The Water's Fine: Which Players Are Testing the Water? | The Weekend Warrior
Stephen Gillaspie dives into some of the top players that have declared for the NBA Draft while maintaining eligibility.
The Water’s Fine
2018 feels a lot further away than five years ago. The Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle took place, for those that are still into the Monarchy. Apple reached a net worth of—*makes “Dr. Evil” hand gesture*—$1 trillion. “Black Panther” was the highest-grossing movie in the United States. The much anticipated “Infinity War” occurred. Drake, Ed Sheeran, Cardi B, Post Malone, Imagine Dragons, and Maroon 5 were topping the charts. Of course, who could forget the 2018 NBA Draft? Deandre Ayton was selected #1 overall, followed shortly by the infamous Trae-Young-for-Luka-Doncic deal. We’re not going to dive into that.
While those major pop culture events took place, something that may have been seen as insignificant at the time also came to fruition. 2018 would be the year that the NCAA would relax a long-standing rule to allow prospects to partake in the NBA Combine, partner with agencies, receive feedback, and, if a player so chooses, maintain eligibility for further development. This change in 2018 has had some modifications, while also existing alongside rules that allowed more fluid use of the Transfer Portal, giving players an additional year of eligibility due to the impact of COVID, and NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) monetary gains.
Since the implementation of this (and others) rule, NCAA student-athletes have been granted the most freedom that has ever existed. These mechanisms have, in many ways, helped to keep talented in college hoops for longer periods of time while, simultaneously, giving NBA teams the chance to draft more developed players to their organizations. Throughout the seasons that have followed, there have been examples of how these rules have benefitted and negatively impacted the stock of a prospect. This coming draft class is no different.
We’ll take a look at the players that have opted to “test the waters” for the draft. The goal for them is simple: see what teams think about them. Should the prospects get the feedback that pleases them, they are afforded the chance to keep their names in the draft and move on with their professional goals. If they get less-than-favorable feedback, maintaining their eligibility will allow that player to either: 1) Return to their previous team. 2) Transfer to another university. 3) Look for opportunities within the OTE, G League Ignite, NBL, or elsewhere. Of course, there could be more names that decide to “test the waters” after this column is released…we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
Let’s talk shop.
Freshman | Ohio State | Forward | 6’6” | 240 pounds
We’ll start with Brice Sensabaugh because he is the biggest name that has decided to test. He has received favorable rankings from the No Ceilings family (and others) throughout the draft cycle. In our latest BIG Board, Sensabaugh ranked 14th. Coming into the season as a Top 50 player, Brice fought his way off of the bench, having a remarkably efficient season on remarkable volume. Regarded as a “scorer” first, he also shot over 40% from deep on 4.5 attempts per game. The biggest knocks against Brice are the defense, the passing metrics, and the propensity for his shot to always appear to be difficult. Be those as they may, the stocky Buckeye prospect put up numbers that suggest he should be Top 10.
So, why test vice declare outright? That’s a great question. I could only think of a few reasons. One, it’s never a bad thing to keep all options open. More importantly, Brice returning to dominate college (or other) hoops could vault him into being one of—if not the—top picks in the subsequent draft. NBA teams may have concerns, but there is no doubt that Sensabaugh is one of the most complete scoring options available in this class.
Freshman | Wake Forest | Forward/Big | 6’10” | 225 pounds
I wrote about Bobi Klintman back in December, and I really hammered down on not being too focused on his raw production, but really stressed the factors to consider for him in the early part of the season. He had just moved from Sweden to Kansas, then to North Carolina. He had recently put weight onto his recently changed frame. He had to transition from the international style of play into becoming indoctrinated into the American style. That’s a lot for a young man to process in a short period of time.
From December on, Klintman began to grow more comfortable on a senior team. His shooting (36.8% from deep on 2.3 attempts per game), vision, and defense (3.2 Block Percentage) were all on display, as “The Swede Freak” averaged 5.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.5 BPG, 0.3 SPG while playing 20.0 minutes per game. Considering his usage (15.1), Bobi made a heck of an impact throughout the season. He even put up a 17 and 11 game against Syracuse in the Conference Tourney.
Klintman has a lot of fans. The numbers, at merely face value, don’t scream top pick. However, turning on his film and watching him go to work, it’s extremely difficult to imagine NBA front offices not dreaming about what he could become in an ideal situation. The beautiful thing about Bobi’s situation is that he doesn’t have to be picky. Should an NBA fall in love and make a promise in a range that he finds favorable, then that’s fantastic. He also has the opportunity to return and be a top pick next year.
Sophomore | Santa Clara | Guard/Wing | 6’5” | 200 pounds
Who could have predicted the improbable rise of the transfer from Illinois, Brandin Podziemski? In what was his (technically) Freshman season, Brandin only played in 16 games while averaging 4.3 minutes played per game. Fast forward to this season, “Air Podz” played—and started—in all 32 games, playing 36 MPG. In that time, he logged 19.9 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 3.7 APG, and 1.8 SPG. The move to follow Jalen Williams in leading the charge for the Broncos seemed to be the correct move.
Podziemski showed a ton of offensive talent this past season. On 5.8 attempts per game, Brandin shot 43.8% from distance while knocking down 51.3% of his twos. His efficiency on offense is up there among the best in all of college hoops. On top of that, he has a tremendous rebounding rate, a good assist percentage, and a very solid steals percentage. The numbers pale in comparison to the film, which points to a player with such good feel making a play with or without the ball.
Brandin maintaining his eligibility while getting feedback from NBA front offices makes a ton of sense. While he has been a riser throughout the season, the majority of scouting services have him as a second round talent. In the latest No Ceilings BIG Board, "Air Podz” came in at 37. Since the release of the board, there are those that are ranked ahead of him have committed to returning. Similar to Bobi, Brandin has the ability to be picky by either being a late first/early second round pick or have an increased probability of being drafted high next season.
Senior | Kansas | Wing | 6’6” | 210 pounds
Kevin McCullar has been on scouting radars for several years now. The big question with him had been health and shooting. After transferring from Texas Tech to Kansas, McCullar took on a much more disciplined role on a team with championship aspirations. Despite not reaching that goal, Kansas had a successful season—in large part due to the contributions Kevin brought to the team.
Playing in 34 games (a career-best for Kevin, so far), McCullar was entrusted to pick up the toughest assignments within the Big 12. Having tremendous athleticism and a knack for mucking things up, Kevin posted a Steals Percentage of 3.7 and a Block Percentage of 2.6. On top of that, McCullar was one of the more tenacious glass eaters in the NCAA. He posted a Defensive Rebounding Percentage of 20.8—grabbing 7.0 total boards a night. He didn’t improve his three-point shot—a concern he’s had every season—but he did shoot a career-high in free-throw percentage.
While other prospects have the luxury of being a little choosy, McCullar has a tough decision to make this season. He’s shown his worth as a versatile defensive playmaker, while also being a threat within several areas of the offense, but his outside shot percentage has only been as high as 31.3% (last season). Kansas has proven to be a place where upperclassmen can thrive, so it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for him to be a Jayhawk for one more season.
Junior | Virginia | Guard | 6’3” | 190 pounds
Since the January timeframe, Reece Beekman has been slated as a second round prospect by the consensus. With his defensive reputation and effectiveness from downtown, many have come to believe that Reece has a chance to be an NBA player. That is saying a lot, considering how much attention has been on the height of players in today’s NBA, and the probability that a player under 6’4” has of succeeding seems to be dwindling by the game.
Those concerns haven’t knocked Beekman too much this year, even with an injury he sustained in the early part of 2023. Reece has demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities, pit bull-like defensive intensity, and a steady outside shot. With the NBA putting the ball in the hands of gargantuan playmakers, guards of Beekman’s height—while not as deep as yester-year—still find ways to make an incredible impact for their respective organizations. Beekman has shot over 35% from three this season and has improved that jumper each year. He’s averaged over 5.0 APG the past two years, while also nabbing 130 steals in that time.
What Beekman does will be very interesting. His measurements will be vital; he’ll need to be all of his listed height to help teams feel more confident, but it also shouldn’t disqualify him from consideration should he “only” be 6’2”. His consistency to be considered anywhere in the second round will likely help teams feel comfortable with the idea of him—along with his impressive film. With several believing that “you can get a 6’3” guard anywhere,” teams that have picks in both rounds might spend their second round capital on this guy. If not, he’ll have no shortage of opportunities in the NCAA.
Junior | Tulane | Wing | 6’5” | 192 pounds
Tulane had a number of players on their roster that have been flirting with being draftable this season, with Jaylen Forbes being, perhaps, their most NBA-ready prospect. For good reason too, as the fourth-year junior has averaged 38.8% from distance on 7.3 attempts per game this year. The Waves played a very fun style of ball, with Forbes, being one of the most reliable catch-and-shoot players in college hoops, serving as the ultimate floor spacer to open things up for his teammates.
Synergy graded Jaylen out in the 70th percentile (Very Good) on spot-up opportunities and in the 81st percentile (Very Good) in off-screen actions. Being guarded didn’t seem to bother him all that much, as Forbes ranked within the 74th percentile (Very Good) when shooting guarded jumpers. Beyond being “just a shooter,” Forbes displayed some nifty ball handling and instinctual cutting.
The ability for Forbes to rise into “draftable” status in this class has already happened, but he could rise even more by playing the numbers game. Should more prospects declare, it might make sense for Jaylen to get feedback and return for another year. But, if the handful of players that have not yet decided to declare—or others that are testing decide to return—Jaylen could be in prime position to be taken in the second round in the coming draft.
Junior | Marquette | Wing/Forward | 6’8” | 230 pounds
It’s a wing’s league. At least, that’s what they say regarding to the NBA. If that is the case, then there are going to be fans of Olivier-Maxence Prosper in the coming weeks. O-Max is not the only Marquette to be in this quasi-second round territory, but he is the one that is the most NBA-ready and has the most translatable qualities. Prosper is an athletic wing/forward that has some intriguing defensive capability. While his analytics do not scream “NBA Player” the film shows a young man that is switchable and capable.
The reservations that exist with Prosper begin with the jumper. On 3.2 attempts from three-point range per game, OMP was only able to average 33.9% shooting. Now, it’s worth noting that he has improved on his volume and efficiency each year he’s played in the NCAA. On his twos, O-Max scored on 62.4%—showing why he grades out in the 90th percentile (Excellent) on cutting to the rim. His combination of defense and mature offensive approach have piqued the interest of many in the draft space.
While it is a wing’s league, there are several at his position that can space the floor better than Prosper initially. The history of “non-shooting” wings being able to make an impact are pretty slim, usually with the success stories coming from higher draft picks. That being said, the projection of players with his size stop within a certain range. There’s no urgency for him to have to commit to remaining in the draft, so Olivier-Maxence can compete in the combine with absolute freedom—and that might could him a quick, late riser on draft boards.
Freshman | Syracuse | Guard | 6’3” | 172 pounds
Judah Mintz came into this cycle with a significant amount of buzz around his name. The 6’3” freshman was viewed as a very good athlete, with excellent body control and feel. Mintz did exhibit a number of those traits, dropping 16.3 PPG and 4.6 APG. The role and playing time were there all season long for Judah, but there were just enough holes in his campaign to be an NBA player.
The 27.2 Assist Percentage on 27.5 Usage Percentage were among the best analytical qualities that Judah demonstrated. On defense, he became a bit of a steal-monger in the patented 2/3 Syracuse Zone defense. That reflected nicely with him recording a 3.2 Steals Percentage. The efficiency and shooting numbers were the biggest knocks against Judah and, at his size, those are considerable negatives. On low volume (2.1 three-point attempts per game), Mintz only knocked down 30.3% from deep. It’s worth noting that from February on, Judah knocked down 52.4% of his threes on 2.3 attempts per game. However, his finishing numbers remained low all season.
Coming into the season, Mintz didn’t rank on the No Ceilings BIG Board or on and $DRFT reports. The consensus has remained skeptical on him as a definite prospect to be drafted, but his name has been swirling around “striking range” throughout. It’s a smart move to get feedback on what he’ll need to do to improve and, perhaps, return to Syracuse to play with transfer talent, JJ Starling.
Freshman | Texas | Forward | 6’8” | 205 pounds
Dillon Mitchell was highly regarded as one of the premiere prospects in the current draft class. With an RSCI ranking of #5, Mitchell came in at #9 in the first Initial Player Offerings. With crazy natural athleticism and a reputation as a nasty defender, Mitchell had the chance to be a for-sure lottery pick. That didn’t play itself out for Dillon at Texas.
Mitchell averaged 4.3 PPG on just over 3.0 field goal attempts per contest. None of those attempts came from beyond the arc. Playing on a team with a number of upperclassmen, Dillon did start all 38 games he played in, but only logged 17.5 minutes per outing. Mitchell did convert on over 63% of his shots, with the majority of those shots coming from within arms reach. Struggling to move the ball much—or even dribble—Dillon was still able to have good defensive moments with a Steals & Blocks Percentage of 2.0, along with solid rebounding.
There have been a number of prospects that have gotten the benefit of the draft from NBA front offices—players that came into the season with high rankings but failing to meet the expectations that come along with that. There is something to be said for a freshman for starting on a team like Texas and contributing to a team that made a deep run in March Madness. It only takes one team to fall in love with a player, and testing the waters is Step One in courting a potential match.
Junior | Illinois | Forward/Big | 6’10” | 225 pounds
From one prospect that helped a team to make a deep run to another, Coleman Hawkins has been a name in circulation within the draft community for a while now. Hawkins is player with decent size that presents a unique skill set that NBA teams could find appealing. On a team with players like Terrence Shannon Jr. and Matthew Mayer, Hawkins was asked to play a pivotal role on both sides of the ball.
One of the things that Hawkins tried to improve upon this season was trying to be a reliable shooter from deep. He did put up 4.0 attempts from distance per game, but he only connected on 28.0%. While he wasn’t an ace on his threes, Coleman did average 3.0 APG. The ability to have the offense flow through him is appealing. Defensively, Coleman averaged over a steal and a block per game. The potential for him to be able to cover some ground on defense may be enough to get him some real looks.
With Illinois having their leadership publicly questioned by their own head coach isn’t a ringing endorsement for people evaluating their talent. Without the jumper being reliable at any point in his three years of college, teams will likely be concerned on how much they can trust him without the ball in his hands. Hawkins has enough uniqueness to his game to get feedback, return for another year, and be one of the most sought-after upperclassmen next year.
Junior | Rutgers | Big | 6’11” | 240 pounds
With the importance of “The Big Man” rising to the forefront once again, players like Cliff Omoruyi are, perhaps, falling a little too much under the radar within the draft space. “6’11”, 240 pounds” on a digital page doesn’t do his physical presence justice. While he does not pose a shooting threat, NBA teams could find his tools very intriguing.
Cliff is a monster on the glass. In about 30 MPG, he grabbed just under 10 RPG—3.1 on the offensive glass per game. While he’s not a shooter, Omoruyi has shot over 50% from the floor within all three seasons he’s played in college. On top of that, Cliff is a ridiculous shot-blocker. He averaged over 2.0 BPG, while producing a Block Percentage of 8.9%!
The decision to maintain his eligibility makes a lot of sense. Cliff could impress a lot of important people and stay in, or he could return for another year of seasoning. While many have concerns about age, it’s hard to deny a physical presence such as Cliff. The ceiling could be a little limited, but Omoruyi does do a lot of things that NBA teams want from their bigs.
Senior | Dayton | Forward/Big | 6’8” | 220 pounds
Have you seen the film from the Portsmouth Invitational? If so, you may have seen Toumani Camara having some very good moments against a pretty good field of players. Dayton has been fortunate enough to have a player of Camara’s caliber to compete alongside DaRon Holmes. Those two gave the Flyers a frontcourt that could get drafted this season.
Toumani possesses a skillset that fits the modern NBA game. Last season, Camara averaged close to 34% from three on 1.9 attempts per game. This year he was able to shoot over 36% on 2.4 attempts. His slashing ability is sound, as he ranked within the 77th percentile (Very Good) on his cuts. He works hard on the glass as well, nabbing 2.3 ORPG while ranking in the 79th percentile (Very Good) on putbacks.
Camara is a very efficient player, as I noted in a statistical query I ran in my piece on Arthur Kaluma on April 11th. Like I noted for Omoruyi previously, Toumani could be a dude that gets the age knock. He seems to be a bit aware of that by maintaining his eligibility. The strong PIT outing might be enough to get the wheels pumping in the right direction, which is exactly the type of benefit testing the waters can provide.
Sophomore | Texas | Guard | 6’ | 175 pounds
Tyrese Hunter came into the season with some people believing he could be a first round player—or, at least, a solid second rounder. Now, even the second round seems like it could be a fight for him to land in. Similar to the aforementioned Dillon Mitchell, Tyrese started and played in all 38 games he played in—only he played over 30 minutes per game.
Hunter did improve his three-point shot—a necessity for him after his freshman campaign at Iowa State. After shooting 27.4% last year, Hunter upped his attempts from deep to 4.4 per game and shot just under 34% this season. He also boosted his free throw percentage to 80%. What took a drastic fall was his defensive ability. He averaged 2.0 SPG last year, with his average falling to 0.8 this year. His 4.9 APG in the prior year fell to 2.5. This had a lot to do with Marcus Carr asserting himself as the lead ball-handler for the Longhorns this season.
Hunter has the chance to get some feedback and apply it for what is likely to be another year of college hoops. His height is a concern, but it’s obviously not something he can improve. He is very athletic, but the finishing and shooting numbers need to continue to climb is he is ever to get a real shot in the NBA.
Senior | TCU | Wing/Forward | 6’7” | 217 pounds
The majority of the attention from fans watching TCU games this season went to Mike Miles Jr., and there was good reason for that. However, many would tune in to watch Mike but they stayed to watch Emanuel Miller. Brother of G League Ignite prospect Leonard Miller, Emanuel has a completely different style of game compared to his younger sibling.
The senior had a heck of a season shooting the ball, connecting on 39.2% on his threes. Now, the volume isn’t that high (1.6 attempts per game), but the shot is very pretty. That low volume meant that the majority of his shots came from inside the line, and he connected on 52.5% of those looks. His rebounding was also pretty solid too, registering a 7.2 Offensive Rebounding Percentage and a 17.9 on the defensive glass. His defense was very solid as well, displaying the ability to cover a few different positions. The “age” tag doesn’t help him; neither did his ability to get to the line. This sort of “pigeon-holes” him into a spot-up role, with slim likelihood to handle the rock.
Emanuel has a shot to impress, but the ability of him to get his name out there to more NBA front offices is a savvy move. This will give Miller a shot to come back and improve on some more offensive versatility.
Sophomore | Washington State | Big | 6’11” | 210 pounds
Standing nearly 7 feet tall, Mouhamed Gueye is the embodiment of a hypothetical player. He’s long, he’s tall, and he moves fluidly. There have been some flashes of moments to where he looks like he could be a stretch big. The handle is just wiggly enough to where you could believe that some self-creation may not be out of the question. He’s gadgety enough to think that he could be a lethal weapon (shoutout Mel Gibson and Danny Glover). So, what’s the hang up? Why isn’t he in position to declare with utter surety that a team will take him at a favorable spot?
For starters, he’s been less efficient with more playing time in his second season. His steals and blocks per game stayed about the same. He’s not strong enough, yet, to be an effective big in the NBA, yet he isn’t an actualized shooter. The handle isn’t sophisticated enough to be an NBA perimeter-oriented frontcourt player. That’s the tough thing with hypothetical players; they aren’t where they need to be.
With all of that being said, Gueye is making a good decision by getting in front of executives and scouts. The good thing that his player type has going for them, is that they attract that “sport’s car stare”. It’s super easy to fall in love with the idea of what they could be. The feedback is more likely to have real encouragement behind it, as teams will really want him to be a successful NBA player.
Freshman | Dayton | Wing | 6’8” | 180 pounds
Mike Sharavjamtz had one of the most fascinating surges of coverage in the early portion of the college basketball season. A player of his height and feel are usually at the forefront of desirable traits for NBA teams. The height-of-eye advantage “Mongolian Mike” possesses gives him angles that you simply cannot teach. Beyond the feel, Sharavjamtz has displayed a little bit of touch.
While the touch has been teased a little, he was only a 31.5% three-point shooter on 2.9 attempts per game. Like Gueye, Sharavjamtz is a bit of a hypothetical prospect. His height-to-feel ratio is tantalizing, but he is not yet physically strong enough to endure a wide variety of NBA-level athletes. It’s the reason why he doesn’t grade favorably in most play types outside of spot-ups. It’s largely why he’s a 38.8% shooter from the floor overall. It has impacted Mike’s ability to defend a ton of positions.
Testing the waters makes some sense for Mike, though. He’s well aware that he needs to improve his strength, and there’s only so much a player can do during one year of college ball to improve that. Once he does get a little tougher, it’s easy to assume that his weakness shore up. Should that occur, teams could have on their hands a wing-creator that can bend the defense. Even if teams think Sharavjamtz could use another year, they will find reasons to be impressed with his game.
Freshman | Kentucky | Wing | 6’6” | 220 pounds
Many were shocked to see Chris Livingston declare for the NBA Draft. If members of the draft community were told before the season began that Chris was going to have a season like the one he had, many probably would have been in disbelief. Livingston came into the season being ranked 25th on the Initial Player Offerings, earning the 23rd spot on the first No Ceilings BIG Board. As the season played out, though, Chris would see his star gradually fall.
While Kentucky didn’t have a ton of star power on the wings, Livingston only averaged 6.3 PPG and 4.2 RPG. He recorded a 42.9 field goal percentage, a 30.5% three-point percentage on only 1.7 attempts per game, and less than one assist and steal per game. Chris showed solid cutting instincts at different moments during the season, but on low volume. On spot ups and in transition, Synergy has him graded out as “Average”, and “Below Average” on handoffs. With a low steals and assist percentage, it was only a matter of time before we saw Livingston receive less-than-favorable draft projections.
Despite an under-achieving season, Livingston still may have enough to impress the right people in the combines and in workouts. Players that come into the season with higher expectations will typically receive more of a benefit of the doubt. He has the size and athleticism, and he could also benefit from the historic “Kentucky Bump”—the belief that he may have stuff in his bag that he had to sacrifice for the greater good for the team at large.
Senior | Western Kentucky | Big | 7’5” | 235 pounds
One of the more popular comments that has been in circulation in the draft space throughout the season is: Walker Kessler having the season he’s had as a rookie is going to get others drafted and paid. That was the belief with Donovan Clingan (before he opted to return, obviously), but who will be the beneficiary of Kessler’s success now? Jamarion Sharp may be the “hidden-in-plain-sight” candidate. That’s strange thing to say considering his build.
Of course, he’s ginormous. He and Zach Edey are the lone gargantuans that would not shrink standing next to Victor Wembanyama. Similar to Kessler in his class, Sharp is leading this current class in block percentage at 15.8%. What’s crazy is that Kessler has a 3.0% lead when comparing seasons. That’s where the two diverge. Kessler is a better mover, has better vision, better shooting touch, and can have offensive sets run through him at a way higher level.
The decision to test the waters makes sense for Jamarion. He honestly has nothing to lose. What may end up being the better decision was for him to enter the transfer portal. The fact that Jamarion played for Western Kentucky while registering all of those blocks may have some people feeling skeptical. With limited offensive versatility, Sharp has the chance to earn more NIL money with a larger program after getting the needed feedback.
Senior | Kentucky | Big | 6’9” | 252 pounds
Kentucky just didn’t perform up to the standard many had placed on the blue blood university. Oscar Tshiebwe, the 2021-2022 AP Player of the Year did a great job of setting the table for himself this season only to see a number of his numbers take a step in the wrong direction while playing more minutes per game. Oscar does have a skill that stands out as elite among anyone else in this class, but how important and desirable is that elite skill with everything else that comes along with his game?
While the numbers did fall compared to last year, Tshiebwe still averages 13.7 RPG. His offensive rebound percentage of 19.5 was second in the NCAA, while his 27.9 defensive rebounding percentage was 8th overall. Oscar is very strong, and can set some jaw-jarring screens as well. He has a few moves around the rim that helps him finish on the interior. His shooting touch, however, doesn’t extend very far. Defensively, Oscar is undersized and hasn’t shown the consistency that is required to be an anchor, nor the versatility to be trusted on switches.
While Oscar isn’t the ideal size, he has shown the ability to be an elite rebounder for several seasons. Testing the waters for him is feels like a formality. The NIL money for him is going to be there. It’s just a matter of what kind of interest teams have in him. Even if he doesn’t get drafted, Tshiebwe would get an undrafted free agent stint—at minimum. With what we’ve seen from players and agents preferring the undrafted route, Oscar may be able to negotiate his way to a team that falls in love with his motor. Or, he could go stack more accolades next to his name for another year. Either way sounds like a win.
Sophomore | Weber State | Wing/Forward | 6’6” | 235 pounds
There have been a number of multi-tooled, multi-faceted, combo-forwards that have left a good impression on scouts throughout the season, but Dillon Jones has probably the most under-the-radar prospect within that player type. Though he is listed as a Sophomore, Jones completed his third season with Weber State. This season was the best of his amateur career.
While averaging 16.7 PPG and 10.9 RPG, Dillon finished the year as an analytical darling. He had a Free Throw rate of 51.9, which reflects his knack for getting to his spots on the floor and putting pressure on the defense. He also helped his team out a ton, putting up an Assist Percentage of 24.0. While he did show the propensity to be a jumbo-creator of sorts, his three-point percentage did take a fall. Last season, Dillon averaged 35.4% from distance on 2.5 attempts per game, but this year he tallied a three-point percentage of 30.3% on 3.7 attempts an outing. While that may be discouraging, Jones is also a career 80% free-throw shooter.
Trying out in the combine while maintaining eligibility is a brilliant call on Jones’s part. While he is an “older” sophomore, Dillon has plenty of time to show that he can apply feedback—which will only draw more intrigue. It is interesting that Dillon didn’t/hasn’t yet (whichever is more accurate) enter the transfer portal. He may get the mid-major/small-major knock that comes along with playing for a team like that. Even still, Jones is going to walk out of this process either with more fans in front offices, or more dangerous in college hoops.
Sophomore | SMU | Guard | 6’5” | 195 pounds
One of the more interesting players that didn’t have their names in circulation through many in the draft space, Zhuric Phelps is in prime position to leave the draft process with significant buzz. On the season Zhuric averaged 17.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.2 APG, and 2.3 SPG. Phelps has a good handle and has a natural ability to put the ball in the basket.
Now, while Zhuric filled up the stat sheet, he did struggle with efficiency. His field goal percentage only came out to be at about 39%, and he only logged a 30.9% from three on 5.1 attempts per game. The negative is that he also isn’t a good free-throw shooter. Defensively, Phelps is a bit of a pest. His 2.3 steals per game also is married to a 4.1 steals percentage—which is tied for 35th in all of the NCAA. While he is a fine passer, he isn’t one that will likely lead a first or second unit. Even still, Phelps is a pretty good pick-and-roll operator—ranking in the 57th percentile (Good) in that play type.
There is absolutely no rush (in terms of on-court play) for Phelps to feel like this cycle is his one time for a chance to be drafted. He’s also another example of a player that hasn’t entered the transfer portal that is trying to test the waters on a team that could probably use some more help. Realistically, a player that is about 6’4 that isn’t a great shooter has a steep hill to climb. Zhuric does have a number of physical traits and on-ball equity that could be very interesting should he improve in the ways that NBA teams may advise him to.
Plenty of Room
We’ve seen that there are a number of players that are going to get their temperature checked in the draft process, but there are still a number of players that haven’t made their intentions clear to this point. Adem Bona, Julian Phillips, DaRon Holmes, Tucker DeVries, Jordan Walsh, Trey Alexander, Andre Jackson Jr., Nae’Qwan Tomlin, Isaiah Wong, Oso Ighodaro, Zach Edey, Arthur Kaluma, Emoni Bates, Ryan Kalkbrenner, Tyler Burton, Kobe Brown, KJ Adams Jr., Javian McCollum, Oumar Ballo, Eric Gaines, Josiah-Jordan James, Jalen Bridges, and a handful of international prospects are still pending as of this article.
There are also more than 50 prospects that either have declared or do not have the ability to return that have strong cases for themselves to be drafted. At the end of the day, sometimes the draft comes down to a numbers game. Allowing players the choice to try again next time is best for the player and the draft. It also makes our jobs here at No Ceilings more fun! Be sure to stay tuned for more commentary about the players that have a shot at being drafted. We’re in DRAFT SEASON, BABY!
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