As he led the Big Ten in rebounding as a freshman, the physically impressive Noah Vonleh climbed draft charts and decided to turn pro.
Sporting a strong frame, long arms and a promising set of skills, the young forward is drawing widespread interest from scouts as a potential stretch 4 and double-double machine.
He didn't get a ton of playing time or many touches on the offensive end in 2013-14, but his sampling of inside-out productivity was enough to catapult him from the middle of the first round into the top-five discussion. Vonleh's length, strength, mobility and soft hands will yield versatile scoring and rim protection.
If he can expand his low-post game and sharpen his defensive footwork, he could develop into an All-Star-caliber forward and a matchup nightmare.
At the 2014 NBA Draft Combine, Vonleh posted impressive physical measurements. He stands 6'9.5" with shoes on, has a 7'4.25" wingspan and weighed in at 247 pounds. As a bonus, his hand width is 11.75", and he bounced for a 37" max vertical leap.
To accompany those jaw-dropping measurements, Vonleh exhibits terrific body control and agility. He's not incredibly explosive off the floor or lightning quick from a foot-speed perspective, but he's amply mobile for a power forward prospect.
With his length, control and great hands, he's able to gobble up rebounds and finish over towering opponents. His long strides allow him to cover a ton of ground end to end, making him an offensive weapon in the secondary break and a talented shot-blocker.
Vonleh's combination of size and smoothness will allow him to operate against the bruisers in the paint and in the open floor.
Offensive Versatility and Upside
Vonleh's appeal to NBA scouts is driven by his promise as an inside-out offensive threat.
During his freshman campaign, he proved that he can catch the ball on the block and score against 7-footers and also connect from three-point range (16-of-33).
He's not a spellbinding low-post player, as he doesn't have a vast array of advanced moves. However, he can work to get deep position, and then catch and pivot for a strong upward finish with either hand. Vonleh can flush it with ferocity or put it up softly off the glass.
As you can tell from the video, his offensive game involves a lot more than dunks and post-ups.
Vonleh's outside shooting stroke is promising, as evidenced by his 48.5 percent clip from beyond the arc. He didn't shoot a ton from the perimeter because Indiana needed his presence in the paint, but you can tell from warm-ups and his in-game sampling that he's a confident shooter spotting up or off the dribble.
In addition, he showed a little ball-handling ability. He can push the ball in the open floor, and he can also set up basic slashes and spin moves.
When you put all of this together, it makes for a potentially dynamic scoring threat.
Vonleh's ridiculous physical tools make him a rebounding machine.
He corralled 9.0 boards per contest, leading the Big Ten despite just 26.5 minutes per game. That translated to 13.6 rebounds every 40 minutes.
With the optimal frame, athleticism and good instincts, he's able to outjump and outreach most opponents on the glass. His body carves out space, and his great hands do the rest.
Given his freshman exploits and natural gifts, he's a prime candidate to rack up double-doubles throughout his career.
Vonleh didn't block shots at an overwhelming rate (1.4 per game), and he fouled a bit too much (4.1 fouls per 40 minutes). But he showed glimpses of tremendous defensive potential.
His aforementioned length is certainly valuable in challenging, deterring and blocking shots. In addition, his lateral quickness and mobility will make him a competent pick-and-roll defender, which isn't an easy task in the NBA.
Watch him flex his defensive talent against Syracuse, swatting a flurry of Orange shots (at the 0:50 mark).
Vonleh still has a ton to learn on that end of the floor, which we'll get to later. But you can tell he has the tools to stymie opponents, as he moves well side to side and can contest almost any shot.
There aren't any major red flags for Vonleh, which adds to his value as a prospect. However, there are some concerns he needs to clean up before he becomes a consistently productive pro.
Most of the holes in his game have to do with his decision-making and diagnosing situations. And that's not shocking, considering he's an 18-year-old who didn't play extensive minutes as a freshman.
Offensively, he wasn't the most effective passer out of the post, as he sometimes forced shots or just failed to successfully dish the rock. He notched just 18 total assists in 2013-14. Closely linked to this issue are the turnovers, as he was frequently sloppy with the ball and coughed up 3.2 giveaways per 40 minutes.
He also encountered some problems defensively, as he didn't demonstrate great discipline. Sometimes, he was a bit late to help from the weak side, so that's just an alertness issue he'll have to sharpen.
Vonleh also got into foul trouble too often, as he fell for pump-fakes and didn't know when to refrain from aggressively challenging shots.
|Assists per 40||Turnovers per 40||A/TO Ratio||Fouls per 40|
Vonleh is far from reaching his ceiling due to a sizable learning curve, but his sheer size and nose for the ball should allow him to influence both ends of the floor. He'll be able to rebound, convert one-on-one post-ups and execute some pick-and-pop plays.
Depending on the lineup around him, he could see significant minutes as a stretch 4 during his rookie campaign. We might not see huge production, but he'll hold his own as long as he absorbs the offensive sets and defensive principles.
Few 2014 prospects have brighter long-term potential than Vonleh.
In fact, his inside-out promise and physical blessings have put him in elite company, in one scout's eyes.
Said another "Vonleh's got elite physical tools and is very skilled. He should be in the same group with Wiggins, Embiid, Parker & Exum"— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 30, 2014
Although he's young and still a little raw in some areas, he showed us enough impressive sequences at Indiana to warrant the "potential All-Star" label.
With the shooting skills to stretch defenses and the interior presence to post double-doubles, he could develop into a 20/10 player down the road. Pair that with upper-echelon rim protection, and you're looking at multiple All-Star appearances.
Within three to five years, he could be at least the second scoring option on his team, and he'll be one of the league's top rebounders.