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American Athletic Conference NBA Draft Outlook

The AAC had a banner first year of basketball competition. Five teams were in the polls throughout the year. Sean Kilpatrick, Shabazz Napier and Russ Smith were named consensus All Americans. UConn won the whole damn thing. It was a good year, but will it translate to success in the NBA draft for the conference?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Hard telling. While there is no shortage of talent from this conference, the question of whether there is draftable talent. Shabazz and Russ and SK are phenomenal players in the college game. Those three guys carried their respective teams to new heights. Russ and Bazz are both national champions, SK was the Bearcats first All American since Steve Logan, all of which is well and good. But getting into the NBA and sticking there is all about finding a role and fulfilling it to the best of your ability. According to DraftExpress the AAC has four guys that are likely to get drafted. Obviously that should be taken with a grain of salt because the NBA draft is crazy. Its so crazy that the NFL draft thinks the NBA draft is crazy.

Shabazz Napier

If this was last years draft Shabazz would have rode his heroic tournament performance for the Huskies to a surefire lottery pick like Kemba Walker did. But its not, it is the deepest draft in recent memory with 9 or 10 guys who would have gone first overall in last years draft who happen to be stuck with each other. DraftExpress has Napier slotted at 21st which seems just about right for him.

Shabazz does a lot of wonderful things with the ball in his hands. He creates plays for himself and sets up others off the bounce. He is a competent pick and roll player who reads the second level of the defense and can make them pay for over rotating with on time and on target passes.

But the knock on him will be his size. In the NBA he is an undersized point guard who isn't hyper athletic. At UConn he made up for that lack of athleticism with a herky jerky game that allowed him to create time and space for him with his jumper. Its an open question whether or not he can make that work in a league that is stocked full of unbelievable athletes at the point guard position.

NBA Best Case Comparison - Kyle Lowry

Lowry has a bigger build than Shabazz, but the height and style of game are very similar. Lowry has fashioned himself into a competent NBA player after coming out of Villanova relatively unheralded. The good news is that Shabazz is not an asshole, so he's already better than Lowry at one thing.

Russ Smith

The best thing about Russ is his unpredictability. That's not exactly a concept that sets GM's heart a fluttering. Russ is nominally a point guard, but he plays like a shooting guard. A shooting guard who just happens to be 6 foot tall and maybe 160 pounds. That will have to change obviously.

Russ made tremendous steps towards that end this year with Peyton Siva moving on after last year. He averaged career high's in assists per 40 minutes with 6 and tied his career low in turnovers per 40 minutes at 4. That's a assist to turnover ratio of 1.5, which is far better than the 1.0 he averaged as a sophomore and junior. The question is, can he continue to improve as a point guard while continuing to do crazy Russ Smith things?

Best Case NBA Comparison - ???

There really isn't anyone like Russ that comes to my mind. He is undeniably capable of becoming a rotation player on a good team. But what would his role be? I have no earthly idea.

DeAndre Daniels

Daniels fully came into his own during UConn's tourney run. In that and that alone he is reminiscent of Jeremy Lamb. Unlike Lamb Daniels struck while the iron was hot and declared for the draft forgoing his senior season. Daniels was terrifying to me as a Bearcat fan because he was always capable of massive games when interested, but his tendency to drift from game to game meant that you never knew what was coming.

When he was engaged and interested he has every tool that you could want. He can stretch to the three point line or slash his way to the rim with equal efficiency. He isn't a gifted passer, but he is good enough to keep the offense moving. The best thing about him from an NBA perspective is that he doesn't need the ball to be effective. He can find pockets of space and exploit them with quick cuts and quick posts with the right match up. That ability to play without the ball will serve him very well in the NBA, and for developing that you can thank Shabazz. On any other team the offense would have been give the ball to DeAndre and get out of the way.

Best Case NBA Comparison - Trevor Ariza

That's if Daniels decides that he would like to try on defense. His ultimate destiny would be as a wing player who spaces the floor with his three point shooting and locks down the other teams top wing on their bench unit. If he decides that he like defense. Big if.

Sean KIlpatrick

The two big questions for SK making it in the NBA are about his role. He is 6'4" 220 which is on the small side for an NBA shooting guard, because of that most teams will look at him as a nominal point guard. His handle is plenty good for a shooting guard, not so much for a point guard. That is one of the main things that he has been working on during the draft process. The question is has he shown enough for one team to fall in love with him enough to take a flier on him in the second round. If they do he has the ability to stick around in the league because he is an unbelievably mature guy who is been handling himself like a professional for the past two years.

Best Case NBA Comparison - Jarrett Jack

A guy who makes his living more or less running the bench unit for a good team and occasionally featuring as the third guard in small ball lineups.