To fully understand how much more the NBA values a draft prospect’s potential over his college production, consider the following example for a moment.
Baylor’s Johnathan Motley earned second-team All-American honors last season, yet he was not selected in the NBA draft on Thursday night. Duke’s Harry Giles and Gonzaga’s Zach Collins didn’t start for their respective teams, yet both were taken among the first 20 picks.
The only good news for Motley is he’s far from the only highly successful college player not to be selected in this year’s draft. Here’s a look at a list of the top college players who were not drafted Thursday night:
1. Johnathan Motley, F, Baylor: Of all the elite college players who went undrafted, Motley may be the biggest surprise. Most mock drafts projected the second-team All-American to come off the board in the early second round after a breakout junior season in which he averaged 17.3 points and a Big 12-best 9.9 rebounds per game. What may have hurt Motley is the fear that he was too small to play center in the NBA yet not skilled enough to excel at power forward. It also couldn’t have helped the 6-foot-9 forward that he suffered a torn meniscus during the NCAA tournament that required surgery and perhaps hampered him during workouts.
2. Melo Trimble, G, Maryland: Had Trimble left after his freshman season at Maryland, there’s a chance he might have been selected in the first round. Trimble instead stayed three seasons with the Terps and saw his draft stock decline each year. One huge issue for Trimble is that his 3-point stroke all but deserted him after his freshman year. Opponents consistently went under screens against him yet he hit less than 32 percent from behind the arc both of the past two years. Congested lanes made it more difficult for Trimble to create for himself or his teammates off the dribble too. He averaged 16.8 points per game as a junior but his 3.9-to-3.0 assist-to-turnover ratio wasn’t good enough.
3. Bronson Koenig, G, Wisconsin: Perhaps sensing that he was unlikely to be selected, Koenig penned an open letter to NBA general managers on Thursday morning urging them to give him a second look. He cited his outside shooting prowess, his proficiency in the pick and roll and his knack for sinking clutch late-game shots as reasons an NBA team ought to give him a chance. Those attributes will surely land Koenig a training camp invite, but it wasn’t enough to overcome concerns about his lack of explosiveness, length or lateral quickness. NBA teams feared Koenig wouldn’t be able to stay in front of opposing point guards on defense or beat them off the dribble on offense.
4. Kennedy Meeks, C, North Carolina: If rebounding is the skill that best translates from the college game to the NBA, then maybe Meeks should have been selected. The massive North Carolina center yanked down 9.5 rebounds per game as a senior and upped that to 11.5 per game during the Tar Heels’ run to the national title. While Meeks also has soft hands, good touch around the rim and surprising mobility for a player his size, what likely hampered his chances were concerns about his defense and his conditioning. At his size, it’s difficult for him to play 30-plus minutes per night or to defend quicker players in space.
5. Eric Mika, F, BYU: Thanks to his excellent feel for the game, never-ending motor and relentless work ethic, Mika emerged as one of the WCC’s best players after returning from a two-year Mormon mission. He averaged 20.3 points and 9.2 rebounds, dominating in the paint yet showing the skill to also knock down pick-and-pop jumpers when left open. Already 22 years old and married, Mika decided he was ready to pursue professional basketball after his sophomore season, but the NBA passed on him as a result of concern over whether shot blocking and rebounding would translate against bigger, stronger competition. Mika is a bit undersized for an NBA center yet may not be quick enough or athletic enough to defend smaller, quicker players.
Five other notable college players who were not selected Thursday night: P.J. Dozier, G, South Carolina; London Perrantes, G, Virginia; Derrick Walton, G, Michigan; Peter Jok, G, Iowa; Przemek Karnowski, C, Gonzaga.
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