With the NBA draft order set, fans across the country have speculated who their team may select in late June. While most top prospects come from the top five conferences in college basketball, NBA fans have just witnessed Steph Curry, a former Davidson Wildcat, win the MVP. Thus, it’s time to take a look at the top prospects from outside the top conferences.
1. Cameron Payne PG Murray State
While Murray State narrowly missed the NCAA tournament this year, NBA scouts have hardly missed Cameron Payne. Payne is an elite scoring guard, projected to go mid-first round, and likely the highest pick outside the five major conferences. Payne has a high basketball IQ, produces very intelligent passes, and has nice range on his shot. At 6’3” he has the size for an NBA point guard, but scouts have concerns about his strength and ability to defend at the professional level. Nonetheless, Payne is an NBA-ready guard who has the basketball skills to contribute at the next level.
NBA Comparison: George Hill
2. R.J. Hunter SG Georgia State
The hero of Georgia State’s upset victory over Baylor in the NCAA tournament, R.J. Hunter may be the best pure shooter in the NBA Draft. He has a silky smooth jump shot, seemingly limitless range, and proved in the NCAA tournament that he is not afraid to take shots in pressure situations. However, NBA scouts have concerns about his thin wiry frame, which will make his ability to defend bigger guards in the NBA very difficult. Additionally, playing against Sun Belt teams his whole college career is hardly the top competition. Nonetheless, Hunter should be able to contribute to a team as a spot up shooter next season.
NBA Comparison: J.J. Reddick
3. Christian Wood PF UNLV
Christian Wood is easily one of the most intriguing prospects of the 2015 NBA Draft. He has great size for an NBA forward at 6’11” 216 pounds, showed an extremely versatile offensive game at UNLV, and was one of the best shot blockers in all of college basketball last season. Despite his obvious skills, NBA scouts worry he will get obliterated by bigger forwards in the low post, as he has a very thin, lanky frame and will need to add significant muscle to make an impact defensively. Wood will certainly be a project for whoever drafts him, but teams drafting late in the first round may find a steal if they select Wood.
NBA Comparison: John Henson
4. Rashad Vaughn SG UNLV
Rashad Vaughn was one of the top prospects in the country coming out of high school, but things haven’t exactly gone as planned at UNLV. He demonstrated an elite scoring ability, scoring over 18 points per game for the Runnin’ Rebels, with unbelievable instincts on the perimeter, shot making ability, and a propensity for attacking the basket if defenses get too aggressive. However, his athleticism does not translate on the defensive end, as he often gets caught flat footed and doesn’t show the same instincts he has on the offensive side of the ball. Vaughn projects as a solid bench scorer in the NBA, but not much else.
NBA Comparison: Jordan Adams
5. Richaun Holmes PF Bowling Green
A player who many college basketball fans probably didn’t see this season, Richaun Holmes is amongst the best athletes in the entire draft class. He has a ripped 6’10” frame, can run the floor, and has shown massive improvements over the past few years on both sides of the ball. The main concern for NBA front offices should be obvious: Holmes played his college ball at Bowling Green, hardly taking on the best competition. Workouts will be key to Holmes’ draft stock, but teams drafting early in the second round may find a steal in Holmes, who has shown the propensity for improving his game every year.
NBA Comparison: Amir Johnson