Sophomore Rankings Updated
The 2012 Draft featured eight members of the 2015 NCAA graduating class. Despite that, a case could be made that the sophomore class is the most talent laden in all of college. Last year's draft had 13 players who had just completed their sophomore season, pointing to players making a nice turn in their development with a tad more seasoning. This year's sophomore class has some solid returnees who would have undoubtedly been top draft picks. It also contains a large number of players who might have breakout 2nd years, much like Terrence Ross, Fab Melo, Meyers Leonard and Dion Waiters. Here is a preseason preview of our top 15 potential NBA Draftees in this year's sophomore class:
Class of 2015 (Sophomore) Rankings
1. Cody Zeller 6-11 240 PF/C Indiana
Zeller had the best freshman season of any player outside of Kentucky and comes in as the overwhelming favorite for NCAA Player of the Year honors. The youngest Zeller (his two older brothers, Luke and Tyler, were also McDonald's All-Americans) was the center piece of Tom Crean's rebuilding project at Indiana. Could Cody lead them to the ultimate goal of winning a NCAA Championship? Judging by the initial coaches poll that has the Hoosiers ranked #1, it's a real possibility. He led the team in points, rebounds, steals, blocks and field goal percentage last season, highlighting the versatility and overall impact that make many people believe him to be the best returning big man in college basketball.
Even after leading the Hoosiers in the two major defensive statistics, it is still an area that needs improvement, and he also needs to be more of a factor on the glass. His summer weight training should also help him in establishing post position. With as well as Zeller played last season, it is only logical to put him at the top of the list of returning sophomores. His Indiana team may be stacked, but he is the guy who seems to put them over the top. He projects to either big man position and while his length is nothing special, his size, skill set and athleticism make him a prospect teams covet. He fits the profile of a top 5 draft pick in most years with NBADraft.net projecting him to go #1 overall in the 2013 Draft.
2. James McAdoo 6-9 235 SF/PF North Carolina
As a freshman, James Michael McAdoo definitely took his lumps. Relegated to bench duty on a North Carolina team that had a front court filled with All-ACC performers, his efficiency was not at the level one might expect from a bonafide top-5 incoming freshman. Well, James knew when he signed with North Carolina that he was not taking the easy road and last year's learning experience should benefit him greatly this season. With Harrison Barnes and John Henson both heading to greener pastures, James McAdoo should be the focal point for UNC basketball and should have a major turn around in his second season.
If his play in the NCAA tournament is any indication, McAdoo could be a force given more time. Averaging a tad under 20 mpg, McAdoo went for 11.8 ppg on 56.3% FG during the Tar Heels four games in March Madness. His position at the NBA level may be up in the air, but he has qualities one might want at either forward position. He even showed an ability to guard the wing with solid lateral quickness and instincts. James' ability to score near the basket and quickness make him difficult for most front court players to guard. We expect major improvement from McAdoo in his sophomore year and for him to remind everyone what made him such a highly regarded prospect.
3. Tony Mitchell 6-8 235 SF/PF North Texas
Originally committed to Missouri, Mitchell ended up at North Texas and had a very strong first year. Tony flat out dominated the Sun Belt conference, averaging a double-double with 3 blocks per game. Displaying some touch from outside to go along with his freakish athleticism, he contemplated turning pro and was projected as a very likely first round pick. He decided to return to school, which seems like a great decision as he has bulked up and is seen by scouts as a likely 4 at the next level. After his play at the LeBron James skills academy, the jumping jack with a 7-3 wingspan was getting buzz as a potential top 5 pick in 2013.
The biggest issue with Mitchell may be the level of competition he plays against. As a freshman Mitchell missed the bulk of North Texas' non-conference schedule, limiting the ability to see him play opponents closer to his level. He also had issues with a high volume of turnovers, which will be something to follow as he should have the ball in his hands even more so this season. Playing more 4 than 3 at the college level may have some labelling him as a tweener, but he has shown a unique skill set with the ability to face the basket and create along with beasting opponents in the post.
4. Otto Porter 6-8 205 SF Georgetown
Porter was a player who catapulted up the high school rankings relatively late and his freshman season absolutely justified him doing so. His nose for the ball was evident as he was the Hoyas' leading rebounder, even with a definite lack of girth. It was definitely of note that he excelled in the physical Big East, the next step is extending his range and showing he can put the ball on the floor and create shots for himself.
Georgetown is expected to be Porter's team and they will need him to be incredibly versatile to succeed. A pre-season All-Big East 1st Team selection, he could very well compete for Conference player of the year. While his toughness and rebounding are both qualities that are very much appreciated, it will be additions to his overall skill set that will catapult him to a lottery spot. He definitely flashed that ability, this season will be about the confidence to put it all together as the Hoya's main option.
5. Kentavious Caldwell Pope 6-6 205 SG Georgia
The talented 2 guard went through a number of peaks and valleys in his first year as a Bulldog. With great size for the position, Caldwell-Pope was seen as a scoring talent and he did display that a number of times. He also shot less than stellar percentages from the field and three point range, while never meeting a shot he did not like. While his surrounding talent may have played a part in this issue, he will definitely be expected to up the ante in his 2nd season. With a summer of hard work and a bit of bulking up, he should become much more efficient.
Positives for Caldwell-Pope were also definitely visible in his first year, as he rarely turned the ball over and displayed some nice rebounding ability for a guard. The team will be much better off with Caldwell-Pope working closer to the basket and taking fewer outside shots, something that should happen with added strength and maturity. In a draft with very few 2-guard prospects, he appears to be among the best. Expect vast improvement as a sophomore which should lead to teams coveting him as a guard with high level offensive capability.
6. Alex Len 7-1 235 C Maryland
An import from the Ukraine, Len flashed rare ability for a legitimate 7-footer and is expected to be the focal point of a rebuilding Maryland team this season. Overcoming a language barrier and adding strength were two focuses for him over the off-season, both attacked with some apparent success. He is a project, just one with rare attributes that could pay off handsomely.
With work on basic fundamentals, including realizing how to use his size to his advantage by keeping the ball high, Len could blossom sooner rather than later. Word from College Park is that Len should be in for a big season, which could very well mean the draft. Expect him to take some time to have NBA level impact, just also know that teams are fine with taking big gambles, with Len absolutely fitting the description.
7. Adonis Thomas 6-6 240 SF Memphis
With a fitting first name, Thomas is a chiseled wing who is expected to fill the shoes of Will Barton at Memphis. While he definitely has the strength Barton could only dream of, his overall instincts are not exactly on his level. One certainly hopes Thomas is much more aggressive on the glass and that his noticeable weight gain does not slow him down too much. Left ankle surgery required him to miss a large portion of his freshman season and with time to recuperate, he should be at least a viable Barton replacement.
While at first their were rumors that Thomas was around 250 lbs, around 35 more than his listed weight as a freshman, it caused a bit of concern. However, he has cut his weight down and seems to be at or near strong playing shape. Josh Pastner recently commented on Thomas' shot being vastly improved which should be great for a Tigers team that has struggled from long distance. His handle and level of intensity of defense will be keys to his draft stock. Thomas definitely fits the build of a NBA SF prospect, the improvements in his game will decide what role will be expected of him at the next level.
8. Myck Kabongo 6-1 180 PG Texas
He did not necessarily come flying out of the gates as a freshman at Texas, but Myck Kabongo showed why some people love his potential as a floor general. Kabongo is a charismatic kid with a lot of speed. Change of pace is something Kabongo is working on, as teams were able to play off of him and trap him to force mistakes. As the season progressed, Kabongo did seem to cut down his turnovers, showing growth in decision making.
Shooting is also something that Kabongo will need to improve to show a more NBA ready game. He has gained weight during the off-season and this should help him exponentially in his second season. Despite an apparent NCAA issue involving former high school teammate Tristan Thompson paying for a flight to Cleveland (which he claims he was reimbursed for), Kabongo is expected to have this overturned and be ready for the upcoming season. Known as a solid communicator and leader, Kabongo shows qualities team look for in point guards at the next level. Look for him to have a big turnaround in his sophomore season.
9. Michael Carter Williams 6-6 185 PG/SG Syracuse
Carter-Williams played sparingly as a freshman but could be in for a monster sophomore jump. In his limited minutes, he showd flashes of playmaking ability, averaging an assist to turnover ratio better than 3:1. This should dip with him being a more focal point of the offense, but his overall game is something that has Syracuse fans quite excited about his prospects. Listed by some as a PG, it will be interesting to see whether NBA teams believe he could run the point. Obviously, his size could make him a match-up nightmare.
In all likelihood, Carter-Williams will end up as a 2 guard at the next level. Having the passing ability will be incredibly valuable, though he will of course need to work on his long range shooting and add strength regardless of position. With three of Cuse's top four scorers gone, Carter-Williams has a great opportunity in his sophomore season. He definitely has an ability to score, though it is all of the other little things that have teams keeping a very close eye on him as a combo guard.
10. Trey Burke 6-0 180 PG Michigan
There was not a more impressive freshman PG than Michigan's Trey Burke last season. Hardnosed, Burke immediately displayed leadership credentials that put him firmly on the radar, even to the point of considering entry in the 2012 Draft. Luckily for Wolverines' fans, Burke came back and should evolve into one of the better players in college basketball.
While Burke's size and athleticism do not really stand out, his leadership capabilities do. He knows how to run a team and was constantly hitting major shots for Michigan last season when they needed them the most. With a strong incoming class adding more firepower for the Wolverines, Burke should excel even more so as a playmaker. At the end of this year, there will probably be few if any PG's more effective or valuable to their team. That could lead Burke to not pull back from a jump to the league this time.
11. Jerian Grant 6-5 200 PG/SG Notre Dame
Son of former NBA player Harvey Grant, Jerian had a very nice season last year at Notre Dame after a redshirt year. Displaying excellent size for a PG, he was able to run the team quite effectively and was a catalyst of a surprising Fighting Irish team dealing with an injury to top player Tim Abromaitis. Grant's shooting percentages were nothing exceptional, though he has solid form and with more careful shot selection, should grow in this coming season.
The NBA pedigree is present, though he displays point guard skills that teams love to see at his size. His athleticism is not exactly top notch, though he has length and of course size to help in this area. Having the ability to play either guard spot should help Grant a great deal, along with improved shot selection and maybe slightly more intensity defensively. Entering the draft cannot be too far away if he shows strides in those areas as a sophomore.
12. PJ Hairston 6-5 220 SG North Carolina
After a freshman season hampered by injuries, Hairston should be an absolute match-up nightmare at full strength. Excellent size and strength for a shooting guard, his percentages from the field were an absolute anomaly. They were poor, but if they did not make a major turnaround, we would be extremely surprise. He is a player who is hardwired to score and the fact was, their were not exactly a lot of shots to go around on a stacked Tar Heel team last season.
Hairston should get time at both wing spots and will be expected to handle a lot more of the offense. While he struggled at times with that last season, look for him to metamorphosize in to one of the top scoring guards in college basketball. He definitely needs vast improvement in his shot selection as evidenced by his really poor shooting numbers, just know he has a body and ability that make us believe that his stock will skyrocket. Hairston, much like teammate James Michael McAdoo, should be in for big time changes in productivity this season, with maturity helping efficiency as well.
13. Ryan Harrow 6-1 170 PG Kentucky
After a decent freshman year at NC State, Harrow decided to transfer to Kentucky. With a year of going up against Marquis Teague and learning the dribble drive motion option, John Calipari has high hopes for his new PG. He's been pushing his new floor general to be a more vocal leader. Harrow is an absolute water bug with a great handle and some major athleticism to go along with it. His slight frame is one of the major worries, along with hoping that the transfer year has contributed to a better stroke.
Kentucky's offense seems to be a match made in heaven for Harrow and it is really up to him whether his stock rises to first round or not. Speed will be Harrows' game and even with his lack of upper body strength, he should excel with the Wildcats. Do not be surprised if Harrow has a stronger season than Teague had last year and makes better overall decisions. His elite quickness and elusive handle help make up for his slight stature at the PG position.
14. Jarnell Stokes 6-8 260 PF Tennessee
After being denied eligibility for his final year of high school, Stokes decided to join Tennessee in January. Despite the late arrival, he showed he was definitely ready for the college game and was a major factor for the Vols. With incredibly wide shoulders and a nice wingspan, Stokes is an absolute load down low. He has great hands and a soft touch near the basket, he also is a killer rebounder on both ends of the floor.
Stokes can struggle with taller, longer players, plus has some issues with lateral mobility. His issues with turnovers and fouls were to be expected for a freshman, much less one who came in with so little practice time. Regardless, they should be monitored as areas needing improvement in year 2. Not sure whether players re-classifying mid year will be a trend, but Stokes certainly made it seem easy. The fact is though, he has rare strength and ability that really helped in the transition.
15. Rakeem Christmas 6-9 240 PF/C Syracuse
Rakeem Christmas most definitely passes the initial eye test as a basketball player. Tall, long and strong, he brings high level athleticism to the table as well. The key with Christmas is the skill set component, which is still very raw. However, much of the same could be said about Fab Melo after his first year at Syracuse and he made serious progress as a sophomore. Christmas was actually a tad more productive than Fab as a freshman and should see a major increase in use as he continues gaining Jim Boeheim's trust.
With prototype PF size, Christmas could even be seen as a new age center option by NBA teams due to his strength and length. He should play much more of a role in the Oranges' 2-3 zone, which should flash more of the attributes that could make him a successful post defender. The hope is that Christmas has developed more of a back-to-the-basket game and has more court awareness at both ends. Cutting down on fouls and turnovers will also be important factors to look at in his development. Right now Christmas is much more prospect than player, though his upside is definitely visible and has him firmly on the NBA radar.
Just curious, what does McAdoo do better than Mitchell? What actually makes JMM a better prospect than Mitchell?
Yeah, I dunno about Adonis putting on 35 lbs over a year. He came into his freshman season pretty jacked, looking like he already had an NBA ready body. 250 is a bit much, but I think his playing weight at the next level to be around 240-245. He kinda has that Artest type build, but with more athleticism on that big frame. I expect him to be higher up on the list by the end of the year.
I also expect Burke and Stokes higher on this list as well. Both those kids are smart, are high intangibles players, physically strong and just know how to play and impact the game.
Not the biggest fan of BJ Young, but he'd make my top 15 too.
PJ Hairston will be this years Dion Waiters.
I saw him in those NC Pro Am clips with Rasheed Wallace and looked in better shape. I used to see him as one of those early maturing OJ Mayo types that was also older than every one else in highschool.He seemed to dominate because of that and it doesnt project well. He was in great shape though but still not athlectically explosive. I think he will finish higher on this list by the end of the year.
What also surprised me was Myck Kabongo being so high. I am really high on him and I believe he will be a better pro than college player. I didnt know that how others felt. Technically he did so much less than Trey Burke last year, they shouldnt be any where near each other, let alone higher than him. However I get it and feel the same way MikeyV. Athletically and speed wise he will be pretty good in the Leauge where the game is more wide open and a team whose offense fits him takes him.
All in all good list.