Big 12 men’s basketball is at the halfway point of the season after Wednesday’s results — West Virginia defeating Iowa State, 76-61, and Oklahoma State beating TCU 72-57. But the NBA is already looking toward seeing what Big 12 talent it could pull in the 2020 NBA Draft, set for June. Here we examine the players that are the most likely to be drafted in June and why.
Rankings are from ESPN.com as of Feb. 1 and from CBSSports.com as of Feb. 3. CBSSports.com’s prospect rankings only went through the Top 50.
G Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State (No. 4 ESPN, No. 7 CBSSports.com)
Haliburton is the Big 12’s unquestioned top prospect and, at the moment, its only potential lottery pick (he would still have to declare for the NBA Draft since he’s a sophomore, but at this point it seems highly likely he would declare after the season). Considered a point guard at the next level, Haliburton’s length (6-foot-5), ball handling and triple-double ability is appealing to teams that are looking for fresh talent. He’s emerged as a willing defender, too. ESPN.com’s most recent mock draft has Haliburton going to the New York Knicks. Let’s hope for better for Haliburton, who deserves less of a train wreck of a pro team to join. He can be an impact player as a rookie in the right organization.
G Jahmi’us Ramsey, Texas Tech (No. 25 ESPN, No. 29 CBSSports.com)
Like Haliburton, Ramsey would have to declare for the NBA Draft after his freshman year, and he might do that, go through the scouting process and come back. Kansas’ Devon Dotson did that last year and he’s now the Big 12’s leading scorer. Ramsey has all the talent one could ask from a 6-foot-4 combo guard and ESPN.com’s latest mock has him going to Houston at No. 25. That would be a great landing spot as he could learn from James Harden and Russell Westbrook simply by osmosis. But does Ramsey want to leave early? The key may be how he feels about the opportunity to play with his former Duncanville (Texas) High School teammate Micah Peavy, who has signed to play for Tech next season.
G Ochai Agbaji, Kansas (No. 44 ESPN, No. 39 CBSSports.com)
Agbaji is an underclassman and I question whether any underclassman considered a second-round prospect should declare for the draft. But ESPN’s rankings may be different than how NBA scouts see Agbaji, a 6-foot-5 guard/forward who is going to Minnesota at No. 40 in ESPN.com’s latest mock draft (yes, the T-wolves took Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver last June). His scoring average from last season to this season has only improved by 2.0 points, and his 3-point percentage is up 6 percent. But the NBA Draft isn’t necessarily about improvement in scoring or shooting. It’s about upside and potential, and Agbaji’s athleticism gives scouts plenty to consider this spring, should Agbaji decide to go to the NBA.
G Devon Dotson, Kansas (No. 48 ESPN)
I’m a little surprised the 6-foot-2 point guard is a smidge behind Agbaji on this list because, right now, Dotson is a more complete player. But, as I mentioned before, the NBA Draft’s definition of upside is different. It’s clear Dotson has improved as a scorer and leader since his freshman year, but not cracking the first round of these rankings would, at least to me, signal a wait-and-see approach to the draft for the sophomore. He went through the process last year and clearly took to the notes the NBA gave him. He could declare again, get his report card and then make his decision. Personally, I’d come back for another year if I’m not a first-round pick. Remember — Devonte Graham played four years at Kansas, grew into an MVP-type player in the conference and was still a second-round pick. I see Dotson as a similar player.
F George Conditt IV, Iowa State (No. 73 ESPN)
Again, the NBA Draft is sometimes more about upside, and at No. 73 Conditt wouldn’t even be drafted. But there is a lot to love about the 6-foot-10 forward’s game, and if he stays in Ames beyond this season the sophomore is likely to be the Cyclones’ star inside. But what I like about him is what the NBA likes about him too — athleticism, length, rebounding ability and defense. The offense is starting to come along, too. Conditt is a player I would advise to go through the process this offseason, get a report card and then come back and attack the Big 12 his junior year.
G Isaac Likekele, Oklahoma State (No. 75 ESPN)
The 6-foot-4 sophomore fits that big point guard mold the NBA likes right now. He’s a solid scorer, runs the Cowboys’ offense well and is their best perimeter defender. Like Conditt, he would benefit from declaring for the NBA Draft, getting a report card and coming back for his junior year. If he left early, I would fear he would end up in the G-League or overseas. But Oklahoma State’s increasingly lost season might play a factor in his decision-making.
F Oscar Tshiebwe, West Virginia (No. 77 ESPN)
Tshiebwe, at 6-foot-9, was a five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American entering his freshman year at West Virginia. He’s averaged a double-double most of the season. So why is he ranked No. 77? In the NBA there are three guys like him on every team. In the games I’ve see he stands out because of his fundamentals, defense, effort and cool-headedness. I think the NBA would want to see him become a more dominant offensive player than he is now, and that might require another year of college seasoning. And he would get more playing time and development time spending one more year in Morgantown. But, I suspect he will put his name in the draft to get his report card.
C Udoka Azubuike, Kansas (No. 97 ESPN)
As a senior, the 7-footer doesn’t have a choice now. He has to go to the pros. Right now he doesn’t look like a draft pick. He has upside. His height, shot-blocking ability and rebounding talent will get him in the door with NBA teams, whether he is drafted or not. His problem is that he’s a poor free-throw shooter and has no mid-range shooting game. But if he ends up with the right NBA team and can earn a two-way contract, he’ll get the time to develop those aspects of his game quicker than he might at Kansas.
What about …
G Desmond Bane, TCU
He’s probably the most glaring omission on this list, given his play this season and the improvement in his overall play the past four years. He’s one of the Big 12’s best shooters and scorers. He’s a capable passer and willing defender. But he has the same problem that Tshiebwe has — there are three Desmond Bane’s on every NBA team. The 6-foot-6 guard needs the scouting process to stand out to NBA teams. He’d be a perfect fit on a two-way contract. But the senior needs to be highly impressive during the scouting season to earn a draft pick.
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