With many Cavaliers' fans already having their eyes on the draft, I've been scouting college basketball pretty intensely over the past month or so. Until the draft, I will hopefully be able to bring you a set of profiles every week.
This mid-week set of profiles is dedicated to some players in the news this week due to draft declarations or the NCAA Tournament. As usual, I've taken a look at two high-profile prospects and one under-the-radar one. The first two I looked at are Gonzaga center Kelly Olynyk and North Texas power forward Tony Mitchell. The final prospect I looked at is the red-hot Khalif Wyatt of Temple.
Kelly Olynyk, Jr. C, Gonzaga
Strengths: Olynyk has the height of an NBA center, if not the weight yet. He's a legitimate 7'0" and has put on weight to get up to nearly 240 pounds. His wingspan is going to have a mildly heavy impact on where he gets drafted because of his relative lack of bulk, but it looks to be pretty average for centers. Through taking an optional year off via redshirt, Olynyk has gone from being a SF/PF combo in the NBA to a legitimate NBA center by transforming his body.
So far his biggest strength is his wildly efficient post game. This season, he took 63% of his shots at the rim and made 73% of them. Owning a variety of weird moves in the post, Olynyk has found many ways to be one of the most efficient players in the country, as he leads the NCAA in PER at 36.2. The best part of Olynyk is that he works hard to establish post position when he can, and because of his newfound strength he was mostly successful in doing so this season. You'll see that in this short video I've compiled of Olynyk's varied post game.
Kelly Olynyk Offensive Repetoire (via Sam Vecenie)
Olynyk really embraces contact, which leads to a lot of free throws. In 26.4 minutes per game this season (Olynyk's minute totals are low because of Gonzaga blow outs, not because of his endurance level), he averaged nearly six free throws while shooting nearly 78% from the line. This is a large reason why his TS% was 4th in the country at 67.5%.
Another part of his offensive game that has brought along comparisons to Tyler Zeller is his ability to step away from the basket and shoot 20-footers despite being primarily a post player. Olynyk was efficient there this season, making 52% of his two-point jumpers and 30% on three pointers (of which he shot about once a game). There seems to be some general room for improvement here, but as seen against Wichita State, this isn't his strength. In that game, Olynyk took 12 shots classified as jumpers, including 3 three-pointers, comprising 55% of his shots in comparison to the usual 37% that they normally do. This led to what was clearly Olynyk's least efficient game of the year, where he shot 36% on 22 shots in a loss.
His feel for the game is also pretty strong. Olynyk knows when to make the right pass out of a double, and he also is pretty good at finding random little spaces within the defense to sit down in. Sometimes he'll float around the perimeter a little too much, but that's not a major issue at this point in time. Finally, Olynyk can really run the floor for a big guy, which is unsurprising given his body type.
Weakness: Olynyk is a solid if unspectacular rebounder, as he only averaged 7.2 rebounds per game this year, but that's largely a product of being one of the few seven footers in the WCC. Olynyk has at least shown a penchant for boxing out unlike a lot of seven footers in small conferences, but still can get overpowered from time-to-time due to a lack of lower-body strength (he is the owner of a 20.5% defensive rebounding percentage).
I'm also not sure who he guards defensively at the next level. His lower body is absolutely not strong enough to guard centers yet, but I don't think he has the lateral quickness to guard power forwards. That's definitely the biggest question mark I have for him right now. If he can bulk up, I think he'll be okay.
Overall Outlook: I'm going to assume that Olynyk will declare for the draft, due to the fact that he will turn 22 in mid-April. Being the person who was the biggest fan of Tyler Zeller coming into last year's draft, I'm of course a fan of Olynyk coming into this year's iteration (I will never learn). He's a fantastic offensive center who can run up and down the floor and score in a variety of ways in the paint. What he isn't is a spot-up shooter, and the team that drafts him needs to keep him within 15 feet. There are certainly questions about him defensively, but I'd still take my chances that he can be a top 10 offensive center in the NBA. He's universally considered a late lottery pick by draftniks, which seems about fair to me. His floor is Tyler Zeller right now with possibly a bit more of a diverse offensive game in the post and his ceiling could be a Nene, where he can run the floor, have a strong post game and be a passable defensive player that doesn't block a whole lot of shots or rebound particularly well.
Tony Mitchell, So. PF, North Texas
I'm eschewing my normal "Strengths, Weaknesses, Outlook" format for this profile. Everything with Mitchell this season was so inter-connected that it's really difficult for me to break things down like that.
To begin, Mitchell's frame and body are strong by NBA standards for a power forward. He's 6'8, 235 pounds with a 7'3" wingspan. Those numbers are pretty comparable to Tristan Thompson. Mitchell also has strong athleticism that scouts look for in the power forward position.
The first thing that must be said about Mitchell's game is that he's really good around the rim, shooting over 80% there each of the past two seasons. I believe he suffered a little bit from no guard on North Texas being able to effectively throw an entry pass to him in the post this season, which began the process of sapping his efficiency. Early in games, he works hard to establish strong post-position, and against the likes of the Sun Belt he is usually successful. He has a really strong lower body that allows him to get a lower center of gravity, which helps him get defensive players pinned down on the block.
One thing that could cause issues down the road is that he doesn't really have any post moves. Normally, Mitchell just ends up going over his backside shoulder and up over weaker Sun Belt opponents. In that regard, he doesn't really show any sort of solid footwork in the post either. But 80% shooting is still 80% shooting, so it might be a circumstance where he's simply good around the rim.
However, he gets disinterested if he's not involved in the game early. His body language can get really harmful from time-to-time. A perfect example of his inconsistency this season came in the two games North Texas played against Troy. In game one, they got Mitchell involved early (going to him on the first possession, allowing him to get fouled and go to the line), allowing him to shoot four times in the first six minutes (his average FGA per game is 9.9). He responded by putting up his best game of the season: 29 points, 15 rebounds, and 4 blocks on 17 shots. In the second game however, Mitchell took two shots in the first eight minutes, only eight shots for the full game, and ended up with 9 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks.
The problem here is that when Mitchell doesn't get involved in the post early, he tends to float. The biggest cause of his drop in efficiency this season was that he took 12% more threes and 12% fewer shots at the rim this year. By taking more threes, Mitchell saw his three-point shooting regress to what I assume is the mean for him, at about 30%. He doesn't have the best shooting mechanics (particularly with his follow-through and keeping his shooting elbow in), which makes me believe last year's 44% from behind the arc was a fluke. Because of the increase in three-pointers attempted, his true shooting percentage plummeted from 64.5% to 53%. NBA teams will have to iron out his shooting mechanics and get him to stay around the rim more if he's going to be a successful offensive player.
Moving on to the defensive side of the ball, I actually like Mitchell more. His strong lower body helps him keep players out of strong post position. Mitchell also has pretty good instincts as far as blocking shots. He ended up with 2.7 blocks per game this year, which was good enough for first in the Sun Belt and 14th nationally. Sometimes Mitchell does get a little bit disinterested here too, but I think that the possibility exists that he can be an above-average defensive player in the NBA. I should also mention that Mitchell is a really strong rebounder with his strong lower body and long arms. If he is to make a definitive mark on the NBA, it will be in that regard.
Overall, Mitchell is going to be a really polarizing prospect. He has already declared and stated that he's staying in the NBA Draft, so this is it for him. It's probably the right decision, considering he's not a young sophomore (he turns 21 next week) and the situation is less than glamorous at North Texas. Right now, I'd put his draft stock at anywhere from 20-undrafted. It's that volatile. It's all going to depend on interviews and workouts with teams. If he can convince them that it was the situation at North Texas -- not his play -- that led to his demise this season, then he has a chance to go in the first round. Otherwise, he just didn't show a lot worth drafting this season. The tools are there, but the toolbox might not be. He could be anywhere from a Thompson-type player to a Samardo Samuels. I would bet on him being closer to the latter than the former, so I probably wouldn't select him in the first round.
Khalif Wyatt, Sr. SG, Temple
Wyatt was one of the darlings of the early rounds of the NCAA tournament. He was fantastic against both NC State and Indiana, scoring 62 points in the two games combined. In fact, Wyatt seems to really step up in the biggest moments, having scored 33 in an upset of Syracuse earlier this season, 26 at Phog Allen Fieldhouse in a loss to Kansas, 22 at Hinkel Fieldhouse against Butler, and 30 against VCU to clinch an NCAA tournament bid while Temple was on the bubble. As the Player of the Year in one of the best conferences in America (the Atlantic-10), we should know about this guy, right? Why haven't we heard more about this guy?
Well, first I'll discuss what he does well. Despite a relative lack of athleticism, Wyatt finds a way to get space on even the most athletic defenders. His ball-handling skill is a big part of this, but he also seems to have an innate understanding of angles and change of direction/speed. Victor Oladipo was not the only athletic victim of Wyatt's herky-jerky game this year. That herky-jerky game also helps Wyatt draw fouls at an impressive rate, where he also converts at an 84% clip (he made the 3rd most free throws in America this season).
Khalif Wyatt Fouled (via Sam Vecenie)
With a seemingly endless array of moves offensively, Wyatt was put on this earth to find a way to put the ball in the basket. You've got to think there is room for a guy who can ostensibly score from all angles, right?
Well, that's pretty much where the rosy outlook on Wyatt's game ends. With shooting percentages near Marshall Hendersonian levels (actually, Henderson's 56.6% true shooting percentage is slightly higher than Wyatt's 56.5%), Wyatt is an extremely inefficient gunner who can harm his team as much as he helps them. In Temple's final four games of the season, Wyatt went 7-38 from behind the arc, for an astounding 18.4 three-point percentage. Nearly half of his overall attempts this year were three-pointers, where he shot a measly 31.6%.
That's not where the problems end though. With an assist-to-turnover rate hovering dangerously close to 1.0, it's clear that Wyatt doesn't really have the ability to play point guard in the NBA either. Listed at 6'4", Wyatt's stock could really be helped if he can show any sort of ability to run an offense while working out with teams (in fact, I'm sure that due to his game he'll already get quite a few Andre Miller comparisons as it is).
Finally, Wyatt has had some trouble in the past with maturity. Last season, Wyatt was benched three times for missing various team-related events. Then on his 21st birthday this past summer, he was arrested in a prostitution sting. While I'm willing to chalk up the latter one as an innocent, Vegas-related mistake that happens on 21st birthdays, it seems to be something of a pattern for Wyatt that teams may not want to deal with. It's also worth mentioning that Wyatt's a very demonstrative player on the floor, both in good ways and in bad. In all fairness to Wyatt, Fran Dunphy (Temple's head coach) has recently said that Wyatt is a low-maintenance player now that has matured. However, Wyatt will at least have some explaining to do in interviews with NBA teams.
So basically what you're looking at here is a somewhat undersized shooting guard, who doesn't have point guard skills, and is both inefficient and relatively non-athletic. That's going to be a difficult pill to swallow even for the most scoring-starved teams in the NBA. I mentioned that people will try to compare him to Miller earlier, but that's not even possible because of his inability to play the point. I guess the closest comparison is a smaller Paul Pierce who isn't as strong a shooter, maybe? That's really clunky but then again it just goes to show how unique his game is. It will have an uphill battle in the draft process, but I'm definitely rooting for him because the NBA could use more inimitable games like the one Khalif Wyatt owns.
At the end of each post, I'll try to rank each of the prospects that I've looked at so far. This will obviously begin to fill in more as the season progresses (therefore meaning more), but now isn't a bad time to start. This isn't meant to be a Cavaliers' draft board (yet), but simply just a ranking of players in a vacuum based on their current tools, potential, and how close they are to making an impact.
1. Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
2. Otto Porter, Georgetown
3. Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga
4. Alex Poythress, Kentucky
5. Isaiah Austin, Baylor
6. Reggie Bullock, North Carolina
7. Tony Mitchell, North Texas
8. Zeke Marshall, Akron
9. Khalif Wyatt, Temple
Notes: As with last time, not really sure where to place Isaiah Austin yet. I'd really like him to return to college so I don't have to figure out his spot. Mitchell slots in ahead of Marshall because of his athleticism. Similarly, Wyatt's athleticism scares me a lot.
I know last time I mentioned I'd be looking at Steven Adams, but after Pitt's unceremonious departure from the NCAA Tournament he said pretty demonstrably that he will be returning to Pitt next season. If he changes his tune, I will write about him immediately. Outside of that, who else would you guys like to see soon? I know that Olynyk was a suggestion last time.