We barely hear anything about upperclassmen when it comes to the NBA Draft these days. The vast majority of pre-draft segments and articles on various sites concern the underclassmen - the freshmen - and all their superstar potential. They look to pump up the draft with the promise of the NBA's next superstar. We all sit here and wonder: Is it Wiggins? Is it Parker? Is it Dante Exum?
It's the element of mystery and the boom-or-bust mentality that gets to us and gives us that excitement on draft night. But, here at numberFire, we like to cover all the bases. We like to examine all the ins and outs of the draft. And we'll probably continue to do so until we're blue in the face, or until LeBron or Melo make that first gigantic splash in free agency.
What often seems overlooked is the importance of the NBA Draft in the now - for this season. Folks get caught up in potential when more attention should be given to winning. That's why this year's seniors are so important to talk about. They could be the next overlooked superstar, or just a role player that contributes mightily to a potential contender. Here are five of the many seniors looking to make an impact.
Russ Smith, G, Louisville
The Player: Smith is a very small guard at just over 6'0" (with shoes) and 160 pounds. He's projected to go in the middle of the second round, somewhere between picks 40 and 56.
The Numbers: "Russ-diculous" was a playmaker for the Louisville Cardinals. It was clear from his sophomore year that he would be a gunner every time he stepped on the court. That season, he averaged 11.5 points in just 21.5 minutes of playing time per contest. However, Smith struggled as he only shot 35% from the field and 30% from downtown, all while averaging over two turnovers per game. But he would improve, learn and become a very solid player at the guard position.
In his junior year, now with the opportunity to shine, Russ really showed off. En route to a National Championship - yes the man's a winner, too - in 2013, the Cardinal averaged 18.7 points on 41% shooting to go along with his 2.9 assists and 2.1 steals per game. In 2014, the Cardinal failed to repeat as a champ, but Russ improved on his 2013 numbers, tallying 18.2 points, 4.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He became a great defender and a better shooter, as he shot 47% from the field and 39% from three. With all this improvement, Smith earned himself a 26.3 PER for the 2013-2014 season, 0.4 higher than projected first-round pick Shabazz Napier.
Predictions: Smith will be a good spark plug coming off the bench as a backup point guard. He can produce at the snap of a finger, and can play some hard-nosed defense for a guy his size. I could easily try to compare him to J.R. Smith, but he's become a much more efficient player and a solid defender. There may not be anyone in the league quite like Russ Smith, especially at his size. With his unique skill set and size, it's hard to tell where he might land, but he should go somewhere around pick 40 to 50. And in an ideal world, I'd love to see the Bulls pick him at 49. With his defensive mentality and offensive firepower, he could be the perfect man to spell D-Rose in Chi-Town.
C.J. Wilcox, G, Washington
The Player: Wilcox is a 6'5", 201-pound guard who looks to project as a shooting guard at the next level. He is projected by many to be a late first-round or early second-round pick.
The Numbers: Wilcox was the scorer for the Washington Huskies. He averaged roughly 14 field goal attempts while playing just under 35 minutes per contest in his last two seasons in Seattle. He was also a career three-point specialist, shooting 39% from three over his career while averaging just over 193 three-point attempts per season. As a knock-down shooter, it's no surprise that Wilcox shot a career-best 87% from the free throw line in his senior season.
Predictions: Wilcox will be an offensive producer off the bench for a contending team. He won't give much more than his outstanding shooting, but, with some work, I could see a ceiling similar to a young Ray Allen and a floor like that of former Huskie teammate Terrence Ross.
Wilcox could go anywhere from the 29th pick (the Thunder) to the 34th pick (the Mavs). Yes, he may go to a team like the Bucks at the beginning of the second round, but if the Thunder feel they need another three-point threat on the perimeter, they should look no further. The Mavs may be the most intriguing situation for Wilcox since he could step into a shooter's role alongside the experienced Vince Carter. Picking Wilcox could give the Mavs a cheap threat to score off the bench at any time.
Joe Harris, G/F, Virginia
The Player: Harris is a 6'6", 215-pound shooting guard who could also play some small forward because of his strength and build. He is projected as a second-round talent, but could go anywhere from the early second to undrafted.
The Numbers: Harris was a consistent contributor for four years for the Virginia Cavaliers. He averaged at least 28 minutes and 10 points each season. His best year came in the 2012-2013 season where he averaged 16 points per contest while shooting 42% from three. Harris saw his points per game drop his senior season due to the likes of Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill, but he was key in a Wahoo run in the ACC and NCAA tournaments. He's a great shooter from the perimeter, but his best attribute is his defense. Coach Tony Bennett's Cavaliers ranked first in points allowed per game (55.7) in one of the toughest conferences in the nation.
Predictions: Harris will be a solid player in the NBA for years to come. He's a combination of J.J. Redick's stroke and Wally Szczerbiak's solid frame. He could have a long career in the NBA shooting from the perimeter and playing solid defense at the guard or small forward spot.
He could go anywhere from the 36th pick, owned by the Bucks, to undrafted. But, if he falls far enough, the Bulls look like an ideal landing spot. With another defensive minded coach in Tom Thibodeau, Harris could serve as a good role player off the bench to spell the likes of Butler and Korver. He would thrive in Thibs' system and help bring the Bulls a step closer to being a true contender in the East.
Roy Devyn Marble, G/F, Iowa
The Player: Marble is a 6'6", 192-pound prospect who projects at the shooting guard or small forward position. He is projected as a second-round pick and could go at any time in the second round. He is also the son of former first-round pick Roy Marble, Sr.
The Numbers: Devyn Marble was a solid all-around player for the Iowa Hawkeyes. He played 29-plus minutes per game during his last three years in Iowa City. In those three years, he shot over 40% from the field, 32% from three and averaged 14.5 points per game. He also averaged roughly 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists 1.5 steals per contest over his sophomore to senior years. The numbers don't suggest too much, but Marble progressively made Iowa relevant in the Big Ten. They went from 10-22 in 2011 to 20-13 in 2013 and ultimately losing in a play-in game as an 11-seed. By those numbers, the guy's just a winner.
Predictions: Marble should be at least a solid role player in the NBA for years to come. However, he's shown a lot of promise to one day be much more than solid. Marble has the potential, with his skill-set and size to be a star a la Kawhi Leonard. It looks as though Marble could go to almost any team in the second round. But, if he was to go to a contender and contribute, I could see either the Rockets (at pick number 42) or Hornets (at pick number 45) picking him to fill a void in their respective lineups in order to get back to the playoffs this year.
Patric Young, F/C, Florida
The Player: Patric Young is a physical beast at 6'10" and nearly 250 pounds with a 7'1" wingspan. He projects as either a power forward or a smaller center, depending on a team's style of play. He's slotted to go in the second round of tonight's draft.
The Numbers: Young averaged 26 minutes per game over the last three years with the Gators. In those three years, he was very consistent as a 10 points and 6 rebounds per game kind of guy. He also added about a block per contest while shooting a very high percentage from the field. From his sophomore to senior years, Young shot 62%, 59% and 54% respectively. He is in no way a threat from three, and does struggle at the foul line (shot 60% last season), but as evidenced by the numbers, he's a bruiser down low. He knows how to use his body for rebounds, put-backs and post-ups.
Predictions: Young will definitely be your average NBA role player. He'll likely play no more than 20 minutes per game, but he will be all strength and energy in those 20 minutes. He reminds me a lot of DeJuan Blair, both in size and ability to use that size to get position on the floor. He could go around pick 40 to the Rockets at 42 or the Hawks at 43 - two teams looking to contend for their conference titles. Young's strength, energy and winning pedigree could prove valuable to such a team.