NCAA Basketball Recruiting: Pro-Player Comparisons for 5-Stars in Class of 2015
Coaches at the nation’s top college programs are eminently familiar with the NCAA basketball recruiting class of 2015, but fans may not have gotten to see much of the next crop of young stars. As these top prospects prepare for their senior years of high school, one way to get some perspective on what kinds of players they are is by looking at the pros they could grow up to become.
Isaiah Briscoe, for example, is an undersized shooting guard whose toughness lets him play bigger than his height. That’s a playing style that has helped Dwyane Wade earn bushels of All-Star appearances in his NBA career.
While Briscoe certainly isn’t on Wade’s level now, the Heat veteran makes a great role model for the New Jersey-based youngster. Read on for a closer look at that pairing, plus NBA counterparts for the rest of Rivals.com’s 5-star prospects in the 2015 class.
25. Brandon Ingram: Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia
Brandon Ingram thrives on exploiting matchups. He’s quicker than most power forwards and stronger than most small forwards, so he uses whichever edge he has to put points on the board in bunches.
Thaddeus Young has carved out a similar niche with the 76ers (though he appears to be headed to Minnesota shortly, according to Mark Perner of Philly.com), making up for a lack of height with terrific agility.
More comfortable on the perimeter than the power forwards he guards, he can still find his way to the glass for rebounds, another trait Ingram shares.
24. Deyonta Davis: Paul Millsap, Atlanta
Though he is an impressive athlete, Deyonta Davis’ most striking asset is his work ethic.
The 6’9” Michigan State commit throws himself into the rebounding fray with abandon, adding plenty of second-chance points to the ones he accumulates with a quality mid-range jumper.
A similar high-energy game has helped 6’8” Paul Millsap enjoy a productive NBA career despite his own lack of length. The All-Star also shares some of Davis’ shortcomings, including an iffy back-to-the-basket game.
23. Justin Simon: Ricky Rubio, Minnesota
No, Justin Simon can’t match Ricky Rubio for flair—but then, who can? However, the Arizona commit makes similar contributions to his team’s success, if not to the highlight reels.
Like Minnesota’s slick-handling point guard, Simon focuses on dishing out assists in profusion. Neither player does much scoring (or shoots especially well), but both do plenty of damage by forcing turnovers on defense.
22. Dwayne Bacon: Richard Jefferson, Dallas
In Richard Jefferson’s younger days, he was among the most versatile players in the NBA. A playmaker as a rebounder and passer, he also contributed solid defense to go along with his scoring.
Jefferson is now (at 34) twice as old as Dwayne Bacon, but he still brings some of the same multi-faceted game that the youngster features.
Bacon is actually a better three-point threat than Jefferson was at Arizona, though not as good as the NBA veteran eventually became.
21. Chance Comanche: Anthony Davis, New Orleans
Chance Comanche isn’t nearly as developed as Anthony Davis was when he arrived in college, either physically or in terms of his skills.
The raw material is there, though, for a 6’11” high schooler who’s already shown occasional flashes of offense and wonderful shot-blocking instincts on a cat-quick frame.
Davis, for his part, parlayed a similar toolbox into an All-Star berth in his second NBA season (when he might have been a junior at Kentucky).
The league’s leader in rejections last year, the Pelicans star also averaged the first of what promise to be many double-doubles in his pro career.
20. Caleb Swanigan: DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento
Setting aside the (entirely reasonable) concerns about his mental makeup, oft-suspended DeMarcus Cousins is a devastating player on the court.
His combination of 270-pound bulk and deceptively nimble post moves lets him control the lane as a scorer and rebounder.
Caleb Swanigan, at 6’9”, isn’t quite as tall as Cousins, but he weighs in at 265 pounds and has a similar aptitude for throwing his weight around. Also like Cousins, he can play physical defense but isn’t anything special as a shot-blocker.
19. Luke Kennard: Monta Ellis, Dallas
As a pure shooter, Luke Kennard can trade baskets with anyone in the class of 2015. The Ohio-born scoring machine can rain three-pointers all day, but there’s not much else that he does at an elite level at this stage.
Mavericks combo guard Monta Ellis, who took more than 15 shots per game despite leading the team in assists, relies similarly on his scoring punch to carry the rest of his game.
The NBA vet is a better passer and defender than Kennard, but the Duke commit is a far more accurate three-point shooter than the .330 Ellis posted last season.
18. Tyler Dorsey: Brandon Jennings, Detroit
Tyler Dorsey would fit right in with the collection of almost-point guards the Pistons have amassed since Chauncey Billups’ departure.
He’s a 6’4” tweener who can play either backcourt position with great athletic ability and scoring punch, but only middling floor-leader skills.
Brandon Jennings hews closer to the point guard end of the spectrum than Dorsey does, but he’s definitely in the same hybrid mold.
A solid but not elite three-point shooter, he does most of his damage by putting the ball on the floor, much like the young Los Angeleno.
17. Henry Ellenson: David Lee, Golden State
Henry Ellenson’s relatively recent climb up the recruiting rankings mirrors the slow start to David Lee’s NBA career.
Like the Warriors big man, though, Ellenson isn’t likely to go anywhere now that he’s carved out a place among the top power forwards in his class.
The Wisconsin native is a burly 6’10” forward with two go-to skills: vacuuming up rebounds and burying mid-range jumpers.
A similar description could apply to the 6’9” Lee, whose two All-Star appearances were founded on his ability to scrap and claw for boards on undersized Golden State teams.
16. Antonio Blakeney: Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix
In his first (half-)season as a starter before getting hurt, Eric Bledsoe looked like an ideal scoring point guard. Not only did the newly minted Sun pile up points and assists, but he also produced as a rebounder and defender and even hit a few three-pointers.
Antonio Blakeney is, at 6’4”, three inches taller than Bledsoe, but he occupies a similar combo-guard spot on the positional spectrum.
The Florida native isn’t as effective of a playmaker as the NBAer, but he’s established himself as a player who fills up box scores (especially in the points column).
15. Jalen Brunson: Kyle Lowry, Toronto
Not only is Jalen Brunson the best floor general in the 2015 class, but he’s also the best scorer among the bona fide PGs. The southpaw son of former NBA guard Rick is a potent three-point shooter and playmaker in spite of a lack of eye-popping athletic ability.
Kyle Lowry’s career year for the Raptors similarly owed a lot to the three-point arc (he buried 190 treys, eighth in the league). He’s a competent but not overpowering athlete who still finds a way to score his share of points and keep the offense flowing.
14. Skal Labissiere: John Henson, Milwaukee
Despite coming off the Milwaukee bench, John Henson finished in the NBA’s top 10 in shot-blocking last season. The willowy forward is an improving all-around contributor, but if it weren’t for the rejections, he might be in the D-League.
Skal Labissiere, by the same token, is a dominant shot-blocker who’s still a work in progress otherwise.
Also like Henson, he could use some more bulk—the Haitian import carries a mere 200 pounds on his 6’11” frame—though the youngster has a more promising jump shot than the Bucks forward.
13. Isaiah Briscoe: Dwyane Wade, Miami
Although he stands just 6’3”, Isaiah Briscoe thrives on physical play. The New Jersey native is a fine jump-shooter, but he does far more damage pinballing through the lane and racking up free throws to go with his contested finishes.
It may not be the most flattering year to be compared to Dwyane Wade, but the now-aging Miami star does share Briscoe’s physicality and knack for drawing fouls.
The youngster isn’t quite up to Wade’s lofty defensive standards yet, but he’s getting there (as he is with regard to the veteran’s rebounding chops).
12. Allonzo Trier: DeMar DeRozan, Toronto
Arizona-bound Allonzo Trier is a shooting guard in the most literal sense. The 6’4” Marylander can stroke jump shots or attack the rim with equal facility, but he doesn’t bring a whole lot else to the table.
DeMar DeRozan, meanwhile, played a key role in Toronto’s Atlantic Division title by placing 10th in the NBA in scoring.
He did a decent job as a passer (also Trier’s best secondary skill), but other than his 22.7 points per game, the first-time All-Star had very little to offer overall.
11. Elijah Thomas: Zach Randolph, Memphis
As Zach Randolph has aged, he’s gone from a high-flying dunker to a gargantuan low-post scorer. Now weighing in at 260 pounds on a 6’9” frame, he bulls his way into position in the lane and uses his soft hands to amass rebounds and points with regularity.
Elijah Thomas, who already packs 250 pounds at 6’9”, has developed a similar approach to controlling the paint.
Like Randolph, he isn’t always comfortable in an up-and-down game, but unlike the two-time All-Star, he doesn’t yet have a top-tier mid-range shot to go with his low-block scoring touch.
10. Ray Smith: Andre Iguodala, Golden State
Ray Smith, yet another member of Arizona’s loaded 2015 crop of recruits, is very nearly NBA-ready as an athlete with a year of high school ball yet to go.
He’s not a top-notch shooter for a small forward, but he knows how to use his 6’7” length to make plays in a variety of areas.
By the same token, everything Andre Iguodala has accomplished at the NBA level starts with his phenomenal athletic ability.
A former Wildcat himself, he’s a superstar defender, whereas Smith is merely good, Otherwise, he’s counted on being able to make an impact up and down the box score, just as the Nevadan youngster has.
9. Carlton Bragg: Kevin Love, Minnesota
Carlton Bragg isn’t an awe-inspiring physical specimen at 6’9”, 220 pounds. He gets his rebounds with hustle and positioning, racking up putbacks to complement the points he scores with a soft mid-range shooting touch.
Kevin Love has matured into a more imposing big man than he was in college, but he’s still giving up plenty of size (at 6’10”) to top NBA post players.
Nevertheless, the soon-to-be Cavalier, per Mark Perner of Philly.com, has earned three All-Star nods with his dominant rebounding, plus an offensive game that’s a good bit more refined than the one Bragg features at this stage.
8. Chase Jeter: Taj Gibson, Chicago
More mobile than massive, Chase Jeter is an active low-post presence at 6’10”. The Duke commit is a potent back-to-the-basket scorer, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t make plenty of plays on the glass or on D.
Taj Gibson skews to the defensive end of the spectrum, where Jeter is primarily an offensive weapon, but they get the job done in similar ways. Both are high-energy types who outmaneuver opponents rather than outmuscling them.
7. Stephen Zimmerman: Brook Lopez, Brooklyn
Skinny though he is, 7’0” Stephen Zimmerman is a big-time defender who can block shots with some of the best in the 2015 class.
He’s got even more potential on the other end of the floor, where a silky jump shot and precocious ball-handling ability will let him run the pick-and-pop at an elite level down the road.
Brook Lopez is one of the best centers in the NBA for that kind of two-man game, and like Zimmerman, he’s more of a force as a scorer than as a rebounder. The youngster has a long way to go, though, before matching the 2013 All-Star’s 260 pounds of mass.
6. Diamond Stone: Dwight Howard, Houston
Even at the NBA level, Diamond Stone would be a lot to handle at 6’10” and 255 pounds. He’s not all bulk, either, as his sure hands and deft post moves help him score nearly as many points with finesse as he does with force.
Like Stone, Dwight Howard is a pure back-to-the-basket weapon at center, as well as a fearsome rebounder.
Howard is a more explosive athlete, but the youngster may already have the edge on shooting range (and almost certainly will by the time he joins Howard in the pros).
5. Cheick Diallo: DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers
DeAndre Jordan started all 82 games for the Pacific Division champs despite scoring just 10.4 points per game. You can afford to be an afterthought on offense when you lead the NBA in rebounding and block 2.5 shots a night in the bargain.
Cheick Diallo doesn’t have Jordan’s size—the New Yorker is just 6’9”, 225 pounds—but he’s got the defense-first approach figured out.
He may yet develop as a scorer—he showed signs of improvement this summer in AAU play—but right now his stock in trade is blocking shots and controlling the glass, and he combines those traits better than any other player in the class of 2015.
4. Ivan Rabb: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland
Ivan Rabb’s defense is overshadowed by a class filled with shot-blocking specialists, but he’s a fine rim protector in his own right.
Of course, his D is also overshadowed by his outstanding low-post scoring skills, not to mention his toughness on the glass.
LaMarcus Aldridge started off as more of a jump-shooter with the Blazers, but he’s become an All-Star by controlling the low block on offense.
He’s also improved dramatically as a rebounder, though he’s not the defensive weapon that Rabb has been at the high school level.
3. Jaylen Brown: Luol Deng, Miami
Luol Deng didn’t become an All-Star until he found his three-point shot, but he was a top-notch NBA starter for years before that.
The 6’8” forward’s skills as a defensive stopper—and his blend of outstanding power, quickness and leaping ability—once made him a fixture in the Bulls’ starting five regardless of how he was doing as a scorer.
Jaylen Brown is more reliable at putting points on the board (even in the absence of a three-point stroke of his own), but he also sets himself apart with defense.
A terrific athlete at 6’7”, he’s far stronger than most high school wing players, helping him approach Deng's flair for rebounding as well.
2. Malik Newman: Bradley Beal, Washington
Malik Newman shares more with Bradley Beal than having just joined the Wizards guard on the list of MVPs at the FIBA U17 World Championships. Both are 6’3” super-scorers who have figured out how to excel against bigger opponents.
Like Newman, Beal is a dead-eye three-point shot who can also take over a game by slashing to the rim. Both players, too, could stand to improve on defense, though Beal’s superior athleticism gives him a better chance to make good on that possibility.
1. Ben Simmons: Rudy Gay, Sacramento
Maligned though he’s been in recent years, Rudy Gay has a lot going for him as a small forward. He’s a respectable outside shooter who can also mix it up in the paint, and his rebounding and defense (when he stays focused) are valuable assets.
Unlike Gay, Ben Simmons doesn’t face any worries about the mental side of his game, though he’s also not the jaw-dropping athlete that the NBA vet is.
An Australian import who’s bound for LSU, Simmons can score in bunches (and in many different ways), but he can also make a serious impact as a passer, rebounder or defender.