Kevon Looney is among the 19 players who accepted invites to Thursday’s NBA draft. How long will his green-room wait last?
Once considered a near-certain lottery pick, many mock drafts have since dropped the former UCLA forward to borderline top-20 status.
Pac-12 Networks analyst Don MacLean, a former Bruin, isn’t among the detractors.
“Ten years from now, I think Kevon Looney may be the best player from this year’s draft coming out of the Pac-12,” MacLean said. “I really like him. You just don’t see guys with the length, the rebounding, the instincts. … The way he was used at UCLA, you didn’t see the entire package.”
MacLean’s projection is optimistic, but not all that outlandish. After all, the only other Pac-12 product with lottery potential is Arizona’s Stanley Johnson — a strong defender who likely won’t turn into an elite scorer.
But many questions surround Looney’s draft stock as well, some of them not helped by the Bruins’ game plan.
UCLA rarely ran plays for the 6-foot-9 forward in his lone college season, relying on him instead as an elite offensive rebounder who generated baskets for himself. While he was capable of bringing the ball up the court and generating a one-man fast break, his only dominant offensive effort was a 27-point, 19-rebound eruption against Stanford in double overtime.
Looney himself said at the NBA combine in May that he didn’t show his full potential as a Bruin. Asked about that assessment earlier this month, head coach Steve Alford emphasized that very few freshmen in the country could match Looney’s numbers.
MacLean predicted that Looney will be either be picked within the lottery, or come off the board just outside those top 14 selections. ESPN’s Chad Ford slotted Looney at No. 19, but added that he could go as high as No. 10.
But the most damning evaluation came from an amalgam of four NBA scouts and two general managers — an entity that Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis dubbed “Finch.”
Speaking like some sort of scouting hydra, “Finch” anonymously lambasted Looney’s pro ceiling:
“I’m not sold at all. I think his rebounding was overstated. He doesn’t have the physical tools to get rebounds out of his area. He’s not an elite shooter. So I don’t know what he does that will get people excited. I don’t care if he can dribble through cones. I don’t know if he can transition to the three. His greatest asset is his length. He has a 9’2” standing reach. I think he could evolve into a decent shooter.”
I still like Looney as a prospect, but these are valid concerns. Although Looney’s ability on the offensive glass is one of his best attributes, his offensive rebounding rate was 12.2 percent — slightly behind teammate Tony Parker (12.4 percent), and even trailing what stretch forward Travis Wear managed in 2011-12 (13.2 percent). He shot 41.5 percent from beyond the arc, but just 62.6 percent from the free throw line, which could indicate a streaky shot. His hip surgery last year reportedly still concerns NBA officials.
But not many prospects have a 7-foot-2 wingspan. And of those, very few can do this:
Davis’ “Finch” also offered thoughts on Norman Powell, a likely second-round pick. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard never completely erased the hitch in his shooting stroke through his four years at UCLA, but his length (6-foot-11) and defensive acumen could be enough for a professional future.
“He is a great athlete. If he wasn’t so bow-legged, he would look taller. I don’t trust his shot one bit, but I like his versatility. You have to turn him into a monster defender. I think he’ll end up being a better pro than he was a college player. He’s a decent midrange shooter but not a good distance shooter.”