by Jeremy Bauman / @JBauman13
It’s that time of the year—NBA Draft sites are in full blossom and rumors about picks and trades are flying around like mosquitoes near the beach. Instead of trying to predict where these players are going to end up getting drafted, I’m focusing on making one bold prediction about 30 of them. Of course, these are educated guesses based on looking at their statistics, reading about, and watching each of these players development to the best of my ability.
As we get underway with these, here’s one prediction that isn’t so bold: Some of these will be wrong.
Kyrie Irving | 6-3 | PG | Freshman | Duke
As DraftExpress.com recently showed, Irving got to the line an NCAA best 8.9 attempts per game during his injury-plagued freshman season. With the combination of being shifty/having amazing body control/being quick and fast in the open court, Kyrie should thrive in an up-tempo system in much the same way he did during his freshman year at Duke, where he read the D and reacted. Expect Irving to rival Derrick Rose (8.4), Russell Westbrook (8.4), and Chris Paul in attempts taken at the charity stripe in the next few seasons.
Derrick Williams | 6-8, F | Sophomore | Arizona
Williams will be an All-Star candidate by his second season in the League. Thought to be a “tweener” by some, there simply aren’t many players with his footwork in the lane, athleticism, and capability to play the pick-and-pop game on the perimeter (57 percent from the college three). And Williams has progressed in every area since he entered college and was the most efficient player in the nation as a sophomore.
Enes Kanter | 6-10 | PF/C | Freshman | Kentucky
Kanter will muscle his way into the top 10 in the NBA in the rebounding department within his first few years of “eligibility” in the United States. Andrew Bynum was 10th in the L in boards this year at 9.6 per contest and by all accounts, Kanter is an animal on the glass.
Brandon Knight | 6-4 | PG | Freshman | Kentucky
Knight will be reliant on his jump shot from the get-go and with the faster pace, stronger bodies, and quicker defenders than at the college level, I believe he will struggle as a result. Nearly half of Knight’s 513 FG attempts at Kentucky were three-pointers and he shot 37 percent. In this writer’s opinion, Knight will have to make major adjustments to his game to have success in the NBA.
Kemba Walker | 6-1 | PG | Junior | Connecticut
After hearing about how Kemba Walker led his NY Gauchos AAU team to four straight AAU tournament titles as a rising junior in high school, to explaining to people about how much heart he played with as a freshman and sophomore, to his National Championship junior year, Kemba Walker has handled himself as a winner thus far. So with these things in mind, I am making the bold prediction that K-Walk will be part of an NBA Championship team at some point in his career. Odds stacked against him? Bring it on.
Chris Singleton | 6-9, SF/PF | Junior | Florida State
One of the best defenders in college basketball and an athletic specimen, don’t be surprised to see Singleton make an All-NBA Defensive team (at least one) at some point in his career. If he can make the mental transition to the next level, along with his athleticism and feel at the defensive end, he will be counted on to effectively guard top-tier wing talent at the next level.
Kawhi Leonard | 6-7 | SF | Sophomore | San Diego State
Pound-for-pound, one of the best rebounders in college basketball last season, Leonard has the mitts (4XL hands), length and instincts to be a problem at the NBA level. During his sophomore year he averaged 3 offensive boards per game—I expect him to average 2+ per game for his entire career.
Jimmer Fredette | 6-2 | PG | Senior | BYU
On his way to becoming a college basketball legend, Jimmer Fredette has defied the odds at almost every turn. Now as he’s about to be drafted, he’s being doubted some more, and that’s perfectly normal for a somewhat athletically challenged 6-2 guard—who relies on his shooting prowess—to go through. But there aren’t many better shooters (even in the NBA), and I suspect Fredette will make his mark. Shouldering the load at BYU, Fredette shot, on average, 3.4-8.5 (39.6 percent) from distance. With less attempts at the next level and a higher concentration on each shot, I think the Jimmer has an opportunity to increase his percentage to 45 percent in his first season.
Jordan Hamilton | 6-9 | 230 | SG/SF | Sophomore | Texas
Jordan Hamilton will suffer from Paul Pierce syndrome—the now celebrated Celtic became enraged after nine teams passed him up, and we all know how that worked out. Hamilton will probably hop off the board and on to the stage at the Prudential Center in the teens or early 20s and will be doing his best Truth imitation for the rest of his career as a result of his dropoff. Hamilton is a skilled wing who could blossom with the spacing of the NBA combined with his sweet jumper and slashing ability.
Justin Harper | 6-9 | PF | Senior | Richmond
Harper was one of, if not the, premier range-shooting forward in the NCAA’s this past season. He has an effortless stroke which is why he attempted 4.6 threes per game and knocked home 45 percent of them. With NBA-range well within his grasp, I expect Harper to be the new-age Channing Frye, except with more muscle. I think that Harper, not Klay Thompson, will end up being the best shooter in this draft. Bold, but that’s what this is about—and I believe in him.
Jan Vesely | 6-11 | SF/PF | KK Partizan Belgrade
Is he the next coming of Omri Casspi? I watched him once when I was in Barcelona last year and he definitely has the potential to be a better player; he’s more athletic, is a better shooter, and has a great feel for the game. There will be many keys for Vesely, but none bigger than being on a team that allows him to run the floor, make hustle plays , and to work on the other aspects of his game as he gains experience and confidence. The bold prediction here? Vesely will remind many of Casspi, but how about a combination between he and a (taller) Shawn Marion (with a smoother jumper)?
Alec Burks | 6-6 | SG | Sophomore | Colorado
Versatile, smooth/quick with the ball, and a deadly finisher in the paint. In the isolation game of the NBA, Burks could be a solid pick from the beginning. What can’t Burks do (yet)? Shoot the ball with range. Once in the NBA, his shooting mechanics (which aren’t terrible, just need refining) will improve from the 29 percent he shot from distance in college. The 82 percent he shot from the line this season is reason to believe.