Noah Vonleh, 6-foot-10 power forward, Indiana
2013-14 stats: 11.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.4 BGP, 71.6 FT%
Playing for an underachieving Indiana team in his lone college season, Vonleh didn’t get the acclaim some of his fellow one-and-done counterparts received, but NBA personnel continue to regard him as one of the top players on their draft boards. In fact, the Boston-area native’s stock improved as the campaign went on, as his potential to stretch the defense, physical tools and general upside make for an intriguing combination. But his middling production and more importantly, lack of team success are subjects of some concern, meaning Vonleh is the prototype risk-reward prospect.
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Career highlights: An upper-echelon prep recruit out of the traditionally strong New England prep-school league, Vonleh, who bulked up considerably prior to his freshman season, was immediately Indiana’s centerpiece. He didn’t necessarily function that way on offense, but still managed to averaged 11.3 points, nine rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots per game for the Hoosiers, while shooting 52.3 percent from the field and 48.5 percent from the three-point line, with the latter being on a small sample size. The 18-year-old, who posted 10 double-doubles on the season, was named the Big Ten’s freshman of the year and a third team all-conference selection.
Strengths: More of a combo forward in high school, Vonleh retained his perimeter skills, even as he transformed his body and became a full-time inside player, which was reflected in his shooting numbers, particularly from the perimeter. While there’s a lot of infatuation about him one day being able to serve as a stretch power forward, there’s just as much fascination with his physical tools, especially his huge hands, solid frame and tremendous wingspan. But Vonleh isn’t all potential and measurements, as his mobility, natural rebounding ability, soft touch shooting the ball, underrated offense with his back to the basket, ability to run the floor and defensive presence are also areas in which he already makes an impact.
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Weaknesses: Still an unfinished product, for all of Vonleh’s perceived upside, he still isn’t a completely finished product offensively, doesn’t always defend up to his capability and in general, can be more of a bystander than a player putting his stamp on the game each time he’s on the floor. His limited opportunities notwithstanding, both his low-post and long-range, separately touted as aspects of his skill set that could one day make him a dominant player, might have been underutilized at times, but it can also be argued that he didn’t fully capitalize on his chances to make his presence felt. While some observers point to Indiana’s struggles as a whole to explain why Vonleh didn’t excel more individually, it’s somewhat circular logic, as the team would have ostensibly performed better if he had been more productive, and one thing there does seem to be a consensus about is that it could take the big man some time to carve out a niche for himself.
Draft projection: In the wake of Joel Embiid’s recent foot surgery, Vonleh could be drafted anywhere between the fourth overall pick, which belongs to Orlando, and no lower than the No. 8 selection, belonging to Sacramento. By no means is it likely that Vonleh starts off his career as a featured option on offense, but in the right situation and with the right development, he should be able to make a solid contribution as a rookie, whether starting or being a top reserve. The hope is that he eventually blossoms into an upper-echelon power forward with the ability to affect the game on both ends of the floor, using his length and agility on defense, and offensively, being able to score on the low block, facing up or from three-point range, while rebounding at a high level.