Unseating the Big Ten favorite both in the standings (well, it's a tie actually) and in future pros, Michigan State leads the Buckeyes and the rest of the conference. Ohio State has a future lottery pick in the burly forward Jared Sullinger and perhaps one of this year's most underrated players in guard William Buford. Versatile forward Deshaun Thomas is at least a year away and point guard Aaron Craft may be best suited as a four-year player. Aside from that, little-used center Amir Johnson has not yet gotten a chance to take up a role on the big stage. Michigan State, on the other hand, has quite a large number of players auditioning for the next level.
Now, the Spartans do not have a lottery caliber-player, but they could very well fill up this year's draft with five players, starting with the favorite in the Big Ten Player of the Year race right now, the versatile, jack of all trades, master of none, Draymond Green. At 6'6", he is transitioning from an undersized power forward to a below-average small forward athletically, but Green makes up for his lack of a true position with an extremely high basketball IQ that has him averaging 15.2 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. He seems to always find the right place and right time for a rebound and instinctively creates for others with his court vision and passing instincts.
At the same position as Green is a freshman forward named Branden Dawson. Dawson is a 6'6" tweener who is as gifted as they come athletically, although a bit heavy-footed in terms of quickness at this stage of his game. He plays physically with a high-motor and is putting in work on his fundamentals and skills; when these talents are tapped into, Dawson could very well be a first-round pick.
The other forward spots place two more talents in the NBA pool- 6'10" and athletic sophomore Adriean Payne and a physical, 6'9", 270-pound post player in Derrick Nix. Payne, like Dawson, is a super-athletic prototype for his position with excellent leaping abilities and quickness. He utilizes his raw talents to rebound and block shots mostly, but can run the floor and set-up in the low post or high post in scoring opportunities. Nix, on the other hand, sets up almost exclusively on the low-post where he uses his strength and sheer size to get post positioning around the rim combined with a soft touch. In just 18 minutes a game, Nix is averaging 7.7 points on 55.4 percent from the field with 3.8 rebounds; he is also surprisingly agile for a player of his size, but suffers plenty of conditioning issues to go along with his weight.
Last, but not least, is point guard Keith Appling, who is Michigan State's most important player aside from Draymond Green. The first-year starter has struggled at times as a creator and distributor for others (hence, why Draymond Green becomes so important); against top-tier teams like North Carolina, Duke, Ohio State and Wisconsin, Appling has amassed six total assists in the five games compared to 16 turnovers. But the benefit of having the ball in his hands, initiating the offense is his big-time scoring abilities, using his quickness in the open floor and excelling to get to the rim. He is second on the team in scoring and has the potential to be much more dangerous if he could develop the range and consistency necessary from the perimeter.