Buddy Hield Impact: College Basketball Players Who Could Resist the NBA, Drastically Improve Draft Stock

By Jason McIntyre
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The best story of the 2015-2016 college basketball season has been Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield. As a junior, Hield led Oklahoma to the Elite 8 and averaged 17.4 ppg while shooting 41 percent from the field and 35 percent on 3-pointers. Instead of leaving for the NBA – he was considered maybe a candidate to sneak into the 1st round – Hield stayed at Oklahoma and the Sooners reached the Final Four. Hield improved to 25.4 ppg while shooting 50/46 and now he’s going to be a lottery pick. Looking for next year’s Buddy Hield? Here are some candidates:

Isaiah Whitehead, Sophomore G, Seton Hall: Exploded as a national star late in the season when he led Seton Hall to the Big East Championship with a 26-point game in the title game against Villanova. Then followed that up with a forgettable 4-for-24 shooting game against Gonzaga in a 1st round loss. Shot 0-for-10 from deep. He’ll be drafted in the first round because he can score and he’s a good passer (5.1 apg) who feels like a Lance Stephenson-type player at the next level. Another year of improving his shooting (37/36) would obviously help.

Troy Williams, Junior F, Indiana: Great athlete, not a great shooter. Clearly worked on his 3-point game last summer, making 26 three-pointers this season vs. a total of 12 in the first two years. But he’s not there yet. For the minutes he plays, he sure does foul a lot and turn the ball over. I’m not sure he’s a 1st round draft pick at this point.

Melo Trimble Sophomore PG, Maryland: As captain of his fan club dating back to last summer, I’m on record saying he should stay in school. Unlike Hield, who improved dramatically each year, Timble regressed as a sophomore almost across the board. Of course, the alternative could work, too – Trimble is drafted late 1st round, to a good team, and is paid to sit on the bench while leaning from a playoff point guard.

Demetrius Jackson Junior PG, Notre Dame: Despite a monster NCAA tournament where he looked like a cross between Eric Bledsoe and Mike Conley, Jackson was better statistically as a sophomore, when he shot better from the field and on 3-pointers (on fewer attempts). But his assists went up. Irish only lose one senior contributor – center Zach Auguste – and have enough talent to make the 2017 Final Four. Jackson turns 22 in September.

Skal Labiessiere, Freshman C, Kentucky: He should stay in school. Period. He has no discernible post moves. That being said, he’s probably still a lottery pick because he’s athletic and 7-feet tall, and it’s tough to turn down millions. He’ll sit on the bench for awhile in the pros. Maybe spend some time in the D-League. Is that going to help him get better, the way Brice Johnson improved over his four years at UNC? Nope.

Daniel Hamilton, Sophomore G/F, Connecticut: Not a good enough shooter yet. Great athlete, creative scorer, but in the new 3-point happy NBA, why not live in the gym for a year, stay in school for his junior year, and potentially become a star in college and become a Top 10 pick? Obviously the decision is made more difficult if his coach leaves for the NBA. Imagine if Kelly Oubre had stayed at Kansas. He’d be less wealthy (15th overall pick in 2015), but would have provided the Jayhawks with outside shooting and may have cemented his case as a Top 10 pick in 2016.

Malik Pope, Sophomore F, San Diego State: Teeming with potential – which the NBA loves – but just didn’t explode last season (7.4 ppg, 40% FG shooting) like many who saw him on the recruiting trail. Again, he’ll get drafted if he goes to the pros. He’s not ready to contribute in the NBA.

Grayson Allen, Sophomore SG, Duke: No player improved more from his freshman season to his sophomore. Allen went from playing nine minutes a game and scoring 4.4 ppg to 36 minutes a night and 21.6 ppg. Shot an impressive 46/41. The ‘just-go’ argument: Won a title as a freshman, had the tripping incidents as a sophomore, what’s left to prove? Duke will be loaded next year with some stud freshman coming in, and if Allen stays (he probably goes in the 1st round if he comes out), his all-around game could improve playing with much better players.

Dillon Brooks, Sophomore G/F, Oregon: Played extremely well vs DeAndre Bembry in the 2nd round (25 points), and then vs Brandon Ingram in the Sweet 16 (22 points, six rebounds, five assists). Struggled vs Oklahoma – he was in foul trouble – and had as many turnovers (3) as baskets. I’m not really sure what his position is in the pros as a 33 percent 3-point shooter. Maybe he’s an energy stat-sheet stuffer off the bench. Or, he returns to school, shoots 40% on 3-pointers and really develops into a NBA-ready SF. The Ducks will open as a Top 10 team if Brooks and Tyler Dorsey return.

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