The Big 12 is widely considered the deepest conference in the country this season. And while there isn’t a ton of high-level talent outside of Kansas and Texas, almost every team has at least 1-2 guys being seriously looked at by NBA scouts. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are the top NBA prospects at each position in the conference.
Monte Morris, Iowa State (sophomore) - Morris has never received a ton of publicity, but he's a solid all-around PG who has thrived in a huge role at Iowa State since the moment he walked onto campus. He's a sophomore who plays like a four-year senior and he has an almost prenatural ability to control tempo and never let the opposing defense speed him up. While he probably doesn't have the physical tools to be a high-level starter at the next level, his savvy and feel for the game could allow him to carve out 10-year career as a back-up. Like most of these PG’s, he will need to shore up his three-point shooting first.
Isaiah Taylor, Texas (sophomore) - After a break-out freshman season, Taylor has had an up-and-down sophomore campaign following a devastating wrist injury he suffered in the first few weeks of the season. Nor has he been helped by the implosion of Rick Barnes program, as the Texas offense has been hamstrung to the point of collapse by their inability to space the floor and create driving lanes to the rim. Taylor is a large part of their spacing problem, though, as he shoots only 28.6% from 3. It's very hard to be a good PG in the modern NBA without a consistent three-point shot so there's no reason for him to declare for the draft until he can improve that aspect of the game.
Marcus Foster, Kansas State (sophomore) - It has been a tough year for sophomore PG's in the Big 12, as Foster hasn't been able to maintain the momentum he established in his freshman season, when the unheralded three-star recruit came from seemingly out of nowhere to breathe fresh life into Bruce Weber's program. He has benched multiple times for violating team rules and is currently serving a three-game suspension while the Wildcats have struggled to keep up with the Joneses in the Big 12. There's still a lot to like about Foster's game, although he is more of a pure scorer than a pure point, but he will have to get right with his coach before he thinks about the next level.
Juwan Staten, West Virginia (senior) - Staten is the engine for the West Virginia offense and the main reason why they are likely to break their two-year absence from the NCAA Tournament. They would have had a chance to make some real noise if his two running buddies from last season - Eron Harris and Terry Henderson - hadn't transferred out, creating a hole in the Mountaineers offense that Bobby Huggins hasn't been able to fill completely. Staten doesn't have a ton of size, but he's a fast and hard-nosed player with a well-rounded game who can score, defend and run offense. The problem with Staten is that he almost never takes 3’s despite being able to shoot out to 20+ feet.
Kenny Chery, Baylor (senior) - Chery doesn't have great size and he isn't a very flashy player, but he's an extremely savvy senior PG with a good feel for the game and he's probably the best floor general that Scott Drew has had since the days of Tweety Carter. Chery takes care of the ball and doesn't get sped up and he can absolutely kill a team from deep if they leave him open. While the NBA isn't running low on backup PGs, a team could do a lot worse at the third PG spot than Chery. The question is how his defense will hold up at the next level, as Drew's bizarre array of zones means he is almost never asked to man-up.
Kelly Oubre, Kansas (freshman) - After spending most of the non-conference portion of the schedule in Bill Self's doghouse, Oubre has been coming along in the last few weeks. There's a reason he has been considered a future lottery pick since high school - he has an elite combination of length, athleticism and shooting ability which should allow him to slide between both wing positions at the next level with ease. The only question with Oubre is just how high his ceiling is, as Self's two-post offense isn't the ideal situation for a young wing player to dominate the ball and showcase his all-around game. Oubre has the potential to be a very dynamic player in a spread pick-and-roll system in the NBA.
Wayne Selden, Kansas (sophomore) - All the elite talent at Kansas over the last two years has overshadowed Selden, a five-star recruit in his own right who is slowly developing into the player everyone thought he would be coming out of high school. Like Oubre, the biggest plus with Selden is his physical tools, as he is a very oversized SG in an era of 2 PG line-ups. At the very least, Selden is a good outside shooter with the size to be a factor on the glass and the defensive end of the floor. Whether he can be anything more at the next level is a question he might not get to answer until his junior season, when he will likely be given free reign in the Kansas offense.
Taurean Waller-Prince, Baylor (junior) - Scott Drew has become known for his recruiting prowess in luring elite recruits to Waco, but his ability to find and develop talent like Waller-Prince is what has made his program one of the most consistent in the conference. TWP is an athletic wing with the size to defend NBA SF's and the shooting ability to stretch the floor on offense, a combination which should give him a chance at the next level.
Buddy Hield, OU (junior) - Since taking over for Jeff Capel at OU, Lon Kruger has specialized in recruiting guys a step below the NBA level, four-year players whom he could build his program around without worrying about them declaring for the draft. Hield is the latest example of that model, a sweet-shooting SG without the size or all-around game to make him a must-have for NBA teams. That said, with the league moving towards more spread offenses, Hield's combination of athleticism and shooting ability should at least get him a shot. This is a guy who can fill it up from behind the three-point line really quickly.
Bryce Dejean-Jones, Iowa State (senior) - The former UNLV standout is the latest in a long line of transfers to find a second life in Fred Hoiberg's spread offense in Ames. BDJ gives the Cyclones the type of wing athlete the program has lacked in recent years, as he can match up on defense with all three perimeter positions at the college level. While he does have the ability to put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim, his chances of playing in the NBA will depend almost entirely on his three-point shot.
Johnathan Motley, Baylor (freshman) - Motley looks like he will continue Drew's tradition of high-level PF's, following in the footsteps of Ekpe Udoh, Quincy Acy, Perry Jones III, Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson. Drew recruits long, athletic and skilled big men to play his trademark 1-3-1 zone and Motley is no exception to that rule. He has the size to bang with the biggest players in the conference and the skill-set to be a threat posting up and playing 20+ feet away from the basket. As Motley gets a bigger role in the Baylor offense in the coming years, expect to hear much more about him.
Karviar Shepherd, TCU (sophomore) - Shepherd stunned many people when the Top 50 recruit chose to stay close to him and play at TCU, a program which has almost no history of attracting high-level talent. While the decision has meant a lot of losses and not a lot of national publicity, it has allowed Shepherd to grow into a major role without a ton of pressure. He's a good athlete with the size to swing between either position at the next level and he has the fluidity and perimeter game that NBA scouts are looking for out of a stretch big man. If Trent Johnson can continue to build the program at TCU, expect Shepherd to be a Big 12 POY candidate by the time his career in Fort Worth is over.
Cliff Alexander, Kansas (freshman) - Like Oubre, Alexander came into college with a mountain of hype but has heard to earn every bit of playing time he can get in a Kansas program overflowing with talent. My main concern with Alexander is that he seems to be an archetype of a previous era, a big man without the size to play as a center or the perimeter game to play as a PF in the modern NBA. The tools are there for him to develop into a 10-year NBA player, but I worry that if he declares too early he will have to spend a ton of time in the D-League. I wrote a lot more about Alexander and how Self can develop him into an NBA player here.
Jonathan Holmes, Texas (senior) - Holmes has seen most of the momentum for his draft status evaporate over the second half of the season amidst yet another collapse for a Rick Barnes helmed team. He's currently out with a concussion, but no matter what happens at Texas he has the tools to at least get an invitation to training camp. A small-ball PF like Holmes who can shoot 3's, put the ball on the floor and hold his own on the boards is becoming more important than ever in the modern NBA. In a best-case scenario, he can carve out a career similar to Mike Scott of the Atlanta Hawks.
LeBryan Nash, OSU (senior) - LeBryan never lived up to some of the expectations surrounding him when he first came to OSU, but he has turned himself into an excellent college player and he is essentially carrying Travis Ford's program following the departures of Marcus Smart and Markel Brown to the NBA. While he would have been projected as a SF a generation ago, his inability to add any range to his jumper means he's more suited to a role as a small-ball PF, which is where he was eventually moved too at OSU.
TaShawn Thomas, OU (senior) - Thomas has moved into a secondary role since transferring over from Houston, but his ability to defend multiple positions upfront, protect the rim, create his own shot and distribute the ball is crucial if OU is going to have any chance of making a run in the NCAA Tournament. His numbers at UH suggest he's a player who hasn't gotten a chance to show what he can do on the big stage, but his lack of elite length or athleticism as well as his lack of a three-point shot puts a ceiling on NBA potential. Nevertheless, Thomas is an intriguing player who may be getting underrated thanks to the low-profile nature of the two programs he has played for.
Georges Niang, Iowa State (junior) - If Iowa State can ever unseat Kansas from the top of the conference, Niang should have a real shot at the Big 12 POY. He's kind of like Draymond Green without the athleticism, as he's a versatile combo forward who can do a little bit of everything on the court and can be practically unstoppable at the college level. The question for Niang is whether he is going to be able to guard in the NBA. He's likely going to need to show out in a big-time game in the NCAA Tournament to have much of a chance of being drafted.
Myles Turner, Texas (freshman) - I wrote a lot about Turner's draft projections last week. He's not in a position to put up a ton of stats at Texas as a freshman, but that was something that could have been projected before the start of the season, which makes me wonder if he plans on spending more than one season in college. Suffice to say, whenever he declares for the draft, he will be a very, very rich man.
Prince Ibeh, Texas (junior) - Ibeh has managed to squeeze out a role for himself amidst an incredibly crowded frontcourt rotation at Texas, but he hasn't gotten enough minutes to make much of an impression. The physical tools are there, as Ibeh has the length and athleticism to be a prototype rim protector in the modern NBA, with the ability to play above the rim and move his feet on the perimeter in the pick-and-roll. The problem for Ibeh is unlikely to ever be anything more than a catch-and-threat finish on the offensive end of the floor and his free-throw shooting motion has to be seen to be believed. Even if he never gets a ton of minutes at Texas, though, a guy with his tools will at least get a chance in the NBA.
Rico Gathers, Baylor (junior) - Gathers is kind of the inverse of Ibeh, in that he's an extremely productive (and at times dominant) NCAA C who may not have the physical tools to play in the NBA. Gathers is a wide-bodied brusier who would seem perfectly at home battling along the line of scrimmage in the NFL. He has a high motor and a good amount of touch around the basket, but he doesn't have the length to be a good rim protector or the height to match up with bigger NBA C's.
Cam Ridley, Texas (junior)- Ridley's numbers have fallen along with the rest of his team, which makes his chances of getting drafted almost non-existent, as he had an uphill battle to make the NBA anyway. He doesn't have the height to match up with the biggest C's in the league nor does he have the quickness to defend out on the perimeter in the modern NBA. He is still a huge body with a developed post game, though, so he may be able to carve out a Dexter Pittman type career along the fringes of the NBA.