The annual NBA Draft draws a lot of excitement from basketball fans and their home crew. Each year NBA teams receive an opportunity to add new talent onto their squad in order to help them win. Their fans get to view new talent on the court and hope for improved performance and continued success. The media grabs an opportunity to fill the airwaves and print with opinions, statistics, and articles on who is and will be the next Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, or even John Salley. The NBA experts jump upon the opportunity to announce to their audience who will stink or who just isn’t cut out to earn a professional career with the league. But sometimes predicting who will be the next Sam Bowie or Shawn Bradley can be just as difficult. What one sees on the college basketball court does not always translate into the professional atmosphere. Various details like, personality differences, personal problems, reliance on various teammates or coaching schemes’ that won’t easily transfer up to the national level, are difficult to assess. And just because one can shoot a 65% three point percentage against the Duke Blue Devils does not necessarily mean that the same player will be able to accomplish that same feat against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Currently there are several, perhaps many NBA players on the danger list of being sent to the world of the professional basketball unknown. These are current names that the casual fan may have heard several times per day but who, in a few years or less, may completely vanish from the NBA advocate’s memory bank. These names may be erased from basketball’s fame in less than a year. These names may also forever remain, like Gregg Oden and Adam Morrison, reminders that in professional basketball one cannot always predict who will or will not experience success in that next level.
15 Jahlil Okafor
Jahlil Okafor is in danger of representing one of many once popular big men who entertained college basketball fans to end up disappearing from once admirers’ memory. Formerly a big man leading Duke University to a fifth championship in 2015, Okafor like many former Duke players is finding out that there is a huge difference between leading a college team that boasts of the top recruits in the nation and competing for playing time with a team representing one of the thirty-one top talented professional basketball teams in the world. His current NBA team, the Philadelphia 76ers, already own Nerlen Noel and Joel Embid, two big men competing for the team’s center position. The 76ers definitely will not keep all of them and there is no guarantee that Okafor will win the starting center position over any of them. His big man talent may not even warrant him receiving a backup role. Okafor will have to fight hard in practice and during games to win over head coach Brett Brown’s favor and even if he does, he still has personal obstacles to face. Already suspended twice for street fighting off court, Okafor has not shown much discipline and maturity in terms of his behavior.
14 Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons may very well represent one of many NBA first round draft round picks who would have done himself a lot of good by sticking around in college at least couple of more years. There are so many talented college basketball players in America anxious to play in the NBA. And for the past several years ball players from all over the world, both young and old compete for professional team positions once in contention by mainly NCAA college players. Though the top pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Ben Simmons is not a ball player, believed by the experts, to be capable of carrying a professional team on his back. He is someone who needs a lot of help around him in order for his basketball skills to show prominence. Though, he may have received such help, while playing for LSU, in the NBA that kind of assistance against much greater talent is not always guaranteed.
13 Skal Labissiere
Skal Labissiere, a Haitian professional basketball player, was selected 28th in the first round 2016 of by the Phoenix Suns (later dealt to the Sacramento Kings.) Watching him on film, he often appears very smooth and fluid when driving from the perimeter position to the basket. The one thing really phenomenal about him as a basketball player is that for someone standing at seven feet tall he can really shoot. Watching this guy on film, one will see him drain shot after shot. But while playing at Kentucky one could see that for a seven footer this power forward is a terrible rebounder. And besides blocking shoots his defensive skills stand nowhere near the professional level. He may do okay playing opposite of someone like Dirk Nowitzki, but what will he do if his coach told him to go guard Kevin Love or Demarcus Cousins? That is why we call it the NBA. One has to be much more than a one dimensional player if they desire to play successfully in the NBA. Skal better get some hops on his feet if he wants to move on to the next level.
12 Taurean Prince
Taurean Prince is another 2016 first rounder who like our pal Skal was traded on draft day. Hmm, wonder why? Taurean is a small forward, who stands 6-7 coming out of Baylor. A very athletic guy with a wanna-be-like Michael Jordan confidence except, unlike Mike, he can’t shoot, and he is not a great ball handler. Unless he has a super point guard to feed him the ball at opportune moments for easy baskets or a power center he can always pass the ball to whenever he finds himself in trouble, Taurean will not likely be able to help his team much. He is not known for being a good ball handler and rarely gets himself to the free throw line, meaning that he is not doing much when he gets the ball. Small forwards in the NBA are expected to do more than just appear cool while making easy dunks and layups. If he wants to effectively contribute toward his current team, the Atlanta Hawks, and have a long career in the NBA he better improve his dribbling skills and ability to find his own shots.
11 Denzel Valentine
Denzel Valentine was picked 14th overall in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft. Whether he will live out a long professional NBA career is hard to say. He appears to be a toss-up. He made a lot of great plays for Michigan State. He played with his college team for his entire four eligible years and he was pretty much the Spartans leader and go-to guy during his junior and senior years. He was a big contributor to the Spartan team during his freshman and sophomore years as well. If he was up for the NBA as a rookie during the '80s he would appear to be a top candidate to have a great professional career as a ball player. But times have changed now in the world’s greatest basketball league. Ball players like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson don’t stay four years in college anymore. The great players like Kobe Bryant and Lebron James are often gone by at least their sophomore year. Many don’t even bother to enter college anymore. Maybe Denzel had a good reason to use up his entire eligibility with the Spartans. Maybe he really enjoyed studying at school or desired to win one for his college teammates. We will see.
10 Willie Cauley-Stein
Willie Cauley-Stein, picked sixth overall in the 2015 NBA Draft, is a seven foot center coming out of Kentucky as junior. He made a name for himself as a Wildcat, leading the team to impressive season records, including a runner up to a surprise Connecticut team in 2014 after upsetting Louisville and Michigan in the regionals. His Kentucky Wildcats team also made it to the Final Four semi finals in 2015, with a perfect 38-0 record before being outlasted by the Frank Kaminsky led Wisconsin Badgers. Willy Cauley-Stein was a very athletic center and good rebounder for his then coach Rick Ptino. But in the NBA seven footers are a dime a dozen and many are much more athletic than Frank Kaminsky whom he and his front court mate Karl-Anthony Towns had trouble guarding while facing Wisconsin the Final Four. Willy Cauley-Stein also benefited from playing in an All-Star cast like the Kentucky Wildcats team with talented teammates Karl-Anthony Towns, Dakari Johnson, and Trey Lyles. Willy Cauley-Stein will have to improve on his ball handling, passing, and and ability to create scoring opportunities for other members of his team besides himself if he hopes to not only have a long NBA career but a successful one. He also needs to improve upon 65% free throw shooting to keep him from placing himself in the hack-a-shack category whenever his team’s game is on the line.
9 Brandon Ingram
Brandon Ingram, chosen second overall in the 2016 NBA Draft, is another player who comes to mind as a possible NBA bust, not only because of his weak stature on the court and concerns for whether he will be able to withstand the long bump and grind 82 game season but he also played for the Duke Blue Devils, a school famous for graduating NBA busts and disappointments. Starting with Danny Ferry, Christian Laettener, and Danny Hurley, Duke University manufactured a lot of basketball players who drew much success and fame on the college basketball courts in front of the CBS and ESPN television cameras but were unable to match that level of productivity and success onto the NBA. Having Dick Vitale praise your name on ESPN and having Minnesota Timberwolves then head coach, Sidney Lowe applaud you are two extremely different things and likely the biggest reason why so many Duke players have been disappointments in the NBA. Like Danny Ferry and Trajan Langdon before him, Ingram will not have all that great talent advantage surrounding him while going against the opposing teams as he gets ready to play against players like Kevin Durant, Paul George, and LeBron James who currently play the same position. Good luck.
8 Georgios Papagiannis
Georgios Papagiannis, chosen 13th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft, is a big guy, (7-2, 240 pounds) born in Marousi, Greece. On paper he looks like another one of those Manute Bol types who is extremely tall, a sight to see, but pretty much nothing else. The NBA is a fast game. Height is a good advantage at times when the ball is up in the air and one’s hands are pretty much close enough to just snatch it or when one is near the basket and a teammate is able to toss the ball at a position far enough away from the opponent’s hands. But in the NBA that kind of advantage occurs rarely. These 6-10, 6-11, and even 6-7 players are quick and capable of out leaping a 7-2 center who does not have a lot of spring in his step. That is what pretty much happened to Manute Bol and a reason why his career in the NBA did not produce much memories for fans or even highlights. Georgios Papagiannis, though he has a good midrange shot, appears to be very slow, out of shape, and low in intensity. If he wants to at least have a NBA career as long as Manute Bol, he better at least behave as if he indeed needs to be there like Manute Bol did game in and out. Then work on his ability to create his own shots.
7 Cheick Diallo
Cheick Diallo played one year in the NCAA with the Kansas Jayhawks and after averaging three points per game decided that it was time for him to take his talents to the NBA. Take it this guy at 6-9 has a sky raising standing reach of 8-11 but like the Manute Bol’s and Georgios Papagiannis’s described earlier, it has not translated into points. Being drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2015 then later traded to the New Orlean Pelicans, Georgios has already taken that hop from one team to the next, often done by players who end up either vanishing into basketball fans land of forgetfulness or having a professional career of playing for at least one team a season with a year or more spent somewhere overseas. Cheick Diallo should have stayed a year or two more at Kansas to further develop his skills and learn more about his own abilities compared to other talented players. It’s too late now but he better be on red alert to prevent his career from steadily moving downward.
6 Furkan Korkmaz
Furkan Korkmaz is another basketball player amongst a long list of individuals who are not well known by the average basketball fan and appear to be a long shot to make it. It is not that one does not expect players outside of the NCAA to become great NBA basketball players. Basketball has become a worldwide sport as has been shown by the recent 2016 US Olympic basketball team, armed with not necessarily the best but with a very decent staff, narrowly beating countries like France and Serbia by a measly three points. It’s that the number of players coming out of foreign countries to apply for the NBA Draft is so many. It is hard to know which player is a Manu Ginobili and which one is a Makhtar N’Diaye (search the '90s). Furkan is a skinny shooting guard from Turkey who does not appear to have the size or defensive capabilities to keep up with players like Dwayne Wade or Andre Iguodala. It will be very interesting though to see him try.
5 Tyus Jones
Tyus Jones represents another player from the 2015 Duke national championship team that will likely end up as a bust professionally. Not to pick on Duke but as individuals many of these players just do not match up to who they will be playing against at the professional level. Tyus Jones, after being picked by Lebron Jame’s Cleveland Cavaliers 24th in the 2015 NBA Draft, was already traded to his home state Minnesota Timberwolves. The Cleveland Cavaliers likely never wanted him on their team in the first place. He was swapped for players chosen 31st and 36th in the draft and a future draft pick in the year 2019. That is not a very encouraging start for an NBA basketball player. Year 2015 found Tyus Jones on the bottom of the Minnesota depth chart and in early December already sent to the D-League. He was recalled to play for his professional team and has at least shown some promise. Tyus Jones has a good chance to get out of his current hole and create a promising NBA career. He also has a chance of getting traded again or jumping from D-League team to D-league team or even moving overseas if he slacks in his aggressiveness on defense or his ability to drive to the basket. Tyus Jones put up a great performance in the summer leagues and that is great but this is the NBA and he has to compete against Ricky Rubio and Kris Dunn for playing time.
4 Dejounte Murray
Dejounte Murray, chosen 29th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft is another one of those many players people never heard of before draft day and likely will never hear of after the draft unless asked some sort of trivia question involving past draft busts. He is also another one of many players who should have remained a year or two more in the NCAA in order to work on his basketball fundamentals. Dejounte Murray played both the point and shooting guard position at Washington University and according to media writers was not that great at either spot. What is most concerning about Dejounte Murray is that he wants to play point guard in the NBA. But for a position that requires good mid-range to long range shooting and the ability to drive to the basket Dejounte Murray, while playing in college, was not very good at doing either. He was a descent shooter but a poor ball handler who often dribbled into turnovers and threw bad passes when pressured. And his shots, though descent, are not great which is likely why though he can play shooting guard he probably won’t play that position in the NBA. His shot making consistency still needs improvement if Dejounte Murray wants to continue to play point guard at the NBA level.
3 Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown at 6-7 with great athleticism is a typical NBA player. Looking at each team’s roster, 6-6 to 6-8 is a very popular size. And most of them consider great athleticism as their best advantage. In the NBA one has to express much more than great athleticism on the court, in front of their coach, their teammates, and fans in order to maintain a long successful career. Kobe Bryant, who just recently retired after playing 20 fabulous years in the NBA, was very athletic on the court. He was also a great shooter, passer, decision maker, shot well at the free throw line, a terrific leader, very vocal, worked well with his coaches, his teammates, played through injuries, and was a great teacher to his younger teammates. Jaylen Brown does not often make good decisions when pressed by the defense. He has often turned the ball over, and his three point shooting is unreliable. Jaylen Brown, picked third in the 2016 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics will have to improve on these features if he wants to have a long, successful NBA career. He especially needs to improve upon his decision making and ability to handle the ball well so that his coach and teammates will be able to trust him and allow him to carry the ball more.
2 Buddy Hield
Buddy Hield is another player not often mentioned by sports commentators during the NCAA season, but writers and sports analysts now look at the NBA Draft picks, and “Whoops!” “Here he is!” Where did Buddy Held come from? He is a 6-4 214 pound rookie shooting guard, coming out of the University of Oklahoma, picked sixth in the 2016 NBA Draft by the New Orleans Pelicans. He is likely another of many drafted players the average fan never heard of and probably never will hear about even though he was by far the Sooners best player. But remember this is the same Oklahoma Sooners who got crushed by over forty points by Villanova in the NCAA Final Four. Buddy Hield only contributed nine points to his team with four turnovers. Buddy Hield cannot disappear from the big games in the NBA. One can give Buddy Hield this: at the NCAA he was a great shooter. The kid can score. But he also committed a lot of turnovers and did not often reach the free throw line. Will Buddy Hield be able to score in the NBA the way he scored for Oklahoma? If he plans to become an NBA star he better first learn how to continuously maintain control of the ball and make good passing decisions.
1 Henry Ellenson
Henry Elleson is an interesting pick for the Detroit Pistons, selected 18th in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft. Here is another prototype of a player who would have performed well in the '70s and '80s when there were a lot less players with his size, talent, and skill. Now, even while standing at 6-11, 242 pounds, teams demand more. He has skills. He is a good rebounder and very mobile. He is capable of getting to the basket and make three point shots. His defense is just horrible and a player who can’t defend against players like Tyson Chandler, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, and Brook Lopez is going to have huge problems in the NBA. Such a player will bring problems to his power forward teammate and small forward who will always be forced to help him out. The Detroit Pistons will have to teach Henry Ellison how to play defense or devise schemes that will enable him to stay on the court without causing the team games. Hope is not lost. He might learn. But if his defense does not improve by mid-year he may not remain in Detroit very long.