Best NBA fit for All-Americans
The All-American list is always filled with future NBA talent and this year is no different. The AP selected four seniors and one sophomore to the All-American list; Buddy Hield, Denzel Valentine, Brice Johnson, Malcolm Brogdon, and Tyler Ulis.
Hield and Valentine were voted unanimously to the first team, both leading their teams to #2 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
All five of these players will be playing ball on the next level, but sometimes All-Americans don't necessarily go to the NBA and become All-Stars. It takes the right situation for a player to really flourish. Steph Curry going to Warriors instead of the Knicks or Timberwolves was great for Curry - not so much for the other two franchises who are still without an all-star point guard. The Warriors system and open offense fit Curry well and the Warriors invested into Steph Curry, which some players don't get the luxury of experiencing a perfect system.
So which system will be prime for the 5 All-Americans? Here is where I think the All-Americans would be most potent.
Buddy Hield, 6'4 214lb Senior
Some call him "Baby Kobe", and aside from the #24 jersey, the scoring ability definitely resembles the Black Mamba. Hield after his junior season decided to come back to Norman to improve his game and improve his team success. His decision turned out to be a smart one, increasing his point total by 8 points, three point percentage (39% to 46%) and field goal percentage (41% to 50%). Most players that decide to return for one more season when they already have a high stock, sometimes decline in production, Marcus Paige of the Tar Heels is a perfect example. Pundits often say that returning for an extra year is detrimental but for Hield is was a career defining decision.
Best fit: Sacremento Kings
Ben McLenmore hasn't really pan out for the Kings like they were hoping. The swing guard is averaging 9 points a game while shooting 37% from the field, his lowest in his three-year career. Hield could be that extra scorer the Kings need to push them into the upper tier of the Western Conference. Playing along side Rondo and Boogie Cousins, Buddy will get opportunities to work out on the perimeter and see open looks from the trey land.
Tyler Ulis, PG, 5'9 155 Sophomore
Ulis may be the smallest player on the court, but majority of the time he is the best. Ulis became the smallest AP All-American since the 5-foot-9 Johnny O'Brien of Seattle in 1943 according to Associated Press. Ulis was named the SEC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. The Kentucky Wildcat averaged 17 points per game along with 7 dimes. Ulis was the floor general for the Wildcats this season, after coming off the bench just a year ago, backing up the Harrison twins only averaging 5 points per contest. Many of the scouts and GMs like Ulis toughest and ability to run an offense which could make him a potential lottery pick.
Best Fit: New York Knicks
The Knicks are in dire need of point guard and Ulis is possibly the best on the board. Ulis could be that floor general that the Knicks have been missing since the Carmelo Anthony era started but also assist with the scoring. Playing in the East would also be his favor, not having to go through the point guard gauntlet that is in the Western Conference. Instead he will playing the same conference as 5-foot-9 All-Star point guard, Isaiah Thomas.
Malcolm Brogdon, SG, 6'5 217lbs Senior
One of the most complete players in college basketball. It's not much Brogdon can't do on the basketball court and he also plays stellar defense. The ACC Player of the Year averaged 18 points a game and led the Cavs to the ACC title game. Brogdon, like Hield, returned for his senior season when the NBA was calling after a standout junior year. It's not surprising to see Brogdon increase his totals because he has done it all four years. In his senior year, Brogdon marked career highs in points, assist, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and minutes played. Brogdon is the prime example of what four years in college can do for a player. He went from averaging 6 points to becoming one of the best all-around guards in the country.
Best Fit: San Antonio Spurs
Greg Popovich has made a living off fundamental players like Brogdon. Brogdon may have to work on his shooting to find space in the lineup but his defensive prowess will get him on the court. Brogdon also has a quiet demeanor about him, another quality that will make him a perfect fit for the best franchise in the NBA.
Denzel Valentine, G-F, 6'5 220lbs Senior
Valentine is another four-year player that progressed over time. Very different from Brogdon and Hield, Valentine is able to play the 1-4 on the college level and probably the 1-3 in the NBA. Valentine became the first Spartan to win the AP Player of the Year award, averaging 19 points, 7 boards, 8 dimes. He also shot well from the field, shooting 48% from the field and knocking down 105 treys (44%). Valentine carried the Spartans to a 29-win season and a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. A early exit to Middle Tennessee State didn't play well with his stock but the versatile guard will still be a solid pickup for any team in the NBA.
Best Fit: Oklahoma City Thunder
Initially I wanted to say the Wizards but then I thought about how much the Thunder need a wing player that play defense but also play defense. For the past 5+ years, the Thunder has used "defensive specialist" such as Thabo Seflosha and Andre Roberson, who had success with guarding some of the best wing players in the league, but they are liabilities on the offensive end. Valentine could be that stone to kill both offensive and defensive birds. With Valentine, teams won't be able to double down on Russell or KD, because Valentine can hit that open jumper.
Brice Johnson, Forward, 6'9 228lbs
Brice Johnson was a project when he came into Chapel Hill four years ago. He was raw and had attitude issues according to head coach Roy Williams. Coach Williams didn't take it easy on Johnson, especially after he made a mental error on the court. Coach Williams seen the future and the future was a All-American big man. Brice biggest game came against Florida State when he dropped 39 points and 23 boards while shooting 88% from the field. From that point on we all knew he was ready for the next level. Brice finished the season with 23 double-doubles and had a stat line of 15+ points & 15+ boards six times. He was the dominant big man that the Tar Heels needed in order to make it deep into the NCAA Tournament. Offensively, he is solid, always making the tough buckets with both hands and he is a glass cleaner when it comes to the boards. The only thing I suggest is a coach that will help him grow to the next level.
Best fit: Charlotte Hornets
Why not? Currently the Hornets have another Tar Heel at the power forward position, Marvin Williams, who leads the team in boards with 6.6 a game. Brice could obviously help the Hornets on the boards, currently 15th in the league which isn't bad. Brice could elevate that 44 boards a game to 50 maybe and put the Hornets top in the league. And of course he would share ties with the owner of the team which always a plus.