clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NBA mock draft: Picking the best 30 draft-eligible college basketball players

Let's draft the 30 best college basketball players, not the 30 best pro prospects.

Ronald Martinez

Because mock drafts are important, and because strict performance in college basketball doesn't have a ton to do with how a player projects in NBA mock drafts or, thus, how a player is actually drafted in the NBA, the following exercise has been presented: a mock draft of draft-eligible players based only on a player's college basketball career. There is no consideration for how a player's skills and accomplishments would translate to the NBA, so NBA team names at each pick were omitted.

SB Nation's James Pennington and Russ Steinberg alternated picks, beginning with Pennington at No. 1. Also, please take this seriously.

1. DOUG MCDERMOTT, CREIGHTON: This is off to an easy start. Only four players have ever scored more points than him in Division I, one of whom was Pete Maravich. Only three people not named Pete Maravich have ever played college basketball and scored more points in a career than Doug McDermott.

2. SHABAZZ NAPIER, UCONN: Well, with McBuckets off the board, the No. 2 pick will have to be the guy with two rings and nearly 2,000 collegiate points to his name. Napier also had a flair for the dramatic at UConn and became known for his clutch shooting and insane pull-up threes that almost always went in.

3. RUSS SMITH, LOUISVILLE: A few could have gone here, but Russ Smith was one of the most exciting (and unpredictable, though less so as he matured) players in the country from the time he blew up as a sophomore. He won KenPom's Player of the Year as a junior and a senior, and he was the primary force behind Louisville's title team in 2013. College basketball wouldn't have been nearly as fun the past three years were it not for Russdiculous.

4. MELVIN EJIM, IOWA STATE: Ejim joined the Cyclones the same year as coach Fred Hoiberg and the two of them have turned Iowa State back into a national power. As a senior, the first-team All-American and Big 12 Player of the Year ranked second in the conference in scoring and rebounding and third in field goal percentage. He was also just the second Cyclone ever to record 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds in his career.

5. BILLY BARON, CANISIUS: Baron caught on as a junior at Canisius and was off the charts as a senior. Well, he was on the charts but in very good positions on them: 25.1 points per game, 41.8 percent from three, 88 percent from the foul line. He was a great college player.

6. T.J. WARREN, NORTH CAROLINA STATE: Remember that time Warren had back-to-back 40-point games in the heart of ACC play? Remember how that was also part of a stretch where he posted 20 or more for 19-straight games? Yeah, the guy can score. He's the reason the Wolfpack made the tournament (duh) and he is likely to be a serious contributor at the next level.

7. BRYCE COTTON, PROVIDENCE: Let's stay on the topic of volume scorers with Providence's Bryce Cotton. He led the country in percentage of team minutes played as a sophomore and again as a senior -- he played 96.4 percent of Providence's minutes last year! -- and he made the most of those minutes. He went for 36 in a brilliant effort that damn near beat North Carolina in the round of 64 in his last collegiate game.

8. SEAN KILPATRICK, CINCINNATI: The American was known for its tremendous backcourts in 2013-14 and for the last two years, Sean Kilpatrick gave Cincy one of the best in the country. He carried his team in the scoring column for three consecutive seasons, while also leading the Bearcats in assists as a senior. Cincinnati never attained the postseason success that Kilpatrick would have liked, but the 6'4 guard from Yonkers certainly was not to blame.

9. ADREIAN PAYNE, MICHIGAN STATE: Payne's game evolved each of his four seasons at Michigan State, and the most significant layer to his prospects as an NBA player -- his perimeter shot-was added to the fold as a senior when he shot 104 threes and hit them at a 42.3 percent rate. He was never a great offensive rebounder, which you may expect from a 6'10 bruiser who spent four years playing for Tom Izzo, but that's all right. His career as a Spartan was fantastic.

10. DEONTE BURTON, NEVADA: The Mountain West has long been a hidden gem in college basketball, and Nevada was competitive in the league mainly because of their prolific scoring guard. The 2,000-plus-point scorer is No. 2 on the Wolfpack's all-time list and as a senior, he led the team in scoring (20.3 ppg), assists (4.4 apg) and steals (48) en route to being named first-team all-conference.

11. NICK JOHNSON, ARIZONA: Johnson blew up as a junior to finish fourth in the KenPom Player of the Year standings, with by far the best team he's had around him, it should be noted-but he had been building toward last year's breakout. Aaron Gordon was the power behind the Wildcats last season, but Johnson was at the steering wheel the whole time.

12. CAMERON BAIRSTOW, NEW MEXICO: You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who improved as much as Bairstow from his freshman to his senior year. Not only was he a double-double machine as a senior, but he had a knack for turning in monstrous performances. Take for example his 29-point, 14-rebound effort against Colorado State in January -- season highs in both categories. He was equally effective posting up (being 6'10 doesn't hurt) or shooting the short-range jumper, making him a nightmare to defend.

13. CLEANTHONY EARLY, WICHITA STATE: Remember when Wichita State went to the Final Four in 2013, and then it went undefeated in the regular season in 2014? The Shockers owe much of that run to Early, who proved damn near impossible to defend at times, and especially in his and his team's biggest moments. Also:


14. DEANDRE KANE, IOWA STATE: It was a career of consistency for DeAndre Kane, who spent three years at Marshall before transferring and taking Iowa State to the Sweet 16. In all four years of college, he played more than 31 minutes per game and averaged more than 15 points.

15. NIK STAUSKAS, MICHIGAN: He was only a two-year player, but I'm comfortable putting him here. He was a significant role player behind Trey Burke when Michigan was national runner-up in 2013, and he stole the show in last season's Elite Eight run. He became known as a shooter because of his freshman season, but he was an elite college scorer all over the court.

16. C.J. FAIR, SYRACUSE: Syracuse enjoyed a memorable first season in the ACC, jumping out to a 25-0 start, led by its 6'8 senior from Baltimore. Fair played nearly every minute for the Orange and was a rock for a team that needed a leader to survive a bunch of early tests from quality teams.

17. PATRIC YOUNG, FLORIDA: Young didn't evolve much as a player in four years at Florida -- at least in the sense of developing new skills offensively -- but the Gators made three Elite Eights and a Final Four with Young averaging about 65 percent of team minutes for three of those years. He was never spectacular, and that's OK. Also, he has the physical capability to crush me were I not to put him on this list.

18. PATRICK MILLER, TENNESSEE STATE: I've always loved short guys who could pretty much jump out of the gym and Tennessee State's Patrick Miller is such a player. His 24 points per game as a senior didn't hurt either. Who said there was nothing to see in the Ohio Valley? (Scroll to 1:14 for maximum dunking.)

19. JARNELL STOKES, TENNESSEE: Mercer had 19 total rebounds in the round of 32 against Tennessee. Stokes had 18 for the Volunteers. Nobody was surprised.

20. JABARI BROWN, MISSOURI: Brown went from a turnover-prone freshman three years ago to a junior who could contribute in every way at Missouri. When he wasn't hitting his threes, he was hitting his free throws. When he wasn't hitting his shots, he was rebounding.

21. LANGSTON HALL, MERCER: Hall was the reason Mercer made its run this season -- it well could have been two runs in a row were it not for the emergence of Dunk City -- and he deserves recognition for a strong career. He played at least 80 percent of team minutes in there of his four seasons, and he hit 249 threes in his career.

22. C.J. WILCOX, WASHINGTON: When a guy takes seven threes a game, you know he has some confidence, and Wilcox has every reason to hoist the ball. He is Washington's all-time leader in three-pointers made and closed out his career putting up 18.3 points per contest.

23. DE'MON BROOKS, DAVIDSON: As a senior, his offensive rating ranked only below Billy Baron and Doug McDermott among players used on at least 28 percent of team possessions. The 6'7 forward was also a consistent presence on the offensive and defensive glass.

24. GEORGE BEAMON, MANHATTAN: A lot of stars will come to school and have a couple productive years before taking off. Beamon arrived at Manhattan, took off, did a four-year tour around the city and still hasn't landed. He missed almost his entire junior season and still managed to finish fourth in career scoring at Manhattan.

25. KARVEL ANDERSON, ROBERT MORRIS: Anderson was only a two-year player at Robert Morris, but he was a scoring machine. His story of landing at Robert Morris after spending part of his high school career homeless in Indiana is remarkable.

26. TREVOR RELEFORD, ALABAMA: Releford shot nearly 50 percent as a senior and put up 34 on UCLA in a loss last December. His 18.5 points per game were nearly double Alabama's second-leading scorer Levi Randolph. Roll Tide.

27. JABARI PARKER, DUKE: I waited this long to take a one-year player, but I would have waited no longer. Sometimes the noise around Parker and Duke distract from just how damn good he was.


That was in his second game.

28. MARSHALL HENDERSON, OLE MISS: Hotty Toddy! Native Flash comes in at 28. He's a shooter, a gunner, a scorer and the author of this amazing tweet about college baseball:

29. MARCUS LEWIS, EASTERN KENTUCKY: This may be a throwaway pick for the purpose of posting footage of some dunks, but despite what you may think, I will sleep just fine tonight. Lewis landed at EKU after two seasons of junior college ball, and then he dunked a lot at EKU (and was a starter and significant presence on an EKU team that came closer than many realize to beating Kansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament this year).

For instance:

And also, in the college dunk contest this year:

Lewis was recently drafted by the Harlem Globetrotters, along with Landon Donovan, Johnny Manziel and New Mexico State's 7'5 center, Sim Bhullar.

30. JASON BRICKMAN, LIU BROOKLYN: Had to give Brickman some love at No. 30. Arguably the best distributor in all of college basketball, he led the nation in dimes each of the last two seasons and was the only player in 2013-14 to average double-figure scoring and assists.