Jahlil Okafor

Who are the players to watch for in the 2015 NBA Draft?


Much of the coverage of the 2013 NBA Draft at the time was centered around the fact that it didn’t stand up to the 2014 NBA Draft. That’s what happens when Anthony Bennett goes No. 1 while Andrew Wiggins getting ready for a season at Kansas.

That won’t be the case for the 2015 NBA Draft, as it doesn’t have the same kind of hype as this year’s draft crop. That said, here are 16 names you NBA fans want to keep an eye on:

Jahlil Okafor, Duke: Okafor right now is my pick to go No. 1 in the 2015 draft. Between his size (6-foot-11, at least 250 lbs), his footwork and his soft touch, he’s got all kinds of potential as a low-post scorer.

Cliff Alexander, Kansas: You’ll see a lot of people comparing Alexander to Montrezl Harrell over the course of the offseason, and that’s actually not that bad of a comparison, only … Alexander dunks angrier. Way angrier. He’s as powerful of a front court player as you’ll find next season.

Kelly Oubre, Kansas: Oubre might end up being the best wing in the country next season. His game is fairly reminiscent of James Young, an athletic, 6-foot-7 lefty shooter. For my money, however, Oubre will actually be a better player — shooter, specifically — as a freshman that Young was.

Chris Walker, Florida: Walker is a freak athlete at 6-foot-10, a top ten recruit in the Class of 2013 that couldn’t enroll at Florida until the second semester and then had to deal with an NCAA-mandated suspension. He’s got world’s of potential, but his development this summer is going to be a key. He was uninspiring down the stretch last year.

Emmanuel Mudiay, SMU: Mudiay will play his freshman season at SMU, as he chose him hometown school over Kentucky. He’s a big, strong, athletic lead guard and he will be leading a Mustang team that has the pieces to push for a top ten ranking in the preseason.

Stanley Johnson, Arizona: If Oubre isn’t the best wing in college basketball next season, there’s a good chance that is because Johnson earned the title. He’s a 6-foot-7 bulldog, a wing that I’ve seen run the point for his team while defending an opponent’s center. He’s cut from the same cloth as guys like Marcus Smart, Aaron Gordon and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. One assistant at a top 25 program told me Johnson’s elite because he’s one of the few players whose position can simply be labeled “junkyard dog”.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona: RHJ is a terrific athlete blessed with good size and a great wingspan. He can pass, he can make plays defensively and he’s great around the rim. But will he learn how to shoot the ball?

Justin Jackson, North Carolina: Jackson is going to be the best offensive threat for North Carolina next season. He’s a 6-foot-8 sharpshooter with one of the best mid-range games — his floater is lethal — you’ll see.

Karl Towns, Kentucky: I think Towns is probably Kentucky’s best NBA prospect heading into the 2014-2015 season. He’s a seven-foot center with three-point range.

Caris LeVert, Michigan: LeVert had a terrific year playing in the shadow of Nik Stauskas as a sophomore and should thrive for the Wolverines in his absence this season. The lanky, 6-foot-6 wing is a streaky-but-dangerous three-point shooter that has proven he can take games over.

Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin: Kaminsky exploded on the scene as a junior with a 43-point outburst early on in the year and carried his play over into the NCAA tournament, where he was one of the break out stars. He could have been a first round pick this season. He’s a seven-footer with three-point range, post moves and the handle and mobility to put the ball no the floor. He’s limited, however, as he isn’t all that quick or athletic.

And five more:

  • Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
  • Justise Winslow, Duke
  • Bobby Portis, Arkansas
  • Delon Wright, Utah
  • Dakari Johnson, Kentucky

Jalen Coleman-Lands cleared to practice

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 10: Jarrod Uthoff #20 of the Iowa Hawkeyes defends against Jalen Coleman-Lands #5 of the Illinois Fighting Illini in the second round of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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When Illinois takes on Southeast Missouri State in the opener of the 2016-17 season, the Fighting Illini should have it’s starting backcourt out on the floor.

According to Jon Rothstein, Jalen Coleman-Lands has been cleared for all basketball activities. The sophomore two-guard has been recovering from a broken bone in his right hand.

The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.

Coleman-Lands will team up with Tracy Abrams, a point guard who was granted a sixth year of eligibility after missing the past two seasons due to injuries.

This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.

The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.

NBC Sports projected Illinois to finish eighth in the Big Ten this season.

Curtis Jones jumps over Tom Crean

Tom Crean
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Indiana held its annual Hoosier Hysteria on Saturday night.

One of the highlights from the team’s dunk contest was when freshman guard Curtis Jones jumped over Indiana head coach Tom Crean.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a newcomer us his coach as a dunk contest prop. Last week, Rawle Alkins cleared Arizona head coach Sean Miller en route to a reverse jam.

Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.

WATCH: Edmond Sumner take off from the foul line

CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 03:  Edmond Sumner #4 of the Xavier Musketeers dunks the ball during the game against the St. John's Red Storm at Cintas Center on February 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Edmond Sumner is a big reason why Xavier is likely going to be a preseason top-10 team.

On Saturday night, during Musketeer Madness, Sumner won the team’s dunk contest when he took off from the foul line.

Sumner defeated freshmen Tyrique Jones and Quentin Goodin. J.P. Macura, the reigning Big East Sixth Man of the Year, took home the honors last year.

The 6-foot-6 redshirt sophomore is coming off a debut season in which he averaged 11.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.

WATCH: Duke goes crazy for Chase Jeter’s bottle flip

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Chase Jeter #2 of the Duke Blue Devils looks on in the second half against the North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The bottle flip has become an international sensation in recent months.

It’s as simple as it sounds: flipping a water bottle in the air, attempting to have it land upright.

Duke sophomore forward Chase Jeter, in front of 9,300-plus fans, successfully pulled off the bottle flip on Saturday night at Duke’s Craziness.

Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.

Auburn to honor Charles Barkley with a statue

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 04:  Former NBA player and commentator Charles Barkley looks on prior to the 2016 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game between the Villanova Wildcats and the North Carolina Tar Heels at NRG Stadium on April 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.

The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.

“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”

Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.

His number 34 is retired at Auburn.