A talent overhaul awaits us in the 2014-15 Big Ten season, but we'll also have a chance to see some of the best departed players develop in the professional ranks.
According to prominent mock drafts, as many as eight Big Ten players could be picked in Thursday's NBA Draft. Both Noah Vonleh and Nik Stauskas are consensus lottery picks, while two former Spartans – Gary Harris and Adreian Payne – might sneak up towards the top 14.
Using DraftExpress, NBADraft.net, Sam Amico's mock draft for Fox Sports Ohio, and Garry Parrish's mock draft for CBS Sports.com, here's where some of the top former Big Ten players are projected to go in this year's draft:
The top Big Ten pick is expected to be former Indiana big man Noah Vonleh, with each mock draft predicting he'll land in Utah.
Joel Embiid's foot and various injuries might prove to be too much of a long-term concern for a top-five team, which allows Vonleh to slide up draft boards. The Cavaliers always surprise on draft day, but Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker are safer picks. With both of them off the board by the third pick, the 76ers are considering Vonleh. According to a report by Yahoo, Vonleh worked out in Philadelphia, Thursday.
That might just be the 76ers doing their due diligence – two of the four mock drafts have them taking Embiid while the other two have Dante Exum going to Philly – but, regardless of which team takes Vonleh, they'll be getting a raw low-post player who can contribute right away because of his rebounding, length and all-around hustle.
A year ago, Nik Stauskas was hardly on any NBA front office radar. Now, after working out for only lottery teams, he's destined for the top 14 in the deepest draft in years.
The Big Ten Player of the Year averaged 17.5 points while hitting 44-percent of his shots from beyond the arc. His three-point percentage remained the same from freshman to sophomore year, and he only attempted about one more three per game. How did he average 6.5 more points per game in his sophomore season? That's where his all-around offensive game comes in.
Now, he's a threat to put the ball on the floor – 3.5 more free-throw attempts per game, as evidence – and can create for others. Without that drastic improvement, he's not a lottery talent in this draft.
He didn't quite live up to the "player of the year" expectations and battled injuries throughout his sophomore season, but Gary Harris will still be sitting in the NBA Draft green room, Thursday night.
Harris' three-point percentage dipped below 36 percent after hitting over 40 percent of his threes in the previous season. He struggled, at times, carrying a high-load of the offense, especially with Keith Appling's injuries. Harris didn't go unscathed, either, as he suffered an ankle injury before the season began and, after declaring for the draft, battled a minor groin injury.
That didn't prevent him from working out for the Hornets, Nuggets and Lakers, among other teams. Both Parrish and NBADraft.net have Harris pegged to Denver, as Harris is still expected to fall in the late lottery, despite his "below average wingspan."
Joining Harris in the green room is his college teammate and Dayton native Adreian Payne.
If Amico and Parrish are correct about his lottery potential, Payne's draft selection might be the biggest shock of the night. It's not that Payne, talent-wise, isn't worthy. Rather, age and overall potential are concerns. Plus, he probably wouldn't have been a first round pick if he left after his junior year.
Payne should be able to contribute at the NBA level right away, however. His pick-and-pop potential is enticing (hit 42 percent of his threes, while attempting 3.4 per game), especially for a late-lottery team or one that just barely made the playoffs and could use his immediate scoring punch.
Had he left school after his dominant run in last year's NCAA Tournament, Mitch McGary could've been a lottery pick.
Unfortunately for McGary, a back injury sidelined him for most of his sophomore season and he now enters a loaded draft class. Had he suffered an injury before last year's draft, McGary, probably, would've gone in the lottery (see: Noel, Nerlens).
Regardless, the potential he showcased in March of 2013 is still there. McGary averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds in his six tournament games, while displaying a developing mid-range game to go along with his agility on both ends.
Glenn Robinson III
Two years ago, if I told you Glenn Robinson III would be the lowest of five Michigan players taken in the two subsequent drafts, would you have any respect for my basketball knowledge?
With all the talent John Beilein developed, Robinson wasn't necessarily one of them. Perhaps it was the legacy set by his father – both in the NBA and in the Big Ten – but the son wasn't particularly consistent.
Yet, Robinson III averaged double figures in eight of the nine NCAA Tournament games he played in. He also scored at least 10 points in 12 of his last 13 games, last season. Based on his athleticism and, at times, ability to score, he's still a late first round or early second round pick.
Roy Devyn Marble
Past Robinson III, there are no guarantees for Big Ten players in this year's draft.
NBADraft.net does not have former Iowa wing Roy Devyn Marble inside its top 60. Teams see his IQ on film and, more importantly, a wide wingspan (drink). Arguably, there was no more valuable player to his team than Marble, a versatile passer and defender, who initiated a high percentage of Iowa's transition-heavy offense.
He was an average three-point shooter, so, unless he improves upon that, Marble might be destined for Europe (no shame in that).
Perhaps Gary Parrish didn't pay attention to some glaring numbers at pre-draft combine but, either way, he has a lot of faith in LaQuinton Ross.
There wasn't much Ross could do to markedly improve his draft stock, even if he stayed another year in college. That doesn't mean it wasn't significantly affected, in a negative fashion. To be fair, his raw power and length (7-2 wingspan and 240 pounds) is a difficult matchup, even at the professional level. At Ohio State, he made tough shots and consistently got to the line, in an effort to find any way to help the Buckeyes score.
That counts for something, but doesn't look like it will be enough for him to get drafted.
Once again, Parrish has a former All-Big Ten performer in his mock while no one else does.
Had Appling been completely healthy at any point in his last two seasons, getting drafted might be more of a formality. Instead, the 22-year-old guard had lingering wrist and shoulder injuries, which clearly affected his play. Those have not been concerns in pre-draft workouts, as Appling has performed for the Wizards, Suns, Raptors, and Pacers (he can't be any worse than George Hill).
We're still not ready to let him go.
By most standards, Aaron Craft is not considered an NBA prospect. His offensive versatility is extremely limited, while his greatest attribute – his
angel face defensive tenacity – wouldn't necessarily translate right away because of the massive rise in competition.
It's not like NBA teams aren't giving him a fair shot, however. He worked out for the Raptors, Suns and Grizzlies, apparently shooting well along the way. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Craft is in Boston today.
Assuming none of those teams draft him, he'll make most of his "doctor money" back by playing overseas and avoiding the headache of actually going through medical school.