Oh, and stay in school kids
Buddy Hield, Brice Johnson, Malcolm Brogdon, local NCAA tournament hero Kris Jenkins. If you watched the men's NCAA basketball tournament, hopefully you'll recognize all these names. These guys all stayed in college for the long haul. Three seniors and Jenkins, the lone junior, who all made it deep into the tourney despite not being on the forefront of the NBA radar.
Leading into this year, some players need a reality check. One of those players is Maryland center Diamond Stone. Diamond, despite what your mom and dad may have told you, you are NOT a first-round pick. Is it really worth it for a player to jump into the draft before he's ready just for the opportunity to ride the bench for two years? Even if he does become a star in the league, those years could be better spent developing skills from a more personal coach in Mark Turgeon who would focus his coaching efforts on his star center. In Stone's case, he could go back to school like fellow UMD star Melo Trimble, be considered a legitimate candidate for the Wooden Award for best NCAA men's player, and, based on the temper he displayed last year, calm his sometimes fiery attitude on the court. He projects as a second round pick according to CBS Sports' Sam Vecenie. Many prospects from last year were projected much higher. Where does that leave Mr. Stone?
But what about LeBron James? He didn't even go to college! Anthony Davis or Karl Anthony-Towns? They were one-and-done in college as well! And Kyrie Irving, who barely played a half-season with Duke before declaring! Don't even try it. Stone isn't a groundbreaking player who has the potential to define a generation. He's just an above average college center.
He's not alone. Not many players have the skills to come out of the league and be on the floor every game, but teams aren't hunting through players to stash on the bench for two years or send to the NBA Development League (D-League). By drafting more polished, experienced players, NBA teams can start their rookies in game one. Last year's draft saw just two upperclassmen drafted in the top 15 picks. But one of them, Hornets big man Frank Kaminsky might have been the most effective player besides rookie of the year Anthony-Towns, establishing himself as a big part of the playoff team.
Throughout the 2015-2016 college basketball season, the seniors shone brighter than ever, but when the draft discussion emerged, it was back to the freshmen. In Vecenie's top 17, only two college upperclassmen were mentioned, as if the season never happened. The pool will be full of unproven freshmen and sophomores who probably should've stayed back for a few more years of learning.
Without further ado, here's how I think the first round will go down:
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram, Fr., SF, Duke
Is it possible to have an even skinnier Kevin Durant? He can shoot the ball well and his long frame gives him a lot to work with. The Lakers could use a go-to scorer sans Kobe.
3. Boston Celtics (From Brooklyn): Buddy Hield, Sr., SG, Oklahoma
The Celtics are in a really good place. A win-now attitude will encourage the selection of a player they can plug right in. Don't be surprised if junior guard Kris Dunn comes off the board here in place of the sharpshooting Hield.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Kris Dunn, Jr., PG, Providence
A guy who can distribute the ball when Ricky Rubio is off the court to the blossoming stars up North will be crucial, especially if Rubio gets traded…
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Marquese Chriss, Fr., PF, Washington
If the Pelicans can stay healthy, Chriss would be another big man who can stretch the floor. If they can't he'll get some heavy action early on in his career.
7. Denver Nuggets (From New York): Jamal Murray, Fr., PG, Kentucky
Murray didn't show too much until the end of the season, when he became a scoring machine. He'll compliment last year's first rounder Emmanuel Mudiay nicely in the backcourt.
8. Sacramento Kings: Jaylen Brown, Fr., SF, California
A big talent who was projected by many to go in the top three at the beginning of the season, he is another scorer who will take time to develop his shot and scoring ability at the next level.
9. Toronto Raptors (From Denver via New York): Domantas Sabonis, So., PF/C, Gonzaga
Another team that worked magic through some trades looking for an NBA-ready talent to compete in the East, Sabonis will replace the likely-to-depart Bismack Biyombo and Luis Scola. A big body with a jumper, he will have to develop himself both physically and mentally.
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Jakob Poeltl, So., C, Utah
Poeltl is a more polished big man than most college sophomores, but he isn't as athletic as most NBA centers. If he were to thrive in Milwaukee, he would play solely as a pure center in an already tall lineup.
11. Orlando Magic: Skal Labissiere, Fr., PF/C, Kentucky
Young, big and athletic, like every Kentucky player, Labissiere needs time to develop. With him on the roster, Nikola Vucevic will be forced to become a teacher, and Aaron Gordon to become a leader on a young team.
12. Utah Jazz: Denzel Valentine, Sr., SG/SF, Michigan St.
The Jazz are stacked with young players, but Trey Burke is not panning out as they thought. Valentine's shooting ability should pair nicely with pure point guard Dante Exum, and he is an excellent defender.
13. Phoenix Suns (From Washington): Deyonta Davis, Fr., PF, Michigan St.
Their second pick in the draft, don't be surprised if they pick two lottery big men. Davis is just another big force to be reckoned with down low, but the stretch four needs to do a lot of learning, as most of these freshmen do.
14. Chicago Bulls: Ante Zizic, C, Croatia
The Bulls could lose both Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah this offseason, and they'll need to strengthen their frontcourt to protect against that. They have had success with overseas players in the past (Nikola Mirotic), and this tall center will learn from an excellent teacher if they keep Gasol.
15. Denver Nuggets (From Houston): Henry Ellenson, Fr., PF/C, Marquette
Denver's second pick, the Marquette big man is a typical down low power forward with great knowledge around the basket. Ellenson would be a good compliment to the athletic and explosive Kenneth Faried.
16. Boston Celtics (From Dallas): Brice Johnson, Sr., PF, North Carolina
Working the trade magic again, the second of three Boston first rounders. Johnson was a stat sheet stuffer in college, but his game will focus less on scoring in the pros. With good basketball IQ, Johnson would play an important role, especially if the Celtics lose center Tyler Zeller to free agency.
18. Detroit Pistons: Chieck Diallo, Fr., C, Kansas
Diallo was out for much of the season, but that shouldn't stop him from being a first round pick. He's very unpolished, but the Pistons can probably afford that at the position held by the best rebounder last season, Andre Drummond.
19. Denver Nuggets (From Portland): Timothe Luwawu, SG/SF, France
Denver's third pick, Luwawu is a taller than the average shooting guard, so he'll probably see time at the three as well. With three first rounders who will need development, the Nuggets should also be looking down the road to stock picks in next year's draft.
20. Indiana Pacers: Damian Jones, Jr., PF, Vanderbilt
The Pacers have most of their starting spots set, but they have no depth anywhere. Now that rookie Myles Turner has proven his worth, a third big man who can rebound and give star forward Paul George another scoring outlet down low will be extremely useful in years to come.
21. Atlanta Hawks: Wade Baldwin IV, So., PG/SG, Vanderbilt
Back to back from Vandy? Perhaps. Baldwin is a great shooter and defender, but his finishing at the rim is questionable. After Jeff Teague was found to have played with an injury last season, Baldwin would be a nice backup to run the point or the two.
22. Charlotte Hornets: Furkan Korkmaz, SG, Turkey
He's Turkish! Korkmaz is a big shooting guard whose size will overshadow his inability to handle the ball. The Hornets could potentially lose a lot to free agency, and they can use a shooting guard behind Courtney Lee. He could also play the three in a small lineup.
23. Boston Celtics: Taurean Prince, Sr., SF, Baylor
The third first round pick for a team that finished 14 games above .500. Unbelievable. Sticking with the theme of older players for a win-now team, Prince is an all-around player who can shoot, defend, use his strength and even do some ball-handling. He should fit in well learning from a similar player in Jae Crowder.
24. Philadelphia 76ers (From Miami via Cleveland): Dejounte Murray, Fr., PG/SG, Washington
This seems like a Philly pick. A young player with above-average size who won't be NBA-ready for a few years as they continue "rebuilding"...
25. Los Angeles Clippers: DeAndre Bembry, Jr., SG/SF, St. Joseph's
The Clippers only weakness next year will be at small forward, even if the aging Paul Pierce comes back. Bembry can be plugged in anywhere and his passing instincts will allow Chris Paul to put his scoring ability to use. He'll also put the big men to work by feeding them the ball.
26. Philadelphia 76ers (From Oklahoma City via Denver and Cleveland): Malachi Richardson, Fr., SG/SF, Syracuse
Richardson guided the Orange to their Final Four appearance this year, and he's riding that late-season run all the way into the first round. The Sixers will fall for his athleticism and youth and select a player who needs a long time to develop. If Diamond Stone were to go first round, this is where it would happen.
27. Toronto Raptors: Tyler Ulis, So., PG, Kentucky
They got an early first rounder through trades, and they have two players overseas waiting in the wings. A second-team playmaker to pair with Cory Joseph would do the Raptors well. Ulis, standing just 5'9, draws the obvious comparison to Isaiah Thomas and will find ways to score in the pros with a few years of work.
28. Phoenix Suns (From Cleveland via Boston): Juan Hernangomez, SF/PF, Spain
I kind of just wanted to say his name. He's a young Spaniard who will probably stay overseas for a few years like most foreign players, but with his size and scoring ability he will be a can't miss player a few years down the road. The Suns are young, and he would come to the US once their other talents start to hit their stride.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Demetrius Jackson, Jr., PG, Notre Dame
One of my favorite players to watch in college, Jackson is always a threat to go off. He's very hot and cold, but the Spurs can make a good backup out of anyone (Cory Joseph, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills). His skillset should be easy enough for Coach Gregg Popovich to harness.
Who knows where Stone and the rest of these young talents will end up? But Maryland fans do hope that his talents are put to use in the NBA and not shoved down into the development league.
Benjamin Yokoyama. Baseball! More »