The Risk: Far from reaching his ceiling; may never be more than athletic gunner
With some eye-popping early-season shooting and abundant athleticism, UCLA freshman Zach LaVine burst into the draft discussion this winter. His explosiveness, shooting range and combo-guard potential have garnered some lottery projections, but he's been placed all over the first round in various mocks.
He's got the raw materials to become a lethal creator and scorer, as he showed quickness, athleticism and some shooting streaks in 2013-14.
But he's got a lot to learn on both sides of the ball, especially as a dribble-driver and consistent shooter. There's a chance he may never grasp his full role or reach the level NBA scouts hope. ESPN's Kevin Pelton (subscription required) explained the precariousness involved with selecting LaVine:
...He projects as a first-round pick almost entirely on potential. Next season in the NBA, his translated numbers suggest he'll contribute at a below-replacement level. Scoring efficiently could be a challenge, since he rarely got to the free throw line and wasn't a particularly accurate shooter on 2s (49.4 percent)...LaVine will have to hone both his shot selection and his playmaking skills.
Part of the reason he only saw 25.8 minutes per game in conference play (and just 18.3 minutes in conference and NCAA tournaments) was his limited understanding of the game and relative lack of polish. Just because he's a brilliant athlete with a promising jumper doesn't guarantee he'll ever attain the wherewithal to excel in the NBA backcourt.
Let's be clear: He has the tools to become a standout, maybe even a star. There's just a lot of uncertainty about his development, and it will take some boldness to pick him early in this draft.