The 2014 NBA Draft came and went with its usual flurry of trades, weird picks by the Raptors, and general buffoonery by the Wizards (why no draft picks???) My allegiances lie in two separate camps come draft night: I like to see Wisconsin players get drafted and I like to see the Sixers draft injured big men. I've only come away happy twice since 2011, and it isn't because the Badgers have been churning out NBA-ready talent.
Wisconsin hasn't had a player drafted since 2011 (Jon Leuer, 40th overall, Milwaukee Bucks) and the Badgers haven't had a player drafted in the first round since 2008 (Alando Tucker, 29th overall, Phoenix Suns). If we really want to look at the whole, bleak picture, the Badgers haven't had a first round pick pan out (Tucker has been out of the league since 2010 and wasn't very impressive in his three-year career) since Devin Harris in 2004.
Coming off an unexpected Final Four run last season, the Badgers are primed for another banner season this year. If all goes according to plan and LeBron James doesn't sign with an NHL team, causing ESPN to explode and the NBA to cease to exist, there should be an NBA Draft in 2015 and the Badgers should be well represented for once. Let's take a peak at the candidates to change UW's recent draft duds.
Position: Small forward
Measurables: 6'7", 220 lbs
NBA Comparison: Gordon Hayward
Pretty much since Dekker arrived on campus (here's a post from after his freshman season) there has been speculation amongst Badgers fans about when the athletic, 5-star small forward would take his talents to the NBA. I distinctly remember discussing with friends after he signed, that Wisconsin's best bet would be to hope he had a subpar sophomore season so that he'd have to stay one more year to improve his draft stock. We here at BTPowerhouse have been discussing Dekker all year, but obviously he decided to forgo the draft and return to Madison for his junior season.
So, what does all this mean? Dekker is clearly one of the most talented offensive players to come through Wisconsin's program in a decade, but there have been occasions where he has been invisible on offense. He came in as Wisconsin's most heralded prospect since Brian Butch (oh what could have been...), but has since developed a little grit to go with his flashy high school highlights.
In his sophomore year, his per 40 minutes points per game went down, surprisingly, from 17.2 to 16.6, but his rebounding per 40 minutes went up by two boards per game and his turnovers per 40 minutes went down by .5 per game. He also got to the free thrown line more often in his second year and his offensive and defensive win shares went up. While his FG% stayed roughly the same, his 3FG% took a bit of a dip, and with Ben Brust riding off into the sunset, Dekker will have to improve his long-range stroke for next year.
Dekker did not turn into the dominant slasher/scorer/offensive focal point that Wisconsin may have hoped he would turn into (keep in mind there is still time for this to happen), but he did make improvements to his game from his first to his second season and that is important for talent evaluators to see. He is an athletic wing player, who despite a top-class pedigree has show a willingness to play second fiddle when a dominant player emerges. He has also been plying his trade this summer at various camps and it appears to be going quite well. Dekker became a valuable cog in the Badgers attack, one that was capable of taking over a game sometimes, due mostly to the rapid ascension of this next player who will probably also get drafted next year.
Measurables: 7'0", 234 lbs
NBA Comparison: A better Josh McRoberts, a worse Tim Duncan? I don't really know.
Even the most optimistic Wisconsin basketball fan probably penciled in Kaminsky for a modest increase, at most, in production for last season. You know, just doing normal Badger big guy stuff: hitting an occasional three, grabbing rebounds, maybe blocking a shot here and there, and looking generally goofy whilst doing it. To put it mildly, Kaminsky blew all of those predictions out of the water.
He hit threes at a 38% clip, he averaged 6.3 boards per game, 1.7 blocks per game, and looked EXCEEDINGLY goofy whilst doing it. For good measure he also chipped in 1.3 assists per game, dutifully finding the correct cutter when he was double teamed in the post.
He was first-team All-Big Ten last year as well as the Most Outstanding Player of the West Regional in the NCAA Tournament. Kaminsky rocketed up draft boards this last year, going from "guy who would play all four years at Wisconsin, but never do anything spectacular" at the beginning of the year, to "guy who should probably skip his senior year and cut that check in the pros, like, now" at the end.
Frank the Tank is a rarity in basketball, a legit seven-footer who can step outside and hit a three while still being big enough to bang down low and grab rebounds. In this world of the stretch four and European-style big men, Kaminsky is a hot commodity. Even with all the hype surrounding him, Kaminsky has managed to stay level-headed and is excited to be returning to Madison for his senior season.
As of right now, DraftExpress has both of these guys projected as first rounders, and if Wisconsin's season goes as well as hoped, that should come true and end UW's miserable relationship with the first round of the draft.