The 2015-16 NCAA college basketball season was filled with talented young prospects that electrified college basketball from the early fall of 2015, until Kris Jenkins' three point buzzer beater to win the national championship for Villanova. Many other prospects abroad have also made a name for themselves playing in different international leagues and even high schools.
Some players exceed at the college level, but that does not always guarantee that they will be highly successful in the NBA. Players such as Greg Oden and Anthony Bennett were dominant prospects coming out of college. When they got to the NBA they just could not compete with the talented players that made up the league. There are also international players that do not produce much for their previous team but are drafted in the first round based off of potential.
It is sometimes easy to judge whether a player will do good in the NBA, but some players are extremely difficult to measure. Not many experts expected a player like Jimmy Butler, who was selected at the end of the first round, to become a star for the Chicago Bulls. Any judgments made on a prospect are educated guesses about how their game will translate to the NBA.
15 Brandon Ingram
Brandon Ingram may become a star in the NBA, but when being compared to superstars like Kevin Durant, it is easy to let the pressure affect your game in a negative fashion. Brandon Ingram is not Kevin Durant. Many forget just how dominant Kevin Durant was when he played at Texas, and Brandon Ingram was arguably not even the most productive player on his team at Duke. Grayson Allen averaged a whole 4 points more per game than Ingram. Averaging 17 points and 7 rebounds a game is still impressive, but like most players on this list he is going to need to hit the weights to be a more effective player at the next level.
Ingram will in all likelihood be a very productive NBA player, but if people are going to expect Ingram to be as good as Kevin Durant, they may find themselves disappointed. Fans of the Sixers and Lakers should keep their expectations realistic.
14 Dragan Bender
Bender is projected to be an early lottery pick in the 2016 NBA draft, and many compare his game to that of Kristaps Porzingis. He is extremely lanky and bony and it is a big question mark as to whether Bender will be able to compete with the girth and size of most NBA big men. While playing for Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, Bender did not post eye popping numbers. He only managed to score 5 points per game and pull down 3 rebounds per game.
If these uninspiring numbers continue into the NBA, Bender could have a tough time lasting in the most competitive league in the world. Bender is projected to go just outside of the top five, meaning he'll likely end up with the Pelicans or Nuggets. He should be able to help, but don't count on him as being a savior to those franchises.
13 Marquese Chriss
Marquise Chriss is another one and done collegiate player who is testing the NBA draft. He has recently sky rocketed his stock towards the top of the draft, and it would not be a shock if he was selected in the lottery portion (first 14 picks). Chriss is extremely springy when on the court, and really benefited from the good guard play he got in Washington. What makes him so appealing to NBA teams is his shooting abilities.
In the 2015-16 season he shot 53% from the field, and an impressive 35% from the three point line. Like many bust players of the past he will need to bulk up to avoid getting pushed around in the NBA.
Chriss only started playing basketball at the age of 14 and may just be the biggest risk in this draft. His rapid rise to the top of draft boards will only increase the pressure on him.
12 Buddy Hield
Buddy Hield has a special talent in shooting the basketball from almost anywhere on the floor. He is not a potential bust because he stayed all four years at Oklahoma, but he is a potential bust because he does not have a wide variety of skills on the basketball court. Hield shot an astronomical 46% from three in 2015-16, and this is a skill that will likely keep him in the NBA for many years. The NBA has become a perimeter shooting league and you could say Hield is coming in at just the right time.
His lack of a defensive game and ability to get to the basket are what hurts his chance of becoming a star. Buddy Hield could be a nice role player in the NBA, but he more than likely will not be scoring 25 points a game like he did in college. He'll have to find the perfect team to complement his skill set.
11 Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown, much like Brandon Ingram failed to lead his college team in scoring. He did not come off as a dominant player in college, and prior to the college basketball season he seemed to be a lock to be a top 5 pick in the 2016 NBA draft. Brown will more than likely still be picked in the top 10 of the upcoming draft. His stature is perfect for an NBA wing player. One thing you can't take away from him is his devotion to the game of basketball. His approach is captured in this quote: "I'm a student in the classroom. I'm a student on the court, and I'm a student of life."
His biggest weakness in college was shooting, and he struggled from the three, the foul line, and only shot a combined 43% from the field on the year for the California Golden Bears. If he greatly improves his shooting he could be a star in the NBA someday.
10 Deyonta Davis
Deyonta Davis is going to be drafted very high in the first round based off of his potential and possible upside. He only averaged 7 points per game for a great collegiate basketball team in Michigan State, and it will be interesting to see if he can eclipse that average in the NBA. Davis is very skinny like many of the other big men entering this draft. His supreme athleticism and ability to knock down jump shots are why teams are willing to take a risk in possibly drafting Davis in the lottery. He made a name for himself in college by blocking shots and that skill set will be valuable to many teams scouting him. He'll likely go very high.
Players that are drafted based on potential typically do not live up to expectations, but Deyonta Davis would love to disprove that theory and become a productive NBA player.
9 Skal Labissiere
Skal Labissiere had a very disappointing season with the Kentucky Wildcats, and may have already proven himself to be a bust. It is apparent that whereever he is drafted, he will be a long term project , and the chances that he pans out are most likely low. He can be a rim protector for whoever rolls the dice on him, averaging over a block a game while with the Wildcats.
His offensive game is very raw. Labissiere is capable of knocking down a mid range shot, but will have a tough time posting up opposing front court players in the NBA. An NBA scout told Bleacher Report back in February: "For a guy as tall and as athletic as him to not be able to go get rebounds at a good rate, that's really problematic, and I don't think that can be blamed on Kentucky." We'll see if it was simply a bad year for Labissiere before a successful NBA career.
8 Timothe Luwawu
Timothe Luwawu is one of the most sought after prospects from Europe in the 2016 NBA draft class. He is almost mythical to the average basketball fan in the U.S, and would like to prove that he can be a steal in this year’s draft. Luwawu is exceptionally athletic and would be a great future participant in the NBA dunk contest. He is not the greatest shooter, and was also not much of a scorer while playing over in Europe either.
Defensively, Luwawu has the length to be a talented defender at the NBA level, but teams don’t typically draft players in the lottery to be lockdown defenders. If Luwawu ends up going to a team where he doesn't have to be "the guy" he could probably thrive. Hopefully he can go to a team where he's more of a sidekick.
7 Ante Zizic
Ante Zizic is more than likely going to be selected in the middle of the first round. He has very long arms, but also will need to add some weight to be an effective center in the NBA. The NBA has also went away from the prototypical center, and has begun to play more small ball lineups. This certainly does not help Zizic’s draft stock to rise. He is not quick enough to be able to play the power forward position in the NBA. He has a decent mid-range jumper, and will be especially productive if he plays for a team that runs a lot of pick and roll.
The Croatian forward will get his opportunities in the NBA but the outcome of his career may depend on what team drafts him. It will have to be a team that fits his style. Old school coaches will likely value him, but as was said, the NBA has changed a lot as a league.
6 Henry Ellenson
The big man from Marquette could be drafted in the top 10 or in the late teens, but he undoubtedly has raw talent. He did not exactly make many headlines while playing in college, and not many average basketball fans have ever seen him play. He played very well at Marquette posting 17 points and 10 rebounds per game against above average competition in the Big East. Ellenson possessed a nice touch from the outside on occasion, but was only able to convert on 29% of his threes at Marquette. The slow pace of his game will need to be sped up in order for him to be highly successful in the NBA.
He's likely going to be a project for whatever team takes him. Whoever does take him will need a lot of patience, or Ellenson could very well be sent down to the D-League. A team starving for an immediate impact will likely steer clear of him.
5 Malachi Richardson
Malachi Richardson certainly benefited greatly from the Syracuse basketball teams surprise run to the final 4 of the NCAA tournament. His game very much mirrors Buddy Hields game in ways. He can shoot the three at a very effective rate of 36%, and can defend at a much better rate than Buddy Hield. The knock on Richardson is whether he can be an effective scorer at the next level. Richardson averaged 13 points a game in the very competitive ACC, and was not close to leading his team in scoring. He will need to improve his ability to drive to the hoop and scoring prowess in order to be successful in the NBA.
Reports are surfacing that the Grizzlies plan to draft Richardson if he is available. On a big, physical team like Memphis, Richardson would quickly have to learn to drive to the hoop a lot harder if he is going to survive in the NBA.
4 Cheick Diallo
Before the college basketball season began, Cheick Diallo was expected to be a possible top 5 draft pick, but now that his lone season at Kansas has played out, Diallo likely will be taken at the end of the first round. His abilities on defense are superb. He seemingly floats in the air when going up for a blocked shot. His offensive game is nonexistent, and NBA teams are in hopes that he can find some type of offense when he begins his journey in the NBA. Only averaging 3 points a game at Kansas proves that his offensive game was poor.
Diallo was a standout at the NBA Combine in May, but it takes a lot more than athleticism to be successful in the NBA. The good news for Diallo if he falls is that he will find himself on a solid team that can afford to be more patient with him.
3 Dejounte Murray
His athleticism will warrant him being a first round selection, but not much else about his game really merits Murray being selected in the first round. His athleticism allows him to defend well and get to the basket and finish strong. His shooting is very poor, and in the current NBA shooting is a key to success and longevity in the league. Shooting 29% from three this past season will scare off a few NBA teams certainly. Murray also averaged 6 rebounds and 5 assists a game, and being a stat sheet stuffer is something that teams towards the back end of the first round value. His pathetic shooting percentages are what will likely hold him back in the NBA.
Teams that are looking to draft him will also want Murray to get stronger and work on his defensive game. This will take some patience with the lanky young man out of Washington.
2 Diamond Stone
Diamond Stone played on a very established and team oriented college basketball team in the Maryland Terrapins. The team spread the scoring load, and this caused Stone to average only 12 points a game in college. He did not look dominate while he was on the basketball court, but it is hard to judge how he will turn out at the NBA level. His size is perfect for the NBA, but he is not the stretch 4 that many teams in the NBA covet. Diamond Stone also managed to grab only 5 rebounds a game. He underperformed at the University of Maryland, so it would only be logical to make the argument that he will probably under perform at the next level as well.
Stone will have to work on his consistency, as he will be expected to keep his game at a high level for 82 regular season games as well as a long playoff run. This will undoubtedly be his biggest challenge and might prove to be his downfall.
1 Thon Maker
He definitely has the coolest name coming into the 2016 NBA draft class, but he is just about as mythical as a unicorn when it comes to determining what kind of NBA player he will become in the future. Maker is essentially not attending college and going straight to the NBA. He is coming out of Orangeville Prep which also produced Jamal Murray, who thrived at Kentucky. He posted 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game but that is at the high school level. He needs to add more weight and also play the game more to familiarize himself with all the different offensive and defensive situations basketball has to offer. He's essentially no.1 on our list because there are so many question marks and he presents the highest risk in terms of his outlook.
Thon Maker is a long shot to be a productive NBA player, but stranger things have happened.