The 2015 NCAA Tournament was extremely entertaining and full of potential prospects who could find themselves in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform next season. Duke walked out with the National Championship, but many teams and players had impressive showcases.
The National Champions had a trio of freshmen in Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, and Tyus Jones lead them to the promised land. Some would argue, however, that Wisconsin’s duo of Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker were the stories of the tournament leading up to the final game.
Kentucky, of course, had seven players declare for the draft after their Final Four loss and at least four are expected to be first round picks led by potential top pick, Karl-Anthony Towns.
With the Lakers potentially having four draft picks this year, finding the right players in the draft will be essential for the re-build. So we asked our panel of experts which player stood out the most to them in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. This is what they had to say:
Russell Valenzuela (@RussVal4): Despite not being one of the top-five prospects or even the best player on his own team, the college player that impressed me the most during the NCAA Tournament was Sam Dekker.
While playing at Wisconsin, he was always in the shadow of Frank Kaminsky. Dekker averaged 13.9 points per game during the season on 52.5 percent shooting. He did much better in the tournament with a 19.2 scoring average and shooting 57.1 percent.
It looks like he’ll be out of the Lakers’ range after improving his draft stock with his excellent play and being named the West Regional Most Outstanding Player. He wasn’t done after his lethal shooting against Arizona. In the closing moments against Kentucky, Dekker came up big during opportune times, hitting the three to give his team the lead for good and then drawing a charge on the other end.
Dekker won’t be the main option for a team but looks like to be a great role player, even possibly as a third option. He still has inconsistency issues and could improve on his three-point shooting. While that could take time to develop, his greatest asset is his ability to guard multiple positions with his size. Dekker was able to show his skill set against prime competition during the tournament.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): I have been at the head of the Justise Winslow bandwagon all year, and while he had an amazing tournament, Karl-Anthony Towns showed me that he can be an absolute star at the NBA level.
Towns can do a little bit of everything. He runs the floor very well for a big man,he is a great rebounder and rim protector, and can score from anywhere on the floor, possessing the ability to step outside and knock down 15-foot jumpers as well as get baskets down low.
The one question surrounding Towns was can he really be the top option where a team could throw him the ball and expect him to get a basket. He answered that question with force as he was nearly unstoppable on the block against both Notre Dame and Wisconsin, getting baskets almost at will down the stretch. Personally I would argue that Kentucky would have beaten Wisconsin if they had simply given him the ball down the stretch.
Towns’ numbers aren’t that impressive as he was part of a loaded Kentucky team that blew out many of its opponents. He also struggled offensively early on in the season, but came on later in the year.
Towns and Jahlil Okafor are widely considered to be the top-2 prospects in this draft class. If the Lakers are fortunate enough to land the top pick, I am completely on board with drafting Towns and pairing him with Julius Randle to form the Lakers’ frontcourt of the future.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): D’Angelo Russell may have only played a couple games during the 2015 NCAA Tournament, but the Ohio State star stood out more than any other player in my opinion. Although there were plenty of talented players that I found intriguing in terms of potentially being stars on the NBA level, Russell was the one player I saw that could go the next level and make an immediate impact.
Heading into the 2015 NBA draft, everyone will be talking about Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns, but this is a guard-driven league. Russell has the skills to be the next great guard in the NBA with all the tools to be successful on the next level.
At 6’5″, with an ability to be an elite scorer and a solid distributor, Russell can be a force to be reckoned with in an NBA backcourt. Even though I believe the Lakers will likely target one of the top tier frontcourt players in the upcoming draft, if able to pick in the top two or three, Russell is a player they should consider to team up with Jordan Clarkson in the backcourt.
The versatility of Clarkson and Russell could prove to be a dangerous combination in Los Angeles, especially with Kobe Bryant mentoring both players along the way next season.
Clarkson’s development, and Rajon Rondo potentially being an off-season target, may have the Lakers leaning in another direction in the draft, but Russell is an intriguing option if available.
Kevin Chan (@Kevin_Cruiser): Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor were both great, but Justise Winslow impressed me the most out of anyone during the NCAA Tournament. There’s no way Duke wins the title this year without Winslow’s tenacity on defense and contributions on offense.
Winslow is a future two-way star in the NBA and I love how he predicates his game on defense. He was probably one of the best wing defenders during the Tournament and his on-ball defense was spectacular. His hustle coupled
with his athleticism allows him to guard larger players with ease.
Not only is Justise a superb defender, but he can also rebound and score. Winslow notched double-doubles against Utah and San Diego State and two near double-doubles against Michigan State and Wisconsin. He averaged an impressive 9.3 rebounds per game throughout the Tournament as a small forward.
Winslow is already a well-rounded player who can score, defend and rebound. His shooting ability is not stellar yet, but at least his form looks good and he’ll surely develop consistency with time.
If the Lakers draft fourth in the upcoming NBA draft then Winslow will likely be an option for them. Hopefully the front office strongly considers drafting Winslow, granted Towns and Okafor are already off the board.
Nathan Kim (@Kimchiz): The most dominant draft prospect in the NCAA tournament, in my opinion, was Frank Kamimsky. He is most certainly not the most impressive draft prospect, but he definitely stood out among the rest in the tournament.
Kamimsky was Wisconsin’s main offensive threat and was relied on heavily for his ability to score in and out of the post. Although the Badgers were unable to clinch the championship against Duke, Kamimsky was arguably the best player on the floor and was even give National Player of the Year honors.
His season averages are impressive with 18.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and .547 field goal percentage. He is crafty and has great footwork for a big. Throughout the season and tournament he consistently got the best of the other bigs and his spin move was borderline unstoppable. Kaminsky also has a great range on his jumper to go along with his post up game as well.
Although not as talented as some other frontcourt prospects like Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns, I would argue that Kaminsky played even better than them in the NCAA tournament. In fact, he faced both of these players in the Final Four and championship game. Against Kentucky, Kaminsky had 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks. In the championship game Kaminsky totaled 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 1 block. Okafor and Towns will probably be drafted much higher than Kaminsky but I I think Kaminsky outplayed both players in the tournament and stood out more.[divide]
Byron Scott On Jeremy Lin, Ed Davis, Jordan Clarkson