NBA Draft 2014: Previewing Top Pac-12 Conference Tournament Prospects
The Pac-12 could end up producing its fair share of pros in 2014. We've got standout freshmen, breakout sophomores and upperclassmen who've finally come around. There's even a junior college transfer who's turned some NBA heads.
It's been a strong year for this conference, and we've seen some pretty good players within it grow into legitimate pro prospects.
Aaron Gordon, Arizona, 6'9", SF/PF, Freshman
Though still finding his place in the game, Aaron Gordon has been able to make a major impact for one of the most dangerous teams in America.
And right now he's feelin' it. Gordon will be entering the NCAA tournament having averaged 16.8 points and 7.4 boards over his final five regular-season games.
His NBA appeal stems directly from his above-the-rim athleticism and coordination—he turns tough, low-percentage angles into easy, high-percentage layups or dunks. He's shooting 75.4 percent at the rim, per Hoop-Math, as he's given facilitators a glowing target off cuts and lobs, both in the half court and on the break.
However, Gordon hasn't shown us much of an in-between game off the dribble or even a back-to-the-basket game in the post. And his jumper hasn't exactly been a reliable weapon.
Gordon has been much more effective when scoring off the catch than he is off the dribble. And without that ability to create, his opportunities aren't always there, leading to offensive inconsistency.
He has gotten more scoring chances with starting power forward Brandon Ashley out. So expect Arizona to continue looking for Gordon in his sweet spots around the rim and on the break.
Kyle Anderson, UCLA, 6'9", PG/SF, Sophomore
After playing his freshman year on the wing and outside his comfort zone, Kyle Anderson was given the rock at UCLA as a sophomore. And he's been delivering some pretty wild results.
Anderson has established himself as the best nightly bet in the country for a triple-double. He's averaging 14.9 points, 8.7 boards and 6.6 assists a game, thanks to power forward size, point guard instincts and a much-improved outside shot.
He's even hit 24 of his 50 attempts from downtown this year, after making only nine three-pointers last season.
But despite his unique versatility and loaded production, there are always going to be skeptics concerned with Anderson's lack of foot speed and athleticism. And their arguments are fair. Scouts question whether he'll be able to guard at the next level and whether or not his point-guard skills will translate to the pros.
At this point, projections of Anderson are all over the map, as he could probably go anywhere from the late lottery to early in the second round. Anderson had already announced before the season that he'd be declaring in 2014, so this postseason will be his final shot to turn heads.
Jahii Carson, Arizona State, 5'10", PG, Sophomore
This is it for Jahii Carson, who's expected to declare for the draft this June, to position himself for a first-round selection. "He's not coming back," coach Herb Sendek told the Associated Press via ESPN.
Carson has had a productive yet unconvincing season from an NBA draft perspective. He proved he can certainly put points on the board—Carson averaged over 18 of them a game for the second year in a row—but he didn't improve upon his 3.5 turnovers per game from last year, and his assists fell to 4.5 a night.
There are also some concerns over his defensive capabilities—he has only 20 steals on the entire season.
Still, there's no doubting his playmaking ability. Carson is quick and crafty off the bounce, and he can get to any spot he wants to on the floor. When he's in the zone, Carson can take over, which he showed at UNLV, when he dropped 40 points in a win.
But as a shoot-first scoring point guard under 6'0", he's going to have a tough time generating much first-round interest. This conference tournament is an opportunity to show what he can do as lead guard, and it could go a long way towards improving his stock if he's able to lead the Sun Devils on a little run.
Dwight Powell, Stanford, 6'10", SF/PF, Senior
Dwight Powell had another productive year for Stanford, where he averaged 14.2 points and 7.2 boards a game. But his impact has wavered, and now he'll be entering his final postseason with something to prove to NBA decision-makers.
He tends to disappear for stretches, and despite his size, you'll often catch Powell standing around on the perimeter.
But he's a force with the ball in his hands—Powell is a big-time athlete with power forward size and small forward mobility. He also shows a nice touch and high skill level around the rim, along with a promising mid-range jumper. He's actually at his best when he can face his man up in space, as few big men have the foot speed to keep up when Powell has room to put it on the floor and swoop to the rack.
It's been somewhat disappointing to see that his shooting range hasn't improved—after making 15 threes as a junior at a 45.5 percent clip, he's hit only seven as a senior on just 21.9 percent. But there's still some NBA appeal here given his offensive versatility.
C.J. Wilcox, Washington, 6'5", SG, Senior
C.J. Wilcox pumped in a whole bunch of jumpers in 2013-14. According to Hoop-Math, he made 271 of them between two and three-pointers.
He averaged over 18 points a game this season, with only 3.2 of them coming from the free-throw line, which paints a clear picture of what type of player Wilcox projects as. He's a perimeter scorer—one- or two-dribble pull-ups and spot-up three-pointers—that's his bread and butter.
He doesn't get to the rack much. In fact, only 19 percent of his shots are taken at the rim. But Wilcox is shooting 39.6 percent from downtown, his fourth year shooting over 36 percent from three.
He's more of a complementary scorer than a go-to one, so it's tough for him to individually carry a team.
Still, given his four-year track record as a sharpshooter, along with his 6'5" size and fluid athleticism, Wilcox has established himself as a viable three-point specialist to grab in the late-first or early-second round.
Nick Johnson, Arizona, 6'3", PG/SG,
Nick Johnson has been the engine that makes Arizona run, as he's taken his floor game, scoring repertoire and leadership to a whole other level.
He plays with that can't-miss confidence—Johnson wants the ball in tight spots, and he's shown the guts and will to take and make the big shots down the stretch.
And you can't rave about Johnson without mentioning the springs. He has ridiculous bounce, which he uses to sky above the rim for easy finishes that most guards his size aren't even capable of attempting.
The concern with Johnson centers around his lack of a definitive position and questionable upside. He's not a natural point guard, and at 6'3", he's undersized for a 2.
But if anything is going to influence a team to overlook those details, it's athleticism, and Johnson is loaded with it.
He's also the type of guard who can take over a tournament, so look out for Johnson, who could use this 2014 postseason as a launching pad into the first-round.
Zach LaVine, UCLA, 6'5", PG/SG, Freshman
As a freshman coming off the bench behind three older, solid guards, Zach LaVine's opportunities haven't always been there.
But nothing could hide his showtime athleticism or the smooth bounce in his step. At 6'5", LaVine is electric. He's automatic in the open floor, and he's quick to turn the corner in the half court.
He's also flashed a pretty tight handle, and when given the chance, he's proven to be a fairly effective playmaker with the ball in his hands. With Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams suspended against Oregon, LaVine took over as the team's primary decision-maker and went for 18 points, eight boards and five assists.
LaVine has also been remarkably consistent from downtown, making 40.2 of his three-point attempts.
When you give an elite-level athlete like LaVine a handle and a jumper, it's going to draw some NBA attention, whether his game is refined or raw as a bone.
He's got lottery potential, and if he's able to take over a few postseason games and showcase his eye-opening upside, it just might influence a team to reach in this year's draft.
Jordan Adams, UCLA, 6'5", SG, Sophomore
There isn't much Jordan Adams can't do out there—his shot selection isn't always grade A, but he's a factor in just about every facet of the game.
Adams followed a strong freshman season with an even bigger one as a sophomore, as he increased his field-goal and three-point percentages, along with his scoring, rebounding, assist and steal averages playing roughly the same amount of minutes.
Offensively, Adams gets to the rim, works the mid-range game and spots up from downtown. He's not overly explosive, but his scoring instincts are tremendous, and he's got the strength to finish after contact.
Defensively, he's tied for No. 3 in the NCAA in steals per game.
Adams has had some monster games as of late, most notably in a win over California when he went for 28 points, six boards, five assists and five takeaways. He followed with 31 points on four missed shots against Washington.
Though prone to taking low-percentage shots, Adams packs a potent punch, and he'll enter the Pac-12 tournament as one of its potential sleeper NBA prospects.
Delon Wright, Utah, 6'5", PG, Junior
Forget the Pac-12—Delon Wright just might be the most under-the-radar prospect in the country.
He's putting up some staggering numbers for a junior college transfer and first-year starter, averaging 16.1 points on 58.4 percent shooting, 6.9 boards and 5.3 assists.
Wright has terrific size for a point guard, and he takes these long, nifty strides to navigate through the defense and get to his spot. He's also a sensational finisher at the rim, which is where he generates most of his offense.
But we haven't seen Wright put up many points on the perimeter, a possible reason to return to Utah in 2014-15.
Even without a convincing jumper, there is still a lot to like here. Defensively, Wright has made a serious impact—he averages 2.6 steals a game, and he ranks No. 1 in the country in defensive win shares.
Wright has played well against some pretty talented backcourts in the Pac-12. With some extra attention being paid to the conference tournament, Wright has an opportunity to make a real statement .
Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State, 7'2", C, Senior
He's come a long way since 2010—Jordan Bachynski has gradually improved his scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking numbers with each season at Arizona State.
And though he's still not much of an offensive threat, Bachynski has at least made himself presentable to those NBA teams in need of size.
He led the country in shot-blocking this season, which will be a nice label to wear during the pre-draft process.
Bachynski also improved as a rebounder and scorer around the rim, where he's shown touch on his hook shot and the strength to get position down low.
The good news for Bachyksnki from a draft-stock perspective is that he'll probably be the only 7'2" center in the field. And now he's got a little more something to show for it.
Given his age, minimal offensive threat and lack of athleticism, you won't see a team reaching. But there's gotta be a couple teams looking for a backup center somewhere in the second round. And Bachynski should be one of the first guys they end up looking at based on his ability to protect the rim.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona, 6'7", SF, Freshman
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson isn't of the NBA-ready variety, but that devastating blend of athleticism, quickness and length stands out the second he hits the floor.
He's tremendous around the rim, with the ability to finish acrobatically from all different angles. In terms of skills, Hollis-Jefferson has actually impressed with his vision and passing, and he's hit the occasional mid-range jumper. But at this point, he's still fairly limited as a shot-creator.
Arguably the most appealing aspect of Hollis-Jefferson's game is the defensive versatility he offers. He's got the tools to guard up to three or four positions on the floor.
Another year in school seems necessary, but the NBA guys have a tendency to reach if they see something they like, even in its developmental stages.
Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona, 7'0", C
Size, strength and soft hands—that's Kaleb Tarczewski's game. He's given Arizona an anchor and some toughness in his sophomore year, as well as a high-percentage option to feed in the half court.
Tarczewski mans the low block, where he's a force with his back to the rim or as a finisher around it. He's even shown off touch in his mid-range game and at the free-throw line (76.2 percent) this season.
He averages only 6.7 boards and one block in 28 minutes, which can probably be attributed to the fact that he's doesn't get much lift. But Tarczewski has some impressive footwork in the post, and at 7'0", 235 pounds and blessed with a real feel for the game, he's bound to draw first-round attention whenever he declares.
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