Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Pac-12, Part One

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Pac-12, Part One
Oct 05, 2012, 08:13 pm
In our first five evaluations of the top NBA Draft prospects in the Pac-12 we break down Andre Roberson, Joshua Smith, C.J. Wilcox, Devon Collier, and Allen Crabbe.

Incoming freshmen have been excluded from these previews, as we'd like to wait and see what they have to offer on the NCAA level before we come to any long-term conclusions.

-Top 20 NBA Prospects in the Big Ten
-Top 20 NBA Prospects in the ACC
-Top 11 NBA Prospects in the Big XII

#1 Andre Roberson, 6'7, Forward, Junior, Colorado

Kyle Nelson

Already known as an outstanding rebounder, scouts expected Andre Roberson to assume a greater role in Colorado's offense as a sophomore. Roberson definitely delivered, averaging 11.6 points and 11.1 rebounds per game while leading the Buffaloes to the NCAA Tournament, their first in nine years, and to their first tournament win in over 15 years. No longer under the radar, Roberson has emerged as the PAC-12's top-prospect and must help Colorado defend its conference title while proving to scouts that he is capable of playing on the wing at a NBA level.

Resolving his positional issues are particularly important given his physical profile. At 6'7 in shoes with a decent 6'9 wingspan and wiry 210-pound frame, Roberson lacks ideal size for the NBA post, but has outstanding size for the small forward position. Similarly, Roberson is an excellent athlete, possessing a combination of explosiveness, fluidity and quickness complemented by his energetic and relentless playing style.

He did not transition into the perimeter scorer on offense that many expected he'd become as a sophomore, however, still often playing out of position as a power forward. His role definitely changed between his first and second years, as he saw nearly twice as many of Colorado's offensive possessions, but he was still a complimentary player, rarely showing the skill or instincts to step up as a primary scoring option. He was more productive as a sophomore, but his 15.5 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted ranked him near the bottom of prospects in our top-100.

As was the case during his freshman year, Roberson is still at his best while crashing the offensive glass. He may have grabbed fewer offensive rebounds as a sophomore, but he nonetheless ranked as one the top prospects in our top-100, showing an uncanny combination of fundamentals, instincts, and energy to collect rebounds within and beyond his immediate vicinity. Roberson is not a particularly skilled scorer down low, but he outhustles most bigger defenders and uses his soft touch and quickness to score inside.

Moving away from the basket, Roberson made a few subtle improvements, but still has a long way to go before fully transitioning to the wing. As was the case during his freshman year, he continued to look excellent in transition, running the floor hard and finishing emphatically. His ability to move without the ball, and to finish off of cuts to the basket remains impressive, as well. His value as a hustle player on offense, inside and outside, is undeniable and he finds most of his points simply by being the hardest working player on the floor.

Roberson shot an improved 38% from beyond the arc, albeit on just 1.8 attempts per 40 minutes pace adjusted, and rarely settled into a groove as the season progressed. On film, his mechanics leave much to be desired. For one, he has a quick, but truncated release, with a low release point and little follow through. Furthermore, while he shot the ball better as a sophomore, he rarely looked comfortable or fluid when setting himself up for a shot. He made just 28.6% of his open attempts, as he was unable to find his shooting rhythm and often passed up easy spot-up opportunities as a result.

While his shot creating abilities remain underdeveloped, he showed more of a face-up game as a sophomore, attacking the basket and occasionally knocking down shots from mid-range. He is limited to straight line drives at the basket, however, due to his extremely shaky handles and overwhelming tendency to drive right. He doesn't have a lot of control with the ball in his hands, either, and most of his turnovers are results of his raw instincts as a shot creator and facilitator at this stage. His mid-range arsenal is very small, primarily composed of a pull-up jump shot, but, though he made an abysmal 28.6% of them on just a few attempts, he showed the potential to develop further in this area.

Moving forward, Roberson must expand his perimeter game by developing better shooting mechanics, greatly improving his ball handling abilities, and becoming a more versatile scorer from mid-range. Roberson showed subtle improvements between his freshman and sophomore seasons, but scouts will be looking for him to take significant steps forward offensively as a junior.

Roberson once again stood out on the defensive end of the floor, showing remarkable versatility and lockdown potential at the collegiate level. His combination of excellent lateral quickness and outstanding timing situates him as a match-up nightmare on the perimeter, where he can stay in front of quicker guards, get his hands in passing lanes, and block shots all over the floor. His 1.7 steals and 2.5 blocks per 40 minutes pace adjusted show just how disruptive he can be, inside and outside. Furthermore, though he still guards power forwards quite often, there is no question at this point that he has the physical tools to transition seamlessly into a lockdown defender on the wing.

Finally, it's worth pointing out that Roberson is the top returning defensive rebounder among all prospects in our database, pulling in a remarkable 10.3 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted. For the second straight year, he finished as one of the nation's top rebounders, which is particularly impressive given the fact that he is undersized and playing out of position.

There is little doubt, then, that Andre Roberson is an excellent NBA prospect. When contemplating an NBA comparison, players as diverse as Shawn Marion, Kawhi Leonard, and Kenneth Faried come to mind, showing just how many different directions his development could take him and just how good he could be. He already possesses ideal size and athleticism for the NBA wing position along with excellent defensive potential and intangibles. Scouts will be watching him closely this year to see whether he can emerge as a comfortable, consistent, and prolific perimeter shooter. His NBA future is bright, regardless of his offensive development, but if he continues to improve as a scorer, then he has the chance to be a very special player at the next level.

#2, Joshua Smith, 6'9”, Junior, C, UCLA

Derek Bodner

After a disappointing sophomore season, both individually for Joshua Smith and for UCLA as a team, Smith remains largely the same prospect he was the last time we profiled him. Immensely talented, Smith remains unable to capitalize on his talents and make himself an impact player largely because of his inability to overcome weight and conditioning issues.

Standing at 6'9 with a massive frame, Smith is surprisingly nimble considering he is generously listed at 305 pounds. He remains an effective post scorer, which is where nearly 60% of it comes from according to Synergy Sports Technology. He's more than willing to use his size to establish position can play through contact, and shows good touch on a tough-to-guard right handed hook.

While not quite as prolific of an offensive rebounder as he was during his freshman season, where his 19.5% offensive rebounding rate ranked second in the nation, Smith is still one of the best offensive rebounders among prospects in our database, with his 5.4 offensive rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted ranking second in our top 100. He uses his strength to his advantage here, and has extremely soft hands to go along with consistent effort helping to maximize his impact in this area of the game.

His offensive game remains confined to the paint, not showing much development in his perimeter game. He attempts virtually no jump shots, and his free throw percentage dropped slightly, from 61.3% his freshman season to 59% last year. While Smith is likely going to remain a post scorer at the collegiate level where he has a big advantage over most defenders, showing the ability to hit from the outside would be good for his draft stock, even if it's not in large quantities.

The weight and conditioning issues have limited Smith, both in his effectiveness in certain parts of the game and his ability to stay on the court. Smith saw his minutes decrease, from 21.7 minutes per game his freshman season to 17.2 per game last year, and he remains extremely foul prone – his 7.4 personal fouls per 40 minutes is head and shoulders the highest among the top 100 prospects in our database, with the second highest being at only 5.1 fouls per 40 minutes.

The offseason started out with some positive news from Smith with regards to his conditioning, as Smith stated in June that he had lost 15 pounds since the end of the season in March. Admitting that he didn't work hard enough the previous summer, the announcement appeared to be a good step towards getting into the kind of shape that would be necessary for Smith to become an impact player.

That optimism was dulled in August when the team went to China for three exhibition games, when coach Ben Howland openly criticized Smith's progress, stating that he was disappointed with where his conditioning was at the time.

Besides the overall minutes he is able to play, the weight problems show themselves the most on the defensive end, where he is slow to change directions and earthbound. Not moving his feet well, he's prone to defending with his hands when defending the pick and roll or when his man tries to take him off the dribble, resulting in his incredibly high foul rate. He is a somewhat capable post defender due to his size, and he does a good job of defending early and denying position.

The combination of his offensive rebounding prowess and undeniable post scoring abilities makes Joshua Smith a tantalizing prospect, and one that could be ready to break out at any moment. His continued battle with weight issues, that he looks to be losing, brings up many questions regarding his ability to translate that to the next level and his dedication to the game. With the arrival of an extremely highly touted recruiting class including Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, and Tony Parker, UCLA has the talent to find themselves in a deep postseason run. If Smith can work his way into respectable playing shape, UCLA, and Smith, would benefit greatly.

#3, C.J. Wilcox, 6-5, Shooting Guard, Junior, Washington

Joe Treutlein

After a solid freshman season in which he produced well in limited minutes, C.J. Wilcox took on a much larger role as a sophomore, nearly doubling his minutes after teammates Isaiah Thomas and Justin Holiday moved on to the pros. While Wilcox greatly increased his minutes and role, his pace-adjusted production and efficiency were virtually identical across the board, though just maintaining those numbers in spite of such an increased role is somewhat impressive in itself.

Wilcox did make some subtle improvements in a few areas, the first of which can be seen just by looking at him. While he remains a similar prospect from an athletic standpoint, not being one to overwhelm with explosiveness or quickness, he has filled out his frame some and used his stronger build to good effect on both ends of the floor.

On the offensive end, Wilcox was anemic in his ability in his ability to take the ball to the basket, and while it remained a relative weakness as a sophomore, he did make some improvements. This shows up most noticeably in him nearly doubling his ratio of free-throw attempts to field-goal attempts from 0.14 to 0.27, but he also did a better job getting to the rim and finishing there. Wilcox rarely takes the ball to the basket on his own off the dribble, and is a decidedly below-the-rim finisher once there, but he has developed an excellent floater in the lane to compensate, and uses it quite well.

On the perimeter, Wilcox is still an excellent scorer shooting the ball both in catch-and-shoot and off-the-dribble situations. He's incredibly dangerous in both situations, but his strong ability pulling up is probably the more impressive of his skills, as he does an excellent job using his size and compact motion to get the ball off with ease in a variety of situations. He's great shooting on the move going in either direction and has no problem creating space with simple, effective ball-handling.

On the defensive end, Wilcox's improved frame has helped him some in playing more physical man-to-man defense and getting through pick-and-rolls effectively. On the other hand, his increased role and more time spent guarding higher-end players led to him being beat laterally more frequently, though he's often matched against small combo-guards rather than pure shooting guards, something that could change at the next level. Still, he could have some trouble with quicker guards projecting forward, and will be tough to overcome at his position.

Looking ahead, Wilcox is a somewhat uncommon prospect, as most players with his skill set tend to be undersized with great quickness, where as he possesses just average athletic tools while having great size for a two-guard. His combination of ability to score effectively both in catch-and-shoot situations and pulling up off the dribble along with his good size will certainly draw his attention, but how high his stock goes will depend on if he can shore up the relatively weaker areas of his game such as finishing at the rim and defense.

#4, Devon Collier, 6'8, Junior, Power Forward, Oregon State

Matt Williams

Leading the Pac-12 in FG% last season, Devon Collier raised his level of play considerably as a sophomore. A fringe top-100 prospect coming out of basketball power St. Anthony's HS (NJ), Collier averaged 13.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per-game playing off of 2012 draft pick Jared Cunningham. With Cunningham out of the picture, Oregon State Head Coach Craig Robinson will look to Collier to step up once again.

Standing 6'8 with a long, lanky frame, Devon Collier is an exceptionally smooth athlete with ample size for a power forward in the college game, but less than ideal size or strength for a four at the NBA level. He's added some weight to his frame since entering the college game, and would be well served to continue building muscle to help prepare him for the rigors of defending the rim in the NBA and improve his already solid explosiveness around the rim.

On the offensive end of the floor, Collier's length, fluidity, and touch are the defining characteristics of his game. Nearly 65% of Collier's shot attempts came in finishing situations at the basket according to Synergy Sports Technology. Collier's ability to finish above the rim or use his deft touch to finish around defenders play a big role in his 64% shooting at the rim and 62% shooting overall. Though Collier remains raw in some areas, he was one of the most prolific per-40 minute scoring sophomore power forwards in the country and had one of the highest field goal percentages among all prospects in our database.

CWith Jared Cunningham no longer drawing the focus of opposing defenses, and few dynamic returners to benefit from the backcourt, Collier will be looked upon to emerge as a more versatile scoring option this season. His ability to create his shot as well as he finished the shots created for him by others last year will have a major impact on whether he can match his efficiency as a sophomore during his junior year.

In the post, Collier shows some promising skills creating his own offense. He may not have any overly polished post moves at this point, but he is confident in his ability to score over his right shoulder, will exploit mismatches, and is rangy enough to get shots off over and around defenders. He doesn't shy away from contact, and active follows his own shot, often cleaning up his own misses with a second effort.

As Collier begins to assert himself as the Beavers' top scoring option, he'd be well served to expand his face-up game. He may never be the type of player to overwhelm a defender with strength on the block, but he has the instincts and touch that could help him become an effective face-up four.

Collier's ability to become a more versatile offensive player will start with the development of his jump shot. Knocking down 7 of the 17 jumpers he attempted last season, Collier shoots the ball with a high release point, but missed badly as frequently as he appeared comfortable from the midrange. If Collier can improve his ability to score facing the basket from 15-feet out and finish with both hands at the rim, he could emerge as one of the better scorers in the Pac-12.

Defensively, Collier had some moments of brilliance as a sophomore. He's an exceptional weak side shot blocker for a player his size as evidenced by his 1.3 blocks per-game. The Bronx native will over-pursue the ball when rotating from time to time, leaving his man wide open to finish easy put-backs on the weakside, but he changes a few attempts at the rim with his effort, timing, and length each game. When defending away from the rim, Collier's focus wavers for stretches, he was largely untested in the post last season, and he isn't always aggressive when pursuing the ball off the rim, as evidenced by his meager 3.7 defensive rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted.

One of the most intriguing juniors on the west coast, Devon Collier should see his role shift significantly as the Beavers will likely rely on him to carry them for stretches this season. Already showing promise in a number of areas, Collier still has plenty of room to grow as a player. Even if he is a bit undersized for the power forward position at the NBA level, if he can show improve and have a strong year, he'll certainly generate some buzz this winter.

#5, Allen Crabbe, 6-6, Junior, SG/SF, Cal

Jonathan Givony

After a strong first season in Berkeley, winning Pac-12 freshman of the year honors, Allen Crabbe stepped into a slightly largely role as a sophomore, not really missing a beat in terms of scoring or efficiency.

Crabbe remains largely the same prospect we profiled a year ago, showing good size for a wing, a solid frame that continues to fill out, and average athleticism for a NBA wing prospect.

His calling card as a NBA prospect continues to be his jump-shot, as he displays terrific mechanics, a natural follow through, deep range, and the size to get his shot off over most Pac-12 defenders at 6-6. He made 40% of his 3-pointers last season once again, mostly on the catch and shoot, and at times coming off screens. While capable, Crabbe isn't as effective shooting off the dribble as he is with his feet set. He converted 40% of his shots with his feet set last season, compared with just 31% on pull ups.

83% of Crabbe's shots in the half-court come on jump-shots, as he remains a relatively one-dimensional at this stage of his development. He's neither quick, nor explosive, having a difficult time beating his man off the dribble and creating high percentage shots on his own. Rarely is he able to get inside the paint in the half-court, and when he does, it's usually to throw up a floater, rather than get all the way to the rim. He's not a great finisher in the lane due to his physical limitations, and he does not get to the free throw line very often.

As the season moved on, opposing defenses had more and more success limited his effectiveness, as they learned that he can be neutralized relatively easily by simply chasing him off the 3-point line. To Crabbe's credit, he knows his limitations and does not force the issue, which is why his turnover rate remained low last season despite his increased usage rate.

On the other end of the floor, Crabbe has work to do to show he can defend his position at the next level. He is a bit undersized for the small forward position, and may lack some lateral quickness to guard most shooting guards. He appears very upright in his defensive stance, having some difficulties staying low to the ground and moving his feet against quicker ball-handlers. He tends to lose his focus at times and relax in his stance too easily, and is also prone to getting overwhelmed physically by stronger matchups, who can expose his average toughness.

There is clearly a place in today's NBA for players with Crabbe's size, shooting ability, and feel for the game. The question is whether Crabbe “is what he is” at this stage, or if he will continue to develop the rest of his game, on both ends of the floor. With a couple of influential seniors graduating, Cal will likely need Crabbe to take the next step in his development and show that he can be a more well-rounded player in his junior year. NBA scouts will be keeping close tabs as well.

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