The NBA Draft Is a Complicated Beast; Let’s Just Stay Out of It

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 18th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Every year brings its share of puzzling NBA Draft decisions, and most of the frustration is typically captured by one underlying theme: he left too early. This year’s draft enigma was confusing for an entirely different reason. It was confusing because Marcus Smart, a consensus top-five pick in next month’s draft, elected to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season. The commentary on Smart’s decision has been a disconcerting mix of perplexity, misunderstood motives and an unexpected dose of condescending admonishment, with almost no reactive excitement – the best freshman in college basketball, and one of the best players overall, is returning next season, and no one has anything positive to say about it?! Isn’t this the exact development we spend countless words and digital ink groaning about each and every summer?!

No decision has generated more Buzz than Smart's choice to play another year at Oklahoma State (AP Photo).

No decision has generated more Buzz than Smart’s choice to play another year at Oklahoma State (AP Photo).

The early draft decision headlines have served as collective petri dish dissection of Smart’s purportedly misguided decision. But guess what? Other players are making very important decisions about their professional futures, too, and not all of them are as procedural and predictable and academic as Smart’s relative draft-media monopoly might lead you to believe. I’ll offer you two recent decisions (or non-decisions) that, while nothing close to Smart-level Big 12 rippling waves, will change the ways their respective teams are evaluated entering next season.

First up is James Michael McAdoo, who announced Tuesday he plans to return to North Carolina for his junior season. It’s difficult to fathom now, but McAdoo was once considered among the very best players in the country last summer. He was supposed to help bridge the gap between the Kendall Marshall-Tyler Zeller super team and a new and customarily talented re-tooled Tar Heels group. You probably didn’t hear much about McAdoo last season, for reasons good and not, but as UNC picked up steam in February and into March, and the true latent potential of Marcus Paige and P.J. Hairston began to turn a mediocre transition season into a legitimately scary Third Round proposition, North Carolina offered an entertaining preview of the high-win outfit it can and should rightfully become next season. McAdoo was a major collaborator in coach Williams’ midseason small-ball transformation – wherein UNC eschewed a traditional two-big lineup in favor of using McAdoo at the five and Hairston as a “power forward” – and UNC can rekindle that dynamic next season with a highly touted recruiting class, more experience and a better collective comprehension of the system. The upshot for McAdoo is more wins, a bigger national spotlight and another chance to round out his game for NBA scouts. Good deal.

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On the Injustice That Is the Way-Too-Soon NBA Draft Deadline

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 15th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Just last week, Louisville and Michigan were playing one of the most entertaining NCAA Tournament championship games in years. Luke Hancock was scorching threes, Kevin Ware was blissfully crutching his way around a confetti-drenched Georgia Dome, and Spike Albrecht was tweeting at Kate Upton. College basketball was just wrapping up another fantastic season. And now, just a week after the final game of the year, some of the nation’s top players have an utterly crucial decision to make: Stay in school or declare for the NBA Draft?

Players deserve more time to conduct research and solicit outside opinions on this pivotal decision (AP Photo).

Players deserve more time to conduct research and solicit outside opinions on this pivotal decision (AP Photo).

Decisions like this – decisions that could have lasting implications on a player’s earning power and academic and professional futures – are not trivial matters to be pushed aside. Other than maybe choosing a college, deciding when to leave college and pursue one’s athletic dreams at the professional level is probably the biggest decision any of these kids have ever made. It requires calculated reasoning and a thorough investigation of the potential costs and benefits. This isn’t the case for everyone; some guys have it easy. For Shabazz Muhammad, leaving UCLA after one season will go down as one of the least surprising one-and-done jumps of all-time. Others face competing interests, unwavering loyalties and strong ties to teammates and coaches. Some just love being in college, particularly at “basketball schools” where the hardwood practitioners are afforded demi-god levels of celebrity. What’s so bad about unrivaled popularity and social stature, anyway?

The real process is a lot more complicated than that. Financial hardship often forces players to leave school earlier than they otherwise would have. A hot shooting streak during the NCAA Tournament sends them flying up draft boards, rapidly and prominently enough that not entering the draft could leave a prospect regretting a major missed opportunity after the fact.

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Texas Sophomore Myck Kabongo Will Enter the NBA Draft

Posted by Nate Kotisso on April 13th, 2013

You could see this coming from a mile away. Texas sophomore guard Myck Kabongo announced his intention to enter this June’s NBA Draft, foregoing his final two years of eligibility in Austin. When he arrived on campus in 2011, Kabongo was a five-star prospect according to recruiting services like Scout, ESPN and Rivals. He made an immediate impact, averaging 9.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game in 34 starts for a Texas team that slid into the NCAA Tournament as a #11 seed.

He gone. (TexasSports.com)

He’s gone. (TexasSports.com)

His second season didn’t start off the way he would have liked. The NCAA investigated Kabongo for receiving an impermissible payment related to an offseason workout hosted by Rich Paul, an agent to former Longhorns Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph. Kabongo was ruled ineligible for the first 23 games of the regular season but made the most of what little playing time he had, averaging 14.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game, all career highs. So why would he even consider a return for a junior campaign? Sheldon McClellan, the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.5 points per game, has already decided to transfer. Javan Felix, who filled in for Kabongo as a starter this season, will get plenty of competition from two incoming freshman players in Kendal Yancy-Harris and Isaiah Taylor at the point guard slot. But Texas has other issues, most notably the lack of shotmakers on the team except for Julien Lewis. On the inside, Cameron Ridley has shown very little offensively and his overall impact on games has been disappointing for a player with his size.

The winner in all of this is obviously Kabongo because he’ll get drafted and become a multi-millionaire. The loser is Texas, which is facing another season where the NCAA Tournament looks unlikely unless some surprises step up unexpectedly from Rick Barnes’ roster.

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Very Different Paths Connect Top Prospects Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers to the Hornets

Posted by EJacoby on July 3rd, 2012

Before the 2011-12 college basketball season began, two freshmen entered with a buzz far louder than any other newcomers. Anthony Davis of Kentucky and Austin Rivers of Duke were the top two consensus recruits, each heading to blueblood schools with preseason Top 10 hype and national title aspirations. One full year later, the stud prospects are now new teammates with the New Orleans Hornets after being selected with the team’s two lottery picks during the 2012 NBA Draft. But their journeys couldn’t have been any different along the way, with narratives that read nothing like what we expected during their high school recruitment. We’ll detail how Davis and Rivers have traveled such different paths over the past few years yet find themselves united again as the expected saviors for a program – this time as teammates.

Austin Rivers and Anthony Davis (right) went from competing top prospects to now- NBA teammates (AP Photo/K. Maloney)

Anthony Davis stands 6’10″ today, but just three years ago he was a middling 6’2″ guard on a bad high school team. For his first two-and-a-half years at Perspectives Charter School in Chicago, he wasn’t even on the radar as a top college prospect. An average guard on a struggling team in a poor league, Davis couldn’t draw any scouts to his games. Austin Rivers, meanwhile, was already busy in the spotlight. The son of former NBA point guard and current Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, Austin was a recognized recruit since the days he spent lounging in the Boston locker room before Celtics games as a 14-year-old. While Davis struggled in the Chicago Public League in 2010, Rivers was leading his Winter Park (FL) High School to a state title, with 23 points in the championship game. Months later, he was the star player of Team USA’s U-18 gold medal squad at the FIBA Americas, scoring a team record 35 points in one win over Canada.

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Bidding Them Farewell: Paying Homage to the Undrafted College Seniors

Posted by EJacoby on July 2nd, 2012

The NBA Draft is only two rounds long, so it’s quite difficult to crack the top 60 eligible draftees into the league in a given year. It’s even more challenging for graduating seniors, who not only compete with younger collegians but also foreign prospects from around the world who possess greater ‘upside’ in the minds of NBA evaluators. Constantly in search of the next hidden gem, general managers tend to overlook the players they’ve watched over the past four seasons in college. Only four seniors were picked in the first round during last Thursday’s draft, and while another 17 made it into the second there was still a large pool of graduates who didn’t hear their names called. There were far more than 21 impactful seniors in college basketball last season, and we’re here to honor the careers of those who didn’t get selected. We won’t forget the contributions of these following players, and with hard work and a little luck they should have a strong chance of cracking an NBA roster in the future.

Kevin Jones had a brilliant college career but wasn’t recognized on draft night (Getty Images)

  • Kevin Jones, West Virginia – A career that included a trip to the Final Four as a sophomore and leading the Big East in scoring and rebounding as a senior wasn’t enough to merit consideration by the NBA. Jones averaged 19.9 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks last season on 50.9% shooting from the field and 78.0% shooting from the line while also making a three-pointer per game. He also led the conference in Offensive Rating, this all coming on a squad with little offensive help elsewhere.
  • William Buford, Ohio State – Buford was a McDonald’s All-American guard with prototypical 6’6″ size who averaged double figures every season at Ohio State, making two Sweet Sixteens and a Final Four. He shoots it well and has shown a strong tendency to fit into an offensive scheme with other talented scorers, but his inability to take over games perhaps made him overlooked by scouts.
  • Scott Machado, Iona – Machado led the country in assists last season (9.9 per game) while also reaching career highs in points, rebounds, steals, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and free throw percentage as the leader of an at-large NCAA Tournament team. Even in a weak point guard draft, no team pulled the trigger on Machado, but he’ll have a great chance to dazzle in Summer League as one of the more polished floor leaders. Read the rest of this entry »
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Winners & Losers On Draft Night: The College Perspective

Posted by EJacoby on June 29th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft has come and gone in what was a fairly quiet night in terms of trades around the league, but Thursday could also become an historic draft given how deep the pool of talent was. We may look back on this draft as one of the great ones in recent history, but that remains to be seen. For now we can take a look at the immediate winners and losers, and we’d like to run down which schools made the biggest hits and suffered big misses on draft night. For instance, which teams sent multiple lottery picks or were responsible for the biggest risers in the draft? Which teams saw their prospects slip out of the first round or not get drafted at all? Here’s our list of the top five winners and losers last night from the college game.

Tony Wroten, Jr. and Terrence Ross (right) from Washington were both selected in the NBA Draft’s first round (AP Photo)

WINNERS

  • Kentucky – No, John Calipari didn’t get to see six first-round picks this year, as only four of his players cracked the top 30. Marquis Teague slipped considerably and Terrence Jones didn’t make the lottery. Yet all in all, what an historic night it was for the Wildcats. With UK’s Anthony Davis going #1 and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist selected #2 overall, it’s the first time ever that college teammates became the top two picks. And when Darius Miller was scooped up at #46 overall, that also became a record with a sixth Wildcat drafted – the most in NBA draft history since the format shrunk from seven rounds to two back in 1989.
  • Washington – The Huskies failed to qualify for last year’s NCAA Tournament, which looks even more shocking now than it did in March. Two Washington players were selected in the first round, including one in the top 10 when the Raptors picked Terrence Ross #8 overall, the third shooting guard to come off the board. Tony Wroten, Jr., landed at #25 as the third point guard selected. A great night for Lorenzo Romar and the program, but remind us again how this team was playing in the NIT last year?
  • The One-And-Dones – Nine college freshmen declared for the NBA draft, and eight of them cracked the first round. Only Quincy Miller slipped, shockingly dropping all the way down to #38, but he still was a high second-round selection. Usually we see at least one or two mistakes from the ‘one-and-done’ crowd (see: Jereme Richmond last year), but all the frosh were good choices. Five of the top 10 picks were from this group.
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Handicapping Lillard’s NBA Chances: How Have Prospects From Mid-Majors Fared in the Pros?

Posted by EJacoby on June 28th, 2012

Looking at the upcoming NBA Draft’s projected lottery picks, most of the players represent the big boys around the nation – Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, Florida, Connecticut. But smack in the middle between guys that played in a Final Four is a kid from Weber State. Anybody who follows college hoops or draft scouting surely knows about Damian Lillard, but it’s still surprising to see a player ranked so highly who most fans have never seen play a minute of college basketball. Will Lillard, who is projected to go in the top 10 as the draft’s top point guard, struggle to adapt to the massive increase in competition from the Big Sky Conference to the NBA? We researched lottery picks over the past 15 years from mid-major conferences to judge how successful they were in their transition to the league, grading success based on extended NBA productivity in the form of minutes played and value added. We considered all conferences outside of the top six power leagues as ‘mid-majors,’ so even the Atlantic 10, Conference USA and Mountain West qualify for our criteria.

Will Damian Lillard struggle in his transition from the Big Sky to the NBA? (US Presswire/K. Terada)

Taking a look at recent history, names like Jimmer Fredette and Stephen Curry came from smaller schools yet were still some of the most popular collegiate players in the nation. Just because a player hails from a mid-major school doesn’t necessarily mean he was an unheralded prospect. Nonetheless, the point of our analysis is to determine what, if any, crutch comes along with stepping up from such a wide gap in competition for lottery picks. Even though Fredette was a National Player of the Year winner, he still faced relatively weaker competition on a nightly basis at BYU. Is it more difficult to scout and project success for a mid-major prospect? Let’s take a look at how these players have fared historically. You’ll notice a trend that suggests Lillard should have a great chance at NBA success.

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Draft Day Manifesto: Top Prospect Summaries

Posted by EJacoby on June 28th, 2012

The day is finally here! The 2012 NBA Draft commences tonight at 7:00 PM ET from Newark, New Jersey, at the Prudential Center and is televised live on ESPN. Rece Davis will host the ESPN coverage alongside Jay Bilas, Jeff Van Gundy, and Chris Broussard with field reporters Andy Katz and Ric Bucher also part of the broadcast. While the analysts will offer insight to viewers before and after every selection, there’s much more to know about each prospect than the four or five minutes in between picks. Scouting services like Draft Express and NBADraft.net spend all year preparing for this day with mock drafts on the line, and there are plenty of news sites to consult for in-depth coverage of different players. But here at RTC, we’ve got it all covered for you with full profiles of the top 35 available prospects that include an overview, strengths and weaknesses, player comparisons, scouting takes from Aran Smith at NBADraft.net, and more. Today we’re throwing in a one-sentence description to help you understand each player as he’s perceived heading into draft night. See below for quick references to all of our draft profiles and player summaries.

Draft day is here and the Hornets are on the clock, though we all know who they are taking (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

  • Anthony Davis, Kentucky – Best forward prospect in years with comparisons to Garnett and Russell has elite athleticism, agility, work ethic, and intelligence that leads to versatile contributions on both ends and the most dominant college defender in a decade.
  • Thomas Robinson, Kansas – Polished big man has scary NBA body and passionate work ethic and can contribute right away, but does he have All-Star upside against NBA length in the post?
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky – Youngest player in the draft isn’t a go-to scorer but is an incredibly passionate and athletic small forward who attacks on both ends and does everything his team needs.
  • Bradley Beal, Florida – Tough, athletic guard is the full package on both ends and has All-Star upside if his silky smooth three-point jumper starts falling more consistently in the pros.
  • Harrison Barnes, North Carolina – Never quite lived up to sky-high expectations at North Carolina yet can score 16-20 points easy and remains an intriguing pro prospect with a high ‘floor.’
  • Dion Waiters, Syracuse - Rising prospect is perhaps the most explosive scorer in the draft and scouts hope his tumultuous freshman season is not indicative of his future effort level on and off the court.
  • Andre Drummond, Connecticut – 18-year-old could become the next Dwight Howard or the next Kwame Brown, but his athletic intrigue and unique personality offers upside that he can eventually figure it out.
  • Damian Lillard, Weber State – Top point guard prospect is a knockdown shooter and unselfish floor general, but will he struggle adjusting from the Big Sky to the NBA?
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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Anthony Davis

Posted by EJacoby on June 28th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for tonight in New Jersey. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll work backwards, starting with players who are projected near the end of the first round before getting into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Anthony Davis

School: Kentucky

Height/Weight: 6’11” / 220 lbs.

NBA Position: Power Forward

Projected Draft Range: #1 Overall Pick

Anthony Davis will hear his name first during Thursday’s NBA Draft (AP Photo)

Overview: Believe it or not, Anthony Davis was not even on the radar as an elite prospect in his high school class three years ago. But that was before he grew eight inches in one summer, retained some of his guard skills, and developed elite shot-blocking fundamentals. The rest is history, as we all know his story as the #1 recruit in his class who produced immediately in college. In his one season at Kentucky, Davis led his team to a National Championship as Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament while winning the AP, Naismith, and Wooden National Player of the Year awards. He averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and an NCAA-best 4.7 blocks per game on 62.3% shooting as an 18-year-old freshman. While considered a defense-first asset, Davis also led the SEC in field goal percentage, offensive rating, and free throws made. At nearly 6’11″ in shoes with a 7’5.5″ wingspan, great agility, incredible discipline, and a high basketball IQ, Davis is one of the best shot-blocking prospects the NBA has ever seen. He’s very wiry and must add strength to avoid getting pushed around in the paint at the next level, but he’s such a good athlete that he makes up for any lost ground by swatting away everything near the basket. On offense he can face up and shows a decent jump shot with range or drives by defenders to the cup. He can also play with his back to the basket where he’s an efficient scorer, rarely turning the ball over and drawing fouls at a high rate. But he’s best at cutting to the paint for open looks and lobs at the rim, where he finishes alley-oops with perfect timing and explosion. He’s also a beast in transition with his speed and versatile skills for his size. He shoots over 70% from the free throw line, shows great work ethic, and is an intense leader. What can’t Davis do? He’s still a young kid who’s very raw offensively and needs to add strength. But it’s doubtful he becomes anything but a game-changing NBA force that a franchise can build around.

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Can All Six Expected Kentucky Draftees Find NBA Success? History Shows It’s Unlikely…

Posted by EJacoby on June 27th, 2012

At this Thursday’s NBA Draft, expect to hear six former Kentucky players’ names called. But what are the chances that all six end up having strong pro careers? Four of the UK players are locks to go in the first round while two others are fringe picks, so there are high expectations for this group of newcomers. Has any past college team ever produced four or even five solid pros in the same draft? It turns out that 12 different college teams have seen at least four of their players get selected in a draft since 1989, when the draft shrunk from seven rounds to two. Unfortunately, none of these teams produced more than three successful pros, though the most recent examples include small sample sizes and show some promise. The bottom line is that history is working against the six former Wildcats, and it would be unprecedented for even five of them to pan out. Kentucky basketball has had a way of setting records recently, though, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if most or all of Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb, and Darius Miller eventually become strong NBA players.

Can at least five Kentucky players from the upcoming 2012 NBA Draft end up having strong careers? (AP Photo)

Since the draft shrunk to only two rounds back in 1989, no college team has ever had six players drafted in the same year. It goes to show just how talented the 2011-12 Wildcats were, starting at the top with the expected #1 pick Anthony Davis.  The 2006 Connecticut, 2007 Florida, 2008 Kansas, and 2010 Kentucky teams are the only others to produce as many as five NBA draft picks, so the trend has been pointing toward this day.

Today we’ll break down the teams that have come closest to producing four quality pros, including the most recent teams which still have a chance to do so. In order to qualify as a successful pro, our criteria requires players to have enjoyed extended, productive NBA careers. Career scoring averages of around 10 points per game is a general floor. Statistics don’t always tell the tale, so minutes played and games started are also considered to generally mean that a player was useful to his team. A one-stop statistic is Win Shares, which calculates the value a player adds over accumulated time and can be easily accessed through Basketball Reference’s database. Players who aren’t ranked in the top 20 Win Shares of their draft class generally don’t qualify as contributors. We’ll note if exceptions apply for certain players.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Thomas Robinson

Posted by dnspewak on June 27th, 2012

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in Newark, New Jersey. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll generally work backwards, so for the next week or two we’ll present you with players who are projected near the end of the first round, and we’ll work our way up into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Thomas Robinson

School: Kansas

Height/Weight: 6’9”, 245 pounds

NBA Position: Power Forward

Projected Draft Range: High Lottery

Robinson Was a Year-Long NPOY Candidate

Overview: After spending two years as a reserve to the Morris twins at Kansas, Thomas Robinson grew into a Player of the Year candidate and one of Bill Self’s most coveted NBA prospects ever in his junior season. With a motor that never seems to quit and the strength of an NFL defensive end, Robinson bullied his way through elite big man after elite big man. He became a double-double machine in 2011-12, not infrequently finishing with over 17 rebounds in a game and blowing up for 25+ points on more than one occasion. Although his team featured elite point guard Tyshawn Taylor, Elijah Johnson, and a few other key contributors, Self’s team wasn’t very deep and it relied heavily on its horse. Robinson didn’t disappoint, carrying the Jayhawks all the way to the National Championship game. By the time it was all over, Robinson turned in one of the finest performances of any player in college basketball. On the season, he averaged 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds per game, clearly defining himself as the nation’s toughest, most rugged and most feared power forward. Off the court, his tragic personal life has been well-documented by nearly every major media outlet. So when Robinson left school a year early, it was hard to criticize him after the loss of his mother and grandparents — especially with a young sister to care for and support.

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Assessing The Rising NBA Draft Prospects Who Could Land In First Round

Posted by EJacoby on June 27th, 2012

As part of our NBA Draft series, we have been breaking down in full scouting reports all the top prospects who could hear their names called in the first round on Thursday. Included in our profiles are the 35 top prospects as consensus-ranked back in mid-May. But now we’re a day away from the draft, and there’s been plenty of movement around the bottom end of those consensus rankings. Teams have gotten to see the prospects go through measurements, tests, and interviews at the Chicago Combine as well as individual and group workouts in private practice settings. As always, there are some guys moving up at the last minute who weren’t in the mix six weeks ago but could find their way into the first round. Who will become this year’s Norris Cole, the guard from Cleveland State who shot up draft boards late in the process last year and got selected #28 overall? We’ll detail these rising prospects who didn’t make our original cut and we didn’t get a chance to break down in full.

Athletic guard Jared Cunningham is gaining some first round buzz (Pac-12 photo)

Some of the players we detailed back in May who were fringe first-rounders at the time are now falling as likely second-rounders. Scott Machado, Kevin Jones, and Darius Miller, especially, are all projected outside of the top 35 by Draft Express and NBADraft.net at this time. That doesn’t mean these guys won’t get selected in the first round, but the buzz simply isn’t as strong leading up to draft night as some other prospects that we overlooked. Three names – excluding foreign players – who are now rising above these players in terms of consensus rankings heading into draft night are Jared Cunningham, Kim English, and Miles Plumlee. We’ll detail each prospect with a quick and dirty breakdown, including what has caused each player to rise in the past few weeks.

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