NBA Position: PF, fringe Center
General Information: 18 year old Freshman, played at Indiana University. From Georgetown, MA.
Measurables: 6'10, 245 lbs, 7'4 wingspan, 8'10 standing reach
2013-14 Season Statistics: 11.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG, .9 APG, 2.1 TPG (26.5 Minutes per contest) - 52.3% FG, 71.1% FT, 48.5% 3P, 60.8% TS%
Summary: In what was a very inconsistent season for the Indiana Hoosiers, the freshman Vonleh was at the center of the team's successes and struggles. The big man flashed great all-around potential; he could score inside, he could shoot outside, he could block shots, and he was one of the most efficient rebounders in the class. Given his exceptional length (7'4 wingspan) and wide range of skills, it's easy to get excited about his long-term NBA potential-but he was also maidenly inconsistent on both ends of the court.
Overall, Vonleh is a very raw talent that will tempt teams with his size and skills, but he is still far from NBA ready. He has serious lacks in basketball IQ and court awareness, which makes him more of a boom/bust type player then other big men in this class.
Vonleh has the potential to be a very balanced scorer. He's got a solid foundation of post skills, and he's adept at using his long arms to create space. Even better, he's got range out to the three point line - he shot 48.5% from three last season and is a capable shot from anywhere in-between. He's got good hands, and doesn't fumble many entry passes. Unique for his size, he's a capable enough ball-handler, a good enough shooter and quick enough that he can fake defenders out and drive to the basket.
While he's a capable scorer from all over the court, the issue is again a lack of basketball IQ. For every sharp post move he made or solid shot he chose, he'd make the same number of poor decisions. He'd often get lost in the post, or suddenly find defenders where he didn't expect them, and would force up a bad shot. His midrange also hasn't proven as reliable as his three pointers (he shot 35.4% on two-point jumpers).
Another big concern is his passing. He averaged .9 assists per games, and while the Indiana offense was jumbled to begin with, this is a serious area for growth. He became a black hole at times offensively, which is saying something for a player who only got 216 FGAs on the season. His poor decision making led to an average of 2.1 turnovers a game and a turnover rate of 18.6%, the highest of the top big men in the class.
Defensively there is a lot to like about Vonleh's potential, but like the rest of his game it's inconsistent. He's agile on his feet, and this lends itself both outside and inside the paint. He does a good job of keeping himself between the basket and his opponent, and with his length and solid footwork he's mostly a good post defender. He's not great at keeping himself set against bigger players, and he still needs to gain some muscle. With those lengthy arms and above-average athleticism, he's already a capable shotblocker and should get better as he gets the timing down.
He's a below-average help defender; his defensive awareness is very poor, and he's far too slow at reacting to the offense. He's not great at pick-and-roll defense, and gets caught too easily guarding one option or the other. He also falls for pump fakes way too easily. His biggest crime is his foul trouble-he racked up an average of 4 fouls a game, many due to being overzealous on that end of the court.
The biggest misconception about Vonleh is the idea that he is an elite shotblocking prospect. He averaged 1.4 a game with a block percentage of 5.4%-both respectable numbers, but certainly not elite. He lacks the explosive athleticism to be more than an above-average blocker. When playing against explosive leapers or sliding to stop slashing guards, there were many times where even his 7'4 wingspan wasn't enough. He's got excellent mobility, but that doesn't equate to great vertical athleticism.
That isn't to say he can't become an above-average defender and a very good shotblocker-you don't need elite verticality in a big man to improve as a blocker. At best, I believe Vonleh could end up averaging about 2 BPG, which is a very good ceiling but certainly not elite. That in itself would be a welcome addition to Sacramento.
Vonleh's most NBA ready skill is his defensive rebounding. He's superb at boxing his man out, and generally getting between his opponents and the rim. His reach won't help him as much in the pros against generally taller players (he measured at 6'8 without shoes at the combine, which is solid), but by all accounts he should be an above-average rebounder from day one. His defensive and offensive awareness needs tons of work, but he's got a great knack for predicting where the ball will go off the rebounds. His total rebounding rate is 19.4%, just a hairs below Joel Embiid's and a hair above Julius Randle. His defensive rebounding rate is 27.3%, tied with Embiid's.
Intangibles: By all accounts, Vonleh is a hard worker who is hampered most by his inexperience and lack of basketball IQ. Watching game footage, you'll see Vonleh make an excellent move one minute, and then make a terrible decision the next. His basketball IQ and court awareness are his biggest weaknesses coming into the NBA. Any team that selects Vonleh should prepare for a long teaching process.
That said, it's easy to see when watching Vonleh that he is a high energy player who puts full effort when he in on the court. This doesn't help when combined with his low IQ-it compounds on his poor decision making. Still, it is good to see a solid motor in a raw player, and lowers the risk that Vonleh will completely bomb in the league.
Fit with Sacramento: Vonleh has nearly all the skills to be a great long-term fit next to DeMarcus Cousins. In a season or two, he could provide the Kings with a lengthy, high-energy defensive presence. His 7'4 wingspan and blocking instincts would be a welcome addition, and his balanced offensive skills would allow the Kings to stretch the floor with an additional shooter while not sacrificing on the defensive end.
The Kings might have to trade up if they wanted to snag Vonleh, as the general consensus is he'll go higher than No. 8. If Vonleh was the selection, Kings fans should prepare for another Ben McLemore type rookie season: flashes of promise (likely more and more as the season goes on), but maddingly inconsistent performances. That all said, his total package of size, length and skills make him as intriguing a prospect for Sacramento as there is in the class.
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