Kelly Olynyk, 7-foot power forward, Gonzaga: Arguably the most skilled big man in the draft, the native of British Columbia is just one of several young Canadian players poised to make an impact in the NBA. After struggling behind current Lakers rookie backup center Robert Sacre in his first few seasons at Gonzaga, Olynyk enjoyed a breakout year and emerged as one of the top big men in the college ranks. A finesse player with the ability to step outside and either knock down perimeter jumpers or put the ball on the floor, Olynyk's size belies his background as a point guard.
[Draft Capsule: PF Tony Mitchell]
Career highlights: The floppy-haired, headband-wearing center made a name for himself in international competition on Canada's junior national team, but as noted, he failed to duplicate his success for his college team, though he displayed flashes of his ability in double-figure scoring games against the likes of Washington State and Memphis in his first two seasons. After taking a redshirt year and being rumored to transfer, Olynyk met expectations last season, developing into a dominant force on a talented, balanced team, averaging a team-leading 17.8 points, and 1.1 blocked shots per game, as well as 7.3 rebounds a contest. Performances such as a 33-point, 10-rebound game against conference rival Santa Clara and 26 points and nine rebounds in the season finale, an NCAA Tournament loss to upstart Final Four squad Wichita State, resulted in him being named a first-team All-American and the West Coast Conference player of the year, not to mention forgoing his final year of eligibility for the Zags.
[Draft Capsule: C Steven Adams]
Strengths: Olynyk's guard instincts are evident in his fluidity away from the basket and with the ball in his hands, as he's more than capable of taking opposing big men off the dribble or hitting mid-range jumpers. But he always possessed those skills; his willingness to bang inside as a rebounder and play with his back to the basket is what has improved his stock. While he possesses the size of a true center, his game more closely resembles a power forward, particularly of the pick-and-pop variety, since his ability to stretch the floor is what will immediately translate to the next level and is a heavily-utilized dimension of NBA offenses, when available.
[Draft Capsule: SG Vander Blue]
Weaknesses: As skilled as he is, Olynyk isn't an explosive athlete, which was highlighted by his underwhelming athletic-testing results at last month's pre-draft combine in Chicago. That won't preclude him from being an effective pro, but given that he tends to float to the perimeter offensively, it's hard to imagine him being a major post presence in the league right away. Defensively, he has work to do as both a rebounder and shot-blocking presence, and although those aspects of the game don't necessarily come naturally to him, continued work on his body to help him deal with the physical opponents he'll be facing and attention to detail on position defense can help close the gap.
[Draft Capsule: PG Phil Pressey]
Draft projection: A definite first-round pick, opinions vary as to where Olynyk will be selected. Depending on team needs, he could be a late-lottery pick or be chosen in the middle of the first round if a squad is looking for a big man of his ilk, but if concerns about his athleticism, adjustment to the defensive rigors of the league and his ceiling as a player remain, he could slide to later in the round. Regardless of where he's picked, Olynyk's future rides on playing in a system where his pick-and-pop game can thrive, preferably with a high-caliber point guard and defensive-minded big man alongside him, which could enable him to be a role-playing starter or valuable reserve.