By Zack Peñalva, Sports Editor
With March Madness officially over, it’s time for a whole new type of madness to begin. With the extremely inviting draw of making the jump straight into the NBA, do you know where your favorite college players will be next season? Has your favorite NBA team already started tanking in the hopes of getting a good pick? Should they even bother? Let’s take a look at who’s on the board.
Karl Anthony-Towns, Center
With Kentucky coach John Calipari saying in a recent interview that he expects at least five of his players to declare for the NBA draft, Towns is the most obvious choice. He’s a threat offensively and that combined with his size (7’0, 250lbs) make him an absolute lock as a top 5, if not number one overall pick. He’s not without his weaknesses though; he picked up an average of three fouls a game during the past season. During the tournament, when the pressure was on for Towns to be on the floor and performing, that average went up to four fouls a game. The step up in offensive quality from college to NBA might make him a liability on defense to give up fouls. He’s also young, and while the trend of “one-and-done” players is nothing new, his long-term prospects will certainly be a more compelling draw than how big of an impact he can make right away.
Jahil Okafor, Center
Okafor would’ve been the obvious choice for number one pick at the beginning of the season. But even though Okafor led his team to the national championship, the rise of other players has cast a big enough shadow on the 6’11 center’s draft stock. In the words of ESPN’s NBA analyst Chad Ford, “[Okafor’s] grip on the isn’t nearly as tight as it was a month ago.” All of that said, there’s no doubt that Okafor will be a top 5 pick. Strength wise, he’s a menace in the paint. His size and footwork make it hard for teams to defend him unless they can devote two players to double-teaming him or if they have someone as big enough to not get outmuscled. What should have NBA teams worried though are his weaknesses. Outside of the paint, he’s a terrible shooter and his stamina and lack of defensive ability should raise huge red flags. He’s still young so those parts of his game could be developed, but he’ll struggle to get minutes if he does turn out to be an entirely one-dimensional player.
Emmanuel Mudiay, Guard
One of the most exciting players for this year’s draft didn’t even play in the March tournament. The Congo-born Mudiay moved to China after high school and has averaged 18 points per game with 6 assists for the Guangdong Southern Tigers. He’s quick and attacks the basket well, while also showing an eye for positioning and picking a pass. Reports of his poor shooting form could give some teams pause though as well as his age and inexperience.
D’Angelo Russell, Guard
Joining Mudiay in the “most desirable guard” column is Russell. He’s a dangerous player on offense and has all the weapons teams will be looking for: shooting, vision and pro-level handling. He’s worked to become a more physical presence as well, bulking himself up to fit his 6’5 frame. He puts himself ahead of Mudiay because of how well he shoots. From the floor he averaged a .449 field goal percentage and he was just as deadly from three-point range, with a .411. As he works to get to the next level though, he’ll need to improve his speed and explosiveness to make sure he doesn’t get left behind in transition.