Zach LaVine

Shabazz Napier

Potential or production? It all depends on the prospect in question

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The NBA Draft process is one where questions remain even after teams make their selections, because even in the case of the best players available there’s no such thing as a sure thing. One dilemma franchises have to address during the pre-draft process is how much they value “upside” as opposed to actual production at the college level. Optimally a player will have both aspects working to his advantage, having been a productive player at his position while also displaying the traits needed to become an even better player once in the NBA.

However that isn’t always the case, and as a result the process of projecting what a player could potentially be as a pro gets tougher. One issue that can lead to this struggle is the player not seeing as much time at the position in question as a collegian, and one example of this could be former UCLA guard Zach LaVine.

The 6-foot-6 LaVine had plenty of chances to serve as his team’s primary ball-handler at the high school level, but that wasn’t the case in his lone season at UCLA. The Bruins had one of the 2014 NBA Draft’s most intriguing prospects in 6-foot-9 Kyle Anderson to rely on for that job, with fellow freshman Bryce Alford joining LaVine as a valuable perimeter reserve. LaVine put together a solid freshman campaign, posting averages of 9.4 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game, but the question of where he’ll best fit as a professional remains.

While LaVine has the size and athleticism needed to be a factor at shooting guard, there’s also the desire to spend time as primary ball-handler. When it was first reported by the LA Daily News that LaVine would be leaving school, one reason cited was the lack of time spent at the point. So with that being the case, the question to be asked is how NBA teams go about evaluating a player looking to play a position different from the one he played at the college level.

MORE: Underrated Prospects | Overrated Prospects | Top Ten Players in Five Years | Busts?

“I guess it’s something we had to do with Victor Oladipo last year. It’s not as much taking the position away as it is taking whatever skills he has at one [position] and seeing how they translate at another,” Ed Isaacson of NBA Draft Blog told NBC Sports. “For just about every player you can end up with multiple possibilities, so you try to include as much [information] as possible when evaluating the player.”

While it can be difficult to evaluate a player at one position when he played another in college, it isn’t an “impossible” thing to do. With film study and individual/group pre-draft workouts, teams have the tools needed to get a better feel (by their standards) of where a prospect can be most successful. However the intangibles are just as important as the tangible, especially for a point guard, and getting an accurate read on those can be tougher when dealing with a prospect who hasn’t spent a lot of time at the position.

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Those factors can make the difference between winning and losing, and as noted by many involved with the draft process, can do wonders for a player’s status as a draft prospect. A prime example of this is former UConn point guard Shabazz Napier, who over the course of four years has improved greatly as a leader and won two national titles.

A number of factors, from his skill set to those improved leadership abilities, have combined to make Napier a respected prospect whose name is expected to be called during the first round of Thursday’s draft.

“I think it’s a combination of the whole package,” Jonathan Givony of Draft Express told NBC Sports. “The fact that he’s won as much as he did will certainly be taken into consideration. You’re not going to see too many guys drafted in the first round who played for bad college programs. It just doesn’t bode well for them, because everyone in the NBA’s trying to win, too.

“Every year you see guys who were in the tournament and played well rise in the draft, because people value winning.”

RELATED: Elfrid Payton, the Draft’s biggest sleeper | Balancing potential, running a program

Team success can be one of the biggest selling points for a point guard prospect and it only makes sense, as one of the main responsibilities of the position is to put his teammates in the best possible position for success. Napier had four years to play the position and hone his craft, making significant strides throughout the course of his career in regards to his stats and his maturity. Most importantly he learned how to lead, a valuable lesson that resulted in his school winning its fourth national title in April.

That particular lesson can be invaluable to a prospect, and it can be argued that LaVine didn’t have the opportunity of making similar progress due to the amount of time spent in college and the role he played while there. But with LaVine being projected to be a first-round selection, who can blame him for leaving school after just one season?

The draft process will be a difficult one regardless of the experience level of the player in question, meaning that the debate of “potential vs. production” will continue to rage on. Is there a right answer? Probably not, even with the argument being made by some pundits that more time in college automatically results in a better player. If anything more time in college gives NBA franchises more opportunities to observe the player in question, and that can prove beneficial to the decision-makers entrusted with the task of building a championship contender.

But the question of “potential vs. production” is one best answered on a case-by-case basis. The only difference is that in the instance of a player being valued more for what he could do than what he has, there’s more of the “unknown” to deal with.

2014 NBA Draft Preview: Six first round prospects that will be busts

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The NBA Draft is on June 26th, meaning that there are less than a week until the next crop of potential NBA all-stars find out where they will be headed to begin their professional basketball careers. Over the course of the next few days, we will be using the expertise that we’ve gained from watching far too much college basketball to give you our insights on some of these prospects.

Today, we take a look at six first round prospects from this draft will think will be busts in the NBA:

MOREUnderrated Prospects | Overrated Prospects | Top Ten Players in Five Years

1. Zach LaVine, UCLA

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 13), Chad Ford (No. 18)
  • Scott Phillips: “LaVine was head-and-shoulders above every other prospect participating in the NBA DraftCombine, but not many potential lottery picks were going through the drills. He’s a ridiculous vertical athlete with a good one-dribble pull-up, but he has no clue how to play the game of basketball. LaVine looked lost in half-court settings and has a step learning curve ahead of him if he wants a long NBA career.”
  • Raphielle Johnson: “Excellent athlete, but I’m not sold on his ability to run a team at this point in time. Maybe he’ll be best as a combo, but we’ll see.”
  • Rob Dauster: “Zach LaVine will win any dunk contest that he enters. He’s got three-point range, too. But beyond that, LaVine’s essentially a blank canvas when it comes to basketball. On the one hand, that means that whoever drafts him can mold him into the player they want. It also means it’s up to LaVine to put in the work to reach his admittedly high ceiling. Drafting him is essentially betting on his work ethic.”

2. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 19), Chad Ford (No. 20)
  • RD: “Ennis is dropping on draft boards as we get closer to the big day, and it makes sense. The NBA is trending towards big, elite level athletes at the point, and for all Ennis does well, he’s not on that level athletically. He knows how to play, so I think he’ll be able to hang around for a few years, but I don’t know what he does at an NBA level.”
  • SP: “Tyler Ennis had a wonderful freshman year at Syracuse, but I don’t think he’s a big-time NBADraft prospect. He’s an average athlete with average shooting percentages (41% FG, 35% 3PT) and that doesn’t even factor the giant question mark he is on the defensive end. With so many elite NBA point guards, I don’t see how Ennis makes a big impact in the league without a good first step or an ability to finish at the rim.”

RELATEDElfrid Payton, the Draft’s biggest sleeper | Balancing potential, running a program

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3. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 6), Chad Ford (No. 8)
  • RJ: “What happens when teams force him to hit perimeter shots? That’s the big question.”
  • SP: “For being such a highly-touted player and floor leader, Smart never got better at Oklahoma State and never won a NCAA Tournament game in two seasons. His power game won’t translate nearly as well in the NBA and his jump shot needs to improve a lot for him to be a complete weapon on offense.”

4. Mitch McGary, Michigan

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 30), Chad Ford (No. 26)
  • Terrence Payne: “Six NCAA tournament games in 2013 launched him into the lottery, but he has played eight games in the last 15 months.”
  • RD: “The offensive skill set at this time is a concern. But he works hard, so maybe strides can be made in that area.”

RELATED2014 NBA Draft Preview

5. Jerami Grant, Syracuse

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 27), Chad Ford (No. 40)
  • RD: “Grant is an elite-level athlete, but he’s stuck in that spot where he’s not really a small forward but not big enough to play along the front line. Does he have a post move? Can he play on the perimeter? What position does he guard?”

6. P.J. Hairston, North Carolina/D-League

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 23), Chad Ford (No. 24)
  • SP: “Besides the off-the-court questions that Hairston will face from every team, he’s a bonafide shot-jacker that rarely passes — Hairston averaged less than an assist a game in over 32 minutes a game in the D-League — and is prone to mental lapses on the defensive end. The D-League is filled with professional players, but the structure of the league, especially defensively, leaves a lot to be desired and his scoring numbers could end up being inflated because of this.”

2014 NBA Draft Preview: Five Overrated NBA Draft Prospects

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The NBA Draft is on June 26th, meaning that there are less than two weeks until the next crop of potential NBA all-stars find out where they will be headed to begin their professional basketball careers. Over the course of the next few days, we will be using the expertise that we’ve gained from watching far too much college basketball to give you our insights on some of these prospects.

Today, we give you the most overrated prospects:

RELATED: Underrated Prospects | 2014 NBA Draft Preview

1. Zach LaVine, UCLA

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 15), Chad Ford (No. 15)
  • Raphielle Johnson: “He didn’t see much time at the point due to the presence of Kyle Anderson and Bryce Alford. Play the ‘blame game’ if you want about this (especially when concerning Alford, as some have done), but that’s a concern especially given where LaVine has been projected to go in the draft.”
  • Terrence Payne: “Elite athleticism and the ability to knock down shots make him intriguing for front office executives, but it will be an uphill battle for him to move into a lead guard role.”
  • Rob Dauster: “Zach LaVine is an absolute freak athletically. He can also shoot the ball from three. But he’s a long way away from being capable on contributing at the next level.”

2. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State

  • Projections: DX (No. 4), CF (No. 8)
  • Scott Phillips: “Marcus Smart’s sophomore-year shooting chart makes me gag. He’s a mediocre catch-and-shoot player and didn’t get much better in between seasons at Oklahoma State. Smart’s shooting percentages are very average, he doesn’t get easy baskets for other players as often as he should and his physicality around the hoop won’t take him as far in the NBA as it did in college.”
  • RJ: “I’m not worried about the temper at all. What I am worried about is the perimeter shooting, whether it’s on the catch or off the dribble in pick and roll situations.”
  • TP: “The ex-Oklahoma State guard has incredible physical tools, and he likely makes an impact right away on the defensive end of the floor. However, he failed to improve his jumper after returning for a sophomore season.”
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3. Mitch McGary, Michigan

  • Projections: DX (No. 30), CF (No. 2nd round)
  • RD: “McGary had one good month at the collegiate level, and he was successful because he was bigger, stronger and outworked opposing big men. He can’t rely on that in the NBA. He’s also 22 and already has a bad back.”
  • RJ: “The back is fine, but how much work is there to do from an offensive skill set standpoint? Will he be able to get points with his back to the basket? That will take some time.”
  • SP: “Between the back injury and his advanced age — he’s already 22 years old, which is ancient for a NBA rookie — it doesn’t look good for McGary’s draft stock. McGary might have been a lottery pick after his freshman season, but it was based off of a NCAA Tournament run and not an entire season of consistent production, which he never showed at the college level.”

4. Jerami Grant, Syracuse

  • Projections: DX (No. 27), CF (No. 25)
  • SP: “I still don’t know what he does well or how it translates to the NBA? Grant is a tremendous athlete with some upside, but his skill level is mediocre and he doesn’t have a fit in the NBA. Grant is far away from being a solid all-around player or even a rotational player with some skill that will earn him minutes.”
  • RJ: “Given Syracuse’s lack of scoring one would think his offensive skill set would have expanded last year. Not sure that was the case, and that’s a concern.”

5. Doug McDermott, Creighton

  • Projections: DX (No. 8), CF (No. 9)
  • SP: “I can see Doug McDermott having a nice, long NBA career, but a top-10 pick in a draftlike this? I just don’t see it. McDermott has struggled a bit with length in his career and there’s still the question of who he defends at the next level? That’s not taking away from McDermott’s prolific college career or his natural scoring acumen, but he has a long ways to go to be a well-rounded pro forward.”
  • RD: “I can see McDermott turning into some combination of Danny Green, Jason Kapono and Mike Miller. I think he’ll have a long career as a role player in the NBA. I’m not sure he should be a top ten pick.”

 

UCLA’s Kyle Anderson, Zach LaVine officially enter 2014 NBA Draft

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UCLA made official the news that many had already expected on Wednesday, with guards Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine announcing their intentions to leave school and enter the 2014 NBA Draft.

LaVine, whose draft prospects rose greatly during non-conference play, made his decision the day after the Bruins’ season ended in the Sweet 16 with a loss to Florida. As a freshman LaVine averaged 9.4 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, making 36 of his 37 appearances as one of UCLA’s key reserves.

“I am excited to announce that I will be declaring for the 2014 NBA Draft,” LaVine said in the release. “I first and foremost want to thank my family for all their support in helping me through this journey to achieve my dream of playing in the NBA. I also want to thank my coaches, UCLA, my teammates and all of the fans.

“I will forever be proud to call myself a Bruin and will never forget the memories that were made here. I truly can’t wait for this next chapter in my life, and again thank everyone for all their support.”

MOREThe entire list of players entering the 2014 NBA Draft

As for Anderson, Wednesday’s announcement makes official a decision that was essentially made before the season even began. Standing at 6-foot-9, the sophomore proved to be one of the toughest match-ups at the point guard position this past season. Anderson averaged 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game, earning first team All-Pac-12 honors.

“I want to thank everyone at UCLA for all they have done for me,” Anderson said in the release. “My two years at UCLA were two of the best years of my life. It was a tough decision to make with my family since our last game, but I have decided to enter my name into the NBA Draft. I will still continue to embrace the UCLA community, and I hope they will do the same with me.

“I would also like to thank Coach Alford for everything he has done for both the team and me this year in so little time. Coach Alford worked hard at getting to know all of us from the outset and created a family atmosphere that was fun to be a part of. He helped me develop as a leader on and off the court, and I appreciate him giving me every opportunity to succeed.”

The question now for UCLA is what happens with guards Jordan Adams and Norman Powell, with both having filed paperwork with the NBA to receive evaluations. The NBA’s deadline for underclassmen to enter the 2014 NBA Draft is April 27.

UCLA freshman guard Zach LaVine to enter 2014 NBA Draft

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With UCLA’s season coming to an end Thursday night, the Bruins have already begun the process of determining who will be back for the 2014-15 season and who won’t.

The Wear twins are out of eligibility and it’s been known for quite some time that sophomore point guard Kyle Anderson would be moving on to the next level. And according to a report from Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News, freshman guard Zach LaVine will also be entering the 2014 NBA Draft.

In his lone season at UCLA, LaVine averaged 9.4 points and 2.5 rebounds per game but cooled off some as the season progressed. In UCLA’s 79-68 loss to Florida Thursday night, the 6-foot-5 guard scored five points on 2-for-7 shooting. LaVine reached double figures in ten of UCLA’s 14 games before the start of Pac-12 play, including a 21-point outing in a win over Nevada on November 28.

MOREThe entire list of players entering the 2014 NBA Draft

The comments from both LaVine’s father and godfather (who opined that “every year he spends at UCLA after this one is a waste”) in Wang’s story are eye-opening, with his father stating the following:

“It’s like a marriage,” Paul LaVine said. “If it doesn’t work out, you get a divorce. I don’t blame anybody.”

According to the story LaVine’s camp believed that he should have received more time as the primary ball handler on UCLA’s second unit. Fellow freshman Bryce Alford ended up getting the majority of those opportunities when the Bruins needed to give Anderson a breather.

With Anderson and LaVine on the way out, the next decision of note for UCLA is that of sophomore guard Jordan Adams. If he returns, UCLA will still have a very good perimeter rotation with Adams, Alford and Norman Powell having the most experience and McDonald’s All-American Isaac Hamilton eligible after having to sit out the 2013-14 campaign.

UCLA lands best win of the season over Arizona State, who is in some trouble

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Kyle Anderson went for 17 points, 13 boards and seven assists while Zach LaVine popped off for 19 points off the bench — 15 of which came in a first half flurry — as UCLA knocked off Arizona State at Pauley Pavilion, 87-72.

The Sun Devils got out to a quick start, but a UCLA went on a big first half run when they went to a lineup that featured Anderson, LaVine, Bryce Alford and Jordan Adams to take a 50-33 halftime lead. The Sun Devils were down as much as 23 in the second half, but they made a couple of surges. They had three or four open looks at a three in the final four minutes that could have really changed the complexion of the game had they gone in, but the Sun Devils were never able to get closer than nine.

Arizona State may be in some trouble here. Their two best wins on the season — at UNLV and over Marquette in the Wooden Legacy — look less and less impressive as the year goes on. The good news is that they still get home-and-homes with No. 1 Arizona, No. 15 Colorado, No. 17 Oregon and Cal. The bad news? Currently sitting at 2-2 in league play, they could easily finish the year under .500 in the conference.

Jahii Carson went 4-for-17 from the floor with four turnovers and four fouls. Arizona State simply cannot win when that happens.

As far as UCLA is concerned, they moved to 13-3 on the year. It’s an impressive record, but it’s one that’s full of fluff. Their best win is probably this win against Arizona State, unless you’re somehow enthralled with a victory over Alabama. With just six more league games at home, we’ll get a chance to see just how good these Bruins are.