We are about two months from the start of college basketball season and the road to the 2015 NBA Draft has begun. It’s time to start taking some early looks at players who are already on the NBA’s radar, or have enough skill or potential to break through this season.
Players will be broken down by class, starting with the seniors. Overall, the list will contain between 50 and 60 seniors, 30 to 40 juniors, and 20 to 30 sophomores. With that in mind, let’s start with the first four seniors.
These are not meant to replace scouting reports, which will come out during the season. These are not all-inclusive and just meant as a brief primer for those who want to track draft prospects throughout the season. These are also not in any particular order other than who I choose to write about each post.
Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin, Forward, 7’0, 234
(2013-14, 27.2 mpg) 13.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 0.7 spg, 1.7 bpg
52.8 FG%, 76.5 FT%, 37.8 3FG%, 61.1 TS%, 57.8 eFG%
25.5 USG%, 10.0 OREB%, 18.4 DREB%, 14.3 REB%, 6.1 BLK%
Kaminsky made a tremendous leap from his sophomore to junior year after getting his chance to start with the graduation of Jared Berggren. A member of the Big Ten’s All-First Team, Kaminsky made himself known nationally with a 43-point game, on 16 of 19 shooting, in the Badgers’ fourth game last season. Though his numbers were up and down all season, due to teams now adjusting their defenses to stop him, Kaminsky still showed steady improvement in almost all areas of his game. He was known prior to last season for his ability to be a big man who can stretch the floor with his shooting ability, especially to the three-point line, but he also showed that he has the potential to be a crafty scorer around the basket, using a variety of fakes to create room for his shot. Kaminsky works hard to get post position and seal his man, can make post moves over either shoulder and can hit shots with either hand around the basket. He does a good job getting square to the basket before he shoots and he has a very good touch from most spots on the floor. Kaminsky is a good perimeter screener, and his ability to pop out and hit the jumper forces defenses to adjust quickly when he is away from the basket. Defensively, Kaminsky has a good understanding of what he needs to do to guard on the perimeter and in the post, though he has improvements to make. He does a good job boxing out when looking for rebounds and his ability to seal opponents well helps against stronger players.
What he needs to show this season: As I mentioned, Kaminsky had some ups and downs once teams learned to adjust to his offensive game, so he will need to show some new wrinkles this year, especially in the post. He doesn’t have the strength to yet to force his way to the basket, so he needs to keep improving his footwork, including making his moves to the basket quicker. Kaminsky can have trouble finishing against long defenders, so he needs to learn to draw and finish through contact to compliment his ball fakes. He only went to the line .35 times for every field goal attempt, which should be much higher for someone who draws the attention he does when he has the ball. With his ability to shoot, finding ways to get to the free throw line will only benefit him and his team. Kaminsky is a decent ballhandler for his size, though he can get carried away and over-dribble. He needs to work on keeping it to 3 or 4 dribbles top, especially when he is looking to drive by his man to the basket. On defense, he needs to work on moving his feet better and quicker, as well as learning to play angles on his man, forcing them away from their strengths. Kaminsky also needs to be quicker to react as a help defender, and though he may not be a great leaper, he has a good knack for blocking shots. His lack of foot speed can cause him to reach and get in foul trouble. Kaminsky reacts well as a pick-and-roll defender, though he can often drop off too quickly, leaving the ballhandler room to get a shot or make a quick move to the rim.
Tyler Haws, Brigham Young, Guard, 6’5, 200
(2013-14, 34.6 mpg) 23.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.0 spg, 1.5 apg
46.3 FG%, 88.1 FT%, 40.4 3FG%, 57.7 TS%, 50.0 eFG%, 29.4 USG%
Haws, the West Coast Conference Player of the Year, was one of the top scorers in the country for the second year in a row. He may be one of the best in the country at using screens to get open for jumpers, but he also does a very good job coming off screens tightly when heading to the basket. Haws gets square to the basket well when he is going to shoot, and he doesn’t force many bad shots. He looks to take most of his shots in the mid-range area, where he can be a good threat off the catch or the dribble. Haws has also become more selective with his long-range shooting, showing good range, but looking for better shots if they are available. He has the size to shield defenders as he looks to get to the basket off the dribble, and he has a knack for drawing contact and still getting good shots off. Haws went to the line almost 7 times per game last season, and had ten games with double-digit free throw attempts. Being an excellent free throw shooter, the points add up quickly. Haws is an average ballhandler, able to use both hands well, and he does a good job pushing the ball himself in transition. Haws’ defense has shown improvement from last season, which was bad, though he still is likely a below-average defender. His positioning, both on and off the ball has improved, and he has shown the ability to pressure the ball for short spurts.
What he needs to show this season: There is no doubt that Haws can score, but he has the skill where he could be better in other areas. As I mentioned, he loves the mid-range area, but he can settle for that shot often. Also, he draws so much attention from opposing defenses, that he needs to do a better job finding open teammates, especially off the dribble. Haws has shown some rebounding ability, but he will often just choose not to get involved, though that may be a team decision. Defensively, he has to work on moving laterally, as well as anticipating his man’s movements and changing directions more fluidly. He has a tendency to have trouble getting through screens, so he needs to work on recognizing and making the effort to get over them when he can.
Keifer Sykes, Green Bay, Guard, 6’0, 180
(2013-14, 34.3 mpg) 20.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.9 apg, 1.2 spg, 2.3:1 A/TO
46.9 FG%, 81.0 FT%, 30.9 3FG%, 57.8 TS%, 50.5 eFG%
29.1 USG%, 31.0 AST%, 10.8 TOV%, 2.1 STL%
Sykes, the Horizon League Player of the Year, had one of the more underappreciated seasons on the national level. Playing alongside second round draft pick Alec Brown, Sykes established himself as the leader of the Phoenix, while showing improvements in many areas of his game. He is a very strong ballhandler, able to use both his left and right hands well, as well as having both a good change of pace dribble and a nice crossover. Sykes is a strong decision maker, having good instincts of where his teammates are on the floor and delivering strong passes in places where they can score, including knowing the art of post entry passes. Sykes has the ability to get by his defender off the dribble, and he also uses screens well, to get to the basket. He shows good acceleration turning the corner on screens and he can force defenses to have to adjust quickly because of his speed. Because of his size, he can be a creative finisher around the basket, but he isn’t afraid to take some contact. Also, Sykes really has great leaping ability, so if he is given a little room, he will finish big at the rim. On the defensive side, Sykes can be a pest, using his speed and his ability to move his feet well to pressure the ball, full-court if he needs to. He positions himself well on and off the ball and he reacts well to his man’s movements, while taking very few risks. He has no problem chasing down rebounds wherever they are and regardless of the size of the opponent. Sykes is dynamic in the open floor, having the ability to take the ball to the rim or draw defenders and hit open teammates.
What he needs to show this season: Sykes’ speed can be a great asset for him, but there are times when he can move too quickly, especially when he is looking to get to the basket. He can find himself trapped in the lane with few outlet chances to teammates, so he needs to work on being patient and letting things develop. Because he is often guarded by larger defenders, Sykes needs a lot of space to get off his jumper, and he needs to work on being able to create that space off the dribble or screens, as well as being able to knock down long-range jumpers consistently. Also, he won’t be able to get to the rim as often as he does in college, so he will need to continue to develop a floater or short jumper to avoid bad shots or turnovers. Sykes is a good passer, but he needs to learn how to make reads quicker in pick-and-roll situations, and make the right reads.
Joseph Young, Oregon, Guard, 6’2, 185
(2013-14, 31.1 mpg) 18.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.3 spg
48.0 FG%, 88.1 FT%, 41.5 3FG%, 62.7 TS%, 56.9 eFG%
26.0 USG%, 13.1 AST%, 5.5 REB%
Young’s first season with the Ducks was a successful one, showing that his scoring ability carried over from Conference USA to the Pac-12. He can score in a variety ways, including being a steady long-range shooter. Young flourished in Oregon’s up-tempo system, but he also showed some very good patience in creating scoring opportunities in the halfcourt. He’s an average ballhandler, able to attack the basket in either direction, but he relies heavily on screens to beat his defender. Young does show a nice ability to turn the corner quickly on the screen, accelerate, and get to the basket, where he can finish in a variety of ways. He is a good spot-up shooter, especially from behind the arc, and he uses his ability to draw defenders out to make a move to the basket. Young will rarely force the ball into traffic, often choosing to stop and get the ball back out to a teammate. He is good in the open floor, able to spot up behind the arc on the wing, or push the ball himself on the break. Young is an average defender, showing good defensive awareness and lateral movement. He positions himself well on and off the ball, and he has shown the ability to read and jump passing lanes.
What he needs to show this season: Young’s multi-faceted scoring ability needs more polish than work, but there are some areas for him to work on. At 6’2, Young may have to show that he can handle the point guard position to ensure a spot at the next level. Included in that is the ability to make reads off of screens, as well as being able to find open teammates off of penetration. Young is an excellent free throw shooter, but he can often look to avoid contact or fall in love with shooting jumpers. He has the ability to get to the basket, so he should look to do it more. Defensively, he needs to work on increasing his foot speed and changing directions smoothly. Young also needs to work on getting over screens, especially when he is guarding a shooter.