By Paul Register
Each year, after the conclusion of the NBA Draft, many prognosticators and fans alike will look over their draft boards and draw notice to the fact that a player they really thought highly of somehow was never picked. All too often, players come back with a vengeance on someone’s summer league team and ultimately make it impossible for that team to release them.
Here are five names of players that could navigate the road less traveled into the NBA next season.
Power Forward – University of New Mexico
Height: 6 feet, 8 ¾ inches
Weight: 239 lbs
Wingspan: 6 feet, 11 ½ inches
Each year players fall in the NBA Draft for different reasons. This year Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones III both fell due to late breaking red flags regarding health issues. In the case of Drew Gordon, his fall in this year’s draft may have been the result of problems that arose two and a half years before this year’s draft.
In 2009, as a student at UCLA, it was decided after much conflict with coach Ben Howland that it would be mutually agreeable for all involved if Gordon transferred to a different school. Gordon’s behavior came under much criticism while at UCLA and was amongst many players spotlighted in a February 2012 Sports Illustrated expose that shed light on many players extreme negative behavior, Gordon’s being paramount much of the time. In the article, Gordon was mentioned as being hot-tempered, resistant to coaching, and in many ways, not a good teammate, frequently fighting and displaying emotionally disruptive outbursts.
Since his departure from UCLA, Gordon has presumably left his past behind him and let his play on the court speak for itself. After transferring to the University of New Mexico, Gordon has averaged a double-double each of the past two seasons, becoming the 2011-12 Mountain West Player of the Year. This season, Gordon shot 54 percent from the field and since his freshman year has seen his free throw percentage climb from 50 percent to 75 percent as a senior. Best of all, Gordon nearly led the Lobos to an upset over four-seeded, and eventual national semi-finalist, Louisville in this year’s NCAA tournament round of 32, garnering 21 points and 14 rebound in a 59-56 loss.
Drew Gordon has all the size and many of the tools. He is a solid athlete but is limited offensively. He has an inconsistent jump shoot and an underdeveloped low post game. The statistic that always seems to translate from college to pros is rebounding, which is something Gordon does very well and it’s a skill every team desires. Given the right opportunity, provided he’s matured enough, Gordon could be cleaning the glass for some lucky team this coming season.
Note: Drew Gordon has accepted an invitation to play for the Dallas Mavericks summer league team.
Shooting Guard/Small Forward – Georgetown University
Height: 6 feet, 8 inches
Weight: 206 lbs.
Wingspan: 6 feet, 9 ½ inches
Hollis Thompson is a simple case of right kid, wrong college. Its not to say that Georgetown University has had a negative effect on Thompson, but through its history the Georgetown coaching staff can hang its collective hat on churning out one particular kind of kid who is NBA ready, and that’s post players. As a whole, Georgetown has always had success in producing quality big men for NBA teams. Its wing players have not seen similar success when transferring over. Georgetown center Henry Sims is another Hoya on the outside of the NBA looking in but having remained behind a bona fide NBA starter like Detroit Pistons forward Greg Monroe for his first two seasons, he’s got some catching up to do. Hollis Thompson is the more NBA ready player right now.
Its been suggested many times over that if you can shoot, you can play in the NBA. While much of the rest of his game is still a work in progress, Thompson knows how to do one thing and that is knock down shots from distance. During his three seasons at Georgetown, Thompson never shot below 43% from long range. If he has time to set his feet, he is virtually automatic.
Thompson still has a lot to prove to NBA teams. While Thompson is a good athlete, he’s not a great one. He does well in the framework of the defense but does not create turnovers and needs to get stronger overall. Thompson is weak of the dribble so spot-up shooting is his game right now. Also, Thompson needs to become more reliable from the charity stripe; he’s too good a shooter to not be knocking down the freebies.
Overall, Hollis Thompson simply needs to bring it and be consistent. His learning curve has ended and he has many of the tools and the athleticism to be successful in the league but he needs to harness them. It would benefit Thompson greatly to develop the ability to take defenders off the dribble, simply to be less predictable. Ultimately, its as simple as this, its up to Thompson whether or not he wants to lace ‘em up for a living or not.
Point Guard – University of Iona
Height: 6 feet, 2 inches
Weight: 205 lbs
Wingspan: 6 feet, 4 inches
In the 2012 NBA Draft, there was a significant shortage of quality point guards and fewer who could actually call themselves “floor generals”. While Scott Machado may lack the athletic prowess to hear his name called on draft night, his ability to make plays for his teammates could very easily have his name echoing over many a NBA PA systems for a long time to come.
If Machado were two inches taller, in a likelihood, he would not be on this list. NBA personnel would be discussing which doppelganger should be drafted first, Machado or former North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall. Neither is athletically blessed. Neither has a superior jump shot to the other. Last season Machado led the NCAA in assists, Marshall was second. Marshall’s assist-to-turnover ratio led the nation. Machado was fourth. It simply boils down to this; Marshall played for the North Carolina Tar Heels with three additional NBA first rounders and Machado played for the Iona Gaels with a bunch of other guys.
Machado is exceptionally good passer in transition and sees everything on the court. He can hit the outside jumper but his lack of athleticism makes penetrating defenses in the half court set a bit more difficult. His defense is sound but its not to say that Machado couldn’t use help in this area as well. Iona’s relentless offensive style never allowed many opponents a choice to play a half court game very often, so Machado has more to prove in half court defense. As stated before, Machado is an exceptional floor general but coming out of Iona, he could also be coached up a bit. After all, Iona isn’t exactly pumping out NBA-caliber talent year after year.
In time, Machado will figure out how to utilize his talents best to become an NBA point guard. Given the right opportunity, Machado could easily be running a team’s second unit by mid-season.
Note: Scott Machado has accepted an invitation to play for the Houston Rockets summer league team.Tu Holloway
Point Guard – Xavier University
Height: 5 feet, 11 ¾ inches
Weight: 186 lbs.
Wingspan: 6 feet, 5 ½ inches
Each year, there always seems to be a little man whose game displays a serious Napoleon complex and plays a lot bigger than he really is. This year that complex belongs to Tu Holloway.
Although Tu Holloway is listed as a point guard, his game in no way strikes comparison to the way Scott Machado plays the position. Holloway is an attacking scorer that is fearless when driving it to the rim in transition. Defensively, what Holloway lacks in height, he makes up for in length by getting into passing lanes and getting into the face of shooters. Holloway is a very good athlete who plays the game with pace and ferocity. Holloway has a knack for playing bigger in critical moments. His game is predicated on toughness and tenacity, how else could one explain how someone under six feet gets voted Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year as Holloway did in 2010-11?
Unfortunately, Holloway is another prospect whose character has come into question during his college career. During a December 2011 game against the University of Cincinnati, tempers between crosstown rivals boiled over and an on-court brawl ensued. At the conclusion of the game, Holloway spoke at Xavier’s team press conference and his ill-fated comments, did not reflect well on the Musketeers, and resulted in a one game suspension by the team. As team leaders go, Holloway did not impress at the podium that day and NBA execs were watching.
All in all, Holloway needs to add some maturity to his game and somehow maintain the intensity he needs to play at his highest level. Holloway must take time to refocus his mindset and commit himself once again. He needs to work on becoming more of a distributor at the pro level without becoming passive. Tu Holloway has the attitude to play at the pro level but he also has enough attitude to derail it.
Note: Tu Holloway has accepted an invite to play for the Toronto Raptors summer league team.
Power Forward – West Virginia University
Height: 6 feet, 7 ½ inches
Weight: 251 lbs.
Wingspan: 7 feet, 1½ inches
There are a lot of ways to describe Kevin Jones as a player. Unfortunately for Jones the predominant word in NBA circles that describes him is “tweener”.
Jones is the type of player that has been on the NBA radar for quite some time. The West Virginia Mountaineers made the NCAA tournament each of Jones’ four years, reaching the national semi-finals his sophomore season, Jones’ first as a starter. His senior year, Jones led the Big East Conference in both scoring and rebounding. He is self-motivated and a natural leader.
Jones is not an NBA type athlete. He’s not super fast and he doesn’t get off the floor quickly. Jones does not have an immense amount of untapped potential that coaches can improve on. Jones is the type of player now that he will be a couple years down the road.
Each year though, there are those players who when you put them on the floor, they just know how to play the game.
Jones isn’t electrifying but he is ultra-efficient. He is the type of “4” who works the in-between game to death. If you leave him open anywhere inside of 25 feet, chances are he’s knocking it down. He is an excellent face-up jump shooter and has great length to snag rebounds and guard his position. Jones rarely turns the ball over and gives great effort whenever he is on the floor.
Ultimately Jones just needs to find a fit. His game should easily carry over into the NBA. It’s just safer for general managers to choose Eastern European 7-footers with limited skill, knowing they can stash them. Their hope being one day being that those player pan out, whilst full knowing they may never have to answer for the pick. It so much easier than taking a flyer on a ready made player, who doesn’t fit his position and has no desire to play anywhere else. If Jones can find the right fit, he won’t be going anywhere.
Note: Kevin Jones has signed a three-year, partially guaranteed contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers.