While it starts only as a dream for many; through hard work, dedication, sacrifice and certainly a bit of natural talent, sixty players are fortunate enough to hear their name announced as a selection in the NBA Draft each year. Whether a player is selected with the #1 pick or the #60 pick, nothing is ever guaranteed.
After all, Darko Milicic was selected by the Detroit Pistons #2 overall in 2003 behind LeBron James... the same draft that produced a certain player named Dwyane Wade. Also throw in Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, and that top 5 tells you one thing: nothing is a guarantee.
Then take a player like current Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas, who was selected with the last overall pick, #60, to become an NBA All-Star. While not all roads to NBA stardom are created equal, the opportunity to find vast success or disappointment is there for all 60 selections. It's the end of one journey and the beginning of another one, and for a few of the Big Ten's brightest stars of the past few years, that journey will officially begin tonight.
While it teeters back and forth, the Big Ten appears to have two surefire first round selections with likely lottery pick Deyonta Davis, accompanied by Denzel Valentine, who seems to have projections anywhere from late lottery to mid 20s. Both players, of course, are former Michigan State Spartans.
So on top of those two first round picks, who else could sneak into the first round?
Of course, the usual suspects around mock drafts have been former Maryland Terrapin big man Diamond Stone along with former Purdue Boilermaker A.J. Hammons. If I had to pick one more player from the BIg Ten that might slip into the first round, I could see a potential Robert Carter Jr. appearance, the former Maryland Terrapin. His style and skillset fits in with the NBA game so wonderfully that it would be hard to fault a team for taking a gamble on him at the end of the first round.
Then, there's the more obscure questions surrounding the conference heading into Draft Night. Where do guys like Jarrod Uthoff from the Iowa Hawkeyes or Yogi Ferrell from the Indiana Hoosiers end up? Another former Maryland Terrapin, Jake Layman, appears to be a prototype NBA wing player, could he slip into the draft? All three seem to be players who could use a few years to develop into liable options at the NBA level, so it might be more important where they go as opposed to when they go.
All things considered, the most interesting question of this draft might be the one surrounding Caris LeVert. Certainly, at some point, the former Michigan Wolverine will hear his name called. But when? What team will see his talent level and feel comfortable enough with it and what their work has told them about whether or not his talent outweighs the risk from his health issues? LeVert, outside of perhaps Valentine, boasts more pure skill than anyone else among these Big Ten alums. He could prove to be an enormous steal in the mid-late second round if his body doesn't continue to betray him.
As was mentioned, this is the beginning of a new journey for our former Big Ten stars. However, as they move on, as fans we'll continue to watch and root for them as they continue their basketball careers following their life in our wonderful Big Ten Conference.