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NBA Draft: Nigel Hayes Versus D.J. Wilson

Which Big Ten player will make the better NBA prospect?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Both players have declared for the NBA Draft. One is a senior. One is a junior.

Both have the offensive versatility to play inside or outside.

Senior Nigel Hayes of Wisconsin and junior D.J. Wilson of Michigan led their teams to the Sweet 16 and both players had great all around seasons. But who is the better NBA prospect?

Let’s take a closer look.

Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin)

The 22-year-old senior forward finished off his Wisconsin career in fine fashion. The versatile Hayes averaged 14.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. He finished the season playing his best basketball, scoring double digits in nine consecutive games. Hayes’ highlight was his 19 point, eight rebound performance in Wisconsin’s stunning NCAA tournament second round upset over top overall seed Villanova.

Nigel Hayes is a strong all around athlete. His 7’3” wingspan allows him score inside over much smaller defenders, while his strong mid-range shooting ability makes him a difficult matchup for traditional post players to defend.

At 6’8” and 240 lbs, it is difficult to project an exact position for Nigel Hayes as a professional. As a cerebral player, he has the ability to guard a range of positions. However, offensively he will need to improve his ball handling skills and three-point efficiency. Hayes only shot 31.4 percent (22 of 70) this season from beyond the arc.

D.J. Wilson (Michigan)

The 6’10” Michigan junior took a huge leap forward this season. D.J. Wilson increased his point per game from 2.9 to 11.0 points per game. He shot 53.8 percent from the field and showed his offensive versatility with 41 made three-pointers. Wilson was the fourth leading scorer, but led the Wolverines in rebounds averaging 5.3 per game.

Wilson got off to a strong start, highlighted by a 28 point, 14 rebound performance in an overtime January loss at Iowa. He saved his best basketball for the end of season, scoring in double figures during six of Michigan’s last seven games. Wilson led Michigan to a stunning upset over Purdue in the Big Ten tournament with a team high 26 points.

His biggest highlight of the season was making four consecutive free throws in the last 17 seconds of Michigan’s huge 73-69 second round NCAA tournament win over second seeded Louisville.

Despite leading the Wolverines in rebounds, there are concerns about his willingness to play inside. Wilson declared for the draft without signing with an agent, but the rumors are getting stronger that he is not returning to Michigan.

The Verdict

Both Nigel Hayes and D.J. Wilson project as second round NBA Draft picks. Both players have the ability to play inside while making mid-range and long distance jump shots. Hayes had the better overall college career, but Wilson had a greater seasonal impact this season. So who will be the better all-around professional prospect?

While both have concerns, D.J. Wilson could move into the first round with a strong showing at the NBA Combine in Chicago this week. It is critical for Wilson to demonstrate he can be physical against NBA level competition. If he convinces scouts of his interior toughness, Wilson could find himself with guaranteed money on the June 22nd draft night.

Nigel Hayes has been a fabulous winner at Wisconsin and is the quintessential student-athlete. But his weak ball-handling skills and confusing NBA position may cause teams to pass on him in the draft.

The lanky and versatile D.J. Wilson of Michigan is the better long term NBA prospect.