Badgers NBA Draft Preview

It's unusual for the University of Wisconsin to get a former athlete drafted, let alone one being selected in the first round. In the annual NBA draft tonight, the Badgers could have two former players - Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky - be selected in the top 15.

Wisconsin won’t be mistaken for Kentucky in terms of producing top level NBA talent on a yearly basis, but the Badgers’ program will enjoy one of its best NBA drafts with Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker expecting to hear their names in the first round of tonight’s NBA draft.

With only three former players currently on NBA rosters, and Bo Ryan having only two of his former players be selected in the first round, Kaminsky and Dekker each have been projected to go somewhere in the top 20. When their names are called, they will represent the eighth and ninth players in Wisconsin history to be drafted in the first round since 1947.

Below is the order I believe Kaminsky and Dekker will come off the board during the NBA Draft inside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Thursday night.

Frank Kaminsky - Lottery Pick: Kaminsky has been consistently listed among the lottery selections in mock drafts but it is hard to get a gauge of where the national player of the year will land. It appears the earliest Kaminsky could possibly go is the sixth pick to the Sacramento Kings, but he shouldn’t get past the Phoenix Suns at 13.

As many Wisconsin fans already know, one of Kaminsky’s biggest strengths, and what makes him attractive to NBA executives and scouts, is his ability to stretch the floor by being comfortable in the post and stepping out to his a perimeter jumper. In his four years in Madison, Kaminsky’s 3-point shooting percentage improved consistently, and he finished his senior season shooting 41.6 percent on an average of 2.5 three attempts a game. Those improving numbers will only add to his value with the NBA transitioning to a more perimeter game.

It’s a rarity to see someone with Kaminsky’s size having the confidence to handle the ball in transition and drive to the rim. Kaminsky’s post game has also improved during his four year college career, and he should be able to find ways of scoring on the block against players with his ability to go to his right or to his left. He will still need to improve in his low post as he won’t be able to get his three point shot off as easily as he was able to at Wisconsin.

Although his offensive game is ahead of where he is defensively, Kaminsky should be able to fit in well in a NBA offense (averaging 2.6 assists per game last season) and a team’s defensive scheme, considering he averaged 1.6 blocks a game and left school at the program’s all-time leader in blocked shots (153).

The biggest things preventing teams from selecting Kaminsky are possibly his age (some teams might choose to take a younger big man and develop him behind an experienced veteran) or his lack of elite athleticism. But because of his work ethic, energy level and versatility, he should be able to find a role on an NBA team and contribute immediately.

Kaminsky will likely be the first senior taken in the draft and, if the draft order holds, I think he’ll go to the Indiana Pacers with the 11th pick. It appears that Roy Hibbert is on his way out of the Pacers organization, and Kaminsky would be able to step in right away and help the team.

Sam Dekker - Lottery Pick: Dekker became the second player under Ryan to declare after his junior season (Harris), and like Kaminsky, Dekker has no firm position in the draft. Mock drafts have projected Dekker to go anywhere between the eighth and the 23rd pick.

The biggest question surrounding Dekker is can he consistently shoot from the perimeter. In his three years at Wisconsin he averaged 34.8 percent from three, but his perimeter percentage jumped from 32.6 percent his sophomore year to 33.1 percent this past season.

Although Dekker has struggled with his consistency from the perimeter over his college career, he gave NBA scouts a glimpse of his potential during last season’s NCAA tournament run. In UW’s six game run to the national championship game, Dekker shot 41.6 percent from 3-point range, including a memorable 5-for-5 in the second half against Arizona in the Elite Eight. That performance gave a glimpse of what he is capable of doing at the next level.

As Dekker has shown this past year and in his career, he can run the floor well and can get points off of transition. He is also capable of attacking a defender off the dribble thanks to his length and versatility. If obvious glaring weakness currently is his defense, something that held him back earlier in his college career but did improve as a junior. If he continues to improve and develop, he has a chance to become a player that is difficult to guard with the ability to score inside and out.

Dekker worked out for a variety of teams drafting in the lottery, but I think he will be drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder at 14. Dekker will have a chance to learn from Kevin Durant, who will become a free agent following the 2015-2016 season, not to mention that new Thunder head coach Billy Donovan coached Dekker in the summer of 2012 for the U.S. U18 team, which won a gold medal at the FIBA Americas Championship in Brazil. There would be some familiarity for Dekker if he is selected by Oklahoma City, which could help his game blossom.

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