Drafted by: Los Angeles Clippers, 28th overall pick
Height/Weight: 6'5", 201 lbs
Age: 23 years old
Projected NBA Position: Shooting guard
Pro Comparison: Marco Belinelli
Twitter Handle: @UCjwilcox23W
The four-year collegiate player is an increasingly rare breed in NBA draft circles, but it's a classification bestowed upon C.J. Wilcox, who used all his years of eligibility improving with the Washington Huskies.
Even though he spent so much time playing under Lorenzo Romar that he's now one of the oldest prospects in this 2014 draft class, he was also able to hone one of his skills (shooting) to the point that he's a premier specialist in this vaunted class.
Wilcox has been on NBA radars for a while now, ever since he first started making a name for himself as a sharpshooter for the Huskies during his sophomore season. His stock has fluctuated over the last three years, all of which were spent scoring double-digit points per game, but it's risen and fallen between the top and the bottom of the second round.
Now that his collegiate career is officially over, ending with a disappointing loss to Utah in the Pac-12 tournament, it's time for Wilcox to take the next step. He is one of the rare established players without too much upside, but that should be enough to see him continue his basketball career for a long while.
|Statistics at Washington|
It helps to be both big and athletic, and Wilcox has one of those two areas covered.
That would be the former, as the 23-year-old 2-guard looks like a prototypical NBA shooting guard. He's relatively tall (6'5" with shoes on) and boasts a wingspan that allows him to play even bigger than his vertical frame would indicate. At the draft combine, as relayed by NBA.com's databases, he measured in just a quarter-inch shy of 6'10" from fingertip to fingertip.
Unfortunately, the lack of impressive athleticism holds him back.
Wilcox isn't particularly strong, even though he was generally bigger than most players he squared off against while at Washington, and he's relatively slow of foot.
At the combine, he was in the middle of the pack for the lane agility drill, while he finished with above-average—but not spectacular—marks on the shuttle run and three-quarter sprint. His maximum vertical leap of 37.5" was solid, but it's hardly a number that stands out.
Basically, Wilcox has just enough agility to get open on the perimeter, but not much more. If you're looking for a one-word synopsis of his physical tools, it would be this: solid.
Even though Wilcox is by no means an elite prospect, he's still one of the absolute best shooters in this entire draft class, loaded as it may be with quality players.
During his senior season, the 2-guard knocked down 39.1 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. If you're thinking that's not an elite number, it is when paired with the 7.2 attempts he lofted up during an average game. According to Sports-Reference.com, Wilcox managed to lead the Pac-12 in triples attempted while still posting the No. 2 shooting percentage in the conference during the 2013-14 campaign.
However, good shooters are a dime a dozen in the NBA. What makes this shooting guard stand out is his ability to knock down looks from a variety of situations, as Mike Schmitz breaks down for DraftExpress:
Wilcox is one of the best shooters in this draft class, as he made 43% of his catch and shoot jumpers on the season, which is second best among prospects in our Top-100 rankings. More than just a one-dimensional shooter with his feet set, he is excellent coming off screens (40%, 6th best in Top-100), and also makes a solid 35% of his pull-up attempts (8th best in Top-100).
That ability makes him a much more viable threat in the Association, especially because he's not athletic enough to make sizable impacts in too many more areas.
If he can develop the veteran savvy necessary to use screens advantageously, he'll be a constant subject of defensive attention, which is highly beneficial to any NBA squad.
Comfortable with the Ball
Is Wilcox going to dazzle the opposition with his handles? Nope, not really.
But he's comfortable when he has possession of the rock, which is an asset in itself. He has experience operating in isolation, running pick-and-roll sets and handling the ball after either pulling down a rebound or corralling an outlet pass, which allows him to play in virtually any offensive system.
As a senior, Wilcox also improved quite dramatically as a passer. Take a gander at the progression during his collegiate career, as shown by his per-40-minute numbers:
|Wilcox's Growing Skills|
Those numbers don't exactly stand out, but they still show that Wilcox was gaining effectiveness with the ball in his hands. He'd thrive in a movement-heavy system, simply because he's capable of making elementary passes without attention lapses, and he can occasionally flash advanced distributing skills in small doses.
More than anything else, though, you have to be impressed with the improvement, whether that's the better passing or the tighter, lower dribbling that he utilized during his senior season. Whereas ball-handling was once a weakness, it's turned into a strength—albeit a very minor one.
At this stage of his basketball career, Wilcox has seen just about everything that could be thrown at him. Various defensive sets, different offensive plays, new game situations...you name it.
Though his age does hinder his draft stock, his experience at the collegiate level is still a plus because it allows him to feel confident in his ability to make an immediate impact. Even more importantly, NBA teams will have higher hopes for that very same ability.
Rather than the one-and-done freshmen who competed against a lackluster nonconference schedule before playing a few marquee games, Wilcox's resume is inundated with games against stellar competition. Over the last four years, he's had a chance to square off with the Pac-12's best players, as well as a significant number of studs in other conferences.
That, especially when combined with his pure shooting stroke, should make him an immediate contributor at the sport's highest level.
While experience will help Wilcox's career get started, his age will ultimately work against him.
The 2-guard will turn 24 years old early on in the 2014-15 season, which already limits the amount of time he has in the Association before starting to fall out of his athletic prime. Additionally, it hinders his upside, not that there was much to begin with.
What you see with Wilcox right now is likely what you'll get down the road.
He's not an incredibly versatile prospect, and his lack of elite athleticism at a position that so often demands it is problematic. In all likelihood, he'll have trouble becoming more than a sharp-shooting role player. He can be an adequate defender, but not much more than that on the less glamorous end.
Additionally, the Washington product is prone to slumps.
All shooters can get hot and cold, but Wilcox seems to take the cold spells to an extreme. It might have been a product of a lackluster supporting cast while playing with the Huskies, but he was remarkably prone to hoisting up ill-advised attempts and attempting to shoot himself out of dry spells with unsuccessful results.
Right off the bat, Wilcox should earn a handful of minutes in the big league rotation.
His shooting is an extremely marketable skill, and it's already polished enough that he's found his true niche in the NBA. Not every player can be an all-around standout, and Wilcox doesn't have to be in order to contribute, which greatly aids his chances at immediate playing time.
Additionally, his knack for shooting the ball in all sorts of situations will help ease the transition. Sure, he'll have to add a little more range, but it's incredibly beneficial that the 2-guard can already spot up, pull up or curl off a screen and shoot while getting his feet set and his body in a vertical position.
Things won't be so different down the road.
Wilcox, thanks to his age and limited upside, is never going to transform into much more than a rotation member who can come off the bench and provide a three-point spark for a team in dire need of some shooting punch.
He'll be able to fill that role as a rookie, and it's most likely the same one he'll fill throughout the rest of his NBA career, however long that may be.
Dedication to his craft is a necessity, because there's always a new hot-shooting prospect coming in to win that job and boasting the advantage of youth-fueled athleticism. If he can keep honing his stroke and proving that pressure doesn't faze him, a long lifespan in the Association will be the result.