With many NBA fans getting their first look at 2016 NBA Draft prospects, BBALLBREAKDOWN is here to provide analysis of each region’s best prospects and most enticing matchups.
Best Prospect: Kris Dunn, #8 Providence
After coming back for his senior season—forgoing a likely lottery selection in last year’s draft—Kris Dunn improved on some weaknesses and bolstered his stock, and is now a potential top five pick and far and away the best point guard prospect in this draft.
Dunn cut his turnover rate from 24.8 percent to 21.1 percent, which is still fairly high, but shows his decision making is improving. While he still needs some work, Providence does as him to carry the bulk of the offense, cutting his turnovers while maintaining his 41.7 assist percentage.
He has also become a more willing perimeter shooter, seeing an uptick in his three-point attempts per 40 minutes from 2.7 to 4.0, while maintaining a 34 percent conversion rate. Teams know his strengths and he shouldn’t fall very far, but a great performance over a handful of games while leading the Friars to the second weekend could boost him higher than his current mock draft status.
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Sleeper Prospect: V.J. Beachem, #6 Notre Dame
One of the most underrated three-and-D prospects in the NCAA, Notre Dame’s V.J. Beachem hasn’t gotten a ton of press playing alongside Demetrius Jackson in his breakout season. He doesn’t fill the stat sheet, but he does fit his role to a T for the Fighting Irish, and could do the same for a NBA team.
The 6-foot-8 junior shots 43.2 percent from beyond the arc and has the wingspan and lateral movement to defend shooting guards, small forwards, and even point guards in a pinch; but a skinny frame could limit his effectiveness against larger wings. Beachem also struggles to create off the dribble, but NBA teams won’t ask him to do so at the next level.
Beachem will get a chance to build some momentum with a potential matchup against Zak Irvin in the first round and Nigel Hayes or Edmond Sumner in the Sweet Sixteen. Locking these players down will show he can defend potential NBA wings and put him higher on NBA radars going into his final collegiate season.
Best First Round Matchup: #13 Stony Brook’s Jameel Warney and #4 Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere
Both prospects have a lot to prove in this seemingly innocuous first round matchup. Warney is one of the best post players in the NCAA, solidified by a 43-point performance in the American East championship game. He doesn’t get flustered against single or double coverage in the post, and has a variety of moves to beat his defender—moving quickly off the catch or patiently surveying the floor and reading the defense to make the right decision.
Warney currently sits outside most draft projections as a senior and would need to have a strong performance in pre-draft workouts to get selected or draw an invite to training camps. A big performance against Labissiere and Kentucky, showing he can score against potential NBA big men, could shoot him in to mock drafts with a much better chance to hear his name called in the second round of the upcoming draft.
Coach Calipari will likely send some double teams at Warney, but Labissiere will be asked to shoulder a large portion of the defensive load and will have to show more consistency than he has this season. After a brief dip in his draft stock during SEC play, Labissiere has shown flashes of the skills scouts fell in love with before this season, putting up 22.9 points and 13.1 rebounds per 40 minutes in March. NBA scouts know his offensive skill set but want to see more from him from a defensive and toughness perspective. Going toe-to-toe with Warney will go a long way to boosting his stock.
Best potential matchup: #1 North Carolina versus #4 Kentucky, Sweet Sixteen
Although this may not have the luster of a top seeded matchup of years past, it will feature two streaking teams with many draft prospects and a lot to prove.
Kentucky won their regular season matchup by 14 last season, and UNC will be looking for revenge when it matters more. In the backcourt, it will feature a matchup of UNC’s Marcus Paige and Justin Jackson against Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray. Ulis and Paige are both undersized, skilled guards who have much to overcome to make an impact at the next level. Murray is a knockdown shooter, but has trouble creating offense in the halfcourt. Doing so against a Tar Heel team will show scouts something they haven’t seen much of against other draft prospects.
The frontcourt will be just as marquee of a matchup, with Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, and Isaiah Hicks battling Labissiere, Alex Poythress, and Marcus Lee. All came in with huge expectations but have underwhelmed throughout their collegiate careers. Standout performances from any of the frontcourt players won’t immediately shoot that player high up on draft boards, but it will put them in a new light with scouts as we head toward the pre-draft process.
Prospect Ranking Notes (ranking, assuming they enter the draft)
1) Kris Dunn, Providence (top 5) -Best point guard in the draft, can create offense from any spot on the floor.
2) Jamal Murray, Kentucky (5-10) – 42 percent three-point shooter, struggles to create in the halfcourt.
3) Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame (8-15) – Explosive point guard stepping out of the shadow of Jerian Grant. Below average size for NBA guard.
4) Skal Labissiere, Kentucky (8-15) – Super skilled from the perimeter but has struggled this year in first big time experience. Mid-range player who could develop into all-around offensive threat.
5) Brice Johnson, North Carolina (26-35) – Bouncy, skinny power forward. Sneaky with the ball in transition. Works best in the dunker spot, but NBA team can turn him into a shooter and make him an inside-out threat.
6) Tyler Ulis, Kentucky (28-35) – 5-foot-9, 160 pounds, but plays tough. Shifty point guard who can really pass. Will need to improve as a shooter against NBA defenders, just 34 percent this season.
7) Thomas Bryant, Indiana (30-49) – 6-foot-9, but nearly 7-foot-6 wingspan. Raw offensively, really struggled defensively. A team selecting him will do so based more on potential than production.
8) Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin (50-60) – Bit of a down year, especially as a shooter. Will need to show he’s the 40 percent shooter from last year and not the 31 percent from this year to fill a three-and-D role.
9) Justin Jackson, North Carolina (undrafted) – Can score from anywhere but isn’t the most physical player and doesn’t handle contact well.
10) Joel Bolomboy, Weber State (undrafted) – Athletic 6-foot-9 rim protector who has added a three-point shot. Will get a chance to prove himself against Xavier’s bigs.
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