The Big Ten represented well in the 2014 NBA draft with 7 total draft picks, including 3 draftees in the top 15. Interestingly enough, only one of those draftees was a one-and-done (Noah Vonleh). That makes the Big Ten the exception when it comes to churning out draft prospects.
The crop of 2015 NBA Draft is no different. Although there are plenty of top recruits coming to the Big Ten, I'd be surprised if any of them going one-and-done. The vast majority of the Big Ten's top prospects are upperclassmen, seasoned and developed in the best conference in basketball. Let's see who ranks at the top.
These guys could eek into the second round and find a spot as role players in the future. But don't get too excited about them.
Branden Dawson, Michigan State
Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State
Jake Layman, Maryland
Shavon Shields, Nebraska
The most intriguing one in that crop is Russell from Ohio State. The 5-star freshman could come out of nowhere to provide some much needed scoring to the Buckeyes. With Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson returning to the backcourt, they'll be solid. But Russell's scoring could set him apart, and scouts could fall in love with his potential as a shooter.
5. A.J. Hammonds, Purdue
After two years on a middling Boilermakers squad, Hammons decided to make the NBA wait one more year and return for his junior season. To me, that was the right call. Hammons has been blessed with incredible physical gifts. He's a legit 7-footer and can move his 260 lb frame around with efficiency. However, he has yet to cultivate a polished offensive game. Defensively, he's solid. He averaged 3.1 blocks per game last year and remains a force to be reckoned with down low. His size and defensive potential alone will have NBA teams salivating in the late first round to early second round. However, his current footwork and shooting will not cut it if he hopes to remain in the pros. Luckily for Hammons, 7-footers don't come around too often. Someone will take a chance on him.
4. Terran Petteway, Nebraska
Those who follow Big Ten basketball know the scoring prowess of Terran Petteway. He averaged 18 points a game in his first season at Nebraska last season. On top of that, his long and athletic frame makes his defensive potential equally high. But how will NBA GMs view a pure scorer from a team like Nebraska? These GMs are creatures of habit and hold strong biases and prejudices. Knowing that Nebraska isn't a basketball powerhouse, will they see Petteway's stats and dismiss them? I hope not. Unless Petteway blows up so much that he receives national attention, I think Nebraska's lack of a reputation as a basketball school could hold him back.
3. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
I'm not as bullish on Kaminsky's pro prospects as I once was. Nor am I as bullish on the likelihood that he continues to improve next season. I fear the insertion of Nigel Hayes into the starting lineup will create a frontcourt logjam for the Badgers. Both Hayes and Kaminsky thrive with the ball in their hands. Will Kaminsky be able to dominate offensively with less room to work with down low? I think he can. However, I don't see Kaminsky landing anywhere near the lottery next season. If he continues to shoot the lights out from the outside, he'll be in good shape. But he still needs to prove he can match up physically with NBA-level bigs.
2. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
Sam Dekker's summer has been perfect for his NBA prospects. He grew two inches and stood out as the best player at the LeBron James skills academy. NBA scouts of all sorts have been raving about his assertiveness and improved outside shooting touch. Because of that momentum, his stock can only go up from here. Let's say Dekker has a season similar to last year: never really dominates offensively but shows his athleticism, defensive potential, and understanding of offensive spacing. He'd wind up somewhere in the top 20. But all signs are pointing to Dekker turning into a totally different player offensively. If his shooting touch improves, especially from the outside, he could sneak into the back end of the lottery. He has the tools to become a solid pro on the right NBA team, but doesn't have the "star" potential just yet.
1. Caris LeVert, Michigan
Unlike Dekker and Kaminsky, LeVert will be the undisputed star of the 2014-15 Michigan squad. We saw him develop from a bench contributor to a legitimate scoring threat last season. Now that he's the centerpiece of their offense, he's in the perfect position to become a top-10 draft pick. I see him averaging around 17 points a game next season. This is a hot take, but I could see people making Jalen Rose comparisons. While LeVert doesn't play the point, he's a great ballhandler for his size (about 6'6" to 6'7"). With no one to steal his spotlight or his numbers, LeVert has the talent to take full advantage of his new star status. John Beilein excels with player-development, and LeVert will be his next masterpiece.