Here is DraftExpress ranking of the top 15 NBA draft prospects in the Big Ten.
1. SG Maurice Ager, senior, Michigan State (65, 195)
Ager has been on the radar since an intriguing freshman season. After suffering some injury setbacks early in his career he really came on last year, averaging 14.1 ppg in just over 26 mpg. One reason for the spotty production was the presence of the three accomplished guards in the class ahead of him. Now that Chris Hill, Kelvin Torbert, and Alan Anderson are gone, Ager is going to see more consistent playing time, and significantly more offensive opportunities. Ager is a top-notch athlete, able to run the floor and soar above the rim with ease. He creates his own shot quite well, and is able to get to the basket. Ager could stand to add a bit more muscle to his frame and improve his ball-handling a bit as well. As long as he measures in at his listed 65, Maurice Ager could be the closest thing the Big Ten has to a likely first round draft pick in 2006.
2. PG Dee Brown, senior, Illinois (60, 185) One of the most debated players in all of college basketball, Browns draft stock is rather tough to figure out. Was Browns ability to lead the fast break, attack defenses, and create general havoc in the open court the true catalysts for Illinois success last season? Or were his questionable natural floor general skills and surprising lack of penetration (despite the blazing speed) ability the reasons that Deron Williams handled the ball a large amount of the time for the Illini? These questions will be answered quickly this winter. Brown is now the undisputed star of this team, and will have to help several very inexperienced players as they attempt to fit into the lineup. This is his chance to show that he is a true playmaker. Browns upside is quite limited, as his size, average wingspan and lack of shot creating skills will always hurt his stock. Nonetheless, he projects as a nice 6th man type of point guard, able to push the tempo and wear down tired starters. If Brown can keep the Illini near the top of the Big Ten, it would go a long way towards him getting selected somewhere in the first round.
3. SG Shannon Brown, junior, Michigan State (64, 205)
Brown came out of high school as one of the top five or so recruits in his class, hyped for his incredible leaping ability and sweet outside shooting stroke. He hasnt exactly lived up to those expectations yet, but had a nice NCAA tournament run and may be ready to break out. Brown has an almost unreal ability to hang in the air, but isnt the greatest at utilizing this asset. He has slow hands and his first step isnt nearly as amazing as his leaping ability, which limits his ability to penetrate. Brown is also stuck between positions, though he recently gained an inch on the official roster, after being listed at anywhere from 61 to 63 in high school. Brown doesnt have point guard skills at this point, so his measurements will be important. He will hit the outside jumper when open, but it would be nice to see Brown learn a go-to offensive skill open floor dunking doesnt count. On the whole, however, its hard not to get intrigued by Shannon Browns leaping and overall athletic ability. This could be the season he develops into a first round prospect.
4. C Paul Davis, senior, Michigan State (611, 267) Another top five high school product that hasnt exactly panned out for Tom Izzo, Davis is blessed with all sorts of natural tools. He moves well enough for a center, possesses a very solid frame, and has beautiful touch on his shot. Unfortunately, Davis has played passively and been quite inconsistent, to the point where this one-time lottery pick is now considered a bubble first rounder at best. Davis showed a bit more aggressiveness in the Spartans NCAA tourney run this past spring. If he can continue the momentum from the end of last season and put in a productive season, it wouldnt be a surprise to see Davis in the first round picture next spring.
5. PF D.J. White, sophomore, Indiana (69, 230)
6. SG/SF Vincent Grier, senior, Minnesota (65, 200) Grier played his freshman season at Charlotte, before heading the JUCO route. He ended up with the Golden Gophers, and was the main reason for Minnesotas surprising turnaround. Grier is a physical, athletic wing, capable of taking smaller Big Ten guards into the paint and pushing them around. He is a lethal midrange scorer and deadly accurate off the dribble from about 15 feet on in. Griers main weakness might be his outside shot, which allows defenders to overplay the dribble drive. If Vincent Grier can correct this flaw and also make some strides on the defensive end, he will be impossible to stop in the Big Ten this season and could develop into a potential 2006 first rounder.
7. PF James Augustine, senior, Illinois (610, 235)
Augustine has always displayed a tantalizing mix of skill and size. From his freshman season, he has been a factor for the Illini. Despite having a beautiful jump hook and the size to get position in the paint, Augustine hasnt developed into the dominant scorer he could be. It could be the issue of playing with three very talented guards the past three seasons, or it could be because Augustine tends to play on the passive side. This season, he must step up and become a go-to scorer. If he does, James Augustine may have an NBA future.
8. SF Alando Tucker, junior, Wisconsin (66, 210)
Tucker is a true work in progress, though his explosiveness was evident immediately as a freshman PF for the Badgers. Tucker is relentless around the basket, and knows how to score on bigger defenders. After a stress fracture forced him to redshirt the 2004 season, Tucker showed an improved perimeter game last year. He has added range out to the three point line, started developing the ability to penetrate off the dribble, and knows how to slash to the basket. Tucker is still far away from being ready to play the SF position in the NBA, but as his huge outing against North Carolina will attest, he has the combination of athleticism and strength to keep the NBA scouts interested. If he stays healthy and continues to work on his ball-handling, Alando Tucker is a name to keep an eye on for 2007.
9. C Courtney Sims, junior, Michigan (611, 240) Sims might have the most potential out of any big man in the conference, but hasnt come close to cashing in on it. Many expected Sims to have a breakout sophomore season, but that didnt happen. He didnt develop his offensive game in the offseason, and may have gotten less aggressive. He still has all the potential in the world, especially as a rebounder, defender, and shotblocker, but if he has another down season, Courtney Sims wont be appearing on this list as a senior.
10. PF Terence Dials, senior, Ohio State (69, 255)
Cut from the Eric Williams mold of big man, Dials is big enough to overpower almost any college level defender. He has a great back-to-the-basket post up game, and knows how to use his bulk to his full advantage. The issue with Dials is whether he can adjust to the NBA game, where nearly everybody is his size. Is Dials a legit 69? The answer to this question could have a significant impact on Terence Dials draft stock this spring.
11. SG/SF Lester Abram, junior, Michigan (66, 200) Abram was on the verge of a true breakout season before injuring his shoulder and being forced to take a redshirt year. Now Abram is back healthy again, and might end up being the focal point of Michigans offense. Abram is a smooth athlete with good size and great shot creating ability. It might take him a while to get back to where he was, but Lester Abram is certainly a player to keep an eye on.
12. SG Adam Haluska, junior, Iowa (65, 210)
Haluska transferred from rival Iowa State after a promising freshman season, and was a real factor for the Hawkeyes last year. Haluska is a fantastic all-around athlete, and is crafty enough to create shots for himself. Haluska could show more consistency as a shooter, but will do better now that he is the number one option in the Iowa offense. Adam Haluksa is a true breakout player candidate this season, and could generate some draft interest before his senior year.
13. C Michael Thompson, senior, Northwestern (610, 250) Thompson is a senior that, due to lack of playing time, a transfer, academics, and injuries, hasnt even played a full season of college basketball yet. That might have made it all the more impressive when he averaged double figures in a thirteen game stint early in the Big Ten slate last winter. Thompson is big and mobile enough to be effective in college, though he would need to add significant polish to his game before being ready for the NBA.
14. PG Jeff Horner, senior, Iowa (63, 185)
There is a lot to like and a lot to dislike when it comes to Horner and his NBA chances. On the plus side, he is an incredible quick release shooter. He also might be the best open court passer in college basketball, routinely making something out of nothing through the air. Nonetheless, Horner lacks the athleticism and first step to be completely effective as a PG in the Big Ten, let alone the NBA. To become a truly draftable prospect, Horner will have to either significantly improve his athleticism, or find a niche as an undersized shooting specialist.
15. PG Daniel Horton, senior, Michigan (63, 205) Horton took the Big Ten by storm as a freshman, and had many thinking that all he had to do was play a bit more under control and he was a legitimate first round prospect. Unfortunately, his game has gone the other direction. His decision making and shooting have both gotten worse, and last season was marred by injuries and off the court issues. Horton still has an NBA body and will make an impact if he can stay on the court this year, but it would take a return to his freshman form for him to jump completely back into the draft picture.