the other highly touted Freshman Center Karl-Anthony Towns, has recently made an impressive case for a debate over the first pick. Towns, has always been coveted for his defensive ability, has also made enormous strides offensively. A clean mid-range jumper with tremendous size and length make him a tough cover. Before Towns’ development, the argument was whether you would rather have Towns defense or Okafor’s offense. Now, it’s not quite that simple when projecting Towns offensive upside. Okafor still remains one of the most polished freshmen big men we have seen in recent memory. But, his lack of mobility on defending pick and rolls can be seen as a scary weakness. Okafor can be a staple for an NBA offense for years; Towns could possibly be a staple offensively and defensively.
Scoring Point Guards: In the last decade, the point guard position has evolved into much more of a scorer’s role. This draft class isn’t much different. The only exception coming with Emmanuel Mudiay, possibly the highest rated PG prospect. However, Mudiay won’t be playing this March after spending the year playing ball in China. As for tourney players, all eyes must be on D’Angelo Russell, the best scoring guard in the class. The lefty freshman creates his own shot and runs the entire offense for Thad Matta. Russell will have a tough matchup right off the back, when he has to deal with VCU’s daunting pressure. With success, Russell could make himself a top three pick. Other scoring guards like Notre Dame’s Jerian Gant and Utah’s Delon Wright are the veteran guards that will be looked at for their immediate NBA impact. Both are long guards that could guard multiple positions and help playoff-ready teams that need a backup PG. Lastly, the most polarizing prospect, is Tyus Jones. Jones is undersized but can possibly shoot and pass better then any of these other prospects. Additionally, Jones has manufactured multiple comebacks due to his clutch gene. Jones will need prove his toughness on how he can guard bigger guards on D. Scoring guards normally take over March, and quite possibly one of these guys will take over draft boards.
Potential Vs. Production: While most of the players projected in the top-10 play for Duke and Kentucky, there are some major prospects that just snuck in off the bubble such as UCLA’s Kevon Looney and Texas’s Myles Turner. Both parts of really disappointing teams, but individually showed enough flash to draw attention. Both have the benefit of being extremely long and having the ability to play multiple positions. But lack of consistency on the offensive end has been frustrating. Texas coach Rick Barnes has struggled finding the perfect frontcourt rotation and has clogged up a lot of minutes for Turner. Looney’s main issue is his need to prove his jump-shot range. If these two players show some more aggressiveness, they can be locked in as top-10 picks.