The 2013 NBA Draft is only 156 days, 3 hours, 43 minutes and 11 seconds away as this murky Tuesday morning begins to unmurk.
CJ Wilcox has been named the Pac 12 player of the week and his 27 point 9 rebound performance at Stanford has officially put him on the NBA Draft hype map. Scouts can smell an elite shooter from across the country so you can expect them to be circling above SeaTac this Wednesday and for the rest of the season.
Here’s what they’re going to find:
CJ Wilcox is shooting 40% from three point range for the third consecutive season. That percentage obviously means more this year because he’s taking more shots and because he’s the unquestionable focus of every opposing defense. Scouts are going to appreciate three qualities that Wilcox has as a shooter.
Patience: This year Wilcox is calmly setting up his man and waiting for screens to be set for him.
Physicality: He’s taken to giving his defender an effective push before he accelerates off a screen.
Mechanics: His ability to catch, set his feet, and shoot in minimal time is his best basketball skill. His release is compact which lowers the margin for error and its consistent. Every shot from beyond the arc looks the same.
Shooting is Wilcox’s only NBA skill. It just so happens that its also a highly coveted skill and is more important now than it ever has been before. As advanced statistics (and the nerds who love them) have furthered their influence on game strategy the three point shot, especially from the corner, has become heavily emphasized. The basic logic for this strategy is that NBA players shoot 39% on mid range jumpers and 38% on corner threes. So why wouldn’t you take a corner three over a mid range jumper?
Wilcox is not going to hurt his draft stock as a defender. He has solid size and length for a shooting guard at 6’5” with a 6’8” wingspan. He is certainly athletic as exhibited by his 1.4 blocks per game this season. A lot of his blocks over the past three seasons have been surprising feats of athleticism in which he chases down a fast break and swats the shot at the rim. He’s pretty good off the ball. He can really deny a wing catch if he wants to and he doesn’t get absurdly lost when he’s two passes away.
But Wilcox is more of a straight line athlete than he is a laterally explosive athlete (he’s more Jake Locker than Keith Price). Meaning that he can definitely run and jump at an NBA level, but he gets beat consistently on dribble drives into the paint. When he gets beat he has shown a decent ability to recover with his length and jumping ability but there is a big difference between recovering on Chasson Randle and recovering on Dwayne Wade. Overall his defense will not be the thing that stands between Wilcox and an NBA contract. He is a responsible defender who has shown the ability to be coached. He plays hard on defense and appears really focused on that end of the floor which is impressive for a guy who has so much responsibility on offense.
Ball handling is CJ’s kryptonite. Mechanically speaking his dribble is too high and he pushes it out too far from his body. Good ball handlers keep their dribble tight and low to the ground. Wilcox looks awkward on UW’s dribble handoffs on the perimeter. He really doesn’t look like he wants to dribble more than once or twice and he forces passes into really tight windows in order to get rid of the ball. Defenders really attack him when he puts the ball on the floor. He has survived these attacks for the most part in this young Pac-12 season. CJ is averaging 1.9 turnovers per game and he has 30 already this year after having only 40 all of last year. He only had one turnover at Stanford and 0 at Cal in 35 and 36 minutes which was due more so to his unwillingness to dribble than it was to any improvement in his ball skills.
What CJ hasdeveloped is an ability to drive around reckless close-outs. He has a nice one dribble pull up from 15 feet, evidenced by the one he hit at the elbow coming down the stretch against Stanford. He also looks totally natural throwing up little floaters if he gets into the paint and little half hooks when he gets offensive rebounds. He’s shooting 52% on 2-pointers this season. Which is good for a guy who shoots a lot of long 2′s and hasn’t spent a ton of time getting to the rim in his previous two seasons.
NBA comparisons for CJ Wilcox would be Roger Mason Jr., the former Virginia guard, Wayne Ellington, the former North Carolina guard, Marco Belinellior any other 6’5”-ish shooting guard who specializes in knocking down long distance shots. The difference between all these guys and CJ Wilcox is that they are all pretty savvy with the ball in their hands. They can all make plays in pick-and roll situations which is something that Wilcox has yet to prove.
NBAdraft.net currently has Wilcox as the 25th pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Draftexpress.com, which is, without question, the most respected draft website in the industry, currently has Wilcox going 30th in the 2014 NBA Draft. Given the ball handling gap in Wilcox’s skill set scouts might want to see if Wilcox can come back next season with a more complete game. But this year is going to be a very weak draft, with no clear cut #1 pick, and no obvious franchise players, which could make a shooter like Wilcox look like one of the prettiest girls in the room.
We’ve only seen 16 games of CJ Wilcox as the primary scoring option and star of the Husky team. The early returns have been impressive. Whether he can keep this up or even improve upon his solid start will add to the drama of his impending NBA Draft decision. But for now the focus is on Colorado, who will come to town this Wednesday with a few draft prospects of their own.