To understand how much more NBA franchises value potential over production, consider this example from Thursday night’s draft.
Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. went fourth overall despite logging only 21.8 minutes per game during his lone year of college basketball and tallying as many turnovers (two) as baskets in a pair of NCAA tournament games. Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett and Saint Mary’s Jock Landale, both consensus second-team All-Americans, were not selected at all.
Of course, Bluiett and Landale were both in good company. Here’s a look at the best college players who were not selected in this year’s NBA draft:
1. Trevon Bluiett, G, Xavier
Xavier’s second-leading all-time scorer established himself as one of college basketball’s premier shooters and most skilled offensive players the past few years. The 6-foot-6 wing with the quick trigger averaged 19.5 points per game as a senior and shot 41.7 percent from behind the arc, helping the Musketeers edge Villanova for the Big East regular-season title. What concerned NBA teams about Bluiett is whether he can guard anyone at the NBA level. Bluiett is quicker and slimmer than he was when he arrived at Xavier, but he’s still a below-average athlete for an NBA wing.
2. Jock Landale, C, Saint Mary’s
The centerpiece of a Saint Mary’s team that won 59 games the past two seasons, Landale emerged as one of college basketball’s top interior scorers. The skilled 6-foot-11 Aussie center averaged 21.1 points and 10 rebounds as a senior, displaying soft hands, deft footwork and the ability to knock down a mid-range jumper or pass out of a double team. The modern NBA’s shift away from traditional big men may ultimately be what keeps Landale from carving out a place for himself in the league. He lacks the athleticism to switch ball screens or defend the rim and he has yet to prove he can knock down jumpers out to the NBA 3-point arc.
3. Bonzie Colson, F, Notre Dame
He has already proved wrong the skeptics who said he was too small to play center in the ACC. Now he’ll get the chance to do the same at the professional level. Despite standing just 6-foot-5 and doing most of his damage in the paint, Colson emerged as one of college basketball’s top interior scorers. He averaged 17.8 points and 10.1 rebounds as a junior and was on pace to better those numbers before a foot injury cost him much of his senior season. Can Colson continue to excel as an interior scorer, rebounder and shot blocker in the NBA? Scouts are skeptical, which is why he’ll now have to prove himself as an undrafted free agent.
4. Joel Berry II, G, North Carolina
He’s a former Final Four Most Outstanding Player. He averaged 17.1 points per game last season. He led North Carolina to 92 wins, two Final Fours and a national title over the last three seasons. Berry clearly has the résumé of an NBA player, but league scouts were skeptical that he has the physical tools that would translate to the sport’s highest level. At 6-foot, 195 pounds, Berry doesn’t possess traditional size for an NBA point guard, nor does he have excellent court vision or an explosive first step to the basket. Berry’s intangibles and outside shooting ability are unassailable, but he’ll likely have to earn an NBA contract as a free agent signee in training camp.
5. Allonzo Trier, G, Arizona
Trier has to be wondering what else he could have done as a junior to establish himself as an NBA-caliber shooting guard. He evolved from a good shooter to an elite one, sinking 50 percent of his shots from the field, 38 percent of his attempts from behind the arc and 86.5 percent from the foul line. He would have been well over 40 percent on threes, too, were it not for a 6-of-35 skid to finish the season. Trier is not an elite athlete, but he’s a capable on-ball defender and straight-line driver. While he is not a good enough passer to play point guard in the NBA, he has shown enough flashes of court vision to offer hope that he may yet have room for growth in that regard.
Other former college stars who were not selected: Rob Gray (Houston), Malik Newman (Kansas), Keenan Evans (Texas Tech), Brandon McCoy (UNLV), Isaac Haas (Purdue), Gary Clark (Cincinnati), Kelan Martin (Butler), Marcus Foster (Creighton), Trevon Duval (Duke), Jaylen Adams (St. Bonaventure)
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