More DX Conference Previews
-The Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big East
-The Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Pac-12
-The Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12
-The Top NBA Draft Prospects in the SEC
Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big Ten
(#1) OG Anunoby
(#2) Thomas Bryant
(#3) Miles Bridges
#4, Nigel Hayes, 6'7, Senior, Power Forward, Wisconsin
Few players in college basketball saw their circumstances change last season quite as dramatically as Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes. An effective third-wheel of the senior-laden Wisconsin team headlined by Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker that made it all the way to the National Championship in 2015, Hayes returned to Madison as the obvious candidate to inherit the lion-share of the scoring load left behind in the wake of the departure of five of the Badgers' seven leading scorers. Teaming with fellow holdover Bronson Koenig, Hayes seemed like a prime candidate for a breakout year in the Big Ten.
Despite a preseason top-20 ranking, Wisconsin struggled to start the year, suffering early losses to Western Illinois and Milwaukee before Bo Ryan unexpectedly resigned after a December 15th win. With Ryan's chosen successor, Greg Gard, taking the reins and reemphasizing the swing offense, the Badgers had their highs and lows in conference play before an improbable Sweet 16 run. Much like Wisconsin as a whole, Hayes was inconsistent throughout the year, posting poor shooting numbers in his new role as the team's first option after ranking among the most efficient roleplayers in the country as a sophomore. Despite the major adjustment, the 21 year-old forward averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 3 assists over 36.2 minutes per game garnering All-Conference 1st Team Honors.
Declaring for the 2016 NBA Draft and earning an invitation to the NBA Combine, Hayes took full advantage of the NCAA's new rules for underclassmen exploring their options. After a number of May workouts, the young forward struggled to make an impression in the competitive portion of the Combine, making just one field goal attempt and grabbing only a single rebound in 39 minutes of action in two games. Left with no choice but to withdraw his name from consideration and return to school, the Toledo native will look to bolster his resume for a Wisconsin team that returns every major contributor from last season.
Standing 6'7.25 in shoes with a gigantic 7'3 wingspan and a 245-pound frame, Hayes's intrigue at the NBA level has long started with his length and physical maturity. He possesses decent quickness and average explosiveness, however, looking more like a true power forward than the small forward he seemed to have some potential to become early on, which probably isn't too much of an issue in today's NBA anyway.
Averaging 1.07 points over 11.6 possessions per game while shooting 48% on four one-on-one possessions per game as a sophomore, Hayes's impressive efficiency combined with his versatility and physical profile placed him one of the more interesting prospects in the Big Ten heading into last season. Without the benefit of the spacing Kaminsky and Dekker provided, though, things went downhill quick. Averaging 0.86 points over 18.3 possessions per game while shooting 37% on 9.6 one-on-one possessions per game as a junior, Hayes' shot making and ability to create off the dribble faltered badly as opposing defenses honed in on stopping him. Playing a demanding role alongside a young group, Hayes' strengths and weaknesses were magnified last season.
A strikingly effective jump shooter as a sophomore, Hayes knocked down just under 40% of his 3-point attempts and 44% of his jumpers overall two years ago. Knocking down 29% of his attempts from deep this year and 31% of his perimeter shots overall, Hayes struggled to make uncontested and contested shots alike as his tendency to lock up his body in the air hurt his results as a junior and led to a lot of ugly misses. The expansion of his role played against him as well as he knocked down just 25% of a greater sample of pull-up jump shots.
Hayes' struggles converting shots in the midrange was a symptom of the difficulties he had creating shots overall. Lacking a degree of shiftiness with the ball in his hands, Hayes excelled at scoring inside two years ago playing off the ball against weaker defenders and in lineups with far superior perimeter shooting, but saw his effectiveness off the bounce plummet against systems centered around slowing him down as a sophomore. Converting 45% of his shots around the rim in the half court according to Synergy Sports Technology, Hayes forced the issue at times as a slasher and his lack of blow-by quickness and great leaping ability led to a lot of difficult shots inside, and a number of near misses as defenders were able to recover after he beat them with his initial move.
If there was one area where Hayes held mostly steady from his sophomore to his junior year, it was as a post option. Doing a nice job using his strength and drawing fouls with his back to the basket, his combination of aggressiveness, footwork, and craftiness helped him score effectively on the block. He doesn't use the most advanced moves, but has variety to his post repertoire using hooks with both hands and mixing in some spins and face up jumpers for good measure. As much as Hayes had a hard time finding an offensive rhythm this season, he often looked most comfortable on the block.
While Hayes struggled last season after being thrust into a role as the Badgers' go-to-guy, it wouldn't be at all shocking to see him bounce back to some extent as a senior. Clearly, he's best suited for a smaller role, and scouts understand that. He'd certainly benefit from a strong year shooting the ball more consistently, which will be a huge key for him at the NBA level.
Defensively, Hayes is a mixed bag. He's solid out on the perimeter for the most part, positioning himself well, but his lack of standout quickness limits him when asked to defend smaller players. His strength and length allow him to hold his own inside, but he doesn't rebound the ball at a particularly high rate as his lack of explosiveness and average toughness and intensity level limits his productivity on the boards.
Despite all he's been through in the last year, Nigel Hayes remains one of the better NBA prospects in the senior class. His sophomore season remains a notable bright spot on his resume, even if his efficiency wasn't even close to sustainable in a bigger role. If he can re-establish himself as a shooter and make better decisions creating with the ball in his hands, he could help rebound his stock headed towards the 2017 NBA Draft.
#5, Malcolm Hill, 6'6, Senior, Small Forward, Illinois
Voted to the All-Big Ten's Second Team as a junior after being named honorable mention as a sophomore, Malcolm Hill had a breakout season in what proved to be another disappointing year for an Illinois squad again decimated by injuries, arrests and suspensions. Hill proved to be one of the few rays of light for the Illini, who went 5-13 in Big Ten play, with four of those wins coming against pitiful Minnesota and Rutgers squads. He filled up the stat-sheet to the tune of 21 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.4 steals per-40 minutes, being one of only six players in college basketball to accomplish that feat.
Coming off a strong showing at the Nike Academy in late July, sporting an improved physique and proving to be one of the most productive players in attendance, Hill looks primed for a big senior year on what should be a much better Illinois team that will likely contend for an NCAA Tournament berth.
One of the youngest seniors in college basketball, Hill has still yet to turn 21, while other players in his class on our mock draft are already 23, and some will even turn 24 during the season. The fact that he won't be 22 virtually until opening day of the 2017 NBA season indicates he easily could have been a member of the junior class but elected to start college a year early.
Hill isn't blessed with elite physical tools, measured just 6'5 ½ in shoes with a fairly pedestrian 6'8 ½ wingspan for a small forward. He's not an exceptional athlete on top of that, lacking overwhelming quickness or explosiveness, but brings strong versatility, competitiveness and intelligence to help compensate.
On a team that lost quite a bit of firepower prior to, and as the season moved on, Hill was asked to do a little bit of everything for Illinois, leading the team in rebounds, assists and scoring. He saw time sliding between the 1-4 positions, and was utilized frequently as a ball-handler in pick and roll, isolation and transition situations, as well as off the ball and with his back to the basket. The significant uptick in usage (from 20% as a freshman, to 24% as a sophomore, and finally a sky-high 28% as a junior) certainly hurt his ability to be the most efficient option, as his 48% 2-point percentage and 31% 3-point suggest. Still, his ability to get to the free throw line frequently (eight times per-40) and propensity for converting his attempts once there (82% FT%) helped him post a respectable 56.5% True Shooting percentage.
Hill's outsized role allowed him to showcase the unique versatility he brings to the table as somewhat of a 6'6 point forward. He sees the floor very well for a player his size, using both sides of the floor intelligently and making pinpoint passes out the pick and roll. He is creative and unselfish, frequently making the extra pass along the perimeter or pushing it ahead in transition, even if the dwindling amount of Big Ten caliber options alongside him hampered his ability to display this part of his game at times.
Hill is a good ball-handler who can create his own shot, but doesn't display elite burst with his first step or overwhelming quickness operating downhill, which makes it difficult for him to create high percentage looks at times. He is forced to rely heavily on his strength at the college level, being called frequently for offensive fouls due to his propensity for using his off-arm to fend off opponents and create some extra space to utilize. He isn't always able to get inside the paint at a high rate in turn, and lacks a degree of explosiveness as a finisher when he does, partially due to frequently having a man stuck on his hip as he drives down the lane with his inability to create separation from the perimeter on the initial move.
With that said, Hill is a tough, aggressive player who is willing to initiate contact and draws fouls at a good rate. Those same traits come into play with his ability to post up weaker players inside, utilizing strong footwork and his high basketball IQ and intensity level to get the job done.
As Hill makes the transition to the professional level, he'll likely see less responsibilities as a playmaker and more time off the ball. His ability to space the floor from the perimeter will be a major component in whether he's able to carve out a niche at the NBA level, as he's been somewhat streaky with that part of his game up until this point in his career.
While Hill's 35% career 3-point percentage is not bad, less than a third of his field goal attempts in college have come from beyond the arc, with that number dropping every season from his freshman to junior years as his ball-handling responsibilities have increased. He does not appear to have the most natural shooting stroke, as he dips the ball excessively unnecessarily on the catch, which slows down his release significantly and makes it difficult for him to get off when closely contested.
Hill was a much more effective shooter pulling up off the dribble (41%) than he was with his feet set (29%) last season, as it appears more natural for him to get his shot off the bounce due to the ball-dip. He has some inconsistencies in his release, like his tendency to flail his elbows out or shoot off the back of his palm at times, but the fact that he is a career 80% free throw shooter, and has the touch to throw the ball in the basket, sometimes after creating separation nicely from his opponents, shows that there is some potential to work with.
Despite playing too many minutes (35 per game), and being asked to do it all offensively, Hill demonstrated strong potential on the defensive end. He's tough, strong, intelligent, and fundamentally sound, getting in a low stance on the perimeter and moving his feet effectively. Illinois did a lot of switching on ball-screen actions, and Hill showed nice versatility staying in front of guards, wings and forwards alike, which will help his cause significantly at the NBA level. Hill's lack of prototypical tools for a small forward (6'5 ½ in shoes, 6'8 ½ wingspan) is not ideal, especially since that may depress his small-ball power forward potential somewhat, and he did struggle at times last year when tasked with guarding bigger players in the post, and is not an exceptional rebounder.
Illinois will likely be a much better team this season, if everyone is able to stay healthy. Malcolm Hill will be their leader and could significantly improve his standing among NBA scouts with a strong showing in what appears to be a fairly wide open Big Ten. He's apparently had a great off-season in the weight room, putting him in prime position for a huge senior year.
#7, Keita Bates-Diop 6'7", Junior, Small Forward, Ohio State
After playing just under 10 minutes per game for Thad Matta and the Buckeyes as a freshman, the loss of Amir Williams and Sam Thompson to graduation opened up quite a bit of playing time in Ohio State's frontcourt rotation. Keita Bates-Diop was one of the primary beneficiaries of their departures, seeing his playing time rise to over 30 minutes per game and showing the ability to stuff a stat sheet to the tune of 11.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.2 blocks, and 0.7 steals per game.
Standing 6'7" with exceptionally long arms and a frame that looks like it can fill out over time, Bates-Diop's NBA intrigue starts around that physical profile. Add in his mobility and coordination and Bates-Diop has the chance to develop into a player who can defend multiple positions, especially as his body continues to physically mature down the line.
In order to really maximize that potential, Bates-Diop is going to have to continue to evolve as an offensive player as well, and that begins with his jump shot. While Bates-Diop shot 46.2% from three-point range on an extremely small sample size of 39 attempts as a freshman, the 32.4% he shot as a sophomore is likely more in line with where he stands as a shooter, and more indicative of the amount of work he still has to put in to become reliable from deep.
Bates-Diop's form on his jump shot could be a cause for some of his inconsistency, as it's not the most sound and fluid release in college basketball. His release is slightly out in front of his body, with a slight hitch halfway through and a left elbow that has a tendency to flair out to the side. Improving on some of these moving parts could dramatically help increase his consistency, and creating gravity from the corners would do wonders to help Bates-Diop's viability as a Three-and-D candidate at the next level, and give him a clear role he can fill.
Bates-Diop's jumper shows even less progress on the move, where he's not much of a threat at all to shoot either off the dribble or running off a screen. While Bates-Diop doesn't project to be a high-level shot creator off the pick and roll, giving defenders something to think about would help open up his dribble drive game.
He does show some potential as a slasher, despite not creating many driving lanes by nature of his jump shot forcing defenders to close out. Bates-Diop has a relatively quick first step, with long, rangy strides that can cover ground in a hurry. While Bates-Diop doesn't have a ton of wiggle in his game to create separation off the dribble, he's not a complete non-ball-handler, either, with enough confidence to dribble in traffic with either hand, and could be realistically expected to show continued improvement in this area down the line.
When Bates-Diop does get to the hoop his length, athleticism, and solid touch and body control around the hoop serve him well, allowing him to connect on 64.9% of his field goal attempts around the basket, per Synergy Sports. Part of this efficiency is no doubt influenced by selectivity in his attempts and by playing a limited role, but he has the chance to be effective at the rim if his perimeter shot, and his ability to create, matures.
That being said, the defensive side of the court is where Bates-Diop's future is, and where he makes the most consistent impact as of now. His length, lateral quickness, and ability to cover ground effectively allow him to be a decent off-ball shot blocker. When Bates-Diop is fully engaged, he shows the ability to be a real stopper defensively, and has the quickness, perimeter mobility, and length to defend multiple positions, something which you can't have enough of in today's NBA.
That "when engaged" comment is still a problem for Bates-Diop, however, as he'll go stretches without appearing to give consistent effort, at times appearing either disinterested or unsure of himself, and leave plays on the court as a result. He also struggles quite a bit to recognize, and fight through, screens on the perimeter, and still needs to continue to fill out his frame to compete more consistently on the defensive glass, where his 6.3 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes, pace adjusted, is a relatively low output for somebody who played quite a bit as a small ball power forward. Bates-Diop struggles to hold ground as of now, and adding strength to his core and lower body would help quite a bit in this regard.
Bates-Diop has quite a bit of potential as a shutdown, versatile defender who has shown just enough offensively to tease two-way potential. Still, he has to become more consistent on both ends of the court, with his effort level and physical maturation holding him back from reaching his true defensive potential, and his inconsistent outside shot a roadblock to filling a clearly defined offensive role in the NBA. Should he be able to improve upon those weaknesses, and find a way to ramp up his inconsistent motor, there's clear NBA role player potential in Bates-Diop's game.
#7, Melo Trimble, 6'3, Junior, Point Guard, Maryland
A native of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, Melo Trimble decided to remain close to home after a stellar high school career that saw him become a McDonald's All-American in 2014. Trimble committed to Maryland very early, in December 2012, and was able to step into a huge role as the lead point-guard after the transfer of Seth Allen to Virginia Tech.
As a freshman, Trimble shouldered a huge offensive load for the Terrapins, and performed admirably, ranking second among all freshman point-guards in scoring, only behind current Los Angeles Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell, at 16.2 points per game. As a sophomore Trimble saw his scoring drop slightly but his assists increase from 3 per game to 4.9, but needs to continue to improve his turnover rate, which at 2.7 per game isn't particularly impressive. Trimble elected to put his name in the 2016 NBA draft pool, and competed at the NBA Combine, but wisely chose to return to College Park after a poor showing and lukewarm feedback from NBA teams.
Standing 6'3, and weighing 192 pounds, Trimble appears to have solid size for the point-guard position at the next level, except for his very pedestrian 6'2 wingspan, which puts him in a club with similarly sized guards such as former Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet and current Orlando Magic guard Shabazz Napier. Trimble isn't an explosive vertical athlete at the rim, but shows a natural ability to change speeds on the perimeter and in transition.
Trimble featured heavily for the Maryland offense during the 2015-2016 season as both their primary playmaker and scorer, leading the team in both categories with 15.1 points and 4.9 assists per game. Being forced to shoulder such an offensive load for the Terrapins has been a balancing act for Trimble, deciphering when he needs to be aggressive as a scorer and when he needs to focus on creating offense for his very talented teammates. At this stage of his development it is abundantly clear that Trimble's value is largely based as a shot maker.
More than half of Trimble's total possessions as a sophomore came in the pick and roll action, per Synergy Sports Technology. He does a good job of playing with pace and changing speeds, particularly when engaging the defending big, showcasing a great deal of comfort in splitting and snaking against poor defense, but has a tendency to over-dribble and make possessions more difficult than they typically should be. When Trimble gets his defender hit by the screen he is able to create enough space to step into his pull up jumper or continue into the paint for a floater that he employs quite often, though not always with a high degree of efficiency or accuracy.
As a finisher inside the paint, Trimble struggles against length due to his poor tools, converting only 50% of his field goal attempts in half-court situations, per Synergy Sports Technology, often times relying on creating contact and getting a whistle leading to free-throws. In the event that the defender is able to avoid contact on the screen, Trimble doesn't have enough burst to get by high level defenders and struggles to create high quality shots.
As a passer in the pick and roll, Trimble is comfortable making kick out passes once he gets into the paint, while also showcasing an ability to make basic drop off passes leading to easy catch and finishes for Maryland's army of bigs. At times it appears that Trimble's timing is off as a passer, making passes one or two dribbles too late, forcing his teammates to take contested jump shots. A number of what should be simple passes end up being deflected, as Trimble has a tendency to telegraph where he intends to pass, evidenced by his 3.2 turnovers per-40 as a sophomore. If Trimble intends to dispel some of the prevailing attitudes towards him, he will need to continue to improve his ability to read tagging defenders and make quick decisions with the ball, trusting his teammates to make shots.
For Trimble to inspire confidence that he can be a shot-making guard at the NBA level, he will need to improve his consistency as a perimeter shooter. As a freshman in 2014-2015, Trimble shot the ball particularly well from behind the three-point line, converting 41.2% on 4.2 attempts per game, but with an increase in attempts and a greater focus on being a playmaker as a sophomore, he shot only 31.1% on 5.2 attempts per game. Trimble's jump shot mechanically is terrific, typically he is on balance, and follows through high while being able to get into his shot very quickly. His percentage being as low as it was as a sophomore can likely be attributed to the high degree of difficulty shots that he at times settles for. He needs to continue to improve his shot selection and understand the value of open shots versus low percentage, contested shots off the dribble.
Defensively, Trimble struggles to move his feet laterally, and it appears at times that his huge responsibilities on the offensive end take their toll on his defensive effort, which fluctuates from possession to possession. Trimble averaged 1.5 steals per-40 as a sophomore, but doesn't possess the length that typically accompanies defensive pests with only a 6'2 wingspan. Off the ball, he needs to improve his engagement and awareness, often times playing rigid and upright, not in a stance which puts him at a disadvantage chasing guards off of pin down's and simply being late on close-outs. Trimble isn't a physical defensive player and struggles to keep bigger, stronger guards in front without being physically over matched. His effort level needs to improve, particularly in pursuing guards in the pick and roll action, where at Maryland he was content to veer late and allow his rim protectors to do the majority of defensive work. At the next level, the sheer amount of ball screen actions and the responsibility of the guard to get back in front of the ball handler is magnified.
With no sign of Trimble's workload lessening as a junior, and Maryland having lost all their starters save for Trimble, it will be interesting to see what kind of season he can turn in, paying particular attention to his potential growth as a point guard and playmaker. It will also be key for Trimble to continue to raise his shooting percentages while limiting his turnovers and improve his effort level on the defensive side of the ball.