With a little over two months left until the NBA Draft, the list of declarations is starting to finalize. There is a abundance of underclassmen talent entering the NBA draft this year, and the Big Ten is no exception.
Here is a closer look at the top five Big Ten underclassmen according to DraftExpress, with their potential landing spots for next season.
Player: OG Anunoby, Forward
School: Indiana Hoosiers
Strengths: At 6’8” 235 lbs, OG Anunoby is one of the best athletes in the entire draft. He is a great defender who finishes aggressively at the rim. Possessing a tremendous motor, Anunoby has the unique ability to defend NBA guards and forwards. This season (in 16 games), he averaged 11.1 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field.
Concerns: Not a refined scorer, Anunoby needs more polish to his offensive game. Must improve three-point shooting, which fell to 31 percent (14-45) from 44.8 percent (13-29) in 2015-16. Not a good free throw shooter (56 percent), and he is coming off surgery on right knee.
Conclusion: Anunoby is projected as a mid first-round pick. Currently, DraftExpress has Anunoby going to Portland with the No. 15 overall pick. He will provide a team with a great high-energy defender off the bench who will need to develop his offensive game over the next few seasons.
Player: Caleb Swanigan, Forward
School: Purdue Boilermakers
Strengths: One of the most improved players in college basketball this season. Swanigan averaged 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds en route to first-team All-American honors. He shot 52 percent from the field and improved his three-point shooting from 29 percent to 45 percent (38 of 85). Swanigan is a smart player that avoids foul trouble and makes his foul shots (78 percent). Still only 19 years old, Swanigan has a lot of time to improve.
Concerns: Still undersized as a power forward at the next level, Swanigan is not offensively skilled enough to play small forward. He is not a great athlete and lacks lateral quickness on defense. The biggest question is what position does he play in the NBA?
Conclusion: Swanigan declared last season without hiring an agent and returned to school after a poor showing at the combine in Chicago. He again has not hired an agent this season, which will allow him to again make an informed decision come May. Swanigan is projected in the late-first round, with DraftExpress penciling him in at the No. 29 pick to the San Antonio Spurs. That would be the perfect landing spot, as his unique skill set would only be enhanced by Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.
Player: D.J. Wilson, Forward
School: Michigan Wolverines
Strengths: Scouts love the versatility of the 6-foot-10, 240 lb forward from Michigan. The junior averaged 11 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game which shooting 37.3 percent from three-point range. Wilson’s length and athleticism allows him to disrupt on the defensive end, while being a matchup problem on offense.
Concerns: Wilson was an inconsistent scorer this season, with five single-digit scoring games in his last-ten regular season contests. He was great in the NCAA Tournament, but can he maintain that level? There are questions on his interior toughness on both ends, which is difficult with a 6-foot-10 frame.
Conclusion: Wilson has a lot of potential and could be blooming at the right time. If his ball-handling improves, he could have a long career at the small forward position. Projected as a late-first/early-second-round pick, Wilson is projected as the No. 34 overall pick to the talent-needy Sacramento Kings.
Player: Thomas Bryant, Center
School: Indiana Hoosiers
Strengths: You can’t teach size, and Thomas Bryant brings an imposing a 6-foot-10, 255 lb NBA-body. He possesses a great motor and passion for the game, and is also a fantastic competitor. Bryant averaged 12.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game this season, while shooting 73 percent from the foul line. He attempted four times as many three pointers, while shooting 38.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Concerns: Bryant did not improve as much as most predicted this season and he is still not rebounding as much as he should for his size. He also needs to get stronger and avoid careless fouls. Bryant could very well be a lottery pick if he returns for one more year to Indiana.
Conclusion: Bryant has great size, but is not viewed as an NBA contributor right away. He is a project and therefore is a clear second-round pick. Slotted as the No. 41 pick to Charlotte, Bryant has not hired an agent and has a good chance of returning to Indiana for his junior season.
Player: Nigel Hayes, Forward
School: Wisconsin Badgers
Strengths: Versatile and can play both inside and outside. At 6-foot-8, 240 lbs, Hayes is athletic enough to defend small and power forwards. He is a smart player who is an excellent passer, and doesn’t force shots on offense. He averaged 14 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.7 assists, while playing point-forward during most of the half-court sets.
Concerns: Is he too passive? Had a disappointing year for most of the season, until a strong NCAA Tournament. His scoring and assists averages both dropped from his junior season. Shot only 31.4 percent from three point range and 59 percent from the free throw line.
Conclusion: As a person, Hayes is second to none. Well spoken, intelligent, and a great ambassador for the college game. But there are questions surrounding his staying power at the next level. Hayes is in danger of not getting drafted and is only slotted to the Phoenix Suns at the No. 54 pick. Don’t you feel like he is the type of player that would thrive in San Antonio? Hayes is a true wild card come draft night.