The 2014 draft class had the fewest overall number of seniors chosen since the institution of the one year removed post high school rule in 2006, with only 17 taken. Despite classes constantly losing top prospects to early entry, there are still some players who either take longer to develop, need time to put everything together or in some cases, are enjoying the college experience and still improving. With the NCAA season kicking off today, here are 15 potential draftees for 2015:
Top 15 Seniors
1. Norman Powell 6-4 225 SG UCLA
In a crowded UCLA backcourt alongside three eventual first rounders, Powell was arguably the team’s heart and soul. He provided whatever the team needed and was a big spark plug. He is a strong, athletic shooting guard who is dangerous in transition and has made major progress in his overall offensive game. His defense is also a big area of strength as he’s very intense, strong and athletic and prides himself on being a lockdown defender. This year he will need to take on a larger scoring load and if he shows improvement as a long range shooter, he has a chance to be one of the top shooting guards and top senior to come off the board in the 2015 draft.
2. Delon Wright, 6-5 190 PG/SG Utah
The brother of NBA player, Dorrell Wright, had a very efficient season as a junior college transfer. Playing both guard spots for Utah, Wright stuffed the stat sheet, averaging 15.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 5.2 apg with 2.5 spg while making 63.3% of his two point field goals. His length, athleticism and versatility combine with this production to put him firmly in first round conversations. Consistency with his outside shot is the next step in his development, if he can make defenses respect his jump shot, he can solidify a place in the first round.
3. Juwan Staten, 6-0 190 PG West Virginia
Despite hovering around 6’0", Staten averaged an impressive 5.6 rpg, to go along with being the Big 12’s returning leader at 18.1 PPG and 5.8 apg. He was incredibly valuable to West Virginia and logged 37.3 mpg, though he vastly improved his shooting and kept mistakes to a minimum. The amazing part for a smaller guard is that he did all of this while only shooting a three pointer every other game, incredibly rare in this day in age. He might want to work on showing more of a midrange game; though his aggressive style combined with keen court sense is what teams look for at the next level.
4. Frank Kaminsky, 7-0 240 C Wisconsin
Kaminsky went from almost an afterthought in Bo Ryan’s rotation to a household name after a marquee March that saw him lead Wisconsin to the Final Four. His offensive versatility was on full display in Wisconsin’s Elite 8 win over Arizona, where he displayed outside shooting along with post footwork on his way to 28 points and 11 rebounds. Even with this ability as a 7-footer, along with being firmly ingrained with the defensive intensity the Badgers are famous for, it would be to his benefit to show more aggression on the boards. If Kaminsky adds some upper body strength and maintains the offensive versatility that made him such a match-up nightmare last season, he should have a chance to sneak into the late first round.
5. Branden Dawson, 6-6 225 SF Michigan St.
The former McDonald’s All-American came into college with a reputation for toughness and rebounding, which he has definitely brought to Michigan St. over his first three seasons. Last year, he averaged 8.3 rpg, while making Michigan St. more dangerous on both ends of the court. Dawson has big time strength, athleticism to be a factor on defense and a nose for the ball that makes him a big time threat on the boards at his size. A slasher who is careful with his shot selection, it would benefit his draft stock to show more perimeter ability. He is not much of a threat to stretch the floor, but his ability to do the dirty stand outs as a possible glue guy for the next level.
6. Jerian Grant, 6-5 205 PG/SG Notre Dame
Grant was having a very strong season through the Irish’s first 12 games before it was announced that he had been suspended from the team due to academic issues. It certainly did not make Notre Dame’s transition to the ACC any easier and now that Grant appears to be back in good standing, the Irish should be ready to make things tough on conference opponents. Grant is a combo guard with NBA pedigree from his father, Harvey (twin brother of Horace Grant), with his younger brother, Syracuse player Jerami, being drafted last year as well. He was showing a lot of ability as a pick-and-roll ball handler as well as showing noticeable improvement in his isolation game and shooting. His athleticism and toughness as a rebounder are two qualities that will be vital, though if last season was any indication, he should be yet another Grant to join the NBA.
7. Bryce Dejean-Jones, 6-6 210 SG Iowa St.
Dejean-Jones did not have a very memorable junior season, battling inconsistency on the court and seemingly off of it as well. Other underachieving players have seen vast improvements under "the transfer whisperer" coach Fred Hoiberg. Dejean-Jones is an aggressive scorer who can create off of the dribble and shows solid form on his jump shot. His shot selection is at times questionable, though he also shows ability as a passer and keeps mistakes to a minimum. Iowa State will need him to leave the bad habits he learned at UNLV behind and play a major role and he has absolutely has the ability to do so, this could be a very good fit once again.
8. Aaron White, 6-9 225 PF Iowa
A strong athlete with a number of ways to hurt you around the rim, White brings some versatility to the mix. He shot an incredibly efficient percentage from both the field and foul line. He will be asked to be even more of a focal point of Iowa’s offense with the graduation of 2014 2nd round pick Roy Devyn Marble. While he has shown the efficiency at the line, he tends to stick to is strengths and has not been a major threat from the outside. The effort he brings is visible and could make him a glue guy. If he can show a bit more of the coveted "stretch" ability, ala Matt Bonner, and increase his aggression on the boards, their could secure a spot on an NBA roster.
9. Dwayne Polee, 6-7 200 SF San Diego St.
Known for his explosive athletic ability, Polee made some strides in becoming a legitimate all-around player at the end of last season. He averaged 14.3 PPG while shooting 52% FG in San Diego St.’s three game NCAA run, becoming a viable threat behind the arc. With more confidence in his overall shooting, he will need to show more aggression going to the basket and trying to get to the line. He will be asked to do much more this season on offense and if he can show improvement as a play maker, it will greatly help his NBA prospects. His athleticism, shooting and ability to defend multiple positions make him a player to watch during his pivotal senior season.
10. Dez Wells, 6-4 215 SG Maryland
An explosive athlete with a strong frame, Wells certainly has the look of a NBA prospect. The reason he has not necessarily secured a draft spot is due to inconsistency, shot selection and decision-making being the main areas to focus on. Asked to play the point spot at times did not really mesh with his nature as a scorer. His development off of the ball will be crucial, especially showing an improved efficiency from long range. With a switch to the Big Ten, Wells will have a chance to make his final year count in a new conference.
11. Chris Jones, 5-10 175 PG Louisville
Known as a major scorer coming out of junior college, Jones took a back seat to other more experienced Cardinals (cough cough Russ Smith) coming off their title run. Jones’ impact was definitely felt on defense, where he plays relentless on-ball D and was dangerous in the passing lanes. Possessing quickness to create shot opportunities as well, he was great off of catch-and-shoot with a deadly shot when in rhythm. His size will come into question and he will need to show more ability as a playmaker for others. What makes him stand out as a possible NBA prospect is his ability to cover the entire court along with a confidence and toughness that is contagious.
12. Treveon Graham, 6-6 225 SG/SF VCU
The leading scorer for VCU for two years running, Graham is a strong wing who has been a leader of the "havoc" mentality that has made VCU one of the more dangerous NCAA teams. Graham has been happy to do the dirty work along with being the first option, averaging 7 rpg as a junior and improving as a facilitator. The energy one must provide to be part of "havoc" more than likely affects his efficiency as a shooter, where his percentages across the board can use improvement. The toughness and experience will have Graham in the thick of things for a draft spot, where he seems to show all of the things one might expect from a team player.
13. Keifer Sykes, 6-0 180 PG Wisconsin Green Bay
Scouts followed Green Bay last season during eventual 2nd round choice Alec Brown’s senior season and they may have unearthed another gem along the way. Keifer Sykes is an explosive athlete who took home Horizon League Player of the Year while producing 2.4:1 assist to turnover ratio. Averaging 20.3 PPG, 4.9 rpg and 4.4 apg, he scored an impressive 32 points against eventual Final Four team Wisconsin and went for 21 points with 10 assists in a win over ACC Champion Virginia. He opened up a lot of eyes during the CP3 Elite guard camp with shiftiness off the dribble and bounce that helps him finish above the rim. His long range shooting will need to improve and he will have major expectations to live up to after his impressive junior season.
14. Joseph Young, 6-2 180 CG Oregon
Known as a big time shooter and scorer at Houston in Conference USA, Young brought the same caliber of play to Oregon last year. His 18.9 PPG came on 48% FG, 41.5% 3PT and 88.1% FT (at over 5 attempts per game), with even more expected from him this season with a depleted Oregon roster. He also kept mistakes to a minimum, although he still must show more playmaking ability to convince teams he will translate to lead guard. Teams in need of scoring off of the bench or a dead-eye shooter to stretch the floor will be looking Young’s way, as he has been a major match-up problem at the college level.
15. Rakeem Christmas, 6-9 250 PF/C Syracuse
His college career up to this point has been an enigma, as he started slowly while making his way in and out of Syracuse’s rotation. With the loss of several key players, Christmas might be among the late bloomers that emerges in Jim Boeheim’s program. His best quality has been his ability as a low post defense, with athleticism to go with timing as a shot blocker. This summer Christmas took a leadership role and is showing more confidence as a back-to-the-basket option. Christmas has a lot of catching-up to do, he will need to show and prove, but he has the physical tools one looks for in a post player and his last year at Syracuse could be when he finally puts them to use.