Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences (Part Two: #6-15)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences (Part Two: #6-15)
Nov 13, 2008, 02:01 am
We continue our analysis of the top NBA draft prospects in the non-BCS conferences, looking at players 6-15. Tulsa's Jerome Jordan leads off this group, followed by Josh Heytvelt, Robert Vaden, Lee Cummard and Chris Wright (Dayton).

-Top Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences: Part One
-Top Prospects in the Big East: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four,
Part Five
-Top Prospects in the ACC: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four
-Top Prospects in the Pac-10: Part One, Part Two, Part Three
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the SEC: Part One, Part Two, Part Three
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 10: Part One, Part Two
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12: Part One, Part Two, Part Three

#6 Jerome Jordan, 7-0, Junior, Center, Tulsa

Jonathan Givony

After averaging just 2.7 points and 2.1 rebounds in under 8 minutes per game as a freshman, no one in America could have projected Jerome Jordan to develop into one of the top mid-major prospects in college basketball. That’s exactly what he did, though, after improving his sophomore numbers to a more respectable 10.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and, most importantly, 3.7 blocks, in 26 minutes per game. Considering his physical tools, and realizing that he’s only really going into his third season of organized basketball (he barely played in high school after transferring from his native country of Jamaica to Redemption Christian Academy in New York to Florida Air Academy, where he was deemed ineligible) there is a lot to get excited about if Jordan can make another similar leap in ability this season.

Jordan passes the airport test and then some, standing a legit 7-feet, with a very good frame, a pterodactyl wingspan, and solid athleticism. He is quick off his feet, and runs the court well, looking particularly impressive finishing plays with ease around the basket. In terms of physical attributes, he looks the part and then some.

Offensively, Jordan is mostly a non-factor at this point in his development. He sees little to no touches inside the paint, and displays poor footwork when he does get the ball, possessing nothing more than a basic drop-step move and a developing jump-hook shot with his right hand. His touch does not look bad, and his hands appear to be fairly reliable, which at least leaves some room for optimism regarding the future considering how little basketball experience he has. He was able to up his free throw percentage from a dismal 27% as a freshman to 69% last season, although we never got a chance to see him attempt a mid-range jumper or put the ball on the floor—things that are very likely out of his repertoire at the moment.

Jordan appears to understand that his place is in the paint, and thus seems to want to play inside, which is a pretty good sign. Something that is holding him back considerably, though, besides his incredibly obvious lack of polish, is the very poor strength he possesses at the moment. He is not strong enough to hold his spot on the block, and really struggles trying to finish through contact. He gets pushed around with ease by unimposing college players, which means he will have to bulk up substantially if he’s to have any chance at competing in the post against NBA big men.

Defensively is where Jordan shows the most potential as a prospect. He seems to have nice timing, which combined with his freakishly long wingspan, allows him to block shots at a very high rate. He currently ranks as the 2nd best returning shot-blocker in college basketball in fact. Jordan seems to compete fairly hard, although he lacks a significant amount of strength, experience and awareness on this end of the floor, making him very foul prone, and a bit naïve biting for pump-fakes. He struggles stepping away from the basket to hedge screens and such, and doesn’t possess a great understanding of the nuances of team defense, making him a step slow at times rotating from the weak side.

Jordan is a very good offensive rebounder thanks to his excellent physical tools and above average activity level, but he’s not quite as effective a defensive rebounder. He gets boxed out pretty easily and struggles to fight back when being pushed around—Joey Dorsey gave him a very hard time for example in all three of their matchups last season.

If history has taught us anything, it’s to be patient with projects like Jordan, and avoid the urge to overhype. He needs a good amount of time and development to even begin to reach his full potential as a basketball player, even if the tools he displays are impossible to ignore. Jordan will surely play in the NBA down the road—the question is how soon, and in what capacity. How much he’s improved this offseason should tell us a fair amount, as he’s still very much an unknown commodity at the moment.

#7 Josh Heytvelt, 6-11, Senior, PF/C, Gonzaga

Scott Nadler

Josh Heytvelt is coming off an up and down junior year, where he started the season on the bench while recovering from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right foot. This was just another in a long line of setbacks after missing a portion of his sophomore season following felony drug charges for possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Heytvelt was sidelined for the first eleven games of last season and finally made his return in late December. Due to the injury, and severe conditioning problems that came along with it, he saw his minutes drop from 26.2 to 20.6, going went through spurts poor production and even being asked to come off the bench during certain stretches in an attempt to get him back on track. If healthy, and in better shape than he was last season, Heytvelt will look to pick up where he left off after his standout sophomore season where he averaged 15.5 ppg and 7.7 rpg in just 26 minutes per game.

Heytvelt is a versatile big man who does a decent amount of his damage in the post, but can certainly stretch the defense out with good range and a nice stroke. He is an excellent target in the post thanks to his soft hands, excellent touch and ability to finish strong at the rim, but can also create shots for himself both facing and with his back to the basket. His skill level really stands out at the collegiate level considering his size, and he does not possess any deficiencies in terms of his physical attributes either, as he is very mobile for a 6-11 player and has a solid frame as well.

When in the post, his bread and butter is turning to his left shoulder on either block and shooting a baby hook, which is quite effective. He has a soft touch in there and has very good footwork as he uses his pivot foot to his advantage. Another way he uses that pivot is with his inside pivot away from the basket, which he uses very well to face up. He’s made a living off the move which creates space and allows him to get his shot off.

Where Heytvelt struggles at times in the post is with his shot selection. He doesn’t always look comfortable down there, as he has a tendency to rush his moves or force up questionable shots. It would benefit him to get stronger down in the paint, as he doesn’t always do a great job establishing position inside, and has a tendency to fade away from contact at times.

Heytvelt’s explosiveness and leaping ability seemed to decrease last season because of his foot injury and the conditioning issues that came along with it. He was catching less alley-oops and having far less follow up dunks than in years past, as he looked quite a bit heavier. It’s going to be interesting to see if he can regain some of the athleticism he used to showcase in the past on a regular basis.

Heytvelt gets to the free throw line at an excellent rate, but only shot 66% last season once there, which is considerably low for someone with his shooting stroke. This indicates a lack of focus, which has always been one of his biggest issues.

Defensively, Heytvelt is a bit stuck between positions at the NBA level. He lacks the strength and probably the toughness to defend most back to the basket centers, and doesn’t have the lateral quickness to guard some of the more athletic power forwards that like to face the basket. He’s fairly crafty but seems to lack focus on occasion, not always playing with the same intensity level, and being somewhat foul prone at times. At times he looks pretty fundamentally sound, particularly guarding the post, but in others he seems to show little to no interest in helping his team come up with a stop. Heytvelt’s shot-blocking numbers rate by about 50% last season, and he lost nearly 2 rebounds off his per-40 minute averages. It will be imperative for him to regain the athleticism and activity level he once had in order to not be docked points by NBA scouts for his defensive potential.

There are two main issues to keep an eye on regarding Heytvelt – one of them of course being his physical conditioning. The second issue are his intangibles. Heytvelt’s suspension for drug possession will be researched heavily by NBA teams, and any additional incidents could drop him out of draft consideration. He has already earned himself a reputation for having a bit of a different personality than most college athletes, and it will be important for him to show some maturity in this his senior season. Considering his talent level, Heytvelt could be well on his way to an All-American type season, and Gonzaga could very well make a deep run in the NCA tournament with all the talent they have on their roster. If those two things come to fruition, there’s no doubt that his draft stock will rise dramatically, as there are very few big men who possess his combination of physical tools and skill-level.

#8 Robert Vaden, 6-5, Senior, Shooting Guard, UAB

Vaden was covered extensively on this site, both at the end of last season in a comprehensive scouting report, as well as during the Orlando pre-draft camp. We will have to wait and see what type of strides he’s made this past summer before we can comment further on his draft status.

#9 Lee Cummard, 6’7, SG/SF, Senior, BYU

Joseph Treutlein

After an incredibly productive junior season, Lee Cummard will look to take his game to the next level as a senior. This wouldn’t be surprising given the way he’s steadily improved his game in each of his three years at BYU, with his numbers rising across the board each year.

The 6’7 swingman with a very slight build is a below average athlete by NBA standards, not showing great quickness or vertical explosiveness, but he makes up for it with fundamentals and intelligence. He’s a bit awkward in his movements as well, reminding of Adam Morrison in the way he moves around the court, though his style of play differs greatly, having little flare for the dramatic, making his mark through efficiency and simple plays, which he very much excels with. Cummard was remarkably efficient scoring the ball as a junior, hitting for 57% from the field, 86% from the line, and 47% from three, for an outstanding 69% TS%. By numbers alone, he had a case already last season to be considered the top small forward in the 2008 draft. Very few players bring to the table his combination of rebounding, passing, decision making and shooting efficiency.

On the offensive end, Cummard’s greatest asset would have to be his jump shot, which has a compact, textbook motion. He has a high, quick, and consistent release, with a slight fade to his shot, and he’s capable of hitting it spotting up or coming around screens. He can stop to catch and shoot from full speed when running in transition, and truly does an excellent job of squaring his body no matter what angle he’s catching the ball from. He’s equally effective with his shot from two and three-point range, hurting the defense from 5 feet out all the way to NBA three-point range. He does a very good job coming off screens in the mid-range area, either catching and shooting or cutting to the basket. He also has a nice turnaround jumper in the mid post that he goes to frequently.

Cummard doesn’t have much of a dribble-drive game, though he does have decent ball-handling skills, keeping the ball low to the ground and mixing in some basic crossovers when necessary. Due to his lack of quickness, he isn’t able to take his man off the dribble often, but he looks comfortable with the ball in his hands. Cummard does get to the rim, though, either leaking out in transition or making cuts without the ball, always remaining in constant motion. Cummard’s a very smart player on the offensive end in general, always playing a smart team game, getting open, not forcing shots, and making good passes, to the tune of 3.5 assists per game.

Defensively, while not great with his lateral quickness, Cummard has a good fundamental stance and shows very good focus and reflexes, which allows him to stay in front of his man more than you’d expect upon first glance. Many of the question marks he’ll face from NBA decision makers will come on this end of the floor, meaning he still has quite a bit to prove here.

While Cummard had an excellent junior season by any standard, it’s definitely concerning how his production fell off against schools from major conferences, with him scoring just 10.5 PPG against Louisville, UNC, Michigan State, and Texas A&M last season, down from his full season average of 15.8. It’s definitely reasonable to wonder how his offensive game will translate going against better athletes and bigger opponents night in and night out, and considering that he turns 24 by the time the season is over, he probably doesn’t share the upside of many of his counterparts in this year’s draft.

Looking forward to the NBA, it’s certainly feasible to see Cummard catching on as a role player in some capacity, and he could even be drafted, but much will depend on his performance this season, specifically against athletic wings, along with his performance in pre-draft camps after the season. Still, He will have a chance to open some eyes early on already with match-ups against Arizona State and Wake Forest.

Chris Wright (Dayton), 6’8”, Sophomore, SF/PF, Dayton

Joey Whelan

Despite playing just 15 games during his freshman season due to a fractured ankle, Chris Wright (Dayton) made quite an impact in his time on the floor for the Flyers, thanks to his fiery competitiveness and high flying ability around the rim. With less than half a season under his belt, Wright really didn’t get the opportunity to develop like most freshman do over the course of a full year, but he still showed tools that made scouts scribble him into their notebooks as a name to keep an eye on for the future. It is very much worth noting though that Dayton got off to a 14-1 start with Wright in the lineup, and floundered to a 7-9 finish after his injury.

From a physical stand point, Wright is a phenomenal prospect. At 6’8” and nearly 230 pounds he has fantastic size for a perimeter player to go along with a big wingspan. Wright is a great athlete across the board. He is extremely fast in the open floor, able to beat plenty of smaller players up the court with or without the basketball. He shows a quick first step, being able to get to the basket on a regular basis in the half court set when his ball-handling skills aren’t an issue. Once he gets in the lane, Wright is extremely explosive, showing tremendous leaping ability. We are talking about a top notch athlete, arguably the best in the Atlantic-10.

Wright’s game is built around getting near the rim. He rarely shoots from the outside and when he does, he doesn’t fare very well. The fact that he shot 80% from the free throw line last year does give some hope for the future as far as his perimeter game is concerned, but the 1 for 5 he shot from beyond the arc shows that he still has quite a ways to go. Wright has to rely almost entirely on his quickness to take defenders to the basket, as his ball handling skills are very limited at this point. The inability to dribble with his head up combined with his incapacity to change directions with the ball explains why Wright was one of the worst passers in our database last season, and turned the ball over at a very high rate. He garnered less than one assist for every five turnovers he doled out, which gives him the dubious distinction of ranking dead last amongst all players in the assist to turnover ratio category.

When Wright does get the ball around the basket it is a mixed bag. When he drives the lane he shows great body control in the air, but forces the issue much more than he should. He certainly needs to do a better job with shot selection. He seems to have his most success at this point when he reads the defense and cuts to the basket. Wright showed a knack last season for knowing when to dive down from the perimeter when teammates got into the lane.

The most encouraging sign for Wright offensively that we have seen so far is his immense hustle. He really works hard, particularly when down low trying to establish position or hitting the glass. Wright’s 11 rebounds per 40 minutes is 7th amongst all returning players from last season’s freshman class. The offensive glass in particular proved to be a successful area of the floor for Wright (7 vs. Toledo, 5 vs. High Point).

It was tough to get a real sense of how Wright stacks up defensively, as Dayton played a lot of zone when he on the floor. From what we have seen though, Wright has terrific tools, as he shows pretty very good lateral quickness and also uses his tremendous length to his advantage when defending on the perimeter. He loses focus sometimes in the zone and gets lost on his defensive rotations. More experience on the floor this year will help to alleviate some of these learning issues.

In Wright we are talking about an extremely gifted athlete, with loads of upside. With that said, he has a very, very long way to go in his development. Nearly every skill based aspect of his game needs to be greatly improved before we can begin mentioning him as an immediate NBA prospect. Improving his range, ball-handling skills and shot selection will all go a long way to making him a better player. At this point, Wright is more of a 4 than he is a 3 at the college level, but eventually moving out to the perimeter will benefit him greatly as far as his professional future is concerned. He is a player that we will certainly be keeping an eye on this season and beyond.

#11 Jeremy Pargo, 6-2, Senior, Point Guard, Gonzaga

Pargo received a number of extensive write-ups last year, both during the course of the season as well as at the NBA pre-draft camp, before withdrawing his name from consideration. Not much has changed since then, which is why we would prefer to wait before evaluating him again.

#12 Lester Hudson, 6-3, Senior, PG/SG, Tennessee Martin

Hudson received an intense amount of scrutiny from this site both leading up and over the course of the pre-draft process, before eventually deciding to return to school for his senior season. We will have to wait and see how he looks this season before we can add anything new to his profile.

#13 Robert Dozier, 6-9, Senior, Power Forward, Memphis

Dozier was profiled in extreme depth just before his team began the NCAA tournament. At this point, there isn’t much to add to that scouting report. We will wait to see how he looks during his senior season in order to evaluate his improvement and better gauge his prospects as an NBA draft pick.

#14 Larry Sanders, 6-9, Sophomore, PF/C, VCU

Sanders’ freshman season was capped off with a detailed evaluation of his play on our site. Considering how raw he is, and how much time he has left to improve, it makes sense to wait and see how he looks upon his return.

#15 Dionte Christmas, 6-5, Senior, Shooting Guard, Temple

Christmas was the subject of a number of extensive write-ups over the course of the Atlantic-10 tournament, just two weeks before his season ended. Not much has changed since then, which is why we would prefer to wait before evaluating him again.

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