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Could MSU Have 3 Future NBA Players?

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On the day after the 2015 NBA draft, we take a look at MSU's men's basketball future.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA draft. The last guy that played for MSU to end up in the draft didn’t even finish his career in Starkville. However that is expected to change next year as it is anticipated that Malik Newman will be a one and done. But is Newman the only player on this MSU team that could end up in the NBA?

Personally, I see the potential for up to 3 players that could start for the Maroon and White find their way into the NBA.

But before I go into that, I want to go into what I expect the starting 5 to be.

As many already know, MSU ran a 3 Guard/2 Forward Starting 5 for much of last year. And I wouldn’t expect Ben Howland to change much of that, given which players already have playing time and experience and how the roster shakes up.

Here’s what the starting 5 was last year:

1-IJ Ready

2-Craig Sword

3-Travis Daniels

4-Roquez Johnson

5-Gavin Ware

But, with the losses of Roq Johnson and the additions of Newman, Quinndary Weatherspoon, and Aric Holman, there will be 2 spots on the starting 5 where we should expect to see some turnover.

First, let’s address the vacancy that Johnson leaves.

Johnson wasn’t a world beater or total game changer his senior year, but he provided a very solid and consistent 9.3 points per game (good for 3rd on the team) alongside 5.1 rebounds per game (enough for 2nd on the team). And I think it’s possible that Demetrius Houston and Aric Holman will battle it out for that starting spot. Houston obviously has some more experience but only averaged 3.1 points per game and 2.3 rebounds per game and has yet to get a start. For the sake of organization, we’ll call this Lineup A.

It is possible that Howland adjusts the starting 5 and moves Daniels (who is listed as a guard on the roster) to the 4 spot, bumps Sword to the 3, and brings in Fred Thomas and/or Weatherspoon to play the 2. For organization purposes, let’s dub this Lineup B So, with that speculation, here’s what the starting 5 looks like in these scenarios:

Lineup A (keeping Sword at 2, Daniels at 3)

1-IJ Ready

2-Craig Sword

3-Travis Daniels

4-Demetrius Houston/Aric Holman

5-Gavin Ware

Lineup B (moving Sword to 3, Daniels to 4)

1-IJ Ready

2-Fred Thomas/Quinndary Weatherspoon

3-Craig Sword

4-Travis Daniels

5-Gavin Ware

And here comes the dilemma of Malik Newman and IJ Ready. I like Ready. I really do. I think IJ might be one of the best players on the team. But he’s not better than Malik, especially if the hype around Newman is true. So, here goes each of those lineups with Malik, we’ll call them Lineup A’ and Lineup B’:

Lineup A’

1-Malik Newman

2-Craig Sword

3-Travis Daniels

4-Demetrius Houston/Aric Holman

5-Gavin Ware

Lineup B’

1-Malik Newman

2-Fred Thomas/Quinndary Weatherspoon

3-Craig Sword

4-Travis Daniels

5-Gavin Ware

And so, we’re left with these two lineups. Which, leads me back to the point of this piece, which 3 do I expect to potentially make it to the NBA?

Let’s go ahead and list Malik Newman, because everyone expects that. But there’s two more. Both are seniors. Both struggled through some of the hardest years in MSU basketball history and have shown a lot of upside. And they’re Gavin Ware and Craig Sword.

I think Ware is a bit of a longshot. He doesn’t have any range to his shot, and he’s an undersized center, but there is hope. The game is moving smaller and dominant, giant centers aren’t as coveted as they once were. Golden State, the NBA champs, just proved that championships can be won by playing small ball. And Ware has been arguably the most consistent player for MSU throughout his career, and he’s primed to breakout his senior year. He averaged 10 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1 block a game during his junior year. Expect all of those totals to increase under Ben Howland. There’s more depth behind him and more offense on the perimeter

And that leaves us with Craig Sword. Sword leads the team in points (with 1089 for his career and 317 his junior season) and steals (with 144 career and 29 his junior season). Like Gavin, I expect these totals to spike for Sword’s senior season. Sword has been the primary source of offense for MSU for most of his career. He’s been the man. But now that Malik Newman steps in, Sword should be able to get cleaner shots. He won’t get as many double teams and shouldn’t be forced into as many turnovers. He may not take as many shots, but he’ll be more efficient.

Gavin, Craig, and Malik. I’m not guaranteeing that they get drafted. I’m not guaranteeing they stay healthy and have great 2015-2016 seasons. But I’m also not guaranteeing that they’re the only ones that have success next year. I think IJ and Fred will both see solid seasons. Travis Daniels has potential to end his career strong as well.

But if there’s only 3 guys that get to the next level, if I can only pick 3, it’s Ware, Sword, and Newman. Expect these 3 to have a lot of success next year. Expect these 3 to lead the team as far as it can go. But most importantly, expect a great year of Mississippi State Basketball. Hail State.