Every year there is a prospect who flies under the radar but rises quickly as the draft nears and the workouts begin. Last year, James Harden rose to the third spot in the draft, and in the past players such as Alexis Ajinca and Joe Alexander rose as they impressed in workouts with their talents.
This year's version is Luke Babbitt. Hailed by virtually every draft expert in the country as one of the best under-the-radar draft prospects, Babbitt has risen on nearly every draft board in the NBA, impressing scouts with a sweet jump shot and good smarts.
The only problem is that Babbitt cannot play defense at all. He has the length to guard power forwards in the post, but lacks any semblance of footwork or the strength needed to check any post up threat in the NBA.
Against small forwards, though he has adequate size, he lacks the quickness needed to stay in front and his absence of lateral mobility will be exposed in the NBA.
A terrific offensive game means nothing if he's consistently punished on the defensive end every game. Only transcendent offensive players can make that combination work, and Babbitt is clearly not one of them.
He will look great in a workout when he is asked to shoot jump shots all day and sounds great in an interview when his smarts are highlighted, but any team must look at the tapes from college to see the true story.
Playing in the weak WAC, Babbitt's weaknesses were not exposed as he was consistently matched up against smaller, weaker competition that could not punish his shortcomings.
However, when matched up against Rhode Island, he could not contain their most versatile player, Delroy James. While he did not guard James the whole game, James lit up Babbitt every time he guarded him, and punished the Wolf Pack on a 10-19 shooting performance.
Babbitt, on the other hand, went 2-14 and could not get anything going as his team struggled to a loss.
James is talented, but will likely never be a professional player in the NBA. If Babbitt struggled against him, he will have trouble when the players keep getting bigger and better.
The danger when a player is underrated is talking about him too much, because the assessments of the writers writing about said underrated player are trying to prove a point and ignore the player's obvious faults.
Writers fell for Babbitt, and the basketball community in general did as well. Unfortunately, few have seen him play, and while he is a nice player, a top 10 selection would be too high.
His skill set is more suited to a good role player, spotting up for jump shots and occasionally posting up, but no prospect that projects as a role player should be a top 10 pick.