As is popular at this point in the sports year with the NBA and college basketball in between seasons, early mock drafts are out for the 2015 NBA Draft. The Aztecs have had a decent track record in the past four years with three players being drafted (Kawhi Leonard, Jamaal Franklin, Xavier Thames). Now, with our eyes set on 2015, SDSU is looking at the possibility of having two players drafted in the same draft for the first time since 1976--when the NBA Draft had 10 rounds.
SDSU doesn't receive the NBA notoriety like the North Carolinas or Dukes of the world, so two players being selected could truly be special for the basketball program. This year, the favorites for the Aztecs lie in two of the squad's key wing players, junior Winston Shepard and senior Dwayne Polee II.
Yes, it's early, but as of July 24, NBADraft.net projects Polee to be drafted 36th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers and Shepard to be picked 41st overall by the New York Knicks. On June 27, SB Nation writer Ricky O'Donnell predicted Shepard would go in the first round at pick No. 30. O'Donnell wrote that Shepard is an "athletic forward who is quietly solid at every aspect of the game." Also on June 27, TheBigLead.com's Jason McIntyre wrote that Polee was in the "just missed" category for the LOTTERY picks.
Obviously their draft selection hinges on continued growth with their respective games, but these predictions show great respect for both players with a little under 11 months out from the draft.
Polee burst on to the scene late in the season this year and provided great outside shooting--he was also a key cog to Coach Fisher's smothering defense. The thing about him is he has NBA size at 6'7" and long arms--eye candy for NBA scouts. This year it seems like 10-15 players were drafted just because they had great length, a plus for Polee. With some NBA training, he can fill out into a quality NBA body. Not only does he have great size, but he brings great defense, athleticism and most especially a good outside shot. All these are skills that can fill in a niche for an NBA team that is looking to fill a team weakness.
I think Polee has the talent to be drafted, but also wouldn't be surprised if he were to slip under the radar and go undrafted, eventually getting picked up by a summer league team. However, next year's draft isn't looking very strong, so as long as he shows that he can be the same player he was late in the season next year, he could definitely climb up into the second round.
Shepard has NBA-level talent but hasn't yet been able to put it together for a full season, but he enters a key third year with an opportunity to do just that. He was the Aztecs' second-leading scorer last year with 11.6 points per game and will have every opportunity to succeed in a lead role as he appears to be next in the leadership line behind Xavier Thames--this year's No. 59 pick. Shepard brings great defense to the table, as well as excellent passing and ball handling for his size. In fact, Shepard could very well run point for the Aztecs this year. He also has a knack for scoring in the paint.
His spotty jump shot and decision making need work, but at 6'8, he brings a dynamic skill set for his size, something scouts salivate over. If he declares for the NBA and gets drafted, his playmaking ability could fit well into the sophisticated offenses in the NBA. If he can improve upon his shooting and get off to a quick start, expect to see his name in most mock drafts throughout the year, and maybe even push into the late first round if he can make the jump almost every heir-apparent of a Fisher-led team has made before him. If he can follow in the footsteps of Kawhi Leonard, Jamaal Franklin and Mr. Thames , expect to hear his name called in the draft next year if he makes the NBA jump.
Once again, this is early conjecture, but Winston has the higher ceiling and would be more likely to be drafted out of the two--should he choose to declare. At this point it's hard to pinpoint where he would be selected, though. Polee, on the other hand, could be a late second-round pick at best, but also could fall out. However, his scoring ability, jump shot and size will leave him in a good position to receive a quick call from a summer-league team. This isn't a bad thing, something SDSU's very own Josh Davis knows, who played exceptionally well in the summer league.