The NBA draft is tonight at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn (7 PM ET, ESPN) and for those of us who follow Wisconsin basketball, there’s never been a draft with more intrigue. Badger stalwarts Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker are expected to be first-round picks and you can reasonably debate which one should go higher. Even though the mock drafts are predicting Dekker goes higher, I would take Kaminsky.
Here’s a general breakdown of how I would see each player…
Kaminsky: He’s much more of a finished product, being that rarity today in a four-year college player. His court vision from both the post and the perimeter is superb, and as a result he’s a terrific passer.
Combine that with his lights-out shooting ability and he would be a dream power forward in a system like San Antonio or Atlanta that place a premium on moving the basketball and need their big men to knock down the three-point shot.
Kaminsky also has fantastic footwork in the low post and though he’s not an intimidating presence down low, his defensive skills dramatically improved in his final two years. He was an excellent rim protector. He’ll probably never be muscular enough to be a true enforcer down low, but he can certainly play in the post on both sides of the floor.
The area he’ll have to work on the most is how much he puts the ball on the floor in the low post. It wasn’t unusual to watch him repeatedly dribble with his back to the basket before making a move to the hoop or kicking it back out. That move will have to be done much quicker in the NBA, although the need to adjust to the speed of the game at the next level is hardly unique to Kaminsky.
Dekker: He’s a potentially explosive scorer, as Arizona can attest after watching him have an insanely good game in the West Regional final. He has tremendous ability to score off the dribble and can use that to drive defenders back and hit the step-back three.
He sealed the Arizona game with just such a move and he hit the biggest shot in the history of Wisconsin basketball with a step-back three against Kentucky in the Final Four that broke a 60-60 tie late in the game.
Dekker is not a particularly good defender though and he does need to fill out physically. An early entry to the draft, Dekker is a year younger than Kaminsky and is correctly perceived as having a higher upside. If Dekker fulfills his potential, he can become a top NBA scorer, and if he becomes even an adequate defender, you could be looking at an All-Star.
If I had to choose, I would pick Kaminsky. I don’t view the difference in upside as being dramatic, and in either case, I think teams get too carried away with upside and consequently waste too many picks.
Given that the mock drafts have both going in the top half of the first round (the most common projections have Dekker at #8 to the Pistons and Kaminsky at #13 to the Suns), we’re talking about teams that aren’t very good and should be first making sure they can get a reliable prospect. Kaminsky is the more reliable of the two.
Regardless of which direction you prefer with these two players, Kaminsky and Dekker—along with Nigel Hayes, who will be at Wisconsin for his junior year next fall and is a future first-round pick himself—are evidence that maybe that Wisconsin “upset” of Kentucky wasn’t as a big a shocker as everyone thought.