Hield, Dunn headline group of upperclassmen
NEW YORK >> A couple of one-and-done freshmen will take center stage at the NBA draft on Thursday night, but do not discount upperclassmen.
After Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram are called, Buddy Hield, Kris Dunn and Denzel Valentine figure to have their moment.
Some of the elders to keep an eye on:
Kris Dunn, Providence
Draft prospect: Viewed as a potential top-5 pick
Position: 6-foot-3, 205-pound guard
Credentials: Technically played four years in college, but had season-ending surgery during his sophomore year, making him a redshirt junior with one year of eligibility remaining; averaged 16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists last season.
Outlook: Might be the most ready for the pros among the upperclassmen. "I think a lot of teams feel Dunn could step in tomorrow in the NBA and be an elite defender and I think that gives him a heads up as far as getting minutes and being able to play in the league," ESPN's Chad Ford said.
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
Draft prospect: Viewed as a potential top-10 pick
Position: 6-foot-4, 209-pound guard
Credentials: A consensus first-team All-American; averaged 17.4 points in his career at Oklahoma; led the Sooners to the Final Four last season.
Outlook: Projected to be the first senior off the board because of his elite offensive scoring ability; 11 games with 30 points or more last season.
Brice Johnson, North Carolina
Draft prospect: Viewed as a potential late first-round pick
Position: 6-foot-9, 228-pound forward
Credentials: A first-team All-American; averaged 16.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game last season. Led the Tar Heels to a second-place finish in the NCAA Tournament, falling to Villanova 77-74 in the title game.
Outlook: Johnson could be a strong power forward in the league and defensively made strides his senior year. His rebounding capabilities combined with his scoring ability in the paint will make him a tough player to pass up late in the teens to the early 20s.
Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
Draft prospect: Viewed as potential late first-round pick
Position: 6-foot-5, 220-pound guard
Credentials: The 2015-16 AP national player of the year was likely to be the other senior with Hield to be drafted in the lottery, but a lingering knee injury could be a concern for teams; averaged 19.2 points per game, 7.5 rebounds, and 7.8 assists last season. He led Michigan State to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Outlook: "Some (teams) are diving deep into the medicals and especially when you get a 22-year-old player and there are concerns about that type of stuff, you can start to shy away for players who are a little more safer or have a little more upside," Ford said.
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