Connect with us

NBA Draft

Does Noah Vonleh Actually Have Star Potential?

Nate Duncan breaks down Noah Vonleh’s game, and explains why the league needs to stop body fat testing at the combine.

Nate Duncan

Published

on


Noah Vonleh has recently gained momentum as a possible top-five pick, presumably on the strength of his strong pre-draft “performance.” He was a star of the NBA’s combine measurements, measuring 6’9.5 in shoes with a 7’4 wingspan and 9’0 standing reach. More surprisingly, he recorded a 37-inch approach vertical with a 31-inch standing leap, both outstanding numbers for a big man of his size and length. Vonleh is also a cut 247 lbs. and was measured at 7.3 percent body fat.*

*These body fat measurements mean very little (as will be explained below) but are quoted because it may affect Vonleh’s “momentum” if someone makes the mistake of thinking it is important.

The Indiana product is not just a paper tiger either. He was a great rebounder his freshman year and most importantly can shoot the ball from outside. Although he averaged only 1.1 attempts per game, he drained 48.5 percent of his threes on the year. He also has a nice stroke from the line, shooting at a solid 71.6 percent clip. And Vonleh is not hesitant to put the ball on the floor, while exhibiting solid jump hooks with either hand in the post. Many have compared Vonleh to Chris Bosh, and on the surface those comparisons are reasonable. A long, athletic, three-point shooting power forward who is a great rebounder sounds like a great pick for the top-five, right? Au contraire.

The problem with taking Vonleh in that lofty strata is his limited star potential. Let’s start with the physical tools first. He may indeed have jumped 37 inches at the combine, but let this be the annual reminder that watching a prospect is a much better way to judge basketball leaping ability than measuring maximum vertical.* Derrick Rose and O.J. Mayo were measured with the same vertical leap before the 2008 draft. Cody Zeller had a higher vertical than Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin. It just isn’t a reliable measure of how well a player jumps on the court compared to simply watching him play.

*That said, if I were running a workout, I would test standing, maximum approach one-foot, maximum approach two-foot, and second jump verticals. The way it is done now, players have the choice of approach vertical off one or two feet. Those really are totally different things especially for big guys who do most of their jumping off two feet to rebound, block shots and finish dumpoffs and post plays.

After watching almost all of Vonleh’s interior finishes this year, he clearly does not have any more than average applied leaping ability. He didn’t really dunk on anyone all year, and his interior finishing was actually pretty bad. At the rim* he shot only 59.3 percent, slightly below the 60.9 percent average for all college players. He just got stopped at the rim time and again, far more than a player of his stature should. It seems clear that he has below-average feel for finishing inside unless it is a hook shot.

*This metric is determined by shooting percentage on shots marked as dunks or layups by play-by-play, per Hoop-Math.com. This data should be taken with a grain of salt since it is likely that there are not universal standards from scorer to scorer across Division I of what constitutes a “lay-up.” Indiana as a whole did not have great interior finishers, but it is worth nothing that they shot only 56.2 percent in Hoop-Math’s “at the rim” metric, so there is at least some small amount of evidence that their official scorers might have been more expansive in classifying certain shots as layups. Nevertheless, Vonleh did not rate well.

Vonleh’s post game is seductive due to his pretty hook shots, but ultimately not particularly efficient. He struggled to create both horizontal and vertical separation, and does not really have any moves aside from those hooks. The same lack of separation was evident on his drives. Despite his shooting ability he almost never is able to beat his man on a straight line drive, usually having to resort to a spin move after he has been cut off. He does not project to be able to get to the basket off the bounce against most NBA power forwards.

Another concern big concern for Vonleh is his awful hands. While he admirably runs the floor hard, he ranked in only the 15th percentile among college players in transition points per possession because he reliably fumbled passes going to the rim. Even those low numbers were goosed by transition threes, it really was shocking how bad he was catching the ball on the move going to the basket. The same issue afflicts his pick and roll finishing, as does the fact that it takes him forever to load up to jump. Unless he can really improve in this area, his usefulness in the pick and roll will be largely limited to popping for jumpers.

The problems with his feel for the game are also borne out by his poor passing numbers. He had only 18 assists all season against 64 turnovers. When he received the ball he was largely a black hole, and his over reliance on spin moves resulted in frequent turnovers.

Many have commented that Vonleh was criminally underutilized at Indiana, and indeed he only had a below-average 18.9 percent usage rate in conference play. But while he was the victim of some gunning by the guards, he deserves at least some of the blame for his inability to find shots. This is another indicator that his feel is not the greatest.

Of perhaps the greatest importance for his future, his defensive instincts are poor. Vonleh does move well laterally and is solid on ball against the pick and roll and postups. In the latter situation he uses his chest to bump the offensive player without fouling and does well to avoid getting backed down. But you would expect a player with his wingspan, vertical and lateral quickness to be a terror protecting the rim. Vonleh is not. He often gets caught out of position to help, especially when his man drifts to the perimeter. Seeing his man and the ball is not his strong suit, and drivers can reach the rim before Vonleh is even aware of them if he is weakside. And when he is in position, he lacks the timing and bounce to block many shots. To these eyes, he does not project as a good rim-protector.

Ultimately, Vonleh has many basketball skills, but he is not a great basketball player. Those skills do make him worth drafting starting in the late lottery, and there is a chance as one of the younger players in the draft (he only turns 19 in August) that he develops the necessary feel to be a star. But right now, his likely outcome seems closer to a three-point shooting version of Jason Thompson. That could be a valuable player, but to me he lacks the high-probability upside to merit a pick in the top-half of the lottery.

Body Fat Testing Is Wildly Inaccurate

It is time for the NBA to stop doing body fat testing at the combine. The league uses the skinfold method to measure body fat, which involves a human physically pinching skin with calipers and measuring how thick it is at a number of points around the body. While there is a specific method to doing this that is supposed to be accurate, as you might imagine the pinching of skin is not particularly precise. Then a formula is supposed to estimate body fat based on how much skin is in the fold. Consider the potential variance of different people doing the testing, and you get a margin of error of five percent. That means plus or minus five percent, meaning a player could have as much as 10 percent variance between two tests. Nik Stauskas got dinged on the testing this year, measuring a relatively high 12.1 percent, spawning “concerns” about how fat he was. Stauskas looks plenty cut and athletic—the concerns should be with the testing itself.

In reality, body fat testing to differentiate between the low body fat percentages of elite athletes is fairly worthless because almost every feasible testing method lacks the necessary precision. Even ostensibly more accurate measure have a very high variance. The Bod Pod (air displacement) and hydrostatic weighing (water displacement) purport to measure body fat by determining how much matter is displaced by the body to determine its volume, then determining the body’s density by dividing that volume by the subject’s weight. The calculated density can vary quite a bit based on how much air is in the lungs, the person’s level of hydration and just simple measurement error by the machine.

After the density is determined, an equation is used to estimate body fat based on the density of the average person’s fat and non-fat mass.* Even by these methods, readings taken back to back on the same person can vary by five percent or more.

*Sometimes a different equation is used for African-Americans, on the basis that they typically have lower body fat percentages than other races and the result should be adjusted downward simply on the basis of race. This too seems another possible source of inaccuracy. I do not know whether such an adjustment is used with the skinfold method the NBA uses at the combine.

Labeling certain players as more in shape than others based solely on this testing is rather asinine unless a guy has an absolutely astronomical number in the mid-to-high teens. Just subjectively looking at how cut a player is does a much better job determining whether he could improve his performance by losing fat. Hopefully GMs do not put any stock in this testing, but if I were an agent I would not let my player be tested just to avoid potentially getting Stauskased. Responsible journalists should stop quoting these figures like they actually mean anything.

Nate Duncan is an NBA analyst and attorney. He writes regular features for Basketball Insiders and chats weekly at 11 Eastern on Tuesdays.

Advertisement




1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Draft Notes: Hood, Stokes, Jackson, Anderson | Hoops Rumors

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Mock Drafts

NBA AM: The First 2018 NBA Mock Draft

With College Basketball getting underway and things starting to get interesting in the standings of the NBA, what better time to drop a 2018 Mock Draft than on Thanksgiving.

Steve Kyler

Published

on

The Thanksgiving 2018 NBA Mock Draft

With College Basketball getting underway and things starting to get interesting in the standings of the NBA, what better time to drop a 2018 Mock Draft than on Thanksgiving.

So with that in mind here is my first Mock Draft of the 2018 Season, look for more of these are we march on (and hopefully you like the new Mock Draft table design.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this summer.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Ricky Rubio trade this summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves first round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors first round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets first round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.

Check out our Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects http://www.basketballinsiders.com/top-100-nba-draft-prospects/

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

Continue Reading

NBA

NBA AM: A Look At The 2018 NBA Draft Class

With the NCAA basketball season gearing up, here is an early look at some of the names to watch as it gets rolling.

Steve Kyler

Published

on

A Look At The Top Of the 2018 NBA Draft Class

With the college basketball season getting ready to get underway, it’s time to take our first look at the names to watch in what could be a very flat 2018 NBA Draft class. While the draft class always evolves as the season goes on, there are a few names that look more likely to be sure things than others, and here are a few:

Luka Dončić – Real Madrid

The 6-foot-7 Dončić looks to be the front-runner of the 2018 class. While not a college player, Dončić has been on the NBA radar for some time and took part in NBA preseason last year when the Oklahoma City Thunder faced off against Real Madrid.

Dončić is considered by many to be the next can’t miss International player, with some labeling him a basketball prodigy. Dončić has spent his offseasons training in the U.S. at the famed P3 Performance Training Center in Santa Barbara, so he is no stranger to the NBA style of play or how hard you have to train got be great at the NBA level.

Dončić is listed as a forward but tends to play with the ball in his hands a lot for Real Madrid, where many label him as more of a point forward. Dončić is a polished shooter, with the game all the way to the three-point line.

It will take something pretty special (or tragic) to happen for Dončić not to be the top overall player this June. He is absolutely the name to watch.

Michael Porter Jr. – Missouri

Of all of the college players with a shot at a top-three pick in June, the 6-foot-10 Michael Porter Jr. might be the best of the bunch. With an amazing set of skills, Porter has been the star of the high school all-star circuit and has cemented himself as a very serious NBA prospect. The problem with Michael Porter Jr. isn’t anything he does on the basketball court, it a reputation that’s followed him for a while that he may not have the right circle of influence.

In what has become all too common in the AAU/high school, players have started to amass a circle of influence that’s been clouding the star of some of the top players.

Dallas’ Dennis Smith Jr had similar concerns last year, which was a big contributing factor to him sliding to the Dallas Mavericks and the ninth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.

For Porter, NBA teams are going to want to see him shake some of the labels around his game and gauge how coachable he can be at the next level.

From a pure talent and skill point of view, though, Porter might be the next best talent in the eventual 2018 NBA draft pool, it will be interesting to see if Porter and a very solid recruiting class can get Missouri into the elite of the college basketball. It would go a long way towards quieting the noise around him that doesn’t have anything to do with the game.

[Update: Porter Jr, has been ruled out for the college basketball season after needing a microdiscectomy of the L3-L4 spinal discs. The projected recovery time is 3-4 months. NBA teams will want to understand the full scope of Porter Jr.’s surgery and his prognosis. If he is deemed to be a 100% after the procedure, his draft stock could remain very high. However, needing a disc-related back surgery at 19 is a huge red flag, especially for a player listed at 6′ 10″.]

Marvin Bagley III – Duke

If Porter isn’t the guy for whatever reason, the next guy looks to be Duke’s Marvin Bagley III. He re-classified this summer making him eligible for this season and one of the younger prospects on the board. At a legit 6-foot-11, Bagley has the whole package for a big man. He is an incredible athlete that can score from everywhere. He is explosive around the basket and a lethal at-the-rim scorer.

Given Duke’s loaded recruiting class, Bagley looks likely to be playing deep into March this year, and that could bode well for his eventual draft stock.

Collin Sexton – Alabama

Alabama’s Collin Sexton looks to be the top point guard prospect in the eventual 2018 NBA Draft class. He is a legit 6’2 and as cat quick as they come. Sexton was a star on the high school All-Star circuit and looks to have the whole pack for an NBA caliber guard.

The big thing Sexton is going to need to show at the next level is that he can be a playmaker as well as a scorer. The High School/AAU platform has shown that Sexton can score at will, NBA teams are going to want to see him create for others.

It’s no secret that the NBA is built around point guard play, and like Smith Jr, who is flourishing in the NBA with the Mavericks. Sexton could be equally as potent, especially after a season playing for Avery Johnson at Alabama.

Miles Bridges – Michigan State

Surprisingly, Bridges opted to return for another season at Michigan State. Historically most players don’t add to their draft stock returning to school, but in Bridges case, he could find himself towards the top of the class with a dominating season for the Spartans.

Bridges is more of a combo forward. The knock on his game is he is more of a tweener, with a limited outside game. If he can take over in his Sophomore season and prove he has improved as a perimeter threat, he could add some serious value to what many expected was 15-20 draft range in 2017.

The problem for Bridges is that scouts tend to latch on to an idea around a player and unless he shakes the label, it’s generally viewed as a negative if a player does not improve.

Bridges has the potential to leap way up in his draft stock, which is pretty rare. The question is, is there another level to his game in college basketball?

Trevon Duval – Duke

Duke has a great recruiting class, but the enigma of the bunch may be guard Trevon Duval. A start for IMG and one of the top high school/prep players in the Nation, the buzz around Duval has dropped considerably. Most NBA scouts are eager to see how Duval handles being coached by Mike Krzyzewski.

Duval has all the tools to be an elite point guard prospect, but like Porter Jr, there are questions about his circle of influence and how much he wants to win at the college level.

With some many prospects looking past their college season into an eventual NBA career, scouts and executives seem to be interesting in seeing how Duval leads a team like Duke and how much latitude Coach K gives him throughout the season.

The one this to know about any future draft class at this point in the calendar is that everything is subject to change. However, history has proven time and time again that the top names on NBA scouting boards in November, usually end up being in the top 10 when the draft rolls around in June.

Once some of these guys log actual games, we’ll start dropping our monthly NBA Mock Drafts, so stay tuned for that as the college basketball season ramps up.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

Continue Reading

NBA

The Best of the Undrafted Players

David Yapkowitz breaks down the best players who weren’t drafted in Thursday night’s NBA Draft.

David Yapkowitz

Published

on

Ben Wallace, Raja Bell, Avery Johnson, David Wesley, John Starks; those are just a few former NBA players who didn’t hear their name called on draft night, yet went on to have pretty impressive careers.

Each year there are a few undrafted players who end up making a team’s roster and turn out to be solid contributors. This past season, players like Ron Baker of the New York Knicks, Yogi Ferrell of the Dallas Mavericks, and Derrick Jones Jr. of the Phoenix Suns went undrafted in 2016 yet ended up as regular rotation guys for their teams. In Ferrell’s case, he became a starter.

With the 2017 NBA Draft come and gone, here’s a look at some of the top undrafted players who might be able to strengthen a team’s roster.

Johnathan Motley

Johnathan Motley was the best player on a Baylor team that was a No.3 seed and made it to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 17.3 points per game on 52.2 percent shooting and pulled down 9.9 rebounds per game.

At 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, Motley is definitely in the mold of a versatile wing player who can play multiple positions and thrive and in today’s NBA. What he needs to do, however, is improve his outside shot. He shot only 28.1 percent from three-point range. One crucial aspect for hybrid forwards is to be able to step out and hit long range jumpers.

His stock often fluctuated in various mock drafts; some had him going in the first round, others in the second. Per The Vertical’s Shams Charania, Motley signed a two-way contract with the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.

P.J. Dozier

P.J. Dozier was one-half of South Carolina’s star duo that helped propel them to a Cinderella run to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament. The other half, Sindarius Thornwell, had his name called, but at the end of the night, Dozier was still waiting.

Only a sophomore, Dozier was the second leading scorer for the Gamecocks with 13.9 points per game. He was always projected to go in the second round on most mocks and perhaps he came out a bit too early. The talent is there though.

He can have success as a team’s combo guard off the bench. He will need to work on his shooting though. He shot only 40.7 percent from the field, 29.8 percent from three. He’ll be in summer league with the Los Angeles Lakers, and from there will hope to entice a team to bring him to training camp.

Melo Trimble

Melo Trimble might have been one of those players that needed to strike while the iron’s hot. Two years ago, he was talked about as a probable first-round pick had he declared for the draft after his freshman year at Maryland. Instead, he stayed until his junior year and his stock fell.

He actually turned in an impressive junior campaign with 16.8 points per game, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. He shot a respectable 44.4 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from three-point range.

Trimble will play summer league with the Philadelphia 76ers, and like most undrafted free agents, will look to turn his performance into a training camp invitation. He probably projects to be a backup point guard should he find a place in the league. He had first round and possible lottery talent before, however, so maybe all he needs is an opportunity.

Devin Robinson

In today’s game, where teams put a premium on versatile, do it all type players who can play multiple positions, Devin Robinson certainly fits that description. Robinson is a long, athletic forward who can step out and hit outside jumpers while locking up his opponent’s best wing scorer.

Florida had a surprisingly solid run in the NCAA Tournament and Robinson was a big part of that. His junior year, his best year yet, saw him average 11.1 points per game on 47.5 percent from the field and 6.1 rebounds. He showed a much improved outside shot, connecting on 39.1 percent of his looks from downtown. In the tournament, he upped his averages to 28.3 points on similar shooting percentages.

Robinson will be in summer league with the Washington Wizards, a team that often times lacked production off their bench last season. Depending on how he performs in summer league, don’t be surprised to see him on the Wizards roster come opening night.

Nigel Hayes

Playing in the shadow of Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker in years past, Nigel Hayes was given an opportunity as a senior at Wisconsin to show what he could do as the focal point of an offense. His numbers didn’t jump off the page, but he did play well enough to be given a shot at making a team’s roster.

His 14 points per game were good enough to tie teammate Ethan Happ for the second leading scorer on the team. As a power forward, he was actually the second leading assist man with 2.7. One area he’ll need to improve on to make an impact in the NBA is his outside jumper. He shot 39.6 percent from three his sophomore season. This year it was down to 31.4 despite taking a similar number of attempts (2.5 and 1.9 respectively).

Hayes looks to be one of those players in between positions. He lacks the quickness and range to thrive at small forward but is a bit undersized at the NBA level for power forward. He is an incredible energy player, though, and players like that have been able to carve out nice careers. He’ll be in summer league with the Knicks, and given their current state of affairs, they need all the help they can get.

L.J. Peak

In the mock drafts that projected him to be drafted, L.J. Peak was most likely going to be a second round pick. That’s not to say he doesn’t have first round talent. He’s a big guard that can play both guard positions.

Despite Georgetown’s futile record this season, Peak was a standout. He was the team’s second-leading scorer at 16.2 points per game on 48 percent shooting from the field. He was also their top playmaker, dishing out 3.5 assists. In the NBA, he most likely can find a role for some team as a combo guard off the bench. He only shot 32.7 percent from the beyond the arc, however, so if he wants to make an impact in the league that’s one area he’ll need some work.

He’s set to go to summer league with the Houston Rockets. Depending on what roster moves the Rockets make, it will be tough for Peak to make the final team. They already have two guards capable of playing both guard spots off the bench in Lou Williams and Isaiah Taylor. Taylor’s contract isn’t guaranteed, but he probably has the inside track due to his familiarity with the team. In any case, a strong summer showing should lead Peak to a training camp invite with another team, if not the Rockets.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending Now