Big Ten NBA Draft Big Board

Photo credit: Nam Y. Huh, AP.

Photo credit: Nam Y. Huh, AP.

The NBA Draft kicks off Thursday night at 6 p.m., so it’s time that we take a look at some of the best prospects from the Big Ten. There are three sure fire first rounders and another handful of talented players, but their draft status is pretty uncertain. Let’s run down the best ballers from the conference.

1. D’Angelo Russell – PG – Ohio State – Freshman – 6’5” – 180 lbs.

Easily the top prospect in the B1G, D’Angelo Russell appears in the top five selections on just about any mock draft out there. Russell’s combination of size, athleticism and ball handling skills make him a rare breed of player that can actually be successful as a combo guard in the NBA. His game is extremely polished for a freshman too, and Russell should have an immediate impact wherever he lands.  He should be the first guard taken as Emmanuel Mudiay continues to slip down draft boards.

NBA player comparison: Brandon Roy before exploding knee syndrome

2. Frank Kaminsky – PF/C – Wisconsin – Senior – 7’0” – 242 lbs.

Despite an outstanding career with the Badgers, doubters continue to question Kaminsky’s NBA potential, mainly due to his size. At 7’0” and more than 240 pounds, his frame isn’t much different than that of likely number one pick Karl Anthony Towns. Kaminsky may not be quite as strong as Towns, but for a power forward, he is agile and has good footwork and balance. Plus, he possesses a smooth outside jumper that extends beyond the three point line. If Kaminsky can add some more weight, he becomes a solid stretch four in the  NBA. The issue is on the defensive end.  Kaminsky isn’t going to guard any legitimate NBA offensive threat with success.  He’s going to need to be paired with a Dwight Howard or a Anthony Davis in order to cover his defensive liabilities.

NBA player comparison: A softer Dirk Nowtizki? A thinner Lamarcus Aldridge with worse defense? Brad Miller?

3. Sam Dekker – SF – Wisconsin – Junior – 6’9” – 230 lbs.

Likely the third and final Big Ten player off the board in the first round, Dekker is ready for the league, but his ceiling is not very high. He’s a good scorer, equipped with a rangy jump shot and the finesse to finish on the drive. However, he’s not very athletic, nor does he have a quick first step. In the pros, he will have to work more without with the ball to score. Dekker will definitely struggle guarding NBA small forwards too, but the lengthy forward from Sheboygan should be a solid role player in the league.  There’s a place for 6’9” guys with range in the NBA.  Just not in the top 10, or probably the top 15.

NBA comparison: Less athletic Gordon Heyward or Robbie Hummel 2.0

4. Aaron White – PF – Iowa – Senior – 6’9” – 228 lbs.

There’s a significant drop-off in talent after the first three prospects, but Aaron White is an example of another polished, NBA-ready forward. He does not have the size or strength of an NBA four, and for that reason, it’s uncertain if White’s name even gets called. He is an excellent rebounder though with a clean mid-range jumper. White has good touch around the rim too and can score in the post.  You could do worse than snagging White in round two.

NBA comparison: Dante Cunningham

5. Travis Trice – PG – Michigan State – Senior – 6’3″ – 170 lbs.

Trice’s play in the postseason proved that he is a real gamer. The Spartan point guard scored at will in the NCAA Tournament and dished out assists left and right. One of the best pull-up shooters in the conference, if not country, Trice’s jumper stretches out to 23-25 feet. Athleticism is going to hold him back to though. He’s not quick enough to be an NBA point guard, nor a good enough ball handler, and he’s not skilled enough to be a shooting guard. Could he make his way onto an NBA roster or even get drafted? Yes; it’s just highly unlikely.

NBA player comparison: Patty Mills, poor man’s Kirk Hinrich

6. Terran Petteway – SG – Nebraska – Junior – 6’6″ – 215 lbs.

Shoot at will. That is Petteway’s game in a nutshell. He’s a very streaky shooter, who can win you games by knocking down perimeter jumpers, but more often he’s going to shoot you out of contests. I don’t know what NBA team would want Petteway over the top 5-6 guys in the conference because he is not nearly as well-rounded a player. Yet, Petteway often appears at the back end of two round mock drafts. #JustKeepShooting. Even if you’re 0-10; be you, Terran.

NBA comparison: Danny Green on an off night, Tim Hardaway Jr.

7. Branden Dawson – SF – Michigan State – Senior – 6’6″ – 225 lbs.

Dawson is an absolute beast. Even at 6-foot-6, the dude was cleaning glass and averaging a double-double early in the season, while leading the conference in rebounding. He couldn’t keep up that pace all year, but Dawson is a freak of nature that could be molded into an NBA bench player with improved ball handling skills and mam-to-man defense.

NBA player comparison: Tony Allen + steroids – perimeter defense

8. Dez Wells – SF – Maryland – Senior – 6’5″ – 215 lbs.

Wells was arguably the best finisher in the conference this season. He’s extremely strong and surprisingly graceful with the rock at rim. Wells is like a smaller Branden Dawson with better outside scoring ability. Size might hold him back because he’s stuck between shooting guard and small forward.

NBA player comparison: Quincy Pondexter

Notable: JerShon Cobb – SG – Northwestern – Senior – 6’5″ – 208 lbs.

Before you get your hopes up, I’ll tell you now that Cobb won’t get drafted. But neither was Drew Crawford last year, and he hung around with the Magic. If Cobb’s injuries finally stop lingering and he re-gains the quickness and athleticism of several years ago, he becomes a prospect for the D-league. But that’s a big “if.”

NBA Player comparison: Tayshaun Prince now

Other names to watch for: Mo Walker, Rayvonte Rice, Sam Thompson, D.J. Newbill, Andre Hollins

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