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

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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

Washington’s Thybulle returning for senior season

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Matisse Thybulle will return to Washington for his senior season after contemplating declaring for the NBA draft following a junior campaign in which he was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year.

“The NBA is really enticing and it was definitely something that I seriously considered when the season was over,” Thybulle told the Seattle Times. “I talked it over with my family and we came to the conclusion that it would be in my best interest to stay and get my degree (in communications) and grow as a basketball player and take this last year to mature and fine tune everything so I can be fully prepared to take that next step when it’s time.”

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 11.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game last season. He shot 44.5 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from 3-point range.

“I talked to coach (Mike Hopkins) and he gave me some good advice that was honestly something that helped in the grand scheme of things,” Thybulle said. “He told me that if I do it (enter the draft), then I should be all in because that’s what I’m going to be up against is a whole bunch of guys fighting for their lives. He thought it would be a better idea for me to stay in school until I’m at that point.”

Washington is awaiting the decision of Noah Dickerson, who declared for the draft but has not hired an agent. The 6-foot-8 averaged 15.5 points and 8.4 rebounds last season.

Koby McEwen transferring to Marquette

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Steve Wojciechowski added a significant piece to his 2019-20 team over the weekend.

Koby McEwen announced his intention to transfer to Marquette from Utah State late Sunday evening.

“I would like to thank God, my family, inner circle and all the schools/coaches that recruited me during this process!” McEwen tweeted. “With that being said, I’m proud to announce that I’ll be furthering my college career at Marquette University.”

McEwen picked the Golden Eagles over fellow finalists Creighton and Grand Canyon after he decided to transfer when the Aggies announced South Dakota coach Craig Smith was taking over the program last month. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore.

After sitting out the upcoming season, McEwen will have to years of eligibility remaining. Marquette went 21-14 last season, but missed the NCAA tournament for the third time in Wojciechowski’s four years in Milwaukee.

Minnesota adds Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis

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Minnesota has added some depth for the future.

The Golden Gophers received a pledge from Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis over the weekend, giving him a guard with two seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2019-20.

Willis will sit out the upcoming season under NCAA transfer rules.

The 6-foot-4 guard played a limited role in two seasons in Nashville, never averaging more than 18. 5 minutes or 5.2 points per game. He scored in double figures in three games as a sophomore.

Willis was a top-150 prospect in the Class of 2016 coming out of Fayetteville, Ark. with offers from the likes of Tulsa, Rice and Dayton. Vandy and Minnesota were his two high-major offers.

After being ranked in the top-15, Minnesota was beset by injury and suspensions last season as they limped to the finish line in a 15-17 season that featured losses in 12 of its last 13 games.

Richard Pitino still has two available scholarships for the 2018-19 campaign.

Report: Quade Green returning to Kentucky

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John Calipari just landed a critical recruit for 2018-19, and he was already on the roster.

Quade Green, who averaged 25 minutes per game last season, is returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season, his mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday.

Given that six Wildcat players have entered the draft (Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hami Diallo are signing with agents), getting the 6-foot point guard back for a second season is a massive deal for Calipari and Co. The Wildcats have always been at their best under Calipari with returning players as the cornerstones of the roster with talented one-and-dones providing the extra boost. Getting one such returner at the point guard position is even more critical.

Green, who came to Kentucky as a five-star recruit last year, averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and a respectable 37.1 percent from 3-point range, an area where Kentucky continually needs help.

With Green back in the fold, Kentucky will now await the decisions of PJ Washington, Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt, who are all going through the pre-draft process without hiring agents, which will potentially allow them to return to school and bolster a Kentucky roster has the look of a top-five team.

CBT Podcast: NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline: Winners, losers and who has the most on the line?

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The NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline came and went on Sunday night, meaning there are now roughly 60 college players that have signed with an agent and another 100 or so that have declared for the draft while retaining their college eligibility. Who were the winners? Who were the losers? Who has the most on the line? Sam Vecenie of the Game Theory podcast joined Rob Dauster to talk through all of it. The rundown:

OPEN: What do NBA teams value in players these days?

10:00: Villanova has more on the line during this testing the water process than anyone

19:00: Just how important was De’Andre Hunter’s decision to return to Virginia

25:25: Gonzaga getting Rui and Killian Tillie back makes them a title favorite

32:10: Nevada has a top ten season on the line with the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline

36:15: #RANTALERT – The decision to turn pro is so much more complicated than “is he a first round pick”

48:30: Rapid fire: Maryland, Kansas, Syracuse, Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan. What do they have on the line?